Seven days, Vancouver to Seward, AK, August 2019.This was our third cruise on Crystal (Harmony was first and Serenity was second). Compared to our one cruise on Holland America Prinsendam (no longer in service) and another on the Viking Sea last winter: Crystal is tops -- far ahead of Viking and clearly ahead of Holland America, too.
Our fellow travelers included people of all ages (though obviously the average age would be higher than the general population) There were apparently a number of family groups travelling together, including children. All of the children we encountered were exceptionally well behaved (as were all of the adults, with only a couple minor exceptions). By the way, my wife and I are "seniors" in our so-called Golden Years (ha!).
Service was excellent. Needs anticipated and met. In the past, service on Crystal service has been a little pretentious on occasion. Not this time. Pleasant, low key, but on top of the game. We had butler for our Seabreeze Penthouse cabin, who seemed very nice but we never really took advantage of what she might have done for us. We're just not butler-kind-of-people. The computer room staff was an excellent help in getting our devices hooked up with the ship's WiFi.
We tried all of the dining venues (excepting the private party Vintage Room) and enjoyed them all. We had a number of lunches in the Marketplace (formerly Lido Cafe), but found breakfast there chaotic the first morning and after that we had breakfast in the main dining room (Waterside), or via room service. We tried Silk, Churrascaria,Umi Uma, and Prego each one time. All met our high expectations, as did Waterside. The only slight issue was that in Churrascaria the servers were slow with the meat offerings, and Waterside was real slow on breakfast one morning -- not sure why. The only poor meal I had was a steak one evening in Waterside, but I fault myself for that because I broke my own rule, which is: "Never order steak on a cruise ship." Overall dining was excellent -- no one's perfect.
Our cabin was a Seabreeze Penthouse with Veranda (SH), No. 9035. No complaints, but did take us a while to get the hang of the lighting system, and our butler had to show us how to open the reading lights over our bed. Excellent lighting in all spaces, including the bathroom. The size of the room was good and it was well laid out. All in, the best cruise ship cabin we've ever had.
We went to all the shows and entertainment. The variety was good. The house band and song and dance team did a variety of shows (only one of which was a little campy). Beyond that, there were a couple of good comedians, and some other featured performers. Same with the "enrichment" lectures -- Jay Wolff (a regular on Crystal) is a good story teller, and journalist Ken Walsh was very interesting and informative on presidential matters. I've forgotten his name, but the evening entertainer in the Avenue Saloon was great. The Avenue Saloon is a favorite place for us. The only downside is that you have to walk past the smelly cigar smoking room to get to it. For a reason or reasons beyond comprehension, they keep the door to the cigar room wide open into the hall.
We only went on two shore excursions sponsored by the ship, one was to a bear viewing boardwalk outside Ketchikan, where we were lucky to hit the jackpot and could watch black bears feasting (or attempting to) on salmon (Humpies, a/k/a Pinks) coming up the creek to span. That's only going to happen for a short period of time each year. This tour also included a visit to a raptor rehabilitation center, an old saw mill and, naturally, a gift shop. The latter three things weren't of any value, but watching the bears was great. We have black bears roaming around one of our homes in the lower 48, but had never seen them in the salmon catching environment.
In Skagway we rode on the Yukon & White Pass RR, which I'd recommend to anyone. Our weather wasn't great, but in southeast Alaska you take your chances on that.
In Juneau we went off on our own to have lunch at the Red Dog Saloon, a tourist must do, and then to visit the Alaska Museum, also quite worthwhile. The only downside of Juneau is that to go from the ship into the town you have to pass a large number of typical cruise port shops along the street selling jewelry, watches, etc., etc., with very unpleasant and aggressive staff people standing at the doors trying to drag you in.
The time at Hubbard Glacier was good, too, though calving activity was much weaker than we'd seen at other tidewater glaciers (including likely Hubbard) on a cruise 23 years ago. Again, this is something that's random -- you take your chances.
Now, the really big disappointment. The first day was supposed to be "Cruising the Inside Passage." That did not happen. We were in Pacific the entire day. I asked Capt. Thomas Larsen about this omission at the "Captain's Reception" later and he simply said, "We did take last night." Not satisfactory. My guess, and it can only be that, is that Larsen avoided the Inside Passage route because it would have been too difficult for him to navigate. Oh, well.
Finally, flying out to Vancouver from the east coast USA we missed our connection in Denver (weather related delay). However, United Airlines re-booked us on Air Canada to Vancouver from Denver, and I called Crystal to update them on our new arrival time for the transfer. Crystal's representatives met us at the Vancouver airport and had a car ready to take the two of us to the ship, which we made with 15 minutes to spare. We had some anxious moments, but thanks to United and Crystal we made the cruise.
See general write up above.