My husband and I love cruising. We have been on Carnival, Princess, Celebrity, Azamara, Royal Caribbean, HAL, Paul Gauguin, Regent Seven Seas. We have heard Crystal Cruise is a bit "snobbish" or "stuffy", too formal for us. After this cruise, we became convert. Here are the reasons why.
We bought air with Crystal Cruise. Turned out to be the smart thing to do. (more later.) As soon as we landed in Montreal, a friendly Crystal representative was there to greet us, with a porter to assist with our luggage. Everything was looked after for us, including gratuities for the porter.
We were immediately shown to the embarkation "counters" set up in Starlight Lounge onboard Symphony. No waiting in the cold terminal! One crew welcomed us, brought us to get our passcards, waited for us, (only a few minutes) and then escorted us to our cabin. He showed us our cabin and its amenities, answered questions. The whole process took not more than 15 minutes! This was a personalized welcome! Before he left, our luggage has also arrived. We were off to a great start!
Our cabin number is 7105, starboard side window (C category), in the aft. Our cabin is close to the elevator / stairs and on the promenade deck.
Size wise, the cabin was spacious enough for the 2 of us. The stateroom houses everything we need: Closet filled with hangers; plenty of shelves, drawers; Robes, Kimono, slippers, complimentary cotton bag; a huge umbrella. Not to mention a fridge stash of different types of beer, Perrier water, and soft drink. The newly renovated bathroom, sparkly and shining, has an efficient layout (though tight), 2 vessel sinks, 1 full tub, marble enclosures. Both my husband and I really appreciated the water pressure in the shower.
5. SHIP AMENITIES
For this ship size, the amenities are abundant. We use the library almost every day. The computer room, studio were very active with internet users and computer classes. We attended most of the full-house ipad/computer classes, and found them informative, and entertaining.
Because the Main lobby area on Deck 5 is where The Crystal Water Fall, concierge desk, customer service are located, I expected buzzing crowd and line ups. Not so. One can relax with a book and a drink, accompanied with melody played by a pianist or string quartet. The 2 retail boutique carry merchandize catered to gifts and wants. The staff are helpful, and I am impressed by the daily changing of window displays, keeping the boutique "fresh" and fun.
Our favorite place is the Palm Court on deck 11. The comfortably elegant lounge is conducive to quiet reading, meeting up with friends, ballroom dancing with live music, or just daydreaming! Try one of those high back wing chairs, you will understand why they are highly sought after.
Weather permitting, my husband and I like to be in the outdoor court (with retractable roof) for lunch or snacks. Thick blankets are provided should we need one. We like the cheerful atmosphere, perfect for relaxing with a beer or 2. The light-hearted crew contributes greatly to the ambience. The living wall is a show-piece. A hint: study the living wall carefully. See if you can spot more than plants.
4. ONBOARD ACTIVITIES
The 2 after-dinner shows we attended were phenomenal, high caliber. The magic/comedian show I thought suit the audience. I had belly laughs. The other performance was Robert Meadmore. His last song, Over The Rainbow, was performed with only his own powerful voice; his passion resonated the entire theater. I would never listen to Over the Rainbow the same way again.
DH and I regret we missed other similarly impressive world-class performances. We have a difficult time sitting with our full stomach for 45 min.
We also were impressed with the Special Interest lecturers: Tom Feranda, and Bill Miller. If we miss their lectures during the day, we can watch them on stateroom TV throughout the day.
Interestingly, on Crystal Cruise, we most looked forward to Crystal's line up of enrichment / educational programs. Judging from the attendance, I would surmise all of them are very popular and well-received. It is refreshing to attend these types of workshops without any sale pressure! Kudos to Crystal!
The only drawback is we just did not have enough time to enjoy or participate in them all!
3. SPA and FITNESS
I normally do not splurge on the spa services, but with ship board credit, I decided to give it a try. I chose a facial.
The facility has a calming, zen feel. The treatment room seemed spacious and bright (with ocean view window). I had a wonderful session, and did not have to go through over-zealous sales pitch.
A steam room and a sauna were available for guests to use, which I did not realize. I wish they told me when I book my appointment. I could have arrived earlier to take advantage of these facilities.
Not that I used the fitness facility everyday, but the times I was there, I found the facilities well-attended. The 2 fitness instructors seem to care for the well being of the guests than meeting their sales quota. The yoga/pilate/stretching classes were popular. Due to its popularity, the yoga classes were held in Starlight Lounge.
In my opinion, SERVICE is where Crystal Cruise shine! I now understand why Crystal Cruise has such fanatic loyal fans. The service is beyond expectation. The crew remembers your names and your likes and dislikes. Every morning at breakfast, regardless the section we sat, Tirso would acknowledge us, and bring us our favorite.
We notice the head waiters or maitre d would be in the Lido every morning, worked along side with the crew, looking after the guests.
One stormy 30ft wave night, our chamber attendant Christy knocked on our cabin door to check on us. Many passengers were sea sick. She noticed we did not go out for dinner and she brought us room service. (we are not in PH.)
Due to hurricane Sandy, the entire staff had to make many changes, in very short time. First and foremost, never once did we feel our safety was being compromised. Second, while dealing with the logistics, Crystal staff continued to look after the guests, food, entertainment, enrichment programs, etc... Free internet was provided to all guests.
We heard many unhappy passengers onboard. Some panic, and decided to disembark in Boston. Because we booked our air with Crystal, Crystal Concierge affirmed we need not worry or do a thing; Crystal would look after us. And they did. They rearranged our flights home, better than what we could have done ourselves. We were able to relax and enjoy our cruise while others were frantically trying to find their own flights home.
In my humble opinion, as sophisticated and educated as we are, we passengers can't possibly know and understand the intricate details behind cruise operations: ports authority, and regulations. The captain and the officers had to contend with hundreds if not thousands of variables, that we passengers are not aware of.
For example, we left Boston around 7:30am heading toward New York City. Many questioned why we did not disembark in Boston. It was explained later, Boston port did not have a spot for Crystal, and could not accommodate and provide the necessary services for near 1000 passengers. (Boston city was closed most of the day before.)
With the help of their head office in LA, Crystal Symphony was able to obtain a guaranteed spot in Charleston, SC, that could accommodate both disembarkation and embarkation services. We got one more sailing day with Crystal. We were fortunate.
Yes, there was disappointment on missed ports, missed events and dates planned. Keep in mind this was a very unusual Superstorm Sandy! Compared to those who have lost homes, power, heat, normal life routine, our missed ports and cancelled flights were just inconvenient! We are safe and sound. Keeping the guests safe is the priority at all times, which we commend the captain and his officers for doing that. Plus, Crystal Symphony continued to treat the guests well, and keep us entertained.
For us, service and food on Crystal, are close No.1 and 2.
Main Dining--Food to my husband and me is a very important part of our cruise enjoyment.
Food selection and presentation are fantastic on Symphony. The portions are smaller than other cruise lines; however, they are plenty for us: less waste and smaller waist! The dining waiter and assistant were fabulous, anticipating and meeting our needs.
On the first night, the night of embarkation, (our reserved dining at 8:30pm was way too late for us) we went to dining room around 6:30 pm, the maitre d turned us away because the dining room was full. We learned later that was not the case. Lido cafe was closed for dinner. We ended up getting room service. We were a bit disappointed.
However, the next day, a note left in our cabin, informing us we indeed got an early assigned dining table! We did not expect this on our second day! This is what I call "under promise over deliver."
The wait list table turned out to be one of our most cherished part of this cruise: the fellow dining mates. The 4 couples sharing this early dining table had a special bond: all of us were wait listed. Our special table became the Wait List Table.
Silk Road--Saving the best for the last, if you don't try any thing else, you have to try Silk Road on Crystal Cruise!
The flavoring of each dish is to enhance the main ingredient, not to mask it. For example, the seaweed salad made up of 3 different types, distinctive texture and taste but surprising mix! One of my favorite is Rock cod. It just melts in my mouth.
Silk Road is definitely worth trying Crystal Cruise for!
If you are trying to choose a cruise line for a special celebration, Crystal Crusie should definitely be in the running. I heard one of the best itinerary is passing the Panama Canal.
Normally, my husband and I cruise based on the itineraries. This Crystal Symphony sailing was a departure from our norm. Surprised that we actually enjoyed the slower pace, we become more aware of our world through these enrichment programs and lectures. we connect with new friends and crew alike.
Sailing with Crystal Cruise is more than travelling by sea. It is an adventure that connects me to the world and the importance of life, in a level I never had time for.
For this one reason, in addition to the top 7, Crystal Cruise is definitely worth a try, at least once. And maybe like us and many others, once is no longer enough. We booked another cruise onboard.