Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
Very small luxury ships, port-a-day itineraries, not having crewmembers who interact with them.
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 University@Sea, 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.
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.
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.
Gratuities are now included in the cruise fare (since 2012)
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.
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.
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.
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 Reastaurant 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 décor.
All beverages including wine, spirits, beer, bottled water, soft drinks, juices, cappuccino, and caffe latté 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.
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!
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. University@Sea 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.
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 canapés.
TV/DVD players, hair dryers, refrigerators, and bathrobes are standard in all cabins.
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.