My partner and I have served back to back tours in Afghanistan, so we wanted to make my R & R leave extra special, given that we haven't seen each other a lot these last two years. I also didn't have a lot of time to plan things, so we thought a cruise was the logical choice.
We chose Crystal Cruises because I like a more formal atmosphere. In that aspect, Crystal delivered. The women always dressed stunning on the ship on formal nights -- even on some casual ones. The men were always at least in suits on formal nights, but many more wore tuxedos, which was nice.
We found the following things to be especially good about the cruise:
1. The service. We can't say enough about how willing the staff were to cater to your needs and how cheerfully they did so.
2. All inclusive. We could not possible have eaten or drank anymore. And all inclusive does not give you rail drinks. It gives you pretty much anything short of Louis XVII Cognac, which they have for an upcharge. Glenlivet or Glenfiddich, though? It's on the house.
3. Food. Prego and Silk Road are always booked, yes, but both made for a special experience. Book them early, and don't expect more than one seating at each. It won't disappoint you that much, though, as the Main Dining Room fare is excellent and varies each night.
4. Friendly cruisers. We met many interesting people and shared plenty of great conversations. We didn't encounter any bias as a gay couple, at least we didn't perceive any.
5. Avenue Saloon and the Connoisseur Club. The Avenue Saloon was by far the best bar on the ship. The piano player was great. The Connoisseur Club was my favorite room on the ship. If you like cigars, it is amazing. Though I might suggest bringing your own cigars (prices were a bit high), their premium alcohol prices (30, 40 year old cognacs, etc.)were very reasonable.
A couple of minor complaints, neither of which will deter us from cruising wiht Crystal again:
1. The internet. We realize that it's a cruise and there are logistical issues to getting connectivity. Perhaps these issues are so great that the charges and problems with the internet onboard are justified. But it seemed overly expensive. $50 got you two hours of internet and $200 got you 10 hours. That's pretty steep, even if you have the money to pay for it. All that aside, it didn't even work half the time.
2. Demographics. I don't know if its always this way on Crystal, but the crowd seemed very old. We expected an older demographic, but this group seemed to be 65 or even 70 plus, with a small smattering of other ages. I heard some comments from some of the older patrons to this effect that the crowd seemed older than usual, so perhaps this was an anomaly. Like I said, we had a wonderful time, but we feel the cruise could benefit from a more mixed crowd.