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Sail Date: December 2006
This was our second cruise and our second one with Crystal. While I was blown away by the unexpected pleasures on my first cruise, on this one we knew what to expect. Embarkation: Very smooth. We went right to the terminal, checked our ... Read More
This was our second cruise and our second one with Crystal. While I was blown away by the unexpected pleasures on my first cruise, on this one we knew what to expect. Embarkation: Very smooth. We went right to the terminal, checked our baggage and went right on board. Once there our luggage showed up almost immediately. there was a small housekeeping problem in the room that was immediately fixed by our stewardess. Public rooms. These are large and spacious. The recently redone Starlight Lounge was a big hit. It was airy and used for all sorts of functions, from the guest speakers to receptions. The Palm Court is beautiful, but under used as it is an observation deck, and with the early sunsets, and port heavy itinerary, there was not much time to use it. Cabins: These were a bit tight, but well designed. Large closed and ample bath. Much better than the Harmony Fitness facilities: These were first class. The best touch was the free bottle water that was handed out as you were working out. Dining: The true highlight of the experience. While not cutting edge, the food was in the tradition of a European grand hotel. The service was impeccable. If you go, get a reservation at the Vintage Room for a truly memorable food and wine dinner. Prego, for Italian Food, and Jade Garden for Asian Fusion food, were as good if not better than anything available on land. Entertainment. This was hit or miss. I did not care for the shows. However, the special acts, the Mexican Folk ensemble and the Adage team were truly special. The enrichment lectures were pretty good. The New Year's Eve party was special. Rocking out at midnight was memorable. I only went on 1 shore excursion, and that was in Cabo, and it was an ATV adventure and it was a lot of fun. The children's program is unique. The facilities are adequate, but were Crystal really excels is in the quality of the Jr. Activities Directors. They are first rate and my son loved the cruise. They do talent shows, arts and crafts, Karaoke, and all sorts of other things. They had dance lessons with the ballroom dance team, singing lessons from the Acapello quartet, and all sorts of other activities that kept the kids engaged throughout the voyage. Service as exceptional. It seemed as if every member of the Lido deck team knew us buy name. Really incredible. Overall, this is an expensive cruise, but well worth every penny. If I am going to cruise, it will only be on Crystal or another similar line. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2006
This was my 4th Crystal Cruise, and 25th overall. It was an eastbound crossing, from Miami to Lisbon - 8 sea days, no ports. Theme was the same as my 2005 Crystal cruise on the Symphony, Big Band with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. Since I ... Read More
This was my 4th Crystal Cruise, and 25th overall. It was an eastbound crossing, from Miami to Lisbon - 8 sea days, no ports. Theme was the same as my 2005 Crystal cruise on the Symphony, Big Band with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. Since I made my own air travel arrangements, I flew to Miami from Boston a day early to be on the safe side. Obviously, if you miss the ship on a transatlantic cruise, there is no catching up to it! I stayed at the Port of Miami Holiday Inn on Biscayne Blvd. Nothing special, but within sight of the port and also directly across the street from the lively Bayside Market Place. "Super Shuttle" fare from airport to downtown is only $15 per person and they deliver you to the door of your hotel. Hotel to port would be a short taxi ride, but my sister, who was in Florida for the winter, took me to the ship, where she joined me for tea as a visitor. Speaking of visitors, Crystal, unlike some cruise lines who banned visitors after 9/11, is very accommodating. The request form is available on their website; they say to allow two weeks before sailing, but I have normally received approval within a couple of days after faxing the form to them. Boarding was Crystal's normal painless process. Crystal's staff never cease amaze to me. One of their ground staff recognized my sister and me immediately, even though it had been a year since he had seen us in Ft. Lauderdale, and he even remembered that she lives in Rhode Island when not in Florida! Crystal had upgraded me twice, once from my usual Deck 7 cabin to a balcony room on Deck 8, and finally, when they decided to use the crossing for Deck 8 cabin refurbishing, to a Deck 9 cabin. This turned out not to be as desirable as I thought, as during rough weather there is a lot more motion in the higher-up, forward cabin, than amidships on Deck 7. Cabins appear to be identical in size, layout and dEcor, except for addition of balconies on Decks 8 and 9. If offered a similar upgrade on a future crossing I would be tempted to say, "Thanks but no thanks." We sailed on schedule, Captain Giske having warned us that it might be a bit rough when we got into the Atlantic. It was, but not so bad as to curtail first-night activities. At the end of my February Amazon cruise I had mentioned to Maitre d' Remi Szutikiewicz that I'd like to be at the Chief Engineer's table sometime, and sure enough I found myself assigned to the table hosted by Chief Engineer Torbjoern Mathisen and his charming wife Penny. One nice touch is that on formal, officer-hosted nights, place cards are used so everybody has a turn to sit near enough to the hosts to converse. We had a good group at the table - eight most nights, but expanded to 10 on nights the Chief was hosting. No need to comment again on food and service - it is still tops. I'm told that even on Crystal's full world cruises, no menu is ever repeated. On several nights our waiter informed us that a special dessert, in addition to those on the menu, was being offered. Thankfully, the tacky baked Alaska parades are long gone from Crystal. Overnight the swell got progressively larger, around 30 feet, so by morning the ship was pitching quite a bit. The stabilizers do a good job in preventing any appreciable roll. Showering and shaving before dinner was quite a challenge. By afternoon it was obvious that it would be foolish to try to put on a production show, so pianist Naki Ataman agreed to do his show a day early. As usual, his "Around the World" program was terrific. Due to the relative shortness of this cruse, there wasn't time for him to do his second program. The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra went on as scheduled in the Palm Court, although some band members were obviously a bit under the weather. Unfortunately, Buddy Morrow, who normally leads the band, had been ill so did not make the trip. Direction was ably taken over by Daryl "Flea" Campbell, another old time big band musician who played with the Dorsey Brothers after Tommy and Jimmy put aside their feud and got back together, in the early '50s, I think. Only one or two couples attempted to dance, as the Palm Court really moves in rough seas because of its high-up, forward location. However, the seas calmed day-by-day as we headed east, so there was lots of good music and dancing for the rest of the crossing. Speaking of dancing, dance team Tony and Margaret Long returned from leave and re-boarded in Miami, and as usual held very well-attended dance classes every day. I also took a few private lessons with Margaret, who continued to try to teach me the Tango. Sadly for Crystal, the Longs will be leaving the company at the end of their current contract in July to join a studio in Arizona. I'm sure it is a good career move for them, but they will be missed on Crystal. Lecturers were up to Crystal's usual standard and I particularly enjoyed those by big band theme lecturer Loren Schoenberg. He could easily have drawn a crowd for several more sessions, but there weren't any more openings in the busy daily schedules. Loren is also an accomplished tenor sax player and sat in with the band and the jazz combo on several occasions. As mentioned by Cruise Director Paul McFarland, this cruise draws people who like the shipboard life, rather than lots of port calls. I would guess that between 75% and 80% of the passengers were repeaters. I ran into a number of people I had met on previous cruises, although this was only my 4th time on Crystal. Even with the couple of days of rough seas, a good time was had by all. Liveliest late-night venue continues to be the Avenue Saloon, especially on Karaoke nights. No way I would get up there and sing, but lots of fun to watch. Performers range from quite professional to some who shouldn't even be allowed near a microphone, sort of like the early rounds of American Idol. Arrival clearance in Lisbon was painless and quick, once they solved a mechanical problem with one of the baggage conveyors. One recommendation for Lisbon arrivals. I had bought the ship's airport transfer at a cost of $46; I learned when we arrived that taxis to the airport only cost 16 Euros, about $20. The spring eastbound crossing by Symphony is not on the 2007 schedule, as the ship will reposition from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean via the Far East. However, the November 2007 Lisbon - Miami crossing by the Serenity will have a big band theme, so I've already booked it. My next Crystal cruise will probably be the February 2007 Miami to Los Angeles Panama Canal transit. Perhaps one of these days I'll run into some of my fellow "Cruise Critics." Read Less
Sail Date: February 2006
Although this was only my 3rd Crystal Cruise, I'm already starting to run into people I've met on previous cruises. I'm sure this is because of the high percentage of repeaters on Crystal Cruises and the fact that they only ... Read More
Although this was only my 3rd Crystal Cruise, I'm already starting to run into people I've met on previous cruises. I'm sure this is because of the high percentage of repeaters on Crystal Cruises and the fact that they only have two ships. Everything about the Symphony continues to be first class, which undoubtedly explains the high number of repeaters, many with tens of cruises and at least one with over 100 voyages. Embarkation: Crystal had booked my air from Boston to Miami via Cleveland, which seems a little strange, but I suspect this was a result of availability of blocks of tickets plus the fact that flights were heavily booked due to the start of the winter school break in much of the northeast. Despite a close connection in Cleveland, both my luggage and I made it and arrived in Miami on schedule, where we were met by Crystal representatives in the baggage claim area. We were quickly transferred to the port and after Crystals normal efficient check-in procedures, I was enjoying lunch in the Lido less than an hour after re-claiming my baggage at the airport. Dining Room: Probably because of our scheduled 8:00 p.m. sailing, the first night was open seating. For the rest of the cruise I was seated at a table for eight, as requested, hosted by Casino Manager Michael Ferrell. Table mates included a single English gentleman, a lady from New York, a Canadian lady toxicologist, an American couple from Wisconsin and an English couple from Kent. All in all, a dynamic and interesting group. Of the eight of us, only the American couple and I were leaving the ship in Manaus, Brazil  the rest were continuing on to Buenos Aires and beyond. Onboard Activities: As on my two previous cruises, I participated in the dance classes on sea days and also took several private lessons. The dance team/instructors for this cruise were Cheryl Smith and Paul Zaidman, from Australia. This was my first experience with them, having been with the other regular team of Tony and Margaret Long on the previous cruises. Cheryl and Paul are lots of fun and excellent teachers  I sort of challenged Cheryl to teach me a basic Tango during the cruise, which she did! Entertainment: Although I had seen the productions at least once before, I enjoyed them again. The cast is new since my last cruise, and excellent. It appears that some of the shows have been re-costumed, which gives them a fresh look. I particularly enjoyed performances of numbers from Evita, Fiddler on The Roof, Cabaret and Puccinis Madama Butterfly. The current lead female vocalist, Colleen Williamson, is outstanding. The only problem I have is that Crystal runs the productions for years. I know this is a result of high production costs but I would hope to see at least a few new productions introduced at some point. The most notable headline entertainer, in my opinion, was pianist Nake Ataman who gave two great concerts, with music ranging from the Beetles to Offenbach! Im pleased to see that He is also scheduled for my next Crystal cruise. Lectures: A good mix, from Smithsonian Theme Lecturer Dr. Mary Hagedorn to Coach Don Shula. As a died-in-the-wool football fan, (old enough to remember Coach Shulas coaching years very well) I particularly enjoyed his presentation and Q&A session. Itinerary: My principal reason for selecting this cruise was the trip up the Amazon. This is an amazing experience  I knew it was a big river, but couldnt even visualize how big it really is  miles wide at some points hundreds of miles up from the mouth. Before reaching the Amazon we had several days at sea and calls at Antigua (not my favorite island) Barbados, which is my favorite, and Devils Island where I got too lazy to go ashore  probably should have. We did have one unfortunate incident when a passenger had to be air evacuated for what the captain described as a life-threatening medical condition. We altered course for a while to rendezvous with a US Coast Guard helicopter from Puerto Rico. The transfer went like clockwork, and we later learned that the passenger was doing fine after emergency surgery for a ruptured appendix. About the only glitch on the river was at our first Amazon port, Alter do Chao. We arrived late due to strong currents, the previous days med-evac, and the 4 or 5 hours it took the Brazilians to clear the ship, a reminder that I was, indeed, back in the third world. Added to this was a problem with gangways between the ship and the river boats being used for the River & Village Discovery Cruise, which many of us had booked. As a result, the excursion was cut short and Crystal refunded all of our money. We didnt have to ask for it! The cruise included an overnight stay in Manaus, and quite a few of us attended a concert at the famous Opera House there. It was billed as a jazz concert, but actually was Latin theme. This was fine, except that the music was amplified to the point where it was almost painful  I commented that if you had a factory floor that noisy OSHA would shut you down! The musicians varied from first rate to acceptable, but I was in a very small minority who didnt find the whole performance wonderful. An interesting experience, nevertheless, to be attending a performance in an ornate theater in the middle of the Amazon jungle. Conclusion: Crystal Symphony continues to be second to none. This was a particularly interesting itinerary  one doesnt have many opportunities to cruise the Amazon in the comfort of a luxury ship. Im looking forward to my next Crystal cruise, the Big Band crossing from Miami to Lisbon the end of April, a repeat of my first Crystal cruise a year ago. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2006
To start, I may have the cabin number wrong, but, since there was so much to do onboard, and ashore, there was little to do in the cabin but sleep. Anyway, our voyage started with a great bus ride from San Jose, Costa Rica to the ... Read More
To start, I may have the cabin number wrong, but, since there was so much to do onboard, and ashore, there was little to do in the cabin but sleep. Anyway, our voyage started with a great bus ride from San Jose, Costa Rica to the embarkation port. A quick, easy pass through customs got us to the gangway where we were greeted warmly and quickly brought aboard and escorted to our room, where our luggage was waiting already. A hostess greeted us and offered a tour of the main areas of the ship, emphasizing the meeting areas, dining areas, and various entertainment venues. Around this time, my father was approached by staff to determine the extent of his special needs. (He is nearly blind, and has severe hearing loss.) The staff informed us that whatever his needs were, they would be met to his satisfaction. And they easily exceeded that promise throughout the cruise. Next, on to the food. OK, so no one from Weight Watchers was in our group. I say that because the temptations presented at tableside each meal were simply incredible. From the very start every menu listed options to meet every dietary consideration, and their presentation was superb! Others have mentioned the Lido Deck food area, and trust me (and them), it is well worth a few visits in itself. For one of the final meals, Ice Sculptures and food sculptures accompanied an extravagant spread which was set up in the main gallery to allow maximum access to all. The staff was well organized and extremely efficient when it was time for passengers to visit the various ports of call. (Antigua, St. Lucia, etc.) Many of the crew were willing to share their knowledge of local customs, history, or other sightseeing information, making shore time very enjoyable. Entertainment comes in many forms on Crystal Harmony. I enjoyed the broadway style musical revues, which were first rate. I also spent many hours in the piano lounge, hosted by Mr. Jeffrey Deutch. In addition, there was dancing each nite, first run movies, a "Casino at Sea", a library, computer lab and even a piano lab, complete with classes. There was, quite literally, "Something for Everyone". Finally, a word about the crew. There are representatives from many lands working hard each day to make every moment of a Crystal Cruise memorable. Whether from the Philippines, or Europe, Japan or the USA, they work together like a finely tuned orchestra,to create a masterpiece worth remembering. Would I go again? Well, I'll see you in Los Angeles on February 25, 2007. Mazatlan, here comes Mark! Read Less
Sail Date: September 2005
CRYSTAL SYMPHONY NEW ENGLAND/CANADA CRUISE Sept. 17 - 28, 2005 Richard Shipman BACKGROUND The time had come. After more than 10 cruises on "mainstream" lines such as Royal Caribbean, Princess and Holland America, it was time ... Read More
CRYSTAL SYMPHONY NEW ENGLAND/CANADA CRUISE Sept. 17 - 28, 2005 Richard Shipman BACKGROUND The time had come. After more than 10 cruises on "mainstream" lines such as Royal Caribbean, Princess and Holland America, it was time to move up a notch to Crystal. Not that there was anything wrong with our previous cruises; to the contrary. However, over the years the ships have gotten more crowded, "nickel and diming" has become routine, the service levels have decreased, cruise "traditions" have been going away and, in our opinion, the overall cruise experience has been trending downward . The obvious answer to this condition was to move up into the premium cruise category. My partner Barbara and I had wanted to sail on Crystal ever since we saw the Harmony docked next to our Song of Norway in St. Thomas on our first cruise. Financial realities had gotten in the way, however, and always the question arose: would the extra cost be worth it? Now it was time to find out. We booked Crystal Symphony's "Autumn Colors" (more about that later) cruise to New England and Canada. With this background in mind, this review will be oriented toward "the step upward." What do you get for the extra money of a premium cruise line? Is it worth it? Are the premium cruise lines without flaw? FIRST IMPRESSIONS The first indication of the Crystal advantage came as we approached the passenger terminal in New York to board the ship. Princess and Carnival had two ships docked next to the Symphony. Gridlock and turmoil surrounded the baggage drop-off area for these ships as teeming masses made their way toward these new-era megaships. Once we cleared this blockage, however, we made our way unimpeded to Symphony's pier, and our taxi was the only vehicle pulling in to drop off bags. The rest of the check-in process was as simple and quick, and we were on the ship sipping complimentary champagne by 12:30. On previous cruises, I can remember sitting in uncomfortable boarding "lounges" for hours if you arrived much before the official boarding time. Some lines let us board and hang out in one of the lounges until the rooms were ready. Crystal takes it one step further. A baggage check site had been set up off the central atrium where you could leave your carry-on bags to be delivered to your stateroom later or picked up at your convenience. Unhindered by bags, you were then free to enjoy lunch in one of 3 venues or just sip champagne as you explored this classic ship. THE SHIP AND PASSENGERS Crystal Symphony was first built in 1995 and had a modernization and upgrade refit in 1999. Although old by today's cruise ship standards, she has been well maintained and has a classic elegance throughout. Exteriorly, she looks like a ship should look: no "spoilers" on the aft end, or bulbous bows as exhibited by our two dock mates, Golden Princess and Carnival Legend. While newer ships have gone for eye-popping glitz and glitter, Crystal Symphony exudes an aura of understated class and quality. If ships were women, Symphony would be Grace Kelly and Carnival would be Jennifer Lopez. Grace Kelly, were she still alive, would also have felt right at home with the average Crystal passenger on this cruise: older, well traveled and well heeled (we fit into at least one of these categories). Not surprisingly, this was a traditional cruise with much of the elegance and service that has been slashed by cost cutting on other lines. Assigned dinner seating (two seatings), traditional tipping practices (although you could charge tips to your onboard account if you so desired), large dance floors, inclusive onboard pricing, (except for alcoholic beverages), and an emphasis on service (with a few exceptions that will be mentioned later) brought back much of the joy of cruising from the "old days." The absence of "nickel and diming" was particularly pleasant. Over the years, ships we were on began charging for afternoon ice cream, specialty coffee, alternate dining venues, shuttle buses in ports and even bridge tours in port! No so on Crystal. All soft drinks and non-alcoholic beverages were free, including our favorite Perrier Water. Tired of paying $3.00 for lattes at Starbucks? Drink until you're wired at the Symphony's Bistro Coffee and Tea bar. Tired of the main dining room? Try either the Italian or Asian specialty restaurant at no charge other than the tip. You could build a case that you save money by paying as you go, but this is a much more pleasant way of doing things. Perhaps the single most noticeable difference between Crystal and the mainstream cruise lines is the space and lack of crowding. There was never a wait or line for anything. The Lido Buffet moved smoothly and there was almost always available seating. Seating was never a problem for any of the shows. On the two occasions when we tendered into port (Newport, RI and Bar Harbor, ME), there were no required tender tickets or boarding time restrictions. When you wanted to go, you went. In Bar Harbor, we shared a tender pier with Golden Princess. On return to the ship, the line for Golden Princess boats snaked into the boarding terminal while the Crystal Symphony passengers simply walked onto their waiting boats. THE CABINS The rooms on the Symphony were pleasant and roomy, but no better than what we had on RCI's Brilliance of the Seas or HAL's Zuiderdam. We booked a Category E obstructed view stateroom on deck 8 (8072). I spent some time researching the different obstructed view cabins on Deck 7 & 8, and there have been quite a few posts on message boards about this topic, so I made it my mission to do some first hand research while onboard. The deck plans are quite accurate for deck 8. Rooms 8100, 8101, 8088, 8089, 8076 and 8077 are virtually unobstructed, and the rooms on either side of them have only partial obstructions. These rooms go fast, however, and if you can't get them, there are still better choices among the "lifeboat" view cabins. Cabins 8060 and 8061 look out over the bow of a small boat and are less obstructed than other offerings. Our room 8072, overlooked a portion of the lifeboat where the pilot house is, so there a little more obstruction than elsewhere. The rooms overlooking the 4 aft lifeboats were also less desirable since these are the shore tenders and have two decks, further obstructing the views. Even with the obstructions, however, we could see the sky and horizon and after a day or two, didn't even notice the lifeboat. There was no problem with ship's vibration in this cabin, only the gentle throbbing of the engines to rock you to sleep. Deck 7 also has some virtually unobstructed view cabins, mostly next to the exits onto the Promenade Deck. The windows are tinted and slightly elevated, so seeing in during the day is not a problem. Other obstructed view cabins give you a view of the sea but not the sky, the opposite of Deck 8. Whichever room you chose, I feel the obstructed view rooms are a great value and don't detract significantly from the cruise experience. If you are fortunate enough to book a penthouse suite, avoid the rooms at the aft section of the ship, under the Lido Cafe. Our table mates had one of these cabins and complained about table scraping noises early in the mornings as the breakfast service was set up. THE CRUISE ITSELF The cruise itself was great. After settling into our room, we met our STEX sponsors, Bill and Jean, along with other CC contacts Gary and Mellissa, for tea in the Palm Court. Although I'm pretty much a black coffee guy, the tea (served in silk tea bags) was excellent and the whole experience very pleasant. The STEX program worked great, and we had a $200 credit posted to our onboard account by the time we returned from tea. Thanks, Bill and Jean! We sailed from New York Harbor at night with great views of the city and Statue of Liberty, illuminated as only New York City can be. Our first port, Newport, RI, is a beautiful place with magnificent mansions and quaint neighborhoods. We walked the Cliff Walk along the ocean, in front of the mansions, and explored the back streets of the city under brilliant sunshine and bright blue skies. The next two days we spent in Boston, an historic and cosmopolitan city. The ship docked a ways away from downtown, but Crystal ran a shuttle bus (at no charge, of course) right to the heart of the city. We did the Freedom Trail, walked the cobblestone streets of the Back Bay and visited the USS Constitution. The following day found us in Bar Harbor, Maine and Acadia National Park. We had done some research and discovered that the Park Service has a complimentary bus service into the National Park, so we packed a lunch and headed out for a day of hiking on the many trails in the park. Again, we caught a break with the weather, with bright sunshine and pleasant temperatures. Some were disappointed that the autumn colors suggested by the title of cruise were not yet there, but I'd say the warm weather and sun were a good tradeoff. The next day was a welcome rest at sea. What a great lineup of activities Crystal had! This was another area where Crystal really shined. They had great lecturers, computer classes, dance lessons, wine tastings, exercise classes and so much more that there was hardly time for a nap! I would have swapped our second day in Boston for another day at sea, so enjoyable were all the activities. Halifax, Nova Scotia was our next stop. This is an interesting, picturesque and historic area that really deserves more than one day. We decided to rent a car and visit Peggy's Cove and drive the scenic lighthouse route. I booked a car ahead of time and was really pleased with the rate of $32 (Canadian!). We picked the car up at the Westin Hotel, about a block away from where the ship docks. Unfortunately, the compact car we had reserved was "not available," but we were informed we could have a Dodge Durango at the same rate - as if this were a good deal. I'm no fan of SUVs, even when gas was $1.30 a gallon, but since this was the only vehicle available, we took it. We had a nice drive along the coast and visited Peggy's Cove, home of the famous (and touristy) lighthouse that also serves as a post office. We drove back into town for lunch on the ship, then set out for the fort overlooking the city and the beautiful botanical gardens. It was a full and enjoyable day. Bottom line on the car? It cost more for the gas than the car rental! Even so, it was a lot cheaper than the ship tour, and we saw more, on our own timetable. From Halifax we sailed for the St. Lawrence Seaway and Quebec, two days away. En route to Quebec we were supposed to sail into the Saguenay River, a scenic waterway likened by some to the fjords of Norway. Unfortunately, bad things can happen to good cruise ships. The Symphony suffered a failure of one of its engines, resulting in a reduced speed capability. Thus we had to bypass the Saguenay River and arrived late into Quebec. The Captain did offer complimentary cocktails for two hours, but this seemed like meager compensation for a major itinerary alteration that was, after all, due to the cruise line, not an act of God. As it turned out, arriving two hours late in Quebec was no big deal since it was here that we had our only really bad day of weather. When I say really bad, I mean really bad. The rain came down virtually unabated all day long in torrents, driven by tropical storm- type winds that blew the rain horizontally. Crystal lost a lot of room umbrellas that day as they inverted from the wind gusts. We took a cab up to the Chateau Frontenac where we joined every other tourist in Quebec who was searching for something to do indoors. We also went to a history museum next to the Chateau where we learned of the American military defeat at Quebec during the revolutionary war, something I don't remember reading too much about in my history books. Fortunately, the next day was as beautiful as the previous day was terrible. We took our only ship excursion to view waterfalls and countryside outside the city. The heavy rains from the previous day had turned the waterfalls in raging torrents of water, making for a truly spectacular sight. Unfortunately, the all day tour prevented us from exploring the many interesting sites of old Quebec, but now we have a reason to return to this quaint and unique city. The propulsion system was fixed during our stay in Quebec, and our overnight trip to Montreal was routine. Disembarkation was routine and efficient, as expected. We were cruise-only passengers, and our cab to the airport in Montreal cost about half of the transfer fee the ship was charging. SHORTCOMINGS So, the ship was perfect, and Crystal is without flaws, right? Wrong! Just as I have never been on a horrible cruise, so have I never been on a perfect cruise. This one was no exception, even after stepping up into the premium category of cruise line. The service, for example, was absolutely superb in the lounges, pool decks, Lido buffet and specialty restaurants, but was very average in the main dining room. Our waiter and assistant were competent and hard working, but they always seemed rushed and behind. Dinners stretched out over long periods, and the attentive, personal service we were expecting was simply not there. The service was, in fact, very similar to what we've experienced lately on mainline cruise ships, and a better dining room experience was one of the reasons we wanted to step up. Didn't happen. (The food was clearly a step above, however, and the service in Prego, the specialty restaurant where we ate, was excellent.) Even worse was the wine service. It was the worse I have ever experienced on any cruise, at any price! The first night, the wine steward left the wine list then never returned to take the order. When she did show up on subsequent nights, we were already into our first course. At one point, she removed a still full bottle of wine when I left the table temporarily, and it took me 10 minutes to get it retrieved. The final insult was an $80 overcharge on my ship account that took me two days to resolve. Either the wine steward was overtasked, undertrained, incompetent or all of the above, but it was certainly not an experience I expected from Crystal. On every other ship I have been on, a wine steward was available at a dedicated station to pre-order wine for the evening, but I never found such a location aboard Symphony. CONCLUSION So what's the bottom line? "moving' on up" to Crystal meant more space, less crowding, better service (except as noted), better food, less "nickel and diming," superb at sea programs, great entertainment, spacious dance floors and a more traditional cruise experience. Is that worth the extra money? Unfortunately, this is a completely subjective decision that I would not dream of attempting to make for anyone else. But you can expect to see me on another Crystal Cruise, hopefully sooner rather than later! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2005
Here is Tim's review of the Crystal Symphony. 3-17-05 to 3-24-05 Since this my first cruise with Crystal (11th overall)I relied on alot of tips from Judith02 since the Crystal Symphony is her favorite ship. By the way, this was the ... Read More
Here is Tim's review of the Crystal Symphony. 3-17-05 to 3-24-05 Since this my first cruise with Crystal (11th overall)I relied on alot of tips from Judith02 since the Crystal Symphony is her favorite ship. By the way, this was the best cruise ever. We arrived at 1pm to board the ship and there were 3 people in the 5 lines to board the ship. The time it took to board the ship was 5 minutes. Since I have cruised on Celebrity, Princess and Carnival this indicated to me that Crystal would be different. On top of the easy check in they did not demand a draft of my credit card, in fact they stated to go to the Reception area at my convenience within the next four days. (This was weird because every other cruise company immediately takes a draft of your credit card) Upon boarding they took our picture and advised us that lunch was being served on the Lido Deck, they further offered to take our carry-on luggage and place it in our room so we could immediately explore the ship. (A very nice touch) Furthermore, one of the cruise staff gave us a guided tour of the ship. Judith stated to verify our table seating with Remi and of course we did get our table for two. (Yes) When I inquired if there is availability to move to a different table for two, he advised me that 60 people are on the waiting list for a table for two. So I was very pleased that my TA requested the table in advance. So far the service was amazing and the food was fantastic and this was only the first day. My companion Doug commented that even the Lido food was better than the main Dining rooms on Princess, to which I totally agreed with him. Food thought the ship was excellent. We did five of our breakfasts in the Dining Room. I always ordered the same thing, waffles with Strawberrys and whipped cream. The Strawberrys were always big and juicy and the whipped cream was freshly made. Even their Decaf coffee was good and strong, a usual complaint on cruises. Lunches were also mostly in the dining room, though we did have two occasions to eat at the Lido Deck Buffet. Nice Waffles (but not as good as the dining room) and an egg station. We never ate in the alternative restaurants because Doug is a real meat and potatoes kind of guy and did not find either Menu that interesting. I was happy with the dining room for dinner and when I ordered Filet Mignon that was not on the menu they made if for me cooked exactly the way I like it. The highlight of my cruise was having the Assistant waiter asking me what I wanted for my Birthday Meal. So I asked for Steak Diane, Mashed Potatoes and veggies. For dessert I asked for a Strawberry Shortcake (Cake). I figured they would have giving me a nice mini cake instead it was a full 9 inch cake. Made with a light yellow cake with vanilla cream another layer of cake, more vanilla cream and strawberry puree toped with more cake and a strawberry Glaze. The outside parts of the cake there was toasted and shredded coconut. It was absolutely Amazing. I shared it with our Waiter, assistant waiter, Remi and some new friends I made on the cruise. Itinerary: To me this really was not that important, im not a fan of Jamaica nor Grand Cayman but did enjoy Cozumel and Key West. For me a cruise is about the spa and total relaxation. And the spa treatments were great as was my haircut and facial. Typical Steiner prices but coming from the San Francisco Bay Area not to bad price wise. This ship was beautifully maintained and I had coffee with Rolf the Captain and Cato the Vice Captain twice in the Bistro. (Excellent Mochas and free too) They were so friendly and personable. We were joking and having a great time. This is also a new experience as every other cruise I have taken I saw the Captain only during the welcome and goodbye Galas. All of the employees were professional and nice. It was like seeing family on the ship. Always friendly. The Captain said they take very good care of their employees and it shows. The employees have a party every night and all of the wait staff I spoke too loves Crystal as they only have them work 10 hour days, unlike the 12 & 14 hour days the other cruise companies have them work. I enjoyed our stateroom, with two sinks in the bathroom and a tub. (That was a first for me) Our Stewardess made sure our mini fridge always had, Coke, Sprite and Bottled water per our request. She was sweet and unobtrusive. I also enjoyed the fact that any bar you went to you could always order complementary Sodas or water. The Ice Cream Bar serves Edys which is Dryers here in California and its free. They have really good Coffee Ice Cream shakes and Cookies. The bad stuff: The only down side to the cruise is that we couldn't continue with the 10 day cruise following this one. I really did not want to leave. Now I have been Crystallized, it would be extremely difficult to go back to Celebrity. (Since all drinks including water and sodas cost extra and the food really blew Celebrity away) Wow was this experience awesome and I cannot wait to take my next Crystal Cruise. I hope this review helped anyone out there considering a Crystal Cruise. Take Care, Tim 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 4.5
Fitness Recreation 4.5 4.0
Family 4.0 4.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.8
Enrichment 5.0 4.2
Service 4.0 4.6
Value For Money 4.0 3.9
Rates 4.0 4.1

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