Ship Reviews

SHIP REVIEW: Crystal Symphony and Serenity refit

Visual concepts of brand new suites, dining venues and guest services have been unveiled for Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity ahead of the ships’ most comprehensive makeovers to date.

The most awarded luxury ships in the world are set to undergo their most extensive (and expensive!) redesigns in their respective histories during 2017 and 2018, and Crystal Cruises has let Cruise Arabia & Africa in on its plans for the two cruise ships.Crystal Symphony Crystal Serenity

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Crystal is calling the dry-dock plans for Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity the “Evolution of Crystal Luxury”, which sounds like a heavy-handed PR platitude, but in fact when you consider the renderings and the details of the project, it’s a statement that isn’t as asinine as it first sounds.

As part of the extensive redesign, several staterooms will be converted into brand new luxurious penthouse categories to take the place of smaller staterooms; imaginative new dining options will be revealed; the ships will be loaded with high-tech perks; and modern, elegant décor updates will be made in many public spaces.

Crystal Symphony will go first, in late September/early October, while Crystal Serenity will be renovated a full year later in order to minimise disruption to cruise schedules for the two ships, which are the mainstay of the Crystal fleet.


The newly revamped atrium lobby aboard Crystal Symphony.

The plans for Crystal’s two ocean ships are the latest in its tremendous brand expansion, which will also see new river yachts, new ocean-going vessels and a privately-owned Boeing 777 join the fleet in the next three years.

“Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity are the foundation of Crystal and continue to embody the cornerstones of the celebrated Crystal Experience,” says Crystal CEO and president, Edie Rodriguez. “These ships have earned us not only acclaim from the world’s most eminent entities and publications for more than two decades, but more importantly, the loyalty of the world’s most discerning travellers and travel partners.”

It may sound sentimental, but Rodriguez says that it is for this reason that the cruise line is keeping the cruise ships in its fleet, rather than investing in new tonnage. The renovations of each will prolong their cruise careers for another ten to fifteen years.

“We are committed to continuing their reign as the most luxurious ships at sea by investing in changes and updates that will far exceed our guests’ wishes,” says Rodriguez.

New Penthouses and Penthouse Suites

Both ships will gain more of the spacious, butler-serviced Penthouses and Penthouse Suites for which the cruise line has become well-known. Crystal Symphony will see two new categories of accommodations debut on-board: the Seabreeze Penthouse Suite with Verandah (12 new suites added) and Seabreeze Penthouse with Verandah (28 new suites added), both occupying Deck 9, which will be renamed Seabreeze Deck.


The new accommodations will boast the same square footage as existing Penthouses and Penthouse Suites (367 sq. ft. and 491 sq. ft., respectively), while Seabreeze Penthouses will be connected by a shared an entryway recessed from the hall.


Crystal Serenity wont get the new Seabreeze staterooms, but she will have 36 additional Penthouses installed, along with two additional Penthouse Suites that will occupy the current Penthouse Deck 10.

Crystal Cruises

These suites will also offer the same square footage as existing Penthouses and Penthouse Suites (403 sq. ft. and 538 sq. ft., respectively).

Penthouse accommodations offer guests enhanced all-inclusive Crystal amenities, including butler service and in-room specialty dining. Penthouse guests will also now receive unlimited complimentary dining at the on-board specialty restaurants.

The conversion of staterooms into the new penthouse accommodations will reduce the ships’ guest capacities – Crystal Symphony to 848 and Crystal Serenity to 980 – and increases the per-guest space ratio aboard the ships to 60.2 and 70.3 respectively.

Abundant space throughout its luxury ships has long been a cornerstone of Crystal’s platform, and a key distinction between its ships and competitors and it seems that Crystal Cruises is confident the higher cruise fare of the Penthouses will more than offset the revenue lost from carrying fewer passengers.

Refreshed Dining Options

Like the stateroom options aboard both ships, Crystal Cruises has also put a lot of thought into revamping its dining options at sea. In what many regular Crystal cruise passengers might consider a gamble, the cruise line is significantly updating Crystal mainstays, but says it will remain true to the “elegant culinary atmosphere for which Crystal is known”.

Inclusive to the renowned Crystal Experience, the posh eateries feature diverse menus of Michelin-level cuisine inspired by the worldwide destinations Crystal visits.

The ship’s main restaurant, the Crystal Dining Room will be renamed to become Waterside, reflecting the chic décor and sophisticated ambiance of the main dining room aboard Crystal River Cruises’ Crystal Mozart.

CrystalSymphony restaurant

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Additional tables for two and four guests offer expanded options for intimate dining in the expansive space, while a new open seating concept invites guests to dine at their leisure between 6 and 9:30 p.m., eliminating Crystal’s previous assigned seating and reservations.

Waterside will also continue to serve breakfast and lunch.

Aboard both Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity the Lido Café, another hot spot (especially for breakfast) will be renamed the Marketplace by day and Churrascaria by night, making it a more intimate and novel location for dinner than what the current Lido provides. Churrascaria will feature a Caipirinha as a welcome cocktail and serve a selection of Brazilian-inspired tapas, ceviche, salads and grilled seafood and meats presented by Crystal “gauchos” on sword-like skewers.


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The Marketplace will continue to serve casual buffet style breakfast and lunch options, and will transition to Churrascaria from 6 to 9 p.m.

New to the Crystal menu of on-board restaurants on both ships will be Silk, located in the Trident area of their respective Lido Decks. The contemporary space will offer modern Chinese-inspired fare with family-style dinner plates ideal for sharing, and self-service options for breakfast and lunch that include dumplings, Chinois salad, a soup and noodle bar and other Asian favourites.


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For the dinner hours between 6 and 9 p.m., reservations will be recommended, although open seating will be accommodated, according to Crystal Cruises. The Trident Bar & Grill will remain in the adjacent space, serving casual grilled options including burgers and sandwiches.

Perhaps the most controversial of all the changes on-board is the addition of a new Umi Uma Japanese restaurant, replacing the current Silk Road and The Sushi Bar. However, Crystal Cruises says that famed Master Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, who developed the Silk Road and Sushi Bar menus, will also create “inspired” cuisine for Umi Uma.

On a side note, the name of the new restaurant comes from the Japanese word for Crystal’s eponymous seahorses.

All specialty dining reservations for Umi Uma and Prego will be complimentary for Penthouse guests, while all other guests will enjoy one complimentary evening of specialty dining, with additional reservations available for a modest charge.


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Reservations are always required for specialty dining venues aboard Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity and this is not expected to change with the current refits.

Technological Upgrades

Upon completion of Crystal Symphony’s dry dock in November 2017, guests will receive unlimited complimentary Wi-Fi throughout any voyage, a feature that is to be rolled out aboard all Crystal vessels.

Crystal’s investment in technological amenities for guests will include hardware and software enhancements to enable expanded internet connectivity and doubled satellite speed. Additionally, a new guest portal – Crystal Connect – will be launched and featured on the landing page of on-board internet connections.

The portal enables guests to easily access the internet, as well as an array of shipboard information including daily menus from each restaurant, daily Reflections, day and evening activities, Crystal Adventures shore excursions and daily port maps.

A number of international newspapers will also be available for digital viewing, as well as a library of box office hit movies, Crystal lectures on demand and much more.

Crystal Connect will also be available in a mobile application for use on guests’ personal devices.

In all rooms throughout the ships – in each stateroom and in all public areas – ultra-thin, 42-inch, interactive flat-panel TVs will enable guests to conveniently access their on-board folios, view the Crystal Spa & Salon, Connoisseur Wine Selection, and dining menus, with the ability to make any on-board reservations, reserve shore excursions and order room service.

These new interactive TVs will also showcase the latest Hollywood movies and hit TV series. Crystal’s acclaimed Computer University@Sea classrooms will also undergo updates and makeover, further enhancing the technological experience and enrichment for guests.

Reimagined Public Spaces

Several favourite shipboard spaces will enjoy “reimagined” designs.


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The top-deck, forward Palm Court lounge aboard Crystal Serenity will be entirely redesigned to feature more intimate seating, while Crystal Symphony’s mid-ship Starlite Club, a hub for evening dancing and cocktails, will also be refitted, but still boasting panoramic sea views.

Crystal Symphony’s redesign is set for September 19-October 21, 2017; Crystal Serenity’s for October 14-November 10, 2018.

Categories: Ship Reviews

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