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Crystal Symphony Cruise Review
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
322 Reviews

First time perspective...

Crystal Symphony Cruise Review by Paca Lady

23 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: Dec 2019
  • Destination: the Panama Canal & Central America
  • Cabin Type: Deluxe Stateroom with Verandah

We have sailed with several different lines, but this was our first experience with Crystal. The Symphony is among the smaller ships we have sailed, but you would not know it once on board.

Embarkation was changed from Ft Lauderdale to Miami several months before, and Crystal notified us well in advance. The location in Miami sets opposite of the bigger ships, in a much quieter setting. Embarkation was extremely quick and before we knew it we were on board. Unlike most other lines, you do NOT receive your key cards at check in... They are in your stateroom. We were greeted with a glass of champagne, given an opportunity to drop carry on luggage at a secured station (which was then also delivered to our stateroom), and escorted on a brief tour before heading to the main dining room for lunch (another welcome surprise). By the time lunch was finished we were able to go to our stateroom to pick up our key cards, and find all our luggage there waiting for us.

Speaking of dining... I wish I could rate the food higher than the 5 stars! ALL of the food in the MDR was excellent. With regards to embarkation lunch... Our waitress, Jessica told us to be sure to try the butternut squash ravioli (**only served at embarkation**). It was amazing! Also, on another note... **Do not pass up on the soups!** Crystal has the most delicious offering of soups we have ever come across. Service was outstanding... when the same waitress found out I had missed out on the escargot (due to bring at a specialty restaurant that night)... before I knew it the head waiter came over and asked for my name and stateroom number. (we were not even at her table this time!) The next night I had a special order of escargot! And since we were celebrating my birthday, I was treated to a celebration breakfast, not on the menu, that was offered either in the MDR, or could be served "en suite". It was the most memorable room service ever.

There are a total of 4 specialty restaurants... Two of them, Silk (Asian) and Churrascaria (Brazilian steakhouse), can be visited as many times as you wish at no extra charge. Prego (Italian) and Umi Uma (Japanese fusion), may both be visited once at no additional charge on a 10 day cruise. All were fabulous, and we especially loved Prego. We found that the Trident Grill served one of, if not the best burgers we have ever had at sea. Hot, fresh and always cooked to order. They also offer Impossible burgers.

And as for the included alcohol...we were not disappointed. The offerings changed almost daily, and unless you wanted a special vintage, just about anything goes. As with most lines, there are some differences between the individual bars as to spirits and drinks available. The drink of the day was something worth trying, not your typical beach/tropical/cruise drinks.

Other facilities... There are only three shops, all high end, and no huge sales events being pushed. In fact there was only one sales event, on the pool deck during our canal transit. The casino was quite large given the size of the ship, and included a separate high stakes table room. The pool and one enormous hot tub (occupancy listed at 16!) are very nicely designed, and the pool deck area was more than adequate to allow you to find a chair.

This sailing was the President's cruise, and Crystal on Broadway. Our entertainment options were exceptional. Several Broadway headliners, as well as comedians and of course, Magic at Sea. Speaking of Magic at Sea, **be sure to go to the library the first day to obtain a ticket for the magic show**. These are small, intimate, close tip magic shows, and tickets are limited.

On top of that the enrichment opportunities were plentiful. I thoroughly enjoyed participating in the Odyssea Art program over five different days, trying my hand at watercolor and jewelry making. We even had an art show at the end of the cruise displaying everyone's creations. Meanwhile my husband enjoyed golf workshops and bridge classes offered daily... All at no additional charge. There were many lectures and free Apple classes as well.

This sailing through the old canal locks was our first trip through the Panama Canal, and our transit, while at the beginning of the dry season, was a rainy one. There is no need to worry, as there are many vantage points from inside, as well as covered areas on board. One caveat... If you so desire a prime vantage point, fore or aft, plan to be there well in advance of entering the breakwater. We went to find a spot an hour before our canal approach and the best seats were already taken in the forward lounge.

Before we knew it the cruise was over. Disembarkation was just as smooth. Again, Crystal puts passengers first, and there is no push to be out of your stateroom prior to the time you leave the ship... So enjoy that last breakfast if you wish! We took advantage of the ship's transfers, which was a good idea as the airport was well over an hour away.

It was an amazing sailing. Crystal truly exemplifies luxury.

Paca Lady's Full Rating Summary
Onboard Experience
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Public Rooms
Shore Excursions
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Cabin Review

Deluxe Stateroom with Verandah

Our cabin was on the starboard side, which was a good location when transiting the canal as we could see the activity in the lock heading the opposite direction. Our cabin steward, Ritika, was efficient, and very unobtrusive. The cabin was your standard veranda layout with some notable exceptions...First being that every cabin has a doorbell, and lighted indicators for "do not disturb" and "make-hoop room". Storage in the cabin was NOT an issue at all. We counted a total of 17 drawers for use in addition to numerous shelves. The closet was lighted with shoe rack. The TV is your typical flat screen, however if you watch a movie you will need to turn off subtitles (unless you do not mind this). The bathroom also offered plenty of shelf storage, and the tub/shower, while short was wide enough to soak if you wished (our plug was not working properly).

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews


We stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel the night before. Beautiful location, with a view of the port. Walking distance to Bayside Market. Quick taxi ride to terminal.


Booked the Exclusive Supreme Snorkeling trip offered through Vacations to Go. Was an enjoyable morning... A walk down the beach from the pier to where our boat was waiting at the shore. I will say the water was quite choppy when we were at the Wall. I opted not to leave the boat at that location, my husband did, but he did not make it out to see the drop off before we had to leave. The reef stop was much better, and our guided tour through the ref was amazing. We stopped after that to watch our guide give for conch (I believe we got a total of five) and our final stop was a beach where we watched how to remove and prepare conch for a salad and enjoyed a rum punch with it.

View All 208 Snorkeling Reviews

This was a special tour, accompanying the president of Crystal Cruises into old Cartagena. It was a beautiful evening, both the food (a variety of Columbian finger foods) and music presented. That said, we felt that the description was a little misleading as we were suppose to experience one of the top carnival groups (we did, only very briefly as we entered the venue... majorly disappointed), and over all thought the excursion was overpriced.

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Booked this tour at the recommendation of a fellow roll call member, and so very happy we did! What a fabulous day, and a highlight for us. Andrew, the owner meet us at the pier...he was raised in the US, and started the company when he was only 17!

There was a total of 6 in our group, transported in an airconditioned van. Our stops began with a visit to view white faced monkeys, followed by a quick snack stop for fresh fruit. Then we were off to view scarlet macaws. One of the exceptional attentions to detail, our guide Marcos, was equipped with a sighting scope, so we were able to view the birds tip close, and even take pictures even though they were high above us in the trees. Then a trip on the Tarcoles River to view crocodiles and more birds. Lunch was included at a hilltop location overlooking the river we had just visited, and the chance to view toucans. Following lunch we headed back toward Puntarenas and a tour of the city there. One thing I should mention is that this tour is not a pre pay... Payment is made at the end of your tour. Very reasonably priced.

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Paca Lady
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