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All too soon...

May 26 Symphony sailing - prelim review

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With 15 minutes to spare after a necessary email check, I am writing from the Symphony. It is early in the evening before our second Formal night. We had a lovely champagne sailaway from Lisbon, going under the Golden Gate lookalike bridge as we departed for the Atlantic, on to a (needed) sea day, then Bordeaux.

 

I like the Symphony better that the Harmony, for many small reasons, although our first cruise on a different ship felt a little like visiting your aunt, until we settled in to the new crew.

 

The CC group had a nice gathering the first day, including a number of STEX participants. We gathered in the Palm Court, which to me, did not disappoint, even though smaller. I think the S is better laid out than the H. Especially having the speciality restaurnats on deck 6. Prego excels, but Jade garden disappointed in some respects. The Lido/Trident staff exceeds even that on the Harmony, in subtle ways. Our 3-week new stewardess is charming, and adjusting to her sea legs, and all the details.

 

The on-board booker was surprisingly gruff. I can't imagine why he would be such to someone booking 3 more cruises, and who brought 3 STEX newbie cabins on board, so this will be reported. Maybe they don't like STEX after all? (They lost 2 of the 3 STEX bookings, but at least the newbies got their credits.) Our prepaid gratuities never came through, which is why I am buying Internet time to work on the resolution.

 

From Barcelona, the sea was as glassy-smooth as I had ever seen it. it felt like standing still while making 20 knots. Cannes was a lovely day, especially a sidewalk cafe in Nice. Cadiz is always a favorite, but the newsletter had a stunningly disparagingl review of the charming wonderful city (in which I have spent 5 days on an earlier vacation). I wonder if they are trying to sell $200 bus rides to Seville? Gibraltar was drizzly, but memorable. It was especially nice that the Captain took us back through the straits on sailaway, so we could repeat the pre-dawn drama. Lisbon (our third consecutive port day!) was great, with a consortium tour that was a relaxing delight to Sintra.

 

I look forward to hearing reviews from the others on board, and seeing their reviews. I will add to mine, and post photos on return.

 

Cheers!

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Glad to read that you are enjoying yourself on our favorite ship, the Symphony. Did you meet Remi when you went to Prego and Jade Garden? With Leo back on board in the dining room, Remi is the maitre d' for the alternative restaurants.

 

Was the sales rep Billy? If so, he is young and new. I know there is no excuse for rudeness, but I'm sure (and really do hope) he didn't mean to be gruff. When we were on board a month ago, it was his first cruise as sales rep. Maybe the STEX stuff was new to him and threw him a bit. Say hi to both Billy and Remi for me, please.

 

If you did not get any resolution with your pre-paid gratuities, go to the front desk and ask to speak to the head accountant. When that happened with us on a previous cruise, she was able to locate the missing exchange and restore the credits to us. All the on board credits go through that office.

 

I'll be curious to hear your comments re Paul MacFarland. He is more of a stand up comedian than a cruise director. Quite different from all the others.

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Judith, I "dropped your name" with Remi, and he lit up. He has been wonderful, and will be returning to the main dining room as M'd shortly. Leo has been fine as well.

 

Billy was better today. Still, he treated the third STEX sponsorship as though this was the first mention, and seemed to confess that the STEX program is quite a headache.

 

Today's headache is learning that my Virtuoso agent is not paying the gratutities as I had been led to believe. Something about STEX and giving a discount on the fare. I will have a word with him on my return, since I assumed that all such agents pay the grats for all bookings. (Grrrr...I'll try to get back into a better spirit for dinner. I wish I didn't need to spend vacation dealing with these hassles.)

 

Off to Bordeaux tomorrow!

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Robert

I'll be interested to learn about your success getting pre-paid gratuities through Virtuoso. We also use a Virtuoso agent and have never had pre-paid gratuities. We have, however, always had either a delightful full-day tour at one of the ports, or a shipboard credit.

 

Mike

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I'm glad Billy's attitude was better. He really is a very nice young man. He took our last pre-booking at 9 p.m. on the last night of the cruise (he was in the office working late) and got the stateroom approval, etc. for us by the morning before we disembarked the ship.

 

If the STEX discount is from Crystal, and the pre-paid gratuities are through your travel agent, why would one have anything to do with the other? Unless the travel agent's fee gets cut because of the discount.

 

Has anyone else dealt with agent's "gifts" being cut back because of STEX?

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Hi robert, thanks for posting! I'm so glad you're enjoying the Symphony. I met REmi in march and he was so delighted when I mentioned Judith.

 

Were you promised pre-paid gratuities when you booked your cruise? The stex promo should have no bearing on what a travel agent offers you. I've dealt with a virtuoso agent as well as another group (select something?) These agents have offered prepaid gratuities on select sailings, not all of them.

 

Enjoy the rest of your cruise. Nancy

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When we were on our April 25th cruise, Remi greeted me with "You really know a lot of people!"

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Judith:

 

We were told by our travel agent that she could not give us the same "gifts" as usual when we booked a cruise with a 30% STEX discount. We assume that the commission is based on the reduced fare.

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Regarding Pre-paid gratuities:

 

Having returned, I can report that I learned (from the Virtuoso hosts) that my expectations from what I had learned here (and from a referring individual) were incorrect. Consortium clients, including those of a Virtuoso agent, do not always receive prepad gratuities. There is usually something comparable in value to that $200-300 benefit.

 

We had a lovely, high-value excursion to Sintra from Lisbon sponsored by Virtuoso. Unfortunately, my agent never bothered to mention it in advance, so we spent time planning a Lisbon day on our own, until we learned on board about the invitation. A friend on board had been told by his Virtuoso agent that the excursion would be in Bordeaux, and thus he was excluded from our private plans, which did not have the capacity to add him.

 

The lesson of the story is to be explicit and clear with your agent, and insist that they are with you, about exactly what benefits you will and will not receive.

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I'll be curious to hear your comments re Paul MacFarland. He is more of a stand up comedian than a cruise director. Quite different from all the others.

 

Judith,

 

The Cruise Director has never been an notable part of the experience for me, but I can report that he was just fine, and in fact very clever and witty as an emcee. His material was quite consistently amusing. (e.g. "They say that birthdays are good luck. The more you have, the longer you live!")

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