I disembarked Serenity last Saturday and the end of a 7-night cruise around the Adriatic. For context, we were part of a party of 12 (including a young child), my wife and I are in our mid-30s, and this is our first cruise (on any cruise line).
What follows is just a random collection of thoughts/anecdotes, all of which are strictly my personal experience and opinion. Hope it's of some use to first-timers and vets alike.
1) The quality of the food was - all things considered - excellent. Reading these forums before embarking, I was worried on the trend of posts which seem to indicate that food quality had taken a downturn, but I was perfectly satisfied with the majority of the dishes/meals we ordered while on board (which were a LOT). Note that food is our group's greatest pleasure, so this was a big deal for us. We're also one of those groups who shamelessly wanted to try nearly everything on the menu, and believe me, we did!
Our first two serves of the black cod at UU were a little overdone, but a quick complaint meant that our subsequent 5 serves that evening were just perfect. The lobster bisque at W on the second night was a standout dish for us, and I have to say that in spite of hearing complaints from ethnic Chinese posters on here about the food quality at Silk, all 11 of us (ethnic Chinese) were perfectly content with the majority of the dishes that we were served there. Does it complete with the best Hong Kong or Shanghai has to offer? Of course not, but quality was WAY above what other posters led me to expect.
Sure, the burgers at Trident are under-seasoned, the mixing of the more complex cocktails was inconsistent, the coffee is subpar everywhere on the ship and some simple requests could not be entertained (e.g. fresh apple juice), but by and large we were more than satisfied with the culinary experience on board, which by definition, meant that we were satisfied in general with the cruise as a whole. Every meal featured at least two standout dishes that could hold their own on any stage on land, and that was enough for us to anchor our satisfied tummys on.
2) Being a self-professed slob, I was a little worried about the dress code - I needn't have been. Our cruise didn't have a BTO night, which was a good thing for yours truly, but by and large there was a wide range of standards of dressing all over the ship. I got by just fine with a t-shirt, shorts and slippers everywhere during the day, and a long-sleeve t-shirt or polo with chinos and loafers during the evenings. I didn't feel out of place nor did I feel any judging eyes - those were probably reserved for the guy in top-to-toe poolside wear in the Galaxy Lounge one evening, sipping champagne unaccosted by any staff and perfectly comfortable in his own skin. To each their own. The only thing we were quietly corrected on was when we got a little bit rowdy watching funny YouTube videos over lunch at W, which was perfectly reasonable, and which we apologised for and subsequently complied with, but not a word was mentioned about attire during the entire cruise.
3) While service levels were generally good and smiles were common, I would not go as far as to say they were excellent across the board. This is the fourth Crystal cruise for the seniors in our group, and they say that service has taken a steady and tangible turn for the worse during their time with the company. And in spite of being advertised as "all-inclusive", we consistently found that as a group, certain strategic gift-giving handshakes placed with certain staff made special requests happen a lot more smoothly than they did for staff which we did not appreciate in the same way. Of course correlation does not equal causation, and perhaps circumstances are different given the size of our group (going "above-and-beyond" for us entails far more work than it would for a couple), but the above is worth noting nonetheless. Humans will be humans!
4) For some reason, I was invited to the captain's quarters for drinks and canapes one afternoon. This was my first cruise and we were staying on the poverty deck, so I'm not sure why this privilege was extended to us. Being curious, we went along, but I found myself terribly under-dressed and under-conversed in the sophisticated company, and made a polite but hasty exit (directly to a game of NBA on the PS4 in Waves!!!). Totally not my scene, and probably not something I would do again, but was interesting nonetheless.
5) At the bar at Crystal Cove one evening, the slightly grumpy bartender insisted on viewing our room cards before serving us our drinks. Not sure why this might be, but given our ages are not printed on the card, I speculate that perhaps he thought we were staff in disguise trying to steal a few rounds? Not sure.
6) One afternoon, we returned to our cabin after some time ashore to find it flooded. The stopper on the toilet cistern had failed and water just kept flowing and completely flooded the bathroom (right to the level of the lip on the entrance) and spilled over into the room and the corridor outside. The carpets were literally as wet as they would have been if you had dunked them in the swimming pool. My wife was horrified, but I was a little amused (anything for a good story!). The person who initially heard our complaint on the phone didn't seem to understand the severity of the situation, but after one person laid eyes on our bathroom, within minutes there were an army of people in the room and corridor outside trying to fix things. We were bumped to a verandah room with a thousand apologies, but the whole process (reporting, admin, packing, moving, unpacking) burned a good 2-3 hours of our precious daylight hours, so all-in-all we felt the benefit of the balcony was nowhere near worth the lost time. The porter who helped us carry our stuff said this is the first time this has happened on the ship - not sure how true this is! One of our party had the room next to ours, and she was denied access to the room while they were ripping out the carpets and replacing them with new ones. She was eventually moved to another room (another cheapie on deck 7), and given $100 OBC as compensation. She also felt this was a little cheap, but we didn't push the matter.
7) Grabbing a few drinks from the bar at Silk and lounging in the heated jacuzzi during a cool and clear night with nobody around is the BEST thing ever. Thank me later.
I doubt this is my last cruise, or my last Crystal cruise at that. More thoughts and anecdotes may follow, but I hope the above will suffice for now.