Service Has Fallen

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Poll: Service Quality?
Poll Results
Service Quality?

Fallen Under All-Inclusive Pricing
23.53%

Improved Since All-Inclusive Pricing
7.84%

Same as Before - No Chane
68.63%

Voters: 51.  You may not vote on this poll.

#41
Palm Desert, California
1,681 Posts
Joined Nov 2008
Originally posted by Liv4cruzin
I've wanted to say that exact same thing to certain people several times. It can make a HUGE difference.
It happens everywhere. There are only two ways to have the biggest house in town: build your's bigger or tear down everyone else's. I have heard Lido boys called loudly as "Oh, waiter!" and cringed, and heard a head waiter (not on Crystal) summoned in a loud voice as "Boy! I need you now!".

Mary & I have many good friends who work on Crystal and other lines, and cherish them. We are usually greeted as friends rather than customers and like it that way. I know you do, too.
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Crystal, SilverSea, Regent, Paul Gauguin and Matson
#42
Dubai, U.A.E.
2,111 Posts
Joined May 2005
Originally posted by CharleMarg
Does Crystal have some work to do to improve the experience (and employee satisfaction and retention) now that they are All Inclusive...? "Definitely"; my first suggestion is to readily acknowledge that other wines are available other than the ones that are listed on the lunch and dinner menus (we found this out on the first or second day of our cruise from Barcelona, but from reading many posts here on CC, a lot of people are not aware that Crystal does offer options when it comes to wines for lunch and dinner).

Hi Charles

I couldn't agree with you more on this one and it was the first 'any other comment' I made on my QAP. As I said in another post, I was fortunate in having a sommelier at my assigned MDR table that I know well from previous cruises and requesting a alternative or preferred wine was no problem from Day 1 for me. However, I had lunch in the MDR one day in a different section of the dining room and the sommelier in that section merely offered the daily pour and wasn't prepared in engage in conversation about alternatives... If there was a list of complimentary wines available on any given cruise it would make life so much simpler for both guests and sommeliers....

Hope you and Margaret are enjoying the land part of your trip, look forward to seeing you in Dubai later in the year...

Anne
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Crystal Mozart: Vienna to Vienna, Sept. 2016
Crystal Symphony: Miami/San Juan/Rio, Dec. 2015
Crystal Symphony: New York to Dover, June 2015
Crystal Serenity: Istanbul to Venice, October 2013
Crystal Symphony: Istanbul - Rome, July 2013
Crystal Symphony: Auckland - Melbourne, Dec. 2012
Crystal Symphony: Southampton - Hamburg, May 2012
Crystal Symphony: Alaska, August 2011
Crystal Symphony: Dubai - Athens, May 2010
Azamara Quest: Singapore - Hong Kong, Jan. 2009
Crystal Serenity: Black Sea - August 2008
Crystal Symphony:Gulf of Mexico & Panama Canal Dec.2007
QM2 Transatlantic: NY - S'hampton June 2007
Crystal Serenity: E. Caribbean January 2007
Crystal Symphony: Rome - Dover, August 2006
Oceania Insignia: Western Med., August 2005
#43
84,368 Posts
Joined Jul 2000
It is not often that polls on Cruise Critic have as much consensus as this one.

For those who voted (most have been on a Crystal Cruise since the rollout of inclusive) almost 86% felt the service was either the same or even better since rollout. I think this is even more impressive given that the program is relatively new.

The thing to keep in mind that going to inclusive was a big change and like any big change there is some tweaking that will need to be done. After all, you can plan, plan and plan, but it is during implementation when often additional improvements come about.

From all I've read that tweaking began on the very first voyage of the Symphony after rollout began and the same was true of the Serenity. I suspect that will continue over the next few months as Crystal Cruises does what they always do which is to enhance their product.

In terms of employee retention, the crew is no different than any of us who often are apprehensive anytime change is introduced in our day-to-day lives. That is human nature.

The issue of retention came up during our Q&A on the Crystal Serenity and was addressed by Crystal Cruises President, Gregg Michel and Senior Vice President of Operations, Thomas Mazloum. They have put into place changes concurrent with this change as it relates to employee retention and as they say often and most of us say the same thing, it is the Crystal Cruises employees (crew on both ships) that provides the Crystal difference. In my opinion the Senior Executives and the Senior Officers value the crew much more than we have ever seen on any other cruise lines we have sailed and I think that helps to explain why Crystal has the highest retention rate of crew than any other cruise line. The reality is that some crew will not stay forever. Never did before this change and will not after this change but given how much the crew is valued by both company executives and senior officers and by so many of the guests I have confidence that Crystal Cruises will implement this change as they have so many other changes we have seen over the years very well.

At the same time the constructive feedback that Crystal Cruises gets from its surveys and other input provided on and off the ship by so many guests such as the ones that Anne and Charles mentioned and some others have mentioned on some prior threads help a great deal in tweaking and enhancing Crystal's offerings.

Keith
#44
47 Posts
Joined Jun 2009
I am reluctant to comment on our recent experience with All Inclusive since negative or constructive criticism is not popular on this board, but here goes:
To give you some background we have cruised on Crystal 12 times, and while we have enjoyed other luxury lines, Crystal has become our favorite.
We were on V2212, Barcelona to London, May 9th to May 21st, and although we did enjoy ourselves, this cruise just did not feel as special as our others on Crystal. We attribute this to both the new All Inclusive program and the fact the ship was full.
I will preface my comments by saying the wonderful staff and crew of Crystal handled often difficult situations with their usual professionalism and grace and not once did we hear any of them complain.
The sommelier’s have a much bigger workload, there is significantly more drinking in the Main Dining Room and Specialty restaurants. In addition to describing and pouring the included wines, the sommeliers were running to bring cocktails and purchased wines, and were opening and pouring wines brought in by guests. They are also responsible for polishing the wine glasses and many more people are drinking wine with meals, often both white and red. I am not criticizing the passengers for partaking in all Crystal is now offering, but staffing levels were clearly not adjusted for the increased demand. We have found the sommeliers on Crystal to be extremely knowledgeable and approachable, and now they just don’t have the time for conversation or wine education. We can’t imagine how they can keep up this pace long-term and it was upsetting to us to see them in this situation.
Service in both Prego and Silk Road was much slower than in the past, the waiters kept apologizing and seemed to be troubled by this. We were told both specialty restaurants have been extremely busy since All Inclusive, whether the ship is full or not.
The Lido and Trident areas were packed on sea days. Our beloved “Trident guys” didn’t seem to have their usual sparkle and we actually had to ask for beverages a few times, which is unusual.
This leads me to the issue of compensation/gratuities, which is very confusing. During his recorded disembarkation talk on the TV, Cruise Director Scott Peterson specified “the minimum gratuities are now included” and if you want to extend a gratuity to Remi and his staff or the Lido/Trident guys or anyone else please go ahead, but it’s not necessary. I saw a post which indicated salaries have been adjusted with the premise that some passengers would still tip. I observed very little tipping, many handshakes but few envelopes, and yes I know gratuities could have been charged directly to the account. The Crystal website shows “Crystal’s all-inclusive value provides gratuities for housekeeping, bar and dining staff throughout the ship”. What does that mean, not everyone is included? Other luxury lines specify gratuities are never expected. We certainly hope all of our treasured Crystal employee’s compensation is at least what they were earning pre All-Inclusive, but our intuition tells us this is not happening and we subsequently extended gratuities as in the past.
The ship was full and at times did feel crowded, especially on sea days at the Lido, Trident and tables in the pool area. On the last evening, there was only one show at 5:30, it was packed and some people had to stand in the back of Galaxy.
As we normally do, we spoke with quite a few fellow passengers, this time many happened to be first time Crystal cruisers, some being first time cruisers. While they were having a nice time, they weren’t booking another cruise on-board. We heard comments about the size of the accommodations which cannot be corrected with the current ships and the fact the cruise wasn’t truly All Inclusive since shore excursions were not included. We also spoke with some very frequent Crystal cruisers and they felt the ship had a different “feel” since All Inclusive, and not in a good way.
In conclusion, our first experience with Crystal’s All Inclusive was not a positive one and we have decided to take a break from Crystal and our next cruise will be on another line. We understand that the current changes with Crystal will have some growing pains and things may improve/change with time. The biggest asset of Crystal is their crew and it is imperative they continue to be well compensated and kept happy. We realize it is important for Crystal to fill their ships in today’s competitive cruise climate. They need new customers (which is what All Inclusive is intended to do) and cannot survive on the business of Crystal Society members alone. However, I would guess to say they can also not afford to lose Crystal Society members. This is our experience and opinion.
#45
2,701 Posts
Joined Sep 2004
JOPA28

Thank you for your very well written and balanced report of your experience. I appreciate your last lines recognizing both the need for new passengers and the need to retain the old & loyal.

I cringed reading of Scott Peterson's remarks. Whatever our individual tipping philosophies and styles, Crystal cannot be both all inclusive and a mendicant. We have sailed the other 3 luxury lines and have never heard a pitch for tips. Yuck.
Paula
#46
Dubai, U.A.E.
2,111 Posts
Joined May 2005
Originally posted by PaulaJK
JOPA28

I cringed reading of Scott Peterson's remarks. Whatever our individual tipping philosophies and styles, Crystal cannot be both all inclusive and a mendicant. We have sailed the other 3 luxury lines and have never heard a pitch for tips. Yuck.
Paula
Paula

I have to agree with you on this. I was unaware of this inclusion in the disembarkation talk - I hold my hand up and admit I have never watched one since my first Crystal cruise, on V2213 I just read the directions for my colour group and followed them....

Anne
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Crystal Mozart: Vienna to Vienna, Sept. 2016
Crystal Symphony: Miami/San Juan/Rio, Dec. 2015
Crystal Symphony: New York to Dover, June 2015
Crystal Serenity: Istanbul to Venice, October 2013
Crystal Symphony: Istanbul - Rome, July 2013
Crystal Symphony: Auckland - Melbourne, Dec. 2012
Crystal Symphony: Southampton - Hamburg, May 2012
Crystal Symphony: Alaska, August 2011
Crystal Symphony: Dubai - Athens, May 2010
Azamara Quest: Singapore - Hong Kong, Jan. 2009
Crystal Serenity: Black Sea - August 2008
Crystal Symphony:Gulf of Mexico & Panama Canal Dec.2007
QM2 Transatlantic: NY - S'hampton June 2007
Crystal Serenity: E. Caribbean January 2007
Crystal Symphony: Rome - Dover, August 2006
Oceania Insignia: Western Med., August 2005
#47
630 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
JOPA28 -

Our experiences on the first Serenity "all inclusive" were similar in some regards. The sommeliers were busy but their supporting cast of Lido stewards picked up the slack. Service in the Silk Road one evening was slow and uneven but two other nights was as good as we have seen. The service in Prego was excellent on the two evenings we ate there.

I do think the tipping policy is confusing. I did see more than a few passengers tip on the Serenity (and we were near capacity at 960 for the crossing). We have a two cruises this fall, one on each ship, to make a better judgment on the changes. It did seem that prior Crystal cruisers had more difficulty with the change in tipping than new cruisers, no doubt because we were used to the prior way. However, if Crystal hopes to attract new, younger and more European/South American cruisers, tipping as a supplement to staff incomes will decrease.

We did feel that service was never better, and in fact much better in the Lido, Tastes and Trident with the Prego/Silk Road and MDR staffs working with the normal Lido staff these venues more engaged and harder working than in the past. The bar staffs were very busy, but in conversations during slack times, they were enjoying the business. Again, we will see the both ships at the 4-6 month point after implementing the all inclusive service. I expect that will provide us with a better perspective on the changes.
#48
Sao Paulo, Brazil
1,134 Posts
Joined Sep 2006
"This leads me to the issue of compensation/gratuities, which is very confusing."
"I do think the tipping policy is confusing."

From the Crystal site:

"Crystal's all-inclusive fares include: beverages including fine wines, champagne, premium spirits and all non-alcoholic beverages such as bottled water, soft drinks and specialty coffees; gratuities for housekeeping, dining and bar staff; specialty dining; personal Penthouse Butler service."

Doesn't included mean already paid for? Would you pay for soft drinks?
Specialty coffees? I guess not, because........... it's paid!

According to my understanding it's a very simple matter. Am I wrong?
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Mario Silvio

#49
fort lauderdale, fl, usa
1,088 Posts
Joined Oct 2000
Originally posted by paulista1950
"This leads me to the issue of compensation/gratuities, which is very confusing."
"I do think the tipping policy is confusing."

From the Crystal site:

"Crystal's all-inclusive fares include: beverages including fine wines, champagne, premium spirits and all non-alcoholic beverages such as bottled water, soft drinks and specialty coffees; gratuities for housekeeping, dining and bar staff; specialty dining; personal Penthouse Butler service."

Doesn't included mean already paid for? Would you pay for soft drinks?
Specialty coffees? I guess not, because........... it's paid!

According to my understanding it's a very simple matter. Am I wrong?
I think Crystal has not made a clear statement that tips are included and not expected. I was surprised when I heard the disembarkation statement that "minimal" tips have been included. That seemed like a clumsy way of suggesting additional tipping. I do not know how the staff salaries have been increased to make up for lost tipping revenue, but to rely on additional tipping would not be fair to staff who work so hard and make Crystal what it is. As far as we are concerned we will and do give tips to those we think have been extraordinarily helpful. In our opinion Crystal should cover the shortfall to all cruise staff to make up for the all inclusive change.
#50
Toronto, Canada
3,792 Posts
Joined Mar 2012
Originally posted by marienbad
I was surprised when I heard the disembarkation statement that "minimal" tips have been included. That seemed like a clumsy way of suggesting additional tipping.
I agree.....it's kind of tacky, in my opinion. If they were really serious about all inclusive and wanted to do AI properly, they would say that additional tipping is neither expected nor required. Now they're saying "we've covered for the cheapskates among you, but if you've got some class and don't want us to think badly of you for only giving the bare minimum, you'll tip more."
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#51
2,486 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
You're up against a major American cultural issue here. In some parts of the world, where a service charge is kind of established (like 10%), yes, going from it being added to inclusive would be simple. In the old world the customer would have paid the 10%, and in the new world the cruise line pays the 10%. Done. Easy.

Unfortunately, in America, we seldom (ok, never) do anything the easy way. Depending on your personal generosity and the service being delivered, we tip anywhere between less than 1% and over 150% of the cost of the service. Making matters more complex, we're frequently rude, insistent AND obnoxious about it.

Crystal tackled this by paying the staff the suggested guidelines (or more, I wouldn't know the exact amount except what they have told us so far). In American culture, this is the "minimum", though ironically we have all seen Americans who felt that was far too much and tipped less. I would agree that calling this the minimum is not the best way to label it, but there is NO WAY you're going to get many of Crystal's passengers to not tip above that baseline -- REGARDLESS of where Crystal sets the baseline.

Considering we're all paying it in the fare, I think Crystal set it in the right spot. Any more and some people would object to the cost or object to the amount going to the crew (sadly) and any less and the crew wouldn't be getting a fair amount for the many people who rightfully so don't tip additionally because this IS inclusive. After all, that's why this was the suggested tipping level.

Vince
#52
Toronto, Canada
3,792 Posts
Joined Mar 2012
Originally posted by BWIVince
I would agree that calling this the minimum is not the best way to label it,
And in fact the label is the part that bothers me the most, not the amount.......I've heard so much about how Crystal is classy and upscale, that seeing this really shocks me, and not in a good way. I think it's a classless statement (like their earlier practice of putting gratuity envelopes in obvious view), and lowers my opinion of Crystal before I've even ever sailed with them. It won't change what I do, but I wish I'd never read it. Ignorance is bliss
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#53
2,486 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
I TOTALLY agree... In fairness it doesn't sound like that's how Crystal's packaging it, that was just how Scott tried to explain it during a talk. You'll see Scott does these talks pretty off the cuff, the messaging on this is probably something best addressed with him by Crystal. I wouldn't worry too much about it, he's been the CD on 6 of my Crystal Cruises and I don't think I've ever once heard his disembarkation talk. lol He's a good guy and he means well, I'm sure he was trying to express one thing without hearing how it sounded.

Vince
#54
Memphis, Tennessee
534 Posts
Joined Jul 2009
This was no off the cuff talk. There were pictures of Remi and Paolo, the maitre d's and the Lido guys, so you would know who to tip extra. We had already tipped very well, so I wasn't upset that I wasn't doing the right thing. It was just offensive.
#55
Palm Desert, California
1,681 Posts
Joined Nov 2008
Originally posted by cpinstein
This was no off the cuff talk. There were pictures of Remi and Paolo, the maitre d's and the Lido guys, so you would know who to tip extra. We had already tipped very well, so I wasn't upset that I wasn't doing the right thing. It was just offensive.
May have been an aberration: we were on the first four all-inclusive Symphony voyages, with Scott as the CD, and never saw anything of the sort.
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Crystal, SilverSea, Regent, Paul Gauguin and Matson
#56
Memphis, Tennessee
534 Posts
Joined Jul 2009
JOPA28 thank you for expressing our experience on Barcelona to London much better than I did earlier.

To the board, I think you are doing a great disservice to future Crystal cruisers to only present the positive and completely discount folks who have some constructive criticism by saying, "that didn't happen to me so you have to be wrong, difficult, weird, etc" It does 2 things. It makes folks who want to present another opinion go away, and more importantly, it raises expectations of the entire cruise experience too high. I met a couple of people at the Cruise Critic party who were somewhat disappointed, as were the 6 new people I talked into going. Again, everything is expectations. Not that the cruise was bad. It just didn't live up to the expectations set forth on this board.
In my humble opinion, what Crystal has going for it is the service and the food. On this particular cruise, even the entertainment was slipping. I've seen the shows, and the special entertainment at least 3 times. If Crystal is going tocompete with the new ships, they better keep working on the service, and figuring out how to handle a full ship AT PEAK times.

I know I will get booed again, so I think I will resectively sign off this forum.

Carole
#57
2,486 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
Carole, everyone wants you to post your experiences here... You were defensive in your original post, and you didn't need to be. Not everyone's experiences match yours, but if you never post then your experience will never be covered.

We have ALL had Crystal Cruises that were better than others... I think Crystal does a good job with consistency, but it happens with anything. I've even had a pretty bad cruise where Captain Kangaroo couldn't manage to get us anywhere near on-time for any of the ports on the itinerary (for a variety of factors, a couple out of Crystal's control, but most not).

Showing a trend among these experiences is a lot harder though... If for no other reason, you'll have some people on the same bad cruise who just thought everything was perfect no matter how awful it was, people who are completely unhappy with everything and make up stuff to complain about even when there isn't an issue. That doesn't mean the cruise was as good as it should have been, and doesn't make your opinion or experience any less valid.

Vince
#58
Toronto, Canada
3,792 Posts
Joined Mar 2012
Originally posted by cpinstein
and figuring out how to handle a full ship AT PEAK times.
Yes, excusing problems because the ship is full doesn't make any sense to me, from a business standpoint (i.e. not Crystal specifically -- any business). You should be staffed and trained to handle your full capacity, not have problems when you are at full capacity.

Still, being new to Crystal but not to the internet, I do find the bias of this folder's cumulative posts (it's "vibe") rather interesting.
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#59
630 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
Serenity's first all inclusive was a TA with 960 guests. 960 is pretty much full and service was superb, best ever. Crew worked hard but we thought the transition to AI went very smoothly. But my view may not be what other guests experienced on the same cruise.
I thought the exchange of views has been civil and enlightening. Since Crystal reads this forum in LA and on board at several management levels, the comments should help them tweak the product.
As for tipping, I posted on another thread that tipping is personal and what I do should be of no concern to you. If you do not want to tip, great. If you want to tip, great. Some may think Scott's message was inappropriate or offensive (strong word BTW), then ignore it.
As for "vibes" on this thread (and the Crystal Forum), all the luxury lines forums are similar in tone and issues. Goes with the territory.
Like Vince, we have had an issue or two on board. And some cruises standout as exceptional for any number of reasons. And some do not measure up to expectations.
Still, we enjoy Crystal but view the changes somewhat critically until we get a better feel for the impact on us. We realize that Crystal must attract new customers. However if the changes have secondary consequences that alter our on board experience, then we are concerned. We will see. More later this fall when we are on Symphony then back on the Serenity after five months.
#60
3,014 Posts
Joined Nov 2004
Originally posted by calliopecruiser
And in fact the label is the part that bothers me the most, not the amount.......I've heard so much about how Crystal is classy and upscale, that seeing this really shocks me, and not in a good way. I think it's a classless statement (like their earlier practice of putting gratuity envelopes in obvious view), and lowers my opinion of Crystal before I've even ever sailed with them. It won't change what I do, but I wish I'd never read it. Ignorance is bliss
One of the things we like about "all inclusive" is that we don't have to think about who to tip and how much. I want to relax, enjoy myself and know the staff is being taken care of (based on the fare that I've already paid).

Like everyone else, if we are especially impressed with a staff member, we like to show our appreciation. But those actions, for us, are usually spontaneous.

We cruise Crystal for the first time in October and now I'm confused about what's expected in the way of gratuities. I agree, ignorance (as short lived as it was) was bliss!