1. Home
  2. Cruise Lines
  3. Crystal Cruises
  4. Crystal Cruises Cruise Reviews

31 Crystal Repositioning Cruise Reviews

Wanted to revisit Japan, enjoy TransAtlantic sea days, heard wonderful comments re: Crystal. This cruise was spectacular in both food, lectures and personal service. Have been on 50 cruises over the years and found the Symphony to be one ... Read More
Wanted to revisit Japan, enjoy TransAtlantic sea days, heard wonderful comments re: Crystal. This cruise was spectacular in both food, lectures and personal service. Have been on 50 cruises over the years and found the Symphony to be one of the very best! Personal service from the luggage delivery to the transfers to and from the airports were truely first class. The employees knew who we were by the second day and their courtesies were most appreciated! Food was excellent everywhere we ate on the ship! Speciality dining was excellent and available most of the time! Lectures were outstanding, this trip highlighted “Hollywood” personalities and the history of musical and dramatic performances. Former astronaut, military general, nature photographer, song writers and well known performers! Ship is spotless and refreshed daily. Always a crew member around to answer question, give directions and offer a hand to complete any task! Ships excursions were excellent and timely! Cabins are nice, clean, comfortable and very quiet! Would suggest taking a small stool to help older or mobility challenged guests to get in and out of the tub-shower! Embarkation and Disembarkation were a snap, many crew members to help with baggage and porters were easily available! First cruise on Crystal and hopefully more in the future Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
We chose this cruise because we had not been on the Crystal for a few years and as it was a round trip return from and to Los Angeles it seemed to be very convenient. For years we have been trying to convince our friends to try the ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we had not been on the Crystal for a few years and as it was a round trip return from and to Los Angeles it seemed to be very convenient. For years we have been trying to convince our friends to try the Crystal and were finally able to get them to come with us only to find it was not as good as it used to be. The lunch buffet was so bad that we just gave up after a couple of days. We tried the dining room which turned out to be even worse The specialty restaurants were fabulous. The food, staff and atmosphere were exemplary. The ship did not appear to be as clean as it used to be. Our suite which had been refurbished seemed smaller due to the new configuration but the shower was incredibly worth the extra money.The toiletries were horrible, with artificial scent which I am highly allergic to. Entertainment was excellent. However, the casino rules were disgusting and no wonder it was always empty. Lastly - to have 6 ports on a 7 day cruise on the West Coast was a total loss. Aside from San Francisco and Cabo San Lucas (which was not on the itinerary) are the only 2 safe and exciting places to stop at. Most passengers complained they did not enjoy the quiet ocean experience when the ship is at sea. Crystal needs to recognize that plus the savings on Port Charges could benefit the pricing for passengers. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
We have sailed on Serenity several times before and love it: huge interior spaces for the number of passengers; outstanding service; delicious food; provocative speakers; exciting evening entertainment. But, the ship has shown its age ... Read More
We have sailed on Serenity several times before and love it: huge interior spaces for the number of passengers; outstanding service; delicious food; provocative speakers; exciting evening entertainment. But, the ship has shown its age and the formal, fixed seating dinners belong to a bygone age. Thus we were anxious to see the remodeled ship featuring new dining options. Smooth embarkation in Lisbon. The big changes, aside from decorative finishes throughout are revamping the formal dining room as Waterside--more like a suburban country club than a banquet hall--and creation of new deck 11 evening dining venues--one Asian and quite nice and the other a Brazilian style steak house that I find of limited appeal. Why? It really is not that much of a physical transformation for a part of the buffet area set aside for it but mostly because who wants that much food at night after being well fed all day. One of our preferences for Serenity over its very similar sister ship Symphony is the much larger Avenue Saloon where for years one was regaled by an outrageously bold piano player singer who had a devoted following. On this cruise his replacement was a bid disappointment. Serenity has a large physical fitness area and good classes there. We will sail both Crystal liners again particularly on the extended crossings. Read Less
Sail Date November 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
Sail Date August 2018
We booked a Sea Breeze suite on deck 9 in mid 2017. These suites were created when the ship was refurbished in October. 14 days before we were due to step on board our agent was told by Crystal that due to electrical problems the Sea ... Read More
We booked a Sea Breeze suite on deck 9 in mid 2017. These suites were created when the ship was refurbished in October. 14 days before we were due to step on board our agent was told by Crystal that due to electrical problems the Sea Breeze suites required repairs and we had been upgraded to a Penthouse Suite on Deck 10 under the pool deck. Our agent knew that after 25 years of regular cruising there are locations of a ship that we would not accept even if free. Under the pool deck is one area. Upgrade rubbish - suite size the same, fare the same and services to the suite the same. We asked if we cancelled would there be a penalty. Yes there would be no refund and read the small print we,Crystal, have the right to change the suites. We had also taken a 3 day pre cruise hotel package in Mauritius. Two days before flying out to Mauritius we checked the weather to discover the island was about to be hit with a category 3 (severe) cyclone and all air travel was cancelled to and from the island. We telephoned Crystal in Sydney and identified ourselves with the booking number etc. The voice at Crystal told us that they had no official notice of any Cyclone and they would only talk to our travel agent. Hello a cruise ship capable of holding 848 passengers heading into a cyclone forecast area and they did not know that fact. Does anyone in Crystal tell the truth? The coach from the hotel to the ship was a shambles. We arrived after 1.30 pm so lunch was not available - part of the service was suppose to be a champers lunch, which no one knew about. When we arrived on board we were told that deck 9 was closed due to flooding. Hello the ship must have great scuppers (drains) if only deck 9 was effected. When we told the Concierge that our concern with the Penthouse Suite was noise from the pool deck we were told they had never had a complaint about noise. Hello again. The now have one. For the next 14 days we had foot steps over our heads from around 7 am to 10 pm or later. Furniture was dragged across the deck. From time to time heavy trolleys trundled across the deck. At 5 pm the staff rearranged the sun lounges by moving them into position and dropping them. We complained to the Concierge and the time moved to 9 pm. When the deck was hosed down in the early hours of the morning we had the benefit of an early wake up call. On the second day we became aware that there were only 380 passengers on board, so that really explains why deck 9 was closed. The climax of the treatment we received came on day 5 when we discovered that the on board of US$1200 was not on our account. You had to spend that on board. Yes, we do read the fine print. After a meeting with the Chief Accountant it took another 2 days before the credit was put onto our account. Although the web site sets out the service to the suite we had to ask for such service each time. We only have a butler because we select the better accommodation and the butler comes with such accommodation. On the ship the Butler did not offer any service. On day one there were no canapes. Afternoon tea was never suggested etc. Service in the dining areas was initially very good but fell away in the last 7 days to poor. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
Returned yesterday from a Tokyo to Honolulu segment on Symphony. Overall, would rate this ship and the crew as excellent. We chose this cruise for a couple of reasons. First, we love sea days and it doesn't get any better than ... Read More
Returned yesterday from a Tokyo to Honolulu segment on Symphony. Overall, would rate this ship and the crew as excellent. We chose this cruise for a couple of reasons. First, we love sea days and it doesn't get any better than this. Second, we live in Honolulu and wanted the opportunity to leave the ship and be home in 10 minutes by cab. We have previously cruised on Silversea and Seabourn. I would give the Symphony a slight edge. It is a larger ship with more dining options and much better entertainment. Also, I found the crew to be a bit warmer and made us feel more comfortable. We opted for Dining by Reservation. It worked out for us very well. Found a table we liked with a great waiter. I would rate the food a little below Seabourn but not my much. The alternative dining options were very pleasant. Al-in-all a terrific cruise. Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
We chose this cruise on Crystal Symphony because it would take us from San Diego to Auckland in time to visit family in New Zealand for the holidays. The first leg was a film and theater theme and took us to Papeete. This segment was at ... Read More
We chose this cruise on Crystal Symphony because it would take us from San Diego to Auckland in time to visit family in New Zealand for the holidays. The first leg was a film and theater theme and took us to Papeete. This segment was at capacity. The second leg was food and wine and was only half full. On the first leg, the dining room was always full and a bit noisy but the service did not lag. There are enough public spaces that, even at capacity the ship does not feel crowded. For the Christmas season, the ship was very nicely decorated with Santa’s, trees, elves and nutcrackers in abundance. We took most of our dinners in the main dining room and found the food in quality and choice to be excellent, as was the service. We also dined once on each segment in Silk Road and Prego. These meals were superb as was the service. We had several lunches at the Trident Grill. A toasted ham and cheese sandwich for one lunch was less than satisfactory. It gave the impression of being production line product that was pulled out, unwrapped and toasted. Other than that, the Grill food was satisfactory.. Breakfasts in the Lido Grill were fine with a large selection from the buffet and we discovered the person who had access to the berries (in a drawer behind the serving line). The Grand Buffet lunch in each segment was a great showing of the prowess of the chef and culinary staff. There was one issue we experienced with wine. When we boarded and went to our first lunch, my wife asked for a glass of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (her favorite) and the wine steward said there was none on board and had not been on board for three years. She settled for a French SB. However, the second night at dinner we learned that there was an Ara Marlborough SB carried for the dining room and had been for sometime. We could not understand why the first wine steward was ill-informed. When we called room service to have a bottle sent to our stateroom, we were informed that Ara was only available in the DR and could not be sent via room service. We found this strange for an all inclusive cruise line, especially as the Ara was not a premium wine. Service at all levels was excellent - dining room staff, bar staff, and stateroom attendant. Before dinner, we found a glass of wine in the Avenue Saloon to be quite nice and this venue was never crowded. Palm court was also a great venue and we were impressed by the Mozart Tea served there. The on-board entertainment was excellent. Dr Sobey’s lectures on the ocean and Dr Sowell on the history and culture of the various islands we were to visit were very informative and enjoyable. The iMovie course by Kerry Merrick and Dina Sterr was fantastic and I now use the skills I learned to capture pleasant memories of this cruise. My wife also learned knitting from the on-board knitting instructors. The Magic Castle at Sea shows (one per each segment) were amazing especially because the venue was the intimate Avenue Saloon and even being so close to the action did not permit us to crack the slight of hand. Cooking demonstrations were not so successful as there is not a convenient venue for these and the Galaxy Lounge stage elevated the chef above the audience. The port guides for each stop were very useful with maps and information. Read Less
Sail Date November 2016
HIGH EXPECTATIONS MET AGAIN It was going to be my 70th birthday as Crystal Serenity cruised up the Mississippi River to New Orleans. That seemed like the perfect combination, and it didn’t disappoint. We have taken 30 cruises, 12 on ... Read More
HIGH EXPECTATIONS MET AGAIN It was going to be my 70th birthday as Crystal Serenity cruised up the Mississippi River to New Orleans. That seemed like the perfect combination, and it didn’t disappoint. We have taken 30 cruises, 12 on Celebrity, and the rest on eight other lines (two defunct). This was our third Crystal cruise, second on Serenity. From embarkation to the minute we stepped off the ship, things ran so smoothly. Every place I looked, there was plenty of crew and staff, all cordial, all expert at their jobs. The crew and staff are appropriately professional and just friendly enough, as well as extremely well trained. It’s a well-oiled machine, almost always. I’m talking about the servers in all the dining venues, the staff at the computer lounge (no doubt answering the same questions, over and over and over again), the stewardess, the tender operators. Everybody! We usually eat breakfast and lunch at the Lido, and the variety is huge. Just as an example, there are at least four kinds of yogurt every morning, sometimes five or six. There are two hot cereals, a bouquet of cold in those little boxes, and then muesli and a few granola types. You like walnuts or pecans in your cereal, or dried fruit? Sure, there it is. Cut up fresh fruit continued to be available and delicious the entire 14 days. The gentlemen who make the eggs definitely know their job. My friend loves to have miso soup for breakfast. There it is, at its own station with all kinds of other things. Even the toast guy has his job mastered perfectly. That’s also true of the guys at Trident Grill, which really is a wonderful lunch option. Burgers, hot dogs, salmon burger, chicken burger, wrap of the day and soup! Oh, speaking of soup. In the Lido, there are always two kinds and served with the soup in the pot and the additions, separate, added per your request. The mushroom barley soup had the barley to be added separately, beautiful and tasty mushrooms to be added separately, and chopped chives. The albondigas soup had the little meatballs to be added separately and I can’t remember what else – perhaps cilantro? The matza ball soup had the broth separately, with the matza balls, the noodles and the shredded chicken all to be added separately. And that’s just the soup! So many other choices: always something being carved, always an Asian choice, always several other choices, always a sandwich of the day. On the cold bar, that’s where you’ll find herring (sometimes two kinds) and rare roast beef and all sorts of other goodies. And fruit, and cheese, and a big salad bar. Seriously, there really is pretty much everything. Oh, dessert? Sure, and again many choices plus many are mini desserts, to make it even easier. Dinners in the Crystal Dining Room were equally as pleasing. There are plenty of choices. Most nights there were two appetizers/soups/salads we wanted. One night our table mate had three! as well as her main entrée! I had the trifle dessert almost every night and they never disappointed. The Prego Italian specialty restaurant was better than last time (this time service was better and food was better) and the Silk Road Japanese specialty restaurant was definitely outstanding. Those are more intimate venues and specialized menus; every guest can have two complimentary specialty dinners/week. Unfortunately, you’ll always be missing a lovely menu in the Crystal Dining Room, to enjoy the specialties. From 9 am to midnight, there’s a snack buffet at the Bistro, where you can also get coffee drinks, and many tea options, plus wine. Cheese, fruit, deli items, desserts, and they’re all there in a lovely location with large windows to watch the waves or check out where you’re docked or anchored. Every day there’s afternoon tea, in Palm Court, which is high up and far forward, again with great windows to see what’s going on outside. There are a few telescopes, in case something interesting appears and you’d like a closer look. Ice cream is available until 6 pm (and then you can have ice cream for dessert at dinner, as well). It’s Ben & Jerry’s, hand dipped, about eight different flavors. Toppings, cookies, have a blast. You’re on vacation! Cabins are totally adequate and quite lovely. The bathrooms all have bathtubs and two sinks, with a good thing to hold onto, for stepping in and out. I know handicapped cabins exist, but I can’t report on them. Actually, there’s also something called a Pure cabin, for people who have allergies, I think. Basic veranda cabins are just like the picture window ones, but with a veranda, and then there are more expensive categories with much more space. On one of the at-sea days, there was one of each category open for inspection. The higher categories have walk-in closets. A few little touches that are really nice are the Port/Starboard annotations outside the elevators, so it’s easy to go in the right direction; the guest laundries, complimentary, with ironing boards for guest use; plus a lovely library, staffed for many hours every day and the place to pick up the daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, trivia questions and other puzzle choices, in addition to the tickets to a really enjoyable magic show for small groups of guests. Get your tickets early so you won’t be shut out! Entertainment (Galaxy Lounge) is almost always very enjoyable, and there’s a nice variety. Two different singers were extremely well received, and the production numbers are high energy and beautifully done. We had a famous organist, Hector Olivera, with his very special organ that stays on Serenity all year round for his performances. On our 14-day cruise, he performed on two different evenings (two shows per evening), with two completely different shows. Besides the main show, there’s often an additional show at 10:30, in a different venue (Stardust). A few times it was by the production team, and a few by guest entertainers. One guest entertainer needed to be rescued by Cruise Director, Gary Hunter, the ultimate professional host (and a great comedian and ventriloquist). Around the ship, there’s music for your listening pleasure and also for dancing. Palm Court, Crystal Cove and Avenue Saloon generally are all available – at the same time! – with popular tunes, classical music and show music. Crystal offers Dance Ambassadors to dance with the single guests, as well as a dance team to give complimentary dance lessons (no partner required). You want music before dinner? Sure. After dinner? Absolutely. Plenty of choices and all beautifully done. There are even three different times to see a movie in the Hollywood Theatre (or a sporting event on t.v. – or even election results, if the timing is right for you). In addition to the food, service and entertainment, how would you like to enjoy some enrichment on board? You can go to classes on computer skills (we learned about photo-shop, about Windows 10, about using Word, and about Excel), learn to knit, learn to play bridge (or play better), play in a sanctioned bridge game, take pilates or stretching or a cycle class. You can learn how to make iMovies. And the enrichment speakers just might boggle your mind. We enjoyed learning about the history of ocean liners from Bill Miller; we know perhaps more than we’d like, about terrorism, from Prof. Louis Rene Beres; and we were delighted by a trip down memory lane with two of the writers from Cheers, complete with clips of some of their favorite/best shows. I would go to all four of Cheri Steinkellner’s lectures, all over again. Actually, the same is true of Bill Miller and Prof. Beres, as well. If there’s a conflict, and you’d like to be taking dance lessons or out on deck 13 watching the Mississippi Delta or Puget Sound glide by, watch the lecture later on your t.v. Heck, if you don’t feel like getting dressed, watch the lecture, live, on your t.v.! Does Crystal try to cater to your every need, or what? Anyway, that’s my impression. Just for good measure, throw in the fact that embarkation was a cinch and debarkation was equally as smooth. Everything was amazingly on time, from the start of boarding, to all the shows on board, to arrival at various ports, to the time we got off the ship on the final day. It was a great cruise and I recommend Crystal to anybody who loves a refined experience full of food and fun. When you look at fares, remember that alcoholic beverages as well as specialty coffees, bottled water and canned soft drinks, plus gratuities to crew, are included. The level of the experience and the inclusions allow me to say this is a cruise vacation that is good value for my money. Read Less
Sail Date November 2016
Comparisons are important, and a good way to paint a valid description. Crystal is considered one of the best 6 star line if you will. We've cruised with them previously which we enjoyed and can serve as an easy comparison. The ... Read More
Comparisons are important, and a good way to paint a valid description. Crystal is considered one of the best 6 star line if you will. We've cruised with them previously which we enjoyed and can serve as an easy comparison. The boarding experience in Lisbon was up a shabby ramshackle tented gangway. Not even a "Hello and welcome aboard" and certainly no welcome drink nor semblance of service . Following a pleasant check in clerk we were directed to the elevators dragging luggage. What 5 star hotel or cruiser have to been on where nobody accompanied you to the room/cabin ? That should have been the warning signal of what to expect. Don't swallow the ploy that Crystal sell the 'first night in port' as a plus for arriving pax. Not so, its another cost saver for the company calculated you lose whilst the company gains. $500 per person or more a night buys the best luxury accommodation in 5 star hotels with a wide choice of dining possiblities in any major cities departure port, instead of wasting time and money in a tiny uncomfortable cabin on board. However this cruising standard we considered; in common with many of co cruisers, was lower than the benchmarks Seaborne or Silver Sea. The Symphony is well down the scale. Claims as to being 6 star and the # 1 exclusive cruise line are wild exaggerations of the truth. Without doubt Crystal is on a major cost cutting exercise under the new management. If you are looking for luxury cruising and value for money you are advised to look elsewhere. The Symphony is tired, and badly in need of a refit. Old cheap prints do nothing to enhance the outdated furnishings in very small cabins.The overall impression is clearly of overwhelmingly sloppy management. On day 2 we attempted to speak with the Hotel Director and was told we have to make an appointment by email instead of simply calling him on his mobile or pager. Herein undoubtedly lies the root of the management problem. This is an incapability or planned device to avoid responding in a timely manner. 6 hours later and only after contacting the head office in California, did the Director respond. The only positive is the ship is immaculately clean.. Waiting crew on open decks (breakfast or lunch) mainly Philippinos have an uncontrolled tendency to be over friendly and in ones face. Failing to clear dirty dishes from table in a timely fashion because theres never a manager in sight, doesn't make their presence more appealing. 48 hours following my complaint, the matter was recitified to normal anticipated standards, proving the management had dropped standards as a norm. Sloppy as accused. Dining room waiters are very good and we have no complaints. However, again the restaurant manager is noted by his absence during service. Food is above average, but the kitchen does not excel merely good Bistro standard to be found in any major European City. . Housekeeping likewise is not paying attention to their managing, or the beds would be properly dressed instead of simply being thrown together. They do not turn beds down at night. No flowers, chocolates nor fruit nor champagne in the pokey tiny cabins. Two normal sized people cannot pass each other between the wall and the foot of the bed. Bar staff are acceptable, but here as all of the ship, in every single aspect lacks professionalism. There's not one part of the ship nor its operation I would commend as being excellent or at best equal to 4 star. Unfortunate, for it is precisely that Holy Grail which ships of this calibre strive for. Entertainment was very poor. A Transatlantic cruise needs distracting quality shows. A scheduled stop at the Azores was cancelled by the Captain, claiming a risk of Hurricane force weather conditions. This was either a figment of his imagination or more likely an economic decision driven by cost cutting. I was a professional racing yacht skipper, well able to read meteorological charts and forecast weather with the best and I saw no valid reason for this decision. In fact I was 100% correct , there was no bad weather for the day we should have docked. The CEO and her Board need to travel more, taking note of their competition. Sampling it would have them disembarking with their eyes cast down and worried for the future expectations of their shareholders. Improvement will not occur rapidly, requiring a major change from CEO and management. This particular cruise remained an unfortunate place to be, for 13 days failing our high but justifiably balanced expectations in every field. The experience will likely leave an unpleasant memory as a waste of money. This fairly ordinary form of transatlantic transport could be had at half the price and probably more enjoyable for expectations wouldn't be high. it was a relief to disembark in Miami. Detailed letters of justifiable complaint to the CEO remain unanswered 2 months later, as yet another indictment of poor management . When the CEO has not to common commercial decency to respond, nor make a offer of retribution is an indication of where the root problem lies. She couldn't care less - shareholders take note ! Watch this website for further in detail description. Finally. Take our valid advice as regular cruisers for more than 20 years, always in 5 star or better ships. You would not be doing yourself any favour by cruising Crystal. David. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
We take 3 crossing a year, between crystal and Seabourn.But Crystal has a better lecture program. And the Tommy Dorsey band makes it over the top. Crystal also to care of our medical needs. They were just great. The overall staff was over ... Read More
We take 3 crossing a year, between crystal and Seabourn.But Crystal has a better lecture program. And the Tommy Dorsey band makes it over the top. Crystal also to care of our medical needs. They were just great. The overall staff was over the top in all departments. We have done 15 crystal cruises and it was great to see how many crew new our names. The owns we new us best called us Mr. Steve and Mrs. Judy. The one thing that stood out was there house keeping. I dare anyone to find any dust or finger prints on the brass, You think they walk behind you. As for dinning it could not be better. I need a special diet and they prepared all my meals according to my needs. Was for the wait staff if we could take them home they would be very upset with Judy and I. Of all the cruises we have taken 100 + crystal is on top of the list. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
We chose this cruise because of the big band and ballroom theme and we were not disappointed. The Tommy Dorsey orchestra under the direction of Terry Myer was superb. Y husband is a retired trombone player from the Pittsburgh Symphony ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the big band and ballroom theme and we were not disappointed. The Tommy Dorsey orchestra under the direction of Terry Myer was superb. Y husband is a retired trombone player from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and he was thrilled to here this ensemble every night.. our veranda suite on Deck nine was wonderful. The dining experience was memorable with creative, delicious choices every evening. We were always busy. My sea days incled 2 dance classes daily, Team Trivi! And a painting class with a wonderful teacher, Patty Jones.There were also excellent lectures on board and the evening shows were top notch. We have booked 2 more Crystal voyages for 2018! The cruise line has incentives for repeat cruisers, early booking while on board and early payment in full. I had no idea that thirteen days at sea with only a stop in St Thimas could be that much fun. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
We waited a bit to write this review of our Crystal Symphony transatlantic in October in order to gain perspective and not overreact. After reading the previous post on the same cruise, we felt we also needed to provide feedback on what ... Read More
We waited a bit to write this review of our Crystal Symphony transatlantic in October in order to gain perspective and not overreact. After reading the previous post on the same cruise, we felt we also needed to provide feedback on what was, overall, a disappointing cruise. This was our 5th Crystal cruise and second transatlantic. We loved the first transatlantic and have always loved the lectures, dancing, Silk Road, Prego and the Big Band theme. We booked this cruise for relaxation, dancing, food and our experience with past Crystal cruises. Boarding in Lisbon was unorganized with no welcoming signs or agents. We found our way to registration and, after we were on the ship, found our own way to our cabin. The cabin was just as expected in size and amenities. However, there was no welcoming bottle of champagne. There was, as we had requested in the past, a fan and a top sheet on the bed. We had brought our usual duct tape to tape down the lights in the closet, which turn on every time a door is opened. We were appalled to open the refrigerator and find a moldy, half eaten canister of caviar. There were no water bottles in the cabin. We opened a dresser drawer and found a plastic bag full of a white powder. It was obvious the cabin stewardess had not been vigilant in her preparation of the cabin. This, unfortunately, continued throughout the cruise. We consistently had to ask for water, four times for Kleenex, for wine glasses, new shampoo and towels. We finally called the head of housekeeping just to get basic amenities. We asked for a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc for the cabin. We received Pinot Noir. The stewardess said they did not have Sauvignon Blanc. When we told the sommelier, he sent two bottles to the cabin. We did not ask her again. After the third day, the air conditioning in the room did not work properly. We went to the desk and put in a maintenance request. When we returned to the cabin there was a note that they had “adjusted” the vents. It made no difference. The cabin remained very warm and we were so grateful that we at least had a fan to move air. We asked two more times for repair of the a/c and no one came. We finally went to the desk again and demanded to see the hotel director. They would not let us but said they would be certain to get the a/c fixed. No one came. Finally, the second last night of the cruise, we were woken at 11 pm by someone who offered to change our cabin due to poor air conditioning. We were shocked at being called so late and declined to move cabins at that late date. This lack of maintenance is totally unacceptable and not what we have experienced in the past. We were given a table for 2 next to the waiters’ station in the dining room. We considered asking to move but really liked our waiters Nuno and Fabio who did a fantastic job in serving us. They were just exceptional. We also appreciated Roland’s extra efforts and genuine care. Julius did a nice job as sommelier and found us some lovely complementary white wines such as Sancerre and Chablis which frankly, were as good as the four bottles of wine we purchased off the proprietors list. We also loved the staff at the Trident and Lido, especially Rikki and Norman who went above and beyond in service. Food in the main dining room was for the most part very good. It was prepared as ordered and hot when it arrived. Trident Grill sandwiches were delicious. We highly anticipated our dinner at Silk Road and even made a second, fee-required, reservation because we had enjoyed it so much in the past. We do not know what happened, but our dinner there was a disaster. We were seated at a table and ignored for at least 15 minutes. We finally got menus and water. We then waited another 15 minutes to order. When the shrimp tempura arrived, it was all batter and almost no shrimp. Another guest that I spoke with later also told us they were very disappointed in the lack of shrimp in their dish. My husband’s sushi was mushy and my cod entrée was “off”, did not smell right. I could not eat it. That evening, my husband was sick with food poisoning from the sushi he had eaten at Silk Road. Luckily we had medication for food poisoning and he felt better the next day, but he was off his feet and did not eat for a day. We reported this but no one contacted us. We cancelled our second reservation at Silk Road. Prego was better, especially on our first visit. The service was good and our food, especially my lamb chops, and the beef carpaccio, were excellent. The second time, on a fee required basis, the service was slow and impersonal and the veal was overcooked and tasteless. The carpaccio and mushroom soup were as good as usual. I do not know what happened to the specialty restaurants. But they are not really “special” anymore. The staff seemed to go about the motions, but there is no enthusiasm and the menu offerings are getting old. The ship itself was very clean and the Palm Court especially looked nice. We enjoyed time in the Avenue bar, especially when Name That Tune was on. Our team won twice out of three times. I wish I could say the same for Trivia. There was a large crowd attending Trivia each day and we had a convivial team who won a few times. However, the dancers who put on Trivia gave the impression they would have preferred to be anywhere else. They had no enthusiasm and in fact, a number of the answers were totally incorrect. This resulted in a small altercation with one member of another team and the staff. And, the worst incident was the final sea day when a passenger was allowed to ask his made up questions for Trivia. It was insulting to the rest of the passengers who love Trivia to have this man flaunting “his” knowledge. The highest score was 3 correct, as he showed off his esoteric “knowledge,” and trick questions. But I guess it gave the staff responsible for Trivia time off. BAD IDEA! And one of the worst changes to Trivia and other games were the “prizes.” We do not play Trivia for the rewards, but now Crystal is giving certificates for 15% off items in the shops and the spa. The problem was the spa coupon was only good for port days – we skipped the Azores due to weather and had all sea days, and no item I wanted in the shop qualified for the coupon. Crystal should not force passengers to buy something (or give worthless certificates) in order to have a prize for Trivia. Bring back the t-shirts or don’t give anything at all. The theme of the cruise was Big Band, and the Tommy Dorsey orchestra was the main event. We have sailed with them before and they gave good performances. There was an emphasis on ballroom dancing and it is the reason many passengers book this crossing. However, this time there was a real issue with the dance instructors, Ambassador Hosts and the dancers. It is wonderful that Crystal accommodates the single lady passengers who wish to dance by having Ambassador Hosts with which to partner. In the past, they have done a marvelous job. However this time, at dance lessons morning and afternoon and in the evenings with the bands, the regular passengers were literally shoved to the side and off the dance floor. We were forced to dance in the aisles and side of the room while the Ambassadors and their alternating partners took over the floor. After about 6 nights of being pushed, shoved, and banged into, we simply gave up and went to listen to the piano player in the Crystal Cove. This also applied to the dance lessons. The morning teachers were good and took time to explain steps and practice. Then we got with our partners and practiced. However as time went on, the Ambassadors and single ladies took over the floor, edging others out. We practiced in the aisles. In the afternoon, the instructors went so fast and added so many steps that no one knew what was going on except those who were experienced dancers. And, when we asked questions of the instructors, they said they were too busy to answer. We are not new to dancing, but we truly hoped to be able to refine our steps. This did not happen. Perhaps Crystal needs to separate classes into experienced and less experienced. It would give more room on the dance floor for practice as well. The worst incident with an Ambassador Host occurred in the Lido one day when we were having lunch. One of the Hosts was eating with the Golf Instructor at the table next to us. Both of them were loudly making fun of and criticizing guests for their appearance and inabilities. It was embarrassing to hear and they should be ashamed of their attitude toward paying guests. We skipped the Azores due to “bad weather” although the seas remained calm. We therefore had 9 straight sea days to St. Thomas. The usual lineup of speakers were onboard and the speaker on the oceans and sea life was exceptional. Also the speaker on Broadway and the theater who provided singing commentary was great. However, the general’s presentation, in our opinion, contained bigoted comments with incorrect information on his slides. For example, they were not the “Mongrels”, they are the Moghuls. We can’t quite put our finger on what went wrong with this cruise. Some of the service was exceptional. Others were rote and unfeeling. The ship, although clean, seemed tired and in need of refurbishment. Basics such as maintenance of air conditioning were lacking. Front desk staff, while pleasant, did not act on requests. Officers were non-apparent. Overall it just lacked that special “Crystal feeling.” It was the first cruise we completed where we were glad to be off the ship. We reported all the problems on our survey. We have heard absolutely nothing from Crystal. Due to our issues, we cancelled the Serenity Antarctica cruise we had scheduled for February and booked with another cruise line. It is too important a cruise to take another chance on Crystal at this time. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
This was our fourth cruise within three years having previously sailed with Celebrity, Holland America, and Princess. We are a couple in our mid-thirties. We chose this cruise because it fitted in with times we could both take holiday, ... Read More
This was our fourth cruise within three years having previously sailed with Celebrity, Holland America, and Princess. We are a couple in our mid-thirties. We chose this cruise because it fitted in with times we could both take holiday, left from a UK port, and was going to places we hadn't been before (in France) - a final important check\consideration was that Crystal was reasonably well rated well by recent passengers. The ship was in superb condition, arguably better than younger ships; everything was polished, clean, and in 'close to new' condition. A fairly small ship by today's standard we found it to our advantageous as it cut down unnecessary time walking between different venues. A similar size to Ryndham (Holland America) however a key difference we observed was that it never felt crowded on Symphony, in fact it was the least crowded ship we've sailed on yet. There are potentially two reasons for this; either it was undersubscribed (possibly because people concerned about terrorism), or the age of the passengers meant they slept a lot or otherwise entertained themselves - possibly a bit of both. We stayed in cabin 7087, which is the E1 category with a limited view, for which I've written a separate review in the cabin section (and hopefully it will let me upload a photo so you can judge the level of obstruction for yourself). Dining; breakfast was very good and we always ate it in the Lido cafe (I think you could also go to main dining room). I like healthy breakfasts and wasn't disappointed as there were a lot of tasty options including birchers, smoothies, yoghurts, fruit, as well as the usual eggs, sausages, beans, bacon (for less health conscious people). I was very happy with the variety of juice on offer, and had fresh carrot juice almost every day - while other cruise lines have also offered variety of juice, other than fresh orange, it's always been from the carton, so this was a step up for me. Lunch was also very good with a reasonable variety of food, and different things served each day so we didn't get fed up with the same thing, and again we opted to eat lunch in the Lido cafe. Dinner was reasonable to excellent - the three courses in the main dining room were to a good standard, we also ate in both of the specialty restaurants (at no extra charge) and found them both (Japanese & Italian) excellent even though I don't eat sushi (luckily there were other options at the Japanese restaurant). The Italian restaurant Prego was my favourite though, and it's the first time I've ever been served soup within a bowl made of bread (maybe I've led to sheltered a life!). Besides these dining options there are also other smaller venues where you can grab a sandwich, burger, or cakes depending on your fancy - these places were never crowded. As Crystal is all inclusive, all drinks are free unless you order something really special (I'm not sure what as I ordered anything I liked and was never charged). There are a number of bars you can get drinks from (also available when dining or lounging by pool) and staff are very available to take your order and will even walk to a different bar for you if the one your at doesn't make that kind of drink. As well as my juices I had a number of cocktails, mocktails, beers, wines, and penacolada's (apology for the spelling?!), and I saw a lot of other passengers enjoying copious amounts of what looked like champagne. Entertainment was low key, the main show entertainers were really good performers though they are only on for 45 minutes a night and generally do a bit of singing and dancing which while excellent, I would have liked to see a proper full musical play (even a mini one) instead of just excerpts of musical plays. That said though, it was good enough to go back to each night as they did mix\change it up so it didn't get repetitive. There was also a magician on board however you needed to book to see him which we didn't so I can't whinge about that as my own fault. The rest of the entertainment consisted of people playing piano, some big band playing, some jazz, and a bit of pop music from different era's - nice and pleasant to listen to while having a drink but all fairly laid back. Activities consisted of some lectures (mostly UK monarchy and WWII), knitting / needlework classes, how to use your ipad, and some other things I can't recall. All said and done, there wasn't much going on and to be honest given the age demographic I don't think there was a lot of demand for much to be going on. For myself this was a bit disappointing but I can't complain too much as I knew the activities would likely be tailored towards the older generation. For information, about 95% of guests are probably in bed by 10 pm - the upside is you'll always find a seat and ready waiters in any bar around the ship!! In fact I think a lot of the staff seemed underused so it really was very quick service in all respects no matter what the time of day. Our ports of call were; Tilbury (we live in London so no point discussing this), Honfleur, St Peter's Port, St Malo, and Bordeaux. Honfleur was quaint and lovely, St Malo was amazing and I wish we could have stayed overnight (as well as going around the city we also went swimming in the sea). St Peter's Port was a bit boring but perhaps that's because I'm British and it wasn't so novel to me as I may be to an American. We got the plane back to UK from Bordeaux so can't comment on it - though I have stayed there a week once in a chateau which was refreshing. The age demographic is slightly older than other cruises we've been on, I'd say 97% of passengers were over 60, I'd guess the average may be around 70. That said they certainly weren't geriatric and there were almost no zimerframes in sight, they were mostly pleasant to talk to - even the ones voting for Donald Trump. Although we are in our 30's we were looking for a laid back \ lazy holiday as our last one was a tour of Iceland in a rented motorhome followed by a week in New York, so we were not objectionable to the pace of life on board as we felt like being less active than our previous holiday. The library was well stocked with DVDs including some very recent releases. There was also a cinema on board though we didn't take the opportunity to use it. Worth a mention is that this is the first cruise where they didn't try and sell us art, jewellery, or pointless crap they we don't want and don't need, in fact the shops were barely open at all - quite refreshing! All in all, a good cruise, and recommended to those who want a laid back holiday and be able to order whatever food and drink they like without thinking about the cost or tipping. I would go again if in a similar mood and I liked the ports of call. Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
Crystal gets such wonderful reviews that I definitely wanted to experience the line and its self proclaimed 6*+ cruising. The itinerary was perfect for us as we prefer long times at sea. Dining: The food on the Symphony was ... Read More
Crystal gets such wonderful reviews that I definitely wanted to experience the line and its self proclaimed 6*+ cruising. The itinerary was perfect for us as we prefer long times at sea. Dining: The food on the Symphony was disappointing. It does not come near the food served other luxury cruise lines. We had a number of dishes that were inedible, e.g. under-cooked pancakes, tough and dry duck and tasteless shrimp. Now there were some excellent dishes, but the quality was inconsistent. The chef was miserly with vegetables. Fish was served without fish knives. The menus were full of typos, spelling mistakes and grammar errors. Sorry I am being picky, but this is supposed to be a superb high quality line. Prego was excellent, but Silk Road was reasonable sushi bar at best. Silk Road's much touted black cod was overly sauced with teriyaki so that it was impossible to taste the cod. Eating in the casual venues such as the Bistro and the Trident Grill was always a pleasure. The sandwiches at tea were dry. (We went twice.) We chose Dining by Reservation. This was a mistake. I don't think the ship is structured to handle the flexibility of this programme. Usually we were placed in the middle of the dining room, which meant that it was also the center of the hub-bub as the staff prepared for the second sitting. Service: The service was impeccable in the dining room, the bars and all drinking and eating venues. It was impressive how quickly the staff learned personal preferences. The concierge desk went out of the way to offer us a cheaper, yet very comfortable transfer at the end of the cruise. Embarkation: This was very pleasant and handled with ease. One felt welcomed on the ship. Entertainment: The main shows were abysmal. Most of the cast were talented, but they could not rescue the amateurish material with which the had to work. Ill fitting costume and wigs added to the bad community theater feeling of the shows. The two solo performers were excellent. The lounge/bar performers were all excellent, especially the charming Mark in the Avenue Saloon. Shore Excursions: These were ordinary. Possibly because the two ports are very small Crystal had no choice of suppliers, but they were certainly not the promised "Crystal Adventures." The Ship: The re-fit of the ship has created many elegant and comfortable spaces.The cabins are silent and the bathrooms make amazing sue of small spaces. Unfortunately the refit stopped at the aft end of the ship. The dining room is a dark and noisy space with light fixtures that are dated and probably always ugly. The placing of the serving stations may be efficient, but they increase the noise level.The Stardust Club is an underused, undefined and dated space. My fantasy would be to change it into a second dining room so that open seating would be possible. The announcement-free environment was superb. Enrichment and Daytime Programmes: All excellent. Cruise Director: I do not usually point out individuals in a review, but the Cruise Director on this cruise was completely useless. Although he was always smiling, he was not friendly and certainly did not play the role of the host that most cruise directors assume. His emceeing was so bad it was embarrassing. At disembarkation he did not know what was happening and managed upset some very elderly passengers. He walked away from them (still smiling) completely unaware of the chaos he created. Small Complaints: A formal night on the last night this segment was inconvenient. As the next day was at sea for the ongoing passengers, a last formal night could have been scheduled then. One of our two day laundry orders took 4 days to arrive in our cabin. The attendant's explanation was a shrug and a giggle. We used express check out. Our bill arrived 15 minutes before we were to board our transfer and was full of mistakes. I have never had this happen on any other line. Summary: Would I sail on Crystal again? Maybe, if they offered a really spectacular itinerary. I would certainly board with 4* expectations and maybe I would be surprised. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
We looked forward to a Crystal Big Band Transatlantic cruise with great anticipation. Never have we been so disappointed.. The standards have slipped so far and so fast , we were bitterly disappointed by the entire experience. The ... Read More
We looked forward to a Crystal Big Band Transatlantic cruise with great anticipation. Never have we been so disappointed.. The standards have slipped so far and so fast , we were bitterly disappointed by the entire experience. The cutbacks and cost snipping are getting a little too obvious under new ownership. The " Best cruise line in the world" is suffering from a severe case of self delusion. We have enjoyed several Big Band cruises with Crystal, finding them a special way of crossing the ocean. this was a pre Christmas cruise, so the ship was decorated throughout... With the same decorations we have seen several times, all beginning to look a little tired This was hardly a Big Band, merely a dull group who could not, and did not , give guests a Big Band experience. The house band offered a better quality of music. Entertainment was equally lack lustre, often seen, dull , dreary shows, despite the enthusiasm of the talented young singers and dancers. The daily dance tuition was equally tired , dull and delivered by the same old foursome we have seen too often. Crystal were introducing new dance talent from Australia and Ukraine, but cut backs are showing here too. Guest entertainers were similarly not of the quality we had expected, and previously enjoyed aboard Crystal ships. The highlight of the cruise, to our delight, were the fine guest speakers, including musical experts, an astronaut and a British retired RAF senior officer who delighted with his insights into current world situations. Dining aboard Crystal cruises was always a delight, but we were disappointed on this cruise, not by the service levels which remain superb , delivered by the ever dedicated staff. However, the dining room , wonderful " modern menu" is now so altered that there is little difference between it, and a classic menu. Similarly, we were disappointed by the charming Tastes menu, which is now heavy, over sauced and has little resemblance to a decent tapas menu. The tried, tested , very repetitive Prego menus desperately need a makeover, as the menu is heavy for modern tastes and badly needs some seasonal changes. We have always enjoyed the enrichment experiences on cruises, but art classes consisted of total lack of creativity, limited media choices and complete lack of inspiration. Luckily, the golf tuition was excellent making up for the paucity of other classes. Crystal are steadily raising the cost of cruises, but , in our opinion, delivering poorer value, and providing far from the luxury experience we had come to enjoy. Petty little cuts , which we assume they believe will go unnoticed, grated... The own brand toiletries, which look and smell cheap, the lack of a daily news sheet, the lower number of the always delightful tiny lunchtime desserts, the substitution of thin cheap balsamic vinegar for salads are surely some examples which irritated. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
Cruise 5331 was an Atlantic crossing (Lisbon to Miami), with only two brief stops along the way (Tenerife and Key West). My wife and I took this cruise for its long string of sea days, not the port stops. We’ve taken the Crystal ... Read More
Cruise 5331 was an Atlantic crossing (Lisbon to Miami), with only two brief stops along the way (Tenerife and Key West). My wife and I took this cruise for its long string of sea days, not the port stops. We’ve taken the Crystal Serenity (1,000 passengers) over a dozen times in the past several years. We treat it as a comfortable boutique hotel where everyone knows your name. It’s consistently a nice getaway that lacks all that herding, hustling, and hollering for which cruises are stereotyped. Nevertheless, there are some real limits on what the Serenity offers all of us who don’t stay up there in those elite penthouses. Travel agents who want to book repeaters should use caution to avoid an expectation gap. Regardless of the fancy ads, this aging ship doesn’t meet the assumptions for unabashed “ultra luxury.” There are simply too many little “no’s” and missing touches for that. Overall, I rate this cruise as a “3” (on a scale of 5) when judged against Crystal’s asserted standards of “all exclusive” and “ultra luxury.” But there are definitely some pockets of real luxury on the Serenity, including some crew members who consistently offer a luxury level of service. Among the latter are the cruise director and the famous Lido waiters -- true masters of making you feel welcome. So we enjoy what’s there, and overlook what’s not. And we keep coming back. For customers that insist on absolute pampered perfection, travel agents should carefully brief them on the market’s offerings and realities. DINING: The quality of food on the Serenity was quite variable during this cruise. For my taste buds, the following hodgepodge was delicious and memorable: monkfish (a rare treat where we live); fishermen’s platter (perfectly breaded); salzburger nockerl (custom dessert from our Austrian head waiter); homemade corned beef hash (a breakfast treat); Ovaltine (a childhood memory); all that super-creamy ice cream (including arcane flavors like lychee and green tea). As in the past, the Lido Cafe’s steaks, hamburgers, and chimichurri beef were consistently delicious. And my wife had a good filet in the dining room. But the rest of the ship’s beef cuts lacked flavor at best, and were hard to eat at worst. (I actually pushed two servings aside.) One of the Serenity’s pasta offerings (spaghetti with meat sauce) was quite tasty. With that one exception, the ship’s pasta was disappointing. One serving lacked flavor and arrived lukewarm. Another serving arrived so cold that I reported it to the head waiter for replacement. The Serenity is a good choice if you like the treasure hunt of sampling the world’s cuisine. It may not be a good fit for those who passively expect meals of predictable perfection (that is, eaters with little tolerance for uncertainty and experimentation). On the other hand, the head waiters on the Serenity are outstanding and, with a day’s notice, will arrange just about any food you want (as close as we come to having a personal chef). And this option for customized, off-menu items is indeed a luxury. Last spring, Crystal’s president expressed her understandable need for “making sure every berth is full every sailing” (Wall Street Journal, 4-23-15). That apparently means marketing to more than us empty-nesters, as well as steps like deformalizing the dining room a bit for those who wear the “$400 jeans” (as she expressed it in an onboard video of a March 7 passenger briefing). The apparel debate has now been addressed in a 350-word “Dress Codes for Your Cruise,” which was distributed at the start of the voyage. After dissecting the document and looking at the diners’ attire, I concluded that the dreaded jeans are now permissible anywhere and anytime except the two formal nights. Once again, the key is for travel agents to openly cover this issue with their shoppers. If customers prefer more or less formality, they can vote with their checkbooks. But it’s not just about the ups and downs of the food (or even the tuxes). We much enjoy our table talk with some of the world’s most interesting people. All those people who do things we’ll never do ourselves. And those dining conversations are the real luxury for us. In fact, we often remember those chats in more detail than what we ate at a given feeding. MUSIC & LECTURES: This was a repositioning cruise with less than 1,000 passengers. But it was definitely the land of luxury for musicians and music lovers. The little ship was saturated with three bands, two pianists, nightly music shows, a Mozart tea, and a Russian string quartet. Three lecturers did a memorable series of 11 presentations about the “American Songbook.” And the Serenity provided free wireless access to 300+ videos of its past lectures. However, the ship’s online portal needs to label these videos by topic, rather than just by the name of the lecturer. STATEROOM & PUBLIC SPACES: Cruising need not mean crowding. Though a small ship, Serenity was somehow built with “endless” nooks and crannies in which one can limit contact with other humans to the desired degree. On this cruise, as before, we found the Serenity’s basic veranda stateroom to be adequate and comfortable. The housekeeper was thorough, attentive, pleasant, and dependable. However, the ship’s voicemail system was broken for most of the cruise. This frustrated messages from passengers and crew. Crystal’s daily newsletter acknowledged the problem on December 16, 20, and 21. But the failure to provide this basic service is not consistent with luxury cruising. The broken voicemail reminded us of our cruise last year, when the Serenity’s connection to the Internet was broken across much of the Pacific. Again, this is an aging little ship with limitations that travel agents should alert their customers to expect. PRE-CRUISE & POST-CRUISE: We’ve given up on using taxicabs due to various incidents over the years. A problem with a cab driver can be a real spoiler at the beginning of a trip. Thus, in Lisbon, we reserved a private driver to meet us at the airport. In setting the pickup time, be sure to make a pessimistic allowance for baggage claim and the passport line. Before the cruise, we built in a “cushion day” at the Sheraton Lisboa hotel. Great place to park for the day of waiting, but be sure to read your bill before paying. The Sheraton felt free to tack on an unrequested donation to a charity. They took it off when I spotted it. We used a private driver again for the ride down to the Serenity. At the end of the cruise (Miami), we rode Crystal’s bus from the ship to the airport. If Crystal offers a transfer bus, it’s a good deal and we take it. HEALTH & SAFETY: There’s a lot to like about the Serenity, but one concern is hard for customers to assess because it’s hard to see. At the start of this cruise, the Serenity’s daily newsletter asserted that “Crystal Cruises consistently receives the highest scores from the United States Public Health service after inspections of our culinary operations.” Crystal is referring to the inspections that cruise ships get from a federal health agency (Center for Disease Control) based in Fort Lauderdale. These inspections can occur when the ship docks at a U.S. port (the CDC Vessel Sanitation Program). CDC considers inspection scores from 86 to 100 to be in the passing range. I checked CDC’s website for the last inspection before our cruise. CDC gave the Serenity a score of 88 in its May 2015 inspection. This score is 3 points above CDC’s “not satisfactory” threshold of 85. CDC issued a 15-page report that detailed 62 deficiencies. Per CDC’s website (visited 12-29-15), the agency has conducted 230 inspections of cruise ships during 2015. Serenity’s score of 88 was among the 16 lowest scores, that is, in the bottom 7%. These inspection reports are publicly available (in all their technical tedium) at www.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp. Travel agents can read for themselves and discuss any item of concern with their doctors that deal with travel health. Part of the “value added” by a travel agent can be a realistic assessment of the risks of an itinerary. Another option, which I’ve found quite helpful, is a pre-cruise consultation with a national chain of travel medicine clinics (see www.passporthealthusa.com). CDC hopefully did a re-inspection when this cruise ended in Miami. And the Serenity hopefully got a better score (which will ultimately be reported on CDC’s website). Crystal continues to boast that it caters to the “top 2% of the world’s wealthiest.” (See the marketing interviews on Fox News (12-14-15) www.youtube.com/watch?v=1--zYYGJukQ, and on CNBC (4-23-15) http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000373868 ) But an inspection score in the lowest 7% is not consistent with luxury cruising. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
For us this was somewhat of a repeat of 2014 Crystal Cruise vacation on the Symphony up the eastern U.S. coats with stops in Canada and then to Iceland. This year we added the Ireland and U.K. component making our trip 16 days. Last ... Read More
For us this was somewhat of a repeat of 2014 Crystal Cruise vacation on the Symphony up the eastern U.S. coats with stops in Canada and then to Iceland. This year we added the Ireland and U.K. component making our trip 16 days. Last year we wrote that we found the all-inclusive Crystal Cruise lines was the clearly the cruise line for wealthy alcoholics. That opinion has not changed. There were changes from 2014 to 2015. Some were good and some were clearly the home office squeezing nickels. But let's start with the three funniest comments or actions during our trip. 1) A very nice waiter from Eastern Europe at a crowded Lido lunch buffet and a woman passenger: Waiter: Madam let me help you with that tray and find you a table. Passenger: I'm looking for my husband. Waiter: Don't worry. If we don't find him, we will find you another. 2) As part of a very good 4-hour taxi tour in Reykjavik I told the driver that we wanted to go where we would not see any tourists or tour buses. He took us to a prison. (There was a charming seaside village with a seawall and beach nearby and there were no tour buses.) 3) A 10-year-old girl with her parents was waiting for an elevator after a show on Deck 6. Before the elevator arrived, she ran to the entrance of the Casino and put one foot inside the door and said, "Look mommy. I'm 10 years old and I'm in the Casino. I'm a rebel!" THE CRUISE: Embarkation: Oh My God There Was a Line: It was just two people in front of me to get through the security check point at the port and I was there a 1 pm, not like 3:30 the year before. But still it was a line, something you don't see often on a Crystal ship. Once on the ship it was business as usual and NO LINES. I went right to the Starlite Room and my wife and I were checked in by two crew members including the trombone player in ship's stage band. We would have been in our room in minutes, but I then wanted to see Remi the maître of the main dining room. I didn't care about table location for our second seating or reservations for the two specialty restaurants. No, I wanted to see if Zoltan, our waiter from 2014 was on board and to try to get a table in his area. He was one of the funniest waiters we had ever experienced who would go out of his way to get you items that were not on the menu. Luckily Zoltan was on the ship. The bad news was he had been promoted to management and was now a head waiter. The good news was our table was in his area so we still got a great show of double takes and Zoltan "the secret agent" talking into his pretend wrist radio to place special orders. THE SHIP: Last fall the Symphony was in a port in Germany for two weeks of "updating." The only thing I noticed was some new carpeting and perhaps cleaning. We started doing cruise vacations 16 years ago and on most lines my wife and I would joke how we were lowering the average age of the passengers. That is no longer the case. We are out of our forties and fifties and we are now at or above the average passenger age. That said the furniture in the public rooms and staterooms all have seats lower to the floor than you would find in most homes or restaurants. I didn't notice this when I was 50. When I'm in my sixties, my knees and back notice every time I sit down or get up. I heard this complaint from several others on board. The low seats are made worse by cushions and springs that have failed over time and use. This is noticeable all over the ship, but especially in the chairs in the forward Palm Court on Deck 11. Here are some of the reasons we are back on the Symphony and why we are looking at 2016 and 2017 Crystal Cruises. The ship is very easy to get around. While it does have a Casino, it is a non-smoking casino and passengers are routed around the casino going to see a show in the Galaxy Showroom. Most cruise ships force you to walkthrough the smoked filled casino, hoping you will stop and try your luck. STATEROOM: I can't comment on the balcony rooms and suites. For the second year we had a stateroom with a window on Deck 7. The good news was the room was close to the door for the deck for walks and to the forward elevators. The low loveseat and desk chair were uncomfortable to sit in. The bed was okay, but it could have been higher too. Other than new carpeting there was nothing new in the room. The closet space was nice for a low-end stateroom. The bathroom was great with the tub and shower combination providing plenty of room. The hand held shower nozzle was also very good. There was no such thing as warm water, if you wanted hot water during a high demand period, you got hot water. There was a hair dryer attached to the wall in the bathroom and a second one in a drawer in stateroom. Toilet paper and tissue were high end brands. Outlets were a problem. There were none in the bathroom for an electric tooth brush or razor. There was only one in the entire statement at the desk. In the new age of cell phones, cameras, IPads and other devices charging is needed. Upon request a three outlet plug extension was install quickly. There is also an outlet in the wall behind the bed, but it needed an adapter if you plan to plug in a North American device. The big lie #1: In 2014 I brought along about 30 music CDs, because I was aware that the TVs in the staterooms would play CDs. When we were settling in I tried to put on a jazz CD and the TV refused to accept it. The room stewardess said the TVs are suppose to play CDs. The ship's librarian who checks out CDs to passengers also told me CDs will play in the TV. The stewardess call a repair person who showed up and said the TV only plays DVDs. The stewardess rolled her eyes and told the repair person to supply a CD player. He said he would not and left. We went up for lunch and when we returned there was a CD player sitting on the desk and attached to the TV. The CD player was probably 20 or 25 years old but it worked. I was able to listen to Ella Fitzgerald, The Singers Unlimited, The Beegie Adair Trio and others from my collection. I immediately found the room stewardess and tipped her on the first day of the cruise. COMPUTER ROOM: There were the usual complaints about trouble getting and keeping internet connections. However there was a staff there until 11 pm to help passengers with problems. The three person staff seemed to have the patience of not priests, but saints in dealing with some passengers. Also there were some upgrades made with the satellite connections at the first of the year and with just a few exceptions I received the fastest internet speeds I have ever experienced on a cruise ship. Free Time: Crystal is still providing one hour a day of free internet time. On a 16-day cruise, I knew some people who felt they needed to be connected all throughout the day who bought more time. I needed to check email and local news daily and found I still had four hours of free time left at the end of the cruise. Also my wife got 16 hours and she used about three hours. People who email me know that I will get back with them in a day and not in 10 minutes. It is important to use the same terminal every time as that will speed up your log in and search times. Also there was no charge for printing, which many cruise lines charge on a per page basis. While Crystal is cutting back some other services, I hope they stick with the one-hour of free internet per day. This really makes them an "all-inclusive" cruise line." THE GALAXY SHOWROOM: This a very nice venue with no obstructed views and a cozy feel. THE LIBRARY: It is small, but is has a good selection of recent bestsellers, a nice passenger book trade area, DVD and CDs to check out. There are two permanent librarians who are knowledgeable. However if they both have time off they are replaced by a dancer who is not a well versed with the content or other information. CUTBACK: In the middle of the cruise suddenly there were no more NY Times crosswords puzzles. A very honest employee explained that the subscription for the puzzles was discontinued by the corporate office as a cost savings move. They were replaced by free Washington Post crossword puzzles. This did not sit well with some morning visitors to the library. ANOTHER CUTBACK, Lie 2: The free small newspapers from a passenger's country that were hung on your door daily are no longer offered on Crystal. At the start of the cruise there was an announcement how the papers were no longer available, inferring that the company that provides them is out of business. Crystal then offers to deliver to your stateroom one of two or three US papers for about $7 a day. Another honest employee who just could not lie to a passenger admitted that company that sends out the small daily papers with recapped stories is still in business but the papers were discontinued by Crystal as another money saving move. Say hello to the new owners. However in fairness with an hour of free internet a day you can check your hometown paper or a free internet paper like USA Today. THE SHOPS: They are still there and they sell grossly overpriced clothes and jewelry and offer sale prices on older model cameras and other items. The difference between Crystal and other cruise lines is that the shops did not set up road blocks in the walkways for phony "sales" that would be considered "fire code violations" in buildings on land, like most other cruise ships do. Also Crystal does not have the fraudulent "Art Sales and Auctions" that many cruise lines still are co-conspirators with. Bad marketing: The thing that amazes me is how they hide the sundries in the back of the high priced clothing store. The young salesmen, who are as a thin as a rail and dressed in the latest metro-sexual wardrobe don't want you to know they sell this stuff. If I was running the place, I would keep them in the back but make sure everyone knew the sundries were there including a sign in the window. Make customers walk past the high-end items you really want to sell to get some tooth paste, cough drops or a razor and they might buy some clothing item the shop will make a huge profit on. I don't understand why they hide this stuff. I want to get as many people to come into the shop as possible. It is called GOOD MARKETING." I went in to buy a toothbrush and no one would wait on me. My electric brush was working, but I wanted a regular brush for after I packed the electric one. After about 10 minutes I left and tried again six hours later. It is just an odd way to run a business. FOOD AND BEVERAGES: The food is still very good in the main dining room on the Symphony. It was not quite as good as in 2014. One night an un-eatable chicken breast arrived. I could have sent it back or ordered something else, but frankly I was happy that I wasn't going to eat it…too much food already in the day. The service was excellent as usual. The coolest part about eating on a Crystal ship was being able to eat items not on the menu. One night they had some delicious sautéed green beans on the menu. I mentioned how great they were to our waiter and how it was too bad they are not on the menu more often. He said he would be happy to provide anytime I wanted them. I had sautéed green beans for the rest of the cruise. The same went for a shrimp cocktail every night. One night I just ordered sides listed with different entrées. Our waiter did not blink. Once again the deserts tasted as good as they looked. On many cruise ships they look much better than they taste. We also lucked out with interesting table mates, including folks from LA, an English couple now living in Canada and a couple from Australia. We lost our transplanted Canadians after the first leg of the cruise and were down to a table of six. We chatted every night well after dinner so much that we found out later our two waiters were making bets picking a time we would leave. On the last night we all were in specialty restaurants, but agreed to return to the MDR for dessert together. We were the last to leave. PREGO: The Italian specialty restaurant was free once every seven days. We ate their twice. It was more like a combination of a high end Italian joint and a steakhouse. They had several entrees that included beef from the "Greg Norman Ranch" in Australia. This incensed our Aussie table mates. "This guy has not been in Australia in 20 years," exclaimed Paul, who in retirement owns a cattle ranch that he and his wife Jenny insisted on calling a "farm." The food was very good including the filet steak. The crab salad was excellent. Prego passed my Fettuccini Alfredo, test that many "Italian" restaurants fail. Was the Fettuccini Alfredo at Olive Garden better? Prego's was just as good or maybe a little better. The Gelato for dessert was outstanding. THE SILK ROAD: This specialty restaurant's name is a bit deceiving. The name Silk Road comes from Chinese Silk reaching Western Europe. However the Silk Road on the Symphony is a Japanese eatery. I tried to order off the menu some Lo Mein style noodles as a side. I just wanted a small plate with some noodles. What arrived was a bowl of wide noodles buried under scallops and shrimp. At the end of our meal I tried to convince our waiter how Marco Polo, an Italian, was an important influence on the Silk Road and in honor of Polo, I should be able to get Gelato for desert since the Silk Road and Prego share the same kitchen. I got the Gelato and probably didn't even need the Marco Polo reference. THE LIDO: Frankly, this has been on our two Crystal cruise the best buffet style operation we have experienced on a cruise ship. The menu changes every day and once or twice a week they have themes, such as Chinese or Mexican food. The food is always hot, the silver ware is always at the table and a waiter promptly takes your drink order. There is no standing in line at the ice machine and water dispenser. THE TRIDENT GRILL: This is the sandwich grill that also has fresh fruit. Nearby is the ice cream stand service the best from the Benjamin and Jerrold operation in the foothill of Stowe Vermont. Gabriel, the short order cook is amazing. If it is not on the menu and he has the ingredients he will make it for you. The cheeseburger is too much for me, but it is no problem. Gabriel cuts down the bun, makes it a 1/4 pound burger instead of a 1/2 pounder and it is delicious. The steak sandwich is a must as is the grilled hot dog. You do not hang around the grill and wait for the food. A waiter seats you, gets you drinks and delivers the food. I make it a point to tip Gabriel early on. My wife wants to make sure I avoid Coca Cola and the sugar calories. The ship has always had Coke Zero which I find is much easier to get down than Diet Coke, but if I had my choices it would be Diet Dr. Pepper. This year I again asked about Diet Dr. Pepper and Derek from the Trident Grill was on the case. He came back and reported there were 1000 cans of Diet Dr. Pepper on the ship and he secured 12 cans that he had in the refrigerator for me. Derek got an early tip. THE PALM COURT: This is where afternoon tea is served along with music in the afternoon and evening. The tea food is better than what Cunard gives you and they are British. They have special buffet about once a week for tea where you go through a line for the finger sandwiches, scorns and whipped cream plus much more. The one I feel bad attending is the Mozart Tea. The usual music trio is absent replaced by the pianist and leader of the theater band who does an hour of non-stop Mozart. The staff has to wear powdered wigs and costumes of the era. In 2014 my attention was drawn to a waitress from Chile as her dress copying those from 1785 was so large it appeared s if it would fall off her slight frame at any moment. Privately staffers admit they hate wearing the costumes saying even though they are cleaned regularly they still smell bad and are uncomfortable. One Palm court waiter got an early tip. He was instructed if I was with my wife and had a Coke Zero, he was to come back and ask if I'd like "another Coke Zero." I would say "sure." My wife would smile and go back to her sketching or needlepoint. The waiter would then return with a high-test real thing Coke on the rocks. THE AVENUE SALOON: Bartender Paula and waitress and backup bartender Loraina, both from Romania were often more entertaining than the entertainment. Paula joined the Trident Grill in having cold cans Diet Dr. Pepper on hand. God forbid I should try and order a Coke in the Avenue Saloon. Paula would shake her finger and say "NO, Miss Diana (the wife) said no Coke for you." If I persisted Paula might give me a Coke in a shot glass. My wife is an artist and did watercolor portraits of Paula and Loraina. Paula posted hers in the middle of the bar. This ensured that my wife got to try many different drinks while at the Bar. "Here, Miss Diana, try this," was heard on a regular basis. Chris, a waiter from India, was the third person in The Avenue Saloon. On Sea days Chris started at 11:45 am in the Starlight room just before trivia started. He took orders for our team on the first sea day and then we had the same drinks waiting for us on the next subsequent days. The inside smoking room was located next to the Avenue Saloon. I have to say Crystal did a good job keeping the smell of smoke from reaching the hallway. However, I felt bad for a perfectly healthy Loraina, who had to walk into this room throughout the evening taking drink orders and delivering them. It is one thing if passengers want to slowly harm their lungs and hearts, but I don't know why healthy employees have to be put at risk. These people can walk into the bar and get their own free drinks. THE STARLITE CLUB: On deck 6 in mid ships this is the area mid ships with the large dance floor and lots of tables. On sea days it is where the bingo and trivia games are played, plus it has proved to be an excellent venue for lecture series. THE BISTRO: It has a bar, but most people are there for a light breakfast or lunch with fresh fruit, salads plus ham, cheeses, bread and rolls. It also provides coffees and hot tea to go on Deck 6. THE CRYSTAL COVE: This is on Deck 5 across from the concierge desk, the future sales and shore excursion desks. It is where the grand piano in see-through plastic is located. It has an excellent wait staff, but like the rest of the ship the furniture other than the bar stools are too damn low. ENTERTAINMENT: The Fly-In headliners who appear in the theater on Crystal are really not much different than what you get on other cruise lines with older demographics. AVENUE SALOON PIANO BAR: Last year it was the very talented Jeff Deutch in the Avenue Saloon. Jeff had an amazing memory of songs and lyrics from the Great America Songbook. He is out of Chicago and has been a jingle singer on some national commercials. I wrote last year that I would be happy to pay an admission or a cover to hear Jeff play. On our 2015 trip it was New Yorker Marcie Castro at the piano also aided with CD tracks. On many nights Marcie and the audience had something in common. They had no idea what was next. Marcie did what most piano bar signers have to do. If a passenger asks to sing a song, they let them. If the passenger is awful, that is it…one song. In Marcie's case she would often have them do a medley. One night she had two passengers who I'll call the Screech Sisters do three songs, forcing me to say goodnight and making a fast exit. Another singer was a very gay gentleman from London who on one night wore a pink boa with the tux. He did a great impersonation of Ethel Mermen doing "There's No Business Like Show Business." However he could not do Betty Hutton's version from the movie. Marcie would often stop playing the piano and walk out in the room raising her arms and yelling to get more participation in a sing-a-long. Some people loved her energy and the fun even if it looked like a Prozac might be needed. For others it was too much. "I don't need a maniac after dinner," one passenger said. But if Marcie was too much, Paula the bartender provided her own entertainment that was worth a visit. THE TOMMY DORSEY ORCHESTRA: This was a big band and dancing cruise. The 18-piece Tommy Dorsey band plus a singer with almost no range were on board for the 16-day cruise from New York to Dover. I like big bands, but these guys were going through the motions. It was not the fault of the musicians, but the leader was pulling the reins keeping them from really swinging. The stuck to 70-year charts. A number of the musicians would go to the theater at two in the morning and jam. Others would sit in with Marcie in the Avenue Saloon after their last set and put down some jazz. The sad thing about this was the timing of the shows. The people enjoying the band would fill the Starlite room at 7:15 to 8:30. But the after dinner set from 9:30 to 11 the room would be empty. People 70 and older had gone to bed. The people 65 and younger found the charts from the 1940 's boring and went to the top deck and listened to the Filipino cover band and danced. One night I counted five people listening to the Dorsey Band's late set. The men brought on board to dance with single ladies were also upstairs. If the cruise director was smart he would have had the Dorsey band's first set start at 5 pm and the second set at 7:15. HOUSE TRIO: This year the trio that played during teas and in the evening in the Palm Court was the In-Transit Trio with a lead female singer, pianist who also played sax. They were from New Zealand with a guitar player from Australia. They were very good. I did make a suggestion that they should do one set with no ballads, just up tempo songs and call it In Transit, In Overdrive. TRIVIA: Crystal's trivia games were very civilized last year. There was just one game a day on sea days only with cheap prizes to reduce the level of competition. They made it even more civilized this year. It is multiply guess. They hand out remote clickers, put the question on the screen and you have 60 seconds to click on the right answer. The prizes are small amounts off for overpriced items in the shops or a few bucks to use in the casino. Having seen some aggressive behavior by some playing trivia on HAL and Celebrity ships, I like the Crystal way much better. TRAVEL AGENT PROVIDED FREE LAUNDRY For the second year our travel agent David Butterfield of All Cruise Travel in Sacramento provided $500 in our shipboard account. $200 went to our daily laundry. The rest went toward tips for crew members that were all augmented with cash. EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: I noticed this on our 2014 cruise when Paul McFarland was the cruise director and again this year with the more laid back Scott Peterson. On the short morning close circuit TV weather and activities report starring the cruise director that is recorded the night before and replayed all morning long there is a credit roll at the end. Normally with movies and TV shows the Executive Producer is either the guy putting up the money or controlling the business end of the operation. Oddly after a 12 or 15 minute long weather report plus what on the schedule the credit roll listed the cruise director as the EXECUTIVE PRODUCER. That leaves me to wonder if they are bankrolling the show or negotiating a syndication deal. DEBARKATION: No sitting in a theater waiting for a number or color to be called. We walked off to a waiting car and driver for the ride to Heathrow. With other cruise lines I have missed flights home or had to rush to get to an airport. That has never been the case with Crystal. PORTS: Just like embarkation and debarkation, getting on and off the ship at ports was easy with no waiting. When using tenders to get ashore, Crystal is the best we have ever experienced. There is actually legroom on the tenders and the crew does not keep stuffing people on tenders until they are overflowing. I cannot say enough nice things about Crystal's tender operations. BAR HARBOR: Just like the last three years, Enterprise was at the dock and the ride to airport to get our car was very pleasant. We did our usual exploring down roads not on the map and had a fine time. We stopped in Southwest Harbor at Charlotte's Legendary Lobster Pound for lunch. It was a walk up drive-in with picnic tables. We found it a little overpriced and not very good. The first clue should have been that we were the first customers of the day. After returning our car at the Airport, Ashley at the Enterprise office was nice enough to go out of her way to drop off my wife downtown and me at the dock. The rental car was far cheaper than any tour offered on the ship. HALIFAX: For years we have avoided going to Peggy's Cove the top tourist spot south of Halifax. My wife decided she wanted to see why the cruise ship sells seats on a tour bus there. We would advise you to skip this in the height of the summer season. On June 15 with many schools still in session the parking lots were 80% full. I have a feeling this would be a nightmare in July. Once again we rented an Enterprise car. The rental office was across the street from the cruise ship terminal in the railroad station. The best part was they had a return lot that was even closer to the ship. After Peggy's Cove that feature a collision between two tour buses on a narrow road on the day of our visit, we headed south along the coast road to Lunenburg one of the prettiest coastal towns anywhere. We stopped at a local seasonal market and bought some local preserves and jellies as gifts. ST. JOHN'S STATE OF MIND: We were really looking forward to visiting St. John's Newfoundland. We were there in 2010 and had a great time with a rental car meeting people and enjoying coastal towns. In 2014 Symphony was supposed to stop in St. John's but cancelled due to icebergs and fog. This year they cancelled again. The ship could safely get into the harbor, but forecasted high winds meant the ship would have to stay in harbor overnight and delay its arrival to Reykjavik. So we ended up with five sea days. REYKJAVIK, ICELAND: Rather than renting a car, we did a four hour taxi tour. Keep in mind that since the 2009 banking collapse, everything still costs a lot more in Iceland. Last year a 45-minute taxi ride from the dock to the airport cost $175. So $325 for four hours seemed reasonable. Our driver/guide was Gundmundur Birgir Stefansson, who does four hour and four day tours of Iceland. He was excellent. I told him we had seen most tourist locations on past trips and asked to see subdivisions, seaside areas away from tourist and places where the locals like to go. This resulted in the good natured trip to the prison, which was actually in front a pretty village with a different Smurf cutout in yards throughout the village. Of course this is not too unusual in a country where a large percentage of the population believe in elves. We had a fun time with Birgir and would recommend him. His email address is birgirstefans@gmail.com HEIMAEY: The City of Heimaey was our next stop the following day. This town was almost swallowed by lava in 1973 with the lava flow stopping just several hundred feet from the edge of the city of 4,300 people. On the other side of the island there are green fields with goats, horses and even a golf course with the sea and volcanic cliffs as backdrops. Heimaey is on an island that is less than 10 square miles. We rented a car from Europcar. Despite making reservations for the car weeks in advance, no one was at the dock. A young lady hired to assist ship passengers called the company and the woman at the airport said no one had reminded her about the dock drop off. She was dock side in five minutes. The airport is just 2 miles from the dock. She works five days a week in the control tower and on her days off she works for the rent-a-car company. Only small commuter planes serve the island along with a car ferry. This was one of the sightseeing highlights of the trip. There were so many wonderful sights in such a condensed area. Even a drive to the industrial side of the docks revealed several amazing views. Plus we drove down a number of dirt roads that could never hold a tour bus. Often we were all by ourselves with our mouths wide open at what we were seeing. We had asked the car rental lady if we should bring the car back to her airport office. The car had just above a half tank of gas and she told us not to bother buying gas, that in four hours we wouldn't being using that much. She then told us to just leave the car at the dock and she would pick it up later. I asked her what I should do with the keys. She said, "Just leave them in the car. Nobody is going to steal it." I have to say that I appreciated that Crystal included a stop at Heimaey on our cruise. GREENOCK/GLASGOW: We have driven Scotland before and decided to skip taking a 45-minute train ride to Glasgow. My wife walked the downtown area of Greenock and had a fine time. DUBLIN: Here is an example why you should always get along with your tablemates on cruises. On a 2011 Celebrity Cruise on the old Century from Vancouver to Alaska and then to San Diego we were at a table of six, with a couple from England and a couple from Dublin. In 2014 the couple from outside of London decided to fly to Chicago, rent a car for 30 days and follow the lyrics of the Bobby Troupe song "Route Sixty-Six." They stayed three nights with us outside of St. Louis as they did the 2,000 miles along the way. 2015 it was the turn of Ronan and Katherine in Dublin. They met us at the ship at 10 am. A four or five hour tour would have been great. Instead we apparently held them hostage all day. We got an insider's view of the Dublin region, including lunch at a country club and dinner at their home. 12 1/2 hours later we were dropped off back at the ship. While we would have liked to have paid for something, we couldn't. An all day tour plus meals…total cost ZERO. Lesson learned…make friends at the cruise ship dinner table. PORTLAND HARBOR/WEYMOUTH: No longer wishing to drive on the left side of the road in what is left of my life, we arranged for a taxi tour with the Weyline Taxi Company after reading a recommendation on Cruise Critic. We were quoted a price of 38 pounds an hour. I must of misread the email. We were only charged 30-pounds an hour. It was a bargain for a great afternoon in the English countryside. We were met dockside by Mandy Fry, the manager of Weyline Taxi and our driver. Our driver/guide in a new Mercedes was John McGill a recently retired member of England's Armed Defense Police Force. We saw the countryside of England and many small villages that could have easily been featured in an episode of Midsomer Murders. We enjoyed this afternoon more than we expected. It was a treat. We recommend that you contact Mandy at Weyline Taxi at info@weyline.com and if you arrange a tour ask for John McGill to be your driver and guide. GETTING THERE AND GETTING HOME: It used to be living in the Midwest a trip from St. Louis to New York or the West Coast was considered a major flight. Not any more, unless you are flying Southwest. The 1100 miles from St. Louis to New York is now handled by commuter planes under contract to the major carriers. The disadvantage is you are in a crowded smaller airplane. The advantage is that flying first class on Delta-Light is a lot cheaper than flying first class on Big Delta. We flew to New York the day before the cruise. On the way there we decided to go first class and booked a suite at the Waldorf Astoria towers. Okay it was $612 for the one night. We were unaware that the Waldorf had been sold to a group of Chinese investors and the entire hotel was to close in 2017 for four years. The tower suites are supposed to be made into condos with only a portion of the original hotel returning as a hotel in 2021. Getting to the Waldorf was a bit of a challenge. We normally use Arecibo Car Service (855-428-0222). Once outside of the baggage claim at LaGuardia I called for a car and one was there in 15 minutes, which actually is a little long for Arecibo. The driver was pleasant for not speaking any English and he had an excellent ability to drive on traffic choked highways and Manhattan streets. The problem was that he had no idea where the Waldorf Astoria Hotel was. It may as well have been in Atlanta. An hour later we arrived and the fare was only $45. A NIGHT AT THE WALDORF: Check in was confusing. The staff at the garage drop off sent us to the wrong desk for check in. The hotel looked great including our small suite. However a closer look showed the chairs in the room and the lobby well worn and frayed and other furniture scratched, chipped and nicked. The view from the room was great. That night we ate at a restaurant five blocks away. We got back to the hotel a little before 9 o'clock sat in the lobby having decided to "people watch." 45 minutes later as we were about to leave Emilee Floor showed up and started to play the piano in the lobby café. This meant another hour plus a bill for drinks. Emilee was a treat, but the volume on her mic and amp made it impossible to hear her unless you were at a nearby table. She also plays at the Plaza. The free breakfast on the 16th floor was very nice with one exception. Our room key was suppose to allow us entry. It didn't, forcing us to knock loudly to get in. We had a late checkout of 1 o'clock which allowed my wife to do some shopping and for us to return to sandwiches and sweets. TO THE SHIP: We called Arecibo Car Service and they had no one who could pick up up. The doorman found a black car owned by Alex Lara. He knew exactly where he was going and got us there quickly for a price that was twice as high at what Arecibo would charge. I was happy to pay. Alex assured us he would be happy to pick us up in 17 days at JFK and drop us at our hotel near LaGuardia. He took our Icelandair flight information. He was a no show. HOMEWARD BOUND: Once we docked a Parker Car Service driver from London was waiting for us at the Dover docks. Crystal claimed the trip would take 2 1/2 to 3-hours to Heathrow. Parker had told me when I made the reservation a month earlier it would be about two hours. We were dropped off 1-hour 45-minutes later. The ride was so smooth I slept half the way to the airport. Icelandair is the only Trans Atlantic carrier that we can afford to fly first class on. Two hours in the first class lounge was followed by entering a time machine. We were taken back to Nordic pilots with blond hair and blue eyes and flight attendants in pillbox hats that closely resembled Ursula Andrews or Anita Ekberg. The only drawback is that you have to fly back to Reykjavik and change planes. However, for the price and the experience it is worth it. NEW YORK NEW YORK: Of course our new black car buddy Alex was nowhere to be found once we were at JFK. We called and he called someone who was home eating dinner north of the Airport. 30 minutes later Lakeram picked us up. We were quickly at the hotel and charged a steep price of $70. The Marriott Suites at La Guardia at $212 would have been fine with one exception…the soft lumpy mattress. Despite being jet lagged the mattress reduced our sleep time to about six hours. On the plus side the staff was very nice and the blueberry muffins at the free breakfast where outstanding. MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS: The Delta Lite jet pushed back from the gate in NY 35- minutes late, but we arrived at Lambert Field in St. Louis (which is actually closer to Ferguson than St. Louis) five minutes ahead of schedule. Do you think they anticipate delays at LaGuardia? Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
I found the atmosphere on the Serenity to be intolerable by the end of the first few days. I will not go into much detail here but suffice it to say I was ignored by others when I as a solo traveler sat down and waited to play. As soon as ... Read More
I found the atmosphere on the Serenity to be intolerable by the end of the first few days. I will not go into much detail here but suffice it to say I was ignored by others when I as a solo traveler sat down and waited to play. As soon as a couple came along, the couple who had been playing addressed them and aid they would take them on. I was never acknowledged, greeted , etc nor did they consider rotating so we could all at least hit balls until someone from the fitness center came to run the morning session. Most of the time there was no one running the paddle tennis program, and that permitted more assertive guests to play as long as they wanted to and in at least one instance kept me from playing when I wanted to as there was no one for solo players to play with at times. I was harassed by someone at the Magic show, a mother in a wheelchair and her daughter, who took it upon themselves to be the seating police and said "She should move" not addressing me directly, when a couple entered the room and were making their way around the stool type seats in the second ro. The couple did not ask me to move and the women in question were not sailing with them. I would have gladly moved had the couple asked me to but this woman was way out of line to tell me to move. I was there first. Ultimately I left the show before it started. The Avenue Saloon piano player did not interact with guests and that surprised me-negatively as I am used to Mark Farris and the fun people have when he is on board. My room stewardess brought me mushy brown spotted bananas even after I told her what I wanted and had told her those were too ripe. It took a message to the home office to get the bananas to magically appear. (I had been told they were usually like that (?) and she didn't think there were any more since they had gotten them in Miami) One of the Ambassador hosts (his first time on Crystal) constantly held hands with an older guest and spent an inordinate amount of time outside the dance floor with her inappropriate behavior according to my gf on my trivia team. That wasn't so much of an issue to me personally, but his demeanor was not professional. he was so phony that it was laughable. The shore excursions were okay but we did have an incident in Lisbon which resulted in the 5 members of our Jeep receiving a full refund of the cost of the Jeep Safari. I did not like having to go through the Casino to get to the Bistro, shops or to head downstairs to the Crystal Cove. Many guests dressed like they were off to a State dinner on Crystal casual nights (what was left to wear on the formal nights, I wondered?) and more than occasionally people looked at me (and I am sure others) up and down like they were the dress code police,giving disapproving looks as if I was wearing rags! I have made my grievances known to the head office but there is nothing they can do about fellow passengers for the most part. Some of you will say I am making this up but believe me I compared notes to others on board and they experienced similar issues. I have nothing to gain by posting this and frankly am likely to be setting myself up for ridicule but I experienced all that I have written here and it was enough, frequently enough, such that you could not pay me to step foot on the Serenity again!!! Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
Our first Crystal cruise; we began cruising in 1998 and have taken at least one a year since, 8 with Oceania. The Serenity is a beautiful ship, meticulously maintained and extremely comfortable. The sea days offered many activities, ... Read More
Our first Crystal cruise; we began cruising in 1998 and have taken at least one a year since, 8 with Oceania. The Serenity is a beautiful ship, meticulously maintained and extremely comfortable. The sea days offered many activities, great lecturers, current films etc. Our stateroom was compact and there was plenty of storage. The bathroom had a tub - risky getting in and out - and the two vanity sinks were convenient. The guests were friendly, active, well-traveled and easy to chat with. The crew and staff are exceptional, many are long time employees and their eagerness to help and their friendly nature added to our enjoyment. Our sole complaint is with the dining policy. We chose late sitting and a table for 4, thinking we would meet another couple. Another couple never joined us yet our table remained set for four. Our table was next to several large tables of 8 and the area was noisy. The serving staff seemed to rush around, were eager to finish their shift. This was not the leisurely dining we expected aboard a Crystal ship. After 3 dinners in the dining room, we dined at Tastes, the informal restaurant placed where the covered pool use to be. Tastes became our restaurant of choice. No additional fee is required but reservations are. Tastes offered us a limited and unique menu; leisurely dining, a quiet atmosphere and we were not rushed. We also dined at Prego 3 times, nothing exceptional; we also dined once at Silk Road, the Asian restaurant, and the smell of raw fish was upsetting. We could not understand why tables were empty in the specialty restaurants and the dining room was crowded and noisy. Guests could not just walk in at the last minute to dine in the specialty restaurants. No sharing of tables as offered on Oceania ships. Guests we spoke to who selected the dining by reservation also complained about being seated near a serving station or in a noisy area. We asked for a different table for 2 and were told none were available. Fortunately we had Tastes. We cancelled next year's cruise aboard the Symphony when we were told there is no Tastes restaurant on that ship. For us to return to Crystal and their new ship due out in 2018, the dining policy needs to be changed. Open seating and any time dining has to be implemented. The set dining time is out of date. We were told the galley can't handle the any time open seating concept. On a different note, formal attire for women need not be a long gown; many women were dressed in slacks with a "dressy" tunic. I wish I knew that before packing! Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
This was our first Crystal cruise after over 30 cruises with Oceania, Celebrity, Princess, Viking, Costa, NCL, Carnival, etc.. Dining was excellent with many enticing choices for each meal. Service was outstanding in all dining venues, ... Read More
This was our first Crystal cruise after over 30 cruises with Oceania, Celebrity, Princess, Viking, Costa, NCL, Carnival, etc.. Dining was excellent with many enticing choices for each meal. Service was outstanding in all dining venues, various bars and directly to our cabin. We loved the bridge classes as the teacher was very professional and especially patient. Entertainment was the best we've ever encountered at sea. The complimentary wine list was very good but you need to ask for it. We had no need to go to the "extra fee" wine list. Our sommelier was great and he quickly figured out our taste buds and directed us to amazing Wine that were not listed on any menu. The cruise director (Rick Spath) was a real pro. Always very interesting, genuine and effective. All lecturers were outstanding in their field and delivered interesting presentations. We have already booked our next cruise with Crystal :-) Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
We have enjoyed several Crystal cruises in recent years, so confidently booked the interestingly routed Tokyo to Vancouver crossing, with an itinerary that visited Russia's Far East, and along the entire Aleutian chain before ... Read More
We have enjoyed several Crystal cruises in recent years, so confidently booked the interestingly routed Tokyo to Vancouver crossing, with an itinerary that visited Russia's Far East, and along the entire Aleutian chain before visiting the more usual Alaskan ports. We anticipated cold weather, rough seas, but looked forward to the exciting prospect of amazing wildlife. Alas, it was not to be, as it was far too early in the season for whale migration, bird life or bear sightings. Wisely we had packed warm clothing , boots, hats etc, as we certainly needed them! So early in the season, we experienced many days of fog, and chill winds, and the ship had to miss Petropavlovsk because of sea ice. It was delightful to visit the charming, welcoming small Japanese ports of Amori and Otaru, totally unlike the frenzied excitement of Tokyo. We thought more unusual Alaskan ports of Dutch Harbor and Kodiak were fascinating, and enjoyed seeing non-touristy Alaska before sailing into busy Ketchikan Crystal have recently changed both their marketing policies, and certainly dropped their standards, it seemed to us, as there was a completely different atmosphere on board. We felt we were on a.downmaeket, mass market ship, with pushing in, loud shouting, "me first" behaviour, disregarding of courtesies towards fellow guests and staff. Even in the glories of Glacier Bay, all seats in the prime viewing area in the forward viewing Palm court had been " reserved" long before dawn, with a refusal to share with fellow guests. The shows were filmed on held up IPads, to the detriment of those behind, despite staff requests. The dress codes had been" relaxed " to the point that there were none, with the words Crystal Casual being interpreted as "come as you are", even on designated formal evenings. It is uncomfortable to those guests who appreciate the opportunity to wear formal evening clothes to realise that some fellow guests think jeans and track suits are acceptable. This may seem a snobby attitude, but we previously found that Crystal offered the opportunity to enjoy a taste of fine, refined, cultured dining and entertainment, completely different to our home life. If this is the way Crystal is choosing to move forward, they will quickly lose their core customers who chose this line for its elegant sophisticated ambience, aimed at well travelled discerning clients. Their continued raising of prices, now several times a year, will soon lose its appeal, and business will slow rapidly. Expensive cruises need to give value for money, and make guests feel the extra expense is worth it. We will certainly reconsider cruising with Crystal again as other luxury lines seem to aim upwards, not, as Crystal appear to be doing, set their standards lower . Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
As veterans of many Transatlantic cruises, on ships large and small, we had high expectations of the Crystal experience. Our expectations were exceeded well beyond our dreams. This was a cruise that fulfilled all our hopes, and with a ... Read More
As veterans of many Transatlantic cruises, on ships large and small, we had high expectations of the Crystal experience. Our expectations were exceeded well beyond our dreams. This was a cruise that fulfilled all our hopes, and with a Big Band theme, we really held very high hopes indeed. We organised our own flights to the embarkation port of Miami, arriving the day before and staying overnight at an airport hotel. Embarkation was simplicity itself, and we were soon on board this lovely vessel and enjoying a delicious champagne lunch as our cabin was readied. Our deck 8 cabin was an elegant delight,comfortably furnished with a soothing decor in shades of grey. Luggage was promptly delivered, and our charming cabin stewardess quickly arrived to introduce herself and ask for any preferences. We wandered the ship, strolled along the gorgeous uncluttered teak promenade deck and admire the beautiful pool deck with its generous pool and comfortable rattan loungers and pod-style sunbeams. Pleasant waiters offered drinks and quickly returned with orders, a task they completed with friendly efficiency throughout the cruise. Dining was a delightful experience in all venues. The main dining room served delightful menus with a wide choice and first class presentation,whilst the 2 specialist dining rooms, Prego and Silk Road offered fine dining in sophisticated ambience. Casual dining was our choice at lunchtime, in the Lido Cafe, which had daily themed dishes and delightful desserts on offer. Waiters carried plates to guest's chosen seating, and offered drinks to choice. For guests hungry during the day, the lovely bistro had delicious offerings, changing to suit the time of day, as well as a wide menu of coffees and teas. Room service was also excellent, and we enjoyed having breakfast served in or cabin each morning. Entertainment, was as we hoped, high quality, with lovely shows, cameo performances, and the most wonderful Big Band playing almost every evening in the beautiful Palm Court lounge, with glorious swing music to listen or dance to. Day time activities kept guests as busy as they cared to be, with high calibre lectures on offer, dance tuition for the more active, handicraft music and painting classes for the creative and a lovely library for the enthusiastic readers. There was so much on offer, it was difficult to fit in everything you wished to do! Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
We so much liked the Fall 2012 T/A on Serenity that we didn't need much convincing to book this voyage as well. In both cases the chief attraction for Nancy was the ballroom dancing theme, with the opportunity to take private dance ... Read More
We so much liked the Fall 2012 T/A on Serenity that we didn't need much convincing to book this voyage as well. In both cases the chief attraction for Nancy was the ballroom dancing theme, with the opportunity to take private dance lessons from the on board professionals. As for me, I just like to be at sea. This voyage was more heavily booked than the previous one by about 15%. Wile the differences were perhaps not striking, this did show up in the quality of the service. While we could not recall a single complaint in the Fall, this time around there were three or four occasions on which we we failed to be noticed when we wanted to place an order in the bars and I had to go in search of a server. I understand this was a function of overcrowding of the facility for one reason or another and not a reflection on the extraordinary willingness of the staff to please, but it should be mentioned that, even on Crystal, at peak occupancy, there are glitches. Nancy was slightly disappointed, particularly as we had persuaded her mother and another lady to join us on the cruise, that this time the ladies were not escorted into the dining room at dinner by a member of the staff, certainly a courtly touch, but again, the passenger to crew ratio did not allow this. To make up for this however, the willingness of the Maitre d'Hotel to find us a good table at the early sitting each evening although, by the time we booked, this was theoretically sold out, went well beyond the call of duty. I like to eat well, and I certainly was not disappointed in this expectation. The quality of the food as well as the preparation in both the main dining room and in the Lido was absolutely first rate, I truly can't think of a single course in all of our meals there about which I could voice a complaint. I wish I could be equally enthusiastic about the specialty restaurants but, alas, this is not the case. Silk Road, while the food was uniformly superb, was distinguished by service of veritably glacial slowness, so that Nancy's Mom absolutely refused to return there and we cancelled our reservation for a second dinner in that venue. Prego, while once more producing flawless first and last courses, once again fell flat on its face with the main course. Having disliked their Osso Bucco in the Fall, I went for the saddle of lamb this time. One would think this would be all but impossible to ruin, but the chef at Prego managed the feat, the lamb was all but drowned in garlic. Garlic is a very good thing but, please, in measure! I realize that the Crystal Can Do No Wrong set will jump all over me for daring to make this criticism, but I will make it anyway. Also, although I'm not a great fan of after dinner entertainment, Nancy is and we thought it a pity that the shows were identical with the ones we had seen in the Fall. So much for quibbles. On a much more positive note Nancy was absolutely delighted with the quality of the dance instruction and with the expertise and grace of Rudy, Natalie and Beverly. The evident dedication and solicitousness with which the staff at the Lido cared for Nancy's mom, who had a tendency to get lost, was absolutely touching. Embarkation, in spite of warnings that the Miami Port Authority would throw up roadblocks, proceeded flawlessly, and when we informed the desk that we had a relatively early flight from Lisbon to Madrid, we were gotten off the ship in record time. If it wasn't the perfect cruise, it surely came close, and that's all that a reasonable man can ask. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
Transatlantic, December 2012, marketed by Crystal as Big Band and Ballroom theme. I have no interest in Big Band but chose the cruise because of the Ballroom theme. Having done Transatlantics on Costa and Cunard a year ago, I can compare ... Read More
Transatlantic, December 2012, marketed by Crystal as Big Band and Ballroom theme. I have no interest in Big Band but chose the cruise because of the Ballroom theme. Having done Transatlantics on Costa and Cunard a year ago, I can compare this trip with direct competitors. Although my dancing expertise is International style, I do travel with American groups and am not totally unfamiliar with American style. Food: Food in the MDR was usually excellent, although sometimes only good. Service was professional and efficient, although only really notable for high staff ratios. The MDR operates mostly with traditional fixed seating. I used "dining by reservation", not really open seating as reservations are required. I did not use the specialty restaurants. There is no midnight buffet, waiters bring trays of pizza and snacks to the lounges. Also no evening buffet, instead limited, fixed menu service using the patio furniture beside the pool. It operated 6:30 to 9 PM, but was closed sometimes, notably formal nights. I estimate a premium of $50/day over Costa and $20/day over Cunard is warranted. Cabins: All cabins are outside. AA, A, B and C categories are identical, except that C has a window. The cabins are attractive and well-furnished, but functionally similar to premium balconies on other ships. The bathroom is large enough for a second sink and a "full" (actually 48") tub. Closet space is average. The mattresses were unusually firm, more European-style. Ambiance: Several times, the ship was so quiet, I wondered if it would be literally possible to heart a pin drop. Dress Code: Mostly casual, tending towards "backyard scruffy" during the day. There were many tuxedos in evidence on formal evenings. GLBT: There was only one FOD meeting that I saw, and there did not seem to be many gay couples on the ship. Lecturers: Most interest lectures conflicted with other activities. The ones I was able to attend tended to be a summary of open-source material with little fresh insight- e.g. the Columbus lecture did not mention the controversies engendered by "1421" and "1434", and mentioned encomienda only briefly. Public Rooms: The Serenity has two large venues and was able to cope with having both Big Band and Ballroom themes simultaneously. Palm Court: Rectangular dance floor about 20' x 40' with four unfortunately placed pillars, about 4' in from the edge. The Big Band took about 1/3 the space, and although this was not a Christmas cruise (Hanukkah, actually) there were two trees on the dance floor taking a significant amount of space. They were not removed for several days. Stardust Lounge: Crescent shaped dance floor, usable rectangle about 18' x 36', total area about 25% larger with furniture removed. Avenue Saloon: No dance floor, but a pianist playing popular music; as many as 50 people as late as 1 AM. Crystal Cove: The lobby bar, with a pianist playing mostly "music to snooze by". Disco: Dance floor oval-shaped, about 15' x 12'. Most nights there was nobody there. Dancing: There were perhaps 50 people who seemed to be keen dancers. I do not know how many of them chose the cruise because of the Ballroom theme. The Good: Crystal hired a second dance couple, both couples were well-qualified (American style). Each couple taught one American-style beginner-level class per day. I noted that the rumba class appeared to use the Side Basic from the DVIDA syllabus. They frequently mentioned concepts such as frame, connection, LOD and floorcraft. They also experimented with advanced and International style classes, which were not very successful. There were only a few couples at this level. Although the dance floor in the Stardust lounge is an unfortunate shape, it was not bad for a cruise ship. The Palm Court is also large, but is on an upper deck. Both would be quite acceptable if properly organized. The Bad: Crystal had the professional couples perform a DWTS-type show in the theatre one night, so much time was taken by rehearsals. The house band was a Filipino quintet. They played mostly foxtrots, rumbas (American tempo) and waltzes (mostly too fast). Not bad as an ordinary lounge band, but not a dance band. They had no knowledge of dance tempos- when I asked for a waltz at 90 beats per minute, I was told "we don't know what you're talking about". I am told Filipino bands often learn to play by rote and don't really understand tempo. Crystal booked a 17-piece Big Band orchestra; I have no interest in Big Band. I noticed that the band was only popular for a couple of nights. The Stardust lounge was used as the dancing venue and attracted a steady crowd throughout the cruise. The Ugly: Students in the classes were expected to rotate partners, but did not segregate the women who were serious about learning and actually showed up wearing proper shoes (there were several), from the gawdawful creatures who just wanted to waddle around wiggling their fat butts. Hosts have to put up with that- I don't. I asked about recorded strict tempo music during band breaks, and was flat-out refused; "the Hosts have to take a break and the women will complain if they are not dancing". I was left with the impression there had been no thought of providing strict tempo music and the idea was an annoying imposition. Ambassador Hosts Six allegedly "accomplished ballroom dancers". Based on what I have seen with other groups, I was not impressed. Only one of them could even stand up straight ("frame" in American terminology). One was so bad as to be a horrible example- any woman who would tolerate him is not someone I would want to dance with. I was told that there are normally four hosts, and they usually sit around with nothing to do. Summary. Crystal provides a nice, but over-priced, product. The ambiance definitely tended towards "comatose" rather than "party". There are two lounges with decent dance floors. But if this was the best they can do on a ballroom theme cruise, I would not want to go on a regular cruise without some ironclad guarantees and big penalty clauses. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
Crystal is a bit better than the average cruise line, but in no way is it '6 star cruising' and certainly not worth the extra cost. I don't believe it represents good value for money, and personally wouldn't cruise with ... Read More
Crystal is a bit better than the average cruise line, but in no way is it '6 star cruising' and certainly not worth the extra cost. I don't believe it represents good value for money, and personally wouldn't cruise with them again. Cabins are really small. We'd booked one for two adults, a three year old in a bed and a baby (6 months) in a cot. The three year old was OK in a chair which folded out into a bed (but I wouldn't want to put a child who was much older than that in there). But when the bed was folded out the table in the room had to go under the dressing table, the chair from the dressing table had to be removed from the room completely and the baby had to sleep in our bed as there was absolutely no room for a cot. This wasn't great, but given the fact we had to pay for the baby when he had nowhere to sleep and no food provided it wasn't acceptable. We were told the lowest category of cabin with a fold out bed available was Cat C. We would have much preferred adjacent cabins with an adjoining door in Cat E but we were told this wasn't available. Very frustrating then that someone we were travelling with was allocated just such a cabin and it definitely did have a fold out bed. The size of the cabin meant there wasn't enough room for all our clothes -- I think we would have struggled with just two people in the cabin -- but with two children quite a lot of our clothes had to remain in the suitcase under the bed, which we could only get out when the fold out bed was folded up. Liked the mini-bath in the bathroom, great for bathing the kids. The twin sink looks great, but as you can't get more than one person in the bathroom at a time it would actually been better to have one bigger sink. Loved the Aveda toiletries. The waiting staff and the room stewards were generally excellent but the reception staff ranged from dismissive to downright unhelpful. Personally I found the entertainment poor. The program didn't vary day to day -- bingo at 10, quiz at 11, dance lessons at 2.30, etc -- the only thing that seemed to change was the guest lecturers. There are obviously a certain portion of people this appeals to but it completely lacked imagination and innovation, nothing that hasn't been done for years. The brochure advertises that there are dedicated rooms for kids but that is quite literally all they are, just a room -- no entertainment at all is provided and there were no toys whatsoever available in the room (which was quite often closed as it was being used by the golf program or the photographers). I understand that there are no dedicated staff available outside of selected cruises but that is absolutely no excuse for not having toys available in the kids room. If nothing else that would mean the children would have somewhere to play away from passengers who didn't want children on-board. There was a kids menu in the dining room but this didn't vary at all, and unsurprisingly my son was getting bored of eating the same things after two weeks on-board. There was very little that was suitable for children otherwise, and absolutely no baby food was available. The food in general was good, and portion sizes in the main restaurant were ideal. The lunch buffet was quite repetitive though, and only a few hot dishes varied day to day, with other counters not changing at all during the two weeks. I found the opening times of both the restaurant and the lunch buffet too limited (trying to fit in getting the children fed and naps meant that quite often I missed the buffet and had to eat at the lido). Other people who ate breakfast quite late or were on the late sitting for dinner might also have found the lunch closing at 1.30 to early also. After 6.30 the only options were the restaurant or the food being served in the restaurant as room service. With the kids asleep in the room, room service was not an option so it would have been nice to have somewhere else to go. Crystal might argue that there isn't the demand for it but the long wait for a table on the two nights there was casual dining in the evening in the buffet room would suggest otherwise. We really struggled to get bookings at the speciality restaurant at suitable times, in the end we only got a booking at all by e-mailing Crystal. We were therefore really annoyed when we did get in to find that we were the only fare paying passengers there save for one other table. All the other tables were taken up by staff, some of them with their guests. I understand that staff might want to take their guests in, but this should not be to the detriment of fare paying passengers, who should get preference. Many of the staff seemed to treat the passenger areas as their own, often taking up tables in the bistro and the lido area, leaving no seats available for the paying passengers. This also meant that the waiting staff were having to serve them drinks, etc increasing the length of time passengers were having to wait. I really didn't think this was acceptable. The boat itself has recently been refurbished but it really is beginning to show its age. We experienced rough weather but I've been on rougher seas in other boats and they were able to cope much better than this ship did. We were scheduled to call at 4 ports -- Dublin, Akureyri, Reykjavik and Halifax. Two of these stops were cancelled due to bad weather (which although the boat made hard work of it wasn't that bad). We were also delayed for over 5 hours getting out of Reykjavik, this was put down to the sea being too rough but the Brilliance of the Seas was out at sea waiting for our berth to become available and didn't seem to be experiencing any problems. As 'compensation' for missing two of the four stops we were given 100$ per person. Unfortunately this was only given to the full fare paying passengers, so no compensation at all for the baby, not even a pro-rata rebate. This works out in the region of 1% of the total cost of the holiday, and given that we missed 50% of the stops we though this was somewhat insulting. One formal night was cancelled, as it was a bit choppy, and never reinstated on another night. And no effort was made to change the entertainment program to alleviate the boredom of spending endless unplanned days at sea. I found that the tours were excessively expensive. For example we did a tour to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. It seemed expensive but we though this might be because the entry to the Blue Lagoon was expensive, but this wasn't the case. We were also under the impression that the tours were free for the under 4s. In fact they charged us 50% of the full fare for our 3 year old. This was despite the fact that it was completely free for him to get into the Blue Lagoon. So effectively we had to pay $60 for a bus trip which was less than half an hour each way. Needless to say we didn't take any more trips, and would have struggled to do so as the stops were cancelled anyway! The debarkation was the worst I have experienced. Crystal have a no passenger announcements policy, which generally is OK but when their organisation goes so spectacularly awry they are really needed. Debarkation was scheduled to commence from around 8am, with passengers being told to wait in the Starlight lounge at specific times and passengers would be directed from there. However 9am came and went with no sign of anyone getting off. The two staff present were hopelessly inundated and had no idea what was happening. By 10am it felt like the entire ship was trying to fit into the lounge and when they did begin letting people off the first ones off where the last ones to arrive as those who should have been let off were trapped in the lounge by those who had arrived for a later departure. Utter chaos, and I'd be surprised if people didn't miss their flights because of it. Especially frustrating as we could see passengers on the Carnival ship, which arrived after us, getting of before us. But this event summed up the entire cruise -- lack of customer care, staff largely absent and uninterested and no better (and quite often worse) than any other cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
Already Booked?

Get to know who you’ll be sailing with

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click