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Old May 5th, 2011, 06:58 PM
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- At Sea on the Symphony - May 5 ‘11
My day began with the now routine delivery of my gallon drum of coffee by my butler David.

There are a couple of oddities in my Penthouse Suite, that I should probably talk about. Hanging on the wall, at the entrance to the suite, are door hang signs; one a Do Not Disturb sign, the other a Make Up Room sign. It’s a great idea for guests to let the cabin attendants know if you’re in or not. The odd part of this is the design, because every time you open or close the door to the suite the door hangs fly off their little hooks. A small box on the wall to store these cards, rather than hooks would solve the problem.

Other than the bathroom and the walk-in closet, this PH suite is really one very large room (though beautifully and functionally designed), however it does have a lot of table lamps as well as ceiling lighting. The oddity here is there is no one switch that controls, all, or even most of the lighting.
When I retire at night, I feel like I have to “walk around the house” to make certain I’ve turned off all the lights.

This morning I interviewed the Symphony’s Hotel Director, Josef Matt, who began his career with Crystal 17 years ago, in the same position he has now. Unlike many in this industry, who work their up from various positions, Mr. Matt’s move to the seas was directly to Hotel Director.
He is a qualified Chef, Pastry Chef, as well as a graduate of the Hotel Management program in Lucerne, Switzerland; previously working and living in Paris, London , Johannesburg, Lichtenstein, and Switzerland, prior to joining Crystal Cruise Line.

By chance I attended the Miami Cruise Convention (commonly referred to as SeaTrade) in March. ‘10, when Crystal announced the introduction of “Perfect Choice Dining”. Therefore I wanted to discuss with Mr. Matt how difficult it was to this dining choice, first rolled out on the ship the second cruise of Jan. 2011.

The premise to “Perfect Choice Dining” is that it allows guest to book in advance and reserve their choice of times to have dinner in the Crystal Dining Room, rather than the still available classic assigned main or late dining times.

There’s a couple of situations that can cause confusion for guests choosing the “choice” dining program.

- guests misunderstand it occasionally. One example, people mistakenly think they can request a table for 8, expecting the cruise line will fill in their table at their chosen dining time. It doesn’t work that way. You can certainly reserve a table for 8, but it’s the guests responsibility to fill those seats; the cruise line doesn’t organize that.

The system is set up to work much like the system for booking the ship’s alternate restaurants; Prego and Silk Road. If one wishes to simply show up with no reservation, it’s possible, but seating is based entirely on space availability.

Mr. Matt tells us Classic Assigned Dining is by far still the most popular option for Crystal passengers.

“Officially” there are 660 passengers on this sailing, of which 460 are Crystal Society members (returning Crystal passengers). Apparently it’s not all that unusual to have as high as 90% returning passengers on a Crystal cruise.

Through the course of our interview I was very surprised to learn that in the dining room, all entrees are cooked a la minute (as ordered). As a previous restaurant owner, I was very impressed they could have the organization required for that type of production for such a large dining room. This is not something you’ll find on any but the luxury brand ships. The “normal system” on other lines is to partially cook all items, and warm them to serve, as would be done in a banquet setting. That is not the Crystal way!

We also discussed one issue raised to me by my fellow passengers; the hours of operation of the Lido Café. For lunch the Lido Café buffet is open only from 12 Noon to 1:30 P.M.

I hadn’t noticed this because by chance I hadn’t tried to eat outside of those hours. But I was surprised to learn of the short hours for the café, and I asked about it.

On my previous cruises, I can’t recall a ship not having at least a reduced sized buffet running late into the afternoon. Princess, for example, has some form of buffet open in the Horizon Courts 24/7. On the Symphony, the only options after 1:30 P.M. until 6 P.M. are room service, or the Trident Grill.

I thought it odd, Mr. Matt seemed to think it was just fine, and simply the way they do things. He noted it was at least in part because they feel they have to give the staff some time to rest, as well as to prepare for the daily Tea Time in the Palm Court.

When asking about why all passports were collected at the beginning of the cruise, which hasn’t been my experience of late on other cruise lines, the explanation was basically very similar… that’s the way we do it.
In my PH suite the information booklet says I have the ability to order dinners from either the dining room or either alternate restaurant, and have my meal served course by course in the suite. I wanted to clarify if all cabins onboard could do the same.

Though the service is slightly different, as the butler serves the meals in the suites, in other cabins you can order from the dining room. Mr. Matt suggested all passengers might want to have their appetizers served at once, and ask the cabin attendant to serve the entrees a bit later. Though perhaps not as smooth as in the suites, it is possible to enjoy this service in any cabin onboard.

Our final topic of discussion was the ship’s smoking policy, which I addressed a bit in yesterdays blog entry.

Smoking is certainly a hot button topic on the message boards whenever those threads start, but apparently not so much on the Crystal Symphony. Complaints are apparently fairly rare. Over the last several years the policies have been changed a bit, with Starlite Club, and Palm Court being designated non smoking areas. If speculating Mr. Mott suggested that at some time in the future the ship’s Piano Bar, Avenue Saloon “MIGHT” be designated non-smoking (as the Connoisseur Club, the ship’s Cigar Bar is located right next door.

Smoking is allowed in all staterooms onboard, but NOT on guest room balconies. This was a safety precaution put into place after the fire on Princess several years ago, as opposed to a reaction to complaints from passengers.

Josef Matt was very straight forward with answers to my questions, and I appreciate the time we were given.

When that interview ended, I proceeded directly to the interview I’d set with our golf pro, Shannon Kneisler. I’ll present her interview on it’s own tomorrow, as it’s really an interesting personal and professional story.
This evening I’m headed for a return visit back to Prego for dinner. It was totally sold out for tonight, but I managed to ask a favor of Josef. A perk of a Press card I guess.

Last edited by Kuki; May 6th, 2011 at 04:09 AM.
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