Comparing Crystal, Viking and Silversea cruises

By Judith Anshin
This item appears on page 24 of the January 2020 issue.

Comparing Crystal, Viking and Silversea cruises

In the article “Luxury on the Sea: A Month-long Cruise from Dubai to Cape Town” (Jan. ’19, pg. 18), I wrote about a cruise on the Crystal Symphony with Crystal Cruises (888/722-0021, www.crystalcruises.com). On that trip, taken in November 2017, I paid $9,006 (plus $120 in port taxes) for 30 nights in a level-3 veranda cabin.

In November 2018, I cruised for 21 nights from Miami to Los Angeles with Viking Ocean Cruises (855/338-4546, www.vikingcruises.com) — stopping first in Cuba, then in several places in Central America, including Panama — for $8,911 (PV2-level cabin). 

In January 2019 I traveled with Silversea (888/978-4070, www.silversea.com) from Singapore to Hong Kong, with most stops scheduled in Borneo, paying $6,960 for 13 nights (V2 level). (All of these prices were per person, double occupancy.)

Considering my experiences on each of these cruises, I’d rank the Viking Star a 4-star ship at best, compared to the Crystal Symphony, which I’d give 6 stars (my highest ranking), and Silversea’s Silver Shadow, at 5 stars.

Though it was launched in 2014, four years before my journey, I felt  the Viking Star was in need of refurbishment. (The carpets were worn, for example.) Our cabin was adequate, but the refrigerator wasn’t cold enough, and the TV often didn’t work, requiring a technician. 

The shower in our bathroom was better than the one on the Silver Shadow but not better than the one I had on the Crystal Symphony; I don’t expect to find a shower as fabulous as that on any other ship. On the Symphony, the bath was luxurious.

Like Crystal, Silversea is considered a luxury line, but I felt the Silver Shadow, too, was showing signs of wear.

Our cabin on the Silver Shadow was adequate but needed more electrical outlets, especially by the beds. However, the beds were quite comfortable, and the walk-in closet was wonderful. 

The Silver Shadow’s  crew-to-passenger ratio was higher than that on the Viking Star but seemed a little less than what we had on the Crystal Symphony

Consequently, service was slower on the Viking Star, although the crew was always nice and friendly. On the Star, after two nights of having our dinner in the dining room last over two hours, my friend and I began eating in the buffet at night, which had most of the items we wanted in the dining room. The Silver Shadow’s dining venues were nice; most nights we ate in the dining room.

Silversea considers each cabin a suite and provides a butler, who serves many cabins. The butler served us meals in our room when we wanted and took and returned our laundry. He also served canap├ęs each afternoon. When we were upgraded on the Crystal ship, we also enjoyed butler service. 

For me, the swimming pool and hot tub on a ship are more important than the food and drink. I swim several times a week, and, my having a bad back, a hot tub is welcome relief.

On the Viking ship, the pool and hot tubs had vertical ladders, making getting in and out difficult for anyone with mobility issues. There was one large indoor hot tub that had steps for entry, and I used it at least six times. 

In that tub there were tubes to sit on, but you had to pass water jets to reach them, and the jets were so powerful that I could only walk about halfway to the sitting area against the force of the jets. I usually had to have someone already sitting there pull me in!

In addition, the temperature was barely bath-water level, not as hot as I expected.

As on Viking, Silver Shadow’s pool was equipped with vertical ladders, and the hot tub had no ladder at all, so I used each only once.

The Crystal Symphony had steps with a railing going into the pool and into the large hot tub, so I used each many times. 

At Viking’s excursion desk, I asked about the first excursion, in Cuba, and was told that it was three or more hours of steady walking, with no opportunities to sit down. Luckily, I spoke to the tour guide, who said that it was not all walking and that I should take the tour, so I did. There were many opportunities to stand and/or sit, and it was quite doable and enjoyable.

Regarding tours, I signed up for each excursion in advance, but I got the most accurate information by speaking to the local tour leader just before getting on the bus, and I could then decide if I wanted to go (which I always did) and whether or not I would sometimes stay on the bus during the more strenuous parts. 

Viking had only one included tour at each port. Silversea also had one included tour per port but at least four tour choices at each. Crystal didn’t include any excursions in the fare (something to take into account when comparing the three cruises’ costs per day), but they often had a shuttle bus from the port to town.

On the Viking Star, I did not attend most of the lectures because at the first one, the country expert repeatedly mispronounced the name of the country’s president, making me question his credentials. 

Silversea had very good lectures and I attended most of those. 

I felt Crystal had the most professional lectures and the most diverse topics; I either watched all of those on the cabin TV or attended in person. 

After these experiences, I’m focusing on the Crystal Symphony for future travel. Crystal has certainly won my allegiance!

I’m happy to answer any questions or provide further details. I can be contacted at penguinatlaw@gmail.com; please include “ITN” in the subject line.

JUDITH ANSHIN
Sacramento, CA