Goldring Travel's review of Crystal Cruises comes from a different perspective than mine as he was traveling with his family in the Pacific Northwest and has interests which are much different, so I gladly jumped to the challenge to provide a review of a Crystal Cruise from a different perspective..
As I have "been there, done that" finding a cruise that would allow me to experience and review new ports on a Crystal Cruise ship was a bit tricky. It all came together though with me booking the Crystal Symphony on August 22 for an 11 day cruise from Lisbon to London. This cruise is aptly named Aquitaine Tapestry as the bulk of the ports are in France.
It started in Lisbon, with an overnight port call. After a day at sea on August 24 ports to be visited include Bilbao, Spain; Bordeaux, Lorient, St. Malo and Honfleur in France and Guernsey, Channel Islands in the UK. The cruise will end in Dover, England. A perfect itinerary for seasoned cruisers who have done the Med, the Baltic and Western Europe. The itinerary alone would have made me jump on at the chance to cruise to these ports. The icing on the cake was that I would get the chance to do it on the Crystal Symphony.
This is not my first time on the Crystal Symphony though. I was on her maiden voyage in May, 1995. While I was only on for three nights from NYC to Bermuda the ship left an impression on me. I'm not sure what the magic spell was but I definitely was entranced by the experience. Perhaps it was the fact that it was the first time I had a balcony cabin. Perhaps it was the fact that in addition to the Main Dining Room there were two alternative restaurants (obligatory now on any luxury line). It may have been the production shows that I saw or the spa experience. I know the service was part of the attraction also. Maybe it was all of those things combined. Whatever it was it had left an extremely positive impression on me. I was anxious to see if it would be as good as I remembered. So far it is as I remembered and even better.
So it is with that background that I begin my journey and my review.
When choosing a cruise vacation many decisions have to be made. Two factors that must be considered and are usually the two most important components of the decision are itinerary and ship. Many place primary importance on itinerary. Others do not care where they go as long as they are on their favorite cruise line or a cruise line that they have heard much about and want to sail on.
Both facets have their challenges, especially for the more experienced cruiser. Having a knowledgeable travel consultant help you through the process is invaluable. If you favor itinerary over ship are you seeking new ports to visit? Do you want less ports but more time in those ports. Do you want a port every day (sort of like a marathon) or do you want to break it up with days at sea? Many cruisers who have been cruising for 10, 20 or 30 plus years have the "been there, done that syndrome" (like me) and that presents yet another challenge
For those that make their decision based on the cruise line, it's a little bit easier. This is especially true in the luxury category. In that category the choice is among Seabourn, Silversea, Regent Seven Seas and Crystal. You may notice I did not include Sea Dream Yacht Club. As Eric has just reviewed Sea Dream I think that the product, while all inclusive and to the highest standard is in a different category based on his review. Eric has also reviewed Silversea recently. We all know how Eric feels about Seabourn, which is the same as I do. I worked for Seabourn for 14 years and had the pleasure to visit most of the ports that the 6 ships of Seabourn call on.
Embarkation began at Noon. Upon embarking the ship there is a definite WOW factor. The lobby soars two stories and is elegantly appointed. A spiral staircase links the two decks.
|Crystal Symphony's Lobby|
|Crystal Symphony's Lobby Bar|
In the last 9 years the largest ship I have sailed on was the Odyssey class vessels of Seabourn. At 450 guests I thought the size was perfect. I was a little worried as to how I would transition to a 900+ passenger ship. The answer is: Easily.
The size of the Crystal Symphony allows for a winning combination of multiple dining venues, entertainment venues, bars and lounges, without any of them seeming over-sized. The Crystal Symphony actually has some features that have to be sacrificed on smaller vessels such as an actual movie theater. They also have a very large casino, which follows Las Vegas rules, and includes a craps table. The library is a nice size with a good variety of books.
|Crystal Symphony's Fully Stocked Library|
The first 24 hours on a cruise usually sets the expectations for the voyage. Dining is always a highlight of any luxury cruise and the first night should provide an accurate reading of things to come. The Crystal Symphony has a rather unique dining scheme. They have the traditional early (6:15pm) and late (8:30pm) dining.
|Crystal Symphony's Main Dining Room|
Has Plenty of Tables for 2 or 4 Guests
Something to consider is that if you come in at 8:00 there is the advantage of a nearly empty dining room. This is because the first seating diners are mostly finished or have finished and left the dining room. So, until the late seating diners arrive you have a quiet dining room and almost personal service. There is about a 10 minute time frame where this vanishes. This is from 8:30 to about 8:40 when the second seating diners arrive at their assigned tables. Those 10 minutes are a hustle and bustle for the staff as they great the new arrivals and help them settle in.
The menus offer a large selection for each course as would be expected of a luxury ship. What I really enjoy and have had the first two nights is an Entree Salad, I have never seen this offered anywhere before and is a great alternative to a salad course and a large entree. On the first night the offering was a grilled salmon salad and the second night a Mediterranean Steak Salad featuring filet mignon. Crystal is noted for its Crab Meat and Brie Soup. If you cruise on Crystal in the future, and I hope you do, it's a must have. Desert is served with cookies and my one comment is that I would prefer chocolates to cookies!
A nice surprise is that Ben and Jerry's ice cream is served daily at the Ice Cream Bar in The Trident Lounge. The traditional favorites are on offer including Chunky Monkey and Cherry Garcia. The Trident Lounge is an area conducive to reading, eating, drinking or just contemplating how fortunate we are to be on the Crystal Symphony.
|Crystal Symphony's Trident Lounge|
I hope you enjoy reading about my journey. I know I enjoy writing about it. If you have any questions on Crystal please be sure to email or call Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org or (877)2GO-LUXURY.