Archive for December, 2011

Yesterday and today are sea days. Yesterday we met Sandra for breakfast – Sandra is full of life and good humor and good stories, and we ended up talking and laughing together until almost lunch time. She invited us to her cabin for drinks later, and I said I would bring some of my hard-won beer.

We went back to the cabin for a bit, and then to lunch. The lunch was a special lunch – Asian buffet in the Lido area. On our last Crystal cruise, I had actually found these specialty buffets annoying, because they closed down the other lunch options, so everybody came, so there were lines and noise and tumult and you couldn’t find a table – might as well be on Carnival. Thus, I entered the cafe area with trepidation, and almost bolted when it sounded louder than usual and there appeared to be a line. My sweetie made me stay, however, and it was fine – there wasn’t a line, and it was only a little louder than normal. There were all kinds of little Asian dishes in little cute bowls – I got a little bit of everything. Once we got to eating, though, we discovered that most of the fare was only mediocre – definitely my most disappointing dining experience on Crystal.

After lunch we went to the Trident Ice Cream bar for dessert – I got one scoop of Peanut Butter with Reese’s Pieces in a home-made waffle cone – delish!!

The afternoon was glorious – just lay about the cabin reading, dozing and listening to podcasts. The seas are a bit high, which means the ship has got a pretty good pitch going (I guess this is pretty common when sailing the Pacific Coast), which can make walking a little bit difficult, but makes lying in your bed divine – rocks you to sleep.

I did make a trip to the ship’s gym mid-afternoon to ride an exercise bike for a while. The gym on this ship is less impressive than most; it is small and dark and cramped-feeling, and the exercise bikes are just up against a wall – usually the treadmills and bikes and such look out on the ocean, but here only the treadmills do. Still, it was pleasant enough, and the staff are very nice.

We are heading north back to LA now, and our cabin is on the port (left, for you land lubbers) side of the ship, which means that we can watch the sunset from our balcony. Because of the swells, no one was out walking the promenade deck (directly below us), and because it was rather windy, no one was out on any adjacent balconies. And so, I was able to do my forward-bow-music-singing thing from my own balcony, rather than having to go up on deck. Lis had gone to a Yamaha music class (she’s such a joiner, my sweetie!), but got back just in time to watch the sun drop in to the ocean.

Note from Lis: The Yamaha class was fantastic. I am so excited now to get a keyboard and continue my musical education!

There was a Captain’s Farewell Cocktail Party right before dinner. We timed it so that we arrived early enough to get some free booze, but too late to have to hear any speechifying – the whole thing broke up right as the waiter handed us our champagne. We took our drinks and headed to the main dining room.

This was our last night in the main dining room, as today we have reservations at Silk Road. Our waiter (Zoltan, from Thailand by way of Hungary) was particularly attentive, and our sommelier (Kremena, from Bulgaria, with whom I am now officially in love) (Lis: Hey now!) scolded us for bringing in our own wine. Zoltan has a helper (Juhan, from Estonia) who is new and inept and causing Zoltan much aggravation – but he (Juhan) is sweet and earnest and trying really hard and is very boyish and tall and has cute dimples, and I’m a little in love with him, too :) (Lis: Hmmmm.)

After dinner we went to Sandra’s room for drinks. I brought along my special beers for everybody. Now was the moment of truth – I had been worried that, after all this trouble, the beer wouldn’t be as good as I remembered. But, luckily, it was – Sandra and David were impressed. We had a lovely time, and then it was time for them to head to dinner (they are late-seating, we are early-seating).

Lis had read that the gym and women’s locker room were open until 10pm, so we made our way up there for a steam. The steam room is beautiful and the steam was divine. Then I took a shower in their special 5-way-jets shower, and then back to our room and to bed, to be rocked to sleep – it was a great end to a lovely sea day.

Yesterday we docked in Puerto Vallarta. I was hoping to be up early enough to watch us come in to port, but, alas; we had to set the clocks ahead the night before, and so I missed it – when I looked out the window, we were already tied up. But, I could tell we were in Mexico for real, by the giant Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club visible from our balcony…

Earlier we had thought that we might not even leave the ship in Puerto Vallarta, but since we had come up empty on our cerveza search in Cabo San Lucas, we thought that maybe we’d take another shot, and so set out in search of beer.

We stopped at the Information booth just outside the ship and asked where we might find Noche Buena cerveza. The first answer was Wal-Mart, which we found highly depressing (or I did, anyway – Lis said it would probably be great, because it wouldn’t be tourist-y; we’d be shopping with locals. Today at breakfast, Sandra confirmed Lis’s view). But then another tour guy said there was another store called Soriana just a short distance away, so we headed for that.

From a distance, the Soriana SuperMercado seemed easy to find, but as we got closer, it disappeared behind another building, and we kept having to stop and ask for directions. As before, we did this mostly in Spanish, and as before, were pleased to find that we knew enough Spanish to make our way. We also can read most all the signs we see.

We finally got our bearings, could see the store, and were about to set off, when a cabby drove up. We’d already been offered several tours (these previous cabbies and tour people are whom we’d been asking directions of), and were going to decline this guy’s, too, but then 2 things happened. One, he began speaking at length about all the different parts of town, and his spiel sounded less like generic ad copy than most. Two, I realized that we’d come a fair way and were about to buy a 12-pack of beer, and it might be nice to have a ride back to the ship. So we struck a deal – take us to the store for our cerveza, and then give us as much of a tour as our forty bucks cash will buy us.

So, off to the SuperMercado we went (I actually found wandering the store and then buying our beer the most fun part of our tour, as I think Lis did, too), and then through the streets of Puerto Vallarta. Our cabbie’s name was Carlos and he was great fun – took us around town, told us interesting stories, and was just generally a good time. His English is very good (he actually grew up around the Klamath Falls area (Southern Oregon), and much of his family is still there – he was excited to learn that we are from Portland) and he is very nice – I recommend him to anyone who wants to do a private tour by taxi (VIP Taxi Hire by the hour or day, Carlos Alexis Inda, Cell: 044 322 137 32 33, Email:

And so, around lunch time, we were dropped back off at the ship, having seen some of the town and, most importantly, with beer in hand!

After lunch we hung out in the room, then went up on deck for the sail away – the plan was to get some fruity drinks and be in position before the Louis Armstrong started (on Crystal, they play Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” whenever the ship leaves a port – we find it strangely moving, and try to always be on deck for it). Sadly, we blew it on our Cabo San Lucas stop – rushed to the deck and got there in time for the last three notes. As this was our only other chance, we were determined to get there on time, but still almost blew it – the drinks took longer than expected. But, happily, we just made it, and had a lovely sail away – Puerto Vallarta is beautiful from the sea, with mountains and greenery and curving bay – very nice.

I was already dressed for dinner, so stayed up on deck listening to music; Lis went back to the room. While on deck I saw 3 whale spouts and one dorsal fin, plus a couple dolphins/porpoises. Then I went to get Lis, and we headed for the dining room and our special-order Chateaubriande.

This was only the second time we’d eaten at our assigned table in the dining room, and our waiter and sommelier made a big deal of our finally being present. Our sommelier is a particularly beautiful young woman from some Eastern European country (I haven’t been able to make out her name tag, as that would require staring at her chest, which would be fun but inappropriate). I hadn’t been planning to have wine with dinner (I have beer chilling in my room, after all), but she made such a charming fuss over us that I had to :)

The waiter brought out a cart and carving knife and serving plate, and then the head waiter came over and, with some fanfare, carved up our Chateaubriande for us. It was very fun, and the meat, as always, was spectacular. I had planned my day so that, this time, I was able to eat most of it, too.

The head waiter said that he was doing his famous Bananas Foster for dessert. Since we were spending most of our room on the meat, we said we’d share a dessert; he nodded and brought it to us. But then our regular waiter came back and was appalled – “What, I leave for one minute and you are sharing dessert? If I am here to take care of you, this never would have happened!” And then our sommelier came by – “Cheaters! Cheaters! They are sharing dessert! Cheaters!” They are very cute. The shared dessert in question was delicious (though not as good as last night’s sorbet and prosecco).

After dinner I went to one of the bars and watched the first quarter of the Philly-Seattle game (Marshawn Lynch! Yeah, baby!!), while Lis went back to the room. Then we went to the theater and watched the evening movie, which was “The Help.” And then to bed – a very nice day :)

Yesterday was our second day in Cabo San Lucas, and we spent it puttering around the ship. I tend to get up earlier than Lis, and so I’ll take my netbook up to the pool deck and write the blog for the previous day. Yesterday morning, after posting the blog, I came back to the room, and noticed that Lis had put the “Do Not Disturb” sign out, which struck me as odd, but maybe she wanted to make sure she could sleep in. I attempted to open the door with my keycard, but it didn’t work. This is not unusual – the doors often take a few tries before they’ll open – so I tried again, oh, about A MILLION TIMES, before I finally noticed that I was at the wrong room. Oops!! :( About 5 minutes later, Lis and I walked by this room again on the way to breakfast – “Do Not Disturb” sign was gone and the little faux-newspaper had been taken in. You’re welcome, neighbor :)

After breakfast we lay around the pool for a while. Lis actually attempted to swim laps, and I think mostly succeeded in getting in a workout, but she had to contend with some rude and/or oblivious behavior from some of her poolmates.

(An aside: the 2 luxury lines we like are Regent and this line, Crystal – we’ve sailed both twice. And it’s interesting the differences between the 2 lines vis-a-vis passenger behavior. On Regent, everyone is nice but indifferent – no one is rude to you, but no one is especially friendly, either. On Crystal, most everyone is nice, a few people are really friendly, and a few people are really rude. All in all, I think I prefer the Regent way…)

We had lunch in the Lido buffet (we’ve been having most breakfasts and lunches in the Lido, and are quite happy with it. Often I find cruise ships’ buffets awful, but Crystal has very good food, and this extends to the buffet. My only complaint is that it can at times be a little clamorous if you don’t time it right) and then hung out in the room in the afternoon.

For dinner we had reservations at the other specialty restaurant, Prego. Lis had talked with the maitre d’ yesterday and so had already pre-ordered her meal so that they could make it dairy free. The head waiter came over and reviewed her order, and spent a lot of time talking with us and going over everything to make sure it was all OK – we was very attentive, and also rather handsome, which is always a nice little bonus.

Lis had the antipasti appetizer and the spaghetti pescatore for her entree. I very bravely ordered a scallop appetizer (I’m not a seafood fan in general), and found that I enjoyed it very much. For my main entree, I had a butternut squash risotto that was delicious but rich – couldn’t eat it all. For dessert we both had strawberry sorbet with prosecco, and it was DIVINE! Probably the best dessert I’ve had so far, and I have had some lovely desserts.

After dinner we just wandered around the ship, stopping to listen to music, browse the ship’s stores, look at the passenger photos from formal night – it was quite pleasant. And, I made a happy discovery. Often we like to sit and watch the ball room dancing after dinner, but by doing so you are likely to run afoul of the gentlemen hosts – older men who know how to dance, and who get reduced or free cruise fare in exchange for spending the evenings dancing with the lady passengers. If you are female and sitting in the vicinity of the dance floor, you are likely to be asked to dance at least once, and maybe more, by the various gentlemen hosts. And they don’t go down without a fight, either – “I can teach you! It’s easy!” But this trip, I’m still in my walking boot from my recent ankle sprain (tendon is healing slowly, and the physical therapist said to wear it for a few more weeks). So when the gentlemen host came, I smiled and said thank you and pointed to my boot, and he just WENT AWAY! I told Lis (she had gone to the dining room to talk about the next day’s menu) and she was jealous. But I think I’ve hit on something for next time – I’ll have an Ace bandage wrap on my ankle, and Lis can wear a sling, and we’ll be able to watch the dancing in safety :)

As we were walking back to our room, Lis said, “I have a surprise for you!” Previously we had been commiserating about how sad it was that we weren’t going to having the Chateaubriande again. But, my sweetie had special ordered it for us – we will be having Chateaubriande for Thursday’s dinner – can’t wait!!