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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
I chose this trip because of the abundance of sea days, which are my favourite. The ship is showing some age and looking a little worn in its finishes and decor, but I don't mind -- to me, there are far more important things to make ... Read More
I chose this trip because of the abundance of sea days, which are my favourite. The ship is showing some age and looking a little worn in its finishes and decor, but I don't mind -- to me, there are far more important things to make a great cruise. My cabin was a window cabin with a partially obstructed view, but the obstruction was truly minimal. Crystal is known for having some of the smallest cabins among the luxury lines, but I found it had more than enough space for my 2.5 week cruise, and I know had there been two of us in the cabin the storage space still would have been enough. I don't know why there's a tub rather than a walk in shower, and I don't see a need for double sinks, but those are likely personal preferences. Also personal is the opinion of the food.......in my opinion, the food was terrific, ranging from very good to outstanding (particularly excellent in the two specialty restaurants). I didn't attend the evening entertainment, with the exception of the Dixieland Jazz performance, so I can't comment other than to say other passengers seemed to enjoy it. My shipboard routine is to do as little as possible other than relax, though I did take part in the daily trivia contests. I heard some of the lectures on the television in my cabin later, and they were interesting and in a bunch of different subjects. One of the nicest things about being aboard is the calm atmosphere and lack of interruptions: There are no announcements other than a daily status update, and no sales pitches or other things to distract from the relaxation available. I love walking the promenade or laying on the Lido deck with a book or puzzle as the ocean drifts by. \ The ship is showing its age, but there's a major refit due in the fall. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2017
Returned yesterday from a Tokyo to Honolulu segment on Symphony. Overall, would rate this ship and the crew as excellent. We chose this cruise for a couple of reasons. First, we love sea days and it doesn't get any better than ... Read More
Returned yesterday from a Tokyo to Honolulu segment on Symphony. Overall, would rate this ship and the crew as excellent. We chose this cruise for a couple of reasons. First, we love sea days and it doesn't get any better than this. Second, we live in Honolulu and wanted the opportunity to leave the ship and be home in 10 minutes by cab. We have previously cruised on Silversea and Seabourn. I would give the Symphony a slight edge. It is a larger ship with more dining options and much better entertainment. Also, I found the crew to be a bit warmer and made us feel more comfortable. We opted for Dining by Reservation. It worked out for us very well. Found a table we liked with a great waiter. I would rate the food a little below Seabourn but not my much. The alternative dining options were very pleasant. Al-in-all a terrific cruise. Read Less
33 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2016
Cruise 6302 was a three-week Pacific crossing (San Francisco to Sydney), with stops after Honolulu at seven islands along the road less traveled. My wife and I have taken the Crystal Serenity (1,000 passengers) over a dozen times in the ... Read More
Cruise 6302 was a three-week Pacific crossing (San Francisco to Sydney), with stops after Honolulu at seven islands along the road less traveled. My wife and I have taken the Crystal Serenity (1,000 passengers) over a dozen times in the past several years. It’s a comfortable choice that lacks all the herding, hustling, and hollering for which cruises are stereotyped. For us, the strengths of Cruise 6302 were found in these factors: (1) onboard entertainment; (2) support for our independent exploring; (3) daily chats with the world’s most interesting people. Based on these strengths, I rate this cruise as an overall “5” (on a scale of 5). These strengths overshadowed deficiencies in other areas. Some of our favorite memories for this cruise were the unexpected ones. Like the send-off from a spraying fireboat in San Francisco (thought that had vanished with the dockside confetti). Like the nighttime view of Sydney Harbor when anchored (instead of docking with the market dominators). Like the surprise cameo appearance by one of my favorite travel writers (actually, a full series of lectures). ENTERTAINMENT -- MUSIC: Serenity is the ship for serious music lovers. Musically, this was the most memorable cruise that I’ve taken (yes, including those Crystal jazz and big band cruises). Crystal assembled a great troupe of jazz, classical, and dance performers. Guest artists joined them between the major port stops. Numerous jam sessions with genuine fun and passion. (The classical organist even went ashore and did an impromptu session in a Noumea cathedral.) In fact, when coupled with guest artists, the house jazz band is as enjoyable as those big bands that Crystal books for its ballroom theme cruises. It may be time for Crystal to substitute the talent and spirit of its in-house band for the mechanical tributes of those big-name contract groups. The cruise was like traveling with the circus. You eat with the performers, walk the islands together, and visit after the shows. Those one-on-one chats with the performers mean more to us than any autograph or photo op. The assistant cruise director (our favorite piano player) told us about his childhood at Cincinnati’s music conservatory. Two dancers gave us a backstage tour of how the performers adapt their work to the confines of a ship. And the cruise director did his morning TV shows with a bit of backstory about the challenges of staging the previous day’s entertainment. Sometimes he interviewed a performer with his ever-bubbly co-host (she’s the ship’s court jester, and as close as you’ll come to the “Julie” on that old Love Boat series). ENTERTAINMENT -- SUPER BOWL: While the presidential campaign debates can wait, die-hard football fans won’t leave home without assurance of uninterrupted, real-time coverage of the Super Bowl. And Crystal gave it to them with unbuffered perfection, including the full treatment from pre-game to post-game. (The ship anchored by a little-known Fijian island for the day and apparently locked on to a stable satellite signal for dear life.) You could watch the game from lounge chairs in the Stardust bar (with its great Super Bowl decor), or from the plush cigar room. You could watch the big screen in the theater, or the little screen in your stateroom. And the Bronco fans could even watch a recording if they really had to see it again. ENTERTAINMENT -- SENIOR ACTIVITIES: Many of us on a Crystal crossing are frankly in that “extra generation” of seniors, whose extended lifespans allow the enjoyment of extended retirements. Many (including my wife and me) live in a retirement community that provides traditional “senior center” activities -- which are, not surprisingly, quite popular with the Crystal crowd. The Serenity thus offered well-attended regimens of bingo, bridge, trivia, puzzles, slots, zumba, line dancing, senior comedy, and “World Cruise Games” (events like shuffleboard, cribbage, rummy, and miniature golf). And lots of the entertainment assumes that we seniors need a heavy dose from the old “hit parade” and Andrew Lloyd Weber to reminisce about our “happy days.” It’s all there for us seniors, but travel agents should use candor in booking anyone under 50 on a Crystal crossing like this. They’ll be in a definite minority, and this little ship simply isn’t the land of water slides, climbing walls, and endless Internet. And, whether its PC or kind, the young in body may be impatient with the sensitive, unspoken realities of “God’s waiting room.” Such as a physical pace around the ship that is driven by canes, scooters, walkers, wheelchairs, and oxygen bottles. On the other hand, a crossing on this ship is a very good fit if an adult child wants to take an aging parent on a cruise. When it comes to respectful assistance to those with mobility limitations, I’ve never seen a kinder bunch than the waiters who staff the Lido Deck and the entertainment venues. (One of the best of these waiters has a parent disabled by polio.) However, travel agents should still take care to alert Crystal if a customer will be unable to make an untrampled descent on the stairs in an emergency. A crew member can then be assigned to assist during the first day’s lifeboat drill. DAYS ASHORE: The Serenity offered a full spectrum of eight Pacific port stops. They ranged from downtown Honolulu to island specks with just a beach and a bazaar. Crystal dropped you off for the day but, for four of the stops, there were no commercial tours due to the lack of tourism facilities. There were no stops at true “desert islands,” though lore says some “Gilligan’s Island” footage was filmed at Tabuaeran (pop. 1,900). The captain himself cautioned about sunburn there, since it was our stop closest to the equator. Our tiniest stop of all was the island of Inyeug, which has less than a square mile of land. Crystal’s port pamphlet calls it “one of the world’s last remaining deserted islands.” And legend says the place is haunted after dark. This mystique faded, though, as we saw the cell tower, airport terminal, rental huts, and monument to Queen Elizabeth’s 1974 picnic. In fact, over 60,000 cruisers a year get their day on this “deserted” island. Nevertheless, Serenity’s daily drop-offs had to be paradise for those who just wanted an endless summer of snorkeling or relaxing among the palms on a tropical beach. The fantasy of choice may be a day of quietly doing nothing at all, with that final tender back to the boat as the only interruption. But the Serenity also provided some great support for those of us who wanted to explore a bit. For instance, the Serenity offered the onboard resource of three scientists and seven travel writers (with seven different approaches, of course). Some gave lectures, and some just chatted with us as the cruise unfolded. All were at your service to plan, and interpret, your time ashore. I wanted to do some hours of serious study at a little-known French museum in Noumea. (See www.noumea.nc/musee-de-la-seconde-guerre-mondiale ) An officer from the Serenity showed me how to find it, served as my translator, and helped me negotiate the purchase of some research publications you won’t find on Amazon. At one of the remotest islands (Yasawa), I wanted some high-quality photos of the landmarks for further study. These were located beyond the “beach and bazaar” crowd, and the Serenity’s photographer hiked a half-mile with me to make it happen. And, at the tiniest speck of all (Inyeug), my wife and I walked the full perimeter and ended at a beach bar that the Serenity had set up to assure we didn’t die of thirst. When one of our favorite Lido waiters walked up to us with a cold drink, it never tasted so good. One high point of this cruise was a rare “cameo appearance” by Karyn Planett, who has for 25 years written the daily travel story on the cover of Crystal’s onboard newsletter. She’s done 700+ of these articles, with a cheery style that’s a cross between Rick Steves and Garrison Keillor. (Yes, there really is a Karyn Planett, and, yes, Planett is her real name.) Karyn and hubby Geoff Thompson shared three lectures of tips from their 40 years of photographing and writing about a life of travel. And, for those who like to remember each cruise with a personal photo book (like Shutterfly), the couple has pulled it all together in their new how-to-do-it guide, “Words & Pictures.” (See www.planett-traveler.com ) Despite the popularity of online photo books, such a reference for making them seems to have been missing from the market up to now. Unfortunately, Karyn and Geoff don’t do the little maps that Crystal hands out for each port stop. For the more obscure stops, cruisers should supplement these with the aerial photos at Google Maps (yup, such photos were online for even the most remote of our island stops). ARRIVAL AT SYDNEY: Be careful about advance ticket purchases for any shore shows that end within a few hours of sailing. One continuing passenger missed the Sydney opera when the Serenity rescheduled its departure to leave three hours earlier. Ouch! Or Crystal may decide to tender rather than dock, which can affect the workable time frame for independent activities. (Not to mention your comfort in taking a tender instead of a cab while donning formal opera garb.) For this cruise, Crystal’s ticket showed us as “docking” in Sydney. But instead we anchored and tendered. On the plus side, waking up to the Serenity’s anchored view of Sydney Harbor was priceless. As was our stateroom view of the lighted harbor at night. Docked cruisers didn’t get these. (A similar issue arose when Crystal’s itinerary ambiguously showed Honolulu as an “overnight” stop. This implied that passengers had two days ashore. The reality was that the Serenity arrived at noon and left late that night at 1 am. To avoid problems with private shore activities and re-boarding, be sure to clarify such details when Crystal gets cryptic.) SYDNEY SHORE EXCURSION: Travel agents vary in their efforts to root out distinctive shore excursions (ours just said to see the Sydney zoo and ride around the harbor). “Do-it-your-selfers” should carefully compare the cost and scope of Crystal offerings to what the locals will provide directly. For instance, Crystal offered its $269 “Aussie Wildlife & the Blue Mountains” shore excursion (# SYD-LW). This 9-hour busing included (1) mountain overlooks, (2) animals in a confined setting, (3) the Grand Canyon, and (4) the popular Scenic World tourist attraction (including buffet lunch). The fine print notes that “[g]uests should be aware that this excursion involves approximately three hours of travel by motor coach . . .” We instead made our own arrangements for a day in the Blue Mountains. We took the train through the Blue Mountains ($11 round trip) and were met at Katoomba by owner-guide Peter Clifford -- one of those entertaining “certified local characters” that we really treasure. For $146 per person, his 8-hour Blue Mountains Mystery Tour showed us the following in a comfortable van: (1) mountain overlooks; (2) animals in the wild; (3) Grand Canyon; (4) personal tour of Scenic World; (5) backroads drive through the Megalong Valley; (6) lunch menu at an old tea room in the forest; (7) dinner menu at a Blackheath pub; (8) tour of an 1830’s colonial courthouse at the Hartley historic site; (9) local legends and ghost stories that he’d researched over the years. Our guide really knew his plants, animals, and locals -- since he’d lived his life in the Blue Mountains. And my wife and I were lucky enough to be the only ones on his tour for that day. (See www.bluemountainsmysterytours.com.au; www.megalongtearooms.com.au; www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/Hartley-Historic-Site ) Including our $11 train ride through the Blue Mountains, we had a personalized 12-hour day for $157 (US) per person. Crystal’s alternative was the traditional 9-hour busing for $269 (US) per person. DINING: There’s not much to say about this cruise’s dining. We take about three cruises a year on the Serenity, and the quality of service in the formal dining room varies greatly from cruise to cruise. It depends upon the who, when, and where of your table. After a week of service problems, we gave up and ate most of our meals in the snack bar (which consistently offers tasty selections and the most attentive service anywhere). Travel agents should use caution in booking customers who expect their formal dining to be perfect and predictable (or the core of their cruising). If some detail of dining is a real “deal breaker” (table, time, friends, diet, waiter, headwaiter), the travel agent should negotiate it before the expiration of Crystal’s refund period. Crystal touts long waiting lists to take its cruises, and major dining adjustments can be difficult once the customer is onboard. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2015
Everything was wonderful- from the itinerary, to the speakers to the food. We missed a port due to icebergs, but with so many things to do on the ship it did not matter. Glacier Bay with 4 park rangers and a buffet sandwich lunch was ... Read More
Everything was wonderful- from the itinerary, to the speakers to the food. We missed a port due to icebergs, but with so many things to do on the ship it did not matter. Glacier Bay with 4 park rangers and a buffet sandwich lunch was perfect. wWe left deposits for 2 more Crystal cruises in the future! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2015
We have enjoyed several Crystal cruises in recent years, so confidently booked the interestingly routed Tokyo to Vancouver crossing, with an itinerary that visited Russia's Far East, and along the entire Aleutian chain before ... Read More
We have enjoyed several Crystal cruises in recent years, so confidently booked the interestingly routed Tokyo to Vancouver crossing, with an itinerary that visited Russia's Far East, and along the entire Aleutian chain before visiting the more usual Alaskan ports. We anticipated cold weather, rough seas, but looked forward to the exciting prospect of amazing wildlife. Alas, it was not to be, as it was far too early in the season for whale migration, bird life or bear sightings. Wisely we had packed warm clothing , boots, hats etc, as we certainly needed them! So early in the season, we experienced many days of fog, and chill winds, and the ship had to miss Petropavlovsk because of sea ice. It was delightful to visit the charming, welcoming small Japanese ports of Amori and Otaru, totally unlike the frenzied excitement of Tokyo. We thought more unusual Alaskan ports of Dutch Harbor and Kodiak were fascinating, and enjoyed seeing non-touristy Alaska before sailing into busy Ketchikan Crystal have recently changed both their marketing policies, and certainly dropped their standards, it seemed to us, as there was a completely different atmosphere on board. We felt we were on a.downmaeket, mass market ship, with pushing in, loud shouting, "me first" behaviour, disregarding of courtesies towards fellow guests and staff. Even in the glories of Glacier Bay, all seats in the prime viewing area in the forward viewing Palm court had been " reserved" long before dawn, with a refusal to share with fellow guests. The shows were filmed on held up IPads, to the detriment of those behind, despite staff requests. The dress codes had been" relaxed " to the point that there were none, with the words Crystal Casual being interpreted as "come as you are", even on designated formal evenings. It is uncomfortable to those guests who appreciate the opportunity to wear formal evening clothes to realise that some fellow guests think jeans and track suits are acceptable. This may seem a snobby attitude, but we previously found that Crystal offered the opportunity to enjoy a taste of fine, refined, cultured dining and entertainment, completely different to our home life. If this is the way Crystal is choosing to move forward, they will quickly lose their core customers who chose this line for its elegant sophisticated ambience, aimed at well travelled discerning clients. Their continued raising of prices, now several times a year, will soon lose its appeal, and business will slow rapidly. Expensive cruises need to give value for money, and make guests feel the extra expense is worth it. We will certainly reconsider cruising with Crystal again as other luxury lines seem to aim upwards, not, as Crystal appear to be doing, set their standards lower . Read Less
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