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  #31 (permalink)  
Old May 20th, 2009, 12:12 PM
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Sorry Paul, totally off topic... I am German (1st generation but dual citizen) ... Husband is a Pork Chop-Parents from San Miguel.

Paul... You LOVE Caviar... when I lived in Moscow, I used to buy jars of caviar for $7 and sit and watch movies with a spoon, a jar and toast for snacks instead of popcorn... I assume those days are over back in the USSR.

looking forward to more updates!
Manya F
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  #32 (permalink)  
Old May 20th, 2009, 05:01 PM
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When I was in Russia in 1994 I bought beluga for $35. four ozs. In 2005 it was $80 for 4 ozs. and that was fater bargaining.

I can only imagione what it costs now.

I do not know what kind of 'var they have onboard. I am not sure it is top o the line, but it is good.
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Old May 22nd, 2009, 03:17 PM
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Default Friday - May 22

Did I tell you about Prego?

OMG? How delicious can a restaurant get? Prego is one of two alternative dining venues onboard Serenity. The other is an Asian (mostly Japanese) restaurant called “Silk Road.” There is no cover chrage foir either restaurant, only a recommended additional gratuity which I personally believe is only imposed to keeo everyone from dinbing in these restaurants every night.

We arrived at 7:00 and we were quite surprised at how quiet the restaurant was. Out of maybe 30 tables we were only the second party seated. However, by 8:00 most of the restaurant was full.

Our first dish was a surprise tase from the chef, a slice of capon hen with a balsamic reduction. Deliscious. My entrée was a small meat ball made of fois gras, aka goose liver. I described this to you in a previous entry, it was not a oily and pasty-tasting pate-like fois gras in aspic one usually expects. This was freshly cooked goose liver hand chopped (not macerated) and rolled in a nutty shell. Served with a bit of chutney on a cracker it takes taste to another level. Like so many things on Crystal.

Next we had an appetizer of yellow squash ravioli. Yellow squash is a bit like pumpkin, and it has a sweet taste mixed with reduced cream and sweet spices like nutmeg and allspice. It was lightly sauteed in white truffle oil and assisted by a butter and mushroom sauce. Each bite had just the right combination of earthly goodness, pumpkin-sweet and mel in your mouth rich at the same time.

For our entrées we had wonderful flame-grilled lamb chops, four of them, with large dollops of mint jelly (the way we Americans love it).

After dinner we went to the Crystal stage show, “Curtain Call,” a salute to great Broadway shows throughout the late 1900s. Starting with the 50s through the 90s we went from Hair to Tommy to Les Miserables to the Producers.

Here we have to ghet serious foer a moment. For those of you who know me, you know I have been to more cruise shows than most people. I worked as a stage manager on cruise ships for two years.

Crystal’s entertainment often wins “best in the industry” awards. Being realistic, awards in the cruise industry mean next to nothing. There are several magazines that give out awards to cruise lines every year, and in case you haven’t nothiced, the same cruise lines win the same awards every year.

Crystal’s entertainment has been awarded “best cruise ship entertainment” by (I believe) Conde Nast for many years now, and Crystal has the best entertainment in the luxury market. Why? Well, for one thing Crystal ships are far more populated than most luxury cruise ships. Serenity holds 1000 passengers at full capacity, for example, although we only have about 700 on this cruise. We started out with about 600 be we have been gaining populsation in every port since our initial six days at sea up to the Panama Canal. In Aruba we gained guests, in St Martin even more guests.

In any case, a ship that carries 1000 assengers can afford 10 singers and dancers for a cruise show. In reality, lux cruise competitors Regent, Silversea and Seabourn carry only about 300 per ship or less. Their entertainment is smaller. In fact, on luxury ships where the average age of guests is “retired+” you rarely have a full house for any show anyway.

But here is MY personal dilemma. I don’t like cruise ships shows, and that is hard for me, because I really like cruise ship food, staterooms, accomodations, destinations, décor and vale. In other words, I love everything about cruise ships except for the entertainment. So, I honestly do not know if my role is to try to go by what other people say about the entertainment, or if my role is to say what I really think about it.

Being honest with myself I have to write what I really think. But I urge you to remember that it is only my opinion and I am jaded having come from the entertainment industry. If you disagree with me then you are perfectly right to do so. Never, ever, would I say my opinion is any more valid than your is when it comes to cruise ship entertainment. I can only tell you what I personally like.

So, Crystal has a large cast, 10 singers and dancers. But the content of the shows is dated, which is the downfall of most cruise shows in my opinion. When the bulk of the show features hits from shows like The Wiz, Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar and Jekyll and Hyde then it is dated. Yes, they touched on Rent, Mama Mia, the Producers and Hairspray, but even those shows are now from the 1990s.

By audience reaction most people enjoyed the shows a great deal. Personally, I think they were average cruise shows. There are plenty of costume changes, but the choroeography is repetitious and the vocalizations were weak to average. Not one song filled my heart with joy or took me away. I am not a dancer, but I have worked with plenty of dfancers (as a sound designer and audio engineer) and the dancing seemed a little lifeless to me, like the kicks could have been higher and the turns twice as fast. Take away the costumes and my guess is the choreography is very repetitious.

Fortunately, there are always a few pretty faces in the cast. I think that every show I see has at least one irresistable face that I end up watching almost the entire time. This cast had one. Sometimes I think the best part of a cruise show is just watching a very good looking person doing a lot of uncharacteristic moves you wouldn’t see in regular life. Its actually a bit voyeuristic, but entertainers are by definition exhibitionistic anyway, right?

Getting back to the costumes, I don’t need to see a sateen lime green sports coat festooned with polkadot lapels - with a matching bow tie and and black bowler hat with rhinestones on the brim only. One of the dance numbers reminded me of a LooneyTunes cartoon, you know, with people in clown-like costumes with over-sized shoes and floppy top hats tucking their thumbs in their armpits and doing the sailor dance. Need I say more?

Hey, its entertainment, not let’s-be-serious-ment. It is supposed to make you smile. I am entertaining myself writing about how silly it looked. If I am amused writing about it, I have to assume you would be entertained watching it. But is it high art – like Man of La Mancha? Or is it unintended silliness, like watching Carol Burnett playing Scarlet Ohara. For some people it appears to be the former. To me, it is the latter. But this isn’t just for Crystal, it is for many cruise ships shows.

Today is our last day of this cruise and so we are packing. The staff has been fantastic, especially our butler who never let us down once. The onboard enrichment is amazing, from the computer classes to the music lessons, art lesson, bridge lessons, Spanish lessons, four NFL lecturers, the Serenity Orchestra, the espionage expert, the LA Times reporter, the International Law professor, the acupuncturist, the yoga teacher, the Panama Canal historian…. The list just goes on and on.

Never have I seen a ship with such a rich contingent of onboard experts. We talked with them at lunch and dinner. We saw then on deck and in the hallways. They became our friends. In the end that is the magic of Crystal Cruises, just an excellent onboard experience. And that is how I want to end this commentary, you cannot go wrong on Crystal if you goal is an accomodating cruise ship with fantastic food and service. We met people on this cruise who had been onboard for months – and I mean passengers. It is that kind of cruise ship, hard to leave.
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Old May 24th, 2009, 05:50 PM
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End of cruise - I am home now.

One VERY nice thing Crystal does that I have never seen another cruise line do is taking you to a hotel to have lunch and sit comfortably until it is time to go to the airportfor your flight.

Our flight was at 5:00 pm. but we were taken to a Hyatt for a free buffet lunch. We talked and relaxed until about 1:45 when they took all to the airport. This was all included in the cruise. I recall they did the same thing for us in Barbados back in the late 90s on Harmony.

Attention to detail, that is the deluxe way. I have to say THANK YOU Crystal for letting me report on this cruise.
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  #35 (permalink)  
Old May 25th, 2009, 02:13 AM
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Very interesting report, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and impressions. I have a couple of questions. What was the average age of the cruisers? The entertainment I know you didn't love, but how was it compared to other (mass market) lines you have been on? The food sounds wonderful and one of the highlights of the trip. What was your favorite meal and why? What was your favorite port on this cruise and why? What is the one thing the cruise line could have done to make the cruise better? Sorry to ask for more, I have never cruised a luxury line and I love hearing about it.
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Old May 25th, 2009, 01:03 PM
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Since this cruise was 16 days long most of the passengers were retired which means 65+. There were very few people under the age of 50 and I saw no children onboard at all.

Crystal brings a lot of lecturers and teachers onboard and they all fraternize with the guests on a regular basis. We spent a lot of our time with the computer and music instructors as well as the lecturer on International Law, Rene Beres.

I didn't say the entertainment was bad, I said it was typical curise ship entertainment and I am a harsh critic. For a luxury cruise line it was far superior than most ships, because most lux lines only carry about 300 passengers.

Crystal Serenity has over 1000 passneger capacity. Their cast of singers and dancers is 10 people including a dance team and a piar of featured vocalists. There are a lot of costume changes.

It reminded me of a production show you might see on Princess or Holland America. In my opinion the shows on the mainstream mega-lines Carnival, Royal Caribbean and NCL are the bets shows. They tend to have lasers, pyro effects, integrated slides and video effects, special lighting and casts as big as 20 people.

Crystal often gets rated as highest in enteratinment in the cruise industry, but I would say the shows appeal to an older demographic, older than baby boomers, and that is a large part of their clientele, so that is OK.

My favorite port on this cruise was Tortola only because I had never been there before. Frankly, I am a bit tired of the Caribbean and we were more onboard to see the ship than the ports.

This was the most fun I ever had transiting the Panama Canal. The onboard expert was really informative and fun. Richard Morgan is his name and he has lived in Panana City since the 1980s.

As for day-time entertainment, I have to say Crystal is probably at the top of the industry. With three scheduled lectures daily on great topics like journalism, international law, espionage, football, etc. It was the best lecture series I have ever seen on a ship.

I was a bit disappointed that the shore-ex department was not better prepared with our visit to Costa Rica. I had been there before and had great wildlife experiences seeing monkeys, macaw parrots, etc. I specifically asked them in detail this time which tour I could take to have the best chance of repreating that adventure so my wife could see it. The tour they recommended was obviously not the best choice.

The guide even told me that where they were scheduled to take us was not known for wildlife, more for botany. And he was a botanist. he said I should have gone to the national park which we passed on our way in and out.

To the line's credit - they did refund my money for that tour after I explained how disappointed I was. They did not have to do that and I only said I felt that I was given a bad a recommendation. They chose to refund my money.

So - to sum up, on many cruises I hear people raving about the shore excursions. We were onboard with people who were still onboard for the world cruise that had just officially ended in Los Angeles but they were sailing back to Florida. I never once heard anyone raving about any shore tour. I heard one guest talk about a private tour they had set up in Tortola. Many of the guests were older and with somewhat limited mobility, so I just get the feeling that they are not onboard for the ports, they are there for the lifestyle onboard the ship, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.
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