Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Crystal Symphony - Patricia Riley's Review: August 22-September 2, 2013 (Lisbon to Dover) - Part V- Things I Love About Crystal Cruises, Exceptional Service...and A Small Wish

Now that I am about half way through my cruise on the Crystal Symphony I thought I would list, in no particular order, some the things that I am really enjoying about my cruise and the ship:
  


1.  A Real Movie Theater.  The Hollywood Theatre has a full size screen, comfortable seats and offers both matinee and evening shows.  Though not first run movies they are movies that would be shown on planes and have come out on DVD.  Movies shown during my cruise included "Side Effects" and "Iron Man 3".

2.  Computer University@Sea.  Started in 1997, the Computer Center is staffed by Technology Concierges.  These guys are miracle workers and very very patient.  If you did not bring your iPad or laptop there are plenty of computer terminals in the center.  As most people have their own devices there were always seats available in the computer center for those that wanted to surf the web.  A learning center is part of the facility and I highly recommend signing up for some of the complimentary courses.  There is a three part series on iPad use.  You can take 1, 2 or all 3 of the modules.  I took the "Pictures with your iPad" class.  I didn't have time to take the other two courses but a cheat sheet is provided to bring home for those who could not attend in person.  For the truly ambitious there is five part course on film making.

One of the "Technology Concierges" is pictured below.

Crystal Cruises Provides Technology Concierges
3.  A Well Equipped Fitness Center that is very large...and offers lots of fitness classes.



I never did see it full, but there is a note by the four recumbent bicycles requesting a 30 minute limit use.  There is free weight area, treadmills, stair climbers and resistance machine

Crystal Symphony also offers a variety of complimentary fitness classes.  There are always four choices every day and include Pilates, Yoga, Circuit Training, Stretching and Abs.  There is also a Walk on Water class in the pool.

4.  An Elegant Spa.  Staffed by the great therapists from Steiner's the spa is open until 10:00 pm for treatments.  They range from the mundane, such a Swedish massage to the really unusual, for example, the Thai Poultice massage.  Prices are inline with other luxury cruise lines.  Specials are offered daily.  You can get a 50 minute experience consisting of two mini services for $119.00  An 18% service fee is added to your bill for all services.  Also available in the beauty salon are hair and nail services.

5.  Enrichment Lectures and Classes.  I am a firm believer that cruising should be a learning experience.  Its a chance to come back smarter from your vacation then when you left.  I think Crystal Symphony has excellent enrichment programs.  "Odyssey Art at Sea"  introduces to the world of painting.  Whether you are a beginner or experienced you will get a chance to hopefully improve your technique and have some fun, too.

Crystal is also renowned for the quality of their lecturers.  Whether the topics are history, wine, politics or anything else the people delivering these lectures are the best in their field and always interesting. My Crystal Symphony cruise featured award winning journalist Thomas DeFrank. A student of the Presidency, he was Newsweek magazine's senior White House reporter.  His lecture was full of interesting, behind the scenes, antidotes.

A destination lecturer, Dr. Larry Herson, gave the information needed to enjoy the ports and his information was background related.  He did not push tours, just offered information on the history and culture of our destinations.         

6.  A Real Casino.  Its so nice to see a craps table on a ship.  Even better is that the minimum in the casino on the Crystal Symphony is only $5.00 to get into a craps game.  That is less than the minimum at most Las Vegas gaming establishments.  There are tons of slot machines, video poker and card tables.  There are tournaments for poker and blackjack also.



The Casino is one way the Crystal Symphony combines the best of a traditional cruise experience, by way of amenities, with the outstanding cuisine and service one would expect to find on the smaller luxury ships.  It is really is in a class of its own and should be viewed that way.

7.  Formal High Tea.  The venue for the tea service is the Palm Court.  I think it is one of the most beautiful public rooms on any ship. High on deck 11 forward it offers sweeping 270 degree vistas.  It is waiter service at tea time and everything is presented to you.  There is no self service.  I like the table service as it adds a special touch.  The tea time music is played by the resident jazz band.


Crystal Symphony's Palm Court
So now that I have listed what I really like let me list my "Wish List".  This is what I would like to see be able to be done. Its a small list.
1.  The ability to receive bar service, by the pool or Trident Bar, after 6:00pm. We have had amazing weather and sunset is not until almost 9:00 pm.  If you are on late dining, or reservation only dining, after 8:00pm, its enjoyable to sit outside on deck and enjoy the remains of the day.  


As I previously mentioned I like to drink ice tea during the day.  Yesterday evening I was in one of the very comfortable couches by the pool.  It was 6:10 pm. I asked a passing bar steward if I could have another ice tea brought over. He looked at the clock and said as it was after 6:00 pm he would have to ask his manager.  The answer came back, "No".  I understand that there needs to be a cut off time for service and I would have liked to seen the steward, on his own, go into the Palm Court to get me an ice tea.  With a wink, he could have said that this was special for me.  As it was I got up and went to Palm Court to get me ice tea.  Was it the end of the world, no, of course not.  Was it an effort for me to get up and get it?  Again, no.  It was a chance though to provide not just very good service but exceptional service. That chance was missed.

Exceptional Service...And a Light Touch
 
I do have to recognize a person that has gone out of his way to deliver exceptional service.  His name is Marco; a 27 year old waiter from Venice.  I was seated at his table on embarkation day.  As my luggage did not make it to Lisbon with me and other assorted travel mishaps, I was not in the best mood.  When he asked him how I was I told him, honestly. He was wonderful.  He touched my shoulder and said that I should forget all about what has happened so far and he will make sure I am happy.
 
I only dined at his table one additional evening and yet every time he sees me he goes out of his way to speak to me, check that all is well and simply make me feel good.  I didn't see him at all yesterday and so today at lunch he ran up to me when he saw me and spontaneously I gave him a kiss!  He will go far with Crystal and I see him moving up to other positions in the future.

I'm writing this as I sit on my balcony in the harbor of St. Malo.  It's a beautiful sunset.



More about the ports of St. Malo and L'Orient later.