For Christmas 2012, I decided to return to Crystal after a 4-year break to try other lines. I had always said that nothing else at sea compares to Crystal. But this cruise was a disappointment. Too much smoking, no one to greet us on embarkation day, unmotivated staff. It really seems as if the once-great Crystal has fallen a few notches. This wasn't a bad cruise. The food was fabulous and we had a great time enjoying the sea day activities. But for the premium fares we paid, and based on prior experience with the line, we expected more.
I had read that the 10-year old Serenity had been updated. Yes, our Deck 9 Verandah Room was lovely. But everything else on the ship still seemed dated and boring, with enough wicker to fill grandma's summer home. We did love the storage space in our room and the double sinks in the bathroom. And the verandah was a good size to accommodate us, two chairs and a table. Our room stewardess was just so-so.
Everything we ate on the ship was amazing. There wasn't one misstep in the 14 days we were onboard. Even the desserts, usually blah on most cruises, were fabulous. Food was always available whether through the main dining venues, the Bistro, or servers bringing around trays of hors d'oeuvres late at night. We really enjoyed both Prego and Silk Road for alternative dining and also enjoyed the big Christmas day buffet.
Service was where Crystal really messed up this time. Once we embarked, there were no stewards to greet us or welcome us onboard. Even on Celebrity, which is roughly half the price, employees are swarming you on embarkation day offering mimosas and directions. When we sailed on Crystal before, the dining room servers would always remember our names, drink preferences, etc. This time, they asked us every night what we wanted to drink, eventhough we ordered the same thing everyday. Dining room service was slow. And most of the crew didn't seem particularly happy to be there. It was hard to get attention from servers in the Lido, as they were busy cuddling up to all of the guests who cruise several times a year. Those of us who cruise occasionally, were left waiting for someone to come take an order for a soda. And on the first day of the cruise, as we were taking a tour of the ship, the Maitre'D blocked us from entering Prego to have a look, saying that we didn't have an appointment to speak with someone. We explained that we didn't need to speak with anyone has we had pre-booked a dining time - we just wanted to see what the room looked like. It was the most awkward cruise we had ever been on.
Also, Crystal really needs to step into the current trends, and eliminate smoking from their ships. Most of the Deck 6, the casino and the Crystal Cove were filled with smoke and we stayed away from those locations. The whole ship feels musty with old smoke.
Daily entertainment was fine, filled with the usual Bingo, trivia and enrichment programs. Dr. Ruth Westheimer was the guest speaker, and I heard great things about her 2 lectures. The shows in the Galaxy Theater were fine. We had seen a few of them before - especially the "Million Dollar Musicals" production that they refuse to retire (we first saw it in 1996). There was one show which completely stood out - "Rocket Man" was an Elton John tribute show with amazing singing and a great Elton John impersonator. It's not as cheesy as it sounds. It was one of the best shows I have seen on any cruise ship ever.
We sailed roundtrip out Miami to the Eastern Caribbean. The ports weren't anything remarkable, but it was nice to have a relaxing warm weather cruise. Our cruise had a maiden port call at Ponce, Puerto Rico. There was nothing there. The cruise even only offered one excursion to a museum. Based on feedback from other guests, I doubt Crystal will stop there again.
I would not completely write Crystal off after this. But it would be hard to win back my loyalty unless they offer a fabulous itinerary when I need to cruise.