This week I was lucky enough to be invited on a tour of the Crystal Symphony. I have been intrigued by luxury small-ship cruising for a while now, so was excited to see one of these incredible ships for myself!
First, let me say, forget your preconceptions of cruise holidays in general. Crystal Cruises and other small-ship liners are really a cut above, with à la carte dining, exceptional service, gorgeous rooms and a feeling of spaciousness that you won’t find on a standard cruise!
Arriving aboard the Crystal Symphony my first thought was ‘it’s just like a luxury hotel!’ As you step onto the ship you’re immediately greeted by friendly staff and it’s just one short flight of grand, carpeted stairs (or a lift if you need it) to the reception area, which really has the wow factor.
A high ceiling with beautiful coloured glass that lets the light in, a stunning two storey fountain and classy bar with grand piano are you first sights. Then there’s the reception and concierge desks, always staffed and ready to assist, here you can book shore excursions, spa treatments, meals and find out any information you need.
Walking around the ship I was struck by how much choice there was for guests, from what to do to where to eat. Lunch time offers an impressive selection of dining options, from a tempting burger bar with Ben & Jerry’s ice cream parlour to the sophisticated surrounds of the main restaurant with full waiter service, or dining on deck at LIDO café, where the buffet looked delicious – especially the desserts!
Come evening time, the main restaurant is a great option, or there are two fine-dining venues; Prego offers Italian cuisine and (I’m reliably informed) fantastic steaks, Silk Road is the ship’s Asian restaurant with a sushi bar. Both eateries are pleasingly intimate. Crystal’s generous all-inclusive policy means that guests can enjoy one night each at the fine-dining venues (and further nights with a small supplement), and that all other food and drinks, including Champagne, are complimentary throughout the voyage.
It’s not just the food that gives guests an array of choice either; the onboard facilities were equally as impressive. Out on deck you’ll find an attractive pool area as well as golf nets on the top deck. There’s a trained PGA instructor aboard every voyage, so those who wish to practise their swing can enjoy expert tuition. The instructor can also arrange onshore golfing excursions if you wish. Elsewhere those who like to keep active can use the spacious gym, while pampering awaits at the tranquil spa. I was surprised by the number of treatment rooms there were and, again, how much they resembled the facilities of a top hotel.
One of my favourite touches is the Promenade Deck. This wraparound deck allows guests to stroll or jog the circumference of the ship; a great benefit for days at sea. There are also always signs saying which direction to walk in,
meaning that you won’t bump into any one coming the other way; very thoughtful!
The entertainment programme is incredibly comprehensive, with a theatre hosting five different live shows, plus special guest acts and a spacious cinema where you can enjoy a movie with popcorn! Dancing, playing bridge, yoga classes and more are also offered.
Another big plus for those travelling with kids is the on-board children’s and teens’ facilities. The Fantasia Club has its own cosy space where three to twelve-year-olds can engage in art and craft activities, watch films and be entertained by trained staff, while just next door there’s a more ‘grown-up’ space for teens; Waves Club. Of course, some activities take place on other parts of the ship so there’s plenty of fun to be had. Crystal Cruises also offer a babysitting service in the evening for parents who’d like to enjoy a meal, just the two of them.
I was really impressed by my visit to Crystal Symphony, and the one thing that stuck in my mind most of all was the staff. The service was always top-notch and yet their friendly, easy-going demeanour put me at ease; it didn’t feel stuffy or formal at all. They even have where they’re from written on the name badges, which is a great conversation starter and lovely personal touch.
I think small-ship luxury cruising is a great way to see the world! With voyages taking in diverse destinations from Britain to Barbados, Miami to Mumbai, this has to be on the bucket-list of many a discerning traveller!
Intrigued? Call our Travel Specialists today on 01244 355 600 or start a webchat now to find out more about small-ship luxury cruising.