We selected this cruise to try out both the ship and Crystal. If this is representative of what to expect, my advice is to look elsewhere for an exceptional cruise experience. There were some positives and a lot of negatives. Here we go:
Embarkation: A nightmare from the start. It was delayed until 6:00 pm due to port congestion and the fact that the ship was coming out of a short drydock. Hospitality facilities were to be set up to accommodate passengers prior to boarding, but Crystal said these were only for passengers that were taking their airport transfers. Our TA was told point blank that independent passengers (we arrived the night before as is our custom) could drop bags and were on our own until boarding. Nice to know that we were not really considered passengers until we set foot on-board ship. When we arrived close to noon to drop our bags, we were informed of the hospitality arrangements across the street at the Fairmont. The Crystal rep said boarding might start as early as 4:00-4:30, so plan to come back by then. We were happy about the arrangements and possible speed up of boarding, but it would have been nice to know of the changes to the stated status of independent passengers. We got to the hotel and it seemed that there was a very large contingent of Crystal ground personnel. They had food, drinks, complimentary 3.5 hour city tours arranged, and were placing you in groups to walk over to the ship to board. Then it was hurry up and wait. We saw the Crystal personnel talking quietly among themselves, but almost no information was passed along to the passengers. Finally a Crystal spokesperson showed up (about 4:30 to 5:00) and said they expected boarding to commence about 6:00. They were still waiting for the ship occupying our pier to exit. The Serenity was anchored out in the harbor. Once the groups were called, then it was a parade across the street into Canada Place, through security and on-board to register. If you knew this was going to be a mess, why not set up registration at the Fairmont. We did that very thing some years ago for a Princess cruise and it made things smooth as silk. Little did we know that the miscommunication and confusion to start the cruise would dog it for the duration. By the way, the initial keycards did not work and it took two trips to the front desk to get a set that did function. Not a good start.
Cabin: Very nice and well designed. Plenty of storage, a very well laid-out bathroom, and nice balcony. The bed was a little soft for our taste, but that is a nitpick.
Dining: MDR - pretty good, but hit and miss. Portions of one T-bone steak was as tough as leather. Prime meat - absolutely not. Filets the last night were excellent. Fish was good to very good. Breads and many desserts seemed to lack much flavor. No matter the venue baking throughout the ship was only so-so. Silk Road and Prego were consistently excellent in food quality and prep. The Lido buffet was good to very good, but the hours were a real pain in the neck. For lunch, the MDR and Lido were open only 1.5 hours (12:00 noon - 1:30 pm). In Astoria, they changed this to 11:30 am - 1:00 pm. If you had a tour or got off the ship, it was almost certain you would miss a real lunch. The alternatives were not an acceptable substitute. At the Trident Grill, the cook lied to my girlfriend's face about having chicken breast for a chicken sandwich, he said he only had ground meat and then proceeded to start cooking chicken breast for a guest almost directly behind her. Had I been there when it happened, there would have been an ugly scene. NOT ACCEPTABLE on any cruise line, and certainly not one who prides itself on being at the top of the industry.
Service: Very hit and miss. With one exception, the service in the MDR (and other non-buffet venues) was aloof to almost rude. This attitude was echoed by at least one front of house manager. Totally unacceptable. Service in Silk Road and Prego was 180 degrees opposite. It was relaxed, friendly helpful, professional, and efficient. How is this possible on the same ship? Training and attitude from management have to be the answer. Otherwise, Crystal is hiring the wrong people. Maybe both.
Bars: Again, a mixed bag. An excellent drink followed by one (the same drink) that is unrecognizable and undrinkable. Something as simple as a Lina Colada should be a no-brainer, but that is what we found.
Service: Housekeeping service was efficient and excellent. Service (other than in the dining venues described above) was never exceptional and often seemed almost perfunctory. Not what we would have expected.
Entertainment: The one production show we saw (Across the Pond) was amateurish. The Galaxy Lounge is small and OK, but there are some obstructed sight lines. Dancing is restricted by the small stage, but that might have been a blessing. Production shows are not really suited for this size ship and I think people are really tired of them. The magician from the Magic Castle was fantastic. Staged for very small groups of 20-30 people, it these were up-close sleight-of-hand illusions that amazed the audience. Crystal still managed to mess this performance up by being unable to get the spotlight working. The magician was left to perform in reduced light that lessened the impact of his performance somewhat. Just another example of Crystal lowering their marks at every opportunity.
Customer service: There was no acknowledgement of the problems with the embarkation and delivery of a sub-par experience until there were only 2 days left in the cruise. After we sailed from Seattle, we got a notice that they were giving us a $100.00 pp shipboard credit. What were we expected to do with it now with only a stop in Astoria' OR and a sea day left? This should have been offered the day after embarkation, but I think they waited to see how bad the passenger reaction was. Too little to late. A simple gesture (a small box of candy or a bottle of wine or ??) waiting in the cabin (when we finally boarded) with a note apologizing for the rocky start and a commitment to make this the cruise we had ever taken would have gone a long way to starting things off as well as possible. Be pro-active, not reactive. The Captain's reception was not even held until half-way through the cruise. They made special mention that the officers would not shake hands to prevent the possible spread of disease. I am sure there are measures that could have been taken, but the tone was just wrong so we returned this lukewarm gesture by skipping the reception (a first for us). There was almost no presence of officers to be seen during the cruise (also a first). The only officer I saw was the Hotel Manager. Another gaff.
Lots more I could add, but I think you have enough of my opinions to know I will never take another Crystal cruise.
Disembarkation: Excellent. On-time and efficient. We were definitely ready to get off the Serenity.
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