Segment 5 (4/14-5/3)

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Walt Disney World Segment 1 (1/19-2/7) Segment 2 (2/7-2/25) Segment 3 (2/25-3/18) Segment 4 (3/18-4/14) Segment 5 (4/14-5/3) 2003 Summary

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WORLD CRUISE 2003
THE GREAT PACIFIC CROSSING
Crystal Symphony
Sydney to Los Angeles
Departs April 14, 2003

20 days

 

Monday, april 14th – sydney, australia – depart 9:00 pm

tuesday, april 15th – cruising the tasman sea

wednesday, april 16th – cruising the south pacific ocean

thursday, april 17th – nouméa, New Caledonia – 8:00 am – 2:00 pm

friday, april 18th – cruising the south pacific ocean

saturday, april 19th – lautoka, fiji – 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM 

sunday, april 20th – cruising the south pacific ocean - easter

monday, april 21st – cruising the south pacific ocean – crossing the international date line

monday, april 21st – cruising the south pacific ocean

tuesday, april 22nd – crossing the equator

wednesday, april 23rd --  cruising the pacific ocean

thursday, april 24th – cruising the pacific ocean

friday, april 25th – honolulu, oahu, hawaii, usa – arrive 8:00 am

saturday, april 26th – honolulu, oahu, Hawaii, usa – depart 6:00 p

sunday, april 27th – lahaina, maui, Hawaii, usa – 8:00 am – 6:00 pm

monday, april 28th – cruising the pacific ocean

tuesday, april 29th – cruising the pacific ocean

wednesday, april 30th – cruising the pacific ocean

Thursday, may 1st – cruising the pacific ocean

Friday, may 2nd – cruising the pacific ocean

Saturday, may 3rd – los Angeles, California, usa – arrive 7:00 am – disembark

 

Monday, april 14th – sydney, australia – depart 9:00 pm

The small tents and huts built by the first arrivals clung precariously to the edge of a vast unknown continent. From this humble beginning, one of the greatest cities in the world has grown. The Sydney Harbour was the birthplace of the city, and the ragged convicts, whose numbers had dwindled to only about 1,000 after the long ocean voyage from their homeland half a world away, rolled up their sleeves and began to build. A little more than two hundred years later, Sydney is a monument to their strength and perseverance. The city has sprawled beyond the harbor now. Spread in all directions, each community has assumed a distinct identity.

Almost one of every four Australians lives in this huge metropolis, which has a population of almost four million and which covers an area of over 4,000 square miles. The metropolitan area extends outward from Sydney Harbour to the foothills of the Blue Mountains some 34 miles west, beyond the shores of Botany Bay, which is about 20 miles south, and to Broken Bay in the north, a distance of about 30 miles.

Sydney is the gateway to Australia for most international visitors. It is also the main port for every air cargo and shipping company servicing Australia. All national highways, railroads, and domestic networks connect to Sydney and many begin in the city. Brash, vigorous, and sometimes bawdy, Sydney is fascinating in its diversity, beauty, and exciting scope.

THE ROCKS

The starting point for any tour of old Sydney is the district on the western shore of Sydney Cove known since the first settlement as The Rocks. Dear to the hearts of the Australian people, The Rocks is the birthplace, not just of Sydney, but of modern Australia. It was here, on this squat peninsula, that the 11 ships of the First Fleet dropped anchor in 1788.

Excitingly nostalgic, the district was Sydney’s first permanent settlement. Its array of alleys, cottages, and seamen’s taverns quickly gained an unsavory reputation, but life in The Rocks was not all squalor and crime. By the middle of the 19th century, respectable merchants and families had built large comfortable homes in the district. Many of the Georgian and Victorian buildings in the district are maintained in their original states, and along with the area's narrow streets, faithfully reflect the atmosphere of the colony's earliest years. Argyle Place, containing the historic Garrison Church (Holy Trinity), is one of Sydney’s most delightful corners.

 

We start off this final segment of the World Cruise with about $330 of credit remaining on our account. That is after asking them to correct the missing pre-paid gratuity credit.  In addition, we have received $200 credit from Auto Club and $300 credit plus a box of truffles from American Express.  Conspicuously missing, of course, is $700 of Crystal Society credits we will have to “remind” them to give us.  It is interesting that they never forget to charge us for something, but credits are always missing.  We also received the Shore Excursion order form for this segment (Page 1, Page 2).  We have no plans to tour this segment.

Click for Daytime Activities.

The day started off with some rain, but it didn’t really affect our day much.  We were up by 10:00 AM, so we went down to the Bistro for breakfast.  All of the disembarking guests were already gone by this time.  After eating we went back to wait for Suzie to do the goodbye thing, which she did at 11:30 AM after cleaning our windows.  They make them work until the very last minute before they have to leave.

We ventured out on foot around noon.  The docking location is directly across the street from The Rocks, so it is a pleasant stroll to just about everything.  We wandered toward the bridge to get some photos of the old buildings that have been converted into restaurants and shops.  The Park Hyatt Hotel has the best view imaginable, located under the bridge with all rooms facing the Opera House.  There were tour busses dumping Asian tourists under the bridge for the photo opportunity of the Opera House.  The bridge itself is impressive from any angle.  The cute little Luna Park is nestled on the other side of the bridge.

From under the bridge, we walked back through The Rocks, passing the oldest part of town, also restored as shops and boutique hotels.  We continued walking for several hours with the destination vaguely being the location of last night’s dinner.  We walked through the downtown area that was bustling with pedestrians.  The city is sparkling clean considering how crowded it is.  We didn’t see one speck of decay or and rundown buildings anywhere and we walked all over the place.  One major street fronted with old shopping arcades has been turned into a pedestrian mall with fountains and sculptures along the way.

Our walk took us to the Queen Victoria Building, an enormous multistory edifice that houses hundreds of upscale shops among its ornate architecture.  The building takes up three city blocks.  There were no stores of particular interest to us, so we wandered out the back entrance and ended up directly across the street from the Sydney Town Hall where the dinner was held.  We didn’t realize last night how big the complex was.  It appears to include what must have been a chapel at one time.  Across the street and next to the shopping mall is a big bronze statue of Queen Victoria overlooking the traffic at her feet.

It was again raining a bit by this time, but the tall buildings and mostly covered sidewalks kept us dry.  We wandered through a couple of covered shopping arcades both old and new.  Eventually we ended up back in the center of the downtown area where we continued walking until we made it back to Circular Quay across from where Crystal Symphony is docked next to the bridge.  Since we had been to the Opera House last year, we didn’t bother walking all the way down the promenade again and instead walked back toward the ship.

The efficient ferries dock along the quay and the central train station is located on a level above.  Above that is a highway that is barely noticeable from below.  The walk back to the ship was pleasant along the waterfront and through the small park at the beginning of the port.  We saw some shops across from the terminal we wanted to browse, so we stopped there for a few minutes.  One of the shops had handmade wooden furniture and accessories.  The merchandise was beautiful, but expensive, and not exciting enough to interest us.  The other shop was closed for lunch, but looking through the windows we could see that it wasn’t as interesting as we thought last night.

By this time ir was almost 2:00 PM and embarkation of new guests had begun.  The only evidence of embarkation was the check-in booths and the waiting staff. We only saw four guests arrive.  We learned that there would be only 197 new arrivals, plus a substantial number of intransit guests.  The total will be slightly less than we had on board for the last segment, but we don’t have exact numbers.  We get a different answer on the count depending upon who we ask.  We do know that there have been a few cancellations since last week’s increase.  One good thing is that the cruise after this one, from Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale, is nearly sold out.

Waldo asked if we could take some digital pictures of him with the bridge and the Opera House in the background that he could email to his girlfriend.  We met him on the aft deck and did that for him, then stood and talked for a few minutes about some cheap guests who stiffed Emilie last cruise and tried to get Waldo to buy liquor from the crew store so they wouldn’t have to pay the regular price.  People pay all this money for a cruise and they are worried about $10.00.

That task done, we headed back toward the room, but were briefly detained by Peter who was hysterical over having to greet the crazy woman everyone hates.  She arrived as we were standing there and he tried to get up the nerve to go and greet her.  He tried to bribe Waldo to go first because she hates him.  The logic being that she would be so glad to have Peter instead that she might be pleasant.

By this time, we were starving, so we went down to change our Australian money back to U.S., then up to the Trident Grill for grilled cheese sandwiches and cookies.  Rodel came over wanting to hear about the party last night.  He finally got the chance to go out last night and went to Chinatown for dinner.  He seemed thrilled just to finally go out.  He was disappointed that we didn’t love the dinner last night, but only because he wants us to be happy, not because he had anything to do with it.

We rested in the room until 5:00 PM when it was time for Customs to arrive for the tax refund procedure.  We expect to get over $500 back, so it’s worth it to go through the ritual.  There was a bit of a line, but not too terrible.  It would have all been done in just a few minutes in not for the woman at the head of the line who had no clue, no paperwork, etc.  They had to fill out the forms from scratch when they reached the agent. This was only after they tried to finagle some sort of extra onto the invoice that wasn’t included “by mistake”.  Dave was the only one in line who had the proper paperwork filled out and ready to go.

Tonight’s dress code is Casual.  Everyone received a letter from the Hotel Director announcing the single seating again.  In addition, the letter suggested that everyone at large tables should decide what time they want to eat and arrive at the same time.  This is certainly logical enough, but we have no idea how they expect that to work with open seating.  We arrived at our table as early as possible to be sure we were finished before the sail away at 9:00 PM.

BON VOYAGE DINNER

Appetizers
Sautéed Jumbo Prawns with Slow Roasted Vegetable Salad
Prosciutto with Apple and Watercress Salad
Forest Mushroom Terrine with Tomato Coulis
Tropical Fruit Cocktail with Grand Marnier

Soup and Salad
Alaskan Crab Soup with Brie Cheese
Beef Consommé with Truffle Célestine
Chilled Fresh Strawberry Soup with Mint
Traditional Caesar Salad
Sliced Tomatoes and Mozzarella Cheese

Pasta Special
Penne alla Panna Rosa

Salad Entrée
Mixed Grill Salad

Main Fares
Broiled Fillet of Fresh Tasmanian Sea Bass
Roasted Rack of Wisconsin Veal
Ricotta and Sun-Dried Tomato Stuffed Chicken Breast
Grilled Black Angus Sirloin Steak
Grilled Black Angus Filet Steak
Plain Grilled Fresh Tasmanian Salmon Fillet

Vegetarian Selection
Eggplant Mousse Provencal with Greek Feta Cheese

Dessert
Chocolate Hazelnut Pudding Soufflé with Fudge Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream
French-Style Lemon Cheesecake
Banana Semifreddo with Soft Berry Jell-O
Sugar-Free Chocolate Cream Puff
Assortment of Fruit in Season
Homemade Cookies
Sugar-Free Coconut Snowball with Chocolate Sauce

Food review:  The chilled soup was outstanding.  The pasta was very good, also.  The first try, the filet steak, arrived so raw it was still red on the outside.  Rather than wait for another one, we changed to the pasta for a main course, which was fine.  We had mango sherbet for dessert even though Bruno tried to force us to order something more substantial.

The first night of a new segment is always disjointed, but tonight was ridiculous.  Bruno now has a table in the center of the room, the three along the wall behind us, and another one separated from them.  There was no way he could efficiently serve with his tables so far apart, and he didn’t.  It was almost like reliving the boring meal last night.  Well, OK, not quite that bad, but the service definitely suffered to the point where if it continues we will have to say something.

Leo arrived to replace Josef, the maitre d’.  He came over to talk to us much to the dismay of the old lady at the next table who was asking to be seated at the Captain’s table.  We have never seen her before and she had to ask where his table was, so we’re sure she hasn’t been here very often.  Unlike other cruise ships, the guests at the Captain’s table here do not rotate throughout the cruise, and so once someone is seated there, that is where they stay.  This woman had no clue about anything and we’re betting that the mix of her table changes right away based on the looks she got from the other members.

The Evening Entertainment is the welcome show “Pirates to Pinafore.”  There is a sail away party on the open decks at 9:00 PM, as well.  We made it up on deck about five minutes early and chatted with Ross, one of the bartenders, for a few minutes.  Harry came by after he left and stayed to talk as we sailed out.  The view of the skyline at night was spectacular.  The Captain announced that there would be a slight delay while the repaired gangway was re-installed, but we sailed only five minutes late.

Rather than turning and sailing out directly, the ship backed under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, stopped, and blew the whistle.  This initiated a fireworks show from barges beyond the Opera House on both sides of the ship.  It was striking to watch from the water, but probably not as exciting as one would expect.  Elizabeth and then Kim took our photo with the city in the background, but we won’t know until tomorrow if they turned out or not.  Elizabeth stayed to chat while we watched the skyline go by.  She said that everyone is talking about how boring the party was and how sick they are of these formal affairs.  She also had problems with complaints about no photographs of the inside of the building, but there was nothing she could do about it. 

After Elizabeth left, Kim, another photographer, stopped to chat.  We had never really had a conversation with her, but she was very friendly and interesting.  Kim is from Christchurch, New Zealand. 

We received a box of truffles from Nikki and a confirmation of our dinner date with she and Harry for the second 21st.  When she first picked that date and agreed, she realized later that there are two 21st’s for us this cruise because we cross the dateline that day.  So, we had to pick one or the other.

We have the first of seven hours forward on the clock tonight.

tuesday, april 15th – cruising the tasman sea

 

Today’s weather is nearly perfect with just a few puffy clouds in the sky, temperatures in the mid 70’s, and moderate humidity.  The sea is just slightly rough, but not bad enough to slosh all of the water out of the pools, which are full today.

Click for Daytime Activities.

Our first stop, after chatting briefly with our new stewardess, Maria, Emilie and Jose, was the Lido for lunch.  There were almost no guests there and certainly no lines.  After eating we moved outside to the Seahorse Pool area to listen to the band until they finished at 1:30 PM.  There are several small children running around.  If they were with paying passengers we would have no problem with it, although this isn’t a ship geared to children.  In this case, the children are part of the guests chef’s family.  There is also a young girl and a baby who are part of a Crystal executive’s family.  In our opinion, this it is inappropriate for them to bring very small children unless it is during a season when paying passengers are also likely to bring children.  In other words, during the Alaska and Christmas seasons.  By the way, the guest chef (we’re not sure that’s who he is, we’re guessing), arrived in the Dining Room last night dressed in shorts and rubber sandals, but was not turned away as a regular passenger would have been.

After the band finished and we sat around for another half hour, we returned to the room for the rest of the afternoon.

Tonight’s dress code is Formal for the Captain’s Cocktail Reception.  We didn’t intend to go to the party, which is a good thing because Dave couldn’t find his extra pair of tuxedo pants and had sent the others to the laundry.  After hunting everywhere, we called Waldo who rushed them back.  Luckily they were done early and were ready to be returned.  Then, the button on his shirt came off.  During dinner, a button on his vest fell off.  Ever have one of those days?  In any case, we arrived before the party had let out and there were more waiters lined up to escort guests to their table than there were guests to escort.

CAPTAIN’S GALA DINNER

Appetizers
Iced Malossol Caviar
Truffled Chicken Liver Parfait with Warm Brioche
Oysters Rockefeller
Exotic Fruit in a Pineapple Boat with Orange Curacao

Soup and Salad
Wild Forest Mushroom Soup “Cappuccino Style”
Clear Oxtail Soup with Wild Rice and Chester Sesame Sticks
Captain’s Salad

Sherbet
Refreshing Passion Fruit Champagne

Pasta Special
Angel Hair Pasta with Goat Cheese, Broccoli, and Toasted Pine Nuts

Salad Entrée
Beef Tenderloin Salad

Main Fares
Grilled Fresh John Dory Fillet
Broiled Whole Australian Rock Lobster
Chateaubriand
Stuffed Marinated Baked Quail
Grilled Black Angus New York Sirloin Steak
Plain Grilled Tasmanian Salmon Fillet

Vegetarian Selection
Grilled Asparagus and Parsnips with Glazed Sweet Potato Soufflé

Dessert
”Délice au Café” White Chocolate Coffee Cake with Raspberry Sauce
Almond Lemon Tart with Whipped Cream and Forest Berries
Crunchy Vanilla Mousse with Fudge Sauce
Sugar-Free Yogurt Fruit Terrine
Sugar-Free Blueberry Turnover with Diet Ice Cream
Assortment of Fruit in Season
Chocolate Truffles and Petit Fours

Food review:  Tonight’s meal selections just seemed to work together and made this one of the best meals we have had overall.  The only thing that was average was the dessert, but it was edible, just boring.

Bruno was glad we arrived early because he said he would be extremely busy later.  Ordering early didn’t help much and there were too many delays, missing silverware, and apologies during the evening.  He came by one time to sort of apologize for the delay in serving the courses and, we’re sure, expecting to hear, “No problem,” in reply.  We didn’t complain, but we did give him the impression we were aware of it and didn’t like it.  It isn’t his fault, but it isn’t acceptable either.  The only reason for the problem is that he is serving a big table away from his regular station where an executive from the office and his family are seated.  It always happens on this ship that if an executive is on board, the paying passengers suffer.   We’ll see if things improve tomorrow because some other guests were visibly annoyed and they are far more likely to say something than we are.

By the way, the man who we think is a guest chef arrived in the Dining Room on this formal night without a jacket or tie.  His children were wearing jeans, although they were dressed better than yesterday's shorts.  It appeared that Mr. T and his wife complained to the maitre d' about this, but nothing was done that we could see.  If he is a regular guest there really isn't much they can do about it, but if he is here as entertainment then they definitely need to tell him to follow the rules or eat in his room.

The Evening Entertainment is the production show “Fascinatin’ Rhythm”.  The show itself was more boring than usual and with the same technical problems they always seem to have.  The best show was the drunk woman who talked and clapped through the whole thing, then dumped what remained of her drink into her hand (on purpose) and shared the ice cubes with her friend.  Of course, she left in the middle to go to the casino. 

It was a little rough before dinner, but seemed to smooth out a bit before the show.  There was still a bit of a rocking motion going on at bedtime, but nothing to write home about.

 

wednesday, april 16th – cruising the south pacific ocean

Here is our photo with the bagpiper from the World Cruise Event.

The weather took a turn for the worse over night with somewhat rough seas and cloudy skies this morning.  The temperature remains pleasant in the mid 70’s.  It was cloudy all day, but the roughness subsided in the afternoon.  It was never smooth enough to fill the pools, but it wasn’t a problem either.

Click for Daytime Activities.

We went directly up to the Asia Café buffet around the pool.  We were surprised they didn’t cancel it with the chance of rough seas, but it went on as scheduled.  It was pleasant enough to sit outside to eat and listen to the band.  The Captain asked if he could join us.  We said no, but he barged in anyway.  Obviously, we were kidding.  He wanted to talk about what we thought of the event in Sydney.  We just said, “We probably feel the same way you do.”  That led him to complain about how long it was and that he thinks they should have done something casual because we get enough formality on board.  Honestly, we didn’t prompt any of this, but he took the words right out of our mouth. 

While we were talking, a guest barged up and asked the Captain when the pools would be filled.  He gave the generic answers of, “Maybe later,” but he indicated to us that there was no way they could fill the pools today.  He chatted about nothing in particular worth repeating, but it was a pleasant conversation.  He is always very nice to us and seems genuinely happy to see us whenever we run into him.  Since he initiated joining us today, that is apparently true.  He’s probably just happy to sit with someone who isn’t 80 years old.

After the Captain left, we sat there for another half hour and we joined by Louise, another World Cruiser who generally speaks her mind.  She is 85, but you’d never guess it.  She is very quick and doesn’t repeat stories over and over, so she’s relatively interesting to talk to within reason.  She complained briefly about the woman who left the party early.  Basically, she wanted to know if we knew anything about her, so we told her the little we do know.  She said that she had been on an overland tour and did nothing but complain about being discriminated against because she is a single woman.  Louise is a single woman and has a great time, so that obviously isn’t reality.

When Louise left we went by the room to pick up the memory card from the camera to email the photos to Waldo from the Computer University.  The card reader wasn’t working, so we had to ask the “dean” for assistance.  At first he acted like we were being stupid, but it turned out that the card reader wasn’t working.  So there!  We did eventually send it, but it was so fast we’re not sure it worked.  We told Waldo to let us know.

With more business to take care of, we went down to inform Lara that we didn’t receive our Crystal Society credits again.  We had to wait a few minutes while a woman made Lara go through every single cruise she has taken since 1995 to be sure she had added up her total correctly (she had).  When it was our turn, we didn’t even have to get up because Lara immediately said, “It’s not what I think it is, is it?”  We informed her it was and she was suitably mortified.  She said that she had emailed the office specifically to be sure it didn’t happen again and they had assured her it was taken care of.  Obviously it wasn’t and she was appalled.

Once that was done we stopped by Nikki’s desk to ask about the Los Angeles round trips on the Harmony in May.  The prices have been announced and are the lowest in the history of Crystal, starting at only $110 a day.  Most Crystal cruises start at $400 a day, at least.  Nikki said she told the office we cancelled the inaugural because of the limit of air fare.  She also emailed back that we were annoyed about the curt answer we got about the “illegal” itinerary we had planned for next year.  They sent back a reply that was only vaguely informative, so she is going to ask it another way until she does get an answer.  We asked if we could book and pay for one of the Harmony cruises on board, which she said is probably how it will be done because many people are taking advantage of it.

We chatted again with Lara on the way back to the room.  She looked on her list and found that we are ranked at 52 and 53 in the Crystal Society ranks on this cruise. That’s not bad considering that most of the top cruisers are on the World Cruise.  We have been on this ship for over 400 days in total since its inaugural in 1995.  Lara said we are definitely the youngest guests with that number of cruises under our belts.

Tonight’s dress code is Informal.

DINNER

Appetizers
Snow Crab Tower with Salmon and Malossol Caviar
Fresh Oven-Baked Lobster Strudel with Crayfish Sauce
Fresh Green Asparagus with Tomato-Herb Vinaigrette
Assorted Supreme of Fruit with Maraschino

Soup and Salad
Roman Soup with Pasta and Vegetables
Chicken Consommé with Butter Quenelles
Chilled Beet Root Soup with Sour Cream
Fresh Spinach Salad with Boiled Eggs, Sliced Mushrooms, and Crisp Bacon Bits
Heart of Crisp Lettuce with Potato Slices and Anchovies

Pasta Special
Tortiglione Calabrese

Salad Entrée
Grilled Chicken Breast Salad

Main Fares
Broiled Fresh Tasmanian Salmon Fillet
Pink-Roasted Breast of Duck
Pan-Fried Veal Scaloppini
Grilled Black Angus Filet Steak
Grilled Black Angus Sirloin Steak
Plain Grilled Chicken Breast

Vegetarian Selection
Risotto Milanese with Grilled Tofu, Mushrooms and Fresh Herbs

Dessert
White Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake with Caramel Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream
Vanilla-Strawberry Mille Feuille
”Bombe au Praline” – Frozen Praline Cake
Sugar-Free Raspberry Cream Puff
Sugar-Free Baked Pear in Puff Pastry
Homemade Cookies
Assortment of Fruit in Season
Freshly Frozen, Nonfat German Chocolate Yogurt

Food review:  Everything was very good.  The beef entrée was again improved when we changed the accompanying vegetables to something we thought was edible.  The cheesecake was incredible, as usual for this flavor.

We received a gift bottle of wine that we decided to exchange for Eiswein since it was the same price.  We only drink one glass a night, so a bottle of dessert wine lasts us at least three nights.  Everything was back to normal tonight.  Bruno informed us that he no longer has to serve the big table in the middle with the office people.  Someone must have complained, but it wasn’t us.  It is like night and day having him back with a more manageable number of guests.

The Evening Entertainment is a Variety Showtime featuring Flautist Gary Arbuthnot and Comedian Chris Bliss.  We probably wouldn’t have gone to see either of these performers in an hour long show, but both of them were entertaining enough for half a show.  We wouldn’t pay to see either of them, but they were talented and good at what they do.  The comedian also did some impressive juggling, much to the dismay of the Cruise Director who didn’t know he was also a juggler. 

After the show we were talking to Mel and Barbara in the lobby when Paul came out.  He said he was shocked at the juggling because he has scheduled another juggler for tomorrow night.  It was amusing after the show when he was doing his usual closing announcements about tomorrow and said about the duplicate jugglers, “I sure hope this next one is good!” 

It was a bit rough now and then by the end of the night, but not as much as yesterday.  It isn’t regular, just a bigger swell now and then that causes a rolling motion.

We received another World Cruise gift with this card:  “Welcome to World Voyage V, our journey from Sydney to Los Angeles.  The great Pacific crossing will carry us to the exotic island port of Noumea, New Caledonia and Lautoka, Fiji.  Then we’ll enjoy several restful days at sea on our journey to the historic ports of Honolulu and Lahaina before concluding our Pacific sailing at the port of Los Angeles.  We are pleased to present you with these custom luggage straps.  We hope they add to your convenience and pleasure on this voyage and during future travels as well.”

 

thursday, april 17th – nouméa, New Caledonia – 8:00 am – 2:00 pm

New Caledonia’s capital, Nouméa, is a South Seas mélange of French chic and Paris ambiance, fine cuisine and friendly people.  Its predominantly Melanesian, French and Polynesian population numbers 90,000.

Contrasts abound.  Colonial Creole and modern architecture nestle side-by-side.  Traditional structures, such as the convict-built Catholic Cathedral, blend with high-rise condominiums overlooking expansive marine facilities.  Melanesians in “Mother Hubbard” dresses stroll city streets past stylish French ladies in designer clothes.

New Caledonia holds special memories for the many servicemen who visited its shores during World War II.  It is an enchanting destination, providing visitors with a uniquely-different perspective of the South Pacific.

Although we were up plenty early enough to go out today, we opted not to bother.  After a breakfast snack in the Bistro, we went up for our usual port photos and to survey the area to see what was nearby.  Although the bay in which the ship is docked is scenic, with a nearby marina filled with expensive yachts, the town itself was nothing special.  This is a place best viewed from afar with a highway and ordinary buildings along the waterfront.  If we hadn’t been here before, we might have at least ventured into town to wander around, but we know there isn’t anything to shop for and the reputation of the French inhabitants as snobbish was announced in the newsletter and port information.

Click for Daytime Activities.

The bay is cut in half by what appears to be a manmade causeway that connects to some low outer islands that shelter the port.  There is a very narrow channel at one end to admit ships.  On the other side of the causeway is a disgusting, polluted industrial port where a neighboring nickel smelter was belching dark brown smoke and a variety of other unsightly fumes.  There were huge piles of wood chips or perhaps gravel all around the port that were discoloring the water nearby. 

Otherwise, the town looks like any other small city with a supermarket and shops with French names lining the waterfront street.  Up the street directly from the ship is a small park full of tropical foliage and beyond the tallest mountain we can see from this vantage point.  Continuing around the bay is the aforementioned marina and the entrance to the bay.  There were a few boats out on the water stocked with the usual array of naked skippers.  We fail to see the allure of sailing a boat naked, but it must be some sort of French thing.

One thing this island has going for it today at least it the weather.  It is pleasantly cool with barely a cloud in the sky.  In the sun it gets a bit too warm, but a cool breeze would blow often enough to make it very nice.  We’d estimate the temperature to be in the low 70’s and the humidity isn’t an issue.  While the hills are green, they are not covered with palm trees or the usual array of large tropical plants.  It looks more like the hills of California after a rainy season rather than someplace that gets a lot of rain on a regular basis.  This isn’t fact, just conjecture.

While Bill laid out on the Sun Deck, Dave lunched by the pool, as usual.  It was fairly warm without the breeze, but not unpleasant.  The band stopped early to rest before they have to play again at the Singles Party at 2:00 PM.

The sail away commenced at 2:00 PM on the dot.  As we sailed out, there were some beautiful scenes as we passed the marina and rounded the point to reveal another cove full of yachts.  This cove is the area where we walked last time we are here.  There is a narrow beach fronted by shops and small hotels.  A sharp right turn took us through the narrow opening to the sea.  Looking back we could see the entire bay and the city where we had been docked.

The water outside of the bay is just as calm as it was inside because the islands are surrounded by the second largest reef in the world, second only to the Great Barrier Reef.  We could see waves crashing on the horizon over barely submerged coral.  The Captain announced that we would do some scenic cruising around the islands for about an hour.  That took us around to the outside of the city where a row of modern high-rise hotels and apartments lined the beach.  Just beyond the resort area the steep volcanic cliffs began and civilization vanished.  We passed several of the sandy coral islands that have risen just above the surface.

Another of the large islands that are part of New Caledonia appeared around the bend, a multi-colored collection of tropical vegetation and bright rust red volcanic hills.  The erosion on this mostly uninhabited island revealed the rusty scars of the red soil.  It appeared as though perhaps the island had been mined or otherwise damaged ecologically because we didn’t see the same kind of erosion on the main island.  It was beautiful in its own way with every color of red and orange represented.  We cruised through the narrow passage between the two islands.

Looking back, there was a deserted beach on one point topped by an obviously cultivated row of trees.  Maybe the erosion had been caused by earlier farming?  In any case, there was no evidence of mankind except the straight rows of trees towering over the vegetation.  We passed close to the eroded hills, passing a secluded cove with a row of coconut palms on the shoreline.

Ramon, the Deck Hand who has been here forever, stopped to chat with Dave for a while as we watched the scenery go by.  He is trying to improve his English by reading voraciously.  However, he speaks better English than anyone else on board as far as we can tell. He is always very friendly and said that he is thinking of transferring to be a Deck Steward because he enjoys interacting with the guests so much.  At the moment he does all the heavy duty things on deck such as working the tenders and maintaining the pool.  After Ramon left, Darwin came over to chat about volcanoes and a few other general subjects.  At this point it was time for ice cream and a return to the room.

For quite some time, we sailed through the reef, passing waves crashing over nothing, something that resembled an airplane fuselage crashed on the rocks, more low coral islands, and some small volcanoes in the distance.   We spent the rest of the afternoon on the verandah.

Tonight’s dress code is Informal.  We stopped to chat with Rudolf who was staring into space looking forlorn.  He said he missed his boyfriend who had left for vacation in Sydney.  He found out that he will be going to the Serenity while Rudolf is staying on the Symphony.  Otherwise, he was in fine spirits and we had an entertaining conversation with him, as usual.

DINNER

Appetizers
Crab Cake on Marinated Tomato Salad with Basil Oil
Salad of Roasted Chicken Breast with Artichokes and Green Beans
Grilled Forest Mushrooms Marinated in Olive-Herb Vinaigrette
Fresh Tropical Fruit with Kiwi Wedges and Aged Sherry

Soup and Salad
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Sunflower Seeds
Beef Broth with Vermicelli Pasta
Chilled Green Pea Soup with Mint
Garden Mixed Greens with Sprouts, Tomatoes, and Parmesan Shavings
Pear, Endive, and Blue Cheese Salad with Pear Dressing

Pasta Special
Linguine with Lemon Oil, Fresh Lobster, Garlic, Plum Tomatoes, and Basil

Salad Entrée
Smoked Salmon Cucumber Salad

Main Fares
Plain Grilled Lamb Loin
Grilled Fresh Swordfish Steak
Fricassee di Polla Alla Cacciatore
Maple Glazed, Slow-Roasted Rack of Pork
Grilled Black Angus Filet Steak
Plain Grilled Fresh Pacific Deep Sea Bass Fillet

Vegetarian Selection
Crispy Polenta on Root Vegetables with Grilled Mushrooms

Dessert
California Citrus Soufflé Cake with Vanilla Sauce and Pistachio Ice Cream
Old Fashioned Pumpkin Pie a la Mode
Hazelnut Ice Parfait with Sour Cherries
Sugar-Free Vanilla Tart
Sugar-Free Orange Pudding
Homemade Cookies
Assortment of Fruit in Season

Food review:  Everything was very good tonight with nothing standing out as particularly great.

It was quite slow in the Dining Room tonight, so the service was better than usual.  Still, we ran out of the proper silverware during certain courses.  This isn’t a big deal, but it never happened when Jerry was our waiter.  It seemed like almost no one went ashore today, even the waiters who usually can’t wait to get out.  Andrejus said he went out for 45 minutes and saw there was nothing there.  

Roland happened to be carrying tomorrow’s menu, so he showed it to us to see if we want anything special instead.  Bill wanted taco salad, but there is no way anything from this kitchen would even remotely look like what he expects, so we settled for sweet and sour chicken instead.  We know they can make that properly.

The Evening Entertainment is another Variety Showtime featuring Juggler Dick Franco with his assistant, Maki, and Vocalist Celeste Francis.  The juggler was talented enough, but his act was boring.  The singer had a very good voice, but she sang a couple of songs that weren’t really appropriate for her style and her banter was rather strange.  We would go see her again though.  During the juggler it was more entertaining to watch the lights change and watch the guests fall asleep.

We move another hour forward on the clock tonight.

friday, april 18th – cruising the south pacific ocean

 

Today started off cloudy with a bit of rain, about the same temperature as yesterday, with slightly rough seas.  It stayed cloudy most of the day.  There wasn’t any sun at all until late afternoon and even then there were thunderstorms in the distance.

Click for Daytime Activities.

Our day began with lunch in the Lido where it was jam packed for the first time this cruise.  Of course, we arrived just as Trivia let out, so it stands to reason there would be a line.  We wandered down to the ask Billy about passport requirements for the Mexican cruises on the Harmony, but he didn’t know for sure.

At 2:30 PM we went up to the salon for our haircut appointments and then down to the lobby to see Nikki about the Harmony cruises.  Lara said that the cruises were sold out within three days, but she wasn’t absolutely positive about it.  The point in chatting with Lara was to ask about how they handle the shorter cruises with formal nights.  She wasn’t sure because they rarely have such short cruises, but she said they would probably have the Crystal Society party in the afternoon and then it wouldn’t require a formal night.

Nikki confirmed that those cruises did indeed sell out within three days, but she found it hard to believe that was for all categories.  She said the office was swamped with calls and they had to call in reinforcements to handle the phones.  She also thought that with the overwhelming success of this that they might offer similar deals on the Harmony soon because it doesn’t make sense to staff the ship for full capacity for only three short cruises.  In the meantime, she is going to try to push our reservations through as VIP’s.  She indicated that they often hold cabins aside for guests who want to book on board another cruise.  However, she said the office told her the waiting list already had hundreds of names on it.  Nikki wasn’t sure about the passport issue either, but she called later to say that a birth certificate and drivers license would be acceptable.

It was time to head outside for some ice cream.  Rodel came over and chatted about his sons who are just starting to become a bit of a handful.  They are 16 and 18, with the 16-year-old being the issue of the moment.  A couple of large waves came along and caused some major sloshing of water out of the pool, which resulted in a hysterical effort to rescue the Captain’s two daughters from the pool.  The water had already been sloshing, so what were they doing in there to begin with?

On the way back to the room at 5:00 PM, we ran into Waldo and Peter in the hallway and asked if they wanted to come by to look at the Bonsall photos they asked about.  They arrived fifteen minutes later and a conversation with Waldo complaining about everyone ensued with Peter looking on with amusement.  Eventually we did get around to showing them the photos and they were suitable impressed.  

We found out during the conversation that the big guy who arrived in the Dining Room in shorts and rubber sandals is indeed a passenger.  The staff was alerted to him when he tried to get a free upgrade and free babysitting as he was checking in.  Neither of those things is available, but he claimed his travel agent told him they were.  Too bad, so sad, the ship doesn’t care what he was told, they simply do not give free upgrades.  He was told by the maitre d’ that he has to dress properly, but he basically said that he didn’t have proper clothes and what are they going to do about it?  The warning came after several other guests complained about it, but apparently Crystal prefers to placate one guest who will probably never come back, than to make fifty others happy who are regulars.  The guy seems to behave properly otherwise, so we don’t see it as a problem, but we do wonder what he was thinking by coming on the most formal ship there is if he doesn’t even own a jacket?

Tonight’s dress code is Informal.

DINNER

Appetizers
Crisp Fried Shrimp Roll with Hot Mustard Plum Sauce
Baked Potato filled with Smoked Sturgeon with Caviar
Homemade Vegetable Terrine with Tarragon Vinaigrette
Chilled Fruit Cup with Banana Liqueur

Soup and Salad
Kansas City Beef Soup
Chicken Broth with Mint, Coriander, and Lemongrass
Chilled Tropical Passion Fruit Soup with Low Fat Yogurt
Crisp Garden Greens tossed with Bella Vista Dressing and Mango Chunks
Marinated Tomato Salad with Chopped Onions, Herbs, and Boston Lettuce Leaves

Pasta Special
Tripolini Pasta tossed with Fresh Clams, Capers, and Garlic Chips

Salad Entrée
Lamb Salad

Main Fares
Old Fashioned Grilled Black Angus T-Bone Steak
Broiled Fresh Australian Barramundi Fillet
Whole Roasted Tom Turkey
Osso Buco Cremolata
Grilled Filet Steak
Apple Curry Flavored Chicken Breast

Vegetarian Selection
Golden Fried Tofu Cakes on Grilled Vegetables

Dessert
Pumpkin Layered Cheesecake with Fudge Sauce
Chocolate and Caramel Macadamia Nut Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream
Banana Walnut Mousse with Fresh Fruit and Crisp Filo
Sugar-Free Pineapple Pudding
Sugar-Free Strawberry Passion Fruit Tart
Homemade Cookies
Assortment of Fruit in Season
Refreshing Vodka Lime Sherbet

Food review:  The appetizer was very good, nice and crisp.  The salad dressing was, as usual, watery and tasteless.  Our entrée was a special order version of Sweet and Sour Chicken, which was outstanding and a huge portion.  Both desserts were very good.

Roland wants to make Beef Stroganoff for us, so Bruno can learn to prepare it before he goes to the Serenity as a headwaiter.  We said that was fine, but not tomorrow night.   Bruno said he isn’t going ashore tomorrow because it has nothing to offer and is populated by Indian people.  We agree with him and we do recall that all of the shopkeepers were from India.  The natives live in villages outside of the city, so there is some racial tension there.  Without going on a tour, which we did last time, there isn’t anything to see in town.

The Evening Entertainment is a quartet from Australia called “Black Tie.”  All of the acts we have seen from Australia have been very good, but this was the first exception.  The group is made up of two brothers who are the singers, and their wives, one of whom is a pianist, the other a cellist.  The pianist was relatively talented, the brothers adequate, and the cellist unbearably off key.  That didn’t seem to make much difference to the audience who gave them a standing ovation, but in our opinion this was one of the worst acts we have seen so far.

We stopped to chat with Ronnie for a while about nothing in particular.  He had just taken the MTV Party photos back to his room, but he said he'll bring them back up.  He was appalled that we had seen the photo of his Tina Turner number, not because he didn't want us to see it, but because he was surprised anyone else would show it to us.  He doesn't know our reputation very well, does he?

 

saturday, april 19th – lautoka, fiji – 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM

To the east of the International Date Line lies an exquisite garland of islands known as Fiji.  Dignified smiling people bid you “bula,” or welcome, to their unspoiled homeland.  The bustling port town of Lautoka has a population of 44,000.  It lies cradled on the western shores of Viti Levu, the largest of Fiji’s 300 idyllic islands.  Shop for shell jewelry, wood carvings, woven mats, basketry and masi, the traditional painted bark cloth.  Or scour the market for exquisite Indian saris.

Not too far distant from our pier are field upon field of lush sugar cane, traditional villages and an orchid wonderland.  As the islanders proudly claim, “Fiji is the way the world ought to be.”

Click for Daytime Activities.

From the vantage point of the ship, Fiji looks pretty much like Maui.  But, as one waiter in the Lido put it, “It is dirty and smelly.”  One of the Filipino cooks said, “We have those in the Philippines,” referring to a shanty town on the mangrove swamp across from the ship that floods at high tide.  The water is clear blue except where the extensive mud flats meet it along the shoreline, where it turns brown.  Trash floats everywhere.  And boy, is it hot or what?  It is at least 90 with humidity to match.

In the distance, there are numerous small volcanic islands and the long, lush lowlands of the main island.  The mountains look as they do in Hawaii with green farmlands and tropical foliage up the steep slopes.  The peaks are obscured by thunderclouds, but the view is nonetheless spectacular.  Across the channel there is a small island similar to the shanty town area, but this one sports a manmade beach with a small resort.

We know from past experience that the only way to really see anything worthwhile here is to go on tour.  Having done the main tour before, we saw no need to do it again, so we chose to do nothing.  Well, almost nothing. after a Lido lunch, we did manage to drag ourselves to the pier to rummage through the handicrafts market for five minutes before being nearly overcome by the heat.  We felt sorry for the Deck Hands working on one of the tenders that had been lowered to the pier level for maintenance.

Back on board, we ran into several guests who said they had done the same thing and spent only a few minutes ashore.  World Cruisers are starting to ask one another whether they booked for next year.  It seems tilted slightly more toward not going, which is always our answer without hesitation. 

We received a message from Nikki confirming that the Crystal Harmony bargain cruises sold out in the three days and they are definitely wait list only at this point.  Assuming they will know one way or the other fairly quickly, we decided to be put on the list and see what happens.  She also confirmed that passports will not be required, which is unusual for Crystal no matter what the itinerary.

The rest of the afternoon was occupied doing laundry and assembling Easter candy to give to crewmembers tomorrow.

We sailed promptly at 4:00 PM just as a thunderstorm began across the bay.  Not two minutes after leaving the dock, the rain started pouring so hard we could hear it hitting the water fifty feet away from the ship.  As we sailed through the narrow channel between two mudflats, the water swarmed with huge purple jellyfish for as far as the eye could see.  After sailing for about an hour around the island, we stopped in front of Chef Markus’ new house and blew the whistle, then sailed off into the sunset.

Tonight’s dress code is Casual/50’s for the 50’s Dinner.  There is also casual dining offered around the Neptune Pool that fulfills the obligation to provide a casual dining option as stated in the brochure.  We stopped to chat with Jessica on the way past the Front Desk.  She said that all of the guests who went into town today were sorry they had done so, adding, “Welcome to New Delhi!” 

‘50s DINNER

Appetizers
Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail with Creole Rémoulade Sauce
Polenta con Funghi
Barbequed Quail
Iced Apple, Grape, and Pear Cup with Calvados Yogurt Topping

Soups and Salads
Midwest Baby Corn Bisque with Bell Pepper Confit and Crisp Leek
Chicken Broth with Matzo Balls
Chilled Forest Berry Soup
Medley of Selected Field Greens with Fried Onion Rings and Shredded Carrots
Tossed Garden Lettuce with Lorenzo Dressing on a Bed of Tomatoes

Pasta Special
Tagliatelle Pasta alla Émilion

Salad Entrée
Grilled Minute Steak Salad

Main Fares
Roasted American Prime Rib of Black Angus Beef
Broiled Fresh Blue Eye Fillet
Medallions of Canadian Venison
Grilled Black Angus Filet Steak
Broiled Fresh Salmon Fillet

The Blue Plate Special
Traditional American Meatloaf

Vegetarian Selection
Twice Baked Potatoes filled with Three Cheeses

Dessert
Creole Sour Cream Cheesecake with Homemade Caramel Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream
Bittersweet Chocolate Chunk Pecan Pie a la Mode
Chocolate Fudge Brownie Sundae
Sugar-Free Jell-O with Fresh Fruits
Sugar-Free Lemon Yogurt Timbale
Homemade Cookies
Assortment of Fruit in Season
Nonfat Strawberry Yogurt

Food review:  Both soups were outstanding, but the meatloaf was squishy and way too salty to be edible.  Once it was noticed by Bruno that we didn’t like it, he was hysterical, but it was too late to bother with a replacement by then anyway.

The Dining Room was less than half full because over a hundred people went to the casual dining upstairs according to Leo.  They only offer this option twice in a long cruise and it simply isn’t worth the minor effort it takes, especially when it is hot and humid outside.  We learned by attending once last year never to go again unless the concept is revised.

Bruno, Andrejus, Leo, and Ben all said the same thing regarding today's port, "If we wanted to go to Bombay, we'd go to India."  Apparently the town was so crowded that it resembled an Indian city.  They all said it was dirty and disgusting.  Andrejus went diving, but was totally disappointed by the experience.

The Evening Entertainment is the production show, “Rock Around the Clock,” plus a Sock Hop afterward.  Bill went to the show, which was marred by a ridiculous number of technical errors.  Dave delivered our Easter candy and card to Ronnie who then regaled him with stories about his roommates behavior that are not suitable to repeat here.  Whenever we need entertaining conversation, we need look no further than the Library!

It’s another hour forward on the clock tonight as we sail toward home.

sunday, april 20th – cruising the south pacific ocean - easter

 

This Easter Sunday at sea was very stormy all day with rough seas and sudden downpours the norm.  It is also very hot with 100% humidity outside, so opening the door for only a second causes all of the mirrors in the room to immediately fog up.  Camera lenses and our glasses suffered the same fate the moment we stepped outside.  Luckily, we have little need to step outside, so it makes no real difference to us.

Click for Daytime Activities.

Our day started off with a trip to the Easter Brunch in the Dining Room.  We left Easter candy for Emilie and Maria, much to their delight.  All guests received a basket of candy and colored hard-boiled eggs in their room, which was a nice touch.  The entrance to the Dining Room was decorated with a table full of chocolate bunnies, and huge candy egg made of cornflakes coated with white chocolate.  There were some outstanding jelly beans, chocolate eggs, etc.  The lobby was decorated with a huge bouquet of yellow flowers in the center in front of the fountain.

The brunch was the same as the previous Sunday Brunches, but the food wasn’t as tasty as before.  It is still better than one of their fancier buffets and the guests really seemed to be delighted with it.  The Champagne Strings were serenading the diners as they browsed the food tables.  They had the usual brunch foods such as made-to-order waffles, omelets, Eggs Benedict, fruit, etc.  There was also an array of hot foods such as Beef Stroganoff.  We both had Eggs Benedict and waffles, as usual.  The Benedict wasn’t very tasty with grisly ham under the eggs.  The waffles looked awful, but were very tasty.  With the exception of the 1” piece of wire Dave found cooked into his waffle, it was fine.  We pointed out the wire to Roland who took it back to show the chef.  We thought they should have replaced the batter, but nothing was done that we could see.  The wire was from a brush used to break up lumps in the flour, so it wasn’t necessarily unsanitary, but it would have been dangerous if swallowed or bitten strongly. 

After brunch we retrieved our bags of Easter goodies and delivered them to the Photo Shop, Front Desk and Shore Excursions, all of whom were delighted.  We always think they must have tons of candy, but we seem to be the only ones who bring treats to anyone other than major officers.  We went back to the room to wait until 3:00 PM when Nikki and Lara would return to their desks, then we delivered their special bags and cards, to much hugging, kissing and general carrying on.  When we discovered that they wanted some chocolate eggs from the now denuded Dining Room display, we went over and rummaged through the grass to find some that had been left behind and gave them to Lara, who was thrilled.

We replaced the contents of the Easter basket we received, with our own supply of Cadbury eggs and delivered it to the Deck Stewards who were slaving away on the steamy Lido Deck.  As we emerged, it began to pour rain so hard that a fog arose from the Seahorse Pool deck.  It was so humid that all of the windows were fogged up and it was starting to rain under the glass roof over the Neptune Pool.  After returning to the room, we opened the door, again immediately fogging up the mirrors, our glasses and the camera, and gazed out at the stormy seas and angry cloud formations.  It really isn’t as rough as the picture might suggest because the ship is traveling in the same direction as the origin of the waves, so the stabilizers are effective in minimizing the roll.  When the rain subsided, it became completely foggy with no visibility at all.

A notice was received changing tonight’s entertainment for the third time.  Originally, Jim Nabors was to be the headline entertainment tonight, but he has laryngitis.  Then they scheduled the production show, “Million Dollar Musicals,” but the lead singer is ill.  Now we’re down to a slapped together variety show with every entertainer on board they could dredge up.

Waldo dropped by to chat before dinner about nothing in particular, just that he’s bored because there are so few guests.  We received a nice thank you note from Lara for the Easter candy.  Elizabeth used an innovative note card that was made up of a hunky gondolier photo from Venice she thought we would appreciate.

Tonight’s dress code is Formal.  We dropped off a bag of candy to the shop manager to share with the staff.  She seemed very pleased with it. On the way to dinner we noticed that Elizabeth was taking the formal photos in the lobby, so we asked her to take one with us, which seemed to thrill her.  We stood outside the Dining Room talking to all of the photographers for a few minutes about amusing questions guests ask.  They were waiting for enough guests to arrive in the Dining Room to start the photo sessions, but no more people arrived. 

EASTER DINNER

Appetizers
Caviar Napoleon
Rock Shrimp Cannelloni on Chunky Tomato Sauce
Fresh Artichokes with Olive Herb Vinaigrette
Exotic Fruit Cup with Grand Marnier

Soups and Salads
Green Split Pea Soup with Champagne and Whole Wheat Croutons
Chicken Consommé with Vegetable Diamonds and Truffles
Chilled Cream of Mandarins with Bacardi Lemon
Heart of Boston Lettuce Salad with Chopped Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Onions and Mushrooms
Commander’s Salad

Pasta Special
Mezze Maniche a Candela with Calamari, Tomato Sauce and Parsley

Salad Entrée
Tempura-Fried, Rare-Cooked Ahi Tuna Salad

Main Fares
Whole Roasted Black Angus Beef Tenderloin
Grilled Veal Medallions
Broiled Fresh Orange Roughy
Honey Glazed Easter Virginia Ham
Grilled Sirloin Steak
Grilled Salmon Fillet

Vegetarian Selection
Vegetable Lasagna

Dessert
Apple Cinnamon Tart with Caramel Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream
Milk Chocolate Cheesecake with Chocolate Glaze
Black Current Ice Parfait on Exotic Fruit Ratatouille
Sugar-Free Vanilla Cinnamon Mousse Cake
Sugar-Free Rhubarb Compote with Diet Ice Cream
Petit Fours and Chocolate Truffles
Assortment of Fruit in Season
Freshly Frozen, Nonfat Strawberry Yogurt

Food review:  The soup was as thin as milk, but it had a nice flavor.  The salad had a completely different flavor dressing than usual, but it was good.  Both the fish and beef entrée were dry, but edible.  Bruno brought a double portion of the beef, which we didn’t want and didn’t ask for.  The cheesecake was outstanding.

We gave Bruno and Andrejus the small assortments of boxed candy we had bought for Easter.  We had one for Roland, too, but he didn’t come around until later.  By then he has seen the others and was hoping to get some himself.  So, he was very pleased when he did get a box for himself.  Mel and Barbara stopped to thank us for the card we sent to their room.  We were the hit of the evening with our Easter ties in place of formal bow ties, plus our carrot and bunny pins.  Tanya, Billy and Keiko were excited by our Easter attire when they saw us outside of the Galaxy Lounge before the show.

As previously mentioned, the Evening Entertainment has changed three times.  The end result was a Variety Showtime featuring several of the onboard entertainers.  For a show that was slapped together this afternoon, the entertainment was pretty good.  Of course, the usual technical problems came up with microphones either not working or producing feedback.  The latter happened during a moving flute solo.  The flutist disconnected his wireless microphone to shut it up and we could still hear him just fine.  Then someone came from the back and set a microphone on a stand in front of him.  He wasn’t happy about it, but he was professional and didn’t react to it.  Several of the pianists on board performed well, the jazzy singer from a few nights ago did several numbers that were relatively good, Curtis and Natalie did an outstanding dance number we hadn’t seen before, and the Repertory at Sea actors attempted to sing, badly, as usual.  These “actors” seem to think they are multi-talented when they barely get by with the job they were hired for.  Let’s just say that singing is not their forte.  During the finale, the jazz singer sang “Dixie,” causing a woman in the front row to stand up for the rest of the show and sing along.  We sure hope she was drunk because it was pretty embarrassing.

Darwin said he missed out on the chocolate eggs we had brought to the Lido deck this afternoon, so we promised to bring some to him tomorrow.  However, there was an Easter concert scheduled for the Crystal Cove and since we had to deliver some to the Champagne Strings anyway, we brought his, too.  He was delighted.  We had a leftover egg and gave it to the harpist we can’t stand.  She was beside herself with glee, so we probably overcame her hatred for us with that one gesture.  We decided not to stay for the concert because it was basically the “B” performers on board and there was somewhat of a crowd.  In other words, there was no way for us to hide so we could slip out early if need be.

It continued to storm into the night with occasional lightning storms passing by.  It is still so hot and humid that it is impossible to open an outside door without instantly becoming soaking wet.  This must be interesting for the woman down the hall who insists on sleeping with the door open.  Waldo said she complained yesterday because it was too hot, but refused to close the door because the air conditioning makes her cough.  By the way, this is the woman who does nothing all day except chain smoke and drink Chivas.  He said it was so humid in her room that water was condensing and dripping from the air conditioning vents.  Next thing we know she’ll have malaria.

 

monday, april 21st – cruising the south pacific ocean – crossing the international date line

 

The storm is over as we start off on the first of our two Mondays.  Actually, we crossed the Date Line yesterday, but they didn’t want to confuse everyone with two Easters, so they pretended it was crossed today.  Although the storm is over, it is still very hot and humid, but not quite as ridiculous as it was yesterday.  At least it is possible to go outside without fogging up today.  There was a waffle party outside for the World Cruisers, but we had no intention of going.

Click for Daytime Activities.

We way overslept and even missed lunch in the Lido.  Neither of us could figure out why, but maybe when it was rough we didn’t get enough sleep?  In any case, we had little choice but to start with hamburgers and a chicken wrap sandwich from the Trident Grill.  It was pleasant enough to sit outside long enough to eat and chat a bit with Ramon who whined because he hadn’t seen us for two days.  It’s nice to be popular, isn’t it?

By the time we were finished eating and chatting, it was nearly 3:00 PM and time to inform Nikki that we are confirmed on the Harmony sailing.  She was delighted and said it figures our travel agent would find out first because that’s where the money comes from.  She is going to email the office to correct the dining issue.  She said when the ship is full they assign everyone first seating and wait for people to complain because everyone wants second seating.  Nikki said they will bump someone for us without question.  She didn’t say it, but we referred to them as “riff raff” to which she replied, “You can say that, but I can’t.”  However, that’s what she meant.

Nikki said it would be a good idea to have Leo email the maitre d’ on the Harmony because that will have a faster result.  Tayfun walked by to say that he will be a waiter on the Harmony because they can’t find enough waiters to come back to staff the ship.  He is a headwaiter here and will be promoted to Assistant Food & Beverage Manager on the Serenity, so this is quite a come down for him.  Nikki added a request for Tayfun to be our waiter before we even asked for it.  He brought out the seating plan for the Harmony so we could see how the tables are configured.  We will discuss it with Leo tonight.

By this time, we were ready for ice cream.  Before we went back up, we reported to the Front Desk that the elevator button on Deck 11 midships was stuck.  We went up for ice cream and before we started back to the room there was someone pulling the wires out of the wall trying to fix the button.

We had to be ready an hour earlier than usual tonight because Ronnie is doing his Vanna routine for the Liar’s Club tonight at 6:15 PM.  We wouldn’t ordinarily attend, but we will just to see Ronnie’s outfits.  Domingo said he has his wigs all over the room and they are making him sneeze.  But, he has to put up with it because he feels guilty about making Ronnie stay out late the past few nights.

Tonight’s dress code is Informal.  We made it to the Starlite Club a little early, but sat in the back in case the Liar’s Club was unbearable.  We had no intention of playing, just watching.  When it finally began, we could quickly see that this would be a tedious 45 minutes.  Whenever Ronnie came out in another outfit, it was amusing, otherwise it was fairly boring.  A couple of the panelists were somewhat funny, but not roll on the floor funny.  We got sucked into playing when someone went around to assign teams.  Rather than going around to groups of people, in which case we could have declined to play, she just put a big number card on the tables in front of each set of guests.  We still thought we could avoid playing, but they would go down the numbers from start to finish asking who you thought was giving the correct answer.  We got one right out of three.  It wasn’t painful, but we wouldn’t go to this activities again.

DINNER

Appetizers
Chilled Seafood Cocktail with Fruits and Sauce Calypso
Marinated Tasmanian Salmon Fillet with Avocado Fan and Caviar Sour Cream
Sweetbread Roses on Crunchy Garden Greens with Sherry-Walnut Vinaigrette
Assorted Fresh Fruit Cup Flavored with Lemon Bacardi

Soup and Salad
Light Creamy Red Onion Soup with Ginger
Consommé Double with Cheese Profiteroles
Chilled Yogurt Peanut Butter Soup
Spring Lettuce with Lollo Rosso, Red Oak Leaf, and Marinated Palm Hearts
Romaine Lettuce tossed in Creamy Garlic Dressing

Pasta Special
Angel Hair with Tomato Sauce, Red and Green Pepper Julienne, Anchovies, Capers, Garlic, and Olives

Salad Entrée
Roasted Marinated Chicken Breast Salad

Main Fares
Baked Fresh Blue Nose Fillet in Parmesan Herb Crust
Roasted Australian Emu
Herb Flavored Roasted Baby Veal Shank
Seafood Risotto
Grilled Filet Steak
Grilled Tasmanian Salmon Steak

Vegetarian Selection
Grilled Eggplant Zucchini Tower with Mozzarella Cheese

Dessert
White Chocolate Truffle Cake with Strawberry Sauce
Rum Scented Almond Tart with Rocky Road Ice Cream
Chocolate Brownie Ice Parfait with Brandy Cherries
Sugar-Free Coconut Custard
Sugar-Free Apricot Jalousie with Diet Ice Cream
Homemade Cookies
Assortment of Fruit in Season
Freshly Frozen, Nonfat Cookies ‘n’ Cream Yogurt

Food review:  Everything in tonight’s meal was lackluster, but edible.  Bruno insisted on bringing us a chilled mango soup someone had special ordered. They didn’t show up, so it would have to be thrown out.  It sounded good, so we said fine.  It wasn’t good, however, and tasted oddly of cucumbers.

Tayfun came by and practiced introducing himself to us, “Hello, I’m your waiter, Tayfun.”  He said he wanted to practice taking our order one night because it has been so long since he has been a waiter.  He also said that he hopes he can find the kitchen on the Harmony because he has never worked on that ship.  Should be interesting.

We talked to Leo on the way in and he had no hesitation about emailing the maitre d’ and telling him what kind of table we want and where we want it to be located.  He acted as though it was no problem at all.  He said he didn’t think it would be an issue having Tayfun as our waiter.  In fact, he thought it was kind of amusing to have a request for a waiter before he even gets to the ship.

The Evening Entertainment is a Classical Concert by pianist David McArthur.  We skipped the show and went to chat with Ronnie instead.  He was full of gossip about the show tonight and the problems getting ready.  He really is a diva in the making, but it was amusing.  Another passenger, Concetta, came in and started a conversation with us because she thinks we are “so special.”  Don’t ask, you had to be there.  Apparently, she can only make friends with gay men.  She seems like the type, too.  She said she just turned 60, but you’d never guess she is close to that age.  She’s very nice, but we’re not going to knock ourselves out to talk to her.  She lives in Honolulu, so she’s leaving when we arrive there.  She gave us her address so we could come visit her.  Yeah, right.  We have only spoken with her twice, so we’re not sure why she thinks we are so wonderful.

Once again, we closed the library, so we know we did Ronnie a favor by making the time pass quickly.  He is appalled that we are going on one of the “nightmare cruises,” as the crew now refers to them.  We still think it will be fun and it’s short enough that it can’t be all that bad.

We received an invitation to a World Cruise Block Party on the 22nd.  This event was fun last year.  The officers each take on a different country’s theme in their quarters and the guests circulate through the hallways to sample various foods and drinks.

monday, april 21st – cruising the south pacific ocean

 

It’s Monday again and the weather is about the same as the first time around.  It is very windy with choppy seas full of whitecaps, but otherwise there are no changes.  We were again out of bed later than usual, so we started off with lunch from the grill and then sat outside for a couple of hours, in the shade.  It is still very hot and humid, but not unbearable with the wind blowing.  Nikki walked by saying she was on her way to get her hair done, “Just for you.”  Tonight is our Jade Garden dinner with Nikki and Harry.

Click for Daytime Activities.

Nothing much seems to be going on around the ship lately.  Guests are nowhere to be seen, but we have no idea where they all went.  The guest count is less than the last segment, but not dramatically so.  We did find out that the reason the Dining Room was so empty last night was that one of the World Cruisers had an anniversary dinner in Jade Garden that occupied a large percentage of the guests.  We learned also that the big guy, who doesn’t dress properly for dinner in spite of being warned by the maitre d’, walked into the party and had to be thrown out.  In order to do so, he had to ignore a sign and enter through the closed doors.

We crossed the Equator today at around 5:30 PM.  The Captain announced that everyone should, “Watch out for the red line.”  We’re sure the decks will be crowded with guests looking for it, too.  At the actual crossing, they blew the whistle and drew a red line across the Bridge Cam shot.  Want to bet that people believed it was real?

Tonight’s dress code is Informal.  Our dinner is with Nikki and Harry in Jade Garden, but here is the menu from the Dining Room:

GUEST CHEF’S DINNER

Special Guest Chef Menu Featuring the Cuisine of Serge Dansereau

Appetizers
Crab and Asian Mushroom Salad with Cucumbers and Yellow Noodles

Main Fares
Slow-Cooked Lamb Loin with Confit Capsicum Sweet Onion Pomme Anna
Broiled Fresh Red Snapper Fillet with Ginger Cremolata

In addition to Guest Chef Serge Dansereau’s special menu items,
we offer these choices from the main galley:

Appetizers
Beef Tartar with Silver Onions and Gherkins
Tropical Fruit Cocktail topped with Yogurt Kahlua Topping

Soup and Salad
Asparagus and Pea Soup with Parmesan Cheese
Beef Consommé with Herb Royal
Chilled Pear and Roquefort Soup with Caramelized Pears
Boston Lettuce Leaves with Grilled Eggplants, Chopped Egg, and Russian Dressing
Traditional Caesar Salad

Pasta Special
Ziti Tagliatelle in Light Cream Sauce

Salad Entrée
Creole Chicken Salad

Main Fares
Grilled Black Angus Sirloin Steak
Asparagus and Brie Stuffed Chicken Breast
Grilled Salmon Steak

Vegetarian Selection
Garden Vegetables and Mushrooms served with Soft Polenta and Tomato Confit

Dessert
Guest Chef’s Gingered Pineapple Tart
Mocha Panna with Caramel Sauce
Passion Fruit Cream with Berries
Sugar-Free Lemon Wheel
Sugar-Free Chocolate Tart
Homemade Cookies
Assortment of Fruit in Season
Strawberry Port Wine Sherbet

Our dinner with Nikki and Harry was pleasant.  The food was very good, but we really didn’t pay much attention since we were talking most of the time.  It was nearly 9:30 PM before we knew it and we were the only party left in the restaurant.  They came back to our room with us to view the Bonsall photos, which was fun for all of us with the resulting conversation and comments about what’s going on there.  Nikki was appalled that it was 10:15 PM when we were finished because she still had work to do tonight.

The Evening Entertainment is another concert by “Black Tie”.  We didn’t enjoy this group enough the first time to see them again, which is a good thing because we wouldn’t have made it by showtime anyway.

We go another hour forward on the clock tonight.  It was beginning to get a bit rough around midnight, about the same as it was earlier today, nothing major.

Here is the formal portrait we had taken with Elizabeth on Easter.

tuesday, april 22nd – crossing the equator

 

The Equator Crossing was actually yesterday evening, but we received certificates commemorating the event today.  There was also a wedding ceremony for King Neptune and Princess Aggie in the Palm Court with Ronnie again portraying a sequin-clad mermaid.  It was too early for us, but it sounds amusing.

Click for Daytime Activities.

Today’s weather is a mixed bag.  Temperature wise, it is nearly perfect and the humidity isn’t ridiculous.  It is probably around 80 degrees, but the strong breeze moderates it.  There are more thunder storms around today and it is somewhat rough, but again, nothing out of the ordinary for sailing across the Pacific.

There is a theme buffet around the Neptune Pool today, the Cuisine of the Sun.  This is our least favorite because most of the selections are way too weird for us.  For example, there is an otherwise tasty looking onion bread that is topped with sardines.  It gets weirder from there, but the menu pretty much speaks for itself.  Usually, the items from the grill are edible, but the chicken kabobs today were way overcooked to the point of being impossible to remove from the skewers.  The lasagna was mushy and just not very good.  Luckily, there is always fruit and the desserts were good. 

We arrived outside with our meals just as the band was starting to set up for their 12:30 PM set.  Once they began, a pending rain storm forced them to stop and put everything away.  The Deck Stewards scrambled to collect the cushions.  Then the rain came…for less than one minute, if that.  It didn’t even wet the deck.  After that, the sky was completely clear.  Of course, the bizarre man that torments Ramon to fill the pool was wandering around looking for attention.  At least he recognizes the fact that it is too rough today to fill the pools, but that didn’t stop him from talking about it.  Ramon told us that he is afraid to come out on deck because this guy always harasses him about filling the pool, as though Ramon has the final say?

Today is Allan’s birthday, so we gave him a card with some cash inside, as is our custom.  He said he is having a party in his room tonight if we want to come, but we know what goes on at those parties!  Besides, we obviously aren’t allowed to go to the crew decks.  He wasn’t sure if he would do it tonight, tomorrow, or both, because there is a Block Party for World Cruisers tonight before dinner and he has to pretend he is Japanese for the Japan room.

Around 2:00 PM we returned to the room and rested up for tonight’s festivities.  There was heavy rain for most of the late afternoon, concluding with a rainbow right outside of our window.

The Block Party began at 6:15 PM up the hall from us.  We stopped to chat with Rosemary before going into the Officer’s Quarters.  She had some questions about how this works because she wasn’t here last year.  We told her it was very popular and there didn’t seem to be much of a format.  We tried to emphasize again that the less formal it is, the better.

All of the senior officers decorate their cabin according to a certain nationality, dress in native costumes, and serve the associated liquor and food.  The first room is the Hotel Director, Josef Matt, who had the Austrian room.  Since he really is Austrian, this was a convenient match.  However, he was not wearing a costume like everyone else, so we had to ridicule him about it.  As it turned out, he should have worn the costume since he spent more time making excuses than the trouble it would have been to wear it.  He had two cocktail waiters in native costumes serving beer, Jaegarmeister (God only knows how it is really spelled) a strong liquor drunk in shots, small sandwiches and sausage rolls.  The sole point of each room seems to be to get the old ladies drunk because it is nearly impossible to get out of the room without doing a shot of something.  We did manage to refuse, so it is possible.

Next is the Captain’s Quarters where he was dressed in a huge horned Viking hat and traditional clothing along with his wife and two daughters.  Last year the Captain insisted that anyone who wanted a photo with him drink a shot of Aquavit, but there was no such requirement this year.

The Bridge was open for everyone to wander through and chat with the officer on duty.  Last year it was pitch dark when we went up there, but it was still light out today.  Since tours are no longer conducted for security reasons, this is the only opportunity to tour the Bridge these days. 

First up in the port side hallway was the Chief Engineer who was seated at our table at the Sydney dinner.  Let’s just say he isn’t the most dynamic personality and leave it at that.  His room had an Italian theme, but we’re pretty sure he is from Norway.  He really should have had a hostess in the room to jump start conversations because his room was empty most of the time while the others were packed.  These are small rooms with the exception of the Captain’s Quarters.  The Italian room was serving Bellini Cocktails and wine, plus slivers of tasty pizza and small sandwiches made of tiny rolls, tomato and mozzarella cheese.

The next room was Mexican, which was the most popular.   The Vice Captain had this room, but it was the Margaritas and deep fried stuffed peppers that were drawing the crowds.  The Vice Captain is also Norwegian, not Mexican.  We never made it all the way into this room because it was always too crowded to get through the hallway.  We did manage to grab a stuffed pepper by squeezing sideways down the hall and reaching around the corner.

Finally, the Japanese room was hosted by the Deputy Captain who really is Japanese.  Keiko was there trying to force everyone to drink sake, available hot or cold.  There was also an enormous tray of sushi that was the hit of the staff.  Lara and Nikki couldn’t get in there fast enough.  The guests could care less, but that is the newest alternative restaurant on the Serenity.  Maybe it will keep them out of the Bistro?  It was nearly impossible to escape from Keiko without drinking sake, but we did manage to evade her.

Also of interest was a detailed floorplan of the entire ship that fascinated Bill for most of the time.  We were trying to figure out where we had gone on the tour of the crew area.  Looking at a diagram it was easy to see where everything is.  The convoluted hallways are necessary to skirt around huge fresh water tanks and such.  We were also invited to go into the TV studio, although nobody seemed interested in doing so except for us.  We were surprised that it is really set up as a broadcast studio complete with electronic backdrops and a set.  The classy desk with real flowers didn’t quite go with the piles of boxes and broken printers piled just out of camera range.  There are also monitors showing all of the TV channels playing. We wanted to see the crew channel and the technician readily pointed it out and went through all of the stations.

We chatted a bit more with Rosemary in the hallway and then headed out for dinner.  The only problem with this event is that the rooms are tiny, crowded and get way too hot.  Last year it was an informal night and we were so sweaty we had to change our clothes before going down to dinner.  No such problem on this casual evening, however.

Tonight’s dress code is Casual.

DINNER

Appetizers
Lemon Flavored Smoked Salmon with Spring Greens, Lemon Honey Dressing, and Onion Baguette
Tempura Fried Soft Shell Crab on Crisp Greens and Red Pepper Aioli
French Goat Cheese Stuffed Eggplant Roll on Tomato Salad and Summer Greens
Fresh Pineapple, Kiwi, and Banana Cup with Amaretto

Soups and Salads
Roasted Vegetable Soup with Basil Oil
Beef Consommé with Liver Quenelles
Chilled Kiwi Soup with Mango
Iceberg Lettuce Salad with White Beans, Celery, Tomatoes, and Bell Peppers
Fresh Spinach Salad Tossed in Bacon Dressing

Pasta Special
Fettuccine with Prosciutto, Asparagus, and Light Cream Sauce

Salad Entrée
Tortilla Turkey Salad with Citrus Fruits

Main Fares
Grilled Fresh Emperor Fillet
Veal Scaloppini Sorrentino
Oven Baked Game Hen
Sautéed Sea Scallops and Shrimp
Grilled Filet Steak
Broiled Chicken Breast

Vegetarian Selection
Spinach Goat Cheese Cannelloni

Dessert
Chocolate “Ooze” Cake with Vanilla Bean Cream and Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
Almond Cream Puffs with Mocha Sauce
Vanilla Ice Parfait with Rhubarb Compote
Sugar-Free Apple Custard Pie
Sugar-Free Prune Jell-O
Homemade Cookies
Assortment of Fruit in Season
Refreshing Banana Colada Sherbet

Food review:  We weren’t hungry after sampling the food at the Block Party, so we had the pasta as a main course.  It was very good.  Everything else was satisfactory except for the Spinach Salad that had a way too salty dressing on it.  Bruno insisted on bringing us the Ooze Cake even though we had no desire to have it and told him so several times. We didn’t eat it and didn’t want to eat it.  If we had wanted it, we would have ordered it. 

Bruno chatted at length about construction problems he has on his new house in Portugal.  It seems that no matter what the country, how much or how little you spend, the process is a nightmare.  Roland came by to tell us that he will make Beef Stroganoff for us tomorrow night.

The Evening Entertainment is a Variety Showtime featuring Flautist Gary Arbuthnot, Juggler Dick Franco, and Vocalist Celeste Francis.  The only decent performer in this group is the flautist, but we have already seen him twice.  So, we stopped by to chat with Ronnie instead and stayed until 11:00 PM again.  He was carrying on about his mermaid routine this afternoon.  He only found out he was doing it when he casually asked the Cruise Director last night at 11:30 PM.  Had he not happened by to ask, he wouldn’t have found out until it was over.  Sure is an odd way to do things when they now months in advance what the entertainment will be.

It was still stormy after midnight, but not any worse than this afternoon.  It was slightly rough, but nothing is falling from the shelves or anything like that.

 

wednesday, april 23rd --  cruising the pacific ocean

 

Stormy weather continues today with strong wind and whitecaps on the sea.  It still isn’t particularly rough because the ship happens to be going directly into the waves.  It was overcast for most of the day, but no real threat of rain until very late afternoon.  The temperature is in the high 70’s, very pleasant.

Click for Daytime Activities.

We made it to the last minute of the Lido lunch, then went outside just to get some air until 3:30 PM.  The thought of trying to pack up our purchases into boxes crossed our mind, but that doesn’t mean we did anything about it.

Tonight’s dress code is Formal for the last Crystal Society Party of the World Cruise.  We took the Express Lane into the Starlite Club that was being hosted by Josef and Rosemary.  We told Rosemary this was her last chance for a “glamour shot” to replace the photo we took at the fair.  Josef insisted on taking a photo of us together with Rosemary, as well.  The room was nearly full, but no one ever wants to sit in the corner where we do, so we went to our regular spot.  The party itself was fairly boring because the same people have been honored at nearly every party.  Lara always tries to bring up others, but on the World Cruise the two highest Crystal Society members are always on board, so they get all of the attention.  The man with the most cruises has racked up 127.

On the way into the Dining Room, we stopped to chat with Kim, the Photo Shop Manager, and finally added her picture to the diary.  Elizabeth came up and we all started chatting about the cruise in general and that all of us would handle it differently.  Then an official photo session started with the two of first with Kim, then both Kim and Elizabeth.  Harry came up and asked if we were taking couple pictures as a decoy, but we assured him it was far too late for that kind of charade.  We didn’t need another official photo with Harry since we did the fun Titanic backdrop last year with him.

FRENCH DINNER

Appetizers
Escargots Bourguignon
Lobster Salad Américaine Served with Light Creamy Crayfish Dressing
Crackling Salad with Smoked Duck Breast, Tossed in French Dressing
Citrus Fruit in an Orange Basket, Perfumed with Crème de Cassis

Soup and Salad
French Onion Soup
Beef Consommé with Foie Gras Profiteroles
Vichyssoise with Bell Pepper Mousse
Panache of Mixed Greens Salad with Radicchio, Chopped Egg, And Dijon Mustard Dressing
Vegetable Salad Niçoise

Pasta Special
Taglerini Pasta Tossed with Creamy Tomato Sauce, Fresh Basil, Mushrooms, and Baby Veal Chop

Salad Entrée
Scallops Salad

Main Fares
Pink Roasted Rack of Lamb
Broiled Fillet of John Dory
Cog au Vin
Délice de Veal a la Mama
Grilled Black Angus Sirloin Steak
Plain Grilled Blue Nose

Vegetarian Selection
Vegetable Stuffed Ravioli on Sautéed Spinach

Dessert
Soufflé Grand Marnier with Sauce Negresco
French Apple Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream
Glace aux Framboises – Raspberry Ice Parfait
Sugar-Free Spicy Apple Sauce Custard
Sugar-Free Vanilla Profiteroles with Diet Chocolate Sauce
Assortment of Fruit in Season
Petit Fours and Chocolate Truffles
Nonfat Frozen Cappuccino Yogurt

Food Review:  All of the menu items were satisfactory, but nothing to exclaim about one way or the other.  Roland made his version of Beef Stroganoff at tableside for us and it was outstanding.  It wasn’t the way we have ever had it, topped with gherkins and shredded beets, but it was really a great flavor combination.  Leo kept walking by telling us we would be sorry tomorrow for eating Roland’s cooking, but it didn’t seem to phase him.

It was slightly rough during dinner.  A couple of times it sounded as though the ship had run over something in the road, but it wasn’t so bad that drawers flew open or anything like it was around Antarctica. 

The Evening Entertainment is a Celebrity Showtime featuring Jim Nabors.  We didn’t expect much from this show, but it was perfectly fine.  Jim’s voice is the same as it has always been and he has a pleasant personality.  He has a thing with the old ladies like Liberace used to have.  Little do they know.  Aside from the show itself, there was another scene going on in the front row by the same drunk woman who stood up during the “Dixie” number at the end of the show a few nights ago.  She behaved as though she was at a rock concert, yelling and waving her arms.  Jim’s mistake was inviting her to be part of the old lady stripper dance at the end.  Rather than shutting her up, it just made it worse.  Her husband ditched her about halfway through the show and left in a rage.  When the Cruise Director made his closing remarks he thanked all of the ladies who had helped with the show, then said to the drunk, “Although I’m not sure you helped.”  That elicited applause from the audience and caused her to say something back to him that we didn’t hear.  However, he did go an apologize to her several times.  Instead of apologizing, he should have banned her from attending future shows.

We stopped by the Crystal Cove to briefly listen to the Champagne Strings and wait for the elevator lobby to empty out, then went up to bed.  We received our Customs Declaration forms that we will need to have stamped when we arrive in Honolulu.  We are also supposed to retrieve our passports tomorrow at 4:30 PM.  Then, we have to  “present ourselves” to Immigration Officials between 8:00 and 9:00 AM the day after tomorrow.  Fun, huh?  Besides the early call, this signals the beginning of the end of the World Cruise.

 

thursday, april 24th – cruising the pacific ocean

 

Today’s weather is cooler than yesterday, around 75, but otherwise the same…very windy with choppy seas.  There are some clouds around, but it was sunny most of the day.

Click for Daytime Activities.

Our first stop was lunch in the Lido, which was quite crowded today for no reason we could discern.  After eating we moved outside to listen to the band, chat with Ramon, and have our late afternoon ice cream.  Both pools were empty until the Captain’s daughters wanted to swim, at which point they filled the smaller Neptune Pool for them.  If it is too rough to fill the pools for guests, it should be the same for his family, in our opinion.

We waited for about half an hour in the Lobby for Nikki to arrive to whine about our Serenity cruise not being released to our travel agent.  She was suitably appalled and sent an email as we were sitting there.  She also was annoyed because they haven’t given her any further information on the lengthy Harmony cruise for next year.  She has already composed a huffy email in her head saying we waited patiently for a reply and then cancelled because they couldn’t get their act together.  That’s true, by the way, but it was amusing that she came up with it herself before we mentioned it.

When we were finished with Nikki, we moved over to Lara to ask whether we will still get our on-board spending credit on the Harmony discount cruise.  She wasn’t sure, so will check with the office.  She also told us to be sure to introduce ourselves to the new Crystal Society Hostess there because she started when there were no guests on board and won’t know anyone.  We also clarified the rule stated in the terms for Crystal Society that Milestones have to be redeemed on the cruise they are earned.  We have never had to do that before.  She said they did try to enforce that rule at one time, but gave up when they realized people were canceling cruises because they didn’t want to waste large credits on short cruises.  We have done that in the past, too, so we’re surprised it took them so long to figure it out.

At 4:30 PM we had to pick up our passports for the last time.  The end is near!  The staff is anticipating a nightmare arrival because of the terrorist threat aboard the Royal Caribbean ship a few days ago.  We had the same sort of thing happen last year when the Harmony arrived a few weeks before and had a bomb threat called in.  That caused the Coast Guard to keep us outside of the harbor until the ship could be searched from top to bottom.

Tonight’s dress code is Informal.

DINNER

Appetizers
Chilled Crab Meat with Greens and Avocado Wedge
Salad of Roasted Chicken Breast with Grilled Radicchio, Mushrooms, and Black Olives
Roasted Eggplant Terrine with Marinated Young Garden Greens
Fresh Plum and Mandarin Cup with Fresh Strawberries

Soup and Salad
Bergen’s Flake Soup
Beef Consommé with Cheese Ravioli
Chilled Sweet Corn Soup with Chili Crab Salsa
Heart of Butter Lettuce with Marinated Tomatoes and Fried Onion Rings
Marinated Assorted Bean Salad on Red Leaf

Pasta Special
Pappardelle al Pesto

Salad Entrée
Ensalada Camarón

Main Fares
Chef Markus’ Childhood Favorite Wiener Schnitzel
Grilled Fresh King Snapper Fillet
Grilled Jumbo Prawns
Black Angus Grilled Rib Eye Steak
Grilled Black Angus Filet Steak
Plain Grilled Chicken Breast

Vegetarian Selection
Mushroom Ragout Served on Creamy Grits

Dessert
Georgia Pecan Cheesecake a la Mode
Vanilla Cognac Profiteroles with Raspberry Sauce
Macaroon Tart with Fresh Fruit Mango Vanilla Sauce
Sugar-Free Chocolate Custard
Sugar-Free Sour Cherry Cream Cheese Strudel
Homemade Cookies
Assortment of Fruit in Season
Nonfat Cookies ‘n’ Cream Yogurt

Food review:  The only thing that was good about this meal was the Forest Berry chilled soup that Bruno offered us. At least it gave us the chance to try to cold corn soup we had wanted to try, but never had the nerve.  It was ghastly and better left untried.  The pasta was edible, but boring.  Bruno made up a fruit plate topped with vanilla ice cream for dessert that was very good.

We watched as Bruno literally forced the couple behind us, who never order dessert and make clear they do not want to order dessert, accept the super-sweet Salzburger meringue thing.  They took it, but they didn’t want it. 

The Evening Entertainment is the production show “Million Dollar Musicals” that was delayed due to the illness of the lead singer last week.  This is still the best production show, but it was full of technical problems, non-working microphones, etc.  The Cruise Director was watching from the booth and shaking his head the whole time.  It would be nice if he actually did something about it.

After the show, Dave met Jim Nabors in the restroom.  Isn’t there some sort of rule that men don’t talk in restrooms?  Guess not.  Anyway, he was very personable.  He thought the screaming woman last night was kind of amusing, but he did feel like he had lost control of the show.  He said he has to get off the ship by 8:00 AM tomorrow.  In other words, “Show’s over, get out!” 

 

friday, april 25th – honolulu, oahu, hawaii, usa – arrive 8:00 am

Honolulu, home to almost one million people (a figure that represents 80% of Hawaii's total population!), is perfectly located on serene Mamala Bay. Diamond Head crater and the cliffs at the extreme southern end of Waikiki give natural shelter to the harbor. The name Honolulu is derived from this geography.... hono means "bay" and lulu is "sheltered" in the Hawaiian language.

Most of Oahu's best known and long-established resort hotels overlook Waikiki, from the area around Kalakaua Avenue. Recently redeveloped, the district is a very pleasant place to stroll, and is home to many of the city’s best shops. In the midsection of Kalakaua Avenue, the pinkish hued Royal Hawaiian Hotel was the island's first luxury resort property. The Moorish style building, now part of the Sheraton group, is now a city landmark recalling the innocence of an era that has passed.

In sharp contrast to the island’s beauty, Oahu has a rather violent history. The island group was born of violent volcanic eruptions, which persist in milder form. Unfortunately, Polynesian history prior to the 18th century is oral, so much of it has taken the form of legend. There are many tales of kings conquering kings and tribes warring with each other, but it is difficult to separate fact from fancy. Nevertheless, the interesting tales describe a rich cultural heritage.

European explorers missed the islands until Captain Cook landed at Kauai in 1778. He named the archipelago "the Sandwich Islands" in honor of sponsor, the Earl of Sandwich. But this was not Cook's happiest discovery. He died on Kauai during a battle with King Kealakekua's tribe on Valentine’s Day 1779.

Fourteen years later, Captain William Brown sailed his HMS Jackall into Honolulu Harbor. Brown called the place "fair heaven" because of its natural protection from high seas. Ironically, he was mutilated and killed along with another British Captain in his heavenly harbor by order of King Kalanikupule, who wanted the superior British ships for use against his arch foe, King Kamehameha. Kamehameha prevailed anyway, and his progeny ruled Hawaii through the 19th century, when it was used as a commercial stopover for ships plying the waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

Lahaina was the first capital, and it grew into a huge whaling port, but territorial administration was moved to Honolulu in the mid-19th century. The elevation of Honolulu's status heralded the beginning of a huge tourism boom that would see 99% of all island visitors pass through Honolulu International Airport in the following century. The American flag did not fly over the capital until 1898, however, when Minister Harold Sewall, representing President McKinley in the official transfer ceremony, raised the flag above Iolani Palace. In 1959, the kingdom became America's 50th state.

The economic boom began long before tourism, however. It is still hard to miss the giant pineapple that adorns the great Dole processing plant. James Dole organized his company only a few years after America annexed the islands. Other industries also grew and thrived over the years, and during World War II, the islands proved an invaluable defense post and command base. The monuments at Pearl Harbor stand in mournful tribute to all the young soldiers who lost their lives defending the serene harbor.

The violence of the 1940s now seems only a call from the distant past. Honolulu is a major metropolis with the feel of a large California city. But look beyond the city and you will see that it is but a gateway to an unmatched tropical paradise. Enjoy the island's charms. Whatever pleasure you seek, you are certain to find it. The business atmosphere on Ala Moana Boulevard may contrast with the tropical paradise of Waikiki, but the unique Hawaiian experience is always unforgettable.

 

We were up at 8:30 AM for the mandatory immigration inspection.  The schedule told us to present ourselves between 8:00 and 9:00 AM, but they started making announcements to get guests to come sooner because no one was there.  We finally went in at 9:45 AM, saw the inspector for two seconds, if that, and were done.  Lara was at the door telling everyone that they weren’t going to stamp the Customs forms today.  We knew that, but we played along and brought it with us as instructed.  They always say to bring it, but they have never stamped it until we are disembarking.  We were given the same green cards as last year that say we are required to present them at the gangway to go ashore, again something that is never done.  They sure must like to waste paper because there is no other point to the whole thing.

Click for Daytime Activities.

With nothing on the schedule until 2:30 PM, we went for one of the few breakfasts we have had during this trip.  Neither of us was very enthusiastic about our choices, but we were filled up.  The waffles were terrible and tasted like nothing.  Everything else was OK, but nothing special.  One of the breads that looked nice, was inedible and almost required spitting out.

Bill took the shuttle to the Ala Moana Shopping Mall while Dave caught up on an hour of sleep.  Bill had to take a taxi back to the ship to make it in time because the shuttle bus ripped a mirror off of a car it was passing, resulting in much hysteria, needless to say.  He did make it in time for our walk into the financial district of Honolulu for our meeting with the attorney handling the land transfer and probate for our Hawaiian property.

We started walking to the attorney’s office at around 1:45 PM and made it with time to spare.  The walk wasn’t interesting at first, going along busy Ala Moana Boulevard passing a blank concrete wall.  But, once we were around the corner, we turned into the high-rise lined streets and easily found the building.  Had we been docked at the Aloha Tower as originally planned, we would have just had to walk across the street.

The attorney was eager to meet us and we had a friendly meeting.  There weren’t really any major issues to be resolved, but it was nice to meet them.  Everyone there has always been very nice, as they were today.  The appraisal was done and came in less per lot than we had claimed to the IRS, which is a good thing.  We’ll take anything we can get at this point.  After finishing up business and some idle chit chat, we headed off the few blocks to the Aloha Tower Marketplace.

The financial district is really quite pleasant with some small parks, fountains and outdoor cafes to serve the workers.  The walk to the shopping center took only a few minutes.

At the front of the shopping center there appeared to be a traffic jam, but it was just a line of cars waiting for valet parking.  The Norwegian Wind was there waiting to load passengers, but there were no crowds of any kind.  They have done a very nice job of redeveloping this area from dilapidated warehouses into an attractive shopping center will several good restaurants, galleries, and many souvenir stores.  The Aloha Tower itself blends in nicely with the architecture.  The base that was added to it is in the same style and is reflected throughout the center.

We wandered through the shops to the waterfront for a great view across the bay to Crystal Symphony.  There was a lot of activity in the air with military cargo jets and fighters taking off every few minutes.  We browsed a few shops, but found nothing exciting to buy, so we decided to have lunch at Don Ho’s Hawaiian Grill.  We ate here last year and liked it, so we tried it again.  The same hostess and waitress served us and the food was again very good and reasonably priced.

Ultimately, we did end up buying some rude magnets with sayings on them for various crewmembers. We almost bought a hula set for Ronnie, complete with coconut bra, but we refrained.  By the time we finished eating and shopping, it was time to return to the ship with a walk along the waterfront.  There were numerous colorful fish right up against the sea wall where we were walking that made it interesting.  They had fish food there to feed them, which is probably the reason they are so apparent.  When they would see us lean over the wall, they would start swimming on their side so they could see us.

At the port, the security was very tight.  Our ID’s were checked twice by armed policemen.  There was an x-ray machine for bags and a metal detector for humans.  The ship itself has these precautions, but this was in the terminal.  The presence of the armed guards was obvious and much greater than last year.  We heard that the RCL ship that was detained yesterday found another threatening note, but we haven’t heard any more than that.  It seems that there was also a threat against a Princess ship, but again, we don’t know any more than that.  There were no delays as far as Crystal Symphony was concerned.

Back on board, we went up for our port photos.  The ship is docked at the old passenger terminal because an NCL ship is at the Aloha Tower terminal.  So, we are a few blocks from the Aloha Tower Marketplace.  The weather today is perfect with moderate temperatures and a strong trade wind.  The only clouds are over the mountains.  We have a great view from our verandah of Waikiki with Diamond Head beyond.  Also in that direction are some striking new high-rise condominium towers.  In the other direction is the financial district and the military port area.

On the way to the room, we ran into Waldo who was furious because some guests had complained about the woman next to them sleeping with her drapes open and the lights on.  They wanted him to tell her to close her drapes because they like to sleep with theirs open.  How’s that for logic?  It went all the way to the Hotel Director before they decided there was nothing to be done.  At that point, the guests screamed at the Concierge who came up and asked the woman to close her drapes at night.  Rightfully so, she refused, but did agree to close one side of them.  We would have told them to shove it.  If they don’t like it, they can close their drapes.  Of course, Crystal has offended someone who was doing nothing wrong to please someone who is being ridiculous.  By the way, they offered to move them to a different cabin, but they wouldn’t do it unless they got an upgrade.  Crystal never gives free upgrades, so that didn’t happen.

In response to Waldo’s predicament, we gave him one of the rude saying magnets that was appropriate. Sorry, but it is even too rude to print here!  He loved it.  After that we went up for some ice cream and to rest for a few minutes before returning to the room to cool off and wait for dinnertime.

Dinner was a BBQ on deck tonight.  The dress code is Casual.  We sat on our verandah watching the view and the dusk settle in over Diamond Head.  We figured the stewardesses would want to clean the room so they could go out.  We told Waldo to go ahead and send them in and we would sit outside, which we did.  At 7:30 PM we went up for dinner.

There were hardly any guests at the BBQ and no line of any kind.  80% of the tables were empty.  Many guests went to an event organized by their travel group and we assume the rest went out on the town.  The food was satisfactory, but we had a hard time finding enough to fill our plates.  What we did have was good, especially the ribs.  The items from the grill were just OK.

Roland stopped to chat and what goes on at Silversea and Seven Seas because of the open seating policy.  He said that people spend most of the time trying to avoid sitting with people they don’t like.  By the end of a cruise, the headwaiters have nowhere to seat them because there are so few tables for two.

The weather tonight is perfect.  It is almost chilly, but not quite.  You would think it was sub zero the way some of the guests were carrying on.  Eventually, the barkeeper retrieved the deck blankets and started handing the out.  We waited until just before the 9:30 PM show, then moved up to deck 12 for a better view and to avoid being sucked into an audience participation number.

The Evening Enterainment was a group of children from 6 to 16 called Halau Hula Olana backed up by The Aloha Quartet.  The show was very cute, but not over the top.  The kids did an outstanding job and the narration given by one of the women in the quartet was charming and friendly.  It was nice to see something other than the usual hula show.  The only drawback was that nobody wanted to participate when they tried to recruit audience members into a dance.  This happens every time on this ship and we just can’t understand why they don’t tell performers to skip it.  The only way they could get enough people for the second number was to force officers and the Ambassador Hosts to do it.   Of course, the microphones didn’t work and they didn’t bother to check the lighting until five minutes before the show.  This resulted in technicians climbing on chairs and all over the guests who were trying to eat.  All of this could be avoided if someone would think about setting up maybe an hour ahead of time.

Pat was with us watching the show for most of the time, but he said he was freezing and left halfway through.  It was mildly chilly with the wind blowing and it began to sprinkle toward the end, but it was in no way freezing.  Of course, if you are from the Philippines, 80 degrees is freezing.

After the show, we stopped by the Front Desk to chat with Jessica.  She was semi-annoyed because the new guy at the desk, who arrived six weeks ago, is being promoted to Concierge.  It has nothing to do with ability, just desperation.  He is the only person left to be promoted.  Two front desk agents and a concierge recently quit unexpectedly, so they have run out of staff to draw from.

Mel and Barbara came back from a dinner out with a friend who they said talked non-stop and drove them nuts.  They had tried to avoid meeting her, but she was outside of the terminal waving when they came out.  They headed up to the Palm Court to dance while we went to chat with Ronnie and bring him his rude gifts.

We had another long chat with Ronnie, during which we discovered that there is a hierarchy on the ships that prevents certain nationalities from being promoted no matter how talented they may be.  Obviously, this includes Filipinos.  We knew about this already, but he filled in some of the details.  The way the system works, it is impossible for a Filipino to get any other job than they are hired for.  Guests have complained to the company before and it has helped, but there is definitely discrimination going on that is outrageous.  Ronnie speaks his mind, so at least they don’t push him around too much, but it still isn’t fair.

Finally, we closed the library with Ronnie and went up to get ready for bed.  Although we really didn’t do all that much, it was a full day and we were exhausted.

 

saturday, april 26th – honolulu, oahu, hawaii, usa – depart 6:00 pm

 

There was supposed to be a crew boat drill this morning at 10:00 AM, which we assumed would wake us up.  However, it was postponed until tomorrow, so we slept until 11:00 AM.  The weather is the same as yesterday, perfect.

Click for Daytime Activities.

We started with lunch in the Lido and then got our stuff together to take the shuttle bus to Ala Moana Shopping Center.  There wasn’t really anything we wanted, but we weren’t interested in making the effort to do anything else.  The drive to the center took about fifteen minutes due to the traffic jam on Ala Moana Boulevard, but was otherwise uneventful.

When this shopping center was built in the 1960’s, it was the largest open air mall in the country.  It has been added on to several times and is still huge, but no longer the largest.  The lower, original level is dark and non-descript.  It looks as though it was buried under the newer, upper levels.  However, the new sections are beautiful and the architecture attractive.  This being a Saturday, the mall was jammed for the most part.  The only stores that were empty were the way upper end stores such as Gucci and Fendi.  We only came to look and maybe shop for some Hawaiian shirts at Macy’s, so we didn’t care.

We wandered the length of each level and ended up in Macy’s where they had a nice selection of shirts at reasonable prices.  After purchases a few, we walked back down the mall and stopped at a shop selling Hawaiian-made goods.  We managed to spend a few dollars on some souvenir items and gifts, then walked down to the lower level to finish our tour.  We made it back to the shuttle stop at 3:45 PM where we waited another fifteen minutes for the bus to arrive.  Bruno and his wife sat down next to us.  Bruno was excited by his new book light that, as he put it, “You would only find in the United States.”

Once on the shuttle, we drove toward Waikiki to the next stop behind the Hyatt Regency Hotel.  The city has done a wonderful job of upgrading the look of Waikiki and the city in general.  The streets are beautifully landscaped with antique-style streetlamps and tiki torches in the parks.  It couldn’t look any better.  We have never been terribly fond of Honolulu, but the way it looks now we would consider staying here for a vacation.

The first part of the drive wound through what was obviously the adult entertainment section of the city.  There was a “Nude, Nude, Totally Nude” nightclub about every block with sex shops between them.  At least it is all in the same place.  It didn’t look particularly seedy, just odd that it was all in two square blocks.  The rest of the drive was past upscale condominiums and hotels.  To reach the Hyatt, we drove for about 40 minutes through stop and go traffic.

After a brief stop to pick up guests at the Hyatt, we started back by driving along the canal where the older apartments are located.  It’s odd to see huge modern condominiums right next to a ramshackle bungalow that is probably worth millions for the land alone.  We didn’t arrive back at the port until after 5:00 PM.

We rushed back on board to shower in time for the sailing at 6:00 PM.  At that time we went up to the Sun Deck for a better view of the scenery as we sailed.  As we stepped out of the room, the Vice President of Hotel Operations was in front of our door.  He hosted our table at the Bon Voyage Party, so he knew us right away.  He seemed happy to see us, or at least he pretended to be.

 Free champagne was served by waiters walking all of the open decks.  There was a small hula group on the pier that was a nice touch.  They announced that it is their duty to greet every ship as it arrives and departs, “As long as it is at a decent hour.”

The sun was at a great angle for photos as we sailed.  Because the ship had to do a complete turn around in the harbor, we got a nice close up of the Aloha Tower with the financial district behind it.  The port area is being improved and there is an attractive park at the mouth of the harbor with a view to Diamond Head beyond.  The ship made a sharp turn and sailed along the shoreline of Waikiki and on beyond Diamond Head before darkness fell.

On the way back to the room, we ran into Maria in the hallway and finally managed to coerce her into a photo.  Waldo was his usual complaining self, but he was happy that he had smoothed over an issue with his girlfriend who didn’t want him to return to the ship for another contract. 

Tonight’s dress code is Casual.

HAWAIIAN DINNER

Appetizers
Fresh Pacific Seared Tuna Medallions with Lomi Tomatoes and Creamy Wasabi Soy Sauce
Waimanola Warm Goat Cheese Salad with Toasted Pistachios and Pesto
Hickory Smoked Chicken Breast with Apple Celery Salad
Chilled Hawaiian Pineapple Boat with Tropical Fruits

Soup and Salad
Potato Soup with Mushrooms and Truffle Oil
Roasted Big Island Garlic Consommé with Macadamia Nuts and Vegetable Pearls
Chilled Pineapple Yogurt Soup with Rum
Selection of Garden Spring Leaf Salad with Cucumbers, Plum Tomatoes and Deep Fried Cheese Balls
Hawaiian Style Caesar Salad in Crisp Parmesan Cup

Pasta Special
Penne Rigate with Osso Buco Sauce, Vegetables, and Parmesan Cheese

Salad Entrée
Kona Lobster Salad

Main Fares
Fresh Hawaiian Ginger Crusted Onaga
Piccata Milanese
Crisp Lemon Herb Marinated Rotisserie Chicken
Grilled Rib Eye Steak
Grilled Black Angus Filet Steak
Grilled Salmon Fillet

Vegetarian Selection
Golden Fried Mozzarella Cheese

Dessert
Kona Coffee Cheesecake with Lilikoi Sabayon
Hawaiian Vintage Chocolate Fudge Sheba with Raspberry Sauce
Haupia Profiteroles with Forest Berry Sauce
Sugar-Free Orange Timbale
Sugar-Free Baked Pear in Puff Pastry
Homemade Cookies
Hawaiian Pineapple-Mint Sherbet

Food review:  The fruit was presented very nicely on a round of pineapple and was very tasty.  The chilled soup was good, but not great.  The salad was too heavy on the anchovy flavor and the “crisp” Parmesan cup was more like rubber than anything.  The salmon was satisfactory, but the filet steak was so tough it couldn’t be cut through.  Luckily, we had ordered the vegetarian selection as a side order because it was outstanding.  Bruno talked us into the cheesecake, but neither of us liked it enough to finish it.  The sherbet was odd, but good enough to finish.

Ben and Rafael both had tales of woe from being out all night or drinking all day.  Rafael looked particularly bad, changing colors as the evening went on.  Ben said he had slept until five minutes before the Dining Room opened and wouldn’t have been there if someone hadn’t called him to ask where he was. Roland was still excited because he got to spend the night in a hotel with his girlfriend who is a guest on board with her mother.  We’re not sure if he was happier about spending time with her, or just being off the ship.  We got the impression it was the latter.

The Evening Entertainment is a group called “The Westenders”.  On the way out of the Dining Room, Roland told us that they will be the entertainment for the World Cruise dinner in a few nights, so we might want to skip it.  Dave skipped it, but Bill went.  The vote was that he wouldn’t want to see them again, but they weren’t terrible.

The Captain announced earlier tonight that we will only have to sail at seven knots to make it the 75 miles to Lahaina on time.  As it is the ship is expected to arrive an hour early, so he warned us not to be alarmed by the anchor-dropping noises early in the morning.

sunday, april 27th – lahaina, maui, hawaii, usa – 8:00 am – 6:00 pm

Lahaina has long been an important town. A big advantage is its location on the dry western side of the island of Maui. Even when it is raining on the opposite coast, Lahaina is likely to be dry, (very) occasionally interrupted by a brief afternoon cloudburst. The Maui clan chiefs set up their Royal Courts at the site, and Lahaina served as capital of the united Hawaiian Republic until the mid-19th century. The port was also once the most important provisioning stop for America’s Pacific whaling fleet. More than 400 whaling ships called in 1846 at the height of the industry’s success. The now-sleepy looking town had a rowdy and raucous reputation. Sailors, and the cliché trappings of their reputedly wicked lifestyles, ruled. Lost souls wandered the streets, and town bars were all successful. Missionaries accompanied the whalers, and the two factions made strange bedfellows in paradise indeed. One young fellow, Herman Melville, slipped ashore one dark night and disappeared into the shadows of his adopted home. Fascinated with the whalers, he recorded what he saw, and later wrote about them in Moby Dick and other novels.

As whale populations began to diminish from over-hunting, local commerce waned as well. Lahaina grew quiet after 1859, and then went to sleep altogether. Local businesses had grown up around the whaling industry, and when there were no whalers, there were no longer any customers. Since that time, Humpback whales have long enjoyed special protections in the islands, and happily, the graceful giants have now recovered from the brink of extinction. Keep close watch as the captain navigates the waters around Maui. The region is one of two known breeding sites for the graceful marine giants (December to April). The creatures migrate biannually from their summer feeding grounds in Southeast Alaska to the warm waters off the Mexican Coast and the Hawaiian Islands in order to mate. A whale-watching excursion led by a knowledgeable naturalist will educate you about the habits of the leviathans. One of the largest breeding areas is located in and around Maalaea Bay, south of town.

Lahaina remains as Maui’s commercial center. Nearly 100,000 residents live in the community. To them, Maui is the "Valley Isle." The industrious people were responsible for their own success. Tired of waiting for the state to put them on the lucrative tourist map, they launched their own independent promotional campaigns.

Clever monikers that included references to the west shore as the "golf coast," lured prestigious tournaments that in turn brought television cameras — and increasing numbers of visitors. Local leaders became the state’s luxury condominium "experts." When Maui was finished building, condo no longer meant "second-rate accommodation." The plan paid off, and the economy grew rapidly and steadily.

Haleakala (ha lee ah kuh lah) is responsible for most of Maui’s beautiful color. Rich red soil lines local roads, and has even been pressed into use as road in some places. The fertile soil supported the lucrative sugar industry that arose in the wake of the defunct whaling operations. Two planters, Alexander and Baldwin, are credited with starting the thriving industry. Although others had planted earlier, their Pioneer Sugar Company, now a division of huge food conglomerate Amfac Corporation, started in 1870 with their first plantings.

Until the second half of the 20th century, the island's incredible natural scenery seems to have gone strangely unnoticed. Maui has excellent beaches, as do all of the Hawaiian Islands, but as you might expect the best ones are not right in town. There are inviting shores very nearby, however, and the view of neighboring Lanai across Auau Channel is spectacular on a clear day. Several small Lahaina shops offer bicycles rentals — much of the western coast is relatively flat making it a pleasant and relatively easy place to cycle. While the ship does not actively endorse cycling, guests choosing to rent bicycles on their own should also rent and wear appropriate protective gear. Use good safety judgment.

 

Crystal Symphony dropped anchor off the coast of Maui very early this morning.  We thought we were still sailing because the ship had a continuous sway from side to side that was very pronounced even though the water was completely calm.  The Captain announced that it was a “Pacific Swell”, but he says that anytime it is rough.

Click for Daytime Activities.

Our goal was to make it ashore by 11:00 AM, but that was more difficult than it sounds.  There was a crew lifeboat drill today, postponed from yesterday, so the announcement not to be alarmed by the alarm was made in the cabin at 9:30 AM.  We were up by then, but delayed by the drill itself that involves all of the crew mustering at their emergency stations at 10:00 AM.  At around 10:30 AM, the abandon ship signal was given and selected groups of crew had to board a lifeboat and be lowered to the water.  Obviously, this ties this up a bit, so we didn’t even bother trying to get onto a tender until 11:00 AM.

The ride to shore was short, but we had to wait outside of the entrance to the marina for another boat to pass, another ten minutes.  So, we arrived ashore at 11:30 AM.  The plan was to look for Gabe in the sales booth at slip 15, which we did.  He called Carolynn who lives close by.  In the meantime, Gabe entertained us with his evaluation of the passengers from the Norwegian Wind that is also anchored off shore.  It wasn’t any surprise to us that the passenger mix there is decidedly less likely to spend money ashore.  Of course, we know the people on the Symphony aren’t any more likely to do so even if they do have more to spend.

Carolynn and Phil arrived very quickly and we were off to our brunch destination, The Plantation House in Kapalua.  We always feel like we are coming home when we arrive here, so it is fun to drive through town and see what’s new.  Of course, the traffic is much worse than in years past, but it wasn’t a big deal today.   The drive, along with the conversation, was pleasant and we arrived in Kapalua in no time.  Actually, we weren’t paying attention to the time, so we have no idea how long it really took.

Kapalua is a very upscale development that includes a Ritz-Carlton Hotel, golf courses, and custom home lots, among other similar things.  The Plantation House is on a hill overlooking the golf course and provides a stunning view to the ocean and the neighboring islands.  We made a point of taking a picture of the design of the bi-fold doors to have an alternative design for our project at home.  The architecture was very attractive.  He's a photo of us in front of the view.

Our table was located next to the open doors with the stunning view right outside.  We were thrilled to have the chance to order breakfast food for a change, especially the French Toast, which is ghastly on board the ship.  For a beautiful restaurant like this one, the prices were a real bargain.   The service could use a tune-up, but we were busy talking, so it didn’t make any difference to us. 

Trying to put together family information based on what either of us knows is like pulling teeth, but we shared what we do know and tried to guess about that we don’t.  Sometimes it is more fun to just make up plausible facts anyway.  But, we always learn something new when we dredge up the distant past.  Poor Bill has no idea the depths of our eccentricities!  It just never ends, does it?

After brunch we took a scenic drive through parts of Kapalua, by a Westin “Vacation Ownership” development that is almost finished, and then down the road to Napili to visit the Mauian condos he stayed with his cousin Karen forty years ago!  All Dave remembered was the look of the place and the deadly waves that would refuse to let him out of the water unless timed just right.  He had always tried to place the location in his mind, but couldn’t until now.  Going back there was a nice bonus.  It’s amazing that it looks exactly the same, well, it is sort of hidden now by a multitude of newer complexes, but the beach was the same.  We’re glad Carolynn thought of this detour!

We drove back to Carolynn and Phil’s house to relax for a bit until time to return to the ship.  Originally, the plan was to go to town early enough to wander around, but we enjoyed the conversation more than shopping, so didn’t miss it at all.  They drove us back to the landing where we thought we’d be on one of the last tenders, which are usually full to capacity.  After saying our goodbyes and talking for a few more minutes, we headed back to the landing where the security check was holding up the line.  The security in both Hawaiian ports has been far stricter than anywhere we have ever been.  However, we were able to walk onto the ship in Honolulu without showing our passes because the guards were busy x-raying packages.  We don’t mind the extra security if it is done properly.

There were only two other guests plus a few crewmembers on board the tender.  We have no idea where all of the guests went today.  They must have returned to the ship early in the day.  Usually there is a mad rush for the last tenders, but not today.  We were back on board by around 5:30 PM, just enough time to wash the disinfectant off our hands (from the wipes they make everyone use upon boarding) and head up for the sailing at 6:00 PM.

Today’s weather was slightly overcast, but perfect temperature wise.  The rocking motion on the ship continued all day.  They had to lower the water level in the pool to keep it from sloshing over the sides even though the ship was anchored.

At this point, we had our chance to take our customary port photos.  On the far left we can see the Kaanapali resort area with its high-rise hotels on the point, then an upscale residential area along a narrow beach.  Reaching the edge of town we could see the old sugar mill, now closed and crumbling.  The only major difference that is obvious is that the hills are brown and dusty now that the sugar cane fields are fallow.  Some are being converted to other farming, but the majority of the fields in this area are empty as far as we can see.  Continuing to the right is the historic marina area, then a long stretch of residential areas along the coast, and finally the visible end of the land and the anchored Norwegian Wind.

Just before sailing we were able to get a nice atmospheric shot of a sailboat against a neighboring island with the sun behind the clouds.  The anchor was raised promptly at 6:00 PM, but all we did was turn around to face Kaanapali.  There we sat for another fifteen minutes with nothing out of the ordinary except a rubber boat full of armed U.S. Coast Guard men bobbing around us.  They didn’t seem to be doing anything except perhaps keeping non-existent boats away from us, so we have no idea why there was a delay.

Finally, we started sailing toward the high-rises of Kaanapali and through the channel between Maui and its neighboring island.  Eventually, we reached the point where the Kapalua development is located and we were out to sea on the other side on our final five days of this World Cruise.  Here is a look back toward Lahaina.

Waldo was whiny, so we asked him to come in and sit down, which he did until we was beeped by the Food and Beverage Manager.  He was upset because he has to serve twelve people in the Captain’s Quarters dinner tomorrow night, but no one will help him or tell him what he is supposed to serve.  You’d think he would be used to all the last-minute arrangements by now.  He had to run off to find out what his manager wanted, so we were left to shower and get ready for dinner.

We received a pile of letters and invitations today, most of which are no more than hyped up versions of regular activities and parties re-named for the President’s Cruise.  The president of Crystal arrived today to host the World Cruise Gala Farewell Dinner tomorrow night.  The party will again be in the transformed Starlite Club (mistakenly referred to as the Starlite ROOM in the invitation) and will have a Rainbow Room theme.  Rosemary’s letter said it would be informal for the guests, but all mention of dress and theme in the information we received today says it is formal.

Tonight’s dress code is Casual/Medieval for The Royal Feast.  We’re not going to print the menu here again because it never changes, but you can look back to any previous segment to see it.  You’re probably as tired of reading it as we are by this point.

We didn’t arrive until 8:00 PM, but we weren’t t the last ones in.  The Dining Room was deserted, a testament to the lack of interest in this themed evening.  It is on the way out and it couldn’t be fast enough to suit us. 

Food review:  We ordered the melon without the mead poured over it, so it was good.  They serve a very tasty hot spiced wine with this meal free of charge.  We never were offered any of the bread selections, so we assume there wasn’t any left.  The chilled melon soup was inedible.  It is never very good, but this version was so bad one spoonful was enough.  The salad was OK, but nothing interesting and tasted like nothing.  The beef entrée, which consists of a piece of beef tenderloin and a huge beef rib, was good, but the tenderloin was tough and the rib had more fat than we have ever seen in that kind of meat.  It tasted good, though.  We always have an issue with the “Witches’ Pyre Flambé” because it is decidedly not a flambé.  We thought maybe it had been afire originally and there was a problem with it, but Bruno said it has always been this way.  Basically, it is an apple bread pudding topped with a sticky round of meringue that has been browned with a blowtorch.  It was edible, but that’s about all that can be said for it.

Today is Bruno's birthday, so we gave him our usual card with $20 in it.  We told him that we didn't bring the camera out of respect for his birthday.  This was after another guest insisted on taking his picture in the ridiculous Medieval waiter costume.

The Evening Entertainment is the accompanying production show, “Excalibur!”, that is universally disliked by the guests.  We ran into Nikki in the lobby and chatted about how the day went, among other things.  She wanted to beg Rosemary to be seated at our table tomorrow at the gala.  We told her she could tell her we insisted on being seated with her if she really wanted to, but she has to tell us so we can back her up if it is brought up.  Bill went to the show to see it for, what he hopes, is the last time.  Dave would rather look at a blank wall than see it again.  On the way to the elevator, he saw Francis, the Galaxy Orchestra’s pianist in the ridiculous costume he has to wear during the parade into the show room.  Francis referred to the parade as, “Our torture.”  It’s torture for the guests, too.  Tonight's show was poor, as usual, plus the slew of technical problems and non-working microphones that have plagued every show so far.  The lounge was nearly empty, again an obvious sign that this show sucks.  Most production shows are packed, but not this one.

We move an hour forward on the clock tonight.

 

monday, april 28th – cruising the pacific ocean

 

Today’s weather is again perfect, mostly sunny, temperature in the low 70’s, and smooth seas.  There is little wind to speak of either.

Click for Daytime Activities.

Our first stop was lunch in the Lido, then down to the Front Desk to order packing boxes.  The new girl at the desk, Heidi, didn’t have a clue what to do and Marit was running around trying to serve other guests and train her at the same time.  We also got a printout of our account.  As of today, we still have $333.00 in onboard spending credits remaining.  That will easily be used up by five days of Internet access, but we think we did pretty well budgeting it out.  The only expenses we have remaining are any bonus gratuities we give out.

Back at the room we quickly filled up the three boxes we had and had to order two more large ones.  We did manage to pack up almost all of our large purchases and do laundry before we decided we needed to stop to prepare for the World Cruise Dinner tonight.  We still have two boxes to go, but that won’t be too hard to finish.  We have collected about ten bottles of wine, champagne and hundreds of those little liquor bottles.  We’re leaving the beer and bottled water on board, but we have a whole case of that.  We noticed that when the new policy of free soft drinks and bottled water begins for everyone, the liquor in the Penthouses will be available by order, “From a set menu.”  That certainly makes more sense than bringing us all of those little bottles every ten days whether we use them or not.

We overheard a World Cruise couple hashing over whether tonight’s affair is formal or not.  Rosemary’s letter said it was Informal/Formal, but we would assume most of the guests will be in formal wear in spite of their real desires.  The invitation makes no mention of the dress code.  All we can hope for is that it is short and sweet and doesn’t drag on for hours.  The theme of the party is “The Rainbow Room”.   Pedro was whining this afternoon about having to get up at 5:30 AM to report for set-up duty.  The dinner is being held in the Starlite Club, so they have to remove all of the chairs, then drag up enough big tables from the Dining Room to accommodate all of the World Cruisers and the associated hosts from Crystal.  It is nice that they put out all of this effort, but we would still prefer something less formal and more fun.

We arrived about five minutes early and found the line running from Jade Garden to the front entrance of the Starlite Club.  It did start moving shortly thereafter and moved quickly.  The people in front of us asked us to take their photo in front of the “Rainbow Room” sign, which we did.  The sign was flanked by beautiful arrangements of red roses.

As last year, they went beyond the call of duty to create a supper club atmosphere in the Starlite Club.  It was all done with fabric painted to look like bricks and lighting effects.  The room was transformed and took the guests away as though we were at a restaurant ashore.  The tables were adorned with the same red and white floral arrangements in silver ice buckets held above eye level on a stand.  At each place were a menu and a small Tiffany box in a gauzy cloth bag.  Men received a solid silver money clip with the World Cruise 2003 emblem, while the women received a silver necklace.  We didn’t see the pendant, but we assume it was the same emblem on a chain.  These were thoughtful gifts and small enough to be easy to carry home.  Some people complained that they had no use for a money clip, but who said it has to be used for money?  Well, the card did say it’s a money clip, so a money clip it is.  So there!

Our table was hosted by Cindy Litzie, Director of Loyalty Programs (Crystal Society) and by Niklas, the Assistant Cruise Director.  We had never formally met two of the couples at our table, but they were very nice and we had a nice conversation.  The other two guests were Louise and Don, both high-ranking cruisers who we knew fairly well.  Don will be on the Harmony cruise we are on starting May 10th.  He’s trying to reach his 100th Milestone, so he’s taking as many short cruises as possible to get there quickly.

Dave had a nice conversation with Cindy starting with cruise-related subjects and moving on to remodeling and general chit chat.  She said at the end that she appreciated someone talking to her about something other than the cruise.  She was most interested in the fact that we no longer prefer Prego over Jade Garden.  After talking about the reasons, she admitted that the ratings for Prego have dropped significantly since they added the Valentino Restaurant items to the menu.  We suggested that adding that, plus the Chinoise items to Jade Garden, was making the menus too fancy and taking away some of the things they used to have that people liked.  We told her we were sorry to see that the Serenity will start out with a “famous” chef for the Sushi restaurant.  Of course, this is a marketing gimmick, but our feeling is that 99% of the guests have no clue who any of these chefs are, nor do they care.  We would find it hard to believe that anyone outside of Los Angeles or New York has even heard of them.

The evening progressed at a reasonable pace, although it did last hours beyond the two it was supposed to.  There was no way they could have done it in that short of a time span.  We discussed with Cindy the ridiculous length of the formal events and the Bon Voyage Party.  She said the event in Uruguay (at the ranch) received incredibly high ratings.  Gee, it was casual, wasn’t it?  Take a hint.  She was very pleasant and seemed interested in what we had to say, although we tempered our comments immensely to avoid complaining.  After all, we’re sure everyone whines to her the moment she appears, so we didn’t want to contribute to it.  When she asked about something, we’d answer honestly, but believe us, there is plenty more to say that went unsaid.

The food was served to everyone at the table at once, so it required ten waiters to serve and take away dirty dishes.  Most of the guests we could see did not eat most of what was served to them.  Needless to say, the main course was veal and the appetizer was foie gras.  We’re sure someone on the cruise really likes these things, but the vast majority would not order them if given the choice.  But, it’s fancy, so it is served.  The soup was very good, but nearly cold.  Dessert was an elaborate display of spun sugar and layers of extremely sweet fudge and sort of a mousse separated by a white chocolate slab.

Entertainment was provided by The Westenders.  They were the entertainment last night and will be again tomorrow night.  They weren’t the worst group we have ever seen, but three nights in a row and a full hour?  Come on!  We’d rather watch Curtis and Natalie for the millionth time.  At least it was short and they didn’t drag anyone up on stage with them, so it was bearable.

After the entertainment, dessert was served and we chatted with Cindy as the other guests at the table left a few at a time.  We had never spent much time chatting with Cindy before, so it was nice to get to know her.  She’s a very pleasant person who doesn’t try to force feed the company line.  We find that refreshing and wish more of Crystal’s executives would realize that they don’t always have the right answer for everyone.

The Evening Entertainment is a Variety Showtime featuring the dance team, Curtis and Natalie, and “Multi-Instrumentalist” Kenny Martyn.  Obviously, we missed this part of the entertainment because we didn’t get out of the party until nearly 11:00 PM.  We went to chat with Ronnie for a few minutes, then wandered across the ship toward the forward elevators.  We ran into Niklas and Kelly Fritz, the arriving Cruise Director, who greeted us like long lost friends.  We’re not sure we had ever formally met him, but he seemed pleasant enough.

We continued on to our original destination of the elevator lobby where we again ran across Ronnie changing posters and Keiko coming up from the deck below.  An imaginative conversation ensued that doesn’t warrant repeating here, but it amused the four of us.

We each received a certificate commemorating our completion of the 2003 World Cruise.

 

tuesday, april 29th – cruising the pacific ocean

 

There must have been coffee in the dessert last night because neither of us could sleep at all.  The weather today is absolute perfection with mirror-smooth seas, a cloudless sky, no wind, and temperatures in the low 70’s.  Even the humidity is gone.  Who could ask for more?

Click for Daytime Activities.

There was a presentation by Crystal's President, Gregg Michel, to all guests at 11:00 AM in the Galaxy Lounge.  He didn’t say anything unexpected and it was the usual six-star this and six-star that.  The announcements were slight embellishments on what we already know about Crystal Serenity and the addition of an array of new activities that, in our opinion, will probably flop.  It can’t hurt to try, but we're glad it's not our money.  As usual, the question and answer session brought out the big guns among the guests who complained/asked about a variety of things, mostly reasonable.  The lack of CNN for a significant portion of the cruise was one of them.  This is partially due to being out of range, but mostly because the person sent to upgrade the system made it worse.  The lowering of cruise credits given for long segments was a hot topic as was the subject of full World Cruise guests paying more than segment guests.   He said that isn’t supposed to happen, but it always does.  There was also a complaint about rude treatment by someone in the corporate office when they were confronted about the fares.  Gregg was appropriately appalled by that revelation and we believe something will be done about it.

One of the most ridiculous questions was from a guest who complained that they should have a Chef’s Suggestion menu with fewer than four courses.  The reasoning was that if they order a la carte they always end up getting too much food and if they order the suggested menu, they also get too much food.  This ridiculous suggestion almost made Gregg’s head explode, but he asked the chef to answer it.  The advantage to that being that his accent makes him nearly impossible to understand.  Is it that difficult to assemble your own meal from the menu?  Besides, who is forcing you to eat everything you get?

We have to give the executives credit for having the nerve to show up at the end of a World Cruise when the die-hards are at their most crotchety.  For the most part, the answers were reasonable, but there was some dancing around the subject during certain questions, which is typical.  Usually, the answer to a question like that is really, “We’ve already decided, so don’t bother complaining.” 

Lunch in the Lido was next where Dave had a run in with the new Jade Garden headwaiter who tried to grab his tray.  He literally took hold of it and said, “I will take that for you.”  The reply from Dave was, “No thanks, not yet.”  He persisted, but being aware of what was happening, Dave held onto the tray rather than letting go and repeated, “Not yet!”  When he was finished getting a bowl of fruit from another area, a Deck Steward was standing there waiting patiently to take the tray rather than grab it.  The existing waiters on the Symphony seem to have been trained not to grab trays, but to offer to carry them, which is the right way to do it.  We were amused while reading the April 2003 issue of “Cruise Travel”, a magazine that almost never criticizes anything, that the featured ship was Crystal Harmony.  In the review of the Lido, the author says, “The other main line heads towards the pool seating, with automatic doors making tray-toting a snap, if you can elude the ever-present wait staff demanding to carry it for you.”

We moved outside to listen to the band by the Seahorse Pool.  The set concluded with a rousing rendition of “YMCA” prompted by the Deck Stewards who did the entire routine along with a lineup of guests who joined in.  After some ice cream, we went back to the room to finish packing our last two boxes, do laundry and sort through the piles of papers we have accumulated.  We also prepared our gratuities list to be charged to our account

Tonight’s dress code is Informal.  Waldo told us that the butlers have been transferred out of the Housekeeping Department and into Food and Beverage.  We knew that’s how it would be done on the Serenity because they will fall under Tayfun’s direction and the Casual Dining options.  We can sort of see the point, but this means that if we call a butler for anything other than food, he has to have a stewardess contact us.  The phones have a button for Stewardess or Butler, but both of them call the butler.  Unless they change the butlers’ duties, this arrangement makes no sense at all.  The first shortcoming of this change is that the butlers are out of the loop for luggage handling and such.  We have a pile of boxes to send downstairs and Waldo offered to handle it for us, but he didn’t have access to the information on which room it is.  We were going down to the lobby anyway, so we asked Marit about it.  The Concierge handles that, so we will talk to them tomorrow.

NEPTUNE’S DINNER

Appetizers
Lobster Samosas on Herb Garden Salad with Garlic Aioli
Homemade Gravlax on Yukon Hash Brown Potatoes
Tossed Garden Greens in Walnut Vinaigrette with Grilled Mushrooms and Fried Mozzarella
Fruit Cup with Star Fruit, Sweet Bananas, and Maraschino

Soup and Salad
New England Clam Chowder
Essence of Beef with Foie Gras Croutons
Chilled Gazpacho Blanco with Toasted Almonds
Heart of Iceberg Lettuce with Shredded Vegetables of Radicchio Leaves
Spring Garden Lettuce with Grilled Vegetables and Fried Oysters

Pasta Special
Tagliarini with Lemon Oil, Jumbo Shrimp, Basil and Plum Tomatoes

Salad Entrée
Sliced Grilled Tenderloin Steak on a Bed of Potato, Mushroom, and Cucumber Salad

Main Fares
Surf and Turf
Broiled Fresh Mahi Mahi Fillet
Sautéed Crab Cake with Avocado Salsa
Grilled Baby Veal Chops
Grilled Blue Nose Fillet
Grilled Sirloin Steak

Dessert
Honey Glazed Pecan Pie a la Mode
Chocolate Bomb “Harlequin”
Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Fudge Sauce
Sugar-Free Citrus Salad with Diet Ice Cream
Sugar-Free Mocha Cream Puff
Homemade Cookies
Assortment of Fruit in Season
Refreshing Passion Fruit Sherbet

Food review:  As you already know, this is our least favorite menu served on this ship.  However, we managed to make some changes to the main courses to turn it into a pleasant meal.  Even the salad was outstanding because the lettuce was so fresh.  We substituted a crab cake for the lobster tail in the Surf and Turf, which was outstanding.  The lobster is usually tough, so making that swap was a good solution.  The fish was dry, but the addition of a side order of Barley Risotto improved the plate and provided a nice alternative.  Both desserts were very good.

Bruno and Andrejus wanted to know how last night went, but they asked at different times, so we had to repeat the story.  Dave finally had an opportunity to point out that people ordering for him is a pet peeve.  We’re not sure Bruno got the hint that he shouldn’t bring things we didn’t order, but it was said at least.  Ben said he was probably going to drop dead at the end of the next cruise.  He was supposed to leave in Sydney, but was asked to stay until Los Angeles.  Now he has been extended to Fort Lauderdale.

We learned from Tayfun that he won’t be going to the Harmony after all.  It was amusing because he said, “They don’t need me anymore,” followed by a pouty face.  We’ll miss him, but we’re sure it will be fine since we’ll be busy bitching and moaning to Beverly and Dick most of the time anyway.

The Evening Entertainment is another hour long show by “The Westenders”.  For a World Cruiser who attended every show, this would be the third day in a row for this group who is barely worth looking at once.  Needless to say, we were not gluttons for punishment and went up to the room instead.  Watching videos and updating the Website are far more interesting at this point.

We received a President’s Cruise gift, a collapsible travel bag.  At first we thought it was a handbag, but it just looks like one when it is folded up.  This gift was distributed to all guests currently on board as it has nothing to do with the World Cruise per se.  Tonight is another hour forward on the clock.

Click to view today's World Cruise Newsletter.

wednesday, april 30th – cruising the pacific ocean

   

Click for Daytime Activities.

We slept in beyond our normal time to make up for almost no sleep yesterday, so our first stop was lunch at from the Trident Grill.  The weather out on deck is again nearly perfect with just a slight overcast and 68 degrees.  It seemed warmer outside to us than yesterday, but the official temperature is 68.  The sea isn’t as smooth as it was, but the movement is barely noticeable and there is water in the pools that is staying where it belongs.  We sat outside to eat and then went to see Nikki at 3:00 PM.

Nikki had left a message earlier telling us that the office has to write to Washington, DC, to get permission for our Harmony itinerary.  She was annoyed that they have waited until two days before the end of the cruise, in other words, too late to do anything.  They have had over two whole months to take care of this.  We told her to tell them, “Fine, it will give us plenty of time to try Silversea and Radisson now that we have cancelled.”  The cancelled cruises added up to over 120 days.  She was glad that the guests spoke up at the Q&A session yesterday because they complained about the same things she always puts in her reports.  It can’t hurt to have the executives hear it directly from the guests, too.

We chatted with Nikki about general things having nothing to do with cruises.  There was no line to see her, so we chatted for over an hour, giggling and poking about some dippy subjects we discussed.  After our chat, we moved to the Concierge desk to ask Billy about collecting our seven boxes.  He said to stick the baggage tags on them and call down for a bellman. They will store them and take them ashore, so we don’t have to bother with them again on board.  The same thing was done last year and it worked out fine.  Jeff came over to insist that the three of us show up at the showing of the World Cruise Video tomorrow morning at 10:30 AM.  We informed him that we show up at nothing that is before noon, so he said, “You guys had better be there or I will edit you out.”  He was kidding, of course.  We see no reason to go because everyone gets a copy of the tape anyway.

As we wandered back toward the stairs, we waved at, but did not stop to talk to, Lara and Cindy.  We ordered a couple of photos we didn’t really want just to use up the free photo coupons we received the other day.  Then, it was back to the room to prepare the box labels.  Waldo called for a bellman, then left to fawn on the executives from the office.  Those are our words, not his, but it is true.

A bellman arrived with a luggage cart barely large enough to hold our seven large boxes, but he was creative enough to fit it all on.  The ship is allowing guests to leave their boxes on the ship to Fort Lauderdale if they live on the east coast.  Actually, we're not sure there is a limit to how long they will hold them, but in any case it is a nice convenience.

Tonight’s dress code is Informal.  Just as we left for dinner, it began to rain rather hard, but the sea didn’t become rough.

DINNER

Appetizers
Shrimp Enchiladas with Corn and Tomato Salsa
Seafood Rendezvous – Crab Claws, Baby Shrimps, Jumbo Prawns, and Mussels with Three Sauces
Aspargus, Broccoli, and Cauliflower Terrine with Herb Vinaigrette
Iced Pineapple, Strawberry, Kiwi, Banana Cup

Soup and Salad
Chicken Consommé Mille-Fanti
Roasted Bell Pepper Soup with Parmesan Croutons
Chilled Apple and Cranberry Soup
Crunchy Iceberg Lettuce, Served with Chopped Plum Tomatoes, Onion Ring, and Lemon Basil Vinaigrette
Assorted Summer Salad with Feta Cheese, Garbanzo Beans, and Spring Onions

Pasta Special
Fettuccine with Garlic, Oven-Dried Tomatoes, and Herbed Goat Cheese

Salad Entrée
Marinated Steak Salad

Main Fares
Broiled Fresh Hawaiian Monchong Fillets in Potato Herb Crust
Veal Scaloppini “Mermaid”
Sautéed Sea Scallops
Grilled Lamb Chops
Grilled Sirloin Steak
Broiled Halibut Fillet

Vegetarian Selection
Eggplant Piccata with Chunky Tomato Sauce

Dessert
Pear Caramel Cake with Caramel Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream
Sugarbread Loaf with Strawberry Sauce
Tart au Citron with Whipped Cream
Sugar-Free Apple Pie a la Mode
Sugar-Free Mocha Custard
Homemade Cookies
Assortment of Fruit in Season
Freshly Frozen, Nonfat Dutch Chocolate Yogurt

Food review:  Everything tonight, with the exception of dessert, was very good to outstanding.  The halibut was excellent and served on very tasty mashed potatoes.  We have to give them credit because no matter what the flavor of mashed potatoes they are serving that night they are consistently great.  Bruno pushed the lemon tart for dessert, but we both also ordered the Tangerine Sherbet.  Good thing because the tart was terrible and one bite was enough.  The sherbet was outstanding.  All of the sherbets are made fresh on board and they are usually wonderful.

Andrejus was more talkative than usual after dinner, but he didn’t say anything so exciting we need to mention it here.  They have opened the pool to crew tonight.  He was glad to hear it is raining because he thought it might be less crowded.

The Evening Entertainment is “That’s Dancing III”, a dance review featuring Curtis and Natalie plus various members of the Crystal Ensemble.  The show contained many of the same numbers we saw last segment, but overall the show was incredible from start to finish.  It received an immediate standing ovation that was well deserved.  Curtis and Natalie are extremely talented, as are the ensemble dancers when they are allowed to do whatever they choose to do.  There was nothing about tonight’s show that we would change.

We move ahead one last hour tonight as we reach the final days of the World Cruise.  We received a nice note from Rudolf thanking us for everything this cruise, which we thought was very kind of him.  Also, we received our disembarkation information.  We are in the last group to disembark at 10:15 AM, so someone seems to know us pretty well.

Click to view today's World Cruise Newsletter.

thursday, may 1st – cruising the pacific ocean

Click for Daytime Activities.

It’s still cloudy and rainy today, with lower temperatures in the mid 60’s.  The sea is still relatively calm, so no complaints from us.  Our first stop, after asking Maria to retrieve our luggage, was the Lido, where we barely made it in time for lunch.

The Lido choices weren’t all that thrilling, but there was little alternative other than cheeseburgers.  We loaded up of fruit and a few other items, which were sufficient to last us until dinnertime.

After lunch, we returned to the room to start packing, but got sidetracked for an hour watching the World Cruise video.  Of course, we will receive a copy to take home, but it was a good excuse to avoid packing for a while.  One of our QAP forms was missing a page, so we had to ask for another one.  This is the second time in a row we have had a problem like this.

With no excuses left, we did pack up one of the big bags that will go on the Harmony cruise next week By the time that was done it was time to start getting showered and dressed for our final formal night, The Captain’s Gala Farewell Party.  Tonight’s dress code is Formal.

We debated about whether to take the Express Lane or go through the line, but opted for the Express because we’d rather see Rosemary and Josef than the President of Crystal.  Josef wanted to know when he would see us next, but none of us were sure if the schedules coincide.  We hid in our usual corner that is right by the front door where the secondary receiving line is located.  Cindy Litzie, Paul, and Lara were standing there and each of them turned around to say something snide to us when they notice us there.

The party lasted exactly one hour with a lengthy speech by the Captain followed by some brief remarks by Gregg Michel, the President of Crystal Cruises.  The room was packed with guests, many of whom we had never seen before today.  The Captain is a very nice guy and although he fumbles his words, he seems sincere and is always extremely friendly to us.

On the way to dinner, we stopped to chat with Rudolf.  He is also extremely friendly and pleasant.  His contract was extended for several cruises beyond Los Angeles, his originally planned sign off point.  “The Fabulous Carol” came in to show off her Bob Mackie gown, which we had remarked to ourselves was stunning.  She always looks great and we told her so, which pleased her.  She arrived several segments ago, but we had never met her before today.  We were shocked at her age, she looks twenty years younger than she is.

After dallying around talking to Rudolf until 8:00 PM, we stopped by the Front Desk to drop off Bon Voyage cards for Ronnie and Rosemary.  Ronnie’s is really a birthday card, but it is so perfect for him we bought it even though it isn’t his birthday.  Has to do with being the “Birthday Queen.”  Rosemary’s was just a nice “Thanks for everything” card.  In our opinion, she has been a perfect World Cruise Hostess from start to finish.

We finally made it into the Dining Room at 8:00 PM and found it about half empty, which is unheard of for the last formal night.  It should tell them something about the desirability of the Baked Alaska Parade, but we doubt it will.

CAPTAIN’S GALA DINNER

Appetizers
Iced Russian Sevruga Caviar with Traditional Condiments, Blinis, and Melba Toast
Pata de Foie Gras with Warm Brioche and Port Wine Gelée
Gulf Shrimp in Root Vegetable Aspic
Stuffed Coconut Boat with Tropical Fruit Sprinkled with Drambuie

Soup and Salad
Cream of Asparagus Argenteuil
Consommé Double with Truffle Royal and Vegetables
The Captain’s Salad

Sherbet
Refreshing Kir Royale Sherbet

Pasta Special
Capellini Pasta with Light Porcini Mushroom Sauce, Topped with Grilled Scallops

Salad Entrée
Crunchy Garden Greens with Walnut Dressing and Grilled Lamb Chops

Main Fares
Broiled Fresh Whole Lobster from Maine
Roasted Stuffed Wild Pheasant Breast
Filet of Beef Wellington
Grilled Herb Marinated Veal Medallions “Provence”
Grilled Black Angus Filet Steak
Plain Grilled Fillet of Fresh John Dory

Vegetarian Selection
Vegetable Stuffed Potato Cakes

Dessert
The American Institution – Baked Alaska Flambé en Parade
Mascapone and Pear Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream
Sugar-Free Passion Fruit Timbale
Tropical Fruit in Season
Chocolate Truffles and Petit Fours

Food review:  Everything was edible, but nothing was outstanding that came directly from the menu.  We asked for a chopped iceberg lettuce salad with cucumbers and sprouts with balsamic vinaigrette.  It was outstanding.  For the first time ever, there was an alternative dessert to the Baked Alaska (which is always ghastly).  In the past, they have always served a fresh-from-the-freezer cinnamon loaf that sounds as bad as it is.  The pear tart was pretty good and certainly better than the Baked Alaska.

Bruno started off the night by forgetting to bring us menus, which freaked Roland out.  He didn’t actually forget, but he had his hands full when he greeted us and then got stuck talking at another table.  Roland was trying to kiss up because he got our gratuity on his account today.  He said, “You have always been very generous to me and it is a pleasure to have you.” 

When Bruno came back, he poured some water with no ice left, so Roland ridiculed him.  He came back with a pitcher overflowing with water and ice and proceeded to spill more on the table than in the glass.  We told him that maybe we shouldn’t have charged our tips since he obviously doesn’t care anymore (we were kidding).  Later, he brought the sherbet in a cracked glass.  We thought for sure an entire Baked Alaska in our lap would be the next mishap.  The whole thing was pretty amusing.  Bruno also thanked us for his bonus gratuity.

One of the servants at Lady Fairfax’s table, the woman who insisted on sitting at the Captain’s table on the first night, came over because she thought we had German accents.  Don’t ask, we didn’t understand it either.  The Lady had left already, as usual, so her maid complained to us that she hasn’t been recognized by the Captain and the President didn’t even come over to meet her tonight.  Well, if she had gone in through the front door, she could have met him like everyone else.  Oh, and she has three cruises to her credit, “Shouldn’t that count for something?”  Well, maybe, but with 50 guests over 30 cruises, she’s out of her league for recognition.  We decided we would stop by and inform Marit later in case she wants to tell someone on high so they can kiss up.

The Evening Entertainment is the production show “Symphony of Nations.”  On our way out of the Dining Room, the Captain made a point to come over and chat with us and thank us for being here.  He introduced us to his wife and wanted to know when we would meet up with him again.  Turns out he will be the Captain on our Serenity Cruise before the next World Cruise.  His face lit up when he realized he would be there.  We didn’t know he liked us that much, although he is always very friendly and makes an effort to talk to us when he can.

Tonight’s show had no technical problems and all of the lighting seemed to work properly.  In fact, the show had lighting effects we haven’t seen in eight years.  Funny how when the executives are on board they can slap together a good show, but what about the other 100 days of this cruise?

As we passed through the Casino, Ross waved from behind the bar and thanked us for the gratuity we had sent to the bar staff.  Then, we stopped by the Front Desk to inform Marit about the faux pas by the President.  She rolled her eyes, which is what we expected, but she said she would tell someone higher up just in case they want to make up to her.  Marit was amused by the whole thing, of course.

We received a Farewell Card with a photo of the Hotel Department management on the cover.  Also, we got a card announcing that they will be sending a Commemorative Engraved Crystal Bowl to our home for the 2003 World Cruise gift.

 

friday, may 2nd – cruising the pacific ocean

  PLEASE NOTE:  The update for this final part of today and disembarkation day will be posted after we return home tomorrow due to the early cut-off time for our Internet account today at 8:00 PM.

Click for Daytime Activities.

Although the day started out clear and sunny, it quickly returned to being overcast with a slight drizzle.  No big deal since there is nothing to do except pack anyway.  We were up early enough to have to wait a few minutes before lunchtime.

Lunch was the Nuevo Latino buffet around the Neptune pool.  This is Crystal’s best attempt at Mexican food, but the only items recognizable as such are the fajitas and enchiladas.  However, neither would come to mind as Mexican the way they are prepared here unless it was pointed out.  It was nice enough to sit outside and listen to the band while eating, but we didn’t stay there afterward when the clouds rolled in and it became too chilly.

After some packing, we went down to do the goodbye thing with Nikki, Lara, Marit, and Billy.  Marit said she passed on the info about the offended Australian “Royalty” to Lara to handle.  Jeff came by to ask if we had seen ourselves in the World Cruise video (we had).  We took the time to tell him how much better the onboard videos are now that he is doing them.  They really are significantly improved and better than they have ever been.  That took over an hour and a half, leaving us short on time to finish the bulk of the packing.  But, going home is always easier to pack, so we’ll manage.  Dave received a notice that he exceeded the customs allowance and has to show up between 6:30 and 7:30 AM. Fun, huh?

With all of the packing done, Waldo came by and helped drag the bags out into the hallway.  We only have one to put out after dinner, otherwise we are finished.  Peter stopped and looked like he was getting misty thinking of us leaving.  He did the same thing when we ran into him in the stairway later.  Elizabeth sent us a photo of herself with the Captain to tell us she had won Employee of the Year.  She was totally shocked.  So, we dropped off a bottle of champagne for her and two bottles of wine for the remaining photographers.

Tonight’s dress code is Casual.  Waldo suggested we give away the wine we had decided not to take home, so we took the two additional bottles to Bruno and Andrejus.

DINNER

Appetizers
Chilled Seafood Cocktail with American Cocktail Sauce
Ragout of Morels, Chicken, and Asparagus in Puff Pastry Bouchons
Cilantro-Flavored Artichoke Terrine with Marinated Quail Eggs
Selected Fruit Marinated in Campari with Kiwi and Oranges

Soup and Salad
Cream of Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Beef Consommé with Herb Biscuit
Chilled Spicy Mango and Pineapple Soup
Mixed Garden Greens tossed with Range Dressing, Topped with Fried Mushrooms
Heart of Iceberg Lettuce, Cucumber, Tomatoes, and Bell Pepper Rings

Pasta Special
Elbow Macaroni all Cecca

Salad Entrée
Apple Potato Salad with a Roasted Chicken Breast

Main Fares
Whole Roasted French Duck
Pan-Fried Salmon Fillet
Chinese Sweet and Sour Pork
Grilled Sirloin Steak
Grilled Rib Eye Steak
Plain Grilled Chicken Breast

Vegetarian Selection
Sautéed Vegetables Stuffed in Filo Pastry Pockets

Dessert
Caramel Chocolate Hazelnut Tart a la Mode
Lilikoi Cheesecake
Almond Panna Cotta with Sauce Anglaise
Sugar-Free Hazelnut Cream Cake
Sugar-Free Vanilla Custard with Strawberries
Homemade Cookies
Assortment of Fruit in Season
Freshly Frozen Nonfat Orange Yogurt

Food review:  Bruno warned us that the chilled soup was “spicy”, so he brought the cream of chicken just in case.  No need, the fruit soup wasn’t spicy at all, although there was a slight hint of cayenne pepper.  It certainly wasn’t obvious.  We had to order a double side order of rice and more pork to make the sweet and sour pork large enough to suit us, but it was extremely tasty.  The cheesecake was edible, but not worth the calories.

We said the usual goodbyes to Bruno and Andrejus, then stopped at the Maitre d’ podium to chat with the Nestor’s and the Cayton’s.  We seem to have been adopted into the World Cruiser clique.  Roland and Leo came out to grab at us and to tell us to be sure to say hello to Walter, the Maitre d’ on the Harmony.  Roland seems to think that his friend Didi, a headwaiter, will also be there.  We know him vaguely, so we would be willing to say Roland said, “Hi.”

The final Evening Entertainment is a special Farewell Show, "Time to Say Goodbye."  There is also a “Countdown” in the Crystal Cove, but no one seemed to know what that meant.  The main show was a dredged up closing show from years ago that is heavy on pretension and meant to instill misty eyes.  After the opening number, there was a set by the “multi-instrumentalist” from the other night, who was acceptable.  Then there was a “Les Miserables” medley by The Westenders.  Their act was acceptable, but we wouldn’t pay to see them again.  They did a couple of other numbers, one of which was the same as at the World Cruise dinner.  After the two acts, Paul came out to thank everyone he could think of on the staff, lecturers, etc.

The Countdown was sort of a mini New Years Eve party in the Crystal Plaza that was decked out with balloons.  The Crystal Ensemble went there directly from the show and were standing in front of the fountain (turned off, by the way) waiting for the guests to arrive.  The Galaxy Orchestra also migrated out there.  Paul introduced the Captain who made a short, appropriate speech, then handed over a giant gold key to his replacement.  Paul did the same thing with a role of paper spray painted gold that he referred to as “The Golden Microphone” when he handed it over to his replacement, Kelly Fritz.

Once the speeches were over, the band played “Auld Lang Syne” while everyone toasted with the free champagne nobody drank.  Then they shot off two confetti cannons full of metallic streamers and big squares of colorful confetti.  As the guests arrived, they handed out Mardi Gras beads, but we never quite figured out why.  We chatted with Ronnie, who had some new gossip, none of which we can repeat here, of course.  He was sad and excited at the same time because he is leaving for vacation tomorrow and will go to the Serenity when he returns.  It was sad for the guests and crew alike because this is the last time everyone will be together on the ship they know.  We learned that 60% of Crystal Symphony’s crew is going to the Serenity, definitely more than the allotted number.  Apparently, there has been quite a turnover on the Harmony lately, so the only place to get experienced crew is from Symphony.

Lara came by for more hugs. She looked particularly sad because she will not only be leaving this ship, but moving to France to be with her fiancé, the Vice Captain of the Serenity.  They then plan to live in Norway, quite a change from San Diego and a distance from her family.  Kelly came over to chat briefly, again being very friendly, and wanted to know if we would be back to the Symphony soon.  Unfortunately, we have no immediate plans to return, but that is strictly due to itineraries, not by preference.

We returned to the room and put the last piece of luggage in the hallway.  It’s all over except the crack of dawn Customs inspection.

Click to view today's World Cruise Farewell Newsletter.

saturday, may 3rd – los angeles, california, usa – arrive 7:00 am – disembark

Perhaps it is because of media coverage that the City of Angels is often known more for its troubles than its treasures. But for a metropolitan area serving more than 15 million vastly multi-ethnic people, one has to wonder how problems could possibly be avoided. Known to most people as LA (elay), it has not always been a sprawling metropolis. When Spanish explorers first visited in the 16th century, there were only a few small native settlements on the shores of what is now Los Angeles.

The North American West Coast was settled slowly during the next centuries. Cabrillo was one of the first European visitors, but others like Sir Francis Drake followed. The vast new territory seemed endless to them, and all pushed northward to map out and claim new territory in the names of their sponsors. The Spaniards finally established a port in 1781 as a rest and supply stop for their coastal shipping routes. Jesuits had already built a series of missions along the coast of Alta California in the previous decades, and it was posed that the clergy now required protection. The real endangered species was probably the native population. Coastal Indians had begun to die out soon after the Europeans arrived and set up permanent villages. The natives were not used to the immigrant diseases, and their bodies offered no resistance. By 1800, coastal native populations had dropped 50%.

In time, Los Angeles became part of the expanding Mexican empire. But at the end of the Mexican-American War in the mid-19th century, California was ceded to the United States. According to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Mexican citizens retained their lands, but the burden of proof was placed on the landowners. Some cases dragged on for years; others were never resolved, and in 1850, the territory became the 31st state in the union.

Still, Los Angeles remained small. The obstacle to growth was an acute shortage of water. With the arrival of the transcontinental railroad everything changed almost overnight. Not long after the tracks were laid, oil was discovered in the valley, and people began to arrive in droves. Water was even a bigger problem. The Los Angeles River provided some water, but the population was rapidly exceeding the small river's capacity. The problem was not even solved by the 1913 Owen River Aqueduct project.

By then, a tiny industry had become fixed in the hills north of the city. Panoramic film scenes required space and the new studios provided the perfect milieu. In 1923, the much-photographed giant letters were erected on the hill, and the golden age of Hollywood was born. Strangely enough, the very thing that devastated the rest of the nation spurred the film industry. During the Depression, film grew more popular than ever. People wanted to forget calamity, and cinema offered escape. TV and radio ultimately also found Hollywood homes.

The entertainment industry is still thriving, but the city has diversified. With its universities and institutes, Los Angeles is a major center for research, and it is the largest of all American ports. The surrounding area, now well irrigated, is a major farming area. But as the population swells, farmland is being traded for asphalt, and what were once orange groves are now freeways and housing units. The city covers five counties and 34,000 square miles, making it just a little bit bigger than South Carolina.

What were once outlying suburbs have merged into a vast urban area, and because of the great distances residents must travel, the automobile has long reigned. Suggestions have been raised that certain automobile manufacturers "helped" Angelinos love their cars by squashing attempts to introduce mass transit systems over the years. Whatever the cause, Los Angeles freeways are legendary. Most are named for their destinations. Difficult traffic has become such regularity that alternative toll freeways have been built, allowing easier commutes for those willing to pay a few dollars. And while LA is almost paradise, water remains a looming factor. The precious commodity has caused word wars between local governments and outside water vendors. In the next decades, the life-giving liquid may well become more precious than gold. So allow time to enjoy the riches of one of America's greatest cities.

 

Disembarkation day is always a sad event, especially when one has to get up at 6:30 AM for a Customs inspection.  Our arrival into Los Angeles was so quiet we didn’t even notice until we looked out the window and we were awake most of the time.  It was cloudy at 6:30 AM, and pouring rain by 7:00 AM.

Only Dave had to show up in the Palm Court for the inspection.  Unlike last year’s three-hour line, this one only took about 30 minutes.  There were more than enough agents on duty for the thirty or so guests waiting.  Entertainment was provided by the insane woman in line who was insisting she was going to do competitive ballroom dancing with Curtis (of Curtis and Natalie).  For one thing, this woman would have to lose 200 pounds to even begin to think about it and to even hint that Curtis would give her the time of day if she wasn’t paying for lessons is ludicrous.

Once in front of a Customs agent, the ridiculous process of informing them of their job began.  He was pleasant enough, but too new to know what he was doing.  After consulting the list provided by the ship, he said, “Did you forget to declare something?”  It was pointed out to him that only items being carried with us are dutiable, but his answer was, “It is for anything you purchased.”  That is completely wrong and the customs form says in large letters to declare “Items being brought into the U.S.”  He quickly wrote off the art with no duty, as is correct, but he kept insisting that the ring purchased on board and shipped home from Australia had to be declared.  “No, I don’t think so,” said Dave as politely as possible.  It was fairly obvious by this point that the guy was out of his league, so he called another agent over and tried to explain the situation, incorrectly.  Not wanting to irritate them, but also wanting to avoid $150 in duty, Dave asked the new arrival if he could explain it himself.  By the way, the receipt, clearly marked “TO MAKE” was in front of both of them.  Once it was explained, the agent said, “You’ll have to pay duty anyway.”  Yes, but if it is paid now, won’t it have to be paid again when the item arrives?  “Oh, you’re right.”  So, once again, we make it through with no duty.  Sure would be easier and take less time if anyone checking the papers had a clue.

Harry said he is leaving the Symphony earlier than he expected and transferring to the Harmony to fill in on a few cruises, then he will move to the Serenity.  He said he’d be at the gangway and would see us there as we leave.  The enormous Star Princess is in port also, but there was no sign of any activity all morning.  It sort of appeared that Crystal was trying to get a jump on the mega-ship's departure to save some time.

After a brief stop back at the room, we were off to breakfast in the Lido for the last of very few breakfasts we have had in three months.  As usual, the waffles were pretty bad, but everything else was as it should be.  The rain had stopped and the sky had cleared up a bit by the time we finished eating.  We watched as dozens of limousines arrived and began to line up in front of the terminal and in a holding area to the side.  A few guests disembarked before their scheduled time, so things seemed to be ahead of schedule.

Disembarkation is handled the best way possible on Crystal ships.  Guests aren’t required to leave their room until fifteen minutes before a pre-scheduled departure time.  Our time was 10:15 AM, so we had plenty of time to sit around and get ready to leave.  Waldo came by for a hug and moral support, as usual.  We tried to find Peter, but he had run off already.  Emilie thanked us nicely for the extra tips we had given her.

At 9:45 AM we decided to head down to the Starlite Club to wait even though it was half an hour early.  There were only about ten guests there along with Keiko, still working even though she also leaves today to fly back to Japan, and Jessica who is now Chief Concierge.  We talked to Darwin for a few minutes until Jessica started waving to get our attention to come along with the rest of the group.

In the elevator lobby, crew were coming and going.  Benji, Bill’s hair stylist, was leaving to catch the Harmony where she will join her husband, Marco from Shore Excursions.  She is amused that she will see us in just a week.  Harry was indeed at the gangway where we said our goodbyes.  Cindy Litzie had taken Lara’s place wishing guests a fond farewell.  She wants a report of the Harmony cruise when we get back.

With everyone stopping us to chat every few feet, we lost the group.  Ramon called down to us from a deck above where he was washing the decks.  Jessica was waiting impatiently at the elevator making annoyed facing in a joking manner.  We crammed into the elevator and took the one-floor ride to the terminal.  Jessica insisted on coming out of the elevator with us for a hug, which the Crystal ground staff thought was cute based on the grin they had on their face.

We quickly rounded up a porter who helped collect our nine pieces of luggage and seven huge boxes.  All of this was piled so high on the luggage cart that it wouldn’t fit through the exit door.  Newly arrived crew members were milling around in the lobby, many of whom we recognized.  Once outside the doors, guided by a Crystal representative standing about every five feet, we were handed over to the limo coordinators.

Of course, now that we really need a car plus a van, there is only a car.  However, it is a huge stretch limo.  Kimberly from the Crystal office recognized our names from the special arrangements and asked if we had enjoyed our stay at the Disney hotel.  She summoned a van, but the limo driver had begun to stuff the boxes into the car already.  Half went in the car, the other half in the newly arrived van.

Crystal’s district sales manager saw our names on the boxes and ran over to introduce herself.  She said she has always wanted to meet us since Adair told her about us.  She was extremely friendly and seemed really interested in how things went.  She knew we were going on the Harmony next week and said she might see us on the pier again.  Ben rushed over to say goodbye with enthusiastic hugs for both of us.  The ground crew sure must think we are popular by all the kissing and hugging going on every few feet.

The ride home was uneventful.  There was no rain until we arrived at the Crown Valley off ramp, but it quickly subsided and was over by the time we reached our driveway.  The two drivers brought our stash into the garage and we were home to an enthusiastic greeting by Jake.  He didn’t seem to mind that we had left him with Beverly for four months and she didn’t seem to mind having done so.  Even BK was thrilled to see us, even for a cat! 

All was and done by 11:00 AM.  Now all we have to do is figure out how to feed ourselves and use the towels more than once!

Don't forget to check back soon for a summary of the entire World Cruise 2003!

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