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Page Updated:  05/06/2016

See's Candies, Inc.


Crystal Symphony

Tokyo, Japan to
Los Angeles, CA USA
May 1 - 15, 2014
15 Days

Our 50th Milestone Cruise

Itinerary:  Click any day to jump to that section of the text.

Introduction & Planning

Thursday, May 1 - Tokyo, Japan - Embark Crystal Symphony

Friday, May 2 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Saturday, May 3 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Sunday, May 4 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Monday, May 5 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Tuesday, May 6 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Tuesday, May 6 - Cross the International Dateline

Wednesday, May 7 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Thursday, May 8 - Honolulu, HI, USA - Arrive Noon

Friday, May 9 - Honolulu, HI, USA - Depart 5:00 PM

Saturday, May 10 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Sunday, May 11 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Monday, May 12 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Tuesday, May 13 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Wednesday, May 14 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

Thursday, May 15 - Los Angeles/San Pedro, CA, USA - Disembark Crystal Symphony


Introduction & Planning

Welcome to our 50th Milestone cruise! 

At the 50th Milestone, guests are entitled to a free 12-day cruise in a stateroom or penthouse.  We are two cruises short of getting a free penthouse (we needed just two more to qualify).  It is possible to "bank" Milestones for future use, which would probably be the most economical use of the freebie in this case because the fares for this cruise are quite low (for Crystal).  However, Crystal can withdraw this option at any time and we do not anticipate cruising with Crystal in the near future.  So, we feel it is in our best interest to use up the free cruise now.

Regardless of whether or not we use our credit, we are still supposed to receive a private recognition dinner with the captain and various other things, all of which remain to be seen.  We don't know many of the officers anymore and the captain is new, so we're not overly excited about the dinner aspect of it.  However, we won't turn it down either.  We do have to report on what we get, after all.

December 29, 2013:  Dave sent an email to our travel agent today explaining what we are trying to do with this booking.  That is, we want to find out the cost of using the free 12-day cruise credit toward a Category B Stateroom on Deck 8 vs. putting it toward a Penthouse.  As best as we can figure, a stateroom should end up costing us around $1,800 and a penthouse will be around $8,700 (total, not per person.)  There are many factors that affect the final pricing, so we'll have to wait and see what Crystal has to say in the end.  Since this is most likely our last Crystal cruise for quite some time, we are leaning toward blowing the bank on a penthouse so we can go out in style.  We haven't heard back yet, so this booking is still up in the air.

January 6, 2014:  The word from our travel agent is that Crystal requires us to book and put down a deposit on a penthouse before they will request that the Milestone credit be applied.  In other words, there is no way to figure out the final price without actually booking first.  Whatever, we went ahead and put down the deposit on a penthouse figuring we can always downgrade later if the final price isn't acceptable.  She told us that it would be a couple of days before she gets any additional information because, "You know how Crystal is."  Yes, unfortunately, we do know how the L.A. office operates. Thank goodness that the ships are the polar opposite. By the way, she was appalled that Crystal, "Showed you the door," (her words) by not sending us anything for Christmas.

January 10, 2014:  We were charged a 20% deposit on the full penthouse fare ($3,292.00) within minutes of the conversation with our travel agent earlier this week (charge came from Crystal, not the TA), but still no word on applying our Milestone credit.

January 20, 2014: Still waiting for information from Crystal about the Milestone credit.  How hard can this be?

January 30, 2014:  Still waiting.

February 5, 2014:  Dave received a nice birthday present appears that Crystal gave us the Milestone credit for a Penthouse!  We'll stop complaining now.  According to our travel agent, we only owe $584 for our final payment and we are confirmed in a Penthouse.  Good timing on Crystal's part because Dave just said that since he is now officially a crotchety old man (60), he was planning to call Crystal himself and start rattling some cages.

February 7, 2014: Crystal wanted $748 per person for their trip cancellation & medical insurance.  We declined and purchased it from CSA for $558 total.

February 14, 2014: Dave emailed Crystal to confirm the port of embarkation (Tokyo-Harumi Passenger Terminal) and received an answer very quickly.  They sent our complete booking information which we hadn't yet received from our travel agent.  This is the first time we have ever received a response to an inquiry, by the way.  Let's hope this is the way it works from now on. 

The information also quotes prices for transfers from the airport which are outrageous:  $700 for a private sedan from Narita ($265 from Haneda).  Prices for us to book directly with various companies in Tokyo range from $250-275.  Crystal's transfer by motorcoach is $180.  The "Limousine Bus", which is a regular bus service to major hotels in Tokyo, is around $20.00.  On our previous trip, we booked a private transfer to Narita through the Japanese travel agency and it was around $400.  The driver told us that is much higher than they would have charged had we booked directly.  Needless to say, we learned our lesson!

It is interesting that the boarding time is now shown as noon rather than 3:00pm.  Boarding has started at noon for many years, but the ticket always said 3:00pm.  Guests are instructed to arrive no later than 7:00pm.  We intend to leave the hotel at noon and should arrive at the ship by 12:15pm.

February 20, 2014: An email to Crystal today was answered within ten minutes!  Something sure has improved in the L.A. office.  This time we were asking to have our documents prepared and sent to us before we leave for Japan.  The answer was that the tickets for this voyage will be prepared and sent out around March 4th, which should be plenty of time for us to receive them from our travel agent.  We're not particularly concerned about this anyway.  We know we can board without a ticket and we already have our booking number.  It will be a slight hassle without the proper paperwork, but it isn't insurmountable.

March 12, 2014: We scheduled our cruise luggage (one large bag) to be sent via Luggage Forward to our final hotel in Japan.  Cost is $269.00, prepaid by credit card.  We have used this company before with no issues, but we found the website difficult to use (many errors and re-tries) and might consider a different company next time.  Our travel agent said she received our cruise documents today and will send them by FedEx tomorrow morning.

March 14, 2014:  Our cruise documents arrived today in one folio.  We have always received individual packets in the past.  It isn't a big deal at all, but it is a notable cutback.  The new folios are supposed to double as iPad holders, by the way.

March 17, 2014:  After packing our large bag of only the extra clothes required for a two-week cruise, we had to upgrade our Luggage Forward rate to an "oversize" bag for an extra $90.00.  Dave was on hold with Luggage Forward for 45 minutes before being forced to leave a voice-mail message that was never answered.  He sent an email the next morning that was answered hours later.  Although in the end everything was corrected, this experience doesn't instill confidence in being able to reach them if there is a real problem.  We would try a different company next time.

April 19, 2014:  We received a notice saying our luggage was delivered...four days after being picked up.

April 20, 2014:  We saw the ship sail in today, so now we know we are going on a cruise!

Thursday, May 1 - Tokyo, Japan - Embark Crystal Symphony

Fusing the vitality of a modern metropolis with the stately elegance of yesteryear, Tokyo is truly unique. From the timeless beauty of the Meiji Shrine to the glittering Ginza district and impressive Tokyo Tower, this international giant is a complex blend of East and West. Houses of wood and paper stand beside towering steel skyscrapers, while kimono-clad women stroll beside teenagers who have created a fashion all their own.

The timeless Imperial Palace bears testament to Japan's enduring traditions. Despite encroaching urban development, it continues to exist in a verdant parkland of isolation.

Images of the vibrant metropolis of Tokyo, which is home to more than 11 million people, will create memories of a lifetime.

 Find more about Weather in Tokyo, JP
Click for weather forecast

We called for a bellman at 11:45 and went down to check out. Our bill for meals was lower than we expected, around ¥27000, so we are well within our budget for extras during this trip.

The taxi van was already loaded and ready to go by the time Dave finished checking out.  The driver spoke English and was very nice.  On the way to the port we encountered some sort of traffic jam and he asked if it is OK to take another route that is a little longer.  What taxi driver in the U.S. would do that?  When we asked when Golden Week starts, he said it doesn't start until next week, so our timing is pretty good for getting out of here.  The alternative if you must be here during that time is to stay in Tokyo because most Tokyoites will be leaving to go on vacation or to go to visit friends and family outside the city.  The ride cost ¥3260, including the extra ¥1000 for requesting a van.

We arrived at the port at 12:30pm.  It seems that everyone else arrived at the same time.  The line for the X-ray bag check in the terminal was very long.  Nobody seemed bothered by it, which is unusual for the Crystal crowd, but we're glad everyone was patient.  It only took so long because people weren't very adept at getting their bags ready to scan. 

When there are few ports the average age of the passengers ratchets up considerably.  There is little evidence of Crystal's new younger demographic today.

Once past security, we boarded the ship where our tickets were scanned, then someone escorted us to the Starlite Club to check in.  When we went to check our hand luggage, they told us we could go directly to our room and don't have to wait until 3:00pm.  We're not sure if that applies to all penthouse rooms or not because many of them obviously were not yet ready when we went up.

After we checked in, which is very easy when you do everything online in advance, our picture was taken and we were handed our ID/keycards.  The woman who checked us in took us up to our room.


We wandered down to the Crystal Dining Room at 1:00pm for lunch.  Celso greeted us and seated us by the window just inside the doors.  He has known us forever and is always very gracious.  Muzo served us.  We would love to have him as our waiter all the time, but he said he's at this station for the rest of the cruise.  We know our table is on the other side of the room.  We don't have a menu from lunch because it is too early to get them in advance.  Well, the real reason is that Dave forgot to ask for one as we were leaving the dining room.

Dave ordered the Filet Mignon, Bill ordered the Grilled Salmon.  We both had the Mixed Greens Salad.  The salad wasn't all that exciting, although it was fine, but both of the entrees were outstanding.  We were surprised by how large the portions are of the meat and fish.  We were prepared to bring a quarter to put next to the servings for a photo, but everything was what we would consider a normal restaurant portion.  Dave ordered the Sugar Free Chocolate Mousse for dessert, and it too was delicious.  You'd never know it is sugar free.

After lunch we went up to wander around the Lido Deck.  On the way we stopped to look at the new (to us) Galaxy Lounge.  It looks MUCH better than it used to.  Walking across the Lido Deck we were stopped by three of the deck stewards who wanted to greet us.  We only saw three of them who look familiar, so there has been quite a bit of turnover since we were here last.  What gasses us is when they call us by name and know who is who when they haven't seen us for at least two years.

On the way into the new Palm Court, we met one of our forum members who actually doesn't hate us.  Well, most people on OUR forum don't hate us, but many on "that other one" sure do.  We enjoyed chatting with them and going over some of the escapades of our time in Japan.  They agree that Kamakura is way too crowded these days.  What the heck happened?

Palm Court looks completely different.  It much more elegant or formal depending on your viewpoint.  The new decor changes the whole relaxed feeling it had before.  Now it looks like a funky LA nightclub or trendy hotel lobby.  We're not sure that is necessarily a bad thing though.  We're not in love with the high-backed chairs that block the view out the windows though.

We wandered up to the top deck for our usual port photos.  With only one port for the next fifteen days, don't expect any more of these.  The weather has cleared up and it is bright and sunny now.

There is a notice about immigration in the terminal that must be completed by everyone between 4 and 8:00pm.  We were wondering why it wasn't done on the way onto the ship.  Overhearing the conversations around us in the dining room, it would appear that most people didn't read the very clear instructions about what time to take care of this requirement.

We went back to the room and our butler, David, arrived to go over the usual amenities.  We chose two bottles of V.O. as our liquor allotment.  That is in addition to two bottles of wine and one of champagne on ice already in the room.  The refrigerator is stocked with beer and soft drinks.  Our preference list is out of date, so we had to ask him to change out a few things for diet drinks.  He tried to get us to make alternative restaurant reservations, but we're not all that interested in them this time.  Chances are we will be hosted at one or both of them since it is our 50th cruise, but even if we are not we probably won't bother to go.  We've had enough Japanese food to last us a while and we aren't big fans of Prego, so why bother?

We received a box of See's chocolates from Crystal Society and $200 in onboard credit from our travel agent.  No American Express credit this time, but since we didn't pay full price for the cruise, that is understandable.

It isn't necessary to go to the CU@Sea room to sign up for internet service anymore.  Now a window pops up when you open a browser, similar to how it works in hotels that charge for internet.  We didn't sign up because there is a notice saying it probably won't work until we are away from Japan.

Our stewardess, Manju, came by to ask if we need anything.  She seems very pleasant.  All we asked for is an extra box of Kleenex and told her she can bring it tonight.  However, she came back with it in a few minutes.  We assured her we will use the "Make up the Room" signal and that we know how to behave.  She knew from her paperwork how many cruises we have racked up, so she said, "You have been on more cruises than I have."

At 3:50pm, an announcement was made changing the time for the immigration inspection to 4:30 - 7:00pm.  Earlier there was a "Code Alpha" call for a stretcher team to go to the library.  The announcements are so loud in our room that both of them scared the crap out of us!  The new doorbell sound is also very loud, so we're prepared to be startled throughout the cruise.

The new (to us) penthouse decor is a big improvement.  The bathroom isn't pastel pink or blue anymore, but an elegant tone-on-tone white.  The vessel sinks take up too much counter space, but everything looks very nice.  One thing that hasn't changed is our Crystal pet peeve...the grout in the shower is still moldy.

There are so many pillows on our bed that they are two feet high at the headboard.  Maybe a bit of overkill there.  The colors in the room are muted shades of white, gray and brown.  We're glad to see the reddish pink carpet in the hallway has been replaced with a gray version with white flowers and stems.

After partially unpacking, we went ashore for immigration at 5:00pm.  There was a long line, but it moved quickly.  Not quickly enough for the man behind us who did nothing but complain about everything that has happened so far.  "The rooms are pitifully small," he declared.  Uh, so you didn't look at a floorplan before you booked or what?  It isn't at all mysterious.  Of course, cruising just isn't what it used to be when, "You could get a suckling pig whenever you wanted one."  Who wants one?  He doesn't like Seabourn either.  Only Silversea has come close to meeting his requirements.  OK, so why did you book this cruise in the first place?  Oh yeah, it is cheap because it is a crossing!  On the other hand, three sisters behind us were very friendly and seem like a lot of fun, so it isn't all bad. 

The tax-free forms stapled in Dave's passport freaked out the customs agent.  He had to call someone over to look at it, then he took the paper to someone else for approval.  In the meantime, Dave pointed out that the form he skipped is the same thing and he should have collected it.  Bill had no such issues since his was more straightforward.  They took the time to pull the staples out of both passports.

We think maybe we accidentally boarded a Holland America ship.  The passengers are much older than usual and that's saying something for Crystal.  There are more walkers and wheelchairs than we have seen in years.  A woman coming back up the gangway regaled Dave about how she hasn't slept in 48 hours.  She was probably 80 if she's a day.  Someone sure should have planned a less stressful itinerary for someone like that.  We will say though, she was dressed and put together very nicely.

We don't want to get too excited yet, but when Dave updated the site around 5:50pm the internet actually worked.  And, get this, it was as fast as at home, maybe faster (we have terrible internet service).  Now, we don't expect those speeds all the time, but since a notice on the sign-on page says internet isn't likely to be available for the next two days, we've very surprised.

Bill called our butler to pick up our clothes for pressing.  This is a free service for penthouse guests.  Our "good" clothes have been packed for two months, so they're a mess.  Dave reminded him that we need copies of the menus every day.  He said he saw the note in our file and would start putting them on our clip tomorrow.

An announcement was made at 6:30pm reminding everyone to go into the terminal for immigration clearance and that, "The wait is minimal," and, "No one is exempt."

The lifeboat drill is at 8:15pm tonight.  We went down a few minutes early to avoid the rush.  The drill was a bit more extensive than in the past, but that may be because our lifeboat commander is the first officer.  Otherwise, there wasn't anything unusual about it.

The captain made an announcement that the sailing will be a couple of hours late because we are waiting for a late flight to arrive.  Why would anyone fly in the day a cruise departs when there is no way to catch up at another port?  There was a computer glitch at LAX that caused a ground stop for several hours today that caused a huge air traffic jam.  He also said that it will be rough when we reach open water because it is very windy.

Tonight's dress code is Resort Casual.  We have Assigned Seating - Late Seating (8:30pm) at a table for two, as always.  We're used to eating at 6:00pm lately, so it was tough for us to hold out until dinner time.  We ate most of the fruit in the room so we didn't faint dead away.

Our table is by a window, which ordinarily we don't like.  However, none of the tables down the middle row are set up.  We later found out from our waiter that there are only 120 guests with late seating (main seating is full).  There are only 550 passengers on this cruise, which is about what we expected for a crossing with one port.

Our senior waiter is Santhana from India.  He seems like he might be fun to talk to. We don't recognize many of the dining room staff anymore.  All of the sommeliers are new since we were here last, but we kind of expected that when Crystal went all-inclusive.  We didn't formally meet our waiter.

Click to view the MENU.  The menus are set up differently with many new items on the "Modern Cuisine" page.  We applaud the new items, but we don't like that the menu is split into two sides.  We'd prefer they put all of the entrees in one place, etc., so it isn't so confusing to figure out what to order.  Other than that, we're fine with it.

Dave ordered the Ravioli appetizer, we both had the Mixed Greens salad, Dave had the Crab Soup, Bill ordered the pasta course as an appetizer.  Dave had the Pan-Seared Halibut main course, Bill had the Black Angus Filet Steak.  The ravioli was very attractive and we'll give it a lot of credit for being unusual, but the consistency was gummy and it was way too salty.  So, it was almost good, but missed the mark.  Salads were fine, nothing special.  The crab soup was unusual in a good way.  The pasta was very good.  Both entrees were outstanding.  The halibut in particular was a nice presentation with an unusual combination of flavors.  The only small complaint would be that it was a bit overcooked.  All of the portions were very generous and what we would consider normal for most people.

For dessert, Dave had the sugar-free Citrus Delight that was very good and exactly what he had in mind when he ordered it.  It didn't taste sugar-free at all.  Dave asked what it is sweetened with and was told is it Splenda.  He doesn't usually like Splenda and tries to avoid it for a variety of reasons, but the two desserts he had today were very good.  Bill had the Kir Royale sherbet that is the same as it has always been, which is a good thing.

Celso and Remi stopped by to chat for a minute.  Our sommelier is fun.  She kept trying to refill our glasses because there are so few guests she doesn't have anything to do.  The complementary wines tonight are a Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon.  Both were OK, but we wouldn't make a point of ordering either of them. 

The welcome show is at 10:15pm tonight.  The first short production was a number from "Hairspray" we haven't seen before, but the finale was "Grand Hotel" that we must have seen at least 50 times.  The dance instructors did a number in the middle that was fine.  Otherwise it was just the cruise director, Paul McFarland, telling a few jokes and saying the same things cruise directors always say.  Nothing wrong with that, just saying we didn't learn anything new and exciting.

By the way, drinks are no longer served after the show begins, but there are waiters there to take orders beforehand, as usual.

The ship sailed at 10:30pm, so we rushed up to the upper deck as soon as the show ended.  To say that a night sailing from Tokyo is spectacular doesn't do it justice.  It is truly amazing.  There were only a handful of guests outside to see it which is a real shame.

We received a small box of specialty chocolates in the room.  We have had these before.  They are replenished as you consume them.  They replaced the pillow chocolates in the penthouses years ago.  As far as we know, staterooms don't get turn-down chocolates anymore.

We move one hour ahead on the clock tonight.  We might as well get used to this since we have a long way to go to catch up with Pacific Time!

Friday, May 2 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

It was never rough overnight.  There is some rolling from the wind, but nothing out of the ordinary for sailing in the open ocean.  The weather this morning is very nice...slightly overcast and 68 degrees.  It is still windy, but the gentle rolling has been consistent, not a problem at all.

Click for TODAY'S ACTIVITIES.  Click for an example of the ship's DINING HOURS.

We dawdled around and didn't make it to breakfast, so we went to the Late Riser's Breakfast at the Trident Grill at 10:00am.  Service from the Lido guys is always very friendly.  We're amazed that they remember our names and when they saw us last, even if it was years ago.  We both ordered a fruit plate.  Dave had an omelet (you choose whatever you want to put in it), Bill had the pancakes (they're not just pancakes, there are a couple of interesting toppings).  The omelet wasn't very was overcooked and whether there were any fillings it in wasn't discernable.  The pancakes were very good.  Portions were normal.

We were amused with the fruit order though.  We didn't notice that the menu says, "From the Trident Counter," so we just ordered it with everything else.  It arrived with no questions asked and we didn't think anything of it.  When the couple at the next table asked for fruit, they were told (very nicely) to get it from the buffet themselves.  The waiter brought over a big tray of pastries for us to choose from.  Those are also self-service from the counter, but it was his idea to bring them to us, we didn't ask for them.

After breakfast we went up to make haircut appointments in the salon and were told they could take us right then.  So, now we're all groomed and ready for another year.  OK, a few months anyway.  The cost was around $42, so pretty much the same as we would pay at home for less elaborate service.

We were hungry again by noon, but we forced ourselves to wait until 1:00pm to go to lunch.  Click for the Crystal Dining Room LUNCHEON MENU.  We went to the Lido, which was packed.  With the ship barely half full, we are surprised to see almost all of the tables occupied.  The food in the Lido is probably the most improved single thing on the ship since we started sailing with Crystal in 1995.  It used to be barely acceptable, but now it is a highlight.  We would prefer that they still have trays, but the food more than makes up for the slight inconvenience.

The sliced pork roast was the best item today, but everything else was very good, too.  We had the vegetable samosas, beef curry, a tuna melt, green beans, roasted vegetables, and salads.  The small desserts are nice, too.  Service was very attentive and friendly.  We were offered refills on the iced tea at least four times.  Bruno came over to talk to us.  He was our waiter years ago, but was quickly promoted to a headwaiter in Prego.

After lunch we went out to sit by the Seahorse Pool for a while.  It is a bit chilly, but we prefer sitting outside than inside.  The inside seating area (where the Neptune Pool used to be) was busy with the geriatric crowd.  Herbert Jaeger came over to talk to us.  He said he was excited to see our names on the list because he, "Thought you had abandoned us."  We assured him we haven't been taking other cruises, but we have been doing other things besides cruising.

We received two letters from the Crystal Society Hostess.  One is inviting us to our 50th Milestone dinner in the Captain's Quarters with six of our closest friends and/or officers (we have to let her know who to invite).  We only know Herbert among the officers.  We used to know all of them, but a lot has changed in two years.  The other letter asks if it is OK to present us on stage at the Crystal Society Party in a few days.  We don't mind doing that since it is relatively painless.  We just go up there, they give us flowers (or something similar), take a photo and we're done.  We know it is all advertising for Crystal, but that's OK.

We wandered back to the room around 3:00pm when it got too windy and cold to stay outside.  Bill stopped by the CU@Sea room to be sure his cellphone isn't still connected to the internet (it isn't).

Nothing but napping took place until we got hungry again and went up to the Trident Grill for a snack of a hot dog, grilled cheese and fruit.  Upon our return to the room we found our evening snack had been delivered.  Tonight it is shrimp.

We received a notification of a $300 onboard credit from American Express.  Apparently it doesn't matter if you pay full price for a cruise or not as long as you charge the balance on their card.

The doorbell rang and much to our surprise we found Theo there!  He was our butler on one of the world cruises and a couple times since then.  We thought all of the butlers we know were gone, but here he is.  We had a nice chat with him and we'll be sure to go find Paula later.  We looked around yesterday and didn't see her, so we assumed neither of them was on board this cruise.  They're two of our favorite crew members. Theo said that Capt. Zander is very funny and we should enjoy our dinner with him. 

David came by to be sure everything is OK.  We assured him everything is fine and we'll let him know if we need anything.  Butlers always freak out because we don't ask for anything.  Sometimes we have to make things up to make them happy, but we REALLY don't need anything special.

Tonight's dress code is Black Tie (Formal) Optional.  The Captain's Welcome Reception is at 7:45pm in the Starlite Club.

On the way to the reception, we walked through the Cove to look for Paula, but didn't see her.  So, we wandered up to look through the dwindling merchandise in the shops.  Then, Paula spotted us from downstairs and started waving.  Shortly thereafter, she showed up in the shop to greet us and thank us for talking her into going to Hong Kong Disneyland in 2009.  Apparently she enjoyed it!  We promised we'd stop by and catch up ASAP.

The operator of the shops is changing shortly, so all Crystal logo items are buy one, get one free.  Still, we didn't see anything we are even slightly interested in buying.  That's kind of the problem with the current shops.  There hasn't been anything to buy in years.

Since we don't know this captain, we went through the reception line where we met the Crystal Society hostess for the first time.  We told her whatever she wants us to do for the presentation is fine with us and that we'll talk to her tomorrow.  We also told her we only know two officers, both of whom are standing there with her (Paul and Herbert) and two guests, so that about sums up our invitation list.  The Captain's party was the usual except the captain's speech was very amusing.  He's the kind of snarky we love.  Maybe we will enjoy the dinner with him.

We're loving the empty dining room.  It is nice and quiet, plus we get plenty of time to chat with Santhana, our waiter, and the amusing sommelier.  We were shocked that she has been on the Symphony for six years and we've never seen her before.  She's very entertaining.

Click to view tonight's MENU.  Santhana gave us the spiel about the "Modern" menu again.  We almost laughed yesterday when he did that, so tonight we told him he doesn't have to give us the song and dance anymore, which amused him.  We both ordered the same things:  Shrimp Spring Roll, Captain's Salad, and the Beef Tenderloin.  The spring roll was an enhanced version of the one they have always served.  It looked nice, but didn't have much flavor.  The salad was OK, nothing special.  The beef was exceptional.  It was topped with gimmicky truffle foam, but the beef was delicious.  It is an updated version of Chateaubriand.  The portion was quite small, so when Santhana asked if we want more, the answer was yes.  He brought extra meat, then went to get some of the sauce.

Remi came by to chat and when Santhana came back he said, "It's about time.  They were just asking if you were still on board."  He was joking, by the way.

Bill had the mint trifle dessert, Dave had the sherbet.  Both were very good.  The trifle was beautifully decorated with a tall sugar filigree structure.

Tonight's entertainment is the production show "Maestro!".  We haven't seen this show before.  There is a loose premise about how composers come up with show tunes and movie scores, but that part doesn't really add anything to the show.  The songs are nice, but they all end abruptly with no transition to the next one.  The show is pretty much a classic Crystal production with lavish, beautiful costumes.  There is one number that is particularly inventive.  The ending kind of falls flat, but overall it is an entertaining production.  The ensemble is one of the best we've seen, but the leads are a bit weak. 

Saturday, May 3 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

There's not a cloud in the sky today.  If we were in a port it would be a perfect day for walking around.  The rocking motion is the same as it has been since we left Tokyo, nothing out of the ordinary.  There are probably people demanding their money back because they didn't know that ships move.


We went to breakfast in the Lido where we were fawned over by the deck stewards.  Most of them have known us since our first cruise in 1995 and they've always been extremely nice to us.  We loaded up on fruit and a few other things to last until our next feeding at lunch.

After breakfast, we were on the way to talk to the Crystal Society hostess when we were sidetracked by the photos from embarkation and the captain's party.  The hours are very strange for the photo viewing, so we're never sure when they will be available.  Yes, of course, we could read the schedule if we cared that much, but we don't, so we just ran across it.  All of the pictures were good, so we bought them.  They take extra pictures at embarkation that are a close up of each person.  That's a nice idea to possibly sell a few more pictures.  There is never any pressure to buy anything, so we don't usually mind if they take a picture of us.  However, we do decline the pictures taken at the table in the dining room on formal nights.

We found Alissa at her desk and sat down to go over the information she wants to discuss.  We gave her the names of the guests and officers we want to invite to our dinner. Then she asked about food restrictions or any special dishes we want.  We don't have many rules about that, which probably makes it more difficult for the chef to come up with something.  Dave said no veal and a sugar free dessert for him, but don't make everyone eat sugar free. Other than that it is chef's choice.

By the way, Alissa said that they only have a Gala Buffet when there are three or more sea days. With the new port intensive itineraries, don't expect a Gala Buffet very often.  There is one scheduled on Mother's Day during this cruise and another one later if we understood correctly.  We haven't gone to one of these since our second cruise.  They are pretty to look at, but we'd rather have real food in the Lido.  That's where you'll find most of the regulars, too.

Next, we went over our bio for the presentation.  She said they have cut down all speeches to one or two sentences, which is fine with us.  We said something generic about feeling comfortable on the ship and that it is like coming home.  Everyone says that, but it is true, especially for anyone who has enough cruises to be up on stage.  As one would expect, Alissa is very nice and pleasant.

We sat around doing nothing until time for lunch.  There is an Asian themed buffet in the Lido today.  This is a scaled back version of the themed buffet they used to have around the pool when it existed.  We prefer that it is served in the Lido, but it isn't nearly as impressive as it used to be. 

Click for the Crystal Dining Room LUNCHEON MENU.  We ordered the Spring Roll, Thai Chicken Soup, Thai Beef Salad, and Orange Chicken.  Everything was outstanding.  Muzo served us again.  He's always a lot of fun.

After lunch we went up to sit by the pool for a few hours.  Our big thrill is watching the water slosh out of the pool.  The new larger spa has been modified with a glass splash guard around the edges.  It sure is necessary because the water constantly came out of the spa and would have ended up on the deck if the glass wasn't there.  The water feature that used to be under the spa has been tiled over.

The band was playing by the pool longer than usual.  They're not very good to be perfectly honest.  Usually the dance bands and singers are very good, but this one is often off key.

Back at the room we napped and/or watched videos we brought with us.  At 4:30, David brought the promised afternoon snack of pigs in a blanket and a cheese plate (the cheese is the regular daily snack for penthouses).   The food saved us from having to go up to the Trident for a snack today.

Tonight's dress code is Resort Casual.

The evening entertainment tonight is before dinner for Late Seating guests, which we HATE.  We don't like to be dressed and ready for a show by 7:00pm.  That leaves us nothing to do after dinner.  The headliner for tonight is ventriloquist Mark Merchant.  Nothing wrong with him, but he has been on probably 45 out of our 50 cruises.  In any case, we were sidetracked in the corridor by butler Victor who wanted to chat.  He was our assistant waiter on our first world cruise, so apparently we made a favorable impression on him.  He is always very happy to see us.

We went up to sit in Palm Court to kill the rest of the time until dinner.  There is a singer and band up there, which is nice.  It isn't intended to be dance music.  The singer was pretty good for background music.  Norman came over to talk to us.  He has been here from the beginning and has always been very friendly.  We know we're old because the deck guys are now in their 40's and up.  They all looked about twelve when we first started cruising.

Click for the Crystal Dining Room DINNER MENU.  Santhana only had us and one other table to serve tonight, so we had a chance to talk to him more.  Celso showed us an email "confirming" that there is going to be an announcement of a new ship by the end of the year.  The crew is very excited about this.  However, it is the same announcement we have been seeing all over the press since the new president arrived.  We don't doubt that an announcement will be forthcoming, but the point is that this isn't anything new.

The items ordered tonight are the Mosaic of Fresh Fruits, French Onion Soup, Crisp Spring Greens, and the Chinese Lemon Chicken.  The fruit was beautifully arranged and was a nice array of different fruits and berries.  The soup was OK, but nothing special, same with the salad.  The chicken entree was outstanding as well as unusual.  We remarked to Celso that the food has improved so much in recent years that it is as good as in the heyday of Crystal when it was exciting to show up for dinner to see what fantastic meal would arrive each night.  Every single item isn't a winner, but enough of them are terrific that we actually look forward to meals.  The Mango Pavlova dessert was very good, too, although we wouldn't have described it as a Pavlova.

Celso asked if everything is OK.  We assured him it is.  Then he asked if the onion soup was OK because several people had complained it was too salty.  It wasn't the best onion soup we've ever had, but it wasn't too salty.  He offered us Cherries Jubilee, but we're not into the flambé desserts.

With no show after dinner, we just went back to the room and watched TV for a while.

We move ahead one hour on the clock tonight.

Sunday, May 4 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

It is a little warmer today, but otherwise the weather is the same as it has been since we left Tokyo.

There is a notice on the internet log-in page about slow internet speeds today.  We haven't had any significant issues with it until now.  In fact, it has been fairly speedy.


We started our day with lunch in the Lido Cafe.  We arrived when it opened and it quickly became very busy.  The food continues to be outstanding.  There was nothing that was subpar or below average.  All of the entrees we selected were excellent.  Service was very attentive, also.  Most of the entrees on the buffet are the same as what is available in the dining room with the addition of the carving station and some Asian selections.  Click to view the Crystal Dining Room LUNCHEON MENU.  There is only one sugar free dessert on the buffet (there are three on the dinner menu in the dining room), but what they have is excellent.  You'd never know it is sugar free.  Today it was a mocha mousse cake. 

On the way out we ran into Herbert and had the chance to tell him how much we feel the Lido has improved in the past few years.  We also told him that we're happy with the innovative dining room menus and the quality of the food these days.  He was pleased that we are happy and said we need to give up land travel and come back to cruise as often as we used to.  Fat chance at the current prices, but we'll still come back occasionally when it fits our plans.  However, we won't be booking cruises just to go on a cruise, which is what we used to do all the time.

After lunch we sat in the shade by the Seahorse Pool listening to the God-awful band.  They didn't make our ears bleed, but it was close.  Several people got up and lead a dance line around the pool when "YMCA" was played.  The deck stewards always get involved when the song plays, so it is kind of watch.

Around 3:30pm Dave went to get ice cream and Bill asked him to get a shake for him.  That was too complicated, but one of the deck guys happened by at that very moment, so Dave asked him to get it, which, of course, he did.  In addition to the usual ice cream flavors, there is a separate menu of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, soft serve frozen yogurt, and three kinds of sugar free ice cream.  They will make shakes or smoothies upon request.  There are several liqueurs and syrups available for topping, including some sugar free types.  Unfortunately, all of the sugar free toppings and the breakfast syrup is made with maltitol, which isn't the best choice for a diabetic or anyone else who doesn't want to lose control of their bodily functions.

We heard that a lot of guests are disembarking in Honolulu.  Since it would be against U.S. laws to embark in Honolulu and take them to Los Angeles, the ship will be pretty empty after the stop in Hawaii.

At 4:00pm we went back to the room to await delivery of our pre-dinner snack.  It is more than a "snack" tonight.  We got prosciutto with melon, guacamole with chips, and shrimp in a spicy tomato sauce.  Good thing because the dinner menu isn't full of choices we're in the mood for tonight.

Tonight's dress code is Elegant Casual (Informal).

The entertainment for tonight is again scheduled before dinner for late seating guests, so we won't be attending.  We'll say it again, WE HATE IT WHEN THE ENTERTAINMENT IS BEFORE DINNER!  Anyway, the show for tonight is "Virtuoso Violinist" Ian Cooper. We went to Palm Court, but found a Cruise Critic party in progress, so we hightailed it out of there as quickly as possible.  We ended up sitting in the Starlite Club for the hour before dinner.

Click to view the DINNER MENU.  Tonight, the dishes we ordered are Pirozhki, Oxtail Soup, Rocket Lettuce Salad, Broiled Swordfish Steak, and the Pork Tenderloin from the Modern Menu.  The Pirozhki were outstanding.  The soup and salad were very nice, but nothing extraordinary.  Both entrees were excellent.  The pork portion was very small, but everything on the plate was delicious.  The swordfish portion was generous.  We noted the absence so far of the dust-dry whipped potatoes that used to accompany almost everything.  Santhana offered to bring a bowl of cherries for dessert, which he did.  He brought Dave a bowl of blueberries and whipped cream, too.  Bill had the orange frozen yogurt.  The berries were fantastic.

We asked about Dining by Reservation because we haven't seen anyone coming or going during dinner.  Santhana said it isn't in the back of the room anymore.  They're seating reservation guests in the center circle (where the officer's table are).  It makes those guests feel more included and it is less disruptive to the assigned seating guests.  So, it is a win-win situation.  We're glad they figured it all out.  Honestly, it is so invisible now that we thought maybe no one had signed up for it this cruise.

After dinner we wandered back toward the room. We ran into Herbert and Norbert in the hallway.  Herbert carried on about how nice it is to see us again.  We believe he means it.  He has always been very nice to us.  We reiterated that cruising has fallen to second place in our travel planning, so that's why we aren't coming back as often.  When we told them we haven't cheated on them with any other cruise lines, they were happy.  Then Dave said, "We have thought about it, but we haven't done it."  Norbert then said, "Too much information!"  We're getting the impression that Crystal may be losing a lot of their long-time fans to other lines.  No one has said that out loud, but subtle things they say definitely give us that feeling.  There are a lot of repeat passengers on this cruise, which is to be expected for a cruise with all sea days.  Crystal's emphasis lately has been port intensive and shorter cruises, both things that don't appeal to long-time fans, us included.

Herbert is surprised that we don't have any reservations for the alternative restaurants.  We decided before we came that we weren't going to bother with them.  We have never been huge fans of Prego and we've had so much Japanese food over the last five weeks that Silk Road isn't very alluring. We told him that the new dining room menus are so interesting that we prefer to try those items over going to the alternatives.

Monday, May 5 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

We're pitching and rolling today, much more than we have up until now.  The weather otherwise is about the same, 68 and windy.


We went up to the Trident area to wait for lunch time. We're surprised to see so many people there because it is so rough.  Most of these people can barely walk when it isn't rocking.  Whoever decided to remove the Neptune pool and add the extra seating certainly was onto something.  The area is very popular.  The captain's announcement at noon confirmed that the sea will be rough all day.

Click to view the Crystal Dining Room LUNCHEON MENU.

Collecting food from the buffet was a bit of a balancing act, but we managed.  Waiters helped many of the older passengers select their food and carry it to a table.  All of the food was very good to excellent with only one exception.  There were some fried pastry triangles filled with smoked duck that were odd and not worth eating.

During lunch a particularly big wave caused a ruckus at the back of the Lido.  We heard a crash and then lots of commotion, but we couldn't see what happened.  There was no continuing scene, so it must not have been anything significant.

After lunch we went to the dining room to ask for a copy of the lunch menu.  We didn't get menus on the clip this morning.  Then up to the room to drop it off.  A maintenance man arrived just before us to fix the table.  There is a loose ball bearing rolling around inside it that is driving us crazy in the rough seas.

We spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in the Trident area watching people attempt to walk.  The Seahorse pool and the Jacuzzi are drained due to the rough seas.  All of the large poolside furniture is piled up along the sides under cover.

Around 5:30pm, David delivered our evening snack.  He brings so much food that we could call it dinner!  Tonight we got guacamole and chips, chicken wings, and the little hamburgers from the old 50's night.  He grilled us for what we want for tomorrow, but we couldn't think of anything.  We'll see what we get.

During the evening entertainment roundup on TV, Paul announced that the production show scheduled for tonight has been replaced by Guitarist George Sakellariou.  There is a Jazz Jam added in the Palm Court and the group usually up there will be in the Avenue Saloon.  A new evening entertainment page was delivered shortly thereafter.  Click to view the REVISED SHOW SCHEDULE.

Tonight's dress code is Resort Casual.  Casual Dining is available upstairs tonight for the first time this cruise.  Due to the rough weather, we heard that hardly anyone chose that option.  Poor planning on Crystal's part to hold it tonight.  We sat in the Starlite Club for the hour before dinner. 

Click for the Crystal Dining Room DINNER MENU.  We had a different assistant waiter tonight.  Later he told us that because it is so slow, they get to rotate having a night off.  He seemed very impressed that Crystal does this.  He said it makes everyone very happy. 

Tonight we ordered the Chicken & Ravioli Soup, Chopped Salad, Tossed Mixed Greens, and the Braised Beef Short Ribs.  The soup was outstanding.  The tossed greens salad was excellent, but the chopped one was boring.  The short ribs were wonderful with several different flavors in the potatoes, vegetables, meat and sauce that all went together perfectly.  For dessert we had the Ginger & Champagne Sherbet and the Sugar-Free Brownie.  The sherbet was way too strong both with ginger and alcohol.  The brownie, on the other hand, was wonderful.  There is no way anyone would be able to discern that it is sugar free.

We chatted with Remi on the way out.  A woman wearing a Disneyland shirt came up and joined the conversation.  She asked Remi if we are going to single seating after so many people leave in Hawaii, but he said we would stay with two seatings.  The first seating is full, so it wouldn't work with one seating.  Too many guests would have to change tables. 

With no shows after dinner (you do know we HATE that, right?), we started to go back to the room.  Then we decided to wander down to the Cove Bar to see if it is slow enough to chat with Paula.  It is, so we stayed talking to her until closing time.  We always like talking to her, so it was more enjoyable than any show could have been.  We were surprised to learn that they don't have to keep track of the free liquor.  In fact, there isn't a computer at the bar anymore.  If someone buys one of the premium items or cigarettes, for example, they have to ring it up in the wine room.  She said it is unusual for anyone to order something there is a charge for.  They have a budget for the liquor and as long as they stay within that, which they always do, nobody cares how much of it they serve.

In regard to the free wine at dinner, we are impressed with our sommelier.  She always explains each of the wines in detail as though she is trying to sell it to you.  We never get the impression she is just doling out freebie wine and doesn't care at all about it.  Since the late seating is so empty, she has plenty of time, so we're not sure how harried they may be during a full seating.  Almost everyone has at least one glass of wine, which wasn't the case when there was a charge for it.  A table of staff received a bill for their table's wine.

By the time we made it back to our room, it was very rough again.  It had calmed down a bit during dinner, but it is very rocky now.  We can hear something outside on the back deck or maybe in the Lido above, banging around now and then.  It sounds sort of like one of the wooden tables is rolling around.

We move another hour forward on the clock tonight.

Tuesday, May 6 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

The weather is about the same as yesterday, overcast and 68 degrees.  It isn't as rocky, but it is still difficult to walk a straight line.


Click for the Crystal Dining Room LUNCHEON MENU.  We went to the Lido for lunch, as usual.  Most of the items from the dining room are available from the buffet, plus Lido extras like carved meat and a large array of desserts.  All of the food today was delicious, especially the slow roasted beef from the carving station.  We don't know where everyone went, but it isn't nearly as busy up here as it has been, even though it isn't as rough.

Bill called David to ask him to have the deck department fix the doors between the two rooms next to us.  That is the source of the constant banging we heard all night and into this morning.  Someone came up right away and secured them.

Both the pool and the Jacuzzi are drained due to the movement of the ship.  There is no poolside entertainment either.  We sat in the Trident area and pretended to read until around 3:30pm when we couldn't resist the urge to nap.

David arrived with our evening snack at around 5:30pm.  He apologized for not bringing the stuffed jalapeno poppers he promised yesterday.  He said they were way too spicy and he sent them back.  Instead he brought two plates of vegetable spring rolls and one plate of mini cheeseburgers, plus some potato chips.  We told him that one plate of each is plenty and he took one of the spring roll dishes away.  Bill asked for some Gatorade and it appeared in minutes at no charge.  David keeps wanting to bring us fancy foods and we keep refusing them.  Most people probably want caviar and shrimp, but we want guacamole, chips and mini cheeseburgers.  If we are going to eat, we want to EAT, not nibble on goo.

Tonight's entertainment, scheduled before dinner again <sigh>, is the production show "Route 66".  We don't remember seeing it before, so it might be new to us.  What we have to say about it is the same as the previous show...beautiful costumes, good songs, little plot, and no transitions from scene to scene.  We can't put our finger on what the problem is with the new shows.  They are almost good, but something about them isn't quite right.  They just don't grab us like some of the old ones did.  One thing that stands out is the very obvious pre-recorded background singing, so maybe that's it, but we're not sure.  Anyway, our sensibilities weren't offended by it or anything, so it was enjoyable enough.  We have seen far worse, that's for sure.  Anyone remember "Excalibur!"?

We had 30 minutes to kill before dinner, so we sat in the Starlite Club to wait.

Click for the Crystal Dining Room DINNER MENU.  Tonight we asked Santhana for his recommendation about the chilled soup and the salads.  We remember a chilled melon soup from the past that tasted like dishwashing detergent, so we wanted to be sure this isn't the same.  He assured us that everyone liked it at the first seating, so we ordered it.  We ordered the Chilled Honeydew Espuma (whatever the heck an "espuma" is), the Heart of Boston Lettuce salad, and the Grilled Black Angus Filet Steak.  Bill complicated things by changing all of the sides that come with the filet, but Santhana got it all right, which is the first time ever that has happened.  The soup was very sweet, but quite good.  No hint of dishwashing liquid at all.  The salad was nice, better than any we have had so far.  The filet was outstanding.  Everything on the plate with the normal serving was excellent, especially the potatoes that were delicious.

Bill asked Celso how the All Inclusive thing is going over.  He said there are more positive comments about it than complaints.  Then Bill asked, "What about the crew?"  Celso laughed out loud.  Then he said that they don't have much choice but to like it and left it at that.

We went nuts and each had two desserts.  Bill had the Peanut Butter Ice Cream and the Raspberry Sherbet.  Dave had the Sugar-Free Brownie ala Mode again, and the Berry Mousse.  Everything was very good except the berry mousse.  As far as Dave could tell, it consisted of plain whipped cream with two blueberries in it, no kidding.  It definitely was not mousse.  Luckily the brownie was to die for.  Celso offered Bananas Foster, but we declined.

Both of the complimentary wines with dinner were tasty.  We keep telling Kremena that we only want a small taste, but she refills our glasses anyway.  They definitely don't skimp on doling out the free wine or cocktails.  But, we noticed a subtle cutback today.  The cocktail stir sticks no longer have the Crystal logo on them.  They are generic clear plastic sticks throughout the ship.

By the end of dinner it wasn't rough at all anymore.  We can still tell we are at sea, but there is no danger of falling over tonight.  So, there's no excuse for staggering down the corridors now. 

We were reminded twice during dinner about the Gala Buffet tomorrow.  We haven't gone to one of those in years and we don't intend to do so now.

We stopped by to check out the Bistro late night buffet.  There is a chocolate fountain with several things to dip into it (fruit, berries, marshmallows, etc.), several of the mini desserts from the Lido, and a large selection of different cheeses.  It is open until 11:00pm every day.  We haven't looked at it during the day yet.

We move an hour ahead on the clock tonight.

Tuesday, May 6 - Cross the International Dateline

It is Tuesday, May 6th...again.  They're playing the movie "Groundhog Day" continuously to honor the occasion.  The weather is about the same, slightly rocky, 70 degrees, overcast.  The pool and Jacuzzi and filled today.


The main venue for lunch today is the Grand Gala Buffet in the lobby and dining room.  It is great for pictures, but you can get lobster and shrimp in the Lido Cafe today, too.  The Lido is very quiet.  Usually all of the diehards are up there, but today it is mostly staff and just a few guests.  The carved rib eye roast was the only disappointment.  It was very dry.  Everything else was excellent.  They have whole lobster tails and bowls of shrimp, plus Eggs Benedict and other things from the Gala Buffet.

The weather is quite pleasant today, so we were able to sit outside by the pool all afternoon.  The sloshing water wasn't very entertaining because the water level was lower than usual, so it never came out of the spa.

We chatted for a while with one of the deck stewards we didn't know until today.  He said the same thing about All-Inclusive we hear from all crew members...they made much more money before, but they know that Crystal had to go that route to stay competitive.  He also said it is still much more money than he could ever hope to make in the Philippines.

Depending on who we ask, the number of guests leaving in Honolulu ranges from 50 to 170, so we'll just have to wait and see.  The Symphony's Asia season wasn't exactly a rousing success.  The ship carried less than 600 people on every cruise up until the one before this one that had 800 on board.  No wonder all of those cruises were on sale.  Look for the same kind of discounting next year when the season is repeated.

David brought our evening snack around 5:15pm.  This is really too much food!  We love it, but still...

Passports are available for pick-up at Reception after 6:00pm tonight.  We assume we have to go through immigration in Honolulu since it is the first U.S. port, but there has been no mention of it yet.  We don't arrive until noon, so at least we won't have to get up at the crack of dawn to do it.

Tonight's dress code is Black Tie Optional (Formal). 

The Crystal Society Party is tonight at 7:45pm.  We will be paraded onto the stage for our 50th Milestone.  We don't mind doing it, but we prefer not to.  It always shocks the audience when we go up there and we aren't 100 years old, so there is some entertainment value in it for us.

In the beginning when we would be called up to the stage with 20 cruises, it was always amazing.  Tonight, with 50, we were the lowest number of cruises to be called up (they always call the top three).  The woman with nearly 300 doesn't go up anymore.  Our forum friends joined us so we didn't have to sit there alone.  We really don't mind going up to be recognized.  Everyone is always very nice and we know Paul very well, so it is kind of fun.  However, it gives license to everyone on the ship to talk to us, which can be good or bad depending on who it is.  Of course, since they stick a red rose on us at these things, we're kind of hard to miss for the rest of the night.

Click to view the Crystal Dining Room DINNER MENU.  Tonight we ordered the Lobster Medallions (which is ONE medallion, just FYI), one of each salad, the Tomato Essence soup, Prime Rib, and Broiled Black Pepper Crusted Salmon Filet.  The lobster medallion had too many flavors going on with herb yogurt under it and some sort of sweet orange sauce on the plate.  We wouldn't order it again, but it was interesting to try...once.  Both salads were a bore.  Something has changed with the salad dressings and they don't have much flavor.  The soup was just beef consommé.  The salmon was overcooked, but otherwise tasted fine.  The prime rib was outstanding and a huge portion an inch thick.  Considering how poor the prime rib used to be on Crystal ships, they have come a long way improving it.  The one tonight is close to the best we have ever had.  The sugar free chocolate cheesecake was very good, too.  We asked Santhana what Raspberry Noodles are that come with the carrot cake, so he brought us some.  It is shredded raspberry gelatin that is impossible to pick up with a spoon or a fork, but it looks pretty.

One of the long time Crystal cruisers came up to us on his way out of the dining room to congratulate us on our 50th cruise.  We have seen them many times before.  He carried on about how he loves everything about Crystal except the change to have most shows before dinner.  We couldn't agree more.  Who wants to go directly to bed right after eating a three course meal?  He said that when he complains (which is often) he is always told that most guests don't want to stay up that late.  Uh, that's why you book Main Seating and not Late, dimwits!  So ruin it for the rest of us <sigh>.  We will continue to complain about it on our QAP after the cruise like we always do.

Tonight's entertainment is the production show "DIVA".  We haven't seen it before. It is described as a captivating concert filled with impersonations of musical icons.  Picture that, if you can.  We ran into the "Disneyland" woman we were talking to in the dining room the other night.  She said she saw it once and was going to the computer room instead.  Uh oh. 

We can't slight the star's vocal talents.  She is really very good.  But, only maybe three of the impressions were recognizable even when we were told who they are supposed to be.  The ones she nails are outstanding, but that isn't enough to carry an hour long production show.  We'll give Crystal some credit for trying something different at least.  We wouldn't go see this show again though.  If she did a cabaret act as herself, we would go see her.

It isn't rough at all now, but we don't expect it to stay that way for long.

Wednesday, May 7 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

It is a few degrees warmer today, around 72.  The sea is smooth and there is very little rolling and no pitching.


We received a letter regarding immigration procedures in Honolulu tomorrow.  We expected to be required to go ashore, but the agents are coming on board, so we will go to the Galaxy Lounge when our group is called.  The letter doesn't specify when this will start, but does say it should be over by 1:30pm.  We did not get a Customs Declaration, so we assume we will do that when we disembark.

The Lido Cafe wasn't at all busy today.  Paulo said that as a cruise goes on the crowd tends to spread out more.  At the beginning, people arrive early because they are used to other cruise lines where the buffets are crowded.  There is never any reason to arrive early here.

Click for the Crystal Dining Room LUNCHEON MENU.  Once again, everything we chose from the buffet was very good to outstanding.  The sliced turkey was very moist with lots of flavor.  Obviously, the kitchen is trying to use up the leftover shrimp from the buffet yesterday.  There are several selections using shrimp on the menu this afternoon.

After lunch we migrated out to the Seahorse Pool area and planted ourselves for the rest of the afternoon.  Dave asked one of the deck stewards when they covered up the waterfall under the spa.  He said it never worked correctly and spilled water all over the deck, so they had to shut it down.  It must have cost a fortune because it had color-changing LED lights at night.  We saw it working in the very beginning and it looked OK, but it wasn't anything memorable.  Hopefully Crystal got their money back since it never worked.  It is completely covered with iridescent tile panels now.  They added the glass around the spa at the same time for the same reason...the water kept sloshing out.  Why didn't someone think of this before it was installed?  Ships do move, you know.

The band by the pool plays the exact same routine every single day.  They aren't the greatest, but they're OK for background music.  The deck stewards got in the act for "YMCA" today and led a line of guests (well, three people or about 1/3 of the people out there) around the pool deck.

Our butts fell asleep around 3:30pm, so we started back toward the room.  Bill picked up a plate of fruit from the Trident Grill.  The cook there asked if we had ever been on the Serenity because we look familiar.  We assured him that he probably did see us there at some point.  It never ceases to amaze us how these guys remember seeing us from years ago and they always know exactly when and on which ship.  We shouldn't stand out that much on this cruise because it is overrun with gay couples.  The "hags" are in hog heaven with so many gay guys to hang around with.

David brought another onslaught of "snacks" at 5:30pm, vegetable spring rolls, mini cheeseburgers and jalapeño poppers.  Who needs dinner? 

We received an invitation to our dinner in the Captain's Quarters with the incorrect captain's name listed.  David was appalled and said he would see to it that whoever sent it is informed.  We don't care and we're certainly not at all offended, but we agree someone should have caught an error like that.

Bill needs a belt, so we stopped by Apropos on the way to dinner to look for one.  The merchandise is marked WAY down (the operator of the shops changes June 1st).  He found one for just $20.00, which is less than he paid for the one that fell apart after one use.  It is a bit too big, but they don't have anything smaller.  No worries though.  We found David and asked him to have the upholstery shop add two more holes to it.  We have done that on other cruises and the item came back looking like it had always been that way.  And, we've never been charged for it in the past. 

We still had about 30 minutes to kill, so we sat in the Starlite Club until dinnertime.

Tonight's entertainment is scheduled before dinner again.  The first show starts at 5:15pm with guitarist George Sakellariou.  Then, there is the regular show featuring ventriloquist Mark Merchant and violinist Ian Cooper and 7:00pm and 8:30pm.  So, we'll have nothing to do again tonight after dinner.  We find it very hard to believe that the primary reason they made this change is to cater to guests who don't want to stay up late.  It has to be for the entertainers' convenience more than anything and they're using a few complaints to justify it.

Click for the Crystal Dining Room DINNER MENU.  Click to view the menu for ROOM SERVICE, SILK ROAD or PREGO.  Tonight we ordered the Crab Cake, Caesar Salad, and the Filet Steak.  The crab cake was better than it has been in the past, so it was pretty good.  The salad was a bore, nothing special.  The lettuce throughout the ship is starting to turn brown.  Some of it shouldn't be served, in our opinion.  The filets were outstanding with a perfect amount of char on the outside.  Really excellent.  The Sugar Free Baked Apple dessert was satisfactory, but the Sugar Free Chocolate Cheesecake was delicious.

Zoltan, the waiter from the next station came over to chat.  We started talking to him in the Lido Cafe a few days ago.  He looks like a guy Dave worked with at Disneyland 30-some years ago.  He said that the next cruise through the Panama Canal is nearly sold out, but the one after that ending in Iceland isn't anywhere near capacity.

Smooth sailing continues tonight.

Thursday, May 8 - Honolulu, HI, USA - Arrive Noon

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

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

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

 Find more about Weather in Honolulu, HI
Click for weather forecast

Shore Excursions Offered in Honolulu, Hawaii
HON-A $59 Panoramic Honolulu
HON-B $499 Over Oahu: A Helicopter Discovery (Limited Availability)
HON-F $219 Atlantis Submarine Adventure
HON-G $79 The Natural Wonders of Oahu
HON-K $109 A Tale of Two Palaces

Crystal Symphony arrived off Honolulu around 10:00am.  The ship has to dock at the alternative pier because the main one at the Aloha Tower is closed for refurbishing.  So, the area directly adjacent to the ship isn't very attractive.  The weather is nice, very warm and humid though.  We can expect some rain showers later, but that is normal around here.  We were tied up at the pier by 11:00am and the immigration inspection began at 11:25am.

Click for TODAY'S ACTIVITIES.  A free shuttle runs from the ship to Ala Moana Shopping Center every half hour until 5:45pm.

We had some time to kill (and our stewardess wants to clean the room), so we went up to the top deck for our usual port photos.  We can see Diamond Head and the Aloha Tower easily from here.  There are at least six skyscrapers under construction in downtown Honolulu, so it looks like things have picked up a bit here.  There is a large barge attached to the ship for refueling.

Announcements calling groups to the inspection were made up until Group 3, then they called everyone remaining.  That caused a line, but it moved very quickly.  Needless to say, plenty of people were grumbling about it as though Crystal has any control over it at all.  The inspector asked Dave where he lives and he told him (it is very obscure and no one has ever heard of it).  That prompted him to ask where that is, so Dave told him.  Because of that spectacle, he just waved Bill through without asking him anything.  He was probably afraid of the answer he'd get.  We were done with immigration by noon.

The only shore excursion departures listed in the Reflections are A & G, so we assume there weren't enough participants to run the others.  The prices for all of the excursions are much higher than they were five years ago.

Click for the Crystal Dining Room LUNCHEON MENU.

We went to the Lido Cafe for lunch, as usual.  There were several items that weren't very good today, unfortunately.  However, the brown variety of lettuce wasn't served.  There are plenty of other ones available, which is why we found it strange they would keep serving one that isn't fresh.  The tomatoes are mushy though. 

The items that are nearly or completely inedible are the Beef Curry (EXTREMELY salty), a Polynesian Pork Cutlet (no flavor and VERY dry), and some sort of fried seafood cake (gooey and no flavor at all).  On the other hand, the Sandwich of the Day, which is the chicken salad from the dining room menu, is delicious. 

Alissa apologized for sending the dinner invitations with the wrong captain's name.  Dave told her we are so offended that we won't be there.  Luckily, she was amused and not appalled.  She sent corrected ones to our room.

Since it isn't busy in the Lido today, we took the time to take pictures of the entire food line up.  The pictures are listed in the order they are arranged on the buffet line, so yes, the desserts are first.  Desserts, Salads & Dressings, Salad Toppings, Carved Meat & Hot Dishes, Vegetables & Asian Selections/Rice, Made-to-Order Pasta, Bread/Cheese/Crackers/Smoked Salmon, Hot Sandwich of the Day/Fries/Fried Entree, Desserts #2-Bread Pudding of the Day & Cookies.  One of the waiters grabbed a cook and made Dave take their photo.  It is the first time we have seen him smile since we got here, although he is always pleasant when we speak to him.

After lunch we went out to the deserted pool deck and chatted with the deck stewards for a few minutes.  It is warmer than we'd like, but we sat down anyway.  Our "regular" deck guy went to get Bill a milkshake and Dave went to get himself some fruit from the Trident Grill.  The ship is directly under the flight path to the nearby airport, so the planes fly very low overhead.  It is a bit disconcerting, to say the least.  Surprisingly, the planes aren't very noisy.

We lasted outside until 2:00pm when we got too hot and we had to move back to the air conditioning in our room.  Bill put some laundry in the machine as his entertainment for the day.  At 3:00pm a very loud announcement was made that were will be a crew fire drill at 3:15pm and to stay away from Deck 7.  Something new is that when the emergency alarm sounds, all of the elevators automatically go to Deck 7.  Before they would tell guests not to use the elevators during an emergency, but now you have no choice.

Putting all of the information we have together, we have concluded that about 60 passengers are leaving in Honolulu, none are arriving (it is illegal for a foreign ship to transport passengers between two U.S. ports without stopping at a distant foreign port on the way).  Many guests seem concerned about this, but we fail to see how this could negatively impact anyone.  We have sailed on this ship many times with less than 500 people on board and it is very pleasant.  On the other hand, when it goes over 800 the staff starts to get overburdened and service suffers slightly.

Bill's belt came back with new holes punched in it, as requested.

We reported a loose board on our verandah to our stewardess this afternoon.  A maintenance man showed up to fix it as we were leaving for dinner.

Tonight's dress code is Resort Casual.  It is raining tonight, so we went up to Palm Court to watch the rain and look at the view.  The usual jazz band was up there, but without their singer.  Without her, it is just noise to us.  Dave referred to it as "scat music" and Bill almost spit his martini through his nose.

The evening entertainment is a local production called "Aloha Polynesia" playing once at 7:45pm.  We walked by on the way to dinner and heard many people raving about how wonderful it was.  We've seen it several times before and it is good.  It is the typical hula show where they drag audience members up on stage and such.

Click for the Crystal Dining Room DINNER MENU.  We were surprised that the dining room looked about as populated as it always does.  We expected more guests to be out on the town, but maybe the rain chased them back on board.

We ordered the Tower of Roasted Chicken and Avocado (very good), both soups (also very good), and the Beef Tenderloin "Chimichurri".  The beef part was outstanding and interesting.  The arugula mashed potatoes were OK, but such a small portion they didn't add anything.  Two things on the plate were God-awful...the Eggplant-Corn-Chorizo Confit was so unpleasant Bill warned Dave not to put it in his mouth.  Unfortunately he tried it anyway and almost had to spit it out.  There was something thin and fried on top of the meat as a decorative touch.  In that regard it was successful.  However, one tiny bite of it was more than enough.  We still don't know what it was other than ghastly.  Bill ordered the Blood Orange Sherbet from one of the desserts by itself and it was good.  Dave asked for plain berries with whipped cream and got blueberries and strawberries, which we very nice and exactly what he had in mind.

After dinner we went back to the room.  We don't expect there to be any after dinner entertainment on a port day, so we won't rant about that tonight.  We thought about taking a walk around the top deck, but it is still raining.

We've been reading rumblings on another popular cruise forum about the Symphony possibly being old, run down and about to be retired.  That notion is totally false and not based in fact.  This ship looks as good or better than it did when it was brand new.  All of the public areas have been gutted and re-done within the past few years.  Our room looks like we are the first guests to stay in it.  The bathroom is beautiful.  The carpet looks new.  The air conditioning always works.  The sliding glass door is new.  What's to complain about?  OK, we'll find something to complain about...the furniture on our verandah looks like hell.  Happy now?

We have witnessed carpet in vacant staterooms being replaced during this cruise, a door to a crew area near us was completely sanded down and re-painted, etc.  What looks run down?  Nothing.  There are some isolated things that look dated (the pastel stained glass ceiling in the lobby, for example), but for the most part the decor is trendy and up-to-date.  Anyone who cancels or refuses to book a cruise on this ship because they are afraid it is too old is a fool.  We'd bet that it outlasts the Serenity in length of service because it was constructed to a much higher standard to begin with.  We've never had plumbing or electrical problems like we have on the Serenity several times.  If you want to pay a premium to sail on Serenity instead, go for it.  Those of us who know what we're doing will continue to sail on the Symphony!

We sailed on the final voyage of Crystal Harmony and that ship was maintained to Crystal standards up until the last passenger disembarked.  The crew of Crystal ships has too much pride to let anything look run down.  You can count on Crystal Symphony being properly maintained until it too leaves the Crystal fleet someday.

Friday, May 9 - Honolulu, HI, USA - Depart 5:00 pm

Shore Excursions Offered in Honolulu, Hawaii
HON-A $59 Panoramic Honolulu
HON-B $499 Over Oahu: A Helicopter Discovery (Limited Availability)
HON-E $59 Diamond Head Summit Trek - CANCELLED
HON-F $219 Atlantis Submarine Adventure
HON-G $79 The Natural Wonders of Oahu
HON-HV FREE Making a Difference: Weeding & Learning at Makapu’u Beach
HON-I $79 Spiritual Journey through Honolulu (Limited Availability)
HON-J $79 Valley of the Rainbows & Lyon Arboretum
HON-L $69 U.S.S. Arizona Memorial & City Highlights
HON-M $129 Oahu’s Famous North Shore
HON-N $259 Kualoa Ranch Exploration & Picnic Lunch
HON-O $549 USS Missouri & Exclusive Captain’s Cabin Lunch (New for 2014)
HON-P $139 The Battlefields, Military Bases & Memorials of Oahu
This Crystal Adventures excursion MUST be pre-reserved.

The weather is the same as yesterday, in the high 80's and cloudy.  It looks more like it will rain later in the day than it did yesterday.

Only two of the above shore excursions are shown with departures in today's Reflections, Tours L & HV.


We sat in Palm Court for about 30 minutes waiting for lunch time.  The crew was setting up a buffet for travel agents the entire time.  We have always been offended by Crystal's practice of feeding travel agents free lunch in the dining room while charging their paying passengers for their guests' lunch.  So, this isn't quite as annoying.  We realize Crystal has to cater to travel agents, but why is that different from Crystal's own devotees bringing their friends on board?  Anyone who believes it costs Crystal anywhere near $75 to serve a guest lunch has never worked in a restaurant or figured out food costs.

In case you missed the hundreds of press releases about the Living Wall installed on the Symphony a few years ago, here is a picture we took of it today.  They are maintaining it well, but it seems like was more detailed the first time we saw it.  It represents a map of the world, by the way.  It is much better than the blank metal wall it covered.

We moved to the Lido at noon, but found the food not set up yet.  They must have been occupied setting up the buffet for travel agents instead.  When we checked Reflections it does say that lunch is from 12:30 to 2:00pm today. 

Click for the Crystal Dining Room LUNCHEON MENU.  This wasn't the best selection of food we have ever had, but we still managed to fill up sufficiently.  The calamari was terrible.  This isn't something that shouldn't be sitting out on a buffet.  It was like eating soggy rubber bands. Yuck.  The sliced pork roast was tasty, but very dry.  Otherwise, everything was fine, but nothing stood out as wonderful.

Josef Matt returned as Hotel Director today.

As usual, we wandered out to the deserted pool area after lunch, stopping at the Trident Grill to pick up plates of fruit.  There is supposed to be a sail away party from 4:30-5:30pm, but it looks very much like it will start pouring rain at any minute.  Several guests asked the deck stewards if the party will be cancelled and they said it will be held rain or shine.  If it is raining too hard they will move it to Palm Court.  They picked up all of the towels set out on the lounges at 2:00pm when it became particularly dark.  One of the deck guys said his boss told him that all of the cruises from Los Angeles to the dry dock are nearly sold out.  We're very glad we are on board now and not from L.A.

We went back to the room to cool off at 3:00pm.  It started raining at 4:00pm.  The ship sails for Los Angeles at 5:00pm.

At 4:30pm the captain announced that since all guests are already on board, we will sail early.  The sail away party was moved to the Palm Court, but apparently no one showed up because an announcement was made "reminding" us about it.

We received an invitation to cocktails in the captain's quarters tomorrow night before dinner.  Our dinner with him is scheduled for the 11th.

David brought us the "chef's recommended" evening snack.  In other words, it is what we get if we don't order anything special.  Tonight, we're fine with that.  At some point on every cruise we get full from top to bottom and we need a day off.  However, the four tiny bruchetta servings we got were so tiny that David gave us a second plate, plus we ate fruit from the platter in our room.  By the way, the room fruit has been very nice this entire cruise with at least six different fruits on it every day.

Tonight's dress code is Resort Casual.

The evening entertainment is scheduled before dinner, so as far as we are concerned, it doesn't exist.  The only shows we will consider attending before dinner are production shows we haven't seen before.

Click for the Crystal Dining Room DINNER MENU.  Casual Dining is available in the Lido Cafe tonight from 7:00-9:00pm (first come, first reservations needed).  Click for the CASUAL DINING MENU.

We decided we aren't hungry enough and/or there isn't anything we want on the dining room menu.  So, we went up to the Casual Dining in the Lido Cafe at 8:00pm.  Casual Dining is all table service with no buffet as there was when it was around the Neptune Pool.  The Lido looks very nice with the lights dimmed and lanterns on the tables.  The waiters are the deck stewards during the day. 

All of the food is cooked to order, so it takes a bit longer to get food than in the dining room.  We both ordered the Soft Taco appetizer which was very good and what you would get in a fancy restaurant at home.  The Caesar Salad was as expected.  We were brought some homemade breadsticks and what we think was a salmon spread to dip them in.  The breadsticks were good, but we only tasted the spread and didn't eat any more.  For entrees we ordered the Balti Butter Chicken and the Maple Glazed Salmon.  The chicken wasn't at all what we expected, but it was very good and quite interesting.  We'd describe it as chicken curry.  It came with a bowl of an orange sauce/soup on the side.  There was also a small bowl of cucumber/yogurt that went well with the curry.  After tasting the orange (squash, perhaps?) sauce we didn't think it would add anything and didn't use it.  The salmon was very good, too, but there wasn't anything unusual about it.

A cocktail waiter came by and gave us real flower leis.  He didn't appear to be particularly comfortable with the task, but everyone seemed appreciative when he handed them out.  One woman exclaimed, "Oh my God, these are made with real flowers!"  We would have been more surprised if they weren't.  This is Crystal after all.  We can't imagine any lesser cruise line giving out free leis of any sort, so it certainly was a nice extra touch.

For dessert, Dave ordered the fruit platter, which came out right away.  FYI, it is on a plate, not a platter.  Bill ordered the Chocolate Trifle, but the waiter didn't hear him and he never got it.  When the waiter came back to try to get him to order a dessert, he decided he didn't want it after all and didn't say anything.

We were pleased to see that Casual Dining is a popular alternative.  Everyone who left raved about the food and the ambience is very pleasant.  If they offered this on formal night it would be the answer to a lot of prayers.

We stopped by the Bistro to get some dessert for Bill.  From 8:00-11:00pm the buffet serves petite desserts, cheese, and a chocolate fountain.  The fountain smells good, but after watching people use it, we definitely would pass on it.  People seem to think nothing of standing there, eating right out of it and re-using the same skewer again.

All of the wine-related decorations were removed from the displays in the Bistro at some point, so we asked Norman if the primary emphasis is on coffee now.  He said only at night...during the day they still serve wine as always.  Basically, it is the same as it has always been.  Norman offered to go get us cocktails from downstairs, but only because he thought we were asking because we want them and not just out of curiosity.

For those of you who see our photos of Crystal's buffets and think they must be overcrowded and difficult, rest assured they work just fine.  This ship doesn't carry 3,000 passengers, so there is no need for giant steam tables full of food.  The small serving dishes have greatly improved the quality of the hot dishes in the Lido because nothing sits out for very long.  Anything that runs low is replaced right away.

The captain warned that it would become rocky again tonight, and it has. It isn't anything unusual, just normal rolling with the wind and waves.  It isn't stormy or anything like that.

We move one hour forward on the clock tonight.

Saturday, May 10 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

It is raining this morning, but still warm, in the mid 70's.  We're still rolling a bit, but nothing major.


Click to view the Crystal Dining Room LUNCHEON MENU.  We went to the Lido Cafe, as usual.  Everything was good, no major flops with the food today.

After lunch we went out to sit by the pool.  It looked like rain when we first went out, but it completely cleared up and was sunny by 2:30pm.  When the band started playing at 1:00pm, there were only ten guests outside, but a few more arrived during the next hour.  Only the chairs and sofas under the covered side areas are set up today.  When someone asked a deck steward for the cushions for a sofa in the sun, he said they are still wet.  He did move some from the covered area out to the sun for them though.

We had some snacks of ice cream and a grilled ham & cheese sandwich around 2:30pm, but finally gave up and went back to the room around 3:00pm.

Alissa called at 4:00pm to ask if we want to add someone to the captain's dinner invitations because she re-checked and it is only at nine people.  We asked if we can invite Paula, but she's too far down the rungs (only officers or guests are allowed).  So, we're sticking with our original list.

Bill went to look at a Penthouse Suite and ended up talking to Theo for so long that David brought our evening snack in the meantime.  He said that Bill told him to ask Dave what to bring tonight.  The choices were crudités with hummus, mixed seafood plate, cheese and olive plate, pigs in a blanket, mini cheeseburgers, and jalapeno poppers.  We kept the cheeseburgers and poppers, plus the crudités.  We told him to hold off on bringing anything tomorrow because we have to eat early, but he said he'd bring something light.

The dress code for this evening is Elegant Casual (Informal).

Tonight's entertainment is before dinner again, but since we haven't seen this show we will attend at 7:00pm.  The show is "Imagine" and is completely different than a regular production show.  It is performed in total darkness...the costumes light up.  No one is admitted to the theater late.  The show only lasts 30 minutes.  We thought it was originally longer than this, but Paul said it has always been the same.  We had read that it is interesting for about 20 minutes, but we'd give it 10 at the most.  Once you've seen all of the effects, that's pretty much it.  It is something we would expect to see in a theme park and it certainly isn't geared toward Crystal's current demographic.  However, it definitely is something different and we applaud Crystal for trying something new.  But, we probably wouldn't go see it again.

The Galaxy Lounge wasn't even one-third full.  Paul walked around before the show and told everyone seated in the side sections to move to the center for better effect.  The center is maybe half the capacity of each side and it still wasn't full.

We ran into our forum friends who we had invited to join us at our 50th Milestone dinner tomorrow night with the captain (if you join our forum, maybe you too can be our friend...maybe).  Anyway, they wanted to know what we are going to wear.  It is a Resort Casual night, but Bill wants to wear a tie and Dave does not.  Quite a dilemma.  We had no luck making our friends decide between the two, being the diplomats they are.  Finally, a calmer female head prevailed and came up with the idea of a compromise.  We'll dress in the Elegant Casual mode with a jacket and no tie and Bill can wear a tie if he wants to.  Why he would want to only he knows, but that's his choice.

We went to cocktails in the captain's quarters after the show at 7:45pm.  It seems that everyone else did exactly the same thing because everyone arrived at once.  "Everyone" being all of the guests on Penthouse Deck, plus several others with various milestone, etc.  Other than being on Penthouse Deck or having a high number of cruises, we've never been able to figure out how the guest list is decided.

We met several people who mistook us for someone who posts on Cruise Critic.  Dave always says he's the "Anti-Cruise Critic" and doesn't participate there anymore (which is all true).  One of the men said he feels the same way and asked for the URL for our site, which, of course, we gave him.  The more the merrier, even if everyone doesn't agree with everything we say.  We also talked to the ship's doctor, who is very amusing, and Josef Matt, the Hotel Director who returned yesterday.  He knows us very well, so has a lot to talk about.

The captain was in the middle of an entertaining speech when a guest interrupted and gave him a hand-woven ship's bell pull (sorry, we forgot the official name of such things).  It was a nice gesture, but an inappropriate time to do it.  Of course, the captain was very gracious about it and continued introducing the ship's officers after the interruption. 

We have no idea how this always happens, but we were the last people out of the party.  The captain said that our dinner tomorrow will be much different than this, "So don't worry."  He's quite a smart aleck, which we love.

Click for the Crystal Dining Room DINNER MENU.  Santhana acted like he's in a huff because we weren't at dinner last night.  Kremena said they were worried we were sick or something.  Santhana came over and told Kremena to get away from us so we can order (he was joking), which she did.  When we told him that we think she's very nice and we like her, he admitted that she is his best friend on board because she is the first person who was nice to him when he first arrived six years ago.  She encouraged him to talk to the guests and have more fun when he wasn't enjoying the job at first.  Now he loves it and has fun with his guests.

There are some new guests in the dining room and we saw several new people around during the day, so some guests did board yesterday.  One man we overheard said he's getting off in New Orleans, so there are a few people who boarded legally who aren't entertainment types.  Still the ship is down about 60 people from before Honolulu.  Now we are hearing that all cruises are sold out from Los Angeles until the September drydock in Germany.  We find that VERY hard to believe.  Busier than this probably, but sold out is very unlikely.

If you are wondering what is going to happen during the drydock, we might have a bit of a scoop for you.  There will be extensive work done on the engines that will require cutting open the side of the ship.  That is the primary reason the drydock is longer than the usual 12 days.  Other than that, the carpets are being replaced.  They are still deciding on which public areas will be made over (that's the official line, but we don't believe it), but the one that is certain is the Crystal Cove.  The exact words were, "Next time you board the ship the area will look totally different."  Hopefully that means the dated pastel stained glass ceiling will be changed in the lobby.  Other than that, pretty much everything else has been changed out fairly recently, but perhaps the waterfall could use a bit of an overhaul. 

There is a new excuse about why the Symphony cannot have Tastes installed.  Previously it was always because they don't have room for more crew to staff it.  Now they are saying that it is impossible to install air conditioning in the Trident area and there isn't a dedicated galley area up there.  Uh, so where does the cooked to order food for Casual Dining come from?  We don't believe the staffing issue or the air conditioning are insurmountable, so we'll just have to wait and see.

Neither of us is at all hungry tonight and nothing on the menu stands out as something we are dying to have.  However, if we must, we must, so we ordered the following:  Chilled Soup Pineapple & Lime Sherbet, Assorted Spring Lettuce, Honey & Rosemary Marinated Chicken Half, and a Shrimp Caesar Salad.  Dave doesn't like chicken served with bones in it, so he asked Santhana to order the "always available" grilled chicken and have it served with whatever comes with the chicken half.  He said he would, "Talk to the chef."  The "always available" items are no longer listed on the menu, but we know you can still order them (this includes a chicken breast, steak, and broiled fish).

The "soup" arrived in a large bowl with a small scoop of lime sherbet and a glop of pineapple goo (Santhana used the proper name for it that sounded far worse than "goo" and painted all sorts of pictures in our mind).  He poured a small pitcher of consommé (we think) over it.  Apparently it was delicious because when he came back Bill ordered another one.  Some of the "modern" items are very inventive and interesting.  This is one of the more successful ones.

The spring lettuce salad was a bore, as most of the salads have been.  There's nothing wrong with the lettuce and other things in them, but the dressings have little or no flavor.  The shrimp dinner salad was better just because it came with a skewer of grilled shrimp on top.  The chicken was quite a surprise.  Instead of substituting a plain chicken breast, the chef removed the bones from the rotisserie chicken.  Well, mostly, but it was way better than trying to eat chicken with all of its bones when you are dressed up.

Dave asked Santhana how the Lemon Curd dessert is served.  He pictured a blob of yellow stuff on a plate.  Santhana said it is "beautiful", but he says that about everything.  Then he said it is in a bowl and looks perfectly edible.  It was, by the way. 

After dinner we decided to go to the "Liar's Club" show in the Galaxy Lounge.  How come people can stay up late for that, but it is always too late to attend a production show?  So much for that excuse for the earlier show schedule because the attendance was much better than for any recent production at any time of night.

The entertainment staff handed out electronic voting devices, which is new to us for this show.  The team that gets the most points wins a $25 slot coupon to use in the casino.  Our team consisted of the two of us, and we'll tell you up front that we did not win.  The show lasts over an hour and they only do four words, so obviously giving the definitions is a very small part of what goes on.  The panelists are the ship's doctor, two lecturers, and a comedian we haven't seen before.  Apparently everything he says is a laugh riot because the man behind us almost peed his pants every time he opened his mouth.  His patter is very funny, but just walking up to the mike isn't anything to soil yourself over...unless you are this particular man.

Anyway, the four guys were very funny for the most part, particularly the doctor and the comedian.  Paul does a good job hosting the game.  Based on what we saw tonight, we wish we could see the comedian's real show, but we have our captain's dinner tomorrow.  He was very funny.  So was the doctor, so maybe we'll get sick before we have to disembark.

It is mildly rocky tonight, but not quite as much as before we reached Hawaii.

Sunday, May 11 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

The weather remains about the same, just a few degrees cooler.

Disembarkation Information was on our clip this morning.  We have red tags, so we can disembark whenever we choose between 8:00am and 9:45am.

Click for TODAY'S ACTIVITIES.  There is a Mother's Day Brunch in the Crystal Plaza starting at 11:30am.  It isn't mentioned in Reflections, so no one knows about it.  An announcement was made "reminding" us about it.  We went to the Lido Cafe, as usual.

The carved meat today is prime rib and it was very good.  Not much else appealed to us, but the meat plus some Eggs Benedict and a salad was sufficient to last until snack time later.

After lunch we went outside by the Seahorse Pool again.  The band looked like they were hoping it would rain, but no such luck.  It did sprinkle for a few minutes, but not enough to shut them down.  It was sunny for the rest of the afternoon.  It is cooler today, but still pleasant outside. We stayed out until around 3:00pm.

David brought a pile of snacks again, but only kept the crudités and the mini cheeseburgers.  Bill had a sandwich from the Trident Grill, so he didn't want anything.

Tonight's dress code is Resort Casual.  We have our dinner with the captain tonight, so we're compromising with Elegant Casual.

Comedian John Joseph is the evening entertainment (before dinner).  There is also a cabaret show by Colleen Williamson at 5:15pm.  She is the female lead singer in the production shows.

Click to view the Crystal Dining Room DINNER MENU.

We started walking from our room at the very aft end of Deck 10 up to the captain's quarters all the way forward.  We could see him standing in the corridor waiting for us.  It is a longer walk than you'd expect!  He and Alissa started waving before we ever got there.

After a bit of chatting, we were posed at the table for our official photo, then we were presented with our platinum Crystal Society pins.  Or maybe it was the other way around?  You get the idea.  Stuff happened.

Since we know everyone except Danielle, the Cruise Consultant, it was a pleasant evening.  Danielle is talkative and knows how to carry a conversation, so he was a nice addition to the party.  We rarely, or never, have a chance to sit down for an actual conversation with any of the officers.  So, it was fun reminiscing about past guests and staff we all know.  As we expected from our previous brief encounters, the captain is very personable and has a good sense of humor.  Actually, everyone does, so it was really fun.  Victor is the captain's butler and we know him very well.  Theo helped out at the beginning so there was a lot of giggling and poking going on with him, within reason.  Paul is always interesting to talk to.  Besides being a nice guy, he has many fun stories to tell.

Click to view our 50th Milestone Dinner Menu.  We both chose the Beef Tenderloin.  All of the food was outstanding, of course, but when we are busy chatting we hardly notice the food.  Tonight though, the food did make an impression because it was so good.  Dave's sugar free dessert was the hit of the evening...everyone else was served pineapple cheesecake, but Dave received a berry mousse topped with a variety of berries that he loved.

The dinner ended at around 9:30pm, so we missed all of the evening entertainment.  While we would probably enjoy the comedian, we were thoroughly entertained during dinner with the conversation.  The captain was the newest member of the Crystal family at the dinner, so most of the time he didn't have a clue what we were all talking about, but he was a good sport.

We chatted with our forum friends in the elevator lobby trying to figure out the appropriate supplemental tips to add.  We will add something for our waiter, butler and stewardess even though they are included in the pre-paid gratuities.  We'll give a lump sum to the deck stewards, plus our usual tip to our headwaiter and the maitre 'd.  We have barely seen our assistant waiter or trainee stewardess.

We decided to go down to the front desk to take care of a few things.  The first elevator that came misbehaved and we didn't want to get in, so we pushed some buttons to get rid of it and called another one (we reported it at the front desk).  We picked up a Supplemental Gratuities form, extra luggage tags, and a printout of our account.  We still have about $45 in onboard credit remaining, but we will easily use that up with gratuities.

We're not sure what happened to the "no smoking inside" rule because our end of the corridor smells like an ashtray.  There is no question that there is chain smoking going on in two of the penthouses we pass on the way to our room.  Supposedly there is a $250 per incident fine for smoking in your room, so either these people have decided to pay it or it is being overlooked by the staff.  We haven't noticed any smoke smell anywhere else on the ship except on the aft open decks where smoking is allowed.  We have only seen two people smoke on the port side of the pool deck (which is allowed).

We move one hour forward on the clock tonight.

Monday, May 12 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

It is cooler today, in the high 60's and very windy. The sea is calm, so there isn't much rolling.


Click for the Crystal Dining Room LUNCHEON MENU.  We went to the Lido Cafe, as always.  The carved turkey breast was the best item on the buffet today.  There were beef skewers that looked good, but the meat was too tough to cut.  We wanted to eat light this afternoon and that's what we did.

Out by the pool it is windy and chilly, but the band came out for their hour anyway.  They only made our ears bleed twice today.  They're OK most of the time, but there are a couple of songs they should ban from their repertoire ASAP.  The usual diehards were outside, but that adds up to maybe fifteen people at the most.

We gave up at 2:00pm and went into the covered Trident area for snacks.  Bill had fruit, Dave had a cheeseburger and fruit.  They offer homemade whole wheat buns for the burgers now.  The burger was fantastic.  Everything about it was great.

On the way back to the room we took a detour by the front desk to collect a copy of the Guest List.  We also checked on how many deck stewards there are and how they are distributed so we can charge the appropriate gratuities to our account.  It used to be a lot easier when you could just write "Deck Stewards" on the form and it would work out.  Now it is divided into Lido Cafe, Trident Grill, and Trident Bar.  The latter covers the guys at the pool.

During Paul's "5 O'clock Funnies" show each night there is a TV Trivia quiz.  Bill knew the answer and called.  The first person was wrong, so Bill won.  He gets a $25.00 slot coupon to use in the casino.  We will pick it up from the librarian later.  We've barely set foot in the casino, so playing the slots will be a first.

David brought our usual snacks at 5:30pm, but we cut down and only had two things, mini cheeseburgers and guacamole with chips.

Tonight's dress code is Resort Casual.

The evening entertainment is scheduled before dinner.  The headliner in the Galaxy Lounge tonight is vocalist Mark Preston, once a member of The Lettermen.  We weren't expecting much to be honest, but his show was very good.  If the volume hadn't been so ear-splitting it would have been perfect.  He has a great voice and good banter with the audience.

The show let out at 7:45pm, so we went the library to pick up Bill's winnings.  The librarian immediately knew who we are and made a big deal about Bill winning.  After that we went to sit in the Starlite Club for the rest of the time before dinner.  One of the cocktail waitresses wanted us to come by and tell her if the show was any good.  We told her that, yes, it was very good.

Click to view the Crystal Dining Room DINNER MENU.  There isn't anything on the menu tonight either of us is dying to order, but we forced ourselves to choose a few things:  Variation of Four Salmon, Mixed Greens Salad, Grilled Mahi Mahi, and Roasted Kurobuta Pork Chop.  The salmon resembled some of the jiggly things we had while we were in Japan...salmon tartar, for instance, was one of the four versions.  We'll give them credit for trying something new, but we wouldn't order it again.  The salad ingredients were fine, but the dressing tasted like nothing at all.  Both of the entrees were outstanding and decent portions.  Bill just had the sherbet for dessert while Dave had a bowl of mixed berries.

The bowl of berries prompted a conversation with Celso about healthy eating and such.  Dave only goes on a rant about it if it involves talking about a low carb diet, but this was a normal conversation.  Celso is always very nice and has lots of interesting things to say.

We tried to find out what happened to our original assistant waiter, but the best we could come up with is that he is tired and taking a break.  He didn't look at all happy when we first arrived and we have seen less and less of him as the days go by.  We have had a new assistant the past two nights who is from Goa, India.  He is friendly and fun to talk to.  Tonight he told us how different Goa is than the rest of India (mostly Christian, not very religious, high literacy rate, settled by Portuguese, etc.), which was quite interesting.

After dinner we went to the front desk to turn in our gratuity form, put some cash on our account to cover it, and get change to give out to a few other crew members.  "Change" meaning smaller bills than $100's, not quarters or something.

Dave was trying to remember a certain drink from the olden days, so we went over to ask Paula if she knows what it is.  However, on the way over Bill thought of it.  Even so, we stayed and chatted with her for over an hour.  She wanted to know how we met, etc.  So, now she knows.

We move one hour forward on the clock tonight.

Tuesday, May 13 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

It's another beautiful day at sea.  Still smooth sailing, which is amazing for a Pacific crossing.  It is about 72 degrees outside.


Theo delivered a gift from Crystal Society.  It is a beautiful album commemorating our 50th Milestone and our picture from the captain's dinner.  Crystal really does know how to do something classy for a special occasion.

Click for the Crystal Dining Room LUNCHEON MENU.  Out of habit we went to the Lido Cafe, which was a mistake.  It is Mediterranean food day, formerly the "Cuisine of the Sun" theme buffet by the pool.  We have never cared for the selection of food at this lunch and today was no exception.  There are, of course, enough choices to find something to fill up on.  The lasagna was pretty good, for example.  There were skewers of beef, pork and chicken in various sauces that tasted OK, but were way overcooked and dry.  By the way, they have completely eliminated the themed decorations and uniforms for the buffets now that they have moved into the Lido Cafe.  Only the background music was different.

After lunch we went out by the Seahorse Pool, as usual.  It is a bit chilly outside, but using a towel for a blanket was enough to stay comfortable.  The regular band was replaced with the Honeytons, the jazz band/singer usually in the Palm Court.  There is no question this is a more professional group than the Crystal Sextet, but the selection of music isn't conducive to a jovial poolside atmosphere.  There were only eight people left by the time they finished.  Again, the singer is quite good, but it is the kind of music you'd expect to hear in a jazz bar filled with beatniks slowly snapping their fingers to the beat. 

One of the deck stewards came over to thank us for the gratuity and seemed to genuinely appreciate it.  The deck guys work harder than anyone on board and they're always the first, and sometimes only, ones to thank us for a gratuity.

When the music ended at 2:00pm, we moved into the Trident area and ordered some food.  Dave had another delicious cheeseburger while Bill had a Hawaiian pizza.

Around 3:00pm, we went to the room to pick up Bill's $25 Slot Coupon to cash in at the Casino.  They gave him five $5.00 tickets, so we went to five different machines to use them up.  When he won $20.00 on one of the machines, Dave pushed "Cash Out" so we'd be sure to come out ahead.  The rest of the credits evaporated, but we still have the $20.00 he won.  He cashed the voucher in a machine that gave him a $20 bill, and we were done with our exciting casino adventure...the first, and probably last unless we win a contest again.  FYI, the machines know the difference between a free credit and the cash you win, so you can't just put the coupon in a machine and cash it out to get the money.

David brought the usual array of "snacks", but tonight we're OK with it because nothing on the dinner menu jumps out at us.

Tonight's dress code is Black Tie Optional (Formal) for the Captain's Gala Farewell.  There is a cocktail party for the occasion in the Starlite Club before dinner.  We stopped in the receiving line briefly to thank Alissa for the nice 50th Milestone album.  She asked us to come by her desk tomorrow to sign for our Platinum Crystal Society pins.  She said some people have claimed they didn't receive one and they have to produce the receipt to show them.  Dave asked, "You mean if they even remember where they are?"  In any case, we examined the pins later and they actually ARE platinum, not just platinum-colored metal (there is a hallmark on the back). 

We certainly can't complain about the many rewards we received for our 50th Milestone.  Not only did we get the free penthouse, but we received platinum pins, a very nice dinner with the captain, recognition at the Crystal Society party, and the lovely album.  Those are nice gifts in anyone's book and we do appreciate them.

The cocktail reception was the same as usual, except the captain was amusing.

Click for the CAPTAIN'S GALA MENU.  We stopped at Remi's podium to compliment some waiters and he said he would stop by our table to talk about it.  He thanked us for the gratuity we sent, as did Celso the first time we saw him tonight.  When Remi came to the table we complimented Zoltan and Silvia from the neighboring station.  They were very patient and helpful to the table of old Japanese people they served.  They're both very attentive in the Lido Cafe at lunch, too.  We also told Remi that Santhana is very helpful and actually knows the menu and how each dish is prepared.  We almost never ask our waiter for a recommendation because they generally don't know much, if anything, beyond the basics.  Santhana always has something useful to tell us.

Tonight we ordered Rock Shrimp "Thermador Style", Tropical Fruit Mosaic, Caesar Salad, Pan-Fried Lemon Sole Fillets, and Beef Wellington.  The shrimp was interesting, but we wouldn't order it again. Nothing wrong with it, but it wasn't what we expected.  The fruit was very attractive and a nice selection of various fruits and berries.  The salad was adequate, nothing more.  Both entrees were very good.  The Beef Wellington in particular was much better than it has been in the past.  Santhana said they only serve it on long cruises like this one and he hasn't seen it on the menu for quite a while.  Dave ordered a bowl of berries with whipped cream for dessert; Bill had the sherbet from the menu.

We were horrified to learn that when the new Modern Menu started they only changed the items on the Classic Menu every two days.  That is not acceptable and we would have trumpeted it as a major cutback.  Apparently, everyone else felt the same way and now it changes every day as it always has.

Tonight's entertainment is the production show "Curtain Call"...after dinner!  We have never loved this show and we still don't.  That is mostly because it includes some very dated selections.  "Mama Mia" is the most current show represented, which should tell you something about the show.  We can't help but cringe during the "Cats" and "Man of la Mancha" numbers.  The rest of the show is enjoyable and feels like a classic Crystal Cruises show.

Wednesday, May 14 - Cruising the Pacific Ocean

The weather is perfect today...low 70's, smooth seas, and not a cloud in the sky.  Everyone is saying that this is the calmest crossing ever.  From our experience, we would agree!

Click for TODAY'S ACTIVITIES. Everyone gets 20 minutes of free internet access today for airline check-in and printing of boarding passes.  The time was added to our account.

We went down to talk to Alissa and sign for our pins.  She said, as we expected, that since these pins actually are valuable that people sometimes "forget" they have received them.  That sure is tacky of them, but since a lot of them may not even know where they are or where they've been at this point, maybe it really is an honest mistake.  Maybe.

Here is some definitive information on what is happening during Crystal Symphony's September dry dock.  As we already mentioned, the entire Crystal Plaza area will be "reconfigured" and "it will look completely different than it does now."  That may be good or bad depending on what it is that they change, but it does need some updating.  We hadn't heard before today that the Crystal Spa is being re-done again.  We don't know what that entails, but the word "completely" was used in describing it.  All of the carpets in public areas will be replaced.  We don't think that is really necessary since most of it looks fairly new, but maybe they are changing the color scheme or something.  Otherwise, the main thrust of the operation is the extensive engine overhaul happening below decks.  That bodes well for the Symphony remaining in the fleet for a few more years, at least.

Click for the Crystal Dining Room LUNCHEON MENU.  Lunch in the Lido was fine, as usual.  More people must have gone to the dining room on the final day because it was very slow in the Lido.

After lunch we went outside to sit by the pool to listen to the band.  They only did one song that made us cringe, so it was pleasant.  The weather is beautiful today.

At 2:00pm when the band finished, we went inside...well, sort of, the glass roof is partially open today...and had food from the Trident Grill.  Then, we went back to the room to start packing up.

We were in the middle of packing when David arrived with our evening snacks.  We can't believe we'll ever be hungry again since we just ate, but we have a long way to go before dinner time.  David gave us a Fodor's guide book to Chile and told us to contact him if we ever want him to show us around.  He said the same thing yesterday without any prompting from us, so it is a sincere offer.  Now that we are doing road trips more than cruising, who knows, maybe we'll take him up on it!

Tonight's entertainment is a Farewell Variety Show at 5:15pm, so we put off snacking, got re-dressed, and went to the show.  This was probably the best overall farewell show we have ever seen.  The opening and closing numbers by the Crystal Ensemble were very good, as were the short acts in between (the pianist, vocalist, and comedian).  People started leaving at 6:00pm as though the dining room wouldn't still be there if they are fifteen minutes late.  Considering that nearly the entire first seating is in the Galaxy Lounge, we're pretty sure the dining room knows they are coming late.

We went back to the room to finish most of our packing.  Of course, we had to eat the snacks David left earlier.  It has been an hour since we last ate, so we're starving.

David and Manju (our stewardess) received extra tips over what they get with all-inclusive.  Manju was very sweet, thanking us for being so nice to her during the cruise.

We shoved our three larger pieces of luggage out in the hallway and went down to sit in the Starlite Club before dinner.  There is a ballroom dancing session going on there with the Galaxy Orchestra and the lead singers, which is a nice change from the usual dance band (same one that is out by the pool in the afternoon).  Our FF's (forum friends) arrived and we went down to the dining room together. 

Click to view the Crystal Dining Room DINNER MENU.  Everyone shows up in the dining room on the last night, but with so few people on the late seating we could barely tell the difference.  When Santhana came to the table we gave him an extra tip and told him to be discrete because we're not giving anything extra to Yasin.  We barely saw him during the cruise and he wasn't exactly the most cheerful person onboard.

Tonight we ordered the Chilled Tiger Prawn, Yellow Corn & Ancho Chili Smoke, Spinach Salad, Hawaiian Striped Marlin, and the Meatloaf.  The prawn appetizer was interesting, but the lime snow was pointless.  It was just white powder in a pile and added no flavor at all.  The fig jam though was very tasty.  The salad wasn't anything special.  The marlin looked very attractive served on green cous cous.  It was very good.  Santhana said it is fresh from Hawaii until we said that's kind of impossible at this point.  Then he said it was "barely frozen".  The meatloaf was OK, but nothing unexpected about it.  Celso called it "boring", but it wasn't that bad.  The corn soup is the same corn bisque that used to be served on 50's night with the meatloaf.  All they did was serve a tiny side dish of smoked ancho chili powder to add to it.  All that does it make it spicy.  The sugar free cheesecake for dessert was OK. Again, nothing special.

Kremena was chatty and friendly as she always is.  On the way out she hugged both of us even before she knew we had a tip for her.  Santhana gave us copies of the menus.  Yasin was certainly available tonight...for the first time.  Talk about obvious.

We went to the room and found the heat running.  However, the thermostat is where we left it, so something went haywire while we were out.  After jiggling the lever it fixed itself, but it was way too warm in the room to stay there.

We went down to the Cove Bar to say our goodbyes to Paula.  She came out and literally jumped on each of us in turn to hug us.  As we keep saying, she and Theo are our favorite crew members.  We are always glad to see them because they are like "real" people, not just crew.

When we returned to the room, the air conditioning was back to normal and it was cool again.  We quickly packed our dirty clothes into one of the remaining bags and put them out in the hall.  The ones we put out earlier are already gone.

The sea is completely calm and we can barely tell the ship is moving.

Thursday, May 15 - Los Angeles/San Pedro, CA, USA - Disembark Crystal Symphony

 Find more about Weather in Los Angeles, CA
Click for weather forecast

At 1:30am, Dave looked out the window because it felt as though the ship had stopped.  It was still moving, but very slowly.  At this distance, points of light are visible on land.

Click to view the Disembarkation Issue of Reflections.

The ship docked at 6:00am and disembarkation began on time at 8:00am.

There are brush fires all over San Diego County today, so we're a little concerned that our car service won't be able to get out to pick us up today.

We went to the Lido Cafe for breakfast.  It was fine.  We're not big breakfast people, so we loaded up on fruit and a few other things.  It took a very long time for Bill to get his eggs cooked to order, but since we're in no hurry, it wasn't a problem.  We're amazed how cheerful the deck stewards are all the time.  It seems like they work from dawn to very late at night, but they never act tired or annoyed.

No announcements were made all morning.  On Crystal you are expected to read the disembarkation instructions and follow them without reminders.  We decided to leave as soon as we finished breakfast and got our stuff together.  So, we headed for the elevator at 8:50am.  Our car service called as we were getting into the elevator to say he has arrived.  They always expect throngs of people and lines of taxis and cars.  Not so with a Crystal ship with only 500 passengers.

Manju came out of a room and fawned all over us for being so nice during the cruise.  We are always nice to all crew members, but what are other people doing to make them go out of their way to compliment us?

No one was disembarking when we went down to the gangway, so all we had to do was scan our keycard and walk into the terminal.  There were more Crystal representatives standing around than passengers.  Customs control took about two seconds.  All they did was collect our forms and that was it.

Luggage was arranged by number, so it was very easy to find.  A very friendly porter followed us and helped load the luggage onto his cart.  He took us out where the cars are usually waiting to pick people up.  We found the car quickly, but the driver wasn't there.  By the time the porter unloaded our bags, he showed up and we were ready to go.

We weren't thrilled to have a 77-year-old driver, to be honest (he told us his age).  He was very nice and there weren't any problems, but that age is kind of pushing it for a service we are paying for.  In any case, we made it home with no problem, arriving at 11:00am.

Welcome home guys, the entire county is on fire!  Yesterday the fire was on the other side of hill behind our house, but we can't see any smoke in that direction today.  Later, our housekeeper came to get us to point out a new fire on the outside of the opposite side of the valley.  Our house sitters received a reverse 911 call yesterday telling them to evacuate, but they felt the situation had improved and evacuation wasn't necessary.  They were right.  It is a difficult to know what to do when we get those calls.  Later in the afternoon, another fire broke out at the end of the valley, dropping ash over our area.  That's when we decided to break out the fire hoses and pump for the pool "just in case".  Nothing like a jolt of reality to bring us back to earth after two weeks of doing nothing!


This is probably one of the best overall cruises we have taken when only the cruise itself is considered.  The food was vastly improved overall from recent years, service remains top notch, and the ship looks great. 

There are only a few things that need improvement and they are related to the entertainment.  While all except one of the production shows was new to us, the formula is exactly the same as it was twenty years ago.  In other words, the shows are stale.  Beautiful, absolutely.  Entertaining, sure.  Cutting edge, not even close.  The biggest complaint we have is the recent practice of scheduling the shows for Late Seating guests at 7:00pm, before dinner.  This interrupts the whole flow of the evening and leaves us with nothing to do after dinner.  Who wants to go directly to bed after eating a huge meal?  We don't believe for a minute that there have been so many complaints about late shows that a change had to be made.  What we do believe is that Crystal is using this explanation as an excuse to schedule shows for the convenience of the entertainers and staff.

We were very impressed by the thought and effort that went into recognizing our 50th Milestone.  It all came off as a sincere thank you for our loyalty.  The Crystal Society hostess really made an effort to make our dinner with the captain suitable for our tastes.  The real platinum pins are a nice gift for sure, as is the beautiful album with our captain's dinner photo.  We appreciate the gesture and commend Crystal for making the entire event a class act.

Many people complained about the constant hour-forwards every other night.  We didn't find it at all disruptive.  Where are you going in the morning anyway?  So sleep an extra hour if the time change bothers you.  We still managed to get out of bed at the same time every day, so what's the big deal?

This was the smoothest Pacific crossing ever!  There were only two days of rough seas, but calling them rough under the circumstances is quite an exaggeration.  It could have been much worse, that is for sure.

We have seen a bit of a change in the staffing that results in some less than luxurious attitudes.  Thankfully, those sour puss crew members are few and far between.  This seems to be a result of Crystal moving down the rungs on the countries from which they can attract new employees.  We saw this happen before when they had to shift from using Scandinavian stewardesses, but it all worked out eventually.  Our stewardess from Nepal was delightful, so all is not lost.  We never saw our assistant stewardess.  Our butler was wonderful...he did everything he could to try to force food on us.  He was interesting and friendly, too.  We never ask for much, if anything, from the butlers, but it is a huge plus when they are friendly and entertaining.

Contrary to claims by self-appointed "experts" on other forums, every crew member we asked about all-inclusive doesn't like it.  100% of them said they made much more money under the old system.  None of them faulted Crystal for making a change that they all see as necessary to stay competitive, but they still don't like it.  Every single one of them still praises Crystal as a great employer who they believe really cares about their welfare.

We did not see any issues with the complimentary wine service in the dining room.  Late Seating wasn't very busy, so that may have something to do with it, but we found the wine service to be even better than in the past.  The sommelier we had was charming and she always explained each complimentary wine in great detail.  We never waited for our glasses to be refilled.  If the sommelier was busy, our waiter refilled them. 

Speaking of waiters, ours was great.  He was actually knowledgeable about the menu and gave accurate descriptions when asked about certain items.  He spoke excellent English (he is from India) and had a fun sense of humor.  On the other hand, our assistant waiter was quite the opposite.  He never smiled and seemed to dislike us from the start.  We rarely saw him and we had a substitute several nights (who we enjoyed). He is the first crew member to whom we didn't give an extra gratuity.  If this had been pre-all-inclusive, we would have reduced the recommended tip, which we have never even thought of before.

It took us several days to fall back into the "do nothing" routine we have developed on Crystal cruises.  We have decided that we have evolved and this kind of vacation doesn't suit us as much as it used to.  That's not to say we will never go on another cruise.  But, we will probably attach it to the beginning or end of a land adventure as we did this time.  We loved not having to fly home.  We had no jet lag coming or going, which is a bonus for travelling by sea.  Crystal is as great or better than it has always been and it is still our preferred cruise line.

We'll start planning our next adventure soon, so stay tuned!

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