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8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
We are still on the Serenity and having a fantastic time. We came across from NZ on the Queen Victoria in the Queens Grill to join the Serenity and there is no comparison to the two ships with the Serenity being so superior in every way . ... Read More
We are still on the Serenity and having a fantastic time. We came across from NZ on the Queen Victoria in the Queens Grill to join the Serenity and there is no comparison to the two ships with the Serenity being so superior in every way . The service and the staff throughout the Serenity are absolutely outstanding and the food in all the restaurants is beautifully presented and served hot and served with style. We ate in the MDR by reservation which worked perfectly with us always getting a table for two no matter what time we turned up and the wait time for meals was minimal. After having a suite on the Victoria we booked a standard window on the Serenity and found the room very light and very comfortable with beautiful linen and thick white towels. The window looking on to the promenade we thought would bother us but in fact it was perfectly fine and since the weather was very hot we wouldn't have used the balcony as we are not sun worshippers. The ship overall is beautifully maintained but the Palm Court lounge is very dated and lets the ship down compare to the Symphony which has been beautifully refurbished and looking very stylish. The age of the passengers were mixed and we are in our 50' s and found everyone friendly and very sociable ( I think the inclusive cocktails help). We have travelled previously on Crystal and were a little worried after reading some of the negative reviews on CC but our opinion is that Crystal is still the best value for money in the premium cruise lines and the staff are the best we have had and we have done in excess of 100 cruises so have something to compare them with. So go ahead and book your cruise and you won't be disappointed. Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
Good friends of ours convinced my wife and I to book this cruise two months before the sailing. I absolutely was so impressed and felt totally pampered by the team on the Serenity. All the fine staff aboard really do enjoy what they do ... Read More
Good friends of ours convinced my wife and I to book this cruise two months before the sailing. I absolutely was so impressed and felt totally pampered by the team on the Serenity. All the fine staff aboard really do enjoy what they do and go far above and beyond to insure a very high level of guest satisfaction. This was our 7th cruise after six in a row with Royal Caribbean......well Crystal is certainly a much different kind of company. I felt the "Crystal Touch" throughout....from the personal greetings at the start of each day right through to the evening turn down service! Highlights: personal touch everywhere on the ship fantastic food with many choices of dining real room service! prompt and high class. premium cocktails at the various wonderful lounges delivered with a smile and a most professional & personable service team. excursion process was the most organized that I have ever enjoyed! No long waits for anything! constant attention to detail and notifications to insure that nothing is missed and the guests are well informed about everything. anything asked of me was positively dealt with and it seems the guest is always right and gets the benefit of any doubt. Interactions with the staff were met with "it's our pleasure...when you need anything, just ask." Suggestions for improvements? Well my wife and I had to dig deep here.... 1. Galaxy theater seating: could use more angle so the folks in front don't block the view from behind. 2. would be nice if one could order food from the beverage servers on the pool deck. 3. Except for when the quartet band (and they were fantastic by the way) played on the pool deck, there was no music. Please allow background tunes on the pool deck speakers. I could go on and on with the highlights...suffice to say I would recommend a cruise aboard the Crystal Serenity for anyone who really enjoys the ship life. They seem to specialize in providing many venues, entertainment and much to do for those at sea days. Be prepared to be pampered and feel like you are among family! Read Less
60 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
When you can pay $10,000 for an 11-day cruise as we did vs. $4000 for a lower level brand, the difference is luxury and exceeding expectations. On the positive The spa services were exceptional I had the best haircut of my life which ... Read More
When you can pay $10,000 for an 11-day cruise as we did vs. $4000 for a lower level brand, the difference is luxury and exceeding expectations. On the positive The spa services were exceptional I had the best haircut of my life which cost $40 and two great 90 minute massages which cost $300. So when you were spending extra money, service was impeccable. On our arrival the driver was brusk, not a good first impression. After we were allowed to get off the bus the porters did not give us instructions we did not know where to walk, very confusing. I found room service to be especially poor. Many mistakes on our food orders including delivering the same order twice. The days of being able to make "special requests" is over! Though the staff is not fully aware of this fact. This was especially frustrating since 1/2 of the staff told us we could make a special request for dinner or for room service. The cabins are very small even with a balcony. Most guests have traveled previously with Crystal. Crystal relies on these passengers repeat business. But this posses a problem for cruisers like us that are new to Crystal. The staff is very vague with directions or when answering a specific question. I see most of these negatives as a reflection of a poor management. You know there are "issues" when the president has a memo in the newsletter asking passengers to contact him with issues rather than give a negatve rating. I requested to speak to the maître d' about some of my concerns but Leo is too busy. I then requested to speak to the food and beverage manager but i was I told he was busy and I had to wait till the next day to make an appointment to see him. I just grew weary of "let me talk to my manager about your request" which was another way of saying no. I don't mean to be over critical since there are many pluses with Crystal but you should expect many pluses. Reviewing A luxury cruise line relative. A rating of three would be paying that expectations for the price. I will not be traveling again with Crystal, I'll find another cruise line who will exceed my expectations for $10,000 Read Less
17 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
We went on our second Crystal Cruise after taking a trip on Crystal Symphony a year ago. Our experience a year ago was so wonderful that we booked for the next year right away. What happened Crystal? The food was mediocre, though the ... Read More
We went on our second Crystal Cruise after taking a trip on Crystal Symphony a year ago. Our experience a year ago was so wonderful that we booked for the next year right away. What happened Crystal? The food was mediocre, though the service was good. The staff it seems were equivalent to any other cruise line where with our last experience the staff were extraordinary. The food was the biggest let down. Breakfast & lunch remained the same but the dinners were awful. Everything served to us was luke warm and of poor quality. Menu choices were very limited which seemed to be similar every night. The daily "Reflections" scheduled advertised a film to be shown, when arriving at the theater, there was no movie and no notice that it wasn't being shown. We needed to go to the concierge desk to ask and got a blank stare saying, it must not be showing. For the price that line charges, it was ridiculous. That was our last cruise on Crystal. Frankly, I think we are done with cruises in general. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
I chose this cruise because of the itinerary - visiting places I had not visited before in the Caribbean. This was my first time sailing on Crystal Serenity and the ship was as elegant and well appointed as I expected. I did not feel as ... Read More
I chose this cruise because of the itinerary - visiting places I had not visited before in the Caribbean. This was my first time sailing on Crystal Serenity and the ship was as elegant and well appointed as I expected. I did not feel as comfortable with its size, however, though this is no fault of the ship. I prefer the size and guest number of Crystal Symphony. The embarkation was not as quick and trouble-free as my previous two. This sailing did not have a pre-cruise hotel program and so the air/sea program flew me in on the morning of embarkation, which made for a long day. Upon arrival at the cruise terminal we had to wait an hour to be allowed to board, and we were not given any information as to why we could not upon arrival. Upon embarkation things settled down, with the service from the crew being lovely as I have experienced before. My cabin was well appointed and even though I do get motion-sickness the majority of the cruise caused me no discomfort, it being between two decks with staterooms and near the middle of the ship. The exception was one particular night when the waves were very high and the wind was fierce, which made it necessary for me to take medication for motion sickness. One thing I did not expect was the the wind making it very uncomfortable going out on the balcony. The few times I was able to utilize it I had to hold down the items brought by room service. In addition, I noticed some wear and tear on the balcony bulkheads, which surprised me, as Crystal Symphony was immaculately kept from what I could see on my sailings aboard that vessel. The dining was, as always, wonderful. The service and cuisine in the main dining room were such that I almost did not want to dine in the specialty restaurants, though I did. The dining at Silk Road was superb - the lobster and shrimp tempura were wonderful. The mushroom soup served at Prego was delicious. I did have lunch at Tastes one afternoon, and was very impressed with the stir-fried dish I ordered. On one occasion at breakfast at the Lido Cafe a large flock of pelicans flew by the ship - it was splendid to see the birds in flight, not to mention surprising. The shore excursions were very well staffed and fascinating. I visited three different archaeological sites and an incredibly beautiful cenote. The guides were well informed, as I expected, and very humorous. The only complaint I can make regarding two of the excursions was that they were too rushed. We visited multiple sites on each excursion and, because of the distances traveled, did not get enough time at each site due to having to return to the ship for departure to the next port. I chose the volunteer excursion on this itinerary and was very satisfied with the amount of hands-on work we were able to do while at the site, a soup kitchen for the elderly. We did everything from washing dishes to calling out a bingo game for the residents to singing with them. On this itinerary I did not attend many activities on board, as I preferred to take advantage of the sun and beautiful weather, coming from a city that was experiencing temperatures a few degrees above zero at the time of the cruise. I did attend one of the Broadway shows and it was very enjoyable, though I did feel that though the performers were professionals, they did not appear to me to be as engaged as those who work on Crystal Symphony. Regardless, they were great performers and very entertaining. Disembarkation was very straight forward with no hiccups. Just a few points: I did not attend any movies in the Hollywood Theater as the viewings were very scarce and not very interesting, at least to me. As I mentioned the wait at the cruise terminal, after my horribly early flight to get to Miami, was very taxing. Not knowing what the delay in embarkation was about made it seem longer. I feel it would have helped to make it less tiring if we had been informed why we were waiting to be allowed to board. Needless to say, I look forward to my next cruise with Crystal next year. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
We chose a seven day Caribbean Cruise leaving Miami on January 3, 2017 as it worked for our schedule. The sailing was on-board Crystal Serenity a ship that we have sailed numerous times. While the cruise was sold out, one never ... Read More
We chose a seven day Caribbean Cruise leaving Miami on January 3, 2017 as it worked for our schedule. The sailing was on-board Crystal Serenity a ship that we have sailed numerous times. While the cruise was sold out, one never had that feeling as we went around the ship. Two friends who never sailed Crystal joined us for this cruise and had a wonderful time. Highlights of the cruise included: The outstanding service provided by the Crystal Serenity crew, the wonderful cuisine we enjoyed at each of the dining venues, along with the enrichment program and evening entertainment. Since our last sailing in August and September of last year, the evening entertainment program has been expanded providing more choices each evening. We chose the cruise to enjoy the ship and as mentioned as it worked for our schedule. We stayed on board the ship at a couple of ports we have visited in the past which worked out very well for us. Read Less
15 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
Yes this is cruise critic and yes I am a harsh critic. This was a first Crystal Cruise and we hoped to make it a habit. We are regulars on Oceania and Silversea and did not find Crystal any better -- in fact in some cases below the ... Read More
Yes this is cruise critic and yes I am a harsh critic. This was a first Crystal Cruise and we hoped to make it a habit. We are regulars on Oceania and Silversea and did not find Crystal any better -- in fact in some cases below the standards of O and Silversea. The cruise was a rather simple one – pretty much a western Caribbean with stops in Cozumel, Costa Maya, Belize and Key West. I will not spend much time talking about the ports. Both my DW and me had bronchitis as it seemed to being going around the ship so our off ship activity was limited. Embarkation: First impressions were not good. We departed from Terminal B (same as Norwegian uses). The line was long. The hold time was unacceptable. This is at 1:30pm. Took almost 45 minutes from the entrance to the Terminal until we had our room card. The ship was built in 2005 and recently refurbished. It did look new – sharp style and not a blemish anywhere. Very well maintained. The Room: Were Crystal really fails is their staterooms in Veranda class. Since most guests travel this way – I will do the comparison here. Size is 246 sq feet which includes the veranda. What makes this feel smaller is the fact that the bathroom is large, including a tub and a double sink. This makes the room extra small. Closet space was good. TV was actually good with more choices including the NFL Playoffs and the NCCA Finals. Bed for me was comfortable. One BIG negative was the stateroom service. Just plain bad. We returned to the cabin generally around 8pm and room was still unmade. Unacceptable -- room attendant was told we generally come back quickly from dinner. The food: The best part of Crystal is its food. Some very unique menus are offered, plus also a classic menu. The classic menu also has a steak entrée nightly (whether Filet, Rib Eye or Sirloin strip). I suppose you can ask for any of the three, nightly -- just ask as they were very accommodating to our table mates, who did a special order on some nights. MDR has main and late seating – you can also op for dining by reservation. Service was prompt and well executed but generally was at least a 90 minute seating. Specialties – Prego is an Italian restaurant and food quality was excellent -- Osso Buco was good. Silk Road had a fusion Japanese menu plus excellent Sushi/Sashimi. In fact the Sashimi was so good ,I could make a meal out that alone – but I had the pepper Lobster which was excellent. Specialties are included. But additional bookings are $30 pp – done in order to make sure everyone has a chance to book a least once. They do not have an evening buffet like many ships. Their light meal is by reservation but we saw many on the last night come without a reservation. Place is called Tastes – but they should rename it Tasteless. The style is a Tapas menu where you can order many small items, Maybe the chef had a bad night – but the fish, chicken and lamb we had were all dry and overdone. The Ahi Tuna was done properly – raw. Trident Grill – is similar to Waves and serves the same fare. Exception is no lobster. Burgers were better than O, but the Fries on O are much better. They also have a ice cream bar next to the Grill. Bistro – a coffee bar. Good coffee plus food (fruits, cookies, cakes, cold cuts) throughout the day (late breakfast through late lunch. The Drink: Beer, house wines, and drinks (top shelf) are included. House wines were OK nothing special, no worse/better than O or Silversea. Drinks were strong and smooth – no water in these and they were large. No mini Martini’s like on Oceania. Service: Outstanding. Even the officers are always visible and friendly Enrichment: Love the term and their lectures were really good. Bob Ray was one which gave talks on Motown and also the Beach Boys with little heard recording takes and items that belong on trivia. Some negatives: The new Crystal web site is bad. Difficult to navigate and to book restaurant and shore excursions. So bad is it the after trip survey crashed. Shipboard Wi-Fi was slow and not free. They give you 60 minutes free. Inclusive certainly does not apply to the wifi with Crystal. As noted above -- the embarkation was really disorganized. Crystal does all of the work on board the ship so there were multiple queues at security, in the port hall where they checked the passenger heath and passport exam, then in the holding pen (Norwegian style), at the gangway, and then on the ship at the registration tables. So was I Crystalized?? Maybe, with the right itinerary yes. But they really need to up their game with some new builds with bigger staterooms which have become common with new builds from Seaborne, Silversea, Oceania and Regent. Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
Beautiful ship. The rooms were just fine. Great entertainment. The song and dance troupe did a fabulous job. Terrific enrichment and seminar programs. Food was quite good, as well. The passengers were more lively than I had expected. I ... Read More
Beautiful ship. The rooms were just fine. Great entertainment. The song and dance troupe did a fabulous job. Terrific enrichment and seminar programs. Food was quite good, as well. The passengers were more lively than I had expected. I thought it would be a bit of a stuffy atmosphere. I was wrong. The itinerary was more than forgettable: Costa Maya, Cozumel, Belize, Key West and two days at sea. Costa Maya, sans excursion, must have had 75 tee shirt shops. The included one hour daily of wifi was welcomed, as well as the online PressReader which offered a free selection of magazines (how about the NYT and Wall St. Journal). However, the service just seemed to fall flat too often for a cruise line of this stature. Thus a loss of one rating level. Just my opinion. I'm far from a demanding individual, but did notice that the service level was better on another cruise line (Oceania). Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
We chose this cruise for a much needed break after a busy holiday season. We flew to Miami on the 2nd and stayed at the Trump Doral. They provided a very nice cruise package which included transportation to the pier. Beautiful hotel ... Read More
We chose this cruise for a much needed break after a busy holiday season. We flew to Miami on the 2nd and stayed at the Trump Doral. They provided a very nice cruise package which included transportation to the pier. Beautiful hotel with great service! We had a bit of a wait when we arrived at the Port of Miami, which irritated a lot of people. Once onboard, everything was fine. Champagne and lunch in the dining room--Cobb salad. The first of many excellent meals on the ship! Maybe our favorite was dinner in Silk Road--such amazing food and service. We had decided this would be a "lazy cruise." The ports were not so exciting to us, except for Key West (we had not been there before). The ship was the most important destination this time. We didn't book excursions, just did the ports on our own. There were all the usual activities to do on sea days. We enjoyed two of the three speakers --Dr. Jay Wolfe (destination) and Bob Ray (special interest --Motown and Beach Boys). The world affairs speaker had two interesting topics, but such poor delivery. The entertainment was very good. Really enjoyed the comedians and the magic show! This cruise was full, but really didn't feel crowded. I felt the embarkation was super smooth. The food and service keep up coming back! We love being spoiled. I realize this review is not chock full of information, but just wanted to comment on our very relaxing getaway. Read Less
23 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2016
Crystal gets such wonderful reviews that I definitely wanted to experience the line and its self proclaimed 6*+ cruising. The itinerary was perfect for us as we prefer long times at sea. Dining: The food on the Symphony was ... Read More
Crystal gets such wonderful reviews that I definitely wanted to experience the line and its self proclaimed 6*+ cruising. The itinerary was perfect for us as we prefer long times at sea. Dining: The food on the Symphony was disappointing. It does not come near the food served other luxury cruise lines. We had a number of dishes that were inedible, e.g. under-cooked pancakes, tough and dry duck and tasteless shrimp. Now there were some excellent dishes, but the quality was inconsistent. The chef was miserly with vegetables. Fish was served without fish knives. The menus were full of typos, spelling mistakes and grammar errors. Sorry I am being picky, but this is supposed to be a superb high quality line. Prego was excellent, but Silk Road was reasonable sushi bar at best. Silk Road's much touted black cod was overly sauced with teriyaki so that it was impossible to taste the cod. Eating in the casual venues such as the Bistro and the Trident Grill was always a pleasure. The sandwiches at tea were dry. (We went twice.) We chose Dining by Reservation. This was a mistake. I don't think the ship is structured to handle the flexibility of this programme. Usually we were placed in the middle of the dining room, which meant that it was also the center of the hub-bub as the staff prepared for the second sitting. Service: The service was impeccable in the dining room, the bars and all drinking and eating venues. It was impressive how quickly the staff learned personal preferences. The concierge desk went out of the way to offer us a cheaper, yet very comfortable transfer at the end of the cruise. Embarkation: This was very pleasant and handled with ease. One felt welcomed on the ship. Entertainment: The main shows were abysmal. Most of the cast were talented, but they could not rescue the amateurish material with which the had to work. Ill fitting costume and wigs added to the bad community theater feeling of the shows. The two solo performers were excellent. The lounge/bar performers were all excellent, especially the charming Mark in the Avenue Saloon. Shore Excursions: These were ordinary. Possibly because the two ports are very small Crystal had no choice of suppliers, but they were certainly not the promised "Crystal Adventures." The Ship: The re-fit of the ship has created many elegant and comfortable spaces.The cabins are silent and the bathrooms make amazing sue of small spaces. Unfortunately the refit stopped at the aft end of the ship. The dining room is a dark and noisy space with light fixtures that are dated and probably always ugly. The placing of the serving stations may be efficient, but they increase the noise level.The Stardust Club is an underused, undefined and dated space. My fantasy would be to change it into a second dining room so that open seating would be possible. The announcement-free environment was superb. Enrichment and Daytime Programmes: All excellent. Cruise Director: I do not usually point out individuals in a review, but the Cruise Director on this cruise was completely useless. Although he was always smiling, he was not friendly and certainly did not play the role of the host that most cruise directors assume. His emceeing was so bad it was embarrassing. At disembarkation he did not know what was happening and managed upset some very elderly passengers. He walked away from them (still smiling) completely unaware of the chaos he created. Small Complaints: A formal night on the last night this segment was inconvenient. As the next day was at sea for the ongoing passengers, a last formal night could have been scheduled then. One of our two day laundry orders took 4 days to arrive in our cabin. The attendant's explanation was a shrug and a giggle. We used express check out. Our bill arrived 15 minutes before we were to board our transfer and was full of mistakes. I have never had this happen on any other line. Summary: Would I sail on Crystal again? Maybe, if they offered a really spectacular itinerary. I would certainly board with 4* expectations and maybe I would be surprised. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2016
I chose this cruise because I wanted to try Crystal. It was everything I hoped it would be. Service was impeccable. Food was delicious. On sea days, there was plenty to do, and I really enjoyed the cultural/historical emphasis on ... Read More
I chose this cruise because I wanted to try Crystal. It was everything I hoped it would be. Service was impeccable. Food was delicious. On sea days, there was plenty to do, and I really enjoyed the cultural/historical emphasis on shipboard activities. Great lectures, art classes, Bridge classes, etc. No hairy chest contests or "art" auctions here! Also no hawking of gift shop wares, no pressure at all. Crew and fellow passengers were gracious. I traveled Solo, and couldn't have been happier----the dining room made the effort to seat 8 of us together, which was SO nice. I made friends right away. I took the Crystal shore excursions at each port, and found them to be exactly as described and well-run. I liked the security of being in a group, and a Crystal crew member accompanied the tours. It was nice to know that the Crystal staff was there, in case of any problems that might arise. This was in addition to the Tour Guide. I was actually on TWO cruises; it was a "back-to-back" experience. Miami to Monte Carlo (16 days) and then Monte Carlo to Venice (8 days). I enjoyed Crystal so much that I have already booked 3 more cruises with them! Two for 2017 and one for 2018. Crystal is the best! Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2015
My three sons just returned from a 7 day, pre Christmas, Caribbean cruise on Crystal Symphony. We had sailed on the same ship 18 months ago to Eastern Canada. On both voyages we have been impressed with the Crystal Experience. The line ... Read More
My three sons just returned from a 7 day, pre Christmas, Caribbean cruise on Crystal Symphony. We had sailed on the same ship 18 months ago to Eastern Canada. On both voyages we have been impressed with the Crystal Experience. The line provides a traditional luxury cruise experience, which is very hard to find nowadays. I would give top marks to the great food and service on the ship. Every single meal we had on the ship was a delight. We like having an assigned table and assigned waiters at dinner at night, that way we got to know the waiters and they got to know us. Casual dining for breakfast and lunch was greatly enjoyed at outdoor Trident Grill. Special kudos go out the the deck stewards who provided us with drinks and other deck services . I really like the large swimming pool on this ship. Excellent for actually swimming laps and almost never crowded. The large hot tub is also a delight. My three sons greatly enjoyed use of the paddle tennis court. The full wrap around outdoor promenade deck is also a great feature. Would be better if they added at least a few deck chairs on the promenade deck. Daytime lectures on history and politics were first rate. Nightime entertainment was extensive. Very nice real live band to provide music for production shows (no recorded music). Excellent smaller bands in other small lounges. In Transit Jazz trio was a standout in the Palm Court at night. First rate dancers in the shows...some of the song selections not to my taste, but overall production shows were very good. Only critical thing I noted on entertainment was the very poor choice of movies in movie theatre...they had nothing but second rate movies When we were aboard 18 months ago they had excellent choice of first run recent major movies. The crew is excellent. And really if you are sailing Crystal, you are going for the crew, the service, and the food. These are the areas in which they excel. The size of the ship, (900 passengers), would have been considered a large ship in 1975, but is now considered mid size. I like this size of ship. Big enough to provide alot of activities and space, but not too big to walk around on from place to place. It is true that Crystal does not have large rooms compared to other cruise lines in this category. However, the rooms are well laid out and have alot of storage. Rooms are very quiet. Air conditioning in rooms easy to control. I highly recommend Crystal. Except for Movies, we found standards aboard to be exactly the same as 18 months ago. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2015
We love Crystal...especially the Symphony. The staff knows your name and provides wonderful, personalized service without being excessive. The ship is perfectly maintained. The cabins are not as large as some on newer ships but that is ... Read More
We love Crystal...especially the Symphony. The staff knows your name and provides wonderful, personalized service without being excessive. The ship is perfectly maintained. The cabins are not as large as some on newer ships but that is probably why the two Crystal ships (the Serenity and Symphony) are such a good value. In spite of the cabin size, there is plenty of storage. There is so much to do onboard (good speakers, computer, foreign language and bridge classes on every cruise) that there is no reason to spend much time in your cabin. Admitedly, the entertainment is geared to the 'conservative' 50+ passenger. You aren't going to find costume contests and 'wild' pool entertainment. The fitness center has the most modern equipment (plenty of it) and many free classes...Stretch, Pilates, etc. The food is very good and the 'inclusive' wines and spirits are quite satisfactory with a large selection of both. In fact, most of the spirits are premium quality (e.g., Makers Mark). The Silk Road (Nobu's Japanese restaurant) is wonderful as is Prego, the Italian restaurant. With the new management, I have noticed a couple 'cut-backs'. There are few free shuttles into town. You either need to take a tour or arrange your own transportation if the city is not within walking distance. In the dining room, caviar is on the menu several nights, but you can no longer order it at any meal as you once could. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2015
Having sailed with Crystal a few times before one is always wondering if like other cruise lines cutbacks and nickel and diming features have crept in which are so common on other mainstream cruising companies. Crystal promotes itself as a ... Read More
Having sailed with Crystal a few times before one is always wondering if like other cruise lines cutbacks and nickel and diming features have crept in which are so common on other mainstream cruising companies. Crystal promotes itself as a luxury cruise line and has an outstanding record of winning top awards in this class over the years. The November 2015 cruise was a 14 day Caribbean cruise from and returning to Miami. I do not propose to write about any of the ports I will just concentrate on the ship and on-board facilities and activities. The website has a very comprehensive and easy to navigate pre cruise section for those booked allowing tours and spa treatments to be viewed and booked, pre payment is not required, I believe that changes can be made on-board if desired. Speciality restaurant bookings can be made, on a 14 day cruise two visits to each restaurant are complimentary, it is possible to tie up speciality dining with other guests whom you know to be on-board via this pre-cruise website. Each voyage has a dedicated website section showing full details of Principal Officers, entertainers and speakers. Crystal often attach themes to their cruises and appropriate details are viewable online. I had booked a guarantee stateroom, ten days before cruising I was able to find out which room had been allocated via the pre booking website, I had expected either my agent or Crystal to email me with a room number but this did not happen, I think it is a courtesy to inform a guest their room allocation if decided before embarkation day. Embarkation in Miami went smoothly and on-time, the Miami onshore staff were rather dictatorial in telling guests where to sit in order to determine boarding time, those arriving early boarded first, perhaps it would have been better to have handed out cards with numbers so that waiting guests could sit where and with whom they wanted. Once boarded we were directed to the Starlite Lounge where keycards were handed out by on-board by Crystal crew members and passports were kept. At this stage the cruise started with a lovely leisurely champagne lunch in the main dining room, for those wanting a less formally served lunch burgers and pizza were available at Tastes on the Lido deck. How does a luxury cruise differ from a mass market ship some will ask apart from the obvious price difference? Better guest space ratio, service from staff who quickly get to know you and anticipate your every wish within reason, food which is better in taste, variety and quality and freely available quality drinks and wines. An interesting enrichment program is expected on a luxury cruise. Did Crystal Symphony tick these boxes? The ship takes around 950 guests when full, there were rarely any lines, the lido buffet was occasionally busy at breakfast when guests had tours booked, once the ship was docked and cleared, tables were always available and there were rarely waits to order omelettes or other cooked to order dishes, often the omelette chef would deliver the food himself to my table, now that is service! Sunbeds were readily available on sea days, surprisingly there was a small element of the towels on beds reserving syndrome. Lido servers are very evident in seeing whether sunbathing guests want drinks and are happy to bring whatever you want be it water or alcoholic cocktails. They also brought around cool towels. There are often comments that the Crystal Symphony rooms are small, compared with rooms on newer ships like the newer “S” class Celebrity ships with which I am familiar, the fact is that yes the rooms are smaller however there seems to be more drawer space and an equal amount of wardrobe space, the bathrooms are probably bigger with a double sink and small bath tub with shower. I found the room very adequate, new mattresses have been supplied which are very comfortable, the TV in my room was one of the older type, I understand that they are gradually replacing them with modern flat screen models. The servicing of the room by my stewardess was first class, she got to know my routine and did the room when I was out and about the ship. I told her the type of drinks that I wanted my refrigerator stocked with and she made sure that they were replenished without asking. The bathroom had a small plumbing problem and she ensured that it was fixed when I mentioned it, I was surprised that she had not noticed it without being pointed out by me when it got particularly evident one evening. Evening dining is one of the highlights of the day. The maitre di placed me as requested on a table for eight, he worked his magic and gathered together a wonderful group of table mates. We were lucky to have a marvellous Portuguese waitress who took care of our dining requirements in exemplary style. The training given to dining and bar staff on Crystal must surely equate to standards found in the best establishments in the world. The sommelier ensured that wine flowed freely and she was pleased to explain and recommend the complimentary wines available if she was busy our waitress made sure that the glasses were replenished herself. Food quality and variety is most important on any cruise ship, Crystal ticks all the boxes there, lido lunches are often themed, sometimes to echo the ship’s location, the dining room is also open most days for lunch for those who like a relaxed served meal. The coffee bar Bistro is open most of the day with comprehensive self service food items, breads, cakes, meats and cheeses. These are constantly refreshed so do not become tired. The available food items here are very welcome if you arrive back from tour in the afternoon after the buffet has closed and want a snack other than the burgers, pizza and ice cream available from Tastes on the Lido deck. Afternoon tea is professionally served in the deck 11 Palm Court lounge. The evening dining menu has choices of modern cuisine on one side of the menu or more traditional items on the other side, there is no problem mixing between the two menus, small portions can be ordered if desired to make an extra course or for those who do not want to be outfaced with a standard sized portion. By arrangement with the section maitre di special requests can be served if ordered the night before. I believe that Crystal stand alone in the luxury cruise market in still having two evening meal sittings, for those who prefer more flexibility there is an option of Dining by Reservation which affords you ultimate freedom, inviting you to dine at a different time, at a different table, just for two or with other guests with whom you choose to dine. This option can be selected at the time of booking. Once your cruise is fully paid, you may then reserve your personal dining times on the pre cruise website section. Times and table size can also be arranged on-board with the maitre di. The two speciality restaurants are pre-bookable via the website once full payment has been made as well as when you are on-board, Silk Road has Nobu trained chefs specialising in oriental fusion food and sushi. Prego is the Italian inspired restaurant my favourite dish being mushroom soup served in a bowl made of bread. Both of these restaurants are well regarded by regular Crystal cruisers it is indeed a treat to dine in either, service food and ambiance is excellent. The enrichment program changes on each voyage, Crystal bring on-board an amazing galaxy of quality speakers and expert teachers who take classes. Some of the classes available on sea days included Berlitz languages, computing, dancing, bridge, knitting and sewing, art, iPad for movies classes and exercise classes including yoga, stretch and Pilates, all complimentary. Its up to you whether you take it easy or rush around the ship doing as much as possible in the day. Entertainment generally consists of evening shows repeated twice, one for early and one for late sitting, like most cruise lines some of the shows have been running for a number of years, changes have been made, I believe that some of the scenery props have been replaced by back projection. The Crystal ensemble of singers and dancers were very talented and I thought that the shows were well produced and performed to a high standard, I especially enjoyed the Elton John show, apparently the principal performer is flown to the ship for each voyage, he may perform the show at the end of one cruise and the beginning of the next one. Crystal seem to have a number of show time performers who appear regularly on their ships so if you are a repeat cruiser it is highly likely that you will have seen the act before. Close up magic shows are presented on sea days, tickets are available in the library on a first come basis, they may put on three performances on each sea day with tickets limited to around 15 guests each show. Crystal Cruises seem to have the ability to retain staff, on any voyage there can be a good number of staff who you have previously met, they invariably remember previous guests and some even remember your preferences, this relationship is unusual in todays cruise industry and it does make Crystal special. The staff greet you with a genuine welcome home when they recognise a past cruiser, this is special. I started this review by mentioning cutbacks on other cruise lines, what has changed on Crystal Symphony over the years, I can only bring to mind three things, there are no more pillow chocolates, I am quite happy to live without this, some years ago caviar was available on request, it is still available but is chargeable, thirdly not a cut back, trivia held on sea days has been changed to a game of multiple choice using an electronic handheld keypad, Crystal please bring back the old game with no multiple choice but using genuine brainpower and memory and no electronics. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
I found the atmosphere on the Serenity to be intolerable by the end of the first few days. I will not go into much detail here but suffice it to say I was ignored by others when I as a solo traveler sat down and waited to play. As soon as ... Read More
I found the atmosphere on the Serenity to be intolerable by the end of the first few days. I will not go into much detail here but suffice it to say I was ignored by others when I as a solo traveler sat down and waited to play. As soon as a couple came along, the couple who had been playing addressed them and aid they would take them on. I was never acknowledged, greeted , etc nor did they consider rotating so we could all at least hit balls until someone from the fitness center came to run the morning session. Most of the time there was no one running the paddle tennis program, and that permitted more assertive guests to play as long as they wanted to and in at least one instance kept me from playing when I wanted to as there was no one for solo players to play with at times. I was harassed by someone at the Magic show, a mother in a wheelchair and her daughter, who took it upon themselves to be the seating police and said "She should move" not addressing me directly, when a couple entered the room and were making their way around the stool type seats in the second ro. The couple did not ask me to move and the women in question were not sailing with them. I would have gladly moved had the couple asked me to but this woman was way out of line to tell me to move. I was there first. Ultimately I left the show before it started. The Avenue Saloon piano player did not interact with guests and that surprised me-negatively as I am used to Mark Farris and the fun people have when he is on board. My room stewardess brought me mushy brown spotted bananas even after I told her what I wanted and had told her those were too ripe. It took a message to the home office to get the bananas to magically appear. (I had been told they were usually like that (?) and she didn't think there were any more since they had gotten them in Miami) One of the Ambassador hosts (his first time on Crystal) constantly held hands with an older guest and spent an inordinate amount of time outside the dance floor with her inappropriate behavior according to my gf on my trivia team. That wasn't so much of an issue to me personally, but his demeanor was not professional. he was so phony that it was laughable. The shore excursions were okay but we did have an incident in Lisbon which resulted in the 5 members of our Jeep receiving a full refund of the cost of the Jeep Safari. I did not like having to go through the Casino to get to the Bistro, shops or to head downstairs to the Crystal Cove. Many guests dressed like they were off to a State dinner on Crystal casual nights (what was left to wear on the formal nights, I wondered?) and more than occasionally people looked at me (and I am sure others) up and down like they were the dress code police,giving disapproving looks as if I was wearing rags! I have made my grievances known to the head office but there is nothing they can do about fellow passengers for the most part. Some of you will say I am making this up but believe me I compared notes to others on board and they experienced similar issues. I have nothing to gain by posting this and frankly am likely to be setting myself up for ridicule but I experienced all that I have written here and it was enough, frequently enough, such that you could not pay me to step foot on the Serenity again!!! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2015
While the ship is very beautiful, having taken various cruise on the Symphony, the Serenty specifically with regard to the main dining room cuisine was rather poor. Most of the dishes lacked taste, and on one evening in particulate when ... Read More
While the ship is very beautiful, having taken various cruise on the Symphony, the Serenty specifically with regard to the main dining room cuisine was rather poor. Most of the dishes lacked taste, and on one evening in particulate when lobster was served, the lobster meat was limp, soggy and had no taste whatsoever. What also bothered me about the main dining room was the lack of attention paid to a specific request to prepare my food according to certain dietary restrictions . At the very least the waiter who was aware of my needs did not consistently check the food before serving it to me.These requests were made well in advance of the sailing. I had also made my concerns known to the restaurant head manager who also did not do proper follow up, and I got the distinct impression that he did not care. Service In the Lido cafe was not always up to par, with some tables conversing at length with a waiter thereby neglecting other tables which required service. In general I am disappointed with Crystal. It needs to re earn its former reputation from my point of view. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2015
This was our 13 cruise on crystal all have been on symphony, this was our first on Serenity. This was our third crossing that lectures were over the top the shows were also good. I thought the food service in the main dinning room ... Read More
This was our 13 cruise on crystal all have been on symphony, this was our first on Serenity. This was our third crossing that lectures were over the top the shows were also good. I thought the food service in the main dinning room was ok not great. The presentations of the plates had no garnish at all. We were in Penthouse with a regular suite not worth the money. Flowers were dead most of the time. Service was nothing to write home about. The seas were very calm the Captain was delightful. The ship was very clean as clean as you can get with all the people on board. But I would sail symphony any time. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2015
The strength of Crystal Serenity (1,000 passengers) lies in its sea days and onboard entertainment, rather than its limited offerings onshore. My wife and I took this “Classic Atlantic Crossing” to maximize those sea days. Cruise V5308 ... Read More
The strength of Crystal Serenity (1,000 passengers) lies in its sea days and onboard entertainment, rather than its limited offerings onshore. My wife and I took this “Classic Atlantic Crossing” to maximize those sea days. Cruise V5308 (Miami to Lisbon in May 2015) stopped enroute at Bermuda and the Azores. There’s a lot to like about the Serenity, and Crystal’s performance was acceptable in most respects. I’d hold up a paddle with an “8” (out of 10) for this cruise. Like much in life, we savor what’s there and overlook what’s not. Crystal definitely markets a club that people want to join. In an onboard video, Crystal’s president boasts a waiting list of 700 for one of Serenity’s cruises in 2016. And, in an April interview with CNBC, Crystal’s president described her target market as follows: “Our top two percent of the world’s wealthiest are who our guests are. Many of them have numerous homes around the world. They have private yachts. Yet they still choose to cruise on Crystal for the luxury brand experience that we can give them. . . They’re not price sensitive. They have everything, and they want really wonderful experiences.” (See http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000373868 ) One reviewer last fall, while pleased with the product, noted that “Crystal's marketing hype is over the top, so we came in with very high expectations.” In contrast, online chat threads sometimes voice a missing “wow” between what was experienced and what was promised by Crystal’s ads and advocates. But the myth of pampered perfection (that lore of “six” or “seven” stars) is simply not a realistic expectation for this gracefully-aging little ship. We think of Serenity as a well-kept boutique hotel where everyone knows your name, rather than a floating palace of perfection. Our approach is to enjoy what’s there, things both large and small. ENTERTAINMENT: For music lovers and musicians, Crystal's entertainment manager (Christopher Escamilla) pulled out all the stops on this one. Virtuoso performers paid authentic tribute to Frank Sinatra, Billy Joel, Patsy Cline, Carlos Santana, and Wolfgang Mozart. Lecturers on the business of Hollywood and Broadway included actors, talent agents, film historians, a choreographer, a makeup artist, and a celebrity photographer. And then there were daily sets from the pianists, dance band, and incredibly-versatile Russian string quartet. All supplemented every few days with dance productions and musical comedians backed up by Serenity’s jazz band. We take Crystal to visit places we’d otherwise never see. Christopher’s entertainment program -- right down to his fun theme decor for the venues -- was woven together as a two-week backstory for the mysterious world of films, stage, and music. The “wow” was definitely there for us, and this is the kind of program that we just seem to keep talking about after we get home. As part of this, the little ship was saturated with live music and the insider stories behind it. And, like traveling with the circus, the Crystal norm was for the performers to walk, talk, and dine among us like any other passenger. It was probably heaven on earth for amateur musicians, who sure had their chance to hang out with the masters. And such low-key, everyday access is also typical of Serenity cruises with themes like jazz or ballroom dance (big band). Even the ship's two captains kept us entertained. Serenity's former captain (Glenn Edvardsen) circulated as the cruise’s honorary host and delighted passengers with memories of his career on the high seas (including my inquiry about rogue waves). Serenity's current captain (Birger Vorland) concluded his daily passenger briefings with a few minutes of the science behind the navigation. I always look forward to the day's episode, and at my request he included the story of the rare "green flash" at sunset that I keep hoping to see. (He assures us that it really does exist.) I much appreciated the free wireless access to 300+ videos of past enrichment lectures on the Serenity (from the prior day to several years back). Past destination lectures can be quite helpful for researching future travel. And there’s no more unresolved wondering about that lecture you were too busy to attend in person. But Crystal’s online portal needs to label these videos by topic, rather than just by the name of the lecturer. DINING: The formal dining room (Deck 5) will go beyond the published dinner menu if you alert your head waiter the night before. Some possibilities for such off-menu orders are family style meat entrees, group salads made tableside, favorite desserts, lobsters, steaks, and custom juice squeezes. The highlight of our formal dining was the special Bavarian cuisine that head waiter Franz arranged at the request of our table (Salzburger nockerl, wiener roast braten, Linzer torte). Franz is from Austria and entertained us with the local story of these dishes, which inspired me to study up further at http://germanfood.about.com. Franz is one of the reasons that we keep coming back to Crystal, and online postings by others indeed note his famous desserts. We also found such personalized attention to dining details in the ship’s other venues. If you hate the herded feedings for which the cruise industry is stereotyped, then Serenity is your antidote. For instance, maitre d’ Antonio patiently taught my wife how to use chopsticks in the Japanese restaurant (Deck 6). Though we eventually had a breakthrough on this, the learning curve initially required a little cleanup of a bean or two that hit the floor. Up at the Trident Bar (Deck 12), waiter Bryan introduced me to his drink of choice (“red ice tea”) from his thirsty youth as a pro soccer player. Lloyd found a jar of Ovaltine for me, a drink from my own childhood. Bartenders Musa and Jonathan remembered my wife’s personal recipe for an adult beverage. This personal attention in Serenity’s dining gives us the lasting memories, long after we’ve forgotten what was on the day’s menu. THE POSSIBILITY OF PRIVACY: Cruisers sometimes lament that they can never get away from people on the smaller ships. They thought they were purchasing a cruise -- not a cult -- and they feel like less would be more. But cruising need not mean crowding. Serenity was somehow built with “endless” nooks and crannies in which one can limit contact with other humans to the desired degree. In the formal dining room, breakfast and the late (8:30 pm) dinner seating are the lower density (and more leisurely) times to eat. (If you want to switch to late on a special night, just ask the maitre d’.) In the Italian restaurant (Prego), reserve one of the few back tables. In the Japanese restaurant (Silk Road), reserve inner tables 15 to 18 unless you want “family style” talk with your neighbors. In the evening, Tastes Cafe functions like outdoor sidewalk dining (plenty of space up there). Of course, you can always order room service and eat on your verandah if you really want to get away from it all. On the other hand, you may have more privacy than you want if you’re addicted to continuous social media. Though Crystal’s president boasts of serving “Silicon Valley billionaires” (CNBC), Serenity’s Internet access isn’t part of the avowed six (or seven) star luxury. Real power users (we’re not) may consider the ship to be an Internet isolation ward. But we found Serenity’s Internet access to be acceptable for our purposes this time around. With a little patience, we were always able to get the basics: email, commercial websites, updates of virus protection. My daily tests with speedtest.net indicated fluctuating speeds in the general range of 2 to 4 Mbps. In an onboard video, Crystal’s president explains the efforts on her watch to improve Internet access. But, with some frustration, she also reminds passengers that they “are on vacation” and may need to wait until they get can get better access onshore. This is consistent with the periodic reminders in onboard bulletins that Crystal’s maritime access simply won’t be just like home. We really don’t come here for the Internet. But the level of access may be more critical to other types of users: (1) the non-retired whose travel is conditioned on predictable “telework;” (2) caregivers whose travel is conditioned on a lifeline to dependents back home (that ailing child or parent); (3) the generation that lives for social media exchanges. I’ll have to leave it to other reviewers to compare the access available on other ships. PORT STOP: BERMUDA (May 2015) We took this Atlantic crossing for the sea days, and there were two stops along the way: Bermuda and the Azores. We only went ashore at Bermuda. On Crystal’s website, the headline for this cruise advertised that “[a]n overnight stay in Bermuda, famous for its pink sand beaches and kelly green golf courses, highlights a luxuriously peaceful Atlantic crossing.” Nevertheless, Bermuda was sort of a problem port for Serenity. While Bermuda has several cruise ship docks, Serenity instead anchored quite a ways out in the Great Sound. A local ferry boat (capacity 750) was then used for the ride to shore, rather than the ship’s own tenders (much smaller). While tenders would have run continuously, the ferry only ran every two hours. In this scenario, be prepared to be patient with the ride to shore (basically a 90-minute project). Though the ride itself is about 45 minutes, the bottlenecks of herding 500+ riders at once can effectively double your time to get ashore. And, given the demographics of the Crystal crowd, our mobility inevitably ranges from senior marathoners to canes and walkers. Of course, we’d rather endure the 90-minute ferrying project than the grounding suffered by the NCL Norwegian Dawn after it left Bermuda’s dock last month. Though I’m not convinced that there’s a Bermuda Triangle, another NCL ship ran aground at Bermuda back in 2006. Crystal rounds up the usual contractors for the shore excursions at its port stops. But we seldom book them unless we want the security of the group for a particular location. In Bermuda, we instead bought a two-day “transportation pass” that let us explore the island at our own pace. Despite all of Bermuda’s mystique as remote, isolated, and subtropical, it’s still only 22 miles long and a mile or two wide. A two-day pass on the public transportation system (buses and small ferries) will take you wherever you want to go. (See www.bermudabuses.bm and www.marineandports.bm ) But they don’t take American Express at the bus terminal, and only coins (not bills) are accepted on the buses if you don’t buy a pass. At one end of the island is the Dockyard area, which includes the large maritime museum, local crafts (like glass-blowing), a pool of dolphins (you can join them), and a miniature golf course representing 18 famous holes of the U.S., Scotland, and Bermuda (yup, courses like St. Andrews, Augusta, and Gleneagles). At the other end of the island is the village of St. Georges, a World Heritage Site a lot like colonial Williamsburg. For an overview, take a historical walking tour during the day (free or US $5) or the “haunted history” ghost walk at night (US $30 and can sell out). (See www.stgeorgesfoundation.org; www.hauntedhistorybda.com; www.facebook.com/hauntedhistorybda ) And, in the middle of the island is Hamilton, with its big-city stores, its art museum, and the dock where the ferry landed Serenity’s passengers. Given the heritage of the British Crown, our initial plan was to do the famous afternoon tea at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess Hotel. But they won’t do the tea there until remodeling is completed this summer. (Sometimes there are also afternoon teas at the perfume factory in St. Georges and the cafe at the Bermuda Botanical Gardens.) The island is saturated with 90 old forts, 150 caves, and over 20 little niche museums. These small museums address such diverse topics as oceanography, botany, the U.S. Civil War, lighthouses, Black history, perfume making, and two centuries of ladies’ hats. You can pick a museum, ride the city bus, and take your time chatting with the curator (who may turn out to be a “certified local character”). This focused, self-paced approach worked better for us than a frantic whirlwind circuit with a large tour group. But if public transportation just isn’t your thing, there are at least three local guides that you might hire to take you directly to the site of your choice. Heidi Cowen is the granddaughter of a lighthouse keeper (bermudafootsteps@logic.bm). Tim Rogers is a historian and naturalist (trogers@northrock.bm). Robert Chandler is a teacher, naturalist, and author (rkchandler@ibl.bm). A dozen of those 90 old forts function as active historic sites, and they’re scattered along the length of the island. If that’s your topic of interest, narrow down your final picks by studying “Bermuda Forts 1612-1957,” authored by museum director Edward Harris (and available from Amazon). As independent travelers, we’ve seldom been able to get these kinds of local tips from Crystal’s onboard staff. (This aspect of their “six star” service is apparently limited to signing you up for their contractor’s tours and, of course, for future Crystal cruises.) Nor I have found even high-end travel agents to be much help on this (though they assert access to some nebulous network of insiders around the planet). We usually end up hacking our own trail through the unknown jungles of port stop tourism. But, for Bermuda, it’s easy enough to make your own picks from several detailed publications at www.gotobermuda.com: (1) the printable map at “Maps & Brochures;” (2) “Historic Town of St. George” booklet at “Maps & Brochures;” (3) “Bermuda East to West” booklet at the long unlinked address of www.gotobermuda.com/uploadedFiles/CommonContent/CommonAssets/East_to_West_sm.pdf. And those ubiquitous hotel tourism booklets (we use ‘em) are online at www.experiencebermuda.com (“Digital Editions”). The bible on Bermuda is the 360-page Moon guidebook authored by a local. And there’s the exhaustive online encyclopedia of all things Bermuda by another local author (see www.bermuda-online.org ). Maps beyond the free online one (pub. 2014) include the ITM 1:14,500 (pub. 2005), available from Amazon, and the Horsfield MediaCom 1:20,000 (pub. 2008), available in the bookstores across the street from the Hamilton ferry dock. (See www.bookstore.bm and www.brown.bm/departments/bookmart ) The latter map has the most detailed labeling for streets and history. And if you really want to max out those suitcases, local history books are also available at the Book Cellar (St. Georges), Robertson’s Drug Store (St. Georges), and the Bermuda Historical Society (Hamilton). John Cox works at the latter’s museum on Tuesdays if you want to meet the prolific author. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
Crossing the Atlantic Solo! Miami to Lisbon May 4 - 17, 2015 Background Information: I have cruised extensively on Princess, Holland America, and Royal Caribbean and always enjoyed these vacations immensely. When I became a widow I ... Read More
Crossing the Atlantic Solo! Miami to Lisbon May 4 - 17, 2015 Background Information: I have cruised extensively on Princess, Holland America, and Royal Caribbean and always enjoyed these vacations immensely. When I became a widow I wanted to continue to travel so once again tried Royal Caribbean and Holland America and found these lines didn't really encourage solo travellers starting with 200% solo fares and an indifferent onboard experience. I was first encouraged to try Crystal due to some favourable solo pricing and I have now completed three Crystal cruises within a year! I chose the Classic Atlantic Crossing so I would have more time onboard to enjoy the Crystal Experience! Embarkation and Disembarkation: Crystal is noted for its efficient onboard check-in but this option was not available on this cruise due to the fact that over 600 passengers would be departing the Serenity after being on board for 108 days, many crew were leaving for vacation with replacements arriving, and there was also a health inspection being conducted. Crystal had been proactive in informing travel agents and passengers individually that embarkation would be much later than normal, after 2:00 PM. However many guests had early morning arrival times and a major accident caused the tunnel to the port to be closed so taxis had to reroute. As a result, many passengers arrived early to the port, expecting a long wait. However, in true Crystal style, a champagne reception with sandwiches, fruit, and pastries was set up in the terminal. Multiple agents completed the terminal check-in, boarding numbers were assigned, and a festive atmosphere prevailed. In fact, this solo traveller met many others and the first connections were made! I was onboard by 1:30! Disembarkation is also seamless. Crystal sends small groups ashore, luggage is easy to identify, porters are there to assist, and you tend to be off the ship a bit earlier than scheduled. Crystal transfers to the Lisbon airport were efficient and agents are also there to ensure everyone makes it to the correct airline check-in. Entertainment and Enrichment: With a dual theme of Film and Theatre, Experiences of Discovery, and 25th Anniversary Captain's Cruise hosted by former Captain Glenn Edvardsen, Crystal presented a dizzying array of entertainers, lecturers including an Asian film historian, Hollywood stylist, producers, directors, and choreographers, tribute artists, as well as film screenings. In honour of Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday, many interesting lectures complete with music and movie clips, a tribute artist, and even a birthday tea were featured. These guest lecturers were extremely personable and willing to interact with passengers and were true ambassadors for their craft. As always the Crystal Ensemble performed outstanding production shows including 6/8 Cafe, Across the Pond, and Curtain Call. The Music of Billy Joel, performed by James Fox, was a definite highlight. Individual vocalists, a guitarist, pianists in the Cove and Avenue and the Astoria Strings provided ongoing entertainment in various areas around the ship. The Avenue Saloon, with pianist Brian Johnson, was packed every evening till closing, another great venue for solos to gather. World Affairs Lecturer Ronald Marks and Destination Lecturer Ken Rees offered a variety of interesting and informative lectures. Computer University at Sea provided excellent instruction on a variety of topics including Digital Filmmaking on the IPad, Photoshop, and Wordprocessing. Crystal is noted for its Ambassador Host program, where hosts are available to dance with solo ladies each evening. On previous cruises this was an excellent way to be introduced to others, partake in some dancing, and be greeted around the ship and ashore. Although there were six hosts on this segment, at least half were inexperienced, lacking in interpersonal skills, and even when escorting a shore excursion had little or no interaction with guests. This was my only disappointment on this cruise and in sharp contrast to what I had experienced on two previous cruises. Art classes, Needlepoint, Knitting, Bridge, Dance Lessons, Fitness Classes, Stretch, Yoga, Golf, Paddle Tennis are also available. First run movies, Magic Castle at Sea, and a well stocked library are also available. On a sea day, over 50 activities will be listed in the program, so there is something for everyone. Dining: I choose first seating dinner even though it is a bit early, but seems to mesh well with all the entertainment options provided. Seated at a solo table for eight, my tablemates were well travelled, sociable, and enjoyable to be with. Outstanding service, two menu options including modern and classic were available each night. It was no problem to order smaller portions or have something special preordered in advance. Our table had the wonderful Salzburger Knockerl served table side to celebrate a birthday. The specialty restaurants Prego and Nobu are outstanding, service impeccable, and offer a leisurely dining experience. Although I did not join this group, a no-host Table for Eight is offered for solo cruisers. The dining experience in Tastes is a wonderful casual, relaxing affair, and is more enjoyable if you invite others. A few more people, a few more tantalizing tapas to taste! It is also a lovely venue for late risers breakfast or lunch. The incredible deck stewards with their warm, contagious smiles, not only remember your name and your beverage, they work nonstop! The Lido, Bistro, and Room Service also provide alternate dining options. The presentation of the delicacies at the Mozart Tea and the Gala Buffet is appealing and impressive. Service: In this area Crystal not only sparkles and shines, it dazzles! The highlight is the high level of name recognition onboard, their ability to remember you from one cruise to the next, and the warm, personable service provided. "It's my pleasure" is their attitude and they oblige many challenging requests with a smile. Not once did I ever detect a "roll of the eyes" when some things I heard had me rolling mine! When you are greeted with "Welcome home" you truly feel it is your home away from home. My stewardess was outstanding. My room was made up promptly each morning and evening, and whenever I passed her in the hallway she never failed to ask if there was anything I needed. I have already mentioned the incredible Deck Stewards, but they deserve another mention because their warmth, sincerity, and hospitality is the true backbone of Team Crystal. Kudos for a job well done! With the wonderful Crystal family, one never feels alone! Conclusion: The interesting, friendly guests, the welcoming atmosphere, and the wonderful Crystal officers and staff make being onboard the Serenity a memorable experience. I have met many new friends, made some magical memories, and never felt alone. In fact, on other cruises I would often retreat to my stateroom for peace and quiet--on Serenity the large public areas and no announcement policy make for a calm, serene environment. 3,774 nautical miles, 8 days at sea, Miami, Bermuda, The Azores, Lisbon--would I do it again? In a heartbeat! It is a great way to "Begin a New Story"! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2015
Our first Crystal cruise; we began cruising in 1998 and have taken at least one a year since, 8 with Oceania. The Serenity is a beautiful ship, meticulously maintained and extremely comfortable. The sea days offered many activities, ... Read More
Our first Crystal cruise; we began cruising in 1998 and have taken at least one a year since, 8 with Oceania. The Serenity is a beautiful ship, meticulously maintained and extremely comfortable. The sea days offered many activities, great lecturers, current films etc. Our stateroom was compact and there was plenty of storage. The bathroom had a tub - risky getting in and out - and the two vanity sinks were convenient. The guests were friendly, active, well-traveled and easy to chat with. The crew and staff are exceptional, many are long time employees and their eagerness to help and their friendly nature added to our enjoyment. Our sole complaint is with the dining policy. We chose late sitting and a table for 4, thinking we would meet another couple. Another couple never joined us yet our table remained set for four. Our table was next to several large tables of 8 and the area was noisy. The serving staff seemed to rush around, were eager to finish their shift. This was not the leisurely dining we expected aboard a Crystal ship. After 3 dinners in the dining room, we dined at Tastes, the informal restaurant placed where the covered pool use to be. Tastes became our restaurant of choice. No additional fee is required but reservations are. Tastes offered us a limited and unique menu; leisurely dining, a quiet atmosphere and we were not rushed. We also dined at Prego 3 times, nothing exceptional; we also dined once at Silk Road, the Asian restaurant, and the smell of raw fish was upsetting. We could not understand why tables were empty in the specialty restaurants and the dining room was crowded and noisy. Guests could not just walk in at the last minute to dine in the specialty restaurants. No sharing of tables as offered on Oceania ships. Guests we spoke to who selected the dining by reservation also complained about being seated near a serving station or in a noisy area. We asked for a different table for 2 and were told none were available. Fortunately we had Tastes. We cancelled next year's cruise aboard the Symphony when we were told there is no Tastes restaurant on that ship. For us to return to Crystal and their new ship due out in 2018, the dining policy needs to be changed. Open seating and any time dining has to be implemented. The set dining time is out of date. We were told the galley can't handle the any time open seating concept. On a different note, formal attire for women need not be a long gown; many women were dressed in slacks with a "dressy" tunic. I wish I knew that before packing! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
This was our first Crystal cruise after over 30 cruises with Oceania, Celebrity, Princess, Viking, Costa, NCL, Carnival, etc.. Dining was excellent with many enticing choices for each meal. Service was outstanding in all dining venues, ... Read More
This was our first Crystal cruise after over 30 cruises with Oceania, Celebrity, Princess, Viking, Costa, NCL, Carnival, etc.. Dining was excellent with many enticing choices for each meal. Service was outstanding in all dining venues, various bars and directly to our cabin. We loved the bridge classes as the teacher was very professional and especially patient. Entertainment was the best we've ever encountered at sea. The complimentary wine list was very good but you need to ask for it. We had no need to go to the "extra fee" wine list. Our sommelier was great and he quickly figured out our taste buds and directed us to amazing Wine that were not listed on any menu. The cruise director (Rick Spath) was a real pro. Always very interesting, genuine and effective. All lecturers were outstanding in their field and delivered interesting presentations. We have already booked our next cruise with Crystal :-) Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2015
My wife and I have been on many cruises, probably over 50. This was our first "World Cruise" and our first Crystal Cruise. I will try to summarize our thoughts on this with the great and the not so great. Great: The food is ... Read More
My wife and I have been on many cruises, probably over 50. This was our first "World Cruise" and our first Crystal Cruise. I will try to summarize our thoughts on this with the great and the not so great. Great: The food is amazing. No powdered eggs, frozen hamburgers, or cheap ice cream on this line. Everything we ate was fresh, good, and the way it should be. The ship, even though old in my opinion, was very nice and well maintained. The public areas were not tired nor did they look their age. The crew, all trained well and friendly. Silk Road- was amazing just like Nobu (which we frequent in Miami/Vegas). Activities on sea days-always something for anyone-they keep a lot of stuff going on which is great. Another great is no matter when you go to the pool area there are chairs and towels with umbrellas waiting for you. You dont have to go up at 6am and "reserve" a space! Not so Great- We booked a "PH" which stands for Penthouse. Now, for the record I have been on Penthouses in Celebrity, Royal Caribean, NCL, Holland America, and other lines. This isn't a penthouse. Its more like a balcony room on most other lines. The rooms on this ship are not what they should be. I had the chance to see the Balcony Rooms on the ship and let me say that those rooms would not cut it. They didnt even have real closets! The tubs where made for small people, no grown person would fit in there. The rooms are just not up to par, and for the amount of money they ask for, it should be. Secondly, I had a big let down with the shows. The variety is horrible. The shows are singing and orchestra type and arent geared towards anyone who is below 70. There is no comedy, no magic (other then a small show they do which is fine) and no other variety. We went to three shows during the 100 day cruise. This is a big area Crystal needs to fix along with the rooms. Lastly, Shore Excursions. I would avoid them-they upcharge you from 100%-1000% for things you could easily set up on your own. I also found the description in the excusrion was not reflective of what the real excursion was. It was often over hyped and under delivered.... Overall, I loved Crystal. I think they are the closest line I have been on that comes to close to "Luxury", but they arent quite there yet. Remember, when you break it down and are spending over $1500 per night for a cruise- you should be getting the 5 star all around. I hope with the new ship they fix some of the issues and get there-because they are close. Read Less
20 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2015
We have sailed on 30 Crystal cruises, the longest cruise prior to the World Cruise was 21 days. This was our first World Cruise. Transfers The included Carey Limo SUV transfers from home-airport-ship-airport-home were seamless. ... Read More
We have sailed on 30 Crystal cruises, the longest cruise prior to the World Cruise was 21 days. This was our first World Cruise. Transfers The included Carey Limo SUV transfers from home-airport-ship-airport-home were seamless. Drivers there to meet us on time, assistance at the luggage carousels in FL and back in Houston, and strong enough to hoist all the luggage into the SUV. So nice to see a friendly, smiling face in the midst of airport and port commotion. Ports We sailed to 44 ports (47 ports if we count the missed/sail-by ports of Rarotonga, Port Elizabeth and Alter do Chao). Best ports: Cape Town, Wellington, Napier, Tauranga, Auckland, Dunedin, Akaroa, Milford Sound. Ports we can say we’ve been to, and don’t need to return: Maputo, Manta Most unique and exotic ports: Easter Island and both ports in Madagascar Onboard Observations Dining: Main dinner sitting in the dining room was full capacity during all segments. We always opt for the late dinner sitting, and the dining room was never more than 2/3 full, often it was ½ full or less at the 8:30pm sitting. Service was unrushed, extraordinarily attentive, and the ambient noise level of the room very quiet. The menu choices, between the Modern Cuisine selections, the Crystal Classic selections, and our occasional off-menu special requests, were varied to suit everyone’s palate. Many appetizer and entrée selections did repeat during each segment, but we always found at least two courses (and often more) every evening. We were generally pleased with the all-inclusive wine selections; however, as we were sailing through some of the world’s best wine regions, we did purchase wines while ashore in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa and thoroughly enjoyed them onboard during several dinners. (Whenever we chose to enjoy our own wines, I would bring the bottle to our sommelier in the dining room about 6:00pm, and it was then already decanted and on our table when we came to dinner at 8:30pm). Specialty Restaurants: Since so many guests chose to dine early, with the exception of the last segment, it was never a problem to eat at Silk Road, Prego or Tastes after 8:00pm. Especially for a table for 2. We often made reservations the same afternoon for dining that evening. And even during the last segment of the WC, Antonio and the specialty restaurants’ staff made every effort to accommodate everyone who wanted to dine. Again, reservations for smaller tables (i.e. 2-4 people) were much easier to reserve than tables for the larger 6+ groups. Cabin Comfort: We have sailed Crystal before, so we are very familiar with the amenities and idiosyncrasies of the standard verandah staterooms onboard. All of our luggage nested within each other and fit under the beds with no problem. We used the space under the sofa for storage of snorkeling gear and new purchases from ashore. We brought 25 extra hangers (the dry-cleaning type) which were very handy, supplemented the ship’s hangers and took up less space in the closet than the wood hangers. The cabinets under the bathroom sinks easily absorbed 4 months’ worth of toiletries. We brought a collapsible mesh clothes hamper from the Dollar Store, which was stored under the desk; we knew when it was time to do laundry when the mesh hamper was full! We raised the cocktail/dining table to its highest position and it stayed at that height for the entire cruise. Since most of the desk surface was occupied with electronics (PC, I-phones, Kindle, camera), the table became the only multi-purpose “flat space” in the room. We needed more magnets! The walls are metal and become a giant bulletin board. There are so many pieces of paper to keep track of! (Invitations, shore excursion tickets, restaurant reservations, WC newsletter, etc.). Entertainment and Special Events: We were wowed and our expectations exceeded the minute we arrived onboard. We were welcomed by name on the gangway by both Crystal CEO Edie Rodriguez and Captain Giske. Our checked luggage was delivered to the stateroom within an hour. The onboard gala (dinner, bands, and entertainment) just blew us away. And it only got better during the next 108 days. We have sailed many Crystal repositioning transatlantic voyages because we enjoy the multiple sea days with all the activities. Well, the World Cruise was like a transatlantic crossing on steroids. With the exception of the Billy Joel “My Life” production show which was repeated on all segments (and we attended all 6 performances, btw), the variety of guest entertainers and large production shows were incredible. There were a few “misses”, but overall, the entertainment was truly world class. The lecture series offered so many options and so many differing views, there was something to suit most everyone’s interest. On some sea days there were 4 speakers scheduled: 2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. The World Cruise special event in New Zealand at Hobbiton was jaw dropping. The laser light show, followed by the fireworks was an amazing production. And to be served and entertained by an entire village of costumed Hobbits, was something very special. The special event at the private estancia in Montevideo was a miracle of logistics. The weather more than cooperated, and it was like a massive, huge, gigantic picnic with about 550 of your best friends, with wine, beer, food and lots of entertainment. Lessons Learned: We brought about 1/3 too many toiletries; better to bring too much rather than too little, but we won’t haul as much the next time. We brought too many clothes, especially casualwear and underwear. The self-service laundries are so convenient, and the ship’s laundry & dry cleaning so efficient, we did laundry more often than we had anticipated and will cut down the amount for future long cruises. We will take an extra suitcase with us, even if it is under-filled on the outbound. Based on how much we bought during port calls, as well as the bulkiness on the special WC segment gifts, we could have used the extra space for the return home. We ate smart, exercised often, rarely used the ship’s elevators, and “only” gained 10 lbs. I got on the scale this morning and I’m “only” 4 lbs. heavier than when we left. We are so fortunate, lucky and blessed to be able to have experienced such a journey. So few people on the planet can even imagine an adventure such as this, especially after seeing places like Madagascar, Mozambique, and the less affluent areas of South America. Every day I look at the Crystal brochures and our upcoming booked adventures with a great sigh. I still tear up describing this adventure to people. This was not a cruise. It was a life changing experience. We are so glad we were there. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2015
Embarkation was a horror. The ship was not docked where they told us- it was not at any terminal. We took about 15 or 20 minutes to locate the ship. There was no parking lot nearby. We had to drop off our luggage & park at a distant ... Read More
Embarkation was a horror. The ship was not docked where they told us- it was not at any terminal. We took about 15 or 20 minutes to locate the ship. There was no parking lot nearby. We had to drop off our luggage & park at a distant garage -hard to find. Then , there was no shuttle ( we were told there was ) so we had to take a taxi to the ship!! When we disembarked, the ship was, once again, not where they said we were docking. Another taxi ride to our car. Unacceptable service from Crystal. Our suite was nice, but you cold hear chairs scraping overhead. After 48 hours on the ship, we both developed coughs & sore throats. You could hear coughing all over the ship. Went to the ships doctor after 2 more days - big mistake. He put us on antibiotics after saying we had viral infections. WRONG. Made us much sicker, & antibiotics are NOT for viruses. We missed meals, shows, & 3 ports , due to feeling too sick to do anything. The food, when we were able to eat, was just okay , certainly not luxury cuisine. The few shows we saw were very good, as was the housekeeping staff. Crystal is quite pricey, & definitely not worth the money. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2015
This was our 5th Crystal cruise. As with our previous cruises, we were pleased with the cruise. On this cruise, my wife and I were accompanied by two of our adult children and they also had a wonderful cruise experience. The ship's ... Read More
This was our 5th Crystal cruise. As with our previous cruises, we were pleased with the cruise. On this cruise, my wife and I were accompanied by two of our adult children and they also had a wonderful cruise experience. The ship's staff generally provided outstanding service, particularly our cabin attendants, bar staff and pool service staff. The ship was beautifully maintained and, though completely full, still provided that spacious feeling we've come to enjoy on the Serenity. The staff were friendly, the all inclusive fare again proved a most desirable feature and the experience was most enjoyable. That being said, there were some letdowns that we had not previously experienced on Crystal. The main dining room staff waiting our table appeared disinterested and aloof. They did the minimum. Bread was offered once. Menu recommendations were never volunteered. Our waiter disappeared for long stretches and it was not to wait other tables. He simply vanished from the dining room floor leaving his attendant to try and cope with all of his tables. Not once did our waiter inquire as to our satisfaction with what was served. The exception was our wine steward who was very attentive and informative and did a wonderful job of seeing to our every need.. We also thought the main dining room fare was pretty average. Some entrees were barely warm when served and had become dried out from apparently sitting under warming lamps.New cuisine choices on left side of menu were very limited and not all that creative. Traditional menu was just that....seemed to be same choices as previous cruises, and while OK, was largely unimaginative, bland and no ethnic or fusion cuisine food options or variations. Overall, main dining room fare was very average.We opted for the specialty restaurants and paid the extra fee for dining in these more than once. These were wonderful. Both Nobu and Prego were superb...great choices, tasty food and magnificent ambiance. Tastes Restaurant was very good also for both lunch and dinner and many creative and ethnic choices were available. Also, for first time, we noticed Crystal staff are allowing passengers to monopolize on shaded poolside furniture. Every day, passengers would invariably (and rudely) place personal effects on limited shaded area furniture early each morning then leave. Most of these would remain unoccupied until mid-afternoon while those who came to pool in the interim had no shaded place to sit. Sadly, there was no enforcement by staff to prohibit this practice. All that being said, these exceptions were just that. They were annoyances we worked around and we did not allow these to spoil our enjoyment of the cruise. From our view, Crystal remains the best of the luxury cruise options that we have experienced and we will be back. Read Less
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