Dining on Crystal Symphony -- at any meal -- is a superb experience in both quality of cuisine and attentiveness of service. There's now a greater emphasis on offering lighter, more healthy options along with the more formal Continental fare Crystal is known for. Specialty dining fans should note that passengers are limited to one complimentary visit to each of the ship's alternative restaurants, Prego and Silk Road. Additional meals there cost $30 per person. Advance reservations are highly recommended to the alternative restaurants.
Crystal Dining Room (Deck 5): The ship's main restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Once an all-assigned-seating venue limited to early and late dining options, now the venue offers Perfect Choice Dining at dinnertime for ultimate flexibility. Passengers can still opt for assigned tables, waiters and tablemates at two seatings, but now can also choose Dining by Reservation, which allows them to pick their own tablemates and dining times -- either in advance or just walking in. Breakfast and lunch are open seating.
Dinner is a multicourse highlight in the Crystal Dining Room. Two dinner menus are offered each night and both change daily. There's a "modern" menu that offers more daring dishes, and a "classic" that features more traditional fare. You can choose one or the other or even pick from both. On one night's menu, the "modern" choices started with beef tartar with anchovy emulsion, and moved on to broiled Chilean sea bass, black current trifle or sherbet, and a cheese course. That same night's "classics" menu, which has about double the choices in each category, featured a chicken fricassee appetizer before going on to soup and salad, a pasta course (always delicious) and mains such as king crab legs, beef Wellington, coq au vin and a vegetarian risotto. Always available stalwarts are a New York strip and broiled salmon. There's also a substantial salad course for those who prefer a lighter entree, including one with grilled pork medallions that was a superb change of pace one evening.
"Lighter Fare" options -- including low-sodium, low-cholesterol and low-carb selections -- and vegetarian dishes are also included on every menu.
Desserts included a nice range of splurge worthy sweets, like trifle, cakes and pies. An every evening cheese selection was also quite popular.
Excellent quality wines and beer are complimentary. At each meal, you're presented with a red and white choice, but if you prefer something else, your wine steward will find it for you.
A Junior Cruiser's menu is available for the youngest travelers, and was adored by our young nieces. What's not to love about an appetizer of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with sweet potato fries or macaroni and cheese, fish bites or quesadillas for an entree?
At the Crystal Dining Room, breakfast is sumptuous, ranging from granola and fresh fruit to varying styles of eggs Benedict and grilled lamb chops. We loved the All-in-One concept, in which breakfast combos included easy-to-order and quick-to-eat options like The Continental (pastries and fruit), The Excursion (eggs, potatoes, meat and toast) and The Healthy (gluten-and fat-free muesli or egg white omelet). In keeping with the line's growing appeal in Asia, there's also The Chinese (congee) and The Japanese (miso soup, grilled salmon, sticky rice).
At lunch, the menu offers a good range of choices -- appetizers, salads, a pasta dish, sandwiches and hot entrees. Choices are mirrored, to some extent, in the ship's buffet venue. There's a huge selection of entrees each day, including, for instance, a salad nicoise, chef's salad and lamb brochette on greens, along with sandwiches like roast beef au jus and chicken parmigiana. There's always a burger option. Desserts include ice cream (sugar free and regular), pie, cake and cheese. Each day, vegetarian and "lighter fare" selections are also listed.
The Crystal Dining Room is open for breakfast from 7:30 to 9 a.m., lunch from noon to 1:30 p.m. and dinner from 6 to 10 p.m. (Perfect Choice) or 6 p.m. for main seating and 8:30 for late seating.
Silk Road (Deck 6): Silk Road is supervised by Nobu Matsuhisa, one of the world's most highly regarded celebrity chefs. First of note is the restaurant's stand-alone sushi bar, offering both traditional and nouvelle varieties that are created as you watch. Passengers are pretty much limited to sushi choices here (a great stop for appetizers one night on our way to the Crystal Restaurant), but there are a handful of regular menu options offered, too, should you want to make a night of it. Sushi choices range from salmon tartar with caviar to white fish "new style" and also includes traditional favorites like California rolls. Anyone can dine at the sushi bar on a first-come, first-served basis. There's no cover charge, but there is a suggested gratuity of $7 per person.
In the restaurant, decorated in sleek sea colors and highlighted by dark woods, passengers are offered two menus (one for sushi and the other for Nobu-style appetizers, entrees and desserts), and they can mix and match from both. Starters included creamy king crab, seafood ceviche and lobster spring rolls. There are also soups and salads. Entrees include Nobu-style lobster with truffle sauce and signature black cod with miso. The grilled wagyu beef rib-eye steak is also marvelous.
Desserts there, as they were everywhere onboard, were outstanding; the chocolate souffle cake with sesame ice cream and the sweet ginger creme brulee were deceptively light.
Silk Road is the most popular restaurant onboard, so make reservations early; you can pre-reserve online before leaving home.
All passengers receive one complimentary meal at Silk Road (excluding the sushi bar, which is a no-extra charge option at any time), though here, too, a $7 tip is appreciated. Any additional visits incur a $30 per person surcharge, plus tip.
Silk Road is open for dinner only, from 6 to 10 p.m.
Prego (Deck 6): Prego, the ship's Italian restaurant, has been a Crystal stalwart since Symphony's launch; Piero Selvaggio, proprietor of Valentino's in Santa Monica, created it. The restaurant has since transformed its rather gaudy, pseudo-Venetian look into something stylish and luxurious. The reception area is deep wine-red, and the actual dining area, in stone and beige with chocolate suede walls, has a relaxing look.
Signature dishes include king crabmeat salad, mushroom soup served in a bread cup, lasagna alla Casalinga and butternut squash ravioli. These are all precursors to the main courses. Mains include osso buco, lamb rack, lavender-infused duck and striped bass. Desserts are exotically Italian (no ordinary tiramisu here) with choices that include Affogato (espresso-flavored lady fingers, a twist on tiramisu), nougatine mousse with cherries steeped in brandy, a Piedmontese chocolate/almond flan, semifreddo and custard.
Prego is open for dinner only, from 6 to 10 p.m. As with Silk Road, the first meal is included, while additional visits cost $30 per person.
The Bistro (Deck 6): By day, the Bistro is a great coffee bar for low-key breakfasts of fruit, yogurt, pastries and bagels. At lunchtime, it transitions to cold cuts and cheeses, and is a popular spot for a glass of wine. At dinnertime, it becomes a light dining alternative with the same choices as at lunch. It's open until late, serving desserts and cheeses. The Bistro is open from 9 to 11:30 a.m. for breakfast, 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. for lunch/dinner and 8 to 11 p.m. for dessert.
The Lido Cafe (Deck 11): For more casual dining, Crystal Symphony's Lido Cafe is the vessel's buffet venue for breakfast and lunch. Its design makes it feel both summery and elegant, with individual travertine islands that allow the food to be displayed elegantly and reduce queuing. Tables are available both indoors and out on the aft deck. We were impressed by how much space is dedicated to healthy and light fare.
The Lido Cafe is typically open for breakfast from 5 to 6:30 a.m. for early risers' coffee, 6:30 to 7 a.m. for an early risers' buffet and the full breakfast buffet from 7 to 10 a.m. Staples include fresh fruit, oatmeal, cold cuts and cheeses, made-to-order waffles, several styles of pancakes and an omelet station. There's also a breakfast bar with dishes that are aimed at Asian passengers (miso soup, fried rice). Absolutely don't miss the unlimited, fresh-squeezed orange juice.
Lunches in the Lido (from noon to 1:30 p.m.) generally feature the same dishes offered in the Crystal Restaurant but also include additions, such as sides of beef and roast chicken.
Trident Bar & Grill (Deck 11): A huge hit, the Trident Bar and Grill, located midship, serves up made-to-order fast food like Reubens, burgers (chicken, beef and veg), wraps, hot dogs and grilled chicken, as well as a delicious Chinese chicken salad. It also offers a late risers' breakfast. The Neptune Pool, which used to be in this space, is no longer; now the area consists of a sprawling teak deck with clusters of chic, white rattan furniture around granite tables, shaded by oversized green sun umbrellas. It feels like eating in a conservatory when the magrodome roof is closed on cooler days and like a garden party when it's open in the sunshine. The Trident is open from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily; late risers' breakfast is from 10 to 11 a.m.
Palm Court Tea (Deck 11): Afternoon tea is a pleasant ritual on Crystal, and a formal interpretation takes place in the ship's Palm Court. Don't miss these events, which include the Chocolate Tea and -- our favorite -- the Mozart Tea. The latter spread includes croissants and crustless white bread sandwiches and, more importantly, decadent desserts like Black Forest cake, Vienna sacher cake and linzer torte. The hot chocolate "Amadeus" (rum, whipped cream and shaved chocolate), a specialty drink at the Mozart Tea, is absurdly delicious. Afternoon tea is served from 4 to 5 p.m.
The Ice Cream Bar (Deck 11): A favorite of both kids and adults, Crystal Symphony's ice cream bar serves up varying flavors of Ben and Jerry's ice cream, sugar-free ice cream and frozen yogurt. We also loved the toppings menu that's got sauces like chocolate, strawberry and the utterly delicious mango along with more usual nuts, sprinkles and chocolate chips. The Ice Cream Bar is open from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Room Service: Room service is available around the clock and includes a variety of soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts, along with hot, made-to-order items that range from a sirloin strip steak to burgers. Passengers in Penthouse-category suites can order from the menus of any open restaurant, including Prego and Silk Road, and butlers will serve meals course by course.