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CruiseReportCrystal Cruises Crystal Symphony5A cruise review of Crystal Cruises Crystal Symphony in Canada
 
 
by C. Dikmen and
R. Richardson
 
Journalist  90
 
 
 
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  Crystal Symphony Editorial
 
A Symphony For The Senses
 
September 2011
 
Reviewer Rates This Cruise
 
Itinerary: 11-Night New York to Montreal - New York City, Newport, Boston, Bar Harbor, Halifax, Quebec City, Montreal

For the past ten years we have been wanting to review a Crystal Cruises' ship. After reviewing more than 25 different cruise lines, there was a gaping hole in our review portfolio. For years our readers have been asking us, "Why can't you tell us anything about Crystal?" Well, now we can!

The planets finally aligned and we were able to schedule an 11-day Canada/New England sailing on Crystal Symphony.


THE SHIP

Crystal SymphonyCrystal Symphonyrystal Symphony was launched in 1995, but you would never know it by looking at her today. She looks more like a two-year-old vessel than 16. Signs of wear are so hard to detect that you really have to nit-pick to find them. The furnishings, carpeting, flooring, wall coverings, etc., all look fresh and new. The ship underwent a 25 million dollar refurbishment in 2009 and it shows. In port, it was not unusual to see crew out painting the hull and on board, cleaning and maintenance of the vessel were ongoing.

Crystal Symphony is much larger than I expected. There were approximately 740 guests on board our cruise, but even at full capacity (922) the ship would not feel crowded. There are plenty of open public spaces and we never saw guests standing in long lines. The public areas are beautiful.
Crystal Symphony's designers placed an emphasis on elegance and sophistication throughout the ship. The quality of materials and workmanship indicates that Crystal did not cut corners on the refurbishment. Even the carpeting in the staterooms and hallways show a sense of style that is rarely found on a cruise ship.

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Most areas of the ship are non-smoking, including stateroom and penthouse verandahs, corridors and landing areas. There are designated smoking and non-smoking tables in some bars and lounges. However, Palm Court, The Bistro, inside the Lido Cafe, Crystal Dining Room, Prego, Silk Road and The Sushi Bar restaurants, the Galaxy Lounge and Starlite Club are non-smoking venues. Pipes and cigars are permitted only in the Connoisseur Club and on the open decks, except all areas of Lido Deck 11.


American Cruisers - Crystal Symphony
Crystal Symphony is featured on American Cruisers!

Crystal Cruises still offers "formal nights" and has a designated dress code each evening after 6pm ranging from casual to informal to formal. Most evenings after a port visit are casual nights. Sea days allow for more time to dress up. Our 11-night voyage only had two days at sea, so we had mostly casual attire evenings with two formal evenings and one informal thrown in for good measure.


We were also surprised (and pleased!) to learn that Crystal has designated certain areas of the ship as cell phone "Quiet Zones".  There is no cell service available in the Crystal Dining Room, Library, Starlite Club, Silk Road, Prego or Crystal Spa. Way to go!


Another nice feature of this ship that we, and others, enjoyed is the Promenade Deck (7) that is truly a promenade deck in that you can walk around the circumference of the entire ship on this deck. There is also deck furniture scattered around Deck 7 in case you want to sit down and take in the view.

Crystal Symphony Review

ACCOMMODATIONS

When we first stepped into our Penthouse with Verandah stateroom (1061) on Crystal Symphony, it seemed a little strange at first. The full-sized sofa is located at the foot of, and facing the king-sized bed with the coffee table between them. A comfortable chair is also located at the end of the bed facing the end of the coffee table. The Cat PH is more "square" than comparable categories on other ships which tend to be more oblong in shape. While this seems odd at first, the end result is a sense of spaciousness that you rarely get from 461 sq. ft. Even with the sofa and coffee table at the end of the bed, we never found ourselves in a "traffic jam" fighting to get from one place to another. The coffee table has a fold-out top that turns it into a formidable dining table and it raises hydraulically to "dining height" when used for room service. What you lose with this setup is the sense of separation between bedroom and living room, since everything is sort of all in one space.

There is a very large desk/vanity set at an angle across from the bed and next to the sofa. The desk is surrounded by mirrors and has several drawers down one side. There is a handy raised shelf that is perfect for storing cell phones, cameras and other miscellaneous items. Opposite the desk is a combination dresser/bar/refrigerator cabinet with five large dresser drawers, a cabinet for storing glassware and another cabinet housing a small refrigerator (stocked with complimentary soft drinks and bottled water). A flat- screen television with remote control is mounted on the wall above the dresser on an articulating arm that can swing out so it can be seen from various locations in the stateroom. There is also a DVD player and DVDs can be checked out from the library. The top of this unit is marble and is used as a bar area to hold the ice bucket and fruit plate.  Lights beneath the dresser can be illuminated from a bedside switch and serve as a sort of path lighting or a nightlight in the darkened room.



 

Crystal SymphonyThe large king-sized bed is very well clad in Egyptian cotton linens and plush duvets. The pillows on our bed were a little soft for our liking, but our stewardess, Marija, happily brought us two firmer ones that were more to our liking. The mattress in our suite could have been more comfortable, and honestly, is probably a candidate for replacement. There are two large bedside tables on either side of the bed with lamps on a rheostat and two drawers each for additional storage. A nice touch is an alarm clock on one of the bedside tables.

The closet is small for a walk-in closet, but much bigger than a traditional cruise ship closet. In the closet, there is a narrow dresser with eight additional drawers and plenty of hanger space for clothing. Easily, the closet could hold enough clothing for a 30-day cruise (or longer). An umbrella, shoe horn, clothes brush, portable hairdryer and a beach tote are found in the closet and a shoe rack keeps your shoes off the floor. A programmable safe is located on top of the dresser in the closet. Crystal is the first cruise line we've sailed that provides two robes for each person in the stateroom: two of traditional terrycloth and two "kimono-style" Frette cotton robes. Terrycloth slippers are also provided.


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Crystal Symphony
The bathroom looks as though it was recently remodeled as the marble surfaces and fixtures look brand new. There is a  full-size Jacuzzi tub and a separate shower. The shower stall is small, but very functional with a removable shower wand, and this setup would allow two people to shower at the same time (one using the tub and the other using the shower stall). The vanity has two very decorative vessel sinks, again, allowing two people to wash up at the same time. Bathroom amenities are from Aveda and are top-quality. Shampoo, conditioner, lotion, body wash and bar soap are all provided and replenished as needed. The bathroom offers additional storage with three shelves above the toilet, a shelf above the sinks and two large drawers underneath the sinks. A second hairdryer is affixed to the wall on one side of the vanity. A magnifying makeup mirror is attached to the wall on the other end of the vanity. A telephone is attached to the wall above and beside the toilet. And speaking of toilets, these were the quietest vacuum toilets we have ever experienced on any ship! You could barely hear your own toilet flush, much less a toilet in another cabin.

The balcony/verandah has a teak deck and is a very nice size. There is a metal chair, table and lounger with footrest. The balcony furniture has seen better days and looks a little tired and worn out.


The interesting patterned carpeting in our suite looked fresh and new, as did many of the furnishings and accent pieces.


Crystal Symphony
Housekeeping services were excellent. Our stateroom stewardess, Marija, kept our room spotless and was always smiling and pleasant. She is a real asset to Crystal. Our butler, David, was equally friendly and efficient. Both represent the Crystal brand very well.

Because our stateroom was so near the back of the ship, it was convenient for us to use the aft deck which had chairs and tables and loungers set up each day with cushions and towels. There was a door from the hallway out to this deck and it was a great place to relax and watch the scenery while sailing. It was also a shortcut to the Lido Cafe which was at the top of the curving staircase. Each passenger deck seemed to have such an aft deck, but the space on Deck 10 seemed larger than the others.


Out of the 461 staterooms, there are four staterooms for guests with disabilities, eight connecting staterooms and 89 staterooms with a third berth available.


What we love:


  • Great layout
  • Excellent storage
  • Television programming/DVD player
  • Large closet
  • Excellent bathroom with quiet toilet
  • Good lighting
  • Good soundproofing

What we would like to see changed:

  • Mattress
  • Balcony furniture
  • More electrical outlets

In spite of the mattress and balcony furniture, we have to give the Penthouse with Verandah a solid 5 out of 5 for comfort. The excellent design and overabundance of storage earn it the highest rating.

Crystal Symphony

FOOD AND DINING

Crystal SymphonyWe cruise to eat, right? Well, at least some people do. I don't consume the mass quantities that I once did in my early days of cruising. Oh, those were the days. Ordering two main courses at dinner and devouring half of what was on Rickee's plate as well, going through the buffet line two or even three times with plate filled to the brim.. good times! Today, my focus is more on quality than quantity. So, when attempting to rate the dining on Crystal Symphony, my standards are much higher than they would have been say, ten years ago. With each consecutive sailing, we cannot help but raise our expectations. We have sailed with so many great cruise lines and experienced so many excellent dining choices that remaining objective becomes a struggle. However, with Crystal, it doesn't matter. Their standards are so high that they easily meet or exceed our expectations in almost every category.

CRYSTAL DINING ROOM

The Crystal Dining Room is the main restaurant on Crystal Symphony and serves distinctive international cuisine. Crystal clings to the traditional assigned seating concept that harkens back to the earliest days of cruising. And, even though they do offer a hybrid "Perfect Choice" dining, not much is mentioned about it once you are on board. If you wish to dine outside the 6:15 or 8:30 dinner times, you should speak to the Maitre d' as soon as you board. You can make a reservation to dine in the dining room at a time of your choosing. We selected the early seating (6:15) since 8:30 is just too late for us to eat. Of course, 6:15 is too early, but we thought we would give it a shot. On our sailing, the ship was not completely full and neither was the Crystal Dining Room. Even at half capacity, the room can get noisy. Our table (#1) was located in the far corner of the dining room next to a window, so perhaps the sound levels were funneled to us. Nevertheless, it was not uncomfortably loud, just noticeable.

The menu choices are fairly typical of what you would expect to find on any upscale cruise line. There is always an array of vegetarian selections, the Chef's recommendations, lighter fare and dishes you can order each day even though they don't appear on the menu. Every soup we tried was excellent, something other cruise lines seem to struggle with. The cream soups were smooth, hot and well seasoned. We never found ourselves reaching for the salt. One of my regular items for comparison is a Caesar salad. As hard as it is to imagine, even some of the best cruise lines in the world stumble on this old standby. Not Crystal. The Caesar dressing had just enough anchovy to give it flavor, was not overdressed (a common problem) and the crisp Romaine lettuce was topped with shaved parmesan. Good job!

Main courses ranged from good to excellent on our visits. While my filet was undercooked one evening, it was extremely tender. The accompanying jumbo shrimp was generously doused with garlic. Fortunately, I like garlic, but some might have found it overpowering. Rickee's carrot risotto was creamy and delicious. On another visit, my veal chop was cooked perfectly and was tender and delicious. All sides that we tried were excellent. Presentation is as good as it gets and will rival any five-star restaurant on land.


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A world-renowned wine list is available in the Crystal Dining Room. Crystal has assembled one of the most comprehensive wine lists in the industry with more than 150 selections and an onboard inventory of over 25,000 bottles. We found a German Riesling that we enjoyed for $10 per glass.


Rickee is the dessert person in the family and she had no complaints when it came to the sweets. Everything she tried was exceptional. The made-on board ice cream and sherbets were delicious. Also, the four chefs working in the bakery turn out a superior product! There was a salt-encrusted roll that was delicious and Rickee's choice each day for lunch and dinner.


Service in the Crystal Dining Room was polished and prompt. Water glasses were filled promptly and everything came out of the galley in a timely manner. We had no problem completing our meal with plenty of time to make it to the early show.


Crystal Symphony
During a galley tour with Sous Chef Paul, Rickee mentioned that I loved Indian food. Without hesitation, Paul insisted that he prepare a special Indian meal for me one evening. When the day arrived, I made sure to eat a very light lunch in anticipation of the feast that awaited me in the Crystal Dining Room that evening. Sure enough, a cart was rolled out to the table with an amazing assortment of Indian dishes that could have easily fed four hungry diners. I felt guilty…for about 3 seconds. The head waiter came over to prepare my dish, a huge bowl with Basmati rice in the center, and four separate creations: chicken, beef, lamb and lentils were carefully placed in the bowl. The meal was a highlight of the trip for me. I only wish my friends Brian and Ellen could have been there to share it with me since Rickee does not care for Indian food.

LIDO CAFE

The indoor/outdoor Lido Cafe is Crystal Symphony's buffet restaurant. The Lido is open for breakfast and lunch each day featuring two identical serving lines. made up of "islands", on each side of the restaurant. This new concept of food "islands" allows you to select your food a course at a time in any order you wish, eliminating the need to wait in line.

The breakfast buffet starts with an early-riser continental breakfast at 6:00am and expands to a full buffet at 7:00am. Just about everything you could want to start the day is available. All egg dishes are cooked to order and can be prepared to your tastes.


At lunchtime (12 noon), the Lido experience can range from average to excellent. It really depends on the day. One day we arrived late, right before the buffet closed (around 1:20) and there was really nothing spectacular. However, on another visit the Lido had been turned into the "Asian Cafe" highlighting Chinese, Thai and Japanese dishes. This was perhaps the best buffet experience we have ever had on any ship. Everything was over-the-top delicious. Several times, themed lunches were offered, with one of the most popular being the "American" lunch featuring such dishes as fried chicken and barbecue.


Service in the Lido was excellent with plenty of waiters to deliver your beverage choice. We never had a problem finding a table and were able to dine out on deck aft of the buffet area when the weather permitted. On two nights during our 11-night voyage, the Lido was opened for dinner offering "casual" dining.


SILK ROAD and THE SUSHI BAR

Crystal SymphonySilk Road is Crystal Symphony's Asian alternative restaurant located on Deck 6 aft. Reservations are required to dine in Silk Road, however, walk-ins are accepted in The Sushi Bar which is part of Silk Road, on a first-come, first-served basis. The menus for the two venues are identical and were inspired by renowned chef, Nobu Matsuhisa. On our visit to Silk Road, we found everything to be excellent. The Japanese-themed restaurant is a quiet and romantic venue well suited to tables of two and four adults. The menu is varied and offers some innovative dishes. The Lobster Spring Roll is one of the most popular items with many people asking for seconds. Our California and spicy tuna rolls were both excellent with wasabi that delivered a respectable level of pain.

The mushroom soup was a small teapot of broth which is poured into a small tea cup for sipping, while a variety of mushrooms can be plucked from the pot with chopsticks for consumption.


Rickee's tempura plate was a variety of lightly battered shrimp and vegetables served with Ponzu sauce. My Nobu Box offered a choice of rock shrimp, black cod and Waygu ribeye. All were delicious. However, a return visit would have me ordering the ribeye.


Service at Silk Road is excellent and professional. Waiters routinely offer to bring more food, perhaps because portions are relatively small.


There is no cover charge to dine in Silk Road, but there is a suggested gratuity of $7 per person. In our opinion, the experience is well worth that price.


PREGO

Crystal SymphonyPrego is the Venetian designed Italian alternate dining venue on Crystal Symphony showcasing the cuisine of Pietro Selvaggio. Like Silk Road, reservations are required to dine in Prego. And, like Silk Road, the same $7 per person gratuity is suggested.

The warm lobster starter got a thumbs up from Rickee and my seared crusted scallop was perfectly cooked and seasoned. No visit to Prego is complete without the creamy mushroom soup, served in its own bread bowl. It rates right up there with the best mushroom soup I have ever eaten. Not to be missed.


While Rickee went simple with the spaghetti with tomato sauce, I decided to go for the rack of lamb. The spaghetti was cooked perfectly al dente with a delicious sauce. The lamb was as close to perfect as lamb can get. Absolutely delicious. The waiter offered to bring me three more chops and I almost took him up on it.


Rickee's strawberry sorbet doused in Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine) brought a smile to her face as did the decor in Prego. The restaurant is wrapped in rich color pallettes with chocolate suede walls, red wine-colored upholstery and warm dramatic lighting. It is a beautiful place to dine.


Prego and Silk Road should be on everyone's "to do" list when sailing on Crystal Symphony.


THE BISTRO

Crystal Symphony
The Bistro is an all-day casual dining venue located on Deck 6 in the main lobby area. In the morning, The Bistro offers a continental breakfast with fresh fruit, cereals, breads, pastries and bagels. In the afternoon (until 6pm) guests can enjoy a selection of cheeses, fruit, cold cuts, finger sandwiches and olives. The adjoining bar can deliver any drink you desire while you are snacking.

TRIDENT GRILL AND ICE CREAM BAR

Crystal Symphony's pool grill is Trident Grill. Trident opens early for Late-Riser Breakfast which is available until 11am. At 11:30 they begin serving up juicy burgers cooked to order, minute steak sandwiches, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, veggie burgers, a salmon burger, Reuben sandwiches, chicken Caesar wrap, and a variety of salads and other treats. Fresh baked pizza is also available here.

After receiving your meal in the serving line, you can enjoy your meal in the solarium-like space adjoining the grill. This area obviously used to be a pool and was converted at some point to a relaxing space to enjoy a quick meal, a drink or ice cream. There is a glass roof to let sunshine in and tables are outfitted with an umbrella to provide refuge from the sun. There is a variety of outside seating ranging from couches to chairs and tables.


The burger I had was a thick beef patty cooked perfectly medium-well and juicy and topped with cheddar cheese. A fresh roll is used as a thick, chewy bun for the burger. The shoestring fries were fresh, hot and crispy. The only thing on my wish list would be fried onion rings added to the menu.


Around the corner from Trident Grill is the Ice Cream Bar offering 14 different flavors of hand-dipped ice cream. And, that does not include the variety of sugar-free ice creams! Fresh made waffle cones are on hand and are equally delicious. Several toppings are available to top off the ice cream creations. All the ice cream selections are complimentary.


ROOM SERVICE

Crystal SymphonyRoom Service is available 24 hours a day. In our Penthouse with Verandah, we benefited from the services of our excellent butler, David. Penthouse guests also benefit from being able to order from the Crystal Dining Room, Prego and Silk Road menus in the evening. Our room service experiences were excellent. David delivered our selections in a timely manner and everything was brought to our suite fresh and delicious. Our coffee table was raised to dining height, folded out to make a nice sized dining table and adorned with tablecloth and silverware. It is like fine dining, but in your pajamas!

One evening, we decided to enjoy dinner in our stateroom and watch a DVD movie. David came to our stateroom and took our order. We wanted some sushi from Silk Road, and the excellent mushroom soup from Prego. The response: "No problem." We asked that the food be delivered anytime between 7:00pm and 7:30pm. Right on time, David shows up with a room service cart that converted to a full-size dining table! The table was filled with goodies from Silk Road's Sushi Bar and two bread bowls filled with the famous mushroom soup from Prego. Everything was absolutely delicious and fresh.


Penthouse guests also enjoy afternoon snacks delivered to the stateroom each day at around 4:30pm. One particular day, Rickee asked if she could have caviar the next day. Again, "no problem". On the following day David delivered a huge (by caviar standards) iced bowl of caviar with all the 'fixins'. Not a single fish egg was left in sight after Rickee went
medieval on that bowl.

AFTERNOON TEA


Afternoon Tea service is offered daily in the Palm Court on Deck 11 forward. Even though the dress code for "tea" is casual, the service itself is quite formal and elegant with waiters in tuxedos with white gloves circling the room with silver trays filled with all kinds of goodies such as traditional finger sandwiches, sweets and of course, scones with clotted cream and jam. A tea menu is on every table offering a selection of popular teas. On sea days, afternoon tea can get crowded, so we advise getting there early to get a good seat! Palm Court is a beautiful and fitting venue for such a traditional ceremony.

THE VINTAGE ROOM

A unique concept in wining and dining has been introduced on Crystal Symphony: The Vintage Room. Located on Deck 6 port side aft, The Vintage Room was created to promote wine education and the vast range of fine wine selections offered on board. In addition to occasional daytime wine tastings, guests may take part in a variety of "themed" dinners on any evening of their choice during the cruise. By special arrangement with the Head Sommelier, private parties for up to 12 guests can be arranged so guests may enjoy this exclusive Crystal experience of pairing wine and food. During the dinner, the expert Head Sommelier shares his/her knowledge of the extraordinary wines, offering tasting notes and explaining the unique properties of the vintages with the various food courses presented. Four or five wines are usually chosen, and there are themes from which a wine connoisseur can choose, such as A Wine Tour of Europe, Best Wines of Napa, The Italian Experience, or New World and Old World Wine Comparisons. There is a fee for these exclusive private dinners which includes the reserve wines and gratuity. During our voyage, a special introduction to the Vintage Room was offered featuring a wine and food pairing dinner with space limited to 12 people for $210 per person.

Dining Summary
- The overall dining experience on Crystal Symphony is certainly at the top of the industry, quite an accomplishment for a "large" cruise ship. We like the fact that dining begins at 6:15, even though that is typically a little early for us. It is nice to have the early option. Even Prego, Silk Road and The Sushi Bar open at 6:00pm. Room service is as good as it gets and the additional option for Penthouse guests of being able to have room service from any menu on board makes it even more appealing. It is no wonder that Crystal continues to rack up awards year after year from virtually every travel publication. If you love good food, you will not be disappointed with Crystal Cruises. The only dining faux pas in 11 days was a rather tough and flavorless minute steak sandwich at the Trident Grill. Every other meal was good. Every special request we made was responded to with "no problem". They even made me a special order of fried onion rings for lunch in the Crystal Dining Room! If we were asked to rate the dining on Crystal Symphony from 1 to 5, we would have to give it a 5. It was amazing to learn that a galley staff of only 97 people not only feeds the passengers, but 560 crew members, too!  Executive Chef, Markus Nufer is a very busy, very talented man with a talented and capable group of chefs to assist him.
Crystal Symphony

ENTERTAINMENT AND ACTIVITIES

Crystal SymphonyUnder the capable supervision of Crystal Symphony's Cruise Director, Paul McFarland, the entertainment was robust and varied. The Crystal Singers and Dancers presented four Broadway-style production shows in the Galaxy Lounge which featured the vocals of soprano, Colleen Williamson, and male vocalist, Dennis Dubbin. The dancers, some of whom were also singers and featured in their own numbers, were energetic and talented. They put the small stage to good use. Ballroom dance champions, Adam and Patricia Kent, performed with the Crystal Singers and Dancers and added an exciting element to the shows. Musical accompaniment for the production shows was in the capable hands of the Galaxy Orchestra under the direction of Matt Jung.

Crystal Symphony
During our 11-night cruise, in addition to the production shows, several feature acts performed including a magician, a pianist, a West End vocalist, a comedian/pianist, and a humorist/singer.  All were quite entertaining. In addition, the various bars and lounges on Crystal Symphony featured nightly entertainment such as pianist, Marcie Castro in the Avenue Saloon; pianist Thomas Daniels in Crystal Cove; the Crystal Sextet playing in the Starlite Club and Palm Court for dancing; the Ginger String Quartet playing from their perch above Crystal Cove; and DJ Chris spinning the hits in the disco, Luxe, where there was no problem enforcing a minimum age of 18!

Even though we only had two sea days on this cruise, there were ample activities scheduled to keep anyone busy. The Fitness Staff were especially busy as lots of fitness activities were offered daily. Two innovative items that were available for guests' use are the Nordic Walking Poles, and the Walkvest®, a lightweight cotton vest with weight pockets strategically located around the mid--section. There were also classes devoted to stretching, Pilates, yoga, abs, spinning, and a boot camp workout.  Crystal Symphony has a well-equipped fitness center with weight machines, free weights, and cardio machines. Personal trainers are available for a fee. On Deck 12 above the Seahorse Pool, there is a full-size paddle tennis court where tournaments, as well as open play, were held.  Also on Deck 12 is a golf driving range and putting greens featuring TaylorMade™, PGA® golf instructors and clinics on most sailings.


Other activities included Bingo, napkin-folding, scarf-tying, a galley tour, health seminars, bridge lessons, team trivia, gaming lessons, needlepoint sessions, dance classes taught by world champion ballroom dancers, Adam and Patricia Kent, and table tennis play. The onboard Casino offered black jack tournaments and other gaming contests. There were plenty of opportunities for dancing and Crystal's gentlemen Ambassador Hosts were willing partners.


Crystal Cruises Creative Learning Institute "expands upon Crystal's commitment to enrich the body, mind and spirit by extending new opportunities for personal growth." In addition to the fitness classes, golf classes, and computer classes mentioned previously, the Creative Learning Institute also offered Berlitz language classes (French) and Yamaha keyboard classes. Rickee enrolled in the keyboard classes but since the classes were only offered on sea days and there were only two sea days, there was not a lot of opportunity to practice. There were 10 keyboards available complete with an earphone setup so you would not bother the bridge players who sometimes shared the Bridge Lounge where the keyboard classes were held.


Movie theaters are rapidly disappearing from modern cruise ships, and that is a trend we hate to see. The Hollywood Theatre, located on Deck 5, is a state-of-the-art movie theater equipped with a Dolby sound system and a StarSound Infrared Hearing System for the hearing-impaired. Recent-release films are shown several times daily complete with popcorn! The comfortable seating is stadium style and the theater holds a lot of people.


Although there weren't many children on our voyage, Crystal does offer
Fantasia, a children's center, and Waves which is a teen center.

Crystal Cruises is well-known for the high caliber of the
Crystal Visions Enrichment Program. On our voyage, we had the pleasure of attending presentations by Ambassador Edward Peck; Former CNN anchorman, Lou Waters; and destination specialist, Dr. William Fowler. If you were unable to attend a lecture, it was not a problem. Crystal broadcast all lectures live on the ship's stateroom TV network and then replayed them later.

Each day's activities, along with lots of good information about the next-day's port, the ship and the crew, can be found in
Reflections, the daily activity guide that each guest receives at nightly turndown. Copies of Reflections activities schedule are posted throughout the public areas of the ship and prove very helpful in confirming events and times.
Crystal Symphony

SERVICES

All-Inclusive? It's coming soon!
Effective with the Spring 2012 Trans-Atlantic crossings of Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity, guests can enjoy the added convenience of all-inclusive luxury. The new all-inclusive cruising includes complimentary wines and premium spirits in all restaurants, open bar service in all lounges, and pre-paid gratuities for housekeeping, bar and dining staff. The complimentary gratuity amenity also includes butler service for Penthouse accommodations and service in all specialty restaurants.
Shore Excursions
- Crystal's goal with shore excursions is "to provide you with value-rich and engaging opportunities to explore the world’s most treasured and exotic destinations." Our "Lighthouses and Lobsters" itinerary provided many examples of this goal. There were always a variety of excursions to choose from and you could even book excursions before you left home. It is wise to do that, as we did not, and at least two of the excursions we wanted to take were already sold out by the time we boarded the ship.

Beginning with select sailings this year, Crystal Cruises offers
Private Options of Crystal Adventures shore excursions. Private Options allow guests to participate on some of the most popular Crystal Adventures for a private party of two guests, with a private guide and vehicle. Private Options are available for select excursions only.  If you seek a more customized shore-side experience, Crystal Cruises is happy to create private shore excursions, known as Crystal Private Adventures®.

As a part of their commitment to excellence, Crystal offers selfless and enriching experiences for guests, known as
Crystal Voluntourism Adventures, that contribute to worthwhile causes in destinations around the world, focusing in on hands-on volunteer efforts with no obligations of financial donations. Guests are offered the opportunity to truly make a difference in local communities through volunteering. An opportunity was offered in Boston to sort and pack school supplies to be given to underprivileged children.

In addition to the shore excursion staff, local representatives from each port were usually on board to offer maps, directions, or suggestions on sites to see in their city. Crystal also provided local maps with suggestions of what to see in that city.


Complimentary shuttles in port are always provided when it is determined that the town or city center is located beyond a reasonable walking distance for the port. This makes it convenient to go into a town and explore on your own.


The Casino features slot machines, bar poker and slant top poker machines, six blackjack tables, craps, a roulette table, baccarat table and The Ultimate Texas Hold'em.


The Library is stocked with over 3,000 books, DVDs and audio books. This was a great place to sit and read a newspaper or just browse through the huge selection of books which includes many recent releases.


Pre-paid gratuities and cards to give to crew - If you wish to pre-pay the gratuities for room stewardess, dining room senior waiter and waiter, and butler (if you are in a penthouse), all you have to do is notify Reception and they will bill the $13 (or $18) per person per day to your onboard account. Two days before the cruise ends, they give you cards to deliver to those you have tipped signifying that you have indeed tipped. You can also add other crew that you would like to compensate, such as deck stewards or Lido staff. Or, Crystal still provides envelopes in which you put the cash amount you would like to tip and give the envelope to the deserving crewmember.


Concierge - The Concierge is always available to make arrangements on shore (dinner reservations, private transfers, golf outings etc.) or to simply answer questions. We found the two members of the Concierge staff to be extremely helpful and friendly.


The Crystal Society Hostess oversees activities and perks for repeat guests who are members of the Crystal Society. She has daily office hours to handle any requests/concerns Society members might have.


Spa and Salon
- The Feng-Shui-designed, award-winning Crystal Spa and Salon, located on Deck 12, offers a variety of holistic and therapeutic treatments and services, including those of an licensed acupuncturist. Massages, facials, slimming treatments, reflexology, teeth whitening, and barbering are some of the services offered in the Spa. A private, canopied relaxation area on the Spa’s aft deck invites relaxation before or after a treatment. Separate facilities for men and women include state-of-the-art sauna and changing areas featuring showers with multiple head and side body jets, fiber optic lighting, and a selection of special rain and mist functions. In the salon, trained professionals provide a wide variety of treatments including haircuts, styling, and coloring; facials and skin analysis; manicures and pedicures; and barber services for men.  Port-day "specials" were always offered.


Medical Center - Crystal Symphony's onboard medical staff consists of a doctor and three nurses. At least one nurse is onboard at all times. The doctor is available for consultation two hours each day. There is a fee for visiting the medical center and consultations in your stateroom are subject to an additional fee as are any medications you might need.  Medical services are available 24 hours per day.


No announcements policy - To respect the privacy and solitude of guests, no announcements are made in the staterooms unless it is an emergency. You can hear announcements in public areas or by tuning your stateroom TV to channel 52.


Transfers - While we made our own arrangements to get to the ship from our pre-cruise hotel in NYC, Crystal does offer airport transfers for guests who book air through them. Upon disembarkation, we did avail ourselves of Crystal's early morning transfer to the Montreal airport. Our luggage was loaded and unloaded from the bus and Crystal representatives were available at the airport if you needed further assistance.


Photo Shop - Crystal offers full photographic services and a nicely stocked photo shop on board (Deck 6). Photographers will be found throughout the ship on formal nights and at various events (cocktail parties, special dinners, etc.). Photo prints are available for purchase and they also offer special photographic services by appointment. For example, if you would like a photo of you and your significant other at sunset with Quebec City in the background, the ship's photo team will make it happen. They are also waiting ashore when you leave the ship at each port to take your picture. The Photo Shop will transfer your photos to a CD for use on your home computer. Digital cameras, batteries, albums and digital frames can be purchased at the Photo Shop and they also offer battery changing services.


Crystal Symphony

Avenue of the Stars Boutiques -  Located on Deck 6, there are three boutiques offering different items. the
Crystal Collection has a range of fragrances, costume jewelry and designer accessories by Chopard and Hermes. Facets has a beautiful and unique collection of fine jewelry and designer watches. Apropos offers formal, logo and casual apparel, plus all of your sundry needs can be found in the logo section.

Self-serve launderettes - Complimentary self-service launderettes, including washing machines, detergent, fabric softener, dryers, irons and ironing boards are provided on Decks 8, 9 and 10. In the laundry room on Deck 10, there were five washers and five dryers.


Laundry service - Complete valet services are available including laundry, pressing and eco-friendly dry cleaning. Services may be arranged through your stateroom stewardess, or your butler if you are in Penthouse categories PH, PS and CP. Valet charges are billed to your shipboard account. Pressing is complimentary to guests in categories PH, PS and CP.


Crystal SymphonyInternet - CU@SEA is Crystal Symphony's Internet Cafe and computer training center. CU@SEA has an impressive number of iMac computers for guests to use to connect to the Internet. Interestingly, they run Windows 7 by default instead of the far superior (in my opinion) Mac OS. Nevertheless, the 27" iMacs are beautiful and fast. Internet service on the ship is about as fast as you will find on a cruise ship, but still slow by broadband standards. The ship offers Wi-Fi wireless for laptops or devices so equipped. We had no problems connecting via Wi-Fi from our stateroom, or from the Lido Cafe. Well, mostly no problems. There were a few times that we could not connect with Wi-Fi, but overall the system was reliable. On sea days when everyone is onboard, the system can get overloaded with activity and slow down significantly. But, that is pretty much the case with any cruise ship.

The Internet access pricing is at the upper end of the industry. A 'Pay As You Go' rate of $0.74 cents per minute is one of the highest we have seen. However, Crystal does offer a variety of rate plans that can bring that 'per-minute' rate down to as low as $0.20 cents. We purchased 10 hours (600 minutes) for $200 which brought our per-minute rate down to $.33 cents per minute. As it turned out, we needed every one of our 600 minutes to post our daily blogs and check emails. A 2-hour plan for $50 comes out to $0.42 cents per minute and the least expensive option is $300 for a whopping 25 hours at a net rate of only $0.20 cents per minute. Even though 25 hours may sound like a lot of time, many Crystal regulars will be on the ship for 14 days or more at a time. If so, 25 hours may be just the right amount of time and $0.20 cents per minute is a very reasonable rate.

Computer University @Sea has worked with industry veterans over the past several years to develop a comprehensive curriculum with classes covering topics ranging from beginner level to advanced application training that even veteran computer users will find instructive. The new curriculum focuses on all aspects of digital imaging. While most classes are complimentary, private lessons geared to your special interest are also available from the onboard Technology Concierge.


On the day before disembarkation, passengers were offered 20 minutes complimentary Internet access to check in for their flight and print boarding passes. This is the first ship that we've sailed on that offered this nice perk and is another example of Crystal's attention to detail.

Crystal Symphony

ITINERARY

Crystal SymphonyNew York City (overnight) - Although many excursions were offered, we decided to take the complimentary shuttle into the city and continue to explore. We walked to a local eatery, the Hummus Kitchen, and had a delicious lunch. We picked up some needed items at a local drugstore then headed back to the ship. There is so much to do and see in New York! It is nice that Crystal has complimentary bottled water available for you to take ashore. It should be noted that anytime you sail into or out of New York City you should consider an extended stay. This is one of the greatest pre-/post-cruise cities in the world and you can easily fill an extra three or four days with all kinds of activities and attractions. We spent two nights at the Intercontinental Hotel Times Square before boarding Crystal Symphony and can highly recommend it. The hotel is new, the rooms are large and comfortable and the location is perfect for sightseeing.

Crystal SymphonyNewport
- When we first dropped anchor at Newport, the skies were overcast but later the sun came out and the skies cleared. This is a port where you have to take a ship's tender to shore. Newport is known for its summer mansions that the rich referred to as "cottages" built in the 19th century by the Vanderbilts, Astors, Hunts, and Belmonts. There are about 60 of them remaining but only half a dozen or so open to the public. Crystal offered some shore excursions that visited some of these mansions. Newport is also home to the America's Cup Race as well as the International Tennis Hall of Fame. We took the tender to shore and walked around the main part of the town along the waterfront. There are lots of souvenir shops selling "Newport stuff" and lots of waterfront restaurants. There was also a boat show going on and we walked down a pier lined with beautiful vessels on each side. We bought our souvenirs and stopped at a cupcake shop before boarding the tender to head back to the ship. Crystal has a tent set up at the tender boarding station ashore that provides shade and some seating. Water and orange juice are available for Crystal guests.

Crystal SymphonyBoston - We docked at the new Black Falcon Cruise Terminal and took the complimentary Crystal shuttle into town. The shuttle stopped near Quincy Market. Boston is a cosmopolitan and multi-cultural city and a great place for walking. We decided to follow the Freedom Trail which passed by a lot of historic landmarks from Colonial and Revolutionary times. These landmarks are connected by a painted red line or red rick path that follows along city sidewalks. Follow the Trail and history will unfold before your eyes. We followed the Trail from Quincy Market and walked all the way to the Bunker Hill Monument. To get back to Quincy Market, we took a water taxi from the Charlestown Ship Yard for $1.70 per person. We would like to go back to Boston and walk the other part of the Freedom Trail that we didn't explore on this trip. There is also a great Aquarium that would have been fun to visit. The weather in Boston was gorgeous and we had a great day exploring on our own.

Crystal SymphonyBar Harbor
- This is another tender port. The weather is sunny and clear for our visit. We tendered in and decided to walk along the "Shore Walk" which meanders along the water and ends at one end of town. We had a great view of Crystal Symphony at anchor while we walked.  After admiring the scenery along the shore, we walked back through town and saw a lot of shops and restaurants, some with outdoor dining. A big draw here is Acadia National Park and Crystal offered several tours to explore that area. We had a beautiful day for a walk and beautiful scenery to admire.

Crystal SymphonyHalifax
- We docked in Halifax, Canada's largest city on her eastern seaboard, although only a quarter of a million people live here. We were welcomed in by bagpipers on the pier playing a resounding melody. Crystal once again proved a complimentary shuttle into the center of town close to the Historic Properties where you will find the country's oldest surviving warehouses. Overhead looms the Citadel, a fortress originally built in 1749. Crystal offered several excursions to explore Halifax, Peggy's Cove and even Lunenburg. One excursion included Afternoon Tea at the Citadel! We had visited Halifax  before, so we opted to take the shuttle into town and then follow the boardwalk that runs along the water's edge back to the place where the ship was docked. There were shopping areas and restaurants along the boardwalk and artists exhibiting their wares. In the terminal where the ship docked, there were lots of shops to visit without having to go into town. The terminal building had several sections with one section being a farmer's market offering local goods. It was a fun, interesting place to visit without having to go too far from the ship.

Two Days at Sea
- We sailed down (or up?) the Saguenay River and the scenery was beautiful. At one point, I saw lots of dolphins swimming at a distance. When we sailed past the Cape Trinity area, the captain stopped the ship and sounded the ship's horn so we could hear how it echoes of the sheer cliff face. Incredible! When we sailed past the dame de Saguenay, the statue of the Virgin Mary atop Cape Trinity, the captain again stopped the ship in view of the statue while cruise director, Paul McFarland, narrated the story about how the statue came to be.  Ave Maria was played on the ship's P.A. system. It was a touching moment in a beautiful setting.

Crystal SymphonyQuebec City
(overnight) - We docked at Quebec City around 7am and found that we had a great view from our balcony of the beautiful landmark hotel, Le Château Frontenac, in the Upper City. We relaxed in the morning and, after lunch, decided to walk into Old Town Quebec and explore. It was only a short walk from the ship across the street to Old Town where you could walk along cobblestone streets and  and dine in picturesque sidewalk cafes reminiscent of Paris. Shopping was plentiful and lots of souvenirs available. One word of advice: change some money into Canadian dollars! We did not and found that if you try to pay with American dollars, not only do you not get a good conversion rate, most shops actually tack on a 10% fee for accepting the US money! You can always use a credit card for your purchases and let the credit card company figure it out. Eventually, we decided that using a credit card is the way to go. Gone are the days when the US dollar was worth so much more than the Canadian dollar that shopping in Canada was a bargain. You could reach the Upper City by walking up over 100 stairs or you can take a funicular to the top for two Canadian dollars. It is worth a trip to the Upper City for the view.

Crystal SymphonyMontreal
(overnight) - We docked in Montreal around 7pm and overnighted there. The next day, we walked off the ship and across the street into Old Town Montreal with its cobblestone streets and historic landmarks. One section was pedestrian only, which was nice. We shopped a little and then walked by the Cathedral of Notre Dame and admired its beauty. We saw several government buildings and statues and lots of restaurants with sidewalk dining. The weather was beautiful! We really lucked out with the weather on this trip. We didn't have any rain and the temperatures have been mild and pleasant.

Disembarkation

Two days before disembarkation, Crystal sends a letter to each stateroom with instructions about what to do to prepare for disembarkation. They include luggage tags with colors determined by the time you are to disembark and Canadian Customs forms so you could fill them out in advance. Luggage has to be outside your cabin no later than midnight before disembarkation. This always causes a problem for Rickee since she has liquids that must be packed in the checked luggage but have to be used the morning of departure. We usually end up opening one checked bag at the airport and dumping in the liquids that she has carried off the ship in her carry-on bag. It is a definite hassle. We had an early flight out of Montreal so we had to meet in the Galaxy Lounge at 5:00am! To their credit, Crystal provided coffee and tea and pastries for those of us who had to leave before breakfast hours.

Once Customs was ready for us, we departed the ship, swiping our key card one last time. Crystal had arranged the luggage in the terminal by departure times so it was easy to find our bags, especially since they are brightly colored and stick out among the sea of black bags! We dropped off our Canadian Customs form with an officer and went out of the terminal to board the bus to the airport. Once we arrived at the Montreal airport, the bags were unloaded and Crystal representatives were there to provide assistance or answer questions. Another bit of advice: Leave yourself PLENTY of time to negotiate the Montreal airport! We left the ship about three hours before our flight and had no time to spare. With American Airlines at least, you have to get through the airline baggage drop, then weigh your luggage, then go through Security, then U.S. Customs. The lines were long on our departure day and we arrived at the gate with not much time to spare and we did not shop at all. I lost count of the number of times I had to show my boarding pass and have it electronically scanned! It was interesting that, while talking to the US Customs official, he showed us pictures of our luggage on his computer and asked us to identify it. I'd never had that happen before.



SUMMARY

Exceeding expectations is a Crystal Cruises' specialty. Ours were high to begin with, yet Crystal managed to exceed them. It is obvious why this cruise line has racked up so many prestigious awards. It was a great cruise with great weather and a wonderful ship and crew. Anyone in the market for a luxury cruise experience combined with all the energy and dynamics of a large ship should consider Crystal Cruises. And, with the new all-inclusive program (see sidebar above) kicking off in Spring 2012, Crystal Cruises becomes an even greater value. We leave Crystal Symphony with only one thought in mind: will we have to wait another ten years to sail with Crystal again? We certainly hope not.

end of review

It is common in the travel industry for journalists to be provided with complimentary cruise accommodations, and in some cases, hotel accommodations, for the purpose of a review. While it has not influenced this review, CruiseReport.com adheres to a strict policy of full disclosure to all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, please refer to our Ethics Guidelines
 
 
 
 
       


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https://cruisereport.com/crReview.aspx?id=2439   |  6/26/2019 7:34:16 PM