Allow me to qualify the following by stating unequivocally that Crystal provides the best service, food and cruising experience one will ever have. After a personally challenging 2011, I was so ready for this cruise, I was packed a week in advance. We left a few days early to explore Lisbon which was worthwhile, but finally Thursday afternoon arrived and we readied for the cruise. Embarkation was as easy as it gets. As we walked up the gangway, we were greeted with flutes of champagne & smiling faces. Our C-category cabin was perfect since we spend minimal time there. I was amazed at the the amount of storage, drawers and shelves, especially in the bathroom. The plan was very well thought out.
The daily REFLECTIONS offered so many events, we were busy from 7:00 am and onward, starting at the gym, breakfast and then a continuum of talks, trivia, lessons and movies. OR you could just relax and watch the beautiful Crystal passengers sachay by. I must comment that the women dressed beautifully. St. John knits, Chico's and other designers were commonplace. Formal nights featured beautiful gowns and all the men looked so handsome in their tuxedos!!!
The food was consistently very good to excellent. The waiters, asst. waiters and wine steward were very attentive & always behaved in a professional manner. I was very disappointed in PREGO. They tried too hard and the Italian food was nothing like I know. Lasagne made with bechamel sauce??? I ordered osso buco & it was so full of carrots & vegetables, I sent it back. Also, our waiter seemed rather rushed. I also heard same from our table companions. People were underwhelmed.
The guest speakers were marvelous and very well versed in their individual subjects. Bill Miller spoke on the history of cruising. His presentations were excellent and to the point. I learned a lot. Bill Boggs dovetailed off his career as a talk show host and spoke about the celebrities he interviewed over the years. He concentrated on Frank Sinatra because Sinatra was his favorite. But my personal favorite was former FBI profiler, Clint Van Zandt. His talks attracted so many people, it was SRO. He was unbelievably interesting,approachable and his wife, Diane, was very sweet. I did not attend any of Dr. Ruth Westheimer's lectures although I heard from others they were also very good.
Our cabin steward, Reema, was average to good. She tended to be a bit forgetful but she seemed overwhelmed. I found I had to ask her for things which automatically would've been provided by a more experienced steward. She was very polite and agreeable to any request. Comparing her to the woman we had on the Harmony, Reema needs more training in the small details perhaps.
The nightly entertainment was good but not exceptional. A featured dancing/singing troupe entertained us with Broadway hits one night, Rodgers & Hammerstein the next and other dance numbers. An Irish flutist and a professional guitar player filled in.
I realize that Crystal is not for everyone, but I can state that this is one of the few cruises in the world where you get what you pay for. From the moment you walk on board, it's all about YOU. I would rather go on one Crystal cruise than five of any other cruises. Crystal clients are refined, employees are always trying to please, the food is delicious and they even provided a rainbow for us to sail under one morning (see picture). Crystal thinks of everything!!!
ADDITIONAL NOTE: CASABLANCA is a port not mentioned but one visited. We took a terrible tour led by a terrible little old man who did not let us enter any of the buildings or mosques he took us to nor did he offer explanations. The worst part was when he guided us aimlessly through the dangerous alleyways and sewage ridden streets of old Casablanca. I wouldn't risk anyone going through these paths filled with feral cats and ominous looking people. We felt like sacrificial lambs. As usual, after people lodged complaints, Crystal refunded half our money (so classy!). I have since written a letter to HQ recommending to remove Casablanca from their itinerary. I do not blame Crystal in this instance. I believe they were lied to and these excursions were a complete sham.
Our cabin was small but it made the most out of storage space. There were drawers and shelves everywhere. If you couldn't find room, then you overpacked. Also, they provided solid wooden hangers for clothing with bars for pants on each of them. Our cabin, 7026, was portside and towards the front of the ship. We experienced hardly any noise and the laundry facilities were a short walk away. The beds were absolutely to die for and the pillows were crisp cotton puffs. This pairing combined with the ship's gentle rocking made for a solid night's sleep. The cabin had automatic nightlights which never went out so one could find one's way to the bathroom without tripping. They also provided an alarm clock, safe, LED TV, bluray disc player,and AVEDA products. The shower had great water pressure, plenty of room in it and consistent temperature. Next cruise, we moved more midship to be closer to the action.
Built on volcanic lava, Tenerife is an island of steep hills and valleys. We walked into town that morning and I purchased some tee shirts while my husband had a coffee and croissant. Spanish is the primary language. In the afternoon, we went on an excursion booked through Crystal and our tour guide, Judy, knew a lot about the island, its history, commerce and the tourism which is its primary economy today. The best part was at the end. The bus took us to a winery where we drank unlimited quanitites of wine and ate lots of goat cheese and crackers. I took many shots of the picturesque landscapes. I also found Toledo gold at a jewelry shop (which I have not seen in years) and bought myself a modest pair of earrings. Tenerife is worth exploring.
We have visited St. Maarten many, many times. Many shops are owned and run by east Indians and their relatives. The jewelry looked beautiful but personally, we prefer to buy our pieces locally so if anything goes wrong, we can bring it back.
A FUNNY STORY: In 2005, another cruise we went on stopped in Aruba & we went to Diamonds (something-can't remember) but it is owned by Juggie. Juggie showed my husband a beautiful stainless steel & 14k gold diamond bracelet for $9,000. It was LOVE at first sight. After ALOT of haggling, we got Juggie down to $5,000, so we bought it. Fast forward to 2011, St. Maarten, we walk past a shop & see the SAME bracelet. We ask about it. Tag price: $22,000. After we show some interest, he immediately lowers to $18,000. Well, since 2005, factoring in the price of gold and diamonds, we figure we could've bought it for $9,000. Form your own conclusions.