‘If there’s anything else you need, just call me - I’m here to serve you’, said Raja, our prompt, but friendly, butler on the beautiful Crystal Symphony.
But what more could anyone want after stepping on board a six-star luxury ship for an all-inclusive cruise visiting some of the world’s most beautiful holiday destinations?
Setting sail from Miami, our week-long Caribbean Cornucopia voyage took us on a sedate, yet indulgent, round-trip across the Atlantic and Caribbean seas, visiting the paradise islands of Grand Turk and Grand Cayman before a final stop at Key West in Florida, once home to the great Ernest Hemingway.
Sandwiched in between each were three relaxing sea days on which we were able to eat, drink, unwind and soak up the sun to our hearts content as that’s what cruising is all about.
And the fact it was also the week of our sixth wedding anniversary made the whole experience that extra bit special.
Crystal Symphony is a vessel oozing elegance. Accommodating up to 848 guests, she’s a sanctuary of style with an immediate wow factor.
Refurbished in 2017, we stayed in one of the stunning new Seabreeze Penthouse suites, which included a private teak veranda, large walk-in wardrobe, settee and bathroom with standalone shower and his-and-hers sinks.
One of the perks of staying in a penthouse suite is the butler service, with Raja on hand from day one to help us with any queries, top up our fridge, take room service orders and make bookings on our behalf. The daily afternoon canapes were a nice touch, even if we were still full from our daily four-course lunches!
Gracious hospitality is a fixture on Crystal. From the captain and cruise director to the porters, engineers and restaurant staff, there’s always a friendly smile and greeting.
Unlike many cruise liners, sunbeds on the pool deck are laden with cushions and towels, and alongside the swimming pool there’s an inviting hot tub.
Other facilities include a computer lab, library and spa, and those with more energy can burn off the calories in the fitness centre, golf nets or play a spot of paddle tennis.
There’s plenty of entertainment to keep you occupied, with a variety of musical, dance and comedy acts showcasing their talents with performances every day culminating in two big evening shows in the ship’s plush Galaxy Lounge. The on-board magic show is not to be missed, but make sure you get your ticket quickly.
Crystal excels in the food and drink offering thanks to several Michelin-standard dining experiences with cuisines from around the world.
There’s Japanese restaurant Umi Uma - the world’s only Nobu restaurant at sea - where you can enjoy dishes like the famous Nobu-style lobster with truffle-yuzu sauce, or take a seat at the sushi bar where the chefs prepare the finest fresh sushi and sashimi dishes in front of you.
A must-visit is Venetian-inspired Prego, where you can’t go wrong with true Italian classics like lasagne and gnocchi, but I recommend trying the mouth-watering Carpaccio di Manzo. And if you think mushroom soup is a boring choice then think again, because Prego’s delicious version is served inside the mouth-watering crusty sourdough.
Authentic Asian cuisine is available at Silk, with more modern specialities and classics at the ship’s main restaurant Waterside, where guests preferring table service can go for breakfast, lunch and dinner instead of the buffet.
Coffee and snacks can be enjoyed at Parisian-inspired cafe The Bistro and also worth a mention are the sublime burgers at poolside Trident Grill, not forgetting the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream offerings at Scoops.
Drinks are available throughout the ship, with Palm Court, Starlite Club and Avenue Saloon popular bar destinations, but our number one haunt was piano bar Crystal Cove, where we played cards while watching bar tender Pamela prepare our favourite cocktails.
There are many exciting on-shore excursions available, but being sun-starved at home the pristine white sand and warm waters of the Caribbean beaches were calling.
In Grand Turk, the best beach was only a short walk away from the terminal, which was fine for us as it provided more time to top up (or start) the tans.
Next stop was bustling George Town in the tax haven of Grand Cayman, where the high standard of living means life is not cheap, but the crystal-clear waters and water sports activities attract tourists in their thousands.
Sad to be leaving the Caribbean, the excitement soon returned for Key West, where we were booked on a Dolphin Watch and Snorkel tour for our anniversary celebrations.
It was a day to remember as we headed into the marina to see the dolphins in their natural habitat, showing off by leaping in and out of the water without a care in the world.
Heading back to the ship with a glass of champagne in hand, we were due back in Miami the following day, but there was enough time for one more evening of fabulous food and drinks on Symphony, where we toasted an unforgettable anniversary and incredible holiday.
In 2020, Crystal will offer a number of Caribbean itineraries between October and December. Prices start from £1,985 per person for a seven-night ‘Tropical Serenade’ sailing round trip from Miami on Crystal Serenity. Price includes seven nights in a deluxe stateroom with picture window with all meals and drinks and port taxes. Call Crystal on 020 7399 7601 or visit www.crystalcruises.co.uk