Cruising on Crystal Serenity Dec 12th, 2008 - Jan 6th, 2009

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Rut-Roh…

That was our reaction when we were dressing for dinner last night…we pulled on our slacks, looked at each other and did the ol’ Scooby Doo….”rut roh”… We’ve promised ourselves that we’re going in to ‘Dry Dock’ on January 7th.

We had a leisurely morning on the ship prior to heading ashore in St.Lucia. Having never sailed into this port before, we wanted to make sure that we at least had a look around. The weather has been a bit of a downer since St. Maarten. It seems that we’ve been chasing around a storm system that offers very few glimmers of sunshine…and St.Lucia may have been the worst of it until about 3:00.

We persevered and met up with Anne and her two sons in the cruise terminal. They were negotiating a van tour and we were welcomed along for the ride. There are some spectacular views to be had as you get into the higher elevations of this island. Vincent was a proud tour guide as he took us to little out of the way fishing villages, banana plantations and towns. We were glad that we got to see some of the less touristy areas. St. Lucia is a lush, mountainous, bustling island.

We did a little bit of shopping before returning to the ship for a late lunch (wouldn’t want to miss a meal !) and we quickly followed that up with afternoon tea. Eeek ! We took a short siesta because we wanted to be out and about early for the jazz jam in the lobby AND the open bars.

We took up the “best seats in the house” and thoroughly enjoyed a raucous evening around the bar.
(look closely...we're perched along the bar)

At one point I asked for the house phone so that I could call Ben, the head sommelier, to enquire why there was no Screaming Eagle being poured during complimentary bar hours. HA ! He quickly came by and joined us for a little gossip and frivolity. We were talking about how the open bar would impact wine sales in the dining room….he said the dining room was full of drunk people. Apparently lots of non-drinkers take up drinking when it’s free !

We had reservations in Silk Road and the chef asked if he could prepare an omakase set for us. It was fantastic.

We finished the night off in the Avenue Saloon in the company of the Usual Suspects and headed to bed at 1:00.

Oh. We’ve been invited to the Captain’s quarters on January 1st for a pre-dinner cocktail reception. We promise not to jump up and down on his bed !

We’re finishing up some laundry before heading out to the Boatyard for a swim and some sun…and then we’ll get ready for the big gala New Years bash for tonight.

Looks like we’ll be ringing in the New Year an hour ahead of the folks at home…

HAPPY NEW YEAR !!!
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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Disparity

You know something ? If you came cruising into the Caribbean in your gleaming 80 ft motor yacht you’d be feeling very much like “I’ve made it !” That is unless you cruise into the waters of St. Barts where you would instantly be transformed into a nuisance little tugboat operated by the minions that own it.

Sunday we dropped anchor right off the starboard side of Phil Allen’s famous yacht “Octopus”. It didn’t matter how big any of the other mega yachts were in the harbor…they were instantly insignificant by the mere presence of the Octopus. (and there were some fantastic yachts here…the Russian owned “Pelorus” clocks in at almost $500 million *poof* Insignificant !)

We were close enough to easily make out the activity on board. Having seen this yacht in several harbors on previous cruises, we’ve never actually seen it with passengers on board. So the hustle on her decks in the early morning was indicative, we thought, of “pending arrival”. Ooooh ahhhh. As we had coffee on the verandah, the helicopter crew fired up the little dragonfly copter on the aft deck, took it up, hovered for a moment and then landed it on the fore deck. Oh well, so much for thinking that the owner was onboard. But it was fun to watch.

What we weren’t aware of until later, was that they were making way for the HUGE helicopters that would shuttle guests to the yacht later in the afternoon. It took 2 trips to load her up with party guests. What an unbelievable amount of wealth…it’s difficult to comprehend. We were a little miffed that we didn’t receive an invite.

Again I digress…

On Saturday night we went up to Brian & Joe’s for another lavish cocktail affair. Last cruise it was an easy trek across the corridor from port to starboard. This cruise, the journey from the “hood” was a little more involved. We had to leave early, take the subway, 2 buses, and a transfer before we found ourselves back up on deck 11. (okay…so it wasn’t THAT bad…but it was farther than last week !)

We were late getting to dinner in the dining room (here’s where my details get fuzzy…this was 2 days ago now, and it’s all a blur) and following dinner we played some blackjack while awaiting the “witching hour” of midnight to go up to deck 12 for a swim….we thought it would be nice to swim while we sailed out of St. Maarten.

The crew was just finishing up a game of pool volleyball when we arrived. Into the pool we went and as the ship picked up speed…so did the water in the pool. It wasn’t long before security came by to usher us out to “safety”. Hrmph.

We sat poolside and chatted while we finished up a bottle of wine, then headed to bed.

In St. Barts our ‘tradition’ is to sit at the corner table in this perfectly French Café. We arrived at 11 and foo-foo’d the view until after 2:00. It was fabulous. We scurried back to the ship in time for Lynda’s 3:00 Spa appointment. (incidentally...the tenders were a treacherous affair !)Once again, due to the Christmas Winds, the Captain announced that we would be delaying sailing until 9:00. We’ve never been on a cruise with so many schedule adjustments. The people in St. Barts were telling us that the wind has severely impacted the movement of the Mega Yachts…so they’re worried about their New Years Eve revenues. No yachts…no income.

Sunday night was yet another Friends of Dorothy party in the Palm Court. It was the most widely attended that we’ve been to on this ship, and finally we weren’t the only girls present ! YAY !! kind of. One of the bartenders working the party, Jagen just loves Lynda and I (he was working the casino on the last cruise…so he knows us pretty well) When I asked him for a Goose on the Rocks, he brought me a gargantuan tumbler with a big grin ! (I think I hear my dad calling !) It was only a sipper, and turned out to be a tragic waste of Grey Goose !

We stumbled off to dinner at Prego after that and finished the evening sipping cocktails with the Cruise Director.

This morning we arrived in Antigua under bright blue skies. Looked like a beach day to me ! We thought that this would be the day that we finally would swim in the ocean (sheesh…17 days in and we haven’t swam in the sea !) By the time we were ready to go ashore, the skies clouded over with a thick veil of dark grey clouds. It poured off and on all day.

Sooooo…we went to the movies on board and had a blast watching Meryl Streep belt her way through Mama Mia ! It was a lot of fun.

This evening after another 1 hour delay to sailing, we went to the Crystal Society cocktail reception before dinner. We’ve had a marathon string of cocktail parties on this trip. We thought that this was going to be our last one prior to New Years Eve…however, due to our late arrivals and late departures, the Captain has decided that tomorrow evening, between 5 and 9, all the bars on the ship will be OPEN. Ut oh ! I better spin through my Rolodex and see if Betty Ford will still take my calls !

It’s coming up on 1:00 am…so I better call this a post.

Tomorrow…St.Lucia.

G’night

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Another Saturday...

Good Afternoon…

We’re currently relaxing on our verandah overlooking Philipsburg Harbor on the Dutch side of St. Maarten. We’re alongside the very chi-chi Seabourn Pride, which is a much smaller ship than ours…so the elevation of our balcony is affording us some ideal spying across the way.

The Captain made a rare afternoon announcement just now which could have made a huge impact on how we were going to spend our day. Because of the high winds and rough seas, we’ll be staying in port tonight until midnight. POOP. Had we known this morning, our day would have unfolded in a completely different manner. We COULD have gone up to Grand Case for an elegant evening dinner overlooking the ocean. Why aren’t we doing that anyway, you ask ? Because, as usual, our social calendar has already filled up for this evening. We’re going to a cocktail party at 7:00 and we’d never back out of an invitation after we’ve committed to it. (that kinda sounds legit, doesn’t it ??)

Anyhow, tomorrow’s port of St.Barts is only 12 miles from here and if we were to sail at 6:00 as scheduled, that would mean we’d be tossed around adrift for the entire evening. We really have seen some rough seas, and it sounds as though tonight might be worse. Wooo hooo !

This change of plans makes me wonder if we’ll even go to St. Barts in the morning. There are no docking facilities in Gustavia so it’s always a tender ride to town. When the seas are rough they won’t put tenders down. In the past they’ve come to dock in St.Maarten instead. (could this possibly be a 2 day port of call ? we’ll see.)

Yesterday was a “lay like broccoli” day for us. Once we emerged from the room we decided to skip breakfast and see if our tortured stomachs could make it until lunch time merely surviving on the 6 jillion calories we’d ingested the day before. It was a challenge I tell ya !

By mid-afternoon we returned to our balcony and sipped and read until sail away. I finally figured out how to run my iPod through the speakers in the room, so it was really nice to sit and listen to our own selections. We were alongside the gigantic Crown Princess for most of the day so the view wasn’t really anything to write home about and it finally left a half hour before we sailed.

Gary and David made the trek down to the "ghetto" to visit with us and present a couple of logo caps that the Cruise Director wanted us to have. Another glass of wine and it was time to make ourselves pretty.

We had conflicting cocktail receptions yesterday so we had to decide which one to attend to get the most bang for our cocktail hour ! Our travel consortium was doing a reception in the Stardust Club, and the Cruise Director was hosting a Singles party & dance in the Palm Court.

We decided that we were technically single and headed up to see if there were any well-to-do old men on oxygen bottles that might be captivated by our acquaintance. So much for that !

After that we crashed Helene & Larry’s dinner reservation in Prego. The maitre’d said he had to kick some folks out so that he could expand a table of two to a table of six ! *gasp* Food…wine…laughter…food…wine…laughter….food….wine…laughter. It doesn’t get much better than that.

I made a wee blunder and decided to cap off my meal with a Grappa (jet fuel ?) and was suitably incapacitated after that. If you want an early night…drink Grappa ! I was zonked and headed to bed by 11:30.This was a good plan actually because I had wanted an early start in St. Maarten today anyhow. I figured if we got our shopping done early, we could come back to the ship, pick up our stuff and head out to the beach.

We were up just before 7:00 as the ship pulled in to dock. We had breakfast in the dining room (I thought poor David was going to pass out when he saw us walk in) and then caught the water taxi from the pier into town before 9:00.

We had a nice walk-a-bout and did some shopping. The weather wasn’t “perfect beach day” weather with off and on cloudiness that often looked like rain that never materialized. So we sat at a dock side bar and had some frosty beverages and jerk chicken before heading back to the ship. OH…we were also dutiful daughters and made calls home to the mommies.

So again…here we are.

Tonight we’re going to Brian and Joe’s Penthouse for a gathering of friends and then dining in the main dining room.

After that ? Who knows. We were tossing around the possibility of a midnight pool party….so we’ll see.
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Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Day After…

We hope you all had a wonderful Christmas !

We were thinking of you, Janette…busying yourself with preparations as we sipped mimosas in our chaise lounge by the pool. Such contrast !

Christmas Eve was spectacular. By the time the Captain’s party started the seas had graduated from “moderate” to “rough”. Making our way up to the Palm Court on Deck twelve was a challenge in heels ! Usually the dance floor is packed at these parties but tonight only a few very brave souls risked hip replacement surgery.

This party is typically the most formal evening of the cruise (however, I hear that New Years Eve will be an entirely different story) and everyone looked very elegant. We try to clean up as best we can *wink*.

By the time we arrived at the dining room for dinner the room was buzzing. I’ve never seen the dining room in such high gear. It was packed. Sitting at D&G’s table is a whole different world compared to where we usually sit. This table is centrally located in the raised (desirable ? high rent ? ) area of the room. You get a sweeping view of all that’s happening around the room. Naturally, this view presents many opportunities for dissing and dishing on what’s going on around you. (not that we’d EVER do that)

We enjoyed a delectable dinner of lobster and “washed it down” with a tasty bottle of Insignia. It was a great occasion.


(not what it looks like !)

We went to the Casino to wrap up the evening (did pretty well !) and then crashed by 1:00.

I met the Captain and his wife in the elevator on my way back to the room. We were both swaying in the breeze with silly grins and bloodshot eyes as we tried to make idle conversation sound coherent. There was a large Christmas Party for the entire crew taking place in the Palm Court. It must have been quite a bash !

On Christmas morning we were up at 8. The captain announced that the seas would remain rough all day and they were unable to fill the pools because of that. It’s been rocking and rolling since we left Miami on the 23rd. I love it, but it makes Lynda a little queasy…not overly so…but her tummy is aware of the imbalance. There were a lot of passengers cooped up in their cabins trying to ride it out.

On Christmas Eve, Lynda stalked our stewardess as she browsed in one of the shops. When she left Lynda swooped in and asked the clerk what she likes. Sheeesh…GUCCI !! When we ran into Maiza on Christmas morning she said we made her cry ! We’d left her present on the bed as we went to dinner so she’d have it for the Christmas Eve party. She’s adorable.

By 10:30 we went up to watch the kiddies as they waited for Santa Claus. It was soooo cute. Why is it that Santa is equally as scary as those nasty clowns from your childhood ? The littlest ones were screaming in horror as they were placed in the monster’s lap !! We can’t wait to see the pictures (insert maniacal cackle here)

(Noon: Here's Gary sporting his new Christmas Tree Hat and clutching my Fairy Wand !)

At 11:00 the complimentary Egg Nog and Rum concoctions were liberally distributed. By 11:30 we’d ingested our first Bloody Mary and by noon that was followed up by the Mimosa Fairy. It was a festive morning to say the least ! The Lido Crew were operating on as little as 2 hours sleep after their partying of the night before. There were lots of staff forcing themselves through the morning !

We lazed away the afternoon, hit the Casino during siesta time, and headed to the Avenue Saloon for pre-dinner cocktails.

Dinner was again a cacophony of hustle and bustle. Lynda enjoyed a traditional turkey dinner, but I opted for the beef course. As always…it was delicious. The cruise director sent a lovely bottle of wine to our table, so that was a special Christmas treat.

We gave back anything we had won previously in the Casino, and called it a night.

Today, we’ll arrive in Tortola three hours later than scheduled. This will be the first of a marathon SIX port days in a row. Tortola, St.Maarten, St.Barts, Antigua, St.Lucia, Barbados….whew ! We’re hoping that a lot of passengers will go ashore over the next 6 days so that the ship will be a little more peaceful. Actually, considering the full ship, it’s not nearly as busy as I thought it would be.

Lynda has run off to the laundry and then we’re going for breakfast. It’s unlikely that we’ll go ashore. However, it’s very likely that we’ll attend the Festive Sail Away !

More later…

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Twas the Night Before Christmas…

…and all through the ship…nothing was jiggling except my new hips ! WHOA !

This is the point in the cruise where Lynda complains that there are “too many fancy words” on the menus. We certainly wouldn’t want to order a simple steak without 13 adjectives associated with it.

I’ll start off with the balance of the last cruise, and hopefully find my way back to today (this is gonna be a LONG one ! So settle in with a mug of Nog)

After the last Formal dinner we headed to the Galaxy Lounge to see the show. David is my hero. He’s been feeling under the weather with a terrible cough and sore throat yet he still reserved us a front row seat before retiring for much needed rest. (one of these days I’m going to devote an entire blog entry to just how wonderful David and Gary are.)

Following the production number, all the orchestra and headline entertainers dragged their instruments down to the Avenue Saloon for an impromptu jazz jam. We’ve never seen anything like it. The bar was standing room only (we were quick to get there – zipping past the older crowd in the corridor and naturally found seats !) The music was truly spontaneous and everyone was performing as though they’d rehearsed for years. It was absolutely the best entertainment we have ever seen at sea.

The next morning we arrived at Grand Turk under partly cloudy skies that produced occasional downpours throughout the day. Prior to going ashore, we were at the very aft of deck 12 when a spectacular rainbow spanned the rear of the ship. It was the most vivid rainbow I’ve ever seen…passengers were scrambling for their cameras. Judy…is that YOU ??

Once ashore we took a fresh water swim at Marguerita Ville. The pool area was primarily occupied by the passengers of the neighboring vessel at the pier. The P&O Artemis – what a junk heap ! hahaha The passengers were British, a bit younger than the crowd on our ship…and rowdy rowdy rowdy. Not to mention all the tattooed triple-D’s swinging loosely in ill-fitting bikini tops. YIKES ! We learned some new British cuss words and headed back to the ship in time for lunch.

The afternoon on the pool deck was capped off by a gorgeous sail away while the sun set into the ocean.

We were invited to an early evening cocktail party at Brian & Joe’s penthouse on the opposite side of the ship to us. These two gentlemen are the epitome of well traveled elegance. They host a very lavish party. We’ve traveled with them before and are getting to know them better each time. Brian promises that we’ll do it again before New Years. YAY !!

After dinner we made a point of attending the Finkel brothers dual show – Elliot plays a mean piano and is easier to take in large doses than his xylophonist brother Ian. Someone mentioned that a little xylophone goes a long way – and we tend to agree with that.

By the end of the show we were zonked. With only one sea day left before we arrived in Miami, we needed to catch up.

Laundry pressing service is a penthouse perk that we took full advantage of prior to arriving in Miami. My socks and panties have a light starch while the remainder of my slacks and blouses have a medium starch !! I wasn’t sure if my panties should have a seam or not, so I opted for it just to be different. (Okay…in case that one flew over your heads…I’M KIDDING !) However, we did ensure that all our evening wear was subject to the benefits of the PH laundry.

The last day before Miami was occupied with the mundane chore of arranging our move down to the “hood”. We packed up our stuff in a way that would make it easy for the bellboys and arranged a 10:30 stateroom migrate on embarkation in Miami. It actually went very smoothly…everything that was moved appeared in exactly the same place in our new (much smaller) cabin. The new closet is jam packed !

But I digress.

The last night of the cruise we decided to host an informal cocktail party in our suite. David and Gary have been coming for the 4:30 cocktail canapés throughout the cruise, but this time we wanted to pre-order some munchies and invite a few others. What better time to take full advantage of Butler service than on the last day ! We asked Samir for a few of our favorite munchies (they make the most adorable mini cheeseburgers that are about the size of a quarter) and advised that we’d have approximately 8 guests and ourselves.

. .

He brought food for 40 ! OMG !! Larry and Helene had to cancel so seven of us were tasked with the chore of making a dent in at least SOME of the platters of food. Kind of sad, really…the amount of food waste is extraordinary here.

We headed to the pre-dinner production finale and then to dinner in Prego. After a nightcap in the Avenue we wandered into Pulse to visit with Lorincz. (one of our favorite bartenders) This was his last night in a bar where he’d actually see people. Next cruise he’s being sent to “Bartender Purgatory” as he’ll be way up on deck 12 in the Sunset Bar – very few, if any, passengers make the trip up to this bar after dinner. We promised Lorincz that we would ‘try’ to visit him.

We had a round of Lemoncillo (tastes like lollipops – very dangerous) and called it a night.

Because we’re non-US citizens (basically terrorists) we had a customs call for 7:00am and then an in-transit call at 9:00. Soooo…we were up at 6:30am and at our customs call by 7. Lo and behold. No customs agents had boarded the ship yet. (do they have ANY idea how difficult it is for us to wake up when it’s still dark out ?)

We had breakfast in the dining room (another first for this cruise) and then jumped through all the necessary hoops to get off the ship.

By 10:00 we were in a Taxi headed to the Lincoln Road Mall in South Beach. Yes..I said WE. Somebody has to carry the bags for Lynda – plus I needed the walk. Helene & Larry had suggested that this was a good spot for shopping, and it was. The weather was perfect while we shopped and then changed to clouds and drizzle by the time we were back on board.

The Christmas Cruise crowd is a whole different ball of wax ! Actually, some of the Boca Raton gals look like they ARE made of wax ! How tight does your skin really have to be ? eeeek.

The ship was replete with carolers and festive scenes as the boarding process took place. Everywhere was buzzing with crowds of people. We met people we’ve only ever heard of, which is nice. (Thanks Anne ! What a nice welcome to be recognized in passing before we’d even met !)

We spent some time in the terminal racking up a phone bill as we checked in with the mommies and sibs. We then returned to the Cove to enjoy cocktails as we watched the parade of passengers.

Prior to getting ready for the evening’s festivities we climbed all the way up to deck 12 to giggle at Lorincz as he stood behind the bar in the empty room ! Too bad, really…this room is gorgeous but so underutilized.

We made it to the tree lighting ceremony in the lobby. With Christmas carols being sung all around, one of the little ankle-biters was selected to ‘throw the switch’. The tree burst into lights and the snow making machine created a little blizzard. It was very festive.


We dined in Silk Road and still managed to be on deck for the sail away. Sailing out of the Port of Miami is a really pretty sight. Especially at night when the palm trees are all aglow with Christmas lights. (sorry 'bout the blurry skyline !)

Another early night brings us to today !

The Captain announced in his 9:00 report that we were enroute to Nassau Bahamas !? HUH ?? That’s not on the itinerary. Turns out that one of the butlers (actually the grand-poobah of all butlers, Ural) was being disembarked for acute appendicitis.

It was an interesting approach to Nassau, and we came adrift in front of the Atlantis Hotel. They dropped a tender into the 10 foot swells and off he went. The whole process took a little over an hour, so we’ll likely be late arriving in Tortola on the 26th. We’re currently at full steam.

We went topside just before the muster drill (in-transit guests don’t have to partake) to find that “our chairs” had been set up and reserved by…guess who….Yup….David is an early riser. How perfect is that ! We stayed topside until the wind became too uncomfortable. It always seems to be a rocky ride out of Miami. The sea is moderate to heavy with swells approaching 15 feet. Makes for a fun ride…but a bad hair day !

We enjoyed lunch in the dining room and here we are !

As I type this Lynda is humming Christmas tunes and wrapping gifts for our stewardess, Maiza. She was so excited to meet us yesterday (methinks we have a reputation ?) and has done a fabulous job of ensuring we’re having a seamless transition to a smaller cabin. She giggles every time she sees our bar set up ! Last night she got us all the necessary glassware and silverware for our martini station ! That gets points with us !

As we hadn't planned on staying on over Christmas, we had brought a few gifts and a dorky Christmas Tree/Hat for David & Gary. Our original plan was to have our favorite stewardess, Michelle, set it up in their room on the day we dis-embarked. Now that we're staying on, we'll have her set it up Christmas Eve and we'll get to see their reaction.

Tonight is the Captain’s Gala followed by the first formal dinner. OH…I never mentioned what happened with our dining room table assignment. (you’ll remember that there was a 100 person waiting list for late seating.) Here we go again. David and Gary have graciously invited us to join them at their table for the balance of the cruise ! Some of the old codgers are thinking that we’re all “getting it on”. Hahaha If they only knew ! So we’re looking forward to a new perspective in the dining room. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

Whew…I must be missing a ton of stuff. My fault for letting a few days lapse.

I’ll close this now, wishing all of our family and friends a fantastic Christmas. We’ll miss you … but I’m sure we’ll make the best of it !

FA LA LA LA LAAAAAAAA

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Back up the Bus !!

Oh-my-gosh….I’ve been remiss about this whole blog thingy….

We’ve been busily chanting our theme songs over the last few days…

#1: Hi-ho hi-ho…it’s down to 8 we go…we’ve got our luggage all in tow …hi-ho hi ho

Or

#2: We’re goin’ down doo-bee-doo down down…come-a come-a down doo-bee-doo down down…packing up is hard to do…. (we’ve got all the steps mastered too – Neil would be so proud !)

Okay…so we’re silly girls !

I can’t believe we’ve already embarked on the “Christmas Cruise”…and I haven’t blogged in days ! (that’s gotta tell you something!) I’ve got so much to catch you up on…

BUT…. I can’t do it now (sorry sorry sorry)

We’ve got reservations in Silk Road prior to sail-away…and before that we need to see the Christmas Tree lighting ceremony in the Crystal Cove…

So…we haven’t fallen overboard. (yet) I promise to post a huge missive in the morning !

Mum…you really need to stop screening your calls ! That was US this afternoon…silly goose !

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Enroute to Grand Turk

Are you ready for yet another riveting installment ? *yawn* hahahaha

We were top side by 5:00 last evening for the sail-away from Tortola when the skies opened up. After a five minute downpour the festivities resumed and everyone whiled away an hour enjoying Rum concoctions and taking in the breath taking scenery as the band played on. A gorgeous rainbow made a brief appearance as well.


On our way back to our room we did the unthinkable. You won’t believe it. We exercised !! uh-huh, that’s right. We decided to take a half hour power walk around the Promenade Deck and then we even ascended 4 decks via the STAIRS !! whoa…I’m sure we must’ve burned off at least 100 of the 78,000 calories we’ve ingested thus far. You Go Girls !!!

On return to our room we discovered very light black silt all over the bedspread and pillows on the bed. It seems that the charcoal filter in the air conditioning unit over the bed decided to have a temper tantrum. Upon our exit to cocktail hour, a crew of maintenance men descended into the room to make the necessary repairs. The room was pristine on our return at midnight. Everything happens so efficiently around here !

We enjoyed a fantastic dinner in Prego in part because we were waited on by one of our favorite waiters from our very first cruise aboard this ship. Rossi is a flamboyant delight in the dining room. Unfortunately though, he sustained injuries at an adjacent table as someone who shall remain nameless *cough*cough*david*cough*cough* knocked a cappuccino over on him. Not that I’m snitching or anything !

We played for a bit in the casino (sorry Mum, not a lot to report there…we won’t require a Brink’s Van at the airport) and then called it a night.

We were up before 8:00 (the clocks went back an hour last night) and made our first appearance at the Lido Buffet for breakfast. Jaws were dropping all around as there are a lot of passengers and staff who aren’t accustomed to us surfacing before 10:00. It was a nice start to the day.

We sat around the pool until the sun became too hot. Currently the seats on the port side of the Lido deck are getting the advantage of shade. We’re not about to take up smoking (the port side is the smoking side of this ship) so we returned to the room to tackle the laundry and read on the balcony.

This is a day of firsts. We ordered off of the dining room menu and enjoyed lunch on the balcony. It was wonderful !


The sea has been active since cocktail hour last night. On a scale of 1 to 10 we’d say a 2 out of 10. We saw some passengers a little green around the gills in the casino. We love it. There’s nothing quite like the cradle rocking of the ship to bring on relaxation. With everyone staggering in the halls it’s hard to make out the folks who have maybe been in the Avenue too long !

Oh. Our return flight situation has become a bit of a challenge. Looks like we’ll have to forfeit our flights and re-book something out of Ft. Lauderdale on the 6th. We’ll get home somehow.

Because tomorrow is a port day tonight is the Captain’s Farewell Gala party followed by the last Formal Night of this segment. We’ve never had it so early before. I’m sure we’ll manage.

So here we are. Again.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Let it snow …Let it Snow….Let it Snow

Happy Friday ??

Well it looks like the home front is getting walloped today by its first major storm of the season (the girls are giggling…did I just say that ?) We hope that everyone is safe and warm. Please be careful.

I can’t say the same for Tortola today…though we have had a few brief showers pass through. (verrrry brief) it’s been very HOT.

We’re just having a quiet afternoon in our cabin as we await the Rum Sailaway at 5:00. The sail out of the BVI is gorgeous and very scenic. (we actually asked that Samir not bring us anything tonight ! Now that’s a first!)


I’ve all but given up on posting photos. There is quite a crowd of people asking for internet credits. We’ve never had an issue with it like this before so we’re thinking it might actually be a technical glitch…though nobody’s admitting that yet.

Last night’s FOD party was great fun. We met a lot of new faces and kibitzed with our friends from past cruises. Although Lynda and I were the only women at the bash, we KNOW we’re not alone on the ship. (gotta love the photo gallery – it’s like police mug shots !)

We had a quiet dinner followed by the show. (Ian Finkel – Xylophonist) Although I was ready to crash n’ burn…Lynda was determined to have a midnight swim. *sigh* These late nights are killing me. By 12:30 I was out like the remnants of a Flaming Sambucca and didn’t stir again until almost 10:00 am !!

On arrival in Tortola we were able to pick up a shore connection that was fairly fast and FREE so we were able to take care of the necessary business of staying onboard. (still don’t know if our flights have been re-arranged yet)

Lynda’s decided to head into Miami on Tuesday as she believes she’s in need of more shoes for the holiday cruise (???? Unbelievable) I’m not sure if I’ll accompany her because I feel like baggage when she’s doing her Commando Shopping routine. It’s scary ! Mind you, if I don’t smarten up I may need a few more ummm relaxed fit clothes ?

We’re glad that we’ve extended our stay because 4 more days just isn’t enough.

Thankfully the clocks finally go BACK an hour tonight. It’s grueling on the snoozing when travelling from west to east.

We wandered around Road Town today and ended up at Pusser’s Landing for a round of tropical cocktails. We did a little shopping and returned to the ship by mid-afternoon. The Lido Deck may as well have been a fry pan this afternoon, so here we are luxuriating on our shady starboard side balcony.

Oh…David reported to me that he has no real knack for securing seats at the shows. He claims it’s easy to simply barrel over the old folks and beat them to a seat ! eeek !

*whew* Re-reading this makes this all sound so tedious. But believe me, we’re having the time of our lives !

Tonight we’re in Prego.

I’ll close now hoping that nobody injures themselves digging out !
.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Swinging on the Anchor in St. Barts.

Change of Plans !!!

Whoever said that women can’t change their minds ?

Here’s the latest development in our adventure. On Tuesday, after suffering much social pressure (years of it, in fact, from D&G) we caved in and decided to stay onboard through Christmas and New Years. *GASP* It was a monumental decision for both of us…primarily because we had family commitments over the holidays that would now not include us.

Initially we inquired as to availability of cabin space and then fired off an email to our travel agent. After much back and forth, and several mis-communications, we confirmed our booking by mid-afternoon yesterday.

“You pass the same people going up as you do going down.” With less than a handful of cabins still available, we were relieved that we didn’t have to bunk down on crew deck. (kind of) However, the penthouse lifestyle is going to have to wait until next December as we will be ceremoniously heading downstairs a few decks for the Christmas Cruise. Other than missing the closet space I think we’ll manage. (we can’t take too much more of Samir bringing the cocktail hour munchies…our clothes might not fit for New Years Eve)

On December 23rd we’ll have a host of wee elves pack up our room and re-arrange our belongings in a standard balcony cabin on deck 8.

The maître’d was less impressed that we were staying on. He’s got a 100 person waiting list for the 2nd seating on the next cruise. We put on our best pouty faces in an attempt to secure our regular table for late seating – but it doesn’t look like we’ll have a snowball’s chance in the Caribbean of doing so.

We’ve still got to re-arrange our flights home but other than that the rest of the details have been taken care of.

So we’ll be on board for a total of 25 days, returning to Miami on January 6th. (I knew I should have parked the car underground ! It’ll be a snow cone by the time we get back to Toronto.)

Okay…onward.

We’re sitting on the balcony right now overlooking Gustavia Harbour in St. Barts. We love this island. We set our alarm for 7 this morning as we had to meet for our Speedboat Tour. As it turns out there were only 4 of us on a 450hp vessel that typically carries 12. WHAT A BLAST ! We circumnavigated the island, stopped to ogle the nude beach, and buzzed around the ship at anchor. All of this took a mere 90 minutes. It was a ton of fun even with the wind burn.

After that we did our usual walk around town and settled at our favorite table alongside the Mega-Yacht harbor to enjoy some foo-foo French nibblies and a bottle of Tavel. We purchased some wine at fairly reasonable prices and then hit the Hermes Boutique. Lynda must love me… Christmas came early ! wooo hooo !

Let’s see… last night was the Crystal Society Party and our 2nd Formal Night of the cruise. Emmanuel is no longer a naughty boy (word travels fast around the ship when passengers think someone has been ill-treated !) So in Emmanuel’s place – I was a naughty girl. Again we enjoyed a wonderful dining experience and capped it off with more Port (yummy)

We actually made some head way in the Casino prior to going to the show. It’s like pulling teeth in there some nights.

Dear David really knows the routine when it comes to securing seats in the show lounge. The debut performance of Crystal’s newest production was fantastic and made even more so as we sat in the center of the very front row. WOW !

The night before we attended a performance by renowned piano virtuoso Elliott Finkel. It too was an excellent show.

Yikes…this is difficult trying to remember the last 2 days and report them to you without putting you to sleep !

On Tuesday in Aruba we didn’t have any plans other than walking around Oranjestad for a bit. I think we lasted about 45 minutes before we practically evaporated on the sidewalk. We returned to the ship and whiled away the afternoon reading and swimming. The Lido Deck is an oasis of abandoned calm…for now. Apparently it’s going to be a zoo over the next cruise.

I just asked Lynda to help me make this post sound more interesting. She says that I’m to write this for her…”Lynda’s sitting here wondering what 'anecdotal' means”. Hahaha

Tonight we’re rounding up the ever expanding group of the Usual Suspects for a ship sponsored Friends of Dorothy party. (don’t ask) By the looks of things we’ll have quite a turnout. So tonight we’ll have pre-dinner cocktails compliments of the Cruise Director. We doubt that Judy Garland will make a posthumous appearance but we’re sure that it’ll be a great time. I think we’re considering a late night pool party as well…we’ll see.

.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sitting on the Balcony for Brekkie…

Good Morning !

It’s currently just gone 9:00 and we’re UP !! I guess we need less sleep because of the vigorous workout of sitting in a chaise lounge ! (right now we’re an hour AHEAD of home – it’s torturous when we move forward)

We docked in Aruba at 8:00 this morning and we finally have a better internet connection. (mind you…we have 8 less hours of connection time because “somebody” forgot to log off last night. Tsk tsk – we’ll see if we can beg for the time back)

Let me back up a bit.

We had a wonderful dinner in Prego with the “Usual Suspects” on Sunday night. We had originally booked a larger group, but ended up with an intimate table of 5. (foodie alert: Carpaccio, mushroom soup, linguine vongole, veal parmigiano, and tiramisu) WINE ALERT: Tignanello, Ornaellia, and Pin.

Once we tippled out of there it was up to the Lido Deck for more wine some hot tubbing and swimming in the pool until almost 1:30 ! It was a lot of fun and we all thought we should do it on a regular basis !

Another “sleep in” morning and we were topside by 10:00. We had a quiet day around the pool gossiping and reading. The sea was rolling a little bit and the wind was keeping most people inside. Doesn’t this all sound so exhausting ?


By the time cocktail hour rolled around we were ready to go. (oh..we’ve decided that the Bloody Marys we have at lunchtime are NOT part of the cocktail hour)

Once again Samir served up an obscene amount of canapés and we had D&G in to assist (I kinda like that David & Gary have become Dolce & Gabana ) People are enquiring if they are our brothers and if Lynda and I are sisters – bwaaaa-ha-ha !

We arrived to dinner to find a beautiful bottle of wine laid out on our table. Our sommelier led us to believe it was complimentary. Well he didn’t come out and SAY so…but when we enquired as to who was responsible for the selection and who we should thank he said “Me”. He told us that the Head Sommelier in Prego had told him of our party the night before and he selected a wine based on that. It was delicious…until he handed me a substantial chit for it at the end of the meal. Naughty Emmanuel. We have wine with every meal…but if I’m footing the bill I’d at least like to make my own selection or at least agree on the wine. Sheesh ! The village drums are beating and everyone thinks we should call him on it. Hey…I’m on holidays and don’t feel like it…but I KNOW it won’t happen again !


We casino’d and then finished up with cocktails in the Avenue Saloon with the Cruise Director – He graciously picked up the tab for that so our wine wounds were healed somewhat !

And here we are today.

The ship is taking on new mattresses today…(big event, huh ?) so we’ll have a new bed that has never seen any other bare butts before ! ooooh la la.

It’s crazy hot here today (just thought you should know)

We’re in Silk Road tonight….more later.

.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Approaching the Gatun Locks…

Sunday afternoon @ 3:00

Now this is where it’s starting to get all blurry. We’ve just retired to our balcony to escape the oppressive heat of the Lido Deck. When the ship is moving as slowly as it does through the canal, there is no relief from the heat. So currently we’re sprawled out on our chaise lounges reading & sipping our way to the Atlantic.

Last night’s Formal festivities were hilarious. We gathered in the Palm Court with the “Usual Suspects” and were joined by the Rabbi and his wife. When the Rabbi asked if he could join us, Lynda said “Of course…but I have to warn you…we drink a lot and we talk dirty !” To which the Rabbi replied…”I’ll go get a chair” He is absolutely hilarious and we very much enjoyed his company. We were the last table to leave for dinner !

We met our dining room service staff for the first time…and they are handsome and a lot of fun as well. For you foodies…between us we had Oysters on the Halfshell, Cappucino Mushroom Soup, Pasta (with Hanibal Lechter Fava Beans !) Whole Maine Lobster, Chateaubriand, and a killer visit to the Cheese Trolley. Of course our Sommelier kept up as Gary and David joined us for the cheese course along with some sinful 30 year old Tawny Port. We didn’t want to over indulge ! HA !

We traipsed off to the casino for a short slap on the wrist and then headed to Pulse (which is usually a deserted little club-like disco) On Formal Nights Karaoke breaks out and they actually get a few night owls in there. So we perched our dressed up little butts at the bar and giggled our way through the rest of the evening. We hung out with Sarah Jordan (the featured jewelery designer) and her hunky hubby. The inevitable occurred … and I’m now the proud owner of one of her pieces. I’m a pushover.

This morning didn’t begin until 9:30. We totally slept through Panama City and the Miraflores Locks ! Good thing we’ve done this trip 4 times already. It would be a shame if we were first timers and missed that ! A fistful of Advils and we were off and running by 10:00 this morning.

Here's a bunch of Canal Shots...I like the barge with all the yachts on board for delivery ! (you know you can click on any of these images to make 'em huge, right ?)




Tonight we’ve got a big group going to Prego to see if we can consume some of Italy’s finest wines. I’m sure we’ll be successful. After dinner we’re going to drag our tipsy butts up to the pool deck and have a midnight pool party. We took a vote and decided that bathing suits will be mandatory. (none of us are getting any younger)

The internet is dismal as far as connectivity. I’m blogging as best I can, but I doubt I’ll have the patience to upload pictures until we get a better connection speed.

Samir is due with nibblies … so I’ll sign off here. (more sinful nibblies while going through the Gatun Locks !)

.....

Oh…Typically the ship takes on fuel in Aruba. The Captain announced that the Aruban facilities are out of order so last night at midnight we dropped anchor in the Pacific and had a tanker come alongside and deliver fuel. It was a five hour process. Kind of interesting

In case you're wondering.....

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We're just 2 girls who absolutely adore cruising with Crystal. We became "Crystallized" in 2003 while we were part of a *gasp* "Group Cruise" through our work. The nature of our business limits us to winter itineraries, but one day....ONE DAY....we're going to embark on a World Cruise. Is that a lofty goal, or what ?
 
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