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11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
We chose Crystal this time as it was the choice of my sister in law who had sailed with them before. Unfortunately she had not sailed with any other cruise line so thought they were fabulous without comparison. We had a balcony cabin on ... Read More
We chose Crystal this time as it was the choice of my sister in law who had sailed with them before. Unfortunately she had not sailed with any other cruise line so thought they were fabulous without comparison. We had a balcony cabin on Deck 8 and it was tiny. This was our first disappointment of the cruise. I am not sure how some of the larger passengers on the ship maneuvered themselves around the bathroom or managed to use the toilet as the bathroom was so small. The decor on the ship is quite boring and uninviting in many areas and there is a lack of artwork around the ship. However there is plenty of space on the ship and you never feel crowded anywhere. The boutiques on the ship were outrageously priced and lacked choice. What happened to passing on tax and duty free savings to the passengers? The pool area should have been a hive of activity but there is no pool bar and this area was underutilised. Seabourn and Oceania do fabulous sail away parties with drinks and entertainment. Not so on Crystal! The weather was perfect and not a drink or band in sight. The food was not fabulous and became very boring. The dining room needs a bigger menu and the market place at the back of the ship, usually one of our favourite places to eat on other ships was closed at night and replaced with a Brazilian restaurant that lacked variety. The Marketplace needs a wider range and themed offerings to relieve boredom. Yes, there are two speciality restaurants on board,but they are difficult to get into so don't rely on them as alternative choice. The Chinese was alright but not fabulous. The enrichment program was excellent and we enjoyed the speakers very much. We are not big on night time entertainment so I really can't comment on that area. Tours were only average and could have been improved. The staff were excellent and we could not fault their service and attitude at all. They were friendly and efficient so we were very happy with this aspect of the cruise. Would we sail with Crystal again? Probably not unless there was a great deal available as at this stage we do not believe value meets the current price point. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
The cruise was recommended by some of our friends who had taken it in the past. We have sailed with Crystal 3 times before, but this time was truly a disappointment. The Symphony is old, tired and worn. The air conditioning could not ... Read More
The cruise was recommended by some of our friends who had taken it in the past. We have sailed with Crystal 3 times before, but this time was truly a disappointment. The Symphony is old, tired and worn. The air conditioning could not keep up with the tremendous heat outside and consequently the common areas were warm, the dining room was warm and my cabin had an electric fan to try and cool the air. It was very uncomfortable. Everyone was complaining, not just a few guests. The enrichment classes that Crystal is known for were almost non existent. The exercise room is far from capable of serving a boat that size in a health conscious world. The lack of updated outlets and electronic capability is a problem and requires you to have extension cords running through the room (plus the electric fan supplied by Crystal) and this must be against all fire codes especially on a boat. The Piano Bar entertainment was boring. The night entertainment was fair and there was actually nothing to do after dinner for folks who did not want to go to bed at 10 pm. On Deck 8 the laundry room is too small and was so hot that besides the washers overflowing because they did not work properly, it took many trips there to be able to wash your clothes. This was the first time I stayed on Deck 8 ( I was usually stay on Deck 9) so I am not sure if this is always a problem for those guests. Besides the outstanding service and very good food, there was nothing about the cruise itself that would bring us back to Crystal to sail again, unless they make some real changes to the ship. We went with two other couples and this was their first Crystal trip and they would also not travel with Crystal again. What a shame. I think the Crystal base and its fabulous reputation is about to change maybe as a result of the new owners. Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2018
The reason for our choice was that we had previously cruised on Symphony and had a very enjoyable time. This time there were several cutbacks that were very obvious such as no longer any fruit in the cabin, bare minimum of drinks there ... Read More
The reason for our choice was that we had previously cruised on Symphony and had a very enjoyable time. This time there were several cutbacks that were very obvious such as no longer any fruit in the cabin, bare minimum of drinks there too and food quality mediocre. Entertainment problems with changes due to missed transport and under the wheather entertainers added to the general level of dissapointment. The provision of a look-ahead planner for activities which we found very useful on previous voyages was not provided. On the plus side serving and cabin staff were very attentive and extremely hard working and pleasant. The lectures were excellent and the three speakers we had on our segment were the highlight of our cruise. The finale to our overall disappointment however was an accounting problem that the ship customer relations staff were not immediately familiar with. On previous trips our contract with our agent had always included air to ship transfer and this was the reason why we have always had the travel arrangements included with the booking. After some protracted discussion with the ships customer service however we were finally advised that this facility had been been changed and that air to ship transfer was no longer provided within the booking. Had we known this we would have arranged more convenient travel arrangements ourselves. This alteration had obviously to us been made without our agent's knowledge as the ship's office only advised us at the last minute of the ongoing dispute. We therefore had no say in the matter and the money was deducted without further discussion. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
Second time on Symphony and can't wait to get back.  First class service all the time, never a let up. Great ports of call in Beijing and all over Japan.  They took the entire ship to Beijing for a three day, two night excursion, ... Read More
Second time on Symphony and can't wait to get back.  First class service all the time, never a let up. Great ports of call in Beijing and all over Japan.  They took the entire ship to Beijing for a three day, two night excursion, all part of the cruise fee, nothing additional.  On top of that, the accommodations and food were first class and the sightseeing just incredible.  We had an amazing tour guide the entire three days, Oscar on Bus #22, and his contributions were essential in making Beijing a memorable stop. Japan is in full bloom with cherry blossoms so every stop was beautiful. All the stops were exciting.  The ship made the decision to miss a port to avoid possibly being stranded in the strait for a couple of days, courageous and correct decision and one that was well communicated to the entire ship. We had one problem on an excursion and Crystal immediately refunded our cost to us. Food was incredible.  Just cruised on Celebrity Solstice around New Zealand two months ago and they are about five levels below Crystal.  Nice having all inclusive cruising as well, even though we don't drink. Nice to be on a smaller ship, much easier to navigate around the place and to get to know other guests. Crystal did a good job filling up our "shared" dining table each night and we got to meet very nice people. The compromise in a smaller ship is the entertainment. While enthusiastic and well prepared, it is not to the level of quality we enjoyed on the Solstice sailing around New Zealand in February. We attended most every one of them, and enjoyed them, but it is a compromise in the more intimate ship size. We loved the destinations, all were up to our expectations and Crystal really know how to treat a guest. The staff are a complete cut above other cruise lines, a real distinction, and delightful to be around. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
chose the tour for Bali and Singapore. The good news: The food was superb, our sommerlier Mladen and Maitre D' Mario made the general seating dining a delight. The entertainment was a little old school but fun. The bars and ... Read More
chose the tour for Bali and Singapore. The good news: The food was superb, our sommerlier Mladen and Maitre D' Mario made the general seating dining a delight. The entertainment was a little old school but fun. The bars and nooks were great. It made us feel that we were frequenting our own little neighbourhood. We stayed in Ubud in Bali doing our own touring with the Safest Driver in Bali's driver. We loved our tour, our dinners, our experiences. We enjoyed Komodo Island. Brunei was a slice of life. Malaysia had an interesting mountain tour. Singapore is dazzling and fun. The bad: The ship boarding process was disappointing. There was no-one at the car park to direct us and welcome us (We've done Oceania in the past and you were passed from one warm greeting to another). Hence a bit of confusion finding our debarkation point. It was a dodgy gangplank. The ship's rooms are small (we had a balcony on the 9th floor just below the penthouse level) and had the whole ambience was 80s nostalgia. We understand at the end of this cruise the entire ship is in for refurbishing. There were 2 designated sittings. This created a sense of chaos of the first night - it wasn't dining, it was feeding. We spoke with Mario and thereafter we ate between the two sittings and it was divine. Our waitors and sommelier Mladen were relaxed and capable and we loved every meal and enjoyed a wonderful wine experience. The gym is too small for classes - I worried that weights being used by individuals may be a threat to class members. The port days needed work: Komodo island could have been tightened up; the snorkeling in the Philippines was dodgy and there were no flippers, the descent off the boat was hampered by lines that could have been unsafe, a lot of unhappy people, but the beach we ultimately ended up at was beautfiul; Rombon is a poor island - thought should be given to working with the community to organize an event that would benefit it and engage the visitors - something with the schools?; Brunei day tour dragged - 1/2 day was sufficient to see the main buildings and then perhaps an experience that deepened the appreciation of the museum. singapore we did our own thing and had some amazing walking tours and experiences. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
My wife, Rosy and I chose this cruise as it guaranteed warm / hot weather and having traveled from Singapore to Hong Kong last year, experiencing cool weather as we moved north, we decided we were more bothered about the weather than the ... Read More
My wife, Rosy and I chose this cruise as it guaranteed warm / hot weather and having traveled from Singapore to Hong Kong last year, experiencing cool weather as we moved north, we decided we were more bothered about the weather than the itinerary. We booked a package through a UK TA, including club class flights on Emirates and hotels / transfers in Singapore and Bali. Emirates offer club class pax free luxury transfers to and from home to LHR and from Singapore to hotel and on return from cruise terminal to airport. We booked one night at the Marina Mandarin, in Singapore and two nights at the Conrad Bali. Our package included a club flight on KLM from Singapore to Bali and transfers. After two nights at the very comfortable Conrad Bali, we were excited to be taking our first Crystal cruise. We took a 'blue' cab to the port, a journey of about 30 minutes costing about £6! This included a toll on the new access road and another to enter the port! On arrival, porters took our luggage for a fee, to the official porters and we entered the terminal building. Check-in soon commenced albeit a tad chaotically and we were soon on board. We were advised that lunch was being served in the dining room, but instead we opted to sit in the sun on deck 11/12. We were impressed by the pool deck, including decent sized pool and very large hot tub. We enjoyed some cool drinks before heading to the Lido Cafe for lunch. This was going to be a real challenge for me, as I had just been diagnosed with diabetes and had to eat and drink in 'moderation'. I was used to eating and drinking in liberation, on cruises. Lunch offered a good selection, but this didn't change much during the cruise, so I was a bit limited in what I could eat on a sugar free diet. Never mind, rather unusually I hardly gained any weight, whereas I usually gain at least a pound a day! The afternoon was spent unpacking, doing the laundry and on orientation. We didn't leave the port until the following morning, so the usual afternoon emergency drill took place just before departure. We had booked dinner in Prego, which was excellent, but it meant we would miss our late seating dinner on a table for eight, not meeting our table-mates until the 2nd evening. Our table seemed to be the place they used for occasional diners, as it was rare for even 6 of us to be there. Two couldn't have liked us, as after two days they switched tables only to return 6 days later. Anyway the 6 of us regulars got on really well. There was a couple from Miami Beach and another English couple from Somerset, very close to our home in Dorset. Thousands of miles from home and we meet near neighbours. Our waiter, from Poland, was a real misery, which was a huge disappointment. He kept recommending unsuitable dishes to me, despite several reminders of my medical condition. We found the evening entertainment a bit mixed, but I was often in bed by 10.30, so wasn't up to much myself. We loved the violinist / pianist duo in the lobby. The enrichment lectures were well attended and loved by Rosy. We both enjoyed the computer lessons and tips for I-phone / Ipad users. I completed an online travel survey and was rewarded with unlimited internet, so my needs were sorted. We were able to Skype family around 8pm, when we guessed most people would either be preparing for dinner or eating it. The dance lessons also seemed extremely popular and singles were well catered for with hosts of both sexes readily available. There were several tender ports and this operation was managed very poorly, with long lines on the staircases, which could be very dangerous. Disembarkation was a breeze, which was a relief after standing for 1-2 hours clearing immigration just to go shopping the previous day. Do Singapore want visitors? Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
Having cruised with Crystal before, we knew what was in store for us as we first cruised in 1995. The ship has aged graciously but there are tell tale signs after 22 years of tiring which is to be expected. The Hull of the ship was the ... Read More
Having cruised with Crystal before, we knew what was in store for us as we first cruised in 1995. The ship has aged graciously but there are tell tale signs after 22 years of tiring which is to be expected. The Hull of the ship was the worst I have seen her. In years gone by, you would have had to strain your eyes to find any rust marks but alas the maintenance in this area seemed lacking. Yes there have been cuts in services since she was first launched. Just small things, probably most noticeable in the Dining room. It does not have the class and grace it once had. Sad but probably a sign of the times. Food portions are much smaller and the service is much more rushed. Not unlike a cafeteria in some respects. Having your plate taken away when not finished for example would never have happened in the past. One thing that remains a standout are the staff. Good work guys and girls. A credit to you all. The dress code has been allowed to slip. Once apon a time it would be unthinkable to wear a singlet around the ship let alone into the breakfast restaurant. If I wanted to see that I would have gone on a Princess Cruise! The occasional vibration that emanates from the stabilizers during certain sea conditions continue to permeate throughout the ship and has done for many years. Maybe at the upcoming dry dock in September this will be addressed finally. Having said all of the above she is still a magnificent vessel and my wife and myself had a truly wonderful time on board. Embarkation was the quickest I have ever experienced. In fact we were the only people there. 10mins and we were in our Cabin. As was the disembarkation. No complaints here. Our Cabin attendant was without peer. The entertainment to be honest was noticeably below par from previous experiences with a few notable exceptions. Activities were good as were a few of the Lecturers. Couldn't really fault the service. Only did one shore excursion. It was on the dune buggies. These were very old and not safe. That bad in fact, we received a 50% refund from Crystal. I am assuming that the person who was responsible for reconnaissance for this trip is no longer in the employ of Cruise Line. Nothing much wrong with the Food but the sliding decline of authentic deserts is very evident despite their impeccable presentation. Breakfast was always of a high standard.The Trident deck food was excellent and casual as well as the ever effervescent attitude of the Ice cream Bar attendant. The Palm Court without doubt has its own special aura which has to be experienced. Silk Road stands out above the rest for both its excellent service and Food. At one stop the Ship allowed family members of some of the crew who obviously had not seen each other for a long period of time to come aboard. Seeing these families walking around the ship, impeccably dressed and with behaviour to match was wonderful to see. Would my wife and I cruise Crystal again? Absolutely. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2017
chose this cruise for destinations and inclusive options, we were not disappointed with either, my wife and I loved the ship staff, dining and itinerary, honestly can not fault the perfect cruise, magic castle at sea was such a treat as ... Read More
chose this cruise for destinations and inclusive options, we were not disappointed with either, my wife and I loved the ship staff, dining and itinerary, honestly can not fault the perfect cruise, magic castle at sea was such a treat as were the lectures, especially DR Laurence Blair, even on a sea day their were plenty of sunbeds to choose from and always a good conversation with mostly the nicest passengers we have had the pleasure to sail with, of course there's always going to be the odd exception, always a pleasure at the main restaurant, evening entertainment somewhat mixed, but loved the professional ballroom and Latin dancers on board, my wife made the most of the excellent ambassador hosts, and since returning home we are both having private dance classes as a result, of course when tender ports are involved there are always going to be issues but nothing to be worried about, all our tours were enjoyable, and cabin comfortable, we have since booked a cruise on the serenity. only negative is my wife usually has gym classes but deemed as previous passage mentioned area and size of gym not suitable, which is a shame. embarkation and disembarkation was seamless. Read Less
39 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2016
After reading so many positive CC reviews on the Crystal experience my wife and I decided to book a world cruise segment Shanghai to Japan nearly a year in advance.Expectations were running extremely high and remained so until a month ... Read More
After reading so many positive CC reviews on the Crystal experience my wife and I decided to book a world cruise segment Shanghai to Japan nearly a year in advance.Expectations were running extremely high and remained so until a month before sailing until we were told that due to Chinese regulations a day had be shaved off of our stay in Shanghai.I contacted Crystal asking if they would pay for my independently arranged flights to be changed at there expense they agreed then revoked on there agreement, hence we now lost a day in this fantastic city, our first time visit, once on board the CEO asks for initial feedback, I fed this back seen by the Hotel Director who advised it was being looked into, it was offered to have the flight changes refunded, as the flights had not been changed suggested equivalent cruise credits and was told 23rd April 2016 this would not happen, in summary offer/refused, offer/refused, not what I expected from a premium luxury cruise brand. Not onto the cruise experience, Embarkation was a breeze well handled and luggage in cabin prior to us arriving. Cabin was tiny really tiny for a luxury ship difficult to access wardrobes as they were extremely close to one side of a bed, toiletries were extremely basic for a luxury cruise brand, it was keep clean apart from one evening we returned to the cabin with a service tray ( not ours ) stating "" DO NOT TOUCH "" on it , called housekeeping and they could/would not give reasons as to why! Ship was beautiful kept really clean ( must have been as a result of the recent low CDC score ) and the public areas were generally good although showing signs of wear especially in the spa where there were stools with holes in etc. Now onto the food, this was not really up to standard maybe we was just unlucky but in 14 days only had one reasonable meal at the beginning of the voyage .The tastes were bland, unseasoned and often was delivered luke warm, we were told that on world cruises they have to not season food as the average age of clients is much higher and they prefer bland basic food, as compensation I was offered chilli flakes and Tabasco sauce, nice touch.The Buffet and deck grill were probably the best food offerings on our cruise, we also tried Prego, Silk Road and Tastes as alternative dinning all just average. The best aspect of the cruise were the staff, most appeared happy in there work and engaged with you and served well, some commented on cut backs since new ownership as when I asked for a Peronni or Moretti Italian beer was told used to offer but has been deleted due to it being a couple of cents more per bottle. Excursions , not very well organised and extremely expensive, for example over $400 USD per person for a 3 hour one stop visit to a tea ceremony, bonsai museum .There seemed to be poor organisation in clearing immigration in ports visited sometimes waiting in line for over an hour.The overland 3 day tour to Bejing was excellent and well organised this was included in the cruise fare. Whilst on the cruise Edie the CEO gave a lecture of the very ambitious expansion plans that she is heading up with the new owners, exciting as they are I couldn't help feeling that Crystal may be heading down the Renasance route. On speaking with many loyal Crystal Cruise clients they were really up set as to how the standards are falling so very quickly, they remain loyal as to the offers they get on future cruises make it difficult to divorce Crystal, the main issue was the cost cutting along with the sub standard food offered, they all blamed the new parent company. Would I book another Crystal Cruise ? No not unless there would be a guarantee of much better food , shore excursion and land base divisions keeping to there word. I have taken over 55 cruises probably 10 on premium lines and I am really sorry to say my Crystal experience did not come any where remotely close to meeting expectations, I feel duty bound to post ( in my opinion ) my experiences as I would not wish other potential first time Crystal cruise clients to experience what I did.This review is not intended to offend but is actual findings as reported on the post cruise questionnaire and directly to Crystal. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2016
Hi everyone: First let me say that I have no "axe to grind" with Crystal. I have cruised with them once previously, and did not have a negative experience, as I did this time. Secondly, when I let our Crystal cruise consultant ... Read More
Hi everyone: First let me say that I have no "axe to grind" with Crystal. I have cruised with them once previously, and did not have a negative experience, as I did this time. Secondly, when I let our Crystal cruise consultant know how disappointed we were about a number of items, she had the staff on the ship meet with me immediately. INTERNET Look, it may sound silly to complain about slow internet on a cruise, but hear me out, please. Yes, unless the weather is absolutely atrocious, you have no business streaming videos while on a luxury cruise on the other side of the world. But, it's not unreasonable to check emails--especially in this day and age. On the Serenity, it often would take minutes--yes minutes--for an email to open, or a simple web page (like CNN) to load. This is in contrast to Royal Caribbean: their internet is as fast as what I have at my home: you can stream videos on it no problem. This issue has to be addressed. FOOD Definitely acceptable, but very disappointing for the price you are paying. I am comparing the food on Crystal to that on Oceania and Seabourn. On this cruise it was a distant third. STAFF Very friendly and attentive. While they couldn't do anything about the slow internet and my disappointment in the lack of dessert variety, they were very attentive in listening to my complaints. ROOM Very nice. No issues. MISC. Maybe it was my fault for not realizing, or maybe it was not advertised--I don't remember--but the ten day cruise I was on was a portion of a "round the world," 90 day cruise. This meant a much older crowd than I would have preferred. These passengers were quite cliquish: if you weren't on the 90 day cruise, you weren't anybody. This isn't Crystal's fault, but I felt they should have advertised the longer cruise. Very poor television selection. Adequate DVD rentals available for your room, however. Entertainment: I prefer magic and comedians, both of which were absent, but other guests no doubt enjoyed the musicals and shows. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2015
We just spent 10 nights aboard the Crystal Symphony. We have traveled on Disney, Celebrity, Princess, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian so we have a lot to compare Crystal to. After experiencing the high level of service and great food it will ... Read More
We just spent 10 nights aboard the Crystal Symphony. We have traveled on Disney, Celebrity, Princess, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian so we have a lot to compare Crystal to. After experiencing the high level of service and great food it will be hard to go back to any other line. It started at check in, swift, easy and no line, NO HASSLES. The Symphony strikes a nice balance between size and intimacy, just right, with immaculate public areas and nice lounges. Our balcony room was as expected size wise with a WAY above average sized balcony. Food was 5 star, I do not equate a lot with great, just because you can eat all day does't make it great, Crystal's food was great. Only little complaints were I would have liked to see consistent items on the appetizer menu, like shrimp cocktail. The buffet hours were somewhat constrained, IE lunch from 12-2. Service was OUTSTANDING, servers asked your name on the first day and remembered them, not just some servers, MOST servers did! They couldn't help enough. It is so nice being all inclusive and not having to dig out your cruise card every time you want something. Yes you do pay for it up front as Crystal is not cheap, but you definitely get what you pay for. Crystal is not for kids as the ships have kids rooms but I doubt would have enough to keep most kids happy, if you want a rock wall better look elsewhere. Great experience overall!! Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2015
First Crystal cruise. Relevant previous cruises 21 days on Regent. Beijing to Hong Kong. This might be my favorite cruise. Never a wait for anything on board. OK, Regent cabins are 300sf and Crystal Sympony 200 sf, both plus balcony, ... Read More
First Crystal cruise. Relevant previous cruises 21 days on Regent. Beijing to Hong Kong. This might be my favorite cruise. Never a wait for anything on board. OK, Regent cabins are 300sf and Crystal Sympony 200 sf, both plus balcony, but otherwise Crystal gets the nod, for service, especially drink service, and a bit better food. Service great for both. I really prefered the main dining room, no advantage to the (fake) Italian restaurant, Prego. Waiter mispronounced "limone." Regarding food, seafood on board arrives frozen, like on all ships. Salmon and lobster tails survive freezing well. Whole lobster, and crab legs, not so much, IMHO. Entertainment was pretty good. Nice that the lead singer/dancer was seasoned and not just another kid. So cabin was bit cramped but the ship was first class in great shape, and we would cruise on Crystal (which recently changed hands) again. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2015
This was my sixth Crystal cruise and my fifth on Crystal Symphony. It really is a beautiful ship and the money they have spent on her over the last few years really shows. Palm Court is the most beautiful room on the ship but all the ... Read More
This was my sixth Crystal cruise and my fifth on Crystal Symphony. It really is a beautiful ship and the money they have spent on her over the last few years really shows. Palm Court is the most beautiful room on the ship but all the public areas are large, elegant and impeccably maintained. There are so many spaces, large and small, on the ship that you will always find the perfect spot for what you are in the mood for. If anything I think the service just keeps getting better, the staff get to know you on the first day and I am well remembered by those who worked on previous cruises. I like never having to queue for anything, all the small details are sorted out. I do find the reception staff quite frosty and not very helpful however. I usually book a room with a balcony but on Crystal you pay a big premium for the privilege. On this cruise I took a room on Deck 5 with just a picture window and no balcony and didn't really miss it. Every stateroom other than on the penthouse floor is absolutely identical in terms of size and appointments so think twice about paying the extra. The rooms are relatively small compared to many other luxury ships today but I don't find that an issue, depends how much time you like to spend in your room I guess. Sea days on Crystal are full of activities and there is plenty to choose from, their nightly entertainment is first rate and, even though I have seen most of the shows before, I still go along each night as the standard is so high. Having a catholic priest on board and being able to go to mass daily is also a big plus for me. The food in the specialty restaurants is fantastic, in the main dining room it isn't quite as good, the ship wasn't full by any means on this cruise but the main dining still seemed like being in a railway station, with harried staff rushing past all the time. It pays to know that you can select beverages and food items not on the menu - it's just a matter of asking but Crystal certainly doesn't let on that there are alternatives. The standard sauvignon blanc they had most nights was terrible but all I had to do was ask and they happily supplied something else. One night our table had a fabulous dessert which one of the table had ordered for us the night before and I heard of another table who ordered rack of lamb for their whole table even though it wasn't on the menu - you need to do this the prior day of course. I have been spoiled by Crystal and have no interest in evenly trying any other cruse line, I am already booked for my next cruise with them. Some may say I'm missing out on trying other experiences but I'm happy with what Crystal provide so why risk getting a lesser experience on another line? Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2015
We were first time Crystal Cruisers and had always heard how wonderful they were. Well, in some ways that was true, in others, it was not. First, what we loved: outstanding staff, smooth boarding and leaving, the best evening ... Read More
We were first time Crystal Cruisers and had always heard how wonderful they were. Well, in some ways that was true, in others, it was not. First, what we loved: outstanding staff, smooth boarding and leaving, the best evening entertainment we have ever experienced on a cruise, good food, excellent "included" wine, like the always open Bistro, large comfortable rooms and bath, better than average casino rules, superb Apple instructor, top notch lecturers (but not enough of them). However, we experienced some areas where we thought they could improve: lack of information about where we were, poor use (not many talks) by the excellent "experts" onboard, only one buffet lunch of Asian foods, absolutely no information on shopping beforehand and little to no time for any shopping in tours booked through them, lack of information about when things would be open which we would expect when you have a guide. We were not informed until one evening after being back onboard that the town we most came to see would be closed for a holiday the next day--too late to go more that day. We were informed when we boarded one bus that the main point of one tour was closed because it was Friday--their regular closing day. Little bridge (2 lessons and 3 games in 12 days). Pool not filled until the pm on the first sea day. Would we go on another Crystal Cruise? Absolutely. But if both had the same route, we would choose Oceania over Crystal. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2015
We sailed on the Crystal Symphony January 2015 from Bali, Indonesia with 3 port stops in Indonesia (Belawan was cancelled because of channel dredging), 3 ports in Malaysia, one in Thailand, and ending in Singapore. We’ve sailed on the ... Read More
We sailed on the Crystal Symphony January 2015 from Bali, Indonesia with 3 port stops in Indonesia (Belawan was cancelled because of channel dredging), 3 ports in Malaysia, one in Thailand, and ending in Singapore. We’ve sailed on the Crystal Serenity before, like the line very much (not quite up to Regent), and were generally quite pleased with this cruise. Okay, you probably know why Crystal is a top-rated line, but here are a few things of which you should be aware. The cruise started in Bali and you could embark anytime on Jan 17 or 18. Crystal met passengers flying in on Jan 17 but refused to do so for people like us who arrived on Jan 18. Moreover, they didn’t tell us this in advance, so we were stuck at the airport trying to find the Crystal shuttle before we finally took a taxi to the port. Once on the ship things were fine, although we were surprised to find the 246-sq ft stateroom about 10% smaller than those on the Crystal Serenity (269 sq ft) and 22% smaller than the corresponding level room on Regent (301 sq ft). We were also surprised that the “free” Internet service for Crystal Society members (those who have cruised on Crystal before) was for just one hour a day (not unlimited like Regent). Moreover, the connection was quite slow so uploading photos used up your hour in short order. Dining was excellent after we negotiated to be moved from a tiny table way in the back at the door to the galley to a table in the middle of the room. Although window tables were often empty, they were never offered to us. We had the early seating (be in place by 6:15), which was okay except on the days we didn’t get back from a shore excursion until late afternoon. On those days, we would have liked to go to “casual dining” at the Lido, but that was only open on 3 nights of the 12-day cruise. One wonders why? Smokers like me weren’t happy with the Connoisseur Club, a small room which was the only place to smoke on the ship. There were two types of smokers aboard: ones in Group 1 who wanted to read a book while having a quite smoke. Too bad for them as the room was dark, there were no reading lights, and there was Group 2. People in that group wanted to watch loud TV, talk even louder, and basically have a party. I resorted to bringing ear plugs and a flashlight in the late afternoon, but evenings were just impossible. A number of shore excursions were cancelled because not enough people signed up. Seems to me they could have arranged for a 6- or 8-passenger van rather than the usual 40-passenger bus and run the excursion like that. Perhaps because we were in a hot climate, the lowest we could get the cabin temperature was about 73 degrees F, which was okay during the day, but too hot at night. We traded the duvet on the bed for a blanket, but even that was often too hot. So a good night’s sleep wasn’t one of the high points of the cruise. Oh, yes, there was one toddler on board whose parents, after the second day finally got the message that a kid whining in the dining room wasn't enjoyed by most of the adults and we (thankfully!) didn't see too much of them at meals. What on earth were they thinking bringing a one-year-old on a cruise like this? Don’t get me wrong: Crystal is a great cruise line. The new emphasis of the dining staff to be friendly and really get to know you is extraordinary. Our cabin attendant was superb. The food in all the restaurants (except the outdoor grill) was outstanding. The bartenders mixed excellent drinks. The wine and champagne choices were first-rate. The shore excursions were very good (except for Malacca where we had a mediocre guide). The people at the concierge desk went out of their way to be helpful. All the staff were smiling and friendly. A few flaws, but we’ll be back.   Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2015
I was not impressed with the ship. I have been on only three cruises prior to this one and these have been Caribbean cruises. The ship was old and tired. The food was close to being horrible (the entrees were always some type of exotic ... Read More
I was not impressed with the ship. I have been on only three cruises prior to this one and these have been Caribbean cruises. The ship was old and tired. The food was close to being horrible (the entrees were always some type of exotic dish that were unpalatable to a meat and potatoes diner). The wine on the all inclusive list was some of the worst I have ever tried. The one bright spot was the ship's sea food specialty restaurant. It was excellent. The other bright spot was the ship's crew, entertainers and educators. The stage productions were first class. The computer courses were very educational and I found just about everyone who worked on the ship to be genuinely friendly and always willing to provide assistance. The ports of call were very interesting with the exception of Jakarta. And thankfully we did not have to go to Belawan. Instead we got extra time in Phuket which is a true gem. Overall, I enjoyed the cruise (how can one not enjoy a cruise). This cruise is not for young people unless they are only interested in the ports. I'm no spring chicken but I felt like a youngster among my fellow passengers. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2015
My wife and I, both very senior citizens, have completed over 20 cruises with Crystal and we continue to rate the line as the best we have encountered (Seabourn, Regent, Silver Seas and Cunard). While some of these luxury lines have larger ... Read More
My wife and I, both very senior citizens, have completed over 20 cruises with Crystal and we continue to rate the line as the best we have encountered (Seabourn, Regent, Silver Seas and Cunard). While some of these luxury lines have larger cabins and much larger baths, they do not measure up in the overall cruise experience for us. We particularly prefer the fixed sittings for meals rather than the open sittings on the other luxury lines. With an assigned table at a fixed time, we have the advantage of not having to wait until a table is free nor do we have to share the dining experience with others. We recognized that many who cruise like to meet others at meal time, but we do not. Furthermore, as we have the same wait persons at every evening meal they are very aware of our particular likes and dislikes and make sure that such things as salt sticks are on the table and that berries with heavy cream (my favorite desert) appear every night. The review written by two gentlemen who were ship-mates and trivia partners with us reflects their experience but not ours. We are ballroom dancers and believe that only Cunard and Crystal, provide truly rewarding opportunities for us to enjoy this past-time. The availability if four gentlemen host for single ladies is a bonus. We would agree that daytime activities while in port are very limited and need improvement and that the on-board shops are very poor. On the other hand, we have no problem with ordering our drinks before evening shows start so that waiters do not disturb others enjoying the very good entertainment provided. As a summary, in our opinion, Crystal is by far the best luxury line for those who want a traditional luxury cruise experience but it is not for all. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2015
Crystal is not for everyone but the best for those who are seeking the ultimate in the grand tradition of the mighty transatlantic ships of yesterday. The staterooms in the lower price range are smaller than Regent, Silver Sea and Seaboun ... Read More
Crystal is not for everyone but the best for those who are seeking the ultimate in the grand tradition of the mighty transatlantic ships of yesterday. The staterooms in the lower price range are smaller than Regent, Silver Sea and Seaboun but they are more than adequate for those who use them mainly for sleeping. ;. On the other hand, the common rooms,and dining rooms are gracious and very large. The swimming pool is huge and great for lap swimmers. When it to comes to ballroom dancing, only Cunard is in the same league. The two large areas used for dancing to their 6 piece dance band can easily hold those passengers who are devotees. Entertainment and lectures are excellent as is the choice of films in the cinema or on flat-screen TV's in the cabin. Service - no line our experience can measure up to Crystal. It seems that the attentive staff can anticipate your needs before you yourself were aware of them. Little things like remembering that you like salt sticks rather than buns with your meals make the difference between adequate service and great service. There are two area that I believe need attention; the lack of activities when in port and the on-board shops which are very expensive and poorly stocked. . . Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2014
Went on a "test drive" with Crystal after hearing positive things from acquaintances that sail repeatedly with them. We are long time Silversea and Seabourn loyalists, more so Seabourn nowadays. The itinerary from Jakarta to ... Read More
Went on a "test drive" with Crystal after hearing positive things from acquaintances that sail repeatedly with them. We are long time Silversea and Seabourn loyalists, more so Seabourn nowadays. The itinerary from Jakarta to Singapore was not captivating but the length of cruise was appropriate as it was a first time try out for us. Embarkation was a bit of a horror show. Not once we got to the ship, but leading up to it. The port area around Tanjung Priok was industrial, chaotic and hard for the taxis to find in terms of location of the piers. Taxis could not drive up to the ship and we were dumped in some corner and had to climb onto a rickety van for the final meters to the ship (not visible to us at that time). No Crystal representative were there to reassure us that we were "on the right track". We flew into Jakarta at 11pm at night after 24 hours of travel and took a Silverbird taxi (Mercedes sedan) to Four Seasons for an extraordinary good fare of $35. Again, from the hotel to Tanjung Priok, where the ship was docked cost about the same with another executive taxi service arranged by the hotel (also a Mercedes sedan). Why I mention this was the quote I got from Crystal for airport transfer to hotel or hotel to the port was well over $125 per segment. Absolutely obscene! We could not help but compare everything with our past experience with Seabourn and Silversea (their larger class ships). The embarkation process once on board was seamless, our suite was ready by 12 noon and we were shown to the Lido for lunch. That was an encouraging welcome. The cabin is definitely smaller and the bathroom does not have an independent shower nor a full bathtub. No walk-in closet but adequate storage space. Our large suitcase would not fit under the bed. Supposed to be a "PURE" room but not being allergic to anything we did not notice any special benefits. The carpets along the corridors to the suites looked worn but everywhere else, the ship looked very clean. Public areas very nice and open atrium around the lobby and front desk showed spaciousness and class. Major disappointment was the pool area. In both Silversea and Seabourn, the pool areas are far more attractive with comfortable loungers, poolside bar and often multiple jacuzzis as well as showers for guests to use before and after being in the pool/hot tub. True, you can get drinks brought from the Trident Bar, but it just isn't the same as eating or drinking next to the pool. A major minus in our view. Seabourn Odyssey class ships have multiple areas with hot tubs and deck chairs in the front and back of the ship providing a lot of choice for guest who prefer more privacy etc than the main pool area. On Crystal, an entire side of the pool area was allotted to smokers. If the sun is from the wrong direction and you want to avoid second hand smoke......well you had better hope that the smokers were watching a movie in the Hollywood salon. The really major problem we could not compromise over is the the lack of open seating at dinner time AND the lack of dinners at the Lido where you can sit outside except for a couple of nights where casual menu was provided. We used to have theme nights on the other lines which we enjoyed. They advertise DBR which stands for dining by reservation. It is supposed to counter the criticism of no open seating. From the time we booked and confirmed this cruise, we found that we already had to be wait-listed for the DBR option; not that it made a blind bit of difference. You actually cannot choose when you want to dine. You either can come at 6:15 or the latest 6:30pm or else after 8:30pm - no in between. When we explained that ideally, 7:30 would be the perfect time for us, the assistant M'd in charge of the DBR program said that 7:30pm would never be allowed as each table must turnover twice per evening. There goes custom dining. The alternate dining venues were good, particularly Prego. Worth another $30 pp for a second visit. Silk road was good but not totally Nobuesque. You have the choice of picking items from the Sushi Bar menu also, and when we chose a tempura roll as an appetizer, a roll came that had absolutely no tempura in it. Even allowing for Chef's creative license, I thought it went a bit far. The Nobu signature dishes like miso blackcod was good but my wife makes a better version back home using fresh sable fish and the Nobu recipe obtained from the internet. Would we pay $30pp to visit a second time? maybe not, depends how long the cruise segment is I guess. We did not go on many excursions but the only one I went on was a 10 hour snorkeling trip around Phi Phi and Bamboo islands at Phuket. We literally started at 7:15am and returned at 5:30pm. For the ten hours of travel we had about 70 minutes of swim/snorkel. For $199, is it worth it? you might well ask. If they ever let the guests know ahead of time of the ratio of travel to activity, I wonder how many would have still gone. In conclusion, would I go on another Crystal cruise? well it very much depends. If the itinerary+price+length of cruise wins over my preference for Seabourn, I may well revisit Crystal, otherwise, I'll just stick to a cruise line that I am comfortable with and avoid the daily hassles of deciding when to eat. There were a couple of instances of lack of courtesy shown by the staff to us but I think that can happen on any line. There were also some pluses that I have not put too much weight on : not having staff call you by your name constantly, not having waiters at the Lido always offering to take your plate for you, not having to sit with ship's officer at dinner (not that it is compulsory). Maybe we will try Regent next Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
We were first time cruiser on Crystal having sailed many times on Seabourn, Silverseas and Cunard. In our view Crystal is no way competitive. Embarkation was rather slow. Food quality was average, very often food was not served hot. ... Read More
We were first time cruiser on Crystal having sailed many times on Seabourn, Silverseas and Cunard. In our view Crystal is no way competitive. Embarkation was rather slow. Food quality was average, very often food was not served hot. Service in the main restaurant was sometimes poor. Dining by reservation program is not recommended. You eat during cleanup and setup for second dinner time. We think a ship in that category should not have two seating services. The lido cafe was often crowded and sometimes the food at the buffet ran out and was not replaced and we also missed that no dinners were served outside. Shows are good and well presented. Cabin stewardess was excellent and friendly every day. Standard suites are extremely small in comparison to the other cruise lines we have been. There are no walk-in closets nor does the bathrooms have an independent shower or a full bathtub. Everything looked a little worn out, especially the carpets. Front desk and cruise consultant were unfriendly. Debarkation was very quick and we were in the car to our Singapore hotel within minutes. Overall we would definitely not cruise again with Crystal. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2014
This was our 3rd family cruise on Crystal, tho we were 4 cabins of repeaters there was zero recognition of our spending large amounts of $$$ with Crystal cruises...even the repeaters party was only offered at 7:45pm leaving out the 6:15 ... Read More
This was our 3rd family cruise on Crystal, tho we were 4 cabins of repeaters there was zero recognition of our spending large amounts of $$$ with Crystal cruises...even the repeaters party was only offered at 7:45pm leaving out the 6:15 diners! Other cruise lines have a bottle of champagne to welcome back repeaters. We did receive, when we arrived back home, 4 rather tacky aqua baggage tags that went directly into the garbage! After sailing with Seabourn many times, we find that the little tiny cabins are quite confining compared to the suites. The two seating for dinner (to early and too late) vacation should not include rushing around to get ready for dinner...I know that there is the option for dining by reservation but with a family of 8 that is a pain. The food is very good, however some dishes are way over salted....the service in the MDR and Lido is still very good. We encountered waiters we had on previous cruises. We did encounter problems with the MDR for breakfast...just stopped going the food was not good and the service dis-jointed. Attention to detail was sadly lacking: use to get served pop corn in the movie theater, last movie no pop corn at all! The laundry was closed in Hong Kong & Shanghai , including the irons & ironing boards use!. I understand the gray water issue in port but there was no attempt to make ironing available...and no advance notice to guests prior to the cruise. Time to update the fleet Crystal! We also did the 3 night post to Beijing, the check-in was well organized, a nice buffet dinner the first night, breakfast buffet in the mornings was nice. The China World hotel is huge a bit worn around the edges, but very attentive staff. The post was jam packed with early starts and long days. The second evening was a dinner and show at the Great Hall, the show was great, service was attentive but the food was so bad we all ate when we returned back to the the hotel...need to some how allow time to explore and shop. The last night was in the hotel but the menu was a set menu in the Chinese restaurant. The reason we use Crystal for our family cruises: kids club, which is great, activities on board, Mark Ferris in the Avenue Salon, and the superior entertainment and high quality food.   Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2014
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 ... Read More
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.   Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2014
We were first time cruisers on Crystal Symphony, having cruised many times on its principal competitors - Seabourn, Silverseas, Regent and the Queens Grill categories of Cunard. In our view, in a number of respects, Crystal compares ... Read More
We were first time cruisers on Crystal Symphony, having cruised many times on its principal competitors - Seabourn, Silverseas, Regent and the Queens Grill categories of Cunard. In our view, in a number of respects, Crystal compares unfavorably to all of these. Food quality in the main restaurant and Lido Café was average at best and occasionally fair to poor (particularly seafood and fish, which on several occasions were served nearing the end of their shelf-life). In both venues hot food was often served (or in the case of the Lido Café made available on the buffet stands) at room temperature. Service in both venues was rarely better than average. Courses in the main restaurant were often served too quickly. Often times, one course followed the removal of the previous course within less than a minute. When on two occasions we asked that something that tasted bad be swapped for another choice - things as simple as replacing a wilted salad with a soup - we were told we could do it, but only if the replacement was served with the main course, as the main course "was ready". Table settings were often oddly incomplete - missing wine glasses, cutlery, etc. The dining by reservation program does not work. If you select a middle range dinner time - for instance 745pm or 800pm, you eat during the clean-up of the first seating and set-up of the second - it's very unpleasant to eat amid the transitional chaos of the removal of dirty dishes, cutlery and table linens throughout the entire restaurant and the rushed delivery from the kitchen area of their replacements for the next seating. You get the very real sense that you are there at the wrong time - that while yes, they offer dining by reservation, the restaurant remains geared up only for what is essentially a two seating service. Also, nearly 50% of the nighttime entertainment/shows were scheduled on a one time presentation basis only, always at 745pm (designed to begin at the completion of the first seating and to end just before the start of the second seating). If you selected a middle range time when dining by reservation (which you are required to do before sailing and in advance of show scheduling), you missed the nightly entertainment. Had we known this before we sailed, we would have chosen different times. The Lido Café was overcrowded for lunch - with opening hours too compressed and a very short time period to serve the rush of guests arriving at the conclusion of morning shore excursions. On a number of occasions featured food items ran out and were not replaced. Closing times were fairly strictly enforced, with food removed shortly thereafter. Rarely, if ever, were we offered assistance with maneuvering our plates through the crowded eating area to our table. When simple requests for things as mundane as mustard were made, we were told that they would have to order it from the main dining room and that "it would take a long time". There is an oddly ungenerous quality to the "all-inclusive" program on Crystal. Small things (presumably to save money or create additional revenue) build to create the sense of pettiness. Delivery of the daily news summaries have been eliminated from the rooms - guests are invited to read them in the library - under the guise of protecting the environment - but in the same paragraph of the first day's daily itinerary guests are invited to subscribe to a $6.50 a day to a newspaper delivery service. Drink service in the show lounge is limited - you must arrive and order your drink before the show begins or you are not served (this with the explanation that they didn't want disturb the show - with signs posted at the entry to the venue). Plan on arriving early if you want to be served a drink. The specialty restaurants are $30 per person after the initial visit to each. While advertised as a way to ensure that all guests have the opportunity to eat at both venues, the fee was enforced even during the latter stages of the cruise when each of the two restaurants had many empty tables. That said, Prego and Silk Road were both excellent. We ultimately chose to pay the add-on fees to eat at each of these restaurants more than once, mostly to limit our exposure to the main restaurant. There were only two nights when the Lido Café was open for dinner (with Crystal's daily program emphasizing that both seating and selections were limited). The Trident Grill closes at 6pm. There was never outdoor evening dining there, which would have been nice given the warm weather venues. We tried that Vintage Room one night. The wines, while better than those served in the main restaurant, weren't worth the steep $420 fee for two charged for the Vintage Room dinner. Shipboard activities during port call days (which on our cruise were 10 of the 13 days) were virtually non-existent (much more so than on Crystal's competitors). The much touted Crystal enrichment program was surprisingly limited. The port/current affairs lectures were good, but not unique to Crystal. This was a wine and food specialty cruise - there were two food demos (one scheduled when many passengers were on land excursions in Cambodia). It was truly a demo, no participation and no tastings. A mixologist was on board and we found his lectures excellent and fun. There were several wine tasting presentations (decent, but serving to some extent as a promo for ordering the wines available for purchase on board). A very ordinary galley tour was touted by the cruise director as being a part of the wine and food program. We were in a penthouse suite with verandah, but had an opportunity to look at the basic "suites". They were quite small in comparison to those offered on Seabourn. The penthouse verandah suite was a decent size (but at a very high price). Fixtures and furnishings in the room were ok, but looking a little tired and worn. Be mindful of Crystal's policy regarding shipment of private luggage on departure, which we only learned about onboard and too late to effectively make alternative arrangements. We had booked and paid for a disembarkation luggage shipment (with a well-known and reputable luggage shipping company that we had done business with many times on the competitor lines). In this case, we had a very tight connecting flight necessitating the baggage shipment. We learned only several days before disembarkation that Crystal would not allow any company other than it's "exclusive" shipping service - Luggage Concierge - to retrieve bags left onboard with the front desk or at port with its local agent for same day pick-up. No manner of attempts to get the front desk or onboard concierge (or the home office of Crystal) to accommodate us were successful. Crystal's policy was that we would have to do a luggage handoff ourselves (which was not possible with a 7am departure time) if we wanted to use a competitor shipping service. We were offered a free phone call to our shipping company to make alternative arrangement (which in our case meant to call to cancel the luggage shipment). If you plan to ship your bags home, pay the extra fee charged by Luggage Concierge, unless you are there to hand your bags over yourself to another shipping company. Cabin steward and butler service were excellent. Front desk and concierge service was institutional and cold. Embarkation greetings were perfunctory and unfriendly. The daily program had an odd tendency to repeat silly disclaimers of liability for a whole host of things, everything ranging from failing to complete port entry forms correctly to being untruthful when completing customs forms when returning to one's home country. Reading the daily itinerary should be a source of excitement for the guests - not the delivery mechanism for legalistic disclaimers already addressed in the booking contract. When returning to the ship each day, disengaged card swipers and security screeners rarely said hello or smiled. We had one sail away function on deck a number of days after embarkation. It consisted of the band playing a set of songs. Nothing else. Perhaps the ship is too large to offer the personalized level of service and warmth offered by its price point competitors. Whatever the explanation, there is substantial room for improvement.   Read Less
Sail Date: January 2014
My wife and I recently spent 120+ days on board the Crystal Serenity from January 5, 2014 thru May 7, 2014. This stay included not only the full 2014 World Cruise but also three other cruises of varying lengths, including one cruise of ... Read More
My wife and I recently spent 120+ days on board the Crystal Serenity from January 5, 2014 thru May 7, 2014. This stay included not only the full 2014 World Cruise but also three other cruises of varying lengths, including one cruise of seven days in length. For my wife and myself, Crystal Cruises is similar to a fine wine that keeps getting better and better with each passing year. We found that several areas were better than ever. This included the daytime enrichment program, evening entertainment, the special on board events and the food, service and ambience at each dining venue. We enjoyed the new Tastes Specialty Restaurant which began following the dry dock of Crystal Serenity late last year and we also enjoyed the remodeled Lido Café which now serves breakfast and lunch at food stations rather than at one continuous buffet type of counter. This was our sixth full World Cruise and our seventh overall World Cruise. We thought that the 2014 World Cruise was the best ever because of the on board enrichment and entertainment programs coupled with the ports of call that we visited. The chemistry of the on board entertainment team was superb and it showed in each and every performance. This team created and performed several performances just for the 2014 World Cruise. The enrichment program was quite diverse and included the most program offerings ever. We also appreciated the diversity of the lecturers with more emphasis than ever before on international topics and perspectives, with lecturers from other countries comprising a greater percentage of the lectures than in past years. This reflects the diversity of the passengers who sail with Crystal Cruises and on the sailings we were on. There is no question that familiarity adds to our enjoyment of these adventures and that includes knowing many of the repeat guests who return most years to take either one, multiple segments or the full World Cruise, and also our familiarity with the officers, crew and the staff who work on board the Crystal Serenity. It is true that so many of these people become what others and we refer to often as our extended Crystal family. INCLUSIVE It has now been two plus years since inclusive has been implemented by Crystal Cruises, and it’s as if it has been in place for many years prior to that. Although this is subjective, there is a very nice selection of wine choices that are part of inclusive that is even better than the wines served last year and the Sommelier’s are keeping up with the pouring of the wines and also providing details about each wine for those who want to know. The same goes for gratuities, as gratuities are included in the cruise fare. Certainly there is the option of tipping those who one wants to recognize but there is no pressure to do so. SERVICE For us one of the keys that distinguishes Crystal from other cruise lines we have sailed with are the extraordinary crew and the outstanding level of service that is provided throughout the ship. Often, many items are anticipated before we even ask and we find the service to be very personable, professional and efficient. We found service to be even better than ever. In some cases, we noticed that selected members of the crew are being reallocated from selected areas to other areas of the ship that needed additional help, which elevated service in those areas. Related to the service is the fine example that starts from the top on board the ship and carries to the entire crew. The Captain set the tone by being highly visible throughout the 2014 World Cruise as well as just being an outstanding communicator with guests and fellow members of the crew. Kudos to the Captain, the Hotel Director, the Cruise Director, the Dining Room and Specialty Restaurant Maître d’s and the Food & Beverage Managers, and to each member of the crew for making this an extraordinary cruise for us. During the course of this adventure we had two stewardesses and four assistant stewardesses as two of the assistants were promoted to the position of stewardess and we were in two different rooms as our room was not available for our final voyage. We also had three different senior waiters and four different waiters and we had one butler. These represent members of the crew who took care of us day in and day out and collectively they were fabulous. We also want to commend the Crystal Dining Room wait staff for how they communicated to wait staff who would be taking care of us whether it was because they were going on vacation or when we needed to change table locations when our son and daughter in law came on board for the last voyage. They never missed a beat. We are not big drinkers but would go to one of the lounges before dinner usually just for a Perrier. The members of the bar staff knew our names and they knew how we each enjoyed our Perrier as we each ask for it a different way. And when we would have an occasional wine or a wine spritzer for Anne Marie they remembered what type of wine we enjoyed and how we liked it prepared. CUSIINE The makeover of Tastes which is a causal dining venue in terms of attire, along with the rollout of an entirely new dinner menu which is based on serving tastings family style of food representative of cuisine from around the world was a hit with many people including ourselves. The quality of the food, the level of service and the overall ambience of the new Tastes has mproved significantly and we certainly consider this restaurant to be in the league with the other two specialty restaurants on board Serenity. Tastes is also now open each night except for the first night of the cruise which provides not only another alternative for dining but also allows for casual dining for those who do not want to dress up on those evenings when the attire is Black Tie Optional and/or Elegant Casual. From time to time, some items have been added to the menu to replace other items. In mid-April a new menu was rolled out in the Crystal Dining Room. The left side of the menu now features Modern Cuisine such as items that are considered fusion. The right side of the menu features Crystal Classics. This is the first restaurant at sea on any cruise line to feature two types of cuisine in one restaurant, which is certainly no easy task for the galley. It gives what we consider to be the best of both worlds. You can order from one side or the other side or select items from both menus. We found ourselves doing the latter. ITINERARY This itinerary was very special. The voyage before the start of the World Cruise was a Transit of the Panama Canal. This was followed by the World Cruise itinerary, which included visits to some islands that played key roles during World War II, stops throughout Asia and Africa before arriving to Europe. We stayed on for two additional Mediterranean Voyages. SMOKING POLICY CHANGES Our January 5, 2014 voyage was the start of a new smoking policy, which for us has been a major success. Effective with the start of this voyage, smoking was prohibited in all interior public room areas of the ship except for the Connoisseur Club. Smoking was also eliminated in all staterooms and all penthouses and also in the Crystal Cove Lounge. We were very pleased with this change. CRYSTAL SERENITY MAKEOVER As mentioned the Tastes Specialty Restaurant received a makeover late in 2013 and on top of this the Lido Café (buffet) also received a major makeover and the areas are absolutely stunning. Another area receiving a makeover included the Tender Landing area with new carpet and wall treatments as well as even new towels for those guests wanting to take towels ashore with them. ON BOARD ENRICHMENT Crystal Cruises is well known for its enrichment program. On sea days no less than fifty different enrichment related programs were featured including classes on computers, a college credited computer class, dancing, golf, memoir writing, iMovies, bridge, and fitness. Three lectures were featured on each sea day. There were so many activities that the biggest challenge is to prioritize what to do each and everyday. ENTERTAINMENT The on board entertainment during the course of the World Cruise was the best ever. Two special performers were brought on board for the entire World Cruise and their voices were absolutely amazing. There were many special entertainment programs offered both during the day such as several mixers and so many programs offered at night. The entertainment featured a nice mix of entertainment offered from the entertainment team that is part of the cruise line along with those who are brought on board to supplement the in-house entertainment. The ship even rocked one evening during the World Cruise, one evening on the voyage following the World Cruise and one day during the World Cruise at a late morning mixer when a band was brought on board that featured songs of The Beatles. It is not often that on a World Cruise you see so many passengers dancing to the music of The Beatles and it surely brought out the “kid” in many of the guests including my wife and myself. A couple of other special highlights were the performance of the Crystal Serenity Pops and a one time evening performance on another night. We were fortunate to see this not only towards the end of the World Cruise but early on during the voyage, which followed the World Cruise. This performance not only featured most of the on board entertainers but some additional entertainers brought on board from land just for this performance. Another one was an evening special performance featuring the singers, dancers and musicians of the Crystal Serenity, which included clogging, which was performed on St. Patrick’s Day evening. SHORE EXCURSIONS AND OVERLAND PROGRAMS Several new and exciting programs were offered such as one of the excursions we took which featured a behind the scenes tour of the USS Missouri where we had the opportunity to see areas of the ship where very few people have ever seen and we even had lunch at what was the Captain’s Quarters of this Historic Vessel. We took a three-day Safari that was a major highlight of the adventure. Even on one of our two Mediterranean cruises a new program rolled out which offers running in selected ports. We also booked private cars in some selected ports with Crystal Cruises many we took by ourselves and one we took with another guest. If you book a vehicle with more guests you can usually drive down the per person cost. INTERNET The one area that was not up to the high standards was the Internet. This can be a challenging area for cruise lines because of different factors including being dependent on Satellite rather than on land where Fiber Optics carries the traffic most of the way and the location of the ship. The good news is that on our last two voyages the speed and the reliability of the Internet was significantly better and reflected the resolution of some problems and one in particular that was impacting the Internet. If the Internet performed throughout the voyage as it did those last few weeks we would not even have mentioned it as a problem. The good news is that with some additional planned enhancements in the works, we expect that the Internet will not only be at the levels we experienced our last few weeks, but possibly even better which we think is quite acceptable when one is sailing at sea. NEWSPAPERS AND OTHER CAPABILITIES On our sailing there was the ability to download at no charge and no Internet charge selected newspapers to read on selected devices such as iPads. There was also the ability to watch lectures and movies on demand on these devices allowing you to watch them when you wanted and also allowing you to rewind or go forward to skip through areas or to watch a particular area again. This is likely the first step in the evolution of what can be offered on these devices. If possible, we would love to see some of this (on demand capabilities for movies and lectures) added to the Television. NOTE: Pre-Recorded Lectures are already available on the Television but would love to see the ability to see them on demand. This new capability will roll out to the Crystal Symphony in July of this year. SUMMARY Overall, we found this to be the best voyage we have ever taken and we look forward to sailing on the Crystal Serenity again this September as well as on the 2015 World Cruise with some additional voyages planned on top of the World Cruise. At this stage of our lives, we find cruising to be the best form of travel for us. We have cruised on many different cruise lines and enjoyed them all, except for the experience on one cruise line but we chalk that up to possibly it just not being a good cruise and incidents that might not be typical of the cruise line. For us, Crystal Cruises has become our favorite Cruise Line. In the end, we hope that each person figures out which cruise line(s) work best for him or her. We also hope that each cruise lines will continue to have their own identity so that unlike the domestic United States Airline Industry, that there is truly choice when it comes to cruising. Keith   Read Less
Sail Date: April 2013
What follows is a frank review, after all this is Cruise CRITIC and my comments are not here to beat-up on anything, but I hope it will be taken as an incentive for all mentioned to improve. This is meant to be CONSTRUCTIVE criticism not ... Read More
What follows is a frank review, after all this is Cruise CRITIC and my comments are not here to beat-up on anything, but I hope it will be taken as an incentive for all mentioned to improve. This is meant to be CONSTRUCTIVE criticism not ranting. I'll break it down into both the good and the bad and name a winner in each category since I'd want to read a review like this if I was deciding on this cruise or comparing Crystal with Regent. One caveat, while my observations on Crystal are up to date, we haven't sailed on Regent for two years so please keep in mind some of my comparisons may no longer hold true with Regent since I’m afraid the cruise industry in general is increasingly losing some if its niceties. Pre-Cruise (booking, planning, information gathering) I made our booking through our travel agent and booked and paid well in advance to take advantage of every discount offered. My biggest gripe is having to always go through my travel agent every time I had a question. For example, I was trying to compare airline prices and decide whether we should go on our own our book through Crystal and get the advantage of them handling us, at least until Beijing. Normally this process takes a few hours, or I can find the information I want online. In this case every time my travel agent asked about a certain flight, it took two to three days. Apparently there’s just one person doing this at Crystal, and I guess he/she is overwhelmed. In the end we finally did go to Beijing with Crystal primarily because we could get the flight covered under the Crystal insurance plan, but it took about six weeks to come to that decision and seemed really convoluted. Compared with Regent, it was awful since, at least my travel agent could have a live conversation with the flights person and just get all the information at once. Crystal’s website and their online booking system (PCPC) work pretty well. It’s similar to Regent, but doesn’t force you to pay up front for tours to keep your tour reservation (like Regent). One glitch with Crystal, is that in the midst of sorting out our plane reservations with Crystal, I was locked out of the system, and upon calling Crystal they said I couldn’t use it until I had paid. Of course I had paid in full since I had already made most of the tour and dining reservations. I was pretty put off by this rubber stamp answer and I didn’t think that was the kind of attitude that Crystal should have with a fully paid customer who hasn’t even sailed yet. Another caveat is that the information on the website often is not checked very well, or has information that doesn’t get updated, so I really had to constantly double-check if things were right. For example, on this cruise, Tianjin, China was our departure port, but on our personal cruise calendar, it said we were in Tianjin also when we arrived in Kobe, Japan. Obviously this must have been a cut and paste mistake, but if the user isn’t completely familiar with the port names you could ask a driver in Kobe to pick you up at the port of Tianjin. I actually did this; fortunately our driver said it was a bit out of the way, coming from Kyoto, Japan… Winner: Regent Pre-cruise land tour and embarkation The first segment of our cruise included a three day land tour in Beijing before we boarded the ship. We stayed at the China World Hotel which was perfectly comfortable, and all three days were great. Since we had booked a Penthouse (PH) we were on the concierge floor. This gave us the option of dining in a smaller dining room rather than join the five hundred or so other Crystal guests in one of the ballrooms. I will hand it to the ground operator, managing this amount of guests at a high level of luxury and still maintaining a sense of personal attention is quite an achievement. Our Chinese guide made us feel like a much smaller group and we thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. Bravo Crystal, well done! Embarkation was fairly smooth, and if there was any irritation, it was due to the immigration authorities processing hundreds of cruisers. However that’s really nit-picking and certainly not any fault of Crystal’s. Compared to Regent, the last pre-cruise land tour was when Regent had their Discovery collection. We did a three day tour with only one other couple to Victoria Falls, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. At first the tour was in jeopardy of being cancelled since there were only two couples, however Regent, instead of cancelling the tour, offered us the option to make up the difference in price, which we both did so we really had more of a private tour. Regent subcontracted the three days to Abercrombie & Kent, and we were lucky enough to have the head of South African tours host us so needless to say, it was superb. To be fair, comparing Crystal and Regent here is really apples and oranges, so I will call it a draw with both cruise lines doing an excellent job. Winner: both Cabin Due to our not wanting to downgrade our living arrangements onboard compared to Regent, we opted to go for a Penthouse (PH) cabin. Although expensive, if you’re going to splurge on one thing with Crystal, you won’t be disappointed. Our Crystal Penthouse mimicked our standard Regent cabin with a verandah in every way except that it was a bit bigger and squarer and we had a Jacuzzi tub. This also made our verandah a bit bigger. Furnishings were excellent with plenty of storage. We had thought that for our three segments and having to bring a fair amount of winter and hiking gear, that the walk-in closet would still be too tight - not at all. We still had hangers left over and since we had lots of drawers both inside the closet and in the room, we had plenty of space for everything. Crystal’s standard cabins are smaller than Regent’s and we heard many times that they were OK for single passengers, two people were a bit too cozy. While we initially got the cabin for the walk-in closet and tub, it turned out we loved the cabin so much it was really our favorite place to stay on the ship – as opposed to public spaces. Not that the public spaces are bad – they’re great too; we were just in love with our cabin. If you can afford it – spring for the Penthouse deck you won’t be sorry. Since Regent’s cabins (especially on Voyager and Navigator) are pretty standard with tub and shower, walk-in closet and DVD player (Crystal only gives DVD players to Penthouses!), the worry about cabins is not there, except perhaps for location on the ship. Because Regent gives you this as a standard basic cabin the win goes to them since the cost is substantially lower. But I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to Crystal to spoil myself in a Penthouse! Winner: Regent Public Spaces The décor of the public spaces felt very much like there’s an Asian theme, with more colors and busier designs. Of course all this is a matter of taste. The winners in my book were Penthouse cabins (in off white colors with crown molding and wood furniture), the Avenue Saloon and Cigar bar (that was the prettiest mimicking a men’s club look – too bad about the smoky smell). The trident grill deck with the retractable roof was a great semi-outdoor option. The high wing-back chairs on the forward most lounge, the Palm Court are great. Although they’re often occupied its really nice to sit there and just watch the sea go by. The pool is actually big enough to swim in. It’s bigger and squarer than Regent’s. There’s a separate large Jacuzzi which can easily sit eight too. The losers in my book are the Crystal Plaza which just pales in comparison to Regent’s full height of the ship’s atrium and glass elevators. It reminds me too much of a hotel lobby and that I’m at a convention. The Galaxy Lounge which is the main theater, feels a bit head room challenged, fortunately the entertainers did make you forget that. The elevators are totally utilitarian, and the only reason I bring it up is because Regent’s glass ones really make an impression. Regent’s public spaces seem nicer, only because they have a lot more wood paneling and having the rotating art on the walls helps keep things interesting. The Mariner’s indoor promenade is lovely to stroll by on a sea day, and the Voyager’s top observation deck is still my favorite. Crystal Symphony would blow the Navigator’s public spaces out of the water, but so would Regent’s Voyager and Mariner. Winner: Regent Shipboard activities (sea days, lectures, entertainment) Being a slightly bigger ship with a max of 1000 passengers vs. Regents 700 max, gives Crystal a few more options in terms of entertainment. First off, Crystal has usually more simultaneous activities. Lectures can be in one area, while something else happens in the theater and since there’s a dedicated movie theater, it can show movies without tying up the main theater. Crystal does an excellent job utilizing their on-board TV. All lectures are taped so that you don’t feel like you have to book your time to watch it live or have to choose between a lecture or sleeping in. There’s a morning show which actually is quite informative and summarizes the activities, gives you the local weather and shows a preview of the movie of the day. There’s a destination channel which shows movies and documentaries associated with the upcoming port of call (great way to get into the mood of a particular place). The satellite TV is very international and not overly skewed towards U.S. media. It does change depending on where the ship is, but while we were in Asia we saw BBC World, and English language versions of Japan TV, and Korea TV. Again that’s great to supplant your visit to these foreign lands. There’s the usual CNN and Fox news if you want it and a couple of channels dedicated to movies or old sitcoms (it was fun to watch M*A*S*H near Korea). One slight gripe is that Crystal only has regular TV versus Regent’s Video On Demand, or DVR feature. This is a bit of a pain, especially since we use DVR’s at home all the time, since if you want to catch the entirety of a TV movie, you’ve got to make sure you’re there at the right time. However Crystal’s programming clearly wins over Regents – but who’s on a cruise to watch TV anyway? The quality of lectures is always variable, and I don’t think it’s entirely fare to judge the two contenders head to head, however I will say, Regent seems to better tailor their lecturers to the ports we are visiting. There was also a better coordination between the Tour desk, and lecturers so that before you reached a port, you had at least one lecturer who taught you about the country and culture, and perhaps another who spoke about the history and finally the tour desk making a presentation on tours. Crystal, was weak in this regard. The emphasis of the destination lecturer was more to brief us on what was fun to do, like restaurants or entertainment. I was surprised since Crystal emphasizes their learning aspect so much. I’m glad I did my homework before the cruise so fortunately I was pretty well briefed on our ports. I’d hate to think of someone who didn’t bother with the research since they probably had little idea of the context of the sights they saw while touring. I did find almost every lecturer generally interesting, and there were really no un-polished presenters as I have witnessed on Regent. Crystal’s main theater is a single deck height theater which has everything from Broadway style shows to musicians to game shows. Regent has all this but it does have a double height (two decks) theater. Personally the two deck theater just makes the shows look more spectacular, and in Regent’s case they can do their acrobatic “Cirque” show, which is fantastic. However once the initial impression of Crystal’s theater is over, the quality of the shows was excellent. I can only assume that if one day Crystal builds a new ship with a double-height theater, the whole experience will be that much better. A unique addition to Crystal is its “Magic Castle at Sea”. I’m a big fan of magic acts, and remember with pleasure some of the magicians I saw on Regent who performed in the theater. By contrast, Crystal’s Magic Castle, happens in the tiny Luxe nightclub which is decorated a bit like a carnival show tent. The acts are close-up magic and are more like parlor tricks. Personally, I prefer the grand spectacle and when magic is accompanied by lights, music and a big stage. To me these shows were a bit weak and I almost feel that I was watching a street side “Monty” game. One of the three magicians we had (there was a different one for each segment) did make an effort and she did impromptu tricks around the ship which was actually better, since it was off the cuff, and relaxed. Having it in Luxe felt like it was kind of hidden away in a broom closet. I can’t say the Magic Castle at sea is a deciding factor in choosing Crystal over anyone else. Movies in the Hollywood theater were generally excellent. The movies were quite recent and there even were a few foreign language films which were all great. The equipment in the theatre is excellent and only diminished by the viewing of standard definition source material. Hopefully this wasn’t an oversight and simply a licensing issue with the content providers. After all, how silly to spend all the money on high definition equipment and not have high definition programming. There is one thing that’s really strange on Crystal. The library is very good with books, DVD’s, and four Blu-ray discs to borrow, but only at set hours. Regent’s library is open all the time, which is great if you happen to wake up early or be up in the middle of the night. Several times I wanted to go to the library and it just wasn’t open – kind of a pain. The DVD situation is great if you’re lucky enough to have a Penthouse or smart enough to plug you own DVD player or laptop into the TV. I was shocked that regular staterooms don’t have DVD players – seems really cheap for a five star cruise line. Regent equips every cabin with a DVD player. The most amusing is that you have to spring for the ultimate suite on board, the fantastic Crystal Suite which is more like your own apartment on a yacht, and they throw in a Blu-Ray player! LOL. The joke is that they only have four Blu-ray discs in the library and although you can certainly play DVD’s in the Blu-ray player – it just seems really silly, don’t you think? Another thing that was very different from Regent is the participation in games. Both Crystal and Regent have typical games like Liar’s Club and Trivia. But Regent seems to draw you in more. Perhaps it’s scheduling and the staff joining in with the games. Crystal scheduled Team Trivia at noon, but Regent has it with tea in the afternoon (which is usually after people get back from shore anyway), which seems to be better to get people to maybe go for tea, but then get drawn into the game. Also Regent’s officers and management actively participate in Liar’s Club and other games which add a lot of fun and humanizes them. Crystal’s officers were doing their jobs admirably but nothing more. The only time we ever saw the Captain or any other officers, was at a set formal time. On Regent they’d pop up at meals, around the pool and felt just felt part of our floating world. I will say that the professionalism of Crystal’s crew was top notch and we got to and from all our ports and through some bad weather with perfect scheduling, and safety. Lastly I’ll touch upon “Learning at Sea”. Crystal promotes this greatly and I will excuse myself from most of this since I really didn’t participate. My wife and I had high hopes to do this, but you only have so much time and other things took priority. One downside is the elimination of Yamaha keyboard classes which we had always thought we’d take since no other cruise line offers this. It seems to have been replaced by iMovie classes and the Magic Castle at Sea. I’m a former CIO, so the computer classes are really not of interest to me and I’ve been making movies since Super 8 was around, but the keyboard classes would have been fun. Language classes are only in Spanish, which I really didn’t think was appropriate for Asia and Russia. What would have been more interesting are quick traveller’s language classes in port related languages, or perhaps a primer on Chinese characters, or Korean. I cannot comment on the CU@sea, except that it looked popular, and I have to assume the majority of the passengers find it helpful. My wife did participate in the Arts and Crafts program as she did on Regent, and I did sample one Golf class which actually did give me a few tips I want to try at home. I didn’t go to the others mainly due to the inclement weather and conflicts with other activities. Winner: Regent Itinerary I hadn’t mentioned this before but the primary reason for our trying Crystal Cruises after being exclusive Regent customers for so long was simply that Regent eliminated their World Cruises (we used to take segments) and their itineraries became repetitive and boring. We sailed from Beijing, to Japan, Russia and along the northern Pacific ring of fire through Alaska and down the west coast of North America to Los Angeles. This was always one of my “bucket list” things to do and I would still love to do the entire circumnavigation of the Pacific (perhaps like Cook’s journey) before I kick the bucket. It would have been nice to see more of Japan, like Hokkaido or the Kuril Islands but fortunately because we had almost three days in Kobe, Japan we did our own tour around Kyoto between segments. That was exceptional. The only negative I have to say about this itinerary was that it was a bit early in the season to be visiting a lot of these ports. The good news is that we saw these ports, especially Alaska, without thousands of other tourists. It was a bit like a pre-show or behind the scenes tours. We were ready for the cold weather, and amazingly I did manage to sneak a swim in the pool in San Francisco – of all places! Not having an active pool deck probably changed the impression we had overall of the cruise, since we now realize that it serves a bit like a town center where you can hang out, and eventually everyone passes through including the Captain. A plus Crystal has over Regent in this cold weather cruise is the trident deck which has a retractable glass roof. This was very pleasant in the temperate climates. We still got some sun without the cold wind. Our Captains did an excellent job getting us to all our ports with no mishaps. Winner: Crystal Shore Excursions I booked the majority of our tours on Crystal’s PCPC (online booking system). This worked quite well and I could preview most tours well ahead of time to research and choose. The choice was good, and some sounded very good, even though they were pricey. We ended up booking an overnight tour to Hangzhou, southwest of Shanghai. This was a $1,300 per person tour but it was really worth it. We were thrilled with the Aman Resort that we stayed at, and I was very impressed that Crystal offered this as an option. Crystal also offered a helicopter ride around the volcanoes in Petropavlovsk for a hefty $1,700 per person. I signed up for this thinking, well I might as well do something memorable in a place I might never visit again – and there was a good chance we might not even get there since last year’s cruise had to skip it due to weather. Anyway I took the plunge and only found out by chance that my tour and my wife’s completely different tour had been cancelled. I only found this out by calling the tour desk to ask about the missing tickets and after some digging, the explanation was that since I had been the only one to sign up, they cancelled it. I couldn’t believe I had found out this way. Its one thing to have advance notice that the tour is cancelled, and perhaps get help in make alternative arrangements, but quite another to just stumble on it and then really have no recourse. On top of that, since they cancelled both our tours we were at the back of the line to get booked on the remaining options – even though I had booked the original tours months ago. I asked why had they not even offered to turn this into a private tour, like Regent had done for us in Zambia? I was just quoted regulations. I was dumbfounded, and felt like abandoned. We eventually arranged a private tour to some hot springs, but it was just so badly handled, I cannot help but characterize the whole experience as a tremendous stain on Crystal’s reputation. We had heard for years that Crystal had no knowledge of the word “No” and mimicked the Japanese manner of always trying to accommodate and make their passengers happy. So this was a total shock, even now that I’m back home after a couple of weeks. I’ve certainly had some ups and downs with Regent’s Tour desk, however my expectations are not quite as high since their tours are included and not as interesting or ambitious. Kudos would have gone to Crystal for that had they been able to fully deliver and I still encourage them to offer the expensive tours as an option. I’m afraid the level of experience at the tour desk is probably getting weaker on all cruise lines, but it was very difficult to come to this realization after having such high hopes for Crystal. Ok, that’s enough whining. Generally our tours were fine, and I actually prefer Crystal’s way of doing the tours as not included since I can easily opt out and do things on my own. Regent doesn’t do much better, but at least they have the courtesy to tell me in advance when a tour is cancelled. Winner: None Dining Simply said, the food on board Crystal Symphony was the best I’ve had on sea and as good as anything I’ve had on land. I’m a simple picky eater, and normally food is just fuel to me. I’m hungry, satisfy the appetite and I’m ready to move on. However on a cruise, I mellow out a bit and pay more attention, especially to things I like. My wife usually says I never have anything nice to say about food except that its “OK”, so I was sure to highlight the fact that on Crystal I said “Great” and “Fantastic”. That’s a lot coming from me. Although we had to insist a bit with the sommelier, my wife managed to get a good Bordeaux as her preferred wine, as opposed to the nightly offerings. Almost everything I picked over 42 nights was excellent, and I gained 17 pounds to prove it! The things that were not excellent were still OK. The specialty restaurants were also excellent and a nice change of venue on a long cruise. The Wagyu Beef in Silk Road was probably the best beef dish I’ve had. The Beef Wellington in the main dining room was perfect (Chef Ramsey from Hell’s Kitchen would have been proud!). The service was excellent overall, and really the only downside is that there isn’t open seating. This has been reported many times, but coming from Regent with open seating to a set seating is a hard adjustment. We chose to dine by reservation, which is Crystal’s workaround, but you feel a bit sequestered into a designated area in the dining room. This never changes so it can get a bit wearing on a long cruise. We only interacted a bit with passengers seated at a neighboring table, but it’s not the same as having the flexibility one night to join a large table for more interaction, and then choosing to dine alone on another night. I realize this is probably a logistical issue with 1000 passengers, but it’s still a negative in my mind. The Trident grill served the best French fries ever. I wish I knew their secret to consistently producing perfectly seasoned, not greasy or undercooked fries. The pizza was also very good. The ice cream bar was a winner with Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, but after 43 nights it would have been nice to see the flavor choice change a bit. We had a special feature on this cruise that we’d never had before, which was a butler. Out butler “Greg” was everything you would expect and more. He really made a great effort getting to know us, and if there was anyone who we will always remember with this adventure it is him. I mentioned before that Crystal’s officers and management seem very detached from the passenger life, having Gregg as a butler made up for a lot of that. He leaped at the challenges I gave him for my in-room dining special orders and had a wealth of knowledge of the ship. Winner: Crystal Disembarkation We ended up in San Pedro, CA and our disembarkation was fine, although very sad as it is on all our cruises. Crystal does seem to do what it can to provide happy smiling people to help and guide you through the disembarkation. With Regent we kind of felt dumped on the pier having to rely on our own resources as soon as we were off the gangplank. Crystal reps were everywhere all the way out to the limos and buses. Aside from airlifting us in our wonderful Penthouse cabin to our home doorstep, Crystal could not have done more to ease our transition. Winner: Crystal Overall winner: I hate to even make this call because I’m happy to say I now like both Crystal Cruises and Regent Seven Seas. They each have enough going for them that I would sail again on either one as long as the itinerary is good. One thing Crystal seems to have is much more of an international mix of passengers. Being an American, while I don’t mind my fellow countrymen, I like to meet non-Americans when I travel. We had Japanese, Chinese, Australians, South Africans, and Canadians. This really added to the whole ambiance. Regent is heavily skewed towards Americans, and I feel sorry for non-Americans on board since they have to conform to American entertainment and being in the minority. I’m not American bashing, I just feel that as travelers on a ship in international waters we should embrace that we’re all world citizens and get out of our nationalistic modes. If I imagined myself at the head of Crystal or Regent, wondering who really wins this comparison, I’d probably be looking at the dollars. While we may have cruised more on Regent over the years, Crystal did beat out all the other competition to convince us to spend the most we’ve ever spent on a cruise, and they did it by giving us the combination of a pleasing itinerary, excellent accommodations, a mid-size ship that doesn’t get boring on a long voyage, and I did book two future cruises while on board. So if the bottom line is to get the client and make money, Crystal won. The one thing I would say in Regent’s favor is that they would probably win us back if they’d get their itineraries back to the way they were when they did Discovery cruises and get rid of the back and forth itineraries which kills it for multi-segmenters like us. Not that Crystal is bad, but Regent would kill them since they include air and tours and we get free internet all for a lower price than Crystal. So the overall winner is really both. I’m now happy that I now have to excellent cruise lines to choose from. If you think this is long, wait until I sail on some of the other cruise lines like Silver Sea and Seabourne   Read Less
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