In 1536, Juan de Saavedra named his new community Valparaíso
(Valley of Paradise) in honor of his native Valparaíso de Cuenca in Seville.
There is not much room between the high cliffs and the sea, but Valparaíso
and Viña del Mar comprise Chile’s third largest metropolitan
area after Santiago and Concepción. Until the Panama Canal
opened in 1914, Valparaíso, affectionately known as "Valpo," was
one of the busiest ports in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Chile’s National
Parliament still meets in the city of about 150,000 people. Mining and food
processing are major industries and it is still the country’s main shipping
port. The city layout ensures you will get lost. Its enclosure of high hills
is pretty, but the streets wind in labyrinthine fashion. There is no order,
and even the best maps are often wrong. Even so, the wide bay is a perfect
natural harbor, and Valpo is Chile’s most particular city. Its energetic
pulse is alluring.
Here we go on the third segment of the World Cruise! It was wonderful to wake up and find all of the guests already gone. Disembarkation day with Crystal is quiet and well-organized, no continuous announcements or clamoring in the hallways. Guests do not have to leave their cabin until fifteen minutes before their scheduled departure, so there is no big rush or crowds in lounges.
We start this segment by breaking even on our credit, about $7,500 remaining. Today, we received another $300 from American Express, $200 from Auto Club, and two bouquets of flowers. Guess what’s missing? Our $600 Crystal Society credit for this segment. We’ll wait a day and see if it turns up, then we’ll complain to Lara again.
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As usual, we went to the Lido for lunch at around noon and found it nearly empty, which was fine with us. Food was as usual with the Asian item being the best choice. A few returning crew members greeted us as though we were old friends. After lunch, we went outside to take some new port photos now that the weather has improved. It is much easier to see the crowded hillside neighborhoods, the city center, and the bay without all the clouds and fog. We didn’t even realize yesterday that Viña del Mar was visible so clearly from here. The bay is quite pretty with the sun shining. It still wasn’t hot, maybe 70 or so. Even so, we weren’t interested in going ashore since we saw it last year and it wasn’t special in any way.
We finally cornered Carmelo for a photo. He was the last Deck Steward from the last cruise we needed to photograph. Now we will have to start over with the new arrivals.
Embarkation was to begin at 2:00 PM, so we went to the Front Desk to talk to Billy before the big rush of complainers arrived. He gave us the official guest count for this cruise: 210 in transit, 173 new arrivals, for a total of 383 paying passengers. That is roughly the same or a bit less than the first segment. Just to remind you, there are 106 full World Cruise guests left.
We planted ourselves in the Crystal Cove with several other World Cruisers to watch the new arrivals. We waited, and waited, and waited. Keiko came over several times because she was bored waiting. Luis, the Land Programs Manager, came over. We see him in every embarkation port and he’s very nice. He said he’d see us next in Auckland. His whole life must be spent on airplanes.
Between 2:00 and 3:00 PM we saw only eight guests arrive and some of those were entertainers. Finally, at around 3:15 PM, two busloads arrived, but we doubt there were more than fifty total arrivals during that time. We were glad to see Corina back in the Crystal Cove. She is amusing to talk to and now that it will be less crowded we’ll probably be there more often. Mel came over to say that Barbara had lost her I.D., so they were going back to Viña del Mar to find the taxi driver. Eventually, they came back having found the driver where they left him, with I.D. in hand. That certainly was a miracle. They sat with us for a while before venturing off to the Bistro for a snack…or, as Mel calls it, the “Bristo.”
We decided to tell Rosemary that a new activity for next segment should be to set up bleachers in the lobby so the World Cruisers can watch the new arrivals. She could announce their name and how many cruises they have been on and we could all cheer or boo, as appropriate. We do plan to tell her that since we’re sure she’ll find it amusing. She already thinks we’re incorrigible.
Pat looked like he was about to fall asleep, but it turned out that he and Tom returned to the ship less than an hour after they went out. Tom said later that they ate at a gas station’s mini-mart. Well, Pat ate, Tom just sat there. We heard varying reports about the nightlife. All but one person said there was nothing to do at all and the food wasn’t that good. One person liked the crowded music festival in Viña del Mar, but most just thought it was too crowded. We didn’t realize until later that it was an international festival with people we have actually heard of, although somewhat has-been status like Ricky Martin and N’Sync.
Time for our ice cream snack, so we ventured up to the pool area to sit and look at the city view while we snacked. On the way we ran across Suzie in the landing. She will be our stewardess again for the remaining segments. She did say that if her husband leaves early, she will go before the end, but she isn’t sure about that yet. Our assistant stewardess is Emilie. It will be nice to have Suzie again because she tells us all of the gossip. Isabela never told us a thing. Suzie was surprised we knew Isabela was leaving because she hadn’t told any of her other guests who were shocked when Suzie showed up.
We’ve decided that the really old people only come out on embarkation day because there is no one around. We saw the oldest fossils we have ever seen wandering around on deck and we’re pretty sure they hadn’t just arrived. A couple of newly arrived Deck Stewards came over to greet us. It’s amazing they remember us from years ago.
Next stop was to drop off a birthday card for Domingo with Ronnie, his roommate, in the library. We couldn’t carry on too much because there was a guest there reading, so we dropped off the card, chatted briefly and headed for Jade Garden to make a reservation. They had chairs and beverages set up outside as though there would be some sort of rush, but nobody was there. We made a reservation for Medieval night again at Jade Garden. He told us we could probably just walk in any time without a reservation because, “We always have room for you two.” Not to mention that this cruise is dead.
We wandered by the Crystal Plaza and went down to scare Pat who was falling asleep listening to Tom play. Unfortunately, Tom finished just as we arrived and Pat stood up, so no luck with our plan. That’s when Tom told us about the gas station meal last night. He said that Ernst wrote him a note in German, so he had to have Josef Matt translate it for him. Among other things, it said, “I don’t understand you.” Tom didn’t get why he said that, but we sure do think he sent him mixed signals by hanging around with him every day. Who wouldn’t think there was something there? We do think it would be funny if he was waiting in Auckland when Tom leaves for the Harmony.
There was a boat drill at 5:30 PM for the newly embarked guests. World Cruise guests are exempt from these drills for the duration.
At sailing time, there was a delay, so we went out on the verandah to investigate. The gangway was caught on something on the edge of the dock, subsequently a forklift came to detach it. That made things even worse. When it was free of the obstacle, the lift pulled it up twisted. Suddenly, the whole mechanism snapped upright and left the gangway jammed to the side of the ship and stuck to the doorway on one end.
How many Norwegians does it take to stare at a broken lift? There were between four and six at any given time, plus the regular Filipino deck hands who raise it. Now and then an officer would run around with a walkie talkie looking officious. The Captain announced a ten-minute delay in departure, but they were still working on it at 6:30 PM with no apparent progress. About ten minutes later, after the dock workers brought huge straps and a bunch of guys to pull on it, they did manage to raise it to deck level. However, the platform that attaches to the hatch was badly bent, so it wouldn’t raise into the stowed position. Luckily, the next port uses the tenders, so no need for a gangway, but they’ll have to fix it before we reach Tahiti.
Here is a photo of some luxury condominiums visible as we sailed away. It looks as though they are falling over, but they are really terraced up the hillside. The shoreline was full of high-rise apartments, hotels and condominiums for as far as the eye could see.
Tonight’s dress code is Casual and back to a single seating from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM. We decided to be prompt and arrive on time for the first night. We did stop to look at Suzie’s pictures of their new house, which is indeed “like a palace” by Hungarian standards. That is mostly because it is a Mediterranean style design with a western floorplan and a two-car attached garage. It looks quite a bit like our new Bonsall house only without all the land.
Food review: Boring. We both had a difficult time making a decision because we didn’t really want anything offered. What we had was satisfactory, but that’s about it. The dessert was outstanding, as usual, so the meal was redeemed.
Tonight was the debut of our new waiter, Bruno. We have never met him before tonight , but we have seen him around. He’s very friendly, but in a rather over the top way, but since it was the first night we will reserve judgment. However, he asked us if this was our first cruise and he made recommendations on what to order before we asked him. Two strikes. We have seen this menu 30 times, so we hardly need a recommendation. He did seem to catch on that we might not be novices when Ben, Maria, Augusto, and the waiter from a neighboring station, all stopped to talk to us at one point or another during dinner. He did seem to lighten up a bit at the end, so there is hope it will work out.
The Evening Entertainment is the welcome aboard show "Pirates to Pinafore". Bill intended to go, but missed it when we stayed to talk to Tom. Then we went up to the library where he said he was going to talk to Ronnie (he said we could go with him, we didn’t invite ourselves, FYI.) So, we went ahead and struck up a conversation with Ronnie. Tom didn’t show up for at least 30 minutes, so Ronnie decided we wouldn’t let him in when he got there. Of course, he did let him in, but it was amusing. We had a nice conversation with Ronnie and Tom until the library closed at 11:00 PM. At that point, Tom announced that he didn’t have anything to do, so we asked if he wanted to come to our room and bring Ronnie and we could talk more. So, that’s what we did until 12:45 AM. Tom did most of the talking with Ronnie interjecting things when he knew that Tom was hedging on some subject. We managed to force off some of our American Express gift truffles on Tom, so he’s probably still bouncing around his cabin.We were back to a bit of rocking and rolling late at night, but since the weather is clear we don’t expect much more motion than normal for the open sea. There are four sea days before the next port, so let’s hope it isn’t any worse than Antarctica.
Click to view today's World Cruise Newsletter. We received the World Cruise yearbook tonight. This version is far superior to the fiasco last year. The photos were taken at the Gala Bon Voyage party and then sent to be professionally printed in color. The result is a nice compilation of photos that actually resemble the guests rather than their mug shot.
Back to normal, which means no guests and nothing much to report. It was a bit rough over night and into the day, but just enough to prevent them from filling the Seahorse Pool. It seems that they didn’t figure that out soon enough because the deck was soaked from the water sloshing out earlier. Otherwise, the weather is perfect, partly cloudy and about 70 degrees. In the sun it was very pleasant.
Click for Daytime Activities.
Our first stop was lunch in the Lido, as usual. We forgot to mention yesterday that Tommy Tune is on board with his group. We didn’t see him this afternoon, but his backup group, The Rhythm Kings, was in the Lido whining about being seasick to varying degrees. FYI, it isn’t nearly rough enough to be seasick. Rosario stopped to talk about a weird subject we couldn’t quite follow, but what else is new?
After lunch we wandered out to listen to the band by the pool for about twenty minutes where Joseph ran over to greet us. He returned from vacation yesterday. We then moved inside by the Neptune Pool for cookies. From there we wandered down to look at the boarding photos from yesterday, but found only about 30 of them. We know more people than that boarded, but they must have bypassed the photo stop. After a brief stop to tell Laszlo how nice we think their new house is, we went back up to the room for the rest of the afternoon.
Tonight’s dress code is Formal for the Captain’s Gala Reception. We skipped the free drinks and sat in the Crystal Cove until around 7:45 PM. We kept waiting for the rush to come down from the party, but it never did. However, when we arrived in the Dining Room, it was relatively busy. We have no clue how all those people got there. Elizabeth was in the middle of the lobby trying sell photos in front of the fountain, with no takers. She tried to recruit us as we walked by, but we weren’t feeling very photogenic. She offered to do another set of special photos anywhere on the ship that we choose, so we’ll have to think of a fun spot and let her know. We have two months to figure it out, so no rush.
Food review: The salad was again a disappointment. We can’t quite figure out why they haven’t been very good because the ingredients seem quite fresh. The sherbet course was very good. The beef was outstanding and much better than usual; however, everything on the plate with it was barely edible. This included a ghastly twice-baked potato so dry it was practically dust inside. Dessert was satisfactory.
Bruno continued his habit of making recommendations on the menu, so it appears that we will eventually have to say something. We hate having someone tell us what we should order. Besides, we have seen these menus 30 times. Of course, he is still going on the assumption that our Crystal experience started with the beginning of the World Cruise. He does seem to want to talk and find out more about us, so we’re confident everything will work out. At this point, Andrejus knows more about us than Bruno does, so maybe he’ll inform him before we get around to it.
We hadn’t appreciated how good Jerry’s service was until he left. Bruno’s service isn’t bad, just slower and more disorganized. For example, we run out of the proper silverware or it isn’t replaced until the food is delivered. Jerry always saw to it that everything was in place before the food came. Also, because we don’t order coffee after dinner, we never get the plate of cookies. That’s not a terrible loss, just an observation. Andrejus was talkative tonight now that he is out from under Jerry’s no-talking rule. Jerry has always prevented his assistant from talking to his guests, but Bruno said he doesn’t make any rules when Maria asked about talking to us. She knew that Jerry didn’t like it, so she asked if it bothered Bruno. It didn’t.
We received a bottle of wine in the Dining Room from Adair, so we’re keeping our supply flowing. Just an aside, we did not receive our Crystal Society credit today either. So, we’ll have to bring it up to Lara again.
The Evening Entertainment is the newest production show "Fascinatin’ Rhythm". When this show first debuted during last year’s World Cruise, we absolutely hated it. However, they have made a few changes and it is somewhat enjoyable now. It isn’t our favorite show, but it isn’t the worst by far. They had several substitute dancers because one of the regulars injured himself yesterday. No one would have noticed if it hadn’t been pointed out at the end. On the way out, Domingo thanked us for the birthday card we sent to him yesterday. He has always been very cheerful, but he was actually giggly tonight.
It’s one hour back on the clock tonight. There will be nine hours back before we reach Auckland in two weeks. Of course, that means we have to move forward at least that much on the way back to California.The swells continued at about the same level all day and night. The movement is rhythmic and fairly predictable, so it isn’t a problem at all. The weather is expected to stay about the same for the time being.
Click to view today's World Cruise Newsletter.
Today’s weather is the same as yesterday…sunny with pleasant temperatures in the high 60’s to low 70’s. The sea is fairly calm with a swell now and then that is just large enough to remind us we are on a ship.
Click for Daytime Activites.
We woke up early, but still didn’t venture out until lunchtime. Today’s theme buffet is again the Asia Café around the Neptune Pool. There were almost no other guests there and less than one fourth of the tables were occupied. This is one of the better-executed buffets, but the food hasn’t been quite as good as in the past. Most of what we chose was average to slightly above average. There is a nice variety of grilled meat on skewers, stir fry, rice, spring rolls, won tons, and several other hot dished from various Asian countries.
Our table was outside by the Seahorse Pool where we could listen to the band. Some guests were lying in the sun, but the pool was empty due to the semi-rough weather. It had been filled early this morning because we heard the pumps running, but they must have figured out that the water would slosh out now and then with the occasional swells. It was very pleasant to be out in the clean air for a change. In the shade it was on the verge of being chilly.
We haven’t had a lunch menu for you during this cruise, but we received one in the room today, so here is what was served in the Crystal Dining Room:
At 2:00 PM we picked up some cookies and went back to the room. Waldo intercepted us in the landing and whined about the woman who does nothing aside from sit in her room drinking and smoking. He used to go in a talk to her now and then, but he said she is so depressing he tries to avoid it now. She is threatening to go home because she has nothing to do, although she does have him wheel her to the Dining Room and the Casino every night. Of course, she hates all of her tablemates.
Skip ahead to dinner time. We did nothing except watch TV all afternoon in the room.
On the way to dinner, we ran into Waldo in the hallway who immediately began complaining about guests again. We can hardly blame him because some World Cruisers came by and asked him if the vent in the bathroom is always on or is there a way to turn it off (there isn’t). These people have been on 50 cruises and never noticed the vent is always on? This same couple switched rooms because the one they were in vibrated too much. The only reason the one they moved to doesn’t vibrate is that we aren’t going at the speed that causes it. When we hit a certain combination of speed and wind, the ship vibrates. It always has and always will. Again, did they not notice this on any of their past cruises? Guess they forgot. Waldo said the butlers have a meeting with the Captain at the beginning of each segment and the Captain said to him, “I just don’t know how you do it day after day.” This was after he told them that some of the World Cruise guests call him directly to complain about things. We can’t imagine calling the Captain directly for anything, let alone a minor complaint. God knows that just complaining about something to the Front Desk causes all hell to break loose. Why bother the Captain?
After we left Waldo and made our way to the elevator lobby, Peter, a butler buddy from last year, ran out to greet us. He is extremely nice, friendly and pleasant. He also tells us every bit of gossip there is, so of course, we love him. We found out that the jovial assistant waiter who always talks to us in the Lido is his brother. Peter says that guests always say they look alike, but we certainly don’t think so. Once we knew they were brothers we could see the resemblance, but they are far from being twins. They do have similar mannerisms and both are equally friendly though.
Tonight’s dress code is Informal. We stopped to chat with Rudolf in Captain’s Choice. He told us about what a hassle it is for the crew to enter the U.S. now. They are interrogated after their passports have been taken away from them. This is even with a letter from Crystal in hand. Last year when he went on vacation from the ship in L.A., they were forced to undergo drug tests complete with stripping down almost naked, having their hands swabbed with some unknown liquid, etc. We have no clue what the point of any of that would be. Who cares if someone entering the U.S. has used drugs? Very strange. Rudolf is very interesting to talk to as well as being so very British (although he’s from South Africa). We arrived at our table in the Dining Room at 8:00 PM. Remember that it is open seating now and we may arrive anytime between 7:00 and 9:00 PM.
Food review: The soup was outstanding, although we’re sure there was a stick of butter in each cup. The sunflower seeds were unnecessary though. Both entrees were very good, but the portions were enormous. Neither of us wanted to finish the meat because there was so much. The dessert was much improved by substituting sherbet for the ice cream. That is how it was served originally, but it sounded like such an odd combination nobody would order it. The pistachio ice cream is not a good choice, however.
Bruno was told that the chicken would be our favorite, so he didn’t recommend anything else. We rarely order the menu version of Chicken Cacciatore because of the bones, so we weren’t sure where he got that idea. At least it prevented him from telling us what to order and it gave us the chance to tell him we have been looking at the same menus for eight years. Maria came over to ask where the hell we had been to make us late (that’s exactly what she said, by the way.) We informed her that Rudolf had told Dave that he always, “Looks like you just did something bad.” She agreed, but doubted he was that bad. We informed her otherwise, but had to clarify that “bad” doesn’t include practical jokes and such, which was the conclusion she jumped to.
Augusto wants to make Chicken Cacciatore for us himself at tableside, so we told him we would let him know when there is a menu we don’t like. He has finally recovered from his cold. He looked terrible yesterday, but has made a quick recovery.
The Evening Entertainment is a Variety Showtime featuring dance team Curtis and Natalie plus Musical Variety Artist, Mark Donoghue. Honestly, we didn’t expect much from the variety artist, but he was quite talented and amusing enough to keep things moving. He played the violin, harmonica, electric guitar, electric fiddle, and sang. He was good at everything. The act did get tedious after a while, so we’re glad it wasn’t an hour show, although it sort of seemed like it sometimes. But, as mentioned, he wasn’t lacking in talent, so that’s a big plus over the usual offerings.
We received another World Cruise Gift with this card: “Welcome to World Voyage III, the beginning of our exploration of the romantic South Pacific. We’ll enjoy mythical Easter Island, Pitcairn Island and an extended stay in the paradise of Papeete and Huahine, as well as a maiden call at Raiatea, part of the Society Islands. Farther west, we’ll encounter the exotic port of Apia, Western Samoa. The final destination of our World Voyage concludes in Auckland, the jewel of New Zealand. We invite you to enjoy these custom baggage tags on all your future journeys. May they remind you of your favorite memories of this voyage.”
The tags are a useful gift, but we didn’t know the cruise ended in Auckland. What they meant to say was this “segment” of the World Cruise ends in Auckland. Oops.
The weather and relatively smooth sailing continued into the night. This is about the same as last year, except it was quite a bit warmer at this point. We can only hope that the heat will be more moderate this time around, but we’re not counting on it. We move another hour back on the clock tonight.
Click to view today's World Cruise Newsletter.
Today’s weather is the same as yesterday, maybe a few degrees warmer, and very pleasant outside. With the hour back last night we did wake up earlier than usual, but didn’t bother going anywhere until lunchtime when we went to the Lido.
Click for Daytime Activities.
There wasn’t much on the food line that we considered edible, but the carved chicken proved a good choice, plus the made-to-order pasta dish. After finishing our meal, we moved outside by the Seahorse Pool to listen to the band and enjoy the nice weather. We were surprised there was water in the pool because it would periodically slosh up on the stage in front of the band. Guests in the water seemed to enjoy the waves though.
It never ceases to amaze us that there always has to be one guest inconsiderate enough to move their lounge so it completely blocks the walkway. In today’s case, a woman put a lounge across the walkway directly outside of the doors onto the deck. Apparently, all of the guests tripping over her and walking sideways to squeeze past her didn’t have any impact at all.
At 3:00 PM we picked up some ice cream and moved to a different location outside where we stayed for another half hour before returning to the room for the rest of the afternoon. We received an invitation to a Special Frϋhschoppen tomorrow at 10:30 AM in Prego. Don’t ask, we don’t know either, and considering the time, we will probably never find out.
Tonight’s dress code is Informal. We started off with the intention of sitting in the Crystal Cove before dinner, but it was crowded with, as Ben put it later, “Old biddies,” having their picture taken with Tommy Tune. It is his birthday today, so he has been out and about more than usual. He does seem to be quite friendly. Rather than brave the crowd, which wouldn’t be considered any sort of crowd by anyone besides us, we went directly into the Dining Room, which was practically empty for the first half hour we were there.
Food review: The soup and dessert were the only parts of the meal that were very good, everything else was average. Neither of us really wanted to finish the meat. There wasn’t anything specific wrong with it, but we didn’t like the texture of it.
We emphasized again to Bruno that we have seen these menus 30 times before, so he didn’t recommend anything at first. However, he did tell us to order the cheesecake, which we already planned to do. To make sure he didn’t think he had sold it to us, Bill said, “Yes, that’s our usual choice.” The waiter at the next station, whom we don’t know, came over to chat again. We have no idea why, but he seems nice enough. Ben asked us who Tommy Tune is, so we explained that he is about as famous as a person can get on Broadway. Almost none of the staff has ever heard of him.
We were finished with dinner so early that we had over 45 minutes to kill before the show, so we stopped by to give Ronnie another tape we had finished. Waldo came in at one point to return two tapes for a guest who hasn’t been out of her bed for the last 25 days. Well, we assume she bathes and such, but the point is that she doesn’t leave her room.
Ronnie wasn’t aware of the damage to our gangway as we sailed out of Valparaíso, so he wanted to hear the whole story. We’re all wondering what they will do when we arrive in Papeete and have to use it. We almost missed the show because we were engrossed in Ronnie’s tale of the staff wanting him to dress up as Imelda Marcos to represent the Philippines in the Crystal Symphony Olympics coming up shortly. We thought it would be amusing if he made a long train out of shoes. He thought that was a great idea.
We learned tonight that the real reason Crystal Harmony couldn’t meet up with Crystal Symphony off Japan during the last World Cruise was because the Harmony had burned up an engine. They weren’t sure they could make it across from Hawaii to Japan for the repairs, particularly with two typhoons to contend with. Of course, the guests weren’t told any of this, but the talk amongst the crew was that they may break down at any moment. That was an exaggeration also because each ship has two extra engines. When the ship arrived in Japan they had to cut a huge hole in the side of the ship to install an entirely new engine at a cost of about $1.2 million.
The Evening Entertainment is a concert by Tony Award Nominated Vocalist Michel Bell. We have always missed him for one reason or another, but have always heard that he is outstanding. If fact, he was outstanding, but an hour was a bit too much. His Tony Award nomination was for “Showboat” where he sang “Old Man River.” Basically, everything he sang sounded like that song. We did enjoy his singing for the most part, but his banter was too phony and contrived. We’ll go see him again in one of the Variety Hours later in the cruise.
At the end of the show, the Cruise Director made Tommy Tune stand up so the audience could sing “Happy Birthday” to him, then led everyone down to the Crystal Cove for free champagne and a party. We didn’t attend. Tommy looked as though he wasn’t quite sure he wanted to go, but we’re sure he did.We received programs for the Crystal Olympics. We can’t quite figure out why they are waiting until we reach a bunch of ports to start the whole thing. They do a very good job with it, but wouldn’t it have been better to start off during all of these sea days? We wondered the same thing last year, so it isn’t anything new.
The departure time from Easter Island has been delayed an hour until 5:00 PM, so now there are afternoon excursions available. Too bad the one we booked isn't one of them. We learned from Ronnie that a new Catholic priest and some lecturers are arriving there because they weren't able to make the ship in Valparaiso. That must be a really fun flight.
Click to view today's World Cruise Newsletter.
Again we were up earlier than usual, but we didn’t venture out until lunchtime. We weren’t in the mood for the World Cruise party at 10:30 AM. The weather is warmer today, but otherwise the same as yesterday.
Lunch in the Lido was as usual, interrupted by a peculiar, one-sided conversation with Rosario. He always says that he should wait until we are finished eating before talking, but he never does. We’re still choosing the daily Asian selection although they haven’t been quite as good as they were during previous segments.
After lunch we moved outside to listen to the band for an hour. The ship is moving at the same speed as the wind, so it became too warm now and then when the breeze completely stopped. There was no sloshing water to amuse us today. Well, the water was there, it just wasn’t sloshing. There were various and sundry technical types dragging out equipment for the Olympic Opening Ceremony tomorrow night. They started collecting the chairs way too early in our opinion. There were still people sitting at the tables when they began stacking them up. This was around 2:00 PM when the pool area was at its most popular. Here's a photo of last year's Opening Ceremony that was rained out.
By 2:00 PM it was too hot for us outside, so we went back to the room for the rest of the afternoon.
Tonight’s dress code is 50’s/Casual. We didn’t feel like going to dinner at 7:00 PM, so we went up to the Palm Court to wait until about 7:30 PM. When it is light outside, the view from up there is great, so it’s worthwhile to make the effort to sit for a few minutes before dinner.
Food review: The soups had both gone downhill since the last segment. We’d rate both of them barely above average. The meatloaf was good, but the portion was HUGE and way too much for a meal with so many courses.
Bruno tried to sell us on the prime rib, which we know isn’t very good. We cut him off in the middle of his recommendations, so we’re hoping he’ll get a clue pretty soon. Augusto made the caramelized pineapple again, this time to perfection. Josef wanted him to add liqueur, raspberries, and a bunch of other fanciness. They just don’t get that sometimes simple is better. We will definitely try this at home when we have fresh fruit to use. Our thanks to Uruguay for the recipe.
The Evening Entertainment is the “Rock Around the Clock” production show, Name That Tune, and a 50’s Sock Hop. There is also a 50’s midnight buffet with popcorn, hot dogs and such. This is the only midnight buffet they still hold on this ship. We probably don’t have to mention that we didn’t attend any of them. Instead, we sat in the Crystal Cove with Mel and Barbara until they left for the show.
When Tom was finished playing he joined us for our usual chat about nothing in particular. He seems completely back to normal now, which is a big improvement over the last segment when he was sort of a downer. Every time we see him he always says he’s starving, so he was waiting for the 50’s buffet to open. In the meantime, he went to play piano with the Champagne Strings. We left during the latter part of the concert because we have to get up so early tomorrow for our tour. Tom tried to convince us to stay up and party all night instead. He was kidding, by the way.
Even as scientists unlock the secrets of the human
gene, the unfathomable mystery of Rapa Nui’s moai has yet to be solved. The eerie stone
statues have gazed out to sea for centuries as if they were guarding the
land beneath them. Perhaps the stones are so captivating because the island is
far removed from the rest of the world, but maybe, in the unspoken language of
shared human and cultural terms, the island is not so remote after all.
Perhaps the enigmatic statues call out to that hidden part of our souls that
sees a parallel between the isolated windswept island and 21st-century
society. The manifestations may differ, but both societies seem to have
striven for the same goal — divine communion.
We were up at the crack of dawn, literally, to be ready for our tour departure. After our usual Continental breakfast for such occasions, we went down to the Starlite Club to await departure.
Click for Daytime Activities.
The Shore Excursions woman announced that everyone on one side of the room on Tour A should proceed to the tender. Since this was still fifteen minutes before our scheduled departure and we were on Tour B, we stayed put. She came back in a few minutes to say there was a delay because one of the tenders had broken down, so we were now short one. Eventually, she said that if anyone was there for Tour B or C, to go to the tender. At the tender landing, we met a couple who said they only knew to go to the tender because they had asked, the woman had never announced anything except Tour A. As it turned out, they were waiting for the four of us on shore.
Boarding the tender was a matter of waiting until just the right moment for the ship to sway in the right direction. The rocking was so drastic that water would come into the doorway on the downward slosh. So, the tender was either four feet above or below the threshold at any given moment. However, the crew knows how to handle such matters and we were boarded promptly.
The ride to shore was only about ten minutes. As last year, the arrival into the tiny port is sort of a drama because the boats must approach cautiously and bodysurf into the harbor. Calling it a harbor is an extreme exaggeration. There is just a small lava rock inlet with a concrete landing at one side. Here is last year's photo of the harbor.
Once ashore, we were hustled into a van with the couple we met on board and Kailiya, the stylist who cut Dave’s hair, who was our escort from the ship. She said the others were waiting for us at the first stop, the village of Ahu Vinapu. Easter Island isn’t what one expects. Rather than being dry and barren, it is an attractive tropical island with tidy houses along the roadside. There is only one paved road that leads to one of the beaches at the other side of the island, so we traveled mostly over rutted red dirt roads, as we did last year. The other members of the tour were waiting at the destination for us. There were only a total of eleven people on the tour, which is the reason we decided to tour here. Transportation is in a local resident’s own vehicle, so the groups are necessarily small. It was almost like a private tour and we particularly enjoyed the English couple who was delayed on board with us.
The village is the site of two large ruined platforms and their toppled Moai. The stonework of the walls here is the same as that of the Incas, so the belief is that there is some connection between the two. Of course, like everything else about Easter Island, it is hotly debated and nothing is certain. These stone Ahu have not been restored and show the state of all of the Moai when they were first discovered by European archeologists. We also viewed a statue buried to its shoulders by erosion over time.
The views around the village were spectacular, either rolling pasture land or stunning lava cliffs and beaches. One of the charms of visiting these sites is that there are no fences and barely even a trail to reach most of them. It is as though one simply stumbled upon them. As tourism grows, we’re sure these monuments will end up marred with graffiti and guarded behind fences. The guide pointed out where some Japanese tourists had carved their name into one of the fallen Moai. It had since been repaired and the culprits were caught. As it turned out, someone in the town could read Japanese, so they went out, read the name, and traced it back to the hotel register. The offenders were fined a hefty sum and sent packing. About one-third of the island is a Chilean National Park, with the rest being owned by either the government or the local people known as Rapa Nui. No one else is allowed to own land, so it is unlikely there will be much more development than there is now.
Currently, 3,000 people live on the island. At the height of the Moai building it is thought that over 15,000 people lived here. That was more than the island could sustain, which is what is thought to have led to the civil war and eventual downfall of the civilization.
Our guide, a student from London who was obviously not a native with his blond hair, led us through the bushes to view one of the temples that was untouched from it’s discovered state. On the way, we passed the only known two-headed Moai that was restored to an upright position by an archeologist in the 1930’s. It just looks like a pillar now, but upon close inspection the carved hands are visible near the bottom. The two heads have been eroded over time, which is a definite threat to all of the statues since they are carved out of soft volcanic stone.
Back on the road, we headed off to the next destination, Rano Rau, the island’s southernmost and second oldest volcano. We stopped briefly at an overlook to view the highest point on the island in the distance. That volcano is only about 1,500 feet high. The soil is very porous and erosion is a problem. That’s the reason most of the statues are found buried to their necks as the soil has piled up around them over the years. From this vantage point, we also had a stunning view of Crystal Symphony at anchor off of the small village, and a view of the sparsely settled valley below. The island is so narrow that the airport runway stretches from one shore to the other.
We arrived at the spectacular Rano Kau lookout to view the sight of the Bird-Man Cult. The crater contains a reed covered fresh-water lake that is believed to be about fifty feet deep. Most of the depth is filled with rotted reeds and sediment. An English archeologist recently drowned here, apparently due to the quick-sand-like grip of the reeds. The original residents used this lake for their drinking water and for washing clothes. At the lookout, there is a circle of stones marking one of the many ancient petroglyphs representing a Bird-Man.
The crater is a perfect circle with a large gap in the wall facing the ocean that looks as though a giant took a bite out of it. The left rim is the highest, while the right, equally high, but a bit more jagged, housed the Bird-Man Cult’s ceremonial village of Orongo. This was our next destination and just a short drive away along another dirt road.
Upon arrival, everyone, not including us, ran for the restrooms housed behind the small ranger station. In the meantime, we wandered around for some photos of the view. Our guide, James, told us we could start walking toward the end of the pathway and he would come along when everyone was finished. So, we started off down the barely marked pathway toward the edge of the crater and the village. Along the way, we veered toward the crater for a photo of the viewpoint across the crater and a close up of the gap in the crater wall.
The village of Orongo was only inhabited for three months of the year while they awaited the first egg. The traditional egg ceremony that was performed to choose the island’s religious head took place here. They have restored many of the stacked stone houses where the people lived during this ritual. The tiny doorways are just big enough for a small man to crawl inside. There was no furniture inside as these shelters were only used for sleeping, jammed in like sardines, according to the guide. Cooking and everything else was done outside. One section of the houses was left in its ruined state as an example of how these structures appeared when they were discovered. We also viewed a very detailed stone carving of a Bird-Man and a cooking pit.
We followed a pathway through the village toward the pinnacle at the end of the rim where the priests lived. Essentially, what this ceremony involved was finding the first egg laid on an islet far below and retrieving it. The candidates themselves didn’t do the task, rather they used men that had been trained since birth for the job. These men would have to run down the narrow rim of the crater wall, along the rocks below, swim out to the group of three islets far below, and stay there for months until someone found the first egg and brought it back. In the meantime, the villagers would wait above for the first call announcing that someone had found the egg.
In any case, the views from here were spectacular with the crater lake on one side, the jagged rim and the ocean on the other, and the three rocky islets far below in the pounding surf. At the very end of the rim is the stone residence where the priests lived. Around the entrance all of the rocks are carved with Bird-Man images so that no matter what direction the priests gazed, they would see the images. It is thought that perhaps these are the images of the winners of the competition and were added to each year.
The viewpoint atop the structure is limited to five guests at any one time to avoid collapse, enforced by a vigilant park ranger watching from the highest point. We were first to hear the information by the guide, so we took the extra time to wander around and look at the stone houses, the cooking pits, and examine the tiny doorways. In some of the houses there were multiple doors, but they lead to separate sections of the structure, like an apartment. There were small stone-lined pits in front of some of the houses that were used as drums when skins were stretched over the opening. Villagers would jump on them with one foot to create the sound.
Once everyone had their turn at viewing the pinnacle, we returned to the vans by walking a lower route through the village. The drive back to the port was uneventful.
We were tempted to rent one of the many horses available at the pier, but decided we had enough for today. We didn’t see any of the statues in their upright state today, so we climbed up on the small hill behind the port for a photo of the single standing Moai here and one of his less fortunate brethren laying nearby in the grass.
After climbing back down the hill, we browsed through the souvenirs, most of which were stone or wood replicas of the famous statues, complete with huge male appendages. We’re not sure the originals had such embellishments, but one never knows for sure. Since we didn’t really need anything, having been here last year, we just wandered around to see if there was anything we couldn’t live without.
We ran into Lara and Abigail. Abigail had purchased a long bowl in the shape of a canoe, which we thought was quite nice. Lara told us that she created a scandal at the last Crystal Society party by not wearing hose with her evening gown. We thought she was joking, but as it turned out, it was truly a scene with one old lady declaring it to be unsanitary and filing a complaint about her indecent appearance. We can’t even figure out how the woman could even notice such a thing because Lara always wears a floor length gown on formal nights. Of course, that’s assuming anyone in their right mind would even care about such a thing, much less complain about it. The four of us had fun ridiculing the whole thing and suggesting our own scenarios for the next party.
Inspired by Abigail’s bowl, we ended up buying a similar one for the ridiculous price of $50, haggled down from $70. We probably could have gotten it for less, but we figure the vendor needed the money more than we did and she was quite pleasant. The people here are very friendly in general. Most are Polynesian with a few Chileans thrown in to run things. The guide told us that almost all of the businesses are run by Chileans and all important government positions are held by them, as well. The standard of living here seems on a par with mainland Chile with everything immaculately clean and well kept.
With only $5 left to our name, we boarded the tender and did the wave-running thing in reverse back to the ship. It was a three-foot jump from the tender to the floor of the ship, but not a big deal for us. By the way, our tour was advertised as “strenuous walking and good health required.” There was nothing at all strenuous about the walking, although the terrain was uneven.
Today’s weather was absolutely perfect for touring. It was mostly cloudy and only about 75 degrees with a nice breeze. It was never too hot or uncomfortable except in the car. As with last year, we were absolutely filthy from being on tour and walking through the bushes.
Upon arriving back at the ship, we went up to the top deck for our usual port photos. There is a line of restored Moai visible in one of the photos of the shoreline near the village. To the right of the town is the port and pastures behind. At the far end are sheer volcanic cliffs with jagged rocks at the bottom. After admiring the view, we went for lunch in the Lido and were again interrupted by a bizarre Rosario conversation that we forgot immediately after it happened. The Lido was being kept open late waiting for tours to return, but they had returned by noon, so we have no idea what they were waiting for. When we arrived at 1:15 PM, there were no other guests in line and the staff was standing around talking.
Out by the Seahorse Pool, they were setting up the fake torch for the Olympics Opening Ceremony tonight. How many Filipinos does it take to set up a fake torch? We took a picture so everyone could count for themselves. They have swathed the entire upper deck railing with yellow fabric, set up a stage at the far end, added sparkling blue drapes behind it, and red velvet drapes on the wall of the paddle tennis court. Last year it poured rain during the entire thing which, based upon the look of the sky at this point, may be repeated in spite of the Captain’s assurance of good weather tonight.
We rushed to shower and rest until sailing at 5:00 PM, then lounged around until dinnertime.
Tonight’s dress code is Casual.
Food review: The chilled soup was outstanding. We had a difficult time choosing an entrée, so Bruno brought the tuna as a side order because we couldn’t remember if it was the one we loved or hated. It was the one that was good before, but it was literally raw on the inside. We didn’t eat any of it. We know it is supposed to be that way, but if it was beef it would have been mooing. The chicken and the lamb were very good. Dessert was satisfactory, but the whole nuts in the cake detracted from it. They should have been chopped.
Augusto told us to stop coming into the Dining Room so early because he is always too busy to talk to us at the beginning and then we leave before he can get to us. We thought we were behaving properly by arriving at 7:00 PM, but he said he likes it better when we arrive at 8:15 PM. We’re not sure Bruno would be thrilled about it, but it is open seating from 7 – 9 after all. Augusto is making pasta for us for our entrée tomorrow. He told us to do it now before Roland arrives to take his place at the end of this cruise because he’s not the best at tableside cooking.
Ben stopped to say they are trying to make him carry the Dutch flag in the ceremony tonight, but he is from Belgium. He’s quite good-natured, so he’ll probably do whatever he is supposed to do.
The Evening Entertainment program revolved around the 2003 World Cruise Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. We’re probably two of about four guests who don’t participate in the events. Everyone who does sign up for an event is in the show, so they allow the crew to come out and watch. We arrived about ten minutes before the scheduled starting time of 9:30 PM and nobody was up on Deck 12. There were very few guests waiting Deck 10 either. The show takes place on Deck 11 around the Seahorse Pool, or the Seahorse Olympic Stadium as the sign says now. They finished setting up the stage along with two huge screens to resemble the big TV’s at the Olympics. Unfortunately, one of them never did work and the other was so out of focus it was useless. At least the screens didn’t blow away like they did last year.
By 10:00 PM the waiting guests were getting antsy and began to clap and stomp their feet. Finally some crewmembers arrive to fill the railing where we were standing, about three-fourths full and only one layer deep. We’re sure there were more guests in the parade of athletes than those watching. With only 380 guests on board, there aren’t many left to watch. We felt sorry for Abigail and Lara who had to stand at attention for over 30 minutes waiting for the show to start. We apologize for the quality of the photos to follow, but it was too dark to get a sharp picture.
We assume the delay was caused by poor preplanning and no rehearsals. That’s how it appeared anyway. The stage manager was yelling from below at the follow spot operator to shine his light at 50% brightness onto the sign over the stage. Obviously, we could clearly hear him and we were ten feet away. Apparently, the operator didn’t speak English well enough to figure out what he was supposed to do, so the manager finally came up and did it himself.
In the meantime, the water in the pool started sloshing out all over some expensive fog-making equipment that was set up with no protection at all. That caused a mini-furor that ended with it being covered with a towel. In case you don’t know, fog machines get very hot. We’re assuming that the sloshing water is the only thing that kept it from catching fire, although something did burn because we saw ashes floating around.
The sloshing water went into the big hose they had attached to the fog machine, although nobody in charge noticed it. There was also a floating fountain in the pool that was intended for the finale. It was overturning now and then, but it was tethered to the side, so it didn’t float away. Eventually they got their act together, sort of, and the program began.
First the lights went out and a group of Grecian sorts came out holding up votive candles that someone forgot to light. Oh well, too late now. This is where the fog was supposed to come in, but the tube was clogged with water that caused it to back flush to the machine. They kept pumping it, of course, so eventually a big blast of fog belched out and blotted out the control room that was set up on the regular stage.
Next came the parade of athletes that went of relatively well in spite of them looking for someone to carry flags literally right up until the last second. The stage looked nice with all of the flags above it when everyone had come in. There was a brief speech by the Captain, complete with French translation, then a dance number by Curtis and Natalie. The flag of the host nation, Crystal Symphony, was carried in and Crystal’s anthem, “What a Wonderful World,” was sung by Michel Bell with his microphone cutting out now and then.
Following this performance, Niklas came out to administer the oath for the athletes to a former Olympic gold-medal winner. Then the Sports Director did the oath for the judges with another Olympic champion. Crystal does a good job of simulating reality with this activity including bringing in real athletes to play along.
Next up was the lighting of the flame by five torchbearers. Unfortunately, one of them, a former Olympic champion who is older than dirt, had no clue he was supposed to do anything, so there was a substantial lull while they woke him up (we’re making that part up, we think) and lit his flame. They all stood around the cauldron set up over the Jacuzzi, set their flames into the base, and then more non-English speakers missed a cue and quickly jerked them to the top. After a painful delay, the “flame” was lit and a song was sung by the Crystal Ensemble’s lead singer. After that, a stage show began, then another lively dance by Curtis and Natalie.
The Grand Finale was a parade of nations with every Filipino on board dressed up in the lavish costumes from "Symphony of Nations". The second the show was over, everyone vanished. We’ve never seen people disappear so quickly. As quickly as the guests and crew disappeared, the deck workers started dismantling everything. They were still trying to figure out how to make the fountain work long after all of the spectators had dispersed. We’re wondering why they didn’t try it before the show rather than after the fact, but that’s just the way they do things around here.
We were still standing on the upper deck watching the activity below when Ben came up and tried to scare us from behind. He had ended up with the Luxemburg flag and a huge entourage of athletes that was kind of funny at the time. He seemed to have had a good time and chatted with us for a few minutes before we all went back to our rooms for the night.
All in all, they did a good job with what they have to work with, but none of the special effects worked properly. A little more preplanning would go a long way. They do this every year, so it isn’t as though they have to reinvent the whole experience from scratch. We enjoyed watching it, but probably for the wrong reasons. We’d guess the majority of the guests enjoyed it, as well.Click to view today's World Cruise Newsletter. Tonight is another hour back on the clock.
Not much in the way of weather today. It is still partly cloudy, about 80 degrees, and smooth sailing.
We forgot to mention that we learned something interesting about the housekeeping from Suzie yesterday. We knew that they periodically changed the armrest covers on the chair and sofa, but we found out that they exchange the entire upholstery for clean ones occasionally, too. The chair looks like a slip cover, but the sofa looks like an ordinary upholstered piece of furniture. We have to give Crystal credit for thinking ahead on keeping the furniture clean in the staterooms. This procedure doesn’t apply to the public rooms where the chairs that aren’t new are rather stained, with the Dining Room taking the prize for worst looking cushions.
An extra hour on the clock didn’t change much, our first stop was lunch. Although we aren’t thrilled with the Cuisine of the Sun buffet, the Dining Room didn’t have much to offer of interest either. So, we decided at least we could pick and choose to find enough to eat at the buffet, which we did. The only item that was particularly good was the lasagna. Everything else was average, but edible. We sat outside by the Seahorse Pool and watched the band. After they finished, we stayed for another hour watching the basketball free-throw competition on the paddle tennis court above. The only reason we were watching was that the hoop was placed so close to the edge that we were sure the ball would go over the side. No worry about that because most of the guests couldn’t throw the ball high enough to reach the hoop anyway. It was pretty funny when they had to drag out a fat guy to stand on the portable base to keep it from tipping over.
After that exhilarating experience, we went back to the room to cool off and wait for dinner time.
Today’s dress code is Formal. We didn’t want to arrive too early for dinner since Augusto told us to wait until later to arrive. So, we went by to drop off a birthday bottle of champagne and a card for Rudolf. He wasn’t there yet, so we talked to Marianna for a while until he returned. He was thrilled that we had thought of him and required a hug from both of us. The rest of the conversation revolved around what happened after his party yesterday and how Marianna had to put him to bed after helping him be sick, among other things. He remembers none of this, but it appears that some of his “friends” saw fit to take pictures of the aftermath. He is suitably humiliated and claims he never drinks that much ordinarily. We tend to believe him because he doesn’t really appear to be a party animal. At 8:00 PM we finally decided it was time for dinner.
Food review: The salad improved slightly over last segment’s version. Augusto made a pasta dish of olive oil, garlic, chili flakes and a bit of parmesan cheese for our entrée. It was excellent and far better than anything from the kitchen. Bruno tried to follow Jerry’s lead to be nice by bringing strawberries with sugar, but they weren’t made properly. We didn’t care, but Augusto rushed over to tell him it was wrong. It was wrong (he just mixed whole berries with sugar just before serving), but they were quite good the way he prepared them. Besides, he was just trying to do something he thought we would like and we didn’t think it was appropriate for Augusto to ruin it for him.
We did stay to talk to Bruno and Augusto for a while, but we were sort of rushed because we wanted to be on time for the show at 9:30 PM.
The Evening Entertainment is a Celebrity Showtime with Tommy Tune and the Manhattan Rhythm Kings. There is a big difference between a real talent and the so-called celebrities we usually see on this ship. Tommy Tune and the Rhythm Kings are heads above most acts we have seen here. The show was entertaining and there was nothing embarrassing about it. Tommy seemed liked a nice person, spoke pleasantly, and acted as though he was truly touched by the fuss made on his birthday. We hope nobody ruins it by telling him that everybody gets a card from the Captain and a plate painted with icing from their butler, but he also got that big party in the lobby, so he’s ahead of the rest of us. The show was a bit tedious because it was all the same, sing three songs, tap dance, sing, tap dance, tap dance, sing, tap dance. All of what he did was extraordinary, so it was enjoyable, but we wouldn’t really want to sit through more than an hour of it. We were a little surprised that he didn’t get an immediate standing ovation, but we’re fairly certain that many of the guests don’t know who he is and certainly none of the multitude of staff members present do.
We wandered out to the lobby to cool off (the whole ship seemed too hot tonight) and saw Tom standing across the room. We went around to meet him, but he was doing the same thing, so we met halfway. We stood in the hallway talking for about an hour, then finally we sat on the big sofas outside the Starlite Club and talked until 12:30 AM. During this conversation we discovered that the entertainers are annoyed with the behavior and lack of responsibility by some of the support staff. We also got the impression that Barbara, the harpist, is annoyed with us because of our low rating on the QAP of them. Tom wouldn’t tell us whether this was directed at us or someone else. Tom told whoever it is that they should ask why they received a low rating, but they were afraid to. Since Tom is always talking to us, we’re sure the annoyed party must have asked him about us assuming he knows us fairly well, which he does.
Ronnie arrived after karaoke was over and joined in the conversation. By the time he arrived, the topics had deteriorated to subjects we won't mention here. That lead to ridiculous suggestions of shocking lecture subjects for him to research for us because he is the Librarian and it is his duty to do so. He wanted to continue talking, but Tom was tired and we were ready to change out of our formal wear and go to bed.
This leads us to a major complaint. How are we supposed to rate a staff member honestly if we know they will see who rated them? After all, we’re stuck here for another two months with them. This practice has always annoyed us, but it seems to have become worse lately. We think the ratings should be compiled and shown to the performers only as statistics, not linked to the individual who rated them. The misguided purpose of this practice is that perhaps the poorly rated person can somehow make nice with the guest and get a better rating next time.Click to view today's World Cruise Newsletter. It’s another hour back on the clock again tonight.
Once again, the weather remains the same as the day before. Around noon, the wind became quite strong, but otherwise there was no change.
Click for Daytime Activities.
We arrived just as the Lido opened and had a lunch of Sweet and Sour Chicken, Pork Quesadillas, the made-to-order salad, and Hoisin Carved Chicken. Everything was very good. After lunch we moved outside to listen to the band for an hour.
There were fewer guests outside today due to the wind, but we thought the wind made the temperature more pleasant. The wind was so strong that the water in the pool was blowing out onto the deck. It didn’t seem to affect the smoothness of the sailing, however. After the band finished, we had some ice cream and went down to the lobby to meet up with Barbara.
She was indeed hanging around waiting for us in one of the shops. We found seats downstairs by Lara’s desk and chatted about nothing in particular. She said that many guests have complained to her about the high prices for the Serenity even after the inaugural and many have already canceled.
When Lara arrived at 3:00 PM, we advised her that we had again been shorted our $350 per person Crystal Society credit. She claimed that it usually didn’t happen to the same person cruise after cruise, but she didn’t seem overly surprised by it either. Barbara agrees with us that they are purposely not checking to be sure everyone has received the credit. Barbara said they would have lost $2,500 if we hadn’t told them to be sure to check their account.
There was a notice in today’s Reflections that makes it clear we are not going ashore at Pitcairn Island. We already knew that, of course, but some may not have realized it. There was also a line indicating the possibility that the weather may not allow the locals to come on board. After the notice in the news that four of the islanders had been charged with sexual assault, we’re speculating that this is setting it up for no locals coming aboard using the excuse of rough seas.
We stopped by Captain’s Choice to chat with Rudolf who was folding t-shirts while trying to stay awake. He was the second crewmember to be shocked that so many guests do their own laundry. We assured him that most Americans do not have live-in servants to do such things. Rudolf is from South Africa where even middle class people have live-in help to cook and clean. It is simply taken for granted. Waldo expressed the same surprise that we do our own laundry and make our own beds at home. We made a date for after dinner with Rudolf for tomorrow night in Palm Court.
Tonight’s dress code is Informal. We arrived at around 8:15 PM, but several other guests came in at the same time. Still, Bruno was nowhere to be found. Eventually he did appear and pretended not to be annoyed at our late arrival. We informed him that Augusto had told us not to arrive until 8:00 PM. He really didn’t seem to mind, which he shouldn’t with open seating. Technically, we could arrive at 8:59 PM and still be served.
Food review: We had thicker slices of beef than usual because Bruno didn’t think the regular portion would be enough. He was right. The meat was very good. Augusto made our caramelized dessert using sliced apples. It was just as good as the pineapple version, which was outstanding.
Andrejus was missing during most of the meal because he was helping with a party of fifteen. When he came back he said he was, “Full of questions,” for us regarding upcoming ports we have been to before. Tonight he asked about Pitcairn Island. As we were standing and talking in preparation to leave, the ship tipped enough to make the silverware drawers slide open. That is the first time it has been even remotely rough all day.
The Evening Entertainment program is a Variety Show featuring the dance team, Curtis and Natalie, plus an “acclaimed” singer from London’s West End. We did not attend. After checking the Crystal Cove and finding just Pat and Tom there, we wandered in and sat down to listen. Tom was annoyed because the harpist didn’t show up for her designated hour for the second time. The main reason he was annoyed was that if he didn’t show up, guests would notice and complain. When the harpist doesn’t show, nobody cares, so nobody complains. Besides, the woman only plays for about three hours in an entire day, so it can’t be that difficult to show up when she is supposed to. The rest of the conversation centered around the same inappropriate subject as the first one, with Corina laughing in the background.
Tom was talking to the bartender about a drink he liked called a Bushwhacker. So, we decided to get one to try because he had two different versions and only liked one of them. The one we got was pretty good for a dessert in itself, tasting sort of like a light chocolate shake. Corina told us the magician who was doing close-up magic the other day was very good and worth seeing. We’re not into magicians, so we wouldn’t go anyway, but it was nice to hear that he was pretty good. Corina is staying on as a family guest even though she is off in Auckland. She won’t be allowed in guest areas, except the pool.
Tom had to make a planned phone call home at 10:30 PM, so we sent him on his way and stayed for one piece by the Champagne Strings just to be polite. It was time for laundry again, so with another hour back on the clock again tonight, it was a good chance to get it done.There are several notices in the Reflections program for tomorrow that everything is subject to change due to weather and anchoring conditions. Last year the ship had to pull up anchor and move to the other side of the island. Even then, it was almost too rough for the islanders to come aboard. It will be interesting to see if tomorrow is anything more than a scenic view from afar.
Pitcairn Island is inhabited by the descendents of Fletcher Christian, his band of British sailors and their Tahitian wives who mutinied on the Bounty in 1789. After arriving at this unknown “safe” island, the mutineers burned the Bounty so that no one could escape to tell of their whereabouts. Their isolation was so complete, that their closest neighbor was the island of Mangareva, some 300 miles away.
Ever since it was settled, this hideaway has remained unaffected by the outside world. Handicrafts are a mainstay of the economy, as woodworking or weaving are common occupations for most families. The island prides itself on its limited-issue stamps, which are much sought after by collectors.
Crystal Symphony will lie off Bounty Bay and the descendents of Fletcher Christian and his crew will come out to the ship with their carvings, weavings and other local craft items. No organized shore excursions are planned on Pitcairn Island, as guests will not proceed ashore.
Although it was quite rough during the night and into the morning, we did manage to drop anchor off of Bounty Bay directly across from the small village of Adamstown. The weather is the same as yesterday, so quite pleasant.
We were up fairly early because of the many announcements regarding rescheduled activities, the time for the local market around the pool, etc. Two announcements said the tables were set up around the Neptune Pool, but we found them in the same place as last year, outside by the Seahorse Pool.
Click for Daytime Activities.
Bill had Maria stash some breakfast pastries for us in the Bistro, so we stopped there first for a morning snack, then went up to Deck 12 for our usual port photos.
Directly in front of the ship is the only settlement on the small island. To the left of the village is tiny Bounty Bay, the only place where it is possible to land a boat here. The locals use an old longboat that is housed in the shed seen in the photo. The remains of the Bounty are to the left of the shed. There was a sailboat anchored off of the bay, but it was most likely a visitor, not a local. The only way to arrive at the island is by freighter, cruise ship, or sail boat. Cruise ships are the mainstay of island life. Besides providing a place for the locals to sell their wares, the ships bring and pick up mail.
To the right of the village is one of the sheer volcanic cliffs and a jumble of rocks. The vegetation is quite lush and every inch of land is covered with trees and coconut palms. The houses look quite nice, so we’re not sure life it as difficult as we are lead to believe.
We peered down onto the local market set up next to the pool. The wares consist mostly of t-shirts, stamps, and woodcarvings. Everything looks pretty much the same and all similar items were priced the same. Generally $5.00 for a small wood carving up to $20 for the larger ones. We bought everything we wanted last year, but we decided to purchase a couple of small wood items for our ornament collection. The number of villagers has diminished since last year, so there were fewer tables set up. Of course, there are also fewer guests aboard the ship, so it evened out.
After shopping for about five minutes, we returned to the cabin to drop off our stuff and then went up to sit by the pool to wait for lunchtime. Eventually that time rolled around and we moved to the Lido where they had set up a made-to-order sandwich station in addition to the regular line. This was provided as a supplement for the shopping hours, but we saw no need for it. The locals were busy shopping in our shops and eating ice cream, not lunching in the Lido.
We skipped the farewell song by the locals since we saw it last year and they were the same people. Instead, we retired to our verandah to watch them loading sheets of plywood, old TV’s and computers, used carpeting, etc., into the longboat. The boat was filled to the top with stuff from the ship and then some. They even piled on a rusty old grill from the kitchen. On top of that, the entire village population sat precariously for the trip back to the landing.
The ship sailed all the way around the island so we could see the whole thing, which isn’t much. The steep hill behind the village ends in a sheer drop on the other side of the island. Each corner of the island has a group of jagged rock outcrops that dwindle down the farther from shore they go. The south side of the island is what is left of a volcanic crater and the cliffs are quite high and steep. The west side is topped by lush forests, but also have very steep drops. The north side is pretty much the same. There really isn’t anywhere to go on this tiny island in the middle of nowhere.
We chatted with Renato, the Shore Excursions Manager, this afternoon for the first time this cruise. He has seemed rather depressed, which isn’t like him. He claimed nothing was wrong, but it was apparent he had something on his mind. He did say that he was bored because there were so few ports this segment, but that it was frustrating because the telephones and fax lines have been down and he can’t contact the upcoming islands to confirm any tour arrangements. We had heard that the phones weren’t working a few days ago, but we assumed it was just for a few hours, not days.
We received probably the most ridiculous correspondence ever from anyone on this ship. It was a letter from the Cruise Sales Consultant offering to put us on a “waiting list” for the 2005 World Cruise “so you are assured of the stateroom you want.” You might recall that the total count of full World Cruise guests on this cruise is 106 on a ship that carries 940. It seems highly unlikely that a waiting list will be necessary at any time in the near future. Do re-check the year. We’re talking two years from now, not next year. And, here’s the clincher, they are offering us this privilege to sign up for an unknown itinerary at an unknown price for a mere $1500 per person deposit. No discounts or other incentives were offered.
Since we had awakened so early, we decided to nap until time to get dressed for dinner.
On the way to dinner, we stopped to chat with Suzie in the hallway. She said she almost had to wake us up yesterday at 8:00 AM because she accidentally locked herself out on the verandah next to us. She had gone out to wipe off the chairs in the vacant stateroom and the door locked behind her. She was out there for over 30 minutes while Emilie kept beeping her because they had rooms to clean. Unfortunately, she hadn’t told her where she was going, so nobody went looking for her. She thought of climbing over to our verandah, but they are told never to do that, for obvious reasons. Eventually, she got the attention of someone walking around the Promenade Deck three decks below. That person contacted a butler who had to go room to room looking for her.
Tonight’s dress code is Informal.
Both soups were very good. The
ham was outstanding for ham. The
Cannelloni were too heavy on the spinach, but otherwise satisfactory.
The dessert had a gooier consistency than usual that was a bit
unpleasant. Bill had asked for two
scoops of a different ice cream. He
did get two scoops, but of chocolate chip.
He didn’t care. However,
Bruno noticed and forced Andrejus to go to
the kitchen and bring out an entirely new plate even after Bill asked him not
to. He did let him exchange the ice
cream, but the rest was a total waste of food and completely unnecessary.
was in a foul mood because some demanding guests hadn’t thanked him properly
for something he had done for them. Maria
wanted to know how short she should cut her hair. Honestly, anything would be an improvement.
She has to put it up anyway and it is usually a mess.
She is rather attractive and a shorter hairstyle would be a wise idea.
However, we aren’t the best ones to ask about that sort of thing.
Bruno tried to have a conversation with us with some success. He is trying very hard to connect with us and we do think
he’s very nice.
Entertainment was a classical concert we were not interested in.
So, we followed Mel and Barbara to
the Crystal Cove and sat with them for a couple of hours. Barbara complained about a trio of women who chain smoked in
the non-smoking section. We agreed
with her in principle, but we disagreed (not openly) about where the smoking
section is located. Hence the
issue. There are no longer signs
indicating "no smoking"
on the tables. Apparently, the ship
expects their guests to know instinctively where smoking is allowed.
Obviously, this doesn’t work sometimes.
The smoking issue hasn’t bothered us here for a number of years, so we
don’t consider it an issue anymore. But,
we also know where to sit to avoid the smokers.
The harpist came
out to replace Tom on the piano and was
actually very good. She should
stick to the piano and give up the harp altogether.
If we were to rate her on the piano we would give her an excellent. Mel complimented her on her hideous outfit.
After she left he said, “Well, was I nice enough?”
Barbara said, “That was a bit over the top wasn’t it?”
Anyway, it made the harpist happy although she never did look either of
us in the eye.
prompting from us, Mel brought up the ridiculous offer about the 2005 World
Cruise. He said that several other
couples had been laughing about how ludicrous it was and, “Just how stupid do
they think we are?” We don’t
intend to say anything about it, but with that reaction, someone is bound to
complain about it. This is a
We called it a
night about 11:00 PM. The rocking
and rolling picked up a bit, but wasn’t anything more than usual.
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The temperature has cranked up a few notches today, although it is a bit more overcast than it has been. It is too hot and humid to sit outside for any length of time. The sea remains fairly calm even with a strong wind.
Click for Daytime Activities.
As usual, we wandered out just after noon on the way to the Lido for lunch. Suzie and Peter were in the hallway and ran over to chat. Suzie announced that she is leaving early, in Sydney, even though she just arrived this segment. Peter said he is trying to arrange the same departure date even though he just arrived, as well. The reason is that on the last segment from Sydney to Los Angeles, there are only full World Cruise guests left on board, less than 200 guests with over 500 crew. They said if the staff count remains as it is now, each of them would only have four staterooms to look after. We have no idea why another butler would be coming in Sydney, but that’s what Peter said and is the reason he wants to leave.
There were more waiters in the Lido than guests today. Our lunch was good, with the carved chicken again being the best choice. The warm dessert was a banana bread pudding with caramel sauce that was outstanding in spite of the black bananas on the top.
After lunch we went up to make haircut appointments for next cruise. We had to wait quite a while for an old lady to make up her mind about a time. She was having a difficult time finding room between trivia and lunchtime. Kailiya looked like she was going to scream, but she remained polite. We made appointments with no problems since next segment’s book was still completely blank. Kailiya asked about thing to do in Tahiti. She really was asking if we were going on tour since she is escorting again, but we’re not touring during this segment. She was happy to know about the central market in Papeete where it is easy to find every sort of souvenir under the sun.
Next stop was to view the latest photos posted from Pitcairn Island. Only the Captain and a photographer went ashore, but the photos were posted from their visit. We stopped by to chat with Rudolf in Captain’s Choice. He was coordinating this afternoon’s fashion show where the guests choose which items to model in exchange for a 15% discount in the shops. You’d be surprised how many guests wouldn’t miss the opportunity to show off.
Rudolf said that Tommy Tune seems to think he’s a fairly normal person, but, “He is very strange.” There was a casual chat with him this afternoon, but we forgot about it until it was too late. Well, we could have barged in, but we didn’t care that much.
With nothing better to do at 3:00 PM, we strolled up to the ice cream bar and then sat by the Neptune Pool with the roof partially closed in spite of the heat. It has been no more than half open the entire cruise no matter what the temperature. Tommy Tune and his boyfriend wandered by, Tommy in a bathrobe. There were no more than ten guests anywhere to be seen. After that it was back to the room until dinnertime.
Tonight’s dress code is Informal/Medieval. The Royal Feast menu never changes, so we won’t bother posting it here again. We are dining at Jade Garden to avoid the boring menu in the Dining Room tonight.
Needless to say, we were fawned over in the extreme at Jade Garden. We had two waiters, plus the headwaiter Willy, and Maitre d’ Rosario serving us throughout the meal. We finally realized that the “official” meaning of “family style” service is that you choose a soup and they bring a sample of everything on the menu. We considered doing that, but there is too much seafood and sushi that we wouldn’t want. So, we each ordered two appetizers, soup, and four entrees. Don’t think that’s a lot of food. Remember, when you order a shrimp entrée you only get one shrimp. Two of the items we had were specials, Kung Pao Chicken and Chicken Potstickers. Both were satisfactory, but not great. We also had Shrimp Tempura, Hong Kong Won Ton Soup, Orange Chicken, Stir Fried Beef Tenderloin, Crispy Shredded Beef with Green Beans, and Sesame Shrimp. Nothing was as outstanding as our last visit except the shrimp. Bill had another plate of the four entrees to get enough food to satisfy him. Dave opted for two desserts rather than another plate of meat. That made Willy think he didn’t like the food, but that wasn’t the case at all.
The Evening Entertainment program is the production show “Excalibur!” that goes with the evening’s theme. Although we did get out of Jade Garden fifteen minutes before showtime, we opted to go to the Crystal Cove to listen to Tom instead. He sat and talked with us until the Champagne Strings arrived, then played with them during their hour. Since there are never any guests watching, it isn’t a big deal, but they are God awful together. Tom did know one song was terrible, but they all seemed to think the rest were fine. They weren’t, but we didn’t say anything. We have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t sound right because Tom plays on key and the strings don’t. Together, they are terrible. But when the strings play without him, they are generally OK.
After they finished, Pat and Tom sat down and we chatted, about nothing mentionable in respectable company, until the lights came up after midnight. Tom did say that he saw Tommy Tune's interview today and that he seemed to be a very genuine and nice person. Billy was so bored at the Front Desk that he came over for a while and tried to convince all of us to go diving or snorkeling in Tahiti. All of us were appalled by the suggestion that any of us would be caught dead out in the sun, let alone snorkeling.Tonight is another hour back on the clock, which is a good thing considering that we didn’t get back to the room until 12:30 AM.
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We were up by 10:00 AM due to all the hours back, so we had to make a snack stop at the Bistro to carry us through until lunchtime. Mel and Barbara tried to recruit us for their Trivia team next segment because they saw us before noon today. We’d do it, but not if it requires making a set schedule to be somewhere every day. If we continue to wake up early, we might participate. There was Olympic golf going on in the Crystal Plaza with much cheering and general mayhem. Tom didn’t look particularly thrilled to be playing during all of that, but the show must go on. He was probably more appropriate than the harpist who was there for the first half hour.
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The golf competition was sort of a miniature golf set up with just three holes. One included the coffee table as an obstacle while the other two were long troughs made of cardboard with a variety of hills and such inside. When the Dining Room opened, an old man walked directly into one of the courses and fell flat on his face with a thud. The course was made of white cardboard against the dark blue carpet, plus there was a bright orange traffic cone at the end of it. The man didn’t seem injured. In fact, once he was up he appeared to have forgotten all about it.
We checked out the Dining Room lunch menu, but it wasn’t appealing. We had already decided to wait until 1:00 PM for lunch anyway, but it doesn’t hurt to look. We sat by the Seahorse Pool in the shade to listen to the band and kill time until another feeding time. It is much warmer today than it has been, but as long as the air is moving it isn’t unbearable. It still isn’t as humid and ridiculously hot as in previous years. The sea is so calm that we almost thought the ship wasn’t moving this morning.
Lunch consisted of food from the Trident Grill…hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled cheese and a chicken salad wrap, plus fresh fruit. We stayed outside until 2:00 PM when the wind stopped and the heat became unpleasant.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in the air conditioned cabin. We asked Waldo to bring us a copy of the Jade Garden menu so we could add it to the diary (see yesterday's entry). He seemed rather unhappy, but claimed nothing was wrong.
Tonight’s dress code is Informal. We went directly from the room to the Dining Room.
Food review: The salad was so boring it wasn’t worth the trouble to cut up the four pieces of lettuce they put on the plate. The pasta was a main course for one of us and very good. The prawns were good also. We both had ice cream for dessert.
Augusto wanted to chat tonight, so we hung around after dinner. Bruno and Andrejus came over after they were finished working to join in. We started off talking about what a rip off contractors are and worked our way into the difference between a city, county and the state. That lead to how jury duty works and who goes into the army. Aren’t you glad we related the intricacies of our fascinating conversation? That is pretty much how all of them go, but it seems to enthrall the waiters and usually Augusto, as well. They ask questions, we don’t just blurt this stuff out. Our conversation lasted until 10:30 PM, well after the evening’s entertainment had ended.
The Evening Entertainment program is another Variety Showtime featuring Soprano, Phillippa Healey, and Musical Variety Artist, Mark Donoghue. We didn’t intend to go to the show anyway, so our conversation with the Dining Room staff was our entertainment for tonight.
We move another hour back on the clock tonight. It was still extremely humid and hot outside at 11:00 PM. That doesn’t bode well for tomorrow’s weather.
There was a notice on one of the cruise industry sites that we read announcing that Crystal Harmony had been banned from Monterey Bay and fined for dumping bilge water last October. One of the officers was fired and the Captain received a warning. Augusto was shocked that we knew about it because it was very hush hush. He said the higher ups from the office immediately came to the Symphony to be sure the same thing didn’t happen here. This is all after Crystal Symphony won an environmental awareness award, too.
We received another World Cruise gift with this card: “Continuing our journey to Auckland, we’ll leisurely cruise to the beautiful islands of Polynesia. More glorious days at sea in the South Pacific will take us to colorful Tonga on our way to New Zealand. We are pleased to present you with this custom photo album. We hope that it adds to your pleasure on this voyage and upon your return home, where it will bring fond memories of your explorations of the South Pacific.”
Tahiti is the largest of the 115 islands and
atolls that comprise French Polynesia. Beauty is defined in the
island’s natural features. Mountain peaks tower above dense rain forests of
fluffy soft ferns, and waterfalls pour from cataracts into cool rivers and
streams. The waterways drain and moderate the sun- and rain-saturated
highlands. The flat coastal area features vast fields of taro and tropical
flowers. Tahiti is really two islands in one. Tahiti-Nui, or "big
Tahiti" is completely encircled by a road along its shore. The road
continues along both sides of the narrow isthmus that joins the big island to Tahiti-Iti,
or "little Tahiti," but the smaller island is only partially
accessible by road.
For some unknown reason, neither of us slept very well last night, so we were up before 10:00 AM this morning. Good thing because there was a crew fire and lifeboat drill scheduled for 10:00 AM and that is always noisy. However, at 9:30 AM, the Captain announced that they were going to test the emergency generators, “In three minutes,” and please don’t use the elevators. Seconds later, all of the power went out, the water shut off, and the air conditioning stopped. EverythingM came back on piece by piece over the next few minutes, but the water was black and unusable. We had to be decadent and wash our hands with Evian water. Luckily it is free on Penthouse Deck.
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We actually needed breakfast food, but we went up to the Sun Deck for port photos first. The landings were full of crew members in lifejackets. Andrejus was in our landing and promised to save us in a real emergency.
All of the information the ship provides regarding Tahiti contains warnings not to expect much, but we have never agreed with that. Yes, there is a real city here, but it is nothing like the high-rise jungle of Honolulu. It is crowded and old, but there is really nothing unpleasant about it. With the clear weather today we can see the tallest pinnacle of the volcano towering in the distance. The hillsides are dotted with expensive homes almost hidden by the trees. In the distance, beyond the containers at the port, lies the island of Moorea where the ship anchored for a BBQ last year. There is a ferry from Papeete that takes visitors to Moorea in about thirty minutes.
From the upper deck, we walked down the stairs to Deck 6, again passing crowds of crew in lifejackets. We had pastries in the Bistro while the crew abandoned ship on the starboard side while the port side had to walk out on the gangway to the pier. We were back in our room by about 10:30 AM where Suzie and Emilie were still making the bed and cleaning. We didn’t mind and just waited until they were finished. Suzie said Laszlo told her he was going to the beach to, “Feed the sharks,” so she could do some shopping.
Although we weren’t the slightest bit motivated to do so, we dragged ourselves out in the heat to the pier to wait for the shuttle to town. Radisson Seven Sea’s Paul Gauguin gets the prime docking local in town because it is based here, so we are in the cargo port across the harbor. There was no rain at all today, so it was very hot and humid to the point of being almost unbearable. If there had been more of a breeze it would have helped, but that didn’t pick up until after dark.
The shuttles are the famous “Le Truck” vehicles which are flatbed trucks with the bed converted into a sort of makeshift bus with plywood sides. The outside is decorated with fresh flowers. It wasn’t entirely unpleasant for the ten minute ride we had to make. The bus was completely full, but we were the only guests. All of the others were crewmembers.
The drop-off point was at the Tourist Information Center directly in front of the Paul Gauguin’s dock in the center of town. Downtown Papeete probably looks about the same as it has for the last twenty years. There are no high rise buildings, just four story condominiums and small hotels, an old church, plus an array of nightclubs ranging from tacky firetraps to chic French-style discos.
A tree-lined street runs along the waterfront. Although there is a lot of traffic, the cars stop immediately when a pedestrian approaches a crosswalk, so it isn’t an issue to get around. Our only goal was to visit the Central Market that is located one block inland from the waterfront. We walked the short distance up a narrow shopping street to the market. The open air structure has been located here for 100 years, although this is not the original building.
The lower floor houses a wide array of produce, fresh flowers, straw bags and mats, etc. There are also areas for fresh fish, but they had already been cleaned up for the day. On the upper floor are stalls selling every manner of souvenirs, paréos, shell jewelry, etc. Most of the shoppers appeared to be local people and the prices were quite reasonable for Tahiti, where expensive boutiques are the rule. We didn’t intend to buy anything in particular, and we didn’t. It was very hot, so all we really wanted were a few photos and off we went back toward the waterfront.
Again, crossing the busy boulevard wasn’t a problem as the cars stopped immediately at our approach to the curb. The street is pleasant and lined with huge trees and tropical plants. There is a boardwalk along the harbor where fancy yachts were moored with Moorea in the distance. Directly across the street are the fanciest nightclubs in the city. We walked a short distance before turning back to walk toward the shuttle pick up point. The Paul Gauguin was sitting there, but we couldn’t see any activity at all. It was a bit early for boarding, but there was absolutely nothing going on around the ship except a guard at the gangway. Maybe they are short of business these days, too?
We bought some shell necklaces from a friendly woman at the tourist center. They were marked $3.00 each, but she said they were also two for $5.00. So, we picked out two and handed them to her. While she was wrapping them, she picked up another one and added it to the bag as an extra. What a deal. Not that these were the most elaborate necklaces in the world, but we would have willingly paid $5.00 each for them.
We boarded the shuttle bus with the same batch of crew we arrived with, so nobody stayed much longer than we did. Again, there isn’t anything wrong with this port, but we were here last year and we’re not interested in perfume or chic clothing at ridiculous prices. Back at the ship, we pretended to disinfect our hands with the provided moist towelettes that accomplish nothing and embarked the ship.
After freshening up, for no apparent reason since it was still a billion degrees outside, we went to the Lido for lunch where the air conditioning apparently couldn’t keep up with the sun shining on all that glass. We finished eating and went back to the room and promptly crashed for the rest of the afternoon.
Tonight’s dress code is Island Casual for the Tahitian Twilight BBQ on deck. We arrived at 7:00 PM to find plenty of tables available. Paul, the Cruise Director, was wearing shorts, which we had decided not to do against our better judgment. He said now that he saw everyone in long pants that maybe he should go change, which he did. We thought shorts were perfectly acceptable, but maybe after the no-pantyhose scandal he didn’t want to risk it. We were able to get a nice photo from our verandah of the Paul Gauguin with the city lights reflected in the water.
Last year it was difficult to find a seat, but the low guest count and the heat kept it nearly empty right up until the show started. The food wasn’t as good as usual for their deck BBQ’s, but it was edible. The pork ribs and some sort of meat patty with cream sauce were very good. The items from the actual BBQ were either overcooked to the point of being rock hard in the case of the chicken, or so raw that the beef was still mooing. The cold pineapple and ginger soup was so bitter we couldn’t eat it. Not to worry though, there was plenty to fill up on that was good and besides, skipping some meat leaves more room for dessert.
The Evening Entertainment is a local Tahitian dance troupe. We stayed at our table by the pool until about twenty minutes before the show started, at which time we moved up to the Sun Deck to watch from above. They let the crew come out for these outdoor shows so it filled up rather quickly. The waiters are always hot to watch the Polynesian dancers shake their hips, so video cameras were everywhere.
Paul introduced the show that began at 9:30 PM and lasted for 45 minutes. Although following pretty much the same formula as any Polynesian dance show, this group seemed to have modernized it a bit. They started off with a big dance number, then warrior-type men twirling red fabric, the women in long white and blue floral skirts, another dance with the women and then the men with lots of leaves on them, a woman solo in a beautiful white gown, the ubiquitous audience participation number, and then a finale with all of them. Of course, the sound system, which had been set up no more than ten minutes before the show, stopped working about five minutes into it. It didn’t really matter, but why the heck don’t they try these things before the show starts? They had the same problem with a spot light that wasn’t working until seconds before the show began. Was it too hard to plug it in to see if it worked ahead of time? At least there wasn't a torrential downpour this year.
There was a nice breeze coming off the water when we moved to the outside edge of the deck. The Paul Gauguin sailed away just as the show ended with guests finally in attendance along the railings. It is amazing how a lighted cruise ship stands out like a sore thumb against the darkness of the ocean. We stayed out on deck watching the current Crystal ensemble greet their replacements and then leave for their trip home amid some tears.When the ship sailed at midnight, it was still very hot and humid outside. It is supposed to be the same for our port tomorrow, which is only about 180 miles away.
Huahine is the easternmost of French Polynesia’s Leeward Islands and located some 180 miles northwest of Tahiti. The island’s unusual land configuration, with its many lagoons, has conditioned the environment, the life-style and the economy of the island. Since most of the islands 4,000 inhabitants are settled in lakeside villages, a common sight is the fisherman’s hut (fare), which is perched on stilts over the water. Without doubt, Huahine’s unique character sets it apart from many other Polynesian islands.
Inhabited for more the 1,100 years, archaeological sites abound, on this pristine island. The village of Maeva, perhaps one of the most preserved sites, brims with Polynesian artifacts. Perhaps an off-road jeep trek sparks your interest. If not, escape to one of the island’s many private beaches for snorkeling.
Early this morning, Crystal Symphony squeezed through the narrow channel and into a beautiful bay surrounded by towering cliffs covered with lush vegetation. The ship anchored in the middle of this idyllic scene that really looks as one would expect a Polynesian island to look. There were only a few houses dotted along the shoreline. Although the bay appeared to be a continuous circle, in reality, there was another shallow opening to the sea on the other side with a bridge connecting the two islands. It appears that the bay is the remainder of a huge crater that filled with water, but it may be that this is where the flanks of two volcanoes met. In any case, the scenery all around was incredible. Near the opening to the ocean is a towering pinnacle of stone that provides a dramatic backdrop to the bay.
Again, we were up and out of the room by 10:00 AM, shocking Peter, Suzie and Emilie in the hallway. Peter tried to sell us on two ice cold Diet Cokes, but since we hadn’t yet been outside, there was no need. We all agreed that Peter could probably have charmed the woman selling necklaces in Papeete into giving them to him for free. With that, he blushed and went to answer a page. Suzie thought the notion was quite accurate.
Click for Daytime Activities.
We went directly to the nearly empty Bistro for breakfast pastries, then up to the Sun Deck for photos. OK, now this is HOT! We’re not certain of the temperature, but it must have been in the 90’s with humidity to match. There was no breeze to speak of, so it was quite steamy. The view was spectacular though. The ship’s tenders took guests to a small dock, next to a makeshift restaurant/shop sort of thing. We were the only guests on the tender along with Billy, Lara, Abigail, Niklas and a few other staff members.
There was a shuttle bus to take us on a twenty-minute ride to the only town, Fare, on the outside of the island. The enormous Polynesian driver was a bit ripe, but as soon as the bus started moving and the air circulating, he wasn’t an issue. The ride was worth the price of admission for the scenery alone. Small, tidy houses were dotted along the road among the lush jungle and coconut palms.
Upon arrival in the “town”, we disembarked and Lara ran off to find the only open shop. To call this a town is quite an exaggeration, although it was picturesque. We were dropped off in front of a thatched roof A-frame leading to a small pier were native boys were frolicking in the clear water. Being a Sunday, all of the shops were closed, except a couple selling souvenirs to cruise ship passengers. There was a Windstar ship anchored in a small cove near the town, but there weren’t many non-natives ashore that we saw.
We started off walking toward the opposite end of town, passing a coral sand beach, children playing in the water, and a line of shuttered shops. There was a spectacular view across the water of a neighboring island not far away, and the lush shoreline dotted with houses. At the edge of town, which was not more than 100 feet from where we started, the lush tropical foliage began. We walked to a small bridge for a photo of the surrounding hillsides, then started back toward town. We ran into Pauline who said she had gone on the off-road tour this morning and that it was a very rough ride, but worth it for the view.
Did we mention that it is HOT? Even the locals seemed to think it was too hot, but they were eagerly participating in a volleyball tournament on the beach anyway. We looked in two souvenir shops, but didn’t see anything worth buying except some colorful paréos. We decided not to buy them because we thought the price was too high at $25.00 each. Our thought was to use them as throws on the new patio, but we’ll have to look in the next port for a better price.
We wandered past the location where we started to the other end of town, about ten feet. There we found the “luxurious” Hotel Huahine fronting the main street. We strolled out to the end of the small dock for a photo of the beach where the volleyball game was going on, and in the other direction toward an empty shoreline. The water was extremely clear and various shades of blue. In the distance, the Windstar ship was anchored at a distant point.
Back on the shuttle, we boarded with most of the same people who had arrived with us. The ride back was uneventful, but scenic as before. There was too much of a crowd for us to bother with the first tender, so we walked a bit beyond the pier for another photo of the shoreline and the pinnacle in the distance. In the other direction, we found a lovely scene of small boats in their makeshift shelters along the shore, a beautiful view of Crystal Symphony in the bay, and a view across a vacant lot to the lush mountains beyond. We waited at the dock until the next tender left, which was only about ten minutes. Out on the water a cooling breeze made the heat bearable. Some local kids were out in kayaks on the clear water.
On board, we freshened up and went to the Trident Grill for hot dogs and a chicken wrap. We had missed regular lunch service by about an hour, but the food from the grill is often better anyway. However, it was extremely hot in the pool area with the roof, as usual, half closed. So, we went into the deserted Lido to eat. We have no idea why people don’t bring their food in here when it is so hot outside. The Deck Stewards encourage it, so it’s not as though it is off limits when they aren’t serving. Carmelo kept exclaiming that it was too hot outside and he’s from the Philippines.
After lunch we returned to the room, rebuffing Waldo’s offer of snacks, and stayed there until sailing time at 5:00 PM. Well, actually, we stayed there through sailing because it was more comfortable to watch the scenery from our verandah where it was relatively pleasant.
The ship slowly maneuvered through the small opening in the reef surrounding the island. We passed the pinnacle at the entrance and then made our way out of the bay. Looking back, the sun was enhancing the view of the hillsides. On the reef was a small sand islet populated by a few huts and sporting an elaborate fish trap and nets. There were a few naked children frolicking in the water, as well. Just beyond, the surf was pounding the edge of the reef where it dropped off to deeper water. After that there was nothing left to do except wait for dinnertime in a few hours. In the meantime, we enjoyed a scenic view of a beautiful sky and a sunset with the island in silhouette.
Tonight’s dress code is Casual. We stopped for drinks in Palm Court before dinner to watch the view. The islands are in a cluster, each about the same size. It’s interesting to speculate about the formation of these islands in the middle of nowhere so close together.
Food review: We each had five courses, so we sampled quite a wide variety. The shrimp roll is basically a single shrimp wrapped in won ton skin and deep fried. It was crispy and very good. The beef soup was good, as usual. The cold soup would have been good except for the addition of passion fruit seeds that didn’t go well with the creamy soup. The ravioli was satisfactory, but didn’t have much flavor. The turkey was about the same as usual, boring. The pumpkin cheesecake was very good, but the fudge sauce didn’t compliment it very well.
Augusto wants to make chicken cacciatore for us tableside tomorrow. He is also ordering chocolate chip soufflés for dessert. The menu is Neptune’s Dinner, which neither of us cares for, so we were glad he offered something. Bruno was extremely sunburned tonight. He said he put sunscreen on everything except his face. Let’s hope that’s true and the rest of him isn’t beet red or he’s going to be suffering tomorrow. There were several other waiters in the same predicament.
The Evening Entertainment program is a piano concert by Tian Jiang. He has been on nearly every Crystal cruise we have been on, but we have never seen him perform. We passed by Tom in the Crystal Cove, but he appeared to have people waiting for him to finish, so we went up to chat with Ronnie in the Library. He was thrilled, as usual, and the resulting conversation lasted until almost 11:30 PM.
During the conversation, one of the dancers who just arrived came in to use the computer and Ronnie introduced us. He was here last year, but we hadn’t met him. Eventually Tom arrived and the conversation continued along various lines. Then Tian Jiang arrived and he was introduced to us and Ronnie by Tom. That had no dulling effect on the chat as he chided Tom for throwing away his email address, etc. Poor Tom got the short end of the stick as nearly everyone made fun of him at some point. Finally it was time to close the library, but Pedro walked by serving midnight snacks (who wants deep fried jalapenos with salsa right before bed?) He came in to find out what the party was all about, too.
We all followed Ronnie like the Pied Piper as he walked the length of the ship changing the schedules and posters for tomorrow’s entertainment. Tom went off to watch Jian gamble at Caesar's Palace, but we have no idea why. We finally made it back to the room just before midnight.Outside it was still very warm and humid. The ship is barely moving since we only need to keep up a speed of six knots to make it to Raiatea tomorrow morning.
Raiatea is the largest, highest and most populated of French Polynesia’s Leeward Islands. With a surface area of nearly 80 square miles, a population of only 10,000 inhabitants and imposing Mount Temehani towering 3,300 feet above a clear emerald-colored lagoon, Raiatea is a jewel of the sea.
Often referred to as “sacred” by historians and archeologists, Raiatea is a historian’s and archeologist’s treasure. In primitive Polynesian society, Raiatea (the extended sky) was called Havaii, which originates from the traditional name used to designate the land of the ancestors. As a result, Havaii was the Society Island’s source of history, religion and genealogies.
The industrious people of Raiatea will welcome you to the “sacred” paradise. Discover ancient marae or venture inland for panoramic views and to chat with locals. Or, journey to Raiatea’s isolated sister-island, Tahaa.
Although we weren’t up quite as early as we were yesterday, we still had a few minutes to kill before lunchtime even though we stopped to chat with Suzie in the hallway. That allowed us enough time to get our usual port photos before lunchtime. If yesterday was hot, there is no way to describe the heat today. Even with a constant breeze it was ridiculous. In areas where the wind was blocked it was simply horrendous.
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Our first photo was of the beautiful view aft of the ship across the reef that surrounds the island. Directly adjacent to the port is a small cove surrounded by houses and boats in the water. There is a small area of industrial type buildings, beyond which is the tallest peak on the island surrounded by lush tropical jungle and towering coconut palms. This island doesn’t have the dramatic peaks of Huahine, but the water is appealing and the city more upscale and modern. Calling it a city is still a bit of an exaggeration, village is more like it. But it was busier than the one-block town yesterday.
The Tahitian Princess was docked nose to nose with Crystal Symphony. This is one of the former Renaissance cruise ships that were bought by Princess. We didn’t realize it until we were close up because it looked so much more upscale painted all white rather than the navy blue of Renaissance. Although the gangway was down, we didn’t see anyone come or go from the ship while we were watching. Across the water is the smaller neighboring island of Tahaa where some crewmembers went earlier in the day for the snorkeling. We can’t see why that is necessary because there are huge reefs within swimming distance of the port area.
The strange woman who parks her lounge in the middle of the walkway asked us if we would mind taking her picture, which we did. She was much more pleasant than we expected, although she is rather pushy. We didn’t realize she is European, but that’s no excuse for the chair blocking the aisle. We had lunch in the rather busy Lido and then steeled ourselves to venture out in the heat.
Walking along the pier adjacent to the Crystal Symphony was the worst part because the surface is heat absorbing asphalt. We felt sorry for the painters dangling from a scaffold touching up the ship’s nameplate. The Tahitian Princess had the prime location directly across from the modern shopping mall and terminal complex. We continued walking through the courtyard of the shopping center and out to sample the view across the small marina to Tahaa beyond. From the same location, the entire length of the city’s waterfront is visible, which isn’t much to be honest.
We ran into the Cruise Director and John Mentis trying to negotiate a sightseeing tour so John could add some footage to the World Cruise video he is working on. They weren’t having much success because the natives don’t like to go out in the midday sun. The man at his boat kept saying he was busy although he was doing nothing more than looking at the water. John asked us to stand there looking as though we were admiring the scenery so he could have something to film for today’s port.
We continued walking along the boardwalk dock toward where we saw crewmembers returning. A few of them said there was a beach close by and we thought maybe there would be a scenic lookout or something. Turning back to look at the port, we got a photo of the entire pier and shopping area with the marina in the foreground.
As we walked, we found it hard to believe that there would suddenly be any sort of fantastic beach around the bend. Everything we saw along the way looked nice enough, but not for swimming or beach going. The area where we were walking was along an upscale, palm-lined street fronting some nice houses and a small hotel with the mountains behind.
When we finally reached the point, we found a good place for a photo of Tahaa across the beautiful water of the reef. There was another marina beyond some trees and the famous beach we had heard so much about. If nobody had told us, we wouldn’t have considered this a beach at all. It was more like a rocky vacant lot with some grass, but the crew seemed to be enjoying it, so it served its purpose.
We made our way back the way we came to the downtown shops directly across from the ships. We did walk the length of the block, but there wasn’t anything interesting to buy that didn’t cost a fortune. One block inland from the port there were several ramshackle supermarkets that sold everything from groceries to disco balls. We wandered through one of them just to see what they had. The answer: Everything. Baby clothes, paréos, stoves, the aforementioned disco balls, toys, food, sandals, laundry baskets, tiki torches, fans, refrigerators, you name it. It was sort of like the general stores of a bygone era, except there was one on every corner.
That venture done, we staggered back to the port in the heat. In addition to the two-level shopping center, they also had some permanent thatched huts selling souvenirs such as shell necklaces and paréos, but the prices were too high to bother with. Besides, we could probably get the same thing at Pier One back home for less. Before bracing ourselves to walk along the asphalt again, we stopped to view an attractive lily pond that was located between the two ships behind a large thatched stage area.
Back on board we stopped to chat with Billy at the Front Desk who told us that his strategy is to research each port ahead of time. That way he can just run off the ship and go where he wants to go. Otherwise, he would waste too much time and not be able to do anything. He does more in the two hours he is off than we do on an entire cruise. Of course, he is in his twenties, too.
We crashed in the room and tried to recover from the heat. A large sailboat went by steered by a naked man, while a naked woman lounged on the deck. Why is it that the most repulsive people parade around nude? Shouldn’t there be some sort of rule that if you are going out in public naked, you should at least possess average looks?
The ship sails today at 5:00 PM. By the way, we are now always docked with the port side of the ship toward shore because they have yet to repair the damaged gangway on the starboard side. We sailed promptly, but without any announcement by the Captain, which is unheard of.
Sailing away from a port is always a highlight for us, but with all of the spectacular surroundings here, it made for a memorable experience. The neighboring island of Tahaa was visible during our stay anyway, but upon sailing we could clearly see the small landing for boats from Raiatea and houses along the shoreline. The islands are protected by a huge reef, so the houses are built right up to and sometime on the water using stilts.
We got closer and closer to Tahaa as we sailed through the narrow channel in the reef. Jagged pinnacles began to show in the distance behind the lower hills on our side. As we sailed, we got so close to the shore that it would have easily been possible to swim to shore from the ship. We came to a palm-studded point where there was a fishing shack out on the reef on stilts. Just beyond that was a long dock that served a small hotel situated among the palms at a spectacular viewpoint.
Around the point was a picturesque bay with people playing in the water and sail boats anchored just off shore. At this point we came even closer to shore where we could see gardens carved into the steep slopes and small boats darting in every direction between the ship and shore. Around another lushly vegetated point was a huge inlet backed by jagged mountains. At the very end of the land, a small white church stood guard. From this vantage point, the legendary Bora Bora was silhouetted against the setting sun.
At this point, the Captain made his belated announcement that we would be sailing for a closer look at Bora Bora. Anyone fortunate enough to be looking at the Bridge Cam from 5:30 PM until 7:00 PM our time was treated to a dead-on view of Bora Bora live and almost in person. Too bad it was dark by the time the ship really got close, but since we had been that last year, it wasn’t a big loss for us.
We received a letter from the President of Crystal hyping the activities for the Serenity Inaugural. The big thrill is that they are going to videotape the christening and show it to us on board during a cocktail party. He made of point of saying the christening is only for a few dignitaries and a small group of others. If we are in London before the 3rd, we can beg the office for a seat at the ceremony, but there is no guarantee, of course. It is fairly apparent that they are getting complaints about the lack of incentives for guests on the inaugural and that they are trying to stem the tide of cancellations that has begun. By the way, the letter was addressed to: Mr. David Giddings and Mrs. Williams Boyson. How’s that for attention to detail?
Tonight’s dress code is Casual. We met Peter in the hallway who informed us that his brother Csaba, who we know from the Lido (he’s an assistant waiter in the Dining Room), had fallen off of a bicycle in Papeete and broke his elbow. They weren’t able to send him home from there, so he now has to wait until Auckland. He’s a very nice guy and it’s really unfortunate that he had such an accident, but at least he has Peter to take care of him in the meantime.
Food review: Obviously, we had more to eat than is highlighted above. Augusto made Chicken Cacciatore from scratch for us and it was great. It’s so nice to have a simple one-dish meal for a change. Plus, it was enough for six people, so we were stuffed. Of course, we had room for the Chocolate Chip Soufflés he insisted on ordering for us, which were excellent.
We’d guess that about half of the waiters and assistants are ridiculously sunburned. Those that weren’t yesterday, certainly were today. Bruno looked about the same and didn’t complain about being uncomfortable, but he sure was red.
The Evening Entertainment program is a concert by singer Dale Kristien of “Phantom of the Opera” fame. She is on nearly every Crystal World cruise and some regular cruises. For some reason, we had never made it to one of her shows. She sang a very nice selection of beautiful songs, including the expected ones from “Phantom”. But, she has one of those high-pitched operatic voices that gets really old, really fast. When she sang “Over the Rainbow” it dawned on us that she sounds like a Munchkin is singing. Either that or maybe a chipmunk. Also, she kept losing track of the beat, which caused the band to get ahead of or behind her. That happened at least three times. Perhaps she is used to watching a conductor for her timing, but if that’s the case, she shouldn’t be singing solo without one. We were obviously in the minority with our opinion because she got a standing ovation and we didn’t see anyone leave early as they did with the previous soprano.When we left the room tonight we saw tomorrow’s Reflections program on the mail clips, as usual, but we hadn’t received one. When we asked Elizabeth for one at the desk, she said they had pulled them off of the clips when they found an error and were frantically re-printing them. She ran after us with one as they were delivered seconds after we asked. We’re not sure of the mistake, but it might be that they had inadvertently published tomorrow’s movie. They are showing the five Academy Award Nominees, starting with “Chicago”. The Cruise Director announced after the show that they couldn’t publish the names, but didn’t say why. Our guess is that they don’t have permission to show them publicly. The point of all of this is that they are going to have their own version of the awards with the guests voting on their favorite.
We forgot to mention yesterday that the World Cruiser who was ill and left early, died unexpectedly. According to the information we were given, her doctors never did figure out what was wrong with her. They are having a memorial service for her tomorrow morning on board.
At last we are back to lazy sea days! Nothing much has changed, the weather is still hot and humid. As long as the air is moving it isn’t too bad, but the moment the breeze stops it becomes unbearable.
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We had some time to kill before lunchtime, so we wandered down to look for a Get Well card for Csaba, with no luck. After checking out the latest photos from recent shore excursions, we chatted with Elizabeth who asked whether we were joining the photo contest. Since we didn’t even know about it, apparently not. She said that Mr. T submits a whole bunch of photos and they always choose one of his, causing ill will among other guests. We knew he was a sore loser based up the racket ball games with the crew, but fixing it so he has to win everything he enters is silly. All of this is for a free photo frame, by the way.
At last it was time to eat, so we ventured up to the Lido, went through the line, and one of us ended up with only the cold soup and an empty plate. That was probably a better alternative because what was selected on the other plate wasn’t worth eating. No matter, there is always the Trident Grill to rely on for a tuna melt.
After lunch we moved outside by the Seahorse Pool, in the shade, to listen to the band. The heat wasn’t bad until later in the afternoon when the wind stopped at around 2:30 PM. By then it was time for ice cream and retiring to the room. We have come to the conclusion that the band plays the same selection of songs every day, slightly changing the sequence of play. They are very good, but they really need to expand their repertoire when the same people will see them for 104 days straight.
The rest of the afternoon was spent either on the verandah or the air conditioned room.
Tonight’s dress code is Formal for the Crystal Society Party and French Dinner. We arrived about fifteen minutes after the start of the party and found the Captain standing alone in the hallway. He is always very nice to us and tonight was no exception. Lara thanked us for coming through the main door rather than the express lane. The room was almost full, so we had to sit in the corner opposite our usual hiding place. The Captain announced that after some guests left in Papeete, we now have 310 guests and 535 crewmembers on board.
After the party, our friend Harry, who is the Clearance Officer, came over to chat. He spent his six-week vacation in Sydney where he rented an apartment to get an idea of living there. He said he feels like he has finally found someplace that feels like home to him (he is from Austria) and plans to buy an apartment there. We found out several interesting tidbits of information also. Harry left the ship in Florida as the World Cruise began. He had a free upgrade to Business Class and saw the President of Crystal in coach. He hid out and pretended he had flown in coach also when they met at the airport. Anyway, the point is that Crystal is putting its money where its mouth is. They are requiring the ships to pinch pennies, which is to be expected under the circumstances. But, the office has forbidden executives from flying Business or First Class. To see the President of the company in coach is incredible and is to be congratulated.
We also learned that if an officer works more than four months straight, he gets overtime pay. Hence the strict adherence to four months on, two months off. In the past, nobody cared except for being tired after longer stays. Now they only keep someone if it is absolutely necessary. This is also to be applauded.
The most interesting news we got, almost directly from the horse’s mouth, is that The World of ResidenSea is about to go bankrupt. This is the ship where they sold “apartments” for millions of dollars and had some regular staterooms to rent as cruise ship cabins. The ship is sailing with no more than forty owners at a time and no renters at all. They never did sell all of the apartments, so they are now deeply in debt. The owners, who have already thrown millions of dollars down the drain, are trying to come up with a plan to buy the ship before the holding company goes under. Apparently, this is in the $250 million range. And we thought Crystal was desperate.
Food review: The onion soup was too salty, but still edible. The salad and the pasta dish were barely satisfactory. Bruno had left over cold peach soup from a special order that he brought to us. It was good, but not great. The fish was very good, as was the Coq au Vin. Unfortunately, the latter was too difficult to eat as the chicken was on the bone in a wine sauce and served on linguine. It was just impossible to pick up without splattering it all over the place. Basically, not a good choice for a formal night. The best part was the soufflé, which was excellent, as usual.
The Dining Room was in a tizzy because a lot of people arrived late and then insisted on being finished by 8:30 PM in time for the movie. It is hectic enough on a formal night without the rush of finishing dinner within an hour. The same movie is being shown at 8:30 PM, 10:30 PM and 2:30 PM tomorrow, so there was no rush. Besides, who cares? The movie causing all the commotion is “Chicago”.
Augusto made fun of the harpist without any prompting from us. This started when she walked by as he was talking to us. He said he heard her for the first time during Tea Time and that she made so many mistakes he didn't know what she was playing. At least we know we aren't the only ones who don't like her.
The Evening Entertainment program includes the production show, “Million Dollar Musicals,” a Repertory Theatre at Sea presentation of “Fully Committed", and late night Karaoke. The production show is the best that they offer and was good in spite of a myriad of technical problems and substitute dancers. Two of the dancers had arrived in Papeete and one was the man who was injured during last segment and was replaced. He looked to have doubled in size and he was already too big for his costumes a month ago. Apparently he wasn’t too injured to eat. There was almost constant feedback whenever one of the lead singers tried to perform. One of the women fell backstage and the rest of them had to improvise to make the show work.
We didn’t attend either of the late night entertainments, although we did stop briefly to listen to Tom and the Champagne Strings perform together. The strings were unbearably bad. They aren’t always the best anyway, but adding Tom to the mix always screws them up.Tonight is another hour back on the clock.
Our day started with a chat with Suzie in the hallway about life in general, nothing worth repeating, but it was interesting at the time. Next stop was the Nuevo Latino buffet in the blazing heat around the Neptune Pool. Now that we are familiar with the food offered at this buffet, we can skip 90% of it and get what we want. We wouldn't call any of the food great, but enough of it is above average for it to be worthwhile. We took our trays, or rather our trays were taken for us, into the Lido where it was air conditioned. It was way too hot to sit outside today at any time.
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After lunch we wandered to the shops to buy the items we wanted to help use up some of our spending credit. We managed to spend $1,100 of it on crystal and glass, but that was a mere dent in our overall credit. The woman who came on board last year with Australian opals was back, so we had a look. The ring Dave liked last year was still available, but he decided it would be too distracting to wear because it sticks up too much. She had some very nice pieces, but the one we both liked the most was too similar to one we already have. We decided to bring our current supply down to compare before looking any further.
On the way to the room, we were sidetracked talking to Lara and Abigail about Bill becoming Mrs. Williams Boyson on the letter from Crystal. Lara was humiliated and blamed herself for not catching it, but the information came from the office, it did not originate on board. We asked Abigail about prices for next year (not available yet) and making our own World Cruise. She said that it would be better to get off in Yokohama and fly to Honolulu to switch to the Harmony because we won’t repeat as many ports that way. She also was sure that the prices on the Harmony would be fairly low in comparison to the Serenity. However, she said they expect parts of the next World Cruise to be nearly sold out. We find that very hard to believe, but she seemed to believe it. She did say that the first and last segments would be low capacity and that they expect about 200 full World Cruisers, which would be the most they have ever had.
After our official conversation, she started off on a stupid resolution she heard Congress made about changing the name of French Fries to Freedom Fries and French Toast to some other patriotic name because we are mad at the French. We all agreed that Congress should have something better to do at the moment than such childish resolutions. Abigail said she isn’t allowed to talk about politics ordinarily, so she was glad to get that off her chest with people who understand her point. She was more amusing than we expected.
We finally made it back to the opals where we ultimately decided to buy a stone and have a ring custom made for it. The saleswoman is leaving in Auckland and will come back in Perth with the finished piece. The price was much better than buying most of the appealing finished pieces, so why not? Besides, we’ll still end up with credit left on our account. If we need more we can always cash in our 30th Milestone that we reached this segment.
Marianna called us over to find out what we had bought. That conversation led to our trip to Disney World and the ridiculous prices, her transfer from the shops to the front desk, and how Crystal keeps screwing people out of the Crystal Society credits. A woman in the shop said she has to complain every segment in order to get what is due her. We are now convinced they are not posting the credits purposely. She said it isn't surprising because the corporate office is usually in complete chaos and is completely the opposite from the way the ships are run. We had already heard the same thing from Tom after his experience getting his tickets to join the ship, so it must be true. Marianna said that the office will email the ship to count something in inventory. They count it and email the results back. Two weeks later, somebody else will email for the same thing. They email back that they already did it. No answer. Three weeks go by and they email asking for the same thing again. It never ends. Sure must be frustrating. We also learned that the people who work in the shops are the only staff, except entertainers, employed directly by Crystal Cruises, Inc.. Everyone else comes through an agency in Oslo. We knew about the agency, but we weren't aware that the shops are considered a concession even though they are run by Crystal directly. It sure is an odd arrangement, but that's probably why the input from the ship doesn't have any affect on what is carried in the shops.
By this time, it was nearly 5:00 PM and we hadn’t had our ice cream snack yet. We are usually getting showered and dressed for dinner by this time, but we were starving. So, up to the Lido Deck we went for our snack and a rest by the Seahorse Pool. It was more pleasant outside without the blazing sun and with a breeze to move the air around. On the way back to the room, we ran into Waldo in the hallway who had some stories for us. His girlfriend back home is expecting a baby this week, so he is anxious about that.
Tonight’s dress code is Informal.
Guest Chef Menu Featuring the Cuisine of Sam Choy
addition to Guest Chef Sam Choy’s special menu items,
Food review: For the first time we can recall, a Guest Chef’s selections sounded good to us and were without bizarre concoctions. The spring roll was good, but too greasy, as is most fried foods here. That’s the fault of the kitchen, not the chef. The chicken was good, but a bit bland. However, it was worth eating, which is a plus. The dessert was very good, but suffered a bit by being made ahead of time so the pastry was soggy. Otherwise, it was fine. Even Bill liked it and he hates coconut.
Augusto insisted on planning special orders for each night of the segment remaining because he is leaving in Auckland. We chose Fettuccini Alfredo, Steak Diane, and Chicken Cacciatore. We're also having the caramelized pineapple in lieu of the Baked Alaska on the farewell evening. When we sort of objected because it was too much bother for him, he said, "Some people do this every night. You do it once a month. And besides, I want to do it for you."
Bruno tipped us off that the big World Cruise dinner is tomorrow night. Thank God it’s casual this time. Of course, as with last year, we were given no notice of this at all. If Bruno hadn’t told us, we wouldn’t have found out until we returned to our room to find a letter from the World Cruise Hostess. They do a very good job with these things, except for the secrecy, which we find childish and annoying. We received fake passports that are customized with our real information, as well as Shore Excursion tickets for the Less Walking/More Eating Tour. In case you didn’t know, one of the tours in each port is always designated as “Less Walking.” OK, so you had to be there.The Evening Entertainment program with a concert by Dale Kristien and Michel Bell. We skipped the show, preferring to do laundry instead.
Tropic-green Upolu is unmistakably a South Seas Island. Cradled along its northern shore lies the peaceful township of Apia. Picturesque thatched-roof fales blend into the emerald-hued countryside. Jagged mountains rise above deserted beaches where trade winds sigh on coconut palms. Banana groves and breadfruit trees gently ripen in the moist, tropical climate.
Western Samoa's friendly, carefree islanders will welcome you to their bountiful homeland and proudly show you the former home of their adopted son, Robert Louis Stevenson. This is a contented island where traditional ways hold sway despite the passage of time.
We’re not sure, but we think maybe today is the hottest day in the history of the Earth. Either that, or today’s destination is the surface of the sun. This judgment was made at around 9:00 AM, by the way, so you can imagine how hot it was by the time we ventured out at 12:30 PM. We were awakened at 7:00 AM by incredibly loud Samoan music on the pier. We didn’t bother to get up then to look, but we were up and about by 10:00 AM when we went to the Bistro for a morning snack.
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As always, the next stop was for port photos from the ship. Samoa is similar to the last three islands we visited, with lush tropical foliage and a surrounding reef. There are several islands around here, all with the same general shape. There is a huge volcano in the center with smaller ones on the flanks. The peaks aren’t quite as tall as those in Tahiti and resemble the Hawaiian Islands more than anything.
Directly adjacent to the ship is a waterfront of old houses and businesses, followed by a long concrete seawall lined with huge flowering trees and banyans. After crossing a small bridge is Aggie Grey’s Hotel. Aggie Grey is thought to be the inspiration for Bloody Mary in South Pacific. On just about every block there is a small church ranging from quaint wooden structures to a white plaster cathedral in the center of town. In the downtown area there is a high-rise office tower topped with a weird brown roof that looks sort of like a hot dog. At the very end of the island are more reefs with waves rolling across them.
We finally got up the nerve to leave the ship at around 12:30 PM, but we couldn’t find the gangway when we got to the lobby. We knew we were docked on the starboard side with the damaged gangway, but the gangway wasn’t on Deck 5 or 6. After asking at the Front Desk, we learned that they had set up a sort of ramp as a gangway from Deck 4, so we headed down and onto the pier.
At first we thought of just browsing the market set up on the dock, but decided to walk along the waterfront until we got too tired or hot. A multitude of taxi drivers offered us rides even before we reached the gate of the port. They were pleasant and not pushy, but they were every few feet. We thought it was charming that the locals had decorated each section of the chain link fence and the light poles in the port with colorful plants. It didn’t really add much to the ambiance, but it was a nice touch.
Outside the gates we met up with Andrejus who had just returned from a visit to the famous “Sliding Rocks”. Basically this attraction is a natural lava rock waterfall that is possible to slide down into a pool below. He said it was fun the first time, but not worth repeating.
More taxi drivers offered rides, even as we were walking along the street by the port. If we dawdled anywhere for more than a second, a taxi would stop and offer a ride. It sounds more annoying than it was. They were pleasant enough, it was just tedious turning all of them down. The prices were very cheap and even the locals went everywhere in them. However, our point was to walk, not ride.
After crossing a bridge over a picturesque little river, we came upon the Aggie Grey Hotel and the beginning of the downtown area. For all the hype about the hotel, one would expect an old wooden building, but in reality it appeared brand new. We didn’t care, we were just surprised.
We kept walking along the waterfront to the center of town. Almost everyone we passed said “hello” or smiled at the slightest provocation. The people here really are extremely friendly and seem quite content. The dress code of the day is a skirt with a floral shirt, for both men and women, with or without shoes. Most of those without shoes were enormous Samoan men with the biggest feet we have ever seen on a human. Come to think of it, this was probably the largest bunch of humans in general.
After the hotel is a row of several churches ranging from clapboard wooden structures to basic plaster and stucco. There must have been a church with an adjoining school on every block downtown.
At the center of town are several shops and restaurants geared toward locals. The high-rise with the hot dog roof is the government building, still sporting a “Samoa 2000” sign over the door with a blank countdown clock to the year 2000. Things change slowly here. Apparently, the hot dog is meant to resemble a traditional Samoan ceremonial buildings such as atop the adjacent Tourist Bureau.
Across the street from the government building is a brilliant white stucco cathedral. At this point, we had walked as far as the heat and our feet would allow, so we crossed the street and turned back toward the ship. The distance around the bay was evident looking back to where we came from. As we were crossing a side street, a car turned in front of us. We knew he was coming and waited until he had passed. As he went by, the driver called out, “Excuse me,” because he had made us wait an extra two seconds. How polite is that?
By this time, uniformed schoolchildren were coming out of everywhere. They were just as friendly as everyone else and seemed to be having a good time walking in small groups, with their mother, or alone. We came upon an original wooden building that is now a museum. Obviously, it has seen better days, but it’s an interesting example of a bygone architecture.
Eventually, we made it back to the port and started browsing through the shops set up pierside. Although the venders did want to sell things to us, they weren’t unpleasant about it. Haggling over the prices was the object of the day, but they would immediately lower the quoted price if we didn’t respond quickly enough. One very friendly woman wanted desperately to sell us something, but we had just started looking and wanted to see what else there was available.
In general, the merchandise was of very good quality. It was what one would expect to find on an island, colorful wrap skirts, woven baskets, carved wood, tapa cloth, shell jewelry, etc. We were particularly interested in some teak wood bowls and ended up buying three graduated sizes. Not wanting to leave out the woman with whom we had spoken first, we went back to her stall and bought a couple wooden items, weapons of some sort, to hang on the wall. She wanted to sell us a large oval bowl and turned it over to reveal the legs on the bottom. The top two were breasts and the bottom one a large penis. She said, “Top part me, bottom part you,” and then broke out in hysterical laughter. Remember this part for later.
Back on board by 2:30 PM, we were exhausted and filthy from the dusty roads. However, we hadn’t had lunch, so we forced ourselves to go up to the Trident Grill. Tonight’s World Cruise Dinner is being held by the Neptune Pool and they were busily constructing a volcano out of paper and rocks out of brown painted inflated plastic bags. There was also a sort of shower with a bucket over it and tiki torches. The upshot of all of this being that it was still at least 95 and 100% humidity at this point, plus the roof was only halfway open.
After lunch we went back to the room and crashed until sailing time at 5:00 PM. Most of the time before the sailing was spent on the verandah watching the crew Olympic races taking place below. How they could run to downtown and back in this heat and not drop dead is a miracle.
The loud music returned about an hour before we sailed and continued until we were out of the harbor. We could easily hear it even outside the breakwater. We have no idea how the people in the shops could stand it, but they seemed to be having a good time dancing and waving as we sailed out beyond the huge reef and off into the sunset.
The Captain announced shortly after sailing that we are traveling into an area where there was a hurricane yesterday, so he is expecting it to be very rough beginning tonight. Then, tomorrow, our route will take us into a growing low pressure area where he thinks it will get even worse. We got the same warnings about taking everything off of the shelves and such that we got during the Antarctic crossing.
The instructions for tonight’s World Cruise Event instructed us to bring our fake passport and the shore excursion tickets with us to the Palm Court at 6:45 PM. On the way, we ran into Suzie, Waldo, and Emilie in the hallway. They told us that just after they had finished setting up the tables with the place cards, they opened the roof because it was too hot. Then it became so windy that everything blew away and they had to start over.
There was a line outside the Palm Court, but it moved quickly enough. The only delays were caused by guests chatting with Rosemary or the Captain in the doorway and blocking everyone else. We behaved and made our way into the room where we ran into Lara and Abigail. Abigail had purchased one of the anatomically correct bowl, but hadn't received an explanation. She just thought it was a nice bowl when she bought it. Then, when she showed it to Lara, they thought it looked sort of smutty, but that they were just being imaginative. Of course, we had to tell her that the design was, in fact, intentional, which they both thought was hysterical.
We made our way to an out of the way area and received our free drinks and some snacks we desperately needed. Harry came over to chat until he was paged to participate in the event. Rosemary introduced Renato, the Shore Excursion Manager, who gave his port talk on our excursion to Bali Hai, which is tonight’s "destination". All of the officers lined up with the tour leader paddles we all know and love, and waited to escort the guests to their tour beyond the Seahorse Pool. We stopped to talk to Mel and Barbara who had no clue what was going on, where it was going on, or how to get there. We were briefly detained by them because they didn’t want to wait in the line, but eventually we managed to ditch them by the pool and move along.
There was music from South Pacific blaring by the Seahorse Pool where another line formed at the doorway to the Neptune Pool. All of the poles were sprouting fresh palm fronds from the island. The music was a nice touch, but it was so incredibly loud it almost made our ears bleed.
At the entrance to the Neptune Pool, Harry was stamping our fake passports, then a photo was taken, and we were led inside to be escorted to our table. Andrejus misunderstood the table number he was given and we didn’t find our places. He ran off to get the maitre d', which caused a stir with us just standing there. We couldn’t have cared less about a slight delay, but we’re sure heads rolled.
Eventually, we did find our places where Louise, one of the die-hards, and a couple from the neighboring table in the Dining Room, said they had tried to flag us down when we walked by. Lara was the hostess for our table. We always end up with her, so we guess it is a given that she gets us at these things. Other than the heat, which was outlandish, the evening was very well done and a nice idea.
The paper volcano erupted with great fanfare at one point, spewing smoke for the rest of the evening. The menu wasn’t anything we would have chosen to eat on a bet, but we did try everything. Only the salad with the crab was ghastly, everything else was fine for what is was and beautifully presented. Just to make the point that we aren’t the only ones who dislike Crystal's food choices for pre-planned menus, one woman at our table refused (nicely) everything except the main course and dessert. Lara was horrified that she didn’t like anything on the menu, but the woman was very pleasant and said, “There is no danger that I’m going to starve.”
They attempted to orchestrate the service in such a way that a whole team of waiters would bring an entire table’s worth of a course and put them down all at once. This method didn’t work, but it was a nice try. Honestly, we would have preferred a more casual approach to match the theme of the evening.
There was a show consisting of most of the songs from “South Pacific” starting off with Bali Hai lip-synched by Ronnie dressed in drag as Bloody Mary. He was perfect and absolutely hysterical with big red lips smeared all over his face, a low cut dress and a big black hairdo. Most of the singers on board came up one by one to sing a song, very well, too. The dancers did the “Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair” number complete with the shower scene and a bucket of water dumped onto her head. Michel Bell and Dale Kristien sang “Some Enchanted Evening” and Bloody Mary returned to sing “Happy Talk”. The highlight was when one of the larger World Cruise men came out dressed up for the “Honey Bun” number. Talk about a good sport. He seemed to really enjoy it. Lara said they made her ask him to do it.
Many people left immediately after the show and some even before the entrée. We assume this was because of the heat or the menu or both. The Captain made a brief speech and reiterated the warning to remove breakables from shelves and the possibility of very rough seas for the rest of this segment.
After the party broke up, Rosemary rushed over to ask us if we liked it. We told her we did and that we much preferred a casual party to the formal affair they had last year. She sort of intimated that there were more things to come, so just wait, but we might have misunderstood what she meant. She immediately launched into a mild tirade about how obnoxious the guests are being at Team Trivia. We had heard about how cutthroat it has become, but we had no idea that it was as bad as she told us it was. Apparently, there are almost fistfights over it. She is worried because her ratings are being affected by it and she shouldn’t even be hosting it. We agree that she shouldn’t be doing anything other than World Cruise related events. She said that if she had known she would be doing trivia that she wouldn’t have taken the job. She was a World Cruise Hostess at Royal Viking, so she is well aware of the pitfalls of Team Trivia. We told her we think she is doing an outstanding job, far superior to last year, which is true.
The next topic was the obsession by Mr. T. to win everything. Recall the phony photo contest fixed so he can win and the staff paddle tennis matches that everyone has to lose every day. We already learned from our tablemate tonight that he had beaten Mr. T. at paddle tennis during the Olympics. He said there was no problem, but we learned that Mr. T. had lost an event earlier and behaved so badly that the Captain had to have a meeting with him. Ordinarily when a guest is admonished by the Captain, they are asked not to come back. However, being Mr. T., that’s not going to happen this time.
Rosemary cautioned us that under no circumstances should we allow ourselves to be sucked into the vortex of Team Trivia. If Mel and Barbara try to get us on their team again, we are supposed to make up any excuse to get out of it. She said it is absolutely ghastly. We told her if it was up to us we would just stop offering it and tell the guests that if they can’t behave, then it won’t be offered. Don’t hold your breath because that’s never going to happen here.
We couldn’t wait to get out of there and take another shower! The fresh flower leis they had put on everyone at the door had completely wilted to nothing by the end of the party, only about two hours. Yes, it was really that hot!Tonight’s Entertainment was a concert of some sort, but obviously we were being entertained elsewhere. It did become a bit rough by 1:00 AM, but not nearly as bad as it has been a few times. Of course, this may be just the beginning.
Skip today, it didn't exist for us. We moved directly to the 15th by
crossing the International Dateline.
Skip today, it didn't exist for us. We moved directly to the 15th by crossing the International Dateline.
The rough seas never materialized and it’s completely smooth sailing today. It isn’t nearly as absurdly hot as it was yesterday. Although the humidity is sky high, the temperature is bearable. We received personalized certificates for crossing the Dateline today as well as the Shore Excursions order form for the upcoming segment: Page 1, Page 2, Page 3.
Click for Daytime Activities.
It’s Gala Luncheon Buffet time again, so we went down at 11:30 AM to watch them set up and watch the guests trying to figure out what the heck was going on. There has been a definite cutback in the elaborate decorations, but they still do a nice job with it. We aren’t interested in the food because it just isn’t very exciting, but it is pretty to look at. We hung around until about 12:30 PM and went up to the Lido for lunch.
It was nearly deserted in the Lido, but we were glad to go there and get a substantial amount of food to make up for the microscopic portions at the World Cruise Dinner last night. Rosario stopped to tell us he is going on vacation in Auckland. He talked about other subjects too off the wall to remember. Niklas initiated a conversation with us, the point was mostly to get us to come to the show tonight than anything else. He had missed the part of the show where the World Cruise guest came out as Honey Bun and he wanted to know how it went. We told him that everyone enjoyed it quite a bit, including the guest who was dressed up in a coconut bra, grass skirt and wig.
After lunch we decided to return to the room, but ran into Peter in the landing. He said that the next segment has enough guests to require going back to two seating dining. That’s quite an improvement from a few weeks ago when the prediction was a drop in numbers. Only the numbers from the Front Desk are accurate, so we’ll have to check with Billy soon to confirm the count. He also told us about some of the Dining Room politics and who holds the power there. It wasn’t anything we didn’t already know, but he filled in a few missing links in the chain. Tom arrived and we started talking about his social calendar with the guests. We decided to all go to the room where we could sit and talk until his nap time at 3:30 PM.
Tom said that the harpist has now failed to show up five times during this segment alone. We have noticed that none of the people who should be monitoring such things seem to care that she is flaking out. This led to how the entertainment department is taking advantage of Ronnie by constantly asking him to participate in shows when that isn’t his job. He is the Librarian and not classified as entertainment. We all agree that he is wasted there and should be out with the public doing something creative. Tom did say that Ronnie is finally speaking up for himself and the other Filipinos who are afraid to do so. Ronnie is beloved by the guests, so he has a bit of leverage now.
We aren’t the only ones with mix ups and the Crystal office arranging transportation. Tom is leaving in Auckland to join the Harmony. He is flying to Yokohama directly from Auckland. He will disembark in Hong Kong, spend a few days, and fly back to Los Angeles. The office had him booked on the wrong dates to the wrong places in the wrong hotels. Then, the woman at the office called his father because, “Tom isn’t answering my emails.” Tom is on the Symphony, which she knows because she sent him an email on board and he responded from the library computer. And, she supposedly knew that he was flying from Auckland to Japan since he already has both a paper ticket and an E-ticket. Now he’s worried that they won’t have someone to pick him up in Japan. Gee, kind of sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
After Tom left, we debated about whether to bother going down to watch the Closing Ceremony of the Olympics at 5:00 PM. We’re just glad they are over with and we can stop hearing about all the arguments and accusations of cheating, as usual. We didn't attend the ceremony.
Tonight’s dress code is Informal, changed from Casual because God forbid they should have two casual nights in a row. We didn’t receive a copy of the menu today, but it was nothing all of us haven’t seen three times already. On the way into the Dining Room, Josef initiated a conversation about the dress codes and too many being formal. That leads us to believe that Rosario told him we were complaining about that. We were discussing the topic with Rosario, but we didn’t suggest that we expected it to change. Josef did tell us that he does tell guests without jackets on Informal evenings that they have to wear one. If they refuse or say they don’t want to, there isn’t much he can do, but he does try.
Food review: We had a cold soup of chopped apples in cranberry juice that was very good. Bruno thought we would want to add yogurt to it, but we have no idea why. At least he is trying to anticipate what we want. The salad of a big wedge of iceberg lettuce with a lemon basil vinaigrette was outstanding for the dressing alone. Augusto made Fettuccini Alfredo for our entrée and, as always, it was excellent and enough to feed six people. Dessert was sour cherry bread pudding with vanilla sauce, also excellent.
Augusto became ill during dinner and went to the doctor. When he came back, he looked even worse and when we asked if he was OK, he said, “No!” We told him he didn’t have to make the pasta, but he insisted on making it, “Because I promised you.” We told him several times to just go to bed, but he insisted. As soon as he finished serving it, he did leave. Maria is still out of commission after injuring herself in the crew Olympics. This is the third day she has been out.
Tonight’s Entertainment is a show put together by the dance team and the Crystal Ensemble called “That’s Dancing II”. They did a similar show last year that we heard was very good. This year we managed to attend. It was basically a bunch of unrelated dance numbers by Curtis and Natalie, and other members of the entertainment staff. Some were better than others and we could have lived without the lip-synched numbers, but it was worth looking at once. It was only 45 minutes long, so it was fine. There were uneasy breaks between numbers, but otherwise everything went well in spite of the movement of the ship.
The sea started to become a bit rough at around 6:00 PM and got a little bit worse after dinner, but was never very much to speak of. We went by the library to tell Ronnie how much everyone loved him last night. Tom was there looking dejected in a chair across the room. He said he was tired and hungry, but he always says that. As soon as we started talking to him, he woke up and seemed fine. Ronnie just sat at his desk receiving praise from every guest who walked by.We sat at the table with Tom until the library closed at 11:00 PM. Tom said that he highly doubts Peter's assessment that there are more guests for the next segment. Everything he has heard says that the guest count is less than it is now. When the library closed, we all followed Ronnie around as he changed the activities schedules and show marquees. He looks like the Pied Piper with all three of us following him around like a bunch of puppies. After winding up at the forward elevators, we left Tom and Ronnie and returned to our room for the night.
We were up early, so we went down to deliver a birthday card for Billy at the Front Desk and one to be delivered to Tom. The art instructor was busy setting out the projects from her class that were, well, interesting. Tom was making appalled faces at us from across the room because they were attaching the quilt pieces directly to the fabric wall covering with pins.
We went over to chat with Tom and Pat. Pat is upset because guests mistake them for the Manila Diamonds and their ratings have been slipping. We didn’t say anything, but the Manila Diamonds are far better than the Champagne Strings because two of the strings are always off key. Pat seems to think it has something to do with the mistaken name, but if that were the case their ratings would go up, not down. We tried to explain that to him without telling him his group isn’t as good, but it didn’t register.
Ronnie came up behind us as we were standing at the railing talking, but ran off quickly to finish whatever he was doing. We moved around and sat next to the piano to kill ten minutes before lunchtime. Tom was telling us why he is tired today, but his explanation wasn’t quite complete. Billy opened his card at the desk and started waving at us from across the room. He seemed to be amused by it. We started off toward the Lido just as the people from Laguna Niguel arrived, so Tom told them he threw us out because we were in their seats. They knew that wasn’t true, by the way.
The Lido was deserted. We have no idea why because it isn’t that rough today, but maybe it makes it too difficult for most of the guests to walk when it is sloshy. As usual, the carved chicken selection was the best bet, but the Asian selection was satisfactory. After we finished we moved outside to listen to the band until 1:30 PM, then went to get the camera for the finish of the Crew Olympics at 2:00 PM.
We returned to the Seahorse Pool and found a seat within view of the Tug of War area. This is always the big event for the crew and is the only one that is announced to the guests. There was also supposed to be a slippery pole contest over the pool, but with no water that wouldn’t have been a great idea so it was postponed.
The Tug of War started off badly because the first competition was supposed to be between the Dining Room and the Deck Stewards, but the Dining Room hadn’t shown up. The same thing happened with the next match when the Chinese Laundry didn’t show. The first real match was between the Rust Busters and the Engine Room Silver team. The Rust Busters won, which elicited a huge response from the onlookers because the engine room teams always win. When the Dining Room and the Chinese Laundry finally showed up, they competed against one another with the Dining Room winning easily. Bruno told us yesterday that he didn’t want to participate, but he was the second man from the center on the team. The Rust Busters easily beat the Housekeeping team. When the Deck Stewards, who had won their first match, were put up against the Engine Room Gold team, there was no match. Just one of the engine room guys is bigger than their entire team. They all seemed to be having fun with Rodel, the Ice Cream Man, trying to tie the rope to a pole. They were caught, of course, and lost with Allen flat on his back at the end of the match. After all was said and done, the Engine Room Gold team won, with the two deck hand teams taking the second and third place.
We spent the couple of hours before dinner in the room watching videotapes.
Tonight’s dress code is Formal for the Captain’s Gala. They don’t call it a Farewell Party anymore because that means people are leaving. The last day of the cruise is always referred to as Embarkation Day, never Disembarkation Day.
Tom sent us a note thanking us for the birthday card we sent to him today, saying that our suggestion of what to do with the money we included, “Made me smile.” When we stopped by the Crystal Cove before dinner, he was laughing about it. Sorry, but it’s our little secret. The Laguna Niguel couple said they would never book a segment on a World Cruise again because of the cliques. We have to agree that they exist, but it seems worse now because there are so few guests overall that the full World Cruisers make up a larger percentage of the total. We probably wouldn’t book a World Cruise again unless the itinerary was the most perfect concept ever conceived. We plan to go back to stringing cruises together as we have always done in the past.
Food review: Thank God Augusto had recovered because we didn’t want any of the entrees or desserts on the menu tonight. He made Pepper Steak for our entrée, which was excellent. We were resigned to just having ice cream to avoid the ghastly Baked Alaska, but again Augusto came to the rescue by offering to make the caramelized pineapple for us. It was outstanding.
Augusto apparently received our bonus tip because he thanked us more than usual, which is always quite a lot. Maria was still missing, so something serious must be wrong. We thought we saw her in the Bistro this afternoon, but maybe not.
The Evening Entertainment is the production show “Symphony of Nations” as always for the last formal night. We’re not in love with this show, but it’s better than looking at the wall, so we went. We arrived a couple of minutes late and sat near the back. The show was terrible and full of mistakes and technical problems. The projection screen hasn’t worked for two weeks and they still attempt to use it. All they need to do is jiggle the wires, but apparently nobody looks at it between shows. The main problem with the production shows is that three of the dancers from the new team are missing because the office failed to obtain the proper visas and they had to be sent back to Valparaíso, then to Honolulu, to get them from the U.S. Most of them flew to Papeete, but then several were injured. Now the team is a conglomeration of two groups and it just doesn’t work. We know it is difficult to work with people you aren’t familiar with, but they are supposed to be professional and we presume they are being paid, so we expect the result to be better than it has been lately. Why Crystal thinks it is feasible to keep two complete ensembles together is difficult to understand. There are bound to be injuries and other issues that arise, so what are they supposed to do then? We found out tonight, unfortunately. We have always wondered what would happen if one of the lead singers became ill. The “B” singers, two men in each group, no women sing except the lead, couldn’t begin to handle the vocals.
The rough seas continued as they have all day, no better, no worse. We’re still not at the stage where drawers fly open, so it isn’t at all a problem. Before dinner we could see that we are sailing into a storm, but that didn’t seem to make any difference.We go another hour back on the clock tonight. Our Preliminary Statement shows that we did a good job of breaking even with our shopping spree. We are still a couple hundred dollars ahead, so we should come out pretty well at the end of the World Cruise, owing very little to Crystal.
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! The weather today is nearly perfect with temperatures in the low 70’s and almost smooth seas. It was a little bit rough this morning, but by afternoon the pools had been filled and things were back to normal. It is still extremely humid, but without the terrible heat we have had all week.
With the hour back last night we were up too early to go directly to lunch, so we stopped by the Bistro for a snack of pastries and fruit, then wandered down to look at the Dining Room lunch menu. The other option for lunch today is the American Classic Buffet, which is not one of the best. After that we returned to the room to fill out our QAP forms for this segment, stopping to chat with Suzie and Emilie in the hallway on the way.
Ultimately, we did go to the buffet and found most of our selections to be very good. Once we learn to eliminate the weirdest creations, it is possible to come up with a decent plate of food. They had some very good BBQ ribs hot off the grill, fried shrimp, prime rib, baked beans, etc. Everything we had was very good, but that was only a small sample of what is really available now that we have eliminated so many possibilities at this point. We sat outside and listened to the band while eating and watching the water slosh out of the pool. By the time we arrived, the water level had already been quite depleted and there was a flood of sorts across the deck. However, this being the last day of the segment, they must feel obligated to keep it filled as long as possible.
After lunch we wandered down to look at the winning photos from the contest and were pleased to see that Mr. T. was not among the winners. We also didn’t think any of the photos were particularly award-winning, but at least he didn’t win. With nothing else to do, we retired to the room to finish the QAP’s and hang out until dinnertime.
Tonight’s dress code is Casual “with a wee bit o’ green”. It took us an hour to get from the room to the Dining Room because we stopped to chat with Waldo to find out if his baby had arrived (it had). Then downstairs passing the shop where Rudolf was vacuuming, or pretending to. That lead him to discuss becoming our houseboy, which led to Mariana wanting to cook for us. Then Harry arrived and heard the end of the story where Rudolf was preparing his resume and salary requirements, prompting him to run off to spread it around as a true fact. Not to worry, Harry doesn’t gossip at all. Well, he did tell us that the total guest count for the next segment is 480 including entertainment and lecturers, which means about 430 paying guests. The Dining Room will still be one seating, but will be full. It seemed fairly full this cruise with just one seating and only 380 guests.
As we were finally heading to the Dining Room, we stopped to talk with Csaba, Peter’s brother with the broken arm. He seemed fine, but the broken arm doesn’t move at the elbow, so he is leaving tomorrow. He said that he won’t be in any rush to come back, if he ever does.
PATRICK’S DAY DINNER
Food review: Everything was good enough, but not great. Augusto made Chicken Cacciatore for us again in an enormous quantity that we couldn’t finish. It was excellent. The cheesecake was satisfactory, but it has been better.
It took us forever to get out of the Dining Room because Augusto is leaving tomorrow and he wanted to chat. Then Tayfun joined us because he’s moving into Augusto’s cabin, but Augusto wouldn’t give him the key. That led to a conversation about bizarre guests and even more bizarre staff members, including Roland who will be our new headwaiter. Apparently, he has a tendency to fall asleep at inconvenient moments.
There are quite a variety of choices among the Evening Entertainment, none of which enticed us to attend. We know from past experience that Yakov Noy is unbearably bad and we can’t believe he is back. After we saw him last year, a couple in the elevator said, “What the heck was that?” Obviously the ratings aren’t the sole decision maker because after what other guests said last year we were sure we’d never have to see him again. We didn’t make it out of the Dining Room until the show was letting out, so we went directly down to the Crystal Cove to wait for Tom to finish playing with the Champagne Strings. He wasn’t officially playing since he was wearing street clothes.After they finished, Pat and Tom sat and chatted for another hour or so as a variety of staff members came to say their goodbyes to Tom. We did the same thing and went off to bed around 12:30 AM. There was a brief storm late in the evening with rain and slightly rough seas, but all of that was over by the time we went to bed.
Sweeping beauty in sea and sand surrounds the city of Auckland.
Located on a constricted isthmus, the municipality is built atop a cluster of
extinct volcanoes, and this gorgeous landscape blends nicely with the modern
metropolitan skyline. There is no lack of activity here. Though the country
has a reputation for being somewhat old-fashioned and traditional, this
character applies only to the polite manner of its citizens and cleanliness of
its streets. The shopping centers offer the most fashionable clothing and
accessories from European as well as Kiwi and Australian designers. Just outside the city are the
rugged Waitakere Ranges, as well as a surprising number of
The blog for Auckland begins on the Segment 4 page.
The blog for Auckland begins on the Segment 4 page.
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