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6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
This is my 4th Crystal cruise, my 3rd on the Symphony, and it was wonderful in so many ways. I love the Symphony, because it is luxurious but casual (I feel like I can take my shoes off and put my feet up on the couch to read), and ... Read More
This is my 4th Crystal cruise, my 3rd on the Symphony, and it was wonderful in so many ways. I love the Symphony, because it is luxurious but casual (I feel like I can take my shoes off and put my feet up on the couch to read), and carries a nice amount of passengers (about 750-ish) - not too few that I see the same people everywhere, but not too many that I feel crowded or anonymous. I was traveling solo on this cruise, but knew a few people on board from previous cruises and met several more mutual friends while on board. As I said in the title, there's been a little slippage in the food and service on the ship since its drydock, but in other ways there's been a lot of improvements since the drydock. There are 2 additional dinner restaurants on board, both of which outshine the main dining room ("Waterside") in service and food quality. Both of the new restaurants do not count towards your allotted number of included visits to specialty restaurants -- those (Umi Uma and Prego) still remain the premiere dinner spots on the ship, in my opinion. Crystal put a limit on the number of included visits to those spots several years ago (generally 2 per week) in an effort to keep people from monopolizing them, but now that there are more dining options, I wonder if they will continue to do so (extra visits beyond your allotted amount are $30 each, which is still an incredible bargain for that quality and ambience). Of the new restaurants, I particularly recommend Churrascarria, which is Lido deck aft, in the same location where the breakfast and lunch buffets are......you get views of the sunset, and excellent food. Salads, veggies, and side dishes are available as a buffet, and 6 varieties of grilled meat are brought to your table on skewers (chicken, shrimp, pork, lamb, beef). Be sure and stay for some grilled pineapple for dessert. My friends on board very much enjoyed the evening shows, but I never attended (I don't, on any cruise), but I did enjoy the musicians who played in the lounges throughout the ship. Afternoon tea is served every afternoon (even port days), and it was a good time and place for our friends to meet up to chat before dinner. Going through the Panama Canal was interesting, but I don't feel the need to do it again. As this was an August cruise, in general the ports were all hot and humid, and I stayed on board for most of them. A warning should you take a Crystal cruise that stops in Bimini: The tender to port is at least 30 minutes, so you should take that into consideration before deciding if you want to go ashore. I did not, as there wasn't much on shore I was interested in seeing, especially if it meant an hour (round trip) in a crowded tender. Service is known to be wonderful on Crystal, but this trip I found it to be lacking in several places. Some was still wonderful (restaurants other than Waterside, cabin attendant, library and computer room), but some had slipped from terrific to merely good (Lido deck) or from terrific to pretty bad (Waterside). I submitted my concerns to Crystal in their post-voyage survey, so I hope these are just growing pains that will be worked out now that there have been some significant changes since the dry dock. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
We chose Crystal Cruises because of the Panama Canal itinerary (so we can tick it off the bucket list) and the Luxury Cruise Experience. Crystal was recommended to us by a friend (who is a travel agent) we met on a non-luxury cruise in ... Read More
We chose Crystal Cruises because of the Panama Canal itinerary (so we can tick it off the bucket list) and the Luxury Cruise Experience. Crystal was recommended to us by a friend (who is a travel agent) we met on a non-luxury cruise in 2012 and she said Crystal is one of the best. So we checked off a few ticks on the bucket list. The ship Symphony was beautiful. The accommodations were very well layed out with a lot of storage. No need to use the suitcases for extra storage as we had empty drawers and the clothes in the wardrobe were spaced out not squashed up. Of everything there was only one this that irritated me that I have never come across on other ships we have cruise is the cigar room. Horrible horrible horrible. To get to The Avenue, Umi Uma restaurant and Prego restaurant you had to walk past it and the door was always open, therefore the smoke flooded into the hallway. The door should always be shut and there should be sufficient ventilation in the smoking room so if the door is left open the smoke doesn't affect other passengers. That is my only issue and I am hoping that when we are on Serenity in 2021 Crystal will have rectified this problem by having either an automatic door or a gas closing door. The rest of Crystal Symphony was fantastic. For a ship smaller than we are used to (3000-3500) this ship has a lot of quiet places to sit and relax. There are never any crowds, no children running rampant and what children were on the ship were extremely well behaved. We dined at every location and the food was divine. My favourites were Waterside (the main dining room), Prego, Silk, Palm Court for amazing afternoon tea and views. However, I still enjoyed the food and atmosphere at Umi Uma, Churriscaria, Trident Grill and the Marketplace only for an early breakfast. The staff go above and beyond and are always very polite and friendly. They always have smiles on their faces and no request is too hard. They take the time to get to know their customers. The shows were good not spectacular like on the bigger ships which is understandable since on the bigger ships the ceiling over the stage is 3 decks high making it very open and airy and great for doing acrobatic shows. The dance moves seem to be similar in every show so I put that down to the Choreographer. The special guests were fabulous especially loved John Joseph who had us in stitches. We didn't like some of the ports and thought there could have been better places to stop but we made the most of those. Some we could have had more time in. Overall we loved the cruise. We don't normally like a lot of sea days but on Crystal Symphony we really loved the sea days. We enjoyed the shore excursions that we booked. Crystal's luxury has ruined for us cruising anything less than luxury. We enjoyed it so much we have booked another Crystal cruise in 2021 South Pacific Wanderlust Los Angeles/San Pedro, US to Brisbane, AU on Serenity. So looking forward to 20 days on Serenity. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
We chose this cruise because we needed some rest, relaxation, and pampering. We not only achieved the above but where overwhelmed with the Theater/Movie/show activities and presentations. This was out 23rd Crystal Cruise. It is hard to ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we needed some rest, relaxation, and pampering. We not only achieved the above but where overwhelmed with the Theater/Movie/show activities and presentations. This was out 23rd Crystal Cruise. It is hard to imagine that the food in the dining room was better than the last cruise, but it was. Our waiters were exceptional, as was the wine steward. The room stewardess was so attentive and thorough. The only complaint I can think of was the poor, and often unavailable WiFi connections. Hopefully with the drydock in September, this will be rectified. Unlike cruise 7208 reports, our Lido/Trident staff was as wonderful as ever. especially Jonathan. Kiko. Allan and Dio. You are truly a member of the Crystal Family when you return and that cannot be overlooked. We look forward to the "New ships" as they come out of drydock and hope not too many of our familiar services and programs will disappear. We too were given a $250 per person onboard credit for our embarcation in San DIego, and we actually enjoyed the 2 hour scenic motorcoach ride. Debarcation in New York City was so quick, we never even got to sit in the Starlite lounge. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2016
Have taken many cruises with different lines. Crystal is superior in so many areas. Staff is very attentive all your needs. Enrichment lectures are ususal very good. food is outstanding. If you have special menu request it would be no ... Read More
Have taken many cruises with different lines. Crystal is superior in so many areas. Staff is very attentive all your needs. Enrichment lectures are ususal very good. food is outstanding. If you have special menu request it would be no problem . Entertainment is very good. Movie theather shows many new releases. Excursion were first rate They usually have free shuttle buses to the center of town . The main reason to take a crystal cruise is the staff. within the first day they know your name, your favorite drink. Cabin stewarts are always ready to take care of your every need. My favorite cruises is when the ship repostions. Ocean cruises are very relaxing. you get to meet many interesting people and leave the cruise feeling refreshed.I have booked 2 more cruises this upcoming season. Can't wait till i cruise with the best cruise line . You will not be disappointed if you cruise with crystal. Read Less
17 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
Well folks........it's time to say "good-bye". We've had a few glorious years, lots of good memories, made new cruising friends, but after our last 26 days aboard the Crystal Symphony, back to back from Lax to NYC ... Read More
Well folks........it's time to say "good-bye". We've had a few glorious years, lots of good memories, made new cruising friends, but after our last 26 days aboard the Crystal Symphony, back to back from Lax to NYC through the Panama Canal, it has become "Crystal Clear" that Crystal is not the enviable cruise experience it once was. We have cancelled all of our future bookings and will be looking to other premier lines for our cruising experiences. I feared that this would happen; it usually does when a cruise line gets a new CEO (Oct 2013) and then the sale to another owner (completed May 2015). First, let me tell you a little about us. We are "older folks", both of us in our 70's, who don't require any special attention. This is not our first cruise; we've sailed some 35+ cruises with Celebrity, RC and Azamara, who just got tired of the herding, the over-crowding, the signing for every little amenity, and the average food on the larger vessels. We found Crystal in the spring of 2012 and this was our 12th cruise in 3 years. We are not "destination" cruisers rather "journey" travelers......we love the ship for its elegant, relaxing atmosphere and great dining experiences. We're not driven to cruise to the far corners of the earth to fulfill any "bucket list". If I want something "up close and personal" , I turn on the National Geographic Channel on my TV. We sailed with Crystal for their exemplary service, their elegant atmosphere, the ease of small ship inclusive cruising and for the OUTSTANDING, GREAT FOOD they once offered. Having said that, Crystal was a real disappointment this time: FOOD: Seems that there is a real disconnect between the recipes and the chefs who prepare them. The best I could figure out, is that the recipes come from the corporate office and the chefs were asked to change or "re-invent" some of their tried and true offerings they once prepared. I never knew that there were so many ways to prepare mousse! Mousse with appetizers, mousse with entrees, mousse for dessert! And, what's this "foam" stuff sprayed on my food? The fish were dry, salty and fishy tasting (with the exception of the Dover Sole). The shrimp were rubbery and undercooked. The quality of the meats were sometimes down-right poor, both in the Lido and MDR. There was absolutely no difference between the coating on the pre-prepared Wienerschnitzel and Veal Parmasan. Alaskan King crab legs on the last formal night....what happened to the Lobster? I could go on, but you get the point. Silk Road was still excellent, but Prego's menu was undergoing changes too....mushroom soup didn't quite taste the same. The Lido salads and fresh breakfast fruits were still excellent. The German potato salad in the Lido was awesome! ATMOSPHERE: Of the 26 nights aboard, 23 were Resort Casual. The cruise itinerary originally had a few Elegant Casual nights scheduled, but after boarding, those dress codes were changed. There were not many men wearing sports jackets in the MDR, in spite of the fact that the Crystal Cove and other public areas, had an average temperature of about 55 degrees.......always, VERY COLD!! There were more children on board this cruise than I've ever seen before, but then that's probably due to the new(?) policy of FREE sailings for kids on "select cruises". It took me awhile to figure out that the dress code of "European Trousers for men", was nothing more than denim pants that weren't manufactured in the USA (Levis, Wrangler). Most were appropriate attire for the MDR.......absolutely not problem with a nice pair of Armani jeans with a sports coat and Hermes belt, but before long, other passengers will start showing up in their Levis! That brings me to another disconnect between the emphasis on "Casual" by Crystal and the Retail shops selling Designer clothing and accessories like Gucci, Prada and Burberry when so many passengers are content to wander around all day in their Logo and gym gear. And what's with this ENDLESS stream of parading travel agents wined and dined by Crystal in EVERY port? I would love to know how much of my cruise fare is spent on that. SERVICE: This was the only "WOW" factor left aboard Crystal. Our standing Room Service of juice and coffee every morning always arrived on time and our Stateroom Attendant was awesome. The bar staff always remembered our drink orders and our waiters always tried to remedy the disappointments that came out of the MDR Kitchen. Just a special group of fine young people that worked so hard! I have gotten to know many of them over the years and will miss them very much! Enough said, but I wanted to give our assessment of the "New" Crystal from 2 journey cruisers that still remember the "refined Crystal experience". We will be looking to other premier luxury lines in the future until Crystal regains it's past reputation. I'll be checking on Cruise Critic for future assessments! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2014
I have just read a previous review about Crystal Symphony and the expression "not a good fit" fits perfectly for my husband and I and our two travel companions also. Yes most passengers were in their 70s/80s (we are in our early ... Read More
I have just read a previous review about Crystal Symphony and the expression "not a good fit" fits perfectly for my husband and I and our two travel companions also. Yes most passengers were in their 70s/80s (we are in our early 60s) and were there to experience a floating hotel. We on the other hand love the experience of being at sea, which is close to our hearts as our whole working and social life revolves around the sea. Our cabin was typical of a ship of this size. Very welled equipped. A sliding door rather than an opening one was appreciated as it allows much more room on the balcony. The men found the bathroom a little squashy, two basins was probably an overkill as only one person could be in there at a time. Our main disappointment was not being able to eat casually at night in the Lido restaurant where views to the ocean are unrestricted. We were therefore confined to eating before 6pm at the outdoor pool bar or in the very noisy main dining room where we could not see out and missed some magnificent sunsets. Also there was no area outside to have sunset drinks which is probably our most treasured time of day when at sea. Yes we had a balcony but that meant we could not socialise with others. The few shops had some very old and tattered clothing left and were closed during our cruise as they were to be reopened by someone else. The shore excursions were as expected buy I must say extremely well executed. The hotel staff were all very friendly and professional and agreed that it was unfortunate that we were all sent inside at 6pm like children on a school night. I would not sail with Crystal again. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2014
We have traveled on Crystal for at least 15-16 voyages. We love their staff and service. They have an excellent cruise director, Paul, who always adds to our enjoyment. The lectures & entertainment are wonderful. We are not ... Read More
We have traveled on Crystal for at least 15-16 voyages. We love their staff and service. They have an excellent cruise director, Paul, who always adds to our enjoyment. The lectures & entertainment are wonderful. We are not "foodies" and we find their food to be just fine. This past May, after a missed year of cruising, we embarked on the Symphony from Los Angeles to New York. My first impression was that things have changed. We still encountered the wonderful staff and service, but just a little something about the ship had changed. Perhaps it was that the ship was filled to capacity and could not function as well. The Bistro seemed very crowded and understaffed. We noted repairs necessary in our stateroom as well as in public areas. There was rust on the exterior railings and other areas crying for paint. Some of the hard surfaces are scratched and gauged. In the past, we saw maintenance constantly taking place on the ship. This time hardly at all. Our friends, who were on the 9th floor mid ship, encountered the annoying vibration from the engines. On past sailings, I had learned this the hard way and now always book a stateroom more forward. There the vibration is minimal. We have grown accustomed to the tiny staterooms but we would love to see Crystal switch to stall showers instead of the bath tub shower combination. We will continue cruising with Crystal because of the staff and service. Although it is due for some work in dry dock, I am afraid the Symphony is tired and needs more help than a short dry dock can provide! But, while while we wait for them to launch a new ship, we will probably return for another cruise on the Symphony. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2014
The public rooms are impressive with a large atria, attractive furnishings and the areas well laid out, The Avenue Saloon with nightly piano music was especially delightful. As for dining, we enjoyed the late seating with a delightful ... Read More
The public rooms are impressive with a large atria, attractive furnishings and the areas well laid out, The Avenue Saloon with nightly piano music was especially delightful. As for dining, we enjoyed the late seating with a delightful table and superb service. The cuisine was well prepared and presented and is definitely a cut above that on Regent Seven Seas. The shows aere good and well presented and the other entertainers as well. The theme was Movies with a special tribute to Doris Day and we found all of the speakers and topics truly delightful and entertaining. The staff was helpful, friendly and alert to all requests. The excursions were wothwhile wi the best being the lovely luncheon in San Jose,Costa Rica, the Panama Canal crossing and the totally delightful surrey tour through the streets of Charleston, South Carolina, Read Less
Sail Date: May 2013
It is a competitive marketplace in the "Luxury" or "Premium" cruise category and Crystal stands at the top of this narrow pyramid. Crystal matches the upper competitors by offering a luxury cruise ship with well ... Read More
It is a competitive marketplace in the "Luxury" or "Premium" cruise category and Crystal stands at the top of this narrow pyramid. Crystal matches the upper competitors by offering a luxury cruise ship with well appointed cabins and elegant spacious public spaces. The place settings sparkle and the linens are crisp. But what really stands out on Crystal Symphony, from the first day to the last day, is the high level of very personalized, attentive and consistent service. In this age of computer algorithms and complex customer databases, it is the real human touch and care which stands Crystal truly apart. More persuasive than any fancy cruise brochure or well spoken sales agent, Remi Szutkiewicz, the Maitre d', is the most public face on Crystal Symphony and, in effect, the "Brand Ambassador" presiding over a most impressive Dain Dining Room team. Cruise lines and hotel brochures go to great lengths to advertise their focus on service and personalized attention. However, I was consistently and considerably struck by Crystal's ability to really deliver on this overused expression. I must confess my favorite part of cruising is eating and, as such, I must admit to spending a lot of time in the Dining Room. I was fortunate to sit close to the front which gave me a great vantage point to watch the Dining Room staff, particularly the senior staff, in action. Without fail, their focus was like a laser beam on making sure each guest felt welcomed, comfortable and really special. While Remi, with his worldly charm and grace, set a high tone, I also had the opportunity to watch Head Waiter Roland and really the entire team of Head Waiters carrying this approach with complete focus and dedication. For dinner, my Senior Waiter was Muzo whom I had requested from a previous cruise. Without fail, he welcomed me to the Dining Room each evening like an old friend and proceeded to deliver course after course with very friendly professionalism and precision. For breakfast and lunch I was fortunate to be served by Mustafa who, while a little quieter, was very attentive, professional and made for very enjoyable meals. Assisting Muzo and Mustafa was Elio who was very conscientious and capable in his table service. It's not just the Dining Room staff that makes a personal difference. I noticed in the bars and lounges a regular flow of guests interacting very personally, warmly and with a long history with a number of the bartenders and bar staff. For myself, I had the good fortune to be served by Paula, Elisa and Camila each evening before dinner in the Starlite Club. My cabin was cleaned very nicely by Leslie who was always attentive and eager to please. In fact, this was my first cruise "downstairs" in a category other than the Penthouse. I had a Category D cabin which is Symphony's basic "Deluxe Stateroom with Large Picture Window". Even at just 202 sq. ft., it felt surprisingly spacious and had a good amount of storage and a well-designed bathroom. So two thumbs up and a thank you to Crystal. I am eager to be back aboard soon. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2012
After waiting ten months for this cruise, and after reading numerous reviews, comments, etc regarding Crystal, I started feeling that my very high expectations couldn't possibly be met. Well, I was wrong! Please allow me to ... Read More
After waiting ten months for this cruise, and after reading numerous reviews, comments, etc regarding Crystal, I started feeling that my very high expectations couldn't possibly be met. Well, I was wrong! Please allow me to explain: 1. Embarkation and disembarkation were the quickest and smoothest I've ever experienced. The Crystal team realizes how important first impressions are, and they did a good job of starting off right. 2. Service on this cruise was beyond belief. By the second or third day everyone from the waiters to the bartenders to the maitre d'hotel greeted me by name, and always with a smile. How do they do it? Whenever I asked for anything, whether it was a drink in the bar, a second appetizer at dinner or some assistance in the library or gym, my "thank you" usually elicited a "my pleasure" or similar response from the friendly staff. Because Crystal recently went to an all-inclusive format, I had needlessly worried that service might suffer. Although this was my first Crystal cruise, I can't imagine that it could ever have been any better than what I experienced. 3. Food is of paramount importance to me, and I was blown away by my 16 days of gluttony! Everything from the grand gala buffet to the casual dining options to the main dining room was spectacular. Most notable was the variety, as there never seemed to be an entree that was repeated during the duration of the cruise. The specialty Italian and Japanese restaurants were superb. The overall dining experience was worthy of one Michelin star, if not slightly better. 4. The ship itself was comfortable and inviting. Numerous areas such as the Crystal Cove and the Palm Court were so peaceful that you never suspected that 900 other passengers were on board. During the pre-dinner hours, however, the bar areas were more energetic. A special note should be made of the bartenders and waiters in the bar areas: they were uniformly outstanding! 5. The cabins are well-appointed, clean and comfortable, but are on the smallish size. That's not a problem for me, but if a spacious stateroom is important to you, you might be disappointed. Although one earlier review described the bed as uncomfortable, I couldn't agree less. The mattress, pillows, duvet etc were excellent. The mini-fridge was always filled with sodas and beers of my liking, the fruit bowl was replenished daily, and an orchid was always present on the table. The room was cleaned twice daily and was always spotless. The verandah was fairly standard but, again, not too spacious. 6. Activities onboard the ship were plentiful. My favorite was the enrichment program which presented expert speakers. A retired Air Force general gave a series of talks that was fantastic. There is a movie shown daily in a very comfortable theater, and multiple classes are offered, including such diverse subjects as pilates, yoga, napkin folding and computer use. There's a nice-appearing casino, but I didn't go in it. The evening shows were better than average, but nothing too special. 7. There were many excursions to choose from, but quite a few of them were very expensive (helicopter rides, etc). I went on three snorkeling excursions (Key West, Cayman Islands and Huatulco) and they were well-organized. A few other comments: The average age of the passengers on this cruise was ~ 70 years old. I wouldn't recommend this cruise for children or for the under-40 crowd. This is an expensive ship, double or triple in cost of most other lines. What you're paying extra for is luxury and service. If that's not so important to you, and if it's mostly the destinations that you're looking for, you probably can find better value elsewhere. Overall, Crystal is outstanding and I can easily see why it has such a high rate of repeat cruisers. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2012
Due to cruise New York to Los Angeles via Panama Canal last November. Chose Crystal because they said there was open dining option. Tried to book dining times 3 weeks in advance online to find there was no option left but 6-15 or 8-30, ... Read More
Due to cruise New York to Los Angeles via Panama Canal last November. Chose Crystal because they said there was open dining option. Tried to book dining times 3 weeks in advance online to find there was no option left but 6-15 or 8-30, all other slots had gone. This isn't a real dining option for people who want to dine at 7-30. Cruise due to leave New York 2 November, we were due to fly 30 October. Hurricane approaching, due to hit New York Monday 29 October. We and our travel agent tried to contact Crystal all that weekend to discuss alternative embarkation and only got a recorded message that their offices were closed until Monday opening 9 a.m. California time - after the time we would have had to leave London. No flights into new York that week. No communication from Crystal at all, no email, no message to our agents, we were desperate with worry. Emails were unanswered, no reassurance given. This made us sick with worry and uncertainty and forced us to cancel. Very expensive cruise - how could Crystal close their offices in this emergency time over the weekend prior to the Hurricane and just ignore their customers?We would never ever consider Crystal again. they might have won World's Favorite Cruise line, but that can only have been when things didn't go wrong. Their statement that open dining is an option should be qualified by "if you go online and book early enough". Crystal are quick enough to send emails to customers promoting salon treatments etc. Why didn't they send a reassuring email saying that embarkation would be from an alternative port to be notified and not to worry. I gather that the cruise did take off from Charleston several days late - if we had known this, we wouldn't have been so worried. Terribly disappointed with the service from Crystal Read Less
Sail Date: January 2012
Although the Crystal Symphony is older than the Seabourn Sojorn we last sailed on, the ship is maintained in top condition. Beautiful inside and out with amazing attention to detail. With about 900 passengers, we never felt crowded in ... Read More
Although the Crystal Symphony is older than the Seabourn Sojorn we last sailed on, the ship is maintained in top condition. Beautiful inside and out with amazing attention to detail. With about 900 passengers, we never felt crowded in this spacious vessel. The Captain and crew were wonderful, although the no handshake policy was a little strange, no matter how much sense it makes. It felt a little odd. Maybe you could post hand sanitizers just past the receiving line? But, the crew were courteous, industrious, and efficient. The main dining room was a little less formal than Seabourn or Regent but still elegant. And, the maitre'd made special desserts several evenings which were great. Grand Mariner souffle, cheeries jubilee, bananas foster, viola!! And, a special filled birthday cake for one of our tablemates who were all wonderful. We sat with 3 other couples and their presence made the meatimes special. We stopped in St Thomas, St Maarteen, and Curacao on the way to the canal and just walked the towns to get a feel. They were all picturesque, friendly, warm, and quaint but like a lot of other Caribbean ports. Amazing yatchs in St Thomas harbor though. The Panama Canal should be on everyone's bucket list, what a sight. Just watching the operation was enlightening, well worth the trip. We debarked in Caldera and took a coffee plantation tour up the valley to San Jose. We had lunch at Cafe Britt Coffee Plantation. The Costa Rican food was great and we were schooled on coffee production from seed to brew. The San Jose Marriott was beautiful in old colonial style of heavy dark wood and wrought iron. With an open roof over the courtyard and open hallways. Like living outdoors. A quick 10 minutes to the airport and home. All in all, a great adventure. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2011
This moderate duration cruise was our first on Crystal and the first on the Symphony. Our overall impression was very positive. The size of the ship (900 passengers is small these days) was better than we had hoped. During the cruise we ... Read More
This moderate duration cruise was our first on Crystal and the first on the Symphony. Our overall impression was very positive. The size of the ship (900 passengers is small these days) was better than we had hoped. During the cruise we had the opportunity to meet and recognize a wide variety of other passengers. We were able to establish friendships with two of the artists who performed on the cruise, something we had not done on larger ships. Embarkation went efficiently, disembarkation went a little slow but this appeared to be a delay caused by USA officials. Once the officials authorized disembarkation the Crystal staff handled things efficiently. Leaving and returning to the ship at the ports went smoothly. Our cabin was well appointed and gave us plenty of room for the two week cruise. One bag was just a little too tall to slide under the bed but the staff stored it until the last night of the cruise. Cabin service was very good with just one minor issue - one day the stewardess for got to leave clean wash cloths. When we contacted the staff we received new wash cloths within 15 minutes. Our butler was superb we could not imagine better service delviered by anyone! We tried open dining and were very pleased with it. Each night we started around 30 minutes after the first seating which allowed us more time to complete daily activiities before dressing for dinner. The dining room staff was marvelous and went above and beyond to cater to my wife's low sodium diet restrictions. The choices of excursions were a little limited. However two of them - one in Cartagena and one to an archaeological site in Huatalco were excellent. We went out on our own in Georgetown, Grand Cayman and in Puerta Vallarta and enjoyed ourselves each time. The highlight of the cruse was the full transit of the canal. We had two very knowledgable speakers on the canal with great pre-transit talks and great commentary during the transit. The other speakers during the cruise were also great and with the length of the cruise and the small number of passengers we got the opportunity to establish a friendship with two of them. The entertainment was good with variety of individual artists interspersed with the regular musical variety. Overall we had a wonderful time and will very seriously consider Crystal again. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2011
We signed up for our first cruise experience with Crystal with many recommendations from friends. We were not disappointed. Crystal Symphony's crew made us feel welcome from the get go. We were part of the "Mix & Mingle" ... Read More
We signed up for our first cruise experience with Crystal with many recommendations from friends. We were not disappointed. Crystal Symphony's crew made us feel welcome from the get go. We were part of the "Mix & Mingle" reception and met a few other Cruise Critic board members plus the cruise directors and hotel manager. We shared questions and got great support. We were especially pleased to have met Jane Salk, Crystal Society's hostess for this cruise. She made us feel part of the "Crystal family". We had delightful table mates, who will be our friends forever. The waitstaff was outstanding and it seemed "no problem" for our special requests that veered from the menu set for the day. Amazing! We did get great information ahead of time from Crystal Cruises and Cruise Critic which was an enormous help for us as first time cruisers. We would highly recommend that new cruisers seek out the info we did and just ask. Most folks gave us good info. We know we will be cruising with Crystal in the near future and it's just deciding as to where do were want to go. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2010
We went on this cruise with another couple, who have travelled with Crystal Harmony 4 times before. We flied to N.Y. the night before, spent an evening in N.Y., then boarded the ship just before noon. We stayed in Ink48, which is 10 ... Read More
We went on this cruise with another couple, who have travelled with Crystal Harmony 4 times before. We flied to N.Y. the night before, spent an evening in N.Y., then boarded the ship just before noon. We stayed in Ink48, which is 10 minutes cab ride to the pier. We really liked the hotel, clean, modern, and quiet, with very comfortable bed. This is not a 5 star hotel, good enough for a short stay but a bit far from theatre district. Boarding took about an hour, when we got on the ship, our room was not ready. We checked our hand luggage, which took another half hour, then went to the Dining Room for lunch. Around 2:30pm, we were in our room. Our luggage was delivered to our room, including our hand luggage. So bring extra lock for your hand luggage. The room was clean, but small. The sitting area looked bigger in picture. With the coffee table pushed closer to the couch so that we could access the drawers, there was not enough leg room for two persons to sit on the couch, only one person at a time. I am only going to talk about the few things that I have always wanted to know but never found the answers here. With the 2 for 1 pricing, was the food as good as they said? Maybe it normally is, but not on this sailing. Compared to the 5 star restaurants found in any big city, the food served on this cruise would only get a 3.5 rating. Someone told me the regular chef was on vacation. More than 1/3 of the time our food arrived luke warm. A few times, we waited 40 minutes for our dinner. Soup was watery. Most of the time, chicken consomme was served and it tasted like Campbell soup. On the Galley tour, one lady asked the Executive Chef Manfred Schaller why the soup choice was getting more and more limited. His reply was that "There is just not a lot of demand". Well, if the soup did not taste good time after time, people would not order them. Steak was tough and always came overcooked. Order a medium rare if you want a medium well. Seafood was a lot better and most patrons did order fish. This may be the reason why they did this very well. Souffle was one of the few dishes that was met our expectation. Lobster was also very good but for a 19 days cruise, they only served it once. If you want another lobster dinner, place the order the night before. Is the cruise on Crystal worth the money? Base on our experience, with the 2 for 1 pricing, and a $2,200 shipboard credit, I would say yes. But if you are young and active, wants to do a lot and see a lot on board and on land, then the answer is no. This ship caters to clients over 70 years old, who are rich and shameless. Their money works for them and not the other way around. I met a lot of nice people, who have sailed with Crystal numerous times (easily over 15 times). One thing I found is that they are "crystalized", and have not travelled with any other cruise line since they sailed with Crystal. With no other experience to compared with lately, they simply don't know what they are missing. Service was excellent. We haven't met one single rude employee. Bathroom is small but has enough storage space. Shower has great water pressure. They still have receptionists making the wake-up calls personally; therefore there may be 5 - 6 minutes delay on a port day. I have very sensitive skin, and reacts to strong commercial detergent used by the Princess Cruise ships. I was hoping that Crystal might be different. On the 4th day, my skin started to break out in rash. My cabin steward replaced the linen promptly with what I brought from home. The rash subsided. She ordered special sheets for me, catered to people with sensitive skin. It did not work. After the 3rd day, my skin broke out in rash again. So if you have sensitive skin like mine and had similar experience, bring your own sheet. I did not seem to have any problem with the Celebrity cruise line. Spa was very nice and cozy. Fitness centre was usually only half full. If you are booking this cruise to transit the Panama Canal, the best view is on open deck, not in the Palm Court. You just would not get a great picture there due to the window frame. Order room service early in the morning, then head straight to the open deck, if you are fit and nimble. I asked my friends how this cruise compared to their previous cruises with Crystal, they said that this one does not even come close to what they experienced before. We had a full ship on this sailing. On the afternoon of the so called Mozart tea, everyone showed up. So instead of having the pastry brought to us, we had to take our plate and lined up for them. Tea was served in tea bag instead of loose tea leaves. I would not call that a High Tea at all. I had better experience in a side walk cafe. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2010
Embarkation - We booked our own flights to San Jose, Costa Rica and purchased cruise line transfers to Caldera, a two hour drive. We got off to a shaky start as our connection on US Air was delayed due to fog in the Charlotte Airport. We ... Read More
Embarkation - We booked our own flights to San Jose, Costa Rica and purchased cruise line transfers to Caldera, a two hour drive. We got off to a shaky start as our connection on US Air was delayed due to fog in the Charlotte Airport. We arrived at the gate for our international flight 15 minutes before departure, too close for comfort! We would have missed the first 4 days of the cruise if we had not made this flight! Next time we go a day ahead like we normally do, or a least have a few backup flights. All was well when we were greeted in the San Jose Airport by a Crystal representative. After a 2 hour bus ride, embarkation was a breeze and we were in our Cabin in short order. Ship - The Crystal Symphony is compact and very passenger friendly compared to the newer mega-ships. It has a crew of 545 and a passenger capacity of 922. There are basically three decks where all of the activities are held: Deck 5 - Dining, Deck 6 - Nightlife and Deck 11 - Pool and Buffet. Of special note is the Bistro, a better than Starbucks coffee shop on Deck 6. Specialty coffees and teas are included, so a quick stop for a Cappuccino was a regular event. We also liked the Avenue Saloon for cocktails before dinner. One evening an enjoyable Dixieland jazz concert was held in the lobby on Deck 5. There is a true Promenade deck where walking exercisers meet daily and others just take a stroll. Deck 12 has a spa, salon and fitness center. We did not take advantage of these facilities on this cruise. Each floor with cabins has a complimentary guest laundry tat sees a lot of use. We were in a Category A verandah cabin on Deck 9. It included all of the standard amenities even though it was a little smaller than similar cabins on newer ships. The bathroom was well appointed and even included a small tub/shower and a double sink. Storage was plentiful as all of our suitcases fit under the bed. The bed was very comfortable and this was enhanced by a pillow menu! We spent a lot of time on our verandah which had a nice sized table and two chairs. Room service is available 24 hours a day and we ordered light meals on several occasions and ate watching the beautiful scenery. Sodas and water were complimentary. TV channels were varied and the quality was good. We particularly liked a daily comedy special hosted by Paul the Cruise Director. The crew made you feel very comfortable. Simple requests were met with a courteous "My pleasure". The buffet servers would remember you from previous visits and ask if you wanted your regular. Officers were visible and readily available. A special "Meet and Greet" was held for Cruise Critic members and attended by several key staff members. Hor deurves and cocktails were served. Food - This is where Crystal excels. Of our numerous cruises the food is far superior to anything else we have had on other lines. We requested a late seating table for two in the main dining room and our request was promptly granted by Remi, the Maitre'd. Special requests such as caviar and foie gras were no problem for our wait staff. Crystal has not deviated from fixed seating in the main Dining Room which is no problem with us. There are two specialty restaurants, Silk Road (Japanese) and Prego (Italian), that add a little more intimate atmosphere to the dining experience. We ate in Silk Road two nights and Prego one night. An additional charge is recommended for tipping the wait staff and it is well worth it. Silk Road serves Waygu beef which is a real treat along with all of the Nobu Matsuhisa inspired specialties. Prego's mushroom soup is legendary among seasoned cruise foodies. The menu is based on Piero Selvaggio's revered Valentino's. One thing that we like is the mid-day luncheon Gala Buffet. No more staying up until Midnight to take food pictures. For another special event, period costumes are worn by the staff and an ensemble plays chamber music for the elegant Mozart Tea. In the space of 11 days, we had 3 formal nights, 2 informal nights and 6 casual nights. Oh! Did I mention that the Trident Grill and Lido Buffet are also excellent? Entertainment - We do not normally attend a lot of shows but managed to go to more than normal as the entertainment was really good. What we did do was attend several enrichment lectures held on sea days. One presenter we particularly enjoyed was Dr Robert Freedman, who was an expert on the Middle East and Russia. Additional lectures were held on memory improvement, destinations and current trends. Ports - The highlight of the cruise was the Panama Canal passage. It was very well narrated and having a verandah cabin made it a pleasure. It was not our first time through the canal and I don't know when it will lose its fascination. We also ported in Aruba, St Lucia, Antiqua and Tortola. One plus is that we did not have to tender in any of the ports. Disembarkation - Everything went fine although exiting the ship was the usual madhouse. I suppose people aren't in the best of humor when they are faced with returning from "Certainly, it will be my pleasure!" to "Do you want fries with that?". Even though the ship was not cleared until 9:30 AM we managed to make an 11:05 AM flight from MIA by using a limo. In retrospect I don't know why we were in a rush to get home! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2009
This was our third cruise on the Symphony and each cruise gets better. We haven't sailed on the other luxury lines like SilverSeas and Regent but with the service and quality we receive from Crystal I don't know why I would ... Read More
This was our third cruise on the Symphony and each cruise gets better. We haven't sailed on the other luxury lines like SilverSeas and Regent but with the service and quality we receive from Crystal I don't know why I would venture out of the cocoon for a luxury cruise. I'll leave the ports of call out although I can say that the excursions by Crystal are always good and with the clients it attracts, Crystal has the upscale non eventful excursions. We did have one subpar excursion in Acapulco where the guides English was poor. From our last cruise with Crystal 2 years ago the waiter staff has become better. They were much friendlier and interacted with the passengers much more. Service has always been good but a little more intimate on this voyage. In talking to the Maitre D' I was told that Crystal was concentrating on hiring wait staff that wanted to be waiters rather than moving on to be doctors, lawyers etc. Maybe that is the difference. The ship has been refurbished and the rooms now have LCD/DVD TV's. Bathrooms have been redone with dual glass sinks. Beds and pillows still great and were made to our specs. The entertainment was extraordinary. The in house Crystal dancers and singers were every bit as good as some I've seen in Las Vegas. In fact better. They were high energy, innovative, and the lead singers were super. Considering they did a new show every other night you have to marvel at how they can remember 20 different sets a show. Enrichment lectures were excellent as always with Hugh Downs a guest speaker and Sam Choi the celebrity chef. Besides food Sam is a great stand up comedian. The Starlight Club has been refurbished and the Band that entertains there really had their act together. Kudos to the new female singer from the Philippines who not only had a great voice but individually visited with the guests during band breaks. Food is always good and you can expect to gain weight. 10 pounds if you can control yourself. Otherwise bring some elastic pants for the end of the cruise. Our table of 8 made several non menu requests. Kind of stump the kitchen by the group. They always delivered. Some required delivery the next night but often we were accommodated that meal. Alternative restaurants( Prego and Silk Road) are not to be missed. The main dining room never disappointed however. The Lido cafe and Trident Grill are always available as alternatives and are equally excellent. You'll find that the staff quickly knows you and knows exactly what you want so you can save some words and just say thank you. Of course if you haven't had enough to eat go to the Palm Court for High Tea. The staff even dresses up in period for the Mozart Tea. Of course the string quartet plays Mozart as you have a panoramic view of the Canal as you sail on. A six star cruise with no scrimping because of the economy as some other lines have done from what I gather from talking to friends that have sailed on other lines. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
Although I'd heard the phrase "crystallized" many times before our cruise, I did not truly capture its meaning until we were back at home in Vancouver and shocked into reality. By way of background, we are in our forties, ... Read More
Although I'd heard the phrase "crystallized" many times before our cruise, I did not truly capture its meaning until we were back at home in Vancouver and shocked into reality. By way of background, we are in our forties, fairly well traveled and this was our 5th cruise in less than 3 years. Our previous cruises were with HAL, Disney (with our young daughter), Carnival and Cunard. Our expectations were high but they were all fully met or exceeded. To exemplify this, our special story about members of the staff and crew who will go out of their way to satisfy a request: Halfway through the cruise my husband decided to purchase a set of shocks for his car through a specialty store in LA (don't ask me why). The idea was to have the box delivered to the terminal so that we could fly it back with us to Vancouver. We spoke to Gabor, the Concierge, who not only suggested the best way to accomplish this, but took it upon himself to make all the necessary communications with Crystal's agent in LA and arranged every aspect of it, including following up to update us on the progress. The end result, the box containing four shining high performance shocks was delivered to us on board the morning of disembarkation. Many thanks to Gabor and his team who passed the test with flying colors! Embarkation and Disembarkation We arrived at the terminal shortly after 12:00 noon. We were shown to a waiting area set up with chairs and given a color card. Wait was approximately 40 minutes. Once on board we were greeted by Susan who walked us to the dining room. All in all painless and the beautiful Salmon entrEe with the glass of C Champagne were a great introduction to what was to come. Disembarkation morning - everything was going smoothly until the paging started for a couple of ladies who apparently did not know they had to go through the customs inspection before they would let anyone off the ship. Apparently one of them had to be fetched from her cabin where she was still asleep! It took a while to get that done and by the time we were allowed to leave the ship there were more than a few nervous people who were afraid of missing their early flights. This created a long line and substantial congestion. The Ship The Symphony is a beautiful ship which is constantly being cleaned and maintained to the highest standards. The maintenance crew is efficient and unobtrusive -case in point: the entire midship staircase carpet was replaced in a few days in a way that was not disruptive to the passengers. The affected areas smelled of the carpet glue for short periods of time but the installers worked quickly and without interfering with the comings and goings of the passengers. The public areas are beautiful and decorated in understated good taste to please the majority. One area that could be improved upon is the Starlite Club. There are a few too many club chairs there and trying to move them or reorient them is a bit of a challenge, mostly when there is a full house. Also, the fact that the open side of the lounge is a thru way results in the performance or lecture taking place being disrupted by peoples' chatter and laughter as they go by. The Avenue Saloon is one of my favorite venues, particularly due to Colin Salter's piano. The downside is that smoking is allowed and when there are more than a couple of people lighting up the air becomes a real problem for non-smokers. We are not fussy and can tolerate some smoke but had to leave on a couple of occasions because of it. On a side note: thanks to Colin for playing "my" song every time he saw us come in. There are no crowds or lineups anywhere although some of the venues are very well attended depending on what's going on and you might have to look around for an empty seat. Our cabin on Deck 8 was adequate in size and we had the small sofa as a bit of a bonus - I understand how the sofas are missed by many. The closet and drawer space was also adequate and by moving the life vests off to the back all our clothes fit well. Here is the one and only gripe: the HUGE obstruction. There simply is no view at all from that cabin and we will not choose this type of accommodation ever again. Having an unobstructed view (if a balcony is not possible) is a must for us. In addition, the humongous tender hanging outside the window was routinely being maintained/worked on so we had to continuously close our curtains to avoid having a maintenance person looking in on us! This severely impacted our enjoyment of time spent in the cabin. Caveat emptor, the cabin was described as "limited or extremely limited view", the reality is that there was NO view whatsoever and the cabin was very dark. I do take some responsibility for having chosen this type of cabin knowing that there was an "obstruction" but we ended up with what must have been the worst of them all. We made our feelings known to the concierge in that not all E cabins are equal and that there is a certain amount of misrepresentation by Crystal in that regard. The Food We live in Vancouver, a city of Foodies with a strong, international cuisine atmosphere. There is one comment I make to everyone I tell about our cruise. Food on each and every Crystal venue is of the highest quality, be it the Lido, the buffets, the main Dining Room, Prego, Silk Road, tea, etc. It is all about choices and you can do no wrong. We had not one bad meal, anywhere on board. By the way, I have tried to replicate the burgers from the Trident Grill - so far unsuccessfully I might add. We did dine at Prego twice - the Beef Carpaccio is to die for, so is the famous Mushroom Soup. Tiramisu, the best I've had on land or water. Tea in the Palm Court or at the Bistro was very enjoyable, particularly the Amadeus Hot Chocolate. The Service There is nothing I can say that has not already been said on this board about the level of service. From our friendly, efficient room stewardess Kristel who brought ice for us each night after one such request, and badly needed band-aids from her own supply thus saving me the trip to the shop one evening, to spotless service from our waiter Gabriella, assistant Henri and wine steward Johannes. Worth a special mention, Ivo our Head Waiter, who went out of his way to create a memorable Chinese birthday dinner for my husband and who makes the best Spaghetti Bolognese I've ever had (tableside or not). Needless to say, the Crystal experience would not be the same without the Lido guys - Sonny, I really didn't need the 4 Margaritas you brought me during sailaway from Cabo but I sure enjoyed them! Entertainment Varied and rich, thoroughly enjoyed the production shows but loved the entertainers. What a great new talent Philipa Healey is, Jimmy Travis is a hoot. Full Sail is great and I'm still trying to figure out how mind reader Marc Paul knew what he knew…just to name a few. The special interest lecturers were knowledgeable and personable, always at hand for a chat. Andrew Steigman kept us informed about the history of the places we were seeing and his recount of the history of the canal was very interesting. Nigel West had spot-on, timely talks. Sorry we did not catch any Fred Plotkin's lectures but we did attend the Wine Tasting events - Sommelier Pasquale outdid himself when the anticipated 30 participants turned into almost 150. Fellow Passengers We met many lovely people including our sponsors Jackie and tablemates. As has been said in this board, the Matre D' does a fantastic job matching people up for dining. We also had the pleasure of sharing our table with Steven and Stacey (dance instructors) one evening and with Nigel West another one. We were almost too late for the CC cocktail party as I was not feeling well for a short while but had the pleasure of meeting a few fellow CC'rs. It came as a surprise that the vast majority of the passengers were repeat Crystal cruisers but I'm not surprised anymore as I hope to become one myself soon. It's worth noting that given the size of the ship you are bound to see people you've met all the time. Ports of Call Old Cartegena is a lovely, well preserved town with many, many street vendors; we took a tour of the cathedrals and the guide was knowledgeable and spoke good English. It was a holiday in Colombia that day so many commercial establishments were closed and there were not too many people around. The Canal was obviously the highlight of the cruise; a tremendous feat of engineering and ingenuity - we wished Crystal made stops in Panama City, a sentiment shared by others we met but there may be good reasons not to. Acapulco and Cabo. We decided not to take any tours as we usually like to get the lay of the land by walking around whenever we are new to a place. In this case we feel it may have been better to take the excursions as there is very little to do/see in the port areas. We also had an unpleasant encounter with a man who acted very aggressively toward my husband when told that we were not interested in what he was selling. He threatened my husband with calling the police so that he would "know what Mexican jails are like" and with calling his buddies to teach him a lesson. We walked away from the situation and made our way back to the ship. Memorable Moments Too many to list but to name a few: walking around the Promenade deck in the afternoon hand in hand; breakfast on the Lido Terrace aft deck; dancing and sipping Champagne Bellinis in the Starlite Club; contentedly napping on a lounge chair on one of the aft decks; all in all wonderful memories and experiences. We'll sure be back for more. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
Having previously sailed on Symphony and posted a review, I decided to file a follow-up of the differences from our previous experience. It's said that there is only one chance to make a good first impression. This is true, but our ... Read More
Having previously sailed on Symphony and posted a review, I decided to file a follow-up of the differences from our previous experience. It's said that there is only one chance to make a good first impression. This is true, but our second impression was equally good. We signed-on to this voyage for the obligatory "bucket list" transit of the Panama Canal, and were not disappointed. I selected cabin 8001, which is the most forward one can get on the starboard side. From the photos of Symphony, I noticed that its balcony partition seemed to be cut to provide a forward view when standing at the rail. This is true and provided great vistas during the passage. I had some concerns about wind, and it was breezy at times. However, the aerodynamics of the ship appears to result in an interesting phenomenon: Cabins aft of us were windier and, in fact, their verandas got wet during an intervals of high seas and rain ... 8001 did not. I would recommend 8001 to other Panama Canal bucket-listers. We were lucky because the Symphony made the passage through the port channel. This provided us with a view of the central area of the canal and the large container ship accompanying us in the starboard channel. The (I believe) HAL Zuiderdam preceded us in the lock ahead, but stopped in Gatun Lake and headed back in the afternoon. There was a Society of Wine Educators lecturer aboard who presented a series of three tasting/lecture sessions. The sessions were listed as limited to 50, but when the waiting list expanded the number to 120, they just opened it up to everyone. Pasquale, the sommelier, and his staff had to work hard for these events ... the arithmetic extends to more than 400 wine tasting glasses to set-up and pour (followed by clean-up). It was excellent, and the price was right ... gratis. We had a nice laugh with Pasquale about what became a somewhat "lively" evening at the Vintage Room on our prior voyage. A tip from Pasquale: He gets a budget for these events and can and will arrange it the way you want. Therefore, if you tell him to, he will ease-up a little on the cuisine and put the emphasis on better wines ... something to remember if you are an oenophile. Having booked the voyage to visit the canal, we had no expectations for the ports of call. Cartegena was a pleasant surprise, the old town being quite well preserved and attractive. We were not disappointed with the ports of Grand Cayman, Acapulco, and Cabo because they pretty much met our expectations ... none. To be fair, we live where many folks come to lie on the beach and buy tee shirts and tacky trinkets ... but we did this anyway. Heard in all ports: "Prices coming down ... almost free". After the wives went back to the ship after a morning of hard bargaining in the Acapulco Artisan Market, the husbands continued wandering. We were approached and asked if we wanted to visit a "Happy Hotel". When told the wives probably wouldn't approve of that, the response was "you don't have to bring them" ... yikes, time to get back to the ship! Having experienced the Crystal "never say no", I had planned to special order Clams Casino. This resulted in the only major disappointment on the cruise when the answer was no, all clams are allocated to Prego where, incidentally, Clams Casino is not available. Oh well, there were certainly many other excellent dining options. The cuisine highlight for us was the Silk Road. Earlier this year my wife took me to the local Nobu's for my birthday and the small sampler menu totaled about $100/person. For the amount we "sampled" in Silk road on our three visits there, at "retail", the cost of our voyage was very well "subsidized". Now, they aren't trolling for Ahi from the stern of Symphony as we sail, so the fish was not alive on the morning of our meals. However, it was still as excellent as it could be. We were joined in Silk Road by our "Table 84" mates from Central Canada, where the fish is only raw when hauled over the stern of their boat. They were terrific sports and made it through the entire meal with chopsticks. We hope to reconvene with them in Silk Road at some time in the future. Crystallization Status: The crystals are larger, but not set. Crystal is the best cruise line we have experienced to-date but don't feel parochial enough to declare that it should be sailed to the exclusion of all others. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2007
PANAMA SPLENDOR - MIAMI TO LOS ANGELES CRYSTAL SYMPHONY FEBRUARY 2007 I recently returned from my fifth cruise on Crystal Symphony, a 14-day trip from Miami to Los Angeles via the Panama Canal. I had been through the canal once before, ... Read More
PANAMA SPLENDOR - MIAMI TO LOS ANGELES CRYSTAL SYMPHONY FEBRUARY 2007 I recently returned from my fifth cruise on Crystal Symphony, a 14-day trip from Miami to Los Angeles via the Panama Canal. I had been through the canal once before, but wanted to do it again, after having read David McCullough's definitive book on the canal: Path Between The Seas - The Creation of the Panama Canal. Another factor was the number of sea days, which I enjoy more than port calls. The original itinerary included port calls at Cozumel, Mexico; Grand Cayman; Caldera, Costa Rica; Acapulco; and Cabo San Lucas. However, in late January Crystal informed us that Cozumel was being replaced by Cartagena, Colombia. This reportedly was because of U.S. Government reinterpretation of the Passenger Vessel Services Act, which sets rules for foreign-flagged ships sailing between U.S. ports. Some passengers were disappointed to have their Cozumel plans disrupted, but personally I didn't mind the change, never having visited Colombia. EMBARKATION As is my usual practice when I make my own air arrangements, I flew Miami the day before embarkation. Although departure from Burlington, Vermont (where I had left my dog with my son) was delayed a little, I still made my connection at Washington Dulles with no problem and arrived in Miami in the early evening. I prefer to stay at the Holiday Inn on Biscayne Blvd, opposite the port, but it had been fully booked months in advance (learned that this was related to that weekend's start of the huge Miami boat show), so stayed at the Best Western on the 79th Street Causeway between Miami and Miami Beach. One mistake: never thought a downtown budget hotel would have airport shuttle service, so spent $21 (up from $15 last year) unnecessarily on the Super Shuttle. I had again obtained a visitor's pass for my sister, so on embarkation day she met me at the hotel for lunch and then we headed for the port. Unfortunately, our timing wasn't very good, as several thousand people were trying to get to a 2 o'clock Miami Heat pro basketball game near the port entrance. So, it took us about an hour to drive the short distance from 79th Street to the port - no harm done other than the frustration of sitting in traffic. Check-in and embarkation were the usual painless Crystal operation, so we were on board in plenty of time for afternoon tea. THE "NEW" CRYSTAL SYMPHONY This was my first cruise since the multi-million dollar re-fit of the Symphony in late 2006; I was anxious to see the changes for myself, having read a lot of the posts on this subject on the Cruise Critic boards. My impressions: - New carpet throughout the ship: very attractive. I like the use of different colors in the hallways of different decks. - Starlite Club: removal of the wall on the starboard side of the room and replacement of the old bar with an inviting circular one really open up the room and make it very inviting. The stage and dance floor area are unchanged, which is welcome considering how several other cruise lines keep reducing dance floor space. - Luxe Nightclub: not my cup of tea, and not many people in there in the early evening; I understand it has become a popular late night room for younger passengers. It is a much more practical venue for Karaoke than the Avenue Saloon. It has created a problem with noise levels in the Deck 7 staterooms directly above and I've heard that in the future they may use these cabins for staff and entertainers. Space taken from casino to create Luxe doesn't appear to be missed. - Cabins: New headboards and bedside lamps are very attractive, although the LED reading lamps in the headboard don't seem very practical. The new flat-screen TVs provide excellent picture, but have one shortcoming: input jacks are all on the back of the monitor, making it nearly impossible to plug in a digital camera cable to review pictures. TV reception of CNN, Fox News, etc, ranged from excellent much of the time to non existent in some areas off the Pacific coast of Mexico. Changes in cabin furnishings make little sense. replacement of the love seats with high-back chairs provides little additional floor space life jackets, formerly stored under the love seat cushions, now take up closet space. An even worse decision is the replacement of the former light-weight desk/dressing table chairs with heavy, curved back chairs which cannot be pushed under the desk when not in use. And, they have to be wrestled aside to open the center desk drawer. There have been a lot of comments on the surface-mounted glass "salad bowl" lavatory basins. I'm sure they look great in interior decorating publications, but they are not very practical. Also, they don't appear to have overflows, so it's probably only a matter of time until somebody floods a cabin and those below. In my opinion, a lot of money was spent unnecessarily in the bathrooms. LIFE ON BOARD Although this was only my fifth Crystal cruise, I immediately started running into both crew and fellow passengers I have met before. Maitre d' Victor assigned me to the captain's table, a first for me, although I have been at officers' tables previously with both Crystal and Cunard. I think that the fact that I am usually one of the few solo male passengers works in my favor in getting good table assignments. Table 60 was a table for 10, 11 on nights Captain Giske joined us, but we moved around each night, so soon got to know each other. An interesting group of couples and singles. I had cruised with two of the solo ladies on at least one previous cruise. As usual, I joined a team for the sea-day trivia contests. We were a good team but were getting frustrated at finishing second (twice after tie breaks). We finally pulled out a win the last day! I also attended the dance class on most sea days. Big group every class! The dance team of Alex and Felicity is new to Crystal, with both the Longs and Paul & Cheryl having moved on. They performed at several shows, including the first and last nights, and are terrific performers. They spent some class time each day on "progressive" dances, i.e. continually changing partners. I would have preferred to have the time devoted to basic dance steps, but that's a personal preference, as others seemed to enjoy the progressive dances. Theme of the cruise was Wine and Food, and we had two guest chefs, four theme lecturers, and two wine lecturers on board. I found the several food lectures I attended interesting, but most of the dishes demonstrated were more complicated than I would ever bother with, as I live alone. I also attended a number of lectures by special interest lecturers and destination lecturer Larry Rudner. There have been two changes in the production shows since my last cruise. The old Pirates opening night production has been replaced by selections from Applause Applause and Grand Hotel, a welcome change as the Pirates theme was getting a bit old. The other change was the addition of a new production show, The Envelope Please, featuring Academy Award music. I enjoyed it, although my favorite remains Curtain Call which I've seen at least four times. One interesting development was the loss of first one and then a second male singer-dancer. This meant that both the above mentioned shows had to be completely re-blocked practically overnight. Anybody familiar with musicals will understand what this involves. They even drafted one member of the Full Sail quartet for a singing role. The net results were that only somebody who counted the number of male and female chorus members would have noticed anything different. Full Sail is an excellent acapella quartet who performed a number of time throughout the cruise, and they were well received. Nice guys, too. Comic Ventriloquist Mark Merchant was a lot of fun, with some cutting edge humor that seemed to have been updated daily based on the morning news on CNN. I also enjoyed the other headline performers: Harpist Shirley Dominguez; pianist Bernart Walz; Violinist Ian Cooper; and vocalist Dorothy Bishop. In previous reviews I have commented on the talents of Galaxy Orchestra pianist Stacey Benn, who can plan anything from classical to jazz. So, I was pleased to see that Stacey has moved up to Bandmaster and does a great job both playing the piano and leading the band. My favorite entertainer for this cruise was Jeff Deutch who played nightly in the Avenue Saloon. I hadn't cruised with Jeff before, but I think he is the best I have experienced. He has an amazing repertoire, all completely memorized, and it wasn't very often a request stumped him. About eight of us seemed to be the ones closing the Avenue most nights, and Jeff was willing to keep playing into the wee hours as long as people were making requests and having fun. The Avenue remains my favorite room on Symphony. It's even more fun when various entertainers and ships officers stop by in late evening - Mark, Stacey, Victor, shirley and Dorothy among others on this cruise. Besides the two dance teams who've left Crystal over the last year or so, two other staff members familiar to Symphony regulars are leaving Crystal. Crystal Society Hostess Megan Mavor has just left to move to Norway and Cruise Consultant Billy Hare submitted his resignation the day I boarded. Remi was scheduled to replace Victor as maitre d' at the end of the cruise, with Victor moving to Serenity after some leave. ITINERARY I won't go into detailed port descriptions here, as there is lots of on-line and written information on all of them, as well as their being familiar to most regular cruisers. Some personal comments and observations: - Grand Cayman: very crowded with seven ships in port, including the mega ships Star Princess and Disney Magic. When I removed the price label from a mug I bought for my housekeeper found that it was "Made in China - Cartagena: As this was my first visit to this fascinating city and time was short, took the ship's boat and bus tour, which included a visit to one of the city's historic fortresses and a walking tour of the old city. Also, of course, a shopping opportunity. I am not a gem expert, but quality and pricing of emeralds appeared to be a lot better than on the Caribbean islands. They should be, with Colombia being the world's principal emerald producer. - Panama Canal. Particularly interesting for me as a retired civil engineer. Excellent on-board commentator for the entire passage. Heard a few complaints about how hot it was. Would did they expect, close to the equator in dry season? - Caldera: having done the long, hot excursion to San Jose on a previous visit, I opted for the half-day excursion to a large nearby commercial orchid farm, where they took us through the entire process from propagation of plants to packing and shipping of cut flowers to North America and Europe. We each received a small orchid bouquet which lasted very nicely in an improvised vase (Perrier bottle) for the rest of the cruise. - Acapulco. We were scheduled to dock, but learned the previous afternoon that we would be anchoring, as another ship had some major hull damage and couldn't leave the pier. However, we were able to dock in a different berth, as the NCL ship scheduled for it wasn't arriving until afternoon. The damaged ship was the Regal Princess, which had been supposed to depart on a cruise to Puerto Rico two or three days earlier. Passengers for that cruise whom several of us talked to were having a great time sitting on the ship with free liquor and shore excursions while Princess was figuring out how to get 1,500 people back to where they had come from. Ship was scheduled to go into dry-dock (in Panama, I heard) as soon as they got all the passengers off. Official Princess story was that she "touched bottom" at the previous port. Must have been quite a "touch" to do enough damage to require dry dock repairs and cancellation of two, if not three, cruises. I didn't take any excursions (been there - done that) just walked up into the old city for a while. Again, a loud complaints about how hot it was. Unlike the canal, it really was hot in the city. - Cabo San Lucas: a short call, as the ship really had to push to arrive in LA Sunday morning. I took a bus tour to get an overview of Cabo, not having been to Baja California before. Tour included a stop at a glass blowing factory, which I could have done without, a drive to the old city of San Jose del Cabo, with some shopping time, and visit to Cacti Mundo gardens, the largest display of cacti I've ever seen. Construction everywhere along the coast! Back at the tender pier, loud complaints from one passenger that short stay didn't allow time for both touring and shopping, and why did we have to be in such a hurry to get to LA early in the morning. Obviously clueless about what it takes to turn a ship around for a new cruise the same day! Also, do people not read the materials Crystal provides? The schedule for the Cabo and other port calls was published at least a year ago! HOMEWARD BOUND A good percentage of the passengers were from California, whom we east coasters envied a bit, as they would be almost home when we got to LA. The ship was pushed to maximum speed for the long leg back to LA, with all five engines at full power, and fighting both a headwind and opposing current. This is the only time there was any noticeable vibration. Despite these efforts, we arrived in LA about 1-1/2 hours behind schedule, but disembarkation was handled quickly, without the usual requirement that all baggage be ashore before anybody could disembark, so the Crystal transfers got us to the airport in plenty of time, theoretically, to check in for flights. I say theoretically because as soon as I got to LAX I started regretting that I hadn't stayed on the ship for the next cruise, as getting back to Vermont was to be a bit of an adventure. Virtually nothing was flying east because of storms - I was supposed to go through Washington, but it was completely closed, and nothing available to Philadelphia, New York, or Boston. Helpful United agent got me on the standby list for an afternoon flight to Chicago and then standby on to Burlington Monday morning. Learned something interesting: my 100,000+ United miles moves me to the top of the standby list, and I got on both flights with no problem. So, I got to Burlington about 12 hours later than planned - I was lucky - talked to people who had been at O'Hare for three days trying to get out. Learned later that even some San Francisco passengers had delays because aircraft and/or crews were stuck somewhere. Got home to NH to find a foot of snow from the Valentine's Day storm, and we had another 10 to 12" a few days later, so it still looks like winter here, regardless of what the calendar says. CONCLUSION All in all, another great Crystal cruise with a lot of nice people. I'm looking forward to my only other scheduled 2007 Crystal cruise, the November Lisbon-to-Miami big band crossing on the Serenity. This will be my first Serenity experience, so I'm looking forward to it. Several people I met on this cruise are also booked on the November crossing. I'm also anxiously awaiting Crystal's announcement of 2008 cruise themes so I can start planning for next year. Comments will be welcome either on the Crystal's Cruise Critic message boards or by e-mail. Read Less
Crystal Symphony Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.0
Dining 4.5 4.5
Entertainment 4.5 4.3
Public Rooms 5.0 4.5
Fitness Recreation 4.5 4.0
Family 4.0 4.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.8
Enrichment 5.0 4.2
Service 4.0 4.6
Value For Money 4.0 3.9
Rates 4.0 4.1

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