Have just returned from our third fantastic Crystal cruise, once again on the wonderful Symphony and my DW and I remain fully Crystalised (sorry to our US friends for UK spelling !!). For what it's worth I thought it may be useful to share a few random thoughts. Please bear in mind that these are, naturally, very personal observations and I would not expect others to necessarily agree with what I say. If anything else comes to mind subsequently I will post further.
Firstly the staff and service levels on board. Only two words, simply superb. I love the friendly, efficient and professionalism of everyone on board, from top senior management to the most junior members on board. Although only our third cruise, we were blown away to be remembered and recognised by a number of staff and management who we had met on previous cruises, we truly felt that we were returning family friends, not simply customers. The reception desk, normally having long lines of complaining passengers on lesser cruise lines, remains one of the quietest places on the ship !!
Silk...the menu is much improved and much more extensive since our visit a year ago and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit there. The aircon issues appear to have been resolved and we understand that plans are in hand to adjust the impractical lamps, hopefully meaning fewer bruises all round. As the menu does not change, we were content to make just one visit. We had the late riser's breakfast on a couple of occasions, beautifully served and presented. The blintzes are to die for !
Churrascaia (sorry if spelling is wrong) has clearly fully bedded in and we thought the quality was a notch above a year ago. My wife simply adored (or should that be devoured) the lamb chops and it was really easy to focus on those favourite cuts of meat, rather than being presented with everything available. The salads and sides were excellent and the churros for dessert irresistible. We found this to be a great foil to the rich culinary offerings elsewhere, enabling our digestive systems to ''re-boot''. We made two visits and had really enjoyable meals, with excellent service.
Prego and Umi Uma continued to maintain their excellent high quality standards. Thanks to this board, we made sure to try the lobster tempura, now another of our must haves !
Marketplace...for a buffet, the service levels were amazing, as were the numerous and varied food offerings. The themed lunches were excellent and we were never disappointed with any visit. As ever, we do wish the lunch hours could be extended, as we still feel they are far too short, usually only from noon to 1.30pm.
Grill and ice crams maintained their top class quality levels, naughty but great treats.
The Marketplace open dining was again so superbly and professionally managed by Slavko, a true star and his so able team. The level of supervision by senior staff is subtle and highly effective and it was great to meet the fun-loving Zoltan again. However, whilst being very happy with the food, we have to say that many of the menus were sadly lacking in a wow factor. We felt there were far fewer memorable or inspiring dishes. This was, surprisingly, our biggest disappointment and we felt the lack of imagination was not what we had previously experienced. To place this in context, we never asked for a dish to be changed but we were not blown away as much as previously. A menu revamp on the non-formal nights is due, we think.
Bar service in all venues was magnificent, canapes were varied and really good. We found out that there are now no less than four fever tree mixers available, impressive. Drinks were made really well, especially my lovely espresso martini each evening in the Avenue Saloon. I was also impressed with the included wines, being able to sample the suggested offering, with no fuss made if it was not to our liking and we wished to change.
Entertainment was very good. I have posted elsewhere regarding Carl, the new occupant of the Saloon. we also thought the Palm Court duo were much better than previously. We were again blown away by the Illuminate show and whilst not all of the guest cabarets were for us, one mans meat is obviously... No complaints. Interestingly, we thought the new production show rather bland and nowhere near as good as the innovative Speakeasy show ( just our opinion, please don't flame me ! ).
Enrichment was varied and plentiful, we particularly enjoyed Ken Rees, the destination lecturer and the political observer/journalist Tom, a true diplomat !! Magic Castle at sea continues to be such a great offering.
Wifi was the best ever. We found out that this was because the available bandwidth had been significantly increased and individual routers had been installed in every stateroom. It is disappointing that the digital potential of the new in-cabin TVs is not being realised. Still no daily Waterside menus or on board accounts to be viewed on them. We thought the new alarm clocks were really stylish and practical. The general maintenance and condition of the ship remains immaculate.
All in all, another really great holiday. As somebody famous once said...we'll be back....