We have cruised oceans and seas with Radisson, Regent and Oceania, the Med with Star Flyer, the Baltic with Renaisance, the Danube with Amadeus and Rhine with Viking. Those are our credentials for some comparisons below. The Crystal cruise we took went from Valparaiso to Sydney. It was considered three cruises: Valpariso to Tahiti, Tahiti to Auckland, Auckland to Sydney. I am writing from Sydney.
In general I found that those passengers who had not experienced very many other lines thought Crystal was just great. Also, Crystal, as with most other lines, makes might efforts to sign you up for more cruises and, this may be unique, encourages you to link up with what is essentially a "handler." That person assists you in getting used to the Crystal Way. I did not get used to it.
One of the pleasures of cruising is the chance to meet new and interesting people often followed by an extended conversation over dinner…at an hour that you mutually choose. Not on Crystal. You are assigned the table, the time and the companions you will sit with. Whatever flexibility is offered is done as if your request to sit with people of your choosing is somehow "unusual." The food itself is very good and the waitstaff hardworking, smiling and delightful. Managers can be officious.
It is good to feed both mind and body on a cruise. On the Serenity there was a full speaking program that had a lot of fluff (how to lose that tummy, the glories of chocolate) but the more serious speakers were an ex-general and a former Likud party advisor, both of whom conveyed a Fox News view of the world. Also speaking was a remarkably accomplished storyteller who, when pressed, advocated a vigorous continuation of the American Empire, but was otherwise well practiced and entertaining.
On a cruise from Anchorage to Hong Kong on Regent a few years ago, they did it this way. A general lecture was followed by a continued discussion of the issues raised in a smaller venue. This lead to real discussions and exchanges of ideas instead of the Fox News view presented with “news conference” type questions, that is, wth no follow up and no exchange. The Crystal way is neither intellectually engaging nor satisfying. But, during the 38 days we were aboard, for pure intellectual depth, Dr. Bulent Atalay’s lectures on Leonardo were extraordinary and his manner that of a cultured Levantine gentleman. I also enjoyed some of the less intellectual stuff such as two sessions on Steve Irwin.
It was expensive and slow. Not only that, but the concessionaires are deceptive. First, we were told that it was not possible for my wife and I to share a plan. Not true. We just could not use it at the same time. Second, as a result of the initial misinformation we bought two maximum time plans. That covered most, but not all, of the three segments. We asked to extend the fifty hours we had purchased at the same rate…but no. They wanted to DOUBLE our rate for another five hours. DOUBLE! And, if you would like a little salt with your wound, they have an advertisement for their services that takes over your computer screen, no matter what you are doing, every five minutes that your computer is on, requiring you to manually delete it. And here’s some acid to add to your salted wound. In the advertisement is a line to click that allows you to email the new President of Crystal with any concerns…but it didn’t work. I took it to the computer center and was told that it was “still under improvement.”
Four comfortable chairs and doors that are not closed “for safety reasons.” Four chairs for a thousand passengers!? Are there other weather protected chairs? Yes, but none of them in a quiet Library environment. There were lots of movies to borrow for in-room watching on dated TVs and a barely adequate collection of books.
Oh please…very little floor space to stretch, Brand X machines, and for those who like to ride the stationary bike…welcome to the wall. No ocean views for riders.
As I said, it was our first and last Crystal experience.