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Oceania vs Crystal


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We have done perhaps 40 cruises, 6 on Oceania and one on Crystal. Im booked in a 28 day O next August Athens to Miami and cant wait.

 

Having taken both I would say that Crystal offers more for more. Slightly bigger ship, much better entertainment and open bar. If I can get a price near what O charges I would opt for Crystal in a blink but I am still a loyal customer of O.

 

Took that cruise on Sirena, it is great.

 

My likes for O is that it is a ala carte cruise you can choose to do tours with or without the ship, You can drink as much as you want or not at all of very little You can choose where to dine at 5 different venues for no cost as much as you want, or not. You can dress up or be casual as you choose.

 

Crystal, for me , Just like Viking is to structured and lacks flexibility. What I I dont drink. I am paying a fare for those who do.?. What if is want to do my own tours?

Basically if you fit their mold you will love it if you like the option to pick and choose then maybe not I dont fit the Crystal mold nor do I with Viking. I do with O. thats why I like it It works for me Regent doesn't, Crystal no, Silver, sea nope, Seabourn, nada, VIking, nein

 

All cruises premium, luxury, and mass market are all targeted for a specific type of passenger thus all cruises/lines are not for all people no matter it they are a good deal or not. The cruise has to fit you.

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Here's Cruise Critic's feature article on the topic: https://www.cruisecritic.com/articles.cfm?ID=2715

 

Kinda of outdated and incorrect as many of the things mentioned about Crystal have changed (like anytime dining, number of specialties, internet).

 

 

It is really hard to compare the two. Because they are so different and your tastes may be different and what is important for you might be different for someone else.

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  • 2 weeks later...

We just completed our first Crystal cruise. It was a landmark of sorts for us as this was the last cruise line of all major cruise lines that we have not cruised on before.

I am posting this review here because it is a part review and part comparison with Oceania.

Just to make things clear – we are Platinum on Oceania (with corresponding benefits) and this was our first Crystal cruise (thus no benefits).

Also, it goes without saying that everything that follows is MY PERSONAL view, opinion, observation, preference, etc. Thus my observations and conclusions may not apply to many, if any, others reading this.

Apologies for this very long post but I wanted to give some background and reasons for my statements.

 

Boarding – although the boarding in Sydney was done under rather complicated and unusual circumstances, it went surprisingly well.

We had to register at White Bay terminal rather than the usual Overseas terminal. In addition, registration was done simultaneously for both the Symphony and Serenity. To add another layer to this, after registering we had to take a ferry to Serenity which was anchored in the middle of Sydney harbor.

 

Cabin – we stayed in a B1 balcony cabin. While it is well maintained, it is very small for 2 people. The traffic is always one way as 2 people cannot pass each other at any place in the cabin. There is adequate storage place but the placement of the closet next to one of the beds makes it inconvenient at dressing and undressing times.

The bathroom is large and tub/shower combination provides adequate space (although both the toilet paper and Kleenex could have been of higher quality, considering it is a “luxury line”).

 

Food

Breakfast – we usually ate at the Lido (Terrace on Oceania). This compared very poorly to the Terrace FOR ME for the following reasons:

My preferred choices for breakfast usually are:

1) a bowl of mixed berries. 4 different kinds of berries are routinely available in Terrace but only strawberries were available throughout the cruise on Serenity. Half way through the cruise I accidentally observed a tiny bowl of raspberries being passed to a passenger from under the counter behind the breads. These were intentionally not in view but since that time I leaned to ask for them to supplement my strawberries.

2) At other times I may have a baguette with cold cuts. On Oceania the baguettes are Parisian quality and the cold cuts in many varieties that are changed frequently. There are no baguettes on Crystal; what they call a baguette is a tiny round Italian like bread with very soft crust – definitely not a baguette. OTOH, there are many varieties of breads but I like my baguettes.

The cold cuts on Crystal never changed – the same choices remained daily ( 2 hams & kind of salami)

3) Sometimes I have a croissant with butter and jam. Again, what Crystal calls a croissant is nothing like a croissant. I tried it twice – just to make sure it was not a fluke – and then I gave up. Oceania’s croissants could easily be served in any Parisian Café or Bistro – both baguettes and croissants are so authentic no doubt thanks to Jacque Pepin’s expertise and his French imported butter. I also missed the fantastic almond/chocolate croissants of Oceania.

Again – just to clarify, there are PLENTY of choices for breakfast – just not what I usually have on Oceania. We had breakfast in the dinning room only 3 times.

Here I have to point out that I am a very picky eater and my choices at all meals – not just breakfast - are more limited than those of most others and this is reflected in my report. Thus while I liked only certain items on all menus, others will most likely not be as limited as I was. That said, I am just as picky on Oceania as I was on Crystal so my comparison of food choices and likes between the two lines is valid FOR ME if not for others.

While I am talking about the Lido I want to mention several other things that I did not care for in that venue.

Other than at the egg station (no eggs Benedict in Lido) and the bread toasting station, all other item are self service – not the most hygienic way to handle food. To make things worse, several of the food counters are 3 layers deep. If you want to reach an item that is in the third row, you need very long hands or bend under the glass to reach the object. The Lido is not open for dinner – a major disadvantage for us as we often dine at Terrace on Oceania. There are very few outdoor tables but none are shaded. Thus we really could not take full advantage of outdoors dinning – it was closed when it rained and way to sunny on a nice day without any shade; umbrellas would be nice; we used the venue on a couple of overcast days.

 

Crystal dining room – we used this venue for most dinners. The food and service were quite good but neither noticeably different from Oceania in either food quality or service – a toss up.

 

Tastes – an informal venue for all 3 meals. The menu for lunches and dinners does not change and 2 or 3 visits there were sufficient for us. The Philly cheese steak sandwich was my favorite.

 

Trident Grill (Waves on Oceania) – Not up to Waves in either food quality or choices nor service. I did like the grilled cheese & grilled ham & cheese sandwich. It would be a nice addition to Waves. I had one burger and chose not to have it again while it is one of my favorites in Waves.

 

Afternoon tea – this was a bit of a joke. The variety and quality of both sandwiches and cakes was very limited and repetitious. We went twice just to make sure that the first one was not an aberration – it wasn’t. Oceania has outstanding afternoon tea with a great variety and quality of both sandwiches and cakes which change daily.

The only exception was a special Mozart tea which was almost as good as Oceania’s – but not quite. I thought the outfits the staff wears for teas were a bit hoakey – black tails for regular teas and Mozart era outfits for the special tea (like those you may see in Vienna or Prague on hawkers selling tickets for concerts). As if the outfits by themselves made the teas special and not the food – more for the show than for the substance.

In fact, I believe that O’s tea is best at sea – better than any other luxury line or even the British Cunard, IMO.

 

Specialties – there are 2 specialty restaurants on Serenity – Silk Road with a sushi bar and Prego Italian.

One gets a limited number at each for free – for us it was 3 at each (mostly because the ship was only half full – otherwise it would have been only 2 each at no fee).

They were OK but not really special. Biggest disappointment were the very ordinary sushi offering considering that they are run under the name of Mr. Nobu. My humble neighborhood Japanese restaurant has as good if not better sushi – not to mention big name Japanese restaurants in San Francisco. Sashimi looked very fresh but I cannot comment further as I do not do sashimi. Some of the dishes in both restaurants were very good (like the mushroom soup in Prego and Kobe style beef in Silk) but overall not as good as the specialties on Oceania – again, IMO.

 

Best things about food on Crystal – without any doubt for me it was the Bistro. It has the Baristas as well as a very nice choice of small bites (savory, sweets, fruits) throughout the day and evening (including a chocolate fountain)

 

Worst thing about dining (for me) – absence of lobsters and foie grass. Lobster tails were available twice in 24 days – once on formal night (black tie optional) and once at a special brunch. As Oceania fans know, lobster is available daily in the Terrace and all 4 restaurants have full lobster dishes on the menu( steamed at Polo, Fra Diavolo at Toscana, Pad Thai in Red Ginger and Thermidore at Jacques). Crystal’s 2 specialties had appetizers with tiny taste of lobster. While Jacques no longer offers sautéed foie gras it still has an outstanding pate of foie grass – there was no such item on Crystal. While many may not miss these items, I did miss them a lot as I love both lobsters and foie grass

 

Service – hit and miss. Mostly very good but not outstanding or consistently better than seen on Oceania. Our truly wonderful waiter & assistant waiter couldn’t always remember that M wanted an extra napkin with all her meals until close to the end of the cruise; or the waiter couldn’t remember 3 weeks into the cruise that neither one of us ever wanted pepper which continued to be offered till the end.

On one occasion I had pancakes in the dining room that were severely undercooked – the center was semi-liquid. When I pointed this out to the waiter he showed it to the maitre d’, who cut it into bits and then took it into the kitchen – presumably to show the cook. While the waiter offered a substitute, the maitre d’ never came to the table with either an explanation nor an apology – as if it never happened (the dining room was almost empty at the time).

The cabin assistant had to be reminded repeatedly that our fridge was running low on our drinks (Diet Coke and sparkling water, resp). Also, our cabin was rarely made up during our meals even though we had breakfast & dinner at same times. We often returned to an unmade room or room that was being worked on. Somehow on Oceania our attendants quickly got used to our meal times and always attended to our cabin while we had our meals – not a major problem but neither a “luxury” experience.

Speaking of sparkling water, I prefer Perrier which is readily available on Oceania both for the cabin and across the dining venues (except Toscana). On Crystal I could not have Perrier anywhere except the bar, where I never sat. Is this a big deal? Not really but for one who does not drink any alcohol or sodas but only sparkling water, it was kind of a big deal. In addition, in the specialties the sparkling water was served from large open pitchers. Needless to say, the sparkling water doesn’t stay sparkling very long under those circumstances.

None of the above described events said “luxury cruise line” to me.

 

Entertainment – this was a very strong point for Crystal. There was a great variety and excellent quality of entertainment in many venues throughout the day and late into the night. The singers and dancers were the Achille’s heel of entertainment crew (Curtain Call was their best show) – in fact Oceania’s production team is better on 90% of the cruises we were on.

Besides, Oceania production members participate in many daily activities on the ship so the cruisers have a chance to meet and get to know them a little better; that makes them approachable and more human. In contrast, the Crystal production members are totally invisible (except when they have lunch with each other in Lido).

That said, the other entertainers were very good indeed. A special mention to all the Aussie entertainers – Aussie Boys, Patrick McMahon and the Lions Den. Of the individual musicians the violinist and classical pianist were exceptional and the Crystal band was perhaps the best I’ve heard on any cruise.

 

Enrichment – this was even better than entertainment. I really liked the complimentary computer classes on both Microsoft and Mac programs. I am not a novice on these subjects but I still learned a lot and the presenter (Christine) was outstanding. M particularly enjoyed the complimentary water coloring classes (she made three very nice printed canvas bags for gifts) and the Yamaha key board classes. All the lecturers were very strong and the topics were quite varied.

Without any doubt, the enrichment program and entertainment were the high-lites of this Crystal cruise.

The only exception to this, unfortunately for us, was the trivia. Trivia happens to be our favorite activity on a ship. On Crystal it was offered only on sea days (vs daily on Oceania) – that meant only 10 trivia in 24 days. To make things worse, the trivia was offered each time at 12:05 PM – what an odd time for any activity other than lunch :D

Here I also need to add that two of my favorite daytime activities – trivia and computer classes - come with a caveat. The “problem” with trivia was addressed above. The problem with computer classes is that I would not be very likely participating in these on a next Crystal cruise as most of them would be repeats. Sure, there may be an occasional more advanced class offered but let’s face it – these classes are not targeted to Millennial geeks but more for us old fa**s that want to learn a few tricks for our iPhones & iPads and thus are quite basic :D

The biggest caveat, however, is that on ports days there are essentially no or very limited enrichments offered – certainly nothing like on sea days ( no computer classes, essentially no lectures, etc, etc). So to enjoy the big advantage of great enrichment of Crystal to the fullest, one needs to schedule a cruise with many sea days. At least, that was the case on our cruise; I am not sure what it’s like on a port intensive cruises like the ones in Med or Baltic.

 

Shore excursions – very reasonably priced. In fact, the transfer from ship to Manila airport was $27/pp. On Oceania this probably would been $100 or more.

 

Ambience – Oceania describes their dress code as Country Club casual; I would describe the Crystal clientele as Country Club members. We found most people reserved and not nearly as friendly or warm and approachable as Oceania crowd. We almost always meet new friends on most Oceania cruises – occasionally forming some lasting friendships; at the very least, we often exchange e mail addresses with new friends and keep in some contact. This did not happen here and would not very likely happen on a future Crystal cruise either.

Part of the problem may have been that this was a World Cruise and about half of the passengers on our segment were world cruisers that already knew each other; many others were Crystal regulars that knew each other from prior cruises. As a result we felt like outsiders.

Just as an aside, we met a couple and a single person that cruise on Oceania and all three of them shared our opinions (unsolicited) – some even more strongly than us.

 

Other unrelated observations – There was plenty of space in ALL venues – dining, pool and entertainment as well as abundance of staff. Part of this may be due to the fact that the ship was exactly at ½ capacity – 540 passengers out of a 1080 capacity. What either of those things might look like at full capacity, I can only guess.

Other things that we liked on Crystal included 2 evening shows – early and late; this is much preferable for us to the single late show on Oceania at 9:30.

The library was well staffed and well supplied but not always open. There were several movies in the movie theater – both classics and current releases. I also enjoyed the “press reader” that gave wifi access to may US and foreign newspapers as well as events and menus on Crystal.

 

Cost – we stayed in a B1 balcony cabin that was 269 sq. ft. for $495 per diem cost. Later this Fall we have a B2B on Marina (booked as 2 separate voyages) in a PH2 with 420 sq. ft.

Both of our Marina voyages cost less per diem than the Crystal did ($437 & $406 per diem respectively). The only cost difference between the two is included alcohol on Crystal; as we don’t drink, this is of no added value to us.

Not only does the PH, which is almost double the size, cost less per diem but each of our Oceania cruises includes 2 free excursions/pp (about $750 value), 3 bags of laundry, $600 OBC on one and $900 on the other cruise, 2 spa sessions each cruise, a butler and ensuite dining from 4 specialty restaurants (as well as unlimited visits to specialties at no fee). In addition, we will receive loyalty refunds from our TA after each Oceania cruise – thus further lowering the per diem cost of Oceania cruises

Conversely, our Crystal cruise cost us an addition $1200 for shore excursion – and that was with 10 sea days and 4 ports where we didn’t take any excursions (pus one port where the excursion was cancelled due to weather).

So there is absolutely NO comparison at all as to the monetary value for the cruise on Crystal vs Oceania. Of course, if it were only that we get a much larger cabin (with all sorts of benefits) for less money but nothing else, then it may not be a bargain. Such may be a case on Princess (and some others) where we may get a huge cabin for less money but not much else. However, on Oceania it’s not just the lower cost but we do NOT have to sacrifice anything that we value – we get great food, good service and friendly staff & fellow passengers.

 

To summarize – we had a very nice cruise but have not become Crystalized. Considering all of the above outlined facts it would make little sense for US to choose Crystal over Oceania for most cruises. We may choose Crystal for a very unique itinerary at a price point closer to Oceania’s.

That is not to say that there are not many people who prefer Crystal over Oceania. I am certain that any number of people rightfully find that Crystal is the prefect cruise line for them. In fact, I found Crystal cruisers probably most loyal of any cruise line passengers; most of them love the entire experience and would rarely consider any other cruise line – ocean or river. And that is perfectly understandable and OK – it’s just that I am not one of them.

 

I am not saying that Oceania is better than Crystal; nor am I saying the Oceania’s food is better than Crystals’s. What I am saying is the WE prefer Oceania because it ticks more boxes for us than Crystal. It better provides the experiences that we value most in cruising – itineraries, ship size and design, ship ambience, fellow passengers & crew, food, casual dress code and a la carte pricing where we get credit for air (we use miles) and do not pay for alcohol that we do not use; and let’s not forget the considerable price difference as discussed above.

While we would love to have the enrichment and entertainment of Crystal on Oceania, we know that there is no such thing as a perfect cruise line – only a cruise line that suits us best. And that is true for everyone – everyone will choose a cruise line that best fits their likes and preferences.

 

If you got this far, then I admire your perserverance and I will be happy to answer any questions.

Happy trails 

 

PS I should note that this report is based on 25+ Oceania cruises and only a single Crystal cruise.

A single cruise is not as representative of a cruise line as 25+ cruises are but this is what I have to work with 

Edited by Paulchili
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Thanks Paul ...really appreciate your in depth comparison of the 2 lines. We have sailed many times on O, 1 on Seabourn and none on Crystal but were looking at Crystal when another long time "O" cruiser switched from O's Amazon cruise to Crystal. At least for now, it sounds like O is a better fit for us since we share many of your same "loves" when cruising. We only drink wine, so included alcohol is no value to us, with the included prestige beverage package and the wine we can bring on board on O our alcohol is covered. We prefer private excursions or DYI in ports, no matter the cost of onboard excursions, due to our abhorrence of large groups/buses. Our cabin of preference is a PH so hard to beat the butler bringing your morning coffee/tea and bowl of mixed berries (heavy on the raspberries!) as a substitute wake up call. Dining on your balcony or in your room with a delicious meal from one of the specialties restaurants while watching the world go by with your feet up is something we dream about between cruises.

For us, at least, we will continue to sail on O but will always be open to another cruise line if the itinerary and price (considering amenities that we prefer) are equal. Again, just our opinion and does not reflect, pro or con, upon anyone else's opinion.

We are lucky to have so many choices that most people can find a cruise line that fits their "ideal" cruise experience.

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We just completed our first Crystal cruise. It was a landmark of sorts for us as this was the last cruise line of all major cruise lines that we have not cruised on before.

I am posting this review here because it is a part review and part comparison with Oceania.

Just to make things clear – we are Platinum on Oceania (with corresponding benefits) and this was our first Crystal cruise (thus no benefits).

Also, it goes without saying that everything that follows is MY PERSONAL view, opinion, observation, preference, etc. Thus my observations and conclusions may not apply to many, if any, others reading this.

Apologies for this very long post but I wanted to give some background and reasons for my statements.

 

Boarding – although the boarding in Sydney was done under rather complicated and unusual circumstances, it went surprisingly well.

We had to register at White Bay terminal rather than the usual Overseas terminal. In addition, registration was done simultaneously for both the Symphony and Serenity. To add another layer to this, after registering we had to take a ferry to Serenity which was anchored in the middle of Sydney harbor.

 

Cabin – we stayed in a B1 balcony cabin. While it is well maintained, it is very small for 2 people. The traffic is always one way as 2 people cannot pass each other at any place in the cabin. There is adequate storage place but the placement of the closet next to one of the beds makes it inconvenient at dressing and undressing times.

The bathroom is large and tub/shower combination provides adequate space (although both the toilet paper and Kleenex could have been of higher quality, considering it is a “luxury line”).

 

Food

Breakfast – we usually ate at the Lido (Terrace on Oceania). This compared very poorly to the Terrace FOR ME for the following reasons:

My preferred choices for breakfast usually are:

1) a bowl of mixed berries. 4 different kinds of berries are routinely available in Terrace but only strawberries were available throughout the cruise on Serenity. Half way through the cruise I accidentally observed a tiny bowl of raspberries being passed to a passenger from under the counter behind the breads. These were intentionally not in view but since that time I leaned to ask for them to supplement my strawberries.

2) At other times I may have a baguette with cold cuts. On Oceania the baguettes are Parisian quality and the cold cuts in many varieties that are changed frequently. There are no baguettes on Crystal; what they call a baguette is a tiny round Italian like bread with very soft crust – definitely not a baguette. OTOH, there are many varieties of breads but I like my baguettes.

The cold cuts on Crystal never changed – the same choices remained daily ( 2 hams & kind of salami)

3) Sometimes I have a croissant with butter and jam. Again, what Crystal calls a croissant is nothing like a croissant. I tried it twice – just to make sure it was not a fluke – and then I gave up. Oceania’s croissants could easily be served in any Parisian Café or Bistro – both baguettes and croissants are so authentic no doubt thanks to Jacque Pepin’s expertise and his French imported butter. I also missed the fantastic almond/chocolate croissants of Oceania.

Again – just to clarify, there are PLENTY of choices for breakfast – just not what I usually have on Oceania. We had breakfast in the dinning room only 3 times.

Here I have to point out that I am a very picky eater and my choices at all meals – not just breakfast - are more limited than those of most others and this is reflected in my report. Thus while I liked only certain items on all menus, others will most likely not be as limited as I was. That said, I am just as picky on Oceania as I was on Crystal so my comparison of food choices and likes between the two lines is valid FOR ME if not for others.

While I am talking about the Lido I want to mention several other things that I did not care for in that venue.

Other than at the egg station (no eggs Benedict in Lido) and the bread toasting station, all other item are self service – not the most hygienic way to handle food. To make things worse, several of the food counters are 3 layers deep. If you want to reach an item that is in the third row, you need very long hands or bend under the glass to reach the object. The Lido is not open for dinner – a major disadvantage for us as we often dine at Terrace on Oceania. There are very few outdoor tables but none are shaded. Thus we really could not take full advantage of outdoors dinning – it was closed when it rained and way to sunny on a nice day without any shade; umbrellas would be nice; we used the venue on a couple of overcast days.

 

Crystal dining room – we used this venue for most dinners. The food and service were quite good but neither noticeably different from Oceania in either food quality or service – a toss up.

 

Tastes – an informal venue for all 3 meals. The menu for lunches and dinners does not change and 2 or 3 visits there were sufficient for us. The Philly cheese steak sandwich was my favorite.

 

Trident Grill (Waves on Oceania) – Not up to Waves in either food quality or choices nor service. I did like the grilled cheese & grilled ham & cheese sandwich. It would be a nice addition to Waves. I had one burger and chose not to have it again while it is one of my favorites in Waves.

 

Afternoon tea – this was a bit of a joke. The variety and quality of both sandwiches and cakes was very limited and repetitious. We went twice just to make sure that the first one was not an aberration – it wasn’t. Oceania has outstanding afternoon tea with a great variety and quality of both sandwiches and cakes which change daily.

The only exception was a special Mozart tea which was almost as good as Oceania’s – but not quite. I thought the outfits the staff wears for teas were a bit hoakey – black tails for regular teas and Mozart era outfits for the special tea (like those you may see in Vienna or Prague on hawkers selling tickets for concerts). As if the outfits by themselves made the teas special and not the food – more for the show than for the substance.

In fact, I believe that O’s tea is best at sea – better than any other luxury line or even the British Cunard, IMO.

 

Specialties – there are 2 specialty restaurants on Serenity – Silk Road with a sushi bar and Prego Italian.

One gets a limited number at each for free – for us it was 3 at each (mostly because the ship was only half full – otherwise it would have been only 2 each at no fee).

They were OK but not really special. Biggest disappointment were the very ordinary sushi offering considering that they are run under the name of Mr. Nobu. My humble neighborhood Japanese restaurant has as good if not better sushi – not to mention big name Japanese restaurants in San Francisco. Sashimi looked very fresh but I cannot comment further as I do not do sashimi. Some of the dishes in both restaurants were very good (like the mushroom soup in Prego and Kobe style beef in Silk) but overall not as good as the specialties on Oceania – again, IMO.

 

Best things about food on Crystal – without any doubt for me it was the Bistro. It has the Baristas as well as a very nice choice of small bites (savory, sweets, fruits) throughout the day and evening (including a chocolate fountain)

 

Worst thing about dining (for me) – absence of lobsters and foie grass. Lobster tails were available twice in 24 days – once on formal night (black tie optional) and once at a special brunch. As Oceania fans know, lobster is available daily in the Terrace and all 4 restaurants have full lobster dishes on the menu( steamed at Polo, Fra Diavolo at Toscana, Pad Thai in Red Ginger and Thermidore at Jacques). Crystal’s 2 specialties had appetizers with tiny taste of lobster. While Jacques no longer offers sautéed foie gras it still has an outstanding pate of foie grass – there was no such item on Crystal. While many may not miss these items, I did miss them a lot as I love both lobsters and foie grass

 

Service – hit and miss. Mostly very good but not outstanding or consistently better than seen on Oceania. Our truly wonderful waiter & assistant waiter couldn’t always remember that M wanted an extra napkin with all her meals until close to the end of the cruise; or the waiter couldn’t remember 3 weeks into the cruise that neither one of us ever wanted pepper which continued to be offered till the end.

On one occasion I had pancakes in the dining room that were severely undercooked – the center was semi-liquid. When I pointed this out to the waiter he showed it to the maitre d’, who cut it into bits and then took it into the kitchen – presumably to show the cook. While the waiter offered a substitute, the maitre d’ never came to the table with either an explanation nor an apology – as if it never happened (the dining room was almost empty at the time).

The cabin assistant had to be reminded repeatedly that our fridge was running low on our drinks (Diet Coke and sparkling water, resp). Also, our cabin was rarely made up during our meals even though we had breakfast & dinner at same times. We often returned to an unmade room or room that was being worked on. Somehow on Oceania our attendants quickly got used to our meal times and always attended to our cabin while we had our meals – not a major problem but neither a “luxury” experience.

Speaking of sparkling water, I prefer Perrier which is readily available on Oceania both for the cabin and across the dining venues (except Toscana). On Crystal I could not have Perrier anywhere except the bar, where I never sat. Is this a big deal? Not really but for one who does not drink any alcohol or sodas but only sparkling water, it was kind of a big deal. In addition, in the specialties the sparkling water was served from large open pitchers. Needless to say, the sparkling water doesn’t stay sparkling very long under those circumstances.

None of the above described events said “luxury cruise line” to me.

 

Entertainment – this was a very strong point for Crystal. There was a great variety and excellent quality of entertainment in many venues throughout the day and late into the night. The singers and dancers were the Achille’s heel of entertainment crew (Curtain Call was their best show) – in fact Oceania’s production team is better on 90% of the cruises we were on.

Besides, Oceania production members participate in many daily activities on the ship so the cruisers have a chance to meet and get to know them a little better; that makes them approachable and more human. In contrast, the Crystal production members are totally invisible (except when they have lunch with each other in Lido).

That said, the other entertainers were very good indeed. A special mention to all the Aussie entertainers – Aussie Boys, Patrick McMahon and the Lions Den. Of the individual musicians the violinist and classical pianist were exceptional and the Crystal band was perhaps the best I’ve heard on any cruise.

 

Enrichment – this was even better than entertainment. I really liked the complimentary computer classes on both Microsoft and Mac programs. I am not a novice on these subjects but I still learned a lot and the presenter (Christine) was outstanding. M particularly enjoyed the complimentary water coloring classes (she made three very nice printed canvas bags for gifts) and the Yamaha key board classes. All the lecturers were very strong and the topics were quite varied.

Without any doubt, the enrichment program and entertainment were the high-lites of this Crystal cruise.

The only exception to this, unfortunately for us, was the trivia. Trivia happens to be our favorite activity on a ship. On Crystal it was offered only on sea days (vs daily on Oceania) – that meant only 10 trivia in 24 days. To make things worse, the trivia was offered each time at 12:05 PM – what an odd time for any activity other than lunch :D

Here I also need to add that two of my favorite daytime activities – trivia and computer classes - come with a caveat. The “problem” with trivia was addressed above. The problem with computer classes is that I would not be very likely participating in these on a next Crystal cruise as most of them would be repeats. Sure, there may be an occasional more advanced class offered but let’s face it – these classes are not targeted to Millennial geeks but more for us old fa**s that want to learn a few tricks for our iPhones & iPads and thus are quite basic :D

The biggest caveat, however, is that on ports days there are essentially no or very limited enrichments offered – certainly nothing like on sea days ( no computer classes, essentially no lectures, etc, etc). So to enjoy the big advantage of great enrichment of Crystal to the fullest, one needs to schedule a cruise with many sea days. At least, that was the case on our cruise; I am not sure what it’s like on a port intensive cruises like the ones in Med or Baltic.

 

Shore excursions – very reasonably priced. In fact, the transfer from ship to Manila airport was $27/pp. On Oceania this probably would been $100 or more.

 

Ambience – Oceania describes their dress code as Country Club casual; I would describe the Crystal clientele as Country Club members. We found most people reserved and not nearly as friendly or warm and approachable as Oceania crowd. We almost always meet new friends on most Oceania cruises – occasionally forming some lasting friendships; at the very least, we often exchange e mail addresses with new friends and keep in some contact. This did not happen here and would not very likely happen on a future Crystal cruise either.

Part of the problem may have been that this was a World Cruise and about half of the passengers on our segment were world cruisers that already knew each other; many others were Crystal regulars that knew each other from prior cruises. As a result we felt like outsiders.

Just as an aside, we met a couple and a single person that cruise on Oceania and all three of them shared our opinions (unsolicited) – some even more strongly than us.

 

Other unrelated observations – There was plenty of space in ALL venues – dining, pool and entertainment as well as abundance of staff. Part of this may be due to the fact that the ship was exactly at ½ capacity – 540 passengers out of a 1080 capacity. What either of those things might look like at full capacity, I can only guess.

Other things that we liked on Crystal included 2 evening shows – early and late; this is much preferable for us to the single late show on Oceania at 9:30.

The library was well staffed and well supplied but not always open. There were several movies in the movie theater – both classics and current releases. I also enjoyed the “press reader” that gave wifi access to may US and foreign newspapers as well as events and menus on Crystal.

 

Cost – we stayed in a B1 balcony cabin that was 269 sq. ft. for $495 per diem cost. Later this Fall we have a B2B on Marina (booked as 2 separate voyages) in a PH2 with 420 sq. ft.

Both of our Marina voyages cost less per diem than the Crystal did ($437 & $406 per diem respectively). The only cost difference between the two is included alcohol on Crystal; as we don’t drink, this is of no added value to us.

Not only does the PH, which is almost double the size, cost less per diem but each of our Oceania cruises includes 2 free excursions/pp (about $750 value), 3 bags of laundry, $600 OBC on one and $900 on the other cruise, 2 spa sessions each cruise, a butler and ensuite dining from 4 specialty restaurants (as well as unlimited visits to specialties at no fee). In addition, we will receive loyalty refunds from our TA after each Oceania cruise – thus further lowering the per diem cost of Oceania cruises

Conversely, our Crystal cruise cost us an addition $1200 for shore excursion – and that was with 10 sea days and 4 ports where we didn’t take any excursions (pus one port where the excursion was cancelled due to weather).

So there is absolutely NO comparison at all as to the monetary value for the cruise on Crystal vs Oceania. Of course, if it were only that we get a much larger cabin (with all sorts of benefits) for less money but nothing else, then it may not be a bargain. Such may be a case on Princess (and some others) where we may get a huge cabin for less money but not much else. However, on Oceania it’s not just the lower cost but we do NOT have to sacrifice anything that we value – we get great food, good service and friendly staff & fellow passengers.

 

To summarize – we had a very nice cruise but have not become Crystalized. Considering all of the above outlined facts it would make little sense for US to choose Crystal over Oceania for most cruises. We may choose Crystal for a very unique itinerary at a price point closer to Oceania’s.

That is not to say that there are not many people who prefer Crystal over Oceania. I am certain that any number of people rightfully find that Crystal is the prefect cruise line for them. In fact, I found Crystal cruisers probably most loyal of any cruise line passengers; most of them love the entire experience and would rarely consider any other cruise line – ocean or river. And that is perfectly understandable and OK – it’s just that I am not one of them.

 

I am not saying that Oceania is better than Crystal; nor am I saying the Oceania’s food is better than Crystals’s. What I am saying is the WE prefer Oceania because it ticks more boxes for us than Crystal. It better provides the experiences that we value most in cruising – itineraries, ship size and design, ship ambience, fellow passengers & crew, food, casual dress code and a la carte pricing where we get credit for air (we use miles) and do not pay for alcohol that we do not use; and let’s not forget the considerable price difference as discussed above.

While we would love to have the enrichment and entertainment of Crystal on Oceania, we know that there is no such thing as a perfect cruise line – only a cruise line that suits us best. And that is true for everyone – everyone will choose a cruise line that best fits their likes and preferences.

 

If you got this far, then I admire your perserverance and I will be happy to answer any questions.

Happy trails 

 

PS I should note that this report is based on 25+ Oceania cruises and only a single Crystal cruise.

A single cruise is not as representative of a cruise line as 25+ cruises are but this is what I have to work with 

 

Paul thanks for your review. I agree with many of your points and some not. Our preference is Crystal, Oceania and SS in that order. Again we are itinerary and best value driven -- so we will book accordingly -- but our last cruise on O left a sour taste.

 

 

For a perspective == Do you prefer O class versus R??

 

 

Some specifics -- boarding -- only big ships use the Overseas port -- all others that can get under the bridge use White Bay. Regatta used White Bay this year.

 

Agree with you breakfast critique. That is our favorite with Oceania.

 

 

I wish O would adopt the Bistro or the Seabourn Center concept. Would make a great replacement for the Casino on all the ships. Find it is a great place to meet someone. The fresh fruit and snacks and sandwiches can sub for a light lunch.

 

 

Enrichment is a Crystal strong point and have no issue with closing during non-sea days as these days we are touring.

 

I wish O would adopt the Press Reader concept too -- having your "currents" on an Ipad device plus news papers is a big plus.

 

It is good we all have choices and competition does bring improvement and innovation..

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Thanks Paul. We are doing our first crystal cruise in May on the reimagined symphony. We booked a seabreeze ph suite so the cabin will not be an issue. Let’s see if we see things the same

 

Kind of glad the bread won’t be so good. Lol

 

After 15 o cruises we want a change

 

 

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Great review Paul! I could picture every venue you described as we cruised on the Serenity for 21 days last May. We also enjoyed going to the Bistro to nibble on some chocolate desserts while we enjoyed a cup of tea, but weren't overwhelmed either by the morning food selection at the buffet.

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Hi Paul

I have been looking forward to reading your report and it was just by chance I stumbled across it so soon after you posted!. As you may recall we cruised on Marina in her maiden season - transatlantic I believe it was, Miami to Barcelona.

I was almost certain you would, like us, become 'crystalized' for no other reason than that it had happened to us so why not you! It does, once again, just go to show that different people have different experiences and different takes on all sorts of things... That said, after our first Crystal cruise we were not converts - at all. In fact we thought we would never go back. Oceania were meeting all our needs and handsomely. But we did come to take a second Crystal cruise and from then on things were different because we had a very different Crystal experience and liked it - a lot. We have been back to Oceania and, like you, prefer a PH there - and that doesn't help the comparison one bit because the room is so much larger. In our experience the price comparison is much closer and it is not just the fact that we do consume alcohol.....quite a bit if I am honest... But cruise fares can vary so much - and we do allow the fare to have a big impact on the cruise we take these days because we have been to most places already (what a pompous thing to say!?).

As for food, we have found the Crystal food to be more to our liking, in the main. (But you are right on the berries!) Whilst we like all the Oceania specialty restaurants we do think |Prego and Umi Uma to be 'one star' better. We enjoy the enormously varied menus and the less hurried pace of Crystal.

Perhaps the hardest to pin down difference is the amount of space in the public areas on Crystal. You mention the half full ship but I am certain you would find the full ship to still feel more spacious than a full Oceania ship.

We have never been segmenters on a world cruise and perhaps that had more impact that you might think. My suggestion, for what it is worth, is give Crystal one more try!

Best wishes to you both and thanks for the enjoyable read!

Adrian

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Thanks, Paul C, for your terrific comparison review.

 

We, too, sailed on a segment of a Crystal world cruise and had a very similar experience feeling as outsiders among fellow passengers, many of who had bonded long before we joined the cruise. It was, indeed, very odd.

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Hi Paulchili,

Thanks so much for your review! It reminds me very much from our impressions after the first time we have sailed with Crystal. But it also reminds us from our impressions the first time we have cruised with Oceania. Maybe once is not enough...

After our second cruise with Oceania, we will not hesitate to cruise more with Oceania. And...we have booked a World Cruise with Crystal for next year. It is good that we have other cruises booked between the Oceania one and the Crystal WC. I guess other wise I might end with a similar comparison like the one you have posted.

Ivi

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We have sailed twice on O and did a B2B on Crystal. We usually book a veranda and on average O runs around $350 pp/day while a Crystal balcony runs around $520 pp/day. However, last spring we booked a one week Crystal cruise along the California coast and then hooked it with a 2 week Mexican Riviera cruise on the Serenity for a total of $350 pp/day not counting TA perks.

 

In our opinion Crystal is in a total different class. Their evening entertainment was great. On sea days they offer over 50 different events to participate in, to include a private magic show sponsored by The Magic Castle.

 

The food in the MDR was first rate and they keep the wine flowing at dinner time! The food was so good it was like eating in a specialty restaurant every night, but with a different menu.

 

You can book your excursions in advance and use the OBC your TA gives you to pay for them once you board the cruise.

 

The production show singers and dancers work for Crystal rather than a contractor and their shows are on a 10-12 week cycle which means if you hook cruise legs b2b you will in most cases see different shows during your entire cruise.

 

Then to top it off, they play "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong every time they leave a port which leaves you with such a wonderful feeling if you're sitting on your balcony when it's playing. :D

 

I'm not saying their cruises aren't worth the $520 pp/day for a balcony, but if you want to experience Crystal and you're on somewhat of a budget like we are, try their Mexican Riviera cruise or possibly one in the Caribbean since competition for passengers is higher in those areas.

 

We also love going on Oceania cruises, but a Crystal cruise is for those times you just want to be wowed and spoil yourself! They also have a very nice promenade deck if you like to walk laps to burn those calories off.

 

5 questions,

1. can you dress country club casual at dinner I read that the ship has a rather formal atmosphere is this true?

 

2. is dinner a fixed table thing early and late/ same table. ?

 

3. will they adjust fares if you dont want liquor ( I seldom drink now, even wine) but might like to buy a drink every now and then as an option. Possible?.

 

4. I read that you get one night at their only specialty and have a $45 pp charge for additional reservations

 

5 in reading other posts of O passengers, many said that fellow passengers on Crystal are less convivial then O to the point of somewhat cliquish. Is that sort of true?

Any candid advice from you experience of actually being an O passenger to your experience on Crystal......Thanks in advance

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5 questions,

1. can you dress country club casual at dinner I read that the ship has a rather formal atmosphere is this true?

 

I wore a polo shirt and dockers to every dinner in the MDR except on BTO night. Then I wore a brown suit as they are quite strict on dress on those nights.

 

2. is dinner a fixed table thing early and late/ same table. ?

 

We had fixed early seating table-for-2, but I think they are changing to Open Seating. Here's what I found on their website:

 

"Open seating at Waterside allows guests to dine at their leisure for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Guests may enjoy dinner at any time they choose from 6 pm until closing at 9:30 pm (opening times subject to change). Reservations are not accepted."

 

3. will they adjust fares if you dont want liquor ( I seldom drink now, even wine) but might like to buy a drink every now and then as an option. Possible?.

 

Not that I'm aware of. I only have wine at dinner and my DW doesn't drink, so it would be nice if they did. However, they did offer quite the variety of quality wine at dinner.

4. I read that you get one night at their only specialty and have a $45 pp charge for additional reservations

 

They have 2 specialty restaurants plus Tastes on the Serenity - Prego and Silk Road. The website says there is a $30 pp charge for additional reservations. You get one free seating at each on sailings up to 13 days and two free seatings if your cruise is 14 or more days. We got 3 each as we were on a 21 day B2B which included a 7 day cruise along with a 14 day cruise.

 

5. in reading other posts of O passengers, many said that fellow passengers on Crystal are less convivial then O to the point of somewhat cliquish. Is that sort of true?

 

I don't know if that's true, but we usually keep to ourselves most of the time. But folks were quite chatty in the seats near us when we were in the theater waiting for the show to start. But, then again, I usually start the conversation if I see an opening, as I'm one of those kind of guys. :D However, if you are waiting for someone to start a conversation, you might get that feeling.

 

Any candid advice from you experience of actually being an O passenger to your experience on Crystal......Thanks in advance

 

See above for our responses. By the way as you may notice in my signature line, we have a 48 day B2B2B cruise booked on the Symphony starting in April 2019. If you can believe this, the OBC we're going to have on that cruise given to us by both our TA and by Crystal is at $7,000 right now. The reason I'm bringing this up is because we can pre-book all of our excursions and then pay for them with OBC in our account once we board the ship. That is a big plus when we cruise with Crystal as we like booking cruise line excursions as we like knowing the ship will be there if we're late getting back.

 

But, O is cheaper on average although we did only pay $350 pp for our 21 day B2B "B1" veranda cabin last May visiting the California coast and the Mexican Riviera, to include going up the Sea of Cortez.

 

Hope this helps.

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We're going to be "segmenters" on the current Insignia world cruise when we join the ship in Beijing. Will we feel like outsiders? :o

 

Can't say, personally. We've never sailed on a segment of an Oceania world cruise. Perhaps some more experienced cruiser could comment?

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Thanks for a very informative review. I’m almost relieved that you still like the Oceania product. We have been very pleased with Oceania as their product fits us well.

 

I’m very suprised to read about the self service buffet. Same thing on Viking Ocean, I was turned off by the self service and lukewarm food. I much prefer the Terrace setup.

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See above for our responses. By the way as you may notice in my signature line, we have a 48 day B2B2B cruise booked on the Symphony starting in April 2019. If you can believe this, the OBC we're going to have on that cruise given to us by both our TA and by Crystal is at $7,000 right now. The reason I'm bringing this up is because we can pre-book all of our excursions and then pay for them with OBC in our account once we board the ship. That is a big plus when we cruise with Crystal as we like booking cruise line excursions as we like knowing the ship will be there if we're late getting back.

 

But, O is cheaper on average although we did only pay $350 pp for our 21 day B2B "B1" veranda cabin last May visiting the California coast and the Mexican Riviera, to include going up the Sea of Cortez.

 

Hope this helps.

 

Thanks very much for the candid info. having been in every cabin from PH to G inside, I now prefer f and G insides for their location and easy access they run around 170 to 210 pp/pd. depending on the cruise...

Thanks for the pacific coast, info, but there is no way in He*l i will visit anything in Mexico. Awarded the most dangerous country from State Dept. I have had friends killed in ups scale resort areas.... I catch on slow but good..

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Thanks very much for the candid info. having been in every cabin from PH to G inside, I now prefer f and G insides for their location and easy access they run around 170 to 210 pp/pd. depending on the cruise...

Thanks for the pacific coast, info, but there is no way in He*l i will visit anything in Mexico. Awarded the most dangerous country from State Dept. I have had friends killed in ups scale resort areas.... I catch on slow but good..

That's cool. We felt very safe in all of the Mexican ports we stopped at. If I recall we even had an armed guard on a couple of our excursions.

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Paul, I think I might've missed it. For your O B2B, are gratuities included, or you will plan to pay for them out of your OBC?

 

You had a very strange experience, regarding your cabin attendant. I will go out on a limb and guess that, if you for some flukey reason took nine more Crystal cruises, your cabin would always be made up during breakfast and dinner. Or 24 more.

 

Meantime, it's great that O ticks most all your boxes, and thank you for explaining what's important to you. Welcome home.

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