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14 Crystal South Pacific Cruise Reviews

We have been sailing Crystal since 2001, on the Harmony, Symphony, and Serenity. Usually we do back-to-back cruises (our last was 35 days from Valparaiso to Auckland on the Symphony in a PH cabin). It will be our last on any Crystal ... Read More
We have been sailing Crystal since 2001, on the Harmony, Symphony, and Serenity. Usually we do back-to-back cruises (our last was 35 days from Valparaiso to Auckland on the Symphony in a PH cabin). It will be our last on any Crystal ship. Now that Crystal has chopped up its cruises into mini 5-day segments, and "relaxed" its dress code, it has become a down-scale cruise line. We have always avoided those 7-day cruise lines because we didn't want the 7-day cruise clientele. Now, that is who pretty much populates Crystal. There was frequent loud, vulgar cursing around and in the pool by clients who have obviously had too much to drink even at 11:00 AM. Baseball hats, flip-flops, athletic shoes, and t-shirts are common in the main dining room. Just read the reviews here on CruiseCritic from Crystal clients lauding the fact they will not even bring a sport coat onto their next Crystal cruise. There was a man in the cabin below us who smoked cigarettes on his balcony, despite it being explicitly prohibited by Crystal. We couldn't use our balcony or open our outside door without having to inhale his second-hand smoke. We complained to the Concierge multiple times, but Crystal was impotent in having him stop. So, WE (not him) had to change our room. Terrible. On the good side, Crystal does have great service. The staff is outstanding. With the elimination of set dining times, the food appears to have gotten even better. We have cancelled all future cruises we had already booked with Crystal. Read Less
Sail Date February 2019
I have now taken 4 voyages on Crystal Symphony, and 11 total on Crystal (including one river cruise) and on this cruise had the best combination of sea days and (to me) new interesting ports to visit. I felt the service was better than ... Read More
I have now taken 4 voyages on Crystal Symphony, and 11 total on Crystal (including one river cruise) and on this cruise had the best combination of sea days and (to me) new interesting ports to visit. I felt the service was better than ever. The staff were happy and did seem more relaxed and content, which helps me feel more relaxed during my vacation. Ambassador hosts were charming and good for company at shared tables even getting me on the dance floor a couple of times. The headwaiter was fabulous and also the wines were fantastic. I did several spa services which were quality and worth the cost. Trivia was again a highlight on sea days and all in all the cruise was filled with movies, lectures, shore tours, and great food, company and beverages. I guess we also hit the jackpot as we did have calm enough seas to get onto Easter Island for the day tours, which is a novel experience. I indulged in some great modern dishes in the dining room and was very well taken care of regarding my dietary restrictions. Also it was great to see that bartenders no longer automatically add straws in every drink. Now I can stop saying "no straw please" with my orders. Oh also I got to play table tennis doubles one afternoon! Kept in shape taking the stairs onboard, walking the promenade deck and snorkelling in Moorea! I highly recommend this itinerary, it was a real getaway and super for getting away from the winter. Read Less
Sail Date February 2019
The service, the entertainment, the lectures and the activities were excellent. The service was exceptional! The best I have seen. The food was good. Above average. It was not consistent. Sometimes the food was very good and ... Read More
The service, the entertainment, the lectures and the activities were excellent. The service was exceptional! The best I have seen. The food was good. Above average. It was not consistent. Sometimes the food was very good and sometimes very disappointing. Shore excursions had too many people participating in it. On Nuku Hiva there were twenty 4 wheel drive vehicles in a caravan. The original cabin had a problem with the air conditioner that could not be fixed and had to move to another cabin. The second cabin had multiple problems. The hot water was not hot and needed to be fixed few times. The toilet didn’t flush many times. The alarm of the refrigerator was beeping. The old refrigerator needed to be replaced with a new one. In multiple occasions the public toilets didn’t flush. My cabin was on the 7th floor. I heard from other guests who had similar problems. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
We chose Crystal for their excellent service onboard and quality and variety of food. Embarkation was very fast. We really enjoyed the attention that the peronnal onboard treated us. Very respectfull and helpful. Evening shows where ... Read More
We chose Crystal for their excellent service onboard and quality and variety of food. Embarkation was very fast. We really enjoyed the attention that the peronnal onboard treated us. Very respectfull and helpful. Evening shows where very good. All restaurants serves high quality food. The numerous activities onboard where well appreciated. Lecturers where excellent and all other activities where varied. We embarked at Papeete and did some south pacific atols, Pitcairn island. People from the island came onboard to sell their arts and crafts product. Very interesting. Easter Island was the highlight of this 19 days cruise. We then visited Robinson Crusoe Island and finished our journey at Valparaiso. This leg of the the world tour was amazing. We will certainly sail again on Crystal. We sailed on other cruise line and Crystal deliver the quality and service expected from a 6 stars cruiseline. We are looking to sail again on Crystal in the near future. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
My husband and I decided to join a friend on a five-week cruise on Crystal's Symphony. She gave it glowing reviews and we were excited about the trip from Auckland across the Pacific to Valparaiso. That dream soon turned to a ... Read More
My husband and I decided to join a friend on a five-week cruise on Crystal's Symphony. She gave it glowing reviews and we were excited about the trip from Auckland across the Pacific to Valparaiso. That dream soon turned to a nightmare, as explained toward the end of this review. Let me start with the really great part: Crystal employees are devoted and loyal and give first-class service. This part of the trip did meet expectations. It could not exceed them, because they were so high I would have felt harassed if they had tried to do more. Also, we met lots of great people, though that's generally the case however and wherever we travel. And, having wifi available most of the time at no extra charge was great. However, once aboard we discovered not all was as described. Contrary to Crystal's hype, the ship has not been entirely refurbished. The public areas of the ship have been refurbished and reconfigured. Suites may have been upgraded and electronics redone in all staterooms. But aside from electronics and a spotlessly clean bathroom, the condition of our small stateroom was less than we'd expect on an aging, economy-priced ship. The sheer curtains were filthy and so creased they did not meet in the middle and our window overlooked the Promenade deck. Wallpaper was peeling from the walls. Decorative tile in the shower has been scrubbed for so many years half the design has worn off. The carpet was beginning to show ground in grime and wear. That was just the beginning. Three different times we were freezing to death with the thermostat set on high and had to call to have the ventilation adjusted. At least one day the entire ship was uncomfortably cold due to HVAC problems. The plumber was in the room at least once a week. The first time a clogged pipe soaked the carpet, requiring two days of heat and fans to dry out. What a nuisance! A faucet leaked from the top, causing water to puddle on the counter and later the floor. White bubbly slime oozed from the floor drain a few times, and once water emerged, soaking the bathmat. The bathroom smelled like sewer gas half the time. I will give them credit. The plumber always arrived promptly, and when I mentioned the state of the room to the hotel manager, we immediately received new sheers. They would have replaced the wallpaper, but we didn't want the disruption, and we already knew the room was a mess. We just expect better than this from a cruise line that doesn't discount cabins even when the ship is half full because, according to one travel agent I met aboard, "They don't want just anyone on this ship!" Food was a disappointment. Many did rave about it, but I'm not one of them. If only for this reason, I would not sail on Crystal again. Waterside, the main dining room, had a monotonous dinner menu in that it always featured French-inspired or other innovative cuisine and each dish seemed an effort to out-sauce and out-do the others. Veggies were generally used as garnish for modest portions of meat, not nutritional elements. Room service dinners I ordered while ill were awful. A steak I'd ordered medium rare was huge, totally gray, cold, and tough. A pasta dish the next next night was as salty as sea water. Specialty restaurant alternatives to the Waterside were a disappointment. Two of the three main dishes I ordered in Prego, the Italian one, were tasteless and not well prepared. They should have been sent back, but I didn't want to hold up my fellow diners. The third was edible but not memorable. My previous experience with Tuscan food has been great. This was not what I think of as Tuscan. We are not fans of Asian food and the other two specialty restaurants were Chinese and Japanese, so that didn't leave us many options. The buffet varied a few items each day within each category (breads, pastries, soups, casseroles, meats, etc.), but within that variation everything remained the same. One sandwich may have been offered each day, but constructing one to our own taste involved running up and down the line a few times and was not easy to do. I missed the panini station I enjoy on Celebrity ships. I also missed PIZZA. The Trident grill offered something called pizza ─ a wafer thin crust with a smear of sauce and hint of cheese. The one day I ordered it, it was charred on the bottom. The buffet morphed into Churrascaria in the evening. This semi-buffet venue offers a variety of side dishes and Brazilian barbecue. Like the French food in Waterside, ostensibly is a key concept. French and Brazilian cuisine offer inspiration as a starting point for innovation, some more successful than others. Desserts were, I'm told, awesome. I'm not a dessert eater myself, but they did look delicious. Appetizers offered in cocktail venues at Happy Hour were tedious and generally tasteless. Each evening two would be offered from a lineup of prosciutto-wrapped melon balls, cream cheese stuffed green olives, some green paste they called guacamole, and small burger sliders or tiny pigs-in-blankets. Once or twice they had tiny quiches. These were passed by circulating waiters and after the first week they were boring. Which brings us to beverages. The list of included alcoholic beverages was extensive, and servings liberal. While it's a kick to order a drink, and then another and perhaps yet a third, without signing a thing or reaching for a tip, this temptation may not be in everyone's best interests. Coffee was first rate. Some of the shows, like the ventriloquist and similar acts, were great. Music performances were always way too loud for me and I generally skipped them, as I do on other cruise lines. Small venue performers were good, especially the violinist and Crystal Cove pianist, but these people come and go. Also, on the second leg, at least two evening performances were repeated. What's with that?! Visiting speakers were generally first rate. We enjoyed most. Presumably we could watch lectures later on screen in our stateroom if we missed one, but I never figured out how. Now for the nightmare that occurred early on. I became ill a couple of days after we left Auckland and was ultimately ordered off the ship to be hospitalized in Fiji. Thank God, unlike the ship's doctor, the hospital doctor is not obliged to practice defensive medicine on behalf of the cruise line, and I was not admitted to the hospital in this third world country. My husband left the ship with me, and we were able to catch up with the ship in Tonga a couple of days later. To our horror, the ship decreed that since we'd both left the ship ALL OUR BELONGINGS had to be packed for shipping home. Our cabin had to be emptied. The cabin we'd paid to use. That meant when I got back on, instead of falling into bed to relax, I had to spend several hours sorting things in the suitcases left on the bed and figuring out once again where to put things, and arranging to have the rumpled clothes packed by strangers pressed. To their credit, after two long, tense meetings, Crystal did a lot to calm us down. I do understand and respect why the doctor made the decision she did, though perhaps my options could have been made more clear. This part may have been the same on any cruise line. I have no idea whether other cruise lines require belongings to be packed if all occupants of a stateroom leave. Be aware this could happen and don't hesitate to push back should the occasion arise. Finally, shore excursions. We generally make our own arrangements for these and our limited experience with official Crystal excursions validates the wisdom of this. Neither of the two we took lived up to expectations. The second, on Easter Island, was unacceptable. A large group was divided onto two small busses with a single guide. We had no narrative as we drove through the countryside and had to spend valuable minutes during short stops at each site listening to cursory explanations. We all felt rushed. Furthermore, the windows on the busses were smeared with a muddy film, so no pictures from most seats on the bus were possible and the general view was obscured. This excursion cost more than twice what others paid for a private tour the same length of the same sites, and they were in small groups in vans with constant narrative from their guides. When they left the vans, they were ready to start walking and clicking shutters. We had similar experiences with pick-up tours at other ports. Something is VERY wrong with this picture! Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
South Pacific Cruise on the Crystal Symphony March 3-April 6, 2018 This is a review of two segments of the Crystal Symphony World Cruise, from Auckland, New Zealand to Papeete, Tahiti and Papeete to Valparaiso, Chile. Ports of call ... Read More
South Pacific Cruise on the Crystal Symphony March 3-April 6, 2018 This is a review of two segments of the Crystal Symphony World Cruise, from Auckland, New Zealand to Papeete, Tahiti and Papeete to Valparaiso, Chile. Ports of call included two stops in Fiji, the Cook Islands, Tonga, Niue, Bora Bora, Moorea, Tahiti, the Marquesas Islands, Easter Island and Robinson Crusoe Island. Overall Crystal lived up to its reputation among the best of the upper tier of cruise lines. It is essentially all inclusive other than shore excursions, and naturally the price reflects that. Other than some minor areas for improvement, I have little reason not to rate the experience highly. As with any cruise the experience starts long before boarding as you register online and if so desired, reserve excursions and make speciality dining reservations. Unfortunately Crystal was in the middle of transitioning from their legacy web site to a new site and they made the classic rookie mistake of going live with the new site before it was fully checked out and functional. This certainly detracted from the initial impression of Crystal as this was our first cruise with them. Through several attempts over a period of weeks and exchanges of phone calls and emails with Crystal eventually everything was set. Interestingly, Crystal is one of the remaining lines that still sends paper brochures and boarding documents. For a line that prides itself on being “Green” sending duplicates of everything to a couple sharing a cabin is quite wasteful. My one other minor complaint is that none of the theme nights were mentioned in the advance information and thus we had not packed for these. These minor annoyances were all forgotten once embarkation began. Crystal has a unique process where the health forms, clearing security, registering your card and getting your cabin key are split between the terminal and onboard in stages. This spreads out the activity and minimizes congestion. It proved to be efficient and fast (helped by a passenger load less than 700) and we were quickly in our cabin, which was ready as soon as we boarded. Our luggage also arrived promptly. We had a verandah cabin on deck 9. We found it roomy enough and were impressed with the closet space, more hangars than we have seen on almost any of our previous cruises and ample drawer and shelf space so that our clothes and accessories for 35 days onboard could all be stored with room to spare. The refrigerator was larger than the standard minibar size one usually found on ships and the safe was large enough to fit two iPads and the rest of our valuables. The Symphony had only recently emerged from drydock and the cabins now feature large flat screen TVs. Regrettably our cabin still had only one 110v and one 220v outlet, a serious shortcoming in today’s wired world. The bathroom was adequate and the only minor issue was that the lighting could have been a bit better. As always my pet peeve is the light switch is on the outside, making for the usual acrobatics at night to try and turn on the light and quickly close the door without waking your partner. The balcony was large enough for the two of us to enjoy it comfortably with a nice table in between. With so many sea days on this cruise we took full advantage of the balcony. Returning to the TV, the interactive system was superb for accessing information on entertainment, dining, etc. I particularly loved the fact that any enrichment lectures you miss are available on demand or can be viewed live in your stateroom if you don’t make it to the venue. The number of TV stations is dependent on satellite coverage and so varied greatly during our voyage. Internet access is totally free and for most of the trip was surprisingly fast. Once we got into the more remote parts of the South Pacific it did slow down considerably as satellite coverage there is spotty. The pool on the Symphony is large enough to swim short laps. Obviously not Olympic size, but reasonable for a ship of this size. The one downside is that it apparently uses ocean water because it was very salty to the point that I stopped using it as my eyes were getting irritated. There is an oversized hot tub that was very relaxing after a long day of touring and I frequently had it to myself. There are three main shops onboard. All were focused on higher end merchandise (clothing, jewelry, watches) with only a token amount of souvenir cruise wear like polo shirts and tees. There was a small section of sundries. Dining is probably the most subjective and personal topic to comment on. The Symphony has switched to an all open dining format for the main dining room, called Waterside. We never had to wait for a table whether we wanted to dine alone or with a group. We found the food quite good and there were always at least 6 choices of entrees, often more. There are also several speciality restaurants including Italian, Japanese, Chinese and Brazilian steakhouse. Passengers get at least two complimentary meals in the Italian and Japanese restaurants per segment and unlimited dining in the others by reservation. In addition up until 6 pm the Trident grill serves sandwiches and other light food and the Bistro has some snacks and deserts throughout the day and evening. One nice feature is you can order off the Waterside menu for room service during their regular dining hours, plus a more limited room service 24/7. With all these options you should never go without! Our one “complaint” is that we are used to having access at night to a buffet for casual dinner if we did not feel like a sit down meal and this option is no longer available on Symphony. Without question Symphony’s entertainment offerings are world class. The resident singers and dancers are multi talented and professional and their production shows were as good as any we have experienced. The guest performers included opera singers, a famous pianist, an array of well known vocalists and more. There was no decrease in quality in the lounges either, with a magnificent violinist, pianist, a Quartet in one lounge and a dance duo in another. If none of these were to your liking, the ship also has a dedicated movie theater showing first run films. During our cruise we could see the Shape of Water, Darkest Hour, Three Billboards and many more feature films. The enrichment lectures were generally first rate. The mix included marine biologists, military generals, a CNN reporter, a cultural anthropologist, and a Hollywood talent agent/former performer. If you wanted to skip all that and curl up with a good book, the Library had an extensive and varied collection. We generally opt for doing independent shore excursions wherever possible in lieu of the ship’s offering. Due to the extremely limited infrastructure on many of the islands we visited this was not always possible, so we ended up with a mix of independent and ship’s tours. For the most part the ship’s tours did the islands justice with a good mix of culture, nature and history. One tour was a bit subpar but I feel it was more due to the limitations of what the island had to offer than the tour operator. In Tahiti we took a ship’s tour one day and a private tour the second day and I can honestly say the ship’s tour was better than the private one we arranged. As far as our port stops the one area for improvement is the research done by the shore excursion staff. For the main islands the information was adequate and with the Internet there was lots we could study on our own ahead of time. However for some of the smaller islands, particularly two atolls, there were no excursions available either through the ship or privately due to their small population and size. The information on what to do in port from the shore excursion desk was meager to nonexistent. Thankfully the local population had set up information tables at the tender pier to provide the information on nearby beaches and points of interest. It would seem that the shore excursion folks could have contacted the island tourist information center or local government for advanced information. The island of Rangiroa stands out as an opportunity missed. The beach on the Pacific side was quite rocky and had a notable undertow so it was not suitable for anything but wading. The lagoon side had clear waters and looked inviting but the only beach within walking distance was at the island’s one resort. Crystal could have explored making arrangements for day use of their beach for a fee, as many other cruise lines do. Beyond the all inclusive nature of the cruise, the real standout was service. Even if the ship was full the passenger to crew ratio is less than 2:1. On the second leg of our cruise because of the lower passenger count there were actually more crew than passengers! Every single crew member we encountered from the Captain to dining service to housekeeping was happy to go out of their way to help and provide an above and beyond experience. Disembarkation in Chile was quick and as easy as possible given the logistics of the port. The cruise terminal is away from the place where the ship docks so one has to board a shuttle to get to the terminal where one clears customs and security and retrieves one’s luggage. This went smoothly with one glitch. When the people from Pitcairn Island came onboard one of their sales items was pure honey. Because of the island’s remote locations the honey is certified as disease free and we were assured by both the folks from Pitcairn Island and the Symphony folks who oversaw the operation that we would have no trouble getting the honey home if we showed the certificate of purity. Not so. The Chilean Customs folks amassed a large collection of jars of honey. All in all it was a cruise to remember and I would not hesitate to recommend Crystal to anyone. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
This cruise was our Honeymoon, the itinerary was fantastic, the duration just right and my wife used to work on the Crystal Symphony 20 years ago so perfect to see it from the other side, expectations were high. We spent the night in ... Read More
This cruise was our Honeymoon, the itinerary was fantastic, the duration just right and my wife used to work on the Crystal Symphony 20 years ago so perfect to see it from the other side, expectations were high. We spent the night in Sydney before departure and travelled to White Bay Cruise Terminal to board the Symphony, whilst not Crystals issue, this is the worst place to get to for a cruise, there is no public transport, however we had researched this so $30 Taxi just part of the holiday experience. Sydney should really look at this port as there were 3 big ships in on the 9th Feb. Embarkation fantastic, had our bags whisked away as soon as we got out of the Taxi and quickly onto the ship via security for pictures and card etc., Had 3 hours to wait until room ready but no great shakes lots to explore. Straight to the Trident for a Burger, fries and bubbles fantastic. Then off to the cabin to unpack. We had a verandah all in all cabin tidy, cozy, but worn. Side note, the shower is amazing fantastic pressure. The ship is well maintained for its age and spotless however is showing its age, worn carpets, holes in the sheers on cabin window. Dining: Main dining room was fantastic, had a table of 6 and met some fantastic people. The food was excellent with choices, quality wine and drinks offered too. Had dinner here most nights, lunch once and breakfast once, couldn't fault it. Lido Buffet, often had breakfast and lunch here, the staff here were very different, was like walking into a mafia run establishment quite threatening, had table cleared whilst going for dessert, this despite drinks still being on table. Was refused porridge as "this side is closed" even though it was sitting staring at me just without a spoon to serve it. Food quality exceptional unless you want a poached egg as "you only get them in the main dining room" was interesting to see the slide in jams etc., for the first couple of days small jars of jam, marmalade and honey, by the end of the trip just jam in jars, the Honey was only available from a pot on the counter, not what you expect from 6 star+ Trident Bar and Grill: Provided the best service, the grill was great, the staff attentive, professional and friendly, the Ice Cream and frozen yoghurts were to die for. Speciality dining: Prego good Italian Fare, our booking had been deleted, but they managed to find us a table. Silk Road the Japanese Restaurant was exceptional, highly recommend the "Nobu Box". Entertainment and Activities: Never short of something to do, they supplied speakers giving lectures, we took dance lessons, the trivia at 12:05 was entertaining, the pool was quiet and usable to help stave off the extra kilos. Deck 7 provided a wrap around deck for walking. Everywhere you walk after 5pm you will be greeted with music, pianos, violins, flutes, and bands, all good quality artists. Evening shows were varied and scheduled to fit around dinner. Ports and Excursions: We signed up for a few activities on this cruise, snorkelling Great Barrier Reef, Climbing Volcano, Mud Baths and Hot Springs all good, not especially value for money not just our point of view as the guests we spoke to all said the same. Service: Unfortunately this is where it starts to go down hill. Most of the service staff are professional, friendly and attentive (see notes above re Lido and Trident), however when it come to front office,concierges, and shore excursions staff (who we believed should be brand ambassadors) we had a different experience. Firstly security gave our camera to a guest whilst returning to the ship (my passage through security was delayed as I was wearing belt!). Without going into full details we were left bewildered (we knew who had the camera) and stressed for an hour whilst they "investigated" it. During this time NO communication OR follow up, was offered, then "stories" came into play and complete lack of respect and responsibility towards us. We did eventually get it back, however the process and management of the whole situation was completely unacceptable.! Secondly we had a change of itinerary around New Caledonia, this came with a new list of excursions which we found out about whilst talking to table friends, Crystal had neglected to deliver the options to our corridor, by the time we found out they were all booked out. We complained and they added a snorkelling one for the afternoon, this was cancelled at time of departure due to weather! (Nothing to due with the morning one being late back and chances of getting back in time for departure were very slim). Conclusion: This cruise was fantastic, the itinerary delivered everything it promised (apart from as mentioned), the food was fantastic, the entertainment and activities were great. The ship is old, the cabin is old and tatty in places, the service from waiting and serving staff predominantly good front office less than acceptable. We did suggest it would have been a good idea for Crystal to supply or have available snorkelling equipment (as it is bulky and difficult to transport in luggage) as on the North West Passage they supplied binoculars and Parkas, we were told that was a "special" cruise. We thought this one was? To call this 6 star+ is stretching the imagination mainly due to quality of accomodation and little things like having to ask for honey, berries "One Request" The lack of responsibility and falsehoods when things go wrong. Suggest it is a good 4 star, with a 6star plus price tag (who regulates these ratings?). I know I can get as good as this for less money, will be looking for future cruise to see if I can get better for the same. Came away not feeling influenced by the Crystal attitude, which they have in the past prided themselves on. Would we go again? Not at the price we paid! If it was more realistic with a suitable itinerary then we would consider it but would not be our first choice. Did not book on board for future cruise as we did on Cunard! Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
Our previous positive cruising experience on another all-inclusive line led us to book this trip. Neither of us had been to Hawaii before for pleasure; Gerry had been there on business. We had experienced several sea days in a previous ... Read More
Our previous positive cruising experience on another all-inclusive line led us to book this trip. Neither of us had been to Hawaii before for pleasure; Gerry had been there on business. We had experienced several sea days in a previous cruise, so we were prepared for the down time Embarkation was smooth and professional. Using the website to book our shore excursions and to complete all data requirements saved a great deal of time and travail. All in all, we only spent about twenty-minutes from the announcement of boarding to sitting down for lunch. Baggage was delivered without incident and we were in our stateroom (as insistently named by Crystal) by 3:10 PM. The cabin (10097) was quite small; we could not both pass by the foot of the bed concurrently. The closet was adequate, but below the standard set by other lines. The carpet was faded and a bit worn, while the drapes were consistently off-track. The balcony worked quite well. No on-line library of current movies exists on the Serenity, so when the satellite TV reception was spotty (as it often was), reading or drinking seemed to be the only alternative. Dining was a hit and miss affair. The specialty restaurants lacked flair and the food was inconsistent. The buffet (the Lido) provided fresh, well-prepared food in very limited variety. Both breakfast and lunch were okay; no casual dinner service is offered on the Serenity -- a genuine mistake. Dinner at the Crystal Dining Room displayed excellent service, mediocre wines and average cuisine. The usual lobster and lamb entrees appeared as well as lots of fish. The soups were universally excellent. A note about the "Modern" items isolated to one side of the menu: they should be isolated to the moon. No mass feeder can bring off the delicate foams and molecular gastronomy promised by these items. The wines in the all-inclusive program were mid-level supermarket brands, available at my grocer for about $10 - $12 a bottle (the in-house "C" pinot noir was excellent, however). Enrichment activities ranged from world-class to galaxy-class. The sea-day lectures were meticulously researched, eloquently presented and rich with content. Most were quite well-attended. The lecturers succeeded in bringing an immediacy to topics ranging from an historical series on populating the islands through a set of eco-lectures on topics including the California Condor and the Easter Monarch butterfly. All in all, the lectures and lecturers were the finest in our memory. Entertainment, on the other hand, was cruise ship standard...which is to say very mediocre indeed. Everyone we met on the crew and staff were personable, quite articulate and often anticipated our requests. They were also stressed and tired. The thin veneer of effortless service cracked regularly. However, our stateroom was regularly re-stocked with goodies and housekeeping was excellent. Should we cruise with Crystal in the future, we will not avail ourselves of the proffered excursions. While of reasonable value, the variety lacked range. Port choice was limited by our destination and the size of the Serenity. Hilo was our favorite. Reading other reviews of the Serenity and its cruises, it seems to us that what we found is typical of the experience. While our expectations remained unmet, the cruise still lingers in a rosy glow in our memory. We cruise primarily by destination, not cruise line, so we may sail on Crystal again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
The Crystal Serenity (1,000 passengers) is a good fit for the independent traveler who hates herding. My wife and I use it often as our platform to (1) meet interesting people, (2) hear virtuoso musicians, (3) find new places worth a ... Read More
The Crystal Serenity (1,000 passengers) is a good fit for the independent traveler who hates herding. My wife and I use it often as our platform to (1) meet interesting people, (2) hear virtuoso musicians, (3) find new places worth a return, and (4) access isolated places we’d otherwise never see. There’s a lot to like about the Serenity, and we got our money’s worth on cruise V5303 (Lima to Auckland in Feb. 2015). Crystal’s performance was acceptable in most respects, and I’d hold up a paddle with an “8” (out of 10) for this cruise. Like much in life, we savor what’s there and overlook what’s not. Crystal definitely markets a club that people want to join. Bloggers cite long wait lists to see who eventually makes the cut to cruise with Crystal. Online chat threads sometimes voice an “expectation gap” between what was experienced and what was promised by Crystal’s well placed ads and promoters. But the myth of pampered perfection (that lore of five or “six” stars) is simply not a realistic expectation for this gracefully-aging little ship. We think of Serenity as a well-kept boutique hotel where everyone knows your name, rather than a floating palace of perfection. In fact, Crystal’s advertising seems to be realistically retooling Crystal’s reputation from a clubhouse for the elite to an ocean of opportunities for writing your own story. And we keep coming back for the latter because we find Crystal a comfortable choice for our type of travel. Realities of the Route We did this cruise because we wanted lots of sea days -- and we got ‘em. Billed as “Mysteries of the South Pacific,” it was that legendary tropical route of explorers, authors, artists, and Hollywood. We crossed the Pacific with those unhurried sea days, and the possibility of pit stops at some storied islands (Easter, Pitcairn, Tahiti, Rarotonga). Though the crossing itself is pretty routine, finding these remote specks of land is only the beginning. Survival in tendering is still where the crew earns their “green jackets” among the masters. For two centuries, nature has commonly frustrated shore visits at the islands along this route. If you’re going for the port stops rather than the journey, other travel alternatives (discussed below) are a better bet. Reliable access to the Internet disappeared between Easter Island and Tahiti. Studious passengers no doubt thought of those ancient Polynesians who were the space travelers of their day. Theirs was a one-way resettlement in the far unknown with, unlike E.T., no hope to ever phone home. A Super Bowl Send-Off For holidays like Christmas and Super Bowl Sunday, it’s always a disputable call as to whether to spend them on a cruise ship or somewhere else (the “no place like home” dilemma). And we live in Phoenix, where the big game was actually played this year. This cruise embarked out of Lima just before Super Bowl Sunday. But Crystal made it all better with live big-screen coverage, an authentic tailgating buffet, and great sports bar decorating. For the price of two Super Bowl tickets, we got a cruise across the Pacific. Plus a better view, more comfortable seats, and better food than we would have had in the Phoenix stadium. Dining: Secrets of the Missing Menus We took this cruise for the sea days, and Crystal’s venues for leisurely (unherded) meals were part of that choice. And it’s not just about the food: meals are where we meet lots of interesting people and trade travel tips. Online chat threads sometimes express disappointment with Crystal’s dining. Perhaps this flows from the natural tension between one’s personal taste and a passive expectation of pampered perfection. But a more realistic approach would be to view the small ship as several blocks of “neighborhood” dining possibilities. The ship is big enough to support a variety, and small enough to routinely adapt to diner requests. Without investing in a penthouse suite (we don’t), you can come close to having a personal chef if you know the “missing menu” for each venue. The formal dining room (Deck 5) will go beyond the published dinner menu if you alert your head waiter the night before. In this Crystal cruise, as before, we’ve enjoyed custom (off-menu) orders for lobsters, steaks, group salads, family-style meat dishes, and special desserts. Like many Americans, we prefer dinner at 6 pm rather than 8:30 pm. This lets us see the first performance of the evening’s entertainment, rather than the later one for the night owls. But this has the side effect of a further choice concerning the shows. The musician’s first performance feels like the traditional full-house auditorium concert. But the second show often ends up as a smaller audience with a less formal “jazz club” atmosphere, with more up close and personal interaction with the virtuoso. As in the past, our choice for a great-tasting breakfast continues to be the less attended one in the formal dining room. Right from the menu, you can build your own eclectic smorgasbord of personal favorites -- from Japanese cod, to corned beef hash, to Ovaltine, to cooked-to-order waffles, to fresh berries, to muffins as good as the donut shop treats back home. It’s the kind of long, leisurely breakfast that’s perfect for a sea day, or when the masses are off to their shore excursions. But don’t underestimate the informal dining that’s available for lunch and dinner up on Deck 12. Tastes Cafe has the best service that we’ve experienced at any restaurant on land or sea, thanks to the combined efforts up there of Clark, Rosanno, Bryan, Lloyd, and Luigi. Just like the old Cheers show, where anyone knows your name, drink, and chair of choice. In fact, the attentive service of these particular employees is a main reason that we continue to cruise on Crystal. And we found the most flavorful beef and lamb on the ship up at Tastes. But don’t order yet; there’s more distinctive dining amidst the nooks and crannies of Deck 12. Scoops ice cream bar has quite the fan base, with that old-fashioned, made-to-order, soda fountain nostalgia. In fact, the line at Scoops is an event in itself as Lucky deftly chats with all -- and you watch what he’s crafting for everybody else (sort of an ice cream piano bar where I’ll often have what she’s having). Over at the Trident Grill, Andy is the master of multi-tasking and makes our favorite hamburger (yes, anywhere). Like the ice cream bar, this is a bit of American nostalgia. Andy is curator of the comfort food that was cooked to order in small town cafes before the fast food chains took over. On the other hand, my wife would argue that Jordan at the Bistro (Deck 6) must, from my perspective, be second to the captain as the most essential crew member. Every day, Jordan uses his off-menu skills to simulate the Starbucks drink that starts my day at home. Star Parties with an Astronaut Lots of sea days mean an onboard focus, rather than just a ride to the next shore excursion. Serenity’s small size gives it the flexibility to offer spontaneous extras. The ancients’ celestial navigation surfaced during the “star parties” that a visiting astronaut and Serenity’s resident astronomer periodically convened on darkened Deck 13. The cruise director even brought out his laptop with an app that graphically explained the sky at the ship’s position in real time (sort of a floating planetarium). With only about a dozen passengers present, the session that I attended was a much more personal star party than those ubiquitous land-based ones (where a long line jockeys for a glancing look through a telescope). For the daily schedule of visible satellites, see www.heavens-above.com, www.calsky.com, and www.aerospace.org. And though the Pacific no longer defines our universe, one of the astronaut’s lectures cautioned that the most critical navigation puzzle of all still remains on the plotting board. Unless we can learn to intercept asteroids (specks in space), close calls will eventually escalate to a collision that presses the reset button for life on earth. Until I heard his lecture of hopeful solutions, I had just assumed that humans were long-term sitting ducks without recourse (facing the solar system’s version of a rogue wave). While contemplating the constellations, falling stars, orbiting satellites, and menacing asteroids, I somehow forgot that Crystal is no longer putting chocolates on the pillows. Crystal often stops at locations with an observatory, and they may wish to try distinctive shore excursions to those facilities. Even during the day, the view, grounds, or historical building can be memorable. Port Stop: Easter Island (Feb. 2015) Easter Island is a draw for cruisers because (1) it has hundreds of those UNESCO stone heads (moai) and (2) getting to it is a travel milestone in itself (like the Poles, Everest, and the Northwest Passage). Your t-shirt with a head tells the world that you did it, but may signal that you wanted to log the event more than the experience. It’s also one of the world’s very studied places. Rabid studiers can read about its lesser known history of high drama that has occurred before and after the heads. Slavery, revolt, escapes, marooning, flying, and a secret US base are all part of the legacy if you know where to look. On the other hand, Chilean concert pianist Mahani Teave started on Easter Island, which is pretty inspirational given the scarcity of pianos and music teachers in her childhood (see www.mahaniteave.com). And now she’s opened the island’s music school that she never had. Perhaps Crystal could schedule her for some onboard concerts during a future world cruise. Frankly, the rocky, treeless terrain looks more like the barren Aleutians than tropical Polynesia. While Easter Island still has the heat and humidity of Polynesia, a flight to good old Kauai would be a better bet unless you’re into the heads or the history. There are thousands of archeological sites on Easter Island. If you’re really here for the heads, the best bet is take the LAN flight (not a cruise) and schedule a guide per the intensity of your interest. For instance, the island’s only foreign diplomat (the British consul) moonlights as a travel book writer and guide service. He has offerings that range from hours to days, depending upon just how much you want to know about this nuance of archeology (see www.easterislandspirit.com). But we just weren’t into the heads and instead walked into town in search of the novelty stamping of our passports that was reportedly available at the post office. Because it was closed at that hour, we substituted the coveted keepsake of a refrigerator magnet from the island’s three markets (Mercado, Feria, Caleta). It’s a long sweaty walk from the tender, and we’d invest in a cab if we did it again. Easter Island has been a tough tender for famous seamen over two centuries. For cruise ships on tight schedules, it’s a really iffy stop with one navigation reference cautioning: “The weather is never good for more than a few days at a time at Isla de Pascua [Easter Island]. Ships anchoring off the island should be ready to sail on short notice. . .” (NGA Pub. 125) Whatsinport.com advises that “[r]ough seas often prevent tender boat service and shore visits.” And Grant McCall’s book notes “the often elderly passengers on cruise ships who are unable to negotiate the tricky dinghy trip to shore” (ouch!). Like the ascents of notorious peaks, sometimes you get that weather window -- and often you don’t. Nature is indifferent to the prestige of a ship or an explorer. But Serenity was able to tender everyone over and back on this visit, with no injuries worse than a sunburn. It was an E-ride for those that took it, with a dance of deckhands carefully inching each passenger into the bouncing tenders. I’ve never felt so closely protected in my life, and I appreciated those deckhands even more when I read of the recent tendering death on the Queen Elizabeth. For those who want to seriously study up, see the website for the Easter Island Foundation (islandheritage.org), the Rapa Nui Journal, and the ITM 1:30,000 map of the island available from Amazon. Port Stop: Pitcairn Island (Feb. 2015) Fabled Pitcairn Island (pop. about 50) traffics in its lore of Mutiny-on-the-Bounty. Crystal is among the dozen or so cruise lines that occasionally include a “cruise-by” on their itineraries. A few (but not Crystal) actually tender passengers ashore. However, two recent developments could dramatically change the lack of shore visits. The European Union has invested in a new dock at Pitcairn, with construction in progress visible during our cruise-by. And amidst much National Geographic publicity, the UK has just designated the ocean around Pitcairn as the world’s largest marine sanctuary (sort of a national park under water). The UK’s need to aggressively service (guard) this new preserve could justify the big shifts in accessibility seen in other remote places -- solutions like fast ferries, amphibious seaplanes, or an off-island airstrip. While this is just speculation on my part, there was indeed Cold War planning for an airfield on a neighboring island that Pitcairners have often visited with their small boats. Though a postage stamp back in 2000 remembered that project, construction never occurred and Pitcairn lacks an airstrip to this day. So, if you’re confident that you still have decades of travel ahead, one option is to postpone your cruise by Pitcairn for a few years while the invisible hand of the market sorts all this out. But there was no expectation of a shore excursion for Serenity at this point, with only its captain, cruise director, and doctor actually setting foot on the island. Instead, Pitcairn continued its long trading tradition of bringing a “longboat” of residents out to any passing ship. The Pitcairners set up their souvenir booths for five hours onboard, gave two slide shows, and sent us on our way with a concert of island songs. My wife and I did our best to support Pitcairn’s economy through our purchase of books, stamps, carvings, DVDs, and a map. Each onboard trader told us a story about life on Pitcairn that we’ll remember long after our trinkets. We always savor a chat with our travel purchases, and we had more of this interaction at the onboard booths than we often get on the bussed tours at other port stops. The onboard market was dominated by the island’s miro wood carvings, the ever-popular t-shirts, and the many series of postage stamps that are actually the main export. Before stamp collectors hit the booths, they can review the online catalog at www.stamps.gov.pn. But don’t overlook this brief access to several hard-to-get publications if you’re scouting a more rigorous return to Pitcairn down the road. The government’s latest Guide to Pitcairn (2013) is a nicely-done book of history, geography, and the current state of modern infrastructure (US $10). David Evans’ self-published “Pitkern Ilan” (rest assured it’s in English) is the detailed guidebook of what to see and do (US $5). And the most detailed map (2013) is expectedly that published by an islander (US $10). The government’s Guide to Pitcairn reminds us that “the custom of exchanging goods of approximately equal value still continues.” Future cruisers to Pitcairn might barter well with old National Geographics about the island. American thrift stores and used book shops sell them for a dollar or two, while Pitcairners price them for visitors at US $40. You could conceivably trade up to a unique carving for a stack of those old yellow-bordered magazines if your luggage allows. Hundreds of Serenity passengers lined the rail to wave goodbye to the dwarfed longboat (a bit reminiscent of little Havre-Saint-Pierre, Quebec, where the cars all honked their farewell to Serenity last fall). The ship then circled Pitcairn’s six-mile perimeter for our final photo op. The lack of a shore visit meant that we missed Bounty artifacts displayed in the museum and scattered around the island. We also missed the botany trail and the elderly community pet, a giant tortoise (“Miss T”) that a sailing ship dropped off 60 years ago. Miss T the tortoise has free-range run of her own forest, and the honor of a postcard, stamp series, YouTube video, and (of course) dot-pn website. She also has her own Pitcairn law that carries jail time if you’re mean to her, and it requires a report to authorities if she looks sick. All of this effectively makes her a protected species of one, or at least a beloved “emotional support animal.” More than a brief cruise-by may be in your future if Pitcairn’s everyday life is your version of “priceless,” experiences like fishing, diving, hiking, birding, socializing, and visiting Miss T. This is a “Northern Exposure” sort of place, and the same travel niche that seeks out lighthouse retreats and Alaskan bush hamlets will probably enjoy a stay at Pitcairn. If you really want to spend such quality time on Pitcairn, its tourism agency can connect you with the two-day boat ride (from Mangareva) and lodging for a stay that lasts from a few days to a few months (see www.visitpitcairn.pn). And that lodging traditionally includes all meals and your host’s guiding as an island insider. On the other hand, if you’re more into the history than the place itself, the Pitcairners and their “Bounty saga” are more easily accessed at Australia’s Norfolk Island. Most Pitcairners resettled there over a century ago and, unlike Pitcairn Island itself, there is air service for tourists. Crystal is scheduled to visit Norfolk Island in 2018. And the first colony of the mutineers was actually on Tubuai over in Tahiti (also accessible by air). There they started Fort George (with even a moat and drawbridge), but the locals drove them out after two battles (hence the name Bloody Bay). Though a very nasty chapter in the Bounty saga (around 70 islanders killed), it didn’t make the movies. Crystal may wish to add historian Mark Eddowes to its cadre of lecturers to provide the Tahitians’ rest of the story on all of this Bounty business. In fact, a passenger on our cruise had published a travel guide to 101 places around the world that have Bounty/Pitcairn sites or artifacts (see eptours.com/CD.htm or the e-book at Amazon). And his wife had moderated a conference at the Pitcairn Islands Study Center (California), which may have the largest library on the topic if you really want to study up without leaving the US. (See 2012bpc.com for free download of the lectures.) Like the Galapagos and Easter Island, Pitcairn is one of those remote spots that’s been studied to death. Its worldwide notoriety began with the Bounty and continues to this day as the Crown and its last Pacific colony grapple over who gets to write the rules. American media from Vanity Fair to the Wall Street Journal have reported upon Pitcairn since the prosecutions of the past decade. (In UK euphemisms, Northern Ireland had “the troubles” and Pitcairn had “the trials.”) Just last November, the UK issued its latest court decision affirming its international rights to police the Pitcairners (see all 165 pages at www.pitcairn.pn/Laws). An onsite contingent of UK reps continues to watch over a handful of aging couples, one child, and one tortoise. As an epilogue to this memorable “non-shore excursion,” I tried to visit the island’s distant administrative headquarters when we reached Auckland. On the 17th floor of a downtown skyscraper (151 Queen St.), I found a plain door labeled as the “Pitcairn Island Office.” A note asked that the British consulate be entrusted with any deliveries. Perhaps the face behind that door was at lunch, or perhaps the island simply doesn’t need daily supervision at this level of the Crown’s bureaucracy. Port Stop: Papeete, Tahiti (Feb. 2015) Crystal rounds up the usual contractors for the shore excursions at its port stops. But we seldom book them unless we want the security of the herd for a particular location. Instead we directly seek out our own “certified local character,” our label of honor for a guide that’s both quite the entertainer and an expert in a distinctive subject matter. Finding the “character” is dependent upon how much advance research you (or your travel agent) are willing to do. Examples of leads would be historical societies, authors, ghost walks, and foodie tours. It may or may not be a private tour. Our man in Tahiti was William Leeteg (tahiti-adventure-eagle-tour.com). Email him well in advance and he will circle the whole island (70 miles) with as much of the backstory as you’d like to hear. He does all tours himself in his own air-conditioned van and quotes his price when emailed (he charged us a very reasonable US $50 a person). He’s fluent in English, not surprising since he was schooled in California and Hawaii (and can even connect you with an Elvis imitator in Papeete). Yup, William is the son of that controversial painter Edgar Leeteg (sometimes promoted as “the American Gauguin”). Edgar’s masterpieces include Christ, Navajo Indians, and Polynesian women (often topless). When James Michener wrote “Rascals in Paradise,” the last chapter was indeed entitled “Leeteg, the Legend.” William’s regular group tour (4 hours) includes stops at Maraa Grotto (Gauguin swam here), Vaipahi Garden (waterfall), Venus Point (Matavai Bay and lighthouse), the Blow Hole, and Taharaa Lookout (panoramic photo op). However, if you want him to concentrate on his father the artist, or Paul Gauguin, you should book a private tour with him that includes sites related to their lives. William, like his late father, is his own man and his own boss. As he shows you the landmarks, he offers his personal insights rather than a scripted tourist-tale for mass consumption. And that’s just what we’re looking for in a certified local character. The US Center for Disease Control cautions travelers to Tahiti about mosquito-borne chikungunya. “There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat chikungunya virus infection.” We used ordinary insect repellent, didn’t get bitten, and developed no symptoms. Port Stop: Rarotonga, Cook Islands (Feb. 2015) The stop at Rarotonga didn’t happen for us, consistent with Cruise Critic’s observation that “ships often miss calls here due to rough water conditions.” Serenity spared our stomachs from an extreme tender ride and proceeded on to New Zealand. For those insistent upon visiting Rarotonga, air travel would seem the best bet given the chronic uncertainty of tendering. Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
We have cruised oceans and seas with Radisson, Regent and Oceania, the Med with Star Flyer, the Baltic with Renaisance, the Danube with Amadeus and Rhine with Viking. Those are our credentials for some comparisons below. The Crystal cruise ... Read More
We have cruised oceans and seas with Radisson, Regent and Oceania, the Med with Star Flyer, the Baltic with Renaisance, the Danube with Amadeus and Rhine with Viking. Those are our credentials for some comparisons below. The Crystal cruise we took went from Valparaiso to Sydney. It was considered three cruises: Valpariso to Tahiti, Tahiti to Auckland, Auckland to Sydney. I am writing from Sydney. In general I found that those passengers who had not experienced very many other lines thought Crystal was just great. Also, Crystal, as with most other lines, makes might efforts to sign you up for more cruises and, this may be unique, encourages you to link up with what is essentially a "handler." That person assists you in getting used to the Crystal Way. I did not get used to it. Dining One of the pleasures of cruising is the chance to meet new and interesting people often followed by an extended conversation over dinner…at an hour that you mutually choose. Not on Crystal. You are assigned the table, the time and the companions you will sit with. Whatever flexibility is offered is done as if your request to sit with people of your choosing is somehow "unusual." The food itself is very good and the waitstaff hardworking, smiling and delightful. Managers can be officious. Speakers It is good to feed both mind and body on a cruise. On the Serenity there was a full speaking program that had a lot of fluff (how to lose that tummy, the glories of chocolate) but the more serious speakers were an ex-general and a former Likud party advisor, both of whom conveyed a Fox News view of the world. Also speaking was a remarkably accomplished storyteller who, when pressed, advocated a vigorous continuation of the American Empire, but was otherwise well practiced and entertaining. On a cruise from Anchorage to Hong Kong on Regent a few years ago, they did it this way. A general lecture was followed by a continued discussion of the issues raised in a smaller venue. This lead to real discussions and exchanges of ideas instead of the Fox News view presented with “news conference” type questions, that is, wth no follow up and no exchange. The Crystal way is neither intellectually engaging nor satisfying. But, during the 38 days we were aboard, for pure intellectual depth, Dr. Bulent Atalay’s lectures on Leonardo were extraordinary and his manner that of a cultured Levantine gentleman. I also enjoyed some of the less intellectual stuff such as two sessions on Steve Irwin. Internet It was expensive and slow. Not only that, but the concessionaires are deceptive. First, we were told that it was not possible for my wife and I to share a plan. Not true. We just could not use it at the same time. Second, as a result of the initial misinformation we bought two maximum time plans. That covered most, but not all, of the three segments. We asked to extend the fifty hours we had purchased at the same rate…but no. They wanted to DOUBLE our rate for another five hours. DOUBLE! And, if you would like a little salt with your wound, they have an advertisement for their services that takes over your computer screen, no matter what you are doing, every five minutes that your computer is on, requiring you to manually delete it. And here’s some acid to add to your salted wound. In the advertisement is a line to click that allows you to email the new President of Crystal with any concerns…but it didn’t work. I took it to the computer center and was told that it was “still under improvement.” The Library Four comfortable chairs and doors that are not closed “for safety reasons.” Four chairs for a thousand passengers!? Are there other weather protected chairs? Yes, but none of them in a quiet Library environment. There were lots of movies to borrow for in-room watching on dated TVs and a barely adequate collection of books. The Gym Oh please…very little floor space to stretch, Brand X machines, and for those who like to ride the stationary bike…welcome to the wall. No ocean views for riders. As I said, it was our first and last Crystal experience.   Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
This was our fifth Crystal cruise, all have been on the Symphony. Our first, in 2010, was the best. Since then, the quality of Crystal's offerings have declined slightly, but noticeably, with each succeeding cruise. There seems ... Read More
This was our fifth Crystal cruise, all have been on the Symphony. Our first, in 2010, was the best. Since then, the quality of Crystal's offerings have declined slightly, but noticeably, with each succeeding cruise. There seems generally to be less attention to detail. For example, there were stains on our stateroom carpet, there was a broken table in the stern lounge area that was never repaired, there never (not once) were both red and white wine glasses for each place setting at our dinner table in the main dining room, and there were windows that needed washing, especially in Palm Court. This was especially irritating on Feb. 8, 2014 as we viewed New Zealand's majestic fjords through dirty windows. Why were they not washed in Dunedin (the previous port). Finally, the wines offered in the all inclusive service were generally rather mediocre and so was the coffee in the restaurants. These offerings need to be upgraded. Crystal seems no longer to be competitive with Seabourne and, perhaps, not with Regent either. People at our dinner table compared Crystal unfavorably with Oceania and we believe that the Symphony could even be in danger of becoming an all inclusive version of Holland America or Celebrity. We suspect much of this has to do with a cost driven attempt to increase staff productivity. Many of the public contact personnel seem to be seriously overworked. Perhaps the new CEO will make the restoration of Crystal's image of very high quality and attention to detail one of her priorities. Here are some of the things Crystal continues to do well: Louis Armstrong at sail away is a lovely tradition. The spa is excellent and the health club is also first rate. Our cabin attendants have always been excellent and the butler on our 2012 cruise (Greg) was absolutely outstanding. The talent of the on-board performers is remarkable. Where do they get these people? We understand free internet access is being added to the all inclusive package this fall. Bravo!   Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
This was our first Crystal cruise (we're Regent regulars) which we chose primarily for the itinerary but also because we wanted to see if Crystal lived up to the hype we sometimes read from its substantial fan base at Cruise Critic ... Read More
This was our first Crystal cruise (we're Regent regulars) which we chose primarily for the itinerary but also because we wanted to see if Crystal lived up to the hype we sometimes read from its substantial fan base at Cruise Critic and elsewhere. We made our own flight arrangements from Melbourne to Auckland (Emirates) to Papeete (Air Tahiti Nui) and neither were particularly good in terms of service or comfort but OK as a necessary means to an end. We stayed at the Intercontinental resort Papeete for 2 nights - International Date Line, long story - which was comfortable and convenient to the airport and the ship. The hotel is set in a stunning location with lovely views of Moorea. We came across a couple of Crystal reps in the hotel lobby who were friendly and helpful until they discovered we weren't part of the large Crystal group also staying there and we were more or less given the brush off. We decided to book our own taxi to the ship and were glad we did thereby escaping the chaotic scenes of people + bags milling around waiting for transport on embarkation day and were almost first on board an almost deserted Symphony as a result. This will not be a day by day travelogue, so here are some more general (useful?) points in no particular order. The Ship : Beautiful and well laid out. The public areas are spacious and plentiful so there is always a peaceful spot to read, have a drink, relax. It lacks a central atrium but the Lobby/Crystal Cove is a very pleasant central meeting point. The forward facing Palm Court is very elegant for afternoon tea, quiet cocktails and useful for "watching the horizon" if things get rough (which they did! ). The Starlight Lounge is the centre of many daytime and evening activities but the extremely heavy and awkward to manoeuvre swivel armchairs caused problems. I know they are necessary on a moving ship but they weigh a TON. The Galaxy Theatre is comfortable and well laid out with plenty of room between the rows of seats and a large stage. The Hollywood movie theatre is great. The Casino is big - too big? - with dozens of lonely slot machines. We saw it busy but even then it wasn't even half full. It seemed like a waste of precious space. And speaking of a waste of space, the Luxe nightclub was mostly totally deserted every night except for karaoke night. The Saloon is a lively and very popular piano bar, especially after dinner. The smokers lounge/bar with very similar decor next door seemed to have a regular set of patrons but as non smokers we didn't go in there. The Bridge Room is clean and bright. The main Crystal Dining Room, Lido Cafe, Bistro and speciality dining venues are pretty much what you'd expect. The library is well stocked, the computer room very comfortable and the shops offer a wide range of "cruise stuff". The pool/hot tub is a generous size and the Lido "Garden" is a lovely spot but in hot weather it gets extremely hot even with the glass roof retracted. The Staff : Quite simply, the best service we have ever experienced. Friendly, professional and a pleasure to sail with. Waiters, bar staff, housekeeping, officers, front desk, everyone was wonderful and went above and beyond. The only slightly sour note was the rather grumpy Maître D who was very intimidating to approach and even a simple request was treated like a major imposition. It was very unnecessary and left a bad impression I'm afraid. The Entertainment : Superb, there's no other word. The quality of the professional and versatile "in house" musicians, dancers and entertainers as well as the guest artistes was exceptional. Bravo! With one exception (I won't name and shame) the Guest Speakers were interesting, informative and entertaining. The Staterooms : Not generous in size but perfectly adequate for the purpose. Very comfortable bed with quality linens and beautifully soft, fluffy pillows. Ample storage space. The bathroom is "snug" to say the least and they really couldn't be any smaller especially with those rather cumbersome "salad bowl" basins. The mini bath isn't much use to man nor beast but the shower over it has good water pressure and the clever handle on the shower screen is extremely useful during a bumpy ride. Again, plenty of storage and the Aveda toiletries are a nice touch. Excursions : This is a tricky one. Our ports of call were small Pacific islands with sometimes very basic facilities and infrastructure so naturally the excursions on offer were somewhat limited but didn't represent value for money. If you enjoy snorkelling on coral reefs there was plenty to choose from. If you prefer visiting land based places of "interest" then your options become fewer. One tour bus in particular in Tonga was barely roadworthy - lack of aircon and competent guide is one thing; lack of tread on the tyres, a burned out clutch, iffy brakes and rusty holes in the floor is another. In future we will do more research and arrange our own tours. The ship handles rough weather very well - and we had some very rough weather for a couple of days so few, if any, green faces around the ship as we rocked and rolled from Fiji to New Zealand. The last overnight stop in beautiful Auckland in perfect weather was a great finale although the boisterous Cloud 9 nightclub right next to the ship kept a lot of people awake until the small hours. In a nutshell, we had a terrific cruise and apart from a few very minor quibbles Crystal most certainly did live up to the hype and we wouldn't hesitate to recommend. Our next Crystal cruise is already booked.   Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
When we told fellow passengers that it was our first cruise many said that we were starting at the top and it was all downhill from there! I say this by way of giving perspective to our comments to follow........we really had no ther ... Read More
When we told fellow passengers that it was our first cruise many said that we were starting at the top and it was all downhill from there! I say this by way of giving perspective to our comments to follow........we really had no ther experience like it with which to compare. The outstanding feature of the cruise was without doubt the staff on board. Friendly, service orientated and a credit to their employer. We were struck by how much they appeared, and were, happy to be working for Crystal. That flowed through to their service to us. We ate in all the venues and not only did we not find fault, to the contrary every meal was wonderful. I have never tasted better soups and my wife was continuously spoiled with the dessert plate by our wonderful waiter Franklin and his pairing Juan. Ciselo San Juan added those extra special touches that come with his over 20 years experience with the ship and by the end we counted them as friends rather than service staff. The Food and Wine theme was well received by us and we thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to meet and watch the demonstrations by the guest Chefs. The Cabin on Deck 7 was well cared for by our stewardess Andrea and nothing was too much trouble for her, not that you need to spend much time in the cabin anyway. Entertainment wise, there was more than enough to fill your time on board or ashore. Early on my wife said that she was feeling overwhelmed by the full program she had each day and then promptly filled her next day with twice as much as myself. Unpack once, do as much or as little each day as you wish, meet a wide range of interesting people from all over the world while having great food and wine....it doesn't get much better than that. Are we hooked and can't wait for our next Crystal experience....you bet! Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
This was our first cruise with Crystal. We have cruised more than 30 times before with several cruise lines including Azamara, Oceania, Silversea and Celebrity. Our experience on board the Crystal Symphony was Ok but not really from an ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Crystal. We have cruised more than 30 times before with several cruise lines including Azamara, Oceania, Silversea and Celebrity. Our experience on board the Crystal Symphony was Ok but not really from an exceptional quality, as many loyals to Crystal emphasize. First impression Our first impression was very good. Embarcation was smooth and cabins were ready. Our cabin was an outside cabin, rather small in size but with a good bathroom Our first meals were also very nice and we kind of had the feeling that this was indeed a very fine ship. The included wines were OK. As a matter of fact during the first days of our cruise, we were ready to book a world voyage of more than a 100 days for 2016. However this very positive impression did not lasted for the remaining of our cruise. Subsequent impressions A) Ship is very old and it is not well maintained in all areas. It shows rust in several places including our cabin. Since we were staying for 24 days, it disturbed us to see the rust in our window and we requested to be fixed it. In order to allow for that we were moved for one night in an "emergency room". Other areas of the room needed also maintenance, for example the carpet or the wardrobe, which was permanent clapping. We did not request for maintenance in those areas because, we did not want to move again to another room nor to have workers in the room. We were on vacation and it did not appeal to us to have workers around. There was also a sewerage smell in some areas on the ship, for example in the vecinity of the jogging track. Our opinion is that the Symphony was probably a lovely ship 20 years ago, but it needs to be replaced by a more modern ship. A newer ship would contribute a lot to improve the overall impression even in terms of seccurity (better, newer life boats). It will also allow for larger TV sets, since at the moment, those on the ship are quite small. It was great to have the possibility to watch DVDs on the TVs though. B) Too many repetitions and lack of options. Food was repetitive in all restaurants and there were no alternatives to the main restaurant after 18.00. There were the, not anymore free, specialty restaurants (they are free only once per cruise) but even they, had a fixed menue and did not change. Entertainment was also repetitive. Only the local shows were different. Repetitive food and entertainment gave us second toughts on how would it be to spend more than a 100 days in such a ship. We decided to postpone the booking of such a cruise with Crystal until we have made another experience with the company. C) There were lectures offered. We think that there is plenty of room for improvement in these area. For example the subjects of the lecturers made us wondering, to which target group are the lectures really directed. For example, a previous senior army person talking about how to improve leadership skills for an audience (most of them retired seniors including us) which is very unlikely to make use of the "acquired knowledge". In addition, visualization of the lectures could be improved because the pictures shown, many times were more private photos from lecturers but did not really contribute to follow the lectures. Since Crystal cruises does not only have native english speaking guests but also Japanese, French, Germans, Spanish speakers, or many of the guests are hard of hearing, it appears important to ask lecturers to visualize their contributions in such a way that those are selbs explanatory. No doubt the lecturers could talk. A lot, fast and long, but how about having a good visualization to accompany their speeches?. D) Most of the crew members were friendly and attentive. Specially the younger waiters were always smiling and were very helpful. There were however a few members, which did not look very happy with themselves and appeared rather tired and manchmal gave us the impression of acting in terms of "I am longer here than the guest and after doing this job such a long time, I know better". Well.... We found the several assistant Maitre D', sommeliers, our waiter and assistant waiter, guest relations personnel and pool attendants particularly friendly and attentive. E) The library and the internet facilities were very good. We have specially enjoyed the library and the advise of the friendly librarian. It was excellent to have reference books for the ports of call in the library. F) For those passengers booking a cabin on the main lobby level, be aware that in case of rough seas, your window will be covered for protection and you will end up in a dark room. G) Disembarkation in Auckland was absolutely smooth. In summary we had a nice cruise. We have enjoyed specially the wonderful itinerary. Cruising with the Crystal Symphony was not the "wow" experience we had imagine somehow influenced by the reviews in cruisecritic, but it was fine. We would probably sail again with Crystal, probably with the Serenity in order to be able to have a better opinion of the services offered. It would be great if the company acquires newer ships.   Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
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