All photos by Jason Leppert
Crystal Cruises‘ Crystal Symphony remains one of the classiest looking ships afloat today with its swooping forward bow and concave terraced stern. I had the pleasure of first sailing on the ship when she was shiny and brand new during her inaugural 1995 season, and the only unfortunate thing now is that its upkeep has suffered since. After seeing the immaculately maintained Crystal Serenity, the Symphony is surprisingly rough around the edges with quite a bit of rust and blotchy white paint along her hull.
Inside, the ship is far more polished and still makes a fine first impression with its Crystal Plaza atrium (pictured above), crowned by a colorful skylight and dotted with a shimmering filament water fountain and striking ballerina sculpture. The Palm Court observation lounge (pictured below) continues the timeless elegance with a beautiful interior design consistent with Crystal’s newest products. Also, the cool angular Lido Cafe buffet exhibits the luxury line’s more modern design sensibilities, still in harmony with the rest.
In other venues, the ship is really starting to show its age, however. While the Galaxy Lounge theater’s in-the-round configuration is a pleasant return to traditional cruising form, its color scheme, fixtures and surfaces need a refresh. In particular, the Starlite Club (pictured below), looking like something out of tacky 1960s Vegas, is screaming for a complete redux. Thankfully, the ship is scheduled for another major refurbishment in 2017, and hopefully then the harsh contrast between the strongest spaces and weakest can be reconciled.
One of the nicest things about Crystal Cruises is that its ships are not all-suite vessels. There are many comfortable entry-level staterooms that allow guests to buy into a luxury experience elsewhere onboard without having to afford a premium cabin. Of course, its suites are exquisite as well. A median-sized Penthouse with Verandah is the best of both worlds as a hybrid in between. A lovely large bedroom and dining area opens out onto an expansive balcony and also includes a welcome walk-in closet. The decor is mostly pleasant with Crystal’s latest soft silvers extending to all but the burnt-orange aging cabinets that are in need of a replacement to match.
Penthouse bathrooms at least have definitely been refreshed recently and feature both a jetted Jacuzzi brand bathtub and a separate shower. It would be nice to have a slightly larger shower, but it is bigger inside than it first appears. Always great is plenty of space around the toilet as are the his and hers sinks for added convenience. New Etro bath products are yet another fine touch.
As one would expect, activities on Crystal Symphony center most around relaxation and do not run the longest list. The aforementioned observation lounge is always a winner in our book for being able to enjoy the passing scenery in comfort. The teak-clad pool deck is also one of the nicest at sea, even if the one under the magrodome was removed in favor of extra seating along its living wall of tranquil vertically-grown plants. Above is a decent-sized sports court and below is a series of outdoor exercise equipment and a full wraparound promenade deck for working out some as well.
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