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Crystal Symphony Cruise Director Paul McFarland

Top Moments and Memories from 22 Years of Exploring the World with Crystal

This Saturday, June 16, the incomparable “voice of Crystal” signed off over the broadcast system aboard Crystal Symphony for the last time. For 22 years, Cruise Director Paul McFarland has accompanied guests all over the world, sharing adventures and stories and helping to set the stage for their most memorable moments with Crystal. He is the consummate showman and with every nautical mile, World Cruise event, “Crystal Olympic Games”, guest celebrity and expert presentation, and guest’s birthday and anniversary, Paul has personified the Crystal spirit of genuine connection with guests and superb service.

With so many bucket list experiences, new faces met on board and passport pages filled, we asked Paul about his perspective on his time with Crystal. We are pleased to share his top moments, memories and some of his personal photos – and what he still hopes to explore – upon his retirement, as we wish him the fondest of farewells. (Hint: he’s not done cruising!)

  • Crystal Symphony Cruise Director Paul McFarland
    Crystal Symphony's longtime Cruise Director, Paul McFarland, rules the stage on board.

What was your first impression when you began with Crystal 22 years ago?

In 1996 I was able to visit Crystal Symphony when it was on Crystal Cruises inaugural World Cruise. The ship was in Cebu, the Philippines, and I fell in love with her.  The pastel color scheme gave it a very casual and friendly but elegant feel.  Little did I know that a month later I would be offered the opportunity to join this great team.

What are your top 3 most memorable moments with guests on board?

1) We had a couple meet at the singles party that hadn’t seen each other in over 60 years – not since their engagement was broken off by her parents. They met because his name was drawn out of a hat during an event on board. She heard the name and went over and introduced herself to him and he said, “I haven’t stopped loving you for 62 years.”  A couple months later they were married and Crystal Cruises gave them a penthouse for their honeymoon.

2) My favorite time with guests is when I see that there are multiple generations of family traveling together. They all have different agenda’s and they all meet in the evening to discuss what they did that day. It is most gratifying to see that there are so many ways that we can make our guests happy with the variety of Crystal Adventures and shipboard programs and activities.

3) Finally, I will always remember the laughter brought on by the letters I read from my friend Mike Neun who is on a nightmare cruise.  There is no greater sound to a Cruise Director than a room full of people laughing and having a good time.

What unexpected joys have you found in your role aboard Crystal ships?

I am always impressed how well the various departments work together. From an industry standpoint, entertainment was more respected aboard Crystal Cruises because of that it received great support from the technical department and the deck department. It is gratifying to know that entertainment has always been an important part of the Crystal product and integral to our guests’ experience on board.

What has changed, and what has not?

There have been many changes over the years, dress codes, all-inclusive etc., but what never changed is the commitment to putting our guests first – doing everything we can to ensure they have the very best time on their Crystal vacation possible.  All of the changes over the years were done to enhance the experience, never compromising it. There continues to be the most dedicated group of officers, staff and crew that are totally devoted to being the very best they can be. That has always been something that makes me very proud to be a part of.

What are your top 3 most memorable journeys or adventures you’ve had traveling the world with Crystal?

1) My first World Cruise with Crystal was wonderful because there, more than any time, I learned that Crystal would go to any lengths to bring fantastic speakers and entertainers to our guests. And for these efforts, we were able to offer our guests some of the biggest names and most intriguing experts in their respective fields. It a cavalcade of entertainment over a marathon cruise.

2) My first Antarctica cruise was very special. It was a privilege and a thrill to explore the most pristine and remote environment in the world. Accompanying us were a plethora of wildlife experts, adventurers and historians, which added more even meaning to the already fascinating countryside.

3) The special events as part of the World Cruises and President’s cruises are always so much fun to be a part of. Wearing Ming Dynasty costumes representing Imperial China during a World Cruise event in Shanghai, or introducing guest entertainer Christine Andreas in the Wadi Rum desert of Jordan for the President’s Cruise recently – all spectacular evenings with many special events to many mention here but all very memorable and fun.

What journeys do you still dream of taking?

I’m very excited to someday take a river cruise. I’ve heard such wonderful things about Crystal River Cruises and the new ships from our guests and I would love to experience cruising the fresh water world on the rivers of Europe. I also look forward to the Crystal Endeavor and the remarkable adventures she’ll offer. But mostly as I reach retirement I look forward to cruising anywhere with the many friends I’ve made onboard over the years. My favorite destination will always be Crystal Symphony, where I have spent nearly 18 of my 22 years with Crystal.

Any anecdotal stories you’d like to share?

Like most of the Cruise Directors with Crystal, I’ve had the good fortune to interview some guest celebrities. During a World Cruise one Saturday morning at 11 a.m., I was supposed to interview Debbie Reynolds. I talked with her the night before and she confirmed that she would be at the show lounge at 11 a.m.

Well, 11 a.m. came and went and no Debbie.  So I went on stage and talked to the audience while some of the staff sought to find Debbie. About 20 minutes later Debbie showed up and took the stage with me but was a bit disheveled. We had just had (her “Singin’ in the Rain” costar) Donald O’Connor on the segment before, so I asked Debbie, “What was it like working with Donald O’Connor in ‘Singin’ in the Rain?’ She stood up and did a full-hour – extremely funny – monologue and left me sitting in the chair desperately trying to get an answer to my one question. She would come over and sit on my lap, kiss me on the cheek and say sweet things, but she never answered the question! No one cared because it was one hilarious hour of entertainment provided by a beautiful and legendary entertainer. Thanks, Debbie. We miss you.

Farewell to you, Paul. We will miss you, too. Here’s to all the great adventures still to come!

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