The view from the uppermost gondola of the Flyer—Singapore’s answer to the London Eye—is of an improbable future-forward cityscape. Prominent features include the glass domes of Gardens by the Bay; the spanking-new high-rises in fantastical shapes and sizes; the 150-metre infinity pool atop the 57-storey, $5-billion Marina Bay Sands hotel; and Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Symphony cruise ship, majestically lolling in Marina Bay, all 12 decks gleaming in the intense tropical sunlight.
Singapore marks the embarkation port for the ship’s Treasures of Southeast Asia cruise, which visits four ports of call—Bangkok/Laem Chabang, Ho Chi Minh City, Chan May, and Hanoi/Hon Gai—over the course of 16 days before arriving at its final destination, Hong Kong. Having recently completed a five-year-long $65-million redesign, Symphony assures its continuing reign as one of the two finest luxury cruise ships in the world. According to the Condé Nast Traveler readers’ poll, Symphony and its sister ship, Serenity, have shared this distinction a grand total of 18 times.
From the sweeping spiral staircase and, yes, crystal grand piano in the ship’s social core, the Atrium on Tiffany Deck; to the generous sunbathing area surrounding the Seahorse Pool on the Lido Deck, the Crystal Symphony references a Southern California palette—aqua, chartreuse, coral, sand, ivory—and a semi-retro Palm Beach country club aesthetic.
Symphony doesn’t do things well—it does them superlatively. Any luxury ship worth its salt will have specialty restaurants in addition to the standard dining option; Crystal Symphony’s dining room ups the ante in both opulent decor and innovative cuisine. There’s also Silk Road and the Sushi Bar, the only seagoing branch of Japanese master chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s ultrahip eponymous restaurant group, offering already-legendary dishes such as black cod with miso and the fusion dessert Bento Box, with warm chocolate fondant cake, goma tuile (a thin sesame wafer), and green tea ice cream.
In the morning, you can catch a lecture on the Arab Spring by a renowned expert on the Middle East, attend a class on making travel videos with your iPad (courtesy of the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts), or perfect your open reverse turn at afternoon tango classes in the plush Starlite Club.
Then again, you’re here to unwind, so why not take afternoon tea at the Palm Court observation lounge, a luscious sweep of Calcutta marble and Murano glass modelled on Hollywood’s long-departed Cocoanut Grove nightclub. With fresh-baked scones, strawberry jam, clotted cream, and a piano tinkling in the background—as the song says, who could ask for anything more?