After waiting ten months for this cruise, and after reading numerous reviews, comments, etc regarding Crystal, I started feeling that my very high expectations couldn't possibly be met. Well, I was wrong! Please allow me to explain:
1. Embarkation and disembarkation were the quickest and smoothest I've ever experienced. The Crystal team realizes how important first impressions are, and they did a good job of starting off right.
2. Service on this cruise was beyond belief. By the second or third day everyone from the waiters to the bartenders to the maitre d'hotel greeted me by name, and always with a smile. How do they do it? Whenever I asked for anything, whether it was a drink in the bar, a second appetizer at dinner or some assistance in the library or gym, my "thank you" usually elicited a "my pleasure" or similar response from the friendly staff. Because Crystal recently went to an all-inclusive format, I had needlessly worried that service might suffer. Although this was my first Crystal cruise, I can't imagine that it could ever have been any better than what I experienced.
3. Food is of paramount importance to me, and I was blown away by my 16 days of gluttony! Everything from the grand gala buffet to the casual dining options to the main dining room was spectacular. Most notable was the variety, as there never seemed to be an entree that was repeated during the duration of the cruise. The specialty Italian and Japanese restaurants were superb. The overall dining experience was worthy of one Michelin star, if not slightly better.
4. The ship itself was comfortable and inviting. Numerous areas such as the Crystal Cove and the Palm Court were so peaceful that you never suspected that 900 other passengers were on board. During the pre-dinner hours, however, the bar areas were more energetic. A special note should be made of the bartenders and waiters in the bar areas: they were uniformly outstanding!
5. The cabins are well-appointed, clean and comfortable, but are on the smallish size. That's not a problem for me, but if a spacious stateroom is important to you, you might be disappointed. Although one earlier review described the bed as uncomfortable, I couldn't agree less. The mattress, pillows, duvet etc were excellent. The mini-fridge was always filled with sodas and beers of my liking, the fruit bowl was replenished daily, and an orchid was always present on the table. The room was cleaned twice daily and was always spotless. The verandah was fairly standard but, again, not too spacious.
6. Activities onboard the ship were plentiful. My favorite was the enrichment program which presented expert speakers. A retired Air Force general gave a series of talks that was fantastic. There is a movie shown daily in a very comfortable theater, and multiple classes are offered, including such diverse subjects as pilates, yoga, napkin folding and computer use. There's a nice-appearing casino, but I didn't go in it. The evening shows were better than average, but nothing too special.
7. There were many excursions to choose from, but quite a few of them were very expensive (helicopter rides, etc). I went on three snorkeling excursions (Key West, Cayman Islands and Huatulco) and they were well-organized.
A few other comments: The average age of the passengers on this cruise was ~ 70 years old. I wouldn't recommend this cruise for children or for the under-40 crowd.
This is an expensive ship, double or triple in cost of most other lines. What you're paying extra for is luxury and service. If that's not so important to you, and if it's mostly the destinations that you're looking for, you probably can find better value elsewhere.
Overall, Crystal is outstanding and I can easily see why it has such a high rate of repeat cruisers.