Yesterday was our first sea day. Sea days are our favorites – you’re just out on the ocean, with nothing in particular to do and nowhere in particular to be. Unless, of course, you’ve signed up for some of the ship’s activities, which usually are kind of stupid but on Crystal can be kind of fun.

We got up about 7:30 and headed to breakfast about 8:30. However, unbeknowst to us, it was actually about 9:30 – we knew we were going to have to move our clocks ahead one hour at some point, but we thought it wasn’t until Tuesday. We had breakfast in the Lido buffet, and our plan was to just get a little and go back for more if necessary. We had our leisurely breakfast out on the aft deck, and then Lis went back to get some bacon – but they were breaking it all down – it was 10:30, not 9:30, we discovered, and the Lido stops serving at 10:00. Ah, the beauty of a cruise – we just went to the pool area, where “Late Riser’s Breakfast” starts at 10:00, and had second breakfast.

We ran in to Sandra at second breakfast, and sat and chatted with her a bit. She asked us if we were doing the Free Slots Tournament at 2pm. We didn’t know what that was. She explained that it’s this tournament where the contestants get three minutes to wildly push the button (or pull the arm, if you are so inclined), and whoever ends up with the most points wins. Lis thought it sounded like fun and went to sign up. I had a manicure scheduled for 1:30 and so couldn’t do it.

(OK, an aside – I’m sitting out in the pool area as I type this, and the ship’s captain just strode by and said good morning to me. But he did it in such a strange pre-emptory manner – usually the staff say hello as they go by, but only if you are already making eye contact with them. The captain actually interrupted me and made me look up from what I was doing, and his whole manner was that of someone who thinks they’re making your day by talking to you. I was the only one on deck – he could have just walked on by. But apparently, when you’re captain, you can’t just walk the ship without making sure that everyone knows you’re the captain out walking the ship. (Nested aside – in case you’re wondering why we like to go on these cruises where people are so unpleasant; the vast majority of the passengers and staff on board are very lovely and friendly – we just make note of the exceptions because they make better stories.))

After second breakfast, we went to pick up a couple of free needlepoint kits that we read about in the daily schedule the night before – mine is a glasses case with a dragonfly on it, and Lis’ is a floral pattern coin purse. There was an associate needlepoint class later in the day, but I used to needlepoint as a kid, so we figured we could skip it. I’m looking forward to needlepointing out on the balcony on one of our upcoming sea days :)

After lunch I went up for my manicure. Sandra had procured for us $1,150 in cruise credit (as I said before, travel agent extraordinaire), and I had decided to spend part of mine on a manicure – I’ve never had one before, and thought it would be fun to have pretty hands for formal night. But it actually turned out to kind of bum me out. First, because sitting with my arms forward for so long started to make my shoulders hurt. But mostly, because it was depressing to imagine it from the workers’ perspective. I caught a glimpse of my manicurist’s schedule for the day – she was booked through 10pm that night, and I’m sure had been at it since the morning. I know that I benefit at the expense of exploited workers in everything from my clothes to my food, but I’m not used to actually seeing it up close. It was also slightly depressing/embarrassing to hear some of the things my fellow passengers were saying – a very sweet little old lady was asking the Romanian girl doing her hair questions about her life – she was particulary interested in where she got her cosmotology training – “Do they have beauty parlors in Romania?”

After my manicure I was heading back to the cabin when I happened to hear all this noise coming from the casino – it was the Slots Tournament. I wandered in to see how my sweetie was doing. It’s quite a sight to see a row of people madly pounding away on slot machines while a couple rows of spectators madly cheer them one. I found Lis – her turn was coming up. She did pretty well – made it to the final round, and ultimately won a “Crystal Casino” t-shirt.

We went back to the room to lie about and read. I attempted to check my email and post my last blog to Facebook, but the connection was slow and the blog was temporarily down, adding to my bummed-out-ed-ness – which was too bad; it had been such a lovely morning.

Around 4:45 Lis went to a Nordic pole walking class, and I gathered up my music and head phones and went up on deck. One of my favorite things in the whole world is to go up to the bow of a ship that is under way, listen to music, watch the sea and sing. It’s always windy at the bow, so most people don’t go there, plus the wind covers the noise, so you can sing off key with impunity. It is so awesome that sometimes it makes me cry. This time, at first, it wasn’t having the same effect – but eventually my bummed-ness wore off, and the old magic returned.

I stayed longer than I should have, and so had to rush to get cleaned up for formal night, but soon enough we were bedecked in our sparkly Sears finery and on our way. They showed us to our table – thankfully, we requested and got a table for two – neither of us felt up to making small talk with people we don’t know. We ordered the Chateaubriande, which we had had on our last cruise, and it did not disappoint – so tender I could literally cut it with my fork. Melted in your mouth – definitely the best bit of meat I’ve ever had anywhere. We couldn’t eat it all, and the idea of wasting it broke our hearts, so Lis asked about taking it back to our room. The (cute but slightly overly talkative) waiter gently but firmly denied our request, which was good, as I think toting around doggie bags on formal night is poor form.

At this point a group of five waiters gathered round our table and sang “Happy Birthday” to me. Then they placed a slice of birthday cake in front of me, and the head waiter kissed my cheek. Those of you who know my birthday is December 22nd might be wondering what gives. Well, when we booked the cruise, Sandra asked us if we were celebrating anything – Lis said, “Mary’s birthday is in December.” Somehow this got translated to yesterday (November 28) being my birthday. After the singing, our waiter brought us the dessert menu. There was a butterscotch pudding option that sounded lovely, but I already had my birthday cake. I was torn; the waiter said, “Have both – you only have a birthday once a year!” Who can argue with that – 2 desserts it was.

This is a jazz-themed cruise, so after dinner we went to one of the bars to listen to a jazz band for a while. It was very good, and they played actual classic jazz, as opposed to the Muzak that a ship’s regular “jazz band” usually plays. After that, Lis went back to the room and I went to the theater to watch Monday Night Football. New Orleans already had the game pretty well in hand (or seemed to – I haven’t checked the score today – maybe the Giants made a miracle comeback), so I only watched for about 15 minutes or so and then headed back to my room. The best thing about the game was watching football in formal wear. The worst was actually having to watch the commercials – it’s what led me to bail before the game was done.

All in all, a pretty successful sea day :)