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Sail Date: April 2013
What follows is a frank review, after all this is Cruise CRITIC and my comments are not here to beat-up on anything, but I hope it will be taken as an incentive for all mentioned to improve. This is meant to be CONSTRUCTIVE criticism not ... Read More
What follows is a frank review, after all this is Cruise CRITIC and my comments are not here to beat-up on anything, but I hope it will be taken as an incentive for all mentioned to improve. This is meant to be CONSTRUCTIVE criticism not ranting. I'll break it down into both the good and the bad and name a winner in each category since I'd want to read a review like this if I was deciding on this cruise or comparing Crystal with Regent. One caveat, while my observations on Crystal are up to date, we haven't sailed on Regent for two years so please keep in mind some of my comparisons may no longer hold true with Regent since I’m afraid the cruise industry in general is increasingly losing some if its niceties. Pre-Cruise (booking, planning, information gathering) I made our booking through our travel agent and booked and paid well in advance to take advantage of every discount offered. My biggest gripe is having to always go through my travel agent every time I had a question. For example, I was trying to compare airline prices and decide whether we should go on our own our book through Crystal and get the advantage of them handling us, at least until Beijing. Normally this process takes a few hours, or I can find the information I want online. In this case every time my travel agent asked about a certain flight, it took two to three days. Apparently there’s just one person doing this at Crystal, and I guess he/she is overwhelmed. In the end we finally did go to Beijing with Crystal primarily because we could get the flight covered under the Crystal insurance plan, but it took about six weeks to come to that decision and seemed really convoluted. Compared with Regent, it was awful since, at least my travel agent could have a live conversation with the flights person and just get all the information at once. Crystal’s website and their online booking system (PCPC) work pretty well. It’s similar to Regent, but doesn’t force you to pay up front for tours to keep your tour reservation (like Regent). One glitch with Crystal, is that in the midst of sorting out our plane reservations with Crystal, I was locked out of the system, and upon calling Crystal they said I couldn’t use it until I had paid. Of course I had paid in full since I had already made most of the tour and dining reservations. I was pretty put off by this rubber stamp answer and I didn’t think that was the kind of attitude that Crystal should have with a fully paid customer who hasn’t even sailed yet. Another caveat is that the information on the website often is not checked very well, or has information that doesn’t get updated, so I really had to constantly double-check if things were right. For example, on this cruise, Tianjin, China was our departure port, but on our personal cruise calendar, it said we were in Tianjin also when we arrived in Kobe, Japan. Obviously this must have been a cut and paste mistake, but if the user isn’t completely familiar with the port names you could ask a driver in Kobe to pick you up at the port of Tianjin. I actually did this; fortunately our driver said it was a bit out of the way, coming from Kyoto, Japan… Winner: Regent Pre-cruise land tour and embarkation The first segment of our cruise included a three day land tour in Beijing before we boarded the ship. We stayed at the China World Hotel which was perfectly comfortable, and all three days were great. Since we had booked a Penthouse (PH) we were on the concierge floor. This gave us the option of dining in a smaller dining room rather than join the five hundred or so other Crystal guests in one of the ballrooms. I will hand it to the ground operator, managing this amount of guests at a high level of luxury and still maintaining a sense of personal attention is quite an achievement. Our Chinese guide made us feel like a much smaller group and we thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. Bravo Crystal, well done! Embarkation was fairly smooth, and if there was any irritation, it was due to the immigration authorities processing hundreds of cruisers. However that’s really nit-picking and certainly not any fault of Crystal’s. Compared to Regent, the last pre-cruise land tour was when Regent had their Discovery collection. We did a three day tour with only one other couple to Victoria Falls, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. At first the tour was in jeopardy of being cancelled since there were only two couples, however Regent, instead of cancelling the tour, offered us the option to make up the difference in price, which we both did so we really had more of a private tour. Regent subcontracted the three days to Abercrombie & Kent, and we were lucky enough to have the head of South African tours host us so needless to say, it was superb. To be fair, comparing Crystal and Regent here is really apples and oranges, so I will call it a draw with both cruise lines doing an excellent job. Winner: both Cabin Due to our not wanting to downgrade our living arrangements onboard compared to Regent, we opted to go for a Penthouse (PH) cabin. Although expensive, if you’re going to splurge on one thing with Crystal, you won’t be disappointed. Our Crystal Penthouse mimicked our standard Regent cabin with a verandah in every way except that it was a bit bigger and squarer and we had a Jacuzzi tub. This also made our verandah a bit bigger. Furnishings were excellent with plenty of storage. We had thought that for our three segments and having to bring a fair amount of winter and hiking gear, that the walk-in closet would still be too tight - not at all. We still had hangers left over and since we had lots of drawers both inside the closet and in the room, we had plenty of space for everything. Crystal’s standard cabins are smaller than Regent’s and we heard many times that they were OK for single passengers, two people were a bit too cozy. While we initially got the cabin for the walk-in closet and tub, it turned out we loved the cabin so much it was really our favorite place to stay on the ship – as opposed to public spaces. Not that the public spaces are bad – they’re great too; we were just in love with our cabin. If you can afford it – spring for the Penthouse deck you won’t be sorry. Since Regent’s cabins (especially on Voyager and Navigator) are pretty standard with tub and shower, walk-in closet and DVD player (Crystal only gives DVD players to Penthouses!), the worry about cabins is not there, except perhaps for location on the ship. Because Regent gives you this as a standard basic cabin the win goes to them since the cost is substantially lower. But I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to Crystal to spoil myself in a Penthouse! Winner: Regent Public Spaces The décor of the public spaces felt very much like there’s an Asian theme, with more colors and busier designs. Of course all this is a matter of taste. The winners in my book were Penthouse cabins (in off white colors with crown molding and wood furniture), the Avenue Saloon and Cigar bar (that was the prettiest mimicking a men’s club look – too bad about the smoky smell). The trident grill deck with the retractable roof was a great semi-outdoor option. The high wing-back chairs on the forward most lounge, the Palm Court are great. Although they’re often occupied its really nice to sit there and just watch the sea go by. The pool is actually big enough to swim in. It’s bigger and squarer than Regent’s. There’s a separate large Jacuzzi which can easily sit eight too. The losers in my book are the Crystal Plaza which just pales in comparison to Regent’s full height of the ship’s atrium and glass elevators. It reminds me too much of a hotel lobby and that I’m at a convention. The Galaxy Lounge which is the main theater, feels a bit head room challenged, fortunately the entertainers did make you forget that. The elevators are totally utilitarian, and the only reason I bring it up is because Regent’s glass ones really make an impression. Regent’s public spaces seem nicer, only because they have a lot more wood paneling and having the rotating art on the walls helps keep things interesting. The Mariner’s indoor promenade is lovely to stroll by on a sea day, and the Voyager’s top observation deck is still my favorite. Crystal Symphony would blow the Navigator’s public spaces out of the water, but so would Regent’s Voyager and Mariner. Winner: Regent Shipboard activities (sea days, lectures, entertainment) Being a slightly bigger ship with a max of 1000 passengers vs. Regents 700 max, gives Crystal a few more options in terms of entertainment. First off, Crystal has usually more simultaneous activities. Lectures can be in one area, while something else happens in the theater and since there’s a dedicated movie theater, it can show movies without tying up the main theater. Crystal does an excellent job utilizing their on-board TV. All lectures are taped so that you don’t feel like you have to book your time to watch it live or have to choose between a lecture or sleeping in. There’s a morning show which actually is quite informative and summarizes the activities, gives you the local weather and shows a preview of the movie of the day. There’s a destination channel which shows movies and documentaries associated with the upcoming port of call (great way to get into the mood of a particular place). The satellite TV is very international and not overly skewed towards U.S. media. It does change depending on where the ship is, but while we were in Asia we saw BBC World, and English language versions of Japan TV, and Korea TV. Again that’s great to supplant your visit to these foreign lands. There’s the usual CNN and Fox news if you want it and a couple of channels dedicated to movies or old sitcoms (it was fun to watch M*A*S*H near Korea). One slight gripe is that Crystal only has regular TV versus Regent’s Video On Demand, or DVR feature. This is a bit of a pain, especially since we use DVR’s at home all the time, since if you want to catch the entirety of a TV movie, you’ve got to make sure you’re there at the right time. However Crystal’s programming clearly wins over Regents – but who’s on a cruise to watch TV anyway? The quality of lectures is always variable, and I don’t think it’s entirely fare to judge the two contenders head to head, however I will say, Regent seems to better tailor their lecturers to the ports we are visiting. There was also a better coordination between the Tour desk, and lecturers so that before you reached a port, you had at least one lecturer who taught you about the country and culture, and perhaps another who spoke about the history and finally the tour desk making a presentation on tours. Crystal, was weak in this regard. The emphasis of the destination lecturer was more to brief us on what was fun to do, like restaurants or entertainment. I was surprised since Crystal emphasizes their learning aspect so much. I’m glad I did my homework before the cruise so fortunately I was pretty well briefed on our ports. I’d hate to think of someone who didn’t bother with the research since they probably had little idea of the context of the sights they saw while touring. I did find almost every lecturer generally interesting, and there were really no un-polished presenters as I have witnessed on Regent. Crystal’s main theater is a single deck height theater which has everything from Broadway style shows to musicians to game shows. Regent has all this but it does have a double height (two decks) theater. Personally the two deck theater just makes the shows look more spectacular, and in Regent’s case they can do their acrobatic “Cirque” show, which is fantastic. However once the initial impression of Crystal’s theater is over, the quality of the shows was excellent. I can only assume that if one day Crystal builds a new ship with a double-height theater, the whole experience will be that much better. A unique addition to Crystal is its “Magic Castle at Sea”. I’m a big fan of magic acts, and remember with pleasure some of the magicians I saw on Regent who performed in the theater. By contrast, Crystal’s Magic Castle, happens in the tiny Luxe nightclub which is decorated a bit like a carnival show tent. The acts are close-up magic and are more like parlor tricks. Personally, I prefer the grand spectacle and when magic is accompanied by lights, music and a big stage. To me these shows were a bit weak and I almost feel that I was watching a street side “Monty” game. One of the three magicians we had (there was a different one for each segment) did make an effort and she did impromptu tricks around the ship which was actually better, since it was off the cuff, and relaxed. Having it in Luxe felt like it was kind of hidden away in a broom closet. I can’t say the Magic Castle at sea is a deciding factor in choosing Crystal over anyone else. Movies in the Hollywood theater were generally excellent. The movies were quite recent and there even were a few foreign language films which were all great. The equipment in the theatre is excellent and only diminished by the viewing of standard definition source material. Hopefully this wasn’t an oversight and simply a licensing issue with the content providers. After all, how silly to spend all the money on high definition equipment and not have high definition programming. There is one thing that’s really strange on Crystal. The library is very good with books, DVD’s, and four Blu-ray discs to borrow, but only at set hours. Regent’s library is open all the time, which is great if you happen to wake up early or be up in the middle of the night. Several times I wanted to go to the library and it just wasn’t open – kind of a pain. The DVD situation is great if you’re lucky enough to have a Penthouse or smart enough to plug you own DVD player or laptop into the TV. I was shocked that regular staterooms don’t have DVD players – seems really cheap for a five star cruise line. Regent equips every cabin with a DVD player. The most amusing is that you have to spring for the ultimate suite on board, the fantastic Crystal Suite which is more like your own apartment on a yacht, and they throw in a Blu-Ray player! LOL. The joke is that they only have four Blu-ray discs in the library and although you can certainly play DVD’s in the Blu-ray player – it just seems really silly, don’t you think? Another thing that was very different from Regent is the participation in games. Both Crystal and Regent have typical games like Liar’s Club and Trivia. But Regent seems to draw you in more. Perhaps it’s scheduling and the staff joining in with the games. Crystal scheduled Team Trivia at noon, but Regent has it with tea in the afternoon (which is usually after people get back from shore anyway), which seems to be better to get people to maybe go for tea, but then get drawn into the game. Also Regent’s officers and management actively participate in Liar’s Club and other games which add a lot of fun and humanizes them. Crystal’s officers were doing their jobs admirably but nothing more. The only time we ever saw the Captain or any other officers, was at a set formal time. On Regent they’d pop up at meals, around the pool and felt just felt part of our floating world. I will say that the professionalism of Crystal’s crew was top notch and we got to and from all our ports and through some bad weather with perfect scheduling, and safety. Lastly I’ll touch upon “Learning at Sea”. Crystal promotes this greatly and I will excuse myself from most of this since I really didn’t participate. My wife and I had high hopes to do this, but you only have so much time and other things took priority. One downside is the elimination of Yamaha keyboard classes which we had always thought we’d take since no other cruise line offers this. It seems to have been replaced by iMovie classes and the Magic Castle at Sea. I’m a former CIO, so the computer classes are really not of interest to me and I’ve been making movies since Super 8 was around, but the keyboard classes would have been fun. Language classes are only in Spanish, which I really didn’t think was appropriate for Asia and Russia. What would have been more interesting are quick traveller’s language classes in port related languages, or perhaps a primer on Chinese characters, or Korean. I cannot comment on the CU@sea, except that it looked popular, and I have to assume the majority of the passengers find it helpful. My wife did participate in the Arts and Crafts program as she did on Regent, and I did sample one Golf class which actually did give me a few tips I want to try at home. I didn’t go to the others mainly due to the inclement weather and conflicts with other activities. Winner: Regent Itinerary I hadn’t mentioned this before but the primary reason for our trying Crystal Cruises after being exclusive Regent customers for so long was simply that Regent eliminated their World Cruises (we used to take segments) and their itineraries became repetitive and boring. We sailed from Beijing, to Japan, Russia and along the northern Pacific ring of fire through Alaska and down the west coast of North America to Los Angeles. This was always one of my “bucket list” things to do and I would still love to do the entire circumnavigation of the Pacific (perhaps like Cook’s journey) before I kick the bucket. It would have been nice to see more of Japan, like Hokkaido or the Kuril Islands but fortunately because we had almost three days in Kobe, Japan we did our own tour around Kyoto between segments. That was exceptional. The only negative I have to say about this itinerary was that it was a bit early in the season to be visiting a lot of these ports. The good news is that we saw these ports, especially Alaska, without thousands of other tourists. It was a bit like a pre-show or behind the scenes tours. We were ready for the cold weather, and amazingly I did manage to sneak a swim in the pool in San Francisco – of all places! Not having an active pool deck probably changed the impression we had overall of the cruise, since we now realize that it serves a bit like a town center where you can hang out, and eventually everyone passes through including the Captain. A plus Crystal has over Regent in this cold weather cruise is the trident deck which has a retractable glass roof. This was very pleasant in the temperate climates. We still got some sun without the cold wind. Our Captains did an excellent job getting us to all our ports with no mishaps. Winner: Crystal Shore Excursions I booked the majority of our tours on Crystal’s PCPC (online booking system). This worked quite well and I could preview most tours well ahead of time to research and choose. The choice was good, and some sounded very good, even though they were pricey. We ended up booking an overnight tour to Hangzhou, southwest of Shanghai. This was a $1,300 per person tour but it was really worth it. We were thrilled with the Aman Resort that we stayed at, and I was very impressed that Crystal offered this as an option. Crystal also offered a helicopter ride around the volcanoes in Petropavlovsk for a hefty $1,700 per person. I signed up for this thinking, well I might as well do something memorable in a place I might never visit again – and there was a good chance we might not even get there since last year’s cruise had to skip it due to weather. Anyway I took the plunge and only found out by chance that my tour and my wife’s completely different tour had been cancelled. I only found this out by calling the tour desk to ask about the missing tickets and after some digging, the explanation was that since I had been the only one to sign up, they cancelled it. I couldn’t believe I had found out this way. Its one thing to have advance notice that the tour is cancelled, and perhaps get help in make alternative arrangements, but quite another to just stumble on it and then really have no recourse. On top of that, since they cancelled both our tours we were at the back of the line to get booked on the remaining options – even though I had booked the original tours months ago. I asked why had they not even offered to turn this into a private tour, like Regent had done for us in Zambia? I was just quoted regulations. I was dumbfounded, and felt like abandoned. We eventually arranged a private tour to some hot springs, but it was just so badly handled, I cannot help but characterize the whole experience as a tremendous stain on Crystal’s reputation. We had heard for years that Crystal had no knowledge of the word “No” and mimicked the Japanese manner of always trying to accommodate and make their passengers happy. So this was a total shock, even now that I’m back home after a couple of weeks. I’ve certainly had some ups and downs with Regent’s Tour desk, however my expectations are not quite as high since their tours are included and not as interesting or ambitious. Kudos would have gone to Crystal for that had they been able to fully deliver and I still encourage them to offer the expensive tours as an option. I’m afraid the level of experience at the tour desk is probably getting weaker on all cruise lines, but it was very difficult to come to this realization after having such high hopes for Crystal. Ok, that’s enough whining. Generally our tours were fine, and I actually prefer Crystal’s way of doing the tours as not included since I can easily opt out and do things on my own. Regent doesn’t do much better, but at least they have the courtesy to tell me in advance when a tour is cancelled. Winner: None Dining Simply said, the food on board Crystal Symphony was the best I’ve had on sea and as good as anything I’ve had on land. I’m a simple picky eater, and normally food is just fuel to me. I’m hungry, satisfy the appetite and I’m ready to move on. However on a cruise, I mellow out a bit and pay more attention, especially to things I like. My wife usually says I never have anything nice to say about food except that its “OK”, so I was sure to highlight the fact that on Crystal I said “Great” and “Fantastic”. That’s a lot coming from me. Although we had to insist a bit with the sommelier, my wife managed to get a good Bordeaux as her preferred wine, as opposed to the nightly offerings. Almost everything I picked over 42 nights was excellent, and I gained 17 pounds to prove it! The things that were not excellent were still OK. The specialty restaurants were also excellent and a nice change of venue on a long cruise. The Wagyu Beef in Silk Road was probably the best beef dish I’ve had. The Beef Wellington in the main dining room was perfect (Chef Ramsey from Hell’s Kitchen would have been proud!). The service was excellent overall, and really the only downside is that there isn’t open seating. This has been reported many times, but coming from Regent with open seating to a set seating is a hard adjustment. We chose to dine by reservation, which is Crystal’s workaround, but you feel a bit sequestered into a designated area in the dining room. This never changes so it can get a bit wearing on a long cruise. We only interacted a bit with passengers seated at a neighboring table, but it’s not the same as having the flexibility one night to join a large table for more interaction, and then choosing to dine alone on another night. I realize this is probably a logistical issue with 1000 passengers, but it’s still a negative in my mind. The Trident grill served the best French fries ever. I wish I knew their secret to consistently producing perfectly seasoned, not greasy or undercooked fries. The pizza was also very good. The ice cream bar was a winner with Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, but after 43 nights it would have been nice to see the flavor choice change a bit. We had a special feature on this cruise that we’d never had before, which was a butler. Out butler “Greg” was everything you would expect and more. He really made a great effort getting to know us, and if there was anyone who we will always remember with this adventure it is him. I mentioned before that Crystal’s officers and management seem very detached from the passenger life, having Gregg as a butler made up for a lot of that. He leaped at the challenges I gave him for my in-room dining special orders and had a wealth of knowledge of the ship. Winner: Crystal Disembarkation We ended up in San Pedro, CA and our disembarkation was fine, although very sad as it is on all our cruises. Crystal does seem to do what it can to provide happy smiling people to help and guide you through the disembarkation. With Regent we kind of felt dumped on the pier having to rely on our own resources as soon as we were off the gangplank. Crystal reps were everywhere all the way out to the limos and buses. Aside from airlifting us in our wonderful Penthouse cabin to our home doorstep, Crystal could not have done more to ease our transition. Winner: Crystal Overall winner: I hate to even make this call because I’m happy to say I now like both Crystal Cruises and Regent Seven Seas. They each have enough going for them that I would sail again on either one as long as the itinerary is good. One thing Crystal seems to have is much more of an international mix of passengers. Being an American, while I don’t mind my fellow countrymen, I like to meet non-Americans when I travel. We had Japanese, Chinese, Australians, South Africans, and Canadians. This really added to the whole ambiance. Regent is heavily skewed towards Americans, and I feel sorry for non-Americans on board since they have to conform to American entertainment and being in the minority. I’m not American bashing, I just feel that as travelers on a ship in international waters we should embrace that we’re all world citizens and get out of our nationalistic modes. If I imagined myself at the head of Crystal or Regent, wondering who really wins this comparison, I’d probably be looking at the dollars. While we may have cruised more on Regent over the years, Crystal did beat out all the other competition to convince us to spend the most we’ve ever spent on a cruise, and they did it by giving us the combination of a pleasing itinerary, excellent accommodations, a mid-size ship that doesn’t get boring on a long voyage, and I did book two future cruises while on board. So if the bottom line is to get the client and make money, Crystal won. The one thing I would say in Regent’s favor is that they would probably win us back if they’d get their itineraries back to the way they were when they did Discovery cruises and get rid of the back and forth itineraries which kills it for multi-segmenters like us. Not that Crystal is bad, but Regent would kill them since they include air and tours and we get free internet all for a lower price than Crystal. So the overall winner is really both. I’m now happy that I now have to excellent cruise lines to choose from. If you think this is long, wait until I sail on some of the other cruise lines like Silver Sea and Seabourne   Read Less
Sail Date: February 2013
We had an extended trip to Asia and this cruise on Crystal fit in nicely. We started in Bali and we got off in Singapore. From the moment we arrived, we were delighted. The ship has a wonderful and elegant look, lots of great ... Read More
We had an extended trip to Asia and this cruise on Crystal fit in nicely. We started in Bali and we got off in Singapore. From the moment we arrived, we were delighted. The ship has a wonderful and elegant look, lots of great multi-functioning rooms, plenty of quiet areas, a computer classroom, card room, charming bars, great musical groups everywhere and an open and spacious feeling. The big differences in this cruise and others is simply the entire crew. Within 30 minutes of being on board, wait staff knew our names and remembered them throughout the cruise. They have this amazing enthusiasm as though they were brand new employees, but many have been with Crystal for 10-15 years. All the venues offered fine linens, stemware, dishes and beautiful food presentations. They also offer two fine dining experiences which were absolutely perfect - Italian and Seafood/Sushi. The wine selections are matched nightly with the food and the sommeliers were knowledgeable and gracious - offering many options. Bartenders made the evening cocktail a joy to experience. The cabins are standard in size but very efficiently organized with plenty of space. Bathrooms are nicely upgraded with a small tub, TWO sinks and nice amenities. They have three decks that offer multiple complimentary washers and dryers, what a great option that is for traveling in warm weather. The shows on board were so impressive, the lectures fascinating, ballroom dance lessons and group exercise were fun and relaxing. Best of all was the golf pro, he gave talks on sea days and lessons with hands on techniques. The last day he showed everyone a video of their golf swing with a special lesson on improving their techniques. So much to do on board I wished we had more sea days. I had heard great things about Crystal and everyday was WOW. We arrived in Singapore for our own transfer, the bags were all paced on carts ready to roll away. Cannot wait to sail again, I only wish they had more ships. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2013
Repeat cruising can be difficult in terms of managing expectations . One boards the cruise ship again with high expectations based on fond memories from the last cruise. Such were my thoughts when I boarded Crystal Symphony earlier ... Read More
Repeat cruising can be difficult in terms of managing expectations . One boards the cruise ship again with high expectations based on fond memories from the last cruise. Such were my thoughts when I boarded Crystal Symphony earlier this month in Melbourne, Australia. In fact, my last cruise (a trans pacific from Los Angeles to Tahiti) was marvelous and left me thrilled with Crystal. I love eating and I must confess it is the single biggest reason why I cruise with Crystal. Not to make light of Crystal Symphony as a beautiful ship with stately public rooms & elegant well designed cabin/suites, but I really enjoy fine dining which to me means both delicious well presented food with equally elegant and professional table service. For this last cruise, I was fortunate again to have Adem as my waiter. I am afraid to write this as I understand he already has quite a following and his section is a coveted spot in the Dining Room. Adem is a marvelously professional, attentive and friendly waiter. He, together with his fine assistants, ushered us through multi-course lunches and dinners with precision and charm. His attention to detail and adherence to our preferences were flawless. For breakfast, Muzo also manages a table well and brings a friendly demeanor which makes for a great start to the day. Not to gush too much, but the entire food and beverage team is great. From Bar Staff to Wine Stewards to the Assistant Waiters and the staff helping out in the Lido Buffet and by the pool. High marks to all. It starts with Remi the ever present, charming and engaging Matre d'. Remi watches over the Dining Room with sharp eyes making each guest feel welcomed and special. He is the Senior Diplomat of the Dining Room. Joining him with watchful eyes and quick words are the Head Waiters. I had the pleasure of being in Roland's section. A special nod of recognition must go to the senior managers of Crystal Cruises on board and at the corporate office who do a great job hiring and maintaining the staff many of which have been with the cruise line for 10-15-20 plus years. Such retention and dedication does not come by accident. One final note and commendation must go to our Butler, Greg, who was so gracious and attentive we were sometimes left for a loss of words. He was great and must have wings on his shoes as he was so fast in his responses. In fact, we timed him once and he was at our door, tray in hand, less than 60 seconds after we called him. Thank you Crystal for a great cruise. We can't wait to get back aboard again. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2013
We loved it! - We took this short 6 day cruise to see if we would like cruising - and we do! From the moment we stepped on board to our departure everything about Crystal Symphony and her crew was perfect - a great example of how a luxury ... Read More
We loved it! - We took this short 6 day cruise to see if we would like cruising - and we do! From the moment we stepped on board to our departure everything about Crystal Symphony and her crew was perfect - a great example of how a luxury cruise experience should be delivered. We were first time cruises but have already booked our next Crystal cruise - 15 days this time across the Pacific in 2014 - on board Symphony again We really enjoyed the sea days - so much too do - in fact you can't fit everything in on the programme The food in the MDR, Prego and Silk Road restaurants was excellent - we were never disappointed with the quality or the service It never felt crowded and there was always a quiet place you could find to relax - or if you wanted company there were plenty of opportunities to mix and mingle with other guests We are looking forward to our next cruise Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2013
Just off Crystal Symphony Melbourne to Brisbane and whilst the ship is nice I believe that it falls well short of Seabourne and is on a par with Oceania. Boarding Boarding was well organised as one would expect.Once on board we has ... Read More
Just off Crystal Symphony Melbourne to Brisbane and whilst the ship is nice I believe that it falls well short of Seabourne and is on a par with Oceania. Boarding Boarding was well organised as one would expect.Once on board we has afternoon tea and then went to our cabin at 3pm Fire Drill Fire drill was at 8pm. Not a good time when many had dinner reservation for 7.30 to 8pm. Still wouldn't have been too bad except for the dining room deferring our meal time from 8pm to 9pm despiter the fact that we notified them as soon as we learned of the drill time Cabin This cabin was the smallest cabin we have ever encountered . It was smaller even than Celebrity and Royal Carribean Shuttles A big raspberry to Crystal. Docked at Adelaide about 20km from the city and Crystal didn't even provide a shuttle to the city. As the train line was under repairs and buses were being used to transfer people for the last half of the journey taxi was the best option but the cost was $50 each way.The failure to supply shuttles went down like a lead balloon with most non excursion passengers. Vibration We have travelled on Seabourn, Ocenia, azamara, Celebrity & Royal Carribean and have had many trip in very rough seas, certainly rougher than we experienced on Crystal. The problem we found with the Symphony was that there was a constant vibration transferred through the ship . This vibration in rougher waters rattled the sliding wardrobe and was felt throughout the night . My wife who has never been seasick in her life felt very uneasy in all sectors until we cruised from Sydney to Brisbane. Quality of dining staff. Let me say that the bulk of the staff throughout the dining venues were very good to excellent. The absolute letdown though was the main Maitre D station in the main dining room. The service here was very impersonal with the Maitre D still not knowing our name or cabin number after 12 days. Once past this station then section Manager Martin was totally different , he recognised you and knew your name after a couple of days. On all past cruises except for Royal Carribean every Maitre 'd had a professional and pleasant air and certainly ever one knew who you were after a day or so. This was not the case with Main dining room front counter staff on CrystalFood The food was very good and both specialty restaurants offered a wonderful fare. Amenities The amenities throughout the ship were very good and there was generally no feeling of crowding. The ships policy to allow visitors on board on the first day in port meant that at time the ship had a bit of a crowded feel during this time. I can't complain thought as I took advantage of this offer myself. One thing that Crystal should address is the smoking areas on the pool deck area. I accept that smokers should have an area in which they can smoke and all lines provide such. Crystal have gone overboard providing about 50% of the pool deck area as smoking area. Lets have some sense and allocate an area in keeping with the percentages of smokers which is way under 50%. A maximum 20% should be provided in a corner area so that non smokers don't have to put up with the smell. One other thin , THAT HORRIBLE CARRY BAG. For heavens sake crystal spend the few dollars more and go back to the old one. Shows The shows were entertaining and the Crystal performers were better than I expected. Shore Excursions I found the shore excursion quite expensive, however, being an Aussie who has visited all the ports on numerous occasions just made my own arrangements or rented a car. General Comments I realise that we all have our own preferences and that all Crystal lovers will be up in arms, however, just let me point out a few of the little niceties you get on say on Seabourn and several of the other better lines that Crystal just don't match Baggage tags. Crystal use cardboard tags, Seabourn have leather permanent tags Cabins. This was the smallest cabin we have ever experienced. The settee was just big enough for 2 people to sit on. Seabour cabin was at least 20% larger with full size bath, separate shower with glass door and a very large lounge area Turn down service. Not that I eat chocolate but every other line we have been on provided a chocolate as part of their turn down service . Not Crystal Tote bags. What a disgrace for a tote back which looks more like a Woolworths shopping carry bag. Get real Crystal and at least go back to your old model which was passable for a 3-4 star line Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2012
It has been close to a month since we embarked on our Crystal Symphony Holiday Cruise in Auckland, but the memories of it linger fondly. We thought we would share this review. For ease of reference, we have broken our review down by ... Read More
It has been close to a month since we embarked on our Crystal Symphony Holiday Cruise in Auckland, but the memories of it linger fondly. We thought we would share this review. For ease of reference, we have broken our review down by categories, more or less. 1. Embarkation: Embarkation was a breeze. From the moment we entered the shipyard it took less than three minutes to board the ship and registration under two minutes if that. Efficiently and quickly handled, we were on our way to the MDR for our traditional lunch of Cobb Salad and along the way we saw several familiar and welcoming faces. 2. Computer and Wi-Fi: The folks who staff the Computer University deserve a medal of valor. We were able to set up our iPads quickly to access the WiFi and though I had a bit of difficulty at first due to the demand for WiFi of all of the guests logging in at once, that soon resolved itself. Sadly, we saw several guests over the first week of the cruise who were terribly rude and disrespectful of the CU staff complaining endlessly about the WiFi connectivity and how much better it was on other ships and how it was not like being at home. To their credit the staff was consistently polite (far more than I would have been under like circumstances). Though Crystal makes numerous efforts in its materials to give guests a realistic set of expectations, some just don't get it and the rudeness was appalling. Through it all, though, the staff did their best and kept trying to please and offering suggestions. During the course of the cruise, connectivity was excellent for the most part in both common areas and in our stateroom on the 10th floor. 3. MDR, PREGO and SILK ROAD: The food was consistently excellent. Special ordered foods were prepared precisely as requested. Portion sizes were reasonable and we noted little waste of food or food left on plates at the end of the meal which is a great sign that the food was delicious and also of the desire to not waste food. The selection was always good. Service in the MDR was excellent (Kudos to Celso, Renjith, Hayley and our sommelier Kremena and her assistant Michaelangelo all of whom were top notch!) Service in Prego was outstanding as always and the food scrumptious. Service in Silk Road we found to be a bit intrusive at the wrong times and rushed, especially by the sommelier who looked like he was in a hurry to meet demand for his services. A special note about AI. We did not note any delay in sommelier service at our table for 8. Kremena was seemingly always there when a glass needed filling and extremely knowledgeable about the choice of wines being offered and other options. 4. SHOWS: We enjoyed the shows and especially noted that there was not a single repetition of shows during the cruise. Every night had different entertainment. We did find the decision to have some shows for late seating diners at 7 p.m. to be confusing and as a result missed a show designed by Marvin Hamlisch that we really wanted to see. That being said, the artists brought on board were wonderful and we enjoyed them thoroughly. Our only criticisum would be that we noted that members of the Crystal Ensemble of Singers and Dancers on a couple of occasions took seats in what we woulc consider prime locations in the Galaxy meaning that passengers had to find seats way along the perimeter of the showroom. The same held true on several nights in the Avenue Saloon where an entire side of the room was taken with Crystal Ensemble dancers and singers and passengers had no place to sit. As we soon learned, Mark Farris is one of the hottest tickets on the 7 seas and he could sure use a larger venue to perform but probably the intimacy of the Saloon is what makes him so great among other things like his sense of humor and his musical skills. Special kudos for the great DIVA show which was tops and excellent shows by Will Martin and by Boys in the Band. 5. MAGIC AT SEA: We recall the catty postings about the prospect of Magic at Sea before it launched that we read on these boards. Magic at Sea this time around with Andrew Goldenhersh was a GREAT experience. Andrew is a world class magician and the chance to see him in an intimate setting with 20 passengers was not to be missed. Apparently almost half of those on board concurred as his shows were full and standing room only on some instances we are told. There was nothing but class and quality in his act. Best of all, he involved willing passengers and each attendee was within a few feet of him as he performed complex effects with great finesse. Furthermore, the tickets we each received to use in the future to get access to the World Famous Magic Castle pribate club in Los Angeles were an added bonus. Being one of the hardest tickets in Los Angeles to get (you either have to be a member of the Academy of Magical Arts or know a member to get in the door), getting a free pass to get in at some time in the future was icing on the cake. We hope Crystal keeps this program going. 6. USC CINEMA SCHOOL IPAD IMOVIE CLASSES: Dave attended this class and loved it. The instructors Claudia and David from USC School of Cinema were wonderful, patient and helpful. Both spent extra time outside of the class time with Dave helping him learn how to use the iMovie program. The written materials and the hands on help which were provided were stellar. Dave intends to take the class again when he is next onboard to refine his knowledge of the program. Having two left hands when it comes to this type of technology, Dave really found the classes great and the instructors patient and easy to learn from for which he is grateful. 7. SPA AND GYM: We both had spa services and used Brian to train us privately in the gym. The spa was lovely though smaller than the Serenity. Brian was simply fantastic. He was encouraging, put us through quite a work out each time, and very positive. He is clearly knowledgeable about personal fitness and health and we cannot wait to be back on board to train with him again. Dave tried his first spinning class with Brian and found it to be very challenging. Brian was encouraging and Dave will definitely do it again thanks to Brian's kind words and feedback. 8. SMOKING: We spent less than 10 minutes in the entire cruise at the Crystal Cove. The smoke was overpowering. Similarly we found ourselves having to leave the Avenue Saloon a few times due to smoking. We realize that smoking in those venues is soon to be a thing of the past and are sure that the performers and workers in those venues cannot wait for that day to come on both ships. We did not note a lot of smokers on the Lido deck, but then again we did not go looking for them. We did note a fair amount of Crystal employees smoking at the fore of the ship and imagine a smoking ban might really impact them more than one might have thought. 9. FORMAL NIGHTS: Call us old fashioned but being in our late 50's--early 60's we do still enjoy formal nights. It is a hassle to bring all of the items required for formal dress but we are always glad we did so. We noted that folks looked very nice on those nights and even on informal nights too. We did not see more than one instance of what might be considered inappropriate attire in the MDR at dinner. We hope Crystal will maintain the Formal Nights on the cruises. 10. ALL INCLUSIVE: Being that we are not big drinkers, free and unlimited alcohol held no allure for us. That being said, we only noted one instance in the Avenue Saloon where a woman was sleeping with her head in her husband's lap during one of Mark's shows. We do not know if that was excess alcohol or fatigue but it struck us that if she was that sleepy, she should have gone up to her room. We also, as is our custom, provided gifts to some of the folks who served us for XMAS and extra gratuities especially for our butler, room stewardess, Senior Waiter, Head Waiter, Assistant Waiter, Lido and Gym personnel and a few other folks all of whom looked surprised to receive anything and were very appreciative. COnsistently during our cruise we noted smiling and happy faces among the crew. Not once did we encounter a rude or sour or unhappy crew member. 11. CONCIERGE SERVICES: We need to express our thanks publically to Gareth and Patrick at the concierge desk for their excellent assistance. They promptly and very skillfully handled multiple arrangements for us and kept us informed of their progress and confirmed everything in writing. They are the very best at what they do and very personable to boot. 12: SHORE EXCURSIONS: We enjoyed the shore excursions and only wished that perhaps a few more culinary excursions or cooking experiences could have been arranged. And we were sorry to have missed the chance to bike around Napier but did enjoy that Art Deco tour in the old Packard auto with Tony! 13. LIDO DECK: Having sailed on both Crystal ships we cannot help but compare our last cruise on the Serenity in March 2012 with this holiday cruise. The difference was most noticeable on the Lido Deck. On the Serenity (before they went AI), we were constantly asked by Lido crew if we wanted any food or drinks. We found on this cruise that we were asked about drinks from time to time, but outside of the late risers breakfast service, the solicitation of our food and beverage desires was more sporadic. It seemed like there were fewer crew on the Lido deck during lunch and afternoon than we were accustomed to. Still, the guys who approached us and helped us were wonderful and the burgers and ice cream can't be beat! 14. OUR PENTHOUSE: We've sailed both ships before and the highlight of the cruises starts when we are greeted by our dear butler IGOR BABICK who makes each sailing a special joy. He and Sheetal our stewardess made sure we had everything we needed and were charming to deal with. We cannot say enough about our cabin crew and how wonderful they are. The room is a bit smaller than on the Serenity and there is less drawer space, but when IGOR enters the room and greets us, the space is just right. 15. NEW YEARS EVE: Crystal outdid themselves for New Year's Eve. Yes second seating dinner was a bit harried, but the views and location of the catamaran near the Sydney Harbor Bridge was the best seat bar none and we were front and center. We will NEVER forget the wonders of 12/31/12 and ringing in the new year in Sydney Harbor. We doubt Crystal could ever top that excursion though we suspect that they will continue to try to do so in coming years. 16. REMI AND OUR DINING ROOM TABLEMATES: As always we asked for a late seating and a table of 8. Remi, ever the magician, put together an absolutely splendid table of dinner mates for us. We enjoyed every dinner together, periodically becoming so lost in the conversation and laughter that we practically were the last ones out of the MDR at night. We do not know how he does it, but it is a special skill. We had such a great time that we have all agreed to sail on the Northern Cape July 2014 voyage together and to request the same table and table mates again. We know we'll keep in touch with Mary, Fran, Lyn, Nancy, Cathy and Ernie and see them from time to time if our travels permit either here where we live or in their home towns and we can't wait. 17. COMPLAINTS: Aside from our observation about crew taking prime seats at some entertainment venues, we only have one other complaint and it is one which Crystal cannot do much about. As we expected, a holiday cruise has children on it and sadly, some of the children onboard had parents who were not attentive to their children's behaviors or chose to ignore it. Running up and down the hallways, playing in the elevator, trying to glide down the bannisters and running around on the dance floors was hardly appropriate conduct. We noted young children teetering on bar stools near the ice cream bar, picking through the cookies in the box there and putting cookies back that they had touched. We heard of children pushing doorbells late at night at certain staterooms. As noted above, sadly, some folks do not know how to behave and therefore do not teach their children about appropriate behavior on the ship. Again we do not fault Crystal for that and we did note several families with extremely well behaved children. Finally, as we have found to be consistently true, we ended our cruise longing to stay longer and realizing that we simply had to wait until our next cruise comes around (in a mere 130 or so days). We left the ship feeling so relaxed and having seen such marvelous places and sights, and having made some wonderful new friends and acquaintances and concluded, as we always do, that there is simply nothing better than a Crystal cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2012
After waiting ten months for this cruise, and after reading numerous reviews, comments, etc regarding Crystal, I started feeling that my very high expectations couldn't possibly be met. Well, I was wrong! Please allow me to ... Read More
After waiting ten months for this cruise, and after reading numerous reviews, comments, etc regarding Crystal, I started feeling that my very high expectations couldn't possibly be met. Well, I was wrong! Please allow me to explain: 1. Embarkation and disembarkation were the quickest and smoothest I've ever experienced. The Crystal team realizes how important first impressions are, and they did a good job of starting off right. 2. Service on this cruise was beyond belief. By the second or third day everyone from the waiters to the bartenders to the maitre d'hotel greeted me by name, and always with a smile. How do they do it? Whenever I asked for anything, whether it was a drink in the bar, a second appetizer at dinner or some assistance in the library or gym, my "thank you" usually elicited a "my pleasure" or similar response from the friendly staff. Because Crystal recently went to an all-inclusive format, I had needlessly worried that service might suffer. Although this was my first Crystal cruise, I can't imagine that it could ever have been any better than what I experienced. 3. Food is of paramount importance to me, and I was blown away by my 16 days of gluttony! Everything from the grand gala buffet to the casual dining options to the main dining room was spectacular. Most notable was the variety, as there never seemed to be an entree that was repeated during the duration of the cruise. The specialty Italian and Japanese restaurants were superb. The overall dining experience was worthy of one Michelin star, if not slightly better. 4. The ship itself was comfortable and inviting. Numerous areas such as the Crystal Cove and the Palm Court were so peaceful that you never suspected that 900 other passengers were on board. During the pre-dinner hours, however, the bar areas were more energetic. A special note should be made of the bartenders and waiters in the bar areas: they were uniformly outstanding! 5. The cabins are well-appointed, clean and comfortable, but are on the smallish size. That's not a problem for me, but if a spacious stateroom is important to you, you might be disappointed. Although one earlier review described the bed as uncomfortable, I couldn't agree less. The mattress, pillows, duvet etc were excellent. The mini-fridge was always filled with sodas and beers of my liking, the fruit bowl was replenished daily, and an orchid was always present on the table. The room was cleaned twice daily and was always spotless. The verandah was fairly standard but, again, not too spacious. 6. Activities onboard the ship were plentiful. My favorite was the enrichment program which presented expert speakers. A retired Air Force general gave a series of talks that was fantastic. There is a movie shown daily in a very comfortable theater, and multiple classes are offered, including such diverse subjects as pilates, yoga, napkin folding and computer use. There's a nice-appearing casino, but I didn't go in it. The evening shows were better than average, but nothing too special. 7. There were many excursions to choose from, but quite a few of them were very expensive (helicopter rides, etc). I went on three snorkeling excursions (Key West, Cayman Islands and Huatulco) and they were well-organized. A few other comments: The average age of the passengers on this cruise was ~ 70 years old. I wouldn't recommend this cruise for children or for the under-40 crowd. This is an expensive ship, double or triple in cost of most other lines. What you're paying extra for is luxury and service. If that's not so important to you, and if it's mostly the destinations that you're looking for, you probably can find better value elsewhere. Overall, Crystal is outstanding and I can easily see why it has such a high rate of repeat cruisers. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2012
Due to cruise New York to Los Angeles via Panama Canal last November. Chose Crystal because they said there was open dining option. Tried to book dining times 3 weeks in advance online to find there was no option left but 6-15 or 8-30, ... Read More
Due to cruise New York to Los Angeles via Panama Canal last November. Chose Crystal because they said there was open dining option. Tried to book dining times 3 weeks in advance online to find there was no option left but 6-15 or 8-30, all other slots had gone. This isn't a real dining option for people who want to dine at 7-30. Cruise due to leave New York 2 November, we were due to fly 30 October. Hurricane approaching, due to hit New York Monday 29 October. We and our travel agent tried to contact Crystal all that weekend to discuss alternative embarkation and only got a recorded message that their offices were closed until Monday opening 9 a.m. California time - after the time we would have had to leave London. No flights into new York that week. No communication from Crystal at all, no email, no message to our agents, we were desperate with worry. Emails were unanswered, no reassurance given. This made us sick with worry and uncertainty and forced us to cancel. Very expensive cruise - how could Crystal close their offices in this emergency time over the weekend prior to the Hurricane and just ignore their customers?We would never ever consider Crystal again. they might have won World's Favorite Cruise line, but that can only have been when things didn't go wrong. Their statement that open dining is an option should be qualified by "if you go online and book early enough". Crystal are quick enough to send emails to customers promoting salon treatments etc. Why didn't they send a reassuring email saying that embarkation would be from an alternative port to be notified and not to worry. I gather that the cruise did take off from Charleston several days late - if we had known this, we wouldn't have been so worried. Terribly disappointed with the service from Crystal Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2012
We decided to do this "Cruise To Nowhere" immediately after doing it last year. Crystal, I believe, has only done this itinerary a couple of times. Starting in San Pedro, it heads North to Santa Barbara, spends 2 days in San ... Read More
We decided to do this "Cruise To Nowhere" immediately after doing it last year. Crystal, I believe, has only done this itinerary a couple of times. Starting in San Pedro, it heads North to Santa Barbara, spends 2 days in San Francisco before returning south to Ensenada and San Diego. Being from Southern California and having spent a lot of time in all of these destinations, we termed this the "Cruise To Nowhere" last year. We were taking this Thanksgiving Cruise primarily to enjoy the ship, the food, and the usually stellar service. I am rating the overall cruise a 4 star, but in reality it's more like a 4.5 or 4.6. I unfortunately cannot rate it a 5, at least from our perspective. Here, in no particular order are my observations: Cabin: We were on the fifth deck, Category D. Cabin was in a great location. Lower deck right outside the main lobby and the Crystal Dining Room. It's a bit small, but typical of most outside cabins. Bathroom with 2 sinks and great toiletries was nice. Shower/Tub had a hand set shower unit with nice power. Downside is the quality of the beds. Mattress is very firm and all of the pillows were too soft. They tried a trick with an egg crate upside down, but it did not help much. Crystal needs to redo the beds. Many would agree. 4 stars Food: Nothing more to say than ...SIMPLY AWESOME!. We had no complaints whatsoever. The food in the MDR was 5 star or better every single meal. From the fish to the bread to the soup to the venison, it was a taste sensation every meal. Even one step higher were the Specialty restaurants: Silk Road and Prego. Outstanding preparation and my hat is off to the chefs and servers throughout the ship. 5 stars plus All Inclusive Drinks and Wine: We had a great Sommelier and the wines offered were quite nice. Our mixed drinks at the bars were also served quickly and were quite good. I cannot complain at all about this aspect of AI. We are not big drinkers, but apparently you can also have 2 bottles of complementary hard liquor or champagne in your stateroom. See your stewardess and she will get you all set up. 5 stars Enrichment: Because we only had one sea day, the Crystal Enrichment program was at a bare minimum. This was unfortunate. Last year we at least had Art and Music classes, and I was expecting it again this year. It was even listed in the itinerary on the web. The Speaker, Louis Rene Beres, an international law expert focused on the middle east, was excellent, but they only gave him one day to speak. He had apparently prepared four lectures. I do understand that on Port Days, the ship expects everyone to be out exploring. But on this particular cruise, I'd say a good proportion of people stayed on the ship, a lot. Ensenada, in particular, seemed to have very few "adventurers". we were fine with not having many activities on the sea days, as our objective was just to relax, but to have the option of a few things would have been nice. Last year, for instance, we did some art and actually had it displayed at an "Art Show" on the ship. 3 stars Jazz Themed Cruise: Perhaps some of the minimization of the enrichment program was due to the Jazz we had on board. There were several musicians on board, playing for several hours every day at various venues. The Talent was superb Old Styled Jazz with top notch solos. The groups were part of an organization called "Jazzdagen". One of their band leaders is a guy named Pieter Meijers, who plays a Clarinet like you would not believe. I would rate this entertainment 5 stars plus, and was a unique experience we had not encountered in any of our previous cruises. Well done! Service: This was the surprise for us. Last year, we had the best service of any cruise we've ever been on. They made an effort to know our names. I would be up early and try to meet my wife later in the lido for breakfast. The Lido staff would be able to pinpoint me and direct my wife to my table. It was unprecendented. The Dinner staff were equally accomading. that Was last year. This year, for whatever reason ,was a complete reversal, at least for us. Our stewardess was just adequate, if not worse. We had early dining, and on 2 nights we returned to our room after dinner to find that she was still cleaning the stateroom. This was at 830pm! So she got embarrassed and said she would hurredly finish, meaning of course, not thoroughly cleaning perhaps. Our dinner waiter was equally incompetent, if I can use that term. We were a table of 8 at the very aft end of the room. We were invariably the last table to get served. Some orders were wrong: he forgot who ordered what, that sort of thing. We had to switch our plates after he served the wrong dishes to the wtrong people Desserts were forgotten. Coffee and Tea was not served with dessert, perhaps 5-10 minutes after dessert. I mean it wasn't all bad, but it was also not that great. He never recommended any meals or described how the dishes were prepared. I don't know, but for some reason, we got stuck with perhaps the worst waiter on the ship. Now our dinner mates were great, and our interesting conversations were able to carry us through the delays, but still, I like to eat in a timely fashion. All dinners took about 2 hours from start to finish. We were usually about the last people out of the dining room. Not because of lingerring to talk, but lingering for our after dinner tea or coffe to arrive. Surprising thing however...the lunch service was excellent. Maybe less crowded, but we were in and out on 45 minutes and completely satisfied. The waiters/eaitresses vary for lunch, so we had a glimpse of some others. Most were stellar, but a couple were again just not so good. Service is the most important aspect of a luxury cruisre, and we just felt that we were treated pretty mush average if that. In direct comparison to the best serviced cruise of our life, last year, we just this was on par with a mega ship, not a smaller luxury ship known for it's sevice. And Crystal is not inexpensive, so this was just a bit incomprehensible for us. Oh, one other thing, our stateroom toilet went out of service briefly. I went to the front desk to anounce it (front desk is 30 feet from our room if that). Then we heard that toilets were out on that entire side of the ship for our floor at least, including the public bathroom. Two elderly women came out of the bathroom to say the same thing (toilets not working) so I went right back to the front desk. I thought this was pretty important. The front desk staffperson did not and just non-chalantly said someone would be notified. I went back to the room a couple hours later and the toilet was working, thank goodness. Went to the same front desk person to say "thanks, it looks like our toilet is working again." She was sort of caught off guard and said, "Oh okay, thanks for letting us know". Bottom line: She didn't put any emphasis or care in the toilets being out, and had no idea that the situation was resolved nor did any announcement come directly to us that our staeroom toilet was working again. Not a shining Service moment for Crystal, IMHO. Overall Service: 3 Stars Summary: We had a great cruise, but it was not the "6 Star" luxury we had expected, coming off our truly "6 Star" treatment on the same cruise last year. Hard to say if it was due to the "All Inclusive" changeover this year, or just our specific bad luck of having a less than stellar stewardess and waiter. Could also be that several crew members may have been at their last week of their contract, i.e. burned out. The Symphony was heading to the South Pacific and Australia, so it would make sense that a new crew was being sent "Down Under". Still, it is the ship's responsibility to make sure everyone is adequately taken care of. The Jazz was great and the food was great and the wine was great. Service was only adequate, so the overall experince was a bit diminished. Would we sail Crystal again...surely, but the price would have to be commensurate with the service. In this case, it was not. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
Crystal really tried to make the best of a multitude of problems. The computers didn't talk with each other in Montreal; thus the engines wouldn't start. Crystal worked on this and brought parts and a computer expert in from ... Read More
Crystal really tried to make the best of a multitude of problems. The computers didn't talk with each other in Montreal; thus the engines wouldn't start. Crystal worked on this and brought parts and a computer expert in from Germany. We did miss Quebec and the Sagenay River because of that. We were given either $150 cash or a $300 credit on a tour taken before 12/15/14 --- plus $15 cash, our share of not docking in Quebec. Later we received an additional $10 as our share of not docking in Newport. Yes they could have been a bit more generous. Halifax and Bar Harbor were wonderful Then on to Boston and an introduction to Hurricane Sandy. the first day in Boston was rainy but were still able to make a good visit to this city. The next day the ship offered shuttles to an enclosed up-scale mall. Unfortunately, Sandy came in with gusto and the mall, of course, closed. We were at a safe dock with the bow thrusters going and a big tug holding us to the dock. We felt very safe. Some people did get off -- maybe they were going back to Canada. I'm fairly sure they were not going to NY. The ship did not let us know that there was a possibility of never getting the ship to NY. If they had, I think some of our new acquaintances from Canada would have departed. After we left Boston it was announced that the next stop was Charleston and we could talk with some of the ship's staff on deck 5. I have to admit that one of the ladies assigned to talk with passengers was totally unimpressed with this task. Unfortunately her regular job was customer service. We did find the lady who books future cruises to be very understanding although there wasn't much she could do. We did get a free call to our travel agent. We did, for the remainder of the trip, get free internet. This was very appreciated, very fast and very accessible. This was a hurricane --- Crystal didn't cause it --- they tried to help people. I saw the staff of the computer room assist an untold number of folks who were not computer savvy. We did enjoy the Cruise Critic cocktail party -- thanks. This was our 6th trip on Crystal. Was it the best?? Probably not... But the service was marvelous, the food excellent and it left us with lots of stories to tell. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
Embarkation was very well organized. Pleasant easy experience. Cabin was clean and well laid out, although on the small side. Our assigned stewardess Gabriella was tremendous. Room was immaculate, and she always had a pleasant smile ... Read More
Embarkation was very well organized. Pleasant easy experience. Cabin was clean and well laid out, although on the small side. Our assigned stewardess Gabriella was tremendous. Room was immaculate, and she always had a pleasant smile and kind word. Helpful with any questions / requests. Food was excellent throughout the cruise. Would like to especially recognize Ilija in the Crystal dining room. Pleasant, engaging, funny. Would also like to recognize Vlade in the Crystal dining room who went out of his way to make sure we were taken care of. Joseph always remembered our names and took great care of us during lunches at the Trident Grill. The ship is well organized, the days well planned out. We thought the evening entertainment quality was excellent. We would look forward to traveling with Crystal again in the future. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2012
Few years ago when we started taking cruises to enhance our land tours, we carefully chose Crystal because of its reputation and its offer "$1000 as you wish" that made Crystal distinguished from "all inclusive" offer ... Read More
Few years ago when we started taking cruises to enhance our land tours, we carefully chose Crystal because of its reputation and its offer "$1000 as you wish" that made Crystal distinguished from "all inclusive" offer by other luxury lines. We really had a wonderful experiences from the past few cruises with Crystal. However, V2226 Oct 21,2012 New England Cruise with Crystal Symphony disappointed us. SERVICE After Crystal changed to all inclusive, all service are going downhill. First, in Lido and Neptune: except Filipino crew, most of the servers were not smiling and friendly, no one chasing us for coffee as before. Most of time, we needed to ask for coffee instead. No one tried to remember and were greeting us with our names. No one took your tray when you just turned around from the food serving table. It was the first time, we ordered food in the Grill, and the food got forgotten and did not show up. All those little friendly gestures I experienced in the last Crystal cruises impressed me very much and could tell the differences of luxury cruises and other cruises Second, The steward was so different from Serenity when $1000 as you wish" was offering. Never restocked our refrigerator and shampoo, body cream etc. I needed to call room service for Perrier water and wrote her a note about the body cream. The litter in the room stayed on the floor for few days. I always ask some fruits in refrigerator every evening. The previous stewards in Serenity put the fruits in small plate so that the refrigerator door could be closed. In Symphony, the steward sometimes forgot the order or put the fruits in big plate to make the refrigerator door not closed. Few times, I almost dropped bottles from the refrigerator. Third, the management was not friendly as Serenity, I requested hosted table when I paid in full six month ago as I did with previous Crystal cruises. After we boarded the ship this time, the maitre D told us that I didn't get it this time because those tables were reserved for special guests. Fourth, in the past Crystal cruises, we enjoyed talking to friendly bar tenders. Just took a couple of days, all bar tenders remembered our names and chatted with us when we were there. The lady bar tender in Serenity Crystal Cove even remembered us after a year. It really made us feel welcome and at home. In this cruise, no bar tenders made an effort to chat with us, not even mentioned they remembered us. Fifth, afternoon tea was always my favor activity, in Serenity, the head waiter always came to talk to us. The waiters all were very friendly and attentive. This cruise, we needed to walk up to the head waiter to tell him that no one served us tea for a couple of time. MIGHT BE ALL INCLUSIVE WITH GRATUITIES MADE THE CREWS FEEL EXTRA MILES IN SERVICE MEAN NOTHING TO THEM NOW. FOOD The food in dining room and Silk Road were still very good. Prago was not as good as before. The all inclusive wine lists were so short and never showed to the guests unless you asked for it. In Prego, the sommelier told us the ship didn't stock that many good wines now because few people asked for connoisseur wine list. In Serenity with $1000 as you wish, since we didn't drink that much, we usually order better wines for dinner. Now, I even drank less because I didn't like their all inclusive wines. Really missed "$1000 all you wish". Without this offer, I do not see Crystal is different to other luxury cruise line. Final words, regarding the way Symphony handled the situation caused by its own mechanical problem and the storm, I quite agreed with another reviewer Marvick600. If Crystal were willing to give information or help about how to go to Quebec and Newport by ourselves, we definitely would rent a car to do day trip to Quebec and Newport. When we heard about the option from other people in the ship, it was already too late for us to plan the day trip. Might be, Crystal thought giving $150 per person to compensate missing Quebec was good enough. However, the money was not the issue for people taking luxury cruise. Extra service in the difficult situation is the most importance for people going for luxury cruise. Especially, the ship's mechanical problem caused customers missed a port and scenic cruising. Will we take Crystal again? Might be. But, trying other luxury cruise line become our priority now.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2012
My husband and I love cruising. We have been on Carnival, Princess, Celebrity, Azamara, Royal Caribbean, HAL, Paul Gauguin, Regent Seven Seas. We have heard Crystal Cruise is a bit "snobbish" or "stuffy", too formal ... Read More
My husband and I love cruising. We have been on Carnival, Princess, Celebrity, Azamara, Royal Caribbean, HAL, Paul Gauguin, Regent Seven Seas. We have heard Crystal Cruise is a bit "snobbish" or "stuffy", too formal for us. After this cruise, we became convert. Here are the reasons why. 7. EMBARKATION. We bought air with Crystal Cruise. Turned out to be the smart thing to do. (more later.) As soon as we landed in Montreal, a friendly Crystal representative was there to greet us, with a porter to assist with our luggage. Everything was looked after for us, including gratuities for the porter. We were immediately shown to the embarkation "counters" set up in Starlight Lounge onboard Symphony. No waiting in the cold terminal! One crew welcomed us, brought us to get our passcards, waited for us, (only a few minutes) and then escorted us to our cabin. He showed us our cabin and its amenities, answered questions. The whole process took not more than 15 minutes! This was a personalized welcome! Before he left, our luggage has also arrived. We were off to a great start! 6. STATEROOM. Our cabin number is 7105, starboard side window (C category), in the aft. Our cabin is close to the elevator / stairs and on the promenade deck. Size wise, the cabin was spacious enough for the 2 of us. The stateroom houses everything we need: Closet filled with hangers; plenty of shelves, drawers; Robes, Kimono, slippers, complimentary cotton bag; a huge umbrella. Not to mention a fridge stash of different types of beer, Perrier water, and soft drink. The newly renovated bathroom, sparkly and shining, has an efficient layout (though tight), 2 vessel sinks, 1 full tub, marble enclosures. Both my husband and I really appreciated the water pressure in the shower. 5. SHIP AMENITIES For this ship size, the amenities are abundant. We use the library almost every day. The computer room, studio were very active with internet users and computer classes. We attended most of the full-house ipad/computer classes, and found them informative, and entertaining. Because the Main lobby area on Deck 5 is where The Crystal Water Fall, concierge desk, customer service are located, I expected buzzing crowd and line ups. Not so. One can relax with a book and a drink, accompanied with melody played by a pianist or string quartet. The 2 retail boutique carry merchandize catered to gifts and wants. The staff are helpful, and I am impressed by the daily changing of window displays, keeping the boutique "fresh" and fun. Our favorite place is the Palm Court on deck 11. The comfortably elegant lounge is conducive to quiet reading, meeting up with friends, ballroom dancing with live music, or just daydreaming! Try one of those high back wing chairs, you will understand why they are highly sought after. Weather permitting, my husband and I like to be in the outdoor court (with retractable roof) for lunch or snacks. Thick blankets are provided should we need one. We like the cheerful atmosphere, perfect for relaxing with a beer or 2. The light-hearted crew contributes greatly to the ambience. The living wall is a show-piece. A hint: study the living wall carefully. See if you can spot more than plants. 4. ONBOARD ACTIVITIES The 2 after-dinner shows we attended were phenomenal, high caliber. The magic/comedian show I thought suit the audience. I had belly laughs. The other performance was Robert Meadmore. His last song, Over The Rainbow, was performed with only his own powerful voice; his passion resonated the entire theater. I would never listen to Over the Rainbow the same way again. DH and I regret we missed other similarly impressive world-class performances. We have a difficult time sitting with our full stomach for 45 min. We also were impressed with the Special Interest lecturers: Tom Feranda, and Bill Miller. If we miss their lectures during the day, we can watch them on stateroom TV throughout the day. Interestingly, on Crystal Cruise, we most looked forward to Crystal's line up of enrichment / educational programs. Judging from the attendance, I would surmise all of them are very popular and well-received. It is refreshing to attend these types of workshops without any sale pressure! Kudos to Crystal! The only drawback is we just did not have enough time to enjoy or participate in them all! 3. SPA and FITNESS I normally do not splurge on the spa services, but with ship board credit, I decided to give it a try. I chose a facial. The facility has a calming, zen feel. The treatment room seemed spacious and bright (with ocean view window). I had a wonderful session, and did not have to go through over-zealous sales pitch. A steam room and a sauna were available for guests to use, which I did not realize. I wish they told me when I book my appointment. I could have arrived earlier to take advantage of these facilities. Not that I used the fitness facility everyday, but the times I was there, I found the facilities well-attended. The 2 fitness instructors seem to care for the well being of the guests than meeting their sales quota. The yoga/pilate/stretching classes were popular. Due to its popularity, the yoga classes were held in Starlight Lounge. 2. SERVICE. In my opinion, SERVICE is where Crystal Cruise shine! I now understand why Crystal Cruise has such fanatic loyal fans. The service is beyond expectation. The crew remembers your names and your likes and dislikes. Every morning at breakfast, regardless the section we sat, Tirso would acknowledge us, and bring us our favorite. We notice the head waiters or maitre d would be in the Lido every morning, worked along side with the crew, looking after the guests. One stormy 30ft wave night, our chamber attendant Christy knocked on our cabin door to check on us. Many passengers were sea sick. She noticed we did not go out for dinner and she brought us room service. (we are not in PH.) Due to hurricane Sandy, the entire staff had to make many changes, in very short time. First and foremost, never once did we feel our safety was being compromised. Second, while dealing with the logistics, Crystal staff continued to look after the guests, food, entertainment, enrichment programs, etc... Free internet was provided to all guests. We heard many unhappy passengers onboard. Some panic, and decided to disembark in Boston. Because we booked our air with Crystal, Crystal Concierge affirmed we need not worry or do a thing; Crystal would look after us. And they did. They rearranged our flights home, better than what we could have done ourselves. We were able to relax and enjoy our cruise while others were frantically trying to find their own flights home. In my humble opinion, as sophisticated and educated as we are, we passengers can't possibly know and understand the intricate details behind cruise operations: ports authority, and regulations. The captain and the officers had to contend with hundreds if not thousands of variables, that we passengers are not aware of. For example, we left Boston around 7:30am heading toward New York City. Many questioned why we did not disembark in Boston. It was explained later, Boston port did not have a spot for Crystal, and could not accommodate and provide the necessary services for near 1000 passengers. (Boston city was closed most of the day before.) With the help of their head office in LA, Crystal Symphony was able to obtain a guaranteed spot in Charleston, SC, that could accommodate both disembarkation and embarkation services. We got one more sailing day with Crystal. We were fortunate. Yes, there was disappointment on missed ports, missed events and dates planned. Keep in mind this was a very unusual Superstorm Sandy! Compared to those who have lost homes, power, heat, normal life routine, our missed ports and cancelled flights were just inconvenient! We are safe and sound. Keeping the guests safe is the priority at all times, which we commend the captain and his officers for doing that. Plus, Crystal Symphony continued to treat the guests well, and keep us entertained. 1. FOOD. For us, service and food on Crystal, are close No.1 and 2. Main Dining--Food to my husband and me is a very important part of our cruise enjoyment. Food selection and presentation are fantastic on Symphony. The portions are smaller than other cruise lines; however, they are plenty for us: less waste and smaller waist! The dining waiter and assistant were fabulous, anticipating and meeting our needs. On the first night, the night of embarkation, (our reserved dining at 8:30pm was way too late for us) we went to dining room around 6:30 pm, the maitre d turned us away because the dining room was full. We learned later that was not the case. Lido cafe was closed for dinner. We ended up getting room service. We were a bit disappointed. However, the next day, a note left in our cabin, informing us we indeed got an early assigned dining table! We did not expect this on our second day! This is what I call "under promise over deliver." The wait list table turned out to be one of our most cherished part of this cruise: the fellow dining mates. The 4 couples sharing this early dining table had a special bond: all of us were wait listed. Our special table became the Wait List Table. Silk Road--Saving the best for the last, if you don't try any thing else, you have to try Silk Road on Crystal Cruise! The flavoring of each dish is to enhance the main ingredient, not to mask it. For example, the seaweed salad made up of 3 different types, distinctive texture and taste but surprising mix! One of my favorite is Rock cod. It just melts in my mouth. Silk Road is definitely worth trying Crystal Cruise for! If you are trying to choose a cruise line for a special celebration, Crystal Crusie should definitely be in the running. I heard one of the best itinerary is passing the Panama Canal. Normally, my husband and I cruise based on the itineraries. This Crystal Symphony sailing was a departure from our norm. Surprised that we actually enjoyed the slower pace, we become more aware of our world through these enrichment programs and lectures. we connect with new friends and crew alike. Sailing with Crystal Cruise is more than travelling by sea. It is an adventure that connects me to the world and the importance of life, in a level I never had time for. For this one reason, in addition to the top 7, Crystal Cruise is definitely worth a try, at least once. And maybe like us and many others, once is no longer enough. We booked another cruise onboard. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
We are experienced cruisers but relatively new to the all-inclusive lines. This was our first time on Crystal and we had a fabulous time. In fact, after about 15 cruises, the Symphony is our favorite ship to date. Because we are ... Read More
We are experienced cruisers but relatively new to the all-inclusive lines. This was our first time on Crystal and we had a fabulous time. In fact, after about 15 cruises, the Symphony is our favorite ship to date. Because we are still employed, we prefer the 7 day itineraries. This cruise was from Boston to Montreal with stops in Bar Harbor, Halifax, Quebec City and Montreal. We arrived in Boston one day early and spent our pre-cruise night at the Hilton in the financial district. The Hilton is in a very good location so we were able to spend quite a bit of time exploring the area. The following day around noon, we too a cab to the pier and, after maybe 3 minutes in the security screening line, we were on board. We completed registration on board where there was no line at all. We are in our early 50's and most passengers were older than us (most were retired)and there were only three children on board. We had a good time meeting and getting to know our fellow passengers and found that the Symphony was very conducive to this. Our cabin had no veranda, just a large window. I've stayed in cabins without verandas but my husband had not. He was perfectly fine with just the window and, given the weather, I doubt a veranda would have gotten much use. We found the bed to be very comfortable and our stewardess made sure we had pillows to our liking. There was absolutely no trace of lingering cigarette smoke (to which I am very sensitive) which I read could be an issue. In fact, we never even smelled smoke in the hallways so I doubt many, if any, actually smoke in the staterooms. We were on Deck 5 which turned out to be a great choice. It seemed like we were close to everything. But then, on this ship, it seems so well laid out, perhaps everyone felt the same way. Admittedly, this was the smallest ship we've sailed on so I'm sure that was a factor. The cabin was on the small side which we knew would be the case. Maneuvering around the bed was a challenge when we were both getting dressed/packing/unpacking. However, I was pleased to find two hairdryers - one in the bathroom and one in the closet. The fridge was stocked with an assortment of sodas and beer but we didn't find ourselves reaching for a beverage while in the cabin. Also in the closet was an umbrella for use in ports. Our stewardess, Claudia, was relatively new. However, she did a fantastic job. She was pleasant and efficient and went out of her way to make sure our stay was pleasant. Completely on her own, when she suspected the rough water was bothering me, she arranged to have candied ginger delivered to the cabin. What a thoughtful gesture! The ship itself is beautifully laid out and very efficient. The public spaces manage to be intimate and spacious at the same time. We enjoyed afternoon tea most days and on the days we missed, we found similar offerings in The Bistro. We were surprised by the size of the casino. It is quite large and never seemed crowded. We did play Bingo one afternoon and my husband won $351. We don't normally play Bingo so we chalked it up to beginner's luck! We arranged for dining by reservation and that worked out just fine. We were at different tables each night but in the same general location. Even though we had reservations, there seemed to be a great deal of flexibility. The last night, when we showed up with another couple, we were easily accommodated. We found the food to be very good and really didn't have a meal we didn't enjoy. I appreciated that the portions were on the small side so that I could partake in multiple courses. We had pre-booked reservations at Silk Rose and Prego for four people. Our traveling companions had to cancel and we never changed the reservations. As luck would have it, within minutes of boarding, we met a great couple that had been unable to make reservations. So, they joined us for our two dinners. We found the all-inclusive wines to be perfectly fine and felt no need to deviate. We didn't realize The Bistro didn't have a full bar and a few times we ordered cocktails. Apparently, the server, instead of telling us that it wasn't a full service bar, was going down to deck 5 and getting the drinks from another bar. Once we realized it, we only ordered what was available but this is an example of the level of service we received. We didn't use the fitness center because the cruise was port intensive but we were surprised by how large and well equipped it was given the size of the ship. I did take a yoga class (no extra charge) that I enjoyed. We loved the menu set that we received the last night. What a great memento of our trip. We also appreciated the guest list. We booked excursions through Crystal and were surprised and pleased to see that a staff member accompanies each tour. From what I understand, the staff members volunteer for certain tours and really seemed to be enjoying themselves. It was a pleasure to get to know a few of the staff members in this more relaxed setting. Our first port was Bar Harbor and we booked the bike tour in Acadia National Park. It was a great tour and there were some challenging hills so it really wasn't appropriate for someone that isn't used to biking. The next day, in Halifax, we did the "Coastal Bicycle Adventure" and it was fabulous! The scenery was breathtaking and we saw great fall colors. This ride is about 12 miles in length but was an easy, relatively flat, ride with plenty of opportunity to stop and rest or take photos. In fact, if the 12 miles was too much, you could ride for a portion and arrange to be picked up early. I highly recommend this tour. The first "cruising" day was pretty uneventful and there was no view other than open sea (which we enjoy). The second cruising day however was down the Saguenay River and it was spectacular. We stopped at Our Lady of the Fjords and Ava Maria was played on the intercom. We were on deck 11, aft, behind the Lido Cafe and for most of the trip down the river we were the only passengers on deck so we had a private tour. It was a bit chilly but we brought blankets and coffee (with Baileys of course) so we were well prepared. Next stop was Quebec City. We participated in the Old Quebec by Foot and Horse Drawn Carriage. Unfortunately, it rained heavily and had turned quite cold by the time of our excursion. We had already explored on our own so we felt we had seen enough of the city to know we would like to return. If you haven't been to Quebec City, it is a quaint, beautiful town. In Montreal, we just explored on our own which turned out to be a great choice. We took our time exploring the sites and purchased a painting by a local artist who allowed us to photograph him signing the painting. Because the painting was of a local Montreal cafe, we went to the cafe, had lunch and had a picture taken of us outside the building. This whole process was a wonderful experience. We were able to explore the lower part of town by foot and took the complimentary shuttle to visit the upper part of town. We really appreciated the shuttle service and it appeared that there four 4 buses in service so there was never a wait for a bus. Marlin Fitzwater spoke twice and we attended and enjoyed both discussions. The shows were generally good but we really liked "Diva" and the comedy shows. We did take a group dance lesson and found the classes to be informative and easy to follow. The crew and staff seemed very relaxed and comfortable interacting with passengers, but not in an intrusive way. It almost seemed like they were "hosts" of sorts and it was a nice change from our previous cruises. Most of the passengers were older than us, however, we had a great time meeting and getting to know them. We made some great friends that we will definitely see again. I think the all-inclusive aspect facilitates meeting other passengers. Instead of arranging for transfers through Crystal, we opted to just take a taxi from the pier to the airport. The flat rate was $40 plus tip and it was very easy. In fact, it seemed easier (and less expensive) than arranging through Crystal. If you are considering a New England Canada cruise, several people told us that the leaves were the most colorful during our week of October 14-21. Of course this will vary from year to year but you can use it as an indicator when planning. I really want to find fault with something so this appears to be an objective review. Outside of the cabins being on the small side (which was no surprise) I just can't come up with anything. Oh yes, one day my Bloody Mary was too strong...does that count? Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
My partner, her mom, and three of her mom's friends sailed from Boston to Montreal. This was our second cruise on the Symphony and their first. SHIP: The ship was in fantastic shape. Even as we were sailing, the carpet was being ... Read More
My partner, her mom, and three of her mom's friends sailed from Boston to Montreal. This was our second cruise on the Symphony and their first. SHIP: The ship was in fantastic shape. Even as we were sailing, the carpet was being replaced as they continue to update the ship. We found our rooms to be comfortable and updated, and the public areas were beautiful. The only crowding was at the lunch buffet, were we had difficulty finding a seat...especially for 6. But I believe this was due to the cold weather, as passengers could not comfortably sit in the Trident area and were all forced into the Lido. FOOD: We found that the quality of food was again fantastic! As proven by the 5, yes 5 pounds that I gained! One thing I love to do on the Symphony is try new things, such as the Asian breakfast. I know that the quality of the food will be good so I'm not afraid of what I might get! We have been reading that service may be lacking since going all-inclusive and I can say that we found it to be the exact opposite! In particular, folks have been saying that the wine/cocktail service in dinner is slow, and I can tell you that for us it was not. And not only were drinks served fast, but our waiters remembered our drink preferences and had them almost immediately after we sat for dinner. Both speciality restaurants were fantastic, though I have a preference for Silk Road. CREW: The service from top to bottom was fantastic. Several of the crew remembered my partner and I from 2 years ago...we had to help them with our names, but they definitely remembered us! Our travel companions had never cruised with Crystal and they now say that they will not ever cruise with another line...and these people are well traveled! ENTERTAINMENT: We typically do not go to the shows, but did this time, as our travel companions wanted to go. I have to say the they were really good. The orchestra needs a little work, but the shows were good. We also loved Colin Salter in the Avenue Saloon and the pianist in The Cove. Really talented people. EMBARK/DISEMBARK: Perfectly done. Quickly onto the ship and quietly off. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2012
This ship and its Japanese owners are throwbacks to the days of when restaurants, hotels, theaters, airplanes and office buildings permitted smoking, either in segregated areas or throughout, and non smokers silently suffered. The world ... Read More
This ship and its Japanese owners are throwbacks to the days of when restaurants, hotels, theaters, airplanes and office buildings permitted smoking, either in segregated areas or throughout, and non smokers silently suffered. The world standards have changed but barely Crystal. This is the only cruise line left afloat that still allows smoking in staterooms. So the smoke from the smokers rises into the ships's air-conditioning systems and spreads it's noxious fumes everywhere. Hallways outside of staterooms reek in places of the odor from smoke coming-out into the hallways from adjacent smokers smoking inside . Same in certain of the more interesting bars, where the ship honors the old airplane tradition of territoriality, by allowing smoking on one side of the bar but not the other, as if the smoke respects boundaries and does not waft over and contaminate the air in the rest of the bar where the nonsmokers gather and hope to avoid the cloud of foul air coming from the few smokers only feet away that they have to breath. Sitting at a table 20 feet from the bar does not help. So much for what makes this ship and this cruise line stand out among the worst there is from a good health standpoint. If you are a smoker, this is the ship for you. If you long for the old days when smokers ruled the roost, and the cigarette industry fooled the public, or a non smoker who simply does not know the difference or does not care enough, this is for you. If not, think options.Public spaces on the ship are lovely, and the Hollywood theater for daily movies is a very nice feature on the wide screen. the nightclub entertainment is very good, with a large show band and talented performers singing and dancing their way in excellent produced shows with very good production values of great costumes, lighting and scenery. Crystal still clings to the old commercial concept of a ship's photographer shooting photos all the time. And selling them. Whole walls adorned with photos for sale most people today just ignore. Another relic of the past. The passenger demographics lean toward the late 70's and 80's. Not a particularly happy, vibrant and joyous crowd, but a lot of repeaters comfortable with each other who seem to like the comfort of something familiar that barely changes. Top food and excellent service are the hallmark of Crystal. Very good and tasty dishes, nicely served, in normal portions not too large and with attentive service. Caviar on request. Excellent smoked salmon. No long waits for food to come. Good complimentary wines, easily refilled. Dining on command in the Main Dining Room a very nice feature. The speciality restaurants are very good, but with limited seating don't expect a second opportunity in each, except perhaps at very late hours. Excellent afternoon tea service, but the string quartet is so boring after a day or two of classic melodies.the ship's public spaces are very beautiful, with nice lounges throughout. Nice paintings and decorations and tasteful new decor in recent retrofitting. The non penthouse cabins with balconies are about 50 sq feet smaller than the competition, and the sliding door closets are not great for storage if you want to bring a large wardrobe, with little drawer space. There is non walk in closet the extra 50 sq feet would bring, and the sitting area is tight. All of this is because the Symphony is an older ship. Bathrooms despite the double basins are also small, even though a nice size shower compartment. Two normal size people cannot pass each other in the bathroom and it borders on the claustrophobic. The ship is comfortable,but the smoking that is permitted presents a real challenge to anyone with breathing problems, smoke allergies or true health consciousness. One can tolerate smaller cabins and bathrooms, and the excellent food and service are real plusses, but when coupled with this smoking problem, it gives true meaning to the principle caveat emptor. Others mentioned it to us and voiced their surprise that Crystal permitted smoking in staterooms and bars and said they would complain. Yet the policy remains unchanged. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2012
We were on the Crystal Symphony v2226 Oct 21-Oct 31 Montreal-New York. We flew out of Newark on Friday to get to Montreal early. Our flight was delayed but we got there that night. Checked in to the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth. Upgraded ... Read More
We were on the Crystal Symphony v2226 Oct 21-Oct 31 Montreal-New York. We flew out of Newark on Friday to get to Montreal early. Our flight was delayed but we got there that night. Checked in to the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth. Upgraded to a junior suite with the Fairmont Presidents Club. I highly recommend this hotel. Great room, great food, great location, and great service. I was even able to get late check out for Sunday to stay in the room until 4:15 to watch the Giants game. We checked out and took a taxi to the cruise pier. Upon arriving at the pier the taxi was able to go all the way to the door of the terminal that was very close to the entry to the ship. (Very convenient) When we entered the ship we were checked in and then taken to our cabin. Cabin- We booked a window cabin on the 7th floor. We booked a window because we knew it would be too cold on most of the trip for us to enjoy the balcony. The cabin was way too small. Our luggage did not fit in the room and needed to be stored. The bathroom was the size of a closet. The worst feature of the cabin is the bed. The bed has a cheap mattress that was as hard as a sheet of plywood. Their is nothing luxurious about the bedding on Crystal. The horrible cabin had us wanting to leave. We could not get a refund if we left so we stayed. Dining-This is the best feature Crystal has. The food was great in every venue. Although the food and waiters were great the drink service was very slow. My wife drinks soda and there were days where we had to ask halfway through dinner where the coke was. Wine glasses were not refilled quickly. The ship had propulsion problems on Monday when we were supposed to leave so we did not leave. We didn't leave until Tuesday night and we missed the port of Quebec and the scenic cruising on the Saguenay River. This was a big disappointment to us and also many on board. Crystal could have taken the initiative to run a bus trip on Tuesday AM to Quebec as it is about 2.5 hours away from Montreal but they did not put in the effort. Halifax and Bar harbor were nice ports and we had great weather for them. Then we get to Boston. We were told that Newport RI would be cancelled due to the rough seas so we would be staying overnight in Boston. This was another opportunity for Crystal to take the initiative and still run tours to Newport RI (its only 1hr 20 mins away) but they didn't. We rented a car and drove down and back. The breakers mansion is amazing. While in Boston about 50 people chose to get off the ship due to the coming hurricane. We were encouraged not to get off from the staff and told that Crystal would take care of everything and it would not be an issue. After the second day in Boston an announcement was made saying that for our comfort we would be staying in Boston instead of sailing into the hurricane and that we would miss most of the extra day in NY. Instead of waiting Tuesday morning to evaluate the situation by 7AM Tuesday the boat was sailing towards NY. By Tuesday evening we were given an announcement that due to damage to the NY cruise terminal we would be taken to Charleston, SC which was Crystal's first port on the next cruise. They said that there would be people in the main reception area to address any concerns. I went to the table set up on level 5 and was told the same thing as the announcement. When I asked how we would get back to NY the person behind the table shrugged their shoulders. They said that's up to you. Not only was any transportation paid for by Crystal but we weren't even given any help making the arrangements. Their only response was that they gave us free internet. The internet was so slow once everyone got on it that booking anything was difficult. I asked to be able to use the phone at no charge and was told it would be $2.50 a minute. Thanks Crystal!!!! Clientele- If you are young(under 60) and are considering going on Crystal....DONT. The average age of the passengers has got to be about 80 years old. This will be our last cruise on Crystal. When a company is going to advertise 6 star service, I expect better than what Crystal provides. We had a much better experience on Silversea. Food is good on Crystal but that where it ends. If you want more than food then look elsewhere. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2012
I cannot believe that this cruise line claims "6-star-service." While the food was very good and the service throughout the ship (except for the housekeeping in the cabin) was better than average, I certainly would never again ... Read More
I cannot believe that this cruise line claims "6-star-service." While the food was very good and the service throughout the ship (except for the housekeeping in the cabin) was better than average, I certainly would never again pay what they charge for the experience. The staff in the Trident Grill was excellent. They remembered our names and always made sure to find us a nice table. While we only ate in the main dining room one night, the service there was fine. We very much enjoyed the food and service in Prego and Nobu. Paolo did a great job of trying to get us a table each night in those restaurants. The staff in the casino was great. We took one of the classes they offered and really appreciated their tips. The pianist in the lounge was wonderful as was the pianist they brought in for a special performance. Most of the staff was polite and accommodating. When you sat down in a lounge, usually they quickly came over to serve you. However, the one day when we did decide to try the afternoon tea, the servers seemed uninterested in serving you. We watched one woman get up numerous times to find someone to serve her. We also saw one of the servers told angrily by a superior to start waiting on the guests. There was chaos during embarkation in Montreal regarding where to park. Everyone had a different answer. We wondered if the car was going to be there when we got back. The housekeeping experience we had was quite unbelievable. To not allow it to ruin our entire trip, we made jokes about it. The morning after our first night on the ship, I dropped my book onto the floor beside the bed. I bent down to get it and noticed a dried substance on the bed skirt. It appeared to be vomit. I found the stewardess and explained what I had found. She did not appear to understand me. I asked if she could please replace the bed skirt. I had been under the impression that a 6-star-line would launder ALL linens between guests. We also found what was obviously vomit or another organic material smudged on the door to the bathroom. The first night we were on board, we found slips that allow you to order room service for breakfast so long as you place them on your door by a certain time. My husband loves doing that, so we placed our order and hung the slip on our door. Our stewardess delivered it the next morning, but you could tell she was not happy about it. A day later, we tried to order breakfast to the room again, only to find that the stewardess had removed the slips from our room! We also found out that slips for ordering wine and drinks to your room were supposed to be in the room, but none were in our room. Our tub was never cleaned. I placed dirty towels in the tub (as instructed), only to find them there after the room had been cleaned. Our tub was dirty and when we attempted to clean it ourselves, the dirt came right up, meaning it was not stained; it was dirty. Our room was dusty. My husband put some clothes on the shelves in the closet, only to have them come out with dust on them. The slats on the outside of the closet were so dusty and dirty that I didn't like touching the closet doors. Our fruit was never replaced, so we had rotting fruit in a basket on the desk in our room. On the morning we pulled into Quebec City, it was raining. We noticed everyone had large, umbrellas with the Crystal logo on them. Nice touch! We asked where we could get one and they said that they should have been placed in your stateroom. Not in ours. Our room was not vacuumed. My husband lost a contact our first night on the ship, and we found it on the floor as we were packing to leave. We are very envious of the little contact. He's going to get to see the world! We're sure no vacuum will come into the room to scoop him up. My husband says he only wishes he would've had time to teach the little guy to write so he could send us stories of his travels. We were jealous of the guests who received the daily activity sheets in the morning outside their room. We rarely got ours before late afternoon. I'm certain we got a few odd looks from people wondering why we were lingering in the hallways outside of their rooms trying to peer at the list of activities on their sheets. Our water bottles in the room weren't replaced. We assumed they were trying to tell us to just fill them with bathroom tap water. The beds were comfortable but the pillows WAY too soft for our taste. We heard from others with better housekeeping service that their stewardesses had made sure they were happy with their pillows and that there was a whole selection of pillows available. Our toiletries were never replaced. I warned my husband to use the soap sparingly, since there wasn't much left of it during the last few days... In closing, the ship was beautiful; the ride was comfortable and the food and (most) service was very good. But, a dirty room and unacceptable housekeeping don't cut it when they charge what they do. I would not cruise with them again. If I do, I will pack my vacuum. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2012
Crystal is a bit better than the average cruise line, but in no way is it '6 star cruising' and certainly not worth the extra cost. I don't believe it represents good value for money, and personally wouldn't cruise with ... Read More
Crystal is a bit better than the average cruise line, but in no way is it '6 star cruising' and certainly not worth the extra cost. I don't believe it represents good value for money, and personally wouldn't cruise with them again. Cabins are really small. We'd booked one for two adults, a three year old in a bed and a baby (6 months) in a cot. The three year old was OK in a chair which folded out into a bed (but I wouldn't want to put a child who was much older than that in there). But when the bed was folded out the table in the room had to go under the dressing table, the chair from the dressing table had to be removed from the room completely and the baby had to sleep in our bed as there was absolutely no room for a cot. This wasn't great, but given the fact we had to pay for the baby when he had nowhere to sleep and no food provided it wasn't acceptable. We were told the lowest category of cabin with a fold out bed available was Cat C. We would have much preferred adjacent cabins with an adjoining door in Cat E but we were told this wasn't available. Very frustrating then that someone we were travelling with was allocated just such a cabin and it definitely did have a fold out bed. The size of the cabin meant there wasn't enough room for all our clothes -- I think we would have struggled with just two people in the cabin -- but with two children quite a lot of our clothes had to remain in the suitcase under the bed, which we could only get out when the fold out bed was folded up. Liked the mini-bath in the bathroom, great for bathing the kids. The twin sink looks great, but as you can't get more than one person in the bathroom at a time it would actually been better to have one bigger sink. Loved the Aveda toiletries. The waiting staff and the room stewards were generally excellent but the reception staff ranged from dismissive to downright unhelpful. Personally I found the entertainment poor. The program didn't vary day to day -- bingo at 10, quiz at 11, dance lessons at 2.30, etc -- the only thing that seemed to change was the guest lecturers. There are obviously a certain portion of people this appeals to but it completely lacked imagination and innovation, nothing that hasn't been done for years. The brochure advertises that there are dedicated rooms for kids but that is quite literally all they are, just a room -- no entertainment at all is provided and there were no toys whatsoever available in the room (which was quite often closed as it was being used by the golf program or the photographers). I understand that there are no dedicated staff available outside of selected cruises but that is absolutely no excuse for not having toys available in the kids room. If nothing else that would mean the children would have somewhere to play away from passengers who didn't want children on-board. There was a kids menu in the dining room but this didn't vary at all, and unsurprisingly my son was getting bored of eating the same things after two weeks on-board. There was very little that was suitable for children otherwise, and absolutely no baby food was available. The food in general was good, and portion sizes in the main restaurant were ideal. The lunch buffet was quite repetitive though, and only a few hot dishes varied day to day, with other counters not changing at all during the two weeks. I found the opening times of both the restaurant and the lunch buffet too limited (trying to fit in getting the children fed and naps meant that quite often I missed the buffet and had to eat at the lido). Other people who ate breakfast quite late or were on the late sitting for dinner might also have found the lunch closing at 1.30 to early also. After 6.30 the only options were the restaurant or the food being served in the restaurant as room service. With the kids asleep in the room, room service was not an option so it would have been nice to have somewhere else to go. Crystal might argue that there isn't the demand for it but the long wait for a table on the two nights there was casual dining in the evening in the buffet room would suggest otherwise. We really struggled to get bookings at the speciality restaurant at suitable times, in the end we only got a booking at all by e-mailing Crystal. We were therefore really annoyed when we did get in to find that we were the only fare paying passengers there save for one other table. All the other tables were taken up by staff, some of them with their guests. I understand that staff might want to take their guests in, but this should not be to the detriment of fare paying passengers, who should get preference. Many of the staff seemed to treat the passenger areas as their own, often taking up tables in the bistro and the lido area, leaving no seats available for the paying passengers. This also meant that the waiting staff were having to serve them drinks, etc increasing the length of time passengers were having to wait. I really didn't think this was acceptable. The boat itself has recently been refurbished but it really is beginning to show its age. We experienced rough weather but I've been on rougher seas in other boats and they were able to cope much better than this ship did. We were scheduled to call at 4 ports -- Dublin, Akureyri, Reykjavik and Halifax. Two of these stops were cancelled due to bad weather (which although the boat made hard work of it wasn't that bad). We were also delayed for over 5 hours getting out of Reykjavik, this was put down to the sea being too rough but the Brilliance of the Seas was out at sea waiting for our berth to become available and didn't seem to be experiencing any problems. As 'compensation' for missing two of the four stops we were given 100$ per person. Unfortunately this was only given to the full fare paying passengers, so no compensation at all for the baby, not even a pro-rata rebate. This works out in the region of 1% of the total cost of the holiday, and given that we missed 50% of the stops we though this was somewhat insulting. One formal night was cancelled, as it was a bit choppy, and never reinstated on another night. And no effort was made to change the entertainment program to alleviate the boredom of spending endless unplanned days at sea. I found that the tours were excessively expensive. For example we did a tour to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. It seemed expensive but we though this might be because the entry to the Blue Lagoon was expensive, but this wasn't the case. We were also under the impression that the tours were free for the under 4s. In fact they charged us 50% of the full fare for our 3 year old. This was despite the fact that it was completely free for him to get into the Blue Lagoon. So effectively we had to pay $60 for a bus trip which was less than half an hour each way. Needless to say we didn't take any more trips, and would have struggled to do so as the stops were cancelled anyway! The debarkation was the worst I have experienced. Crystal have a no passenger announcements policy, which generally is OK but when their organisation goes so spectacularly awry they are really needed. Debarkation was scheduled to commence from around 8am, with passengers being told to wait in the Starlight lounge at specific times and passengers would be directed from there. However 9am came and went with no sign of anyone getting off. The two staff present were hopelessly inundated and had no idea what was happening. By 10am it felt like the entire ship was trying to fit into the lounge and when they did begin letting people off the first ones off where the last ones to arrive as those who should have been let off were trapped in the lounge by those who had arrived for a later departure. Utter chaos, and I'd be surprised if people didn't miss their flights because of it. Especially frustrating as we could see passengers on the Carnival ship, which arrived after us, getting of before us. But this event summed up the entire cruise -- lack of customer care, staff largely absent and uninterested and no better (and quite often worse) than any other cruise line. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2012
This was my second cruise on Crystal. The first cruise was on the Serenity in 2010. The two ships are similar though the Serenity is larger. I preferred the Serenity, but I preferred the decor on the Symphony. I selected this cruise ... Read More
This was my second cruise on Crystal. The first cruise was on the Serenity in 2010. The two ships are similar though the Serenity is larger. I preferred the Serenity, but I preferred the decor on the Symphony. I selected this cruise for the itinerary which was excellent. It was round trip from Dover, England and there were only two sea days. The ports were Edinburgh (two days), Belfast, Dublin, Holyhead, Waterford, Portland, and St. Peter Port. We had smooth seas and good weather. On my last cruise there was an "as you like it" credit that could be used for everything aboard ship, but Crystal recently switched to being all-inclusive. However that does not include shore excursions and their shore excursions tend to be pricey. Most of the ports on this itinerary were a distance from the city. Shuttles were provided free in all ports except St. Peter Port which was within walking distance. In two ports (Edinburgh and Dublin) I utilized the hop on hop off buses which worked out well. My cabin was small, but comfortable with nice bedding and towels. The bath was small, but had double sinks, granite countertops and a tub/shower combination. My cabin was listed as an obstructed view cabin but the view was not obstructed. There were lifeboats on either side of the window which were not visible from inside the cabin. The dining room food was very good and the presentation excellent. The Grand Marnier souffle was wonderful. The mushroom soup in a bread bowl and the sea bass in Prego, the Italian restaurant, were outstanding. The Bistro was a very popular place for snack type foods and drinks. It was so popular that it was often crowded and had spotty service because the staff was overwhelmed. The entertainment was better and more varied than what one would find on many other lines. Irish dancers and musicians were brought on board in Dublin and they were outstanding. The cruise director, Paul McFarland, an American from Las Vegas was very good. My cruise experience was comparable to what I experienced on Holland American's Eurodam last fall, but the Eurodam carries more than double the passengers. Crystal's smaller size was a definite plus especially on this itinerary. I could have taken Princess for less money but that ship was three hours late leaving Dover and missed Belfast so I was happy I decided to take Crystal. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2012
Our second family trip on Crystal, and no disappoinmtments. everything was as expected. Food and service shine! We love Crystal as does the family. The children's programs are excellent, with the exception that baby sitting after kids ... Read More
Our second family trip on Crystal, and no disappoinmtments. everything was as expected. Food and service shine! We love Crystal as does the family. The children's programs are excellent, with the exception that baby sitting after kids club only goes until 10: 00 pm. Our adult children did not want to miss a night in the Saloon bar with Mark Farris...he is a jewel....Crystal don't ever let him leave! The big draw back with Crystal is the small size of the cat A & B cabins, can be a deal breaker for future cruises as the other luxury companies have all suites even the least expensive cabin is much larger than cabins on Crystal.... They even had an early dinner for those of us that were attending an evening performance in St. Petersburg! Plus a very late night buffet when we returned.....well done! We would like to see 14 day itineraries however...11 days is much to busy for us!!!! We used private guides for Berlin for an all day tour that was excellent....and in St Petersburg TJ Travel...for 3 days plus they scored tickets to Swan lake in the Tsar's box!!!! Nellie was more than excellent.....she & the driver were wonderful to us....were were 7 adults 1 6 yr old.... Fond memories of our Baltic cruise on Crystal! Read Less
Sail Date: August 2012
We are not rich people. The financial hoops we leapt through in order to afford this experience, this ULTIMATE luxury experience, were monumental. But we did it. We managed to book the Crystal Penthouse aboard the Crystal Symphony ... Read More
We are not rich people. The financial hoops we leapt through in order to afford this experience, this ULTIMATE luxury experience, were monumental. But we did it. We managed to book the Crystal Penthouse aboard the Crystal Symphony for an 11 day cruise around the British Isles. This is our story. Embarkation: One of the perks of the Crystal Penthouse is two private car transfers to and from the ship. On the morning of our sail date, we were picked up at our hotel by a smartly dressed Englishman in a VERY expensive and gorgeous Mercedes Limo. As he drove us to the ship, London to Dover, he spoke of British history and pointed out significant landmarks. The ride to Dover was a wonderful start to our vacation. We were met at the dock terminal by luggage porters who whisked our bags away. We walked the short distance to a reception desk and waited in a very short line to check in with the Crystal staff. We then were asked to be seated in the reception area with our fellow early-arrivers and wait for a crew member to lead us to the gang plank and aboard our own personal 'ship of dreams'. An important point here: This was the first example of a very valid Crystal precept. Even though we were booked into the most expensive cabin on the ship, we were treated no differently than the folks who had a cabin with an obstructed ocean view. Crystal treats everyone equally. And Crystal treats them all VERY well. As we entered the ship we were met by a crew member who led us to the Starlight lounge where we completed our check in and had our (oh so horrible) pictures taken for our ship identification key-cards. Once done, we were set free to wander. The Ship: Once aboard we decided to explore a little. Deck after deck from top to bottom were examined, scrutinized and critiqued and much to our surprise we did find fault. Albeit small and somewhat picky, we found certain areas of carpeting worn or stained and some public areas showing some wear and tear despite the recent dry-dock. However, these tiny imperfections paled in comparison to the glaring positives that the Symphony gifted us with. She is truly a beautiful ship, built in the style of understated elegance that is totally lost on the gigantic floating resort cities that call themselves cruise ships today; she greets you with soft colors and rich woods. Her public areas are welcoming and cozy, furnished with stylish chairs and sofas that are as comfortable as they are lovely. Subtle elegance. After exploring we began to get hungry so it was off to the Crystal Dining Room for lunch. A warm welcome. A perfectly set table. An offer of bread and request for drink orders. And then the magnificent Cobb Salad. The wait staff was harried but attentive and the food was pure Crystal. Near perfection. After lunch we sat in the Crystal Cove waiting till 3:00pm when our room was to be ready. We were met by a lovely young lady who asked if we wanted drinks. We asked for bottled water and got it immediately. This same lovely young lady brought us cocktails in the Casino our first night at sea and from that moment on remembered our drink orders and asked if we "wanted the usual" whenever she saw us. Which brings me to... The Crew: Here is where Crystal absolutely shines and comes as close to perfection as possible. With ONE exception and only ONE the crew of the Symphony exceeded all our expectations. Smiles and "Yes" were the order of the day, every day. The feeling of family was tangible and the welcoming attitudes and actions were constant and seemingly effortless. Crystal has MASTERED this aspect of cruising. Dining: The dining room staff was wonderful and phenomenally attentive. We had all but three nights of our cruise in the Crystal Dining Room. Table number ten for four people at 9:15. We sat with our travel companions and were treated like crowned royalty. We got to know our wait staff and became friendly with them. We heard wonderful stories about their lives and travels. Their kindness and friendship never ONCE compromised their amazing attention to our needs or their fantastic service. Sadly, the dining room is the place where we met the one "bad" crew member. He was our sommelier and it was his first contract with Crystal. I'm very sure it will be his last. The combination of his less-then-stellar attitude (and that's being kind) and his total lack of attentiveness will not last at Crystal. But that one 'bad apple' could not ruin the magnificent experience that was The Crystal Dining Room. We also dined two nights in Prego, the Italian restaurant on board. The food was beyond words and the service... well... let me say this: We could not have been treated any better, or with more kindness and attentive affection, than had we been in a loving Italian home in Naples, being served by a gracious Italian family. The staff of Prego is tremendous. Prego means "you're welcome" in Italian but on Crystal, Prego means MAGNIFICENT. The only other night away from The Crystal Dining room was our dinner in Silk Road, the Asian/Sushi Restaurant on board. The experience was flawed and troubled. We seemed to have a new or newly trained waiter and while he was extremely kind and attentive, he didn't seem to "know his stuff". A couple of our glasses had lipstick marks on them and trying to order sushi at the table rather than the sushi bar proved confusing and convoluted. And quite frankly we all felt that the food was sub-par compared to the other venues. Our Stateroom: This is where I, the most verbose person you will ever read, may run out of words of praise. However, three words that will go down in the annals of our own personal history as being words of the highest possible acclaim are these: The Crystal Penthouse. Nine-hundred and eighty-two square feet of pure, delicious, tangible elegance is The Crystal Penthouse. From marble floors, to hardwood floors, to plush carpeted floors. From sleek, elegant furnishings to fully stocked mirrored bar. From giant flat-screen TV's to Bose surround sound systems. From a dining area with walls of glass that looks out over the open ocean to a veranda with teak furniture. From floor to ceiling sliding glass doors to heavy embossed draperies. From two walk-in closets to a separate powder room for guests. From a plush Queen sized bed to a full en suite vanity area. This stateroom was a jaw-dropping star. But nothing, I repeat nothing, could compare with the bathroom. Heated marble floors inlaid with volcanic glass tiles, a separate water closet with toilet, bidet, phone, towel-rack and soap dish. A double sink counter of marble with large square marble sinks. Rich dark wooden cabinets below the sinks and mirrored medicine cabinets above. There was a full sized Jacuzzi tub that was bordered on two sides by walls of glass overlooking the ocean. The marble wall at the foot of the tub was replete with an inset television. The window blinds were remote controlled and the towels were mammoth and plush. The shower was nothing short of a religious experience. Situated between the huge double sink counter and the tub, the shower stood in the middle of the bathroom surrounded by walls of glass. The shower head offered five different flow patterns including a 'waterfall' which was just that, a small waterfall that would cascade down on you as you abluted. Every one of our showers was an experience beyond words as we did something as mundane as washing our hair. But in the bathroom of the Crystal Penthouse, we were washing our hair under a waterfall and watching the ocean flow by us as we journeyed to a new and exciting port of call. And finally, no expression of delight or appreciation for our accommodation in The Crystal Penthouse would be complete without a few words of total and complete praise for the man that took a very special room and made it a MAGICAL one; our butler Sebastian. Warm. Funny. Kind. Caring. Impeccably professional and endearing beyond all thought was our Sebastian. No request was too great. No question was unanswered. Sebastian could do, and did, anyything. No words of praise will ever be enough for this wonderful man. Ports of Call & Shore Excursions: The itinerary for this cruise suited us well. There was much British history to be savored and learned anew. Belfast was the only disappointment (as it is not a very pleasant city) but I'm sure some might find it pleasing. We availed ourselves of two official Shore Excursions. One to Sterling Castle in Scotland and one to Stonehenge in Portland, England. Both were pretty standard Shore Excursion fare, but Crystal does even that better than most. Crystal's policy of having a shuttle to mid-city at every available port is a huge bonus and we availed ourselves of that service many times. The shuttles ran on time and as scheduled. Disembarkation: As Crystal Penthouse passengers we received the perk of being personally escorted off the ship to retrieve our luggage and make our way to our provided car. We waited in the Crystal Cove (ending our trip just a few chairs away from where we began it) and waited to be met. Very shortly a lovely Crystal staff member met us and walked us off the ship and to our car. It went flawlessly. Last Thoughts: While nothing is perfect, perfection in fact is a concept not a reality, Crystal Cruises comes pretty darned close. Our complaints could fill a small post-it note while our praises could fill several volumes with fine printed text. We were treated royally by Crystal as were our travel companions who were in an Ocean View Room. King or surf, Crystal treats you as if you mattered more to them than anyone else in the world. And that truly is, the Crystal Difference. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2012
The cruise: We sailed from Stockhom to London with stops in St Petersburg(3 days),Helsinki, Copenhagen, and Berlin. The theme was food and wine. Embarkation/Disembarkation: Very efficiently done. On board check in was a ... Read More
The cruise: We sailed from Stockhom to London with stops in St Petersburg(3 days),Helsinki, Copenhagen, and Berlin. The theme was food and wine. Embarkation/Disembarkation: Very efficiently done. On board check in was a breeze and took only a few minutes.The staff appeared genuinely happy to see us and many greated us by name from previous cruises aboard the Symphony.Food and drinks were immediately available and our stateroom was ready and luggage delivered by about 3pm. Disembarkation in London was equally efficient. Having the customs people come on board speeds up the process considerably. The ship: Beatifully appointed, always well maintained, easy to navigate, and a very manageable size.Although it can accomodate about 900 passengers, typically there are about 750 on board If you like mega resorts or mega liners or lots of activities for kids, this is not for you. Stateroom: We stayed in one of the penthouse suites which had the added advantages of more space and butler service. Both are quite nice but staying in a regular stateroom with a veranda is hardly roughing it and costs almost 50% less. The stateroom was nicely furnished, had a walk in closet, and a bathroom with a double sink,separate shower and bathtub,and nice ammenities. Everything is always clean and in good working order. Noise from the outsice or from next door is virtually nonexistant. Food: The main dining room provides an excellent selection of well prepared, tasty food with healthy choices for those with or without dietary restrictions. If you don't see what you want, just ask for it! Specialty restaurants, Prego(Italian)and Silk Road(Asian) are comparable to fine restaurants in SF or NYC. Complimentary wine selections are quite good and the wine steward is very accomodating if you don't find what you'd like. Breakfast and lunch is also available in a more casual atmosphere. The choises tend to be similar from day to day, particularly at breakfast, However, we had several theme lunches celebrating the cuisine of places we visited which were interesting and tasty. Additionally, there were several dinners high lighting local favorites, some prepared by the celebrity chefs on board. Activities: Plenty to do including attending some excellent lectures by food and wine experts, celebrity chefs, and destination lecturers. We had only 3 sea days, so it was difficult to take advantage of everything. Evening entertainment ranges from piano lounge type to more elaborate performences by the fine Crystal Ensemble and excellent guest performers including musicians and comedians. Service: This is where Crystal truly shines and rises above the other lines we have sailed. Everyone, including cabin staff, dining staff,bistro and lounge staff and pool attendants,go out of their way to make you feel comfortable and welcome at all times. Changing to an all inclusive program(gratuities included) has not resulted in any decline in Crystal's outstanding service. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2012
Crystal Symphony -- Baltic Dreams, June 16 to June 27, 2012 Hamburg, Oslo, Copenhagen, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinn & Stockholm Better than we anticipated! We'd never sailed on the Crystal Symphony, prior to this trip. ... Read More
Crystal Symphony -- Baltic Dreams, June 16 to June 27, 2012 Hamburg, Oslo, Copenhagen, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinn & Stockholm Better than we anticipated! We'd never sailed on the Crystal Symphony, prior to this trip. We'd been on the Radisson / Regent "Seven Seas" prior to this cruise and were anxious to see how they stack up against one another, although it has been several years since those sailings. We learned several weeks before our departure that the Symphony would be in dry-dock for renovations immediately preceding our cruise date of June 16, In a way, that added a bit of intrigue to the trip in not knowing just what was going to be updated. Personally, when we booked passage nearly 6 months earlier I'll confess that there were a lot of questions about the cost of a cruise on a ship that was 17 years old and how would it stack up to the hype, even if it's launching godmother was Angela Lansbury! But not to worry; if there were any signs that this ship was showing its age, they were invisible to us. It was as sparkling and pristine as any luxury cruise ship we'd been on, and thankfully, with none of "bling" and garishness that passes for decor on the mega-ships of the NCL, Royal Caribbean and the like. I'll have to leave it to others who've sailed on the Symphony prior the June 16 re-launch to make the comparisons and whether the current iteration is better than the previous. We thought it was as nice as you'd care to have it. Our group of 6 were able to get cabin assignments in close proximity to each other, on the Promenade Deck about midship. My wife and I were in cabin #7071 and right near the elevator lobby and the exit door to the deck. This was really perfect for us as my wife has some difficulty in walking, this put us just a deck or two above the Crystal Dining Room and the Lobby Bar. Our cabins were not involved in the recent renovation but were in great shape and showed no wear. As mentioned by "Steph27" in an earlier reviews, it was very comfortable and seemed to have an amazing amount of drawers and shelving for storage and a very ample closet. The bed was very comfortable, there were as many pillows as you could want and, of course, the right height from the floor to get the suitcases out of the way. We were late booking so we weren't able to select a cabin with a veranda, so we ended up with an "E" category described as having a "large picture window with a view that is limited or extremely limited". I can't speak for the other "E" category cabins, except for those of our group; none of us had a problem with the view at all. As for having a veranda, I'm afraid it may have been a bit too cool and/or windy to fully enjoy that amenity. One other point about being on the Promenade Deck and a concern about people "promenading" in front of the cabin window. Yes, the outside deck was a bit below the cabin window, but during the day it was impossible to see in from the outside due to the silver mirror-like tinting on the windows. While at night, with the drapes closed, there wasn't a problem. Our cabin proved to be very inviting and comfortable. If there is a criticism it would be with the on-line requirements for information after paying for the ticket. There was too much repetitive information required and the inability to answer questions about both my wife and I at the same time gave me a lot of frustration. Hopefully, that will be corrected in the future. Also, there were too many problems with trying to make dinner reservations for a party of eight (later changed to a party of six). We also couldn't find much out about the menus, relating to dietary and health restrictions. That being said, we needn't have worried. Contrary to what some have written, we NEVER had difficulty getting a table for our group and likewise never had difficulty either changing our assigned dinner times, coming later than anticipated nor staying as long as we chose. Our seating time in the Crystal Dining room was "around" 6:45 and often were leaving dinner at 8:30 or closer to 9:00. The service in the Dining Room was impeccable and the food was extraordinary. Not that it mattered to us, but by the second day our wait staff had our names down pat. Nothing, and mean nothing was too much to ask. Prego was wonderful and Silk Road was a good experience. (Asian food isn't high on my list of preferred cuisines, so I'll leave it to others with more cosmopolitan palates to pass judgment on the Silk Road.) As a matter of fact, right after having dinner at Prego we booked another reservation for later in the week (not difficult), but cancelled when we all were satisfied with our experience in the Crystal Dining Room. Our most recent cruise, prior to the Symphony, was on the NCL Pearl, where dining in the main dining room was akin to being downgraded from 1st class to economy on a plane. If you chose not to frequent the 4 or 5 "up charge" restaurants, then back to the galley! On that ship, two huge main dining rooms, each serving exactly the same menus and of questionable quality. Dining in the Crystal Dining Room was a pleasure! As for breakfast in the Lido Cafe absolutely no complaints. Generally, my wife and I would be there around 815 or a bit earlier if we had a tour start by 9 am. It was extremely rare that we couldn't we find a table and we never had to search one out on our own, always being assisted in that task by one of the waiters, who also knew our names, I might add. Breakfast was also available in the main dining room, as well. Normally breakfast buffets, nor any other buffets, are not on our radar. But to call the Lido Cafe a "buffet" is way off the mark! First off, there are no trays and consequently no long line of rails to push your tray along. The Lido is arranged with many "islands" of selected foods, such as the chef-attended omellette and waffle section, there's cold cereal, with fruits, another area for meat & cheeses, another section for Asian Kimchee and soups, etc. As you choose your selection, no tray? No problem! As out of nowhere a server appears to carry your plate back to the table, if you choose. Actually, quite nice. Late risers probably were a bit out of luck and would have to settle for breakfast in the mid-ship Trident Bar and Grill, where the selections were somewhat limited but certainly not frugal. I might respond to some of the other writer's comments about the wine selections. As everything is life, wine is a relative thing! And again, those who consistently cruise on the "all inclusives" might be able to jump in and make some comparisons of the wine lists of the various ships. We on the other hand were more than happy with the selections, whether red, white or champagne. We were happy not because we were forced to drink inferior wines; not at all! Several times we disliked a selection at dinner, only to have the Sommelier rush out to select something else. It was the effort that counted as much as the wine. In the Crystal Cove Bar on Deck #5 were our crowd generally would meet and have a few cocktails before dinner. Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio was always available. Where I'm from a bottle of that goes for about $18.00 a bottle. I know you can spend more, but we all thought that was a pretty nice, "pedestrian" type of wine. Besides, the ladies also like the "Sake Berry" martinis they made in the Cove Bar. The itinerary of Symphony's Baltic Dreams was the reason we chose this particular cruise. A couple of people in our group had been to one or another of the cities, but you know how that is when it's work -- you never get to see anything. For my wife and I it was all new and fun to visit. The weather was mostly cooperative, but we got rained out of Tallinn and had a bit of rain in Stockholm. St. Petersburg was amazingly interesting and the lunches we had were exceptional, possibly helped by my Eastern European roots. As for tours, we chose to plan and book our St. Petersburg tours before we ever left home. While expensive, it included group visas, lunches, all transportation and admission fees. We were able to select where we wished to go and what we wanted to see. We even got the V.I.P. treatment by always being "1st in line and shown to special entrances where we would always be assured of being shown to head of the line. We took our private tours on Friday and Sunday, and on Saturday were part of a free courtesy tour sponsored by American Express. That was a fun way to meet other cruisers at a pre-tour mixer and during the tour itself. In most of the other cities we availed ourselves of the "Hop-on-Hop-off" bus system, which was always combined with a canal boat tour. Much less expensive and with a little research before hand, you could quite easily do your own thing, stopping at interesting sites along the way and then wait for the next bus to continue on, taking as much or as little time as the schedule allowed. There are probably a few "nits" that I could pick, but they all fade into insignificance when compared to the total experience. We are extremely glad that we took this cruise with Crystal and will be looking for the next time we can again say "All Aboard" with one of their ships. Bon Voyage! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2012
This is our first luxury cruise. Our party of 6 Asian American friends supposed to embarked in Hamburg but was delayed for 5 hrs due to the ship was not ready. However Crystal did arrange free shuttle to downtown Hamburg so we got a chance ... Read More
This is our first luxury cruise. Our party of 6 Asian American friends supposed to embarked in Hamburg but was delayed for 5 hrs due to the ship was not ready. However Crystal did arrange free shuttle to downtown Hamburg so we got a chance to try out the German famous sausages, black beer, pig feet as well do some nice shopping. Plus one for Crystal. The embankment was smooth and our room was quite spacious and clean. The bathroom is larger than some of the newer cruise ship we have been on. But like the other reviewer has said, the bathroom ventilation was not sufficient and it would be better with a glass panel instead of shower curtain. The ship was the smallest one we have been to but the layout is sufficient to accommodate its small number of passengers. Even this cruise was full ship, it was quiet and comfortable all over. Even this ship do not have buffets all over like other cruise ship. Food is abundant and the quality is very good. We tried the Silk Road 4 times and even the quality is not as good as the top Japanese restaurant in our city, nevertheless it is still very good over all. However, their sake was weak and no taste and we ended up ordering the Shochu(stronger rice spirit). The Italian restaurant PREGO is also very good too. We thoroughly enjoyed both these restaurants. As for the main dinning room, even we didn't have that many dinners in the main dinning room, the times we were there the food is very good and is a lot better than all the other non luxury cruises(including Princess cruise). The best thing about Crystal is that they will try to do anything to please you if they can. We ordered lobster dinner twice and we have lobster dinner twice. We didn't order the quantity but they cooked 1 and a half lobster for each of us and unshelled the lobsters at our table. Plus one for Crystal. The breakfast at the Lido did not offer as many items as I expected. But there are plenty of fresh fruits and fresh squeezed orange juice. The pastries were delicious and the eggs(including egg white) were cooked to ordered. However, the Asian items, such as Miso soup and Congee, are popular among Asian guests but the choices and quality do has a lot of room for improvement. We also tied the Bristo for sweets/cheese and the Trident Grill for steak sandwich both are excellent. I particular tried their room service when we took a long day in Moscow and was back after midnight. I ordered the steak, salad with shrimp, and fruit plate. Everything was prepared and presented perfectly even after midnight. However, I agreed with the previous review that the tea in the Palm Court was weak and they should offer lose tea leaf. However, their sweets and mini sandwiches are very good. The worst meal is the Asia buffet in one of the days at sea. We suspected it was the result of European chef trying to cook Asian cuisine. The supposed roast duck tasted like a baked duck painted with red color and the rest was horrific. I wish if they cannot get real oriental cooks, then better offer some other types of buffet which their cooks are good at. The service is excellent all over the ship and we have no problem getting what we need. The entertainment on board is so so. The Filipino bands and quartet are ok but did not arouse any excitement in the Palm Court and Starlight Lounge. The Disco is more interesting and attracted a good crowd. As for wine and beverages, the refrigerator in the room was stocked with beer, soft drink, and water. We did specify the type of drinks we want and they stock the refrigerator as requested, all inclusive. The daily wine(one red and one white) offer in the main dinner room are good but outstanding. Special brand of wine can be ordered but is not free. All mixed drinks, non-alcoholic beverages and wine are free on board. The captain did announced this cruise with around 900 guests did consume over 2,000 bottle of wine. There are also a cigar room with more expensive liquor(Cognac XO) stocked in it but we suspect those are along with the cigar are not inclusive. The ship docked at St. Petersburg and we did arrange our private tour with a side tip to Moscow. We went with Anastasia Travel. They promised us a memorable experience in Russia but we were disappointed by quality of their guides and change of dinner itineraries without our knowledge which we ended up with a not so impressive Russian dinner. Overall, maybe in the past we were having bad experience with those non luxury cruises or other reasons that make this luxury cruise stands out. But at the end of the day, all it matters is we did have a great and wonderful time with this Crystal cruise. We are just impressive with Crystal cruise as other reviewers do and is looking forward to have another fantastic Crystal voyage, and hopefully this time we will have a more authentic Asian buffet. Read Less
Crystal Symphony Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.0
Dining 4.5 4.5
Entertainment 4.5 4.3
Public Rooms 5.0 4.6
Fitness Recreation 4.5 4.0
Family 4.0 4.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.8
Enrichment 5.0 4.3
Service 4.0 4.6
Value For Money 4.0 3.9
Rates 4.0 4.1

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