April 30, 2018
(10:25 a.m. EDT) -- "Where should we have dinner tonight?" must be one of the most asked questions onboard any cruise -- but it's definitely a good question on Crystal Symphony. That's because the line underwent a refurbishment in fall 2017 that added open-seating dining to the main restaurant and added or tweaked several additional dining venues onboard. After nearly a week onboard, we've tried them all, and thought we'd share our thoughts on where you should be eating on this luxury cruise ship.
When You Can't Decide: Waterside
He wants steak; she wants salad. She likes innovative cuisine; he likes the old standards. Whatever you are craving, Waterside -- the main dining room -- can accommodate. The menu is split into Crystal Classics with dishes like sole meuniere and grilled lamb chops and Modern Cuisine with dishes like charred ahi tuna and osso buco risotto. There's always a pasta course, entree salad and vegetarian options, and with enough notice, you can even make special requests. Our only complaint is that service is uneven in the venue, with waiters occasionally getting orders wrong or delivering them to the wrong diners.
When You Want a Celebrity-Chef Meal: Umi Uma
Nobu Matsuhisa is the culinary creator of Umi Uma (formerly Silk Road), and it seems like there's no bad dish on this menu. This editor is not a fan of Japanese food, and still found Umi Uma to be the top venue onboard. The Asian eggplant starter was tender, not chewy and the Miso Black Cod was moist and delicious. Sushi fans can order a variety of rolls as a starter -- or snag one of the limited spots at the sushi bar and cram themselves full of spicy tuna rolls or Nobu specials like yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno. Even the dessert-- for us, chocolate souffle cake with housemade sesame ice cream -- was divine.
When You Want A Classic Night Out: Prego
Date-night Italian is not a tired concept on Crystal. The venue has a sophisticated look, with a nod to Italian icons on the wall. Non-adventurous diners can happily order standards like caprese salad, fettucine alfredo and veal scaloppini. Or you can get a bit more daring with a lobster and octopus appetizer, beetroot-ricotta ravioli and lavender roasted duck breast. Whatever you do, don't miss the mushroom soup in a bread bowl -- it's umami heaven. We would happily have ordered a second. (You can, however, skip the deconstructed cannolo for dessert -- go for Prego's take on the affogato instead.)
When You Crave Protein: Churrascaria
A new concept for Crystal (but popular on land and on other cruise lines), this Brazilian steakhouse is the number-one place onboard to gorge yourself on pure meat. It takes over the aft end of the Marketplace buffet restaurant every evening and is a mix of buffet and served foods. Help yourself to salads, certain sides and desserts at the buffet but pace yourself. The main event is when waiters come around to the table with seven different types of steak, pork, lamb and chicken dishes and shave or slide pieces off as you request. Try a Brazilian caipirinha instead of your typical wine at dinner. More importantly, wear your elastic-waist slacks or loose-fitting dress because it's easy to overeat.
When You Want To Try Everything: Silk
If you hate committing to just one dish, and happen to like Chinese food, Silk is your spot. It serves lunch and dinner with an eye -- especially at night -- to communal, family-style dining. Go with a group so you can try out a variety of dim sum and spring rolls, as well as several entrees such as Chilean sea bass, Kung Pao chicken and Pork Char Siu. Or, share with just your sweetie -- the dim lighting, windowed ceiling and fun decor (living walls, black geometric ceiling arch and lights, both colored and twinkle) -- make it the perfect casual date night venue. One downside: The venue does not have great options for vegetarians, especially at dinner, which seems like an oversight that would be simple to fix.
When It's Hot And Sunny: Trident Grill and Scoops
They might be tucked away in a small space between the pool and the buffet but everyone on Crystal Symphony quickly learns where to find the grill and ice cream bar. When you're at sea in the Caribbean, there is no better pool-day lunch than a burger, fries and ice cream for dessert. The choice is impressive with multiple types of burgers (beef, salmon, veggie, chicken) as well as other hot sandwiches and pizza, standard and sweet potato fries and 12 flavors of Ben and Jerry's ice cream with toppings like sprinkles, cookies and four different liqueurs. Don't be shy about your calorific feast -- you wouldn't believe the number of people walking around with the telltale Scoops colored cups at all hours of the afternoon. If you want to give a nod to healthy living, eat your sandwich open-faced; the buns they use are enormous!
When You Want A Snack Between Meals: Bistro
Admit it -- even enjoying multi-course meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you still get peckish at 3 p.m. The Bistro is there for you. Stop in for a coffee and a croissant mid-morning or grab a cookie or some cheese to go mid-afternoon. The bar staff is crazy attentive; the second your bottom hits a chair, it seems like someone is hovering, asking if you'd like a drink. Located on the Deck 6 main thoroughfare, it's also the perfect spot to pretend to read or check email when you're really people watching.
--By Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor