Sail Date: August 2018
This sailing was incredible from start to finish! The staff were all friendly, helpful, and couldn't do enough for you. The ship was an older classic style yacht, very comfortable but definitely a dated look to it. The cabins were ... Read More
This sailing was incredible from start to finish! The staff were all friendly, helpful, and couldn't do enough for you. The ship was an older classic style yacht, very comfortable but definitely a dated look to it. The cabins were small but comfortable, the beds were a little on the hard side for my taste but were still cozy enough to get a good night's sleep. The food on board was wonderful! The kitchen staff outdid themselves at every meal. I swear we barely ever stopped eating on board, as soon as breakfast was cleared, someone was out offering fresh slices of watermelon, then lunch, then a dish of sorbet on the sun deck, then an amazing dinner and cocktails, definitely overdid it but everything was impeccable. The cruise director was always knowledgeable about our ports, giving us plenty of insight on what to do while in each country (Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece). I do think the excursions could be improved upon though, they only offered a couple excursions in each port, and they were participation based, so if the one you wanted didn't have enough guests, it didn't happen. That being said, the only port I think an excursion is truly necessary is Albania. My favorite stops were Korcula, Kotor, Anti-Paxos and Paxos (Anti-Paxos had the best beach and bluest waters I've ever seen in my life!). I would gladly travel with Variety in the future, and look forward to the day I get to sail with them again! Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2017
We have thoroughly enjoyed other luxury cruises(Seabourn) but were interested in this yachting experience and it was beyond all expectations. Essentially, it is a mobile luxury hotel affording you the opportunity to visit fabulous ... Read More
We have thoroughly enjoyed other luxury cruises(Seabourn) but were interested in this yachting experience and it was beyond all expectations. Essentially, it is a mobile luxury hotel affording you the opportunity to visit fabulous locations hassle free. With the size of the ship and the limited number of passengers, you have the opportunity to function entirely independently. Group excursions were small and actually fostered great camaraderie. Excellent and engaging local guides Embarkation/disembarkation: seamless, both initially and at each port, like walking out of a hotel room Ship: lovely, understated decor, with all areas easily accessible Cabin: though smaller than some of our previous trips, it never felt small with well designed storage, also the bath was very large with a generous glass enclosed shower and two sinks and again lots of storage. Other reviews have been critical of the ac, but we experienced no problems Dining: exceptionally good at all meals. Dinner was really a dining experience, like a fine restaurant,certainly not a move the crowd mentality. Additionally the accessibility of the yacht in general, allowed us to explore dining options in ports and easily return prior to departure. Entertainment: Oliver was great in the piano bar, but honestly, not much partying after dinner with this crowd that had been active all day and was admittedly older. We might have enjoyed some group activities or enrichment lectures in the afternoons. Service: impeccable and very personal We would LOVE to take this trip again and would really like to go on the Esprit to a destination where we could take greater advantage of the paddle boards, kayaks, jet skis, etc Read Less
37 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2017
Just back from the Venice to Dubrovnik Crystal Esprit cruise. The Esprit has a great itinerary if you want to visit the smaller, less crowded islands off the Croatian coast. Crystal does a great job with their complimentary excursions. The ... Read More
Just back from the Venice to Dubrovnik Crystal Esprit cruise. The Esprit has a great itinerary if you want to visit the smaller, less crowded islands off the Croatian coast. Crystal does a great job with their complimentary excursions. The groups are small, typically no more than 6-10 people, and included both a Crystal escort and a local guide. Take this cruise for the itinerary and not for the typical luxury cruise ship amenities. The Esprit is a small, nicely appointed ship whose primary function is travel between ports of call. On board amenities are limited by the small size of the ship. There are only 6-chaise lounges covered by shade for example. Having said that, dinners are the equal of any ship, of any size. It was like dining in a Michelin star restaurant every night. Breakfast and lunch were adequate but not exceptional with a small selection of food and some service issues. Overall service was very good and the staff were friendly and professional. Be very careful of cabin selection on this ship. Cabins 222 and 217 are located near equipment that cycles on when the ship is moving. That equipment is very, very loud. If I knew about the noise in advance I would not have gone on the cruise. I compare it to buying a theatre seat with an impaired view. It is one thing to knowingly buy (at a discount typically) a problem seat. It something entirely different to discover the issue as you are being seated! Because of this I will avoid Crystal in the future. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2017
We did search many cruise lines and I was about to book on a different cruise line when I came across "the cruise critic". Thank goodness we did. My wife and I were taking this special trip of 14 days to celebrate our 50th ... Read More
We did search many cruise lines and I was about to book on a different cruise line when I came across "the cruise critic". Thank goodness we did. My wife and I were taking this special trip of 14 days to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. We flew into Dubrovnik 3 days before starting our cruise with Crystal. Dubrovnik was great and I am glad that we allowed extra time to see this city. Now it is time to meet up with Crystal. The overall experience was as good as it gets! We took a taxi to the terminal where you embark on Crystal and Crystal staff was there to meet us at the taxi. They went into action and the next thing we knew is we were entering the ship where again more staff welcomed us with champagne and a wonderful welcome. That was the start of the Crystal adventure!! The staff was perfect, food was the best, and accommodations were outstanding. The shore excursions were all great. We had a shore excursion every day. All included so we did not have to deal with add-ons etc. No tipping etc., all was taken care of. All was as near to perfect as one could hope for. We will cruise small ships from now on and it will be with Crystal. We could not have had a better celebration. Thank you Crystal staff!! Read Less
18 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
I noticed an advert for the Crystal Esprit in a publication from our Travel Agent and it fitted in perfectly with other travel plans. The yacht has been fully refurbished and it's all SOTA in every way. The cabins are beautiful and ... Read More
I noticed an advert for the Crystal Esprit in a publication from our Travel Agent and it fitted in perfectly with other travel plans. The yacht has been fully refurbished and it's all SOTA in every way. The cabins are beautiful and every luxury is catered for. The beds and pillows are divine and the bathrooms are large and well-equipped. Great shower! There is an Michelin-star chef on board - Rainer Buss - who oversaw every plate that left the kitchen. The presentation, variety, flavours, and portions were perfect. The wines were good and the table service was efficient and friendly. Every crew member was pleasant and cheerful - always a smile and a greeting. The Patio cafe for a light location for breakfast and lunch. The Yacht Club dining room was low lit and pleasant place to dine. The Cove Bar was a comfortable place to read during the day and have a drink in the evening. Our chef brought around delicious canapés each evening - perfect. We were treated to champagne and caviar on the penultimate evening of the cruise. Deck 5 - Sun deck was well equipped and there was plenty of seating for evening drinks as well as lounging during the day. The bar was always ready to serve everything from coffee to cocktails and you could even have an early snack up there. The ports visited were all interesting and without exception the guides on the tours were knowledgeable and entertaining. Our one complaint was the air conditioning on board - in the cabin particularly - it was cold and there was no temperature control. We asked for the fan to be turned down to make it bearable. We escaped to the Cove Bar where it was warm if we wanted to read as it was too cold anywhere in the cabin but in bed under the doona. The Patio cafe had an automatic door and this had a life of its own on chilly mornings - opening and closing and freezing those having breakfast. Read Less
28 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2016
We just returned from a 7 night cruise in the Adriatic on the Esprit embarking in Dubrovnik and ending in Venice. We loved the boat and the itinerary. Here are the details: Ship: The ship has 5 decks -- marina on 1; entry to the ship ... Read More
We just returned from a 7 night cruise in the Adriatic on the Esprit embarking in Dubrovnik and ending in Venice. We loved the boat and the itinerary. Here are the details: Ship: The ship has 5 decks -- marina on 1; entry to the ship and cabins on 2; cabins on 3; lounge/bar and two restaurants on 4; lounge/bar, restaurant and pool on outdoor deck 5. The public spaces are very well designed to accommodate everyone on-board with room to spare. We never felt crowded and were always able to sit where we wanted. Public spaces provided the ability to mingle with the crowd -- which was typically part of the routine during before-dinner and after dinner cocktails -- or find a secluded nook. The main dining room can even fit all passengers at one time for dinner. The decor is plush and elegant, and the seating inviting -- velvet padded couches and chairs on 4, and large wicker chairs and loungers on 5. Colors are a nice mix of neutrals and blues -- very relaxing and soothing. Dining room tables can be configured to seat couples, foursomes or larger groups. There are no elevators, but only 13 indoor shallow and wide stairs between each of the decks 2 and 3, and 3 and 4. Up to deck 5 requires an outside passage up a winding stair. Stairs didn't seem to cause any problems (even for those in their 80s). But the ports visited require a lot more climbing than the ship, so those with mobility issues should think twice about this cruise. For most of the cruise, the boat remained in protected waters (between islands and mainland) and we never felt movement other than the slightest rocking one night during a storm. Service: With a passenger to staff ratio of about 80 to 60, the service was fantastic. I never waited for a drink refill, to order food, or to get a question answered. The staff was over the top nice and accommodating (even getting a ride for guests to an evening event when none was scheduled). Dining: The highlight of the evening was always cocktail hour outside or inside (with a specialty drink each night) followed by dinner in the main dining room with specialty wine selections available and multiple options for each of the 4 courses (or more or fewer if you wanted) and dessert. Portions were such that you could actually eat 4 courses + dessert, although most people seemed to eat 3 + dessert. The chefs get high marks for plating, creativity and just plain tastiness. Breakfast was cold buffet with a few hot options; lunch was cold buffet/salads on deck 4 and a great grill (burgers, pizza, etc) on deck 5. We loved lunch on breezy deck 5 -- a few times we scurried back from a tour just in time for 2pm lunch and then some free time before dinner. Entertainment and activities: If there is a weak spot on this boat/itinerary, this is it. There was one singer each night for the after dinner entertainment, and while she played lots of favorites and on some nights did a heroic job of getting people up to dance and sing along, the variety was simply lacking. An improvement would be to have some alternatives provided -- for those on the 2 week itinerary, I think the same entertainment for 14 nights is a bit much. While the water sport activities should have been a highlight, since the boat is stocked with water toys, they were very limited. Only one port allowed jet skis and we were on a tour that day. Most of the Adriatic ports we visited didn't allow any water sports (even paddleboarding). People: On our cruise there were mostly couples and groups of four (families or friends). There were also two groups of six. All adults. This is not a boat for children -- the food, entertainment and tours are not child friendly. Ages ranged from 20s to 80s, with most people probably 40s to 60s. Majority of passengers were from the US, but there were also people from Europe, Mexico, Canada and Brazil. People were friendly and fun loving -- most participated in the sing alongs with the piano player at night -- but were there mostly for the boat and their own group, so it was a nice mix of mingling with others but having plenty of time to spend with your chosen companions. Ports: In each port there were 2 free tours (one adventure type like rafting and one more about seeing the sights), and there were other longer tours that had additional costs. At least 1/2 our boat took the free tours each day which typically lasted from 9-2. Tours were split into smaller groups of 10-12 people per guide. The longer costlier tours had only 4-8 people on them. We docked in each location except for Piran (where we were on anchor) which allowed us to go in an out everywhere except Venice which is somewhat difficult to access from the boat. Dubrovnik: I would recommend staying 2 nights before getting on the cruise -- lots to do there and beautiful -- walk the walls! Kotor: get up early and watch the boat sail into this incredible bay surrounded by cliffs; we took the complementary tour which hit the highlights and got us back for 2pm lunch. Split: complementary tour which was great -- had no idea Split would be so special with medieval buildings and Roman walls and foundation. Really stunning city. Zadar: We took a long tour to Plitvice Park. Gorgeous park with clear green water and waterfalls everywhere and lots of climing to see them all. Haven't seen scenery like this before. But only go if weather is promising (rainy would be bad). Opatija: Took the tour to the Hill Towns of Istria. This was really a highlight -- saw 3 little towns in a Tuscan-like setting. Drank wine and ate truffle pasta. Wandered through narrow streets with few tourists. Great tour. Piran: We took the longer tour to Lake Bled. Absolutely beautiful scenery in one direction (unfortunate tourist town on one edge of the lake) but a 2 hour drive to get there, so a hard call on whether to recommend this one. Piran itself is a cute port and the only tender port on the itinerary. If you want a free day and the weather is nice, take this day as your free day. Jet skis are available, and you can spend some time in the water and then go into Piran and wander a bit. Venice: complementary tour went on walk through Venice and Doge's Palace (did not actually go into St Mark's Basilica although that's how tour was billed). Nice tour, but skip if you've been to Venice before. All in all, lovely boat, wonderful staff, great ports, fine dining, luxury accommodations, and (at least on our trip) truly warm and friendly passengers. Read Less
23 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2016
Cruise report – Le Lyrial 2nd to 16th August 2016 Greek islands by John Lombard Commandant Rémi Genevaz is an old hand who practically built Le Lyrial as he was involved in the planning right from the beginning. He is a big ... Read More
Cruise report – Le Lyrial 2nd to 16th August 2016 Greek islands by John Lombard Commandant Rémi Genevaz is an old hand who practically built Le Lyrial as he was involved in the planning right from the beginning. He is a big advocate for this newest of the Ponant cruise ships (launched May 2015) which has all the latest technology and wins environmental prizes for being the least polluting etc. Dep Dubrovnik Tues 2nd August - Tonight, we docked in the Dubrovnik harbour not far from the old town after slipping away from Gruz at about 6.30pm. The evening started with the usual introduction by the Commandant followed by Tin, our Hong Kong born French/English speaking cruise director, taking us through all the staff and then the whole ship got involved in the compulsory safety procedure. Dinner in the 2nd deck à la carte restaurant with its usual magnificent food, small but tasty serves, and pleasant wines, followed by a show that had five modern ballet dancers. It was excellent, in fact much better than either of us had expected. But we still felt the need to adjourn to the 6th deck bar for a nightcap whiskey… Wed 3rd August – Early 7.30am start for an excursion, a 4 ½ hour boat trip around the Dubrovnik Riviera including a swim in a cove, and visits to beaches, caves and little islands but there was very little historical interest in the tour and there wasn’t much explanation. A bit disappointing. After a splendid lunch on board (note: discipline is needed but it’s hard…), we sailed at 1pm. Then, for two hours we visited the magnificent gulf of Kotor bay. It reminded me a bit of the fjords of Norway of last year. Only a ship the small size of Le Lyrial could get into it and it was spectacular. At 7pm the Commandant’s welcome cocktail party followed by a gala dinner with caviar, shrimps, dorade, fillet of beef, chocolate mousse, plus their usual array of wine. What’s not to like? The cocktail was in the open air at the back of Deck 6 with copious quantities of Veuve Cliquot (I kid you not…). Thursday 4th August - When we woke, we were at anchor just off Paxos, part of the smallest group of Ionian islands. Paxos is an island of endless olive groves, and the neighbouring Anti-Paxos island is virtually one large vineyard. Lazy morning on board till lunch (fresh Paxos oysters and mussels) followed by a four-hour excursion circumnavigating Paxos visiting caves, including one where Poseidon, God of the sea, hid his mistress Amfitriti, daughter of King Aheron. Excellent Greek guide filled us in on the history. Stopped at tiny village of Lakka for a snack of olives, fresh bread, tomatoes, potato salad and a glass of wine or beer. Just what we needed before a slap-up dinner on board. Friday 5th August - We woke as we were dropping anchor just off the very attractive island of Zakynthos. An early rise at 6.30am to catch a 7.45am tender to the port where we had a four-hour bus ride with three stops around the island. The first inhabitants arrived here about 6,000 BC. Our bus tour included the top of the island for a precarious above-view of the famous Navagio Beach which has a reputation of being the most beautiful beach in the whole of Greece. It is only accessible by sea but cruise ships are now barred for environmental reasons. There is also a wreck on the beach that was supposedly a smuggler’s boat carrying illegal cigarettes that was shipwrecked in a storm. Lunch on board included local fresh prawns as we sailed. At about 10pm, we entered the Corinth Canal that cuts through mainland Greece. There are no locks, it is 6.4 kilometres in length and only 21.4 metres wide at its base, making it impassable for most modern ships. It was completed in 1893 and going through at night is awesome because it is so narrow and it’s dark. We had two pilots, fore and aft, and we crept along at a snail’s pace. The Commandant decided it was such a significant crossing we were all served Veuve Cliquot champagne or Ouzo on deck while we passed through. It was quite an experience. Saturday 6th August - At 8am we dropped anchor just off the port of Hydra (derived from the Greek word for water). It is a glorious sight from the ship, it is a tiny island separated from the Peloponnese by a thin strip of water and there are no motor vehicles allowed. Donkeys, pedal bikes, and water taxies are the main form of transport or else by foot. We booked for a 2 ½ hour walking tour that started at 9am while it was still cool-ish… we had our English-speaking Greek woman guide from yesterday who is a walking encyclopaedia of information. It is a classic example of one of the small Greek islands that are barred to the big cruise ships. At 4pm to 6pm, we were invited to swim in the crystal-clear waters off the back of Le Lyrial… this was sensational. Three Zodiacs roped off an area about 50m x 50m. Dozens of people took advantage and it was great fun. Again, to me the most remarkable thing about swimming in the Aegean Sea is how easy it is to float. The salt levels are very high so it is dead easy just to lie back in the water in a very buoyant way. Sunday 7th August - we had to get up early for a 7am breakfast as our tender taking us to Delos left at 8am. This uninhabited island was one of the many highlights. According to Greek mythology, Delos was the birth place of Apollo and his twin sister Artemis. But in its heyday, Delos was the greatest commercial centre in the whole world! It has been called the Wall Street of the ancient world. It was a free port from 2nd century BC to 2nd century AD. Rich merchants, bankers and ship owners from around the world settled here attracting many builders, artists and craftspeople who built luxurious houses with rich frescoes and marble floors. Today, it is an archaeological gold mine and researchers are still working away finding all sorts of evidence of life in a former age. The streets are laid out beautifully and it is not hard to imagine the houses, the markets, the shops and bustling crowds all around. We enjoyed a three hour walk around with Ioanna, our English-speaking Greek guide, who makes history interesting. We could have spent much longer here. But the program meant we had to go to nearby Mykonos which, thanks to Tom Hanks and other celebrities buying property here, has become a tourist mecca. It is very beautiful but not at all well maintained. The result: massive crowds, exorbitant prices, and a lot of junk in the shops. Monday 8th August - We pulled up at 7am at the northern island of Lesbos which had been much in the news over the past year as a destination for thousands of Syrian refugees, many of whom drowned at sea. But the policeman at the harbor of Petra said the flow had stopped now. The main source of income on the island is olive oil which is of very high quality and sardines that they export all over the world. Our excursion took in panoramic views from Molyvos castle above the town of Petra. But the highlight of our tour was a visit to the historic Limonos Monastery which dates to the 16th century founded by a local St Ignatius. It has a significant collection of manuscripts dating back to the 9th century. The main church in the inner courtyard is a magnificent building but women are absolutely forbidden to enter! The ban is causing some heartache at the EU headquarters in Brussels where such discrimination against women is not allowed. But nobody is making any effort at the monastery to do anything about it! At 7pm, the Commandant hosted a farewell cocktail around the deck 6 swimming pool. More bloody Veuve Cliquot, naturally, followed by another gala dinner! Hard to believe we’ll be starting our second week-long cruise on board tomorrow night… Tuesday 9th August – We arrived in Piraeus early for the change-over day for a lot of people, most leaving, a few like us staying, and new arrivals this afternoon. We hired a taxi for four hours to take us to the Acropolis, then to the Museum where we had a very welcome beer and a sandwich and back at the port. The Acropolis defies description, it was absolutely stunning. It was hot, there were millions of tourists, but the sheer beauty and enormity of the whole enterprise just had us gob-smacked. We walked to the top and even the bloody tourists, their guides, and their cameras couldn’t dampen the experience. The museum is relatively new and contains an amazing collection of statues and memorabilia from the Acropolis. A great trip. We sailed overnight back to Lesbos. Wednesday 9th August - Beautiful morning – again - back in Petra where at a civilised hour of about 9am we were taken ashore to do a long bus ride for a special tour to the petrified forest museum which was spectacular. This is a unique geological phenomenon: about 20-million years ago the region was covered with dense sub-tropical vegetation with trees that reached incredible heights like the Sequoia trees in the US as well as conifers, pines, oaks and cinnamon trees. Today, they are all petrified because of the presence of sediments from a volcano. We visited the museum built in 1994 to study, collate, research, conserve and protect the petrified forest which is a Greek national heritage. The only downside is that it is such a long way from Petra although the drive through the hills is spectacular. Another Commandant’s cocktail party tonight followed by another gala dinner… sigh… Thursday 11th August - We arrived in the port of Syros island early in the morning. This is an amazing town, utterly beautiful white-washed houses snuggling in a bay. Syros is the administrative centre for the whole Cyclades islands group. In the 5th century BC, the Phoenicians occupied Syros and it was a major commercial sea port. In 1770, the Russians won the island in a battle with the Turks and took just about everything of value. But it fell back into the hands of the Turks after three years. When the Greek revolution started in 1821, Syros was under French protection because more than 50% of the population were Roman Catholic. Syros is so far the most stunningly beautiful place we have visited, today it is a thriving town that sees huge ferry boats come in several times a day. But it is the streets and town centre that are of major interest. We had a walking tour with Ioanna, our guide, which took us first to the local archaeological museum which had a couple of new discoveries the director was very excited about. Then we walked up the hill to the Greek Orthodox church of St Nicholas, the patron and protector of the island’s seafarers, followed by the Catholic church which is almost exactly like any Greek Orthodox church with its masses of icons. But what is interesting here is an icon by Domenicos Theotokopolous better known to the world as El Greco which showed for the first time that the lad had started his career as an icon painter. After lunch, we went back into town alone and unescorted and walked to the top of a nearby hill to another church. It was a gruelling climb over hundreds of steps. We favoured the most direct route which is also the toughest. Some of the old women and a couple of old men watching us go past were amazed we were tackling the steps when they kept pointing out a perfectly good cobbled roadway which of course was extremely twisty and therefore twice as long. No matter, we got to the top in good condition considering the heat. One of the significant aspects of these Cycladic islands is the amount of marble about the place. Syros has marble footpaths and marble streets. There is marble everywhere you look. One of the guides said the local joke is that marble is cheaper than wood. There is certainly a lot more of it than wood. Friday 12th August - We sailed from Syros at 4am arriving in Paros at 7am; another beautifully sun-drenched port of white-washed houses. This is a very popular island among the Athenian wealthy who have weekend homes whereas Mykonos is home to the international wealthy. By 8.30am we were being loaded into tenders for a four-hour walking and bus tour of the island. We went by bus first to a beautiful mountain village of Lefkes, stopping on the way to admire the massive trunks of 1000-year-old olive trees that are still producing fruit. We wandered around the tiny narrow streets of the village. Next we arrived at the fishing village of Naoussa with dozens of boats. We walked again to see the Byzantine church of Ekatontapyliani, the lady of the hundred doors, one of the greatest of early Christian monuments in Greece built in the 6th century. Saturday 13th August - Another very short sail to the nearby island of Amorgos. We left Paros at 4am and arrived at Amorgos at 6am. It is another of the Cycladic group first inhabited around 3300BC. The island is stunning. The capital in the hills is Chora, a winding labyrinth of whitewashed houses, shops, and bars with windmills alongside. But the real purpose was to visit the spectacular Byzantine Monastery Moni Panagias Chozoviotissas which looks as if it has been stuck on the side of a cliff face. It is a huge fortress built into the rock and you wonder how on earth they built little paths to get up there let alone the monastery itself. And you wonder why on earth you would even consider this as a suitable position. The monastery houses a so-called miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary in a tiny chapel. The building itself is reached by climbing a very steep 269 steps up 300-m and you don’t want to suffer from vertigo – or claustrophobia when you get into the monastery. There are eight floors but the rooms are no more than 5-m in width although we saw only two. There are very strict rules about men and women having to cover up their knees, shoulders and arms. There are only three resident monks but in the daytime an army of guards keeps us well-dressed! Sunday 14th August - We sailed at 10pm last night and reached the remote tiny island of Symi which stands between Rhodes and Turkey. It is a rocky barren island that owes its early success to its sponge diving fleet and boat building industry which once launched 500 ships a year. There was no excursion planned, so we did our own. This is now the most beautiful island we’ve seen! The port is bustling, a myriad of houses of subtle colours that blend easily into the steep hills around it. We decided to explore the upper part of the town and that meant climbing 500 steps in the heat. We then decided to take a mini-bus to the other side of the island to see a 6th century monastery – that didn’t involve any climbing. The bus ride took about 40 mins and was nail-biting in parts because the roads over the high mountains with stunning views were very narrow and there was a lot of traffic which involved several times reversing quite a distance to allow other vehicles and bikes to pass. But once there, the village was very beautiful. Almost nobody about, just a couple of cafes and a tavern where we adjourned for lunch. We went to the monastery which is spectacular, intricate woodwork surrounding a mass of icons, wonderful wall and ceiling paintings. We head out tonight for our last full day at Patmos. Monday 15th August - We sailed last night at 10pm for our last port of call Patmos in the eastern Aegean, a mountainous small rocky island in the Dodecanese group with lots of pretty coves. It is a Christian mecca because of the St John monastery. It is here that allegedly St John the evangelist wrote the book of Revelations, the last chapter of the new Testament which was, according to legend, revealed to John and he instructed a colleague to write it all down in Greek. There are only about 15 monks still living and working there and the one who kept an eye on us was very strict about men and women taking off their hats as well as insisting everybody’s knees, shoulders and arms were properly covered up. After wandering around there for about an hour, we were taken to the Apocalypse cave which is where St John had his revelation. This afternoon is basically packing up, getting debriefed about disembarkment tomorrow, the captain’s farewell cocktail party tonight (back on the Veuve Cliquot) and the gala dinner. We are asked to have our bags ready for pick up at 8am tomorrow as we will be off the boat by 9am! Then it’s going to be Athens for two nights before back to Geneva. Comments: Le Lyrial was a very happy ship, all the staff and crew seem to enjoy their work. Nothing is ever too much trouble or everything seems possible. The passengers are about 70% francophone but all the announcements, excursions, and protocols are in both English and French. Everybody on board is bi-lingual. Not speaking or understanding French is not a disadvantage. The age group depends on the tour. Our cruise to the Norwegian fjords last year were mostly our age, no children. The Greek islands tours had more families (August holidays) and the ship had a kids’ club with staff to look after the little darlings. They didn’t inhibit our enjoyment at any stage. It is a significant Ponant advantage that they operate an open bar system which means all drinks at all meals and in all bars are included in your ticket. The only exceptions are if you order a premium drink (a Johnny Walker Blue label whiskey, for example), you pay. But everything else is on the house. This means not having to worry about a bar tab at the end of the trip, nor having to shout a drink for your new best friend. The cabins are all external and most have a small balcony. Unless you take a suite, the cabins are what I would call compact, they’re certainly not spacious but we found them all right; the beds are very comfortable and the showers excellent. There is a free mini-bar and an ice bucket that can be filled up in the bar. They provide you with a whole range of free toiletries. There are three bars, one on the third floor that’s open 24/7, one on the 6th bar that’s only open at certain times of the day, and an open air one on the 7th deck again only open at certain hours and not at all in cold weather. There’s also a fully-equipped theatre that they use for lectures, classical piano recitals, movies etc. The food is excellent and enticing. Being French, there are two full-time pastry chefs. In fact, there is an army of chefs. And they will basically cook anything you want. There is room service at all times although we have never used it. There are two restaurants on all Ponant ships: the 6th deck buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and the 2nd deck à la carte restaurant that serves a buffet breakfast and lunch but a menu dinner where they prefer you don’t wear shorts or thongs! On our cruise, the 6th deck was very popular for dinner because you could eat under the stars and bookings were essential. If you didn’t book by breakfast, you didn’t get a table. The excursions are an extra, but they’re not compulsory and they are very varied but always interesting. Some require a degree of fitness and/or agility. But staying on board can be just as relaxing. Our view of the excursion is that they are bucket-list excuses and you/we are never likely to get another chance. There is an excellent library on the 6th deck. There is no casino and no flashing lights disco although on the 7th deck open air bar there was nightly music which people could dance to. That certainly didn’t operate in the Arctic Circle last year… The reception desk is open 24/7 and there is a fulltime doctor and nurse who usually take it in turns to accompany the excursions. Ponant runs an excellent loyalty scheme and although these back-to-back cruises were only our second and third trips, we were upgraded because we had made reservations for our fourth cruise next year which qualifies us for Admiral status. This gave us free laundry throughout (invaluable on a hot weather cruise), four hours each of us for each week (ie a total of 16 hours) free WiFi use, plus we got 400 Euros worth of discounts on our excursions. We met other passengers who were on their 12th and 15th cruises which qualified them for Grand Admiral status! Not sure what they get for that but it would be considerable. Maybe Veuve Cliquot on tap… We’re very much looking forward to our next cruise, a 17-day cruise in August 2017 under the title of Ultima Thule, the Horizontal Everest, which goes from Kangerluassaq in Greenland all through the Baffin sea around the east coast of Canada to Straeling island, the northernmost point reached by the Vikings. Only a year to wait… and we are eagerly anticipating the announcement of cruises for 2018 when we will have a certain significant celebration. Finally, the secret to Ponant cruises in our experience is to book early to get the full discount of 30%... and the best cabins. And this is the link to a blog with photographs written about the cruise by my wife Jean Lombard: http://taxidotle.blogspot.com/ Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2016
This was my first cruise ever and I really loved it. It's amazing to be sailing with a small ship. There were only 17 guests on board so you had a feel of having the ship for yourself. We did the adriatic cruise and visited 4 ... Read More
This was my first cruise ever and I really loved it. It's amazing to be sailing with a small ship. There were only 17 guests on board so you had a feel of having the ship for yourself. We did the adriatic cruise and visited 4 countries in 1 week: croatia, montenegro, albania and greece. Unfortunately we weren't able to get a close spot in the harbor/port in every city so sometimes you need to walk or take a bus/cab to get to the nearest city center. The crew is extremely nice and helpfull! Every day (except for one) we were able to do an excursion on shore to see the sights. I could really recommend the excursion to Butrint in Albania, the palace of queen elizabeth of austria (sissy) in corfu town and the city of Budva in Montenegro. The other cruises were not really worthwhile. Due to the fact that the ship arrived early in the morning we were able to avoid the big cruise ship masses. That's another advantage of a small cruise ship. On the minus side: * The food is okay especially breakfast and lunch but for dinner we only had 2 buffet style dinners and the rest was a strict menu (you could choose between fish or meat). I prefer buffet type of dinners. * You can buy wifi access on board (€20 per 500Mb). The data limit is a problem because lots of people have their smartphone settings tuned to wifi (to transfer photos etc). I also use a travel app to inform family and friends which I was unfortunately not able to use due to the limit. * We had less guests on board which is great but on the other hand you pay the max price for the excursions which made it very expensive. * During dinner/breakfast time the servants grabbed your plate out of your hands and brought it to your table (even if you were one step away). This felt extremely awkward for all of the guests and although they must have felt it (guests were saying no) they kept on doing that. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2014
We sailed from Dubrovnik, Croatia to Venice, Italy. It was a wonderful itinerary and we really appreciated the late stays in port. The captain even extended our stay in a couple of ports which was great. The staff were, without exception, ... Read More
We sailed from Dubrovnik, Croatia to Venice, Italy. It was a wonderful itinerary and we really appreciated the late stays in port. The captain even extended our stay in a couple of ports which was great. The staff were, without exception, incredible. For instance, one day we were going into port at the same time as the Maitre d'. He asked what we had planned, when we told him we wanted to go to a beach, he recommended we take a local shuttle service to a small island off the coast. He then walked us through town to where the shuttle left and helped us buy tickets for the shuttle boat. Other staff equally went the extra mile to ensure that our trip was memorable. We were generally happy with our fellow passengers as well. We were two couples, travelling together, in our 40s and 50s. The other passengers ranged in age from their 20s through 70s. Most were probably in their 40s and 50s. Not as pretentious as some other luxury lines. Generally fun loving and well-traveled. There was one partial charter group of about 30 family members. The first couple of days, they were fairly loud and inconsiderate of other guests. According to the staff, on the cruise the previous week, there was another partial charter group who were far worse. Management should do a better job ensuring the large groups don't impact the other passengers. The ship itself is in poor shape. We were prepared for smaller cabins with no balconies. We were not prepared for the subpar physical appearance of the ship. The cabins were extremely worn. Wood work was scuffed and faded, carpets stained, and there was a musty odor throughout much of the ship. We had issues with the air conditioning in the cabin. The maintenance guys tried to repair it, but on some nights the room would get very hot. One night, the dining room was also uncomfortably hot. We felt sorry for the waiters coming in and out of the kitchen soaked in sweat. The food and wine was another issue. Seadream advertises the best cuisine at sea, prepared "a la minute." The food was consistently under-seasoned, unimaginative, and often arrived cold. Fresh fruit and vegetables were limited. For instance, one night, the only salad offered was Caesar. The salad was over dressed, soggy and bland. Another night, the appetizer of shrimp coated crab claws turned out be deep fried. They arrived cold, soggy, and with a sauce that was plain ketchup. Also, the wine poured at dinner was often undrinkable. One night we did purchase a bottle from the reserve list, but they offered very few options under $100. Also, free premium liquors are advertised, but there is a $10 up charge for Grey Goose (among others). The prices for decent wine and true premium liquors felt like nickel and diming. There have been some well publicized management changes at SeaDream over the past couple of years. Clearly, these issues at the top are showing in the condition of the ships and the quality of the food and wine. The product they are currently offering does not merit the price being charged. We will not sail SeaDream again until serious changes are made.   Read Less

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