There are two deal breakers for Crystal.
The first is the fixed dining times. They do offer dining by reservation but we found this a rather annoying fudge. We threw our toys out the pram the first night as we not only were allocated a table in the central area which meant that during the transition between main and late dining we were in the centre of a whirlwind of table set ups but to add insult to injury there were loads of empty window seats. We were initially denied but after further moans were allocated a nice (we suspect the ‘naughty’) table for the remainder of the cruise. This was with conditions that meant it really wasn’t dining by reservation and guessing if the ship was full it might not have been attainable. No matter what a 7.30 dining time which would be our preference did not work as the atmosphere due to the changeover was weird.
The second is that in order to achieve a similar space and standard of stateroom as I would have in a veranda suite with Silversea or Seabourn I had to pay for a Penthouse – lovely but way more expensive per square foot. The normal room seemed very cramped by comparison (we looked).
Because of the fixed dining times the bar areas are empty and too large for the ship – particularly for pre dinner drinks (arguably at times Seabourn’s and Silversea’s are too small!). This (coupled with fixed dining times and tables) means spontaneous social interaction is tricky. We are quite social but don’t like to be forced and are happy in our own company. An ideal cruise for us is 4/5 evenings as two, 3/4 with another couple and 1 or 2 nights at a large table. This would be hard to manage on Crystal but so easy on the other two.
Where Crystal won out over all our other cruises was on the food which was pretty much universally excellent. In fact in all honesty the best we have had. The butler service on the Penthouse deck was exceptional and charming – thank you Sebastian for lending great character to our holiday and enhancing everything you could. The Trident Grill indoor / outdoor space is also a great facility and if this could be added to Seabourn ships would make IMHO the perfect cruise liner! The Silk Road restaurant would be exceptional on land.
There were a few children on this trip. They were very charming but the fact of the matter is they were there. Some were quite young - toddlers. We have not found this with Seabourn. The Kids' Club is next to the Palm Court so sitting with a post dinner drink one night was like being next to a school yard. Bad location if it is going to be used in the evening.
Hard to give the entertainment a star rating as some was excellent and some not so. The show 'Diva' was great, the show 'Maestro' was dire.
The cruise itself was a good balance. Dalian was a great start – possibly due to it being a gorgeous day and so unexpected. Shanghai rocked and having three days meant you felt you had actually given some time to this absolutely amazing city. We did Xian and Beijing before joining the cruise so weren’t under any pressure to tick more boxes and I would recommend this. Seeing Japan from a cruise ship is possibly not the best way but we stayed on afterwards so were able to dispel the industrial edges of the islands with some of the more pastoral parts (and the amazing bullet train).
Good cruise and would definitely go with Crystal again but only if it offers an itinerary or timing where Seabourn wouldn’t work.