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10 Crystal Symphony Cruise Reviews for Luxury Cruises to Europe - British Isles & Western

This was our 35th cruise on Crystal Cruises. Our stateroom has always been on the penthouse deck because of the walk in shower. Over the years we have noticed with the change of ownership and executive management Crystal has been ... Read More
This was our 35th cruise on Crystal Cruises. Our stateroom has always been on the penthouse deck because of the walk in shower. Over the years we have noticed with the change of ownership and executive management Crystal has been tinkering with their delivery of service. Just small things at the beginning that really did not add much to the "Crystal Experience". However, limiting the number of reservations to the speciality restaurants and then assessing thirty dollars a person over and above the two visits was not "all inclusive" marketing. The dining venues are exceptional, mainly due to the excellent service staff. The lecture series have always had knowledgeable presenters both on current events and cruise itinerary. Both ships are showing their age. Our stateroom and some public rooms furnishings were a bit well worn. We were informed that Symphony was going to be in dry dock for a month. What Crystal needs is a new cruise ship and forget about yachts and airplanes. They had a great business plan at their inauguration. It served them well. Their greatest selling point is their officers and crew. They are top notch. Best in the cruise industry by far. Read Less
Sail Date August 2017
This was our fourth cruise within three years having previously sailed with Celebrity, Holland America, and Princess. We are a couple in our mid-thirties. We chose this cruise because it fitted in with times we could both take holiday, ... Read More
This was our fourth cruise within three years having previously sailed with Celebrity, Holland America, and Princess. We are a couple in our mid-thirties. We chose this cruise because it fitted in with times we could both take holiday, left from a UK port, and was going to places we hadn't been before (in France) - a final important check\consideration was that Crystal was reasonably well rated well by recent passengers. The ship was in superb condition, arguably better than younger ships; everything was polished, clean, and in 'close to new' condition. A fairly small ship by today's standard we found it to our advantageous as it cut down unnecessary time walking between different venues. A similar size to Ryndham (Holland America) however a key difference we observed was that it never felt crowded on Symphony, in fact it was the least crowded ship we've sailed on yet. There are potentially two reasons for this; either it was undersubscribed (possibly because people concerned about terrorism), or the age of the passengers meant they slept a lot or otherwise entertained themselves - possibly a bit of both. We stayed in cabin 7087, which is the E1 category with a limited view, for which I've written a separate review in the cabin section (and hopefully it will let me upload a photo so you can judge the level of obstruction for yourself). Dining; breakfast was very good and we always ate it in the Lido cafe (I think you could also go to main dining room). I like healthy breakfasts and wasn't disappointed as there were a lot of tasty options including birchers, smoothies, yoghurts, fruit, as well as the usual eggs, sausages, beans, bacon (for less health conscious people). I was very happy with the variety of juice on offer, and had fresh carrot juice almost every day - while other cruise lines have also offered variety of juice, other than fresh orange, it's always been from the carton, so this was a step up for me. Lunch was also very good with a reasonable variety of food, and different things served each day so we didn't get fed up with the same thing, and again we opted to eat lunch in the Lido cafe. Dinner was reasonable to excellent - the three courses in the main dining room were to a good standard, we also ate in both of the specialty restaurants (at no extra charge) and found them both (Japanese & Italian) excellent even though I don't eat sushi (luckily there were other options at the Japanese restaurant). The Italian restaurant Prego was my favourite though, and it's the first time I've ever been served soup within a bowl made of bread (maybe I've led to sheltered a life!). Besides these dining options there are also other smaller venues where you can grab a sandwich, burger, or cakes depending on your fancy - these places were never crowded. As Crystal is all inclusive, all drinks are free unless you order something really special (I'm not sure what as I ordered anything I liked and was never charged). There are a number of bars you can get drinks from (also available when dining or lounging by pool) and staff are very available to take your order and will even walk to a different bar for you if the one your at doesn't make that kind of drink. As well as my juices I had a number of cocktails, mocktails, beers, wines, and penacolada's (apology for the spelling?!), and I saw a lot of other passengers enjoying copious amounts of what looked like champagne. Entertainment was low key, the main show entertainers were really good performers though they are only on for 45 minutes a night and generally do a bit of singing and dancing which while excellent, I would have liked to see a proper full musical play (even a mini one) instead of just excerpts of musical plays. That said though, it was good enough to go back to each night as they did mix\change it up so it didn't get repetitive. There was also a magician on board however you needed to book to see him which we didn't so I can't whinge about that as my own fault. The rest of the entertainment consisted of people playing piano, some big band playing, some jazz, and a bit of pop music from different era's - nice and pleasant to listen to while having a drink but all fairly laid back. Activities consisted of some lectures (mostly UK monarchy and WWII), knitting / needlework classes, how to use your ipad, and some other things I can't recall. All said and done, there wasn't much going on and to be honest given the age demographic I don't think there was a lot of demand for much to be going on. For myself this was a bit disappointing but I can't complain too much as I knew the activities would likely be tailored towards the older generation. For information, about 95% of guests are probably in bed by 10 pm - the upside is you'll always find a seat and ready waiters in any bar around the ship!! In fact I think a lot of the staff seemed underused so it really was very quick service in all respects no matter what the time of day. Our ports of call were; Tilbury (we live in London so no point discussing this), Honfleur, St Peter's Port, St Malo, and Bordeaux. Honfleur was quaint and lovely, St Malo was amazing and I wish we could have stayed overnight (as well as going around the city we also went swimming in the sea). St Peter's Port was a bit boring but perhaps that's because I'm British and it wasn't so novel to me as I may be to an American. We got the plane back to UK from Bordeaux so can't comment on it - though I have stayed there a week once in a chateau which was refreshing. The age demographic is slightly older than other cruises we've been on, I'd say 97% of passengers were over 60, I'd guess the average may be around 70. That said they certainly weren't geriatric and there were almost no zimerframes in sight, they were mostly pleasant to talk to - even the ones voting for Donald Trump. Although we are in our 30's we were looking for a laid back \ lazy holiday as our last one was a tour of Iceland in a rented motorhome followed by a week in New York, so we were not objectionable to the pace of life on board as we felt like being less active than our previous holiday. The library was well stocked with DVDs including some very recent releases. There was also a cinema on board though we didn't take the opportunity to use it. Worth a mention is that this is the first cruise where they didn't try and sell us art, jewellery, or pointless crap they we don't want and don't need, in fact the shops were barely open at all - quite refreshing! All in all, a good cruise, and recommended to those who want a laid back holiday and be able to order whatever food and drink they like without thinking about the cost or tipping. I would go again if in a similar mood and I liked the ports of call. Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
We chose this cruise as one of our group had done a Crystal cruise before and always considered it a cut above the rest. There were many ways in which this was an excellent cruise from a first-rate company but we are still not sure if we ... Read More
We chose this cruise as one of our group had done a Crystal cruise before and always considered it a cut above the rest. There were many ways in which this was an excellent cruise from a first-rate company but we are still not sure if we prefer Crystal to the Grill class on Cunard or vice versa. The jury is out. What we liked on Crystal: a beautiful ship with some very relaxing indoor and outdoor areas- particularly attractive were the Palm Court lounge, the pool area and the glass-covered area; very well-motivated and pleasant staff in all areas ensure attentive service at all times; high quality cabins with good bathroom facilities (half-tub) and very good sound-proofing; superb library with wide-ranging stock of books/ dvds/ games; impressive standard of speakers and enrichment activities; lots of space so that we never felt crowded. The dining was very good but probably not of the same standard as the Grill class, although it was wonderful to have access to drinks without further payment. One disappointment was that the cafeteria, the Lido, was frequently open for very restricted hours and so we had to go to the Trident grill (hamburgers and pizza) after a morning trip rather than having a proper lunch. Apart from the Dining Room, there are three speciality options- Prego (Italian), Silk Road (Thai) and a sushi bar. We only tried Prego. This was a good alternative to the main Dining Room, although with a relatively limited selection of options. Normally passengers get two 'free' trips to a speciality restaurant but on this cruise we had four each, which was generous. The shore excursions organised by the company were expensive, especially with the exchange rate, and they ranged from the superb to the very disappointing. There was always a shuttle to the centre or (London) the nearest station. The ports were interesting, as follows: - St Peter Port: beautiful destination with the possibility of taking a 91 or 92 bus around the island for a £1 tour; - Waterford: much better than expected: within a short walk of the drop-off point, we found the Waterford Crystal factory (worth a tour), the Viking museum, the superb Medieval Museum and the Georgian Palace. - Dublin: two days here which allowed us to do the hop on, hop off bus on one day and a locally-sourced trip to Malahide Castle and then the coat on the second day (all the open tour bus companies seem to do this trip). We did a ship's tour to an Irish folk evening on the first night. This was horrendous- mass catering (break in polythene wrapper), boorish singing and only about 10 minutes of dancing. -Llverpool: very interesting to visit different quarters of the city from the shore line; a very warm welcome from the shore staff and volunteers here. - Belfast: we took a ship-organised trip to the Giants' Causeway which was very well organised but others took the shuttle in to town and then a bus/ taxi to the Titanic museum. - Isle of Skye: we did a ship's tour of the island, which was interesting; with hindsight, would have taken a local bus and/or tour to the archaeological sites. - Kirkwall: there is plenty to see in this small town (cathedral, visitors' centre, palace, wireless museum and good shops) or there is the possibility of going round the island to see wartime sites. - Edinburgh: we docked at Rosyth and it was a long trip in to the centre of the city. Had two days here and visited Britannia on our own by local bus on the first day and then did a ship's excursion to Scone Palace/ Dunfermline Abbey which was very badly organised. A local group of musicians and dancers did an excellent show on board on the first night. - London: a day from Tilbury. Took the train to Fenchurch street (easy 45 minute journey) and then went to Buckingham Palace. Shuttle bus from the ship to the station. This was a very port-heavy trip which some on board found tiring. The other passengers are mostly American with a number of guests from Japan, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. There were very few British guests, presumably because of the destinations. Passengers were mostly 50+ I would say and there were hardly any children/ families on board, again perhaps due to the destination. Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
I just returned from the Grand Britannia cruise with my mom, sister and daughter. We had adjoining staterooms. Here are my thoughts: The good: Overall food quality was very good in all venues. We loved Prego and Silk Road, liked the ... Read More
I just returned from the Grand Britannia cruise with my mom, sister and daughter. We had adjoining staterooms. Here are my thoughts: The good: Overall food quality was very good in all venues. We loved Prego and Silk Road, liked the MDR, liked Lido, and liked Trident. We got room service breakfast several times and that was also good. And we had WONDERFUL service in the MDR and in Prego, very fun, warm, and caring servers (Nikola and Stanko in the MDR). We also loved the Avenue Bar and their bartenders. We liked the overall itinerary as well, circling the UK. The bad: I am in the camp of those who feel the veranda staterooms are cramped and very worn. The "couch" was stained, the carpet coming up by the veranda door, the chair ripped, the throw pillows disgusting, and the design of the lights in the headboard absurd when the beds are twinned. The veranda was dirty and sticky (they cleaned it our last day). The cabins were also not wonderfully cleaned, with extraneous hair and an old shampoo bottle greeting us at the start. Not fun. Crystal's website is also horribly designed and primitive, with very unreliable functionality on mobile. Hello, 20th century UI! 1995 called and they want their systems back. The ugly: Five things really made me dislike this cruise. First, the ports used by Crystal for London, Dublin, and Edinburgh really made any kind of immersive experience in those cities impossible to achieve, given the horrible shuttles employed. I sat on the Edinburgh shuttle for over an hour and a half one day, and only part of that was due to traffic. Even more fun, I sat on a bus for the final day's shore excursion (and there were only FOUR choices on that day) for more than FIVE HOURS due to traffic from the stupid location Crystal used. Even Dublin was disappointing as no shuttles ran after 8 PM so it was difficult to stay late in the city. The combination of horrible docking locations and abysmal shuttle services really cut into my enjoyment of the cruise. Second, I made spa appointments very early on for all of us, but the experience I had in the spa is the worst I've ever had in a spa due to cleanliness. There's only one bathroom in the changing room. When I entered, it was full of diarrhea and blood, completely disgusting and very smelly. Bloody toilet paper was in the trash can. All the other trash cans were overflowing as well, and cast-off robes and slippers were on the bench. I brought this to the attention of my provider and they were going to clean it up, but when I finished my service (also really disappointing because the massage table was ancient and could not be adjusted for the proper angle for my neck) things had been only slightly cleaned (the smell still lingered). I took a shower and there were HUGE clumps of hair in the one shower where the tap worked. UGH. If you're going to have a spa with prices like this and a tiny changing room, you MUST keep it FLAWLESSLY clean. Otherwise, yuck, yuck, yuck. Third, I am mid-fifties and I like technology. The internet connection available on this cruise was AWFUL. The wifi did not work more than it did work, and even the wireless data was not available for entire days at a time. I have to occasionally look in at work when away and there were days when I could not. I am not cruising again until this problem is fixed. Fourth, I think $50 for the jpeg of pictures purchased is outrageous given the cost of the printed pictures themselves. Those flash drives cost 50 cents, so this is a markup of what, 10000%? The photographers were good but the price overall, even on prints, is beyond gouging. Finally, the lack of any evaluation of shore excursions made it difficult to choose good ones. While we had great fun with, for example, the Belfast Food Tour, other excursions ranged from disappointing to excruciating. Other cruise companies provide an opportunity to rate the shore excursions publicly to help guide one's choices (and I would assume to help the cruise company offer the best of them). The shore excursion staff was not even interested in my verbal feedback. One got the impression that some of the staff (shore ex and front desk) felt they were babysitting spoiled kindergartners, that they had heard this all before and were listening only because they had to (indeed, one person said, "I have heard this complaint many times before." Excuse me? If you have heard it many times before why did Crystal not change things?). Overall, while the dining staff was very good, I am left with a huge feeling of fundamental disrespect for passengers (particularly A and B category passengers). Crystal is expanding like mad, but I recommend they look again at their core competencies. Good food and great wait staff is only going to get the line so far. I do not plan to cruise Crystal again (I had a much better experience last year on both Silversea and Seabourn). PS Ironically, when I tried to do Crystal's followup survey on my iPhone it failed and crashed. So Crystal, here is your feedback. Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
This was our first cruise with Crystal and was a short 'try-out' before trying something more ambitious. I don't think it would be possible (for me at least) to cruise without a few niggles, but in this case they were very ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Crystal and was a short 'try-out' before trying something more ambitious. I don't think it would be possible (for me at least) to cruise without a few niggles, but in this case they were very few and far between. The only negative worth mentioning is that I felt the decor, both in our suite and in some areas of the ship, were somewhat dated. The positives far outweighed this single criticism and we shall certainly cruise with Crystal again. We found the food to be generally excellent. Both specialty restaurants, Silk Road and Prego, were outstanding. We were very pleasantly surprised at the high standard and variety of the entertainment in particular, but also the enrichment options available. We didn't get to try all of these, but those we did (the onboard speakers and golf pro) were excellent. Service throughout the ship was exemplary and the general ambience onboard very enjoyable.. There was an interesting selection of excursions which were well executed and organised. The suite was comfortable and well-maintained, although perhaps a little dated. The bed was very, very comfortable as were the quality bed linens and pillows. All in all, a very enjoyable cruise experience and one we expect to repeat. Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
I don't even know where to begin. Let me say that the crew and service staff were excellent. That is the only good thing about this cruise line. 1) For the amount of money, WIFI should be included with the price. I took my husband ... Read More
I don't even know where to begin. Let me say that the crew and service staff were excellent. That is the only good thing about this cruise line. 1) For the amount of money, WIFI should be included with the price. I took my husband over 10 minutes to connect for his job, which ate up many of the minutes we purchased. 2) The cabins are small. You cannot both get ready at the same time, unless you dance around each other. The sofa was very uncomfortable. And the "queen" bed was actually two singles pushed together. The carpet is thread bare. The cleaning staff however, did a really good job. 3) If you don't care to visit the cities, this is the cruise for you. We, however, like to absorb what each city has to offer, and could not due to the time constraints. 4) Be prepared to NOT enter ports that require tender service. The 2 we wanted to see, Waterford Ireland and Iceland, became "days at sea" due to the captain and pilot thinking the seas were too rough, 5) Days at sea - if you are under 80 years of age, be prepared for total boredom. Substitute activities included scarf tying and dollar bill origami. REALLY? Where was the wine tasting? Only 1 tour of the galley? 6) Music and dancing - If you are under 80, be prepared not to dance, nor to hear any music created in the 21st century! 7) Shipboard shopping - Forget about it! 8) Crystal Cruise excursions - Use the internet to book your own. Our guide in Iceland spoke very poor English, told us nothing about the country, the people, and what we were seeing. Lobster feast? How about rock lobster parading as lobster. A waste of our short amount of time in Iceland. 9) Best tour - Booked a "FabFour Beatles Tour" in Liverpool. Do this! 10) Do not rely on the Crystal maps provided at the excursion desk. We ended up NEVER finding the shuttle stop and had to take taxis to and from the ports. 11) Food was good, however there was nothing regional, and we cannot remember what we had. 12) Wine list adequate for California wines (not much from other countries). 13) For 20K, this trip should have be fabulous. We could have purchased a SmartCar. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
As we had cruised last year from New York to Reykjavik, we chose to join a shorter cruise , a Getaway, to complete the crossing from USA to Britain. We joined in the tiny , efficient cruise terminal of Reykjavik, after a few days in ... Read More
As we had cruised last year from New York to Reykjavik, we chose to join a shorter cruise , a Getaway, to complete the crossing from USA to Britain. We joined in the tiny , efficient cruise terminal of Reykjavik, after a few days in this interesting city, and were warmly welcomed aboard by the friendly staff, and a chilled glass of champagne. Embarkation was over in minutes and the cabin was ready, so our hand luggage was carried for us to our deck 9 cabin, main luggage arriving while we enjoyed a delightful lunch. We sailed late that incredible midnight sunlit evening , and settled into the routine of enjoying a luxurious week aboard. Crystal Symphony did not disappoint, fine dining, excellent room service, a charming , super efficient cabin stewardess,wonderful quality of very varied entertainment , great lectures on offer, also repeated on cabin Tv, and a wide choice of daytime activities. To our delight it was a Big Band cruise, with the glorious rich sound of the Tommy Dorsey orchestra playing for dancing each evening,though we were astounded that far less guests were enjoying the music than on previous big band cruises we have enjoyed, possibly because the sessions were strangely times to coincide with dining hours . It was interesting to meet a former captain of the ship, sailing as a guest, who was thoroughly enjoying not having responsibility for the running of a fine vessel. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
This was my husband's and my first Crystal Cruise, and we're hooked. The food was outstanding (see below for my reviews on having to eat gluten free) and the crew most caring. Crystal is first class, all the way, not only in the ... Read More
This was my husband's and my first Crystal Cruise, and we're hooked. The food was outstanding (see below for my reviews on having to eat gluten free) and the crew most caring. Crystal is first class, all the way, not only in the quality of service but in the way they handle it. We loved that the cruise was all-inclusive. We felt it improved our cruising experience on a number of levels. Of course, it's liberating not to have to think about how much you're paying for drinks, tips, etc., but what we appreciated the most was the sophistication of being left alone and not being "hounded" to purchase drinks, photos, etc. We're foodies. To us, every vacation is first and foremost ALL ABOUT THE FOOD. My husband is discerning, but he's fairly easy to please. I am not easy to please, and I have a habit of being overly-critical of dining experiences. My husband can eat anything (and everything!). I cannot. I have acute gluten-sensitivity and an allergy to wheat, and if I get even the smallest bit of cross-contamination, it can make me very sick -- often for up to a week. My gluten intolerance creates a challenge on two levels, the first being that I need to make sure that where I eat will not make me sick. The second is more difficult. Being a foodie (and a bit of a bitchy foodie at that), I want my dining experience to be NO DIFFERENT than if I could eat whatever I wish. While I expect to have to give up some things that would not be safe for me to eat, I still expect what is offered to satisfy me and taste great. I researched cruise lines inside and out, and the number one reason why we chose Crystal is their attention to food and food sensitivities. They delivered! Let me begin by reviewing the dining, in general. Both my husband and I were happy with most all of our meals, and we found almost all of them to be outstanding. We ate most of our meals in the dining room and loved it. Tip: If you love fresh fish, try the Asian breakfast with black cod (preferred) or the cooked salmon. If you don't want the sticky rice (which is cooked perfectly) and condiments that come with the breakfast, order the fish on the side along with your other breakfast order. The black cod is especially good and goes well with eggs, toast and such. I cannot speak highly enough of the lox (smoked salmon). I ordered some for breakfast almost every day. They were the freshest, most tender lox I've ever eaten . . . and I've eaten a lot of lox. If you order smoked salmon in the dining room, you get two slices. If you want more, go to the Bistro and help yourself. Prego: Loved it. The food and service were amazing. Silk Road: Loved the sushi and sashimi -- it was the best ever, but we were not impressed with the soup, main course or desserts. When we go again, we will probably make sushi and sashimi our entire meal. The Vintage Room: This is an add-on dining experience and a must-do. You'll experience some of the finest wines in the world (full pours and if you want more, there's plenty) along with perfect parings and an amazing meal. The sommelier also gave a history of the wine and was brilliant. Plan on the evening lasting about three hours. Sadly, the copy of our menu was missing when we unpacked. I'm still searching for it. If I find the menu, I'll post it. Crew: The best! We particularly enjoyed head waiter Vlada, room stewardess Tatiana, and a delightful waitress in the bar on Deck 5: Patricia (from Poland) -- she is the sweetest, most caring person, and she has a warm heart. I predict she'll go far with Crystal and end up in charge of something. If you cruise Symphony, look for her. She's a special one! Hubby loved the cigar room and it helped make his cruise as enjoyable as possible. He loves a good cigar and was particularly appreciative of being able to smoke one in a handsome lounge (which was unexpectedly well-ventilated -- even I could sit in there, if only for a short time -- I do not like cigar smoke, alas.) Tommy, the cigar room attendant was excellent and very personable. Excursions: Day One: St. Peter Port, Guernsey. On this day, we explored Guernsey on our own. It is beautiful--a quaint and charming seaside village that oozes with personality and photo opportunities. We'd love to return. Recommended: Bypass the first designer chocolate shop and instead visit master chocolatier Ben Le Prevost at his shop of the same name -- it is maybe a ten minute walk from port. The prices are probably better there, but that's not why you'll want to go. Seriously, his chocolate may just be the best in the world. Genius flavor combinations. If you love chocolate, this is your heaven. (Bonus: almost all of it is gluten-free.) Next time we go, we'll want to also try Guernsey ice cream. The cream in Guernsey is amazing, and the ice cream is supposed to be the best. Day Two: Waterford, Ireland. We did the Panoramic Drive and Pub Visit. The scenery was exactly what we hoped for, with beautiful landscapes and architecture, including thatched cottages. The pub was crowded but fun -- good trad Irish folk music and an excellent Irish coffee. Tip: If you long to play a bodhrán in public, sit to the immediate left of the head singer and stomp your feet, clap your hands -- show you're enjoying the show and can keep a beat . . . he might just hand you the drum before the entertainment ends. Day Three: Holyhead Wales. This is another day where we took it easy and just explored the port. We cancelled one excursion due to it being too much walking and hoped for another, but it remained sold out. Day Four: Liverpool, England. Being a Beatles fan, this was the highlight of my trip. We booked the "In the Footsteps of the Beatles" excursion and were blessed to have Ringo Starr's childhood friend Marie Maguire as our tour guide. There were many buses that day, and somehow we got the one with her! Not only did she show us all of the popular Beatles sites, she also made sure to show us Ringo's childhood home (she lived across the street) as well as George's. The day was filled with information and LOTS of personal stories from Marie's experience with The Beatles, their families and managers. I cannot speak highly enough of this excursion. Tip: I believe Marie also does private tours. If you visit Liverpool, look her up! Day Five: Greenock, Scotland. We took the Panoramic Drive of Glasgow and visited the Glasgow Art Museum, home of Christ of St John of the Cross by Salvador Dali as well as many equally wonderful works of art. Tip: Try to stay for the organ music. Sadly, our tour guide told us we had to leave at the same time the music started, which turned out to be music from Phantom of the Opera. I heard only a minute or two. It was breathtaking. How I wish we could have stayed for the rest. Day Six: Dublin, Ireland. This was supposed to be Oban, Scotland, but it was cancelled due to bad weather. We took the Panoramic Dublin/Trinity College Book of Kells excursion -- we were staying in Dublin for four days after the cruise, but we decided to book this excursion anyway as we were told it would allow us to bypass the lines for the Book of Kells (note: we were not told this by the cruise line but instead by a fellow cruiser). Unfortunately, we were not allowed by bypass the line, and the line was so long that by the time we entered the exhibit, we had to skip the preface exhibit that explains the Book of Kells and jump directly into the Book of Kells room, which was extremely crowded. Having to rush through the exhibit lessened our experience as we would have enjoyed reading about the history. Because we were able to see so much of Dublin on our own over the following days, via the hop-on-hop off bus, this tour proved to be a poor choice for us, although it might have been an excellent choice for someone who would not otherwise have had the chance to visit Trinity College. Some thoughts on gluten-free dining on the Crystal Symphony: The food is safely prepared. I am highly sensitive and ate without issue. It was wonderful to be able to relax, knowing that head waiter Vlada and the rest of the kitchen staff were taking good care of me. I had only one issue, which ended up being no big deal as I caught it in time: A new waiter who appeared to be in training, brought me my gluten-free bread on top of the regular bread tray. Every other time gluten free bread was served to me, it was served separately, as it should be, because touching my bread to wheat will cause cross-contamination. When I pointed this out to him, he took care of it immediately by throwing away the bread and bringing me two fresh pieces. No biggie, but I'm glad I caught it! All of the meals in the main dining room were above-the-top. Vlada was sure to tell me that if I wanted something that was not gluten-free, that the kitchen would do everything they could to adjust the recipe so it would be safe for me. Not everything was adaptable, but there were so many outstanding choices that were available as gluten-free, I felt pampered beyond belief. The food was excellent. Only on the first day, at lunch, was I disappointed. The filet was overcooked and tasted over marinated. My husband disagreed and said it was delicious -- like I said, I can be a bit critical at times. Mind you, I could have easily sent the steak back and asked for another, but I didn't, so that really leaves me little room to complain. The gluten free bread is amazing and the best I've had at any dining venue. It does need to be toasted, but when it is toasted, it is so, so, so, so good. This meant a lot to me. There was white bread as well as brown. Both were equally good. The desserts were okay, but I had hoped for more. Most of what was available gluten free were puddings, ice cream, creme brulee and creme caramel (flan). These are similar to the desserts offered everywhere in restaurants, and I would have deeply appreciated seeing some good gluten-free pastries, cookies, and cakes offered. I am so sick of having creme brulee as the only restaurant dessert option (for years), it makes me cringe. That said, I did end up trying the creme brulee, it it was excellent -- just not what I had hoped for. I did not care for the creme caramel. It needs to be richer and made with a heavier cream base. The Palm Court did purchase a little, pre-wrapped gluten free cake for me during shore time. It wasn't good, though. I also did not care for the gluten-free finger sandwiches as the bread was not toasted (they need to taste these things before serving them -- they were not edible. That said, I do not see this as being the fault of the Palm Court. They did their best, and tea finger sandwiches are never toasted. Next time, I'll ask for a different preparation, and I'll ask if they can have a better selection of sweets. Lido Cafe: I LOVED that they had the gluten-free items clearly marked. They also have the gluten-free dishes separated from selections that might cause cross-contamination -- BRAVO! The desserts are in individual dishes and also safe. Mostly puddings, but appreciated. Bistro: Coffee, tea, latte -- all enjoyed without issue. The self-serve food service area has little to no gluten-free selections, except for the smoked salmon, which would be take-at-your-own risk as bread crumbs may drop or other cross contamination may occur. I would guess that if you ask someone from the Bistro to bring you smoked salmon from the back, they'd be happy to do so. Again, I would have loved to see some gluten-free sweets here, and gluten-free savory pastries would have been welcome. The next time I cruise Crystal, I plan to call ahead to request that there be more variety in the desserts offered. We'll see if it makes a difference. If I find the menu or think of anything else, I'll add it. My head is still swimming from our long flight home. I can hardly wait to cruise Crystal again . . . we've already booked our next cruise!   Read Less
Sail Date August 2014
We are not rich people. The financial hoops we leapt through in order to afford this experience, this ULTIMATE luxury experience, were monumental. But we did it. We managed to book the Crystal Penthouse aboard the Crystal Symphony ... Read More
We are not rich people. The financial hoops we leapt through in order to afford this experience, this ULTIMATE luxury experience, were monumental. But we did it. We managed to book the Crystal Penthouse aboard the Crystal Symphony for an 11 day cruise around the British Isles. This is our story. Embarkation: One of the perks of the Crystal Penthouse is two private car transfers to and from the ship. On the morning of our sail date, we were picked up at our hotel by a smartly dressed Englishman in a VERY expensive and gorgeous Mercedes Limo. As he drove us to the ship, London to Dover, he spoke of British history and pointed out significant landmarks. The ride to Dover was a wonderful start to our vacation. We were met at the dock terminal by luggage porters who whisked our bags away. We walked the short distance to a reception desk and waited in a very short line to check in with the Crystal staff. We then were asked to be seated in the reception area with our fellow early-arrivers and wait for a crew member to lead us to the gang plank and aboard our own personal 'ship of dreams'. An important point here: This was the first example of a very valid Crystal precept. Even though we were booked into the most expensive cabin on the ship, we were treated no differently than the folks who had a cabin with an obstructed ocean view. Crystal treats everyone equally. And Crystal treats them all VERY well. As we entered the ship we were met by a crew member who led us to the Starlight lounge where we completed our check in and had our (oh so horrible) pictures taken for our ship identification key-cards. Once done, we were set free to wander. The Ship: Once aboard we decided to explore a little. Deck after deck from top to bottom were examined, scrutinized and critiqued and much to our surprise we did find fault. Albeit small and somewhat picky, we found certain areas of carpeting worn or stained and some public areas showing some wear and tear despite the recent dry-dock. However, these tiny imperfections paled in comparison to the glaring positives that the Symphony gifted us with. She is truly a beautiful ship, built in the style of understated elegance that is totally lost on the gigantic floating resort cities that call themselves cruise ships today; she greets you with soft colors and rich woods. Her public areas are welcoming and cozy, furnished with stylish chairs and sofas that are as comfortable as they are lovely. Subtle elegance. After exploring we began to get hungry so it was off to the Crystal Dining Room for lunch. A warm welcome. A perfectly set table. An offer of bread and request for drink orders. And then the magnificent Cobb Salad. The wait staff was harried but attentive and the food was pure Crystal. Near perfection. After lunch we sat in the Crystal Cove waiting till 3:00pm when our room was to be ready. We were met by a lovely young lady who asked if we wanted drinks. We asked for bottled water and got it immediately. This same lovely young lady brought us cocktails in the Casino our first night at sea and from that moment on remembered our drink orders and asked if we "wanted the usual" whenever she saw us. Which brings me to... The Crew: Here is where Crystal absolutely shines and comes as close to perfection as possible. With ONE exception and only ONE the crew of the Symphony exceeded all our expectations. Smiles and "Yes" were the order of the day, every day. The feeling of family was tangible and the welcoming attitudes and actions were constant and seemingly effortless. Crystal has MASTERED this aspect of cruising. Dining: The dining room staff was wonderful and phenomenally attentive. We had all but three nights of our cruise in the Crystal Dining Room. Table number ten for four people at 9:15. We sat with our travel companions and were treated like crowned royalty. We got to know our wait staff and became friendly with them. We heard wonderful stories about their lives and travels. Their kindness and friendship never ONCE compromised their amazing attention to our needs or their fantastic service. Sadly, the dining room is the place where we met the one "bad" crew member. He was our sommelier and it was his first contract with Crystal. I'm very sure it will be his last. The combination of his less-then-stellar attitude (and that's being kind) and his total lack of attentiveness will not last at Crystal. But that one 'bad apple' could not ruin the magnificent experience that was The Crystal Dining Room. We also dined two nights in Prego, the Italian restaurant on board. The food was beyond words and the service... well... let me say this: We could not have been treated any better, or with more kindness and attentive affection, than had we been in a loving Italian home in Naples, being served by a gracious Italian family. The staff of Prego is tremendous. Prego means "you're welcome" in Italian but on Crystal, Prego means MAGNIFICENT. The only other night away from The Crystal Dining room was our dinner in Silk Road, the Asian/Sushi Restaurant on board. The experience was flawed and troubled. We seemed to have a new or newly trained waiter and while he was extremely kind and attentive, he didn't seem to "know his stuff". A couple of our glasses had lipstick marks on them and trying to order sushi at the table rather than the sushi bar proved confusing and convoluted. And quite frankly we all felt that the food was sub-par compared to the other venues. Our Stateroom: This is where I, the most verbose person you will ever read, may run out of words of praise. However, three words that will go down in the annals of our own personal history as being words of the highest possible acclaim are these: The Crystal Penthouse. Nine-hundred and eighty-two square feet of pure, delicious, tangible elegance is The Crystal Penthouse. From marble floors, to hardwood floors, to plush carpeted floors. From sleek, elegant furnishings to fully stocked mirrored bar. From giant flat-screen TV's to Bose surround sound systems. From a dining area with walls of glass that looks out over the open ocean to a veranda with teak furniture. From floor to ceiling sliding glass doors to heavy embossed draperies. From two walk-in closets to a separate powder room for guests. From a plush Queen sized bed to a full en suite vanity area. This stateroom was a jaw-dropping star. But nothing, I repeat nothing, could compare with the bathroom. Heated marble floors inlaid with volcanic glass tiles, a separate water closet with toilet, bidet, phone, towel-rack and soap dish. A double sink counter of marble with large square marble sinks. Rich dark wooden cabinets below the sinks and mirrored medicine cabinets above. There was a full sized Jacuzzi tub that was bordered on two sides by walls of glass overlooking the ocean. The marble wall at the foot of the tub was replete with an inset television. The window blinds were remote controlled and the towels were mammoth and plush. The shower was nothing short of a religious experience. Situated between the huge double sink counter and the tub, the shower stood in the middle of the bathroom surrounded by walls of glass. The shower head offered five different flow patterns including a 'waterfall' which was just that, a small waterfall that would cascade down on you as you abluted. Every one of our showers was an experience beyond words as we did something as mundane as washing our hair. But in the bathroom of the Crystal Penthouse, we were washing our hair under a waterfall and watching the ocean flow by us as we journeyed to a new and exciting port of call. And finally, no expression of delight or appreciation for our accommodation in The Crystal Penthouse would be complete without a few words of total and complete praise for the man that took a very special room and made it a MAGICAL one; our butler Sebastian. Warm. Funny. Kind. Caring. Impeccably professional and endearing beyond all thought was our Sebastian. No request was too great. No question was unanswered. Sebastian could do, and did, anyything. No words of praise will ever be enough for this wonderful man. Ports of Call & Shore Excursions: The itinerary for this cruise suited us well. There was much British history to be savored and learned anew. Belfast was the only disappointment (as it is not a very pleasant city) but I'm sure some might find it pleasing. We availed ourselves of two official Shore Excursions. One to Sterling Castle in Scotland and one to Stonehenge in Portland, England. Both were pretty standard Shore Excursion fare, but Crystal does even that better than most. Crystal's policy of having a shuttle to mid-city at every available port is a huge bonus and we availed ourselves of that service many times. The shuttles ran on time and as scheduled. Disembarkation: As Crystal Penthouse passengers we received the perk of being personally escorted off the ship to retrieve our luggage and make our way to our provided car. We waited in the Crystal Cove (ending our trip just a few chairs away from where we began it) and waited to be met. Very shortly a lovely Crystal staff member met us and walked us off the ship and to our car. It went flawlessly. Last Thoughts: While nothing is perfect, perfection in fact is a concept not a reality, Crystal Cruises comes pretty darned close. Our complaints could fill a small post-it note while our praises could fill several volumes with fine printed text. We were treated royally by Crystal as were our travel companions who were in an Ocean View Room. King or surf, Crystal treats you as if you mattered more to them than anyone else in the world. And that truly is, the Crystal Difference. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
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 ... Read More
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. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
Crystal Symphony Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.0
Dining 4.5 4.5
Entertainment 4.5 4.3
Public Rooms 5.0 4.6
Fitness Recreation 4.5 4.0
Family 4.0 4.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.8
Enrichment 5.0 4.3
Service 4.0 4.6
Value For Money 4.0 3.9
Rates 4.0 4.1

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