The 10 nights Symphony cruise from Caldera to San Diego was our 15th cruise and our first cruise on Crystal. We sailed on Oceania and Azamara and the rest were mainstream lines like Celebrity, Princess Cunard etc. Oceania was our best cruise experience so far and I was curious how it will compare to Crystal.
Embarkation took literally 15 minutes till we were in our cabin. 30 seconds later our cabin attendant knocked and introduced herself. 5 minutes later our luggage arrived. So far so good.
We always book the lowest category cabin since we don’t use it much other than sleep and shower. We were in E2 cabin on deck 8. It is described as fully obstructed view but it is not really fully obstructed. The lifeboat blocks about half of the view, so you can still see the upper part of the view. The cabin is not big but it worked just fine for us. There is a lot of storage, and it’s nice to have a bathtub shower combo. It is also very nice to have a free self laundry.
One odd thing about the cabin is that they still have those old thermostats. Not sure why they don’t replace them with the digital ones. Took as a while to set the temperature to a comfortable level.
The ship is very elegant, and is in an excellent condition considering its age. You could never tell it is 25 years old. For some reason there is no art on the ship. Not sure why. There are about 5-6 dining venues (including 3 specialty restaurants), a lounge for main evening shows, 4-5 other smaller lounges, a movie theater, a very nice library etc.
Service was exceptional across the ship, very efficient and friendly at the same time. Very friendly staff. Our cabin attendant Marina was great. The cabin was always in perfect condition, our favorite drinks and ice always re filled on time.
Evening entertainment and daily activities were excellent. We attended six guest lectures, by Joe Wolff and Louis Rene Beres, all of them were fascinating. Definitely a step up compared to Oceania.
Food was outstanding and comparable to Oceania. The breakfast buffet very good, the dinner in the dining room is excellent, lunch buffet not very consistent. It is probably heaven for Asian food lovers, but for someone like me who doesn’t like Asian food, the selection was a bit limited some days. We had 3 visits to the Brazilian steakhouse and loved it. There is an option to pre order basically anything you want, as long as they have the ingredients, which is very nice.
The Italian specialty restaurant, Prego, was excellent, similar quality to Oceania's Tuscana. Amazing experience, both food and service. Between the mushroom soup, the filet steak and the desert, I still have to decide which dish was the best. They all were so good.
Loved the Bistro for quick snacks. Did not visit the Asian venues since I don't like Asian food, but overall feedback from those venues is excellent.
Internet was very good. Not the best we have experienced on sea, but among the best.
Disembarkation was super quick, took us literally 20 minutes from the moment we left the ship till we arrived to San Diego airport. We paid $12 for the 7 minutes taxi ride (Crystal wanted $42 per person for transfer to the airport - I still have no idea where they are getting those prices and who is willing to pay them).
Some things that we didn't like (or liked less):
1. Shore excursions while well organized overall, I was surprised to see buses almost full on most excursions (around 40 people, sometimes more). If this is typical, this is significantly worse than we experienced on Oceania. Even on Celebrity some excursions had only 20-25 people. Also the excursion staff provided incorrect information on couple occasions.
We tried to cancel one of the excursions 26 hours in advance and got a negative answer. Yes, it was after the deadline (which is 7pm two days before the cruise), but they could be more flexible. Especially considering the fact that this tour is a trolley to old town San Diego, which you can do for $2.5 each direction with public trolley - Crystal cost was $79!! On Oceania, we had no issues to change or cancel excursions even after the deadline.
2. Pool experience has been good overall, no issues to find chairs. But there are very few chairs in shade, and I was surprised to see that Crystal still allows to smoke in the pool area.
3. Lunch buffet closes at 1:30 and Waterside at 1:00. If you come back from excursion after 1:30, the lunch options are fairly limited (Silk if you like Asian food, Trident Grill with some burgers, hot dogs and salads, and Bistro). Of course there is always an options for room service, which works 24/7 and is free. Still not ideal in my opinion, and they could extend it when there are large groups of guests returning from shore excursions around 1-1:30.
4. For some reason, most computer based classes focus on Apple products (iPhone/iPad/Mac). We are Android users, so most classes were useless to us. Which is unfortunate, and I find it odd considering that 70%+ of smart phone users today use Android.
Despite some imperfections, we had a wonderful time, and Crystal is really very special. It exceeded our expectations in most areas, except the shore excursions. The ship combines a small ship experience (excellent service, no lines etc.) with outstanding entertainment and enrichment program. A truly 6 star experience, and definitely a step up compared to Oceania. We loved Crystal and already booked three more cruises on Symphony and Serenity.
Nice cabin, not large, but a lot of storage. Bathroom/shower combo is nice. Thermostats should be replaced to modern digital thermostats.
Nice tour overall, but the group was too big.
Trolley to old town San Diego, which you can do for $2.5 each direction with public trolley - Crystal cost was $79!!View All 36 City Tour Reviews