Is cruising a good value if you wind up spending more onboard for beverages, specialty dining, wifi, and crew gratuities than you actually pay for the cruise itself? That’s a question many cruisers face, but one that’s rarely an issue for those who book with a line known for being all (or mostly) inclusive, such as Crystal Cruises and its newly refurbished ship, Crystal Serenity. You may be thinking: Isn’t Crystal a luxury cruise line, and how can that be the best value? Read on and we’ll tell you. (Teaser: Some fares are as low as $1,530 per person).
After a recent post-refurbishment sailing on the 980-passenger Crystal Serenity, we realized that everything you get as part of your pre-paid cruise fare makes certain voyages an equal or better value to other cruise lines. Add in the caliber of Crystal’s accommodations, dining, onboard education and entertainment, and you’re most certainly getting added value. In fact, when you board Crystal Serenity, you won’t have to pay extra for:
- Dining in seven onboard restaurants, including the fully renovated Waterside (formerly the Crystal Dining Room); Umi Uma, (previously Silk Road), a Japanese-Peruvian specialty restaurant with an extensive menu by acclaimed Chef Nobu Matsuhisa; and Prego, which features upscale Italian specialties. Your fare also affords you the opportunity to try the new Stardust Supper Club, offered by reservation on black-tie-optional evenings and featuring the menu from the Waterside dining room served in a retro-inspired supper club setting with live music; and the new Silk, serving delicious family-style Chinese dishes. You can also order in-suite room service 24 hours a day.
- Beverages — including unlimited cocktails in all onboard bars. Favorites include The Cove (celebrated for its extensive and creative gin & tonic menu), Avenue Saloon (where the Manhattan menu is the star), and Palm Court (their classic cocktails and wine list complement pre- and post-dinner dancing). If you appreciate a good cocktail, Crystal Serenity’s bartenders are top-notch, and you can even take classes to learn how to make margaritas, caipirinhas, and other regional cocktails.
- Wifi, which is free throughout the ship.
- Onboard entertainment includes Broadway-inspired production shows, talented musical duos, and cabaret singers, as well as engaging onboard lecturers (our cruise featured husband-and-wife astronauts Robert “Hoot” Gibson and Rhea Seddon, and experts on local geography and Pacific Ocean marine life). Plus, you can even catch a magic show featuring expert magicians from the Magic Castle in Los Angeles.
- Gratuities are also included in the cruise fare.
That said, not all Crystal Serenity itineraries offer good value if you’re on a limited budget — certainly not the 104-night Full World Cruise: Epic Empires & Idyllic Isles (fares start at $30,637 per person for this one-of-a-kind itinerary). However, we’ve found seven itineraries that do fall within appealing parameters. Crystal is including more six-to-eight-night sailings in its offerings going forward, meaning you can now can get aboard Crystal Serenity for under $2,000 per person. Here are our best-value picks for 2019:
Ionian Impressions: This 7-night Athens to Rome itinerary (May 4-11, 2019) calls on Nafplio and Santorini, Greece; Valletta, Malta; as well as Taormina (Sicily) and Sorrento, Italy. Fares start at $1,820 per person.
Riviera Playground: This 6-night cruise sails round trip from Barcelona (May 23-29, 2019) and makes stops in Cassis, France; Livorno (Florence), Italy; Monte Carlo, Monaco; and Calvi, Corsica. Fares start at $1,530 per person.
Romantic Reflections: This 7-night itinerary (Sept. 7-14, 2019) cruises from Rome to Venice while also stopping in Sorrento, Italy; Corfu, Greece; Kotor, Montenegro; and Dubrovnik, Croatia. Fares start at $2,285 per person.
Mediterranean Arts: This 7-night cruise starts in Barcelona and concludes in Rome (Oct. 3-10, 2019). Your cruise will also stop on Mallorca, Spain; Marseille, France; Monte Carlo, Monaco; and Livorno (Florence), Italy. Fares start at $1,970 per person.
Iberian Influences: This 7-night itinerary from Barcelona to Lisbon (Nov. 5-12, 2019) calls on Mallorca, Valencia, and Malaga, Spain; as well as Gibraltar. Fares starting at $2,385 per person.
Colorful Cultures: Cruising from Fort Lauderdale to San Juan, this 8-night itinerary (Dec. 6-14, 2019) visits St. Thomas, St. Barths, St. Lucia, Nevis, and Tortola. Fares start at $1,695 per person.
Accent on the Lesser Antilles: This 8-night itinerary from San Juan to Miami (Dec. 14-22, 2019) stops in St. Maarten, St. Barths, St. Kitts, Antigua, and Grand Turk. Fares start at $1,695 per person.