We are experienced cruisers but relatively new to the all-inclusive lines. This was our first time on Crystal and we had a fabulous time. In fact, after about 15 cruises, the Symphony is our favorite ship to date.
Because we are still employed, we prefer the 7 day itineraries. This cruise was from Boston to Montreal with stops in Bar Harbor, Halifax, Quebec City and Montreal.
We arrived in Boston one day early and spent our pre-cruise night at the Hilton in the financial district. The Hilton is in a very good location so we were able to spend quite a bit of time exploring the area.
The following day around noon, we too a cab to the pier and, after maybe 3 minutes in the security screening line, we were on board. We completed registration on board where there was no line at all.
We are in our early 50's and most passengers were older than us (most were retired)and there were only three children on board. We had a good time meeting and getting to know our fellow passengers and found that the Symphony was very conducive to this.
Our cabin had no veranda, just a large window. I've stayed in cabins without verandas but my husband had not. He was perfectly fine with just the window and, given the weather, I doubt a veranda would have gotten much use. We found the bed to be very comfortable and our stewardess made sure we had pillows to our liking. There was absolutely no trace of lingering cigarette smoke (to which I am very sensitive) which I read could be an issue. In fact, we never even smelled smoke in the hallways so I doubt many, if any, actually smoke in the staterooms.
We were on Deck 5 which turned out to be a great choice. It seemed like we were close to everything. But then, on this ship, it seems so well laid out, perhaps everyone felt the same way. Admittedly, this was the smallest ship we've sailed on so I'm sure that was a factor.
The cabin was on the small side which we knew would be the case. Maneuvering around the bed was a challenge when we were both getting dressed/packing/unpacking. However, I was pleased to find two hairdryers - one in the bathroom and one in the closet. The fridge was stocked with an assortment of sodas and beer but we didn't find ourselves reaching for a beverage while in the cabin. Also in the closet was an umbrella for use in ports.
Our stewardess, Claudia, was relatively new. However, she did a fantastic job. She was pleasant and efficient and went out of her way to make sure our stay was pleasant. Completely on her own, when she suspected the rough water was bothering me, she arranged to have candied ginger delivered to the cabin. What a thoughtful gesture!
The ship itself is beautifully laid out and very efficient. The public spaces manage to be intimate and spacious at the same time. We enjoyed afternoon tea most days and on the days we missed, we found similar offerings in The Bistro. We were surprised by the size of the casino. It is quite large and never seemed crowded. We did play Bingo one afternoon and my husband won $351. We don't normally play Bingo so we chalked it up to beginner's luck!
We arranged for dining by reservation and that worked out just fine. We were at different tables each night but in the same general location. Even though we had reservations, there seemed to be a great deal of flexibility. The last night, when we showed up with another couple, we were easily accommodated.
We found the food to be very good and really didn't have a meal we didn't enjoy. I appreciated that the portions were on the small side so that I could partake in multiple courses. We had pre-booked reservations at Silk Rose and Prego for four people. Our traveling companions had to cancel and we never changed the reservations. As luck would have it, within minutes of boarding, we met a great couple that had been unable to make reservations. So, they joined us for our two dinners. We found the all-inclusive wines to be perfectly fine and felt no need to deviate.
We didn't realize The Bistro didn't have a full bar and a few times we ordered cocktails. Apparently, the server, instead of telling us that it wasn't a full service bar, was going down to deck 5 and getting the drinks from another bar. Once we realized it, we only ordered what was available but this is an example of the level of service we received.
We didn't use the fitness center because the cruise was port intensive but we were surprised by how large and well equipped it was given the size of the ship. I did take a yoga class (no extra charge) that I enjoyed.
We loved the menu set that we received the last night. What a great memento of our trip. We also appreciated the guest list.
We booked excursions through Crystal and were surprised and pleased to see that a staff member accompanies each tour. From what I understand, the staff members volunteer for certain tours and really seemed to be enjoying themselves. It was a pleasure to get to know a few of the staff members in this more relaxed setting.
Our first port was Bar Harbor and we booked the bike tour in Acadia National Park. It was a great tour and there were some challenging hills so it really wasn't appropriate for someone that isn't used to biking. The next day, in Halifax, we did the "Coastal Bicycle Adventure" and it was fabulous! The scenery was breathtaking and we saw great fall colors. This ride is about 12 miles in length but was an easy, relatively flat, ride with plenty of opportunity to stop and rest or take photos. In fact, if the 12 miles was too much, you could ride for a portion and arrange to be picked up early. I highly recommend this tour.
The first "cruising" day was pretty uneventful and there was no view other than open sea (which we enjoy). The second cruising day however was down the Saguenay River and it was spectacular. We stopped at Our Lady of the Fjords and Ava Maria was played on the intercom. We were on deck 11, aft, behind the Lido Cafe and for most of the trip down the river we were the only passengers on deck so we had a private tour. It was a bit chilly but we brought blankets and coffee (with Baileys of course) so we were well prepared.
Next stop was Quebec City. We participated in the Old Quebec by Foot and Horse Drawn Carriage. Unfortunately, it rained heavily and had turned quite cold by the time of our excursion. We had already explored on our own so we felt we had seen enough of the city to know we would like to return. If you haven't been to Quebec City, it is a quaint, beautiful town.
In Montreal, we just explored on our own which turned out to be a great choice. We took our time exploring the sites and purchased a painting by a local artist who allowed us to photograph him signing the painting. Because the painting was of a local Montreal cafe, we went to the cafe, had lunch and had a picture taken of us outside the building. This whole process was a wonderful experience. We were able to explore the lower part of town by foot and took the complimentary shuttle to visit the upper part of town. We really appreciated the shuttle service and it appeared that there four 4 buses in service so there was never a wait for a bus.
Marlin Fitzwater spoke twice and we attended and enjoyed both discussions. The shows were generally good but we really liked "Diva" and the comedy shows. We did take a group dance lesson and found the classes to be informative and easy to follow.
The crew and staff seemed very relaxed and comfortable interacting with passengers, but not in an intrusive way. It almost seemed like they were "hosts" of sorts and it was a nice change from our previous cruises. Most of the passengers were older than us, however, we had a great time meeting and getting to know them. We made some great friends that we will definitely see again. I think the all-inclusive aspect facilitates meeting other passengers.
Instead of arranging for transfers through Crystal, we opted to just take a taxi from the pier to the airport. The flat rate was $40 plus tip and it was very easy. In fact, it seemed easier (and less expensive) than arranging through Crystal.
If you are considering a New England Canada cruise, several people told us that the leaves were the most colorful during our week of October 14-21. Of course this will vary from year to year but you can use it as an indicator when planning.
I really want to find fault with something so this appears to be an objective review. Outside of the cabins being on the small side (which was no surprise) I just can't come up with anything. Oh yes, one day my Bloody Mary was too strong...does that count?