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Embarking a ship is always a tedious experience, so when my cruising buddy, Elysia and I were ushered through check-in and sitting in the Crystal Dining Room within thirty minutes of getting off the bus, we knew we were in for something special.

Our luggage was tagged and checked in as we were escorted through security (the biggest surprise being that there were no lines at all) and onto the ship to check in officially in the casino.

Photos taken and welcome over, it was time for lunch…

Having sampled the Crystal food offering during ship tours before, I was excited for my cruising buddy, Elysia to experience the quality and, being a vegan, the test was on.

Unfortunately the lunch menu didn’t have any vegetarian options but our maitre’D said that they could make anything she desired…this was the first of our many “your wish is my command” experiences.

Perhaps the most highly anticipated part of our cruise was the fact we were staying in a Penthouse Suite…complete with butler.

Visions of Niles from “The Nanny” abounded and I wondered exactly what I would do with a butler for the week? Would I feel comfortable enough to ask him to do things for us? It wasn’t really in my nature to do so generally!

This offering aboard Crystal has proven very popular with the additional services that your butler can offer being the icing on the cake that is your cruising experience.

These individuals can offer everything from unpacking your suitcase to making your reservations in the specialty restaurants, serving you hors d’oevres of an evening or mixing your favourite drink.

We would be calling Penthouse 10048 home for the next seven days and, on opening the door to this magnificent stateroom, this was a concept that pleased us to no end.

The walk in wardrobe, the double sink, the spa bath, the twin beds laden with scrumptious pillows and the spacious balcony all seemed as if they were created for two gals sailing the seven seas.

There was no chance of cabin fever in our Penthouse…a common ailment when sailing with a girlfriend.

We even had separate dressing tables complete with make up mirrors and lights…our time as starlets aboard Crystal Serenity was here and we were ready for the limelight!

The doorbell rang and our butler for the week was standing there ready to introduce himself.

Sasa has worked with Crystal Cruises since 1995 and showed us all we needed to know about the features of our Penthouse.

The flat screen television was ready for those movie nights we were destined to enjoy and the phone pre-programmed with a speed dial to his pager for whenever we needed anything.

He walked us through the hors d’oevres menu that he would be serving us from every night and didn’t even balk at the fact that Elysia had particular food requirements saying instead, that he would alter the menu specifically for her.

We ordered our full bottle of spirits for the week with Sasa ensuring that the appropriate mixers were always in our fridge ready for that afternoon tipple ahead of dinner and we were introduced to the pillow menu which was designed to suit all types of sleepers from those who prefer sleeping on their side to those who wanted a full body pillow to cuddle up to.

Jetlag had set in after our long flight to Rome the day before and a day-and-a-half touring the beautiful Italian city, so a nap was much needed before experiencing our first evening aboard this six-star vessel.

Refreshed from what became much more than a nana nap, we head to the Sushi Bar to sample the Nobu created menu for the first time.

Greeted with a traditional “ohaio gozaimas”, we took our seats and salivated at a menu so expansive that all dietary requirements were catered for.

Once again, the offer to create something off the menu if need be for Elysia was there and she savoured agadashi, miso soup and vegetable tempura among other dishes whilst I poured through the melt in your mouth sashimi and sushi roll options.

Thinly sliced pieces of wagyu beef cooked to my medium rare perfection were served alongside tuna sashimi that tasted as if it had been caught fresh off the side of the ship.

Sushi rolls were created like art pieces in front of us as the chefs wielded their razor sharp knives to whip up creations that looked as good as they tasted.

What a treat to be able to order as much off a menu as we like at no additional cost.

This whole ‘all inclusive’ offering was a Godsend and something very new to me having sailed on ships that may be cheap to sail on but inevitably provide a shock once I receive that final statement before disembarking.

Suitably satisfied, we notice that the Shore Excursions desk is still open and introduce ourselves to the manager, Daniel Steyne who guides us through our options for the upcoming ports of call.

Such variety is on offer in these cities we had only dreamt of visiting and excitement builds as we explore the options available over the next week of sailing the Med.

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Words: Natalie Aroyan