Voted World’s Best large-ship line by T+L readers 11 years running, Crystal Cruises has hardly been disappointing passengers. Nevertheless, its Crystal Symphony needed a makeover. Here, the results of a breakneck, two-week, $23 million redesign.


Though the Crystal Symphony was only 11 years old, its staterooms had begun to feel dated. "Space is at a premium—if you can’t make the rooms bigger, you have to make them more luxurious," Alex Don, Crystal Cruises’s vice president of onboard guest services, says of the 415 cabins, most of which measure 246 square feet. So the motel-like bedspreads were replaced by ones in subtle, solid hues (blue, lavender, and peach) accented with bold floral silk pillows from Italy; Murano lamps sit bedside; and a beveled glass mirror gives the rooms depth. Padded leather headboards, flat-screen TV’s, and LED reading lights complete the look.

Bar & Casino

Adjacent to the casino—which was stripped of its Roman flourishes after Crystal’s break with Caesars Palace—is the ship’s new Luxe bar. Philippe Starck stools front a bar done in glass mosaic tiles. According to Don, lighting was key: "Because the ship is a self-contained unit, the challenge is to entice people to walk from one area to another." This was achieved by using a variety of lights—from overhead LED’s to a table lamp at the bar. Lighting consultants created eight different settings for the club, so the space transforms itself throughout the day and night.


Even with 750 workers laboring around the clock, some projects couldn’t be completed in 14 days: "You can’t even consider ripping out tiles and baths in the time frame we had," Don explains. Instead, the company concentrated on one dramatic change: the sinks. "We wanted a fabulous granite countertop, but the configuration could only accommodate a very narrow one, which would have been vulnerable to cracking," she says. The solution?Two crystal bowls (a nod to the cruise line’s name) sit atop a gray granite slab. Red Flower amenities and Frette robes were already in place before the renovation, but the flattering vanity lighting is new.


The three boutiques on the sixth deck, including Facets, were also redesigned. "The only thing we kept was the glass façade," designer Keith Rushbrook says. Now when they enter, shoppers find a table of six display jewelry cases; storage units were moved from the sales counter to the rear wall. In the back, a private viewing space with leather walls and a mesh gated entrance allows for discreet buying even amidst the nearly 1,000 passengers on board. "It looks like a shop on Madison Avenue," Don says.


To enter the Starlite Club, guests used to have to walk down a wide hallway before passing through velvet-roped doors. Inside, a small corner bar was overshadowed by graduated rows of seating facing a dance floor. Mimi Weisband, VP of public relations for Crystal Cruises, says, "The room felt closed off and uninviting." The designers opted for a warmer color scheme with amber lighting. Most dramatically, they removed the exterior wall, opening up the space, so passersby can stay near the room’s window-facing round bar or head straight to the dance floor. And the revamped club now lives up to its name—revelers can see stars.