I have cruised on Crystal Symphony about 6 times. It is my favorite ship and I always have a wonderful time. The food is excellent, the service beyond excellent, and my fellow cruisers are almost all well mannered and friendly. It is; however, a real stretch for my budget.
It was announced that if you cruise on your birthday in 2010 you can take another cruise for 25% off, (50% for those in double cabins) as long as you take it before your next birthday. I signed up for the Panama Canal cruise that included my birthday. I was told that I could not reserve the discount cruise until I had actually taken the birthday cruise. I; therefore, signed up for the next cruise while on the ship for the birthday cruise. I signed up for the lowest price cabin as usual. Soon after the cruise I was notified that there were no cabins in that price category, or the next one up, for the cruise next November, 10 months away, The least expensive cabin available for my discount cruise was well over $5000. I feel that the line pulled a "bait and switch" type of maneuver. I am angry enough that I will probably not cruise on Crystal for quite a long time. Although it is my favorite, there are other ships that are very nice. I have taken about 50 cruises and never failed to have a good time, although some ships and some cruises are better than others. A few have even been quite bad.
The things that make Crystal stand out are subtle, but add up to make a very enjoyable experience. To name a few:
1. The service is always cheerful, and the crew seems to really want to be sure you have a good time. There is no eye-rolling or comment if you ask the ice cream attendant to fix your cone a certain way or want something a bit different than usual. Someone is immediately there to take your tray to the table as soon as you step away from the serving line in the casual restaurant.
2. The price is really close to all inclusive; very few extra charges. The mini-bar items in your cabin are there for you to enjoy, and it is restocked daily. Alcohol costs extra. The ship features Coke products. I do not like coke so my mini-bar is stocked with Pepsi at no extra charge. There is no extra charge for any classes except private lessons. The needlepoint kits and instruction are included. There is no extra charge for the ultra deluxe alternate restaurants except $7.00 recommended tip for service.
3. A person from the ship goes on every shore excursion, and is in touch with people on the ship if there is any problem.
4. The guest lecturers have almost always been knowledgeable and interesting. There are a variety of topics on each cruise. Piano lessons, bridge lessons, and a language are offered at no extra charge.
5. An extremely well stocked library with CDs and DVDs available at no extra charge and a well informed librarian to help you find something you will like.
6. If you let the head waiter know what you would like to try at dinner it will be prepared for you. I have always wondered what lobster thermador is when it is mentioned in a novel. On this cruise I had the kitchen prepare it for me (and several of my tablemates who also wanted to try it). It was delicious and there was no extra charge. Several other special dishes were served to the table because someone asked for them.
7. The prizes at trivia are often something you would really like to keep as a souvenir; very few of the keychain type. On this cruise I won a journal to use as a cruise diary and a baseball cap with the Crystal logo.
8. The casino allows double and triple odds at the craps table which gives the player a fighting chance to come out ahead. Many ships allow only single odds if they even have a craps table.
Unfortunately, this wonderful service does come at a higher than most cost. There are a few items that can drive your onboard costs high too. Computer time, alcohol, spa treatments, onboard shops, and shore excursions are very expensive. The medical center was also very expensive for a simple problem. I had a great time without spending much in these areas excep two shore excursions and a drink on the last day.