The quality of the food, the service, the entertainment and overall ambience was much superior to that we have experienced on other cruise lines. The first day we heard two discussions among different groups about whether Seabourn or Crystal was the best cruise line with no agreed conclusion except that it had to be one of the two. I'll just list in no particular order some of things we liked:
- Spotless cabins and public areas
- The cabin was small but had ample storage
- The service staff made an effort to learn the names of passengers and greet them by name.
- Every effort was made to accommodate the wishes of passengers and to create a family type atmosphere
- There were a high percentage of repeat customers loyal to Crystal indicating consistent quality - some had taken over 50 cruises on Crystal.
- We could bring on a bottle of liquor each for use in our cabins
- Bingo was cancelled for lack of interest!
- There were no sales of kitschy "art"
- The computer setup was great with free lessons and help readily on hand for problems
- There were few announcements on the PA -- absolutely none of the type "trivia begins at 1:30"
- Excellent lecturers like Tex Harris on world affairs and Sylvia Rimm on family issues enhanced the already very good enrichment program.
The cruise left from Miami, went to Barbados and then to Devil's Island where we couldn't land because of the surf. The ship then sailed along the coast of Brazil. A stop at Salvador was cancelled because of a police strike and then on to Maceio. A stop at Bouzios, a pleasant beach resort, was substituted for Salvador. Finally we ended up at Rio during Carnival -- a fabulous time.
The failure to land at Devil's Island although beyond the control of Crystal was handled very well. The Cruise Director quickly reconfigured the day's program to a sea day and had it printed and distributed to passengers within a couple of hours. Free drinks were offered in all the bars during the two hours before dinner. A nice recovery which contrasted with our April 2011 cruise on the old Royal Princess which missed a stop at Easter Island and made no effort at "make-up". The attitude toward passengers is much more positive on Crystal than on Princess.
The only sour note on the cruise was our stop at Maceio. It's a dump and the passengers couldn't understand why the ship stopped there. Shabby and rundown buildings with flaking walls covered in graffiti were all there was to see. The guides on the Crystal tour buses with one exception were poor English speakers and didn't understand the concept of bathroom breaks. We ended up spending an hour in a lace market street with not very good products. We'd strongly recommend that Crystal not call there again.
The old adage "you get what you pay for" is certainly true here -- it costs more to cruise on Crystal but it's a higher quality experience.