This ship and its Japanese owners are throwbacks to the days of when restaurants, hotels, theaters, airplanes and office buildings permitted smoking, either in segregated areas or throughout, and non smokers silently suffered. The world standards have changed but barely Crystal.
This is the only cruise line left afloat that still allows smoking in staterooms. So the smoke from the smokers rises into the ships's air-conditioning systems and spreads it's noxious fumes everywhere. Hallways outside of staterooms reek in places of the odor from smoke coming-out into the hallways from adjacent smokers smoking inside . Same in certain of the more interesting bars, where the ship honors the old airplane tradition of territoriality, by allowing smoking on one side of the bar but not the other, as if the smoke respects boundaries and does not waft over and contaminate the air in the rest of the bar where the nonsmokers gather and hope to avoid the cloud of foul air coming from the few smokers only feet away that they have to breath. Sitting at a table 20 feet from the bar does not help.
So much for what makes this ship and this cruise line stand out among the worst there is from a good health standpoint. If you are a smoker, this is the ship for you. If you long for the old days when smokers ruled the roost, and the cigarette industry fooled the public, or a non smoker who simply does not know the difference or does not care enough, this is for you. If not, think options.
Public spaces on the ship are lovely, and the Hollywood theater for daily movies is a very nice feature on the wide screen. the nightclub entertainment is very good, with a large show band and talented performers singing and dancing their way in excellent produced shows with very good production values of great costumes, lighting and scenery.
Crystal still clings to the old commercial concept of a ship's photographer shooting photos all the time. And selling them. Whole walls adorned with photos for sale most people today just ignore. Another relic of the past.
The passenger demographics lean toward the late 70's and 80's. Not a particularly happy, vibrant and joyous crowd, but a lot of repeaters comfortable with each other who seem to like the comfort of something familiar that barely changes.
Top food and excellent service are the hallmark of Crystal. Very good and tasty dishes, nicely served, in normal portions not too large and with attentive service. Caviar on request. Excellent smoked salmon. No long waits for food to come. Good complimentary wines, easily refilled. Dining on command in the Main Dining Room a very nice feature. The speciality restaurants are very good, but with limited seating don't expect a second opportunity in each, except perhaps at very late hours. Excellent afternoon tea service, but the string quartet is so boring after a day or two of classic melodies.
the ship's public spaces are very beautiful, with nice lounges throughout. Nice paintings and decorations and tasteful new decor in recent retrofitting.
The non penthouse cabins with balconies are about 50 sq feet smaller than the competition, and the sliding door closets are not great for storage if you want to bring a large wardrobe, with little drawer space. There is non walk in closet the extra 50 sq feet would bring, and the sitting area is tight. All of this is because the Symphony is an older ship.
Bathrooms despite the double basins are also small, even though a nice size shower compartment. Two normal size people cannot pass each other in the bathroom and it borders on the claustrophobic.
The ship is comfortable,but the smoking that is permitted presents a real challenge to anyone with breathing problems, smoke allergies or true health consciousness. One can tolerate smaller cabins and bathrooms, and the excellent food and service are real plusses, but when coupled with this smoking problem, it gives true meaning to the principle caveat emptor. Others mentioned it to us and voiced their surprise that Crystal permitted smoking in staterooms and bars and said they would complain. Yet the policy remains unchanged.