Bojan, our waiter, presented the basket
with a flourish. Roll, madam?
Yes, that would
be lovely, I said in my newly cultivated voice, mindful that I was
about to enjoy a presail luncheon in the main dining room of the
most elegant ship I had sailed to date.
Distracted by a
group at a nearby table -- clearly some were cruise execs whose
conversation I felt obliged to overhear -- I broke the first rule
of genteel dining. I stuck my hand in the basket and pulled out a
Bojan emitted a
barely audible, Oh, as there I sat, looking from the bread basket
in his left hand, to the official roll-picking tool in his right,
to the evidence in plain view on my plate.
Im sorry; I
thought for a minute I was at home, I said.
hesitation, the waiter replied, But, madam, you are at home. You
are on the Crystal Symphony.
here, but one
Id been using the
voice that wasnt mine since we passed through three layers of
security for boarding the 940-passenger Crystal Symphony in New
York for a seven-day Colonial Celebration cruise to Nova Scotia and
It was at one of
the checkpoints that they confiscated my husbands Swiss Army knife,
leading me to decide I needed a new persona (and perhaps a new
How would I
handle seven days on a ship known for its sophisticated clientele
when my party of two was capable of violating two rules of decorum
in less than 20 minutes?
As it turned out,
our fellow passengers were sophisticated and well-traveled, but not
snobbish -- just people who were willing to pay a little more for
the kind of service theyd be hard-pressed to find on a
those in the 50-plus age bracket outnumbered younger people. I did
see some couples with young kids, but the small size of Fantasia
(the play area for little ones) and the two lone PlayStation2
consoles in Waves (the hangout for teens) told me that agents would
be wise to book people with children on a larger ship.
attention to service does not exclude children. When a mother
arrived at the Neptune pool with her little girl, only to find it
closed, a staff member showed up within minutes to open the pool
Aboard ship I met
a travel agent who works for Navigant in Houston. She told me some
of her best clients are mature single or widowed women who love to
Each evening, the
Starlite Lounge offers live music and male dancing partners called
ambassador hosts. My husband and I swung by after the stage show
one night. Clearly, the unattached women were having a great
The ship was not
full on this cruise, which contributed to a feeling of spaciousness
in its public areas. With 818 guests, it was sailing at 87% of
capacity. Of those, 35% were repeat Crystal line
And heres the
thing about Crystal Cruises repeaters; theyre vociferous in their
praise and ferocious in their defense of the line.
At dinner one night, I related a
story about a woman we had met in the Caesars Palace casino the
first night of the cruise. She was past middle age and traveling
alone. Her first words to us were, I am so bored; Im sorry I came.
Theres nothing to do.
began naming the myriad activities offered: golf instruction,
bridge, tennis, lectures and foreign-language and computer
Then I struck a
vital nerve: And she hated the food.
theres definitely something wrong with her, they agreed. End of
about dining out
My husband and I
ate at all three dining venues. The quality and presentation were
amazing, and as my Navigant friend put it, the service was
exemplary without being overbearing.
Dining Room, the main venue, was redesigned as part of a $12
million ship enhancement in April. Couples who prefer to dine alone
will be happy to know that the dining room now offers tables for
And heres a tip:
If you cant make it to dinner for a good reason, bypass room
service. Send someone to the dining room and ask that your dinner
be brought to your room. Youll be able to enjoy dinner from the
same menu as you would if you were able to go to the dining
Everyone I spoke
with had praise for the alternative restaurants: Prego, which
serves northern Italian cuisine, and Jade Garden, which has an
Prego, the result
of an association between Crystal Cruises and the acclaimed
Valentino restaurants of Santa Monica, Calif., and Las Vegas,
offers a tasting menu of Valentino specialties along with suggested
The Jade Garden
has a relationship with Wolfgang Puck, and some of the specialties
from his formal Chinois on Main restaurant in Santa Monica appear
on the Jade Garden menu marked with the Chinois logo.
I ordered the
seared Shanghai lobster with ginger-curry sauce, and for dessert,
the Chinois dim sum, which included a roasted pineapple macadamia
tart with vanilla ice cream, a chocolate crunch cake and a
caramelized lemon tart. Delicious.
Soda and water
are free onboard, but alcoholic beverages are not. A glass of
Crystals Reserve Chardonnay, for example, costs about
The Lido Garden,
open for breakfast and lunch buffet, opens onto the Neptune pool
deck. This area, which surrounds the smaller of two Lido-deck
pools, has a retractable dome.
Next to the
Neptune pool is the Trident Bar and Grill, which is open from 10
a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and again from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. for
hamburgers, hot dogs, ice cream and the like.
The Bistro on
Deck 6 looks down onto the atrium, where the focal point is an
artificial waterfall and a golden sculpture of a ballerina and her
partner -- she locked in a perpetual leap, he in an immutable
At the Bistro,
guests can order from the bar or linger over their choice of a
variety of coffee and tea options while nibbling on cheese and
crackers and finger cakes anytime from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Deck 6 is also
home to a jewelry shop and two clothing boutiques. I checked out
the prices and they werent bad. A Nautica jacket, for example, was
tagged at $139, about the price I paid for the same winter jacket
Tuxedos are sold
in the Apropos shop, but there are no tuxedo rentals on the ship.
However, I found very few diners in tuxedos, and among repeat
passengers, few wore the obligatory black suit and tie on the two
formal nights. A suit and tie, not necessarily dark, and for the
women, a dressy dress with perhaps a shawl seemed to be the
choices. The dress style of the night carries over into the
alternative dining venues.
The Palm Court on
the atrium deck serves high tea from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.
We tried not to miss this. The room has surround-windows, and the
finger sandwiches, cakes and live music were a big draw.
Also as part of
the April renovation, the Symphony re-created the new Crystal
Serenitys Vintage Room, a classic boardroom-style venue with access
to the ships wine cellar, in a newly constructed space on Deck
The Vintage Room,
which accommodates up to 12 people, comes with a $150 per person
price tag, or $1,500 for a group of 12. The cost includes food,
reserve wines and gratuities.
Those who hadnt
sailed on the Crystal Symphony since it came out of drydock in
April said they were surprised to find that the spa had been
expanded and that the library and photo shop had been moved to make
room for an expanded Computer [email protected]
nearly double its former size, has a separate room called the
Studio, a 25-seat classroom for free instructions in computers,
foreign languages and arts and crafts.
[email protected] offers 24-hour e-mail and Internet service for a
fee. Access to the Internet costs $15 for 30 minutes and $25 for an
hour. All staterooms now have Internet access, as well, billed at
75 cents a minute. Laptop rental is $5 a day, not including
Our room, a
367-square-foot penthouse with veranda, had as much walking area as
a luxury hotel room. The bathroom was large, with a Jacuzzi tub, a
separate stall shower and double sinks with granite
Plus -- and this
is a big plus -- we had the services of a personal butler. Need
your clothes pressed, call the butler. Need to learn how to work
the Jacuzzi, call the butler.
were upgraded as part of the renovation, and all of the staterooms
are marked for refits.
The focus of the
renovation was the new Feng Shui spa, which has eight new treatment
rooms and an updated salon, all part of a fleetwide spa
The spas enlarged
fitness center has a separate room for free yoga, Pilates, aerobics
and personal training instruction as well as an expanded
New in the
entertainment arena is the production Curtain Call, which presents
vignettes from such Broadway hits as Les Miserables, Evita, Mamma
Mia and Chicago.
Destinations Editor Margaret Myre, send e-mail to [email protected].