We have recently disembarked from the Crystal Serenity where we enjoyed 14 nights going around the UK and also stopping in Amsterdam and in Zebbrugge before returning to our point of embarkation which also served as the port of ... Read More
We have recently disembarked from the Crystal Serenity where we enjoyed 14 nights going around the UK and also stopping in Amsterdam and in Zebbrugge before returning to our point of embarkation which also served as the port of disembarkation, namely Dover on the Irish Soliloquy cruise. We thought it would be helpful to post this review. We recognize in so doing that some of our comments will be of more value than others, with the ship heading to dry dock shortly.
Embarkation was a breeze. It started punctually at noon for us and we were onboard and seated in the MDR for lunch by 12:45. All necessary formalities were handled in the lobby adjacent to the Crystal Cove. Our room was ready for us as soon as we checked in and thanks to our travel agent, our various special requests were dealt with and our room properly stocked and augmented with extra items we usually like to have before we even set foot inside.
We were warmly greeted by all of the folks we came in contact with from the ship—some who we had seen in October and others who we had not seen in a few years. Called by name and warmly received and acknowledged, we were welcomed “home” and very much felt that way.
We settled for our customary embarkation lunch which for me was THE COBB SALAD and a half order of the spaghetti Bolognese. One thing which was immediately noticeable was that the portion size of the Cobb was small—about the same size as it had been when we were last on in October 2017. It was not puny but the portion size was such that a person with a reasonably sized appetite would likely want more and as we all know, requesting additional portions or special orders was not a problem.
Throughout the cruise we found the food portions to be appropriate portion sizes at least according to our personal registered dietician. The menu usually presented sufficient options to select from and only the final night's dinner was disappointing with food lacking in seasoning, overcooked, and poorly presented. The dessert options were, perhaps as a side benefit to our efforts to control our waistlines, reasonable in variety and portion size. And of course we availed ourselves on a couple of occasions to request special items which we enjoy like the wiener schnitzel and the sole meuniere.
We found our luggage was in the room within a very short time after we finished lunch and well before 3. The condition of the room slowed wear and tear and while cleaned nicely, the ship is showing its age. A couple of items worthy of particular note: The shower controls have been replaced since we were last onboard and the new mixing apparatus does not get hot to the touch as the old one did which is a nice change. Also turning the shower on and off and adjusting the temperature is easier with the new handles and apparatus. It also appears, but I cannot be sure, that there is a prefilter on the apparatus or actually directly below it, so the water did not seem as harsh over long periods of use.
The option of a Aramis (?) products as an option (since we are not fans of the musk scented skin care products) was lovely and helpful. The clock in out stateroom no longer sported a socket for an iPod which was no loss. The new clock had a nice easy to read face and easy adjusting instructions. Very helpful. The cushions on the veranda which had been a powder blue color are now a slate grey color which shows less dirt and may wear better.
There is a new computer sign in regimen which was again revised about three days into our cruise with another interface which, like its immediate predecessor allowed us to sign up and login from our stateroom. Connectivity was sketchy in our stateroom and we were located fairly close to midship on the 10th floor, but connectivity from locations in the common area were excellent. Speed and bandwidth continue to be a problem which the company has stated that it intends to address during drydock. In the meanwhile my wife and I were each allowed to register two devices to be used at a time on the internet. But as Crystal is quick to point out and as we long ago understood and appreciate, download times are still much slower at sea than on land.
There were several choices for entertainment nightly, many shows in the Galaxy being performed twice each evening for early and late seating passengers. Local shows were also brought on in Dublin and in Scotland and a delight as always. And some new acts were also well received as was the new production show Crystal In Motion.
Post late seating dinner and late shows in the Galaxy, there were a few choices—dancing in Palm Court but attendance there in the later hours was sparse, a duo in the Crystal Cove on some evenings which again was sparsely attended and the wonderful piano playing of Scot Mitchel who is grossly under appreciated for his talents on the ship, and then there was the busiest spot —the Avenue Saloon where Perry Grant kept the room packed nightly and the nonstop laughs and music going most nights until after midnight (without taking a break from the start of his set at 9:45 until he ended his cabaret performance). Some evenings seating was problematic as that venue just cannot contain all who wish to see him. We continue to wish that Perry might be moved to the Stardust and that room set up in the evening as a sort of nightclub with tables and chairs on the dance floor and Perry at the piano on the stage. The Stardust was used 3-4 times during the trip for other shows and Perry played one night there to a SRO audience, but it is under utilized.
The push and pull of competing expectations of the Avenue Saloon does contribute to some ill will among some passengers. During the late set which Perry does, which both Crystal and he typify rightfully as a cabaret, some of the more inebriated passengers at the bar disrupt the enjoyment of those who come to the cabaret to experience Perry Grant. The professional that he is, Perry soldiers on, but for guests it results in some harsh words and irritation which makes the evening less pleasant. The bar personnel continue to have difficulty cutting off people who have had too much to drink. When we were onboard in October we saw a gentleman fall not once but twice from a bar stool and it was only after he fell the second time that he was escorted out—but not before his conduct disrupted the performance.
We opted to take only one shore excursion during the cruise as we had been to most of the ports before. Some like Dundee, only really offered golf enthusiast excursions which did not interest us. Others like Guernsey offered more variety but the nature of the port is such that options are limited and expensive. We showed private guides who we hired on our own the little pamphlets about each port made available the night before and on the day of various ports of call and at least one noted to us that the data was inaccurate and appreciably so. Those guides need to be updated for accuracy. The population count for Belfast alone was off by several hundred thousand people. We also heard from tablemates that in Bruges that leaflet gave incorrect information about the point of drop off and pick up for the shuttle.
We enjoyed a sort of last hurrah at our late seating table of eight which was curated by Mario Gallo. We enjoyed sharing dinner every night with the same other fellow travelers, and while we did not discuss politics or religion we were still never at a loss for topics of conversation each night and often were among the last folks to leave the MDR. One subject which was discussed at length at our table, was the fact that the new post dry dock dining arrangement appeared to put the final nail in the coffin of being able to have a table for 8 of people put together by the maitre d’ to which one can return nightly to the same wait personnel and same dinner companions and we think that it be a grave miscalculation on Crystal’s part. In the past two cruises, we found that the folks who ask to be assigned to a table of 8 were very upset to hear of the elimination of that option.
I discussed this item with both Mario Gallo and Leo Assmair. Neither seemed able to do other than toe the party line that we could put together a table of people and come to the maitre d each night with them in tow and see what he could do to arrange a table. The issue, as we tried to explain, is that the “matchmaking” was something we would need days to try to accomplish rather than the maitre d’ knowing the personalities of those of us who have cruised before, doing so. When I posited the notion of dedicating a small portion of the dining room at a given time, say 8:30 for people who wanted to eat at a travelers table every night to do so, it was summarily dismissed.
Instead Crystal is determined that after the dry dock is done, there will be enough tables and seats in the dining room so that all 980 guests could all be seated in that room if they wished on the same date and at the same time...which will NEVER EVER happen. With multiple restaurants to choose from and the addition of the Brazilian dinner venue and the replacement of Tastes with Silk, coupled with the rebranding of the Nobu outlet as Umi Uma, the powers that be still want to load up the MDR with rows of tables upon rows of tables for 2 or 4. One look at the seating from the Symphony tells the story. Think school cafeteria seating, rows after rows of 2 and 4 tops, separated by about a foot from one another. Like a dining hall. Very sad.
It is difficult to understand what Crystal has been up to of late. They are slicing 14 day cruises into two 7 day pieces to attract those who can’t afford a 14 day cruise, they are going to “as you wish” dining to attract the younger crowd of cruisers (the same ones who can’t afford more than a 6 or 7 day cruise or can’t be away from their obligations at work or at home for more than a week, while turning their corporate back on those of us with longevity of loyalty to the line ignoring requests to maintain some semblance of travelers table options (more than once a week or once a cruise), they had Perry Grant set for November and December and many folks signed up for that cruise because he was going to be onboard and has quite a following. They then cancel his engagement and several customers cancel their cruises. How is this helping the bottom line?
We have spoken with employees onboard who have confided that they may not be returning preferring instead to move to the river boats closer to home, and others who say that what they have heard from passengers who have been on Symphony about the new dining arrangements is disturbing. We know of families who have opted to not sign up for more Crystal cruises until the dining room situation is made more palatable. As for us, we have opted to book two cruises with another line to explore our options.
We acknowledge that these are first world problems and we need to recognize the need for change and give it a try and try it we will. We will be onboard in December and approach these things with an open mind. So time will tell and we will, ultimately allow the the power of the purse to show our determination about these changes. Indeed there are other options and while we would much prefer to stay with Crystal, we will need to see if the new way of doing things results in an equally pleasurable experience for us. That would be ideal but only time will tell. Read Less