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Crystal Cruises: Crystal Symphony

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Crystal Symphony Review

Insider Take

Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer

Very small luxury ships, port-a-day itineraries, not having crewmembers who interact with them.

Onboard Experience

Make no mistake, Crystal ships reach some of the most exotic regions in the world, but you may find yourself so fully ensconced in the onboard experience you hardly realize it. Those who picture the cruise experience as spending a lot more time on the ship than ashore will find Symphony's attitude perfectly in tune with their own. And honestly, given the ship's tasteful elegance and spaciousness, who would want to be long ashore when the alternative includes some of the most spacious and commodious staterooms at sea, an abundance of university-level lectures; classes in computers and the arts, and wine and food festivals. Add the highest rated nighttime entertainment for a luxury line, according to CruiseMates readers, and you find Crystal passengers in port wondering how soon they can make it back to the ship.

The usual range of shipboard activities, from bingo to bridge and blackjack, are on offer, and there are wonderful spa facilities, but most of Crystal's passengers seem to have something very much loftier in mind, such as the extensive onboard educational programs and lectures. The Computer [email protected], one of the first computer learning labs on cruise ships, is so popular you wonder how so many could have remained innocent so long!

Crystal has one of the highest passenger to space ratios at sea, and as you wander around the tastefully yet uncluttered public rooms you will sometimes wonder where everyone has gone even though the ship is at sea. The answer is their staterooms, enjoying a DVD available from the library, perhaps with a plate of room service caviar on the coffee table freshly delivered by the butler.

The full-time concierge is ever ready to make your next port stop an experience of a lifetime. Decide you want to rent a car at your next port stop just ask the concierge to take care of it and he will hand you the keys upon your arrival.

Decor

If you associate cruising with palm trees and the sound of running water, you'll feel right at home as soon as you step aboard. Light green and aqua walls of glass surrounding dramatic fountains fill the heart of the ship. Somewhere in the distance you hear a grand piano player tickling the keys.

Wide staircases with brass railings, wood polished to the point where you can see your own reflection, Crystal clearly lavishes attention on detail. And all that glass lends a lot of romantic natural light.

Restaurants

There's lot of room between the tables in the large, elegant main dining room, which offers two seatings, many for parties of two. Crystal is the only luxury cruise line at sea with assigned dining times and tablemates, but the maitre d' has a knack for seating people likely to enjoy one another's company beside one another. Crystal was the first line to offer alternative restaurants, and they're so popular that few passengers are able to get a table in them more than once per cruise. A Late Risers Breakfast is available from 10 a.m. to noon in the Trident Grill. Sunday mornings at sea, the Crystal Cove offers brunch.

There is no additional charge on Crystal to dine in the alternative restaurants: Silk Road/The Sushi Bar or the Italian Prego with authentic regional Italian cuisine. You will be handed a slip to sign for the optional tip, $7.00 is recommended.

Tipping

Gratuities are now included in the cruise fare (since 2012).

Attire

At night, it's nearly impossible to feel overdressed on the Symphony; you may never have seen so many Rolexes in one place. Things are a lot more relaxed before the sun sets, with what you might call country club casual predominating.

Overview

The older and smaller Crystal ship is still more active than the average luxury ship. Amazingly good food and service.

Best For People Who Want

Very attentive, friendly service and consistently exquisite cuisine; a large variety of onboard enrichment programs; getting dressed to the nines at night.

Public Rooms

You board Symphony via the glittering Crystal Plaza, a light and airy atrium whose two stories are connected with the grandest of glass and chrome stairs cradling a hand-cut glass sculpture and waterfall. This room is graced with a full bar and cocktail tables, perfect for people watching.

Deck six includes one of the largest dedicated lecture hall/movie theaters at sea, separate from the live entertainment venue Galaxy show lounge which though modest by modern cruise ship standards contains comfy chairs and great lines of sight from almost any seat in the house.

Symphony's recent enhancements include a larger spa facility, shopping area and casino, to the lobby's cozy cappuccino bar. It's impossible to resist Facets jewelry store with its sparkling bangles, and if you get to know the salesman he just might let you borrow a piece for a day or two.

The library is designed for serious connoisseurs of the world of knowledge with reference tomes for geography and all cultures of the world, the day's newspapers and an impressive selection of DVDs for lending.

Cuisine

You simply won't find more delicious food on any other cuisine mid-size cruise ship. Expect beautiful presentation and excellent quality Continental fare in the two-seating main dining room. Prego, an alternative restaurant requiring reservations, offers an unvarying but extensive menu of upscale Italian cuisine. Nobu Restaurant and Sushi Bar, featuring the delicious Asian cuisine of celebrity Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, is a serene space done in mauve, beige and woods, with airy white linen curtains and dramatic seashell sculptures.

The poolside buffets, with such themes as "Asia Cafe" and " of the Sun" are almost worth the price of your cruise on their own, offering an astonishing array of indescribably delicious food. Crystal's afternoon tea isn't nearly as elegant as it used to be, though. Suffice it to say that the scones are served nowadays with whipped, rather than clotted, cream. The gala buffet luncheon, held in the ship's atrium, usually on a sea day, is a riotous celebration of extravagantly presented dishes, ice sculptures and whimsical decor.

All beverages including wine, spirits, beer, bottled water, soft drinks, juices, cappuccino, and caffe latte are all complimentary as of 2012. This ship clearly takes it wine very seriously, offering special Wine and Champagne Makers Dinners themed around much-yearned-for vintages and held in their own private dining room.

Service

Excellent English, spoken with Eastern European accents, is very much in evidence among dining room and cabin staff. So, too, are enviably high levels of professionalism and friendliness; just try to encounter a crew member in the hallway without their greeting you cordially!

Entertainment

Symphony calls at fewer ports than most cruise ships, but the onboard entertainment and educational programs are more than enough to keep its passengers happy. [email protected] instruction covers everything from correct mouse technique to creating Web pages. As befits the first line to offer onboard cybercafes, Crystal issues each passenger a personal e-mail address with his or her ticket but charges apply when the address is used. A one-time set-up fee of $5 is applied to your stateroom account with its first use and every message sent or received is $2.75 each for the first 100 kilobytes of data (roughly equivalent to 15 pages of text). Additional recipients of the same message (i.e. "cc") are treated as individual messages and charged accordingly.

The ship's floor shows, guest lecturers, and wine and food festivals are all enormously popular, and even the performers in the smaller lounges are uniformly terrific. No less than Caesar's Palace oversees the casino, which offers free drinks to high (and medium, and low!) rollers. The Starlite Club stays busy nearly all night, first with evening shows and then with a late-night disco.

Cabins

From the cabins' luxurious mohair throws to the plush bathrooms, many with double sinks, tubs and showers, you find comfort is the key from the moment you enter your "home." Crystal's all-suite penthouse decks have private verandahs and lavish marble bathrooms. Suites come with a room stewardess, with assistant, and a dedicated butler. The four largest suites measure 948 sq. feet, while smaller suites are 491 and 367 sq. feet, all with separate seating and sleeping areas, large leather sofas and wide teak balconies. The deluxe staterooms with verandah are 246 sq. feet, though the way they're furnished makes them feel smaller. Standard outside cabins are 202 sq. feet with picture window, with excellent bathrooms and lots of closet space. TV/DVD players, hair dryers, refrigerators, and bathrobes are standard in all cabins. Penthouse guests also receive their choice of one bottle of spirits per guest and one bottle of wine or champagne, as well as daily late afternoon canapes.

TV/DVD players, hair dryers, refrigerators, and bathrobes are standard in all cabins.

Fitness/Spa

Passengers jog and fast-walk on a wraparound deck. Crystal Symphony claims the only paddle tennis court at sea, and it's often crowded. The large salon/spa, recently re-arranged according to feng shui principles, offers a wide range of massages and beautifying treatments as well as GoSmile teeth whitening.

The superbly equipped gym offers aerobics classes and customized weight loss programs. You might find yourself going to it just for the pleasure of using its locker room, which features multi-head showers, sauna, steam, Aveda and Elemis toiletries, and a mini-fridge stocked with complimentary still and fizzy water.




Ship Overview

Crystal Symphony’s schedule includes worldwide itineraries that range from seven-day cruises to Grand Voyages of several weeks in length. Many itineraries from point to point can be booked consecutively for a longer trip with unique ports of call on each.

Although large, Crystal Symphony is noteworthy in the luxury market for creating intimate spaces in understated, yet sophisticated, surroundings. Generous per-passenger space ratios have become a Crystal trademark, along with forward-facing observation decks, a Palm Court lounge, and a wide teak promenade encircling the ship. A refurbishment in 2017 transformed the Marketplace Lido Café and reduced passenger capacity by converting standard staterooms to penthouse accommodations.

Accented by a lovely waterfall, the focal point of the central two-deck atrium is a sculpture of two ballet dancers created especially for the space. Crystal Cove, the lobby lounge, is the spot to meet for cocktails as you make your way to the nearby dining room. Throughout the ship, public rooms shine with low-key contemporary style and flow easily from one to the next.

Winner of accolades and too many hospitality industry awards to count, Crystal Cruises offers a taste of the grandeur of the past along with all the modern touches discerning passengers demand today. Founded in 1990 in Japan, Crystal has large ships, unlike other luxury vessels, that carry upward of 900 passengers. What makes them distinctive are superior service, a variety of dining options, spacious accommodations, and some of the highest ratios of space per passenger of any cruise ship.

Beginning with ship designs based on the principles of feng shui, the Eastern art of arranging your surroundings to attract positive energy, no detail is overlooked to provide passengers with the best imaginable experience. Just mention a preference for a certain food or beverage and your waiter will have it available whenever you request it.

Afternoon tea in the Palm Court is a delightful daily ritual. You're greeted by staff members in 18th-century Viennese brocade and velvet costumes for Mozart Tea; traditional scones and clotted cream are served during English Colonial Tea; and American Tea is a summertime classic created by Crystal culinary artists.

The line's Ambassador Host Program brings cultured gentlemen on each cruise to dine, socialize, and dance with unaccompanied ladies who wish to participate.

What You Should Know

Pros

  • The professionalism of the ships’ staff sets them apart
  • The large theater has ample seating and free popcorn
  • Casual dining areas have more than enough seating indoors and outside

Cons

  • Few staterooms can accommodate families
  • While large, the solitary pool and hot tub can feel crowded at times
  • Lower-category staterooms can feel cramped for a luxury ship
Ship Stats
  • Crew Members 566
  • Entered Service 1995
  • Gross Tons 51,044
  • Length 781 feet
  • Number of Cabins 424
  • Passenger Capacity 848
  • Width 99 feet
  • New

May 9, 2017

By Rose_CR

  • New

Mar 27, 2013

Reefs and Rainforest

Very disappointed about the all inclusive program. It sounds cheap and it is really 'cheap'. I was with Crystal Harmony a couple of times before and was impressed with the 6 stars' service and food. This time, maybe it is 'all inclusive', the service is awful! They do not have to work hard to please anybody. The food in the main dining room is awful and boring. Not to mention we requested for early seating when we booked 3 months' ago and when

we showed up the first night, they said there is no table booked under our name. They have to wait for the Manager who appears he was so generous and nice to allow us a table of two. When I asked 'what is our table no. tomorrow?' as we prefer to dine at the same time, he said 'we'll see'. Thereafter after night we showed up as aliens and he has to find us a table. However, every night we found a few empty tables. Due to changing of table, the waiters are different. Some are more attentive than the others and some shows as if you are creating extra work for them! The specialities restaurants are fully booked the second night! If we did not book it before our cruise (which we were only allowed to book once in each specialities restaurants), we will not have a chance to try. However, after numerous time of asking if there is any cancellation, we finally can tried two more times, yet, when we were there, there were lots of empty tables around us. Either their system is not right or something is wrong. Thank God, the housekeeper is nice. The show is actually better than before and the best of all is they offer daily Catholic mass. The Specialities Restaurant, Silk Road and Prego are good. The main dining is boring and awful. Even the Gala Buffet is awful. Lobsters are tasteless, dessert are boring. The Bistro offers good coffee. Fruits are boring and the choice is limited. Not too bad cabin, a good size with double sink. Very clean! There is not much entertainment we liked. However the seminars are interesting. Excursions are over prized for sure but the handling of Embarking and disembarking was nice and smooth. I do not think we will go with Crystal Symphony any more.

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  • New

Oct 8, 2012

Iceland

Liked: inclusive drinks and gratuities, waiting staff and room stewards excellent Dislikes: most of the other staff, especially reception and entertainment staff; rooms tiny; ship showing its age; shore excursions overpriced Food good Stateroom tiny Entertainement poor Excursions overpriced Crystal is a bit better than the average cruise line, but in no way is it '6 star cruising' and certainly not worth the extra cost.

I don't believe it represents good value for money, and personally wouldn't cruise with them again. Cabins are really small. We'd booked one for two adults, a three year old in a bed and a baby (6 months) in a cot. The three year old was OK in a chair which folded out into a bed (but I wouldn't want to put a child who was much older than that in there). But when the bed was folded out the table in the room had to go under the dressing table, the chair from the dressing table had to be removed from the room completely and the baby had to sleep in our bed as there was absolutely no room for a cot. This wasn't great, but given the fact we had to pay for the baby when he had nowhere to sleep and no food provided it wasn't acceptable. We were told the lowest category of cabin with a fold out bed available was Cat C. We would have much preferred adjacent cabins with an adjoining door in Cat E but we were told this wasn't available. Very frustrating then that someone we were travelling with was allocated just such a cabin and it definitely did have a fold out bed. The size of the cabin meant there wasn't enough room for all our clothes – I think we would have struggled with just two people in the cabin – but with two children quite a lot of our clothes had to remain in the suitcase under the bed, which we could only get out when the fold out bed was folded up. Liked the mini-bath in the bathroom, great for bathing the kids. The twin sink looks great, but as you can't get more than one person in the bathroom at a time it would actually been better to have one bigger sink. Loved the Aveda toiletries. The waiting staff and the room stewards were generally excellent but the reception staff ranged from dismissive to downright unhelpful. Personally I found the entertainment poor. The program didn't vary day to day – bingo at 10, quiz at 11, dance lessons at 2.30, etc – the only thing that seemed to change was the guest lecturers. There are obviously a certain portion of people this appeals to but it completely lacked imagination and innovation, nothing that hasn't been done for years. The brochure advertises that there are dedicated rooms for kids but that is quite literally all they are, just a room – no entertainment at all is provided and there were no toys whatsoever available in the room (which was quite often closed as it was being used by the golf program or the photographers). I understand that there are no dedicated staff available outside of selected cruises but that is absolutely no excuse for not having toys available in the kids room. If nothing else that would mean the children would have somewhere to play away from passengers who didn't want children on-board. There was a kids menu in the dining room but this didn't vary at all, and unsurprisingly my son was getting bored of eating the same things after two weeks on-board. There was very little that was suitable for children otherwise, and absolutely no baby food was available. The food in general was good, and portion sizes in the main restaurant were ideal. The lunch buffet was quite repetitive though, and only a few hot dishes varied day to day, with other counters not changing at all during the two weeks. I found the opening times of both the restaurant and the lunch buffet too limited (trying to fit in getting the children fed and naps meant that quite often I missed the buffet and had to eat at the lido). Other people who ate breakfast quite late or were on the late sitting for dinner might also have found the lunch closing at 1.30 to early also. After 6.30 the only options were the restaurant or the food being served in the restaurant as room service. With the kids asleep in the room, room service was not an option so it would have been nice to have somewhere else to go. Crystal might argue that there isn't the demand for it but the long wait for a table on the two nights there was casual dining in the evening in the buffet room would suggest otherwise. We really struggled to get bookings at the speciality restaurant at suitable times, in the end we only got a booking at all by e-mailing Crystal. We were therefore really annoyed when we did get in to find that we were the only fare paying passengers there save for one other table. All the other tables were taken up by staff, some of them with their guests. I understand that staff might want to take their guests in, but this should not be to the detriment of fare paying passengers, who should get preference. Many of the staff seemed to treat the passenger areas as their own, often taking up tables in the bistro and the lido area, leaving no seats available for the paying passengers. This also meant that the waiting staff were having to serve them drinks, etc increasing the length of time passengers were having to wait. I really didn't think this was acceptable. The boat itself has recently been refurbished but it really is beginning to show its age. We experienced rough weather but I've been on rougher seas in other boats and they were able to cope much better than this ship did. We were scheduled to call at 4 ports – Dublin, Akureyri, Reykjavik and Halifax. Two of these stops were cancelled due to bad weather (which although the boat made hard work of it wasn't that bad). We were also delayed for over 5 hours getting out of Reykjavik, this was put down to the sea being too rough but the Brilliance of the Seas was out at sea waiting for our berth to become available and didn't seem to be experiencing any problems. As 'compensation' for missing two of the four stops we were given 100$ per person. Unfortunately this was only given to the full fare paying passengers, so no compensation at all for the baby, not even a pro-rata rebate. This works out in the region of 1% of the total cost of the holiday, and given that we missed 50% of the stops we though this was somewhat insulting. One formal night was cancelled, as it was a bit choppy, and never reinstated on another night. And no effort was made to change the entertainment program to alleviate the boredom of spending endless unplanned days at sea. I found that the tours were excessively expensive. For example we did a tour to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. It seemed expensive but we though this might be because the entry to the Blue Lagoon was expensive, but this wasn't the case. We were also under the impression that the tours were free for the under 4s. In fact they charged us 50% of the full fare for our 3 year old. This was despite the fact that it was completely free for him to get into the Blue Lagoon. So effectively we had to pay $60 for a bus trip which was less than half an hour each way. Needless to say we didn't take any more trips, and would have struggled to do so as the stops were cancelled anyway! The debarkation was the worst I have experienced. Crystal have a no passenger announcements policy, which generally is OK but when their organisation goes so spectacularly awry they are really needed. Debarkation was scheduled to commence from around 8am, with passengers being told to wait in the Starlight lounge at specific times and passengers would be directed from there. However 9am came and went with no sign of anyone getting off. The two staff present were hopelessly inundated and had no idea what was happening. By 10am it felt like the entire ship was trying to fit into the lounge and when they did begin letting people off the first ones off where the last ones to arrive as those who should have been let off were trapped in the lounge by those who had arrived for a later departure. Utter chaos, and I'd be surprised if people didn't miss their flights because of it. Especially frustrating as we could see passengers on the Carnival ship, which arrived after us, getting of before us. But this event summed up the entire cruise "lack of customer care", staff largely absent and uninterested and no better (and quite often worse) than any other cruise line.

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  • New

Mar 31, 2012

Western Carribean

This was my husband's and my first time on a cruise and we're glad that we travelled with Crystal. It was a wonderful experience. The meals were so delicious. We were fortunate enough to sit with a table of 8 great people as well. Each night we took turns buying bottles of wine to share with our meals. We were also able to special order our meals for the next night, ex. lobster and items not on the menu. The ship was so pretty. For years I avoided

going on cruises because I thought that a cruise would be boring. Not at all. We had cooking demos with Govind Armstrong, who is a celebrity chef. We especially enjoyed the wine tasting, and we saw fun shows every night. We made so many friends and after a year later we are still in contact. The excursions were o.k. Very touristy in nature however it's best to go to places with people from your ship. I would advise though NOT buying jewelry from one of the islands on excursion. It seems like a good idea as all the stores are offering deals and they talk about deals a lot on the ship. But I bought a bracelet and a stone came out as soon as we left that port. I had a hard time getting my money back from the store as I had to wait to return home to send it back. The store did not want to reimburse even after getting the bracelet back. Thank God for American Express who helped me with the matter. Other then that the trip was great! I love Crystal Cruise! Fresh, innovative, beautiful presentations Clean, after fresh. The bathroom was gorgeous. I didn't feel like I was on a ship. Good. I loved the cooking demo by Govind Armstrong. I loved the host from Food and Travel. Don't buy jewelry on an excursion. If something is wrong with it it's hard to get your money back. Loved it!!! The best!!

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  • New

Apr 19, 2011

San Francisco-Vancouver

The food was excellent. Most everything else was awful. Ship very small. Tiny elevators. No activities. Trip to Vancouver. Too early in season. No water in pool. No deck chairs. Absolutely nothing outside. No jacuzzi. Expected some speakers. There was one mediocre one. CASINO closed most the entire trip, One BINGO game. Was constantly misinformed by staff at front desk. One example, we were told we could use our $1,00 credit in stores

up til the last day. The stores all closed 3 days before that so we had to donate oour credit to Crystal. Excellent Large window was a small window. Bed small and not comfortable There were none at all. Very disappointing. Not suitable for handicapped people. Elevatrors too small. Difficulty getting off and on ship

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