I have taken a couple of weeks to reflect on my first experience on Crystal cruises. I think, all told, I am glad for the experience, but it did not live up to the very high standards I had set based on other reviews and the boards.
The good (and very good): -Our agent had secured early boarding for us, so that was great. We arrived at about 12:15. There was no one else in line, and we were escorted to lunch and then had a little time to explore before we were able to access our cabin. When we did get to our cabin, our luggage was already waiting, and we were unpacked and enjoying the ship by 3pm. -Our head waiter and senior waiter were an absolute treat. Our head waiter especially went way out of his way to ensure we had a wonderful dining experience every night. -Our stewardess was lovely. She tried really hard to accommodate our every need, although the ship did not have certain things which surprised me (like green apples and pretzels--??). -Having Marvin Hamlisch on board for a performance was a delight. -We also enjoyed the special NFL greats speaker series. -The main pool is very nice; and there were always chairs available to sit and enjoy the day -The food in the main dining room was very good; better than many mainland restaurants, actually. We thoroughly enjoyed that aspect of the cruise...especially the "special" desserts that the head waiter prepared each night. -The European itinerary was perfect; exactly what we were looking for! -The cruise director on board was simply phenomenal...a real joy to meet! -We really enjoyed the daily Reflections...especially the introductions to each of the ports. -The excursions were well thought out and put together, albeit a little pricey. The one time there was a problem with one, they did refund part of the price, which was appreciated. -We thoroughly enjoyed most of the other guests we met...a treat since we were not sure what to expect (we are in our late 30's/early 40's)
The not very good: (ps: I have names of the individuals below, if someone from Crystal is reading this and is interested)
CABINS: -The couches in the cabins uncomfortable, and they are itchy when you sit on them with shorts...I know they are supposed to be getting leather ones very soon, which will be a LOT more comfortable. -The beds are actually pretty uncomfortable. It took a couple of nights before I realized I could ask for another featherbed to make it softer. That helped a lot. -The scent of the Aveda products in the bathroom was overwhelming, and I was very surprised that there were no other options. I ended up buying something on the shore. I think Crystal might investigate "scentless" options for passengers with sensitive skin/allergies, or at least one of Aveda's milder scents for passengers who prefer them. -The cabin doors are unbelievably thin...even conversation at a normal volume in the hallway can be heard in the rooms...as can the kids who kept running up and down the hallways.
DINING: -The couple of nights with "open seating" in the main dining room were the worst nights for us, since the service was so spotty. There were also some service challenges on the Lido deck in terms of getting food in a timely fashion for both lunch and dinner. -There were some incredibly rude waiters in Prego--the specialty restaurant. Both nights I was there they were actually making fun of other passengers. I could not believe it, and actually reported it to the guest hostess on board since it made me so uncomfortable. She told me the dining manager would get in touch with me, but he never did.
BOOKING AGAIN: -I wanted to take advantage of the on-board booking discount, and I got the feeling that the woman who was working at that desk did not care if I booked again or not. It was a stark contrast to how she had been talking to the older couple right before me...and quite disappointing.
PUBLIC AREAS/LAUNDRY: -The ship does not have any comfortable places to sit to just read a book in the evening, except the bar in the main lobby, but the smoke often chased me away. In fact, ALL of the bars have smoking, which for me is an obstacle to enjoying the space. I wonder if Crystal might consider creating a non-smoking bar??? -A lot of the public areas seem a little dated; I am hoping this is rectified soon! -The laundry room ran out of dryer sheets quickly and were not replaced. Also, Crystal should place signs in the laundry rooms reminding guests to be aware of the timing of their washers and dryers. Especially when one machine is out of order (which it was for the entire cruise), the ability for quick "turn-over" is only respectful, although some passengers had no qualms about leaving their laundry for hours at a time and returning whenever it suited them (and then they had the nerve to complain about people removing their items!).
NOT CRYSTAL'S FAULT, BUT STILL AFFECTED OUR TRIP: On this voyage, there were over 100 children, ranging in age from a couple of months to teenagers. The older kids were actually pretty good (except for running up and down the halls at night), but the parents really let their little kids run rampant around the ship and pool area. They were throwing toys in the pool, almost hitting other guests, and they were running around playing tag, and yelling, etc. Since they were with their parents, there was nothing Guest Services could do (or so they told me). But this is NOT a playground at home!! Again, a simple reminder in the daily cruise reflections might have made a positive difference. I made this suggestion, too, but it was ignored.
So, all in all, I am glad for the experience. I did like it better than Regent, with whom we have sailed twice (Tahiti and Alaska trips). But, I am not looking to rush back either...I do have my $100 deposit down, so perhaps 2012...we'll see. At least now I have a more realistic expectation for my experience that should help next time...