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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2011
Before boarding the "Symphony" October 25 for a 12 night to Bermuda and the Caribbean, a three night New York pre stay was delightful, anchored by a fine hotel "The Setai", newly built from the ground up, staring at the ... Read More
Before boarding the "Symphony" October 25 for a 12 night to Bermuda and the Caribbean, a three night New York pre stay was delightful, anchored by a fine hotel "The Setai", newly built from the ground up, staring at the Empire State Building. My wife and I, treating ourselves to a belated 47 year anniversary, watched a top Broadway Show "Going Away" and the the next evening,a Cuban band while dining. We visited The Whitney and New York City museums, Ground Zero Memorial and the protest encampments. We strolled the High Line Park, ingeniously landscaped on top of an abandoned railway trestle. Also we took Greenwich and East Village walking tour in which residents spend millions for historic quarters with tiny AC boxes in the windows. I boarded the "Symphony" with an incipient cold which manifested itself fully mid cruise. However, the seas were smooth. I managed to attend most ship events and go ashore in which I found the Caribbean Islands less interesting and exotic than Far East Ports and environs, which have more variety than the proliferation of endless tax and duty free stores which envelope the Caribbean ports. However, a satisfying out of town alternative is the fine beaches and water sports. We discovered two gorgeous beaches as the swimming was calm, buttressed by sugary and rock free sand. In contrast, Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach was disturbed by a recent storm.(The beauty of travel is that that one's perceptions can change for better or worse, no matter how many travel books, cruise folders,or weather reports one reads. Nicely, Crystal Cruise Lines was a good cocoon). The Caribbean island taxi rides seemed exorbitant, as in Bermuda, but there I liked the shop keepers best as their manners seemed more refined and street touts were rare. Antigua was lively and rollicking, with clothes, behavior and cars mimicking inner city youth culture in America, a country and president they admire. The street scene was a relief from the social rigidity and constant activities aboard the "Sympathy". Dining,lectures,card games,table tennis, fitness instruction,dance lessons, just never ending.. The ship, not unlike a wondrous summer camp for retirees, like myself, had luscious dinning and endless activities, but the cramped window only cabins forces couples to escape early elsewhere on the ship. Never mind, Crystal has some event or activity to entertain you to relieve any boredom. My advice is to book a balcony, if affordable, as the wonderful promenade deck has few chairs to escape the pool crowd and really be left alone, not trading stares. The bathroom was compact but the shower water forceful and always hot. The cabin AC was quiet. One could sleep, but the bed was too firm so a crew member brought foam immediately. I felt as if I was cruising in a ocean retirement estate with nice wealthy passengers, dressed expensively, but if you can mask your true social station, such as mine, and update your clothes, you will be fine. The ship and passengers seemed tolerant as there were gays and handicaps sprinkled about who had good taste, apparently enjoying the space and tolerance. I found all passengers cordial and admired the determination of those in wheel chairs. However, at the disembarkation breakfast, I went to shake hand and say farewell to a senior dining staff member, who, excluded from ship tip recommendations,(which I innocently followed),was surprisingly rebuking and told me "I did not appreciate his service". Indeed I had tipped the stewardess beyond the recommendation as she was very helpful dealing with my cold. Bitter and feeling ostracized, I felt everything had been a fraud and I was duped.I contacted the line who gave the profuse but standard apology with a small future credit, with conditions. I did not accept this they as they only had one other ship remaining, "The Serenity", and frankly, I need more ship credit to dare splurge again, as middle class financially, I shouldn't extinguish my savings with endless cruises no matter how much I enjoy pampering. Actually, my top demand was for a direct apology from the ship member who offended me. As of yet, this has not been forthcoming. To deal with the tipping agony, the line is transitioning to " all inclusive". This will prevent such incidents as mine, reducing any temptation for dinning room staff pandering. Nevertheless, I still recommend Crystal, if you can afford a balcony. Overall I remember all the good mornings, the endless pepper offerings, the tea servings by deferential servants in long tails. But my fantasy evaporated at the end. Was everything a fraud, including myself? Read Less
Sail Date: October 2011
My wife and I just returned from our first cruise on the Crystal Symphony. We departed from NYC to Newport, RI, Boston, Halifax, St. John, Quebec and Montreal. Embarkation was a breeze....10 minutes from exiting the taxi to boarding ... Read More
My wife and I just returned from our first cruise on the Crystal Symphony. We departed from NYC to Newport, RI, Boston, Halifax, St. John, Quebec and Montreal. Embarkation was a breeze....10 minutes from exiting the taxi to boarding the ship. The Symphony is a beautiful medium sized ship for less than 1000 passengers. Our balcony cabin deck 9 was midship...very small but beautifully appointed. Great linens, comfortable queen bed with one electric outlet. The bathroom was tiny yet stylish. The "stewardess" for our cabin (Crystal''s word) was phenomenal. The room was kept immaculate. She was in the room when we were not at least twice a day. We dined in the main dining room early seating. After a tip was paid, we were assigned a perfect table in a great location. Our waiter Adem was the best experienced in 12 cruises. The food in the dining room was extraordinarily good almost every meal. An overcooked steak one night was corrected, and a broken grill on the last night of the cruise made for painfully slow service. Beyond that, the service was spectacular. The food in the Lido was very good, but at sea days lunch was packed with no seating. This was especially problematic because Crystal only chooses to keep the Lido open for lunch from noon until 130. After that, it's burgers, wraps, pizza and salads on deck....until 6pm (all very good) Breakfast at the Lido was excellent. Beyond runny eggs on one day, breakfast in the dining room was very good. Coffee drinks at the Bistro were top notch. Food at Prego was a ten out of ten. Wonderful. Unless you like room service, make sure you are not hungry for a snack from after dinner until 11pm. From 11pm until midnight, they passed small hors d'oeuvres in a couple places on ship. Not having a snack at 9 or so at night was a big (and only) disappointment regarding food. Water and soda were free throughout the cruise. The staff was phenomenal with a couple exceptions (rude photographer and assistant concierge were each quite full of themselves....arrogant beyond belief). The Internet is overpriced and too slow like on most ships. We found the violinist to be excellent and lectures at sea to be wonderful. We did not enjoy the otter entertainment options. Disembarkation was simple and easy. Off ship and through customs in 5 minutes. The ultimate question is Crystal worth twice the cost of Holland, Princess, Celebrity or Royal? Is the extraordinary service and exceptional food worth twice the cruise fare? We think not. Crystal is not Regent....smaller cabins and more limited food offerings. Some people love to pay to be pampered and for you Crystal is perfect. Candidly, 85 percent of the service is available on Celebrity and Holland for half the price..or close. Beyond a couple of items mentioned above, there is not much negative to say about Crystal. The staff works its collective butt off. I just don't think the final package was worth the cost. Many others will disagree, based on their own priorities. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2011
I am somewhat 'Crystallised' at 47 years of age, and this was my 5th trip, in as many years. I brought my partner along for the first time to show what all the fuss was about. Crystal get a lot right, the food is fantastic ... Read More
I am somewhat 'Crystallised' at 47 years of age, and this was my 5th trip, in as many years. I brought my partner along for the first time to show what all the fuss was about. Crystal get a lot right, the food is fantastic and flexible, the anticipation by staff of a very high standard and the general standard of the Symphony is high, though I do feel it is getting a wee bit long in the tooth for such a premier brand. My personal view is that the Serenity is much better and maybe that is why our ship was half full, and the last time I was on Symphony it was half full, never have I experienced this on Serenity. I think crystal customers know what they are doing and they know which of the two ships has the edge. Anyway we wanted Alaska and this was the ship that was there and it is still a mighty fine ship. For the first time ever I regularly found the men's rooms had 'gentleman's spillage' on the floor, I was very surprised by this and it was often. Maybe the cleaning schedule has been reduced or maybe we were just unlucky. The cruise director was disappointing, my former Crystal directors have become so friendly this one Scott, was totally competent, but competent was it, no sparkle, no outstanding interpersonal skills. I felt he hid in the corner from the passengers. Gosh I sound like I am moaning, but its so easy to state the good stuff, the stuff we all know about Crystal that sometimes when you notice things are not quite up to scratch you want to express it. The bistro was grand and the grand teas were even grander! Prego and Nobu remain outstanding. Being a half empty ship, I felt we were penalised. Our second seating only had around 100 people and the dining room was dead, they only used one side. But worse was that they decided to move the after dinner show to before dinner, as they said more people came. This was not for the early diners they had their own show, i don't believe more people came, it was empty.... and it ruined our evening as after dinner its great to get a drink and watch a show. Being forced to be in the theatre for 7pm or miss the show cuts short your afternoon and makes your post dinner evening quite drab and empty. Yes the brilliant pianist in the Avenue Saloon is still there but that's not a grand show, which Crystal does so well. I just wonder if they moved it for an easy life. Also not a sign of the strolling musicians to serenade you at dinner,, where have they gone? maybe as we were half empty they were cut back.... whatever the reason I and others noticed their absence. The stops were Alaska and great, it was a wonderful trip,,, but I did feel crystal was not quite as sparkling as usual. Oh well, Ill still go back,, but probably make sure I take the serenity. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2010
We went on this cruise with another couple, who have travelled with Crystal Harmony 4 times before. We flied to N.Y. the night before, spent an evening in N.Y., then boarded the ship just before noon. We stayed in Ink48, which is 10 ... Read More
We went on this cruise with another couple, who have travelled with Crystal Harmony 4 times before. We flied to N.Y. the night before, spent an evening in N.Y., then boarded the ship just before noon. We stayed in Ink48, which is 10 minutes cab ride to the pier. We really liked the hotel, clean, modern, and quiet, with very comfortable bed. This is not a 5 star hotel, good enough for a short stay but a bit far from theatre district. Boarding took about an hour, when we got on the ship, our room was not ready. We checked our hand luggage, which took another half hour, then went to the Dining Room for lunch. Around 2:30pm, we were in our room. Our luggage was delivered to our room, including our hand luggage. So bring extra lock for your hand luggage. The room was clean, but small. The sitting area looked bigger in picture. With the coffee table pushed closer to the couch so that we could access the drawers, there was not enough leg room for two persons to sit on the couch, only one person at a time. I am only going to talk about the few things that I have always wanted to know but never found the answers here. With the 2 for 1 pricing, was the food as good as they said? Maybe it normally is, but not on this sailing. Compared to the 5 star restaurants found in any big city, the food served on this cruise would only get a 3.5 rating. Someone told me the regular chef was on vacation. More than 1/3 of the time our food arrived luke warm. A few times, we waited 40 minutes for our dinner. Soup was watery. Most of the time, chicken consomme was served and it tasted like Campbell soup. On the Galley tour, one lady asked the Executive Chef Manfred Schaller why the soup choice was getting more and more limited. His reply was that "There is just not a lot of demand". Well, if the soup did not taste good time after time, people would not order them. Steak was tough and always came overcooked. Order a medium rare if you want a medium well. Seafood was a lot better and most patrons did order fish. This may be the reason why they did this very well. Souffle was one of the few dishes that was met our expectation. Lobster was also very good but for a 19 days cruise, they only served it once. If you want another lobster dinner, place the order the night before. Is the cruise on Crystal worth the money? Base on our experience, with the 2 for 1 pricing, and a $2,200 shipboard credit, I would say yes. But if you are young and active, wants to do a lot and see a lot on board and on land, then the answer is no. This ship caters to clients over 70 years old, who are rich and shameless. Their money works for them and not the other way around. I met a lot of nice people, who have sailed with Crystal numerous times (easily over 15 times). One thing I found is that they are "crystalized", and have not travelled with any other cruise line since they sailed with Crystal. With no other experience to compared with lately, they simply don't know what they are missing. Service was excellent. We haven't met one single rude employee. Bathroom is small but has enough storage space. Shower has great water pressure. They still have receptionists making the wake-up calls personally; therefore there may be 5 - 6 minutes delay on a port day. I have very sensitive skin, and reacts to strong commercial detergent used by the Princess Cruise ships. I was hoping that Crystal might be different. On the 4th day, my skin started to break out in rash. My cabin steward replaced the linen promptly with what I brought from home. The rash subsided. She ordered special sheets for me, catered to people with sensitive skin. It did not work. After the 3rd day, my skin broke out in rash again. So if you have sensitive skin like mine and had similar experience, bring your own sheet. I did not seem to have any problem with the Celebrity cruise line. Spa was very nice and cozy. Fitness centre was usually only half full. If you are booking this cruise to transit the Panama Canal, the best view is on open deck, not in the Palm Court. You just would not get a great picture there due to the window frame. Order room service early in the morning, then head straight to the open deck, if you are fit and nimble. I asked my friends how this cruise compared to their previous cruises with Crystal, they said that this one does not even come close to what they experienced before. We had a full ship on this sailing. On the afternoon of the so called Mozart tea, everyone showed up. So instead of having the pastry brought to us, we had to take our plate and lined up for them. Tea was served in tea bag instead of loose tea leaves. I would not call that a High Tea at all. I had better experience in a side walk cafe. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2010
This is a four-cruise-line comparison, following our first cruise on Crystal and, before that, nine cruises on Princess, Holland America and Celebrity. In brief, cost per day on Crystal is a bit more than twice the others. In return you ... Read More
This is a four-cruise-line comparison, following our first cruise on Crystal and, before that, nine cruises on Princess, Holland America and Celebrity. In brief, cost per day on Crystal is a bit more than twice the others. In return you get the best food, no lines anywhere, and a friendlier, more intimate and quieter atmosphere. But that's not the whole story. Crystal's Cruise Critic reviews emphasize the superiority of the service provided on Crystal. Our experience has been that service has been excellent on all our cruises; crystal was excellent but not superior. For example, our two best room stewards were on Princess, as was our best team of waiters; our top bartender and bar waiter were on HAL, and our best deck stewards on Crystal, as was the best afternoon tea service. The best informal lunch service was in Celebrity's Aqua cafe. Overall, on service our experience was: Pick 'em! We have mostly had standard balcony cabins. Our deck 8 cabin on the Crystal Symphony was slightly smaller than comparables on the other lines, and the bathroom quite a bit smaller, though both room and bath were very well laid out and beautifully appointed. Only the Celebrity Infinity's concierge cabin was superior. Princess wastes space with a protrusion in the middle of a bit-larger cabin. Our cabin on HAL's Ryndam was somewhat rundown. Infinity has a beautiful two-deck library and selection of books, with the smaller top-deck library of the Royal Princess coming in at second place in our esteem. The larger Princess ships have an unmatched number of tucked away spaces where you can sit and read or meditate quietly. Celebrity had the most stunning public dEcor, and the sculpture and hanging art was also mesmerizing. Crystal may well come in last on this rather subjective dimension. The food in the Crystal Symphony's dining room was superb night after night—nothing like it elsewhere. As an example of attention to detail: every night there was a different pasta dish available. I ordered it as a secondo preceding the entrEe, and each one was amazing—the best I've every eaten. Comparable things could be said about the rest of the menu (my wife says Crystal has the best pastry at sea). Why go to a specialty restaurant then? Well we did, to Silk Road, their Asian spot, and it too was unbelievably good. Despite all this, we missed the Princess steakhouse and the Infinity's S.S. United States. Crystal has quite a few two-person tables in the dining room, important to us, but the late seating is very late, 8:30. The best bar afloat, in our view, is Crystal's Avenue Saloon. It is an old-time saloon, beautifully paneled and lighted, with fine service, excellent canapEs, perfect Beefeater martini, and a lounge bar pianist who interacts wittily with the patrons and plays and sings well, with moods to fit the ambience. The other ships haven't a single space among them, nor an entertainer, that achieved this overall balance. There is a smoking section in this bar but there was no smoke during the many times we had pre-diner drinks there. I usually allow myself one cigar per cruise, and the Crystal Connoisseur Club's environment and selection of cigars and brandy—and the service—were by far my best experience at sea—two cigars is the Club's rating in my book. The best wine list we found was on Celebrity. It was more comprehensive, leaned toward French wines, but California was well represented. The cellar master's selections were sensitive to the importance of vintage. You did have to go to the specialty restaurant, the S.S. United States, to get most of them, and the main dining room sommelier was incompetent. On HAL's Ryndam the cellar master had a much smaller selection, but it was excellent and provided us with out best wine experience among these ten voyages, including a pair of properly aged bottles of Caymus cab and a tasting of Chateau Yquem. Worth mentioning is Crystal's Vintage Room. It's a small, beautiful room that seats twelve, and serves a seven-course meal complete with wine tasting, usually only once a voyage. We found the food to be excellent, of the level of the main dining room. The wine was however a little disappointing, the head sommelier seeming to be more interested in unusual grapes, vineyard locations and other inputs than in the outputs—how they actually taste. Of the eight or nine wines we sampled none stood out, though of course they were all very drinkable! The great thing about this event was the company, a very compatible, witty, and maybe just a touch edgy crew of Americans and Australians. Four hundred and twenty bucks will get you and your partner this experience. Crystal's passenger profile was distinctive. There were few under fifty, but the over 50's looked to be people who'd taken care of themselves—fit and able to enjoy what the cruise had to offer. The older age of the passengers contributed to the quieter nature of the cruise, as did the absence of the seemingly endless and overly-magnified announcements of the cruise directors on the other ships. On Crystal we were apparently trusted to be able to make our activity choices merely by reading the daily newsletter. Still, the passenger profile combined with the ship's dEcor left a hint of blandness on these cruisers' palates We really missed the Princess atrium, found also on HAL but not on Celebrity and in a truncated form on Crystal. It formed a central place, rather like a small town's plaza from which all the ship's activity seemed to radiate. Acrobats, bars, piano players—something always was going on. Sadly the list apparently no longer includes classical music if our last Princess trip (on the Grand) is representative—unless you count the accordion as a classical instrument. Crystal has a great observation lounge, comparable to HAL's Crows nest, though the one on the Osterdam was pretty seedy. This venue, called the Palm Court, was also the home of the daily afternoon tea, a great and unparalleled experience. Crystal's coffee house serves fine food and is much the largest of its kind, though the appointments are rather cafeteria-bland. Our Crystal cruise was great, but so were all the others. If Crystal's prices were competitive we still would not become Crystal-only cruisers. Should we manage to cruise ten more times, the odds are that we would once again sample the wares of all four of these fine cruise lines. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2009
Background Information We are a couple in our mid-fifties. We have been on 15 cruises, but only the last three have been without the kids. This was our first luxury cruise. Travel To Port of Embarkation We flew SAS business ... Read More
Background Information We are a couple in our mid-fifties. We have been on 15 cruises, but only the last three have been without the kids. This was our first luxury cruise. Travel To Port of Embarkation We flew SAS business class to Stockholm. Crystal had a good deal on an upgrade and it was well worth the extra money to fly business class. The flight and taxi ride to the hotel went very smoothly. In Stockholm, make sure you take a taxi that says Taxi Stockholm and has a large green leaf painted on the side. There are many other taxis with similar names and they will overcharge you. Hotel and Embarkation We got to Stockholm a day before we could board the Symphony and stayed at the Sheraton. We arrived at the Sheraton at 9:30am and were very pleased that they had a room ready for us. The Sheraton is in an excellent location, walking distance from many interesting places. We had a wonderful day sightseeing and sampling great foods and pastries and managed to stay up until 10:00 pm. The next day, we checked out of the hotel around noon and took a cab to the Crystal Symphony, since I had read on Cruise Critic that you could usually check in at noon and have a champagne lunch. Check-in and boarding were quick and efficient. We checked our hand luggage and had a lovely champagne lunch. The many staff were efficient and gracious. Several people welcomed us back, which was odd, since this was our first Crystal cruise. Maybe they thought since we knew you could board early, we had cruised Crystal before. Stateroom Our cabin was small, but adequate. There was very good storage space and the bed was comfortable. Dining The food in the main dining room was very good. The appetizers were excellent. We really enjoyed Silk Road and Prego. We had no trouble getting all the reservations we wanted in either restaurant and the food and service were superb. We enjoyed the breakfasts in the Lido. There was a nice selection and everything was fresh and well prepared, and this was definitely the best buffet breakfast we've had on a ship. The Bistro was one of my favorite places on the ship. They have excellent coffees, teas, beer and wine. There is a good selection of snacks, both savory and sweet. The service was excellent and the snacks were constantly replenished. I wished that The Bistro had longer hours. We enjoyed The Mozart tea. The waiters were dressed up in costume and there were musicians playing Mozart as well as other classical pieces. They served small sandwiches and pastries, which were quite good. Activities There were only two sea days, so we didn't have enough time to attend many of the activities on board. We really enjoyed the enrichment lectures by Marc Ginsburg and the wonderful historical storyteller, Dr. Jay Wolff. Service The service in the Lido for breakfast was outstanding. There were many staff to help carry our trays and refill our coffee. They went out of their way to remember our names and what we liked to eat. The waiters even ordered my husband's waffle for him and brought it to the table when ready. The service at Silk Road and Prego was also outstanding. However, our regular waiter and assistant waiter were good, but did nothing to make them stand out from good waiters on other cruises. Our room stewardess also did a good job, but nothing special. We had to ask to get our robes since by the second day, there were only empty robe hangers in the closet. We certainly got anything we asked for promptly, and it was nice that crystal didn't keep trying to sell us things. In fact, the stores on the ship closed for good before we had a chance to buy everything we wanted. They didn't open after the 10:00 pm sailaway from Rostock. The next morning we were docked in Copenhagen for an overnight stay before we had to disembark the following morning. Entertainment The ship's singers, dancers and band were excellent. There were a lot of songs from musicals, which I enjoyed very much. My husband didn't enjoy them as much but that was because of the type of music, not the caliber of the performers. The dance couple on board, Beverly Durrant and Chris Curtis, were excellent and really fun to watch. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to take any of their dance lessons. There was a British singer, Robert Meadmore, who sang songs from musicals and had an excellent voice. Comedian/Singer Kenny Smiles was very funny. There was a pianist, Naki Ataman, who performed this hour-long piece that included music from 19 different countries around the world, and used "Around the World in 80 Days" as a transition piece. He was accompanied by the bass player and drummer from the band. A London musical show singer Jacqueline Scott was good. She could play piano as well as sing. She sang show tunes, the Minute Waltz, a medley of Beatles songs. The Liars' Club was fun. The panel included the ship's rabbi, monsignor, Dr. Jay Wolff, and comedian, Kenny Smiles. The audience formed teams. Each panelist gave a different definition for each of 4 words. Each panelist also elaborated with stories and jokes. It was funny and entertaining. Port & Shore Excursions The cruise had a wonderful itinerary. It began with an overnight stay in Stockholm, followed by a day at sea, then a two-night stay in St. Petersburg, a day in Helsinki, a day at sea, a day in Gdansk, a day in Rostock and an overnight stay in Copenhagen. Free shuttle buses: Crystal provided free shuttle buses from the ship to Stockholm, Helsinki, Gydnia, and Copenhagen. In Germany, Crystal provided free shuttle buses to both Warnemunde and Rostock, since our ship docked in Rostock, rather than the more commonly used port, Warnemunde. We enjoyed seeing Stockholm, Helsinki and Copenhagen on our own. We had good guidebooks and maps and it was nice to see what we wanted to see at our own pace. The highlight of the cruise was St. Petersburg. We had booked a private tour with Anastasia Tours for just my husband and me. (FYI, When we boarded the ship for the last time before sailaway to St. Petersburg, Crystal took our passports. They returned them the next day with one copy of the main page.) We were scheduled to meet our guide from Anastasia Tours at 9:30. We left the ship around 9:00 and had no trouble with passport control. There was a short line. They needed our passport, a copy of the main page of the passport, and our ticket from Anastasia Tours. They gave us a small, red laminated card that we had to turn back in before we got on the ship at the end of the day. I had made copies of our passport pictures for all three days, but they only asked for them on the first day. They did look at our passports and our Anastasia tickets all three days. The next two days, we got off the ship about 8:30 am, and there was no line and there were no problems. I don't know if the ships tours had already left, but there were no issues. Our guide, Natalya and driver Dimitri were excellent. Natalya spoke excellent English. She had an advanced degree in English from St.Petersburg University and taught there, as well as being a tour guide. She also loved St.Petersburg and knew the history in great detail. Her grandmother, who was still living in St. Petersburg, had been there during the siege and Natalya had many interesting stories to tell. Since it was just the three of us, we never had to wait in line. Natalya always moved us to the front of the line and we got in right away. Anastasia told me that this is perfectly acceptable procedure for groups of five and under. We even had priority embarkation to get on the hydrofoil and we were the only three passengers on our canal cruise. We got to see a lot in three days, and had two wonderful Russian meals and (at my request) a trip to a supermarket. It was like a very nice Walmart, huge with everything you could think of. There was a lot of fresh fish and more Vodka than I had ever seen in one place. I highly recommend Anastasia Tours. The price was very reasonable for such a great, three-day private tour. We took a ship's tour in Gdansk that basically provided bus transportation to Gdansk with a guide explaining things as we drove. We had two hours on our own in Gdansk. We asked the tour guide if we could be dropped off in Gdynia, spent about an hour in Gdynia and took the Crystal Shuttle bus back to the ship. We had done a lot of sightseeing by this point and wanted an easy day. Our ship docked in Rostock, not Warnemunde. I knew this ahead of time and it is much more difficult to take the train from the Port of Rostock than from Warnemunde. None of the ship's tours sounded that good go me. We had decided not to go to Berlin. We've never been there and we didn't want to spend 3 hours each way getting to Berlin and back to spend only 6 or 7 hours in such a great city. I was very happy when I discovered Friends of Dave Tours on Cruise Critic. Dave is American who has lived in Germany the past ten years. He is extremely knowledgeable about the area and was extremely helpful. He even went to the Port of Rostock to check it out ahead of time and contacted Crystal Cruises to find out their plan for shuttle buses. Dave arranged a wonderful tour to Wismar for us and another family. We took the Crystal shuttle bus to Rostock and Dave was waiting for us at the bus stop. We then embarked on a very interesting day in Germany. After a short walk around Rostock, we took the tram and then the train to Wismar. We were extremely glad to have Dave as our guide. It was by no means obvious what to do and where to go at the train station and Dave already had our tickets and was leading the way. After an hour's train ride to Wismar, he took us all around this wonderful city and told us all about the culture and history. He also took us to a 500 year old Brewery for an absolutely wonderful lunch. His rates are per person and are very reasonable. The price included the train tickets, lunch and drinks at an outdoor restaurant. His website is friendsofdavetours.com Disembarkation Crystal really excelled here. Our flight wasn't until 3:30 pm. We got off the ship about 9:45 am and Crystal bussed passengers with later flights to a very nice hotel with a hospitality lounge with pastries and drinks. The hotel, The Imperial, was right in the middle of downtown Copenhagen, so we could leave our luggage there and sightsee for a few hours. Depending on the time of your flight, Crystal either provided taxi vouchers for passengers to get to the airport or they provided a bus at 12:30 pm. I thought this was handled very well. Overall impressions Our first two days on the ship, several waiters welcomed us back or otherwise recognized us from previous cruises. It was pretty odd at first, since we had not been on a Crystal cruise before. We guessed that we looked a lot like another couple that had cruised with Crystal before or the staff were trained to "remember" passengers in order to make them feel special. The ship is beautiful and very clean. It was only about half full, so there was never a line and there were lots of helpful crew members. This was the best cruise we have taken although Crystal didn't meet quite meet my expectations. This may be because I have read for years about how wonderful Crystal is and perhaps my expectations were unrealistically high. We will most likely cruise with Crystal for our next cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
Having previously sailed on Symphony and posted a review, I decided to file a follow-up of the differences from our previous experience. It's said that there is only one chance to make a good first impression. This is true, but our ... Read More
Having previously sailed on Symphony and posted a review, I decided to file a follow-up of the differences from our previous experience. It's said that there is only one chance to make a good first impression. This is true, but our second impression was equally good. We signed-on to this voyage for the obligatory "bucket list" transit of the Panama Canal, and were not disappointed. I selected cabin 8001, which is the most forward one can get on the starboard side. From the photos of Symphony, I noticed that its balcony partition seemed to be cut to provide a forward view when standing at the rail. This is true and provided great vistas during the passage. I had some concerns about wind, and it was breezy at times. However, the aerodynamics of the ship appears to result in an interesting phenomenon: Cabins aft of us were windier and, in fact, their verandas got wet during an intervals of high seas and rain ... 8001 did not. I would recommend 8001 to other Panama Canal bucket-listers. We were lucky because the Symphony made the passage through the port channel. This provided us with a view of the central area of the canal and the large container ship accompanying us in the starboard channel. The (I believe) HAL Zuiderdam preceded us in the lock ahead, but stopped in Gatun Lake and headed back in the afternoon. There was a Society of Wine Educators lecturer aboard who presented a series of three tasting/lecture sessions. The sessions were listed as limited to 50, but when the waiting list expanded the number to 120, they just opened it up to everyone. Pasquale, the sommelier, and his staff had to work hard for these events ... the arithmetic extends to more than 400 wine tasting glasses to set-up and pour (followed by clean-up). It was excellent, and the price was right ... gratis. We had a nice laugh with Pasquale about what became a somewhat "lively" evening at the Vintage Room on our prior voyage. A tip from Pasquale: He gets a budget for these events and can and will arrange it the way you want. Therefore, if you tell him to, he will ease-up a little on the cuisine and put the emphasis on better wines ... something to remember if you are an oenophile. Having booked the voyage to visit the canal, we had no expectations for the ports of call. Cartegena was a pleasant surprise, the old town being quite well preserved and attractive. We were not disappointed with the ports of Grand Cayman, Acapulco, and Cabo because they pretty much met our expectations ... none. To be fair, we live where many folks come to lie on the beach and buy tee shirts and tacky trinkets ... but we did this anyway. Heard in all ports: "Prices coming down ... almost free". After the wives went back to the ship after a morning of hard bargaining in the Acapulco Artisan Market, the husbands continued wandering. We were approached and asked if we wanted to visit a "Happy Hotel". When told the wives probably wouldn't approve of that, the response was "you don't have to bring them" ... yikes, time to get back to the ship! Having experienced the Crystal "never say no", I had planned to special order Clams Casino. This resulted in the only major disappointment on the cruise when the answer was no, all clams are allocated to Prego where, incidentally, Clams Casino is not available. Oh well, there were certainly many other excellent dining options. The cuisine highlight for us was the Silk Road. Earlier this year my wife took me to the local Nobu's for my birthday and the small sampler menu totaled about $100/person. For the amount we "sampled" in Silk road on our three visits there, at "retail", the cost of our voyage was very well "subsidized". Now, they aren't trolling for Ahi from the stern of Symphony as we sail, so the fish was not alive on the morning of our meals. However, it was still as excellent as it could be. We were joined in Silk Road by our "Table 84" mates from Central Canada, where the fish is only raw when hauled over the stern of their boat. They were terrific sports and made it through the entire meal with chopsticks. We hope to reconvene with them in Silk Road at some time in the future. Crystallization Status: The crystals are larger, but not set. Crystal is the best cruise line we have experienced to-date but don't feel parochial enough to declare that it should be sailed to the exclusion of all others. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
This was my third cruise on Crystal, my second on the Symphony. Needless to say with two ships in LA, getting on the ship was not as quick as I was used to. With the Harmony in SF, we just cruised up to the pier and within 5 minutes we ... Read More
This was my third cruise on Crystal, my second on the Symphony. Needless to say with two ships in LA, getting on the ship was not as quick as I was used to. With the Harmony in SF, we just cruised up to the pier and within 5 minutes we were on the ship. Ditto on our holiday cruise in 2006. This time we had to wait 30 minutes until our number was called. Once on board we were plied with Champagne. The problem was that the dining room was only open until 1:30 and most people missed it. The lines at the Trident grill were extremely long. Crystal might want to rethink food on boardings when everyone has to be there by 3PM. Then again, food was not a problem after this. Rooms. We were on the promenade deck in a three berth room. It was nice as always, well stocked and in good shape. Food. Not as good as the last time I sailed, but still extraordinary. This may seem strange, but I think on the shorter cruise with everything jammed together, the kitchen does not get a chance to hit it's stride. Therefore there were many of the standards in the main dining room and none of the more off beat preparations. Now let's get to the restaurants. Silk Road was a great experience. I have never eaten Nobu's food before, but within the culinary world he is a god. His marinated black cod is one of the best fish dishes that I've eaten in ages. It was the culinary highlight of the trip. Prego was excellent as usual. The two deck buffets, Nuevo Latino and Asian Grill were great. Lido was it usually well stocked and friendly lunch and breakfast location. Entertainment: Mark Hassen, the ventriloquist was phenomenal. Jimmy Travis was entertaining. I did not go to the production shows as I've seen them before. Public spaces. Only on a Crystal ship can you be on a full ship and still find lots of spaces to loose yourself. Ports: Cabo was Cabo. Mazatlan was fun, great beaches. PV was our favorite stop. We really missed La Paz and Zihua, our two favorite Mexican cities. Children's Activities: I only saw my son in port and for dinner. Otherwise the JADs kept him occupied and out of site. This is amazing as there were over 100 kids on this cruise. Enrichment program: First rate. One speaker was a retired member of the British House of Commons and another was Governor Pete Wilson's former economic adviser. Their talks were thoroughly thought provoking. Disembarkation: Very smooth. We were off the ship in no time flat and into the longest traffic jam in the universe. LA to SF at 25 MPH. It took forever. Last Thoughts: This will probably be our last Crystal cruise for a while as my son will be twelve and can no longer travel as third passenger in our cabin. My wife and I are in the demographic that Crystal really needs to serve to expand its clientele. More family oriented cabins are a must. We cannot afford to pay for a full cabin for our son. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2008
As a longtime Crystal cruiser (12 years and counting) and long curious to visit the much-talked about, but little-seen, Middle East, it took me mere minutes to decide to book Crystal Symphony's 2 week Dubai-Athens voyage. Boasting ... Read More
As a longtime Crystal cruiser (12 years and counting) and long curious to visit the much-talked about, but little-seen, Middle East, it took me mere minutes to decide to book Crystal Symphony's 2 week Dubai-Athens voyage. Boasting such exotic destinations as Oman and Jordan, taking this voyage on one of my favorite ships seemed like a no-brainer. For those interested in reading about this, my 22nd cruise, I will divide the critique up into sections. THE SHIP: Entering service in 1995, Crystal Symphony is practically considered a "veteran" in this age of mega-ships. She was renovated in 2006. Symphony looks great. You can tell she's not a young woman anymore, but well-done cosmetic surgery has helped her to conceal her age. Changes made to the ship in 2006 are both positive and negative. The staterooms have been vastly improved, given the look of a high-end boutique hotel. Even the much-maligned glass sink in the bathroom and armless reading chair didn't bother me. I found them to be fanciful elements. The former Stars Disco has been converted into Luxe, a trendy nightclub with a Miami feel, which was sorely underused on our voyage. Also, the mid-ships Starlite Room had major changes. Once an enclosed lounge, the room is now open to the rest of the ship with a central bar (with a beautifully-done blue lit icy centerpiece). The openness of this room is great for attracting a crowd for dancing or shows. However, the talking and cackling of people passing in the hallway is annoying if there is a lecture going on. The ship's alternative Italian restaurant, Prego, is as phenomenal - if not better - than before. The food (especially the mushroom soup and crab salad) were consistently mouth-watering 5-star fare. As for Silk Road, the ship's alternative Asian venue, food was good, the decor high-end and hip, but the space is small and too loud if at capacity. Overall, Crystal Symphony is still as elegant as ever - one of the grand ladies of the seas. SERVICE: Crystal has long won accolades for its seamless, friendly European service staff. The staff is one of the main reasons I've returned to Crystal time and again. This time, all seemed off. Our Senior Waiter in the Crystal Dining Room, Dusko, was fantastic! However, he along with the other servers and Maitre 'Ds were overwhelming - even suffocating. They would constantly circle our table and would constantly try to engage us in conversation. More times than not, I wasn't even able to finish a conversation with my family before they would interrupt to ask us how dinner was, how our day was, what we were doing that night, what we were doing the next day. Don't get me wrong - we have always had a great relationship with our servers, getting to know them, trading jokes. But this time the experience was intrusive to the point we wanted to avoid the dining room alltogether. The only problem was, Prego servers were exactly the same. We were exhausted by the time dinners ended. Also, on a negative note, the front desk staff and many bar staff were - for the first time ever - aloof and unmotivated. Every other aspect of the service staff onboard was fantastic, however. Especially, the stewardesses and the Lido staff. One night when most of the ship returned from a 12-hour excursion in Egypt, we were greeted by the stewardesses from each floor lined up and gathered on the staircase landings to give us a warm welcome back! Each floor I went to, there were at least 15 stewardesses smiling and welcoming us back. It was lovely. The Lido staff would call us by our name, even from the first day. What was weird was that we had never given them our names or room number. Their attention to detail was incredible and very memorable. PORTS: DUBAI: We embarked in Dubai, UAE. Dubai was a bit of a disappointment. It is one oversized construction project at the moment. Much of what they claim to have to offer is still under construction. It is very much a city of "what will be", not "what is". Having said that, if you look in the right places (Dubai Creek, Jumeiriah Beach) much beauty can be found. We had an overnight in Dubai onboard ship, but one day would have been plenty. Don't miss the Burl al Arab (the 7-star hotel) or the views of the Burj Dubai (soon-to-be world's tallest building). SALALAH, OMAN: Oman embodies what I had always thought the Middle East would look like - busy soups, dry desert scapes, wandering camels. But what really grabbed my attention was the amazing coastline with its soaring cliffs and piercing blue water. There is not a lot to see in Salalah, but it most definitely deserves a visit. SAFAGA, EGYPT: Safaga is the gateway to Luxor and Valley of the Kings, which is a good 3-4 hour drive away. However, the long day is completely worth it. At Luxor, you can see B.C. ruins on the banks of the Nile River. At Valley of the Kings, you can tour the former tombs of pharaohs, including the one of King Tut. What's impressive about touring the cavernous crypts are the detailed hyroglyphics and beautiful paintings on the walls. There is absolutely NOTHING in Safaga (other than landmines off the road and trash), so you will definitely need to venture out and do the Luxor tour. AQABA, JORDAN: Aqaba, right at the point where Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia meet, is Jordan's only port. It is a lovely town, very reminiscent of various Mediterranean ports of call (Kusadasi for one). It is a walkable town and the cruise ship terminal is right in the middle of everything. We did a nice tour out into the desert (Wadi Rum), but the main point of interest here is the Rose City of Petra - about 2 hours away from Aqaba. Those who went to Petra felt that it was a life-changing visit. This brief call really piqued my interest to explore this beautiful country further. SUEZ CANAL: A transit of the Suez Canal is certainly not the same as a Panama Canal transit, as there are no locks or other mesmerizing activity. The beauty of this transit is the serenity of basically sailing through the desert. Seeing miles of sand dunes from the balcony of our room, interspersed with occasional towns and resorts, was a feast for the eyes. It is a quiet, relaxing and most memorable experience. ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT: Alexandria is a large city (5 million people) in its own right. But any visit here, requires the all day excursion to Cairo and the Pyramids at Giza. Seeing the Pyramids, followed by a visit to the spectacular Cairo Museum, is one of life's most precious experiences. Words or photos cannot express the sheer emotion of seeing the Pyramids and Sphinx in person. As we wandered, the Islamic calls to prayer were blasted all over the city. It was beautifully chilling. What a day! We ended the cruise in Piraeus/Athens, Greece, but I had to fly back home for work. Unfortunately, I had no time to tour Athens (I did visit Athens back in 1999, though). OVERALL: In conclusion, this was a great cruise, with an exotic itinerary. The Middle East is a culture shock, but the people could not have been friendlier. It was all I had hoped it would be - from the chaotic markets, to the stunning sounds of prayer music throughout the cities, to the spectacular sights and smells. The Crystal Symphony is still a wonderful ship, but after this trip, I am beginning to wonder if Crystal is not dropping a few notches, hovering near becoming a mainstream line. It's not at the level of Princess or Celebrity yet....but maybe close. In the future, I think I will make Regent more my cruise line of choice. It is a high-end, yet casual environment, with rooms that blow Crystal's out-of-the-water. Gone from Crystal (at least our sailing) are the white glove wearing stewards on embarkation day, along with champagne-on-ice in the rooms. I'm still partial to Crystal, but they need to fine-tune some of their offerings - end the cheesy raffles for lip balm during Bingo, stop the art auction madness, tone down the pushy salespeople in the shops - if they want to return to their former glory. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2006
Crystal Symphony Buenos Aires  Miami April 13  April 29, 2006 and Iguassu Iguassu The trip to Iguassu was not part of the cruise - but it was part of our trip of which the cruise was the center piece. I booked flights with TAM and ... Read More
Crystal Symphony Buenos Aires  Miami April 13  April 29, 2006 and Iguassu Iguassu The trip to Iguassu was not part of the cruise - but it was part of our trip of which the cruise was the center piece. I booked flights with TAM and a hotel-tour arrangement with Iguassu Falls Tours (www.iguassufallstour.com). TAM mailed me e-tickets. Iguassu Falls Tours emailed me that our guide would be Edson. They also emailed me pictures of Edson and of the car that should take us on our tour. Our flight from Buenos Aires left one hour earlier than indicated on our tickets. We had to change planes in Curitiba. The plane from Curitiba left one hour late. In Foz do Iguassu Edson was waiting. The car, a Renault MEgane Scenic, was big and comfortable. We were brought to our hotel, the Tropical das Cataratas. There we changed quickly and walked the Brazilian side of the falls. While we were changing Edson brought the car to the end of the trail. By the time we were ready Edson was already waiting for us. During our walk Edson kept informing us about everything we wanted to know and I kept recording on video tape. We just had enough time to walk the trail and look around at its end before it got dark. At the hotel we were lucky to get a table. The food was good but we had had better and we were going to have better on the cruise ship. The next morning Edson was waiting for us when we were ready. First he took us to the Itaipu dam and then to the Argentinean side of the water falls. Having visited the falls twice before I was really impressed by the sights we got from the top of the falls (devils throat). That walk way had not existed when I visited before. I was also happy to see two caimans each about one meter long. We walked almost all afternoon on the different paths and Edson pointed to this fall, that bird, named the butterflies that landed and stayed on us. Toward the evening we went to the three lands marks and then back to the hotel. Again it was dark by the time we got there. And we had willingly skipped the boat ride underneath the water falls (since we did not want to get soaked) as well as the alternatives Edson had offered us. The next morning we were scheduled to fly at 6.50 a.m. Again Edson was at the hotel by the time we were ready. He brought us to the airport in time. Unfortunately there was fog so all planes had to wait for two hours before they could leave. This time we had to stop in Sao Paolo. The ground staff of TAM was very helpful so we got a connection to Buenos Aires without even having the time to sit down. At Buenos Aires international airport the taxi that was supposed to drive us to the hotel had left during our delay but the man who manages taxis to different hotels had the hotel taxi pick us up in about half an hour. Summary of the trip to Iguassu: It was worthwhile. We crammed too much into too little time. On the first afternoon we got really wet (from the falls and from sweat) on the second day we were fine (watch out about the season). Buenos Aires and Cruise Our hotel was about one mile from the cruise ship pier. So the taxi to the pier cost less than $10.--. Since we had two rooms, one that we were happy with and one that we were not as happy with  not that we were really unhappy - I will not give more information about the hotel. According to Crystal we were supposed to board at 3 p.m. and the ship was supposed to leave at 5 p.m. So we took a taxi to the port at about 12.30 p.m. Embarkation took only seconds  well about 7200 of them. We were neither the first no the last in line. I wonder what time Symphony would have left if everyone had come to the pier at 3 p.m. People in wheelchairs and with obvious problems to stand were escorted to the front of the line. On the ship we were escorted to our cabin. Then we went for lunch where we were offered a glass of sparkling wine. Choice and preparation of food was very good throughout the cruise (I do not use the word excellent for qualifications). We went to the two specialty restaurants but beside the advantage that we could chose the time we wanted to start our dinner I see no big pros or cons to go to the specialty restaurants. I did not find Crystal to be any dressier than other cruise ships I had been on some five years ago. The pool was just like on any other cruise ship I remember. There rarely were many people in it at the same time. What I disliked was that there was little space by the pool where I could lay in the shade for a few ours. Either the sun would shine on the head or on the feet after rather short moments or if laying close to the doors by the forward elevators the air-conditioning would make me feel uncomfortable. The level of the seat rows in the theater differs little. That enables you to conduct a profound study about the shape of the head of person sitting between you and the stage. Unfortunately if you like to watch the shows you can miss good parts of them. Rooms  I do not know about suites  seemed rather small to me. They are not smaller than the ones I had on other cruises but since the closets are on one side of the bed it just meant that we had to squeeze by each other. I found it supportable but not really comfortable. What we did appreciate were the free washing machines. Unfortunately we were not the only ones so we had to look for the right moments to use them. Stating that I cannot make a statement about the entertainment shows that there was a lot and many events took place at the same time. So we had to decide what we wanted to attend. Shore excursions: buses seemed to be among the best in each town and I have nothing to complain about the guides. Shore tours were expensive. We were in Montevideo on Good Friday. Our tour took us to Etchegarays house where we could see a collection of fine furniture, watch a tango dance, listen to the musicians and sip a drink. The house did though seem rather crowded with one bus. Shops were mostly closed except for one big shopping center. There was a free shuttle to that center. To my disliking they did not run according to the times they told us but only when the next shuttle had arrived. Therefore we lost a lot of time waiting for the bus to leave. As a result we missed the walk I had intended to take. In Rio de Janeiro we took the $ 107.-- tour to the Corcovado, a Churrascaria lunch and the Sugar Loaf. Unfortunately it was cloudy when we reached the top of the Corcovado. The statue could barely be seen trough the mist and the city could not be seen at all. Then it started to rain  well pour is more precise. So we went for lunch. The food was very good. After lunch we had to wait for the bus outside the restaurant. That was no problem since there were only a few drops. After boarding the bus we left for the Sugar Loaf. While we were driving a long the Copa Cabana Beach the weather turned to storm. As a result the cable car to the Sugar Loaf would not run. The alternative program was to visit the cathedral where only few people left the bus. I consider that we got little value for $ 107.-- per person. In Salvador it started to rain shortly after we got on the bus. And the rain continued with brief interruptions throughout our tour. First we went to the Upper City from where we could view the port. Then we walked to the cathedral, to the Franciscan church and through a small part of the historic center. After that we took the bus to the Carlos Costa Pinto Museum. The churches were certainly worth seeing but the city tour over all was a lot shorter than the two city tours I had taken on earlier stays in Salvador de Bahia. So I was rather disappointed about that part of this tour. However I was very impressed by the Museum that had opened exclusively for our cruise. I would have liked to spend more time there. It was too bad too that we were not allowed to take pictures or video recordings. After that we drove back to the ship. Some fellow cruisers left the bus at the Mercado Modello. In the afternoon the sun was out so we walked to the Mercado Modello ourselves. When we were in Fortaleza, Brazil enjoyed a holiday. Good for them  bad for us. There were few people so traffic was very fluid but we did not see what the city would be like on a normal day. The highlights of our tour were certainly the Teatro JosE de Alencar and the handicraft market in a former prison where the majority but not all of the shops were open. In Bridgetown we visited the Graeme Hall Swamp and a museum in a former fortress. I was happy to see both attractions. Arrival in Miami was comparable to the other ports. I did not see the usual long lines for immigration  but I did not miss them. I was not happy with the schedule to leave the ship. The good things were first that we could wait in our room and second that we got off as scheduled. Fares for taxi transfers to the airport Miami were at a flat rate of $ 24 plus & I do not remember having any reason to complain about a cruise director on a previous cruise. And this time was largely comparable: the information we got was okay including when he pointed out the Southern Cross. Rather special to me was the debarkation talk where I remember hearing that Crystal does not accept a very good but wants and excellent. Now this subject was not treated that briefly. The message I remember is that the passenger should comply with the expectations of the company. I would have preferred the company tell the employees how to do the job  and make sure that the resources to do it are sufficient  rather than tell the passengers or even the employees how they want the passengers to qualify the service they received - on the last full day of the cruise. Deciding what is excellent, very good and what is good seems quite difficult to me. Lousy service can only be qualified as poor. I would consider it fair that it also be split in lets say: throw the person into the pool, throw the person into the ocean or feed him or her to the sharks. For that part of the debarkation talk our cruise director would have been well advised to wear a bathing suit. Summary of the cruise: We were happy with the food. The room was good but not outstanding. There was a big choice of entertainment. The pool was good. The deck at the big pool offered too little shade. Due to the small number of port days and due to the weather we got too little out of the long trip. 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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