Crystal Symphony Cruise Review by avanbuiten
- Sail Date: August 2016
- Destination: British Isles & Western Europe
- Cabin Type: Deluxe Stateroom with Large Picture Window (limited view)
We chose this cruise because it fitted in with times we could both take holiday, left from a UK port, and was going to places we hadn't been before (in France) - a final important check\consideration was that Crystal was reasonably well rated well by recent passengers.
The ship was in superb condition, arguably better than younger ships; everything was polished, clean, and in 'close to new' condition. A fairly small ship by today's standard we found it to our advantageous as it cut down unnecessary time walking between different venues. A similar size to Ryndham (Holland America) however a key difference we observed was that it never felt crowded on Symphony, in fact it was the least crowded ship we've sailed on yet. There are potentially two reasons for this; either it was undersubscribed (possibly because people concerned about terrorism), or the age of the passengers meant they slept a lot or otherwise entertained themselves - possibly a bit of both.
We stayed in cabin 7087, which is the E1 category with a limited view, for which I've written a separate review in the cabin section (and hopefully it will let me upload a photo so you can judge the level of obstruction for yourself).
Dining; breakfast was very good and we always ate it in the Lido cafe (I think you could also go to main dining room). I like healthy breakfasts and wasn't disappointed as there were a lot of tasty options including birchers, smoothies, yoghurts, fruit, as well as the usual eggs, sausages, beans, bacon (for less health conscious people). I was very happy with the variety of juice on offer, and had fresh carrot juice almost every day - while other cruise lines have also offered variety of juice, other than fresh orange, it's always been from the carton, so this was a step up for me. Lunch was also very good with a reasonable variety of food, and different things served each day so we didn't get fed up with the same thing, and again we opted to eat lunch in the Lido cafe. Dinner was reasonable to excellent - the three courses in the main dining room were to a good standard, we also ate in both of the specialty restaurants (at no extra charge) and found them both (Japanese & Italian) excellent even though I don't eat sushi (luckily there were other options at the Japanese restaurant).
The Italian restaurant Prego was my favourite though, and it's the first time I've ever been served soup within a bowl made of bread (maybe I've led to sheltered a life!). Besides these dining options there are also other smaller venues where you can grab a sandwich, burger, or cakes depending on your fancy - these places were never crowded. As Crystal is all inclusive, all drinks are free unless you order something really special (I'm not sure what as I ordered anything I liked and was never charged). There are a number of bars you can get drinks from (also available when dining or lounging by pool) and staff are very available to take your order and will even walk to a different bar for you if the one your at doesn't make that kind of drink. As well as my juices I had a number of cocktails, mocktails, beers, wines, and penacolada's (apology for the spelling?!), and I saw a lot of other passengers enjoying copious amounts of what looked like champagne.
Entertainment was low key, the main show entertainers were really good performers though they are only on for 45 minutes a night and generally do a bit of singing and dancing which while excellent, I would have liked to see a proper full musical play (even a mini one) instead of just excerpts of musical plays. That said though, it was good enough to go back to each night as they did mix\change it up so it didn't get repetitive. There was also a magician on board however you needed to book to see him which we didn't so I can't whinge about that as my own fault. The rest of the entertainment consisted of people playing piano, some big band playing, some jazz, and a bit of pop music from different era's - nice and pleasant to listen to while having a drink but all fairly laid back. Activities consisted of some lectures (mostly UK monarchy and WWII), knitting / needlework classes, how to use your ipad, and some other things I can't recall. All said and done, there wasn't much going on and to be honest given the age demographic I don't think there was a lot of demand for much to be going on. For myself this was a bit disappointing but I can't complain too much as I knew the activities would likely be tailored towards the older generation. For information, about 95% of guests are probably in bed by 10 pm - the upside is you'll always find a seat and ready waiters in any bar around the ship!! In fact I think a lot of the staff seemed underused so it really was very quick service in all respects no matter what the time of day.
Our ports of call were; Tilbury (we live in London so no point discussing this), Honfleur, St Peter's Port, St Malo, and Bordeaux.
Honfleur was quaint and lovely, St Malo was amazing and I wish we could have stayed overnight (as well as going around the city we also went swimming in the sea). St Peter's Port was a bit boring but perhaps that's because I'm British and it wasn't so novel to me as I may be to an American. We got the plane back to UK from Bordeaux so can't comment on it - though I have stayed there a week once in a chateau which was refreshing.
The age demographic is slightly older than other cruises we've been on, I'd say 97% of passengers were over 60, I'd guess the average may be around 70. That said they certainly weren't geriatric and there were almost no zimerframes in sight, they were mostly pleasant to talk to - even the ones voting for Donald Trump. Although we are in our 30's we were looking for a laid back \ lazy holiday as our last one was a tour of Iceland in a rented motorhome followed by a week in New York, so we were not objectionable to the pace of life on board as we felt like being less active than our previous holiday.
The library was well stocked with DVDs including some very recent releases. There was also a cinema on board though we didn't take the opportunity to use it.
Worth a mention is that this is the first cruise where they didn't try and sell us art, jewellery, or pointless crap they we don't want and don't need, in fact the shops were barely open at all - quite refreshing!
All in all, a good cruise, and recommended to those who want a laid back holiday and be able to order whatever food and drink they like without thinking about the cost or tipping. I would go again if in a similar mood and I liked the ports of call.
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As an E1 cabin it had a limited view, so some of our window was obstructed by a boat; I do not regret saving £300 (~$400) in place of seeing a full skyline (I will try and attach a photo), it really wasn't as bad as I feared it could be.
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