A food and Wine themed cruise appealed enormously to us, when we booked this lovely ship sailing from Barcelona back to our "home" port of Southampton. An easy early BA flight from the excellent London city airport was perfectly times to arrive in time for embarkation on Crystal symphony. Her lovely, more traditional, lines stretched out before us, and embarkation was speedily accomplished. A delightful, though rather small, Promenade deck cabin was soon reached, and to our surprise, the anticipated obstruction consisted of a tiny strip on a lifboat suspended from the deck above. The Promenade deck was well below cabin windo level, so did not cause any inconvenience. the Promenade deck itself was wide, uncluttered and, to our delight made of gorgeous teak, as was the spacious Pool deck.
Our cabin was nicely decorated in subtle colours, elegant and well planned, with ample drawer and closet space, and proved to be very comfortable.The small bathroom had a tiny tub, twin glass sinks and quality Aveda toiletries.Cabin service was excellent, discreetly provided by a charming stewardess.
A small drawback soon became apparent as we made our way to get lunch, as after 1.30 or 2pm,the only available choice proved to be a Grill bar, mainly offering typical meat-based fare, though grilled fish was available on request, but no salad to accompany it. We quickly learned to go earlier than our usual time for lunch at the lovely Lido, which had huge choice, and the most irresistible tapas-sized desserts we have ever seen.
The Pool deck had lovely comfortable rattan furniture, with large sofas, circular beds ample towels, constantly replaced by a smiling team of deck stewards, who also proffered a wide range of drinks. A very surprising factor were the areas where smoking was allowed; in fact, there seemed to be more smoking areas on this ship than most, including at bars.
The Main dining room was structured to offer 2 servings, and by choosing the later service we found we were less hurried. Dining was high quality, but of a traditional style, with largish portions, but the 2 alternative restaurants had much more flair, with lovely Italian menus served in Prego, and fine Oriental dining offered in Silk Road. We also noted that the wines served in the speciality restaurants were of better quality than the rather pedestrian offerings of the main dining room.
Evening entertainment was some of the best we've enjoyed in the last few years, with great guest artists and an excellent singing and dancing group who provided really delightful production shows. As there were only 3 sea days on this cruise, there was little in the way of daytime activities on offer, for passengers who did not go to the quality lectures. It would have been pleasant to have had social activities so that passengers could interact.
Our one real disappointment was in the delivery of the Food and Wine theme. As we were sailing in Spanish, Portuguese and French waters, we anticipated guest chefs ands wine experts from those counties to offer presentations. The guest chef turned out to be from a Las Vegas Italian restaurant, as was the wine expert.
Crystal provided a high quality cruise experience for guests, in elegant surroundings and great comfort, attending to all needs in a superby professional way.