While the Crystal Symphony is perfectly nice and the service outstanding, the overall experience left many of us who were not travelling as a couple or with a group feeling bored and left out. Mixers and other informal get-togethers were not organized; there was little to do other than sit in a lounge and drink/listen to music or on deck and read. Other than the one day at sea, the lack of programming options and communication designed to bring people together was a great disappointment. Yes, there were classes, but unless you wanted to focus on iPad skills or dancing, not much else. The lecturer offered little in the way of insights not widely available in basic media, and he misrepresented himself by claiming a non-partisan outlook.
The excursion staff, the few hours that they were available at the desk, were misinformed about several aspects of the (costly) excursions; for example, in Saguenay, the zodiac tour did NOT include the likelihood of finding beluga whales, or even seeing much in the way of fjords, and they did NOT provide any kind of protective outerwear as the excursion staff indicated. The talented musicians were mostly limited to nightly show presentations; most other cruise lines employ them elsewhere to entertain in different formats at other parts of the ship at different times of the day. Staterooms are TINY, even compared to other less high-end cruise lines. While smoking was restricted, it was allowed in the worst possible place: in the bar right at the only central place to congregate in the main lobby outside the dining room. Many of these issues would be very simple to overcome, if Crystal wants to earn a continued reputation as a leader in this industry rather than complacent reliance on past perceptions.
The port in Halifax was a change from a planned stop in Lunenburg, which was not communicated until we were already underway. Lunenburg is a UNESCO world heritage highlight; many tour companies offer day trips FROM Halifax to Lunenburg, so we were disappointed in this change. Furthermore, we had arrangements made in Lunenburg and no easy way to investigate options in Halifax from onboard, other than the costly cruise excursions. Crystal made no accommodations for free internet use to investigate alternatives. We did disembark, took a taxi to the Titanic museum, walked along the boardwalk and saw the marketplace, but it was not noteworthy.
While we didn't go on a cruise tour, we used Roys Tours http://www.roystours.webs.com/, and would not recommend it. Roy's banter failed to emphasize the noteworthy aspects of the town and surrounding areas, and he opined about political issues inappropriately, displaying an unsavory racist intolerance. We didn't really see the Bay of Funday tides because of the timing of our trip in connection with high/low tides, and basically didn't hit many of the highlights shown in his website description. Difficult to get in and out of the van on mediocre stops we did make, mostly at places where he clearly wanted us to buy thing so he could get a kickback. If there was much to see in St. John's, we certainly didn't see it. Very disappointing.
Bar Harbor is a delightful town and the gateway to the sensational Acadia National Park. There is a free bus system that departs from the town green near the visitor information center; it includes an assortment of loops going through the park and permits "on-and-off" privileges to allow for more extended viewing, hikes, a visit to Jordan Pond and tea at the lodge, etc.