1. Home
  2. Cruise Lines
  3. Crystal Cruises
  4. Crystal Symphony Review
  5. Crystal Symphony Cruise Reviews
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2014
This was my second Crystal cruise and my first on the older Symphony, though it had just emerged out of dry dock. The cruise caught my attention primarily because of the wealth of sea days -- it was a 15 day transpacific cruise with only ... Read More
This was my second Crystal cruise and my first on the older Symphony, though it had just emerged out of dry dock. The cruise caught my attention primarily because of the wealth of sea days -- it was a 15 day transpacific cruise with only one port stop (a 24 hour stop in Honolulu). I love sea days for the relaxation, calmness, and freedom to do as much or as little as I want. I was traveling solo, and Crystal treats solo passengers very well with very low single supplements and excellent on board service. As I had experienced before with Crystal, the embarkation went off without a hitch. Although there was a slight (5-10 minute) line on the port to get on the ship, once on the ship there were almost no lines and I had a crew member accompany me through the process until my ship card was issued. She was friendly but not obtrusive, making polite conversation about San Diego and New Zealand (where I would be disembarking). Several people boarding seemed to know some of the crew members they were chatting with from previous cruises. I had some lunch and did a good deal of people watching until the designated time when my bags would be in my room, and they were there when promised. I took some time to explore the ship, and was up on the top deck for sail away. The time on board was just as I had expected - terrific. There were 4 different lecturers on board - two I did not enjoy, but I very much enjoyed lectures from the other two. In fact, they were so popular that I enjoyed them relaxing in my room rather than in the lounge because it was so overly filled. I had wonderful table mates at my 8-top, and several of us got along so well that we socialized elsewhere on the ship (playing trivia, etc). At times when some of the people there were dining elsewhere, a couple of dance hosts or lecturers joined our table instead. The food ranged from good to excellent in the Main Dining Room, though there were not enough vegetables and too many courses for my preference. In the specialty restaurants, the food ranged from very good to absolutely fabulous; some of it ranked among the best restaurant food I have ever had, anywhere. I prefer Japanese to Italian food, so I preferred Silk Road to Prego, but I enjoyed them both. I had the pleasure of enjoying a specially-requested dessert that was requested in advance by a table mate - the first time I'd seen that happen - and It was excellent (a Salzburger nockerl). I also saw how nicely they dealt with the dietary restrictions of one of my table mates, who was Kosher. Every night the head waiter brought her the next night's menu to see if she found anything that fit her requirements and desires - if not, she would make a request and they would thaw that frozen meat from the freezer for her. One night it was lamb chops, one night it was duck (she got the whole roast duck, and she offered the remainder that she didn't eat as an extra to the rest of the table), another night it was a steak. I was impressed with their service and flexibility. The music in the various lounges was good, and they had a couple of last-minute Dixieland Jazz concerts (from some members of the showroom orchestra) that were truly amazing. I only danced a little, as the rocking of the ship many nights made me concerned about my balance (and my trick knee), but the 4 dance hosts did an excellent job of making sure all the unaccompanied women wanting to dance each got her turn(s). I danced with 2 of them, and each were pleasant and helpful, and didn't seem bothered by my amateur dancing skills. Crystal has a very calm and low-key atmosphere, which is so appreciated. There are no announcements aside from the once daily captain's update and safety announcements (muster drill). There are no sales pitches or advertisements for anything, though there are places to go should you want to buy photos/clothes/jewelery, etc. Even the on-board photographer was rather unobtrusive. There were enough lounges and seats on the lido deck when I was looking for them, and no shortage of available outdoor seating on the aft decks for additional places to relax in quiet. The service, which Crystal is probably best known for, was very, very good - in fact, better than it had been on my last Crystal cruise. The MDR staff I encountered were universally good, and our head waiter was downright excellent, being chatty when we talked to her and unobtrusive when we clearly were involved in something else (other food or conversation). Waitstaff on the Lido deck quickly learned my name, and my drink and breakfast preferences. All the staff were friendly and actually seemed happy to be there and answer questions or help out -- not like the somewhat forced smiles and obsequious service I've felt on other cruises. My cabin attendant made sure I had ice every day, and the in-cabin fridge stocked the way I wanted it (with Diet Coke and sparkling water). She also took care of storing my bag that didn't fit under the bed, and even retrieved it for me when I realized I'd left something in it when I unpacked. Disembarkation in Auckland went perfectly, and because I wasn't using any cruise-sponsored connections I was able to disembark at my leisure within a 2 hour time frame. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2014
This was my husband's and my first Crystal Cruise, and we're hooked. The food was outstanding (see below for my reviews on having to eat gluten free) and the crew most caring. Crystal is first class, all the way, not only in the ... Read More
This was my husband's and my first Crystal Cruise, and we're hooked. The food was outstanding (see below for my reviews on having to eat gluten free) and the crew most caring. Crystal is first class, all the way, not only in the quality of service but in the way they handle it. We loved that the cruise was all-inclusive. We felt it improved our cruising experience on a number of levels. Of course, it's liberating not to have to think about how much you're paying for drinks, tips, etc., but what we appreciated the most was the sophistication of being left alone and not being "hounded" to purchase drinks, photos, etc. We're foodies. To us, every vacation is first and foremost ALL ABOUT THE FOOD. My husband is discerning, but he's fairly easy to please. I am not easy to please, and I have a habit of being overly-critical of dining experiences. My husband can eat anything (and everything!). I cannot. I have acute gluten-sensitivity and an allergy to wheat, and if I get even the smallest bit of cross-contamination, it can make me very sick -- often for up to a week. My gluten intolerance creates a challenge on two levels, the first being that I need to make sure that where I eat will not make me sick. The second is more difficult. Being a foodie (and a bit of a bitchy foodie at that), I want my dining experience to be NO DIFFERENT than if I could eat whatever I wish. While I expect to have to give up some things that would not be safe for me to eat, I still expect what is offered to satisfy me and taste great. I researched cruise lines inside and out, and the number one reason why we chose Crystal is their attention to food and food sensitivities. They delivered! Let me begin by reviewing the dining, in general. Both my husband and I were happy with most all of our meals, and we found almost all of them to be outstanding. We ate most of our meals in the dining room and loved it. Tip: If you love fresh fish, try the Asian breakfast with black cod (preferred) or the cooked salmon. If you don't want the sticky rice (which is cooked perfectly) and condiments that come with the breakfast, order the fish on the side along with your other breakfast order. The black cod is especially good and goes well with eggs, toast and such. I cannot speak highly enough of the lox (smoked salmon). I ordered some for breakfast almost every day. They were the freshest, most tender lox I've ever eaten . . . and I've eaten a lot of lox. If you order smoked salmon in the dining room, you get two slices. If you want more, go to the Bistro and help yourself. Prego: Loved it. The food and service were amazing. Silk Road: Loved the sushi and sashimi -- it was the best ever, but we were not impressed with the soup, main course or desserts. When we go again, we will probably make sushi and sashimi our entire meal. The Vintage Room: This is an add-on dining experience and a must-do. You'll experience some of the finest wines in the world (full pours and if you want more, there's plenty) along with perfect parings and an amazing meal. The sommelier also gave a history of the wine and was brilliant. Plan on the evening lasting about three hours. Sadly, the copy of our menu was missing when we unpacked. I'm still searching for it. If I find the menu, I'll post it. Crew: The best! We particularly enjoyed head waiter Vlada, room stewardess Tatiana, and a delightful waitress in the bar on Deck 5: Patricia (from Poland) -- she is the sweetest, most caring person, and she has a warm heart. I predict she'll go far with Crystal and end up in charge of something. If you cruise Symphony, look for her. She's a special one! Hubby loved the cigar room and it helped make his cruise as enjoyable as possible. He loves a good cigar and was particularly appreciative of being able to smoke one in a handsome lounge (which was unexpectedly well-ventilated -- even I could sit in there, if only for a short time -- I do not like cigar smoke, alas.) Tommy, the cigar room attendant was excellent and very personable. Excursions: Day One: St. Peter Port, Guernsey. On this day, we explored Guernsey on our own. It is beautiful--a quaint and charming seaside village that oozes with personality and photo opportunities. We'd love to return. Recommended: Bypass the first designer chocolate shop and instead visit master chocolatier Ben Le Prevost at his shop of the same name -- it is maybe a ten minute walk from port. The prices are probably better there, but that's not why you'll want to go. Seriously, his chocolate may just be the best in the world. Genius flavor combinations. If you love chocolate, this is your heaven. (Bonus: almost all of it is gluten-free.) Next time we go, we'll want to also try Guernsey ice cream. The cream in Guernsey is amazing, and the ice cream is supposed to be the best. Day Two: Waterford, Ireland. We did the Panoramic Drive and Pub Visit. The scenery was exactly what we hoped for, with beautiful landscapes and architecture, including thatched cottages. The pub was crowded but fun -- good trad Irish folk music and an excellent Irish coffee. Tip: If you long to play a bodhrán in public, sit to the immediate left of the head singer and stomp your feet, clap your hands -- show you're enjoying the show and can keep a beat . . . he might just hand you the drum before the entertainment ends. Day Three: Holyhead Wales. This is another day where we took it easy and just explored the port. We cancelled one excursion due to it being too much walking and hoped for another, but it remained sold out. Day Four: Liverpool, England. Being a Beatles fan, this was the highlight of my trip. We booked the "In the Footsteps of the Beatles" excursion and were blessed to have Ringo Starr's childhood friend Marie Maguire as our tour guide. There were many buses that day, and somehow we got the one with her! Not only did she show us all of the popular Beatles sites, she also made sure to show us Ringo's childhood home (she lived across the street) as well as George's. The day was filled with information and LOTS of personal stories from Marie's experience with The Beatles, their families and managers. I cannot speak highly enough of this excursion. Tip: I believe Marie also does private tours. If you visit Liverpool, look her up! Day Five: Greenock, Scotland. We took the Panoramic Drive of Glasgow and visited the Glasgow Art Museum, home of Christ of St John of the Cross by Salvador Dali as well as many equally wonderful works of art. Tip: Try to stay for the organ music. Sadly, our tour guide told us we had to leave at the same time the music started, which turned out to be music from Phantom of the Opera. I heard only a minute or two. It was breathtaking. How I wish we could have stayed for the rest. Day Six: Dublin, Ireland. This was supposed to be Oban, Scotland, but it was cancelled due to bad weather. We took the Panoramic Dublin/Trinity College Book of Kells excursion -- we were staying in Dublin for four days after the cruise, but we decided to book this excursion anyway as we were told it would allow us to bypass the lines for the Book of Kells (note: we were not told this by the cruise line but instead by a fellow cruiser). Unfortunately, we were not allowed by bypass the line, and the line was so long that by the time we entered the exhibit, we had to skip the preface exhibit that explains the Book of Kells and jump directly into the Book of Kells room, which was extremely crowded. Having to rush through the exhibit lessened our experience as we would have enjoyed reading about the history. Because we were able to see so much of Dublin on our own over the following days, via the hop-on-hop off bus, this tour proved to be a poor choice for us, although it might have been an excellent choice for someone who would not otherwise have had the chance to visit Trinity College. Some thoughts on gluten-free dining on the Crystal Symphony: The food is safely prepared. I am highly sensitive and ate without issue. It was wonderful to be able to relax, knowing that head waiter Vlada and the rest of the kitchen staff were taking good care of me. I had only one issue, which ended up being no big deal as I caught it in time: A new waiter who appeared to be in training, brought me my gluten-free bread on top of the regular bread tray. Every other time gluten free bread was served to me, it was served separately, as it should be, because touching my bread to wheat will cause cross-contamination. When I pointed this out to him, he took care of it immediately by throwing away the bread and bringing me two fresh pieces. No biggie, but I'm glad I caught it! All of the meals in the main dining room were above-the-top. Vlada was sure to tell me that if I wanted something that was not gluten-free, that the kitchen would do everything they could to adjust the recipe so it would be safe for me. Not everything was adaptable, but there were so many outstanding choices that were available as gluten-free, I felt pampered beyond belief. The food was excellent. Only on the first day, at lunch, was I disappointed. The filet was overcooked and tasted over marinated. My husband disagreed and said it was delicious -- like I said, I can be a bit critical at times. Mind you, I could have easily sent the steak back and asked for another, but I didn't, so that really leaves me little room to complain. The gluten free bread is amazing and the best I've had at any dining venue. It does need to be toasted, but when it is toasted, it is so, so, so, so good. This meant a lot to me. There was white bread as well as brown. Both were equally good. The desserts were okay, but I had hoped for more. Most of what was available gluten free were puddings, ice cream, creme brulee and creme caramel (flan). These are similar to the desserts offered everywhere in restaurants, and I would have deeply appreciated seeing some good gluten-free pastries, cookies, and cakes offered. I am so sick of having creme brulee as the only restaurant dessert option (for years), it makes me cringe. That said, I did end up trying the creme brulee, it it was excellent -- just not what I had hoped for. I did not care for the creme caramel. It needs to be richer and made with a heavier cream base. The Palm Court did purchase a little, pre-wrapped gluten free cake for me during shore time. It wasn't good, though. I also did not care for the gluten-free finger sandwiches as the bread was not toasted (they need to taste these things before serving them -- they were not edible. That said, I do not see this as being the fault of the Palm Court. They did their best, and tea finger sandwiches are never toasted. Next time, I'll ask for a different preparation, and I'll ask if they can have a better selection of sweets. Lido Cafe: I LOVED that they had the gluten-free items clearly marked. They also have the gluten-free dishes separated from selections that might cause cross-contamination -- BRAVO! The desserts are in individual dishes and also safe. Mostly puddings, but appreciated. Bistro: Coffee, tea, latte -- all enjoyed without issue. The self-serve food service area has little to no gluten-free selections, except for the smoked salmon, which would be take-at-your-own risk as bread crumbs may drop or other cross contamination may occur. I would guess that if you ask someone from the Bistro to bring you smoked salmon from the back, they'd be happy to do so. Again, I would have loved to see some gluten-free sweets here, and gluten-free savory pastries would have been welcome. The next time I cruise Crystal, I plan to call ahead to request that there be more variety in the desserts offered. We'll see if it makes a difference. If I find the menu or think of anything else, I'll add it. My head is still swimming from our long flight home. I can hardly wait to cruise Crystal again . . . we've already booked our next cruise!   Read Less
Sail Date: June 2014
After spending 12 days on the Crystal Symphony I am convinced that Crystal is clearly the cruise line for wealthy alcoholics. The all inclusive fare included everything at most bars with the exception the most expensive wine or brandy on ... Read More
After spending 12 days on the Crystal Symphony I am convinced that Crystal is clearly the cruise line for wealthy alcoholics. The all inclusive fare included everything at most bars with the exception the most expensive wine or brandy on the market...but what most folks call the "good stuff" all arrived with a smile and no bill. Our first night on the ship we were in the Avenue Saloon listening to a top notch pianist and singer. The place was crowded and a nice man originally from London looked at my wife and announced, "I'm pissed!" I told my wife that he wasn't mad or upset, but he was merely drunk. In talking with him he had just downed five rather full snifters of brandy. This was just the start of an interesting vacation. ARRIVAL: Our Southwest Flight to LaGuardia Airport was on time. We met a young man at the baggage counsel who was from Fulton, Missouri and was going to spend his summer with his uncle in Manhattan while he worked in the financial district as a college intern. It was his first time to New York so we offered to give him a lift with our car service. We called Arecibo Car Service (855-428-0222 or 718-783-6465) and a black car picked us up in about seven minutes. The trip in congested Sunday traffic (due to a bridge closure for construction) to the kid's uncle's apartment and then to the Manhattan Pier was just $55. The next day my wife used Arecibo to get back to the ship from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was the longest we have ever had to wait for a black car...10 minutes. The fare was $15. Embarkation: This was the easiest embarkation we have ever had. We showed our computer tickets at the gangway and were ushered onto the ship where a table of five of the ship's crew took our photos and gave us room keycards. THERE WAS NO WAITING. Early on I was really liking Crystal. While embarkation was on June 1 they ship didn't actually set sail until 6pm on June 2. While Crystal may be considered one of the more expensive cruise ships around, a non-balcony stateroom was cheaper than any Manhattan hotel room and we were right in Manhattan. STATEROOM: The only way we were going to be able to go on a Crystal Cruise was to do so in a non-balcony stateroom on the Promenade Deck (deck 7). When the brochure arrived in the mail with the non-balcony stateroom at $3,200 for a 12-day cruise, my wife had me call immediately. Instead of reaching employees of Crystal, I learned that the two-ship cruise line has private travel agents take calls and do bookings. I got David Butterfield of All Cruise Travel in San Jose. He said there were still a few cabins available. I told him I needed to call our house/dog sitter before I could book. Our dog sitter was available and I called David back within an hour. In that time all the cabins were reserved and we were waitlisted. After about a month we were guaranteed stateroom at the low price. We found the stateroom on Deck 7 to be larger than the three balcony staterooms on Cunard cruises we took in 2013. The bathroom was also much bigger and easy to get around. It was amazing how there was always hot water, regardless of the time of day or peak demand period. I'm not talking "warm" water, but "hot" water. The only complaints about the stateroom was that the furniture and desk chair were so low it was difficult to get up and the lack of electrical outlets. We asked for a multi outlet extension plug or cord. Our room stewardess could not provide it. Instead an electrician showed up with both. The room's window was slightly above the Promenade Deck so we would only see walker's heads and they could not easily look into the room. A lifeboat was above the window, but we had a clear view straight out of the window. The TV/DVD player and CD player in our lower-priced stateroom was far superior to what we had on the three Cunard cruises in 2013. While this was advertised as an "all-inclusive" cruise our stateroom laundry service was not free. Use of the washing machines and dryers on each deck was free...but if you wanted to send your laundry out it cost. However thanks to our travel agent David Butterfield who had given us $600 in on ship credits which more than paid for our laundry. FOOD: Main Dining Room: The food ranged from excellent to very good with more "excellent" meals than those in the "very good" category. Unlike Cunard waiters last October who refused to go off the menu for diner requests, our Hungarian waiter Zoltan seemed to relish getting us items not on the menu. Plus he did so with a wonderful sense of humor. Everyone at our table commented that they have never had a better waiter on a cruise ship than Zoltan. The only place where the Symphony got a low mark in the food was one night when they claimed they were serving "Clam Chowder with Saffron." Like all cruise lines where we were doing New England or West Coast cruises, the advertised clam chowder was not clam chowder or even close to Clam Chowder. In this case it was a yellow puree that while tasty didn't resemble or taste like Clam Chowder. The Lido buffet restaurant was excellent. Although when they had a specialty day, like "Chinese" there were not a lot of other options. That said, I had the best tasting Orange Chicken I have ever experienced anywhere in the Lido buffet line. Unlike Holland America or Celebrity where often the deserts looked better than they tasted, on Crystal the deserts tasted just as good as they looked. The Afternoon grill on Deck 11 was great. Cooks Gabriel and Reye not only did a good job on the menu items, they also would make you anything they had ingredients for. Frankly the hamburgers were good, but maybe not as good as the ones I had on the Celebrity Century. But the grilled hot dogs were great. Where the staff really shined was making things not on the menu. You wanted a BLT or a BLT wrap...it wasn't on the menu, but it was brought to your table. You wanted a hot ham and cheese wrap...it was not on the menu, but it was done to perfection and cut into four pieces for sharing. There was no waiting in line at the Grill like on most ships. You place your order and one of the waiters would find your table. ICE CREAM: The ship featured Vermont's Benjamin and Jerald's finest. Besides Ben and Jerry's they also had low fat frozen yogurt at the ice cream bar on Deck 11. However the ice cream stand was only open from 11:30am to 6pm. SPECIALTY RESTAURANTS; We were too late to make a reservation at the Asian or Italian specialty restaurants, however everyone we spoke with gave them high marks. These were free also for two visits on the cruise and then there were charges. SNACKS: One bar on Deck 5 offered a cold table of food throughout the day from breakfast through 6pm. It included fresh fruit, pastries, cheeses and other treats. EXTRAS: The appetizers served with the early evening entertainment on Deck 11 and late night in venues on Deck 5 were also outstanding. TEA TIME: Here is the thing about Tea Time on the Symphony...not only did they serve finger sandwiches, scones and tea...if you wanted anything else from the bar area it was yours for the asking. On Cunard there was a line (queue for our British friends) just to get into the tea room. Not so on Crystal. There were almost no lines for anything. If you had to find a complaint it might have been the service was too attentive at times. The food was so good you had to pace yourself. I normally skipped breakfast and had lunch and the late dinner. ENTERTAINMENT: Movies: For the most part the movies were first run with only an occasional classic: like Tootsie, In fact when we returned home I had to remove a couple of movies from my Netflix list that I saw on the ship. PIANO BAR: The piano entertainer is featured in the Avenue Saloon. For this cruise it was Jeff Deutsch. He was outstanding. I would pay a cover to go see Jeff perform. He had an amazing memory of the American Songbook. He would perform the Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hart and Jerome Kern songs with the long versions written for Broadway and the movies. Jeff is from Chicago and used to do jingle singing on well known national TV and radio commercials. He also used to work on jingles with Bonnie Herman who was the female vocalist for the great jazz singing group, The Singers Unlimited. Listening to Jeff and talking to him on the ship was a treat. I'd have to rate him with Jimmy Maddox on HAL as one of the best cruise ship piano bar entertainers I have seen. The ship did cancel their string quartet going with a single pianist on Deck 4 for late afternoon and evening music. Joe Fos performs on the keyboard and is very good. Like Deutsch, I never saw Fos show up with any sheet music...a huge number of songs were all in his head. THE MAIN STAGE: The youngsters doing the singing and dancing in the main theater were the usual that you see on most cruise lines. FLY-IN GUESTS: This area I found Crystal to be like other cruise lines. The Fly-In entertainers ranged from average to very good. SPEAKER SERIES: I thought Cunard had a very good Speaker Series guest list. Crystal is as good with interesting speakers who were polished having done their presentations for a number of years. SPECIAL GUEST ENTERTAINMENT...THE VERY GOOD AND THE VERY ANNOYING: The cruise was billed as a "Jazz Cruise" and featured Jazzdagen. Fortunately the group included Yve Evans out of Palm Springs, a gifted pianist and signer. She would also raise her voice to a comical pitch occasionally during performances and inject comedy bits. She was great and a favorite with the passengers. Also appearing was Nicki Parrott, who was simply an outstanding and amazing jazz vocalist and bass player. She ranks near the top of living female jazz singers I have seen in the last five years. Unfortunately the leader of Jazzdagen didn't let her perform in a trio or quartet setting with just one exception when she did a 45-minute midday set. The annoying: Besides a very good drummer, Danny Coots, from Nashville there was a pianist who brought along his four-string banjo, the leader of the group was with a saxophone, a clarinet and one of those awful little soprano saxophones, plus a clarinetist from Finland. Nicki Parrott was forced to play the bass with these guys night after night as they played ragtime and Dixieland music at about 120 decibels. It was somewhat entertaining for two or three nights and then began to be simply annoying changing to irritating by the end of the cruise. It was a shame that the cruise was advertised as a "Jazz Cruise" and the most talented performers were not allowed to play any jazz. AT SEA ACTIVITIES: Watercolor: My wife is an artist and can be rather critical of cruise ship instructors. But she had only nice things to say about the two English woman putting on the watercolor classes. Knitting and Needlepoint: Talking to people, including my wife who went to the needlepoint classes, I heard not one complaint...which is high praise for a cruise ship sailing out of New York. Trivia: This was the most civilized trivia I have ever played on a cruise ship. On Holland America the teams would get nasty and often be unfairly rude to the staffer giving the quiz. I happened to win an overall trivia contest on a Celebrity ship and noticed after I got the prizes some folks stopped being pleasant. Cunard was more civilized but the quizzes were geared toward people from the Unite Kingdom. However all the other cruise lines had trivia contests three and four times a day. Crystal had just one game at noon time on sea days only. The prizes were only a few dollars of credit at the casino, in a clothing store or at the photo shop. It helped eliminate the crazy competitiveness. BINGO was not part of the all inclusive part of the cruise. You had to buy your cards. The staffers calling the games were actually some the worst I ever heard. While not being a bingo player, a friend of mine and I would go to the Bingo games on the Queen Elizabeth just to watch "Laura" of the cruise director's staff work the crowd. Outside activities: I have to confess there was cool temperatures and high winds often as we crossed the North Atlantic and I did not spend much time outside. However the outside areas were always well staffed and there was never a shortage of very nice large towels. Library: While the library did not come close to matching the one on the Queen Mary, it was one of the nicest I have seen. The really nice thing about the library were the hours. It was open for several hours in the morning, longer in the afternoon and then again in the evening until 11pm. Also it had a wide assortment of DVDs to check out. Port of Calls: New York, NY: I Love New York in June, how about you? I love a Gershwin Tune, how about you? Well my wife loves New York having spent some time working there and attending some classes in Manhattan. Me on the other hand...I'm not too crazy with big cities and traffic when I'm on vacation. We checked in on the ship at about 5:15. I went and took a nap. After dinner we walked around the ship. It was nice to be in New York for parts of two days. On Monday my wife was ready to go. She spent time shopping and at the Metropolitan Art Museum. She walked in the morning and used our favorite car service in afternoon. This was the first time I have been on a ship leaving New York Harbor where there was room for the views. We were able to sit in the forward lounge on Deck 11 and see everything without a pushing crowd to fight. Another problem on some cruise lines that depart from New York is there are too many "New Yorkers" on board. This time there were New Yorkers but they were some wonderful people who were fun to be around. The most obnoxious people were actually from somewhere over 1,000 miles from New York. Newport, Rhode Island: This was our third time in Newport. The most recent time was last October on a New England-Canada cruise on the Queen Mary out of New York. We did what we usually do...rent a car and get as far away from tourists as possible. We have seen the mansions and after doing St. Petersburg last summer spending time in Russian palaces, we had no desire to see the puny Newport palaces again. Last fall we went north out of town. This year we went south. The recent college grad at Enterprise Rent-a-Car suggested we take the southern coastal road and be sure to stop at Monahan's Clam Shack. It was great advice. The drive was fun and Monahan's had some great Clam Chowder, clam strips and Lobster Rolls, which were done the Rhode Island and Connecticut way, served hot with butter, instead of cold with mayo like you get in Maine. There were no tourists, but plenty of construction people and other locals. We ate at a picnic table with a retired cop who lived in the area. BOSTON: Another big city with some of the worst traffic in America. I slept in and my wife used mass transit to get to the Kennedy Museum. She was somewhat disappointed with the overt political correctness at the museum. She spent six dollars on transportation. Definitely cheaper than a ship's tour. Bar Harbor: We have been to Bar Harbor a number of times. Last fall we rented a car and went north. On this adventure we wanted to confirm something. There was a restaurant review in the NY Times raving about Cappy's, an inexpensive seafood and chowder house in Camden, Maine. We drove west and then south for about 80 miles, with half of the trip having waterfront views. Once we got to Camden Cappy's was easy to find and the New York Times was correct. Not only was the chowder great...the onion rings were worth the drive alone. On the way back we took our time in the rain and even stopped at a L.L. Bean outlet store. The free drive by Enterprise Rent-a-Car to and from their airport office was a fun sightseeing trip by itself. We are never far from Bar Harbor as my wife the artist, has a large painting of the Bar Harbor town square hanging in our living room. We used a tender at both Newport and Bar Harbor. More Kudos for Crystal. This was the first time I found leg room and was not packed like sardines on a cruise ship tender. It was the first time in memory where the tender rides were pleasant and passenger were not squeezed onto uncomfortable seats. Halifax, Nova Scotia: I have always wanted to drive to Digby, NS which claims to be the Scallop Capital of North America. I know American chefs who claim Digby scallops are the best. I don't even like scallops, but I have always wanted to see the place but we have never had enough time from Halifax. This trip was no exception. This time we again rented a car and used the back roads. We were happy that Enterprise had run out of cars and rented us a large SUV, because the roads we took were in awful condition, apparently unrepaired from a difficult winter. In a low to the ground sedan our fillings would have been knocked loose. We discovered the wooden Walton Lighthouse, that is maintained by volunteers. The volunteers were doing a better job than most government park services. The grounds, parking lot and restrooms were spotless. Tourists were on the honor system for buying hardback books about the area and the donation box was unattended in the lighthouse. Fracking was a big political issue as we saw signs along rural highways with working class homes scattered along the way all against fracking. We made it to Windsor. A lady at the gas station told us we needed to try Lisa's Cafe. She was right. It was not as good as Cappy's but still it was pretty good with a fine bowl of Fish Chowder. It was the last chowder we would see on our vacation, regardless what the ship's menu claimed a few nights later. St. John's Newfoundland: This was perhaps the stop I was most looking forward to. Since we would be there on Sunday and for only six hours, I was going to have to take a cab to the airport for a rent a car, because no one picks you up on a Sunday in St. John's. Then I was going to drive through the pretty town full of Victorian Homes and head south down the coast road to the "City of Fairyland"...I kid you not. I was there once before and loved the place. There is a restaurant that is a favorite with locals just north of Fairyland. That was to be our last stop for chowder on the vacation. But none of this happened. The Symphony's captain announced after we left Halifax that due to heavy fog conditions and a large amount of icebergs off the coast of Newfoundland, they were cancelling the stop in St. John's. I can understand that a cruise line with only two ships, doesn't want one to meet an iceberg at the start of the summer season. However, I have the feeling the service and rations on a lifeboat would have exceeded all expectations. Reykjavik, Iceland: Like the beginning the end consisted of two days on ship in port. Iceland is so beautiful you don't know what way to go. We were there 10 days before the summer solstice and sunset was around midnight and sunrise was at 3am, but it never really got dark. Due to the Iceland's banking collapse in 2009 the economy is still hurting. Everything is very expensive. Private tours and rent-a-cars were going for $300 for about four hours in 2010. It has gotten pricier. A 40-minute cab ride to the airport costs $168. Once again Crystal made life easier. They had free shuttle bus service from the ship into the downtown area of Reykjavik. The city and the people are just as charming as on our other three visits to Iceland. At the art museum the credit card machine was being repaired so we got in free. TIPS: I mentioned the on-board credit my travel agent provided at the beginning of this review. I brought cash to tip the staff, but the service was so good I wanted to tip more than the amount of cash on hand. I was able to combine the remainder of my on-board credit and credit card on file to leave appropriate tips for all the excellent service. Since there were no bar bills where I could leave cash tips, I took to leave one and five dollar bills under glasses that would be cleared by the servers. Departure: Getting off the ship was as easy as getting on. We simply walked off with no crowds or anxious people. The cab driver was excellent with very good English skills (as most people in Iceland have) and informative. Anytime we go to Europe whether it be London, Amsterdam or other major airports we always fly Icelandair. We take Southwest to an American Airport that is served by Icelandair. Not only are the flight crews great, it is the only airline in the world that we can afford to fly first class on. Our only complaint about this vacation was we will be taking fewer cruises in the future so we can save up for another Crystal Cruise. I have to admit we were spoiled and we liked it.   Read Less
Sail Date: June 2014
Just back from our fourth cruise on Crystal (three on the Symphony, one on the old Harmony). This time it was to the Baltics. Quick review: WEAR AND TEAR: Concerns about wear-and-tear are beyond overblown. Sure, the railings could use a ... Read More
Just back from our fourth cruise on Crystal (three on the Symphony, one on the old Harmony). This time it was to the Baltics. Quick review: WEAR AND TEAR: Concerns about wear-and-tear are beyond overblown. Sure, the railings could use a fresh coat of lacquer but that’s an issue with EVERY ship. (Ah, the salt air!) And, frankly, we were in the stateroom and on the veranda so infrequently that it didn’t matter. And even if we were it wouldn’t matter. The Symphony is just a great ship. Maintenance is ongoing. We’re early risers and you have to see what goes on overnight to fully appreciate the maintenance. CREW: Key to us is the quality and engagement of the crew, whether it’s Ricki, Derek or Lester on the Lido deck, always looking to help us start our day off with a “good morning” by name, or Prego head waiter Piotr, who in his day job co-running the Lido does a remarkably impressive job keeping the staff motivated in the mornings with respect, encouragement and a pat on the back. (I’m a sucker for well-run businesses and any services-oriented company looking for insight into how things should be run should pay Piotr a visit. He really just works there, but takes pride in what he does.) FOOD: The food in the main dining room, of course, was excellent and our head water, Vlada, went out of his way to make sure that my low-sodium diet could be adhered to. (Ask for the roasted vegetable soup: It’s not on the menu, it’s really good and it has no salt.) Prego was exceptional, of course, as was the Silk Road. TOURS: Crystal’s secret weapon is its exclusive-access excursions. We experienced this in Beijing, on a prior cruise, where Crystal does what most cruise lines and private tours can’t or don’t: It gets you into the Great Hall of the People for a private dinner and show. We thought THAT was one of those great once-in-a-lifetimers until we did the Moscow excursion by train from St. Petersburg. This isn’t cheap, but it’s worth every cent and definitely worth stealing a day from St. Petersburg. Here’s why: They get you into the Grand Kremlin Palace. No other cruise does this, and the only other way to do it is with a private tour -- and then access can be iffy, expensive and very limited. This is one of those “words can’t express” experiences. There are palaces, and then there are PALACES. This is the later, and in a league of its own. This tour, with an extraordinary senior-level guide, involves hours of walking and is topped with a really good meal in one of Moscow’s great restaurants. The four-hour train ride each way results in a long day that starts at 5:30 and gets you back to the ship at about midnight. (Nice touch by Crystal to have two plates of sandwiches waiting for us in our room with a “Welcome back from Moscow” note.) Unlike St. Petersburg, which was overwhelmed with crowds that even our private “early access” tours couldn’t help avoid, our Moscow group was 53 people; normally it’s about twice that amount. Our tours of the palace were split into two groups. We were the ONLY groups in the palace at the time. Why does Crystal get this access? They have to pay up front for the tour AND renting private coaches on the train. This means taking the risk that fewer guests than expected will book, which means they could wind up eating the cost of any unsold seats on the train. Could you see any cruise lines owned by quarterly-earnings conscious public companies doing that? I don’t think so! STATEROOMS: Sure, they’re small but they’re so well designed. We actually think we cram in more with ease in Crystal’s staterooms than we did on a cruise several years ago on the Regent Voyager, which has considerably larger standard rooms that include a walk-in closet. The extra floor space on Regent was nice, but we would take a smaller room on Crystal over a larger room on Regent. My one quibble with Crystal is mattress quality: Too hard for my taste; less so for my wife; but we have them wrapped with extra quilts and/or egg crates to blunt the blow. (Hat-tip to Keith for recommending bringing a power strip. This is the first time we did and it made sense. There is only one outlet in the room. Remember, these ships were designed pre-the days we all carried multiple devices.) INTERNET SERVICE: No surprise to anybody, it was horrible though Crystal warned in big bold letters upon sign on and in the computer lounge it would be throughout the Baltic. All in all, another great Crystal experience. Originally, we had booked too late to get a veranda room on this cruise, so opted for a somewhat similar itinerary on the Seabourn Quest. When a veranda room opened on Crystal we cancelled Seabourn, without hesitation, for the Symphony for four reasons: After veering once to Regent, we didn’t want to take another chance on another line (it is, after all, expensive); we wanted a sea day (Seabourn didn’t offer one in its Baltic itinerary); Crystal went to Berlin (well worth the day, especially the drive back in a German bus, with an American flag in the front window and the USA vs. Germany soccer match playing on the bus radio in German -- surreal!); and Crystal’s inclusion of the Grand Kremlin Palace -- something Seabourn did not offer. Expectations exceeded on all fronts.   Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2014
First time cruising in Crystal and had a lot of expectations..I loved it.From food to beautiful, spacious cabins, impeccable service,great itinerary.The staff are very professional,efficient and very friendly. Embarkation ... Read More
First time cruising in Crystal and had a lot of expectations..I loved it.From food to beautiful, spacious cabins, impeccable service,great itinerary.The staff are very professional,efficient and very friendly. Embarkation -disembarkation was fast and and luggage was handled carefully and transfers were o time. The specialty restaurants were amazing,having all inclusive( alcohol) is the way to go.. Since we didn't have a set time for dinner, it was great that they were able to accommodate us. One of my favorite days was in St Tropez, while spending all day there, we had access to go back to the ship and back in to town.Having a laundry room on the floor was really a plus, especially for a summer time vacation..Excursions were well organized and always run smooth and on time. Spa facilities amazing! Perhaps pool area can use a little love, but overall this is a fantastic ship, providing every guest a unique experience. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2014
We have traveled on Crystal for at least 15-16 voyages. We love their staff and service. They have an excellent cruise director, Paul, who always adds to our enjoyment. The lectures & entertainment are wonderful. We are not ... Read More
We have traveled on Crystal for at least 15-16 voyages. We love their staff and service. They have an excellent cruise director, Paul, who always adds to our enjoyment. The lectures & entertainment are wonderful. We are not "foodies" and we find their food to be just fine. This past May, after a missed year of cruising, we embarked on the Symphony from Los Angeles to New York. My first impression was that things have changed. We still encountered the wonderful staff and service, but just a little something about the ship had changed. Perhaps it was that the ship was filled to capacity and could not function as well. The Bistro seemed very crowded and understaffed. We noted repairs necessary in our stateroom as well as in public areas. There was rust on the exterior railings and other areas crying for paint. Some of the hard surfaces are scratched and gauged. In the past, we saw maintenance constantly taking place on the ship. This time hardly at all. Our friends, who were on the 9th floor mid ship, encountered the annoying vibration from the engines. On past sailings, I had learned this the hard way and now always book a stateroom more forward. There the vibration is minimal. We have grown accustomed to the tiny staterooms but we would love to see Crystal switch to stall showers instead of the bath tub shower combination. We will continue cruising with Crystal because of the staff and service. Although it is due for some work in dry dock, I am afraid the Symphony is tired and needs more help than a short dry dock can provide! But, while while we wait for them to launch a new ship, we will probably return for another cruise on the Symphony. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2014
The public rooms are impressive with a large atria, attractive furnishings and the areas well laid out, The Avenue Saloon with nightly piano music was especially delightful. As for dining, we enjoyed the late seating with a delightful ... Read More
The public rooms are impressive with a large atria, attractive furnishings and the areas well laid out, The Avenue Saloon with nightly piano music was especially delightful. As for dining, we enjoyed the late seating with a delightful table and superb service. The cuisine was well prepared and presented and is definitely a cut above that on Regent Seven Seas. The shows aere good and well presented and the other entertainers as well. The theme was Movies with a special tribute to Doris Day and we found all of the speakers and topics truly delightful and entertaining. The staff was helpful, friendly and alert to all requests. The excursions were wothwhile wi the best being the lovely luncheon in San Jose,Costa Rica, the Panama Canal crossing and the totally delightful surrey tour through the streets of Charleston, South Carolina, Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2014
My previous cruising experience: Oceania, Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Viking. Crystal Symphony is a lovely midsize ship with all the amenities you would expect. The pricing is "all inclusive", and Crystal comes pretty ... Read More
My previous cruising experience: Oceania, Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Viking. Crystal Symphony is a lovely midsize ship with all the amenities you would expect. The pricing is "all inclusive", and Crystal comes pretty close. The most obvious exception was internet access, and that will be free on Crystal cruises, starting later this year. You can find plenty of information about the ship elsewhere, and you will like what you see! Service truly stands out, all over the ship. I have enjoyed my previous cruising, but this was the best. Waitstaff, room service, senior staff - they were all wonderful. Shore excursions were what one would expect: well organized, good quality, and somewhat expensive. (I priced a number of excursions with non-Crystal vendors, and mostly went with the Crystal offerings). I used Crystal transfers to get to the ship (I had other arrangements for debarkation), and Crystal was convenient, efficient, and reasonably priced (perhaps one of the best values of everything). We were met at the airport and taken to a central hotel in Auckland where we had a catered hospitality suite for the day. This was a comfortable base for sightseeing until our transfer to the ship. The cabin was nice and much like I expected. The little bathroom shines with double sinks and shelves for him and her, although using both at the same time is problematic! There are nice toiletries and ample room to stow your things. There is a tub/shower combo. I used the king bed configuration, which was quite comfortable. There is plenty of closet space and luggage storage under the beds. The TV with cable service has a built-in DVD player, and the ship's library has a nice selection of DVDs. In-room WiFi worked well, and WiFi coverage was pretty good throughout the ship. Fresh fruit and flowers in the cabin was a nice touch. The refrigerator is stocked, and that is part of all-inclusive. I've had good dining experiences on all my cruises, but Crystal was the best! I used the main dining room for most dinners, and other excellent options for breakfast and lunch. There are two specialty restaurants, which were nice and what you might expect. You have an allotment of included reservations at the specialty restaurants, but I enjoyed the main dining room so much that I didn't use all of my specialty restaurant allotments. Perhaps some of this is good luck, as my spouse and I selected a table for 8, with 6 previously unknown diners, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Service was wonderful, and we quickly got to know the waitstaff for our special table of 8. You can select other table sizes and arrange to be with specific parties if you choose, but once you choose, that's it. There are 2 dining times for the main dining room, and a normal reservation system for the specialty restaurants. I used the Lido cafe for most breakfasts and some lunches. Lido features an excellent buffet, and you can go whenever it is open. Even out on the pool deck, wandering waitstaff will check to see if they can bring you a drink or a meal. Room service is available, but I didn't use it. They will set up the table on your verandah if you like. There are the usual cruise activities. Onboard entertainment was good, and there were a variety of interesting lectures featuring excellent presenters. I used their beautifully equipped "Computer University" to take a series of Photoshop classes. There are a lot of repeat Crystal cruisers, and with good reason. It isn't so much Crystal incentives, as it is that Crystal is that good! The average age of cruisers was slightly less than other cruises I've been on, but there are lots of seniors, myself included. There is elegance, but formality is not overdone. There were only a few children on this cruise, and there are some dedicated facilities for them. They seemed happy enough, but probably wished there were more youngsters. One area Crystal can improve on is the pre-cruise planning experience. They really want you to use your travel agent and not bother them directly. Sometimes this is OK, sometimes it just doesn't make sense. You will not be told this, but it is pretty easy to figure out. The online planning center is buggy, not particularly user friendly, and not the best to produce things like customized printed itineraries. Nevertheless, you can make it work and accomplish what you need to. This surprised me after all the good things I heard about Crystal. I wouldn't make too much of it; I still give Crystal 5 stars for my cruise. Once you meet the Crystal rep at your inbound transfer, expect quality pampering the rest of the way. In sum, I rate Crystal as the best of my cruise experiences to date. It isn't cheap, but quality never is. Crystal Symphony is a beautiful ship and I look forward to cruising with Crystal again.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2014
This was our first Crystal cruise (we're Regent regulars) which we chose primarily for the itinerary but also because we wanted to see if Crystal lived up to the hype we sometimes read from its substantial fan base at Cruise Critic ... Read More
This was our first Crystal cruise (we're Regent regulars) which we chose primarily for the itinerary but also because we wanted to see if Crystal lived up to the hype we sometimes read from its substantial fan base at Cruise Critic and elsewhere. We made our own flight arrangements from Melbourne to Auckland (Emirates) to Papeete (Air Tahiti Nui) and neither were particularly good in terms of service or comfort but OK as a necessary means to an end. We stayed at the Intercontinental resort Papeete for 2 nights - International Date Line, long story - which was comfortable and convenient to the airport and the ship. The hotel is set in a stunning location with lovely views of Moorea. We came across a couple of Crystal reps in the hotel lobby who were friendly and helpful until they discovered we weren't part of the large Crystal group also staying there and we were more or less given the brush off. We decided to book our own taxi to the ship and were glad we did thereby escaping the chaotic scenes of people + bags milling around waiting for transport on embarkation day and were almost first on board an almost deserted Symphony as a result. This will not be a day by day travelogue, so here are some more general (useful?) points in no particular order. The Ship : Beautiful and well laid out. The public areas are spacious and plentiful so there is always a peaceful spot to read, have a drink, relax. It lacks a central atrium but the Lobby/Crystal Cove is a very pleasant central meeting point. The forward facing Palm Court is very elegant for afternoon tea, quiet cocktails and useful for "watching the horizon" if things get rough (which they did! ). The Starlight Lounge is the centre of many daytime and evening activities but the extremely heavy and awkward to manoeuvre swivel armchairs caused problems. I know they are necessary on a moving ship but they weigh a TON. The Galaxy Theatre is comfortable and well laid out with plenty of room between the rows of seats and a large stage. The Hollywood movie theatre is great. The Casino is big - too big? - with dozens of lonely slot machines. We saw it busy but even then it wasn't even half full. It seemed like a waste of precious space. And speaking of a waste of space, the Luxe nightclub was mostly totally deserted every night except for karaoke night. The Saloon is a lively and very popular piano bar, especially after dinner. The smokers lounge/bar with very similar decor next door seemed to have a regular set of patrons but as non smokers we didn't go in there. The Bridge Room is clean and bright. The main Crystal Dining Room, Lido Cafe, Bistro and speciality dining venues are pretty much what you'd expect. The library is well stocked, the computer room very comfortable and the shops offer a wide range of "cruise stuff". The pool/hot tub is a generous size and the Lido "Garden" is a lovely spot but in hot weather it gets extremely hot even with the glass roof retracted. The Staff : Quite simply, the best service we have ever experienced. Friendly, professional and a pleasure to sail with. Waiters, bar staff, housekeeping, officers, front desk, everyone was wonderful and went above and beyond. The only slightly sour note was the rather grumpy Maître D who was very intimidating to approach and even a simple request was treated like a major imposition. It was very unnecessary and left a bad impression I'm afraid. The Entertainment : Superb, there's no other word. The quality of the professional and versatile "in house" musicians, dancers and entertainers as well as the guest artistes was exceptional. Bravo! With one exception (I won't name and shame) the Guest Speakers were interesting, informative and entertaining. The Staterooms : Not generous in size but perfectly adequate for the purpose. Very comfortable bed with quality linens and beautifully soft, fluffy pillows. Ample storage space. The bathroom is "snug" to say the least and they really couldn't be any smaller especially with those rather cumbersome "salad bowl" basins. The mini bath isn't much use to man nor beast but the shower over it has good water pressure and the clever handle on the shower screen is extremely useful during a bumpy ride. Again, plenty of storage and the Aveda toiletries are a nice touch. Excursions : This is a tricky one. Our ports of call were small Pacific islands with sometimes very basic facilities and infrastructure so naturally the excursions on offer were somewhat limited but didn't represent value for money. If you enjoy snorkelling on coral reefs there was plenty to choose from. If you prefer visiting land based places of "interest" then your options become fewer. One tour bus in particular in Tonga was barely roadworthy - lack of aircon and competent guide is one thing; lack of tread on the tyres, a burned out clutch, iffy brakes and rusty holes in the floor is another. In future we will do more research and arrange our own tours. The ship handles rough weather very well - and we had some very rough weather for a couple of days so few, if any, green faces around the ship as we rocked and rolled from Fiji to New Zealand. The last overnight stop in beautiful Auckland in perfect weather was a great finale although the boisterous Cloud 9 nightclub right next to the ship kept a lot of people awake until the small hours. In a nutshell, we had a terrific cruise and apart from a few very minor quibbles Crystal most certainly did live up to the hype and we wouldn't hesitate to recommend. Our next Crystal cruise is already booked.   Read Less
Sail Date: January 2014
When we told fellow passengers that it was our first cruise many said that we were starting at the top and it was all downhill from there! I say this by way of giving perspective to our comments to follow........we really had no ther ... Read More
When we told fellow passengers that it was our first cruise many said that we were starting at the top and it was all downhill from there! I say this by way of giving perspective to our comments to follow........we really had no ther experience like it with which to compare. The outstanding feature of the cruise was without doubt the staff on board. Friendly, service orientated and a credit to their employer. We were struck by how much they appeared, and were, happy to be working for Crystal. That flowed through to their service to us. We ate in all the venues and not only did we not find fault, to the contrary every meal was wonderful. I have never tasted better soups and my wife was continuously spoiled with the dessert plate by our wonderful waiter Franklin and his pairing Juan. Ciselo San Juan added those extra special touches that come with his over 20 years experience with the ship and by the end we counted them as friends rather than service staff. The Food and Wine theme was well received by us and we thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to meet and watch the demonstrations by the guest Chefs. The Cabin on Deck 7 was well cared for by our stewardess Andrea and nothing was too much trouble for her, not that you need to spend much time in the cabin anyway. Entertainment wise, there was more than enough to fill your time on board or ashore. Early on my wife said that she was feeling overwhelmed by the full program she had each day and then promptly filled her next day with twice as much as myself. Unpack once, do as much or as little each day as you wish, meet a wide range of interesting people from all over the world while having great food and wine....it doesn't get much better than that. Are we hooked and can't wait for our next Crystal experience....you bet! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2013
Just returned from a near-perfect cruise and journey in all aspects. This was our fifth cruise overall (Seabourn, Azamara, and Celebrity previously); and our second cruise with Crystal. Crystal knows how to do it right! Celebrating the ... Read More
Just returned from a near-perfect cruise and journey in all aspects. This was our fifth cruise overall (Seabourn, Azamara, and Celebrity previously); and our second cruise with Crystal. Crystal knows how to do it right! Celebrating the holidays on a 6* ship plus experiencing Antarctica at the same time does not get any better. We were constantly amazed at how incredibly well Crystal provided for nearly 900 passengers + 500 crew, cuisine-wise, entertainment-wise, and service-wise. Exceptional quality and variety! We also like the demographics of fellow passengers: from all over the world and of all ages (we are 61 and 77 respectively). There were nearly 70 well-behaved children, ages Itinerary: Buenos Aires to Valparaiso Dec 20/21 - BA - we did on our own; we stayed at Caesar Park Hotel (excellent) and dined at NY Times recommended restaurant Tarquino's in Recoleta (seafood), a short walk from our hotel. Tarquino is for those who are not fans of beef or lamb. It is very stylish and non-traditional, if you are looking for the latest in dining adventures in BA! We did a Milonga tour in the evening and city tour the next day, both very expertly provided by Cultura Cercana Tours, in addition to airport/port transfers. (Andres and Mirta expertly navigated us through the city maze to Milonga venue; Flavio was our awesome guide for the city tour). Dec 21 - Embarkation in BA was flawless: well-signed, organized, and efficient, even though we had heard that BA embarkation facilities were not the best. Dec 22 - Montevideo - we enjoyed our day here, again pre-arranged with Cultura Cercana; we knew that Sunday the shops were closed, but we knew the Sunday market was in full swing (colorful and very local). Crystal had cancelled their Jewish sites shore excursion here well ahead of time via their website due to closed venues), so we advised CC ahead of time we were interested in seeing some Jewish sites. We had a great time with our 22-yr old novice guide, Emiliano, protege of CC's Bruno; he loves history and his city so we really got the most out of it, including a great seafood lunch at the seaside. Later back on the ship, we found most folks had not enjoyed their experience here. With a little pre-planning and research, one can get the best out of any place! Dec 23 - at sea - marvelous! Love the service and staff onboard! And the cuisine is divine! Dec 24 Puerto Madryn - this was the only Crystal shore excursion we took, because we were a little worried about making it back in time for departure. We should not have worried. We did the Punta Tombo excursion. The destination and the amount of Magellanic penguins (mixed with guanacos!) you could walk amongst did not disappoint. The drive there and back (2.5 hrs each way) isn't pleasant any way you slice it, but unfortunately the guide on the bus did not have the best command of the English language, so she was very difficult to understand. Had we arranged a private tour through CC, we could have easily asked our guide to repeat and explain better in the more intimate setting of a small vehicle. Next time.... The town of PM is not anything to write home about, but is only a jump off point for the Valdez Peninsula, Punta Tombo and other Patagonia wildlife areas and Welsh towns. Other folks we talked to onboard enjoyed their excursions to Valdez Penn. to see the sea lions etc. Back onboard, Crystal put on a beautiful Christmas Eve dinner. BTW - The decorations that Crystal had all over the ship were astounding and were all managed/maintained by 'Santa's Elves'. Very smart. And I don't think any cruise line tops the entertainment quality that Crystal does. Their in-house ensemble cast of singers/dancers/entertainers together with guest entertainers provide night-after-night quality and variety. Really impressive. Dec 25 - Christmas at sea - wonderful with Santa handing out presents to the children; Crystal's signature Christmas brunch with ice sculptures and phenomenal variety of cuisine was a huge WOW. Dec 26 - Boxing Day - Falkland Islands - this was a highlight for me (not so much for my husband); I love remote, expansive, unique places and interesting geology, fauna, and flora, so I was in heaven. We were lucky to be able to tender into this sometimes inaccessible place (40% of the time ships can not tender in due to weather/seas). We pre-arranged thru Nyree at Estancia Excursions a 4WD tour to Volunteer Point King Penguin colony. VERY bumpy ride to and from over non-existent roads, but amazing scenery, history, local commentary, and loads of King and Magellanic penguins. They should sell "I survived the ride to Volunteer Point" t-shirts! Do not miss this experience if you are waffling. Bring British Pounds with you to pay for the tour, as no ATMs in Stanley and only one bank. We were there on Boxing Day and also one of the days of the Stanley horse races, so again we knew some shops would be closed. But cruise business here is big, so some tour operators were working and a few tourist/handicraft shops and cafes were open. Cold and windy, but not rainy. Bring your warmest clothes! Dec 27 - Drakes Passage southbound - relatively calm seas so we were very lucky Dec 28 - arrived at Elephant Island at tip of Antarctic Peninsula; weather mixed but first glimpses of Antarctica were surreal; continued down to King George Island; amazing sunset tonight (11pm or so) Dec 29 - sunny weather with gorgeous white clouds for perfect photos; King George Island to Esperanza Station and Hope Bay in Antarctic Sound; AMAZING humpback whales and Amelie penguins everywhere with lots of icebergs; photo ops were continual. Hate to go to sleep, as the scenery is epic 24hrs a day (although the sun technically sets btw 12midnight and 2am, it is always light). Continued to Deception Island - again a gorgeous day with amazing Antarctic backdrop scenery; huge colony of chinstrap penguins at the deceptive Deception Island (so named because it looks like a round solid island from a distance, but is actually hollowed out with a narrow channel inside.) Dec 30 - to Gerlache Strait and through the very narrow Neumeyer Channel to Anvers Island. Again, picture-perfect weather and amazing scenery. We were lucky to transect this channel, as it was too full of ice the week before. If we were successful in getting through, we would be the first ship of the season to do so. We made it and continued to the U.S. Palmer Station on Anvers Island where we were able to pick up two zodiac loads of researchers and scientists there. They gave a great presentation on board and Crystal thanked them with lunch onboard and boxes of fresh produce and other goodies to take with them. A class-act all the way. At the end of the day we headed north into Drakes Passage once again. A bit heavier seas this time, but not bad. Dec 31 - New Years Eve bash onboard - another out-of-the park Crystal celebration - great entertainment, dining, and NYE party. One of our best, land or sea! Jan 1/2 - Ushuaia - 6pm arrival; clearing from some earlier rain; we disembarked to walk around this fun adventure-seekers town; beautiful backdrop mountain scenery. We were both down with minor sniffles and purposely did not pre-book any excursions here, as we knew the weather could be unkind. The next day, it was pretty overcast and drizzly and as others went off for 'scenic' shore excursions, we chose to take the morning off and then independently went through the wonderful Maritime and Prison museum, well worth a look. Jan 3 - Punta Arenas - again we did not pre-book any excursions here, again due to iffy weather, and we still had our colds, so we walked the town for several hours, using our guide book and had a wonderful seafood (King crab!) lunch at Sotito's near the port/water. A good way to spend the day if you are not excursioning. Jan 4 & 5 - at sea in the Chilean Fjords; cold, blustery and cloudy, but still amazing scenery with waterfalls and glaciers down to the sea. Many folks stayed inside behind salt-sprayed windows, but if you braved the outside decks you were rewarded with some interesting color and clouds for photos. Jan 6 - Puerto Montt - we pre-arranged an excursion here with Cultura Cercana to Petrohue Falls, Osorno volcano, and Puerto Varas. Our guide was the very good Claudio, who with his wife, Ingrid (an English teacher), are the guides here for CC. Claudio was very informative and responsive and whisked us away from port ahead of the excursion coaches and smartly headed directly to Petrohue Falls first. This was a gorgeous site with glacier-green waters. We then headed to Osorno volcano, which was shrouded in low clouds. The drive up was interesting for me from a geologic and flora perspective (beautiful native flowers in bloom), but the whole point of going to the top of the volcano is for the view, which was non-existent. Claudio probably should have had us go back to Puerto Varas first to walk around and have lunch, then go up to the volcano as the day cleared, as it usually does. Still, all in all, it was a pleasant day and we are glad we did it privately. Jan 7 - at sea along volcano alley; gorgeous weather as we progressed up the coast with one-after-another impressive volcano; again a photographer's dream with interesting cloud formations. And of course we enjoyed a final sun-drenched day by the pool to work on our tans! Jan 8/9 - disembarktion Valparaiso + Santiago - Valparaiso is a big, non-user-friendly port, but Crystal bussed us from ship to terminal and our luggage was ready there and very organized for quick retrieval. We again arranged transfer and tours through Cultura Cercana. This is the only time CC has let us down, but they quickly redeemed themselves. Leonardo (CC has 3 Leo's there, one of whom is the boss) was our guide for Valparaiso, Vina del Mar, and the Casablanca wine valley en route to Santiago. This Leonardo's English was sub-par, he was a bit late to meet us, and his greeting sign was pretty bad, so we were not pleased. He was not organized in how he toured us through Valp. and it is important when you do this crumbling heritage city that you have a good introduction, otherwise you come away frustrated and disappointed. It was very difficult to get any information out of him, so we didn't.... We did have a good visit at the winery Casa des Bosques and had a great lunch (on our own) there. We continued to Santiago where Leo left us at our hotel (arranged on our own). We stayed at the boutique Le Reve in Providencia, which we like a lot - quiet street amongst some of the best restaurants and cafes and near other upscale areas, such as San Sebastien. We had dinner at the hotel's recommended seafood restaurant a few blocks walk away, Aqui esta Coco. Outstanding cuisine as well as decor. Highly recommend this. I also contacted Cultura Cercana re our guide Leo, and they immediately remedied the situation by having the owner of their local office take us on a complimentary city tour the next day. Very smart and we had a great time, so we ended our trip on a high note. All in all, a fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime trip. Nothing but the best regards for Crystal. The only exception is that from here out they will be charging a supplement for more than one dining reservation at each of their fine dining venues, Silk Road and Prego. Perhaps they will reconsider after a year and resolve the special dining venue demand differently. FYI - we used LAN Airlines, business class and were very impressed. FYI - Our cabin (Deluxe with veranda Cat A) we knew was not on the large size, as cruise ships go, but because Crystal Symphony's public areas are so spacious and inviting, we do not feel cramped in our stateroom. I do recommend the balcony even in cold destinations, because access to fresh air and unobstructed views for photos is important. Also we purposely chose a starboard cabin for this departure which definitely did afford the best immediate views during our right-to-left journey from BA to Valparaiso. AND one final important note - the onboard destination expert, Ed Larson, and the other enrichment lecturers, as well as our 'ice pilot' were all excellent additions to our experience. It would not have been half as interesting without their involvement!   Read Less
Sail Date: December 2013
Our primary thought about this cruise was that we were very lucky to visit the Antarctic for a few days when the weather was ideal. We had clear and sunny skies with little wind and were fully able to view the spectacular scenery and wild ... Read More
Our primary thought about this cruise was that we were very lucky to visit the Antarctic for a few days when the weather was ideal. We had clear and sunny skies with little wind and were fully able to view the spectacular scenery and wild life around us. An outstanding event was the visit of about ten scientists and support staff from the US Palmer research station that came on board for presentations and to answer our questions. Crystal even had an ice pilot aboard, a former US Coast Guard icebreaker captain, so we wouldn’t have the same problem as the Russian ship stuck in the ice while we were there. It was a wonderful experience and for us the main reason we went on the cruise. Everything else was in some sense secondary. We had very long flights Toronto-Buenos Aries and Santiago-Toronto which we found tough going. We made it both ways in spite of ice storms and low temperatures at home. The so-called reciprocity documentation required by Argentina and the somewhat lesser bureaucratic processes of Chile were somewhat of a pain. Therefore, travel to and from the cruise ship was our biggest trial but we had good experiences getting on and off the ship. The ship was beautifully decorated for Christmas and the holiday events were very good. This was the first time on Crystal that we saw more than a few children aboard but this was no problem since they were well entertained by the programs for them. The service was very good and many of staff did learn our names. Dining was up to Crystal’s usual standard. Generally we enjoyed the food although there were occasional lapses. For example, there was a dish that claimed to be “coq au vin” which was just roasted chicken covered with a dubious sauce and worst of all in one case frozen peas and mechanically diced carrots that looked like they were bought at Wal-Mart. This time we took care to make all our dining room reservations on line before the cruise. This worked out with no trouble and we would strongly recommend doing this since we were told the Crystal dining room can only handle about 70 “dining by reservation” couples per cruise. Don’t believe your travel agents if they tell you that you can straighten it out when you board the ship – you can’t. Two very good young male vocalists (Will Martin and Jonathan Ansell), an excellent guitar player (Byron Johnston), and a vocal impressionist (Karen Grainger) were the highlights of the entertainment for us. A comic ventriloquist, a mid reader, and a multi-instrument guy were just so-so and we found the production shows tired and boring. The Magic Castle magician put on a short but a very good show. The lecturers were also very good. We particularly enjoyed David Drewry (deep knowledge of Antarctic science), Ed Larson (a great storyteller) and Roberto d’Alimonte (a political expert - needs a better sense of humor) but Dan Raviv’s presentations on media events although smooth were mostly without meaningful content. We visited some ports in Argentina and Chile which were OK but not great. However, we did find the Falkland Islands rather interesting. We were told there were 3,000 people, 500,000 sheep and 96,000 land mines in an area similar in size to Connecticut. However, we observed in various places in Argentina how passionate they feel about having the Falklands (they call them Los Malvinas) except that the people of the islands overwhelmingly want to stay British. This situation is unlikely to be resolved in the near future. The Beagle Channel, Straits of Magellan and Cape Horn also made for interesting cruising. All in all we were very satisfied with this cruise.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2013
The trip started with the big DFW snowstorm. Had to sleep in Admirals club in MIA after many hours of delay DFW, more delay MIA. Luggage went to NY, and I arrived in Rio day late, no bags. Met a friend right away, also with lost luggage ... Read More
The trip started with the big DFW snowstorm. Had to sleep in Admirals club in MIA after many hours of delay DFW, more delay MIA. Luggage went to NY, and I arrived in Rio day late, no bags. Met a friend right away, also with lost luggage and managed to tour RIO for several hours before boarding Symphony. Crew was great locating all the lost bags and gave great service regarding laundry and follow up. Christmas decorations were wonderful and the cabin very nice. I travel Solo, so a room alone price was reasonable. Have been on 12 cruises on various lines and Crystal is the best overall value for the quality. The excursions could use some price lowering or upping the trips, but still a great cruise line. I had a window only cabin, and was pleased. Stateroom attendant was fabulous. Meals great, piano bar fun. Shows actually good and we got the postage stamp disco going nightly. Met friends easily and sat with other Solo travelers at late seating. Perfect !! I am booked on a back to back AKL-SYD-BALI in Nov 14.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2013
Background:Crystal is absolutely my favorite cruise line but I booked this cruise with some doubts. I had a lingering suspicion that using Crystal for what is essentially a routine Caribbean cruise is a bit like using a Ferrari to drive to ... Read More
Background:Crystal is absolutely my favorite cruise line but I booked this cruise with some doubts. I had a lingering suspicion that using Crystal for what is essentially a routine Caribbean cruise is a bit like using a Ferrari to drive to the corner drug store. I booked the cruise only for a unique circumstance. I had 2 bucket list cruises, New York to Miami on the Symphony and the Prinsendam to the Amazon 10 days later from Ft. Lauderdale. I wanted to do something in those 10 days I wouldn't do normally, and my initial reaction was Epic, Allure, or Oasis. I eventually decided that while I wouldn't normally book those I was free to do so anytime and a convenient (for me) Crystal Caribbean cruise was a very rare event. Ship info: The Crystal Symphony was built in 1995, and has been updated regularly since then, most recently in 2012. It is moderately large, and extremely spacious for the passenger capacity. My voyage was completely sold out, but never crowded. The open decks are especially spacious, and there is a wide, wrap-around Promenade Deck. Staterooms: With the exception of the penthouses on deck 10, the rooms are essentially the same. There are only 8 categories, 3 for penthouse, regular and deluxe verandas, depending on the deck, and 3 categories of penthouse cabins. The rooms are well equipped, especially the baths, with a full tub in even the lowest category rooms. There is ample storage space. Dining: Until recently, dinner in the main dining room has always been served in 2 seatings, usually 6 or 6:30 and 8:30, but Crystal now offers an option of a flexible dining time . In addition to the Crystal Dining Room, there are 2 specialty restaurants, Silk Road with Japanese cuisine and Prego with Italian cuisine. These restaurants require reservations but have no surcharge other than a suggested gratuity. The Lido Cafe does not typically open for dinner but will once or twice most cruises (but not this one). The Lido Cafe serves breakfast and lunch, starting with coffee and pastries around 5AM. There are special theme buffets in the lido, typically about every 3 days. While nominally a buffet, the lido is staffed by several incredible stewards who greeted me by name by day 3, learned my preferences, and generally provide very personal service. A grill midships on the lido serves a late breakfast plus burgers and sandwiches with a few extras. The selection of side dishes is limited, but it is just steps from the Lido Cafe, so these extras are readily available. The Crystal Dining serves a traditional breakfast and lunch with open seating, with one grand gala luncheon buffet sometime during the cruise. The Bistro a deck above the dining room serves pastries and other snacks. Dining as such pretty well closes after dinner, but each room has a refrigerator and is stocked with beverages and fruit, routinely restocked by the Stewardess on her regular visits. Light snacks are served in the lounges in the evening, and there is excellent 24-hour room service.. Activities and entertainment: Activities are geared to a mature demographic and a wide variety are offered. Many cruises have a theme. The Crystal Visions Enhancement is very strong, even on a cruise like this, always providing opportunities for ample feedback from the audience. The spa and fitness staff is very strong, including 2 innovative programs for walkers. The walkvest program uses vests with removable weights (up to about 16 pounds) to improve the strength benefits of walking. A new program uses trekking poles to get more muscles involved in the walking process. There is a log sheet on the Promenade deck where passengers can record their progress and receive shirts and certificates at the end of their cruise celebrating their progress. One slight disadvantage of the ship's design is that the Promenade doors are frequently subject to wind turbulence and often closed, but the aft doors are almost always available. Other regular enhancement activities include computer and other classes and excellent dance instructors. There are daily activities including bingo, team trivia, concerts, and movies in the Hollywood Theater. There are 4 significant routine venues for activities, the Palm Court (Deck 11), and the Galaxy Lounge, Hollywood Theater, and Starlite Club on deck 6). It is routine to see simultaneous activities in 3 of these venues, and not unusual to have them in all 4. In the evening there are several venues featuring several varieties of musical entertainment, and a daily presentation in the Galaxy Theater. The excellent Crystal Ensemble of Singers and Dancers presents about 5 or 6 shows per voyage, with other headline entertainers brought on board for the remaining nights of the cruise. Children: There is a children's program with 2 facilities set aside for programs, one for younger children and another for teenagers, but most of the cruises I have been on do not attract a large number of children. Disembarkation: Disembarkation was smooth and easy. Summary: Crystal provides a stunningly superior product in every respect. While I can say it was my best Caribbean cruise ever, I didn't feel like the Crystal difference came through as much as it does on a typical itinerary. Just one example: On mass market cruises shore excursions typically join the mass exodus from the ship and line up to assemble at a dock. With Crystal we wait in a lounge and the tour goes out in a group with an escort and directly boards the bus. Here the process started in typical Crystal fashion, but once on the dock we still lined up and waited for the guides to come. Not quite mass market but not quite Crystal either.   Read Less
Sail Date: November 2013
We’re so glad we decided to try Crystal, after many years with Silversea. This was a classic Crystal cruise: a leisurely 14 days, nice selection of ports, plenty of days at sea and all of the special activities that are among the ... Read More
We’re so glad we decided to try Crystal, after many years with Silversea. This was a classic Crystal cruise: a leisurely 14 days, nice selection of ports, plenty of days at sea and all of the special activities that are among the line’s hallmarks. Our hopes were high. Would Crystal measure up to our best Silversea experiences? It did, indeed. And then some. The Crystal Symphony was docked at the Manhattan cruise ship terminal and boarding began at noon – lots of time to settle in. Boarding was quick, because we pre-registered with Crystal’s PCPC feature (a tip we picked up at CruiseCritic’s helpful Community/Forum). We left our carry-ons with the staff, headed to the Crystal Dining Room for a leisurely lunch, and strolled around the ship until cabins were ready at 3:00. We were very happy with our Deck 7 stateroom. We knew that the Symphony’s cabins (below the Penthouse category) are a little smaller than Silversea’s. Not a problem. Lots of well-planned storage, drawers we didn’t even use, everything fit in the closet, luggage went under the bed. An easy-to-use thermostat. The bed and pillows were quite comfortable, and having lovely Frette linens didn’t hurt. TV channels include CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, BBC, Sky, CNBC, TMC, TCM, TNT, ESPN. Plenty of room to move around comfortably and we felt quite at home by Day Two. We loved the bathroom’s generous storage: 3 shelves above either side of the double sinks, plus below-counter shelves and cabinets. The tub/shower has a nifty grab rail built into its surrounding glass panel, is easy to step into (not too high) and water pressure and temperature stay blissfully constant, even during high-use periods. Lots of thick, fluffy towels. The Symphony sailed down the Hudson at midnight. Our 4471-mile adventure began, gliding past the sparkling NYC skyline and Statue of Liberty, heading for Baltimore, Charleston, Savannah, Jacksonville, Grand Turk, Curacao, Aruba, Miami. This cruise sold out quite early. We had 840 passengers, a number of whom traveled solo. Most were from the U.S. (several from the U.K.), were repeat passengers, and chose this voyage for the attractive itinerary and relative ease of meeting the ship in New York. The consistently high level of service was a delight. Luxury lines shine in this area, but there really is something special about Crystal. Everyone, and I mean everyone, greets you with a smile. Waiters remembered our names and preferences after the first day. There’s no such thing as a venue being “out of” your favorite tea, jam or wine – waiters will run all over the ship to get it elsewhere. When my husband found his mattress a little too soft, our stewardess replaced it with a new one; that was a touch too hard, so she placed a thin foam topper on it. Perfect! We were very impressed with our meals in the Dining Room, both the menu choices and the quality. The focus is on good fresh food, beautifully prepared – not on fancy culinary hijinks. Dover Sole Meuniere was sublime. Ditto the filet mignon. The Walnut Shrimp Cantonese Style was so good I requested it a few nights later. How wonderful to truly look forward to dinner each and every night. We made a reservation in each specialty restaurant before the cruise and made another reservation onboard. Prego’s falling-off-the-bone osso bucco was delicious and a neighbor said her thick, pink lamb chops were the best she ever had. Our Silk Road waiter delighted in offering samples of a number of dishes. Both restaurants are small, with a quiet ambience and beautiful lighting. (As an aside, it was so nice to see waiters who tended casual breakfasts and lunches suited up to deliver extremely fine, polished service in Prego and Silk Road.) We had most breakfasts and lunches at the Lido Café buffet, with its generous variety of choices, all beautifully presented. The food stations are arranged so there are no lines. Special “theme” buffets were presented on 3 sea days: Asian, American Classic, Nuevo Latino. I guess I was looking a little lost when the chef spotted me at the Asian Buffet; I didn’t see my usual salad fixings, so he went down to the galley himself and returned with a nice big salad, just the way I liked it. On another sea day, an extensive Grand Gala luncheon buffet was laid out in the Crystal Plaza, showcasing the pride of Crystal’s various food departments, with open seating in the Dining Room. I noticed that all of Crystal’s buffets are manned by staff that provides assistance and also keeps an eye out to ensure good sanitary practices. Smart. The Trident Grill area, just aft of the pool, was really handy, whether for a quick burger, cold drink, ice cream and cookies, or as a comfy spot for reading. The Mozart Tea deserves its own plug. It was just lovely, very tastefully done. In addition to Crystal’s usual Afternoon Tea offerings of finger sandwiches and very nice scones with real clotted cream, the Mozart Tea featured an expanded selection of delicious desserts, waitstaff in attractive 18th century garb, and the gentle strains of music by you-know-who. Chalk up another special sea day memory. We enjoyed the evening entertainment. The 14 nights featured a full menu of nighttime shows in the Galaxy Lounge. We particularly liked the talented Crystal Ensemble of singers and dancers in several production shows, ballroom dancers Adam and Patricia Kent, the unusual “Imagine” show (performed in total darkness with zones of the dancers’ outfits lit via computerized programming), Donny Ray Evins’s tribute to Nat King Cole, the hilarious ventriloquist Mark Merchant and his 2 highly-opinionated dummies. There were many more performers. We missed a few shows simply to see some films in the comfortable Hollywood Theatre – such a luxury to have a small theater dedicated just for movies, day and night (with popcorn, of course). Not to be missed in the evening: Joe Fos’s cabaret tunes and classical medleys on the Crystal Cove piano and the genial Mark Farris, singing the night away at his piano and chatting with guests in the intimate Avenue Saloon. We never made it to the Palm Court or Starlight for late night dancing. Next time. We didn’t anticipate how much we’d enjoy having all of these different venues, compared to smaller ships. It was really nice to have a little more of a choice. Crystal pulls out all the stops on its sea days, which are filled with a variety of enrichment choices. World Affairs lecturer Dr. Robert Schrire gave 3 absorbing talks: democracy in Putin’s Russia, China/India relations, the future of the European Union. Destination Speaker Ken Rees discussed the histories of upcoming ports. And speaking of enrichment, Crystal has an impressive library with strong selections in a variety of areas. I’ll leave my own books at home next time. And there were complimentary classes in fitness, bridge, ballroom dancing, art, a galley tour. The art classes culminated with an exhibit in the Crystal Plaza – everyone did a splendid job and it was so nice of Crystal to showcase their work. This cruise had a special “Film & Theatre Festival” theme. Frankly, I didn’t think we’d be particularly interested in it. Was I wrong! TCM film historian Jeremy Arnold gave a fascinating talk on Marilyn Monroe and introduced many of her films, shown during the day in the Hollywood Theatre. Actor and playwright Jim Brochu performed his touching, funny, inspiring “Character Man” tribute to life on Broadway and gave superb talks on Katharine Hepburn, The Golden Age of Hollywood, and A History of Musical Theater. Actress Kate Burton shared memories of her life in the theater. Makeup artist and stylist William Squire gave 3 “insider” talks on Hollywood beauty and style. And much, much more was offered. After a few days, we realized that between port visits and the multitude of sea day activities, you could easily spend entire days going from one activity to another – and many do, they’re that enticing. But we decided to pull back a little, relax the pace, and skip some things (many talks are re-broadcast on the stateroom’s TV). We didn’t want to miss the experience of simply being at sea on a fabulous ship, with no particular schedule to follow. Charleston and Savannah were highlights of this voyage, and the trolley tour excursions were a good way for us first-timers to orient ourselves and learn about these beautiful, historic cities; the guides for both excursions were excellent and informative. We passed up the Caribbean excursions and spent those rather hot days onboard. A note on the dress code: Crystal recently adjusted it so the dressiest night is now “Black Tie (Formal) Optional” – tuxedo OR dark suit with tie OR jacket & optional tie. On our 2 Formal Optional nights, half the men wore tuxedos and half wore dark suits. Crystal sanctions all 3 choices, so just choose the option you’re most comfortable with and don’t give it another thought. Really. Little things we loved: the thoughtful built-in night light with its on/off switch on the night table. The 50-foot pool, great for laps. Easy-to-use washers and dryers in the 3 laundry rooms. The extra-long shoehorn. Cinnamon raisin French toast with a dab of raspberry jam. And, finally, we met so many really pleasant, interesting passengers and enjoyed a great many memorable conversations. It says a lot about Crystal, that they attract such companionable travelers, most of whom return again and again. Yes, there really is something special about Crystal. Everything has to be “the best,” lesser substitutes not accepted, whether it’s food, service, enrichment offerings. I think it boils down to this: the best of the best is simply the way they do business. Period. Crystal doesn’t consider that approach out of the ordinary, and that’s why it’s such a wonderful experience.   Read Less
Sail Date: September 2013
Why this Cruise? We greatly enjoyed our two prior cruises on Crystal Serenity. My wife was fascinated by the prospect of visiting the three Gulf of St. Lawrence stops, especially St. Pierre and Miquelon which is actually part of France. I ... Read More
Why this Cruise? We greatly enjoyed our two prior cruises on Crystal Serenity. My wife was fascinated by the prospect of visiting the three Gulf of St. Lawrence stops, especially St. Pierre and Miquelon which is actually part of France. I had enjoyed a solo trip to Montreal a year earlier, and thought the cruise presented a good opportunity to combine a short visit with this short cruise. Embarkation We had spent four nights in Montreal at a hotel very near the port, so it was a five minute cab trip. It would take 30-45 minutes from the airport depending on traffic, and cost $40.00 Canadian. We arrived at noon and were led into a portside waiting room which then held about 100 other early arrivals. Within about 10 minutes we started the embarkation process. The Canadian Security phase was a little slow with only two screening stations, but not bad. We actually checked in on board and Crystal had provided so many check in stations that there was no waiting there. As usual we were told that the cabins would not be ready until 3:00 P. M. We went to the library first, and it was manned, so we could check out some books. Food was being served in the main dining room, so we had a light lunch, and went to our cabin shortly after 2:00 to find it full prepared and with our luggage delivered. There we met Krystina, our stewardess, who was most pleasant. She has been with Crystal 10 years and has a four year old daughter at home in Hungary, who she gets to visit about every six months. All in all, it was a fast and easy embarkation, with Crystal, as usual, getting things right. Our Stateroom We had a standard verandah stateroom, somewhat aft, on Deck 8. They are not large, about 200 square feet, but pretty well laid out and attractive. The walls are textured white and the wood blond. There is a full length mirror, a small sofa and coffee table, and a desk with arm chair. The balcony was pretty large, with two armchairs and a table on a teak deck with a solid balcony railing. The lighting is very good, with two small "snake” lights protruding from the wall at each side of the bed, with a directed halogen light system for in-bed reading. The temperature control system seemed to work well. The only minor problem is that the closet is very close to the bed, necessitating some negotiation as to who is going to get to use the closet to obtain that day’s clothing. The bathroom was efficiently designed with two sinks, actually nice sink vessels; plenty of storage space, a tub/shower (although it was not really a full sized tub) and marble/porcelain walls, sinks and flooring. Crystal supplies three pillows per bed, of differing material, and this seemed to work out pretty well. As usual on board ship, there was ample drawer space for clothing. The Ship Layout It is not a huge ship approximately 51,000 gross tonnage, but since it carries fewer than 1000 passengers the space ratio is about 52  very spacious indeed, since most cruise lines have ratios from 29 to 35. As usual, the activities are forward and the food aft. Deck 4 has a few small window cabins as well as tender access. Deck 5 has the "lobby” with the concierge and shore excursion desks, the Crystal Cove, a small seating area with a piano, and access to the main dining room. Deck 6 has the main show lounge forward, the casino, which can be avoided entirely, the Luxe Lounge, a very small room off the casino and boutique, a limited boutique shopping area, The Bistro, the library, the Starlight club, which is a pretty large show/lounge area, the computer center, the small Avenue Saloon, the Bridge (game) Lounge and the two specialty restaurants, Prego and the Silk Road. Decks 7, 8, 9 and 10 are staterooms with a self- service complimentary laundry on each deck. Deck 11 has the Palm Court Lounge and forward observation area, the pool, a covered area with table and chairs and a snack bar and ice cream station, and the Lido Buffet aft. A small aft Deck 12 area has the golf nets, tennis and basketball areas outside. A walkway leads forward to the spa and exercise area forward. The decoration scheme is low key muted tones, with stainless steel and cream predominating. There is little public art, none in the corridors or elevator lobbies or stair wells. There are three elevator banks, and usually they were accessed easily, without delay. Everything was meticulously maintained. There were small open deck areas aft of each of the four passenger decks with lounge chairs. It was a little chilly, but these quiet spots got some use. The library was well stocked for a ship this size. Deck seven, beneath the lifeboats, has a teak deck which goes completely around the ship in the old style, and makes for nice walking. Crystal does not strive for razz-a-ma-tazz, but quiet elegance, and achieves that nicely. It is a very comfortable, easily navigated and uncrowded vessel. The Itinerary After the usual muster drill at 5:00 we set sail for Sept Îles down the river. We sailed past Quebec at night, and the next day was a "sea” day on the St. Lawrence river. On the way we deviated from a straight route, and went up the Saguenay River for a short view of this attractive area with its famous statue of Our Lady (Notre Dame) set high up on a hill overlooking the water. Sept-Îles This is an intriguing place. The name  Seven Islands  comes from the seven small islands at the mouth of a bay. The bay is on what really is the St. Lawrence estuary, almost 70 miles across from the Gaspe Peninsula. The main town is on the north side of the bay, a small city of about 25,000 inhabitants. It serves as a port for iron ore shipments from a huge mine about 350 miles north in the interior of Eastern Quebec. Across the bay is an aluminum plant. We took a ship’s complimentary bus to the local Walmart, and visited a few stores. We then found a path through the woods along the north side of the city overlooking the water. It was a sunny and reasonably warm day, and a delightful walk. We ended up at a small Indian museum where, for a very reasonable entry fee, we were treated to a most interesting talk about the trading history of the area, with demonstrations of the types of items traded between the original French settlers and the local tribes. We then took the bus back to the ship. The northern section of the town is what Canadians call a "reserve” and we call a reservation. It was controlled by Inuit tribe members, with their own small local government, including a police force! We felt that we had done a lot better than we would have on a ship’s tour. There was another Indian museum, but it was not open to the public that day because of a public hearing on some issue which were important to the tribe. Magdalen Islands These are three islands connected by causeways. They are about 285 miles southeast of Sept Îles, and look from the air like a fish hook, running northeast to southwest, about 40 miles from the top to the base of the hook. They are in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, about 65 miles northwest of Cape Breton Island and 100 miles west of Newfoundland. We took a ship’s tour, and our guide, Robert was excellent. He noted that the "season” was over on the islands. Apparently they are a very popular summer vacation spot, particularly if one wants to eat great "Maine” lobsters. The population increases from 12,000 in the winter to 36,000 in the summer. Our trip took us to the shore where we walked along a lovely beach with red sandstone small cliffs. The island have low lying hills, very few trees, and the homes are small, brightly colored and very pretty. We then went to a glass factory to observe a glass blower make a delightful art piece. Apparently this was one of several class blowing sites. After this we visited a herring smokehouse followed by a visit to a cheese makers shop. All these sites were open only because of the ship’s visit, and they were no doubt pleased to make some sales to our fellow passengers. (Well, glass and cheese sales; - no smoked herring.) Robert was also part owner of a restaurant, and one or two couples went there to eat after we returned to the ship. Again, the weather was sunny and fairly warm, and we greatly enjoyed this stop. St. Pierre & Miquelon These island are part of France, and are a French Overseas Territory, with representatives in the French Parliament. The cars have the same license plates, complete with the European Union circle of stars on a blue field, that you would see on the streets of Paris. We understand that the French spoken here is much closer to the language spoken in France than French-Canadian French. The stores and café’s are typically French. Actually, only St. Pierre is visited much. It has about 6000 inhabitants, but Miquelon far less than a thousand. Our visit was highlighted by a zodiac tour into the surrounding waters. It was windy, but not really cold. We had good views of seals on small nearby islands, and an excellent view of a bald eagle on his own small island, as well as sightings of cormorants. Our guide was a young lady who handled the Zodiac with consummate ease, and spoke fairly good English. Quebec After another sea day, we visited Quebec. We had been there before and decided to do our own tour. The way off the ship involves a bit of a hike, and you are led to a port building. A guide there told us about a place to get a good view of the city. We first walked up, through the Vieux Port (Old Port) area to the plaza near the Chateau Frontenac. From there we went to a government building behind the very ornate, late 19th century Parliament. The government building has a viewing floor about 42 stories up. There you can walk around the whole floor and get a spectacular view of all sides of the city. There are many signs and interactive screens near the windows, and a set of 6 "egg” chairs with surround sound providing "talks” by representatives of inhabitants of the city area from the original natives to a 20th century poet. The weather was beautiful, and the colors of the trees changing to their fall glory made this a wonderful experience. We returned to the Old City and wandered through the shops, leaving me with enough time to enjoy some ice cream. Edith found a Jade Museum which had a wonderful and extraordinarily complete collection of jade. It is down the stairs next to the Geomania Gem store in Place Royale on Rue Notre Dame, directly opposite the church. Again, we had a delightful day on our own. Debarkation The next day we were back in Montreal. Crystal provided an excellent bus transportation ride to the airport, including load and unloading our suitcases. Shipboard Dining Everyone wants to know about shipboard food. We believe that Crystal provides the overall best dining experience of any cruise line, although Oceania’s new ships, Marina and Riviera with their four no-charge specialty restaurants, are mighty close. We ate twice the Silk Road, also without additional charge; and enjoyed both occasions very much. The first was booked online prior to departure, and was on the first night. The second was a few days later, and although we were on a wait list at first, we were called during the day, and given an excellent time. Breakfast as usual, was excellent, with many choices. The pancake, waffle, French toast set up had warm plates, soft butter and real maple syrup. Now that is how it should be! The lunches in the buffet were also marked with a wide selection. We even had fresh oysters one day. Dinners were also fine, although Edith thought that some of the vegetarian portions were small, and left her still hungry. The appetizers, soups and desserts were all excellent. The dining set-up was a little confusing at first. We did not want to choose a set, early or late dinner time, since we understood that this meant we would be at the same table with the same people. So we would go to the dining room when it opened, or shortly thereafter, and request a table with other people from the maître d’. He would consult his list, wave a waiter over, and instruct him what table to take us to. It turned out that we often ate with the same people because that table was not regularly filled. In any event, it worked out pretty well. Of special mention is the Bistro Café on Deck 6. It has a small buffet set-up, with the food items changed frequently during the day. Coffee, latte, cappuccino etc. is available all the time. It is open from 9:00 A.M. until 11:00 P.M. There is no charge for anything, and it became one of our favorite places. Activities Edith attended some art classes, and enjoyed them. I participated in many, but not all, of the golf lessons. These were taught by a golf pro, with hands on evaluations. The classes were attended by around 20 people, and were very instructive. At the end, we were taped making swings, and then our tapes were evaluated in a final viewing session. Since this was all without charge, we were very pleased. We were less pleased with the Enrichment series, which did not live up to similar series on prior Crystal cruises. We think it was due to the fact that the lecturers were a tad past their sell by date, to put it kindly, and less than informative or enlightening. There were many other activities in which we did not participate, or which conflicted with things we wanted to do, but this is typical of any cruise. You simply cannot do all the things offered. Edith wanted to attend one event at one of the jewelry boutiques, but nobody showed up, leaving several prospective viewers annoyed. Since the stores are not staffed by Crystal personnel, we can’t blame the ship for this lapse. Entertainment This was a cruise that featured presentations sponsored by a group called "Jazzdagen”. This group presented various jazz programs at different times of day, in different locations, with a varying group of performers. They were not part of the formal Crystal entertainment program, but when I managed to get to see and hear some of the performances, they were pretty good. The production group, with two lead vocalists and eight dancers was excellent. Crystal always seems to get very good performers for their production companies, and they far outshone the usual group of singers and dancers on other cruise line. This group did present a different special show called Imagine, using a technology called "iLumine”. In this the dancers wore lights on their arm and legs and essentially danced in the dark, so one only saw the lights, and not their bodies. A short sequence of this might well have been enjoyable, but it went on far too long and was unduly repetitious. An entertainer described as a "raconteur”  Marthy Henne, did two other shows, and was very enjoyable, both as to his talk portion, and the selection of songs he played and sang. There also was a magician, and I am a sucker for magicians, so I enkoyed it greatly. Finally, there was a vocalist, Karen Grainger, whose forte was imitating famous singers. She was pretty good, but a little loud. This was perhaps the first cruise we have taken which did not have a classical trio or quartet; and we missed that. I believe this was due to the fact that the jazz groups were playing at many different times and different venues. There was one occasion when I went to the Avenue Saloon to hear one of the jazz singers, but the other patrons in the saloon kept up such loud conversations that there was no way we could enjoy the music. The Crew As always, the crew was great. The waiters were uniformly good, especially an assistant headwaiter, Willy Capule, who was everywhere, taking care of everyone with a cheerful smile all the time. The front desk was cheerful and helpful; not always true of some ships we have sailed on. Overall Experience We have always enjoyed Crystal Cruises. Their attention to detail, quality of service, entertainment food and general helpfulness are the gold standard of large ship cruising. This was an all-inclusive cruise, with all food and drinks included; as well as gratuities. The only things we paid for separately were laundry (especially after four days in Montreal to start), internet usage, and two excursions. The pre-paid shipboard credits from our travel agency reduced our final bill to less than $100.00. We enjoy the fact that the only P.A. announcements are a mid-day report from the Captain. As noted, embarkation and debarkation are as painless as possible. The very high space ratio is much appreciated, as are the many venues around the ship. Crystal is a super-professional company, with as close to an ideal operation as one can get, given a certain omnipresent level of human fallibility. We were extremely fortunate with the weather, which was sunny and almost warm every day. I wore my Aran Island wool sweater only once. We were told that the same cruise the in 2012 was marked by clouds and fog for the entire trip. We were very lucky, and enjoyed one of our finest cruises ever.   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2013
After our youngest child graduated from college, we decided to splurge on a Crystal cruise in the Western Mediterranean. We had sailed on the crystal the Crystal Harmony several years ago and recalled the experience fondly. Also, the ... Read More
After our youngest child graduated from college, we decided to splurge on a Crystal cruise in the Western Mediterranean. We had sailed on the crystal the Crystal Harmony several years ago and recalled the experience fondly. Also, the itinerary called for stops in Majorca, Cadiz, and Lisbon, ports we were interested in visiting. We booked many months ahead and secured a good rate with an internet agency,including substantial shipboard credit. Embarcation in Barcelona was a breeze. We didn't have to wait at all. We checked in and went to lunch in the dining room, and were greeted with a flute of Champagne. As this was the first all-inclusive cruise we had been on, we realized that we would need to be moderate in eating and drinking, which was tough to do since the food was extremely good and the booze was always available. (We were amazed when, after returning home we found that one of us stayed the same weight and the other actually lost weight.) Our cabin was just a we expected. We had a limited view, but since we were on the starboard side, it really didn't make much difference. The cabin was very efficiently laid out. Our only complaints were that the mattress was too hard for our liking, but we never raised this as an issue since we didn't think anything could be done. Also the bathroom counter was only about 9 inches wide. Cabin service was outstanding. We would joke about trying to pack our stewardess, Jovanka, in our luggage when we left. It was very nice not to have worry about tipping, though would would have happily done so. The free self service laundry was greatly appreciated. The food everywhere was outstanding. We ate in the dining room every night, except for one night in Prego and two in Silk Road. The food in silk road was perhaps a cut above Prego, but only if you enjoy sushi and sashimi, which we do. We were seated at a table for six, but the other two couples were occasionally absent. When we asked to be reseated, we were directed to the Captain's table. A few diners complained that some of the desserts, like Bananas Forster, were not prepared table side, but they tasted fine to us. In the spirit of moderation, we tried to limit ourselves to wine at dinner. We found the complimentary wines to be quite good Service in the dining room was outstanding. We found our fellow travelers to be quite good companions. Although we are in our early sixties and comfortable financially, we got the sense that we were below the median in age and wealth, although nothing, of course, was a ever mentioned directly regarding the latter. The shore excursions we took we quite good. In particular we enjoyed the hike (nearly four miles) on Majorca and the Royal Equestrian School show in Jerez (Cadiz was the port. The later included a sherry tasting at a Bodega where the place bottles on the tables and allowed you to pour what you wanted. The entertainment was good, though one of us is not a big fan of Broadway show tunes, which seems to be a staple everywhere in the cruise industry. The Pianist/Comedian was good, as was the violinist when he played a classical piece the last night. Overall, the cruise experience was excellent. The ship is lovely and the number if passengers is less than most cruise ships these days. Service was uniformly good. However, the price point of Crystal Cruises is quite high. Is it good value for the money? This is a closer call, but in the end I would say so.   Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2013
We just returned from crystal cruise 3220 on the Mediterranean from Barcelona to Lisbon. We stayed in on the 9th level with a deluxe verandah room on the Crystal Symphony. Every thing about the cruise was great . The food and service was ... Read More
We just returned from crystal cruise 3220 on the Mediterranean from Barcelona to Lisbon. We stayed in on the 9th level with a deluxe verandah room on the Crystal Symphony. Every thing about the cruise was great . The food and service was superb and the entertainment of high quality. Most of the shows were reviews with the wonderful costumes, dance and the singing Crystal group. There were also solo enterainers, one of whom was extremely entertaining and funny,Dale Ganyea. In addition to the high quality reviews there was one new show (Iluminate) for which there was a lot of hype before th show. It was interesting and "high tech" , but we did not find it as entertaining as other shows. We did however appreciciate that it was innovative. After about 5 or 10 minutes we had enough , but others may have liked it more! (perhaps the younger people on board ) We enjoyed the guests , which had a large number of international guests from Europe, England, S. Africa, Australia etc and of course quite a few Americans. There were many repeat guests, some had been on many Crystal curise in the past. The only dissappointment was the size of the cabin , type A , high floow with Veranda , "deluxe room " The room was small but realtively well designedThe public spaces were lovely, The computer school was excellent.The Wi Fi was available in t he computer room as well as supposedly in other places. In general it was sort of slow ,but faster in computer room than in guest cabins. Only suggestions for improvement would be to make the ship completely smoke free. The guest in room next door to us was a smoker. We did not smell the smoke in our room , but it was noticed outside of the room in the hall and required a 'smoke remover apparatus' to sit in hall to help remover the smell. Otherwise it was a spetacular cruise and we would love to take another crystal cruise. Highly recommend this line. The destinations were great, but quite crowded , due to high season travel in August. ( Monaco, ,St. Tropez, Cadiz, Mallorca , Gilbraltar, Barcelona, Lisbon etc. It was a great cruise and we were sad to leave the ship and face the real world !!   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2013
This was our fourth Crystal cruise and our second on board the Crystal Symphony. Our first ever Crystal cruise was on the Symphony in 2005 and, as it has undergone many refits since then, we were looking forward to seeing the changes. We ... Read More
This was our fourth Crystal cruise and our second on board the Crystal Symphony. Our first ever Crystal cruise was on the Symphony in 2005 and, as it has undergone many refits since then, we were looking forward to seeing the changes. We have cruised on the Crystal Serenity in both 2011 and 2012 and hoped we would enjoy this holiday as much as on those occasions. We were certainly not disappointed. We spent two nights in Rome prior to joining the ship and this helped us unwind from the hassle of the flights and transfers, and also to get in the holiday mood. We would always recommend staying at least one night prior to the cruise either in, or near to, the embarkation port. Embarkation Day We made our own way by train to Civitavecchia to join the ship; however, we had pre-booked our tickets and seats via the Internet before leaving home so it was all quite easy and stress free, apart from the sheer volume of people in Rome's Termini Station that morning. Arriving in Civitavecchia, we soon made our way to the port entrance and were soon aboard the Crystal shuttle bus heading to the cruise terminal. Although the embarkation desks were not yet open, as we were perhaps a bit early, it was a great relief that we were able immediately to leave our cases in a separate holding area ready for loading by the crew. After a short wait we were able to check in and get aboard where the final check-in procedures were carried out quickly and efficiently. We were then free to have lunch in the Trident grill, which we washed down with a very welcome glass of champagne, and our holiday had begun. By the time we had finished lunch and met some fellow passengers, our stateroom was ready and we were able to unpack and relax by the pool. Our stateroom was located on Deck 5, just behind the Concierge Desk, and in the end it proved to be a very handy location for all the amenities. The Ship As the layout of the ship is more or less the same as on the Serenity', we found it easy to find our bearings and get around. We preferred the layout of both the 'Crystal Cove' and 'Avenue Saloon' bars here, compared to those on the 'Serenity', as we found them more user- friendly. We also visited the 'Lux' nightclub most evenings and our only slight criticism would be its common access into the Casino area. All the public areas throughout the ship were spotlessly clean as usual; however, we were never really aware of the army of staff who were responsible for keeping it that way. The exterior of the ship was perhaps starting to look a bit jaded with very obvious rust patches and dirty marks caused by the oily ropes; however, we only really noticed these when travelling on the tender boats. Our Stateroom Stewardess (Chan) looked after us very well and kept us well supplied with towels and ice. Food and drinks As always, the standard of the food on board was excellent in all the eating venues. We loved to have breakfast and lunch outside in the Lido caf' where the food was always fresh and of great variety. We particularly loved the days when special themed meals were laid on, such as the Oriental buffet and the Kebab lunch when chefs from Istanbul were brought on board to cook and serve. Very different and so tasty. It was amusing to see the reaction of one American guest who perused the food at the Kebab lunch and then turned away in disdain uttering in a stage whisper 'Oh it's all Turkish' ' the poor Turkish chef just shrugged his shoulders and we all thought ' Dah , you are in Istanbul !' We had dinner every evening in the Main Dining Room, apart from two nights when we ate in the 'Prego' restaurant, and the menu choice and standard food was superb. Even my partner, who tends to prefer plain foods, was tempted to try different things and loved them all- especially the desserts of course! Our Dining Room Head Waiter (Allwyn) and his assistant (Franklin) were simply fantastic and treated us so well the whole time. Both were so attentive and friendly that we looked forward to seeing them every evening. We also had great craic with our excellent Brazilian Sommelier (Luiz) and our Maitre' D (Mariko). The standard of the wines served in both the Main Dining Room and at 'Prego' were first class. We went to 'Prego' twice during the cruise, including one occasion with three new- found friends, and can honestly say they were the best experiences we have ever had at a 'Prego' restaurant on either the Symphony or Serenity. The food was excellent as usual but the staff were so friendly and helpful that it really made the whole experience very relaxed and special. Afternoon tea in 'The Bistro', with cakes of course, was our daily wicked indulgence. We felt that the layout of 'The Bistro' was perhaps better on the 'Serenity' than on this ship, and that the positioning of the buffet island in the centre of the space tended to cause congestion at times. Our favourite bars were 'Crystal Cove' and 'the Avenue Saloon', mainly due to the great staff working there. We always had pre-dinner drinks in 'Crystal Cove' and had great craic with the bar staff, Paula and Camilla, who were not only very good at their job but they made us feel like old friends. We would invariably meet the same guests there every night as they also loved the relaxed, friendly atmosphere fostered by all the staff. A special thank you to Nilo who was always tempting us with delicious hors d'oeuvres and just before dinner too! We liked to go to the 'Avenue Saloon' after dinner as it was a very comfortable place to relax and chat with fellow guests. Here again, all the bar staff were just so efficient and attentive, especially Eduardo and Marco. It still amazes me that from day one staff would remember our names, and even what we liked to drink. The 'Lux' nightclub was also a regular late night haunt for us however, there did seem to be a problem with underage drinkers on most nights, despite the DJ's repeated warnings on the subject. We would have found it hard to determine the age of some of the teenagers on board, let alone the poor bar staff who may have found it difficult to question the age of guests. We appreciate that there may be little for teenagers to do in the evenings on cruise ships and perhaps this is something which Crystal might consider addressing for the future. One of our fellow guests asked if the ship would host a 'Friends of Dorothy' get together for the gay and lesbian guests on board and we were delighted when they agreed. It was held one evening before dinner in the 'Lux' nightclub, complete with nibbles, and was greatly appreciated by all those who attended. We feel that the move to 'all inclusive' last year continues to be a great innovation and, rather than guests over indulging, in our experience it has had the opposite effect and everyone seemed to drink sensibly and in moderation. The Ports of Call All our previous Crystal cruises had been around the Mediterranean and we chose this particular cruise mainly because it was visiting unusual ports and countries which were new to us. We really enjoyed all the ports, except for Constanta in Romania (of which more later), and were very pleasantly surprised and impressed with Odessa, Yalta and Sochi. Odessa was a very grand city which had a very relaxed and safe atmosphere with some beautiful buildings and was easy to get around. Yalta was also not what we had expected ' in a good way. We opted to take the 'Sochi Highlights' excursion when we got to Russia and were astounded by the beauty of the city and its surrounding countryside. It was so green and lush that it was hard to believe that this was actually in Russia. The highlight of the tour was a visit to Stalin's dacha on the outskirts of Sochi and was a fascinating insight into that period of history. We were very fortunate to have an excellent tour guide called Olga who not only knew her facts but was passionate, and at times emotional, about her city and country. It is sad to report that our visit to Constanta in Romania was less than pleasant. We did not have high expectations prior to the visit and unfortunately they were well founded. Constanta can only be described as very grim and as soon as we stepped off the shuttle bus in the town centre we realised that it had little to commend it. There were virtually no proper roads or pavements, just mounds of stones and rubble everywhere making it difficult and dangerous to walk. We did not feel safe in any sense during our entire time there and, after a very brief walkabout, decided to hot foot it back to the safety of the ship. During the shuttle bus journey back to the ship we met two fellow guests who had just been almost robbed of their cameras in the main street. Luckily, both men were of a large build and were able to fend off the would- be thieves, however, they were still shaken by the experience and were also beating a hasty retreat back to the ship. On returning to the ship we subsequently heard that another guest had not been quite so fortunate and that he had in fact been robbed that same morning in the town centre. Presumably these incidents will have been reported to the Concierge/Security staff on the ship. We did not meet anyone who visited Constanta that day who would ever want to return there. We would recommend that Crystal seriously reviews the suitability of Constanta as a port of call on any future 'Black Sea' cruises. Our cruise ended in Istanbul and unfortunately we only had a very brief time to see the city but would be keen to return on a future occasion. Entertainment We are not avid show goers so cannot really comment on them. We still did miss the live band playing in the afternoons on the Lido deck, especially at sail away. Even some music from the DJ would have added to the atmosphere. The Crew The crew, as ever, made the whole cruise special and, although we have mentioned by name those with whom we probably had the most contact, we must praise all crew for their efficiency, friendliness and patience. . They are Crystal's biggest asset. It is perhaps a little sad that the entertainers from the shows are not just so friendly and tend to keep very much to themselves, rather than interact with the guests. Overall cruise experience This was a very relaxing and enjoyable cruise and we loved every minute. We met some great fellow passengers with whom we are still in contact and we look forward to planning our next Crystal cruise in 2014. Keep up the good work Crystal! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2013
It is a competitive marketplace in the "Luxury" or "Premium" cruise category and Crystal stands at the top of this narrow pyramid. Crystal matches the upper competitors by offering a luxury cruise ship with well ... Read More
It is a competitive marketplace in the "Luxury" or "Premium" cruise category and Crystal stands at the top of this narrow pyramid. Crystal matches the upper competitors by offering a luxury cruise ship with well appointed cabins and elegant spacious public spaces. The place settings sparkle and the linens are crisp. But what really stands out on Crystal Symphony, from the first day to the last day, is the high level of very personalized, attentive and consistent service. In this age of computer algorithms and complex customer databases, it is the real human touch and care which stands Crystal truly apart. More persuasive than any fancy cruise brochure or well spoken sales agent, Remi Szutkiewicz, the Maitre d', is the most public face on Crystal Symphony and, in effect, the "Brand Ambassador" presiding over a most impressive Dain Dining Room team. Cruise lines and hotel brochures go to great lengths to advertise their focus on service and personalized attention. However, I was consistently and considerably struck by Crystal's ability to really deliver on this overused expression. I must confess my favorite part of cruising is eating and, as such, I must admit to spending a lot of time in the Dining Room. I was fortunate to sit close to the front which gave me a great vantage point to watch the Dining Room staff, particularly the senior staff, in action. Without fail, their focus was like a laser beam on making sure each guest felt welcomed, comfortable and really special. While Remi, with his worldly charm and grace, set a high tone, I also had the opportunity to watch Head Waiter Roland and really the entire team of Head Waiters carrying this approach with complete focus and dedication. For dinner, my Senior Waiter was Muzo whom I had requested from a previous cruise. Without fail, he welcomed me to the Dining Room each evening like an old friend and proceeded to deliver course after course with very friendly professionalism and precision. For breakfast and lunch I was fortunate to be served by Mustafa who, while a little quieter, was very attentive, professional and made for very enjoyable meals. Assisting Muzo and Mustafa was Elio who was very conscientious and capable in his table service. It's not just the Dining Room staff that makes a personal difference. I noticed in the bars and lounges a regular flow of guests interacting very personally, warmly and with a long history with a number of the bartenders and bar staff. For myself, I had the good fortune to be served by Paula, Elisa and Camila each evening before dinner in the Starlite Club. My cabin was cleaned very nicely by Leslie who was always attentive and eager to please. In fact, this was my first cruise "downstairs" in a category other than the Penthouse. I had a Category D cabin which is Symphony's basic "Deluxe Stateroom with Large Picture Window". Even at just 202 sq. ft., it felt surprisingly spacious and had a good amount of storage and a well-designed bathroom. So two thumbs up and a thank you to Crystal. I am eager to be back aboard soon. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2013
I flew from Sydney to New York via Dallas and stayed one night at the Casablanca Hotel in Times Square before boarding the ship at 1230 on the day of embarkation. This was my first time on Crystal and I chose these two sectors based on the ... Read More
I flew from Sydney to New York via Dallas and stayed one night at the Casablanca Hotel in Times Square before boarding the ship at 1230 on the day of embarkation. This was my first time on Crystal and I chose these two sectors based on the itinerary. Ship info The Crystal Symphony is an elegant ship. The public rooms are lovely and even though the ship can hold 900+ passengers, at no time did it feel crowded. I particularly liked the beautiful Palm Court, deck 11 forward, and spent time there reading every day. The ship was extremely stable and sometimes I had to look twice to see if we were really moving. I really enjoyed the ship. Stateroom My cabin was on deck 7 aft. Deck 7 is the promenade deck and there is a wrap-around walking track so it was very easy to go out for a walk. My first reaction was that the cabin was small and the bathroom tiny however the space was well utilised and there were lots of places to put things. It certainly helped that I was travelling on my own. The closet was tiny and I just managed to fit my suitcase and carry-on in it. The bathroom had 2 sinks and a shower that was in the bath. At first I didn't like this but found that it was very easy to climb into the bath. The shower made up for it because once on the correct setting, it was the perfect shower, good temperature and excellent water pressure. The bed was hard as a rock. I didn't bother asking for an egg crate topper because I don't like them. However after 23 days, I got used to the bed. It seems silly that the bed linen, doona and pillows are so comfortable but the mattress sucks. Dining Dinner in the dining room was a big issue for me. I did not like the fixed seating at all. On the first sector (New York to Reykjavik), my table of 8 seemed to be continually rotating with people coming and going. One night I sat next to a very rude man who fortunately I did not see again. On the second sector (Reykjavik to Southampton), I had fabulous tablemates and we all got on well. One night, though, I sat at the table of 8 by myself as the others were off at the specialty restaurants. I had the waiters to talk to but I didn't particularly like the experience. I'm quite happy to have lunch by myself, but not dinner. I ate at the Trident Grill (loved those sweet potato fries) and the Lido Buffet was nice at lunch time - it's also a lovely venue with lots of light and windows. Most of the time though, I enjoyed lunching in the dining room. I liked the Bistro for a coffee or tea and there was always something yummy to eat there, be it fruit, cakes, cheese & biscuits, smoked salmon etc. I also liked the ice cream bar with a large range of ice cream, sherberts and yoghurts. I loved Prego, the Italian specialty restaurant and ate there 3 times (it wasn't enough). The carpaccio and the limoncello souffle were excellent. The signature mushroom soup was nice but a little too salty for my liking. I do enjoy Japanese food but I wasn't overly impressed with Silk Road. I had a nice meal there but decided to cancel my second reservation. I really liked the variety of restaurants and bars to choose from. Although there was a huge choice, I was never really wowed by the food although at no time did I go hungry and I enjoyed everything that I ate. Room service I nearly always eat my breakfast in my cabin and this cruise was no different. I loved the bircher muesli but then I discovered the freshly made waffles with maple syrup and fresh fruit. They were a delight. Room service was very basic - no table cloth or plates being laid out, not at all like the room service that I have been used to on Silversea. Activities On port days, there was not much happening but on sea days there were lots of activities scheduled. The Symphony's computer room is, hands down, the best I've ever experienced on a ship and I attended some very good classes on digital photo editing. I liked that it gave me the opportunity to try some new software. Trivia was a disappointment. It was only held on sea days and at 12 noon so on the first sector, it was almost a week before we had any trivia. I went to a few on the first sector but none on the second sector. I'm used to having trivia on every day. I enjoyed Bill Miller's lecture on the ocean liners - he was a very engaging speaker. Some of the other speakers, I found boring. I guess it's just what you are interested in. I liked the promenade walking track and tried to walk every day although that was very dependent on the weather and we had some really horrible weather during this cruise. I loved the dedicated movie theatre, Hollywood Theatre, and the popcorn but the choice of movies was terrible. I managed to see Skyfall and Taken2 which were great but considering there are tons of movies to choose from, I didn't think much of the offering. I think they could throw in some comedies and not repeat the same movie the following day. Port & Shore Excursions Shore excursions were generally very good. Everyone would gather in the Starlite Club and wait for their tour number to be called. I did the following excursions: New York - Hudson River cruise to see the Statue of Liberty and various other landmarks, ending at Battery Park. Walk up to Wall Street and the 9/11 Memorial, followed by a brief stop at The High Line. This was my first trip to New York and I thoroughly enjoyed this excursion, even if it was freezing. Newport - Fort Adam and the sights of Newport. This was basically an overview of the area and the weather did not cooperate at all. Next time, I would probably do a tour of one of the mansions. Boston - I went to Marblehead and Salem. Marblehead has beautiful homes and Salem is famous for the witch hanging. The weather didn't cooperate again but even so, this was a very interesting excursion. Bar Harbor - I went to the beautiful Arcadia National Park. This is a place that I would love to come back to in autumn to see the changing colour of the leaves. Halifax - I went to Peggy's Cove. This is a charming little lobster fishing town with interesting rock formations caused by glaciers. Also there is a memorial to those who perished in the Swissair plane crash in 1998. St Johns - the weather was nice so I decided to wander around the town on my own. It's a quaint little city with lots of different coloured houses. Easy to walk around on your own. Reykjavik - The weather was dreadful but I managed to see the Gulfoss waterfall, the town of Geysir where a lot of geothermal activity takes place, the Thingvellir National Park where the two techtonic plates meet, and the Pearl Dome which sits atop of the hot water storage tanks in the city. I loved this tour. I also drove through the Reykjanes peninsula on the way to the Blue Lagoon. This area is a barren waste of lava fields'it's quite a sight. The Blue Lagoon is loads of fun and I highly recommend it. The geothermal lagoon is man made and is a by-product of a nearby geothermal power plant. The warm water (39C) is rich in minerals and is reputed to help people suffering from skin diseases. There is a strict code of hygiene there which is very impressive. I loved this tour. Heimaey - Unfortunately, the weather was awful (again!) and during my overview tour, the island was shrouded in fog. Heimaey Island is the only inhabited island in an archipelago off the coast of Iceland. It's claim to fame is the eruption of the Eldfell volcano in 1973 and the fact that the Icelanders sprayed sea water on the lava to slow its movement. It was a very impressive feat but it didn't stop nearly 70 homes and farms being buried under the tephra and lava. This was a very interesting little island. Torshavn - in the Faroe Islands. I took advantage of the sunny weather and walked around the town. We were there on a Sunday so not many shops were open. The Faroes is where the whale hunt called grindadrap occurs. The Faroese consider the hunt an important part of their culture but in reality it is a totally cruel and disgusting practice where hundreds of whales are slaughtered annually in a horrific manner. Alesund - another very foggy day but by the time I got to the summit of the mountain, the fog lifted and I got a fantastic view of the city. The city is spread across 7 islands and all the islands are linked together by tunnels. I did the overview tour and saw some very nice scenic views. Geiranger - the best weather on the trip and we were the only ship anchored there. Tshirts and 19C, sunshine, blue sky. It was fabulous, given that most of the trip was very cold for me. A tiny little town at the end of a massive fjord with some of the most spectacular scenery that I have ever seen. I did a walk through the town and up the hill there is the Norwegian Fjord Centre. There I watched a slideshow of fantastic nature pictures from the high mountains to the fjords in all the different seasons. Well worth the walk up the hill. Bergen - we were docked with one of the Cunard Queens and the Ventura so there were thousands of people in Bergen that day. I didn't want to wait 1 hour to get on the cable car so did a walk around the markets instead. In certain ports, Crystal offers a 'voluntouring' excursion and I chose this in Bergen. I had a wonderful time at the Rescue Centre for Homeless Cats. As a cat lover, this was my favourite excursion. It was free and about 20 of us cat lovers spent two hours at the home. It was a unique experience whilst being on holidays. Eidfjord - is the orchard area of Norway. I took a full day tour called Orchards and Glaciers. I saw the magnificent Voringsfossen waterfall, a 4D film about Norway which is probably the best DVD I've ever seen. It showed all of Norway's fjords as if you were in a helicopter and, at times, I had to close my eyes because of the perceived motion. We had lunch at the Hotel Ullensvang where Edvard Grieg's composer's cabin was located. The hotel is family run and despite it's size is so cosy. I also saw the new Hardanger Bridge (or Norway Sky Bridge) that looks exactly like the Golden Gate Bridge but is 20 metres longer. The weather was lovely and we were able to walk around an orchard and view Norway's unusual method of growing fruit trees. All in all, a nice day in Norway with some fabulous fjord scenery. Stavanger - our last port of call in Norway. The weather was awful and I was glad that I hadn't taken a tour. I walked around the town in the pouring rain and that was enough for me. Entertainment I enjoyed most of the acts especially the singers and musicians. I don't like the dancing much even though the dancers were from Australia. I particularly liked a Canadian singer in her show called "Diva" and an Australian pianist. There were a couple of other singers from New Zealand and Scotland that I liked too. I didn't bother with the magician. One thing that I thought odd was that the only time I ever saw the cruise director, was when he was MCing at the shows. I'm used to seeing and conversing with cruise directors during my cruise and on this trip, I never spoke to him once. I have no idea what he actually does on the ship. Service The service is first class. The only crew member who knew my name was Francis at the ice cream bar. I was his best customer, every lunch time without fail. The waiters in the dining room were outstanding (Muzo and Elio) and the meals were brought promptly and always piping hot. The only shortcoming in service was the night of casual dining in the Lido Buffet where I waited 30 minutes for my meal. Everyone was frantic that night as they hadn't expected so many people to show up at the same time. Disembarkation The disembarkation was orderly and fast. Everyone sat in the Starlite Club and awaited the call for their colour coded baggage tag. I quickly found my bag and got on the bus. I was going straight to Heathrow for a flight to Toronto that departed at 1620. We were taken to the Sofitel at Heathrow and there was an area set up exclusively for Crystal passengers. We were given refreshments and some lunch. Most of us were departing at a similar time so at 1400, we were taken to Terminal 5 for departure. Staying at the Sofitel for a few hours was much nicer than being dropped at the airport and having to wait there. Summary Whilst Crystal has one of the best single supplements in cruising, I didn't feel that they looked after their single cruisers. The only thing organised was a Table for 8 solos at the speciality restaurants and you had to eat at 6pm. On another cruiseline, I have had invitations to tables hosted by crew members and I think this is much nicer. One single gentleman who experienced the same issue as me, where all his tablemates were off at a specialty restaurant, was seated on his own at dinner. He mentioned to me that this would never have happened on Seabourn. He didn't like the fixed seating either and won't be back on Crystal. Although Crystal isn't my cruiseline of choice, I loved the ship. I haven't been able to find another itinerary that suits me so whether I sail again on Crystal remains to be seen. If anyone has any questions, pls email me.   Read Less
Sail Date: February 2013
We had an extended trip to Asia and this cruise on Crystal fit in nicely. We started in Bali and we got off in Singapore. From the moment we arrived, we were delighted. The ship has a wonderful and elegant look, lots of great ... Read More
We had an extended trip to Asia and this cruise on Crystal fit in nicely. We started in Bali and we got off in Singapore. From the moment we arrived, we were delighted. The ship has a wonderful and elegant look, lots of great multi-functioning rooms, plenty of quiet areas, a computer classroom, card room, charming bars, great musical groups everywhere and an open and spacious feeling. The big differences in this cruise and others is simply the entire crew. Within 30 minutes of being on board, wait staff knew our names and remembered them throughout the cruise. They have this amazing enthusiasm as though they were brand new employees, but many have been with Crystal for 10-15 years. All the venues offered fine linens, stemware, dishes and beautiful food presentations. They also offer two fine dining experiences which were absolutely perfect - Italian and Seafood/Sushi. The wine selections are matched nightly with the food and the sommeliers were knowledgeable and gracious - offering many options. Bartenders made the evening cocktail a joy to experience. The cabins are standard in size but very efficiently organized with plenty of space. Bathrooms are nicely upgraded with a small tub, TWO sinks and nice amenities. They have three decks that offer multiple complimentary washers and dryers, what a great option that is for traveling in warm weather. The shows on board were so impressive, the lectures fascinating, ballroom dance lessons and group exercise were fun and relaxing. Best of all was the golf pro, he gave talks on sea days and lessons with hands on techniques. The last day he showed everyone a video of their golf swing with a special lesson on improving their techniques. So much to do on board I wished we had more sea days. I had heard great things about Crystal and everyday was WOW. We arrived in Singapore for our own transfer, the bags were all paced on carts ready to roll away. Cannot wait to sail again, I only wish they had more ships. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2013
Repeat cruising can be difficult in terms of managing expectations . One boards the cruise ship again with high expectations based on fond memories from the last cruise. Such were my thoughts when I boarded Crystal Symphony earlier ... Read More
Repeat cruising can be difficult in terms of managing expectations . One boards the cruise ship again with high expectations based on fond memories from the last cruise. Such were my thoughts when I boarded Crystal Symphony earlier this month in Melbourne, Australia. In fact, my last cruise (a trans pacific from Los Angeles to Tahiti) was marvelous and left me thrilled with Crystal. I love eating and I must confess it is the single biggest reason why I cruise with Crystal. Not to make light of Crystal Symphony as a beautiful ship with stately public rooms & elegant well designed cabin/suites, but I really enjoy fine dining which to me means both delicious well presented food with equally elegant and professional table service. For this last cruise, I was fortunate again to have Adem as my waiter. I am afraid to write this as I understand he already has quite a following and his section is a coveted spot in the Dining Room. Adem is a marvelously professional, attentive and friendly waiter. He, together with his fine assistants, ushered us through multi-course lunches and dinners with precision and charm. His attention to detail and adherence to our preferences were flawless. For breakfast, Muzo also manages a table well and brings a friendly demeanor which makes for a great start to the day. Not to gush too much, but the entire food and beverage team is great. From Bar Staff to Wine Stewards to the Assistant Waiters and the staff helping out in the Lido Buffet and by the pool. High marks to all. It starts with Remi the ever present, charming and engaging Matre d'. Remi watches over the Dining Room with sharp eyes making each guest feel welcomed and special. He is the Senior Diplomat of the Dining Room. Joining him with watchful eyes and quick words are the Head Waiters. I had the pleasure of being in Roland's section. A special nod of recognition must go to the senior managers of Crystal Cruises on board and at the corporate office who do a great job hiring and maintaining the staff many of which have been with the cruise line for 10-15-20 plus years. Such retention and dedication does not come by accident. One final note and commendation must go to our Butler, Greg, who was so gracious and attentive we were sometimes left for a loss of words. He was great and must have wings on his shoes as he was so fast in his responses. In fact, we timed him once and he was at our door, tray in hand, less than 60 seconds after we called him. Thank you Crystal for a great cruise. We can't wait to get back aboard again. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2013
We loved it! - We took this short 6 day cruise to see if we would like cruising - and we do! From the moment we stepped on board to our departure everything about Crystal Symphony and her crew was perfect - a great example of how a luxury ... Read More
We loved it! - We took this short 6 day cruise to see if we would like cruising - and we do! From the moment we stepped on board to our departure everything about Crystal Symphony and her crew was perfect - a great example of how a luxury cruise experience should be delivered. We were first time cruises but have already booked our next Crystal cruise - 15 days this time across the Pacific in 2014 - on board Symphony again We really enjoyed the sea days - so much too do - in fact you can't fit everything in on the programme The food in the MDR, Prego and Silk Road restaurants was excellent - we were never disappointed with the quality or the service It never felt crowded and there was always a quiet place you could find to relax - or if you wanted company there were plenty of opportunities to mix and mingle with other guests We are looking forward to our next cruise Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2012
It has been close to a month since we embarked on our Crystal Symphony Holiday Cruise in Auckland, but the memories of it linger fondly. We thought we would share this review. For ease of reference, we have broken our review down by ... Read More
It has been close to a month since we embarked on our Crystal Symphony Holiday Cruise in Auckland, but the memories of it linger fondly. We thought we would share this review. For ease of reference, we have broken our review down by categories, more or less. 1. Embarkation: Embarkation was a breeze. From the moment we entered the shipyard it took less than three minutes to board the ship and registration under two minutes if that. Efficiently and quickly handled, we were on our way to the MDR for our traditional lunch of Cobb Salad and along the way we saw several familiar and welcoming faces. 2. Computer and Wi-Fi: The folks who staff the Computer University deserve a medal of valor. We were able to set up our iPads quickly to access the WiFi and though I had a bit of difficulty at first due to the demand for WiFi of all of the guests logging in at once, that soon resolved itself. Sadly, we saw several guests over the first week of the cruise who were terribly rude and disrespectful of the CU staff complaining endlessly about the WiFi connectivity and how much better it was on other ships and how it was not like being at home. To their credit the staff was consistently polite (far more than I would have been under like circumstances). Though Crystal makes numerous efforts in its materials to give guests a realistic set of expectations, some just don't get it and the rudeness was appalling. Through it all, though, the staff did their best and kept trying to please and offering suggestions. During the course of the cruise, connectivity was excellent for the most part in both common areas and in our stateroom on the 10th floor. 3. MDR, PREGO and SILK ROAD: The food was consistently excellent. Special ordered foods were prepared precisely as requested. Portion sizes were reasonable and we noted little waste of food or food left on plates at the end of the meal which is a great sign that the food was delicious and also of the desire to not waste food. The selection was always good. Service in the MDR was excellent (Kudos to Celso, Renjith, Hayley and our sommelier Kremena and her assistant Michaelangelo all of whom were top notch!) Service in Prego was outstanding as always and the food scrumptious. Service in Silk Road we found to be a bit intrusive at the wrong times and rushed, especially by the sommelier who looked like he was in a hurry to meet demand for his services. A special note about AI. We did not note any delay in sommelier service at our table for 8. Kremena was seemingly always there when a glass needed filling and extremely knowledgeable about the choice of wines being offered and other options. 4. SHOWS: We enjoyed the shows and especially noted that there was not a single repetition of shows during the cruise. Every night had different entertainment. We did find the decision to have some shows for late seating diners at 7 p.m. to be confusing and as a result missed a show designed by Marvin Hamlisch that we really wanted to see. That being said, the artists brought on board were wonderful and we enjoyed them thoroughly. Our only criticisum would be that we noted that members of the Crystal Ensemble of Singers and Dancers on a couple of occasions took seats in what we woulc consider prime locations in the Galaxy meaning that passengers had to find seats way along the perimeter of the showroom. The same held true on several nights in the Avenue Saloon where an entire side of the room was taken with Crystal Ensemble dancers and singers and passengers had no place to sit. As we soon learned, Mark Farris is one of the hottest tickets on the 7 seas and he could sure use a larger venue to perform but probably the intimacy of the Saloon is what makes him so great among other things like his sense of humor and his musical skills. Special kudos for the great DIVA show which was tops and excellent shows by Will Martin and by Boys in the Band. 5. MAGIC AT SEA: We recall the catty postings about the prospect of Magic at Sea before it launched that we read on these boards. Magic at Sea this time around with Andrew Goldenhersh was a GREAT experience. Andrew is a world class magician and the chance to see him in an intimate setting with 20 passengers was not to be missed. Apparently almost half of those on board concurred as his shows were full and standing room only on some instances we are told. There was nothing but class and quality in his act. Best of all, he involved willing passengers and each attendee was within a few feet of him as he performed complex effects with great finesse. Furthermore, the tickets we each received to use in the future to get access to the World Famous Magic Castle pribate club in Los Angeles were an added bonus. Being one of the hardest tickets in Los Angeles to get (you either have to be a member of the Academy of Magical Arts or know a member to get in the door), getting a free pass to get in at some time in the future was icing on the cake. We hope Crystal keeps this program going. 6. USC CINEMA SCHOOL IPAD IMOVIE CLASSES: Dave attended this class and loved it. The instructors Claudia and David from USC School of Cinema were wonderful, patient and helpful. Both spent extra time outside of the class time with Dave helping him learn how to use the iMovie program. The written materials and the hands on help which were provided were stellar. Dave intends to take the class again when he is next onboard to refine his knowledge of the program. Having two left hands when it comes to this type of technology, Dave really found the classes great and the instructors patient and easy to learn from for which he is grateful. 7. SPA AND GYM: We both had spa services and used Brian to train us privately in the gym. The spa was lovely though smaller than the Serenity. Brian was simply fantastic. He was encouraging, put us through quite a work out each time, and very positive. He is clearly knowledgeable about personal fitness and health and we cannot wait to be back on board to train with him again. Dave tried his first spinning class with Brian and found it to be very challenging. Brian was encouraging and Dave will definitely do it again thanks to Brian's kind words and feedback. 8. SMOKING: We spent less than 10 minutes in the entire cruise at the Crystal Cove. The smoke was overpowering. Similarly we found ourselves having to leave the Avenue Saloon a few times due to smoking. We realize that smoking in those venues is soon to be a thing of the past and are sure that the performers and workers in those venues cannot wait for that day to come on both ships. We did not note a lot of smokers on the Lido deck, but then again we did not go looking for them. We did note a fair amount of Crystal employees smoking at the fore of the ship and imagine a smoking ban might really impact them more than one might have thought. 9. FORMAL NIGHTS: Call us old fashioned but being in our late 50's--early 60's we do still enjoy formal nights. It is a hassle to bring all of the items required for formal dress but we are always glad we did so. We noted that folks looked very nice on those nights and even on informal nights too. We did not see more than one instance of what might be considered inappropriate attire in the MDR at dinner. We hope Crystal will maintain the Formal Nights on the cruises. 10. ALL INCLUSIVE: Being that we are not big drinkers, free and unlimited alcohol held no allure for us. That being said, we only noted one instance in the Avenue Saloon where a woman was sleeping with her head in her husband's lap during one of Mark's shows. We do not know if that was excess alcohol or fatigue but it struck us that if she was that sleepy, she should have gone up to her room. We also, as is our custom, provided gifts to some of the folks who served us for XMAS and extra gratuities especially for our butler, room stewardess, Senior Waiter, Head Waiter, Assistant Waiter, Lido and Gym personnel and a few other folks all of whom looked surprised to receive anything and were very appreciative. COnsistently during our cruise we noted smiling and happy faces among the crew. Not once did we encounter a rude or sour or unhappy crew member. 11. CONCIERGE SERVICES: We need to express our thanks publically to Gareth and Patrick at the concierge desk for their excellent assistance. They promptly and very skillfully handled multiple arrangements for us and kept us informed of their progress and confirmed everything in writing. They are the very best at what they do and very personable to boot. 12: SHORE EXCURSIONS: We enjoyed the shore excursions and only wished that perhaps a few more culinary excursions or cooking experiences could have been arranged. And we were sorry to have missed the chance to bike around Napier but did enjoy that Art Deco tour in the old Packard auto with Tony! 13. LIDO DECK: Having sailed on both Crystal ships we cannot help but compare our last cruise on the Serenity in March 2012 with this holiday cruise. The difference was most noticeable on the Lido Deck. On the Serenity (before they went AI), we were constantly asked by Lido crew if we wanted any food or drinks. We found on this cruise that we were asked about drinks from time to time, but outside of the late risers breakfast service, the solicitation of our food and beverage desires was more sporadic. It seemed like there were fewer crew on the Lido deck during lunch and afternoon than we were accustomed to. Still, the guys who approached us and helped us were wonderful and the burgers and ice cream can't be beat! 14. OUR PENTHOUSE: We've sailed both ships before and the highlight of the cruises starts when we are greeted by our dear butler IGOR BABICK who makes each sailing a special joy. He and Sheetal our stewardess made sure we had everything we needed and were charming to deal with. We cannot say enough about our cabin crew and how wonderful they are. The room is a bit smaller than on the Serenity and there is less drawer space, but when IGOR enters the room and greets us, the space is just right. 15. NEW YEARS EVE: Crystal outdid themselves for New Year's Eve. Yes second seating dinner was a bit harried, but the views and location of the catamaran near the Sydney Harbor Bridge was the best seat bar none and we were front and center. We will NEVER forget the wonders of 12/31/12 and ringing in the new year in Sydney Harbor. We doubt Crystal could ever top that excursion though we suspect that they will continue to try to do so in coming years. 16. REMI AND OUR DINING ROOM TABLEMATES: As always we asked for a late seating and a table of 8. Remi, ever the magician, put together an absolutely splendid table of dinner mates for us. We enjoyed every dinner together, periodically becoming so lost in the conversation and laughter that we practically were the last ones out of the MDR at night. We do not know how he does it, but it is a special skill. We had such a great time that we have all agreed to sail on the Northern Cape July 2014 voyage together and to request the same table and table mates again. We know we'll keep in touch with Mary, Fran, Lyn, Nancy, Cathy and Ernie and see them from time to time if our travels permit either here where we live or in their home towns and we can't wait. 17. COMPLAINTS: Aside from our observation about crew taking prime seats at some entertainment venues, we only have one other complaint and it is one which Crystal cannot do much about. As we expected, a holiday cruise has children on it and sadly, some of the children onboard had parents who were not attentive to their children's behaviors or chose to ignore it. Running up and down the hallways, playing in the elevator, trying to glide down the bannisters and running around on the dance floors was hardly appropriate conduct. We noted young children teetering on bar stools near the ice cream bar, picking through the cookies in the box there and putting cookies back that they had touched. We heard of children pushing doorbells late at night at certain staterooms. As noted above, sadly, some folks do not know how to behave and therefore do not teach their children about appropriate behavior on the ship. Again we do not fault Crystal for that and we did note several families with extremely well behaved children. Finally, as we have found to be consistently true, we ended our cruise longing to stay longer and realizing that we simply had to wait until our next cruise comes around (in a mere 130 or so days). We left the ship feeling so relaxed and having seen such marvelous places and sights, and having made some wonderful new friends and acquaintances and concluded, as we always do, that there is simply nothing better than a Crystal cruise. Read Less
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

Find a Crystal Symphony Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click
Compare and book excursions for your next cruise