On Crystal Symphony: the return of Crystal Cruises
The news of the return to service of the two vessels of Crystal Cruises had already excited us, knowing the beauty of Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity, and their onboard services, which we expected would not undergo profound changes.
After a remarkably quick refurbishment, the two ships have finally returned to service, offering a series of itineraries in the Mediterranean before positioning themselves in other areas to continue winter cruises.
We boarded Crystal Symphony for a few days during its inaugural itinerary from Athens in the first week of September. Our expectations and enthusiasm were certainly not disappointed, as we found a ship that is profoundly modern and elegant, despite its age.
The investment made by A&K in acquiring and subjecting the two ships to a complete refit was substantial, and the results of extensive work and significant renovations are evident on board. At the same time, they managed not to alter the onboard style, preserving the true essence of these two ships with a long history.
Crystal Symphony is indeed a large ship in the luxury cruise panorama, but this doesn’t compromise the guest experience. On the contrary, the limited number of passengers, spread across such a large hull, ensures excellent and attentive service without causing overcrowding or discomfort. Guests of Crystal Symphony have access to a ship with a wide range of venues, lounges, beautiful and relaxing spaces, both indoors and outdoors. This is further enhanced by a high crew-to-passenger ratio (almost 1:1) and various dining and entertainment options.
Today, Crystal Symphony can accommodate up to 606 guests, a relatively low number for its size (just over 50,000 tons), which ensures excellent service and great livability on board. Comfort is found in the wide range of accommodations, all deeply renovated and modernized. From the single suite with a sea view, comfortable and pleasant, to the most prestigious suites that represent veritable apartments at sea. Double cabins are available with either windows or verandas, both spacious and bright. Certainly, the higher-level categories such as the Aquamarine Veranda Suite, Sapphire Ocean View Suite, Sapphire Veranda Suite, Junior Crystal Penthouse Suite, and the nearly 90-square-meter Crystal Penthouse Suite with a 10-square-meter balcony offer even more luxurious options.
The dining options are just as numerous, all of high quality in terms of ingredients, service, and presentation. The main restaurant, Waterside Restaurant, is elegant and welcoming, open for every meal of the day, without the need for reservations or rigid schedules. The primary alternative is the Marketplace Restaurant, a refined buffet on the Lido deck with numerous indoor and outdoor tables aft of the ship. Attention to detail is evident from the food station layout and confirmed by the variety and quality of all the dishes offered.
The Testes Kitchen & Bar is one of the coziest spots on the ship. Also located on the Lido deck, it’s open for all meals in an informal and fun atmosphere, offering different dishes every day. Ideal for a quick snack, a lighter lunch, or an evening with various tastings closer to the sea. Two specialty restaurants, both complimentary with reservations, complete the onboard dining options, truly adding value to the cruise experience. Oriental flavors, with excellent sushi and Asian dishes, can be found at Umi Uma by Nobu Matsuhisa Restaurant & Sushi Bar. Here, the atmosphere immerses you in an elegant Eastern-style venue with a wide selection of dishes ranging from various types of sushi and sashimi to more complex and exquisite meat and fish dishes.
On the other hand, Osteria D’Ovidio represents Italian cuisine and pays tribute to Manfredi Lefevre. With great elegance and brightness, unlike the darker tones of the Oriental restaurant, the service and cuisine are equally excellent. An evening at Osteria D’Ovidio will undoubtedly be one of the best memories of a Crystal Cruises cruise.
The Vintage Room finally offers guests a high-level culinary experience, hosting a small group of diners in an elegant private room who will taste the best dishes prepared by the Chef paired with a selection of excellent wines. Another opportunity to enjoy an unforgettable evening on board the Crystal Symphony.
Additional dining options are represented by the Trident Grill, which always has something to offer at any time of the day, whether it’s breakfast for latecomers, a good hamburger, or simple fruit in the afternoon. Next door is the Scoops Ice Cream Bar, where I personally enjoyed one of the best ice creams I’ve ever had at sea. Finally, at The Bistro, you’ll always find something excellent to accompany a good coffee, with a wide variety of options or even an aperitif. Room service is available 24 hours a day, with a wide and inviting selection of snacks and hot dishes.
On a ship the size of Crystal Symphony, the onboard spaces are numerous and offer a wide range of choices to spend some hours during a day on board, have fun, or relax in the evening. The Atrium is the ship’s bustling heart, where you can also find services like Guest Services and the Tour Office. Spacious and welcoming, it’s the ideal place to wait for a table at the restaurant or chat with friends and fellow cruisers sharing your voyage. The area is served by the Crystal Cove bar, specializing in the best aperitifs. From the Atrium, a fascinating staircase leads to the upper deck, where you’ll find a series of particularly inviting shops offering a selection of clothing, jewelry, perfumes, alcohol, and tobacco.
The Library, housing over 2,000 volumes, is a masterpiece that invites concentration and reading, with a table available to guests and comfortable armchairs placed among the various shelves. One of the most beautiful libraries to be found on numerous cruise ship fleets.
In the evening, the liveliest venues are undoubtedly the Starlight Club, Jade Night Club, and the Avenue Saloon, each offering different music and atmospheres to cater to various styles and the tastes of every guest. The Connoisseur Club is a small haven for cigar lovers or those who enjoy a good distilled spirit, in a well-kept setting that takes you back in time. The Palm Court, located at the bow of Deck 12, represents a true oasis of tranquility and relaxation. In the afternoon, it offers an elegant tea service, and in the evening, there is live music and excellent piano sounds. Undoubtedly, one of my favorite retreats on board.
The services offered on board Crystal Symphony include a beautiful theater, the Galaxy Lounge, where high-level variety shows are held and greatly appreciated, and a cinema, which screens movies during the afternoon or after dinner. Those seeking wellness will undoubtedly find their favorite spots within the Aurora Spa, which offers free access to the sauna and steam bath, as well as a wide range of massages and treatments. The Crystal Life Fitness onboard gym features modern equipment and an aerobics space, with various classes and lessons available to guests. The areas dedicated to golf (Golf Driving Nets & Putting Green) or tennis (Wimbledon Court) are a lot of fun, offering options for a sea day or an afternoon of relaxation and entertainment on the lovely outdoor decks of Crystal Symphony.
As mentioned earlier, the outdoor decks are spacious, with beautiful corners to escape for moments of tranquility or to enjoy the sun and sea. The central area dedicated to the pool is particularly spacious, with ample availability of sun loungers and chairs, including shaded areas like the charming aft loggias.
There is also a dedicated space for the little ones: at Wave’s & Fantasia, you can find a range of games and entertainment opportunities for both children and teenagers, creating moments of socializing and leisure on board.
Beyond the extraordinary beauty of certain environments and the range of onboard services, what struck us the most was the quality of the cuisine and the attention to service, confirming the company as an icon of luxury cruising. The level of refurbishment of the ship was also highly appreciated.
It was a significant modernization, but with the firm intention of not altering the style of these two ships, which represent a significant part of the history of cruising over the past 30 years. I also find it quite unique to offer luxury cruises on a ship that can be considered large, or even very large, within its category. This provides an added advantage, the ability to choose from various venues, entertainment, music, and menus every evening. These factors make the two sister ships of Crystal Cruises suitable for longer cruises or those with many days at sea.
As the expectations for quality and excellent onboard services on the two currently operational ships in the fleet are confirmed, they undoubtedly fuel equally high expectations for the future builds, recently announced on the inaugural cruises. We can look forward to discovering new ships from the brand, some of which are dedicated to the rapidly growing expedition sector. While waiting to get to know them, we will return to Crystal Symphony with our eyes closed, where the experience was rewarding and surprising in many aspects.
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