Crystal Serenity Canal Cruise-Day 23 (The FINALE)

Crystal Serenity-12/21/09
Miami (Disembarkation)

Another fabulous voyage on Crystal Serenity has come to an end. It’s hard to say goodbye; but exciting just knowing that (God willing) I will be back. In parting, I wanted to share with you some thought provoking information that appeared in the Reflections during this cruise. I would gladly give credit to whomever it was who penned this. Crystal did not supply the name of the author. I inquired; & was told that it was taken from the internet "by 'anonymous'". I pray that I am not breaking any copyright law by reproducing it (verbatim). The words & the meaning thereof, were just too powerful not to share:


If we could shrink the earth’s population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look something like the following. There would be:

57 Asians
21 Europeans
14 from the Western Hemisphere, both north & south
8 Africans
52 would be female
48 would be male
70 would be People of Color
30 would be Caucasian
70 would be non-Christian
30 would be Christian
89 would be heterosexual
11 would be homosexual
6 people would possess 59% of the entire world’s wealth & all would be from the US
80 would live in substandard housing
70 would be unable to read
50 would suffer from malnutrition
1 would be near death; 1 would be near birth
1 (yes, only 1) would have a college education
1 would own a computer

When one considers our world from such a compressed perspective, the need for acceptance, understanding & education becomes glaringly apparent.

The following is also something to ponder…..

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness….you are more blessed than the million who will not survive this week

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation…you are ahead of 500 million people in the world.

If you can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death….you are more blessed than 3 billion people in the world.

If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead & a place to sleep….you are richer than 75% of this world.

If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace….you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.

If your parents are still alive & still married….you are very rare, even in the US & Canada.

If you can read this message, you just received a double blessing; there are 2 billion people in the world that cannot read at all,

Someone once said: “What goes around, comes around.”

Let’s help each other appreciate our world & those who dwell in it, so that our children can learn from us, & live in a peaceful world which bursts at the seams with acceptance, knowledge, compassion & kindness.

Author unknown

Crystal Serenity Canal Cruise-Day 22

Crystal Serenity-12/20/09
At sea in route to Miami

Reality is setting in like a ton of bricks. Although I slept very well, it was another night of many strange dreams. When I woke up a little after 8am, I was ‘cold’. I mean really “cold”. I looked out the window; & it looked grey. I think it had rained most of the night. I turned on the TV; & saw the rest of the US is still shoveling their way out of the snow. It’s a good thing this had to happen on a weekend. Tomorrow in Miami looks chilly. I decided “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” was more my speed this morning. I think the party IS over.

When the Capt. made his report from the bridge at 9am, he forecast a mostly cloudy day in the upper 70’s, strong wind. We’re moving at 18.7 knots. Expecting to be alongside in MIA by 5:15 in the morning. I fixed a bowl of raisins, yogurt & granola; & climbed back in bed to watch the movie. The few people I see walking out on the promenade deck are bundled up as they head straight into he wind. It made me feel even colder. It took a hot shower before I got warmed up. I immediately started hacking nasty sinus stuff. (I hate cold fronts.) I went out to look for Catherine. I wanted to get a photo of us & to tell her that she didn’t need to service my room today. I’m a big girl; I’d rather be the one to put the “plastic tarp” on the bed & pull out the suitcases. Much less of a shock that way.

I made my last visit in the Bistro w/ the “guys”. Outi & John were eating breakfast; & I sat for a long while talking. They think that in a couple of years they will leave Malawi & relocate to northern Italy. And they’ve extended an open invitation to visit. There’s certainly a greater likelihood that I’ll make it to Italy than to Africa. Outi said that the “magic spray” opened her nose enough to sleep very well last night. That’s got to give her a brighter perspective on the day.

I was eyeing those vanilla custard cake things on the buffet; my last chance for a long time…..why not have 2! I parked in “my spot” at the bar & got to work. I got into a conversation w/ a lovely lady who was seated by the window about the huge ships that were approaching. There is a steady flow of ship traffic heading south. I got the camera so I could zoom in & hopefully figure out what those massive behemoths were just off our port side. One had red & black twin stack; & what appeared to be something white superimposed over the red. My guess, it’s Mickey ears; a Disney ship. Either that or a Cunard something. Then an even larger white ship w/ a single yellow & black stack…..undoubtedly a Costa. By 1pm, it was time to move along in search of lunch. I said goodbyes to Mario & Stefan (Rodin wouldn’t be in until afternoon).

Dear Catherine..

Today was the American buffet up on the Lido deck. There were things that I’d enjoyed so much last cruise; so I knew enough to stick to more of that rather than try some other things. My only disappointment was the gumbo. Having Louisiana heritage, I know good gumbo; & this was not. It was too thick & needed a serious shake or 2 of filet’ gumbo & Tobasco. The Texas chili con carne was nothing to write home about either. I had a BBQ rib; & a slice of corned beef w/ some cabbage. The fried chicken/sun-dried tomato salad was delicious. The onion rings were hot out of the fryer. I must have had 10 okra fritters, the breaded shrimp w/ Cajun tartar sauce & some excellent jambalaya. I sat all the way at the back of the Lido Restaurant. During the lunch hour, the sun peeked out a little bit; but it stayed mostly cloudy the rest of the day. “Tall” Peter came by to wish me farewell. And on my way out, I was saying my goodbyes to each of the Lido Rock Stars as I spotted them busily trying to disassemble the buffet. I lost it saying goodbye to Benjamin. Not knowing if he’ll be coming back after vacation is unimaginable. This place could fall apart w/o him.

I was too stuffed for ice cream right then; so I sat down at a table by the Neptune pool. Pretty soon Gay & Lynne sat down w/ their burger lunches. They’re a crazy duo. We talked travel some, Facebook some; & I shared my recipe for “snow cream”. Gay admitted to getting addicted to “Farmville”. Finally about 3-ish, there was some room for ice cream. We walked over to Scoops; & I asked Christian how many “scoops” of lychee sorbet he had left. He had 3; & I asked the girls if they’d like to help me eat the last of the supply. They were honored. We stood right there eating & moaning w/ joy. More Lido goodbyes; & then down to the shops for one quick pass to see if there was anything I couldn’t live w/o (there wasn’t). I stuck my head in the casino hoping to see Fran & say goodbye (she won’t be in the DR tonight). She was nowhere in sight.

I went back to the cabin w/ the intention of starting the packing process. Put the “tarp” on the bed; & then cracked my big toe (nail) pulling the suitcase out from under the bed. (Maybe I should have let Catherine do this after all.) Bled all over the place. That was enough packing for right then. So, I took the laptop & camera card down to the compt. ctr. to transfer “one more time” & to say goodbyes to Jessie, Dennis & Jackie. Instead of starting to pack, I sat down w/ the compt. & turned on channel 54 to watch 2 of today’s lectures. The first was “Escape from the White House: Presidential Hideaways” by Ken Walsh (Presidential biographer). The other was the much anticipated talk on social networking by Jack McManus (David Davenport’s good friend from Pepperdine). I enjoyed both very much.

At 5:30 I admitted that I couldn’t put off packing any longer. It always seems to take longer than you think it’s going to, even though you don’t have to be as meticulous about it as you do when packing FOR the cruise. It’s totally ridiculous the amount of “paper” I cart home-menus, Reflections, photos, cruise brochures & on & on & on. I usually throw it away soon after I get home; why can’t I just throw it away here? Because.....

[A strange place & subject to put at this spot; but.....I wanted to share w/ those who don't know. The "public" bathrooms onboard Serenity are fabulous; as gorgeous as in most fancy restaurants. This is the "loo" close to the pool. Don't you just love the real hand towels & fresh flowers???]

I had most everything packed by 7pm. Now what to do? If I were a normal passenger, I’d go out & have a drink & say more (sad) goodbyes. If I had more than (50 mins.) of internet time left, I’d be playing “scrabble” on Facebook or reading message boards. I was saving those minutes in case it took an unusually long time to upload the blog before bedtime. When I admit that I “spent” $800 on internet in 20 days, it disgusts me. I doubt that’s what Crystal had in mind when they gave me all this shipboard credit. I’d love to know what impact this has had on onboard sales.

I went down to the Crystal Cove a little after 8; & had a chance to sit w/ Harriet & Seymour. I feel so badly because they weren’t happy w/ their tablemates during this segment. It had a negative impact on their enjoyment of this cruise. The orchestra was playing swing music again tonight; & people were dancing, gay. Once again putting aside unpleasant thoughts like packing & anticipated travel delays tomorrow. How lucky I am to be only 2 hrs. from home. I’ll be in my house before most everyone else boards their planes for home.

Everyone but Fran was at the table tonight. Light conversation was mixed w/ those awkward moments of handing your waiters their “envelopes” & extending thank yous. Crystal makes it easy by taking “gratuity money” from my shipboard account; & giving credit to the crewmember’s “account”. I’m not a fan of giving the crewmember a “ticket stub” in an envelope as proof that I left a tip. If the envelope has money in it, that’s another thing entirely. For the past few years, I’ve created thank you (Christmas themed) cards to hand out. And I always add a little extra money to what is credited from my shipboard account. I do this in hopes that they won’t have to “share” the extra in their respective “pools”. I also prefer to hand out the cards several days before the end of the cruise. That’s usually a less hectic time to talk & convey your gratitude instead of trying to fight for their attention during the “last supper”. I’ve been told by many that they hang onto those cards long after the holidays are over. Each member of the crew is special; & I want them to feel appreciated in other ways than just monetarily. Sorry, I’ll get off my “soap box” now.

This is not one of my favorite menus; but I certainly didn’t go away hungry. I had 2 appetizers; starting w/ the prawns wrapped w/ prosciutto accompanied by tropical fruit salsa & lemon aioli. And I had to have the puffed pastry “basket” w/ the ragout of morel mushrooms, asparagus & chicken again. Delish! I chose the pasta special which was penne w/ tomato cream sauce & comte cheese (no, I’m not sure what that is either). It was good; but not great. Double trouble tonight. I had to have one last salt stick; & when Peter came by to ask if I wanted more “brrrrread”, I ended w/ a cheese roll. My bad, or what?? Part of me wanted to order the “Bridge of the Americas” dessert again; & ask for 3 of the little chocolate tres leche cakes instead of the series of 3. The oven baked banana & the yogurt ice cream just didn’t quite cut it for me the last time. But that cake was orgasmic. I should have done that; but I didn’t. I ordered a sampling of 3 cheeses; & (God bless) Boris brought me one last serving of those delicious marinated raisins (mincemeat). That & a cappuccino……what better way to put an end to a delightful day & a perfect cruise?

I did something tonight that I’d been wanting to do for 10 days. Allen referred to Serenity as “the boat” for the umpteenth time; & I just couldn’t stifle myself any longer. I finally said, “if you say ‘boat’ one more time, I’m gonna have to haul off & hit you. It’s a ship; she deserves respect!” He said, “ship, boat, what’s the difference?” I’m glad the Chief wasn’t there. Like me, he cringed every time “she” was referred to as a BOAT. Just a big pet peeve of mine. Bryn & Allen were telling us that there was some sort of medical emergency that would require the ship to dock in MIA in the middle of the night tonight. I hadn’t heard anything about it; but wanted to confirm. Bryn said that we had been going so fast (19 knots) all day; & that that was the reason why. I asked Boris & Petar: & they said they’d heard something but didn’t know any details.

I stood & talked to Boris & Petar for a while. They are delightful young men; & it has been a sincere pleasure for me during both segments. I looked around for Kamel; but didn’t see him. His asst. waiter saw me; & came over to tell me that Kamel was “in the back” & would be right out. I waited because I knew he would be upset w/ me if I didn’t say goodbye. It’s so funny…..Kamel has never been my waiter. But we’ve developed a friendship based on my love for his home town (Istanbul). We’ve shared some delightful conversations w/ what limited time we’ve had. It was sad saying goodbye. But he promised that he would be here waiting for me to return. And maybe some day, I will ask to be assigned to his section.

As I was leaving the DR, all the “head honchos” were holding court at the podium. I thought what better place to confirm the “rumor” than right here. Sure enough, there is a passenger in some form of cardiac distress; & we will be docking in a matter of hours. Unfortunate way to end a cruise; but fortunate, in the respect that we were close enough to MIA to get them to good medical care. I chatted w/ the guys for a little while; & was telling them about Bruno calling me Mrs. Thomas. Leo picks up the phone to call Prego to rib him about it. I told Leo to tell “George” that Mrs. Thomas wanted to say goodbye. The phone rang & rang; no one ever answered. Then Leo asked me how he could find my blog. Lord have mercy, how does everybody know about this stupid blog? Pressure………they’re likely to be disappointed after all the hype.

Finally back to the cabin at 10:15. It wasn’t easy cramming everything back in the suitcases. I’m not sure why, because all I bought was 6 bottles of deodorant, took a few bottles of Aveda body wash & that big honkin’ pile of “paper”. Then comes the frightening ritual of putting your bags out in the hallway. Open the door slowly, peak in both directions to see if anyone is looking, step out in your jammies & slide them as close to the wall as you can. Scurry back inside. I did catch a glimpse of a man down the hall who was wearing his Crystal bathrobe. Why didn’t I think of that? I forgot it was even in the closet. I’ve hurriedly finished the blog work; & hoping that the internet is fast enough to upload everything before I run out of those last few precious minutes. I refuse to put another dollar’s worth in…..

It’s been real; it’s been fun; & I hope it’s been real fun for you. Back to my boring, but crazy life in Naples. Until next time…… Peace!

Crystal Serenity Canal Cruise-Day 21

Crystal Serenity-12/19/09
Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos Islands

Periodically throughout the night, the rocking would become more pronounced. Not that I minded, of course; but it made me wonder if we were heading into the front that was causing the unstable weather in south FL. If that’s the case, then my sinuses are going to rebel sooner rather than later. It must have been 2am (new time) before I finally went to sleep. Awake a little after 9. The weekly crew emergency drill was at 10; & Catherine was standing out in the hallway in her orange jacket when I left the cabin. I stepped out on the promenade deck & took a quick look around. The Seabourn Spirit was docked on our starboard side but was gone by mid day. It’s blazingly hot out there. And I won’t be…

Off to the Bistro. I can see some little elf has been working on the Christmas tree in Crystal Cove. Another string of lights has miraculously been added; trying to make one string stretch around the entire “length” of the tree. Fran had offered to get off in STM & buy more lights; but I don’t think anyone in particular wanted to redo the tree. And Ioannis has declared the light situation is not “his problem”. Looks like it is what it is; & that’s the way it’s going to be. A lot of the crew will have time off today; & they are very much looking forward to some private beach time. As much as I’d like to see them relaxing, it’s not going to pry me off this ship (until I have to leave on Monday, kicking & screaming). And from what I can tell of the Naples weather forecast, I may not have enough “warm clothes” to wear home.

I had some fruit & cheese & one of those simply orgasmic vanilla custard “cakes” off the Bistro buffet; & my 2 mugs of capp. For the next 2½ hrs, I sat at the bar on the computer, chatting w/ the “guys” & the occasional passenger. Barbara came by for coffee & was spending her morning working on her student’s grades which were e-mailed to her. Harvey & his siblings have been in & out, as his Mom parks herself here daily at a table by the window.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the “perfect cruise”. Seven days is hardly worth the effort of packing (unless one has personal obligations that restrict you). At the 10-day mark, you’re just “getting into the groove”. After 14 days, I still wasn’t ready for it to end. But now as 22 days approaches, I’ve decided that fits me “just right”. Twenty-two days w/o setting foot on land, that is. A world cruise, broken up by interesting days exploring foreign ports, is a different animal altogether. When I think of Ann being onboard for 3½ months, I wonder if I really could manage that. I’m sure I’ll never know. I’ve done back-to-backs on other lines. I don’t remember it making any difference in the way I was “treated”. And that shouldn’t make any difference. I’ve been noticing a difference on the 2nd segment of this cruise. Maybe it’s just my imagination, a coincidence; or maybe (after 6 cruises on Serenity in a 5 year period) SOME of the crew is just now getting familiar w/ my face. For instance, the head waiter who works the Lido/Tastes area has begun calling me by name (even though we’ve not been introduced). Don’t get me wrong……the Crystal crew is ALWAYS attentive, friendly & one step ahead of the rest. But is it possible that they give even more attention to “in transit” passengers??? Is it just like any other “friendship”, when an easygoing trust begins to develop? Or am I reading more into this than there is? Maybe some of my esteemed Cruise Critic “friends” will give me their take on this.

Just after 1pm, I went up to the Lido Buffet for lunch. Nat was first on the scene to get my water & find me a table on the “cool” side w/ a good view. Benjamin pushed my tray down the line, scooping up anything I pointed to. There were so many things on the menu that sounded good to me. I think it was the best collection of buffet fare I’ve seen all cruise. I had a small taste of the delicious cream of roasted garlic soup w/ herb croutons. I cut a little piece off the beer battered cod just to taste. It was very good w/ their special tartar sauce. Half a vegetable burrito was very good also. They had a mixed grill from which I took a lamb chop & a piece of filet mignon. It was served with a simply divine peperonata “relish” (a sweet spicy red, green & yellow bell pepper concoction). They had these cute little pastry “purses” that contained Tandori spiced chicken topped w/ a mint raita sauce. It was pretty good; but my least favorite of everything I tried today. They also had tuna melts pre-made. And I was really in the mood for one; but they were just too big, & there was no way to cut a half in half. They might not have held up well on the steam table either. Chester created another stellar appetizer portion of spaghetti carbonara. I’m really gonna miss carbs….& Chester.

The big winner was the Thai sweet chili-honey prawns. Orgasmic is an understatement. I don’t think they served these during the last segment; & if they did, I’m kicking myself for not knowing about it. I can add this to my list of foods to “special request” in the main DR next time. I stepped outside to take more pictures from the higher vantage point. I could see some of the crew engaged in a ferocious game of volleyball on the beach. I took a lot of photos which I hope to “enlarge to greater detail”. A chance to see what these guys look like “topless”.

It was way “hot” out there; & I needed to cool down w/ some lychee sorbet. Scoops was way beyond busy. I sat down & waited & waited for the lines to clear. Finally Raymond came by; & asked if he could get me something. I told him I need to wait until the coast was clear for Christian to get to my secret stash. Raymond, said “no problem”. He just marched right up there & got it himself. I read while I cooled down w/ the ice cream. Then went by the compt. ctr to get a head start on transferring all the photos I’d taken so far today. I went “home” & got more comfortable & went online to update yesterday’s blog & upload some photos, check e-mail & the message boards.

I had Prego reservations at 7:30 so that John, Outi, Ashling & I could be together one last time. Turns out Ashling was going to be eating there later w/ other teenage friends. I had requested Marco’s table; & Bruno was able to accommodate us. Mario & Rodin (from the Bistro) provided wine/bar service for our table.
John chose a special Italian wine (for sentimental reasons) that they had enjoyed in Turin last year. What a delightful evening. They told me more remarkable stories about their life in Malawi. Despite the fact that Outi’s allergies are so bad she can hardly breath, we all laughed & laughed some more.

I ordered bruschetta; & Marco saw to it that it was made right (the first time.) It was delicious; but barely warm when it arrived. The chef’s special appetizer was a deep fried gorgonzola/rice ball sitting in a pool of marinara sauce drizzled w/ balsamic vinaigrette. Excellent. I also had the seared sea scallops appetizer again. And no surprise, I had the lamb chops w/ garlic mashed potatoes. I had the crema di’ cappa for dessert, along w/ a decaf cappuccino.

Bryn & Allen were eating at a table nearby; & she came over to say hello as they were leaving. We continued to sit over coffee & talk til nearly 10. Poor Outi was miserable. I told her I had some magical prescription nose spray that she could try; anything to let the poor woman get a good night’s sleep. She says she’s not used to carpet; & she’s pretty sure that’s what set off her allergies. I asked Mario to take a group photo w/ our waiter, Marco, before we left.

They followed me back to my cabin. John & I said our goodbyes just in case I don’t see him tomorrow. Outi came in; I showed her how to use the spray & told her she could bring it back to me tomorrow. I made a quick dash to the compt. ctr to transfer the last few photos from tonight. I’m going to pretend that the disembarkation paperwork has been filled out. I’m going to fold my clothes & put them in the drawer so that I don’t have to think about packing. It’s raining outside; & the ship’s “shimmying” comfortably. I want to go to bed; & pretend like the party’s just getting started.


Crystal Serenity Canal Cruise-Day 20

Crystal Serenity-12/18/09
At sea

I thought I’d never get to sleep; last time I looked at the clock it was 4:15am. Yet, at 8:50, I was ready to get up. I turned on the TV so I could hear the Capt’s 9am report from the bridge. It’s partly cloudy outside; & we have a gentle tail wind, low 80’s. I checked HLN to make sure the outside world was still chugging along. I was super shocked to see that I am missing major rains in south FL (weatherbug already showed nearly 2” in North Naples by noontime today). Welcome relief. But the nor’easter looks pretty nasty. People onboard are already wondering whether it will impact their homeward travels on Mon. I dressed; the hair is holding up fairly well this morning.

The Crystal Cove is abuzz w/ preparation for the grand gala buffet. Many people gathered around the railings above on deck 6 watching the carefully choreographed “dance”. The pianist is playing Christmas music. I headed to the Bistro. I sat w/ John, Outi & Ashling & chatted for a while. Outi’s having terrible trouble w/ her sinuses. Like me, she started having “issues” when they put the baby poinsettias in the cabins after Caldera. She had her stewardess remove hers. I chatted a few mins. w/ (“Aunty”) Pat when she came in for breakfast. Then proceeded over to my little corner at the bar to set up my “office”. There’s a lot of activity in the Bistro this morning; maybe because they want to be near the buffet preparation or maybe just because….. I see some progress has been made on relighting the Christmas tree. The past 2 days, only the bottom “string” has been working. Today the bottom half is lit. I know I wouldn’t want to be the one who has to figure out which bulb is burned out on the (roughly) 20’ tree. Maybe the “Chief” is working on it. There I sat for about 3 hrs; burning up internet time, people watching & listening to the Christmas (piano) music until it became “easy listening” when the Crystal Strings took over during the lunch hour. Julie & Toni came by to chat; they were just getting their day started at 11:30.

I decided to go against the flow; & go up to the Lido for my lunch. Bryn & Allen were eating up there; & I sat & talked w/ them a bit before perusing the buffet. I had a little taste of the cream of new potato soup w/ sautéed oyster mushrooms. The chicken enchilada was delicious. I had a few boiled shrimp & a baby lobster tail w/ cocktail sauce & creamed spinach. The pasta guy (Chester was not there today) made an appetizer portion of the arrabbiata (tomato sauce, parsley & parmesan) w/ extra garlic & red chili flakes. It really had a kick to it; perfection. There were so few people dining up there; it was really pleasant. Benjamin came by to tell me he had talked to his daughter in the Philippines yesterday; & she’s been delivering babies in her nursing training. He’s so proud. And he also reminded me that when he leaves for vacation in Jan, he MAY not be coming back. I started getting misty eyed thinking what it would be like if he weren’t here.

Around 2pm I moved out to the Neptune Pool area for some ice cream. As I walked toward Christian at Scoops, he was holding up his fingers….1…2…3. I held up 3 fingers; feeling bold & daring since I had skipped breakfast. I sat there working sudoku puzzles until I could feel a nap coming on. Went back “home” (awwww, it won’t be home for much longer) & crawled in the bed for1½ hrs. Woke up about 4, made myself comfy on the sofa & turned on the news. Determined to eat up every second of my (60 hrs) internet time, I’m back on the computer. The hell w/ all this reading I was going to get done. Looks like I’ll be carting home nearly all of the magazines & books I had brought w/ me. Some of you are thinking this is a disgusting way to spend a cruise. But I can honestly say, that I’ve spent it doing just exactly what I wanted to do.

Fran & "Polly" the Parrot

Tonight was the Capt’s Gala (Farewell) Dinner, the last formal night; & the last night Ioannis would be dining w/ us. Bryn & Allen were supposed to dine in Prego; but they were able to postpone their reservation until tomorrow. Therefore, everyone was at the table; & everyone was in an especially playful mood. I think it all started w/ Fran’s gorgeous evening bag; a brightly colored, jeweled parrot about 7” tall. All the ladies at the table were admiring it; & even the guys were intrigued. Of course, Ioannis treated us to several bottles of wine; it wasn’t long til I was having a flash, fanning myself w/ my place card. (Two glasses of wine & a handsome man in uniform to my right is enough to give a southern girl the “vapors”.)

The "Chief" & I in deep conversation

Things began to get out of control when Boris served the appetizers. Fran’s oysters Rockefeller became the hot topic of conversation. There was one big honkin’ oyster that had to be 6” across….I mean “Texas-size”.

She stared at it in amazement for a while, not sure it was a good thing or not. I made a comment, something to the effect that “size matters”. The Chief missed it the first time around; but soon the whole table was in awe over this oyster. At that moment the whole table “melded”; everyone on the same page (maybe for the first time in 9 days). The rest of the meal was easy, fun. “Tall” Peter came over to see what all the ruckus was about. I was so glad Fran went to get her camera; these were some priceless moments. She even captured a photo of “Polly Parrot” perched on the Chief’s shoulder. No one rushed away from the table to get to the show. Even Ioannis sat a little longer than normal. We were one of the last to leave the DR just before 11pm. We didn’t want the magic of the night to end. God bless Fran, she promised to rush back to her cabin & e-mail tonight’s photos to me BEFORE she went to the casino. I told her I had a “deadline”.

Ioannis & "Polly"

Oh, I almost forgot about dinner…….I had the same appetizer that I fell in love w/ last cruise; the chicken liver parfait w/ black truffles served w/ pear confit & port wine gelee (gelatin). No one else at the table had ordered it; & I ended up giving a bite to several others. And they all agreed that it was to die for. I had a cup of cream of asparagus soup & the pasta special. It was angel hair tossed w/ truffled pesto sauce, garnished w/ tiny navy beans & bay scallops. One of the side veggies tonight was the sweet corn fritters that were so good before. I asked Boris to bring some to put on top of my pasta. The “piece de resistance” was that awesome dessert, “chocolate melting moments”. I told the table that I highly recommended it; but most everybody made their own choices. When they saw mine, they oohed & aahed. I asked Boris to bring another serving of it so we could pass it around the table to those who missed out. It was as much of a hit w/ them as it had been w/ me. Bryn said she’d follow my recommendations from now on.

Polly & Baby

We run our clocks back & there’s a nice gentle rolling to the seas. I’m so gone…..


Crystal Serenity Canal Cruise-Day 19

Crystal Serenity-12/17/09
Philipsburg, St Martin

I slept pretty good last night. I was aware when we stopped moving around 3am. But I must have been dead to the world when we moved to the dock sometime between 6:30 & 7. Given the position we had at the pier, there must have been some serious bow thruster maneuvering. I turned on the TV a little before 9; & saw that we were surrounded by ships. We must have been the first one in because we were backed in, towering over the shopping complex. Facing our bow was a smaller ship that had no visible markings (from this angle, anyway). I later learned that it was P&O’s Oceana.

Directly on our starboard side was Pullmantur’s Pacific Dream. Behind them was the Celebrity Solstice. And on the outside next to the Pacific Dream was Holland America’s Westerdam. Five ships on this small island. No way, was I going out in that. From the aft deck, there was a sea of people scurrying down below. It was hot out there; & most everyone who did go out came back saying it was “madness”.

I went up & took some photos while the sun was still low in the sky. I noticed a tanker was butted up against our starboard side; we were “bunkering” fuel for the remainder of our journey. The color of the water here was more beautiful than at any other island we’ve visited thus far. I don’t remember the water ever looking like it did today. Maybe it was reflecting the blue, blue sky or maybe it was just the time of day.

I went down to the reception desk to do a little business; & then spent many hours in the Bistro. Mario was off today; & Rodin got my (decaf) capp. I sat at the far end of the bar; plugged in the laptop & started to work on a Panama Canal “research paper” for Ashling. Since she’s been having such a good time onboard watching DVD’s, taking Spanish & bridge lessons; she just hasn’t had the time to work on that paper she’s supposed to turn in when she goes back to school. Since I had done the research & thoroughly covered it in the blog, it was going to be easy to copy & paste it into a document that I could e-mail to her. At least it was SUPPOSED to be easy. When I started typing, it dawned on me that my writings were from the perspective of a westbound canal transit. She experienced it in the reverse direction. Now, this shouldn’t present a problem for most people. But anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t “do reverse”. You give me directions to your house or even draw me a map……I can’t find my way home. I just can’t think backwards.

I thought maybe a 2nd cup of decaf might help. I just couldn’t make my “vacation brain” follow the trail of bread crumbs. One of the Bistro waiters, Stefan, suggested that I try a cup of ginseng tea. He says it’s very good for concentration. Well, I can’t say that it cleared away the “fog’; but I did tell him that it was helping. It helped so much that as soon as he left on his lunch break, I took a break. It was nearly 1pm; & I was more than ready for my first meal of the day.

I went up to the Lido buffet. The first person I saw was Bruno Marques (the specialty restaurant Maitre d’). He says “good afternoon, Mrs. Thomas”. I have no clue who Mrs. Thomas is; but he’s been calling me that since I dined in Prego 10 days ago. I don’t have the heart to tell him otherwise.

There were several delicious things on the menu. I had a sage & garlic rubbed roasted chicken thigh & a taste of the Korean beef w/ scallions & sesame seeds (both quite good). I had a piece of grilled bratwurst w/ sauerkraut & the most divine sautéed potatoes w/ onion. Chester, the “pasta man” made me a small portion of spaccatelle capriciosa. I wondered what the hell it was too…….the pasta looks just like the “bat” they use in jai alai (if you don’t know what that looks like………think of a dugout canoe). The pasta was mixed w/ tomato sauce, ham, artichokes, olives, mushrooms, mozzarella & oregano. Oh, boy was that ever good.

The buffet was closing down; & I moved out to the Neptune Pool for some lychee sorbet & to work sudoku puzzles that had begun to stack up. It was very noisy out there. Dave (“CrystalKid”) was sitting w/ a group of friends; & they were telling story after story & bursting into loud fits of belly-laughter. After 6 hours outside my “cave”, I was beginning to long for the quiet solitude of “home” & maybe a nap. Knowing that this peaceful adventure is coming to an end soon is causing a renewed desire to hibernate while I still can. With Josie not doing well at home, I’m not sure what to expect when I get back there. I closed the drapes & laid down. Took me a while to turn my mind off; but I did get about an hour’s nap.

I woke up at 5 thinking it was time to set sail. But we didn’t depart til 6. The Westerdam must have left about 5; & the Oceana backed out just before we left. The three of us formed a procession as we sailed off to the northwest. As the Serenity was slowly passing by the Solstice, the steady pop of flashbulbs coming from every deck was almost blinding. It reminded me of the paparazzi along the red carpet at a movie premier or the academy awards. If I had been on the Solstice I would have wanted to take pictures of the Serenity as well. She was the most beautiful vessel in St. Martin today (or any other day for that fact).

It was casual night & a good menu in the DR. I showered & washed my hair. Determined to show up for at least one meal w/o the wig, I worked extra hard on the hair tonight. And it only looked so-so. At the table nobody said a word. Maybe they didn’t notice the difference……or, maybe they now understand why I wear the wig! Barbara & Alan ate elsewhere. Bryn & Allen & Natalie & David were all abuzz about their American’s Cup sailing excursion today. They had a fabulous time, even though they did lose the race. Their sail “broke” during the race; but that didn’t seem to put a damper on the experience. From what I hear, Allen was the master grinder. Bryn & David were the main grinders; & Natalie tended bar (in other words she retrieved drinks from the cooler). When Harriet & Seymour came by the table, they were talking about WINNING the race. So, it turns out they were competing against my tablemates. Harriet played “bartender” on their boat. I have to admit I would have loved to see Harriet & Seymour on a sailboat.

Finally, I got to sit next to Fran during dinner; & we got along famously. We chatted a lot about familiar things in Naples, our hobbies & charities. Coincidentally, she used to live right down the street from where (I think), my cousin, David & Barbara are living now. Our birthdays are May 10th & 11th. She’s a “cat mother, to ragdolls, which she’s missing terribly. She’s good friends w/ one of (cousin) Lolita’s good friends at Bentley Village. I thoroughly enjoyed having the chance to get to know her better; & hope that our paths cross again at home & at sea.

Now, let’s get down to food……dinner was really good tonight. I started w/ an appetizer of roasted portabella mushrooms on a small bed of field greens, drizzled w/ garlic dressing & a tomato topped crostini. Fran talked about how she loves the fried cheese balls that come w/ the salad; & that sounded good to me. So, I ordered a simple hearts of iceberg lettuce salad that had artichoke hearts, tomatoes, green olives w/ bleu cheese dressing. The small fried (mozzarella, I believe) cheese balls were divine. She had asked for extra; & I wished I had. So, she reached over & gave me one of hers. Soon Boris came out w/ a few more in a bowl. They would have gone completely unnoticed, if she hadn’t brought them to my attention. Being the insatiable carnivore that I am, I went for the thick slab of rare prime rib. I had to cut away a good bit of fat; but that made it that much more flavorful. It was delectably tender, accompanied by pungent ground horseradish. It was served w/ a baked potato & a concoction of pureed cauliflower & carrots that had been molded into a small “flan” type container before it was plated. I was pleasantly stuffed. “Tall” Peter was making crepe suzette tableside; but I passed, choosing a trio of cheese instead. One was a camembert; but the other 2 were new to me (of the same, mild nutty flavor that I prefer). Boris came right away w/ the fruity condiments. They had the marinated raisins (“mincemeat”) & the apricot preserves. I’m really enjoying the ritual of ending the meal w/ cheese.

We were just finishing about 10:30; & everyone was rushing off to the show. I came back to the cabin for my laptop & headed to the compt. ctr. to transfer today’s photos. While I was there I had a nice conversation w/ Lynne & Gay (whom I had met in the Bistro 2 days ago). They were checking their business e-mails. I was back “home” about 11; & got comfy. I worked on the computer til after 2am; & then to bed to read for a while. We have a mighty distance to cover before arriving in Grand Turk Sat. morning. We’re really moving tonight; & I can feel a comforting “shimmy”. Seems like a recipe for a good night’s sleep……


Crystal Serenity Canal Cruise-Day 18

Crystal Serenity-12/16/09
Gustavia, St. Barts

It’s another hot & steamy day in St. Barts. On TV it shows the temp is only 82; but the humidity is 7,140.0% (yes, that’s EXACTLY what it says). And it certainly feels like it. We are at anchor just outside the harbour. Amongst the numerous private yachts & sailboats, I see what appears to be one of the Seadream Yachts anchored off our bow. It goes w/o saying that I’m not going anywhere today.

It took a long while to get to sleep last night; but I did sleep very well til around 9-ish. I am aware of unpleasant “sinus stuff” so that fully explains why I felt strange yesterday. I looked outside the door; spotted Catherine; & told her I wouldn’t be needing any service this morning. I got my book & read a while, enjoying lounging in my very cool, darkened room. Around 10, I threw on some clothes & covered the head & went down to the Bistro. I told Mario there would be no more caffeine for me. My new standing order would be a dbl. shot decaf capp. skinny. I said a brief hello to Dave & his table of friends while I waited. I made a quick stop at reception to change a large bill & then back “home” to the blog. I intended to have breakfast; but never got around to it. Maybe I’m finally tiring of eating, MAYBE.

At 12:45, I redressed & headed to the Lido buffet for brunch. I had small tastes of quite a few good things. I had another bowl of the cream of curried cauliflower soup w/ diced apples (still excellent). The taste of veal stew w/ paprika cream sauce was delicious; as was the smoked duck chimichanga. I had a dollop of sundried tomato mashed potatoes (yummy). I asked Chester, at the pasta station to make me an appetizer portion of pasta using olive oil, roasted garlic, onion & red pepper flakes. It was divine. Benjamin came over; & I asked if he had his family’s picture w/ him. He did. His wife, Susan is really a beautiful young woman (obviously younger than he). And his children range from adult down to about 4. They are a lovely family; & I must say that Ben looks more youthful in his uniform than he did at home in his street clothes.

I heard people standing in the dessert line raving about some sort of dessert. I went to look; & the guy said it was sticky toffee bread pudding w/ caramel sauce. Oh, Lordy. How could I not? I handed him a tiny saucer & told him I wanted exactly 2 bites worth. And that’s what he gave me. It was simply orgasmic. As I walked back through Tastes, Christian caught my eye. I had to stop. But he had several “customers”; & I waited patiently for my special “fix”. He was disappointed that I only wanted one scoop today. I brought it downstairs w/ me. Which by the way……I have used only the stairs so far today (including going down from 12 to 7).

I had a little over an hour to kill before my 3pm massage. I read & then showered. I (rode the elevator up) arrived at the spa right at 3. Much to my surprise, they had “lost” my 'medical history/paperwork' since the last segment; & I had to fill it out all over again. What a pain! My masseuse was Lacey from Aurora, NY. Can’t say that I’ve ever had an American work on me on a cruise ship. My appt. was for a hot stone therapy massage; but after talking, she decided to extend it to add some more shiatsu. She’s determined to get rid of those 2 “speed bumps” behind my shoulder blades that the previous masseuse did not. There was very little small talk; all business. She was outstanding. She got the 2 knots out in the back; but didn’t quite get all the tension out of my neck. But I’m happy that the sinus headache is gone for now. I came straight “home” (walked down 6 flights, thank you very much).

I took the camera & stepped out on the promenade deck to take some photos. The sun was golden orange, low in the sky. It was in the upper 70’s & felt so nice out there. A magnificently gorgeous yacht caught my attention off the port bow. Through the lens of the camera, I could spy “gorgeous people” lounging on the deck & several jet skiers doing figure 8’s around the ship. I took several shots; & didn’t realize just what it was until I came in & did a search on the internet. The “Pelorus” is 377’ feet, the 14th largest private yacht in the world. It was built in 2003 for $300M (US); & is currently owned by a Russian billionaire. It comfortably accommodates 22 w/ a crew of up to 46. I could almost hear Robin Leach’s voice saying “champagne wishes & caviar dreams”. WOW!

We set sail at 6pm; only have 20 something miles to cover before arrival in St. Martin in the morning. There is a deck BBQ around the Seahorse Pool tonight from 7-9; & the DR had open seating from 6:30-9. There were a few things on the DR menu that I wanted to have again; but it was so nice outside I also wanted to check out the activities upstairs. What to do? When in doubt… both!

I thought it best to go up to the BBQ first before the food displays were dismembered by the hungry masses. Looks like the majority of the passengers were there; & the lines were long. They SHOULD have found a way to have a double line for the meat carving, the ribs & the fajita makers. It was backed up about 25 deep for a long while. There was a mish mash of everything; baked potato fixings, salad bar, bread table, oriental stir fry (at a BBQ?), shrimp/squid kebobs, black beans & rice, vegetable choices, steak, chicken, ribs, tamales & 2 dessert tables. The best thing I had was the (made to order) fajitas. Yummo! I did get a kebob & a chicken tamale; they were so-so. The band was playing; & everyone was in a festive mood. Some were dancing. I sat & talked w/ Outi & John for a while; & met the art historian/lecturer (Dr. Yvette Sencer) who was sitting at the table w/ them. I saw Julie & Toni; but never could find Judy Miller. She’s disembarking tomorrow; & I wanted to say goodbye. I took my photos; fixed a plate & headed back to the cabin.

Catherine was in the hall; & I asked her if she would get me a little something from the DR before it closed later. I got in my jimmies; & started watching the nerve wracking Lakers/Bucks game on ESPN. Say what you will about the man….broken finger or not, Kobe’s still da man! (It doesn’t get much better than this.)

Waiting in line w/ Toni & her sister, Julie from AAA, Naples

In a little while, Catherine brought me a sample of the 3 cheese ravioli w/ sun dried tomatoes, roasted garlic chips & sage butter sauce. (Man, do I love that stuff.) I also had an appetizer of white asparagus w/ slices of prosciutto & pumpkin seed hollandaise (which I had fallen in love w/ during the last segment). I grazed on this combination feast til after midnight (with a little leftover for breakfast in the morning). It was pretty much a perfect day. There’s the tiniest bit of motion on the water tonight. Since we have such a short distance to travel, the Capt. said he’d probably cut the engines & idle until the pilot comes onboard about 6am. I feel like I could sleep forever (I think I’m falling into a food coma).


Crystal Serenity Canal Cruise-Day 17

Crystal Serenity-12/15/09
At Sea

The seas were perfect, the noises disappeared. So, why was I awake most of the night? Was it because I was worried about Josephine. Was it because that last cap. yesterday afternoon wasn’t decaf?? At 3:30am, I finally got up & took half an Ambien. And it was still a while before I went to sleep. But by 9:15, I was ready to get up. I slowly put myself together. I had some yogurt, granola & a sliced banana from my “kitchenette”.

First stop, the Bistro. The Chief was having his morning tea. I sat & chatted for a few mins.; & then made myself comfy at the bar. Had 2 cups of capp. & booted up the compt. for a little surfing. I had my eyes open for Julie or Judy; but they must be doing some (TA) seminar stuff today. It was very busy & loud in there this morning (more so than I’ve ever seen). I chatted w/ my friend, Joyce online on FB; & I told her I was wishing that she could be here right now. Two ladies came in for coffee; & saw me on the compt.; & asked about the internet service onboard. I had a feeling that one of them was a TA that might have just boarded yesterday in Aruba. It turns out, one of them was; but she boarded in Caldera on Thurs. Lynn (IL) & her friend, Gay (VA) started talking about the blog (which I was working on at the time). And this lead to a long discussion about all things “Crystal”. Very nice ladies whom I hope to see again this week. After a couple of hours I felt like I was growing roots to the bar stool; so I moved up to the Lido deck.

[A LITTLE OFF POINT HERE……Quite a few people have seen me at work on the blog; & they’ve asked what’s the blog address. I feel stupid saying I don’t know the address; but I don’t. I just give them my e-mail address; & tell them if they’re really interested, they could e-mail me & I’ll e-mail the link to them. By now, I’m getting rather self conscious about the blog. It was different when I thought nobody but family & close friends were reading. Of course, I’m not totally naïve. I realize that anything I put out there in cyberspace is public domain; but……this has become painfully apparent when I had an unpleasant, rambling comment on the blog from someone who took offense because I even brought up the subject of Angelina Jolie’s adoption of young, David. This was an innocent conversation I had w/ my Malawi friends; & in no way did I state an opinion either for or against. This person wanted me to know that (this anonymous) “he/she” did not approve. That being said; I got your message. It has been deleted & that is as much attention as I intend to devote to the subject.]

I perused the buffet; & the only thing that tickled my fancy was the Mexican spicy corn & tortilla soup. So, I took a bowl & went in search of a place to perch. Saw Spike & Lynda (“Either-Oar” from CC) & chatted a few mins. Boris & Petar were working upstairs today; & I sat in Boris’ area at “Tastes”. Since I wasn’t craving anything in particular, I chose a cheeseburger & fries. I told Boris that I wanted the thin sliced dill pickles like you get w/ room service. He comes back a little later w/ the thick sliced pickles that they usually give you at “Waves” (the grill). But he also put a spoonful of pickle relish on the plate thinking I might like that instead. I said, “no, but thanks; I really wanted the little pickles”. He disappears & in a few mins. comes back w/ a little plate of tiny (dill) gherkins. I was really beginning to feel guilty now. He insisted on going to find out where the room service pickles came from. He wasn’t going to give up. I had to grab him by the hand & beg him to let it go. (Where else would you see service like this except on Crystal?) I’ve been referred to all the great staff on Serenity as “rock stars”. I have now dubbed Boris, “my pickle rock star”. (And BTW, I did eat all the pickles, so his efforts weren’t for naught.)

As soon as I ate my first French fry, I thought of Keith (“Keith1010” on CC), who would almost rather die than to let a ff pass through his lips. I just had to pull out the camera. Because, Keith, that first one was for you……

I read while eating. Spoke briefly w/ Bryn & Allen (tablemates) who were eating nearby. And Dave (“Crystal Kid” from CC) came by to talk a while. Still no sign of Julie or Judy yet. I had wanted to ask Julie if she needed a ride back to Naples since I had the car service coming for me. She probably already has some arrangements made; but I wanted to offer anyway.

When the lunch service started to wind down, I asked Nat to take a photo of Boris, Petar & I. I’d rather do it up there than in the formal DR later. Although I was kinda full, I couldn’t just walk right past Christian & not “accept” some lychee sorbet. He had such a sad look on his face & was embarrassed to admit that he’d run out yesterday & had forgotten to “steal” some more. He said he could go get some in about 30 mins. I told him not to worry; but that he better have some there tomorrow. Then I winked & handed him his Christmas card.

I walked down through the Crystal Cove & the shops; not seeing anyone in particular. So, I went “home”. I sat w/ the computer for a while; & started to feel tired. So, I lay on the bed about 3:30, thinking I had time for a nice long nap. My eyes are glued WIDE open. (Note to self: DECAF ONLY)

Back on the computer; using internet time as if it cost nothing (well, it doesn’t actually, YET). I don’t know if it’s because I’m a little sleep deprived or trying to come down w/ something. When I laid back down about 5:30, I had a little chill. I did doze off for a short while. Really thought about skipping the dining room tonight; & I would have if the Chief weren’t dining w/ us. I had to warm up w/ a hot shower; & prayed that the Aveda “stimulating” body wash that they provide would give me the boost I needed to get through the evening.

I ran into Julie just outside the DR. She said she’d had a relaxing afternoon; & that they had only been in “seminar mode” about 90 mins today. Judy (DSM) just basically said, “here’s what we do; so go out there & experience it for yourself”. They’re eatin’ it up!

I perked up a little at the table. Since I knew Fran was joining us tonight, I couldn’t help but play a little joke (on myself, really). There are place cards on the table on the nights that the Chief dines w/ us. I made a “tent” to cover up Fran’s last name on her place card. On it I wrote, “Miller”. Fortunately, she saw the humor in it; & I went over to apologize profusely for my faux pas. I also passed along a few messages from “mutual friends” on CC. At the end of the evening, she came over; & hugged me to show there were no hard feelings. Such a beautiful, gracious woman. I still hope that we get to sit next to each other at the table so that we can REALLY talk.

I sat between Allen & Barbara; & there was a lot of lively conversation around the table tonight. The Chief seemed a little subdued; but always the congenial host. I had a little more wine than usual; & between “warm flashes” & funny stories, I was quite “happy” by the end of the evening. As for French night dinner, I started w/ the fabulous, extremely garlicky escargot, sopping up all that decadent butter w/ a salt stick. And again I had the paccheri pasta w/ pancetta, wild mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, with cream & truffle oil. Most everyone had the baby lamb entrée. It is garlic-herb crusted w/ a mint flavored sauce; accompanied by finely minced ratatouille & gratinated potatoes. Divine! Allen had ordered a fish that none of us had ever even heard of – pargo. Boris explained that it was a type of red snapper. It’s a mild, white fish that was broiled w/ basil butter. He let me taste; & it was outstanding. It reminded me a little of catfish, although I’ve never had catfish broiled. And he’d never eaten catfish, so he had nothing to compare it to.

I decided on cheese & fruit again tonight. Don’t ask me what they were; other than one of the 3 being another variation of brie, I have no clue. I told Boris I wanted some fruit to go w/ it. He disappeared; everyone else finished their dessert & were ready to leave the table & go to the show. The Chief left; Bryn & Allen hesitated to leave me by myself. In fact, only a few people were left in the DR. I kept wondering exactly where Boris had to go for that fruit. Finally I took my bread plate; put my cheeses on it & got up to leave. I have fruit in the cabin I could pair it with. The head waiter (“tall” Peter), was watching me, rather puzzled. I suddenly got tickled (too much wine); & said I was mad & was going to my room to sulk. He thought I was serious for a min; & I told him to apologize to Boris because I wasn’t hanging around til breakfast waiting for that fruit. I started walking out; & Boris is running after me w/ that awesome “mincemeat” raisin stuff I love. Gotta love this guy.

My Istanbuli waiter friend, Kamel, is always standing close to the exit to bid me good night (w/ a kiss). It had always been the European 2 cheek kiss; but the last 2 nights, he puckers his lips & dives in. “Tall” Peter’s watching this; & I made the comment that Kamel’s nothing but a “dirty old man” (he is old). Peter’s cracking up; & Kamel said, “Oh no, now everybody’s going to be calling me that”. These guys are so adorable. One min., they are portraying the epitome of proper decorum; & the next, they’re just a bunch of normal, fun guys.

I did learn something while talking w/ Barbara during dinner. Her husband, Alan is very quiet; & at one point, he mentioned something about being on steroids. Barbara told me that he is very ill w/ cancer & has lived much longer than anyone could have predicted. This explains a lot; & also reminds me that first impressions can be deceiving. They are a brave family. I’m home for the night by 10:30. On my bed I find this lovely golden box of See’s candy, along w/ a letter from Crystal that says “sit back, relax & savor a delicious surprise – while planning your next voyage w/ our 2010 special anniversary calendar”. Sounds like fun….what can be better than going to bed w/ a box of chocolates & a Christmas (Crystal) “wish book”? Sweet dreams???


Crystal Serenity Canal Cruise-Day 16

Crystal Serenity-12/14/09
Oranjestad, Aruba

Man, I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning. I think I finally went into a deep sleep just as we were getting closer to land. That was when the “bathroom noises” stopped because we weren’t rocking in the rough seas any more. It felt good to just wallow; maybe those “long past expired” Tylenol sinus pills had something to do w/ it. But I was grateful that I actually did wake up this morning. It was time for crew lifeboat drill again; & when the Capt’s voice came booming over the PA at 10am, I knew I ought to get up. Poor Catherine would want to get in here & clean soon afterward.

It looked gorgeous outside; strong winds; but it looked HOT. I dressed; & went down to the Bistro for my capp. Back in the corner I saw a familiar (yet, not so familiar) face. She jumped up & came over to hug me; & then it clicked……it was Judy Miller, the so FL Crystal DSM. She (& many other TA’s & DSM’s) got on this morning; using the Serenity as transportation only as far as St. Barts or St. Marin. Judy & I have developed a friendship over the past 3 years, catching up w/ each other at the semi-annual AAA travel shows. She & her husband, Eric, have sailed at this time in years past. I didn’t know she was going to be onboard. We sat & talked for about an hour. I sat there so long that the Bistro closed their breakfast buffet. But not to worry, that meant that lunch was becoming available elsewhere.

I went up to the Lido around noon; & perused the buffet. Nothing really excited me; so I decided to eat at “Tastes” around the indoor pool. While I was there, I handed the stack of envelopes to Raymond to distribute to the Lido guys. In it was the group photo, Christmas card & a little “bonus”. The Lido guys have to “pool” their tips that go on our shipboard accounts. But there are too many special people that go the extra mile for me (well, everybody). And I like to give them a little something extra. I do this before the end of the cruise, along w/ a card so that it doesn’t look so obvious. I don’t want them to HAVE to share this w/ the “pool”.

With the help of Rey & Ed (who has moved in from the pool area this cruise), I ordered lobster/melon gazpacho & a reuben sandwich. I sat & worked Sudoku puzzles & looked out at the beautiful popsicle-colored buildings of Aruba while I ate. Christian served me sorbet, telling me how much he missed seeing me yesterday.

Shortly, another familiar face appeared, Dave (“Crystal Kid” on CC). He has been on at this time the past 2 yrs; so we had a chance to do a little catching up. I asked him if he knew anything about the “mysterious” entertainment event that took place in the Galaxy Lounge yesterday aft. (the one I got an invite to). He did go; & said that it was special preview of the Christmas show that would be presented on the next cruise. Just a few “snippets” for us; maybe a sort of dress rehearsal for the performers. Who knows why? But at least I didn’t miss anything “life altering” by not going.

I made a few phone calls. Called Josephine (my ailing, elderly friend who I have befriended since she has no family locally). I was upset to hear that she isn’t doing that well. I had been hearing from other neighbors that she wasn’t herself; & she admitted that she’s been depressed, not eating well & feeling weak. She hasn’t felt like playing cards, going to church or volunteering at the thrift shop. This is definitely NOT GOOD. I’m left to wonder if she’s feeling abandoned w/ me gone; or if it’s just time to adjust her medication.

Then I called another neighbor/friend, Monica; & she confirmed that everyone is worried about Josie. I’m glad her daughter from Mass. is flying in before Christmas because some decisions need to be made. Again, I’m going to TRY to not worry about this.

About 4pm I went down to the Bistro for another capp.; & basically to hang out hoping to see Julie from AAA Naples (who also boarded today). She’s getting her first taste of Crystal; & I can’t wait to hear her impressions. I found a table back in the corner & plugged my laptop in & did some surfing. Ioannis (the “Chief”) was taking a break so he came over & sat down to have his coffee. I must say he looks pretty fine in his regular white uniform too. I happened to mention the strange noises that had bothered me for 2 days. He asked why I didn’t call & report it. He got right on the phone & called somebody to go & check my cabin (knowing full well that it would be dead quiet since we were docked). He thought maybe there was a screwdriver or some other tool left in a place that might roll around. I assured him it was not a “loose tool” kinda noise. (Trying to explain to a Greek that the noise was a creaking/rubbing/sea mammal howling sound wasn’t making the proper impression.) Within 10 mins someone called him back saying that they could find nothing out of the ordinary. He made me promise to call the desk & ask them to call him if it happened again. It’s nice to know people……who know people!

Something weird happened to my word processing software this afternoon. I realized I had made a mistake in the blog several days ago; & I wanted to go back & correct it. (I had mentioned someone by name & got their last name wrong……so sorry Fran.) Only, I kept getting an error message saying the program was locked. I thought, what the……? I don’t know when, how or why it was happening; but I went right to the compt. ctr. I think it had them perplexed for a while; but God bless Jessie Moncatar who worked on the problem for more than an hour. I’ve now dubbed him the CU@Sea “rock star”. He wasn’t sure why it happened; but he loaded an older version of Word on my laptop so I could continue to work on the blog. I was soon back in business. While I was seeing to my laptop, we set sail for St. Barts.

It’s casual night; Neptune dinner menu; not one of my favorites. A few couples from my table were going to eat in the Vintage Room tonight; & I would rather have skipped the DR & gone up to “Tastes” to eat al fresco. In fact, I considered going to the DR; & if nobody was at my table, I was either going to go to Silk Road & sit at the sushi bar (where you don’t need advance reservations) or eat by the pool. I went down to the Crystal Cove a little early still hoping to see Julie (from AAA). I saw Harriet & Seymour having a drink; so I went over & talked w/ them a few mins. Then I saw Judy Miller heading to the DR. I asked her where Julie was; & she pointed her out in the DR. I went over to Julie’s table & met her sister, Toni. And she introduced me to M.J. (an agent from C&I Travel in Naples) & her friend. I kneeled down by the table to talk to them a while; not in any hurry to get over to my table (cause I thought nobody would be there). When I did go to my table, there was everybody. Everybody except Fran (the dear lady who’s name I got wrong in the blog). Apparently, there wasn’t enough interest in the Vintage Room experience tonight, so it was canceled. I did get to sit next to Natalie & her husband, David & talk to her for the first time. Turns out, she is a TA who used to own her own agency; but sold it & now sells travel as an independent contractor for her old agency. Did I confuse anybody? She is truly delightful; & we had a long & interesting conversation. In fact, I felt compelled to apologize to everyone else at the table because it appeared that I was ignoring everybody else.

I enjoyed the table talk so much I didn’t seem to mind the weak menu. I had the lobster strudel in puffed pastry again. It really is to die for. And I went right to the main course (wanting to keep my options open in case I did go to Silk Road for some sushi for “dessert”). I had the pasta special (which I also had before); rigatoni w/ prosciutto, asparagus, tomatoes, a light lemon sauce, sprinkled w/ pine nuts. “Tall” Peter (Head Waiter) was making bananas foster tableside; & I was really tempted. But I went for the cheese & fruit thing (trying to be less bad). Tonight I had camembert, Saint Loupe & some weird sounding foreign name (all mild, nutty cheeses). The selection of fruit condiments had changed unfortunately, so I had to satisfy myself w/ figs & prunes! But the cheese was delicious. Before I finished almost everybody got up & headed to the show. But Barbara & Allen were still having their coffees. We chatted briefly & parted ways about 10:30. I headed home. Checked HLN (is everybody as tired of hearing about Tiger’s escapades as I am) & gonna read a while. The seas are still rolling a little bit; just enough to be rocked by; but not enough to make any unpleasant noises (power of positive thinking).


Crystal Serenity Canal Cruise-Day 15

Crystal Serenity-12/13/09
At sea

Forget what I said last night…..”I can put up w/ a little noise as long as the ship is rockin”. I lied. Neither ear plugs nor the sound machine could cancel out that noise. It’s a cross between a creaking sailboat, rubbing leather & a sea lion bellowing. I’ve determined that it’s not as loud if you’re standing exactly in the middle of the bathroom floor. And I’m sure there’s nothing that can be done about it.

All through the night the ship would “shudder” as if the propeller was lifted up out of the water. I kept waking up when I’d get tossed about in the bed. One could almost surf out there this morning. During the 9am Capt’s report, he said that we’re headed directly into the gale force winds (force 7), seas 12-15’, & we’re running on 4 engines (yet only doing 14.5 knots). No mention was made about using the stabilizers, which might slow our forward progress down to put us off schedule for tomorrow morning’s arrival in Aruba.

Trying to sleep is futile, so I was awake before 8. I prepared yogurt & granola from my “secret stash”. I did a little computer work; & then dressed to do a little shipboard business.

I stepped outside to take some shots of the swells. Then to the Bistro for capp.; to the photo gallery to look at yesterday’s Canal shots. Not too bad; & since I had a coupon for a free photo thought I’d use it on the railing shot going through the Gatun Locks. I stopped into the Capt’s Choice shop to buy some of that wonderful, impossible to find Sure deodorant (too much information, I know). And since Jamie Brown (the onboard Cruise Sales Consultant) was at her desk, I sat down & booked 2 “open bookings” for sometime in the future. In case you don’t know, if you book a future cruise while you’re onboard, you can double the amount of Crystal Society (past passengers) discount. I already have the Symphony booked for next Oct; & have no idea when or where I want to go next. But it’s foolish not to start the booking process. I can make up my mind up to 6 months after I get home; & can always get my $100 deposit back if I change my mind.

Since I was right outside the main DR, I decided to sit down & be served lunch today. The menu looked pretty good; & I wasn’t in the mood to eat from the Asian Buffet that was taking place up on the Lido Deck. A nice, mild mannered waiter named John served me at a 2-top right by the window. I had a beautiful appetizer that consisted of a perfectly stacked round tower of layers of eggplant, & oriental noodles. It was topped w/ a few bean sprouts & drizzled w/ chunky peanut dressing. It was a delicious as it was beautiful. Next, I had spicy Thai chicken & shrimp soup w/ lemon grass. There were big chunks of chicken, butterflied shrimp & julienned carrots. I was sorry I didn’t have the camera w/ me; although I try not to take photos of food in the main DR. My main course was spicy orange chicken. It usually comes w/ sticky white rice; but I asked for it alone. It was very tender w/ lots of orange sauce & orange peel curls. They probably served it up on the buffet; but I doubt that it would have been as fresh & tender as this was. I had a small serving of the nonfat German Chocolate frozen yogurt for dessert. I sat for a long while staring out at the wild waves, whitecaps & sea spray. Very soothing in an unusual way.

I went back to the cabin & watched a movie (Nights in Rodanthe), which I enjoyed. Then I watched 2 lectures from this morning. One was entitled “Anti-Aging Supplements: Fountain of Youth or Snake Oil” by noted Cleveland Clinic Endocrinologist, Dr. Charles Faiman. He covered topics ranging from hormone replacement therapy to prostate disease to metabolism.

The next lecture was on the challenges of “The Presidency of Barack Obama” by Ken Walsh, who is the Chief White House Correspondent for the U.S. News & World Report. It wasn’t what I’d call “in depth”; but it was superficially interesting. The lectures he has scheduled later next week promise to be more “stimulating”.

I had received a “private” invitation that read, “On this Crystal Society Family Cruise, by invitation only, please join us for a wonderful hour of special fun entertainment this afternoon in the Galaxy Lounge”. I asked as many crew members as I could find today, what this “event” was going to be; & no one seems to know. I didn’t want to dress & get out that early unless I knew it was worth my while. I wondered if it was Christmas related. It certainly wasn’t an invite to the Crystal Society cocktail party (which is always in the Palm Court). Hopefully, I’ll find out later exactly what I missed; & I hope it doesn’t turn out to be “life altering”.

The seas have calmed a little this afternoon; but there is still a pronounced rise & fall of the sea on the horizon from my window. The ship’s log on TV says the winds are still at 30 knots, (gale) force 7. The seas are 7.5-12’ (I’d say on the upper end of that). The horrible noise coming from the bathroom floor seems to be less frequent (thank God). Now that I’m aware of the weather front, my slightly drippy nose & headache make more sense – sinus. I looked in my bag of travel medicine; I always carry sinus & cold stuff. I took 2 Tylenol sinus relief; but didn’t notice the expiration date until after I’d taken it…..Jan. 2005; so you think anything bad’s gonna happen? Time will tell, I guess.

Feeling a little punkish, I got a bunch of reading material & climbed into bed about 4pm. I’d snooze a while, read a while, watch HLN a while. I decided that I was going to stay in the rest of the night. I thought I’d get a head start on tip envelopes. I let them put the bulk of my tips on my shipboard account [gotta use as much of that “free money” (shipboard credit) as I can; use it or lose it]. But I had printed special Christmas cards for the crew again this year; & I thought I’d go ahead & make them out & put the extra Christmas tip money in there. I’ll have that unpleasant “going home” task out of the way.

Catherine came in about 7; she was going to dust & vacuum since I had told her to postpone it this morning. When she saw I was in bed, she said she’d wait & do it tomorrow. I asked her if she’d order dinner for me a little later. So in the meantime, I watched a rerun of another lecture on TV. This was a lighthearted look at the art of celebrity caricatures presented by Ken Fallin, who (unbeknownst to me) is a featured illustrator/caricaturist in the Wall Street Journal, In Style, Barron’s, etc. He had a quiz to see if the audience would recognize the celebrities that he showed in a slide presentation. It was fun; I got most of them; & would have won a prize had I been there in person.

About 8, Catherine brought my dinner; & set it up at the desk. I wasn’t really hungry; but knew I’d regret it later if I didn’t order something. There were a few things on the main DR menu that looked pretty good; & I would rather have that than something later tonight from the regular room service menu. I had a seafood enchilada appetizer that was fabulous. It had baby shrimp, little teensy scallops & flakes of crab meat wrapped in a tortilla w/ lime flavored crème fraiche. I chose the pasta special as my main course. It was bow tie pasta (farfalle) w/ tomatoes, roasted sweet peppers, diced zucchini & eggplant, garlic & provolone cheese. I had this much later in the evening; & it was very tasty (even cold). I ordered the, always delicious, French vanilla crème brulee for dessert.

I was tiring of the computer work & TV (who said that?) So, about 11pm, I went to bed w/ a new book (contemporary romance trash). I lost a lot of sleep last night because of the noise. I hope I’m more successful tonight. Not that I’m ready for this vacation to be over; but I am really missing my bed. I should have asked for an “egg crate” topper to even out the lumpy bed right from the beginning. It’s redundant now. I’ll just suffer for another week. Ba-dump-dump.