I’m back aboard Crystal Serenity, slowly gathering my thoughts as our Mediterranean cruise unfolds gradually with a sea day between Dubrovnik and Mykonos. A sense of surreal, gentle calm suffuses the entire ship from bow to stern today as she surges purposefully across the still, slightly overcast briny. As the guests take their ease and linger over another indulgent breakfast, the ship herself is quietly and efficiently taking care of their needs, moods and whims.
Thus it has always been here, and this is how it remains. It is exactly that air of calm, unruffled competence and courtesy that draws people back to Crystal time and time again. People on board sag gratefully into what I can only describe as a kind of pampered stupor; one that will burst like a pretty balloon when we have to disembark in Istanbul a few days down the line.
But, right now, all that seems like a very long way away.
Two days ago, the Crystal Serenity swung loose from her moorings in Venice, gliding down the great expanse of Guidecca as perfectly poised and primped as a swan. As La Serenity bid ‘ciao’ to La Serenissima, stewards circulated on deck, distributing Bellinis to passengers taking in the magnificent vista of Piazza San Marco as we sailed downstream.
There was no real fuss or fanfare, and none was required. Just the act of this legendary vessel making her procession out to sea was ceremony enough of its own accord. Beautiful, dramatic and wonderfully understated, it was an occasion to savour rather than scream about.
On board, everything ticks as finely as a Swiss watch. The hotel and catering departments are in the hands of vastly competent professionals with many years expertise, and everything functions with cosmetic perfection. In fact, one of the finest shows on board remains the almost perfect ballet of the crew, serving guests, taking orders and offering refills before those guests often realize that they need one. The level of subtle co-ordination seems almost effortless.
Last night, the ship’s orchestra blew up a terrific storm- pun wholly intentional- in the shimmering, beautiful surroundings of the two story Crystal Cove. Guests at the circular bar were wowed by a stunning double act composed of glacial Martinis and blistering big band favourites as a delicious pre dinner appetizer.
Hearing band leader Raphael Derkson’s soaring, strident trumpet solos brought back memories of just why I love this ship so much. The quality of live music on board Crystal Serenity is- and always has been- a huge part of her success to my mind. It gives this ship a true edge that no other line quite matches.
Mister Derkson’s sassy, classy trumpet routine packs a punch that Marvin Hagler could only dream of; it is a powerhouse, virtuoso sound that is as much a Crystal trademark as the sheer, jaw dropping elegance of the ship herself, or the exquisite cuisine served up in Prego and Silk Road. With the passage of time and tide, it has become just as important an ingredient in the amazing smorgasbord that is daily life aboard this floating fantasy world.
Like Alice through the looking glass, I find myself falling, sagging with pathetic gratitude back into the good life served up on board this ship. And you see it in the other guests, too. People that you exchanged a quick ‘hello’ with the other day now stop and talk to ask how your day was in Dubrovnik yesterday – it was incredible, by the way. You see these kind of blooming, casual interactions everywhere on board.
So that’s it now from on board the good ship Crystal Serenity, as we head for an early morning rendezvous with that Goddess of hedonism sometimes also known as Mykonos. The Ice Teas are cold; the Jacuzzis are simmering gently.
Wish me luck, folks; I’m going in.