V4202 Papeete-Auckland : Quick Overview
I will post a more detailed review in the relevant forum when time and laundry permit but here's a quick summary of our experience as first-timers with Crystal but experienced Regent cruisers. This will NOT be yet another Crystal vs Regent debate.
Apart from a few minor niggles this was the best cruise we have ever taken. The stunning scenary and great weather helped of course but it was our experience on board that made the trip so memorable.
- First and foremost the Staff in all depts were, with one exception, friendly, cheerful, professional. They had the uncanny knack of anticipating our needs before we knew what we wanted ourselves. The only sour note was the surly and slightly intimidating demeanour of the maître d who granted audiences with guests wishing to discuss dining arrangements. We had to line up outside the Bridge Room and wait to be summoned to his presence. Towards the end of the cruise we detected a distinct "atmos" in the main dining room where waiters morale seemed low, especially on the starboard side for some reason.
- Cruise Director Paul McFarland must surely be the best in the business.
- Ditto ALL the musicians, dancers and guest artistes. We normally avoid cruise ship live shows because they have proved to be pretty average in the past but this was astonishingly good. The entertainment generally was outstanding and it was nice to see the Ambassador Hosts being kept so busy by the ships dancing queens.
- The food was superb in all the restaurants (and room service!) but we were slightly disappointed with Silk Road which perhaps didn't live up to the hype we've read at CC and elsewhere. But Prego was everything we hoped for and so was dinner in The Lido on the disappointingly limited occasions it was available (more please Crystal!).
- Wines were good but the choice a bit limited, especially if you don't care for Chardonnay. However, the sommeliers were usually able to conjur something up!
- Here is my only Regent comparison. The state rooms on Crystal, and especially the bathrooms, are substantially smaller. It's not a deal breaker as the rest of the experience more than compensates, but it did require some adjustment. The beds, linens and cloud-like pillows were pure bliss.
- Public spaces are plentiful and comfortable and while the ship was fully booked there was always a quiet spot to read or watch the world go by. It's a shame that now the aft verandas are reserved for the Smokers they are less appealing to the Rest but it seems a much better arrangement than previously.
- Symphony handles rough weather very well (and we had some very rough seas for the couple of sea days between Fiji and New Zealand).
- Among several fascinating speakers we were very lucky to have Dr Jay Wolff and his interesting and entertaining lectures were Standing Room Only. He is a gifted "story teller" and the time passed too quickly when he spoke. Praise too for Gen Nick Halley's fascinating insights into the sometimes challenging geopolitical issues facing the modern world.
- Excursions were well organised and coordinated although it must be hard in places with limited infrastructure and things to see and do.
- Embarkation and especially Disembarkation were seamless and quick.
We sailed Crystal with open minds and were quickly convinced that it was a good choice: one that we will certainly make again. In fact it's already booked!