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Cruise Ship Review
Crystal Harmony & Crystal Symphony
Robert Waring

In today's luxury cruise market Crystal Cruises is essentially alone in the large ship category. Other than the Royal Viking Sun, which is somewhat smaller, the Crystal Harmony and Crystal Symphony are the only ships that fit this category. All the other ships that are rated as the top of the line in luxury cruising are small oversized yachts . Even though they provide excellent staterooms and superior food and service they find it difficult to compete with these larger ships that are able to provide so much more for their guests' enjoyment.

These two ships are essentially identical; they are the same size with each carrying 960 passengers. They have the highest passenger space ratio of any large ship in operation, meaning there is more space for each passenger than on most ships, even those only carrying 100 passengers.

The Crystal Harmony entered service in 1990 and the Crystal Symphony in 1995. The sleek exteriors of these magnificent ships are obviously maintained by a dedicated crew, proud of their work. The teak decks and wooden handrails are without a blemish. The dazzling white paint from hull to top on most deck is flawless; nowhere can a spot of rust be found. The interior is equally spotless. Of the 12 decks the top eight are devoted to passenger use. The lowest of these is the Crystal deck where most passengers make their initial embarkation into the magnificent Crystal Plaza. This huge Atrium/lobby area contains the Reception desks , two story waterfall and the intimate Crystal Cove Lounge. Aft of the Plaza is the Crystal Dining Room, an exquisite room that only enhances the superb food served there. The forward portion of this deck contains passenger staterooms. Next is the Tiffany deck which contains most of the public rooms including the marvelous Galaxy Showroom, Caesars Palace Casino, Hollywood Theater, Le Bistro, Night Clubs, fabulous shops, alternate restaurants, plus library, and card rooms.

The wide teak deck on the Promenade deck offers the perfect place for a morning jog or a quiet evening stroll under the stars. This deck as well as the next three decks contain all the remaining passenger accommodations. Most of the rooms on the Horizon and Seabreeze decks have private verandas. The Penthouse deck contains all suites with verandahs, with each suite being served by a butler. The Lido deck is where you will find the best Lido self service restaurant afloat. Here also are two swimming pools, jacuzzi pools, the Trident Bar, Ice Cream bar, and the world famous Palm Court where dancing and afternoon tea is served daily. The top deck is the Sun deck which houses the Crystal Spa and Fitness Center, plus the full service Crystal Salon. In addition there is outdoor paddle tennis, and a golf driving facility complete with golf pro, as well as a huge sunbathing area for those that want to get closer to the sun.

The decor throughout these ships is one of refined elegance, with thick English carpets, polished marble and Austrian crystal chandeliers, and fresh floral displays throughout. The staterooms are large and superbly equipped, each with a separate sitting area. All the beds are convertible into nearly king size double beds. The rooms are kept in spotless condition by pleasing young Scandinavian stewardesses.


For ships this large the quality of the food served in the Crystal Dining Rooms is extraordinary. The food preparation is an eclectic mix of European and American styles that seems to blend together to form a New Age cuisine. Presentation of the food is in a league by itself; unmatched by even some of the finest restaurants in the USA. For those guests wishing something different for dinner; on both ships there is Prego an authentic Italian restaurant, or Kyoto, with Japanese cuisine on the Crystal Harmony or the Jade Garden with Chinese cuisine on the Crystal Symphony. In addition to these dining rooms , at breakfast and lunch, the buffets in the Lido Cafe are enough to make any guest sigh with satisfaction. Again, for more diversion, on most sailing days there is a lavish outdoor theme luncheon buffet with live music and appropriate decorations. Once each cruise the Crystal Chefs put on a spectacular Grand Gala Luncheon Buffet served in the Crystal Plaza Atrium. This superb mixture of culinary art and glorious food has become a tradition for Crystal Cruises. If all this is not enough there is 24 hour room service. The regular room service menu is about the same as found on many fine cruise ships, however Crystal does not stop there; they offer their guests the opportunity to order anything off the daily dining room menus to be served in their room, even a complete six course meal. In addition, if there is something special you would like, such as caviar or pate de foie gras it will be delivered without question, or charge.

To serve all this food, and the beverages that accompany it, takes a small army of dedicated people. The service staff are superbly trained young Europeans who do everything possible to make the Crystal dining experience a memorable one. Language is never a problem with all staff not only speaking perfect English but completely understanding it, while presenting impeccable service.

Whereas small ships are somewhat limited to what they can do in the entertainment field, these ships see no boundaries in presenting an all encompassing entertainment package. The mixture of daytime lectures, music, movies, and other activities is quite satisfying. A recent cruise in Europe had lectures on food by Andre Soltner, Owner/Chef; Lutece, New York; Wine by Daniel Johnnes, Sommelier of Le Montrachet, New York; Dr. Janet Kizziar, stress management and wellness behavior psychologist; Gunther Less, world renowned travel expert on Europe & Eastern Europe; Mrs Mirette Gore, expert on the English Royalty, Pageantry, Homes & Country Houses.

The evening entertainment is considered by many experts to be the best in the Cruise Industry. You may spend the evening in a quiet lounge with nothing but soft classical background music; or the Avenue Saloon with its famous piano bar; to a Night Club with dance music and vocal entertainment, or finally to the Galaxy Showroom for spectacular musical revues with costumes only Hollywood could duplicate. The entertainment on Crystal Cruises can not be matched by any other cruise line currently rated in the luxury category.

The Crystal Harmony and Crystal Symphony are a splendid example of ships owned by a company striving for perfection and willing to accept nothing less. A cruise on either of these ships will indeed be a rewarding experience. As Crystal Cruises states in their brochure "We dedicate ourselves to providing a perfect place for dreams to come true. On our ships we have created a world free from care, a floating paradise that transports you to the magic and mysteries of the world."

The above review is of the Crystal Harmony on a Panama Canal cruise & the Crystal Symphony on a European cruise taken in the Spring & Summer of 1996. Robert Waring can be reached for thanks or comment at 76223.1612@compuserve.com.

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