We are experienced cruisers, although our past experience had been limited to the major lines and the Caribbean. Although we always had a wonderful time there were always disappointments. Bad food, bad service, poor maintenance, etc. Nothing ever lived up to the romanticized image of cruising I always had. Then we took our first Crystal Cruise. Embarkation, to baggage handling, food, service, everything met or exceeded our expectations and past experiences. This was how I always thought cruising should be.
From the start:
Embarkation - We arrived at the port and immediately boarded a bus which took us right to the ship. We handed the driver our luggage and that was the last we saw of it until we went to our room. Simple and easy. No lines at check in. 3 groups checking in, 5 people to help them. Once we were checked in we were escorted onto the ship to have our pictures taken, key cards issued, and turned loose on the ship. From the time we got to the port until we were fully processed in was less than 15 minutes.
Food - From the pool side grill to the Specialty Restaurants, the food was far above average if not excellent. Highly recommend the Blue Cheese burger with Sweet Potato Fries at the pool grill. Prego and Silk Road lived up to their reputations with good food. Mushroom soup at Prego and the Rocket Shrimp at Silk Road are highly recommended. We had the late seating for dinner and the main dining room food was of the same high quality.
Drinks - I had heard there was some concern about the quality and quantity of alcohol now that Crystal has gone all inclusive. I was quite happy with the selection of rums, vodkas, gins, etc. More impressive was when I ordered a Strawberry Daiquiri and instead of watching him pour a mix into the blender, I actually saw him throw in strawberries. The Myers Rum floated on top of the Pina Colada was also a nice touch. The wines offered at dinner were also quite good.
Service - We arrived at about 1:30, knowing cabins would not be ready until 3PM. Had a nice lunch, explored the ship, and cheated and snuck down to our room at 2:30. Not only was the room ready, our luggage was already there. No worries about having appropriate clothes for dinner the first night as I am more accustomed. Our stewardess Gloria was fantastic. Although she did have a complaint about us... She didn't feel she was doing enough for us. Room was always cleaned promptly and spotless. Refrigerator stocked as we asked. Dinner service was what you would expect in any fine restaurant, with many touches which appeared to be in response to comments made by our dining companions, including souffles which were not on the menu when someone had mentioned how much they loved them. Pool waiters and attendants were prompt and always around. No waiting for one to show up.
Ship - We loved the smaller size. Very quickly found our way around, enjoyed all the usual amenities. Other than the day at sea, the pool was never crowded. Always plenty of places to sit, in or out of the sun. Really liked the quiet area at the aft end of each deck. A few chairs and lounges, very peaceful and a great view. Watched the dolphins follow us out of Sicily.
Stateroom - Our cabin was well appointed. Not any larger than the usual balcony cabin, but certainly higher quality appointments, wood work and furniture. Aveda soaps and shampoo were very nice. Bed most have been comfortable, we slept great every night.
Entertainment was OK. Have seen bigger better shows on ships, but no real complaints here. Lecturers were interesting, piano bar was fun, very happy they had a cigar lounge.
Debarkation - Got off the boat even more easily then we got on. Walked off, found our luggage based on the color code and we were done.
All in all, a great experience. We fully expect our next cruise to be on Crystal.