Dining on Crystal Cruises Serenity: Our Experience
Understanding the Dining Options on Crystal Cruises Serenity
Before we share our personal dining experiences sailing on the Crystal Cruises Serenity, the first question that usually pops into the mind is the dress code.
Therefore, you might want to hop over to our article that explains the dress code when sailing with Crystal Cruises: click here.
Dress codes on luxury cruise lines have become far more relaxed over the last decade. So, I think you’re going to like it.
First, we’ll start our discussion with Crystal Cruises main dining space, the Crystal Dining Room.
Warmly decorated with rich wood paneling, brass railing, crystal chandeliers, and floor-to-ceiling windows, the grand Crystal Dining Room is one of the most elegant dining facilities at sea. Sophisticated décor is enhanced by the finest of tabletop appointments, including Schott Zwiesel stemware, Villeroy & Boch porcelain, Sambonet silver, and Frette or Garnier Thiebaut linens.
Innovative menus boast a variety of international specialties, with regionally inspired dishes based on the itinerary, presented in either a “classic” style or “modern,” molecular gastronomy style. Guests always have multiple courses to choose from: appetizers soups and salads; the highest quality meats, such as prime rib or pheasant; fresh fish, including lobster and salmon; indulgent and sugar-free desserts; and premium international wines and champagnes to accompany it all. Remarkably, the Crystal Dining Room never repeats a menu during a cruise.
While the waitstaff is all gussied up each night, and the experience has a more formal feel to it, most of the patrons were dressed “Crystal Casual” with a few sport coats here and there. I brought silk shirts to wear in this more formal setting each night, and a dark sport coat to wear on the black-tie optional night. Dressing for the ladies seems easier. There’s beautiful, and ultra-beautiful on the one formal evening.
I really enjoyed having essentially two menus each night. Carol enjoys a more classic menu when she’s dining, where I love to explore new and innovative dishes. So, I found myself selecting off of the modern menu most nights.
When contemplating the modern menu, think molecular gastronomy where advanced galley equipment is used and expanded local sourcing of the freshest ingredients for such dishes as scallop and tuna tartare with flavored citrus foam, white miso soup poured over, and olive oil “caviar” balls that explode with cold flavor when bitten into; a Shiraz-braised oxtail ragout served with an egg poached to silky perfection after almost an hour of slow cooking; and a re-imagined Strawberries Romanoff comprising a cotton candy dome that melts immediately upon having strawberry consommé poured over it, revealing a flourless fresh berry-almond cake with vanilla anglaise hidden underneath.
While I wouldn’t call myself a food critic, we have dined in some of the best restaurants in the world, and we found the cuisine in the Crystal Dining Room to be top shelf. In fact, I enjoyed my first meal in the Crystal Dining Room so much, I leaned over to Carol and said, “let’s just eat here every night”. It was that good. Of course, she gave me a disapproving look, and said “no, we need to experience all of the restaurants”.
She was right of course. But all that to say that the cuisine in the Crystal Dining Room is superb. Three-star Michelin good? No. But very good indeed. You won’t be disappointed. In fact, I think you’ll be very pleased.
Crystal Cruises Perfect Choice Dining
When we were on our first cruise many years ago, we were forced to sit a particular table each night at a prescribed time and with a bunch of strangers. Now, we don’t mind sitting with folks we don’t know, that’s how new friends are made. But the prescribed time was a problem as it forced us to be aboard ship when we might not be ready to do so. When I’m exploring the world, I don’t want my dining experience to control my time.
Crystal Cruises has solved this problem with what they call Perfect Choice Dining. This unique concept allows you to choose between a classic main seating at 6:15, a late seating at 8:30, or dining by reservation (when and with whom you wish).
Once your cruise is fully paid, you may then reserve your personal dining times. Carol and I chose to be seated each night at 6:15 at a table of eight. This allowed us to meet new people, make new friends, and get to know our waitstaff. For us, we find this to be a far more personal experience.
However, as we’ll discuss below, we were absent from our assigned table five nights as we were also exploring some of the other dining options on the ship, and one evening we chose to make a dining reservation in the Crystal Dining Room to have a more intimate dining experience with new friends we made aboard ship.
We like options and the Perfect Choice Dining concept gave us the ability to dine how and when we wanted. Lastly, the Crystal Dining Room is open for breakfast and lunch with open seating.
A few of our Dining Photographs
Before we move on to some of the other dining choices available on the Crystal Cruises Serenity, I thought you might enjoy a few of the photographs we shot during our dining experiences aboard ship.
We didn’t capture any photographs dining in the Crystal Dining Room as we we chose to sit at a table of eight to make new friends. Attempting to get a good photograph on a table filled with eight people as well as all of the dining accoutrements filling the table just didn’t seem practical. However, in our other dining experiences, we requested a table for two so that we could capture some nice photographs for our readers to see. Hope you enjoy them.
Crystal specialty restaurants provide an opportunity for guests to enjoy a variety of culinary experiences. In order to ensure that each guest has a chance to dine at Prego, Silk Road and the Sushi Bar at least once during their voyage, a maximum of one reservation per specialty restaurant will be confirmed per booking through their Guest Check-in/Priority Check-in and Planning Center (PCPC). All additional reservations or visits (i.e. walk-in dining) will be confirmed on board on a space available basis for a nominal fee of $30 per person, per dining experience.
While we certainly enjoyed the Crystal Dining Room, it is our strong opinion that each guest should make a complimentary reservation at Prego, Silk Road, and the Sushi Bar. It’s best to do this immediately after your booking is completed. However, if you ignore that advice, make it your priority to get these restaurants booked immediately after boarding. These restaurants are much smaller than the Crystal Dining Room, are VERY popular, and if you wait too long, you’re going to be disappointed to learn that they have sold out. Forewarned if forearmed. Right?
Carol and I are big fans of Italian cuisine, so we gladly sprung for an additional $60 to enjoy a second night at Prego. Yum. Yum. Yum.
Charming and romantic, Prego brings the flavors of Italy to Crystal Serenity. The intimate European restaurant features classic and contemporary Italian dishes such as:
- Carpaccio of Black Angus Beef, with Mustard Sauce and Caravaglio Capers
- Minestra “Primavera di Verdura” Soup with Vegetables in Season, Tomato, Beans, and Macaroni Pasta, topped with Bread Crostini and Pesto
- Lavender Honey-Roasted Pink Duck Breast, with Balsamic Cherries, Chestnut Cappuccino, and Salsify and Poached Radish
- Paccheri and Swordfish with Mint, Basil, Capers, and Zucchini Ecrema
The tantalizing selection of desserts might include flavored lady fingers with light mascarpone cheese layers; a Nougatine Mousse with brandy cherries, cherry ice cream, and Frangelico schiuma; or a “Piedmontese” chocolate-almond flan.
I might also add that the Osso Buco was out of this world. If you’re an Osso Buco fan, get it!
Silk Road restaurant features the eclectic cuisine of famed master chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa with dishes prepared by Nobu-trained chefs. Matsuhisa redefined sushi with an innovative blending of classically styled Japanese foods with distinct Peruvian and European influences. He personally guided The Sushi Bar’s intimate design and unveiled his own, fingerprint-proof line of fine china in The Sushi Bar and Silk Road during Crystal Serenity’s inaugural season. While The Sushi Bar offers an assortment of Nobu’s signature sushi and sashimi, including Tiradito Nobu-style, and Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeño, Silk Road presents more than two dozen of Nobu’s signature appetizers, soups, salads, entrées and desserts. Entrée selections include such treats as:
- Nobu-style Lobster with Truffle-Yuzu Sauce
- Black Cod with Miso
- Grilled Wagyu Beef Rib-Eye
The signature dessert is a Bento Box filled with Chocolate Soufflé Cake with Shiso Syrup and Sesame Ice Cream.
Carol and I enjoyed sampling all three of the entrées listed above. All were wonderful, but I enjoyed the Black Cod the most. If you’re a lover of fish, get it! There a photo of my Black Cod in the photo slider above.
A custom-built open kitchen allows guests to watch. While Tastes is open during the day for a “Late Risers Breakfast” and full lunch menu, including specialties such as traditional “home style” Chinese noodles and dumplings, a deconstructed grilled shrimp Caesar Salad, and freshly-ground Angus beef Manhattan Beach Burger. After 6:00 PM, the restaurant is transformed into a cool and casual evening eatery with dramatic lighting that showcases the trees, plants, and decorative screens. Its new global-inspired menu was created in association with Sapphire Restaurants in Laguna Beach, CA, where acclaimed Chef Azmin Ghahreman offers cuisine with accents from around the globe. Crystal’s talented chefs create dishes such as an Alsatian Tart, California Street Tacos, and Scottish-Cured Salmon, all designed to be shared via small plates.
When it comes to culinary delights, my palate loves to explore. Therefore, I absolutely loved Tastes as I was able to explore the world’s cuisine in one spot and take my palate to places it has never been. While Prego and Silk Road seem to get all of the specialty restaurant attention, don’t miss a dining experience at Tastes. While we loved Prego and Silk Road, if I had the chance to go back to one of these restaurants today, I would pick Tastes for the opportunity to experience a culinary adventure.
Other Dining Options
For casual meals, this indoor/outdoor venue features elaborate breakfast choices with exotic fruit, authentic Swiss muesli, fresh-baked breads and pastries, as well as made-to-order regular and egg white omelets, waffles, and pancakes, and Asian breakfast options for international guests. Luncheon options include custom-made pastas and salads, a delicious selection of soups, carved meats, fresh fish, and sumptuous desserts, including sugar-free options.
As the Lido Café was very near our stateroom, we frequented this fabulous buffet for breakfast and lunch. The Swiss Muesli is ‘da bomb, and the selection is mind-boggling.
Trident Bar & Grill
This ultimate grill with a full bar serves a Late-Risers Breakfast from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on Crystal Symphony, and lunch throughout the afternoon on both ships. Among the casual choices are grilled hot dogs, made-to-order hamburgers, veggie and chicken burgers (with fresh-baked buns), tuna melts, two different wrap sandwiches each day, and more. The space brings the outside in with lush greenery-filled “living walls” on both ships. Crystal Symphony’s 37.7-foot wall, with plants creating a world map, was the industry’s first living wall at sea. Crystal Serenity went a step beyond with four living walls plus an herb garden for chefs.
My bride enjoys a good hamburger. While I said we can get a good hamburger anywhere, she twisted my arm and got her hamburger fix at the Trident Bar & Grill. If you too are a burger lover, you’ll enjoy this casual fare.
Trident Ice Cream Bar
For sweets on demand, the Trident Ice Cream Bar (called Scoops on Crystal Serenity) offers Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, freshly-made waffle cones, cookies, sundaes, shakes, sherbets, sugar-free ice cream and nonfat frozen yogurt with fresh berries and other toppings. During the course of a cruise, 20 different ice creams (including low-carb), 12 homemade sherbets, and nonfat yogurts are offered.
While I don’t need it, I must confess to enjoying a couple of scoops of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia on three different occasions.
Distinctive to Crystal Cruises is the centrally located and highly popular European-inspired café, which is open all day—and late into the night. In the a.m., guests can enjoy a continental breakfast with fresh croissants, breakfast pastries, smoked salmon and bagels served on The Bistro’s exclusive porcelain china custom-designed for Crystal by celebrated French artist Guy Buffet. During the afternoon, guests can sip exotic coffee drinks or premium wines by the glass and savor rich pâtés, fresh fruits, international cheeses, charcuterie and freshly made tarts and cakes. Wine, champagne, and digestif pairings continue into the evening, with more freshly-baked desserts, a chocolate fountain, and artisan cheese selection.
At the daily afternoon teatimes, delicious savories and sweets are accompanied by Mighty Leaf teas, the world’s finest whole leaf tea, served in special silk pouches. The charming sunlit Palm Court, with its expansive picture windows, ‘greenery’, comfortable rattan furnishings, and soothing classical music, provides the perfect backdrop for this favored afternoon ritual. Not to be missed are the themed specialty tea times, including the Mozart Tea, a visit to 18th century Vienna with tea and Austrian pastries served by staff dressed in velvets and brocades, and an English Colonial Tea with scones served with whipped cream and jams, finger sandwiches and other sweets.
The mark of any true luxury experience is service. In keeping with Crystal Cruises’ commitment to providing the highest possible level of service, the line offers complimentary 24-hour in-stateroom dining to accommodate any guest at any time. At sea or in port, guests can enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner in their rooms or on their private verandahs, served with the same precision and attention to detail found in the dining venues. During lunch and dinner hours, guests may order their in-stateroom meals from the Crystal Dining Room, served course by course, if so desired. Penthouse guests enjoy the added privilege of having in-stateroom dining available from specialty restaurants during dinner hours.
As I contemplate our dining experiences on the Crystal Serenity, the first thing that comes to mind is the wonderful variety of options available to Crystal Serenity cruisers. Because this ship holds 1,000 people, and the ship was designed to give passengers a high “space ratio” (learn more about that here), there was considerably more space available to offer Crystal guests a variety of dining options. So while we certainly enjoyed the dining experiences we’ve had on a smaller 300 passenger luxury sailing vessel, it was very nice to have all of these different options available.
However, I do leave the ship with one regret: for some crazy unknown reason, we didn’t make a reservation in The Sushi Bar. Carol and I will be sailing the Crystal Serenity again next fall from NYC to Montreal. I intend to fix this problem on that sailing.
Overall, Carol and I were very impressed with the quality of the dining experiences aboard the Crystal Serenity. When one considers the quantity of food coming out of these kitchens each day, it seems to me a modern miracle that the quality of the cuisine aboard the Crystal Serenity is equal to some of the finest restaurants in the world.
Bottom line, you’re going to love the dining experiences aboard the Crystal Serenity, and this is one of the many reasons that Crystal Cruises has enjoyed ‘best-of-the-best” ratings for decades.
And now, a shameless commercial message….
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Disclosure: our sailing was provided by the kind folks at Crystal Cruises. Photographs, other than those in our slider, were courtesy of Crystal Cruises.
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