Itinerary - Click links to jump to specific dates:
GRAND MAIDEN VOYAGE - SEGMENT 2
Monday, May 15 - Fort Lauderdale, FL
By the time the tour groups returned to the ship signs of the travel agent and press events were gone. New passengers were boarding when we arrived. It looks like a few over 200 new guests boarded today.
We sat in the Crystal Cove bar that was sign-posted "Service for Intransit Guests Only" and watched people come on board. Let's just say that this isn't the type of crowd one expects to find on a luxury cruise line. We saw more bad facelifts in ten minutes than we've seen in our entire life prior to this! The class level of the clientele sure has dropped a notch, if that's possible. And this sentiment is coming from two guys who are not exactly on the cutting edge of style.
Dinner is open seating again, which we only found out by going to the lobby for a copy of the Reflections newsletter. We only received the one about disembarking this morning and never got the new one for the afternoon. Passengers seem to be embarking/disembarking at almost every port, which is very odd. There are probably more reporters and travel agents than we are actually aware of, and they already appear to be in the majority judging by the groveling going on by the people from the L.A. office.
Click for tonight's Dinner Menu. Mark was jovial at dinner. He carried on about his upcoming QE2 cruise as a guest. He claims he will clear about £6,000 during his current contract. That is after what he spends on booze and merchandise along the way, which appears to be a substantial amount in alcohol alone. He's seems happy with that amount, so fine with us.
We strolled out on deck after dinner, but it was too windy and hot to stay outside for long. The promenade deck is nearly useless because it's not protected at all, not even covered, so it's always too windy to walk around when the ship is moving.
We were going to listen to Michael play the piano in the Cove, but he was sitting talking to some passengers so we figured we'd just go to bed.
Tuesday, May 16 - At Sea
We finally managed to sleep in. It seems that they fixed the air conditioning since it was freezing last night and this morning. It is nice out today...warm, but not too hot. It became very windy later in the day though.
The Lido lunch menu was exactly the same as the day before, so even though they have six entrees, it never changes. It is just like the midnight snack that is exactly the same every night; nobody ever eats any of it either. The Lido on this ship seems to be an afterthought and there isn't much enthusiasm for it from the cruise line. They act like it is beneath them to serve something so casual, which is ridiculous in this day and age.
We lounged around by the pool all day until it became too windy, then we moved to the covered pool area until nap time.
It is formal again tonight. We skipped the Captain's Welcome Party this time around and had drinks in the Crystal Cove instead.
Click to view the Captain's Gala Welcome Menu. The dining room is a little more crowded and much noisier tonight. There was a lot of birthday singing. We can only remember two in the entire past two weeks. There were at least four tonight. The clientele has definitely declined and there are a couple of kids running around. So far they aren't a problem for us, but we saw one little girl wandering around in a very high traffic area near the waiter station.
We went to the production show "Cole" that we saw last time. It was very good again. People talked through the whole thing and then ran out the minute it was over. One would think they had to rush to the parking lot before the traffic jam the way they jump up and run.
Wednesday, May 17 - At Sea
This is basically a do-nothing day. It's rainy and hot outside. Thank goodness they fixed the air conditioning!
We went up to the Caribbean buffet by the Neptune Pool. It was an elaborate set-up, with a BBQ and lots of food, but still nothing like mainstream ships do with a buffet every day. The food was almost exactly the same as the daily buffets in the Lido except most of it wasn't very good. The basic problem is that it all tastes like it has been sitting in a steam table or in a warmer for hours before it is served. They need to do some work on this part of the food service because it is falling way short of the dining room!
We attempted to find a place to sit and read. We started out in the Palm Court, but a golf class started in there, so we moved down to the Crystal Plaza on the dining room side. We sat around there for a while until it was time for a wine tasting in the Bistro at 3:30PM.
The wine tasting was OK. Crystal's wine consultant, a fairly unkempt looking man, was very nervous, but managed to speak about the wines and how he selected them. He went on too long about them, but other people seemed to like what he said (if they weren't nodding off). The cellar master talked about different glassware and what a difference it makes to the taste of the wine. He had everyone try a red wine in two different glasses, one a traditional wide bowl and the other with a narrower lip that directs the wine to the back of your tongue. It really did make a difference by cutting down on the acidity.
"Wine Boy" talked about a couple of French wines and was more informative than the host of the event. We finally figured out his name is Yves, but everyone kept calling him Jean Yves, so we're still not sure. "Wine Boy" will have to suffice for now.
We talked to a couple who cruise quite a bit also. They agree that HAL is a much better value, although they like the Harmony quite a bit. They also sailed on the Maasdam and they loved it. Basically, they agree with our thoughts about the abundance of food and the beautiful decor on the Maasdam. They also brought up some interesting things about HAL'S service, how the servers instantly remember your name and cabin number. They recounted how one of the servers handmade a decorated Dutch hat for her, etc. The service on HAL probably is better in some ways than on the Symphony, but is is not as polished. It is still the white-glove, traditional service it has always been at this point.
We chatted with one of the shop girls in Facets, Barbara, who is from Northern California. She seems to like working for Crystal, as does everyone else with whom we have spoken. She had assumed we were reporters, so she was relieved to find out we aren't so she can talk to us. There is a beautiful Swarovski candle holder in the shop isn't for sale, oddly enough. Barbara said she could have sold it 100 times over by now if she was allowed.
Click to view tonight's Dinner Menu. The food and service was good, as usual. "Wine Boy" was laughing and joking about tasting too much wine. This is the first cruise line we've witnessed the sommeliers actually tasting every bottle they before they serve it using the little cup around their neck.
We skipped tonight's show because it is one of the awful variety hours similar to the previous segment. It finally dawned on us that the horrible piano humorist attended a party we arranged on the Maasdam for the staff and a few select guests. He is one of the new headliners. We're attempting to avoid him at this point.
We had a few drinks in the Crystal Cove then went up to bed early.
Thursday, May 18 - Aruba
It is cloudy and rainy outside today. Banging and alarms started at 10:00AM for the crew boat drill. They launched the boats and sailed around for a couple of hours before bringing them back up. They were still at it at noon.
We had a nice lunch in the dining room, sitting on the opposite side of the room from our usual location.
Ashore, we attempted to shop, but didn't find anything we couldn't live without. The Swarovski candlestick from the ship that isn't for sale was $832 at Little Switzerland, so we didn't even think about it. We walked along some streets in town and to a shopping center on the waterfront. Most of the shops in the center were out of business, so there was no point to that either. It was very hot, so we just went back to the ship.
The Fascination was docked near us. It sure is obvious that it is a budget cruise by the look of the passengers.
Click for the Dinner Menu. Everything was fine, nothing to report out of the ordinary.
Once again, we skipped the show because it was a re-hash of the Social Hostess "singer" and the other people we didn't like the first time we saw them.
Friday, May 19 - At Sea
We arose semi-early, so we snacked at the Bistro to tide us over until lunch time. The pastries were stale and quite obviously left over from the day before or longer.
We just killed time until lunch in the dining room. Marco waited on us. "Vienna-boy", his assistant, is getting rather friendly, much to the annoyance of our own assistant waiter.
We attended another Frances Weaver lecture that was billed as "What Are You Going As?", a new topic, but turned out it was exactly the same as the first one we saw when she handed out her old pictures. Three lectures all essentially the same thing. What's the point? It wouldn't be so bad if they'd at least say that in the program, but it always sounds like it's a new subject. Of course, it is possible that so many people sleep through the lectures that they think they haven't seen them before.
We sat in the Palm Court until Tea Time. Tea was a choice of one of several flavored teas, a waiter came around with scones that were cold are very boring, plus little jars of jam and regular whipped cream. Another waiter brought a tray of sandwiches, most of which were too fancy for this type of thing except for one that was just turkey. Trays of tiny pastries were also passed, but they weren't anything special. All in all, the whole affair was just OK, nothing special.
Nothing worth reporting happened between tea time and dinner.
Click to view tonight's Dinner Menu. Mark had already heard that Marco had waited on us this afternoon. Marco thinks we never give a serious answer, but we don't recall having much of a conversation with him other than the usual niceties. We heard all about the crew party given by the Stewardesses last night, a Caribbean theme with palm fronds and such for decoration. Everyone in attendance was very drunk. We're surprised Mark could even function today. He claims he doesn't get drunk, but we're sure he does.
"Wine-boy" is being more friendly. He stopped and chatted for a minute about having to taste all the wines whether he likes them or not (judging by the faces he and Nick make they don't like very many of them). He said on ships they have to taste everything because the movement of the ship stirs up the sediment and makes them go bad.
"Vienna-boy" pissed off our assistant waiter because he brought us rolls and put the cheese on our pasta. He was furious. Dave ground his own pepper onto his baked potato and caused a big ruckus. It's so bizarre that they put the pepper mill on the table and then expect to grind it for you. It isn't like the waiters don't have anything better to do.
Tonight's entertainment was a new magician who was OK, but the same old thing we've all seen a million times, including milk in the newspaper. He didn't get a very good response although a couple (literally) of people thought he was amazing (of course). From where we were sitting you could see how the birds came out of trap doors in his table and where he stuffed them in his coattails.
Saturday, May 20 - San Blas Islands
We snacked at the Bistro again for breakfast. We didn't go ashore, been there, done that. People who were coming back to the ship for the most part thought it was disgusting. Once is enough for San Bias. The ship was surrounded by boys in canoes shouting "money, money", but since nobody is ever out on the Promenade Deck there isn't much point to all the effort.
We lunched in the dining room on the other side again, much to the disappointment of Marco who looked like he was waiting for us. Actually it looked like a lot of the waiters were looking out for us. The Hot and Sour Soup was MUCH better than the same thing in the Jade Garden.
After lunch we watched a NOVA presentation in the Starlight Club about the building of the Panama Canal that was informative.
"Wine-boy" was quite friendly when we ran into him on the Lido deck. Bill went to watch "Ed Wood" in the theater, so Dave went out by the Seahorse pool to read a magazine. It was cloudy and not too hot, but extremely humid.
The "humorist/pianist" guy was sitting right by the Trident Grill when Dave went to get some food and we're he recognized him, but it was easy to pretend he didn't see him. We doubt he knows where he knows us from, but we're also sure he thinks he knows us. He and his boyfriend sat across from Dave at the pool, but never came over or said anything. Eventually it started raining and everyone sitting around on the lounges scurried off as though they weren't already wet from being in the pool. A couple of photographers were trying to set up their equipment to take pictures of the pool when we left.
Napped until dinner time.
Formal, again...nothing spectacular occurred worth reporting. Click to view the Chef's Dinner Menu.
Sunday, May 21 - Panama Canal Transit
We were out of bed earlier than usual for no particular reason. We watched the canal transit from various locations, starting with the TV in the room.
We had lunch in the dining room with Marco waiting on us. Dave couldn't get his pocket unbuttoned so Marco did it for h and was strangely adept at it, too, we might add.
After lunch we stood out on one of the forward decks to watch the transit until it finally started pouring rain. The weather was actually relatively nice, about like last year, up until the last set of locks. At that point it started raining just like it did last time at this location. It wasn't cold outside, so it didn't matter though.
We decided to go into the Palm Court to watch the final part of the transit. It wasn't all that busy by 3:00PM when we finally got there. We decided to stay for afternoon tea. A woman came in and asked the waiter if it was raining (it obviously was...water was running down the windows). He told her it was and she insisted it couldn't possibly be raining and that they must be washing the windows. She kept going over to the windows to check, like it made a difference or something. People are so damn DUMB!!!
We napped until dinner time.
50's night, again. Click to view the 50's Menu. We took the camera with us tonight to get a picture of Mark in his dorky 50's outfit. Dinner featured American Meatloaf that wasn't bad, but was way over-improved with fancy spices. Plus, it was too salty, but a nice attempt anyway.
Bill took a picture of Jean-Yves ("Wine-boy", we finally know his name!) in his costume and ended up chatting with him for a while. He has worked for four other cruise lines and prefers Cunard because of the single seating. The sommeliers get more time off that way and more time to socialize in the Crew Bar. He won't be here in August when we return to the ship for an Alaska cruise. He's working on ships because he likes the travel opportunities.
We went to the production show again, "Rock Around the Clock". It wasn't quite as good as before. One of the video screens hasn't worked for the last two shows and the performers weren't very energetic. A woman next to us kept narrating loudly for her husband and making inane remarks at the top of her lungs, of course. Bill finally said something to her, but we don't think she realized he was telling her to shut up.
We also now know why they shouldn't let the staff into the shows. Some guys from the Shore Excursion office sat in front of us and talked almost the entire time. That is when two of them weren't making eyes at one another! We have both worked in hospitality and it is definitely not appropriate for the staff to mingle with the guests, but if they do they should be models of perfect etiquette.
We got Marte to let us take a picture of her in the embarrassing 50's outfit she had on, but she made Dave get in the picture with her. The 50's buffet was more successful than the regular late night snack offering. They served hot dogs, popcorn, and hamburgers, in addition to the usual fancy crap they've been serving for the past month (that nobody eats). The hot dogs and popcorn were actually fairly popular. Serving them out of silver bowls and chafing dishes sort of takes away the 50's feel though!
We took pictures of Mark and Joch in their 50's getups and went off to bed.
Monday, May 22 - At Sea
We finally got enough sleep last night. Dave thought he was catching a cold yesterday, but hefeels fine today...so far.
There is a Mexican buffet by the pool today, so we went up to check it out. Marte told us not to bother because the sliding roof is stuck in the closed position and it must be at least 150 degrees in there. The waiters were DRIPPING with sweat. We decided to skip it and go for the dining room.
Unfortunately, we were sidetracked talking to Barbara in Facets (bought a Crystal ship and a crystal rose). By the time we arrived at the dining room all the tables for two were taken so we went back up to the buffet. The array of most of the food was the same as every buffet so far (salads, fruit, etc.) They also had their version of tacos being assembled to your specifications, rice, beans, guacamole (actually very good), the same rock-hard, dry chicken enchiladas they always have on the Lido buffet, and a couple other entrees that didn't look edible. It was an interpretation of Mexican food by someone who has probably never eaten it before, not to mention that it had been sitting around in the kitchen WAY too long. We skipped the desserts.
We attended a lecture about the oceans. People were snoring almost immediately after the lights went out (literally). Necks were snapping and people were snoring loudly. The same woman who didn't know if it was raining yesterday was there. God only knows how she's going to understand any of this if she can't even figure out if it's raining or not.
We picked up our purchases from Barbara in Facets and went to sit out by the pool. It's hot, but not unbearable as long as the wind is blowing (which it is at the moment). The head of Crystal's marketing department walked by while Dave was typing this, but we don't know if he noticed or not.
They fixed the glass roof over the pool while we were still out there. At least it's open now, so we assume it's fixed. We stayed out by the pool until 6:30PM. One of the guests we are sort of familiar with said he's very ready to get off the ship.
We showered and went directly to dinner. We found out they're serious about the dress code. Tonight is informal. The maitre d' stopped the "famous" photographer at the door and said, "Excuse me sir, but tonight's dress is informal. A jacket and tie is required", and then turned him away.
Click to view tonight's Dinner Menu. There were some strange choices on the menu. Literally nothing Dave would eat for an entree on a bet, so he had the pasta as a main course. Bill ordered the Salmon, but Mark talked him out of it. He said it was greasy and still had the skin on it. Mario mentioned something about a special dessert he ordered for another table that we could get some leftovers from, then changed his mind because the reporters' table (where it was to come from) were taking too long, as usual.
We ordered dessert from the menu and ate it, then he brought crepes suzette. Then he brought the floating islands AND another Viennese dessert; neither of which was worth eating, but we had to be polite because he made so much effort. Luckily Mark was standing there talking to us and he knew the desserts weren't very good, so he took the plates away before we had to finish them and before Mario could see we didn't eat it.
Mark is supposedly visiting some of his past passengers who live in Orange County during his vacation, so he sort of hinted to visit us, too. We don't mind having him as long as we don't have to entertain him for a week. He jumped at the chance to come work for us [Note: At the time we were about to open a tea room franchise]. He said it takes about 3 months to get sponsored into the U.S. At least he said he wants to do it honestly instead of illegally. He'd probably be OK, at least he's authentic, as long as we can sober him up.
The show tonight was a sort of half-ass Cabaret show by the ship's ensemble. It looked like it was one act of a larger show they're probably working on. Then the same God-awful boring ventriloquist act we saw before. The comedian we saw last segment was the next act, but he was hilarious this time.
Tuesday, May 23 - At Sea
We were awakened at 9:30AM by the captain telling us not to be alarmed by the crew fire drill, then they proceeded to blast the alarms in the staterooms.
It was so disgustingly hot and humid today we stayed inside all day.
We sat around in the Bistro until lunch time in the dining room. Marco waited on us. Mark came in toward the end looking terrible after the crew party last night. His eyes were beet red and he was supposed to be posing for brochure pictures again today. He led us to believe that all sorts of sordid things happened last night after the party.
There was an open house of various cabins today, so we took advantage of the opportunity to view penthouses and handicapped staterooms. The penthouses are very spacious with Jacuzzi tubs and separate showers, fully stocked (complimentary) bar, two chairs and a full-size sofa...plus a huge veranda, of course.
We talked to Nikki, the Cruise Consultant, about adding onto our Alaska cruise to make 23 days. She's going to fax the office to find out if we can do that. Later, she left a voice mail message saying she didn't think it would be a problem, but she'd let us know in a few days.
Back to the Bistro after that and stayed until we were too tired to sit there anymore. Back in the room, we attempted to nap, but not very successfully.
It is formal night again. Click to view the Bistro Dinner Menu. It's the same theme as last time, but with a different menu selection. So far we don't any of the dining room menus has repeated exactly the same. Too bad the same can't be said for the Lido buffet! The soufflé for dessert was excellent.
After all his hype and innuendo, it turned out that absolutely nothing happened last night with Mark, except he got drunk again, as usual. He said people are starting to call him an alcoholic, which is distinctly possible in our opinion.
The show tonight was a repeat of the very good "Best of Broadway". It was worth watching again.
Wednesday, May 24 - At Sea
Again it is too hot to go outside today, so we had lunch at the Gala Buffet in the lobby again. It's attractively presented, but same stuff they always serve augmented with elaborate wastes of food made into sculptures. Several very pretty ice carvings were added to it this time.
After lunch we went to the Palm Court to sit and read. We ended up having tea just because we were sitting there when it started. The sandwiches were different and more appropriate, but otherwise the offering was the same as the past two times.
Click to view the Dinner Menu. Dinner was as usual in the dining room. It looks like the menu items are finally starting to repeat, but only a couple of them were exactly the same.
Tonight's entertainment was a variety show again...a variety of "haaahz beeans". A ghastly magician and his pregnant wife, a singer who had a nice voice but was terrible otherwise, and the humorist/pianist...he wasn't any more amusing than he was the last time we saw him. Hardly anyone attends the variety nights anyway, so why do they even bother? Perhaps the repeat passengers have already seen these people twenty times on the Harmony?
We stopped to wave down at Mark at the buffet. The cello player from the quintet finally talked to us. He is Steve, from Balboa Island. He seems pleasant. He said the crossing was terrifying because he was aware of what was going on below decks. One night they realized by looking at someone's compass that the ship had turned completely around. the ship had to do an about-face because one of the hatches on the forward deck was leaking badly. They had to send someone out in the storm to weld it shut. He said they were welding things back together in the middle of the Atlantic during the storm.
One of the entertainers had to give up her cabin because they needed to use her shower to bail water from a leaking hatch down below. He said the only time it really got to him was one night at Jade Garden. All of a sudden the ship bolted straight up, turned around and slammed down. Everyone stood up, all the chairs fell over, there was broken glass everywhere, women screaming, and the maitre d' calling for a doctor. That was the scariest moment. Also, one night at 3:00AM the ship started vibrating violently...it had been hit by lightning. Steve said the creaking was so bad that he couldn't sleep for days.
Thursday, May 25 - Acapulco, Mexico
It was way too hot to even consider going ashore today.
We had lunch in the dining room and heard from Marco how Mark called him up at 6:00AM this morning because he ran out of things to drink. Marco gave him a bottle of red wine which, of course, he polished off.
We walked around the ship looking for a comfortable place to sit and read and ended up on the aft deck on our floor.
Tonight is a choice of open seating in the dining room or a deck BBQ. We checked out the deck BBQ and decided to see what the dining room was offering. We would have chosen the dining room, but it was full of the most feeble passengers we've ever seen in one place. The deck BBQ turned out fine, but was nothing special. It started raining about the time we were finishing the food line, so they had to close the sliding roof. Doing that made it about 100 degrees with humidity to match in the pool area almost immediately.
We found a table in the back of the almost-deserted Lido with a nice view off the stern of the lightning and thunder storm. Eventually they had to move the entertainment down to the Starlight Club.
Mark came up to us to tell about his day. He looked like hell and was obviously feeling no pain. He had gone to a "5-star" hotel ashore for breakfast and was served sunny side up eggs even though he ordered over hard...basically he got huevos rancheros. The bill was $33 so he complained and the head waiter took off $12. He went back to the ship and promptly puked it all up. What a surprise after a bottle of vodka and red wine, no sleep, raw eggs in Mexico and 100 degree heat!
He only left our table because the head waiter forced him to. Evidently other waiters were complaining because he wasn't doing anything (which was true). Later he came back when no one was around and got a little carried away and too close for comfort. We can't imagine Crystal tolerating behavior like this for much longer.
The couple who were the group leaders for the AAA cruise on the Maasdam last year came by and recognized us immediately. They're staying on until L.A. to check out the Symphony for the Alaska AAA President's cruise. We told them we didn't think it was worth the money until they get their act together. We also told them about how they had neglected the passengers to kiss up to the press during the first week. She was appalled. She also said she kept looking for a hidden closet in the room because she couldn't believe that was all the cabins have She was appalled by that, too.
We ran into Nikki in the hall. She had an answer back from the office about adding onto the Alaska cruise. They're willing to give us the 5% discount and the group rate for the second segment, too. We've pretty much decided not to go for it though because it is just too much money and we're not sure of the timing for us. We're sure it wouldn't be a problem to book it later anyway. The AAA woman said that the Auto Club block is almost sold out, over 400 cabins. But, since Crystal has only sold 300 rooms for the Mexican Riviera cruise, it still may not be full.
We sat in the Palm Court and watched the sailing from Acapulco. With the starry fiber optic ceiling and the lights going by outside, it was like sitting in a space ship.
We strolled past the shops and stopped to talk to Barbara. We ended up buying two necklaces, two Lalique fish, and a watch. She told us she's been married twice...the last time to a rich older guy who basically kept her as a trophy wife, only let her go visit her parents for 36 hours and called 10 times a day while she was there. She took a job on the Harmony after she left him to get away because he kept stalking her. He even found her in Australia while she was on the ship, but luckily the ship's security kept the guy off the ship. Everyone working on the ship seems to have some sort of back-story going on.
After entertaining Barbara long enough so she could close the shop, we passed Mark at the buffet. He looked absolutely AWFUL! We didn't stay to talk.
We returned to the cabin and filled out our customs declaration form. A customs agent is sailing with the ship from Zihuatanejo to Los Angeles to handle the customs stuff in advance. Of course, the inspection will probably be at the crack of dawn like every other mandatory thing we've done on the ship.
Friday, May 26 - Zihuatanejo, Mexico
As usual, it is way too hot to consider going ashore. Besides, this port looks pretty much like any other Mexican town, tropical from a distance, but worn out and tired up close. It was picturesque viewed from the ship and best left that way from what people told us later.
Lunched in the dining room. Nothing special to report.
We wandered around looking for a place to sit and finally ended up in the Palm Court again which, of course, led to having tea. There was a nice view of the coastline with big fires in just about every canyon. We stayed in Palm Court until we eventually went back to the cabin and watched a tape, napped and got ready for dinner.
Click to view tonight's Dinner Menu. Mark had recovered by dinner time, but was pretty mellow. There was nothing else to report tonight.
The show was another variety hour entitled "Symphony Pops". It featured Julie Cheek, The Amadeus Players, Steve Teague and the Social Hostess/Singer. We expected it to be awful and/or boring, but it turned out to be reasonably entertaining. Julie Cheek is always very good, but her selections are sometimes boring. This time it was fine. The Amadeus Players have been consistently good. Steve Teague sang some popular opera selections that he seems better at than the "haahz beean" numbers he sang before. The Social Hostess/Singer was ghastly, as always and way out of her league, but not unbearable under the circumstances.
We found out a couple of days ago from Mark that the waiters get paid $500/month plus tips. That's a very good wage for a ship...on RCCL he only earned $50/month. Barbara told us that they don't have to pay U.S. income taxes (she's American) if they stay at sea for 11 months of the year and earn less than $70,000 (which she said was definitely NOT an issue in her case). Even though they get 2 months off every 4 months, she said it's easy to make it look like they actually worked 11 months at sea. Even if they are honest they only end up paying a very small percentage to taxes, so it's a pretty good living...also considering there are essentially no living expenses (unless they choose to drink all their money like Mark does).
Saturday, May 27 - At Sea
They forced us to get up at the crack of dawn (well, actually 8:OOAM) to go through the customs ritual. Supposedly this is being done for our convenience, but it appears to be a way to get us processed and off the ship faster when we reach Los Angeles so they can get ready for the "cruise to nowhere" for AmFAR that evening. Very aggravating...they keep talking about 5-star plus service, but we haven't seen it yet considering all the inconveniences we've been put through for their promotional purposes.
The customs check took all of five minutes, so it certainly wasn't necessary to get everyone up so early to complete it. By the look of the files still full of passports, a lot of guests ignored the "mandatory" inspection anyway.
We had breakfast, for only the second time, in the dining room. Marco said Mark called him at 5:00AM to ask for a Coke...what a baby! The food was adequate, but it is still fairly apparent that a good breakfast simply doesn't exist on a ship, no matter how luxurious it purports to be.
It's cloudy and a little on the chilly side, probably low 70's, so we must be almost home.
They're setting up the Neptune pool for an Oriental buffet we'll skip and opt for the dining room.
After lunch, we went out by the Seahorse pool after lunch, but it was too windy and cold so we went back inside.
Click for the Captain's Gala Farewell Menu. Dinner was as usual. A guest at a nearby table tried to grind her own pepper (GOD FORBID!) and Josef practically broke his neck skidding over there to grind it for her. They won't even let you pour your own ketchup out of the bottle! We skipped the baked Alaska this time. It was so awful last time we couldn't force ourselves to eat it again. What a waste of food! They must take over half of what they brought out back to the kitchen.
Showtime was the "Symphony of Nations" production. It still needs a lot of work on the pacing in the first half, but they'll probably leave it as it is because it's pretty obvious that the majority of the audience LOVES it. We ran into Pete Johnson in the hall...just some basic chit-chat. Luckily he didn't ask us how we liked the show last time. He assumed since we were seeing it again that we must have liked it.
Sunday, May 28 - At Sea
We were up relatively early for no particular reason.
Killed some time walking around, then sat in the Palm Court for a while until we moved down to the Crystal Cove for a drink.
Lunched in the dining room with Marco as waiter again. We decided to tip him since he's waited on us so often at lunch. We prepaid the tips to everyone else...they gave us cards to hand to the people that they cash in for the money (we assume, the purpose was never explained).
When we went back to the room after lunch our bags had been dragged out from under the bed and arranged for us to pack. That must have been a chore for her! The largest of them is already stuffed beyond full with our dirty clothes. We got the hint and finished our packing.
Barbara said she'd wrap some gifts for us that we asked her to do and to bring them down later (one we hadn't bought on the ship).
We stopped off and had some drinks in the Crystal Cove again. The bartender topped off Bills' Mai Tai with straight rum because the glass didn't look full enough!
Got ready for dinner, finished packing, etc.
We looked for Barbara to wrap the gifts and to give her a bottle of wine, but couldn't find her. She came up to Dave while Bill was taking the stuff back to the room. When he came back she went with us to the room to get the stuff (just to get out of the shop and away from her boss for a minute).
She wrapped the stuff for us, which was very nice of her. She seemed like she was a little tipsy from a few drinks over lunch. She told us she's now seeing the executive chef who she'd been going out with on the Harmony. Basically she's just playing around at the moment. A strange girl to say the least, but very good with the guests. She said we had really made this cruise enjoyable for her and that she'd look forward to our return in August (we think she was being sincere, too).
Click to view the American Dinner menu. Dinner as usual, but the waiters were very busy because everyone always shows up on the last day. The same was true at lunch which was never even close to being full before today. Mark gave us a package of all the menus (everyone got them). We tipped Mario, the headwaiter; Josef, the Maitre d' who's supposed to remember what waiter and table we want in August; Mark and Kirn (we thought his name was Jock this whole time! Never even came close to thinking it was Kirn!!); gave Marco and his assistant a smallish tip which they were pleased and surprised to get; gave Arthur our card after he asked about us and he seemed pleased to get it.
We wished Jean-Yves a happy birthday on the way out. He didn't remember telling us about it, so he was pleasantly surprised when we did it. Gave him our card and $20 for a tip. He was VERY friendly. The weird waiter who always talks to himself was gassed that we were so friendly with Jean-Yves.
The farewell show was a little bit of everything: Mike Goddard MC'd, the ventriloquist (same stuff we've seen twice already), magician (short and relatively funny this time), the humorist/singer guy did a parody song with Mike Goddard that didn't go over very well (as is par for his material). The production entertainers did a jazz number at the beginning that wasn't bad, but had lots of mistakes in it. They ended with a lavish, condensed version of "Cats" that was very good with full costumes and makeup, plus the ubiquitous smoke they use whenever they possibly can. Then a ghastly sing-along (which nobody participated in) of "Auld Lang Syne" and it was all over.
We hung over the balcony waiting for Mark to appear and the Social Hostess/Singer came up to us. She asked how we liked the cruise, etc. We assume she thought we didn't like it because we're always just standing around doing nothing. She wasn't really convinced that we had a good time. She's so artificial it's disgusting, but she was trying to be nice to us. She apologized for not getting to know us better (like we even noticed?) and left with a "God bless" (ugh). We had to go down and poke at Mark over that. He witnessed the whole exchange and was disgusted, also. Steve Teague came up and chatted, in his fluorescent purple jacket. He seem like a nice guy.
Off to bed on our final night. We're supposed to clear the room by 9:00AM, or 8:00AM depending on who you believe. We're electing to believe Reflections and get out at 9:00AM!
Monday, May 29 - Los Angeles, CA - Disembark Crystal Symphony
Got up early, as required. A fireboat with full fountains going strong greeted the ship at the breakwater and led us all the way to the dock. We stood out front and watched it sail in.
The Legend of the Seas was already there, so it must have skipped some ports to beat us here because we were ahead of it in Ft. Lauderdale and it still wasn't ready to sail then.
We had breakfast in the dining room with Mark & Kirn serving us. We took new pictures of them so Kirn wouldn't look so stupid in his 50's outfit. Mario told us about a rough crossing he was on where 80% of the passengers gave up and insisted on being taken home from the next port. The cruise line had to charter airplanes to get everyone home. On another cruise a bunch of dining room crew quit after a rough crossing on a new ship because it was too much for them to handle.
We finished up all the basics and went to the Bridge Lounge as instructed to wait for debarkation. It's 10:30AM now and the ship still hasn't been cleared because people haven't gone through customs on board and they're still looking for the people from cabin 7002 to pay their bill. They don't seem to know where anyone is, although they certainly should. Debarkation should have started earlier in the morning. The loudspeakers in the lounge we're in aren't working, so all the old ladies freak out every time there's an announcement they can't hear. They seem to expect to be called to leave the ship first when in reality we'll be the LAST ones to get off. Dave finally told one of them that it would probably be HOURS before we were called and she just couldn't understand why that would be the case. So, of course, he informed her how this procedure works. They've been bitching and moaning about just about everything you can think of so far: Banking, broken fingernails, you-name-it. Some dipshit just came over and couldn't figure out what Dave was doing (he's typing this into the laptop). She insisted it must be a typewriter of some sort and bumbled off to her seat again.
Major freak out...they fixed the PA system in here...you'd think it was the second coming!
In hindsight it is amazing we ever went on another Crystal cruise after this one, but we already had an Alaska cruise booked through AAA that was too good of a deal to pass up. The only consistently good things about this cruise were the fantastic crew and the food in the Crystal Dining Room. While the food has varied over the years, Crystal shipboard crew has always been top notch.
What we didn't mention often enough in the diary was that the intrusion of the reporters and travel agents during this cruise was almost intolerable. A few months after the maiden voyage, several of the marketing people from the office were let go and for good reason. We were new to Crystal and didn't know any better, but we can only imagine how offended some of the loyal guests from the Harmony were by this kind of thing.
Contrary to popular belief, we aren't high maintenance guests and a maiden voyage, in spite of its inconveniences, is an experience hard to beat. Even if something goes wrong at least it will give us something to talk about for years to come!
© 2015 Jet Set Enterprises, Inc.