Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sunday, Nov 6, 2011 – Embarkation day

We got up and got ready and headed down to the included breakfast.  They had a great selection of stuff, but it was a total zoo with a zillion people.  Most of the tables were full.  Nearly everyone that we heard chatting was leaving that morning for a cruise.
The previous night, Julie had arranged for us to get a shuttle down to the Port of Miami.  It is about 19 miles and cost us $65 for the two of us in a shared van.  We had a choice of leaving at 9:15 or 12:00 and chose the early one.  We knew that they would not start boarding the ship until about noon, but Julie wanted to get there early enough to not miss lunch in the dining room which is supposed to have a choice of some great salmon or a chicken Cobb salad.  So, we opted for the 9:15 departure.  We ended up arriving at about 10:15, which was indeed too early.  [One interesting side note, the stevedore warned us to make sure that we had our passports and didn’t leave them in our bag.  I bet some people forget and do just that, which would let their bags go on the cruise, but they would have to stay behind.  HA HA.  Anyway, we just hung out, played scrabble on the iPad and waited to check in.
They handed us a colored card that was our order of going to stand in line to check in.  Interestingly, all they did at the checkin gate was to verify that we had valid tickets, checked our passport, and then asked the questions about if we had been sick recently.  Then we were ushered onto the ship where the true checkin process happened (in the Starlight club).  BTW – we were the FIRST new guests on the ship.  Now, that is maximizing your time on this wonderful ship.  Before the checkin started, they had the head of the fitness center collecting any hand luggage that we were carrying (which we had already put our luggage tags on) and he said that it would appear in our stateroom later that day. The checkin was again dead easy (filling out all those forms online ahead of time makes it pretty smooth), as they photographed us for our room key cards, gave us the keys and off we went.  You can’t go into your rooms until around 3pm.
We went to the dining room and got a lovely two person window seat.  Kremena, the sommelier from our last cruise, was there again.  She offered us complementary champagne, and kept the glasses full.  Julie had the salmon and Bob had the Cobb salad.  As predicted they were both great.  We also had a key lime tart for dessert.  After lunch, we still had an hour or so before we could go into our cabin, so we wandered around to re-familiarize ourselves with the ship (this is our 29th cruise and third on Crystal Symphony).  The ship is about 80% full has a capacity for about 920 passengers.  So, there are around 700 or so.  We wandered up to the Lido deck and met one of the many “Lido guys” from before.  This time it was Allan.  Most of them are from the Philippines.  He got us some more complementary champagne and we chatted.  He said that he is excited to be going home in a month and being able to spend Christmas with his family.  He is 40 years old and has been doing Crystal for 15 years.  This is his first Christmas at home.  He has three kids, 12, 11, and 1, so he was pretty excited.  We also met another Lido guy – Lester who again kept our champagne full.  Yes, it is before 3pm and we are starting to get toasted already.  Sheesh, what an amazing welcome.
We went down to the Italian specialty restaurant, Prego (there is no additional charge for the specialty restaurants, except they request that you provide $7 per person as a tip at the end).  You are allowed to book one Prego and one Silk Road (the Japanese specialty restaurant) ahead of time and we wanted to book a second Prego.  We were told that we had to wait until the next day as they wanted to give everyone a chance to get at least one reservation.  In the meantime, we had looked at the upcoming nights dinner menu and decided that we’d like to do Prego the first night (which didn’t count against our booking a second night).  We arranged that for 6:30pm that evening (we weren’t supposed to leave Miami until 9pm that night).
Around 3pm, we got to our room, the luggage was waiting and we unpacked.  The carry-on stuff showed up about 15 minutes later.  We unpacked and took some pictures.  One interesting item – for the second cruise, we requested a bathroom scale.  This cruise, we didn’t request it, but one was there in our cabin waiting for us.  Wow, what service.  Crystal does not charge you for any non-alcoholic beverages, so we asked to have our fridge stocked with our favorites (next year they go to all-inclusive). 
While we were unpacking, we noticed that we were supposed to go to Prego on our original reservation on Tuesday and so we decided to push that back a bit.  Bob went down and moved the reservations around.
Over the preceding months, Julie had been working on forming a trivia team with Cruise Critic members.  So, that evening, we met in the Crystal Cove bar with Philip from the UK, Donna from New Hampshire, and her Mom Arlene also from NH.  We all hit it off and as Julie said, it sure was nice to put a face to the cruise critic boards posters. 
That evening, we went to dinner in Prego as planned.  We both had their amazing mushroom soup (that comes in a bread bowl), a salad, and then the out of this world lasagna. It was truly wonderful and had a nice chianti to go along with it.   Dinner felt a touched rushed, which was because we had to participate in the muster drill at 8pm.  Just a touch, but really no big deal.  We finished dinner, went and got our life jackets for the drill, and then after that went out on deck to watch sailaway.  The lights of Miami were quite stunning.  Then we went to the opening night show.  The show was just a couple of dancing and singing numbers by the crystal cast and a demonstration of ballroom dancing by the Kents (a brother and sister from Australia).  After that, we hit the sack.

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