Sailing Asia: Bangkok to Hong Kong onboard Crystal Symphony.

Written by Chloe Hambidge & Karen Hambidge

Sales Manager Karen during the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Excursion.

Crystal made their much-anticipated arrival into the ultra-luxury space later last year. I was lucky enough to join Symphony on one of her maiden voyages back to Asia sailing from Bangkok to Hong Kong.

Our journey began with an overnight in Bangkok.  The Symphony is still as elegant as she ever was and it felt like coming home after spending a few nights onboard on her pre-inaugural cruise back in August. Six months on, she does not disappoint and has definitely found her sea legs once again!

Having been redesigned and now holding 606 guests, the ship feels so spacious and in both public areas and suites. We loved our spacious Aquamarine suite on deck 9 mid ship which felt thoughtfully designed: a separate walk in wardrobe and vanity area and clever partitioning between bed and seating area. It truly was a modernised home away from home and was the perfect place to seek refuge after an exciting day of exploring. Greeted within minutes by our butler, Asmit, we were set up within ten minutes on our iPad, especially designed for the cruise providing us with reems of information for onboard as well as offshore life. From the moment we stepped onboard, crew members made sure to set the tone of service we were in for and its safe to say, we were well looked from start to finish.

Sapphire Veranda Suite, Crystal Symphony

A drastic change from the dismal British weather, it was a no brainer that we headed straight for the pool area to soak up them long awaited rays. Adorned with luxury loungers and the addition of the 35 degree heat, it was a match made in heaven made all the more perfect with the spacious pool deck proving a serene oasis of relaxation. Hosts were extremely attentive at all times, serving drinks from mouthwatering cocktails to cold towels. 85% of the original Crystal staff are back onboard and its clear from the smiles and care that they’re just as happy as us about it! All this simply elevated our holiday experience as we were welcomed as if part of the family- truly. Our itinerary featured three days to make the most of this bliss as well as offering the perfect chance to relax and enjoy the paddle tennis and golf.

Symphony offers two specialty restaurants and on our first night we enjoyed Osteria D’ovidio, a beautiful area offering Fine Italian cuisine, created by talented Crystal chefs. Both specialty restaurants (the other Umi Uma) need to be pre reserved and allow one free booking per week’s cruise. Informal dining choice at Tastes, designed in an outdoor vibe which proved very popular after a long enriching day. Of course, not to forget the Waterside Main restaurant where nothing is ever too much trouble. Again, the difference with Crystal is the staff, a totally difference experience to any other ship I have indulged in. You feel like home. During the day, we were never far away from the draw dropping Market Place – Buffet style dining wrapped in floor to ceiling windows and a chic open air dining area.

Umi Uma Restaurant

Katie and I have always sold Crystal as the only Luxury Bigger ship offering larger ship entertainment. If you love to dance, their white night evenings are a wonderful experience. If  you enjoy a little something after dinner, Crystal should be your choice. Our experience onboard was the perfect cocktail of adventure, excitement and relaxation and Crystal know how to tick all the boxes. Every evening we delighted in choosing which bar to visit – always ending up in Crystal Cove! Award winning tribute acts, comedy evenings and full on Broadway shows, not really heard of on a luxury line were enjoyed by all. And to top this off, we were truly spoilt with a guest artist appearance by the West Star vocalist Christine Allado! Having sailed on many cruise lines, this was something quite new to us, which made it all the better, with a thoughtfully curated itinerary and onboard experiences, we were opened up to a whole new world at sea- and that was before even stepping off the ship.

In the coming days we enjoyed first class shore excursions, crossing off bucket list experiences day after day. Curated mainly by Abercrombie & Kent, it didn’t take us long to realize why they’re considered pioneers of luxury travel, now paired with Crystal Cruises, it truly is a match made in heaven. In fear of talking endlessly about the wonders we encountered on this voyage, here’s a quick highlight reel of the excursions we had the pleasure on embarking on, those of which you too would have at your fingertips…

  • Laem Chabang (Bangkok), Thailand- Elephant Jungle Sanctuary.

Calling all animal lovers! You are promised to leave this wholesome experience feeling fulfilled and grounded- we certainly did. Eager eyed, I remember getting a glimpse of my first elephant, coming face to face with these massive yet magnificent creatures is truly unforgettable. During this excursion you can get up close and personal with these friendly giants, catering to their needs, this experience is promised to bring happiness to every party involved. On this excursion, we gave the elephants mud baths to cool them done, before bathing them with water and giving them lots of love. It was wonderful day, perfect of those who have a soft spot for wildlife.

  • Sihanoukville, Cambodia- Simply Sihanoukville

This tour truly highlighted the meaning of immersion as we uncovered history, walked amongst the locals and experienced an array of culture. We dove into bustling local markets, filled with goods we had never even come across before as well as freshly caught fish on family run stalls as we witnessed their day to day life. This seemed like a whole new world as we ventured to the vibrant local temples, where we had the opportunity to dip our toes in the water of spiritual enlightenment. We thought this was a good combination to shine a light on the unique culture Sihanoukville has to offer.

  • Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam- Cu Chi by Premium Speed boat.

This was an eye-opening day for us and one of our favourites, we started the excursion boarding a speedboat 007 style before flying down the Saigon river to reach the memorable Chi Chi tunnels. Seemingly transporting back in time, this hands on history lesson was an interesting lesson all about the Vietnam war and what they had to endure against the American, we were enthralled from start to finish. Some parts of this excursion isn’t for the faint hearted as its incredibly honest as we were navigated through the traps they laid and the tragedy America inflicted on them. We even wandered into the Chi Chi tunnels ourselves, which has been made bigger for tourists and even then it was an extremely tight squeeze. It’s definitely a wakeup call for those who truly want to understand the areas they’re exploring.

  • Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam- Saigon Alleys through the Eyes of Locals.

With an overnight in Ho Chi Minh, both our chosen excursions were a big hit for us. For this day we got to explore the maze that is Saigon’s renowned Alleys, but the true highlight of this excursions is the delight of doing via Vespa. ‘Eyes of Locals’ is no exaggeration as we were driven through these jam-packed alleys filled with culture and charming fixtures. It was a light hearted day of exploring and getting a glimpse of authentic Vietnamese living.

  • Ha Long Bay, Vietnam- Ha Long Bay and Kayaking.

Ha Long Bay is truly a sight to behold, partaking in this excursion really did its otherworldly landscape the justice it deserved. To start we had the opportunity to set sail on a traditional junk boat, adorned with iconic bat-winged sails where we could truly appreciate the tranquil beauty before us. This was a nice way to ease us in before we jumped into our kayaks and explored for ourselves. It was truly incredible gliding past the limestone cliffs that seemingly erupt form nothing as well as sheer cliffs and white sand beaches. We even explored the hidden gem of ‘Luong Cave’ which was surreal to explore, truly otherworldly. If you want to appreciate some natural beauty with a side of exercise, this could be the excursion for you.

  • Hong Kong, China- Panoramic Hong Kong.

Taking in most of the city, we thoroughly enjoyed this simple and effective excursion. Seeing everything we wanted to see we got to overlook towering sky scrapers and excitable markets. A coach took us all the way up to Victoria Peak, with the bonus of enlightening commentary all the way to the top, it was the perfect mix of knowledge and sights.

In my opinion these excursions really stand out and set Crystal apart from other luxury lines.  Teamed with award winning expert leaders & guides this truly encompasses both luxury land and cruise beautifully.

As our journey came to an end in Vibrant Hong Kong we reflected on an unforgettable experience onboard this stunning ship. Like the Crystal Society members met onboard, I felt Crystal is back and better than it ever was – if that is possible. To put it in simple terms- I would highly recommend .

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