Alaska Family Cruise: Crystal Serenity Review & Tips
It’s already been more than a week since our return from our Alaska Family Cruise on Crystal Serenity. Somehow it seems like forever ago, as I was thrown headfirst into real life immediately upon arrival in Miami.
With all of the planning, the packing and the imagining, I never could have envisioned what was waiting for us on Serenity or in Alaska. There is so much to write about our journey… but I will start by sharing my favorite discoveries on the ship.
1. The Best Service… Maybe Anywhere
I have written what amounts to a love letter to the Crystal Serenity staff that will be shared soon. But the net of it is that I haven’t experienced such a consistently exceptional level of service anywhere. Not in luxury hotels, game reserves or resorts in various corners of the world. Not from the exceptional hotel where I held my wedding. Not in Michelin 3-star restaurants or those on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Not anywhere. For 10 days, my family was treated to the kindest, most genuine, impeccable service.
The Crystal team touts its service as its greatest differentiator. With very good reason.
2. Great Food in Every Corner (Even Our Stateroom)
Before we left, everyone told me we would eat well. My expectations were high for the specialty restaurants (Silk Road and Prego), but I figured it would be fine food elsewhere. I could have spent all day at the breakfast buffet, with their perfectly-cooked scrambled eggs, variety of breads (they make all pastries and bread on the ship daily), exceptional muesli, fruits and more. Lunch was great as well, with quite a variety of options at the buffet on Lido or (my favorite) at Tastes. There was dim sum, chinois salad, delicious pizza and pasta – we went to Tastes almost every day and did a little of their menu and a little from the buffet. Then to Scoops for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream or soft serve with real butterscotch.
Dinners were equally lovely, with two menus in the dining room each night – Modern Cuisine and Crystal Classics. The former was filled with contemporary choices with unique flavors, the latter with more traditional combinations. Both offered great options and we mixed and matched. There is also a Junior Cruiser’s menu with better-than-standard kid fare (chicken tenders - with salad; fish bites that are grilled, not fried; mini steaks and more). As Penthouse guests we could order anything from the Crystal Dining room or specialty restaurants in our room: HUGE perk for tired Alaska cruisers with small children who didn’t always have the patience to dine in the dining room.
3. Love the Library
For families with small kids, the library is genius. There is a small collection of children’s movies, primarily of the Pixar variety. Each stateroom has a DVD player, so you can rent movies to watch in your room. Big win. There is also a selection of kids’ books to check out. Not huge, but having something new to read made dinners in the dining room a bit easier (yes, we let the kids read at the table so we could have a tiny bit of peace).
There are also music stations with headphones where you can load CDs or connect your smartphone and listen in a comfy chair as you watch the ocean go by. The library is on Deck 7, same as the Promenade – so you can also watch people walk and run by as you read, relax or take a snooze.
This is probably the most enthusiasm anyone will ever see from me about laundry. As much as I love clean clothes, I do not love the washing, the drying and especially the FOLDING of clean clothes or the pairing of socks. But traveling with small kids on Alaska excursions means laundry. And lots of it. Thankfully, each deck has a guest laundry with free soap dispensers integrated into the washing machine. Clean clothes for everyone!
5. Earl Grey Vanilla Tea Latte (and Other Drinks) at the Bistro
Hello favorite find. The Bistro on Deck 6 provides a great view of the ocean with lots of small tables for snacking, reading, working (I wasn’t the only one with a laptop). And most importantly, for drinking their Earl Grey Vanilla Tea Latte. Holy yum. I haven’t had the time to try to recreate it at home, but it was the perfect afternoon treat (between my lunch treat and dinner treat) to while away a bit of time. All specialty beverages are included in the cruise fare, which makes my daily habit a problem only for my waistline.
6. So Many Spots for Enjoying the Day and the Views
Our staterooms had balconies with fantastic chairs and ottomans – so we could spend time looking at glaciers or searching for whales there (admittedly we didn’t see any, as chasing small kids around means that the sitting part was short). There are so many great areas on the ship for relaxing. On Lido there are tons of cozy deck chairs around the pool, complete with blankets for those days when it got a little chilly. The Palm Court sits at the bow of the ship on Deck 12 and provides a full frontal and side view. Afternoon tea is served there, so you can enjoy a glacier with your scone and cuppa.
7. Entertainment Options that Were Kid-Friendly
We honestly didn’t think that we would see many (or any) of the shows. But most of them had either a 7:00 or 8:30 option, so we were able to take the kids. I only had to drag the 3 year-old out of one, as he was making a bit of a ruckus during a ballad. But we would walk happily to the theater most nights with him singing a little ditty cleverly titled “Goin’ to da show, goin’ to da show.” They loved being part of the action and seeing dancers and singers as part of their nightly ritual. My kids are both huge Beatles fans, so the Across the Pond show was a huge hit, as it ended with a Beatles Medley that was quite well done.
The whole experience on Serenity was just lovely. We were truly sad to leave and my older son, Nico, complained for days. “When are we going back on the cruise ship? I miss the cruise ship!”, he'd say. Me too, Nico, me too.