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Old April 30th, 2011, 07:15 AM
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Hilo, Hawaii - Apr. 29 ‘11
Last night I decided to order a snack from Room Service, and watch at least some of the wedding of William and Kate. The system for room service onboard is different than all of the cruise lines I’ve sailed on.
You press the Room Service direct line button on the cabin telephone, let it ring several times, hang up the hand set, and they call you back. In the case of the suites with butler service, the process is the same for paging your butler.

I have to admit I’m not certain of the logic of the system. It’s something I’ll have to inquire about later.

While on the topic of systems I’ve not encountered before; the table games in the casino close from 6 P.M. - 8 P.M. It may be that history tells them that is the quietest time for casino business, so they use the time to allow the casino staff to rest. Personally, when I have late seating dinner, on occasion I like to go spend a bit of time in the casino before dinner.
With dinner normally ending at around 10:00 P.M., and the nightly shows beginning at 10:30 P.M. it often feels there’s not much time left for enjoying the ship’s nightlife.

Yesterday there was a lecture by Emmy Award winning Casting Director, Jeff Greenberg, which I had really wanted to attend. I forgot! It goes to show I should have paid more attention at the memory improving lecture.
The list of Mr. Greenberg’s casting credits includes work on the television show Cheers for seven years, as such series as Wings, My So-Called Life, Newsradio, Early Edition, Frasier, Ugly Betty, as well as quite an array of films.

His session was the talk of the ship later that evening; drawing raves. Fortunately he’ll have another presentation later in the cruise, and I’ll make sure I attend.

I’m now 1/3 of the way through this cruise and I believe I’m starting to understand why Crystal Society members ( their repeater’s club) are so zealously loyal… it’s not that Crystal is special (don‘t mistake the way I mean that), but that Crystal makes all their guests feel special. Onboard the Symphony they make you feel as though whatever you ask for is no bother.

Hilo is the only port of call on this golf themed cruise where golf is not offered as a tour. Hilo is on the Big Island. On this island, the great golf courses are located on the other side of the island, near Kona.

Most Hawaii sailings on all the cruise lines used to stop at Kona as well as Hilo. That is seemingly no longer the case, as we didn’t on our recent Sapphire Princess cruise either. I’m not sure why. But it apparently also means there’s no longer an opportunity to see the lava from the volcano flowing into the ocean at night, as you pass by. And that is a real shame.
When docked in Hilo the most magnificent tours are the helicopter flight tours above the volcano, which are fairly pricey. You can also visit the Volcano National Park via tour bus, or automobile.

As I have 3 straight days of golf tours coming up, beginning tomorrow, I decided to just spend the day onboard relaxing in the sunshine, and to begin reading Ken Venturi’s book. I also finished it today; an easy read.

Reflections, the ship’s daily newsletter and schedule, had the most detailed information and history of Hilo than on any ship I’ve sailed to the islands, and without the usual map of “recommended shops”. That impressed me!

Because I spend so much time looking at computer screens, our message boards, and writing, I really don’t read much anymore. Now that we’re on land, I called Mrs. Kuki, and I when I told her I was half way through Mr. Venturi’s book already she dropped the phone in shock. So, here’s the pictorial proof… just for Mrs. Kuki.

I must say I have been sleeping incredibly well these past few days. The bed in my suite is incredibly comfortable, with high quality Egyptian cotton sheets, and big fluffy duvet.
On our Sapphire Princess cruise I commented that there was no “under-sheet” (or over-sheet, or whatever the correct terminology might be), that separates the bed’s sheet from the lower part of the duvet. It might seem inconsequential, but I thought it less sanitary to have people’s bodies directly in contact with the duvet while sleeping. The good news… on the Symphony, there is a separating sheet. There is also an extensive pillow menu available. The poor quality of the pillows on Sapphire Princess was actually one of my main complaints. I don’t apologize for that, because on a cruise sleep is a very important part of your ability to maximize your enjoyment of the entire cruise.
I remember a year or so ago there was quite a kafuffle made on the internet cruise message boards when Royal Caribbean quit leaving chocolates on the pillows in the cabins onboard. People railed about cutbacks.

Well, guess what… on Crystal there are no mints or chocolates left on your bed at night. And you know what else?… It makes no difference at all.

On our last Princess cruise I objected to the sandpaper quality of the toilet paper. I know it seems like an odd complaint, but I think it ends up being an important (though perhaps still trivial) item to passengers. The toilet paper on the Symphony is fittingly “luxurious”.

This evening I, along with four of my dining room tablemates, dined in one of the ship’s alternate restaurants, Prego. Unlike the alternate restaurants on most non-luxury brands, there is no surcharge for dining there, though a $7 pre passenger gratuity is recommended. This won’t the case in 2012, when Crystal goes all inclusive. Reservations are required.

Prego features an Italian menu, and from beginning to end tonight’s meal was as good an Italian meal as I’ve had anywhere. The food was plated beautifully, tasted as good as it looked, and service and timing of the meal was the equal of both. This meal was so wonderful I may have to try and secure another reservation to try a few more dishes before this cruise is over.


After dinner, overstuffed as I was, I headed to the Galaxy Lounge to watch tonight’s comedy entertainer. I’m not sure about the attendance after early dinner seating, but I am beginning to feel sorry for the entertainers doing their late show, as they are playing to very small crowds.
The challenge for a comedian to be funny, and get a lot of laughs in a big room, with a small audience, s a daunting task I think.

Interestingly the casino was open this evening, and I understand will be open every evening while we are in the islands, with the exception of Honolulu, where we’re in port until midnight. I remember for a time the casinos on cruise ships were closed throughout the time the ship was in the islands. Last trip on Sapphire there was one night they opened the casino. And now with the Symphony's casino opening every night I'm getting confused as to what I can tell future Hawaii cruisers to expect.

Tomorrow we visit Kauai and the golf portion of the cruise kicks into high gear. I’ll be golfing three times on three different islands, over the next three days.
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