Crystal Symphony Cruise Review by Denny01
- Sail Date: December 2018
- Destination: Caribbean
- Cabin Type: Deluxe Stateroom with Verandah
We loved this ship and the entire Crystal experience. I will be giving my opinion about this cruise by comparing it to our Celebrity experiences. I won’t cover the ports - it was a Western Caribbean and been to all of them. Spent most of the time on the ship. So here goes.
Embarkation: With barely 800 passengers, it’s not nearly as crowded as our previous cruises. The larger ships handled the 2000+ well, but this was better than nice: as we walked into the terminal, they asked us if we were suites or standard SR, and gave us a number. When called (waited about 10min), we walked onboard and checked in there. Given our keycard, gave them our paperwork and charge card and that was that. 5min max. Handed a drink as we walked further in and off to a lunch in the main dining room, not a buffet. And was introduced to ‘Crystal’ Dining - wow. Will talk on that shortly.
Ship: very elegant but low key. Lower ceilings than other larger ships which gave all the common areas a more intimate feel. Many bar and seating areas. The Avenue Bar is like a pub with wood paneling and lovely pub bar. Pianos and live music in most of the bars. The ship has a nice and inviting game/card room. We played lots of bridge and had classes. Was never crowded in any of the common areas. the Palm Court on the top deck forward was unbelievable. Elegant-great bar-seating for groups and couples. Windows with all around views. The place to be at sea. Ship has a true Promenade Deck. Wood and fully wraparound. Great walking and jogging or standing and just viewing the sea. Loved it.
Shopping: All was very high end, so for us, not needed. Beautifully laid out, but only a small section for ‘oops, I forgot something’ type items. Didn’t use any of the stores, but nicely laid out. Standard Lines such as Celebrity have more day-to-day items and clothing and lots of sales and ‘buy 2 and get 3’ type sales. Crystal didn’t have any big sales pitches and everyone going through piles of clothes and stuff.
Dining: Here is the major plus. the Marketplace ‘buffet’ is only called that because of it’s layout but it was outstanding in choice and quality. I love the Celebrity buffets but this blew me away. The main dining in the Waterside was fantastic. No set time and no reservations. You walk up, ask for a table for 2 or 4 or whatever and you are seated. Great quality and options. I love lamb and it was so tender, I almost didn’t need a knife. Great fish and steaks. All high quality. the entrees and appetizers were relatively small so I could try multiple dishes. The Grill was well beyond a hamburger/hotdog grill. It had many salads and sandwiches, including a Ruben I’d die for. Each bar had snacks and the Bistro was a great place for pastries and light snacks and coffees and expresso-styles. Loved all of it.
Specialty Restaurants: You get a least 2 dinings at these restaurants. Each we tried was unique. We loved Prego - Italian and outstanding steaks and fish. Umi Uma was Japanese and our favorite. Great choices. Silk was Chinese. It was nice, but I thought the Marketplace choices were better.
Entertainment: I was mainly concerned that a small ship would have mediocre main entertainment. I was wrong. It was excellent. Not as fine as the larger Lines, but the theater is smaller and you are very close to the singers and dancers. Fun. Excellent quality. They had a magician from the Magic Castle in LA that killed it with up-close slight of hand. But one of the weak areas was activities during in port times. It was almost nonexistent. Not a big issues since we can entertain ourselves, but if you are not going to spend all day ashore, it’s very quiet. Nice, but quiet.
Service. A+. Excellent ratio and well trained personnel. They were always working to meet your needs and wishes. Never went ‘dry’ with servers coming up to check. Not obtrusive, but always available. Room steward was a charmer. Very attentive and went the extra mile. We had a very bad night and day returning to New Orleans with 50+kt winds and huge waves. She came in to check us and would have got us meds if needed. The entire staff was fantastic. My experience was Celebrity also had great service, but Crystal just had more staff per passengers so more overall attention.
Drinks: I wasn’t sure if the all-inclusive drinks would be that handy (I enjoy a few drinks but don’t get the packages on other ships), but it was just great. It was so nice having a glass of wine and a server walking up and asking if I needed a refill. Good quality cocktails.
Smoking: I’m a non-smoker and was concerned because the Crystal website shows more than a bit of smoking areas. But it was fine. the outside smoking areas were mainly on the very stern of a few decks and didn’t interfere with me and gave the smokers a nice place. One inside smoking bar for cigars was available. Again, I was concerned because on a Princess ship, whenever you walked even semi-close to the bar, there was smoke all over the place. But this had a double-door set up and it wasn’t an issue for me.
Ports: Not going to discuss ports. Standard ones on a Western Caribbean and only did one tour and wandered a few ports on own. One issue: it appeared Crystal had lower priority for the docking and anchoring locations compared to all the other Lines. In all cases, the docking and anchoring locations were further from the main port facilities. One port we anchored and the other three ships docked.
Disembarkation: Returned to New Orleans about 5 hrs late: big winds and waves (10 on the Beaufort scale! With 50+it’s winds). Stayed in SR all day and night. Docked at an alternative pier in NO and they had shuttles to the main terminal.
All-Inclusive: I’m not going through what the actual costs were, I just say, I paid for one photo (yup, did the come aboard shot) and one tour. That was it. This was truly all-inclusive: Quality drinks, wine, soft drinks; two specialty dining venues; Gratuities; Laundry room with iron; Specialty coffees and snacks; Room service; unlimited Wi-Fi on multiple units. What cost: tours; Laundry/dry cleaning; ‘upscale liquor’, but what I drink wasn’t. Yes, I know nothing is ‘free’ and paid for in the overall costs. But I ran the numbers comparing this cruise to a standard large cruise line costs by adding the additional charges for gratuities, drink packages, unlimited WiFi, 2 specialty dining. The difference would be about $450 for two people. But since I’m Elite Plus on Celebrity, and I wouldn’t get the drink package and pay a smaller amount for unlimited Wi-Fi, the different approach $950. Was it worth it? You Bet! Don’t know if this is similar for longer and more ‘exotic’ cruises.
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