Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)
Ship: 430 out of 500
Accommodation: 163 out of 200
Food: 341 out of 400
Service: 340 out of 400
Entertainment: 84 out of 100
Cruise: 344 out of 400
Overall Score: 1702 out of 2000
Crystal Symphony Statistics
Size: Mid-size Ship
Cruise Line: Crystal Cruises
Former Names: none
IMO Number: 9066667
Builder: Masa-Yards (Finland)
Original Cost: $300 million
Entered Service: Mar 1995
Registry: The Bahamas
Length (ft/m): 777.8/237.1
Beam (ft/m): 98.0/30.2
Draft (ft/m): 24.9/7.6
Propulsion/Propellers: diesel-electric (33,880kW)/2
Passenger Decks: 8
Total Crew: 545
Passengers (lower beds): 960
Passenger Space Ratio (lower beds): 53.1
Passenger/Crew Ratio (lower beds): 1.7
Cabins (total): 480
Size Range (sq ft/m): 201.2-981.7/18.7-91.2
Cabins (for one person): 0
Cabins (with private balcony): 276
Cabins (wheelchair accessible): 7
Wheelchair accessibility: Best
Cabin Current: 110 and 220 volts
Casino (gaming tables): Yes
Slot Machines: Yes
Swimming Pools: 2 (1 w/sliding glass dome)
Hot Tubs (on deck): 2
Self-Service Launderette: Yes
Dedicated Cinema/Seats: Yes/143
Onboard currency: US$
A highly comfortable ship with elegant, refined decor
Overview. Crystal Symphony is best suited to discerning adult travelers, typically over 50, who seek contemporary ship surroundings, with fine-quality fittings and furnishings, a wide range of public rooms and facilities, and excellent food and service.
The Ship. Crystal Symphony was given a $23 million refurbishment in 2007-8 that included making the main entertainment deck more contemporary. All suites and cabins received flat-screen TV sets, Murano bedside table lamps and Rubelli fabrics, and oval glass washbasins set in granite surrounds were introduced, together with a raft of other behind-the-scenes improvements. The ship went through further refurbishment in 2012, which increased the bistro-style eatery in the former Trident Pool area.
This is announcement-free cruising in a well-tuned, very professionally run, service-oriented ship.
Crystal Symphony has a nicely raked clipper bow and well-balanced lines. While some might not like the ‘apartment block’ look of its exterior, it is the contemporary look, balconies having become standard aboard almost all new cruise ships. This one has an excellent amount of open deck, sunbathing space, and sports facilities. The aft of two outdoor pools can be covered by a glass dome in poor weather. There is no sense of crowding anywhere. It combines big-ship facilities with the intimacy of rooms found aboard many small vessels. There is a wide walk-around teakwood deck for strolling, uncluttered by lounge chairs.
Outstanding is the Palm Court, an observation lounge with forward-facing views over the ship’s bows - it is tranquil, one of the nicest rooms afloat, and larger than its equivalent aboard sister ship, Crystal Serenity.
There is an excellent library, combined with a business center. The cinema has high-definition video projection and headsets for the hearing-impaired. Useful self-service launderettes are provided on each deck.
The Connoisseurs Club, adjacent to the Avenue Saloon, serves fine premium brands of liquor and cigars. The Computer Learning Center, with more than 20 stations, is a popular venue. Private lessons are available but expensive.
The ship achieves a high rating because of its fine facilities, service, and crew. It is the extra attention to detail that really counts. Crystal Cruises also provides impressive, cultural lecturers, and the ‘Passport to Music’ keyboard learning center is excellent. The passenger mix is approximately 85 percent North American (typically half will be from California) and 15 percent other nationalities.
In March 2012, Crystal Symphony became an all-inclusive ship, with all gratuities to staff, decent wines for lunch and dinner, and bar drinks included. This means no more signing or paying extra for drinks, which makes for a more enjoyable cruise experience. Effective with the first cruise in 2014, Crystal Serenity has eliminated smoking from all indoor areas, except for the Connoisseur Lounge (cigar lounge), but maintained designated smoking areas on open decks.
Accommodation. There are eight categories, with the most expensive suites located on the highest accommodation deck (Deck 10). There are two Crystal Penthouses with private balcony; 18 Penthouse Suites with private balcony; 44 Penthouse Cabins with balcony; 214 cabins with balcony; 202 cabins without balcony. Some cabins (grades G and I) have obstructed views. Except for the suites on Deck 10, most other cabin bathrooms are compact, but very comfortable. Interconnecting doors were added to 18 in 2013 - good for families with children.
Duvets and down pillows are provided in all cabins, as are lots of other niceties, together with a data socket for connecting a computer. All accommodation has a refrigerator and minibar, TV set, satellite-linked telephone, and hairdryer. A full range of Aveda toiletries is provided, plus a plush cotton bathrobe and plenty of cotton towels, the largest of which measures a generous 70 by 34ins (180 by 85cm). Suite-grades get a larger choice of drinks as well as personalized stationery on request. Excellent in-cabin television programming, including CNN, is transmitted, as well as close-captioned videos for the use of the hearing-impaired.
Deck 10 penthouses. Two delightful Crystal Penthouses measure 982 sq ft (91 sq m) and have a huge private balcony, a lounge with audio-visual entertainment center, separate master bedroom with king-size bed and electric curtains, large walk-in closets, and stunning ocean-view marble bathrooms with a Philippe Stark whirlpool tub. These really are among the best in fine, private, pampered living spaces at sea, and come with all the best perks, including laundry service.
Other Deck 10 suites. All of the other suites on this deck have plenty of space and a private balcony. They have a lounge with large sofa, coffee table and chairs, a sleeping area, and walk-in closet. Rich wood cabinetry provides a warm decor. The bathrooms are extremely well appointed, with full-size tub and separate shower, two washbasins, bidet, and toilet.
Five butlers provide the best in personal service in all the top category suites on Deck 10 (with a total of 132 beds). Afternoon tea and evening hors d’oeuvres are standard and the food arrives on silver trays.
Decks 5/6/7/8/9. More than 50 percent of all cabins have private balconies. All cabins are well equipped and extremely comfortable, with excellent sound insulation. The balcony partitions, however, do not go from floor to ceiling, so you can hear your neighbors. Even in the lowest category of standard cabins, there is plenty of drawer space, but the closet hanging space is limited. European stewardesses provide excellent service and attention.
Dining. The Crystal Dining Room is quite elegant, with crisp design and plenty of space around each table, although it is noisy at times.
The food, of a high standard, is always attractively presented and well served, using a mix of plate service and silver service. European dishes are predominantly featured, but in an American style. The menus include a fine selection of meat, fish, and vegetarian dishes. Off-menu orders are available, as is caviar.
Kosher meals are also available (frozen when brought on board); Kosher pots, pans, and utensils are sterilized in salt water, and all plates used during service are hand-washed separately.
Overall, the food is really good for the size of ship, and, with the choice of the two specialty dining spots, receives high praise. Dining is in two seatings, unless you choose the more flexible ‘open dining by reservation’ option, whereby you can dine at different or set times each evening. While the early seating may be too rushed for many, with two specialty restaurants, off-menu choices, a hand-picked European staff and excellent service, dining is often memorable. Dessert flambé specialties are made at the table each day by accommodating headwaiters.
Other dining options. Prego is a 75-seat restaurant, featuring fine Italian cuisine created by Piero Selvaggio, with good Italian wines, and service with flair.
Silk Road features Asian-California ‘fusion’ food provided by Nobu Matsuhisa-trained chefs. The high-cost ingredients are flown regularly to the ship. To eat in a Nobu restaurant ashore costs a considerable amount; aboard the ship, this outstanding food is free.
Afternoon tea in the Palm Court is a pleasant, civilized daily event, but do try the ‘Mozart Teatime,’ in which the waiters all dress in period costume.
For informal eats, the Lido Café has great views from its large windows. For casual poolside lunches, there is also Trident Bar & Grill, as well as an ice cream/frozen yoghurt counter (no extra charge). A Chinese street food zone has favorites like steamed dumplings.
Entertainment. The Galaxy Lounge is quite large, with a high ceiling, but it’s on one level with a tiered floor, for good visibility. A few pillars obstruct sight lines from some seats. Both banquette and individual seating is provided. The stage, lighting, and sound equipment are all excellent.
The shows are elegant, with excellent costuming and scenery, but they are too long, and too familiar to Crystal Cruises’ many repeat passengers. On the plus side, the cabaret acts are of a good caliber, and constantly changing. The bands are also good, and there’s plenty of music for social dancing. The ship also provides male hosts for single female passengers.
Spa/Fitness. Facilities include one room for yoga and Pilates (no extra charge), an aerobics/exercise room, plus sauna and steam rooms. There are seven treatment rooms and a beauty salon.