Sunday, October 19, 2014

Day 12, October 15, 2014, Symphony Crossing – Debarkation

We had an early flight (11:00am) out of Miami, so wanted to make sure that we got off the ship as quickly as possible. We got up early and had breakfast (they started serving in the Lido at 6:30).  We were in the first batch of passengers as far as where our luggage was going to be placed.  So, we hung out in the bistro while they got the various international passengers sorted out and then right at 8:15 they let us leave.

It had been a great trip and we really enjoyed all of the sea days.  We had traveled 3,928 nautical miles (4517 land miles) with one stop in 10 nights (11 days).  As usual, Crystal met or exceeded our expectations.

We got off the ship, breezed through picking up our luggage, and customs.  They had Crystal people there to guide us right to the taxi cab stand, where we got in and made it to the airport before 9am.  Cost was $35 not including tip.

We ended up flying to Portland, Maine to visit our son and his wife for a few days and then home on Saturday evening.

Day 11, October 14, 2014, Symphony Crossing – Final Sea Day

Julie got up at 5:30 and started some laundry (mostly the swimming suits and clothes from our outing yesterday so they would be clean and dry to take home).  She then started exercising.  Bob slept until 6:45 and also started exercising.  Exercising was quite difficult, probably because of all of the extra exercise that we had done the previous day.

We then went to breakfast  at 8:30 and then had about an hour to kill before the morning talk.  Our room hadn’t been made up as our room stewardess was sick (we hope that she is ok, this is the third day in a row that she has been sick).  So, we both worked on the computers.

Robert Schrire’s planned talk was on Democracy in Russia.  He ended up compressing the talk so he could answer some questions.  He had received 32 written questions, of which he collapsed them into 7 to answer.  He covered things such as what are the Chinese Leaders future goals (they don’t have a clue) and could America actually collapse into anarchy (not unless some external event happened like massive climate change or a global pandemic).  He is amazingly thoughtful and articulate.  On the question about was it possible for democracy to occur in Russia, he said basically that Putin was a thug and is causing so many problems that he believes that the people will likely work to kick him out at some point.  Then it is “possible” that democracy could happen in Russia (but not that it is likely).

We then kept working on our computer work while our cabin was being made up.
After that little break, we went to our final team trivia.  We again got in the left hand column (two answers behind the leaders), but not good enough.  We then chatted with our team and said our goodbyes.

Next up was lunch in the Lido, it was Mexican food day and we had an assortment of Mexican buffet items (Bob loved the tacos).  After lunch we went to our cabin and did our packing, skipping the last two lectures.

We did manage to make it to the final bingo.  We missed it by one number (and apparently so did a lot of people).  Using machines with 102 cards makes some games go crazy fast.

We then got ready for dinner and went to the early showing (5pm) of Route 66.  We have seen the show several times and it is still one our favorites.  Then off to dinner.

For our final dinner we both started with this appetizer with the Roasted Beet Root and Herbed Cheese Napoleon with Sherry-Walnut Vinaigrette.  It was fantastic.  For our second courses, Julie had the Caribbean Clam Chowder and Bob the Red and Green Caesar Salad with Garlic Croutons and Parmesan Shavings.  Both were very good.  For the entrée, Julie had Dover Sole a la Meuniere with Melted Butter, Accompanied by Chateau Potatoes and Glazed Vegetable Sticks, while Bob had the Steak “Diane” where the sauce was Cognac Flavored Green Peppercorns, with Creamy Parmesan Potatoes, Sautéed Forest Mushrooms and Glazed Carrots.  We both loved them!!  For dessert Julie had the White Chocolate Passion Fruit Delice (White Chocolate Mousse, Passion Fruit Custard and Coconut Crumble), while Bob had Vivian’s Chocolate Banana Trifle with Bittersweet Chocolate Cremeux, Caramelized Bananas and Banana Bread, and Caramel Butter Stick.  We both thought that the trifle was the best of the two desserts.

The Beet Root appetizer:



The steak Diane.  Note - Bob asked for extra sauce.

The Dover Sole:

The Trifle:

The Mousse:

After dinner we went to the one comedy show by John Joseph.  We had seen him before and he was excellent.  He told a really funny story about how he boarded the ship in Grand Turk, but lost his luggage.  Well, it wasn’t really lost, the plane was so small they couldn’t fit the luggage on it with him and one other, rather large passenger.  It eventually arrived on a later flight, fortunately before the ship left the port.

We then called it a night.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Day 10, October 13, 2014, Symphony Crossing – Grand Turk

We gained another hour (we are now on Eastern Daylight time), so we are now done with time changes.  Julie woke up at 4 something, got up at 5, started a load of laundry and went out to exercise at 5:30.  Bob got up at 6 and started exercising at 6:20.  We were sailing into Grand Turk, supposedly to arrive just after the Carnival Breeze arrived (it is a 4000+ passenger mega ship).  We could see the Carnival ship in the distance and it looked like we were going to arrive first.  Bob ended up continuing to walk around the promenade deck watching us arrive in port, docking at about 7:30.

The Breeze followed and began its docking procedure just behind us.   People were going ashore from our ship a bit before 8 and the Breeze passengers disembarked a little later.

After watching the docking, we went up to breakfast and ate outside on the back of the Lido and gazed up at the massive Breeze ship.  It has about 5 or 6 more decks that our ship.  After breakfast, we did some pre-packing of clean clothes and then started working on the blog.

We had a light lunch in the Lido at about noon and then got ready for our excursion.  We then assembled in the Starlight for our 1:15 shore excursion, a Kayaking and Eco walk tour.  We left precisely at 1:15, disembarked, and walked out to sign a waiver and get on an open-air bus.  There were 14 of us including the Crystal crew escort.  We drove in the bus about 30 minutes north of the port.  We saw a flock of pink flamingos on the drive.  After a dirt road, we arrived at the place where we would board our kayaks.  We were on a small salt-water river with mangroves and several different kinds of birds.  The two-person kayaks had glass bottoms.  After a few short instructions, we got in and started to paddle up the river, enjoying the sights and talking a bit about the flora and fauna.  At one point, we stopped and the guide reached into the water and pulled out a jellyfish.  It is one of the few species that do not sting. 

We then had to get really low in our kayaks and float under a bridge back near where we started.  We then went down the river near the outlet and got out of our kayaks for a short eco walk.   We learned both about the environment and the people of eight inhabited islands of the 60 in the Turks and Caicos.  Grand Turk is known for its animals (including donkeys that just wander in and out of houses), while North Caicos is known for its health.  People there eat only all natural foods and live to a very old age.  The South Caicos is known for their skill around the ocean, such as being able to swim for long periods of time under water (averaging 8 minutes).  After a short swim (it was really hot by this time and the water was amazingly refreshing), we got back in the kayaks and paddled back to the starting point.  The bus returned and got us back to the ship right at 4:30 (the scheduled end of the tour and also when all passengers needed to be on the ship).

We then got ready for the evening and went up to the pool area for the sail away party.  The party ended at 5:30 and we went down to the Starlight club for cocktails. 

Dinner was again at 6:15.  Bob began with an appetizer of Charred Beef Salad with Papaya-Mango Slaw.  It was absolutely excellent.  Julie skipped the appetizer.  For the second course, we both had Panache of Mixed Greens with Radicchio, Fennel, and Orange Segments.  We both thought that it was good but somewhat ordinary.  For entrée, Bob had the Caribbean Lamb Curry with Coconut Rice, Fried Bananas, and Fresh Pineapple-Cilantro Chutney.  It was fantastic!!!  Julie wasn’t in the mood for the various options and thus chose a Grilled Black Angus Filet Steak with Sauce Béarnaise from the Traditional – always-available menu.  Instead of a regular dessert, we decided to try the cheeses.  These were amazingly great cheeses and we were a bit upset that we hadn’t tried them before.

The appetizer salad:

The salad:

The lamb curry:

The steak:

After dinner, we went to the atrium, where the Galaxy Orchestra was doing a Dixie Land set.  There was a huge audience.  We also noticed up in the Bistro that they had set up the exact same set of cheeses that we found on the cheese menu in the dining room, right next to the chocolate fountain.  We might try this on our last night.

Notice the pillows in various locations:

We then went to the Galaxy lounge for the Dancing with the Crystal Stars show.  It began with Dale Gonyea doing a warmup act.  He was really funny, again mixing in life on the ship with humor.  After a few more elements, they started the show where several staff members (including the Doctor, a day cleaner, a concierge and a bartender) teamed up with the dance instructors to do a dance in front of the audience.  Like the show, they just learned the routines this week.  It was quite entertaining and enjoyable.  There are two dance teams onboard and they had taught the amateurs the dances just this cruise.

After the show, we retired for the evening.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Supplement to Day 9, October 12, 2014, Symphony Crossing – The Great Pillow Fight

We just had to document this as it was too funny.  The Crystal Cove was remodeled during the dry dock and it looks great.  We believe that it has all new furniture (as we said before, we confuse the Serenity and what the Symphony looked like the last time we were on her and also it used to be a smoking bar and so we spent almost no time there).  Anyway, it looks great and is very functional with what seems to be more seating.  The interesting part of the furniture is that the chairs are quite comfortable for someone who is 6 feet tall, but for those people who are shorter and have shorter legs, the depth of the seat is too long to comfortably sit in the chairs without a pillow behind the back.  That is fine, as there are pillows.

But there are NOT ENOUGH pillows.

Nearly all women and many men need them to be able to sit in the chairs and be comfortable.  So, one important feature of going to have drinks in there is can you a get a chair with a pillow.  We got there at about 5pm and decided to sit across the lobby near the future sales desks, which has several sets of chairs in great watching the people walk by area.  But, alas no pillow.  So, Julie had Bob wander across the lobby several times to try and snag a pillow.  Nothing was available.

We considered having Bob go up to our room and grab a pillow off our bed.  We were worried that we would forget the pillow when we left for dinner and would end up getting charged for a stolen room pillow.  Ha Ha. So, no luck there.

While we sat there, a wife and husband (both with pillows) were having a drink.  The husband got up and Julie goes, hey, they are maybe leaving.  We watched and the wife stayed.  So, we watched carefully and then the wife got up and went over to the bar and sat down at one of the seats.  Julie told Bob to snag a pillow.  He quickly walked across the lobby and grabbed a pillow.  At almost the same time, another women did the same thing and the two pillows were snatched up instantly.  Julie was now comfortable and we continued to watch the people walk by.

About 20 minutes later, a couple got up to dance to the piano music.  The women left a large white pillow.  A man from a table right by got up and tried to steal her pillow.  She noticed and yelled at him to put it back.  She seemed to know him because she called him by name (at least that is what it sounded like, we don’t think that she called him by a “bad name”).   He sheepishly put the pillow back (note his wife already had a pillow, so he was looking for one for himself).  A few minutes later, the woman on the dance floor, still talking to them, went and grabbed the pillow and gave it to the guy since they were both continuing to dance.  She was so nice.

So, bottom line.  Hopefully Crystal has seen this happen and has an order for a boatload of new pillows scheduled to arrive portside when we get into Miami.  Otherwise, the great pillow fight is going to continue.  Although we must say, it was quite entertaining.