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6 Crystal Symphony Antarctica Cruise Reviews

I chose this itinerary because I wanted to see Antarctica, experience sailing the Drake Passage, Strait of Magellan and the Beagle Channel, and specifically on this ship. In addition we saw the Falkland Islands, sailed through some of the ... Read More
I chose this itinerary because I wanted to see Antarctica, experience sailing the Drake Passage, Strait of Magellan and the Beagle Channel, and specifically on this ship. In addition we saw the Falkland Islands, sailed through some of the fjords in Chile and made several stops in ports along the way. I had wanted to get back to Buenos Aires and also not having ever been to Santiago, this itinerary was perfect because we left from Buenos Aires and the trip ended in Valparaiso from where I then went on to the Chilean capital. Buenos Aires and Santiago are each wonderful cities with a very different character to one another. Antarctica was extraordinarily beautiful, unforgettable and must be seen since the experience is truly indescribable. From sailing among giant icebergs, tabular and otherwise, to witnessing the landscapes and wild sea life all in weather that kept changing dramatically every 15 minutes, the entire experience was as visually dazzling as it was thrilling. Sailing through the Strait of Magellan, Beagle Channel and Chilean Fjords (parts of each) provided endlessly beautiful scenery and extraordinary climate-enhanced views. The Crystal Symphony is an elegant spacious ship with a very great and extraordinarily dedicated staff, consistently stellar service, wonderful cuisine and a 360 degree open Promenade Deck close to the sea that remains one of the ship's most remarkable features, in addition to the usual surrounding open deck space at the top of the ship. Even when full, the ship feels at all times very uncrowded and exudes an intimacy despite its size. It warrants repeating on its own: the staff and service on the Crystal Symphony are extraordinary. Embarkation and debarkation procedures were amazingly simple and confusion-free. Note: In the Ratings below I left Entertainment blank only because I did not attend any of the evening shows. There should be a separate category for lectures which were beyond excellent*** as usual on Crystal, and the movie offerings constituted a good range. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
This was our 3rd cruise on the Crystal line and our 2nd on Symphony (which is our favorite). We had so much trouble getting to the cruise due to a blizzard in the NYC area. The two days we booked in Buenos Aires were lost to us and we ... Read More
This was our 3rd cruise on the Crystal line and our 2nd on Symphony (which is our favorite). We had so much trouble getting to the cruise due to a blizzard in the NYC area. The two days we booked in Buenos Aires were lost to us and we arrived in the city only a few hours before our boarding time. What a relief it was to walk into the Crystal environment after such a anxiety filled experience. Embarkation took a little longer than usual due to a large number of people showing up at the same time, but Crystal still handled it well and we were through the lines in no time. Our room was ready before 3. Some people think the rooms are too small, but we find them to be just fine. I asked for ginger ale to be stocked in the mini bar and for a different type of pillow for my husband and our stewardess complied quickly. We have never had a bad stewardess or even a mediocre one, they are all excellent. Dinner in the main dining room was wonderful as always. Our waiter and headwaiter were the best yet. So was the sommelier. I didn't care for the particular white wine served that evening, and he suggested another type that I loved. He would always offer it to me at every dinner in case I didn't want the type served. (Different types of red and white wines are offered every night, but I noticed many people ordering different types). It's all included unless you get into the really pricey area of wines. I have to say something about the itinerary. It was the most spectacular and exciting trip I have ever taken, and my husband and I have traveled extensively. We LOVED the penguin colonies in the Falklands. If you have the chance, you have to take one of the excursions out to the colonies. Ours took 3 hours each way but it was worth it. The icebergs and the wildlife in Antarctica were unbelievable. We ran into some wild weather while there, but it just added more adventure to the trip. We loved seeing where Ernest Shackleton landed with his men on Elephant Island. There were several lectures on board: one on Shackleton and some on wildlife and Antarctica itself. All well worth attending. The most beautiful evening of all was at sunset while sailing through the icebergs. The ship gets quite close to them. Crossing the Drake passage was especially exciting with 30 foot waves. I took Less Drowsy Dramamine and had no problem with sea sickness. Next were the.Chilean fjords and the Strait of Magellan. Absolutely stunning and all wild. No houses, towns and only a couple of small fishing boats were seen in the whole day. As usual we met some great people and just had a wonderful time. As far as the downside, the only thing I can complain about was that the movies were kind of old. Not as up-to-date as our first cruise. Would I go with Crystal again? Absolutely. We are now planning our next adventure for 2017. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
Voyage No. 6202 on Crystal Symphony was aptly named Antarctic Discovery: though a very brief discovery it was, a 14-day cruise with only about one day's time on Antarctic waters often at foggy weather. 8 out of 14 days were sea days, ... Read More
Voyage No. 6202 on Crystal Symphony was aptly named Antarctic Discovery: though a very brief discovery it was, a 14-day cruise with only about one day's time on Antarctic waters often at foggy weather. 8 out of 14 days were sea days, mostly rough, but to me, even the limited time at Antarctica was rewarding enough, with spectacular scenery unseen anywhere and it will linger in my memory for life. We sailed from Buenos Aires on 13 January at 6pm and it was not until the fifth day that we set foot on land. Even on the Argentina coast from day one the sea could not be described as smooth. The first port of call was Ushuaia, the southernmost city on a Sunday and there was nothing to see. The four full days at sea passed well though, that is if you can take the sea. Passengers were allowed four dinners at specialty restaurant without supplement and I took full advantage of this. Both Silk Road (Japanese fusion cuisine by Nobu) and the Italian restaurant Prego were really good, the Italian Maitre d' particularly friendly. This voyage was not full, so that booking at the two restaurant was easier, and it allowed me to decide where to dine after studying the main dining room menu. Barely about a year ago I sailed on Crystal Serenity, and this time by the third meal in the main restaurant I noticed the marked change of cuisine style. The waiter confirmed that there was indeed a change of the Group Executive Chef. Crystal offers two full menus to choose from, one traditional one modern. The new modern menu was very much molecular cuisine. Excellent presentation of course and restaurant staff service was to Crystal's usual high standard. Together with the best high tea at sea: the Palm Court formal tea is almost a real ceremony everyday, and these made each day a culinary experience of some sort, even though personally I prefer the previous style of more traditional cooking. On the third night I was told that my PH stateroom was infected with insert even though I did not see anything. I reluctantly agreed to move a few cabin away, and helped by my butler, stewardess and porters, the move takes no time and there was not even the need to pack and unpack. For this inconvenience I was surprised that an additional credit of USD250 was added to my account. What happened was an indication of Crystal's meticulous attention to hygiene of a highest order, and I appreciate the generosity of the unexpected offer for compensation. I believe most if not all other cruise lines would not do so as it was not really necessary. We sailed at 9pm towards Drake Passage. The Captain had already announced that due to weather condition we would not be able to sail around Cape Horn next morning. He also warned that passengers should expect rough sea condition near midnight and should take safety caution. Indeed the sea was rough (Beaufort 9) by midnight. I can take any sea condition, and I believe passengers should have the correct expectation as one sails across Drake Passage. Arrived in Antarctic waters about 8:30 am and the sea turned smooth. The incredibly beautiful and spectacular scenery sent everyone shivering on the deck in very strong wind and around zero degree temperature. We arrived Palmer Station about 1pm and the Palmer crew were on the ship to give a very enlightening presentation of their research work, then they answered questions. The following day was supposedly another day of Antarctic scenic cruising but misty weather condition precluded any good sighting. We passed Elephant Island without view of the island, but there was a brief glimpse of sunset at Antarctica that was simply breath-taking. Negotiating Drake again for another not very comfortable sea day, we arrived Port Stanley at Falklands. The best excursion was the visit to the penguin colony, and this turned out to be excellent as we get really close to penguins. Part of the drive was by 4x4, 4 in a car, which accounts for the higher cost, but it is worthwhile. After Falklands the South Atlantic was also rough. There was little interest as a destination for Puerto Madryn. But after another sea day Montevideo was a good port of call, as of course the embarkation port Buenos Aires that I stayed three nights post-cruise. If this cruise is not for the average cruiser and not really an expedition, it is nevertheless a trip for real travellers rather than for tourists. It takes a real traveller to take in so many rough sea days and three uninteresting ports of call to 'discover' Antarctica (and in my case I needed to fly more than 30 hours just to arrive for embarkation). But what an experience to last a lifetime! A souvenir to take home was an Antarctica Certificate bearing my name signed by the Captain. I am not bored during sea days as I enjoyed the ship's food, the pamper, and not least the entertainment. The evening with the singer Kristen Hertzenberg, a 'real' soprano, was one of the best shows I have seen at sea. If the time spent in Antarctic waters was too short, it was simply memorable. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
Just returned from a near-perfect cruise and journey in all aspects. This was our fifth cruise overall (Seabourn, Azamara, and Celebrity previously); and our second cruise with Crystal. Crystal knows how to do it right! Celebrating the ... Read More
Just returned from a near-perfect cruise and journey in all aspects. This was our fifth cruise overall (Seabourn, Azamara, and Celebrity previously); and our second cruise with Crystal. Crystal knows how to do it right! Celebrating the holidays on a 6* ship plus experiencing Antarctica at the same time does not get any better. We were constantly amazed at how incredibly well Crystal provided for nearly 900 passengers + 500 crew, cuisine-wise, entertainment-wise, and service-wise. Exceptional quality and variety! We also like the demographics of fellow passengers: from all over the world and of all ages (we are 61 and 77 respectively). There were nearly 70 well-behaved children, ages Itinerary: Buenos Aires to Valparaiso Dec 20/21 - BA - we did on our own; we stayed at Caesar Park Hotel (excellent) and dined at NY Times recommended restaurant Tarquino's in Recoleta (seafood), a short walk from our hotel. Tarquino is for those who are not fans of beef or lamb. It is very stylish and non-traditional, if you are looking for the latest in dining adventures in BA! We did a Milonga tour in the evening and city tour the next day, both very expertly provided by Cultura Cercana Tours, in addition to airport/port transfers. (Andres and Mirta expertly navigated us through the city maze to Milonga venue; Flavio was our awesome guide for the city tour). Dec 21 - Embarkation in BA was flawless: well-signed, organized, and efficient, even though we had heard that BA embarkation facilities were not the best. Dec 22 - Montevideo - we enjoyed our day here, again pre-arranged with Cultura Cercana; we knew that Sunday the shops were closed, but we knew the Sunday market was in full swing (colorful and very local). Crystal had cancelled their Jewish sites shore excursion here well ahead of time via their website due to closed venues), so we advised CC ahead of time we were interested in seeing some Jewish sites. We had a great time with our 22-yr old novice guide, Emiliano, protege of CC's Bruno; he loves history and his city so we really got the most out of it, including a great seafood lunch at the seaside. Later back on the ship, we found most folks had not enjoyed their experience here. With a little pre-planning and research, one can get the best out of any place! Dec 23 - at sea - marvelous! Love the service and staff onboard! And the cuisine is divine! Dec 24 Puerto Madryn - this was the only Crystal shore excursion we took, because we were a little worried about making it back in time for departure. We should not have worried. We did the Punta Tombo excursion. The destination and the amount of Magellanic penguins (mixed with guanacos!) you could walk amongst did not disappoint. The drive there and back (2.5 hrs each way) isn't pleasant any way you slice it, but unfortunately the guide on the bus did not have the best command of the English language, so she was very difficult to understand. Had we arranged a private tour through CC, we could have easily asked our guide to repeat and explain better in the more intimate setting of a small vehicle. Next time.... The town of PM is not anything to write home about, but is only a jump off point for the Valdez Peninsula, Punta Tombo and other Patagonia wildlife areas and Welsh towns. Other folks we talked to onboard enjoyed their excursions to Valdez Penn. to see the sea lions etc. Back onboard, Crystal put on a beautiful Christmas Eve dinner. BTW - The decorations that Crystal had all over the ship were astounding and were all managed/maintained by 'Santa's Elves'. Very smart. And I don't think any cruise line tops the entertainment quality that Crystal does. Their in-house ensemble cast of singers/dancers/entertainers together with guest entertainers provide night-after-night quality and variety. Really impressive. Dec 25 - Christmas at sea - wonderful with Santa handing out presents to the children; Crystal's signature Christmas brunch with ice sculptures and phenomenal variety of cuisine was a huge WOW. Dec 26 - Boxing Day - Falkland Islands - this was a highlight for me (not so much for my husband); I love remote, expansive, unique places and interesting geology, fauna, and flora, so I was in heaven. We were lucky to be able to tender into this sometimes inaccessible place (40% of the time ships can not tender in due to weather/seas). We pre-arranged thru Nyree at Estancia Excursions a 4WD tour to Volunteer Point King Penguin colony. VERY bumpy ride to and from over non-existent roads, but amazing scenery, history, local commentary, and loads of King and Magellanic penguins. They should sell "I survived the ride to Volunteer Point" t-shirts! Do not miss this experience if you are waffling. Bring British Pounds with you to pay for the tour, as no ATMs in Stanley and only one bank. We were there on Boxing Day and also one of the days of the Stanley horse races, so again we knew some shops would be closed. But cruise business here is big, so some tour operators were working and a few tourist/handicraft shops and cafes were open. Cold and windy, but not rainy. Bring your warmest clothes! Dec 27 - Drakes Passage southbound - relatively calm seas so we were very lucky Dec 28 - arrived at Elephant Island at tip of Antarctic Peninsula; weather mixed but first glimpses of Antarctica were surreal; continued down to King George Island; amazing sunset tonight (11pm or so) Dec 29 - sunny weather with gorgeous white clouds for perfect photos; King George Island to Esperanza Station and Hope Bay in Antarctic Sound; AMAZING humpback whales and Amelie penguins everywhere with lots of icebergs; photo ops were continual. Hate to go to sleep, as the scenery is epic 24hrs a day (although the sun technically sets btw 12midnight and 2am, it is always light). Continued to Deception Island - again a gorgeous day with amazing Antarctic backdrop scenery; huge colony of chinstrap penguins at the deceptive Deception Island (so named because it looks like a round solid island from a distance, but is actually hollowed out with a narrow channel inside.) Dec 30 - to Gerlache Strait and through the very narrow Neumeyer Channel to Anvers Island. Again, picture-perfect weather and amazing scenery. We were lucky to transect this channel, as it was too full of ice the week before. If we were successful in getting through, we would be the first ship of the season to do so. We made it and continued to the U.S. Palmer Station on Anvers Island where we were able to pick up two zodiac loads of researchers and scientists there. They gave a great presentation on board and Crystal thanked them with lunch onboard and boxes of fresh produce and other goodies to take with them. A class-act all the way. At the end of the day we headed north into Drakes Passage once again. A bit heavier seas this time, but not bad. Dec 31 - New Years Eve bash onboard - another out-of-the park Crystal celebration - great entertainment, dining, and NYE party. One of our best, land or sea! Jan 1/2 - Ushuaia - 6pm arrival; clearing from some earlier rain; we disembarked to walk around this fun adventure-seekers town; beautiful backdrop mountain scenery. We were both down with minor sniffles and purposely did not pre-book any excursions here, as we knew the weather could be unkind. The next day, it was pretty overcast and drizzly and as others went off for 'scenic' shore excursions, we chose to take the morning off and then independently went through the wonderful Maritime and Prison museum, well worth a look. Jan 3 - Punta Arenas - again we did not pre-book any excursions here, again due to iffy weather, and we still had our colds, so we walked the town for several hours, using our guide book and had a wonderful seafood (King crab!) lunch at Sotito's near the port/water. A good way to spend the day if you are not excursioning. Jan 4 & 5 - at sea in the Chilean Fjords; cold, blustery and cloudy, but still amazing scenery with waterfalls and glaciers down to the sea. Many folks stayed inside behind salt-sprayed windows, but if you braved the outside decks you were rewarded with some interesting color and clouds for photos. Jan 6 - Puerto Montt - we pre-arranged an excursion here with Cultura Cercana to Petrohue Falls, Osorno volcano, and Puerto Varas. Our guide was the very good Claudio, who with his wife, Ingrid (an English teacher), are the guides here for CC. Claudio was very informative and responsive and whisked us away from port ahead of the excursion coaches and smartly headed directly to Petrohue Falls first. This was a gorgeous site with glacier-green waters. We then headed to Osorno volcano, which was shrouded in low clouds. The drive up was interesting for me from a geologic and flora perspective (beautiful native flowers in bloom), but the whole point of going to the top of the volcano is for the view, which was non-existent. Claudio probably should have had us go back to Puerto Varas first to walk around and have lunch, then go up to the volcano as the day cleared, as it usually does. Still, all in all, it was a pleasant day and we are glad we did it privately. Jan 7 - at sea along volcano alley; gorgeous weather as we progressed up the coast with one-after-another impressive volcano; again a photographer's dream with interesting cloud formations. And of course we enjoyed a final sun-drenched day by the pool to work on our tans! Jan 8/9 - disembarktion Valparaiso + Santiago - Valparaiso is a big, non-user-friendly port, but Crystal bussed us from ship to terminal and our luggage was ready there and very organized for quick retrieval. We again arranged transfer and tours through Cultura Cercana. This is the only time CC has let us down, but they quickly redeemed themselves. Leonardo (CC has 3 Leo's there, one of whom is the boss) was our guide for Valparaiso, Vina del Mar, and the Casablanca wine valley en route to Santiago. This Leonardo's English was sub-par, he was a bit late to meet us, and his greeting sign was pretty bad, so we were not pleased. He was not organized in how he toured us through Valp. and it is important when you do this crumbling heritage city that you have a good introduction, otherwise you come away frustrated and disappointed. It was very difficult to get any information out of him, so we didn't.... We did have a good visit at the winery Casa des Bosques and had a great lunch (on our own) there. We continued to Santiago where Leo left us at our hotel (arranged on our own). We stayed at the boutique Le Reve in Providencia, which we like a lot - quiet street amongst some of the best restaurants and cafes and near other upscale areas, such as San Sebastien. We had dinner at the hotel's recommended seafood restaurant a few blocks walk away, Aqui esta Coco. Outstanding cuisine as well as decor. Highly recommend this. I also contacted Cultura Cercana re our guide Leo, and they immediately remedied the situation by having the owner of their local office take us on a complimentary city tour the next day. Very smart and we had a great time, so we ended our trip on a high note. All in all, a fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime trip. Nothing but the best regards for Crystal. The only exception is that from here out they will be charging a supplement for more than one dining reservation at each of their fine dining venues, Silk Road and Prego. Perhaps they will reconsider after a year and resolve the special dining venue demand differently. FYI - we used LAN Airlines, business class and were very impressed. FYI - Our cabin (Deluxe with veranda Cat A) we knew was not on the large size, as cruise ships go, but because Crystal Symphony's public areas are so spacious and inviting, we do not feel cramped in our stateroom. I do recommend the balcony even in cold destinations, because access to fresh air and unobstructed views for photos is important. Also we purposely chose a starboard cabin for this departure which definitely did afford the best immediate views during our right-to-left journey from BA to Valparaiso. AND one final important note - the onboard destination expert, Ed Larson, and the other enrichment lecturers, as well as our 'ice pilot' were all excellent additions to our experience. It would not have been half as interesting without their involvement!   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
On December 30th my thoughts usually turn to plans for New Year's Eve. This date in 2009, however, found me leaning over the rail of Crystal Symphony's promenade deck, waving goodbye to Paul Queior and his colleagues from the US ... Read More
On December 30th my thoughts usually turn to plans for New Year's Eve. This date in 2009, however, found me leaning over the rail of Crystal Symphony's promenade deck, waving goodbye to Paul Queior and his colleagues from the US Palmer Research Station as they sped back to their icy home in Antarctica in their zodiac. It had been fascinating to talk to them earlier about their work (and play) in their remote workplace. I had learned, for instance, that every year the South Pole moves around 30o - that's how fast the glacier it's on is moving - so every year the geographical South Pole is measured, and repositioned, in a ceremony held on New Year's Eve. Unusually for me, I had been up, dressed and out on deck by 7.30, witnessing the breathtaking scenery as we passed through the Neumayer Channel, with great views on either side, followed by Port Loch Roy and Anvers Island. I was ready for the welcoming complimentary glass of gluwein when I returned inside, several hours later. That day we sailed to 65o South Latitude and experienced 22 hours of daylight. The previous day Captain Ralf Zander had navigated the Symphony along "Iceberg Alley" to Deception Island and the day before that we'd sailed past Elephant Island, and the marker that indicated the point where Ernest Shackleton's men were rescued to South Shetland Islands. Throughout the voyage the sun had shone and the seas remained calm; even "rounding the horn" had proved an anticlimax as the legendary huge waves had failed to materialise. The voyage through Antarctica had been the real draw of this cruise for me, but I knew that, with Crystal, I would witness the grandeur while being cocooned in the lap of luxury and not have to endure the rigours of zodiac landings, which suited me perfectly; my days of roughing it have passed. The cruise had commenced in Buenos Aires, so I took advantage of a pre-cruise trip to Iguazu Falls, which everybody had told me is a "must". I was not disappointed, although I did become the main course for the mosquito population. Back in Buenos Aires, I was able to take advantage of an Argentine Tango lesson + milonga, and invested in two new pairs of tango shoes - at half the UK price. Our first port of call was Montevideo, where I attended a performance of a play specially commissioned for the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the River Plate. The next port was Puerto Madryn, where I took a bus out to the Eco Centre and looked around the pretty little town. After a day at sea we arrived at the Falkland Islands where I took a trip out to Volunteer Point to see the largest colony of King Penguins. They were a source of constant amusement and waddled right up to us; some hobbling along, encumbered with a large egg under their skirts. Our ex-Liverpudlian guide, Dave, had married a local girl and was living there during the war, so had many tales to tell. The mine-clearing programme is progressing slowly and there are still many no-go areas. It was very sad to see the war memorial in Stanley. The new year commenced with an overnight stay in Ushuaia, so were able to sample dinner in a typical local restaurant. The following day was spent in the National Park, followed by a chairlift to the Martial Glacier. I had nothing planned for Punta Arenas, so took the shuttle bus into the main square, Plaza des Armes. Suddenly I was surrounded by TV cameras and photographers. Had my fame swept so far south, I thought to myself? Eventually the crowd parted and I saw that it was not I who was the object of interest, but former President Eduardo Frei, who was seeking re-election as President after an absence of 10 years. He seemed to have quite a following, judging by the reaction of the crowd in the square, but, as I couldn't understand what the Christian Democrat Party were promising, I retreated to a local hotel. Much to my surprise, he turned up there shortly afterwards, followed by the media frenzy. I hastily returned to the ship and relaxed as we cruised the Chilean Fjords for the next two days. Puerto Montt was a delightful port. I took a full day tour, driving around Lake Llanquihue to the attractive Bavarian-style town of Frutillar, then on to Puerto Varas for a pit-stop. On to view some llamas, then a delicious lunch of locally caught wild salmon, washed down with several pisco sours (I had been acquiring a taste for this local brew over the last few days in Chile). After lunch I drove to some magnificent falls at Petrohue, on Lake Todos los Santos, and a sleepy drive back to the ship. One more lovely sea day and we arrived at our final destination, Valparaiso, where Santiago Airport beckoned. During this amazing cruise, I was lucky enough to attend lectures which enhanced the experience considerably. Crystal prides itself on engaging the very best speakers, and this is one of its strengths. The Destination Lecturer on this cruise was Professor David Drewry who had served as Director of the British Antarctic Survey and Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute and had led scientific expeditions in both the Arctic and Antarctic. He also proved to be a very amusing and entertaining tablemate; the first I've had who has a mountain and a glacier named after him. The Special Interest Lecturer was Rex Ziak - what he didn't know about James Cook wasn't worth knowing. Dr Bridget Buxton, deputy director of the Institute for Archaeological Oceanography told riveting tales of the numerous underwater sites she had excavated, unfazed by the fact that all her luggage had failed to turn up on the ship. As a contrast, we also heard stories from Tom DeFrank, an award-winning journalist who has covered the White House since the Nixon administration, and Herb Keyser, who related entertaining stories about the lives and music of geniuses of the American musical theatre. Add to this the extensive Crystal Creative Learning Institute, and there's no excuse to be bored on a Crystal cruise. I'm already looking forward to my next, with a Big Band theme....maybe I'll get a chance to practice my Argentine tango moves? Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Since there has not been a current review of the Symphony since her Fall of 2009 dry dock, I felt that an update was called for. My background includes over forty cruises in the past ten years, including a World Cruise on the Serenity in ... Read More
Since there has not been a current review of the Symphony since her Fall of 2009 dry dock, I felt that an update was called for. My background includes over forty cruises in the past ten years, including a World Cruise on the Serenity in 2008. I had last sailed on Symphony in 2006. Since that time, Crystal has upgraded this ship significantly during two major dry docks, investing nearly $50M in improvements and renovations. The result is a new and improved vessel that belies her fifteen year age. Every cabin has been reworked with the appearance and amenities of a boutique hotel, featuring stylish new furnishings and modern baths with granite counters and glass vessel sinks. Most every public area has been updated, with special attention to the Lido and pool areas. The Lido is now more a sit-down eatery than buffet, with separate work stations for a wide variety of cuisine. No lines and no trays result in a more upscale look, similar to that of many brand new ships. Outside at the pool, the look is more resort than ship-like in appearance and function. New plastic wicker furnishings have replaced outdated webbed chairs and colorful cushions in orange and teal lend a very contemporary look. This is not your Father's cruise ship; Symphony looks as modern and chic as any ship at sea. During my World Cruise in 2008, Crystal announced a new Grand Americas Voyage doing a complete circumnavigation of South America and Antarctica, sailing from Miami roundtrip. As I enjoy longer sailings and hate to fly, this was an ideal itinerary and I signed up immediately. My two previous Symphony cruises had taken me up both coasts of South America, but I had yet to visit Antarctica, the Amazon or round the Horn. This trip was a 62 day journey visiting 25 ports of call, including such favorites of mine as Rio, Buenos Aires, Valparaiso and Lima. One could book the entire journey, or a segment or two, much like a mini World Cruise. The Miami to Manaus segment was popular due to promotional pricing. From Manaus to BA was lightly booked, with only 300 guests. The BA to Valparaiso sailing, a Holiday Cruise, was popular with families, despite the premium pricing. The final leg from Valparaiso to Miami was oversold, again due to aggressive pricing and the presence of two groups; Roberta's Bridge Group and Jazzdagin. Neither group caused any disruption of the usual Crystal pleasures, and, in fact, the Jazz music was well liked by most all of the passengers. Throughout the voyage, service never varied due to passenger load. As always, everything onboard was top notch. Living in Fort Lauderdale gives me easy access to the two largest passenger ports on earth. As of this year, FTL has taken over as number one with the arrival of Oasis, but even prior to that, Crystal was squeezed out to Miami by the large number of megaships home porting here. On November 22nd, my Partner drove me to the Port of Miami for embarkation. This was a breeze, taking less than twenty minutes, after which he came on as my guest for lunch and then assisted me in unpacking and settling into my cabin. Sailing solo, I had booked an E Category cabin, #7035, on the Promenade Deck. At 200 square feet, there was plenty of room for me and all my belongings for this two month journey. My Stewardess, Marija, came by promptly to introduce herself and learn about my dining arrangements and special requests. By 2PM all was attended to in the cabin and we took a tour about the ship. While the layout was familiar, every aspect of Symphony looked fresh and new, other than the Main Dining Room and Theater. This is my favorite size of ship, being large enough to have all of the big-ship amenities, but small enough to be intimate and easy to get around. The dEcor is, at once, classic with lots of wood and polished brass, as well as modern and up to date due to loving care and the recent renovations. Dining on either Crystal ship is always something that I look forward to. I am an early riser and head up to the Lido for freshly squeezed juice and coffee around 6AM before heading to the Computer Lab to check E-mails and write my popular reports that I send back home. If you are interested in more details of my trip, you can find them posted on the Boards under 9227C Grand Americas: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1087761 . There, I posted over ten pages covering food, dining, service, hospitality and ports of call during our journey. Suffice to say, the Crystal Experience onboard the Symphony was excellent, as always. Breakfast and lunch in the Lido have achieved new heights with more freshly cooked choices and unmatched service from the Lidoboys. Dinners in the MDR are always special with a wide variety of offerings and menus that seldom repeated, even over a sixty two day cruise. Prego, Silk Road and the Sushi Bar are as outstanding as always, giving a pleasant break from the traditional continental fare served elsewhere. What really sets Crystal apart from any other cruise line is consistency. Meal after meal, crewmember after crewmember, and the desire to fulfill your every wish with outstanding service make Crystal the World's Best. We were particularly fortunate to have Captain Ralf Zander in command as we navigated Antarctica. To summarize briefly, this was an amazing journey on a wonderful ship with the finest crew and officers one could possibly hope for. The ship absolutely sparkles and the service is beyond compare. The itinerary was ideal, other than our stop in Manaus, and we were blessed with perfect weather. Our trip up the Amazon was marred by low river levels; the rainy season had not yet started and the air was foul with acrid smoke from the ongoing slashing and burning of the rainforest. Manaus itself is worth a visit, but not for the three days and two nights we spent there. Our time in Rio was a teasingly short day visit. Buenos Aires remains one of the World's great cities, but has become more commercial and homogenous than my previous visit there. Antarctica was everything and more than I had hoped. If you have never been, put it high on your list! We were amazed by the scenery, the thousands of icebergs and, of course, the Penguins. Rounding the Horn and transiting the Drake Passage were surprisingly calm, more resembling a lake than the treacherous place it is known as. The Chilean Fjords were not as spectacular as I expected, but the rest of our ports were impressive and much improved since my last visits to South America. All said, this was another trip of a lifetime for me and a journey well worth taking. Antarctica was the definitive highlight, surpassing any experience of my World Cruise. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
Crystal Symphony Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabin 4.0 N/A
Dining 4.5 4.5
Entertainment 4.5 4.3
Public Rooms 5.0 4.6
Fitness & Recreation 4.5 N/A
Family 4.0 4.0
Shore Excursions 4.0 N/A
Enrichment Activities 5.0 N/A
Service 4.0 4.6
Value for Money 4.0 N/A

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