By Georgina Cruz
For Al Dia Today
A trans-Atlantic repositioning voyage is for seasoned travelers, an ocean of delights: several lazy days at sea, off-the-beaten-path ports and attractive pricing. This spring, my husband Humberto and I enjoyed such a voyage from New York to Reykjavik, Iceland, aboard Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Symphony. Did we like it? Oh, yes!
During four days at sea we enjoyed Crystal’s legendary enrichment, from Berlitz language lessons and art instruction to computer classes and culinary demonstrations (by celebrity chefs including Andre Soltner on our sailing). And all of this we basked in, along with the pampering touches of gourmet cuisine and attentive service. Ashore, we explored New England/Canada ports and, with overnights in New York and Reykjavik, took in the points of interest of those two cities on each side of the ocean. Here are just some highlights of our experience onboard and ashore:
Onboard the 922-guest, 51,044-ton Crystal Symphony we found the ship sparkling from a major redesign in 2012 as part of a recent $100 million investment by the line on its Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony. The remodel refreshed many of the Crystal Symphony’s signature spaces, imbuing them “with great attention to rich, chic, detail,” said Gregg Michel, Crystal Cruises president, when he announced the redesign.
These spaces included our favorite, the Palm Court, the ship’s observation lounge on Deck 11 forward. A super chic, bright an airy lounge, it is resplendent after the redesign with an expanded dance floor and new furnishings including luxuriously comfortable, white high-back chairs and ottomans facing the room’s floor-to-ceiling windows – the ideal place to spend an afternoon at sea. And the remodel kept cherished iconic elements of the lounge, including palms and wicker. We patronized the Palm Court often for cocktails and we never missed its themed teas, including the Mozart Tea, an elegant event that whisks guests back to Amadeus’ time with music, staff in period dress with costumes of brocade and lace, and delectable Viennese pastries including Sacher torte. Since Crystal went all-inclusive in 2012, it was wonderful not to have to be signing for cocktails and other beverages in this and other lounges.
Other of our favorite haunts included the Galaxy Lounge for lavish Broadway-style revues and other entertainment including Magic Castle At Sea shows; the Hollywood Theater, a purpose-built cinema; and the Crystal Dining Room, with impeccable service and gourmet fare – Black Angus rib eye steak or Maine lobster with drawn butter, anyone?
Regarding the multiple culinary delights, Cruise Director Scott Peterson perhaps put it best when he joked: “Ladies often ask me which of the two black tie optional evenings is more formal, as they have one dressier outfit, and I say, ‘wear the one that fits you a little tighter first, as it may not fit you later’!”
In addition to the delectable fare in the Crystal Dining Room, we also thoroughly enjoyed Prego, an intimate alternative Italian restaurant for 68 diners, serving Northern Italian cuisine from the menu of Piero Selvaggio’s Valentino restaurants with a side of spectacular views –the limoncello soufflé is simply divine! And we adored Silk Road and The Sushi Bar featuring contemporary Asian cuisine with signature dishes and bento boxes created by renowned Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa.
Our days at sea followed a wonderful formula: time at the Seahorse Pool to do some laps, a Jacuzzi interlude, a session at the Crystal Spa’s fitness center, enrichment classes (including art instruction and Berlitz French lessons), and time at the library with its 3,000 books, DVDs and CDs. Then, after afternoon tea and/or cocktails at the Palm Court, it was a sumptuous dinner, followed by a show in the Galaxy Lounge and ear candy – the piano music at the Crystal Cove and Avenue Saloon.
After our days were done, our accommodations – Penthouse with veranda #1062 – featured the attentive service of two stewardesses, Jelena and Sopita, and a butler, Gregorio, who each day tempted us with such hors d’oeuvres as plump shrimp, cheese platters, crudités, and more. Gregorio stocked our mini-refrigerator with wine and our choice of spirits. Standard stateroom amenities include such pampering touches as 100 percent Egyptian cotton sheets, down pillows, featherbeds and plush duvets, Wi-Fi access (for a fee), and large closet with shoe rack, umbrella and beach tote. Bathroom luxuries include plush Frette bathrobes, slippers, two hairdryers and Aveda bath products.
Ashore, so many adventures awaited us! In New York we enjoyed walks around Manhattan, and in Boston we took advantage of Crystal’s complimentary shuttle to town. We purchased CityPass booklets offering combined access to must-see attractions including the Empire State Building Observatory, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; and the Old State House, New England Aquarium and Museum of Science in Boston.
In Newport, R.I., it was easy to feel like millionaires while touring the Gilded Age mansions of the Vanderbilts and Astors that they referred to as “cottages.” We took the Newport Trolley within walking distance of the tender pier at 44 Long Wharf Mall – it serves as a good introduction to the city and invaluable for independents to orient themselves – and we strolled on some of the breathtaking 3.5 mile Cliff Walk with spectacular views of the sea.
A stop at Bar Harbor, Maine, provided opportunity to visit Acadia National Park –we signed up onboard for a tour there and spent a morning enjoying its spectacular vistas of mountains, lakes, waterfalls and spruce-fir forests.
A highlight of the Canadian ports in our itinerary was an excursion sold onboard the ship to Peggy’s Cove and Lighthouse out of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Located about 27 miles from Halifax, Peggy’s Cove is a small fishing community with warm, friendly residents and quaint streets and everyone poses for photos with the backdrop of the picturesque lighthouse on a granite outcrop.
But arguably our most memorable shore experience was our trip to the Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa while in Reykjavik. There, we luxuriated for hours in geothermal seawater, minerals, silica and algae. An exclusive lounge (for an additional fee) is the ultimate convenience featuring a fireplace, designer furnishings, light refreshments, robes and slippers, towels and showers, and a private direct entrance into the lagoon. For the perfect spa treatment, we covered our bodies with the silica mud from the lagoon and then we washed it off –the water was like a warm embrace, and a perfect ending to our voyage on the Crystal Symphony.
IF YOU GO – Visit www.crystalcruises.com.