It is hard to believe that the now-venerable Crystal Symphony debuted more than 20 years ago because the ship is so fresh and light with a sleek, contemporary ambience that's on trend today. That hasn't happened by accident. Crystal has invested millions since the ship launched in refurbishing, upgrading and adapting Symphony as travel tastes have changed.
On this latest trip on Symphony, we noticed lots of great upgrades. Dining options have been overhauled to feature plenty of healthy fare, with many good-for-you choices available in venues ranging from the Crystal Dining Room to the Lido Cafe. Staterooms offer many creature comforts in a sleek, boutique hotel-style ambience. Symphony's sun deck, one of the most beautiful at sea, offers plenty of space for lounging in full sunlight but also, in response to growing concerns by travelers of over-exposure, incorporates shaded spots. The Crystal Spa has embraced new treatments, such as medispa-oriented options and acupuncture.
And yet, what's carried Crystal through the past 20 years as one of the industry's best luxury cruise experiences is that it knows what not to "fix." Whether it's your first time or 20th onboard, you'll find hallmark restaurants like Nobu's Silk Road and the Italian Prego to be first-rate, with longstanding specialties like the former's miso cod and the latter's mushroom soup in a bread bowl. The ship's enrichment programs, ranging from arts-and-crafts workshops to making movies on iPads, continue to thrive.
And there's one more, very crucial, aspect of the Crystal Symphony experience that has not changed: Its crew offers superb service across the board, from cabin stewards and waiters to butlers and spa therapists. You notice after a day or so onboard that you feel at home every time you return from port and -- as lovely as the ship is -- it's the crew that delivers that message. And why wouldn't they? So many of the talented and well-trained staff onboard have worked for Crystal so long that Symphony is a home away from home for them, too.
Fellow passengers are very well traveled and primarily in the 60-plus age range. While many, more than the industry average, are repeat passengers, the line is trying to appeal to a broader demographic by introducing shorter-than-usual itineraries (seven to 10 days) and marketing these to families, particularly multigenerational groups.
Crystal has expanded beyond its North American roots and attracts travelers from other English-speaking countries, such as the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, along with groups from Asia.
Crystal Symphony Dress Code
During the day, Crystal passengers wear what the line calls "active resort wear," which ranges from shorts 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 Polo 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
For a luxury line, Crystal is moderately inclusive. Cocktails, beer and wine, sodas 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 specialty restaurant is offered at no charge (repeat visits cost $30 per person). Sixty minutes of Wi-Fi per passenger, per day, is free.
Gratuities for housekeepers, butlers and wait staff are also covered, but spa treatments do incur an 18 percent auto-gratuity.