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Age: 54


Number of Cruises: 25

Cruise Line: Crystal

Ship: Crystal Harmony

Sailing Date: NOT FOUND

Itinerary: Alaska

Tom Houts

Cruise Line: Crystal

This was my sixth trip aboard Crystal Harmony in as many years. It has been my favorite ship but for a few reasons (to follow) may not see me again as a paying passenger.

The ship itself is over ten years old and has begun to show its age. I was annoyed several times by loud, raucous grinding noises made by ships crew maintaining the rusting hull. I understand it is a constant maintenance effort to keep a ship looking pristine, but i believe this ship cannot be maintained at sea. The last few times I was on the crew was removing the silicone between the teak on the promenade and Lido decks and this made for additional inconvenience. I don't pay premium prices to live in a "under construction" environment. This, of course, didn't happen during the first 3 or 4 cruises.

Second, I'm getting tired of the ridiculously small baths with high sided tub/shower combinations. This is something the ship will be forever saddled with and while acceptable in the beginning because of all the other wonderful things I liked about the ship, crew and food. Now, with the many newer ships with larger staterooms for no more money I'm branching out. I'm actually writing this on the Radisson Navigator, which has the most beautiful staterooms I've seen at sea. But that's for another review.

Third, the wait staff at dinner has becoming annoying. In their attempt to assure us they giving us great service deserving large tips, they interrupt your dinner conversation incessantly removing unused serving dishes and silverware and placing new ones down. The refilling of water, serving of dishes, offering of fresh ground pepper, parmesan cheese or whatever condement was called for, was done in such a manner that it was annoying, not serving. I believe good service is there when you want it but otherwise isn't noticed. So, while service was ample, it was overall annoying. They need to study fine restaurants where you don't notice serice, but receive all you desire.

Fourth, the ship I was on was over half empty and I inquired about an upgrade as I am a frequent user and fan of Crystal. I was told I could upgrade for the full brochure price. I am not happy with this decision. When I travel to the various hotels chains I use their frequent guest programs. They always upgrade when rooms are available for no additional charge. Having run several businesses i undertsnd the logic of this: it rewards me for frequenting their hotel chain and doesn't cost them any extra because the upgrade is only available if the hotel isn't full. Ships has become so paranoid apparently about people getting undeserved upgrades for complaining or whatever (I don't know why and can only imagine) that they've forgotten how to honor repeat guest. The Crystal Harmony cannot afford to NOT give incentives as it ages. It's losing its charm inevitably due to age.

Fifth, the Crystal line charges punative rates for use of their internet access. Something no other line dares to do, Crystal does with impunity. Because we're all a "net wired" people, staying in touch with emails is highly desired. Radisson charges only by the connect time for up- and down-loads. This is a fraction of the $3. per email sent and received on Crystal. I believe this needs to change immediately and would result in more usage of their computer room and happier customers.

The Crystal line is still the finest sailing experience I've had. The food is generally superlative with a great variety and generally well prepared, plated and served. The atmosphere is gentile, graceous and staff always pleasant. I like the quiet elegance of Crystal line compared to other lines that constantly harangue you with offerings over the loudspeakers to play bingo, buy art or join in on some idiotic pool game. Crystal has one broadcast announcement a day from the captain regarding the weather conditions. The pool and deck areas are blessedly quiet most of the time unless the band is appearing for cocktail or buffet lunches. There is ample room to be alone for reading or resting or just being alone. The Bistro has exceptional coffee drinks (cappuchino, expresso) as well as a delightful array of breakfast, lunch or afternoon snacks. I don't eat large meals but like to snack lightly all day. On the Crystal one can do that in a healthy manner (fruits, cheeses, cold cuts, yoghurt) or decadent (luscious pate's, desserts, pastries, cookies). Their health club is one of the nicest, especially because of the average age, I'm one of the few using it. It's rarely crowded. The ship is very stable, both because of its size and the crew running it. (The Radisson Navigator floats like a large shoe box and the captain can't seem to control it making for a very uncomfortable time when the seas are moderately rough)

All other aspects of the cruise experience was flawless in my opinion. Embarkation, disembarkation, room service, cleanliness, etc. happen with few annoyances, if any. Certainly nothing within their control is left to fester.

The overall "can do" attitude of the Crystal crew is perfectly matched by the execution, which I cannot say for the Radisson line. The breads and pastries are not as good as Radissons, nor do their desserts compare as well. The cookies are great on Crystal, whereas the cookies on the Navigator are mealy and not worth eating. Minor points, assuredly, but adding up to reasons why we do what we do.

I have gone on the Harmony because I'm single it's prohibitively expensive for me to travel on the Symphony, which may have better facilities. I will save traveling on the Symphony and newer ship Serenity for when I have a traveling companion. I highly recommend you try the Crystal line if you haven't been and judge for yourself.

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