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About SandJCruiser

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    Costa RIca

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  1. SandJCruiser

    Pricing discrepancy question

    It appears Marq is correct. Being only about 3 months out, the cruise I was looking at probably needs filling, and they are "dumping" at a lower price point in non-US/Canada regions. I looked at a similar cruise in 2021, and the US price minus air credit and the foreign price (no air mentioned) are exactly the same. Question answered, but it brings up an interesting possible strategy for obtaining good pricing on near term sailings as Jymi-B was able to do. Thanks, everybody.
  2. Go! We recently tried Crystal for the first time and were blown away. As others have mentioned, the food and service are top notch, and the activities and entertainment can't be beat. An unusually short cruise at a great price point is a wonderful opportunity to try the line. And I wouldn't be put off by cabin size. We were in the lowest category on Symphony and what the room lacked in size, it made up for with intelligent design and loads of storage space, as well as a great bathroom. I'm sure you'll love the experience and appreciate the value.
  3. I was just randomly browsing around Regent's website and came up with what I find to be an interesting discrepancy. Maybe someone in the CC community can un-confuse me as to what I found. I'm a US citizen who happens to live in Costa Rica. When I was looking at the pricing for Regent cruises, I saw no mention of air being included. Then I figured out that the website was probably reading my IP address as being outside the US, and therefore was directing me to a cruise-only price page, since flights are only from US gateway cities. So, just for giggles, I fired up my VPN software and made it look like I was accessing the site from the US (Dallas, TX to be specific). I picked a cruise more or less at random, the Explorer from Santiago Chile to Los Angeles, 20 nights, February 17, 2019. Lowest category cabin, Veranda H. The price was $13,899 pp. At the bottom of the fare listings was a statement that without air, one could receive a credit of "up to $1800 per person". That would make the cruise only fare $12,099 pp. Here's the interesting part: When I turn my VPN off and once again access the site from Costa Rica, and get the no air mentioned page, the same cruise, same cabin, is listed at $8399 pp., a whopping $5500 less that the air included price and $3700 less than the price with the air credit. If I actually lived in Dallas, business air to Santiago and a coach return from LA would run about $2300, so even if I paid a $175 deviation, the Regent air looks pretty good. But if I could get the cruise only for $8399, I could do my own air, and fly First Class on the return leg for about $2600 and still be way ahead. So, what does this mean? Are US residents being gouged for $3700, even when taking the air credit? Is there a special price for non-US residents? I can't be the first one to have noticed this. Anyone know what the story is here?
  4. SandJCruiser

    The Supper Club - Serenity

    We were just in NYC in September, prior to boarding Symphony. Rainbow Room is alive and well, offering special events, parties, etc. The dining facility, however, is available by membership only.
  5. SandJCruiser

    Oceania vs. Crystal

    Thanks to all for your input. Might try O for the right itinerary. Think we'd like it for something port intensive as it sounds like O isn't as good for sea day activities. Sounds like the dining would be attractive.
  6. SandJCruiser

    Confused about included air

    We are considering trying Oceania. I have seen in many posts off-hand comments about O including airfare or providing an air credit if you make your own air arrangements. Yet I can find no mention of this on their website. Is this no longer the case, is it an occasional special, or what? Can someone please un-confuse me?
  7. SandJCruiser

    Oceania vs. Crystal

    We have just come back from our first Crystal cruise and loved it. We are thinking about also trying Oceania as wel!. Our interests are in service, food, itinerary, and onboard entertainment/enrichment. Don't care about casino, are not picky about cabins, and don't usually do ship excursions any more. Would love to hear from those who have experience with both lines.
  8. SandJCruiser

    Who is comparable to Oceania ?

    We cruised with Tauck river 3 years ago and will second the opinion that their level of service and care is superb. They also have a reputation for handling problems in a very satisfy-the-customer way without worrying about cost. That is particularly important in river cruises, where water issues can frequently arise. Read some of the posts about how different lines, including Tauck, have handled these issues on past trips. Tauck is completely all inclusive, to the point where they give you cash for a scheduled lunch on your own in town, and pay for the restroom stops on tours. They are not cheap, comparable to Crystal, but I would recommend them without reservation. Just remember river cruises, and river ships, are a completely different animal from ocean cruising. Smaller, way more intimate, and, of course, port intensive. We liked that aspect, but some do not. You won't know until you try it.
  9. So, I recently met another CC member on a cruise and promised I'd send her contact info. I don't want to do that publically, and thought I could do it through CC messaging. Anyone have any ideas on how to do that? BTW, the "search members" functionality also appears to not work.
  10. SandJCruiser

    Crystal Symphony 9/25 - 10/5 NYC to Montreal

    Nickolas' real first name was either Chrystoph or Chrystos, but he said everyone calls him Nickolas. He is from Mallorca. So, probably not the same guy, but just really fun. Actually wrote out a list of all the best little towns to visit in Mallorca, if we ever get there. Came on board Symphony to be with his girlfriend, who works in Prego.
  11. As a first-time Crystal cruiser, I thought I might post a general review with our impressions. This is intended for, and will probably be more of interest to, cruisers who have not yet tried Crystal. We had previously been on Sitmar, Norwegian, MSC, RCL, Celebrity, Tauck river, and Princess, so this was our first step up to a luxury line (other than Tauck, which is pretty high-end). Our cruise started with an overnight in New York, then visited Newport, Boston, Bar Harbor, Halifax, St. John, and Quebec City, before ending in Montreal. Embarkation - We arrived by cab from our hotel, dropped our luggage, went through passport check, a quick trip through security and into the check-in area in the Starlite. In just a few minutes, we were done. Our cabin wouldn't be ready until about 3:00, so we left our hand luggage with the crew member there in the lounge and went off to Waterside for lunch. When we checked back, our cabin was ready, and our luggage (including the carry-on) were waiting for us. Super quick and easy. The Ship - We were very impressed with the overall look and condition of the ship. I have been on many newer ships which were not as well maintained. There was not a speck of rust, a worn carpet, or a loose panel anywhere that I could see. Granted, the Symphony is only a year out of its last dry dock, but the lower-end cabins did not receive significant renovations and ours was in excellent condition. You can just see the pride and discipline that the crew who maintain the ship have in her appearance. The public rooms were beautiful and functioned well. The Cabin - I have read many postings here on CC about the small size of the cabins. We had a lower type cabin and it seemed to us about the same size as other ships on which we've sailed. The difference is is the layout and design. Instead of a barely functional closet and a tiny bathroom with a stall shower you can barely turn around in, this had a full size closet with 36 (I counted) wooden hangers, as well as a good size bathroom with two sinks and a more or less full size tub/shower combination. But the key is the 17 drawers and 16 shelves located throughout the room and bathroom. There was plenty of room for everything we had, and then some. This makes the cabin way more functional and seemingly larger that it actually is. I would never advise anyone to not book the Symphony for fear of cabin size. Public rooms - All of the lounges, restaurants, and entertainment venues we visited were both beautiful and functional. Chairs were comfy, tables well-placed, access easy. Our pre-dinner go-to lounge was the Crystal Cove, but we also were in, at one time or another, the Palm Court, Starlite Club, and Avenue Saloon. The only bar we didn't spend any time in was the Silk Bar, but it looked very inviting with the living plant walls and contemporary design. Theaters were very spacious and never seemed crowded. Sight lines were good, sound well-engineered, tables handy, and access easy. There was plenty of leg room and space to move between rows. Food - At one time or another we ate in all the venues. Waterside was amazing, with elegantly presented, varied, and perfectly cooked food just about every time. Included wines were delicious and always to our liking (we're not picky about our wines). Service was efficient and friendly, and food arrived promptly, beautifully presented, and hot. I appreciated the fact that for the most part, serving sizes were modest. You could have multiple courses without feeling you'd stuffed yourself, but still feel fully satisfied. (I only had one item that I didn't like...the Wagyu beef crudo that had been recommended to me. I found the beef so tender and thinly sliced as to be disconcertingly soft feeling... just an unpleasant mouth feel.) Prego and Umi Uma were spectacular, everything that we were expecting. The Lido buffet was several notches above your typical cruise ship, both in offerings and presentation, as well as service. This was the only place that we ever felt got a little crowded, and once or twice had to look for a table, but it was never a problem, especially as a waiter would be glad to take your plate and help you get seated. We were impressed by how many items were offered in small, freshly prepared, frequently replaced batches. For example, pancakes and waffles were constantly being made fresh and placed out a few at a time, rather than a huge steam table pan of them being put out occasionally. Thus you were always getting an item that was pretty much fresh off the grill. The Trident Grill made a great burger, the Bistro always had fresh pastries and light foods, the Ice Cream bar offered Ben and Jerry's and fresh made waffle cones, plus soft serve, and it was all wonderful. The only venue we didn't have dinner in was Silk. We had lunch there one day, and it was fine, but afterward we decided to cancel our dinner reservation there in favor of another evening in Waterside. This was the only dining venue that we felt didn't live up to Crystal's reputation. It wasn't bad; in fact it was tasty as far as it went. But it just wasn't anything special. Fried rice, for example, was not fried, it was steamed with a few small vegetable bits in it. Shu mai was served two tiny pieces in a huge steam pot; a bit disappointing when you opened it. Again, it wasn't that we didn't like anything we ate, but after out lunch we thought, "Do we want to skip a Waterside dinner for this?", and the answer was clearly a no. We really enjoy the small plate, tapas-type concept, and I think we would have really enjoyed Tastes. I feel I have to agree with the other comments I've read here, especially from experienced Crystal cruisers, that Silk is clearly a mis-step and needs to be replaced or seriously re-done. We were pleasantly surprised with Churisacaria. They actually do a pretty good job of making the Lido have more ambiance than it normally does during the day. It's possible to eat here without going into a meat coma. If you are judicious with the sides, and selective with the meats, you can eat sensibly and still feel you've done it justice. It's also good that the meat portions are small, so you can sample several without stuffing yourself. The quality was superb. Everything was perfectly cooked and seasoned. We also attended the Mozart tea, primarily because we were already in the Palm Court viewing the Saguenay river portion of the cruise. Frankly, I think the ersatz 17th Century costumes are a bit much, and I'm guessing that the crew aren't big fans of them either. That's just my opinion, of course, but I find it a bit silly. Crystal had a bit of a slip here. First the waiter taking tea orders was handling several tables at a time, and not writing anything down. Consequently, the tea orders were coming out wrong. My biggest complaint, however, is the buffet service of the food items. First, again in my opinion, at a proper high tea, the food items should come around on trays or carts and be served by waiters as requested. But if you're going to do it buffet-style, do it correctly. In this case the buffet had savory and sweet items mixed, hodge-podge, but worse, they had plates set up at both ends, so people were starting at each end and moving toward the middle. That's not a problem if the sections are duplicates, but what resulted was a collision in the middle and people trying to duck in and out of the line at various places trying to obtain the items they wanted. They should have started it at one end, with the savory items first, then the sweets, and had it all moving in the same direction. Seems simple enough. Entertainment and Enrichment - This is, indeed, one of Crystal's strong suits. The in-house singers, dancers, and orchestra are top-notch, the production values high, and the shows first-rate. We didn't see every show, but we saw most, including Crystal on Broadway, and several of the guest entertainers. The lounge violinist and the piano bar players were all excellent, and Neil Lockwood's Rocket Man was a great Elton John tribute. We also saw most of the guest speakers, even including some of the presentations on Fashion and Style (the cruise theme) which were interesting as far as content goes. Our only quibble there was that one of the speakers read all her material, which I find off-putting and somewhat unprofessional for a lecturer. We did not attend Bingo or Trivia, or visit the Casino. Bill Herz, the magician for Magic Castle as Sea, was really entertaining and his shows were well-attended and very well received. He was kind enough to speak with me for a few minutes on a technical question I had (I'm a magic enthusiast), which I thought was very gracious. Excursions - We did not use any Crystal shore excursions or transfers. We made private arrangements or just explored on our own. In general, we find that we can do just as well, for far less cost, booking tours separately from ship excursions. There can be exceptions to this, and I would never book independently where there was the slightest danger of not making it back to the ship by sailing time, but here, in North American ports, we had no difficulty doing so. Our only complaint was that we had booked a hop-on-hop-off bus tour in Boston, and due to rain, traffic, and driver shortages, we were not able to be accommodated within our time frame. Not Crystal's fault, of course, and we did get a refund from the company after we returned. I imagine a Crystal shore excursion would not have been a problem. The only port we found disappointing was St. John, NB, which doesn't have a lot to recommend it to begin with, on top of which we were there on a Sunday, when just about everything, including the city market, was closed. Crystal should take such things into account, IMO, when scheduling port calls. Spa services - We had a fairly generous OBC, thanks to our travel agent, which we used up mostly in the spa and salon. The people were nice, and not pushy when it came to selling products, but my wife was disappointed in her mani/pedi. She found it, at best, perfunctory, with minimal pre-soak, no hand or foot massage, no exfoliation, and just a quick polish job. To be fair, the spa was having some personnel turn over issues, and the tech, although licensed, was not their regular nail person, so maybe this was just a fluke. Retail stores - We were surprised that we found no evidence of a sundries store on board. Not that we needed anything, but we are used to having one available. It turns out that you can purchase such items through guest services and they will be delivered to your cabin. I also was surprised to find no Crystal logo-type merchandise in either of the clothing shops. I might have used some OBC on a hat or sweatshirt if I'd seen one. Otherwise, the shops were very nice and we were pleased that they don't make pushy announcements, put tables out in the atrium for "special" sales, or otherwise do annoying aggressive marketing. We also didn't miss the ubiquitous "art auctions" you find on so many other ships. On a side note, Crystal's policy of minimal announcements makes for a much more relaxing and pleasant experience. Service - Everyone we encountered was always cheerful and greeted us genuinely. I did not, however, experience the calling-by-name that so many Crystal veterans mention. Only one person asked my name and thereafter used it, and that was Nielo, the morning barrista in the Bistro. He got to know my usual order and would always greet me by name after just a couple of days. We also were never approached or engaged by any senior staff or officers, nor by the Cruise Director. Understand, I don't expect that any of them have the ability to speak to everyone on board, and I'm not saying we felt snubbed or mis-treated in any way. We just didn't happen to be one of their encounters. Open-seating Dining - Having experienced fixed time and table dining on most other ships, and after reading much debate about the concept here on CC, our reaction was mixed. We generally find that eating with other couples at a 6 or 8 top table to be an enjoyable part of a cruise, so it was our intention to try to get seated at larger tables. The first night we requested to be part of a group, and ended up at 6 top with two single ladies and one of the Ambassador hosts. They were very pleasant, and we had a nice time with them, but in a way we kind of felt like we'd been put at the kid's table at Thanksgiving...a bit of an afterthought. The next time we tried it, we were seated with two other couples. We were the second couple seated, joined almost immediately by a third. The first couple (fellow CC members as it turns out), had already ordered, having been seated so long by themselves that they had just about given up waiting for anyone to join them. One other time in Waterside, we were going to request a group table, but Remi told us that we'd be starting a table, and frankly, we didn't want to risk being seated at a large table, then having no one join us, so we opted for a table for two. This is clearly an issue that has not yet been clearly resolved, and continues to require tweaking. Now, there was a very large group of travel agents on this cruise, so it's possible that many group tables were already taken up by them. It was also evident the first night in the lounges that many people were already grouping up, and this may have been the reason. Meet and Mingle - We had signed up for the CC Meet and Mingle, and knew that there were at least 12 registered for it, although from the Roll Call, there were more than that many CC members on board. One member posted to the Roll Call the second or third day, that they had not received any notice or invitation yet, and in their experience the invitations usually went out the first day. I took it upon myself to check with the front desk and found that the M&M was indeed scheduled for Sunday (Day 6 of an 11 day cruise), but that the time and venue were not yet set. He said that the invitations would go out the day before. We did, indeed, get an invitation on Saturday, stating that the event would be in the Palm Court at 5:45 on Sunday evening. I posted that information on the Roll Call. We arrived a few minutes before that, and found no designated area that we could identify. I asked the bar staff about it and they didn't seem to know what I was talking about. I subsequently heard one of them talking to another that people were asking about "some party". The other CC couple that we had met previously at dinner arrived about then and were asking about it. Eventually a staff member directed us to an area of the Palm Court port side and said this would be our place. A small sign was then put out designating this the gathering area. The other couple we had met previously only know about it from my posting; they never had received an invitation. All told, we had only three couples and a single show up. Certainly, you can't always expect that everyone will show up, but based on the others' input, I have to wonder if some members never got invitations. I'd be interested to hear from anyone else on this cruise if that was the case. This was the only major place where I think Crystal really dropped the ball, and fell below the service level I would expect. Minor cons - On a cruise this great, you pretty much have to look for things to nit-pick. I've mentioned a couple of minor glitches above, none of which affected our overall experience a whole lot. What else? I'd like to see the crew members' name tags easier to read. They're silver on silver and you almost have to grab one and hold it still in a good light to actually read it. At the morning to-go coffee bar in the Bistro, when getting a coffee, a tea, and two pastries to take back to our cabin, there were no plates or trays, so I had to balance pastries on coffee cups and hope for the best. Some trays and / or plates (even, gasp! plastic) would be appreciated. They could have also changed out the pastries each morning for a little variety, although what they had were good. Bottom line - Crystal is a far better ocean cruise line than we have experienced before. It would honestly be hard to step back down to any of the other lines we've sailed. We were genuinely very impressed with just about every aspect of the whole experience. We felt pampered and happy just about every minute we were on board. I'm sure we will be back on Crystal in the future. A quick shout out and thank you again to Nielo, our barrista, our super cabin attendant, Marina, and our favorite waiters, Jennifer and Nickolas...if we'd met you sooner in the cruise, we would have asked for you every time! I hope those of you who have waded through this whole thing will find it of value. I learned a lot from reading the posts and reviews from many of you, and I hope this will pay it forward in some small way.
  12. SandJCruiser

    Bon Voyage to SandjCruiser September 25, 2018

    Thanks to all. It'll be our first Crystal cruise and we're really excited!
  13. SandJCruiser

    Diet mixer availability

    Thank you all!
  14. SandJCruiser

    Diet mixer availability

    Boarding Symphony in a month. My wife enjoys Diet Coke, which I assume is readily avaiable, but she also wondered whether the ship stocks any diet mixers for cocktails, particularly diet ginger ale and diet tonic. Does anyone happen to know? Also, does anyone know where Teo normally tends bar? I just read his book and want to make sure I meet him. Thanks
  15. SandJCruiser

    Specialty restaurant recommendations

    Thank you all for the recommendations and the mouth-watering photos. I can see already that we'll have to book another cruise just to sample all the great items! Apropo of nothing, as I write this (6:00 AM Central standard time on August 19), I can see the Symphony from my balcony. I am an expat, living in the hills of Costa Rica, and can see the port of Caldera, about 20 miles away. If you see me wave, wave back!:cool::cool: :cool::):)