We’ve met many passengers who have cruised multiple times with Crystal, shopping among itineraries offered by both the Serenity, which I’m on now, and the Symphony, which I wrote about in 2006. It’s easy to see why they have the loyalty they do, especially now since the cruise line has adopted an all-inclusive policy. On most other cruises passengers are encouraged to tip $25 or more each day with gratuities fro everyone from the waiter to th housekeeper, including the sommelier, , bartenders and what sometimes seems like a cast of thousands. Drinks, even soft drinks, have a way of adding up over the course of a seven day cruise, adding hundreds to the total at the end. But on Crystal these things are included. So unless you choose to buy a bottle of wine that’s not on the included list or purchase photos shot by the ship’s photographer in port or at dinner, or gamble away your evenings in the casino, what you pay is what you get.. .I thought perhaps service would suffer, knowing that lots of ship employees aren’t very well paid and count of their tips to achieve a basic wage but the same extraordinary service remains..
The cruise line also gives passengers a lot of choices, including the choice of dining at a table for two or joining a larger group. We’ve asked the maitre de Leo to seat us with a different group each night knowing that diners might one of the specialty restaurants - Prego or Silk Road- for dinner Last night one of our dining partners was a woman who will soon take her 100th cruise with Crystal. She told us that the Mediterranean itineraries are her favorites and that she plans to cruise many more years with this cruise line. She knows all of the ship’s staff by name and share the photos of her grandchildren wit them when she’s on board. Another woman, affectionately called Mama Lee by the ship’s staff, sold her home four years ago and hasn’t left the ship since. She books back to back cruises and sees her family members when they come aboard while the ship is in port or join her by booking their own cruises. When they tease her about being homeless, she responds with a wry “I may no longer have my house, but you should just see my yacht.“