Monday, February 3, 2020

Day 21 (Feb 2 and Feb 3 and Feb 2 (again) 2020) – Crystal Symphony – San Diego to Guam – Traveling to Seattle

Our Korean Air 787 flight from Guam was uneventful (which is exactly what you want when flying).  We were in “Prestige Class” which is essentially business class.  Leaving Guam at 2:30 am, we were very happy to have lay flat seats.  The flight attendants were incredibly nice and very service oriented (but they were ALL wearing masks).  We arrived in Seoul 30 minutes early – at 6:00 am with a one hour earlier time change.  We slept until they turned up the lights at 4:30 am to serve breakfast.  The food was on par with US airlines – not great, a few items (like yogurt, roll were edible).  Our luggage was checked through to Seattle (our next stop), so no need to claim.  We made it through security and entered Terminal 2.  The Seoul airport is absolutely beautiful.  Abundant trees, live plants, orchids, etc make it really pleasant.  It almost seems like an upscale shopping mall with designer stores (Gucci, Chanel, etc) as well as a plethora of Duty Free Shops.  There are kid’s zone playing areas, IT and virtual reality experiences to spend your time, and robots wandering around to interact with.  As we walked through the airport, we noted that easily 90% of people were wearing masks – presumably as protection from the coronavirus.


Wow, how can you go wrong with Giant cats and Dragons!



Tech everywhere - this is a long film strip shaped screen curling around on itself

Yes, Robots!

Sunrise at Incheon Airport
We have a 12.5 hour layover.  Yes, 12 hours.  Sounds absolutely miserable?  Actually, it was very pleasant.  We walked a little over 2 miles exploring the airport and then went to the Transit Hotel and checked in for 8 hours.  They rent rooms by the hour and it was small, but spotless and perfect.  We slept until 1:15 pm, then got up showered, changed into clean clothes, and watched a little TV (they had CNN and BBC World in English).  We actually felt human again. 



Looks inviting and it was.




By the way - no comments from anyone about checking into a hotel that you pay per hour. It was obviously not THAT kind of hotel. 😀

We checked out at 4 pm and went to the Korean Air Lounge (our flight to Seattle is on Delta but they don’t have a lounge in Seoul).  There are the usual bar items along with nice food offerings including salads, garlic rice, corn soup, chicken in gravy, shitake mushroom meatballs, shrimp balls, and all sorts of bread items.  A great way to get some snacks before boarding our 6:30 pm flight.

Our Delta flight to Seattle left on time at 6:30 pm.  We had dinner and then went to sleep.  The lay flat seats were fine, and we each had a door to our “compartment.” Another uneventful flight.  We landed in Seattle early.  YIPPPEEE.  Not so much. We waited on the tarmac for 90 minutes, first problem was getting a gate, next problem was not being able to get through the airport due to (airplane) bridge construction.  Sigh.  It’s pretty frustrating to arrive early after a 10 hour flight and then wait another hour and half before you can actually get off the plane. That was a total of 35 hours from when the taxi picked us up in Guam to when we got to our hotel in Seattle.

We’re in Seattle for two days for a medical treatment for Bob and then back to Utah to prepare for our next adventure.  It’s been a great trip.

By the way, congrats to the Chiefs and their fans. Coach Reid has Utah roots and we are happy to see him finally get his Super Bowl win.

Our total trip distance, both air and sea was 15,614 statute miles.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Day 21 (Feb 1, 2020) – Crystal Symphony – San Diego to Guam – Guam

We took a short walk on the Promenade Deck.  Julie started early – a few minutes after 5:00 am.  It was clear for her walk, Bob started a bit later and walked outside until the rain started, and went inside for a few laps and then outside and it was still raining and inside and then finished outside.

Do you remember the bird from a few days ago?  Well, it turns out the bird was back on the Promenade Deck, looking much better today.  When Julie approached it to take a picture it walked a few steps.  On one lap she could see it with its wings spread – it had quite a wingspan.  The next lap there was a runner that startled the bird and it was flying, but was up against the bottom of the lifeboats.  It went back down to the deck.  Next lap – it was gone.  It seems that it is now a Guam citizen. [Note from Bob - naturally you need to ignore the fact that we are hundreds of miles from where we saw him previously - maybe he has a teleporter.]


We were escorted into the Port of Guam (BTW - it is a US Terratory, like Puerto Rico) by two tugboats and one boat that looked sort of like a big zodiac, except it had a machine gun on the front (it was US Coast Guard).  We’ve seen that in ports before as a security measure.



We have traveled 6,188 nautical miles or 7,121 statute miles. BTW - one nautical mile is roughly 2000 yards and equals 1 minute of arc in latitude. That is a LONG way!!!

We ordered room service breakfast so that we could eat while getting ready for our Guam excursion.  We first had to go through immigration and customs.  The Guam officials were supposed to start the process at 8 am, but seemed to arrive somewhat late and then it took a while before they began.  Our shore excursion was originally scheduled to depart at 8:45 am but the time was changed to 9:15 am due to the mandatory face-to-face interview with the officials.  There was already quite a line up when we arrived outside the Galaxy Theater at 7:45am.

All shore excursions leave from the Starlight Lounge.  We waited for our turn.  We chose the excursion that was about 4 hours long and included some WWII sights.

Ok, so, pictures. It turns out that we took a ton. Unfortunately, the picture storage card was left in our room and the camera didn't tell us that there was no card in it. We don't know why it doesn't bother to tell us something really important like that, but cest la vie.... We took a few pictures of the signs in the various locations, for information for us, but alas, they do not show what we saw... BIG HUGE SIGH. Here are a couple of pictures of the island we took from the ship after we realized that we had made a big mistake (the port was a very commercial port like many that we sail into).





The first stop was at the War in the Pacific National Historical Park- Asan Bay Overlook. This was the highlight of the tour.  There were some bronze sculptures that depicted the events on Guam during the Japanese occupation and the battle to take Guam back in 1944.  There is a Memorial Wall containing the names of the 1,880 US servicemen who died in the 1941 defense of Guam against the Japanese forces and those who died retaking the island from Japan in 1944. Interestingly the wall also listed ALL of the Guam people that survived the war.




Next up was the Latte Stone Park.  These were originally used as a foundation for the homes of the native Chamorro people. They are sort of mushroom shaped.  There was also a fallout shelter in the park, leftover from WWII.  Originally the Japanese forced the captured people to dig the tunnel in order to store munitions. We had a few minutes to wander around an adjacent park.

Across the street was the Plaza de Espana (Spain Square) and we wandered around that. It was the location where the Spanish governor's palace when the Spanish arrived in 1734. In 1898 after Spain lost the Spanish-American war, America took possession of the island and the place was the residence of the Naval Governor. Much of this area had been wiped out in the bombing just before the American invasion in 1944, so much of it was just ruins. There were a few buildings that had been reconstructed.


We had a short stop at the “Chamorro Village,” which turned out to be a small shopping center.  It is Saturday and yet most shops were closed.

The last stop was the Asan Beach, where the Marines landed to retake Guam from the Japanese.  All in all, the tour was pretty mediocre.

Once we returned to the ship we had lunch in The Waterside.  It was a nice lunch and then………………… back to our cabin to pack.  It was painful.  Even though we bought NOTHING on the trip (with the exception of a couple of small cans of macadamia nuts in Hawaii), it seemed like things just didn’t fit well into the suitcases.  We finished at about 5:15pm – just in time to go up to The Silk Bar for pre-dinner drinks.  We were dressed very casually (nice jeans and a shirt) because we were leaving the ship to start our journey towards home tonight and decided that we would be more comfortable eating in the Churrascaria.  We enjoyed a nice salad, a couple pieces of meat and grilled cinnamon pineapple for dessert.

One of the Lido guys serving some meat. 
The sides bar



The salad bar
\The evening’s entertainment was Kym Purling – an Australian pianist, composer, conductor, and amazing entertainer.  We truly enjoyed the performance.


We have struggled for the past week trying to arrange transportation from the ship to the airport tonight. We had contacted our travel agent for assistance when the Concierge said that they were unable to help with private transfers.  Our travel agent came up empty. Guam has the equivalent of Uber/Lyft called Stroll.  Bob signed up for an account, exchanged email with the company and put in a scheduled pickup request.  The company assured us that closer to the requested time someone would likely pick it up. No one committed to our request.  While we were on our tour Julie ended up talking with a parked taxi driver about transporting us at about 10 pm to the airport.  She got his card and he said to call him about an hour before we wanted to be picked up – we called at 9 pm, and lo and behold he said he’d be at the Port at about 9:30.  Because we were not disembarking within the normal times we had to take our luggage off the ship ourselves, which was a bit of a challenge due to the pitch and steps on the gangway.  Some kind Crystal Crew members helped us get the luggage off and then we had to walk about a block to the area where the taxis are allowed.  Our taxi driver was there waiting!  In chatting with the taxi driver he said that they only get about 4 cruise ships per year in Guam and just don’t have the ability to handle the mass influx a cruise ship brings.

We are writing from the airport lounge.  We have a grueling flight schedule.  It is not easy to fly out of Guam.  Our flight leaves at 2:30 am (yes, am) to Seoul, So Korea (about 5 hour flight), arriving about 6:30am with the time change.  We then have a 12 hour layover in Seoul.  Luckily, there is a transit hotel within security there, and we booked a room.  We leave Seoul at 6:30 pm for Seattle (10 hour flight) arrive about noon on Sunday.  We fly home to Utah on Tuesday.


Morning Exercise: 2.6 mi on the Promenade Deck
Weather: 72 at 5am and starting to rain
Seas:  Docked in Guam (at about 8am), last night the seas were relatively calm.
Breakfast: Room Service
Lectures: None
Trivia: None
Fun Trivia Question: None
Movie: "Alladin" the live action one with Will Smith
Dinner: Churrascaria
Trivia Answer: None
Daily steps: 20,154
Daily miles: 8.6



BTW - we are at 371,277 steps and 163.7 miles total so far for the whole vacation.

Day 20 (Jan 31, 2020) – Crystal Symphony – San Diego to Guam – Twelfth and Final Day at Sea

Today was a fairly normal day, although we changed things up a bit. First we did manage to walk over 5 miles in the morning.


We had gained an hour, so also decided to go up to the swimming pool and spend about 30 minutes in the pool just enjoying the beautiful morning. We then went straight to breakfast in the Marketplace. After that, we got ready for the day and watched Dr. Freedman's lecture live on our in room TV. We then headed to the Galaxy for the 11:00am Q/A with the executive team. That was pretty fascinating.


I asked a question about what was planned for the April Dry Dock. The vice captain said that it was a technical dry dock (after the huge one a couple of years ago). He said that they would do a lot of behind the scenes stuff such as replacing a bunch of galvanized pipe in the innards of the ship. He said that the things that we would see was a complete gut and redo of the Casino and the Computer rooms. The carpet on deck 6 would be replaced and the wood floor in the Bistro and Galaxy stage would be replaced. He said that the other big update was to change out the soft goods in Deck 10 and the rooms on Dec 8 and 9 that were not touched by the previous Dry Dock. Later on in a question about the lack of electrical outlets, the Chief Engineer said that adding outlets to all of the rooms was planned for this Dry Dock. It was kind of off the cuff, so I think that we need to see if it really happens.

Another interesting element was shared by the Captain. Someone asked about new Ocean builds and he said that Genting (which now owns Crystal) bought three ship building yards had designed a "common platform" for 6 new ships. 2 for Star Cruises, 2 for Dream Cruises, and 2 for Crystal. They will all be the same basic ship, but outfitted very differently - the Crystal being the luxury cabins and facilities. Side Note - we were watching the previews for a movie and they showed a PR piece on Genting. They are from Malaysia and are an amazingly diverse company, from hotels and casinos to cruise lines to palm oil plantations to genetics. They seemed massive and diverse.

After the wonderful Q/A, we ended up skipping trivia and lunch and went to our room to work on packing before the 2:30pm documentary on Maiden (which, BTW, was terrific and inspiring).

After that a bit more packing and then had drinks in the Avenue Saloon before dinner in Prego. We ended up having the exact same thing: Caesar Salad (Romaine Lettuce Tossed with Traditional Caesar Dressing (on the side), Topped with Parmesan Shavings & Sourdough Croutons), Prego’s Signature Cream Soup of Selected Italian Mushrooms Served in an Oregano Bread Cup and the Signature Lasagna alla Casalinga - Layers of Fresh Pasta with Ground Meat, Porcini Mushrooms, Tomato, Béchamel & Mozzarella Cheese. So, very very yummy, although we decided that the regular portion of the Lasagna is just too rich and we should order the appetizer size even if we are getting it for the entree. For dessert we shared a Pomegranate Semifreddo which is a Pomegranate Parfait with Berry Stew & Lime Foam. Yummy!!





The show was comedic musician Bayne Bacon. He was a good old boy from Texas who told very dry jokes and played the piano and guitar (not at the same time). He was very entertaining.



Morning Exercise: 5.1 mi on the Promenade Deck
Weather: 75
Seas:  About the same as yesterday, 6 foot waves, very nice.
Breakfast: You know, the usual in the Marketplace
Lectures:
  • Dr. Robert O. Freedman-“Sino-Russian Relations: from Alliance to Confrontation to Alignment.”
  • Q&A with the Captain, Vice Captain, Hotel Director, Chief Engineer, F&B Manager. Hosted by Cruise Director Russ Thomas Grieve
  • Dr. Richard Turnbull - “Guam: One Island, Two Cultures."
Trivia: We skipped it this last day as we had to get started packing.
Fun Trivia Question: None
Lunch: We skipped lunch today as we ended up eating pretty late for breakfast and our dinner was going to be in Prego
Movie: The Documentary Maiden (2018) about the first all women yachting team to compete and sail in the around the world in the 1989–90 Whitbread Round the World Race.
Dinner: Prego
Trivia Answer: None
Daily steps: 20,663
Daily miles: 9.1



Day 19 (Jan 30, 2020) – Crystal Symphony – San Diego to Guam – Eleventh Day at Sea

Good news!  It was a very pleasant 72 degrees when we went out to walk a little before 6 am.  Bad news!  It was raining lightly. We toughed it out and walked a little over 2 miles when the rain got harder.  Inside we went to walk on Deck 6.  There were not many people up yet, so it was no problem to walk indoors.  Although, it was difficult to walk at our usual pace on the carpeted portions.  We walked a total of 3 miles. While walking, we took a few pictures of empty venues.

Rain

Theater

Avenue Saloon
While outdoors we saw a large bird on the Promenade Deck.  It didn’t move, other than looking around, in the time that we were outside walking.  We could also see it from our cabin.  Then a Crystal Team member arrived, and the bird had disappeared when we next looked.  Julie would prefer that he encouraged it to quit freeloading and it flew away.

We enjoyed the movie “Hampstead.”  It was a rom-com with Diane Keaton as the female in an unlikely relationship.

Pre-dinner drinks were in the Crystal Cove.  We enjoyed sitting at the bar and chatting with Petar when he had a few moments.  We have enjoyed watching the bartenders making so many amazing looking cocktails.  They do an incredible job!

As a formal evening the dinner selection in Waterside is always amazing. Tonight for appetizers, Julie had White Sturgeon Caviar with Sweet Onion Brûlée (fancy!!) and Bob had a boring, but tasty Commander's Salad with a Selected Salad Bouquet, Tomatoes, Palm Hearts, Asparagus,
Crisp Purple Potato Chips, and Balsamic-Hazelnut Vinaigrette.



While we were eating, Julie observed this incredible sunset out of the dining room window (we were seated in a two-top right by the window):


For second course, we both had an appetizer portion of Spaghetti "Aglio Olio E Peperoncino" with Roasted Garlic, Parsley, Chili Flakes, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil

For the entree, Julie had Broiled Nordic King Crab Legs with Melted Lemon Butter or Sauce Hollandaise, Garden Vegetables, and Saffron Rice Pilaf, while Bob had “Filet of Beef Wellington" in Puff Pastry with Caramelized Shallot Demi-Glace, Glazed Vegetables, and Duchess Potato.



We both had Vanilla Creme Brulee for desert.


After dinner we attended the Captain’s Farewell Reception in the Starlite Club, for just a few minutes and then realized it was almost time for the production show.

The evening’s main show was “Icons in Concert.”  This is a new show to us, and is a tribute to Music Legends.  We thoroughly enjoyed the singing and dancing.



Morning Exercise: 3.1 mi on the Promenade Deck and Deck 6 (during the rain)
Weather: 72 and rainy off and on all day
Seas:  About 6 foot waves, really quite nice.
Breakfast: You know, the usual in the Marketplace
Lectures:
  • Tom Faranda - "The Next Ten Years – Putin’s Russia."
  • Comdr. Jeff Tall OBE RN - “Submarines in the Cold War – from the horse's mouth." 
  • Jon Malay - "Where Sea Meets Sky – Marine Meteorology."
Trivia: Scored 8/17 correct, it's amazing how stupid we are.
Fun Trivia Question: Which wind is a warm southerly coming from the Sahara desert over the Mediterranean?
Movie: "Hampstead" with Diane Keaton
Dinner: The Waterside
Trivia Answer: Sirocco
Daily steps: 13,951
Daily miles: 6.2






Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Day 18 (Jan 29, 2020) – Crystal Symphony – San Diego to Guam – Pohnpei, Micronesia

Sunrise while walking
Today we are in Pohnpei, Micronesia. One of the wettest places on earth with over 300 inches of rainfall per year. It is a very jungly island that came from a volcano. It is surrounded by a coral atoll and very shallow. The Captain decide to "anchor" us near the entrance and to use tenders to get to shore. In our case, "anchoring" isn't possible (we assume because it is so deep), so we are drifting around near the entrance. It is a 45 minute tender ride into the port.


Port and Border people coming on board via a rope ladder

Tender getting ready to go into the water

Tenders going in and out


Water breaking over the reef
Looking around the maps, the port doesn't have much - lots of containers, so one has to take the Crystal provided shuttle (a 20 person van) to the closest town Kolonia (about a 10 minute ride). It doesn't look like there is much in the town either. One important site on the island is Nan Madol which is an architectural site dating back to the 1600's just off the shore of Pohnpei on the east coast. It sounded interesting, but exploration involved wading in the water to get there.

After a lot of consternation on Bob's part (Julie already decided not to go in), he agreed and decided not to go. We did see some pretty incredible bobbing up and down by the tenders, so it probably was an "E-ticket" ride on the way in and out.

Instead of going into port, we spent several hours packing one of our suitcases for the return home. It's a bit tricky since we we have a 12 hour layover in Seoul (from 6:30am to 6:30pm - and we have reserved a transit hotel for those hours), plus 2.5 days in Seattle. Our luggage will be checked through to Seattle and once in Seattle, we'd rather not have to root around in 4 suitcases just to find a change of clothes. So, it has required some planning.

We decided to hit the afternoon movie - "Wolf Hour." Another movie about a person struggling with mental issues and how she deals with it. It seems to be the theme of so many movies this cruise.

Pre-dinner drinks were in the Silk Bar because we were having dinner in Silk, our first opportunity to go to this casual speciality restaurant. Everything is served family style, by placing the dishes in the middle of the table.

For dinner, we decided to order most of the appetizers (Pork Spring Roll, Beef Pot Stickers, Crispy Fried Prawn Dumpling, and a Dim Sum sampler - sorry, we forgot to take a pic). We loved the prawn dumplings and the pot stickers. The others were fine, but if we went back, we'd order those two.




For our entree, we had the Kung Pao Shrimp and the Signature Stir-Fry Beef Tenderloin. These were great! (And yeah, we forgot to take pictures here too).

We decided to skip the show by classical pianist Simon Tedeschi. Instead we went to the room and watched an episode of season 3 of the Crown (we had previously downloaded it before going on the ship). Then we went to the Hollywood Groove Latin Dance show, which was terrific. The only problem is it is in the Starlight, where unless you are in the first row, you simply can't see their feet and steps.


Morning Exercise: 4.0 mi on the Promenade Deck
Weather: Back of Ship Thermometer 78 degrees, TV said the temp was 82 degrees
Seas:  Not too bad,
Breakfast: Omelets and Fruit in The Marketplace (Lucky came through again, making great omelets)
Lectures:
  • Jon Malay - "Ancient Polynesians and the Stars – The History of Marine Navigation." (normally a port day, but there isn't much here, so a 4pm lecture was scheduled by Russ)
Trivia: None
Fun Trivia Question: None
Movie: "Fidler: A Miracle of Miracles” this was at 10:30am (we didn't go) and "The Wolf Hour" at 2:30pm.
Dinner: Silk
Trivia Answer:  None
Daily steps: 20,374
Daily miles: 8.9