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Crystal Cruises

Miami, FL to Los Angeles, CA
Departs February 11, 2008
14 days
Crystal Symphony



Monday, February 11 - Miami, FL, USA - Depart 9:00 PM

Tuesday, February 12 - Cruising the Gulf of Mexico

Wednesday, February 13 - Grand Cayman/George town, British West Indies - Arrive 9:00 AM - Depart 6:00 PM

Thursday, February 14 - Cruising the Caribbean Sea

Friday, February 15 - Cartagena, Colombia - Arrive 7:00 AM - Depart 3:00 PM

Saturday, February 16 - Transit the Panama Canal

Sunday, February 17 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Monday, February 18 - Caldera, Costa Rica - Arrive 5:00 AM - Depart 9:00 PM 6:00 PM

Tuesday, February 19 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Wednesday, February 20 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Thursday, February 21 - Acapulco, Mexico - Arrive 8:00 AM - Depart 6:00 PM

Friday, February 22 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Saturday, February 23 - Cabo San Lucas, Mexico - Arrive 7:00 AM - Depart 1:00 PM

Sunday, February 24 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Monday, February 25 - Los Angeles, CA, USA - Arrive 6:00 AM - Disembark Crystal Symphony



This is the continuation of our back-to-back cruises that began in Costa Rica on the Golden Passage page.

Monday, February 11 - Miami, FL, USA - Depart 9:00 PM

It has the largest city population in Florida, is the third most visited American city among international travelers and showcases an Art Deco Historic District encompassing one of the largest neighborhoods entered on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Miami certainly boasts its share of impressive characteristics, even before adding to the list its gorgeous beaches, spirited Cuban population and ritzy enclaves of Coral Gables and Coconut Grove

Miami wasn't always the glamorous and energetic city you see today. Until the late 1800s, it was mostly swamp, disconnected from the rest of the country thanks to its position on the edge of the continent and lack of the essential link of the day: a railroad. All that changed in 1896, when the railroad in northern Florida was extended to the latent tropical paradise of the south.

The rest, as they say, is history, as Miami has since seen recurrent booms fueled by surges of immigration, perennially good weather and an insouciant refusal to do anything halfway. Admire the full glory of Miami Beach with a stroll along South Beach's famous Ocean Boulevard, where splendidly restored art deco buildings compete with fashion models and sun worshipers for attention. For a taste of Cuban cuisine and culture, visit Little Havana on the mainland (Miami Beach is separate both in its municipality and its geography: it sits on a barrier island four miles off the coast, and is reached by a causeway). Also outside mainland Miami are the acres of rare tropical plants nurtured to their fragrant and beautiful best in Fairchild Tropical Gardens. The aforementioned slice of heaven known as Coral Gables lies to the southwest. A gem of 1920s city planning, the city unfurls impressive boulevards and features the alluring Venetian Pool, where waterfalls and underwater caves offer the chance for a uniquely refreshing dip.

Click for Port Information.

Once we got off the ship amid the pointless confusion in the terminal, we waited for about fifteen minutes outside until it appeared that some guests were entering the terminal.  The few of us who were left outside barged ahead of a bewildered group of people at the doors who were obviously wondering why the heck all of us got to board the ship when they didn't.  Sometimes it's fun to use your power for evil.

Once inside we were back in the control of Crystal.  James, Shore Excursion Manager, was herding guests back on board, so we joined that line and were back on in no time.  Later he said he wanted to slap the ground people, but such is life. 

We wandered around the upper deck for the usual port photos, so here they are.  Bay, Bridge, City by Port, City North of Port, Bridge to City, Royal Caribbean Offices, Ships in Port, Cargo Area.  New mattresses are being loaded, but we're not sure if they are for guest staterooms or crew.  They don't look any more plush than the ones we already have, but at least maybe they won't sag in the middle.  We recall that the last time we were in a regular stateroom the mattress was very uncomfortable, but we've had no problems with the one we have this cruise in a penthouse.  There is also a load of new cardio equipment being loaded for the gym.  There are only four ships in port besides Crystal Symphony.  Two Carnival ships:  Imagination and Fascination, and two Royal Caribbean:  Brilliance of the Seas and another we can't see the name.

Click for Today's Activities.

Boarding began at noon, so we went down to the dining room shortly thereafter for lunch.  We ran into headwaiter Roland on the way down the stairs.  He returned from vacation today.  He's another of the dining room staff we've known from almost the beginning.

The dining room filled up quickly, but never to capacity.  In our opinion, the dining room should stay open longer on embarkation day.  There is no other option for food after 1:30pm other than the Trident Grill and that is usually a madhouse.  Every cruise line in the world serves an embarkation buffet in their equivalent of the Lido and so should Crystal, at least until the staterooms are available.  Waiting in line at the grill isn't the most elegant way to begin a cruise.

The waiter's have all changed stations, so we were served by someone we don't know.  He's been around forever, but we don't recall ever having him as our waiter, except perhaps at lunch a time or two.  The food was very good.  The pasta selection was delicious.  Both main courses, the salmon and the cobb salad were excellent.  The cheesecake dessert was edible, but that's all we can say on its behalf. 

We're starting off with the following gifts and credits:

  •  2 x $275 Shipboard Credit from American Express Platinum
  •  Deluxe Bon Voyage Bouquet from Crystal Society

We have about $55.00 in shipboard credit remaining from the previous cruise, also.

Teodor brought us a pizza he suggested yesterday for our afternoon snack.  It came later than usual due to embarkation day chaos, but it was well worth the wait.  It was outstanding, nothing like the cardboard pizza served by the pool.  That means we won't have to worry about tiny dinner portions tonight!

There is a lifeboat muster for newly embarked guests scheduled for 8:00pm tonight, the same time as it was in Costa Rica when we also didn't sail until 9:00pm.  We did not attend since we've already done it once during this combined voyage.

Tonight's Dress Code is Casual.  We do not have menus for today, but they are the same or very similar to the embarkation menus from the previous cruise.  Refer to "Day 1" on the menu page.  The only difference we noticed was the type of fish offered.  Otherwise the menu looked the same to us.  Oh, and the chilled soup said it was mango and strawberry, which it wasn't as far as we could discern.  However, it was thicker and tasted more like strawberries than last cruise's watery version.  The fish was "dourado" this time, it was very good and the portion reasonable.  The chicken breast was again very good, with a larger portion also.  We'd judge tonight's main course portions as acceptable for the average person and for us when we've had three previous courses.  We didn't have either of the "recommended" desserts, opting instead for the strawberry ice cream and the "classic" crème brulee, which was outstanding.  However, unless you consider 1/16th of a strawberry to be "with fresh fruits" then it was a standard vanilla version.

Remi was tearing his hair out trying to make the overflow crowd happy.  He, and all of the others, try extremely hard to satisfy everyone, but when the ship is full and there are a lot of high-roller Crystal Society members on board, there's not a lot he can do.  We don't know what people were asking for, but if it is anything like the previous cruise, more people wanted the early seating and it was completely full.

Gianlucca, Roland, Celso, Remi, and others stopped to exclaim over one thing or another tonight which made the people around us wonder just who the heck we are.  Roland and Celso haven't seen us in a year or more, so they had some catching up to do.

Just before the ship sailed the Captain announced that we would be sailing against a strong current and that it was very windy.  He suggested those prone to motion sickness "take appropriate precautions now."  It was indeed extremely windy as we left the port so the ship is tipping from side to side more than it has during the past two weeks.  It was quite a scene when the pilot boat came along side right outside of the dining room window.  It looked like a toy boat in a washing machine.  We have no clue how the pilot made the transfer, but apparently he did.

The Evening Entertainment is the usual abbreviated Welcome Aboard Showtime with a single performance at 10:15pm.  We did not attend the show.

Tuesday, February 12 - Cruising the Gulf of Mexico

Click for Today's Activities.

It was somewhat rough overnight due to the high winds, but we wouldn't consider it out of the ordinary.  Today's weather is cooler than it has been so far, about 75, overcast and rainy.  There's not going to be much activity by the pool today.

We were up early, so we went to the Late Riser's Breakfast by the Neptune Pool.  Since the weather isn't the greatest, the sliding roof is closed, keeping the area pleasant for dining.  Almost all of the tables were occupied.  The Late Riser's Breakfast looks to us to be extremely popular.  We arrived at 10:30am and by the time we left there were people wandering around looking for places to sit.  The food was outstanding with normal sized portions.  We're not sure what was up with the tiny portions last cruise, but they've returned to normal.

After eating we wandered out to the Seahorse Pool to check out the weather.  The water had sloshed out of the pool, so the deck was wet.  It started to sprinkle a bit, so we gave up and went back to the room to do laundry or whatever.  Teodor stopped by to check on what kind of liquor and wine we want.  Penthouse guests get one full-sized bottle of the alcoholic beverage of their choice per person per cruise.

By the way, you may recall us mentioning the box of very nice chocolates that are supplied in lieu of the pillow chocolates.  We've determined that this is only for the Penthouses.  The staterooms still get the regular candy as far as we know.  We're told that the new penthouse candy, which is refilled as often as necessary, is much more costly than the pillow chocolates.  We believe that since it is exceptional.  We're actually eating it unlike the pillow chocolates that we collect in a bag and never bother to eat.  Those are pretty good though, we're just not into them.

Click for Luncheon Menu.  We skipped lunch and had food from the Trident Grill later in the afternoon.  The ship is very quiet for a capacity crowd, quite a different mood than the previous cruise.  However, the weather has taken a turn for the worse, so that may have something to do with it.  We are surrounded by thunderstorms this afternoon complete with huge bolts of lightening and rumbling thunder claps.  It hasn't rained more than light showers, but it looks menacing outside.  It is still around 75.  It is windy, but not all that rough under the circumstances.

Something we noticed yesterday after boarding was that all of the art that used to line the hallway outside of the Avenue Saloon is gone.  It was jam-packed with art auction stuff last cruise, but there is nothing on the walls now.  We also observed that the art auctioneer is no longer listed in the schedule.  So, it appears that the art auctions are no more.  We'll attempt to verify what's going on as soon as we can.

Teodor brought us cheese sticks wrapped with prosciutto today for our canapés.  We had a nice chat with him since it isn't quite so hectic today.  It was cloudy for the rest of the day and into the night.

Tonight's Dress Code is Formal for the Captain's Gala Welcome Party.  The party is held in the Starlite Club before dinner.  We arrived shortly after the party started and found it jam packed.  We stood at the back with the staff, mostly chatting with James, the new Shore Excursion Manager.  He's very enthusiastic and friendly.  We expect he'll do an outstanding job.  When we suggested that we wouldn't be going ashore tomorrow, he said, "Neither would I," so we've made a wise choice.  There will be six other ships in port tomorrow, all of them tendering since there are no docking facilities for large ships.  Sounds like fun doesn't it? 

On the way out of the party we stopped to say hello to Paula Jean and ended up chatting for a few minutes about hometown life and other similar subjects.  She's an extremely nice person, but then again, who isn't around here?  OK, we'll give Paula Jean an edge for being extra nice.  She was also looking quite stunning tonight, by the way.

Click for Dinner Menu.  The Crystal Dining Room was also jammed to the rafters tonight.  We saw only one table for two that wasn't occupied.  Hysteria reigned as usual for the first formal night of a cruise.  The decibel level was also very high.  There were no delays with the service at all and the food was good to outstanding.  The salads were the same description as last week, but arranged differently.  The fruit appetizer was back to its normal size, which was nice, plus all of the fruit on the plate was very tasty.  The chateaubriand itself was exceptional, but unfortunately the potatoes were back to the dry, inedible version served until two years ago when they improved significantly.  We're assuming this was an aberration and not the norm, however.  The chocolate dessert is a new version of what used to look like a Hostess Ding Dong drizzled with strawberry sauce.  The new presentation is very impressive.  The Ding Dong remains, but it is embellished by gold leaf and a chocolate truffle on the top, accompanied by a shot glass of a fruity liqueur and two small layered chocolate squares.  Both the flavor and the presentation were exquisite.

The Evening Entertainment is the production show "Cole!".  We can't recall ever seeing the Galaxy Lounge as full as it was tonight for a production show.  It wasn't at capacity, but there were few empty seats.  The large audience definitely ups the energy level in the room.  The sparkly gowns in the finale got a reaction we haven't encountered in years.  The shows are still suffering a bit from the missing female dancer, but we doubt anyone new to the ship would notice.  The remaining performers cover for it just fine and their skills are top notch.

The cruise director announced that there would be six other ships in port with us tomorrow, which elicited groans from the audience.  Get used to it folks, such is life in these parts.  We're also tendering, although that is never as big a deal as some people make it out to be.  As with everything else, Crystal handles tendering with finesse and there is little waiting and no lines to speak of.  It's always amusing to watch the tender lines leaving shore because the only one with no line is Crystal's.  There will also be a tent for shade, cold drinks, etc., being offered.  For the other ships you'll see lines stretching as far as you can see in the hot sun.  That alone is some pretty good advertising for Crystal Cruises.

It remained stormy and windy into the night.  It isn't quite as rough as it was earlier, but even that wasn't a big deal.  Judging by the packed party and dining room tonight, it wasn't nearly rough enough to keep anyone in their stateroom.

We received two additional gifts today:

  •  2 x Prepaid Gratuities
  •  $200 Shipboard Credit

Wednesday, February 13 - Grand Cayman/George Town, British West Indies - Arrive 9:00 AM - Depart 6:00 PM

Grand Cayman boasts endless beaches that are encircled by coral reefs teeming with an abundance of marine life. On shore, affluent colonial neighborhoods dominate the West Bay area, while the East End affords natural attractions such as spectacular blowholes and fragrant botanical gardens.

Its quaint capital, George Town, offers British charm and tempting duty-free bargains. Shopping highlights include black coral fashioned into exquisite jewelry, imported woolens, elegant china and gleaming silverware.

After shopping and sightseeing, enjoy relaxing on that magnificent crescent of sand, Seven Mile Beach.

Shore Excursions in George Town, Grand Cayman
CAY-A $144 Grand Cayman by Helicopter
CAY-B $95 Atlantis Submarine Adventure
CAY-C $58 Scuba Discovery for Certified Divers CANCELLED
CAY-D $43 Stingrays & Snorkeling
CAY-E $102 Scuba Adventure for Beginning Divers
CAY-F $94 Scuba Adventure for Certified Divers
CAY-G $43 Seaworld Explorer Semi-Submarine: Shipwreck Expedition

Click for Port Information.

Click for Today's Activities.

Our day started with a phone conversation with Jane regarding the Crystal Society presentation she wants us to participate in.  We agreed to do it even after she said we probably needed lots of time to, "set our hair and put on our party dress."  She's lucky we like her. 

Today's weather is hot and humid.  Occasionally it looks like it might rain, but it hasn't so far.  We didn't venture outside until 11:30am to get the usual port photos.  There are five mega-honkin'-huge ships anchored along with us today.  Two Royal Caribbean:  Radiance of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas; two Carnival ships:  Inspiration and Liberty; and the NCL Norwegian Jewel.  The Jewel arrived later than we did, around 10:00am and she was still awaiting clearance well after that.  Quite frankly, looking at the other ships is far more interesting than the nearby town and the non-descript shoreline.  There's a semi-picturesque point nearby that is marred by a bunch of tanks.  Otherwise the island is as flat as a pancake.  When asked if they had gone ashore, a group of guests remarked, "Yes, the entire round trip took exactly 25 minutes."  That's how interesting it is.  We didn't go ashore for political reasons.  Look it up if you don't understand why.

After the port photos we only had a few minutes to wait for the Lido to open for lunch.  There were no crowds in the Lido today and we expect it will be like this throughout the cruise.  Last cruise everything was crowded all the time, but this batch of passengers seems less likely to clog the arteries of the ship.  Our lunch was good, as usual.  The Asian selection was a very spicy Thai noodle dish with chicken.  It's nice to have something spicy and mildly daring on a ship.

Click for the Luncheon Menu.

Once we finished eating, it was back to our verandah for the afternoon.  It is far more interesting watching the tenders go back and forth to shore than sweltering by the pool today.  We were lucky that our side of the ship was in the shade for the entire day, so it was quite pleasant out on the verandah.  There were huge lines waiting for the other ships' tenders on the pier, but Crystal Symphony's tenders were going to a different part of town where there were no lines.

The ships left port one after another starting at 4:00pm with the larger RCI ship.  One of the Carnival ships left several hours before that.  We sailed about fifteen minutes early.  Obviously they knew everyone was back on board already.  Exciting port, huh?  As soon as the ship reached the open sea it became somewhat rough, but not terribly so.

Get this notice from Reflections front page:  "DAYTIME DRESS CODE:  For your comfort and convenience, we would like to advise all guests that in accordance with Crystal Cruises' daytime dress code, bathrobes and swimming suits are not appropriate attire for the Crystal Dining Room, The Bistro, Lido Cafe or Afternoon Tea Time in the Palm Court.  Thank you for your cooperation."   Isn't it incredible that it is even necessary to mention something like that?

Tonight's Dress Code is Casual.  There is a Casual Dining option available tonight around the Neptune Pool, as well.

Teodor brought us guacamole and chips tonight, so it's not as though we were at all hungry by dinner time, but such is life.  We did manage to get ready early, so we sat in the Starlite Club listening to the band for about half an hour before going to dinner.  There was also a Jazz Jam in the lobby with the Galaxy Orchestra that was well attended.  If you are into that sort of music, be sure to attend if it is offered during your cruise.

Click for Dinner Menu.  The dining room wasn't as full as it was last night, but that didn't alleviate the hysteria.  The special orders were rampant, so we're assuming this is along the same vein as people demanding to sit with the captain this cruise because they've "heard" you can do that.  Um, excuse us, but you have to have WAY more than two or three Royal Caribbean cruises under your belt to sit with the captain on a Crystal ship.  And, by the way, if you are placing special orders just because you can, please reconsider.  The service at every other table in your waiter's station will suffer while your orders are served from that silver platter.  If it's something you really love and want to order, by all means have at it, but ordering just for the novelty of doing so is just plain tacky.  Luckily the special orders didn't involve our waiter, but we saw more special orders on this single evening than we saw during the entire eleven days of the previous cruise.  Hmmm, Value Collection cruise = Guests abusing the staff????  You do the math.

Everything we ordered was above average to outstanding.  The Tower of Roasted Chicken was better than it was last cruise, which was nice.   Both entrees, the salmon and the pork medallions were exceptional.  The pork portion was a bit skimpy, but not ridiculously so and it had a wonderful flavor.  The peach dessert was another elaborate concoction that was more art than flavor, but it was good for what it was.  That being a peach tart with a square of peach gelatin next to it and a shot glass of sabayon.  You could probably say it was a "deconstructed" dessert that seems to be the current fad in trendy restaurants.

The Evening Entertainment is "Magic Showtime" featuring illusionists George & Holly Sateriale.  The show was entertaining enough, but it was quite short, only about 40 minutes.  Someone needs to advise performers before they arrive that audience participation gimmicks do not work on Crystal ships.  There was an exodus from the room every time another group of participants was rounded up.  This simply is not the place for that kind of thing.  Otherwise the show was fine and the illusionists quite personable.

Forget what we said about the art auctions.  New art has appeared on the walls that had been completely bare since embarkation day.  Oh well, we can dream, can't we?  At least maybe there is something new to look at rather than the same "Picassos" that have been here for the past 15 years.  Someone must buy them or they wouldn't keep doing it, but in our opinion the prices "suggested" are outrageous (in the multiple thousands sometimes).  We'll investigate to see if the new art variety is any different than it was before.

It was very windy after we sailed and the sea more rough than it has been.  That's not to suggest it is anything unusual.  For example, there is no danger of things falling off the counters or anything like that.

Thursday, February 14 - Cruising the Caribbean Sea

Click for Today's Activities.

OK, now it's rough.  We've experienced way worse than this and it's no problem for us, but we'd say it is rough enough to induce seasickness in some people.  It's very windy, hot and humid.  Overcast, too, but not raining.  All these sea days and bad weather aren't going to make for a lot of happy campers on their Value Collection cruise.

We were up several hours before lunch time, but didn't bother to go out until then.  There was a Nuevo Latino themed buffet scheduled for lunch around the Neptune Pool.  We went to the Crystal Dining Room.  The dining room started off slowly, but eventually it was very busy.  We did stop by the buffet later and it was going on full swing in spite of the rough seas. 

Click for Luncheon Menu.  There's not a lot to say about lunch today.  The enchiladas are a bit different than what you're probably used to, but they taste good.  We both had the watermelon sherbet for dessert, which was as expected.

The lobby was decorated for Valentine's Day with a huge bouquet of red roses in the center and two urns of roses flanking the Crystal Dining Room.

After lunch we went back to the room to sit on the verandah or watch videos.  It is extremely windy on deck, complete with howling Wizard of Oz sound effects.  It took two people to shut the door to the pool deck against the wind.  Even so, there were still people out lounging by the pool.  Both pools had long since sloshed out their contents and were closed.  Our verandah is sheltered enough that the wind wasn't a problem.

Later in the afternoon we went down to visit Jane at her desk to give her the information she needs for her presentation speech about us.  We really don't care what she says.  We know it is all advertising for Crystal and we're happy to oblige if we're asked nicely enough.  We also wanted to clarify some items on our preference list that don't apply anymore.  If she is successful at fixing that she's a miracle worker.

We stopped by the Trident Ice Cream Bar for a snack around 4:00pm, then sat around the covered pool area for a while.  Most guests were packed into the Valentine's Tea Time in Palm Court.  The theme for it is chocolate, so we expected it to be popular and by the looks of it, it was.  Obviously it isn't a problem for guests to find the Palm Court when there is something interesting up there.

Tonight's Dress Code is Informal.  We dawdled around getting ready for dinner, so we only had about 20 minutes to kill.  We decided to sit in the Starlite Club until dinner time.  There was a singles party going on in the bar section, but nothing much was going on in that regard other than staff standing around the bar.

Click for Valentine's Dinner Menu.  Don't get too excited, this is really the Neptune Dinner menu they always serve on this day of a cruise printed on different paper.  We really can't imagine how anyone at Crystal can keep a straight face when they claim the menus don't repeat.  You can tell the day of the cruise by the menu without fail.  Even the chargers were the Neptune themed ones, as were the waiters' jackets.  Any long time Crystal cruiser may be interested to know that the only themed chargers used in the dining room currently are the Neptune pattern.  All of the other nights are the same Crystal Cruises map pattern.  Gone are the Guy Buffet pattern for French night and the swirled blue/green ones.  Most people probably never noticed anyway, but it is another small detail that has fallen by the wayside.  The linens are always the same color, also.

We both ordered the same things tonight, all of which were above average to exceptional.  The fruit was the same as always, fine.  The chilled soup was taking chilled to the still had ice in it...but had a nice flavor.  The salads were OK, but the lettuce was past its prime.  The filet steak "Mermaid" was outstanding.  The filet was large and had a great flavor.  Dessert was another extravaganza with the carrot cake in the center, a shot glass of the tapioca mixture on one side and a tiny scoop of ice cream on the other.  This was by far the best of these concoctions we've had so far.  Surprisingly enough, the liquid tapioca stuff in the glass was delightful.

Vlada stopped to chat after dinner and had lots of nice things to say about the way Crystal treats the crew.  We've heard the same before, but it is always nice to hear.  In fact, we have never in all these years heard a crew member badmouth Crystal.  Even the ones who don't like the job have good things to say about the way Crystal treats them.  The most important being that they do not have to pay anything out of pocket to join the ship even when they are new.  Other lines make their crew pay for transportation, physical exams, and such.  Crystal covers everything except the first ticket home.  Of course, that's how it should be when people are working their ass off for a company, but most other cruise lines are more concerned with the bottom line than in keeping a happy crew.

About 20% of the guests who were expected in the dining room tonight didn't show up because of the rough seas.  We agree it is rocky enough now to keep some people in their room.  However, there are drugs for this kind of thing.  We use the generic form of Bonine and never have a problem with seasickness unless it is totally out of control on the sea.

The Evening Entertainment is the music and comedy of Jimmy Travis.  We did not attend the show.  It must have been a chore to remain upright in the Galaxy Lounge under the circumstances.

We received an invitation for Captain's Quarters Cocktails for tomorrow evening.

There were chocolate dipped strawberries waiting in the room tonight.  We remember when you got those on every formal evening, but those days are long gone.  This was a nice touch for Valentine's Day though.

We investigated the new art outside of the Avenue Saloon where the auction art used to be.  Turns out there is a new company called Winsome & Heyword who have replaced Park West.  Their brochure states that the art is for sale, but if you'd like to purchase it to contact the Art Director who will handle it for you.  There were no prices on the art pieces.  The variety currently on board isn't all that varied, but it does reduce the clutter in the hallway.  It is all framed simply and looks more like it is decoration than something for sale.  They will have a "reception" during which selected pieces will be shown.  It doesn't appear to be an auction, which is a good thing in our opinion.  The whole affair seems to be much more in keeping with the upscale atmosphere of Crystal.

Friday, February 15 - Cartagena, Colombia - Arrive 7:00 AM - Depart 3:00 PM

Charming Cartagena is one of the most fascinating towns in South America. The old city, almost completely surrounded by lagoons, bays and the Caribbean Sea, is still girded by its 17th-century fortifications. Once these guarded the gold and treasures of the New World, bound for Spain; now they shelter ornate churches and convents, the dramatic Palace of the Inquisition, and other historic gems.


Shore Excursions in Cartagena, Colombia

CTG-A $35 Cartagena Kaleidoscope
CTG-B $38 Bay Cruise & Bocachica Fortifications CANCELLED
CTG-C $38 Cruise on a Spanish Galleon and Folk Show
CTG-D $45 Old City Introduction & Mangrove Canoe Experience
CTG-E $35 Cartagena’s Countryside & Mud Volcano
CTG-F $40 The Heroes of Cartagena
CTG-G $44 A Fortress & Two Monasteries: a Look at Historic Cartagena
CTG-H $46 Old Cartagena & Folkloric Show at Heredia Theatre
CTG-I $62 Cartagena by Boat & Motor Coach
CTG-J $88 Getaway to the Rosario Islands

Click for Port Description.

Click for Today's Activities.

Overnight it was extremely rough.  On our roughness scale we'd say we reached a 7 out of 10.  Any more and stuff would have been falling off the shelving.  We even got up and put the computer on the floor at one point, just in case.

Oh boy, Cartagena!  Woo hoo...not.  The city looks OK from a distance.  Well, sort of, as long as you don't look very closely.  We've been here before and that was plenty.  It's also very hot, humid and generally dreary.  No wonder we're sailing at 3:00pm. 

Our first stop as usual was the Lido for lunch.  The opinions of the city from returning guests was pretty much a love/hate split.  Some people found taxi drivers who were fun and interesting.  Others weren't so lucky apparently.  From our experience here in the past, it has a faded glory to it.  As though it was quite grand at some time in the past, then the money ran out.

The lunch selections today weren't the greatest and nothing was above average.  The made-to-order pasta was the best option if you could get it from the surly cook.  Seriously, this guy needs to be reassigned out of range of guests and pronto.  Everyone else is so friendly and helpful that a sourpuss stands out like a sore thumb.  At least we did eventually get what we ordered and it was worth waiting for.

By the way, the service at the Trident Grill seems to have returned to normal, which is a big improvement over the previous cruise.  There is a different cook now and he is very pleasant.

Click for the Luncheon Menu.

After lunch we went up to the Sun Deck for our usual port photos.  Here they are:  Hill by Port, Port Area, City1, City2, Harbor Entrance, Lagoon Island.  It is extremely hot and humid on deck.  We're surprised so many people were out lying the sun, not to mention the ship's officers playing racquet ball.  Yikes, we'd be dead in under ten minutes doing that in this weather.  There is water in the Seahorse Pool, but the Neptune Pool is still empty.  It was so gross outside we didn't sit on the verandah today at all.

There is a Sail Away Party on deck with complimentary Sangria and entertainment by the Crystal Sextet.  We did wander out onto our verandah for a while during the sail away.  We'd forgotten how filthy the water is here, not to mention the air.  All we can say is, "PPPPPP UUUUUUUU!"

We are invited for Captain's Quarters Cocktails before dinner tonight.  We chatted with a couple of fellow passengers we hadn't met before this, which was nice.  Jane told us how much she enjoyed hosting the excursion to the Mud Volcano today.  We hadn't read the description, but they went to the volcano and then got out and wallowed in the mud.  Jane made it sound fun...for her.  Now, if they had all stayed muddy and came back to the ship, that would be fun.

Apparently the rough weather last night was a complete surprise.  The captain said the weather report was for 30 knot winds, but they turned out to be over 60 knots, which is near hurricane strength.  That and the fact that the ship was fighting the wind and current combined to make it a very rough night.  It was not, however, anywhere near as awful as some of the storms we have experienced.  Nothing fell on the floor this time, so for us it was just a reminder we're on a ship. 

Tonight's Dress code is Casual.

Click for Dinner Menu.  After looking at the dining room menu this afternoon, we quickly ran down and made reservation for Jade Garden instead.  Although it was almost full, we got in with no problem.  We were shocked to learn that all of the staff currently on board for Jade Garden is being replaced by new guys who are being trained now.  None of the current waiters have return dates after their current contract ends.  Whether that means they'll never come back is anyone's guess, but it seems odd that they wouldn't keep the guys who have been here for so long.  It's not as though the waiters have to cook the Nobu menu.  Larry, the headwaiter, had told us earlier that he wasn't coming back, but we assumed he had chosen not to come back.  Maybe he did, but now we're not so sure.  It's too bad if everyone really is being replaced because these guys know the repeat guests by name and the service is top notch.

We weren't all that hungry when we arrived because Teodor had brought us a plate of the mini-burgers they used to serve on 50's night as our canapés.  Those things are just too cute.  Anyway, we only ordered an assorted plate of sushi, three appetizers each, and two entrees each.  We were so full we only had green tea ice cream for dessert.  Are we pigs or what?

The Evening Entertainment is the production show "Rock Around the Clock".  We did not attend the show.

Although the wind is almost as strong as it was last night, we are now going with the current with the wind behind us.  So, it isn't rough at all tonight.  There's some vibration now and then, but that's about it.  The weather forecast for Panama City tomorrow is rain and 95 degree heat.  Sounds like fun doesn't it?  That's how it has been on previous trips we've taken, so the cruise prior to this one with the perfect weather was definitely not the norm.  We really don't mind the weather since we've done it so many times before, but it would be a shame if it kept other guests inside.  You really do have to go outside and experience the transit first hand to really get the feel of it.  It is definitely a "must do" experience for anyone.

Saturday, February 16 - Transit the Panama Canal

Spend an unforgettable day cruising the Panama Canal, a fifty-one-mile waterway through the rainforest that is one of the world's engineering masterpieces. The ship glides down the canal with inches to spare, through locks that raise and lower it like a toy. Along the way it crosses enormous Gatun Lake, and the amazing Gaillard Cut, blasted out of a solid mountainside.

Click for Today's Activities.

Unlike our west-east transit, this time the weather isn't nearly as pleasant.  Although it looked like it might rain at any moment it didn't.  However, it was very hot and extremely humid, so being outside wasn't the most comfortable proposition.

The first time we looked outside the ship was just passing through the Gatun locks on the Atlantic side.  This was on schedule as shown in the activities if you click the link above.  Next thing we knew, the ship was stopped and stayed that way for over an hour.  So, the rest of the day the schedule was a little over an hour later than what is listed.  None of this mattered in the slightest to us and probably no one else either.

We went up to the Lido for lunch, which wasn't as good as last cruise.  There has been a bit of a downward trend in the food in the Lido from last cruise to this one.  It is the same menu, but the food just isn't quite as good.  For example, the Asian selection of Spicy Beef was very bland.  This isn't to imply the quality went down, only the preparation.

Click for Luncheon Menu.

We didn't even bother to try to go outside after lunch.  Instead we returned to the room where the air conditioning kept us cool.  Dave did eventually go out and sit on the verandah for the majority of the afternoon and until we reached the Pacific Ocean.  It was hot, but just sitting there looking at the scenery wasn't unbearable.  There were several crocodile sightings today.  They're HUGE, by the way.  Obviously this isn't a place for swimming no matter how tempting it may appear.

There isn't much to report about the transit.  Once we started moving again at around 11:30am, we only stopped for the locks.  Even that doesn't take much time.  We managed to get a few pictures today, nothing terribly exciting, but better than nothing.  First up is Gamboa where a lot of the canal maintenance is done.  In this photo, the black crane on the left is the original from 1912.  The red, white and blue crane on the right was brought in when the old one was retired in 1999 (or thereabouts...don't hold us to dates. They involve numbers, something we're not very good at.)  This is the first location where the restored Panama Canal Railway tracks are visible along the water's edge. 

Just after passing Gamboa a river flows into the canal.  You can see how muddy the canal water is today by the difference between it and the river water.  The muddiness is from the widening project coming up just around the next bend.  They use these drilling rigs to place explosives, then a steam shovel comes along and digs out the pieces and puts them into barges to be hauled away.  The Continental Divide is obvious in the form of Gold Hill, which the narrator said will probably cease to exist once the widening project is finished.  It is continuously crumbling into the canal, so the plan is to remove it.

Once through the cut and past the part of the canal where the widening is taking place at the moment, we reached a lookout for tourists close to the Pedro Miguel locks.  With the canal no longer linked to the United States, tight security is not necessary so several areas have been opened up to tourists.  Next up is a dam that regulates the level of the lake between the Pedro Miguel and the Mira Flores locks on the Pacific end.  This is also the location of the former U.S. military base that guarded the canal.  Part of it is used as the administration offices of the canal authority.  It appears that the rest of it is open to the public and is being redeveloped.  At the Mira Flores locks there is a new Visitor Center that was jam-packed with tourists who the announcer on shore was inciting to yell a welcome to the ship.

That's pretty much it for what happened today.  It was nice sitting on the verandah and watching the scenery go by.  Isn't that what a vacation is for? 

Just as we were wrapping up for the afternoon, Teodor brought us a chicken quesadilla for our canapés, then stayed to chat for a few minutes about nothing in particular you'd be interested in.

Tonight's Dress Code is Casual.

After pulling ourselves together after an afternoon of doing absolutely nothing, we went up to Palm Court to sit for half an hour before dinner.  The cocktail hour was held in the disused Palm Court tonight because they were doing the Liar's Club game in the Starlite Club.  We'd prefer to sit in Palm Court anytime, but since nobody ever seems to go up there it is now used mostly for private parties in the evening.  Too bad, because it is a comfortable, beautiful room.

Click for Dinner Menu.  At first we thought the dining room was going to be almost empty, but people did eventually trickle in.  All of the food except dessert was very good to exceptional.  Both entrees were great, the salmon and the salad entree.  The salad dish was quite a surprise.  A nice portion of flavorful grilled turkey with fresh salad greens and a very tasty dressing.  The "New York" dessert looked nice, but was really awful.  The cake portion was dry and crumbly with little flavor.  The strawberry sauce it was sitting in was way too high in alcohol content.  We'd bet it would ignite and turn into a flambé without too much effort.  In our opinion, something with that much alcohol in it should be more explicit in the description in case someone who shouldn't or wouldn't want it could avoid it.  We'll avoid it in the future just because it was ghastly.

Tonight's entertainment is "A Night At The Concert Hall" with classical guitar virtuoso Robin Hill.  We did not attend the performance.

The Pacific side of the world so far is quite the opposite as far as rough seas go.  There is almost no noticeable movement tonight.

There was an announcement in the newsletter that the hours for our stay in Caldera, Costa Rica have been shortened due to "limited availability of pier space".  You may recall that we departed an hour early last cruise, as well.  This time we are leaving at 6:00pm rather than 9:00pm.

We move one hour back on the clock tonight.

Sunday, February 17 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Click for Today's Activities.

The weather sure is a complete about face from the Atlantic side of the canal.  We could have sworn the ship had stopped during the night.  Come to think of it, maybe it did, but we were too lazy to get up and open the drapes.  In any case, it is very smooth sailing today.  The ship is only doing about 12 knots, because there isn't much distance to cover before the next port.  The weather is partly cloudy and very hot.

We thought we might give the Asia Cafe buffet by the Neptune Pool a shot for once, but just a few minutes passing through the area changed our mind quickly enough.  The buffet itself is very nice, but it was too hot, noisy and uncomfortable to bother with.  We opted for the dining room instead where they always have a few items matching the buffet theme also.

With some time to kill, we sat in the Crystal Cove for the first time in years.  Scott was playing the Crystal Piano.  He's always well worth a listen.  The Cove is a great vantage point for viewing the lobby and other passengers.  It's amusing to watch the herd pile up outside of the dining room just before it opens.  Wait two seconds after that and there is no one standing there at all. 

Click for Luncheon Menu.  Continuing the trend this cruise, the food this afternoon wasn't as good as it was the previous cruise.  For example, the Spicy Orange Chicken, which was outstanding last week, was extremely salty and gummy this week.  The pumpkin pie for dessert wasn't worth the calories, but that's about what we expected.  We've never had pumpkin pie on a Crystal ship that was worth eating.  Luckily it came with a scoop of vanilla ice cream to make it edible at least.

After lunch we went back to the room to watch movies since it was too sunny on the verandah today.  It never did rain in spite of how it looked from time to time.

Teodor brought us "pigs in a blanket" as canapés tonight.  That sure beats caviar in our book.

Tonight's Dress Code is Informal.  We only had time to stop by the Crystal Cove to ask Paula about a cocktail Bill wanted to try.  She said she would bring it to our table in the dining room, which she did.

Click for Chef's Dinner Menu.  The dining room was very chaotic and noisy tonight.  It was crowded, but there seemed to be more to the chaos than that.  None of it affected us except for the noise level.  We complimented Dusko for being the first waiter in 47 cruises who has ever known our name and which is which.  That's true, by the way.

Tonight's meal was extraordinary.  The fruit mosaic really was a mosaic.  It consisted of thinly sliced squares of different types of melon arranged in a checkerboard pattern, then topped with berries and other fruit.  The spinach salad was what one would expect.  Both the fish and the filet steak main courses were among the best entrees we've ever had on board.  Even the Brussels sprouts served with the steak were incredible and we don't usually like them at all.  These were a highlight.  The Prima Ballerina dessert presentation was better this week and the dessert itself was exceptional. 

The Evening Entertainment is a variety show featuring Jimmy Travis and the magicians from earlier in the cruise.  We did not attend the show.

It became slightly rocky around sunset and that continued into the evening.  But, rocky is all it was, not rough.

Monday, February 18 - Caldera, Costa Rica - Arrive 5:00 AM - Depart 9:00 pm 6:00 pm

Superlatives abound when describing Costa Rica, one of Latin America's most peaceful countries. Often called the "Switzerland of Central America," it does not possess an army and boasts a stable democratic government as well as a high literacy rate.

Strategically located between two great continents, it has been the benefactor of great cultural contributions from each. In addition to discovering its fascinating traditions, visitors to Costa Rica will be welcomed by friendly people and will enjoy superb scenery and an ideal climate.

Shore Excursions in Caldera, Costa Rica

CLD-C $114 Costa Rica & its Capital City, San José
CLD-D $70 Orchid Farm Experience
CLD-E $75 Sky Walk in the Rainforest
CLD-F $74 A Walk through the Tropical Rainforest
CLD-G $118 Rainforest Canopy Ziplining Adventure
CLD-H $103 Costa Rican Traditions
CLD-I $105 The Poás Volcano & Cloud Forest National Park Adventure

Click for Port Information.

Click for Today's Activities.

We sure did luck out with the weather when we spent those four days in Costa Rica before the cruise.  It was sunny and beautiful then, today it is cloudy, very humid and hot.  There isn't anything to see in the vicinity of the port, so there are no new photos for today.

We did nothing except kill time until lunch, when we went to the Lido.  We did manage to walk around the Promenade Deck first, but that's about it.  Dave's a bit under the weather today with a slight cold or something, no big deal.

The food in the Lido was very good today.  Both the Asian selection and the BBQ chicken breast in particular were outstanding.  We skipped dessert.  People started trickling in on the return shuttle bus from Puntarenas.  The consensus was that there wasn't anything to do there.  We already knew that, so it wasn't on our radar at all.  You have to get farther out into the country to see anything interesting.

Click for Luncheon Menu.

We stayed in the room and/or the verandah all afternoon.  There was a brief thunder storm around 4:30pm, then steady rain into the evening.  The most entertaining aspect of the rain was that it caused several small electrical explosions by one of the big light poles in the parking lot.  Just before sailing the air became heavy with the smell of smoke that had the distinct fragrance of fireworks.  That lasted for over an hour and was drawn into the ship by the air conditioning system.  It was about the same inside and out in that regard.  We never did see where the smoke was coming from, but it wasn't the electrical issue in the parking lot.

The sailing was delayed a few minutes while the ship waited for something.  The gangway was still out at 6:00pm with several staff members pacing around.  The dock workers waiting for us to leave so they could unload a cargo ship started yelling, "Go, Go, Go!" at one point.  Eventually a delivery truck screeched up and several men quickly unloaded boxes of supplies onto the ship.  We have no idea what it was, but some of it looked to be food supplies of some sort packed in Styrofoam boxes.  Of course, it could have been anything for that matter.

One of our deck chairs collapsed this afternoon and no it wasn't because we've gained so much weight!  Teodor took it away to be repaired or replaced when he brought our guacamole and chips tonight.

Tonight's Dress Code is Casual.  We sat in the Starlite Club for a few minutes before dinner.  The bar area was doing a brisk business and the dance floor was popular.

Click for Dinner Menu.  This was the 50's Dinner menu from years gone by.  The meat loaf used to be the "Blue Plate Special".  Everything we ordered was good, but nothing was spectacular.  The prime rib was a generous portion, but wasn't quite as tasty as it was during the last cruise.  It was still good, just not memorable in the grand scheme of things.  We had ice cream for dessert, not one of the elaborate concoctions.  Marius was excited when Dave ordered hot tea.  He has been asking us if we want coffee or tea every night since we got here.

The dining room was in a sort of strange state tonight.  It wasn't just our waiter, but everyone.  There were times when no food at all was coming out of the kitchen.  Waiters would disappear into the kitchen for so long that their Senior Waiter would have to go looking for them.  A chef was standing just outside the corridor to the kitchen, but he was there last night also.  He didn't look very happy, but that's all we have to report about it.  There were again a lot of special orders coming out, but none of them affected us and they seemed to be legitimate, not power trips.

The Evening Entertainment is ventriloquist Mark Merchant with an appearance of "The Castaways".  We did not attend the show.

There was a lightning show during dinner that continued off and on into the night.  It is windy, so the ship is sort of leaning to one side now and then, but it isn't rough by any means.  We're traveling faster than we have been recently, so there is a bit of vibration, but that doesn't affect us one way or the other.

Tuesday, February 19 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Click for Today's Activities.

It is still smooth sailing today, but it remains cloudy.  It hadn't rained by lunchtime and doesn't look like it will.  It is more that California-style June Gloom than rain clouds.  The outside temperature is about 78 degrees.

Click for Luncheon Menu.  We went to the Lido for lunch and everything we selected was very good.  It became quite crowded after about 30 minutes, so we gave up and went back to the room to rest up for tonight.  Since we're both suffering from what we always call the "Crystal Cough", we figured resting was wise.  We used to get this respiratory ailment every time we sailed on this ship, but we haven't had it since they started the hand sanitizing and no-hand-shake policy.  It's not terrible and doesn't ruin the cruise or anything, but it is a bit of a drag because it does involve a fever and it drags on for weeks.

Tonight's Dress Code is Formal.  Gee, 4:00pm and it's already time to set our hair and put on our party dresses for tonight.  How does anyone do the first seating?  Oh, you mean you have to get up before 11:00am?  No thanks.  Once is enough, thank you.

The Crystal Society party was held tonight before dinner.  For Jane's comfort and convenience we are pleased to present the following highlighted section for your enjoyment.  Please note that bathrobes and swimsuits are not appropriate attire for reading this section.

You may recall that we agreed to attend the Main Seating party because Jane needed someone with enough cruises racked up to be impressive.  We're just so damn nice, we agreed to do it.

We decided to play nice, so we entered through the receiving line tonight, which we almost never do anymore.  We don't play well with others, as you may have guessed by now.  It seemed only fair to let Jane know we hadn't run off with her box of candy and actually did show up.  She certainly was impressed by our ability to pull ourselves together when we have to.  Not only was she happy we showed up, but apparently we were quite a vision as well.  (It's rude to snicker, by the way)

As instructed, we sat close to the stage so we wouldn't have to squeeze through the chairs in the Starlite Club to get up there.  Whoever chose the new furniture should have gone on a few cruises before making a decision, but we digress.

There was only one other presentation of a high roller tonight, with 31 cruises or thereabouts.  A couple with 128 (again, numbers, so we're not exactly sure if that's right, but it is close enough) was announced, but they don't come up on stage anymore.

Jane's speech about us almost made us sound interesting if you can believe that.  She started off saying that our first Crystal cruise was the inaugural voyage of Crystal Symphony, we have done two full world cruises, etc.  Then she made our habit of staying on board a good thing.  She said that we came to relax and we'd get so relaxed we didn't even bother leaving the ship.  That's all true, but we're also total lazy-asses.  If you are a port you'd damn well better have something exciting to show us if we do go ashore.  Jane also said the we are extremely well traveled (FYI, we have been to over 240 cities, we counted), so they are particularly honored that we choose Crystal.  (Some people at Crystal might be honored, but we'd bet there are a few who'd do a happy dance if we never came back.)

Now we reach the part where a couple of screws fell out of Jane's head and she described us as "suave and debonair".  How many of you shot your beverage of choice out of your nose just then?  She should see us in our natural habitat sometime!  However, it was a nice thing to say.  She also used our line about how we know when to return for another cruise...when our friends start asking if we've lost weight.

When you go up to be introduced, you actually get to touch the captain when he initiates it.  Isn't that exciting?  Well, OK, that's going too far, but those of you who are so offended by the no-shaking-hands policy only have to take 40 more cruises or so and even you can shake hands with the captain!  The next step is having a photo taken with everyone up there, the two of us (duh), the captain, cruise director, and Jane, the Crystal Society Hostess.  We were prepared with pockets on our tuxedo jackets open to accommodate the red rose boutonniere.  Are we accommodating or what?

And that's it.  Easy, isn't it?  Oh, and we thought Jane did an excellent job of creating an introductory speech to the whole event that was more than droning on about how honored they are we all came back.  She even had some jokes ready that were appropriate.  We approve.  Is that a good thing?  We hope so.

After the party Jane came over to sit with us for a few minutes.  She has all sorts of funny stories to tell, which of course, is frosting on the cake for us.  Well, we think they're funny, your mileage may vary.  Now we wish we were staying longer so we could get her drunk and get something really good.  Just kidding...maybe.

After the party, with both of us not feeling the greatest at this point (although better than yesterday), we went back to the room where Teodor had a plate of fruit waiting for us.  We stayed there where the air conditioning could cool us off, then went down to the Crystal Society party for the Late Seating where we really belonged.  A woman who spoke only Spanish walked by us in the hallway and said we are, "Muy Guapo," among other things along the same line, much to Lenka's amusement.

The second party was essentially the same as the first except the honorees had more cruises than we did (we were the highest at 47 during the first seating).  The highest for the second seating was 131 or something like that.  We know the woman who was honored and she's always the life of the party.  She had Mark Merchant and Wing Tip Shoe escort her to the stage.  She does know how to have a good time, which is a good thing considering how much time she spends on board.  The fact that she's extremely nice to the crew is a huge plus in our book.

Click for French Dinner Menu.  Oh boy, French night.  Blech.  There's a lot of hype around this menu from the dining room staff, but to be honest we find it difficult to choose anything we want.  Yes, we know we can special order something, but we prefer to order from the menu unless we're desperate.  This menu comes close to that, but not quite.  The fruit appetizer looked nice served in an orange cut to resemble a basket with a handle.  Too bad the blackberry was half moldy.  Lesson to the kitchen, don't make these too far ahead.  Other than that, everything was fine.  The onion soup was a tad too salty, but it was OK.  The fish was very good, but the tiny portion kind of put a damper on that choice.  Everyone chooses the Grand Marnier Soufflé for dessert, but much to the horror of Dusko, we chose ice cream instead.  It was too hot in the dining room all dressed up to eat something else warm by that point in the meal.

Vlada asked how the meal was and wasn't satisfied with our neutral answer.  It was very good, really it was, but it wasn't exceptional.  He suggested we could get a special order that we would really like, but that's too much work.  We want to order off the menu.  Nothing has been terrible, so what's the big deal.  They can't all be gems.

We needed to cool off again before the show, so we stopped by the room to shed a layer or two, then went down to the Galaxy Lounge for the show.  The room was quite full again, something we haven't seen in years.

The Evening Entertainment is the production show "Million Dollar Musicals".  This is by far the best production show Crystal has ever staged.  We never miss it if we can help it.  There was a new male performer in the show tonight.  He was very good.  Is there a shortage of female dancers or something?  The shows have been missing one of the women since we boarded three weeks ago.  This is one of the shows that isn't quite as exciting missing one girl, but it doesn't ruin it.  We just know it can be better with a full contingent of dancers.

On the way out of the showroom we chatted briefly with the 131-cruises woman (We do know her name, we're just not mentioning guests' names here).  She wanted to know where the heck we've been since the beginning of the cruise since she hadn't seen us until tonight.  We're boring lazy-asses, remember?  We told her we had gone to the first seating party because Jane needed someone to present, which prompted her to carry on about how great Jane is and what a natural she is.  We agree.

Wednesday, February 20 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Click for Today's Activities.

It is still smooth sailing on the way to Acapulco.  It is hot and humid, but now it is sunny, too.  We're both still sick with the usual respiratory ailment, but it isn't as though we have any pressing plans that are being affected by it.  If anything it is a legitimate reason to hole up in the room, which we'd be doing anyway.

This is the afternoon for the Grand Gala Buffet.  Click for the Alternative Menu that is also available in the dining room in case someone doesn't want to go through the buffet in the lobby.  Needless to say, we went to the nearly deserted Lido for our lunch.  There is always an elaborate sushi bar set up in the Lido on Gala Buffet day.

After lunch we wandered out to the pool area, but all of the tables in the shade were taken.  This is the first set of cruises where we have not been able to find a table outside on this ship.  It appears as though guests are setting up their "nests" early in the morning.  It was fairly warm and humid anyway, so we went back to the room to watch movies and recuperate.

Tonight's Dress Code is Informal.  When Teodor brought our canapés tonight we decided to order room service for dinner and forget about going out.  We're not so sick we have to stay in bed or anything, but the prospect of dressing up just to go to dinner wasn't very appealing.  Our room service dinner was good and we were satisfied.  Lenka came in and turned down the bed and we were done by 8:00pm.

Click for South American Dinner Menu.  We don't recall seeing this menu before, which is a good thing whether we like the selections or not.  Almost any variations on the age-old menus is an improvement.  We had the fish from this menu from room service and it was very good.

The Evening Entertainment is "A Musical Voyage Around the World" with Naki Ataman.  We stayed in tonight and did not attend the show.

Thursday, February 21 - Acapulco, Mexico - Arrive 8:00 AM - Depart 6:00 PM

Spectacularly situated where rugged mountains meet the sea, legendary Acapulco is the gathering place for pleasure-seekers from around the world. Considered Mexico's capital of fun, it is its most glamorous Pacific resort. Outdoor activities abound, from aquatic sports to golf at emerald green courses. Golden beaches await you and glistening seas beckon swimming, snorkeling and surfing enthusiasts.

Thrill at the sight of the La Quebrada cliff-divers cutting into azure seas or browse through an array of boutiques that boast treasures of silver, fine lacquers and pottery. After dark, the sound of mariachi music and a vibrant disco beat fills the air while horse-drawn carriages clatter along the colorful streets. It is hard to believe that not so long ago this resort town was an inconspicuous fishing village, but secrets such as Acapulco are hard to keep.

Shore Excursions in Acapulco, Mexico

ACA-A1 $48 All About Acapulco
ACA-C1 $66 Jet Boat Eco-Experience CANCELLED
ACA-D1 $174 Dolphin Swim & Water Park Adventure
ACA-E1 $245 Private Swim with the Dolphin
ACA-F1 $68 Acapulco Highlights & Baby Turtle Release
ACA-G1 $50 The Different Faces of Acapulco
ACA-H1 $62 Aspects & Art of Acapulco  CANCELLED
ACA-I1 $59 Acapulco Old & New
ACA-J1 $81 Culinary Delights of Acapulco
ACA-K1 $5,060 Acapulco by Limo & Private Yacht for Two  CANCELLED
ACA-L1 $79 Pierre Marques Beach Getaway

Click for Port Information.

Click for Today's Activities.

Acapulco is one of those places best viewed from a distance.  It looks quite attractive from the ship with palm lined beaches and towering hotels along the waterfront.  Up close the buildings aren't in good repair and the city itself is noisy and chaotic.  The weather is nice though.  It was in the upper 70's, maybe low 80's and sunny all day.  Not that any of this mattered to us, of course, since we have no intention of going ashore.  Just looking down on the phalanx of taxi drivers one has to traverse to get out of the terminal is enough to keep us on board.  We did go ashore years ago and took some pleasant tours, but we wouldn't bother doing that again.  The most recent visit when we attempted to go ashore was right after a hurricane and the taxi drivers were more interested in selling us his "sister" than in doing his job.

Anyway, now that we've slurred another city we'll move on to the rest of the day.  There were two other ships in port with us this morning:  The small Delphin anchored in the bay, and the huge Norwegian Jade (formerly Pride of Hawaii) at the dock with us.  The Jade sailed off at noon to be replaced almost immediately by the Carnival Pride.  Here are a few more port photos for you:  Harbor Point, Hills by Port, Town by PortPort & Fort.

After the port photo session, we went to the Lido for lunch, which was practically deserted.  Both lines were open, but there were only about ten guests milling around.  Later it did fill up though.  The Sweet & Sour Chicken was outstanding today.  While we were sitting on the aft deck of the Lido, the Carnival Pride replaced the Norwegian Jade.  By the way, when they changed the name of the Jade, they didn't bother to remove the welded name Pride of Hawaii.  They just painted it white and then added the new name on top.  The Hawaiian mural of hibiscus flowers along the deck remains also.

Click for Luncheon Menu.

We're on the road to recovery from our illness, but we were much more inclined to sit on our shady verandah than to do anything else.  Come to think of it, that's what we'd be doing anyway, so we're obviously not missing anything.  We did manage to turn in our gratuity forms to charge them to our shipboard account.  We have enough credits remaining to cover everything without any out of pocket expense on our part and that includes some bonuses on top of the prepaid gratuities we already have.

Tonight's Dress Code is Casual.  If it weren't we probably wouldn't have gone out at all, again.  But, we did manage to pull ourselves together long enough for dinner in the dining room and the show.

Click for Dinner Menu.  We're not too ill to notice that tonight's fish entree was WAY overcooked.  It was so hard it was difficult to cut with a knife (it was sort of like swordfish to give you an idea of the type of fish it was).  We came "this close" to sending it back, which would have been only the second time we've ever done that out of 47 cruises.  However, not being all that hungry to begin with, we didn't bother.  The turkey was very good though, as were the cold soup and the bisque.

The Evening Entertainment is the production show "The Envelope Please..."  The replacement female dancer arrived today, so the show had its full contingent again.  Apparently, the missing dancer was injured and had to return home for treatment and it took this long to get a replacement.  The show is marginally better with the full lineup, but this show just doesn't work.  We spoke with a couple of other long-time cruisers who never miss a show and even they said it doesn't work for them.  It certainly isn't the fault of the ensemble, they are superb.  There are a few moments when the show almost shines...well, one maybe, the Tango number.  Otherwise it is a total snooze fest.

By the way, we aren't the only ones with the Crystal cough.  The same couple with whom we spoke about the show have the same illness, although for them it is the first time.  That's too bad, because the first time is the worst.  For them to miss a show or stay in the room to order room service is about like us going ashore for a 9-hour bus tour, unheard of.  As one of them said, "We don't pay $1,000 a day to stay in the room and miss four shows."  This isn't the "famous" Norwalk virus though, this is a respiratory ailment.  We'll survive and since we don't do much anyway, we're not really missing anything.  It's better to have it at the end of a cruise when we're ready to go home.  At least here someone will bring us ours meals if need be.

We move one hour back on the clock tonight.

Friday, February 22 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Click for Today's Activities.

The weather sure is cooperating these days.  It is sunny, but not terribly hot and the sea is smooth.  We can't say the same for our respiratory issues, but such is life.  Neither of us got much sleep between coughing a lung inside out and/or sneezing and breaking a rib.  That also unleashes a torrent of snot which is no fun in any case, but a total drag if you have a goatee.  Too much information?  Sorry.

Click for Luncheon Menu.  We did manage to drag ourselves to the Lido for lunch.  Having not a functioning taste bud left between us, we can't vouch for the flavor of the food, but it looked nice.  The chicken noodle soup entree was good timing for us.  The Lido was crowded and noisy, so we got out of there as quickly as possible.  The pool area was the same, so after making a haircut appointment for the last day of the cruise, we headed back to the room to crash.

Quality Assurance Questionnaires and Disembarkation Information Packets were delivered today.  We got the earliest possible disembarkation time, so we will have that changed tomorrow.  We're in no rush to get off the ship and besides that our transportation won't arrive until 9:30am.  Of course, we'll probably have to get up at 5:00am for immigration anyway.

Tonight's Dress Code is Informal.  We weren't feeling well enough to bother getting dressed just for dinner, so stayed put in the room again.  To be frank, even if we were feeling 100% we might have stayed in anyway.  We're really tired of getting dressed up.  We're sure this next comment is heresy to many, but we think that the informal dress code should be eliminated in favor of just the usual number of formal nights and the rest casual.  There are more and more cruisers who do not go out because of the dress code and some who ignore it altogether.  We always conform to the rules if we go out, but we don't like it.

Click for California Dinner Menu.  Although we ordered from room service, we did have two things from the dining room menu.  The Roasted Vegetable Soup was excellent.  On the other end of the spectrum was the pasta dish in which about half of the noodles weren't cooked through.  The turkey club sandwich and the crème brulee from the regular room service menu were very good.  Teodor says we have to order room service at least once more so he holds the record for the number of times we ordered room service during a cruise.  We've only had dinner in the room twice before and for the same reason we did tonight.

The Evening Entertainment takes place before dinner for Late Seating guests, so as far as we're concerned it doesn't exist.  In case you are interested the featured entertainment is John D Smitherman "Three Tenors in One".  There is also a Cabaret Showtime featuring Mark Merchant in the Starlite Club at 10:15pm.  We didn't go out tonight at all, so we did not attend any of the entertainment.

Saturday, February 23 - Cabo San Lucas, Mexico - Arrive 7:00 AM - Depart 1:00 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 in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
CBO-A $38 Land’s End Boat Tour & Scenic Drive
CBO-B $165 Swimming with Dolphins
CBO-C $41 Sea Kayaking Eco-Adventure
CBO-D $96 Baja ATV Adventure
CBO-E $38 Coastal Highlights
CBO-F $53 Snorkel & Sail to Santa Maria Cove
CBO-G $174 Cabo San Lucas Sportfishing

Click for Today's Activities.

One couldn't ask for better weather than today.  It was mid 70's with not a cloud in the sky.  Too bad we're only here for a few hours!  There was whale watching galore right from the ship.  They were literally everywhere.

We went to bed early last night, so we were up earlier than usual this morning.  We didn't pull ourselves together fast enough to make real breakfast, but we did go to Late Risers' breakfast by the pool, which was nice.  After eating we didn't feel like staying out, so went back to our verandah where it was shady and pleasant.

The ship sailed on schedule and passed countless whales and dolphins.  There were so many whales you didn't have to look hard to find one.  Unfortunately, sailing also put our verandah in the direct sunlight for the rest of the afternoon, so back inside we went.  We're somewhat on the road to recovery, but not quite there yet, so we're doing a lot of resting to be able to do formal tonight.  We've noticed a lot more coughing and sniffling the hallways these days, so we're definitely not the only ones suffering.

Since we had the late breakfast, we didn't go to lunch at the normal time.  The Lido was featuring "Mexican Specialties" on the buffet, but we weren't hungry enough to make the effort.  In the past, that offering has been very popular.  It isn't one of the elaborate themed events, but they do a nice job with it.

Click for Luncheon Menu.  We skipped lunch altogether today.

Teodor brought us a plate of cheese, crackers and some crudités and dip for canapés tonight.  We can't taste much today anyhow, so he could have brought dog food as far as we were concerned.  Luckily for us he has better judgment than that.

Tonight's Dress Code is Formal for the Captain's Gala Farewell Party in the Starlite Club before dinner.  By the time we got there it was standing room only, which isn't a big deal to us.  We stood at the back against the wall for a while, chatted with Paula Jean and Jane, then went to dinner at Jade Garden when the party ended.  Apparently we made quite an impression because later in the evening a guy stopped us to tell us that someone near him was speculating if we were bodyguards or something.  Bodyguards?  Suave and debonair?  Boy, can looks be deceiving or what?

Click for Gala Farewell Menu.  We have reservations for Jade Garden tonight, so we can't judge the dining room food.  Everything we had at Jade Garden was good, as usual, although we toned down the quantities quite a bit.  Even though it was our last meal forever at Jade Garden (recall that it is changing to Silk Road during the upcoming crossing), we weren't hungry enough to have more than a sampling of our favorite items.  Larry did tell us that he will not be returning to the ship for sure.  He says it is time to be with his family.  Sounds reasonable.  We asked Gene about Paulo, one of the original deck stewards who left when the Harmony did.  He is a very successful businessman in his village in the Philippines owning a pedi-cab business.  According to Gene, he "owns the whole village" he's doing so well.  That's nice to hear.  He worked extremely hard for many years and he deserves a good life.

The Evening Entertainment is the final production show, "Curtain Call".  While this is not our favorite show for a variety of reasons, we have to admit that it is beautifully staged and the choreography is excellent.  We'd be happy if they'd ditch the "Man of La Mancha" and "Cats" numbers, but otherwise it is OK.  The room was packed again, so the only production show that did not draw them in was "The Envelope Please".  However, some people left during the "Cats" segment and even more did so when it was evident the finale was the "Rock Opera" section.  By the way, the most current show represented is "Mama Mia" if that tells you anything.  The current Crystal Ensemble is outstanding, one of the best groups overall we have ever seen.

We move one hour back on the clock tonight.  We received our call time for U.S. Immigration before disembarkation and it is a reasonable 8:05am.  We've had calls as early as 5:00am before, so this is a much more palatable schedule.  Of course, things do change!

Sunday, February 24 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Click for Today's Activities.

It was sunny most of the day, but cool and very windy.  The temperature was 60 degrees all day.

There is an American Classic theme buffet around the Neptune Pool for lunch this afternoon.  We went to the dining room.  Click for Luncheon Menu.

We stopped by the front desk to turn in some materials that might interest someone in the crew and to ask for a later departure time.  The answer to the latter was, "Oh, you may disembark at your leisure anytime before 10:15am."  In other words, suit yourself if you are independent.

Dusko immediately came over and took us to one of his tables where he fawned over us in the extreme (not in a bad way).  He thanked us profusely for the extra gratuity we added, as did Marius.  They are the third set of waiters to ever thank us or even acknowledge receipt of a gratuity, by the way.  Marius in particular carried on about how nice we were to him and how much he enjoyed serving us.  This is his first contract, so we can imagine it must have been difficult, so anyone who would talk to him as a person would be welcomed.

Both of the lunch entrees we had were very good.  The cobb salad and the flank steak sandwich were both much better than expected.  The paprika coated fries that came with the sandwich were delicious.  Although we only ordered one dessert, green tea ice cream, Dusko insisted on bringing out a serving of the berry sorbet along with a charming story of how he used to buy that flavor as a child because it was the cheapest.  He could get two for the price of one of the others, so it brings back fond memories for him.  That's the first personal conversation we've had with him so far.  He is very pleasant all the time, but he hasn't been forthcoming with personal details.

Dave went for a haircut after lunch, so now he's ready for another year.  Just kidding, sort of.  Let's just say that the number of haircuts purchased during these two cruises is more than he had at home last year.

After finishing up the QAP forms and turning them in, it was time to get started on the packing.  The stewardesses always arrange the luggage on the bed ready to be packed when they make up the rooms on the last day.  We're not usually hot to do it this early, but it ends up forcing us to do so to get the luggage out of the way.  Packing and unpacking takes us no time at all.  We have it down to a science by now.

The ship caught up with the storm clouds off of California at around 5:00pm.  It was rocky all day due to the wind, but the sea isn't particularly rough.  It is choppy, but no waves to speak of.

Tonight's Dress Code is Casual.  We had a few minutes to kill before dinner, so we went to Palm Court for drinks.  The Starlite Club was showing the Academy Awards, but it was also on stateroom TV.

Click for Dinner Menu.  The dining room was quite empty tonight.  We'd guess maybe 50% of the guests were missing.  Some of them had changed tables and made larger ones for the final night, so that left a lot of tables empty also.  Plus there were many set expecting their occupants, but none showed up.  There were a lot of special orders around us, but none of it affected us. 

Dusko was mortified unnecessarily by delivering the wrong salad.  Then Marius brought someone else's caviar to us.  Those are the only such mistakes thus far and they are not a big deal to us in the slightest.  However, Dusko wants everything to be perfect, especially after he made such an effort to carry on about the extra gratuities.  Again, we didn't mind at all.  Our food was fine, but the sweet and sour pork was completely different than it was the last cruise.  Last week it was dark and salty.  This time is was sweet and syrupy.  It was good, just different.  By the way, does anyone else find a dessert called "The Cotton Club" that features all chocolate items to be just a bit politically incorrect?  Maybe there is something about chocolate bread pudding that is related to the actual cotton club that eludes us.

On the way out we stopped to thank Remi for everything and to commend Marius on his wonderful manner with the older guests.  He is extremely patient and helpful to them.  Remi and Albert were already very much aware of that, but they appreciated that we noticed it.  Remi carried on at length about how special Marius is in many ways and he has his eye on him.

The Evening Entertainment is the Farewell Show featuring "A Musical Voyage" with Naki Ataman.  The final evening's shows are always presented before dinner to allow packing time after dinner, so we understand the reasoning.  We still didn't attend, however.

It became quite rough after dinner, so we're very glad we did all of our packing before dinner.  The arrival into Los Angeles is generally a bit rough, so we know better than to wait until the last minute to pack.  It is no fun anyway, but doing it while the ship is moving from side to side and up and down, is torture.

Our final weight gain/loss tally after this entire 27-day combination of cruises is Bill = NO CHANGE, Dave = LOST 7 POUNDS!  We told you the portions were too small.  And no, we were not dieting.  We ate dessert at almost every lunch and dinner.

Monday, February 25 - Los Angeles, CA, USA - Arrive 6:00 AM - Disembark Crystal Symphony

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

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

Click for Port Information.

Click for Disembarkation Information.  In case someone is interested, this is the information sent ahead of disembarkation to explain the timing.  There are more pages, but they just list each flight time and specific times for meeting to disembark.  If all goes according the plan, the last guest is always off the ship by 10:15am.  We understand that the ship is preparing for the worst as far as immigration is concerned, but what else is new?  Sometimes the inspection is an hour early, sometimes it is an hour late.  It is all totally at the whim of the U.S. Government.  You get the picture.  It must drive Crystal insane.

It was very rough over night and the motion didn't stop until we passed through the breakwater entrance to the Port of Los Angeles.  We were awake for our 7:00am alarm with no problem and just had to wait to be called for immigration, scheduled for us at 8:05am.  We thought it might be delayed because no one was called at all until after 7:00am, but it went very quickly and our number was called at 8:10am.

There was no line at all outside of the Galaxy Lounge and only a very short one once past the key card scanning table.  There were several tables with Customs agents, so the process was very fast.  Since we didn't buy anything at all, there wasn't much to talk about.  The guy asked if we had any fruits or vegetables with us and that was it.  Too bad he didn't ask about alcohol because we have plenty of that.  We didn't buy it, but we have it.  Eight bottles of wine, a bottle of cognac, a boxed bottle of champagne, and four bottles of liquor we received either as gifts or as part of our penthouse amenities.

We had more than enough time for a real breakfast in the dining room for the first time since our second cruise.  We were anxious to try out the new expanded menu.  Dusko and Marius were thrilled to serve us, so that part was nice.  All we can say for the food is that it is much better in the Lido for breakfast.  In the Lido there is more variety, you can get whatever you want, there are piles of fresh fruit and pastries, etc.  We asked Dusko if we should order a double serving of the waffles and right away he said we should.  The menu implies that it comes with fruit to serve over them, but the fruit is the regular fruit cup from dinner which is mostly diced watermelon.  There was also a tiny dollop of whipped cream...literally about a teaspoon.  The waffles themselves were satisfactory, but the fresh ones in the Lido are far superior.

We were still hungry, so we ordered Eggs Benedict and split it.  It wasn't very good either.  It was OK, but by far not the best we have ever eaten.  There was nothing wrong with the service, but we won't return to the dining room for breakfast anytime soon.  Teodor came over in the dining room to exclaim over Dave's haircut until we informed him it is the same haircut he had last night when last he saw him (it is very short, so quite obvious compared to how it was).

On the way out we stopped to chat with Remi who had told us he would appreciate it if we did so before we left.  He was looking a bit frazzled with the 7-day jam-packed cruise next on the agenda.  There are more Hollywood types coming next week, so we are glad we're not staying.

After that we were pretty much done and just had to go back to the room to finish cleaning up.  Our original time for leaving the ship was 8:50am, but when we went to change it to a later one we were told to leave anytime before 10:15am.  We ended up disembarking at around 9:45am with no problem and no crowds.

In the terminal, our luggage was the only set remaining in our color code, so it was certainly convenient.  James ran over to say his goodbyes in his usual very friendly way.  We had to inform him that someone on Cruise Critic said that since he is "SOOO CUTE" that he is OK to replace Marco.  Whoever it was who said that, we set it up for you (he was thrilled!) now all you have to do is reel him in.

Once outside, we called our car service and were picked up around 10:30am or thereabouts.  There was no traffic at all, so we were home to an excited set of dogs by noon.  Since we had never left the new dog before we didn't know how he would behave, but he was an angel apparently.  Too bad he isn't that good when we are home!  However, he certainly was beside himself to see us again.  We knew the older one would be glad to see us, but you never know with the newbie.


To sum up we'd say this cruise was as good as any, no better, no worse.  Well, it was better than the previous cruise with the screaming children!  The weather didn't cooperate as well as it did last time either, but that really doesn't affect us much.  What we didn't like was that the full ship made getting chairs in the shade by the pool in afternoon impossible, so that alone eliminated another place for us to do nothing.  Having a penthouse does help with that issue, obviously, but if the ship wasn't full we'd be out and about more often.

Both of us have recovered sufficiently from our Crystal Cough to feel like we will survive to take another cruise someday.  It wasn't as bad as it could have been, that's for sure.

The rest is pretty much the same as last time.  The food was very good to exceptional in all venues.  We were happy to see that the Trident Grill service returned to normal this time, although one of the Lido omelet guys seemed to have taken over in the surly department.  The service is so good overall that one bad apple stands out like a sore thumb, especially in the Lido where the deck stewards have fawning over guests down to a science.

By far the most friendly of an overall very friendly crew are the Filipino deck stewards and lounge servers (they take turns doing the latter).  They are incredible at remembering names and the tiniest detail about your life if you talk to them even a few times.  Some of these guys have known us for many years, but even the new ones pick it up right away.  They all seem to share the information so all of them are up to date on the people they especially like, although they are very nice to everyone.

We felt that the bar servers for these two cruises were vastly improved over recent years.  They were very attentive and most were fun to chat with.

Our senior waiter and waiter were both exceptionally pleasant and their service exemplary.  We were particularly impressed by our waiter, Marius, who is on his first contract.  He's still working on his English, but isn't afraid to come right up and have a conversation.  Of course, that's the best way to learn.  He's a very nice, sincerely friendly guy and we hope he has a long career.  He was so accommodating to the older guests that we complimented him to the maitre d' at the end of the cruise and on the QAP form.  It takes a lot to impress us and he did.  That's not to slight Dusko, our senior waiter, he's a great guy also!

Both our butler, Teodor, and stewardess, Lenka, were extraordinarily great people.  Both of them added so much to our enjoyment of the cruise.  We don't ask much from butlers, but we do enjoy talking to them.  Lenka was always so cheerful and full of life, plus she had all of our preferences set up before we arrived, which is a first.  She could not have been any better.  We never had to ask for anything.  We'd rank her at the top of the best stewardesses we have ever had.  We also had fun conversations with Teodor's girlfriend Paula, a bar server.  She was a barrel of laughs and always had something to say.

Thanks also to Jane, Crystal Society Hostess, who added so much to our adventure.  Who knew we were so delightful before this?  Next time will take her up on the trip to the mud volcano.  OK, maybe not.  You really do not want to see us naked in the mud!  Come to think of it, considering the condition of the other participants, maybe you do.

The main thing we didn't like was the same as usual, the entertainment.  The production shows are stale and predictable.  Lavish costumes and $600 shoes do not make a great show.  The Crystal Ensemble however was probably the best overall we have ever seen.  The headline entertainment seems to never change.  Not that they weren't talented, but they've been on every cruise we even been on with Crystal.  Are there really only four entertainers worthy of Crystal?  The variety of classical entertainment seemed varied enough and as far as we know they were all new, so some credit is due there.  Not that we don't enjoy a few of the shows, we absolutely do, but most of them are boring and trite.  One of them has been playing since our first cruise in 1995.  All of the bands, the Galaxy Orchestra, the Crystal Sextet and the Strings were outstanding.  The Castways singers were exceptional and they interacted with the guests quite well.

Otherwise, everything else was just fine.  No complaints and no reason to demand our money back!  Not that we'd get it, but you get the idea.

Check back soon for next year's travel plans when we will be doing some actual traveling rather than just sitting on our ass and doing nothing for a month!

As a final note, we highly recommend the book "Gullible's Travels" by Cash Peters.  You can find it at  It is absolutely hilarious.  Don't read it in public because you'll be laughing out loud the entire time.

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