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Crystal Symphony – June 17, 2019 (San Francisco to Vancouver) – Part IV (Some Thoughts & Reflections)

As my eight-night cruise on the Crystal Symphony draws to an end, I have to say that I am a bit conflicted.  There are some truly wonderful aspects of the Crystal Symphony and some that clearly need some buffing up.

One thing that doesn’t need buffing up is the ship itself. The Crystal Symphony is in great shape.  Every area is extremely well maintained and even after recent refurbishment updates continue with nice new carpeting being installed during our cruise.

There are also many venues and activities on the ship.  From golf driving ranges, miniature golf, pickleball/paddle tennis

as well as a computer library, library and bridge room.  Ballroom dancing, string quartets, elegant afternoon tea and an enrichment program that continues to be one of the best, if not the best, at sea.

Crystal Symphony’s Palm Court

Speaking of enrichment programs, during our cruise there were two complimentary wine tastings held in conjunction with the Livermore Valley with Omega, McKahn and Wente wineries.

I should note that these were not serious wine tastings, but more akin to try some of our wines and see if you like any.  It was truly better to have this approach than faux tastings where it is about “the show” rather than “the fun”.

The complimentary Wi-Fi was great.  I was able to login on my laptop, phone and iPad all at the same time and pretty much never had any connectivity or serious lag issues.

A few things do, however, need buffing up:

  • There is far too much use of single-serve plastic packets for just about any and everything you can think it.
  • Plastic spoons are used at Scoop’s, the ice cream bar serving Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.  I don’t think those guys would be too impressed either.
  • While paper straws are now used, they each come wrapped individually in paper. Huh?
  • Fake cream cheese is used…also served in plastic packets.
  • While some do enjoy some of the last remaining photographers at sea (at least on a luxury line), there has to be a way to avoid them rather than step around them.
  • Shuttle bus limitations.  In Victoria, the only shuttle bus necessary port, buses left on the half hour and if they were full a second bus was not provided. Thus, in my case, I arrived along with about 20 other guests at 9:55 AM for the 10:00 AM shuttle only to watch it drive off early and be told the next shuttle would leave in 35 minutes.  That was a first!  Crystal, at least at the beginning of the day, should provide all the shuttles that are needed.
  • Reflections, Crystal’s nightly multipage newspaper is a huge waste of paper and very “old school” with ads for the photographer, etc. It may be that Crystal’s demographic is “old school”, but for this “youngster” what I need to know gets lost in that which I could care less about.
  • Crystal continues is kitschy Cruise Director television shows each morning.  While it is easy enough to just not tune in, I think the homage to yesteryear downgrades the luxury aspects of Crystal.

Along those lines, I must note the demographic on this cruise.  It skewed not only elderly, but infirm with more canes, walkers, etc. and inability to actively walk than I have seen.  At the same time, it seemed like the grandparents brought along quite a number of children (adults) with their children (grandchildren).  At times it made just getting into an elevator before closed or sitting in the one hot tub quietly a challenge.  It also made navigating the Marketplace (buffet) quite a bit more challenging.

Regarding my stateroom, and as I previously noted, I was assigned a Deluxe Stateroom with Extremely Limited View. Other than the lifeboat view it is essentially the same as the Deluxe Staterooms with or without a veranda.  Overall it provides most every amenity one would desire, but lacks sufficient storage space for an extended cruise.  Most challenging, however, is the bathroom…though it has everything from double sinks to a soaking tub to tons of storage.  Its downfall is two-fold: virtually no counter space and no space to maneuver.

Two sinks are great, but there is virtually
no counter space

Also of note:  While the front desk assured me that there is one-way glass on the windows so crew working on the lifeboat outside my window cannot see me, it is simply untrue.  I looked at the window when the ship was docked in Victoria and I could see the curtains and, thus, right in!  Just be aware…as it really is off-putting and a bit creepy.  However, I did make a request that Crystal just let me know when someone might be working on the lifeboat so I could be sure to draw my curtains.  In true Crystal fashion, it was done!

My stewardess was extremely quiet and polite…though she did loosen up as the cruise continued, so the smiles and a bit of a chat were appreciated.  She was extremely efficient and kept my stateroom in great shape.

Crystal Symphony’s Avenue Saloon

I have to say that in all of my cruises (and there have obviously been many) the bar staff – from bartenders to waiters – in the Avenue Saloon/Connoisseurs Club are the best team I have ever encountered.  Charming personalities, excellently crafted cocktails, intuitive service.  Bravo!

Every detail from properly placing the cocktail napkin with the Crystal Seahorses facing you, to offering another cocktail at just the right time to changing out your ashtray (Connoisseurs Club only)…plus knowing how much to engage or not engage each guest was spot on.

Overall, the cuisine was quite good, but some aspects just weren’t up to past Crystal standards.  Prego, the Italian restaurant, was outstanding, the Trident Grill’s hamburgers were spot on and Waterside (the main restaurant) did great on cuisine, but disappointed with rushed impersonal service…the same sort of service I received during my two visits to Umi Uma.  Umi Uma, associated with Nobu and previously my favorite dining venue really became “Really? Oh My!” as the sushi/sashimi quality is suffering, undesired dishes are robotically (systematically?) pushed on you and some dishes left me shaking my head. Silk is a decent refuge, but left me wanting flavor and a bit of the tranquility its decor leads you to believe will be there. But the Churascuria was great fun and delivered a noteworthy experience.

One personal disappointment:  There were not enough guests who signed up for the Vintage Room; a fantastic pairing of extraordinary cuisine prepared by Crystal’s chefs with extraordinary wines.  It baffles me how out of 884 guests there were not twelve that found the $250 evening worthwhile.

While I did not use any of the Crystal shore excursions, I did take advantage of its very worthwhile Voluntourism opportunities.  It was good to see there was sufficient participation by the guests, as in the past I have experienced a lacking thereof.

Overall my experience on the Crystal Symphony was very good.  Some aspects were excellent. Some were very good. But some left me a bit disappointed.

Do I continue to recommend Crystal Cruises? Absolutely. But is not the right product for everyone.  Making sure the itinerary and ship match a guest’s needs and desires come first and foremost. And one thing is for certain with Crystal:  It does that for quite a number of its loyal guests.

If you would like to read my prior, more in-depth articles, here are the links:

Crystal Symphony – June 17, 2019 (San Francisco to Vancouver) – Part I (Prelude)

Crystal Symphony – June 17, 2019 (San Francisco to Vancouver) – Part II

Crystal Symphony – June 17, 2019 (San Francisco to Vancouver) – Part III (Food: For Those in Need & Onboard)

Interested in a Crystal Cruise? Give me a call, drop me an email or send me a Facebook message!

US: (877) 2GO-LUXURY (877-246-5898)
UK: 020 8133 3450
AUS: (07) 3102 4685
Everywhere Else: +1 530 562 9232

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