We had not sailed with Crystal since the Fall of 2013, and were a little leery about the sale of Crystal to a Chinese company. Since our first cruise on the Symphony in 2004, we loved both the Symphony and the Serenity - for service, food, and for the way we were always made to feel taken care of and "special". We tried two other lines, Oceania and Silverseas, because we wanted to be CERTAIN Crystal was "our" cruise line.
Well, thankfully, we had worried about the ownership change needlessly. Within 24 hours of embarking on our 18-day Buenos-Aires-Valparaiso cruise (with Antarctica as the highlight), both my husband and I and the couple we travel with all agreed - Crystal is absolutely the BEST, and we have no desire to travel with any other company. In no way did Oceania or Silverseas meet the very high standard set by Crystal - especially regarding the food and service, and wonderful concern they have for their passengers' every need and for their safety and well being.
The first night, we were delighted to return to the concept of assigned seating and a set dinner hour FOR THOSE WHO CHOSE - in the main dining room. (For those who find this all too formal, open seating is available in another part of the dining room). We were all smiles as the marvelous maitre d' Mario and the usual cadre of elegantly-clad waitstaff greeted and then escorted us to our window table for two - our dining "home" for 18 days. The room, as always, was festive and elegant, with tables set with the usual gleaming silver and crystal, and beautiful porcelain dinnerware. We were thrilled when we were introduced to the lovely men who would be our senior and assistant waiters for the entire trip, Juan and Ferenc. What's wrong with having waitstaff who understand your culinary preferences and eccentricities, who are knowledgeable about the fare of the day, and are there to make sure every meal, every course, is prepared and served to your liking? The food itself was marvelous, from the first meal to the last. And because we also prefer being served for breakfast and lunch instead of eating buffet-style, we returned for almost every meal every day. Head waiter Vlada did his customary great job with special requests - including classic Caesar salad prepared tableside (when was the last time YOU experienced that treat!?!), Kosher chicken, cherries Jubilee, Schnitzel Holstein, etc. etc.