It’s the trip, not the destination.
By Charlie Huisking
When friends asked me what Caribbean ports I’d be visiting on the Crystal Serenity, I told them I had no idea.
That wasn’t really true. I knew we’d be sailing from Miami to Aruba, Bonaire, Grenada, Barbados and Antigua before returning to Miami 10 days later.
But on the Crystal Serenity, the voyage is definitely as important as the destination. This is my third time on this luxurious ship, which was christened by Julie Andrews in Southampton, England, in 2003. It’s my fifth time overall on the Crystal line, which consistently wins the Best Large Cruise Line award from Conde Nast Travel magazine.
And in this age of mega-ships, large is a relative term. Unlike some ships that carry 3,000 or 4,000 people, the Serenity’s capacity is only 1,080. And because the spacious, 820-foot-long ship has the best passenger/space ratio in the industry, you never feel crowded or find yourself waiting in long lines. In fact, there are so many cozy, inviting public rooms, so much deck space, you can easily spend your time in blissful solitude.
That’s how I spent most of the first of two sea days after leaving Miami. I ordered room service breakfast, and read on the verandah of my penthouse level suite, which comes complete with a tuxedoed butler. OK, I did have to share Simon, a gregarious South African native, with several other cabins.
But I’m not complaining
At noon on day one, my companion, Jeff, and I attended the Team Trivia contest in one of the ship’s lounges. We had learned on previous trips that this is a great way to meet people early in the voyage. Even though you’re playing only for a set of Crystal coasters or some such prize, the game can get quite competitive. I’m afraid we cheered a bit too loudly when our six-person team finished first (this was despite me insisting that a movie made from a Stephen King short story was Lean on Me, when , of course, it’s actually, Stand by Me.)
When I was younger, I took cruises every year with my parents, and always dreaded sea days. But at this stage of my life, and amidst the hypnotically relaxing atmosphere of the Serenity, I love them. I got up early the second sea day for a Tai Chi class, took a deep tissue massage in the wonderful, Feng Shui-designed spa, and attended a health and fitness talk by a guest lecturer from the Cleveland Clinic.
More industrious passengers were taking keyboard classes or Spanish classes as part of Crystal’s on-board educational program, the Creative Learning Institute.
We’ll be docking in Aruba tomorrow morning, so I’ll somehow have to force myself to get off. More later.