We were very excited to sail on Crystal since it has a reputation for being one of the best cruise ships in the industry.
Three words: Worth every dime.
But, I want to add a provision to this statement: Worth every dime to a very select crowd.
I can honestly say about 75% of my friends would have hated this cruise. Even my partner and I were split during the cruise.
There wasn't one thing that my partner didn't love about Crystal with an intensity. Crystal has a fan for life.
I, on the other hand, loved Crystal's luxury, passenger attention, the excursions, and all the little details that go into a fabulous cruise.
But, I missed silly things. I wanted a 24-hour buffet. I wanted one night of complete silliness by the staff where everyone on board was invited to a hula-hoop party or Limbo or something ridiculous.
So, when reading this you have to understand that this cruise demanded manners and good behavior. It is expected. And, it was appreciated. But, if your idea of a fun cruise it to have at least one night where you overwhelm yourself with overeating and foolish behavior...maybe this isn't the cruise for you.
That being said, let's start with the perks that came with our penthouse.
When they said the suite was all-inclusive...they really meant all inclusive. Our butler brought us huge bottles of the best rum, the best scotch, the best champagne. We could have invited the entire Penthouse Deck to our room for a party and not emptied all the liquor they gave us. And, since we are not drinkers it sat on the bar for the entire trip.
Such a pity.
The room itself was stunning. Whereas most cruise ships like loud colors and dark woods, this room was in muted tones and mixed textures. Very bright.
The walk-in closet was spacious enough for all of our clothes. The bathroom had dual sinks, a stand-up shower and a tub. Since there was no view for the tub...we didn't use it.
One thing that we really appreciated was that the Crystal carried major cable news stations: BBC, CNN, MSNBC, and FOX. Although that probably isn't a huge selling point on most cruises, something tells me that this client base appreciated staying in touch.
If you want a WOW factor for a buffet...try Crystal Cruise Line. I've never seen anything like it on another ship.
This isn't your standard buffet food. It's gourmet fabulous. We had breakfast every morning so that my partner could have the stuffed french toast and I loved the made-to-order omelets.
Nothing I ate was like anything else I've ever experienced on another cruise ship. Everything tasted fresh and made-to-order.
And, let's talk about the excursions.
There wasn't anything unique in Talin but we saw the real difference when we got to Russia.
If you wanted to spend tens of thousands of dollars you could go to Moscow and be an astronaut for a day. We didn't have that much money so we stayed on the ship in St. Petersburg and did our excursions in that area.
In St. Petersburg, the cruise arranged for an after-hours tour of the Hermitage with our private tour guide. After the tour Crystal arranged for a private concert by the Hermitage orchestra and a champagne reception with the conductor.
We took a tour of St. Constantine's Palace (where the G8 Summit was held) which concluded with a wine tasting. And, yet another tour in Peterhof where we rode back on a hydroplane. AWESOME! What other cruise line does that?
We docked in Sweden for the night so we had a couple of choices. We could go to an animal reserve (at dinnertime--theirs not ours) or a hot air balloon ride. How can you go wrong with either?
By the way the best part about cruising into Sweden was sitting in Palm Court, listening to a string quartet playing Mozart, while staff (dressed in 17th century French costume) served tea. As you watched Stockholm move into view.
I'm glad I took the cruise and I'll take another Crystal Cruise. I liked the crowd for this type of cruise.
As I said, this cruise is worth every dime but to a very select crowd.