"" Writer's Wanderings: January 2022

Monday, January 31, 2022

On Our Way To Bimini?

 The most current plan is now to arrive in Bimini in the Bahamas, disembark, ferry to Fort Lauderdale, bus to Miami where we are given a hotel room and then in the morning, transported to the Fort Lauderdale airport for our flight home. That's the plan. Our waiter at breakfast, with his wry sense of humor that matches Bob's, winks and says, "So far so good. But maybe I see you at dinner." He laughs as he goes off to get our oatmeal.

It is rumored that the sister ship, Symphony, now anchored off Bimini tried to get fuel at Freeport but were denied. Again, rumor. No factual report. If all goes well as planned today, our uncertainty will end but unfortunately the crew is still left to wonder what will happen. That sense of humor may very well get dark.

Yesterday was the crummiest day we have had in our 25 cruise days. Skies were gray and it rained off and on all day and turned cold--Caribbean cold, in the 60s. The bright spot of the day though was one of the Bistro servers made a special request for Bob's macaroons that he kept looking for each afternoon. We got a special plate delivered to us. Another beautiful surprise was the sky clearing just enough to see a glorious sunset.

Today though the sun is shining even though it is still chilly and as I write this we can see Bimini on the horizon. Not sure if we can make out the Symphony yet but I'm sure we'll be near it and probably hear some ship's greeting with horns. 

Our luggage is on it's way down below decks where it will be stacked with the others and wrapped on pallets for transport to the ferry and on to FL. From the Symphony's passengers' experience we can expect delays and confusion when we pick up our luggage. Or perhaps they have figured that out better. Whatever the case, it is going to be a late night.

We leave the ship between five and six and board the ferry by seven for the two hour trip to FL. The ferry is expected to arrive about 9 and by the time we get our luggage, board a bus and get dropped at the hotel, I'm guessing it will be midnight at best. Then probably an early morning trip to the airport in Fort Lauderdale for our noon flight. 

The crew could not be kinder especially considering the uncertainty in their lives. Our sweet little stateroom attendant said they are all going to be out in the halls today even though they don't need to change over rooms for new guests. They want to say goodbye to everyone. And if you are thinking that is just to get tips, don't. Most of them got their extra tips when we thought we were getting off in Aruba. 

So, that's it for now. If anything changes, I will post again. The adventure continues--at least for another day. 

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Drama, Humor And The Unexpected At Sea

These clouds have a silver lining.

 So instead of two sea days that turned into four that has now turned into six we are still smiling and actually thoroughly enjoying our cruise. Sound impossible given all I've told you? Nope. The food is still great. The fellowship continues. Did I mention it's warm and sunny? I do wish we hadn't run out of blueberries but I will survive.

Thought I might give you some glimpses of little things that have happened that have filled our days. First up, a little drama (besides the ship's dilemmas with ports). There are two kinds of onboard credits. One is nonrefundable and can be used for excursions and costs for extra things on the ship that are not included. That scored me a new necklace since Bob never wants to leave a balance in that account. 

The second onboard credit is refundable. As we skipped ports, the port fees and taxes were credited to that account. So we ended up (before skipping Aruba) with a little over $300 in that account. A message on our phone indicated that we needed to go to the front desk and get that in cash. Bob checked the balance on our account and noted that it was gone. When he looked at me, I shook my head. Not me. 

We went to the desk and the fellow who had given our money to someone else was on break. They called him back and he produced a paper with a signature. "Not mine," said Bob. "You can check it against other things I've signed and see that it isn't." By now we had figured that somehow the fellow had misunderstood the room number someone had given him and never questioned it further. Now he decided he would call security and check the video at the time of withdrawal and they would call us when it was all figured out. Security? Video? Sure put this writer's imagination to work.

After lunch, it was all worked out and we got our cash. "A clerical error." 

How about some humor? We always go to the Palm Court before dinner and there is dance music playing. Besides "Love Potion #9" they like to play "Hernando's Hideaway", a tango. When it started playing, I looked at Bob, leaned in a bit and said, "The music just makes me want to wrap a leg around you." He choked on his drink. Ah, fond memories of learning the tango.

One of the things we were grateful for as a perk for the Grand Voyage was the offer of free medical service. Our hope was that we wouldn't need it. Well, Bob came in from playing Paddle Tennis the other day and said, "I saw the doctor."

"You what? What's wrong?"

"I saw the doctor." And then comes that wicked little laugh and glint in the eye. "He and I played together and beat the other guys that were so good."

Okay, just one more. Back when COVID began, my housecleaning services were canceled and I went about figuring out how I was going to get it all done on my own. I have this to do list app and I plotted out how I could clean each section of the house a little at a time and then set the plan to repeat. It's worked out well enough that I don't expect to rehire the service unless it becomes physically impossible for me to keep it up. So, as I looked at my to do list in anticipation of going home, I saw that I would arrive just in time to clean the downstairs toilet and bathroom. Now that we are delayed, I marked it done and it won't pop up for a few more weeks, she says brushing her hands off. 

And just so you don't think the rest of the passengers lack humor about this whole thing, I post this with permission from the creator, Gary Brasher, The Ballad Of The Serenity Ship. (see photo). Some of the staff sang it last night.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Where's Aruba?

 Usually I catch you up here on what happened the day before but this is going to be a little of both. We woke up this morning (Saturday) expecting to look out and see Aruba. There was just water out our veranda view so we turned on the TV to get the view of the front of the ship. Water. I laughed. "Maybe we're on our way to Bimini." 

Well, I got that right. Bob was on the Cruise Critic thread already and found a post that said we all had letters in the slot by our door that said we couldn't stop at Aruba. I checked and there it was! 

The letter says that even though we were cleared to arrive in Aruba with all services paid for in advance and no reasonable risks or claims against the ship, local officials informed officers that we would not be permitted to dock. According to the letter, they had appealed, even citing humanitarian reasons but to no avail. So they are now forced to conclude the voyage in Bimini on Monday (a day and a half later than we were scheduled to disembark). 

It goes on to say that we will be ferried to Fort Lauderdale arriving around 9 pm, and offered an overnight stay at a local hotel. After that we're on our own. They have offered to help book flights if we don't have air travel with the cruise line. Bob has already managed to change our Aruba flight and rebook us for February 1. 

Every cloud has a silver lining. We get an extra day and a half on the ship enjoying warm sunshine. We don't have to stress over the worry of flight delays (we were to stop in Dulles) because of the East Coast storm. Hopefully our driveway will be clear of snow by then and there are a few less days to spend in the cold before we can return for our other cruise. The people I truly feel sorry for are those who made arrangements to join a Regent cruise that was due into Aruba on Monday. Maybe with the extra time and the availability of cruises out of Fort Lauderdale and Miami, they can snag something else.

As for us, we just want to go home and take a couple of deep breaths, unpack all the extra things we didn't need because of the canceled cruise and look ahead to the next cruise.

Last night we got to enjoy a special dinner at the Stardust Supper Club. Our first opportunity to book it was canceled and we were happy to get a card in our room confirming that the supper club would go on. We dined on caviar, asparagus soup, beef Wellington and a rich chocolate mousse dessert. All of that while listening to various ship's entertainers and the show band singing and playing wonderful dinner music. It was very pleasant and worthy of a black tie night.

The evening's show featured Crystal On Broadway. We've seen it several times but I could see it again. It is a combination of vignettes from Something's Rotten, West Side Story, and Rent. After the show was done the Cruise Director, Rick Spath, asked all the entertainers to come out on stage and then he had most of the crew march through the theater as everyone honored their hard work to keep us happy. 

It all culminated with a video and the "What A Wonderful World" song by Louis Armstrong. Lots of tears from Crystal cruisers who are deeply in love with the cruise line. Little did we all know that in the morning we would be handed another day and a half to enjoy. Well, most will enjoy. I'm sure there are some who are extremely upset. For us? It fits our philosophies about travel attitude and expecting the unexpected--although this has really been weirdly unexpected.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Sunshine In A Bottle

It's corny. I know but if I could actually bring home some of this beautiful sunshine, I would. In light of the blizzard that is about to hit the east coast, some sunshine would certainly be helpful. We are hoping that the storm will not be as bad as predicted and move through quickly before we are due to fly into Dulles on our way home.

The usual sea day today. Funny how things can become routine. A morning walk, Paddle Tennis, Golf Clinic, reading, writing, breakfast, lunch, dinner. Turns out that the crew's joke about a BBQ will come to be a reality if the information we got is correct. According to the waiters, a couple of passengers are providing the crew with the BBQ after the guests all disembark.

It was a bit of a rough sea day. The wind kicked in pretty strong in the early afternoon for a time and actually whistled through our sliding door making it sound like we were at home, listening to the winter wind howl. We opened the door and closed it again and that fixed the noise. Walking around the deck though was a challenge and we quit early. I find I get plenty of steps in just during the day getting from one place to the other.

Some of our time was spent dreaming about our newly booked cruise aboard the Eurodam in March. We explored the deck plans and read up on some of the activities, etc. Bob even reserved dinner at the Tamarind (the Asian restaurant) for one night. Looking forward to that cruise will help us get through the month of snow and cold at home. Bob found some information about the capacity of the ship and while it didn't actually state how many guests there would be, it did say that there was still about 85% of the rooms available to book. Hopefully the cruise industry is going to survive this slide although Crystal may not be the only casualty.

We spent some time packing the clothes we haven't even worn yet. Since our Grand Voyage was to take us to Europe in the early spring, we had packed some things for the cooler weather we expected there. There were some new clothes we bought for the trip that we haven't even cut the tags off of yet. We didn't plan to come home to cold weather so we'll be wearing quite a few layers that will be added on along the way home. Hopefully, the driveway will still be plowed at midnight. Our house watcher sent Bob a picture of the snow in our front yard.
13+ " of snow

Another time change will come tonight. Aruba is on Atlantic time which is an hour ahead of EST so we will lose an hour again and not gain it until we're on our way home. Nothing like messing with the sleep cycle.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Just A Little Blue Dot in The Sea

 While COVID protocols are still in place, conversation has definitely moved off that subject on the ship. Speculation is high about there being interested investors who may actually purchase the cruise line and was fueled even more by talk of keeping the crew on, although I'm not sure that is more than a skeleton crew to keep the ship maintenance up. Whatever the case, it appears that the crew will be compensated. That's good.

Sea's were a little rougher today than the calm we had yesterday. Wind has kicked up some and I wonder if that's a sign of things to come. Looking out, we can't see any land mass but the map shows where we are. Two more days at sea before we see Aruba.

The cruise director, Rick Spath, has had his hands full trying to come up with activities and entertainment. Since we missed several ports and now have these four sea days, there was a lot of rescheduling, trying to get entertainers connected with the ship. One entertainer had a rough four hour drive from San Jose, Costa Rica, to our ship in Puerto Limon and that was after several connections that had to be made for plane flights. New lecturers have not come aboard and I think we are running out of topics there. Lots of fitness and spa lectures have been scheduled but do I really want to learn about acupuncture and Chinese herbal remedies? Hmm.

I still have a few books in my Kindle I haven't read and Bob is still busy with his Paddle Tennis and Golf. Our evenings are very nice though. We usually try to catch the sunset which is now at the back of the ship but with the time changes we've made, sometimes it's not convenient. 

The Palm Court is always open before dinner with music and drinks and appetizers. They make the cutest little tidbits that are almost always tempting. There is one that is some kind of chewy eggplant that tasted awful and the waiter who hands out the appetizers laughs and tells us what he has is not eggplant each time we ask. 

We had a pleasant surprise in the morning when our phone rang and the call was to tell us they had found an opening for us at the Silk restaurant for dinner. We wanted to have one more meal there before the cruise ends and our dining room waiter had told us the menu for this night was not so good. We suspect he may have had something to do with Silk making room for us.

The best part of this day was the evening's show. In all our cruising years, I don't think we've seen a better show. It was called "Some Enchanted Evening" and was a tribute to Rogers and Hammerstein. They incorporated several of the guest entertainers along with the regular crew of singers and dancers. Quality is the best word I can use. Entertaining, engaging, energetic and so much more. Even the staging which I'm sure had to be done uniquely for this show since from what we heard, it was all put together in a week. In the middle of it all was a beautiful ballet sequence from Carousel. The show ended with everyone on their feet singing Do Re Mi from Sound of Music. Outstanding job!

And now how about a little monkeying around? Finally got my monkey video uploaded.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

On A Slow Boat To Aruba

The morning dawned with blue skies and another chance to view the lovely coast of Costa Rica from our ship in Puerto Rico. With last evening's announcement we did not expect departure for Curacao until noon but this is a mystery cruise filled with surprises. 

Shortly after we began our morning walk around the deck, the captain came on the loud speakers to make an announcement. Yes, we would still be ending our cruise in Aruba but now we would not be stopping in Curacao on the way. My heart sank. I love Curacao, its streets full of colorful houses. The port is so pretty and quiet. Instead, we were leaving Puerto Limon as soon as the paperwork was done and the lines were released.

Bob had wanted to go to the Rap With The Rabbi that he loves to attend but we knew this was probably the last opportunity to watch the ship leave a port and listen to the traditional "What A Wonderful World" sung by Louis Armstrong. It is iconic to Crystal. On our World Cruise 2015, when people were still allowed to visit the bridge, we were shown the CD and its special place. 

It took a while but finally, the lines were cleared and we began to drift away to the tune of the beloved song of Crystal cruisers. I felt a bit nostalgic and sad. I'm not so deeply in love with the cruise line like so many are (very much like how the Brits love Cunard) but it does hold so many fond memories. Then I realized I would be celebrating my birthday in this port in another month when we cruise again. Comforting.

The captain had said we would have three sea days. Well, he should have said four since this day basically is a sea day even though we left a port in the morning. He also said we would take our time and slowly make our way to Aruba. Fuel saving? Stretching the time? Whatever the answer, I don't remember going this slow on a ship. At least it seems slow. The seas are fairly calm and we are doing around 10K. It reminds me of being on our sailboat back in the day when there was just enough wind to fill the sail and move the boat. It is very peaceful. Hopefully the rest of the way will be the same.

Bob is juggling Paddle Tennis with Golf Clinics this afternoon. Does this mean a new hobby/sport in the future? Stay tuned.

There is an enrichment lecturer, Laurie Wickwire, on board who has been particularly interesting. I'm not big into jewelry but her talks about Faberge, the DeBeers and other related topics are enjoyable. Wow, the diamond trade was  especially good. She mentioned how a great marketing campaign and the careful manipulation of the diamond supply by the DeBeer company has kept prices where they are over decades.

At breakfast, the wait staff was joking about what good news the Captain might give them at their morning briefing. The joke was he would tell them that he was going to have a BBQ for them. After the 10 o'clock meeting, we could tell that the spirits of the crew had been lifted. There was a bit of singing and a lot of smiles and laughter. Throughout the day we learned that the crew was told they would be taken care of with their pay for the past month and also that they would probably be asked to stay on or return (we weren't sure which). The bottom line was a rumor that someone was seriously looking to acquire the cruise line and of course if they did, the staff and crew would be essential. We can only hope for all concerned that it comes to fruition. 

At dinner our waiter said there was good news and bad news. Good the company will take care of them. Bad, no BBQ. And with a hearty laugh he was off to get our dinner.

Our entertainer for the evening was Lou Gazzara, one of the youngest finalists on American Idol to make the live television production in season two. He's had quite a career in Vegas since then and was an outstanding performer making the evening quite enjoyable. He ranged from popular music to golden oldies and even a little opera. Very versatile voice.

An email from our TA confirmed that indeed there were rumors of the cruise line being acquired by someone but obviously the negotiations were still ongoing. The saga continues.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Lazy Day In Beautiful Costa Rica

 There is an unwritten rule Bob often likes to tell people. Where it started is a mystery to me. I'm sure sometime I may have said something that he absorbed and turned a bit with his wry sense of humor. The rule according to Bob is: Karen doesn't get off the ship unless the next cruise is booked. Well, good news! The next cruise is booked. 

After an exasperated "Let's just go home," we began looking at other options. The Regent cruise line made a slight change in their itinerary to tempt some of the Crystal passengers to book with them in Aruba and have at least another 10-12 days in the Caribbean before a return to Miami. We briefly thought about it but still feeling defeated, we said, "home."

One of the disappointing things of the cancellation of the Grand Voyage was that I looked forward to having my birthday during the cruise. Always a special time on the ship and for the first time in a while, we wouldn't be on the road heading home from Florida. Dreamer that I am, or maybe it's fighter, I started looking at options for at least salvaging some part of winter in a warmer climate. I looked across at the Holland America ship before the Emerald Princess took its place, and remembered some great cruises. I managed to sell Bob on a cruise in March, the Caribbean again but I don't care. So I'm calling it my birthday cruise, Bob doesn't have to worry about a present or where to take me to dinner. The starting price was good enough and our Mariner points with HA (we have a silver medal, one we could wear if it wasn't so heavy) allowed us to get a luxury suite. So we are licking our wounds and indulging ourselves a bit.

Now the biggest problem is schlepping all this luggage home. We have seven bags. Three we had shipped and four we brought with us. The original cruise would have called for hot weather as well as much cooler weather when we reached Europe so we packed more than usual. And now we have more to add to those bags, the rest of the gifts from our Grand Voyage. Wondering if I should eat the chocolate so we don't have to pack it. Hmmm.

Our second day in Puerto Limon proved to be as beautiful as anything Costa Rica advertises, sun, calm waters, serene mountains and lively music provided by a group at the end of the dock. We did our morning walk and ended by going ashore to the little craft market in the port area. So many tempting things but no room in the suitcase for them. 

I did a couple loads of laundry and read most of a book in the afternoon. While we don't have a lounge chair on our veranda, at the rear of the ship on our deck there are some loungers and a couple of really nice cushioned loungers with pillows. Cozy enough for marathon reading.

We ate at the specialty Italian restaurant called Prego. I couldn't pass up the mushroom soup in a bread bowl, cream or no cream. It was worth it! My rack of lamb was super tender and tasty. Bob had some sort of appetizer that was basically paper thin beef with cheese and balsamic and lemon and parmesan sprinkled over it. He loved it as well as the pasta with extra meat sauce.

Entertainment was a mentalist. Not my speed. Bob went to the show and I went back to the room early. I was tired and feeling a bit anxious as well. Earlier in the evening before dinner, the captain had made an announcement that we would be spending another night in port and he would have "good news" for both crew and guests at noon the next day. Everyone spent the evening speculating on what would be the good news that would be good for all of us. Guess we would have to sleep on it.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Puerto Limon And The Canals!

 After much angst on our part over questioning if any port will have us due to the financial fix the cruise line is in, we discovered that a stop at Puerto Limon was still possible and we would overnight there. The stop in Colon however was canceled. We woke to a mixture of rain clouds and sun but by the time breakfast was done, the sum had chased the rain. 

We hustled down to breakfast to be sure we would be done in time for our tour that was to meet on the ship at 8:45 in the lounge. Breakfast is a little earlier and faster up at the Marketplace but we really like eating in the Waterside restaurant where we can sit at a table and not have to roam for our food at a buffet. It's Sunday, so those of you who know Bob's breakfast schedule know it had to be waffles.

Our excursion was to the Tortuguero Canals. I'm not sure they are actually a part of the Tortuguero National Park but they are close to it. We've done this excursion once before and enjoyed it so we decided to try it again. An air conditioned and nice clean bus picked up up at the dock and drove almost a half hour to the canals. We were told a ton of Costa Rican history and culture by a very savvy guide named Cynthia. 

The green countryside got greener and more dense as we left the port city. The natural beauty of Costa Rica is something to experience. We've had several opportunities with a couple of cruises and a Pickleball tour that got us into the mountains as well as the shore.

The canal boats are quite well done. They offer you fresh local bananas and fruit and a little beer if you like before or after your trip. Ours was offered before as we waited for an earlier tour to finish its trip. There was a small gift shop there and while I saw some clever things that might have been fun to buy for grandkids, I don't know where I'd pack them. (More on the packing later).

When our tour boat unloaded, we boarded. The boat seats around 50 people and I think we only had about 30 so there was plenty of seating to go around without feeling crowded. The humidity was climbing a bit but once the boat was moving, the gentle breeze was cooling. Quiet is the first thing that comes to mind. Even though we weren't far from a road, for the most part, the boat cruised quietly--quietly until we started sighting some of the nature the rainforest has to offer.

Birds were what we saw at first and our expert spotter and boat captain made sure we all could see them as long as they didn't fly off too quickly. Cynthia was well versed on each species and offered lots of details of habits and habitats. When the bird sightings repeated or got sparse she would tell us bout the trees, especially the banana trees. I did not know that the wild bananas have too many seeds to make them palatable to us picky human eaters. And another newly learned fact--plantains, while they grow on a similar looking tree to bananas, don't form the same kind of cluster. The fruit splays out instead of in a closed compact cluster. 

The cruise along the canals was so calming. It was just what we needed considering the chaos and uncertainty we'd faced the last week. We stopped suddenly when the sound of monkeys was heard in the distance. Cynthia and the boat captain finally spotted them off in the distance. The only thing we could really see was the branches moving as they swung from one to another.

I was feeling a bit disappointed. We hadn't seen a sloth yet. The last time, we'd seen two. Just as I was wondering how much time we had left, the boat was quickly put into reverse and our guides pointed up with their laser pen and mirror light. Way up in the tree was a three toed sloth. Somehow you can tell by the facial pattern although it was so high up I don't know how she saw the features. [So high up that I couldn't get a decent picture.] She did manage to wow us with the fact that they stay in the tree for seven days before coming down to relieve themselves. They have four chambers in their stomach and it takes that long to digest their food. If they sense danger on the way down, they climb back up and stay another seven. Okay. . .

We were almost in sight of the facility where we began when we stopped again behind another boat that was turning slowly. There was a group of monkeys much closer in the trees and somewhat active, climbing and jumping and pretty much showing off. They must not have been bothered by us because they didn't start howling. We've heard the howls before. It's like a band's huge amplifier that's gone a little crazy. Yes, that loud.

I must apologize for the pictures. I managed to walk off the ship and forget to take my good camera. Drats! These are all I could get from my iPhone. When you zoom in, you loose sharpness. I do have a nice video that I will try to post tomorrow. The internet isn't always friendly to those kind of uploads.

We attended the protestant church service in the evening. Sadly it will be the only one we have this voyage with Ed Voosen. His topics are always interesting. 

We had the best steak for dinner. It was a filet and cut like butter it was so tender. Our waiter, Marcin, spoiled me with pecan pie and a scoop of ice cream that he added hot fudge sauce to. My chocolate levels needed that. They were low. 

What will we wake to tomorrow? Our sister ship, Symphony, now sits empty in Bimini as the passengers and most crew were ferried to Fort Lauderdale. Many of you probably heard that as I understand it made some of the national news. As it stands now, we have one more day in Limon, two sea days and an overnight stay in Curacao before we arrive in Aruba where some will disembark on Saturday and the rest of us on Sunday. The crew is still a little uncertain of what will happen with them. That is all predicated on whether or not another creditor or the same one will try to get our ship "arrested" for outstanding bills. Meanwhile, we continue the philosophy of one day at a time. Que sera sera. 

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Somewhere Between Here And There


And the saga continues.

We awoke this morning wondering what the day would bring, certain of one thing and that was it would be a sea day. Yesterday's time spent at the salon was successful and this morning I went back for a mani-pedi. The salon crew is in a better position than the wait staff and housekeeping in this current situation of the cruise line shutdown. They are hired from a company that supplies staffing for the salons on ships therefore they will most likely be reassigned to another cruise line and ship. The same for the guy who takes care of the fitness center according to what he told Bob. But that leaves a lot of other people with an uncertain future.

The morning destination lecture was all about Puerto Limon and Colon and the San Blas Islands. As it stands now, we will be in Limon tomorrow and the next day. Then we skip Colon and the San Blas. That's disappointing in that we really wanted to go to the visitor center at the Panama Canal from Colon. We've been through the canal several times but were hoping to see the new locks or at least a different view of the passage through the locks.

Here's the new haircut and nails. Not
giving you a picture of the pedicure.

Captain Giske sounded weary as he gave his noon report today. With a sigh he told us that the reason we couldn't go to Jamaica was because we owed too much money and hadn't paid the bills. I guess I'm surprised that the whole rest of the cruise isn't just called off and we head to whatever port will let us disembark. With another sigh and almost under his breath, he said that the ship was almost "arrested" (a maritime law term) in Cozumel. We did leave a half hour early from there but I don't know if that had anything to do with it. My son was joking about the repo man chasing us. I don't think he's too far from the truth. 

Considering the unpaid fuel bills that I have heard could be as much as $5 million, I would love to glimpse the fuel gauge on the ship. We still have a ways to go to get us to Curacao and then to Aruba. Perhaps that is why we are overnighting in Costa Rica and then Curacao. Less fuel needed? After all, who's going to sell us fuel on a promise to pay? And/or, is there any extra money to fill the tank with?

Meanwhile, we will continue to enjoy the sunny days and warm weather until we once again have to don heavy jackets and boots. Bob is getting plenty of Paddle Tennis in and I'm getting some reading done. I'll leave the novel writing until I get home and can concentrate on it. 

Marcin, our favorite waiter, photo bombing our
picture. He has been a delight.

I neglected to mention in my previous post that we had an outstanding performer last night for showtime, CeCe Teneal. She sang tribute songs of Aretha Franklin and had the whole theater on their feet and dancing in the aisles. Tonight's show was a repeat of the Icons. It was good even a second time around.

More and more we hear crew speculating about the future especially the near future. Payday is the first of the month. Will they see a pay check and will it be good? My heart goes out to them.

Settling Into A Sea Day

 This morning's walk was a challenge. The seas are not rough but the wind made it quite an exercise. The starboard side was like walking uphill and the port side was like running down it. Getting around the bow of the ship was like being in a wind tunnel. Not a morning for any light weights. They would blow over the side.

We have looked forward to the protestant chaplain who was on our 2015 World Cruise and was to be here for the Grand Voyage that is not happening now. He gave the first of his morning devotionals this morning and we joined the small group. I love that he highlights the old hymns and gives the background for them, how they were inspired and a little about the life of the writer. He said he looked forward to seeing us on Sunday for whatever time the service was scheduled. I guess everything is in a bit of flux on the ship. He laughed and said he had prepared his sermon ahead of arriving on the ship and titled it "Surprise!" In light of the situation, it should be interesting.

Today was Asian cuisine at the buffet. Would have loved some more sushi but I'd had a big breakfast and wasn't very hungry. I did have some really good Thai curry coconut soup with veggies and some jasmine rice pudding with a sweet raspberry sauce.

After a lecture on the British Crown Jewels which we've had the privilege to see on one of our trips to London, I got up the courage to make a hair appointment. I don't normally get a haircut and color professionally, well haircut yes but it's been years since I've gotten professional color. He was very meticulous and I was very careful to hold my mask in place. When I did have to cough, he laughed and said, "It's okay. The virus and I are good friends." Then he apologized and said that wasn't funny. I thought it was. It certainly broke the ice. So now I am wearing a new bob and a beautiful new color on my hair, not too different than the usual but certainly much more nicely done. Thank goodness though for onboard credits. All I can say is cha-ching!

While I was in the chair, the captain came over the PA to announce that we are now closed out of Jamaica. I'm beginning to wonder if the comment I saw online about the financial situation is a part of it. Someone thought that we couldn't return to Miami and had to disembark passengers at Aruba because Miami was afraid of not getting paid for the port fees which would be substantial. Hmmm. Turns out that there is a lawsuit pending in the States against the Crystal ship the Symphony for non payment of fuel charges for over 3.5 million dollars reportedly. They will "arrest the ship" according to maritime law so that ship is ending its cruise in Bimini where the parent company owns the large resort there and the passengers will go by ferry to Fort Lauderdale from Bimini. Makes us wonder what may happen to us. 

Our itinerary seems to be in flux. We are still scheduled to stop in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica but now we are overnight. And as we checked our itinerary on our phone app, it has changed to an overnight stay in Curacao as well. That hasn't been confirmed yet but it looks like the two stops in Jamaica and the one in the San Blas islands are scrapped. It is an ever-changing adventure to be sure.

On the positive side, one of the things I love about the Caribbean area is the amazing clouds you see. It was always one of the fascinating things to observe when we went diving in Grand Cayman all those years. Instead of the thick overcast cloudy and gray skies back home, the clouds here form columns and shapes and when the sun lights them up just right they are breathtaking. I'm going to miss seeing more of them.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Stopping By Cozumel

 While some people, mostly diving enthusiasts, love Cozumel, us? Not so much. Even when we went diving there, we were not very excited. They do mostly drift diving because of the currents. By that I mean you get dropped off in one spot with one of the dive members holding a buoyant ball by a rope that tracks the groups progress and you just drift along, usually faster than you want to until the dive time is up. I'm someone who likes to explore at my own pace and just linger if I find something interesting. Hard to do when you have a current to fight. On the other hand, people say it's easy diving because you don't expend much energy letting the current carry you. To each his own.

Above sea level doesn't attract us much either. We usually end up at a dock that has a mall area at the end of it. Nice, it you are a shopper and love the hassle of the sales pitches. Sombreros, ponchos and colorful materials are pleasing to look at but I don't care to purchase any. And the jewelry? Everything you could imagine and more if you trust the sellers. I'm not big on jewelry either.

To sum up our walk ashore, it was pleasant weather, terra firma, and for once the mall was not so packed with people that you felt crowded and bumped. The mall also looked a lot cleaner than I remembered from the past. We stopped at a "supermarket" that was mostly stocked with tequila and liquors and found some chocolates to choose from for our stateroom attendant. A lot of the local chocolates were filled with tequila and while I thought that might be appreciated given the situation with the crew's future, we settled on a package of M&Ms that contained six small packets of candy.

Before we went to dinner, we set it on the bed with a note. "When things go badly, a little chocolate sometimes helps. Here is some for you and some to share." She has been a real sweetheart and kept us well stocked in towels and water and the other necessities of room care. When I got sick with my head cold/sinus infection,  she said she would pray for me. She had seen my devotional book in the room and told us she was a Christian too.

Dinner was at Umi Uma, the Japanese restaurant, last night. Melt in the mouth sushi and sashimi. 

Bruce Hammond was back on board ship and did his Frank Sinatra show. Love his voice and as he put it, "real music". 

A day at sea is next. If I can stop sneezing and hacking and blowing my nose, I'll try to get my hair done. We have some onboard credits we need to use up before the journey ends. There may be a shopping trip to the ship's stores ahead.  

Thursday, January 20, 2022

A Grand Voyage--The Beginning And The End

 Our day in Progreso, Mexico, was unsettling to say the least. It started out as a beautiful sunny day. The dock was the longest one I have ever seen. It is actually 4 miles long and it took us ten minutes by a shuttle van to get to the end of it. We were curious to see what Progreso was like since we'd never been here before.

The shuttle took us to the bus terminal which was just a block away from the end of the dock. There we got a sales pitch for all sorts of tours before we left the shuttle. The destination lecture had said there was a nice boardwalk along the shore so we tried to get our bearings and figure out which way to go.

The few blocks we walked before we found the shoreline were not pleasant--run down and with trash in the streets but once we found the boardwalk we were pleasantly surprised. It was beautiful. I can't tell you how far it stretched but on one side of it there were shops, restaurants and some small hotels. On the other side, was a gorgeous white sand beach that stretched as far as the eye could see. 

There were certainly opportunities to rent a chair and I think an umbrella and there were several places that had tables under cover for eating and drinking. While we got the usual patter of salesmanship you expect in the Caribbean and Mexico, it was not overwhelming and we enjoyed our stroll along the boardwalk. 

As we headed back to the shuttle service, we found that keeping the lighthouse in sight was a good navigation tool. The street we walked back on was not nearly as "rustic" as the other streets had been.

Now for the unsettling news. There had been rumors that Genting Hong Kong was in dire straits financially and it was coming to a head. Crystal Cruises is a part of that company but the news we had seen appeared to involve their ship building division. We had set it aside as something not to stress over needlessly.

Our ship sits at the end of a 4 mile long dock

Well, by the time we were back onboard the ship the rumors were flying and a little later confirmed by an email. Crystal Cruises would be suspending operations for all of their ships and river boats at the end of the segments they were on. That meant that our Grand Voyage would be a short one. It would end in Aruba on January 30.

As disappointed as we felt, it could not compare to the devastation of the crew. They had already been through one shut down because of COVID. We overheard some saying that they had sold cars and other possessions to survive financially. When the cruise line shuts down, they do not receive a paycheck. You have to applaud them though. For as unsettling as the news was, they greeted us with smiles and gracious service everywhere we went this evening. 

So we found ourselves scrambling to make sure we could get back home from Aruba. My sweet husband is always on the ball and he immediately made reservations for us with United. We never expected something like this. We had envisioned the possibility of our cruise ending due to COVID but certainly not due to the company's financial position. 

We have been assured that we will be reimbursed for the remainder of our cruise. Here is the email message:

Today, Crystal is announcing that it has suspended operations for its Ocean and Expedition ships through April 29, 2022, with River cruises suspended through the end of May 2022. Suspending operations will provide Crystal’s management team with an opportunity to evaluate the current state of business and examine various options moving forward.

Crystal’s three ships currently in operation – Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony sailing in the Caribbean and Crystal Endeavor in Antarctica – will complete their current voyages. Crystal Symphony’s current voyage ends in Miami on January 22, Crystal Serenity in Aruba on January 30 and Crystal Endeavor in Ushuaia, Argentina, on February 4.

“This was an extremely difficult decision but a prudent one given the current business environment and recent developments with our parent company, Genting Hong Kong,” said Jack Anderson, Crystal’s president. “Crystal has been synonymous with luxury cruising for more than 30 years and we look forward to welcoming back our valued guests when we resume our operations. We wish to thank our guests and travel advisors for their incredible support during these ongoing challenging times.”

For guests currently sailing on back-to-back voyages, Crystal will provide a refund for unused days of the cruise fare paid as well as the corresponding port charges, taxes and fees. Crystal will provide a full refund of cruise fare paid on affected bookings. Refunds will be processed automatically to the original form of payment so there is no further action on the guest’s part. If the cruise was paid via a Future Cruise Payment or Credit, the full value will be returned to their Crystal Society profile account.

Thank you again for your understanding.


Guest Services

We have ten days left to enjoy of what was to be 116 days. And that we will.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Ah, The Perks Of A Grand Voyage

 Last night we came back to our room to find that our stateroom attendant had left us a bag of goodies on our bed. There was heavy duty beach bag, two caps, a pretty scarf, two leather bound notebooks with pens and a waterproof blue tooth speaker. Guess I can take Kenny G to the beach with me.

Bob has stopped grumbling about his hair. The salon was open and he got a nice cut albeit a bit pricey when you consider what he spends at home. One of the nice things though is that we got a lot of onboard credits with our booking between Crystal and our travel agency so we figured all the haircuts and nail appointments should be taken care of with that.

The original brochure also listed free laundry service but I haven't seen anything yet to confirm that. Not a big deal since the free self service laundry is just down the hall and all the soap and softener is free as well. 

There are now rumors that we may be skipping Cartagena in several days. It's not a big deal at least to us but the cruise director mentioned that it's driving the excursion people crazy. One day it's on, another it's off. We were only to be there a few hours and we've been there several times before. While the old town is interesting there aren't many other places to go on your own.

Bob went to a golf clinic to try to learn how to hit a golf ball. He doesn't want to take up golf, just wants to be able to do better at Top Golf when we get home.

I spent most of the day reading and resting, trying to get past this head cold. The nice thing is that the lectures are close circuit televised to the ship so if you don't want to attend in person, you can watch from your room. I did that to learn more about Progeso, Mexico, which is our port for tomorrow. Since we are really not interested in Chichen Itza, the Mayan ruins, we were happy to note that there is a nice boardwalk to enjoy along the shore of Progreso.

[There have been some significant changes to our voyage. I will post tomorrow. The internet has not been cooperative.]

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Disembark, Embark, Let The Grand Voyage Begin!


Thankfully my COVID test the day before was negative because this morning I woke with a nasty head cold. Since it was a turn around day for our cruise, I wasn't going to miss much. We had breakfast and stayed in our room until it was time to meet in the Hollywood Theater with the rest of the people who were continuing on with the cruise to go through immigration. Let me explain.

When it is the end of one cruise and the ship enters a US port, immigration requires that all guests disembark and go through immigration. It should not take long as it's a formality but every guest needs to be off the ship before they can put guests back on. I heard stories that some people waited for an hour for the ship to clear so I grabbed my Kindle, a bottle of water and my phone along with my passport and room key. I was ready.

We waited in the theater on the ship about fifteen minutes until security said that the other passengers were off the ship. Then we were led as a group to the gangway where we had our ship cards scanned and then proceeded outside around the corner and back into the cruise terminal to go through another security check with metal detectors (which I set off with my knee). After a pat down, we were directed to some chairs and waited about ten minutes before we were allowed back on the ship. All in all not a bad ten minute stop in Miami.

Since there were only about thirty of us (another dozen had gone ashore) on the ship while the new passengers went through their testing and paperwork, we enjoyed quite a nice quiet rest of the morning and early afternoon. New passengers did not start coming aboard until around 1:30. 

Meanwhile we checked our home cameras to see what the winter storm had brought. FOURTEEN INCHES! And still snowing. We counted our lucky stars and expressed sympathy for those back home although at that point in time with the head cold, a cup of tea next to a nice warm fireplace sounded cozy.

I spent the afternoon reading in the stateroom while Bob sought out someone to play paddle tennis with. He ended up exercising in the gym. 

Just before dinner we took a picture beside the Welcome to the Grand Voyage sign in the atrium. Usually on a world cruise there would have been a big welcome dinner and dance but as much as people may have missed it, I think we were all just grateful to be here. Let the voyage begin.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Testing For The Next Segment Of Our Cruise

 A sunny start to our day with breakfast in the Marketplace buffet. Can you still call it a buffet when there is no self-serve anymore? No matter, it all goes very efficiently and with reduced guest capacity, your coffee cup is always full.

It was Sunday so we returned to our room after a few laps around the Promenade to live stream a church service from Key Largo. The live stream worked fairly well considering we were out at sea. 

Then it was time to take The Test. Again it was an antigen test, nose swab but the test swab was handled a bit differently in a test tube. All the same, the best news came as we stood in line waiting. There was an officer there who answered Bob's question about what happens should we test positive. We were under the assumption (something that happens when you listen to rumors) that if the test was positive, we would have to leave the ship. Not the case according to her. As long as we were not sick, exhibiting symptoms, a positive result would mean we would quarantine in our room for ten days but we didn't need to leave the ship. We exhaled. That was more hopeful than having to cancel the rest of our 116 day Grand Voyage.

The day before, we had attended what was called an open discussion about COVID led by a fellow passenger, a microbiologist Dr. Ronald Atlas. He explained some of the issues with viruses and COVID in particular and the difference between RNA and DNA and how the vaccines use the RNA to fight the virus. One of the things I found most interesting though was the major way viruses are often transmitted--through the eyes. Bottom line: wash your hands thoroughly and often and don't touch your eyes. Another encouraging fact was that the positivity rate on cruise ships is less that 1% compared to the numbers that are climbing on land. All in all, COVID is probably here to stay for quite a while and he was hopeful that what will happen is that we will get a combined yearly shot that will help to keep us from the flu as well as the COVID.

Lunchtime came and we had not heard any news about our morning test. In this case, no news was great news. They would not tell us the result unless it was positive. 

An interesting talk about pirates followed lunch. I learned a few new terms: eggs were called cackle fruit, the term duffle bag comes from the pirates calling their stuff "duffle" and taking a caulk meant taking a nap. That last one needs a bit of explaining. They would use tar to seal the cracks in the deck flooring and so if you took a nap laying on the deck, the soft tar would leave tar marks from the caulk on your back.

On Deck 12 in the Palm Court before dinner, we settled in to listen to music and watched the sky light up ahead of us with lightening flashes. On our weather radar we could see that there was a line of storms that we were going to pass through on our way to Miami. It was quite a display for a while but sometime in the middle of dinner, it was over.

Our evening entertainment was the lead female singer's single woman show featuring her favorite lead ladies from musicals and films. She did some great impersonations. That was followed by a stop in the Stardust Lounge to see that the Steelers were getting soundly beaten by the Chiefs. 

Tomorrow morning would be lost to the immigration proceedings and disembarking previous passengers and embarking new ones. But like Scarlet, I'd worry about that tomorrow. The good news was that reception told me the salon would be open for the next segment and Bob could stop grumping about needing a haircut.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Hazmat On Our Deck? What's Up?


Our view for dinner.

In the early days of our cruise, we noticed some rooms being cleaned a couple doors from us. The attendants were in hazmat jumpsuits and plastic shields, not the heaviest hazmat you see but definitely enough to get our attention. We shrugged it off thinking that perhaps the rooms were just getting a thorough cleaning after the last cruise. After all, the ship wasn't all that full of guests--only about 1/3 capacity. Maybe they were cleaning those rooms after the usual turn around day to save some time on the day when new guests arrive.

Then a few days ago we noticed room service delivering breakfast to the two rooms next to us that we thought had been empty. The doors were each opened by a young man and the room service tray was handed to them. Not the usual room service procedure and certainly not the usual fare. Everything was in paper cups and I think plates. It happened so quickly and they seemed uncomfortable that we'd seen them. 

Fast forward about three days and we again saw attendants in hazmat clothes cleaning the room. Unsettling. Should we ask? Should we not? Do we really want to know? The answer during the elevator ride was yes.

We had already asked our stateroom attendant and she had insisted there was no one in the rooms beside us. Well, maybe she thought we were asking about the room to the left and not the right. Or, maybe she was hiding something. It was definitely time to get some answers.

The reception desk told us that those rooms were being used to isolate some of the crew members who were not sick or positive but had had contact with someone who was. That certainly explained the three day period that the rooms seemed to be occupied.

Then later that day, our stateroom attendant came to us and said that she had spoken with her supervisor who said the rooms were used to isolate new crew members for 3-5 days to be sure they were not infected. Once they tested negative, they were off to their assigned duties.

Two stories but both make sense. We were also assured that there were no passengers with COVID and only two crew members--obviously the kitchen staff who had tested positive. That probably explained the two fellows in the rooms. If the contact with the positives was a reason for their isolation, then the explanation makes sense--especially when we greeted the one young man who was leaving the room with smiles and answered yes to Bob's question of "Out of isolation?"

On a brighter note, it was Black Tie Optional night and we ate at the Silk restaurant which has mostly a Chinese menu but much better than the usual fare on land. I had my favorite, Mongolian lamb chops, tender and tasty. Sadly, there weren't many people there to enjoy the food. But when you consider the reduced capacity, there aren't that many people to go around.

Our show was a sampling of Broadway hits, West Side Story, Something's Rotten and Rent. We've seen it before but it never gets old. 

The notice in our room told us we would be tested in the morning since we are continuing on. Nothing to study for and just a little mild anxiety. Still we will sleep well with an extra hour to get back on Eastern Standard Time before our arrival in Miami in another day. Hope my watch stem holds out with the time changes that will be ahead over the next few months.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

CDC Color Status Yellow Means No St. John's?

 Our ship was scheduled to visit St. John's in the US Virgin Island and news came that the island authorities were not going to let us in. The CDC classifies ships and ours is currently at a yellow status which means there is at least one crew member who has tested positive or .3 of a passenger who has (figure that one out). I would guess that because of our status and the previous outbreak among crew during the cruise before us, that St. John's determined they would deny us entry.

Whatever the case we were scheduled for another day at sea and a slow cruise back to Miami. I don't mind sea days. There's always something to do but I determined I was going to get some writing time in. I was fairly productive. It's always a slow start until characters begin to come alive and set a direction. 

I walked the Promenade Deck while Bob played Paddle Tennis and discovered a feathered Leonardo DiCaprio impersonator at the bow of the ship. If you've seen Titanic, the movie, you'll get it.

The other siting made me really happy. Flying fish! I hadn't seen any in the  time we'd spent on the ship. I usually see them any time we are cruising the Caribbean. I was beginning to worry but there they were, soaring across the waves and diving in again. 

Trying to cut back a bit on my food consumption, I had eaten light at breakfast and lunch but unfortunately that just made me hungry by the time for afternoon tea rolled around. You guessed it. All the good intentions were gobbled up by scones and finger sandwiches. Still, I didn't eat it all (patting myself on the back).

I hadn't noticed it until the captain made a special announcement that we had changed course. A crew member had become ill and needed to be transported to San Juan, Puerto Rico, which was the nearest land mass to us. He had contacted the Coast Guard but they both had determined it was too dangerous to try to use a helicopter--it was a bit windy. That made me wonder if the crew member had been injured. I had heard a loud metal bang in the morning as if something heavy had dropped. The captain assured us it was not COVID related but he never gave any other information. That was the bad news.

The good news was that we would get to see the port of San Juan which, in our opinion, is the prettiest port in the Caribbean. At the entry sits a spectacular old fort. Our veranda was on the port side and perfect for viewing it as we entered. The sun was also setting and lights in the port were coming on. We went to dinner and had a pretty view of the lights in the harbor and during the sail out. The actual docking only took about fifteen minutes with the EMS coming aboard and taking the patient who we would learn later was a female and was doing much better the next day.

The entertainment for the evening was in the Stardust Lounge which is kind of like a cabaret. I don't know how the dancers are able to do their thing without kicking the passengers who sit right down front. I saw no passenger injured.

A walk around the deck and we were on our way to bed with a few prayers said for the crew member left behind in San Juan. 

Friday, January 14, 2022

Lots Of Company In St. Maarten

 St. Maarten has always been a port crowded with cruise ships. Today was no exception even considering the COVID concerns. While all the dock spaces were not filled, there were four other larger ships than ours docked with us. 

The port area is a very nice little shopping mall with the usual Caribbean souvenir shops and jewelry stores and a couple of bars tossed in. It was renovated a few years back and they have continued to expand on it and it appears plan for more in the future.

In the morning, walked the length of the dock since our ship was at the end. That in itself is quite a walk and then we perused the shop offerings that were displayed outside the stores. There is a water taxi that will take you to the main part of town. The cost has gone up since we've been here. It is now $7/person. I seem to remember it being somewhere between $3-5 on previous visits. There is a way to walk into town but you have to go through the parking area to find it. There are taxis and we made note of the assigned area for their dispatch for later as we planned a trip to Maho Beach after lunch. 

Maho Beach is at the end of the airport runway. It is a thrill to watch the planes big and small fly overhead as they come in for a landing. The largest ones arrive in the afternoon and because of our scheduled departure, we had enough time to watch those. The taxi ride was about a half hour at the cost of $25/one way. The driver dropped us off in a large parking lot by the Sunset Bar and we walked the short distance to the beach. 

There were more people than I remembered the last time we did this but that was probably due to our afternoon visit rather than in the morning. It wasn't long before a few small planes and private jets flew over. The one thing you do have to be careful of is when the jets on the ground taxi to the end of the runway to take off. When they turn and rev up, they create a sandstorm if you are in their direct line of fire.

The sun was a bit hot but the breeze helped and I wore my bathing suit so I could take a dip and cool off. Bob does better with the heat than I do. The surf was pretty strong and it was a little tricky getting in and out. Lots of people were body surfing onto the sandy shore--some planned and some not. Those who were giggling and forgot to close their mouth when a wave hit, often got a mouthful of sand.

We stayed at the beach for about an hour and a half, long enough to see a couple of larger planes land. The really big one from Paris must have had a tailwind and landed early just before we arrived. Our driver who had promised to wait for us (I figured he was going to have some refreshment at the bar) had disappeared by the time we were ready to leave. In all fairness, we stayed a half hour longer than we'd said to him. There were plenty of other drivers there in a taxi section of the parking lot and when a helpful security guard couldn't locate our promised ride, he recommended another and we hopped in.

The ride back to the ship took a whole lot longer. I was glad we had a 5:30 departure time and hadn't cut it close. The reason for the long ride was a long wait of about 20 minutes at the bridge that had to open for several large boats to pass through. Our driver, who had another pickup to make after dropping us off, took some back roads through what appeared to be a warehouse district. I'm not sure it saved all that much time because of all the speed bumps he had to slow down for but if it made him feel better, okay.

Our evening started with a beautiful sunset eclipsed by another ship who almost seemed to do it on purpose. They were headed one direction and turned to head the other. I think they were probably following channel markers. Dinner was prime rib with corn on the cob that tasted fresh picked and followed by a energy filled show of singers and dancers. 

We did a late evening walk around the Promenade Deck again. Seems like we're getting into a routine. The daily program left in our room each night was of great interest to us. Our scheduled port stop in the US Virgin Islands at St. John's was canceled. Our ship is still on the yellow level probably because of the outbreak among the crew on the previous cruise. Even though CDC requirements are due to change, the St. John's authorities denied us entry. On the bright side, another sea day is not a bad thing. Good weather, good food and lots of relaxing.

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