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Crystal Serenity, Crystal Cruises
Large and luxe, the 1,080-person Crystal Serenity blends classic cruising elements (requisite formal nights, bridge-playing classes, and daily afternoon tea) with spiffy new services (a posh spa courtesy of Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, in-cabin DVD players, and low-carb menus). Depending on the itinerary, there can be many sea days, but there are also plenty of activities to keep guests busy. (Crystal Serenity's world cruise goes from Los Angeles to Dover, England, via the South Pacific—over 100 days of sailing beginning in mid-January. The rest of the year, she bides her time in the Mediterranean, on the Mexican Riviera, and around the Panama Canal). The vessel, which is the line's newest in eight years, boasts one of the highest space-per-guest ratios on the high seas.
Don't miss Silk Road or the Sushi Bar, two onboard eateries conceived by Japanese raw fish guru Nobu Matsuhisa. Silk Road, with its Asian artwork, soft lighting, and sleek furnishings, offers an extensive array of appetizers such as broiled butterflied shrimp with sevruga caviar. For an entrée, don't miss the buttery texture and rich flavor of Nobu's renowned miso black cod. For those who prefer meat, grilled Wagyu beef rib-eye comes with a choice of piquant sauces—either anticucho (a Peruvian chili paste) or wasabi-pepper. (For the uninitiated, Wagyu is a breed of premium Japanese cattle that yields a rich, marbled meat—it's the basis for Kobe beef.)
Crystal's passengers tend to be a little older. You'll spot mostly Americans and Canadians, but about 15 percent of cruisers hail from other countries.
Cabins vary widely in size and layout (though they all come stocked with Aveda products), and you stand a good chance of snagging one with a veranda—85 percent have them. And no one is stuck "down below," since the lowest floor with basic cabins is the respectable Deck Seven.
Although it's not technically a port, no one forgets crossing the Panama Canal. Nothing quite compares to gliding through the historic locks of this 51-mile waterway with inches to spare.
Good to Know:
Savvy cruisers log on to Crystal's prereservations system 180 days before their sail date—the best way to score primo excursion times, spa appointments, and restaurant seatings.
To book, call 866-446-6625 or go to www.crystalcruises.com.
Seven-night sailings from $2,695 per person.