We are 70 and 71 years old and have cruised 33 times prior to this one, on eleven different cruise lines, in the past 20+ years. We’ve always enjoyed Celebrity, and now in the past two years, we also have thoroughly enjoyed all four of ... Read More
We are 70 and 71 years old and have cruised 33 times prior to this one, on eleven different cruise lines, in the past 20+ years. We’ve always enjoyed Celebrity, and now in the past two years, we also have thoroughly enjoyed all four of our Crystal cruises. This one was chosen for one specific stop: Edinburgh to attend the Military Tattoo. The rest of the ports all turned out to be nice bonuses.
We arrived a day in advance to Antwerp, Belgium, our port of embarkation. A five-hour flight delay caused us to change our sightseeing plans for our arrival-into-Europe day, but it worked out fine. We stayed one night at the Hilton right near the Cathedral in Antwerp and we loved the location. If we had not visited Antwerp on a previous cruise (river cruise), we would not have had time to see everything we considered important. The Antwerp Hilton also happens to be staffed by excellent personnel, and the property is lovely, so we recommend it highly.
Crystal keeps to a schedule better than any other cruise line. Everything starts on time! That includes embarkation; the time stated on your documents is the time the first folks will be invited onto the ship. The only limiting factor, then, is how many people arrive at the port before you do. In this case, we dawdled a bit too long, and many others didn’t; so we were in the third or fourth embarkation group. Once you get started, it goes great; but in this case, I was sorry we didn’t arrive at 11:30 instead of at 12:15, because we had planned to have a fairly quick lunch and then finish the sightseeing we’d saved from the day before. We actually could’ve satisfied our hunger for a snack at the hospitality lounge Crystal provided in the waiting area at the makeshift cruise terminal, if I’d realized it soon enough. Instead, after our little trek through the various security and passport control stops and the usual quick Crystal check-in onboard, we went to the Trident Grill for a burger and a wrap and then hustled off the ship to walk the mile to the Red Star Line Museum, which we had been anticipating for over a year. It did not disappoint!
We arrived back to the Symphony just in time for the muster drill, and then it was time to unpack. Wait! First it was time to figure out why it was so warm in the stateroom. It was because, for some unknown reason, the stewardess had put the heat up to the absolute highest setting. Ok, that was solved easily enough. Now to unpack, and when Mr. Husband announces that there’s so much drawer space, even in our entry-level cabin, I decide to count the drawers: he has seven and I have ten. Throw in a few shelves and we really do have space to unpack every single thing we’ve brought with us. Next comes the husband announcing how wonderful the shower is, and how much he loves the double sinks. Besides the stewardess leaving the room heat at the highest, leaving the hottest setting for the water in the tub, and her not having cleared out the previous guest’s leftover food in the fridge, everything after that was pretty much spot on perfect.
We check the Reflections (daily schedule) and realize that we would like to go to the show but it conflicts with our dining reservation, so a quick stop at the Crystal Dining Room (their MDR) gets our reservation changed. Right now Crystal has two “set” dining times, 6 pm and 8:30, plus Dine by Reservation. We used the Dine by Res., and it works very well for us. We like to eat alone and there are plenty of two-tops. We ended up having five different senior waiters and all were totally fine. Crystal has one maître-d’, who oversees the entire dining room, plus quite a few head waiters who keep things running extremely smoothly throughout the dinner hours (and breakfast and lunch, too).
As has been our experience in the past, service was stellar, and we happen to love Crystal’s food. My favorites included several various salads and appetizers with beets, and even a beef broth soup with beets for lunch one day. Fish dishes were great, lobster was great, kosher chicken is always offered once per cruise and was actually the best ever. The dinner that was least “perfect” was the duck entrée. It lacked great taste and was perhaps a tad overcooked.
We have two favorite wines in the included reds, and I have the Pedroncelli zinfandel almost every night, unless the sommelier thinks I’ll be happy with whatever’s being poured that night – and she was right, whenever she said it. Husband prefers the Paso Robles cabernet, and is also usually happy with whatever’s being poured that night, sometimes a white.
We generally have breakfast at the Lido, where we experienced great service from the Lido guys, as we have in the past. This cruise’s standouts were Ferdie and Allan, both from the Philippines. The guys who cook the eggs, even the one who does the toast, all are expert at what they do. For lunch we like the Lido or the Trident, where, again, the “cooks” there do a great job. The Lido has a huge variety, and so does the Trident (the burgers and wraps and great fries). Then if we want an ice cream, Ben & Jerry’s is open until 6 pm, and the Bistro has all kinds of breakfast things until 11:30 (cereals and bagels and baked goods), then lunch/snack things. I often stop by the Bistro for one little piece of watermelon, one of honeydew, and a couple of small pieces of cheese, or even brie on a cracker. As somebody said the first day, to her travel companions, if you like (cold) turkey, this is the place to eat it. I can’t disagree. We always have dessert with our dinner meal, but if we didn’t, we could always go to the Bistro for dessert. So far, on four cruises, I’ve never succumbed to the temptation to have MORE than one dessert!
I only went to afternoon tea once; it’s a great thing to do on an at-sea day. Our meals at Silk Road and Prego were delicious as usual. Actually, Prego was better than ever, after being a tad disappointing, previously.
One of the things I absolutely love on Crystal is the enrichment, always on an at-sea day and sometimes one lecture at sailaway time from a port stop. On this cruise (only two at-sea days), we had destination lecturer Bob Aalberts, current events lecturer Tom Faranda, and Broadway producer Kevin McCollum. They all did a great job. I didn’t know what to expect with the addition of “Broadway at Sea”, but we both liked it a lot. We had an added bonus of a husband and wife singing/acting pair who told us about their careers and were the featured entertainers one evening.
I attended one computer class (iPad Tips and Techniques) and most of the evening entertainment. We missed going to the new show, Speakeasy, which got rave reviews from everybody who attended.
There are all kinds of things we don’t attend, but we did very much enjoy the music (a singer and keyboard player) in Palm Court from 6:15 to 7:15. This worked well for our typical 7 pm dinner and is an improvement from previous cruises. I’m guessing there will be music at pretty much any time after the switchover to open seating dining, after Symphony comes out of drydock in October.
Disembarkation was absolutely as easy as it could possibly be. We booked a private transfer from Honfleur into Paris with two other couples, which worked great, and then we stayed three nights at the Hilton near the Opera House. That worked perfectly for us to take the metro to our 2-1/2 days of sightseeing and various dinners, all of which we thoroughly enjoyed. The hotel, again, is lovely, but our entry level room, while quite classy, was also quite small, and a bit of a rude awakening after our stateroom on the Symphony. It was a good buy, for Paris, though, and I’d stay there again. We could have taken a Crystal Paris two-day post cruise tour to Paris, but we generally prefer doing our own sightseeing, so we decided to do everything on our own.
Doing plenty of advance planning, both for our ports and for Paris, allowed us to have all kinds of wonderful sightseeing experiences. All in all, what a great vacation this was! Looking forward to two more Crystal cruises we have booked. We’ve had very high expectations, all four times, and we have not been disappointed. Read Less