The last year, as a travel consultant, I have learned the Crystal Cruise product pretty well mostly by selling, training with my great DSM and reading all the reviews and message boards I could get my hands on. I knew what the cruise line offered pretty well and was very excited to experience it first hand. Crystal Cruises is an exceptional luxury experience. Being an all inclusive luxury cruise line definitely has it’s perks. You don’t have to worry about paying gratuities at the end- although I found that by the last day you wanted to tip a little extra since because you ran into staff who were just that great. There is open bar throughout the ship, along all your regular sodas, juices, coffees etc. Your room has a nicely stocked mini bar and your first reservation in each speciality dining restaurant is included, also depending on the itinerary you may have 2+ included. The itineraries are often unique since the cruise line only has 2 ships the Crystal Symphony and the Crystal Serenity, also since they are smaller ships they are often able to visit ports larger cruise ships cannot reach. My experience on the Crystal Symphony surpassed pretty much every expectation I had. This will be the first of a few blog posts about my experience on both Crystal Cruises and in Southeast Asia and off we go!
The Ship Decor: overall very elegant, there is a lot of various public spaces and it feels very open. Bonus, on the back of most decks there are nice outdoor areas with some benches to lounge on, and the full promenade deck is nice to walk around after a few too many pastries. The staterooms are decorated with understated elegance as well and while they may not be as large as some of the newer luxury cruise line’s entry level staterooms however Crystal does make up for it by making good use of their public areas. I have also been told that Crystal has one of the highest ratios of guests to public space meaning you never felt crowded- at least I never did even during the days at sea by the pool. The living wall (an entire wall depicting the map of the world made up of various plants) was striking but the area it was in would get hot during the day due to the retractable roof – that wasn’t always retracted thus creating a hot green house effect. Also now that Kanye and Kim had their wall of flowers it pales a bit by comparison. Overall I can’t stress enough despite it’s “build year” which may scare some off at first glance this is a ship that is looking great and you can see the care and the renovation put into it to make it feel new.
Service: The ship staff were excellent, I will probably repeat that over and over again, but everywhere we went on the ship, people would make eye contact, say hello and more often than not after asking your name once, remember who you are. One of the first days we were near the pool area we were asked if we’d like something to drink, I ordered a mojito, my husband was finishing some antibiotics so he decided not to order anything. Feeling horrible- since I was definitely enjoying my mojito, I asked if maybe he’d like a virgin pina colada, but he declined. After that we hadn’t been back to the pool in a few days, we had spend a majority of our time in port. Almost a week into the cruise we were back at the pool area this time my husband was ready to drink, he ordered a pina colada, and then another one, and then another one, after his third pina colada he decided they were weak and we went inside. Later that afternoon we we went back to the pool and this time I ordered a pina colada, and we were surprised when I was asked if I’d like light or dark rum in that. Turns out, due to my original suggestion that my husband order a virgin pina colada, and since our server had yet to see him order/drink anything alcoholic yet he thought he did not prefer alcohol. We all had a laugh and my husband was sure to correct that misunderstanding but the service was.. that good.
Dining : The main dining room was fantastic every night we ate there, we had very little complaints, there were always a variety of choices and the food was just as good as the specialty restaurants. They will normally post the dinner menu earlier that day so take a peak and decide if you want to go to a specialty dining restaurant or eat there for the evening. Another thing Crystal was very on top of was my allergy- I have a shellfish allergy, and yes was in Southeast Asia needless to say everywhere I went I had an epi pen and was very aware of the prevalence of shellfish in their cuisine. Crystal was phenomenal in taking care of me, the first evening I sat down with the Maitre’d and we decided he’d show me the menu the evening before and we’d discuss any changes needed to be made. Three days into it- it wasn’t necessary since they had plenty of options clearly without shellfish and if there were anything questionable my servers let me know, or would find out immediately. I even ate at Silk Road without an issue. The only time I did have an issue was on all day excursions, we normally ate buffet style somewhere and it was impossible to avoid shellfish- lesson learned bring some protein bars when traveling with allergies.
There was always food to be found somewhere so you never had to worry about going hungry. They served a full English tea time service every day as well – that was definitely a treat and a great place to meet guests and have a little bite to eat. I hate to say it but I never had an actual lunch during my entire trip it was nibbling on snacks from The Bistro or enjoying my cucumber sandwiches with my celebration black tea at the Palm Court. I have to say The Bistro Cafe served the best iced cappuccino- yes I said iced cappuccino complete with a thick layer of foam and everything along with great pastries throughout the day. It was often the first stop by guests coming back from a day in port.
Next time: Food & Magic & More on part 2 of my Crystal Symphony Review
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