Although still very good, this cruise disappointed us from the perspective of service that is Crystal's trademark. The new all-inclusive program has resulted in a profound lack of enthusiasm among the staff. Now that everyone receives the same gratuity regardless of service rendered, the extra attention and care that spoiled passengers in the past has fallen away. For example, our cabin stewardess was adequate but there was no automatic replenishment of bath supplies when they got low. We had to ask for more shampoo, soap and for the mini fridge to be refilled. Also, no more Aveda products except for the body lotion :( The girls were very polite and reserved, but nothing one would not encounter on another ship.
DINING: The food is still fabulous. Everything on board was delicious! I sent only one thing back and it was not their fault. Mario the Maitre d' helped us after the first night when we requested to have our table moved. Our waitress was slow yet thorough,but again,nothing exceptional. Every night I requested a glass of ice for my wine. On past Crystal cruises, I only had to ask once and after that, it was brought to me automatically. Thanks to Christian,the sommelier,who on the final two nights,remembered and brought it to me. To us, the all inclusive alcohol is not attractive since we don't drink that much, however, many found it so. Also, I noticed a lot of wasted drinks around as people might try something for the first time, not like it and put it down. In my humble opinion, mixing alcohol and a passenger roster that's mostly senior is risky.
ENTERTAINMENT:The Crystal singers and dancers were good,and the costumes were beautiful. The Galaxy Theater is small enough to be intimate. They did the usual salutes to Hollywood & Broadway. The very best was THE ROCKET MAN show with Jonathan Kane. He was unbelievably good and received a standing ovation. The Casino kept busy after the show and the roulette wheel was good to me!LOL
A TEMPEST IN A TEAPOT:I'm going to keep this short,but an unforeseen fiasco arose when we innocently tried to exchange a CRYSTAL SERENITY shirt purchased on last year's transatlantic cruise.Rather than give it away,I recommended that we bring it back because Crystal is SO service oriented. I was positive they would gladly accomodate us. BIG MISTAKE!!!Enter the senior retail manager who places her rulebook before customer satisfaction.
SHE: "NO EXCHANGE! Shirt was purchased over a years ago(by 5 days). NO EXCHANGE! Shirt is covered with food. NO EXCHANGE!You definately wore this more than once in spite of what you tell me.NO COMPROMISES!I do not have that decisionmaking ability." We saw a pattern, so we backed off. In spite of her best efforts,she did not spoil our good time, I was totally caught off guard though because I firmly believed that Crystal prided itself in customer satisfaction at any price. Had I known that we would meet with such resistance, I would not have even bothered packing the stupid shirt :(
MAMA LEE:Crystal Serenity's best asset and overall goodwill ambassador. She's a wonderful little lady and semi-celebrity on the ship. Everyone who meets her, loves her. I did, too. Crystal had better treat her right because if Mama's not happy, NOBODY's happy. Also, Crystal's Japanese customer rep, Urara, is absolutely adorable and very, very helpful.
I HATE to criticize Crystal because past cruises have made up some of the best memories in my life. I still have a soft spot in my heart for them but I cannot in good conscious, recommend them unconditionally like I once did. Other cruiselines are chasing Crystal by training their staffs better and they are catching up. In many instances, we received the same level of service on other ships that we did this time on Crystal. Unfortunately, the price is no longer a direct reflection of the value.