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)
  • 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

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Day 17 (Jan 28, 2020) – Crystal Symphony – San Diego to Guam – Tenth Day at Sea

We gained another hour last night (one more to go to Guam).  We were up early, about 5:30am and decided it was a good time to use the self-service laundry.  Only 1 out of the 6 machines was being used.  We were able to snag 4 machines and wash the majority of our clothing.  There are signs posted on the machines that tells you how long it takes for various cycles.  We went out to the Promenade Deck to start walking during the wash cycle.  After moving the clothing to the dryer we finished our walk.  It turned out to be VERY hot and humid. It quickly became really hard to continue on due to the heat.  Julie was happy to come in to the air conditioning and deal with the laundry, while Bob continued walking - 4.1 miles.

A nice sunrise
The special event today is the Mozart Tea, held in the elegant Palm Court.  It is always a nice event, with the servers being dressed in period costume, music, and of course, tasty food items.  Not really needing more food, we opted to go to the movie instead.  We enjoyed “Where’d You Go, Bernadette.”  It won’t win any awards, but had a nice story and wasn't depressing, so that was a win!

The really big news today was the announcement that the Captain made just before 6:00pm that Crystal was canceling the port of Hong Kong due to the Coronavirus outbreak.  Only 150 out of the 750 passengers were scheduled to get off the ship in Guam (we are getting off there).  Obviously most people were continuing on, and Hong Kong was the next big embarkation/disembarkation port.  As you can only imagine, this is the talk of the ship.  Keelung, Taiwan is being substituted.  People are trying to change flight arrangements, considering getting off in other ports (Guam, Manila, etc).  There is definitely a flurry of conversation and activity.  As well, we're sure those that we supposed to embark in Hong Kong are dealing with the change.

Crystal also announced that they would be doing shore side screening of passengers prior to allowing embarkation to the ship, at least for those that had traveled to the affected areas in China.  We’re not sure how health screening will be handled for others.  Crystal is certainly taking this all seriously and protecting the guests and crew to the best of their ability.

Again, our food porn comes from the Waterside restaurant. We both had the same appetizer: Stilton Blue Cheese Cake with Dried Pear Jam, Port Reduction, Caramelized Walnuts. We thought it was ok, but probably wouldn't order it again, there just wasn't enough Stilton flavor for us.

For the second course, Julie had an appetizer portion of the pasta: Tagliatelle Pasta with Tomato Concassé, White Wine, Calamari, Garlic, Parsley and Lemon Oil, while Bob had the Iceberg Wedge with Warm Bacon Dressing, Garlic Croûtons, and Boiled Egg.

For the entree, Julie had Broiled Salmon Fillet with Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes, Fennel, Snow Peas, and Sauce Dijonnaise while Bob had the Grilled Black Angus Sirloin Steak with Sauce Béarnaise (on the side), Stuffed Baked Potato, Broccoli Almondine. Julie loved the salmon, while Bob felt that the steak was WAY TOO BIG. He barely ate half of it.

For dessert, this was one of the first evenings that they offered one of Julie's list of 4 excellent deserts, “Mint Chocolate Trifle” with Mint Mousse, Chocolate Ganache, Cocoa Crumble, and Mint Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream. It's still staying on the list as it's awesome!! Bob had some Triple Caramel ice cream. 

The evening’s entertainment was the Production Show 5,6,7,8.  We always enjoy the production shows, and this was no exception.

Following that was the Crystal Showband performing Dixieland Jazz in the Cove/Atrium.

Behind the band is the Crystal Cove bar, where Petar works. He was on duty and we got a couple of long distance shots of him in action!!

And, no, that wasn’t the end of the evening entertainment – The Crystal Ensemble of Singers & Dancers performed the “Rock & Pop-A-Mania” show in the Starlight Club.

Busy, busy day!!!

Morning Exercise: 4.1 mi on the Promenade Deck
Weather: Back of Ship Thermometer 76 degrees
Seas:  About 12 foot rollers, not too bad
Breakfast: Omelets and Fruit in The Marketplace (so good, but so boring)
  • Dr Richard Turnbull - “Wood, Feathers and Bark:  The Arts of Oceania”
  • Dr Robert Freedman - “Sino-American Relations and the US Challenge in Asia”
  • Dr Barbara Udell - “After 60: Feast on Chocolate, Love, Sexuality, Intimacy and More Chocolate”
Trivia: Scored 11/15 correct, our best showing, Of course, there were two teams tied at 14 right, but we felt pretty good about our score.
Fun Trivia Question: What did the American Red Cross remove from it's classification of blood in 1950?
Movie: ""Where’d You Go, Bernadette” featuring Cate Blanchett.
Dinner: The Waterside
Trivia Answer:  Race
Daily steps: 15,788
Daily miles: 7.3

Monday, January 27, 2020

Day 16 (Jan 27, 2020) – Crystal Symphony – San Diego to Guam – Majuro, Marshall Islands

We arrived in Majuro, the capital and largest city of the Marshall Islands. Majuro is a coral atoll that is roughly rectangular in shape where the land going around the rectangle is 3.7 square miles, while the lagoon in the middle is 114 square miles. We sailed into the lagoon before we got up and slowly made our way to the port for scheduled docking and going ashore at 8am.

The Majuro Atoll, the Dot is our position in the Lagoon while sailing in.

Small coral islands on the sail in.

The dock in Majuro
There are about 27,000 people living on the island and all of the Marshall Islands and its 29 coral atolls has about 58,000 inhabitants. This is a pretty remote area of the world, as they only get about 5,000 visitors per year. When we were disembarking, we heard that this was the first cruise ship in a year.

The Marshalls are famous because they encompass many small islands including Bikini Atoll - the site of the first above ground nuclear testing after WWII in 1946. The US did 67 nuclear tests in this area until 1958.

Majuro is small and does not have any infrastructure for ships tours. Crystal did offer a shuttle bus that would take you the couple of miles up the atoll with four different stops along the way. It seemed that most people decided that this was the way to get a tour and got on the bus and simply rode it up to the last stop and returned. We got off the ship at about 9:15am and decided to ride the shuttle to the last stop, hop out and walk the about 3 miles back to the ship. By the way, the shuttle was a very small school bus that fit about 40 passengers.  Crystal originally had contracted for 3 "buses" to run, but one of them had broken down.

Majuro is clearly a fairly poor environment as things definitely looked run down. Some of that is probably understandable as the tallest point on the island is 10 feet above sea level. So, they are highly susceptible to all of the ravages of the sea. One thing that they have going for them is everyone we interacted with was extremely friendly.

One thing we heard was that there are some predictions that the Marshalls will be under water in 20 years. There is actually a treaty between the Marshalls and the United States that says that anyone may emigrate to the US, so if indeed the seas do rise, they have a place to go. There are about 23K Marshallese in the US, mostly in Hawaii and interestingly Springdale, Arkansas.

Main street on the island

Typical house
One of the stops we made on the way back was the Assumption Church built in 1898. It was a fairly straight forward looking church as you can see from the pictures. But one really cool element was the inlaid tile floor. It was incredibly interesting.

We continued our journey, working our way back to the ship.

Breadfruit tree

The ocean side

A cemetery

Mama pig and piglets

About 10 minutes from the ship, it finally decided to rain on us. Man, did it pour. Fortunately we were prepared and had umbrellas. It was a bit tricky with the wind trying to flip them upside down, but we managed. One cool thing is with it being so warm, the rain was warm and felt pretty good!

We ended up walking for about an hour to get back on the ship. We got back at about 11:30am. Given it was so hot, we went up to deck 11 and had a swim in the pool. It has salt water in it and was cool and refreshing.

We left port at 5:10pm and a number of Majuro children were there to see us off and sing and waive.

Time for a little food porn again. Dinner was again in the Waterside. Julie decided to have for her first course the Lump Crab Salad with Char-Grilled Pineapple, Coconut and Cashew Nuts. For her second course, she had an appetizer portion of the entree Braised Beef Short Ribs with Mashed Potatoes, Olive Oil Roasted Vegetables, Pinot Noir Gravy, Horseradish Cream, and Crispy Fried Onions. Her real entree was a Lobster Cobb Salad with Poached Lobster Chunks, Tomatoes, Celery, Cucumber, Peas, Avocado, Mango, Cheddar Cheese, Crisp Lettuce, Boiled Egg, Bacon Bits and Lemon-Chive Vinaigrette. She thought that they were all terrific.

Bob had for his appetizer the Marinated Cucumber Salad with Sour Cream-Tobiko Dressing and Soft Boiled Egg. For his second course, he chose the Roasted Red Capsicum Soup with Eggplant Tartare. His entree was the Braised Short Ribs. He thought that the soup was amazing with such deep, rich flavors and the Ribs were absolutely terrific.

The after dinner show at 7:30pm was variety showtime in the Galaxy Lounge. This time, they brought back Anna Fegi-Brown and Donny Ray Evins, each doing about a 20 minute set. Donny did some Soul and Anna did a random selection of Pop music. It was a very nice show. Anna is really an incredible talent.

After that, Johannah Jolson, who we saw singing with the show band a couple of nights ago returns with her fiancee/guitarist Guy Hetherington to do a show in the Starlight Club at 8:30pm. It was great. Her voice is fabulous.

Data for Today

Morning Exercise: 2.3 miles, Exercise Machines: Yes (6:30am start time)
Weather: 82 degrees and cloudy skies (high chance of rain) - High 86 feels like 98
Seas: Last night, not too bad. Today we are docked.
Breakfast: Marketplace, bagels and yogurt plus fresh fruit, Ate inside
Talks: (None - Port Day)
Trivia: None (yippee not humiliated today)
Lunch: Marketplace, Salad, ate inside
Movie: "Apollo 11" documentary. We've seen this before, so skipped it.
Dinner: Waterside (see food porn)
Daily steps: 20,056
Daily miles: 8.7