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Crystal Symphony – June 17, 2019 (San Francisco to Vancouver) – Part I (Prelude)

I am sailing on the Crystal Symphony on June 17, 2019 as the Ensemble Travel Group host.  It is not the most exciting cruise, but sailing out of San Francisco and into Vancouver makes on an eight day cruise makes for plenty of time to feel out the recently (2017) renovated Crystal Symphony with an easy overall trip where I can really use the ship.

Crystal Symphony

Crystal has always been on the top of my list for luxury cruise lines; even for those that don’t necessarily have a luxury budget as it offers excellent staterooms in addition to its now-expanded suite offerings.  And, without question, the immediate push-back that the ships are too large is just not accurate. The size of the Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity affords the opportunity to provide more options and probably the best enrichment program at sea.  (And let’s not forget the intimate Crystal Esprit which provides a more yacht-like experience with only 62 guests and a submarine.)

To be honest, Crystal went through a period of too much hype and proposed expansion for my liking.  However, things have settled down and Crystal has returned to its more staid and steady self…with some significant improvements.  So it is with this renewed optimism that I chose to cruise on Crystal again.

It is my first time sailing on the Crystal Symphony since April 2011when I did a very similar cruise with my children; though I did do a post-renovation ship inspection last year when she was in San Francisco for the day.  My last Crystal experience was on the Crystal Serenity in November 2015. Since those experiences, there have been many changes at Crystal from management to philosophy to product. Hence I am excited to see how the changes have improved what I also consider one of the finest luxury cruise experiences available.

Traveling alone this time, and I am “relegated” to a Deluxe Stateroom with Large Picture Window and Extremely Limited View a/k/a nice stateroom with a view of a lifeboat, it gives me an opportunity to experience and explain to you my views on “I don’t spend much time in my suite/stateroom so I don’t care about view, etc.” (I do have some Crystal clients that readily downgrade to these staterooms if they become available for just that reason.)  I gotta get my head around it…if I can!

Crystal Symphony – Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom

One of the major changes are Dining Options and Venues:

Crystal restructured its main dining venue, now called Waterside, to be open seating (so the days of fixed seating/dining by reservation are gone). Also, there has been a significant increase in tables for two.  

The former Lido Cafe is now called The Marketplace for breakfast and lunch and Churrascaria at dinner; providing a Brazilian-style barbecue with tableside meat carvings and, a favorite of mine, a welcome Caipirinha.

Silk Kitchen & Bar, which is a beautifully designed al fresco dining area featuring casual Chinese cuisine as well as late breakfasts (replacing Tastes) and burgers at the Trident Grill.

Master Chef Nobu Matsuhisa remains onboard with a Umi Uma & Sushi Bar rebranding the previous Silk Road. 

My least favorite specialty dining venue was Prego, the Italian restaurant, which remains…because so many love it.  Between my extended time in Italy and growing up in the New York area, this has always been a tough sell for me.  But my palate and opinion remain open to persuasion. 

Oh, but there is a favorite of mine: The Vintage Room (which I have signed up for!). It is a culinary and oenophilic delight with a spectacular dining experience paired with some truly great wines.  Limited to twelve guests, it is an experience that I highly recommend!

That gives me a huge number of options, especially on an eight-night cruise!  (By the way, there is one Formal Option night on this cruise.)

Crystal Symphony also offers the Connoisseur Club cigar lounge; something that I have always enjoyed.

Connoisseur Club cigar lounge – Crystal Symphony

During the Crystal Symphony refit something unexpected happened, but which clearly focused on the more luxury side of its product (as opposed to the extremely limited view stateroom I am in):  Crystal reduced the number of guests to 848, so that it could increase the number and type of suites; including the new Seabreeze Penthouses.  I will discuss them in a later article.

Crystal has also installed complimentary internet throughout the ship.

Now, you might ask, “What is Eric going to be doing on this West Coast cruise?”  Well, let me tell you!

This cruise’s itinerary is:

1 Jun. 17, Mon SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, USA Embark PM –
2 Jun. 18, Tue SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, USA – 6:00 PM
3 Jun. 19, Wed MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA, USA 7:00 AM 5:00 PM
4 Jun. 20, Thu CRUISING THE WEST COAST OF USA – –
5 Jun. 21, Fri ASTORIA, OREGON, USA 9:00 AM 2:00 PM
6 Jun. 22, Sat SEATTLE, WASHINGTON, USA 8:00 AM 9:00 PM
7 Jun. 23, Sun VICTORIA, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA 8:00 AM 9:00 PM
8 Jun. 24, Mon VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA 8:00 AM –
9 Jun. 25, Tue VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA – Disembark AM

I want to mention that Crystal Cruises does something that I wish all of the cruise lines would do: Voluntourism.  You essentially give up a small amount of your time to assist worthy causes in some of the ports Crystal visits.  Last time my children and I helped clean a beach in Astoria, Oregon. (I remember arriving there with my Jersey Shore kids and my son saying, “Dad, this beach is already clean!”…but he learned that appearances are deceiving as we still filled a large bag with plastic and litter.)  This time I am going to assist at Foodbanks in San Francisco and Astoria. Well worth two mornings!  (I am also hoping there is enough interest in the Voluntourism program as fewer guests than I would have expected take advantage of these opportunities.)

  • I am not sure what I am doing in San Francisco that first day/night, but heck: It’s San Francisco!
  • Being a marine biology nut, the Monterey Aquarium is a definite.
  • Astoria, Oregon is a voluntourism event. 
  • In Seattle I will be meeting up with the President of Windstar Cruises and, well, heck: It’s Seattle!
  • Victoria is the Ensemble Experience, which I am hosting, with some picturesque stops and an exploration of Chinatown as well as the Inner Harbor, with plenty of time for wandering off on my own afterward.
  • I was just in Vancouver for a few days last year, but there are some seafood and other culinary spots I may want to check out.

I get ready to embark on the Crystal Symphony I want to encourage you to consider Crystal for your next cruise; whether it be moving up from Celebrity or Oceania or moving over from one of the other luxury lines.  So if you have questions or want me to dive deeper into any aspect of a Crystal cruise, let me know!

If you would like more information on Crystal Cruises or would like to book a cruise, give me a call, drop me an email or send me a Facebook message!

US: (877) 2GO-LUXURY (877-246-5898)
UK: 020 8133 3450
AUS: (07) 3102 4685
Everywhere Else: +1 530 562 9232

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