My husband and I are fairly new to Crystal having sailed 6 times within the last 2 years. Had I written this review last year, it would have been far different than what I have to say now. I was, and still am a great supporter of the Crystal experience, but on the last 2 cruises (back to back journey of 24 days), we noticed some real differences.
Embarkation: Extremely smooth as always! We arrived late in the afternoon, were greeted by a Crystal representative at the airport and bused to the ship for check in. We like for Crystal to hold our hand, and they have never let us down while arriving in strange airports.
Cabin: We don't spend much time in our room, so size wasn't an issue. As you may note, Crystal has no inside cabins.........you get a huge picture window for the lowest category of travel. The room is well appointed, and I love that the bathroom has a tub and shower. I also like the vessel sinks and granite countertops. Avenda products are used and I love that they are readily available, along with 2 sets of robes (a terry cloth one and a lighter cotton one) and the terry slippers are a treat! The down pillows and comforter are superb and I liked that our bed was on the firm side. The new system of setting the make-up button for the room stewardess is really great as we hardly ever saw our stewardess and always came to a cleaned room. Our stewardess Karolina couldn't do enough for us and always kept our room spotless!
Service: Can't say enough about the staff members that make sure our trip is enjoyable....we never had to ask for a thing and after just a day, they knew our names and even what we wanted to drink.....from tea to wine to cocktails! Excellent bar tending staff who got used to our little quirks as to how we wanted our drinks served. Even though gratuities are included, we still felt that the wait staff deserved more for their attention to detail........and we noticed many other travelers felt the same and left extra tips for many of the staff.
Entertainment: It doesn't get any better than Crystal! The Crystal Band and Singers and Dancers are fabulous and the production shows are awesome. Since the theater is small, you get a very intimate feel. Some of the guest entertainers are a little on the boring side, as their show doesn't have much variety....45 minutes of just singing without a change of routine gets a little boring. Our comedian on the New England trip (I think his name was Jimmy) was absolutely FUNNY without ever being insulting or foul. His ad-lib on one of our ports, Harve Saint Pierre was absolutely hilarious!
Lectures: I think that this is one Crystals stronger points as, by in large, the lectures have been well delivered, by people who knew what they were talking about. Our destination lecturer, Ken Reese, gave great background information of the ports we were going to and what we could expect to see and our economist from South Africa presented really informative talks. As for the lectures on the Film and Theater Theme cruise ( the second cruise New York to the Caribbean) the lectures were very weak in content and not very interesting. I'm sure all of these people were very talented, but they really could use some pointers on how to present a coherent, interesting lecture.
Dining: What is happening??? This is the highlight of OUR cruising experience as we are "journey" travelers and not "destination" travelers..........we love the ship; however, this time there were a lot of changes. First , for breakfast, the fruit offerings were diverse and exotic, but the Papaya was hard as a rock, as was the melon, the oranges were dry and tough, and the strawberries were quite tasteless. I asked management if they had switched vendors and was told that it was that the fruits are not in season.........well, I live in a little town in Eastern Carolina, and we don't have trouble getting good, fresh, ripe fruit. For breakfast, I got tired of BURNED FRIED EGGS in the Lido, so I asked management to please ask the Omelet chef, to SLOW COOK the eggs or omelet...finally got that right after 4 days!! In the Main Dining Room for dinner, we now have to pay for the caviar! Wouldn't mind it if there was a nominal charge, but $95 a serving was a little steep! In the past, we always got lots of fresh fish and shell fish from the various ports, but this time some of the offerings (Snapper on mashed potatoes) was tough, dry and "fishy". Our Maine lobster was covered with some awful sauce served on some "Mystery Mush". When I asked to order lobster the next night, I was told that they were all eaten and perhaps later in the cruise they would get in some tails (which they did!). On several occasions the shrimp was not cooked (they were served grey, which means that it's not cooked). We saw a real change in the quality of food overall from our 2 voyages this spring on the Serenity. I could go on, but I'm wondering if Crystal is cutting their food budget! Quite frankly, I was not the only person who complained about the food.
Ports: I said that we were not destination people, but I found it so strange to see hundreds of travel agents in ever port from New York to Jacksonville (5 ports in all) that were invited to drink and dine. On several occasions we could not access Palm Court because of the special lunches that were set up. All in all, I wonder how much of our food dollar went to those promotions!
Disembarkation: Another strong point for Crystal! We were asked to leave early and out flight didn't leave until late afternoon, but Crystal sent us to a Hotel for lunch instead of dumping us at the airport! Really nice!
Summary: I'm still passionate about Crystal and we have booked 2 more cruises this next year, but I just hope that Crystal doesn't go the way of other cruise lines, trying to offer a not-so-good experience at a cheaper cost! I would rather pay a little more for a great experience. We also noticed that many cruises are now 7 days with lots of ports .........that means cheaper pricing without amenities like the Grand Buffet and sea time with lectures............Am I seeing the winds of change??????