We set sail on this voyage with a touch of sadness, as this is Crystal Harmony's final voyage under the Crystal flag. She will go directly to an extensive drydock in Victoria at the end of this cruise where some much-needed repairs and replacements to mechanical systems will be made. After that, sometime in January, 2006, she will cross the Pacific to return to Japan from whence she came. There, she will be refitted for the Japanese market and renamed Asuka II as a replacement for NYK Line's much smaller vessel. By the way, NYK is Crystal's parent company, so it is somewhat as though an adopted child has been returned to her natural mother. Certainly it is sad for many guests who have many wonderful memories aboard, but consider also the many long-time crew members, some of whom have been with the ship from the beginning. It is for them that we have the most sadness. Some will retire with the ship to start life ashore, while others will transfer to Crystal Symphony or Crystal Serenity. One thing is certain, nothing will replace Crystal Harmony in the hearts of many.
Now, down to business! This cruise has been sold out for quite some time, for obvious reasons. Even so, we received an additional discount of $800 off our total fare when final payment was made. Since the ship is being held together with chewing gum and duct tape at this point, that may have something to do with it. However, just a month ago the ship was looking pretty spiffy, at least to a guest's eye. We do know that some major mechanical systems are failing and will be replaced soon, to the tune of something like $15 million. And that is before the ship transfer to Japan for an extreme makeover to suit Japanese tastes.
Here is a photo gallery we assembled for the beloved Crystal Harmony. Enjoy!
As usual, we drove the two hours to the Port of Los Angeles, arriving around 2:00 PM. We know Crystal begins boarding by noon, but we have never found any crowds or problems boarding, so we elected to arrive a bit later. However, 3:00 PM is the officially announced boarding hour. In any case, we found no delays in boarding. There was a small crowd waiting at the balloon arch leading to the escalators, but it had dissipated by the time we finished checking in. We were informed of a sail away deck party beginning at 3:15 PM, a lifeboat drill at 4:15 PM, and handed cards for the late seating tonight in the dining room. The latter was of no concern to us because we had already arranged to dine in the Kyoto Restaurant tonight. Don't ask how we managed to do that in advance because we're not telling. We'll just say, "Don't try this at home," unless you want someone to laugh in your face.
Once on board we were quickly ushered to Penthouse 1063, the absolutely last cabin aft. The door beyond ours leads out to the aft deck. The only difference in this room compared to others is that the verandah is roughly twice as deep. The extra space is nice, but the railing is solid, so the view isn't quite as expansive. None of that matters to us and we were quite happy to get this room on a sold-out cruise.
We were quite surprised that several rooms worth of guests had not arrived until just minutes before the ship sailed. That certainly was cutting it too close for comfort.
Our butler, Danzyl from India, arrived promptly and took our order for the two complimentary bottles of liquor we chose from a set menu. He was very friendly and talkative, which was quite nice for the first meeting. Apparently Costa from our previous cruise had already filled him in about us, so the ice was already broken before we arrived. After a pleasant conversation with Danzyl, we went up to make haircut appointments with Benji in the salon.
We met our stewardess and her assistant in the hallway on the way out, Helena and Jean-Claire. Both of them were extremely personable and were anxious to make everything just right. We can see the pride that many of the crew have in this ship and it is truly sad that in less than a week it will all be over.
Benji was holding court in the usual place for boarding day, the back of the fitness center. The fitness director was excited when we started in his direction, but no such luck. Anyone who expects us to do anything remotely resembling exercise will be sorely disappointed.
Benji wasted no time in rushing over to greet us. We made appointments for the day after tomorrow when she will have more time to talk. Everyone wants appointments for the first formal night and are in no rush anyway. We'll catch up with her then.
The area around the Seahorse pool had been decorated in advance for the pre-sail away party held at 3:15 PM. There was to be a "fly over" during the party. This consisted of a plane towing a banner saying, "Farewell Crystal Harmony - Thanks for the Memories". Free champagne was served and it seemed to be a well attended event. A band played on the stage overlooking the pool. We recognized several guests from previous cruises, but only chatted with one woman who we had met briefly during the Alaska cruise this year. She was also lamenting the loss of a Crystal ship on the west coast and especially no cruises departing from San Francisco where she lives. She confirmed that Holland America has declined significantly recently, which is too bad. She said that she had always enjoyed it, but they seem to have a "couldn't care less" attitude now. That is really unfortunate since we are sort of running out of options for cruises acceptable to us.
Elizabeth, a photographer we have known forever, came over to chat. She isn't being allowed to come back to a Crystal ship by the owner of the photography company, so she is expecting to leave ship life after many years. She really doesn't want to leave yet, but the options are not appealing. It is too bad and we know that many world cruisers will sorely miss her.
After the deck party, we stopped to chat with Randal, the Cruise Consultant. He had said previously that he wants to have dinner with us along with Bernard Walz, so we told him we would change our existing Kyoto reservation for later in this cruise to include them. We were on the way back to the room to collect our lifejackets for the drill when we ran into Costa, our butler from the previous cruise. We knew he would be happy to see us, and he was. He said he had already gone by the room looking for us. We chatted briefly with him and then continued to the room.
The lifeboat drill was the same as usual. We could have lived a long time without standing in the direct sun when it was 92 outside, but otherwise it was nothing unusual. Getting to our station is quite convenient by taking the outside aft stairway that is accessible right outside of our door.
Back at the room after the drill, we decided we were starving, so we went up to the Trident grill for hot dogs and sandwiches. If the other guests in the area had a clue of how a line works it would have been much quicker, but the service was as good as can be expected under the circumstances. Service from the deck stewards was very inattentive, however, as per usual on this ship. They are very pleasant, but they should be more aware of what is going on rather than standing around talking among themselves. Our food was adequate, nothing special.
After lunch we went back to the room to cool off and unpack. The latter took all of maybe fifteen minutes. We hadn't even bothered to remove the hangers when we packed since our bags had plenty of room for everything. We figured that we should have some extra room just in case Crystal decides to give away anything extra. That is highly unlikely, but one never knows for sure.
Tonight's show was scheduled before dinner, which we really dislike. However, since it wasn't the God-awful "Pirates to Pinafore" drivel, we decided to attend. The performance consisted of to short dance numbers by the dance instructors, a comedy-singing-piano act by Jon Courtenay, and ventriloquist Mark Merchant. All of them were very entertaining, but the audience was quite sparse. We would estimate that there were about 100 guests in the room, if that.
The next chore was to take the computer up to be configured for access from the room. Several butlers, including Costa and Danzyl, were in the hallway, so we got caught up in a conversation with them for a few minutes. Later we had another lengthy conversation with Danzyl who seemed fascinated with what it is like on Crystal Serenity because he will transfer there immediately after this cruise. We tried to be gentle, but the fact is that the butlers who came from the other ships dislike the new system used for the butlers on the Serenity. We aren't aware of anything specific except that they are more micro-managed there than they are here.
At the Computer University @ Sea, we waited a few minutes for an attendant while they tried in vane to get another guest's computer connected. The woman setting up the accounts recognized us and knew our computer was already set up properly. All it needed was a minor password adjustment for this cruise and we were all set. She didn't charge us the $15.00 setup fee as is customary when your computer has previously been configured. We say this every time, but we find that fee outrageous under any circumstances considering the ridiculous internet access fees on Crystal ships. Both of the attendants were very pleasant, so no complaints there.
As we were walking to the computer room we were greeted by the Food and Beverage Manager who asked if we were on the way to the Reunion Party that was in progress in the Palm Court. We weren't aware of a party, so we were not going there. He was appalled we hadn't been invited, but we would not have attended anyway. We have never had every minute of an embarkation day as full as this one has been. At this point it was nearly 6:00 PM and we had just arrived for the computer setup. By the way, we actually had received an invitation to the party, but we didn't read it thoroughly and missed the fact that the party was tonight.
Tonight's dress code is Casual. We did not receive copies of the Crystal Dining Room menu for tonight, so we don't have that information for you. Our dinner was in the Kyoto Restaurant. As always, the items we ordered are highlighted.
KYOTO RESTAURANT MENU
S T A R T E R S
When we arrived for dinner we were inadvertently taken to Prego instead, but we caught him before we were actually seated there. We were seated next to the window, which is fine unless another party is seated adjacent, which they were. However, they appeared to not like the menu and ordered next to nothing and left quickly.
Paulo rushed right over to chat. He has known us forever, knows who is who, etc. He still doesn't know if he will be moving to another Crystal ship or not, which we fine appalling. There is no more dedicated crew member than Paulo and we told him as much.
Our meal was adequate, but not quite as good as usual. Service, while pleasant enough, was a bit disjointed. We weren't going anywhere, so it didn't matter when there was a slight lull, but the couple next to us seemed a tad annoyed by it. They also had problems understanding the waiters accent, which was not all that difficult to figure out.
As we were leaving we changed our reservation for the final formal night with no problem, but when we arrived back at the room we realized the reservation card had us down for the final night of the cruise. We think the maitre d' figured that out and made the change, but we will have to verify that tomorrow.
We wandered by the shops and found Captain's Choice still open at 10:00 PM. There were throngs of people shopping through the markdowns of 50-70% off. We noticed later that they have Farewell Cruise shirts for sale, but we figured we'd take our chances. If they still have some left tomorrow we'll buy a few to use up our shipboard credits. If not, oh well, no big loss.
Back at the room showered with more water pressure than we have ever experienced. It was almost like a cartoon where the character has to hold onto the shower head to keep from being ejected into the room. Being from California we haven't had free water pressure like that in thirty years.
We move one hour forward on the clock tonight.
We received a farewell season pin with the following card attached:
As Crystal Harmony begins her farewell
cruise, we are reminded not only of
We received the following gifts and credits for this cruise:
An observation we neglected to mention yesterday is the large proportion of guests on board who have never sailed with Crystal before this. The Crystal Society count is just over 400 with the remaining 500 or so being newcomers. Most crewmembers agree that the newcomers were probably booked before it was announced that the ship was leaving the fleet. The repeat passenger count usually hovers in the 200's on this ship, so that count doubled with people trying to get onto the final voyage. We know that many were turned away, which is unfortunate. There are also way more children on board than we have ever seen.
There was a Latino Nuevo buffet around the pool today, but we knew that it would be a zoo with a full shipload of guests to serve. The weather today is near perfection. There is no wind to speak of and the temperature is in the low 70's, if that. We went directly to the Crystal Dining Room for lunch, which was our first stop today.
SOUP AND SALAD
These items are available at lunch every day in the Dining
Room, upon your request:
We were on the way to being seated when we were stopped to chat with Victor, our headwaiter from previous cruises. That caused us to lose the waiter who was going to seat us, so Bulant took over that duty. He announced that he will be our headwaiter for this cruise. We know him well, but we haven't had him actually serve us before.
Everything we ordered for lunch was very good. The chicken enchiladas were much better than usual, although they still aren't particularly traditional. The dining room was sparsely attended throughout our meal, so the buffet must have been very crowded.
After lunch we decided to stop by Captain's Choice to some Farewell Cruise shirts and check out the sale merchandise. All of the shops are looking quite empty now, but there is still much to choose from. Almost everything except the farewell items are 75% off. Captain's Choice was very crowded with the displays in disarray as one would expect at a final sale. We had some difficulty finding anything in size XL, but eventually did get some sweatshirts with the farewell logo. We also bought some items on sale. The clerks were running low on bags, but it was no big deal to us to cram everything into one bag. That was not so with other guests who wanted more than their share of bags. Under the circumstances we would expect anyone to realize that they are running short on supplies, but apparently that isn't the case.
After loading up on $300 worth of stuff we don't need (and which is free with our shipboard credit), we stopped by the photo display to purchase our boarding photo. They tried vaguely to sell us a large print of Crystal Harmony that has been marked down from $199 to $150. That isn't enough of a price reduction to unload many of those, in our opinion. We were quite amused when one of the saleswomen jokingly asked if we could please return the items we bought during the previous cruise so they would have something to sell.
After wandering by Facets where Shelley told us to go to Apropos to get Polo items on sale, we went over to that shop. The pickings were quite slim and we didn't find anything suitable. Apropos is the shop selling the very expensive evening wear for women and a few items for men. They seemed to be doing a brisk business selling the evening gowns that are quite stunning both in appearance and price.
The shop selling duty free perfumes and such had several bare shelves, but Facets was the most empty. They had finally marked down the signature Guy Buffet items by 75%. Several areas of the shop were completely empty. All of the crystal figurines were 50% off, but we have more than we need of that kind of thing already.
We took our purchases to the room, pausing to get a supply of lotion from a stewardess in the hallway. For some reason we hadn't been supplied with any in the room. Upon return to the room we noticed that they had taken our entire supply of backup amenities. We assume this was because we had moved the tray into the bathtub to get it off the counter, but we didn't intend for it to go away completely.
By this time we were slightly hungry again, so we went up to the pool deck to get some ice cream. They were still cleaning up from the buffet, so the tables in the shade were missing and in disarray, but we sat down anyway for a few minutes. The weather was very nice, but most of the deck area was in the direct sun, so not appealing to us. There were no bartenders or deck hands anywhere in sight, so we had to ask the ice cream man to get us some bottled water from the back. He gladly did so, but that isn't his job. Where were the guys who should be serving the guests?
After our snack we wandered down to see Carolyn, the Crystal Society Hostess. We also added a credit card to our account for express check out at the end of the cruise. Carolyn is leaving Crystal at the end of this cruise, so she is at the end of her reign on board. She does an outstanding job and will certainly be missed. We chatted with her for a bit until another guest arrived to speak to her. She did confirm that although the ship is full, less than half of the guests are repeaters. However, it is significantly more than than the usual 200 repeat guests for this ship. Then we moved over to chat briefly with Randal and have him update our address in the computer system. For some reason only part of their system was changed when we had previously attempted to change the address.
It was nearly 4:00 PM by the time we finished all of our rounds for the day, so it was time to return to the room and wait until it is time to get dressed for dinner. Tonight's dress code is Formal. There is the customary Captain's Gala Welcome in the Palm Court before dinner tonight.
In a television interview this evening, the Hotel Director clarified some of the changes that will be made to Crystal Harmony during dry dock. As we already knew, the Neptune pool will be removed and the sliding roof eliminated. The pool area will be converted to a larger Lido restaurant and the Japanese spa will be added on the deck space created by filling in the former roof opening. He stated that very few changes will be made to the other public rooms or to the staterooms except minor things to adjust for Japanese tastes. It was interesting to hear about how the ship will be turned over or "sold" to back to the parent company. Crystal representatives will go through each public room and stateroom to inventory each separately. Then, the Japanese representatives will be escorted through each and every stateroom and public room to verify the account for everything on a room by room basis as each is turned over. That does sound like an easier way to do it rather than trying to collect everything into piles elsewhere.
The Captain's party was a usual, so nothing really to report about it. We sat in the Vista Lounge section rather than in the Palm Court where the main party is held. Drinks are free in either room, so it really doesn't make much difference unless one is dying to view the Captain's speech in person.
Tonight's menu is a duplication of the menu's format and content from Crystal Harmony's first cruise in July, 1990. We're not so sure the content is the same because we are certain they did not feature low-carb choices back then, but the format and layout of the menu was very different than it usually is. Fact is, it was printed very plainly in type so small it was hard to read. Some changes definitely are for the better. However, it was fun idea to do it.
CAPTAIN'S GALA DINNER
Food review: The menu may have been a bit more authentic from 1990 than we would have liked because the options were quite limited in comparison to today's menus. The fruit appetizer was nicely presented and everything on the plate was actually edible for the first time. The soup was not at all what was described. In fact, it was a cream soup of some sort, not consommé and not oxtail for sure. We're guessing it was cream of broccoli or something like that. Nobody said anything when it was brought out, so we have no clue what happened. Until we returned to the room and checked the menu again did we realize that there was no cream soup offered on the menu. The soup that was served was good though. The salad was satisfactory, but not really anything special. The sherbet course was very tasty, but they need to do something to keep it frozen until it is served. Usually, including tonight, the scoop is at least half melted before it even gets to us. The pasta course was very good and would have been outstanding had it not sat under a warming light for too long. We chose the lobster entree by default and didn't expect much, quite frankly. The portion was the smallest lobster tail we have ever seen, but it tasted fine. The fried rice under it was an odd choice, but had a nice flavor, what there was of it. Oh, and there were two nearly raw broccoli florets on the plate to finish it off. Dessert was quite good topped with fresh berries and whipped cream.
We were served by Santiago from Argentina, and his assistant, Pablo from Chile. Both of them seem quite personable and did a fine job. The service was so speedy that we were finished eating before 10:00 PM. If it hadn't been for Bulant stopping to chat several times it wouldn't have even taken that long and we would have had over an hour to kill before the show. Bulant is leaving ship life after this cruise. This is the first time he has actually been our headwaiter, but we have known and talked to him many times over the past several years. He does a wonderful job and is always friendly.
Tonight's entertainment is the lavish production show, "Million Dollar Musicals". Let's just say that tonight's performance was not the best we have ever seen. There has been a problem with the sound on this ship for years and there still is, unfortunately. A few of the costumes are a bit worse for wear, but the vast majority still look like new. Although this is our favorite production show, we have seen it way too many times. When the performance itself isn't top notch, this show really suffers as it did tonight.
A couple we know from previous cruises said basically the same thing about the show as we have reported. They told us that tonight is the last time they will have to see this show for a while and they were happy for that. We'd hate to hear the reaction after tomorrow's aged "Rock Around the Clock", assuming they even attend at all.
There is nothing to report about the weather other than it is near perfection. The sea remained flat all day and there was no wind across the deck when we stepped out after the party. It was neither too hot nor too cold. As we said, perfect!
By the way, we learned today through various conversations with crew members who would know such things, that they are making every effort to keep things as normal as possible for the guests. However, chaos and hysteria reigns behind the scenes where frantic packing and sorting is going on. The end is near and it is catching up with them. When we passed by the shops after closing, the shelves were quite bare in some sections. There were only two jackets and a few shirts in the men's section of Apropos, for example, and they had spread out piles of silver martini sets on the empty shelves in Facets. The tables that were full of farewell shirts this afternoon were completely bare except for a display of a few hats and a sweater or two. We'll be quite surprised if there is enough merchandise remaining in some of the shops to bother keeping them open until the last day. To the ship's credit though, the empty shops are the only sign of this being the final cruise. They appear to be skimping on the bathroom amenities a bit, but we are not aware of anything being completely unavailable at this point.
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.
Today's weather is again perfection. It is neither too hot, nor too cold and it is just breezy enough to maintain comfort. There are no other ships in port with us, so anyone going ashore should have the place to themselves. Needless to say, that does not include us.
Our first destination was the Lido for lunch. Since the Lido serves essentially the same menu as in the dining room, we have included that menu. In addition to the dining room items, the Lido always serves a made-to-order pasta, a special salad, some sort of carved roast (today it was veal), and rotisserie chicken that is always outstanding.
SOUP AND SALAD
These items are available at lunch
every day in the Dining Room, upon your request:
The Lido opened for lunch half an hour early due to our 11:00 AM arrival in Cabo San Lucas. The clearance announcement was made at 11:30 PM, but the Lido was still full when we arrived just after noon. Our food was satisfactory, but only the roast chicken was anything worth mentioning as above average.
After lunch we returned to the room to sit on the verandah to await our haircut appointments with Benji at 2:00 PM. Danzyl arrived during that time to chat about a variety of things unrelated to the ship. He used to work in the big sail-shaped hotel in Dubai and he said he would bring us a DVD about it later if it was OK with us, which of course it was.
We arrived a few minutes late for our appointment because Danzyl was still chatting at 2:00 PM, but since we only had to walk straight up two flights of stairs to the salon it was no big deal. Benji was waiting for us at the reception desk and ushered us directly into the salon. The salon section of the facility here is very small, but she said that the remodeled salon on the Symphony is even smaller. It took over a semi-covered area that used to house a ping-pong table just outside of the gym. Apparently the spa is a much bigger money-maker than the salon, especially on shorted cruises. She confirmed the chaos behind the scenes trying to get everything packed up and sent back to the Steiner warehouse in Miami. However, first they have to sort out what belong to Crystal and what belongs to Steiner Salons. Sounds like quite a chore to us.
We chatted and showed her the updated house photos we had promised to bring with us. She will be going to join her husband, Marco, on the Symphony the day after the end of this cruise. No rest in between at all. She arrived in Fort Lauderdale at 6:30 AM and starts work on board the Symphony the same day at 1:00 PM.
After getting haircuts short enough that they will probably last until our next cruise in January, we returned to the room. Danzyl arrived a few minutes later with the DVD he wanted us to see, so we watched that and chatted about working in Dubai. Let's just say that it wasn't exactly a picnic most of the time. Working for Crystal is a much more pleasant experience to say the least.
It was almost 4:00 PM by this time, so we went down to the lobby to drop off a birthday card at the desk, then went up for ice cream by the pool. They were already setting up the tables for tonight's casual dining option, so things were in a bit of disarray and the deck stewards were busy doing that instead of serving guests.
Earlier today we noticed that the Captain's Choice shop had been emptied out and closed for the rest of the cruise. They moved the remaining stock, what there was of it, into the other three shops. The perfume section of one of the shops took up the sundries from Captain's Choice since there had been a run on perfume that cleaned out the supply. The logo wear moved into Apropos where the men's section was wiped clean two days ago. Still, this is the only sign that the end is near. Everything else is as normal from a guest's viewpoint. The closed shop was sparkling clean inside, not in disarray at all. We were told earlier today that the office had given very strict orders that guests were not to be deprived of anything or told something was not available just to facilitate packing up offices and stock. So far, that has definitely been the case as nothing is lacking that we are aware of.
After our snack we returned to the room where we stayed until sailing time, 8:00 PM. The traditional sail away music was played with "Time to Say Goodbye" (click here to listen) added because it is the last time Crystal Harmony will visit Cabo San Lucas. We assume the same will apply in the two remaining ports. If anyone had been outside to hear it, they might have been moved by it.
Casual dining was offered by the Neptune Pool tonight and appeared to be quite popular. We sat in the Palm Court waiting for dinner time, only about 20 minutes. The usual 50's snacks were served that are always cute...tiny bite-sized hamburgers and hot dogs, for example. We were not offered drinks until we were ready to leave.
The remaining three shops were jammed when we passed by on the way to the dining room. Since they were only open for about an hour today people were clamoring to buy things at 75% off. We were told later that they had sold over 300 of the dining room map chargers in just an hour after they were marked down to $19 (originally around $75.00). There are none left except the ones actually used in the dining room. The perfume selection has dwindled to one small display, although the prices are only 50% off. We assume at this rate they will nearly sell out by the last day.
Tonight's dress code is 50's Casual.
SOUP AND SALAD
Upon your request, these Traditional
Main Fares are also available: Grilled Salmon Fillet, Served with
Food review: This menu has got to go. Almost nobody likes it. We don't find it terribly objectionable, but the choices are always average at best. Tonight was no exception. We loaded up on appetizers because we know from experience that none of the entrees are all that good. The chicken quesadillas are an Asian item in flavor, but they warranted ordering a second serving. The shrimp cocktail was also quite fresh and tasty. The fruit cup contained too many hard, tasteless chunks to be rated anything above average. The corn soup was adequate, but needed salt. The watermelon gazpacho was way too watery and lacked a distinct flavor, although it was edible. The salad was as expected, nothing more. We were surprised that the pasta course both looked and tasted better than the description made it sound. Both entrees were decidedly average, especially the tough, flavorless prime rib, half of which was fat. The fish was satisfactory, but the portion was tiny. Luckily there isn't much they can do to ruin a banana split, so that was a pleasant way to end the meal.
We chatted several times tonight with Bulant. He wanted to know who our favorite waiter of all time is, but we couldn't pinpoint anyone specific. We like several of them for various reasons, so we can't choose a favorite overall. We did tell him one we specifically do not care for, which surprised him. We agree he is probably a nice person, but we find his service lacking and his manner rather fake. Otherwise, everyone who has served us has been just fine by us in their own way.
Tonight's entertainment is the production show "Rock Around the Clock". There was also a Sock Hop at 9:45 PM, plus a "Rock 'n' Roll Madness Cabaret" starring the Pianist with a Twist, Jon Courtenay. We did not attend the Sock Hop and reluctantly decided to go to the production show because we figured this would be the last time we'd ever have to see it, thank God. This is the oldest show still running. We assume that is only because they have a ship wide theme with the staff in costumes, a special menu, juke box, etc. They do go all out for the evening including the only midnight buffet, which is actually rather fun at times. However, the show usually lacks energy. That was not the case tonight. We were pleasantly surprised by the energetic and precise performances, the likes of which we haven't seen in this production for years. It just goes to show what a little enthusiasm on the part of the talent can do to bring life to a very tired production. Too bad this isn't always the case, but we can be glad that we were able to witness one final performance that left a good taste in our mouth.
We contemplated staying for the midnight comedy show, but the lounge was too hot tonight and we were rather uncomfortable. Also, there was a distinct odor of cigarette smoke in the area, which is very unusual. In any case, we decided it wasn't worth the effort to hang around for another hour.
The 50's midnight buffet was in progress when we passed the Bistro. Tamas tried to get us to come in, but we passed. After all, we just had six selections from the dinner menu an hour ago. Waiters were walking about with trays of pizza that smelled very tempting and the popcorn and shakes are always good choices. We did manage to restrain ourselves.
We were amused to receive a survey regarding various ideas for potential new production shows. Just the fact that they had one listed that is totally operatic shows they have no clue what their audience wants. Almost nobody shows up for classical performances as it is and a glossy production isn't going to make it any more appealing to the masses. We'll probably skip the survey since we would prefer not to invest ourselves in anything that might give us some hope for the future of productions on Crystal ships.
Internet service was not available tonight, as usual for this part of the world.
The massive lighthouse of El Faro welcomes you to the
thriving seaport of Mazatlán. Located on a peninsula just south of the Tropic of
Cancer, this fast-developing resort is a fishing and sportsperson's paradise.
Supposedly there are as many fishing boats as tennis courts here! Offshore,
scores of sailfish and marlin frolic in the temperate waters while para-sailors
drift lazily overhead.
Once again, the weather is near perfection. This is the first time of many visits to this port when the temperature wasn't 90+ with humidity to match. It is only in the low 80's with reasonable humidity. It is sunny with just a few wispy clouds overhead.
We were startled awake this morning by an unannounced fire drill for the crew. We have never witnessed a drill for the in-port manning crew. Later we learned that they have to be able to evacuate the ship in ports from both the pier side and the tenders, just in case. Basically, they have to cover all of the bases.
We started off, as usual, with lunch in the dining room after chatting briefly with Randal and Bernard in the lobby. We had never been formally introduced to Bernard, although we have seen him on board as a performer many times.
Almost all of the window tables were occupied right away, but the remainder of the room wasn't full by any means. The beautiful weather probably lured more guests ashore than usual.
SOUP AND SALAD
These items are available at lunch
every day in the Dining Room, upon your request:
We're not quite sure where the description of the fruit appetizer came from, but what was served had nothing whatsoever to do with it. There was nothing wrong with it, but it wasn't as described. Everything else was satisfactory. The tacos were the closest rendition of the real thing we have ever seen on this ship, but one would never recognize them out of context.
There isn't much to report about lunch itself, but we talked extensively Walter, the maitre d', outside of the door when we were leaving. He has been working on ships for 26 years and is leaving after this cruise. He told us how he started on the Sagafjord and how he was recruited by a friend to join Crystal at the very beginning. We weren't aware that originally the ship had two seatings for breakfast and lunch also. Walter said they quickly learned that wasn't what the guests wanted and that the Lido was way too small to handle the demand. Two-seating breakfast and lunch quickly gave way to the current open seating arrangement.
We also learned that the total cost of the upcoming remodel is around $50 million, with $25 million going to replace all of the engines, among other mechanical systems. The ship will be without power, so there will be no meals served on board during the dry dock and no one will be living on board. Meals will be served in tents set up pier side. Ordinarily they would serve meals on deck, but the pool deck will be an area of major reconstruction, so that is impossible this time. All of the major construction will be done in Victoria. As the ship crosses to Japan, carpet layers will be on board replacing all of the carpeting. The ship then begins sailing around Japan with a few guests on board in early January. These first cruises will take the ship to various Japanese cities to show it off to local dignitaries and such. We know already that the ship is beloved in Japan, so it will embark on a new life with even more prestige.
We were surprised to learn that the moment breakfast is over on disembarkation day, all of the chine, glassware, and food will be packed up and offloaded in Los Angeles before the ship sails for Victoria at 9:00 PM. Only the silver will stay on board. Everything else will be sent to the Club 2100 to be methodically packed, labeled and hauled ashore.
After our chat, we took a walk around the Sun deck to view the scenery, such as it is. The water in this port is disgusting and the port area is extremely noisy due to work going on tearing up the pavement. So, even though the weather is pleasant, sitting outside on the verandah isn't a pleasant proposition. Judging by the crowds around the Seahorse pool this afternoon, most people either returned to the ship very early or never went ashore at all. There are no other cruise ships in port today.
At sail away time we stepped out onto our verandah to view the red sunset on the clouds in the distance. Danzyl was on the adjacent open deck, so he came over and chatted around the partition. He said that many of the long-time crew members will be more upset than they currently realize when the ship leaves the fleet. We agree. To many of them, this has been home for up to fifteen years. We believe reality will hit after the current guests have disembarked and then there are no new impending arrivals to prepare for. The lucky ones are those who are leaving the ship in Los Angeles as they won't have to experience that aspect of the end.
Tonight's dress code is Informal for the Crystal Society Party. Walter confirmed that they are planning to eliminate or at least reduce the Informal attire completely. It is too fine a line to enforce and it has been decided to do away with it and keep only Formal and Casual dress codes. We have long felt that the Informal requirement was a waste and only served to take up more precious space in the luggage. We know many guests enjoy dressing up for formal evenings, so this does seem like a reasonable compromise toward satisfying everyone. Unfortunately, the policy change was not applied to Crystal Harmony, so we're stuck with it one more time and on a port day, too.
The Crystal Society Party was held in the Palm Court at 7:45 PM. There was only one party for both seatings, so we know there are less than 450 repeaters present. Carolyn gave her final speech as Crystal Society hostess and introduced to two top cruisers, each with well over 100 cruises each.
SOUP AND SALAD
Upon your request, these Traditional
Main Fares are also available:
Food review: The lobster roll appetizer was outstanding, freshly fried and crispy with a slightly spicy flavor. The chilled soup was not at all a cream of anything, rather it was bits of fruit in fruit juice. The flavor was pleasant, but we're surprised at how many menu items have come out of the kitchen completely different than the description on the menu during this cruise. The salad was better with balsamic dressing substituted for the watery Bella Vista dressing. The pasta was outstanding, but even a double portion only contained one 2", thin slice of chicken. The fish entree was also very good and nicely presented. We ordered the vegetarian entree just to try it. We'll give them some credit for trying to make something interesting, but it was God-awful. Also, the portion consisted of two 1" balls of rice, three thin slices of sautéed leek, and some tomato sauce. Apparently the chef believes that vegetarians are also dieting. Since we were not, we ordered dessert, which we have had before and already expected it to be quite tasty, which it was.
Santiago keeps prodding us to say the food is great or wonderful when we say it is very good or "fine", which is our usual answer. The fact is, the food is really quite good, but we have seen these same menus for the past ten years and so we know what to expect. Besides which, the food isn't nearly as good as it was ten years ago, although the Harmony does turns out a more consistently tasty product in general.
It does appear that reality is finally setting in for the crew members who are leaving. Bulant talked a bit about being anxious about what he will do when he moves to Sydney with his wife. He already has a job lined up, but nonetheless he is still nervous. That is to be expected, of course, and we certainly do sympathize with all of them. They are all beginning to pack up their stuff even if they are staying through the dry dock. Since they will have to move into a hotel in Victoria, nothing may be left on board as it has always been in the past. Basically, everything owned by Crystal or its crew has to be removed completely upon arrival at the shipyard.
Walking through the upper lobby area, the shops had notices saying they were closed for the rest of the evening for "crew shopping". They didn't close early or anything like that, but they were open to crew only later than the usual 9:00 PM closing time. When we checked back after the show, Apropos still seemed to have sufficient merchandise remaining, including farewell attire, but all of the perfume and much of the casual wear in the Crystal Collection was completely wiped out. Facets still has a few of the more expensive pieces of crystal left, and the extremely expensive jewelry remains where it has been for the past fifteen years. Unless they lower the prices significantly more than they have already, those beautiful necklaces will probably still be in those displays long after the ship has become the Asuka II.
Tonight's entertainment features Crystal Cruises "Entertainer of the Year," Comedy Ventriloquist, Mark Merchant, and the Music and Comedy of Jimmy Travis. Jimmy performed on the very first cruise aboard Crystal Harmony. Both acts were very entertaining, but we'll give Mark the edge tonight because he had more new material than Jimmy did.
We move one hour forward on the clock tonight.
Embraced by rugged tropical mountains on one side and
the beautiful Banderas Bay on the other, Puerto Vallarta is second only to
Acapulco when it comes to the Mexican Riviera's leading resort cities.
There was a lot of banging and scraping from the deck above us this morning, so sleeping soundly wasn't an option beyond 10:00 AM. In any case, we left the room at lunch time and went up to the Lido. Many of the same items from the dining room menu were available in the Lido, so we thought we would find a bit more variety in the Lido, which we did to a certain extent.
SOUP AND SALAD
These items are available every
day in the Dining Room, upon your request:
Today's weather is again perfect, although it is slightly warmer than it has been so far. However, that is not to say it is uncomfortably hot, either. We sat outside at the Lido and were quite happy. Bernard and Randal joined us to chat about various things of no interest to anyone except the four of us. Poor Randal is trying to adjust to the "cold" winters in Sydney where it wouldn't be considered cold by anyone other than a native of Costa Rica. All of us had the spicy orange chicken that was decidedly average, but edible.
After lunch we took a stroll around the upper deck. The construction that started a month ago on the pier side has progressed. It appears they are building an additional marina or another space for a cruise ship. They have made quite a bit of progress since we were hear last month, but they still have a long way to go. The Sapphire Princess is docked at the adjacent pier and the Norwegian Star is anchored off shore with tender service to our pier.
The shop girls were busily restocking the Crystal Collection casual wear shop. The perfume shelves were again filled, but we think they had removed the stock last night rather than sell it at a further discount to the crew. What has returned appears to be the same as it was before last night in the perfume department, but it looks like they have brought out some new clothing and handbags. The only shop that looks sparsely stocked now is Facets. About half of the shelves are now bare.
As usual, we did not go ashore today. The weather certainly is pleasant enough to do so, but we'd rather enjoy the comforts of Crystal Harmony. We ventured up to the grill around 5:00 PM when we decided we were starving. They were moving the furniture around to prepare for tomorrow's American buffet by the pool and the deck area was filthy, so we didn't hang around after eating.
Since this is the final sail away from a port, we went up to the top deck to watch the sailing. Many guests had the same idea, which was nice. It is such a pity when nobody comes out for the sailings since in our opinion they are a highlight of cruising. As usual for this cruise, they played both "It's a Wonderful World" and "Time to Say Goodbye," which was particularly poignant tonight as we sailed into the darkness.
We found Costa alone on the aft deck contemplating his career and life after the ships. He said it was mostly remembering the fun he had with his shipmates that was getting to him. It must be very difficult for those who have been on board for years or even from the beginning.
We returned to the room to get dressed for dinner, then started out toward the dining room at 8:15 PM. Helena was in the hallway and she stopped us to chat for a few minutes. She hasn't been on the ships as long as some, so it isn't quite as emotional for her. She will be leaving the ship in Victoria, as are many of the crew who aren't leaving immediately in Los Angeles. We asked what they are doing with the things in the guest staterooms that have Crystal's name or logo on them, but she said they haven't received any information at all about that yet. We think it would be nice if they let the guests take things like that home, but that doesn't seem to be in the cards at the moment.
Cetin, our butler from several cruises back, saw us and rushed over to talk to us. He said he had tried to come along the first day when Costa and Danzyl came in to greet us, but they shut the door before he could get in. He is also retiring from the ships after this cruise, but he is keeping the door open "just in case" life in Turkey doesn't work out. At this point he expects to be a food and beverage manager in a hotel, but of course, nothing is certain until it happens. He seems to have his thoughts together, so it isn't too traumatic for him. He said that it is time to move on and this is a good kick to get him moving away from ship life. He invited us to "just drop in" sometime in Turkey to see him. Needless to say we will not be "dropping in", but visiting in general isn't unreasonable to expect.
Tonight's dress code is Casual. We were fifteen minutes late for dinner because our conversation with Cetin continued longer than expected, but nobody seemed to mind. We weren't hungry at all, still full from our cheeseburgers from a few hours ago. But, we managed to find enough things to order without making ourselves sick. We were happy to be in the dining room where the air conditioning was working. It was quite warm from deck 9 upward. Cetin said too many guests had left their verandah doors open and it would take a while for the system to recover.
SOUP AND SALAD
Upon your request, these Traditional Main Fares are also
available: Grilled Filet Steak, Served with Idaho
Food review: The mixed green salad did not have anything resembling fried chips in it, so we still have no clue what Malanga chips are. Other than the lettuce, the only "extras" were grated radish and two tomato wedges. The pasta was tasty, but had a burnt plastic odor. Both entrees were outstanding. The steak in particular had a wonderful flavor and was cooked perfectly. However, the Béarnaise sauce was not served with it. We had frozen yogurt and vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce for dessert. Bulant vaguely tried to get us to sample his bananas Foster and later some crepes Suzette, but we weren't interested in either at that point (or ever, for that matter).
We chatted with Bulant several times during dinner because it wasn't particularly busy in the dining room tonight. There weren't many empty tables, but it seemed that everything was running smoothly, so there was no hysteria to speak of among the servers or headwaiters.
Tonight's after dinner entertainment is Australian Piano Sensation, Bernard Walz. There was also an edition of the popular Liar's Club presented earlier this evening in the Club 2100. We were too tired after dinner to attend the show. That will teach us to skip a nap in the afternoon.
We move one hour back on the clock tonight. The air conditioning was still not exactly chilly when we returned to the room, but so far it isn't terribly hot either. Let's hope it fixes itself sooner rather than later. We're happy that the weather is cooperating. If worse comes to worst we can always open the door to the verandah.
Today's weather is again perfect with clear skies, smooth seas, and temperatures in the mid 70's. The air conditioning started working again sometime during the night.
We received our disembarkation information this morning, so the end is near! There are many early flights, so independent travelers will not begin to leave until after 9:00 AM. We are in the 10:00 AM slot, which is fine with us. The final group to leave the ship is scheduled to depart at 10:20 AM. Of course, having a later departure time is no advantage when guests have to pass through immigration at 6:00 AM. We haven't received any information regarding that nightmare yet.
There is an American Classic buffet around the Neptune Pool today for lunch. It is fine for anyone who hasn't been here before, but we went to the dining room rather than bother with the crowds. We assumed, correctly, that all of the tables would be filled by the Seahorse Pool.
SOUP AND SALAD
We were very happy with everything we ordered this afternoon. Even the Monte Cristo, previously dry as a bone, was very good. The gumbo was skimpy with the meat, containing one tiny shrimp and a clam, but otherwise tasted fine. The pasta was outstanding. The dessert selection was also outstanding. We were served by our regular waiter, Santiago, just one table away from our usual place at dinner.
On the way out we had a lengthy conversation at the door with Bulant, who is leaving Crystal after this cruise. Crystal offered many long-time employees a generous package if they opted to leave rather than transfer to other ships. The only drawback is that they can't come back for a year and a half or they must return the bonus. That seems fair to us and the crew members who accepted it agree it is quite generous. We're sure many opted not to stay simply because Crystal is downsizing and there will be no chance for advancement in the foreseeable future. Although they keep insisting a new ship is in the offing, that has to be at least five years away or more. By then it will be time to retire the Symphony.
The ship has run out of the candied ginger usually available at the entrance to the dining room at every meal.
We spent so much time talking with Bulant that we went to the room to get the camera and went right up on deck to watch the final crew tug of war by the pool. We weren't aware that they held this activity on the other ships. We have always seen it during the "Olympics" held during World Cruises. The pool area was already full of guests and many more arrived to watch from the upper decks. Free rum punch was served on both decks to anyone who wanted it.
The housekeeping women came out dressed in bathrobes, slippers and shower caps. Needless to say, they didn't stand a chance against the men's team from the galley. The front office team lasted until the end, even beating the maintenance team. They recruited a team of guests who did win the first round, but were ultimately defeated by the engine room team. The first round for the engine room was against all of the children who were in the pool (about fifteen of them) because the team from the casino didn't show up. The engine room won the trophy, as expected. It was fun for guests and crew alike, many of whom were up on deck to watch.
After the activity of the tug of war, we wandered down to take a few photos for the diary of the empty shops. Elizabeth was standing in the Photo Shop, so we took a new photo of her and chatted for a few minutes. She will not be coming back because the only option she was given was to go to a Celebrity ship, which she will not do.
The shops are looking rather pathetic now. There was a huge advertisement in the Reflections today pushing the final sale, although the prices are still at 75% off. Captain's Choice was the first to be stripped bare several days ago. Facets is down to the dregs now. All of the Swarovski displays are empty and most of the shelves are bare, as well. There appears to be a lot of expensive jewelry remaining, but we did see several women shopping at the counters, so they may unload some of it by the end. Apropos has taken in everything remaining from Captain's Choice, so it doesn't look particularly empty, but we noticed that the glittery evening gowns have been replaced by casual wear today, so we assume they were sold. Crystal Collection has a some empty shelves in the back and they have now brought out boxes of colorful sandals to fill the tables in the window.
There was a classical concert in the Galaxy Lounge at 3:45 PM by Bernard Walz. We did not attend.
Cruise Consultant Randal had a line at his desk when we went in for lunch, an hour after his stated hours had ended. He still had a line at 3:00 PM when we wandered by again.
The skies started to cloud up a bit by late afternoon, but it wasn't stormy by any means. It has been sunny for the entire cruise up until now, so there's nothing to complain about in that department. When we went up for ice cream around 5:00 PM, the water was starting to slosh out of the pool and the temperature outside was much cooler than it had been earlier. We have no idea why the water was sloshing because the sea was completely flat.
Tonight's dress code is Formal for the Captain's Farewell Party in the Palm Court at 7:45 PM. The party was the same as usual, nothing special was said other than to point out that this is the last formal party on Crystal Harmony. When we arrived, Carolyn started dancing around singing, "It's the last party, it's the last party!". No other guests witnessed this, by the way, it was for our benefit.
Our dinner is in Kyoto with Randal and Bernard tonight, but here is the dining room menu anyway. By the way, this is the French Dinner menu with only the name changed. We do think someone should have paid more attention to the generic farewell message on the menu because it refers to guests who are staying on to the next voyage, which, of course, nobody is.
SOUP AND SALAD
Upon your request, these Traditional Main Fares are also available:
We'll do anything to avoid the Baked Alaska Parade, besides which it is nearly inedible, so we went to Kyoto instead.
KYOTO RESTAURANT MENU
S T A R T E R S
Our dinner with Bernard and Randal was a lot of fun, delightful even. We really enjoyed their company and discussing various subjects, mostly related to gardening and other things too boring to anyone else to repeat here. The food we ordered was inconsequential to the point of the evening, so there isn't much to say about it except it was as usual very good. Whatever fish Bernard ordered was sold out for the remainder of the cruise and something to do with an assortment of sushi was "impossible" because something or other had already been sent to the Serenity. None of this made a bit of difference to us and had it been just the two of us we wouldn't have been aware of a shortage at all. Frankly, we're surprised they have been able to supply everything as usual. Randal asked if we had noticed anything amiss from a guest's perspective and we assured him we have not. As we have already said, the only apparent sign of the end is the empty shops.
After we closed down the restaurant with our lengthy conversation, as well as a significant lull in the delivery of our entrees, we moved to the Vista Lounge to exchange garden photos and such. We were as interested to see Randal's garden in Costa Rica as he was to see ours. Since he is moving to Sydney where the climate is similar to ours, he wanted to see what kind of plants we have growing well. Many of them were the same as his, much to his surprise.
Once the photos and conversations wound down, we walked with Randal to his office just up the hall from our penthouse. The cruise consultant and others share space that was originally Crystal Harmony's business center "way back when" before computers took over and rendered it unnecessary. Randal said it was rarely used even before the internet took over, which makes sense. Crystal Symphony had a much smaller area set up in the library that was also rarely used.
Tonight's entertainment is the production show, "Curtain Call". We were still enjoying our time with Randal and Bernard at show time, so we did not attend. Although everyone in the world loves this show, we are not among them. We find it tolerable, but not great.
Everyone received very nice, personalized certificates certifying that they were on board Crystal Harmony's final voyage. Crystal is usually quite good at providing souvenirs such as these. It's a small gesture, but thoughtful nonetheless.
We move an hour back on the clock tonight.
So, on with the show! Today's weather has taken a turn for the worse, although it isn't unusual for this part of the cruise. It is very windy, so the ride this morning is rather wobbly, but otherwise it isn't particularly rough. The sky is cloudy and the temperature in the mid 60's outside (and in, for that matter).
This is the final Grand Gala Buffet in the Crystal Plaza. We do not take advantage of this buffet since the novelty wore off years ago, but it is a spectacular presentation and something that should be experienced at least once. There is a limited menu served in the dining room, which is show below.
Our Expert Galley Staff has prepared a sumptuous
Thanksgiving Gala Buffet today.
SOUP AND SALAD
We went to the Lido for lunch, as usual for us on this day. When we arrived there was a long line waiting for the sushi bar set up for today, so the lines in general were quite chaotic. Once through the line and seated at an outside table, all was calm once again. It was warm enough to be outside out of the wind, but there was a slight chill in the air. The clouds did clear after lunch, so there was some sun on the final day after all.
On the way through Kyoto after lunch we chatted briefly with Randal, Carolyn and Bernard, then we wandered down to the lobby area to check things out.
The final opportunity to purchase photos was in full swing, so that side of the corridor was jammed with guests searching for pictures. We never did find ours from last night, not that we need another one anyway. All of the shop displays outside of the Crystal Collection and the large display cases across from Facets are now bare. One of the shop girls thought it was really sad that we were taking photos of empty cases, but after all it is part of the story. The Crystal Fountain has been decorated with a small banner and a towering arch of balloons. There will be a "Countdown to the End of a Legacy - Crystal Harmony" held in the Crystal Plaza at 10:00 PM tonight. That ought to be a tear-jerker.
On the way back up to the room, we stopped to chat with Diana, our stewardess from the previous cruise. Also, Cetin came out to pose for photos with her, but only after horsing around in the hallway before finally doing it properly. Frankly, we prefer the horsing around picture! Diana hopes to transfer to Crystal Symphony, but she does not have confirmation of that as of yet. As previously reported, Cetin is leaving the company.
Our bags were laid out on the bed when we returned, the last signal to pack up and get ready to leave. We received our customs number for reporting to the inspection tomorrow morning between 6:45 AM and 7:30 AM. Oh joy. It is better than 6:00 AM, so we won't whine too much. Our disembarkation time isn't until 10:00 AM, so we'll have plenty of time for breakfast and whatever else comes our way tomorrow. By the way, if anyone reading this cares, the ship is scheduled to dock before 5:00 AM, so bundle up and head on down to San Pedro. Yeah, right. We have heard so many different sailing times from there that we won't even bother mentioning them. All we can vouch for is that the ship will sail sometime after 6:00 PM on Friday for Victoria.
The Crystal Cruises umbrellas were collected from the staterooms at some point in the past few days. We assume to prevent them from being stolen by departing guests. It seems like that would be something reasonable to let guests keep, but not this time.
Our packing is always easy, but especially so for this short cruise. It probably took all of fifteen minutes and we were done with that chore. The rest of the day was spent lounging around or visiting various crew members for the last time. It is an odd sight today with some staff in their own clothes. Anything being offloaded has to be documented and packed, so even Randal will be without his uniform tonight. This doesn't apply to the regular crew who check out uniforms as needed, only to those who travel with their shipboard attire.
When we went up for ice cream and a stroll through the public areas just after 5:00 PM, all of the displays were gone from the shop windows. Deck stewards were in the process of collecting all of the furniture around the pool into huge piles.
Tonight's dress code is Casual. Tonight's farewell productions show, "Encore, By Popular Demand," was presented before dinner at 7:15 PM. We finally caught our butler, Danzyl, for a photo before we went to the show. This production is a bit hit and miss, but was a great idea and is entertaining enough. The performance was energetic and it moved along quickly for a show that is over an hour long. There was an altercation in the front of the audience when a couple arrived late and tried to barge into some already occupied seats. This resulted in cat calls and name calling from the audience that was inappropriate. However, when you arrive late, please sit down right away and don't try to get to the front!
The cruise director announced that the cost of the refit will top $50 million, "or 60 or 70 depending on who you talk to in the office." Workers will arrive to start tearing the ship apart tomorrow the moment the departing crew has left. They will sail the two days to Victoria where the crew remaining on board now will move into hotels for the duration of the dry dock. The final guest should be off the ship by 10:20 AM with crew following shortly thereafter. He also announced that Crystal Harmony will sail from Los Angeles at 7:00 PM Friday.
As we were heading to dinner, we got a picture of our excellent stewardess and her assistant, Helena and J.C. They were both extremely pleasant and did an outstanding job.
FROM THE SOUP KETTLE
Food review: We were quite happy with everything except the entrees tonight. The squash soup would have been better without the one scallop at the bottom, but the cream part was very good. The chilled apricot soup was the best thing we have had this cruise, truly outstanding in every way. The fruit appetizer really was a mosaic made out of squares of various kinds of melon topped with a few berries and other exotic fruit. The pasta was satisfactory, nothing special. The ham was not accompanied by the chutney as described, but it had a tasty spiced gravy on the plate. Unfortunately, the meat itself was bone dry. But, we will say that the flavor was very good. Our other entree was the "always available" mahi mahi that was barely edible. Dessert was very good.
The dining room was sparsely attended tonight, so we were Santiago's last guests. He said we were honored to be his final guests and we agreed with him. Too bad we aren't more exciting, but at least we don't complain to him about anything or ask for special orders. Pablo had to leave early to start packing in the kitchen, but he came by before he left to say the right things. Both of them were very pleasant and we would gladly have them serve us in the future.
Bulant came over and chatted briefly before we bid the dining room farewell for the last time.
As mentioned previously, there was a final countdown to the end of Crystal Harmony after dinner tonight. This was accompanied by the Galaxy Orchestra and a lively song fest with Jimmy Travis. There was a brief speech by the departing Captain Giske, then confetti cannons shot streamers and confetti all over the crowd while a ceremonial lowering of the flag was carried out by Pauline Hoff, the highest ranking Crystal Society member. Complimentary champagne was served by every cocktail waiter we have ever seen on board. The crowd filled both levels, the area in front of the desk and the stairway. We'd hate to be the ones to clean up the mess with everything else there is to do tonight. They filled the lower part of the fountain, where there used to be water many years ago, with balloons, too.
The ceremony also featured a song to the tune of "Thanks for the Memories" called "Thanks for the Harmony". The lyrics were appropriate and clever. After that they had everyone join in to sing "Auld Lang Syne". It wasn't nearly as tear-jerking as one would expect. That was saved for the videos playing constantly on the stateroom TV's. Anyone who doesn't get a lump in the throat from viewing those is dead.
Eventually we were able to make our way up the stairway to the upper level for another photo of the fountain. We apologize for the darkness of the photos for this event, but the lobby was very dim tonight. At the top of the stairs we found Carolyn standing alone with a champagne glass, so we stopped for a photo (she insisted that Bill be in it with her) and the usual gushy goodbye chat. We really will miss her, as we know many repeat cruisers will. She is the best among greats.
It was very sad to walk through the hallways and see the now-empty shops. All of the merchandise in the previous stocked Crystal Collection has been removed and they were sitting on the floor packing up the bit that remains.
Back at the room, they had collected all of the verandah furniture cushions and bedspreads to be taken away to storage, we assume. The silver trays of fruit were gone and even the Do Not Disturb and Make Up My Room signs were removed.
Our call for immigration inspection tomorrow morning is between 6:45 and 7:30 AM. We have always found it to be running toward the later time, so we're not hysterical about getting ready precisely on time. Our departure time from the ship is scheduled for 10:00 AM. The final group of guests should depart by 10:20 AM, followed immediately by over half of the crew.
All good things must come to an end, but in this case it really is THE END.
Announcements began calling guests to the immigration inspection at 6:00 AM. We were scheduled for 6:45 AM and were called precisely at that time. Crystal must have bribed someone to get it all running smoothly so there would be no delays today. There isn't much time to spare between the guests departing, the crew departing, and the workers and supplies coming on board.
There was no line at all due to the efficient way Crystal handles the disembarkation procedures and such, so all we had to do was walk down to the Club 2100, scan our keycard, chat with Randal for a few seconds, walk past an immigration official, and we were done. They asked the same stupid questions as always, "What country are you a citizen of?" This while holding a U.S. passport in their hand. Sigh...our tax dollars at work.
We found Helena in the hallway looking quite sad, as is every other crew member we have encountered this morning. They are keeping up a relatively good front, particularly considering most of them have been up most of the night packing. We were not aware of quite how much packing until a bit later when we finished breakfast.
Our next stop was our first and only breakfast aboard. We went to the Lido where it was much less crowded than usual for disembarkation day. That could have something to do with most independent guests not disembarking until after 9:00 AM. All of the usual items were served, but they were out of syrup packets and the pastries were very skimpy and not at all fresh. All of this is understandable, of course. Most cruise lines wouldn't have bothered to keep up the facade for this long even if they could.
After breakfast we walked out through Kyoto where the first sign of the frantic packing overnight showed up. The upper dining area was stacked with boxes of silverware, china, etc. There are so many photos this morning that we have created a photo gallery of the final morning rather than linking them individually. You will find it at the end of the commentary for today.
The entire Lido deck was stripped bare of furniture and boxes were piled high just outside the automatic doors, along with the brown tables that go with the wicker chairs. We believe the stacked boxes contained the chairs for those tables. All of the white pool furniture was gone, to where we have no idea. We walked the entire deck area and never saw the white furniture anywhere. Everything had been packed and removed from the ice cream bar and Trident bar area, although some chairs and tables remained on the grill side, we assume for the workers staying on for the next few days. After that, the entire Deck 11 will be gutted, except for Palm Court and the Vista Lounge.
In the Palm Court lobby there were signs saying the Palm Court was a "Closed Area". Workers were busily packing up Palm Court's furniture and bars, and the now commonplace boxes were stacked everywhere. All of the plants that had been in the Palm Court were arranged outside the doors to the Seahorse Pool area. By the time we walked back to the room and came out just an hour later, the upper decks were closed to guests.
An amazing observation all through the packing, frenzied shop sales, etc., was that there was never trash strewn about and everything was always rearranged immediately to make the area presentable to guests. All of the boxes piled around today are neatly arranged, not sitting haphazardly about. We believe the pride that the crew has for this ship continues to shine, no matter what. We saw no hysteria, no raised voices, no harsh words. It really was an incredible thing to witness.
We chatted with a very sad Danzyl in the hallway. He said he had a few drinks last night and was so sad he had to cry. Poor guy. And he hasn't been on the ship for all that long. Imagine what it must be like for someone who has been on board for fifteen years. It really is heartbreaking to think about it.
After cleaning up and getting ourselves together a bit after breakfast, we took a walk around the Promenade Deck. There we found them covering all of the teak decking and stairs with protective plywood. Huge cranes arrived and quickly began lifting giant piles of plywood up to the pool area from the shore side. Dumpsters and containers were lined up on the pier while trucks disgorged gigantic rolls of plastic and more stacks of plywood.
Already offloaded were the teal cushions for the outdoor furniture, props from the production shows, and other items marked to be sent to Crystal Symphony and elsewhere. On the water side a trash barge had arrived and tied up to the side of the ship. Very quickly, it was filled with gilded picture frames we assume came from the auction art. They had removed the art and just tossed the frames in the trash. Eventually, the frames were joined by thousands of hangers and such from the staterooms or maybe from storage.
Danzyl told us that they have been instructed to remove everything from the staterooms by 5:00 PM. He was trying to help the three butlers remaining on board for dry dock before he left at 10:15 AM today. Already collected were the used towels. Helena said they were told to leave the clean ones for collection later, but they need the used ones so they can be laundered right away. Workers who arrive today will stay on deck five, so all of the stewardesses remaining moved down there at 10:00 AM, leaving the assistants to finish on the upper decks that will not be used at all for months.
We watched as guests began disembarking while the crane continued to load construction supplies and remove shipboard stock and furnishings. It was like watching the life drain out of the ship. Very, very sad. We're glad we didn't have to witness the removal of actual parts of the ship, which we're certain is imminent.
Our disembarkation meeting time was 9:45 AM, so we wandered toward the Galaxy Lounge at 9:30 AM. By now, the shops were completely stripped and they had started collecting the furniture from the Bistro. The lobby had been set up with new floral arrangements and looked like it would on any other day. Of course, there are workers arriving today, so apparently they want to welcome them aboard in style. We didn't see it, but we know most of the dining room had also been packed up last night. No meals will be served in any of the public restaurants while the work is taking place, which is unusual according to the maitre d'. This has something to do with not having reliable power due to the engine replacement project, etc.
We waited with everyone else in the lounge, watching the Computer University staff finish packing up all of the computers on board. And we do mean all. We passed by the hotel directors office and everything was gone, computer and all. We spoke to Crystal computer manager and he said he has to remove all of the computers and get them off the ship as soon as possible. The ship's computer system will be replaced with whatever they are using on the Japanese ship. They will not be using Crystal's hotel system or anything else. Replacing that will cost several million dollars alone, according to the computer guy, who should know such things.
We were called to disembark at 10:00 AM and were walking off the gangway at 10:15 AM. We found our friend Harry in the terminal and chatted with him briefly. He was the front office manager, but he will not be returning after the dry dock. He returned only to work through the dry dock period, then he is finished with ships, along with many others. Our chat made our luggage quite easy to find because of the efficient disembarkation procedures. Ours were the only ones left after just five minutes of talking.
So, off we went to the parking lot where our car awaited. We took the final two shots of the Harmony being dismantled as we drove off toward home. We were on our doorstep in exactly two hours, just as expected.
This cruise was bittersweet, as we fully expected. We give much credit to the staff and crew for maintaining the friendliness and high standards right up until the end. The facade didn't begin to crack until the guests were finally disembarking. Someone smiled down on this cruise as the weather was perfect and everything apparent to us went according to plan. It could not have been better.
Our thoughts are with those long-time crew members who will be starting new adventures ashore. They truly made Crystal Harmony the wonderful ship that she is. We know that we will never forget her and she will live on forever in the fond memories of the thousands of guests she enchanted for fifteen years.
If you would like to visit the Japanese website for Asuka Cruises, click here. The site is in Japanese, but it has some interest, particularly once Crystal Harmony has been converted to Asuka II.
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