We hope in writing this review that it may offer some help to potential first time crystal cruisers. It is based solely on our experience and we have split the review into perfect and less than perfect in an effort to produce a balanced report. We would stress “perfect and less than perfect” as opposed to good and bad - the overall experience for us was fantastic.
What was perfect for us
The service – The food – The entertainment – Our fellow guests
No location was ever crowded or so busy it was not possible to find a seat. The staff were fantastic and we were often served with what felt like genuine warmth. There were some real standout servers but not once did we encounter a surly staff member or feel like we were an inconvenience. Given that there is no commission incentive for lounge service staff we considered this quite an achievement. We found the service in the speciality restaurants to be particularly good and worthy of a special mention - which leads us to tips. We believe that when gratuities / tips are automatically added to your account they become a service charge and completely remove the spirit of tipping. In our mind (ok we are British) a tip is an amount of your choosing given directly to an individual who has delivered excellent service. It was therefore refreshing to restore tipping to what we believe it should be and we were able to tip because we genuinely wanted to.
We did not have a single poor dining experience on board, having chosen dining by reservation, we planned our evenings in advance of sailing and secured times of our choosing at each venue. Generally we selected time slots around 30 minutes after the start of a sitting and it worked perfectly for us. We had chosen tables for 2 but found they were generally in close enough proximity to strike up conversation if desired.
Entertainment was excellent and we enjoyed the production shows and guest artists. Some of it was truly world class and whilst some was not what we would choose to see at home we could appreciate it nonetheless. I particularly enjoyed afternoon matinees in the cinema cocooned with my popcorn and about a dozen or so other guests it was like a private showing. I read here on the forums that each traveller finds the right spot for them in the evening and thought at the time that we wouldn’t, but the avenue saloon became our after dinner venue of choice and Marcie (pianist/entertainer) knew our names by the second night. We also liked crystal cove for a pre dinner drink but were not enamoured with palm court.
Our fellow travellers were a real mixed bunch, we ended up spending most time with an Australian couple and a group from our home country. We also met some charming American, Chilean and Singaporean guests and found that generally there was a high level of courtesy throughout the ship with doors held open and go ahead gestures. Of course this was our experience on a single cruise but if it’s indicative of the majority of crystal cruisers that’s impressive. It’s an old saying but there’s always one! and in our case a gentleman in one of the Jacuzzi’s trumpeting to the whole deck just how much he earned each week was the one - but it was quite amusing and added to the entertainment, I’m glad I wasn’t sharing the Jacuzzi with him but I’m still chewing over the figures!!
What was less than perfect for us
The bed – Wine Service – Drinks menu – Our Departure
The bed was probably the biggest let down for us. The gap between the zip link mattresses was very noticeable (speaking as someone who likes to have three quarters of the bed) so much so that we spoke to our room attendant who attempted to make it better but it was no different. After a few days our room attendant said the mattresses were fairly new and she believed they were different heights. Whatever the reason I wouldn’t accept it at my local Marriott and I would have expected a better resolution. I also think a waterproof mattress protector was in use which resulted in waking in a sweat.
Wine & Drinks
We would have liked to have seen a list of the inclusive wines, what we actually got was the sommelier informing us of that evenings wine selection, it was like what would you like for your wonderful dinner and by the way this is what we have chosen for you to drink. We never saw a list of wines (inclusive or otherwise). Similarly with drinks service we didn’t see a drinks list in any of the venues. Although we’re sure they are available on request we think it’s fairly basic and cannot recall needing to request a drinks or wine list in any comparable venue at sea or on shore. We prefer to browse at our leisure and it would have been nice to try something new and to mix and match a few drinks. Perhaps we simply didn’t see them - we were very relaxed and didn’t look too hard. (it took us a while to realise we weren’t being left an empty bud vase each time we ordered drinks!!)
From reading cruise critic we were led to believe that a card would be in the rear of the guest information folder in our room allowing us to select alcoholic drinks for use in the room. We didn’t find such a card and upon asking were told to just call room service. We don’t drink much in the way of spirits but were hoping to have a bottle of champagne in the room. One call to room service and within 20 minutes we had a beautifully presented bottle of champagne.
We were very pressed for time either side of the cruise and were one of the last to board, similarly we needed to disembark a day prior to the end of the cruise and made the necessary arrangements in advance. Our plan was to have a brief look around our final port of call on the morning of arrival, returning to the ship to have lunch a quick shower and disembark at 3pm. We had packed first thing and got back to the ship about 1.30pm. Our cabin attendant informed us that she had been told to prepare the cabin for the next guests and on looking round, the room appeared almost completely prepared. Of course she said it was fine to use the shower etc, but we would not do that as we felt it would be unfair to her.
All of this is our own personal view from our own personal experience, If your reading this review because you’re considering a crystal cruise I hope our experiences help in your decision making, please don’t interpret any of our less than perfects as a negative - neither of us can recall a holiday where we have been immersed in relaxation so completely and so quickly. Prior to departure we had numerous concerns and were a little sceptical that our expectations would be met. Well they were seldom met but almost always exceeded and we feel privileged to have experienced serenity.