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Crystal, Seabourn and Oceania - Have questions?


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We've done all three in the past year (Symphony, Regatta and Ovation) and thought I'd offer to answer any specific questions you may have. I thought about writing something along the lines of highlights/lowlights of each but gave up because I didn't want to do a comparison. 

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I would like to hear your opinions (I know many on here don’t but then they should choose to ignore it) rather than ask questions. 
Have you written reviews? I would happily read them if you have links (annoying that cruisecritic doesn’t allow us to link to a username to read their reviews).

I will warn you that anything you say that could be perceived as even slightly negative (For eg the buffet closing early) on Crystal will receive commentary leaping to Crystal defence (but then it does on each of the individual lines boards). It does start to feel like advertising on some of these boards.

I personally love hearing others opinions on different cruise lines, ships or itineraries and comparing notes.

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13 hours ago, claudiaYVR said:

We've done all three in the past year (Symphony, Regatta and Ovation) and thought I'd offer to answer any specific questions you may have. I thought about writing something along the lines of highlights/lowlights of each but gave up because I didn't want to do a comparison. 

We have travelled on Crystal (both Symphony and Serenity) and Oceania (Riviera), but not on Seabourn, plus several others. I would be interested in your reflections on food, daytime activities (especially lectures), and options for dress on formal nights across the 3 cruise lines.

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We have done all three as well

 

Crystal is the best overall in every category with this one exception:

cabins are smaller - but since activities are so amazing you are never in the cabin

 

Seabourn stands out for 3 aspects

Seabourn Square -- fabulous gathering place with the best coffee at sea

Unlimited caviar 24 hours a day -- if you are a caviar lover

Trivia -- i find it the most fun on Seabourn with daily prizes

 

No butlers on Seabourn.  For us a big minus but  not for everyone.

Seabourn to Antarctica is fabulous.  Other cruises are just fine

 

Oceania

16 cruises on O

It has gone downhill in the last 10 years

When food is good it is great, but it is not consistent from cruise to cruise

Cabins (suites) are larger than Crystal by a lot.  We love the Oceania Suite on the larger ships.

Entertainment is abysmal.

Cooking classes can be fun.

 

 

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1 hour ago, bitob said:

We have done all three as well

 

 

Seabourn stands out for 3 aspects

Seabourn Square -- fabulous gathering place with the best coffee at sea

Unlimited caviar 24 hours a day -- if you are a caviar lover

Trivia -- i find it the most fun on Seabourn with daily prizes

 

No butlers on Seabourn.  For us a big minus but  not for everyone.

Seabourn to Antarctica is fabulous.  Other cruises are just fine

 

Oceania

 

 

 

Sorry to contradict my good friend Bitob but we are on Seabourn Quest now and there are no daily prizes at Trivia.

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1 hour ago, LAexNY said:

Sorry to contradict my good friend Bitob but we are on Seabourn Quest now and there are no daily prizes at Trivia.

 

Cutbacks everywhere..... 🙂

 

Edited by FlyerTalker
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4 hours ago, tipsygirl said:

We have travelled on Crystal (both Symphony and Serenity) and Oceania (Riviera), but not on Seabourn, plus several others. I would be interested in your reflections on food, daytime activities (especially lectures), and options for dress on formal nights across the 3 cruise lines.

Hi Tipsy,

 

My impressions on the items you ask about are as follows (both my husband and I are on the same page and this is not a common occurrence!):

 

Food. Bottom line, we rate Crystal first, Seabourn and Oceania tied for second (not on “taste” which is subjective but on variety, quality and consistency).

 

Starting with the Ovation (which we just came off two weeks ago), we found the food good but not great (a few inconsistencies across all dining venues); there is caviar available any time but you must know to ask for it (unless it’s on the menu). We (a group of six traveling together on a 19 day cruise) liked the TK Grill and booked it three times as soon as we boarded. By the third time we’d learned to order less food and we probably would not have gone again. Earth and Ocean is a lovely outdoor dining alternative but with a very small menu which repeats each week (also it is weather dependent). The grill on the pool deck has great Napa burgers and hotdogs (but the fries have that coating we don’t like), the rest of the offerings are meh...Seabourn Square has great coffee and adequate snacking throughout the day. The Restaurant was generally good to very good and after an initial incident where they wouldn’t/couldn’t accommodate our group of 6 they made a point of calling every afternoon to ask if we needed a table for 6. I was also able to request certain tables that were in better locations than the default one which was horribly located. The Colonnade was best during theme nights, the best thing about this venue is being able to have casual meals al fresco. Room service was fine food-wise but there always seemed to be something they forgot to bring. Tapas-style appys in the Observation Bar at night were really good.

 

We were on Symphony last July. I will not comment on every venue but we did not have a single bad meal anywhere and had many outstanding ones. This has not always been the case but we found the food on this cruise (and on Serenity a year before) was just great altogether. Waterside was excellent. Loved Silk (mostly because my husband loves westernized Chinese food), were underwhelmed by the Churrascaria and dinners at Prego and Umi Uma were perfect. Room service was flawless. The Bistro food offerings beat Seabourn Square because of the variety and the extended hours. We also like the Late Risers breakfast which is not an option on either Seabourn or Oceania.

 

We were on Regatta in February. Frankly we expected better given that food is Oceania’s strongest selling point. We had a few misses in the Grand Dining Room (meat over or under cooked, too much salt, etc). Polo and Toscana were really good to excellent. Waves was disappointing although the menu looked good. The Terrace for breakfast or lunch was ok but nothing stood out. Surprisingly there was not a crumb to be found onboard for about an hour in the late afternoon which coincides with the time people come back hungry from tours/port. We resorted to ordering appys through our butler (were were on a Penthouse suite) but this had to be done the evening prior and the selection wasn’t great. 

 

Daytime activities. Hands down Crystal. Seabourn second and Oceania third. Crystal has a much larger variety of topics and the lecturers themselves are of higher caliber overall and there are just more types of daytime entertainment including for example Magic Castle at sea, movies in the Hollywood theatre, etc. A look at the respective daily activity sheets for a sea day is the best way to gauge the range of options. To be clear, they all have something going on most of the time including art and jewellery making classes, trivia, etc., but in my opinion Crystal offers more and better than the other two.

 

Dress options. Of the three Oceania has the most casual dress code. There will be a few people who “dress up” in the evening but most times there’s no big difference between daytime and nighttime attire (think country club). Seabourn falls in the middle with a few tux’s and suits and fancier dresses on formal optional nights but a mixed bag most of the time (some people wearing really casual clothes and some wearing cocktail dresses and sports jackets). Crystal is more casual than it used to be but you still see a lot of gowns and tux’s on black tie optional and generally people dress up a bit more in the evenings.

 

Let me finish by mentioning one aspect of the Seabourn Ovation that was a real turnoff for us (specific to the Encore and Ovation): the Retreat. It is terribly under utilized (because you have to pay for it and it is claustrophobic) and it pretty much cancels out the extra space created in the bigger ships. Bottom line is that they added to the size to accommodate an additional 150 guests and proceeded to take that space away by making a huge portion of the deck off limits to most. As a result, the Ovation felt more crowded in areas like the pool decks and restaurants. Hope this helps.

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14 hours ago, teamflames said:

I would like to hear your opinions ...

Hi Teamflames,

I did not do CC reviews for these past three cruises (in fact it's been a while since I've posted a CC review) or blogged for that matter. Most often I keep a blog (like the ones linked below) which I share on CC through live threads. If you go to my blogger profile you'll see them all).

 

https://claudiayvrserenityarctic.blogspot.com/2018/06/to-other-pole-we-go.html

https://claudiayvr.blogspot.com/2015/03/

 

I'm much more of a glass half-full person so no doubt my reviews/blogs are generally of a positive nature. I try to contribute to the CC community as it is an invaluable source of information for me. I don't consider myself a Crystal cheerleader but I do admit that it is my favourite cruise line, also the one I've cruised the most.

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22 minutes ago, claudiaYVR said:

Hi Teamflames,

I did not do CC reviews for these past three cruises (in fact it's been a while since I've posted a CC review) or blogged for that matter. Most often I keep a blog (like the ones linked below) which I share on CC through live threads. If you go to my blogger profile you'll see them all).

 

https://claudiayvrserenityarctic.blogspot.com/2018/06/to-other-pole-we-go.html

https://claudiayvr.blogspot.com/2015/03/

 

I'm much more of a glass half-full person so no doubt my reviews/blogs are generally of a positive nature. I try to contribute to the CC community as it is an invaluable source of information for me. I don't consider myself a Crystal cheerleader but I do admit that it is my favourite cruise line, also the one I've cruised the most.

Thanks ClaudiaYVR

 

I enjoyed your comparison in response to Tipsy. I have only sailed once on the Symphony and once on the Ovation, never on Oceania. I have done one B2B on the Azamara Pursuit and once on Viking Star, once on Regent Navigator, all other cruises have been on the mainlines. We upcoming sailings on the Encore and the Symphony.

I would like to try Oceania (I like to try most things at least once) but we do like to have included drinks (not just with lunch and dinner) and haven’t found an O cruise with such offerings for the right price.

We preferred Crystal over Seabourn last year (sailed them back to back so comparison was easy) but I was ill for much of the Seabourn cruise hence we are trying the same thing again this year. Similarly to you we felt both lines had great activities during the day but Crystal had more and a greater variety. We also enjoyed the extra space on Crystal and the ability to walk the promenade. Add in tennis courts, movie cinema, library and there was just so much more to do. The Ovation felt like it lacked public space and there was nowhere to walk. Dining - our sentiments are similar to yours. We felt like Waterside was much more consistent in quality of food and service. We thought Seabourn buffet (Colonnade) was better in every way and enjoyed the covered outdoor dining. Crystal specialty offerings were much more diverse and higher quality. 
Entertainment - Crystal again, much better production shows, similar guests. Nothing on Seabourn to match Mark Farris and the Saloon.

The most glaring difference for us was in the area I meant that is important to us, ie bars and drink service. On our Seabourn sailing only one bar had a bar tender who could mix a cocktail correctly let alone prepare a mixed drink. Service in the bars was casual at best. It was impossible to even get a list of beers available. The Crystal bar service was professional in every way.

The aspects of Seabourn we did prefer was of course the cabins, we had the lowest category on both ships and the Seabourn “cabin” was a suite on any other and was so superior to Crystal it is not even in the same discussion. As impressive as it was it is still not a main driver in our choice of cruises (we often take an inside on a main line as well) as we spend so little time in it). 
We also enjoyed the trivia on Seabourn much more than Crystal, it is hosted by the CD and it is a real spectacle compared to the mundane Crystal offering (I remember the Regent trivia also being a lot of fun). There were also actual prizes compared to discount coupons that had so many restrictions they were useless. We also enjoyed other games in both Seabourn and Regent, such as shuffleboard or silly putting games etc.
I also loved Seabourn square (I agree Crystal has better food offerings here) the space is absolutely lovely and relaxing.

Fwiw we also enjoyed our Azamara experience, it did feel much more casual than Crystal or Seabourn. The ship was smaller which made it very easy to meet people, it also felt that fellow cruisers were more relaxed and interested in interacting. This of course could change dramatically on any sailing but Crystal felt much more conservative. Seabourn was somewhere in the middle of the 2 - much more sociable than Crystal but still had that uncomfortable nature of people trying to impress.

Azamara cabins were very small and the showers are so small I often showered in the gym. Their food options were generally impressive but not quite of the quality of Crystal. Entertainment was poor imo and very old fashioned, however the disco at night absolutely raged so that was fun. Service was impeccable on Azamara and due to the size of the ship guests and crew got to know each other very well. We also enjoyed that Azamara brought local tourist information personnel onboard in each port and it did feel like they wanted to help you maximise your port experiences more than other lines. Azamara did feel casual for those who are concerned about dress standards (I personally could care less).

I won’t discuss Regent as it was in 2017 and not as close in time to our other experiences but needless to say it was a wonderful experience.

Viking Ocean was an interesting experience. Very modern and gorgeous ship with a similar size and space feel to Crystal. Great promenade deck and loads of space to walk around up top. The included spa was a nice touch and the infinity aft pool was a nice space. Their buffet was a very high standard with fresh seafood (I think it had to make up for the lack of Asian options elsewhere). The mdr and Italian were lovely. Their other specialty option was poor with revolving set menus and seemed to be a training ground for staff. Their classical musical offerings around the ship were unique and high quality and we loved the day time concerts. 
However their included shore excursions on our sailing were very poor (dilapidated mini bus excursions to nowhere) and a waste. We would prefer these to be removed and gratuities and or drinks to be included. 
Their cabins were superior to Crystal (balcony minimum) but well short of Seabourn. Again a very causal dress code. Fellow passengers seemed very reserved to us and there was very little entertainment or nightlife. They seem to be very popular and this is reflected in their pricing which we find very high for their product.

Look forward to hearing more of your thoughts 

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I’m enjoying reading these impressions of the various lines. I am interested in trying all of them as there are different things that sound appealing about each one. 
 

How do the non-inclusive drinks work on the lines that don’t include them but have a pre-purchased package for sale?  We would definitely not want to have to buy individual drinks, but with the package do you have to show a room card or something similar every time you order?   I did love that all-inclusive aspect in the bars and lounges on Crystal and am assuming it’s similar on Regent. 

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13 minutes ago, sierrafloridacruiser said:

How do the non-inclusive drinks work on the lines that don’t include them but have a pre-purchased package for sale?  

Hi Sierra,

 

Our only experience with non-included drinks was on Oceania and we chose to buy a glass of wine or a beer here and there instead of a package (my husband will have the odd beer so it’s not worth it). I believe the way packages work is by scanning your card every time but I hope others will confirm or correct this. 

 

One thing that may be useful is that Oceania’s policy allows you to bring alcohol onboard! We took advantage of this and bought lovely wine on shore (we were in New Zealand) which I enjoyed a lot. You are not prevented from having your own wine anywhere and while there’s supposedly a corkage fee in the dining room I was never charged (can’t promise this will be the case always).

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16 minutes ago, sierrafloridacruiser said:

How do the non-inclusive drinks work on the lines that don’t include them but have a pre-purchased package for sale?  We would definitely not want to have to buy individual drinks, but with the package do you have to show a room card or something similar every time you order?  

 

We can only address our experience on Celebrity. The room cards are coded to whatever variation of drink package purchased. The waiter or bartender did collect our cards and had to scan them in their POS device every time anything was ordered. You could not run a tab and settle up at the end; each drink, wine, beer, bottled water, orange juice, smoothie, coffee, etc. had to be scanned when served.

 

Rob

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9 minutes ago, ryndam said:

We can only address our experience on Celebrity. The room cards are coded to whatever variation of drink package purchased. The waiter or bartender did collect our cards and had to scan them in their POS device every time anything was ordered. You could not run a tab and settle up at the end; each drink, wine, beer, bottled water, orange juice, smoothie, coffee, etc. had to be scanned when served.

 

Inventory control. Similar for all non-inclusive lines.  So if the bar served 50 beers, they can know how many were part of packages and part of individual sales.

 

Also provides the bean counters with a handle on what they should be charging for the packages.

 

And for Sierra, the bar and beverage procedures on Regent are like Crystal.  No cards needed except for the top shelf spirits, beers and wines that aren't part of the all inclusive.

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6 hours ago, sierrafloridacruiser said:

I’m enjoying reading these impressions of the various lines. I am interested in trying all of them as there are different things that sound appealing about each one. 
 

How do the non-inclusive drinks work on the lines that don’t include them but have a pre-purchased package for sale?  We would definitely not want to have to buy individual drinks, but with the package do you have to show a room card or something similar every time you order?   I did love that all-inclusive aspect in the bars and lounges on Crystal and am assuming it’s similar on Regent. 

Azamara has some basic drinks included and then you could purchase other packages which increased the quantity and quality of what was included. Off memory you had to give them your room card (no need to sign) but often the staff got to know you and didn’t need it. One of the problems though with this system was the upgraded wines were never readily available in the dining room and sometimes you waited an eternity. The ship ran out of others and it did take some complaining to get alternative added. We felt it was poor form to openly sell and advertise a drinks package and now have what was promised. Occasionally as well they would use cheaper spirits rather than what you ordered.

Viking included drinks at lunch and dinner but again there was a package that included upgraded wines and included most other drinks. I cannot remember if we had to swipe our card (I think we just had to show we had the packages). The better wines were always on hand in the restaurants unlike Azamara. Again most of the bar tenders got to know you and there was no issues.

not sure how Oceania does it.

Crystal and Seabourn all included, not sure what happens when you order something not included - presume you sign a bill?

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To the OP, excellent thread.

 

Excellent analysis provided by others. Very helpful.

 

I and our group have done all the lines discussed here other than Seabourn.

 

In providing an overall package at the premium level (Oceania, Azamara, Viking etc) - Our group prefers Azamara, then Viking and far back Oceania. As noted in post #4, Oceania does not deliver what they advertise (the MDR food no better than the mass lines and often worse than that, the Pepin everyday salmon is a slab of salmon, broccoli and potato like served at a nursing home, our table refused it) and they have a track record of missing ports and not attempting, attempting, to find another port.  This has happened so many times to our group that we will not book Oceania. Their on board management is very arrogant and staff very robotic. Azamara is welcoming and provides more activities and darn good food. Viking is good, except we do not support their early pay in full practice.

 

At the luxury level, it is Crystal all the way. The Crystal package is excellent and it is the lecturers that set it apart from their competitors - the only equivalent lecture package is on beloved QM2.

 

Two key elements in my bookings and that of our group members is 1) no class segmentation and 2) consistency of the product. We will patronize mass lines, but they have to meet these criteria - for example, Celebrity is out with their intense fixation on suite class and consistent downgrading of product.

 

You notice it is not about the lowest price - it is value for money relative to the competition.

 

 

 

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23 hours ago, FlyerTalker said:

 

Cutbacks everywhere..... 🙂

 

This is not a cutback, There have never been daily prizes at Trivia on Seaboard. They tally the daily score of your team each day and then on the last day the team with the most points wins and gets the prize.

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Briefly I will chime in here. We have been on Oceania 3 times, Seabourn 3, and Crystal 2. My ratings would be

 

Seabourn 1.  smaller ships, very friendly crowd, younger, and very social. Food was good in Colonnade and the staff personable. Personally did not care for the Restaurant. Like that there was wine and hard liquor in the cabin, and a well stocked mini bar in the room. Speaking of rooms, nice size balcony cabin with a walk in closet and  Roomy bathroom.

 

Crystal 2. Older crowd (perceived age, not numerical) food was hit or miss.  Sparse mini bar, no wine in room. The wines that are served are good. Balcony cabins are too small and towels look very tired. 

 

Oceania 3. Most likely would not go again. Had suites all three times as the standard cabins are too small. We did not have a drink package, so bought wine . Ships seemed too “clubby” and as a whole not very friendly. I have not been on the Marina or it’s sister ship.

 

We have been on just about all the different lines...would give a thumbs up to the Paul Gauguin as the food was excellent and the staff very friendly. 

Edited by alwaysonaship
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3 minutes ago, alwaysonaship said:

Sparse mini bar, no wine in room.

 

Spirits and wine available in your room....just ask.  As for the contents of the "mini-bar", I'm assuming you mean the room fridge.  That can also be set to whatever you want, you just have to ask.

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4 minutes ago, alwaysonaship said:

Sparse mini bar, no wine in room

Just to let you know in case you book with Crystal again, you can ask for any liquor, wine or champagne that is on the inclusive list (and there's are a LOT) in your cabin. At any one time we've had a bottle of white and a bottle of red of our choosing as well as a bottle of gin and sometimes cognac. Any other items such as sparkling mineral water, soft drinks etc will be placed in our mini bar upon request. Once they are finished they will be replaced with the same items or with anything else you might care for. All you need to do is ask. There won't be a form to fill in so it is a matter of you just asking your room attendant or butler for what you want and it will happen.

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4 minutes ago, ClefsDor said:

Just to let you know in case you book with Crystal again, you can ask for any liquor, wine or champagne that is on the inclusive list (and there's are a LOT) in your cabin. At any one time we've had a bottle of white and a bottle of red of our choosing as well as a bottle of gin and sometimes cognac. Any other items such as sparkling mineral water, soft drinks etc will be placed in our mini bar upon request. Once they are finished they will be replaced with the same items or with anything else you might care for. All you need to do is ask. There won't be a form to fill in so it is a matter of you just asking your room attendant or butler for what you want and it will happen.

Thank you for that information. I will do that. 

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