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8 Crystal Africa Cruise Reviews

I have cruised often as a solo traveller but this is the first cruise line, in my experience, that completely ignores the needs of those travelling alone. A welcome cocktail party, afternoon tea party or coffee morning to bring solos ... Read More
I have cruised often as a solo traveller but this is the first cruise line, in my experience, that completely ignores the needs of those travelling alone. A welcome cocktail party, afternoon tea party or coffee morning to bring solos together would be so simple to organise but there was nothing. The new open-seating concept in the main dining room works against solo travellers. Finding dining companions is a lottery every night. And crew are impatient. On my first night on board I wanted to dine at 8pm and, upon arrival, asked to be seated at a large table with other solos. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that I should have eaten at 6.30pm as a table of singles had been available then. Refusing to be intimidated into eating alone, I told the Maitre d’ I would sit to one side and await the arrival of others and, sure enough, there were soon enough solos to fill a table but we shouldn’t have to battle 'solos discrimination' for that to happen. The speciality restaurants on board offered three evenings when solos could sit on a table together - one at 6.00pm, one at 6.30pm and one at 8.30pm. When I tried to book these a few days into the cruise, the Maitre d’ there told me I could not be fitted in and should have booked immediately upon boarding. So, 190 solo travellers on board (this number told to me by Crystal themselves) for 17 days and the solo speciality dining provision was just 3 tables for eight spread over the whole period. In fairness, I did eventually manage to eat in the speciality restaurants but why does everything have to be a battle? Is Crystal trying to tell us solos something? Another evening a fellow solo braved the Brazilian restaurant on her own and left almost in tears. She was, quite simply, ignored throughout the meal while surrounding tables were well served. She said she had never been made to feel invisible in her life before. Some of the staff and crew are a delight but there is a problem with those who fail to respect single female travellers. We have paid over the top 'single person supplements' yet we receive inferior service that occasionally verges on the offensive. ILLNESS ON BOARD I knew I was going to be ill the first time I walked the promenade deck on Christmas Eve. The air extract for the whole ship is sited on that deck (as told to me by the Front Desk) and, as I passed the outlet vents that first day, I was astounded by the sour stench being emitted. Comparing notes with other walkers later, they also smelled the foul air and told me they'd held their breath at that point on each circuit! Sure enough I picked up something evil confining me to bed with aches, pains and flu like symptoms. Nearly two weeks later I was still feeling drained with a hacking cough and chest and back pain. I tried to report my suspicions of the source of my illness and was told Crystal check the 'air conditioning' daily. Whether that includes the emissions direct to a passenger deck I was not told. I asked to see the results for the days I walked that deck but my request was denied. I was told data is not released. My request for contact details for the shore-based person who is responsible was also denied. One of the staff on the front desk felt obliged to shout over me during a long conversation when she repeated herself endlessly and continually quoted ‘Crystal Policy' as the reason she would give me no means to escalate my complaint. She wanted to keep my complaint ship-based and offered me customer services. Is that Crystal policy so that onboard problems and issues remain 'contained' and shore-based management don't get to see there's been a problem? Is there a duty log? Was my complaint even logged? If I were CEO Tom Wolber I'd put in place a method by which complaints CAN be escalated. How else will he know what is going on if he only ever receives a sanitised/edited version of events? And why is he trying to hide from the day to day reality of passengers' experiences? Incidentally, later in the cruise that foul stench had gone convincing me even more that there had been an emission problem. FOOD SAFETY A minor point but it could bring someone down with food poisoning. I refer to refilling from the front! I noticed that crew were refilling foodstuffs as they were taken so fresh produce was used to fill gaps made by passengers at the front of displays. Products to the rear were left to fester and come up to room temperature (to be taken away and chilled again?). This is poor food hygiene practice and makes one wonder what goes on behind the scenes. CHAMPAGNE This is supposed to be 6-star, all-inclusive cruising but this ship ran out of champagne almost a week before the end of the cruise! And even though we were in port for three consecutive days during that period, none was taken on board. The reason given for them running out? 'New Year's Eve!' Yes, it must have come as a total shock to Crystal that New Year's Eve has occurred during this cruise!!! Occasionally, if I spoke to the right person, a glass of champagne could be found for me but I'd have to try all the bars AND the theatre and it really was a case of pot luck. One day, miraculously, a bottle was found and offered to me to have in my cabin. At the risk of sounding ungrateful, what use is that to a sociable solo who wants to meet others over a glass of champagne at the bar? Am I to carry my own bottle around with me? 6-star? I don't think so! OK, I've got all that off my chest now and I'd hate anyone reading this to assume all was bad. It wasn't. My bed and the quality of pillows and bed linen, the food in general, the entertainment and the majority of warm and wonderful crew are all pluses. Crystal are getting a lot right but where they’re getting it wrong impacts so negatively on the whole experience. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
I judge this cruise against my previous Crystal Serenity trip, a few years back. The old ship felt old despite the recent expensive makeover/dry dock. At times I thought there was an odd vibration even on deck 8 fwd. For sure when ... Read More
I judge this cruise against my previous Crystal Serenity trip, a few years back. The old ship felt old despite the recent expensive makeover/dry dock. At times I thought there was an odd vibration even on deck 8 fwd. For sure when you eat at the back of the ship on deck 11 you are likely in for movement. Staff seemed spoiled by Crystal but not the passengers. The food spend seemed way down. The Waterside (MDR) is now very attractive and perhaps over staffed, yet in 16 days I never got a decent dessert. Old "A Tour of the Galley" notes tell of 8 pastry cooks, well I never saw a decent bit of cake. Restaurants close earlier than some want so returning to the ship after paying plenty for a tour, all you could do may be join the crowd at the cramped Bistro, (popular with staff meetings from the Captain down) unfortunately this area needs redesign. Uncomfortable chairs, poor snack selection.Prego and Umi Uma also look tired now. As for our little cabin, no flower, fruit, champers, gifts, nor chocolates on boarding. We did get a single bloom twice in 16 days! The very next hotel I visited gave us all that. The tender boat ride was well done, these being large tenders. The entertainment was well put together, the Crystal dancer's and Band being excellent. Some of the bar crooners were not so good. In the bars service was shall we say tired, I tried to explain how a British champagne cocktail would go together but they were not interested. Afternoon tea was poorly served and one common tea bag was out of stock. The ship feels old and the experience has gone backwards. No matter how smart the decor nor how many staff I did not feel value and wont be returning. The new cabin TV's are huge at the foot of the bed. Plenty of movies and lectures can be viewed, but it serves no other purpose, still no menus, bill nor room service ordering. Using the old phone to room service often joined a long cue and delivery and food was poor. Despite a number of LBGT passengers at no time did Crystal welcome us with any get together. Despite the fact the award at the Crystal Society "party" for most cruises with Crystal went to a Gay couple. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
This cruise, Symphony/ So Africa was a bucket list add on to a remarkable safari experience..As the title says the jury is still out.. Pros; beautiful ship, great staff, super spa, casino that was fun but only successful for the casino ... Read More
This cruise, Symphony/ So Africa was a bucket list add on to a remarkable safari experience..As the title says the jury is still out.. Pros; beautiful ship, great staff, super spa, casino that was fun but only successful for the casino owners HAHA. Awesome food. awesome venues for food and drink. Clergy aboard (a plus) Great evening enterainment, Good music. Several tours very good ie: 4x4 adventure in Walwis Bay. ***Now the cons--- The first night the toilet in 5024 developed an airlock. Overflowed all night and I stepped into ankle deep cold toilet water (clean???) in the am. Fortunately I was able to grab the counter and stop my fall. This overflow was corrected within the hour BUT no one called, messaged or knocked on my door to show any concern for the inconvenience.. Very poor customer relations! The activities that were available, knitting,, needlepoint, bridge were certainly not exciting Exercises and yoga were too early for me.. Gymn was usually pretty full. . Computer classes were of such a broad spectrum of ability that after feeling out of place for a couple I left. The staterooms at the edge of the Crystal reception area were very noisy, could use a door to separate Concierge desk out of earshot. Running out of champagne was inexcusable especially while So Africa has an acceptable bubbly right there. "Gentlemen Ambassadors" are a great idea but personalities should be vetted a little bit. One dinner at the solo table was enough (good dancers they might be). No solo events were provided not even a meet and greet venue. There were quite a few solos on board (poor cousins?) The ports of call were somewhat lacking in interest unless you were lined up for a tour and even then some complaints were heard. Shuttle services "into town" were disgusting as we were dropped off at substandard malls. Not even interesting malls and who wants to pay $$$ to be on a cruise that thinks a trip to a mall is appropriate.. In all it was a new experience for which I am grateful. I will cruise again and as often as my age (87) and physical condition will let me. Crystal? Maybe another try who knows but the cruise planners should do a little more planning and look a little more into their ports of call in this particular geographic area if the ships go that way again.. I see I am not alone in my comments re: solo travels Pay attention Crystal folks..Your prestigist position may diminish rapidly if cruisers note the negative comments that are on this board.. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
Staff is wonderfully friendly and helpful. Food is amazing in variety, quantity and quality with a variety of venues and styles.The main dining room always accommodated our table preference with no/minimal wait no matter what time we ... Read More
Staff is wonderfully friendly and helpful. Food is amazing in variety, quantity and quality with a variety of venues and styles.The main dining room always accommodated our table preference with no/minimal wait no matter what time we arrived. Ship is modern, comfortable, with plenty of on-board activities and "hide-outs" for spending free time. Evening entertainment was magnificent - especially the "Rocket-Man Elton John Tribute" performance - and even the Cruise Director had a great sense of humor which he shared following each performance. Special comment about "Bluenea" jazz duo whose musical artistry at some of the the lounges was amazing. Variety of South African stops and excursions provided a broad array of experiences from very modern to very rustic. Daily briefings and tour guide yielded great insight into unique cultural perspectives for each stop. Only negatives were multiple required immigration interviews and last-day lengthy debarkation delay due to fog which caused much chaos in rearranging flights. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
The shore excursions were extremely expensive but sub-par. The exercise room is average but no one cleans or sanitizes the equipment if the guest fails to do so. Crystal installed new technology to support free wifi for everyone. ... Read More
The shore excursions were extremely expensive but sub-par. The exercise room is average but no one cleans or sanitizes the equipment if the guest fails to do so. Crystal installed new technology to support free wifi for everyone. BUT I felt that the old system worked better. It was hard to connect to the internet and we could not make phone calls in airplane mode. The food was mediocre., Prego, the Italian specialty restaurant, and Umi Uma, the Japanese specialty restaurant, are excellent. The bar/bartenders were very nice and recommended great drinks. However at waterside, it was not pleasant. We had to wait so long for our food and it was not even busy. The buffet during the day at The Marketplace is open till 1:30 for lunch which is pretty convenient if you like to take your time in the mornings. The buffet, again, is mediocre and it changes very little. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
We had some luck with our second Crystal experience. A combination of special offers/incentives and some fortunate timing resulted in bonuses including return business class travel to Mauritius and returning from Cape Town (from Canada) ... Read More
We had some luck with our second Crystal experience. A combination of special offers/incentives and some fortunate timing resulted in bonuses including return business class travel to Mauritius and returning from Cape Town (from Canada) for $999 -- and a surprising last minute upgrade to the Penthouse level, with butler service and an extra-large stateroom. Then Crystal topped things off by advancing us three trips in the Crystal Society program, resulting in a milestone bonus (credited at Penthouse level) of $200 each -- meaning virtually all of our modest shipboard/excursion costs were covered. The Penthouse gave us the opportunity to experience the butler service and constantly refilled wine (we could have had spirits if we preferred) in the stateroom, plus room service from Prego when we wished it. But even if didn't have these extras (which we certainly enjoyed), the services overall aboard the ship certainly met the standards of our first experience when we travelled in an ordinary verandah stateroom. There were extra sea days because of the cancelled Madagascar stop (because of the plague there), but the shipboard enrichment/programs were truly satisfactory. We also enjoyed Hanukah services with a guest rabbi and about 30 other Jewish people, some of whom ordered the kosher food service available with preplanning. The only flaw: An unpleasant smell in the room a few days; staff certainly worked to try to resolve it. I'm not sure what caused the problem but it corrected itself by the time the voyage ended. Overall, the experience proved satisfying enough that we are planning our next journey in 2019. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
We selected Esprit based on her itinerary - the Seychelles sounded like a good idea to get away from cold, grey Germany in February. I was also curious about the ship herself and how 'the vibe' would be with such a small ... Read More
We selected Esprit based on her itinerary - the Seychelles sounded like a good idea to get away from cold, grey Germany in February. I was also curious about the ship herself and how 'the vibe' would be with such a small passenger contingency. Overall, we enjoyed our trip - we jokingly called it the voyage to nowhere because the islands are so close together. But that's the idea - island hopping with a private yacht. BTW, we didn't do Dubai - those two days were not included in the price to European customers. The decor was lovely, understated elegance with soothing colors. There was a very nice flow to the ship and it 'lived' bigger than what it is. You could always find a nook or cranny to sit and read. We also enjoyed the Yacht Club - it really felt like a cozy living room and was such a comfortable place to relax with a pre-dinner drink with new friends and listen to Mark entertaining on the piano. Food was superb, especially for dinner. The chef was great and totally exceeded our expectations for creativity, high quality and number of choices. I was also was very pleasantly surprised by the wide variety of offerings at breakfast and lunch. My only (minor) nit was that I wished more advantage could have been taken to source local products, especially the wonderful fresh fish and fruit. I don't believe anything was purchased locally. Wine choices were good, especially given the size of the ship. Billecart-Salmon was the house champagne and wines by the glass were also fine. They had a very nice cellar, where we indulged a few evenings. Ramon, the sommelier, may be young but don't let that fool you. He has trained extensively and passed many of the wine world's important exams and certifications. Cocktails were excellent too. Service, almost without exception, was top notch. Very personal attention (as you would expect with the passenger:staff ratio). There were a couple of minor glitches, due to a 'lost in translation' problem with some of the wait staff (English not being their mother tongue). But they are so friendly and eager, it's easy to overlook :-) Service at dinner was flawless as was cabin service. And our butler, Nathaniel, was awesome. He just couldn't do enough for you. Cabins: We had 308 but most are the same size, so I don't think it really matters. Space is well utilized, there was enough storage and everything well laid out. There was a Nespresso machine, as well as a selection of chocolates that were replenished regularly and sweets in the afternoon. Shower was adequate size, towels were big and fluffy. Lighting not too good for doing make up, though. The bed was very comfortable. One rather big negative for us: We missed a balcony far more than we thought we would. Sometimes it's just nice to have fresh ocean air and sit outside by yourself with a glass of wine. Shore excursions: We were very active and did every shore excursion on offer. Here is an area for improvement: Communication was not what it should have been regarding the difficulty level and also things like: Wear insect repellent and long pants. Description of the shore excursions often just didn't match up with the experience itself. Some were much easier and at least one much harder. There was one particular shore excursion which was really like a rock climbing expedition: No path, scrambling upwards over rocks and roots, very slippery due to rain. We were okay, but there were people who really struggled. Shore excursions in general were just 'okay'. Also, didn't get to play with many of the 'toys' on the marina because of weather. Can't control that. Also couldn't do caviar in the surf (same problem - poured rain) but they had a nice, civilized champagne and caviar in the Yacht Club. WiFi was supposed to be 60 min/day/per person. Turned out to be unlimited. Very nice touch and it worked well, too. Check in and check out all went smoothly. Again, it's what I would expect, given the small size of the ship and number of staff. Officers were always around and interacted with the guests. So all in all, a very pleasant experience and we enjoyed it. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
We departed from Perth, Australia for one of the segments of Crystal's 2015 World Cruise. This was our 15th cruise, and we have sailed on 10 different lines. We chose based upon itinerary, and chose this one since it transported us ... Read More
We departed from Perth, Australia for one of the segments of Crystal's 2015 World Cruise. This was our 15th cruise, and we have sailed on 10 different lines. We chose based upon itinerary, and chose this one since it transported us to Africa where we have begun a land-based tour of South Africa and Madagascar. We are two retired gents in our mid-60s, and we enjoy ocean crossings and exploring the world. Service: Truly excellent without any bowing or scraping. I often noticed how the Crystal staff made all situations, no matter how complicated or demanding, very smooth and easy. Embarkation and Disembarkation: The simplest and smoothest we have every experienced. One minor problem in a port, but again, ridiculously quick and smooth. Ship: In very good condition. Many well-designed public spaces. The only time we felt crowded was when folks were waited outside the dining room for dinner. See below for my cabin review. Enrichment Program: The absolute best we have ever experienced. We loved the lecture series with many talks at a very high level. Our attention spans never failed and we were often challenged by the thought-provoking content. Destination lectures provided very good information and preparation. Internet: Of course it is slow and you will have trouble up-loading your photos or doing anything that requires band width. But this is exactly the same as on every other cruise line. The big benefit on Crystal is that Crystal Society members (you join automatically after your first Crystal cruise) are given one free hour for each day on board. This was a major benefit for us, allowing us to avoid any internet costs, and making the Crystal experience more all-inclusive. Beverages: Excellent, from the fresh juices, to the specialty coffees, to all the booze and wine, all-inclusive. So bottoms up! Food: Since we are foodies from the San Francisco area, this is a make-or-break area for us, and we were generally pleased. The stand-out for us was Tastes, the small plates venue on the Lido deck which features world cuisine. Our only complaint was that they don't vary the menu, so after 2 visits, we had sampled all the small plates. Dinner and lunch in the main dining room were always quite good, with lots of variety and even some ethnic dishes, which we appreciated. We did have a special meal with some friends, a series of Indian curries, which was lackluster. Breakfast and lunch buffets in the Lido were good enough with lots of variety, but a few things to avoid, such as the super-greasy bacon. The specialty restos were a big disappointment. Silk Road lacked any wow factor; I just don't understand the rave reviews. But poor, poor Prego is desperately in need of a make-over. The interior design looks like a New Jersey suburban Italian resto that Tony Soprano might frequent. The Prego food quality was sadly just a step above the Olive Garden. Come on, Crystal, you can do better than that! Entertainment: There was an excellent concert pianist, and we enjoyed Ms. Calvert's Patsy Cline show. And one night in the Cove we were brought to tears by a smooth jazz jam that included a floating bunch of the best musicians on board, a transcending experience. Otherwise the entertainment was same old, same old cruise ship material. Does Belinda King book the acts and script the shows, like she does for other lines? Here is where we do not fit the typical cruise ship demographic, and where I will probably get a lot of push back from others. But we search for something more modern, more edgy, maybe a bit younger. The nadir was a salute to British rock from the 60s where the troupe did an endless group sing of 20-second bits from dozens and dozens of songs, very much like the dull introductions to "American Idol" episodes. I almost lost it during the dumbed-down medley of Rolling Stones' songs, which was like a "Saturday Night Live" parody of what one would expect on a cruise ship. At one time that music stood for something. Where did we go wrong? The Big Issue: We boarded the 4th segment of a 6-segment World Cruise, joining hundreds and hundreds of folks who were on for the full 100 days. Many of these passengers had taken many Crystal world cruises before. They had bonded, knew each other, and seemed to stay within their own groups of friends. Very natural, of course, but this was hard for us, and try as we might, we found it very hard to meet people. Believe me, this did not ruin our experience, but we very, very often felt left out. We did meet a few people and had a few good conversations, but over the course of 21 days, we were pretty much on our own. It was more than a bit alienating. I would caution others who are considering one or two segments midway through a Crystal world cruise. You might have a bit of trouble connecting with others. So would I cruise Crystal again? Certainly for the right itinerary, and we would definitely consider an Atlantic crossing. But I think I would avoid a segment of a world cruise. In fact, we have made a deposit on the 2016 World Cruise mainly because of the incredible itinerary and because we got a very good deal. But we are now about 95% sure that we will cancel and spend our travel dollars elsewhere. I don't think I could make it through 102 days of struggling to connect with the closed group of frequent world cruisers. Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
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