This was our first cruise with Crystal. We have cruised more than 30 times before with several cruise lines including Azamara, Oceania, Silversea and Celebrity. Our experience on board the Crystal Symphony was Ok but not really from an exceptional quality, as many loyals to Crystal emphasize.
Our first impression was very good. Embarcation was smooth and cabins were ready. Our cabin was an outside cabin, rather small in size but with a good bathroom
Our first meals were also very nice and we kind of had the feeling that this was indeed a very fine ship. The included wines were OK.
As a matter of fact during the first days of our cruise, we were ready to book a world voyage of more than a 100 days for 2016. However this very positive impression did not lasted for the remaining of our cruise.
A) Ship is very old and it is not well maintained in all areas. It shows rust in several places including our cabin. Since we were staying for 24 days, it disturbed us to see the rust in our window and we requested to be fixed it. In order to allow for that we were moved for one night in an "emergency room". Other areas of the room needed also maintenance, for example the carpet or the wardrobe, which was permanent clapping. We did not request for maintenance in those areas because, we did not want to move again to another room nor to have workers in the room. We were on vacation and it did not appeal to us to have workers around. There was also a sewerage smell in some areas on the ship, for example in the vecinity of the jogging track.
Our opinion is that the Symphony was probably a lovely ship 20 years ago, but it needs to be replaced by a more modern ship. A newer ship would contribute a lot to improve the overall impression even in terms of seccurity (better, newer life boats). It will also allow for larger TV sets, since at the moment, those on the ship are quite small. It was great to have the possibility to watch DVDs on the TVs though.
B) Too many repetitions and lack of options. Food was repetitive in all restaurants and there were no alternatives to the main restaurant after 18.00. There were the, not anymore free, specialty restaurants (they are free only once per cruise) but even they, had a fixed menue and did not change.
Entertainment was also repetitive. Only the local shows were different.
Repetitive food and entertainment gave us second toughts on how would it be to spend more than a 100 days in such a ship. We decided to postpone the booking of such a cruise with Crystal until we have made another experience with the company.
C) There were lectures offered. We think that there is plenty of room for improvement in these area. For example the subjects of the lecturers made us wondering, to which target group are the lectures really directed. For example, a previous senior army person talking about how to improve leadership skills for an audience (most of them retired seniors including us) which is very unlikely to make use of the "acquired knowledge".
In addition, visualization of the lectures could be improved because the pictures shown, many times were more private photos from lecturers but did not really contribute to follow the lectures. Since Crystal cruises does not only have native english speaking guests but also Japanese, French, Germans, Spanish speakers, or many of the guests are hard of hearing, it appears important to ask lecturers to visualize their contributions in such a way that those are selbs explanatory. No doubt the lecturers could talk. A lot, fast and long, but how about having a good visualization to accompany their speeches?.
D) Most of the crew members were friendly and attentive. Specially the younger waiters were always smiling and were very helpful. There were however a few members, which did not look very happy with themselves and appeared rather tired and manchmal gave us the impression of acting in terms of "I am longer here than the guest and after doing this job such a long time, I know better". Well....
We found the several assistant Maitre D', sommeliers, our waiter and assistant waiter, guest relations personnel and pool attendants particularly friendly and attentive.
E) The library and the internet facilities were very good. We have specially enjoyed the library and the advise of the friendly librarian. It was excellent to have reference books for the ports of call in the library.
F) For those passengers booking a cabin on the main lobby level, be aware that in case of rough seas, your window will be covered for protection and you will end up in a dark room.
G) Disembarkation in Auckland was absolutely smooth.
In summary we had a nice cruise. We have enjoyed specially the wonderful itinerary. Cruising with the Crystal Symphony was not the "wow" experience we had imagine somehow influenced by the reviews in cruisecritic, but it was fine. We would probably sail again with Crystal, probably with the Serenity in order to be able to have a better opinion of the services offered. It would be great if the company acquires newer ships.