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8 Crystal Quebec City Cruise Reviews

All expectations met on our recent 14 day sailing from Quebec City to FLORIDA. Enjoyed perfect weather, perfect service, amazing food and great enrichment and entertainment The staff was up to the usual high Crystal standards. Ship ... Read More
All expectations met on our recent 14 day sailing from Quebec City to FLORIDA. Enjoyed perfect weather, perfect service, amazing food and great enrichment and entertainment The staff was up to the usual high Crystal standards. Ship is so well designed it feels very special and yet we feel right at home, Initia check in is a breeze, no line ups and lots of help. Front desk staff are helpful and cheerful. We especially love the Palm Court for beautiful vistas and sunsets. Two highlights were the fun evenings in the Aveue Saloon enjoying Perry Grant's fun and funny show. The Bridge lessons were something special. Roseanne Levinson is a patient and entertaining teacher who has tons of patience and great teaching skills. We learned enough basics to feel confident going forward with the game. As always the day we disembark is always sad, hate to leave the ship and the staff - but look forward to next time. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
First you fly into Montreal and get to your hotel about 5 after being on the road since 5 am. The meet and greet is a bevy of repetitive tables in the lobby of the baggage area after YOIU put your luggage in a bin for transport at the ... Read More
First you fly into Montreal and get to your hotel about 5 after being on the road since 5 am. The meet and greet is a bevy of repetitive tables in the lobby of the baggage area after YOIU put your luggage in a bin for transport at the baggage handlers discretion. Crystal Serenity is a nice ship but shows are terrible for what I am paying them to cruise. WiFi is outlandishly high again for what I paid for the cruise. Remember STARBUCKS gives you free WiFi and you don't have to buy anything. Two of the 5 ports were terrible. School buses were used to transport people to shore excursion places from ship. Did I pay for school buses at the price I paid? And the two towns stopped at in Canada had maybe 45000 people combined. Each had 1 main street with many shops, more souvenir stores than anything, one traffic light and NO visible gas stations on Main Street. One town had a "Dollar Store" which was famous for being only one in the area. One town had a Catholic Basilica that had only two masses all year for Catholic residents b/c Archdiocese sub-divided the town area into 5 parishes and left out the Basilica. Now you can rent it for weddings, funerals and concerts. One town lost over 2000 people who migrated to big towns to be with children who had gone off to college. Bar Harbor was a nice quaint old rich town with 60 room/26 bathroom cottages for the Rockerfellers and Gettys. More souvenir shops than anything else. One major thing was that the cruise line DID NOT NOTIFY PASSENGERS OF CRUISE CRITIC MEET AND GREET. I found out second hand and told another who didn't get the message- 8 people showed up. Speciality restaurants were excellent as was the regular dining room food. They accommodated us when we asked to have something that wasn't on the menu but was available according to a Matre D. Also a great positive for "Single" travelers was a table of 8 JUST FOR SINGLES (that was one reason I took the cruise company again. The staff were not real friendly. No one I met offered to say "hello" or "Good Morning, afternoon or evening as the walked past you rapidly and bold you over if you were in their way. Very Rude. The major productions were terrible- lip-synched, costumes that didn't fit, dancers not in step w/one another. The "singer" in the piano bar was hideous. He screamed into the mike, never sang a song but talked it through every once in a while trying to carry a tune. There were maybe 10 people tops any night. On a previous cruise this same piano bar was overflowing with folks who "Sang along with the guy" and the crowd was much more into singing which is what a piano bar is all about. I am booked again in January with the same ship and I certainly hope I can give a better review then. I hope my critique to Crystal isn read and doesn't get thrown in File 19. If Cruise Critic is paying for these Meet and Greets or is sponsoring them through the cruise lines they need to look into the lack of cooperation from the cruise lines to accommodate their clients. On the big companies, RCL, Carnival, Norwegian etc they handle business for Meet and Greets very well. I Travel alone, had a great cabin and cabin steward, probably the best part of the trip outside of the food prep and presentation (I lost 2 pounds on the trip but ate well and left full after each meal). Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
We had always wanted to try Crystal Cruises, and we weren't disappointed. Everything about the Crystal Serenity, the ship, the crew, our Penthouse stateroom, the food (AMAZING) and everything about the service and amenities met and ... Read More
We had always wanted to try Crystal Cruises, and we weren't disappointed. Everything about the Crystal Serenity, the ship, the crew, our Penthouse stateroom, the food (AMAZING) and everything about the service and amenities met and exceeded our expectations. Attention to detail, spectacular food in all the venues, and incredibly attentive service by ALL the crew, really made the trip special. We had many special requests, and all were satisfied to perfection. We were particularly impressed with all the meals, and the included drinks and wine were all top shelf, we had no complaints. Our Penthouse Stateroom and Neil, our Butler, were great. In the Dining Room, we had a great table and John, our head waiter, was probably the best waiter throughout all cruise lines. Our Captain, Igor, was amazing and took care of all our crazy requests with a smile and no questions asked. The entertainment was great, the bars were great, and the ship was perfect. There is absolutely no question that we'll be back!! Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
From the moment we stepped onto the ship , first class all the way . No issues other than a horrible port Sept Isles , Canada . Really why stop there when the only highlight of this town is a walmart ? Food was good , Silk Road ... Read More
From the moment we stepped onto the ship , first class all the way . No issues other than a horrible port Sept Isles , Canada . Really why stop there when the only highlight of this town is a walmart ? Food was good , Silk Road presentation was great , the black cod was ordered more than once , only issue was at 10 they started shutting down the sushi bar . Prego was tasty , get the mushroom soup bowl . Service was outstanding as usual. A special shoutout to Kasha who runs the connisour room . Always greeting me by name and very attentive . Never a wait for any machine in the gym , and I used it a lot as I tried uncessfully to maintain my weight . There is a reason we sail Crystal . Yes there are cruise lines that are less expensive , but for my money Crystal offers my wife and I want we want . Can't wait to cruise again . Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
What better way to celebrate an upcoming 93rd birthday than with a trip! For the past few years Mother and I have gone to New York for some theater time for her birthday trips, but this year decided to try a Fall leaf viewing cruise. We ... Read More
What better way to celebrate an upcoming 93rd birthday than with a trip! For the past few years Mother and I have gone to New York for some theater time for her birthday trips, but this year decided to try a Fall leaf viewing cruise. We had a rough start to the planning when Mother broke both arms in May so cancelled the Crystal Cruise we had booked for October. However, by Labor Day we decided to re-book it, since we still had plane and theater tickets. Two weeks out we have no cabin assignment or dining time, but we do have Mother's hair appointment scheduled for half way though, so the important item is booked :-). I don't have much cruising experience, but Katie and I did learn a few things on our Holland America Zaandam Cruise "Around the Horn" which has helped me prepare a bit for this one. Do some research on Cruise Critic about the ports we will visit. Book a few ship excursions - more expensive but easier logistically. Avoid the early morning excursions, because Mother won't make them, at least not with a smile on her face. Pair food tours with sight seeing - discovered I love these. Pack lighter. Hope for at leisure dining to avoid sitting with the same people the whole trip. Forget the iPhone SIM, as it is too complicated to find a phone store near the port. I'll pay the exorbitant ship WiFi charge for Canada and hope ATT has some New England coverage. Try not to eat like a pig. My friends Margie and Don are in Nova Scotia this week so are giving us a great preview. 10/6/14 Left Athens at 5 AM via very prompt Bulldog Limo, but was shocked at the amount of traffic on 316 at that time. It was literally bumper to bumper to the airport all the way from Athens. Had a near bad experience in security. Someone took my basket while I was putting on my shoes. It simply disappeared. We looked everywhere and asked the TSA to help. Of course it contained my handbag with passports, money, cards, etc. After five minutes, back came the basket. Someone who was being searched in a private room said my basket was hers so the TSA whisked it away with her. Mother and I had aisle seats across from each other on the flight to JFK, and, of course, the biggest man you have ever seen was in the middle seat next to her. She did not have the armrest down, so he took his seat and half of hers. I insisted she swap with me, since I'm pushy enough to claim my space, which I did. He stood up to get something and down went the armrest. He squeezed back in, but just barely. As we began flying low for our final approach to the QC airport, we were treated to a spectacular palette of color all over the countryside. I believe we have hit the leaves perfectly for Quebec, for sure. Had a lovely welcome to Quebec at customs when the officer pronounced Galland in the French manner and asked is I had French Canadian relatives. Who knew Quebec had Gallands? Settled into our room which has a beautiful view of Hotel Frontenac, the most photographed hotel in the world. I added another to the count right away. Met our Crystal Cruise Critic “sponsors” in the bar for a get acquainted drink. This is a fun program where someone who sees you are a first time Crystal Cruiser can ask to be your pre-trip guide. The benefit, other than some great ship tips, was $100 ship credit for each of us. We did not have a set dinner planned due to our stand by status, so we were added to six at the early seating. Very interesting couples with mostly experienced cruisers. In fact we met a couple on their 39th Crystal Cruise. Yow! Show featured songs from A Chorus Line, one of Mother’s and my favorites. 10/7/ Quebec City Had room service breakfast after a pretty good night’s sleep. Rainy weather today, unfortunately, since QC is a beautiful city, filled with “firsts” such as first permanent settlement, only walled city north of Mexico in NA, first hospital in NA, first boys’ school, first girls’ school, and many others. Relived my 5th grade social studies class with Samuel D. Champlain and Jacque Cartier. I will definitely return to QC with Bob in the future. Beautiful narrow streets, old churches, walkable walls, and more restaurants than any city in Canada. Got to peek in the Hotel Fondelac to see what $2000 a night gets you. Part of QC town history wall mural Lower Old Quebec And the rain begins! Had a lazy afternoon exploring the ship, eating a two hour lunch, and watching ladies dance with the paid gentlemen dancers on board. What a hoot. Mother will be dancing before the week is out, I’m betting. Fancy high tea then happy hour at the top front of the ship watching the beautiful Quebec countryside go by. We had dinner at Tastes, a little boutique restaurant with small portions based on international street food. We ate Peruvian tuna (raw) with lots of wonderful spices, California tacos like no taco I’ve ever eaten, some sort of steak on a skewer and tempura shrimp. The chocolate dessert was to die for, so I hope never to see it again. I could not resist. Ended the day with a fabulous selection of singing and dancing for 10 different Broadway shows. We met the parents of one of the dancers who is from Wales, and loved sharing the fun with them. Steve, the dancing and singing son, joined the cast two years ago right out of college and is just fabulous, as are all the entertainers. His parents are on their third cruise on our ship to get to see him perform. Of course, Steve has aspirations for Broadway or West End, but life working for Crystal is evidently very good. Some performers stay for 20 years! 10/8 Sept Iles Sailed all night on smooth river water but was surprised to discover this morning that I could see neither shore. We must be getting into the St. Lawrence delta area which is quite wide and merges into the Atlanta with a series of island all around. Left Mother sleeping while I frantically took care of work business, using lots of my very expensive satellite Internet. Glad I did not both searching for a Canadian SIM in QC because we are far from any sort of cell tower. Mother enjoyed room service while I had a working breakfast to catch up with things from last night. The wonderful thing about my job is I can travel more due to the salary and can work from anywhere in the world. The ship satellite Internet is hideously expensive but worth every penny when I means I can sit with my laptop in a beautiful restaurant enjoying the St. Lawrence Seaway and a fabulous breakfast. Our morning is at sea so lots of activities have been schedule. I opted for a Canadian history lecture, followed by pedicures for Mother and me in the ship’s spa. Returned to Tastes for another foodie lunch. Lounged around the ship all afternoon, moving from one beautiful space to another with our books and my laptop. Managed to complete several big work tasks with great Internet since there were no trees to get in our way. Mother debated dancing during the afternoon tea dance with the hired male dancers but decided her arms were not up to dancing with a partner. After watching a few minutes, I had to reluctantly agree. Mother and I were among the smart ones on the ship who elected not to go into Sept Isles. The rain came down in buckets, umbrellas flipped inside out, and one of the school bus tour buses got stuck in the sand on a beach and had to be towed out. We had a late dinner reservation tonight, the result of our standy-by last minute booking, so went to the evening performance before dinner. This was a classical pianist who promptly put most of the audience to sleep. Dinner was again delicious! 10/9 Iles de la Madeleine Woke up with the room service steward knocked on the door at 9. Guess the rock and rolling of the ship all night put us both into a deep slumber. At noon we left the ship for our Magdalen Islands shore excursion, “Flavors of Magdalen Islands.” We were met at the dock by a school bus, but inside was a fabulous Swiss guides who had moved here permanently after an 18 year career with Cirque du Soleil. She started a circus training school in the islands which now has 500 students ages 2 - 55. Her pride is having one currently performing with Cirque du Soleil. Our prize was having a wonderful guide who spoke perfect English. The ten Madgelen Islands are in the middle of the St. Lawrence River delta about 100 km West of Newfoundland and the same distance from Nova Scotia and mainland Quebec. The only way on or off is via a five hour ferry ride or a flight from Quebec City or Montreal. Eight of the islands are French speaking and two are English speaking. This is the heart of Acadia where the French were forced out by the English in the 18th century. Many went to Louisiana and the Caribbean while others went to Sept Isles. The ones left in the Madgalen Island either returned or never left. We first visited a cheese factory. About 90 years ago, an agronomist from Toronto persuaded a beef farmer to change to daily cows to produce a cheese similar to the type made in Normanday and Brittany. They sold their beef cows and imported 62 daily cows from the mainland and never looked back. The three cheeses we tasted here were all divine. Next stop the only remainly fish smoke house on the islands. There were once 72 of these, but then the herring population disappeared in the 70’s due to overfishing, all of the others were closed. In the early 90’s the herring reappeared only to be decimated due to climate warming, overfishing again, and the abundance of seals. This was the most interesting part for me. I remember seeing the films of the adorable baby grey seals being clubbed to death and responding with outrage. Unfortunately, this meant Europe, the US and most of the world prohibited seal skin and meat import, resulting in the 1 million seal population turning into 7 million today. These seals have no enemies and eat all the fish in the area. No more herring for the smoke houses today. Their natural enemies were polar bears, which lived farther north but are also disappearing and orcas while only live further to the west. Now China has prohibited seal product import, so the seal population will continue to expand. It certainly made me rethink the whole baby seal slaughter videos we saw 30 years ago. Maybe if they would shoot seals instead of clubbing the babies, we’d feel better about this. The only animals on these 10 islands are foxes, coyotes, and rabbits. The island homes are all painted bright colors. This tradition began so fishermen could find their homes by color to head to the right destination coming home. The tradition has continued. There is so much wind that there are very few trees on the islands, so lumber is now imported for new homes. About 13,000 people liver here full time with the population rising to over 30,000 during the summer due to the large number of relatively private beach areas. The many lighthouses are no longer in use but one can purchase a lighthouse for $1 if they agree to keep them painted, etc. for the tourists. At the herring smokehouse we sampled smoked herring (tasted like a Slim Jim) and marinated herring - aka Kippers in the US. I thought they were delicious. Mother did not even taste :-). Visited several beautiful beaches and lighthouses and ended our tour at the island’s micro brewery where everyone wolfed down potato chips and lots of beer. Most of us had not eaten lunch thinking we would eat a lot on this tour - not. Mother and I were happy to missing an additional 10,000 calories but did really enjoy our dinner at Tastes again. Evening entertainment was a Native American magician - odd but pretty funny. Later found a great small piano bar with a wonderful piano player and singer. Lots of fun then off to bed to be rocked to sleep again. Am loving that rock and roll. 10/10 - Friday Cruising the Cabot Strait Slept in for our day at sea, but my internal alarm is on Eastern time, not Atlantic time as we are now, so woke up too early. I must be the worst person in the world for time zone changing, because I cannot even make a one hour change work. When we go back to Eastern time in two days, I’ll probably be settled in on Atlantic. As Katie and I discovered on our South America cruise, sea days are packed with activities on the ship, so many that it is frustrating not to be able to do everything. Of course the weather was bright and sunny, but cold, making us wish we were in a port to enjoy walking outside. Outside on the ship was cold and blustery. My minimum outside boating temperature is 80 and we were at about 55 all day. Started the morning with breakfast in the Lido, because we were too late for the dining room. Next Mother decided to relax with her book in our stateroom so I ran from a lecture about the history of Nova Scotia and Maine, to a talk about iPad tips and tricks, to a lecture about militant Islamists, to a class on Photoshop Elements 12, quite different from version 3 I last owned. After learning how to remove wrinkles from faces on photos, I decided to go home and buy this one :-). Lunch in our favorite restaurant, Tastes. Beauty parlor time for Mother at 2 for a hair transformation. Mozart themed high tea followed with all wait staff dressed in period costumes and the string quartet playing all Mozart selections. Dinner at 6 with two delightful couples, production show about the British music invasion of the 60’s which was again amazingly fabulous, then a nightcap in the piano bar. I say today was mostly about eating and drinking. The all inclusive nature of this ship seems to encourage lots of both. 10/11 Halifax Woke up this morning to the sound of bagpipes as we pulling into the port of Halifax, Nova Scotia. This was our most risky day of the cruise, as we had booked a private taxi tour we found on Trip Advisor with Lucinda at www.halifaxcruiseshiptaxitours.com. I shared the information on Cruise Critic in our cruise area and another couple from San Francisco, Laurel and Steve, and a single from Sydney, AU decided to join us. We needed five to make the price reasonable, and it ended up being about $50 a person, far less than the ship excursions. Our guide Terry met us right outside of the ship so little walking was required of Mother. We hopped into his van and began a wonderful day in Nova Scotia. Our day begin with a walk through the large Halifax city park and a tour of beautiful historic neighborhoods in the city. Our stop at the citadel on the hill gave Terry time to tell us about the huge explosion of 1917, the largest explosion ever recorded prior to the Atomic Bomb. Next toured the Fairview Cemetery, home to the graves of 121 victims of the Titanic. Since most of us know quite a bit about the Titanic from the movie, Broadway play and recent discovery and underwater exploration, this was especially interesting. One of the executives of the White Star line was on the ship and evidently bribed his way onto a lifeboat being guarded at gunpoint to keep only women and children onboard. He promised to take care of the seaman’s family in exchange for a seat, and did. He also gave the seaman a nice headstone. Of course, he lived a miserable life afterwards trying to explain why he had gotten on a lifeboat reserved for women and children. James Cameron used names in the movie Titanic based on the real names on tombstones. Most interesting to me was a tombstone of an unknown two year old. Rescuers who recovered the bodied felt so bad for this one they chipped in to pay for a larger tombstone. A few years ago DNA testing revealed the child’s actual name. Our group decided to ship lunch to give us more touring time so we detoured through beautiful waterfront areas on our way to Peggy’s Cove. Nova Scotia has over 1000 km of shoreline and the areas that had not previously been developed as villages are now being developed as multi-million dollar neighborhoods. These homes actually reminded me of the Lake Burton mac-mansions. Peggy’s Cove, a very famous photo stop south of Halifax, was a surprise. I’d expected a big tourist village with lots of people. We saw a total of about 20. There were about a dozen shops, lots of fishing boats and lobster traps, and many granite rocks scraped clean by glaciers thousands of years ago. The famous lighthouse was about half the height of our SSI one, which seems to be the norm for Nova Scotia and most of Eastern Canada. It was quite lovely and proved not to be a problem for Mother walking. We did not bother with the walker, and used me instead. Back to the port, ship, just in time for a quick tea time with sandwiches. We acted like we were starving, but I’m sure we were not as my dinner the night before was enough to last forever. I zipped off to an iPhoto class where I learned many new tricks for me. Well worth the 45 minutes. The ship has two Mac labs with 30 inch monitors on 25 computers each - quite impressive! Had dinner tonight in the specialty Italian restaurant on the ship, Prego. Crystal does not charge extra for the special restaurants on board but does limit you to two evenings at their top two, Prego and Silk Road, their Asian restaurant. Service and food were both delicious, and we agreed with our travel agent that the mushroom soup was a must have. 10/12 Bar Harbor Early start this morning with breakfast in the dining room then immigration back to the USA. This was, by far, the easiest entry into the US I’ve ever had. One immigration officer looked at our passports and that was it. He, of course, mentioned he had been at FLETC many years ago. I suggested he must either be very senior or very good to get cruise ship duty. Lucky guy! Boarded our tender for a spectacular early morning arrival into the best Fall colors of the trip in Bar Harbor. I have visited Bar Harbor and the National Park here twice before but have never taken a tour so really enjoyed our National Park Service school bus tour of Acadia National Park and the town of Bar Harbor. Our guide, Heather, was one of those worth writing home about for sure. She had just the right amount of humor and exuberance without getting in the way of her extensive knowledge. She has been giving these tours for the park service concessionaire for over 20 years. A few interesting tidbits: Though there were three ships in the port today and the town was a bit crowded, Bar Harbor never lets tourism outweigh their charm. Only 6000 cruise ship passengers total are every allowed off the ships, and ships can only visit during September and October after the summer residents have left. Bar Harbor seems to be where most of the Jekyll Island Club group spent their summers after wintering on Jekyll. Beautiful homes line the harbor representing many of the rich and famous such as Martha Stewart, John Trivolta, and, of ocurse, the Rockefellers. The Rocks first came to Bar Harbor when Mrs. Rockefeller was pregnant with Nelson, former VP with Gerald Ford. She has two previous children and wanted the same doctor to deliver Nelson. He told her she would have to spend the summer in Bar Harbor if she wanted him to deliver the baby, so she did and the decendents have returned every summer from that point forward. John D. Jr. donated much of the land which is now Acadia National park. The viewpoint of the park if the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the Eastern seaboard. Leaf color was at its peek, and the air was crisp and cold providing beautiful clear views. A major fire in 1947 burned much of the park's cedar forests, making was for Norwegian maples, Red maples, birch, oak and many other colorful hardwoods. We could not leave Bar Harbor without a lobster roll which Mother had never previously experienced. Instead of one of regular restaurant on Main Street, we headed to the gorgeous Bar Harbor Inn for our lunch hanging out over the harbor in a beautiful glass dining room. The lobster roll was a few dollars more expensive but the view was well worth it. Lobster season is year around in Maine but most fishermen stop during the coldest months. In fact, most stores in the town close and the owners become snowbirds, flocking to Florida, Arizona, and the Golden Isles. Maine has over 3000 offshore islands, the most of any Atlantic Coast state, and Bar Harbor is certainly one of the most lovely. We reluctantly returned to the ship at 3. Mother took a quick nap while I listened to the last history lecture of the trip about Boston. 5 PM was tea dance time, but Mother was still a watcher concerned about lifting her arms to participate. Very weird production company show tonight with all characters dressed in lights. It required lots of effort in both costuming and performing, and we decided it was not worth it. Half the audience was asleep, as the show was done in total darkness except for the lighted costumes. 10/13 Boston Fantastic morning in Boston today on a ship shore excursion to Boston and Cambridge with our local guide David. David is about my age and is decended from Beacon Hill Bostonians. His grandparents created and donated the Constitution Museum by Old Ironsides, and he graduated from Harvard. I did not have the nerve to ask why he was leading tours so just enjoyed his wonderful personality and vast knowledge. Our stop at Old Ironsides showed us the ship covered in flags and bunting ready for the Secretary of the Navy to arrive later this week for the ships final sail before going into two years of dry dock. I'm always proud this ship was made from SSI live oaks, and, of course, had to share that. Then the guide told me he was writing a novel set in Georgia in Enota (sp) and Jekyll Island. Can't wait to read this one. Bob and I visited Boston two years ago and toured thoroughly except for Cambridge which we just road through. This trip took us on a 45 minute walk around the Harvard campus, a real treat since our guide had been a student there. Harvard Yard was not at all what I expected - much smaller than the North Campus yard of UGA and not as pretty. Our guide was a bit opinionated and got into an argument with a German guide about which group would get to enter the church first, her three German tour buses or our small group. Both guides pitched hissy fits but the German won because our Crystal rep told David to back off. We had an outdoor visit with an excellent telling of the start of the American Revolution, lanterns in the church tower, battle details, etc. Found out two liquor merchants funded the brick Freedom Trail to celebrate the bi-centenial in 1976. Their only stipulation was that the trail pass both of their stores, even though they were a bit out of the way. The National Park Service agreed and both merchants have gotten their investments back many times over with all the passing tourists. Other fascinating detail on this tour was no restroom stop on a four hour tour. Some got desperate and used the bus bathroom, only to get stuck in there because the door handle didn't work properly. We crossed our legs and ran into the restroom as soon as we boarded the ship. Spent afternoon catching up on work and resting though Quincy Market was tempting. Another lovely Italian dinner at Prego tonight. Am getting addicted to the lobster on this ship, I’m afraid. Skipped the piano concert and opted for a movie, Le Chef, which someone had mentioned was sort of like the 100 Foot Journey. It was in French with subtitles, but was still wonderful. Mother went right to sleep and had a lovely nap along with most of the people in the theater. The subtitles were a bit much for most, as there was lots of dialogue. 10/14 Newport Mother slept in while I worked this morning which was a great decision for both of us. We decided last night to see if the ship excursion to Newport at noon had any seats available, and a great decision it was. We tendered into beautiful Newport and joined our 90 minute trolley tour. Weather was perfect, and our guide was outstanding. According to him, he is the only resident of the city who is a direct descendant of Rhode Island’s founder, Roger Williams. A few tidbits to remember: Newport was one of the five largest cities in the US at the time of the American Revolution - others were Boston, Charleston, Philadelphia and New York. Newport has more pre-revolutionary homes than any other city in the country, thanks to the preservation efforts of Doris Duke, the tobacco heiress. Nice to see something good came from smoking. People came to Rhode Island for freedom of religion so the city had a more diverse population than other colonial cities. First Episcopal church, first Jewish synagog, and lots of other firsts. The rich started coming to Newport when a planter from Savannah visited and decided it would be the perfect summer retreat. His friends followed but all abandoned the city when the Civil War broke out and none returned. After the war Northern millionaires of the Gilded Age began summering in Newport and building huge mansions along the coast. The age ended with income tax legislation but huge mansions remain as do many wealthy people. Most elite were the group of 400. Mrs. Astor started this and had two requirements. 1. Must have at least 4 million dollars and must have 2 million set aside for each of your children. 2. Must not have earned your money by working for at least three generations. There is still a beach club in Newport set aside for the group of 400. Donald Trump tried to join this a few years ago but was rejected due to rule #2. Did not realize Anderson Cooper of CNN fame was the daughter of Gloria Vanderbilt, part of the wealthy Vanderbilt clan. We saw the “cottage” where he vacations in the summer. I decided I’ll never give another cent to my alma mater, because the Vanderbilts can afford to keep it running without me. Newport has more yachts than any harbor in the world. Most were spectacular! Had a great show back on the ship with the production company then a lovely dinner with six people we had not previously met. One had dined with one of the four ladies who live on the ship and discovered she had been on 355 Crystal Cruises so far over a 30 year period. 10/15 New York The captain announced during his one PA announcement of the day yesterday (ship only has this one announcement - no dinner bells, no activity alerts, etc) that we'd be arrived in NYC about 6:30 AM. I wanted to see this so kept waking up all night looking out the doors for lights. Did finally see them about 6:30 as we were sailing past Brooklyn. The early morning light scene was so spectacular that I insisted Mother get up and join me on the balcony. Took some nice photos of the new World Trade Center and the Empire State building. What a surprise to be docked right next door to the Intrepid Museum. Our New York City day was celebrated with perfect center section aisle tickets to the Carole King biographical play, Beautiful. I had read about this when it opened so ordered tickets six months ago. In June the lead won the Tony for best actress, and wow was that deserved. She was a better Carole King than Carole King herself! 10/16 New York Uneventful trip home expect for a little delay taking off from LaGuardia due to fog. All wheeled chairs were ready and waiting as was our old faithful Bulldog Limo. A few comments about Crystal Cruise line. The ship was very quiet. No announcements, not bells, tiptoeing staff Though the ship was full, everything seems somewhat empty. Please of space to move around with Mother's walker, which was a god send. Really enjoyed not having to pay, sign, tip, etc. Crystal is all inclusive - just ask and it is yours. Did not realize how much effort it was to decide who was paying for the wine at dinner or how much to tip at the end.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2014
About boarding with very high expectations we were greeted by a truly beautiful ship. Lovely design, sophisticated and well-appointed without being overwhelming. The Palm Court is a particularly pleasant space for lounging and watching the ... Read More
About boarding with very high expectations we were greeted by a truly beautiful ship. Lovely design, sophisticated and well-appointed without being overwhelming. The Palm Court is a particularly pleasant space for lounging and watching the scenery. Cabin comfortable and functional. Beyond that the cruise did not in any way live up to expectations. The food in particular was not to our expectations. The embarkation day lunch is often tricky, but when the only thing that appealed was the polenta lasagna was the only appealing thing we were worried. With a cornucopia of hot sandwiches and burgers on the lunch menu for those tastes went in that direction there was little else for the rest of us who wanted something a little more interesting. The dinners likewise suffered from a lack of imagination and average quality cuts and types of meat and poultry. The section of wine was adequate but again not sensational nor were the wines rotated particularly well. We had an excellent somellier, Lubomir, and our servers Jarryd and Nena were lovely, which made up for the disappointing dining experience. Despite the advertising, no one was interested offering us anything above and beyond what was on the menu. The entertainment was poor and the shows dated and predictable - we did not sit through a single show. The lecturers likewise were disappointing and did not know their material adequately. What I found most noticeable was that the crew were not particularly friendly - no one seemed to enjoy their job nor did they seemed at all responsive to their passengers. The pursers desk staff always made you feel like you were disturbing them, the bar staff pleasant but disinterested, the officers invisible. I know that it is difficult to not compare one line to another, but for us Crystal, despite the cost being comparable in no way matched Silversea.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
We just completed our first Crystal Cruise, the 7-day Maritime Explorer out of Quebec City, with planned stops at Sept Iles, the Magdalene Islands and Saint Pierre and Miquelon returning to Quebec City. My wife and I are experienced ... Read More
We just completed our first Crystal Cruise, the 7-day Maritime Explorer out of Quebec City, with planned stops at Sept Iles, the Magdalene Islands and Saint Pierre and Miquelon returning to Quebec City. My wife and I are experienced cruises, having Elite status on Celebrity Cruises and have also cruised a number of times on Holland America as well as Princess and Cunard. If there is a theme for this review it’s to try and answer the question “for us, was the extra cost of Crystal worth it?” To come to a conclusion, here are our thoughts on various aspects of the cruise. EMBARKATION/DISEMBARKATION The smoothest and fastest we’ve ever experienced. In fact, we were off the ship and into a cab almost a half hour before our scheduled time of disembarkation (living in Canada, we came by car so were not subject to airline or bus timetables). One factor that may have contributed to the rapid disembarkation was that despite our six hours in French Saint Pierre, we didn’t have to clear customs upon leaving the ship. STATEROOM We had a B2 cabin on deck 8 with a partly obstructed view (the onboard gangway was stowed directly below our veranda, preventing us from looking directly down onto the promenade deck or seeing anything in the water that might be close to the ship). Not an annoyance for most passengers. The cabin itself was no different in size or furnishings than any veranda cabin on any mass market cruise ship however with upscale touches as as leather upholstery on the loveseat rather than fabric. The sheets were upscale, the mattress definitely was not! Holland America, with its Euro-top mattresses, wins this one hands down! The bathroom does feature two sinks and tub with shower. At prime showering times (mornings and before dinner) the water was lukewarm no matter how high you turned the knob. Nice toiletries and towels, though. We had the impression that our cabin attendant spent her day trying to keep up with the work load. On at least half of the days, the cabin wasn’t made up until mid-afternoon, which made catching an after lunch nap problematic at best. However, when the job was done it was done well. We appreciated the free self-serve laundry on our deck and the environmental concern in not providing fresh towels when not needed or desired. FOOD Dinner in the main dining room was certainly a few notches above the mass market lines, but there were glitches. The steak we ordered one night was on the tough side, but everything was beautifully presented and arrived hot. The soups were especially good, as were the desserts. And you had the luxury of ordering off the menu for the following day if you so desired. Prego, the Italian restaurant was superb – as good or better than any Italian restaurants I’ve enjoyed in Canada or the US. We didn’t try Silk Roads, the Oriental/Sushi restaurant. Tastes, a sort of informal global tapas restaurant, was excellent in the evening incarnation The Lido buffet was ordinary – no different than the buffet on any mainstream line. On our cruise there were two “theme” lunches; the oriental which was quite nice and the American which was ho-hum. A high price for southern fried chicken kept warm under a heat lamp! There were enough staff to keep your coffee cup filled and to carry your plate to your table if you so desired. At breakfast, other than the fresh-squeezed orange jucie, your could have been eating breakfast in the buffet on any mass market cruise ship. The included wine selections for meals were excellent and we never felt the need to try the extra cost wine list. EXCURSIONS We only took one (the Magdalene islands stop was cancelled due to rough seas which made tendering impossible) but the one we took in Sept Iles was well organized and competitively priced. We had to cancel a second excursion and our charge was refunded with no questions asked, even if it was slightly after the deadline printed on the ticket. ENTERTAINMENT We’re not big on the production shows, but the one we attended was excellent as were the bands, string quartet and piano bar type entertainment. We didn’t attend any of the cultural lectures but we heard from others that they were very well done and informative. I did take a computer course on a day at sea and the instructors were excellent as was the instructor for the one workshop attended by my wife. The ship also has an excellent well-stocked library which includes, in addition to books, a huge selection o f CDs and DVDs (Now if only I had been able to figure out how to work the DVD player in the cabin – absolutely no instructions were provided). I gave up after a half hour. SUMMING IT UP It’s wonderful to be able to have a second (or even third) single malt without worrying about the bill at the end of the cruise. Also the lack of nickel and diming for every soft drink, cappuccino, etc. The food options are great. And there was no subtle “I’d appreciate a nice tip for the service I’m providing” from any of the staff. All of the crew were warm friendly and made an effort to remember your name. But is the cost/benefit there? I’m still not sure, but I think I’d do Crystal again if the itinerary and timing are right – and our budget permits.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
BACKGROUND INFORMATION: I have cruised 42 times on multiple different cruise lines. I travel solo and can’t get enough of cruising – I love being on the ocean. This cruise was in celebration of a milestone birthday. I’m an ... Read More
BACKGROUND INFORMATION: I have cruised 42 times on multiple different cruise lines. I travel solo and can’t get enough of cruising – I love being on the ocean. This cruise was in celebration of a milestone birthday. I’m an adventurous “mature” adult who views every trip and cruise as a unique chance to experience the world and its people. TRAVEL TO EMBARKATION: Limo service from my rural northeast home to Montreal, Quebec. Really excellent train ride from Montreal to Quebec City on VIA Rail Canada, first class, with beautiful restored “Renaissance” class car with a row of single seats and a row of double seats, very good lunch, beverage service, and wines included. Quiet, clean, and wonderful way to begin a cruise, plus great scenery. Once in Quebec City, a 10-minute cab ride from my hotel to the cruise terminal was very inexpensive, in a clean, upscale vehicle with a courteous English-speaking driver. HOTELS: In Montreal, I stayed at the Hilton Montreal Bonaventure, where I’ve had good stays before. In Quebec City, I stayed at the legendary historic landmark Chateau de Frontenac, high atop the cliffs of the city. It was like being in a French chateau in a past century, beautifully restored and preserved, and absolutely gorgeous and full of luxuries. Reasonable prices to begin with, and I received a complimentary upgrade to the high-floor executive level. Great view, plus access to the executive lounge with its lovely service, beverages, and foods. At the end of the cruise, I once again stayed at the Hilton Montreal Bonaventure, who really exceeded all expectations and upgraded me to what appeared to be their presidential suite at the originally booked standard room rate, on my birthday. SHIP: The “Crystal Serenity” appeared clean, perfectly maintained and beautiful outside. The inside was indeed “serene”, with subdued colors, tasteful furnishings, and luxury feel everywhere - decorated with lovely marble, fabrics, style. Even the air smelled luxurious, and everything appeared brand new and/or so well maintained it appeared this 11 year old vessel had just been launched. The ship is 68,870 tons, with a length of 820 feet, beam of 106 feet. Top speed is 22 knots. There are nine passenger decks. A crew of 655 cares superbly for a maximum passenger compliment of 1,070. On my cruise, however, there were approximately 800 people on board. The ship is painted white overall, with beautiful yacht-like lines. There is a marvelous wood-decked completely circular one-level promenade deck, great for walking or jogging. The lifeboats are recessed within the hull. I wondered if the ship were soundproofed throughout, as it was unusually quiet no matter where I was within the ship. This ship does not have the glitzy multilevel atrium many cruise ships feature, but rather a two-level atrium at the ship’s center, with comfortable seating scattered throughout, plenty of windows with cushioned window seats, the reception/concierge desk, future cruise desk, Crystal Society desk, a small bar, a unique clear-crystal piano, and a beautiful two-story wall made of what appeared to be Murano glass of various colors, with a small cascading water fountain. There is a bronze statue of a woman playing a harp, with beautiful detail. A curving staircase descends from the upper level of the atrium down to the marble floor first level, perfect for formal night grand entrances. It is luxurious, serene and peaceful in the atrium, and this feeling was enhanced by a string quartet playing classical music there at various times. It reminded me of a grand foyer entrance to a stately home. Subdued colors are found throughout the ship, very tasteful and rich. There is none of the bright, sparkly, flashing, neon glitz seen over so much of the industry’s shipping afloat today. EMBARKATION: Pure pleasure. Courteous porters took my bag at the curb when I arrived by cab. Next, a quick walk through the small cruise terminal in Quebec City, right on the St. Lawrence River. The usual security screening was done quickly and courteously. Entry to the ship was through an enclosed walkway, which was especially appreciated as the day of embarkation had cold, raw, windy weather with rain. The actual “check-in” process was carried out in the lovely atrium of the ship. There must have been at least 40 agents sitting at tables with linen tablecloths, so there were no lines and no waiting. The agent took my papers, took a photo, gave me the cabin key card and some welcome-aboard information, and that was it – less than five minutes in a very gracious and relaxed setting. Cabin access was not until approximately 3 PM, and as boarding began at 1 PM, I had some time before going to my cabin. The string quartet was playing, the bar was open, waiters circulated with champagne on silver trays, the receptionists were patiently answering questions, lots of material was available to read about future cruises and the current cruise, old friends from previous trips were meeting, and the feeling was more like old friends gathering at a luxury estate for a vacation together than the usual hassles with embarkation many cruise lines seem to have. The wait went quickly with the sociable guests and crew. For those not wishing to haul their hand baggage with them, a secure check-in station had been established, and crew took the bags to the passenger staterooms to await the arrival of the passengers in their cabins later on. CABIN: I had a deck 8 midship deluxe verandah stateroom. It seemed about 30% larger than the usual balcony cabin. Luxury fabrics and quiet colors, subdued and peaceful. Queen-size bed with luxury linens and lots of pillows, but with a slightly tired and soft mattress. Pillow menu made getting just the right pillow very easy – just ask the stewardess and they were brought. Small leather sofa near the balcony glass wall. Desk/vanity and TV above a small refrigerator. Lots of lovely dark wood cabinetry and closet sliding doors. Plenty of mirrors. Closet had substantial and plentiful wood hangers, a safe with touch-pad entry, shoehorn, robe, slippers, huge umbrella, shoe care kit, clothes brush. Rack for shoes on closet floor, and shelves and drawers. There was a phone near the bed but not on the desk. Only one electric outlet at the desk, which could have used more outlets in this day of so many devices requiring charging. Lighting was plentiful, but could have been brighter, especially at the desk area. Nice clean carpet in very good condition for a cruise ship, as were all the furnishings in the room. Refrigerator had complimentary variety of soft drinks, waters, beer. Anything the passenger wishes can be brought quickly to stock or replenish the refrigerator. The verandah wall is all glass with a sliding door. There are sheer drapes against the glass, and then heavier light-blocking drapes which can be pulled over the sheers – the regular drapes are tied back neatly during the day. There were two chairs and a small table on the fairly large verandah, but due to mainly cold and windy and damp weather, I did not get nearly enough use out of this really nice balcony. Good TV channel selection with better than average reception, plus a bow camera view and ships statistics channel. TV had a DVD player built in. The bathroom was incredible, probably three times as large as the usual cruise ship bathroom. There was a gorgeous double-sink granite sink top in warm rust/gold/earth tones. Big mirrored wall above the sink, with shelf. Good bright lighting. Lots of separate shelves on either side of the mirror – lots of good storage space. There was a full-size bathtub with a hand-held shower setup inside a glass and shower-curtain enclosure. Even the toilet was a surprise, as it was a nearly full-size facility compared to the tiny ones on regular ships. Nicely placed towel racks. The towels were luxury thick, fluffy, soft, and looked brand new. You do not see thin, ragged, scratchy towels on this ship! Towels are replaced twice daily if you wish, but the usual eco-friendly practices abound on this ship – hang up the towel and reuse if you wish. Aveda bath products provided in the bathroom. There were shower caps, Q-tips, cotton balls, good-quality bath tissue and Kleenex provided. There was a soft small rug on the bathroom floor – nice touch for bare feet, but it could be very slippery so beware. Everything in the bathroom appeared spotlessly clean. There were several coat hooks on the wall near the door, very convenient. There were cloth laundry and shoe bags in the closet, again an eco-friendly effort, as well as the enormous cloth logo totebag. A large adjustable table was near the sofa for meals in the room. A full-length mirror was on the wall near the hall to the door. There was a small touch-pad system replacing the usual door-hanger signs – one of the best systems I’ve ever seen – to either announce the do not disturb status or request for cabin cleanup and service. One touch of the pad inside the cabin near the door lights the appropriate signal sign on a small pad outside the door. Touch again and the sign light goes out. There is also a real doorbell touch pad on the corridor-side pad so housekeeping can ring the bell rather than barge in and disturb the occupants, or guests can ring the bell when they visit. Very good climate-control system with heating and air conditioning adjustable individually for each cabin – just touch the indicator pad on the small control on the wall. A small bedside alarm clock was provided. I believe the cabin walls were soundproofed, as I never heard the people on either side of me. The cabin was so luxurious and comfortable it was a destination itself, as was the ship. ACTIVITIES: There were activities to suit all ages and interest levels. There is a “University at Sea”, offering computer classes, camera classes, personal enrichment topics, and other learning opportunities. World-class lecturers spoke each day on pertinent and interesting topics, with lectures in the very comfortable small theater on the ship. Fitness fans could work with a personal trainer for a fee, or use the huge array of new equipment and free weights in the fitness center. Joggers, runners, and walkers had plenty of space to do laps around the promenade deck. It is obvious that personal wellness is a popular topic on this ship, and plenty of opportunities are there to stay fit and well. My only wish in this area was for a Zumba class. Small groups met for diverse activities such as bridge, knitting, needlepoint, crafts, and reading. There was a small, elegant and apparently smoke-free casino with the usual games of chance and slots, including penny slots machines. There were plenty of photo opportunities and a nice photo gallery. Many people simply enjoyed socializing and looking out the windows at the ever-changing sea, or strolled with friends within the ship. Activities on this luxury-level ship are aimed at an older, mature passenger demographic for the most part. You will not find the raucous, carnival-type games and noise here. The passengers on my cruise appeared to be on average at least over 60, mostly couples, but plenty of singles (this cruise line offers some very nice price breaks for solo travelers). The passengers on this cruise were mainly from the USA and Canada, but there were other nationalities nicely mixed in as well. Most of the passengers I spoke to were devoted fans of Crystal Cruise Line and belonged to the Crystal Society of past passengers at some astoundingly high cruise number levels. There were a lot of professional people, very well-to-do, as well as ordinary Mr. and Mrs. Anywhere USA couples and singles. Everyone was very quiet, courteous, and interesting to socialize with. I love ballroom dancing, and this ship offers Ambassador Hosts, a small group of gentlemen who are available to dance with single ladies, or attend meals and tours with those wishing company while traveling solo. I danced every night almost until midnight with these courteous, well-traveled and well-spoken gentlemen from various countries, who were all outstanding dancers. It was one of the highlights of the cruise for me, and there was a small live orchestra for dancing in the beautiful lounge with a proper wood dance floor. A small bar is in the lounge area for those wishing drinks. There were just two sea days on this cruise, and I know there were more activities than I’ve listed here. The daily “Reflections” newsletter delivered each night to the staterooms was full of listings for dining, fun, relaxation, etc. There is a very nice spa at the top of the ship, and I splurged with a manicure, pedicure, and massage to get my birthday body some really nice pampering the last day of the cruise. Various societies represented on the ship offered some type of social gathering or cocktail party nearly every day of the cruise at various times. The future cruise consultant was a genial multilingual gentleman who always had somebody at his desk and a few people waiting. Apparently the loyalty to this brand keeps people booking the next cruise right on the ship, with good extras available if you do so. Another unique feature of this ship were four ladies who live on it. I met one of them who had been on the ship for six years straight. Talking to her was incredibly interesting, especially learning about the logistics of extreme downsizing with possessions and property, plus how to deal with the daily temptations of rich cruise ship food. The knitting and needlepoint groups were as much fun for the talk and shipboard gossip as they were for the small complimentary projects available, and often the groups met in the same lounge area where the elegant and elaborate themed traditional high tea events were held, with the classical string quartet playing. The high tea events featured servers in tuxedos, magnificent English and German elaborate china and silver, and very tempting and beautiful food items. There were just a few shops, all of which offered goods at the luxury level. There was a clothing ship, a “logo” articles and clothing shop with a very small selection of necessities and ship souvenirs, a perfume and cosmetics boutique which smelled so divine I wish they could make a perfume from the fragrance inside and sell it with the name “Cruise Ship”, and a very elegant high-end jewelry boutique with some of the most magnificent jeweled creations I’ve seen outside of a museum or world-class jewelry establishment. Everything on sale was tasteful and appeared carefully selected, and displays changed frequently. There weren’t any of the “sidewalk sales” other cruise ships offer. In a sensible change of procedure, the captain and officers do not shake hands at the meet and greet functions, very smart in these times of lots of nasty diseases in closed populations. I saw the Norwegian captain just once while walking through the ship, and he was a big man who appeared very serious and dedicated, but also polite when I said good morning to him as he went about his rounds with his staff. Safety was his priority, and after all, that is his main job. A popular activity on one of the sea days was an “open house” of the various types of staterooms available on the ship. It was a marvelous, clever selling tool for those not familiar with the ship or the actual cabins, as a photo can only demonstrate so much in a flat dimension. The penthouse suites were incredible to actually visit in person, and all categories of staterooms were lovely. Even the lowest-category outside cabins with a big picture window were extremely spacious and had the same nice bathroom as the other categories outside the suites and penthouses. The bottom ledge of the picture window was cushioned, and would make a great place to sit and watch the seas roll by, or just enjoy a cup of tea while reading, assuming one is agile enough to climb up the short distance to settle on the ledge. SERVICE: The best I’ve ever seen on any cruise ship, ever. Nothing was too much to ask for, and anything requested was taken care of incredibly fast. There were no excuses about why something could not be done – it was just quietly and efficiently made to happen, “with our compliments” – “it’s our pleasure”, etc. The staff always remained professional, cool, gracious, polite, composed, and willingly helpful. It felt like being royalty and treated accordingly. As this ship is all-inclusive, tips were included generously, and there were none of the sly, subtle little games played by the crew to get more tips. All the crew apparently had to speak English to work on this ship, and all were multilingual. Very international crew who had some great stories to share, and it was a good chance to meet and interact with people from other cultures. This crew seemed far better educated and sociable than on other ships. Cabin service appeared to be mainly female stewardesses, although I did see male waiters for room service and some room cleaners. I had a lovely lady from India caring for my stateroom, and she was genuinely dedicated to good service and being helpful. A huge plus was not finding service carts blocking the walkways first thing in the morning. The early-morning hallways were silent, clean, and uncluttered. Cabin service was at the guest’s choice of time, but appeared to usually being around midmorning to allow people to breakfast in their cabins undisturbed, or perhaps sleep late without being disturbed. The cabin service took longer than usual, but appeared more thorough as well. Service was complete twice a day, morning and evening turn-down. No pillow chocolates or towel animals on this cruise line, but that’s something I can easily do without. Eve the white orchids in a silver vase which I found on embarkation in my cabin, as well as the flower bouquet in my cabin delivered later on embarkation day from my travel agent were watered regularly by my cabin stewardess! Any shipboard mail, notices, invitations, etc. were placed in a “mail box” type rack just outside the cabin door, and there was a lot of printed information every day to keep passengers well informed without disturbing them. No annoying loud announcements were ever heard, as the ship has a “no-announcements’ policy unless it related to an emergency or port visit status. The captain makes a daily noon broadcast of items of interest, weather, position, etc. and this is heard ship-wide and on the decks. Anything related to safety or disembarkation at ports is also broadcast in the corridors as well as a designated shipboard TV channel in the staterooms. What a relief not to hear some braying carnival-barker style announcements constantly for art auctions while trying to take a guilt-free nap on a cruise! Items like time-change notices appear in printed notices and the daily newsletter. The crew was always willing to take photographs for passengers requesting this, which is a huge improvement for solo travelers trying to get a decent “selfie”. Everybody smiled most of the time, said hello quietly, and were one of the most contented crews I’ve ever encountered. Nobody complained about being tired, and nobody kept talking about how many months, days, weeks, hours they still had to work before their contract ran out. Good teamwork and mutual respect was apparent among the crew members. Dining room service was at the level of what the royals of the world probably receive. Nothing was too much to ask for, and everything was done with grace, style, smiles, courtesy, quiet professional efficiency, and warm concern that the guest was enjoying everything as much as possible. My table had a very compatible and expert team of two male waiters – one from Hungary and one from Croatia. Every night’s entrance into the dining room began with the head waiters and maitre’d at their podium, beaming at the guests, as well as a side line of 10 waiters smiling and offering to escort guests to their tables. Table service was the best I’ve seen in many years of cruising. Service at breakfast and lunch in the buffet restaurant also was extraordinarily good most of the time, with far more than average staffing. There were no trays in the buffet restaurant, but an observant waiter or waitress immediately approaches and offers to hold one’s plates as you progress through the lines, and they patiently wait with you while you choose your meal items, and then take all your plates and bowls or whatever to your table and then proceed to bring the beverage(s) of your choice. They will check up on you during the meal as well and bring seconds of anything and more beverages. The buffet crews feed you love along with your food. It is obvious that this crew knows they are on the ship to cater to very discerning passengers who pay a lot and expect the best for their cruise experience, and service is truly amazing in every department. DINING: Besides the main dining room, there are two pay-per-visit specialty restaurants – Silk Road and Prego. I did not take the opportunity to enjoy Prego, but did eat twice at Silk Road, with the feeling being that I can get Italian cuisine easily where I live, but not Japanese food. Silk Road is small and elegant, with superb service by its staff. There are flexible seating arrangements from a table for one or two, up to groups. There is also a sushi bar. An intricate and very unique menu offers a good variety of Japanese cuisine with some very different combinations of ingredients and seasonings. Chopsticks are provided as well as the usual utensils. Portions are small but adequate, and arranged like works of art. If you desire more of something, you will have it delivered to your table most graciously. There is chicken, seafood, fish, noodle type items, and many other choices. Deserts are wonderful as well. Appropriate complimentary beverages as well as for-pay menu are available to compliment any main entrée. The usual cruise ship buffet restaurants and little places around the lido deck offered grilled items and ice cream, too. I had expected true gourmet and Continental cuisine, with the rich sauces and complex recipes, in the dining room menus, but was rather disappointed to discover American home-cooking and “comfort food” items among the other and often somewhat peculiar food items offered. Salmon seemed to be offered at least twice a day in some form as well. Seeing liver and onions, fried chicken and roast turkey on such an elegant ship just didn’t really fit in with the luxury cruise ambience. Considering the majority of passengers were from the USA, however, perhaps it is the cruise line’s intention to feed these people what they want and get at home. When I cruise, it’s a chance to get away from dull, “healthy”, and boring food at home and enjoy the world’s cuisine and lots of good deserts guilt-free on vacation. The fish items were among bottom-feeder and bait varieties, for the most part, and the one time lobster was served, it was tasteless and mushy. Salad dressings on the buffet line were watery and poor quality. There certainly were enough items in all food groups to create something good, however, and it just took some time and practice. International food theme days were a feature on the buffet food lines, but some items weren’t really that good. There was a huge overabundance of using kernel corn and red and green bell peppers and onions as fillers in too many dishes. Dining room menu desserts had little variety, and seemed to be mainly made of fruit ingredients, with a lot of ice cream served. There were a lot of sugar-free and flourless items, but most were rather dry and tasteless. “Modern” cuisine was on the menu for lunch and dinner, but it appeared to be an overabundance of someone’s ideas of creative food blendings and preparation – different, and usually tasty, but a bit too exotic for my personal taste. Complimentary red and white wines which were very good were available at lunch and dinner, with premium other alcoholic beverages available for purchase. A big problem was the buffet line, where many items had obviously been prepared far ahead of serving times, and were held under ineffective heat lamps which did nothing to keep the items warm. Repeatedly, waffles and pancakes and other hot items were lukewarm or cold, and often dry and stiff. Same for the breakfast pastries first thing in the morning, as they had apparently been sitting out far too long and had become dry and stale. Some of the dining room food was also served below proper temperature for hot items, and not chilled properly for cold items. This was mentioned to the proper authorities several times, but I did not see much improvement in the seven days of this cruise. This situation is not unique to Crystal, however, as I’ve seen it on all 42 cruises I’ve enjoyed. Buffet items all had their little individual tags in front of them, identifying what each item was. Beverage selection was outstanding all over the ship, be it in the bars, dining rooms, or buffet restaurant. It was nice to have a whole can of soda brought to the table to enjoy, and many varieties of bottled water were also there for those wishing it. Sometimes cold beverages arrived without ice, which seemed to be the norm in Quebec restaurants and in Europe, too, but it was simple to remember to just ask for ice, please, and it was provided. The buffet restaurant tables were nicely set with china and silver, but a small plastic place mat was on the tables, and I did not see it cleaned between diners – and silverware was placed unwrapped on this plastic mat. This seems to be a serious breach of good health practices, as other diners put their used utensils on the mat during the meal. This was a rather tacky procedure in an otherwise beautifully set table. The dining room tables were masterpieces of flower arrangements and magnificent china, silver and glassware. The line uses Villeroy and Boch china, and has a series of four unique old-world map design charger plates on the tables. These plates were designed specifically for the cruise line, and I bought one of them for a souvenir of the trip. There were two seatings in the main dining room – main and late, as well as dining by reservation, and the buffet offered walk-in convenient service all during the day for the appropriate meals. A handy and appreciated electronic, large menu display is on the wall just outside both buffet entrances, and it changes screens to show all the food items available at each meal. I was delightfully surprised by the maitre’d and his staff when they brought a lovely chocolate birthday cake with candle to my table in the dining room – a very nice way to celebrate my milestone birthday and to be able to share it with the two very nice couples at my table that evening. Room service had a good menu available 24 hours a day, and although I did not try it, apparently the menu in the dining rooms is also available for service in the staterooms, with more items available to the elite penthouse accommodation passengers. PORTS AND SHORE EXCURSIONS: The ship provides a printed information sheet on each place visited. This cruise departed from Quebec City in Canada, and sailed up the St. Lawrence River, making a scenic cruise for a few hours in the Saguenay River fjord. Lots of beautiful fall foliage was visible, as well as quaint tiny villages along the riverbanks. There was a respectful and peaceful short stop below the beautiful statue of the Virgin Mary high on a cliff above the Saguenay River. The first port visited was Sept Isles, a small town on the St. Lawrence River. There were organized tours, but I chose to explore and walk on my own. An old historic trading post has been restored and preserved, and was an interesting place to see at the edge of town. There is an Innu Native “reserve” as part of the town, and a new marina with a scenic walkway along the riverfront. There were bus tours offered on local school buses, but I believe I saw most of what they did during my hours-long walk. The main highway at the inland edge of town leads to Quebec City, 10 hours away. There are the usual big-box stores and fast-food places along the highway. Effort has been put into upgrading the town, roads, cruise terminal (which had lively local music, foods, crafts on sale and nice helpful tourism people). The people I met while walking were helpful and friendly, and some did speak enough English to get directions and just interact sociably. The next port was the Isle de Madeleine, but due to very high winds and rough seas the tender shuttle service was not possible safely. A short stop in view of the scenic cliffs was about all we were able to do. The tiny islands of St. Pierre et Miquelon were next for the cruise, with tender shuttle service to the town pier. There were still very high winds and rough seas, and the tender ride was very rough. The local tourism board had a welcome committee bravely standing in the cold wind to greet the ship’s tenders as they arrived, and the music and smiles were lovely. This island is a territory of France, located just south of Newfoundland, with the French language and flag and traditions. Narrow hilly streets with cobblestones, stone architecture, lace curtains in windows, a few flowers still visible in window boxes. Some stores were open, but not many, and the bakery displays of French pastries looked wonderful. I did not tour in this port with the ship tours, but again chose to walk and explore on my own. There is small old stone cathedral in the center of town, and many historic monuments. The waterfront is full of various types of businesses, souvenir shops, tourism office, and different kinds of boats. It reminded me a lot of San Francisco. After a few hours exploring on foot, the icy wind and dampness convinced me to return to the ship for lunch, after seeing all I could of importance. The tender ride back to the ship was just as rough as the one to the land, with an additional 45 minutes of waiting for conditions safe enough to be able to actually dock the tender at the ship and escape the rough ride. The ship left that afternoon to return to Quebec, sailing back through the Gulf of St. Lawrence, with beluga whale sightings to everyone’s delight, and then into the large, peaceful St. Lawrence River once again. The ship arrived in the morning at Quebec City, where it remained overnight to allow maximum touring of this beautiful old historic city. There were multiple city tours offered by vehicles, horse carriage, and on foot, as well as dining tours and explorations of the local area outside the city. I’ve been to Quebec numerous times, and chose to explore again on foot, this time visiting the huge Citadel high atop the cliffs next to the old walled city. I did not have enough time to enter and explore all the Citadel, but did enjoy walking the scenic grounds with the fall foliage and wonderful views of new Quebec as well as the old city below. The boardwalk on the top of the cliffs is worth walking just to people-watch and enjoy the music played by local musicians. Some of the views along the boardwalk of the buildings and people come right from French impressionist paintings. The French language of Quebec is heard everywhere. There are numerous restaurants offering all kinds of good food in Quebec, as well as multiple shopping opportunities and art exhibits. No matter how many times I’ve visited Quebec, there is always something new to find, eat, explore, see, or just enjoy by visiting with the local people and trying to improve my amateur French-speaking ability. The last night of the cruise was spent enjoying the many amenities of the beautiful ship, and getting a good night’s sleep before heading home. The night view of the old city from my verandah was spectacular. ENTERTAINMENT: There was the usual variety of cruise-ship entertainment on this cruise. Several very professionally-produced production shows were performed in a comfortable theater-type lounge with plenty of seating for everybody at two separate times. A really good live orchestra enhanced each performance. The dancers and singers seemed far more professional and skilled than average compared to other cruise lines. Costumes were spectacular, especially in one show which highlighted Broadway hit shows. The ship’s cruise director (from the USA) was a clever ventriloquist who performed one evening. There was a professional ballroom dance duo, and wonderful singers – something for everybody and every taste. There were also lounge singers in several venues throughout the ship in the evening. A favorite was the classical string quartet of European ladies who played at various places and times during the cruise. There was also a very skilled and entertaining magician aboard. Movies were offered in a real movie theater onboard throughout the cruise. If all this was not enough, there was a good selection of DVDs available for checkout from the library for private viewing in the staterooms. Many people seemed to be entertained quite nicely just by reading books, working on personal IT devices, small craft projects, attending the various lectures and educational offerings aboard ship, shopping, socializing, and enjoying the shuffleboard and other deck sports available despite the weather being somewhat inclement at times. CHILDREN: I only saw one small child and several teens on board. I observed a small room which was a playroom of some sort, but overall, this is a cruise line catering to adults. With the obvious service and quality of this cruise line, however, I’m sure if a large number of children were onboard, they would enjoy themselves as much as the adults while being well cared for. DISEMBARKATION: Extremely quiet, organized, and convenient. The ship was in port from the day before the end of the cruise, and this allowed people who had extremely early flights to disembark as early as 2:30 or 3:00 AM. Luggage was set out and collected silently during the night at the passenger’s convenience, most of it by 11 PM. There was the usual colored tag system indicating when disembarkation would take place. If one had an early flight or needed special arrangements, it was quick and easy to arrange an appropriate time. If an assigned time wasn’t convenient, a simple call to guest services provided a convenient time and a new tag. A really nice feature of disembarkation was allowing passengers to stay in their cabins much later than usual on other cruise lines. No cabin service people barged in and started tearing the cabin apart and cleaning while the guests were enjoying privacy to the last minute. I never heard a sound from the baggage collectors or early departing passengers. No announcements were made, as very detailed instructions about how to leave the ship, where to meet, what to do with final details, etc. were given to guests well in advance of the actual day of disembarkation. I had a late train from Quebec back to Montreal, and was able to enjoy a leisurely breakfast, do final packing in my carry-on bag, and leave the ship at my convenience without any noticeable crowds or confusion. The ship was so organized that I was able to leave the ship 45 minutes earlier than my requested time. The cruise terminal at the pier in Quebec City is small but well organized, and my bag was waiting for me in a clean, neat area. Plentiful inexpensive cabs were right outside the terminal, and I rode comfortably to the train station after leaving the ship with plenty of leisure time and no stress. SUMMARY: Crystal Cruise Lines is nearly perfect, or at least this cruise was. It is a product which appears to be aimed mainly at mature adults. Most of the people I interacted with among the passengers were sociable, well-traveled, and well-to-do people who lived to cruise and loved to cruise. Many had the means and time to take multiple back to back cruises, and as one passenger commented to me, “This is what we do – this is our lifestyle”. Another remark overheard was “The passengers on this cruise line who take the world cruises repeatedly are a cult. There is nothing like it with any other cruise line”. Being well-traveled and sociable, but certainly not “well-to-do” compared to my fellow passengers, I considered this birthday celebration cruise a privilege and a splurge, and really appreciated it. I can’t imagine taking this level of luxury and quality for granted as some people seemed to do on the ship. Most of the passengers appeared to be traveling as couples, or family members together in small groups, with a preponderance of single older women. One large group of travelers was from Asia, and other international countries were represented. This definitely was a more sociable passenger contingent than I’ve noted on multiple other cruise lines. Many people knew other travelers from prior cruises, and the Crystal Society members were very numerous and enjoyed reconnection with people they had met on other cruises. A premium company representing quality travel agencies had a representative on board as well, and there were social gatherings and on-board perks for passengers who had used a travel agency belonging to this company. There is enough to do without ever feeling bored or ignored on this gracious ship. It all depends on what your interests are and your desired level of involvement. Premium shore excursions are available if you have the desire and means to purchase something out of the ordinary. Pre- and post-cruise quality packages of hotels and private or group transfers begin the luxury experience well before the cruise ever begins for those who choose to purchase them. Service is exceptional overall, absolutely the best I’ve ever experienced. No wish is impossible, and everything is done with courtesy, class and amazing speed. Dining was a bit of a disappointment in some areas, and apparently satisfied the majority of diners - but this cruise line apparently has achieved the impossible by taking calories out of the food. I lost two pounds while eating five or six desserts per day – and I normally come home from even a short cruise with several extra pounds as unwanted souvenirs of enthusiastic dining. Nobody can starve on this ship, even if the cuisine offered is at times a bit unique or unusual. With the two specialty restaurants offering complimentary dining for one time in each, be sure to give them a try. Despite some rather exotic food offerings, it was all mostly very good and a great chance to experiment and try things most of us never get at home. Activities offered were age-appropriate and had something for every interest, fitness level, or age. There were very popular offerings involving computers on this particular cruise, as well as photography. Had the weather been better, I’m sure more people would have enjoyed the wide, wrap-around promenade deck for walks and whale-watching, as well as the lovely pool deck area with its inviting large lounge chairs and clamshell “cuddle couches”. A daily newsletter is well-written and full of useful and interesting facts about each day of the cruise. Weather and the daily dress code are included in detail. One does not need to wear formal attire every night, either, despite the elegance of the cruise – nice resort casual clothing is the norm most of the time, and there was just one truly formal night on my 7 night cruise – and this had a nice showing of tuxedos and formal gowns, but also dressy tops and pants for women and suits for men. People dressed appropriately for the weather, ports and onboard ambience, but with a welcome lack of the usual torn shorts, undershirts, tired flip-flops, and worn-out baseball caps seen on the more casual cruises no matter what the dress code. Fares for Crystal run a bit higher than average, but you get what you pay for. There are specials, “deals”, early booking rates, Crystal Society discounts, early full-payment discounts, and very enticing solo traveler fares. It’s worth every penny, considering the quality of service, beautifully maintained and designed vessel, far above average cabins and interior appointments in the cabins and baths, and attention to detail in every aspect of the cruise experience. Crystal travels the world with its two lovely medium-sized ships, with varying lengths of itineraries, and offers the usual pre- and post-cruise services of airline flights, transfers, land tours, and hotels, all at a higher level of luxury than ordinary cruise lines. While the cruises can be booked online, I was assigned a travel agent when first contacting the cruise line by phone for information, and the agency admirably handled all the details for me to my complete satisfaction plus treating me to flowers on board and two generous on-board credit packages. I usually do my own cruise bookings, but was glad for the professional assistance with this Crystal booking. If you want extraordinary service on a meticulously run and elegant medium-sized cruise ship, with multiple dining and activity options, plus a passenger contingent of sociable, mature, well-traveled adults, Crystal offers cruises which will far exceed your expectations all over the world. This is not a “stuffy” or “snob” cruise line, but rather a nearly-perfect cruise experience on two ships which travel the world. Such is the popularity of its cruises and dedication of loyal repeat passengers that some 2016 cruises are already nearly fully booked, and the historic Northwest Passage month-long cruise in 2016 is already sold out with hundreds on a waiting list. I had expected my trip to be a one-time splurge, but it was so wonderful that I’m booked on the “Crystal Symphony” in the future. Having experienced this level of quality in cruising, it will be very difficult to go back to the usual and ordinary cruise experience. Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
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