San Francisco is a delightful city to sail out of, after embarking at Pier 35, right down on the old Fisherman's Wharf. If I had been smart and taken the early morning AC flight, I would have had time to breakfast at either the Fairmont or the Four Seasons, both of which are fabulous hotels to enjoy. Indeed, if I had been really smart, I would have come in the night before, and enjoyed the Virtuoso rates and amenities that both hotels offer, but there you are, I didn't. Instead, a taxi ride across town, and down to the dock, where we embarked leisurely without a crowd around.
Our cabin on deck eight is lovely, with a particularly large balcony, a compact but very practical bathroom, and an exceptionally comfortable bed. We unpacked and then strolled around getting acquainted with the ship. We should have immediately gone to the restaurant reservations and booked a couple of evenings at the speciality restaurants, but instead left that until a bit later, so we were unable to dine in one until the fourth night. Then we booked both, Prego the delightful Italian restaurant twice, and Oriental restaurant once. They were well worth the wait. While I think that Prego is as good as any Italian Restaurant I have ever eaten in, you would not go far wrong just eating in the main dining room in the evenings. The food is delightful, and the staff superb. Honestly, I think Crystal deserves an award for the calibre of their staff. They are friendly, personable and efficient, and really go out of their way to make you feel at home.
The other thing I didn't do early enough, (although we got to do every tour we wanted) was to book the tours we decided to take. We only selected two, Sea Kayaking in Juneau, and Sea Otter and other wildlife viewing in Sitka. We would have done better to book the earlier Kayaking trip, which was full by the time we got there, as the time we took the trip was the last trip of the day. The outfits they gave us were damp or wet inside, while the kayaks were somewhat full of water, and the team fairly tired. We did enjoy the whole experience, but I think we would have enjoyed it more, had we done it early. The sea otters were incredible, and we saw dozens and dozens of them, a rare treat for an Albertan. The other creatures were those we are fairly familiar with, from deer to eagles. Living in Calgary with a cabin in BC we are really spoilt for all the bigger wildlife of the north, but the sea otters were fabulous and well worth the money.
The ship is huge for the number of passengers, which I am told on this cruise is around 850. There are lots of private seating areas to enjoy quiet time, several bars and a casino, and of course some great restaurants.The health club is fabulous, the spa outstanding, and the pool area very spacious with delightful food service and an icecream bar.
My favourite parts of the ship include the excellent decks for walking around, the computer lounge and classroom with some great classes, the cinema and the show room. Others clearly enjoyed the panorama lounge on deck 11, and the Starlite Club, where they hold the various cocktail parties and most of the lectures. Crystal is reknowned for outstanding lecturers, and I urge you to check which ones you want to see.
There are also many things to do on Crystal, from bridge, to the lectures, to computer classes, the spa, health and exercise classes, etc. Thankfully, every day, you receive a program from which to choose the things you want to do. We managed to see a lot of whale pods, although none of them wanted to jump or leap out of the sea for us!!! Still, they were lovely.
The entertainment on the ship is as good as on any ship. Lots of shows, with several afternoon performances and one each evening too. One thing for sure, you won't get bored on a Crystal Cruise.