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Crystal Symphony review: Sun, sea and sushi

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In the whirlwind months since Crystal Cruises was acquired by Genting Hong Kong, we have watched open mouthed at each new announcement relating to Crystal Cruises, their owner, and their sister brands.

Genting is a global leisure, entertainment and hospitality enterprise, with core competencies in both land and sea-based businesses comprising Star Cruises; Dream Cruises; Crystal Cruises; the Lloyd Werft shipyard in Germany; prominent nightlife brand Zouk; and Resorts World Manila.

Initial reactions to Crystal's acquisition by Genting ranged from one extreme to another, with as many theories about how things will develop as there were people to come up with them. One theory, though, that we have heard repeatedly, is that somehow Crystal would lose everything that made it special. So whilst the most talented members of the Crystal team were full of excitement about the opportunities on offer, many of the company's loyal guests were concerned that the owners would allow that elusive Crystal specialness to seep away…

Interested to see whether this indeed was happening, we have been monitoring client responses, and indeed made the time to travel on Crystal Symphony ourselves over the summer. I am pleased to say that it was every bit as special as it has always been.

Crystal Symphony - Seahorse pool

We took the repositioning cruise from that most exotic of departure ports, Tilbury, to lovely Lisbon. Actually, on a sunny August day even Tilbury is pretty nice - we visited the star shaped Tilbury Fort, beautifully maintained by English Heritage, and watched the sun set romantically over Gravesend…

In pretty Honfleur friends came on board for a wonderful dinner in Silk Road, where the attentive team did us proud. I never tire of the beautiful presentation and fresh flavours in this special restaurant, and the value is extraordinary, with access to the full range from the Sushi Bar as well as the Nobu-inspired menu. Our friends, who are what we term 'cruise deniers' (they have their own negative perception of what a cruise holiday is all about, despite never having taken one) were blown away, and obliged to rethink all their preconceptions.

Crystal Cruises - Nobu sushi trio

On a sea day, Crystal really comes into its own, with such an excellent lecture programme and lots going on. We perfected our paddle tennis techniques, checked out the outdoor fitness equipment, walked the broad teak decks, then retreated inside for a film followed by immaculately presented afternoon tea and music in the elegant Palm Court.

With smaller accommodation than its competitors, and challenges with offering alternatives to the original two seating dining, luxury buyers sometimes feel Crystal does not match up. However in our opinion the excellent service, great onboard programme, varied facilities and outstanding dining options justify its status within the competitive set, so just imagine if the negatives were removed! Watch this space, as this may well happen even in advance of the launch of the new 'triplets', now scheduled for 2022.

Meanwhile, take the time to look at Crystal's new river cruise programme, which started this summer with the launch of Crystal Mozart - a total reworking of an older ship. Again, look for the Crystal hallmarks: space, choice, outstanding service and amazing dining. Two new ships join the river cruise fleet in Summer 2017, and another pair in 2018. Don't miss them!

Edwina Lonsdale
Meet the author

Edwina Lonsdale is Managing Director and, together with husband Matthew, owner of Mundy Cruising.

More about Edwina

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