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Crystal Symphony Review

Crystal Symphony
Crystal Symphony
2019 Best Overall
2019 Best for Dining
2019 Best for Entertainment

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Crystal Symphony
4.5 / 5.0 Cruise Critic Editor Rating
to book


More options for dining and entertainment than on other luxury ships


Entry-level cabins are small compared to those of competitors

Bottom Line

A successful blend of luxurious amenities with big-ship choice

Erica Silverstein
Cruise Critic Contributor

Crystal Symphony Overview

Crystal Symphony is a wonderful choice for cruise travelers who are looking for a luxurious cruise vacation on a larger ship with plenty of options for dining and entertainment. The ship (and its sister, Crystal Serenity) has a following of passionate and loyal fans, who consider longtime staff to be family and love to come onboard to be pampered.

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Yet the line does not ignore newer and younger cruisers. A 2017 refurbishment added modern touches to the ship -- open-seating dining in the main restaurant, new casual eateries, enhanced Wi-Fi, more up-to-date suites -- and a commitment to sprinkling shorter itineraries among the world cruises and longer voyages. Staffing kids clubs in the summer months makes sure working professionals and families are accommodated.

Crystal Symphony is an older ship, but it rivals the newer ships of competing lines for choice in dining. There are five main venues for dinner, plus room service. Three have more of the formal restaurant vibe: the main dining room Waterside, Italian Prego and Asian Umi Uma, created by celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa. Two new casual venues were added in the 2017 refurbishment -- Brazilian steakhouse Churrascaria and family-style Chinese restaurant Silk. Food was generally good in all venues, though Waterside was the most hit or miss, likely because it offers a wide array of entrees that change nightly. The line wisely made sure not to lose standout dishes in all the restaurant upheaval. Nobu's miso black cod and Prego's mushroom soup in a bread bowl continue to wow diners as they have for years.

The quality and variety of entertainment options is also notable. Crystal excels in daytime enrichment with multiple lectures on any one sea day, computer and movie-making classes, and expert instructors in art, bridge and golf onboard most sailings. Magician's from Los Angeles' famed Magic Castle make appearances (and disappearances!) on select sea days for intimate shows of close-up magic. Evenings often have two shows scheduled -- perhaps a production show with the in-house singers and dancers plus a guest singer or comedian -- plus live music in multiple venues, including a pianist-entertainment in the Avenue Saloon and an after-hours DJ. Did we mention there's also a movie theater screening recent releases? No one can complain of boredom.

The ship is casually elegant, and tends toward lighter colors (light woods and neutrals paired with Crystal's signature sea-foam hue) than ships that go for more nautical navy or imposing dark woods. The new Silk Kitchen and Bar with its solarium roofing and contrasting black-and-pink color scheme is both hip and a welcoming place to dine or hang out. Navigation is simple; most of the public spaces are on decks 5, 6 and 11, with cabins in the decks between.

The main longtime drawback of a Crystal Cruise has been, and still is, the size of its standard cabins. Outside and balcony cabins measure 202 square feet; to put that in perspective, Carnival's standard cabins start at 185 square feet, while other luxury lines start out with 250 to 300 square feet of space in entry-level cabins. Bathrooms especially feel cramped, with very narrow countertops, and there are no walk-in closets. To get that luxury accommodation feeling, you need to book a suite -- which isn't true of other luxury lines.

One surprise on our cruise was that we didn't experience the high levels of service that Crystal is generally known for. Waterside waiters got orders wrong on several occasions, and occasionally responded in a defensive rather than apologetic manner. Bar staff would ask if we wanted red or white wine with dinner, without bothering to explain the daily varietals or even show us the labels to see what type of wine was on offer. Our room stewardess was indifferent to our request to replace the Coke in our mini-fridge with club soda. While none of this had a major impact on our enjoyment of the cruise and might seem like nitpicking, it did seem out of line with service we've experienced on competitors and the flawless service Crystal has previously espoused. That said, many of the crew members we met were lovely; service in the Bistro was particularly notable.

Crystal Symphony is appealing to a wide swath of travelers, from well-to-do families looking for a ship that can entertain their kids to retired couples who can afford a suite and all its associated perks and are looking for a good mix of active, relaxing and enriching experiences. It's a good choice for travelers who want a small ship, but find the 500-passenger and smaller ships to be a bit dull or hyper-social. In many ways, Crystal Symphony hits the sweet spot between too large and too small, and many first-timers discover that, for them, it's just right.

Fellow Passengers

Fellow passengers are very well traveled and primarily in the 60-plus age range. While many are repeat passengers, the line is trying to appeal to a broader demographic by offering shorter itineraries (seven to 10 days), more diverse entertainment options and an array of dining venues (with open-seating dining), as well as marketing to families, particularly multigenerational groups.

Crystal travelers are predominantly North American, but the line also attracts travelers from Europe and other English-speaking countries, such as the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, along with other nationalities. The demographic mix varies by itinerary.

Crystal Symphony Dress Code

During the day, Crystal passengers wear what the line calls "active resort wear," which ranges from shorts, casual slacks and T-shirts to sundresses. At night, Crystal has two dress codes that are in effect after 6 p.m. On Crystal Casual nights, women wear dressy slacks, skirts and dresses, while men opt for open-collared and collared shirts along with dress pants or European smart trousers. On Crystal's Black Tie Optional evenings, suggested attire includes formal cocktail dresses, evening gowns or elegant evening separates for women. For men, a dark suit (either with a tie or without) and tuxedo are recommended choices.

Crystal Symphony Inclusions

Crystal is not the most inclusive luxury cruise line, but its fares do cover a lot. Cocktails, beer and wine, soda and specialty coffees are included in the fare (though only Penthouse category and above cabins receive free spirits in their mini-bars). One dinner at each of Prego and Umi Uma is offered at no charge per person per one-week cruise (repeat visits cost $30 per person), while dining in all the other restaurants is included. Wi-Fi is free throughout the ship and is significantly faster than previously, thanks to a big service upgrade.

Gratuities for housekeepers, butlers and wait staff are also covered, but spa treatments do incur an 18 percent auto-gratuity.

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Crystal Deck
Tiffany Deck
Promenade Deck
Horizon Deck
Seabreeze Deck
Penthouse Deck
Lido Deck
Sun Deck

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More about Crystal Symphony

Where does Crystal Symphony sail to?
Crystal Symphony cruises to Dover, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca (Majorca), Dubrovnik, Venice, Naples, St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Oslo, Brugge (Bruges), Rome (Civitavecchia), Lisbon, Seville , Taormina (Messina), Florence, Villefranche, Helsinki, Tallinn, Sydney (Australia), Amsterdam, Edinburgh (South Queensferry), Cairns, Athens, Istanbul, Bergen, Rouen, Dublin, Rhodes, Santorini, Kusadasi, Hong Kong, Ibiza, Dubai, Monterey, Gibraltar, Malta (Valletta), Singapore, Wellington, Auckland, Crete, Sete, Marseille, Sorrento, Madeira (Funchal), Corfu, Da Nang, Lanzarote, Monaco (Monte Carlo), Cannes, Tenerife, La Palma, Kelang (Kuala Lumpur), Saint-Tropez, Portofino, Belfast, Liverpool, Split, Mykonos, Hanoi, Aqaba (Petra), Cartagena (Colombia), Melbourne, Cape Town, Rostock (Warnemunde), Cairo (Port Said), Dunedin, Darwin, Corsica (Ajaccio), Bangkok, Limassol, Haifa (Tel Aviv), Jerusalem, Kochi (Cochin), Mumbai (Bombay), Adelaide, Ho Chi Minh City, Reykjavik, Langkawi, Kotor, Honfleur, Tauranga, Guernsey, Napier, Muscat, Holyhead, Bilbao, Koh Samui, Sihanoukville, Perth (Fremantle), Odessa, Yangon (Rangoon), Penang, Abu Dhabi, Stavanger, Saint-Malo, Luxor, Antalya, Taipei (Keelung), Agadir, Casablanca, Mombasa, Walvis Bay, Durban, Zanzibar, Cobh (Cork), Greenock (Glasgow), Invergordon (Inverness), Lerwick (Shetland Islands), Manila, Phuket, Patmos, Colombo, Bali, Komodo Island, Brunei, Molde, Bordeaux, Catania, Malaga, Akaroa, Alicante, Almeria, Positano (Amalfi), Port Vendres (Carcassonne), Doha, Gravdal (Lofoten Islands), Hvar, Kirkwall, La Coruna, Olbia, Olden, Port Elizabeth, Portree (Isle of Skye), Richards Bay, Tromso, Valencia, Eidfjord, Ferrol, Koper, Bunbury, Marina di Carrara, Eden (Australia), Kangaroo Island, Boracay, Sir Bani Yas Island and Male.
How much does it cost to go on Crystal Symphony?
Cruises on Crystal Symphony start from $1,499 per person.
Is Crystal Symphony a good ship to cruise on?
Crystal Symphony won 46 awards over the years, including Best Overall, Best for Dining, Best for Entertainment in 2019.

Awards and Recognition

Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice

  • 2019 Best Overall
  • 2019 Best for Dining
  • 2019 Best for Entertainment
  • 2019 Best for Fitness & Recreation
  • 2019 Best for Public Rooms
  • 2019 Best for Service
  • 2019 Best for Value
  • 2018 Best for Dining
  • 2018 Best for Entertainment
  • 2018 Best for Fitness & Recreation
  • 2018 Best for Service
  • 2017 Best Overall
  • 2017 Best for Cabins
  • 2017 Best for Dining
  • 2017 Best for Embarkation
  • 2017 Best for Entertainment
  • 2017 Best for Service
  • 2017 Best for Shore Excursions
  • 2017 Best for Value
  • 2016 Best for Entertainment
  • 2016 Best for Fitness & Recreation
  • 2015 Best Overall
  • 2015 Best for Dining
  • 2015 Best for Embarkation
  • 2015 Best for Entertainment
  • 2015 Best for Service
  • 2015 Best for Shore Excursions
  • 2015 Best for Value
  • 2014 Best for Dining
  • 2014 Best for Embarkation
  • 2014 Best for Entertainment
  • 2014 Best for Fitness
  • 2014 Best for Public Rooms
  • 2014 Best for Service
  • 2014 Best for Shore Excursions
  • 2013 Best Overall
  • 2013 Best for Cabins
  • 2013 Best for Dining
  • 2013 Best for Embarkation
  • 2013 Best for Entertainment
  • 2013 Best for Fitness
  • 2013 Best for Public Rooms
  • 2013 Best for Service
  • 2013 Best for Shore Excursions
  • 2013 Best for Value

Cruise Critic Editors’ Picks

  • 2017 Best Ship Refurbishment

Crystal Symphony Member Reviews

Crystal Symphony
Nicholas P.
Sail Date: Jul 2019
We chose the Crystal Symphony on the basis of our own research, the recommendation of experienced travelers and our experience with the Crystal agent with whom we booked our voyage....Read More
Crystal Symphony
Sail Date: Jun 2019
I highly recommend the Crystal Symphony....Read More
Crystal Symphony
travel mensch
Sail Date: Jul 2019
Going from Vancouver to Anchorage, we travelled on the Crystal Symphony departing June 30, 2019. We also took a post-cruise tour of Denali National Park....Read More
Crystal Symphony
Sail Date: Feb 2019
I have now taken 4 voyages on Crystal Symphony, and 11 total on Crystal (including one river cruise) and on this cruise had the best combination of sea days and (to me) new interesting ports to visit....Read More

Crystal Cruises Fleet