Serenity at Sea

Happy Travel Tuesday,

I’d like to introduce guest blogger, Dani Johnson. Her husband, Jay, is the president and owner of Coastline Travel Advisors. Dani, Jay and their two daughters recently returned from a 3-week journey through Europe which included a cruise on one of our favorite luxury lines, Crystal Cruises. She was kind enough to write about her experience for you to enjoy:

Have you ever watched the television series “Cheers?”  I have always loved their theme song and found myself humming the tune on my family’s recent Crystal Cruise.

“Wouldn’t you like to get away

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name

And they’re always glad you came”

This is, in a nutshell, how the Crystal staff makes you feel.  My husband, Jay Johnson, and I have sailed on Crystal many times throughout the years.  In fact, I worked for Crystal Cruises for 8 years and have so many fond memories of the company and friends I met while working there.

From the moment you arrive on board, life becomes extremely easy.  There are so many luxuries to explore: dining options, fun activities, lecturers, a fabulous gym and spa— plus there are always like-minded people to mingle with and hear their wonderful stories.  Each time I’ve sailed with Crystal, it’s been a different experience.  I’ve sailed with my parents and my immediate family, my sister and friends, and just with Jay and our girls.  Crystal Cruises is one of those products that has something for everyone.  They even have a Junior Activities programs for kids (although our girls typically don’t partake as we go on a family vacation to be together. We don’t get much time while we are at home and with Jay’s incredibly crazy travel schedule!).

Jay and the girls outside the ship

Jay and the girls outside the ship

Our holiday began in Paris, where Jay and I have traveled to many times.  It is one of our favorite cities and we really wanted our two girls (ages 13 and 11) to experience this vibrant city.  It was wonderful to see them in awe of their surroundings.  We tried our best to pace ourselves and not plan too many activities in one day.  Paris is a city to be enjoyed, and we made sure we left plenty of time during the day for long lunches and great conversation.  The highlights for the girls included Notre Dame Cathedral, The Louvre, La Conciergerie, Montmartre and the Eiffel Tower.  We only had three days, so I would like to go back for Versailles, the Musée d’orsay and other top sights.  I had just read the book Madame Tussaud and truly enjoyed being in the city again.

Jay found the nearest pub in Paris...

Jay found the nearest pub in Paris…

Sacre Coeur

Kate and Logan outside the Sacre Coeur

We had booked multiple land excursions during our cruise and I cannot rave enough about our guides.  During one of the busiest times in Europe, we were able to skip the lines, not wear an earphone and ask as many questions as we liked.  Ours were so educated and well-spoken, we noticed other travelers listening in.  For example, we were in The Hermitage looking at The Peacock Clock with our guide, Elana.  One gentleman and his wife were standing next to us and they took off their headphones in order to listen to Elana tell us all about the Peacock Clock, its origins, when it is turned on and how much Catherine the Great valued the clock.

One of our stops included St. Petersburg.  I highly recommend hiring a private guide for this city and, if possible, visiting on your own.  A new Four Seasons property opened while we were there and we had the opportunity to tour this magnificent hotel. Called The Four Seasons Lion Palace, this property once was a palace that has been restored and is now a hotel.  This is a great example of St. Petersburg’s historical attributes; it is a great city to really explore and appreciate the history, the people and amazing palaces and theater.  One of my favorite things to do on vacation is read a book about the destination.  Therefore, I read The Man from St. Petersburg by Ken Follett and highly recommend it to you.

Peterhof Palace - a great place to visit in St. Petersburg

Peterhof Palace – a great place to visit in St. Petersburg

If you have sailed on Silversea, Seabourn or any of the other small, luxury lines, you must compare your stateroom to Crystal’s Penthouse deck.  We were on the Penthouse Deck 10 with a private butler.  I do not recommend traveling in anything but the Penthouse deck if you’ve been on the aforementioned cruise lines.  We were on Crystal Serenity and the staterooms have recently been refurbished.  They are light, airy and very contemporary.  I especially enjoyed the double-sided vanity.  This is a great use of space.

Our penthouse came equipped with cd and dvd player, IPod docking stations with clocks, a large walk-in closet, jacuzzi bathtub with separate shower, personalized stationery, binoculars (handy while waving to our friends who were on an Oceania cruise!) and our amazing butler, Phillip.  Phillip would check daily as to what time we would like our canapés and every evening he made sure to bring the girls their milkshakes and popcorn (a vacation treat!).

Thanks, Phillip!

One of the best things about being on the Penthouse deck is the ability to order room service from Prego, Silk Road or from the Main Dining Room menu.  While onboard, it was our youngest daughter’s birthday as well as Jay’s.  Jay made sure to arrange our Silk Road reservation through Phillip and Kate was insistent she wanted to be Eloise and order room service.  I have to tell you I thoroughly enjoyed both.  How often do you have the opportunity to have a beautiful ocean view while dining on amazing sushi from Nobu trained chefs?  All, of course, while in your cozy terry cloth bathrobe, slippers and glass of champagne.

Breakfast in Helsinki

Breakfast in Helsinki

Crystal Cruises is a wonderful cruise line and strives for perfection.  The onboard amenities are superb and the cuisine is fabulous.  Gone are the old days of being worried about waking up in time for breakfast and not having any options until lunch.  On board Crystal, there is always something available.  On this holiday, we dined in the Main Dining room, the Lido Café, which is one of my favorite places because the options are limitless.  And, if we woke up late, we would then dine up on Deck 12 by the Neptune pool.  My cappuccino and egg white omelette would arrive without having to even ask for it.

Being a family of tennis players, we often found ourselves up on deck 13 playing paddle tennis.  My eldest daughter and I played in the tennis tournament on board and won 2nd place.  We were thrilled to meet even more people we had so much in common with.  There was a young family on board from Napa Valley who were also tennis players.  It was such fun getting to know them and compare stories.

Our journey ended in London.  The girls were so sad to leave Crystal until they checked into the hotel.  They seemed to bounce back very quickly after being shown into our one-bedroom suite at 51 Buckingham Gate.  I have included a picture of us in the Cinema Suite.  This very quaint, boutique hotel is perfectly located right near Buckingham Palace and exudes luxury.  Next time I write about St. Petersburg, I will also include more information about this wonderful property.

Relaxing in the living room of the Cinema Suite.

Relaxing in the living room of the Cinema Suite.

I do hope you enjoyed your summer travels.  If you would like to share your story, please make sure to email us. I would like to write a special entry at the end of the summer highlighting some of Coastline clients’ favorite summer holidays.  Also, please make sure you keep an eye out for my St. Petersburg and London report.  It will have some amazing and interesting facts on these beautiful, enigmatic cities.

Thank you, Crystal!

Thank you, Crystal!

– Dani

Coastline Travel Advisors are platinum partners with Crystal Cruises. If you would like an expert to help you book your cruise, call 800.448.2374 or email jay@coastlinetravel.com. Send your summer vacation stories to kate@coastlinetravel.com.

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