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50 Crystal Transatlantic 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 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
In November 2018, my wife and I took Crystal’s 11-day cruise across the Atlantic aboard the Serenity (voyage OCY181110). For some time, we’ve taken two to three cruises a year on Crystal. This is one of two ships in Crystal’s ... Read More
In November 2018, my wife and I took Crystal’s 11-day cruise across the Atlantic aboard the Serenity (voyage OCY181110). For some time, we’ve taken two to three cruises a year on Crystal. This is one of two ships in Crystal’s tiny ocean fleet. Each carries around 900 passengers. The two ships are pretty much a matched set that rotates crew, routes, and entertainment. ROUTE: This type of cruise is for those who enjoy the boat ride itself. It started in Lisbon and ended in Fort Lauderdale. The only enroute stop was at St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, which placed us back in the U.S. It was Sunday, and the onboard border clearance was quick and painless -- took only five minutes from leaving our room to returning. OVERALL RATING (5 OUT OF 5): I rate this cruise as excellent (an overall “5” on a scale of 5). My score is based on the high quality of (1) live music in the small venues, (2) food offerings (truly perfect), and (3) service in the food and entertainment areas (still the most attentive service anywhere on land or sea). However, we’ve never found the Serenity to be perfect “ultra luxury” in every way. We keep coming back year after year because it’s like a comfortable old hotel, where the predictable pleasures outweigh the problems of an aging ship. In fact, the cruise’s most memorable lecturer was a writer for the old “Cheers” television comedy (Cheri Steinkellner). She gave you the juicy backstory of that neighborhood bar where “the troubles are all the same” and “everyone knows your name.” If you’re looking for a low-key, relaxing, good old-fashioned voyage across the Atlantic, this is your ship. Luxury measured by what’s not there. No stateroom announcements. No pressure to buy anything or do anything. No gaming to get your keycard for just one more charge (Crystal’s price is all inclusive). For cruisers who’ve tired of harried herding on the mass-market lines, the absence of certain nuisances on Crystal may be worth an overall “5” in itself. ENTERTAINMENT: When it comes to entertainment, what get’s the perfect “5” from me is the live jazz and show tunes performed in the ship’s small venues (the “Great American Songbook” from the 1940s and 50s). Crystal calls this its “supper club” and “cabaret” entertainment. I found these talented performances every bit as enjoyable as a night clubbing in Seattle or New Orleans. But no cover charges, taxi fares, exorbitant parking, or pestering to buy another drink. Crystal’s musical offerings continued right up to the end, with five shows on the final night of the cruise. The last of these shows ended at 11 pm, just as luggage was due outside the staterooms. Pretty impressive for a cruise with less than 900 passengers. There are lots of amazing musicians out there who never do albums or arenas. Crystal finds them; some stay for a cruise, others stay for years. But if live music isn’t your niche, think of the Serenity as your floating senior center. One with lots of pampering (they even have a “valet service” that parks the scooters and wheelchairs to keep the halls clear after bedtime). And the ship’s veteran waiters are saints of the sea when it comes to their patience and respect toward the older crowd that frequents Crystal. Yup, you’ll find all the day-to-day activities that you’d expect in a well-appointed senior center: bingo, bridge, needlepoint, knitting, shuffleboard, slots, puzzles, trivia, liars club, name-that-tune, karaoke, parlor magic, tribute shows, afternoon tea, and dance hosts for the ladies. (About a fourth of the passengers on this cruise were involved in a bridge tournament.) Music and comedy shows are focused on the tastes and memories of the “extra generation” of seniors blessed with extended retirements. There was even the screening of a new film about finding late-life romance in a nursing home (yes, including sex). The filmmaker (Neil Leifer) was onboard and understandably pegged the Crystal crowd as a sympathetic test audience. But I’ll say it again: travel agents should use caution in sending children under age 50 on this ship. Though Crystal’s current president came over from Disney, absolutely none of the following “advancements” in onboard entertainment are found on this ship (thankfully): water slide; climbing wall; zipline; go-carts; carousel; laser tag; bungee trampoline; bumper cars; surfing simulator; trapeze training; skydiving wind tunnel. After all, this ship is called the Serenity -- a synonym for quiet peacefulness. There is, however, a golf net, a little swimming pool, and a “shopping mall” of three stores (including one that sells the Chico’s line). While there are no midnight buffets, there is 24-hour room service for those who can’t wait until the next meal at 6 am. Not surprisingly, the youngest on board are usually the employees. No teen gangs here. And nature seems to impose its own curfew, with the halls largely empty after midnight. DINING: We dined in all of the ship’s venues with the exception of its Italian restaurant (Prego). When it comes to dining, I give this cruise a perfect “5” simply because I found it perfect in every respect. Taste, variety, presentation, novelty, service, and overall enjoyability were all consistent with luxury cruising. It’s not just about the food, though. You get to leisurely visit with some of the world’s most interesting people. Table topics go far beyond the common senior focus on kids’ foibles, grandkids’ achievements, and perpetual medical procedures. While this is indeed God’s waiting room, people here aren’t in a hurry to keep their appointment with Him. In fact, the more they cruise, the less they rush to get to the next onboard activity. Crystal has definitely reinvented the experience of its main dining room. We much appreciated Crystal’s new walk-in flexibility (open dining) for time, table location, and the number of diners joining us. With little fanfare, you can now bring along your onboard friends, old and new. Or dine in a quiet secluded corner and share secrets. Gone are those days when disappointed cruisers went up to a hearing room for an audience before the maitre d’. There you lined up and pled your case for the dining dispensation of a better table or feeding time. Never quite seemed consistent with Berlitz’s definition of luxury cruising as “the kind of stylish ships aboard which the word ‘no’ is virtually unheard.” STATEROOM: We stay in ordinary staterooms on Crystal (no opulent party suites for us). Though Crystal had just remodeled this ship’s “penthouse” class of rooms, the only change we found in the standard stateroom was a bigger TV screen. But we frankly don’t come here for the rooms. We keep returning to this ship because it’s like a comfortable old hotel, where seasoned employees year after year provide the most attentive service anywhere. And an expected part of a comfortable old hotel (ship) is old rooms with problems that we just get fixed as they arise. This time it was slow drains, faucets without cold water, no clock, no shower curtain, and a stuck sliding door that kept us from using the veranda. All eventually fixed after a little intervention from an officer. Onboard television was limited to a few generic international channels. Those who live for American reality shows or Monday night football may need to schedule their cruise during the annual rerun doldrums. On the other hand, the Lido Deck’s sound system was unintelligible, and a channel on our television was a good alternative for hearing the captain’s daily announcement on weather conditions and routing adjustments. Travel agents should alert customers that, even on a cruise billed as ultra luxury, an aging ship’s staterooms may be in less than perfect condition. INTERNET ACCESS: You really don’t come here for the Internet. A few months before our trip, Cruise Critic published its article, “6 Cruise Lines With Great WiFi.” Crystal didn’t make the list. Those tethered to the rituals of social media may consider it more of a forced silent retreat than a vacation. Internet connectivity varied greatly throughout the cruise, with regular display of the dreaded message, “Internet access is currently not available” (even when approaching Florida). Passengers grabbed it while they could. And ocean crossings like this one obviously lack port stops where an Internet cafe could come to the rescue. For some primitive, less-connected retirees like ourselves, a vacation with sporadic Internet is no deal-breaker. And there’s something to be said for the attitude of a past Crystal president that cruisers should “turn off the Internet and just enjoy the moment.” (Virtuoso Life, May-June 2015, p. 99) However, travel agents should caution their customers that this ship may not be a good fit if they must stay in uninterrupted email contact with a business or relative back home. Nor should passengers count on Internet availability to make enroute arrangements for port stops or post-cruise travel. Or for online bill paying or holiday shopping at the last minute. SHIP’S MUSEUM: The lore of cruising traditionally has the rich & famous dining at the captain’s table. But Crystal has something just as good for the rest of us. Captain Vorland periodically opens up the ship’s museum and serves as its docent and resident storyteller -- sort of a Norwegian cross between Sully Sullenberger, Garrison Keillor, and your favorite humanities professor. This guy really has been everywhere, man (he even took a break as a Crystal vice president). The museum, in a restricted area, has a couple hundred commemorative plaques. They reflect the Serenity’s visits to the world’s ports, both famous and obscure. While some of the plaques are simple pieces of wood, the more elaborate ones feature local art, crafts, and materials. Tell the cruise director or Crystal Society host if you’d like to be included when a group does this. Like the free kitchen tours, backstage tours, magic shows, and guided stargazing, Crystal doesn’t charge for this onboard activity. I’ve always been impressed by Captain Vorland’s daily explanation of the sea conditions and resulting navigation adjustments. Reminds me of the aviation saying that “a superior pilot uses his superior judgment to avoid situations which require the use of his superior skill.” Or success is measured by all the potentially bad days that cruisers never know they have been spared. Captain Vorland may in fact be eligible for the honor of the Explorers Club, given his work in advancing passenger cruising through the Northwest Passage (like another Norwegian who pioneered polar air routes back in the 1950s). Crystal recorded the many lectures that experts gave during the Serenity’s treks through the Northwest Passage. I’ve watched around 40 of these videos, and the collection should be sent to the Vancouver Maritime Museum (rather than just forgotten, lost, or erased). FEDERAL INSPECTION SCORES: Federal agencies in both the United States and Canada conduct health inspections of cruise ships. The inspection scores are posted on the agencies’ public websites. See www.cdc.gov and www.canada.ca. For the U.S. inspections (CDC), cruisers can read the full reports online in all their technical detail (as well as Crystal’s side of the story). For the Canadian inspections, you’d need to email a request to see the report behind a score. Unlike your grades back in school, a passing score (both countries) is set a bit higher at 86 out of 100. And a score of 100 means no significant deficiencies, not perfection. The Serenity’s most recent U.S. inspection occurred in December 2018 (about three weeks after the end of our cruise). Score was 95. The inspection report listed 43 violations around the ship, none of which would deter me from booking the ship again. (Gluttony at that Churrascaria dessert bar was a health risk for me, though.) A few months passed before CDC published the results of this inspection. Perhaps due to the famous shutdown of some federal agencies for about a month. The Serenity’s most recent Canadian inspection was in June 2017. Score was 99. However, even well-inspected luxury liners can face that noro nastiness (vomiting, diarrhea). There’s a limit to what cruise lines and governments can do to protect passengers from their own health habits. While we were crossing the ocean, Crystal’s other ship (the Symphony) had a norovirus outbreak on the Amazon. No secret, though. It was publicly reported on CDC’s home page, in Cruise Critic’s passenger chat room, and in USA Today. The Symphony’s doctor made daily reports to CDC, sought CDC’s assistance, and was able to contain the illness (less than 5 percent of the passengers reported symptoms). While passengers in a Cruise Critic chat room are not a statistical sampling, their online thread on the Symphony didn’t signal any cruise-spoiling panic. They made passing references to onboard norovirus in the midst of much more vigorous exchanges over the ethics of petting sloths and the merits of selling the Chico’s brand in the ship’s clothing store (true story). Per these stats and chats, it’s not inevitable that most people on board will get sick if there’s a norovirus outbreak (defined by CDC as 3% of passengers). A clinic that specializes in travel medicine can give you a thorough briefing on how to handle this contingency, including what remedies to take along. Here are two lists of doctors with this type of practice: (1) the International Society of Travel Medicine (www.istm.org) and (2) the American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene (www.astmh.org). Measles has made quite the comeback across the U.S., and is highly contagious. CDC presumes that travelers born in the U.S. before 1957 have childhood immunity. If you were born later and have had the shots, you may want to take along proof in case there’s a quarantine in your travels. (See www.cdc.gov/measles/travelers.html) EVOLVING AMBIENCE: Crystal’s customer core is retired “comfortable couples” from the American mainstream. Some have been retired for decades -- now in their eighties and beyond. Crystal continues to preserve traditions from a prior era of travel. There are still formal nights (“black tie optional” and some tuxedos), daily afternoon tea, a dress code after 6 pm, and an ornate hideaway for smoking cigars. We continue to feel safe from onboard crime. Guests occasionally die from getting old, but not from assaults, drunken parties, or jumping overboard. You’ll have to cruise elsewhere for those experiences. But Crystal is not an isolation ward, and travel agents may need to prepare some customers to expect subtle changes in the ship’s atmosphere. For instance, the music. The Russian string quartet has been replaced by a solo performer with an electronic violin. Crystal has invested heavily in computerized neon costumes for performers to dance in the dark. The young jazz crooner that faithfully replicates the 1940s may wear his hair in a modern man bun. (But just be glad that yet another generation is striving to perpetuate the old favorites from before it was born.) The crew members who give you super service may sport a few tattoos. (We’re talking pretty young ladies here, not muscled male deckhands.) And you’ll see cruisers who whip out their smartphones whenever there’s a lull in table talk. (We’re talking seniors here, not millennials.) And you might even see a dog on board these days. Folks on this cruise reported dog sightings at the buffet line, ice cream bar, clothing store, Lido Deck dining, Japanese restaurant, and ledge around the hot tub. The tiny hound that I saw didn’t make a sound, didn’t bother anyone, and was even wearing a dress at one point. And the affection from crew members suggested that they might be missing their pets back home. Or perhaps their parents just raised them to be kind to animals (and seniors). Social media polarizes this sort of thing in a rhetoric of rights. But it’s not really a legal matter until a foreign ship (here the Serenity) departing from a foreign port (here Lisbon) finally reaches an American port (here the Virgin Islands). (49 CFR 39.5(b)) Until we reached the Virgin Islands, it was just a customer relations call as to which species Crystal wished to accommodate in the price of a ticket. Regardless of a dog’s purpose, the practical problems for “pet parents” make it unlikely that cruises will ever really go to the dogs (become truly “pet friendly”). There are issues like dog-sitting during port stops, local health regs, security screenings, and distinctive nasties from nature. Things like fleas with plague, cute little snakes, and big birds that really do eat small mammals. Nature is indifferent to the rhetoric of rights. In the event of a canine unthinkable, it can be a long wait until the next port stop with a veterinarian. And I have no idea whether Crystal’s onboard physician would agree to treat a suffering non-human. If you insist on bringing Fido or Fifi, a competitor’s megaship will be more likely than tiny Crystal to include a vacationing veterinarian among its passengers. Of course, you never know what travel entrepreneurs will develop for an unmet need. While we were docked in the Virgin Islands, the humane society was having a dog-washing fundraiser at the yacht marina. Proceeds of $10 a dog went to “fly homeless pets to stateside rescues and better lives.” Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
We selected this cruise for its destination. We have sailed frequently on Crystal and other lines over the years and always thought highly of Crystal Cruises. There were many problems on this trip. Embarkation was only the ... Read More
We selected this cruise for its destination. We have sailed frequently on Crystal and other lines over the years and always thought highly of Crystal Cruises. There were many problems on this trip. Embarkation was only the beginning. The most serious was the flu-like illness that many, many passengers and crew suffered. While we accept that illness can always occur on a cruise, we were very disappointed not to see more proactive actions taken by Crystal to contain it. For example, never once did we see any sterilization of handrails, etc. Tables received cursory wipes but chairs, which people touched after coughing into their hands, were not wiped. People continued to come to dinner after being told by the medical staff that they had a virus. Despite all our efforts, it was impossible to avoid contacting the virus. This spoiled the cruise for us and many others. Many of the public venues, such as the Crystal Dining Room and the Crystal Cove were unpleasantly cold. Everyone had to wear shawls, sweaters or coats. Perhaps this was an attempt to contain the virus, but it succeeded only in making us feel worse. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
WE love Crystal. However, when it takes 45 minutes to get served in no man's land for their dining by reservation anytime dining program, it makes me wonder what is going on with this company. Is profit driving a wedge into what was ... Read More
WE love Crystal. However, when it takes 45 minutes to get served in no man's land for their dining by reservation anytime dining program, it makes me wonder what is going on with this company. Is profit driving a wedge into what was excellent service, fantastic food and beverage service at your fingertips? Heaven help you if you make a reservation for 7:45 for the main dining room. You are in between seatings and depending on where you are seated, service is dismal. We felt that not only was service lacking, but their servers didn't seem dialed in, more interested in just getting you something, the attentiveness wasn't there and many crew seemed new. There also seems to be less crew/servers, the servers to guest ratio seems less and service suffers. Getting a drink at the pool after 5:15pm or so is almost impossible and so I walked back to the Tastes bar to get my own in my bathing suit and cover up, but still dripping wet. I'm sure they didn't like seeing me there but I don't like not being served and to make it easier on the crew, since there seemed to be so few of them, I though I'd just go get a drink myself. Gone are the fresh berries. You have to know "who" ask for them at breakfast, and even then, they dole them out with a mere 5 berries at a time. No truffle honey, probably have to ask for that too. In general, the food just didn't seem to be what we fondly thought of as the Crystal difference. I think if you want the old Crystal experience you can still get it, you just have to ask and know "who" to ask when it comes to food and beverage service. . Having said all of this, yes of course we will still cruise Crystal, but there are changes and new guests may or may not notice. The lectures and guest speakers remain out of this world and I can't help but think I get to go back to college when I am onboard. Kudos to Crystal for having the best of the best in the world for cruise speakers. Both our embarkation and debarkation had issues and thank God we weren't in a hurry, otherwise we'd have missed our plane. Ft Lauderdale terminal was a nightmare for many for a variety of reasons. It was very inexcusable in many passengers opinions. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
Cruise to the Amazon. Two ports changed as a result of hurricane damage. Food equal to any 5 star restaurant and no request considered a problem. Ask for something special today and it is available at tomorrow's meal. Included wine ... Read More
Cruise to the Amazon. Two ports changed as a result of hurricane damage. Food equal to any 5 star restaurant and no request considered a problem. Ask for something special today and it is available at tomorrow's meal. Included wine was reasonable quality- not "two buck chuck". We even delayed departure to await a shipment of fresh seafood and raspberries which required increased speed (translate more fuel) to arrive at the next port on time. Fantastic entertainment and the best lecturers I have ever experienced. Topics to interest everyone with entertaining as well as educational delivery. ACBL bridge every day- including port days.After a day or two, the waiters and bar staff knew everyone's standard request. The pool could not have been refilled with Amazon water (too muddy), but they were able to keep the water clean and pure for the entire duration on the river. We are already booked on more cruises on Crystal and can't wait. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
We love Crystal and were interested in exploring the Amazon River. For us, this is a once in a lifetime destination both because it is so exotic and because once was great but enough. The Amazon is very hot and humid, and the blast of ... Read More
We love Crystal and were interested in exploring the Amazon River. For us, this is a once in a lifetime destination both because it is so exotic and because once was great but enough. The Amazon is very hot and humid, and the blast of air conditioning was a welcome relief each time we returned to the ship. There is not a whole lot to see from the ship itself, because the river is so wide that we were close to shore only in ports. But the ports were interesting. The jungle hikes were billed as "strenuous" and we were probably more timid than necessary about them. The two "strenuous" activities we did were really not so bad, and we should have done more. They were the most interesting of our excursions -- the Rubber Museum and native village in Manaus and the Jungle Trek in Santarem. Crystal, as usual, did a fantastic job of providing a lot of interesting lectures and on board activities, especially on the sea days. And the food was outstanding. This was a Food and Wine theme cruise, so they added some cooking demonstrations and wine tastings, which were very nice. Crystal really shines in the service department. The crew were very attentive, and quickly learn the names and preferences of the passengers. When my husband walked into his favorite bar, his favorite drink would appear before him by magic. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
It seems that the Crystal crew seems to always anticipate your needs. They keep the ship spotless. I see them late at night cleaning hall baseboards while on their knees. Food in the regular restaurant is awesome. You don't ... Read More
It seems that the Crystal crew seems to always anticipate your needs. They keep the ship spotless. I see them late at night cleaning hall baseboards while on their knees. Food in the regular restaurant is awesome. You don't normally see JUMBO shrimp, lobster, filet mignon, caviar, crab over and over again on the menu. Nobo's menu in Silk Road specialty restaurant was great as was the menu in Prego's. All those at no extra charge. Drinks and gratuities were included and the drinks were not the normal bar type alcohol. Example for vodka Grey Goose was an option. High quality single malt scotches were also available at no extra charge. If I need to make one constructive comment to them it would be for them to cut down on the salt in soups and sauces and let us add what we need. But then that comment needs to be told to ALL cruise lines. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
Chose this cruise as a friend (a Crystal novice) was interested in seeing what the excitement is about...her room was on the same deck but opposite side so we were close by but not running into each other constantly. Did our own version ... Read More
Chose this cruise as a friend (a Crystal novice) was interested in seeing what the excitement is about...her room was on the same deck but opposite side so we were close by but not running into each other constantly. Did our own version of shore excursions: using a combination of public transportation and ship supplied shuttles, mapping out our potential routes in advance. Saw a lot of New York in little time, same true of Boston (a very short duration--are their dock fees too high?) and had no complaints about the tender services in Bar Harbor or Newport. Easy to maneuver. Service continues to be the major Crystal distinction. Wonder how the prices will fare with the announced ship revisions and associated decrease in the number of cabins. Will welcome a complete revision to the tedious and dated dinner time and assigned table model which has been slowly disappearing. Lido deck evening options? I'm all for that! Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
We wanted to see Iceland and after looking at all the itinerary's of many cruise lines we decided we liked the Crystal Symphony itinerary the best since it sailed out of NYC , stopped in New England ports and then on to Iceland. We ... Read More
We wanted to see Iceland and after looking at all the itinerary's of many cruise lines we decided we liked the Crystal Symphony itinerary the best since it sailed out of NYC , stopped in New England ports and then on to Iceland. We had heard it was a great cruise line but didn't realize how excellent it really was until we sailed on Crystal. We have been on 12 cruises on 3 different lines. We always enjoyed ourselves but never expected to enjoy this one as much as we did. First off, you aren't "nickeled and dimed to death", almost everything is included in your fare. The food was exceptional and of gourmet quality, the crew amazing, and the entertainment very good. ( a famous singer, a pianist, singers who won national TV talent contests, dancers), The afternoon lecturers were interesting and very knowledgeable. They even had a former astronaut give 4 extremely great lectures on space . The cabin was nice and roomier than others we've been in, very comfortable and quiet .The ship was beautiful but a bit worn, but we heard it's being refitted this Sept. The average age was probably about 60 but these people seemed generally to be a very active , friendly group and very loyal to Crystal.. We couldn't have enjoyed ourselves more and hope to do more Crystal cruises in the future. Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
I picked this cruise because it was a great deal for solo travelers, had lots of sea days (I love sea days - especially the lectures), and the itinerary. It did not disappoint. I reconnected with several fellow travelers from other ... Read More
I picked this cruise because it was a great deal for solo travelers, had lots of sea days (I love sea days - especially the lectures), and the itinerary. It did not disappoint. I reconnected with several fellow travelers from other Crystal cruises met many new enjoyable companions. The service, the activities, fellow travelers are all part of the reason that I love Crystal cruises and this one met all expectations. BTW I booked 2 more cruises while on board - one leaving August 3rd and the other in 2019. New York was special for me since I went to the 911 Memorial Museum to re-visit one of the worst days in my life - I was on an airplane that day and lost 5 business associates (4 in the airplane that hit the Pentagon and 1 in the airplane that hit the south tower. In Newport, I sailed on the Columbia, the 12 meter boat that won the America's Cup in 1958. It was a beautiful day for a sail. In Boston I walked the Freedom Trail - my last time was more than 50 years ago. I Bar Harbor, I ate Lobster. Halifax is one of my favorite ports, with great historical and archeological sites. It was rainy in Iceland but still interesting. Read Less
Sail Date May 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
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
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
I chose this cruise because I wanted to try Crystal. It was everything I hoped it would be. Service was impeccable. Food was delicious. On sea days, there was plenty to do, and I really enjoyed the cultural/historical emphasis on ... Read More
I chose this cruise because I wanted to try Crystal. It was everything I hoped it would be. Service was impeccable. Food was delicious. On sea days, there was plenty to do, and I really enjoyed the cultural/historical emphasis on shipboard activities. Great lectures, art classes, Bridge classes, etc. No hairy chest contests or "art" auctions here! Also no hawking of gift shop wares, no pressure at all. Crew and fellow passengers were gracious. I traveled Solo, and couldn't have been happier----the dining room made the effort to seat 8 of us together, which was SO nice. I made friends right away. I took the Crystal shore excursions at each port, and found them to be exactly as described and well-run. I liked the security of being in a group, and a Crystal crew member accompanied the tours. It was nice to know that the Crystal staff was there, in case of any problems that might arise. This was in addition to the Tour Guide. I was actually on TWO cruises; it was a "back-to-back" experience. Miami to Monte Carlo (16 days) and then Monte Carlo to Venice (8 days). I enjoyed Crystal so much that I have already booked 3 more cruises with them! Two for 2017 and one for 2018. Crystal is the best! 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
Mr. B. and I have cruised 24 times, including on two defunct lines (Premier and Renaissance), once on Carnival and several times each on HAL, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. We have gone once on Azamara and once on Oceania, both of which ... Read More
Mr. B. and I have cruised 24 times, including on two defunct lines (Premier and Renaissance), once on Carnival and several times each on HAL, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. We have gone once on Azamara and once on Oceania, both of which did not meet our high expectations. Oceania was fabulous in many details but somebody evidently decided that our sailing should serve gourmet nursing home food, so we were extremely disappointed in that respect. The food just was not seasoned! On Azamara, the food was very good but the hotel desk was so uncaring that we actually felt unwanted, on that ship. This time, our first Crystal and our first Trans-Atlantic, we had even higher expectations than for Azamara and Oceania (for good reason). Crystal exceeded our expectations. The big things included a dinner menu that catered to our palate, perfectly, and an enrichment program that was beyond belief. Our nine-night cruise was scheduled to have five at-sea days but ended up with six when we weren't able to go into St. John's, Newfoundland. This meant five at-sea days in a row. What did we do? On most of those days, we attended ALL FOUR of the speakers' presentations. And btw, there were actually eight different presenters on board. And if we missed a presentation (e.g., once we took a dance class), we could watch it any time throughout the day, on the t.v. I watched the missed one, at 5 pm on the treadmill! Very nice exercise room -- including interesting assortment of exercise equipment outside aft on decks 7, 8 and 9 for a bit of a different approach to fitness. Entertainment was very good and we enjoyed it all. Cruise director was a true professional and definitely added to our enjoyment. Service was outstanding in all dining venues. We opted for Dine by Reservation, and many evenings we ate at 7 or 7:30, which we prefer to Early or Late. Here's one example of the little things that added to our loving this cruise. After we boarded and picked up our room keys, we went to the library. Mr. B. had not brought any books with him. What did he find? The two books at the top of his to-read list! Mussolini and the Pope and Dead Wake were both there, available to borrow. Also, there were many activities we never participated in. There's knitting, golf, art, and movies. There's bingo; there's trivia; theres a small group magic show. What a great array of choices. Because we had Dine by Reservation, there were a few times where there was no live music for us to enjoy, with a pre-dinner drink. Many times, though, we had a choice of the Crystal Cove, the Avenue Saloon, the Starlite Club and the Palm Court, all providing live music, both before and after dinner. Besides the main dining room and the two specialty restaurants for dinner, plus a few breakasts and lunches in the main dining room, we enjoyed the Lido for breakfast and lunch buffets, and lunch at the Trident Grill once. The Bistro is a great place for a snack and coffee or glass of wine, open from right after breakfast to either 8 or 10 pm or similar. Plenty of breakfast items for anybody who might've missed breakfast. Plenty of fresh fruit and sweets for anybody who had a sugar craving. Cheese and crackers (many choices) to go with wine. Ben and Jerry's ice cream, with many flavor choices, is available every day until 6 pm. I had planned to go to afternoon tea, at least once, but it conflicted with an enrichment speaker each time. Two food items we missed were blueberries in the Lido for breakfast and anchovies to go with the Caesar salad. I told Mr. B. we should bring on our own tin of anchovies, on the next three Crystal cruises we've booked! We are so glad we tried a crystal while we are still young enough (under 70) to enjoy so much of it, and the great itineraries. From start to finish -- totally smooth and quick embarkation and disembarkation -- and everything in between, we loved this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
This was my 1st Crystal cruise and I had high expectations. Most of my cruising has been on Celebrity which I enjoy. I have been on Azamara and Oceania, both of which disappointed me. On Azamara to Antarctica I had multiple complaints and ... Read More
This was my 1st Crystal cruise and I had high expectations. Most of my cruising has been on Celebrity which I enjoy. I have been on Azamara and Oceania, both of which disappointed me. On Azamara to Antarctica I had multiple complaints and on Oceania, the service was great but the food I described as "Gourmet Nursing Home" because it had absolutely no taste and no seasonings. Our boarding went smoothly and efficiently. The first thing I saw on embarking was the library so I walked in an immediately found many very recent books, two of which I checked out. The cabin, as others have said, is small but who stays in the cabin? There was plenty of space for our clothes and it was nice to have both a shower and a tub. The Muster drill was disorganized. At first they didn't want your cabin # which is strange cause how would they know who was there. Eventually they took the #'s. To me, the food on the ship was superb. On the 1st night, I had a Halibut dish that was as good as I have ever had. The 2nd night I had Lobster, cooked perfectly. I was impressed that my soup was ALWAYS hot, which is a must for me. The salads were fresh and my meat was always cooked perfectly (red warm center). The choices were varied and unlike Oceania, they seasoned the food! The specialty restaurants were OK but not significantly better than the main dining room, which I enjoyed. We had dining by reservation which worked out superbly. The wait staff was efficient, knowledgeable and professional. I don't need to be coddled. Most of the time we had breakfast and lunch in the Lido and I was totally satisfied.(Fresh squeezed OJ is a must) The enrichment program was unbelievably good. We learned about the Titanic and the munitions explosion in Halifax harbor, heard talks about Broadway and the movies,the geology of the areas we were visiting and heard from Luke Zamperini (the son of Louis from Unbroken)and Leo Thorness, a Medal of Honor recipient and a POW who spent 6 years in the Hanoi Hilton. The 1 man show by Jim Brochu was worth the price of a NYC theater ticket. The music on board was good with Bruce at the piano, the Tommy Orchestra and other groups around the ship. The singers and dancers were very good and Scot, the cruise director was professional and excellent. I enjoyed his morning show that I watch as I struggled to get my 4 miles in on the treadmill in the fitness center. While some aspects of the cruise were "average" (the cabin stewardess), I really had nothing that I could or would complain about. We booked 3 more cruises while on board and I am looking forward to sailing on crystal in the future. 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
While the ship is very beautiful, having taken various cruise on the Symphony, the Serenty specifically with regard to the main dining room cuisine was rather poor. Most of the dishes lacked taste, and on one evening in particulate when ... Read More
While the ship is very beautiful, having taken various cruise on the Symphony, the Serenty specifically with regard to the main dining room cuisine was rather poor. Most of the dishes lacked taste, and on one evening in particulate when lobster was served, the lobster meat was limp, soggy and had no taste whatsoever. What also bothered me about the main dining room was the lack of attention paid to a specific request to prepare my food according to certain dietary restrictions . At the very least the waiter who was aware of my needs did not consistently check the food before serving it to me.These requests were made well in advance of the sailing. I had also made my concerns known to the restaurant head manager who also did not do proper follow up, and I got the distinct impression that he did not care. Service In the Lido cafe was not always up to par, with some tables conversing at length with a waiter thereby neglecting other tables which required service. In general I am disappointed with Crystal. It needs to re earn its former reputation from my point of view. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
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