Today we are approaching our final port, Ensenada, Mexico before returning to San Francisco. We do not arrive until four and leave at nine. It’s a quick Jones Act stop and I’m sure many passengers will not leave the Symphony.
I awoke later due to our late nights and traveling East losing hours. I grabbed an Americano and sat outside all alone on deck 7 watching the wake. Not very many walkers passed by. It seems like it will be a lazy sea day for others as well.
I returned to the cabin and snuck in so not to disturb the sleeping teen. That can be like waking a hibernating bear. I grabbed the Ipad to do some writing in the Bistro. I wrote and had a very light breakfast of fruit. Veronica joined me to have coffee and a pastry before trivia.
Trivia was drama free today. We scored 10/15 which once again was respectable but not award winning. After trivia, it was off to the Marketplace for lunch. Rather disappointing selections today. I made a rather boring salad as there was not much vegetable dishes to make it interesting today. Another passenger commented later that lunch was not very good. I think they are just trying to wean us back to reality. It’s probably a good thing for me. Veronica went to the grill for a cheeseburger instead. I think I would’ve gained more weight if the Grill had better French fries. French fries are one of my vices and can be hard to resist. The Trident Grill makes a coated French fry and I am not a fan of those. So thank you, Crystal for helping me! But, there is always the sweet potato fries....
We both decided to read after lunch. Veronica went to Silk to read in one of the swing chairs. I decided to stay in the cabin for reading today. The pool deck was more crowded as it seemed the Hillsdale clan had the day off from lectures. Of course reading turned into nap time for a little bit.
There was no Bingo on the agenda today so we returned to the art class. Before class, we went for a walk to view the shores of Ensenada. We met up with Martha to exchange contact information and say goodbye. They are disembarking today and will be driving across country after the trip to their new home. Veronica and I enjoyed hanging out with them in the evening and will miss them tonight.
Today’s art class was jewelry making. I stopped in Silk to grab a Paloma to take with me to class. We learned how to make a bracelet. We both chose turtles as the focus of our beaded bracelets. A nice reminder of Hawaii. The art instructor, Kitty Donato is a real sweetheart. She is perfect for the job. Very calming, relaxing presence that is perfect for an artistically challenged student like myself.
After our jewelry making, we returned to the cabin to dress for dinner. After I dressed, I went to the Avenue Saloon to sit on “our couch” to wait for Veronica. I decided to change up my usual cocktail and try an Aviation. Very refreshing. I sample a canapé from “Mr. Chow” as delightful bar waiter. He was introduced on the first day to us by Ricky and Giovanni from Silk as “Mr Chow” and it has stuck. I told him I’d help make his tray lighter as it was pretty full. Veronica appeared and ordered a fruit punch this evening to take to dinner.
Dinner was in Waterside and of course we sat with Viktor. Tonight, we sampled some of his recommendations but as usual I had to try my own things as well. It has become the running joke of dinner. We both started with the asparagus salad. I enjoyed it but Veronica thought it was just a salad. Veronica then had the veal carpaccio which was recommended and she did enjoy it. Viktor did not recommend the seared scallop starter but I enjoy scallops so I decided to see why he does not like it. I thought it was cooked nicely but he was correct that it is more blackened than the traditional seared look. I enjoyed it but I could see why some passengers might not. Veronica chose the gnocchi as her main course and it was also Viktor’s recommendation. I joked that I could get a dish like that at home so I wanted something different. I chose the seafood stew with a curry flavor. I asked if it could be made hotter and he brought me Tabasco with my dish. Perfect. It was really flavorful with the extra heat.
Viktor also placed another pasta dish between us. He stated the gnocchi were not getting good reviews from passengers tonight so he wanted Veronica to try this. The gnocchi were a tad bland for my liking. Veronica did enjoy the bonus pasta. She said she thought that pasta was better than Prego. I think with the great Italian food of the area in which we live, it makes us rather tough critics of Italian fare. For dessert, Viktor asked if I enjoy crepe Suzette. I told him that I do so he prepared that for Veronica and me as a special treat. It was not one of the menu items that evening. He brought a side dish of ice cream for Veronica as well. Very good dessert and we both enjoyed that special treat.
After dinner, we went outside to see the lights of Ensenada. There was a fountain show we could see in the distance and we watched that for a bit until showtime. Tonight’s show was Broadway Stars in Concert with Andrea Burns, Aaron Lazar and Jamila. They are all very talented Broadway stars who we enjoyed. After that, we went to see the comedy show.
The comedy show was in the Starlite Club tonight. The comedian was Ritch Shydner.
Veronica thought this set was funnier as it wasn’t so marriage focused. He made a reference to South Jersey so I clapped. He asked where I was from so I gave my husband some credit and said “Carney’s Point.” I wanted to see how South Jersey he truly was. His face was shocked for a second and said “I’m from Pennsville. Can we share a ride home?” Small world.
After the show, DJ Danya started some line dances. We spoke with her earlier and promised we’d help her get some people dancing. We did three different line dances with her and a few passengers. We wanted to visit with Howard, one of the dance hosts before the evening ended so we popped up to Palm Court for the last fifteen minutes of dancing. I had a couple dances with Howard and David before the last song. We returned to DJ Danya at midnight to find the floor empty. So it was off to Avenue Saloon to get a nightcap from Priscilla to go back to the cabin to enjoy. Veronica also grabbed a popcorn to take back from the theater. We both enjoyed our drinks, cognac for me and a ginger ale for Veronica while we read our books. Another relaxing day at sea in the books
Another day a sea on our way to Ensenada. I started my morning at the Bistro for some coffee and writing. It is very quiet this morning.
After writing, Veronica and I went outside to see the weather at the pool. The pool was sloshing about and it was chilly. I really thought it would be warmer. We went over to Silk to read inside and peruse the evening’s menus. There we finally met Tom and Ed. We enjoyed a delightful discussion about cruising. They are very charming gentlemen who I enjoyed talking with this morning. We chatted until it was time for trivia.
We lost our teammates to a private dance lesson so we were just the two of us again. We did ok scoring 9/15. Had our first trivia drama though when the woman on the team we switched papers with accused us of marking their answers incorrectly wrong. She really got a nasty tone with my daughter. Uncool. The answers were just wrong. I knew she would be mad when I saw her clap excitedly when she thought her team had Midsummer’s Night Dream right but they put Eve, not dream. Trivia has been competitive with no partial credit so it wasn’t correct. They still would have needed three more right to even win. Close sweetheart, maybe next time. Some people need to just enjoy the vacation. Maybe the motto “Enjoy your day and if you can’t don’t mess up anyone else’s” would be one to learn.
After trivia, we went to the Marketplace for lunch. It was taco day so Veronica enjoyed her lunch. I made a large salad and was excited to use guacamole as my dressing. The wait for guacamole became pure comedy. I patiently waited while others behind me gave up. Passengers came from the other side of the buffet with tacos on the hunt for avocado deliciousness. I was in too deep to give up the wait. I had to see how it turned out. Veronica texted she was almost done her lunch. When I brought my meal out to the Silk lounge area, a woman at a table recognized me from the line. She cracked up at how long the wait for guacamole took. It was a great salad so it was worth it. After lunch, I tried a Ginger Rasp Fizz. A very light cocktail.
I decided to grab a blanket and my book to read in the sheltered part of the pool. It was so quiet but chilly. I took a quick nap to prepare for the strenuous activity of Bingo. I watched the end of the East Coast Swing class waiting for Bingo to start. We were not successful today but had fun trying.
We returned to our cabin to dress for our final Black Tie optional night. Veronica was ready first this evening and waited for me in the Avenue Saloon. I decided to be festive this evening and try a Lush champagne. Very lovely champagne cocktail with elderflower.
We walked to dinner at Waterside but stopped to take some portraits since we were both dressed in our formal attire.
The dinner in Waterside was fantastic. Viktor made some great recommendations as usual and changed our minds from our initial thoughts. We both started with a double order of caviar. It is served with the traditional blini, creme fraiche, egg and onion. The caviar did not disappoint. I chose a glass of champagne to enjoy with my caviar. We were going to skip a soup course but Viktor insisted we have soup this evening. Veronica chose the cream of asparagus while I selected the Consommé double “Dubarry” which had a cauliflower panna cotta. Both soups were excellent. Viktor wins again! For dessert, Veronica stuck with Viktor’s recommendation of La Pergola which is a chocolate coffee mousse cake with homemade vanilla ice cream, whiskey espuma and raspberries. She liked it. I decided to be adventurous and try the lemon and blueberry trifle. It wasn’t the most flavorful dessert so I think Viktor was spot on tonight. We posed with our wonderful dining team for some photos after our dinner.
Tonight’s show was a production show, Speakeasy. To gain entry, one needed the password to get inside. I joked the password was “Carnival” but then gave the correct one. I ordered a Sidecar as it was the first Prohibition cocktail that popped into my head. Very fun show. Brett danced in the aisle near us so we gave him a cheer. He gave us a smile in return. Another great show, Brett!
After the show, we decided to go dancing. We met up with Martha and Daniel. We enjoyed a few dances but we wanted to go to karaoke in the Avenue with Priscilla and DJ Danya. I think Martha resembles Gloria Estefan so I convinced her to sing “Rhythm is Gonna Get You” tonight. She is a very nice singer. The amazing Aaron Lazar sang with his father and also did some Bon Jovi. I’m glad he left before I sang. How can anyone follow him? He’s so talented. Priscilla wanted me to sing so I convinced her to join me for “Copacabana”. I’d like to offer my apologies if I tortured you with my rendition. We closed out the evening with “Don’t Stop Believing” as a group. Fun times! We talked to DJ Danya for a bit and it was 2:00am when we crawled into our beds. Wait...it was really 3am!! Good thing it’s a sea day tomorrow!
Another good morning from the Pacific Ocean. Today, I decided to skip my walk and sleep in later with the time change. Losing the hours is not as much fun for for sure.
I went to the Bistro for some coffee and fruit while I wrote. I did try a pastry this morning that I think is the Portuguese style cake that gets raves on Cruise Critic. I had pastel de Belem on our first trip to Portugal (which was on Crystal) and became obsessed with them. This has similar appearance but is more muffin/cake like. The filling is quite yummy as well but overall the texture isn’t the same. It’s a nice nod to them though and thankfully for my waistline they aren’t exactly the same. A great treat with my fruit and coffee this morning.
After breakfast, Veronica texted to meet at the Movie Making Made Fun: Writing a Screenplay. She went and had breakfast at the Marketplace and said she would meet me me there. I walked to Avenue Saloon and saw Veronica sitting. Who was the instructor? The seat stealer from last night. I whisper to Veronica that she could’ve texted me that. As awkward as I felt, I decided to stay because I know I have the next great screenplay inside my head after all. It was a small class with only about ten of us. I did learn a few strategies and the software I would need to purchase. The seat thief didn’t acknowledge us and we left right away at the end. I doubt we will attend his next class which is an “air drop party” (for those who are not tech savvy this is where you can send pictures directly to other devices on the same WiFi network) but Veronica joked about hanging near by and sending funny pictures.
After lunch, we returned to the cabin so I could write a bit more. Veronica did some reading. Trivia was approaching and we needed to mentally prepare after all. We thought we would be a team of two again our friends showed up about 4 questions in and helped us out. We scored 10/15 which was a three way tie for first. The tie breaker was how many words are in the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets? Sad to lose when we are such Potter fans. By the way it is NOT a trick question. All teams asked if it was!
After trivia we decided to go to Marketplace for lunch. I made a salad and Veronica decided to go back to Trident Grill and get a cheeseburger. The vegetables today were not very exciting with lots of cheese type dishes. I decided to get a garden burger. Earlier in the trip, I asked if the garden burger contained cheese inside as most of the Gardenburger brand do. I was told it did not. I didn’t notice it the first time but it was more well done and crunchy. Today, it was mushy and I could see the orange bits that Gardenburger sometimes has. I don’t understand why to have a vegetarian burger with cheese inside when you can easily melt it on top. So my vegan friends, always ask and Crystal, switch to a bean burger!
After lunch, I went for some tea and a stroll inside the ship. I watched a bit of the foxtrot class and read some of my book. Of course, at 3:15 I had to meet Veronica for Bingo. A fun game but unsuccessful at this time.
We were not that excited about the dinner selections in Waterside so we called to see if we could dine in Umi Uma, the Japanese restaurant. They only had a nine o’clockreservation which we decided to take. Growing up with a 5:00 dinner on the table each night by my grandmother, this would be the latest I’ve dined. Veronica brought me some chips and salsa to tide me over before I showered and changed for the evening.
I went to Avenue Saloon to wait for Veronica and I ordered us both Lonely Mules, a non alcoholic version of the Moscow Mule. It was nice and spicy for me but I’m not sure if Veronica enjoyed it as much.
We decided to go to the early show at 7:30 to see comedian, Ritch Shydner. He was funny but Veronica thought he talked to much about marriage. She’s right, they were his only real jokes. It was more funny when two little girls sat next to us and we overheard the comments from other passengers about kids. These girls were sitting alone next to us in the front row and I’m not sure if others thought I was the nanny for all of them. We sat near the same girls for the first comedian who picked on them so I think they wanted to be stars of the show again.
After the comedian, we dashed to the 8:30 showing for “Jump & Swing-A-Mania” which is a variety performance by the Crystal Showband and Ensemble. Another fine performance. Great job, Brett! You looked fabulous!
The show ended right before nine and we were just steps away from Umi Uma. If I didn’t mention, Umi Uma is designed by Chef Nobu. It has an amazing menu and the sushi is spectacular. We decided to skip the sushi since we had some yesterday at the Gala Buffet. We both started with our own order of the lobster tempura as we both enjoyed it immensely last visit. We wanted to try something new so we shared the Soft Shelled Crab Spring rolls. These were ok but not a favorite for us. The portions are perfect here to try new things. We wanted to eggplant but we were informed they were out. We both wanted to try the mushroom soup. It is presented in a tea kettle with a small cup to sip the broth and chopsticks to pick out the mushrooms. Very great flavor and nice variety of mushrooms. We both preferred this the the Prego soup but we both enjoy lighter soups. Veronica decided to be different tonight and order the Wagyu filet. She said it was now the best steak of the trip. It is served with three sauces and her favorite was the teriyaki. I was a creature of habit and returned to the Nobu Lobster for my entree which was a tasty as the first time. For dessert, I ordered the fruit plate again but Veronica tried the chocolate soufflé dessert which is more like chocolate melting cake then a true soufflé to her disappointment. She still enjoyed it and really liked the sesame ice cream that came with the cake. Another great meal in Umi Uma!
We walked around the ship after our late meal. The Avenue Saloon was busy this evening. We made our way up to Palm Court to have a drink before returning to our cabin.
In the cabin, we finished the movie, IT. Yikes! That movie freaked me out. Clowns give me the heebie jeebies. Now, my closet door made quite the noise the first night. It shook at frequent intervals all night so I asked if it could be fixed. I thought to myself of my Grandmother who on a cruise in the 70s or early 80s, had a noisy cabin on I think a Holland America ship. She told me how she snuck out early in the morning hours and slept in a lounge. Thankfully, I did not have to do this. It was fixed the next morning. The door became difficult to open with the repair and I still had to slightly crack it to not hear shaking. As the cruise has progressed, the door has become easier to open. Last night, I was awoken with some rather violent shaking from the closet like something or someone really wanted out. Too freaky after such a scary movie!
Falling back into the lovely routine of sea days is so relaxing. My day started once again with a few miles around the deck. It was very windy this morning.
Veronica and I decided to skip breakfast because today is the Gala Buffet.
The Gala buffet is an extravaganza that the culinary team sets up in the cove area. It is a wide variety of appetizers, salads, pasta, entrees, seafood, sushi, breads, fruits and desserts. You can find ice and food sculptures decorating the tables. A feast for the eyes as well as the palate. They allow pictures at 11:30 and begin serving at noon. After we took pictures, we decided to play trivia and then attend the buffet.
Trivia was hosted by Brett today. He had told us it was his first time and he did very well. People can take trivia very seriously I warned him. We teamed up with Martha and Daniel who we met because of this blog. We scored 9/15 which was second place! The winners had 10 correct. So close yet again.
The buffet was waiting for Veronica so we headed down to sample the delights. I made a big salad but topped it with lobster tails and a couple pieces of sushi. Veronica tried the roast beef, lobster and eggs Benedict. After seeing all the desserts, we went back to get some sweets. I walked around and admired them but I’m not much of a dessert fan. So instead I placed a little more sushi and a lobster tail on my plate. Veronica returned with fruit tarts and chocolate covered fruit. We both saw Viktor manning the cheese stations. He unsuccessfully tried to get us to sample the cheese. Our waiter asked Veronica if she liked chocolate and when she said yes, off he ran. He returned with three of his favorites. I tasted a small bite of each and they were all quite lovely. Veronica sampled them as well.
After our gala lunch, we returned to the cabin. Veronica stayed inside to read while I changed into my bathing suit to head up to the pool deck. The pool was rather empty so I picked one of my favorite couches to read my book. After a bit, I went into the hot tub. It felt very warm so I decided to try the pool. This was the first day the water felt cold. I did a few laps and it was back to my spot to read. I ordered a Pimm’s Cup to sip while reading. I decided to take a quick pool nap before Bingo. A girl needs to rest before the strenuous activity of Bingo!
Bingo was fun and successful again. Veronica got to yell Bingo on the second game. She completed the crazy bow tie but so did another passenger so they had to split the pot. Playing Bingo brings back fond memories of playing with my grandmother on my first cruise. She was quite the bingo queen in her day. I always enjoyed playing with her. It was nice to feel that connection.
After bingo it was time to prepare for dinner. I went to an empty Avenue Saloon to wait for Veronica. I sipped a gin martini and sampled some great guacamole.
Dinner tonight was in Waterside. We both started with the escargot. Veronica thought it was good however I find the version at Le Bistro on NCL to be superior. Then, I had the chicken consommé while Veronica had the goat cheese and hazelnut ravioli. This was on Viktor’s recommendation and Veronica’s favorite. She stated she could eat a whole bowl of it. For our mains I chose the monkfish while Veronica had the steak mermaid. The monk fish was prepared fine but I was not a fan of the garnish of mainly olives. Veronica thought the steak was better than her steak in Prego. The shrimp was very tasty. Viktor also brought a sea bass for me to try. It had more flavor but it was a very heavy dish with a cream sauce. I couldn’t eat more than two bites. For dessert, Viktor helped Veronica choose the apple strudel. I tasted one bite and it was excellent. I had the prickly pear sherbet with mixed berries which was refreshing.
After dinner, we saw the 8:30 showing of the Latin Dance Show in the Starlite Club. Another high energy performance with lots of fast costume changes. I have really enjoyed watching all of their performances.
Tonight in the theater was renowned concert pianist, Phillip Wojciechowski. He is amazing. He did classical music as well as some interesting arrangements of classical fused with jazz. I did have to leave during the show briefly. I figured this would happen so we sat in the far back. Upon returning, my seat was taken. A man had asked Veronica if it was taken and she told him yes and nodded. He plopped down anyway. I returned to see it taken. There was no room so I stood in the back listening to the rest of the performance. I did not want Veronica to miss out on the music. She enjoyed it very much. I met up with her afterwards and she said the man was wearing a name tag. Wow. I really think he should’ve returned my seat then for sure.
Afterwards, we went to visit Priscilla in the Avenue Saloon for a nightcap. We ordered our drinks and who should walk in but the seat stealer. He came over and said “Sorry about the seat. There was plenty of room. Truly.” I saw inches of space. I would have been squashed in rubbing thighs for sure. To which I told him not that I saw and my daughter did tell you it was taken (seriously why ask if you’d sit anyway but often young girls get ignored). He sat right next to us and turned his back away from me. Awkward. We decided to take our drinks to go and return to the cabin. It is another hour lost tonight as we travel back.
Twenty thousand and forty minutes, how can you measure, measure a cruise? In sea days, in port days in cocktails and dining. In smiles and dancing, enrichment and friendship...
Today, we return to glorious sea days. After the busy experiences of port, sea days are perfect to relax and still have fun. I slept a bit later due to losing an hour so I headed out on deck to walk. Walking on a cruise ship might sound boring but I’ve been treated to an array of interesting sites. I have seen spectacular sunrises, rainbow, fish or dolphins playing and while rounding the bow, some very attractive male crew members working out very creatively by the pool. How can that be boring?
I decided today I would let my teenager get some much needed rest. I remember the days of being able to sleep endlessly. I let our cabin stewardess know that she could skip our cabin until after dinner and went down to the Bistro for some coffee. I did some writing as I sipped my coffee. I snuck back to the cabin to return my items and went out for another walk. I knew Veronica would want to play trivia so I returned around 11:30 to wake her up.
We did really well at trivia scoring 12/15 but one team scored 14 correct. Of course they had a full team so I think for 2 of us we are doing just fine!
After trivia, we headed up to the Marketplace for lunch. Today’s theme was Mediterranean which is one of my favorites. I made a large salad but used hummus as a dressing. I added a few Spanish style potatoes and falafel to the salad. Best lunch salad yet.
After lunch, I decided to try the dance class. It was an intermediate American Waltz class taught by the Latin Dance quartet. They did a nice job but I wasn’t enjoying one of my partners so I left the class. The step was a very familiar one that is taught often before dances at home and waltz is not my favorite dance.
I went back to the cabin. Veronica was reading as she brought her summer required reading with her. I asked her if she’d like to try Bingo and she agreed. Bingo was fun especially since I won the first game and didn’t have to split the prize. That always makes it more fun. She wants to play again so I might have created a monster!
After Bingo, Veronica went up on deck while I dressed for dinner. While I was finishing up, she returned to shower and change. I told her I’d meet at Avenue Saloon as it is close to Prego where we would be dining. The lovely Priscilla was there and quickly brought me my Bombay martini. She’s a doll. All of the crew provide great service but I feel at times some give that little something extra or I just connect with them. That is one of the things I really enjoy about cruises.
Veronica arrived and it was off to Prego for our 6:30 reservation. Prego is the upscale Italian specialty dining restaurant. Each guest is allotted a number of visits to Prego and Umi Uma depending on the length of the voyage. Although this is my third Crystal cruise, I have yet to try Prego. With a longer voyage, I felt I should give it a try since it gets lots of raves from passengers.
We were greeted and escorted to our table for two. It is a very nice atmosphere but the table was very close to others. Veronica and I have actually enjoyed this because sometimes you meet nice people or just overhear interesting conversation. It helps make the cruise memorable. The woman next to us was fanning herself non-stop which I could feel as we were close together. We could easily tell by their conversation that they were part of the Hillsdale conservative contingent on board. The woman also remarked how she hates children. Veronica found that funny. She’s a good sport.
So time to talk food.
I have to say that I was underwhelmed by Prego. Maybe the expectations were too high? We can get very good Italian food on the East Coast (Shout out to New Jersey) and this also was a factor in our critique.
I ordered the octopus and lobster starter and Veronica chose the Caprese salad. I think she chose her starter because I had raved about the tomatoes at lunch. The octopus and lobster was excellent. Veronica thought the tomatoes were just OK. I sampled one and found it rather bland and mealy. We decided to share a beef carpaccio as this always gets high marks. The beef was excellent but we both felt they overdressed it. It had too much olive oil in addition to a sauce, balsamic vinegar, capers and Parmesan cheese. For the soup course, I convinced Veronica to order the Cream of Mushroom, another fan favorite. I selected the minestra primavera which was great. Loved the variety of vegetables as well as the amount of seasoning. I did taste her mushroom soup. We both liked the variety of mushrooms in the soup but it’s cream of mushroom. It’s hard to really make it that special.
For our entrees, I chose the spaghetti “Pescatore” while Veronica ordered the filet. The pasta was cooked nicely and the sauce had a definite heat from chili that I enjoyed. I thought the seafood pasta ratio was disappointing. It was a rather small amount of seafood. Veronica’s filet was cooked to a nice medium rare. She wasn’t a fan of the sabayon on the steak. She said it was good but nothing spectacular. Earlier, I had posted on Cruise Critic that it was White Party night and Prego was probably a bad idea. Yes, I jinxed myself. I had a few small drops of tomato sauce on my pristine white blouse. I know I like black for a reason. We looked at the dessert menu. Everything was cream or cheese which I do not enjoy after eating a plant based diet. There was a sorbet but I really didn’t want dessert. Veronica decided to try the deconstructed cannoli. I told her to order and I would run back to the cabin to try to wash my shirt. I was successful in removing the stains but it needed to dry. When I returned, Veronica had left. We met up on the stairs. She said the cannoli wasn’t great because the texture was very grainy. The service was a tad on the slow side compared to the other meals so far as well. I’m glad we tried the restaurant but I doubt I will return in the future. I personally really enjoy the Modern menu in Waterside with a few Classics dabbled in. I think it is more creative and interesting. We are both big fans of Asian food and I find that style more difficult to prepare at home. The food in Prego while good is somewhat boring to me. But that is why Crystal offers choices and choice is a good thing!
Tonight’s entertainment was Crystal on Broadway The Show. It is a production show featuring three musicals, Something Rotten, West Side Story and Rent. As I have said, I’m not the biggest fan of Broadway. I watched the opening number and whispered to Veronica I was going to go dry my shirt so I could wear it to the party later. I snuck quietly out the back and returned during the end of West Side Story with a clean, dry shirt. I watched all of the Rent numbers. The performers are very talented and it does give you a taste of the shows. Something Rotten is coming to the Playhouse in Delaware so Veronica is now interested in attending.
It was then off the the White Party where the cruise director said is the biggest party of the cruise and would go until dawn. The atrium area was decorated in white and white themed drinks and snacks were passed around. The showband performed with the Latin Dancers. The dance floor was also open for dancing. I did a few dances with the hosts but the highlight for me was dancing with the cruise director, Shane. He asked me to dance before a song even started. That’s a gamble. It was a disco hit and after a few disco type steps, he suggested a triple swing. What a workout he gave me! He’s a fine dancer with some great steps. He navigated the floor well and even gave me a big triple spin. He later asked me to dance again to Proud Mary done Tina Turner style. Another great workout with lots of spins and a dip at the end. Bravo Shane!
After all the fun dancing, Veronica and I returned to the cabin. I was determined to finish I, Tonya. We ordered a little snack to share from room service which helped me stay awake. Around two we finished the movie! Time to get some rest with the seas rocking me to sleep.
After a busy day in Hilo, the cancellation of our tour today might be a blessing in disguise. We were scheduled to do Fantastic Race Kona which takes you on a race against other teams with puzzles at various sites. After feeling the temperature and the air quality, I was thankful not to be running around. Veronica and I are very competitive and would’ve gone full out I’m sure.
Our new day was much more relaxating. Kona is a tender port so we took the short ride into town around 8:30 to have breakfast. I was thinking a Kona coffee and maybe a pastry but we passed a sign for açaí bowls and other vegan delights. We had been both wanting to try an açaí bowl in Hawaii so the choice was made. The Barefoot Zone had a large menu with vegan, vegetarian and other options as well. We both chose the Half and Half bowl with had both açaí and pitaya mixed together. They were topped with apple banana, pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, coconut, granola, honey and bee pollen. So refreshing on a sticky day. I had been missing a breakfast like this so it hit the spot.
We strolled around the streets and found some Kona coffee to try. Veronica had an iced coffee while I chose hot. We purchased some to bring home for gifts. We browsed some shops and decided to walk to the Kona Brewing Company. We started to walk and decided to turn around. The heat was getting intense as well as the fog. The air was so thick and heavy. It was stifling. Back to the oasis of the Crystal Symphony and air conditioning that is called the Crystal Breeze!
We relaxed in the cabin for bit. I did some writing while Veronica watched a movie. We decided to have lunch on the lido deck. I went into the Marketplace and continued my plant based meal with a huge salad. However, since I didn’t get my beer ashore, I decided to get a wonderful Belgian beer, La Fin Du Monde which translates to “the end of the world.” With the fog creating a spooky atmosphere, I thought it appropriate. It’s a great beer but it is a sipper for me at 9% alcohol content. Veronica had another hot dog with some sweet potato fries. It must be a sign that Crystal has a decent hot dog that she chose the option two days in a row!
After lunch, I decided to get some more walking done while Veronica went back to the room. When I returned, I asked if she wanted to hit the pool with me and maybe have a “pool nap.” She opted for a cabin nap instead. I went up to the pool. The pool was barely refreshing but helped a little. I ordered a drink of the day which was an elderflower tonic, basically a G&T with some elderflower.
I read my book and sipped my drink but couldn’t last more than 30 pages. It was so hot. I was in desperate need of a shower so back to the cabin.
Tonight was our second Black Tie Optional night so we took a little more time to prepare for dinner. After I finished dressing, I went to Starlite Club for a drink and to watch some dancing. I was spotted by the hosts and did have one dance even though I wasn’t sure how my shoes would be. Waiting for Veronica, I had a delightful chat with two passengers in the Hillsdale College group. We saw these women waiting to board in San Francisco and I had been admiring them during the cruise. Why? They are identical twins and have dressed exactly the same every time I have seen them even their workout attire is matching! I will not share their age but I thought they were much younger. The comedian poked fun at the Doublemint girls so that is how I learned their names, Glenda and Lenda. I assume that is the spelling as it is how they pronounce it. I noticed they were drinking different cocktails so that is how we started chatting. That is one of the few differences they have, cocktails and men. They are quite the cruisers but this is their first Crystal cruise and they loved it.
After a fun conversation, it was off to Waterside to see our favorite waiter, Viktor. Tonight I chose the Lobster, scallops and mushroom strudel for a starter followed by the Vegetable Salad Nicoise. For my main course, the Pacific Fish Curry. It was the first night that I ordered all Crystal Classics. The all inclusive white wine was a Chablis which I am not too familiar with but I do know a Cruise Critic member who enjoys this variety so I tried it. Very nice. Veronica started with the Opakapaka Snapper Ceviche and the French Onion Soup. She chose the Modern cuisine for her main of Pan Fried King Fish. We both enjoyed all the selections. For dessert, it was a Pistachio-Chocolate Delice for Veronica and mixed berries for myself. After seeing Viktor’s face, I said, “OK. Bring me some of your Grandmother’s homemade cookies as well.” If you have never ordered this, a big selection of small cookies are brought to the table for you to select. A perfect small bite if you are not a big dessert fan.
We walked around for bit before the show. We were standing by a window and noticed a man motioning us over to his table. They were a younger couple I had not previously seen. He asked if I was the “writer of the blog.” They introduced themselves and told us they boarded in Oahu. His wife said this was their first cruise ever and she had been reading my blog before they left. She said it was helpful to her in preparing for the cruise. We chatted for a bit about cruising. I think they chose a wonderful first cruise!
Tonight’s show was Andrea Burns, “Award Winning Vocalist” which is part of the Broadway at sea shows. She had a great voice but we did duck out early. We sat all the way in the back so it was very discrete. If Veronica wanted to stay, I would have but I am not the biggest Broadway fan so when she whispered to leave, I followed. I did hear the song selection turned more modern at the end and it had good reviews from passengers.
Veronica wanted to go finish IT in the cabin. I’m not a fan of clowns as some might know so I chose to go dancing instead. I ended up staying until the last song of the evening enjoying the dance hosts company. We had spoken earlier to DJ Danya who would be hosting karaoke in the Avenue Saloon later. I peeked in and my new friends from earlier called my name.
Then, Priscilla my favorite server called me in as well. She told me I missed her singing and that she sang Aerosmith’s “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” Whoa. That sounded legit. Both my new cruise critic friends and Priscilla kept asking for me to sing. Dancing...yes. Singing...no. I gave in and performed a song with many difficult lyrics to learn, Tequila. I realized that it was 12:30 and we move the clocks forward tonight. I’d better return to the cabin as I have a demanding sea day tomorrow.
I awoke early before we docked so I decided to walk while enjoying the sights of arriving into Hilo. I took pictures of a wonderful morning sun and then as I turned a corner I saw a rainbow. This was a sign of the magical day ahead.
After 3 miles, it was time to wake the teenager. We had a quick and light breakfast in the Marketplace. Ricky’s tours was picking us up in the terminal at 8:30.
We found Ricky waiting for us in the terminal and he took us to his van which was more like a bus. We were to be his only two guests today. VIP baby!
He drove us along Banyan drive to see the tree planted by different celebrities such as Babe Ruth and Amelia Earhart. We then stopped at Liliuokalani Park and Gardens. It is a beautiful park decorated with Japanese statues and bridges. Ricky said he usually gives 20 minutes there but we could do longer since we were his only guests. We did the entire path around the park. The fish and crabs were entertaining to watch as we crossed the little bridges and stones.
Next stop was Rainbow Falls. This was a nice quick stop to get a picture. We could see the rainbows the falls made. After some pictures, we hopped back in the van for a 30 minute drive to Akatsuka Orchid Gardens.
The Orchid Garden stop was our least favorite stop. The flowers are beautiful but after a quick stroll around we were ready to go. If you wanted to buy an orchid, you can have it shipped Fed Ex. We did see one orchid that when it is in bloom is $20, 000. Yikes!
Mauna Loa Factory was our next stop. There you could sample dozens of different varieties of macadamia nuts. They were tasty! We enjoyed the sriracha and Maui onion varieties. We made some purchases. They have a snack bar and this is where Ricky stops for lunch. I think we were slightly ahead of schedule since we did not stay long at the orchid garden. I wasn’t very hungry and neither was Veronica. She did try a macadamia nut ice cream bar dipped in chocolate and rolled in macadamia nuts. She said it was alright but nothing special. We met Ricky at the van and he gave us cold bottled water as well as some chips to snack on.
We made the drive back towards Hilo. Ricky took a scenic road which was very windy with lots of one lane bridges. He stopped a lookout point for a quick photo. From there it was on to Akaka Falls State Park.
Ricky asked if we’d like to go down to see it on the short hike. Yes please! He purchased the tickets and off we went. It is a .4 mile hike that you can see Kahuna Falls and the towering Akaka Falls, 442 feet of pure beauty and power. It is one of the most famous waterfalls in Hawaii. You can see it in the opening part of Jurassic Park. Well worth the stairs and climb to see this stunning site!
Ricky magically appeared after we returned and we made our way to Richardson Beach Park. It is the closest black sand beach to Hilo. Turtles are commonly seen here but alas no turtles were seen. Ricky taught us about the black sand which is lava and how there is bits of green in the sand as well which is olivine crystals. It looked like a popular spot with small coves and tide pools for kids to swim in.
It was back to the Crystal Symphony. I would highly recommend Ricky’s Tours. He has a wealth of knowledge about Hawaii. He narrated the entire trip. He taught us about the other islands, Hawaiian rulers, volcanos, flowers and his own family history. A great guy so if you are ever on the Big Island, give him a try. The price for our private tour couldn’t be beat!!!
We were a little hungry after the tour so we went to lunch at Trident Grill. We had not sampled their food yet so I tried a garden burger and Veronica had a hot dog. A nice quick lunch. I went for another walk while Veronica napped. I came back to dress and shower for dinner and then woke my girl from her rest. While she dressed, I went to the Cove to have a cocktail and enjoy some piano music before dinner. Tonight, I tried the Grapefruit Negroni. It was a slightly more mellow version of the classic. Veronica joined me ordered the L’air du temps.
We dined in Waterside with our favorite waiter Viktor once again. We both ordered all our dishes from the Modern side of the menu. We both started with the Ahi Tuna Tartar and Scallop Crudo. Veronica had the prosciutto di Parma and I chose the clear soup which was Pheasant Essence. For our mains, Veronica chose the venison tender loin and I had the seared Tiger prawns. Viktor also brought us the pan fried calf’s liver which he told us reminded him of his grandmother’s preparation from the Ukraine. How could we not try it? The garnishes were outstanding and Viktor teased us about not leaving any of the onions. The liver itself was probably the best I’ve tried but I cannot say I’m a fan. Veronica thought it was good but she was full from the venison which she preferred. For dessert, I had mixed berries and Veronica had opera cake.
I heard you could see the volcano from the other side of the dining room. While waiting for dessert, I popped up to the promenade deck to snap a photo. This was a small tease of the night ahead.
After another fantastic meal, we went up to deck 12 to watch the lava flow. We were there around 8:45 and quite a crowd was gathering. It was spectacular. I was completely in awe of the beauty and power of this sight. The only thing I compare it to is watching the glaciers in Alaska. One of the lecturers provided commentary from the bridge. The smell fo the gasses was intense but I couldn’t pull myself away from the railing. The red lights, clouds rising up, all against the black darkness with the sounds of the sea mad this a once in a lifetime thing to witness and I couldn’t take my eyes off it. We stayed in viewing range for 30 minutes but had to leave due to the engines overheating from the water temperature.
Tonight’s show was Imagine by Illuminate. It is a show designed by from America’s got Talent. It is a dance show but in the dark. The dancers wear costumes that light up that weigh 20 pounds each. The choregraphy is very intricate as all the dancers are on stage in the dark at once. A great light show but how can you follow Mother Nature’s show we just witnessed?
Veronica went back to the cabin but I took a quick stroll about. I grabbed us some popcorn from the theater and returned to get a little more of I, Tonya completed. Well, there’s always tonight.
This morning we awoke to find ourselves off the shores of Maui. We cannot dock in the harbor so we must take a short tender ride to the island. We decided to have room service deliver a light breakfast and to serve as an alarm for our day.
We only had a few steps and we were at our meeting point for Trilogy Excursions. I had pre-booked a catamaran snorkel to Olowalu which is a turtle cleaning station. Our captain informed us that due to the surf and cloudiness he would be taking us the the Slaughterhouse instead. That sounded scary but I had faith it would be great.
As soon as we boarded the catamaran, they had Kona coffee, pineapple juice and water available. We grabbed some drinks and headed up on deck. It is a well designed vessel with bench seating and tables on deck for everyone. Each seat is fantastic. As soon as we were underway and had a safety briefing, the crew came around with Mom Coon’s Cinnamon Rolls and refills. They were superb. Tropical fruits were passed around next including the wonderful Maui Gold pineapple. We had a rather roller coaster ride and was hit with a little spray on the way to the snorkel site for a few minutes of the trip.
What an phenomenal site for snorkeling. The water clarity was astounding and we saw so many different fish. Veronica even spotted a turtle but alas I missed it. After snorkeling for one hour, we climbed aboard. The captain had been grilling our lunch. They served Captain Coon’s hot BBQ teriyaki chicken, rice, fresh tossed salad with Mom’s secret dressing and a roll. It really tasted great after the snorkeling.
We put up the sails for part of the ride back. The crew came around with ice cream with chocolate sauce for dessert. Cocktails, including their homemade mai tais, and Kona brewing company beers were served. I had one very strong mai tai. The beers were a very popular choice as well. After Veronica had her ice cream, we decide to lie across the nets for the rest of the way to the harbor. It felt so relaxing. It was an outstanding excursion that I would highly recommend.
We decided we both could use showers so we hopped on the first tender back to the Crystal Symphony. It always feels so nice to return to your “home.” I showered and Veronica worked out on the outside equipment.
We decided to rest after our showers a bit before we headed to Avenue Saloon. We really enjoy the quiet spot and Pricilla is a wonderful server there. I went with my favorite gin martini and Veronica had the hibiscus cocktail she likes. We looked at the menu and decided to return to Silk. We had a bit of time before our reservation so we watched the sunset from the Silk lounge. I tried a Paper Plane which made Giovanni have to look up the recipe. It must not be popular. The drink is essentially a riff on the classic Negroni but made with bourbon instead of gin. A great aperitif. Veronica tried a new one tonight, the Sensible Smith which is pineapple juice, fresh lime juice, pomegranate syrup and ginger ale.
We can be creatures of habit and ordered very close to the same dishes as our first visit. We asked for no duck dim sum this time though. Silk did not disappoint once again.
The show after dinner was A Celebration of Music starring Jamila. She is a very talented singer. She performed a variety of music, R&B, Motown, Disco and Broadway. She was very lively. I wished the audience would give her a little more interaction but I guess 9:15 is late for some passengers and they were tired from a busy day in Maui.
After the show, we headed to Starlite Club to watch Passion Dance Show featuring the Latin Dance Artists. These are the same talented dancers for performed in the swing show and teach the dance classes. A high energy performance of mainly paso doble, Argentine tango and samba. I really enjoyed the performance. After that, it was off to the cabin. I’m trying to make my way through I, Tonya but this bed is so comfortable.
After the long walks I had yesterday and with an early tour, I decided to skip my morning walk. I was going to skip coffee and breakfast but I was awake at 4:00am. After writing, I decided to grab a coffee and a small pastry at the Bistro around 7 to hold me over until our food tour.
We booked the Hole-In-the-Wall food tour. It is a tour where you get to sample various comfort foods of Hawaii. We had to meet at the Ala Moana Hotel no later than 9:30. Since the first shuttle was not until 9, I decided to take an Uber. Of course we were there early but I’d always rather be early. Around 9:30, I received a phone call saying they would be 10 minutes late. Then, I got a text stating it would be another 10 minutes. Finally, a call saying the were almost there. They arrived at 10:00 because some other guests went to a wrong hotel. Veronica was definitely ready to sample some foods after this wait.
Our first stop was Royal Kitchen for baked manapua. It is a Hawaiian-Chinese fusion based on Bao buns that are steamed with char siu pork. We could chose which filling we wanted. The offerings were char siu pork, kalua pork, chicken, curry chicken, Portuguese sausage, Chinese sausage, purple sweet potato, coconut and Chinese black sugar. Veronica selected kalua pork while I chose sweet potato so we could try two different ones. The manapua are stamped on top with a code so you know which filling is which. They were absolutely delicious, warm, soft baked bread with the best fillings. The pork tasted amazing and the sweet potato I learned has nothing added and it is so sweet it doesn’t need it. I can understand why these buns were a favorite among locals when the Chinese immigrants came to the the island.
After breakfast, we headed to Chinatown. We parked and had a short walk to the Maunakea Marketplace. We went into Ying Leong Look Funn Factory to see how noodles are prepared. We watched the workers oil pans filled with rice noodle batter which are then steamed and folded by hand. It is the oldest family run noodle shop however no one working the kitchen is under 70. Our guide told us that the children and grandchildren have no interest in the business. I found that to be a little sad the tradition might end.
Our guide took us to a small alcove where we set up base camp. The provided folding camping stool to sit on. There his partner on the tour brought two types of noodles to sample. One was mushroom and the other was topped with Korean Soyo chicken. I enjoyed the noodles but not the chicken. It is a dish served cold according to the guide and I found the texture of chicken and the sauce to be congealed.
Next appeared a delicious banana lumpia. So yummy! It is a banana with a spring roll wrapper covered in crunchy fried sugar. After this, we had a break to explore Chinatown.
Upon returning to our camp, we sampled the freshest ahi poke. It was amazing. We then had a dumpling filled with shrimp and pork topped with a mustard sauce. I wan’t a fan of the dumpling’s filling but did like the mustard sauce.
If this didn’t seem like enough, we had a fruit tasting. We tried Maui Gold pineapple plain and also with li hing powder which is made with preserved plum. The pineapple put our grocery store variety to shame. Then, we had longan or dragon eye fruit. Veronica told me it is mentioned in her book she is reading for school this summer called Chinese Cinderella. Pretty cool.
You would think fruit would be the end but we sampled char sui and roast pork next. Both were great! I even enjoyed the roast pork which he called five layers of heaven. It had meat, fat and crunchy fat layers. I could only eat one piece even though extra was offered. Very rich.
Very satisfied, we walked back to the van. We had to drive to the dessert stop at Liliha Bakery for their famous Coco Puffs. A Coco Puff is a cream puff with a chocolate filling that reminded me of pudding. It is topped with a Chantilly frosting made of butter, egg yolks, sugar, evaporated milk and salt. That is what made it truly special. It balanced out the filling with a slightly salty taste perfectly. After one of these you will understand how they sell over 5000 of these treats per day! Heavenly!
We decided to leave the tour and Uber to the Ala Moana Mall. We didn’t want to spend 45+ minutes dropping off the other guests. I wanted to buy a new Fitbit as my charger broke and then I lost the actual Fitbit.
After walking through the huge, multi level Target we decided to keep the food tour going. We tried some Dole Whip and Shave Ice. Both were very refreshing. Veronica had never tried a Dole Whip at Disney so this was a perfect opportunity.
We strolled about the mall and decided we had to try at least one dish in the Shirokiya Japan Village Walk. This is a beautiful area very similar to Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia but with primarily Japanese foods. We bought a chili garlic gyoza to share. Wow. Delicious. I paired it with a Japanese beer that was only two dollars. It is happy hour all day there. As I drank my beer, Veronica went to buy a few tempura to taste. You can purchase each piece separately for about $1.50 each. Stuffed, we made our way back to the shuttle to the Crystal Symphony.
After relaxing from all that eating, I took and shower and Veronica went to work out. While she dressed for dinner, I attended Saturday Vigil Mass. I enjoy Mass on board. We have two priests this sailing.
I went to Avenue Saloon to wait for Veronica and had my standby cocktail, Bombay Sapphire martini. We enjoyed the quiet lounge for longer than usual as we were still full from all that eating.
We went to Waterside and asked once again for Viktor. Tonight, I chose the Wagyu Beef Crudo or as I call it, Beef in a Jar. It was a good as I remembered. Veronica had the luau taco with kalua pork. She wanted to compare it to Chinatown. It wasn’t as good but still tasty. I found it to be pretty spicy but I liked it. For dinner, I had the jalapeño prawns and Veronica had the Opah fish. We both liked our dinners. I am not a big dessert fan so I asked for berries but Viktor convinced me to try some lemon sherbet. It was more like lemonade sorbet and too sweet for my palate. Veronica had the macadamia nut crunch which she said was really good.
Today started with a nice long walk around the promenade deck. I walked for one hour and clocked in quite a few steps. Towards the end of my walk, I spotted land! I went to write with a great view of the island. Magical. Veronica met me for breakfast. I wanted something light and Crystal even offers salad and grilled veggies on the buffet. It was after ten so it was more like brunch.
We went back to the room and I did laundry. I know, not very glamorous but a necessary chore. While I did laundry, we watched an enrichment lecture on our television. If you do not attend the lectures, they are available on demand. This one was Elvis, Graceland and Sun Records. Very interesting and a great thing to occupy my time waiting for my laundry.
We disembarked and caught the first shuttle to Ala Moana Mall at 12:15. What a gorgeous, huge and confusing place. We wandered about and located an exit to find the hotel our tour today will be meeting. After that, we walked through the city to Duke’s to have a snack and drink. The walk was very nice and Veronica navigated like a champ. I am impressed with the traveler she is becoming. Duke’s was crowded but upstairs is the Hula Grill. Better view and we thought menu as well. The view...breathtaking. The water on Waikiki Beach is so blue. We shared pumpkin hummus and crab macadamia wontons. The best part was the chili pepper water they serve as a sauce. So yummy! The mai tai was fresh squeezed and Veronica had a papaya limeade which was refreshing.
For the walk back, we took off our shoes and walked along the water. It felt so good. But it was hot in the sun! When we reached the end of the beach and had to walk the rest of the way, it was a challenge for me. Seeing the Macy’s sign was a great feeling. We walked back into mall, purchased water and made the 4:45 shuttle. We had walked 14 thousand steps and my total was at 22 thousand for the day! Not bad for a mom.
Arriving at the ship, we both needed some showers. We collapsed onto our beds and relaxed before dressing for dinner. I dressed first and went to the Cove to try a pre-dinner drink there. The Cove bar is located in the atrium of the ship, a very elegant space. I sat at the bar and had an Old Fashioned made with Woodford Reserve. The waiters were sampling a filo dough stuffed with spinach. Everyone around me said “Vegetables? No!” Of course, I said, “Yes, please!” They were tasty. Veronica met me and tried a Hibiscus non-alcoholic cocktail. I really think it was a nice touch to make the lighter and non-alcoholic drink menu. We went for a quick stroll on the upper deck before dinner to see Honolulu lit up.
Dinner was in Waterside and we requested to sit with Viktor again. We enjoy hearing his recommendations and he provides excellent service. I choose the Farmer’s salad which had the most amazing tomatoes. It is very similar to Greek salad and I ordered mine without feta which was no problem for Viktor. Veronica ordered the sous vide pork belly with mango beads, sriracha slaw and coconut gel. My next course was miso soup. Viktor brought Veronica a celeriac cream soup to taste. I ordered the scallop entree but Viktor really recommends the Dover Sole. He said he would bring me that and a side of the scallops. Veronica chose the Dover Sole. I joked with Viktor how fish bones make me nervous. He said his father is a surgeon and he will not leave a bone on my plate. He deboned our fishes expertly. He added butter to Veronica’s but I passed. He was very right to recommend this dish. The fish was great and the garnish was really good but it is vegetables and well, I love them. I could eat a large portion of all the garnishes and my happy. The scallops were excellent and cooked perfectly. However, the puree on the dish was very rich. It was truffle yaki sauce and while flavorful it became heavy tasting. So bravo Viktor! Dessert for me was mixed berries and pistachio nougat trifle for Veronica. Another delicious dinner in Waterside.
We decided to go to our cabin as we were very tired after a busy day. Sweet dreams!