Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Day 20 - Wed August 29, 2018 New York City and Heading Home - Crystal Symphony - San Francisco to New York

Day 20 - Wed August 29, 2018 New York City and Heading Home

Today is our disembarkation day. Most other passengers will be leaving the ship tomorrow after an overnight in New York City. We had to make arrangements ahead of time to be able to leave the ship early.

Our sail in to New York came early – we were due to go under the Verrazano Bridge about 6:30 am. Actually, it occurred closer to 7:00 am. About 30 minutes later we sailed past the Statue of Liberty. The city was clouded in fog, but still a beautiful sight.

We had a leisurely breakfast at The Marketplace sitting outside on the aft deck. 

We chatted with Muriel for a few minutes before going to our cabin to retrieve our luggage. At 9:00 am we had to report to the Galaxy Lounge with about 30 other passengers who were also disembarking early. The purpose was to meet with the Customs officials for our official entry back into the US. The officials showed up about 9:40 am to start the process. It was a brief interview and then we were off the ship. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to stay onboard once we had been cleared by Customs. We got a taxi and proceeded to JFK – about 4 hours early for our 3:30 pm flight.

It was a great cruise! One of the truly enjoyable parts of this cruise was having the opportunity to interact with so many fellow Crystal Cruisers and especially members of Cruise Critic.

In our voyage, we traveled 5,996 nautical miles or 6,900 statute miles. We visited 10 different ports and 6 different countries not counting USA (Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Columbia, and Bahamas).

We didn't exercise today because everything was happening so early. So, not counting today, we have walked a total of 330,429 steps and 148.1 miles, roughly three times the length of the Panama Canal.

Day 19 - Tue August 28, 2018 Ninth Day at Sea - Crystal Symphony - San Francisco to New York

Day 19 - Tue August 28, 2018 Ninth Day at Sea

We started with our usual Promenade Deck walk. Sunrise was 6:31am and it began getting warm and humid once the sun had risen. Throughout the trip the heat has been quite challenging for walking. By the time we finish each day, we had worked up a major league sweat. It would always take us about half an hour to cool down. As we often had this cruise, we watched another beautiful sunrise.

Our cruise is coming to an end-we are disembarking tomorrow, one day early. Bob has to be back to teach on Thursday. This morning we went to the Galaxy and watched a lecture  “New York City-The Golden Door”. We then returned to our cabin and decided to begin packing. While packing we watched Jon Bailey’s lecture entitled “Hamilton: Today’s Prophetic Musical Voice,” a deep dive into the smash hit “Hamilton.”

At 12:05 pm was the last Team Trivia of the cruise. We scored 9/15 correct, two teams had 11/15 and there was a tiebreaker for the win.

We had lunch in the Trident Grill – trying pizza for the first time. It was tasty, but a heavier lunch than we usually eat. They were individual pizzas and we should have shared one rather than ordering one for each of us.

After lunch it was back to finish up as much packing as we could prior to the Black Tie Optional evening. We watched Bill Miller’s lecture “Gateway to the World: the Great Port of New York.”

We finished up our packing and went to see the end of the afternoon movie “3 Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri.” We saw the entire movie on our last cruise in February/March, so could pick up what was going on even though it was part way through. Excellent movie.

We had pre-dinner cocktails in the Avenue Saloon and enjoyed chatting with Roger and Kat and their travelling friends. We met Roger and Kat in the hotel that we stayed at pre-cruise in San Francisco. They are delightful Australians. Dinner was in The Waterside. The dining room is usually pretty crowded on the Black Tie Optional evenings and tonight was no exception. Typically the menu is special. We particularly enjoyed our final dinner onboard.

The included wine tonight was our favorite of the cruise: Cenyth Winery (Sonoma County) 2013 Red Blend. It was excellent.

Shrimp Thermidor with Creamy Spinach, Puffed Pastry Stick, Mushrooms and Hollandaise Sauce – GREAT appetizer!

Cream of Asparagus Soup 

Appetizer Portion of Spaghetti Pasta “Prince of Naples” with three types of sauces: Fresh Tomato, Wild Mushroom, Bolognese Sauce - AMAZING!!

Filet of Beef Wellington- pink roasted Tenderloin of Beef, Baked in a Puff Pastry with Shallot-Port Wine Gravy, Vegetables and Duchess Potatoes 

Broiled Nordic King Crab Legs with Melted Butter and Lemon (Julie asked for one leg on the side of her Beef Wellington and received a whole order!) 

“La Pergola” Chocolate Coffee Mousse Cake, Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream, an Whiskey Espuma

Crème Brulee

The Captain’s Farewell Party was held in the Starlight with cocktails and dancing.

The Main Show tonight was one we had not previously seen: “Crystal on Broadway: The Show” featuring the Crystal Ensemble of Singers and Dancers. We loved it! They perform songs from three different Broadway Musicals: “Something Rotten” (songs: “Welcome to the Reaissance,” “Hard to Be the Bard,” “A Musical,” and “Bottom’s Gonna Be On Top.” From “West Side Story” they performed “Something’s Coming,” “The Dance at the Gym,” “Tonight,” and “America.” From “Rent” they performed: “Light My Candle,” “Another Day,” “Will I,” “Dignity,” “Santa Fe,” and “ Seasons of Love.” It was a terrific show – the singing, dancing, staging and costumes were top-notch.


Today we walked 17, 234 steps, 8 miles

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Day 18 - Mon August 27, 2018 Charleston, South Carolina - Crystal Symphony - San Francisco to New York

Day 18 - Mon August 27, 2018 Charleston, South Carolina

We had our traditional walk on the Promenade Deck – but cut it to 45 minutes this morning as we were doing a walking tour in Charleston. We enjoyed the sail in to Charleston, passing by Fort Sumter, a castle, an aircraft carrier, a view of their beautiful bridge before docking right in the heart of the city. Only a couple of blocks from the ship into the city. Note - pictures of the bridge and the aircraft carrier Yorktown are from the afternoon when it was clear and the sun was in the best position.

This is our first port back into the USA, therefore we all had to appear for Customs and Border Patrol. We were given groups of when we could disembark so that there wouldn’t be crowds of people and lines trying to get off at the same time. Interestingly enough, no one would be let back on the ship until everyone was off and checked by Customs. The process began with group 1 at 8:15 am and it was anticipated that passengers would be able to re-board at about 10:30 am. However, that time turned out to be a bit optimistic and re-boarding was allowed shortly after 11:00 am. We were assigned group 3 and were off the ship approximately 8:40 am. There was a line to clear customs and we waited our turn.

Julie had booked a private walking tour at 10:30 am, however ended up canceling it because we were unsure what time we would be able to leave the ship and whether or not we could make. We asked at the desk if we could be in an early disembarkation group, but were told they were not taking requests. Not a great loss – we have toured Charleston before. We decided to try a new for us option and download an audio tour on our phones and see how that worked out for us. Once onshore we paid for the tour on the App Store ($1.99 each) and downloaded it. The starting point of the tour was a couple of blocks from the ship and we proceeded there. There were 14 stops on the walking tour. The directions were very clear from one point to the next, and the narration at each place was several minutes. We thought the tour quite good and enjoyed it. The only downside was that you had to keep taking out your phone, listen to the narration, proceed to the next place and then start the narration again. It would be nice if it had a pause feature where you could just use the pause feature on your headphones to start and stop the narration. Here is a pictorial view of our walking tour:

St Phillips Church-oldest congregation in South Carolina

St Phillips Graveyard (notice the Spanish Moss in the tree)

Dock Street Theater-opened in 1736

Huguenot Church-built in 1845, the third church on this site

Pink House-built around 1712, believed to be the second oldest remaining residence in Charleston

Old Slave Mart Museum-only surviving building in South Carolina that had been used as a slave auction gallery

Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon-public slave auctions were held outside and along the wharves.

Rainbow Row-a series of row houses, painted in bright colors dating back to about 1740.

Charles Towne Wall-only visible remains of the wall from 1680. Charleston was once a walled city.

The High Battery-all these houses were built on landfill by the wealthiest of the town.

The sea wall in front of the High Battery

View of Walled City-shows the breadth of the walled city.

Nathaniel Russell House and Gardens – built in 1808 by a wealthy merchant.

South Carolina Society building (not part of the tour, but a great looking building)

Four Corners of the Law- City Hall, Old State House, Old Post Office/Court House, and St Michael’s Church

We ended at The Charleston Market

Back onboard we enjoyed a salad in The Marketplace.

We went to the afternoon movie “Backstabbing for Beginners” about the UN and Iraq Food for Oil scandal.

There was a lecture at 5:00 pm with Bob Arno titled “Adventures of a Thiefhunter-Smart Solutions to Real Threats in a Hostile Environment.” Arno is a white-hat pickpocket and crime prevention specialist. He shared information on how to protect ourselves from these modern day thieves.

On our way to the Silk Bar for pre-dinner cocktails we noted that we had a Coast Guard escort complete with machine guns. There was a sailboat headed towards the ship, and the Coast Guard vessel went over to them and made it turn away from us. One of the crew shared with us that the Coast Guard had come aboard in Charleston and checked some crew and passenger cabins. Apparently this is a common occurrence with ships coming to the US from Colombia and Mexico.

As we were sailing out, we saw Fort Sumter, the location where the Civil War started.

We enjoyed dinner in The Churrascaria, having salad, no sides, and a couple of pieces of meat. Dessert was grilled cinnamon pineapple - wonderful.

We watched a few minutes of the concert pianist and then decided to go see the set in the Avenue Saloon. Tonight was the Crystal White Extravaganza at 10:15 pm. We didn’t make it – retired before that.

Today we walked 21,611 steps and 9.33 miles – A record on this trip!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Day 17 - Sun August 26, 2018 Eighth Day at Sea - Crystal Symphony - San Francisco to New York

Day 17 - Sun August 26, 2018 Eighth Day at Sea

We slept a little later this morning, and started our one hour once the sun was rising. We much prefer to walk earlier before sunrise.

Another day at sea included several lectures:
  • “A Glimpse into the Future of Social Media, Technology and the Internet” by Dr Jack McManus. 
  • “Q & A with Dr Jeffrey Hoffman” (astronaut) 
  • “Sailing to the Sun: Cruising History and Folklore” by Bill Miller. This was about the history of cruising. 
Our Trivia Team met again at 12:05 to give it our best shot. This time we scored 9/15 correct. It certainly felt like we did better than that, we came up with answers to some challenging questions.

Sunday Brunch was served in the Crystal Cove. It was much like the Grand Gala buffet, only with some additional breakfast type items – waffles, eggs benedict, omelets, etc. There was also a wok station, pasta station, carving station, shrimp, salads, etc. We enjoyed Phillip’s company at Brunch.

Julie went to the movie “The Seagull.” It was a good thing that Bob didn’t go, definitely not his cup of tea. Julie wasn’t even sure she could make it through the movie, but did.

Pre-dinner we went to the Avenue Saloon for drinks. Dinner was in Umi Uma. It was enjoyable as always.


Shrimp Tempura Roll (it included 6 pieces – forgot to take the picture) 

Nobu Style Lobster Tacos 

Lobster Tempura with Ponzu Sauce 

Broiled Eggplant with Nobu Style Saikyo Miso Sauce 

Stir Fried Shrimp and Scallops with Spicy Garlic Sake Soy Sauce

Grilled Australian Wagyu Beef Filet Steak with Anticucho Sauce

The Main Entertainment was Bob Arno – an expert pickpocket and con man. He pickpocketed many items from the audience including watches, cell phones, a tie, etc. He generally uses distraction to steal from others. His show was certainly entertaining and funny.

Afterwards we saw the Crystal Ensemble perform Jump & Swing-A-Mania, a nice show in the Starlite.

Steps: 16,005 Miles: 6.8

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Day 16 - Sat August 25, 2018 Bimini, Bahamas - Crystal Symphony - San Francisco to New York

Day 16 - Sat August 25, 2018 Bimini, Bahamas

Note - I finally figured out why the format of the blogs has been goofy, so hopefully these will be formatted better.

Note - the info station on the TV said that thus far we had traveled so far 4,979 nautical miles, which is 5,730 statute miles.

Today was Crystal’s maiden stop in Bimini in the Bahamas. Bimini is only about 50 miles from Miami. Sport fishing and water sports are the major draws to this island. Hemingway spent about 2 years here and “Old Man and the Sea” was inspired by his days in Bimini.

There were a few shore excursions offered – a snorkeling tour, a one tank scuba dive, a stingray adventure, dolphin swim and a tram tour of the island (the only tram on the island only held 60 passengers). We did not have a shore excursion.

We were anchored off the opposite side of the island from where the tender would dock. It was a 30 minute tender ride each way, and therefore everyone had to sign up for a tender time/ticket to prevent excessive lines. Our time was 10:45 am. We accomplished our hour long walk this morning, got ready to go ashore and went to the Starlite Club where passengers were dispatched to the tenders by time. Tender operations were suspended a couple times as the water was too rough to board passengers onto the tenders.

A very flat island
The tender docked at the Resorts World Casino/Hilton Hotel marina. We received wristbands to indicate that we could use the resort facilities including swimming pools, etc. After a warm greeting from the resort staff we decided to take a walk. There were also golf carts and bicycles to rent at the resort. Our walk was short – it was very hot outside at that time of day. We took the next tender back to the ship.

After lunch in The Marketplace Bob chose to attend the movie: “Avengers Infinity War” starring Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, and Mark Ruffalo. It is a 2 hr 29 minutes and was scheduled to start at 2:15 pm (15 minutes earlier than the usual starting time). The Hollywood Theater (a wonderful venue) was empty. The movie started and some people filtered in. 

Here’s a picture of the Vintage Room. In the Vintage Room there are very special dinner menus along with specially chosen complimentary wines, for up to 14 people. On this cruise they also had a Vintage Room lunch. We did not attend any Vintage Room events this cruise.

Pre-dinner cocktails were in the Avenue Saloon. There wasn’t any live entertainment yet, but, as we left Bimini (right on time at 6:00 pm) Louis Armstrong’s “Wonderful World” was played. In all our Crystal cruises this is the first time that we’ve heard Louis sing at departure when indoors. I will say, our normal routine is to try to be on the Promenade Deck at sail away to observe and hear Louis sing.

We enjoyed dinner in The Waterside: Caesar Salad

Appetizer portion of Mafaldine Pasta-Braised Beef Short Rib and Root Vegetable Ragout

Grilled Ruby Snapper with Lobster Ravioli, Saffron Tarragon Fumet

Bob had: Mushroom Orzo

Bob also had an appetizer portion of the pasta and then he had: Pink-Roasted Pancetta Pork Tenderloin with Cauliflower Puree, Baby Carrots, Olive Oil Caviar, Chives

We both had: Mint Chocolate Trifle with Mint Mousse, Chocolate Ganache, Cocoa Crumble, Mint Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

The main show was Karen Grainger, a female vocal impersonator. Her vocal impersonations included Reba, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston and Cher. Her skills in recreating the sounds of these superstars is incredible. She closed the show doing a tribute to Aretha Franklin with the Crystal Female Lead Vocalist Julie Bell-Posey. It was excellent.

Afterwards we headed to the Starlite to see the Latin Dance Show.

Today we walked 18,319 steps, 7.73 miles.