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Wednesday,  April 17, 2024 6:10 PM 

On Location: “She’s been reborn”: PAX unpacks Crystal Symphony’s extreme makeover

  • Cruises
  •   03-29-2024  11:04 am
  •   Diane Tierney

On Location: “She’s been reborn”: PAX unpacks Crystal Symphony’s extreme makeover
PAX's "Cruiseguru" Diane Tierney explores the newly-renovated Crystal Symphony. (Diane Tierney)
Diane Tierney

The all-inclusive Crystal Symphony ship has had such an extreme makeover by new owners Abercrombie & Kent, it’s like she’s been reborn.

Taken down to the steel for the renovations, she now boasts beautiful new features and finishes to match impressive customer service and meals that are not just excellent, but exceptional.

Crystal Symphony has been back at sea since September 2023 and PAX was on board Feb. 29, cruising from Hong Kong. Sister ship Crystal Serenity is also operating after major renovations.

Crystal Symphony retuned to sea last year. (Diane Tierney)

The ship now carries 606 guests and 575 mature crew – a rare high ratio for the industry. She used to carry about 900 guests, but the line wanted to enlarge the accommodations.

READ MORE: Crystal Symphony returns to sea following multi-million dollar upgrade

Now, there’s so much space on this 51,000 GT ship – an incredible 84 cubic feet per guest – that there are no crowds or lineups which makes for a serene, relaxing voyage.

Crystal Symphony atrium. (Diane Tierney)

Captain Nenad Willheim, who has been with Crystal for 18 years gave, PAX a bridge tour and said “Crystal Symphony now has all new mechanical systems that are extremely efficient,” to emphasize that the renovations were not just superficial.

Connoisseur Club. (Diane Tierney)

Designers “ripped out everything”

For the new suites, “the architects and designers ‘re-thought’ and ripped out everything – especially the suites. They also created eight Junior Penthouse suites and made four Penthouse suites bigger,” said Hotel Director Herbert Jager.

The Juniors are about 806 sq. ft. and the Penthouses are about 1,372 sq. ft. (including verandahs). There are seven categories including 215 sq. ft. solo suites (without a supplement fee) for a total of 310 staterooms.

Sapphire Living Room. (Diane Tierney)

Many of the staterooms, decorated in lovely shades of blue and cream, have double-sized balconies due to the combining of two suites into one. 

Expanded bathrooms have marble countertops, double sinks and enormous walk-in showers with multiple showerheads. Suites on deck 10 have bathtubs.

Junior Penthouse Living Room. (Diane Tierney)

Junior penthouse bathroom. (Diane Tierney)

Even the bed linens by Jesurum Venezia 1872 are upscale – a brand whose linens have graced the beds of royalty. There’s also a pillow menu.

An interactive tablet has voyage information and there’s a Nespresso machine for a quick coffee – or your clients can request a kettle if they prefer.

Sapphire beds. (Diane Tierney)

All suites have Butler service – someone to pack/unpack clothes, manage laundry, book tours and spa appointments and arrange anything else. Butlers also deliver canapes to suites every afternoon.

When asked what was one of the more unusual special requests, our Butler Simon who has been with Crystal for about 10 years replied, “We had a guest on board who wanted to watch the sunset everyday while he was dining. That took some careful planning to study the itinerary, sunset times and which restaurant on what side of the ship would have a window view at the right time.”

The mission was accomplished.

Life outdoors

Vibrant turquoise tile was installed at the pool and enormous hot tub. The genuine teak decking was refreshed and adds authenticity to the ship, rather than the simulated material seen on many mainstream ships.

Classy white wicker furniture gives a clean look while orange and turquoise pillows and umbrellas are vibrant bold highlights.

Pool deck. (Diane Tierney)

The top deck was covered with soft artificial turf that’s a joy to walk on and the vibrant green colour adds country club class. There are two golf practice cages, mini-putt and a caged court for pickleball and battle-board tennis. “Our guests really enjoy playing at this court and occasionally the Officers join them,” said Jager.

The aft features several decks with loungers, chairs and tables for peaceful, panoramic wake views.

Golf practice cage. (Diane Tierney)

“Our promenade deck is a truly uninterrupted deck that many ships don’t have anymore,” Jager said.

It’s a joy to stroll along for constant views of the sea or play shuffleboard.

Aft sun loungers. (Diane Tierney)

Next-level meals

With 10 dining venues, guests can enjoy a range of culinary experiences. The meals are truly next level and your clients will need to book reservations for the specialty restaurants.

Executive Chef Manfred Schaller gave PAX a kitchen tour. “The galley was completely refurbished so we have new ovens, machines, refrigeration systems and so forth. There are 78 chefs and about 25 other crew who help with utility duties,” Schaller said.

Umi Uma celebrates the return of legendary Michelin-star Master Chef Nobuyuki’s meals – the only Nobu dining concept at sea where you can enjoy award-winning Japanese-Peruvian cuisine.

Umi Uma restaurant. (Diane Tierney)

Umi Uma sushi bar. (Diane Tierney)

Osteria D’Ovideo is named for Crystal’s executive chairman Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovideo (formerly of Silversea Cruises) and specializes in Italian meals.

The Vintage Room hosts 12 guests for an intimate dinner with guided pairings from the vast selection of wines. It’s the only restaurant to have a fee.

Osteria D’Ovideo. (Diane Tierney)

Tastes has international cuisine however this space will soon become another specialty restaurant called BeefBar, which has more than 20 locations around the world and is known for its selection of prime cuts. Popular choices from Tastes will still be available here.

Tastes restaurant. (Diane Tierney)

Tastes Bar. (Diane Tierney)

Waterside is the lovely main dining room for international cuisine and features open seating for all meals.

Bistro is a café and coffee bar with snacks, pastries, bagels and fruit in the morning and cheeses, pates, smoked salmon and desserts in the afternoon. “We have waiters here too, so you don’t have to serve yourself. The area tends to be the heart of the ship from morning to night,” said Jager. It’s adjacent to the atrium so musicians play nearby.

Waterside main dining room. (Diane Tierney)

Trident Grill has classic burgers, wraps, salads and more. Scoops Gelato Bar offers gelato, frozen yogurt and cookies.

Marketplace is a buffet-style dining venue. However, it’s quite upscale especially for its themed cuisine based on the destination. There’s a vast selection of high-quality and unusual choices that calling it a buffet seems unfair.

Marketplace. (Diane Tierney)

Palm Court has beautiful views over the bow and features a delightful afternoon tea.

There’s also 24-hour room service and if you want something that’s not on the menu, they’ll likely be able to grant your client’s request. As our Butler said, “If the Waterside restaurant is open, we can accommodate almost anything.”

Palm Court bar. (Diane Tierney)

That's entertainment 

A newsletter of daily events has numerous activities listed from morning yoga to afternoon dance and golf lessons led by energetic Cruise Directors Russ Grieve and Vicki Van Tassel.

Sailaway parties on the pool deck and the popular White Party in the atrium dispels any opinions that this 50+, well-heeled, well-travelled crowd is no fun.

Galaxy Lounge. (Diane Tierney)

Broadway-style shows, tribute singers/musicians and comedians are featured in the 420-seat Galaxy Lounge main theatre and 271-seat Starlite cabaret club.

The Avenue Saloon is a piano bar and Jade Night Club has dancing and karaoke. The 134-seat Hollywood theatre features movies.

Piano Bar Avenue Saloon.(Diane Tierney)

“It’s also where we host special presentations, seminars and religious services,” Jager said.

Crystal is well known for its esteemed lecturers from astronauts to zoologists to enlighten guests. The 240-seat Palm Court has classical entertainment and space to dance.

The ship also employs Ambassadors, formerly known as Gentlemen Hosts, who are available to dance with anyone who needs a partner.

Hollywood Theatre. (Diane Tierney)

There’s also an expanded spa that offers many treatments including medi-spa and IV options which is rare on a ship. The stores are upscale – including a jewelry store that showcases a $1.5 million diamond necklace. And there’s a well-stocked library and cards room.

Crystal also has two spaces for children and teens. However, activity programs are based on bookings. What the ship doesn’t have yet is a casino, so if your clients want to gamble, check on when it will be ready.

The library. (Diane Tierney)

“Most of our crew returned and they have been with us for many years,” Jager added. “They know our high standards as well as our guests’ expectations, especially for our Society members. Many guests cruise with us because they love our crew and have known them for a long time.”

The luxury line plans to add two more classic ships and two expedition ships to the fleet over the next few years.

Diane Tierney previously cruised on Crystal Symphony in 2005 and has been on 90 cruises to 54 countries. She has 133,000 followers on Instagram @Cruiseguru. Visit her page to watch her viral video of Cruise Director Russ Grieve dancing at the White Party! 


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