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Kuki April 25th, 2011 04:49 AM

Virtual Cruise - Crystal Symphony - Hawaii - Getting "Crystalized"
Crystal Symphony - Day 1 - Apr. 24
It was a very unusual day for me today, as even though I am cruising without Mrs. Kuki to keep me organized, I made it to LAX; from there to the Port of Los Angeles, in San Pedro, onto the ship; received all my luggage; unpacked, and got through the first day onboard, without incident. And seemingly, I have forgot nothing, except my wife.

Just six weeks ago I was in San Pedro, disembarking from the Sapphire Princess at the end of a 14 night cruise to Hawaii and back. Therefore it was a bit of an odd feeling back so soon to set sail on the exact same itinerary on the Symphony; a ship just under half the size of the Sapphire.
One similarity, as on most of my previous sailings from Los Angeles, whether to Hawaii, or to the Mexican Riviera, the first night the seas are quite choppy.

On arrival to the ship, it took about as long as the fastest I could walk to check in and cross the gangway to board the Symphony.

The lobby/atrium, with it’s marble flooring, crystal lighting and feature waterfall is visually stunning, making a significant opening statement to a first time Crystal cruiser.

A line of attendants were waiting, offering to handle my carry-on bag and escort me to my cabin but I declined, opting to make my way on my own.
My accommodations for the next two weeks is Penthouse 1061, just a few cabins from the stern on Deck 10. I’ll go into detail about the amenities that come with the Penthouse Suites, and this later in the cruise, after I’ve settled in a bit, but my initial description is luxurious, understated elegance.

I’ve got more drawers and storage space than I could have used if I’d brought three times as much luggage.

Today was Easter Sunday, and waiting to greet me in my suite was a large plate of bunny and chocolate egg creations, and a bottle of Champagne. In short order, I met my butler David, and my cabin stewardess, Priscilla.

For the first time that I can recall on a cruise, the Lido deck café was not open on embarkation day. Lunch is served in the Dining Room until 1:30, and after that time the Trident Grill on Lido Deck, for hamburgers, hotdogs, wraps and such is open until 6 P.M.

This did create some lines, and those working behind the counter, and on the grill seemed a bit harried attempting to keep up. The hamburgers looked terrific, but with the rush were served under cooked, and with orders simply being yelled out to the cooks, when I ordered a cheeseburger, and the cook forgot, a piece of cheese was simply thrown on top, rather than melted on the burger.

Though tonight’s dinner, late seating in the Crystal Dining Room, quickly put to rest any questions my lunch experience might have left in my mind. Both food and service were superb.

As with all the Virtual Cruises I write, I attempt to write each installment at the end of the day, and get it posted. And, as tonight, I sometimes stay out much too late before returning to the cabin to write. So, please excuse the grammar and spelling mistakes I am bound to make, as I fly by the seat of my pants, for the next two weeks.

I do promise to provide much more specific details as the cruise progresses.

Trip April 25th, 2011 08:10 AM

The atrium is quite stunning, and, looks "crystalized" in white....I am surprised to hear of the food issues on sailaway though, one would think the crew would not be undone, by this. Imagine if they were cooking hamburgers on the Oasis!

I will be joining you shortly, at sea, you with a dupicate itinerary fresh in your mind, and me, with a virgins eyes of the Med....

Enjoy every second, and, all the upscale details..have fun!

Moiraine April 25th, 2011 11:43 AM

The lobby is beautiful. Enjoy your cruise.

Mike M April 25th, 2011 11:48 AM

I'm excited to read about your "adventures" in Crystal land. Now that Crystal is moving to an "all-inclusive" pricing I believe they will truly fit into the luxury category.

I look forward to seeing and reading more.

Take care,

Kuki April 25th, 2011 08:28 PM

I've loaded many more pictures to the Crystal Symphony photo gallery. If you'd like to have a look, here's the link...
CruiseMates Cruise Community and Forums - Kuki's Album: Crystal Symphony LA Hawaii LA

I've settled in nicely, so the Virtual Cruise will continue with a post later this evening. Tonight if formal night. We'll see how formal they go on Crystal.

BEAV April 25th, 2011 09:37 PM

We were next door to you in 1063 last November and David was our butler! We loved him! Please enjoy his services and have a terrific cruise.

Pixie Dust April 25th, 2011 10:11 PM

Aloha, Kuki! It seems longer than six weeks since we sailed with you and Geela on the Get Lei'd 5-0 Cruise to Hawaii. Your photos and posts are whetting out appetite to book another cruise...and soon. Enjoying your posts....keep 'em coming! Happy sailing!

Pixie Dust

Kuki April 26th, 2011 04:44 AM

I have to admit last night I stayed up much too late, and coming back to the suite at 2 A.M. to write a story isn’t such a great idea at my age. In my defense, I’d found a very friendly blackjack table, with pleasant players and friendly dealers, who kept my attention. Additionally, on any cruise, it takes a day to settle in, both physically and mentally.

Last night, in my haste to get the day’s story done, I forgot to mention the one oddity in the check during the check in process; everyone was required to turn in their passports. As mentioned, as I’d done this cruise on Princess just a few weeks back, I know on that sailing, everyone kept their passports. So, I know it’s not done due to any particular law requiring it, so I’m assuming it’s a Crystal Cruise Line policy. It’s not particularly consequential, but I will inquire later, simply because inquiring minds want to know.

Traditional assigned seating at dinner on Crystal is referred to “Classic Dining”. I’ve been assigned “Classing Dining”, late seating (8:30 P.M.), with 7 people at the table. I believe this table is probably normally an 8 top, and therefore quite spacious for the seven of us. Here’s a name test for myself… there are two other singles, and two couples joining me at the table, Susan, Anthony, Gary and Mary, Glenn and Barbara, and myself. We’ll see at dinner tonight if I got it right.

Exchanging the first evening’s pleasantries and introductions created some good initial conversation. So much so that when it was time to place our orders I wasn’t quite prepared, so I made a couple of quick choices, without perusing the menu too much. I ended up with a magnificent hot mushroom tart salad to start, followed by a scrumptious pasta dish, and an excellent Sirloin Steak.

I could have been satisfied ordering a half dozen of the mushroom tart salads alone, and left the table full and happy.

This morning the Lido Café was open, and I began my day with a rather traditional breakfast; a couple of fried eggs, and a few strips of bacon, and several cups of very good coffee.
Once breakfast was done I was going to lounge around poolside and people watch, but as with our last trip, the morning sun was not all that hot, and combined with a breeze across the bow, it kept the pool deck quite empty.

The pool deck on the Symphony has more in common with a South Beach, Miami boutique hotel, than it does a traditional cruise ship pool area. Much of the area is filled with white faux wicker furniture groupings, including areas with sofa sized conversation pit style seating, pool beds, as well as tables with chairs for al fresco dining, or card playing, reading, etc. to pass the time.
The ship’s daily schedule is titled “Reflections”, and the name seems so apropos for Crystal. It describes well an attitude I could feel immediately when I came onboard. The passengers so far seem very friendly, and quite willing to strike up a conversation. And, that holds even more true for all the staff who I’ve encountered so far, particularly those working the Lido café, and pool decks.

On our last Sapphire Princess voyage I wrote (and teased) about the large numbers of motorized scooters onboard. On this trip I think I’ve seen a total of three. For the most part, my first impressions of the passengers onboard is it seems to trend a bit younger than our Princess cruise, and seemingly in better health, and better fit; making their travel easier.

At present Crystal Cruise Line is compromised of only two ship, the Symphony and her slightly newer and slightly larger cousin, Crystal Serenity. For a line with just two ships, they do seem to have a strongly devoted and loyal repeat passenger clientele base. Though some I’ve spoken to already say they’ve cruised other lines, each and every one has ended with… but Crystal is the best!

One of the things I intend to discover during this voyage is why they say that, and do I agree?

This cruise is Crystal’s first ever golf themed cruise to the Hawaiian islands, and one of the main reasons I’m onboard. During the voyage, as we cross the Pacific Ocean, there are several golf themed lectures, seminars, and clinics to participate in.
This morning there was a brief session to hear from the LPGA professional onboard, Shannon Kneisler, describing the upcoming events. That was followed by a cocktail party with Shannon, as well as the introduction of world renowned past PGA champion and CBS Television golf announcer, Ken Venturi.
In the afternoon I attended the first in a series of lectures by golf historian, Jack Mishler, who has a world renowned collection of 12,000 items of golf history paraphernalia.

Crystal is well known in the industry for it’s enrichment programs. Each sea day guests can choose from Berlitz Spanish lessons, Yamaha keyboard lessons, Odyssey Art at Sea programs, destination lectures, bridge instruction, trivia games, and on this cruise, golf clinics, and even private lessons.
This evening the Captain held his “Welcome Aboard” cocktail party, followed by formal night’s dinner. Formal night on Crystal means “dressing to the nines”, with no maximum to the glitz factor the ladies choose for their gowns and accessories. Clearly 80% of the men don Tuxedos.

I haven’t taken my tux on a cruise since I last sailed Silversea Cruise Line, as a suit has seemed more the norm on the other mass market lines I’ve sailed, but it came out of the moth balls for this trip. One thing I have to admit about Tuxedos; rarely does a man look bad wearing one.

Following Formal Night tradition, this evening’s showroom entertainment was a production number. Tonight’s was Million Dollar Musicals. For a ship this size the Symphony amazingly has a large 10 member production cast.

I’m admittedly not a fan of musical productions, and though the costuming looked very professional and all the cast members could sign and dance, I found the show a bit on the “kitchy” side; the chosen music quite dated. The ship’s showroom, the Galaxy lounge was less than half full tonight, so I’m guessing many other passengers have seen the show previously.

As we move westward to Hawaii, we will be gaining three hours. Tonight was the first clock change. Upon returning to my suite, I found my clock had already been adjusted for the time change. Yes, I said clock. It’s very rare to see a clock in a ship’s cabin, but it’s actually really nice to have one.

Even though we’ve gained an hour, I somehow managed to stay out late again, with a visit to the casino. It seems we’ve already got a few regulars at the blackjack tables. I’ve also noticed that the dealers in the casino are more mature than those on most other cruise lines. You normally find casino dealers on ships are younger people out to see the world while they work. I’m not certain if Crystal has chosen to opt for dealers who are a bit older, or it’s just coincidence.
In any case, I’ve found them to be very friendly to the players.

The seas have calmed considerably, and hopefully the sun will be shining brightly tomorrow, with temperatures rising as well.

Kuki April 26th, 2011 04:50 AM


Originally Posted by BEAV (Post 1367944)
We were next door to you in 1063 last November and David was our butler! We loved him! Please enjoy his services and have a terrific cruise.

He seems terrific so far, and I've found I've already had several requests to make of him; performed with a smile.

Kuki April 26th, 2011 04:52 AM


Originally Posted by Pixie Dust (Post 1367947)
Aloha, Kuki! It seems longer than six weeks since we sailed with you and Geela on the Get Lei'd 5-0 Cruise to Hawaii. Your photos and posts are whetting out appetite to book another cruise...and soon. Enjoying your posts....keep 'em coming! Happy sailing!

Pixie Dust

I do miss the company of you and the "Get Lei'd" gang! And I know I'm very fortunate to be able to sail again so soon.

Marc April 26th, 2011 07:26 AM


Originally Posted by Kuki (Post 1367988)
Last night, in my haste to get the day’s story done, I forgot to mention the one oddity in the check during the check in process; everyone was required to turn in their passports. As mentioned, as I’d done this cruise on Princess just a few weeks back, I know on that sailing, everyone kept their passports. So, I know it’s not done due to any particular law requiring it, so I’m assuming it’s a Crystal Cruise Line policy. It’s not particularly consequential, but I will inquire later, simply because inquiring minds want to know.

Kuki, glad you are settling in and enjoying Crystal; I will be looking forward to each of your reports.

As for passports, Regent collects them on all itineraries, too. Many trips, depending on countries visited, they will give you a copy of your passport or your passport back to get stamped and then returned to reception. It makes it a lot easier to clear customs when they hold the passports. However, even on itineraries like Caribbean or Alaska, they still collect the passports.

Paul Motter April 26th, 2011 11:25 AM

On my Crystal trip I was pampered to the tens (past the nines). We had a wonderful butler named papa who made sure we had everything we wanted all the time.

I will never forget the lobster dinner we had served on our verandah - or the caviar and cheese party we had in our staterrom with a couple from the guest lecturing department as our guests.

Crystal normally carries as many as 10 guests lecturers per cruise, so you can always find someone to have a great conversation with. Plus I enjoyed the music and art classes onboard, and the DVD library.

As a golfer, I hope to hear a lot more about your golf experience, meeting th pros and playing the course - when you get to Hawaii, of course.

There was a news story yesterday that should brighten your day - drive practice off the stern of cruise ships should be making a comeback with golf balls made from old lobster shells which are fully eco-compliant.

Kuki April 26th, 2011 12:57 PM


Originally Posted by Marc (Post 1367994)
Kuki, glad you are settling in and enjoying Crystal; I will be looking forward to each of your reports.

As for passports, Regent collects them on all itineraries, too. Many trips, depending on countries visited, they will give you a copy of your passport or your passport back to get stamped and then returned to reception. It makes it a lot easier to clear customs when they hold the passports. However, even on itineraries like Caribbean or Alaska, they still collect the passports.

Marc.. OK,Regent does it do, but I don't follow your logic of why it is a good idea. Do they feel people aren't responsible to take them with them to clear customs and immigration?

It makes some sense on some itineraries, where customs officers from ports of call come onboard to place Visas in them, and that sort of thing.

The only "foreign port" on this sailing is Ensenada. And I don't think anyone is trying to smuggle themselves into Mexico at this time :)

Kuki April 27th, 2011 04:23 AM

- A Day At Sea - Apr.26 ‘11 -
After sleeping very well, I woke at 8 A.M. My suite is perfectly suited to walk up only one flight of stairs to Deck 11, and the Lido Café. I have only one issue, there’s no place I’ve seen where I can just pick up a self-serve cup of coffee.

If you sit down, there are staff there immediately to get you whatever you’d like for breakfast. However, I am most often a bear in the morning, and the thing I really want is to just grab a coffee, without having to think or talk first.

I took my breakfast outdoors to an empty and slightly cool pool-side deck, with no one else there. However, I enjoy it out there in the pleasant setting, and the fresh air helps me to gain consciousness.

With few passengers out in that area, there was also no one to service the area, so still no cup of coffee. I walked back through the Trident Grill area, where no coffee was available yet, then I spotted one of my new found crew friends, Jon Jon, and requested a cup of coffee be delivered to mepool-side. He brought it happily and quickly, but now what am I going to do for my next two cups?

The Reflections daily stated late riser’s breakfast (coffee and Danish) would be served closer to the pool, at the Trident Grill, beginning at 9 A.M. I tried there at 9:15, but no coffee or Danish were available yet.

One small self serve coffee machine would be so simple, and so convenient. While I’m sure Crystal passengers appreciate being waited on. I can’t believe that most of them didn’t “get to where they are” waiting to have everything done for them. Many, like me, would also likely enjoy being able to simply fill a cup of coffee on their way by.

Speaking of the daily “Reflections”. It is really well laid out, very readable, with a bit of advertising, but also some very informative articles on the lecturers, staff and crew, along with a complete breakdown of the scheduled events for the day and evening.

What’s truly impressed me of I have received NO Ship Spam in my cabin at all yet! It’s my pet peeve, and Crystal apparently does it the way it should be done by every cruise line.

This afternoon, those of us booked into the Crystal golf package attended a private clinic with golf professional Shannon Kneisler. Unlike a lesson one might expect from a “regular” golf lesson, today’s session was a bit “Zen” like; explaining that golfers need to feel their club with the all the nerve endings in your hands, and appreciate the club. She explained that one of the biggest problems for amateur golfers is gripping the club too tightly, and swinging from the shoulders, rather than allowing the design of the golf club to do what it does easily and efficiently.
The “homework” , if you will, for today, was to go practice what she refers to as the “set and sink” swing, with your hands, in front of a mirror, with no golf club in hand.
Though not scheduled to be at today’s clinic, Ken Venturi did stop by. He gave us one tip, and as simple as it was, I hadn’t heard it before, and it strikes me that it should be very effective.

He told us “as you are setting up, place your right hand behind your back, and then just slide it to the club you’re holding with your left hand”. This, Mr. Venturi says will give you the perfect set up position.

While on the topic of golf, but having nothing really to do with golf (that makes sense doesn’t it?). Yesterday afternoon I had a nap, when I woke up and proceeded to shower, I noticed a ring I wear on my pinky finger had slipped off. I checked the bed, underneath the bed, and then the entire cabin, but couldn’t find it.

A bit of panic set in, not because it was valuable, but because it has sentimental value, as I had purchased it in the Grand Bazaar during a visit to Istanbul.

I thought perhaps this was part of the hex I endure when I cruise without Mrs. Kuki. As everyone who reads my musings regularly knows, things just happen to me when I travel without Mrs. Kuki that make me appear incapable of being without her.

Today I went by the guest relations desk (on Crystal it’s simply referred to as the Reception Desk) to check if perhaps someone had found it on deck and turned it. Nothing had been turned in, but guest relations suggested security come by and check the suite, as they’re better trained for thorough searches.

The Chief of Security, Saniv Kumar, and an assistant came by immediately and searched the entire cabin very thoroughly; checking everywhere, without success. I thanked them, and apologized for bothering them. Then my last hope popped into my head.

Earlier yesterday the shore tour manager asked us to call, and an attendant would come by the cabin’s of those participating and collect everyone’s golf clubs for storage. I told Mr. Kumar, that I had been preparing the golf bag for pick up, and that was the last place I could possibly think of the ring slipping off.

After about 10 minutes, the security team returned with my ring in hand. Their service was very efficient, professional, and quick. While I felt bad I was wasting their time, they certainly made me a happy passenger when they found and returned the ring, so it wasn’t wasted time after-all.

Now, while they were in searching my suite for the ring, the door to the hallway was left open. So, anyone passing in the hallway would have peaked in, seeing me sitting in a chair looking very forlorn, while security was tearing apart the suite. So, tonight I’m starting a rumor that an infamous international jewel thief had been discovered onboard, and led through the hallways to the brig in handcuffs.

It’ll be fun to see how quickly the story of criminal intrigue on Crystal reaches the world wide web, and the various cruise message boards, and which media outlet runs with the story first.

Several enrichment lectures took place today, with the first beginning at 10 A.M. with retired journalist, Dan Thomasson, who had covered Washington, D.C. and the Whitehouse, during the Nixon years. The topic today was “How Watergate Changed the Ethics of Politics”. I found the topic extremely interesting so I did sit in, as did a fairly large crowd considering the early hour.

Later in the day Voice-Over Coach Alice Whitfield delivered a lecture, as did Howard Parkin, who’s topic was “the exploration of the solar system from Ancient Greece to Apollo“.

As well as the lectures, during the day there was Team Trivia, Bridge, Needlepoint instruction, Crystal University at Sea; on basics of digital photo finishing, complimentary dance classes, a class on scrap booking, table tennis, a Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament… and all of this before afternoon tea time at 3 P.M.

All of this seems to indicate Crystal passengers are quite cerebral.

Certainly it was a day that one could run from one event to another continuously. A full schedule of possibilities with some activity or lecture surely appealing enough for any tastes.

And did I mention the outstanding Grilled Rueben sandwich I had for lunch today from the Trident Grill. I’m really deeply in love with the French Fries they use on the ship; golden, crispy, and always fresh.

The Lido Café featured an Asian buffet, including fresh sushi, Chinese and Thai food, that all looked fantastic as well.

While sitting pool-side this afternoon I got to witness the sweetest moment. A gentleman seated on a motorized scooter, went whipping by me at high speed. His wife was standing in front of him (between the seat and the handlebars) as they zipped across the teak decking in front of me. Sadly, I couldn’t grab my camera fast enough, but the scene put a huge smile on my face. As odd as it looked, I thought it was delightful moment between the two of them.

A few minutes later, an elderly couple was walking nearby, and they stopped to watch as the water in the pool splashed against the pool walls on each side, creating a burst of overflow as it reached each end of the pool. The female in the couple turned to her husband and said : “Crystal makes it do that”… as if intentionally done to provide entertainment. Cute!

Those who had read my Virtual Cruise from the Sapphire Princess Hawaii cruise in March will remember the difficulities I talked about with internet connections, to post my daily reports and pictures.

I have to say, at least to this point, there's no such problem from the Symphony. My Wi-Fi connection has been available, and reasonably fast for being on a ship at sea.

Kuki April 27th, 2011 04:40 AM

I've also been able to add more interior ship pictures to the photo gallery

CruiseMates Cruise Community and Forums - Kuki's Album: Crystal Symphony LA Hawaii LA

rollerdonna April 27th, 2011 07:14 AM

Certainly enjoying your story so far Kuki, looking forward to reading more, and will check out all your pics. Looks to be a lovely ship. Sure would like to experience a Crystal cruise one day...


Kuki April 27th, 2011 04:21 PM

Mid day
Golfer or not; I've just returned from seeing the very best enrichment lecturer I've seen on a ship. Legendary PGA champion and golf broadcaster for 35 years had the full house audience enraptured with stories of his life and career. The warmth, honesty, humanity and charisma of the man filled the room.

I'm going to be able to interview Mrs. Ventui and his wife later, and bring a full story on his lecture, and about he and his wife later in the cruise.

Kuki April 28th, 2011 06:00 AM

- Sea Day - Symphony - Apr. 27 ‘11
I solved my morning “immediate urge for coffee” dilemma today by calling my Butler David and requesting a large pot of coffee. It seemed he arrived with the coffee almost before I had the phone back in it’s cradle.

So, you think you’d never have any use for butler on a cruise? Those were my thoughts awhile back when we first had the services of a butler available to us. In the few times since, when we have had a butler available, I’ve become very use to enjoying the details and services they provide.

On the first day of the cruise, knowing the second night was Formal Night, I had asked David to take a Tuxedo shirt I had purchased new to have it pressed. It arrived back in my suite saying they were unable to press it, as it had a tear near the shoulder blade seam… with a small piece of tape on it pointing out the tear.

I had another formal shirt with me, so it was not a problem. Yesterday I asked David if he could take the shirt to the tailor to have it repaired. He took it happily, and last night it was back hanging in my closet, repaired and pressed, ready for the next formal night. One of the perks of the Penthouse Suites is free pressing, btw.

I’ve also discovered the aft stairway, which allows me to take about 10 steps from my cabin doorway to a very pleasant exterior area, with a few loungers and two tables if you choose to sit there. Otherwise it’s only up a few stairs to the aft section of Deck 11, aft of the Lido Café.

This morning at 10 A.M. enrichment lecturer Ken Venturi, who’s famed career as a professional golfer, and golf commentator for CBS Sports, gave the best presentation I’ve seen from a lecturer at sea. There was no Power Point presentation, or discussions about golf swings. The man is a master story teller, and captured the near full house audience with his charm, warmth, and charismatic presence, while filling the time with stories of his golf career, and his friendships with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and legendary Byron Nelson.

I’m going to be doing a private interview with Mr. Venturi shortly and will save the tales he shared today, along with more I’m sure, at a later date in the journey. I have the feeling it may be one of those interviews that drags on for days because you just don’t want it to end.

Later in the afternoon the enrichment lecture was by a memory expert, giving tips on remembering people’s names and other tricks to improve one’s memory. I forget who he was, and what time the lecture was held. <rim shot>
The presentation was by Dr. Fred Chernow, a retired psychology professor.

By afternoon temperatures on deck had warmed closer to what passengers would expect on a Hawaiian cruise. The seas are calm, and there are more people out and about.

I believe there are just under 700 passengers on this sailing. Heck, on our previous Hawaii sailing on Sapphire Princess I think there were that many people in my cabin.

With the most generous space to passenger ration on the Symphony, there are many times you simply wonder where everyone is. Crowding is not an issue on this ship.

As I have often referred to our recent Sapphire Princess Hawaiian Islands cruise, I thought I’d provide a link in case anyone would like to read it, just to understand the comparisons and contrasts I make for the remainder of this cruise.

Some might think it unfair to so directly compare a Princess cruise to a Crystal cruise. However, because my sailings on both of these ships were only six weeks apart, and duplicating the itinerary identically, it is somewhat unfair not to.

Princess Cruise Line is considered a “Premium Brand” and Crystal is a “Luxury Brand”. Keep that difference in mind and it may be easier to find the comparisons I might make helpful.

To this point I haven’t given any specific information about the cuisine in the Crystal Dining Room, or the specialty restaurants, Prego or Silk Road. That has been my plan because it’s a long cruise, and we’re only on Day 4. Plus I have yet to sample the specialty restaurants.

I will say so far most everything I’ve eaten in the Dining Room has been very good, and a significant portion of it exceptional. The service has been friendly, efficient and professional.

As we’re moving westward we’ve gone through two time changes already, and those changes have wreaked a bit of havoc on my system. Dining at 8:30 P.M., with shows following at 10:30, and short visit to the casino, then writing the day’s report is leaving me a bit rubbery legged.

This evening’s show was a headliner. I won’t mention the name because he might not be on your cruise. But, I will say the show tonight, unlike last night’s was fairly weak. It was a singer/trumpeter, and I lasted three numbers, before I left, and there was a number of people who weren’t far behind me to the exit.

Prior to the show beginning, it was announced that the Royal Wedding will be broadcast tomorrow night, beginning at 9 P.M. in the Hollywood Theater, on the big screen (though the wedding ceremony won’t occur until midnight). Because of the lateness of the hour, the wedding will be re-broadcast the next day, with a few special onboard “wedding events” planned.

I have been meeting and talking to quite a few of my fellow passengers, aside from my tablemates; who we’ve seemed to settle in nicely with. I believe it’s been easier to meet and socialize with my fellow guests on this ship, than it is on the larger ships, with larger passenger loads; probably due to the fact you see the same faces much more often on a ship the size of Symphony.

BTW.. if anyone has any questions about any aspects of the ship, feel free to post them please. I will respond.

Here's a few more pictures as well

AF1 April 28th, 2011 08:06 AM

nice pics of the ship

AF1 April 28th, 2011 08:23 AM

Kuki, what a treat to have golf professionals onboard to give u golf tips. I am sure u will be playing some nice courses in Hawaii. The cruise your on now; it is all inclusive, ie. tips, food, air, etc? Thanks,

BEAV April 28th, 2011 08:57 AM

I've been laying awake nights thinking you can get that emergency cup of coffee to go in the aft of the Lido cafe (I believe they stock paper cups there). But now that I know the very capable David has come to the rescue I'm going to enjoy a good nights sleep tonite!

With Crystal's high past passenger ratio, only two ships, etc, it doesn't take too long for everyone to settle in quickly & comfortably as you've noted. While we sail premium lines as well as Crystal, returning to Symphony is like coming home as it's the ship we've sailed repeatedly the most.

Continue to enjoy those wonderful sea days.....

Paul Motter April 28th, 2011 03:56 PM

Oh yeah - one Azamara I figured that my "breakfast order" card - which I had put out the night before requesting 8:00 service, could be intercepted by my butler at 6:30 (when I accidentally woke up) and that he could change the time - worked like a charm.

That IS what a butler is for (as I wrote in my column "What are Butlers For?")

Why do Cruise Ships Have Butlers? by Paul Motter
What is the role of a cruise ship butler, and do we really need one? We ask Leslie Philpott, purveyor of butler services to Azamara Cruises. Go>

Kuki April 28th, 2011 08:46 PM


Originally Posted by AF1 (Post 1368324)
Kuki, what a treat to have golf professionals onboard to give u golf tips. I am sure u will be playing some nice courses in Hawaii. The cruise your on now; it is all inclusive, ie. tips, food, air, etc? Thanks,

Crystal is presently NOT all inclusive. However they have announced that beginning in 2012 they are making the change to all inclusive.

They'll be going the route of fares covering gratuities and alcohol. Other changes (like shore excursions, etc) they are still in the decision making process, as to how they are going to handle them in the changeover.

Kuki April 28th, 2011 08:50 PM


Originally Posted by Paul Motter (Post 1368390)
Oh yeah - one Azamara I figured that my "breakfast order" card - which I had put out the night before requesting 8:00 service, could be intercepted by my butler at 6:30 (when I accidentally woke up) and that he could change the time - worked like a charm.

That IS what a butler is for (as I wrote in my column "What are Butlers For?")

Why do Cruise Ships Have Butlers? by Paul Motter
What is the role of a cruise ship butler, and do we really need one? We ask Leslie Philpott, purveyor of butler services to Azamara Cruises. Go>

And you can go back a couple of years to the article I wrote about the day I worked as a bulter.
Cruise Opinion and Humor; The Butler's Tale

Kuki April 28th, 2011 08:57 PM

I just came in from spending a good chunk of the afternoon interviewing Ken Venturi and his lovely wife Kathleen.

WOW! My head is exploding with their incredible stories. There should SO be a movie made of this man's lifetime. Writing an article about his and their story will hardly do it justice.

With their superb recall of events, you don't have to ask alot of questions. Just ask anything and the stories start rolling off their lips, as they would if someone translated it to film.

Incredible successes, mixed with plently of life's obstacles and tragedies falling in the way, for them to overcome. It's not just a golf story, it's a true life story.

I'll attempt to share some of the story in the coming days, and hope to at least share some it well.

Moiraine April 28th, 2011 09:42 PM

I just read The Butler's Tale and really enjoyed it. Thanks.

Kuki April 29th, 2011 05:16 AM

- A Sea Day - Apr. 28 ‘11
Yesterday evening I was playing some Blackjack in the casino next to an already man, who’s name I learned was Warren. Warren was 90 years old, and appeared to be very “with it” for a man his age.

He seemed to know how to play “basics” (something that requires a bit of experience), and he was very social, joking, and even flirting with some of the female dealers.

Warren and I got to talking and I learned he was from Arizona. Then I explained I had a winter condo there, knew the area pretty well, and asked him where he lived. He couldn’t remember. At first he was frustrated by not being able to recall the name of the town he’d live in since 1974, but quickly turned his attention back to the gambling and socializing.

Some might view this as a sad story, but I thought the entire scenario was very cute and sweet. Here was a fellow, 90 years old, appearing to be in reasonably good health, enjoying what he enjoys, cruising on Crystal, even if he does have the odd memory lapse. Bless him for being able to do so.

Warren, along with the other passengers on Crystal have obviously enjoyed some past successes, or they wouldn’t be sailing on a luxury line like Crystal. It’s not likely anyone onboard is overloading their credit cards, and driving themselves into debt, to be here. Yet, I haven’t met a single person who I would say is pretentious. Some may strike you that way initially, but take the opportunity to talk with them more, and that impression quickly fades. It falls under the proverb; don’t judge a book by it’s cover.

The ship itself is similar. Other than the grace and a real “wow factor” of the lobby/atrium, the remainder of the ship, from public rooms to cabins and suites, is understated, with abundant use of granite, marble, wood, brass and quality fabrics, there’s no part of the ship that stands up and yells “look at me, I’m something special”. That gives the entire ship a nice, unpretentious, relaxed feel.

Sunshine, and beautiful temperatures were the order of the day. Days like this, at sea, are the reason many of us choose to cruise, and days like this are often what keeps us coming back for more.

Today’s lunch buffet was a Nuevo Latino theme. I didn’t lunch there, but the dishes looked outstanding, and even featured a Churrascaria Grill Station.

I spent a good part of the afternoon interviewing Ken Venturi and his wife Kathleen. Going in I was busy trying to think of some good questions, so we wouldn’t end up just sitting there staring at each other. But, I had no need to be concerned. Say hello, and the story telling begins and flows like a fast river.

For those who may not know Ken Venturi was a world famous, and most highly regarded professional golfer from the mid 50s, until at age 33 hand surgery ended his career. He later became a multi-award winning golf analyst on television for CBS Sports golf coverage, and that career spanned 35 years.

But his is a story that truly transcends the sport of golf, and his amazing television career.

Now in his 80s, his ability to recall, and spin stories of his life, with no notes to refresh his memories, is amazing enough. But the stories themselves are absolutely mesmerizing, and enchanting.

His is a story which moves from great successes, to significant human problems, tragedies, and illnesses, and physical issues, and back to great successes, several times.

As I sat listening to the stories, my own emotions ran the gamut, feeling sadness at one moment, laughing at many others, and actually feeling goose bumps rise on my arms at others.

I am going to write about this afternoon’s interview in much more detail at a later day. In my view their life story is crying out (or even yelling out) to made into what I believe would be a blockbuster movie.

As Ken said “If I were to choose someone who would live the life I’ve led, it would me”.

I’m going to give you some tidbits now to wet your appetite for the many, many stories to follow later.

Ken’s wife Kathleen is a “lady” in the most complimentary sense of the word. They had each lost their spouses in 1997. Neither had been dating since that time, when they met at a restaurant belonging to mutual friends in 2001.

At the time Ken was already a renowned television golf analyst. Kathleen know nothing about the game of golf. Ken was in town because he’d learned he had Prostate Cancer, and was enduring Proton treatments for the disease at Loma Linda Medical Center. At the time only his son, and Jim Nance (his broadcasting partner) knew he had the disease, and was seeking treatment.

Ken claims he wasn’t “looking for anything”, but during the evening he asked his restaurateur friend “ who is that girl?”. “Would you like to be introduced?” was the response. They had lunch the next day, and dinner the next evening, and lunch again the day after.

The next day was Super Bowl Sunday, and a friend was having a Super Bowl Party, and both were invited to attend.

At the party Kathleen asked Ken what he was doing in town, and Ken decided to tell her about the Prostate Cancer and the treatments he was having. He was having another treatment the next day, and Kathleen asked if he’d like some company going to the hospital. She went with him the next day and to each and every one of his next 35 treatments.
Now that story took place in 2001. The rest of the story, equally gripping and enchanting, began in the 1950s, and spans the decade since their 2001 meeting.

I’ll be sharing more of their stories in a future article.

If my tease leaves you wanting more now, there is a book by Ken Venturi, titled Up & Down- My 60 years in Golf, which I’ve graciously been given an autographed copy of, that tells many of the stories.

Or hopefully Crystal Cruise Line will continue to feature Ken Venturi in their Enrichment Lectures, and you’ll get to hear them in person. This is Mr. Venturi’s second time doing a presentation on a Crystal ship. I highly recommend they book him for many more, even if it’s not on a golf themed cruise.

This evening (at midnight ship’s time) was the Royal wedding. Only a dozen or so were watching it on the big screen in the Hollywood Theater, but I’m assuming people were in their cabins watching, because in the public rooms, the evening show in the Galaxy Lounge, and the casino, there was a dearth of guests.

We gain our last hour on a time change tonight, and tomorrow is our first port of call in Hilo.

nooosey April 29th, 2011 11:09 AM

Kuki, I am pleased that you are enjoying the wonderful Crystal Symphony, which happens to be my favourite ship.
I have been following your writings for many years, ever since you contributed to the AOL only Cruise Critic section, you were probably then a regular passenger rather than your present valued contributer status to CruiseMates.
I totally agree with your sentiment about the usual Crystal passengers being friendly and easy to speak with. I have made many good friends over the years on my Crystal adventures.
I am looking forward to reading the rest of your musings on your present cruise.

Kuki April 30th, 2011 07:15 AM

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.

Exec Libra April 30th, 2011 10:13 AM

Kuki, I'm very much enjoying your cruise blog. My family and I last cruised on the Symphony in March 2010, when we bounced (literally) all the way from LA to Sydney. We've enjoyed the terrific Symphony on three voyages; like you we love the food, service and friendliness everywhere onboard.

The coffee issue: Prior to its most recent remodel the Symphony did have a self-service coffee program in the center of the aft portion of the Lido Cafe's service line. Some "smart" designer deleted it on the remodel. Crystal is well aware of the problem and is working on a permanent fix (the sister ship, Serenity, still sports its self-service coffee station thankfully). As for a temporary fix: If you are an early riser, and unless the practice changed in the last year, there is an urn of self-service coffee (and decaf) on the port side of the Lido's beverage bar, along with some pastries and fruit, beginning around 5 or 530am (time is noted each day in "Reflections"). Once "early riser's" breakfast ends and the regular breakfast service begins, coffee is brought to you by the Lido deck stewards such as the wonderful Jon Jon.

Thanks for bringing us along on your voyage. Best regards, Chuck-

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