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Crystal Cruises

Round-trip Los Angeles
Departs January 5, 2005
10 days
Crystal Serenity




Wednesday, January 5 – Los Angeles, California, USA – Depart 6:00 PM 

Thursday, January 6 – San Diego, California, USA – Arrive:  7:00 AM  Depart Noon 

Friday, January 7 – Cruising the Pacific Ocean 

Saturday, January 8 – Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Sunday, January 9 – Zihuatanejo, Mexico – Arrive:  7:30 AM  Depart 3:00 PM

Monday, January 10 – Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – Arrive 9:00 AM  Depart 8:00 PM 

Tuesday, January 11 – Mazatlán, Mexico – Arrive 8:00 AM  Depart 6:00 PM 

Wednesday, January 12 – Cabo San Lucas, Mexico – Arrive 8:00 Am  Depart 6:00 PM  

Thursday, January 13 – Cruising the Pacific Ocean 

Friday, January 14 – San Diego, California, USA – Arrive 8:00 AM  Depart 6:00 PM  

Saturday, January 15 – Los Angeles, California, USA – Arrive 7:00 AM – Disembark




As this cruise begins, rumors are swirling about dramatic changes at the luxury end of the cruise industry.   Does this impact Crystal?  It remains to be seen.  If we can verify anything, we will certainly pass it along, but since "loose lips, sink ships," we doubt much information will be forthcoming.

We do not intend to go ashore at all during this itinerary, so we won't have much, if anything, to report regarding the Mexican ports of call.  Our sole purpose is to get the heck out of town and away from the daily hassles of remodeling and building that have been ongoing for two years now.  There is some light at the end of the tunnel though.  Final preparations for the hardscape are moving along and we're now able to navigate parts of the yard without stepping in the mud.  Here's a photo of the latest phase now reaching a conclusion.

By the way, we did decide to downgrade from our originally booked Penthouse to a category B, Stateroom with Verandah on Deck 8.

Wednesday, January 5 – Los Angeles, California, USA – Depart 6:00 PM

We chose to drive our own car to the port, which took exactly 90 minutes from door to door.  The parking lot was rather full, but with plenty of room left for us and a few others. 

The cruise ticket states that boarding begins at 3:00 PM, but in reality it always starts at 2:00 PM.  We have read elsewhere that they allow guests to board earlier than that, but not have access to staterooms until 2:00 PM.  We saw no evidence that they are continuing this practice.  Our guess is that they do this in ports where guests have to fly long distances and it makes more sense to get them on board quickly rather than keep them waiting ashore. It really didn't matter since we arrived around 2:00 PM anyway and there were no guests arriving, in line, or elsewhere.  Our advice is to arrive at or slightly after the boarding time stated on the ticket when you are likely to walk right onto the ship.

Our first encounter with a crew member was with Benjamin, a Lido Deck Steward, who was rushing out to make a phone call.  He knew our names right away and who is who.  Next up was Ruel from the Lido Deck who was manning the door.  He immediately addressed us as "Mr. Dave and Mr. Bill" and correctly applied them to the proper person.  It was amusing when the security officer sitting nearby didn't bother asking for our I.D. until after Ruel had been calling us by name for five minutes.  Security, what?  All she did was look at our driver's license and usher us in.

After walking through the metal detector and hand luggage X-ray, we walked right up to the check-in agent.  She handed us our room key cards and sent us off to the ship.  From curb to ship took maybe five minutes, if that.  We were happy to see that they weren't handing out the obnoxious dining cards for the first night. This procedure is really disruptive and we have never discerned any point to it since table assignments are always waiting in the rooms.  In any case, the first night is "no assigned seats", another practice we don't understand.

After the usual boarding photo, we sanitized our hands at the gangway dispenser as required and went aboard where our hand luggage was X-rayed again.  The headwaiter handling the arrivals wasn't doing his job and was mortified when we were left standing there.  The line of waiters waiting to escort us to our room just stood there staring at him.  In the line was Joaquin, a Prego waiter we have known forever, and Mary from the shops, another familiar face.  Our waiter from the last cruise on this ship didn't recognize us, which is no big deal.

Once in the room we found a stateroom almost identical in layout to those on Crystal Symphony, with cherry wood rather than whitewashed oak.  The rooms aren't large by industry standards, but they are reasonably well thought out with ample closet space and lots of drawers.  The bathroom is smallish, but extremely well planned with many nooks and shelves for toiletries and such.  There is a bathtub-shower combination with good water pressure.  The only negative is that the toilet is very close to the wall.  Anyone wider than we are might have issues with that.

We begin this cruise with the following gifts and credits:

2 Bon Voyage Rose Bouquets from Crystal Society
2 Bottles of Pinot Grigio Wine from Crystal Society
1 Bottle of Pinot Grigio Wine from our Travel Agent, Wendy
1 Bottle of C-Reserve Merlot from our Travel Agent, Wendy
$400 Shipboard Spending Credit from American Express Platinum
$500 Shipboard Spending Credit from Crystal Society

Once we settled in a bit we went down to make reservations for Silk Road with Antonio, the maitre 'd  for alternative restaurants.  He was sitting in a conference room with no line at all, so we walked right up and made a reservation for tonight and for the final formal night.  We like to avoid the Baked Alaska Parade on the final formal evening if at all possible.  Then it was up to the Trident Grill for some lunch.  Both of us had very tasty Cheeseburgers and were fawned over in the extreme by the familiar Deck Stewards.  We couldn't walk ten feet without another one coming up and welcoming us back.  Benjamin had made his way back on board and rushed over to chat.

After finishing our meal we wandered around to look at the view and see what else was up.  We saw a photographer at the gangway we thought was our good friend Elizabeth, but we were too far up to tell for sure.  So, we went down to the Promenade Deck to get a closer look.  It was indeed Elizabeth who immediately started waving frantically and calling to us from the terminal.  We sort of chatted as best we could and said we'd find her later and catch up.  She is a dear person and very interesting to talk to.

Back in the room we found a note summoning us to see the maitre 'd, Josef, another long-time acquaintance.  We already had a table assignment so we couldn't imagine what he could want, but we went down to see him anyway.  Dave took the computer to be configured for use in the stateroom while Bill waited in the short line for Josef.  Poor Josef has to put up with the most outrageous questions.  They do all they can to make everyone comfortable while waiting by offering drinks, etc., but people still manage to barge in and mess up the system.  There were only a few people waiting, but it was still a zoo.  If travel agents are telling their clients to rush to the maitre d' the moment they arrive, please stop it!  There is no reason at all to do that on a Crystal ship.  The maitre d' on all of their ships couldn't possible be any more accommodating and the ships are rarely full, so it's easy to get what you want.

We received an invitation to a special Crystal Society Dinner in Prego.  This indicates we are in the top echelon of Crystal Society for this cruise.  However, we saw the man with the most cruises of all, so we are far from the actual top with our count of 37 cruises.  The past two invitations we have turned down, but we are thinking we might accept this time if we can sit at Nikki's table.  Anyone who reads these diaries knows how much we enjoy Nikki and we've known her for years.  She is the Cruise Sales Consultant on board.

In the Computer University, Dave learned that they now connect guests' computer directly to the shipboard network, a huge improvement.  No more tedious dial up service that usually doesn't work.  There actually was some configuring of network parameters to do, but the attendant took care of all of that, then made sure it worked. The speed there was outstanding, but it remains to be seen how well it works in the room.  We didn't know to bring a Cat. 5 cable, so he gave us one to use during the cruise.  We signed up for the $270 flat rate for the cruise.  That's $27 a day, $3 less than Crystal Harmony's per diem rate.  No mention was made of a configuration charge, previously $25.  We have always found this fee to be outrageous considering the rates they charge for access.

Just as the computer was finished, we were ushered into an audience with Josef.  He simply wanted to greet us in person and be certain he had given us an acceptable table.  He knows we aren't hot to sit by the window, which to him is unbelievable.  He had assigned us to a table around the center circle, which we prefer, but on this ship they are all tables for six.  He said he had already removed the larger table and replaced it with a smaller one just for us.  His big dilemma, totally imagined, was that this table was on the opposite side of the room from where we sat on Crystal Symphony.  However, when Augusto, our World Cruise headwaiter, had found out we were coming, he wanted us at his station.  This all according to Josef, who we tend to believe.  We assured him his choice was fine and that we would be happy to be seated with Augusto, which is true.

We ran into Ross, formerly a bartender and now Assistant Food and Beverage Manager, on the stairs.  After chatting briefly with him, we kept going on the trek back to the room.

We finally made it back to the room with an hour to spare before sailing, so we contemplated unpacking.  In the meantime, our very pleasant stewardess, Erica, arrived to introduce herself and be sure she had met all of our desires so far.  She is the first stewardess ever to get every single preference correctly executed before we arrived.  They keep lists of what guests prefer, so they can anticipate the bed configuration and things like that.  However, they rarely do anything about it until after arrival.  In this case, she had already done everything correctly.  Even the lint-filled mohair throws were gone and the duvets changed to regular blankets, an absolute first.  She had even brought a supply of Fanta Orange and Ginger Ale for the refrigerator, which is pretty much all we drink.  This is what 6-star service should be about.

It was about time for the mandatory boat drill, so we donned our life jackets and made our way to our muster station in the Hollywood Theater.  As we said last time on this ship, the procedures used for this drill could not possibly be more incoherent.  There is no way anyone would figure out what to do in a real emergency.  It wasn't quite as chaotic as the last time, but not by much.

By this time it was nearly sailing time, so we wandered up to the upper deck, or tried to.  There is no obvious way to get from the aft elevators to the outside decks.  It turns out you have to go all the way through the spa to get outside.  Two women from the salon escorted us through and were quite nice about it.

It was chilly outside, but not unbearable.  Sailing was delayed a few minutes while the Seven Seas Voyager departed on her World Cruise.  As far as we could tell from the windows and balconies, that ship was completely full.  We heard that the total guest count for our cruise is about 800, which isn't bad.  The full world cruise this year has about 250 guests, a record for Crystal if it is accurate.  Some of the segments are nearly sold out, so we are told. We find that a bit hard to believe, however.  The guests counts during World Cruise usually hover about the 600 mark, or less.

After sailing we unpacked in 15 minutes and rested until about an hour before dinner.  Then we went out and walked the public rooms where we found Elizabeth in the lobby. After much hugging and greetings, we chatted a bit and started back up toward Silk Road.  In the meantime, we were spotted by Augusto from the Dining Room who rushed out and repeated the greeting ritual we just had with Elizabeth.  Eventually, we ended up in Palm Court for drinks.  We were starving by this time, but snacks were not forthcoming.  Service was friendly and abundant even though there was a big private party going on across the room.

Tonight's dress code is Casual.  We arrived at the assigned hour of 8:00 PM in Silk Road where Willy, the headwaiter, fawned over us enthusiastically.  This over the top service continued  for the entire meal.  It wasn't annoying, we're just pointing out how attentive it was.  Every single waiter came over and welcomed us, mostly by name.  Willy insisted on creating an array of sushi and sashimi for us, which he did by telling a waiter what to do.  He also included one of Nobu's signature sashimi dishes, Yellow Fin Tuna with Jalapeno.  This was good, but not worth knocking anyone over to get to.  The sushi platter was also good, but not great.  Everything was very fresh.

Thomas Mazloum, an executive from Crystal headquarters, came in and immediately recognized us.  He hosted our table at the 2003 World Cruise Bon Voyage Party, so we would expect him to know us.  We have spoken to him on several occasions since then and he seems like a very nice person.  He is the only executive we have ever seen on board who appears to be more interested in ways to improve service than in his fueling his own power trip.  The ship's staff seem to feel the same way because they are always complimentary of him.

We will attempt to get the full Silk Road menu at some point, but for now we'll have to describe only what we ordered.  It seemed as though the menu was more limited than it was last time, but we're not sure about that observation because we were with other people then.  In addition to the sushi, we ordered the Lobster Spring Roll, which was artfully arranged in a martini glass, but looked more exciting than it tasted. The Crystal Harmony version is far superior.  The Rock Shrimp Tempura isn't what one would expect from tempura, but is very good.  It is sort of like deep fried popcorn shrimp with a vaguely spicy cream sauce on it.  It wasn't as good as we remember it, but it was satisfactory.

We both had the Nobo Box sampler dinner that consisted of the Kobe Beef with Three Sauces, Glazed Cod, and Grilled Lobster. Everything was extraordinary, but the beef was even better.  The beef itself is very good, but the three unusual dipping sauces make it truly special.  Both of us ordered the Chocolate Soufflé Cake with Sesame Ice Cream.  It's really the ice cream that is the draw in this dessert, odd as it sounds for an ice cream flavor.  The cake part was outstanding also, but the unusual ice cream really is phenomenal.  They also served a sampling of unusual cookies:  Ginger, Chocolate Coconut Squares, and Toasted Sesame.  All were unusual and very good, but the chocolate squares were melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

After more fawning and attempts to bring us even more food, we waddled back to the room to waste some time before the show.  Tonight's entertainment was a Welcome Aboard Show that consisted of an opening act from "A Chorus Line", followed by a clumsily narrated tour of the ship by the Cruise Director, then a dance number by Tony and Margaret Long. This dance team is very good and worth watching.  Next up was a performance by à capella group, The Plaids.  We saw them last time we were here and they were and are outstanding.  Only one of the original troupes was still here, but the result was the same.  The show closed with another presentation from "Grand Hotel" by the singers and dancers .  In general, this opening show is far superior to the pretentious bore presented aboard Crystal Harmony and Crystal Symphony.  We estimate that about 100 guests were in attendance, but there was also an early show to absorb guests from the first dinner seating.

As an aside, there are more children on board than we have ever experienced here.  We'd guess there are at least ten, and probably more, ranging from infants to teenagers.  We are next door to two of the teenage girls, but we can't hear anything through the walls.  However, walking by their door it is quite noisy and the balcony is useless to us.  We said it before and we'll say it again, these are not appropriate ships for children no matter how well behaved they may be.

The weather all day has been cool, but clear.  The movement of the ship is barely noticeable, especially since we are moving at a snail's pace to kill time.

Thursday, January 6 – San Diego, California, USA – Arrive:  7:00 AM  Depart Noon

From the old Gas Lamp Quarter to the Horton Plaza, named after the former owner of the present city area, San Diego combines history with progress. Bordered on one side by the graceful Pacific Ocean lapping its shores and the hot desert plains on the other, this magical city is a festive and colorful attraction for tourists and locals.

Close by lies graceful La Jolla, Spanish for the jewel, and Solana Beach, a beach community located near charming Del Mar. Whether you venture into Old Town, the original site of this city, or one of its gorgeous parks, you'll come to understand why San Diego has established itself as one of the most popular destinations in the United States.

Our hopes for a reasonable internet connection were dashed when we could not connect last night or this morning. Well, we could connect, but only got a transfer rate of 2 bps.  Something is obviously wrong, but we don't yet know what that is.  Since we were docked in San Diego today, there was no reason we couldn't get a satellite connection.

We didn't emerge from the room until 1:00 PM.  Erica was amused because our preference list says we don't usually get up before noon.  She said, "It is WAY after noon, you know."  The way she said it was very funny and she was kidding.  Bill asked about sending a jacket to be pressed for tonight and she wouldn't take no for an answer when she said she would take it down to the laundry herself.

Today's security clearance procedures delayed our arrival for about an hour, so we didn't sail until 1:00 PM to make up for it.  Actually, we didn't leave until almost 1:30 PM because they were still paging missing guests at 1:00 PM.  In the morning arrival announcement, the departure time wasn't completely clear, so we could see how some guests might not know for sure what time we were sailing.  However, it would been easy enough to confirm it before disembarking.

We went directly to the Lido for lunch.  The selections we had were all satisfactory, but there wasn't much variety to choose from.  There was no one in the buffet line, but many tables were occupied.  The weather is a bit on the chilly side, so everyone was inside.  Prego waiter, Estefan, was at the head of the serving line and was overjoyed to see us.  He carried on to the point of holding up the line.  As usual, Deck Stewards fawned all over us, including some new faces who made a point to ask our names and introduce themselves.  They couldn't possibly be any nicer to us.

After lunch we took the laptop back to the Computer University to see if the connection would work from there.  It did, so we got a longer cable for the room and went up immediately to try from there.  No luck.  Thirty minutes and still no ability to upload the website.  It took over 15 minutes just to get half of a regular site up on our screen.  So, Dave went back down and told Jessie, the computer "Dean", that our connection didn't work.  He said he would report it immediately, but nothing was done that we know of by 5:00 PM when we tried it again.

We went down to introduce ourselves to the Crystal Society Hostess, Carolyn, whom we had not met before.  She seemed very nice and was thrilled we would be coming to the special dinner party.  She said that Nikki had already expressed her desire to sit at our table, so we didn't have to request that.

As we were wandering off, Nikki ran out from her desk to greet us and chat for a few minutes.  Since no guests were waiting for her at the time, we took the opportunity to make our next booking on Crystal Harmony for next September/October.  We're combining a 10- and 7-day Mexico cruise to make up 17 days total.  We'll also be cashing in our 35th Milestone, so we pay for an A category stateroom and get a Penthouse instead.  That's a very good price for Crystal Harmony particularly.  Nikki said they will give us the entire 14 days and then a per diem rate for the extra four days, which is fine with us.  She gave us the preliminary itineraries for 2006, so we'll have to look those over and see what we can combine to make up a route we want.

By 4:00 PM it was time for an ice cream break, so we went up to the Lido Deck where we were fawned over again by the stewards who wouldn't even let us carry our own water.  By the way, this ship offers casual dining at Tastes by the Neptune Pool every night except formal nights.  So, on this ship at least, casual dining is indeed a viable alternative.  The menu is very limited, but it is a reasonable option now. 

After snacking and sitting by the deserted Neptune Pool, we went back to the room to wait for dinner time.  We did make a brief detour through the shops, but found the same very limited supply of souvenir-type things, overpriced designer clothing and nothing else we were at all interested in.  It really is too bad they don't expand the merchandise because the shops are beautiful and quite spacious.

Tonight's dress code is Informal.

As always, items we ordered from the menu each night will be highlighted.


King Crag Tower with Palm Hearts and Mexican Papaya
Crispy Fried Santa Barbara Shrimp Spring Roll on Soy Marinated Vegetable Julienne
Asparagus with Warm Tomato-Scallion Vinaigrette and Parmesan Shavings
Assorted Supreme of Fruits with Three Peach Schnapps

Slow Oven-Roasted Californian Grown Vegetable Soup with Basil Mousseline
Chicken Consommé with Roasted Garlic Croutons and Vegetable Pearls
Chilled Red Beet and Blackberry Soup with Mascarone Brioche
Baby Leaf Spinach with Croutons, Hardboiled Eggs, Crisp Bacon and Parmesan Cheese
Heart of Crisp Iceberg Lettuce with Boiled Potato Slices and Anchovies

Fettuccine with Roasted Garlic, Oven Dried Tomatoes and Herbed Goat Cheese

L.A. Lobster Salad

Fresh Ginger and Black Pepper Crusted Broiled Salmon Fillet with Tomato Marmalade
Grilled Californian Lamb Chops with Balsamic Flavored Gravy
Sautéed "Chibotile" Jumbo Shrimp with Smoked Chili Ragout
Pink-Roasted Hudson Valley Duck Breast with Creamy Calvados Sauce

Grilled Sirloin Steak with Black Pepper Hollandaise
Plain-Grilled Chicken Breast with Natural Gravy

Creamy Saffron Risotto with Grilled Baby Eggplant, Mushrooms, Green Peas and Tomato Concassé

Hollywood Triple Layered Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream
Cinnamon Apple Crumble Pie with Vanilla Sauce

Frozen Pumpkin Mousse Cake with Caramel Sauce
Sugar-Free Cherry Jalousie
Low-Carb Cocoa Mousse with Poached Pear
Homemade Cookies
Assortment of Fruit in Season

Food review:  Everything we ordered was very good to outstanding, with the exception of the Apple Crumble Pie that was only satisfactory.  The salmon was particularly tasty.  The presentation of all of the dishes was very appealing.  We're told they are making an effort to improve consistency from ship to ship.  So far, we have found Harmony and Serenity heads above Crystal Symphony in presentation and flavor.  Quality of ingredients has always been consistently outstanding, but preparation varies quite a bit from ship to ship.

Our waiter, Jacek, is jovial and friendly, but the service wasn't quite as precise as usual.  For example, the wrong dishes were served to us and we ran out of forks at one point.  None of this is a big deal, just an observation.

Augusto was chatty, as was Bulant, another headwaiter.  Augusto wants to make a pasta dish for us later, which is fine with us.  They have cut way back on tableside cooking and we wouldn't ever request it, but if he wants to do it that's great.

The dining room wasn't anywhere near full and we found out that the total guest count is only about 600, not over 800 as we had been lead to believe.  That's the reason nobody is out and about and the shows aren't well attended.  The dining room is very noisy and chaotic, but it is an attractive room to look at.

Tonight's entertainment is a Spotlight Showtime, "An Evening with Comedy Magician" Nick Lewin.  Ordinarily we don't like magicians, but this show was more comedic than magic, so it was rather entertaining.   The few magic tricks he did were well thought out and impressive.  There were fewer guests in attendance tonight than last night, however.  At one point he made an amusing comment about it being a theme night and all of the guests on the sides came dressed as chairs.

There is an unusual note in tomorrow's Reflections under the Dress Code.  It says, "Tonight's dress code throughout the ship for the entire evening after 6:00 PM is Formal.  For the consideration of all guests, only those who adhere to the guidelines will be allowed in the public rooms.  Thank you for your kind understanding and cooperation."  That is the most forceful "request" that we have ever seen, but we find it hard to believe they would actually do anything to enforce it.  There really isn't anything they can do to force the issue anyway.

When we returned to the room there was a note from the air conditioning department saying they had responded to a complaint about noisy air conditioning and that everything was normal.  We didn't complain about anything like that, so we hope this wasn't an incorrect attempt at fixing the internet connection.  By the way, we have no connection at all to even the shipboard network at this point.  So much for improved service.  At least with the old dial-up connection it worked most of the time.

We move an hour forward on the clock tonight.  The sea is completely calm and there is little noticeable movement at all.

friday, January 7 – Cruising the Pacific Ocean

We were awake earlier than lunch time, but we didn't venture out until then.  The sea is still flat and there is no feeling of motion, although the ship is speeding along.  The Captain announced it would be around 70 later today, but we didn't go out to sample it for ourselves.  Most guests we saw were wearing jackets.

Our first stop was the Crystal Dining Room for lunch.  There is an Asia Cafe theme buffet on deck, but we didn't feel like braving the crowds.  Besides, we know that one of our favorites, Spicy Orange Chicken, is always on the menu in the dining room during this buffet. 

Augusto had us seated by a window with an amusing waiter named Matthias from Austria.  He would be fun to have as our regular waiter sometime.  The food was all very good and the service prompt and efficient.  The only semi-disappointment was the Bailey's Cream Cake dessert that didn't have much flavor, although it looked nice.

On the way out we chatted with Mario, a headwaiter we have known for years.  He was interested in talking about our never-ending remodel.  The crew always find it unbelievable that we are sleeping on the floor and have no carpeting yet.

We had a message on our voicemail this morning from Jessie in the Computer University, so we went back to the room after lunch to try the computer before going to see him.  Still no connection in the room.  We went down and waited for a few minutes for someone to come out and help us.  A very impatient woman came in after us and simply couldn't stand and wait, so she went to look for an attendant.  She did tell him we were first, so that part was OK, but we didn't mind waiting a few minutes until he was free.  He called an officer who told him to tell us that they would be up to check our connection this afternoon.  If it can't be fixed they want to move us to another room, which doesn't interest us in the slightest.  If it can't be fixed we just want our money back and we'll call it good.  It is, however, an enormous inconvenience and disappointment, which we will express in the end of cruise survey.

Erica was still working on our room when we came back, so we chatted with her.  She was appalled by the cracked wood molding above our closet.  It looks as though it snapped when the ship flexed during a storm, but it doesn't bother us.  It has probably been that way for months before an alert stewardess finally arrived.  Erica told us this is her first contract and she's only been here for a month.  The first week was "hell", but she has grown accustomed to the job now and doesn't mind it.  She does find it rather boring though.  She was a florist and a bartender in Sweden, but the ship requires five years experience before being a bartender on board, so she's stuck with this for now.  She is so personable and naturally friendly that we think she should be at the Front Desk or somewhere more involved with the guests.

We decided to stay in and watch "A Bug's Life" DVD we borrowed from the library yesterday.

Tonight's dress code is Formal for the Captain's Welcome Reception at 7:45 PM in Palm Court.  We arrived precisely on time and found a long, slow-moving line to enter the reception.  Since we are familiar with Captain Maalen, we thought we should go through the reception line properly, which we did.  While Carolyn was fumbling for our names, he recognized us and began an enthusiastic conversation.  The reason the line was moving so slowly was that this Captain is quite personable and actually takes the time to say something appropriate to each guest.  Once we finished up with him, next in line was Paul, the Cruise Director, and Herbert, the Hotel Director.  We know both of them quite well, so there was a bit of discussion about World Cruises and such.  We all agree they are "a challenge", as Paul put it.  The upcoming World Cruise is unusual in that all of the major officers, including the Captain, change several times rather than keeping everyone for the entire cruise.  Nobody told us this, but we're guessing nobody was willing to do the entire thing because it is such a nightmare.

The party was pleasant.  We sat incognito in the front section, but we could hear the Captain's speech.  He is a very entertaining speaker and says some amusing things.  Simon, our butler from our last Serenity cruise, saw us and came over to chat.  He said he had been thinking about us and wondered if we would show up soon.  He was surprised we were down on Deck 8 and tried to convince us we should upgrade so he can serve us.  We told him if he can arrange it, we'd be more than happy to move up there.


Iced American Malossol Caviar with Sour Cream, Chopped Eggs, and Onions
Truffled Chicken Liver Parfait with Saffron Brioche and Orange Salad
Fresh Oysters, Served on Crushed Ice with Red Wine Vinaigrette and Cocktail Sauce
Exotic Fruit in a Pineapple Boat with Orange Cointreau

Wild Forest Mushroom Soup "Cappuccino Style"
Clear Oxtail Soup with Wild Rice and Chester Sesame Sticks
Captain's Salad

Refreshing Passion Fruit Champagne Sherbet

Spaghetti, Tossed with Tomato-Basil Sauce, Roasted Eggplants, Sweet Garlic and Mozzarella Cheese

Beef Tenderloin Salad

Broiled Fresh Lobster from Maine with Melted Butter or Sauce Hollandaise
Grilled Fresh Halibut Fillet on a Light Beurre Blanc
Chateaubriand with Port Wine Gravy
Stuffed Baked Quail with Porcini Mushroom Stuffing

Grilled New York Steak with Sauce Hollandaise
Plain Grilled Chicken Breast with Natural Gravy

Sweet Potato Soufflé with Grilled Asparagus, Broccoli and Red Wine Reduction

Délice au Cafe - White Chocolate Coffee Cake with Raspberry Sauce
Almond Pearl Tartlet with Whipped Cream and Forest Berries
Crunchy Vanilla Mousse with Fudge Sauce
Sugar-Free Strawberry Tartlet with Diet Ice Cream
Sugar-Free and Low-Carb Yogurt Fruit Terrine
Chocolate Truffles and Petit Fours
Assortment of Fruit in Season

Food review:  The fruit appetizer was beautifully arranged and consisted of quite a variety of fruits.  The salad was nothing special and a bit of a bore.  The sherbet course was tasty, as was the pasta dish.  We didn't think the Chateaubriand was quite as good as it usually is.  The meat wasn't as tender and the sauce was too heavy on the wine.  That's not to say it wasn't very good, just not outstanding.  As per usual, the whipped potatoes on the plate were as dry as dust and completely inedible.  The fish entree was beautifully presented and everything with it complemented the fish nicely.  Everything had a great flavor, but the fish was way overcooked and very dry.  Augusto brought more sauce for the fish without being asked, which did help.  Both desserts were edible, but that's about all we can say for them.  So far, the desserts haven't been especially good, although they look attractive.

We had a lengthy conversation with Augusto about a variety of subjects not worth repeating here.  Mostly we were discussing the nightmare of remodeling since he was aware of what was going on when it began two years ago.  Needless to say, he was astounded that it isn't finished yet.  He and Mario want to see photos, so we'll probably haul the laptop to the Dining Room some night to show them.

Tonight's entertainment is the lavish production show, "Million Dollar Musicals".  This is one of the better productions, but we have seen it too many times.  The dancers were the most precise we have seen recently.  Unfortunately, the leads weren't at their best tonight.  The lead woman seems a bit miscast, although she has a respectable voice.  There were a few technical problems with the lights, but most guests wouldn't have noticed.  It looked as though they weren't focused correctly because quite often the dancers were left in the dark while the empty stage was well lit.

On the way out after the show, we passed Herbert and Renato, the Food and Beverage Manager.  He was new to Crystal last time we saw him, so he was happy to see familiar faces.  They were both disappointed, or acted as though they were, that we won't be on the World Cruise.  Herbert was shocked that we are only cruising twice a year, but we explained the reason we can't be away for long at the moment.  We were surprised when he brought up the new house because we don't believe we have ever spoken to him about it before. 

By the way, nobody ever showed up or called regarding a repair attempt to our internet connection.  So, we're going to assume at this point that nothing is going to be done about it.  We didn't really expect it to be fixed at this point, but we do think someone should call to tell us that, especially since they were planning to offer a room change.  It won't make any difference for the next couple of days because the satellite is unavailable in this area, which was announced in Reflections for tomorrow.  However, the cracked wood molding that Erica reported was replaced while we were at dinner, so at least some repairs are done quickly.

Again, there is no noticeable movement and the weather remains perfect.  We passed a woman a few doors down from us changing rooms and complaining about the "horrible vibration" on this floor.  There is no vibration at all that we notice and she's only three or four doors down.  We are closer to the engines than her room is.  Sounds like she wanted an excuse to get a better location or an upgrade.

Just as we were about to conclude today's report, the ship pulled into Cabo San Lucas, slammed on the brakes and dropped a tender into the water.  It sped off toward the marina.  This all started around 1:15 AM.  The tender was gone for about fifteen minutes, then it returned and we sailed off.  Some guests on the Promenade Deck asked a deck officer why we were stopping and he immediately denied we had stopped, which, of course, was ridiculous because it was plainly obvious we had.  When they persisted, he told them a guest was sick and had to be taken ashore.  They certainly can get the boats into the water quickly enough, which is reassuring to know.

Saturday, January 8 – Cruising the Pacific Ocean

The Captain acknowledged our emergency visit to Cabo San Lucas during his morning announcement.  It was, as we already knew, a guest who had to be off loaded for medical reasons.

Today's weather is clear and in the low 70's, but very humid.  Not that it matters to us at all.  The sea is calm, as it has been every day so far.

We received a message from Jesse asking if the IT Officer can come up after 4:00 PM to check our internet connection.  He wasn't aware that we had already talked to someone about this very subject, but maybe someone will show up this time.  We have little hope it will be fixed, but you never know until they try.

Our first stop was the dining room for lunch.  There was a Nuevo Latino buffet by the Neptune Pool, but we weren't in the mood to fight the crowds.  Besides, the same theme applies to the lunch menu in the dining room.  We were seated at our regular table and served by Jacek.  As usual, none of the Mexican dishes resembled anything one would expect based upon the description, but the tortilla soup was tasty.  It was a tomato-cream soup with bits of melted cheese floating in it.  We assume the tortillas were pureed into it because it tasted somewhat of corn tortillas, but no tortillas were visible.  The Chicken Enchiladas were also very good, but nothing like any enchilada we have ever seen before.  The small scoop of refried beans was topped with a square of American cheese and was inedible.  We also sampled the flank steak that was served with a BBQ sauce.  It was good, also.  We overheard a woman at a neighboring table saying that the Monte Cristo Sandwich wasn't very good.  Based on previous experience, we'd say she was being kind.

After lunch we browsed the photos and purchased our boarding photo and the picture with the Captain from last night.  Dave found a watch on sale in the shops and purchased that.  Actually, it will be free with our shipboard credit.  There is little chance of us using up our entire spending credit during this cruise.

We went back to the room and stayed there for the rest of the afternoon.  Just after 4:00 PM, an electrician arrived to check our internet connection, but he had to wait for the computer officer to test something first.  He arrived shortly and eventually determined that the wiring was working, but our computer was not.  He changed a few settings and it appeared to be working, so he left.  Of course, as soon as we tried to connect, it stopped working.  Jessie called at just the right moment to check whether things were working.  Since they weren't, he immediately came up and gave us a loaner computer, free of charge.  The problem was how to get an entire website transferred onto a loaner with no hard drive.  Eventually, Dave came up with a way to save just this page onto a removable disk key and transfer it to the site.  Not the most efficient way to do it, but it seems to work...for now.

Tonight's dress code is Informal.  We sat in the Stardust Club and listened to the dance band until dinner time.  There were three couples dancing, one watching, and a single woman trading off between the two Ambassador Hosts.  Not a very dynamic crowd, is it?  There was a concert by pianist Julie Cheek in Palm Court at this time, but we know from experience that those shows are not well attended, no matter how talented the performer may be.


Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail with Creole Rémoulade Sauce
Fresh Artichoke with Tomato Vinaigrette
Barbecued Quail on Kernel Corn-Tomato Salad
Iced Apple, Grape and Pear Cup with Calvados Yogurt Topping

Midwest Baby Corn Bisque with Bell Pepper Confit and Crisp Leeks
Chicken Broth with Matzo Balls
Chilled Peanut Butter Soup with Lime
Medley of Selected Crunchy Field Greens with Eggplant Chips and Shredded Carrots
Las Vegas Style Caesar Salad

Tagliatelle alla Émilion - Tomato Sauce, Bacon, Onions, Olives and Herbs

Grilled Herb-Marinated Salmon Fillets on a Bed of Marinated Cucumbers, Roasted Pumpkin, Celery, Red Oak Lettuce

Broiled Fresh Black Bass Fillet in a Fine Herb Crust with Champagne Beurre Blanc
Medallions of Canadian Venison on Game Sauce
Roasted American Prime Rib of Black Angus Beef with Natural Gravy
Braised Baby Lamb Shanks in Herb Gravy

Grilled Sirloin Steak with Natural Jus
Broiled Fresh Salmon Steak with Dill Beurre Blanc

Grilled Vegetable Tower with Spring Onions, Sprinkled with Pesto and Pine Nuts

Creole Sour Cream Cheesecake with Homemade Caramel Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream
Honey Glazed Pecan Pie a la Mode
Almond Nougatine Crème Brulée
Sugar-Free Spice Apple Timbale
Sugar-Free and Low-Carb Jell-O with Fresh Fruit
Homemade Cookies
Assortment of Fruit in Season

Food Review:  The shrimp were very fresh with a tasty sauce.  The corn soup was almost as good as it had been on the Symphony, which was outstanding.  We'll never understand why they insist on adding the leeks because they add nothing except the texture of wet grass.  The peanut butter soup was acceptable, but the lime pieces floating in it were totally incongruous.  Salad was nothing special and tasted like nothing except lettuce.  Augusto made Fettuccine Alfredo with Turkey tableside for our entree.  Of course, it was outstanding and an enormous quantity.  We were both so stuffed we had ice cream for dessert and called it good.

The tableside cooking attracted the attention of the adjacent table, of course.  Things like this have to be ordered the night before, so no such luck for them tonight.  Also, Augusto isn't their headwaiter, so Bulant would have to prepare it.  We've never seen him do that, but he probably is capable of it.

We chatted with Augusto about where to buy a surf board for his son in Norway.  Then Josef wanted to know if we thought he should go to the Harmony for the reunion cruise.  We didn't have much of an opinion one way or the other, but we did tell him we thought the guests would enjoy it.

After we left the dining room we stopped by the front desk to see if Ronnie was working as an operator tonight.  The man at the desk went to get him and came back with quite a smirk on his face.  He wouldn't tell us what Ronnie's reaction was, but Ronnie did rush right out to greet us and chat for a few minutes.  He thinks he might want to go back to the Harmony, but since things have become better here he isn't quite sure it's a good idea.  We have no way of judging how wise it would be, so we couldn't help him.  He filled us in on our mutual friend Tom and went back to work.

Tonight's entertainment is a Spotlight Showtime featuring the "Star of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera," Dale Kristien.  Although we enjoy Dale, we were too stuffed and tired to go to her show tonight.  We saw her just a few months ago on Crystal Harmony anyway.

Again, it was smooth sailing all day and into the night.  There was some slight motion as we neared the coast for arrival in port tomorrow.

Sunday, January 9 – Zihuatanejo, Mexico – Arrive:  7:30 AM  Depart 3:00 PM

The seaside port of Zihuatanejo was established over 100 years ago. Today it maintains the rustic charm and easy-going ambiance of that period. Picturesque and unspoiled, its golden beaches and brilliant waters are somewhat reminiscent of Polynesia. Just five miles away lies its twin town, the burgeoning resort of Ixtapa, an isolated oasis of high-rise hotels.

Zihuatanejo's natural beauty has been preserved and its pristine, fine-grained sandy beaches remain. However, there are some modern touches. Former dirt streets are now cobblestone and numerous chic boutiques and bars serving chilled cervezas have sprung up.

Shore excursions available in this port:

The Highlights of Zihuatanejo & Ixtapa - $39
Playa Manzanillo by Sail Boat - $70

Today's weather is quite a change from the chilly temperatures we have had so far.  It is 92 and clear.  We arrived in the bay very early this morning after passing two cruise ships during the night.  No other ships are in this port today.

Nothing obvious has changed in Zihuatanejo.  Mansions still cling to the cliffs on one side of the bay, while condos and small homes climb the hills on the other.

We started the day by strolling down to the reception desk to drop off a birthday card for Emilie, our assistant stewardess from the 2003 World Cruise.  Then we stopped at the dining room entrance to wish Augusto a happy birthday. 

Lunch for us was in the Lido today.  For the first time in recorded history, we can report that two of the entrees we had in the Lido were outstanding.  One was the Asian selection of stir-fry beef with garlic and onions.  It was spicy and had a nice flavor.  The other was a Beef Kabob with peppers and onions.  These were especially good.  Stewards fought to serve us, as usual.  Two we didn't know came over and introduced themselves and asked our names.  We can't go anywhere alone without being asked where the other one is.

After lunch we escaped the dippy conversations near us by moving out by the pool, in the shady area, to listen to the band.  They played for half an hour longer than listed in the program, so we got more entertainment than we bargained for.  Someone in the Philippines must have a good thing going training all of the cruise ship musicians with the exact same repertoire from year to year.  This particular group isn't quite as good as previous cruises, but they aren't bad either.

The alternative lunch by the Neptune Pool from Tastes certainly does seem popular.  Most of the tables were occupied.  We haven't inspected the menu lately, but last cruise it was very limited.  They have a few interesting entree salads, among other things.  We know from experience that the pizza is ghastly, although the description sounds good.

Once the band finished at 2:00 PM, we decided it was getting too hot for us, so we went back toward the room to await the sail away in an hour.  In the elevator lobby we bumped into the ship's doctor who was happy to see us.  He explained that the main reason all of the officers change during the World Cruise is that their contracts are only three months and there is no convenient way to do it otherwise.  He said he would like to stay for the entire thing, but has to get back to work at the hospital.  He is also the medical consultant for all of Crystal Cruises, so he has more duties than just this ship's doctor.

There is a nightly live TV show presented by Paul, the Cruise Director, to introduce the evening entertainment.  He usually has a trivia question for guests to call in and win a T-shirt or a pen.  We almost always know the answers, but never call.  Today we felt sorry for Paul waiting for someone to call, so we did, and won a T-shirt.  Aren't you excited?

Tonight's dress code is Informal for the Crystal Society Party in Palm Court at 7:45 PM.  There is only one party this cruise, which indicates less than 400 repeat guests on board.  The party was well attended, but not crowded.  Our names were mentioned as being over the 35th Milestone, then it jumped to 85 cruises, so there's quite a gap in there.

Nikki came over and chatted for a while.  She was talking about what fun the Harmony's Reunion Cruise will be, so we asked if there was still room.  Her reply was, "For you there is!"  So, we'll probably be adding that booking to the roster for this year.  She told us that Crystal has some sort of arrangement in San Francisco for parking and we should ask our travel agent for the information.  Apparently it is a mile away, but they have a shuttle to the ship.  Sounds reasonable.

We handed Augusto a birthday card as we entered the dining room.  He seemed genuinely touched to get it.


Escargots Bourguignon - Burgundy Snails in Garlic-Herb Butter
Rendezvous of Chilled Seafood with Three Sauces
Pink-Roasted Duck Breast with Mesclun Lettuce, Tossed in Raspberry Dressing, Sprinkled with Pine Nuts
Citrus Fruit in an Orange Basket, Perfumed with Crème de Cassis

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

Penne Boscaiole - Pancetta, Mushrooms, Onions, Tomatoes and Cream

Lamb Chop Salad

Broiled Fresh Grouper Fillet on Lyonnaise Potatoes with Noisette Butter Sauce
Coq au Vin - Braised Chicken in a Burgundy Red Wine Sauce
Pink Roasted Rack of Lamb in a Garlic-Herb Crust with Mint-Flavored Natural Jus
Veal a la Mama - Veal Cordon Bleu with Mashed Potatoes

Grilled Entreĉote with Cafe de Paris Butter
Plain-Grilled Fresh Salmon with Lemon-Caper Beurre Blanc

Grilled Vegetable Brochette

Soufflé Grand Marnier with Sauce Negresco
French Apple Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream
Glace aux Framboises - Raspberry Ice Parfait
Sugar-Free and Low-Carb Ricotta Cheesecake
Sugar-Free Vanilla Profiteroles with Diet Chocolate Sauce
Assortment of Fruit in Season
Petit Fours and Chocolate Truffles

Food review:  The fruit was artfully arranged and quite a variety.  The onion soup was a little too heavy on the wine, but was otherwise very good.  The salad was better than they have been, but that's not saying much since they have been generally boring.  The pasta dish was very good.  Both entrees were outstanding in flavor, but the steak was sort of hard.  Not fatty, but just hard.  The Lyonnaise potatoes that came with both plates were outstanding.  As usual, the soufflé was delicious.  Augusto was going around the room adding Grand Marnier to anyone's dessert who wanted it, a nice touch. 

Mario came over after Augusto left our table and told us how nice he thought it was that we gave Augusto a birthday card (we also gave him money, by the way).  It was the card that seemed to mean the most.  Mario said nobody else had given him a card, so he thought ours was really thoughtful.  He brought it up again later, so it must have been sincere.

Augusto wanted to cook something for us tomorrow, but we weren't all that interested.  His cooking is excellent, but we don't get tired of the regular menu in a 10-day cruise.  He is still supposed to be making a dessert for us at some point.  That would be nice because the desserts in general haven't been all that spectacular.

Tonight's entertainment is a new production show, "Enchanté".  We were a bit skeptical about this show because nobody had told us we had to go see it.  Usually when a new show comes out someone like Nikki will tell us not to miss it.  After seeing it, we know why.  This snooze-fest has to be the worst new show we have ever seen by Crystal, and we've seen some stinkers.  There wasn't anything wrong with the performance per se, but the show itself was a bore.  We were especially put off by the lackluster can-can number that was copied from a previous show.  However, in that production, it was a showstopper.  The same number ended the show in a rock version that was totally out of place.  Even pyrotechnics and confetti couldn't raise more than polite applause from the audience, or what remained of it by the end.  Crystal's producers are really out of touch with who their audience is based upon what we have seen coming from them lately.  Two of the most elaborate shows are already gone and we certainly hope this one follows those quickly out the door.

We had an informative conversation with Paul after the show regarding the entertainment.  He agrees with us that the "That's Dancin'" show that was slapped together on board for the World Cruise is one of the best things ever presented.  It is coming back for this year, but he had to fight for it.  When will the people in the office wake up and realize that expensive costumes do not necessarily make a good show?  They could take the pay for one classical pianist who only draws twenty guests and use that money to put on "That's Dancin'" for a year.  Of course, it would be overproduced and quickly ruined if it went through the production process.

It was still 84 outside after midnight, although we do expect it will be cooler in Puerto Vallarta than the 92 of Zihuatanejo today.  The ship is speeding along at top speed to make it to port on time tomorrow.  There is a bit of a swaying motion and the first bit of vibration we have noticed, but neither is anything to fret over. 

Monday, January 10 – Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – Arrive 9:00 AM  Depart 8:00 PM

Embraced by rugged tropical mountains on one side and the beautiful Banderas Bay on the other, Puerto Vallarta is second only to Acapulco when it comes to the Mexican Riviera's leading resort cities.

White stucco houses are capped with red-tile roofs and surrounded by bougainvillea-lined cobblestone streets. Native women who beat their laundry along riverbanks as busy fishing boats return to port illustrate a lifestyle that has been maintained for decades.

Nearby, sophisticated restaurants, luxury hotels, smart boutiques and lively nightclubs bear testament to the changes wrought on this quiet seaside city since the 1960s. Life here has never been quite the same since the filming of the movie "Night of the Iguana" and the worldwide publicity accorded the romance of its stars, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

Puerto Vallarta brims with life. Shop for leather goods, shell and silver jewelry, hand-embroidered blouses or painted figures from Oaxaca. Explore cobblestone streets and picturesque alleyways filled with the scents and bustling energy
of Mexico.

Shore excursions available in this port:

Puerto Vallarta Highlights - $39
Dolphin Encounter - $77
Swim with the Dolphins - $145
Puerto Vallarta Sightseeing & Private Villa Lunch - $120
San Sebastian Aerial Exploration - $145 - Cancelled
Sailing & Whale Watching - $87
Scenic City Drive & Beach Club - $120
Dolphin Trainer for a Day - $275  - Cancelled

In his arrival announcement, the Captain said it would be in the low 90's today, but it was never above the low 80's, if that.  It was hazy with a nice sea breeze all afternoon.

We are docked in the usual place directly across from the flea market with the "lowest prices in all of Mexico".  There's a huge yacht at the small pier across the street from Wal-Mart.  Someone said it belongs to a bigwig at Microsoft.  It has it's own helicopter and a fold-down dock complete with sit-down bar.

Lunch in the Lido was again very tasty.  The selection is a bit limited, but what we did have was very good.  The carved chicken and pork were the best choices, as was the made-to-order pasta.  The way the seating is arranged in the Lido it feels somewhat crowded even with only a few guests in attendance.  It is an attractive room, but the table arrangement isn't very appealing.

Our plan was to wallow on our verandah for the afternoon, but it was in the direct sun, so that wasn't an option.  Nothing like being total bumps on logs and hiding out in the room all day.

Eventually, we were able to move outside until after sunset when it was a lot cooler.  The weather became quite pleasant as soon as the sun went down.  The ship sailed out at 8:00 PM, as scheduled.

Tonight's dress code is Casual. 


Golden Fried Lobster Samosas on Tossed Lettuce with Curried Yogurt
Grilled Chicken and Avocado Salad with Red Onions and Olives on Crunchy Garden Greens and Sherry-Walnut Vinaigrette
Pressed Tomato Terrine, Topped with Petit Niçoise Salad
Chilled Melon Cup with Honey Wine

Chicken Consommé with Pistachio Quenelles
Crab and Brie Soup
Chilled Hazelnut Soup with Forest Berry Compote
Tossed Mixed Garden Lettuce with Creamy Lorenzo Dressing
Heart of Butter Lettuce with Grilled Vegetables

Spaghetti "Prince of Naples"

Scallops and Shrimp Salad

Dover Sole a l'Meunière with Melted Lemon Butter
Crispy Lemon-Herb Marinated Rotisserie Chicken with Natural Gravy
Herb-Crusted Braised Short Ribs Topped with Horseradish Cream
Chef's Childhood Favorite - Wiener Schnitzel

Grilled Filet Steak with Sauce Foyot
Plain Grilled Fresh Salmon with Parsley Butter Sauce

Golden-Fried Mozzarella Cheese on Sautéed Spinach

Chocolate "Ooze" Cake with Vanilla Bean Cream and Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
White Chocolate Truffle Cake with Rocky Road Ice Cream
Strawberry-Rhubarb Streusel Tart with Vanilla Sauce
Sugar-Free Apricot Jalousie with Diet Ice Cream
Low-Carb and Sugar-Free Mascarpone Mousse Cake
Homemade Cookies
Assortment of Fruit in Season

Food review:  The Lobster Samosas were very good, as was the fruit selection.  The salad was one of the best so far with a tangy, creamy dressing.  The pasta course was excellent.  The entrees were a mixed bag ranging from average to outstanding.  The ribs weren't anything special, although there wasn't really anything wrong with them.  The chicken was as outstanding as it always is in the Lido during lunch.  Augusto made our special caramelized peaches for dessert, which was incredible even though he thought he had ruined it at the beginning.

We chatted with Jacek for a while and he seemed thrilled to have a real conversation with us.  He seems extremely pleasant and says he enjoys working for Crystal.  He claims they treat the crew far better than other cruise lines he has worked for, which is probably true to a certain extent.

The evening entertainment is a classical concert by pianist Julie Cheek.  We're sure the twelve people who attend will love it.  This isn't a reflection on Julie's talent, it's just that we know from experience that this kind of show doesn't draw many guests.  We think shows like this should be presented in smaller venues rather than as the headline act for the night.  Out of curiosity, we checked the attendance a few minutes before the concert began and counted only about thirty guests in attendance.

We wandered around the ship and ran into Paul as we were checking out the new lighting in the jewelry shop windows.  He said they changed it during the summer and sales soared after the improvement.  He made an amusing comment about how good it makes the glass pigs look in the case.

On the way to the room to drop off the menus for tonight, we chatted briefly with the Captain.  He's leaving the same day we are, so there is a special crew show tonight for the occasion.  He's a lot of fun because he says some really clever things that no other Captain would dare say.

After stopping briefly in the room we wandered around the public areas and found nothing much going on.  We ended up sitting in Palm Court where the after dinner dancing was going on.  That amused us long enough to carry us past our usual retirement time.

It was very windy tonight on deck, but it is still quite warm.  There is a bit of swaying motion due to the wind, but it is otherwise smooth sailing.  We move the clock back one hour tonight.

Tuesday, January 11 – Mazatlán, Mexico – Arrive 8:00 AM  Depart 6:00 PM

The massive lighthouse of El Faro welcomes you to the thriving seaport of Mazatlán. Located on a peninsula just south of the Tropic of Cancer, this fast-developing resort is a fishing and sportsperson's paradise. Supposedly there are as many fishing boats as tennis courts here! Offshore, scores of sailfish and marlin frolic in the temperate waters while para-sailors drift lazily overhead.

Mazatlán offers a rich diversity of activities. Feel free to shop at the colorful market and folk art shops, explore the charming town plaza, relax at a fine resort hotel or try your luck sportfishing.

Shore excursions available in this port:   

An Introduction to Mazatlán - $36
Mazatlán Wildlife Expedition - $64
A Drive to the Sierra Madre Range - $54
Sportfishing Tournament - $127

We were awakened at 9:45 AM by the first of many incessant announcements, alarms, etc., regarding a crew emergency drill.  They spend more time telling guests they aren't supposed to participate than doing anything else.  We've never understood why they have to sound alarms and make announcements in the rooms for this, but they always have.

The ship is docked at the same pier as usual, but a few berths farther in from the sea.  We weren't aware in the past that the city continues for miles along a crescent bay beyond the area where the ship docks.  That's not to say we felt compelled to go ashore or anything ridiculous like that.

We had some time to kill before lunch time, so we figured up our gratuity totals and took the form down to the front desk to be charged to our account.  We have more than enough spending credits to cover whatever generous amounts we choose to extend.   That done, we went up to the Seahorse Pool area and sat in the shade drinking orange juice until noon, half an hour away.  The weather today is pleasant and not too hot.  There is not a cloud in the sky.

There were several tasty dishes in the Lido buffet today.  The Asian selection of Hoisin Beef was very good, as were the BBQ Baby Back Ribs, and the Jamaican Jerk Chicken. 

After lunch we took a lap around the upper deck, then returned to the room.  Erica was horrified because she hadn't finished our room yet, but it looked done to us.  We waited on the verandah while she did whatever it was she thought needed doing.  We would have stayed outside for the day, but they were dredging the channel and the noise was unbearable.  Inside with the door closed we couldn't hear any of it.

Tonight's dress code is Casual.

Tonight is our special Crystal Society dinner in Prego with Nikki and Carolyn, and a few other guests.  Here is the Crystal Dining Room menu so you don't miss anything.


Citrus and Tequila Cured Gravlax with Cilantro Crème Fraiche and Smoked Salmon Hash Browns
Rock Shrimp Enchiladas on Palm Heart-Tomato Salsa with Mole Mayonnaise
Sautéed Sweetbread Roses on Warm Sliced Red Skin Potatoes with Truffle Vinaigrette
Fruit Cup with Tropical Papaya, Bananas and Coconut Liqueur

New England Clam Chowder
Chicken Broth with Butter Quenelles
Chilled Mango and Guava Soup with Low-Fat Yogurt
Heart of Boston Lettuce with Marinated Vegetables on Red Leaves
Fresh Baby Spinach, Tossed in Bacon Dressing, Topped with Chopped Eggs and Garlic Croutons

Capellini al Pesto

Sliced Grilled Sirloin Steak on a Bed of Potato, Daikon and Cucumber Salad

Broiled Fresh Ahi Tuna Steak with Red Onion and Sesame Crust
Sautéed Chilean King Crab Cake with Salsa de Crystal
Rum and Brown Sugar Glazed Pink Roasted Rack of Pork
Black Angus Filet Steak "Mermaid" with Giant Jumbo Prawns and Sauce Béarnaise

Grilled Sirloin Steak with Sauce Béarnaise
Broiled Salmon Fillet with Herb Butter

Chocolate Macadamia Nut Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream
Bianco Mangier with Orange-Verbena Sauce
Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Walnut Crust and Fudge Sauce
Sugar-Free Apple Slice with Diet Ice Cream
Sugar-Free and Low-Carb Berry Compote with Diet Ice Cream
Homemade Cookies
Assortment of Fruit in Season

As it turned out, there was only one other couple besides Nikki and Carolyn for dinner, so we ordered from the regular Prego menu. 


Northern King Crab and Pear Salad with Aged Balsamic
Zucchini-Wrapped Jumbo Scallops over Celery Root Puree with Sweet Garlic and Basil Pesto
Pumpkin Ravioli Flavored with Apricots, Tossed in Brown Sage Butter
Black Bass "Livornese" with Tomatoes, Capers, Celery and Olives, Served with Eggplant Puree and Basil Flavored Olive Oil
Rack of Veal Baked in Rosemary Salt Crust with Parmesan Asparagus, Chanterelles and Brunello Risotto

Prego's New-Style Antipasti
Lobster Poached in Lemon Oil, Parma Ham on Melon Carpaccio, Truffled Baby Artichoke Salad,
Vitello Tonnato and Gorgonzola-Stuffed Fresh Figs Wrapped in Pancetta
Carpaccio di Manzo
Thinly Sliced Raw Beef Tenderloin with Mustard Sauce and Capers
Tower of Buffalo Mozzarella with Sun-Ripened Yellow and Red Tomato and Seasonal Greens
Breaded Shrimp and Lobster Cake
With Shallot-Citrus Vinaigrette, Served on Tossed Baby Garden Lettuce

Cream Soup of Selected Italian Mushrooms Served in an Oregano Bread Cup
Cipollata Soup with Scrambled Egg Bruschetta
Iced Melon Soup with Prosecco

Caesar Salad Prepared Tableside by Your Head Waiter
Panzanella Siciliana
Italian Bread Salad with Orange, Sun-Dried Tomato, Lettuce, Ciabbatta Bread Croutons, Red Onions, Anchovies and Olives

Lasagna alla Casalinga
Layers of Fresh Pasta with Ground Meat, Porcini Mushrooms, Tomato, Béchamel and Mozzarella Cheese
Linguine with Lobster and Grilled Zucchini
In a Light Tomato Sauce, Flavored with Italian Parsley
Fettuccine with Sweet Pork Sausages, Tomato, Fava Beans and Chili Flakes
Cannelloni with Spinach and Ricotta
Gratinated with Mozzarella and Chunky Tomato Sauce
Risotto of Assorted Forest Mushrooms and Crisp Garlic Chips

Roasted Rack of Baby Lamb
With Fresh Herbs, Served with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Grilled Zucchini
Broiled Branzino and Grilled Scampi
With Lemon Polenta, White Tomato Foam
Veal Scaloppini Parmigiana
Gratinated with Buffalo Mozzarella and Tomato, Served with Angel Hair Pasta
Grilled Wagyu Kobe Beef Rib-Eye Steak
With Sun-Dried Tomato Smashed Potatoes, Roasted Pepper and Tuscan Barbecue Sauce

Lemon Panna Cotta over Wild Berry Soup
Warm Taleggio Cheese with Soft Polenta and Lavender-Flavored Honey

Tiramisú:  Espresso-Flavored Lady Fingers, Layered with Light Mascarpone Cheese
Dessert Sampler:  Passion Fruit Panna Cotta, Tiramisú and Flourless Chocolate Cake
Crema di Caffe:  Light Coffee Custard
Cheese Plate:  Fontina, Grana Padano and Gorgonzola Cheese with White Truffle-Flavored Honey and Dried Fig Nut Bread

Chocolate, Spumoni or Homemade Vanilla ice Cream
Freshly Frozen Bellini Sherbet

Almost the entire menu was different than last time, a big improvement in our opinion.  Although everything we ordered was beautifully arranged, nothing stood out as outstanding, flavor wise.  Presentation was outstanding though.  For example, the Iced Melon Soup came in half of a cantaloupe sitting on top of a clear glass bowl of crushed ice.

The dinner conversation was pleasant, as it usually is with Nikki in attendance.  Carolyn is also very gracious and gets along nicely with everyone.  The other couple was also convinced by Nikki to book the Harmony's Reunion cruise, and they acted excited that we would be there also.  They said that they have never slept as much as when they are on board.  We all discussed our amusing belief that they pipe something into the rooms to make us sleep all day so they don't have to entertain us.  The time flew by until we all realized it had become really quiet and we were the only table left in the restaurant.

Tonight's entertainment is a Variety Showtime featuring "International Dance Champions" Tony and Margaret Long, and à capella group, The Plaids.  Paul announced earlier today that this is the last cruise for The Plaids.  We thought they were supposed to be a relatively permanent addition to the lineup.  We arrived about fifteen minutes late due to the Prego dinner, so we missed Tony and Margaret's part.  The Plaids were outstanding, as expected, although a few guests left part way through.

The weather continues to be nearly perfect.  It is very humid, but the temperature after dark was only in the 70's.  During the day it might have been up to 80 or so, but it was never unpleasant.  The sea is completely smooth again tonight.

Wednesday, January 12 – Cabo San Lucas, mexico – Arrive 8:00 Am  Depart 6:00 PM

Cabo San Lucas is nestled on the southernmost tip of the Baja Peninsula, where the cool currents of the Pacific Ocean meet the warm waters of the Sea of Cortez. Commanding rock formations, timeless desert and a translucent sea provide a compelling introduction to this tranquil resort town.

Here, mile upon mile of golden sandy coves dot the shoreline while marlin and sailfish frolic in the waters offshore. Laze on a deserted beach, explore the undersea world or discover bustling shops and markets for tempting treasures such as silver, jewelry and wooden sculptures.

  Shore excursions available in this port:

Land's End Boat Tour & Scenic Drive - $37
Coastal Highlights - $36
Snorkel & Sail to Santa Maria Cove - $49

We neglected to mention yesterday that we have learned that Crystal Serenity's godmother, Julie Andrews, will not be sailing on the first segment of the World Cruise as previously announced.  This was promoted as a big deal, but all mention of her has now been dropped.  Carol Channing will be on board as an entertainer during that time.

The weather couldn't be more perfect today.  Mid 70's and sunny.  As usual, there were numerous fun lovers out parasailing and shooting around on jet skis all around the ship.  We're not quite sure what two policemen in a tiny boat could do to save the ship from attack, but they were out there all day.

We were up too early for lunch again, so we went up for some new port photos.  Every time we stop here there is another new resort popping up on the dunes.  The rock pinnacles look the same and we could hear the seals barking in the distance.  The tenders took guests into the small marina in the center of town, although we didn't take advantage of the service today.

They made an attempt at themeing the Lido lunch to the location by serving made-to-order tacos and a couple of other things topped with salsa.  The tacos were so bad they were inedible.  Everything was correct except whatever weird spices they added to the meat.  Luckily, there were lots of other dishes that were very tasty, including a deep-fried chicken patty topped with salsa.  The pasta station was serving spaghetti and meatballs.  It wasn't bad except it was a little too heavy on the rosemary.

We went back to the room after eating and found that it hadn't been made up yet, so we went back up to sit by the pool for a while.  It was very pleasant there most of the time, but eventually it became a geriatric ward and we decided to move to our verandah.   We stayed there for the rest of the afternoon watching the boats, birds, etc.  Actually, we're not sure if we were watching the birds or they were watching us.

There was a sail away party around the Seahorse Pool beginning at 5:30 PM, which we decided to attend just to see what a "Sangrita" was.  Paul had attempted to explain it this morning on TV, but we never did quite figure out what it was.  It is based on Sangria, but has a bunch of other liquor tossed in.  It didn't look very appealing when we finally saw it in person, so we didn't bother to try it.  There were a lot of guests out listening to the band, but not much was going on.  Let's just say the energy level was quite low.

As we sailed out of the bay, the wind picked up and the clouds started to move in.  The Captain announced that there might be some slight movement tonight, which there was almost immediately after sail away.  That's not to say it was anything unusual, but it's the first time there has been any movement at all during this trip.

Tonight's dress code is Casual.  We went up to Palm Court for drinks and to await dinner time.  It remains slightly rocky at this time, but the ship rides very well and the motion isn't a problem.


Mini Lobster Tacos with Guacamole, Jicama Salad and Tomato Salsa
Lemon Pepper Smoked Salmon with Mozzarella French Toast and Wasabi Mousseline
Grilled Portabella Mushroom with Tossed Mesclun Lettuce and Tomato Bruschetta
Assorted Fresh Fruit Cup Flavored with Jamaican Rum

Curried Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Double Beef Consommé with Tomato Royal
Chilled Cappuccino of Fresh Garden Green Peas with Mint Syrup
Heart of Iceberg Lettuce with Golden-Fried Zucchini Sticks and Cucumber-Garlic Dressing
Caesar Salad Topped with Baby Shrimp

Linguine Pasta with Plum Tomatoes, Asparagus, Mascarpone and Basil

Barbecued Chicken Breast Salad

Broiled Fresh Mahi Mahi with Lemon-Caper Vinaigrette
Roasted Tom Evis Turkey with Orange Sage Stuffing and Bourbon Gravy
Sautéed Garlic-Marinated Sea Scallops on Black Ink Risotto
Old-Fashioned Grilled Rib-Eye Steak with Horseradish Hollandaise

Grilled Filet Steak with Grilled Red Onions
Broiled Salmon Fillet with Salmon Caviar Beurre Blanc

Fettuccine "Prima Vera"

Tiramisu con Arancia with Vanilla-Orange Sauce
Chocolate Paradise Cake with Espresso Ice Cream
Exotic Fruit Ratatouille with Coconut Ice Cream
Sugar-Free Blueberry Pie a la Mode
Sugar-Free and Low-Carb Coconut Custard
Homemade Cookies
Assortment of Fruit in Season

Food review:  The Lobster Taco was mini in the most literal sense, but it was nonetheless the best part of this menu.  It was quite outstanding.  The iceberg salad was the worst yet because of the dressing.  It didn't have much flavor at all, other than wet chopped garlic.  The Caesar salad would have been better without the shrimp, but it was satisfactory.  The soup was good, but had too many seeds in it that were more distracting than adding any interest to it.  Augusto made Steak Diane at the table, at his suggestion, so we didn't have to order a main course.  His timing was perfect because we weren't in love with any of the menu offerings.  His steak was outstanding.  The dessert was attractive, but didn't have much flavor.

We had a nice conversation with Josef.  This is the first time in nine years he hasn't done the World Cruise.  He wants to spend more time with his son when he is out of school this year.  We told him he should be able to do pretty much whatever he wants because he is so beloved by the Crystal regulars.  That comment touched him more than we expected.  He was really moved to hear that people like him so much. 

Augusto was on a conversational roll tonight, so we spent a lot of the evening chatting with him.  We wanted to catch up on his family, mother, etc., who we had discussed the last time we saw him.  All was as usual there.  He and his wife want to visit California soon and we assured him it was fine with us if they came to see us.  Our conversation lasted so long that we were the last ones out of the dining room.  The discussion continued outside the doors until Nikki came running by.

Tonight's entertainment is a Variety Showtime featuring comedy-magician Nick Lewin and Broadway star Dale Kristien.  We didn't get out of the dining room in time to see Nick's act, but we did see all of Dale's.  Her selection of music from "South Pacific" was nice and different from the last time we saw her a few months ago.  Once again, several people walked out during her portion of the show, which was, in our opinion, uncalled for.  Even if her show was awful, which it certainly was not, how hard can it be to be polite and wait for twenty minutes for her to finish?  Here's the deal, if you think you might want to leave a show early, do not sit in the front of the theater, OK?

After the show we returned to the room to find a gift and lovely note from Nikki thanking us for our company last night and our cruise bookings.  We are already confirmed on the reunion cruise for June on Crystal Harmony.

The Captain announced that the ship will have to travel at full speed to make San Diego on time.  As he put it, "We will be traveling at 21 knots, or just about all we can squeeze out of Crystal Serenity."  This ship rides very smoothly even with a head wind and choppy seas.  There is a bit of creaking and popping around the glass doors to the verandah, but otherwise the movement is barely noticeable.

Thursday, January 13 – Cruising the Pacific Ocean

 It continued to be somewhat rough all night and into this afternoon when it calmed down a bit.  The temperature is in the high 50's with a strong wind.  The swells are continuous, but the motion isn't enough to be bothersome.  In other words, nothing is falling from shelves or anything close to that.

There was an American Classic buffet around the Neptune Pool, but by the looks of the Crystal Dining Room, we weren't the only guests who skipped it.  We were seated on the opposite side of the room from where we usually sit, with a waiter we don't know.  By the way, there has been almost a total turn over in waiters since our last cruise.  We have seen only a handful of familiar faces among the dining room crew, other than the headwaiters and maitre d'. 

Our lunch was tasty.  The Jambalaya wasn't as spicy as it should be, but it was good enough.  The turkey club was very good.  We skipped dessert and went up to the Bistro to sample the selection there.

We hadn't been to the Bistro yet this cruise.  It is nearly twice the size of the Bistros on the other two ships and is very attractive.  The buffet selection is about the same.  We sampled the low-carb cheesecake just for kicks and declared it one of the worst things we have ever tasted.

After the Bistro snack we went back to the room briefly and then moved up to the Seahorse Pool area to sit for a while.  It was somewhat chilly, but not unbearable.  Eventually, we moved into the covered Neptune Pool where the buffet had been.  The whole area was a sty with food all over the floor and the furniture in disarray.  At least the temperature was warmer with the roof closed.  However, we thought they should have at least swept up the chunks of fruit and whatever immediately after the buffet was dismantled.  We were fawned over by the Deck Stewards because our gratuity had been posted to their accounts already.  They are usually the only group who make an effort to thank us for any tips we give them.

We returned to the room to wait for dinner time.  It was overcast for most of the late afternoon.

Tonight's dress code is Formal for the Captain's Farewell Cocktail Party and Dinner.  This is also Captain Maalen's farewell to the Serenity.  He is moving to Crystal Symphony when he returns from vacation.  The party was a usual, with some witty remarks by the Captain that were quite amusing.

Our dinner tonight is in Silk Road, but here is the regular menu for your review:


"Aquitaine Caviar et Traditions" - Iced Caviar from Siberian Sturgeon with Traditional Condiments, Blinis and Melba Toast
Paté de Fois Gras with Warm Corn Muffin and Guava Gelée
Baked Oysters "Rockefeller"
Coconut with Tropical Fruit, Sprinkled with Drambuie Liqueur

Consommé Double with Truffle Royal
Cream of Asparagus "Argenteuil"
The Captain's Salad

Refreshing Kir Royale Sherbet

Rigatoni Rigate with Creamy Portabella Mushroom Sauce

Crunchy Garden Greens with Lemon Asian Vinaigrette, Grilled Quail Breast and Warm Crab Legs

Broiled Alaskan Crab Legs Served with Melted Lemon Butter or Sauce Hollandaise
Roasted Stuffed Wild Pheasant Breast with Fresh Foie Gras and Pistachios
Filet of Beef Wellington with Sauce Périgourdine
Grilled Herb-Marinated Veal Medallion with Creamy Morel Sauce and Ricotta Cheese Ravioli

Grilled New York Cut Sirloin Steak with Sauce Hollandaise
Plain Broiled Canadian Salmon Fillet with Cucumber Beurre Blanc

The American Institution - Baked Alaska Flambé en Parade
Cinnamon Mousse with Caramel Sauce
Sugar-Free and Low-Carb Chocolate Custard Cup
Tropical Fruit in Season
Chocolate Truffles and Petit Fours


Nobu-Style Miso Chips
Scallop and Tuna Marinated with Sweet Miso
Served on Crisp Potato Chips
Matsuhisa Shrimp
Broiled Butterfly Shrimp with Sevruga Caviar, Shitake Mushrooms and Yuzu Juice
Pan-Seared Diver Scallops
On Stir-Fried Brussels Sprouts Leafs, Topped with Jalapeno Relish
Broiled Eggplant
Topped with Nobu-Style Saikyo Miso Sauce
Lobster Spring Roll
Filled with Lobster Chunks, Shitake Mushrooms and Shiso Leaves
Served with Maui Onion-Tomato Salsa
Rock Shrimp, Served on Tossed Lettuce with Spicy Creamy Sauce or Ponzu Sauce
Shrimp or Vegetable Tempura with Traditional Dipping Sauce

Assortment of Nobu-Style Sushi and Sashimi from The Sushi Bar

Mushroom Soup
Assorted Seasonal Mushrooms Cooked in Their Own Broth,
Served in a Japanese Tea Kettle
Miso Soup
Traditional Japanese Miso Soup with Tofu and Scallions
Spicy Seafood Soup
Assorted Seafood Simmered in a Light Spicy Clear Broth

Tomato Ceviche, Nobu-Style
Sun-Ripened Tomatoes, Tossed with Nobu Ceviche Dressing, Cilantro and Red Onions
Nobu-Style Sashimi Salad
Seared Ahi Tuna and Field Greens Tossed with Matsuhisa Dressing
Mushroom Salad
A Variety of Seasonal Mushrooms Sautéed with Yuzu Dressing,
Served over Mesclun Lettuce, Garnished with Chives and Lime

Cold Soba Noodles
Served with Delicious Sauce and Your Choice of Tempura
Hot Soba Noodles or Udon Noodles
Served with Delicious Broth and Your Choice of Tempura
Nobu-Style Lobster with Truffle-Yuzu Sauce
Stir-Fried Lobster with Garlic, Asparagus, Shitake Mushrooms and Snap Peas,
Finished with Nobu-Style Truffle-Yuzu Sauce
Corn-Fed Chicken with Teriyaki Balsamic
Grilled Chicken Breast with Teriyaki Balsamic Sauce and Sautéed Assorted Vegetables
Grilled Wagyu Beef Rib Eye Steak
On Wok-Fried Vegetable with Three Kinds of Anticuccho, Teriyaki and Nobu-Style Wasabi Pepper Sauce
Nobu Box
A Sampler of Nobu's Most Popular Signature Dishes

Trio of Crème Brulées
Ginger, Truffle and Green Tea Crème Brulée
Chocolate Soufflé Cake
Served with Homemade Sesame Ice Cream
Chilled Tropical Fruit Plate with Coconut Sherbet
Rose Water Custard
Served with Sugar-Free Mango Sauce

Food review:  The lobster appetizer was again lacking in flavor, but looked beautiful served in a martini glass.  The sauce tasted like nothing, unfortunately.  This time we chose the traditional shrimp tempura and it was excellent.  You have your choice of how many pieces you want and you can have just shrimp, or include vegetables.  We only had shrimp.  The tomato salad was interesting and a bit on the spicy side.  There were three kinds of tomatoes, red onions and cucumbers in a spicy vinaigrette dressing.  The Nobu Box consisted of all seafood, which was an odd change from last time when it came with the beef.  Everything was very good, however.  The three sauces with the beef are all very interesting, unusual flavors, so this is a good choice.  The chicken was outstanding and by far the best thing we had.  The sauce was familiar teriyaki flavor with the bite of balsamic vinegar.  The dessert was also outstanding, especially the sesame ice cream.

We took some sushi down to the front desk and sent it to Ronnie in the back.  The front desk people thought we were gods for doing that, especially since we told them to share it.

Tonight's entertainment is the popular production show, "Curtain Call".  This show is energetic and entertaining with good production values.  Our only quibble with it is that they have rearranged the order of songs in the shows they use to suit themselves.  Otherwise, this is a lively, well-received production.  It received a standing ovation from about one-third of the audience and nobody left during the show.

When we returned to the room there was a note under the door stamped "URGENT".  It was a thank you note from Ronnie for the food we sent to him.

The disembarkation information doesn't mention U.S. citizens having to go through customs while on board, so we're assuming we won't have to get up at 5:00 AM this time.  Anyone who gets off the ship in San Diego has to show either their passport or a birth certificate and photo ID at the gangway.  If this is a permanent change, it is a good one.  We never did see the point to making everyone parade in front of a line of customs agents just for show.

Friday, January 14 – San Diego, California, USA – Arrive 8:00 AM  Depart 6:00 PM

  Shore excursions available in this port:

Balboa Park & Museum Exploration - $48
La Jolla & the Birch Aquarium at Scripps - $67

It's a beautiful, sunny day here in downtown San Diego today.  We think maybe everyone was lying about all that rain lately.  Due to the constant announcements that had nothing to do with us, we were up a lot earlier than usual.  That meant we had to go somewhere for breakfast for the first time this cruise.

We went to Tastes by the Neptune Pool for the Late Risers breakfast. This is a table-service meal from a limited menu.  The menu was improved since our last visit.  In addition to some fancy, or some may say weird, items, they have added eggs, bacon, etc., and some other familiar breakfast foods cooked to order.  We both had the Peanut Butter and Jelly French Toast, which is much better than it sounds.  In fact, it is outstanding, although the portion is literally four bites.  We knew from experience that the portion would be small, so we added eggs and bacon to the order.  That was plenty of food for breakfast.  Everything was very good.

After breakfast we went down to the Front Desk to get some change and ended up chatting with the receptionist who had been so impressed with our sushi delivery last night.  He wanted to chat about destinations and such since this is his first contract.  He seemed most interested in whether we were coming back soon, which we unfortunately are not, at least on this ship. 

We found Lara arriving with her pile of luggage.  She has been staying with her mother in Point Loma while on vacation, so she was delivering part of her luggage in advance of re-joining the ship in Los Angeles tomorrow.  She was sick and was keeping her distance from everyone.  Her voice was also gone, so the conversation was limited.  In any case, she seemed happy to see us and was disappointed we are leaving tomorrow.  She is used to us being around for the entire World Cruise.

Once finished with the niceties, we went back to the room to fill out the Quality Assurance Questionnaire.  We also took a stroll around the Promenade Deck just for the heck of it and wandered down to look at the golf set up for no particular reason.  They have two driving cages plus a small putting green that looks nice if you are into that sort of thing.  Callaway Golf used to supply the clubs and golf instructors, but that is changing in Los Angeles.  On the TV they have been constantly saying that the new clubs will be "much better" than the ones from Callaway, so there must have been some sort of issue with them. 

We killed time until around 1:00 PM when it was time to eat again.  We debated about going to the dining room, but decided the selection in the Lido was worthwhile.  Several of the dishes were very good.  As usual, the Asian selection was the best, followed by a fried chicken with peaches and lingonberries, and the Hungarian Beef Goulash.  We were amused by the brazenness of a seagull who wasn't the slightest bit intimidated by the guests sitting inches away from his perch on the railing.  Someone threw him a bit of food he didn't like and the resulting rejection was especially amusing.  We didn't know birds were so good at showing disgust.

As we went through the buffet, a waiter, Sami, we had over five years ago, or more, recognized us.  We hadn't seen him before today, but he said he has been here the entire cruise.  He hadn't seen us before today either.

Our next stop was a table in the shade by the Seahorse Pool where we stayed until the area turned into a geriatric ward again.  One particularly surly group was playing cards while the women took turns belittling their husbands.  Sounds fun, doesn't it?  After the ruckus became too much for us, we moved back to the room to await the next feeding.  By the way, there were hundreds of visitors on board today, so the restriction on visitors has obviously been lifted.

Today's dress code is Casual.

Tonight's entertainment, presented at 7:00 PM, is a Goodbye Variety Show featuring vocalist Dale Kristien, comedy magician Nick Lewin, dance champions Tony and Margaret Long, a capella group The Plaids, and "Time to Say Goodbye" by the Crystal Ensemble of Singers and Dancers.  Nick Lewin was forced to disembark because he boarded in San Diego and therefore has to get off at the same U.S. port, so he wasn't part of the show after all.  The other acts were entertaining and as expected.  We're not big fans of the sappy disembarkation show by the ensemble, especially the part where they stand at the exit and greet everyone.  We didn't mind greeting Paul because we already know him, but the rest of it was forced and pointless.


Tuna Tartar with Pickled Cucumbers, Sprinkled with Chive-Habanero Rouille and Crisp Tortilla Strips
Ragout of Portabella Mushrooms, Chicken and Asparagus in Puff Pastry Bouchons
Pistachio Crusted Goat Cheese Tower with Roasted Baby Beets and Mesclun Lettuce
Selected Citrus Fruits, Marinated in Campari

Cream of Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Beef Consommé with Kernel Corn Cake
Chilled Water Melon Gazpacho with Passion Fruit Sorbet
Heart of Butter Lettuce with Corn-Tomato Salad
Crisp Mixed Garden Greens, Tossed with Bella Vista Dressing, Topped with Pineapple and Mango Chunks with Toasted Walnuts

Tortiglione with Young Broccoli, Anchovies, Garlic, Olive Oil, and Parmesan Cheese

Traditional Caesar Salad Topped with Grilled Salmon

Broiled Fresh Salmon Fillet Topped with a Chipolata Onion Puree and Crystal's Merlot Reduction
Roasted Long Island Duckling Served with Caramelized Orange Sauce
Garlic and Rosemary Marinated Pork Medallion with Creamy Gorgonzola Sauce
Grilled Aged Black Angus Sirloin Steak Served with Sauce Choron

Grilled Rib-Eye Steak with Sauce Béarnaise
Baked Apple Curry Chicken Breast

Whole Wheat Crepe Filled with Vegetable Ragout, Gratinated with Fontina Cheese

Sacher Cake with Crème Chantilly
Macaroon Tart with Fresh Fruit and Mango Sauce
Vanilla Cognac Profiteroles
Sugar-Free New York Cheesecake
Sugar-Free and Low-Carb Mixed Fruit Tartlet
Homemade Cookies
Assortment of Fruit in Season

Food review:  The liqueur poured over the fruit did not complement it at all, but otherwise it was fine.  We requested that the sun-dried tomatoes be left out of the soup, which was a big improvement.  This is a delicious cream soup and the tomatoes are the wrong consistency for it.  The salad was boring, but edible.  Both entrees were very good.  No sauce was served with the steak, but it didn't need it.  The potatoes served with the steak were ghastly.  They were a weird concoction of mashed potatoes, chopped vegetables and spices wrapped in a thin pastry.  It was a lot of trouble for something so awful.  The macaroon tart was satisfactory, but nothing special otherwise.

We chatted several times with Augusto.  We have known him for so long that we have a lot to talk about most of the time.  Bulant came over and said he was told we have a website and asked for the address.  In the past, we haven't given that information to anyone currently on board, but we've decided we can't keep it a secret forever.  We also gave it to Augusto when he asked. 

Jacek seemed happy to have served us and we certainly were satisfied with him.  He's extremely pleasant and always cheerful.  We'd gladly have him as a waiter again.  We also liked our assistant waitress, Swancha. 

We learned that the World Cruisers are being brought to the ship for lunch rather than forcing them to stay at the hotel until 2:00 PM as has always been done before.  This is probably a good idea as long as there aren't hundreds of travel agents in the dining room getting a free lunch at the same time.  World Cruisers definitely are not fond of being overlooked, especially for someone who isn't paying the fare.

On the way out we chatted with Josef who is still contemplating going to the Harmony for the reunion cruise.  We really think he should do it since the whole point is to bring back the original crew members.  We expect, however, that Crystal will drop the ball on this as they usually do when an event is hyped up to the max.  It will certainly be a fun time no matter what, but we're skeptical that anything terribly special will happen.  If it does we will be pleasantly surprised.

We brought a supply of goodies down to deliver to Ronnie, which made him run out and chat for a few minutes.  He still wants to go back to the Harmony, but it doesn't appear to be in the cards.  He should probably be back there for the reunion cruise if they are truly trying to assemble familiar faces for a crew.   He filled us in on the whereabouts of a few people we wondered about, then we said our goodbyes and went up to finish packing.  That took all of five minutes and the bag was out in the hallway for pick up.

NEW RULES, NEW RULES:  We received a note slipped under the door telling us that we have to report for a Customs inspection between 7:00 and 7:45 AM because we didn't go ashore in San Diego.  If anyone had told us beforehand we certainly would have gone ashore and taken care of that formality.  The note said, in part, " We thank you in advance for your cooperation in this important matter and apologize for the inconvenience, but it seems the US Immigration department in San Diego and Los Angeles are not on the same wave length."  No kidding.  Oh well, so much for sleeping until a decent hour on the last morning.

The ship is sailing along at only 8 knots.  The distance to Los Angeles is about 95 miles, so there is certainly no rush.  There is no discernable movement at all tonight.

Saturday, January 15 – Los Angeles, California, USA – Arrive 7:00 AM – Disembark

We were as awake as possible at 7:00 AM when the first announcements were made regarding the Customs Inspection.  At 7:30 AM we were ready to wander down to the Stardust Club for the inspection.  When we arrived, two staff members were sitting at a table outside the entrance looking bored.  They crossed us off of a list and sent us into the inspection.  There were four officers sitting at a long table, one walking around in front of them, and another standing behind.  This big show for no one except us.  After handing the first officer a U.S. Passport, his important question was, "Are you a U.S. citizen?"  Answer in mind, "No, that's a fake passport I handed you.  I'm really from Iraq."  Real answer, "Yes."  After scrutinizing the customs declaration saying there are no other family members with us, he asked, "Are you traveling alone?"  Answer in mind, "How many people do you see standing here and what does it say on the form in front of you?"  Real answer, "Yes."  That was it and we were back in the room.  Ridiculous.  Your tax dollars at work.

After a brief stop to really finish getting ready for the day, we went up to the Lido for our first and only real on board breakfast.  Everything one would expect was available, except made-to-order waffles as on the other two ships.  The pre-made version offered from the buffet was very good though.  We also obtained omelets from the egg station where they do make everything to order.  We were happy with everything.  In fact, some items were extremely good.  We sat outside, which was a bit on the chilly side, but less crowded and stuffy than inside.

Once we finished eating, we took a stroll around the upper deck just to get in the sun and warm up a bit.  The enormous Diamond Princess was in port with us today at the adjacent terminal.  By the way, we only owed $53 at the end of this cruise.  All of our gratuities and purchases were covered by our Crystal Society spending credits.

Our scheduled departure time was 9:45 AM, so we had about thirty minutes to kill before it was time for us to meet in the Galaxy Lounge.  Everyone is allowed to remain in their stateroom until fifteen minutes before their scheduled departure, which is a really nice convenience.  We knew from experience to go down a little bit early, so we headed down at 9:30 AM. 

We were told at the door that we could go ahead and disembark then, so we joined the long line past the Casino toward the exit in the lobby area.  When we reached almost the end, we saw Jerry, our World Cruise waiter, so we left the line and went to chat with him for a few minutes.  He was a bit disappointed that we wouldn't be there for any part of the World Cruise, but he seemed happy to see us. 

Just as we were reaching the check-out point where they scan keycards for the last time, Renato, the Shore Excursions Manager, came walking in and saw us.  He has been hiding for most of the cruise, so he didn't know we were on board.  He was in a rush, but also seemed glad to greet us, at least for a moment before hurrying off.

In the terminal, we quickly found our luggage in the well organized piles, although one bag was completely missing it's pull-out handle.  Mind you, we haven't taken these bags on any airline, just on Crystal ships, and both of them have been destroyed by rough handling in only three cruises.  The other one split at the seams after the first trip through their system.  These aren't flimsy either.  We didn't complain, and won't, but we thought this was worthy of mention in case anyone is considering taking along expensive luggage.

Outside the terminal we ran into Tom, the Crystal Cove pianist from the World Cruise, who rushed over to talk to us.  We always have a good time chatting with him in general.  We have no idea how, but he already knew we were on board, so he expected to see us today.  After catching up on the latest gossip and letting him know we will be on the Harmony in June when he is, we rolled our luggage off in the direction of our car.

The parking cost for ten days was $110.00, which caused the parking attendant to gasp.  That doesn't seem too ridiculous, but she seemed to think it was.  It's cheaper than taking a shuttle or cab from our house and back, that's for sure.

The drive home was traffic free and took the same 90 minutes it did to get to the port.  It couldn't have been any easier.


All in all, we were very satisfied with this cruise.  We got the relaxation and escape we were looking for and then some.  Driving to and from the port is so much simpler than flying to a port. We'll probably stick to this close to home routine for a while.

We felt that the food overall was very good with a few dishes being outstanding.  The incredible Silk Road was the culinary highlight.  We could live a long time without ever going to Prego again, however.

The entertainment offered during this cruise was satisfactory, but we wouldn't knock anyone over to see any of it again.  The production shows were a mixed bag ranging from very good to terrible.  Unfortunately, the newest show was by far the worst thing we have ever seen on an upscale ship.  What a waste of money that was.  The headline entertainers were worth seeing, but we had seen most of them too many times.  Crystal really needs to get a new rotation and stop dragging in the same people year after year.

Overall, we confirmed our feeling that Crystal Serenity is too dark and confined in some areas.  Main corridors are sometimes narrow and the configuration of the Lido Restaurant makes it seem crowded even with only 600 guests on board (the ship holds over 1,000).  On the other hand, most of the public rooms are beautiful to look at.  The Crystal Dining Room is attractive, but way too noisy.

We were appalled by the filthy carpets in some of the public areas, particularly in Silk Road and the stairs in the lobby.  If we went to a shore side restaurant with carpeting that dirty we would walk out thinking the kitchen may be even worse.   The light beige color probably wasn't the best choice for hiding spills, but if they are expecting to keep it, they need to clean it more often.  Otherwise, upkeep was outstanding, as one would expect on a ship of this standard.

Our standard verandah stateroom was attractive and well thought out, although not especially spacious.  The sofa was slightly more comfortable than those on the Symphony, but still barely wide enough for two people to sit side by side.  There was plenty of drawer and closet space.  The bathroom had lots of storage on shelves and in the cabinets below, but the toilet was way too close to the side wall for an even slightly above average person.  Neither of us is overly wide and we had to lean against the wall to fit.  The shower/tub combination worked well and the water pressure was great.  Aveda bath amenities are provided.

As we've said before, this isn't our favorite ship among the Crystal fleet, but there is nothing offensive about it either.  It is the premium price Crystal charges for this particular vessel that might keep us from coming back as often as we'd like.  Why pay more for the same product when it is half the price to sail on Crystal Harmony?  She may be older, but we don't see that much of a difference in areas that matter to us.  In fact, we think the food on the Harmony is superior to either of the two sisters.

Look for new voyages, coming soon!


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