Crystal Symphony Cruise Review by George Georges: The Cat Purred, But Didn't Meow!
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The Cat Purred, But Didn't Meow!
I may be unfairly comparing this, my first cruise with Crystal with my recent (and first and only) Alaska cruise on the Regent Seven Seas Navigator. I traveled alone on Crystal Symphony, as my spouse was in Africa on safari, whereas we were together on the Regent Alaska cruise. The port calls to smaller towns in Alaska had a very different feel from those to major cities on the Crystal cruise, and that added to the enjoyment of the Alaska cruise. I had made several business visits to most of the cities on the Crystal cruise (and was raised in Boston), so the port calls held only passing interest for me. Basically, I was looking for a pleasant and relaxing interlude on board, and I got it.
My spouse and I had heretofore opted for ships in the 100-150 passenger range, and I think that would still be my preference for future cruises. So, I am looking forward to trying the "Yachts of Seabourn" in the future. Somehow, the smaller ships, even with their lesser offerings of More entertainment, give me more of a sense of being at sea, a closeness with the ocean.
But, comparing features, the staterooms on the Navigator were comparable in decor, but offered walk-in closets and bathrooms almost as big as at home, with both a full bathtub and shower. By contrast, there was only a sliding door wall closet and a cramped bathroom with 3/4 tub shower on the Symphony. The bed on the Navigator was way too soft for me, and did not support my aching back, whereas the bed on the Symphony was pleasantly firm and supportive; Advantage, Symphony! The stateroom on the Crystal Symphony felt somewhat more cramped than on the Regent Seven Seas Navigator, and my sense was that if I had been traveling accompanied, one of us would have had to sit on the couch or on the bed to allow the other to move around. I did not get that feeling traveling with my spouse on the Regent Seven Seas Navigator; Advantage, Navigator.
I would rate the food as A-minus on the Navigator, especially the breads and the soups, and only a B-minus on the Symphony. The breads tasted almost commercially baked, nothing really to look forward to, and the soups were marred by the chef's unsuccessful attempts to depart from the basics and jazz them up (example: chopped up sun dried tomatoes in a creamed chicken soup, or wine or Champagne in split pea soup, or a clam chowder that was anything but the New England clam chowder that it was supposed to be). And, the entrees were nothing to write home about, either. Seasoned Crystal travelers remarked that the meats seemed to have degraded in quality from what they had been accustomed to on past cruises. So, advantage Regent Seven Seas.
The entertainment on the Symphony was first rate. I did not go to the entertainment on the Navigator, so I cannot compare them. The Symphony is a larger ship with more specialized spaces, such as the Palm Court, so that is a plus for the Symphony. The entire crew on both ships were friendly and cordial and made me feel wanted and pampered.
I appreciated the all-inclusive (alcohol, gratuities) policy on the Regent line much more than on the Crystal line, even with the total of $700 on-board credit that I got on the Symphony. Because, though I am not a big drinker, by any stretch of the imagination, every time I was offered a drink on the Symphony, a cash register went off in my head "Ka-Ching!" and more often than not, I passed it up. By contrast, the house wine selection on the Navigator was included, so I often had a glass of wine with dinner and one night even ordered a cocktail before dinner. My travel agent pre-paid the major gratuities for my Crystal cruise, so the comparison was a wash for me, and I wound up giving additional gratuities on both ships, both augmenting the tips to the room stewards and giving tips to selected wait people who were not covered by the basic gratuity arrangements. But, had the basics not been covered by my travel agent, I would have been uneasy having to do the calculations about each tip. In a word: advantage Regent Seven Seas.
I did not like the idea of having to dress formally on two nights of the Crystal cruise, or of not being able to beat the formal dress requirement by eating in one of the specialty restaurants (because, they, too, required formal dress). The only way to beat that requirement was to order room service, but that was not a good alternative for me. I realize that this was a big plus for many of the guests, as was the opportunity for unaccompanied women to dance with special host "ambassadors," but neither of these held any attraction for me, and the dress code was a nuisance that I just had to put up with.
BUT NOW FOR THE BIG DISCRIMINATOR: the single supplement was 25% on the Crystal line and a whopping 100% on the Regent Seven Seas line. So, everything else being equal, if I were to travel alone again, I would choose the Crystal line over Regent Seven Seas hands down, even though I found several features of the Regent Seven Seas line more more to my liking.
OOPS: Port 5 rating... OK, this was really St. John, New Brunswick, Canada, not St. John's Newfoundland. I took the bus tour (SJB-I) to St. Martins. a little fishing village. The weather was chilly and rainy, putting a damper [UGH, PUN!] on the trip, but the female guide was superb in keeping our interest. She was a resident of St. Martins with grown kids, and she related family activities like going out in the woods during moose ruts and calling male moose with a moose call made from a shoe lace threaded through a hole in the bottom of a tin can (knotted inside to keep it from slipping out), then wetted and stroked to produce the call of a female moose. We all got to try the moose call and to sample the local "delicacy" of seaweed jerky (I already forgot the local name for it). And we saw the before and after reversal of the river flow from the in-rushing tide of the Bay of Fundy. We had a great fish chowder lunch (better chowder than any soup served on the Crystal Symphony!), and I was able to order absolutely first-rate fried clams (with the "bellies") made from freshly caught local clams, a real treat for someone who was raised in New England. So, despite the rain, this was a really good tour. Less
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Cabin review: B8120
Already covered above, but: small closet, tight bathroom, tub shower instead of stall shower, cramped stateroom for two large (in height and/or girth) guests; balcony OK; pretty good TV reception of CNN, BBC, SkyNews; firm bed, which, for me was fantastic! Stewardess gave really good service and was rewarded accordingly with extra cash left on my pillow every day, in addition to the recommended gratuity. Desk chair sides came up to my armpits, rendering it unsuitable for lengthy use, such as to read a book. Had to go to public spaces to read at length.
Port and Shore Excursions
Same for Port 7, Quebec City, which I had visited on business and had no real desire to traipse around in the rain.
And, the same for the final port #7, Montreal. Again a place that I was familiar with from previous business trips.
On all three occasions, I was very happy to remain on board, kick back, and catch up on some reading.