The Best Food at Sea
is one of our favorite cruise lines - see above
for Crystal Pride specials.
What first excited me about Crystal was the educational programs onboard, particularly Yamaha keyboard instruction. If you ask if I participated in Yamaha classes when I finally cruised Crystal for the first time I will tell you no, but that is most definitely beside the point. In the same classroom where you can take keyboard lessons, I did take Spanish lessons from the most charming Berlitz Spanish instructor ever. He used one of those Yamaha keyboards to play Pomp and Circumstance for Mary and I after the final class in which we gave speeches in Spanish outing ourselves and received certificates to honor our (in my case) complete non-mastery of Spanish. He also gave us a very fine Mexican holiday beer called Noche Buena
. Mary says that was in honor of her birthday, but my memory is that it was because we were initially the only people to show up for the last class. Crystal also offers art classes (see my work above), golf instruction, computer classes, and much more. All classes are included in your cruise fare.
Though I did love the higher learning aspect of our Crystal cruise (never mind the art teacher who could not hide her disdain for my work - again, see above) there were two other things that I loved more. The first was the food. Everyone always goes on about the food on cruises, but generally what's amazing is the quantity and availability, rather than the quality. At least that's my opinion. I've always felt that cruise food is okay, but in reality it's one of my least favorite things about cruising. Until we sailed Crystal, I just did not believe that you could get as good food on a cruise ship as you can on land. I'm now a believer. Our first stop when we boarded the ship the first day, hungry, hungry, hungry, was the pool grill. I ordered a minute steak, mainly because of the word "minute." We sat down to eat and I took a bite and said, "Oh my! This is the best steak I've ever had.!" Which it was until we had chateaubriande on formal night. That was the best steak I'd ever had until the next night when I ordered the amazing Grilled Wagyu Beef Rib Eye Steak at Silk Road by Nobu, one of two alternative restaurants on board the Crystal Serenity. Then there was the Wolfgang Puck's Chinois Chicken Salad at lunch and (really!) the most delicious oatmeal I've ever had, served with real maple syrup at breakfast. The only food Crystal couldn't seem to handle was hard-boiled eggs, and I forgave them that.
So we ate well on Crystal, but the other thing I really loved was that the passengers were very active and healthy and there were almost no smokers. Crystal doesn't have a really strict smoking policy like Oceania, but the people who sail Crystal are much more likely to be running laps than smoking. Both Crystal ships, the Symphony and the Serenity, have full teak wrap-around decks so you can run or walk all the way around the ship. They also have a program they call WOW (Walk on Water) where they give you weighted vests to wear as you walk the desk and we often watched the walkers from our balcony and vicariously lost weight from their exertions.
Most cruise ships will have a Friends of Dorothy party for gay and lesbian cruisers and Crystal's was fully hosted which means they provided hors d'oeuvres and any alcoholic drink we wished to order. We met two lovely women there and quite a few very nice men.
Crystal is one of the only luxury cruise lines that is not all-inclusive, which is a real plus for people who don't drink much. On most luxury cruise lines your cruise fare includes alcohol and on Crystal it does not. Your fare also does not include gratutities as it does on most other luxury cruise lines. However, it does include just about everything else. You won't have to purchase a soft drink card; you won't have to pay for bottled water; you won't have to pay for specialty coffees or pastries or ice cream or non-alcoholic beer/wine or any of the myriad other things you pay extra for on mass-market lines. There is a suggested tip at the specialty restaurants which was $7 per person at the time of our cruise in December. If you're looking for free alcohol, you'll have at least two and probably more opportunities on board - the Captain's Welcome Party, the aforementioned Friends of Dorothy party, and there are usually other events that include free alcohol.
To read our blog entries from our Crystal Cruise, click here.