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This was our first cruise with Crystal and our fourth different cruise line. We chose this leg of their world cruise in order to visit cities where we had lived and worked during our careers. The cruise was March 15 through 27, and its ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Crystal and our fourth different cruise line. We chose this leg of their world cruise in order to visit cities where we had lived and worked during our careers. The cruise was March 15 through 27, and its route was Hong Kong - Chan May (Hue) - Saigon (overnight) - Laem Chabang (Bangkok)(overnight) - Koh Samui - Singapore (overnight). Our travel to and from the cruise was independent; we spent several days in Hong Kong before the cruise, and we travelled further in the region after disembarking. Embarkation in Hong Kong: Boarding from the Marco Polo Hotel was painless. The bell boy just pulled our two suitcases from the hotel to the ship baggage area in Ocean Terminal. We were on board by 1230; our cabin would be available at 3. One piece of missing information for boarding for independent travellers is that you receive no instructions when and where to board. You also receive no contact instructions. My wife and I are well acquainted with Hong Kong, so we knew the ship would be at Ocean Terminal. We did not know the ship would be in port for two days; on its first day we just went to the ship security personnel at the gangplank and asked. They said that we could board any time after 12 noon the next day. Now, this information along with a contact phone number could easily have been added to the massive packet one receives from Crystal. Some statistics: The ship can carry 1,080 passengers; we are ca 900 on the leg Hong Kong - Singapore (remember this is a round the world cruise, Los Angeles - Southampton in 104 days). I don't know how many got off in HK, but ca 500 boarded; 380 got off in Singapore. There are only 167 Crystal first time passengers. Around 400 are doing the entire world cruise. The story is that around 125 book the world cruise every year (seems that Crystal alternates this cruise between its two ships). The staff of 650 is from 45 countries with no one nationality predominating. Our stewardess (not cabin boy) was from Croatia. Our head waiter was Austrian, senior from Turkey, and junior from India. Our cabin with verandah was smaller than Holland-America, but it still had lots of nooks and crannies for storage. Room under the bed for suitcases. Two sinks in the bathroom. The usual TV, safe, fridge, robes and slippers, and an impractical, too large, Crystal tote bag (however, useful for taking dirty clothes to the laundry). Fellow passengers: older and moneyed, and very international, although Americans were the majority. A guest list is published for each leg listing passenger and state or province (US or Canada), or country. I would categorize most of the men as either business or lawyers, with some medical persons. There were at least two retired generals. The passengers ranged from very pleasant and interesting to the very stupid and obnoxious, eg, Where is the capital of Viet Nam? Why do I have to use Baht in Thailand? On a large ship you don't necessarily have to be around the people you don't like. When you are only 900, the chances are better that you will meet them more than once. There were a few infants and children. While jewelry was not in short supply during the day, it really came out in the evenings. Formal nights also brought out elegant dresses and quite a variety of men's formal attire. The ship: As it's smaller, it was easier to negotiate. Decks 5 and 6 were the public areas. Decks 7 through 11 were cabins. Deck 7 was no verandahs, 8 and 9 were verandahs, and 10 and 11 were penthouses. There are no inside cabins. Deck 12 was the pool, Lido, and the like. There are only three shops - all upscale - on board: two jewelry and one clothing. The clothing shop has a couple shelves of sundries, and that is it. There is no liquor store; there are special order forms if you do want to buy liquor. Like other cruise lines, there is artwork on board for sale. No auctions; you see something you like, contact the sales person. Period. In fact, the best example of the sense of the Serenity is that there are no public announcements. No count down to bingo, no art auction, no t-shirt sale. The captain comes on once a day from the bridge, gives the ship's location, maybe a comment about the day's activity (his welcome party, for example), and a "thought for the day." And that is it. All you need to know is in the daily newsletter/activity page; if you have a question, go to the front desk or ask the concierge. Crystal Lines assumes the passenger is intelligent and literate; he does not need to be told what activities there are. The ship has a relaxed itinerary; it rarely moves at 18-20 knots. Sometimes it only does 12 knots. Dining: On this leg, dress was three formal, two informal, and the rest casual. Crystal Lines is no better than any other cruise line when it comes to handling your dinner request for table size and time; they will screw it up. We asked for a table for two, first sitting, and got no table, second sitting. We stood in line along with everyone else to talk to the maitre d' and got first sitting and a table for 8. Fortunately, our table mates were a most genial and friendly bunch, and we had a great time for the entire trip. The other three couples had also each asked for a table for two. With overnight tours and other dining choices, we were rarely the full complement at dinner. Two nights my wife and I were the only ones; I think at least four nights we were not present. The dining room dinners are excellent; just notch up whatever meals you know from your current cruise line. Service is, of course, what one expects. When you enter the dining room, the string quartet is playing, and the waiters are lined up to escort each lady to her table. Nice touch! Trouble is, most husbands don't know what to do when the waiter comes forward and offers his arm to the lady. The wine list is excellent and pricey (hey, this is Crystal), but you will have interesting choices. You definitely have to try a dinner at the Italian Prego restaurant and one at the Silk Road Chinese restaurant. No extra charge for the meal; just tip extra. Remember to make your reservations for these two restaurants on-line; do not wait until you board to make them. We did not try the sushi bar attached to the Chinese restaurant; it looked good, but we have enough sushi places at home. The Lido buffet compares roughly to that on any other line - the food is just better quality. And the service is better; a lady will have to fight to carry her own tray. And if a male looks even a bit wobbly or old, his tray will also be carried. An interesting touch that we at our dinner table all jumped on is the "Tastes" dining area at poolside. This is full-service dining with a menu almost the same as the dining room (limited because of the small kitchen). This is elegant casual dining every night with no time limits; and yes, there is a wine list and full bar. I think this became quite popular as people "discovered" it. There is also a respectable hamburger joint and ice cream stand at poolside. The Crystal touch: We celebrated my wife's birthday on board. I booked dinner in the Prego restaurant and requested some sort of chocolate dessert. My cruise agent said that Crystal acknowledged the request, but I should check with the Prego maitre d' after boarding. I did, and he said that they usually serve a chocolate cake for such an occasion. Fine. I also asked at the photo shop if a photographer could take some pictures. No problem. What happened at dinner was amazing: first there were a couple balloons at our table when we arrived. When it was time for dessert, the cake (with one candle) came simultaneously with the ship string quartet playing "Happy birthday." And the photographer was on hand for the whole show. Well done! Another touch was on our return to the ship from Bangkok. The timing was such that we could have missed lunch in Bangkok. We boarded the ship at 4PM. In our cabin were two large plates of sandwiches and other cold goodies with a sign, "welcome back from Bangkok." Activities on board are varied: lectures on a variety of subjects, music lessons, dance lessons, ikibana lessons, Spanish lessons (?), computer courses for college credit, etc, etc. The fitness center seemed to be active, the library, while small, was well stocked, the casino did not appear to be busy when we dropped in (possibly busier around midnight), and there were relatively current movies on in the theater. We only attended a couple shows, and they were quite good - a Broadway singer and a ventriloquist. We did not have the impression that there was a thundering herd heading for the theater after dinner as on other lines. The internet center seemed to be quite busy, probably because in part of all the people on board for the full 104 days. There are live cameras on board that broadcast on the internet. One fellow at our table coordinated with his son by cell phone when and where in the internet center he and his wife should stand so that the children could see them. Other people were also using the center to download photos from their cameras and send them on to friends and family. Shore excursions: We found, as with other lines, that it is better to book your shore excursions on-line long before you board. If you wait, you may not get what you want. For example, in Laem Chabang, Crystal offers an overnight in Bangkok at the famed Oriental Hotel. We booked and got the hotel. Others waited too long and while they got the trip to and from Bangkok, they had to overnight in other hotels, and not the Oriental. News is readily available. A small news compilation is delivered daily to your cabin. The cruise line version of the NY Times is available at the front desk. CNN and ESPN are on your cabin TV. A unique offer - at $6.50 a copy - is a daily copy of your complete hometown newspaper (minus ads). The selection of newspapers is amazingly large and international. The paper size is roughly tabloid size; the NY Times version was quite a thick package. Laundry: While there is the usual laundry service on board, there is also a free laundry room (four washers and dryers) on each deck. This facility is quite popular - at all hours - and some of the genteel civility onboard disappears once people enter the laundry room. Disembarkation: Given the location of Singapore, many flights leave at night. Thus, some people had to leave the ship at 3AM. Independent travellers were "invited" to leave by 10AM. The ship managed to make one final mess for us. When we boarded, the staff made the usual swipe of my credit card for the payment of the ship bill. Several days into the cruise I was notified to go to the front desk to make arrangements to settle my account. Many apologies, but apparently some of the card swiping at check-in did not get into the computer. They swiped my card again, had me sign a blank AMEXCO form, and all was done. At 8AM on debarkation day in Singapore, I was called by the audit staff to settle my account at the front office. I was not a happy camper, and the girl at the desk was scrambling to find my blank form, check my account in the computer, and in general try and figure out what happened. She finally did find my form and muttered something about my name having been misspelled in some entries. The account was settled, and we were on our way. It just showed that for all their highly touted efficiency and service, Crystal can - and does - screw up like any other line. Even with my grumbles, this was a fabulous cruise, and I would gladly sail with them again. Any questions, e-mail me at LTC519@satx.rr.com Fred Groth Read Less
Sail Date March 2008
Hey it only seems a short time since I wrote our last review and here I am back to share more with you on our cruise on Azamara. Since I last wrote, we are both one year older but still (if you will allow us) wish to consider ... Read More
Hey it only seems a short time since I wrote our last review and here I am back to share more with you on our cruise on Azamara. Since I last wrote, we are both one year older but still (if you will allow us) wish to consider ourselves mid 50s, we are British so we do not cope with change too well so were stressing ourselves pre cruise - after ten trips with Celebrity why had we allowed a lovely future cruise consultant to convince us to try Azamara? Pre cruise and embarkation As always we did our own pre cruise arrangements so we flew out via Paris with Air France and enjoyed an excellent two days at The Fullerton in Singapore, right beside Merlion. Singapore is a very organized city, some might say antiseptic - it certainly was going to be our last port where we would see this type of environment for a while. It was very easy embarking at Singapore (even if it did look like we were coming through a workman's hut to get there), our cases were immediately looked after by porters and the whole process was very straightforward. As we were in a suite it also included making arrangements for dining in Prime C on the first night. Non suite passengers were being given "timeslots" for the Main Dining Room. Stateroom Immediately on boarding it was clear that the smaller ship was going to have advantages - not sure if this was an advantage but I made a pledge to always use the stairs as it was only a maximum of 4 floors for us. Our Sky Suite was spotlessly clean, we did see our Butler aka Stateroom Attendant (whom we never saw again until the night he was hoping for an extra tip - we had prepaid our service charge in the holiday cost) and later the Senior Butler introduced himself. Two nice guys but both struggled to hit the standards we had enjoyed in Celebrity, but no big deal. Nice touch on Azamara is the night time treats made by the pastry chefs left in the room for you and the afternoon canapEs had been replaced by lovely "tapas type" selections from Mosaic Cafe (Cova to those used to X!) Dining We quickly settled into a routine, we were sailing with friends - it was clear if we wanted to eat together and enjoy the Speciality Restaurant some planning was required so we made all our reservations (8 in total) for the whole trip. You need to make plans quickly if you want your chosen days so be warned, don't get into relaxed shipboard life until you get your plans made. Which restaurant was my favorite - that's an unfair question because they are both wonderful - excuse me drooling again I remember the Black Angus Steak in Prime C and the Sea Bass in Aqualina and the bad girls dessert - the Chocolate Fondue. Recommended service charge $5 per person is very fair. We did however notice when we ate as a group of 6 in Aqualina the service was slow, however when it was just two of us it was very slick. The main dining room had a couple of bad days not in terms of food but very shamolic service, not in getting seated but after then. There were a lot of crew off sick and I think the others were just so stretched. The senior managers recognized the problems so no big issue - the bottle they sent over was very appreciated so I forget how long we waited each night but it was about 4 wine glasses long. Again we found eating as a 2 was handled far better than when we were a 6. That said, the quality of the food and presentation was very good indeed and we did feel it was lighter. The range of choices was very good with a whole page of staple choices available very night (steak; salmon; prawn cocktail; Caesar salad etc) as well as a menu that changed nightly I am a sloth in the morning - sorry others say a Grouch, so we enjoyed breakfast in the room most days. We did venture to Windows Cafe a couple of times at breakfast, it was a bit crowded but there was a lovely lady making fab English muffins and I loved the granola yogurt and fresh fruit mmm So overall I gorged my way round Asia and dreaded my home appointment with Mr Scales. Activities and Entertainment Shipboard activities were the usual, trivia, dance classes, bingo - what was a notch up was the enrichment series; it is an absolute must. Jonathon Fleming's introduction to each country - culture, history, key sights etc - was wonderful and as it was replayed on the stateroom tv you could fit in listening to him at a time to suit yourself. Evening activities did not work for us as we tend to eat at around 8pm. With the slow service in the dining room (and our deliberate decision to enjoy the slower pace in the Speciality Restaurants) we never made the shows which tended to have 2130-2200 starts. There is everything of a large ship - just on a smaller scale, casino, bands in lounges, a disco and smaller revue shows. Our ports of call As we were overnighting in Singapore before an early afternoon sailaway we had the chance to do a trip on the morning of Day 2. The must do is take the Sentosa Skytrain (cablecar) the station is in the tower block beside the Cruise terminal. Sentosa Island is OK, but the big thing is you glide about 200 feet above your new home - and can get amazing aerial photos of the ship. Cost was about $30 (Singapore dollars) for the two of us and they took credit cards. Anyway, the ever informative Captain Carl "I've doubled up and come down to two and one" Smith - that's the ropes he is talking about by the way, had us set sail and our adventure began. Immediately he was challenged by strong currents so it became a flat out run slightly bumpy at times to reach Laem Chabang (for Bangkok) in time. So what of our excursions - on this trip when we had excursions we arranged them all through the cruiseline, we were not adventurous enough to go it alone as we usually do. Some of the guides were very good the others, particularly those in Hanoi and Hoi An were not well organized so time was wasted and we became self managing tours. Bangkok - We did the Treasures of Bangkok trip. The journey into Bangkok took about 2 hours each way and the coach was very comfortable. We went to Happy Rooms - yes a new name for the holiday vocabulary - at very clean service stations. We had an excellent guide and were taken to Wat Trimit, the Temple of the Golden Buddha, known for its famous Golden Buddha which is 3m high and then on to Wat Po, the most extensive temple in Bangkok with its 15 meter long reclining Buddha. Thank goodness it was lunchtime, I had been exercising all morning take your left shoe off put your left shoe on take your other shoe off - you know the no shoe rule so do not wear lovely new white socks as dear husband did - no amount of power powder will clean them! Lunch was excellent, with a Thai buffet served on a converted rice barge as we cruised along the Chao Phraya River - this was a really good use of time. Later we visited King Rama V's favorite place, Vimanmek Palace. Unfortunately shopping was at a "jewelry store" - the cruise line had warned us about this in advance it seems it something they have no control of for this year but have made it known that this is not what is wanted. Day 2 we went to the amazing Sanctuary of Truth, a wooded temple that has given employment for over 25 years to local crafts people but is still 15 years away from completion. It is hard to describe this place - but you can also leave your own bit of carving, so up top beam front building left you will find my scratch. On the way back out of Pattaya (seedy and not nice) we stopped at - you've guessed it - another branch of the jewelry store. If you want to shop in Thailand it is going to be tricky as the port is not near any shopping and the excursions do not give you any opportunity. Pattaya on your own does not really help as Pattaya is not a good place to find any shopping. Sihanoukville - Many went on the long trip to Pnomh Penn and came back with good stories. We knew that we could not do too many long trips and decided to have a local day which gave us a good chance to explore locally. We took the ships shuttle (free) into town and then negotiated a Tuc Tuc for $5 to get to Sokhu Beach which has a good hotel. For $8 we were able to enjoy all the facilities including their private beach (no hawkers etc), nice loungers. It must be the best place to go as we met the Captain, Hotel Director and four other senior officers on the beach during our day there. Cambodia is a poor country, you will see sights that are not what westerners are used to and you probably will not want to eat much ashore. But it is worth every minute ashore Ho Chi Minh City - We did the highlights tour and it was a really good value 5 hour trip with a good guide in which we saw all the main highlights. Although you will see lots of lovely buildings etc the fun of this place is the sights and sounds. Just count how many are on the motorbikes and see what is the most eccentric thing you see being carried on the back of the bikes - you will have dinner conversation material for the rest of the trip and beyond!! Hoi An - Here it was Chinese New Years day. Again, the port in Da Nang has nothing near so we opted to see if we could find anything open further afield. We went on the Hoi An on your own trip. This is the best way to do Hoi An you have the advantage of the transport (local taxis are very scarce indeed) and a little input from the guide but then you are free to see all the sights on your own and all the places are well signed and have explanatory plaques. This is also an excellent shopping stop - mind you the lantern is going to be bigger than your case but that's another story and it is home ok honest!! Hanoi - Again a 2 hour bus run from Halong Bay took us on the Hanoi Past and Present trip. This is another day when the shopping is not good - whilst it states shopping opportunities this is at the Service Station (overpriced) you stop at both ways for a rather long time. Good news - absolutely spotless Happy Rooms. Past and Present gives a really good overview of Hanoi including a visit to the "Hanoi Hilton" and a fun rickshaw/cyclo ride - individual seats and shut your eyes at the junction; remember red lights are only suggestions in Vietnam. Seriously though you really get the feel for the city in this half hour ride right at street level. We had an overnight stop and the must do was the Day one trip we did to Halong Bay by boat. You can see why the Bay is being considered as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. It is a very pleasant cruise around though be prepared for traders who rope up and hop onto the boats. The first words the little children learn there is not Mum or Dad but "One dollar". Just remember to have plenty one dollar bills with you (Guest Relations have loads as they know everyone will need them all this cruise) and the traders do give up quite quickly and move on to another boat. Hong Kong - We were berthed on Hong Kong Island away from the centre so a free shuttle was put on to the ICF which was ideal as that was right by the subway and bus station. It is also by the 3 mile elevated walkway where you walk through office buildings and malls above street level - very pleasant. We did our own thing, took a bus to Aberdeen Hong Kong - the Aberdeen Scotland graduate had to see the other Aberdeen - and then we went up on the Peak Tram as the weather was clear. In Hong Kong you need to have flexible plans as there is no point going up the Peak unless it is clear - then you just have to go for it!! Getting around is so easy HK$50 for a 24 hour subway pass, great value and it is so efficient, clean and easy to get around. Ending the trip Disembarkation was so easy - you stay in the comfort of your room until your code is called - you can listen via the ship TV - you go down, the officers shake hands with you and off you go. For us, it was 7 minutes from the code being called until we were in our taxi with our luggage where we were off to the Peninsula Hotel, a grand dame, bit expensive but an experience. Summary Well we don't do change, but we did and we enjoyed it. Azamara Quest is a good product, its got glitches, its report card against Celebrity does have some areas where it can improve particularly around the dining room and butler service but it is a great experience. We ventured to countries we would never have gone to without the comfort of our ship and we had our eyes opened. It was fun and we will be back on Azamara Quest in August - decision has been confirmed! Oh and PS - the use the stairs only rule was met and with the healthier food served onboard the weight gain after two weeks of the feeding frenzy was ZERO!!! Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
This was my very first cruise back in 1997. I noticed that they didn't show the port we embarked at which was Puerto Rico nor was they year available but I was determined to see St. Lucia's Marigot Bay where they filmed the ... Read More
This was my very first cruise back in 1997. I noticed that they didn't show the port we embarked at which was Puerto Rico nor was they year available but I was determined to see St. Lucia's Marigot Bay where they filmed the 1960's version of 'Dr. Dolittle' with Rex Harrison (after attending 6 yrs of vet med and dreaming of becoming a doctor since I was 5 and when the movie came out...I was about 7 and knew it would be a veterinarian because of it lol.) We drove from New Orleans to Miami to visit family before we fly to Puerto Rico to board. This went well enough but living in Vegas for a year...my first impression was that it was as gaudy as the casinos :P No matter. It was about the ports of call and although I felt like a kindergartener getting off a bus for a field trip...I was pleased by all the different places you could see in a 1 or 2 weeks on these things! As bikers, we are used to a lot of freedom so being cramped in what we called a sardine can and having to dine at the same place at a certain time didn't appeal to us. Nor having to come in from play at certain times but all in all...the trip to St. Lucia with its Pitons, Harley rentals in Guadeloupe, and the spice island of Grenada (which also had a vet med there) was worth it (we didn't care for the us virgin islands or other places...we are rain forest, hiking trails, waterfall buffs. I had a beach house anyway so laying on a beach wasn't a vacation to me at that time). I didn't cruise again until last year. Twice. Now it will be twice this year! I am gaining more knowledge on how to use the ship's facilities, book my own excursions if they are sold out or have nothing appealing, make sure we are in a large balcony at minimum, and dining alternatives (although the busy carpeting is an eye sore lol) and realizing the value of these types of vacations!!!! You can't stay at the holiday inn down the road and eat at fast food joints for these prices!! And really....although bikers will say that it is all about the journey....sometimes I'd prefer to dig the destinations :))))) All in all...I wish I did these cruises more when I was younger. I am partial to carnival because of the king bed and a bit larger rooms but would like to try other ships. I believe for the value though...I'll always be loyal to Carnival :) Looking back now that I am older and wiser now Read Less
Sail Date October 2007
We have travelled worldwide and vacationed a lot. But never cruised, For my 60th Birthday we decided we would try it. After considerable research and lots of friends recommending Holland America, Cunard, Princess, we opted for midsize ... Read More
We have travelled worldwide and vacationed a lot. But never cruised, For my 60th Birthday we decided we would try it. After considerable research and lots of friends recommending Holland America, Cunard, Princess, we opted for midsize luxury with Regent. I liked the all inclusive idea. We added a 5 day land tour also booked with Regent which subsequently we regretted as it would have been better to do land tour first and end on a high of luxury cruise ship, rather than be disappointed even by 5 star hotels. and a bus with guide and others was not what we wanted. Next time we would still cruise with Regent but hire a car and do our own tour. Regent booked and included flights from Orlando, met us in the Vancouver air baggage claim and that was last we saw of our bags until we reached our suite onboard. A private car took us from air to ship terminal. The TSA were still there but were not as annoying as usual. Champagne welcomed us on board, and as it is my favourite drink when mixed with cassis, Kir Royale,we started as it continued for 7 days, free booze throughout trip including wine with all meals. The room was big with a balcony, I would not travel without one. The service was exquisite. Food knockout. We breakfasted in bed every day, and it was about 3 days before we got hang of order card so we ended up with 4 breakfasts every day for the 2 of us. Scenery is fantastic on Inside Passage, and we saw whales, dolphins,seals, and went on some excursions which took us even closer to blue glaciers. All well organised, no queues as we were about 500 folk on a 700 ship. Read Less
Sail Date June 2007

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