Considering Crystal Symphony Cruise

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Crystal Cruises
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Southampton, New Jersey, USA
267 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
We have done a lot of cruising on NCL where we especially like the Freestyle dining. We are now considering a late-summer, 2006 Trans-Atlantic 14 day cruise on the Crystal Symphony. We usually take a suite but we also like casual, or at least resort casual, dress. Can any Crystal-experienced folks comment on the pluses and minuses (taking our general tastes into account) we might encounter on Crystal?
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Southeast US/Portugal
564 Posts
Joined Nov 2005
On an 11 or 12 day cruise, there might be up to 3 formal nights, possibly 4 informal nights, with the remaining, casual. Crystal has a dressier guest list than most other lines, but very nicely done. And, if you prefer no to dress in formal garb, they will happily arrange room service for you.
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Boca Raton, Florida
6,793 Posts
Joined Jan 2002
We did that cruise in 2004 when it was 16 days. Absolutely wonderful! Besides the formal nights and casual nights, there were 4 or 5 informal nights where men needed to wear sport jackets and slacks, ties optional. Crystal is a more formal cruise line where passengers stay in the dress code of the evening and do not change into sports wear. Casual nights are country club casual. Now if you can get past that, Crystal offers you so much more in the way of entertainment and programs, food, service, and all the "little" touches. They have excellent lecturers and activities on sea days and the ports on that particular cruise are wonderful.

I've never been on a ship with free style dining so I'm not sure what it is. Crystal has a dining room that holds a maximum of 500 so it needs to have two dining times: 6:15 and 8:30. You sit with the same people at a table for 2, 4, 6, or 8 at the time you select with the same wait staff. The food is excellent and you may order things not on the menu -- sometimes it may take an extra day if those items are not prepared for that evening -- and the special pastas, salads, and desserts from the head waiters are excellent. There are two alternative dining rooms -- one Asian and one Italian -- in which you may make reservations. They are open seating with reservations. Also on occasional nights, they have casual dining on the Lido Deck.

If you do decide to do that cruise or any other, please go to the top of this page of Crystal messages and read the "sticky" about our matching.

If you have any specific questions, please let us know.
Moon Township, Pa
23,174 Posts
Joined Oct 2000
Going from NCL to Crystal is like going from day to night. NCL is probably one of the most casual of cruise lines. Crystal is one of the most formal. On formal nights I would say that more than 90% of the men wear tuxes and the women wear long gowns or very dressy evening suits. On informal nights the men wear dress slacks, collared shirt and a jacket---I find a good number of the men opt for the tie on informal nights. Crystal cruisers don't change their clothes into casual on informal or formal nights----they are expected to remain in the code of the evening for the entire evening. The only option for dining on formal night, if you don't want to dress according to code, is to have room service---I know on the mass market lines they have alternate dining venues for formal nights that are casual dress, but you don't find that on Crystal and even then, if you want to go to any of the public rooms like the show lounges or casino, you have to be dressed in the attire of the evening. Even Crystal's two alternate restaurants follow the code of the evening, so if you dine there on a formal/informal night, you must be dressed formally/informally.

Crystal doesn't have free style dining---it's traditional assigned seating, 6:15 and 8:30.

From my experience, you will find a world of difference between the food and service between NCL and Crystal. To be honest, I found the food on NCL to be merely OK and the service to be spotty at best. The food on Crystal is some of the best you'll find in the industry, and the service to be exceptional. But, if casual is what you want in a cruise experience, then Crystal might not be the best choice for you. With Crystal being probably the most formal of all the cruise lines, and you don't care for formal dining, then I would suggest looking at perhaps RSSC or Oceania, where they have a much less formal atmosphere.
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Seattle area
618 Posts
Joined Apr 2005
driker2 ~

The vast majority of our cruises over the last fifteen years have been with NCL--SS Norway, Westward, Dreamward, Crown, Sky. We've enjoyed the line, been treated well, and are sailing NCL with friends and family for our 25th anniversary in March.

DH and I have always wanted to try Crystal, and had the opportunity for a 2-day "taste" in May. We returned home and cancelled booked cruises on NCL and Royal Caribbean, then booked two cruises with Crystal. Mind you, this was after just two days in an obstructed view stateroom, while we usually sail Penthouse and Owner's Suites with NCL. Honestly, I'd sail in a janitor's closet to keep sailing with Crystal.

We just returned from the final voyage of the Harmony, another sailing we booked after the intitial two. There truly is no comparison. As I posted when I returned from my 2-day taste, Crystal has special touches I couldn't even have dreamed of.

Having just returned from a 7-day sailing, I'm just that much more impressed with Crystal. NCLs food has generally been good, and excellent on occasion (especially in Le Bistro). Crystal's food is on a whole different level. I realized I wasn't eating as much on this cruise, and figured out the quality of the food was so high, that I didn't need quantity to feel satisfied. Although, never fear, quantity is not lacking.

DH and I enjoy dressing up, and will be in tux and gown when we dine in Le Bistro on the Dawn the night of our anniversary. We'll also enjoy the opportunity to be a bit more casual other evenings. Part of the reason we selected the Dawn for this sailing is that family and friends traveling with us aren't frequent cruisers and simply don't have a need for gowns and tuxes. It's important to us that they feel comfortable.

If you really don't enjoy getting dressed up, you can still have an excellent time on a Crystal cruise. As previously mentioned, room service is an option. We had a room service breakfast on this last sailing, and were very impressed. What was supposed to be hot was HOT, and what was supposed to be cold was COLD. And little details like Frette linens. Oh, my.

There is an extensive room service menu, plus you can order anything that's on the dining room menu. With room service, you could enjoy clothing and scheduling flexibility.

There are also excellent alternative restaurants on Crystal--you could make reservations in each of those for the formal nights. One evening they had dinner under the stars on the Lido deck, which offers a more casual environment.

I'd recommend you seriously consider trying Crystal. The six-star service extends to EVERYTHING. No open-air jittneys to questionable shore excursions. Instead, brand new air conditioned motorcoaches, with sane drivers, and escorts from the ship. For those flying out late on disembarkation day, the transfer from the ship to the airport included a stop at a nice hotel for lunch and cocktails before continuing on to the airport!

Day wear on the ship is as casual as you'll find on NCL, with the same rules such as no bathing suits in the dining room. Not a problem, with the option of the Lido buffet, the Trident Grill (burgers, hot dogs, tuna melts, steak sandwiches, wraps, etc.), and again, room service.

Comfortable beds, fine linens, bathtubs in every stateroom, DVD players in all the staterooms, free-flowing champagne at sailaway and other occasions.

Oh, that reminds me, free non-alcoholic beverages. No nickle-and-diming you for soda, lattes, bottled water and the like. It makes us feel much more like "guests." This is everywhere on ship, as well as your stocked refrigerator. When you go ashore in port with Crystal you're handed bottled water, whereas with NCL you have to buy it.

Cocktail prices are comparable to NCL, but photos on Crystal are much less expensive than NCL.

Because the Crystal ships are smaller, and carry fewer people, you really feel like you are valued. Everything is handled with such class and preparation that there are no lines, except for the Grand Gala lunch buffet (sail Crystal and you'll see why). And on Crystal, the buffet food TASTES as good as it looks.

I can't comment on Crystal's suite treatment (big sigh), but have no doubt it would be heavenly. I do know that in the suites you also get to select liquor, and have your refrigerator stocked with beer and wine.

For our upcoming Symphony sailing, we paid in full six months in advance. That resulted in a 3.5% savings, but, better yet, the ability to pre-book dinner reservations and classes. We've signed up for a Berlitz language class, and several computer classes. On Crystal, these are complimentary.

Give Crystal some serious thought, and if you think you can work with (one dark suit with a variety of shirts and ties, one formal dress that doesn't have to be over-the-top and one less formal dress) and around (room service, alternative restaurants) the formality, treat yourself to an extraordinary experience.

Happy Sailing, Carla
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Portland, OR
993 Posts
Joined Feb 2003
Well said Carla!

Just reading your thoughts took me back on board. Boy we sure did have fun, didn't we?

Driker2: We too have sailed on other lines (Holland America and Royal Caribbean...also in suites or even standard staterooms.) Crystal far exceeds anything you will find on other lines. When you step on board, you'll know what I mean. And one more benefit to sailing Crystal...all the great people you get to meet. Our Cruise Critic friends are the BEST!

Hope you give Crystal a's worth every penny!

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British Columbia, Canada
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Joined Oct 2005
Originally posted by pamperme
driker2 ~

There are also excellent alternative restaurants on Crystal--you could make reservations in each of those for the formal nights.

Give Crystal some serious thought, and if you think you can work with (one dark suit with a variety of shirts and ties, one formal dress that doesn't have to be over-the-top and one less formal dress) and around (room service, alternative restaurants) the formality, treat yourself to an extraordinary experience.

As kitty9 says: the alternative restaurants follow the code of the evening so you cannot "work around" the issue of formal wear by booking in those restaurants.

I also urge you to give Crystal a try; you won't regret it !