Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Day 14, May 17, 2015, Serenity Crossing – Returning from Lisbon back to Salt Lake City/Park City

The day started at 1:15.  We set alarms on both of our cell phones and also called the front desk and had them do a wake up call for us.  We got up and got ready.  At 2am, we called the operator and asked them to send us someone to take our luggage (we had not put out any pieces the night before).  They arrived in five minutes and grabbed our bags.  We collected our carry-ons and headed downstairs.  The guy who had our bags was waiting by the exit from the ship.  We got our cards scanned for the last time, and headed down the gangway.  The porter ended up manhandling the one of our three bags down by hand and then pushed his cart down the stairs with the other two.  We then went with the porter across the wide open space to the terminal.  There was one person in the terminal and we just walked by.  Outside there was maybe two dozen cabs in a line.  As we looked to our left over in the marina area, there were two bars/night clubs going full bore with loud music, dancing, etc.  Clearly finding a cab was no big deal (we were quite worried).  We walked to the front of the cab line, stuffed our bags into the trunk, tipped the porter and headed to the airport. 

It didn’t take us very long to get to the airport, around 20 minutes.  The fare was 12 Euros including the extra for the bags.  We gave him 15 Euros.  The ship was charging $45 each , so this was significantly less money and very efficient.  We went inside and pretty much everything was shut down.  Anyway, we figured out where we were supposed to go and waited in the general area.  We were there easily by 2:30 am.  They opened the check-in at 3am.  We went in the sky priority line and gave them our bags and then went through passport and security.  All very efficient and hardly anyone around.  After going through security, we found our gate, and tried to “sleep/rest” until it was time.  There were only a few people there, but eventually it started to fill up.  Everyone lined up at about 4:20 and we began boarding.  We were flying to Amsterdam and left on time at 5am.

We tried to sleep on the plane and ended up arriving at AMS at about 9am (we lost another hour).  We had a four-hour layover (although it turned out that it was significantly less than that as the boarding time was 11:20 for the 1pm flight.  We found the lounge and hung out for several hours.  We sampled the interesting Scandinavian lounge food and tried to charge our devices (it didn’t work because we didn’t have the right connectors). 

Anyway, we ended up going to the gate, being screened, interviewed, and scanned again.  Julie wanted some water, so Bob went to the only venue, the vending machine (note, they confiscated our water before going through the scanners).  Once being scanned and entered the gate area you cannot leave.  Bob put in 3 Euro coins and the machine refused to give out anything.  He pushed the return the money button and it just ate them.  Oh well.  It turns out that this became a bit of a running gag with the group waiting to board.  Lots of people tried, some random number of people got what they wanted, and some large percentage did not.  It was all very strange and somewhat comical. Not being able to leave the gate area for the last 90 minutes is a pain.

Eventually we boarded the flight (we sat in Economy Comfort, which was actually not too bad given that we weren’t going to try and sleep very much since we were going west).  The flight was about 10 hours long to Minneapolis.  We watched some movies, ate, slept and basically did what you do on a plane.

We arrived safely and then went to the sky club to wait for our final leg.  We had another multi-hour layover.  By this time, we were completely exhausted.  Very little sleep the night before and limited sleep on the plane.  Plus two weeks of 23 hour days every other day.  It was rough.  Eventually it was time to board.  But it was delayed about 45 minutes, so we hung out some more.

Finally we got to the plane and began boarding.  We got on the plane and were settling in.  We found out that we didn’t have any pilots.  Ok, this is going to be tricky.  Neither of us knew how to fly, but we did see a pilot in the Delta lounge.  Maybe we could go and recruit him.  Anyway, we waited about half an hour and they eventually showed up. The explanation was that they changed the plane from an Airbus to a Boeing plane and thus we had to get a different crew.  They got someone off duty (probably on call) and got them to the plane.  They did their systems check and we left.  We got out to the tarmac and just sat there.  Oh no. We waited and waited and waited.  Eventually we learned that some anti-skid thing had failed.  We had to go back and get it repaired.  Everyone on the plane with connections was panicking.  The pilot said that it was a relatively easy fix (a change of a box in the belly of the plane).  So, we waited to get a gate, eventually got one and then waited some more.  They wouldn’t let us deplane because that would have delayed things a ton (with people leaving, and luggage and everything).  So, we sat tight.  They didn’t hand out water or anything because they only had a limited amount and didn’t want to run out (right?).  Anyway…..

Eventually they fixed it and then we waited for the paperwork.  Wait wait wait.  Finally we got it all, the plane checked out and we left the gate for the second time.  We got out to the tarmac to the exact same place and we sat there.  Everyone started mumbling.  Is something else broken?  We found out that the storm that was around us had delayed our take off a bit, but the plane was working great.  So, we finally left and made it to Salt Lake.  We were about 3 hours late.  So, in total, we were up/flying/waiting around for almost 30 hours.  That was a really long journey.

So, the whole experience ended.  It was a truly great cruise.  This was our second trip on Serenity and we found that we liked it a lot more than the last time.  The quirks that are different from the Symphony didn’t bother us as much.  The theme cruise was wonderful.  All of the days at sea were wonderful.  Most of the speakers were terrific.  We probably pushed too hard, and the 23 hour days kind of sucked.  But everything else was amazing.  We would go on it again in a heartbeat.

According to the last day reflections, we sailed a total of 3,774 nautical miles, or 4,340.1 land miles.  We had two stops and a zillion days at sea.  What a wonderful trip.  Oh yeah, how many steps and miles did we go?  Well, adding up each day, we ended up with about 196,000 steps and 92 miles.  Not too bad.  As for weight, we each was up a few pounds, but after getting rid of the travel weight, we ended up about even.  The two meals a day and being reasonably careful paid off. 

The most interesting part of the trip was when we got home, it took us nearly a week to get rid of the jet lag. We were thinking that maybe we had caught a bug or something, but whatever, it took us a week before we really felt like we were running at 100%.  Bob thought that because he had flown to China and back the previous week and then 2 weeks traveling to Lisbon, he ended up traversing about ¾ of the world.  Maybe that affected him, but Julie was just about the same.

The bottom line, we wouldn’t have traded it for the world.  It was a wonderful trip and thank Crystal and its wonderful crew and staff for making it a magical vacation.

Day 13, May 16, 2015, Serenity Crossing – Half Day at Sea and Docking in Lisbon – Part 2

Here are a few pictures as we sailed into the port:

The Columbus status from the ship:

After we got back on the ship, we did our packing and got everything ready.  We then went to the Crystal Cove for drinks before dinner.  Our dinner at Prego was set for 6:30.  We were greeted by Slavko (we have known him since our first cruise on the Symphony in 2009) and were ushered to a nice table by the wall.  

There were about 10 people in the room dining.   For appetizer, Julie had the Slow-Poached Lobster Tail with cauliflower, garden leafs and basil oil vinaigrette.

Bob had the Parma Ham, Sopressata and Grana – thin slices of prosciutto, salami,  and chunks of parmesan cheese with olives.

For the second course, Julie had Prego’s Signature Cream Soup of Selected Italian Mushrooms served in an oregano bread cup.

While Bob had the Seasonal Arugula Salad sprinkled with pine nuts and grana padano shavings.

Julie’s entrée continued with the Prego Classic Lasagna alla Casalinga – layers of fresh pasta with ground meat, porcini mushrooms, tomato, béchamel and mozzarella cheese.  Julie thought that it was terrific as always, but extremely filling as always.  As our last meal on the ship, it was wonderful.

Bob decided to have two half orders of traditional spaghetti pasta, one with spicy (and it was) arrabbiata sauce and the other a traditional meat sauce.  They were excellent, but Bob loved the spicy sauce.  It is amazing what some red peppers can do (and also being away from spicy food for two weeks, it seemed really spicy).

For dessert, we both had some Limoncello to drink.  Julie had the same thing she had last time, the strawberry sorbet with prosecco floated on top.  Except this time there was a touch too much prosecco and that actually hurt the dish.

Bob had an ice cream dessert that he doesn’t remember what it had in it.  Here is the picture.

After dinner, we decided that we would just go to bed.  First we wandered the ship and took some pictures:

The strings quartet for one last time:

We had to get up at 1:15 (yes, 1:15 am) in order to make the flight, so we hoped to get a few hours of sleep in before our day of madness would begin.  Note to self – try not to ruin a vacation with a plane that leaves at 5am…. 

For steps we did roughly 16K and about 8 miles (Bob’s data is stored in the Apple health app and he hasn’t figured a way to just look at an individual day, he can only look at the weekly graph – given that we are writing this after we arrived in SLC).

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Day 13, May 16, 2015, Serenity Crossing – Half Day at Sea and Docking in Lisbon – Part 1

At about 5am, the door to the balcony started whistling horribly.  It seemed like there was a huge storm outside.  The ship was rocking a ton.  Bob tried to shut the door, but it was shut.  He went back to bed and it kept up howling.  So, he got up again and opened and then relocked the door.  The whistling stopped!  Bob went back to bed and then again at 5:20am, it opened itself again and the whistling started.  This continued randomly for the next 3 hours.  There clearly is something wrong with the door and we had a very hard time sleeping.

Outside, it was 61 degrees and sunny.  But the waves were quite large.  There was lots of sea spray and clearly not conducive to walking (in fact, the deck was closed).  So, we got up and got ready for the day. 

We went down to the 10am talk by Ken Rees on “One Million Miles – One Thousand Stories.”  He shared a number of stories about his days as a TV reporter.  It was a great talk.  It started with him trying to get some video of the Queen Mum and concluded with his reporting at the Oscars. An excellent talk with lots of laughs.

After that, we decided to skip the talk by Ronald Marks.  The plan was for Cruise Director Rick to moderate a Q/A to discuss various topics.  We returned to the room and started to do our packing as we disembark tomorrow (tonight).  Our plane from Lisbon leaves at 5am, so our plan is to leave the ship at about 2:15am.  It is going to be a crazy night.

We went up to Tastes for lunch and had pizza.  Then we went outside to watch us go under the bridge and dock in Lisbon.  Once we were cleared for disembarkation, we left and headed to find an ATM and also to do some geocaching.  We couldn’t find three, but finally found one of them.  We left a travel bug.  We wandered around the port area and walked by the little dock and restaurant area.  Our first ATM find would not work, but eventually we found a second one out on the main street by the docks.

We re-boarded the ship, chatted with the front desk about our taxi.  The plan is for us to call down to the front desk when we are ready to have someone come and get our luggage.  They will haul it down and the front desk will help us get off the ship.  We hope that it all goes smoothly, but knowing Crystal, it will be great.

For dinner tonight, we are going to Prego.

Pictures to follow in part 2.

Day 12, May 15, 2015, Serenity Crossing – Eighth Day at Sea

Having lost yet another hour, we got up around 8am.  We decided to pass on the 10am lecture by Drew Casper on the comedic Sinatra which preceded a screening of his 1955 film “The Tender Trap.”  Julie tossed in a load of laundry (only one, since the other 3 machines were busy) and we went out for a walk.  It was 59 degrees, going directly into the wind.  It was pretty cold and very difficult walking.  Eventually we managed about 50 minutes of walking, 3.2 miles and 6200 steps. 
We got back and got ready for the day.  Since we were done by 11am, we decided to give Ronald Marks one last try at a lecture, titled “Is America Still Number One?”  We figured that with that title and at this point of the cruise, he would talk about current events.  Unfortunately we were wrong again.  He spent the entire time going over 10th grade American History, focusing on our foreign relations (which was mostly internal).  Oh well, we both took our computers and worked on email and the blog. 

His talk went long and we ended up going quickly up to the Palm court for our last trivia.  The team showed up eventually and we got started.  It was horrible, with so many obscure facts (like Andre the Giant’s real last name, Ivana Trump’s maiden name, and the name of the dog in the Waltons).  The teams were booing the caller (all in good fun of course).  He (one of the dancers) said that it was his first time doing trivia and also that he was a good swimmer in case he got tossed overboard.  We ended up with only 7 right, the two winning teams had 9.  Pretty brutal, but really fun (such as when he asked did any teams get 15, everyone yelled and cheered like they got them all right).

We then went to the Lido for lunch (salads) and then headed down to the talk at 1:30pm by celebrity photographer Tim Courtney.  He showed a list of many of the celebrities that he had photographed over the past 18 years (it was amazingly short with less than 50 people on it), but had a number of great stars.  He mostly does magazine covers and spreads.  He then went though his top five celebrities that he has worked with over the years (starting with Bea Arthur).  It was a very good talk.

We decided to skip the movie (Big Eyes) and did a drive by of the Tea Time Event – Ol’ Blue Eyes Birthday Party with the Hollywood speakers.  

Julie started packing and Bob worked on the pictures and blog.  Bob went down to the stern of the ship and took a picture up our very, very long hallway (we were midships and you can't even see that far, even with a zoom).

We then went to the Bistro for some tea/coffee and access to the Internet.

At 5pm, we headed back to our room and got ready for dinner; the last of our formal nights.  We then went to the Cove and hung out and then went in to dinner for our last dining by reservation at 6:15.  It was really crowded and we actually had a wait in a line to get our table.

For appetizer, Julie started with the Cream of Asparagus soup with herb croutons, while Bob had the Confit of Portobello Mushrooms from the Modern Menu that included white bean puree, sweet peppers and balsamic puffs.  We thought that they both were great.

For the second course, we both had the Baby Greens tossed in orange-buttermilk dressing with red beets, fresh strawberries, yellow tomatoes and caramelized pecans.  It was again, another excellent salad.

Oops, we missed taking a picture!!

For the entrée, Julie had the Broiled Lobster with vegetable wild rice pilaf, asparagus, confit garlic, and eggplant.  She thought that it was very good.

Bob had the Grilled Veal Medallions with creamy morel sauce, mustard gnocchi and glazed vegetables.  They were also quite good.

We both skipped the usual dessert and had an assortment of cheeses.  We both liked the camembert the best.

After dinner, we had a ton of time before the 8:45pm show, so we went back to our room and watched the Tender Trap movie (at least part of it).   The production show was Curtain Call.  We have seen it many times before (probably six since this is our seventh Crystal cruise), but it was still excellent.  It is a great assortment the best songs from a number of Broadway musicals- Evita, Cats, etc.  It is definitely a very difficult show to put on with the singers and dancers involved in almost every number.

After the show, we went back to the room and started watching the Tender Trap again.  Unfortunately we didn’t make it to the end and went to sleep.  For the day, Bob had 12.2K steps and 5.8 miles.