Friday, July 13, 2012

Day 10 - Cruising the English Channel and the Atlantic Ocean

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Thank goodness for a sea day! We definitely need a rest from the last few days. The skies are murky and threatening rain. Unfortunately it doesn't appear to be much of a pool day.

This morning we had the most difficulty finding a place to sit in the lido. Not sure why breakfast was so crowded today. We finally found space near the aft doors. I enjoyed having my Japanese breakfast again. Still no chopped nori. Had to use the individually wrapped small sheets again. They still have daikon though.

We feel a bit like slackers as we do not have much on our agenda for today. General Zinni is giving his final lecture at 10:00 am in the Galaxy Lounge. The topic is "21st Century Leadership". It will probably be a good lecture.  However, after the last one we have unfortunately lost interest. Perhaps we will catch it on TV later.

They are offering a class on dollar bill origami at 10:45 in the Lido Cafe. Might be interesting. My money has a tendency to end up all crumpled. Might give me more incentive to be "kinder" to it.

This afternoon at 1:30 pm Thomas Lipmann will present, "The Next Middle East War". Lovely...but I don't think I can stomach that one either. The other lecture this afternoon is by Fred Levine with the topic, "A Walk on the Wild Side and a Visit to a Knock Out Art Museum: Night and Day in Hamburg". Skipping this one too.

I will probably just spend the day doing two of my favorite activities: Reading and Eating. Not necessarily in that order.

After breakfast we went to the front desk to check our account statements. Everything is in order as it should be including the $250 I have spent on Internet minutes. That is my most expensive on board purchase. Wish it was for something else. The way that Crystal organizes the bill makes it very easy to understand.

Even with the slightly inclement weather, we decided to sit outside near the seahorse pool. There were not too many people there initially. I brought one of my Hamburg guide books and cozied up on one of the sofas. My mother was tired and sprawled out nearby and quickly fell asleep.

Grey skies over the seahorse pool

The ceiling is retractable but that is not going to happen today.

Trident area under the glass ceiling

Across from us was Suzanne who lives in Australia and her mother, still residing in California. I was going to compare notes on how it was going for this other mother/daughter duo but I decided to read the guide book and finalize our itinerary for tomorrow. Suzanne's mother was also dozing. Watching "the mothers" was making me sleepy!

After about 25 minutes many more passengers arrived. I had trouble concentrating listening to the loud chatter of two ladies discussing their past cruises. They seemed to be trying to "one up" each other on their experiences in Istanbul, Monte Carlo, etc. They started talking about cruises to Alaska and got on the subject of the polar bears in Manitoba. Can't remember how they made the jump from Alaska to Manitoba but they began discussing climate change and suggested that perhaps it is "just seasonal". While I am trying my best to stay clear of political topics this one really floored me. Obviously I live a sheltered life as I have never encountered anyone who did not believe in Climate Change. Clearly, there are many, but hearing it first hand I was awestruck. By now I was not making much progress on the guide book as I kept re-reading the same sentences over and over. I needed some exercise...or a stiff drink. I demurred and decided to just take a nice walk around the deck and then go to the front desk.

Patrick Malley, Concierge
I went back to speak with Patrick Malley, the Concierge. He was very nice and printed out directions for the Miniature train museum in Hamburg. He said he has received quite a few requests for this. Patrick has such a nice demeanor and Crystal is very lucky to have him. I then went back to the pool area.

After about an hour of sleeping by the pool my mother woke up and decided to go back to the room and the comfort of her bed. It must be the weather because a lot people seemed sluggish. I told my mother about the two "climate change ladies" and she said I should have asked them if they believed in evolution. That would have been fun. Why didn't I think of that! I was feeling a bit empowered so I went to the computer room and worked on the blog and checked email. I miss the free wifi we had at the hotel but I am certainly getting good "mileage" out of my large Internet expenditure.

The computer room was busy too (I refuse to call it the Computer University, the official name that Crystal uses. Sounds like we all require remedial training in how to use the Internet. With a nod to Celebrity Cruises they have partnered with Apple and call the Internet area the "iLounge". Crystal has the Apple computers too so why not get out of the 90's and update the name? 

I went back to the room to "retrieve" my mother as it was now time for our next meal. They are having the Mediterranean Cafe today in the Lido. Nothing like moussaka and phyllo wrapped spinach with feta to get mother moving again. We arrived in the Lido and it was packed! Where did all these people come from? We decided to take a look at the items on the buffet to see if we wanted to stay. It must just be me but I hardly found anything that looked good. Just to prove how unappetizing it was I did not take any photos. That may be a first.

They had some chicken and lamb skewers which looked more like Asian Satay. I took a couple of those and a few other items. My mother said the eggplant was good but I was not satisfied with the meal so I went to the Trident Grill (where I should have gone from the beginning). I ordered a Reuben and some sweet potato fries. Both were delicious! I shared some of the Reuben and the fries with my mother and also went back and got some ice cream and frozen yogurt . While I was waiting for my order I overheard a lady telling two of the crew members rather longingly that she "still misses Carmelo". She was sort of swooning. They just started at her and did not answer. Carmelo must have been a very special guy!

We went back to room and I read while my mother packed. Sadly we will be disembarking the ship tomorrow afternoon. Symphony will overnight in Hamburg and I expect the majority of the passengers will stay on board tomorrow night. I really didn't feel like packing or leaving the ship for that matter so I spent my time taking notes on our itinerary for tomorrow. .

At 3:30 pm it was time for...yes, more food! The Mozart Tea was beginning in the Palm Court in a few minutes. This was our first time during the cruise for afternoon tea so I was looking forward to it. My mother is Austrian so the Mozart theme was an additional incentive. The Palm Court was busy but not overflowing.

Mozart Tea in Palm Court
We found a table to share with a nice Englishman who was waiting for his wife. Our waiters from the Crystal Dining Room were handsomely attired in velvet and silk brocade outfits and whirling around with pots of hot water.and tea. They provided a Mozart Tea menu. Sadly more tea bags, ugh! I ordered green tea (Hojicha) and my mother had the Earl Grey. The tea menu is not extensive. Besides the ones we ordered, they also have English Breakfast, Darjeeling, Black Tea, Chamomile, Ginger Twist and Verbena Mint.

The sandwiches looked just average but the written descriptions sounded better. The items included: roasted strip sirloin with chive sauce, roasted chicken breast on walnut bread, tomato with basil and ham and leek croissants. . The pastries were more appealing and included black forest cake, marble guglhupf, strawberry tartlet, Linzer slice, Creme Caramel and Vienna hot apple strudel. Perhaps my sour mood today was affecting my enjoyment of the sweets being offered. I ended up with a cookie, strawberry tartlet and apple strudel. It was nice that you could serve yourself.

Mozart Tea selections

The tea was extremely weak. The Englishman was using two tea bags and his wife didn't seem to be drinking anything. The large tea pots were much too large to put the tiny tea bags in. They just became diluted and you hardly tasted any tea. Perhaps other afternoon teas on Symphony are better. I imagine the crew working here thought bringing the large tea pots would make their jobs easier as they did not have to make any return trips. We spoke with the English couple for a bit and found out they were from Bournemouth, not far from Southampton. They were very lovely people and probably the highlight of our tea experience.

In comparison, our afternoon teas on Oceania were wonderful. I am hoping that our only Afternoon Tea on Crystal is not emblematic of the tea service on all their voyages.

We went back to the room and this time I knew that unless I wanted to be packing at 11:00 pm tonight, it was now or never. It ended up being fairly painless and in about a hour I was done. Yesterday we received another gift from Crystal. They said it was "His and Hers Shoe Bags". I think we both must have received the "His". They were black with a nice fuzzy fleece interior. Can't imagine what the "Hers' might look like. My mother wasn't sure what to do with it. We didn't have a lot of room as we just had the carryons. I tied mine to my roller and put a few things in it to weigh it down (shampoo & shower gel). I thought it was a nice gift but I probably will use it for other things instead of shoes.

By the time I was done with the packing it was almost time for dinner. I went down to Deck 5 to speak with Paula Jean Pfitzer, on board cruise consultant about the future cruise I was booking.  I guess her parents could not decide which name to use so gave her two.

2014 South Pacific Cruise on Symphony

Paula Jean is such a warm and upbeat person! The cruise we booked is not until 2014 and will sail from Valparaiso to Papeete. It will make a port stop in Easter Island and also Pitcairn Island (but no shore visit though). I have not been to Easter Island or the South Pacific before so I am hoping we made a good choice. Paula Jean will send the request to Los Angeles and then we will receive final confirmation after we get home. We paid the $100 per person deposit which is charged to the on board account. In 20 days after our current cruise ends we need to pay an additional deposit of 10% which we can do through our wonderful travel agent, Jen.

Hard to believe it but it was time to eat once again so we made our way to the Crystal Dining Room for our last dinner on the ship .

We both started with the Oysters Rockefeller. It was the strangest variation of this dish I have ever seen. The oysters, what may have been oysters, looked like they had been scooped out of the shell and mixed with enough cheese and spinach that you would not know if there was actually any oyster there. Taste was ok, just not what we had expected. Because the ship will go into dry dock I wonder if they did not source higher end quality items for the last meals on board. This dinner was turning out to be very disappointing!

Oysters Rockefeller which was missing the oyster

With all our various meals today and the Reuben from lunch not far from my mind, I wanted something light for my main course. I decided to order the Shrimp Cobb Salad. When it arrived I should have sent it back. It resembled something you might see on the Lido buffet that you would take a serving from. There was no lettuce and the shrimps were tiny.

Shrimp Cobb Salad without the salad

My mother had some kind of fish which she said was good. Being unsatisfied with the salad I decided to have the cheese course. Our waiter seemed disenchanted as he dropped off the cheese menu. It was probably busier in the dining room that he would have preferred and he didn't want any more work. This was the same person who served us our tea this afternoon in the Palm Court. I selected the 4 cheeses out of 8 from the menu. My mother had the Baked Alaska and my cheese plate was just plopped down in front of me without any explanation of what the cheeses were. I was not pleased. However, it did taste good and the side condiments were miniscule but nice.  
Cheese course

Baked Alaska

We spent some time chatting with our neighbors which was some consolation as I tried to forget about my disappointment with the meal and the service. 

The couple sitting next to us were very nice. He was a rather dashing dentist and she was a very talented conversationalist. She somehow managed to hold three different conversation with the tables on either side of her and the one next to the window. Amazing!

We departed the dining room and went straight to the Bistro which would have been a better choice for both dinner and dessert. The cheeses looked better and the crew were much nicer. I wasn't hungry but we had a little nibble.

We had some proscuitto and I enjoyed identifying the cheeses I just ate in the dining room. I like the chocolate fountain with the fruit.
Cheeses at the Bistro
After leaving the Bistro we walked around and looked in the stores. During the cruise I have been eyeing a lavender Crystal T-shirt and finally made the purchase. I only had to provide the room number and did not need to show my card. Perhaps if I loaded up on the very nice St. John merchandise they would have wanted to see identification. My sister loves St. John and could have done some serious damage here. The stores on the ship are very nice and it was always a pleasure to look at their merchandise.

St. John Knits
We took one final "lap" around the ship before returning to our room. We took a quick peek at the show in the Galaxy Lounge but decided not to stay. We also took a glance in the Casino.


With a heavy heart, but appreciative for our last 10 days on Symphony we called it a night.

Tomorrow we will dock in Hamburg, Germany at 7:00 am.

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