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36 Crystal New York (Manhattan) Cruise Reviews

Firstly a little bit of background. My wife and I are long time cruisers, mostly on smaller and the R8 ships. Pacific Princess and the unfortunate Adonia have been our regular choice, but in recent years have looked into alternative cruise ... Read More
Firstly a little bit of background. My wife and I are long time cruisers, mostly on smaller and the R8 ships. Pacific Princess and the unfortunate Adonia have been our regular choice, but in recent years have looked into alternative cruise lines. Windstar, Regent and now several Cruises with Oceania. Back to this review. We chose the Crystal Symphony because of the itinerary and to experience another mid sized ship. Whilst the ship is physically large the passenger count is still below 1000, which means alot of public space and larger staterooms. The décor and luxury is immediately apparent but certainly not over the top. The main dinning room Waterside, is reasonably spacious and although open dinning times we never had to wait for a table. The food was always delicious and well presented. My only comment here would be the slightly limited menu. The Market Place at lunch time has the largest and most varied salad bar we have ever encountered. This was always backed up with a large variety of meat and fish. This venu changes to a Brazilian theme in the evening, where again the choice of food is good. Uni Uma is the Japanese fusion restaurant which undoubtedly serves the finest food on the ship. Prego is the Italian speciality dining. The food was good but the whole experience was not any better than some and certainly does not compete with Oceanias version. Entertainment was average and the casino little used. As this itinerary was port intensive, deck game and lecture were not so well attended. I have not touched on the topic of crew and staff, internet, poolside etc but suffice to say they are all in keeping with a Premium targeted cruise ship. Overall impression! A Premium cruise line providing a premium experience. So why only four stars? There is a general lack of Wow factor and generally only doing what one might expect at a level that others have achieved and in some limited areas are doing slightly better. Would we choose Crystal again? Not until all the other options have been tested out Read Less
Sail Date August 2018
We have gone on other Crystal cruises before and were anxious to check out the new Seabreeze Penthouses. While they are 50% larger than the standard Veranda Suites, they also cost about 50% more. The Suite was beautiful and the extra ... Read More
We have gone on other Crystal cruises before and were anxious to check out the new Seabreeze Penthouses. While they are 50% larger than the standard Veranda Suites, they also cost about 50% more. The Suite was beautiful and the extra space was fantastic. On the negative, the TV is in an awkward place, the vanity area is very tight and the lifeboat just below our balcony interfered with our view. Also, while some passengers will appreciate having a private butler, we did not see this service as a big plus. Although the refurbishment of the ship had occurred months ago, some elements were still being completed. The WiFi was being worked on and required technicians to go into all staterooms. The in-room movies were limited because they were still loading them into the new system. The food and service in Umi Uma and Prego was wonderful as usual. The service in Waterside was excellent but the menu seemed a bit uninspired. The Mozart Tea still featured waiters in period costumes and a generous selection of treats, but overall it felt less grand than it used to be. Compared to other luxury cruise lines, Crystal is still our favorite and we will be on Serenity later this year after it is refurbished. Read Less
Sail Date August 2018
Cruised on Crystal Serenity Oct 3 to Oct 13, NYC to Quebec City. Sailing out of NYC at sunset is an experience everyone should have - with the sun setting in back of the Statue of Liberty and then a full moon. Simply amazing! I really ... Read More
Cruised on Crystal Serenity Oct 3 to Oct 13, NYC to Quebec City. Sailing out of NYC at sunset is an experience everyone should have - with the sun setting in back of the Statue of Liberty and then a full moon. Simply amazing! I really miss the leaves turning as I live in the desert. But the colors in Quebec were specular in early October. And Quebec City is an amazing walking town with plenty to see and do. And Crystal is an amazing experience - beautiful, friendly and all inclusive. The cabins even with a veranda are a little small for 2 people but we spent most time in the public areas. We also ate in Nobu sushi bar most nights - Simply amazing food and the chefs are fabulous. Will prepare a meal for you that will far exceed your expectations. Rough seas and winds one night that I truly enjoyed - like being on a roller coaster while cruising. Just love cruising! Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
Embarkation and disembarkation went very smoothly. This was our first Crystal Cruise (but hopefully not the last). We did not know what to expect, having sailed more mass market ships before. Our cabin, 10058, was a penthouse ... Read More
Embarkation and disembarkation went very smoothly. This was our first Crystal Cruise (but hopefully not the last). We did not know what to expect, having sailed more mass market ships before. Our cabin, 10058, was a penthouse with veranda. Loved the layout! Just beware of the high step into the bathroom. The closet was a fairly spacious walk-in, with a built in dresser and shelves. No problem hanging up/storing our overpacked clothes! In the bedroom were so many extra drawers, most of which simply went unused. Our suitcases (2 large, 2 small) fit into the closet. There is also a refrigerator in the cabin (no freezer). The bathroom had a tub and a shower. The service throughout the ship was extraordinary at every level. Particularly loved our butler and cabin attendants. They couldn’t do enough to ensure our comfort. Entertainment: simply the best we have seen on a ship. Dining: Well, there were a few warts. The main dining room menus got progressively less imaginative. The food quality in the main dining room slightly declined . A T-bone steak had to be sent back as it was very tough. What a waste! It was quite a disappointment that when sailing in New England and Nova Scotia there was no lobster on the menu! Tastes, Prego, and Silk Road were great. For breakfast and lunch you MUST visit Lido and Trident Grill. Never a disappointment. For example, burgers (and everything else) at the Trident were all freshly made to order, not stacked up waiting to be ordered. And, yes, there is sugarfree ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s and sugar free desserts at Lido. Activities: just ok. However, enrichment speakers were top quality and interesting. Shopping: High end only. No little sundry shop, selling tee shirts, etc. There is a sale at the end of the cruise but still high priced merchandise. Be aware that OBC can not be used in the casino. Only real cash there. Read Less
Sail Date September 2017
Chose this cruise as a friend (a Crystal novice) was interested in seeing what the excitement is about...her room was on the same deck but opposite side so we were close by but not running into each other constantly. Did our own version ... Read More
Chose this cruise as a friend (a Crystal novice) was interested in seeing what the excitement is about...her room was on the same deck but opposite side so we were close by but not running into each other constantly. Did our own version of shore excursions: using a combination of public transportation and ship supplied shuttles, mapping out our potential routes in advance. Saw a lot of New York in little time, same true of Boston (a very short duration--are their dock fees too high?) and had no complaints about the tender services in Bar Harbor or Newport. Easy to maneuver. Service continues to be the major Crystal distinction. Wonder how the prices will fare with the announced ship revisions and associated decrease in the number of cabins. Will welcome a complete revision to the tedious and dated dinner time and assigned table model which has been slowly disappearing. Lido deck evening options? I'm all for that! Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
We wanted to see Iceland and after looking at all the itinerary's of many cruise lines we decided we liked the Crystal Symphony itinerary the best since it sailed out of NYC , stopped in New England ports and then on to Iceland. We ... Read More
We wanted to see Iceland and after looking at all the itinerary's of many cruise lines we decided we liked the Crystal Symphony itinerary the best since it sailed out of NYC , stopped in New England ports and then on to Iceland. We had heard it was a great cruise line but didn't realize how excellent it really was until we sailed on Crystal. We have been on 12 cruises on 3 different lines. We always enjoyed ourselves but never expected to enjoy this one as much as we did. First off, you aren't "nickeled and dimed to death", almost everything is included in your fare. The food was exceptional and of gourmet quality, the crew amazing, and the entertainment very good. ( a famous singer, a pianist, singers who won national TV talent contests, dancers), The afternoon lecturers were interesting and very knowledgeable. They even had a former astronaut give 4 extremely great lectures on space . The cabin was nice and roomier than others we've been in, very comfortable and quiet .The ship was beautiful but a bit worn, but we heard it's being refitted this Sept. The average age was probably about 60 but these people seemed generally to be a very active , friendly group and very loyal to Crystal.. We couldn't have enjoyed ourselves more and hope to do more Crystal cruises in the future. Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
I picked this cruise because it was a great deal for solo travelers, had lots of sea days (I love sea days - especially the lectures), and the itinerary. It did not disappoint. I reconnected with several fellow travelers from other ... Read More
I picked this cruise because it was a great deal for solo travelers, had lots of sea days (I love sea days - especially the lectures), and the itinerary. It did not disappoint. I reconnected with several fellow travelers from other Crystal cruises met many new enjoyable companions. The service, the activities, fellow travelers are all part of the reason that I love Crystal cruises and this one met all expectations. BTW I booked 2 more cruises while on board - one leaving August 3rd and the other in 2019. New York was special for me since I went to the 911 Memorial Museum to re-visit one of the worst days in my life - I was on an airplane that day and lost 5 business associates (4 in the airplane that hit the Pentagon and 1 in the airplane that hit the south tower. In Newport, I sailed on the Columbia, the 12 meter boat that won the America's Cup in 1958. It was a beautiful day for a sail. In Boston I walked the Freedom Trail - my last time was more than 50 years ago. I Bar Harbor, I ate Lobster. Halifax is one of my favorite ports, with great historical and archeological sites. It was rainy in Iceland but still interesting. Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
We boarded the ship in NYC which was great as we live here. Embarkation was very easy, its on the ship. We were meet at the gangway and escorted to the desk, on the way a steward took our carry-on and delivered it to our stateroom. There ... Read More
We boarded the ship in NYC which was great as we live here. Embarkation was very easy, its on the ship. We were meet at the gangway and escorted to the desk, on the way a steward took our carry-on and delivered it to our stateroom. There was champagne and lunch in the MDR. I was surprised the lido was not open. The ship is 1000 passengers, about the right size for us. It is in excellent shape and very clean all around. Its about 25 years old so the design is dated, that said it is easy to get around and find places. You can see how it has been changed over the years as the decor seems rather hap hazard. The lido has just been done, looks modern and new. This should be carried throughout the ship. I missed the interactive TV in the room however the internet was OK although you just get 1 hour a day, the rest you must pay for. As a all inclusive luxury line I would expect it to be included. The public spaces were very spacious however the ship was just 2/3 full. If full some would be crowded. Cabin was a OV on deck seven, number 7068. Excellent location, quiet with little ship movement. Cabin is very small for a luxury line, that said it was in excellent shape, very clean at all times. Steward was eager to do all that was asked. If you go aboard expecting same cabin as a mass market line you will not be let down. Food was very good. There are plenty of choices and its apparent Crystal uses excellent ingredients and cooks to order. I liked most things, sent a few back. They are eager to please and do all they can to give you a nice meal. Dinning is the deal breaker for me on Crystal. I think the main dinning room has about as much ambience as the local dinner. Its small, noisy and restrictive. There is just first, second and reservation dinning. We had first sitting, it was full so we were stuck in a poor table for 2 for two weeks. Service was very rushed. The specialty restaurants were very nice, easy to make reservations for although I find paying for extra tackier in the luxury market. The service and ambiance they have should be what you experience throughout the ship. The lido, tastes and grill were excellent. A real downside for me is the lido is closed for dinner. If you miss your sitting its room service or nothing. The rooms are really to small to eat in. The Bistro was a nice place to stop for coffee however I found their snacks odd. Entertainment and activities are nice and plentiful. Like anything I found some great and skipped some. I liked the idea there are two shows most nights, easy to get a seat. There is so much going on day and night it would be hard to be board. Service is great all around the ship. Again it was just 2/3 full. This was a Caribbean trip so the ports were beach and shopping. We missed one and they gave 250$ FCC to each person. I felt that was very generous Overall this was a nice trip, I would judge it average, or a 3, comparing it to other luxury lines. I found my fellow guests to be extremely nice, I did not hear complaints, see fights for seats or get run over by a scooter however the pool chair hog's were out in full force. I would go again however Crystal is not my go to cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
Although we have been on many cruises, this was our first time sailing with Crystal. I must say I was very impressed. A wonderful cruise. First class in every way - the ship, the staff, the food, the entertainment. Especially loved the ... Read More
Although we have been on many cruises, this was our first time sailing with Crystal. I must say I was very impressed. A wonderful cruise. First class in every way - the ship, the staff, the food, the entertainment. Especially loved the magic show with Doc, the comedians and the dancing of Curtis and Beverly. Only down part was that we missed not being able to go into Savannah, Georgia. Very understandable though. First and foremost was getting supplies to the people following the hurricane. We took tours in Baltimore, Maryland and Charleston, South Carolina. Both of these were excellent. The included meals on both tours were the best. We love seeing new ports and enjoyed going to Grand Turk and La Romana, Dominican Republic.We have been to Curacao and Oranjestad, Aruba before, but enjoyed visiting again. Overall, I would give this cruise top marks. Our departure in Ft. Lauderdale was handled very well with buses all labelled and ready to for our trip to the airport. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
My wife has never been to the east coast and I have on business. I wanted her to see the fall colors of New England so we booked this cruise. We did not get off to a great start, their shore people were pretty rude. But our butler was ... Read More
My wife has never been to the east coast and I have on business. I wanted her to see the fall colors of New England so we booked this cruise. We did not get off to a great start, their shore people were pretty rude. But our butler was phenomenal and the staff onboard was great with one exception.. I mentioned that I enjoy having Baileys in coffee as a nightcap and a couple of hours later there was a full bottle of Baileys in our cabin which I enjoyed for the duration of our cruise. My wife and I are private people and enjoy eating in our cabin rather than in the dining room. Our butler did a wonderful job of of taking care of this task for us. I still remember his"Happy Good Morning" when I would call him for a request. He did a great job of taking care of any special requests we had. The staff onboard were really great too. Anywhere you went the staff was helpful and courteous. This was especially true for the dining room and specialty dining. Speaking of which, I was able to get sushi onboard, a treat for me. Dining was definitely four star. The one disappointment was a person organizing the grouping for a tour. They got really grumpy when we were late and missed the boat to shore. We have not cruised with Crystal before and did not know where to look for the start times of the tours. So I checked with the front desk for the start time but they gave me the wrong time. Eventually they refunded the price of the tour. But all in all I would rate the staff on board as excellent. The ports were great. The mansions in Newport were spectacular and the history in Boston was wonderful. We opted for a private tour booked by our travel designer and followed the freedom trail. Bar Harbor and Nova Scotia were also interesting ports. The time in the ports was generous and the small size of the ship made for easy on and off. In general the tours were good. We did go on one where they turned us loose to walk through town and did not give us good directions for the place to meet back up with the bus. So we walked past it and had to rely on directions from a local to get back to it. But we did enjoy the tours. On one tour where we had lunch they went out of their way to accommodate my gluten allergy. We did not participate in any of the entertainment, so cannot comment on that. But the ship was great. There was often some kind of small group playing music in the atrium which added to the elegance. We definitely would sail with Crystal again. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
We chose the 7 Nights Fall's Crimson Foliage cruise to see the beautiful foliage that the NE is famous for having. There was none. Other than that, it was a wonderful cruise. I'll just have to go back another time for the ... Read More
We chose the 7 Nights Fall's Crimson Foliage cruise to see the beautiful foliage that the NE is famous for having. There was none. Other than that, it was a wonderful cruise. I'll just have to go back another time for the foliage. We booked the pre-cruise hotel and land program. We were met at the airport and driven to our hotel which was in the Times Square area. There was a concierge from Crystal at the hotel to answer any questions and help in any way. We were met the next day and taken by bus to the cruise terminal. Great hotel. Good service. Embarkation was fairly easy. Two larger cruise ships were also embarking that day so the terminal was a mess. Crystal had representatives directing us and it went well. Our bags were delivered timely. I felt well taken care of during the entire cruise. The two large ships left to lots of noise and great fanfare. I liked our departure much better. Very quietly if you were in a public area, you could hear Louis Armstrong singing "It's a Wonderful World". It was our first Crystal cruise following 10 cruises on other cruise lines. I would recommend Crystal to anyone. We took the ship's shore excursions in all but one port. In two ports we did 2 excursions. Most were well done. Some of the shore excursion lecturers/guides were better than others. There was always a representative from Crystal with the group to assist in any way. We used the ship's transportation to the airport when we returned. Disembarkation was probably the smoothest of any cruise we've had. Again the terminal was a mess with the two other ships disembarking at the same time as we were. There were Crystal reps there to get us through the lines and to the bus. We went back to the hotel and were given a voucher to use for food or drink until the bus took us to the airport for our 4:00 pm flight. I have no complaints about anything Crystal. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
The food was great in Silk road, average in Prego, inconsistent in the Crystal dinning room, but great in Tastes and Lido. Housekeeping missed an entire day in the middle of the cruise... Room service never showed, housekeeping had to ... Read More
The food was great in Silk road, average in Prego, inconsistent in the Crystal dinning room, but great in Tastes and Lido. Housekeeping missed an entire day in the middle of the cruise... Room service never showed, housekeeping had to bring the limes, tonic water, etc. Entertainment was average except for the Cruise Director who is a ventriloquist and was very good. One of the bartenders was great....however when asked for the same drink from a different bartender, it was not as good. The wines in the crystal dinning room were very limited....one of each one, chardonnay, one cab, one merlot, etc...that wine from from their own crystal vineyards. The shore excursions were not good, the tour director and bus driver were not on the same page and the bus left us in town and was lost at one point...tour guy who was a local could not find the bus. Some of these towns looked like third world countries. The add on tour to Montreal at the end, everyone complained because we were told it would be 2-1/2 hours on a luxury bus ....it was not...it was four hours and no water for us on that bus and no cup holders in the seats. The best part was the embarkation and disembarkation....it was the best on any cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
My mother, who is in her 80s, asked me to join her on this cruise. The itinerary and level of service created outstanding memories, as we might not have this opportunity again. I had been on the Crystal Symphony before, but never the ... Read More
My mother, who is in her 80s, asked me to join her on this cruise. The itinerary and level of service created outstanding memories, as we might not have this opportunity again. I had been on the Crystal Symphony before, but never the Crystal Serenity. The Crystal Serenity is a beautiful ship, and is extremely well maintained. We left out of New York, which is a mixed blessing. While the sail out is inspiring, getting to the pier, even on a Saturday (as offered by this itinerary, is daunting. It took me over an hour from Newark airport and took my mother over 1.5 hours from LGA to reach the cruise port. Still, the scheduled late departure (11 pm) allowed me to fly in from the west coast on the day of the cruise, rather than the day before. That schedule also eased the stress, as there was never a doubt that I could reach the ship before the scheduled boarding time. Crystal made embarkation very easy. There was a small line at the x-ray machine, but no other lines whatsoever. It was nice to check in on the ship itself. Staff was welcoming, and the cabin attendant did a great job of explaining the features of the cabin. As I had the cabin to myself, there was plenty of storage in my oceanview cabin. It might have been a bit tight for two people. Upon boarding, it became very apparent that there was a large group on board. I have always believed that cruise lines should warn the other passengers about large groups on their cruise, as such groups inevitably take over the ship, making areas inaccessible and making advertised features of the ship not available. It turned out there were actually two bridge groups books, totaling some 350 of the 900 passengers. The first evidence of the large group was that the groups had taken absolutely every main (early) dining opportunity, including the specialty restaurants. I have some health issues that require me to retire relatively early each evening, so late dining is not an option. My mother an I were waitlisted for main dining (despite booking 15 months ahead) and although we had informed Crystal of my health issue, the maître d' was unable to clear the waitlist upon boarding. He recommended that we come to the dining room at main seating and he would try to squeeze us in somewhere. He was in fact quite gracious when we arrive at main seating the first night and did give us a table. The second night he seated us at a table for 8 where two of the passengers were dining elsewhere. We had calculated that we could reserve space elsewhere, but we did not clear the waitlist anywhere. As Crystal does not open the buffet in the evening (families should be warned of this), the only options were to be squeezed in to a different table each night or to order from the extremely limited room service menu. Had this issue remained where it was on night 2, you would be reading a one or two star review. However, and kudos the Crystal for this, on the wifi logon site (and kudos to Crystal for providing an hour per day of free wifi), there is a feedback button, and I used it to express my concerns. Ten minutes after I sent my concern in, a waitlist cleared at Silk Road and we were seated there at 6 pm. The next night, a waitlist cleared at Prego for 7 pm. We were then seated at Captain's table the following night and, voila, the waitlist cleared at Tastes on the following night. I have never seen a cruise line work so hard to address a concern. Having a system to report a concern to the corporate office while still onboard is commendable. Responding immediately and so thoroughly is incredible! The group of passengers onboard was older (averaged mid to late 70s), and composed mainly of retired professionals and executives. There were just two children on board, both infants. Many of the passengers apparently do not understand the meaning of "casual" as the dressed in suits and ties and even formal wear on some nights. I guess that they were disappointed that there were no formal nights on the cruise, but I received many condescending looks when dressed appropriately (Tommy Bahama button down shirt, dark Dockers and loafers). If cruise lines can refuse to seat shorts after 6 pm, they should also refuse to seat ties and gowns. The food in the main dining room was very good, and the service was excellent. While the service was excellent in Silk Road and Prego, the food was disappointing. It was not as good as the main dining room, and I never like to get sushi that is not cold. At Tastes, the food was very good but the service was not up to the standard set on the rest of the ship. The entertainment was likewise variable. The singers and dancers were talented, and the Broadway tribute was a great show. The comedian was pretty good, but the other production show and the first and last night shows were just average. The house band was exceptional. I had concerns about the cabin that was assigned on a guarantee. It was an Oceanview cabin that was guaranteed to be mid ship. Technically it was (last room before the forward elevators), and I had been concerned that it might be noisy, as the doors to the promenade deck were adjacent to my room. It was not noisy at all, and in fact the only noise issue on the entire trip was on the final night with porters loading baggage. I would book this room again, as it was close to everything. The voyage was definitely rocky in parts, but I had very little movement in this cabin. Crystal always handles its shore excursions well, providing escorts and water to enhance the excursion. Our excursion in Bar Harbor was very good, even though the fog blocked many of the usually outstanding views. Still, the guide was great. The Baie-Comeau walking excursion was not as good, as the stuck us on a non-air conditioned, very tightly spaced school bus at the end to go back to the ship, and sat us there for 25 minutes. apparently, that bus also served as the shuttle from town to the ship, and as it was to be the last one, it waited for returning passengers. The advertised excursion described itself as including transportation to and from the start of the walking tour. If the plan was to rely on shuttles, it should have stated that. While the ship was completely booked, it never felt crowded. Unlike other lines, there was no need to arrive early for shows, although this may be due to the presence of large groups. With regard to those groups, other than the main dining issue, I did not feel the lack of facilities during their presence. Crystal handled the groups well. I had signed up for a number of computer classes, but almost none were given due to a lack of sea days. The lecturers were, as always, outstanding. My mother is an avid dancer and says that the four dance hosts on this cruise were the best she has ever experienced. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
We have cruised since 1995 each year. We were sold this cruise as a luxury cruise and it was anything but....poor service in the dining room as well as very poor trained staff. Wife insulted by server and water spilled in lap. Shop ... Read More
We have cruised since 1995 each year. We were sold this cruise as a luxury cruise and it was anything but....poor service in the dining room as well as very poor trained staff. Wife insulted by server and water spilled in lap. Shop attendants bored and non attentive; products about twice as much as in shops here. Children running up and down the halls unsupervised at 01:00 hours and all ship Hotel Manager advised was "WE HAVE SPOKEN TO THE FAMILY" but the disruption still occurred almost nightly. NO assistance for disabled leaving the vessel at ports. Room so crowded that 2 people can not change clothes at the same time. Most mornings there was cherrio's and cookies on the floor of the hall. Truly the CRUISE FROM HELL and we will never consider Crystal again Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
We've sailed Crystal quite a few times. The earlier cruises were great. However, since the new president took over, there have been cutbacks & disappointments all over . Quality of food has gone way down. Portion sizes have ... Read More
We've sailed Crystal quite a few times. The earlier cruises were great. However, since the new president took over, there have been cutbacks & disappointments all over . Quality of food has gone way down. Portion sizes have shrunk greatly . "all inclusive " is Totally bogus - just includes a few poor quality wines. Everything else, you have to pay for. Service is good in some areas & nonexistent in others. Entertainment not what it used to be. We have cruised about 40 times, on many cruise lines. This cruise was so overpriced for what we got, it was absurd. Embarkation was slow & unfriendly - not so in the past. Ship was not as clean as before. Looks like they are cutting costs everywhere Lots of wear in the cabin, which was tiny Dining room service not good. Stateroom service, however, was quite good. Did not use their shore excursions - way overpriced. Concierge was unfriendly & condescending. Crew - some quite good, others poor. Entertainment okay, but used to be much, much better. We will not sail with Crystal again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
For us this was somewhat of a repeat of 2014 Crystal Cruise vacation on the Symphony up the eastern U.S. coats with stops in Canada and then to Iceland. This year we added the Ireland and U.K. component making our trip 16 days. Last ... Read More
For us this was somewhat of a repeat of 2014 Crystal Cruise vacation on the Symphony up the eastern U.S. coats with stops in Canada and then to Iceland. This year we added the Ireland and U.K. component making our trip 16 days. Last year we wrote that we found the all-inclusive Crystal Cruise lines was the clearly the cruise line for wealthy alcoholics. That opinion has not changed. There were changes from 2014 to 2015. Some were good and some were clearly the home office squeezing nickels. But let's start with the three funniest comments or actions during our trip. 1) A very nice waiter from Eastern Europe at a crowded Lido lunch buffet and a woman passenger: Waiter: Madam let me help you with that tray and find you a table. Passenger: I'm looking for my husband. Waiter: Don't worry. If we don't find him, we will find you another. 2) As part of a very good 4-hour taxi tour in Reykjavik I told the driver that we wanted to go where we would not see any tourists or tour buses. He took us to a prison. (There was a charming seaside village with a seawall and beach nearby and there were no tour buses.) 3) A 10-year-old girl with her parents was waiting for an elevator after a show on Deck 6. Before the elevator arrived, she ran to the entrance of the Casino and put one foot inside the door and said, "Look mommy. I'm 10 years old and I'm in the Casino. I'm a rebel!" THE CRUISE: Embarkation: Oh My God There Was a Line: It was just two people in front of me to get through the security check point at the port and I was there a 1 pm, not like 3:30 the year before. But still it was a line, something you don't see often on a Crystal ship. Once on the ship it was business as usual and NO LINES. I went right to the Starlite Room and my wife and I were checked in by two crew members including the trombone player in ship's stage band. We would have been in our room in minutes, but I then wanted to see Remi the maître of the main dining room. I didn't care about table location for our second seating or reservations for the two specialty restaurants. No, I wanted to see if Zoltan, our waiter from 2014 was on board and to try to get a table in his area. He was one of the funniest waiters we had ever experienced who would go out of his way to get you items that were not on the menu. Luckily Zoltan was on the ship. The bad news was he had been promoted to management and was now a head waiter. The good news was our table was in his area so we still got a great show of double takes and Zoltan "the secret agent" talking into his pretend wrist radio to place special orders. THE SHIP: Last fall the Symphony was in a port in Germany for two weeks of "updating." The only thing I noticed was some new carpeting and perhaps cleaning. We started doing cruise vacations 16 years ago and on most lines my wife and I would joke how we were lowering the average age of the passengers. That is no longer the case. We are out of our forties and fifties and we are now at or above the average passenger age. That said the furniture in the public rooms and staterooms all have seats lower to the floor than you would find in most homes or restaurants. I didn't notice this when I was 50. When I'm in my sixties, my knees and back notice every time I sit down or get up. I heard this complaint from several others on board. The low seats are made worse by cushions and springs that have failed over time and use. This is noticeable all over the ship, but especially in the chairs in the forward Palm Court on Deck 11. Here are some of the reasons we are back on the Symphony and why we are looking at 2016 and 2017 Crystal Cruises. The ship is very easy to get around. While it does have a Casino, it is a non-smoking casino and passengers are routed around the casino going to see a show in the Galaxy Showroom. Most cruise ships force you to walkthrough the smoked filled casino, hoping you will stop and try your luck. STATEROOM: I can't comment on the balcony rooms and suites. For the second year we had a stateroom with a window on Deck 7. The good news was the room was close to the door for the deck for walks and to the forward elevators. The low loveseat and desk chair were uncomfortable to sit in. The bed was okay, but it could have been higher too. Other than new carpeting there was nothing new in the room. The closet space was nice for a low-end stateroom. The bathroom was great with the tub and shower combination providing plenty of room. The hand held shower nozzle was also very good. There was no such thing as warm water, if you wanted hot water during a high demand period, you got hot water. There was a hair dryer attached to the wall in the bathroom and a second one in a drawer in stateroom. Toilet paper and tissue were high end brands. Outlets were a problem. There were none in the bathroom for an electric tooth brush or razor. There was only one in the entire statement at the desk. In the new age of cell phones, cameras, IPads and other devices charging is needed. Upon request a three outlet plug extension was install quickly. There is also an outlet in the wall behind the bed, but it needed an adapter if you plan to plug in a North American device. The big lie #1: In 2014 I brought along about 30 music CDs, because I was aware that the TVs in the staterooms would play CDs. When we were settling in I tried to put on a jazz CD and the TV refused to accept it. The room stewardess said the TVs are suppose to play CDs. The ship's librarian who checks out CDs to passengers also told me CDs will play in the TV. The stewardess call a repair person who showed up and said the TV only plays DVDs. The stewardess rolled her eyes and told the repair person to supply a CD player. He said he would not and left. We went up for lunch and when we returned there was a CD player sitting on the desk and attached to the TV. The CD player was probably 20 or 25 years old but it worked. I was able to listen to Ella Fitzgerald, The Singers Unlimited, The Beegie Adair Trio and others from my collection. I immediately found the room stewardess and tipped her on the first day of the cruise. COMPUTER ROOM: There were the usual complaints about trouble getting and keeping internet connections. However there was a staff there until 11 pm to help passengers with problems. The three person staff seemed to have the patience of not priests, but saints in dealing with some passengers. Also there were some upgrades made with the satellite connections at the first of the year and with just a few exceptions I received the fastest internet speeds I have ever experienced on a cruise ship. Free Time: Crystal is still providing one hour a day of free internet time. On a 16-day cruise, I knew some people who felt they needed to be connected all throughout the day who bought more time. I needed to check email and local news daily and found I still had four hours of free time left at the end of the cruise. Also my wife got 16 hours and she used about three hours. People who email me know that I will get back with them in a day and not in 10 minutes. It is important to use the same terminal every time as that will speed up your log in and search times. Also there was no charge for printing, which many cruise lines charge on a per page basis. While Crystal is cutting back some other services, I hope they stick with the one-hour of free internet per day. This really makes them an "all-inclusive" cruise line." THE GALAXY SHOWROOM: This a very nice venue with no obstructed views and a cozy feel. THE LIBRARY: It is small, but is has a good selection of recent bestsellers, a nice passenger book trade area, DVD and CDs to check out. There are two permanent librarians who are knowledgeable. However if they both have time off they are replaced by a dancer who is not a well versed with the content or other information. CUTBACK: In the middle of the cruise suddenly there were no more NY Times crosswords puzzles. A very honest employee explained that the subscription for the puzzles was discontinued by the corporate office as a cost savings move. They were replaced by free Washington Post crossword puzzles. This did not sit well with some morning visitors to the library. ANOTHER CUTBACK, Lie 2: The free small newspapers from a passenger's country that were hung on your door daily are no longer offered on Crystal. At the start of the cruise there was an announcement how the papers were no longer available, inferring that the company that provides them is out of business. Crystal then offers to deliver to your stateroom one of two or three US papers for about $7 a day. Another honest employee who just could not lie to a passenger admitted that company that sends out the small daily papers with recapped stories is still in business but the papers were discontinued by Crystal as another money saving move. Say hello to the new owners. However in fairness with an hour of free internet a day you can check your hometown paper or a free internet paper like USA Today. THE SHOPS: They are still there and they sell grossly overpriced clothes and jewelry and offer sale prices on older model cameras and other items. The difference between Crystal and other cruise lines is that the shops did not set up road blocks in the walkways for phony "sales" that would be considered "fire code violations" in buildings on land, like most other cruise ships do. Also Crystal does not have the fraudulent "Art Sales and Auctions" that many cruise lines still are co-conspirators with. Bad marketing: The thing that amazes me is how they hide the sundries in the back of the high priced clothing store. The young salesmen, who are as a thin as a rail and dressed in the latest metro-sexual wardrobe don't want you to know they sell this stuff. If I was running the place, I would keep them in the back but make sure everyone knew the sundries were there including a sign in the window. Make customers walk past the high-end items you really want to sell to get some tooth paste, cough drops or a razor and they might buy some clothing item the shop will make a huge profit on. I don't understand why they hide this stuff. I want to get as many people to come into the shop as possible. It is called GOOD MARKETING." I went in to buy a toothbrush and no one would wait on me. My electric brush was working, but I wanted a regular brush for after I packed the electric one. After about 10 minutes I left and tried again six hours later. It is just an odd way to run a business. FOOD AND BEVERAGES: The food is still very good in the main dining room on the Symphony. It was not quite as good as in 2014. One night an un-eatable chicken breast arrived. I could have sent it back or ordered something else, but frankly I was happy that I wasn't going to eat it…too much food already in the day. The service was excellent as usual. The coolest part about eating on a Crystal ship was being able to eat items not on the menu. One night they had some delicious sautéed green beans on the menu. I mentioned how great they were to our waiter and how it was too bad they are not on the menu more often. He said he would be happy to provide anytime I wanted them. I had sautéed green beans for the rest of the cruise. The same went for a shrimp cocktail every night. One night I just ordered sides listed with different entrées. Our waiter did not blink. Once again the deserts tasted as good as they looked. On many cruise ships they look much better than they taste. We also lucked out with interesting table mates, including folks from LA, an English couple now living in Canada and a couple from Australia. We lost our transplanted Canadians after the first leg of the cruise and were down to a table of six. We chatted every night well after dinner so much that we found out later our two waiters were making bets picking a time we would leave. On the last night we all were in specialty restaurants, but agreed to return to the MDR for dessert together. We were the last to leave. PREGO: The Italian specialty restaurant was free once every seven days. We ate their twice. It was more like a combination of a high end Italian joint and a steakhouse. They had several entrees that included beef from the "Greg Norman Ranch" in Australia. This incensed our Aussie table mates. "This guy has not been in Australia in 20 years," exclaimed Paul, who in retirement owns a cattle ranch that he and his wife Jenny insisted on calling a "farm." The food was very good including the filet steak. The crab salad was excellent. Prego passed my Fettuccini Alfredo, test that many "Italian" restaurants fail. Was the Fettuccini Alfredo at Olive Garden better? Prego's was just as good or maybe a little better. The Gelato for dessert was outstanding. THE SILK ROAD: This specialty restaurant's name is a bit deceiving. The name Silk Road comes from Chinese Silk reaching Western Europe. However the Silk Road on the Symphony is a Japanese eatery. I tried to order off the menu some Lo Mein style noodles as a side. I just wanted a small plate with some noodles. What arrived was a bowl of wide noodles buried under scallops and shrimp. At the end of our meal I tried to convince our waiter how Marco Polo, an Italian, was an important influence on the Silk Road and in honor of Polo, I should be able to get Gelato for desert since the Silk Road and Prego share the same kitchen. I got the Gelato and probably didn't even need the Marco Polo reference. THE LIDO: Frankly, this has been on our two Crystal cruise the best buffet style operation we have experienced on a cruise ship. The menu changes every day and once or twice a week they have themes, such as Chinese or Mexican food. The food is always hot, the silver ware is always at the table and a waiter promptly takes your drink order. There is no standing in line at the ice machine and water dispenser. THE TRIDENT GRILL: This is the sandwich grill that also has fresh fruit. Nearby is the ice cream stand service the best from the Benjamin and Jerrold operation in the foothill of Stowe Vermont. Gabriel, the short order cook is amazing. If it is not on the menu and he has the ingredients he will make it for you. The cheeseburger is too much for me, but it is no problem. Gabriel cuts down the bun, makes it a 1/4 pound burger instead of a 1/2 pounder and it is delicious. The steak sandwich is a must as is the grilled hot dog. You do not hang around the grill and wait for the food. A waiter seats you, gets you drinks and delivers the food. I make it a point to tip Gabriel early on. My wife wants to make sure I avoid Coca Cola and the sugar calories. The ship has always had Coke Zero which I find is much easier to get down than Diet Coke, but if I had my choices it would be Diet Dr. Pepper. This year I again asked about Diet Dr. Pepper and Derek from the Trident Grill was on the case. He came back and reported there were 1000 cans of Diet Dr. Pepper on the ship and he secured 12 cans that he had in the refrigerator for me. Derek got an early tip. THE PALM COURT: This is where afternoon tea is served along with music in the afternoon and evening. The tea food is better than what Cunard gives you and they are British. They have special buffet about once a week for tea where you go through a line for the finger sandwiches, scorns and whipped cream plus much more. The one I feel bad attending is the Mozart Tea. The usual music trio is absent replaced by the pianist and leader of the theater band who does an hour of non-stop Mozart. The staff has to wear powdered wigs and costumes of the era. In 2014 my attention was drawn to a waitress from Chile as her dress copying those from 1785 was so large it appeared s if it would fall off her slight frame at any moment. Privately staffers admit they hate wearing the costumes saying even though they are cleaned regularly they still smell bad and are uncomfortable. One Palm court waiter got an early tip. He was instructed if I was with my wife and had a Coke Zero, he was to come back and ask if I'd like "another Coke Zero." I would say "sure." My wife would smile and go back to her sketching or needlepoint. The waiter would then return with a high-test real thing Coke on the rocks. THE AVENUE SALOON: Bartender Paula and waitress and backup bartender Loraina, both from Romania were often more entertaining than the entertainment. Paula joined the Trident Grill in having cold cans Diet Dr. Pepper on hand. God forbid I should try and order a Coke in the Avenue Saloon. Paula would shake her finger and say "NO, Miss Diana (the wife) said no Coke for you." If I persisted Paula might give me a Coke in a shot glass. My wife is an artist and did watercolor portraits of Paula and Loraina. Paula posted hers in the middle of the bar. This ensured that my wife got to try many different drinks while at the Bar. "Here, Miss Diana, try this," was heard on a regular basis. Chris, a waiter from India, was the third person in The Avenue Saloon. On Sea days Chris started at 11:45 am in the Starlight room just before trivia started. He took orders for our team on the first sea day and then we had the same drinks waiting for us on the next subsequent days. The inside smoking room was located next to the Avenue Saloon. I have to say Crystal did a good job keeping the smell of smoke from reaching the hallway. However, I felt bad for a perfectly healthy Loraina, who had to walk into this room throughout the evening taking drink orders and delivering them. It is one thing if passengers want to slowly harm their lungs and hearts, but I don't know why healthy employees have to be put at risk. These people can walk into the bar and get their own free drinks. THE STARLITE CLUB: On deck 6 in mid ships this is the area mid ships with the large dance floor and lots of tables. On sea days it is where the bingo and trivia games are played, plus it has proved to be an excellent venue for lecture series. THE BISTRO: It has a bar, but most people are there for a light breakfast or lunch with fresh fruit, salads plus ham, cheeses, bread and rolls. It also provides coffees and hot tea to go on Deck 6. THE CRYSTAL COVE: This is on Deck 5 across from the concierge desk, the future sales and shore excursion desks. It is where the grand piano in see-through plastic is located. It has an excellent wait staff, but like the rest of the ship the furniture other than the bar stools are too damn low. ENTERTAINMENT: The Fly-In headliners who appear in the theater on Crystal are really not much different than what you get on other cruise lines with older demographics. AVENUE SALOON PIANO BAR: Last year it was the very talented Jeff Deutch in the Avenue Saloon. Jeff had an amazing memory of songs and lyrics from the Great America Songbook. He is out of Chicago and has been a jingle singer on some national commercials. I wrote last year that I would be happy to pay an admission or a cover to hear Jeff play. On our 2015 trip it was New Yorker Marcie Castro at the piano also aided with CD tracks. On many nights Marcie and the audience had something in common. They had no idea what was next. Marcie did what most piano bar signers have to do. If a passenger asks to sing a song, they let them. If the passenger is awful, that is it…one song. In Marcie's case she would often have them do a medley. One night she had two passengers who I'll call the Screech Sisters do three songs, forcing me to say goodnight and making a fast exit. Another singer was a very gay gentleman from London who on one night wore a pink boa with the tux. He did a great impersonation of Ethel Mermen doing "There's No Business Like Show Business." However he could not do Betty Hutton's version from the movie. Marcie would often stop playing the piano and walk out in the room raising her arms and yelling to get more participation in a sing-a-long. Some people loved her energy and the fun even if it looked like a Prozac might be needed. For others it was too much. "I don't need a maniac after dinner," one passenger said. But if Marcie was too much, Paula the bartender provided her own entertainment that was worth a visit. THE TOMMY DORSEY ORCHESTRA: This was a big band and dancing cruise. The 18-piece Tommy Dorsey band plus a singer with almost no range were on board for the 16-day cruise from New York to Dover. I like big bands, but these guys were going through the motions. It was not the fault of the musicians, but the leader was pulling the reins keeping them from really swinging. The stuck to 70-year charts. A number of the musicians would go to the theater at two in the morning and jam. Others would sit in with Marcie in the Avenue Saloon after their last set and put down some jazz. The sad thing about this was the timing of the shows. The people enjoying the band would fill the Starlite room at 7:15 to 8:30. But the after dinner set from 9:30 to 11 the room would be empty. People 70 and older had gone to bed. The people 65 and younger found the charts from the 1940 's boring and went to the top deck and listened to the Filipino cover band and danced. One night I counted five people listening to the Dorsey Band's late set. The men brought on board to dance with single ladies were also upstairs. If the cruise director was smart he would have had the Dorsey band's first set start at 5 pm and the second set at 7:15. HOUSE TRIO: This year the trio that played during teas and in the evening in the Palm Court was the In-Transit Trio with a lead female singer, pianist who also played sax. They were from New Zealand with a guitar player from Australia. They were very good. I did make a suggestion that they should do one set with no ballads, just up tempo songs and call it In Transit, In Overdrive. TRIVIA: Crystal's trivia games were very civilized last year. There was just one game a day on sea days only with cheap prizes to reduce the level of competition. They made it even more civilized this year. It is multiply guess. They hand out remote clickers, put the question on the screen and you have 60 seconds to click on the right answer. The prizes are small amounts off for overpriced items in the shops or a few bucks to use in the casino. Having seen some aggressive behavior by some playing trivia on HAL and Celebrity ships, I like the Crystal way much better. TRAVEL AGENT PROVIDED FREE LAUNDRY For the second year our travel agent David Butterfield of All Cruise Travel in Sacramento provided $500 in our shipboard account. $200 went to our daily laundry. The rest went toward tips for crew members that were all augmented with cash. EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: I noticed this on our 2014 cruise when Paul McFarland was the cruise director and again this year with the more laid back Scott Peterson. On the short morning close circuit TV weather and activities report starring the cruise director that is recorded the night before and replayed all morning long there is a credit roll at the end. Normally with movies and TV shows the Executive Producer is either the guy putting up the money or controlling the business end of the operation. Oddly after a 12 or 15 minute long weather report plus what on the schedule the credit roll listed the cruise director as the EXECUTIVE PRODUCER. That leaves me to wonder if they are bankrolling the show or negotiating a syndication deal. DEBARKATION: No sitting in a theater waiting for a number or color to be called. We walked off to a waiting car and driver for the ride to Heathrow. With other cruise lines I have missed flights home or had to rush to get to an airport. That has never been the case with Crystal. PORTS: Just like embarkation and debarkation, getting on and off the ship at ports was easy with no waiting. When using tenders to get ashore, Crystal is the best we have ever experienced. There is actually legroom on the tenders and the crew does not keep stuffing people on tenders until they are overflowing. I cannot say enough nice things about Crystal's tender operations. BAR HARBOR: Just like the last three years, Enterprise was at the dock and the ride to airport to get our car was very pleasant. We did our usual exploring down roads not on the map and had a fine time. We stopped in Southwest Harbor at Charlotte's Legendary Lobster Pound for lunch. It was a walk up drive-in with picnic tables. We found it a little overpriced and not very good. The first clue should have been that we were the first customers of the day. After returning our car at the Airport, Ashley at the Enterprise office was nice enough to go out of her way to drop off my wife downtown and me at the dock. The rental car was far cheaper than any tour offered on the ship. HALIFAX: For years we have avoided going to Peggy's Cove the top tourist spot south of Halifax. My wife decided she wanted to see why the cruise ship sells seats on a tour bus there. We would advise you to skip this in the height of the summer season. On June 15 with many schools still in session the parking lots were 80% full. I have a feeling this would be a nightmare in July. Once again we rented an Enterprise car. The rental office was across the street from the cruise ship terminal in the railroad station. The best part was they had a return lot that was even closer to the ship. After Peggy's Cove that feature a collision between two tour buses on a narrow road on the day of our visit, we headed south along the coast road to Lunenburg one of the prettiest coastal towns anywhere. We stopped at a local seasonal market and bought some local preserves and jellies as gifts. ST. JOHN'S STATE OF MIND: We were really looking forward to visiting St. John's Newfoundland. We were there in 2010 and had a great time with a rental car meeting people and enjoying coastal towns. In 2014 Symphony was supposed to stop in St. John's but cancelled due to icebergs and fog. This year they cancelled again. The ship could safely get into the harbor, but forecasted high winds meant the ship would have to stay in harbor overnight and delay its arrival to Reykjavik. So we ended up with five sea days. REYKJAVIK, ICELAND: Rather than renting a car, we did a four hour taxi tour. Keep in mind that since the 2009 banking collapse, everything still costs a lot more in Iceland. Last year a 45-minute taxi ride from the dock to the airport cost $175. So $325 for four hours seemed reasonable. Our driver/guide was Gundmundur Birgir Stefansson, who does four hour and four day tours of Iceland. He was excellent. I told him we had seen most tourist locations on past trips and asked to see subdivisions, seaside areas away from tourist and places where the locals like to go. This resulted in the good natured trip to the prison, which was actually in front a pretty village with a different Smurf cutout in yards throughout the village. Of course this is not too unusual in a country where a large percentage of the population believe in elves. We had a fun time with Birgir and would recommend him. His email address is birgirstefans@gmail.com HEIMAEY: The City of Heimaey was our next stop the following day. This town was almost swallowed by lava in 1973 with the lava flow stopping just several hundred feet from the edge of the city of 4,300 people. On the other side of the island there are green fields with goats, horses and even a golf course with the sea and volcanic cliffs as backdrops. Heimaey is on an island that is less than 10 square miles. We rented a car from Europcar. Despite making reservations for the car weeks in advance, no one was at the dock. A young lady hired to assist ship passengers called the company and the woman at the airport said no one had reminded her about the dock drop off. She was dock side in five minutes. The airport is just 2 miles from the dock. She works five days a week in the control tower and on her days off she works for the rent-a-car company. Only small commuter planes serve the island along with a car ferry. This was one of the sightseeing highlights of the trip. There were so many wonderful sights in such a condensed area. Even a drive to the industrial side of the docks revealed several amazing views. Plus we drove down a number of dirt roads that could never hold a tour bus. Often we were all by ourselves with our mouths wide open at what we were seeing. We had asked the car rental lady if we should bring the car back to her airport office. The car had just above a half tank of gas and she told us not to bother buying gas, that in four hours we wouldn't being using that much. She then told us to just leave the car at the dock and she would pick it up later. I asked her what I should do with the keys. She said, "Just leave them in the car. Nobody is going to steal it." I have to say that I appreciated that Crystal included a stop at Heimaey on our cruise. GREENOCK/GLASGOW: We have driven Scotland before and decided to skip taking a 45-minute train ride to Glasgow. My wife walked the downtown area of Greenock and had a fine time. DUBLIN: Here is an example why you should always get along with your tablemates on cruises. On a 2011 Celebrity Cruise on the old Century from Vancouver to Alaska and then to San Diego we were at a table of six, with a couple from England and a couple from Dublin. In 2014 the couple from outside of London decided to fly to Chicago, rent a car for 30 days and follow the lyrics of the Bobby Troupe song "Route Sixty-Six." They stayed three nights with us outside of St. Louis as they did the 2,000 miles along the way. 2015 it was the turn of Ronan and Katherine in Dublin. They met us at the ship at 10 am. A four or five hour tour would have been great. Instead we apparently held them hostage all day. We got an insider's view of the Dublin region, including lunch at a country club and dinner at their home. 12 1/2 hours later we were dropped off back at the ship. While we would have liked to have paid for something, we couldn't. An all day tour plus meals…total cost ZERO. Lesson learned…make friends at the cruise ship dinner table. PORTLAND HARBOR/WEYMOUTH: No longer wishing to drive on the left side of the road in what is left of my life, we arranged for a taxi tour with the Weyline Taxi Company after reading a recommendation on Cruise Critic. We were quoted a price of 38 pounds an hour. I must of misread the email. We were only charged 30-pounds an hour. It was a bargain for a great afternoon in the English countryside. We were met dockside by Mandy Fry, the manager of Weyline Taxi and our driver. Our driver/guide in a new Mercedes was John McGill a recently retired member of England's Armed Defense Police Force. We saw the countryside of England and many small villages that could have easily been featured in an episode of Midsomer Murders. We enjoyed this afternoon more than we expected. It was a treat. We recommend that you contact Mandy at Weyline Taxi at info@weyline.com and if you arrange a tour ask for John McGill to be your driver and guide. GETTING THERE AND GETTING HOME: It used to be living in the Midwest a trip from St. Louis to New York or the West Coast was considered a major flight. Not any more, unless you are flying Southwest. The 1100 miles from St. Louis to New York is now handled by commuter planes under contract to the major carriers. The disadvantage is you are in a crowded smaller airplane. The advantage is that flying first class on Delta-Light is a lot cheaper than flying first class on Big Delta. We flew to New York the day before the cruise. On the way there we decided to go first class and booked a suite at the Waldorf Astoria towers. Okay it was $612 for the one night. We were unaware that the Waldorf had been sold to a group of Chinese investors and the entire hotel was to close in 2017 for four years. The tower suites are supposed to be made into condos with only a portion of the original hotel returning as a hotel in 2021. Getting to the Waldorf was a bit of a challenge. We normally use Arecibo Car Service (855-428-0222). Once outside of the baggage claim at LaGuardia I called for a car and one was there in 15 minutes, which actually is a little long for Arecibo. The driver was pleasant for not speaking any English and he had an excellent ability to drive on traffic choked highways and Manhattan streets. The problem was that he had no idea where the Waldorf Astoria Hotel was. It may as well have been in Atlanta. An hour later we arrived and the fare was only $45. A NIGHT AT THE WALDORF: Check in was confusing. The staff at the garage drop off sent us to the wrong desk for check in. The hotel looked great including our small suite. However a closer look showed the chairs in the room and the lobby well worn and frayed and other furniture scratched, chipped and nicked. The view from the room was great. That night we ate at a restaurant five blocks away. We got back to the hotel a little before 9 o'clock sat in the lobby having decided to "people watch." 45 minutes later as we were about to leave Emilee Floor showed up and started to play the piano in the lobby café. This meant another hour plus a bill for drinks. Emilee was a treat, but the volume on her mic and amp made it impossible to hear her unless you were at a nearby table. She also plays at the Plaza. The free breakfast on the 16th floor was very nice with one exception. Our room key was suppose to allow us entry. It didn't, forcing us to knock loudly to get in. We had a late checkout of 1 o'clock which allowed my wife to do some shopping and for us to return to sandwiches and sweets. TO THE SHIP: We called Arecibo Car Service and they had no one who could pick up up. The doorman found a black car owned by Alex Lara. He knew exactly where he was going and got us there quickly for a price that was twice as high at what Arecibo would charge. I was happy to pay. Alex assured us he would be happy to pick us up in 17 days at JFK and drop us at our hotel near LaGuardia. He took our Icelandair flight information. He was a no show. HOMEWARD BOUND: Once we docked a Parker Car Service driver from London was waiting for us at the Dover docks. Crystal claimed the trip would take 2 1/2 to 3-hours to Heathrow. Parker had told me when I made the reservation a month earlier it would be about two hours. We were dropped off 1-hour 45-minutes later. The ride was so smooth I slept half the way to the airport. Icelandair is the only Trans Atlantic carrier that we can afford to fly first class on. Two hours in the first class lounge was followed by entering a time machine. We were taken back to Nordic pilots with blond hair and blue eyes and flight attendants in pillbox hats that closely resembled Ursula Andrews or Anita Ekberg. The only drawback is that you have to fly back to Reykjavik and change planes. However, for the price and the experience it is worth it. NEW YORK NEW YORK: Of course our new black car buddy Alex was nowhere to be found once we were at JFK. We called and he called someone who was home eating dinner north of the Airport. 30 minutes later Lakeram picked us up. We were quickly at the hotel and charged a steep price of $70. The Marriott Suites at La Guardia at $212 would have been fine with one exception…the soft lumpy mattress. Despite being jet lagged the mattress reduced our sleep time to about six hours. On the plus side the staff was very nice and the blueberry muffins at the free breakfast where outstanding. MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS: The Delta Lite jet pushed back from the gate in NY 35- minutes late, but we arrived at Lambert Field in St. Louis (which is actually closer to Ferguson than St. Louis) five minutes ahead of schedule. Do you think they anticipate delays at LaGuardia? Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
Mr. B. and I have cruised 24 times, including on two defunct lines (Premier and Renaissance), once on Carnival and several times each on HAL, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. We have gone once on Azamara and once on Oceania, both of which ... Read More
Mr. B. and I have cruised 24 times, including on two defunct lines (Premier and Renaissance), once on Carnival and several times each on HAL, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. We have gone once on Azamara and once on Oceania, both of which did not meet our high expectations. Oceania was fabulous in many details but somebody evidently decided that our sailing should serve gourmet nursing home food, so we were extremely disappointed in that respect. The food just was not seasoned! On Azamara, the food was very good but the hotel desk was so uncaring that we actually felt unwanted, on that ship. This time, our first Crystal and our first Trans-Atlantic, we had even higher expectations than for Azamara and Oceania (for good reason). Crystal exceeded our expectations. The big things included a dinner menu that catered to our palate, perfectly, and an enrichment program that was beyond belief. Our nine-night cruise was scheduled to have five at-sea days but ended up with six when we weren't able to go into St. John's, Newfoundland. This meant five at-sea days in a row. What did we do? On most of those days, we attended ALL FOUR of the speakers' presentations. And btw, there were actually eight different presenters on board. And if we missed a presentation (e.g., once we took a dance class), we could watch it any time throughout the day, on the t.v. I watched the missed one, at 5 pm on the treadmill! Very nice exercise room -- including interesting assortment of exercise equipment outside aft on decks 7, 8 and 9 for a bit of a different approach to fitness. Entertainment was very good and we enjoyed it all. Cruise director was a true professional and definitely added to our enjoyment. Service was outstanding in all dining venues. We opted for Dine by Reservation, and many evenings we ate at 7 or 7:30, which we prefer to Early or Late. Here's one example of the little things that added to our loving this cruise. After we boarded and picked up our room keys, we went to the library. Mr. B. had not brought any books with him. What did he find? The two books at the top of his to-read list! Mussolini and the Pope and Dead Wake were both there, available to borrow. Also, there were many activities we never participated in. There's knitting, golf, art, and movies. There's bingo; there's trivia; theres a small group magic show. What a great array of choices. Because we had Dine by Reservation, there were a few times where there was no live music for us to enjoy, with a pre-dinner drink. Many times, though, we had a choice of the Crystal Cove, the Avenue Saloon, the Starlite Club and the Palm Court, all providing live music, both before and after dinner. Besides the main dining room and the two specialty restaurants for dinner, plus a few breakasts and lunches in the main dining room, we enjoyed the Lido for breakfast and lunch buffets, and lunch at the Trident Grill once. The Bistro is a great place for a snack and coffee or glass of wine, open from right after breakfast to either 8 or 10 pm or similar. Plenty of breakfast items for anybody who might've missed breakfast. Plenty of fresh fruit and sweets for anybody who had a sugar craving. Cheese and crackers (many choices) to go with wine. Ben and Jerry's ice cream, with many flavor choices, is available every day until 6 pm. I had planned to go to afternoon tea, at least once, but it conflicted with an enrichment speaker each time. Two food items we missed were blueberries in the Lido for breakfast and anchovies to go with the Caesar salad. I told Mr. B. we should bring on our own tin of anchovies, on the next three Crystal cruises we've booked! We are so glad we tried a crystal while we are still young enough (under 70) to enjoy so much of it, and the great itineraries. From start to finish -- totally smooth and quick embarkation and disembarkation -- and everything in between, we loved this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
This was my 1st Crystal cruise and I had high expectations. Most of my cruising has been on Celebrity which I enjoy. I have been on Azamara and Oceania, both of which disappointed me. On Azamara to Antarctica I had multiple complaints and ... Read More
This was my 1st Crystal cruise and I had high expectations. Most of my cruising has been on Celebrity which I enjoy. I have been on Azamara and Oceania, both of which disappointed me. On Azamara to Antarctica I had multiple complaints and on Oceania, the service was great but the food I described as "Gourmet Nursing Home" because it had absolutely no taste and no seasonings. Our boarding went smoothly and efficiently. The first thing I saw on embarking was the library so I walked in an immediately found many very recent books, two of which I checked out. The cabin, as others have said, is small but who stays in the cabin? There was plenty of space for our clothes and it was nice to have both a shower and a tub. The Muster drill was disorganized. At first they didn't want your cabin # which is strange cause how would they know who was there. Eventually they took the #'s. To me, the food on the ship was superb. On the 1st night, I had a Halibut dish that was as good as I have ever had. The 2nd night I had Lobster, cooked perfectly. I was impressed that my soup was ALWAYS hot, which is a must for me. The salads were fresh and my meat was always cooked perfectly (red warm center). The choices were varied and unlike Oceania, they seasoned the food! The specialty restaurants were OK but not significantly better than the main dining room, which I enjoyed. We had dining by reservation which worked out superbly. The wait staff was efficient, knowledgeable and professional. I don't need to be coddled. Most of the time we had breakfast and lunch in the Lido and I was totally satisfied.(Fresh squeezed OJ is a must) The enrichment program was unbelievably good. We learned about the Titanic and the munitions explosion in Halifax harbor, heard talks about Broadway and the movies,the geology of the areas we were visiting and heard from Luke Zamperini (the son of Louis from Unbroken)and Leo Thorness, a Medal of Honor recipient and a POW who spent 6 years in the Hanoi Hilton. The 1 man show by Jim Brochu was worth the price of a NYC theater ticket. The music on board was good with Bruce at the piano, the Tommy Orchestra and other groups around the ship. The singers and dancers were very good and Scot, the cruise director was professional and excellent. I enjoyed his morning show that I watch as I struggled to get my 4 miles in on the treadmill in the fitness center. While some aspects of the cruise were "average" (the cabin stewardess), I really had nothing that I could or would complain about. We booked 3 more cruises while on board and I am looking forward to sailing on crystal in the future. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
This was my first Crystal Cruise and I may never go back to any other cruise line. Their single supplement is the most generous by far and enables me to cruise alone or even have my own stateroom when cruising with friends. The ... Read More
This was my first Crystal Cruise and I may never go back to any other cruise line. Their single supplement is the most generous by far and enables me to cruise alone or even have my own stateroom when cruising with friends. The entertainment was wonderful every night, even the ventriloquist that I was reluctant to go see. He was hilarious. I loved the stateroom, more luxurious than most of the ships I have been on. It was by far my most pleasant cruise experience. We never had to wait. No lines to get on, just walked onboard and up to the check-in desk (again, no line). It took two minutes and then we were taken into the dining room for lunch. It was such a pleasure not to be continually harassed to buy a wine or soda package or get the bottled water before going on shore. There were no gold chains by the yard or tee shirts for sale in the lobby each evening and no announcements in the stateroom. I didn't try any of the specialty dining rooms on this cruise but I will on the next as I hear they are wonderful. The food was excellent but no quite up to Regent's Alaska cruise where they had fresh shrimp, crab and seafood aplenty. Still, the food was great and there was a place to eat open during all waking hours. I can't say too much about the ports as I didn't go for the ports but for the cruise itself. It was cold and rainy and I didn't even get off the ship in several places. Quebec City was beautiful and easy to get around. Thank you Crystal, I will be back. Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
After spending 12 days on the Crystal Symphony I am convinced that Crystal is clearly the cruise line for wealthy alcoholics. The all inclusive fare included everything at most bars with the exception the most expensive wine or brandy on ... Read More
After spending 12 days on the Crystal Symphony I am convinced that Crystal is clearly the cruise line for wealthy alcoholics. The all inclusive fare included everything at most bars with the exception the most expensive wine or brandy on the market...but what most folks call the "good stuff" all arrived with a smile and no bill. Our first night on the ship we were in the Avenue Saloon listening to a top notch pianist and singer. The place was crowded and a nice man originally from London looked at my wife and announced, "I'm pissed!" I told my wife that he wasn't mad or upset, but he was merely drunk. In talking with him he had just downed five rather full snifters of brandy. This was just the start of an interesting vacation. ARRIVAL: Our Southwest Flight to LaGuardia Airport was on time. We met a young man at the baggage counsel who was from Fulton, Missouri and was going to spend his summer with his uncle in Manhattan while he worked in the financial district as a college intern. It was his first time to New York so we offered to give him a lift with our car service. We called Arecibo Car Service (855-428-0222 or 718-783-6465) and a black car picked us up in about seven minutes. The trip in congested Sunday traffic (due to a bridge closure for construction) to the kid's uncle's apartment and then to the Manhattan Pier was just $55. The next day my wife used Arecibo to get back to the ship from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was the longest we have ever had to wait for a black car...10 minutes. The fare was $15. Embarkation: This was the easiest embarkation we have ever had. We showed our computer tickets at the gangway and were ushered onto the ship where a table of five of the ship's crew took our photos and gave us room keycards. THERE WAS NO WAITING. Early on I was really liking Crystal. While embarkation was on June 1 they ship didn't actually set sail until 6pm on June 2. While Crystal may be considered one of the more expensive cruise ships around, a non-balcony stateroom was cheaper than any Manhattan hotel room and we were right in Manhattan. STATEROOM: The only way we were going to be able to go on a Crystal Cruise was to do so in a non-balcony stateroom on the Promenade Deck (deck 7). When the brochure arrived in the mail with the non-balcony stateroom at $3,200 for a 12-day cruise, my wife had me call immediately. Instead of reaching employees of Crystal, I learned that the two-ship cruise line has private travel agents take calls and do bookings. I got David Butterfield of All Cruise Travel in San Jose. He said there were still a few cabins available. I told him I needed to call our house/dog sitter before I could book. Our dog sitter was available and I called David back within an hour. In that time all the cabins were reserved and we were waitlisted. After about a month we were guaranteed stateroom at the low price. We found the stateroom on Deck 7 to be larger than the three balcony staterooms on Cunard cruises we took in 2013. The bathroom was also much bigger and easy to get around. It was amazing how there was always hot water, regardless of the time of day or peak demand period. I'm not talking "warm" water, but "hot" water. The only complaints about the stateroom was that the furniture and desk chair were so low it was difficult to get up and the lack of electrical outlets. We asked for a multi outlet extension plug or cord. Our room stewardess could not provide it. Instead an electrician showed up with both. The room's window was slightly above the Promenade Deck so we would only see walker's heads and they could not easily look into the room. A lifeboat was above the window, but we had a clear view straight out of the window. The TV/DVD player and CD player in our lower-priced stateroom was far superior to what we had on the three Cunard cruises in 2013. While this was advertised as an "all-inclusive" cruise our stateroom laundry service was not free. Use of the washing machines and dryers on each deck was free...but if you wanted to send your laundry out it cost. However thanks to our travel agent David Butterfield who had given us $600 in on ship credits which more than paid for our laundry. FOOD: Main Dining Room: The food ranged from excellent to very good with more "excellent" meals than those in the "very good" category. Unlike Cunard waiters last October who refused to go off the menu for diner requests, our Hungarian waiter Zoltan seemed to relish getting us items not on the menu. Plus he did so with a wonderful sense of humor. Everyone at our table commented that they have never had a better waiter on a cruise ship than Zoltan. The only place where the Symphony got a low mark in the food was one night when they claimed they were serving "Clam Chowder with Saffron." Like all cruise lines where we were doing New England or West Coast cruises, the advertised clam chowder was not clam chowder or even close to Clam Chowder. In this case it was a yellow puree that while tasty didn't resemble or taste like Clam Chowder. The Lido buffet restaurant was excellent. Although when they had a specialty day, like "Chinese" there were not a lot of other options. That said, I had the best tasting Orange Chicken I have ever experienced anywhere in the Lido buffet line. Unlike Holland America or Celebrity where often the deserts looked better than they tasted, on Crystal the deserts tasted just as good as they looked. The Afternoon grill on Deck 11 was great. Cooks Gabriel and Reye not only did a good job on the menu items, they also would make you anything they had ingredients for. Frankly the hamburgers were good, but maybe not as good as the ones I had on the Celebrity Century. But the grilled hot dogs were great. Where the staff really shined was making things not on the menu. You wanted a BLT or a BLT wrap...it wasn't on the menu, but it was brought to your table. You wanted a hot ham and cheese wrap...it was not on the menu, but it was done to perfection and cut into four pieces for sharing. There was no waiting in line at the Grill like on most ships. You place your order and one of the waiters would find your table. ICE CREAM: The ship featured Vermont's Benjamin and Jerald's finest. Besides Ben and Jerry's they also had low fat frozen yogurt at the ice cream bar on Deck 11. However the ice cream stand was only open from 11:30am to 6pm. SPECIALTY RESTAURANTS; We were too late to make a reservation at the Asian or Italian specialty restaurants, however everyone we spoke with gave them high marks. These were free also for two visits on the cruise and then there were charges. SNACKS: One bar on Deck 5 offered a cold table of food throughout the day from breakfast through 6pm. It included fresh fruit, pastries, cheeses and other treats. EXTRAS: The appetizers served with the early evening entertainment on Deck 11 and late night in venues on Deck 5 were also outstanding. TEA TIME: Here is the thing about Tea Time on the Symphony...not only did they serve finger sandwiches, scones and tea...if you wanted anything else from the bar area it was yours for the asking. On Cunard there was a line (queue for our British friends) just to get into the tea room. Not so on Crystal. There were almost no lines for anything. If you had to find a complaint it might have been the service was too attentive at times. The food was so good you had to pace yourself. I normally skipped breakfast and had lunch and the late dinner. ENTERTAINMENT: Movies: For the most part the movies were first run with only an occasional classic: like Tootsie, In fact when we returned home I had to remove a couple of movies from my Netflix list that I saw on the ship. PIANO BAR: The piano entertainer is featured in the Avenue Saloon. For this cruise it was Jeff Deutsch. He was outstanding. I would pay a cover to go see Jeff perform. He had an amazing memory of the American Songbook. He would perform the Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hart and Jerome Kern songs with the long versions written for Broadway and the movies. Jeff is from Chicago and used to do jingle singing on well known national TV and radio commercials. He also used to work on jingles with Bonnie Herman who was the female vocalist for the great jazz singing group, The Singers Unlimited. Listening to Jeff and talking to him on the ship was a treat. I'd have to rate him with Jimmy Maddox on HAL as one of the best cruise ship piano bar entertainers I have seen. The ship did cancel their string quartet going with a single pianist on Deck 4 for late afternoon and evening music. Joe Fos performs on the keyboard and is very good. Like Deutsch, I never saw Fos show up with any sheet music...a huge number of songs were all in his head. THE MAIN STAGE: The youngsters doing the singing and dancing in the main theater were the usual that you see on most cruise lines. FLY-IN GUESTS: This area I found Crystal to be like other cruise lines. The Fly-In entertainers ranged from average to very good. SPEAKER SERIES: I thought Cunard had a very good Speaker Series guest list. Crystal is as good with interesting speakers who were polished having done their presentations for a number of years. SPECIAL GUEST ENTERTAINMENT...THE VERY GOOD AND THE VERY ANNOYING: The cruise was billed as a "Jazz Cruise" and featured Jazzdagen. Fortunately the group included Yve Evans out of Palm Springs, a gifted pianist and signer. She would also raise her voice to a comical pitch occasionally during performances and inject comedy bits. She was great and a favorite with the passengers. Also appearing was Nicki Parrott, who was simply an outstanding and amazing jazz vocalist and bass player. She ranks near the top of living female jazz singers I have seen in the last five years. Unfortunately the leader of Jazzdagen didn't let her perform in a trio or quartet setting with just one exception when she did a 45-minute midday set. The annoying: Besides a very good drummer, Danny Coots, from Nashville there was a pianist who brought along his four-string banjo, the leader of the group was with a saxophone, a clarinet and one of those awful little soprano saxophones, plus a clarinetist from Finland. Nicki Parrott was forced to play the bass with these guys night after night as they played ragtime and Dixieland music at about 120 decibels. It was somewhat entertaining for two or three nights and then began to be simply annoying changing to irritating by the end of the cruise. It was a shame that the cruise was advertised as a "Jazz Cruise" and the most talented performers were not allowed to play any jazz. AT SEA ACTIVITIES: Watercolor: My wife is an artist and can be rather critical of cruise ship instructors. But she had only nice things to say about the two English woman putting on the watercolor classes. Knitting and Needlepoint: Talking to people, including my wife who went to the needlepoint classes, I heard not one complaint...which is high praise for a cruise ship sailing out of New York. Trivia: This was the most civilized trivia I have ever played on a cruise ship. On Holland America the teams would get nasty and often be unfairly rude to the staffer giving the quiz. I happened to win an overall trivia contest on a Celebrity ship and noticed after I got the prizes some folks stopped being pleasant. Cunard was more civilized but the quizzes were geared toward people from the Unite Kingdom. However all the other cruise lines had trivia contests three and four times a day. Crystal had just one game at noon time on sea days only. The prizes were only a few dollars of credit at the casino, in a clothing store or at the photo shop. It helped eliminate the crazy competitiveness. BINGO was not part of the all inclusive part of the cruise. You had to buy your cards. The staffers calling the games were actually some the worst I ever heard. While not being a bingo player, a friend of mine and I would go to the Bingo games on the Queen Elizabeth just to watch "Laura" of the cruise director's staff work the crowd. Outside activities: I have to confess there was cool temperatures and high winds often as we crossed the North Atlantic and I did not spend much time outside. However the outside areas were always well staffed and there was never a shortage of very nice large towels. Library: While the library did not come close to matching the one on the Queen Mary, it was one of the nicest I have seen. The really nice thing about the library were the hours. It was open for several hours in the morning, longer in the afternoon and then again in the evening until 11pm. Also it had a wide assortment of DVDs to check out. Port of Calls: New York, NY: I Love New York in June, how about you? I love a Gershwin Tune, how about you? Well my wife loves New York having spent some time working there and attending some classes in Manhattan. Me on the other hand...I'm not too crazy with big cities and traffic when I'm on vacation. We checked in on the ship at about 5:15. I went and took a nap. After dinner we walked around the ship. It was nice to be in New York for parts of two days. On Monday my wife was ready to go. She spent time shopping and at the Metropolitan Art Museum. She walked in the morning and used our favorite car service in afternoon. This was the first time I have been on a ship leaving New York Harbor where there was room for the views. We were able to sit in the forward lounge on Deck 11 and see everything without a pushing crowd to fight. Another problem on some cruise lines that depart from New York is there are too many "New Yorkers" on board. This time there were New Yorkers but they were some wonderful people who were fun to be around. The most obnoxious people were actually from somewhere over 1,000 miles from New York. Newport, Rhode Island: This was our third time in Newport. The most recent time was last October on a New England-Canada cruise on the Queen Mary out of New York. We did what we usually do...rent a car and get as far away from tourists as possible. We have seen the mansions and after doing St. Petersburg last summer spending time in Russian palaces, we had no desire to see the puny Newport palaces again. Last fall we went north out of town. This year we went south. The recent college grad at Enterprise Rent-a-Car suggested we take the southern coastal road and be sure to stop at Monahan's Clam Shack. It was great advice. The drive was fun and Monahan's had some great Clam Chowder, clam strips and Lobster Rolls, which were done the Rhode Island and Connecticut way, served hot with butter, instead of cold with mayo like you get in Maine. There were no tourists, but plenty of construction people and other locals. We ate at a picnic table with a retired cop who lived in the area. BOSTON: Another big city with some of the worst traffic in America. I slept in and my wife used mass transit to get to the Kennedy Museum. She was somewhat disappointed with the overt political correctness at the museum. She spent six dollars on transportation. Definitely cheaper than a ship's tour. Bar Harbor: We have been to Bar Harbor a number of times. Last fall we rented a car and went north. On this adventure we wanted to confirm something. There was a restaurant review in the NY Times raving about Cappy's, an inexpensive seafood and chowder house in Camden, Maine. We drove west and then south for about 80 miles, with half of the trip having waterfront views. Once we got to Camden Cappy's was easy to find and the New York Times was correct. Not only was the chowder great...the onion rings were worth the drive alone. On the way back we took our time in the rain and even stopped at a L.L. Bean outlet store. The free drive by Enterprise Rent-a-Car to and from their airport office was a fun sightseeing trip by itself. We are never far from Bar Harbor as my wife the artist, has a large painting of the Bar Harbor town square hanging in our living room. We used a tender at both Newport and Bar Harbor. More Kudos for Crystal. This was the first time I found leg room and was not packed like sardines on a cruise ship tender. It was the first time in memory where the tender rides were pleasant and passenger were not squeezed onto uncomfortable seats. Halifax, Nova Scotia: I have always wanted to drive to Digby, NS which claims to be the Scallop Capital of North America. I know American chefs who claim Digby scallops are the best. I don't even like scallops, but I have always wanted to see the place but we have never had enough time from Halifax. This trip was no exception. This time we again rented a car and used the back roads. We were happy that Enterprise had run out of cars and rented us a large SUV, because the roads we took were in awful condition, apparently unrepaired from a difficult winter. In a low to the ground sedan our fillings would have been knocked loose. We discovered the wooden Walton Lighthouse, that is maintained by volunteers. The volunteers were doing a better job than most government park services. The grounds, parking lot and restrooms were spotless. Tourists were on the honor system for buying hardback books about the area and the donation box was unattended in the lighthouse. Fracking was a big political issue as we saw signs along rural highways with working class homes scattered along the way all against fracking. We made it to Windsor. A lady at the gas station told us we needed to try Lisa's Cafe. She was right. It was not as good as Cappy's but still it was pretty good with a fine bowl of Fish Chowder. It was the last chowder we would see on our vacation, regardless what the ship's menu claimed a few nights later. St. John's Newfoundland: This was perhaps the stop I was most looking forward to. Since we would be there on Sunday and for only six hours, I was going to have to take a cab to the airport for a rent a car, because no one picks you up on a Sunday in St. John's. Then I was going to drive through the pretty town full of Victorian Homes and head south down the coast road to the "City of Fairyland"...I kid you not. I was there once before and loved the place. There is a restaurant that is a favorite with locals just north of Fairyland. That was to be our last stop for chowder on the vacation. But none of this happened. The Symphony's captain announced after we left Halifax that due to heavy fog conditions and a large amount of icebergs off the coast of Newfoundland, they were cancelling the stop in St. John's. I can understand that a cruise line with only two ships, doesn't want one to meet an iceberg at the start of the summer season. However, I have the feeling the service and rations on a lifeboat would have exceeded all expectations. Reykjavik, Iceland: Like the beginning the end consisted of two days on ship in port. Iceland is so beautiful you don't know what way to go. We were there 10 days before the summer solstice and sunset was around midnight and sunrise was at 3am, but it never really got dark. Due to the Iceland's banking collapse in 2009 the economy is still hurting. Everything is very expensive. Private tours and rent-a-cars were going for $300 for about four hours in 2010. It has gotten pricier. A 40-minute cab ride to the airport costs $168. Once again Crystal made life easier. They had free shuttle bus service from the ship into the downtown area of Reykjavik. The city and the people are just as charming as on our other three visits to Iceland. At the art museum the credit card machine was being repaired so we got in free. TIPS: I mentioned the on-board credit my travel agent provided at the beginning of this review. I brought cash to tip the staff, but the service was so good I wanted to tip more than the amount of cash on hand. I was able to combine the remainder of my on-board credit and credit card on file to leave appropriate tips for all the excellent service. Since there were no bar bills where I could leave cash tips, I took to leave one and five dollar bills under glasses that would be cleared by the servers. Departure: Getting off the ship was as easy as getting on. We simply walked off with no crowds or anxious people. The cab driver was excellent with very good English skills (as most people in Iceland have) and informative. Anytime we go to Europe whether it be London, Amsterdam or other major airports we always fly Icelandair. We take Southwest to an American Airport that is served by Icelandair. Not only are the flight crews great, it is the only airline in the world that we can afford to fly first class on. Our only complaint about this vacation was we will be taking fewer cruises in the future so we can save up for another Crystal Cruise. I have to admit we were spoiled and we liked it.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
I had great hopes after reading reviews on this company. what I found is that my husband and I are not a "good fit" for Crystal. On this trip while the passengers were nice we were younger than most of them who had been on ... Read More
I had great hopes after reading reviews on this company. what I found is that my husband and I are not a "good fit" for Crystal. On this trip while the passengers were nice we were younger than most of them who had been on numerous cruises with Crystal some from when Crystal was started. The atmosphere to me is one of a "Country Club" with the majority of the cruisers being well educated repeat cruisers in their 70s who share similar interests etc. Most seem to like the all inclusive plan of cruising. For those of us who use alcohol sparingly this can feel like we are not getting good value for our cruise $. I would prefer to pay for my beverages alcohol and non-alcohol . I found the ship to feel dated, lacking the glamor of newer ships e.g. the carpets were fraying in areas. I was told that the ship will go to dry stock in September in Germany for 21 days. It is easy to navigate being a smaller ship. Our cabin 8135 a balcony at the end of the hall in the stern felt cramped. The furnishings were similar to what I have experienced on Princess. Nothing special. The advantage of our location at the end of the hall was that it was quiet with minimal foot traffic compared to where we usually have our cabin mid-ship. Food was consistently excellent and the service in dining room good. The lido deck does not serve dinner and for me this was a negative as I don't always want to spend the time going to the dining room for dinner. I wish the calorie content with nutritional content of the food for at least a few items would be stated. Knowing the calorie and nutrition content would aid passengers wanting to eat healthy to do so. The trident grill could be crowded at peak times and service could be improved by increasing staffing. Crystal has changed vendors for the stores on symphony so the stores were closed the 1st days at sea for restocking. I found the new vendors to be expensive, clothing jewelry and perfume. I prefer the vendors on Princess which have clothing items that are more reasonable in cost and fit my life style in retirement . I don't buy high end jewelry and my active retirement community does not permit us to wear perfumes to events or while working out in gym. The gym is small and I heard some of passengers complain that there was insufficient room for the stretching classes. My husband commented that the spin bikes were old and he was told the bikes would be replaced in September. Speaking of perfume all the soaps and hand cremes in the bathrooms public and in cabins are highly perfumed. With many people allergic to perfumes, I question why the soap etc need to have these strong odors. The lectures on board are excellent and the quality of the speakers are the best that I have encountered on cruises. I was impressed by the library, selection of books and its lengthy hours. The best on ship library that I have encountered in the 20 years that I have cruised. The entertainment was not to my liking but I heard positive comments from other passengers. The SPA was expensive and I had some complaints which I feel weren't adequately addressed. On the other cruise ships the spa would offer fruit, a pitcher of water with cut up fruit etc. On Symphony I was offered bottled water at the SPA but no flavored water. I wont be using the SPA on board ship on future cruises as I cant justify the pricing compared to what I pay at my local spa for similar services--over 2X. The SPA like the ship felt small & dated with a need for updating. It was not as nice as spas that we have experienced on other ships. Will we cruise Crystal again, not likely as we would like a more informal less "clubby old school" atompshere". We like good food but dont need 1X1 staffing and lengthy time required to eat in the dining room . The excursions were the usual nothing unique or creative. What we did appreciate is that there was someone from Crystal on each excursion to help out. Water on excursions was complimentary--no charge and it was offered when leaving on excursions and on the excursions. We would like a cruise that could offer more opportunities to learn about nature and have the option of a less formal setting for dinner. Some of the passengers that I talked with used room service for dinner while we don't care for room service. So in conclusion, Crystal does have many superior services but for some of us just isnt a "good fit" in meeting out needs but for other cruisers is a "good fit". Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
Having done in excess of 70 cruises over the years this was our first Crystal cruise. The crowd was very old - mainly 70s and 80s and 90s. The entertainment was excellent - always something to do, watch or listen to. The ship was good ... Read More
Having done in excess of 70 cruises over the years this was our first Crystal cruise. The crowd was very old - mainly 70s and 80s and 90s. The entertainment was excellent - always something to do, watch or listen to. The ship was good and clean. The staff was excellent - always helpful. The cabin outside was just about OK - not big but comfortable with a bath. The trips were expensive and not very special. The biggest let down was the food. It was barely mediocre. Nothing came up hot - everything was luke warm. The specialty restaurants were far from special - not even a bread basket choice in the Italian restaurant, just a choice of white or brown roll. The Asian restaurant had good food but tiny minute portions - really minute, my 15 month old baby eats more. Yes, you could ask for more but felt a bit like Oliver Twist - uncomfortable. It would have helped had we been told you need to order at least 6 dishes to get an average portion. The afternoon tea was the worst ever on any ship. As a cake and choc-o-holic l am certainly not fussy about cakes and desserts. These all looked pretty- and all tasted of the same shaving foam! For me to skip dessert and afternoon tea is unheard of but after the first few days they were so awful we never went - not a surprise the tea room was almost always empty whenever we went by. Food at Butlins was better where we took our grandchildren in the summer. A real shame as it spoilt the otherwise good cruise, Would we travel Crystal again? I am not sure. Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
We’re so glad we decided to try Crystal, after many years with Silversea. This was a classic Crystal cruise: a leisurely 14 days, nice selection of ports, plenty of days at sea and all of the special activities that are among the ... Read More
We’re so glad we decided to try Crystal, after many years with Silversea. This was a classic Crystal cruise: a leisurely 14 days, nice selection of ports, plenty of days at sea and all of the special activities that are among the line’s hallmarks. Our hopes were high. Would Crystal measure up to our best Silversea experiences? It did, indeed. And then some. The Crystal Symphony was docked at the Manhattan cruise ship terminal and boarding began at noon – lots of time to settle in. Boarding was quick, because we pre-registered with Crystal’s PCPC feature (a tip we picked up at CruiseCritic’s helpful Community/Forum). We left our carry-ons with the staff, headed to the Crystal Dining Room for a leisurely lunch, and strolled around the ship until cabins were ready at 3:00. We were very happy with our Deck 7 stateroom. We knew that the Symphony’s cabins (below the Penthouse category) are a little smaller than Silversea’s. Not a problem. Lots of well-planned storage, drawers we didn’t even use, everything fit in the closet, luggage went under the bed. An easy-to-use thermostat. The bed and pillows were quite comfortable, and having lovely Frette linens didn’t hurt. TV channels include CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, BBC, Sky, CNBC, TMC, TCM, TNT, ESPN. Plenty of room to move around comfortably and we felt quite at home by Day Two. We loved the bathroom’s generous storage: 3 shelves above either side of the double sinks, plus below-counter shelves and cabinets. The tub/shower has a nifty grab rail built into its surrounding glass panel, is easy to step into (not too high) and water pressure and temperature stay blissfully constant, even during high-use periods. Lots of thick, fluffy towels. The Symphony sailed down the Hudson at midnight. Our 4471-mile adventure began, gliding past the sparkling NYC skyline and Statue of Liberty, heading for Baltimore, Charleston, Savannah, Jacksonville, Grand Turk, Curacao, Aruba, Miami. This cruise sold out quite early. We had 840 passengers, a number of whom traveled solo. Most were from the U.S. (several from the U.K.), were repeat passengers, and chose this voyage for the attractive itinerary and relative ease of meeting the ship in New York. The consistently high level of service was a delight. Luxury lines shine in this area, but there really is something special about Crystal. Everyone, and I mean everyone, greets you with a smile. Waiters remembered our names and preferences after the first day. There’s no such thing as a venue being “out of” your favorite tea, jam or wine – waiters will run all over the ship to get it elsewhere. When my husband found his mattress a little too soft, our stewardess replaced it with a new one; that was a touch too hard, so she placed a thin foam topper on it. Perfect! We were very impressed with our meals in the Dining Room, both the menu choices and the quality. The focus is on good fresh food, beautifully prepared – not on fancy culinary hijinks. Dover Sole Meuniere was sublime. Ditto the filet mignon. The Walnut Shrimp Cantonese Style was so good I requested it a few nights later. How wonderful to truly look forward to dinner each and every night. We made a reservation in each specialty restaurant before the cruise and made another reservation onboard. Prego’s falling-off-the-bone osso bucco was delicious and a neighbor said her thick, pink lamb chops were the best she ever had. Our Silk Road waiter delighted in offering samples of a number of dishes. Both restaurants are small, with a quiet ambience and beautiful lighting. (As an aside, it was so nice to see waiters who tended casual breakfasts and lunches suited up to deliver extremely fine, polished service in Prego and Silk Road.) We had most breakfasts and lunches at the Lido Café buffet, with its generous variety of choices, all beautifully presented. The food stations are arranged so there are no lines. Special “theme” buffets were presented on 3 sea days: Asian, American Classic, Nuevo Latino. I guess I was looking a little lost when the chef spotted me at the Asian Buffet; I didn’t see my usual salad fixings, so he went down to the galley himself and returned with a nice big salad, just the way I liked it. On another sea day, an extensive Grand Gala luncheon buffet was laid out in the Crystal Plaza, showcasing the pride of Crystal’s various food departments, with open seating in the Dining Room. I noticed that all of Crystal’s buffets are manned by staff that provides assistance and also keeps an eye out to ensure good sanitary practices. Smart. The Trident Grill area, just aft of the pool, was really handy, whether for a quick burger, cold drink, ice cream and cookies, or as a comfy spot for reading. The Mozart Tea deserves its own plug. It was just lovely, very tastefully done. In addition to Crystal’s usual Afternoon Tea offerings of finger sandwiches and very nice scones with real clotted cream, the Mozart Tea featured an expanded selection of delicious desserts, waitstaff in attractive 18th century garb, and the gentle strains of music by you-know-who. Chalk up another special sea day memory. We enjoyed the evening entertainment. The 14 nights featured a full menu of nighttime shows in the Galaxy Lounge. We particularly liked the talented Crystal Ensemble of singers and dancers in several production shows, ballroom dancers Adam and Patricia Kent, the unusual “Imagine” show (performed in total darkness with zones of the dancers’ outfits lit via computerized programming), Donny Ray Evins’s tribute to Nat King Cole, the hilarious ventriloquist Mark Merchant and his 2 highly-opinionated dummies. There were many more performers. We missed a few shows simply to see some films in the comfortable Hollywood Theatre – such a luxury to have a small theater dedicated just for movies, day and night (with popcorn, of course). Not to be missed in the evening: Joe Fos’s cabaret tunes and classical medleys on the Crystal Cove piano and the genial Mark Farris, singing the night away at his piano and chatting with guests in the intimate Avenue Saloon. We never made it to the Palm Court or Starlight for late night dancing. Next time. We didn’t anticipate how much we’d enjoy having all of these different venues, compared to smaller ships. It was really nice to have a little more of a choice. Crystal pulls out all the stops on its sea days, which are filled with a variety of enrichment choices. World Affairs lecturer Dr. Robert Schrire gave 3 absorbing talks: democracy in Putin’s Russia, China/India relations, the future of the European Union. Destination Speaker Ken Rees discussed the histories of upcoming ports. And speaking of enrichment, Crystal has an impressive library with strong selections in a variety of areas. I’ll leave my own books at home next time. And there were complimentary classes in fitness, bridge, ballroom dancing, art, a galley tour. The art classes culminated with an exhibit in the Crystal Plaza – everyone did a splendid job and it was so nice of Crystal to showcase their work. This cruise had a special “Film & Theatre Festival” theme. Frankly, I didn’t think we’d be particularly interested in it. Was I wrong! TCM film historian Jeremy Arnold gave a fascinating talk on Marilyn Monroe and introduced many of her films, shown during the day in the Hollywood Theatre. Actor and playwright Jim Brochu performed his touching, funny, inspiring “Character Man” tribute to life on Broadway and gave superb talks on Katharine Hepburn, The Golden Age of Hollywood, and A History of Musical Theater. Actress Kate Burton shared memories of her life in the theater. Makeup artist and stylist William Squire gave 3 “insider” talks on Hollywood beauty and style. And much, much more was offered. After a few days, we realized that between port visits and the multitude of sea day activities, you could easily spend entire days going from one activity to another – and many do, they’re that enticing. But we decided to pull back a little, relax the pace, and skip some things (many talks are re-broadcast on the stateroom’s TV). We didn’t want to miss the experience of simply being at sea on a fabulous ship, with no particular schedule to follow. Charleston and Savannah were highlights of this voyage, and the trolley tour excursions were a good way for us first-timers to orient ourselves and learn about these beautiful, historic cities; the guides for both excursions were excellent and informative. We passed up the Caribbean excursions and spent those rather hot days onboard. A note on the dress code: Crystal recently adjusted it so the dressiest night is now “Black Tie (Formal) Optional” – tuxedo OR dark suit with tie OR jacket & optional tie. On our 2 Formal Optional nights, half the men wore tuxedos and half wore dark suits. Crystal sanctions all 3 choices, so just choose the option you’re most comfortable with and don’t give it another thought. Really. Little things we loved: the thoughtful built-in night light with its on/off switch on the night table. The 50-foot pool, great for laps. Easy-to-use washers and dryers in the 3 laundry rooms. The extra-long shoehorn. Cinnamon raisin French toast with a dab of raspberry jam. And, finally, we met so many really pleasant, interesting passengers and enjoyed a great many memorable conversations. It says a lot about Crystal, that they attract such companionable travelers, most of whom return again and again. Yes, there really is something special about Crystal. Everything has to be “the best,” lesser substitutes not accepted, whether it’s food, service, enrichment offerings. I think it boils down to this: the best of the best is simply the way they do business. Period. Crystal doesn’t consider that approach out of the ordinary, and that’s why it’s such a wonderful experience.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
I flew from Sydney to New York via Dallas and stayed one night at the Casablanca Hotel in Times Square before boarding the ship at 1230 on the day of embarkation. This was my first time on Crystal and I chose these two sectors based on the ... Read More
I flew from Sydney to New York via Dallas and stayed one night at the Casablanca Hotel in Times Square before boarding the ship at 1230 on the day of embarkation. This was my first time on Crystal and I chose these two sectors based on the itinerary. Ship info The Crystal Symphony is an elegant ship. The public rooms are lovely and even though the ship can hold 900+ passengers, at no time did it feel crowded. I particularly liked the beautiful Palm Court, deck 11 forward, and spent time there reading every day. The ship was extremely stable and sometimes I had to look twice to see if we were really moving. I really enjoyed the ship. Stateroom My cabin was on deck 7 aft. Deck 7 is the promenade deck and there is a wrap-around walking track so it was very easy to go out for a walk. My first reaction was that the cabin was small and the bathroom tiny however the space was well utilised and there were lots of places to put things. It certainly helped that I was travelling on my own. The closet was tiny and I just managed to fit my suitcase and carry-on in it. The bathroom had 2 sinks and a shower that was in the bath. At first I didn't like this but found that it was very easy to climb into the bath. The shower made up for it because once on the correct setting, it was the perfect shower, good temperature and excellent water pressure. The bed was hard as a rock. I didn't bother asking for an egg crate topper because I don't like them. However after 23 days, I got used to the bed. It seems silly that the bed linen, doona and pillows are so comfortable but the mattress sucks. Dining Dinner in the dining room was a big issue for me. I did not like the fixed seating at all. On the first sector (New York to Reykjavik), my table of 8 seemed to be continually rotating with people coming and going. One night I sat next to a very rude man who fortunately I did not see again. On the second sector (Reykjavik to Southampton), I had fabulous tablemates and we all got on well. One night, though, I sat at the table of 8 by myself as the others were off at the specialty restaurants. I had the waiters to talk to but I didn't particularly like the experience. I'm quite happy to have lunch by myself, but not dinner. I ate at the Trident Grill (loved those sweet potato fries) and the Lido Buffet was nice at lunch time - it's also a lovely venue with lots of light and windows. Most of the time though, I enjoyed lunching in the dining room. I liked the Bistro for a coffee or tea and there was always something yummy to eat there, be it fruit, cakes, cheese & biscuits, smoked salmon etc. I also liked the ice cream bar with a large range of ice cream, sherberts and yoghurts. I loved Prego, the Italian specialty restaurant and ate there 3 times (it wasn't enough). The carpaccio and the limoncello souffle were excellent. The signature mushroom soup was nice but a little too salty for my liking. I do enjoy Japanese food but I wasn't overly impressed with Silk Road. I had a nice meal there but decided to cancel my second reservation. I really liked the variety of restaurants and bars to choose from. Although there was a huge choice, I was never really wowed by the food although at no time did I go hungry and I enjoyed everything that I ate. Room service I nearly always eat my breakfast in my cabin and this cruise was no different. I loved the bircher muesli but then I discovered the freshly made waffles with maple syrup and fresh fruit. They were a delight. Room service was very basic - no table cloth or plates being laid out, not at all like the room service that I have been used to on Silversea. Activities On port days, there was not much happening but on sea days there were lots of activities scheduled. The Symphony's computer room is, hands down, the best I've ever experienced on a ship and I attended some very good classes on digital photo editing. I liked that it gave me the opportunity to try some new software. Trivia was a disappointment. It was only held on sea days and at 12 noon so on the first sector, it was almost a week before we had any trivia. I went to a few on the first sector but none on the second sector. I'm used to having trivia on every day. I enjoyed Bill Miller's lecture on the ocean liners - he was a very engaging speaker. Some of the other speakers, I found boring. I guess it's just what you are interested in. I liked the promenade walking track and tried to walk every day although that was very dependent on the weather and we had some really horrible weather during this cruise. I loved the dedicated movie theatre, Hollywood Theatre, and the popcorn but the choice of movies was terrible. I managed to see Skyfall and Taken2 which were great but considering there are tons of movies to choose from, I didn't think much of the offering. I think they could throw in some comedies and not repeat the same movie the following day. Port & Shore Excursions Shore excursions were generally very good. Everyone would gather in the Starlite Club and wait for their tour number to be called. I did the following excursions: New York - Hudson River cruise to see the Statue of Liberty and various other landmarks, ending at Battery Park. Walk up to Wall Street and the 9/11 Memorial, followed by a brief stop at The High Line. This was my first trip to New York and I thoroughly enjoyed this excursion, even if it was freezing. Newport - Fort Adam and the sights of Newport. This was basically an overview of the area and the weather did not cooperate at all. Next time, I would probably do a tour of one of the mansions. Boston - I went to Marblehead and Salem. Marblehead has beautiful homes and Salem is famous for the witch hanging. The weather didn't cooperate again but even so, this was a very interesting excursion. Bar Harbor - I went to the beautiful Arcadia National Park. This is a place that I would love to come back to in autumn to see the changing colour of the leaves. Halifax - I went to Peggy's Cove. This is a charming little lobster fishing town with interesting rock formations caused by glaciers. Also there is a memorial to those who perished in the Swissair plane crash in 1998. St Johns - the weather was nice so I decided to wander around the town on my own. It's a quaint little city with lots of different coloured houses. Easy to walk around on your own. Reykjavik - The weather was dreadful but I managed to see the Gulfoss waterfall, the town of Geysir where a lot of geothermal activity takes place, the Thingvellir National Park where the two techtonic plates meet, and the Pearl Dome which sits atop of the hot water storage tanks in the city. I loved this tour. I also drove through the Reykjanes peninsula on the way to the Blue Lagoon. This area is a barren waste of lava fields'it's quite a sight. The Blue Lagoon is loads of fun and I highly recommend it. The geothermal lagoon is man made and is a by-product of a nearby geothermal power plant. The warm water (39C) is rich in minerals and is reputed to help people suffering from skin diseases. There is a strict code of hygiene there which is very impressive. I loved this tour. Heimaey - Unfortunately, the weather was awful (again!) and during my overview tour, the island was shrouded in fog. Heimaey Island is the only inhabited island in an archipelago off the coast of Iceland. It's claim to fame is the eruption of the Eldfell volcano in 1973 and the fact that the Icelanders sprayed sea water on the lava to slow its movement. It was a very impressive feat but it didn't stop nearly 70 homes and farms being buried under the tephra and lava. This was a very interesting little island. Torshavn - in the Faroe Islands. I took advantage of the sunny weather and walked around the town. We were there on a Sunday so not many shops were open. The Faroes is where the whale hunt called grindadrap occurs. The Faroese consider the hunt an important part of their culture but in reality it is a totally cruel and disgusting practice where hundreds of whales are slaughtered annually in a horrific manner. Alesund - another very foggy day but by the time I got to the summit of the mountain, the fog lifted and I got a fantastic view of the city. The city is spread across 7 islands and all the islands are linked together by tunnels. I did the overview tour and saw some very nice scenic views. Geiranger - the best weather on the trip and we were the only ship anchored there. Tshirts and 19C, sunshine, blue sky. It was fabulous, given that most of the trip was very cold for me. A tiny little town at the end of a massive fjord with some of the most spectacular scenery that I have ever seen. I did a walk through the town and up the hill there is the Norwegian Fjord Centre. There I watched a slideshow of fantastic nature pictures from the high mountains to the fjords in all the different seasons. Well worth the walk up the hill. Bergen - we were docked with one of the Cunard Queens and the Ventura so there were thousands of people in Bergen that day. I didn't want to wait 1 hour to get on the cable car so did a walk around the markets instead. In certain ports, Crystal offers a 'voluntouring' excursion and I chose this in Bergen. I had a wonderful time at the Rescue Centre for Homeless Cats. As a cat lover, this was my favourite excursion. It was free and about 20 of us cat lovers spent two hours at the home. It was a unique experience whilst being on holidays. Eidfjord - is the orchard area of Norway. I took a full day tour called Orchards and Glaciers. I saw the magnificent Voringsfossen waterfall, a 4D film about Norway which is probably the best DVD I've ever seen. It showed all of Norway's fjords as if you were in a helicopter and, at times, I had to close my eyes because of the perceived motion. We had lunch at the Hotel Ullensvang where Edvard Grieg's composer's cabin was located. The hotel is family run and despite it's size is so cosy. I also saw the new Hardanger Bridge (or Norway Sky Bridge) that looks exactly like the Golden Gate Bridge but is 20 metres longer. The weather was lovely and we were able to walk around an orchard and view Norway's unusual method of growing fruit trees. All in all, a nice day in Norway with some fabulous fjord scenery. Stavanger - our last port of call in Norway. The weather was awful and I was glad that I hadn't taken a tour. I walked around the town in the pouring rain and that was enough for me. Entertainment I enjoyed most of the acts especially the singers and musicians. I don't like the dancing much even though the dancers were from Australia. I particularly liked a Canadian singer in her show called "Diva" and an Australian pianist. There were a couple of other singers from New Zealand and Scotland that I liked too. I didn't bother with the magician. One thing that I thought odd was that the only time I ever saw the cruise director, was when he was MCing at the shows. I'm used to seeing and conversing with cruise directors during my cruise and on this trip, I never spoke to him once. I have no idea what he actually does on the ship. Service The service is first class. The only crew member who knew my name was Francis at the ice cream bar. I was his best customer, every lunch time without fail. The waiters in the dining room were outstanding (Muzo and Elio) and the meals were brought promptly and always piping hot. The only shortcoming in service was the night of casual dining in the Lido Buffet where I waited 30 minutes for my meal. Everyone was frantic that night as they hadn't expected so many people to show up at the same time. Disembarkation The disembarkation was orderly and fast. Everyone sat in the Starlite Club and awaited the call for their colour coded baggage tag. I quickly found my bag and got on the bus. I was going straight to Heathrow for a flight to Toronto that departed at 1620. We were taken to the Sofitel at Heathrow and there was an area set up exclusively for Crystal passengers. We were given refreshments and some lunch. Most of us were departing at a similar time so at 1400, we were taken to Terminal 5 for departure. Staying at the Sofitel for a few hours was much nicer than being dropped at the airport and having to wait there. Summary Whilst Crystal has one of the best single supplements in cruising, I didn't feel that they looked after their single cruisers. The only thing organised was a Table for 8 solos at the speciality restaurants and you had to eat at 6pm. On another cruiseline, I have had invitations to tables hosted by crew members and I think this is much nicer. One single gentleman who experienced the same issue as me, where all his tablemates were off at a specialty restaurant, was seated on his own at dinner. He mentioned to me that this would never have happened on Seabourn. He didn't like the fixed seating either and won't be back on Crystal. Although Crystal isn't my cruiseline of choice, I loved the ship. I haven't been able to find another itinerary that suits me so whether I sail again on Crystal remains to be seen. If anyone has any questions, pls email me.   Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
Due to cruise New York to Los Angeles via Panama Canal last November. Chose Crystal because they said there was open dining option. Tried to book dining times 3 weeks in advance online to find there was no option left but 6-15 or 8-30, ... Read More
Due to cruise New York to Los Angeles via Panama Canal last November. Chose Crystal because they said there was open dining option. Tried to book dining times 3 weeks in advance online to find there was no option left but 6-15 or 8-30, all other slots had gone. This isn't a real dining option for people who want to dine at 7-30. Cruise due to leave New York 2 November, we were due to fly 30 October. Hurricane approaching, due to hit New York Monday 29 October. We and our travel agent tried to contact Crystal all that weekend to discuss alternative embarkation and only got a recorded message that their offices were closed until Monday opening 9 a.m. California time - after the time we would have had to leave London. No flights into new York that week. No communication from Crystal at all, no email, no message to our agents, we were desperate with worry. Emails were unanswered, no reassurance given. This made us sick with worry and uncertainty and forced us to cancel. Very expensive cruise - how could Crystal close their offices in this emergency time over the weekend prior to the Hurricane and just ignore their customers?We would never ever consider Crystal again. they might have won World's Favorite Cruise line, but that can only have been when things didn't go wrong. Their statement that open dining is an option should be qualified by "if you go online and book early enough". Crystal are quick enough to send emails to customers promoting salon treatments etc. Why didn't they send a reassuring email saying that embarkation would be from an alternative port to be notified and not to worry. I gather that the cruise did take off from Charleston several days late - if we had known this, we wouldn't have been so worried. Terribly disappointed with the service from Crystal Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
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