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Old May 11th, 2009, 01:53 PM
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Default Monday, May 11.

Monday, May 11.

We spent an hour working out yesterday, circumnavigating the promenade deck 3 ½ times (one mile) and then heading to the gym for weight lifting and yoga. After burning so many calories we didn’t feel too guilty about an afternoon nap.

For dinner we could have dined in the dining room, but our wonderful butler Papa called and suggested he bring us a menu from the onboard specialty restaurant Prego and serve it to us on our verandah. What could we say?

So, he brought a portable table and set up the tablecloth with flowers and breadbasket. The ship is sailing rather slowly and the weather is amazing – hardly any wind at all. My wife pointed out that if you close your eyes the sound of the water breaking against the hull sounded exactly like waves breaking on a beach.

The temperature, wind and humidity were perfect.

Our opening appetizer was fois gras, a slip of lobster tail and mozzarella in a pastry shell. I have never had better fois gras (goose liver). Instead of the usual macerated slice suspended in aspic, this was freshly chopped (not ground) and served warm. It was sweet and succulent. The lobster tail had a hint of lime and ginger.

Our second course was Caesar salad and sweet potato gnocchi. Keep in mind we were enjoying this on our private verandah wearing just our jammies. Papa brought each course individually. My main entrée was rack of lamb, with mint jelly of course and freshly sautéed mushrooms. It is the mark of a gourmet restaurant when a familiar dish makes you think, “I have never had it taste quite this good before.” The mushrooms were not slippery, watery and tasteless, they were full of earthy goodness that melded with the tender taste-ture of the four medium rare lamb chops. Dessert was tiramisu, of course.

Dinner took two hours, with no distractions but the sound of the surf below our balcony. This is luxury cruising, at its finest.

If you have never tried luxury cruising this is your year. All luxury cruise lines are giving significant discounts this year. Crystal is offering as much as $2000 shipboard credit per stateroom.

In the penthouse suites, where we are, Crystal also includes all beverages; champagne, wine, beer and the spirit of your choice. We also get all the bottled water we want at no extra charge.

The Crystal cuisine is phenomenal. I was on another luxury cruise line a few years ago and I admit I was a little disappointed by the food. I felt it was bland. I was also underwhelmed by the service on that ship because they neglected to give me sufficient guidance on what was available. For example, we were not told until the last day that we could have Eggs Benedict (one of our favorites) any time we wanted. There were no menus and no one brought it up.

On Crystal, the service people are everywhere. They show up immediately and ask you if there is anything you want, from iced tea to eggs of your choice.

What this boils down to is creating a better cruise experience by suggestion. We never would have decided to eat a Prego dinner on our verandah if our butler, Papa, had not insisted that we try it. We did and we will never forget it. The same is true of certain dishes in the restaurant. Proactive luxury, it makes a difference.

We have two room stewardesses. The assistant accidentally broke my wife’s glass nail file. She was so upset she was afraid to tell us, poor thing! We assured her it is no problem, and we really were not that worried about it, but they insisted we fill out an accidental loss report and they will reimburse us.

All in all, I have to say I am very impressed with Crystal. One thing I learned a long time ago is that the quality of service on a cruise ship is often the result of the effectiveness of onboard management. On Crystal, each dining service has a manager keeping an eagle eye on everything and everyone. You never see a table in need of cleaning, or a waiter staring off into space. If you ask where something is they not only tell you, but they also get it for you.

I love our stateroom. It isn’t especially big but it has so many nice touches. The lighting controls are all intuitive. There isn’t a single light switch I cannot find, and they are all available from my bedside. Not only are there more television stations than I have ever seen on a cruise line, there is a speaker control in the bathroom so I can listen to the news while in the shower or the Jacuzzi tub.

More later – just remember, this is the year for a Crystal cruise with booking incentives like I have never seen before; it just doesn’t get any better than this.
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