We got up at 2:45am and got down to the Crystal Cove for a 4am debarkation and boarding a bus for the short 10 minute ride to the Lisbon airport. The staff had set up coffee, orange juice, and pastries for us to grab before we left. We grabbed our bags and boarded the bus with about two dozen other sleepy people.
We arrived, checked our bags, and made it through security by about 5:10 (the lines at security were really slow until 5am when they increased the number of x-ray lines from 1 to 4. We boarded the Air France flight to Paris, CDG. The pilots came on and told us that there was a ten minute delay due to something with the plane. They also said that there were really bad headwinds for the flight and we would be about 15 minutes late in total. We had 1 hour and 5 minutes between flights and were starting to get a bit worried as we’ve had previous experience where going from one terminal to another in Paris can take what seems like hours. The flight was uneventful as we tried to get a few minutes of sleep in the non-reclining, very tight seats. However, we ended up being a total of 25 minutes late landing and in the middle of the airplane.
When we finally got off we had about 25 minutes to get to the next flight. We were in terminal 2F and had to get to 2E. Not as long as it could have been and did not require boarding any transportation, so there was hope. Of course, we had to go through passport control which had a line of about ten people. We ran the whole way and heard on the loudspeakers that our flight to SLC was last call, final boarding. Eventually we made it, running the whole way, along with Serena (one of the female dancers from the ship). (We learned that she had 2 weeks off while the ship was in dry dock and so she was flying home to Montana to visit her family.)
The flight was uneventful on a 767, but very long: 10.5 hours. We were scheduled to arrive at 2pm SLC time. We landed a few minutes early, and then went through passport control. We went through and although we had only spent about $50 on souvenirs, we were selected for further screening. Sigh. So, they passed us through to get our baggage, but kept our passports. We waited for the bags to be unloaded and eventually learned that they had not made the transfer from the Lisbon flight to the Salt Lake flight. Because we were selected for extra customs checking, we took our carry ons and had to wait in a room with about 6 other people. One of the was Serena. Her flight to Montana wasn’t until 5pm, so she wasn’t too worried about making her connection, and we were just trying to get out of the airport to get home. After we waited about an hour, they eventually let us through.
We went out over to the Delta lost baggage counter and discussed our three lost bags. They said that one of them did not make the flight in Paris and the other two were not in the system. The other person there said that it was ok that all three bags were in there and they all were going through Atlanta. They were scheduled to arrive around 9pm that night and would be delivered to our house in the morning.
We took a taxi to our daughter’s house where our car was. We ended up doing some errands for her and eventually got home at about 8pm. We had been up for 24+ hours with a few attempts at sleeping on the planes. It was great to finally get home and get some sleep.
Postscript - Saturday morning
We woke up at 4:00 am and decided to get up because that was about only half an hour off from when we normally get up (4:40am). Our bags had been delivered sometime during the night and were at our door when we got up. We were working on unpacking and suddenly realized that all of our clocks were off by an hour because we weren’t home to reset them for daylight savings. Doh!!! So, we really got up at 3am. Oh well, we got a lot of work done.
Evaluation of the cruise:
It was our fifth Crystal cruise and first on the Serenity. As usual, we loved the Crystal staff. We made new Lido staff friends, which as on the Symphony is a highlight of the staff interactions. We didn’t really like that the Cruise Director (Rick) did not provide weather information on the very brief morning updates. Daily he said that he wouldn’t give the weather because he didn’t want to be wrong. On the Symphony, Paul would give the forecast for the day and next day which was extremely helpful as we planned our daily activity (jackets, umbrellas, etc). All we could go on was the current temperature on the TV and whatever was printed in reflections (such as cloudy, high of 64). Serenity is definitely bigger and also feels bigger than Symphony. For the most part, we liked the layout changes although I don’t see why they put the two specialty restaurants on deck 7 where you have people walking by the specialty restaurant windows all of the time. Instead the Stardust and Avenue saloon are on deck 6 with windows that are always shuttered. The only thing that we could think of was maybe the designers wanted to reduce the sound transferred from deck 7 up to the cabins on deck 8 by placing the Stardust on 6. Overall, the food was excellent, entertainment superb and staff wonderful.
Our biggest issue was being in port every single day. We struggled with the port intensive itinerary. Even trying to take a sea day, while in port was not the same. For us, one of the important distinguishing features of Crystal are the wide range of activities such as the lectures, team trivia, and bingo. None of this is available on the “fake” sea days and we missed it. It felt more like taking a nice train from city to city, where the train stopped and didn’t move during the day. We are currently scheduled on a back to back 16 day Crystal Mediterranean cruise this summer that has only 1 sea day and right now we are leaning toward canceling it. It just isn’t the fun and relaxing type of cruise that we love.
That being said, we still love cruising and we love Crystal experience. We will be looking for itineraries with more sea days in the future.