Friday, July 27, 2012

Summary and Highlights Crystal Symphony v2213

We had a fantastic cruise on the Crystal Symphony! The ship was wonderful and we visited some great ports. Below are some suggestions and recommendations for both newbies to Crystal and those sailing on a similar itinerary.

Some things to look forward to:
DO use the PCPC on the Crystal website to book your dining times in advance.  We did this once final payment was processed and it worked perfectly.  We met a few people who did not book in advance and they could not get the dining times they preferred.
DO try the specialty restaurants which are free. My meal in Silk Road was somewhat disappointing but my mother enjoyed her sea bass. I preferred the menu in Prego and thought it was the better of the two speciality restaurants.
DO book your shore excursions in advance. We took a couple of Crystal sponsored excursions which were well done. There were a bit more expensive but well worth it.
DO use the shower to steam your clothes. It worked better than the dry cleaner I have a home!
DO try the bistro for their selection of cured meats, artisan cheeses and yummy desserts. It was a great place for a small snack or a quick meal when returning late to the ship.
DO take advantage of the free laundry (assuming you can figure out the laundry dispenser!)

Some things to consider:
DON”T be discouraged by the higher fares on Crystal. They offer a superior product and in our opinion is well worth the additional cost. Some of their cruises are very competitively priced and surprisingly affordable.
DON’T be intimidated by the perceived demographic of your fellow cruise passengers. We met some delightful people and we did not come across anyone who appeared snobbish or arrogant.
DON’T be put off by the smoking policy. Crystal is making great strides to eliminate smoking on the ship and will add two more smoke free venues in January. They still allow smoking in the staterooms but not on the verandas. Hopefully smoking will become more restrictive and a thing of the past.
DON’T expect loose leaf tea on board the ship. The Mozart tea was a little disappointing. You may want to bring your own tea as I sometime do.
DON’T be dismissive of the age of the ships. The Symphony was in excellent condition and elegant. They had an additional refurb since our cruise that improved and refreshed some of the public rooms.
DON’T be wary of exploring on your own while on shore. We did several excursions with local trains and buses and it worked perfectly.

Our cruise from Southampton to Hamburg exceeded our expectations in many ways. With only 900 passengers the Symphony it almost never felt crowded. The one exception was breakfast in the lido and the theme buffets. It was often quite hard to find a seat if the weather was inclement as they could not use the Trident area. The itinerary was excellent and our main reason for booking this cruise. We especially enjoyed the overnight stop in Honfleur that allowed us to visit Deauville, Honfleur and Bayeux.. We spent the night in a hotel in Bayeux which made our half day tour with Overlord of the Normandy beaches possible and quite enjoyable.
There were a few shortcomings but these were not deal breakers to book again with Crystal.
1)      The Enrichment program was uneven. Some of the lectures were good but did not focus on the area where we were cruising. There was no discussion of World War 2 and the Normandy invasion. This was a cruise to Southwest France, Northern Spain and Germany. Yet, there were far too many lectures on the Middle East and hardly any on the region we visited.

2)      The food in the Crystal dining room was hit and miss for me. My mother had more success and enjoyed it. Perhaps I just made poor choices. However I had many more bad meals than good ones here and struggled with the menu options.
3)      The coffee was terrible in the Lido. My mother is a coffee drinker and was pleased she brought her own and a French press to make it each morning at breakfast.

4)  The theme buffets were a major disappointment. I had seen photos of the Asia buffet on the Serenity and was eagerly looking forward to it. However the selections were more Filipino and not to our liking. The Mediterranean buffet was horrific. I ended up getting a grilled Reuben at the Trident Grill instead.

Where Crystal truly shines is in Guest Relations. The people at the main, shore excursions and concierge desks were exemplary. Everything was well organized including signing out our passports to take with us on our overnight stop. When the ship's arrival in St. Malo was delayed for a few hours, the communication in advance was clear and informative. They also extended our port time so we left a few hours later. Both the shore excursion desk and the Concierge provided information on the ports and local transportation even if we were not on a shore sponsored excursion. The crew on the ship were very professional and it is true they may not have the word “NO’ in their vocabulary. Nothing was ever too much trouble and they carried the day for any of short comings we experienced elsewhere. Our stateroom attendant was fantastic and the best we have ever had in all our cruises.

Top Honors:
Swankiest Hotel: Fairmont Vier Jahreszeiten, Hamburg
Favorite Town: St. Jean de Luz
Best Lunch: Fiskgelagid in Reykjavik
Favorite Heritage home: Osborne House, Isle of Wight
Most beautiful Town: Honfleur
Best Shopping town: Deauville
Best shopping city: Hamburg
Best Boutique Hotel: Villa Lara in Bayeux
Favorite tour: Overlord in Normandy

Best Walk: The promenade in Dinard looking over the emerald water
Best Seafood: Brasserie du Sillon in St. Malo
Best dinner: Doc Cheng’s in Hamburg

Favorite Pinxtos: Zeruko in San Sebastian
Favorite meal on the ship: Vintage Room
Scariest moment: Self cleaning bathroom in Deauville and getting lost in St. Jean de Luz
Worst waste of money: Wireless Internet on the ship. I kept losing the connection while trying to upload photos and had to start all over again. The iMacs in the computer center worked better.

Biggest surprise: Our Oceanview stateroom which was beautiful and very comfortable. It also was surprising that we did not miss having a balcony during this port intensive itinerary.  This was my first experience with a stateroom without a balcony.

Greatest Disappointment: The Asia buffet on the ship. Terrible!
One Thing I Wished I had done differently : Given Silk Road a second chance, more closely monitored my alcohol intake during the Vintage room dinner, used the wireless Internet less. Okay, that's three things!
The All-Inclusive policy was in place on on our voyage but they were still working out some of the kinks. The Sommolier seemed harried to get to each table in the dining room. My mother was a little inpatient and wanted her wine as soon as she was seated. I didn't like some of the wine choices and wish they had a printed menu for the daily offerings by the glass.

On many of the Crystal sailings the ship will overnight at the end in port. This is so passengers can sleep on the ship and depart the next morning for home or continue on their journey. We decided to disembark and stay overnight in a hotel as we were leaving mid afternoon the next day on a train to Germany. However the overnights are convenient and very appealing to a large numbers of passengers.

In summary, we were very pleased with Crystal. The ship was large but not too big and the crew and staff made us feel very welcome. There were elements of luxury we had not experienced before on other ships. We are looking forward to cruising with them again.

Next trip: Please check back in mid November for the details on our cruise on the Celebrity Millennium from Singapore to Hong Kong. I will have the detailed itinerary and our information on our pre-cruise visit to China.


1 comment:

  1. Nice wrap up. I like the way you ranked your 'top honor' list too. I've been SOOOO busy, didn't even know you had updated the blog. I promise, we will meet up someday.