I read a lot of member reviews in CruiseCritic to the extent that I think I can write my review even before the cruise started. Luckily, I can restrain myself and of course this review is written AFTER the cruise. Ha ha ha ....
First, the background. Both DW and myself are around our early 60 yo, from Indonesia, speaking very little English, vegetarian, no alcohol, no smoking.
This is our first major cruise (a few local cruises of 2 or 3 nights are nothing, I suppose), and we did enjoy every moment of it. What I've read about Crystal Cruises proved to be true. The staff are (mostly) friendly and (all) courteous. A select few crews are extra special in winning our hearts.
Embarkation : We pre-order a taxi via internet so the transfer from Istanbul airport to the port is easy. The boys took over our baggages, and I'm so confident those be will delivered to our cabin promptly we even gave them our carryon as well (of course I keep the important ones with me). It was already 2pm by the time we arrived so there was no line at all at the security check. Checking in was done in less than a minute (thanks, PCPC). The welcome onboard picture takes longer time than the check in, hahaha.... The Trident Grill served us veggie burger, and then the cabin was ready, with all our luggages inside. We started unpacking, and within 5 minutes Sheetal our stewardess knocked on the door. After a brief exchange of greetings I gave her my note (pre-printed, thanks CCers) of things we like to have in our fridge. She hesitated about cans of V-8 but said she would try (and she did find us enough cans for the length of the cruise!).
Cabin : Clean and beautiful. Enough storage space. Of course I deliberately leave the closet all for DW, except for my three dress shirts and two suits. All my other things go into the drawers in the seating area. The extra hangers we brought proved to be unnecessary excess. Once emptied, we put our carryon inside our luggages, and everything disappear under the bed. Magic! So this is going to be our home for 12 nights ... not bad, eh? I only find the tiny sofa uneasy to sit on (and I am Asian size!). Perhaps they can make it little bit more "normal" size (hopeful mode "on").
Balcony : We enjoy using this space very much. Some times it is too windy, but Crystal so thoughtfully provided the mohair blankets which very pleasantly helped us to stay warm. Once we left a plate of cakes for a few minutes on the balcony and suddenly a seagull already perched on the railing! We shooh the bird away and flew he did but only after posing for my camera...
Dining : Well, all vegetarians should not go hungry onboard Symphony. Plenty of choice, and choice, and choice! We took Perfect Dining by Reservation, and very happy as most of the time they sat us by the window, table for two. One evening my wife is not feeling so well we have to order room service from the CDR menu, and it is delivered promptly. We also enjoy one breakfast on the balcony as on that day we have an early excursion. We don't want to have more room service than necessary as we feel pity for Sheetal , who has to carry so heavy dishes to the room.
Specialty restaurant: I highlight this item in separate heading as what I write might be controversial. Contrary to those wonderful reviews, we find there is nothing so 'special' about Nobu's Silk Road. It is even less than what we used to have in our country, or in Japan. Initially I thought our view may be biased as we are vegetarians, but I met some fellow passengers from Malaysia, and they also think that for those who are used to taking Japanese food in Asia, the food in Silk Road is under the expectation. However, we must admit that the mushroom soup and mushroom salad are nice (but not great!). On another night we tried our luck and sit at the Sushi Bar. They can't even serve simple "inari" which we can find on some days during buffet at Lido Cafe. There is less vegetarian option in the Sushi Bar, which we understood, but whatever vegetarian selection on offer is lacking "creativity". While one of the Japanese chef at the bar is quite friendly, one of the other chef looked as if he is disturbed by our being there. Prego is ok but again not great. I found the non-alcoholic wine they served there tastes "funny", unlike the ones I have at the CDR, which is nice.
Drinks : We enjoy the non-alcoholic version of everything possible : NA beer, NA wine, NA cocktail... hmmm...
Mozart tea : Hmm... Again, it is pathetic to see the crew in worn costumes. Crystal should have prepared better. Don't get me wrong. Mozart is my favorite composer, and I really enjoy the string quartet. It would of course be very fitting if the crew dress in the period costumes as well, but unfortunately I found their costumes have shown wear and tear. Please, please, please buy new costumes, please.
Entertainment: With all due respect to the Crystal Singers and Dancers, who have entertained the guests with their wonderful talents, I must say that listening to "Evita" three times (albeit in three different versions) in a week is just too much. Somebody has to coordinate the repertoire, I think. Michel Bel deserves the standiong ovation. Naki Attaman is great with "Around the world" but in my humble opinion, the credit of that night should go to David Price with his superb percussion. And the winner of the best show in all goes to... the Sorrento Musical!
Spa and fitness : I enjoy having sauna and steam in the spa, and more often than not take my shower there rather than in our cabin bathroom.
Shore excursion : On our own. Crystal provided free shuttle so very easy to find our way around. We did participate in Crystla sponsored We Care You Care program in Athens, helping the Sea-Turtle Rehabilitation Project, and we did enjoy it very much.
Best of the best : Hot chocolate at the Bistro, and the energetic smile of the Lido crews.
Special thanks goes to Scott the CD and his team. In a short notice they enable us to have a Vesak Day celebration with our fellow Buddhists on board.
Disembarkation : Smooth and easy. We disembark at our own timing as we stayed for two more nights in Barcelona.
Well, funny that at first I thought I can easily write a cruise review. Now I must admit that writing a cruise review is not as easy as it seems. It takes me more than one month to finish this! :-)
Near the forward elevator but very quite. Strategic location, easy to go anywhere. The laundry room is nearby. Promenade just one stairs below. Nice and compact balcony.