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Page Updated:  06/07/2016

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Crystal Cruises

Los Angeles, CA, USA to
Hong Kong, China
17 days
Crystal Symphony

Cruise Map

Theme Cruise : Film & Theatre Festival



Monday, March 9, Los Angeles/San Pedro, CA, USA - Depart 5:00 PM

Tuesday, March 10 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Wednesday, March 11 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Thursday, march 12 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Friday, March 13 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Saturday, March 14 - Oahu/Honolulu, Hawaii, USA - Arrive 5:00 PM

Sunday, March 15 - Oahu/Honolulu, Hawaii, USA - Depart 6:00 PM

Monday, March 16 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Tuesday, March 17 - Crossing the International Dateline - Skip Ahead 1 Day

Wednesday, March 18 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Thursday, March 19 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Friday, March 20 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Saturday, March 21 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Sunday, March 22 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Monday, March 23 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean


WEDNESDAY, march 25 - cruising THE pacific ocean

Thursday, March 26 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Friday, March 27 - Hong Kong, China - Arrive 7:00 AM - Disembark Crystal Symphony



We have a bit of news regarding this cruise that might be of interest to a few of our readers.  Long-time Crystal cruisers may be under the impression that it is possible to book segments that differ from the published itinerary.  In other words, embark or disembark from a port other than what is offered to the public.  It may be theoretically possible since we were told on board that it is, but trying to arrange it through the ridiculously inept Los Angeles office is another story entirely.   Here is our story of just such an attempt.

Six months prior to the beginning of this cruise, we decided that it might be simpler to book an extra four days onto this segment to end up in Japan rather than flying from Hong Kong with piles of luggage.  Sounds simple enough, especially since the following cruise is far from sold out and was already offering several promotional discounts.  We instructed our travel agent to find out if we could purchase the extra days so we could finally disembark in either Kobe or Hiroshima (didn't matter to us which one).  The first offer from Crystal was to book us on the Serenity from Hong Kong to Yokohama for the full cruise and at a fare so outlandish that we wouldn't even consider it.  So, back to the drawing board to reiterate that we want to stay on board the Symphony for four extra days, we're willing to change staterooms, if necessary, etc.  Our travel agent manages to get in touch with someone at Crystal who appears at first glance to know what we're talking about, but he still has to get "permission" from someone else to allow us to stay on board.  No problem, we think.

After waiting a week or so, we received a response that they will "allow" us to disembark in either Kobe or Hiroshima, but we have to pay the full fare (over $20,000) for those four days.  The entire 17-day crossing in a penthouse was less than that!  However, they will let us stay in the same room.  Gee thanks for doing us a favor...not.  Oh, they did offer to deduct $500 from the published fare because we wouldn't be taking the Beijing overland portion of the cruise.  Needless to say, we're not quite there yet! 

While we certainly do understand that this is a special request, we wouldn't even be asking if it hadn't been presented to us as an alternative in the first place.  Plus, we know other guests who have done this, so it isn't as though we invented the idea.  Who in their right mind would pay the full fare for a 14-day cruise and get off after four days?  If Crystal doesn't want to offer this anymore, "just say no."  To come back with an outrageous fare instead is really shortsighted especially with a less than full cruise.  Isn't a paid up four days better than a totally unsold penthouse?  We'd certainly be willing to pay some sort of fee for their trouble.  Oh well, back to the drawing board. 

We didn't have to wait long for the next official response to our request, which is that we have to pay the full fare.  Needless to say, that's not going to happen, so we've dropped that idea completely.  This development also played a part in our decision to cancel our cruise on the Serenity from Yokohama to Los Angeles (not to mention the outrageous price).  We will likely replace it later in the year with something else on a different cruise line.

December 27, 2009:  We received the first set of travel documents today, which consists of general information and the shore excursion booklet.  We're surprised the book still shows the "Waikiki nei" excursion in Honolulu since this show closed in October, 2008, within a few months of its debut.  By the way, the $185 price tag from Crystal is double what it would cost to buy a ticket directly when the show was open.  There is a new (to us) notice in the package advising that passengers must be on board 90 minutes prior to sailing or they will be denied boarding due to a new law.

January 28, 2009:  Final cruise documents arrived today.  Checking the entertainment section for this cruise on Crystal's website shows that Cloris Leachman and Patricia Neal are no longer scheduled to appear.  No replacements were listed.

February 15, 2009:  Michele Lee was added as the replacement celebrity for the theme cruise.

March 6, 2009:  Our packing is done and we're ready to go!  It is a very different process when we are extending our cruise experience with a lengthy land tour.  We haven't quite decided whether to haul our formal clothes from the cruise along with us or to try to send them home, but due to the cost we will probably end up carrying them with us throughout Japan.  Luckily, Japan does have many luggage forwarding companies who will forward your luggage from hotel to hotel for a very reasonable price (about $18 per bag), so it isn't too terribly inconvenient.

March 8, 2009:  OK, here we go!  The next update will come from Crystal Symphony!

Monday, March 9 - Los Angeles/San Pedro, CA, USA - Embark Crystal Symphony - Depart 5:00 pM

Spectacular natural surroundings combined with the vitality of a creative and artistic community make Los Angeles one-of-a-kind. Sunshine, majestic palm trees and the sandy beaches of the Pacific share the spotlight with L.A.'s glamorous movie industry and its world-famous celebrities.

Formally founded in 1781, it is now one of the world's largest metropolitan centers. Although there will not be any shore excursions offered in Los Angeles due to our limited time in port, you may contact our onboard Shore Excursion staff for helpful hints or suggestions on things to do while you are ashore.

The driver arrived promptly at 11:00AM to take us to the port.  There was no traffic at all, so we arrived at the ship by 12:30PM to find absolutely no other guests checking in.  We were immediately recognized by the woman who opened the terminal door for us.  She said, "Weren't you just here?"  We're always here, get over it! 

After quickly passing through the X-ray screening, we arrived in the check-in area that was set up to accommodate WAY more guests than were ever going to arrive for this sailing.  There must have been at least 30 check-in stations and not a single guest in sight.  Needless to say, the check-in process took no time at all and we were onboard within minutes of our arrival.

Since we were waiting for a friend to arrive as a visitor, we didn't go directly to the dining room.  The escort who greeted us took us to the hand luggage check-in area where we checked our bags.  Then we sat in the Crystal Cove to await her arrival shortly thereafter.  Nikki, the Cruise Consultant, was the first person we know to see us, and she stopped to chat for a few minutes.  It is interesting that so many of the original staff has returned to the Symphony, as have many of the die-hard Crystal cruisers.  If so many world cruisers are here, who is on the actual world cruise?  The Crystal Cove was very smoky even though we were in the no smoking section.  We were surprised that there was not a pianist or other live music for embarkation.  Eventually the strings did arrive, but it all seemed very haphazard and not as polished as Crystal usually is.

When our friends arrived, we took them to the dining room for lunch with us.  We assume we will be charged for their lunch since our room number was noted.  Crystal does make it clear there is a charge for guests to join passengers in the dining room, but we still feel this is a petty charge considering how many free lunches they give out to travel agents in every port.

The dining room was nearly full, but we have no clue where all these people came from.  Was everyone waiting outside at noon when boarding began or what?  Lunch was very good and we were pleased to see that the portion sizes have returned to normal.  Click for the Luncheon Menu.  You will need Adobe Reader for all menus and other documents posted throughout this site.  Three of our party had the salmon, one had the cobb salad, all of which were very good.  Complimentary champagne was served to anyone who wanted it.

While we were eating, Teodor, our butler from last time, saw us and came over to tell us he is our butler for this cruise also.  We already knew that and we are happy to have him again.  We never request specific crew members in advance, by the way.

After lunch we took a tour around the ship to show our friends (they are travel agents).  They were a bit dismayed by how dated some of the original public rooms are on the ship.  We love Crystal Symphony, but we do have to admit that some areas are beginning to show her age and could do with a makeover.  There is certainly nothing that should dissuade anyone from choosing this ship, however.  Paula, Teodor's girlfriend, is now a bartender in the Starlite Club.  She stopped to exclaim over us and to say she would save our table "over there in the dark". 

We ran into Jeff, formerly the Crystal Cove pianist, doing some filming for a new promotional video for Crystal.  He started doing the world cruise video and a few other things years ago and it has continued to be a good business for him.  He seemed happy to see us again, although it has been several years since we last saw him.

When we went up to look at the spa, we were offered a tour of the facility, which was nice.  They had models set up in the some of the treatment rooms showing how the treatments were done.  One of our party was offered a complimentary hand massage, but she declined.  It was sort of weird walking by open doors and seeing a massage in progress, but I suppose some people might find it interesting.  We thought it was sort of porno-esque, but that's just us.

After seeing our friends off at the gangway, we went to the room just after 3:00PM when we were told the rooms would be ready (there were also tacky signs posted in the elevators stating the 3:00PM time).  The lifeboat drill is scheduled for 4:15PM, so we basically just killed time until then.

Click for Today's Activities & Nightly Dress Codes.

Click for the Shore Excursion Order Form for this cruise.

As usual, we went down to our lifeboat station a few minutes early to avoid the crowd, but that turned out to be unnecessary since there were very few guests at our station.  Judging by the check-in "crowd" and the showing at the drill, it appears this sailing is far from full, but we'll report the actual numbers when we find out the official count.  It has to be over 500 because there are still two seatings for dinner.  The drill was the same as usual, nothing unusual to report.

After the drill we took the computer to be configured for access from the room.  We were told that the wireless network works anywhere on the ship, including by the pool.  Click for CU@Sea Price List.  We knew from previous conversations that the crew is no longer allowed to download files from the internet and onboard access for them is restricted to a limited amount of time to free up bandwidth for the passengers.  This was confirmed later when we spoke to a staff member who would know such things.  We'll see if this has improved anything or not.

We received a summons to see the maitre d' about out table assignment.  Since we haven't seen Josef for quite a few years, we were sure all he really wanted was to greet us, which is precisely what he did want.  Well, he also wanted to confirm we hadn't changed our mind about where we like to sit, so he had saved a window table for us "just in case".  No thanks, we'll keep our usual table where we have been on this ship since the inaugural.

There were a few people ahead of us to see Josef, so we went into Prego to make a reservation for Silk Road in a few days.  There was no one waiting to make reservations for the alternative restaurants, although there was a steady stream of guests coming in to do so.  There was never a wait that we observed.

The sailing was delayed until around 6:15PM, maybe later, we lost track.  At around 5:30PM there was what sounded like an attempt to start the engines which prompted an immediate power failure throughout the ship that lasted for a few minutes...most likely less than five minutes, if that.  Things slowly returned to normal and we eventually sailed away without incident.

We received the following gifts at the start of this cruise:

  • Two Deluxe Bon Voyage Bouquets
  • Bottle of Pinot Grigio Santa Margherita Wine
  • American Express Shipboard Credits of $550
  • Shipboard Credit for $50

We have had some inquiries regarding what Aveda products are currently offered on board.  Here is the list of items found on our bathroom shelves upon arrival:  Botanical Kinetics Fortifying Gel Facial Cleanser (we believe this is only available on Penthouse Deck), Rosemary Mint Shampoo, Rosemary Mint Conditioner, Energizing Body Cleanser, All/Sensitive Moisturizing Lotion, Refreshing Bath Bar, Soothing Aqua Therapy Bath Salts.  There are also shower caps, a sewing kit, cotton pads and cotton swabs.  Note that this is the selection on Penthouse Deck.  We don't know what is supplied to other decks.

Teodor stopped by to confirm that our preferences were stocked in the refrigerator, which they were.  We declined the complimentary stock of wine and spirits because we are not returning home directly after the cruise and we do not drink on board.  We had a lengthy, fun conversation with him.  We really enjoyed him during the last cruise and nothing has changed to make us anything but happy to have him again.

We unpacked and mostly killed time to await dinner time which wasn't too far off after the unpacking was taken care of.  We've never brought so little clothing with us on a cruise before, so we have an abundance of drawer and closet space left over.  Usually we fill almost every bit of space, so this is quite a departure for us.

Our stewardess and her assistant stopped by to confirm we had everything we want, which we do.  They are both very pleasant and friendly, as one would expect from Crystal.

Tonight's Dress Code is Casual.  Click for Bon Voyage Dinner Menu.

We were seated at our usual table and served by Mozu and Wilfred, neither of whom we are familiar with.  They are both very friendly and attentive.  Martin is our headwaiter.  We have known him for quite a while.

Food review:  The sautéed shrimp appetizer was attractive and tasty, although nothing special.  The fruit cup is mostly tiny pieces of diced watermelon, which is fine.  The chilled strawberry soup was OK, but disappointing considering that is has been outstanding most of the time. It was quite watery tonight, although it had a fresh flavor.  The Mahi Mahi and the steak entrees were very good, as was everything that was served with them.  The most notable aspect of the meal tonight is that the portion size has returned to normal.  There was no skimping on the servings tonight.  The strawberry dessert was very nice and attractively presented.  These new desserts were introduced last year and consist of several small tastes of three or so different, but related flavors.  Tonight there was a shot glass sized serving of strawberry panna cotta, a bite-sized strawberry tart and a small scoop of strawberry sherbet, all of which were very good.  We were pleased to see many changes to the opening night menu.

Service was so speedy in the half-empty dining room that we were completely finished and ready to leave in just over an hour.  The room was also pleasantly quiet due to the many empty tables.  Herbert, the Hotel Director stopped to ask if we are sitting there to keep an eye on him because his table is adjacent in the officer hosted section.  He had also stopped to greet us when we were sitting in the Crystal Cove this afternoon.

We were very tired after dinner, so we skipped the Welcome Show and returned to the room to crash. 

The sea became somewhat rough while we were getting ready for bed.  During the night it was very rough to the point we thought things might start falling off the shelves.  We did hear things hitting the floor in the Lido above us, but nothing fell in our room.  It is rough enough that if it continues we'd expect some people to be seasick.

Tuesday, March 10 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Click for Today's Activities.

The sea was quite rough overnight and that continued into the early morning.  It remains somewhat rough this morning and afternoon, as well, but nothing we'd consider unusual.  Although we were awake off and on during the morning hours, we did not emerge from the room until noon when we went to  lunch.

During Paul's (Cruise Director) morning show on TV this morning he announced the statistics for this cruise:  452 paying passengers and 49 entertainment guests for a total of 504 guests on board.  There are 544 crew.  100 additional guests are joining the cruise in Honolulu.  He also said that yesterday they were surprised by both a Coast Guard inspection and the health inspection.   There were no problems found during the Coast Guard inspection and the ship scored 98 on the health inspection.  We noticed today that the cleaning staff appears to be disinfecting frequently touched surfaces more often than usual, which is a good thing in our opinion.

Click for Luncheon Menu.  As we were being ushered to a table in the Crystal Dining Room, Muzo began waving us over to our regular table where he was waiting for us.  The dining room was nearly empty when we arrived just after noon, but it did fill up to normal after a while. 

Food review:  There is no longer a fruit cup offered at lunch, which is disappointing to us, but we're sure one could request it and get it with no problem.  Muzo offered to bring us food from the breakfast menu when we said this was breakfast for us, but we don't expect breakfast at lunch time.  It was nice of him to offer though.  The cream of carrot soup was very good, but the chilled soup was again too watery and not nearly as good as these soups have been in the past.  We both had the sandwich of the day, which was good, but difficult to eat because of the chewy roll it was served in.  The fries that came with it were outstanding.  Very crispy with a slightly spicy flavor.

Of note is that the tap water throughout the ship tastes vaguely of mildew, which is unpleasant.  It might be some sort of disinfectant added to the water, but whatever it is makes the water a bit off tasting.  We're never experienced this before on the Symphony and it could be that the health inspection prompted them to add more disinfectant than normal yesterday.

After lunch we stopped by the concierge to set up a private transfer to the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel after the cruise.  This initiated a discussion of where we are going after the cruise.  She was beside herself that we are going to the Disneyland Hotel and onward to Japan.  She said she would get back to us when the information comes in from ground services, which is what we expected her to say.

We had to stop by the computer room to get an alternative for outgoing email from the ship.  We got the information with no problem at all.  Our server at home will not accept outgoing email from outside servers anymore.

After stopping by the room briefly, we went down at 2:00PM to greet Jane, the Crystal Society Hostess.  We had already received an invitation from her for dinner with she and Nikki.  Nikki had already asked us if that would be OK, and we assured her it was, but Jane wanted to confirm it.  She is leaving Symphony in Honolulu and will transfer to the Serenity as her permanent assignment.  Point is, this is her last few days on the Symphony and she was so glad that "her boys" were here to have dinner with her.  The only other guest at this dinner is the same man who joined us last time and he feels pretty much the same way we do about things, so he's acceptable to us and vice versa.

Jane said to expect a lot of changes in the future because people are waiting until the last minute to book and it has become difficult for all cruise lines to second guess how many passengers will be on any given sailing.  While Crystal has tons of open bookings for 2010, that doesn't necessarily help them plan until those bookings actually become "real".  She didn't elaborate on the changes and we didn't ask, but it didn't appear to be a cut-back type of thing, just an adjustment in how they do things.

Jane told us that the reason she is moving to the Serenity is that Randall recently resigned and is going to school in Australia, and one of the Crystal Society hostesses is taking his position.  So, that left an open position for her to choose where she wants to go.  She is looking forward to the World Cruise and doing the Mediterranean on the Serenity.  We're sorry to see Randall go and we will miss seeing him on board.  Other than Jane and Nikki, we don't have much, if any, relationship with the remaining Crystal Society hostesses or Cruise Consultants.

After chatting with Jane about other things of interest only to the three of us, we returned to the room to catch up on the computer and essentially just wait around until dinner time.

Tonight's Dress Code is Formal.  The new captain will host his first Captain's Gala Welcome in the Starlite Club tonight before dinner.  Because we have an 8:00PM reservation for dinner, we were not able to attend the party.  Also, we were delayed when Dave lost a button from his tuxedo and he went back to find it in the hallway.  On the way back to the stairway, Victor (butler) saw him, noticed a button was missing, and immediately ran off to get a needle and thread to fix it right there in the hallway.  How's that for service?  He even sent Teodor into a vacant room to get scissors to cut the thread when he was finished because he didn't want it hanging loose and looking messy.

Click for Captain's Gala Menu.  We have a reservation for Silk Road tonight, so we will not be in the Crystal Dining Room tonight.  You can view the Silk Road menu HERE.  When we arrived there were just a couple of other people seated, all ship's staff which is common on formal nights when most people like to be in the main dining room.

Headwaiter Willy ran over to greet us and chatted briefly after we were seated about his wife's mother who recently passed away.  Willy's wife, who used to work on board also, now has to stay home with the children rather than leave them with her mother, so it has been a big adjustment for them.  He didn't complain, just said that they'll have to learn to cope with the changes.

The new decor in Silk Road is fantastic.  Dark plum walls with matching upholstery on chairs that are oversized and comfortable.  The comfort issue is a major problem in Silk Road on the Serenity.  World Cruisers routinely insist that they bring in chairs from Prego rather than endure the horrible chairs normally there.  Anyway, no such issue here, the room is comfortable and attractive with dramatic lighting on big color-coordinated sculptures that look sort of like huge fossils.  We didn't touch them, but they are probably made of either glass or resin.  No matter, they look nice.  Here are a few photos of the interior of the new Silk Road Restaurant & Sushi Bar:  Entrance, Dining Area, Dining Area Near Back, Sushi Bar Area.

As already mentioned, the restaurant was nearly empty when we arrived, but once the Captain's Party let out at 8:30PM it filled to capacity.  However, from our vantage point we were the only paying passengers in the room.  Everyone else was ship's staff or entertainment.  This isn't a problem, just an observation that if you want to get into the specialty restaurants choose a formal night, you'll have no trouble getting in.  When we booked we asked Paulo to give us whatever night he needed to fill and this is what he suggested.

As far as the food goes, we sampled quite an array of dishes including the Lobster Spring Rolls, Rock Shrimp, Shrimp Tempura, Sashimi Salad, Miso Cod, and the Nobu Box that contains all of the above entrees plus the Wagu Beef.  Now, if you think all of this food fell off a Christmas tree and you've never eaten anything so fabulous in your life, please skip the rest of this paragraph because we're not going to pull any punches here.  The spring rolls, although beautifully presented, taste like absolutely nothing.  The tiny bit of citrus sauce in the bottom of the champagne glass they are served in helps a bit, but these really should be better than they are, especially if they really are served in Nobu's restaurants at exorbitant prices.  They are certainly edible, but that's all they are.  The rock shrimp dish is very unusual and deserves praise for its innovativeness and it is rather tasty.  The shrimp were larger than they were in the past, fried crispy on the outside, and tossed in a spicy sauce that resembles Thousand Island dressing in appearance only.  This dish is worth paying for, within reason.  The regular shrimp tempura was greasy and non-descript.  The sashimi salad was good enough, but nothing to exclaim over and it contained only three tiny pieces of sashimi.  Our entrees fared better.  The Miso Cod is a Nobu signature dish and it lives up to the name.  We wouldn't knock anyone over to get it, but it is unusual enough to be worthy of the Nobu name...whatever that means.  When you order this entree, all you get to eat on the plate is a piece of fish, nothing else, so keep that in mind.  The fish portion was quite generous though.  The Nobu box contained the rock shrimp and the miso cod already discussed, plus the wagu beef.  The only odd thing about the beef was that it was covered in a basic teriyaki sauce that was fine, but certainly nothing as special as any of the three sauces served with this item as a full entree.  The beef was high quality and tender, but the portion was three bites, tops.  We also had an assortment of sashimi and sushi.  We judged that as average.  There was nothing wrong with it, but there was nothing notable about it either.  Perhaps it is notable that the sashimi doesn't taste frozen, but obviously it has to be on a ship.

We ordered additional servings of the rock shrimp and the regular shrimp tempura, just because we weren't quite full yet.  The rock shrimp dish is better in smaller quantities.  It is a bit too rich to eat any quantity of it, but that's our own fault, not the recipe.

We both ordered the chocolate soufflé cake with the sesame ice cream, not for the cake, but for the ice cream.  The cake is a tiny portion that was very hot inside, and it was very good.  The ice cream makes the dish special because not only is it unusual but it has an incredible flavor.  Highly recommended.

As usual for the specialty restaurants, the service tonight was attentive and friendly.  To sum up, as a cruise ship specialty restaurant Silk Road is definitely above average and well worth a visit.  If this was a shore side restaurant charging Nobu prices we would not even consider going there again.  At "normal" Japanese food prices, then yes, we would be willing to pay for some of the dishes served here.

They're baaaaaccccckkkk!  The art auctions, that is.  There was art displayed in the corridor in front of the Bistro after dinner and the walls along the hallway to Prego also sport art auction pieces.  It is definitely not the classier art that replaced Park West for about two seconds last year, but we don't know who the new vendor is.

The Evening Entertainment is the production show "COLE!" which we usually enjoy, but has been around since time began.  We learned earlier today that there is a new show coming in May to the Symphony and "COLE!" will finally be retired at that time.  This show does hold up well against some of Crystal's more elaborate new shows, but we agree it is time to let it go.  We enjoyed tonight's performance, but there were only about 125 people in the audience (yes, we counted).  Since the passengers are 90% repeaters, that tells you something about how long this show has been around.  The performance itself was fine, not the best but far from the worst we have ever seen.  The lead female vocalist was very good, but the male lead seemed a bit out of his element in this show.  That seems to be fairly common and they often prove to be perfectly fine in the newer shows, so we shall see!

Paul read his joke letter from a friend on a "cruise booked through 7-11".  He updated it since the last time we heard it and it has some very funny lines in it.

The sea seems to have calmed down quite a bit this evening.  There is still some sloshing and it is far from calm, but it is nothing unusual at this point.  Well, in truth it never was, but most people probably thought so.  We haven't been outside today so we don't know what the chill factor is, but it is very windy.

We move another hour back on the clock tonight.

By the way, we see no improvement in the internet speed even with the restrictions on internet use by the crew.  It may be good enough for general email retrieval, but for our purpose of uploading just these short updates and a few small files it is very frustrating especially considering the cost.  We are cut off several times during each upload, which is actually more annoying than the speed issue that is somewhat understandable under the circumstances.  With these issues, the charge should be a fraction of what it is.

Click for Today's Activities.

Today's weather is improved from yesterday.  There is still some slight swaying from the high winds, but the sea itself isn't nearly as rough.  It is mostly cloudy and still on the chilly side, but it is a big improvement.

There was a crew fire drill at 10:00AM, so we were awake earlier than we would choose to be, but we still didn't emerge until lunch time.  A theme buffet, Nuevo Latino, was held around the Neptune Pool, so the Lido was closed.  We went to the dining room.  Click for the Luncheon Menu.

The dining room was relatively empty, so most guests must have attended the deck buffet.  We still go to those occasionally when the ship isn't crowded, but we weren't in the mood today.  Martin stopped by to thank us for the birthday card we sent him yesterday.

Food review:  We ordered the empanadas appetizer, which was not plural, but tasty enough with the corn salsa that came with it.  The tortilla soup, a cream soup oddly enough, was OK, but not as good as it has been in the past.  The sandwich of the day was very good along with the garlic fries that accompanied it.  The enchiladas were just average and too gummy to suit us.  They have never much resembled actual enchiladas, but they have always had a nice flavor.  No so today.  Again, they were OK, just nothing special.  The Rum Runner dessert looked quite attractive and tasted good as well.

We took a stroll around the public rooms after lunch and found the hallway outside of the Avenue Saloon and the adjacent elevator lobby being set up with art for the auction preview.  In other words, it is back to square one on the auction thing.  We think it is tacky, but since it doesn't affect us one way or the other, we don't care if they have it.  They are back to selling paintings of clowns and prints of Marilyn Monroe, by the way.

The carpet on the stairs in the lobby is looking very worn.  We've never noticed carpet in such poor condition on this ship before, so hopefully it will be replaced soon.  We noticed that handles have been added to the back of the chairs in the main part of the Starlite Club, but they are still too difficult to move considering the advanced age of most passengers.

We never cease to be appalled by the behavior of so many guests regarding the Crystal Society Hostess and the Cruise Consultant.  Personally, we would never dream of interrupting them when there are already guests sitting at the desk.  However, every single time without exception that we have been talking to either of them, a guest will barge up and interrupt the conversation as though we are not even there.  Wait your turn people!  Both of them are well equipped in their social skills and they know how to move us along if there are others waiting to talk to them. 

After our brief stroll, we returned to the room for the afternoon to catch up on the computer and such.  In other words, we did nothing.

Teodor brought us a beautiful (and huge) platter of fresh fruit for our canapés tonight.  We had a pleasant chat with him about where he grew up in Romania, going to college there, etc.

Tonight's Dress Code is Casual.  We stopped by the Starlite Club to kill some time before dinner.  There was a singles party going on in the bar area, but it didn't affect us.  There were four times more staff there than guests, as usual.  A waiter vaguely mocked Bill for ordering the drink of the day, a "Mary Pickford", which was pink.  Don't get excited, he was joking!

Click for Dinner Menu.  We were late for dinner because we stopped to chat with Herbert (Hotel Director) and Victor (Food & Beverage Manager).  Victor was previously a maitre d' and we had wondered where he went.  He didn't go anywhere but up the ladder.

The dining room was even less populated tonight than it was on the first night.  We have no idea where everyone goes because the alternative restaurants only hold a fraction of the total capacity of the Crystal Dining Room.  With only one other table to serve, Muzo had some time to chat tonight.

We sampled quite a bit of the menu tonight, so here's the scoop on tonight's offerings.  The chicken breast appetizer looked better than it tasted, but it was good enough.  The tropical fruit soup was watery as the fruit soups have been so far.  The cream soup was satisfactory.  A Caesar Salad was offered by the headwaiter and it was very good, as always.  The spinach salad from the menu was also very good.  The pasta course wasn't anything to write home about and part of the pasta was undercooked, but it was OK.  The salmon entree was very good and beautifully presented.  The vegetables were configured as a cigar-sized spring roll, which was interesting.  The shrimp entree was much better than expected with some interesting touches such as slices of purple potatoes under each shrimp.  All of the portions were generous and as they should be.  The chocolate dessert set up was interesting.  We wondered why "Bundt Cake" was in quotes.  It was shaped like a tiny Bundt cake, but it was really chocolate mousse that was light as air.

There was a Matinee Magic performance at 5:00PM featuring Mark Haslam.  We did not attend the matinee performance, but we heard it was packed.

Tonight's main entertainment is a Comedy Cabaret Showtime featuring Jon Courtenay.  As was the production show last night, this show was also sparsely attended.  We guess it was just over 100 guests in attendance.  The show was OK, but we probably wouldn't go see this performer again.  The audience seemed split 50/50 over love it or hate it.  We thought parts of the show were a bit boring, but he did have some funny material.

As we were wandering by the Starlite Club, we stopped to chat with Paula and stayed talking to her until the bar closed at 12:30AM.  Herbert was there and claimed he had not been standing there since we saw him two hours ago.  We knew he was a party animal (just kidding!).

We received an invitation to Captain's Quarters cocktails on Friday.

Earlier today we heard through the grapevine that the Penthouse Deck is scheduled for some major redecorating during the upcoming drydock.  The Crystal Penthouses are getting a total makeover, but there weren't any specific details about the other penthouse accommodations except that they are getting new bathrooms.  The bathrooms have needed a decor makeover for years, so that has to be a good thing unless they use the same designer they used for the disastrous stateroom update.  The penthouses in general look OK, but the carpet is getting very dingy around the edges and in the corners.  It is clean, but has that grey dusty hue that is impossible to get out of the corners.  The rooms need new mattresses desperately, so let's hope that is part of the plan, as well.

The sea is not rough at all now, although it is still possible to tell that we are on a ship and not in a hotel.

Click for Today's Activities.

Today's weather started out better than yesterday, but quickly deteriorated after lunch time.  It is about 65 degrees outside and mostly cloudy.  Later in the afternoon it became more windy and stormy.

Click for Luncheon Menu.  We went to the Lido for lunch, but since the same entrees are served in the dining room you can get an idea of the Lido offerings from that menu.  In addition to the dining room entrees there is always an Asian selection and a made-to-order pasta and salad station available in the Lido.

We arrived just as the buffet opened, so there was no line at all.  In fact, there never was a line in the half hour we were in there.  Both sides of the Lido were open.  We sampled the Asian selection that was Szechuan Beef.  It was very good and was served over fried rice.  We also tried the pot roast, the sandwich of the day, and the pork, all of which were quite nice.  No complaints about the food at all.  As usual, we were immediately helped with our trays and iced tea was delivered promptly by the extremely attentive deck stewards.

When the Lido filled up, we moved outside to the shaded tables by the pool to listen to the band until they finished at 1:30PM.  During that time, the deck stewards decided it was about to rain, so they were frantically running around collecting the towels, then the lounge covers, then the lounge pads.  Adding the terrycloth covers to the lounges really makes their job of collecting the pads more time consuming.  It never did actually rain though.  We counted the guests remaining at the end of the band's set and there were only 14 people, including us, in the pool area.  The band and singer were very talented and seemed to have a new repertoire of songs.

Although it did become windy, complete with Wizard of Oz sound effects, it was still pleasant enough to sit in the protected area of the pool deck.  At around 2:00PM we wandered down to deck six, wandered to the back of the ship, up the elevator and back to our room.  We have to be presentable tonight for our dinner with Nikki and Jane, so napping is most likely on the agenda.  After 3:00PM the ship broke through into the sun, but by then it was also very windy so there was more rocking than there had been earlier.

Teodor brought us guacamole and chips for our evening snack, but other than that we have nothing else to report for the afternoon.

Tonight's Dress Code is Informal.  We are dining in Silk Road.  Tonight's Crystal Dining Room menu is the California Dinner, which has little to do with anything Californian, but at least it is something different.  All of the menus have had many revisions lately, which is a good thing in our opinion.

We met Jane in the Starlite Club at 8:00PM, had a nice chat, then met up with Nikki for our dinner in Silk Road.  Tom, another guest with umpteen cruises under his belt, was also part of the party.  He was with us at a similar dinner last year with Jane.

It was very nice to spend some time with Nikki again after so many years and the conversation was varied and fun.  All in all it was a pleasant evening all around.  We won't bother commenting on the specifics of the food because it wasn't the focus of the evening, but everything we had was very good.

After we closed down the restaurant, which by the way was very sparsely attended tonight, Tom took everyone to the Connoisseur Club for a drink.  Jane is transferring to the Serenity in Honolulu, so this is her farewell to all of us.  Tom tends to stay on the Symphony in preference to the Serenity, as do we.  We'll miss her because we appreciate someone who says what is on her mind and does it with a smile on her face without being phony.  The Connoisseur Club is the cigar lounge, so we had never actually sat down in there until tonight.  It is a beautiful room, but normally it is too smoky for non-smokers to even walk into let along sit for any length of time.

Tonight's entertainment is a concert featuring Dale Kristien of "Phantom of the Opera" fame.  She is on almost every Crystal cruise we have been on in the last five years, so we have pretty much seen her entire roster of songs, but she is still very talented and entertaining.  We did not wrap up our evening with Jane and Tom until well after the show had ended, so obviously we did not attend the performance tonight.

There is a notice in Reflections for tomorrow alerting guests that the internet service will not be available most of the afternoon due to maintenance in Los Angeles.

The sea is a bit more rough tonight than it was this afternoon, but nothing like it was a few days ago either.  We'd say it is about what we'd expect for a Pacific crossing.

It was very rough overnight and the large swells continued all day.  It isn't as stormy outside as it has been, but the waves are larger so the ship is pitching and rolling more than it was when it was rough a few days ago.  None of this is anything out of the ordinary, however.  It is also extremely windy and the temperature remains on the chilly side.

Click for Today's Activities.  After lunch a revised Evening Entertainment schedule was delivered.  We assume this was due to the rough seas.  As promised, internet service is not available today.

There was a theme buffet around the Neptune Pool, the American Classic, but we went to the dining room.  Click for Luncheon Menu.  We were served by a waiter we didn't know before today, but he took the time to ask our names and was very attentive.  We ordered the snapper and the steak sandwich as our entrees.  Both were excellent and the portions were large, especially the fish.

After lunch we stopped by the Concierge Desk because Carmen needed us to sign the check for our private transportation arrangements to the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel.  The cost is $301, which is steep, but worth it considering that we will also be escorted off the ship and placed in the car by a concierge.  We had inquired about having the ship book with the same company from the hotel to the airport.  We were told this can be done, but to be honest it would be more economical to do this independently from the hotel.  We appreciated the honestly and will do as we originally planned and arrange transportation to the airport after we arrive at the hotel.

We also asked for a quote to send a piece of luggage home with Luggage Concierge at the end of the cruise.  We were told that a recent quote to send a large piece of luggage to Miami was about $450, but they will get a price for us and let us know.  The piece we would send is small and would weigh less than 50 pounds, so the price might be more reasonable.

At around 2:00PM we wandered up to the Seahorse Pool area and sat outside in the shade for about an hour.  The pools are drained due to the rough seas, but there were a few people out lying in the sun in spite of the wind.  The temperature is lower than we would expect this close to Hawaii, but it isn't cold, just windy and on the cool side.

Teodor brought us a heaping plate of fruit for our appetizers tonight, as requested yesterday.  We swapped tales of crew members past for a while before he had to continue delivering the evening canapés to other guests.

Tonight's Dress Code is Casual.  We were invited to Captain's Quarters Cocktails at 7:45PM.  This captain is new, so we don't know him at all, but we have been told that he is very nice and considerate to the staff and crew.

The Captain's Party wasn't as full as they usually are, so it was quite pleasant in spite of the movement of the ship.  We chatted with Tom and Nikki until the Captain himself came over to talk.  Tom is at his table in the dining room, so he already knows him, but we hadn't spoken with him before.  He's a very down to earth person with a pleasant personality that should serve him well with Crystal.  We expect he will be a very popular captain.  He noticed one of the guests having some trouble walking and summoned a wheelchair for her so she wouldn't have to struggle when she left.  When the time came for her to leave, he went a got the wheelchair himself and helped her into it.  You can't get much more considerate than that.

We chatted with a couple who live in Laguna Niguel where we used to live also.  We shared the same driver who would deliver us to and from the port.  They said they only do two cruises a year now rather than the five or six they did in the past years.  They've cut back because of the hassle of flying to and from the ports.  Apparently they have had a lot of trouble with e-tickets being cancelled and leaving them stranded and other things like that.  We agree it is a big hassle and it has played a part in our cutbacks as well.  We usually only go on cruises that either begin or end in Los Angeles.  They are doing our original plan of taking Crystal Serenity back to Los Angeles to avoid flying.

Click for Dinner Menu.  We had to stop by the room so Bill could change his shirt and lose the jacket.  We were already running behind, but we chatted with Teodor in the hallway anyway, then Josef, the maitre d', when we arrived at the dining room.  So, we were about fifteen minutes late being seated.  No matter since the dining room appeared to be less than half full.  We have no idea where everyone has gone because the alternative restaurants aren't packed either.  The rough seas are not enough at this point to keep that many people away from dinner unless maybe they can't walk well enough to get there.

Food review:  We both ordered the fruit appetizer, which was very good with a nice variety of fruits.  The cream of chicken soup was sub-par and tasted nothing like chicken.  In the past this soup was a highlight.  The mixed greens salad was extraordinary with a nice combination of flavors.  The fish entree was very good and a huge portion.  We sampled a side order of the meatloaf, which was also very good.  The prime rib was extremely tough to the point that it was almost inedible.  The sauce was good and everything that came with it was fine, but the meat was probably the worst prime rib we have ever had.  Too bad because it too was a generous portion.  The Big Island dessert was hit and miss.  The grilled pineapple was literally two tiny pieces of fruit barely worth eating.  However, the lilikoi sabayon and the chocolate banana tart were to die for.

Tonight's entertainment was originally scheduled to be the production show "Route 66", but due to the rough seas it was changed to a Variety Showtime featuring Jon Courtenay and magician Mark Haslam.  They both did an outstanding job of putting together new material at the last minute to create a show.  We didn't see the magician's first show, but he was outstanding tonight.  Jon's portion was also very entertaining and lively.  There were very few people at the show, probably around 100 or so.

After the show we stopped by to give Paula a birthday card in the Starlite Club where she is the bartender.  Every crew member we talked to today asked where we are going when we go out in Honolulu tomorrow night.  Do we look like party animals or what?  We plan to perhaps go out the following day and walk around a bit, but we have no plans to go out after we dock tomorrow at 5:00PM, except maybe in the adjacent Aloha Marketplace.

The level of roughness has continued about the same all day and into the night.  Apparently it was expected to get worse, which is the reason for the production show being postponed.  However, it stayed pretty much the same which in our opinion isn't anything unusual for an ocean crossing.  We know from experience that it could be a lot worse.  The weather forecast for Honolulu tomorrow is a 60% chance of rain.

We move one hour back on the clock tonight.

"Aloha" and welcome to Oahu, Hawaii's great "gathering place." Asian- and American-influenced cultures combine to create a lifestyle where the tropical tempos of Polynesia prevail and the aloha spirit pervades every aspect of the culture.

Honolulu and Oahu are the center of island life and boast sandy beaches, endearing smiles and exotic tropical flowers. Nearby, elegant resorts and towering high-rises line the gentle curve of Waikiki Beach. In the distance, majestic Diamond Head Crater lies on the horizon beyond your Crystal ship.

The choices are many. Relive the historic events of Pearl Harbor, explore tropical rainforests or witness the creation of island culinary magic.

Shore Excursions in Honolulu, Hawaii
HON-C $146 Evening Honolulu Introduction & Home of the Brave Museum Visit
HON-E $185 Waikiki nei:  A Theatrical Extravaganza This show closed in October, 2008, so we're surprised it was ever offered.

Click for Today's Activities.

The weather has varied between partly sunny and torrential downpours, but the sea remains about as rough as it has been the past few days.  In other words, not terrible, but not smooth by any means.  It was only in the high 60's while we were at sea this afternoon.

Click for Luncheon Menu.  We started off with lunch in the Lido.  All of our food selections were very good to excellent and included Chicken Cordon Bleu, Kalua Pork Sandwiches, and Stir-fry noodles with vegetables.  We also sampled several of the bite-sized desserts and they were uniformly good as well.  It is nice to have the dessert served in tiny containers so it is possible to sample several without overdoing it.  There was a long table with two chefs creating sandwiches to order, also.

After lunch we wandered to the Palm Court to sit for a few hours watching the rain squalls pass by.  We could see Molokai on one side and Oahu on the other through the showers.  It is quite rough in the passage between the islands, but the ship is cutting straight into the waves, so the motion isn't much.  However, it remains to be seen what will happen once we turn toward Honolulu and the waves are coming at the ship from the side.

We returned to the room around 2:30PM to await our arrival in port, scheduled for 5:00PM tonight.  It appears that it will be raining upon our arrival, but things do change rapidly around here weather-wise, so we'll see how it goes.  Here is a photo as we rounded the tip of Oahu.  There is some sort of Hawaiian festival going on this weekend in Honolulu with lots of free entertainment and a parade tomorrow.

Here are some pictures of our approach to Honolulu:  Coco Head Crater, Diamond Head from channel, Diamond Head, Honolulu Approach, Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Diamond Head head-on, Pilot Boat Arrives, Downtown Honolulu, Waikiki with Diamond Head, Honolulu Shoreline, Port Area, Rainbow Over Port, Aloha Tower.

Click for Port Description.  The weather cooperated at least until the ship arrived into the pier adjacent to the Aloha Tower Marketplace.  We were surprised that the Spirit of America wasn't docked at the premium pier and was instead across the inlet at an old warehouse-type facility.  We sat on our verandah to watch the ship being tied up to the pier until Teodor arrived with our evening snacks of deep-fried stuffed chilies and crudités with ranch dip.  He had to run off quickly because some new guests had arrived who turned out to be Michelle Lee and her husband.  Later on we filled him in about who she is and why she is here.

With nothing better to do, we decided to put ourselves together and go ashore to walk around the shopping center adjacent to the pier.  We have been there many times before and it is a nice center, so we thought it might kill an hour before dinner time.  We watched the gangway from the time the ship was cleared and about an hour thereafter.  We saw less than fifteen people leave the ship.

Well, we did manage to kill maybe twenty minutes, if that.  All of the nicer shops are long gone, half are closed, two were padlocked from the outside and closed, and the rest appeared to be selling variations of overpriced T-shirts and Hawaiian trinkets made in China.  Several of the restaurants that have been here for years were still open, but nowhere near full.  One place had a guy playing the guitar and singing to a "crowd" of exactly four people.  And this was at 7:30PM on a Friday night.  Very sad.

We were back on board by 8:00PM, so we went to have drinks in the Starlite Club where we surprised the bar waiter by calling him by his correct name.  He has been very friendly, so we asked Teodor what his name is.

Click for Dinner Menu.  Tonight's Dress Code is Casual.  The dining room was less than half full tonight, but we have no idea where everyone went since we saw very few people leave the ship.  We thought maybe more people would arrive when the show let out at 8:45PM, but that only added a few guests.

Food review:  We both ordered the fruit cup appetizer and it was very good with a different variety of fruit on top of the usual diced melon.  Both the split pea soup and the chilled soup were terrible.  The split pea had a grainy consistency and lacked any flavor.  We didn't bother finishing it, that's how boring it was.  The melon soup tasted like Tide laundry detergent with nuts or something odd added to it.  The walnut sauce over the pasta took some getting used to, but we decided it was OK after all.  However, the serving of pasta was exactly four, count 'em four, tiny gnocchi.  The mixed green salad was fine.  We both had the turkey entree after Muzo asked us whether we wanted white or dark meat.  We've never been asked for a preference before and always received a mix of both, which was fine.  Everything on the plate was very good except the stuffing that wasn't worth eating.  The Indian Summer dessert was a huge portion and much improved over the version served last year.

When Bill declined to order a dessert and said, "Nothing for me," Wilfred returned with a white plate with chocolate sauce spelling out "Nothing" on it.  Too funny.

The evening entertainment was a single show at 8:00PM featuring a local children's group.  We saw this group waiting to board when we went ashore and the kids were cute in their ti leaf skirts, but it isn't the kind of show we can really get into.  We did not attend the performance.

We took a walk around the upper deck after dinner to look at the view, then returned to the room for the evening.  This is the first time we have been to Hawaii when it is actually chilly out.  It rains off and on, but that isn't anything unusual.  However, it is odd to see all the tourists wearing long pants and jackets!

Shore Excursions in Honolulu, Hawaii
HON-A $42 Panoramic Honolulu
HON-B $457 Over Oahu: A Helicopter Discovery
HON-D $199 Atlantis Submarine Adventure
HON-F $62 The Natural Wonders of Oahu
HON-G $62 Hawaii's Royal History & Scenic Beauty
HON-H $65 Waterfall Hiking Adventure
HON-I $241 Gliding the North Shore in Oahu
HON-J $63 U.S.S. Arizona Memorial & City Highlights
HON-K $94 Oahu's Famous North Shore
HON-L $125 The Battlefields, Military Bases & Memorials of Oahu

It appears that most of the shore excursions did not get enough participants because only half of them are listed in Reflections with departure times.  This isn't a big surprise since we haven't seen many guests even bother to go ashore at all.

Click for Today's Activities.

It's a beautiful day in Honolulu with comfortable temperatures in the low 70's and sunny skies.  That doesn't mean we're going out or anything, just commenting that it is nice out if one was so inclined.

We started off with lunch in the Lido.  Click for Luncheon Menu.  There were tour groups of local travel agents being led around the ship by staff members, so we felt a bit like we were museum exhibits while we were eating on the outside deck.  The food was OK, but nothing special today.  The beef Stroganoff was edible, but didn't have much flavor.  The lemon chicken and the spinach stuffed pork from the carving station were the best options today.

During lunch embarkation began for the new arrivals from Honolulu.  The Lido became noisy when the guests and newbies flowed in, so we moved out to the shaded area by the Seahorse Pool for a while.  There were very few guests by the pool which is too bad because this is really the first day it has been nice enough to enjoy it.

Eventually we went up to the top deck to take some port photos:  Port Side View, City Behind Pool, Aloha Tower, Downtown, Condo Near Port.

After the stress of taking the photos and walking through the public areas on Deck 6 to take some pictures of the Starlite Club from a different angle, we went back to the room for the rest of the afternoon.  Here are a couple of pictures from a different angle in the Starlite Club:  Dance Floor, Bar and Seating Area.  We stayed on the verandah enjoying the pleasant weather until it was time to get ready for the sail away party on deck.  During this time there was a lifeboat drill for newly embarked guests.

There is a sail away party on the upper decks at 5:45PM with a complimentary Pearl Harbor cocktail and a real orchid lei for every guest.  The drinks were ghastly, but the leis were very nice.  We can't imagine many other cruise lines coughing up the dough for real orchid leis for every passenger.  The band was playing by the pool.  By the way, the Crystal Sextet for this cruise is fantastic.  The female vocalist is outstanding and they have a whole new repertoire of songs.

The party was well attended and Crystal even managed to arrange a rainbow to appear near the port, then over the city and leading directly to Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head beyond.  It was definitely a postcard moment.  The ship's photographers were busily positioning guests for photos as we passed the Aloha Tower and when the rainbow appeared behind us.

After the sail away, we returned to the room to get ready for dinner.  Teodor had left a fruit plate for us, but he came back to chat briefly when he realized we were in the room again.

Tonight's Dress Code is Casual.  We sat in the Starlite Club for about 30 minutes listening to the band until time for dinner.  On the way out we were stopped by Herbert and Victor who delayed us chatting enough to make us late for dinner again.  We told Herbert that we were happy to see so many new things on the menu to which he replied, "We're trying."  We would imagine it is difficult to make any substantial changes lest the diehards start complaining that their favorite dish is gone.  He didn't say that, of course, but it seems about right to us.

Click for Hawaiian Dinner Menu.  We were greeted at the dining room door by Suresh, the waiter we had at lunch a few days ago.  He insisted on taking us to our table so apparently we made a favorable impression on him.

The dining room was half empty again in spite of the arrival of new passengers today.  We were told today that the guest count is actually lower than we were led to believe before and that it is barely over 500.  That makes more sense based on our own observations.

Food review:  The crab cake was terrible with a very fishy taste and not much else.  It was presented nicely, but the flavor left a lot to be desired.  This was "Roy's" version.  The regular Crystal recipe is much better.  The sweet potato soup was good, although we're not sure it tasted much of sweet potatoes.  The mixed greens salad contained a nice mix of fresh lettuce with a simple dressing.  Muzo suggested the braised rib entree and one of us took him up on it.  It was exceptional!  A huge piece of extremely tasty, boneless braised rib meat topped with potatoes rolled in a crispy wonton skin.  The sauce with it was fantastic.  This is probably one of the best dishes we have had so far.  It was also from Roy's recipe.  The pork entree was also fantastic with an interesting presentation and a wonderful array of flavors.  This was by far at the top of our list for the best meal yet.  The pineapple dessert wasn't bad, but not great either.  The sherbet was nice, but the tart was way too sweet and had a burnt sugar taste to it.  Muzo brought out a side of the deep fried mango fingers from the other dessert.  They weren't as wonderful as he said they would be, but they were interesting.  This dish would be better with bananas or pineapple rather than mangos, but it was fine as it was.

Muzo and Wilfred both chatted with us tonight because they only had one other table to attend to.  Luckily one of them happened to be standing at the table when the strolling strings came by, which effectively deflected them from stopping at our table.  We never want them to serenade us and we're usually fairly successful in moving them along without being rude to them, but we still don't like it.  This particular group is very poor.  We've had only one bad group before and they were gone before we knew it.  This batch isn't quite as bad, but at least one of them is always slightly off key and out of sync with the other two.

The evening entertainment was a flautist before dinner.  We don't care if Queen Elizabeth herself does a show before dinner, we won't be there.  Keep the shows after dinner where they belong!  There was a cabaret show in the Starlite Club featuring tenor George DeMott, but we skipped it.

We move one hour back on the clock tonight.  Traveling in the direction around the world is great because it is an hour back almost every night of the cruise.

After reaching the open sea there was a bit of a swell causing the ship to sway from side to side a bit, but it isn't as rough as it has been up to now.  The captain said there would be a strong wind and that the swells were expected to be about eight feet.  He also said to use caution on the open decks.  Duh!

Bill received a thoughtful gift of Kona coffee from a former crew member who now resides on the Big Island.

Click for Today's Activities.

The sea is relatively calm today, so there is only a slight swaying from side to side.  Skies are cloudy, but the temperature is pleasant in the low 70's.  It looks like it could rain occasionally, but it hadn't as of late afternoon.

We stopped by the Photo Shop to look for yesterday's sail away photo.  Although they took three, we only found one with the rainbow.  We couldn't get our Captain's Quarters photo off the wall fast enough.  Yikes, scary!

There was a "King Neptune" seafood buffet in the Lido Cafe for lunch, but we went to the dining room instead.  Click for Luncheon Menu.  We ordered the vegetable spring rolls as an appetizer.  They were OK, but somewhat too salty.  The chilled soup was strawberry with diced bits of mango tossed in, which was also just OK.  The chicken chow mein entree was much better than expected, good in fact.  We had to ask what was in the Ice Cream Sundae "Boy Scout".  Turned out it was sugared walnuts at the bottom, rocky road ice cream, whipped cream, and topped with chocolate sauce and mini marshmallows.  The glasses they serve the ice cream sundaes and chilled soups in are too narrow at the bottom to accommodate the spoons, so it is impossible to get the last couple of bites out of the container.  Muzo brought a straw for the soup, which was amusing, but we declined since there were chunks in the soup.

After lunch we went up the sit by the pool and listen to the music until they finished at 1:30PM.  We were surprised there weren't more guests out by the pool because the weather is pleasant.  This is probably one of the last warm days we will have for the rest of this cruise.

We went back to the room around 2:00PM, encountering Teodor in the hallway where we chatted about nothing in particular until he had to actually do some work by answering a page.

Our evening snack for today was crudités with ranch dip and a bowl of cashews.  After polishing it off and getting dressed for dinner, we wandered down to the Starlite Club at around 7:45PM.  We were a bit surprised that there we so few guests in the room on a formal night when most people want to see and be seen.  There were quite a few guests in the lobby when we went down to the dining room, but still not what one expects on a formal evening.

Tonight's Dress Code is Formal.  There were no special parties or events tonight that we are aware of which is unusual for formal night.

Click for French Dinner Menu.  This has never been one of our favorite menus and unfortunately nothing has changed.  There were more guests in the dining room tonight than we have witnessed so far during this cruise, but it was by no means full either.

Food review:  We both ordered the fruit appetizer which was artfully arranged with an interesting variety of fruits, but the blackberries were moldy on the side touching the plate.  When Muzo picked up the plate he asked, "You don't like blackberries?" to which we replied, "We don't like moldy blackberries."  When he returned to his station and turned the berry over he said, "I see what you mean!"  Unfortunately, this is all too common.  It happens at least once per cruise, so we learned long ago to always inspect the berries before eating them.

Continuing with the food, the French onion soup was satisfactory, not great, but nothing wrong with it either.  We've had better.  The mixed greens salad was also just good, not wonderful.  There was something with a weird texture served with the fish, but the fish itself was very good.  The other entree was the always available steak, which was excellent.  The highlight was the serving of potatoes au gratin served with the steak.  It was absolutely the best we have ever tasted.  The consistency was perfect, the top was crispy, and the flavor was incredible.  We could have had just a big plate of that and been happy.

We almost always have the Grand Marnier Soufflé for dessert, but we both skipped it this time.  The Kir sherbet was very good.  The other dessert was one of the new concoctions that consists of three parts.  The apple tart was non-descript, but the French vanilla ice cream was tasty and the pistachio chocolate Napoleon was fantastic.  These desserts are not nearly as large as the descriptions may sound.  Each of the items on the plate are about two-three bites each, which is a nice way to sample a variety of related flavors.

Muzo announced that the Grand Gala Buffet is being served for lunch tomorrow.  When we said we knew about it and would be going upstairs instead, he said, "That's what all of my guests said on the first seating."  It might be time for Crystal to come up with something new to replace it.  We don't care one way or the other whether it is served, but many people seem to like it.

The evening entertainment is the lavish production show "Million Dollar Musicals".  Even though we have seen this show way too often, it is still by far the best show Crystal has to offer.  It flows from start to finish with no glaringly awful numbers to draw attention.  The costumes are some of the most beautiful we have ever seen without being garish as some of the newer productions are.  There are also several sections that are staged so well they often elicit gasps and spontaneous applause from the audience.  Tonight's performance wasn't the best we have ever seen, but most people probably wouldn't notice.  The female lead vocalist is one of the best we have seen.  The male lead was better in this show than the previous one, but he tends to overact a bit.

We keep forgetting to mention that there are now signs outside of the Galaxy Lounge announcing that drink service will cease ten minutes after the show starts so as not to disrupt the viewing pleasure of other guests.  This is an improvement in our opinion.

After the show we stopped to chat with Paula at the Starlite Club bar.  Eventually Herbert and Victor came by and asked if everything was alright.  We assured them that everything is fine and told them that last night's dinner was fantastic.  We also raved about the potatoes on tonight's menu.  Herbert seemed shocked when Dave told him that he cooks dinner himself every night, but that is why we are sometimes critical.  If he can make it at home and it is better than here, then something is wrong in the galley.  All in all, the food has been very good this cruise and we are particularly pleased that the portions are back to normal.  Let's hope it stays that way.

We move an hour back on the clock tonight.

It is a bit more rough tonight than it was all day, but that isn't saying it is a problem by any means.  The only difference is that it is noticeable when the stabilizers have to stop the motion to one side and there is a tad more vibration than there was earlier.  By the way, we are aft of the aft elevators and we see no difference in the amount of motion felt here or amidships.  There is some vibration, but it isn't an issue at all.  The room is very quiet also.  If we hadn't seen our neighbors emerge from their staterooms we wouldn't even know they were occupied.  We can sometimes hear talking in the hallway, but it isn't bothersome and doesn't wake us up.

Another observation we haven't heard much talk about are the new metal chairs on the verandahs.  They look uncomfortable, but they are fine in practice.  Plus, they are sling chairs, which has eliminated the separate pads that had to be brought in and stashed behind the drapes every night.  So, they are basically an even trade for the plastic chairs that were there before.  We do think there has to be a better alternative than upright chairs that barely recline, but these are no worse than the old ones.

Just in case someone is interested, here is the Room Service Menu.

Tuesday, March 17 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Click for Today's Activities.  The weather is about as good as it gets.  Sunny and warm, not too hot, and the sea is relatively smooth for the open ocean.

We retrieved landing cards for Hong Kong this morning.  They have to be filled out and returned to the front deck by March 23rd.

The Grand Gala Buffet is the main offering for lunch today, but we went to the Lido instead.  We expected a larger crowd in the Lido due to the high ratio of repeaters on board, but even with only one line open there was no wait.  We sat outside on the aft deck which was very pleasant considering the great weather.  There were a few different salads on the buffet, plus devilled eggs and such, none of which was anything to write home about, but still a nice change.  The Asian selection was the best today, Szechuan Beef with Snow Peas.  Dio insisted on bringing Dave a bowl of bread pudding and it was the best he has ever tasted.

After lunch we went out by the pool to listen to the band and watch the water slosh out of the pool occasionally.  Yes, we know we're simple.  When the band finished at 1:30PM, the female singer went around to each guest to chat and ask how they are, etc., a nice touch.  A deck steward went around handing out chilled wet towels to all who wanted one.

There were more people out on deck today than there have been until now, but there were still plenty of open tables and lounges.  Several people were enjoying the pool also.  They especially seemed to be thrilled when the water sloshed them around.  We half expected the pool to eject someone onto the deck like a beached whale, but unfortunately that never happened.

We were back in the room by 2:30PM where we fought with the internet connection to upload each item individually.  We never did manage to stay connected long enough to retrieve all of our email and it took four tries to send two messages.  What is especially annoying is that the system allows you to log in and waste minutes even when you can't actually connect to the internet.  There should be some way of preventing this when there is no satellite connection.  Otherwise it is a rip-off pure and simple, whether intentional or not.

Teodor brought us a pizza with tomatoes and cheese, which was very nice.  Just enough to tide us over until our next feeding.  He says that the trick to staying on the ship for extra days without paying for an entire cruise is to wait to ask after you are on board.  Basically, at that point it is a bird in the hand to the ship and better than an unsold stateroom.  That's all well and good, but some of us like to make plans ahead of time and not scramble for hotel and flights at the last minute if it doesn't work out on board.  We should say that the few officers we have discussed this with onboard were suitably appalled that the L.A. office wouldn't accommodate us at all.

Tonight's Dress Code is Casual.  We chatted in the hallway with Teodor and Victor long enough to make us late again for dinner, but we swear it wasn't our fault!

Click for St. Patrick's Day Dinner menu.  As usual, the dining room was half empty, which makes for a quiet dining experience more akin to what one would expect from a 6-star ship.  Muzo was already waiting at the table when we walked in the door.

Food review:  Nothing was moldy in the fruit cup tonight, so no complaints there.  The spinach salad wasn't anything special, but was satisfactory.  The ravioli pasta course was bright green and in keeping with the St. Patrick's Day theme.  It had a nice flavor, but the consistency was very gummy.  The fish course was a fish rolled around crab stuffing, which was odd, but tasted OK.  The chicken stuffed with bananas and coconut was good, but the rice that came with it had a strange metallic taste to it.  The plate was decorated with a large slice of dried banana and looked very attractive.  The Irish Rain dessert was the most God-awful thing we have ever had in our mouth!  The apple fritters would have been fine if they were hot and fresh, but they were neither.  The crème brulee was topped with slimy spiced grapes that on their own would have been fine.  However, the crème had separated into a foamy brown top layer and liquid bottom layer so ghastly that words can't describe it.  Honestly, we can't imagine how something as revolting as this ever made it out of the kitchen, it really was that bad.  We actually told Muzo to tell the chef it was terrible and we have never done that before.

Josef stopped by to ask about taking his family to Walt Disney World and we spent about fifteen minutes filling him in on the best way to do it on a budget, where to stay, etc.  We think we convinced him to stay at one of the Disney hotels, which in our book is a must, but the prices may scare him away unless they are still offering decent prices when he finally gets around to booking the trip.  At least he is planning to go in January, which for us has always been a great time to go there.

Tonight's entertainment is "The Mad Welshman", the Comedy and Songs of Kenny Smiles.  As you well know by now, we absolutely loath audience participation acts and this entire comedy routine was based on the audience in the first two rows, such as it was.  There were probably only about 100 guests in the room.  He did have some funny material and his singing voice was good, but overall we're not sure we would go see this act again.  We might, but we won't commit to it yet.

There is a "Pub Night" in the Avenue Saloon at 11:00PM with fish and chips, plus entertainment.  They must not be expecting a huge crowd because the Avenue is the smallest venue on the ship.  We didn't see any huge crowds of people participating in it when we walked by on the way to the elevator, but it did smell like fish and chips.  The usual crowd was in the Starlite Club for after dinner dancing, but the bar area was empty except for staff.  The Starlite Club looks nice at night with small lamps on the tables near the dance floor.

The rough seas are gone and it is expected that the good weather will continue for the next day or so.

Click for Today's Activities.

The weather continues to be perfect with smooth sailing, sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70's.

Click for Luncheon Menu.  As usual, we started off our day with lunch in the Lido.  The Asian selection was the best option today, Sweet & Sour Chicken.  The items from the buffet were good also and included a French Dip sandwich with no dip (in other words, it was a regular roast beef sandwich), pork medallions and meatloaf from the carving station.

We took our food out by the pool to eat and listen to the band.  We stayed there until around 2:00PM, then went down to the lobby to wait for Nikki's desk hours to book our next cruise.  She said she had noted in her report that the office would not accommodate our request to remain on board for four extra days and that they lost an entire booking on the Serenity because of it.  Nikki never says anything negative, but she did find it absurd that they didn't do it because the next sailing is far from full.  In other words, what the heck were they thinking?  It is also apparent that if we wanted to stay on we could easily arrange to do it now, but since we already have hotel reservations and plane tickets, it wouldn't be worth the trouble to change all of that at this point.

Nikki also made some suggestions for other cruises that would get us the 20% discount certificate for 2010 cruises as well as some shorter cruises that would make cashing in our 50th Milestone easier.  Because our 49th and 50th cruises are booked consecutively, we can't use the free cruise until our 51st cruise.  However, Nikki did suggest that we might be able to work that out if we call Crystal Society in Los Angeles.  Ordinarily calling the office wouldn't work, but since we know someone personally we can speak to about Crystal Society issues, we probably could arrange it.

After talking with Nikki we went to the salon to make haircut appointments.  One of us is going an hour from now, at 4:00PM.

The haircut went without incident.  When they changed the layout of the spa and salon, the salon portion got the short end of the stick.  It is very small and poorly laid out.  It is better than nothing, but compared to the huge room they had before it truly looks like an afterthought.  The stylist was amusing and did a reasonably good job, so nothing to complain about for the service.  The price went up $1.00 from last year, but it is still in line with a haircut at a salon on land.

Teodor brought us an assortment of sandwiches for our afternoon snack and we gave him a bunch of magazines we were finished with.  Paula came by looking for him and wanted the magazines for herself, although they aren't really geared toward women.  We chatted for a few minutes with Teodor until Victor arrived to thank us for the birthday card we sent him today.  As you may recall, he was our assistant waiter for part of a world cruise and we sort of won him over then.  So, that has carried over to his new position as a butler.  Besides that, he is a very nice and sincere person.

Invitations to the Crystal Society Party on the 21st were delivered this afternoon.

Tonight's Dress Code is Informal.  We were headed to the Palm Court to await dinner time, but ended up talking in the hallway with Teodor long enough that it wasn't necessary to kill much time.  Instead, we thought we would check out the shops to waste a few minutes, but that took maybe two minutes tops until we realized there was nothing we would buy on a bet.  The Crystal logo item selection is extremely limited and the prices are outrageous.  We forgot to mention previously that the shops have dump sale tables set up in the corridor almost daily now.  When Crystal ran the shops, this was never allowed because it was considered too tacky.

We ended up sitting at the tables near the dining room.  It was nice to see that they are now including this section in the cocktail service from the Crystal Cove, complete with the salty snacks on the tables.

Click for Neptune Dinner Menu.  Generally, this isn't one of our favorite menus, but we did manage to find enough things we were willing to order.  No big surprise there, huh?  The dining room was very sparsely populated tonight, so it was nice and quiet.  Muzo said he tried the horrid dessert we complained about last night and thought it was so awful that he went and told the assistant pastry chef about it.  The chef asked what he thought of it and he replied, "You don't have to serve it again next year."  Thank goodness they only serve it on St. Patrick's Day!

Food review:  The shrimp roll was good and presented nicely, but was a bit too greasy.  The chilled soup was better than these soups have been lately, but still short of where they used to be.  We both had the Filet Mignon "Mermaid" for our entree and everything on the plate was very good.  The filet portion was huge!  The jumbo shrimp had a nice flavor, also.  The "Bugs Bunny" dessert was also good, especially the blood orange ice cream that came with it.  The carrot cake and the tapioca were fine, but the ice cream stood out as something special.

The evening entertainment is the newest production show "Route 66" that was postponed earlier in the cruise due to rough seas.  We hadn't seen this show before tonight.  It certainly isn't a terrible flop as many of the newest shows have been, but it doesn't quite work either.  The transitions between songs are too abrupt and the eras represented by the various numbers don't flow in any coherent sequence.  Plus, it simply tries too hard to be exciting.  In other words, it is very loud and frantic most of the time.  Again, it isn't bad, just not the best effort Crystal has ever come up with.  This is the first presentation of any kind we have seen so far this cruise that hasn't received any sort of standing ovation except from staff.  The dancers need to get their act together, too.  Their synchronization is poor and was especially evident in this show.  Individually they seem to be quite talented, but they need to work on being more of a team.  Paul announced that new lead singers will debut in the next production show.

We stopped to chat with Paula at the bar on the way back to the room after the show.  Florent (Bar Manager) came over to thank us for the birthday card we sent him this afternoon and stayed to chat a bit.  We thought the chairs in the Starlite Club had just had handles added to them, but these are completely new chairs.  The first round of new furniture broke very quickly and had to be replaced by the same company that made the original furniture.  We knew the first batch of chairs had problems, but it was much worse than we thought.

We move one hour back on the clock tonight.  It is still smooth sailing tonight.

Click for Today's Activities.

There was a party in the hallway this morning, so we were up earlier than usual.  Actually, we were awake anyway.  It wasn't loud enough to wake us up.  The weather started off quite well with smooth sailing, sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 70's.

There was a theme buffet, Cuisine of the Sun, around the Neptune Pool, so we went to the dining room after stopping by the concierge desk to ask about sending the luggage home.  We have decided to send one small piece of luggage home with Luggage Concierge in spite of the cost.  That way we will get rid of our formal clothes and the menus we have collected throughout the cruise.  You have to guestimate what you will pack in the luggage before you actually pack it, but that's not a big deal.  Carmen said to just put down something plausible.  They also need flight information to prove to customs you aren't staying in Hong Kong.

Click for Luncheon Menu.  We were seated by the window with our regular waiters serving us.  That way we could watch as the sea became more and more rough as lunch progressed.  Josef stopped by to show us some information he got by email from a travel agent about Walt Disney World.  We pointed out what we think are the best options for him, but we plan to offer to work it out for him after we get home and email our recommendations to him.  Some of the prices from the travel agent seemed high to us, but as usual for package deals it was impossible to tell exactly what was being included.  We'll set him straight.

The food today was good as usual.  Muzo offered to get us a plate of fruit to start with, so we took him up on it.  The lasagna was adequate, nothing more.  The sandwich of the day was huge, but very good.  The sundaes on the menu each afternoon are quite nice.  Today's version has chopped up peanut butter cookies in it.

Wilfred asked if we wanted coffee, so we told him we never order coffee, but sometimes order tea.  That prompted him to offer to make us Indian coffee with spices, etc., if we tell him a day ahead.  He wants to brew it all day for us and make it just right.  How nice is that?  We'll take him up on it soon.

After lunch we went up to sit in the shade by the pool.  It was somewhat rough by 1:00PM, but the buffet cleanup was well underway by then.  We stayed out for about an hour and it was fairly stormy by 2:30PM.  The water started sloshing out of the pool and the waves were getting bigger and bigger.  It was also extremely windy, but in our sheltered location it didn't matter.

There was a charity auction scheduled for 3:00PM today with a preview starting at 2:30PM.  The list of items to be auctioned included private tours of the kitchen and dinner with the chef, etc.  There is also Crystal memorabilia such as the silver coffee pots with the Crystal seahorses as a handle, condiment servers with the same seahorses, silver caviar bowls, the old pewter dishes and goblets from the "Excalibur" Royal Feast theme dinners.  Probably the most elaborate item up for auction is a chandelier from Crystal Harmony's dining room.  We were shocked to see it hanging from a luggage rack in the Starlite Club!  There were other large items as well, such as the silver samovars they used to use for tea time.  We didn't stay for the auction, but the listing had hundreds of each item available (over 500 of the pewter plates, for example), so we'd assume that anyone who wanted one could get it.  How much it costs to ship something like a crystal chandelier home is anyone's guess.

It was very rough by 3:30PM.  Certainly nothing out of the ordinary, but it is interesting how quickly the weather turned stormy.  We sure wouldn't want to be out in a small boat in the open ocean when a storm is brewing.  What is even more surprising is the constant whining from guests talking about the terrible weather and how nice it was last year.  Yeah, but wouldn't a rational person assume last year was unusual and this weather is what one should expect?  After all, it is the open ocean in the middle of nowhere.  Not to mention that it was plastered all over the internet weather sites that the weather wasn't the best this month.

At around this same time, the air conditioning went off.  We're not sure exactly how long it was off, but we'd estimate is a over an hour.  It was long enough that we had to open the sliding door to get some air.  Luckily it isn't hot, but it was stuffy with no air movement.  This isn't a big deal, obviously, but with nothing else happening at least it is something new to report.

Paul announced that the auction this afternoon raised over $6,000.  That seems low to us, but it is certainly better than nothing.  There were four crystal chandeliers from the Harmony for sale.  They only sold one for just $300.  We'd guess they costs at least $1,000 and probably more originally so someone got a bargain.

Teodor brought a bowl, yes a bowl, of chicken quesadillas for our snack.  It didn't look pretty, but it tasted fine.  Teodor was relatively appalled by it, but we didn't care.  He is wracking his brain trying to figure out what to bring us for snacks.  Tomorrow he came up with the tiny hamburger appetizers they used to serve on 50's night and we're supposed to think of something else after that.  Yeah right.

Tonight's Dress Code is Casual.  We stopped by the Starlite Club for a drink before dinner, as usual.  The only thing to report about that experience is that the hot snacks, seafood wontons, were not cooked properly so the skin was doughy and the inside was cold.  That's unusual, usually these things are fine. There was a couple on the dance floor that was so good people applauded when they finished the song.

Click for Dinner Menu.  Muzo is still carrying on about the horrible dessert the other night.  We have long since moved on from that, but unfortunately it was repeated tonight with the chilled soup.  Luckily everything else was good to outstanding.  The mixed lettuce salad was sort of like a Chinese chicken salad without the chicken, which was good.  The fish entree was outstanding and beautifully presented.  The steak was also attractive and everything served with it complimented the beef well.  No complaints at all about the main course.  Now, back to the chilled soup, ginger carrot.  When Muzo saw that we had ordered it (Wilfred took our order), he came over and said that he almost came over to warn us that everyone on the first seating sent it back.  We can see why.  It tasted like very salty orange water with large slices of raw ginger tossed in.  Besides that, it had a grainy texture that was truly repulsive.  Again, how does something like this even make it out of the kitchen?

The standout of the meal was The Cotton Club dessert selection.  It was fantastic and probably the best dessert so far.

We asked when they stopped using the fish forks and knives.  We have always thought that was overkill because they don't serve fish with bones in it and if they do the waiters de-bone it for you anyway.  They stopped using this cutlery about a year ago after finally getting permission from the L.A. office to do so.

Tonight's entertainment is vocalist Michel Bell.  He is on almost every Crystal cruise we take, so we have seen pretty much his entire repertoire.  No slight to him, however.  He is very talented.  We did not attend the performance.

Since we had nothing to do after dinner, Bill decided to do laundry.  Isn't that exciting and glamorous?

It was very rough by the time dinner was over.  Nothing fell from the shelves, but the shampoo bottles in the bathroom did tip over.

Click for Today's Activities.

The weather has toned down a bit and is back to a mild rocking motion mostly from the wind rather than rough seas.  It was sunny and warm most of the day.

Preliminary account statements arrived this morning.  We're doing well so far, only owing about $235 at this point.  Most of our shipboard credit was flushed down the drain for the internet service that wastes more time waiting for something to happen than actually working.  The only major expense left to post on our account is gratuities.

We heard several guests talking about the captain's announcement this morning saying something about this is the last day of good weather we can expect.  Since we didn't hear it ourselves we don't know how accurate that is, but it does make sense.

Click for Luncheon Menu.  Our day started off with lunch in the Lido, as usual.  The selection wasn't the best we've seen, but the Asian choice of meatballs with glass noodles was good.  Someone put way too much chili in the chicken picatta sauce though.  We probably would have been better off with the dining room menu, but such is life.

After lunch we stopped at the ice cream bar on the way to sit by the pool.  The Neptune Pool was empty today, but the Seahorse Pool was full and dutifully sloshing around.  The same few people who are outside every day were out again, but we'd guess the count at less than forty people.  The band did a good job of entertaining us until 1:30PM, then we stayed put until it became too warm for us at 2:15PM when we returned to the room.  It was overcast by this time, but it was warmer than it was earlier, and more humid.

Teodor brought us mini hamburgers for our evening snack and stayed to chat a while.  He arrived earlier than usual, so he had plenty of time to spare.

Tonight's Dress Code is Formal.  A Crystal Society party is scheduled for 7:45PM before dinner.  We arrived early and went in the back way.  The room wasn't full, but was more populated than we expected considering the light passenger load.  However, 90% of the guests are Crystal Society members.  The captain thanked everyone for allowing him to attend the party because this is his first cruise and technically he isn't a member yet.  Usually the minute the speeches are over the guests bolt for the dining room, but tonight most people lingered for quite a while before leaving.

Click for Chef's Dinner Menu.  We weren't in love with anything on the menu tonight, but of course we didn't go hungry.  The fruit mosaic was a checkerboard effect made out of different squares of fruit topped with even more fruit.  It was attractive and tasty.  It seems as though most of the presentations have been notched up a bit since we were here a year ago.  The pasta course was very good and the fish entree was, as usual, outstanding and attractively arranged on the plate.  The crème brulee from the traditional dessert selections was very good and actually was topped with berries.  Last year the term "with fruit" meant 1/16th of a strawberry (we're not joking!).

The evening entertainment is the production show "The Envelope Please".  This was the debut of the new pair of lead singers.  The new male lead is outstanding.  The female lead isn't a strong as the previous one, but she does a good job also.  We hope the sound guys will catch on to her vocal style and turn down the volume a bit on her high notes.  The rest of the performance was fine, no complaints about it at all.  The show itself has a few shining moments, but there are a few cringe inducing numbers as well.  They should ditch the entire tribute to animated films or at the very least change the selection of songs.  It is truly painful to watch.  This show doesn't quite work, but isn't unbearable.  With a few tweaks it could be really good, but apparently this is the final version.

It was smooth sailing during the show, but the slight movement returned as soon as it ended.  We're not sure about this at all, but it almost seemed as though the ship was slowed down to allow the show to go on.  It still isn't very rough, but there is some slight movement now and then when the wind picks up.

We move an hour back on the clock tonight.

Click for Today's Activities.

Another day of perfect weather and smooth sailing.  It was in the mid 70's and sunny all day.

Michele Lee had her lecture this morning in the Galaxy Lounge.  We'll watch it later on TV.

Click for Luncheon Menu.  In addition to the regular lunch in the dining room and the Lido, there was a Sunday Jazz Brunch set up in the Crystal Plaza.  This is similar in scale to the Grand Gala Buffet, but the food offerings include things like Eggs Benedict and waffles.  This buffet is only offered on longer cruises and is well worth attending.  We preferred it when it was set up in the center of the dining room and was a much less formal affair, but it is still worth choosing over the Gala Buffet.  We weren't in the mood to fight the crowd, such as it is, and went up to the Lido.  We didn't fare all that well up there, but we are in no danger of starving, as you know.  There was some sort of gooey bread pudding sort of thing that even the waiter dishing it up thought looked disgusting.  It was OK, but way too sweet and we skipped the caramel sauce topping!  Anyway, it was pleasant sitting out on the aft deck where it was very quiet the entire time.  The captain wandered out and joined a couple at the next table.  He seems very nice and down to earth.

After lunch we went out to listen to the band by the Seahorse Pool.  It was hotter than usual even in the shade because the lounge chairs were put away in anticipation of the crew tug of war competition at 2:30PM.  Luckily there was a nice breeze most of the time.

At 2:30PM when the preparations for the tug of war were complete, we went up to deck 12 so we could get an overview of the competition.  This was always done as part of the Olympics held during the World Cruise, but it still goes on here even without a world cruise to prompt it.  There are always at least two teams who go all out with humorous costumes and today was no exception.  The Officers Bar team (OBar) were dressed up in doctor's surgical outfits with a blond bombshell nurse carrying a riding crop.  The Deck Stewards were dressed up in the Mexican decor from one of the theme buffets.  They arrived down the stairs to much applause from the audience.  The Engine Room and Deck Departments had a cheerleader who had "Deck" on one side and "Engine" on the other side of her shirt (she works for both departments).  Housekeeping had women dressed up as little girls in pigtails with lollipops.

The first competition was between the Engine Room and the Dining Room.  The Front Office team arrived to face the OBar team wearing evening gowns and tuxedos while carrying champagne.  When they picked up the rope, they handed out white napkins so they didn't have to touch it.  When the pull began, they immediately dropped the rope and wandered off, then held up a sign that read, "Losing in Style".

Paul (Cruise Director) announced the proceedings and the captain was called down to hand out the trophy to the winning team, as usual the Engine Room guys.  There were many guests and crew out on deck cheering the teams on.  It was a fun event for everyone and the weather was perfect.

The competition ended around 3:30PM and we returned to the room at that time.  At least we'll look like we have been on vacation after standing out in the sun for an hour! 

Teodor brought guacamole and chips for our snack today.  We watched Michele Lee's talk on TV from this morning.  She was entertaining and informative, shows old photos, etc.  She also appeared with Paul on the 5 o'clock Funnies show and was equally entertaining.  She seems like a pleasant person.

Since tomorrow is the deadline for both the Luggage Concierge service and charging gratuities to our shipboard account, we spent a few minutes filling out the forms for both.  We turned in the gratuity form to the front desk on the way to dinner.

There was a cabaret show in the Starlite Club by the Full Sail quartet.  We did wander down to see if there were seats available, but it was nearly full, so we passed on it.  Instead we checked out the photo gallery and bought our pictures from last night.  The pictures taken today at the tug of war weren't posted yet.

Tonight's Dress Code is Casual. 

Click for Dinner Menu.  We were the first guests into the dining room tonight because most people were at the cabaret show and it lasted until 8:35PM.  Since our service is usually quite prompt, we would have been the first out also if we hadn't dawdled at the table.  We let the strolling strings skip us for the second time.  This time around they were thrilled because we were the last table they stopped at, so when we told them they could move on, they were glad to be finished early.  They are always very nice, but we really don't like them interrupting our dinner.

Muzo said that so many people sent the carrot-ginger soup back the other night that it probably won't be served again.  Let's hope not!

Tonight's dinner was very good all around.  We ordered the fruit appetizer, as usual, and it was very nice.  The chilled soup was good also, but still not as good as we have had here in the past.  Both of us ordered the sweet and sour pork entree and it was outstanding.  We had to request more rice because the portion was way too small for the amount of pork on the plate, but that wasn't a big deal.  Muzo recommended the South Beach dessert option over the other one and it was OK, but not great.

The evening entertainment is a violin concert by Nicola Loud.  We did not attend the performance.  We stopped by to chat with Paula at the Starlite Club bar and ended up meeting three different guests who stopped by briefly.  Our stay went from brief to several hours, but everyone agreed that was more entertaining than the show probably was.  A woman who joined us at the bar later said the show was very good.

The weather remains nice with relatively smooth sailing into the night.

Click for Today's Activities.

The weather was good most of the day, warm and sunny.  It rained briefly a few times, but immediately was sunny again and warm.  Late in the afternoon it was more overcast, but not stormy.

Before lunch we went down to turn in our Luggage Concierge paperwork, but had to go back and get our e-ticket receipt for leaving Hong Kong in order to complete it.  It wasn't a big deal and could have waited until later, but better to get it done and over with.  Carmen (concierge) is always extremely helpful and pleasant.

Click for Luncheon Menu.  As usual, we went to the Lido for lunch.  The only item of the buffet that wasn't particularly good was the fish and chips.  Serving something that should be crispy fried from a steam table isn't exactly the best idea.  We took our food, or rather a waiter took our food, out to the tables near the pool to eat. 

We watched the band set up their equipment for about 30 minutes, then storm clouds threatened, so they put all of it away, it rained for about ten seconds, then it was sunny again.  The band returned and spent another fifteen minutes setting everything up again before starting their set.  It remained sunny and warm until around 3:00PM when the overcast skies returned, but those clouds were gone by 4:00PM.

There is a cold going around that everyone seems to have now.  Luckily it isn't the dreaded Crystal Cough and does appear to be just a cold and nothing else.  We haven't succumbed to it yet, but time will tell.  The guests on both sides of us have it, so we might be doomed!

Everyone received a notice of mandatory "Temperature Measuring" on March 26th.  With as many guests sick as there are at the moment, this might be interesting.  What would happen if someone was deemed too sick?  Would they refuse docking?  That sounds farfetched, but you never know.

Teodor brought vegetables and dip for our snack.  He says that the guests who are sick arrived that way, which in a few cases we know is true.  However, we only saw one or two people sniffling until the past few days.  It's hard to tell because whenever the sea is rough the older guests tend to stay in their staterooms, so who knows if they are sick or just not ambulatory enough to walk around when the ship is rocking.  As we said before, this is a cold, nothing drastic and just an inconvenience.

There are only about 500 guests booked on the next cruise, so there will be only one seating for dinner.  Of course, that can change at the last minute.

Tonight's Dress Code is Casual.  We stopped by the Starlite Club to wait for dinner.  Paula has information about Hong Kong Disneyland she wants advice about from Dave who is a full-fledged Disney geek.  She and some co-workers are going to Disneyland the day after we disembark because the ship will not sail until Sunday.  We promised to go over the information with her tomorrow when the bar isn't quite as busy.

Click for Dinner Menu.  The first thing out of Muzo's mouth when we sat down was, "Don't order the cold soup."  It didn't sound very appealing, so that wasn't likely anyway, but it was nice of him to warn us.  When we asked why, he said that four of his guests on the first seating ordered it and they all sent it back.  How do things that awful even get on the menu let alone served to the guests?

The dining room was probably less than one-fourth the normal population tonight.  This is the second night this cruise that casual dining was available at the Trident Grill, but there were so many people missing it seems unlikely they all went up there.  And yes, you read that correctly.  During this 17-day cruise, casual dining was offered only twice.

Food review:  The fruit was again a nice selection.  The chopped greens salad was huge and very good as well.  The pasta selection was more sauce than pasta, but otherwise it was fine.  Both the fish and the chicken entrees were outstanding.  The chicken was unusual, but flavorful, which is a good thing.  We're happy to see some new items appearing on the menus lately.  Wilfred recommended the chocolate dessert and it was quite tasty also.  The citrus salad on the plate with it looked pretty, but it wasn't particularly complimentary to the sweet chocolate mousse that was the main attraction.  The chocolate part of the dessert was outstanding.

Tonight's entertainment is "Around the World" with Naki Ataman, A Unique Non-Stop Musical Adventure.  The main show was scheduled before dinner, so there was no chance we would attend.  There was an edition of the popular Liar's Club at 10:15PM in the Starlite Club.  This has always been a big draw whenever it has been offered, but we have seen it so many times we weren't interested in attending tonight.  The room was fairly empty when we walked by at around 10:05PM, but we would assume it filled up quickly as it usually does.

We move an hour back on the clock tonight.

Tuesday, March 24 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Click for Today's Activities.  Quality Assurance Questionnaires were delivered today.

Today's weather continued the trend of recent days, sunny and warm with smooth sailing.

There was a crew fire drill at 10:00AM complete with the requisite alarms and announcements, so there was no sleeping late today.  Even so, we didn't go out until time for our first feeding at noon.

Click for Luncheon Menu.  We went to the Lido and ended up with both carved meats, chicken and pork.  We picked up a couple of other items also, but they weren't anything worth mentioning.  The pork was dry, but had a nice flavor.  The chicken is always outstanding from the carving station and today was no exception.  We ate lunch in the shade by the Seahorse Pool again.  The weather couldn't be better.  There wasn't a cloud in the sky until late in the afternoon.

We stayed outside listening to the band and generally doing nothing until around 3:00PM when it was time for a stop by the ice cream bar and onward to the room.  Michele Lee had a question and answer session this morning with Foster Hirsch, one of the theme lecturers.  Obviously we weren't at the live show, but it was repeated on stateroom TV all day, so we caught it later.  She has a lot of good stories to tell without being pretentious, so it is a pleasure to see her.  She has the cold a lot of guests have, so we'll give her credit for getting up and doing the interview even though it was evident she wasn't feeling all that great.  Up until the Michele Lee programs started, there wasn't much else to represent the theme of the cruise that isn't offered on a regular cruise.

Teodor noticed that we didn't eat much of the crudités he brought last  night, so he brought us pigs in a blanket and chicken wings tonight to make up for it.  We ended up talking about macaroni and cheese for some reason and it turned out that there is a children's menu that is always available.  One of the items on it is macaroni and cheese.  After fifteen years of cruises with Crystal, this is the first time we have heard of a children's menu being available.  Live and learn!

Tonight's Dress Code is Informal.  We ran into Michele Lee in the hallway talking to the stewardesses as we were leaving for dinner.  Isn't that exciting?  Well, we won't go that far, but she was very nice.

We stopped in the Starlite Club before dinner and promised Paula we would come back after dinner to go over her plans for Hong Kong Disneyland.  It won't be too difficult to tell her which attractions are "must sees" since there are only about fifteen real attractions total and only perhaps five are musts.  Since they don't have much time off anyway, they probably won't notice and will end up with a full day.

Click for Dinner Menu.  We asked Muzo about the macaroni and cheese.  He insisted on bringing some to us for our pasta course.  He said he would ask for it without the parsley on top because every time he has served it with the garnish kids refuse to eat it.  We asked for and received a copy of the Junior Cruisers' Menu.  Some of the kid's items look pretty tasty.  We'll have to remember them for the next time we are on back to back cruises and we get tired of the repetition of menus.

As for tonight's food, the fruit appetizer was again very attractive.  The creamy herb soup was good, but nothing special.  The macaroni and cheese from the kid's menu was OK.  It was a little complex for a child in our opinion, but it looked nice.  The fish entree was good, but the fish was overcooked and a bit tough.  However, the beef rib entree was fantastic as was everything served with it.  It could not have been any better.  The sherbet was all we had for dessert along with some Eiswein, which was a thrill for Mario that we actually ordered something from him.  He has been very friendly since we mentioned that Gianlucca told us to tell him to send him the latest gossip (they were best friends on board according to Mario.  Gianlucca is currently not with Crystal).

The evening entertainment is a concert featuring Michel Bell and Dale Kristien.  We did not attend the show because we promised Paula we would come by to discuss her Disneyland plans.  Michel and Dale are on almost every Crystal cruise we have been on and they are very talented, but we have seen their performances several times before.

We filled Paula in on the best attractions, etc.  She had an extra copy of the show schedule for the weekend we will be there and gave us a copy, which was very thoughtful of her.  The internet is so slow that we weren't able to view the schedule on line.  One of the main live shows is closed while we are there, which will cut down on the attraction roster even more.  We may finish with the park faster than we originally expected.  After really looking at the list of attractions, there are probably only eight we are interested in, and maybe a couple of others we'll look at or take pictures of.  If the weather is bad, we'll wait to go to the park when it isn't raining and if we run out of things to do at the resort itself, we'll take the train to the Giant Buddha or something else along those lines.

The water was off when we returned to the room at 12:30AM, but was back on within fifteen minutes.  A bit of rocking has returned, but it is far from the rough seas we had before we reached Hawaii.  We have no clue what the weather forecast is for the remaining days of the cruise.

Wednesday, March 25 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Click for Today's Activities.

It was overcast and raining off and on all day today.  However, it is still warm in the low 80's.  We were told that is about what we should expect for Hong Kong in general.  The weather forecast for tomorrow is a bit more dire, but what actually transpires remains to be seen.

We went down to the lobby to give Carmen a tip and thank you note.  She and the head concierge were chatty today.  They are amused that we are going to Hong Kong Disneyland. 

Click for Luncheon Menu.  There is an "Asia Cafe" themed buffet around the Neptune Pool today.  This is probably the best of the theme buffets, but with the rain and the sliding roof closed we didn't want to bother with it.  Besides, we'll have our fill of Asian food coming right up.  The dining room was popular, although certainly not full by any stretch of the imagination.  Muzo and Wilfred insisted we be seated at one of their tables by the window.  Muzo offered right away to get us fruit for a starter, which was nice of him.  He catches on almost immediately to his guests' preferences. 

The Thai beef salad entree was outstanding.  The beef had a wonderful flavor and the julienned vegetables under it were tossed in a tasty peanut dressing.  The Monte Cristo sandwich wasn't terrible, but we wouldn't order it again.  In the past it has been too dry, but we were assured that was no longer the case.  It wasn't dry, but it was sort of semi-warm, wet, and greasy all at the same time.  It was edible, but that's as far as we'll go in its defense.  The peanut butter ice cream that Bill likes was on the menu and Muzo brought him a large serving.  He offered to save some for him for dinner time also, but there is something else on the menu he wants instead.  But, it was perceptive of Muzo to pick up on his preference again.  The lemon almond tart was also quite good.

After lunch we retrieved the travelers checks we have been carrying around for ten years.  This seemed like as good a time as any to get rid of them, especially since they are mostly passé at this point.  We applied them to our account with no problem effectively cutting our balance down by half.

Since it was still semi-raining and cloudy at 2:30PM, we went back to the room earlier than usual to try to catch up on the computer.  The internet service has been so poor that uploading site updates is a lengthy chore.  We will end up with hours of prepaid time left because it hasn't worked long enough to use it up.  If it was just slow, that would be understandable, but the constant stop/start and endless disconnects is intolerable.

Disembarkation information was distributed to most guests this morning.  We booked private transfers through the concierge, so we will be handled individually by Carmen.  Besides getting the private car or whatever you reserve through them, you also get separate disembarkation and personally escorted to your waiting transportation by the concierge.  We're never in any rush to leave the ship and the regular disembarkation is handled quite well, but the extra personal touch is a pleasant way to end your cruise.  We were told we would receive our information shortly.

Teodor brought crudités with ranch dip and guacamole and chips.  Victor came by and was shocked to see guacamole because he had been told there were no more avocados.  All Teodor said was he has his ways of getting things he needs.  Bill got a raspberry smoothie made with fresh raspberries this afternoon (at the suggestion of the bar waitress, not by his request) and immediately after that the adjacent table was told, "No more raspberries."  Very odd.

We received our disembarkation information from the concierge for leaving the ship and instructions for sending a piece of luggage home with Luggage Concierge.  The bag going with them has to be sent down with a bellman by 8:00PM tomorrow night.  Everything else is the same as usual except we wait for the concierge to take us off the ship from the Crystal Cove (everyone else waits in the Starlite Club).  Our departure time is 10:00AM.

Tonight's Dress Code is Formal.  The traditional Captain's Gala Farewell Party was held before dinner in the Starlite Club.  The Captain gave the usual statistics about food consumption during this cruise, but with his usual droll sense of humor.  At one point he inadvertently referred to the ship as Crystal Serenity and then proceeded to make fun of himself every time he said the ship's name.  He introduced the Employee of the Month, a stewardess, and continued to make funny remarks and to chide himself for the incorrect name.  it really was amusing.

Click for Captain's Gala Farewell Menu.  This menu is one of our least favorite and it is difficult for either of us to find anything we want.  We both had the fruit appetizer that was attractive.  It was served in a large ring of honeydew melon.  Michele Lee's husband made fun of us for ordering something so simple as they passed by (yes, he was joking).  A salad modified from the one on the menu was very good.  We both had the Beef Wellington as our entree.  The meat part of it was exceptional, but the vegetables served with it were raw (literally raw, and barely warm).  Too bad because it looked attractive.  Muzo already knew Bill wanted the Kir Royale sherbet for dessert and he brought him a larger than normal serving.  For the other dessert, he just assumed Dave would want the chocolate one and not the baked Alaska, which was correct.  The baked Alaska was not a true version.  It looked like Neapolitan ice cream slices with a plop of meringue sitting on top of it.  Whatever it actually was has to be better than the ones they used to parade around the dining room.

The dining room was more full than we have seen it this entire cruise, but there were still many empty tables.  Tables for two were widely available throughout the cruise.

The evening entertainment is the production show "Curtain Call".  Although everyone in the world seems to adore this production, it isn't one of our favorites.  That isn't to say it doesn't have its moments of greatness, but they are few and far between.  The "Man of La Mancha" and "Cats" segments are particularly boring.  Judging by the audience reaction, we'd say that it is pretty much a love it or hate it kind of show.  Some people seem to be excited by it and the rest are just being polite by not leaving early.  The actual performance was fine, not the best we've seen and far from the worst.  The new male lead vocalist is exceptional, but the new female lead seems a bit overwhelmed by some of the material.  She isn't terrible, but she doesn't quite have the range required for Crystal's productions.  The secondary vocalists tonight were better than average, which was a pleasant surprise that improved the show a bit over last year.

We stopped by the Starlite Club for photos of Paula, Shawn and Chris for our Crystal Memorial Digital Photo Frame.  We caught Teodor earlier today.  Paula said we made it sound like they had died or something.

Back at the room, Bill took the last opportunity to do laundry before we have to figure out how we are going to manage our supplies while we are traveling through Japan.  If it isn't hot during the time we are there we will do OK, so hope for moderate temperatures.  It sounds like it will be raining in Hong Kong upon our arrival.  The captain said at the party that any rough seas we have at the moment, which are not all that rough actually, will be smooth again after 10:00AM when we are behind Taiwan.  He also said to expect thundershowers in Hong Kong when we arrive.

The Hotel Director stopped us in the hallway to ask if everything was OK.  We assured him it was.  Then he brought up our original plan of staying on board to Kobe.  After we said it sounds like they have plenty of room, he said, "You could keep your shoes in one room, your clothes in another, and sleep in another, and we'd still have plenty of rooms left."  He then said that he has a note on his desk to discuss how the matter was handled the next time he speaks to the L.A. office.  If we wanted to stay now, we certainly would be accommodated without being required to pay the full fare, but now that plans have been made for hotels and tickets purchased for flights, it just isn't worth it.  As we have said many times before, if you have to arrange something unusual, do it on board where the service is exemplary and they really do try to do whatever they can to make you happy.

We move one hour back on the clock tonight.

Thursday, March 26 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Click for Today's Activities.

Although the weather looks stormy, it really isn't.  The sea is rough, but the ship is traveling at an angle that prevents much movement, so we wouldn't consider the ride to be rough at all.  It is overcast, but doesn't look like it will rain and it is still in the mid 70's temperature wise.  The captain announced that is the kind of weather we should expect in Hong Kong for the next couple of days.

The information for the "Temperature Measuring" this morning gives certain time frames for each letter of the alphabet, then immediately cancels that out by saying if your time is inconvenient you can come anytime before noon.  We arrived at 11:00AM and found a very short line.  The entire process took less than five minutes and consisted of pointing a laser gun at your neck.  Neither of us had a fever or anywhere close to it.

Since we were up earlier than usual, we decided to vary our meal plan today and try the Late Risers' Breakfast by the Neptune Pool.  Besides the usual things like bacon and eggs, we also ordered the Apricot French Toast and the Berry Pancakes.  Both were outstanding and the portions were a normal size, much larger than last year.  Everything was perfect.

Click for Luncheon Menu.  We did not go to the Lido or dining room today for lunch because we had a late breakfast. 

We stopped by the front desk around noon to ask for a second QAP form and to send a birthday card to Shaun, a bar waiter in the Starlite Club.  Turned out the guy at the front desk is Shaun's roommate, so sending the card to him was about as easy as it gets.  The line wasn't nearly as long as usual for the end of a cruise, just four people ahead of us.

Bill has a haircut appointment at 3:00PM this afternoon.  We poked around at packing for most of the afternoon.  It isn't as easy to pack for a continuing land trip as it would be when all we have to do is stuff our clothes in the bags to fly home.  The trick is to figure out what to send home with Luggage Concierge and what we might need in the next three weeks.

After finishing about half the packing and Bill's haircut, we went up to the Trident Grill for a late lunch of hot dogs and a grilled ham and cheese sandwich.  Everything was very good and the service attentive, as usual.  Then it was down to the lobby to turn in the QAP forms where a woman was inconveniently leaning over the deposit box making everyone with forms in hand stand around waiting for her to decide to move.  She couldn't lean on the counter or what?

Back at the room after that exhausting chore (you do know we're kidding, right?) we went back to the packing.  We do have a good system for packing, so even though it is unusual to have to continue onward after a cruise it still isn't all that difficult for us.  We brought much less with us this time than we usually do.  Now the trick is to make it last for three weeks, which might not be easy since it is supposed to be on the warm side and raining in Hong Kong for the next day or so.  We also checked the weather report for the first week we are in Japan and it calls for rain there also, but it will be much cooler, only in the high 50's and low 60's.

Teodor brought us pizza for our snack, so now we're REALLY full.  Of course, we will still force ourselves to eat dinner in a couple of hours.  It was nice to have Teodor for our butler again this cruise.  He's always fun to talk to and is a highlight of our cruise.

Tonight's Dress Code is Casual.  We were finished packing early, so we went down to sit in the Starlite Club for an hour before dinner.  Paula came over to give us goodbye hugs and such.  Shaun said he's saving our birthday card to open on his actual birthday which is next week. 

Every time someone mentions the guest count for the next cruise it is even less.  Now we are hearing 382 guests on the next cruise and only 300 on the one after that.  They are sending crew home early because bookings are light until the ship reaches Dubai and it is expected to return to normal numbers.  These are usually popular routes and if people are willing to travel to Dubai you'd think they would fly to Hong Kong also, but apparently not.  We're surprised there were as many guests on this crossing under the circumstances.  However, we have heard many guests saying they are continuing on their own similar to what we are doing, so we're not the only ones using the ship for transportation.

Click for Dinner Menu.  Although we weren't hungry in the slightest, we managed to choke down three courses each.  We both had the fruit appetizer, which was good as always.  Muzo said the only berries left are strawberries.  We have noticed a lot of mango and other things filling in for berries lately.  The chilled apple soup was basically just apple juice with some chunks tossed it, but it was OK.  Asking for the salad without olives resulted in a freshly made mixture that was very good.  The steak entree was a bit tough, but had a nice flavor nonetheless.  The wok-fried shrimp was outstanding with a flavorful sauce and a generous portion of eight large shrimp.  We tried both of the special desserts and each was excellent in its own way.  The Prima Ballerina was a take on the traditional Pavlova dessert with the aforementioned diced mango substituting for berries.  It was nice and light.  The chocolate and peanut butter dessert was outstanding and not nearly as heavy as one would expect from the description.

Everyone who should have, thanked us for coming and asked when we are coming back.  Dave promised Josef he would look at Walt Disney World information and help plan a trip for his family next year.  It is easy for us because we know what we're looking at.  Starting from scratch to plan a trip like that can be as daunting for him as it was for us to plan the Japan portion of this trip.

The evening entertainment was scheduled before dinner, as usual for the last night of a cruise when they are expecting everyone to be packing.  The featured act is Kenny Smiles, the comedian from earlier in the cruise.  We did not attend the show.

We were instructed by the concierge to call for a bellman to pick up the bag we are shipping home.  He arrived so quickly after we called that we were still trying to zip it up when he knocked on the door.  As soon as he took that bag, we finished up the remaining bags and put them out in the hallway to be taken away with the regular luggage.

Our scheduled departure time for tomorrow morning is 10:00AM, so we have to be waiting in the Crystal Cove by 9:45AM to be escorted out by a concierge.  It doesn't appear that there are any elaborate immigration procedures such as we have experienced returning to the United States.

Friday, March 27 - Hong Kong, China - Arrive 7:00 AM - Disembark Crystal Symphony

Shore Excursions in Hong Kong, China
HGK-I $90 Sightseeing Transfer from Ship to Hotel for Guests Disembarking in Hong Kong
on the Crystal Classic or Classic-Plus Post-Cruise Hotel Program

Click for Port Description.

This morning's disembarkation process was probably the most pleasant we have ever experienced.  There were no immigration procedures to endure at the crack of dawn, so all we had to do was get up in time for breakfast.  We were out of bed by 7:00AM which is painful enough for us, but not as bad as it could be.

We went to the dining room for breakfast for only the third time in 48 cruises.  But, since we had plenty of time we figured we'd give it another shot.  Muzo was very popular and had twice the number of tables he usually served because everyone kept asking for him.  We didn't specifically ask, but the headwaiter at the door insisted on seating us at his station.  We sat one table back from our regular table.

Last year, the breakfast portions were fairly small, so we both ordered two items.  The Eggs Benedict were a size one would expect in any restaurant and they were acceptable, nothing special.  The waffle "with fresh fruits" was the size of a dinner plate, but it was very light and fluffy.  The fruit they serve intended to add to the waffle are not suitable for that purpose...grapefruit segments, oranges, grapes, and diced melon.  They were best eaten separately.  That waffle itself was very good as was the side order of bacon.

After breakfast we picked up our passports on the way back to the room to get ready for our departure at 9:45AM.  We also walked around the upper deck for some of our usual port photos, but that was limited by rainy skies.  The view of this magnificent city was mostly obscured by fog and rain.  The one building across the harbor that sports a huge electronic sign at the top, one that is obviously way more costly than any others around it, was on the AIG building.  Enough said.

We went down to await departure in the Crystal Cove where concierge guests wait.  Paula has moved to the Cove bar, so she was there and happy to see us.  She is supposed to go to Disneyland tomorrow, but all of her friends have backed out because they don't want to go in the rain.  We told her that is a fine time to go and if no one will go with her we will meet her there and show her around ourselves.

Carmen and Frantz were a bit concerned and kept apologizing because the car hadn't arrive on time, but it didn't matter to us at all.  The later the better, in fact.  Right at 10:00AM, Carmen came and got us, escorted us through the terminal and out to the waiting car.  All of our luggage was already piled on a trolley and ready to load into the SUV that was literally only about twenty feet away.  It couldn't have been any easier for us.  After hugs all around, we were off on the traffic free highways of Hong Kong toward the Disneyland Resort.

The drive to Disneyland took at the most twenty minutes, so we were at the front desk of the hotel within 30 minutes of walking off the ship.  How's that for service?

Contrary to popular belief, we do not criticize everything nor do we find fault with the fantastic crew of Crystal Symphony.  This cruise was outstanding in many ways.

The food overall was wonderful.  Portions have returned to a size anyone would consider adequate, even pigs like us.  Presentation of each dish has improved dramatically and now represents a true luxury product.  Yes, there were a few flaws as mentioned in the text, but overall the food was great.  There seems to have been an effort over the past year to add more variety to the menus along with many new recipes.  It's about time!  The food in the Lido was also quite good and the selection was different from what was served in the dining room, which is a plus in our book.  Service in all food service locations was friendly and efficient as always.  There is no better crew on any ship afloat.

An effort was made to add a lot of extra activities due to the many sea days during the voyage.  We'd say that most of the enrichment lecturers and additional entertainment options were better than they have been in the past.  There was only one lecturer who wasn't quite up to the task, but all of the many others we witnessed knew their subject and were proficient at presenting it.

The theme of the cruise was the Film & Theatre.  There were some lectures that were part of the theme, but many of the activities were things that are always offered, such as classic movies.  In our opinion it is a stretch to label a classic movie we have seen 20 times before on this ship as part of the theme.  Other than that, the theme was well served by Michele Lee's interviews and lectures.  She and her husband were always pleasant, friendly and had a good sense of humor about themselves.  We were very happy to have Michele in place of the originally scheduled celebrities.  Foster Hirch's lectures on film were also interesting.

The evening entertainment program in general was beefed up for the many sea days.  The headliners were better than average and a good effort was made to provide a lot of variety.  There were five production shows, all of which were satisfactory, but only one was outstanding (Million Dollar Musicals).  COLE! is scheduled to be retired for good in a few months and replaced with a new production.  The productions are getting a bit stale and attendance was very poor, but the ensemble was good.

One of the items from the rumor mill that we believe is fairly accurate is that the Lido will be remodeled during the upcoming drydock to accommodate casual dining on most evenings.  During this cruise of 17 days, casual dining was only offered twice.  Why even bother?  We were told that the Lido galley will be reconfigured to serve this purpose, which we hope will not change the flow of the current buffet.  It is not true that the crew quarters on board Crystal Symphony cannot accommodate the additional staff casual dining requires.  That is a smokescreen offered by staff to end the discussion.

The other major remodeling project will be the redecorating of all of the penthouse deck accommodations, including sorely needed new bathrooms.  Let's hope that doesn't include the glass sinks!  The Crystal Penthouses are supposed to be gutted and changed completely which seems a bit of overkill to us.

We hope the drydock allows time for sprucing up some of the worn surfaces around the ship and new carpets in the public areas.  Some of the areas that were redecorated last time are not holding up as well as the original areas.  The Galaxy Lounge desperately needs a makeover to bring it out of the 80's (and yes, we know they ship was built in the mid 90's!)  However, minor wear and tear is nothing that should keep anyone from booking a cruise on this ship.  In our opinion it has a friendlier atmosphere than does Crystal Serenity, plus fares for this ship are generally lower.

Our trip was enhanced and made even more special by Teodor (butler), Paula (Starlite Bartender), Shaun (Starlite Barwaiter), Muzo & Wilfred (Sr. Waiter & Waiter), Carmen (Concierge) and all of the other staff and crew who are always so welcoming to us.  Thanks very much and we hope to see all of you next time!

Don't go away, the land portion of this journey begins on the Asian Disneylands page.

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