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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2016
I chose this cruise because I wanted to try Crystal. It was everything I hoped it would be. Service was impeccable. Food was delicious. On sea days, there was plenty to do, and I really enjoyed the cultural/historical emphasis on ... Read More
I chose this cruise because I wanted to try Crystal. It was everything I hoped it would be. Service was impeccable. Food was delicious. On sea days, there was plenty to do, and I really enjoyed the cultural/historical emphasis on shipboard activities. Great lectures, art classes, Bridge classes, etc. No hairy chest contests or "art" auctions here! Also no hawking of gift shop wares, no pressure at all. Crew and fellow passengers were gracious. I traveled Solo, and couldn't have been happier----the dining room made the effort to seat 8 of us together, which was SO nice. I made friends right away. I took the Crystal shore excursions at each port, and found them to be exactly as described and well-run. I liked the security of being in a group, and a Crystal crew member accompanied the tours. It was nice to know that the Crystal staff was there, in case of any problems that might arise. This was in addition to the Tour Guide. I was actually on TWO cruises; it was a "back-to-back" experience. Miami to Monte Carlo (16 days) and then Monte Carlo to Venice (8 days). I enjoyed Crystal so much that I have already booked 3 more cruises with them! Two for 2017 and one for 2018. Crystal is the best! Read Less
23 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2016
Crystal gets such wonderful reviews that I definitely wanted to experience the line and its self proclaimed 6*+ cruising. The itinerary was perfect for us as we prefer long times at sea. Dining: The food on the Symphony was ... Read More
Crystal gets such wonderful reviews that I definitely wanted to experience the line and its self proclaimed 6*+ cruising. The itinerary was perfect for us as we prefer long times at sea. Dining: The food on the Symphony was disappointing. It does not come near the food served other luxury cruise lines. We had a number of dishes that were inedible, e.g. under-cooked pancakes, tough and dry duck and tasteless shrimp. Now there were some excellent dishes, but the quality was inconsistent. The chef was miserly with vegetables. Fish was served without fish knives. The menus were full of typos, spelling mistakes and grammar errors. Sorry I am being picky, but this is supposed to be a superb high quality line. Prego was excellent, but Silk Road was reasonable sushi bar at best. Silk Road's much touted black cod was overly sauced with teriyaki so that it was impossible to taste the cod. Eating in the casual venues such as the Bistro and the Trident Grill was always a pleasure. The sandwiches at tea were dry. (We went twice.) We chose Dining by Reservation. This was a mistake. I don't think the ship is structured to handle the flexibility of this programme. Usually we were placed in the middle of the dining room, which meant that it was also the center of the hub-bub as the staff prepared for the second sitting. Service: The service was impeccable in the dining room, the bars and all drinking and eating venues. It was impressive how quickly the staff learned personal preferences. The concierge desk went out of the way to offer us a cheaper, yet very comfortable transfer at the end of the cruise. Embarkation: This was very pleasant and handled with ease. One felt welcomed on the ship. Entertainment: The main shows were abysmal. Most of the cast were talented, but they could not rescue the amateurish material with which the had to work. Ill fitting costume and wigs added to the bad community theater feeling of the shows. The two solo performers were excellent. The lounge/bar performers were all excellent, especially the charming Mark in the Avenue Saloon. Shore Excursions: These were ordinary. Possibly because the two ports are very small Crystal had no choice of suppliers, but they were certainly not the promised "Crystal Adventures." The Ship: The re-fit of the ship has created many elegant and comfortable spaces.The cabins are silent and the bathrooms make amazing sue of small spaces. Unfortunately the refit stopped at the aft end of the ship. The dining room is a dark and noisy space with light fixtures that are dated and probably always ugly. The placing of the serving stations may be efficient, but they increase the noise level.The Stardust Club is an underused, undefined and dated space. My fantasy would be to change it into a second dining room so that open seating would be possible. The announcement-free environment was superb. Enrichment and Daytime Programmes: All excellent. Cruise Director: I do not usually point out individuals in a review, but the Cruise Director on this cruise was completely useless. Although he was always smiling, he was not friendly and certainly did not play the role of the host that most cruise directors assume. His emceeing was so bad it was embarrassing. At disembarkation he did not know what was happening and managed upset some very elderly passengers. He walked away from them (still smiling) completely unaware of the chaos he created. Small Complaints: A formal night on the last night this segment was inconvenient. As the next day was at sea for the ongoing passengers, a last formal night could have been scheduled then. One of our two day laundry orders took 4 days to arrive in our cabin. The attendant's explanation was a shrug and a giggle. We used express check out. Our bill arrived 15 minutes before we were to board our transfer and was full of mistakes. I have never had this happen on any other line. Summary: Would I sail on Crystal again? Maybe, if they offered a really spectacular itinerary. I would certainly board with 4* expectations and maybe I would be surprised. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2015
My three sons just returned from a 7 day, pre Christmas, Caribbean cruise on Crystal Symphony. We had sailed on the same ship 18 months ago to Eastern Canada. On both voyages we have been impressed with the Crystal Experience. The line ... Read More
My three sons just returned from a 7 day, pre Christmas, Caribbean cruise on Crystal Symphony. We had sailed on the same ship 18 months ago to Eastern Canada. On both voyages we have been impressed with the Crystal Experience. The line provides a traditional luxury cruise experience, which is very hard to find nowadays. I would give top marks to the great food and service on the ship. Every single meal we had on the ship was a delight. We like having an assigned table and assigned waiters at dinner at night, that way we got to know the waiters and they got to know us. Casual dining for breakfast and lunch was greatly enjoyed at outdoor Trident Grill. Special kudos go out the the deck stewards who provided us with drinks and other deck services . I really like the large swimming pool on this ship. Excellent for actually swimming laps and almost never crowded. The large hot tub is also a delight. My three sons greatly enjoyed use of the paddle tennis court. The full wrap around outdoor promenade deck is also a great feature. Would be better if they added at least a few deck chairs on the promenade deck. Daytime lectures on history and politics were first rate. Nightime entertainment was extensive. Very nice real live band to provide music for production shows (no recorded music). Excellent smaller bands in other small lounges. In Transit Jazz trio was a standout in the Palm Court at night. First rate dancers in the shows...some of the song selections not to my taste, but overall production shows were very good. Only critical thing I noted on entertainment was the very poor choice of movies in movie theatre...they had nothing but second rate movies When we were aboard 18 months ago they had excellent choice of first run recent major movies. The crew is excellent. And really if you are sailing Crystal, you are going for the crew, the service, and the food. These are the areas in which they excel. The size of the ship, (900 passengers), would have been considered a large ship in 1975, but is now considered mid size. I like this size of ship. Big enough to provide alot of activities and space, but not too big to walk around on from place to place. It is true that Crystal does not have large rooms compared to other cruise lines in this category. However, the rooms are well laid out and have alot of storage. Rooms are very quiet. Air conditioning in rooms easy to control. I highly recommend Crystal. Except for Movies, we found standards aboard to be exactly the same as 18 months ago. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2015
We love Crystal...especially the Symphony. The staff knows your name and provides wonderful, personalized service without being excessive. The ship is perfectly maintained. The cabins are not as large as some on newer ships but that is ... Read More
We love Crystal...especially the Symphony. The staff knows your name and provides wonderful, personalized service without being excessive. The ship is perfectly maintained. The cabins are not as large as some on newer ships but that is probably why the two Crystal ships (the Serenity and Symphony) are such a good value. In spite of the cabin size, there is plenty of storage. There is so much to do onboard (good speakers, computer, foreign language and bridge classes on every cruise) that there is no reason to spend much time in your cabin. Admitedly, the entertainment is geared to the 'conservative' 50+ passenger. You aren't going to find costume contests and 'wild' pool entertainment. The fitness center has the most modern equipment (plenty of it) and many free classes...Stretch, Pilates, etc. The food is very good and the 'inclusive' wines and spirits are quite satisfactory with a large selection of both. In fact, most of the spirits are premium quality (e.g., Makers Mark). The Silk Road (Nobu's Japanese restaurant) is wonderful as is Prego, the Italian restaurant. With the new management, I have noticed a couple 'cut-backs'. There are few free shuttles into town. You either need to take a tour or arrange your own transportation if the city is not within walking distance. In the dining room, caviar is on the menu several nights, but you can no longer order it at any meal as you once could. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2015
Having sailed with Crystal a few times before one is always wondering if like other cruise lines cutbacks and nickel and diming features have crept in which are so common on other mainstream cruising companies. Crystal promotes itself as a ... Read More
Having sailed with Crystal a few times before one is always wondering if like other cruise lines cutbacks and nickel and diming features have crept in which are so common on other mainstream cruising companies. Crystal promotes itself as a luxury cruise line and has an outstanding record of winning top awards in this class over the years. The November 2015 cruise was a 14 day Caribbean cruise from and returning to Miami. I do not propose to write about any of the ports I will just concentrate on the ship and on-board facilities and activities. The website has a very comprehensive and easy to navigate pre cruise section for those booked allowing tours and spa treatments to be viewed and booked, pre payment is not required, I believe that changes can be made on-board if desired. Speciality restaurant bookings can be made, on a 14 day cruise two visits to each restaurant are complimentary, it is possible to tie up speciality dining with other guests whom you know to be on-board via this pre-cruise website. Each voyage has a dedicated website section showing full details of Principal Officers, entertainers and speakers. Crystal often attach themes to their cruises and appropriate details are viewable online. I had booked a guarantee stateroom, ten days before cruising I was able to find out which room had been allocated via the pre booking website, I had expected either my agent or Crystal to email me with a room number but this did not happen, I think it is a courtesy to inform a guest their room allocation if decided before embarkation day. Embarkation in Miami went smoothly and on-time, the Miami onshore staff were rather dictatorial in telling guests where to sit in order to determine boarding time, those arriving early boarded first, perhaps it would have been better to have handed out cards with numbers so that waiting guests could sit where and with whom they wanted. Once boarded we were directed to the Starlite Lounge where keycards were handed out by on-board by Crystal crew members and passports were kept. At this stage the cruise started with a lovely leisurely champagne lunch in the main dining room, for those wanting a less formally served lunch burgers and pizza were available at Tastes on the Lido deck. How does a luxury cruise differ from a mass market ship some will ask apart from the obvious price difference? Better guest space ratio, service from staff who quickly get to know you and anticipate your every wish within reason, food which is better in taste, variety and quality and freely available quality drinks and wines. An interesting enrichment program is expected on a luxury cruise. Did Crystal Symphony tick these boxes? The ship takes around 950 guests when full, there were rarely any lines, the lido buffet was occasionally busy at breakfast when guests had tours booked, once the ship was docked and cleared, tables were always available and there were rarely waits to order omelettes or other cooked to order dishes, often the omelette chef would deliver the food himself to my table, now that is service! Sunbeds were readily available on sea days, surprisingly there was a small element of the towels on beds reserving syndrome. Lido servers are very evident in seeing whether sunbathing guests want drinks and are happy to bring whatever you want be it water or alcoholic cocktails. They also brought around cool towels. There are often comments that the Crystal Symphony rooms are small, compared with rooms on newer ships like the newer “S” class Celebrity ships with which I am familiar, the fact is that yes the rooms are smaller however there seems to be more drawer space and an equal amount of wardrobe space, the bathrooms are probably bigger with a double sink and small bath tub with shower. I found the room very adequate, new mattresses have been supplied which are very comfortable, the TV in my room was one of the older type, I understand that they are gradually replacing them with modern flat screen models. The servicing of the room by my stewardess was first class, she got to know my routine and did the room when I was out and about the ship. I told her the type of drinks that I wanted my refrigerator stocked with and she made sure that they were replenished without asking. The bathroom had a small plumbing problem and she ensured that it was fixed when I mentioned it, I was surprised that she had not noticed it without being pointed out by me when it got particularly evident one evening. Evening dining is one of the highlights of the day. The maitre di placed me as requested on a table for eight, he worked his magic and gathered together a wonderful group of table mates. We were lucky to have a marvellous Portuguese waitress who took care of our dining requirements in exemplary style. The training given to dining and bar staff on Crystal must surely equate to standards found in the best establishments in the world. The sommelier ensured that wine flowed freely and she was pleased to explain and recommend the complimentary wines available if she was busy our waitress made sure that the glasses were replenished herself. Food quality and variety is most important on any cruise ship, Crystal ticks all the boxes there, lido lunches are often themed, sometimes to echo the ship’s location, the dining room is also open most days for lunch for those who like a relaxed served meal. The coffee bar Bistro is open most of the day with comprehensive self service food items, breads, cakes, meats and cheeses. These are constantly refreshed so do not become tired. The available food items here are very welcome if you arrive back from tour in the afternoon after the buffet has closed and want a snack other than the burgers, pizza and ice cream available from Tastes on the Lido deck. Afternoon tea is professionally served in the deck 11 Palm Court lounge. The evening dining menu has choices of modern cuisine on one side of the menu or more traditional items on the other side, there is no problem mixing between the two menus, small portions can be ordered if desired to make an extra course or for those who do not want to be outfaced with a standard sized portion. By arrangement with the section maitre di special requests can be served if ordered the night before. I believe that Crystal stand alone in the luxury cruise market in still having two evening meal sittings, for those who prefer more flexibility there is an option of Dining by Reservation which affords you ultimate freedom, inviting you to dine at a different time, at a different table, just for two or with other guests with whom you choose to dine. This option can be selected at the time of booking. Once your cruise is fully paid, you may then reserve your personal dining times on the pre cruise website section. Times and table size can also be arranged on-board with the maitre di. The two speciality restaurants are pre-bookable via the website once full payment has been made as well as when you are on-board, Silk Road has Nobu trained chefs specialising in oriental fusion food and sushi. Prego is the Italian inspired restaurant my favourite dish being mushroom soup served in a bowl made of bread. Both of these restaurants are well regarded by regular Crystal cruisers it is indeed a treat to dine in either, service food and ambiance is excellent. The enrichment program changes on each voyage, Crystal bring on-board an amazing galaxy of quality speakers and expert teachers who take classes. Some of the classes available on sea days included Berlitz languages, computing, dancing, bridge, knitting and sewing, art, iPad for movies classes and exercise classes including yoga, stretch and Pilates, all complimentary. Its up to you whether you take it easy or rush around the ship doing as much as possible in the day. Entertainment generally consists of evening shows repeated twice, one for early and one for late sitting, like most cruise lines some of the shows have been running for a number of years, changes have been made, I believe that some of the scenery props have been replaced by back projection. The Crystal ensemble of singers and dancers were very talented and I thought that the shows were well produced and performed to a high standard, I especially enjoyed the Elton John show, apparently the principal performer is flown to the ship for each voyage, he may perform the show at the end of one cruise and the beginning of the next one. Crystal seem to have a number of show time performers who appear regularly on their ships so if you are a repeat cruiser it is highly likely that you will have seen the act before. Close up magic shows are presented on sea days, tickets are available in the library on a first come basis, they may put on three performances on each sea day with tickets limited to around 15 guests each show. Crystal Cruises seem to have the ability to retain staff, on any voyage there can be a good number of staff who you have previously met, they invariably remember previous guests and some even remember your preferences, this relationship is unusual in todays cruise industry and it does make Crystal special. The staff greet you with a genuine welcome home when they recognise a past cruiser, this is special. I started this review by mentioning cutbacks on other cruise lines, what has changed on Crystal Symphony over the years, I can only bring to mind three things, there are no more pillow chocolates, I am quite happy to live without this, some years ago caviar was available on request, it is still available but is chargeable, thirdly not a cut back, trivia held on sea days has been changed to a game of multiple choice using an electronic handheld keypad, Crystal please bring back the old game with no multiple choice but using genuine brainpower and memory and no electronics. 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
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2013
We had high expectations for our first Crystal Cruise. Boarding was a breeze, our room was fine. Staff on board quickly got to know our names and our favorite drinks. The trouble started when we would return to our room and smell heavy ... Read More
We had high expectations for our first Crystal Cruise. Boarding was a breeze, our room was fine. Staff on board quickly got to know our names and our favorite drinks. The trouble started when we would return to our room and smell heavy cigarette smoke. My husband and I spent the night coughing. This occurred for 3 days and then we asked our room stewardess about it. She said she would check with her supervisor. She returned to tell us that the people in the room next door were smoking. The smoke was being carried through the ventilator into our room. After this we complained to the front desk. The next day we were told that we could move our room. They had a room with a partially blocked view and one at the very back of the ship that we could have. We had paid a premium for our room and did not want to move to an inferior room. No compensation was offered and we refused. Subsequently we noticed that the smoker in the room beside us was a crew member which made us wonder why they did not move them instead. So we suffered the entire cruise inhaling second hand smoke and coughing through every night. The ports we visited were also not very good. In the first port Barbados, we signed up for a snorkel and swim with turtles on one of the excursions. We were taken to a reef that was clearly dead and brown and had few fish, then the crew threw out some bread crumbs to attract a couple of turtles near us. The excursion was not good. Our next port was Devils Island, which was the place of an old prison. Not much was left of it and it was hardly worth getting tendered to shore for. One of the ports was Belem, which was at the mouth of the Amazon. We arrived and the ship reportedly had no where for the tenders to tie up. Eventually they tied up to a public ferry boat that we had to climb up to and walk through the crowd of locals to reach the shore. The excursion was a boat trip on the Amazon river. It consisted of a walk through the jungle and return to a badly looking tour boat. Since the tide must have gone down when we came back, we were forced to walk a narrow plank and I had to sit on my behind and edge myself onto the boat. No water or refreshments were offered and we sat on plastic garden chairs. Hardly the luxury, the Crystal name evokes. The other ports in Brazil were Fortaleza, Recife, Salvador and not really worth seeing unless you liked dirty streets and craft markets. On board life was ok with plenty to do. They had a wonderful lecture series on the Middle East given by Mark Ginsberg. Also a retired judge gave some interesting lectures. Not much action around the pool during the day, just allot of relaxing going on. I did some knitting and needlepoint. I tried to learn Bridge but the instructor was not too keen on instructing novice players although she did put aside an hour a day to teach us the basics. The food was fabulous. Wait staff and Matre D were wonderful and would prepare us special desserts or dishes if we asked. Entertainment on board was ok with some very good acts and some that were a little boring to me. I guess the average age was 65-70 so most the entertainment and music catered to that age group. No one in the casino, not much action in the evening after the entertainment was over.   Read Less
Sail Date: March 2012
I know that many people love Crystal Cruises, in fact most of the passengers on my cruise had sailed Crystal numerous times, but I am not one of them and do not plan on sailing Crystal again. I was bored out of my mind!!!!Daytime ... Read More
I know that many people love Crystal Cruises, in fact most of the passengers on my cruise had sailed Crystal numerous times, but I am not one of them and do not plan on sailing Crystal again. I was bored out of my mind!!!!Daytime activities were limited to one trivia and 1 bingo per day plus some lectures, a mid-afternoon movie and dance classes. I read a lot of books on this crossing! The food and service were no better than what I have experienced on many cruise lines that charge much less than Crystal does. I did not find the food or the service excellent or exceptional (except for Prego - see below). The boring breakfast buffet at the Lido Cafe was the same ever morning and the lunch buffet was quite limited and boring also. Food in the dining room was OK, except for my medium rare steak arriving overcooked every night except for the first one. Most passengers loved the free drinks and the wines flowed freely. I don't drink but was happy to have all the Coke Zeros and bottled water I wanted. 2 good things - the delicious cupcakes in the Bistro Cafe and my dinner at Prego- only in that restaurant were the food and service exceptional. It was the best meal I had while on the cruise and I can see why it was fully booked every night. My balcony cabin was much smaller than a balcony cabin on any other cruise line I have sailed, the bathroom was tiny and the bed was as HARD AS A ROCK. If I hadn't been able to get a puffy mattress pad that made the bed a little softer I would have slept on the floor. The pillows were plentiful and wonderful, however. The bathroom was very small with a tub/shower combo. Good water pressure and plenty of hot water and bath sheets that actaually went all the way around me. Thankfully, very few (maybe 10) children on the cruise. Passengers were well-heeled and well-traveled but fun to be with and not snooty at all. Everybody seemed to actually stick to the daily evening dress code. You saw very few (if any!) around the ship in shorts or tee-shirts after 6PM. As this was a big band theme cruise, there was plenty of dancing and gentlemen hosts to dance with some of the single ladies. Many places around the ship to listen to various types of music. Casino-old slot machines that did not pay and ate your money. There were some interesting classes such as beginning Berlitz Spanish, Yamaha keyboard and various computer classes. I prefer a cruise with many more daytime activities that I like to do. You won't see me on a Crystal ship again anytime soon! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2012
Yes, I had the over mentioned goal when I booked my 3rd cruise with Crystal. When I saw for the first time of this cruise half a year before departure I quickly made my mind up and called to my TA. This transatlantic cruise was just what I ... Read More
Yes, I had the over mentioned goal when I booked my 3rd cruise with Crystal. When I saw for the first time of this cruise half a year before departure I quickly made my mind up and called to my TA. This transatlantic cruise was just what I needed after a hectic working period. "Do as much, or as little as you want". I was fixed to the latter one. From previous two cruises with Crystal I knew what was going to be ahead. Good food, good service, no need to do anything if one does not want. During a lot of sea days there must be a different program on board for all and it was good quality - if one wanted to participate. I listened couple of interesting lectures, participating music lessons (maybe too simple), afternoon teas etc. I am definitely not a person that needs lot of activities, rather quiet peaceful sojourn with relaxed music. I personally didn't mind too much of the theme of the cruise (Ballroom Dancing) but Glenn Miller's orchestra is professional. Show Lounge programs were very high quality. Only drawback was perhaps those ladies that talked during one show with each other and screamed and whistled as teenagers. Yes - this was Crystal's first "All Inclusive" voyage, but if consideration vanishes with wine, I think that those ladies were not in the right cruise ship. Weather happened to be fair or sunny during the whole cruise so there was possible to on deck outside. Even though all staterooms were booked there was plenty available deck chairs and - as one can expect from Crystal - no crowding feeling anywhere. Visit in Funchal, Madeira was arranged with no surprises, but as expected. The English of the local guide was very good and she could tell details as thoroughly as it was possible in a short time. Embarkation in Miami was smooth from arrival to terminal until embarkation on board. Early embarkation was not this time possible, but some food was arranged in terminal. Disembarkation In Lisbon went effortless. I only wonder where all suitcases should have been if it had rained. Now they were outside under the sky. For me this was a holiday as I wanted. Perhaps next time will be Transpacific in 2014. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2012
The quality of the food, the service, the entertainment and overall ambience was much superior to that we have experienced on other cruise lines. The first day we heard two discussions among different groups about whether Seabourn or ... Read More
The quality of the food, the service, the entertainment and overall ambience was much superior to that we have experienced on other cruise lines. The first day we heard two discussions among different groups about whether Seabourn or Crystal was the best cruise line with no agreed conclusion except that it had to be one of the two. I'll just list in no particular order some of things we liked: - Spotless cabins and public areas - The cabin was small but had ample storage - The service staff made an effort to learn the names of passengers and greet them by name. - Every effort was made to accommodate the wishes of passengers and to create a family type atmosphere - There were a high percentage of repeat customers loyal to Crystal indicating consistent quality - some had taken over 50 cruises on Crystal. - We could bring on a bottle of liquor each for use in our cabins - Bingo was cancelled for lack of interest! - There were no sales of kitschy "art" - The computer setup was great with free lessons and help readily on hand for problems - There were few announcements on the PA -- absolutely none of the type "trivia begins at 1:30" - Excellent lecturers like Tex Harris on world affairs and Sylvia Rimm on family issues enhanced the already very good enrichment program. The cruise left from Miami, went to Barbados and then to Devil's Island where we couldn't land because of the surf. The ship then sailed along the coast of Brazil. A stop at Salvador was cancelled because of a police strike and then on to Maceio. A stop at Bouzios, a pleasant beach resort, was substituted for Salvador. Finally we ended up at Rio during Carnival -- a fabulous time. The failure to land at Devil's Island although beyond the control of Crystal was handled very well. The Cruise Director quickly reconfigured the day's program to a sea day and had it printed and distributed to passengers within a couple of hours. Free drinks were offered in all the bars during the two hours before dinner. A nice recovery which contrasted with our April 2011 cruise on the old Royal Princess which missed a stop at Easter Island and made no effort at "make-up". The attitude toward passengers is much more positive on Crystal than on Princess. The only sour note on the cruise was our stop at Maceio. It's a dump and the passengers couldn't understand why the ship stopped there. Shabby and rundown buildings with flaking walls covered in graffiti were all there was to see. The guides on the Crystal tour buses with one exception were poor English speakers and didn't understand the concept of bathroom breaks. We ended up spending an hour in a lace market street with not very good products. We'd strongly recommend that Crystal not call there again. The old adage "you get what you pay for" is certainly true here -- it costs more to cruise on Crystal but it's a higher quality experience. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2012
Although the Crystal Symphony is older than the Seabourn Sojorn we last sailed on, the ship is maintained in top condition. Beautiful inside and out with amazing attention to detail. With about 900 passengers, we never felt crowded in ... Read More
Although the Crystal Symphony is older than the Seabourn Sojorn we last sailed on, the ship is maintained in top condition. Beautiful inside and out with amazing attention to detail. With about 900 passengers, we never felt crowded in this spacious vessel. The Captain and crew were wonderful, although the no handshake policy was a little strange, no matter how much sense it makes. It felt a little odd. Maybe you could post hand sanitizers just past the receiving line? But, the crew were courteous, industrious, and efficient. The main dining room was a little less formal than Seabourn or Regent but still elegant. And, the maitre'd made special desserts several evenings which were great. Grand Mariner souffle, cheeries jubilee, bananas foster, viola!! And, a special filled birthday cake for one of our tablemates who were all wonderful. We sat with 3 other couples and their presence made the meatimes special. We stopped in St Thomas, St Maarteen, and Curacao on the way to the canal and just walked the towns to get a feel. They were all picturesque, friendly, warm, and quaint but like a lot of other Caribbean ports. Amazing yatchs in St Thomas harbor though. The Panama Canal should be on everyone's bucket list, what a sight. Just watching the operation was enlightening, well worth the trip. We debarked in Caldera and took a coffee plantation tour up the valley to San Jose. We had lunch at Cafe Britt Coffee Plantation. The Costa Rican food was great and we were schooled on coffee production from seed to brew. The San Jose Marriott was beautiful in old colonial style of heavy dark wood and wrought iron. With an open roof over the courtyard and open hallways. Like living outdoors. A quick 10 minutes to the airport and home. All in all, a great adventure. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2011
This moderate duration cruise was our first on Crystal and the first on the Symphony. Our overall impression was very positive. The size of the ship (900 passengers is small these days) was better than we had hoped. During the cruise we ... Read More
This moderate duration cruise was our first on Crystal and the first on the Symphony. Our overall impression was very positive. The size of the ship (900 passengers is small these days) was better than we had hoped. During the cruise we had the opportunity to meet and recognize a wide variety of other passengers. We were able to establish friendships with two of the artists who performed on the cruise, something we had not done on larger ships. Embarkation went efficiently, disembarkation went a little slow but this appeared to be a delay caused by USA officials. Once the officials authorized disembarkation the Crystal staff handled things efficiently. Leaving and returning to the ship at the ports went smoothly. Our cabin was well appointed and gave us plenty of room for the two week cruise. One bag was just a little too tall to slide under the bed but the staff stored it until the last night of the cruise. Cabin service was very good with just one minor issue - one day the stewardess for got to leave clean wash cloths. When we contacted the staff we received new wash cloths within 15 minutes. Our butler was superb we could not imagine better service delviered by anyone! We tried open dining and were very pleased with it. Each night we started around 30 minutes after the first seating which allowed us more time to complete daily activiities before dressing for dinner. The dining room staff was marvelous and went above and beyond to cater to my wife's low sodium diet restrictions. The choices of excursions were a little limited. However two of them - one in Cartagena and one to an archaeological site in Huatalco were excellent. We went out on our own in Georgetown, Grand Cayman and in Puerta Vallarta and enjoyed ourselves each time. The highlight of the cruse was the full transit of the canal. We had two very knowledgable speakers on the canal with great pre-transit talks and great commentary during the transit. The other speakers during the cruise were also great and with the length of the cruise and the small number of passengers we got the opportunity to establish a friendship with two of them. The entertainment was good with variety of individual artists interspersed with the regular musical variety. Overall we had a wonderful time and will very seriously consider Crystal again. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2011
We signed up for our first cruise experience with Crystal with many recommendations from friends. We were not disappointed. Crystal Symphony's crew made us feel welcome from the get go. We were part of the "Mix & Mingle" ... Read More
We signed up for our first cruise experience with Crystal with many recommendations from friends. We were not disappointed. Crystal Symphony's crew made us feel welcome from the get go. We were part of the "Mix & Mingle" reception and met a few other Cruise Critic board members plus the cruise directors and hotel manager. We shared questions and got great support. We were especially pleased to have met Jane Salk, Crystal Society's hostess for this cruise. She made us feel part of the "Crystal family". We had delightful table mates, who will be our friends forever. The waitstaff was outstanding and it seemed "no problem" for our special requests that veered from the menu set for the day. Amazing! We did get great information ahead of time from Crystal Cruises and Cruise Critic which was an enormous help for us as first time cruisers. We would highly recommend that new cruisers seek out the info we did and just ask. Most folks gave us good info. We know we will be cruising with Crystal in the near future and it's just deciding as to where do were want to go. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2009
Since there has not been a current review of the Symphony since her Fall of 2009 dry dock, I felt that an update was called for. My background includes over forty cruises in the past ten years, including a World Cruise on the Serenity in ... Read More
Since there has not been a current review of the Symphony since her Fall of 2009 dry dock, I felt that an update was called for. My background includes over forty cruises in the past ten years, including a World Cruise on the Serenity in 2008. I had last sailed on Symphony in 2006. Since that time, Crystal has upgraded this ship significantly during two major dry docks, investing nearly $50M in improvements and renovations. The result is a new and improved vessel that belies her fifteen year age. Every cabin has been reworked with the appearance and amenities of a boutique hotel, featuring stylish new furnishings and modern baths with granite counters and glass vessel sinks. Most every public area has been updated, with special attention to the Lido and pool areas. The Lido is now more a sit-down eatery than buffet, with separate work stations for a wide variety of cuisine. No lines and no trays result in a more upscale look, similar to that of many brand new ships. Outside at the pool, the look is more resort than ship-like in appearance and function. New plastic wicker furnishings have replaced outdated webbed chairs and colorful cushions in orange and teal lend a very contemporary look. This is not your Father's cruise ship; Symphony looks as modern and chic as any ship at sea. During my World Cruise in 2008, Crystal announced a new Grand Americas Voyage doing a complete circumnavigation of South America and Antarctica, sailing from Miami roundtrip. As I enjoy longer sailings and hate to fly, this was an ideal itinerary and I signed up immediately. My two previous Symphony cruises had taken me up both coasts of South America, but I had yet to visit Antarctica, the Amazon or round the Horn. This trip was a 62 day journey visiting 25 ports of call, including such favorites of mine as Rio, Buenos Aires, Valparaiso and Lima. One could book the entire journey, or a segment or two, much like a mini World Cruise. The Miami to Manaus segment was popular due to promotional pricing. From Manaus to BA was lightly booked, with only 300 guests. The BA to Valparaiso sailing, a Holiday Cruise, was popular with families, despite the premium pricing. The final leg from Valparaiso to Miami was oversold, again due to aggressive pricing and the presence of two groups; Roberta's Bridge Group and Jazzdagin. Neither group caused any disruption of the usual Crystal pleasures, and, in fact, the Jazz music was well liked by most all of the passengers. Throughout the voyage, service never varied due to passenger load. As always, everything onboard was top notch. Living in Fort Lauderdale gives me easy access to the two largest passenger ports on earth. As of this year, FTL has taken over as number one with the arrival of Oasis, but even prior to that, Crystal was squeezed out to Miami by the large number of megaships home porting here. On November 22nd, my Partner drove me to the Port of Miami for embarkation. This was a breeze, taking less than twenty minutes, after which he came on as my guest for lunch and then assisted me in unpacking and settling into my cabin. Sailing solo, I had booked an E Category cabin, #7035, on the Promenade Deck. At 200 square feet, there was plenty of room for me and all my belongings for this two month journey. My Stewardess, Marija, came by promptly to introduce herself and learn about my dining arrangements and special requests. By 2PM all was attended to in the cabin and we took a tour about the ship. While the layout was familiar, every aspect of Symphony looked fresh and new, other than the Main Dining Room and Theater. This is my favorite size of ship, being large enough to have all of the big-ship amenities, but small enough to be intimate and easy to get around. The dEcor is, at once, classic with lots of wood and polished brass, as well as modern and up to date due to loving care and the recent renovations. Dining on either Crystal ship is always something that I look forward to. I am an early riser and head up to the Lido for freshly squeezed juice and coffee around 6AM before heading to the Computer Lab to check E-mails and write my popular reports that I send back home. If you are interested in more details of my trip, you can find them posted on the Boards under 9227C Grand Americas: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1087761 . There, I posted over ten pages covering food, dining, service, hospitality and ports of call during our journey. Suffice to say, the Crystal Experience onboard the Symphony was excellent, as always. Breakfast and lunch in the Lido have achieved new heights with more freshly cooked choices and unmatched service from the Lidoboys. Dinners in the MDR are always special with a wide variety of offerings and menus that seldom repeated, even over a sixty two day cruise. Prego, Silk Road and the Sushi Bar are as outstanding as always, giving a pleasant break from the traditional continental fare served elsewhere. What really sets Crystal apart from any other cruise line is consistency. Meal after meal, crewmember after crewmember, and the desire to fulfill your every wish with outstanding service make Crystal the World's Best. We were particularly fortunate to have Captain Ralf Zander in command as we navigated Antarctica. To summarize briefly, this was an amazing journey on a wonderful ship with the finest crew and officers one could possibly hope for. The ship absolutely sparkles and the service is beyond compare. The itinerary was ideal, other than our stop in Manaus, and we were blessed with perfect weather. Our trip up the Amazon was marred by low river levels; the rainy season had not yet started and the air was foul with acrid smoke from the ongoing slashing and burning of the rainforest. Manaus itself is worth a visit, but not for the three days and two nights we spent there. Our time in Rio was a teasingly short day visit. Buenos Aires remains one of the World's great cities, but has become more commercial and homogenous than my previous visit there. Antarctica was everything and more than I had hoped. If you have never been, put it high on your list! We were amazed by the scenery, the thousands of icebergs and, of course, the Penguins. Rounding the Horn and transiting the Drake Passage were surprisingly calm, more resembling a lake than the treacherous place it is known as. The Chilean Fjords were not as spectacular as I expected, but the rest of our ports were impressive and much improved since my last visits to South America. All said, this was another trip of a lifetime for me and a journey well worth taking. Antarctica was the definitive highlight, surpassing any experience of my World Cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2009
This was our third cruise on the Symphony and each cruise gets better. We haven't sailed on the other luxury lines like SilverSeas and Regent but with the service and quality we receive from Crystal I don't know why I would ... Read More
This was our third cruise on the Symphony and each cruise gets better. We haven't sailed on the other luxury lines like SilverSeas and Regent but with the service and quality we receive from Crystal I don't know why I would venture out of the cocoon for a luxury cruise. I'll leave the ports of call out although I can say that the excursions by Crystal are always good and with the clients it attracts, Crystal has the upscale non eventful excursions. We did have one subpar excursion in Acapulco where the guides English was poor. From our last cruise with Crystal 2 years ago the waiter staff has become better. They were much friendlier and interacted with the passengers much more. Service has always been good but a little more intimate on this voyage. In talking to the Maitre D' I was told that Crystal was concentrating on hiring wait staff that wanted to be waiters rather than moving on to be doctors, lawyers etc. Maybe that is the difference. The ship has been refurbished and the rooms now have LCD/DVD TV's. Bathrooms have been redone with dual glass sinks. Beds and pillows still great and were made to our specs. The entertainment was extraordinary. The in house Crystal dancers and singers were every bit as good as some I've seen in Las Vegas. In fact better. They were high energy, innovative, and the lead singers were super. Considering they did a new show every other night you have to marvel at how they can remember 20 different sets a show. Enrichment lectures were excellent as always with Hugh Downs a guest speaker and Sam Choi the celebrity chef. Besides food Sam is a great stand up comedian. The Starlight Club has been refurbished and the Band that entertains there really had their act together. Kudos to the new female singer from the Philippines who not only had a great voice but individually visited with the guests during band breaks. Food is always good and you can expect to gain weight. 10 pounds if you can control yourself. Otherwise bring some elastic pants for the end of the cruise. Our table of 8 made several non menu requests. Kind of stump the kitchen by the group. They always delivered. Some required delivery the next night but often we were accommodated that meal. Alternative restaurants( Prego and Silk Road) are not to be missed. The main dining room never disappointed however. The Lido cafe and Trident Grill are always available as alternatives and are equally excellent. You'll find that the staff quickly knows you and knows exactly what you want so you can save some words and just say thank you. Of course if you haven't had enough to eat go to the Palm Court for High Tea. The staff even dresses up in period for the Mozart Tea. Of course the string quartet plays Mozart as you have a panoramic view of the Canal as you sail on. A six star cruise with no scrimping because of the economy as some other lines have done from what I gather from talking to friends that have sailed on other lines. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
Although I'd heard the phrase "crystallized" many times before our cruise, I did not truly capture its meaning until we were back at home in Vancouver and shocked into reality. By way of background, we are in our forties, ... Read More
Although I'd heard the phrase "crystallized" many times before our cruise, I did not truly capture its meaning until we were back at home in Vancouver and shocked into reality. By way of background, we are in our forties, fairly well traveled and this was our 5th cruise in less than 3 years. Our previous cruises were with HAL, Disney (with our young daughter), Carnival and Cunard. Our expectations were high but they were all fully met or exceeded. To exemplify this, our special story about members of the staff and crew who will go out of their way to satisfy a request: Halfway through the cruise my husband decided to purchase a set of shocks for his car through a specialty store in LA (don't ask me why). The idea was to have the box delivered to the terminal so that we could fly it back with us to Vancouver. We spoke to Gabor, the Concierge, who not only suggested the best way to accomplish this, but took it upon himself to make all the necessary communications with Crystal's agent in LA and arranged every aspect of it, including following up to update us on the progress. The end result, the box containing four shining high performance shocks was delivered to us on board the morning of disembarkation. Many thanks to Gabor and his team who passed the test with flying colors! Embarkation and Disembarkation We arrived at the terminal shortly after 12:00 noon. We were shown to a waiting area set up with chairs and given a color card. Wait was approximately 40 minutes. Once on board we were greeted by Susan who walked us to the dining room. All in all painless and the beautiful Salmon entrEe with the glass of C Champagne were a great introduction to what was to come. Disembarkation morning - everything was going smoothly until the paging started for a couple of ladies who apparently did not know they had to go through the customs inspection before they would let anyone off the ship. Apparently one of them had to be fetched from her cabin where she was still asleep! It took a while to get that done and by the time we were allowed to leave the ship there were more than a few nervous people who were afraid of missing their early flights. This created a long line and substantial congestion. The Ship The Symphony is a beautiful ship which is constantly being cleaned and maintained to the highest standards. The maintenance crew is efficient and unobtrusive -case in point: the entire midship staircase carpet was replaced in a few days in a way that was not disruptive to the passengers. The affected areas smelled of the carpet glue for short periods of time but the installers worked quickly and without interfering with the comings and goings of the passengers. The public areas are beautiful and decorated in understated good taste to please the majority. One area that could be improved upon is the Starlite Club. There are a few too many club chairs there and trying to move them or reorient them is a bit of a challenge, mostly when there is a full house. Also, the fact that the open side of the lounge is a thru way results in the performance or lecture taking place being disrupted by peoples' chatter and laughter as they go by. The Avenue Saloon is one of my favorite venues, particularly due to Colin Salter's piano. The downside is that smoking is allowed and when there are more than a couple of people lighting up the air becomes a real problem for non-smokers. We are not fussy and can tolerate some smoke but had to leave on a couple of occasions because of it. On a side note: thanks to Colin for playing "my" song every time he saw us come in. There are no crowds or lineups anywhere although some of the venues are very well attended depending on what's going on and you might have to look around for an empty seat. Our cabin on Deck 8 was adequate in size and we had the small sofa as a bit of a bonus - I understand how the sofas are missed by many. The closet and drawer space was also adequate and by moving the life vests off to the back all our clothes fit well. Here is the one and only gripe: the HUGE obstruction. There simply is no view at all from that cabin and we will not choose this type of accommodation ever again. Having an unobstructed view (if a balcony is not possible) is a must for us. In addition, the humongous tender hanging outside the window was routinely being maintained/worked on so we had to continuously close our curtains to avoid having a maintenance person looking in on us! This severely impacted our enjoyment of time spent in the cabin. Caveat emptor, the cabin was described as "limited or extremely limited view", the reality is that there was NO view whatsoever and the cabin was very dark. I do take some responsibility for having chosen this type of cabin knowing that there was an "obstruction" but we ended up with what must have been the worst of them all. We made our feelings known to the concierge in that not all E cabins are equal and that there is a certain amount of misrepresentation by Crystal in that regard. The Food We live in Vancouver, a city of Foodies with a strong, international cuisine atmosphere. There is one comment I make to everyone I tell about our cruise. Food on each and every Crystal venue is of the highest quality, be it the Lido, the buffets, the main Dining Room, Prego, Silk Road, tea, etc. It is all about choices and you can do no wrong. We had not one bad meal, anywhere on board. By the way, I have tried to replicate the burgers from the Trident Grill - so far unsuccessfully I might add. We did dine at Prego twice - the Beef Carpaccio is to die for, so is the famous Mushroom Soup. Tiramisu, the best I've had on land or water. Tea in the Palm Court or at the Bistro was very enjoyable, particularly the Amadeus Hot Chocolate. The Service There is nothing I can say that has not already been said on this board about the level of service. From our friendly, efficient room stewardess Kristel who brought ice for us each night after one such request, and badly needed band-aids from her own supply thus saving me the trip to the shop one evening, to spotless service from our waiter Gabriella, assistant Henri and wine steward Johannes. Worth a special mention, Ivo our Head Waiter, who went out of his way to create a memorable Chinese birthday dinner for my husband and who makes the best Spaghetti Bolognese I've ever had (tableside or not). Needless to say, the Crystal experience would not be the same without the Lido guys - Sonny, I really didn't need the 4 Margaritas you brought me during sailaway from Cabo but I sure enjoyed them! Entertainment Varied and rich, thoroughly enjoyed the production shows but loved the entertainers. What a great new talent Philipa Healey is, Jimmy Travis is a hoot. Full Sail is great and I'm still trying to figure out how mind reader Marc Paul knew what he knew…just to name a few. The special interest lecturers were knowledgeable and personable, always at hand for a chat. Andrew Steigman kept us informed about the history of the places we were seeing and his recount of the history of the canal was very interesting. Nigel West had spot-on, timely talks. Sorry we did not catch any Fred Plotkin's lectures but we did attend the Wine Tasting events - Sommelier Pasquale outdid himself when the anticipated 30 participants turned into almost 150. Fellow Passengers We met many lovely people including our sponsors Jackie and tablemates. As has been said in this board, the Matre D' does a fantastic job matching people up for dining. We also had the pleasure of sharing our table with Steven and Stacey (dance instructors) one evening and with Nigel West another one. We were almost too late for the CC cocktail party as I was not feeling well for a short while but had the pleasure of meeting a few fellow CC'rs. It came as a surprise that the vast majority of the passengers were repeat Crystal cruisers but I'm not surprised anymore as I hope to become one myself soon. It's worth noting that given the size of the ship you are bound to see people you've met all the time. Ports of Call Old Cartegena is a lovely, well preserved town with many, many street vendors; we took a tour of the cathedrals and the guide was knowledgeable and spoke good English. It was a holiday in Colombia that day so many commercial establishments were closed and there were not too many people around. The Canal was obviously the highlight of the cruise; a tremendous feat of engineering and ingenuity - we wished Crystal made stops in Panama City, a sentiment shared by others we met but there may be good reasons not to. Acapulco and Cabo. We decided not to take any tours as we usually like to get the lay of the land by walking around whenever we are new to a place. In this case we feel it may have been better to take the excursions as there is very little to do/see in the port areas. We also had an unpleasant encounter with a man who acted very aggressively toward my husband when told that we were not interested in what he was selling. He threatened my husband with calling the police so that he would "know what Mexican jails are like" and with calling his buddies to teach him a lesson. We walked away from the situation and made our way back to the ship. Memorable Moments Too many to list but to name a few: walking around the Promenade deck in the afternoon hand in hand; breakfast on the Lido Terrace aft deck; dancing and sipping Champagne Bellinis in the Starlite Club; contentedly napping on a lounge chair on one of the aft decks; all in all wonderful memories and experiences. We'll sure be back for more. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
Having previously sailed on Symphony and posted a review, I decided to file a follow-up of the differences from our previous experience. It's said that there is only one chance to make a good first impression. This is true, but our ... Read More
Having previously sailed on Symphony and posted a review, I decided to file a follow-up of the differences from our previous experience. It's said that there is only one chance to make a good first impression. This is true, but our second impression was equally good. We signed-on to this voyage for the obligatory "bucket list" transit of the Panama Canal, and were not disappointed. I selected cabin 8001, which is the most forward one can get on the starboard side. From the photos of Symphony, I noticed that its balcony partition seemed to be cut to provide a forward view when standing at the rail. This is true and provided great vistas during the passage. I had some concerns about wind, and it was breezy at times. However, the aerodynamics of the ship appears to result in an interesting phenomenon: Cabins aft of us were windier and, in fact, their verandas got wet during an intervals of high seas and rain ... 8001 did not. I would recommend 8001 to other Panama Canal bucket-listers. We were lucky because the Symphony made the passage through the port channel. This provided us with a view of the central area of the canal and the large container ship accompanying us in the starboard channel. The (I believe) HAL Zuiderdam preceded us in the lock ahead, but stopped in Gatun Lake and headed back in the afternoon. There was a Society of Wine Educators lecturer aboard who presented a series of three tasting/lecture sessions. The sessions were listed as limited to 50, but when the waiting list expanded the number to 120, they just opened it up to everyone. Pasquale, the sommelier, and his staff had to work hard for these events ... the arithmetic extends to more than 400 wine tasting glasses to set-up and pour (followed by clean-up). It was excellent, and the price was right ... gratis. We had a nice laugh with Pasquale about what became a somewhat "lively" evening at the Vintage Room on our prior voyage. A tip from Pasquale: He gets a budget for these events and can and will arrange it the way you want. Therefore, if you tell him to, he will ease-up a little on the cuisine and put the emphasis on better wines ... something to remember if you are an oenophile. Having booked the voyage to visit the canal, we had no expectations for the ports of call. Cartegena was a pleasant surprise, the old town being quite well preserved and attractive. We were not disappointed with the ports of Grand Cayman, Acapulco, and Cabo because they pretty much met our expectations ... none. To be fair, we live where many folks come to lie on the beach and buy tee shirts and tacky trinkets ... but we did this anyway. Heard in all ports: "Prices coming down ... almost free". After the wives went back to the ship after a morning of hard bargaining in the Acapulco Artisan Market, the husbands continued wandering. We were approached and asked if we wanted to visit a "Happy Hotel". When told the wives probably wouldn't approve of that, the response was "you don't have to bring them" ... yikes, time to get back to the ship! Having experienced the Crystal "never say no", I had planned to special order Clams Casino. This resulted in the only major disappointment on the cruise when the answer was no, all clams are allocated to Prego where, incidentally, Clams Casino is not available. Oh well, there were certainly many other excellent dining options. The cuisine highlight for us was the Silk Road. Earlier this year my wife took me to the local Nobu's for my birthday and the small sampler menu totaled about $100/person. For the amount we "sampled" in Silk road on our three visits there, at "retail", the cost of our voyage was very well "subsidized". Now, they aren't trolling for Ahi from the stern of Symphony as we sail, so the fish was not alive on the morning of our meals. However, it was still as excellent as it could be. We were joined in Silk Road by our "Table 84" mates from Central Canada, where the fish is only raw when hauled over the stern of their boat. They were terrific sports and made it through the entire meal with chopsticks. We hope to reconvene with them in Silk Road at some time in the future. Crystallization Status: The crystals are larger, but not set. Crystal is the best cruise line we have experienced to-date but don't feel parochial enough to declare that it should be sailed to the exclusion of all others. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
Background This was my third cruise and my first on Crystal. Bottom line, it was a great experience. It was a 7-day cruise (which is unusual for this ship, most cruises are longer) for the Western Caribbean from Miami (stops at Progresso ... Read More
Background This was my third cruise and my first on Crystal. Bottom line, it was a great experience. It was a 7-day cruise (which is unusual for this ship, most cruises are longer) for the Western Caribbean from Miami (stops at Progresso and Cozumel in Mexico, Belize, and Key West, with 2 sea days). I traveled as a solo, which was not uncommon as Crystal has a particularly low single supplement rate. Passengers The passengers were mostly 60s and 70s, with a significant number in their 40s and 50s and even more over 70. No children and only a few 30 somethings. Although this is considered a luxury line, the passengers seemed to be from a range of income levels, with most apparently middle class (although it's hard to say because money was not discussed much except to talk about where to find bargains). I thought there were few people with mobility problems, particularly given the age level of many passengers. Everyone one was very friendly and welcoming. A lot of passengers were repeat travelers with a large number apparently limiting their cruising to Crystal-the cruise line apparently has one of the highest percentage of repeat customers in the industry and many were staying on for back-to-back cruises. Ship The ship holds about 1,000 passengers and is not new-it first sailed in 1995, but it has been kept up immaculately, showing absolutely no signs of wear; it looks like it was recently launched. I had to look up its date of launch when I got back because I found it hard to believe its been around for more than a few years. The crew kept all the brass sparkling and carpets clean; never any sign of poor maintenance, including the out-of-the-way places like restrooms and less-frequented outside deck areas. The ship is very well laid out, with most public rooms on the 6th and 11th decks. Art auctions are limited to a small lounge. There is promenade deck that fully circles the ship and plenty of padded lounge chairs around the ships two (relatively small) pools. Plenty of shaded areas as well as places to get some sun. No intrusive piped in music by the pool or in the public areas, although there was plenty of live music around the ship (and poolside at certain times of day). There was a nice movie theatre, a show lounge that was comfortable with good lines of sight, and two public rooms with nice dance floors. Cabins The cabins were beautiful with plenty of lighting including 2 private adjustable reading lamps above the bed (something I really appreciated since I like to read in my room and often hotel room/cruise ship cabin lighting is too dim). There was also a built in night light (a small light under a mirror near the hall) that could be turned on and from a nightstand switch-a nice touch. The bed was large and comfortable (with a mattress with rounded corners). There was plenty of storage room in the closets and desk and the cabin (verandah, non-penthouse) came with a flat-screen tv with built-in DVD player-very nice. For a single there was plenty of room; I thought comparable to the QM2, but someone else who was sharing a cabin and had recently sailed on that ship said the QM2 had larger cabins and the Symphony's was a little tight. A great bathroom with a tub/shower combination with removable shower head and twin sinks. The verandah had two padded chairs and a small table. The cabin also had a small table with adjustable height for in-cabin dining (although I did not test it out). Activities and Shore Excursions There was plenty to do on board, particularly during sea days, with lectures (port and special topics), movies (every afternoon and evening), trivia contests (which I played), bingo (which I did not), classes (art, music, computer (which I tried), languages (which I also tried), and a couple galley tours. The classes I took were very user-friendly and helpful; the lectures were interesting and repeated on the tv. I found the shore excursions very well run. There was a presentation on every shore excursion run all day long on one of the tv channels and it provided very complete information about the ports and highlights for those not taking excursions, as well as about the various ship excursions. The descriptions of shore excursions were soft-sells-explaining the bad parts of the tours as well as the highlights, for example that you could not be guaranteed to see wildlife, that some boats did not have restrooms, the full length of bus trips and those locations that had primitive restrooms, and the modest nature of some provided lunches. The buses were all very comfortable and tour guides interesting and knowledgeable. Excursions could be canceled with no questions asked. The excursion desk was very helpful to me in making a decision about going on an all-day tour. I had a great time at every port in which I took a tour and would highly recommend the ship tours. Entertainment Because this ship was smaller than the two others I have been on I was concerned that the entertainment would suffer. I had no need to worry; the shows were great with fantastic singers and dancers that were in sync more than most on shows I have seen. I was totally satisfied with the entertainment, which is always a high-point for me. I was on a special theme cruise-a jazz cruise, but my comments on the entertainment were on the regular ship's shows and musicians. The jazz (which was great) was just an add-on to the regular entertainment. The television was also good, with a number of channels showing good movies, one channel that showed classic shows (Mary Tyler Moore, Sgt. Bilko, etc.), and a number of channels with information on port excursions and shopping (which was both informative and entertaining). DVDs could be checked out of the ship's library, which had a good selection and a wide variety of genres. The ship's movie theater had movies every afternoon and 2 showing at night (movies were about 6 months after their theater debuts). Dining The food was excellent in all the dining venues I tried. I am not an expert on food, but I thought the selections and taste were good in all the restaurants. The main dining room had two set seating (unusual for the luxury lines), but I much preferred this arrangement from open seating. If you want to eat at other times, the ship has two specialty restaurants-one Italian, one Asian (Japanese/Chinese/Thai) (a modest $7 each). Also good food in the Lido buffet, where staff will carry your tray-a nice touch. There were two specialty poolside buffets during my cruise-one with a Latino theme, the other Asian. The former was particularly good-some of the best food I have every had. There was also afternoon tea served every day in one of the large lounges (Palm Court), with nice sandwiches, cookies, and other treats. On the two sea days there were particularly lavish theme teas-one English, one Austrian (the Mozart tea), that were particularly good. There was a relatively extensive menu for in-room dining, with the option of ordering anything off the regular dining room menu during dinner hours. I limited myself to one late-night snack and there were plenty of choices-sandwiches, pizza, salads, and some similar-type entrees (if I remember), as well as a number of appetizers and desserts, all available 24 hours a day. Service was incredible at all the dining places, fast, non-intrusive, polite. Service Speaking of which, the best part of this cruise was probably the high level of service. My stewardess not only met my expressed needs-asking my preferred fruit and drink and then making sure my cabin was stocked with them every day (all non-alcoholic beverages are free and fruit and flowers are provided in all cabins), but anticipated needs I didn't express. Without asking, she found a stopper from a bottle of champagne I had left unfinished in my cabin and when I finished a small box of tissues I had brought with me from my pre-cruise trip and had left on my desk, she replaced it with a new box, even though there was a tissue dispenser in the bathroom. I found that it I ordered the same drink in a lounge two days in a row, the third day they would know what to bring me (although they asked first to be sure). Fantastic service in every lounge, every dining room, throughout the ship, and in the cabin. Summary Although I wrote that the best part about the cruise was the service, actually the best part were the fellow passengers. Everyone was friendly, polite, and a pleasure to spend time with, a particularly important factor for solo travelers like me. I would recommend this ship and, in fact, made an open booking on board for a future cruise (to be determined). Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
As others have also written reviews, I will try to cover some different areas. This was our 2nd Crystal cruise (20 overall). We booked an oceanview gty and our cabin was just steps away from the pursers deck. I was concerned about noise ... Read More
As others have also written reviews, I will try to cover some different areas. This was our 2nd Crystal cruise (20 overall). We booked an oceanview gty and our cabin was just steps away from the pursers deck. I was concerned about noise and foot traffic due to the location but it turned out perfect. It was wonderful to open our cabin door in the evening and hear the pianist playing in the bistro bar with rarely anyone walking down the hall. We booked for the Jazz and we were quite pleased by the music options. They had 3 events of 2hrs each daily. In addition, there were vintage jazz videos on tv with jazz legends. We even bought some of the musicians CD'S and booked this Jazz cruise again for next yr on the west coast. We loved the music so much we saw little of the standard onboard entertainment. Areas where Crystal amazes...excellent service and staff that give warm smiles making you feel that you are a valued passenger...being led to the dining room for lunch upon embarkation and being given champagne to let you know this is a luxury experience...sailaways with complementary drinks...captain's parties with real appetizers and not something on dried toast...a real ice cream bar with 20+ flavors (no charge all day)where you can get milk shakes and virgin pina coladas...best DVD selection on any ship to rival your favorite blockbuster store. Cabins on Crystal look more like hotel rooms than other cruiselines. All rooms have flat screen tvs and the baths have 2 sinks. Also a more extensive anytime room service menu than the mass market cruiselines. Love not having to pay for sodas or bottled waters especially when you go out on excursions. Not only did they make sure we had 2-3 bottles each they also made sure we had bug spray (did rainforest & jungle tours)and had 2-3 Crystal staff with us on the tour...Also had a CC party for our group which Crystal supplied us with complimentary appetizers and our choice of cocktails...We also took the complimentary Spanish lessons and Juan our teacher was a blast - so enthusiastic and helpful making us really want to learn the language. The same can be said for our music teacher for the Yamaha keyboards. Both simplified the learning process and made it fun. Something else that really pleased us...Crystal is not ashamed to celebrate Christmas & Hannakuh. Lovely decorations throughout the ship and not just at the lobby which we found was the case on Celebrity last year. Regards the luncheon buffets on deck, they are more of what you would find at a 4 star hotel rather than the normal hometown buffet qualify of other cruiselines. We especially liked the Mexican one. We usually avoid that outside of the southwest but Crystal nailed it. The specialty restaurants should not be missed! So many great choices you would want to do them 2x each on longer cruises. Main dining room was wonderful as well. We had a table for 8 but only 7 guests so we were joined my the ship's doctor a couple of evenings (which meant complimentary wine with dinner). Had some of the best lamb entrees anywhere and loved the escargot & oysters rockefeller. They also had caviar as an appetizer one evening which I am learning to enjoy. I love the afternoon teas that are truly elegant and served by staff in period dress. The nibblings are served on fine china. They have the best teas also - not Lipton or Bigelow. The tea is served in cloth bags and include great herbal teas as well as a wonderful roasted Japanese tea that is my favorite and can usually only be found in specialty stores. In short if you want something a step up from the mass market, you won't be disappointed with Crystal. It is not that they do one or two things a lot better. It's that they do a lot of things a little better that makes your experience stellar. Their motto is " it would be our pleasure" and it truly will be memorable. You'll wonder why you haven't been on this little known cruiseline before and you will be sure to cruise there again. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
This was our first cruise with Crystal, but certainly it will not be our last. We have cruised previously with other lines, most recently Holland America, Princess and Celebrity. We can honestly say that we have enjoyed every one of our ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Crystal, but certainly it will not be our last. We have cruised previously with other lines, most recently Holland America, Princess and Celebrity. We can honestly say that we have enjoyed every one of our cruises, but this Crystal cruise was in a category of its own. It was, in a word, wonderful. We are in our early 50's. The age range on this cruise was broad. There were many passengers over 70 on this cruise, but there were many activities to appeal to all ages. We do not know what the childrens' programs are like. We arrived in Miami on Thursday evening. The cruise sailed on Saturday evening. We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott in South Beach. It was well located for our desire to roam around South Beach, and we had a good time. There are alot of great restaurants, shops, and people watching in South Beach. Lincoln Mall is a pedestrian only area of 5 or 6 blocks - great in the evenings. Lots of outdoor dining. We took a cab to the cruise terminal on Saturday. Embarkation was very easy. We arrived at the cruise terminal not long after noon. Porters were right there near the cab for luggage drop off. There were almost no lines inside. Our particular embarkation agent was very pleasant but hesitant in communication and perhaps hesitant in her english skills. We were really taken by surprise that our passports were not returned to us. She seemed equally surprised that we asked about that, and told us "don't worry". Crystal is the the first cruise line we have sailed with that holds the passengers' passports. Neither of us had surrendered our passports in decades (and the last time had been to a country that restricted visitors greatly), and we felt uneasy. We had cruised recently to the same ports on another line and knew that, at least earlier this year, the countries visited did not require this. The adjacent agent immediately sensed our hesitancy and explained Crystal policy and when the passports would be returned. His information and professional delivery addressed my concern that an error had been made in not returning them to us. This was the first of many very good customer service experiences. We had the usual embarkation photograph and headed on board. The cabins would not be ready for a several hours. We were welcomed on board and advised that lunch was available in the Dining Room. There was a table at which you could check your carry on luggage. We only had backpacks, so that was not necessary for us. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch accompanied by complementary champagne. The "Crystallization" process had begun! After lunch we followed signs to the area near the specialty restaurants where we confirmed that we had been assigned our preference of a table for two. The advantage of fewer passengers was immediately evident. There was only a short "line" for this, but in fact, it was not a line at all. There were chairs available and a member of the dining room staff keeping track of whose "turn" it was to go in next. It was really a most pleasant way to do this. We also took a look at the specialty restaurant menus. We had made reservations for one evening at Prego and one evening at Jade several months before. On this ship, the safety drill was held outdoors, on the Promenade deck. It was held at 8 pm, between the early and late dinner seatings. The ship sailed at 9 pm. The ship is lovely. It is exceptionally well kept up. Our cabin was wonderful. The bed was very comfortable and the linens were very nice as well. I have to thank the person on the Crystal Message Board who suggested rearranging the furniture. We followed that advice and moved the table to the corner and moved the desk chair under the window, creating a very nice sitting area and more clear floor space. The shower water pressure was excellent. Extra pillows were provided the first evening at our request. Our excellent stewardess looked after our needs well and kept the refrigerator stocked with our preference of waters (I had asked her to remove the sodas). We had plenty of storage space for our short cruise. I imagine that people are pretty creative in their packing and storing when they take a world cruise. The true promenade deck was a joy for walking, relaxing and watching the beautiful views. A few times sections of the promenade deck were closed for painting or varnishing, but not often. Every part of the ship was easy to access. Some of the elevators were compact (really more deep than wide), but there was rarely any wait. In comparison to every other ship on which we have cruised, there was a remarkable lack of sound transmitted into the cabin from adjacent cabins or hallways. This cruise was a themed "Jazz Cruise". A group of a couple hundred or so jazz aficionados were on board, along with probably two dozen or so jazz musicians. Often, large groups have a negative impact on the experience of cruisers that are not part of the group, but in this case, the group and their performances (which were open to all) really enhanced the cruise experience for us. We are not big jazz fans, but we really enjoyed and appreciated a lot of the performances. We were wonderfully surprised by the excellent quality of the production shows. We attended all of them. The singers, dancers and musicians were excellent. We especially enjoyed the classical pianist's performances. The bar and dance musicians were also excellent. We did not take any of the shore excursions. We did take several classes at the Computer University @ Sea and they were very well done and well worth the time. The facility is excellent. The galley tour was excellent. The movie theater was well designed and we enjoyed both movies and live telecast football games. One of our few suggestions on our comment cards was to have more, late night movies. My husband used the spa every day. While the sauna and steam rooms were not very large, they were very nice. The library had a nice selection of books and videos. The dining experience was far and away the best we have ever had on board a ship. The food was well prepared and well presented. Dining service was outstanding. The wine list had good choices in a variety of price ranges. Prego, the Italian specialty restaurant, had a separate wine list showcasing Italian wines. Dining was the highlight of this excellent cruise. We could go on and on about the meals and the service. Outstanding. The Bistro was a wonderful place for coffee and snacks. We enjoyed the buffet for several breakfasts and lunches. On this cruise there were two outdoor, themed, lunch buffets: Latin American and Asian. Both very good. Many people enjoyed eating out near the pools. We were pleased that tables were also available indoors. A fellow Cruise Critic highly recommended the french fries at the Trident Grill. She was so right! Disembarkation was a breeze. The easiest and most pleasant we have ever experienced. We were off the ship and in a cab headed to the airport in under 15 minutes. The porters were readily available and helpful. There were nine ships in port that day. We were glad to get to the airport early. Miami's airport is, to put it nicely, an experience. Close to two hours to get through check in and security. Airport personnel were pleasant and hardworking, but not numerous enough for the crush of passengers. There is some greatly needed airport expansion underway. The ticket agent told me that it was not a particularly busy day (Saturday) and that Sunday was always worse. Once we were on the other side of security, no problem. We were flying on American Airlines, perhaps other airlines have lower passenger volume and would be less overwhelmed. A large number of the passengers on board the ship were repeat cruisers with Crystal. Many had taken long, multiple segment voyages. All of the fellow cruisers we met were friendly and interesting. You can easily have as much or as little interaction with fellow passengers as you wish and have a good time either way. We had been looking forward to our first Crystal cruise for many months. The information that was on the Cruise Critic Message Board was invaluable. The cruise was fantastic. The Crystal staff made us feel very comfortable and well looked after. The service, the food, the facilities...all outstanding. It was a wonderful vacation. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2007
PANAMA SPLENDOR - MIAMI TO LOS ANGELES CRYSTAL SYMPHONY FEBRUARY 2007 I recently returned from my fifth cruise on Crystal Symphony, a 14-day trip from Miami to Los Angeles via the Panama Canal. I had been through the canal once before, ... Read More
PANAMA SPLENDOR - MIAMI TO LOS ANGELES CRYSTAL SYMPHONY FEBRUARY 2007 I recently returned from my fifth cruise on Crystal Symphony, a 14-day trip from Miami to Los Angeles via the Panama Canal. I had been through the canal once before, but wanted to do it again, after having read David McCullough's definitive book on the canal: Path Between The Seas - The Creation of the Panama Canal. Another factor was the number of sea days, which I enjoy more than port calls. The original itinerary included port calls at Cozumel, Mexico; Grand Cayman; Caldera, Costa Rica; Acapulco; and Cabo San Lucas. However, in late January Crystal informed us that Cozumel was being replaced by Cartagena, Colombia. This reportedly was because of U.S. Government reinterpretation of the Passenger Vessel Services Act, which sets rules for foreign-flagged ships sailing between U.S. ports. Some passengers were disappointed to have their Cozumel plans disrupted, but personally I didn't mind the change, never having visited Colombia. EMBARKATION As is my usual practice when I make my own air arrangements, I flew Miami the day before embarkation. Although departure from Burlington, Vermont (where I had left my dog with my son) was delayed a little, I still made my connection at Washington Dulles with no problem and arrived in Miami in the early evening. I prefer to stay at the Holiday Inn on Biscayne Blvd, opposite the port, but it had been fully booked months in advance (learned that this was related to that weekend's start of the huge Miami boat show), so stayed at the Best Western on the 79th Street Causeway between Miami and Miami Beach. One mistake: never thought a downtown budget hotel would have airport shuttle service, so spent $21 (up from $15 last year) unnecessarily on the Super Shuttle. I had again obtained a visitor's pass for my sister, so on embarkation day she met me at the hotel for lunch and then we headed for the port. Unfortunately, our timing wasn't very good, as several thousand people were trying to get to a 2 o'clock Miami Heat pro basketball game near the port entrance. So, it took us about an hour to drive the short distance from 79th Street to the port - no harm done other than the frustration of sitting in traffic. Check-in and embarkation were the usual painless Crystal operation, so we were on board in plenty of time for afternoon tea. THE "NEW" CRYSTAL SYMPHONY This was my first cruise since the multi-million dollar re-fit of the Symphony in late 2006; I was anxious to see the changes for myself, having read a lot of the posts on this subject on the Cruise Critic boards. My impressions: - New carpet throughout the ship: very attractive. I like the use of different colors in the hallways of different decks. - Starlite Club: removal of the wall on the starboard side of the room and replacement of the old bar with an inviting circular one really open up the room and make it very inviting. The stage and dance floor area are unchanged, which is welcome considering how several other cruise lines keep reducing dance floor space. - Luxe Nightclub: not my cup of tea, and not many people in there in the early evening; I understand it has become a popular late night room for younger passengers. It is a much more practical venue for Karaoke than the Avenue Saloon. It has created a problem with noise levels in the Deck 7 staterooms directly above and I've heard that in the future they may use these cabins for staff and entertainers. Space taken from casino to create Luxe doesn't appear to be missed. - Cabins: New headboards and bedside lamps are very attractive, although the LED reading lamps in the headboard don't seem very practical. The new flat-screen TVs provide excellent picture, but have one shortcoming: input jacks are all on the back of the monitor, making it nearly impossible to plug in a digital camera cable to review pictures. TV reception of CNN, Fox News, etc, ranged from excellent much of the time to non existent in some areas off the Pacific coast of Mexico. Changes in cabin furnishings make little sense. replacement of the love seats with high-back chairs provides little additional floor space life jackets, formerly stored under the love seat cushions, now take up closet space. An even worse decision is the replacement of the former light-weight desk/dressing table chairs with heavy, curved back chairs which cannot be pushed under the desk when not in use. And, they have to be wrestled aside to open the center desk drawer. There have been a lot of comments on the surface-mounted glass "salad bowl" lavatory basins. I'm sure they look great in interior decorating publications, but they are not very practical. Also, they don't appear to have overflows, so it's probably only a matter of time until somebody floods a cabin and those below. In my opinion, a lot of money was spent unnecessarily in the bathrooms. LIFE ON BOARD Although this was only my fifth Crystal cruise, I immediately started running into both crew and fellow passengers I have met before. Maitre d' Victor assigned me to the captain's table, a first for me, although I have been at officers' tables previously with both Crystal and Cunard. I think that the fact that I am usually one of the few solo male passengers works in my favor in getting good table assignments. Table 60 was a table for 10, 11 on nights Captain Giske joined us, but we moved around each night, so soon got to know each other. An interesting group of couples and singles. I had cruised with two of the solo ladies on at least one previous cruise. As usual, I joined a team for the sea-day trivia contests. We were a good team but were getting frustrated at finishing second (twice after tie breaks). We finally pulled out a win the last day! I also attended the dance class on most sea days. Big group every class! The dance team of Alex and Felicity is new to Crystal, with both the Longs and Paul & Cheryl having moved on. They performed at several shows, including the first and last nights, and are terrific performers. They spent some class time each day on "progressive" dances, i.e. continually changing partners. I would have preferred to have the time devoted to basic dance steps, but that's a personal preference, as others seemed to enjoy the progressive dances. Theme of the cruise was Wine and Food, and we had two guest chefs, four theme lecturers, and two wine lecturers on board. I found the several food lectures I attended interesting, but most of the dishes demonstrated were more complicated than I would ever bother with, as I live alone. I also attended a number of lectures by special interest lecturers and destination lecturer Larry Rudner. There have been two changes in the production shows since my last cruise. The old Pirates opening night production has been replaced by selections from Applause Applause and Grand Hotel, a welcome change as the Pirates theme was getting a bit old. The other change was the addition of a new production show, The Envelope Please, featuring Academy Award music. I enjoyed it, although my favorite remains Curtain Call which I've seen at least four times. One interesting development was the loss of first one and then a second male singer-dancer. This meant that both the above mentioned shows had to be completely re-blocked practically overnight. Anybody familiar with musicals will understand what this involves. They even drafted one member of the Full Sail quartet for a singing role. The net results were that only somebody who counted the number of male and female chorus members would have noticed anything different. Full Sail is an excellent acapella quartet who performed a number of time throughout the cruise, and they were well received. Nice guys, too. Comic Ventriloquist Mark Merchant was a lot of fun, with some cutting edge humor that seemed to have been updated daily based on the morning news on CNN. I also enjoyed the other headline performers: Harpist Shirley Dominguez; pianist Bernart Walz; Violinist Ian Cooper; and vocalist Dorothy Bishop. In previous reviews I have commented on the talents of Galaxy Orchestra pianist Stacey Benn, who can plan anything from classical to jazz. So, I was pleased to see that Stacey has moved up to Bandmaster and does a great job both playing the piano and leading the band. My favorite entertainer for this cruise was Jeff Deutch who played nightly in the Avenue Saloon. I hadn't cruised with Jeff before, but I think he is the best I have experienced. He has an amazing repertoire, all completely memorized, and it wasn't very often a request stumped him. About eight of us seemed to be the ones closing the Avenue most nights, and Jeff was willing to keep playing into the wee hours as long as people were making requests and having fun. The Avenue remains my favorite room on Symphony. It's even more fun when various entertainers and ships officers stop by in late evening - Mark, Stacey, Victor, shirley and Dorothy among others on this cruise. Besides the two dance teams who've left Crystal over the last year or so, two other staff members familiar to Symphony regulars are leaving Crystal. Crystal Society Hostess Megan Mavor has just left to move to Norway and Cruise Consultant Billy Hare submitted his resignation the day I boarded. Remi was scheduled to replace Victor as maitre d' at the end of the cruise, with Victor moving to Serenity after some leave. ITINERARY I won't go into detailed port descriptions here, as there is lots of on-line and written information on all of them, as well as their being familiar to most regular cruisers. Some personal comments and observations: - Grand Cayman: very crowded with seven ships in port, including the mega ships Star Princess and Disney Magic. When I removed the price label from a mug I bought for my housekeeper found that it was "Made in China - Cartagena: As this was my first visit to this fascinating city and time was short, took the ship's boat and bus tour, which included a visit to one of the city's historic fortresses and a walking tour of the old city. Also, of course, a shopping opportunity. I am not a gem expert, but quality and pricing of emeralds appeared to be a lot better than on the Caribbean islands. They should be, with Colombia being the world's principal emerald producer. - Panama Canal. Particularly interesting for me as a retired civil engineer. Excellent on-board commentator for the entire passage. Heard a few complaints about how hot it was. Would did they expect, close to the equator in dry season? - Caldera: having done the long, hot excursion to San Jose on a previous visit, I opted for the half-day excursion to a large nearby commercial orchid farm, where they took us through the entire process from propagation of plants to packing and shipping of cut flowers to North America and Europe. We each received a small orchid bouquet which lasted very nicely in an improvised vase (Perrier bottle) for the rest of the cruise. - Acapulco. We were scheduled to dock, but learned the previous afternoon that we would be anchoring, as another ship had some major hull damage and couldn't leave the pier. However, we were able to dock in a different berth, as the NCL ship scheduled for it wasn't arriving until afternoon. The damaged ship was the Regal Princess, which had been supposed to depart on a cruise to Puerto Rico two or three days earlier. Passengers for that cruise whom several of us talked to were having a great time sitting on the ship with free liquor and shore excursions while Princess was figuring out how to get 1,500 people back to where they had come from. Ship was scheduled to go into dry-dock (in Panama, I heard) as soon as they got all the passengers off. Official Princess story was that she "touched bottom" at the previous port. Must have been quite a "touch" to do enough damage to require dry dock repairs and cancellation of two, if not three, cruises. I didn't take any excursions (been there - done that) just walked up into the old city for a while. Again, a loud complaints about how hot it was. Unlike the canal, it really was hot in the city. - Cabo San Lucas: a short call, as the ship really had to push to arrive in LA Sunday morning. I took a bus tour to get an overview of Cabo, not having been to Baja California before. Tour included a stop at a glass blowing factory, which I could have done without, a drive to the old city of San Jose del Cabo, with some shopping time, and visit to Cacti Mundo gardens, the largest display of cacti I've ever seen. Construction everywhere along the coast! Back at the tender pier, loud complaints from one passenger that short stay didn't allow time for both touring and shopping, and why did we have to be in such a hurry to get to LA early in the morning. Obviously clueless about what it takes to turn a ship around for a new cruise the same day! Also, do people not read the materials Crystal provides? The schedule for the Cabo and other port calls was published at least a year ago! HOMEWARD BOUND A good percentage of the passengers were from California, whom we east coasters envied a bit, as they would be almost home when we got to LA. The ship was pushed to maximum speed for the long leg back to LA, with all five engines at full power, and fighting both a headwind and opposing current. This is the only time there was any noticeable vibration. Despite these efforts, we arrived in LA about 1-1/2 hours behind schedule, but disembarkation was handled quickly, without the usual requirement that all baggage be ashore before anybody could disembark, so the Crystal transfers got us to the airport in plenty of time, theoretically, to check in for flights. I say theoretically because as soon as I got to LAX I started regretting that I hadn't stayed on the ship for the next cruise, as getting back to Vermont was to be a bit of an adventure. Virtually nothing was flying east because of storms - I was supposed to go through Washington, but it was completely closed, and nothing available to Philadelphia, New York, or Boston. Helpful United agent got me on the standby list for an afternoon flight to Chicago and then standby on to Burlington Monday morning. Learned something interesting: my 100,000+ United miles moves me to the top of the standby list, and I got on both flights with no problem. So, I got to Burlington about 12 hours later than planned - I was lucky - talked to people who had been at O'Hare for three days trying to get out. Learned later that even some San Francisco passengers had delays because aircraft and/or crews were stuck somewhere. Got home to NH to find a foot of snow from the Valentine's Day storm, and we had another 10 to 12" a few days later, so it still looks like winter here, regardless of what the calendar says. CONCLUSION All in all, another great Crystal cruise with a lot of nice people. I'm looking forward to my only other scheduled 2007 Crystal cruise, the November Lisbon-to-Miami big band crossing on the Serenity. This will be my first Serenity experience, so I'm looking forward to it. Several people I met on this cruise are also booked on the November crossing. I'm also anxiously awaiting Crystal's announcement of 2008 cruise themes so I can start planning for next year. Comments will be welcome either on the Crystal's Cruise Critic message boards or by e-mail. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2006
This was my 4th Crystal Cruise, and 25th overall. It was an eastbound crossing, from Miami to Lisbon - 8 sea days, no ports. Theme was the same as my 2005 Crystal cruise on the Symphony, Big Band with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. Since I ... Read More
This was my 4th Crystal Cruise, and 25th overall. It was an eastbound crossing, from Miami to Lisbon - 8 sea days, no ports. Theme was the same as my 2005 Crystal cruise on the Symphony, Big Band with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. Since I made my own air travel arrangements, I flew to Miami from Boston a day early to be on the safe side. Obviously, if you miss the ship on a transatlantic cruise, there is no catching up to it! I stayed at the Port of Miami Holiday Inn on Biscayne Blvd. Nothing special, but within sight of the port and also directly across the street from the lively Bayside Market Place. "Super Shuttle" fare from airport to downtown is only $15 per person and they deliver you to the door of your hotel. Hotel to port would be a short taxi ride, but my sister, who was in Florida for the winter, took me to the ship, where she joined me for tea as a visitor. Speaking of visitors, Crystal, unlike some cruise lines who banned visitors after 9/11, is very accommodating. The request form is available on their website; they say to allow two weeks before sailing, but I have normally received approval within a couple of days after faxing the form to them. Boarding was Crystal's normal painless process. Crystal's staff never cease amaze to me. One of their ground staff recognized my sister and me immediately, even though it had been a year since he had seen us in Ft. Lauderdale, and he even remembered that she lives in Rhode Island when not in Florida! Crystal had upgraded me twice, once from my usual Deck 7 cabin to a balcony room on Deck 8, and finally, when they decided to use the crossing for Deck 8 cabin refurbishing, to a Deck 9 cabin. This turned out not to be as desirable as I thought, as during rough weather there is a lot more motion in the higher-up, forward cabin, than amidships on Deck 7. Cabins appear to be identical in size, layout and dEcor, except for addition of balconies on Decks 8 and 9. If offered a similar upgrade on a future crossing I would be tempted to say, "Thanks but no thanks." We sailed on schedule, Captain Giske having warned us that it might be a bit rough when we got into the Atlantic. It was, but not so bad as to curtail first-night activities. At the end of my February Amazon cruise I had mentioned to Maitre d' Remi Szutikiewicz that I'd like to be at the Chief Engineer's table sometime, and sure enough I found myself assigned to the table hosted by Chief Engineer Torbjoern Mathisen and his charming wife Penny. One nice touch is that on formal, officer-hosted nights, place cards are used so everybody has a turn to sit near enough to the hosts to converse. We had a good group at the table - eight most nights, but expanded to 10 on nights the Chief was hosting. No need to comment again on food and service - it is still tops. I'm told that even on Crystal's full world cruises, no menu is ever repeated. On several nights our waiter informed us that a special dessert, in addition to those on the menu, was being offered. Thankfully, the tacky baked Alaska parades are long gone from Crystal. Overnight the swell got progressively larger, around 30 feet, so by morning the ship was pitching quite a bit. The stabilizers do a good job in preventing any appreciable roll. Showering and shaving before dinner was quite a challenge. By afternoon it was obvious that it would be foolish to try to put on a production show, so pianist Naki Ataman agreed to do his show a day early. As usual, his "Around the World" program was terrific. Due to the relative shortness of this cruse, there wasn't time for him to do his second program. The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra went on as scheduled in the Palm Court, although some band members were obviously a bit under the weather. Unfortunately, Buddy Morrow, who normally leads the band, had been ill so did not make the trip. Direction was ably taken over by Daryl "Flea" Campbell, another old time big band musician who played with the Dorsey Brothers after Tommy and Jimmy put aside their feud and got back together, in the early '50s, I think. Only one or two couples attempted to dance, as the Palm Court really moves in rough seas because of its high-up, forward location. However, the seas calmed day-by-day as we headed east, so there was lots of good music and dancing for the rest of the crossing. Speaking of dancing, dance team Tony and Margaret Long returned from leave and re-boarded in Miami, and as usual held very well-attended dance classes every day. I also took a few private lessons with Margaret, who continued to try to teach me the Tango. Sadly for Crystal, the Longs will be leaving the company at the end of their current contract in July to join a studio in Arizona. I'm sure it is a good career move for them, but they will be missed on Crystal. Lecturers were up to Crystal's usual standard and I particularly enjoyed those by big band theme lecturer Loren Schoenberg. He could easily have drawn a crowd for several more sessions, but there weren't any more openings in the busy daily schedules. Loren is also an accomplished tenor sax player and sat in with the band and the jazz combo on several occasions. As mentioned by Cruise Director Paul McFarland, this cruise draws people who like the shipboard life, rather than lots of port calls. I would guess that between 75% and 80% of the passengers were repeaters. I ran into a number of people I had met on previous cruises, although this was only my 4th time on Crystal. Even with the couple of days of rough seas, a good time was had by all. Liveliest late-night venue continues to be the Avenue Saloon, especially on Karaoke nights. No way I would get up there and sing, but lots of fun to watch. Performers range from quite professional to some who shouldn't even be allowed near a microphone, sort of like the early rounds of American Idol. Arrival clearance in Lisbon was painless and quick, once they solved a mechanical problem with one of the baggage conveyors. One recommendation for Lisbon arrivals. I had bought the ship's airport transfer at a cost of $46; I learned when we arrived that taxis to the airport only cost 16 Euros, about $20. The spring eastbound crossing by Symphony is not on the 2007 schedule, as the ship will reposition from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean via the Far East. However, the November 2007 Lisbon - Miami crossing by the Serenity will have a big band theme, so I've already booked it. My next Crystal cruise will probably be the February 2007 Miami to Los Angeles Panama Canal transit. Perhaps one of these days I'll run into some of my fellow "Cruise Critics." Read Less
Sail Date: February 2006
Although this was only my 3rd Crystal Cruise, I'm already starting to run into people I've met on previous cruises. I'm sure this is because of the high percentage of repeaters on Crystal Cruises and the fact that they only ... Read More
Although this was only my 3rd Crystal Cruise, I'm already starting to run into people I've met on previous cruises. I'm sure this is because of the high percentage of repeaters on Crystal Cruises and the fact that they only have two ships. Everything about the Symphony continues to be first class, which undoubtedly explains the high number of repeaters, many with tens of cruises and at least one with over 100 voyages. Embarkation: Crystal had booked my air from Boston to Miami via Cleveland, which seems a little strange, but I suspect this was a result of availability of blocks of tickets plus the fact that flights were heavily booked due to the start of the winter school break in much of the northeast. Despite a close connection in Cleveland, both my luggage and I made it and arrived in Miami on schedule, where we were met by Crystal representatives in the baggage claim area. We were quickly transferred to the port and after Crystals normal efficient check-in procedures, I was enjoying lunch in the Lido less than an hour after re-claiming my baggage at the airport. Dining Room: Probably because of our scheduled 8:00 p.m. sailing, the first night was open seating. For the rest of the cruise I was seated at a table for eight, as requested, hosted by Casino Manager Michael Ferrell. Table mates included a single English gentleman, a lady from New York, a Canadian lady toxicologist, an American couple from Wisconsin and an English couple from Kent. All in all, a dynamic and interesting group. Of the eight of us, only the American couple and I were leaving the ship in Manaus, Brazil  the rest were continuing on to Buenos Aires and beyond. Onboard Activities: As on my two previous cruises, I participated in the dance classes on sea days and also took several private lessons. The dance team/instructors for this cruise were Cheryl Smith and Paul Zaidman, from Australia. This was my first experience with them, having been with the other regular team of Tony and Margaret Long on the previous cruises. Cheryl and Paul are lots of fun and excellent teachers  I sort of challenged Cheryl to teach me a basic Tango during the cruise, which she did! Entertainment: Although I had seen the productions at least once before, I enjoyed them again. The cast is new since my last cruise, and excellent. It appears that some of the shows have been re-costumed, which gives them a fresh look. I particularly enjoyed performances of numbers from Evita, Fiddler on The Roof, Cabaret and Puccinis Madama Butterfly. The current lead female vocalist, Colleen Williamson, is outstanding. The only problem I have is that Crystal runs the productions for years. I know this is a result of high production costs but I would hope to see at least a few new productions introduced at some point. The most notable headline entertainer, in my opinion, was pianist Nake Ataman who gave two great concerts, with music ranging from the Beetles to Offenbach! Im pleased to see that He is also scheduled for my next Crystal cruise. Lectures: A good mix, from Smithsonian Theme Lecturer Dr. Mary Hagedorn to Coach Don Shula. As a died-in-the-wool football fan, (old enough to remember Coach Shulas coaching years very well) I particularly enjoyed his presentation and Q&A session. Itinerary: My principal reason for selecting this cruise was the trip up the Amazon. This is an amazing experience  I knew it was a big river, but couldnt even visualize how big it really is  miles wide at some points hundreds of miles up from the mouth. Before reaching the Amazon we had several days at sea and calls at Antigua (not my favorite island) Barbados, which is my favorite, and Devils Island where I got too lazy to go ashore  probably should have. We did have one unfortunate incident when a passenger had to be air evacuated for what the captain described as a life-threatening medical condition. We altered course for a while to rendezvous with a US Coast Guard helicopter from Puerto Rico. The transfer went like clockwork, and we later learned that the passenger was doing fine after emergency surgery for a ruptured appendix. About the only glitch on the river was at our first Amazon port, Alter do Chao. We arrived late due to strong currents, the previous days med-evac, and the 4 or 5 hours it took the Brazilians to clear the ship, a reminder that I was, indeed, back in the third world. Added to this was a problem with gangways between the ship and the river boats being used for the River & Village Discovery Cruise, which many of us had booked. As a result, the excursion was cut short and Crystal refunded all of our money. We didnt have to ask for it! The cruise included an overnight stay in Manaus, and quite a few of us attended a concert at the famous Opera House there. It was billed as a jazz concert, but actually was Latin theme. This was fine, except that the music was amplified to the point where it was almost painful  I commented that if you had a factory floor that noisy OSHA would shut you down! The musicians varied from first rate to acceptable, but I was in a very small minority who didnt find the whole performance wonderful. An interesting experience, nevertheless, to be attending a performance in an ornate theater in the middle of the Amazon jungle. Conclusion: Crystal Symphony continues to be second to none. This was a particularly interesting itinerary  one doesnt have many opportunities to cruise the Amazon in the comfort of a luxury ship. Im looking forward to my next Crystal cruise, the Big Band crossing from Miami to Lisbon the end of April, a repeat of my first Crystal cruise a year ago. Read Less
Crystal Symphony Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 0.0
Dining 4.5 0.0
Entertainment 4.5 0.0
Public Rooms 5.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 4.5 0.0
Family 4.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 0.0
Enrichment 5.0 0.0
Service 4.0 0.0
Value For Money 4.0 0.0
Rates 4.0 0.0

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