April 20th-21st
At Sea, San Pedro, Los Angeles & Homeward Bound

I woke at 7:15.  It’s foggy & raining; but the seas are calm.  Hoping to use up most of my remaining internet time, I got on the computer while I waited for the morning show.  My last hurrah....I correctly answered the spellbinder puzzler (Kentucky Derby).

Capt. Glenn’s announcement was bittersweet.  First though, we’re coasting along at 15 knots on 2 engines.  He expects to arrive at the breakwater in San Pedro by 3 am.  We should be tied up by 4 am.  His final thoughts of this voyage, summed everything up nicely.  “Don’t cry because it’s over.  Simply smile because it happened.”  If only I could follow his advice!  He wished us all safe travels until we meet again.  (Little did I know that this would be the last time I’d sail with him or hear his sage words of advice.  He has since been transferred to a land based job with NYK in Norway.  A good thing for him; a bad thing for the rest of us.)

As was the case every morning for the last 94 days, the first people I encounter out & about were the photographers.  There was Lianne & Christine; & the flood gates opened.  And this continued when I arrived in the Bistro for my final capp.  You can call me a wuss if you like; this was going to be a terribly hard day for me.

At 10:30 all the world cruisers were invited to the Galaxy Lounge to preview the world cruise video.  Rick & Elise took the stage for the introduction. Elise was already choked up; her eyes red.  Before they started the film, Rick put up for auction, the banner that was printed during the Time Travel Event in Shanghai.

The film opened with Capt. Glenn, looking ever so handsome in his ‘black tie’ uniform, welcoming the guests at the special reception on Jan. 17th at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.  For approximately 90 mins. we were treated to the highlights of this fantastic voyage.  I thought it was amusing when they got to the part about our stop in Noumea.  Everyone in the audience laughed out loud. It was so memorable simply because it was a crappy day weatherwise & probably the ‘low point’ of the entire trip.  On that we all agree; & can laugh about.

When the film ended, Rick called a large group of crew members up on stage; & the song “We Are Family” was played on the sound system. Some were waving their arms in the air; a few dancing in the aisles.  Under normal circumstances, this is my ‘go to’ song that always puts me in a happy mood. Today.....not so much.

I heard others say later; that they too were choked up.  There were some of the staff that I’d never really come in contact with (especially since I wasn’t out doing the evening entertainment); but I knew who they were.  Since I came to this party late, there was a good portion of the world cruise group that I’d never met or spoken to.  Then there was my core group of friends that became my ‘family’.  Just like your own family back home, some you speak to occasionally.  With others; you share special moments, your personal thoughts & emotions.  I created a strong bond with about a dozen people that is as strong as any I’ve experienced in my everyday life.  I consider myself truly blessed to have gone through the most important event in my life with these people.  My Crystal Family!

It took a while to clear the room.  Everyone crowding around Rick, Josef & Elise to express their thanks, give hugs & say goodbye.  I went down to the Crystal Cove to check out the decorations for this evening’s festivities.  And one more round of goodbyes to everyone at the Reception Desk.

The final lunch in the Lido was the Latin Buffet.  I dined on ribs, chorizo, prawns, an enchilada & some cold salads.  I took a few cookies for later. There were more tears up in the Lido.  I went by the library to pick up the trivia prize; & then to print my boarding passes at the C.U.  Still more hugs & tears.  When I got on the elevator, I nearly gagged.  I reeked of a combination of everybody’s perfume & cologne.

I stopped by the cabin for my laptop; & then went down to the Bistro. It was deserted up there.  Maybe everyone was busy packing.  Finally Celeste came strolling in about 3:30.  She helped me transfer some photos from my memory card to her flash drive.  There were more goodbyes; & I was back in my cabin about 5 to do the final bit of packing.  I hope the zippers hold on my new luggage, because they are literally bulging at the seams.  It is still pea soupy foggy; & the fog horns were audible the rest of the afternoon & through the night.

I went down to the Crystal Cove for the farewell festivities; the music, dancing, countdown & balloon drop.  Everyone that mattered was all huddled up on a corner sofa in the Cove Bar.  I sat for a while with Kris, Betty, Nelda, Sheldon, Celeste & Bill.

A quick goodbye photo with Kelly & Pat; & then my bridge buddy, Elaine.

Raphael & the orchestra had everyone in a party mood, lots of dancing. Finally Capt. Glenn, Rick, Josef & Elise took to the stage for the countdown. Confetti falling from blowers upstairs; & the balloons cascading down from the netting (just as it had done 95 days ago).  And the final straw.....Auld Lang Syne.  The tear jerker of all time.  I cried every step of the way back to the cabin. By this time tomorrow, this will probably feel like a surreal dream.

Liz brought ‘the last supper’ about 9:30.  I knew she’d be too busy in the morning; & this would be our final goodbye.  It was hard.  And if that weren’t enough, I later found an envelope under a plate on my dinner tray. She wrote the following letter:

Ms. Becky
I am so glad to have met you on my journey of life.  Working for you was such a pleasure & life won’t be the same anymore for I have learned so many good things from you.  Getting to talk with you every evening makes me feel appreciated.  I wish you a very safe journey.  Let success & good fortune come your way.  I hope to see you in the near future.  I will always cherish every moment.  And I’ll miss you.
With love,

When I finally stopped crying (for the umpteenth time), I settled down for dinner.  I started with a very good cup of tomato bisque with basil & orzo.

I followed this with an appetizer portion of seared sea scallops on butternut squash risotto with brown sage butter & wild mushrooms.  It was to die for. In retrospect, I probably should have ordered that as my main course.

My entree was filet mignon, braised red cabbage & cream spinach. These are two of my most favorite side vegetables.  The steak wasn’t quite as rare as I like it; but it was tender.

With all the crying I’ve done today, I’ve got a throbbing headache.  I really hate to put an end to this day; but I am going to take some Advil PM & get to bed.

I woke up at 4:10 to go the bathroom.  I looked out; & we were already tied up to the dock.  I tried to go back to sleep; but gave up at 4:45.  I turned on the TV & watched reruns of 2 lectures from yesterday.  One was Professor Louis Beres entitled “Fighting terrorism, the challenges ahead”.  Next was on “Improving your travel photography” by (husband & wife) Dr. Charles & Professor Blanche Iliff.

I went to the dining room for breakfast at 7am.  I had cheese blintzes & bacon.  I got one last hug from Petar.  Then I went up to find Lizzie.  I had to thank her for that beautiful letter, which I will cherish forever.  More tears.

I gathered my hand luggage; & went to the Hollywood Theater a little early. I found Celeste, Bill, Kris, Betty, Peggy & Elaine all sitting on the front row. Everyone, except me, appeared to be keeping it together.  We were all assigned a color code & a number.  Mine was called before theirs. Everything became kind of a blurr from that point on.

I remember Josef & several others in white uniforms forming a line & saying goodbye as they scanned our ID cards for the last time & walked down the gangway.  In the terminal, a Crystal Rep asked me what color & number I was; & she escorted me to the appropriate room.  Our bags must have been placed separate from everyone else’s; because there weren’t that many of them & mine was very easy to spot.

James came over & gave me a hug; & then walked the porter over to the Luggage Concierge truck; & saw that my bags were loaded. I do not even remember who escorted me to the car.  I remember there being several neat rows of Lincoln town cars lined up waiting as each group disembarked. As my driver was about to pull away, I rolled the window down to say goodbye to Johann.  He came running over for one last hug through the window; & then we were off.  It was a whirlwind operation; but thankfully, not the usual chaos of pushing your way through throngs of people trying to search through row after row of luggage.

Check in at LAX was easy without luggage to check.  Since I had originally booked my own air & was flying coach class, I would have had to wait it out in the crowded gate area.  But I had planned ahead & purchased a one day pass so I could use the United Lounge.  Fortunately, that gave me the opportunity to clear my head, relax & wait in comfort.  I found a comfy chair, plugged in the computer & got some juice.  In a short while (my other bridge partner) Louise & her partner, Vic, arrived. They had a nonstop flight back to Honolulu which didn’t leave until mid afternoon.  My flight was at 12:30 with a change of plane in Houston.

The weather was cooperative; & the flights were uneventful.  I barely took notes today; & certainly took no photos.  The dream had come to an end; & I had no real desire to document this day in any way.  I did get a chuckle out of the paperwork the ship gave me for my complimentary airport pick up in Ft. Myers.  The driver joked that he had no idea WHO he was picking up.  I told him now that I’m back in Florida, I’m back to being just a normal person.

It was nearly 1 am when I arrived home.  I was tired, yet too wound up to go to sleep.  Even though I was happy to see my bed again, I was not happy to be HERE.  Nowhere feels like home right now.  I won’t be able to afford to travel for quite a while.  But I will have thousands of photos & this blog to help me relieve this grand adventure, every day for the rest of my life! And I thank God for giving me the opportunity to live this dream.


Two days later I saw my personal physician about the 'rash'.  She asked a lot of questions about what countries I had visited & what I might have come in contact with.  I kept trying to steer her toward the foreign prescription meds or something I ate.  She gave me a steroid shot, steroid scrip & steroid cream.  Within 3 days the rash was nearly gone; the itching gradually stopped after 5 days.  So, to this day, we do not know for sure what it was.


April 19th
San Francisco

First & foremost....a shout out to Elise Ivy who’s celebrating a birthday today!

I woke up when I heard the sound of fog horns a 6:50 am.  I slept like a brick last night; glad the headache is gone this morning.  I turned on the bridge camera; & could see the Golden Gate bridge & a beautiful sunrise.  I put on a robe; & stepped out on the aft deck to take it all in.  Part of the bridge was shrouded in fog.  The bright sun made the red metal stand out so distinctly against a pure blue sky.  Looks like God was blessing us with the most perfect day you could hope for in SFO.

How do you like our Coast Guard escort?

I dressed quickly & went to the Bistro hoping to see Celeste; & make sure she was still speaking to me after last night.  She & Betty were there; & I apologized for any misunderstanding about my not coming down for dinner. I must be losing my mind cause Celeste says they all thought I would be there.  I feel so badly that they waited for me 25 mins. before they ordered their dinner.  After some additional ribbing & a few mea culpas, they forgave me.

Immigration & customs went fairly smoothly this morning.  There were a few stragglers who didn’t go; & they kept calling for them over the P.A. system. The ship couldn’t be cleared until everyone reported in.  I call Marcia to tell her that she could come on down to the pier; it wouldn’t be too much longer.

My dear friend & neighbor of 16 years, Marcia, has been working in SFO for the last 5 years.  I’m lucky if I get to see her once a year; & I’ve missed her so.  She only lives a few miles away; & I had invited her onboard for the day. Now that most of the morning was shot, our time would be limited.

I got off the ship with Elaine (who was also welcoming a friend onboard today).  We stood out on the sidewalk in front of the terminal, chatting with Keith & Anne Marie; enjoying the warm sunshine.  It would have been a perfect day for exploring; but I didn’t want any distractions.  I just wanted to spend some quiet time with my friend.  She arrived about 11; & we had to stand in a very long, slow moving line of guests waiting to check in.

I took her to the Bistro first.  She’s a coffee fiend; & I hadn’t had my morning capp. yet.  Fortunately there were some Portuguese tarts left.  We were talking 90 mph.  Even though we usually talk on the phone about every week or so, this was special.  We went by the cabin to drop off her ‘stuff’ & show her my little slice of heaven on the aft deck area.

Kelly & Ashley

We started down on the lower decks, working our way up as I gave her the grand tour.  I got to introduce her to some of the friends & crewmembers that she has been reading about on the blog.  A nice surprise when we walked through the Seahorse pool area, I got to meet Ashley & Kelly (‘goldengatecruisers’ from Cruise Critic).  They were visiting friends onboard; & Ashley recognized me from my blog photos.  We didn’t get to talk very long; but they seem to be really nice, fun guys.  Oh, & did I mention that they were cute?

We worked our way up to the Lido buffet just before it closed.  I’m glad it was a good menu day; & I wanted her to try all my faves.  I’m afraid we ended up with plates piled full of goodies.  We shared SFO clam chowder, salad, fresh fried halibut fillets with cucumber remoulade, chicken cacciatore, onion rings, sauteed potatoes & onions, teriyaki beef with udon noodles, french fries & caramel pecan tarts.

We went back to the cabin & sat on the verandah, admiring the view; & talking nonstop.  The time was flying by way too quickly.  I told her I was having trouble getting everything to fit in the suitcases; & she offered to take some of it home & ship it to me later.  I started sorting through non-essential stuff; & put together a shopping bag full.  We were slowly working our way back down to the Cove, stopping to chat with friends who were just coming back onboard.

All of a sudden, the security guy comes over; & tells Marcia she needs to go. I don’t even think it was 5:30 yet; but she must have been the last visitor left onboard.  We had to hurriedly say goodbye; I didn’t even have time to walk her down the gangway.  I hate goodbyes; & this started the waterworks, which would undoubtedly continue for the next couple of days.

I went up to 8 aft to watch sailaway.  I even called Marcia so she could listen to Louis sing “Wonderful World”.  There were hundreds of seagulls soaring around the ship.  It was still warm & sunny as we made the turn around Alcatraz Island.  I stayed out there until long after we cleared the Golden Gate Bridge.

I went back in to shuffle things around in the suitcases.  My intention was to get them locked & ready for Liz to put back in their hiding place until tomorrow night.  By 7:30 we were sailing through pea soup fog; fog horns blaring just as they were when I woke up this morning.

Liz brought dinner at 8:45; & we both got emotional talking about what a joy these last 3 months have been.  She may never realize just how much getting to know her has enriched my life.  I just hope I’ve been able to impress upon this shy, selfless young woman what a very special person she is.

For dinner I had the California antipasto which consisted of prosciutto & salami on roasted red peppers, tomato with buffalo mozzarella & eggplant caponata.  Outstanding!

My entree was cavatappi pasta with plum tomato sauce, roasted garlic, chili flakes, buffalo mozzarella & parsley.  Crystal pasta never disappoints.

I tried to work on photos; but I was just too tired to compute.  I was in the bed with lights out before 10:30.


April 18th
Cruising the Pacific Northwest

The ship rocked all night; & I slept like a baby.  I set the alarm so I could watch the morning show live.  My initial reaction when I opened my eyes & looked around the looked like a tornado had come through.  Three suitcases on the bed, sofa & floor.  Piles of stuff on the desk & coffee table. Last night’s clothes in a pile on the floor.  So much for the organized 'me'.  My OCD ‘evil twin’ has emerged.  One of us is going to have to get busy today, cause I can’t live like this for the next 2 days.

I dressed & was in the Bistro when it opened; not a soul in sight.  Capt. Glenn reported that we are truckin’ this morning; going 21.7 knots on 5 of the 6 engines.  We are sailing 58 miles off the Oregon coast.  The seas have calmed; & we’re on schedule for a 6:30 arrival under the Golden Gate Bridge tomorrow morning.  His thought for the day....”Love is not finding someone to live with; it’s finding someone you can’t live without.”

I got all set up at our table; & went online to find the film clip from that Canadian news station that filmed us at the food bank yesterday.  They showed us hard at work; & then back at the ship showing some guys loading up their golf bags for a day on the links.  Most of Jennifer’s interview was left in.  They interviewed James (ShorEx Mgr) to talk about Crystal’s volunteer excursions.  It was very well done.

Over the next hour; Pat, Betty, Celeste & Bill all came straggling in.  We sat for a long time working on our computers, gabbing & started to get sentimental about having to reenter the real world.  Hubert (the jeweler) had rejoined the ship; & brought back Celeste’s new opal & diamond pendant.  It’s truly gorgeous; she is so excited.

She came back to the Bistro looking for her purse.  Seems in all her comings & goings, she lost it.  She had half the ship looking for it.  Turns out that her conscientious cabin stewardess put it away for her when she came in to change the bed linens.

Kris found all of us in the Bistro; & we all went up to have lunch together in Tastes.  I had some split pea & scallop soup (strange; but delicious combination of flavors).

My main course was stir fried chicken-vegetable egg noodles with chili soy sauce.  It was fabulous.

Pat, Kris, Betty & Celeste

I went back to the Bistro & continued to ‘work’ the rest of the afternoon. Then I went around & started distributing tips with tearful goodbyes.  I preprinted small ‘thank you’ greeting cards at home; & stuck the tip money in there.  I went back to the cabin; & started on the packing.  Three hours into it, I realized that not everything was going to fit.  The suitcases were full when I came.  Not that I bought that much, but I did receive some very nice & bulky gifts that were taking up lots of room.  By this time I was getting a headache & itchy, runny eyes (I’m sure it’s the springtime pollen from the last 2 days).

All my favorite people were planning to eat together in the main dining room. As much as I would have liked being with them, I wasn’t going to make the best company tonight.  And it's a formal night too.  I ordered dinner; & Liz brought it about 9. We were chatting when the phone rang.  It was Leo calling from the dining room.  Celeste asked him to call & see when I was coming to dinner.  I didn’t realize they were expecting me; & I don’t remember telling anyone that I would be there.  I thought Celeste was being sarcastically playful; & I told Leo to give her a message (which was somewhat ‘off color’). He wrote it down & handed it to her.  Let’s just say that I later learned it was not received in the same manner in which it was offered.

I watched the replay of this morning’s talk by Ambassador Marc Ginsberg, entitled “Syria: A doomed regime & a looming civil war” while I ate dinner. I started with Caesar salad; followed by spaghetti bolognese.  I had ordered some fruit & cheese for dessert.

The head pounding, I barely ate half my dinner.  It’s been such a dreary, foggy day.  With all the packing mess laying around, the sad’s been kind of a ‘downer’.  The ship has started rocking again.  I took more Benadryl & some Advil PM.  I was down & out by 10:30.


April 17th
Victoria, B.C.

I had the alarm set for 7; but woke up before then, legs itching like crazy.  I used the last of my Benadryl spray; & took an extra dose of allergy medicine. I’m still going to try to hold out another 5 days until I can see my own doctor.

It’s overcast; 45*.  It feels cooler, probably because of the humidity.  It’s going to be another one of those days of buzzing sea plane engines; & there’s a heliport up by the bow of the ship.  Certainly convenient for those who will be doing flightseeing type tours.  Capt. Glenn’s thought for the day......”Go as far as you can see.  When you get there, you will be able to see even further.”

No time for breakfast, I had to be in the Galaxy at 8:15 for my morning tour. On a previous visit to Victoria, I had the privilege of hitting all the major sites (including tea at the Empress Hotel & touring Butchart Gardens).  I was anxious to participate in one of the complementary voluntours; & the one offered today was the least physically taxing.  Today I would volunteer at the Mustard Street Food Pantry (VIC-FV).  We were greeted out on the pier by some locals dressed in vintage costumes.  They gave us Victoria lapel pins as a thank you for volunteering our time.

Our destination was on the exact opposite side of town from the port; so we enjoyed a nice scenic tour on the way there.  The tour group was limited to just eight; & (photographer) Christine accompanied us.

Parliament Building

Empress Hotel

Bastion Square

The Mustard Street Church complex is a series of small connected buildings in a light industrial area just north of Chinatown. We were met in a lobby (intake) area; & introduced to Nancy (the Administrative Director) & Rudi (the Asst. Food Bank Director).  He gave us a short tour & at the same time told us how Rev. Tom Oshiro started it all 33 years as a tiny mission ministry.

They have branched out into 35 agencies, 12 ministries, a halfway house for recovering addicts, social assistance programs for out of work families & serving 7,000 hot meals per month.  They sponsor a free clothing ‘bank’, help released prisoners find work & housing, & help mental patients reacclimate into society.  They have accomplished all of this with a staff of only 25 & approximately 75 volunteers.  Very impressive organization.

Rudi asked us to take our coats, purses & cameras up to a locked conference room.  They did not allow photos to protect the anonymity of their ‘clients’. We were escorted into the warehouse where all the food donations come in. Half the group went to the pantry area to fill the food hampers from a shopping list.  The rest of us unloaded cases of food, inspected packaging for leaks & checked expiration dates.  We sorted foods into categories, which were later used to stock the pantry shelves.

There was a local TV reporter who came with a camera crew to do a piece on Crystal voluntours.  They interviewed Jennifer from our group, specifically because she herself had gone through a rough time when she needed help. And since then she has volunteered in her local area food bank.  After 3 hours, we had unpacked all the donated food stuff; & I was walking around looking for something else to do.  An elderly gentleman walked up; & asked if I had come from the ship.  He introduced was Reverend Tom.

Such a sweet, unassuming gentleman.  Although retired now, he stops by a couple of days a week to check on things.  He explained to me two recently added events that are intended to restore pride & dignity.  On Saturdays they have ‘soup & chat’ sessions (to encourage folks to get involved in civic activities); & on Friday nights they have the ‘street cafe’ (serving the needy adults & their children, family style with tablecloths & centerpieces).  I am so glad I did this.  I met some truly amazing people; & was bowled over by all that they continue to accomplish without any help from the government.

Beacon Hill Park

We arrived back at the ship just before 1pm.  I headed straight up to the Lido for lunch.  There were so many interesting looking things, I took a little taste of everything.  I had some prawns, hearts of palm, a little vegetarian shepherd’s pie, sauteed green beans, half grilled cheese & ham sandwich & roasted red pepper crusted strip loin steak with chili hollandaise.  I had more than I could eat; but it was all delicious.

I went down to the theater to watch “Friends with Benefits”.  It had potential; but I was just too stuffed; & my left knee was aching.  I only lasted 45 mins.  Went ‘home’, took some Advil & laid down.  I noticed that it was raining outside.

Celeste called about an hour later to tell me about her tour of Butchart Gardens.  She said the tulips & hyacinths were gorgeous; & they were served tea in a private room.  She had a great time.  When I got off the phone, I fell right back to sleep.  I woke up when I felt the engines vibrating as we pulled away from the dock at 5.  I stepped out back to take photos.  It was still grey with low clouds.  There was a good bit of barge traffic in the Straits of Juan de Fuca.  It was eerily beautiful with the mountains of Washington state in the background.

I dressed for dinner a little early.  I went down to the Cove where I found Pat, Ray, Betty & Kris.  They filled me in on their day.  I met my dinner companions in front of the dining room at 8:30.  It took several weeks; but Johann, Melanie (both Concierges), Leroy (Reception) & Jelena (ShorEx) were finally able to coordinate their schedules.  Unfortunately, Lianne & Christine could not get the time off.

It’s such a thrill to get to know these wonderful people in a relaxed setting. We laughed & had so much fun.  My only regret was waiting so long to set this up.  I should have asked them long ago; & maybe we would have had the chance to get together more than just this once.  Leroy had beer; the rest of us shared a couple of bottles of wine.  Yes, I was jovial.

Tonight’s menu looked so good; I had a hard time making a decision.  I started with a deliciously rich lobster pot pie with herbed crust.  And followed that with an ordinary mixed salad with blue cheese dressing.

My main course was broiled fresh ling fillet (from the cod family), served with heirloom potatoes & champagne sauce.  It was very mild, thick & meaty; excellent!

There was a tempting dessert on the menu, that I could not pass up.  It was called ‘love potion’; & consisted of a caramelized pecan tart topped with dulce de leche ice cream.  NOTHING satisfies more than a double shot of caramel! There was also a little shot glass size serving of chocolate sour cream mousse with chocolate shavings on top.  The sour cream toned down the sweetness of the chocolate.  This is the most orgasmic dessert I have ever tasted. Everybody else was going to pass on dessert; but I asked for chocolate dove cake for them to share.  They loved it.

We sat there talking so long that the head waiters had already sat down to eat their own dinner a few tables away.  We had to pry ourselves away; & said our goodbyes in the Cove.  Well, except for Leroy, who walked me to the elevator where we stood & talked for a while longer.  What a great evening.

When I made it back to my cabin at 11:15, the ship was really rocking.  I probably should have done some more packing, some computer work, or something.  But I think I’ll take advantage of the motion & the wine; & hopefully fall right to sleep.