The Crystal Cruise Experience – A Travel Agents Perspective

After over forty years in the travel business, we have had the pleasure of experiencing a long list of cruises. We have sailed on vessels of every size and class, navigating itineraries from rivers to oceans, each one offering a unique adventure.

We just returned from one of the most special cruises we’ve ever taken. We were invited by Crystal cruises to sail on the 980 passenger Serenity on its Ligurian Sea Medley itinerary. Many of our clients are Crystal Cruise disciples, but this was our first time indulging in the upscale, all-inclusive Crystal experience. Our clients have very good taste!

First, let me say, the over-the-top service begins at the airport. You are greeted by staff that makes arrival practically effortless. Once onboard, the friendly crew attends to every detail. They seem to know what you need before you realize you even need it.

Our accommodation was a penthouse suite, complete with butler service and two cabin stewards. We were feeling very out of place, but loving every minute of it! The design of the cabin was spacious and well appointed. King size bed, sitting area, large balcony, walk-in closet, and an oversized bathroom with a soaking Jacuzzi tub, separate shower, and two sinks. Enormous by cruise ship standards.

The food scene on board is a culinary wonderland. From the 24 hours in suite dining, to the Nobu Matsuhisa’s only sea going restaurant, the cuisine is delectable. Crystal’s award winning chefs provide world class cuisine in all of the diverse restaurants.

The entire ship board experience was exceptional as were the shore excursions. We had visited many of the ports before, but they seemed even more sophisticated seeing them from a Crystal ship. Our first stop was Santa Marguerita on the Italian Riviera. From here we took the ferry to Portofino for a lunch of pasta alle vongole and the first of many branzino. The food and the views were delicious. 

Next stop Monaco, a favorite place of ours. Tom turned 40 at the Hotel de Paris which is hard to beat, but sailing in on the Serenity and parking next to the royal yacht was a close second. We drove the scenic Cote d’ Azur to Nice for the outdoor antiques market, Joy’s favorite, NOT. For lunch, we stopped at the hill top village of Eze and ate at the Michellin starred Chevre D’or. The food and the views just kept getting better. We returned to Monte Carlo just in time to see a fleet of Bugatti’s tool through town. I’ve never seen that many 3 million dollar cars in one place before. Only in Monaco!

Then it was on to St. Tropez. This is the site of two major events, Magic Johnsons star studded 60th birthday party at Nikki Beach Club, and Joy getting her hair cut.

Back in the 80’s, Joy started her experimental travel haircut tradition in St. Tropez, and it has continued to jeopardize many trips ever since.  After the tres magifique coif, we headed to Nikki Beach for our own celebration. Magic, J-Lo and A-Rod had already scurried back to their yachts. They don’t know what they missed.

The rest of our trip included stops in Corsica, Florence, and Porto Venere. The French and Italian Riviera’s never looked so good, and on a Crystal ship you felt like you were part of the show.

Our adventure continued as we made our first trip to Lake Como and Milan for Tom’s birthday. The pictures of Lake Como and Bellagio don’t do it justice. We know why George and Amal Clooney have a place here. What more could you ask for? Stunning scenery, Como lake fish and smoked Negroni’s.  

We spent four days at the Lake Como Hilton, which commands one of the most spectacular views of the lake. Especially from its roof top restaurant and affinity pool, which makes it our top pick for a place to stay in Como. The picturesque town, set against the foothills of the Alps, are easily accessible by a comprehensive ferry system. We took a one hour ride to the resort town of Bellagio. The entire ride was a lovely site seeing excursion.

In Como, we would walk from our hotel along the lake front, passing the colorful gardens and gorgeous villas. We took the funicular up to the hilltop town of Brunate, and took in the dramatic scenery below.

It was difficult to leave this idyllic place, but it was onto beautiful Milan. It was days before fashion week, so the city was abuzz. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, we discovered the hotel Excelsior had a chauffeur driven Maserati at our disposal, belissimo. After a tour of the magnificent Duomo, we enjoyed a birthday dinner of Risotto Milanese, a classic dish here.

We reflected on another trip of a lifetime. The magic of a Crystal cruise in the Mediterranean, combined with la dolce vita of Italy, this is what dreams are made of.

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