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Impressions from first time Crystal cruiser


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Hello all.

 

We are now on our fourth day of our first Crystal cruise 10 nights from Caldera to San Diego and I thought I will share some impressions and observations while they are fresh.

 

This is our 15th cruise. We sailed on Oceania and Azamara and the rest are mainstream lines like Celebrity, Princess Cunard etc. Oceania was our best cruise experience so far and I was curious how it will compare to Crystal. This is in no way a full review, just some first impressions.

 

Embarkation took literally 15 minutes till we were in our cabin. 30 seconds later our cabin attendant knocked and introduced herself. She asked if we had any special requests. We said we like to have ice in our cabin and bottles of water. She did not ask for our pillow preferences or any other preferences. 
 

5 minutes later our laggage arrived. So far so good.

 

We always book the lowest category cabin since we don’t use it much other than sleep and shower. We are in E2 cabin on deck 8. It is described as fully obstructed view but it is not really fully obstructed. The liveboat blocks about half of the view, so you can still see the upper part of the view. The cabin is not big but it works just fine for us. There is a lot of storage, and it’s nice to have a bathtub shower combo. It is also very nice to have a free self laundery. 
 

One odd thing about the cabin is that they still have those old thermostats. Not sure why they don’t replace them with the digital ones. Took as a while to set the temperature to a comfortable level.

 

The ship is very elegant, and is in an excellent condition considering its age. You could never tell it is 25 years old. For some reason there is no art on the ship. Not sure why.

 

Service is outstanding as expected. They still don’t call us by our names and don’t remember our preferences, but maybe it will come later.

 

We have seen 3 evening shows so far, all of them from guest performers, all excellent. Evening entertainment so far is excellent. So are the daily activities. We attended two guest lectures, by Joe Wolff and Louis Rene Beres, both were fascinating.

 

Food is one area which fell short of expectations so far compared to Oceania. The breakfast buffet is very good, the dinner in the dining room is excellent, but lunch buffet doesn’t have enough options for me. It is probably heaven for Asian food lovers, but for someone like me who doesn’t like Asian food, the selection is a bit limited. Yesterday we visited the Brazilian steakhouse and loved it.

 

Internet is very good. Not the best we have experienced on sea, but among the best.

 

So far I would say that Crystal beats Oceania by big margin in areas like evening entertainment, daily activities, enrichment program and internet. Service is probably slightly better on Crystal, not by much. The only area where we liked Oceania better is food. But again, this is only our fourth day, and things can definitely change. Also we sailed on Oceania more than a year ago, so things might be different on Oceania now.

 

Overall we love Crystal! We already had one more booking for 2020, and we booked two more for 2022 on board.

 

I will continue to report as things progress.

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27 minutes ago, ak1004 said:

but lunch buffet doesn’t have enough options for me. It is probably heaven for Asian food lovers, but for someone like me who doesn’t like Asian food, the selection is a bit limited.

 

Just a note on the lunch buffet, a few times each cruise they are themed (Asian, Mediterranean etc.), it will be noted in the restaurant hours section of Reflections. I suspect you may have been there during the Asian theme. Be sure to check back there again.

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Just now, Fly Fast Cruise Slow said:

 

Just a note on the lunch buffet, a few times each cruise they are themed (Asian, Mediterranean etc.), it will be noted in the restaurant hours section of Reflections. I suspect you may have been there during the Asian theme. Be sure to check back there again.


Yes today was an Asian theme, and I had virtually nothing to eat in both buffet and Waterside. We ended up in Trident Grill which was mediocre at best. But yesterday was not themed, and selection in the lunch buffet was still relatively limited. We will see what happens in the next few days.

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One more thing I forgot to mention is shore excursions. We did two so far, Nicaragua and El Salvador. While well organized overall, I was surprised to see buses almost full. First excursion had 36 people and second over 40. If this is typical, this is significantly worse than we experienced on Oceania. Even on Celebrity some excursions had only 20-25 people.

 

Large number of people caused significant delays, as it took a lot of time for everyone to get off the bus, visit the washrooms, get back on etc. I would estimate that over an hour was wasted on each excursion due to the size of the group.

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24 minutes ago, ak1004 said:

Yes today was an Asian theme, and I had virtually nothing to eat in both buffet and Waterside. We ended up in Trident Grill which was mediocre at best


Food is so subjective but I’m surprised you couldn’t find anything to your tastes for lunch at Waterside - there would be one or two dishes on the same theme as the Marketplace buffet but there should be several other dishes available that aren’t Asian themed. Was that not the case?

 

I’m not a fan of buffets myself so seldom go to Marketplace for lunch but usually they have plenty of variety including a roast of the day and freshly prepared pasta at the hot plate station 

 

Surprised at the mediocre comment on the Trident - they too have a great selection of grill and salad items to choose from. I’ve never heard the food or service there described as mediocre 

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6 minutes ago, FlyerTalker said:

 

Curious, not argumentative.  Just what did you find "limited" for the luncheon buffet?  I've usually found numerous choices of mains and sides.


Well, today was basically 100% Asian, no other options at all. Yesterday many of the dishes had Asian orientation as well. Maybe I was just unlucky so far.

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9 minutes ago, ak1004 said:

One more thing I forgot to mention is shore excursions. We did two so far, Nicaragua and El Salvador. While well organized overall, I was surprised to see buses almost full. First excursion had 36 people and second over 40. If this is typical, this is significantly worse than we experienced on Oceania. Even on Celebrity some excursions had only 20-25 people.

 

Large number of people caused significant delays, as it took a lot of time for everyone to get off the bus, visit the washrooms, get back on etc. I would estimate that over an hour was wasted on each excursion due to the size of the group.

 

That is a bit unusual in our experience, but not unheard of. What we have found is it often helps to not get on the first bus in line (if there is more than one bus) as people invariably gravitate to the first bus they see.

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9 minutes ago, Stickman1990 said:


Food is so subjective but I’m surprised you couldn’t find anything to your tastes for lunch at Waterside - there would be one or two dishes on the same theme as the Marketplace buffet but there should be several other dishes available that aren’t Asian themed. Was that not the case?

 

I’m not a fan of buffets myself so seldom go to Marketplace for lunch but usually they have plenty of variety including a roast of the day and freshly prepared pasta at the hot plate station 

 

Surprised at the mediocre comment on the Trident - they too have a great selection of grill and salad items to choose from. I’ve never heard the food or service there described as mediocre 


Maybe I missed some non Asian dishes in Waterside, not sure.

 

Yes I had pasta yesterday in the buffet. There was only one choice (I remember 3-4 selections on Celebrity) and the pasta was just okay.

 

On Trident Grill I ordered steak sandwich which was just okay. Maybe rest of the menu is better, i’m just not a big fan of hamburgers.

 

And you are right, food is very subjective. Those are MY impressions based on three days so far, so definitely not final verdict.

Edited by ak1004
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14 minutes ago, ak1004 said:

One more thing I forgot to mention is shore excursions. We did two so far, Nicaragua and El Salvador. While well organized overall, I was surprised to see buses almost full. First excursion had 36 people and second over 40. If this is typical, this is significantly worse than we experienced on Oceania.


It’s not typical and usually Crystal don’t fill the buses. They also send along a ships representative on almost all tours which is a nice thing as they can contact the ship as necessary  

 

However is some ports there is a limited amount of infrastructure including buses so they have to make do with what they or their local suppliers can source 

 

We did some of these Central America ports last year and also had full mini buses on one excursion - I think there were 7 or 8 mini buses that day As it was an extremely popular excursion - so it will happen from time to time 

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2 minutes ago, Stickman1990 said:


It’s not typical and usually Crystal don’t fill the buses. They also send along a ships representative on almost all tours which is a nice thing as they can contact the ship as necessary  

 

However is some ports there is a limited amount of infrastructure including buses so they have to make do with what they or their local suppliers can source 

 

We did some of these Central America ports last year and also had full mini buses on one excursion - I think there were 7 or 8 mini buses that day As it was an extremely popular excursion - so it will happen from time to time 


yes having Crystal representative on the bus is very nice. It could be definitely port specific, i’m glad to hear it’s not typical for Crystal.

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1 hour ago, ak1004 said:

This is our 15th cruise. We sailed on Oceania and Azamara and the rest are mainstream lines like Celebrity, Princess Cunard etc. Oceania was our best cruise experience so far and I was curious how it will compare to Crystal. This is in no way a full review, just some first impressions.

 

Food is one area which fell short of expectations so far compared to Oceania. The breakfast buffet is very good, the dinner in the dining room is excellent, but lunch buffet doesn’t have enough options for me. It is probably heaven for Asian food lovers, but for someone like me who doesn’t like Asian food, the selection is a bit limited. Yesterday we visited the Brazilian steakhouse and loved it.

 

I will continue to report as things progress.

 

Thank you for posting your thoughts and observations. It takes time, effort and energy to post "live" while onboard, and your contemporaneous reports are most appreciated.

 

We have sailed Celebrity, Princess, HAL and Cunard. The options offered at the buffet on a 2500+/- pax ship can be more extensive and varied than what can be provided on a 800+/- pax ship. We have never sailed on O or A, so we cannot comment about how those two lines, with their smaller capacity ships, compare to Crystal's offerings.

 

Continue to enjoy the cruise. We return to Symphony in less than a month for the trans-pacific voyage to Hong Kong.

 

Rob

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1 hour ago, ak1004 said:


Yes today was an Asian theme, and I had virtually nothing to eat in both buffet and Waterside. We ended up in Trident Grill which was mediocre at best. But yesterday was not themed, and selection in the lunch buffet was still relatively limited. We will see what happens in the next few days.

 

Yes, food is very subjective.  We adore the Asian themed buffet, but it's definitely not for everybody.  

 

If you continue to have difficulty finding something you like at lunch, please note that you can make requests in Waterside with 24 hours notice and that's true at lunchtime as well.  If they have the ingredients on board, they will do it.  They really do want you to be happy.

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Had dinner in Prego today. Amazing experience, both food and service. Between the mushroom soup, the filet steak and the desert, I still have to decide which dish was the best. They all were so good.

 

Another outstanding evening performance, Josh Young. The entertainment continues to impress.

 

Today was a "black tie optional" night. Most guests were dressed up nicely. Probably around 60-70% of men or more wore a suit and/or a tie. You couldn't see people in shorts or jeans, which was nice.   

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts. We have only sailed Crystal once (2nd one coming up), we have also done a couple of Azamara, Seabourn, Viking and Regent. I completely agree with you that the buffet on Crystal is a bit limited and lacklustre. Funnily enough we thought Prego was a bit overrated, Umi Uma is the best dining we have had at sea, we thought the Watermwak mdr was superb. We thought where Crystal was fantastic was breakfast room service, they would accommodate anything on short request and delivery was always super quick, accurate and delicious. I do think Crystal provides an amazing variety of dining options. Hope you enjoy the rest of your cruise

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12 hours ago, ak1004 said:


yes having Crystal representative on the bus is very nice. It could be definitely port specific, i’m glad to hear it’s not typical for Crystal.

Yes, it really is port/geographic specific as are the quality of the vehicles.


While in many places the buses have nice seating with Air Conditioning and are large to allow for several empty seats there are places where the buses are older, some even with no A/C and some that are small or tour operators with an insufficient number of buses to meet the demand.  On the demand side if there is space even though that might mean the buses are full for those who want to be on the tour not filling them up would mean people would not be able to get onto the tour and I am sure there would be disappointment.  

 

Your post is a good reminder that not all places are the same.  From the to time when the question comes up people will say that the buses go half or three quarters full and while that is true of many places it is not true of all so a good reminder that there are exceptions.

 

I'm enjoying your very balanced comments.

 

Keith

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This is not a criticism of anyone's feelings, impressions about Crystal. Just an observation that when it comes to food, people are really "different". I have never done any premium/luxury lines other then Crystal, but my experience with what people call mass market (Holland America, Princess, Royal Caribbean and Disney), I find that the buffet (formerly Lido, now Marketplace) is head and shoulders above the others and has almost as much variety considering the other ships have double to quadruple plus the number of passengers. One place I love on Crystal is the Bistro. The food offerings there are outstanding.

 

Patty

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2 hours ago, Texas Tillie said:

 One place I love on Crystal is the Bistro. The food offerings there are outstanding.

 

Patty

one cannot live on the  Bistro offerings  for  a week

DH would try if he could but sadly you sometimes need more than fruit/pasties & cold meats/cheeses  😎

 

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19 hours ago, ak1004 said:

One more thing I forgot to mention is shore excursions. We did two so far, Nicaragua and El Salvador. While well organized overall, I was surprised to see buses almost full. First excursion had 36 people and second over 40. If this is typical, this is significantly worse than we experienced on Oceania. Even on Celebrity some excursions had only 20-25 people.

 

This is a good reason to do private tours

When we have done a tour with O there was a staff member on the bus  to "keep an eye" on things  as it were

 

 

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5 minutes ago, LHT28 said:

one cannot live on the  Bistro offerings  for  a week

DH would try if he could but sadly you sometimes need more than fruit/pasties & cold meats/cheeses  😎

 

Patty never said anything about living at the Bistro for a major meal.

 

What she did say was she finds Marketplace buffet to be cut and shoulders above other lines she has sailed.  She also said she loves the food offerings at the Bistro.

 

Keith

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With respect to the luncheon buffet in Marketplace, we stopped going there because we did see a significant offering of Asian based food, which we do not particularly enjoy.  We found Waterside an excellent venue with offerings we liked very much.  Marketplace was also mostly crowded and noisy, and Waterside was always subdued and elegant.  Different tastes well served by both venues.

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7 hours ago, Keith1010 said:

Yes, it really is port/geographic specific as are the quality of the vehicles.


While in many places the buses have nice seating with Air Conditioning and are large to allow for several empty seats there are places where the buses are older, some even with no A/C and some that are small or tour operators with an insufficient number of buses to meet the demand.  On the demand side if there is space even though that might mean the buses are full for those who want to be on the tour not filling them up would mean people would not be able to get onto the tour and I am sure there would be disappointment.  

 

Your post is a good reminder that not all places are the same.  From the to time when the question comes up people will say that the buses go half or three quarters full and while that is true of many places it is not true of all so a good reminder that there are exceptions.

 

I'm enjoying your very balanced comments.

 

Keith

 

I completely get your point.

 

In our case both excursions had very modern and comfortable buses so this was not the issue. Each excursion had around 80+ people and was split into 2 buses.

 

The simple solution was to book another bus so each bus has around 25-30 people instead of 40+. Maybe the tour operators did not have extra buses, drivers and guides? Possible. But it is also possible that Crystal selected not to pay for extra buses drivers and guides. Of course we have no way to know.

Edited by ak1004
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"The simple solution was to book another bus so each bus has around 25-30 people instead of 40+. Maybe the tour operators did not have extra buses, drivers and guides? Possible. But it is also possible that Crystal selected not to pay for extra buses drivers and guides. Of course we have no way to know."

 

--Agree , with somewhat "high prices" of excursions, they should not overcrowd buses 

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5 hours ago, Texas Tillie said:

This is not a criticism of anyone's feelings, impressions about Crystal. Just an observation that when it comes to food, people are really "different". I have never done any premium/luxury lines other then Crystal, but my experience with what people call mass market (Holland America, Princess, Royal Caribbean and Disney), I find that the buffet (formerly Lido, now Marketplace) is head and shoulders above the others and has almost as much variety considering the other ships have double to quadruple plus the number of passengers. One place I love on Crystal is the Bistro. The food offerings there are outstanding.

 

Patty

 

By definition, a 800 passengers ship cannot offer buffet variety similar to 4,000 passengers ship. The buffet area is simply much smaller and cannot accommodate as many selections. 

 

Pasta is just one example. They have only one type of pasta on Crystal with two sauces and one topping. On Celebrity they had 3-4 types with 3-5 different sauces and maybe 5-6 toppings. 

 

Of course quality is a different issue.

 

That said today the lunch buffet was a Mediterranean theme and it was fabulous. Probably one of the best I have seen in years. 

 

I'm sure that Asian food fans found yesterday's buffet excellent in both selection and quality. It just was not for me.

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