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4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
We chose Crystal Cruises because of the Panama Canal itinerary (so we can tick it off the bucket list) and the Luxury Cruise Experience. Crystal was recommended to us by a friend (who is a travel agent) we met on a non-luxury cruise in ... Read More
We chose Crystal Cruises because of the Panama Canal itinerary (so we can tick it off the bucket list) and the Luxury Cruise Experience. Crystal was recommended to us by a friend (who is a travel agent) we met on a non-luxury cruise in 2012 and she said Crystal is one of the best. So we checked off a few ticks on the bucket list. The ship Symphony was beautiful. The accommodations were very well layed out with a lot of storage. No need to use the suitcases for extra storage as we had empty drawers and the clothes in the wardrobe were spaced out not squashed up. Of everything there was only one this that irritated me that I have never come across on other ships we have cruise is the cigar room. Horrible horrible horrible. To get to The Avenue, Umi Uma restaurant and Prego restaurant you had to walk past it and the door was always open, therefore the smoke flooded into the hallway. The door should always be shut and there should be sufficient ventilation in the smoking room so if the door is left open the smoke doesn't affect other passengers. That is my only issue and I am hoping that when we are on Serenity in 2021 Crystal will have rectified this problem by having either an automatic door or a gas closing door. The rest of Crystal Symphony was fantastic. For a ship smaller than we are used to (3000-3500) this ship has a lot of quiet places to sit and relax. There are never any crowds, no children running rampant and what children were on the ship were extremely well behaved. We dined at every location and the food was divine. My favourites were Waterside (the main dining room), Prego, Silk, Palm Court for amazing afternoon tea and views. However, I still enjoyed the food and atmosphere at Umi Uma, Churriscaria, Trident Grill and the Marketplace only for an early breakfast. The staff go above and beyond and are always very polite and friendly. They always have smiles on their faces and no request is too hard. They take the time to get to know their customers. The shows were good not spectacular like on the bigger ships which is understandable since on the bigger ships the ceiling over the stage is 3 decks high making it very open and airy and great for doing acrobatic shows. The dance moves seem to be similar in every show so I put that down to the Choreographer. The special guests were fabulous especially loved John Joseph who had us in stitches. We didn't like some of the ports and thought there could have been better places to stop but we made the most of those. Some we could have had more time in. Overall we loved the cruise. We don't normally like a lot of sea days but on Crystal Symphony we really loved the sea days. We enjoyed the shore excursions that we booked. Crystal's luxury has ruined for us cruising anything less than luxury. We enjoyed it so much we have booked another Crystal cruise in 2021 South Pacific Wanderlust Los Angeles/San Pedro, US to Brisbane, AU on Serenity. So looking forward to 20 days on Serenity. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
We chose this cruise because we needed some rest, relaxation, and pampering. We not only achieved the above but where overwhelmed with the Theater/Movie/show activities and presentations. This was out 23rd Crystal Cruise. It is hard to ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we needed some rest, relaxation, and pampering. We not only achieved the above but where overwhelmed with the Theater/Movie/show activities and presentations. This was out 23rd Crystal Cruise. It is hard to imagine that the food in the dining room was better than the last cruise, but it was. Our waiters were exceptional, as was the wine steward. The room stewardess was so attentive and thorough. The only complaint I can think of was the poor, and often unavailable WiFi connections. Hopefully with the drydock in September, this will be rectified. Unlike cruise 7208 reports, our Lido/Trident staff was as wonderful as ever. especially Jonathan. Kiko. Allan and Dio. You are truly a member of the Crystal Family when you return and that cannot be overlooked. We look forward to the "New ships" as they come out of drydock and hope not too many of our familiar services and programs will disappear. We too were given a $250 per person onboard credit for our embarcation in San DIego, and we actually enjoyed the 2 hour scenic motorcoach ride. Debarcation in New York City was so quick, we never even got to sit in the Starlite lounge. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
We are still on the Serenity and having a fantastic time. We came across from NZ on the Queen Victoria in the Queens Grill to join the Serenity and there is no comparison to the two ships with the Serenity being so superior in every way . ... Read More
We are still on the Serenity and having a fantastic time. We came across from NZ on the Queen Victoria in the Queens Grill to join the Serenity and there is no comparison to the two ships with the Serenity being so superior in every way . The service and the staff throughout the Serenity are absolutely outstanding and the food in all the restaurants is beautifully presented and served hot and served with style. We ate in the MDR by reservation which worked perfectly with us always getting a table for two no matter what time we turned up and the wait time for meals was minimal. After having a suite on the Victoria we booked a standard window on the Serenity and found the room very light and very comfortable with beautiful linen and thick white towels. The window looking on to the promenade we thought would bother us but in fact it was perfectly fine and since the weather was very hot we wouldn't have used the balcony as we are not sun worshippers. The ship overall is beautifully maintained but the Palm Court lounge is very dated and lets the ship down compare to the Symphony which has been beautifully refurbished and looking very stylish. The age of the passengers were mixed and we are in our 50' s and found everyone friendly and very sociable ( I think the inclusive cocktails help). We have travelled previously on Crystal and were a little worried after reading some of the negative reviews on CC but our opinion is that Crystal is still the best value for money in the premium cruise lines and the staff are the best we have had and we have done in excess of 100 cruises so have something to compare them with. So go ahead and book your cruise and you won't be disappointed. Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
Good friends of ours convinced my wife and I to book this cruise two months before the sailing. I absolutely was so impressed and felt totally pampered by the team on the Serenity. All the fine staff aboard really do enjoy what they do ... Read More
Good friends of ours convinced my wife and I to book this cruise two months before the sailing. I absolutely was so impressed and felt totally pampered by the team on the Serenity. All the fine staff aboard really do enjoy what they do and go far above and beyond to insure a very high level of guest satisfaction. This was our 7th cruise after six in a row with Royal Caribbean......well Crystal is certainly a much different kind of company. I felt the "Crystal Touch" throughout....from the personal greetings at the start of each day right through to the evening turn down service! Highlights: personal touch everywhere on the ship fantastic food with many choices of dining real room service! prompt and high class. premium cocktails at the various wonderful lounges delivered with a smile and a most professional & personable service team. excursion process was the most organized that I have ever enjoyed! No long waits for anything! constant attention to detail and notifications to insure that nothing is missed and the guests are well informed about everything. anything asked of me was positively dealt with and it seems the guest is always right and gets the benefit of any doubt. Interactions with the staff were met with "it's our pleasure...when you need anything, just ask." Suggestions for improvements? Well my wife and I had to dig deep here.... 1. Galaxy theater seating: could use more angle so the folks in front don't block the view from behind. 2. would be nice if one could order food from the beverage servers on the pool deck. 3. Except for when the quartet band (and they were fantastic by the way) played on the pool deck, there was no music. Please allow background tunes on the pool deck speakers. I could go on and on with the highlights...suffice to say I would recommend a cruise aboard the Crystal Serenity for anyone who really enjoys the ship life. They seem to specialize in providing many venues, entertainment and much to do for those at sea days. Be prepared to be pampered and feel like you are among family! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2016
Have taken many cruises with different lines. Crystal is superior in so many areas. Staff is very attentive all your needs. Enrichment lectures are ususal very good. food is outstanding. If you have special menu request it would be no ... Read More
Have taken many cruises with different lines. Crystal is superior in so many areas. Staff is very attentive all your needs. Enrichment lectures are ususal very good. food is outstanding. If you have special menu request it would be no problem . Entertainment is very good. Movie theather shows many new releases. Excursion were first rate They usually have free shuttle buses to the center of town . The main reason to take a crystal cruise is the staff. within the first day they know your name, your favorite drink. Cabin stewarts are always ready to take care of your every need. My favorite cruises is when the ship repostions. Ocean cruises are very relaxing. you get to meet many interesting people and leave the cruise feeling refreshed.I have booked 2 more cruises this upcoming season. Can't wait till i cruise with the best cruise line . You will not be disappointed if you cruise with crystal. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2014
My wife and I took a cruise on Crystal Serenity Nov. 30 – Dec. 11, 2014, from the west coast of Costa Rica, through the Panama Canal, up the east coast of Central America and Mexico, ending in Miami, FL, USA. We're not members (yet) ... Read More
My wife and I took a cruise on Crystal Serenity Nov. 30 – Dec. 11, 2014, from the west coast of Costa Rica, through the Panama Canal, up the east coast of Central America and Mexico, ending in Miami, FL, USA. We're not members (yet) of the cruiser subculture. Our only prior cruise was on the Crystal Harmony in 1996, so we have nothing with which to compare Crystal. That having been said, our overall experience was excellent. Crystal is on the pricey side, but you get pretty much what you pay for. Crystal's marketing hype is over the top, so we came in with very high expectations. Mostly our expectations were met, one was more than met, and a couple not quite. Still, for the price we think it's a good value and would consider taking a cruise on Crystal again if the time and place were right. The passenger crowd is mature. I'm in my early 70s and may have been slightly on the younger side of the average age of all passengers. There were no children that we saw on the cruise, and the ship is not geared at all toward children. The rooms are small (ours was 8116) but well laid out and furnished – quite adequate – as was the small bathroom. The common areas are very nice, close to over the top, but not over the top. The Serenity holds about 1070 passengers, I recall, and we had about 950 on our cruise. Except for breakfast rush in the Lido cafeteria (only one of the many breakfast options, including room service and the main dining room), the boat never felt crowded, or empty. The cruise was "all inclusive" – no gratuities asked for or expected. Notwithstanding, the service was mostly excellent. At the worst service was workmanlike, and at the best very attentive and friendly. Only once in the dining room did we have to ask for wine at the beginning of our meal. Speaking of wine, good wines are included in "all inclusive." What they like to do is offer one red and one white each night. You can ask for a small "all inclusive wine list," or a list of premium wines for an extra charge. However, in our first night's experience we learned that it was extra trouble for the staff to go beyond the standard basic offerings, so thereafter we went that way and were quite satisfied. All of the food was very good to excellent. The optional Prego and Silk Road restaurants, and Taste, were very good, but no better than the main dining room. What they offer is welcome variety. What I particularly liked was that the portions were relatively small. If you wanted more, you could have it, but you weren't presented with a ton of food you felt like to had to eat rather than let it go to waste. There are three nice lounges (not counting the cigar lounge), all of which we enjoyed. The entertainment was very good, too, as were the educational speakers – we heard three out of four of the latter. Production shows were an hour or less, not so much as to wear you out. The main house (small) orchestra was very, very good, and the house lounge musicians just fine. On the downside, our cruise was advertised as a "jazz theme" cruise. We did not take it for that reason, and did enjoy some of the jazz performances. However, it turned out that the jazz program was run by a separate tour company, and the passengers who booked through them got the full deal. According to the Crystal Society Hostess on board, they "let other passengers hear some of their programs." We asked the rep on board for some more information, but it was made clear that we weren't part of their group. So, here's the lesson. If you want to take a Crystal cruise and the "theme," if there is one, is important to you, make sure you know exactly what you'll be entitled to. Will you be a first class passenger, or as we were on our cruise, second class passengers. The ship also has what struck me as a fairly large gambling room. We're not gamblers, so I can't say anything about its quality, it's right next to the main showroom and yet never seemed very busy to me. I'm not an expert, but it looked like most of the offerings were electric slot or other gambling machines. Finally, we booked the complete travel package with air. All was very smooth. The disembarkation was excellent, much better than our Crystal Harmony experience in 1996. The only negative was that by the time we got our flight information and went in to make seat reservations, we had to pay about $120 extra so my wife and I could sit together on the 4 hr. flight from Atlanta to San, Jose, CR.   Read Less
Sail Date: May 2014
We have traveled on Crystal for at least 15-16 voyages. We love their staff and service. They have an excellent cruise director, Paul, who always adds to our enjoyment. The lectures & entertainment are wonderful. We are not ... Read More
We have traveled on Crystal for at least 15-16 voyages. We love their staff and service. They have an excellent cruise director, Paul, who always adds to our enjoyment. The lectures & entertainment are wonderful. We are not "foodies" and we find their food to be just fine. This past May, after a missed year of cruising, we embarked on the Symphony from Los Angeles to New York. My first impression was that things have changed. We still encountered the wonderful staff and service, but just a little something about the ship had changed. Perhaps it was that the ship was filled to capacity and could not function as well. The Bistro seemed very crowded and understaffed. We noted repairs necessary in our stateroom as well as in public areas. There was rust on the exterior railings and other areas crying for paint. Some of the hard surfaces are scratched and gauged. In the past, we saw maintenance constantly taking place on the ship. This time hardly at all. Our friends, who were on the 9th floor mid ship, encountered the annoying vibration from the engines. On past sailings, I had learned this the hard way and now always book a stateroom more forward. There the vibration is minimal. We have grown accustomed to the tiny staterooms but we would love to see Crystal switch to stall showers instead of the bath tub shower combination. We will continue cruising with Crystal because of the staff and service. Although it is due for some work in dry dock, I am afraid the Symphony is tired and needs more help than a short dry dock can provide! But, while while we wait for them to launch a new ship, we will probably return for another cruise on the Symphony. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2014
The public rooms are impressive with a large atria, attractive furnishings and the areas well laid out, The Avenue Saloon with nightly piano music was especially delightful. As for dining, we enjoyed the late seating with a delightful ... Read More
The public rooms are impressive with a large atria, attractive furnishings and the areas well laid out, The Avenue Saloon with nightly piano music was especially delightful. As for dining, we enjoyed the late seating with a delightful table and superb service. The cuisine was well prepared and presented and is definitely a cut above that on Regent Seven Seas. The shows aere good and well presented and the other entertainers as well. The theme was Movies with a special tribute to Doris Day and we found all of the speakers and topics truly delightful and entertaining. The staff was helpful, friendly and alert to all requests. The excursions were wothwhile wi the best being the lovely luncheon in San Jose,Costa Rica, the Panama Canal crossing and the totally delightful surrey tour through the streets of Charleston, South Carolina, Read Less
Sail Date: May 2013
It is a competitive marketplace in the "Luxury" or "Premium" cruise category and Crystal stands at the top of this narrow pyramid. Crystal matches the upper competitors by offering a luxury cruise ship with well ... Read More
It is a competitive marketplace in the "Luxury" or "Premium" cruise category and Crystal stands at the top of this narrow pyramid. Crystal matches the upper competitors by offering a luxury cruise ship with well appointed cabins and elegant spacious public spaces. The place settings sparkle and the linens are crisp. But what really stands out on Crystal Symphony, from the first day to the last day, is the high level of very personalized, attentive and consistent service. In this age of computer algorithms and complex customer databases, it is the real human touch and care which stands Crystal truly apart. More persuasive than any fancy cruise brochure or well spoken sales agent, Remi Szutkiewicz, the Maitre d', is the most public face on Crystal Symphony and, in effect, the "Brand Ambassador" presiding over a most impressive Dain Dining Room team. Cruise lines and hotel brochures go to great lengths to advertise their focus on service and personalized attention. However, I was consistently and considerably struck by Crystal's ability to really deliver on this overused expression. I must confess my favorite part of cruising is eating and, as such, I must admit to spending a lot of time in the Dining Room. I was fortunate to sit close to the front which gave me a great vantage point to watch the Dining Room staff, particularly the senior staff, in action. Without fail, their focus was like a laser beam on making sure each guest felt welcomed, comfortable and really special. While Remi, with his worldly charm and grace, set a high tone, I also had the opportunity to watch Head Waiter Roland and really the entire team of Head Waiters carrying this approach with complete focus and dedication. For dinner, my Senior Waiter was Muzo whom I had requested from a previous cruise. Without fail, he welcomed me to the Dining Room each evening like an old friend and proceeded to deliver course after course with very friendly professionalism and precision. For breakfast and lunch I was fortunate to be served by Mustafa who, while a little quieter, was very attentive, professional and made for very enjoyable meals. Assisting Muzo and Mustafa was Elio who was very conscientious and capable in his table service. It's not just the Dining Room staff that makes a personal difference. I noticed in the bars and lounges a regular flow of guests interacting very personally, warmly and with a long history with a number of the bartenders and bar staff. For myself, I had the good fortune to be served by Paula, Elisa and Camila each evening before dinner in the Starlite Club. My cabin was cleaned very nicely by Leslie who was always attentive and eager to please. In fact, this was my first cruise "downstairs" in a category other than the Penthouse. I had a Category D cabin which is Symphony's basic "Deluxe Stateroom with Large Picture Window". Even at just 202 sq. ft., it felt surprisingly spacious and had a good amount of storage and a well-designed bathroom. So two thumbs up and a thank you to Crystal. I am eager to be back aboard soon. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2012
After waiting ten months for this cruise, and after reading numerous reviews, comments, etc regarding Crystal, I started feeling that my very high expectations couldn't possibly be met. Well, I was wrong! Please allow me to ... Read More
After waiting ten months for this cruise, and after reading numerous reviews, comments, etc regarding Crystal, I started feeling that my very high expectations couldn't possibly be met. Well, I was wrong! Please allow me to explain: 1. Embarkation and disembarkation were the quickest and smoothest I've ever experienced. The Crystal team realizes how important first impressions are, and they did a good job of starting off right. 2. Service on this cruise was beyond belief. By the second or third day everyone from the waiters to the bartenders to the maitre d'hotel greeted me by name, and always with a smile. How do they do it? Whenever I asked for anything, whether it was a drink in the bar, a second appetizer at dinner or some assistance in the library or gym, my "thank you" usually elicited a "my pleasure" or similar response from the friendly staff. Because Crystal recently went to an all-inclusive format, I had needlessly worried that service might suffer. Although this was my first Crystal cruise, I can't imagine that it could ever have been any better than what I experienced. 3. Food is of paramount importance to me, and I was blown away by my 16 days of gluttony! Everything from the grand gala buffet to the casual dining options to the main dining room was spectacular. Most notable was the variety, as there never seemed to be an entree that was repeated during the duration of the cruise. The specialty Italian and Japanese restaurants were superb. The overall dining experience was worthy of one Michelin star, if not slightly better. 4. The ship itself was comfortable and inviting. Numerous areas such as the Crystal Cove and the Palm Court were so peaceful that you never suspected that 900 other passengers were on board. During the pre-dinner hours, however, the bar areas were more energetic. A special note should be made of the bartenders and waiters in the bar areas: they were uniformly outstanding! 5. The cabins are well-appointed, clean and comfortable, but are on the smallish size. That's not a problem for me, but if a spacious stateroom is important to you, you might be disappointed. Although one earlier review described the bed as uncomfortable, I couldn't agree less. The mattress, pillows, duvet etc were excellent. The mini-fridge was always filled with sodas and beers of my liking, the fruit bowl was replenished daily, and an orchid was always present on the table. The room was cleaned twice daily and was always spotless. The verandah was fairly standard but, again, not too spacious. 6. Activities onboard the ship were plentiful. My favorite was the enrichment program which presented expert speakers. A retired Air Force general gave a series of talks that was fantastic. There is a movie shown daily in a very comfortable theater, and multiple classes are offered, including such diverse subjects as pilates, yoga, napkin folding and computer use. There's a nice-appearing casino, but I didn't go in it. The evening shows were better than average, but nothing too special. 7. There were many excursions to choose from, but quite a few of them were very expensive (helicopter rides, etc). I went on three snorkeling excursions (Key West, Cayman Islands and Huatulco) and they were well-organized. A few other comments: The average age of the passengers on this cruise was ~ 70 years old. I wouldn't recommend this cruise for children or for the under-40 crowd. This is an expensive ship, double or triple in cost of most other lines. What you're paying extra for is luxury and service. If that's not so important to you, and if it's mostly the destinations that you're looking for, you probably can find better value elsewhere. Overall, Crystal is outstanding and I can easily see why it has such a high rate of repeat cruisers. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2012
Although the Crystal Symphony is older than the Seabourn Sojorn we last sailed on, the ship is maintained in top condition. Beautiful inside and out with amazing attention to detail. With about 900 passengers, we never felt crowded in ... Read More
Although the Crystal Symphony is older than the Seabourn Sojorn we last sailed on, the ship is maintained in top condition. Beautiful inside and out with amazing attention to detail. With about 900 passengers, we never felt crowded in this spacious vessel. The Captain and crew were wonderful, although the no handshake policy was a little strange, no matter how much sense it makes. It felt a little odd. Maybe you could post hand sanitizers just past the receiving line? But, the crew were courteous, industrious, and efficient. The main dining room was a little less formal than Seabourn or Regent but still elegant. And, the maitre'd made special desserts several evenings which were great. Grand Mariner souffle, cheeries jubilee, bananas foster, viola!! And, a special filled birthday cake for one of our tablemates who were all wonderful. We sat with 3 other couples and their presence made the meatimes special. We stopped in St Thomas, St Maarteen, and Curacao on the way to the canal and just walked the towns to get a feel. They were all picturesque, friendly, warm, and quaint but like a lot of other Caribbean ports. Amazing yatchs in St Thomas harbor though. The Panama Canal should be on everyone's bucket list, what a sight. Just watching the operation was enlightening, well worth the trip. We debarked in Caldera and took a coffee plantation tour up the valley to San Jose. We had lunch at Cafe Britt Coffee Plantation. The Costa Rican food was great and we were schooled on coffee production from seed to brew. The San Jose Marriott was beautiful in old colonial style of heavy dark wood and wrought iron. With an open roof over the courtyard and open hallways. Like living outdoors. A quick 10 minutes to the airport and home. All in all, a great adventure. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2012
Background Information - The Panama Canal has always been on my "Bucket List" and when I discovered that this cruise was offered thru Road Scholar' Adventures Afloat program with free airfare, my husband and I booked it ... Read More
Background Information - The Panama Canal has always been on my "Bucket List" and when I discovered that this cruise was offered thru Road Scholar' Adventures Afloat program with free airfare, my husband and I booked it immediately! Travel To Port of Embarkation - A direct flight to Miami booked by Road Scholar Hotel Info - Overnighted at the Courtyard by Marriott Miami Airport South; a nice enough accommodation with free airport shuttle service running every 20-30 minutes. The block square Marriott Miami Airport Campus also included a Residence Inn & The Miami Airport Marriott, giving you ample restaurant options. The only thing that I found lacking was a room safe. Stateroom - Category A on Deck 9 Forward: A very quiet location on the port side, 4 cabins down from the front elevator bank, allowing us easy access to most areas of the ship. The only disadvantage to this location was the distance to the self-service laundry room which was located beyond the mid-ship elevator bank and the small sun deck located on the ship's aft. The stateroom itself was lovely and very well maintained. Hanging storage space was more than ample and both terry and light weight bath robes were provided, as well as two pairs of cheap one-size fits no one slippers. Drawer space for folded clothing items was less generous, but we managed. The 2 adjoined twin bed set-up made the room a bit tight, but we appreciated the sleeping comfort they provided. We were rocked to sleep many a night with a gentle breeze coming from our open Veranda. A small fridge, stocked with soft drinks and bottled water as well was a fresh fruit plate both of which were updated daily were nice no charge extras. Ship Info - Very comfortable and well maintained...everything was ship/shape! Dining - We were in the early dining seating and enjoyed dinner followed by entertainment options and being early risers, we were usually in bed by 10. Five course dinners were the norm, although we quickly learned to limit ourselves to either the soup or salad option. Five entree offerings were standard fare as well as a Vegetarian option and the deserts were to die for! Activities - Spas, a Salon, Workout area, walking/jogging track, swimming, hot tubs, golf nets, table tennis, shuffleboard, and paddle tennis... Children's Clubs - As no grandchildren were with us, I'm pretty clueless, although I did note a special computer center and an activity room which did't seem to be in use much on our cruise as most of the children, as well as their parents, seemed to be back to the daily post-holiday grind. Service - In a word, EXCELLENT! The staff often thought of things I might require before I knew that I needed them... Entertainment - Daily lecturers were excellent and offered insight on the history and politics of the Panama Canal and Central America as well as their personal experiences in that part of the world. Nightly entertainment could be found at the Piano Bar, Night Club, and a Las Vegas Style Lounge. Shows including comedy, broadway style shows, and celebrity entertainers were also featured on a daily basis. Port & Shore Excursions - Ports of Call included George Town/Grand Cayman, Cartagena/ Columbia, Panama City/Panama, and Huatulco, Puerto Vallarta, & Cabo San Lucas Mexico. Excursions were available for passengers with various physical abilities and budgets. Disembarkation - Smooth and efficient with many Crystal ground support people to assist you once you left the ship. Summary - Loved t he cruise and would certainly consider sailing with Crystal again! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2011
This moderate duration cruise was our first on Crystal and the first on the Symphony. Our overall impression was very positive. The size of the ship (900 passengers is small these days) was better than we had hoped. During the cruise we ... Read More
This moderate duration cruise was our first on Crystal and the first on the Symphony. Our overall impression was very positive. The size of the ship (900 passengers is small these days) was better than we had hoped. During the cruise we had the opportunity to meet and recognize a wide variety of other passengers. We were able to establish friendships with two of the artists who performed on the cruise, something we had not done on larger ships. Embarkation went efficiently, disembarkation went a little slow but this appeared to be a delay caused by USA officials. Once the officials authorized disembarkation the Crystal staff handled things efficiently. Leaving and returning to the ship at the ports went smoothly. Our cabin was well appointed and gave us plenty of room for the two week cruise. One bag was just a little too tall to slide under the bed but the staff stored it until the last night of the cruise. Cabin service was very good with just one minor issue - one day the stewardess for got to leave clean wash cloths. When we contacted the staff we received new wash cloths within 15 minutes. Our butler was superb we could not imagine better service delviered by anyone! We tried open dining and were very pleased with it. Each night we started around 30 minutes after the first seating which allowed us more time to complete daily activiities before dressing for dinner. The dining room staff was marvelous and went above and beyond to cater to my wife's low sodium diet restrictions. The choices of excursions were a little limited. However two of them - one in Cartagena and one to an archaeological site in Huatalco were excellent. We went out on our own in Georgetown, Grand Cayman and in Puerta Vallarta and enjoyed ourselves each time. The highlight of the cruse was the full transit of the canal. We had two very knowledgable speakers on the canal with great pre-transit talks and great commentary during the transit. The other speakers during the cruise were also great and with the length of the cruise and the small number of passengers we got the opportunity to establish a friendship with two of them. The entertainment was good with variety of individual artists interspersed with the regular musical variety. Overall we had a wonderful time and will very seriously consider Crystal again. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2011
We signed up for our first cruise experience with Crystal with many recommendations from friends. We were not disappointed. Crystal Symphony's crew made us feel welcome from the get go. We were part of the "Mix & Mingle" ... Read More
We signed up for our first cruise experience with Crystal with many recommendations from friends. We were not disappointed. Crystal Symphony's crew made us feel welcome from the get go. We were part of the "Mix & Mingle" reception and met a few other Cruise Critic board members plus the cruise directors and hotel manager. We shared questions and got great support. We were especially pleased to have met Jane Salk, Crystal Society's hostess for this cruise. She made us feel part of the "Crystal family". We had delightful table mates, who will be our friends forever. The waitstaff was outstanding and it seemed "no problem" for our special requests that veered from the menu set for the day. Amazing! We did get great information ahead of time from Crystal Cruises and Cruise Critic which was an enormous help for us as first time cruisers. We would highly recommend that new cruisers seek out the info we did and just ask. Most folks gave us good info. We know we will be cruising with Crystal in the near future and it's just deciding as to where do were want to go. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2011
Our experience aboard the Crystal Serenity was marvelous. Our expectations were high and we were not disappointed. The staff was outstanding. We were skeptical that they could be as legitimately warm, friendly and unhesitatingly helpful as ... Read More
Our experience aboard the Crystal Serenity was marvelous. Our expectations were high and we were not disappointed. The staff was outstanding. We were skeptical that they could be as legitimately warm, friendly and unhesitatingly helpful as previous reviewers had described, but it was true. We wanted to take some of them home. The Crystal orchestra was terrific -- and trumpeter Rafael worth taking the cruise to hear. The Broadway style productions were spectacular, some of the best we have seen anywhere. Some appealed a bit more than others to our tastes, but it would hard to fault anyone on professionalism. Special moments in some productions were quite moving. There was so much quality entertainment that it was difficult to take everything in. I thought it interesting that the two lecturers on the Panama Canal disagreed as to whether the USA should have retained control. The officers aboard were as charming as staff, and the captain was especially charming and helpful. We have frequented many top restaurants, none superior to every option aboard Serenity. This was the first ever cruise to offer "open dining by reservation," and that helped schedule times that worked well for us. Our every request was honored and seating for two (our general preference) was always available. With only 569 fellow passengers and a crew of 630, we felt anointed. In summary, this vessel is beautifully designed and maintained, it's staff well managed and lavishly helpful, and although it wasn't inexpensive it was worth every penny. Bravo. PS: We would have favored a stop other than the Cayman Islands. Huatulco, Mexico was delightful, and the dock an easy walk to everything. We would return here. We would have preferred at least one additional stop, preferably in Panama. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2010
Embarkation - We booked our own flights to San Jose, Costa Rica and purchased cruise line transfers to Caldera, a two hour drive. We got off to a shaky start as our connection on US Air was delayed due to fog in the Charlotte Airport. We ... Read More
Embarkation - We booked our own flights to San Jose, Costa Rica and purchased cruise line transfers to Caldera, a two hour drive. We got off to a shaky start as our connection on US Air was delayed due to fog in the Charlotte Airport. We arrived at the gate for our international flight 15 minutes before departure, too close for comfort! We would have missed the first 4 days of the cruise if we had not made this flight! Next time we go a day ahead like we normally do, or a least have a few backup flights. All was well when we were greeted in the San Jose Airport by a Crystal representative. After a 2 hour bus ride, embarkation was a breeze and we were in our Cabin in short order. Ship - The Crystal Symphony is compact and very passenger friendly compared to the newer mega-ships. It has a crew of 545 and a passenger capacity of 922. There are basically three decks where all of the activities are held: Deck 5 - Dining, Deck 6 - Nightlife and Deck 11 - Pool and Buffet. Of special note is the Bistro, a better than Starbucks coffee shop on Deck 6. Specialty coffees and teas are included, so a quick stop for a Cappuccino was a regular event. We also liked the Avenue Saloon for cocktails before dinner. One evening an enjoyable Dixieland jazz concert was held in the lobby on Deck 5. There is a true Promenade deck where walking exercisers meet daily and others just take a stroll. Deck 12 has a spa, salon and fitness center. We did not take advantage of these facilities on this cruise. Each floor with cabins has a complimentary guest laundry tat sees a lot of use. We were in a Category A verandah cabin on Deck 9. It included all of the standard amenities even though it was a little smaller than similar cabins on newer ships. The bathroom was well appointed and even included a small tub/shower and a double sink. Storage was plentiful as all of our suitcases fit under the bed. The bed was very comfortable and this was enhanced by a pillow menu! We spent a lot of time on our verandah which had a nice sized table and two chairs. Room service is available 24 hours a day and we ordered light meals on several occasions and ate watching the beautiful scenery. Sodas and water were complimentary. TV channels were varied and the quality was good. We particularly liked a daily comedy special hosted by Paul the Cruise Director. The crew made you feel very comfortable. Simple requests were met with a courteous "My pleasure". The buffet servers would remember you from previous visits and ask if you wanted your regular. Officers were visible and readily available. A special "Meet and Greet" was held for Cruise Critic members and attended by several key staff members. Hor deurves and cocktails were served. Food - This is where Crystal excels. Of our numerous cruises the food is far superior to anything else we have had on other lines. We requested a late seating table for two in the main dining room and our request was promptly granted by Remi, the Maitre'd. Special requests such as caviar and foie gras were no problem for our wait staff. Crystal has not deviated from fixed seating in the main Dining Room which is no problem with us. There are two specialty restaurants, Silk Road (Japanese) and Prego (Italian), that add a little more intimate atmosphere to the dining experience. We ate in Silk Road two nights and Prego one night. An additional charge is recommended for tipping the wait staff and it is well worth it. Silk Road serves Waygu beef which is a real treat along with all of the Nobu Matsuhisa inspired specialties. Prego's mushroom soup is legendary among seasoned cruise foodies. The menu is based on Piero Selvaggio's revered Valentino's. One thing that we like is the mid-day luncheon Gala Buffet. No more staying up until Midnight to take food pictures. For another special event, period costumes are worn by the staff and an ensemble plays chamber music for the elegant Mozart Tea. In the space of 11 days, we had 3 formal nights, 2 informal nights and 6 casual nights. Oh! Did I mention that the Trident Grill and Lido Buffet are also excellent? Entertainment - We do not normally attend a lot of shows but managed to go to more than normal as the entertainment was really good. What we did do was attend several enrichment lectures held on sea days. One presenter we particularly enjoyed was Dr Robert Freedman, who was an expert on the Middle East and Russia. Additional lectures were held on memory improvement, destinations and current trends. Ports - The highlight of the cruise was the Panama Canal passage. It was very well narrated and having a verandah cabin made it a pleasure. It was not our first time through the canal and I don't know when it will lose its fascination. We also ported in Aruba, St Lucia, Antiqua and Tortola. One plus is that we did not have to tender in any of the ports. Disembarkation - Everything went fine although exiting the ship was the usual madhouse. I suppose people aren't in the best of humor when they are faced with returning from "Certainly, it will be my pleasure!" to "Do you want fries with that?". Even though the ship was not cleared until 9:30 AM we managed to make an 11:05 AM flight from MIA by using a limo. In retrospect I don't know why we were in a rush to get home! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2009
This was our third cruise on the Symphony and each cruise gets better. We haven't sailed on the other luxury lines like SilverSeas and Regent but with the service and quality we receive from Crystal I don't know why I would ... Read More
This was our third cruise on the Symphony and each cruise gets better. We haven't sailed on the other luxury lines like SilverSeas and Regent but with the service and quality we receive from Crystal I don't know why I would venture out of the cocoon for a luxury cruise. I'll leave the ports of call out although I can say that the excursions by Crystal are always good and with the clients it attracts, Crystal has the upscale non eventful excursions. We did have one subpar excursion in Acapulco where the guides English was poor. From our last cruise with Crystal 2 years ago the waiter staff has become better. They were much friendlier and interacted with the passengers much more. Service has always been good but a little more intimate on this voyage. In talking to the Maitre D' I was told that Crystal was concentrating on hiring wait staff that wanted to be waiters rather than moving on to be doctors, lawyers etc. Maybe that is the difference. The ship has been refurbished and the rooms now have LCD/DVD TV's. Bathrooms have been redone with dual glass sinks. Beds and pillows still great and were made to our specs. The entertainment was extraordinary. The in house Crystal dancers and singers were every bit as good as some I've seen in Las Vegas. In fact better. They were high energy, innovative, and the lead singers were super. Considering they did a new show every other night you have to marvel at how they can remember 20 different sets a show. Enrichment lectures were excellent as always with Hugh Downs a guest speaker and Sam Choi the celebrity chef. Besides food Sam is a great stand up comedian. The Starlight Club has been refurbished and the Band that entertains there really had their act together. Kudos to the new female singer from the Philippines who not only had a great voice but individually visited with the guests during band breaks. Food is always good and you can expect to gain weight. 10 pounds if you can control yourself. Otherwise bring some elastic pants for the end of the cruise. Our table of 8 made several non menu requests. Kind of stump the kitchen by the group. They always delivered. Some required delivery the next night but often we were accommodated that meal. Alternative restaurants( Prego and Silk Road) are not to be missed. The main dining room never disappointed however. The Lido cafe and Trident Grill are always available as alternatives and are equally excellent. You'll find that the staff quickly knows you and knows exactly what you want so you can save some words and just say thank you. Of course if you haven't had enough to eat go to the Palm Court for High Tea. The staff even dresses up in period for the Mozart Tea. Of course the string quartet plays Mozart as you have a panoramic view of the Canal as you sail on. A six star cruise with no scrimping because of the economy as some other lines have done from what I gather from talking to friends that have sailed on other lines. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
Although I'd heard the phrase "crystallized" many times before our cruise, I did not truly capture its meaning until we were back at home in Vancouver and shocked into reality. By way of background, we are in our forties, ... Read More
Although I'd heard the phrase "crystallized" many times before our cruise, I did not truly capture its meaning until we were back at home in Vancouver and shocked into reality. By way of background, we are in our forties, fairly well traveled and this was our 5th cruise in less than 3 years. Our previous cruises were with HAL, Disney (with our young daughter), Carnival and Cunard. Our expectations were high but they were all fully met or exceeded. To exemplify this, our special story about members of the staff and crew who will go out of their way to satisfy a request: Halfway through the cruise my husband decided to purchase a set of shocks for his car through a specialty store in LA (don't ask me why). The idea was to have the box delivered to the terminal so that we could fly it back with us to Vancouver. We spoke to Gabor, the Concierge, who not only suggested the best way to accomplish this, but took it upon himself to make all the necessary communications with Crystal's agent in LA and arranged every aspect of it, including following up to update us on the progress. The end result, the box containing four shining high performance shocks was delivered to us on board the morning of disembarkation. Many thanks to Gabor and his team who passed the test with flying colors! Embarkation and Disembarkation We arrived at the terminal shortly after 12:00 noon. We were shown to a waiting area set up with chairs and given a color card. Wait was approximately 40 minutes. Once on board we were greeted by Susan who walked us to the dining room. All in all painless and the beautiful Salmon entrEe with the glass of C Champagne were a great introduction to what was to come. Disembarkation morning - everything was going smoothly until the paging started for a couple of ladies who apparently did not know they had to go through the customs inspection before they would let anyone off the ship. Apparently one of them had to be fetched from her cabin where she was still asleep! It took a while to get that done and by the time we were allowed to leave the ship there were more than a few nervous people who were afraid of missing their early flights. This created a long line and substantial congestion. The Ship The Symphony is a beautiful ship which is constantly being cleaned and maintained to the highest standards. The maintenance crew is efficient and unobtrusive -case in point: the entire midship staircase carpet was replaced in a few days in a way that was not disruptive to the passengers. The affected areas smelled of the carpet glue for short periods of time but the installers worked quickly and without interfering with the comings and goings of the passengers. The public areas are beautiful and decorated in understated good taste to please the majority. One area that could be improved upon is the Starlite Club. There are a few too many club chairs there and trying to move them or reorient them is a bit of a challenge, mostly when there is a full house. Also, the fact that the open side of the lounge is a thru way results in the performance or lecture taking place being disrupted by peoples' chatter and laughter as they go by. The Avenue Saloon is one of my favorite venues, particularly due to Colin Salter's piano. The downside is that smoking is allowed and when there are more than a couple of people lighting up the air becomes a real problem for non-smokers. We are not fussy and can tolerate some smoke but had to leave on a couple of occasions because of it. On a side note: thanks to Colin for playing "my" song every time he saw us come in. There are no crowds or lineups anywhere although some of the venues are very well attended depending on what's going on and you might have to look around for an empty seat. Our cabin on Deck 8 was adequate in size and we had the small sofa as a bit of a bonus - I understand how the sofas are missed by many. The closet and drawer space was also adequate and by moving the life vests off to the back all our clothes fit well. Here is the one and only gripe: the HUGE obstruction. There simply is no view at all from that cabin and we will not choose this type of accommodation ever again. Having an unobstructed view (if a balcony is not possible) is a must for us. In addition, the humongous tender hanging outside the window was routinely being maintained/worked on so we had to continuously close our curtains to avoid having a maintenance person looking in on us! This severely impacted our enjoyment of time spent in the cabin. Caveat emptor, the cabin was described as "limited or extremely limited view", the reality is that there was NO view whatsoever and the cabin was very dark. I do take some responsibility for having chosen this type of cabin knowing that there was an "obstruction" but we ended up with what must have been the worst of them all. We made our feelings known to the concierge in that not all E cabins are equal and that there is a certain amount of misrepresentation by Crystal in that regard. The Food We live in Vancouver, a city of Foodies with a strong, international cuisine atmosphere. There is one comment I make to everyone I tell about our cruise. Food on each and every Crystal venue is of the highest quality, be it the Lido, the buffets, the main Dining Room, Prego, Silk Road, tea, etc. It is all about choices and you can do no wrong. We had not one bad meal, anywhere on board. By the way, I have tried to replicate the burgers from the Trident Grill - so far unsuccessfully I might add. We did dine at Prego twice - the Beef Carpaccio is to die for, so is the famous Mushroom Soup. Tiramisu, the best I've had on land or water. Tea in the Palm Court or at the Bistro was very enjoyable, particularly the Amadeus Hot Chocolate. The Service There is nothing I can say that has not already been said on this board about the level of service. From our friendly, efficient room stewardess Kristel who brought ice for us each night after one such request, and badly needed band-aids from her own supply thus saving me the trip to the shop one evening, to spotless service from our waiter Gabriella, assistant Henri and wine steward Johannes. Worth a special mention, Ivo our Head Waiter, who went out of his way to create a memorable Chinese birthday dinner for my husband and who makes the best Spaghetti Bolognese I've ever had (tableside or not). Needless to say, the Crystal experience would not be the same without the Lido guys - Sonny, I really didn't need the 4 Margaritas you brought me during sailaway from Cabo but I sure enjoyed them! Entertainment Varied and rich, thoroughly enjoyed the production shows but loved the entertainers. What a great new talent Philipa Healey is, Jimmy Travis is a hoot. Full Sail is great and I'm still trying to figure out how mind reader Marc Paul knew what he knew…just to name a few. The special interest lecturers were knowledgeable and personable, always at hand for a chat. Andrew Steigman kept us informed about the history of the places we were seeing and his recount of the history of the canal was very interesting. Nigel West had spot-on, timely talks. Sorry we did not catch any Fred Plotkin's lectures but we did attend the Wine Tasting events - Sommelier Pasquale outdid himself when the anticipated 30 participants turned into almost 150. Fellow Passengers We met many lovely people including our sponsors Jackie and tablemates. As has been said in this board, the Matre D' does a fantastic job matching people up for dining. We also had the pleasure of sharing our table with Steven and Stacey (dance instructors) one evening and with Nigel West another one. We were almost too late for the CC cocktail party as I was not feeling well for a short while but had the pleasure of meeting a few fellow CC'rs. It came as a surprise that the vast majority of the passengers were repeat Crystal cruisers but I'm not surprised anymore as I hope to become one myself soon. It's worth noting that given the size of the ship you are bound to see people you've met all the time. Ports of Call Old Cartegena is a lovely, well preserved town with many, many street vendors; we took a tour of the cathedrals and the guide was knowledgeable and spoke good English. It was a holiday in Colombia that day so many commercial establishments were closed and there were not too many people around. The Canal was obviously the highlight of the cruise; a tremendous feat of engineering and ingenuity - we wished Crystal made stops in Panama City, a sentiment shared by others we met but there may be good reasons not to. Acapulco and Cabo. We decided not to take any tours as we usually like to get the lay of the land by walking around whenever we are new to a place. In this case we feel it may have been better to take the excursions as there is very little to do/see in the port areas. We also had an unpleasant encounter with a man who acted very aggressively toward my husband when told that we were not interested in what he was selling. He threatened my husband with calling the police so that he would "know what Mexican jails are like" and with calling his buddies to teach him a lesson. We walked away from the situation and made our way back to the ship. Memorable Moments Too many to list but to name a few: walking around the Promenade deck in the afternoon hand in hand; breakfast on the Lido Terrace aft deck; dancing and sipping Champagne Bellinis in the Starlite Club; contentedly napping on a lounge chair on one of the aft decks; all in all wonderful memories and experiences. We'll sure be back for more. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2007
PANAMA SPLENDOR - MIAMI TO LOS ANGELES CRYSTAL SYMPHONY FEBRUARY 2007 I recently returned from my fifth cruise on Crystal Symphony, a 14-day trip from Miami to Los Angeles via the Panama Canal. I had been through the canal once before, ... Read More
PANAMA SPLENDOR - MIAMI TO LOS ANGELES CRYSTAL SYMPHONY FEBRUARY 2007 I recently returned from my fifth cruise on Crystal Symphony, a 14-day trip from Miami to Los Angeles via the Panama Canal. I had been through the canal once before, but wanted to do it again, after having read David McCullough's definitive book on the canal: Path Between The Seas - The Creation of the Panama Canal. Another factor was the number of sea days, which I enjoy more than port calls. The original itinerary included port calls at Cozumel, Mexico; Grand Cayman; Caldera, Costa Rica; Acapulco; and Cabo San Lucas. However, in late January Crystal informed us that Cozumel was being replaced by Cartagena, Colombia. This reportedly was because of U.S. Government reinterpretation of the Passenger Vessel Services Act, which sets rules for foreign-flagged ships sailing between U.S. ports. Some passengers were disappointed to have their Cozumel plans disrupted, but personally I didn't mind the change, never having visited Colombia. EMBARKATION As is my usual practice when I make my own air arrangements, I flew Miami the day before embarkation. Although departure from Burlington, Vermont (where I had left my dog with my son) was delayed a little, I still made my connection at Washington Dulles with no problem and arrived in Miami in the early evening. I prefer to stay at the Holiday Inn on Biscayne Blvd, opposite the port, but it had been fully booked months in advance (learned that this was related to that weekend's start of the huge Miami boat show), so stayed at the Best Western on the 79th Street Causeway between Miami and Miami Beach. One mistake: never thought a downtown budget hotel would have airport shuttle service, so spent $21 (up from $15 last year) unnecessarily on the Super Shuttle. I had again obtained a visitor's pass for my sister, so on embarkation day she met me at the hotel for lunch and then we headed for the port. Unfortunately, our timing wasn't very good, as several thousand people were trying to get to a 2 o'clock Miami Heat pro basketball game near the port entrance. So, it took us about an hour to drive the short distance from 79th Street to the port - no harm done other than the frustration of sitting in traffic. Check-in and embarkation were the usual painless Crystal operation, so we were on board in plenty of time for afternoon tea. THE "NEW" CRYSTAL SYMPHONY This was my first cruise since the multi-million dollar re-fit of the Symphony in late 2006; I was anxious to see the changes for myself, having read a lot of the posts on this subject on the Cruise Critic boards. My impressions: - New carpet throughout the ship: very attractive. I like the use of different colors in the hallways of different decks. - Starlite Club: removal of the wall on the starboard side of the room and replacement of the old bar with an inviting circular one really open up the room and make it very inviting. The stage and dance floor area are unchanged, which is welcome considering how several other cruise lines keep reducing dance floor space. - Luxe Nightclub: not my cup of tea, and not many people in there in the early evening; I understand it has become a popular late night room for younger passengers. It is a much more practical venue for Karaoke than the Avenue Saloon. It has created a problem with noise levels in the Deck 7 staterooms directly above and I've heard that in the future they may use these cabins for staff and entertainers. Space taken from casino to create Luxe doesn't appear to be missed. - Cabins: New headboards and bedside lamps are very attractive, although the LED reading lamps in the headboard don't seem very practical. The new flat-screen TVs provide excellent picture, but have one shortcoming: input jacks are all on the back of the monitor, making it nearly impossible to plug in a digital camera cable to review pictures. TV reception of CNN, Fox News, etc, ranged from excellent much of the time to non existent in some areas off the Pacific coast of Mexico. Changes in cabin furnishings make little sense. replacement of the love seats with high-back chairs provides little additional floor space life jackets, formerly stored under the love seat cushions, now take up closet space. An even worse decision is the replacement of the former light-weight desk/dressing table chairs with heavy, curved back chairs which cannot be pushed under the desk when not in use. And, they have to be wrestled aside to open the center desk drawer. There have been a lot of comments on the surface-mounted glass "salad bowl" lavatory basins. I'm sure they look great in interior decorating publications, but they are not very practical. Also, they don't appear to have overflows, so it's probably only a matter of time until somebody floods a cabin and those below. In my opinion, a lot of money was spent unnecessarily in the bathrooms. LIFE ON BOARD Although this was only my fifth Crystal cruise, I immediately started running into both crew and fellow passengers I have met before. Maitre d' Victor assigned me to the captain's table, a first for me, although I have been at officers' tables previously with both Crystal and Cunard. I think that the fact that I am usually one of the few solo male passengers works in my favor in getting good table assignments. Table 60 was a table for 10, 11 on nights Captain Giske joined us, but we moved around each night, so soon got to know each other. An interesting group of couples and singles. I had cruised with two of the solo ladies on at least one previous cruise. As usual, I joined a team for the sea-day trivia contests. We were a good team but were getting frustrated at finishing second (twice after tie breaks). We finally pulled out a win the last day! I also attended the dance class on most sea days. Big group every class! The dance team of Alex and Felicity is new to Crystal, with both the Longs and Paul & Cheryl having moved on. They performed at several shows, including the first and last nights, and are terrific performers. They spent some class time each day on "progressive" dances, i.e. continually changing partners. I would have preferred to have the time devoted to basic dance steps, but that's a personal preference, as others seemed to enjoy the progressive dances. Theme of the cruise was Wine and Food, and we had two guest chefs, four theme lecturers, and two wine lecturers on board. I found the several food lectures I attended interesting, but most of the dishes demonstrated were more complicated than I would ever bother with, as I live alone. I also attended a number of lectures by special interest lecturers and destination lecturer Larry Rudner. There have been two changes in the production shows since my last cruise. The old Pirates opening night production has been replaced by selections from Applause Applause and Grand Hotel, a welcome change as the Pirates theme was getting a bit old. The other change was the addition of a new production show, The Envelope Please, featuring Academy Award music. I enjoyed it, although my favorite remains Curtain Call which I've seen at least four times. One interesting development was the loss of first one and then a second male singer-dancer. This meant that both the above mentioned shows had to be completely re-blocked practically overnight. Anybody familiar with musicals will understand what this involves. They even drafted one member of the Full Sail quartet for a singing role. The net results were that only somebody who counted the number of male and female chorus members would have noticed anything different. Full Sail is an excellent acapella quartet who performed a number of time throughout the cruise, and they were well received. Nice guys, too. Comic Ventriloquist Mark Merchant was a lot of fun, with some cutting edge humor that seemed to have been updated daily based on the morning news on CNN. I also enjoyed the other headline performers: Harpist Shirley Dominguez; pianist Bernart Walz; Violinist Ian Cooper; and vocalist Dorothy Bishop. In previous reviews I have commented on the talents of Galaxy Orchestra pianist Stacey Benn, who can plan anything from classical to jazz. So, I was pleased to see that Stacey has moved up to Bandmaster and does a great job both playing the piano and leading the band. My favorite entertainer for this cruise was Jeff Deutch who played nightly in the Avenue Saloon. I hadn't cruised with Jeff before, but I think he is the best I have experienced. He has an amazing repertoire, all completely memorized, and it wasn't very often a request stumped him. About eight of us seemed to be the ones closing the Avenue most nights, and Jeff was willing to keep playing into the wee hours as long as people were making requests and having fun. The Avenue remains my favorite room on Symphony. It's even more fun when various entertainers and ships officers stop by in late evening - Mark, Stacey, Victor, shirley and Dorothy among others on this cruise. Besides the two dance teams who've left Crystal over the last year or so, two other staff members familiar to Symphony regulars are leaving Crystal. Crystal Society Hostess Megan Mavor has just left to move to Norway and Cruise Consultant Billy Hare submitted his resignation the day I boarded. Remi was scheduled to replace Victor as maitre d' at the end of the cruise, with Victor moving to Serenity after some leave. ITINERARY I won't go into detailed port descriptions here, as there is lots of on-line and written information on all of them, as well as their being familiar to most regular cruisers. Some personal comments and observations: - Grand Cayman: very crowded with seven ships in port, including the mega ships Star Princess and Disney Magic. When I removed the price label from a mug I bought for my housekeeper found that it was "Made in China - Cartagena: As this was my first visit to this fascinating city and time was short, took the ship's boat and bus tour, which included a visit to one of the city's historic fortresses and a walking tour of the old city. Also, of course, a shopping opportunity. I am not a gem expert, but quality and pricing of emeralds appeared to be a lot better than on the Caribbean islands. They should be, with Colombia being the world's principal emerald producer. - Panama Canal. Particularly interesting for me as a retired civil engineer. Excellent on-board commentator for the entire passage. Heard a few complaints about how hot it was. Would did they expect, close to the equator in dry season? - Caldera: having done the long, hot excursion to San Jose on a previous visit, I opted for the half-day excursion to a large nearby commercial orchid farm, where they took us through the entire process from propagation of plants to packing and shipping of cut flowers to North America and Europe. We each received a small orchid bouquet which lasted very nicely in an improvised vase (Perrier bottle) for the rest of the cruise. - Acapulco. We were scheduled to dock, but learned the previous afternoon that we would be anchoring, as another ship had some major hull damage and couldn't leave the pier. However, we were able to dock in a different berth, as the NCL ship scheduled for it wasn't arriving until afternoon. The damaged ship was the Regal Princess, which had been supposed to depart on a cruise to Puerto Rico two or three days earlier. Passengers for that cruise whom several of us talked to were having a great time sitting on the ship with free liquor and shore excursions while Princess was figuring out how to get 1,500 people back to where they had come from. Ship was scheduled to go into dry-dock (in Panama, I heard) as soon as they got all the passengers off. Official Princess story was that she "touched bottom" at the previous port. Must have been quite a "touch" to do enough damage to require dry dock repairs and cancellation of two, if not three, cruises. I didn't take any excursions (been there - done that) just walked up into the old city for a while. Again, a loud complaints about how hot it was. Unlike the canal, it really was hot in the city. - Cabo San Lucas: a short call, as the ship really had to push to arrive in LA Sunday morning. I took a bus tour to get an overview of Cabo, not having been to Baja California before. Tour included a stop at a glass blowing factory, which I could have done without, a drive to the old city of San Jose del Cabo, with some shopping time, and visit to Cacti Mundo gardens, the largest display of cacti I've ever seen. Construction everywhere along the coast! Back at the tender pier, loud complaints from one passenger that short stay didn't allow time for both touring and shopping, and why did we have to be in such a hurry to get to LA early in the morning. Obviously clueless about what it takes to turn a ship around for a new cruise the same day! Also, do people not read the materials Crystal provides? The schedule for the Cabo and other port calls was published at least a year ago! HOMEWARD BOUND A good percentage of the passengers were from California, whom we east coasters envied a bit, as they would be almost home when we got to LA. The ship was pushed to maximum speed for the long leg back to LA, with all five engines at full power, and fighting both a headwind and opposing current. This is the only time there was any noticeable vibration. Despite these efforts, we arrived in LA about 1-1/2 hours behind schedule, but disembarkation was handled quickly, without the usual requirement that all baggage be ashore before anybody could disembark, so the Crystal transfers got us to the airport in plenty of time, theoretically, to check in for flights. I say theoretically because as soon as I got to LAX I started regretting that I hadn't stayed on the ship for the next cruise, as getting back to Vermont was to be a bit of an adventure. Virtually nothing was flying east because of storms - I was supposed to go through Washington, but it was completely closed, and nothing available to Philadelphia, New York, or Boston. Helpful United agent got me on the standby list for an afternoon flight to Chicago and then standby on to Burlington Monday morning. Learned something interesting: my 100,000+ United miles moves me to the top of the standby list, and I got on both flights with no problem. So, I got to Burlington about 12 hours later than planned - I was lucky - talked to people who had been at O'Hare for three days trying to get out. Learned later that even some San Francisco passengers had delays because aircraft and/or crews were stuck somewhere. Got home to NH to find a foot of snow from the Valentine's Day storm, and we had another 10 to 12" a few days later, so it still looks like winter here, regardless of what the calendar says. CONCLUSION All in all, another great Crystal cruise with a lot of nice people. I'm looking forward to my only other scheduled 2007 Crystal cruise, the November Lisbon-to-Miami big band crossing on the Serenity. This will be my first Serenity experience, so I'm looking forward to it. Several people I met on this cruise are also booked on the November crossing. I'm also anxiously awaiting Crystal's announcement of 2008 cruise themes so I can start planning for next year. Comments will be welcome either on the Crystal's Cruise Critic message boards or by e-mail. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2005
Third Crystal cruise, first on the Serenity, 34th cruise overall. I will not go over the stops and excursions because you can find this information on most reviews, and this is Caribbean and Mexico stops which means beach. The ports were ... Read More
Third Crystal cruise, first on the Serenity, 34th cruise overall. I will not go over the stops and excursions because you can find this information on most reviews, and this is Caribbean and Mexico stops which means beach. The ports were Key West, Aruba, Puntaneras, Huatulco, Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas. Pros: Service - 611 passengers, 640 crew 'nuff said. No bingo, Dance Hosts, Lecturers, Dance Instructor -Natalia Lind, Internet in-room - expensive, I paid $420 for the cruise. Shows - full production, although not as well done as the mega-ships. Berlitz language course - just sign up and learn. Yamaha music course - same full gym and spa - included in price. Tea time! Bridge. lounge No kids!!!! Ok, a few.. No drunk teens. Clean, one more time clean. Activities aplenty - just too many. Bistro Cafe - coffee from whole bean All soft drinks, Perrier Water, bottled water included in price. Sushi bar has toro! Ultra expensive underbelly of tuna. Silk road and Prego restaurants - just pay tip. Cons: Ran out of blueberries. Ran out of Cherry Ice Cream. Ran out of mangos. Too much service - like being asked if I wanted another ice tea when I had a full glass in front of me. Sticking food in my face constantly. Having to say thank you over 100 times a day. Tipping too many individuals for outstanding service. You can see that I thought this ship outstanding. Yes, in almost every way. I booked two more on the ship. If you want the absolute best then you can't go wrong here. Oh yes, Ziplining - awesome!!! Read Less
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