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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2018
I choose this because it featured a seminar I wanted to participate in and because of its ports of call (especially Gibraltar). When we started planning our excursions about 3 months prior to departure, the expansive Gibraltar tour was ... Read More
I choose this because it featured a seminar I wanted to participate in and because of its ports of call (especially Gibraltar). When we started planning our excursions about 3 months prior to departure, the expansive Gibraltar tour was waitlisted and never re-opened. I find that to be unforgiveable and unforgettable. But we booked a private tour through Viator and it was the best tour of our trip, and less than half the cost of a lesser quality ship excursion. While many will like the food and dinner requirements (specific time reservations, more formal dressing and very formal on all sea days), we take cruises to experience the ports of call, not to have formal dining experience. So, for us, this is not a positive. Further, we thought the "Tastes" specialty restaurant was way over-rated: marginal food and served in a pool cabana setting which was not a very good atmosphere. Getting on and off were very good experiences. Same for access to excursions; and the free water bottles on the tour buses was very welcome and not standard with our cruises. So pick carefully....if you want to focus on dining, go for it; if you want to focus on ports of call, I would choose another, less expensive alternative. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
Embarkation was not very smooth. Waited in groups with a number. When it came time to board, stood outside in the rain, without umbrellas, to get through security, Dining by reservation was a hassle if you wanted to change your time. ... Read More
Embarkation was not very smooth. Waited in groups with a number. When it came time to board, stood outside in the rain, without umbrellas, to get through security, Dining by reservation was a hassle if you wanted to change your time. MDR service was often slow. Waited 45 minutes one evening to get appetizer. Food often didn't come out as requested (salad with dressing on the side). Went to Tastes for lunch. Ordered salad with grilled chicken, it was raw. The cruise itinerary wasn't very exciting. Leaving from Marseille created some problems. Many people were missing luggage, probably due to the air traffic controllers striking. The ship can definitely use some refurbishing. Enjoyed the entertainment and met some very nice people. Participated in the art class which was lots of fun. Medical staff was very attentive. Food was very good. Enjoyed the Crystal Cove, the servers and bartenders work nonstop. Enjoyed going to the Bistro after returning from excursions. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
We have been Celebrity loyalists (with one Oceania cruise as well), but a Crystal cruise was on my bucket list, so when Crystal offered a sale and the itinerary was appealing, I jumped on it. My husband was skeptical—how could it be ... Read More
We have been Celebrity loyalists (with one Oceania cruise as well), but a Crystal cruise was on my bucket list, so when Crystal offered a sale and the itinerary was appealing, I jumped on it. My husband was skeptical—how could it be worth more than twice what we usually pay for a cruise? Now we know. This was everything I hoped it would be. We always build in an extra day in our flight plans, and it was a good thing we did; our flight from Newark was about ten hours late getting into Marseille. We missed the day of exploring marseille, but didn’t miss the ship. Embarkation at the pier was slower than I expected (we waited maybe 20 minutes to board) but check-in on the ship was quick and easy. After a nice lunch on the aft deck, we went to our cabin a little past 2:00 and were surprised to find our luggage already delivered and on the bed ready for unpacking. Just the first of many instances of superior service. The two areas in which Crystal excels, inour opinion, are service and food. Service was impeccable: our sommelier was the best we’ve ever encountered; our wait team in the dining room was first class; our room steward was great; and every staff person was friendly and helpful. We ordered room service a few times, and were impressed by how timely and gracious the service was. (Love the fact that the coffee table is raised to dining table height and set elegantly even for breakfast.). The food on Serenity was the best we’ve experienced on any ship. The main dining room offerings were varied and consistently excellent; we enjoyed breakfast and lunch dishes at the Lido cafe; but our favorite place for lunch was the grill. Best cheeseburgers ever, according to my husband, and I appreciate the fact that they have a variety of burgers, including salmon and a really tasty veggie burger. We tried both specialty restaurants, which were good but not as good as the main dining room, in our opinion. Oceania may claim to be the foodie line, but we rate Crystal highest in that category. One of the main reasons we like to cruise is that it gives us a chance to dance every night. Serenity has the largest dance floor and nicest dance venue in the Palm Court of any ship we’ve been on. The dance quartet is great; they play exactly the music dancers want to hear. The dance instructors did a wonderful job with dance lessons on sea days. Because we were always in Palm Court, we didn’t experience any of the shows, so can’t comment on those. We did enjoy trivia on sea days and wished they had it more often, and we enjoyed the world affairs speaker. The ambiance of the ship is one of quiet elegance and casual refinement. Fellow passengers are well-traveled, though many we talked to were, like us, on their first Crystal cruise. Guests are better dressed than on the other ships we’ve sailed (a welcome change from the increasingly casual, even sloppy “fashion” that seems ubiquitous these days). We saw no sign that the ship needs to be refurbished, though it is scheduled to be this year. With the exception of Barcelona, the ports on the itinerary were new to us, and we enjoyed all of them. We would have liked longer stops in Gibraltar and Guernsey, which were only half days. We didn’t take any ship excursions, preferring to explore on our own. In all, this was a bucket list cruise worthy of the designation. I only wish we were able to sail on Crystal every year. Read Less
18 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
In May 2018, my wife and I took Crystal’s two-week cruise to Hawaii aboard the Symphony (voyage OCS180518-16). We take about three cruises a year on Crystal. I rate this cruise as excellent, that is, an overall “5” on ... Read More
In May 2018, my wife and I took Crystal’s two-week cruise to Hawaii aboard the Symphony (voyage OCS180518-16). We take about three cruises a year on Crystal. I rate this cruise as excellent, that is, an overall “5” on a scale of 5. Crystal’s quality slipped a bit in the last few years. But Crystal is now back up to where it ought to be. This is one of two ships in Crystal’s tiny ocean fleet. Each carries roughly 900 passengers. The two ships are pretty much a matched set that rotates crew, routes, and entertainment. My only continuing concern is Symphony’s lower scores in federal heath inspections over the past several years (both U.S. and Canada). ENTERTAINMENT -- MUSIC: Credit goes to Crystal’s entertainment veep (Keith Cox) and his choreographers for reinventing the line’s performing arts with a new repertoire. Crystal is once again the front row seat for fans of traditional jazz and Broadway. Singers, dancers, and jazz band were excellent, with a different floor show every night. In fact, one young torch singer (Janet Dacal) seemed a likely candidate to play the late Julie London if there’s ever a tribute tour of her hits from the fifties. Speaking of Julie London, I heard the strains of “Cry Me a River” from the ship’s violin-piano duo as I passed through a lonely lounge one night. And the cruise’s Hollywood historian (Jim Jimirro) even had an anecdote from his recent chat with the aged writer of that song. (By the way, Jim has a lecture series about the American songbook at the public library in Beverly Hills -- see “Jim J’s Jukebox” at www.beverlyhills.org.) In other words, Crystal takes the various niches and nuances of jazz pretty seriously. Every bit as enjoyable as a night spent clubbing in the French Quarter. Due to the small size of Crystal’s two main ships, all entertainers eat with the guests. No matter how famous on land, the norm on Crystal is their availability to visit with the guests when not performing. There was also a house dance band that played for hours every night. But not a lot of dancers. Ballroom dance studios organize cruises for their advanced (and affluent) students, and this setting would seem a good match for that market. They’d be getting a live band, a semiprivate dance floor, the good life, and everyday hobnobbing with the dance pros that do the stage shows. Due to the volcano disaster, this Hawaiian cruise had to cancel its stop at Hilo. The ship gave the volcano a good distance to avoid the fumes (we never saw it). But the potency of its ash was apparent from the metallic orange of the sun as it set through the haze (same as in the smoke from forest fires). When Hilo opens up again, Crystal could seek out talent from the Merrie Monarch Festival. This is the world championship of authentic Hawaiian hula dancing -- the Wimbledon, Masters, and World Series of that art form. On a prior cruise, we took a cab over to the festival’s office, bought some souvenirs, and got a complimentary tour of the venue (see www.merriemonarch.com). It didn’t hurt that my wife had been a hula dancer on Kauai back in the day. DINING: Crystal has definitely reinvented the experience of its main dining room. For the first time in years, we ate most of our meals there. Simply because we enjoyed it so much -- and we had to see what new entrees they had dreamed up every day. 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 discreetly share state secrets. In other words, Crystal’s dining has cracked the code for providing a constant quality to the passenger whose preferences vary from day to day. As for the menu, there’s a new range of creative worldwide entrees as flavorful and spicy as you want to go. And, without exception, they were all served hot due to new kitchen systems for custom preparation. No more assembly-line institutional feedings. And Crystal has hired a more diverse crew of waiters than we’ve previously seen in its dining rooms. These enthusiastic waiters always took time to chat with us, some even gave us travel tips for visiting their home countries. Throughout the cruise, waiters Romanio and Kumrah took especially good care of us. The dining room’s seasoned maitre d’ (Albert Farkas) may be Crystal’s most senior employee, having been there over the life of the company. Definitely a legend and a mentor among that next generation of waiters that he’s devoted to training up right. (He just modestly says, “It’s my profession.”) And he’s quite the repository of lore about restaurants around the globe (like the place where they can open a wine bottle with a sword). There’s no doubt some interesting backstory as to how the Symphony’s ringmaster of restaurants (Slavko Drobnjak) implemented all of this. The kind of anecdotes that years later end up in places like the Harvard Business Review. But whatever you’re doing, Slavko, keep doing it. As I sat in the dining room, I finally got to see the legendary “green flash” of the Pacific sunset. Crystal crew members had been telling me about their sightings for some time. On ocean crossings, the ship’s daily newsletter includes an article about the phenomenon. One of Crystal’s captains gives a nature talk about it. And, yup, it’s the thing that a San Diego craft beer is named after. PORT STOP -- MAUI, HAWAII: Crystal sometimes pioneers a unique type of shore excursion, instead of just rounding up the usual contractors with their scripted bus herdings. Years later, we still talk about the extensive backstage tour of the Monte Carlo ballet by a retired ballerina (right down to the shoemaker, costume vault, and grooming of preschoolers who’d made the cut). It was our first cruise on Crystal, and I was the only passenger in our small tour group who had never been a ballet dancer. For this cruise to Hawaii, Crystal somehow convinced the charming heiress of a Maui mansion (Leona Wilson) to gather up her diverse friends for a half-day of gourmet food and stories about the island. A dozen cruisers were treated to local topics ranging from plantations, to architecture, to education, to botany, to beekeeping, to antiques. The mansion itself (Lona Ridge) seems sort of a cross between an embassy, a museum, and a monastic retreat center. Though this was modestly billed as an estate and garden tour, Leona (now in her 80s) made us feel more like honored guests at a diplomatic function than a bunch of tourists. No wonder the press calls Leona the “plantation princess.” If Verdi or Puccini ever wrote a Hawaiian opera, Leona’s bio of life lessons could frame the heroine’s libretto. Right down to her rescue and replanting of discarded plants from the town cemetery. Lona Ridge is well up a mountainside at the end of the road, and at least an hour’s drive from the tender dock. And it’s a very genuine interaction with a local celebrity (and local character) -- not some rushed walk-through before the bus whisks you off to another of a dozen promised sites. Seems like a good match for those leisurely private events that Virtuoso Travel often hosts for its onboard customers. Or for those perpetual students in the Road Scholar trips to Hawaii. Just type in “Lona Ridge Maui Hawaii” if you want to check it out on Google Maps. And see: www.lonaridge.com and https://mauimagazine.net/plantation-princess. This was one of those unexpected shore excursions that we just keep remembering. PORT STOP -- HONOLULU, HAWAII: There are, of course, endless possibilities for a shore excursion at Honolulu. But there a few things worth checking out right by the Pier 11 cruise ship terminal. Aloha Tower is a restored art deco building that’s colorfully lit up at night. Once Hawaii’s tallest structure, today you can take the elevator to the top floor for a view of the city. No charge, but it closes at 5 pm and you can only visit the top floor. There’s the Old Spaghetti Factory across the street -- part of the chain around the western U.S. But this one has a distinctive Hawaiian variation: spaghetti with clam and Spam. And next door is a Barnes and Noble with a good selection of books about Hawaii. The American Institute of Architects has its office just three blocks from the Pier 11 cruise ship terminal. This is the meeting place for the downtown walking tour that the organization offers for just $15 (see www.aiahonolulu.org/?WalkingTours). It’s in the morning of the second and fourth Saturdays of the month. (Crystal and AIA could conceivably partner on this as a little fund raiser for some local charity.) HOUSEKEEPING: We stay in ordinary staterooms on Crystal (no opulent party suites for us). The quality of stateroom housekeeping varied for a few years. But this time, the attention to detail was consistent with luxury cruising in every way. Right down to the daily supply of a special-order soft drink, and getting an ice pack frozen for a sore knee. And a box of chocolates that almost seemed too fancy to eat. Our stateroom attendant (Lois) gets a perfect score for all her efforts to clean up after us. INTERNET ACCESS: At least on the Symphony, Crystal has finally transitioned to an Internet service (WiFi, wireless) that is both unlimited and reliable. Given all the smartphones in a constant state of readiness, there must be quite the cell tower somewhere on the ship. We noticed an interesting side effect from Crystal’s transition to open dining and unlimited Internet. The moment there’s a lull in table talk, cruisers tend to whip out their smartphones. They eventually come up for air as the meal’s next course arrives -- or they notice that everyone at the table has rushed off to the next activity. And we’re talking retirees here, not millennials. Those who feared the decline of tuxedos may also worry about the dining room’s decay into an Internet cafe. On the other hand, Crystal’s management could understandably remind us that we screamed for more Internet, and they gave us what we asked for. SHIP’S MUSEUM: At the very top of the forward stairwell, you’ll find a room with a couple hundred commemorative plaques. They reflect Symphony’s 20+ years of 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. Access to this area is unrestricted; you might pass through it on your way to the golf driving nets. It’s an option while exploring the ship’s layout on your first day aboard, particularly if you’re looking for something to do while waiting for your stateroom to become available. HEALTH AND SAFETY -- CRIME: Congress requires that a cruise line report any passenger complaints that a major crime has occurred onboard. Every quarter, the counts for these complaints are publicly reported at www.transportation.gov/mission/safety/cruise-line-incident-reports. Crystal’s onboard safety has never concerned me. Only two complaints of crime on Crystal appear in this data for the past five years, both alleging thefts over $10,000. The reporting website doesn’t identify which Crystal ship was involved. When it comes to passenger age, much of the Crystal crowd is in God’s waiting room. Guests occasionally die from getting old, but not from assaults, drunken parties, or jumping overboard. You’ll have to cruise elsewhere for those experiences. However, safety on shore (port stops) is a universal concern for the passengers on any cruise line. Cruise lines all promise the greatest show on earth, and that includes speakers on what you absolutely must see at a port stop. Far rarer are speakers that tell you what to watch out for. For this cruise, Crystal brought on the authors (Bob Arno and Bambi Vincent ) of a website that tells you how to avoid the world’s thefts, cons, corruption, and trip-spoiling nastiness. Cruisers all know the horror stories, and this pair’s writing has no doubt saved me from some bad days. (See http://bobarno.com/thiefhunters) The cruise director himself (Paul McFarland) has a story on this Arno/Vincent website: his wallet was stolen when a herd of urchins jumped him in India. (See http://bobarno.com/thiefhunters/mugged-mumbai.) Definitely something to think about, since Paul’s a big, tough-looking guy who could double as Sir Sean Connery. And Paul’s deep broadcast voice sounds like a cop from central casting. We’d previously picked up some good safety tips from another of Crystal’s officers. After I did a little nosy prying, he disclosed his past life in security at an embassy. I’ve always found that Crystal’s crew members, from top to bottom, are quite willing to share candid cautions about a location if asked. HEALTH AND SAFETY -- MEDICAL ISSUES: The dining room waiters pay meticulous attention to any dietary restrictions, such as allergies worthy of an EpiPen. But be sure to clarify whether you merely need to avoid a particular ingredient, or really have some rarer sensitivity to any microscopic trace that lingers on a food prep surface. They’ll actually assume the latter unless you tell them otherwise. In fact, this is one of the better places to be if you were to have a serious allergic reaction (none so far for us). Right down the hall is the ship’s doctor (Alae Brand) and her team of nurses, who provided us with excellent emergency care on a prior cruise. They responded a lot quicker than most hospital emergency rooms (that is, immediately) -- and for a fraction of the cost. HEALTH AND SAFETY -- PASSENGERS WITH DISABILITIES: Crystal’s customer core continues to be retired “comfortable couples” from the American mainstream. Some have been retired for decades -- now in their eighties and beyond. An everyday part of Crystal is thus wheelchairs, walkers, scooters, canes, and oxygen tanks. Attentive and respectful assistance from Crystal’s crew has always been the routine for guests with such limitations. And fellow passengers implicitly follow an aviation-like norm that the least maneuverable get the right of way, whether it be in an aisle, hall, elevator, or buffet line. I have no idea if the ADA applies on the high seas. But accommodation is more than a legality or a courtesy at this point in life. The shadow of the future is lurking as ambulatory retirees surrender their elevator to a wheelchair and walk a few flights with no expectation of a medal. HEALTH AND SAFETY -- 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. Unlike your grades back in school, a passing score is set a bit higher at 86 out of 100. And a score of 100 signals no significant deficiencies, not perfection. For the past 10 years of U.S. inspections, the Symphony’s lowest scores have occurred in the last four years. Its lowest score of 90 (five points above passing) was its most recent inspection (a year ago in Charleston, South Carolina). For the past 10 years of Canadian inspections, the Symphony’s lowest scores have occurred in the last four years. Its lowest score of 92 (seven points above passing) was its most recent inspection (a year ago in Halifax, Nova Scotia). Interestingly, the last U.S. inspection and the last Canadian inspection were only eight days apart. Travel writers sometimes minimize the significance of federal inspection scores. I don’t. Nor do the Crystal crew members who do the scrubbing. For the U.S. inspections, 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. Investigations of onboard illness “outbreaks” are also reported on a federal website. Five years ago, 125 of the Symphony’s passengers came down with norovirus (that short-lived vomiting/diarrhea misery). Inspectors boarded the ship when it docked at Los Angeles and “collected stool specimens from ill passengers and crew for testing” (one nasty job). See www.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp/surv/gilist.htm. Regardless of the lower inspection scores last year, I didn’t get sick on this cruise. And I didn’t see anything that I thought might make me sick (beyond gluttony at the dessert bar). And one night I saw the captain and his safety officer quietly eating behind us in the main dining room. In maritime lore, that’s a classic nonverbal indicator of their confidence that things are shipshape. Ironically, Crystal’s other ship was recognized for its score of 100 at last year’s annual meeting of the U.S. inspection program. That would be a good list for the Symphony to get on. PEACE AND QUIET (PRIVACY): Travel agents should use caution in steering children under age 50 to a cruise on Crystal. There’s one swimming pool, and it’s a tiny one. Only three onboard shops (no mega-ship mall). No climbing walls, water slides, outdoor movie theaters, or midnight buffets. Nature seems to impose its own curfew, given the lack of observable life on Crystal after midnight. The wheelchairs and scooters are parked by the staterooms. The decks are largely empty and silent until sunrise signals the next available meal. Crystal has always offered plenty of privacy for those who want it. No activity announcements invade your stateroom. None of that constant gaming to charge something to your key card (Crystal is all-inclusive). No pressure to buy anything. No pressure to do anything. And there are endless quiet nooks and crannies around the ship for reading, chatting, and thinking great travel thoughts. If Elvis and Sinatra had somehow faded away into quiet cruising retirements, I’m convinced that the Crystal crowd would have respected their onboard privacy with little ado. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
This is our 10th Crystal cruise so we obviously like the line. Service is very good, but little things have been taken away, from chocolates on the pillow at night to overcrowded tenders. The food is good but boring--it used to be very ... Read More
This is our 10th Crystal cruise so we obviously like the line. Service is very good, but little things have been taken away, from chocolates on the pillow at night to overcrowded tenders. The food is good but boring--it used to be very good and creative, Prego, the Italian specialty restaurant, and Umi Uma, the Japanese specialty restaurant, are excellent. The bar/bartenders are excellent, One night at Waterside, the main dining room, we spent almost an hour waiting for our food--and they were not busy, Waterside used to offer a steak option every night, now offerred less often and tasteless,The new Brazilian steakhouse provides mostly pork and the beef offerings are tasteless. The Marketplace, the buffet during the day, is open till 1:30 for lunch, but excursions often last longer and there is not a g option those days. The buffet is good, but changes little. Cabins are old and only have one USB port and one electric outlet although there are ones hidden behind the bed. For most of the day the hot water supply is insufficient, Luxury should not include a cold shower, The entertainment has improved but the lectures are now just OK, used to be great. Also there were nights with hardly any entertainment. Crystal now has a magician on board, ours was excellent. Crystal installed new technology to support free wifi for everyone. BUT the old system worked far better, we often could not connect to the internet and we could not make phone calls in airplane mode--prior trip with prior technology it all worked fine. The shore excursions remain VERY expensive and sub-par. The exercise room is average but no one wipes down the equipment if the guest fails to do so. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
We had been on Crystal before and wanted to experience the overhaul of the Symphony. The public rooms are beautifully furnished, the layout of the entire ship is excellent, the food is wonderful. Most important every crew member was ... Read More
We had been on Crystal before and wanted to experience the overhaul of the Symphony. The public rooms are beautifully furnished, the layout of the entire ship is excellent, the food is wonderful. Most important every crew member was attentive and well-trained on how to take care of passengers. You really feel pampered and you leave relaxed and feeling that it was all money well-spent. For two years in a row we took the new Crystal European River cruises. If you have a chance to do that, it was two wonderful trips and totally different than an ocean cruise but with the same outstanding Crystal experience. Those experiences motivated us to go back on the updated Symphony. We liked that they gently enforced the dress rules so you didn't have cut-offs and flip flops in the upscale restaurants. The speakers and on-board activities were terrific. With 10 sea-crossing days (Long Beach to Hawaii, Hawaii to Vancouver), the speakers were every bit part of our ship-board experience. In addition the golf pro was excellent as were the live stage shows. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
We returned to Crystal Symphony to see all of the changes that have been made as part of its dry dock in late 2017. REVIEW FROM OUR MAY 18, 2018 SAILING =================================== After many cruises on Crystal Cruises how ... Read More
We returned to Crystal Symphony to see all of the changes that have been made as part of its dry dock in late 2017. REVIEW FROM OUR MAY 18, 2018 SAILING =================================== After many cruises on Crystal Cruises how can cruising on-board a ship that is 23 years old exceed one’s expectations? Well, it happened to us on board Crystal Symphony for the 16-day cruise starting May 18, 2018. This was due to a several factors. It involved the evolution of Crystal Symphony including new dining venues, open dining, enhanced public areas, and the new Seabreeze Suites. Other reasons included enhanced entertainment, a wonderful itinerary, a terrific private Crystal Cruises exclusive tour, and the amazing team on board Crystal Symphony. Good weather just added to all of this. This review covers our recent sixteen-day Crystal Symphony. The vast majority of our cruises have been on Crystal Serenity. Our last Crystal Symphony cruise was in August 2011. Some people prefer one ship to the other. We added this cruise after deciding the timing of an August Symphony sailing originally booked would not work for us. After reading reports from fellow Cruise Critic members we wanted to see the changes made to Symphony. We purposely booked one of the new Seabreeze suites to experience the suite first hand. Things we enjoyed the most included: THE CREW: They are amazing. We met some crew for the first time and quickly felt as though we had sailed with them many times. We remembered several from prior sailings on Symphony. At the same time there were several officers, senior staff and other crew members who we know either because they used to be assigned to Serenity and are now assigned to Symphony or they swing between the ships on alternate contracts or they will work consecutive contracts on one ship and swing to the other to work multiple contracts. There are lots of positives to those who swing as they can bring best practices from one ship to the other and also help to provide one consistent product across multiple ships. Some crew came over to Symphony not only from Serenity but also from Esprit and/or the River Cruises while some have gone from Ocean Vessels over to these vessels. The crew clearly worked as one cohesive team and was positive, guest focused, and provided a very high level of professionalism at all levels. Unlike some lines we have sailed where the service is good but can be very stiff and almost robot like, the crew on Symphony is warm and attentive making one feel like they are part of the Crystal Family. We felt so welcomed on the ship and I can’t say enough about the crew at all levels. They are truly amazing. THE SHIP: If you didn’t know the age of Crystal Symphony, you might think it is much younger in age than it is. The public rooms are beautiful. We like the changes that were made in the most recent dry dock and do not believe that the photos show the beauty of some of these changes. Because it is somewhat smaller (one less deck) we find it easier to get from place to place on the Symphony. There are also some rooms in particular that we like and that includes Avenue Saloon, Crystal Cove and Plaza, Starlite and Palm Court. CUISINE AND NEW DINING VENUES: We loved the change to open dining and believe the transformation has been a huge success. We appreciate five dining venue choices for evening dinner. Waterside reflects the change in terms of the taste of the cuisine and the service and is less noisy than in the past. We found the food to be moist and to arrive to the table hot. For those wanting to sit with others there more large tables will be arriving soon but in the meantime they are being creative to accommodate requests for larger tables. Those little touches are still there even though the Crystal Dining Room has transitioned to Waterside. This includes being escorted to the table, being seated by someone and the senior waiter serving you rolls/bread from a bread basket. The one change is that Head Waiters no longer prepare desserts or other items as they had to remove their stations to create more space for tables. This transition began a couple of years ago so that Head Waiters devoted more time to assisting guests and I have to say another benefit is not having smells from the cooking of desserts at tables near the former Head Waiter stations. One can still order special meals and they will be prepared in the galley. Market-Place - With each passing year we see improved service at this venue formally named Lido Café for lunch (breakfast would be the same). In our early years sailing Crystal the Lido Deck Stewards would do so much at what was the Lido Café along with those from the Specialty Restaurants. Wait staff from the dining room would mostly be standing around. Since changes were made and Lido Deck Stewards no longer cover the buffet area at lunchtime those from the dining room (now Waterside) provide wonderful service at lunch and at breakfast. They assist with beverages. They clear tables. They offer to carry your plate. They even assist getting other items. In short, they are very visible and provide great service. As in the past, many of the hot entrée items change each day and include some themed buffets. Prego – We enjoyed our visit to Prego. Menu has remained constant and we enjoyed cuisine, service and the ambience of this dining venue. Umi Uma – While the name has changed the cuisine has not and is as delicious as ever. There are some additions to the menu replacing some items. We tried some new additions such as lobster tacos and one of the new salads. All in all this venue continues to be an excellent experience. Head Waiter Jed really is on top of things from seating guests, to visiting and assisting waiters clearing tables. Silk – From what we have read, this venue is achieving mixed reviews but that has been our experience with most new restaurants at sea. We rarely eat this type of cuisine on land although years ago we did. We found the food to be tasty and we appreciated the selection. I realize that others do not care for the food but I am just sharing our opinion. I believe this might be a work in progress. Feedback from the guests was that the original menu was too limited and they wanted more choice. This was addressed with many new items added to the menu. Whether longer terms this stays as an Asian restaurant or changes is anyone’s guess. We found two areas of the venue that can be enhanced which is noted later on in this review under the section opportunities for improvement. Churrascaria - This is one of the two new dining venues offering a buffet in the evening for some items with table side service for other items. There is a cold buffet featuring various antipastas/tapas/salads, a warm buffet of sides and a final buffet of dessert/fruit. Guests go up to the buffet to select their items. Sides are served at the buffet by members of the dining team. Some of these sides are also served at the table. Waiters come to the tables to serve various entrees and the selection includes Steak, Beef Short Ribs, Chicken, Lamb Chops, Pork, Shrimp and sliced Pineapple. We enjoyed the experience and found the food tasty. For those who want a light meal one could eat mainly the salad and vegetables and limit their consumption of the entrée like items. The service was wonderful and the look of this venue in the evening has a different feel than having breakfast or lunch there in the daytime. It truly has the feel of a restaurant. The Head Waiter was terrific not only in greeting each guest and having a waiter escort them to their table but also in making rounds to each table to check up on each guest. Vintage Room – The Vintage Room can be reserved to attend with others who sign up for the experience or as we did as an Exclusive Vintage Room where there is flat fee regardless of the number of people attending up to the maximum capacity of the dining table. We hosted on exclusive Vintage Room. The overall cuisine was the best compared to our other visits to this room on either Symphony or Serenity. The cuisine was tasty and arrived hot to the table with each item arriving with a creative presentation. We enjoyed some memorable wines. Congratulations to the Food & Beverage team on-board Symphony and on land. A special call-out to Restaurant Manager Slavko has truly been one of the people instrumental in the orderly rollout of open dining. We thought that the overall food quality was outstanding on this cruise. Due to the length of this cruise and the number of sea days one day a Grand Gala Lunch Buffet was offered. The use of hand held devices to take orders seems to be going very well. Waiters are adept at using them even when guests request changes to the meal. Like all technology some will be more adept than others using these devices. BAR STAFF: We have always enjoyed the bar staff. When Crystal went inclusive a few years ago some wondered would they be happy? How would they know your name? The staff does look happy and includes new and seasoned people and the majority learn your name as they have done in the past. ENRICHMENT: Sailing Crystal Cruises with lots of sea days such as this voyage shows off one of the Crystal differences, which is their ability to offer 50+ activities during the day and afternoon hours. The biggest challenge is what do to each day. This cruise offered some activities that you might not see on port intensive cruises as well as those you do. There is one area that I believe needs some adjustment that I will discuss later. FITNESS: Kudos to the Fitness Instructors as these two on board were terrific. They both seemed very knowledgeable and had a great rapport with the guests. The Fitness Center is well maintained and makes good use of the space they have to work with. For those who like Yoga this cruise featured a dedicated Yoga instructor. While Symphony has one Paddle Tennis court compared to the two that Serenity has I had a wonderful time playing and on this cruise there was very little down time of not playing. ENTERTAINMENT: This is another area that has evolved the past few years under the direction of Keith Cox, VP of Crystal Entertainment/Enrichment. Keith has been with Crystal Cruises for two years. The entertainment reflects diversity and the number of options has been increased and adjustments have been made to coincide with open dining. There were new performers including a couple of performers new to Crystal Cruises along with seasoned entertainers. Most nights had two different main performances with each one shown two times. The team of Crystal dancers/singers and the band were wonderful as is Cruise Director Paul McFarland. We also loved the new production show that was rolled out on this cruise. Adding a new show is no easy task. Aside from all of the work that goes into its development, the on-board team must learn it in addition to practicing and performing the regular shows. There are other choices including listening to live music at night in different lounges and a nice choice of movies shown in the cinema. Another continued change is having different performers in the Crystal Cove in addition to a pianist. INTERNET/NEW TELEVISIONS: We were fortunate to have a good Internet experience but we do know that performance can vary cruise by cruise. On the most part the internet was up and the speeds were good to excellent. We had a couple of days when speeds were low such as at one or two ports in Hawaii. Fortunately I could use my AT&T service and utilize on my computer using the connection to it from my iPhone. The new televisions are great. The quality is terrific and the remote controls are easy to use. It is nice that 60 movies are offered on-demand. There are some items on the TV not available yet. I made more use of Press Reader on this cruise than in the past such as looking at the restaurant menus and posting them on the blog. We made good use of the internet to complete Wi-Fi calls to one another on the ship and to be able to communicate back home. Press Reader worked well to pull up daily menus and reflections. The ability to see our ship board account was not available. Hopefully, this will be available in the future but in the meantime we went by the reception desk to get a copy of our shipboard account from time-to-time. NEW SEABREEZE SUITES; We tried out the new Penthouse Suite (PS) and loved it. On the first day it seemed boxy and there appeared to be limited storage space. Within a couple of days we figured out how to optimize the storage and even discovered areas such as the front closet. Loved the more solid divider between bedroom and living area as we could have all lights on in the living area and you would not see light in the bedroom. Loved the bathroom with the separate toilet area and a small sink and the rain shower is wonderful. It has three options for the rain shower and also a separate hand-held device. The shower drain is much improved and water goes down the drain quickly and does not sit in one area if there is a lot of ship movement. Having a washer/dryer combination was amazing and other guests had the same opinion. In addition to the benefit to the guests in these rooms, it takes away some demand from the guest laundry on Deck 9. It was so nice to be able to do the wash at various times of the day and not have to worry that if we were not around when the wash ended that someone would remove it from the washer. This is a unique feature and I hope it continues to be added to future ships and in future dry docks. The lighting in the room is very good. It took a couple of days to get used to all of it and which buttons to push but once we did we were very pleased with it. The pullout draws in the bathroom were also nice as was the additional shelving above the washer/dryer combo. The front closet provided additional space and a good area to hang jackets. Another very nice feature is the pullout refrigerator. One does not have to squat to remove items, and it holds many more items and has some nice features for open bottles of wine. The configuration of the room is nice should someone have a third person in the room. Also wanted to give a shout-out to the wonderful team that took good care of us including the stewardess and her assistant and the butler. All fabulous. SHORE EXCURSIONS AND LAND PROGRAMS: We booked a private excursion with Los Angeles and it was amazing. It was one of the best tours we have taken. RECEPTION/CONCIERGE/CRUISE SALES CONSULTANT/CRYSTAL SOCIETY HOSTESS: We found each person very helpful. We didn't know the reception and concierge personnel prior to the cruise and within a few days most already learned my name and we found them to be knowledgeable and helpful. The Cruise Sales Consultant turned around our on board booking requests in less than 24 hours. By the end of the day we had the cruises confirmed and our rooms assigned. In two of the three cases I just filled out the form myself and turned it into the front desk. This was the first time I had done it this way and on the morning of the last day of the cruise I turned in an on board booking request and that was also a first. Crystal Society Hostess was helpful and very pleasant. MEET & MINGLE PARTY: I realize that some wondered why the Meet & Mingle Party was not held earlier in the cruise. The reason for this is that with some people registered for the party but not boarding until Hawaii the Bar Manager waited until after the boarded to hold the party and I think that was a nice approach by the Bar Manager. While we didn’t make it to the first portion of the party we did get there around the mid-point and we were happy that several people were still there when we arrived. SOME AREAS TO ENHANCE: In any business there are areas to improve and that is no different here. The good news is this represents a few areas. THE LECTURERS: A great group of lecturers were on-board. The topics were diverse. This voyage had a combination of lectures whom we have sailed with before and lecturers we saw for the first time. For those lecturers who lecture frequently for Crystal Cruises, I think it is important that they create new lectures and not give the same ones year after year. I have seen some lecturers over the years that figured this out. They create new areas to talk about and even if they repeat a topic, they update it to make it more current. I have been on some cruises where with changing news that someone speaking about world events creates a new lecture on board the ship. On this cruise a few of the lecturers presented the same material that they have presented for years. They are good at what they do but I do think they need to change this up. I noted this in the quality assurance survey. NEW SILK RESTAURANT: If it is possible to optimize the spacing between the two person tables closest to the windows, I believe that would enhance the overall dining experience. I believe the potential is there for this. I would also give diners a choice as to whether they want to be at or near the windows where many were seated or would they prefer a quieter location even if it is not near a window. Most tables near the window were filled as the dinner progressed with almost no one sitting in the middle. Had we known this we would have taken a middle or more remote table. ON –DEMAND MOVIES: We appreciate the on-demand movies and the ease of watching them. While a choice of sixty movies is nice, I could see over long cruises such as a World Cruise or back-to-back cruises that some guests would be appreciative of additional choice. If it is possible to expand the number of movies available and also change them from time to time, I believe this would add to the enjoyment of the movies by fellow guests. FINAL THOUGHTS: The Crystal product has evolved since our first sailing in 2002. Like other cruise lines there have been some changes “cutbacks” and some changes that did not please some. At the same time we have seen many product changes we view as enhancements that were implemented to match what other luxury cruise lines were offering and/or to exceed and differentiate from what others offer. I remember the day when you paid for bottled water and sodas, which I believe changed on our second Crystal Cruises voyage. Over the course of the past few years we have witnessed several additional changes which we appreciate including: Inclusive wine and spirits, which I believe, makes the ship more social with lounges busier in the evening hours and more people coming out for the evening entertainment. Inclusive gratuities for waiters, senior waiters, stewardesses and butlers. Additional dining venues providing lots of choice and the implementation of open dining to Symphony and to Serenity in the upcoming dry-dock. Enhanced waiter service at Waterside (Lido Café on Serenity) which I discussed in the review. Lots more choices for evening entertainment including on several evenings two performances each of two different shows. Some new production shows and some reflecting solo artists and also shortening the length of shows. Enhancements to each Vessel. Symphony has undergone that greatest transformation to the public space. Complimentary internet , interactive TV, on line menus/reflections, etc. Reduced guest count capacity. While a major goal was to accommodate the rollout of open dining, this enhances space to guest ratio and crew to guest ratio on sold out voyages. At the same time Crystal has maintained its core values/strengths, which differentiate itself from some or all of its competitors depending on the item. Areas that come to mind include: Quantity and diversity of enrichment and entertainment. The retention of personnel. A high level of luxury service by the crew while making guests feel welcome and part of the Crystal Family. I believe that applies to new members of the crew who are welcomed by other crewmembers and who quickly learn the importance of making the guests feel like individuals and not just a number. In the end no two cruises are the same and no two experiences are precisely the same. For us this has been an amazing cruise and we look forward to our next one. We had such a wonderful time that we added some cruises while on board with the Cruise Sales Consultant. As I say often the only opinion that matters is our very own and this one reflects the opinion of myself and my wife. I also believe in the end each person should figure out which cruise line(s) work best for them. Keith Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2018
I choose Crystal over the years for the magnificent service and standards. I know the company for the last 10 years, I have sailed onboard Serenity and Symphony few times. I feel the crew members are lacking motivation and training, ... Read More
I choose Crystal over the years for the magnificent service and standards. I know the company for the last 10 years, I have sailed onboard Serenity and Symphony few times. I feel the crew members are lacking motivation and training, their can do spirit from the past is gone, food is fantastic but isn't enough for a premium line, I'm frankly disappointed with the onboard experience and lack of identity crystal have these days.. The upside is that itineraries are very good, casino is very good also but overall I did not leave the ship satisfied this time. I contacted corporate to make some comments and I'm still waiting for a reply (not good). At this time I don't think I will go again, it is time to try the competitors, I have cruised with seabourn once and I think I will try again when the time is right, if not silversea could be a good option. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2018
This new vessel for Crystal was completely refitted in 2015 and christened in December 2015 after it’s previous life as a private yacht for the Chairman of the parent company of Crystal. This is a big departure from the two older ... Read More
This new vessel for Crystal was completely refitted in 2015 and christened in December 2015 after it’s previous life as a private yacht for the Chairman of the parent company of Crystal. This is a big departure from the two older Ocean ships the Serenity and the Symphony that I have sailed five times and loved. This beautiful yacht has 31 cabins (including one Owners Suite which is 515 square feet). Most of the suites (S1,2 and 3) are 280 SF which is huge for a yacht (and larger than the non-suite cabins on the Crystal ocean ships and much larger then the 195 SF cabins on the competitor Sea Dream Yacht Club. They are all ocean view (this is a yacht after all). The cabins are decorated in muted greys and taupe with a relaxed feel. They all have King beds with great bedding and all the modern touches travelers today demand with plenty of outlets, USB ports and a great iPad by the bed to set alarms, wake up calls, see the daily schedule and more! There is so much storage we couldn’t fill it all and we are not light packers. There is a full length closet with the famous 2 sets of Crystal robes (the heavy terry I don’t like and the lovely kimono style). There is a another closet with short hanging and more drawers. The bathroom is amazing with a huge shower, tons of storage, double sinks, large mirror and a TV embedded in the mirror. There are large size luxury Italian Etro amenities. A stocked mini-bar is included and there is a Nespresso machine. Because we arrived on Easter Sunday, we had a table full of beautiful Easter chocolates and our darling (two) stewards greeted us with bunny ears! There are also great features like the lighting system with a switch for floor lighting for night bathroom visits and a choice of lighting from bright to relaxing! The owners suite also has a Japanese toilet with heated seat and more and a beautiful bathtub. The yacht holds only 62 passengers (or up to 65 max if there are 3 third berth passengers. On our sailing we had only 43 (with one very well behaved 12 year old girl). Our crew was 89 and pampering and extra special service is an understatement. I’ve sailed many luxury lines and stayed in luxury properties but the service level on the Crystal Esprit was exceptional. Part of that was the staff to guest ratio and part was the hand picked crew who seemed to truly love being part of the Esprit experience and went above and beyond. There are multiple dining spots onboard from the Yacht Club restaurant with award winning chef Adam Jenskins to 24 hour room service which we never tried. (actually that is not true as the night they were having caviar in the Cove before dinner we knew we wouldn’t make it in time, and expressed our “dismay” to our butler in the all – he brought us our own caviar set up and popped our champagne for us). The Patio Café for lunch and breakfast is lovely (and delicious) and the Grill on deck 5 for outdoor dining is great with a small but fun selection from Kobe burgers to Frito Misto that we had several times. The Pantry on Deck 2 is a great self-service bistro with light snacks, bakery goods and little jars that change daily with fun salads, hummus and more (plus an easy 24 hour specialty coffee machine). This is truly an all-inclusive experience with all gourmet meals, beverages (a great wine list included), butler service and choice of several excursions in each port from easy to strenuous. Also included are the water sports like kayaks, paddle boards, jet skis and the fun speed boat. We weren’t sure what the demographics might be on this yacht as it is a departure from the Crystal ocean ships and more luxury than the competitor SeaDream Yacht Club. We really had a great group of guests ranging from the late 30s to the 70s and all well-traveled, interesting and friendly. We sailed in the West Indies round trip Marigot. St. Martin was very badly hit by the 2017 hurricane so the port and the island has really suffered. But all of our port stops were great (Moskito Island, Saba, St. Barts, Antigua, St. Kitts and Nevis. There are several choices of complimentary excursions in most port from relaxing to strenuous hikes. My husband wasn’t able to do any of the strenuous ones but I heard great things about them. The first port is an beach BBQ on Moskito island (one of Richard Branson’s private islands) and a great way to start the cruise. Was it as fun as my time on SeaDream Yacht Club with a girlfriend? Maybe not. Was it more luxurious ….for sure! Were there lots of special touches that made it so special. YES! As me about them. Would I do it again or recommend to clients – absolutely! Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2018
The reason for our choice was that we had previously cruised on Symphony and had a very enjoyable time. This time there were several cutbacks that were very obvious such as no longer any fruit in the cabin, bare minimum of drinks there ... Read More
The reason for our choice was that we had previously cruised on Symphony and had a very enjoyable time. This time there were several cutbacks that were very obvious such as no longer any fruit in the cabin, bare minimum of drinks there too and food quality mediocre. Entertainment problems with changes due to missed transport and under the wheather entertainers added to the general level of dissapointment. The provision of a look-ahead planner for activities which we found very useful on previous voyages was not provided. On the plus side serving and cabin staff were very attentive and extremely hard working and pleasant. The lectures were excellent and the three speakers we had on our segment were the highlight of our cruise. The finale to our overall disappointment however was an accounting problem that the ship customer relations staff were not immediately familiar with. On previous trips our contract with our agent had always included air to ship transfer and this was the reason why we have always had the travel arrangements included with the booking. After some protracted discussion with the ships customer service however we were finally advised that this facility had been been changed and that air to ship transfer was no longer provided within the booking. Had we known this we would have arranged more convenient travel arrangements ourselves. This alteration had obviously to us been made without our agent's knowledge as the ship's office only advised us at the last minute of the ongoing dispute. We therefore had no say in the matter and the money was deducted without further discussion. Read Less
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