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Walt Disney World Segment 1 (1/19-2/7) Segment 2 (2/7-2/25) Segment 3 (2/25-3/18) Segment 4 (3/18-4/14) Segment 5 (4/14-5/3) 2003 Summary

Crystal Symphony
Ft. Lauderdale to Buenos Aires
Departs January 19, 2003

19 days


saturday, february 18th – travel to mandarin oriental hotel miami, florida – gala bon voyage party – 7:00 pm



tuesday, january 21st – cruising the atlantic ocean

Wednesday, january 22nd – st. john (cruz bay), usvi, usa – 7:00 - 8:00 am – st. thomas (charlotte amalie), usvi – 9:30 am – 6:00 pm  

thursday, january 23rd – st. kitts (basse-terre), west indies – 8:00 am – 5:00 pm  

friday, january 24th – cruising the atlantic ocean  

saturday, january 25th – cruising the atlantic ocean 

sunday, january 26th – cruising the atlantic ocean  

monday, january 27th – crossing the equator  

tuesday, january 28th – fortaleza, brazil – 8:00 am – 5:00 pm  

wednesday, january 29th – cruising the south atlantic ocean 

thursday, january 30th – cruising the south atlantic ocean

friday, january 31st – cruising the south atlantic ocean 

saturday, february 1st – rio de janeiro, brazil – arrive 8:00 am 

sunday, february 2nd – rio de janeiro, brazil – depart 9:00 am 

monday, february 3rd – porto belo, brazil – 8:00 am – 6:00 pm 

tuesday, february 4th – cruising the south atlantic ocean  

wednesday, february 5th – cruising the south atlantic ocean – dave’s birthday 

thursday, february 6th – buenos aires, argentina – arrive 8:00 am 


saturday, february 18th – travel to mandarin oriental hotel miami, florida – gala bon voyage party – 7:00 pm

It’s bright, clear and cold this morning, as usual.  No rain in sight in spite of the predictions to the contrary.  We had our usual breakfast of muffins and fruit purchased last night and called for a bellman for our nine pieces of luggage.  When we told the bell captain that we had lots of luggage and he found out it was nine pieces, he said, “Oh, that’s nothing.  We’ve had people with 25 pieces!”  The poor bellman who came up with one cart had a time trying to cram everything on, but he did succeed.  On the way past the concierge desks, they stopped their conversation to say, “Leaving already?”  That’s only the second acknowledgement we have had from them in two weeks. 

We waited briefly out front until our van arrived, followed by a sedan.  The van driver had already loaded our luggage into his vehicle and we decided we liked him better than the car driver, so we decided to skip the car and travel with our luggage in the van.  It was a good decision as the driver, Julio, was very friendly and informative and the van was probably a more comfortable ride.  The drive from Walt Disney World to the Mandarin Oriental in Miami took about 3-½ hours with no traffic to speak of.  Julio was fun to talk to and the time passed quickly.

We arrived at the hotel at 2:00 PM.  The Mandarin Oriental is located on Brickell Key, a private island immediately offshore from downtown Miami.  Everything in the area is fairly new, so it is very nice.  The view is spectacular of the skyline, the causeway and Biscayne Bay. 

Now this is a $500 a night hotel!  Well, to be exact, it’s $725 a night, but it’s included in our cruise, so we don’t care.  Unlike the Grand Floridian, this hotel comes with the type of service and luxuries one would expect in this price range.  The bellman knew what to do with Crystal passengers’ luggage.  Most of our luggage went directly to the ship, we only kept one overnight bag and one carry-on, so it was quite easy for us.  We were escorted into the lobby, a towering avant-garde kind of place, and directed toward Crystal’s hospitality room to pick up our room key and instructions for our overnight stay.  On the way we ran into Mel, of Mel and Barbara, who tried to recruit us again for his Trivia team.  We declined, as we did last year.

At least year's pre-cruise hotel, there were probably 20 Crystal representatives all over the place, but this year there are five.  That should tell you something about the passenger list or lack thereof.  We only waited about five minutes for our key to be delivered and we were on our way to the eighth floor room.  The room had a spectacular view of downtown Miami and the causeway to the island.  Our room was furnished with very expensive McGuire furniture and white linens.  The bathroom had dimmable lighting and a huge window overlooking the bedroom (with a shade, Thank God).  We presume this opening was to allow one to take a bath and still see the view.  No time for views now though, as we promptly crashed until the alarm went off at 5:00 PM to allow us enough time to get our act together for the gala party tonight.

Although unusual for us, we arrived at the party promptly at 7:00 PM, much to the delight of Josef Matt, Crystal Symphony’s Hotel Manager.  There was sort of a receiving line he was supposed to be manning, but he ditched the other guests as soon as we arrived and began a lengthy discussion of Walt Disney World.  He was appalled by the price of Disney's Grand Floridian, but who isn't?  Next to greet us was one of the Ambassador Hosts, Lee, with whom we bonded during a shore excursion last year.

Next up was a required photo for the annual cruise yearbook.  Apparently they learned from the awful pictures taken last year that they need to do this ahead of time and print the books on land.  They are supposed to be sent to the ship in Rio de Janeiro.  Ian, the head photographer, flew in for the event, but, nice as he is, we find it hard to believe there isn't a qualified local photographer or two.

We wandered through the reception lobby where oriental style hors d’oeuvres were being offered by waiters along with the cocktail of your choice.  We skipped all of this and found a corner out of the way to see who we are traveling with this year.  Jeff, the video guy, came over to chat.  We also chatted with Luis, the meet and greet manager.

From what we observed, this year’s World Cruise has boiled down to Crystal’s diehards and nobody else.  Lee came back to tell us the count for full World Cruise guests is 108.  When we were talking to Louise, one of the diehards, she said that she heard the total count with segment guests for the first part of the cruise is only 500.  Recall that the ship holds 940 guests.  Unfortunately, 500 guests is too many for single seating dining, so we will probably have the regular two seatings for at least the first segment.  We also saw Mel and Barbara with whom we were friendly last year.  Josef brought over Thomas, the new Vice President of Hotel Operations.  He had been with Crystal previously, but had left to become the General Manager at Epcot.  So, we had a lot to talk about.  He said they know Epcot is in dire need of an update, but he agrees with us that Disney only spends money on shops, restaurants and hotels that directly make money.  He also told us that Tokyo DisneySea is heads above anything Disney has ever done and puts previous efforts to shame.  Dave said, “It just proves what Disney can do when someone else will pay for it," to which he replied, “You got that right.”

The pre-dinner entertainment consisted of a guy in the corner playing an electronic keyboard.  It did sound pleasant enough, but it was quite a come down from the full orchestra we had last year.  Also in the lobby was an attractive ice sculpture of towering pillars and the Crystal logo along with some stuffed penguins.

Promptly at 8:00 PM, the doors to the ballroom opened and we were ushered in to our table.  We were separated at our table, which we didn’t like, but we didn’t say anything.  Thomas was the host for our table, which was nice.  We were also seated with Maria, a very friendly woman from Belgium who lost her husband last year.  We hope to see her on the ship as she was very coherent.  We’d guess her age at 50 or so.  Next to Bill was Jeanne, one of Crystal’s diehards, who is also pleasant.  There were two other couples, one of whom hadn’t been on a World Cruise before.  The other couple was on board last year.  The woman is the one who was in so much pain on shore excursions that she would cry out in agony when trying to move.  She looked no better now, although she didn’t make a scene.  Even giving her the benefit of the doubt for being miserable, she did nothing but complain the entire meal.  Since she had earplugs in most of the time, it wasn’t necessary to converse with her very often. 

Regarding the earplugs, they really were relevant.  The music was so loud our ears were still ringing long after we left the room.  Nobody appeared to be enjoying the entertainers, although they were talented.  It was sort of a salsa troupe with two pairs of dancers and a singer.  It would have been fine had it not been ten times louder than necessary.

As last year, the dinner dragged on way too long with many lulls between courses to allow for dancing.  Not many people were interested in this type of music, so the dancers were mostly the same ten who always dance.  At least the Ambassador Hosts were around to be partners.  The performers also dragged people up to dance.  One of the girls tried to get Bill to go up, but he declined.

The tables were beautifully decorated with yellow butterfly orchids atop tall clear class columns.  The party favors were large penguins in sombreros.  What that has to do with South America, we’re not sure, but it was cute.  The only problem is that these things are chocolate and are about 8” tall.  Most guests didn’t take them because they didn’t want to haul them to the ship.  In other words, not a wise choice.  The table settings themselves were nicely done with napkin rings made of real orchids.

The food was very good to average.  The dessert was spectacular and almost too beautiful to eat.  It was tasty, too!

Click to view the World Cruise Bon Voyage Dinner Menu.  Don’t be alarmed, the food wasn’t as weird as it sounds. The dessert also included a chocolate tube standing on end and filled with berries, chocolate mousse, and some other things we have forgotten.

By the time 11:00 PM rolled around, we were ready to get the heck away from the noise.  Most people departed nanoseconds after dessert was served.  Thomas told us he would be on board for a few days, so we can get together then.  We doubt he’ll have the time, but he is interesting to talk to and we can probably find out some good Disney gossip if we play our cards right.  

In the room we received two wrapped World Cruise gifts which are journals for keeping notes.  This is the same gift as last year with a different design.

Back in the room, neither of us got much sleep, either coughing or sniffling or both throughout the night.


Ft. Lauderdale really did begin as a fort. Under command of Major William Lauderdale, the garrison was installed along the New River in l838 to help fend off nearly constant Seminole raids. It should be noted that the tribes were only trying to defend their land, and to anyone familiar with the modern golden coast it is no wonder. In Lauderdale’s time, however, the land was quite different. Only 150 years ago, Florida was a mosquito-infested mangrove swamp. Alligators and deadly snakes were abundant — people were scarce.

After 1900, the door finally opened for development when Henry Flagler, a shrewd entrepreneur, extended his Florida East Coast Railroad southward from Palm Beach. Ft. Lauderdale was suddenly connected to the rest of the country. The city was incorporated in 1911, after an ambitious land reclamation project was completed. The growing city was utterly transformed.

The Florida coast between Miami and Palm Beach is known as the "Gold Coast," and Ft. Lauderdale, practically at the center of the famous seaboard strip, is the seat of Broward County. There is no shortage of land in the region. Broward County covers 1,197 square miles — an area about the size of Rhode Island. The permanent population is almost 1.6 million, but that number usually doubles during the winter season — add an annual influx of shivering visitors from the frozen northern United States and Canada. There is also a sizable European contingent. Year-round residents playfully refer to the seasonal guests as "snowbirds" and the Floridians scratch their heads and wonder why the "birds" don’t move south once and for all. Why would anyone want to leave a tropical paradise? Some "natives," on the other hand, are secretly pleased when the "season" is over — until hurricane season arrives each year in the fall. Seasonal visitors and residents alike keep close watch as storms develop in the Atlantic. Violent hurricanes have often made landfall.

With more than 300 miles of inland waterways, greater Ft. Lauderdale is sometimes referred to as the "Venice of America." Some 10,000-yacht owners also flock south during the winter season, adding to the already 44,000 permanently registered marine craft. With all of the sleek yachts, there has to be a party, so the Hanukkah/ Christmas holiday is celebrated with an unusual fair. The Winterfest Boat Parade route follows the Intracoastal between Port Everglades and Pompano Beach. Hundreds of elaborate boats participate, and the adornments become more outlandish each year.

Florida is one of America’s premier holiday destinations and there is no better place to find a quiet (or not so quiet) spot on the beach, but don’t forget to explore some of the state’s other treasures. Orlando, home of the fascinating Disney World/Epcot Center complex, is just a few hours away to the north. Epcot’s ever-changing exhibits offer insight into new technological developments. Everglades National Park and the Florida Keys are some of the other nearby gems, and, even closer, Miami’s South Beach is an art deco showcase.


Our alarm was set for 9:00 AM to get us up in time for the complimentary breakfast provided in the same ballroom as the dinner last night.  It is another beautiful, cool day.  What happened to the rain?

We arrived at breakfast during the last half hour, but we found most guests just arriving or still there.  We were directed to a clean table on the far side of the room.  The buffet featured sliced fruit, very good pastries, scrambled eggs, etc.  There was also a chef cooking made-to-order omelets.  This offering was far superior to last year’s breakfast in Beverly Hills.  Eventually, Pauline, Mel and Barbara joined us.  Pauline did most of the talking much to Mel’s chagrin.   We find Pauline, who made her 100-cruise milestone last year, to be rather interesting.  She travels alone and does literally everything there is to do in each port.  She has far more energy than both of us put together.

After breakfast we registered for the cruise and received our room key and boarding information.  Our car is scheduled for 2:15 PM to 2:30 PM.  Along with the key we got a letter telling us that in order to ensure that the Norwalk virus doesn’t reach the ship (Crystal ships have had no outbreaks at all) the dock area around the ship, the busses, cars, etc., have been disinfected. We will also be required to use a disinfectant wipe on our hands before boarding and again in each port.  It goes on to explain that the captain will not shake hands with guests at receptions and that any crew member or guest who may contract the virus will be confined to their stateroom until they recover.

We lolled around in the room until 1:00 PM and then went down to sit in the lobby to await our transfer as instructed.  At least the wait gave us time to get our diary entries updated!  As it turned out, we had plenty of time because transfers were delayed by about 45 minutes from the stated time.  We were told it was due to security issues at the port and that cars weren’t being admitted for a period of time.  No matter, we eventually got a car with a very friendly driver.  The trip to the port took about 45 minutes where we found the security line for cars very short.  We had to show our ID and tell the guard where we were going.

Once at the terminal, we were accosted by a line of smiling Crystal representatives and whisked into the terminal where we were offered champagne several times.  Norman saw us and ran over with another offer of champagne.  Next was the obligatory boarding photo where Elizabeth greeted us warmly and seemed genuinely happy to see us again.  Finally, we were handed the pre-moistened towelette to sanitize our hands.  At the gangway, Remy, a headwaiter, greeted us.  Last time we saw him he couldn’t talk due to growths in his throat, but all is well now.  We were escorted to our penthouse by a waiter we don’t know.

On the way, we ran into Rainer, our butler from last year.  We found our room piled high with our tons of luggage, plus two attractive bouquets of flowers on the desk, a bottle of champagne on ice, another bottle of champagne on the counter, and two bottles of wine.  We also received a note that our gratuities are prepaid plus a credit to our account of $2,000.  We counted the guests in the World Cruise listing and there are 109 of us.  Since there was a notice that this segment will be single seating in the dining room from 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM, we know the total guest count is below 450, less than we were led to believe last night.

Our butler, Waldo, arrived to introduce himself and tell us he had been told that we are great guests.  He already knew what kind of beverages to stock in our minibar and what snacks we like.  The stewardess, Isabela, and her assistant, Hazel, came by to ask what special requests we have.  That would be extra boxes of Kleenex, change the duvet to a blanket, remove the mohair throws and bring a couple of extra pillows.  She seems quite cheerful and friendly.

Ural, our butler for the first part of last year’s cruise came running down the hall to see us.  Waldo eventually arrived and said that Ural had informed him of everything we like and how wonderful we are.  That remains to be seen, but at least we’re popular with the staff.

There was a notice about the all new, state of the art Computer University program, but no mention was made of Internet connections from the staterooms like we had last year.  That is a heart-grabbing thought because there is no way to update the Website without that feature.  So, we rushed down to the Computer University to inquire about the situation.  A staff member there said that stateroom connections were not available, but would be coming soon.  Dave insisted he contact someone in charge to find out exactly how long that would be and he said he would have someone call him.  In the meantime, we set up our Crystal Symphony accounts.  The new charges are less than before, but they now use an accounting method impossible to check.  Guests are charged $20.00/MB, which is ridiculous for what we are doing.  Emails are $2.75 coming and going which is a bit less than before, but nonetheless outrageous.

We strolled around on the upper decks to get some port photos.  There are many ships in port.  Two Princess ships, Holland America’s Maasdam, a Royal Caribbean ship, and two Costa ships, plus a couple of others.  The Coast Guard has several boats patrolling the area.  We went down to greet Billy at the Front Desk.  Several other crewmembers greeted us along the way.  After that we went up for some ice cream to get us by until dinnertime. Allan and Norman, plus some other deck stewards we don’t know, and the ice cream man, ran over to greet us.  Allan said the next segment has 600 guests, but we find that a little hard to believe.  We shall see.

Back to the room to unpack.  There is a sort of meet and greet party for World Cruisers tonight at 6:30 PM, but we decided to skip it and unpack instead.  The dean from the Computer University called and offered to come right up and configure our computer for connection from the stateroom, which he did.  Cost was $25.00 for this set-up, plus 75-cents per minute internet charge.  We’re just glad the part arrived to make this possible today.  He said he was sweating bullets hoping it would come because he knew the World Cruisers would expect it.  FYI, last year the cost was $1.50 per minute with a $12.50 minimum.  He said the direct connection in the room is by far cheaper than using the computers in the lab.  The amount of content uploaded doesn’t apply when done from the stateroom.

Even before we were finished unpacking, our stewardess came to collect our empty luggage.  Bill took the bag of dirty clothes and went to the self-service laundry while all of this was going on, so maybe we will have something clean to wear tomorrow.

We wandered down to the Crystal Dining Room at 7:30 PM fully expecting it to be full.  No worry about that! Augusto, our headwaiter from last year and now for the first half of this year, greeted us warmly at the door and escorted us to the table we always have along the inside divider.  Also the same as last year is our waiter, Jerry, who said he found out we were coming from some of the waiters handling luggage.  When he realized his new station was our regular table, he was overjoyed to find he will be our waiter again.  He is leaving halfway through the cruise though, but he’s glad to have us again.  It’s amusing to watch the reaction of other guests when all of these people fawn all over us.  Our assistant waiter is Andrejus.

Paco ran over to greet us.  He was our waiter years ago, but last time we were here he was a butler.  He told us he prefers the action in the dining room and that being a butler was too confining for him.  We would guess he also makes more money as a waiter.

The best thing about Augusto is that he tells us all of the gossip.  He said that the ship has been on single seating dining almost half of the time this year, which means the ship has been less than half full.  That does not bode well for a new ship coming out and expanding the fleet.  There are only so many Crystal guests to go around.  Everyone seems to agree that people just don’t want to fly anywhere these days.  Jerry told us that he is leaving earlier than usual because they need to bring back waiters who have been on extended vacations.

Tonight was really déjà vu for us with the same table, waiter, and headwaiter.  Tayfun, a headwaiter we had several years ago, came over to greet us, as well.  Also, Maria, our wine steward, remembered us from three years ago, which is the last time we saw her.

Tonight’s dress code was casual with no assigned seating.  However, everyone was asked for their table number and was seated at their regular table.  We have no idea why they always announce no assigned seating because that never actually happens.

Augusto said that breakfast this morning was a nightmare because U.S. Customs made the guests report for inspections at 4:00 AM.  That meant everyone showed up in the dining room early.  After that, they had to find somewhere to store ten large tables from the center of the room because there are so few guests that most of the tables have been reduced to twos and fours.

Highlighted menu items are the selections we ordered.

Bon Voyage Dinner


Prosciutto with Apple and Watercress Salad
Forest Mushroom Terrine with Tomato Coulis
Sautéed Jumbo Prawns
Tropical Fruit Cocktail with Grand Marnier

Soup and Salad

Beef Consommé with Truffle Célestine
Alaskan Crab Soup
Chilled Lingonberry Soup with Sour Cream
Traditional Caesar Salad
Sliced Tomatoes and Mozzarella Cheese with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Pasta Special

Penne alla Panna Rosa

Salad Entrée

Mixed Grill Salad

Main Fares

Broiled Fillet of Fresh Alaskan Black Sea Bass
Roasted Marinated Chicken Breast
Grilled Black Angus Fillet Steak
Roasted Rack of Wisconsin Veal

Vegetarian Selections

Cream of Vegetable Soup
Eggplant Mousse “Provencal”

Sweet Finale

Chocolate Hazelnut Pudding Soufflé with Fudge Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream
French Style Lemon Cheesecake
Banana Semifreddo
Sugar-Free Mocha Cream Puff
Assortment of Fruit in Season
Homemade Cookies

Food review:  Everything was satisfactory, with only the Hazelnut Pudding standing out as special.  The homemade cookies were ghastly as always.  We’ll never understand why they keep serving them because they almost always go back to the kitchen uneaten.

We had to ask Jerry for copies of the menu because we didn’t receive them in the stateroom as in the past.  Hopefully this is something that was overlooked because it is the first day.  If not, we’ll have to ask for them to be delivered so we can be sure to provide a complete listing for your reading pleasure!

Nothing much out of the ordinary happened in the dining room, so we were out with enough time to view the sail away at 9:00 PM.  Crystal Symphony was the a last ship to leave the port out of all of those here earlier.

We move an hour forward on the clock tonight, plus we have the mandatory lifeboat drill at 10:00 AM tomorrow morning.

Rosemary, the World Cruise Hostess, will send out a newsletter as necessary during the cruise.  Click to view today's World Cruise Newsletter.  You will need the free Adobe Reader to view these files. 



For the first time in two weeks, we both got a full night’s sleep even with the early wake-up for the boat drill.  We were ready early, so we went out to the Promenade Deck a few minutes before the alarm sounded.  This captain doesn’t alter course to prevent wind on deck for this event, so we were quickly showered with salt spray even though we were standing behind some machinery.  There are so few guests that there were just two rows of people when everyone was in their place.  Usually, it is at least five rows deep and overflowing to the sides. They seem to take things more seriously than before.  Previously, someone would just check you off as you arrived at your station.  Now they wait until everyone is there and then they do a roll call to be sure everyone from the cabin shows up.  They also had a demonstration of how to put on the lifejacket, which has never been done before.  This entire exercise takes only about fifteen minutes, so it’s not a dreadful chore.

The weather today is overcast and about 65 degrees.  It’s a little bit rocky, but only because of the wind.  It’s not rough by any means.

We wandered by the Bistro for snacks, but it was too crowded.  Paulo was there and remembered our name, as always.  We decided to go back to the room and just wait for lunchtime.  Menus are no longer delivered to Penthouse guests, so we will have a more difficult time providing complete menu listings for the diary, but we’ll see if we can work it out.  When we returned to the room we found our World Cruise tote bags, jacket and hat.  There was a party this morning where we would have received a shirt and pin with the “Four A’s” name on it, but we didn’t attend.

Even though we didn’t arrive for lunch in the Crystal Dining Room until 12:30 PM, there were plenty of tables available.  Even so, they insisted we sit at Jerry’s station where they had to clean a table for us.  Just to remind everyone, we never ask to sit there.  Jerry seemed thrilled we were there again.  He told us his wife is expecting another son in May, so he is quite excited.  He has arranged to be home then, which also seemed to make him very happy.

Lunch was good, but not exciting.  The chilled mango soup was outstanding and much better than we expected.  The entrees of a chicken Caesar salad and a French dip sandwich were good, but not great.  Augusto decided the French dip didn’t come with enough sauce and forced the assistant waiter to fetch more from the kitchen.  Antonio, our wine steward last year, came over from the other side of the Dining Room to greet us and carry on in general.

After lunch we went back to the room to nap and/or put away our clothes.  Nothing else happened until dinnertime.

On the way out of the room Waldo asked if he could have anything pressed for us, so Dave pointed out his jackets that need pressing.  They were gone when we came back from dinner.  We also asked if we could have the menus delivered daily as in the past.  He said that was no problem and we would get them beginning tomorrow.  They have cut out the automatic delivery as a cost saving measure, which seems reasonable.

Tonight’s dress code is Formal for the Captain’s Welcome Gala.  The line to enter the Starlite Club stretched all the way down to the lobby area, but the line moved quickly.  The side door express lane wasn’t open, so we had to wait in line for the photo with the Captain.  We have no idea why the Captain can’t shake hands when every other staff member does, but we don’t mind.  Once inside, Paul McFarland, the Cruise Director, greeted us as though he knew who we were.  We skipped the rest of the receiving line and sat in the back corner.  The room was completely full because there is only one seating.

We noticed the first obvious cutback, the bowls of nuts are only filled about a quarter of the way and the cashews have been replaced with peanuts.  None of this bothers us, just an observation.  We also noticed that the water pressure has been reduced by half.  It is more like it is at home with water saving shower heads and such.  This has been done to reduce the amount of water they have to buy in port.

There were the usual introductions of officers, all of whom we have met before.  The Captain announced the pathetic official guest count for this segment:  109 full World Cruisers that are included in the total guest count of 380.  There are currently 530 crew members, so they outnumber guests at this point.  380 is the lowest number we have ever experienced on this ship.  JP, one of the deck stewards from last cruise, noticed us and came over to say hello.  He had told us he wasn't coming back, but apparently he changed his mind.



Iced Malossol Caviar
Truffled Chicken Liver Parfait
Oysters Rockefeller
Exotic Fruit in a Pineapple Boat with Orange Curacao

Soup and Salad

Wild Forest Mushroom Soup “Cappuccino Style”
Clear Oxtail Soup
Captain’s Salad


Refreshing Passion Fruit Champagne

Pasta Special

Angel Hair Pasta with Goat Cheese, Broccoli, and Toasted Pine Nuts

Salad Entrée

Beef Tenderloin Salad

Main Fares

Broiled Fresh Maine Lobster
Broiled Fresh Halibut Fillet
Stuffed Marinated Baked Quail

Vegetarian Selection

Grilled Asparagus and Parsnips

Dessert Menu

“Deuce au Café” White Chocolate Coffee Cake with Raspberry Sauce
Almond Lemon Tart with Whipped Cream and Forest Berries
Crunchy Vanilla Mousse with Fudge Sauce
Sugar-Free Yogurt Fruit Terrine
Sugar-Free Blueberry Turnover with Diet Ice Cream
Assortment of Fruit in Season
Truffles and Petit Fours

Food review:  The soup and salad were very good.  The salad in particular was fresh with a wonderful balsamic vinaigrette dressing.  We both enjoyed the sherbet course which was quite refreshing.  As usual the chateaubriand was outstanding.  Augusto brought more sauce and then asked if we wanted more meat to go with it, so we took him up on it.  The twice-baked potato that came with it was as dry as dust, as they always are.  The dessert was a throw-away assuming it would be bad, but it was very good. 

Our intention was to attend the production show, “Facinatin’ Rhythm”, tonight but we ended up chatting with Augusto and Jerry until well after the show had begun.  Jerry is much more fun this time since he has already lightened up and considers us friends now.  He was a tough nut to crack, but he’s a very nice guy.  He doesn’t really have anyone to talk to about his family, so we listen to him and tell him what a good provider he is, which is true.

We wandered into the show with the intention of sitting in the back, but it was full and we didn’t want to barge in.  Ruel wanted to seat us, but we didn’t want to do something we hate when others do it.

Back in the room we found another World Cruise gift with this note, “Welcome. We are delighted that you are joining us for Crystal Symphony’s full World Cruise 2003: Wonder of the Southern Seas.  This portfolio has been designed especially for your enjoyment on this voyage.  It provided custom paper and a pen for all of your personal note taking, and a convenient place to keep your daily Reflections newsletter close at hand.  We invite you to relax and enjoy the days and nights ahead.”  Again, this is the same gift as at this time last year, with a different color scheme.  There was also a letter from the World Cruise Hostess, Rosemary Barnhart.  She seems very pleasant and judging by this letter her information will probably be better organized than it was last year.  Click to view today's World Cruise Newsletter.


tuesday, january 21st – cruising the atlantic ocean


Making up for lost sleep during the last two weeks was easy with the gentle rolling of the ship overnight.  We didn’t venture out of the cabin until 1:00 PM when we went up to the Lido for a lunch featuring Mexican specialties.  We were fawned over in the extreme by the Deck Stewards, our Jade Garden waiter from last cruise, plus our Prego waiter from last cruise.  There were no other guests in the buffet line, but there were quite a few still sitting at tables.

There was a good selection of Mexican items and most were very good, although somewhat strange concoctions.  This has to be the first time that they have completely changed the Lido offerings.  All of the salads were relevant to the theme.  We had chicken that was very good, fried chicken nuggets with salsa that were boring, custom made tacos that were good except they were constructed backwards with the lettuce on the bottom and the meat on top, plus chicken burritos that were hand made upon ordering.  The burritos were OK, but nothing exciting.  Still, this was a vast improvement over the regular Lido and judging by the number of guests in attendance, we’d say it was a hit.

We were joined by Paul Covell who is one of the lecturers this segment.  He’s here to talk about yacht racing, but he just wanted to chat about the cruise in general.  He was very pleasant and we had an enjoyable talk with him.  All the while we were fawned over by the Deck Stewards.  This near-groveling continued as we wandered out to get some ice cream.  It is obvious that the Deck Stewards who know us tell the new ones about us. They make a point to come up and introduce themselves and to be sure they know our name and who is who.  These guys never forget a name no matter how long it is between cruises.

The ice cream man, Rodel, said he expects to see us every day and he will keep an attendance sheet to be sure.  He said it makes his day when we show up.  He must be starved for entertainment if we are his big thrill.  We both had the cookies and cream frozen yogurt, which was excellent.

Today’s weather is cloudy with occasional rain showers, but it is quite warm.  It is a bit rocky, but still nothing we would consider rough or out of the ordinary.  There is just enough movement to put us to sleep the moment we sit down.  We were back in the cabin by 3:00 PM where we stayed until dinnertime.

We did receive dinner menus on our mail clip today, but not the lunch menu.  

Tonight’s dress code is Informal. Informal attire for men no longer requires a tie, just a jacket.  Dave had to page Waldo to return his jackets from being pressed, but he arrived within minutes.  He followed us to the elevator and was impressed when we ran into Thomas, to whom he referred as “Mr. President”.  Thomas said he will be back in Sydney and that he had told Nikki he sat with us at the party.  She will also return in Sydney.  When we told Thomas that all we did was sleep all day, he said that’s what everyone has told him so far.  Must be the rocking motion that does it since every door along the corridor had a "Do Not Disturb" sign out all day.


Snow Crab Tower with Salmon and Malossol Caviar
Fresh Oven-Baked Lobster Strudel on Crayfish Sauce
Fresh Artichoke with Tomato-Herb Vinaigrette
Assorted Supreme of Fruit with Maraschino

Soup and Salad
Roman Soup with Pasta and Vegetables
Chicken Consommé with Butter Quenelles
Chilled Beet Root Soup with Sour Cream
Fresh Spinach Salad with Boiled Eggs, Sliced Mushrooms, and Crisp Bacon Bits
Heart of Crisp Lettuce Salad with Tomatoes and Potato Slices

Pasta Special
Tortiglione Calabrese with Capers, Anchovies, Olives, and Tomatoes

Salad Entrée
Grilled Chicken Breast Salad with Grilled Vegetables on Mixed Spring Greens

Main Fares
Broiled Fresh Pacific Salmon Fillet
Pink-Roasted Breast of Duck with Mint Hazelnut Pesto
Pan-Fried Veal Scaloppini Stuffed with Porcini-Mozzarella Herb Stuffing
Grilled Black Angus Filet Steak with Green Peppercorn Sauce

Vegetarian Selection
Risotto Milanese with Grilled Tofu, Mushrooms and Fresh Herbs

White Chocolate Cheesecake with Caramel Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream
Vanilla-Strawberry Mille Feuille
”Bombe au Praline” – Frozen Praline Cake
Sugar-Free Citrus Mousse
Sugar-Free Filo Cup with Diet Ice Cream and Fresh Fruit
Homemade Cookies
Assortment of Fruit in Season
Freshly Frozen, Nonfat Peach Yogurt

Food review:  Tonight’s selection of fruit in the appetizer was interesting and very good…a nice change from the basic melon it usually contains.  The soup was also very good, but the salad dressing was a bit too salty.  Both entrees were excellent.  The white chocolate cheesecake was outstanding.

The dining room was very slow tonight.  Many waiters only had one table to attend, but Jerry had a full station.  He said this cruise is a breeze because all of his guests are pleasant.  Last cruise was a nightmare because everyone was from Boca Raton and was a perfect stereotype.  They asked for special orders every night and didn’t like anything even then.  He’s glad that this cruise is the complete opposite.  We didn’t talk at length with anyone tonight, so we were out of the dining room by 9:15 PM.

Tonight’s entertainment a Variety Showtime featuring dance team Curtis and Natalie, plus the comedy and songs of Richard Ianni.  Both acts were entertaining and worth looking at, but the dance couple was outstanding.  They usually are, but once you have seen them twenty times, it becomes repetitious.  The comedian did more singing than talking, but he had a good voice and did a reasonably good job with his comedy act.

After the show we wandered through the casino to the Crystal Plaza to briefly listen to the Champagne Strings.  Percy, the bass player, ran into us yesterday and was thrilled.  He’s the one who remembered us last year from a cruise on the Rotterdam ten years ago.

 Click to view today's World Cruise Newsletter. We received Crystal Cruises 2003 calendars as a gift tonight.

Wednesday, january 22nd – st. john (cruz bay), usvi, usa – 7:00 - 8:00 am – st. thomas (charlotte amalie), usvi – 9:30 am – 6:00 pm

Denmark colonized St. Thomas in the 17th century, and the Dutch West India Company made it into a major trading center. The Danish atmosphere and commercial ways continue in little Charlotte Amalie today. Enjoy the many luxury goods and generous duty-free allowances, then wander the tropical nature trails, or take a private yacht to secluded Buck Island.


We barely noticed the stop at St. John, which was solely to drop off guests on a shore excursion.  Upon arrival at St. Thomas, the ship dropped anchor in the beautiful harbor.  The bay is protected by an outer island where there are ruins of old forts and sunken ships, some looking fairly recent.  Anytime we have been here before, we have docked, but two Holland America ships, the huge new Zuiderdam and the Zaandam, plus the enormous Golden Princess were hogging all of the dock space.  One benefit of using tenders is that they drop guests off directly in the center of town.  The ships that are docked are all the way across the harbor. 

We had a breakfast snack in the Bistro and then took the tender ashore with just four other guests and some crewmembers.  The harbor itself is beautiful and full of boats and yachts of all sizes.  Upon arrival at the dock, which is basically just a concrete seawall fronting the main street, we disembarked into the frenzy that is St. Thomas.  We were sort of hoping to find a place to buy a cheap scanner for the computer, but there was nothing but block after block of jewelry stores, t-shirt shops, trinket shops, and a few galleries and restaurants.  Traffic was ridiculous, but laws were obeyed, so it was possible to cross at a light.

Our walk took us up the waterfront street where shopkeepers would constantly call out to us that they have the best prices in the world.  On every corner was a taxi driver trying to solicit business, while the open-air taxis drove by shouting, “Going back to the ships!”  Nobody grabs at the tourists, but it is annoying to constantly avoid eye contact.

We eventually detoured through a sort of mall to a back street that was even busier than the first one.  This narrow, one-way street was wall to wall jewelry shops with the street itself bumper to bumper with taxis offering to take everyone back to their ship “right now.”  That sounded pretty good to us, but we didn’t need a taxi to get back to our tender location.  On the way, we passed a Rastafarian-type man selling photo opportunities with a donkey that was made up with giant sunglasses and lipstick.  No thanks.

Back at the tender landing, we were offered maps of Rio de Janeiro and Fortaleza by representatives of shops there.  They must follow the ship’s itinerary to intercept visitors before they even make it to that port.  We can just imagine the hard sell we would get if we accepted the free transportation to their “Jewelry Museum.”  Again, no thanks.

On the tender, we met the same guests who had gone ashore with us.  This entire excursion took all of maybe thirty minutes.  The weather is fairly nice, as a plus.  It is sunny and about 80 degrees with a strong sea breeze.  However, let’s just say that St. Thomas looks better from the ship than it does in close up.  We would guess that anyone going to a beach or snorkeling would run into thousands of other cruise ship passengers doing the same thing.  Our take on this port is to forget it next time and stay on board.

Time for a light lunch, so we went up to the Lido and chose the Asian selection, Sliced Beef with Brown Sauce, Onions and Mushrooms.  We each got a bowl of fruit as our dessert and called it good for now.  As usual, the Deck Stewards fawned over us, brought us iced tea, etc.  One plus is that no one grabs your tray away without asking first.  That was our pet peeve last year and they seem to have worked it out so it isn’t annoying anymore.  We ran into Rosario and Leo who are the headwaiter and maitre 'd for the Lido.  Rosario always wants to tell us all sorts of personal things, but we have never quite figured out why, although we don't mind listening.  Leo is pleasant in general.

We spent the rest of the afternoon lounging around in the cool of the cabin.

There was a sail away party on the Lido Deck from 5:30 PM until 6:30 PM.  We chose to watch the sailing from the comfort of our verandah.  The two Holland America ships sailed out first, plus a big Costa ship that had been anchored outside the bay.  Then it was our turn as we slowly made our way out to sea.

In addition to the Crystal Dining Room, they are offering the option of casual dining at the Trident Grill tonight.  However, tonight’s dress code is Casual anyway, so why not be served rather than sit out in the heat?  Waldo stopped to talk as we were leaving for dinner.  He was told by Ural and Jerry that we are easy to talk to, and he hasn’t wasted any time venting to us.  He told us about two old men last cruise who came with a set of instructions for their care from a daughter.  One of the rules was for the butler to call her every two days with a report, but the men wouldn’t pay for the calls.  Apparently she thought the butler would pay the $15.00 per minute phone bill himself.  Waldo told us we lost our first guest who was taken away today as an emergency.  He said it has been quite a while since anyone has died on board, but by the looks of some of the guests here now we would guess there will be a few over the next couple of months.


Warm Sautéed Sea Scallops with Truffle-Vegetable Vinaigrette
Warm Goat Cheese Salad with Toasted Pistachios and Pesto Vinaigrette
Beef Carpaccio “Harry’s Bar”
Chilled Cup of Fresh Fruit with Fresh Berries and Grand Marnier

Soup and Salad
Potato Soup with Mushrooms and Truffle Oil
Roasted Garlic Consommé with Olive Croutons
Chilled Blackberry Yogurt Soup
Selection of Garden Spring Leaf Salad with Cucumbers, Plum Tomatoes, and Deep Fried Cheese Balls
Chopped Romaine Lettuce Salad with Potatoes, Red Bell Peppers, Onions, and Radicchio

Pasta Special
Fettuccine in Light Mushrooms Cream Sauce

Salad Entrée
Steak Salad – Grilled Sirloin Steak on a Bed of Summer Greens

Main Fares
Grilled Fresh Ahi Tuna with Red Onion Sesame Crust
Macadamia Nut and Wasabi Crusted Pink-Roasted Lamb Loin
Crisp Lemon-Herb Marinated Rotisserie Chicken
Grilled Rib Eye Steak

Vegetarian Selection
Vegetable Paella

Apple-Cinnamon Tartlet with Caramel Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream
Chocolate Fudge Sheba with Raspberry Sauce
Passion Fruit Mousse with Chocolate Sauce
Sugar-Free Mocha Cream Cake
Sugar-Free Baked Pear in Puff Pastry
Homemade Cookies
Pineapple-Mint Sherbet

Food review:  Everything was very good.  The tuna was close to outstanding, but the crust was a little odd.  We wouldn’t have known that red onions were involved in it without reading the menu.  Both of us were still hungry after the courses, so we each ordered two desserts.  None of them were great, but all were edible.  The coconut macaroons among the cookie selection were the best part.

When we first sat down, Jerry came right over, as usual, then Augusto started talking to us.  All the while, Maria was standing behind them waiting to see if we had any drink orders for her.  Later she came up and said, “I didn’t dare interrupt them.  They are attracted to you like flies.”  We thought that was rather amusing.  She then proceeded to tell us a story about her mother wearing one of those t-shirts with a scantily clad woman printed on it.  She was the hit of a hotel in Egypt.

After dinner, Jerry told us how much he loves the watch we gave him last year.  He said his wife even approved of it.  Augusto came up to try to find out when we want a special dessert or whatever, but we haven’t grown tired of the regular menus yet.  We did tell him he can make a pasta dish for us whenever the Neptune Dinner menu comes around.

Tonight’s entertainment in the Galaxy Lounge is a concert by Edmondo Rahme, “A performer of diverse and eclectic skills showcases the talent that has made him famous throughout Europe.”   There is also a Cabaret Showtime at 10:45 PM featuring the, “Music and Comedy of Award-Winning Australian Cabaret Entertainer,” Collin Salter in the Starlite Club.  The first act is an opera singer, so we knew we weren’t interested in that.  Bill waited around for the 10:45 PM show, but Dave gave up and stayed in the room.  We can’t recall them ever having a show start that late, even a cabaret act.  A few guests did show up after all.  The act wasn't terrible, but it wasn't great either.  We can't imagine what possessed Crystal to hire someone like this for a World Cruise crowd.  We're sure that he is much funnier when he can say and do whatever he wants to without the "taste" constraints of a cruise ship full of 90-year-olds.

We received a note from the concierge about a shop where we can go to purchase a scanner tomorrow, but it depends how far away from the dock it is whether we will bother.  Jerry said St. Kitts is pretty much like St. Thomas or any other Caribbean island, which is about what we expected.


Thursday, January 23rd – st. Kitts (Basse-Terre), west Indies – 8:00 am – 5:00 pm

Christopher Columbus named this island "St. Christopher" when he sighted it in 1493, but English settlers later abbreviated the name "St. Kitts." The English got their way, and the Queen is still head of state here. Linger in sleepy little Basseterre to enjoy the botanical gardens and the impressive artifacts of the local library, or venture to the historic fort on nearby Brimstone Hill.

The day started off cloudy, rainy, hot and humid.  Eventually, the cloudy, rainy part went away, but not before we made it ashore.  Our first stop, as usual, was in the Bistro for breakfast snacks.  By the look of the population in the Bistro, there must not be many guests ashore.  We couldn’t remember whether or not we had been here before, but since it doesn’t look familiar, we’ll say that we haven’t.

Crystal Symphony is docked at a brand new pier that sticks out from the center of town.  There is nothing but a small Welcome Center at the end of the pier.  This leads to an unfinished shopping plaza that looks as though it has been unfinished for quite some time.  Maybe things just move more slowly here?  A couple of men offered us taxis, but this is quite a laid back place.  People seem rather friendly and not pushy at all.

We didn’t really expect to spend much time in the town, but we thought we’d stop by the major sites, such as they are, and look for the computer store the concierge pointed out for us.  The big thrill in town is The Circus where one will find the Memorial Drinking Fountain and a big clock.  Supposedly, this circle was modeled after Piccadilly Circus in London, but whoever came up with that explanation must not have actually seen the real thing.  We pulled out a map and were immediately offered help by a taxi driver/tour guide.  He pointed us toward the Immaculate Conception Cathedral built in 1700-something.  It is located off of Independence Square, a patch of green with a somewhat charming ramshackle look.  The square is surrounded by old colonial buildings that house pubs and shops geared toward the locals.

Our next destination was St. Georges Church, but the skies opened up and the rain poured, so we ducked under an overhang along with the locals and some dogs.  We waited until everyone started moving again and found that we were on the street where the computer store was located.  It started raining again about the time we found the computer store.  Well, a better name for it might be a computer closet, but we had found the right place.  When we asked for a scanner, she asked if we were from the ship because someone had called to have them save it for us.  She also offered us 10% off the already reasonable price.  So, we bought the only HP scanner in the city and gave a small donation to some sort of walkathon for schoolchildren.

With a huge box to carry, we walked straight back to the ship where we had to juggle the package while sanitizing our hands with the required disinfectant wipes.  By the way, we watched from our balcony as staff members came in and barely touched the wipes.  There is no point to this whole thing except for show.  We stopped by the desk where Billy made a claim on the scanner when we are finished with it.  He offered to buy it from us, so we will probably take him up on it.

Next stop was lunch in the nearly empty Dining Room where we were immediately seated at Jerry’s station, as usual.  We both had the Pork Quesadillas, which were very good.

After a brief stop at the room, we went up to get our usual port photos now that the weather has cleared and the sun is shining.  There is a Windstar ship off in the distance to the right of the ship.  The island is tidy with farmlands of some sort immediately behind the city.  The hills are fairly dry, but in the few areas where they become mountains and trap the clouds, the vegetation is more lush.  The center of town is basically just six blocks deep and consists of the older buildings and a couple of aforementioned churches.  There are some large houses on the hillsides behind the town and on a point to the left of the ship.  We can’t see any beaches from the ship, but there is one called the “Monkey Beach” where monkeys come and grab at visitors.  Doesn’t sound very appealing to us.

A maintenance man pointed out a huge manta ray swimming near the shore, so we stood on the top deck watching it for awhile.  By now, Bill needed a smoothie from the Trident Bar since he had skipped dessert at lunch.  It’s very hot out on deck with the sun out, so he just collected his drink and we went back to the room to watch videos and catch up on computer stuff.

At 5:00 PM, the Captain made his usual departure announcement, then said there would be a delay because the guys who cast off the lines couldn’t find the key to their truck.  They were hoping a neighbor would let them use his truck.  About fifteen minutes later, they arrived, looking to be in no particular hurry, but they didn’t have a boat to reach the pylon where the aft of the ship was tied up.  So, we had to wait until the pilot boat could ferry someone over to the rope to let it go. They meant well, that’s the important thing.  After all that, we departed about twenty minutes behind schedule.  We have 1,900 miles to cover to our next port, so the ship has to keep up a speed of 18 knots to make it on time.

Tonight’s dress code is Casual/50’s and features a 50’s menu, as usual.  The crew wears various 50’s-style uniforms such as soda jerks or whatnot.  Guests are invited to participate, but almost no one ever does.


Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail with Creole Rémoulade Sauce
Polenta con Funghi – Sautéed Forest Mushrooms with Creamy Polenta
Barbecued Quail on Kernel Corn Tomato Salad
Iced Apple, Grape, and Pear Cup with Yogurt Calvados Topping

Soups and Salads
Midwest Baby Corn Bisque
Chicken Broth with Matzo Balls
Chilled Banana Coconut Soup
Medley of Selected Crunchy Field Greens Salad with Celery Chips and Shredded Carrots
Tossed Iceberg Lettuce Salad with Lorenzo Dressing

Pasta Special
Tagliatelle Pasta alla Émilion

Salad Entrée
Grilled Herb Marinated Salmon Fillet on Marinated Cucumbers, Fennel, Celery, and Boston Lettuce

Main Fares
Roasted American Prime Rib of Black Angus Beef
Fresh Lemon Sole Fillets
Medallions of Canadian Venison

The Blue Plate Special
Traditional American Meatloaf

Vegetarian Selection
Twice Baked Potatoes with Three Cheeses, Served on Vegetable Spaghetti

Sweet Finale
Creole Sour Cream Cheesecake with Caramel Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream
Bittersweet Chocolate Chunk Pecan Pie a la Mode
Chocolate Fudge Brownie Sundae
Sugar-Free Jell-O with Fresh Fruits
Sugar-Free Lemon Yogurt Timbale
Homemade Cookies
Assortment of Fruit in Season
Nonfat Cappuccino Yogurt

Food review:  The shrimp in the appetizer were huge and very good.  As usual, the Corn Bisque is to die for.  We’re not sure where the coconut was in the chilled soup because it tasted only of bananas.  The prime rib was satisfactory, nothing more.  The meatloaf was very good and well worth eating.  Both desserts were very good, but we have no idea what made the cheesecake “Créole”.

Nothing exciting happened in the dining room tonight, so no gossip to report.  Jerry acknowledged that we were right about St. Kitts, there was nothing to see.  At least he can check another country off of his list.

Tonight’s entertainment is the production show "Rock Around the Clock."  There was also an edition of "‘50’s Name That Tune" before dinner and a Sock Hop after the show in the Starlite Club.  This was the first production show with the current cast that we have seen and they were excellent.  This show is very tired and has been around at least as long as Crystal Symphony, probably longer.  But, the cast did an admirable job of injecting some life into it.  Both the male and female leads are very good, which really helps the productions.  We didn’t attend either of the additional entertainment offerings.

Click to view today's World Cruise Newsletter.  We move ahead another hour on the clock tonight.

friday, january 24th – cruising the atlantic ocean


Although we were awakened at 10:00 AM by several announcements and alarms for a crew fire drill, we didn’t venture out of the room until 12:30 PM.  The weather today is beautiful, sunny, and warm.  We received an invitation to a Norwegian Waffle Feast tomorrow morning for World Cruise guests, plus an RSVP form and invitation for the first World Cruise Event in Montevideo, Uruguay.  This event lasts six hours and begins at 9:00 AM, so we will have to speak to someone at shore excursions about it before making our decision.

Our first stop was the Asia Café luncheon buffet at the Neptune Pool.  Ordinarily, this is the best of the lavish afternoon buffets.  While there was a very nice variety offered, much of it was boring or not very good.  However, there were enough selections that were very good to make it worthwhile.  It was windy, but pleasant enough to sit out by the pool while the band entertained.  We stayed outside until just before 2:00 PM when it was time to go to the salon for haircuts.

Our haircuts took all of twenty minutes in a nearly empty salon.  The stylists are always very pleasant and do a good job.  We don't know what the prices for women are, but the men's cut is less expensive than we pay at home.

Next stop was to Shore Excursions where we spoke with Ross about the World Cruise Event.  He thinks it will be worth our while to go, so we probably will.  The people at Shore Excursions are usually very honest and will tell you right off if something isn’t very good.  We asked about our next port, Fortaleza, Brazil.  Ross said not to even leave the ship, the tours aren’t worth the effort, and it is so dangerous they are warning guests not to even take their cameras on shore.  He said that under no circumstances should we walk around on our own.  He told us that Rio de Janeiro and to a lesser extent, Buenos Aires, carry the same warnings.  Basically, either go on a tour, or don’t go.  He did say that Buenos Aires is a bit safer and it might be OK to walk around the city center without a tour.  But, no way should we do that in Rio.  Since both cities offer tours in the afternoon, we will probably just settle for a short city tour and call it good.

We had some time to kill before Lara’s desk hours, so we went up to browse the shops.  Rosemary, the World Cruise Hostess, came over to apologize for running out of t-shirts in the size we need.  We told her not to worry about it, but she told us they would be delivered later in the cruise.  She’s sending the pins up to our room.  Rudolf, who was working in the spa last year, now works in the shops, so we stopped to catch up with him.  He said he much prefers working for Crystal than for Steiner, who runs the salons on most cruise ships.  He’s a very pleasant person with a great personality, so being out in public suits him better.

A few shoppers arrived, so we wandered down to speak to Lara about our missing Crystal Society credits.  As you may recall, we had the same issue last year.  So far, we haven’t received any credits to our account, so we wanted to see what was up with that.  Lara was appalled that we hadn’t received our 25th Milestone credits of $3,800 each.  $7,600 is a lot for them to overlook and since it has happened twice we do wonder if it is entirely unintentional.  We also asked for credit for the cocktail party amenity we receive with the milestone.  That will get us another $200 on our account.

Lara confirmed that we cannot use any Crystal Society credits on the Inaugural for Crystal Serenity, including the free first class airfare upgrade for our 30th Milestone.  That has solidified our decision to cancel that voyage.  The cost is already outrageous and we have done the same itinerary three times, so why bother just to see the new ship?

Back in the cabin we watched the tour information channel regarding Fortaleza and Rio de Janeiro.  The Fortaleza information very firmly says not to venture out on your own, wear no jewelry, watches or fancy clothing, and leave your camera on the ship.  His exact words regarding the latter were, “Take pictures with your mind, not with your camera.”  We’ll probably take Ross’ advice and stay on board.  The Rio warnings were about the same except he said it is probably OK to take a camera on an organized tour.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in the cabin.  Waldo chatted with us for a while in the hallway as we left for dinner.  He was confused because our Do Not Disturb sign wasn’t out today and he didn’t know if he should bring snacks or not.  We told him that if the sign isn’t out, he can knock.  He told us about a woman on this cruise who hasn’t yet left the cabin and just sits in the room drinking and smoking all day.  What a waste of money.  Why not just stay home and do that?

Tonight’s dress code is Informal.


Crab Cake on Marinated Tomato Salad with Basil Oil
Salad of Roasted Duck Breast with Artichokes and Green Beans
Grilled Portabella Mushroom, Marinated in Olive-Herb Vinaigrette with Spring Greens
Fresh Tropical Fruit with Kiwi Wedges and Aged Sherry

Soups and Salads
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Sunflower Seeds
Beef Broth with Vermicelli Pasta
Chilled Green Pea Soup with Mint
Garden Mixed Greens with Crisp Eggplant Chips
Pear, Endive, and Blue Cheese Salad with Pear Dressing

Pasta Special
Linguine with Lemon Oil, Fresh Lobster, Garlic, Plum Tomatoes, and Basil

Salad Entrée
Smoked Salmon Cucumber Salad with Creamy Dill Dressing

Main Fares
California Grilled Lamb Chops
Grilled Fresh Swordfish Steak with California Vinaigrette
Fricassee di Pollo alla Cacciatore
 Maple Glazed, Slow-Roasted Rack of Pork

Vegetarian Selection
Crispy Polenta on Root Vegetables with Grilled Mushrooms

Sweet Finale
California Citrus Soufflé Cake with Vanilla Sauce and Pistachio Ice Cream
Old Fashioned Pumpkin Pie a la Mode
Hazelnut Ice Parfait with Sour Cherries
Sugar-Free Mango Chocolate Tart
Sugar-Free Rhubarb Mousse with Fresh Strawberries
Homemade Cookies
Assortment of Fruit in Season
Refreshing Grapefruit-Campari Sherbet

Food review:  The soup was good, but would have been better without the addition of the sunflower seeds.  The salad was boring, but satisfactory.  We were very disappointed with the swordfish.  It tasted like nothing and was tough.  It was a huge cut of fish, but was prepared poorly.  The dessert was very good.

The dining room was very busy tonight.  Maria was thrilled because we ordered drinks from her after all the guys stopped hovering around us.  We didn’t see much of Jerry and Andrejus except for the general service.  Josef, the maitre ‘d, stopped by to chat.  He also wonders where Crystal is going to get new customers since it appears they aren’t exactly forthcoming.  Crystal has an outstanding return rate, but there aren’t many newcomers going on cruises these days.

We hadn’t planned on attending the flute concert, which is a good thing because we stood talking to Augusto until 10:00 PM about just general life issues.  The headwaiters are working 4 ½ months on and then 4 ½ months vacation, so he’s spending more time at home than he ever has.  They used to get just two months off.

Tonight’s entertainment is a concert by “Internationally Renowned Soloist” Bettine in “Flutasia”.  This is a flute concert, in case you didn’t figure that out yourself.  There is also another Cabaret Showtime with Collin Salter at 10:30 PM in the Starlite Club.  We went to the cabaret show and were the only guests in the room until five minutes before the show started.  The eventual turn out was pretty good considering the time.  Collin’s act is OK, but he isn’t very polished and makes lots of mistakes that seem to throw him off.  His act borders on risqué, but it’s nothing unreasonable.  It wasn’t a total loss watching his show, but it wasn’t exciting either.

Click to view today's World Cruise Newsletter.  We received another World Cruise gift.  It is the World Cruise Club Patch we also received last year.  It has dawned on us based on the wording in the letter we received that anyone who has ever been on a World Cruise is invited to the parties.  They aren’t exclusive to those currently on the whole cruise.  We’re not sure this is a great idea, but it might be difficult for them to delicately exclude people who have been on a World Cruise in previous years.

saturday, january 25th – cruising the atlantic ocean


We forgot to mention yesterday that one of the guests we know fairly well stopped by our table to ask if we were going to the show.  We said we couldn’t imagine sitting through an hour of flute music to which she replied, “Yes, but it couldn’t be as bad as listening to that harpist in Palm Court!”  This is the same harpist we reviewed last year as the worst we have ever heard, so at least we know we aren’t the only ones who feel that way.  We were shocked when we saw her on the entertainment list again this year.  We’re not kidding when we say that only one or two people ever went to listen to her after the first day.

Now that we have the scanner working, we will be able to provide a copy of the Daily Activities for everyone to read for themselves.  Don’t expect much, it doesn’t change very radically from day to day.  Daytime Activities, Nighttime Entertainment.

Our message light was flashing with information from Lara regarding our 25th Milestone credit.  She gave us the same excuse we heard last year about Crystal’s computer being “full” so the credits were posted, but didn’t transfer to the ship.  She said it happens all the time, but not usually until later in the World Cruise.  If this is such a common problem, why haven’t they fixed it?  So, we received the airfare credit of $3,800 per person, plus another $203 per person for fourteen days of prepaid gratuities.  It hadn’t occurred to us that we should get that credit, so we didn’t think to ask for it last year.  World Cruise guests get prepaid gratuities anyway, so the additional Milestone bonus isn’t necessary.  Live and learn.  We don’t think it is very good customer service to require guests to scrutinize and be familiar with every nuance of the rewards program in order to get what is due to them.

We slept in until noonish and went directly downstairs for lunch.  There were forms to turn in for arrival in Brazil, so we stopped to chat with Billy at the Front Desk for a few minutes.  He wasn’t aware of the Crystal disease everyone gets.  We were talking about the cold we had upon arrival and he said many guests have colds, but nobody has the Norwalk virus.  Then he went on to describe an illness he got once the week after he returned from vacation.  It was the Crystal disease we have always contracted at one point or another during a cruise, with the exception of last year.  He was astonished that all of the guests talk about it because he had never heard of it. He wasn’t giving us a line, he was being honest.

Upon arrival at the Dining Room we were ushered to Jerry’s station where he was waving at us.  We ordered the cold banana soup, which was boring, Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, which was very good, and the Chicken Tostada, which looked nothing like a tostada.  It was very tasty, it just didn’t have anything to do with a tostada except it came in a tortilla bowl.  Basically, it was chunks of chicken cooked with large pieces of tomato and some chilies.  Augusto laughed when he saw it.  We ordered banana splits for dessert.  They were also very good, but not quite what an American would consider an accurate rendition.

Jerry talked about going to the Serenity and how Crystal is claiming the ship is sold out for the next two years.  Everyone knows that isn’t even remotely true, especially with all of the discounts being offered next year.  He said Crystal is very reluctant to get rid of the Harmony because it was their first ship, but everyone knows there is no way they can fill three ships.

After lunch we wandered around the shops, ordered our photo with the Captain that was taken a few nights ago, and went back up to the room where we stayed for the rest of the day.  The weather is quite pleasant, partly cloudy with a strong breeze.  The temperature is around 76, so it’s not too hot to leave the verandah door open and enjoy the fresh air and sounds of the sea without leaving the cabin.

Tonight’s dress code is Formal.


Caviar Napoleon – Layers of Chopped Eggs, Onion, and Red Sevruga Caviar
Rock Shrimp Cannelloni on Chunky Tomato Sauce
Fresh Green Asparagus with Olive Herb Vinaigrette
Exotic Fruit Cup with Grand Marnier

Soups and Salads
Lobster Bisque with Puff Pastry Fleuron
Chicken Consommé with Vegetable Diamonds and Truffles
Chilled Red Pepper Soup with Tortilla Chips
Heart of Boston Lettuce with Chopped Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Onions and Mushrooms
Commander’s Salad – Romaine Lettuce with Croutons, Hard Boiled Egg, Crisp Bacon, and Parmesan Cheese

Pasta Special
Angel Hair Pasta with Calamari, Tomato Sauce, and Parsley

Salad Entrée
Tempura-Fried, Rare-Cooked Ahi Tuna Salad on a Bed of Crisp Greens

Main Fares
Roasted Heart of Beef Tenderloin
Broiled Fresh Halibut Fillet
Seared Sea Scallops and Prawns
Grilled Veal Medallions

Honey Glazed Pecan Pie a la Mode
Milk Chocolate Cheesecake with Chocolate Glaze
Passion Fruit Cassis Ice Parfait on Exotic Fruit Ratatouille
Sugar-Free Vanilla Cinnamon Mousse Cake
Sugar-Free Rhubarb Compote with Diet Ice Cream
Petit Fours
Assortment of Fruit in Season
Nonfat Frozen Vanilla Yogurt

Food review:  The fruit has been outstanding so far this cruise and tonight was no exception.  The salad, usually our favorite, was lacking in flavor and not up to par.  The halibut was very good, but also not quite as good as it has been in the past.  The chocolate cheesecake was outstanding, but sweet enough to give us a stroke.

The dining room seemed quite busy again, but the service was fine, as usual.  The Champagne Strings tried to serenade us, but we told them they didn’t have to ask us anymore.  There are six of them and it’s quite an effort for them to squeeze between the tables to play at every one of them. 

We were finished by 8:30 PM, so we went to the Crystal Cove to listen to Tom Daniels play the Crystal Piano.  We know Tom from many cruises ago, but we weren’t able to pinpoint the exact one.  We haven’t seen him in years, but he remembered us.  After he finished his set, he sat with us and chatted for over two hours.  We caught up on all the ship gossip, including verifying the problem with last year’s cruise director.  Apparently, he was bitter because he was forced to retire after last year’s World Cruise, so he took up drinking during that cruise.  Like that was news to us?  It also appears that the new ship is only booked well for the first four cruises.  After that it is looking fairly dismal, as we had suspected from the multitude of discount offers available already.  He also told us that they are concerned because the Harmony is having mechanical problems due to age and poor quality construction (the Symphony was built at a different shipyard and is acknowledged to be of better quality).

Eventually, even the Champagne Strings finished their set and Pat, the leader, came over to be formally introduced to us by Tom.  He was on last year’s cruise also.  He sat with us as we continued discussing various and sundry subjects about the crew, none of which would mean anything to anyone besides us.  Tom asked us to come by sometime after his afternoon set so we can all go to lunch together.  He’s very pleasant and we’re sure we will do that.  He seems to know all of the best gossip and has no problem blabbing it to us in great detail, so he’s our new best friend.  Tom confirmed that staying on board in Fortaleza is the best option.

Tonight’s entertainment is a concert by pianist Naki Alaman.  We learned a long time ago not to bother with these concerts, so we can’t judge this one.  There is late night Karaoke in the Palm Court at 11:00 PM, which isn’t of interest to us either.  As mentioned, we stayed talking to Tom until long after all of the other entertainment was over.  In fact, we sat in the lobby for so long that the lights came up for cleaning time.  Don’t get too excited, we’re talking midnight here.

Click to view today's World Cruise Newsletter.

sunday, january 26th – cruising the atlantic ocean


Oh boy, it’s time for Crystal’s Sunday Brunch, the only event that’s worth getting up early for.  Actually, there’s no need to get up too early because it lasts until 1:30 PM, but we wanted to beat the rush.  We arrived at the Dining Room just as it opened and there were only a few guests there.  The selection was limited in comparison to last year, no waffles for example, but they had a reasonable choice of brunch items such as Eggs Benedict and some sort of Austrian dish that looked like smashed pancakes that was very good.  We collected some food and sat at our regular table.  Champagne and Mimosas were offered free of charge.

Laszlo, the wine waiter who is last year’s stewardess’ husband, stopped us to tell us she is doing well, but back in the hospital for thyroid problems.  It isn’t serious, they are just trying to balance her medication, but she isn’t allowed to return to the ship until it is worked out.

We went back for more of the crumbled pancake dish and fruit, but were pretty much full after the first go around.  The Dining Room never did fill up even with the center section occupied by the food tables.  Poor Tom Daniels was looking horrified by the old lady groupies who had asked him to accompany them.  He was a good sport, as usual.

After brunch we wandered out to talk to Marco at Shore Excursions about booking the afternoon tours in Rio and Buenos Aires.  He said the Rio afternoon tour had enough people that it would hold, but he wasn’t sure yet about Buenos Aires.  We booked both of them.  Marco also loves Amazing Race, so we talked to him about that for quite a while.  Somehow, Ross got the impression we were actually going to try out for it, but we set Marco straight on that.  He loves it as much as we do and mostly for the same reasons.  We all have done most of the stunts they portray as harrowing, but are really tourist attractions in the various countries.  Marco reiterated the fact that staying on board is the best bet in Fortaleza.  He also said they are worried about Rio de Janeiro because it has become so dangerous that people are robbed of their shoes if a criminal takes a liking to them.  He warned us not to go anywhere without a big group of people with us, but we had already decided to book the tour and call it even.

As we walked through the shops, we were approached by the jewelry lecturer who forced us to fill out a form for a chance to win a sapphire ring.  We told her the last thing we need is more jewelry, but she insisted.  She was very nice and introduced us to her assistant, Jason, who has been staring at us since the cruise began.  Now that we were in close proximity, he acted like a deer caught in headlights.  They were preparing for the fashion show where passengers model the jewelry and clothing from the shops in exchange for a 15% discount.

Today’s weather is cloudy, hot and extremely humid.  There is so much moisture in the air that it beads up and runs down the outside of the windows.  We opened the door for just a second and learned quickly that it is like a steam bath outside.  We spent the afternoon watching movies in the cabin.

Here are the Daytime Activities and Nighttime Entertainment lists.

Tonight’s dress code is Informal.  We heard all about Waldo’s dog, among other things, on the way out of the room for dinner. We started off with fifteen minutes to spare and ended up arriving at 7:15 PM.


Tempura Fried Soft Shell Crab
Lemon Flavored Smoked Salmon
French Goat Cheese Stuffed Eggplant Roll
Fresh Strawberry, Kiwi, and Banana Cup with Lemon Yogurt Topping

Soups and Salads
Beef Consommé with Liver Quenelles
Roasted Vegetable Soup with Basil Oil
Chilled Mango Soup with Low Fat Yogurt
Tossed Iceberg Lettuce Salad with White Beans, Celery, Tomatoes and Bell Peppers
Boston Lettuce Salad with Artichoke Hearts, Chopped Egg, and Russian Dressing

Pasta Special
Fettuccine with Prosciutto, Asparagus, and Cream Sauce

Salad Entrée
Tortilla Turkey Salad

Main Fares
Old Fashioned Virginia Baked Ham with a Sugar-Honey Glaze
Grilled Fresh Red Snapper Fillet
Roasted Chicken Breast Stuffed with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Spinach and Ricotta Cheese
Grilled Sirloin Steak

Vegetarian Selection
Spinach Cheese Cannelloni

Chocolate “Ooze” Cake with Vanilla Bean Cream and Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
Almond Cream Puffs with Mocha Sauce
Vanilla Ice Parfait with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote
Sugar-Free Apple Custard Pie
Sugar-Free Peach Crumble Tartlet
Homemade Cookies
Assortment of Fruit in Season
Refreshing Banana Colada Sherbet

Food review:  We weren’t very enthusiastic about this menu to begin with, but everything was satisfactory. The soup was outstanding.  Salad was boring. Even the ham was very good, except we could have lived without the gravy that was served over it.  Even Jerry thought that was an odd addition to ham.  The other entrée ordered was the always available Filet Steak, which was outstanding.  Dessert was good, but extremely sweet.  Maria ridiculed us for ordering things we know we don't like, but we assured her it was for a good cause. 

Augusto wanted us to order soufflés for tomorrow, but we needed to see a menu first.  We wouldn’t want to miss anything good, you know.  He did find tomorrow’s menu, so we determined a soufflé would be better than anything else on the dessert menu.

The Dining Room was nearly empty because of the Super Bowl Party.  Those guests who did show up left very early so they could catch the start of the game.  We were finished by 8:30 PM, but we didn’t actually leave entirely until 9:30 PM because of a lingering chat with Augusto and Albert at the podium.  We went directly to the room at that point since all of the entertainment took place before dinner.

Tonight’s entertainment is a Variety Showtime features Richard Ianni, Edmondo Rahme, and Bettine Clemen. There was also a Super Bowl Party at 8:00 PM complete with hamburgers, hot dogs, and popcorn.  We didn’t attend any of these events.

We received World Cruise Club pins, the same as last year.  Click to view today's World Cruise Newsletter.

So you don't have to go back a few days, here is our photo with the Captain from the Welcome Party.

monday, january 27th – crossing the equator


We were up a little earlier than usual, which is a good thing because the Captain made an announcement in the cabins at around 10:30 AM to tell us we would be crossing the equator at 11:00 AM.  They had a King Neptune party at the pool and blew the whistle when we crossed.  However, we know that the real crossing was very early this morning and all of the hoopla was just for show.  The sick part is that we overheard someone in the hallway saying that someone told him there would be a clicking sound when we crossed it, but he didn’t hear anything.  The announcement told everyone to have their cameras ready to view the equator and we’re betting some people did.  We didn’t get out in time to participate in the festivities, but if it was anything like last year, it was probably interesting to say the least.

Our mail clip held an invitation to the Crystal Society Party on the 19th, along with landing cards to fill out for arrival in Argentina.  Today's Daily Activities.

It is hot and very humid again today, plus extremely windy.  The windows are still wet and covered with salt spray.  We didn’t venture out until noon and went directly downstairs to check out the Dining Room lunch menu.  Nothing there appealed to us, so we went up to the Lido instead.  We had the Asian selection of stir-fried chicken with bok choy over rice, which was very good.  We also tried the stuffed chicken breast, vegetable pizza, and beef with mushrooms, with the pizza being the only worthwhile item.   Tom Daniels was wandering around looking for Pauline without much success.  He asked if we could have lunch together on one of the upcoming sea days, which is fine with us.  We think he’s getting tired of lunching with old ladies.

After lunch we moved out to the Seahorse Pool area to listen to the band.  We stayed there for a couple of hours after they finished at 1:30 PM. There were no more than six other guests out there at any given moment.  The weather is nearly perfect except for the wind.  We were entertained watching people try to deal with the flying lounge cushions and the pool maintenance routine.  Hey, it’s better than some of the lectures!  When a storm started brewing at around 3:00 PM, we moved to the partially covered Neptune Pool with a stop by the ice cream bar for frozen yogurt.

By 4:00 PM, we were back at the cabin and doing some laundry while watching old movies on TV.  Certificates commemorating the equator crossing arrived at some point during this time.

Tonight’s dress code is Informal.  Waldo whined about having nothing to do today.  He said the only thing he did all day was serve one tray of canapés at cocktail time.  He’ll probably be complaining next cruise because the ship is so full.


Crisp Fried Shrimp Roll with Hot Mustard Plum Sauce
Chilled Crabmeat Cocktail with Brandy Sauce and Malossol Caviar
Homemade Vegetable Terrine with Tarragon Vinaigrette
Chilled Fruit Cup with Banana Liqueur

Soup and Salad
Kansas City Beef Soup
Chicken Broth with Mint, Coriander, and Lemongrass
Tropical Fruit Soup with Pineapple
Crisp Garden Greens tossed with Bella Vista Dressing and Mango Chunks
Marinated Tomato Salad with Chopped Onions and Chives

Pasta Special
Smoked Chicken Ravioli

Salad Entrée
Lamb Salad with Assorted Baby Greens, Feta Cheese and Sunflower Seeds

Main Fares
Old Fashioned Grilled Black Angus T-Bone Steak
Broiled Pacific Salmon Fillet
Whole Roasted Tom Turkey
Osso Bucco Cremolata

Vegetarian Selection
Golden Fried Mozzarella Cheese on Sautéed Spinach

Pumpkin Layered Cheesecake with Fudge Sauce
Chocolate Tres Leches
Banana Walnut Mousse with Fresh Fruit and Crisp Filo
Sugar-Free Pineapple Pudding
Sugar-Free Strawberry Passion Fruit Tart
Homemade Cookies
Assortment of Fruit in Season
Refreshing Vodka Lime Sherbet

Food review:  Everything was satisfactory, but nothing was outstanding except the Chocolate Soufflés we had special ordered for dessert.  Jerry warned us not to order the T-Bone Steak because it was tough, which was confirmed when we saw several of them go back to the kitchen.

The Evening Entertainment offerings were rather slim tonight with the main show being a concert by Pianist Robin Zebaida.  Recall that last year the major complaint regarding the entertainment was that there were too many pianists.  Well, here we go again.  We ran into Mel and Barbara in the lobby, so we stopped to chat with them.  Mel always loves everything, so he thinks we are the biggest complainers in the world.  However, he was annoyed with Barbara tonight because she was complaining about the woman who has been set up in the lobby with an ashtray and table so she can smoke while she eats.  The lobby is non-smoking, as is the Dining Room, so many people have been complaining about it.  Why can’t they just put her in the smoking section of the bar?  Barbara was also annoyed with Maria because she admonished her for not telling her they weren’t coming to the Dining Room last night and she had to pour their wine back into the bottle.  We have to agree that it wasn’t appropriate for her to say anything to a guest about something like that whether she liked it or not.  However, that is only if that is really how it went down.

Mel was unaware that the Uruguay World Cruise Lunch lasts six hours, so now he’s not so sure they want to go.  We told them that both Ross and Marco told us it would be worthwhile, but he intends to ask for himself.  Just FYI, it says on every piece of information we have received about this, including a letter we got at home, that this lunch is out in the country and takes all day.  How any of this can be a total surprise is unfathomable, but does prove our point that nobody reads any of the information they receive before or during their cruise.

Since there was no entertainment worth our while, we went directly up to the room.


tuesday, january 28th – fortaleza, brazil – 8:00 am – 5:00 pm

The Ceará coastline features some of the world's most gorgeous beaches. Life is simple and in the quintessential tropical paradise, people can live simply off the land and sea. Quaint thatched-roof homes line the shores in sharp contrast to the enormous bustling cities that characterize other parts of the country and speak of a quiet life in the midst of a hurry-up world.

But just as anomalous is the dry sertao of the state's interior. The sertao, or drought-ridden plains of Northeastern Brazil, speak of a different, rougher life that was perhaps most famously depicted in the 1999 Academy Award-winning Brazilian film Central Station. The economy is not exactly booming in Ceará. Much of the land is harsh, and although the people are hearty, the austere landscape can be overwhelming. Just 20 years ago, a severe drought hit the interior and some people were forced to survive by eating rodents. There was a mass migration to Fortaleza during that disaster, but the event was only one of a series that has been repeated several times throughout the city's 400-year history. The state is one of the country's least commercially developed, in large part because until relatively recently, it was pretty much isolated from the rest of the nation. Good roads have appeared only in the last thirty years, and even now, the drive to Belém, the nearest city, takes a full 12 hours! The main road traverses harsh terrain. The best time to travel is during the cool night.

The first permanent settlement was established in 1603, but life was not exactly easy for colonists. The first bishop was the main course following attack by the indigenous people who were only trying to protect what was theirs. The various colonial powers fought for control in the decades that followed, but the Portuguese finally won out. In the 1800s, the city was the focus of attack by mother Portugal when the local independence movement grew to the boiling point. The scene was a bloody one. First the leaders of the resistance were murdered and then the Portuguese soldiers were slaughtered. The streets were bloody red.

Fortaleza is now the state capital and nearly two million people live here. The urban area is constantly growing and the old city has all but disappeared in favor of modern high rise hotels and condominiums. Fortaleza means "fortress," but even the 17th-century Portuguese stronghold for which the city was named no longer stands. In fact, the only remaining element of the city's past is its physical layout. French architect Adolphe Herbster established the plan on a grid system in the 19th century. His scheme was the winning bid in response to the city council's plan to re-establish Fortaleza as "the Paris of northern Brazil." Apparently the ambitious vision did not reach the grandeur that was targeted, but Herbster nevertheless did a fine job of laying out the urban center. It is pretty easy to find your way around, and life is rather good here. The main section of town is concentrated within a few city blocks making it quite easy to explore on foot.


Rain was predicted for today, but it never materialized.  No matter, we stayed on board all day after hearing there was nothing worth the effort here.  It is only 80 degrees, but feels much warmer because of the humidity.  Our first stop was the Front Desk to turn in our landing cards for Argentina, then a check of the menu for lunch in the Dining Room.

Click to see Daytime Activities.

There were almost no guests on board, so the Dining Room staff was hanging around the lobby looking for customers.  At least it gave us a chance to corner Maria for a photo to add to the journal for everyone.  We didn’t find anything exciting on the menu, so we went up to the Lido instead, which wasn’t much better.  However, we did have some nice carved BBQ chicken and pork loin, plus some fruit for dessert.

As it was yesterday, the Seahorse Pool was completely vacant.  You certainly don’t have to worry about reserving a lounge chair on this ship.  This is how it has been since the cruise began, even though the weather has been perfect for poolside activities.  We wandered up to the Sun Deck to take our usual port photos.

The port area itself is neat and efficient.  Just beyond the gates is a small beach area with tile-roofed low-rise buildings.  Every wall we can see is covered with graffiti, but otherwise it looks fine.  We overheard several guests who had gone on tour saying that one side of the street would be grand high-rise apartments and on the other was squalor.  No wonder there are problems with crime here.

The city itself is wall to wall high-rises that front a crescent shaped beach.  The beach is the draw for vacationers from all over Brazil and other parts of South America.  It looks rather picturesque from a distance.  Basically, it looks like a smaller version of Rio de Janeiro without the surrounding mountains.  Still, we were glad we decided to stay on board.  Most people said they found some bargains while shopping, but what they bought would have been of no interest to us anyway.

On the way back to our room, we stopped to check out the children’s play room and found a fire sprinkler leaking onto the floor.  Since there are no children on board, this probably would have gone unnoticed for quite some time, but Bill pointed it out to a crew member who called it in.  We ran into, literally, Lucie Arnaz in the hallway.  She is the celebrity entertainment for the next part of the cruise.

Our afternoon was spent in our cabin, on the verandah overlooking the activity of the port and the small market set up below.  After it became too noisy and hot we moved inside until the sail away at 5:00 PM.  Waldo brought us some pretzels and peanuts, so we had something to munch on while we waited for the sailing.

An observation we have made is that there doesn’t seem to be as much security visible as in the ports last year.  Basically, it looks pretty much business as usual.  However, the security man at the gangway does compare names on the ship ID with the bearer’s photo ID.  There were some locals on board today, which is said to be strictly against policy.  We were told it is easier to let a few of the higher officials on board than to deal with the consequences of offending them. 

We had our first “Are you brothers?” event, so the count officially stands at one.  It should be counted as two because the woman insisted we must be brothers even after being informed that we aren’t.  Most of the World Cruisers know us from last year, so we don’t really expect this to come up much until the next segment when there are new guests on board.  

Tonight’s dress code is Informal even though it was a port day.  They must being trying to punish us because originally this was scheduled as a Casual night.


Sautéed Bay Scallops
Tossed Garden Greens with Artichokes, Parma Ham and Pumpkin Gnocchi
Halibut and Salmon Carpaccio
Iced Fruit Cup with Passion Fruit, Plums, and Grand Marnier

Soups and Salads
Traditional Tomato Soup with Italian Bread
Chicken Broth with Spinach Célestine
Watermelon Gazpacho with Tropical Fruit Salsa
Traditional Caesar Salad
Mesclun of Lettuce Salad with Gorgonzola Croutons and Green Goddess Dressing

Pasta Special
Ziti Tagliati con Salsiccia e Ricotta

Salad Entrée
Roasted Pork Medallion Salad

Main Fares
Piccata Milanese
Pan-Seared Herb-Marinated Black Sea Bass Fillet
Whole Roasted Game Hen
Grilled Beef Tenderloin Steak

Vegetarian Selection
Stir-Fried Vegetables with Grilled Tofu and Crisp Egg Noodles

Pina Colada Cake
Chocolate Macadamia Nut Brownie with Rum Raisin Ice Cream
White Chocolate Mousse with Chocolate Sauce and Fruit Salsa
Sugar-Free Strawberry Mille Feuille
Sugar-Free Apple Cake
Homemade Cookies
Assortment of Fruit in Season

Food review:  This meal overall was disappointing.  The only item worth mentioning was the Watermelon Gazpacho that was greatly improved over last year’s version.  The steak was so raw it was practically mooing.  The other entrée was the always available chicken, which was satisfactory, but a microscopic portion.  We both had ice cream for dessert.

The first thing Jerry did was to tell us he’s through with Brazil and won’t ever get off the ship again.  At first we thought maybe something had happened to him, but as it turned out he was just disappointed because he had always heard how exciting Brazil is.  We told him not to judge by this port, but he was extremely upset by how awful it was.  In fact, his exact words were, “It’s a cross between Bombay and Vietnam.”  When we said it looked nice from a distance, he told us that the high-rises that look so nice from the port are crumbling in person and it looks like the 20th century had passed this city by.  He was adamant about how terrible it was.  Maria said that we didn’t miss anything by staying on board, there was nothing to buy in the shops, etc.  However, she did say that the people were extremely pleasant even though they didn’t have anything to sell except local fruit.  Jerry said that he went to one of the elaborate shopping centers, but inside it was just row after row of tables set up selling all the same things like at a flea market.

The Evening Entertainment is primarily the Celebrity Special with Jonathan Winters. He has been on board since the cruise began.  This type of show is basically a talk show hosted by the Cruise Director.  We stopped by the room to freshen up before going to the show and ran into Waldo in the hallway.  He carried on about how pathetic Jonathan Winters is and was starting to complain even more just as the Cruise Director came down the hall.  Waldo quickly changed the subject, but the Cruise Director brought it up again and said he had no idea what would happen or whether Jonathan even remembers he’s doing a show tonight.  He was on his way to his cabin to get him to be sure he showed up.  Then he told us about trying to interview Debbie Reynolds and how out of control she was.

Actually, the show wasn’t bad.  It wasn’t any worse than watching a talk show.  Jonathan didn’t do anything embarrassing.  However, it is quite obvious he holds a grudge against his parents.  Otherwise, it was fine and it was interesting to see a sort-of celebrity up close.  Lucie Arnaz and her entourage of ten hangers-on sat in front of us.  She thought everything Jonathan said was the most hysterical thing anyone has ever said (believe us, it wasn’t).  Then again, she was probably hoping people would turn around and notice her.  Since when does a B celebrity like Lucie Arnaz need an entourage?  We’ve seen far superior stars than she is on here with just perhaps their spouse.  Everyone in her group did behave properly, so we don’t have anything to complain about in that regard.  In case you’re interested, she looks better in person than we expected.

It was so warm in the showroom that we had to walk out to the lobby to air ourselves out before going to the room.  We were at the railing listening to the Champagne Strings when Jeff came up and said, “Where the hell does Lucie get off bringing on that many people?” 

Mel and Barbara arrived and we talked for a while about the Serenity Inaugural and the low number of bookings on Crystal in general.  We all agree that if they don’t do something to attract some new guests, they are doomed.  All of us think the service is outstanding, but nothing ever changes.  It’s always the same lecturers, shows, etc.

As we were walking past the casino, the Captain stopped to chat.  He said every time they stop at this port they gets lots of complaints, but there is no where else to stop between the Caribbean and Rio de Janeiro except Devil’s Island.  But, they can’t always anchor there due to currents and weather, so they don’t like to count on it.  He told us also that we were better off staying on board.  We also learned that our speculation about the “surprise” ports is correct.  They are pre-planned stops that aren’t printed in the brochure because there may be problems anchoring there.  If the weather is favorable, the Captain will announce a bonus port and everyone is happy.

We received an invitation to the 2003 World Cruise Cocktails & Dinner on the 30th, and an invitation for cocktails in the Captain’s Quarters on the 31st.  Also, tonight’s World Cruise newsletter informed us that the Captain has exempted all full World Cruise guests from attending the lifeboats drills for the remainder of the World Cruise.  Last year, we were required to attend all five of them, so this is good news indeed.  Click to view today's World Cruise Newsletter.

It’s another hour forward on the clock tonight.


wednesday, january 29th – cruising the south atlantic ocean


The weather continues as it has been, partly cloudy, humid and very hot.  Now and then, there is a short rain shower, but nothing out of the ordinary.  We are just barely out of view of the coast although we can see a bit of land now and then.  There are a number of small fishing boats around as well.

We went down to see if Tom needed a date for lunch, which he did, so we waited until he finished playing at 12:30 PM.  As we were sitting there, Pat came by looking for his violin. He had a bit too much fun last night and forgot where he had left it.

There was nothing on the Dining Room menu that interested us, so we all went up to the Lido for lunch.  Apparently, so did most everyone because it was quite busy.  The food offered was the same as the Dining Room right down to the pastrami sandwiches sitting in a tray on the steam table.  As usual, we had the Asian selection.  Today it was Shanghai Beef with Celery and was very good.  We also sampled the meatloaf, also fairly tasty.

Click to see Daytime Activities.

After lunch, we stayed and chatted with Tom until around 3:00 PM and caught up on the latest gossip and who’s doing what to whom.  We confirmed that Crystal is beginning to replace some lower positions with Filipinos because they work longer hours for less money.  Tom said that pay is based upon the country a person comes from, not the position they have.  We have always thought that was extremely unfair, as does he.  The harp player we don’t like caused some sort of commotion that has led to all entertainers being banned from eating in the crew areas.

We also learned that Anthony, the so-called “Crystalizer”, went to Celebrity Cruises with Dietmar, who was in charge of Hotel Operations for Crystal previously.  The departure of neither of these gentlemen was lamented by anyone among the crew.  Tom said nobody could ever figure out what Anthony really did when he was on board.  Once, he asked someone at the office what he did and they had no clue.

Another bit of news was the rumor that Lara is tired of being in such an out front position as Crystal Society Hostess, so she wants to become the Dean of the Computer University on Crystal Serenity where her fiancé is the Vice Captain.  Makes sense to us since that’s basically how she started with the company.  Now that the computer program is run directly by Crystal it would probably be a good move for her.

It rained a bit while we were eating, but the storm had passed by the time we wandered out to get some ice cream.  We briefly contemplated sitting outside, but it’s too hot and humid to be bothered.  We passed Lucie Arnaz and her entourage by the pool.  That’s the big effort for the afternoon.

Tonight’s dress code is Formal for the Crystal Society Party at 6:30 PM.  This party is just another excuse for free drinks plus a chance for them to drag out the people with the highest amount of cruises.  On a World Cruise, we are like newcomers.  We had another “Are you brothers?” event while waiting in line, so the official count now stands at two. 

There are two guests with more than 100 cruises currently on board and many more in the 70’s and 80’s.  We sat in the corner with Pauline who is Crystal’s second highest cruiser with 107.  The only person higher has 119 cruises.  He is also on board.  As Lara said, “This is the Who’s Who of Crystal Society.”


Escargots Bourguignon
Lobster Salad Américaine
Crackling Salad with Smoked Duck Breast
Citrus Fruit in an Orange Basket, Perfumed with Crème de Cassis

Soup and Salad
French Onion Soup
Beef Consommé with Fois Gras Profiteroles
Vichyssoise with Bell Pepper Mousse
Panache of Mixed Greens Salad
Vegetable Salad Niçoise

Pasta Special
Rigatoni Boscaiole

Salad Entrée
Scallops Salad

Main Fares
Pink Roasted Rack of Lamb
Broiled Fillet of Dourade
Cog au Vin
Délice de Veal a la Mama

Vegetarian Selection
Vegetable Stuffed Ravioli

French Dessert
Soufflé Grand Marnier with Sauce Negresco
French Apple Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream
Glace aux Framboises – Raspberry Ice Parfait
Sugar-Free Spicy Apple Sauce Custard
Sugar-Free Vanilla Profiteroles with Diet Chocolate Sauce
Assortment of Fruit in Season
Petit Fours and Chocolate Truffles
Nonfat Frozen French Vanilla Yogurt

Food review:  The soufflé was the best part of the meal and was outstanding.  As you can see, neither of us chose an entrée from the regular menu.  Instead we had the “always available” Filet Steak and the Grilled Salmon, both of which were very good.  The soup was almost good, but was a bit too salty.  The salad wasn’t their best effort to date.

The Dining Room seemed to be in sort of a frenzy, but we have no idea why.  There were a lot of special orders around us, but nothing ridiculous.  It might have been that most guests didn’t arrive for dinner until 7:45 PM due to the party beforehand.  Of the 380 guests on board, 238 are Crystal Society members and would have been at the party.

Jerry informed us that he would be serving at the World Cruise dinner tomorrow night, but he didn’t know if he would serve us or not.  We won’t find out which restaurant we are assigned to until we arrive at the cocktail party the hour before dinner.  We’re hoping this kind of thing isn’t a trend.  There is a reason that most of the World Cruise guests sit at their own table for two, so it’s strange that Crystal keeps trying to force us to socialize against our will.  Since our waiter won’t be in the Dining Room, we obviously have no alternative than to attend the special dinner.

The Evening Entertainment is the lavish production show, Million Dollar Musicals.  This is really the only show that we consider a must see. While this wasn’t the best rendition of the show we have ever seen, it was still heads above anything else Crystal has to offer.  

Click to view today's World Cruise Newsletter.

thursday, january 30th – cruising the south atlantic ocean


Neither of us got much sleep last night, for no reason we can figure out.  It wasn’t rough or anything.  We have probably been getting too much sleep and it finally caught up with us.  Even so, we didn’t venture out until time to go downstairs and check out the menu for lunch in the Dining Room.  The weather is about the same as it has been, but maybe a bit hotter if that’s possible.

We found a couple of items on the menu that were interesting, so we went into the Dining Room.  Augusto hijacked us from the waiter who was taking us to the other side of the room and put us at our regular table with Jerry.  Nobody would vouch for the tacos, but we ordered them anyway, along with a side of chicken fingers and a Monte Cristo sandwich.  Everything was very good.  We were stuffed, so didn’t order dessert.

Jerry said he was sick yesterday, so that’s why he was sort of frantic.  We think he has the same cold we had when we arrived, but he said everyone has it.  He didn’t look all that sick, so it must not be too bad.  He promised he would call us in May after his son is born. This was his idea, not ours, but we don’t mind if he calls us.  He said he’ll never get around to emailing, but he knows he will call if he says he will, so that’s his plan.  He’s disappointed that we won’t be on the Serenity inaugural and he’ll probably be on vacation by the time we go in December.  This is all assuming he will be on that ship as he was sort of told he would.

The dinner for World Cruise guests tonight is formal for the waiters, but we were informed that we should dress casually.  Jerry was shocked because everything is apparently going to be very fancy.

We wandered out to look for bargains at the dump sale for men’s clothing, but they only had one card table full of XXL items and some ugly ties.  Mel and Barbara were looking at jewelry, so we went in to poke at them as they finished.  Mel went off to play bridge while Barbara stayed to talk to us for an hour or so.  She’s fun because she feels pretty much the same way we do about things.  Mel thinks everything is perfection and never dislikes anything.  While we were standing there, the harpist none of us like set up and started playing a few feet away.  That drove away everyone who had been standing around.

After we finished our bitch session, we left Barbara to shop and went up to get some ice cream.  The Neptune Pool area was being decorated for the party tonight with candles in the pool and yellow covers on the lights.  They think the covers make it look more romantic, but they just look like big yellow bras to us.  We also walked past Jade Garden to see how they are setting up the tables and it appears they are leaving the tables as they are, so maybe we won’t be seated with eight people after all.  Barbara said she doesn’t like sitting with a bunch of strangers either, which is why they have a table for two in the Dining Room.

It was too hot to sit outside with our ice cream, so we took it into the Palm Court and sat there until they started to set it up for tea time.  Why they have to set up the entire room for only a few guests is beyond us, but they always do.  After that it was back to the air-conditioned room, as usual.

Tonight’s dress code is Casual.  We are going to the World Cruise dinner, but here is the menu for the Dining Room so you don’t miss anything.


Jumbo Prawns
Homemade Won Ton with Honey Ginger Sauce
Roasted Beet Napoleon
Tropical Fruit Cup with Mango and Crème de Cacao

Soup and Salad
Chicken Broth with Matzo Balls
Cream of Sweet Potato with Lump Crabmeat
Cold Soup of Hawaiian Pineapple with Coconut
Heart of Boston Lettuce Salad
Tossed Iceberg Lettuce Salad with Tropical Fruit Dressing

Pasta Special
Linguini with Chicken Bolognese

Salad Entrée
Salad of Grilled Fresh Tuna Steaks

Main Fares
Grilled Fresh Mahi Mahi Fillet
Oven-Baked Farmland Chicken Breast Stuffed with Brie Cheese and Asparagus
Grilled Pork Medallions of Truffle Rösti
Pan-Fried Calf’s Liver “Venetian Style”

Vegetarian Selection
Potatoes au Gratin

Sour Cherry Bread and Butter Pudding
Dark and White Chocolate Mousse Bomb with Mango Sauce
Spanish Vanilla Cake with Bourbon Caramel Sauce
Sugar-Free Blueberry Strudel with Diet Ice Cream
Sugar-Free Mocha Custard
Homemade Cookies
Assortment of Fruit in Season
Refreshing Red Wine Sherbet

The first part of the World Cruise Dinner was held around the Neptune Pool where drinks and hors d’oeuvres were served.  They did a nice job decorating the area with the aforementioned bras on the lights, candles and cloths on the tables, and an ice sculpture on the cover of the spa.  We were joined by Maria, whom we had met at the Bon Voyage Gala, and Mel and Barbara.  None of us tried the buffet of snacks and we doubt that most of the guests even noticed it was there at all.  There was a dance number by the entertainers to get us in the mood for Rio de Janeiro.  When we arrived, the roof over the pool was almost completely closed, which turns the area into a sauna.  Eventually, it was opened a bit more, but it was still way too hot to be outside.

Rosemary went around telling guests which restaurant they were to dine in, but she didn’t make it to our table because the Hotel Director was talking to us.  She announced that all of the staff along the way would know where we belong, but that wasn’t true.  When we arrived at the elevator lobby there was someone pointing the way toward Jade Garden and Prego, but he didn’t seem to speak English.  When we asked where we could find out which restaurant to go to, he just repeated pointing each of them out.  We decided to just ask Augusto, who was at the door of Jade Garden.  Of course, we belonged in Prego, along with Mel and Barbara, so we went back that direction.

We were seated at a table with Lara and six guests we have never seen before.  Well, Bill had seen one of the gentlemen in the laundry room if that counts.  The only conversation we had was with Lara and Ursula and John Riggs, who were very entertaining.  Lara confirmed that she is going to the Serenity, but only because that is where her fiancé will be.  Otherwise, she would prefer to stay on the Symphony.  The guests seem to be more concerned about the impending doom of having three empty ships than the staff is, but maybe they are just putting up a good front.

Thank God the menu offered a choice between fish and veal.  Usually any set menu includes only veal for the main course.  The appetizer seafood plate included things with tentacles, but everything else was very good.  The fish entrée was outstanding with a crispy, spicy crust.  Dessert was very pretty and artfully presented. 

As usual, we were the last ones out of the restaurant, but we never have any idea how that happens.  Jerry was looking quite ill by the time we left, so we told the maitre d’ to let him go to bed, which he said he would do.  Rosario, Prego headwaiter, and Leo, the maitre d’ Lido, were at the door and had to chat with us and inquire why we haven’t been to Prego yet.  Rosario is somewhat odd, but very nice.  Leo was in a good mood and was very amusing.  We told him we would be in Prego after Josef leaves in Auckland and Leo moves to the Dining Room.  Luckily he thought that was hysterical.  We talked with them for a few minutes about Walt Disney World and then wandered off to get some air.  It was way too hot the entire evening, in our opinion.  We’re just glad it was a casual night because it would have been unbearable to sit there in a jacket and tie.

Tonight’s main Evening Entertainment is another concert by Naki Ataman.  Barbara told us he is very entertaining in comparison to the multitude of other pianists that pass through every week.  There was no way for us to make the show because we weren’t out of the dinner until 10:30 PM.

Click to view today's World Cruise Newsletter.

friday, january 31st – cruising the south atlantic ocean


Today was the debut of a new afternoon buffet, “Mui Caliente would be a close translation of the Latino-influenced colloquialism which best describes Crystal Cruises’ newest buffet presentation this afternoon, Nuevo Latino: it’s Hot! Hot! Hot!”  No kidding, it must be 90 degrees in the shade.  That’s probably not what they meant, but the weather was the hottest thing about the buffet unless you count the service staff who looked as though they were about to melt.

There was a nice array of interesting selections to choose from starting with a Mexican Spicy Corn and Tortilla Soup that was very good.  Another soup was Avocado Gazpacho with Crab Meat.  Most of the salads didn’t look very appealing, but they were interesting to look at:  Ecuadorian Shrimp, Honduran Tuna, and Peruvian Scallop Ceviches; Cilantro and Three Bean, Bacalao (dried cod) with Red Pepper and Onion; Jicama and Orange; Pineapple and Mango with Almonds; Purple Potato; and Seafood with Apple-Serrano Chile Vinaigrette.  The hot buffet featured several flavors of Tamales: Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese and Chive, Grilled Chicken, Chile and Cilantro, and Vegetarian Cilantro and Tomato.  Other hot entrees included Nicaraguan Tipi Tapa, Brazilian Feijoado or Crab Croquetas, Mexican Chicken Enchiladas or Lamb Empanadas, and Coconut Glazed Sugarcane Tuna or Dried Shrimp Salsa.  The BBQ offered Guava Glazed BBQ Ribs, Beef Sirloin, Chicken Breasts, Pork Medallion, Lamb Loin, and Veal Shoulder, plus Beef Fajitas.  The descriptions sound better than the food actually tasted, but it was a good effort and looked very nice.

Click for Daytime Activities.

We sat outside by the Seahorse Pool and listened to the band while eating.  It was way too hot to be outside, but we stayed until they finished at 1:30 PM.  After that we wandered around the lobby to see if the photos from last night had been posted (they hadn’t), then it was back to the room and the air conditioning turned down as low as it goes.  We received an invitation to an American Express Cocktail Party.  This is one of the small perks of charging a Crystal Cruise on a Platinum card.

Tonight’s dress code is Informal/Medieval.  Few, if any, guests participate in the costume part of this evening.  The ship does a nice job of carrying the theme throughout by hanging velvet banners in the lobby and placing a suit of armor at the entrance to the Dining Room.  The staff dresses up in Medieval costumes, as well.  The menu continues the theme, but it never changes and isn’t very good overall.  This was borne out by our attempt to secure reservations at one of the alternative restaurants only to find them fully booked for tonight.

We had an invitation to the Captain’s Quarters for cocktails before dinner, so that’s where we went at 6:30 PM.  It couldn’t be easier because it’s just a few steps down the hall from us.  Lara commented on how much fun we had at our end of the table last night.  We were talking to her while the Captain just stood there waiting for us.  Oh well.  He’s very pleasant and always says something appropriate.  Elizabeth insisted on taking our photo as we entered, as usual at these gatherings.  Mel and Barbara arrived just before us, so we went over to talk to them.  We didn’t know any of the other guests and hadn’t seen most of them before this.  The room wasn’t as crowded as usual, but the drapes were open with the sun shining directly in, so it was way too hot.  Everyone was trying to avoid standing in the sun until Lara took it upon herself to close the drapes.  Keiko talked to us for a while, then Josef, the Hotel Director, came over and started talking about Austria and Switzerland.  Barbara said that Rosemary felt the need to apologize for the dinner last night because the woman seated next to Barbara was completely out of it.  We’re not sure, but it might be the same woman who was seated next to Dave at the Bon Voyage Party.  There was a brief speech by the Captain and we ended up the last ones there talking to Rosemary about nothing in particular.  We always head for the door early, but so many staff members stop us to talk that we end up being the last ones out.  The Captain tried to talk us into getting up at 6:15 AM to view the arrival in Rio, but we figure we can see the same thing when we sail the next day at a more reasonable hour.

The Royal Feast

All ye Lords and Ladies of the Realm are Welcome to Partake in This
Sumptuous Feast of Royal Delectables, Prepared for Thine own Special Enjoyment

Ménage de Pain
Parsley Bread    Cinnamon Raisin Bread
White Sourdough Bread     Saffron Bread

Hors d’Oeuvres
Royal Treasure with Caviar Pearls
Mille Feuille of Duck Fois Gras and Galvine Apples en Gelée
Salmon and Smoked Sturgeon en Croûte
Chilled Melon with Mead

Elizabethan Chicken Soup
Chestnut Soup with Bacon Crisps
Marco Polo’s Chilled Melon Soup

Salade du Chevalier d’Albignac

Malvasia Nera Sorbet

Salad Entrée
Salad of Grilled Chicken Breast

Main Fares
Dover Sole a L’Orange
Cog en Pate
Filet of Boeuf “Hochepot”
Cote de Veau Forestière

For Our Vegetarians
Tourte Taillevent

Royal Desserts
Witches Pyre Flambé
Chocolate Vachrine
Sugar-Free Poached Pear in Spiced Red Wine Syrup

Food review:  The cinnamon bread was outstanding, as usual.  We’ll never see it again until this menu rolls around next cruise.  The melon soup tasted sort of like Tide detergent smells.  The salad was OK, but way too vinegary.  We were surprised that the beef entrée, which is a small filet mignon, plus a big piece of boiled rib meat, was outstanding.  The rib meat in particular had a wonderful flavor.  None of the desserts on this menu are worth eating, so Augusto talked us into waiting for him to make Crepes Suzette, which were good, but nothing worth making an effort to get.  Augusto wants to plan a special menu for Dave’s birthday.  We’re pretty sure that’s the last formal night of this segment, so we already know we aren’t thrilled about the regular menu selections.

Jerry was out sick tonight, as we expected, so Andrejus finally had a chance to talk to us briefly.  It was Ben's birthday, one of the Wine Stewards.  Bill wished him a Happy Birthday, so he came over later during dinner to whine good-naturedly about the Robin Hood costumes they have to wear during this dinner.  Maria was decked out in a red Maid Marion-type getup with a long chiffon train hanging down the back.  We had to point out her Dominatrix boots after dinner, which prompted a discussion about what she really does with her time off.   She claimed she was only joking about all the men she has in cages back home. 

The Evening Entertainment is the lavish Excalibur!, which is not very popular with passengers, but will be around forever because of the money spent on the evening’s theme.  There is also a classical piano concert in the Palm Court that was inadvertently omitted from the program.  We made it just in time for the production show and found the Galaxy Lounge less than half full.  All of the other production shows have been nearly a full house if that tells you anything.  There are two numbers in this show that should have been cut long ago.  They are so weird that all you can think is, “What the heck was that?”  They spent a fortune on laser effects that are only visible from the twenty seats directly in the center.  Another fortune was spent on ridiculously extravagant costumes that are, well, interesting, to say the least.  At least it gives us something to talk about.

We received a voice mail message from Marco reminding us to meet in the Starlite Club tomorrow at 1:15 PM for our afternoon tour in Rio de Janeiro.

saturday, february 1st – rio de janeiro, brazil – arrive 8:00 am

Events in Europe influenced the colonies to varying degrees, but by 1808, when Napoleon's armies reached the Portuguese border, the event reverberated throughout the Portuguese Empire. King Joao IV and his entire court were moved to Rio de Janeiro for safety, and remained there until 1821 when Napoleon died on St. Helena Island. During this period, Brazil was officially united with Portugal, and Rio was named as capital of the Portuguese Empire. When Joao returned to Portugal, he left his son, Pedro, to oversee Brazil's return to Portuguese parliamentary control. Instead, the dashing young Pedro declared himself Emperor of Brazil on December 1, 1822. This began the strange "Imperial" period that lasted until 1889.

For many years, Brazil prospered. It is a rich country, but in the 1960s, the military began to interfere with domestic affairs, and finally, assumed complete control. During two decades of military rule, the society fell apart. Huge favelas developed, and the gap between classes widened into a vast chasm. In 1985, President Sarnay won the elections and introduced a series of reforms that prevented future military takeover. Since then, the country has undergone miraculous changes and is beginning to realize the promise of the pre-war years. Though there have been problems, President Fernando Henrique Cardosso has guided the country to new economic prosperity into the new millennium. Today, the city is known around the world as Rio. The name brings to mind people with sleek bodies clad in skimpy bikinis, dancing to the beat of a samba band on the beach. The harbor is said to be one of the world's most beautiful, and the claim is well founded. The setting is really spectacular, and our arrival by ship will surely be one of the highlights of your cruise. Guests are urged to find a place on deck for the morning sailing into lovely Guanabara Bay. The ship is scheduled to dock in the morning, so guests may want to be prepared early for the approach. Sugar Loaf should be in full view along with Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, and watching carefully over the splendor below is Christ the Redeemer from his perch atop Mt. Corcovado.

Rio often amazes you. Carmen Miranda fans will want to visit the museum devoted to her life, and there is a modern planetarium as well as a tropical forest habitat to explore. The city cannot be topped when it comes to nightlife and entertainment. Theatre, opera, and ultra-lavish Brazilian samba shows can be seen. The atmosphere of Carnaval prevails year-round in the late-night city. The very best clubs take cover charges, and you should ask about drink prices before ordering to avoid a possible surprise. The best-known and most lavish shows in town are presented Oba-Oba, Hotel Nacional, Canecao, Scala-Rio, and Plataforma I. Some feature internationally renowned dancers, and all use flashy costumes. Cariocas know how to swing, and no place holds a candle to Rio when it comes to exotic extravagance. Be forewarned — many shows are topless.


Rio's Carnaval celebrations are known around the world for their lavishness, color, and creativity. The festivities kick off on the last Friday before Shrove Tuesday (Ash Wednesday — the beginning of Lent — follows Shrove Tuesday). Symbolizing the last chance for pious Catholics to live it up before the long period of self-renunciation that leads to Easter Sunday, Carnaval is celebrated in many places. Extravagant parades characterize the huge Rio event. The central participants represent the city's famous samba schools, each of which belongs to one of several divisions. The parades commence on Friday with the Grupos de Acesso parades, and continue with the (more prestigious) Groupo Especial processions on Sunday and Monday. The parades continue until Wednesday afternoon, when judges convene to review the entrants and determine a winner. Prizes are awarded the following Saturday. Each group selects an enredo (central idea), and marches to the beat of a samba (tune) that has been specially composed for the event. Thousands of participants represent each school and the processions involve a series of carros alegóricos (representational floats), one of which usually carries the school's emblem and banner. Feathers, bright colors, and tremendous creativity characterize the parades, and the unrelenting samba beat sweeps up even the most “musically challenged” observer! During or outside Carnaval season, visit the small Museu do Carnaval at the Sambódromo. It opens weekdays from 10:00am until 5:00pm. A series of photographs and displays explain the event.

 Click for Daytime Activities for this port day.

After an early lunch in the Lido, we went down to the Starlite Club for our appointed meeting time for our afternoon tour leaving at 1:30 PM.  It is ridiculously hot today, as expected, but at least it is sunny.  They pointed everyone in the general direction of the busses, but the terminal was an interconnected maze of old buildings not easily negotiated by this crowd.  We advised Marco at the bus that several old ladies had gone in the wrong direction, so he went to look for them.

There were only 30 people, plus the Crystal representative, Mariana from the shops, so the bus was less than half full.  The bus itself was comfortable and air-conditioned.  The guide spoke good English and provided a running commentary that was vaguely interesting.  She conveniently overlooked the run-down state of most of the buildings and the graffiti covering almost everything along the drive to the cable car station.  We passed several old buildings housing a variety of museums.  Under every bridge there were homeless people living in makeshift shelters.  There were many people living in cars in derelict parking lots as well.  In general, the parts of the city we passed through were probably once quite grand, but had fallen into disrepair.  We have seen far worse cities than this, but this one has obviously seen better economic times.

Our destination was the cable car to take us in two stages to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, which is the famous rock marking the entrance to Rio de Janeiro Bay.  There were a few vendors selling hats and t-shirts in the parking lot, but they weren’t pushy.  We didn’t buy anything, but the prices were very cheap.  Two t-shirts for $5.00 or a baseball cap for $2.00.  One guy was selling soccer shirts and started out saying they were $20.00, but immediately would switch to two for $5.00.

The first cable car was built in 1912 or something like that, but the existing version is obviously newer than that.  We boarded the second car while the majority of the group crammed into the first.  We came out ahead with only a few people in our car so we could see the view of the bay below and the station above.

At the first stop, we rested for 30 minutes for refreshments.  We should have known that any tour including a refreshment stop after being away from the ship for only 20 minutes was going to include lots of wasted time.  We wandered around taking pictures of the Red Beach below and the ocean beyond before taking the next cable car to the peak of Sugarloaf.  More photos:  Left Bay Beach, Long Bay Beach

Again, we had time to shop at the souvenir stores and take pictures.  The view from the summit is stunning with the ocean, Copacabana Beach, and Rio de Janeiro’s high-rises nestled among the sharp peaks.  The bay is so big that it looks like the ocean.  There is only one small entrance from the sea, which is why the first arrivals were fooled into thinking it was the mouth of a river, hence the translation of Rio de Janeiro as January River.  Photos from the entrance to the bay from right to left:  Right, Center Right, Left Beach, Left City, Small Beach, City Hills.

We took a series of pictures (links above) starting at the entrance to the bay, another city across the way, the bridge connecting that city to Rio de Janeiro, another white sand beach, high-rises condominiums, and more beach resorts.  Continuing to the from right to left is the main part of Rio with the Christ The Redeemer statue standing atop Corcovado mountain overlooking the city.  Facing the sea is the famous Copacabana Beach.  Beyond that and not visible from our vantage point is Ipanima Beach.  Directly below the peak and adjacent to the starting point of the cable car is a small beach resort called Red Beach due to the slightly red tint of the sand.

Looking straight down from the highest viewpoint is a fort and another white sand beach.  We were told that these beaches aren’t crowded because the people don’t like to swim in the polluted bay water and always go to Copacabana or Ipanima that face the ocean.  Originally, it wasn’t possible to get to Copacabana from the city, but tunnels were built in the early 1900’s and all of the rich people moved there.  At that time, the famous Copacabana Palace Hotel was built and remains the finest hotel in the city to this day.

We took the cable car back down the two steps to the plaza at the bottom.  At the bottom is a good view of the mountain we just visited.  It doesn’t seem big enough from below to hold all of the shops and platforms that it does.

Back on the bus, we were driven through a fashionable residential district surrounding a large lagoon.  This was the only area that didn’t look run down at all, but the buildings all have gates across their parking lots. 

Through a short tunnel we reached famous Copacabana Beach jam-packed with sun worshipers.  Since this was a Saturday, the guide said everyone was at the beach.  After 5:00 PM when the sun is less intense, hundreds of thousands of people would crowd the sidewalks and Samba clubs that line the 3-mile stretch of beach.

Contrary to the stern warnings from the ship, we didn’t see anything particularly threatening in the fashionable areas or along the beach.  It didn’t look any worse than any big city for the most part.  We certainly wouldn’t want to wander the side streets at night or even during the day, but the other parts of the city were busy enough that there shouldn’t be a problem for an aware traveler.

We skipped the option to be dropped off at a big shopping center and went directly back to the ship.  We ran into Billy returning from a hang gliding trip he said was wonderful.  Other staff members told us they had fun at the beaches, but it was difficult to get around because nobody speaks any English at all.  It didn’t matter to us because by now, 5:00 PM, we were about to drop from the heat and ready to shower and cool off.  First, we sacrificed ourselves for our fans and went up to the Sun Deck to get our usual port pictures. Terminal, Port Ships, Bay Bridge, Port City.

There is casual dining around the Neptune Pool tonight, so they had all the tables set up nicely with flowers and such.  In our opinion, it is way too hot to sit outside to eat.  Even after dark it was 87 and very humid.

Waldo grabbed us in the hallway to tell us about the space shuttle exploding today.  There wasn’t any satellite TV reception so we told him we would check and for him to come back in a few minutes.  He was on his way to help one of his guests back from the salon.  He came back shortly and looked at the article we pulled from the Internet, then regaled us with more stories about how pathetic this batch of guests is.  He’s right, too.  We have never seen such and old, decrepit bunch of people on this ship before.  It really is a completely different clientele than usual.  Generally, the Penthouse Deck is booked up while the less expensive cabins are empty.  Not so this time.  The Penthouse Deck is nearly deserted.  We heard again that the next cruise is nearly full with about 800 guests, but the following three segments are less booked than the current one.

We took our time showering and getting ready for dinner, which is Casual tonight.


Chilled Crabmeat with Greens and Avocado Vinaigrette
Salad of Roasted Chicken Breast, Zucchini, Mushrooms, and Black Olives
Roasted Eggplant Terrine
Fresh Papaya, Grape, and Banana Cup with Fresh Mint

Soup and Salad
Island-Style Portuguese Bean Soup
Beef Consommé with Cheese Ravioli
Chilled Sweet Corn Soup with Chile Crab Salsa
Romaine Lettuce with Warm Bacon Dressing and Herb Toasties
Marinated Assorted Bean Salad on Radicchio Leaves

Pasta Special
Pappardelle al Pesto

Salad Entrée
Ensalada Camarón

Main Fares
Chef Jürgen's Childhood Favorite Wiener Schnitzel
Grilled Fresh Corvina Fillet
Grilled Jumbo Prawns Served on Angel Hair Pasta
Grilled Black Angus Sirloin Steak

Vegetarian Selection
Vegetable Lasagna

Sacher Chocolate Cake with Whipped Cream
Frozen Pumpkin Mousse Cake with Caramel Sauce
Macaroon Tart with Fresh Mango Vanilla Sauce
Sugar-Free Chocolate Custard
Sugar-Free Sour Cherry Cheese Strudel
Homemade Cookies
Assortment of Fruit in Season
Nonfat Cappuccino Frozen Yogurt

Food review:  Everything was very good.  The pasta special served as one of our entrees and was quite good and simple enough to suit us after this exhausting day.  We ordered ice cream and frozen yogurt for dessert.  For once, all of the cookies served were edible and actually pretty good.

Jerry was back and insisting he felt fine, but it was obvious he has a terrible cold.  As the meal wore on, he had Andrejus serve everything while he stayed by the station and tried not to sneeze.  Luckily, he only had to serve us and two other guests because the Dining Room was nearly empty.  Many people were going out to dinner or on an evening excursion to a Samba Club.  Toward the end of the meal, Jerry admitted he wasn’t feeling as well as he thought, so we tried to convince him we had something that would help.  At first he turned us down, but by the end of the meal he felt so bad he was willing to try anything.  We fetched some Zinc lozenges for him and told him he had to use them right then, which he did.  He decided it wasn’t worth going out tonight considering how he felt, which is wise.

Maria and Ben both stopped by to chat about what they did today and what was in store for tonight.  Ben wasn’t going out, but Maria planned to go out with her boyfriend.  We told her she had to supply photos and gory details if she did any table dancing.  It sure didn’t take much to break the ice with Ben. He stops to chat all the time now even though he has no business reason to do so.

The Evening Entertainment schedule was basically nothing, so we took a stroll up to the Sun Deck to check the nighttime view.  We chatted with Albert and Augusto at the podium where they tried to convince us to go out with them later tonight.  Their attempt was unsuccessful in case you were wondering.

The view wasn’t very exciting and it was still very hot even at 9:00 PM, so we went back to the cabin to watch TV.  There were some bizarre Candid Camera type shows on that originated in Brazil.  We couldn’t tell exactly what was going on, but it was amusing to watch nonetheless.

sunday, february 2nd – rio de janeiro, brazil – depart 9:00 am


We were up at 9:00 AM to watch the sailing from Rio.  There wasn’t really a choice with the constant announcements telling us what we were missing, but we will admit it’s a beautiful harbor.  Early in the day, the heat isn’t quite as ridiculous, so it was pleasant on the verandah watching the sail away.  The big Costa Classica was still at the dock as we left.

First we sailed slowly past the port area of the city and around the point where there is a large beach.  We can see why the locals don’t swim in the bay, as the water is rather polluted and green.  We’ve seen far worse than this elsewhere, however.  After we turned the corner and left the bridge behind us, the ship slowed to wait for a crew member who had missed the departure.  A pilot boat had to bring him aboard.  Later we found out that he had been robbed and beaten up.  He had been helped by some local people to get back to the port just as the ship sailed.  We also learned that he wasn’t drunk or on drugs, just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

After collecting the crewman, we continued sailing toward Sugarloaf and the entrance to the bay.  The first cable car run of the day began from the top at 10:00 AM as we got closer.  There is a small island at the base of Sugarloaf where they tried to build a fort and were never able to complete it.  It had been used as a prison in the past.  We continued sailing next to and past Sugarloaf and out into the ocean.  The Red Beach area where the cable car station is located came up next, then a large green point, and beyond that the 3-mile crescent of Copacabana Beach. Here is a look back at the bay bridge and the Christ statue.

From a distance, the steep hills behind the high-rises appear to be covered with luxury homes, but upon close inspection with binoculars one can see that there are really the famous “favelas” or slums where gangs are the rule of law.  The huge Christ the Redeemer statue looms over the whole scene.

Continuing around the point of Copacabana and its luxury hotels, we sailed past Ipanima Beach while they played “Girl from Ipanima” over the loudspeakers.  This area looks pretty much the same as Copacabana and has the same white-sand, crescent beach backed by luxury high-rises.  Of course, this section of town sports its own “favela” community on the point at the end.  Here is a look back toward Copacabana from Ipanima.

Beyond the slums and around the bend is a small enclave of mansions and ultra-expensive condominium towers fronted by their own white-sand beach.  Towering cliffs and tropical vegetation form a dramatic backdrop for the entire city.  Isabela and Hazel came out on the neighboring balcony to watch the scenery pass by.

One would think the high-rise jungle would end here, but around another bend and as far as the eye can see down the coast, there are city after city of high-rises along the shore.

Click for Daytime Activities.

We were out too late for breakfast and too early for lunch, so we stopped by the Bistro for some pastries before going downstairs to check the Dining Room lunch menu and detour back to the room.  We took a few minutes to review the shore excursions for the next segment, but didn’t really accomplish anything.  We decided to stop by the Shore Excursion Desk later today and ask their opinion of the upcoming tours.

On the way to the Lido for lunch we ran into Waldo in the hallway looking a bit worse for wear.  He and Ural had gone barhopping and ended up at the most famous of them all where hookers work the room on a continuous circuit.  He claimed they didn’t take any of them up on their offers.  He was amazed at the variety available saying they came in every shape and color imaginable.  The going rate appeared to be $100, no matter what they looked like.  The women outnumbered the men three to one, but there were no local men there, only tourists.

At the Lido, we had a very tasty lunch of the Asian Beef with Baby Corn and the Lemon Marinated Roasted Chicken.  The freshly carved meats are generally outstanding.  A new batch of rather ratty looking entertainers arrived yesterday along with Craig, an executive from the main office.  We haven’t seen any other members of the executive team.

After lunch we went down to turn in our RSVP form for the World Cruise lunch in Uruguay.  In spite of our misgivings about a six-hour excursion in 95-degree heat, we accepted the invitation.  Billy was looking rather worn out after a night on the town.  He said it was the most incredible place he has ever been and can’t wait to come back.  He is the first person, guest or staff, who has said that.  Most say, “Now that I’ve been there I don’t have to go back.”  However, Billy says that about almost everywhere we have been.

We talked to a woman at Shore Excursions who just gave us the company line and wasn’t particularly helpful in giving us the information we wanted.  She did say enough to help us decide that we will only take one tour, by train, on the next segment.  Most of the stops are for wildlife sightings and such, so they aren’t big, developed cities.  We get the impression that the area is sort of like Alaska, so unless we take a flight seeing tour (which isn’t going to happen!), there isn’t much to see.  We’re hoping the scenery along the way and close to the towns is enough.

Barbara was walking through the lobby as we left the desk, so we stopped to chat with her about a variety of things.  She told us that Niklas, the assistant Cruise Director had been married to Abigail, the Cruise Consultant, years ago.  We highly doubt the accuracy of her report, but it gave us something to gasp over.  Barbara is the first person who has ever said she doesn’t like tonight’s entertainer, Jacqui Scott, who was Crystal’s female entertainer of the year.  We don’t like her either, but we thought we were just bitchy.  Even Mel doesn’t go to her shows anymore and he likes everything.  You had to be there to understand this, but we talked about making an evening gown out of swizzle sticks for her to wear.  This came from an activity a few years ago where the crafts teacher instructed the women how to make earrings out of the clear plastic logo sticks Crystal puts in the drinks.  We just embellished the idea.  Eventually, it included the World Cruise logo patches in strategic places since the stir sticks are clear.  One wouldn’t want to cause a scandal after all.  Told you you had to be there. 

We caught up on the hour of sleep we missed this morning and skipped the American Express Cocktail Party before dinner.  Barbara said they skip it also because they don’t want to talk to all of these people any more than we do.  We received an invitation to an after-dinner party with the chefs on the 4th.

Tonight’s dress code is Informal, changed from Casual.  We must have been bad again.


Crisp Soft-Shell Crabs on Three-Bean Salad
Homemade Gravlax on Yukon Hash Brown Potatoes
Fresh Baby Artichokes with Palm Heart and Crisp Greens
Fruit Cup with Star Fruit and Grape Liquor

Soup and Salad
New England Clam Chowder
Essence of Beef with Fois Gras Croutons
Chilled Gazpacho Blanco with Toasted Almonds
Heart of Iceberg Lettuce with Shredded Vegetables
Spring Garden Lettuce with Grilled Bell Peppers

Pasta Special
Tripolini with Lemon Oil, Jumbo Shrimp, Basil, and Plum Tomatoes

Salad Entrée
Sliced Grilled Tenderloin Steak on a Bed of Potato, Mushrooms, and Cucumber Salad

Main Fares
Surf and Turf
Grilled Tuna Steak
Sautéed Crab Cake
Braised Baby Lamb Shanks

Vegetarian Selection
Vegetable Stuffed Zucchini

Viennese Apple Strudel with Vanilla Sauce
Chocolate Terrine “Harlequin”
Sunset Cake with Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream
Sugar-Free Citrus Salad with Diet Ice Cream
Sugar-Free Chocolate Éclair
Homemade Cookies
Assortment of Fruit in Season
Refreshing Sangria Sherbet

Food review:  This isn’t one of our favorite menus, so we pre-arranged for Augusto to make Fettuccini Alfredo with Chicken, which he did.  We didn’t love the chicken addition, that was his idea, but it was still better than anything on the menu.  The regular items we had were just satisfactory.  Jerry brought us some leftover Salzburger for dessert, which is a meringue on top of Lingonberries that is served over a strawberry mousse.  Every waiter known to man has tried to pawn this dessert off on us, but we had never accepted until tonight.  It was much better than it looked, good in fact, but so sweet we couldn’t finish it.

Jerry said he was feeling better tonight after the zinc we gave him last night.  He even went out last night to see a few sights.  But, he didn’t seem quite back to normal yet.  Maria told us she would tell us the details of her adventure tomorrow, “When my mind is working again.”  Augusto didn’t get back until 4:30 AM and looked like it.  He swore he didn’t have anything to drink and that he was bored most of the time, which is probably true.  Ben looked like he was sort of dazed, as did many of the waiters.  One of the assistants was missing because he “ate something bad,” whatever that means.

The Evening Entertainment is the aforementioned Jacqui Scott in concert.  Bill intended to go even though he doesn’t like her, while Dave recalled thinking during her show last year that he would prefer to stare at the wall than be there.  We stopped to listen to Tom at the Crystal Piano to kill half an hour and, as usual, we were still there at 11:30 PM.  Tom finished his set at 9:30 PM, by the way.  We sat there talking about subjects wholly inappropriate for the lobby of Crystal Symphony and certainly for anyone reading this, but it amused the three of us to no end.  There was no one else around except the bartender and cocktail waitress who seemed unfazed by the outrageous topics.

Tom couldn’t confirm the story about the crewmember being attacked, but he said it sounded logical because the Captain would never have waited or sent the pilot boat out with him unless there had been unusual circumstances involved.  Ordinarily, a crewmember left behind has to pay his own transportation and lodging costs involved in making it to the next port.  If it happens a second time, they are dismissed immediately.

All of us decided we aren’t ready for another port tomorrow, but we’ll try to manage somehow.  We received our photo from the Captain’s Quarters Party and the one of us and Maria from the World Cruise Party a few nights ago.


monday, february 3rd – porto belo, brazil – 8:00 am – 6:00 pm

Southern Brazil’s countryside farms and 19th-century colonial architecture attest to the European influences of early German, Italian and Portuguese colonial immigrants.  These migratory phenomena are most apparent and best appreciated in the village of Porto Belo and its surrounds.

Located in Garoupas Bay, the village and island of Porto Belo, is home to a population of only 7,000 and remains the quiet fishing village of centuries past.  Established some 250 years ago by Portuguese hopeful settlers, Porto Belo and the charming town of Blumenau provide endearing legacies of Brazil’s colonial past.


We were up before noon today, much to the delight of our stewardess who wanted to go ashore.  Unfortunately for her, someone else dawdled in their cabin all afternoon, so it did her no good to get rid of us early.

In no hurry to rush ashore, we stopped by the Bistro for a late breakfast and then chatted with Ben.  He was taunting us because we were looking at the big world map, but not where we are sailing.  We knew what we were looking for…next year’s cruise.  He told us he is here to make some extra money while his brother runs his wine importing business.  His other brother lives in the U.S. and manages restaurants, so he is planning to join him in a year or so.

Click for Daytime Activities.

Next stop was the Sun Deck for port photos.  It was easy to get a panoramic series of shots because the ship is anchored away from shore.  The bay is a huge crescent with a small yacht harbor hidden behind Porto Belo Island.  These photos were taken standing on the Sun Deck from left to right around the bay:  PB1, PB2, PB3, PB4, PB5, PB6, PB7, PB8There are a few vacation homes on the nearby hills, but the roads are unpaved for the most part.  There is a lot of money here, but this is more like a small beach community rather than the big cities we have been visiting.  Again, it is extremely hot and humid, but there is a constant sea breeze that helps somewhat.

We took some time to get photos of the Deck Stewards, Ferdinand, Allan, and Nerick, so everyone will know who we are talking about from now on when we mention someone by name.  They were thrilled we wanted their photos, but we have no idea why.  I guess to them it means we like them.

Next stop was the tender landing on Deck 4 where two old ladies were being talked out of going ashore because the tender ride was too rough.  It must have been a convincing discussion because we were the only guests on the boat, plus a couple of crewmembers.  It was slightly bumpy, but it only lasted seven minutes.  We’ve been through far worse with no ill effects.  Here is a photo of Crystal Symphony from the entrance to the yacht harbor.

The tender landing is at the Porto Belo Yacht Club that is on the outskirts of town.  We ran into John Mentis, the Avenue Saloon pianist, who is taking Jeff’s place doing the World Cruise video.  He made us pose and wave for the camera.  The little harbor was full of expensive sailing boats and yachts, and, farther out, a flotilla of fishing boats.  Renato and Marco we waiting for an excursion group, so we talked to them for a few minutes.  Marco said that the day after we left Fortaleza a guest from another cruise ship was stabbed and robbed.  In Rio, several of our crewmembers were robbed at knifepoint in spite of being warned not to walk around alone in the port area.  He didn’t think there were any incidents involving guests, but they had a problem a few years ago that prompted all of the warnings.  He also told us that this should be the last shorts and t-shirts weather for a few weeks.  The temperature during the Antarctica portion coming up is expected to be in the 30’s.  However, we saw a weather report for Buenos Aires that said it was 97 there today, which is even hotter than it has been so far.

Renato advised us to take the free shuttle bus into town to take a look, so we did that.  The ride was only a few minutes, partly over dirt roads, partly paved, and partly cobblestone.  Thank God it was a short ride!  The bus was air-conditioned and very nice, so that wasn’t an issue.  The scenery along the waterfront drive was picturesque, but not really spectacular. 

The bus dropped us off at a small park in the center of the small town. This is obviously a town geared to local vacationers as there isn’t anything of interest to cruise passengers.  However, a few of them did manage to get some bargains on shoes and such from what we overheard.  The guide pointed everyone down an empty street toward the water where there are fishermen who will take you to Porto Belo Island if you so desire.  We didn’t intend to do that, but thought we could get some photos from that vantage point.

The walk was only a couple of minutes down empty streets lined with small cottages.  There wasn’t anything wrong with it, but it wasn’t interesting either.  The small boat landing was basically a narrow concrete pier sticking out of the beach.  If they had made it a few feet longer one wouldn’t even need a boat to reach the island.  Well, not really, but it was quite close.  The beach itself was very nice with turquoise water lapping powdery white sand.  There were a couple of children within eyeshot, otherwise it was deserted for as far as the eye could see.  Even looking toward the center of town there was no one to be seen except the fisherman waiting under a big tree for customers.  The water temperature was about even with the air, high 80’s.

We followed some crewmembers back toward town and the main street, which isn’t saying much.  There were several restaurants catering to locals, a post office, etc.  The town is only three blocks wide.  Beyond that and toward the hills, the streets turn to dirt again and the jungle takes over.  The few locals we saw seemed to be quite pleasant and friendly.  The people here have a more European look in contrast to the darker-skinned residents of Rio. 

It took only a few minutes to make it back to the shuttle stop where the same bus was waiting.  It had been less than 20 minutes since we arrived and we were seated waiting to go back to the port.  We had heard several guests this morning saying they just went into town, walked around for five minutes, and came back.  It’s a pleasant place just to walk around to say you’ve been there, but unless you are into laying on the beach, there isn’t much to do here.

Back at the yacht harbor we caught the waiting tender to go back to the ship.  The language teacher was sitting there talking non-stop.  We can just imagine how informative her classes are if she talks so incessantly about nothing.  She seemed to be way past her prime and didn’t have a clue what was going on.  She didn’t even know that she needed to have her I.D. out to get back on the tender.  Then, on board the ship, she didn’t know she had to have her bags X-rayed.  This is done every single time we come back and I.D.’s are scanned coming and going, so it’s certainly no mystery they need to be out and ready to go at some point.

We went by the room to fill out our gratuity form and went down to turn it in at the Front Desk.  We were able to get photos of Billy, Elizabeth and Leanne, the Concierge, plus a group shot they insisted we take.  We also took a photo of Corina and Ross from the Crystal Cove and talked to them about how everyone is switching to digital cameras now.  We are shocked at how quickly even the very old people switched.  Last year almost no one had digital cameras and this cruise nearly everyone has one.  Here is a new photo of the entire Crystal Plaza.

From there we went up to the grill to get some sandwiches and fruit from Renato the Grillman.   We also got more photos of Deck Stewards, Domingo and Darwin, who were hiding last time.  Rodel, the Ice Cream Man, tried to wrangle us in for ice cream, but we weren’t in the mood.  Allan insisted on carrying our food and drinks outside where we sat by the pool until it became too hot to be pleasant.  At that point we moved inside, caught Waldo for a photo, and called it a day.  We also managed to photograph the Trident Bartender, Orlando, and the Trident Grill Assistant whose name we can’t recall at the moment.  Waldo was in the hallway as we returned to the room, so we finally got a photo of him, as well.

The sailing is at 6:00 PM and the ship continues to draw tourists in boats to gawk at us.  We sailed promptly as scheduled, almost unnoticed it was so quiet.

Tonight’s dress code is Casual. There is casual dining available around the Neptune Pool tonight from 7:00 PM until 9:00 PM.


Fresh Green Asparagus Spears with Gazpacho Dressing
Chilled Seafood Cocktail with Exotic Fruits and Sauce Calypso
Sweetbread Roses on Crunchy Garden Greens
Assorted Fresh Fruit Cup Flavored with Lemon Bacardi

Soup and Salad
Consommé Double with Cheese Profiteroles
Light Creamy Red Onion Soup with Ginger
Chilled Yogurt Peanut Butter Soup
Spring Lettuce with Lollo Rosso, Red Oak Leaf, and Marinated Palm Hearts
Chopped Garden Greens with Celery, Bells Peppers, Tomatoes, and Cucumbers

Pasta Special
Mezze Rigate

Salad Entrée
Roasted Marinated Chicken Breast Salad

Main Fares
Traditional Roast Beef
Baked Fresh Grouper Fillet
Veal Scaloppini Sorrentino
Seafood Paella

Vegetarian Selection
Grilled Eggplant Zucchini Tower with Mozzarella Cheese

White Chocolate Truffle Cake with Strawberry Sauce
Rum Scented Almond Tart with Rum Raisin Ice Cream
Chocolate Brownie Ice Parfait with Brandy Cherries
Sugar-Free Coconut Custard
Sugar-Free Apricot Jalousie with Diet Ice Cream
Homemade Cookies
Assortment of Fruit in Season
Freshly Frozen White Chocolate Yogurt

Food review:  This wasn’t one of the most inspired menus.  The cold soup was sort of interesting, but a bit too strange to be good.  The salad was OK except for the palm hearts that were just stuck on the side of the plate.  The salad entrée was satisfactory, as was the “always available” salmon chosen as the other entrée.  Jerry immediately told us not to order the roast beef.  The truffle cake had a rock hard layer of white chocolate on the top that made it impossible to cut without squishing the cream out of the layers. 

Jerry seems to be nearly fully recovered from his cold.  We finally got a new photo of Augusto and the first of Andrejus.  We were on a quest to get caught up on the crew photos before the next segment when it will be much busier than it is now.  We’ll get a new photo of Jerry when he has completely recovered.  He looks the same as he did last year, so don’t expect a huge difference when we do get around to it.

Augusto confirmed that he has ordered Chateaubriand for Dave’s birthday.  We’re not sure how the rest of the evening will work since it is the farewell evening for segment guests and there is a Baked Alaska Parade to contend with.  It makes no difference to us whether they do any singing or not, but it seems to mean something to Jerry and Augusto.

The Evening Entertainment consists of a local show called “Tango Express” or a before-dinner piano concert.  It does appear that they are limiting many of the pianists to out of the way locations such as the Palm Court rather than putting them in the main show lounge.  We were out of the Dining Room by 8:45 PM, so we listened to Tom at the Crystal Piano.  Bill intended to go to the show at 9:30 PM, but when Tom sat with us at that time, he decided to stay put.  We didn’t talk about anything rude tonight, just a guest who became so obsessed with Tom that he came back alone on the next cruise, then kept coming back looking for him.  Tom finally told him not to come on the ship when he is there.  Besides the fact that the guy lived in Switzerland, he only spoke German, so Tom has no idea why he was even interested.  Otherwise, we talked about nothing in particular until the lights came up and the night cleaners were well underway in their duties after midnight.  We never stay up this late, so blame Tom for forcing us to stay up.

Click to view today's World Cruise Newsletter.

Here are the Shore Excursions available for the next segment:  Page 1, Page 2

tuesday, february 4th – cruising the south atlantic ocean


It’s another very hot, humid, and sunny day.  Being at sea, it doesn’t matter to us what the weather is since it is easy to avoid if it is too unpleasant.

Click for Daytime Activities.

Today is the Grand Gala Buffet in the Crystal Plaza.  We never attend this luncheon buffet anymore because the food, although beautiful to look at, is fairly boring.  Most people fill their plate with the abundant shrimp and lobster.  They now use a scatter system of multiple tables rather than one long buffet line that greatly improves the serving efficiency.  This arrangement also makes it easier for guests to skip what they don’t want and get to exactly what they do.  There is also a chef demonstrating how they carve fruit and vegetables into animals and such.

We noticed a definite downgrade in the quantity and type of decorative displays as well as the amount of food.  The hot buffet table, where Jerry was manning the vegetable station, was half filled with clean plates and a huge butter sculpture of an eagle.  They still set the tables in the Crystal Cove for guests to eat at, but with so few passengers on board there should be plenty of room in the Dining Room.  The usually elaborate displays of roasted meat and turkeys carved and decorated where nowhere to be found.  All of the decorations were made of fruit and vegetables, plus two ice sculptures.  We have always thought that using full size turkeys as nothing but decoration was a ridiculous waste of food, but the tables looked rather bare today.  We would estimate that 90% of the guests who were interested in the food had been served within fifteen minutes.

After tormenting Jerry from above for a while, we wandered up to the Lido for a quiet lunch with the other die-hard World Cruisers who also avoid the Gala Buffet like the plague.  We had the Asian selection of Indonesian Chicken Pancit that was very good, plus some macadamia nut crusted chicken breast. 

Once we finished, Tom brought Niklas over to formally introduce us.  Niklas is the Assistant Cruise Director.  We were able to verify within ten seconds of speaking to him that Barbara’s information about his previous marriage to Abigail and his current wife and two kids was total fiction.  He will probably never talk to us again because Bill complained about the lecturers' behavior and Niklas took it way too seriously.

Tom sat down and we chatted until 3:30 PM about why people work on ships, what he wants to do after he is finished with it, etc.  Dave told him that he didn’t think real estate was the best choice for him based upon what we know of his personality.  We’re not sure we told him what he really wanted to hear, but it wasn’t an experience that we thought should be sugar-coated if he is planning to rely upon it as a career choice.  He seems way too nice and mellow to make a fortune at it, although he might be able to gather a following with the many contacts he has.  Tom verified that the admirer we mentioned before is coming on the next segment.  He wasn’t quite sure what he would do, but he’s hoping the guy has come to his senses over the past year.

We stopped to get some ice cream and briefly thought of sitting outside by the pool.  No way, it was extremely hot and humid, so we went back to the cabin.  Since chatting with Tom took up the entire afternoon, we only had an hour to wait before we have to start preparing for dinner.

Tonight’s dress code is Informal.


Special Guest Chef Menu Featuring the Cuisine of Mirko Rocca

Tranci di Branzino al Vapoze Pompelmo e Asparagi, Olio alla Mente

Malfatti di Ricotta e Spinaci con Ragoût d’Anatra e Funghi Misti Saltati

Main Fare
Saltimbocco di Cappesante con Puree di Renticchie e Inolivia Belga
Filetto di Manzo con Fagioli all’Uccelletto, Patate Fondenti, e Salsa di Vino Rosso

In addition to Guest Chef Mirko Bocca’s special menu items,
we offer these choices from the main galley:

Beef Tartar with Silver Onions and Gherkins along with Sourdough Toast
Asparagus-Broccoli and Cauliflower Terrine with Herb Vinaigrette
Iced Pineapple, Strawberry, Papaya, Banana Cup

Soup and Salad
Cream of Celery with Spinach Quenelles
Beef Consommé with Tomato Spinach Royal
Chilled Cream of Apricot with Low Fat Yogurt
Assorted Summer Salad with Feta Cheese, Garbanzo Beans, and Spring Onions
Traditional Caesar Salad

Salad Entrée
Marinated Chicken Salad

Main Fares
Broiled Filet of Alaskan Halibut
Pan-Seared Herb Marinated Pink Lamp Tenderloin

Vegetarian Selection
Celery Root Piccata

Guest Chef’s Warm Chocolate Fondant with Sautéed Strawberries with Orange and Pine Nuts on White Chocolate Sauce
Chocolate Paradise Cake with Coffee Ice Cream
Passion Fruit Cream with Fresh Orange and Pistachio Nuts
Sugar-Free Lemon Wheel
Sugar-Free Pineapple Triangle
Homemade Cookies
Assortment of Fruit in Season
Freshly Frozen, Nonfat New York Cheesecake Yogurt

Food review:  Both the Guest Chef and regular entrée selections were outstanding and couldn’t have been better.  Both soups were below par, but edible.  Jerry told us the Spinach Quenelles were really Salmon.  They were disgusting, by the way.  The Guest Chef dessert was very good, but parts of it had sat out too long.  The chocolate part was sort of like a soufflé and was outstanding.  Everything else on the plate was edible, but didn’t add anything.

Maria brought a gift order of wine for Dave’s birthday from Adair thinking today was the 5th.  We told her it didn’t matter and to serve it tomorrow anyway.  For some reason the Dining Room seemed more hectic than usual, maybe because of the Guest Chef items.  It didn’t seem any busier than it has recently, so that’s not the cause.  We only saw Andrejus once because he was in the kitchen waiting to carry out trays most of the time.  We were never served any bread because he wasn’t available and Jerry didn’t think of it.  We don’t care, it’s just an observation.

There was a dramatic, continuous electrical storm going on during all of dinner.  It continued until at least 9:30 PM.

The Evening Entertainment is the long-lived production show “Symphony of Nations”.  As everyone knows, we have never liked this show as much as the other guests do, but tonight it was worse than usual.  There were some scenes where a dancer was missing, timing was off, etc.  At the end, the Cruise Director announced this was the first time this cast had performed the show together.  He always does that when something is bad to garner sympathy and, we assume, avoid complaints.  It wasn’t ghastly, just not quite right.  We wouldn’t be unhappy if this show went away soon.

We stopped by the room briefly on the way to the Chef’s Cocktail Party in Palm Court for full World Cruise guests.  Waldo told us that the woman who never leaves the cabin had him drag her down to a party today, but when he picked her up, nobody had spoken to her.  All she does is sit and smoke and drink, so it’s no wonder.  She told him that she doesn’t like it here because everyone is too old.  She is 83.  If she never leaves the room, how does she know?

The cocktail party wasn’t very crowded, so we didn’t mind attending.  It was interesting to see all of the chefs and helpers from behind the scenes and they seemed to enjoy meeting the guests.  Ordinarily, guests would only see the higher up chefs, not the kitchen help.  The Executive Chef, Jürgen Klocker, remembered us from last year and introduced us to several of his colleagues, who we promptly forgot.  Next up was Josef Matt, the Hotel Director, who wanted to be sure we had ordered drinks.  He dragged a cocktail waitress over so we ordered Perrier.  He also introduced us to the Pastry Chef and a couple of others who were standing there. 

Jeff was behind the bar with his camera gesturing frantically for us to come over, so we did.  He wanted us to pretend to order drinks from the bartender for the World Cruise video, which we did.  This couldn’t possibly be any more contrived because guests don’t stand at the bars to order drinks under most circumstances.  But, we played along.  Aren’t we good sports?

We talked to Rosemary, the World Cruise Hostess, and complimented her on the enormous pendant she had concocted out of a broach and gold chain.  It really did look nice.  She does an outstanding job.  She’s perky without being disgusting and is polished enough to be classy, but not pretentious.  She just seems to be genuinely nice.

There was a large tray of fancy desserts that went untouched by the guests.  The crew eventually did eat some of them, but it was mostly wasted.  It did look nice though.

We went to sit with Mel and Barbara.  They decided to cancel their trip to the World Cruise lunch in Uruguay because of the long drive each way.  Four hours of the six-hour event is driving and the lunch is at a cattle ranch.  It doesn’t sound very appealing to us either, but we will probably go just to have something to whine about later.

Keiko came over because we were laughing so much and said, “Oh, my favorite person,” while moving her outstretched hand to both Dave and Mel.  That provoked more uproarious laughter.  All of this ended up with Keiko sitting in Dave’s lap, which caused Rosemary to feign utter shock and point it out to the people at the next table.  That, of course, caused the ever proper Keiko to insist that Dave had asked her to sit there and since she works for Crystal she couldn’t refuse.  That’s only partially true, by the way, but make up your own scenario.  Obviously, it wasn’t a lap dance or anything.

The best part was when Niklas came over to acknowledge everyone.  He didn’t have a choice because he runs Team Trivia with Rosemary, and Mel and Barbara go every day.  He complained about what a bad day he had today.  Dave said he was surprised he had come over after the complaining this afternoon, which prompted him to say only Bill was bad, so we were even.  Then, Mel asked him how long ago he was married to Abigail!  We just looked at each other and pretended we didn’t know anything, but Niklas was mortified.  He tried to avoid answering him, but Mel persisted.  Finally he said, “That was a long time ago.”  Mel carried on a bit more, but Niklas just sort of danced around the subject.  We hadn’t said anything to them about the conversation we had this afternoon, but the way it came out we think he might assume we had said something and Mel was trying to prove us wrong.  We decided to mention it to Tom and he can tell Niklas we didn’t blab anything just in case he thinks we did.

We stayed for a few more minutes and walked out with Mel and Barbara, stopping to thank Chef Jürgen on the way.  It seemed as though all but a few guests had left and the entire kitchen staff was busy at the bar.  Let’s hope they are coherent enough tomorrow to cook our meals.

We received another World Cruise gift with this card:  “The romance of South America beckons us further down its eastern coast to Brazil, where we’ll visit the colorful ports of Rio de Janeiro and Porto Belo, a maiden port of call for Crystal Symphony.  Then it’s on to exciting Buenos Aires, the ‘Paris of the South.’  We are pleased to present you with this custom weighted bookmark for your reading pleasure and convenience.  We hope you will enjoy using this gift at home and on future Crystal Cruises.”

Click to view today's World Cruise Newsletter.

wednesday, february 5th – cruising the south atlantic ocean – dave’s birthday

We received our preliminary bill for this segment and we still have about $9,000.00 in onboard spending credits left that will carry forward to the next segment.

There wasn’t much on the agenda for today, so it will be mostly birthday festivities for what they’re worth.  The first was a voicemail message from the Front Office wishing Dave a Happy Birthday from everyone at the Front Desk.  When we opened the door, the mail clip was full.  There was a personalized card from the Hotel Director, the general card signed by the Captain, and a hand-written note from Rosemary, the World Cruise Hostess.

There was an American Classic Buffet around the Neptune Pool today, but this isn’t one of our favorites, so we went to check on the offerings in the Dining Room.  We decided to stay there for the Chicken Quesadillas that were very good, but quite spicy.  By the number of people in the Dining Room, it appeared that most people did not go to the buffet upstairs.  The weather is overcast, but it has moderated the heat, so it is rather pleasant outside. 

Click for Daytime Activities.

After lunch we browsed through the shops in an attempt to spend some of our credits, but only managed to buy some CD’s of Tom Daniels and John Mentis.  That didn’t make much of a dent in our account, but we have seen some items in another shop that we may buy later for gifts and for us to keep.  We were going to buy some cufflinks until we noticed that the price on the pre-printed card in the box was $39.95, but the ship's price was $69.95.  They had removed the pre-priced cards from all of the other boxes.  Knowing we were being charged double the suggested retail price made us forgo the purchase on principle.

We ran out to tell the Cruise Director that we enjoy his Five O'clock Funnies show even though we don’t call in for the quiz.  We always know the answer, but rarely does anyone call in.  When they do, they are way off.  Last night he said that he didn’t think anyone was watching because no one ever calls in, so we thought we would tell him we are watching.  He asked what shows we liked the best.  He shows old comedies like "Fawlty Towers" and such, so we told him we liked "Keeping Up Appearances" the best.  So, he said he would show that tonight for us.

Back at the room we found a box of Truffles as a birthday gift from Adair.  Who needs dinner when you have a box of fancy chocolates?

We were in sight of land most of the day, passing mostly forest/jungle, but we could sometimes see an oceanfront city and islands.  The Captain’s announcement this morning said that we will be picking up the pilot at 7:00 PM tonight for the sailing up the Rio de Plata to Buenos Aires.  We saw the pilot boat arrive just as we finished dressing for dinner and passed the pilots in our hallway on the way downstairs.

Tonight’s dress code is Formal for the Captain’s Gala Farewell.  We didn’t go to the cocktail party and went to sit in the Crystal Cove instead.  We intended to only stay until 7:30 PM, but Tom came over and sat with us and delayed us until 8:15 PM.  When he found out it was Dave’s birthday, he ran over to the piano and played “Happy Birthday” while the staff looked around trying to figure out whose birthday it was.  Bill finally tried the apple martini he has been looking at for years.  It smelled and looked better than it tasted, but at least it’s one more thing we can cross off the list of things to do.


Iced Russian Sevruga Caviar with Traditional Condiments, Blinis and Melba Toast
Pate de Fois Gras with Warm Brioche and Port Wine Gelée
Gulf Shrimp in Root Vegetable Aspic
Combination of Tropical Fruits sprinkled with Drambuie

Soup and Salad
Cream of Asparagus Argenteuil
Consommé Double with Truffle Royal and Vegetables
The Captain’s Salad

Refreshing Kir Royale Sherbet

Pasta Special
Capellini with Light Porcini Mushroom Sauce, Topped with Grilled Scallops

Salad Entrée
Crunchy Garden Greens with Walnut Dressing, Blue Cheese, Figs, Grilled Eggplant, and Grilled Lamb Chops

Main Fares
Broiled King Crab Legs
Roasted Stuffed Wild Pheasant Breast
Filet of Beef Wellington
Grilled Herb Marinated Veal Medallions “Provence”

Vegetarian Selection
Vegetable Stuffed Potato Cakes

The American Institution – Baked Alaska Flambé en Parade
Vanilla Cinnamon Mousse with Bourbon Caramel Sauce
Sugar-Free Chocolate Mousse Cake
Tropical Fruit in Season
Plantation Pralines, Truffles, and Petit Fours

Food review:  The soup and salad were satisfactory, but nothing special.  The sherbet was very good.  We had pre-ordered Chateaubriand for our entrée and it was outstanding.

We arrived so late that Augusto thought maybe we weren’t coming.  Don’t scold us, it’s acceptable to arrive anytime between 7:00 PM and 9:00 PM when there is only a single seating.  However, since we usually arrive promptly, they didn’t know for sure where we were.  This was Baked Alaska Parade night, but since it was Dave’s birthday, they served us a Black Forest Cake that was very good.  The Champagne Strings insisted on playing something while they were strolling around during dinner, so we let them choose something they liked.  We have no idea what it was, but it was peppy and sure woke everyone up.

Maria served our wine, as expected.  Dave flattered her this afternoon, so now she looks sheepish whenever she walks by.  All of the appropriate people stopped by for birthday wishes, plus Ben, the Wine Steward from the adjoining station.  After the stupid Baked Alaska parade, the strings came back to play “Happy Birthday” while Maria, Jerry, Andrejus, and Augusto sang.  The people at the table behind us turned around to participate.  They are always quite pleasant.

We were sort of rushed to make it out in time to make the show at 9:45 PM, but we did make it with a few minutes to spare.  The room wasn’t packed, which surprised us.  The attendance was just slightly more than for one of the production shows, which are quite popular.

The Evening Entertainment is Celebrity Showtime featuring Lucie Arnaz.  Then, there is a Sing Along in the Avenue Saloon at 11:00 PM.

Lucie was, well, not ghastly, but it is obvious she’s getting by on her name alone.  Why she needs this huge entourage is anyone’s guess.  We have heard far worse, but not from a so-called celebrity.  She pretended to drag her 18-year old daughter onto the stage spontaneously to sing with her, but it was obviously pre-planned.  Her daughter was barely acceptable and should not have been on that stage, but that point seemed lost on the majority of people who believed the whole thing was impromptu.  Basically, the show was better than staring at the wall, but not by much.

We briefly watched the Champagne Strings in the lobby to air ourselves out after the stuffy showroom, then headed back toward the room.  We ran into Niklas and Paul, so we had to stop to chat.  Paul was occupied with another guest, but Niklas wanted to chat.  He is sending information on Buenos Aires nightlife, we assume specifically geared to what he thinks we will be interested in, to our room.  We were able to let him know that we hadn’t said anything to Mel and Barbara that caused Mel to bring up the supposed marriage to Abigail.  That did prompt him to tell us they made the whole thing up years ago because they were friends on another ship and people assumed they were married at some point.  They weren’t and he wanted to be sure we knew that.  We didn’t think it was feasible, but one never knows for sure.  He told us that the rumor had somehow resurfaced on this cruise, so rather than bother denying it, they came up with dates and times so they would both tell the same story.  Anyway, we can’t figure out why he seems to want to go out with us on tour and such since we haven’t spoken to him except during lunch the other day.  We’d guess Tom probably told him we are nice guys, which we have been with Tom.  It was fairly apparent that Niklas didn't think much of Lucie's show, but he waited until he knew we would agree with him before saying much, which is the proper thing to do in his position.

Dave received the usual birthday greeting painted in chocolate on a plate from Waldo, Isabela and Hazel.  They really do a great job of recognizing birthdays and anniversaries here even though we never ask for it.  There is also an announcement in the Reflections program and on the TV: Screen 1, Screen 2.  Our table in the Dining Room was adorned with balloons, as well.

We go an hour back in time tonight, so we're headed in the right direction.

thursday, february 6th – buenos aires, argentina – arrive 8:00 am

Romanticized in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s famous musical Evita, Buenos Aires is a legendary city. Its history has often been tumultuous, but even through the hardest times the hearty people have persevered. It is true that the Argentine people loved their Evita for bringing the concerns of the common people to center of the political stage, but a price had to be paid for the attention. The turmoil that characterized the country before and after she lived continued to reverberate in economic doubt. Since 1990 (and hopefully after the recent political and economic struggles), a new era seems to have finally dawned, and the country appears to be on a stable economic path for the first time in decades.

Pedro de Mendóza established a riverside city in 1536. Leading more than 1,500 people, Mendóza had planned to arrive at the end of winter. Unfortunately, in the Southern Hemisphere, it was the end of summer and the settlers hadn’t time to plant food crops. The colonists nearly starved the first year. Fortunately, there were plenty of fish in the river. The settlers moved gradually inland and eventually settled at Asunción. The Paraguayan capital was the dominant regional force until silver mining brought wealth, and Buenos Aires began to grow as a shipping port. After repelling a British attack in 1807, the people of Argentina united and declared independence from Spain. By that time, Napoleon had conquered most of Europe, and later, by the time the Spanish monarchy was finally restored, it was too late.

But there was conflict between landowners of the Argentine interior and Buenos Aires’ merchant class. After enduring a long period of oppressive rule under General Rosas, a coalition force overthrew him and a wave of new immigrants flooded the city. There was a boom in the early 20th century, but a steel mill strike in the 1920s was squashed, and the ensuing years saw the return of a severe right-wing regime.

It was in this atmosphere that Eva Duarte emerged. A shrewd peasant woman, she fell in love with Juan Perón and became the rags-to-riches symbol that ignited the hearts of the common people. But the Perón years were characterized by corruption and mismanagement and Argentina paid dearly for them in later decades. The low point in the national troubles came in the 1970s — an era that has come to be known as the "Decade of the Dirty War." Many citizens, mostly young men, vanished. Families did not know what happened to lost loved ones, and mothers continue to protest at Plaza de Mayo today. A somber procession gathers every Thursday with photographs of those who are "lost." They vow to persist with their demonstrations so the country will never forget what happened. Most of the disappearances remain mysteries and may never be solved.

Buenos Aires surprises many visitors. If you are expecting a pure Spanish city, you will be disappointed. In fact, comparisons are usually made with Paris instead. Pretty much forgotten in colonial times, the city boomed in the nineteenth century when Paris was setting the styles. At that time, many immigrants arrived from the continent and the flourishing French chic was fresh in their minds. The foundations are Spanish and as with all Spanish-American settlements, old Buenos Aires was laid out around a central plaza bordered by a fort, city hall, and a cathedral. But when the great re-building took place in the 1930s, architectural styles were anything but Spanish. The city is organized into more than 40 districts, but most visitors spend their time in those that curve along the River Plate between La Boca (the mouth) and Tigre, a delta suburb. The inland districts are mostly residential.


Our afternoon tour had a meeting time of 1:45 PM, so we had plenty of time for lunch in the Lido.  Rosario offered to make reservations at Jade Garden for us, so we asked him to make them for the next Medieval night. 

The port area is very industrial and full of containers, so our port photos didn’t portray the flavor of Buenos Aires.  The port is in the Rio de Plata, where the water is very muddy.  We were told that we might have to conserve water, but we saw them taking on water later in the day, so something must have been worked out.  The excuse that this is an environmentally sensitive area is ludicrous based upon the appearance of the water in the river.

When we arrived for the departure in the Starlite Club, there were only three other guests there.  Eventually another man arrived who was on the afternoon tour with us in Rio.  He said he also prefers not to get up early, so we’re not the only ones.  Finally, all but one of the group of the expected fifteen people arrived and we went down to board the shuttle bus to the terminal.  The point of the shuttle is for “security and safety”.  Well, maybe so because it is rather busy with trucks, but the terminal was barely fifty feet away.

The terminal was much more modern than those in Brazil and only a few people tried to sell us tickets to Tango shows.  And, they were behind counters, not in our face, so it wasn’t a big deal.  We were on a smaller bus than usual, so the tour was fairly pleasant.  Unfortunately, the dippy language teacher was the escort again.  This is the woman who didn’t know she had to present an I.D. to get back onto the ship.  She had the same problem getting off the ship today and held up the whole line while looking for it at the exit.

Our tour guide was a very pleasant Argentinean woman who was about Dave’s age.  Her English wasn’t perfect, but she got the point across and was friendly and accommodating.  We started off by driving through the port area, which isn’t the best part of town.  Still, it was better than most of Rio de Janeiro.

The bus continued through the business district and onto the huge Avenida 9 de Julio that is said to be the widest boulevard in the world.  It is lined with old, opulent buildings and new office blocksIn the center is an obelisk commemorating fallen heroes or something like that.  There were monuments everywhere, but even the guide didn’t remember what all of them were for.  In some ways, the city looks a bit like Paris or any modern European city.  We could see that it was beginning to fade a bit due to the recent economic collapse, but lawns were mowed and parks maintained.  We did notice that none of the monumental fountains around the city were working, however.  Most monuments were surrounded by fences and covered with graffitiAlso, there were soldiers with machine guns at every corner and entrance of government buildings.  Police were obviously present in increased numbers around most big monuments and squares.

Basically, the tour consisted of driving through various parts of the city, which was pleasant enough.  We made a stop at the square in front of the pink palace made famous by Evita standing on the balcony waving to the crowds. The area was full of police and the guide said the square is closed suddenly almost every day because of protests, so she was glad it was open today.  There are old women wearing scarves coming to protest the disappearance of over 30,000 people in past years.  Many of the monuments around the city sport graffiti that says, "Gracias Madres, " that means, "Thank you Mothers," which refers to these woman and their struggle to find out what happened to all of those who are still missing.  

Vendors sold flags and trinkets, and beggars tried to get money from everyone, each with some pathetic gimmick.  They didn’t grab at us, so it wasn’t unbearable.

We visited the cathedral that is one of the only remaining buildings from the Spanish times.  The city is built on marshes, so most of the old buildings are gone.  There were no stones in the area for building, but the Jesuits who built the original church knew how to make bricks, so the church stands to this day.  Overview of the square.

We drove around the modern part of the city where the guide said they are unable to sell the expensive apartments, so they sit half empty and incomplete.  This has more to do with the fact that people don’t want to live outside the fashionable parts of the city rather than economics.  The new part of the city is very nice and fronts a wide park that was built along the riverbank.  People were out jogging and sunning themselves on this nice day.  Back toward the city is a section of fancy new office towers.

By the way, the temperature is in the mid 80’s, sunny and somewhat humid.  There was a breeze most places we went, so it wasn’t too bad.

We drove across town to the Recoleta district that was once the newer part of the city.  Here, there is a cemetery turned tourist attraction where elaborate monuments stand testament to various heroes and rich patrons of the past and present.  There was the usual beverage stop to waste thirty minutes, but it was in a local bar and wasn’t too obnoxious.

The Recoleta Cemetery is the burial place of Evita Peron, so that’s the main attraction.  She is buried in the Duarte family crypt. It was very interesting looking into the elaborate structures through their etched glass doors.  Many were works of art in their own right.  Some were abandoned, but most seemed to be in use and properly maintained.  Next door is a small church that from the 1700’s and one of the few remaining from that time that is still maintained.  The guide said it is only maintained because it is in the tourist area, otherwise it would be covered with dust.

After visiting the church, we re-boarded the bus and drove through the embassy district where the various foreign governments have converted formerly private mansions into their embassies.  The tree-lined streets would be at home in any old money neighborhood.  This part of town was the most attractive and is part of an elaborate park system with man-made lakes, a zoo, monuments galore, and wide boulevards.  This area has a very European feel to it. The guide said that the Spanish heritage had faded away long ago because the British and French were the primary patrons after independence.  Of course, right now the economy is in a shambles and everything is subject to change at a moments notice.

We were taken past the Marriott Plaza Hotel in a very fashionable area, which is where the shuttle stop will take guests during the day.  There were the usual fancy boutiques one would find in any big city, plus the very popular steakhouses serving the famous Argentinean beef for pennies on the dollar.  We were told it is possible to have a steak too big to finish for just $5.00.  However, the guide did caution us not to wear flashy jewelry or watches when walking.  We didn’t see anything as sinister as we did in Rio, but there were a lot of people begging or trying to sell things to the occupants of cars stopped at traffic lights.  Most of these were young boys, but we would guess this changes at night for the worse.

We made it back to the ship at 6:00 PM, so we had to quickly shower and get dressed for dinner.  Waldo delayed us with his usual chatter and birthday wishes for Dave because he didn’t see us yesterday.  Earlier today there was a Silversea ship in port with us, but it was gone by the time we returned.

Tonight’s dress code is Casual.  We made it to the Dining Room at 7:30 PM and it was still mostly empty.  More people arrived at 8:00 PM after the evening tour to see a Tango show returned.


Smoked Sturgeon and Salmon Rose with Caviar Filled Baked Potato
Ragout of Morels, Chicken, and Asparagus in Puff Pastry Bouchons
Herb Wrapped Beef Carpaccio with Mustard, Mixed Greens & Parmesan Cheese
Selected Fruit Marinated in Campari with Grapefruit Segments

Soup and Salad
Cream of Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Peppers
Beef Consommé with Herb Biscuit
Chilled Green Gazpacho
Heart of Boston Lettuce with Oranges, Grapes and Sliced Red Onion
Traditional Greek Salad with Black and Green Olives and Feta Cheese

Pasta Special
Elbow Macaroni all Cecca

Salad Entrée
Apple Potato Salad with Blue Cheese and Grilled Filet Mignon

Main Fares
Broiled Filet of Pacific Salmon
Roasted French Duck Brigarde
Chinese Sweet and Sour Prawns
Grilled Black Angus Sirloin Steak

Caramel-Hazelnut Chocolate Tart a la Mode
Lilikoi Cheesecake
Cinnamon Ice Parfait on Caramelized Apples
Sugar-Free Strawberry Lemon Cake
Sugar-Free Vanilla Custard
Homemade Cookies
Assortment of Fruit in Season
Freshly Frozen Cappuccino Yogurt

Food review:  The chicken soup was very good, as was the consommé.  The salad was satisfactory, but rather boring.  The prawns were outstanding and couldn’t be better.  Now if they could only make the Chinese food in Jade Garden half this good they would be onto something.  We were talked into the dessert by Jerry.  It was sort of like thick caramel with whole roasted nuts embedded in it, topped by fudge.  It was good, but sweet enough to cause a stroke.

Jerry was excited by his tour of Buenos Aires today.  It was nice to see him happy about a port since he was so disappointed by Rio.  He told everyone who would listen about what a good time he had. 

After dinner we wandered out to listen to Tom until he finished at 9:30 PM, which was only 30 minutes away.  In the meantime, Corina regaled us with amusing stories about various ports and restaurants she has visited.  We haven’t really talked to her much before tonight, although she is around when we are talking with Tom most nights.  It’s really amusing to us how the staff will talk to us, complete with colorful language, about just about anything. 

Tom joined us when he was finished and eventually Pat arrived to try to choose a place to go out later.  Tom wasn’t interested in the suggestion that they go to the place where Pat got a massage this afternoon, so we have no idea what the outing will really be.  Tom didn’t look very enthusiastic about the whole thing particularly when he couldn’t get Pat to agree on a place on board to meet.  When Tom started playing again for the late-night crowd, we started to leave.  Corina came over to tell us another story and to thank us for listening to her and actually paying attention.

Our next stop was the Shore Excursion Desk to fill out an order form for some upcoming excursions.  We’re not sure we will keep the reservations, but we wanted to go ahead and make them now rather than waiting until the new guests arrive tomorrow.  Billy looked up the official numbers for us.  There are 288 guests intransit and 424 guests arriving tomorrow, so the total will be 712 plus about 50 entertainers and lecturers.  After Valparaíso, the count drops to 318, which is less than there are on board now.  We learned that two full World Cruise guests left due to the wife's illness, so that brings the total on the full cruise down to 105.

The only entertainment offered tonight was a Farewell Show with the dance instructors and a brief performance by the string duo from a few nights back.  We didn’t attend.

Bill brought our map of Buenos Aires down and gave it to Tom since we don’t plan to go out tomorrow.  Click for the Reflections Summary for this segment.

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