Crystal symphony - CRYSTAL CRUISES
By Rhiannon Taylor, April 2018
The islands of the Pacific Ocean are vast and far spread. Polynesia starts down south at New Zealand and stretches right up to Hawaii. And the archipelago of Fiji in Melanesia has over 300 islands alone. It’s near impossible to visit all these tiny spits of paradise, but by ship one can get a taste of the different cultures that make up the Pacific Islands.
Our sojourn started in Nadi, Fiji on board the newly redesigned Crystal Symphony. Upon embarking, we’re swiftly served champagne, bags are whisked off to our Seabreeze Penthouse and our butler is waiting to escort us around the ship. A quick tour and we’ve got our bearings for what will be our home for the next week.
Settling in to our brand new suite, we feel less on a cruise ship and more like we’ve checked in to a boutique hotel. The space is soothing with a light grey palette and touches of silver and pastel pinks. Accents such as a mod armour and elegant lamps give the space a feeling of a beautiful home, rather than a cabin. Of the new design Crystal Cruises Vice President of Hotel Services & Design, Alexandra Don says “When doing research for new projects we examine the broader picture of what luxury travellers are seeking in all types of travel. We look at what great new fabrics and colours are showing at Maison & Objet in Paris or the latest furniture designs at the Milan Furniture Fair.” And it shows. Quite simply the suite could belong in a hotel in Paris or Milan. Stepping out on to our verandah, watching the sun set over Nadi, Crystal Symphony’s engines start and we are off to our next stop in Fiji.
Sunrise peaks through our curtains and we catch a glimpse of the first island on our itinerary, Yasawa-I-Rara. Known for being the backdrop of the film “The Blue Lagoon”, this island is an endless stretch of white sandy beaches fringed with tall palm trees. The day is spent taking turns between paddling in the crystal blue waters and bathing in the sun (coconut in hand), with the only distraction being a group of baby goats playing nearby.
Returning to the ship, greeted with an afternoon snack of fresh guacamole and hand made tortilla chips, we’re ready to take in Crystal Symphony for all her spoils. Pre-dinner cocktails in Palm Court, a port-facing white-on-white lounge, is quite spectacular as we cruise past a smattering of tiny islands at sunset. Dinner is taken at Silk Kitchen and Bar, the ship’s newest restaurant, which offers modern Chinese cuisine. Handmade dumplings have the delicacy you would find in Hong Kong’s finest establishments and barbecue pork is sweet, sticky and tender. Post-feast we watch a captivating performance by global sensation iLuminate - a dance show carried out in darkness utilising electrified glow-in-the-dark suits before winding down with an evening tipple in the classic saloon accompanied by a charming crooner.
The next port is Tonga and we book in for a tour of the island’s highlights. First stop is to the King’s unassumingly beautiful bungalow-style palace. With unobstructed views to the ocean it sits like a palatial beach-house and reflects the Tongan relaxed pace of life. A quick drive across the island and we’re at the Mapu a Vaea - Tonga’s famous blowholes. Waves crash in to the reef and through channels in the volcanic rock, water forcefully blows up to create a plume-like effect. It’s marvellous to watch and if you’re game you can climb to the outer rocks for a blow-hole selfie. We finish our time in Tonga with a beach barbecue lunch comprised of local dishes such as suckling pig, tapioca and purple sweet potato. Just when we think island life can’t get any better, dancers in Tongan dress perform a sensational show to traditional music. It’s a vivid and impressive display of local culture and the perfect send off to our day in Tonga.
Our following day is spent at sea and we’re not short on things to do. After a morning pilates class, it’s time to indulge in a hot stone massage at the Crystal Spa. Waiting for a treatment on a verandah, watching the ocean churn behind us as we cruise is blissfully soothing and the massage is carried out with expertise and care, with the therapist in tune to your aches and ailments. We opt for a light lunch at The Grill, with a pastrami sandwich hitting the spot followed by a trip to the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Bar.
The afternoon passes by with a bottle of champagne in the room, followed by a screening of Oscar winning film Shape of Water in the full-sized cinema. We book in for dinner at Umi Uma, Master Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s only restaurant at sea. It’s a sensory feast of Nobu classics such as rock shrimp tempura alongside fresh sashimi and sushi.
Arising to a view of Niue from our verandah, one of our last stops, you’re met with an eerie, almost prehistoric feeling that you’ve dropped off the face of the earth. What looks like an uninhabited island, Niue is considered the world’s smallest nation but yet is the world's largest coral island. Essentially an exposed rock, Niue produces vanilla bean and is bountiful in coastal caves perfect for spelunking. A short bush bash and we’re snorkelling in pristine waters surrounded by an abundance of marine life.
After a light Viennese afternoon tea of apple strudel and Vienna iced chocolate, we ready ourselves for the ship’s black-tie night. With our gowns freshly pressed by the butler, we waltz down to Prego for a classic Italian dinner. A rich, porcini-cream soup is sinfully good and house-made raviolis are pillow-perfect. We finish the evening with a dance in the grand foyer, accompanied by the dashing ambassadors who jive and tango the night away with us.
Disembarking our cruise in Raratonga, we’re excited to soak up all that the Cook Islands have to offer. Whether it be sampling fresh grilled tuna from a beach-side shack, or swimming in the shallow blue waters, Raratonga is another sleepy island that charms us from the get go. And as we watch our final Pacific Island sunset, we wave goodbye to Crystal Symphony who continues her journey on to Tahiti and beyond.
The writer was a guest of Crystal Cruises.