Good afternoon and greetings from somewhere between Puerto Madryn, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay (our last port city before disembarking on Wednesday in Buenos Aires).
Today, I want to celebrate the wonderful crew of Crystal Symphony. We’ve sailed on the 2 Crystal ships a total of 11 times (and counting), and the crew on these vessels is unsurpassed. On Symphony, the passenger to crew ratio is 1.7 to 1, which means that you are going to be very well taken care of while you’re aboard.
My focus will be on the crew members with whom we interacted over the past 2 weeks. I will have missed a few I’m sure (and apologies to any I’ve not mentioned here), but you’ll get the idea.
Starting with our cabin crew:
Here’s Raja – our butler. When you’re fortunate enough to travel on the penthouse deck, you will have a butler assigned to your cabin. Raja has been terrific, always cheerful, always ready to help. The butlers’ service can include packing and unpacking, making reservations for the specialty restaurants, taking care of special requests. One of those requests was putting together a cocktail party we hosted in our cabin last week. Raja rose to the occasion, delivered invitations to our guests’ cabins, worked with us to develop the menu and made sure that the party was a great success. (It was!)
And here are Vida, our assistant stewardess, and Catherine, our stewardess. Twice a day (morning and evening), they take care of making up the cabin. They are both delightful, friendly, and do their jobs extremely well. (What are we going to do on Thursday when we have to make our beds and clean up after ourselves? It’s going to be a very sad day, I think.)
Next to the cabin crew, the folks down on Deck 5 take care of a myriad of things we needed while on board.
Here’s Natalia, who is the chief concierge. We’ve sailed with her before. Last year, when we needed a reservation at a restaurant in Lisbon during a port call, she took care of it for us. This time, she helped to arrange a private visit to a winery in Montevideo, as well as set up our private transfer when we disembark in Buenos Aires. She’s great.
And here’s Merlii, who manages shore excursions. She went to great effort to finalize the plans for that winery visit we’re making in Montevideo, which turned out to be no easy task. She also arranges for the huge selection of shore excursions that are offered on every Crystal cruise.
Paula Jean is your go-to person if you want to book your next Crystal cruise. There’s a great incentive to booking while you’re on board, as you get an extra Crystal Society credit. We’ve just booked 2 back-to-back river cruises (not until 2018!!), and Paula Jean explained that by booking back-to-back cruises, we’d get an extra 5% discount. Remember that when you’re booking your cruises!
As I’m sure you’re well-aware by now, Internet connections can be extremely challenging when traveling by ship. Crystal ships have Computer University on board, with a dedicated staff ready, willing and able to help you with any computer issues you may have.
Here’s Jessie, who runs Computer U (and put up with me over the past 2 weeks, no mean feat)!
Perhaps the most talked about part of any cruise is the food. Crystal is very well-known for the excellence of the food on board (the gala buffet lunch is being served as I prepare this post), and the execution and service is outstanding.
Here’s Remi, who is our Maitre ‘D on this cruise. We’ve sailed with him many times, and he is outstanding. He always manages to assign us our favorite table (midship starboard window table), and he makes sure that the Crystal Dining Room runs like a fine-tuned Swiss timepiece, which it does. He’s also a wonderful conversationalist on many topics and we’ve had many enjoyable chats with him. He’s also quite knowledgeable about fine restaurants all over the world.
We also had a specific team that took care of our table:
Here’s Bruno – our headwaiter. We were bummed when we boarded to find out that Bruno’s section ended a table away from ours’. But, after making a special request to Remi, Bruno became our guy. We’ve also sailed with him before and he’s been great tending to all of our special dining requests: steak tartare, Dover sole, kosher roast chicken, Crepes Suzette, etc., all of which he executes with great flair and good humor.
Marjan is our senior waiter and we really like him. He’s attended to all of our dinners in the Crystal Dining Room and is extremely professional and fun to be around. He’s also very good at making recommendations about what to eat.
Stanko is our assistant waiter and he, too, is just excellent. These guys have their act down and the do it really well. And we very much appreciate that they kept the cauliflower off of my plate for (almost) the entire voyage.
Ilija has been our sommelier and he’s extremely knowledgeable about wine. I probably haven’t mentioned it yet, but Crystal instituted an “all-inclusive” policy back in 2012, which means that, among other things, your wine and spirits are included in your fare. While there’s also a premium wine list from which you can order at an additional charge, the complimentary wines have improved every year, and there is a large variety of them from which to choose. Ilija has been a great resource in acquainting us with these wines, always making the perfection recommendation depending on what we were eating on any given evening. It was also interesting to hear him describe the various wines (and he’s very generous with the pour).
Now you won’t always be eating in the CDR, as there are 2 specialty restaurants, Prego and Silk Road. Here’s Paolo, who manages these two restaurants.
He’s the go-to guy should you want to book the specialty restaurants.
On Lido Deck, you can order food from the Trident Grill every day from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Here’s Gabriel who’s one of the short-order cooks:
I’ve mentioned in other posts that there are many watering holes wherein you can dip your beak should you be thirsty. One of them, Crystal Cove on Deck 5 features a pianist for your listening pleasure several times a day. Here’s Gordon, who you’ll find at the ivories playing your favorite melodies:
Last – but definitely not least – I want to highlight the guys who work up on Lido Deck, both inside and out, who – many say – are the heart and soul of the ship. These are the guys – and there are many of them – who will bring you drinks and food and are always ready to help you, but they’re more than that. When you first meet them, they ask you your name, which they then commit to memory. But they’ll remember you, not just during your cruise, but on the next cruise you take and on the cruise after that. How they are able to manage that, I’ll never know but somehow they do.
Here are just a few of the guys on Lido Deck that we’ve come to know over the years:
Ricky (in his Crystal Cove evening garb)
My favorite anecdote about these guys happened back in 2012 on Symphony’s sister ship, Serenity. We had first sailed on Serenity in 2005 with my sister, Leslie, and her husband, Ron. The guys on Lido Deck were very friendly and attentive and we made several new friends on that voyage. So, now it’s 2012 and we’ve just boarded Serenity for another crossing, this time from Barcelona to Miami and we’re taking our first stroll on Lido Deck. One of the guys, Jun (with whom we’d sailed back in 2005), strides up to us and says: “How’s your sister, Leslie?” Well, I was just gobsmacked (and wouldn’t you be, too?).
And this – I believe – is the Crystal difference. Everyone on the crew with whom we’ve come into contact delivers that same commitment of service and friendliness which, I believe, keeps us coming back year after year.
I’ve only been able to share with you a few of the many crew that are aboard, but I want you to know that the service we’ve received from these few is indicative of what you can expect and we give our sincere thanks to them all.