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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
Having sailed on Crystal before, I was looking forward to this Coastal cruise. While I was hesitant because the weather in January is iffy, I decided to book it anyway. This was the first mistake as out of 12 cruises I've sailed on, ... Read More
Having sailed on Crystal before, I was looking forward to this Coastal cruise. While I was hesitant because the weather in January is iffy, I decided to book it anyway. This was the first mistake as out of 12 cruises I've sailed on, the weather was the worst on this voyage. Crystal was not at fault for the lousy weather. Luckily, the service and food on board were excellent as were all the personnel on board. Everyone had a "can do" attitude and could seem to do enough to please. So why the poor review? My wife and I caught the NOROVIRUS! Although I had it worse than my wife. How could two healthy individuals board a SHIP and become violently ill just 3 days in. We specifically chose Crystal due to its service that we have experienced firsthand (what I thought was 5 star all the way) and for the smaller passenger count (only 900 passengers). After feeling better on the last 2 days, I spoke to at least 20 different people who were sick or knew of others who got sick on this 7 day voyage. Couple this with a full Medical waiting room and nurses buzzing about patients who were in quarantine and it was not hard to see that we were on our way to an epidemic onboard. A quick search on the internet and we got to the CDC website (I had plenty of time in my stateroom as I was quarantined for 1 day and chose to stay in for feeling too ill to move about the day prior). We typed in norovirus on cruise ships and there was the history. I was shocked at how many cruises were listed in increasing numbers since 2000. I was also shocked to see that Crystal Cruises joined the ranks a few years ago. Sadly, most cruise lines are on this list, BUT THERE ARE A FEW THAT ARE NOT. It should be noted that so far, this cruise did not make the CDC list as a certain percentage must report being ill before the cruise line has to report it to the CDC. Nevertheless, at least 25 - 30 people (maybe more) had it and that was just who I was able to confirm! When we shared our dismay of this cruise with Crystal (most likely due to lax standards this ship had on cleaning surfaces, public restrooms, not to mention elevators and buffets), Crystal only offered us a $1000 voucher for a future cruise we would have to take in the next year. I don't know that I will ever sail again let alone in the next year! We asked them to not give us an expiration date on this voucher and they declined. We can see how seriously they are taking this growing problem. We did appreciate the fine dining and service but this event left such a sour taste in our mouth (literally) that unless there is a preventative medicine for norovirus, I doubt I will ever step foot on a cruise again, on any cruise line. It is hard to comment on the entertainment and activities or many of the ports as I only went to one show and one event the entire cruise. I didn't leave the ship in Ensenada, San Diego or Catalina. (Not by choice). Beyond my sickness issues, The Crystal Serenity was a disappointment, as was the recent renovation of the ship. The ship has no special rooms on board, they all look and feel the same. Low ceilings and no sense of grandeur. The renovation was like putting lipstick on a pig. They need to retire these vessels and design something entirely new and special. As for me going on a 13th cruise, I will wait until there is preventative medicine for getting any sort of stomach virus on board a cruise ship. Until then, land based vacations. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
We chose this cruise because we had not been on the Crystal for a few years and as it was a round trip return from and to Los Angeles it seemed to be very convenient. For years we have been trying to convince our friends to try the ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we had not been on the Crystal for a few years and as it was a round trip return from and to Los Angeles it seemed to be very convenient. For years we have been trying to convince our friends to try the Crystal and were finally able to get them to come with us only to find it was not as good as it used to be. The lunch buffet was so bad that we just gave up after a couple of days. We tried the dining room which turned out to be even worse The specialty restaurants were fabulous. The food, staff and atmosphere were exemplary. The ship did not appear to be as clean as it used to be. Our suite which had been refurbished seemed smaller due to the new configuration but the shower was incredibly worth the extra money.The toiletries were horrible, with artificial scent which I am highly allergic to. Entertainment was excellent. However, the casino rules were disgusting and no wonder it was always empty. Lastly - to have 6 ports on a 7 day cruise on the West Coast was a total loss. Aside from San Francisco and Cabo San Lucas (which was not on the itinerary) are the only 2 safe and exciting places to stop at. Most passengers complained they did not enjoy the quiet ocean experience when the ship is at sea. Crystal needs to recognize that plus the savings on Port Charges could benefit the pricing for passengers. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
Over the past 32 years I have been on over 40 cruises on about 20 cruise lines. I always remembered our 1993 cruise on "Crystal Harmony" as the best of them all, but it was very expensive. Eventually I decided to try Crystal ... Read More
Over the past 32 years I have been on over 40 cruises on about 20 cruise lines. I always remembered our 1993 cruise on "Crystal Harmony" as the best of them all, but it was very expensive. Eventually I decided to try Crystal again, as their prices were comparatively more affordable than in the 90's. I read some pretty negative comments on Cruise Critic and was dubious, but it turned out to be a fabulous cruise. The ship is beautiful and super-spacious and from the outside has beautiful lines reminiscent of the old ocean liners. There was never a wait anywhere (except getting on the tenders). The service was impeccable and the food and entertainment fabulous. I loved some of the special touches in the stateroom not found on other ships. I went as a single and never felt uncomfortable, ignored, or crowded out and though I didn't dance I appreciated the presence of the dance hosts. The entertainment was much better than on other ships despite being on a smaller one-story stage. There was never a problem finding a seat in the showroom, unlike other cruises where you had to show up an hour ahead to even get a seat. And the shows were a full 45 minutes and 3 production shows on this cruise versus 30 minutes on Princess and only one production show. I loved the ballroom dance quartet that performed in the Galaxy lounge twice on our cruise. Tea in the Palm Court was wonderful. The Brazilian BBQ at Churrascaria was unbelievably good as was the food and service in Uma Uni Japanese restaurant. I did not try Prego. It was really nice to not have to deal with paying for alcohol, soda, etc., tips and Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi speed was excellent. I had a few nit-picky complaints about the stateroom design, embarkation in L.A. was awkward and confusing, and the tendering operation was not very efficient. An added bonus, since I am now cruising single, is they are single-friendly, with single supplements from 30% to 75% depending on the cruise and how early you book. I am switching my allegiance from Princess to Crystal now! Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
The ship is truly showing its age ,even after a major drydock. We stayed in a new seabreeze penthouse. Sofa was so hard that it felt as if we were on a park bench. No bed ruffle to hide our luggage. Ship is all cut up and just not ... Read More
The ship is truly showing its age ,even after a major drydock. We stayed in a new seabreeze penthouse. Sofa was so hard that it felt as if we were on a park bench. No bed ruffle to hide our luggage. Ship is all cut up and just not graceful. Not many public spaces. Mozart tea was served and i was brought tea without a cover and the cakes tasted as if they had freezer burn. Too many smoking areas on the ship. No introduction to the officer staff.or medical staff. The palm court is no longer a comfortable place to sit and watch the ocean. They chopped up the room with a huge bar and halving the size of the dance floor. The spa is showing its age.. so, so ,small. One more thing.. i was surprised by the lack of the handwashing reminders! Many times when i put my hands to get the hand cleaners at the restaurant I found they were empty or not working. The food was very good though. We travel alot and frankly the ship and Crystal just disappointed me. Read Less
19 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
My family and I had sailed several times on the Serenity, and we were looking forward to seeing the extent of the recent renovations. We were very pleased with the new look of the ship and the renovations done to the public areas. The food ... Read More
My family and I had sailed several times on the Serenity, and we were looking forward to seeing the extent of the recent renovations. We were very pleased with the new look of the ship and the renovations done to the public areas. The food and service are as memorable and perfectly executed as we remembered them to be, and some events, such as the Vintage Room and the supper club very much exceeded expectations. The new all-inclusive service is very comfortable, and we never felt pressured to order upgrades to the very fine list of wines, spirits and beers on board, although we did treat ourselves to some outstanding labels under the guidance of our amazing sommelier, Tilmar Pfefferkorn! The service aboard ship is outstanding. Not only are your every needs met swiftly and with grace, but staff quickly gets to know your preferences and often seems to anticipate your next request. Special services are also outstanding. We had a member of our party that required medical attention due to a pre-existing condition, and the medical staff did an outstanding job of successfully dealing with the problem in a caring manner. We will definitely be returning to crystal Serenity or Crystal Symphony for our next cruise experience! Read Less
29 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
In May 2018, my wife and I took Crystal’s two-week cruise to Hawaii aboard the Symphony (voyage OCS180518-16). We take about three cruises a year on Crystal. I rate this cruise as excellent, that is, an overall “5” on a scale of ... Read More
In May 2018, my wife and I took Crystal’s two-week cruise to Hawaii aboard the Symphony (voyage OCS180518-16). We take about three cruises a year on Crystal. I rate this cruise as excellent, that is, an overall “5” on a scale of 5. Crystal’s quality slipped a bit in the last few years. But Crystal is now back up to where it ought to be. This is one of two ships in Crystal’s tiny ocean fleet. Each carries roughly 900 passengers. The two ships are pretty much a matched set that rotates crew, routes, and entertainment. My only continuing concern is Symphony’s lower scores in federal heath inspections over the past several years (both U.S. and Canada). ENTERTAINMENT -- MUSIC: Credit goes to Crystal’s entertainment veep (Keith Cox) and his choreographers for reinventing the line’s performing arts with a new repertoire. Crystal is once again the front row seat for fans of traditional jazz and Broadway. Singers, dancers, and jazz band were excellent, with a different floor show every night. In fact, one young torch singer (Janet Dacal) seemed a likely candidate to play the late Julie London if there’s ever a tribute tour of her hits from the fifties. Speaking of Julie London, I heard the strains of “Cry Me a River” from the ship’s violin-piano duo as I passed through a lonely lounge one night. And the cruise’s Hollywood historian (Jim Jimirro) even had an anecdote from his recent chat with the aged writer of that song. (By the way, Jim has a lecture series about the American songbook at the public library in Beverly Hills -- see “Jim J’s Jukebox” at www.beverlyhills.org.) In other words, Crystal takes the various niches and nuances of jazz pretty seriously. Every bit as enjoyable as a night spent clubbing in the French Quarter. Due to the small size of Crystal’s two main ships, all entertainers eat with the guests. No matter how famous on land, the norm on Crystal is their availability to visit with the guests when not performing. There was also a house dance band that played for hours every night. But not a lot of dancers. Ballroom dance studios organize cruises for their advanced (and affluent) students, and this setting would seem a good match for that market. They’d be getting a live band, a semiprivate dance floor, the good life, and everyday hobnobbing with the dance pros that do the stage shows. Due to the volcano disaster, this Hawaiian cruise had to cancel its stop at Hilo. The ship gave the volcano a good distance to avoid the fumes (we never saw it). But the potency of its ash was apparent from the metallic orange of the sun as it set through the haze (same as in the smoke from forest fires). When Hilo opens up again, Crystal could seek out talent from the Merrie Monarch Festival. This is the world championship of authentic Hawaiian hula dancing -- the Wimbledon, Masters, and World Series of that art form. On a prior cruise, we took a cab over to the festival’s office, bought some souvenirs, and got a complimentary tour of the venue (see www.merriemonarch.com). It didn’t hurt that my wife had been a hula dancer on Kauai back in the day. DINING: Crystal has definitely reinvented the experience of its main dining room. For the first time in years, we ate most of our meals there. Simply because we enjoyed it so much -- and we had to see what new entrees they had dreamed up every day. We much appreciated Crystal’s new walk-in flexibility (open dining) for time, table location, and the number of diners joining us. With little fanfare, you can now bring along your onboard friends, old and new. Or dine in a quiet secluded corner and discreetly share state secrets. In other words, Crystal’s dining has cracked the code for providing a constant quality to the passenger whose preferences vary from day to day. As for the menu, there’s a new range of creative worldwide entrees as flavorful and spicy as you want to go. And, without exception, they were all served hot due to new kitchen systems for custom preparation. No more assembly-line institutional feedings. And Crystal has hired a more diverse crew of waiters than we’ve previously seen in its dining rooms. These enthusiastic waiters always took time to chat with us, some even gave us travel tips for visiting their home countries. Throughout the cruise, waiters Romanio and Kumrah took especially good care of us. The dining room’s seasoned maitre d’ (Albert Farkas) may be Crystal’s most senior employee, having been there over the life of the company. Definitely a legend and a mentor among that next generation of waiters that he’s devoted to training up right. (He just modestly says, “It’s my profession.”) And he’s quite the repository of lore about restaurants around the globe (like the place where they can open a wine bottle with a sword). There’s no doubt some interesting backstory as to how the Symphony’s ringmaster of restaurants (Slavko Drobnjak) implemented all of this. The kind of anecdotes that years later end up in places like the Harvard Business Review. But whatever you’re doing, Slavko, keep doing it. As I sat in the dining room, I finally got to see the legendary “green flash” of the Pacific sunset. Crystal crew members had been telling me about their sightings for some time. On ocean crossings, the ship’s daily newsletter includes an article about the phenomenon. One of Crystal’s captains gives a nature talk about it. And, yup, it’s the thing that a San Diego craft beer is named after. PORT STOP -- MAUI, HAWAII: Crystal sometimes pioneers a unique type of shore excursion, instead of just rounding up the usual contractors with their scripted bus herdings. Years later, we still talk about the extensive backstage tour of the Monte Carlo ballet by a retired ballerina (right down to the shoemaker, costume vault, and grooming of preschoolers who’d made the cut). It was our first cruise on Crystal, and I was the only passenger in our small tour group who had never been a ballet dancer. For this cruise to Hawaii, Crystal somehow convinced the charming heiress of a Maui mansion (Leona Wilson) to gather up her diverse friends for a half-day of gourmet food and stories about the island. A dozen cruisers were treated to local topics ranging from plantations, to architecture, to education, to botany, to beekeeping, to antiques. The mansion itself (Lona Ridge) seems sort of a cross between an embassy, a museum, and a monastic retreat center. Though this was modestly billed as an estate and garden tour, Leona (now in her 80s) made us feel more like honored guests at a diplomatic function than a bunch of tourists. No wonder the press calls Leona the “plantation princess.” If Verdi or Puccini ever wrote a Hawaiian opera, Leona’s bio of life lessons could frame the heroine’s libretto. Right down to her rescue and replanting of discarded plants from the town cemetery. Lona Ridge is well up a mountainside at the end of the road, and at least an hour’s drive from the tender dock. And it’s a very genuine interaction with a local celebrity (and local character) -- not some rushed walk-through before the bus whisks you off to another of a dozen promised sites. Seems like a good match for those leisurely private events that Virtuoso Travel often hosts for its onboard customers. Or for those perpetual students in the Road Scholar trips to Hawaii. Just type in “Lona Ridge Maui Hawaii” if you want to check it out on Google Maps. And see: www.lonaridge.com and https://mauimagazine.net/plantation-princess. This was one of those unexpected shore excursions that we just keep remembering. PORT STOP -- HONOLULU, HAWAII: There are, of course, endless possibilities for a shore excursion at Honolulu. But there a few things worth checking out right by the Pier 11 cruise ship terminal. Aloha Tower is a restored art deco building that’s colorfully lit up at night. Once Hawaii’s tallest structure, today you can take the elevator to the top floor for a view of the city. No charge, but it closes at 5 pm and you can only visit the top floor. There’s the Old Spaghetti Factory across the street -- part of the chain around the western U.S. But this one has a distinctive Hawaiian variation: spaghetti with clam and Spam. And next door is a Barnes and Noble with a good selection of books about Hawaii. The American Institute of Architects has its office just three blocks from the Pier 11 cruise ship terminal. This is the meeting place for the downtown walking tour that the organization offers for just $15 (see www.aiahonolulu.org/?WalkingTours). It’s in the morning of the second and fourth Saturdays of the month. (Crystal and AIA could conceivably partner on this as a little fund raiser for some local charity.) HOUSEKEEPING: We stay in ordinary staterooms on Crystal (no opulent party suites for us). The quality of stateroom housekeeping varied for a few years. But this time, the attention to detail was consistent with luxury cruising in every way. Right down to the daily supply of a special-order soft drink, and getting an ice pack frozen for a sore knee. And a box of chocolates that almost seemed too fancy to eat. Our stateroom attendant (Lois) gets a perfect score for all her efforts to clean up after us. INTERNET ACCESS: At least on the Symphony, Crystal has finally transitioned to an Internet service (WiFi, wireless) that is both unlimited and reliable. Given all the smartphones in a constant state of readiness, there must be quite the cell tower somewhere on the ship. We noticed an interesting side effect from Crystal’s transition to open dining and unlimited Internet. The moment there’s a lull in table talk, cruisers tend to whip out their smartphones. They eventually come up for air as the meal’s next course arrives -- or they notice that everyone at the table has rushed off to the next activity. And we’re talking retirees here, not millennials. Those who feared the decline of tuxedos may also worry about the dining room’s decay into an Internet cafe. On the other hand, Crystal’s management could understandably remind us that we screamed for more Internet, and they gave us what we asked for. SHIP’S MUSEUM: At the very top of the forward stairwell, you’ll find a room with a couple hundred commemorative plaques. They reflect Symphony’s 20+ years of visits to the world’s ports, both famous and obscure. While some of the plaques are simple pieces of wood, the more elaborate ones feature local art, crafts, and materials. Access to this area is unrestricted; you might pass through it on your way to the golf driving nets. It’s an option while exploring the ship’s layout on your first day aboard, particularly if you’re looking for something to do while waiting for your stateroom to become available. HEALTH AND SAFETY -- CRIME: Congress requires that a cruise line report any passenger complaints that a major crime has occurred onboard. Every quarter, the counts for these complaints are publicly reported at www.transportation.gov/mission/safety/cruise-line-incident-reports. Crystal’s onboard safety has never concerned me. Only two complaints of crime on Crystal appear in this data for the past five years, both alleging thefts over $10,000. The reporting website doesn’t identify which Crystal ship was involved. When it comes to passenger age, much of the Crystal crowd is in God’s waiting room. Guests occasionally die from getting old, but not from assaults, drunken parties, or jumping overboard. You’ll have to cruise elsewhere for those experiences. However, safety on shore (port stops) is a universal concern for the passengers on any cruise line. Cruise lines all promise the greatest show on earth, and that includes speakers on what you absolutely must see at a port stop. Far rarer are speakers that tell you what to watch out for. For this cruise, Crystal brought on the authors (Bob Arno and Bambi Vincent ) of a website that tells you how to avoid the world’s thefts, cons, corruption, and trip-spoiling nastiness. Cruisers all know the horror stories, and this pair’s writing has no doubt saved me from some bad days. (See http://bobarno.com/thiefhunters) The cruise director himself (Paul McFarland) has a story on this Arno/Vincent website: his wallet was stolen when a herd of urchins jumped him in India. (See http://bobarno.com/thiefhunters/mugged-mumbai.) Definitely something to think about, since Paul’s a big, tough-looking guy who could double as Sir Sean Connery. And Paul’s deep broadcast voice sounds like a cop from central casting. We’d previously picked up some good safety tips from another of Crystal’s officers. After I did a little nosy prying, he disclosed his past life in security at an embassy. I’ve always found that Crystal’s crew members, from top to bottom, are quite willing to share candid cautions about a location if asked. HEALTH AND SAFETY -- MEDICAL ISSUES: The dining room waiters pay meticulous attention to any dietary restrictions, such as allergies worthy of an EpiPen. But be sure to clarify whether you merely need to avoid a particular ingredient, or really have some rarer sensitivity to any microscopic trace that lingers on a food prep surface. They’ll actually assume the latter unless you tell them otherwise. In fact, this is one of the better places to be if you were to have a serious allergic reaction (none so far for us). Right down the hall is the ship’s doctor (Alae Brand) and her team of nurses, who provided us with excellent emergency care on a prior cruise. They responded a lot quicker than most hospital emergency rooms (that is, immediately) -- and for a fraction of the cost. HEALTH AND SAFETY -- PASSENGERS WITH DISABILITIES: Crystal’s customer core continues to be retired “comfortable couples” from the American mainstream. Some have been retired for decades -- now in their eighties and beyond. An everyday part of Crystal is thus wheelchairs, walkers, scooters, canes, and oxygen tanks. Attentive and respectful assistance from Crystal’s crew has always been the routine for guests with such limitations. And fellow passengers implicitly follow an aviation-like norm that the least maneuverable get the right of way, whether it be in an aisle, hall, elevator, or buffet line. I have no idea if the ADA applies on the high seas. But accommodation is more than a legality or a courtesy at this point in life. The shadow of the future is lurking as ambulatory retirees surrender their elevator to a wheelchair and walk a few flights with no expectation of a medal. HEALTH AND SAFETY -- FEDERAL INSPECTION SCORES: Federal agencies in both the United States and Canada conduct health inspections of cruise ships. The inspection scores are posted on the agencies’ public websites. See www.cdc.gov and www.canada.ca. Unlike your grades back in school, a passing score is set a bit higher at 86 out of 100. And a score of 100 signals no significant deficiencies, not perfection. For the past 10 years of U.S. inspections, the Symphony’s lowest scores have occurred in the last four years. Its lowest score of 90 (five points above passing) was its most recent inspection (a year ago in Charleston, South Carolina). For the past 10 years of Canadian inspections, the Symphony’s lowest scores have occurred in the last four years. Its lowest score of 92 (seven points above passing) was its most recent inspection (a year ago in Halifax, Nova Scotia). Interestingly, the last U.S. inspection and the last Canadian inspection were only eight days apart. Travel writers sometimes minimize the significance of federal inspection scores. I don’t. Nor do the Crystal crew members who do the scrubbing. For the U.S. inspections, cruisers can read the full reports online in all their technical detail (as well as Crystal’s side of the story). For the Canadian inspections, you’d need to email a request to see the report behind a score. Investigations of onboard illness “outbreaks” are also reported on a federal website. Five years ago, 125 of the Symphony’s passengers came down with norovirus (that short-lived vomiting/diarrhea misery). Inspectors boarded the ship when it docked at Los Angeles and “collected stool specimens from ill passengers and crew for testing” (one nasty job). See www.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp/surv/gilist.htm. Regardless of the lower inspection scores last year, I didn’t get sick on this cruise. And I didn’t see anything that I thought might make me sick (beyond gluttony at the dessert bar). And one night I saw the captain and his safety officer quietly eating behind us in the main dining room. In maritime lore, that’s a classic nonverbal indicator of their confidence that things are shipshape. Ironically, Crystal’s other ship was recognized for its score of 100 at last year’s annual meeting of the U.S. inspection program. That would be a good list for the Symphony to get on. PEACE AND QUIET (PRIVACY): Travel agents should use caution in steering children under age 50 to a cruise on Crystal. There’s one swimming pool, and it’s a tiny one. Only three onboard shops (no mega-ship mall). No climbing walls, water slides, outdoor movie theaters, or midnight buffets. Nature seems to impose its own curfew, given the lack of observable life on Crystal after midnight. The wheelchairs and scooters are parked by the staterooms. The decks are largely empty and silent until sunrise signals the next available meal. Crystal has always offered plenty of privacy for those who want it. No activity announcements invade your stateroom. None of that constant gaming to charge something to your key card (Crystal is all-inclusive). No pressure to buy anything. No pressure to do anything. And there are endless quiet nooks and crannies around the ship for reading, chatting, and thinking great travel thoughts. If Elvis and Sinatra had somehow faded away into quiet cruising retirements, I’m convinced that the Crystal crowd would have respected their onboard privacy with little ado. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
This is our 10th Crystal cruise so we obviously like the line. Service is very good, but little things have been taken away, from chocolates on the pillow at night to overcrowded tenders. The food is good but boring--it used to be very ... Read More
This is our 10th Crystal cruise so we obviously like the line. Service is very good, but little things have been taken away, from chocolates on the pillow at night to overcrowded tenders. The food is good but boring--it used to be very good and creative, Prego, the Italian specialty restaurant, and Umi Uma, the Japanese specialty restaurant, are excellent. The bar/bartenders are excellent, One night at Waterside, the main dining room, we spent almost an hour waiting for our food--and they were not busy, Waterside used to offer a steak option every night, now offerred less often and tasteless,The new Brazilian steakhouse provides mostly pork and the beef offerings are tasteless. The Marketplace, the buffet during the day, is open till 1:30 for lunch, but excursions often last longer and there is not a g option those days. The buffet is good, but changes little. Cabins are old and only have one USB port and one electric outlet although there are ones hidden behind the bed. For most of the day the hot water supply is insufficient, Luxury should not include a cold shower, The entertainment has improved but the lectures are now just OK, used to be great. Also there were nights with hardly any entertainment. Crystal now has a magician on board, ours was excellent. Crystal installed new technology to support free wifi for everyone. BUT the old system worked far better, we often could not connect to the internet and we could not make phone calls in airplane mode--prior trip with prior technology it all worked fine. The shore excursions remain VERY expensive and sub-par. The exercise room is average but no one wipes down the equipment if the guest fails to do so. Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
We had been on Crystal before and wanted to experience the overhaul of the Symphony. The public rooms are beautifully furnished, the layout of the entire ship is excellent, the food is wonderful. Most important every crew member was ... Read More
We had been on Crystal before and wanted to experience the overhaul of the Symphony. The public rooms are beautifully furnished, the layout of the entire ship is excellent, the food is wonderful. Most important every crew member was attentive and well-trained on how to take care of passengers. You really feel pampered and you leave relaxed and feeling that it was all money well-spent. For two years in a row we took the new Crystal European River cruises. If you have a chance to do that, it was two wonderful trips and totally different than an ocean cruise but with the same outstanding Crystal experience. Those experiences motivated us to go back on the updated Symphony. We liked that they gently enforced the dress rules so you didn't have cut-offs and flip flops in the upscale restaurants. The speakers and on-board activities were terrific. With 10 sea-crossing days (Long Beach to Hawaii, Hawaii to Vancouver), the speakers were every bit part of our ship-board experience. In addition the golf pro was excellent as were the live stage shows. Read Less
18 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
We returned to Crystal Symphony to see all of the changes that have been made as part of its dry dock in late 2017. REVIEW FROM OUR MAY 18, 2018 SAILING =================================== After many cruises on Crystal Cruises how ... Read More
We returned to Crystal Symphony to see all of the changes that have been made as part of its dry dock in late 2017. REVIEW FROM OUR MAY 18, 2018 SAILING =================================== After many cruises on Crystal Cruises how can cruising on-board a ship that is 23 years old exceed one’s expectations? Well, it happened to us on board Crystal Symphony for the 16-day cruise starting May 18, 2018. This was due to a several factors. It involved the evolution of Crystal Symphony including new dining venues, open dining, enhanced public areas, and the new Seabreeze Suites. Other reasons included enhanced entertainment, a wonderful itinerary, a terrific private Crystal Cruises exclusive tour, and the amazing team on board Crystal Symphony. Good weather just added to all of this. This review covers our recent sixteen-day Crystal Symphony. The vast majority of our cruises have been on Crystal Serenity. Our last Crystal Symphony cruise was in August 2011. Some people prefer one ship to the other. We added this cruise after deciding the timing of an August Symphony sailing originally booked would not work for us. After reading reports from fellow Cruise Critic members we wanted to see the changes made to Symphony. We purposely booked one of the new Seabreeze suites to experience the suite first hand. Things we enjoyed the most included: THE CREW: They are amazing. We met some crew for the first time and quickly felt as though we had sailed with them many times. We remembered several from prior sailings on Symphony. At the same time there were several officers, senior staff and other crew members who we know either because they used to be assigned to Serenity and are now assigned to Symphony or they swing between the ships on alternate contracts or they will work consecutive contracts on one ship and swing to the other to work multiple contracts. There are lots of positives to those who swing as they can bring best practices from one ship to the other and also help to provide one consistent product across multiple ships. Some crew came over to Symphony not only from Serenity but also from Esprit and/or the River Cruises while some have gone from Ocean Vessels over to these vessels. The crew clearly worked as one cohesive team and was positive, guest focused, and provided a very high level of professionalism at all levels. Unlike some lines we have sailed where the service is good but can be very stiff and almost robot like, the crew on Symphony is warm and attentive making one feel like they are part of the Crystal Family. We felt so welcomed on the ship and I can’t say enough about the crew at all levels. They are truly amazing. THE SHIP: If you didn’t know the age of Crystal Symphony, you might think it is much younger in age than it is. The public rooms are beautiful. We like the changes that were made in the most recent dry dock and do not believe that the photos show the beauty of some of these changes. Because it is somewhat smaller (one less deck) we find it easier to get from place to place on the Symphony. There are also some rooms in particular that we like and that includes Avenue Saloon, Crystal Cove and Plaza, Starlite and Palm Court. CUISINE AND NEW DINING VENUES: We loved the change to open dining and believe the transformation has been a huge success. We appreciate five dining venue choices for evening dinner. Waterside reflects the change in terms of the taste of the cuisine and the service and is less noisy than in the past. We found the food to be moist and to arrive to the table hot. For those wanting to sit with others there more large tables will be arriving soon but in the meantime they are being creative to accommodate requests for larger tables. Those little touches are still there even though the Crystal Dining Room has transitioned to Waterside. This includes being escorted to the table, being seated by someone and the senior waiter serving you rolls/bread from a bread basket. The one change is that Head Waiters no longer prepare desserts or other items as they had to remove their stations to create more space for tables. This transition began a couple of years ago so that Head Waiters devoted more time to assisting guests and I have to say another benefit is not having smells from the cooking of desserts at tables near the former Head Waiter stations. One can still order special meals and they will be prepared in the galley. Market-Place - With each passing year we see improved service at this venue formally named Lido Café for lunch (breakfast would be the same). In our early years sailing Crystal the Lido Deck Stewards would do so much at what was the Lido Café along with those from the Specialty Restaurants. Wait staff from the dining room would mostly be standing around. Since changes were made and Lido Deck Stewards no longer cover the buffet area at lunchtime those from the dining room (now Waterside) provide wonderful service at lunch and at breakfast. They assist with beverages. They clear tables. They offer to carry your plate. They even assist getting other items. In short, they are very visible and provide great service. As in the past, many of the hot entrée items change each day and include some themed buffets. Prego – We enjoyed our visit to Prego. Menu has remained constant and we enjoyed cuisine, service and the ambience of this dining venue. Umi Uma – While the name has changed the cuisine has not and is as delicious as ever. There are some additions to the menu replacing some items. We tried some new additions such as lobster tacos and one of the new salads. All in all this venue continues to be an excellent experience. Head Waiter Jed really is on top of things from seating guests, to visiting and assisting waiters clearing tables. Silk – From what we have read, this venue is achieving mixed reviews but that has been our experience with most new restaurants at sea. We rarely eat this type of cuisine on land although years ago we did. We found the food to be tasty and we appreciated the selection. I realize that others do not care for the food but I am just sharing our opinion. I believe this might be a work in progress. Feedback from the guests was that the original menu was too limited and they wanted more choice. This was addressed with many new items added to the menu. Whether longer terms this stays as an Asian restaurant or changes is anyone’s guess. We found two areas of the venue that can be enhanced which is noted later on in this review under the section opportunities for improvement. Churrascaria - This is one of the two new dining venues offering a buffet in the evening for some items with table side service for other items. There is a cold buffet featuring various antipastas/tapas/salads, a warm buffet of sides and a final buffet of dessert/fruit. Guests go up to the buffet to select their items. Sides are served at the buffet by members of the dining team. Some of these sides are also served at the table. Waiters come to the tables to serve various entrees and the selection includes Steak, Beef Short Ribs, Chicken, Lamb Chops, Pork, Shrimp and sliced Pineapple. We enjoyed the experience and found the food tasty. For those who want a light meal one could eat mainly the salad and vegetables and limit their consumption of the entrée like items. The service was wonderful and the look of this venue in the evening has a different feel than having breakfast or lunch there in the daytime. It truly has the feel of a restaurant. The Head Waiter was terrific not only in greeting each guest and having a waiter escort them to their table but also in making rounds to each table to check up on each guest. Vintage Room – The Vintage Room can be reserved to attend with others who sign up for the experience or as we did as an Exclusive Vintage Room where there is flat fee regardless of the number of people attending up to the maximum capacity of the dining table. We hosted on exclusive Vintage Room. The overall cuisine was the best compared to our other visits to this room on either Symphony or Serenity. The cuisine was tasty and arrived hot to the table with each item arriving with a creative presentation. We enjoyed some memorable wines. Congratulations to the Food & Beverage team on-board Symphony and on land. A special call-out to Restaurant Manager Slavko has truly been one of the people instrumental in the orderly rollout of open dining. We thought that the overall food quality was outstanding on this cruise. Due to the length of this cruise and the number of sea days one day a Grand Gala Lunch Buffet was offered. The use of hand held devices to take orders seems to be going very well. Waiters are adept at using them even when guests request changes to the meal. Like all technology some will be more adept than others using these devices. BAR STAFF: We have always enjoyed the bar staff. When Crystal went inclusive a few years ago some wondered would they be happy? How would they know your name? The staff does look happy and includes new and seasoned people and the majority learn your name as they have done in the past. ENRICHMENT: Sailing Crystal Cruises with lots of sea days such as this voyage shows off one of the Crystal differences, which is their ability to offer 50+ activities during the day and afternoon hours. The biggest challenge is what do to each day. This cruise offered some activities that you might not see on port intensive cruises as well as those you do. There is one area that I believe needs some adjustment that I will discuss later. FITNESS: Kudos to the Fitness Instructors as these two on board were terrific. They both seemed very knowledgeable and had a great rapport with the guests. The Fitness Center is well maintained and makes good use of the space they have to work with. For those who like Yoga this cruise featured a dedicated Yoga instructor. While Symphony has one Paddle Tennis court compared to the two that Serenity has I had a wonderful time playing and on this cruise there was very little down time of not playing. ENTERTAINMENT: This is another area that has evolved the past few years under the direction of Keith Cox, VP of Crystal Entertainment/Enrichment. Keith has been with Crystal Cruises for two years. The entertainment reflects diversity and the number of options has been increased and adjustments have been made to coincide with open dining. There were new performers including a couple of performers new to Crystal Cruises along with seasoned entertainers. Most nights had two different main performances with each one shown two times. The team of Crystal dancers/singers and the band were wonderful as is Cruise Director Paul McFarland. We also loved the new production show that was rolled out on this cruise. Adding a new show is no easy task. Aside from all of the work that goes into its development, the on-board team must learn it in addition to practicing and performing the regular shows. There are other choices including listening to live music at night in different lounges and a nice choice of movies shown in the cinema. Another continued change is having different performers in the Crystal Cove in addition to a pianist. INTERNET/NEW TELEVISIONS: We were fortunate to have a good Internet experience but we do know that performance can vary cruise by cruise. On the most part the internet was up and the speeds were good to excellent. We had a couple of days when speeds were low such as at one or two ports in Hawaii. Fortunately I could use my AT&T service and utilize on my computer using the connection to it from my iPhone. The new televisions are great. The quality is terrific and the remote controls are easy to use. It is nice that 60 movies are offered on-demand. There are some items on the TV not available yet. I made more use of Press Reader on this cruise than in the past such as looking at the restaurant menus and posting them on the blog. We made good use of the internet to complete Wi-Fi calls to one another on the ship and to be able to communicate back home. Press Reader worked well to pull up daily menus and reflections. The ability to see our ship board account was not available. Hopefully, this will be available in the future but in the meantime we went by the reception desk to get a copy of our shipboard account from time-to-time. NEW SEABREEZE SUITES; We tried out the new Penthouse Suite (PS) and loved it. On the first day it seemed boxy and there appeared to be limited storage space. Within a couple of days we figured out how to optimize the storage and even discovered areas such as the front closet. Loved the more solid divider between bedroom and living area as we could have all lights on in the living area and you would not see light in the bedroom. Loved the bathroom with the separate toilet area and a small sink and the rain shower is wonderful. It has three options for the rain shower and also a separate hand-held device. The shower drain is much improved and water goes down the drain quickly and does not sit in one area if there is a lot of ship movement. Having a washer/dryer combination was amazing and other guests had the same opinion. In addition to the benefit to the guests in these rooms, it takes away some demand from the guest laundry on Deck 9. It was so nice to be able to do the wash at various times of the day and not have to worry that if we were not around when the wash ended that someone would remove it from the washer. This is a unique feature and I hope it continues to be added to future ships and in future dry docks. The lighting in the room is very good. It took a couple of days to get used to all of it and which buttons to push but once we did we were very pleased with it. The pullout draws in the bathroom were also nice as was the additional shelving above the washer/dryer combo. The front closet provided additional space and a good area to hang jackets. Another very nice feature is the pullout refrigerator. One does not have to squat to remove items, and it holds many more items and has some nice features for open bottles of wine. The configuration of the room is nice should someone have a third person in the room. Also wanted to give a shout-out to the wonderful team that took good care of us including the stewardess and her assistant and the butler. All fabulous. SHORE EXCURSIONS AND LAND PROGRAMS: We booked a private excursion with Los Angeles and it was amazing. It was one of the best tours we have taken. RECEPTION/CONCIERGE/CRUISE SALES CONSULTANT/CRYSTAL SOCIETY HOSTESS: We found each person very helpful. We didn't know the reception and concierge personnel prior to the cruise and within a few days most already learned my name and we found them to be knowledgeable and helpful. The Cruise Sales Consultant turned around our on board booking requests in less than 24 hours. By the end of the day we had the cruises confirmed and our rooms assigned. In two of the three cases I just filled out the form myself and turned it into the front desk. This was the first time I had done it this way and on the morning of the last day of the cruise I turned in an on board booking request and that was also a first. Crystal Society Hostess was helpful and very pleasant. MEET & MINGLE PARTY: I realize that some wondered why the Meet & Mingle Party was not held earlier in the cruise. The reason for this is that with some people registered for the party but not boarding until Hawaii the Bar Manager waited until after the boarded to hold the party and I think that was a nice approach by the Bar Manager. While we didn’t make it to the first portion of the party we did get there around the mid-point and we were happy that several people were still there when we arrived. SOME AREAS TO ENHANCE: In any business there are areas to improve and that is no different here. The good news is this represents a few areas. THE LECTURERS: A great group of lecturers were on-board. The topics were diverse. This voyage had a combination of lectures whom we have sailed with before and lecturers we saw for the first time. For those lecturers who lecture frequently for Crystal Cruises, I think it is important that they create new lectures and not give the same ones year after year. I have seen some lecturers over the years that figured this out. They create new areas to talk about and even if they repeat a topic, they update it to make it more current. I have been on some cruises where with changing news that someone speaking about world events creates a new lecture on board the ship. On this cruise a few of the lecturers presented the same material that they have presented for years. They are good at what they do but I do think they need to change this up. I noted this in the quality assurance survey. NEW SILK RESTAURANT: If it is possible to optimize the spacing between the two person tables closest to the windows, I believe that would enhance the overall dining experience. I believe the potential is there for this. I would also give diners a choice as to whether they want to be at or near the windows where many were seated or would they prefer a quieter location even if it is not near a window. Most tables near the window were filled as the dinner progressed with almost no one sitting in the middle. Had we known this we would have taken a middle or more remote table. ON –DEMAND MOVIES: We appreciate the on-demand movies and the ease of watching them. While a choice of sixty movies is nice, I could see over long cruises such as a World Cruise or back-to-back cruises that some guests would be appreciative of additional choice. If it is possible to expand the number of movies available and also change them from time to time, I believe this would add to the enjoyment of the movies by fellow guests. FINAL THOUGHTS: The Crystal product has evolved since our first sailing in 2002. Like other cruise lines there have been some changes “cutbacks” and some changes that did not please some. At the same time we have seen many product changes we view as enhancements that were implemented to match what other luxury cruise lines were offering and/or to exceed and differentiate from what others offer. I remember the day when you paid for bottled water and sodas, which I believe changed on our second Crystal Cruises voyage. Over the course of the past few years we have witnessed several additional changes which we appreciate including: Inclusive wine and spirits, which I believe, makes the ship more social with lounges busier in the evening hours and more people coming out for the evening entertainment. Inclusive gratuities for waiters, senior waiters, stewardesses and butlers. Additional dining venues providing lots of choice and the implementation of open dining to Symphony and to Serenity in the upcoming dry-dock. Enhanced waiter service at Waterside (Lido Café on Serenity) which I discussed in the review. Lots more choices for evening entertainment including on several evenings two performances each of two different shows. Some new production shows and some reflecting solo artists and also shortening the length of shows. Enhancements to each Vessel. Symphony has undergone that greatest transformation to the public space. Complimentary internet , interactive TV, on line menus/reflections, etc. Reduced guest count capacity. While a major goal was to accommodate the rollout of open dining, this enhances space to guest ratio and crew to guest ratio on sold out voyages. At the same time Crystal has maintained its core values/strengths, which differentiate itself from some or all of its competitors depending on the item. Areas that come to mind include: Quantity and diversity of enrichment and entertainment. The retention of personnel. A high level of luxury service by the crew while making guests feel welcome and part of the Crystal Family. I believe that applies to new members of the crew who are welcomed by other crewmembers and who quickly learn the importance of making the guests feel like individuals and not just a number. In the end no two cruises are the same and no two experiences are precisely the same. For us this has been an amazing cruise and we look forward to our next one. We had such a wonderful time that we added some cruises while on board with the Cruise Sales Consultant. As I say often the only opinion that matters is our very own and this one reflects the opinion of myself and my wife. I also believe in the end each person should figure out which cruise line(s) work best for them. Keith Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2017
Crystal continue to be my preferred cruise line but there are plenty others nearly as good - and better - in some areas. The big gripe with Crystal has always been the size of their staterooms. I see they are finally addressing that in a ... Read More
Crystal continue to be my preferred cruise line but there are plenty others nearly as good - and better - in some areas. The big gripe with Crystal has always been the size of their staterooms. I see they are finally addressing that in a limited way by increasing the number of penthouses and penthouse suites but, for many, its too little too late. Personally I don't mind the trade off of smaller staterooms for so many large and well thought out public spaces. This cruise was pretty well sold out (we were lucky enough to get an upgrade of several categories from a picture window room to one with a veranda on deck 9) yet the ship never seemed crowded, we never had to queue for anything, the feeling of gracious spaciousness sets this ship apart in my view. Embarkation was a breeze, the greeting was warm and our room was ready pretty well after lunch. We ate at all the eating venues and the quality was consistently good - and sometimes outstanding. The matching wines at dinner were sometimes ordinary but its easy enough to request something different. One thing I noticed in particular (this was my 12th cruise with Crystal) was the quality of the evening entertainment. It has improved markedly from what used to look like amateur high school productions, the Billy Joel tribute show was again outstanding, I'm still not sure about the Illuminate light show, impressive enough in the first 5 minutes and then you are stuck in the dark for another 25 minutes for much of the same thing. I just don't think it matches the type of passenger which Crystal attracts. The staff were consistently friendly and helpful, I was remembered by several of them which I think is always a nice touch. We did a Crystal excursion in each port, they were all overpriced for what they were but pleasant enough. This is an area they could do better in although I like the fact they never completely fill the buses so there's room to spare always. This cruise was originally intended to stop at Monterey, they quietly cancelled that without advising anyone and added another day onto San Francisco - so we ended up being there two nights - great city but a bit lazy on their part. The call to Astoria was a waste of time, we went to a cooking demonstration which was interesting enough but there was clearly very little to do there. So overall a pretty good experience, I am booked again next February on Symphony which will be after their dry dock, looking forward to seeing the improvements. On a separate subject, no surprise to see their recent announcement that the "air cruise" initiative has been cancelled before it even got off the ground. Blind Freddie could see this was never going to fly. "Redeploying" it to charter work is just about saving face. As many others have mentioned, their crazy expansion plans under the new CEO will only lead to tears. They need to stick to their core business, in my humble opinion. Read Less
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