My mom and I opted to the Three Continent Cruise on the Crystal because of the ports visited for my mom’s birthday. We were overall pleased with the cruise and I don’t regret the extra expenditure for the Grand Suite. With that said, there were some really great features and some areas that you should be aware may fall short of some people’s expectations.
Embarkation notice for suite guests: We got to the cruise terminal early and I am glad we did. Suite guests are offered priority check-in but when the boarding line opened, there was no separate line and poor sign directions for suite guests. Guests began queuing up well in advance of official boarding time and the general boarding check-in line quickly encompassed the entire entryway to the terminal, so it was impossible for suite guests to know that there is actually a separate desk (across the room from the general check-in). In fact, I asked a cruise ship security/line attendant for where suite guests should check-in and he told me to go to the back of the general boarding line. If this is supposed to be a benefit of paying extra for suites, Celestial needs set up a separate line. Once we got to the right place, check-in was quick and did not have to go through the general queue.
Cruise ship positives: The dining room food was always good and well presented (suite guests receive free room service from the dining room menu and we used it a couple times and were always pleased with the quality). The on-board activities were hit or miss but the evening entertainment was good and I would rate it as just as good as evening shows on some larger mega cruise ships. The cruise director, Danny, was fantastic and entertaining. While it is a smaller ship, it offers almost all of the same key amenities as larger ships. Being a smaller ship, we never had to wait to be seated and there was always plenty of room in dining and lounge areas. The ship, while older, is also immaculately cleaned. The disembarking process (for both excursions and final disembark) was smooth and well organized. There was only one instance when lines became congested and unruly (the first port of call).
Negatives: The buffet was mediocre and you could count on basically having the same choices every day. Aside from a lack of diverse food choices, I was also dismayed to find there were virtually no traditional Mediterranean choices. I heard from many of my Greek friends before taking the cruise that I would love the food (I do), but was disappointed that a Greek cruise line cruising the Mediterranean offered basic choices like rice, pasta, potatoes, spaghetti and similar foods but only once that I noticed did they offer a regional cuisine (dolmades).
Suite benefits: If you can afford it, this is one time a suite may be actually worth the upgrade cost (although a lot of time is spent in port on this cruise so that may be a countering argument for some). Suite guests receive complimentary room service (all meals) and we also received a welcome basket of fruit and wine and every morning fresh cut fruit and bottled water was delivered, every afternoon canapes were delivered, and every evening cookies/treats were delivered. We had a Grand Suite room and the view and larger deck facing the front of the ship (right below the bridge) was an excellent vantage point. We had two gentlemen who were concierges and two gentlemen who were housekeeping for our room, and all of them went above and beyond to provide us with absolutely outstanding service.
Excursions: One of the best features of the Celestial’s cruises are the free included excursions in some of the ports with options to purchase alternatives. We took excursions in all of the ports and the contract companies in each were all top of the line. The buses used were comfortable and the guides were knowledgeable. The excursion in Egypt was fascinating but we were late getting into port and the tour company had to cut back time at various locations. There was very little time for shopping, except and one shop “approved by the cruise line”. Beware at the pyramids there are numerous of people trying to aggressively sell merchandise and it was also sad as an animal lover to see so many malnourished stray dogs throughout Egypt. In Israel, we paid for the Jerusalem/Bethlehem excursion and got to see most all of the advertised spots except going down into the grotto at the Church of Nativity due to long lines as that excursion also got started late due to the ship docking late, which also caused the tour company to cut back on tour locations and rushed us past shopping. We were only able to stop at one “cruise line approved” store, which was terribly over-priced. A couple of the other excursions started late as well but were generally shorter days so they didn’t seem as rushed. I’m not entirely sure why so many of the port days got us in late or off the boat late, resulting in the tour companies to have to condense the tour, but it was the first visit by the Crystal on this route (3 Continent Cruise) so it may have been just working through new logistics but hopefully they get it worked out so future cruisers don’t have their tours cut short.
Exhibits in the museum is in the process of being moved to a new museum and most of the exhibits are covered, gone, or you pay extra (mummies). They also charge extra if you bring in a camera (but pictures on phones are ok, go figure). Not worth the visit in my opinion.View All 2 Egyptian Museum Reviews
We stopped at three locations (two stops at pyramids and one at sphinx). Views were great but beware of people trying to aggressively sell you things. Also, there are a lot of stray animals (especially dogs at the pyramids) in Egypt so it may be upsetting for people sensitive to seeing starving animals.View All 20 Pyramids Reviews
Tour was the optional Jerusalem/Bethlehem tour. It covered all of the significant sites and was very informative but very rushed due to late arrival by ship and members of our group not keeping up. If it was more on schedule, it may not have been so rushed but I wish we had more time to see everything we were supposed to see according to the tour description.View All 12 Bethlehem Walking Tour Reviews
Tour visited the Lindos Acropolis and Grand Master Palace. Be advised that the acropolis is a steep walk up with irregular steps and may be a challenge for some. Many of our group opted to stay in the little shopping village at the bottom of the acropolis and just meet the bus at a designated time.View All 51 Lindos Walking Tour Reviews