I started my journey to the Crystal Symphony with a late night text advising me that my 6:20 AM flight to San Francisco had been canceled. Fortunately, with my status United put me on the next flight arriving into San Francisco at 11:05 AM, so I could head right to the ship. (My friend who was on the same flight, but heading to Singapore, wasn’t so lucky; she was forced to drive 4.5 hours in rush hour(s) traffic to make her connecting flight.) Oh the glamour of travel…not!
I arrived at the old cruise terminal a/k/a warehouse and was greeted by more Crystal representatives than I have ever seen for any other cruise line. It was, most certainly, a nice touch. From the time I entered the terminal to being check-in (which is done onboard in the lobby) was all of fifteen minutes! Fastest check-in ever.
|Crystal Symphony Pool Deck|
But then I was faced with an unusually late (for me) 3:00 PM time the stateroom would be ready. This gave me time to wander the ship a bit, find a spot in the new Silk restaurant area to do some work and then, at 1:30 PM, check out Silk’s fixed menu lunch offerings.
|Crystal Symphony’s Silk Restaurant is bright, airy and not small enough not to feel overwhelming|
I opted for the spring rolls, which were very small and deep fried, and not very inspiring. I then tried the ramen bowl and, again, it was just OK…but definitely a nice alternative to the normal embarkation day buffet offerings. Perspective! (I will try Silk for dinner one night and see if things are more inspired.)
After another stroll around the ship the staterooms were released, so I headed to my to unpacke and get settled. My stateroom is called a Deluxe Stateroom with Extremely Limited View. I was assigned this stateroom as I am here solely as the host for Ensemble Travel Group guests, but with some better staterooms available I would have thought Crystal would have given me a bit of an assist. Nope!
|Crystal Symphony’s Deluxe Stateroom with Extremely Limited View|
Regardless, my stateroom is the same as the staterooms with actual views and verandas, so from that perspective let me describe them; noting my last Crystal cruise was in a Penthouse Suite and the one before that in a Veranda stateroom, so some perspectives may be a bit tainted from a luxury point of view.
|Crystal Symphony’s Deluxe Stateroom|
Crystal Symphony’s Deluxe Stateroom’s closet.
My stateroom is comfortable, but feels a bit cramped for two…though as I am traveling alone it is fine. To give perspective, the stateroom is larger than that you will find on Oceania, Viking, Azamara, Celebrity, etc., but the lifeboat view and no veranda visually closes the space in. There is enough cabinet storage for a 7-10 day cruise, but hanging space – limited to a closet by the bed – is a bit tight if traveling on longer cruises; especially with Crystal’s formal optional night. Crystal provides a stocked mini-refrigerator with sodas, two Heineken beers and two Pelligrino waters that will be replenished as needed. The small leather sofa is showing its age, but is comfortable enough.
Speaking of showing it’s age: There are no electrical outlets by the bed, no less USB charging ports. But there is a nice 40-inch flat screen television recessed into the wall. And the television station selection is very good, though the movie selections are of good quality, but limited.
The bathroom is tight, but has everything from dual sinks to a soaking tub and more than enough storage. The lighting is a bit harsh, however. This is an upgrade from the original bathrooms on this ship, but despite the effort and design improvements this is definitely “Do your business and get out” rather than one where you feel like lingering. (Applying body lotion, for example, would be an exercise in flexibility so it is best left to the bedroom area.) That said, it is a huge upgrade from non-Penthouse bathrooms on Oceania and Azamara…who compete with Crystal in the upper premium category…and it does have a bathtub.
Large tubes of Etro shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and body lotion are provided as well as two types of hand soap. I am not in love with them. They work, but you might want to bring your own.
When many of my clients tell me they want the least expensive staterooms because they never spend time in them I often respond, “You don’t spend time in your stateroom because it sucks!” Well, my stateroom doesn’t suck, but when I am taking a nap and look out my window and awaken to see two crew making adjustments to the lifeboat while leaning on my window, and who easily could peer in (though supposed one-way glass is supposed to prevent same…except when it is darker outside or your lights are on), it is a creepy experience.
|Crewmember in a lifeboat looking at/into my stateroom|
I like to sleep with the curtains open, if only to have the morning sun wake me. Now I have to question if that is a good idea. (Note: The second night I slept with the curtains closed because we were arriving at 7:00 AM in a tender port and I am glad I did…noting the noise – crew talking and tender movements, not the sun, woke me.) In short, for the price difference – even to an unobstructed oceanview/no veranda – Take It!
After settling in and doing my initial Ensemble Travel hosting duties, I headed to Avenue Saloon for a pre-dinner cocktail. Crystal’s Bar Manager, Mariya, let me know about Crystal’s Gin & Tonic menu and I am very glad she did. With something like a dozen different G&T’s to choose from, and featuring Fever Tree tonic as well, I had to give at least one a try…and I am very glad I did. It was outstanding from presentation to flavor!!
For dinner I thought I would go casual and try out the Churascurria, or Brazilian steakhouse, concept. The Lido buffet area for breakfast and lunch is turned into a semi-sit down restaurant in the evening. After you enjoy your buffet of salads and starters, waiters come around to your table with long skewers of various meats.
Mariya, the bar manager, mentioned to me that there was a traditional Caipirinha Cart (actually a station due to space limitation) offering up one of my favorite cocktails; using cachaça – a Brazilian sugarcane-based liquor. I ordered a caipirinha and a very well prepared cocktail appeared in an instant!
After my cocktail I asked for a glass of red wine; expecting some solid Argentinian Malbec. However, the selection was more limited than I expected and without any real knowledge of the wine beyond Cabernet, Chardonnay, etc. Fortunately, the waiter brought over the bottle so I could see what he was offering; saving the moment. The wine was fine; not remarkable.
My meal started with a tuna ceviche and then a mildly spicy crab soup (truly a bisque) followed by a sort of black bean fabada; all of which were quite tasty.
I headed to one of my favorite spaces on the high seas: The Connoisseur’s Club where those wanting to smoke cigars (or cigarettes) can light up and relax in an elegant and comfortable setting.
After a generously poured Glenfiddich whisky and a Partagas cigar (I brought my own, but Crystal does maintain a decent humidor), it was time to call it a night.
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