Symphony Jazz Cruise

May 2, 2013

uver, Canada to board the Crystal Symphony. The ship is full and we will head down the Pacific coast ; Victoria, Canada; Seattle; San Francisco; Santa Barbara, and home in LA. To tell the truth I’m not that interested in the ports, but this is a JAZZ cruise featuring some top players. As former jazz drummer, ( obop shabam a flooglemop) this will be a real treat for me. The special star will be Benny Golson.

Almost a year to the date my brother and I sailed Symphony from Los Angeles to New York.  Some changes have been made to this lovely ship since then. It is now all inclusive……food, booze,

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etc. And it’s been redone, not that it needed it, but I will take some photos to show you how lovely she is.

I’m on Alaska Air and landing at estimated 5:43 PM.

A lovely trip flying over numerous lakes. Who knew?

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It’s been awhile since I’ve been through Canadian customs and the taxi takes about 40 minutes and $40 to get to the ship. I have a meeting at 7:00 PM. Good luck eh.

Landed on time; immigration was a breeze. Taxi, a lovely newer car with a driver who knew his way around, well, everything. Lines of traffic? Zip, zoom, side roads, alleys and back on main highway, traffic far behind. I was enchanted by the huge Victorian homes along the way.

I made it into the meeting at exactly 7:00, had a flute of Champagne with Vancouver media and blown away  by Anthony Salazar, a close up magician from the Magic Castle.  Crystal now features the Magic Castle at Sea. Incredible!

Dinner in the Sushi Bar was as much as you want for as long as you want.

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I stayed more than a little while, then to bed. We have a short voyage to Victoria during the night.

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I’m Just Saying

July 24, 2012

Political musings of no importance.

Romney used a teleprompter speaking to the VFW. Is there no one on his staff or close to him to teach him how to do a teleprompter speech? Look right at prompter; talk. Pick up a phrase and deliver it straight ahead to the camera as you go to the left to pick up another sentence. Without the straight ahead eyes to the camera position, we at home never get to feel you are also talking to us. Obama had the same problem.

Speaking of Obama, did you see his press conference after visiting the families and friends of those killed in the Batman slaughter? He spoke of one girl that was hit by a bullet in a neck VEIN. The blood was spurting according to the President. Ahem, I’m not a Dr., but it’s the arteries that spurt.

I’m just saying.

Sibling Serenity Canal Day 15

June 8, 2012

Charleston

This is a truly historic city. It was taken by the British in the Revolutionary War. In the Civil War, Union forces repeatedly bombarded the city, causing vast damage

In 1865, Union troops moved into the city, and took control of many sites, including the United States Arsenal, which the Confederate Army had seized at the outbreak of the war. The War Department also confiscated the grounds and buildings of the Citadel Military Academy, and used this as a federal garrison for over seventeen years. But that wasn’t enough,

On August 31, 1886, Charleston was again nearly destroyed by an earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale. It was felt as far away as Boston to the north, Chicago and Milwaukee to the northwest, as far west as New Orleans, as far south as Cuba, and as far east as Bermuda. It severely damaged 2,000 buildings.

Today all is well. Historic buildings have been restored,

the economy is good, and tourists love the old section of town. One of the best ways to see it is on a wagon with guide.

Actually I think driving, at least for me, would be a problem…I’d be sitting at this cross street for a long time figuring out which green was mine.

Owen and I walked and were amazed as we saw the different burial sites; history below ground as well as above.

We checked out restaurant row as I had an appetite for Southern food. My days at Duke University in North Carolina came sneaking back. Oh, for some liver pudding.

OK, so we passed some upscale restaurants

which brought to mind this question. Why did we eat here?

The outside was not inviting and the inside was not much better, but whee hah, the food was great. I had “She Crab Blue Crab Roe with Sherry” soup followed with a stack of Fried Green Tomatoes.

And dessert:

After lunch, I learned a lesson. Always carry an extra charged battery for your camera. Mine went dead and for me the rest of Charleston will be in my memory, not that that’s fully charged these days.

We sailed for New York.

We’ll both miss Serenity. I’ll miss the lights in our cabin dimming as they are turned off. I’ll miss the crew, the production shows, and of course the best cruise director in the business, Gary Hunter.

Owen will miss, well

Disembarking was beautifully handled. Each guest received colored luggage tags to match airline departure. Mine was Pink 2. (Not there is anything wrong with that.) It was called and off the ship I went. I walked the pier passageway to an elevator where a man said, “Pink 2?” At my nod he said “Follow me.” He took me to the bus, got on and traveled with our Pink 2 group. At the airport he got attendants to help those who had trouble managing their luggage. This was still Crystal!!

The only problem I had was going through security at JFK. Since luggage is taken from the rooms in the evening, one must lay out the next day’s wardrobe. On travel day, I realized that the top button on my pants was missing. Not to worry, my belt would be tight enough to hold the pants up. At security, the TSA woman told me to take off my belt. I explained it is a frequent flyer belt with no metal.

“This system needs all belts off!” she said, pointing to one of those full body scanners.

Off came the belt. I got in the cubicle and she told me to raise my hands high in the air. No belt…no button… If I had been an underwear bomber, it would have been quite obvious. Not Crystal anymore.

Sibling Serenity Canal Day 14

June 7, 2012

We are in the Atlantic at sea for Charleston, SC. The sea is smooth, weather warm and sometimes hot as there is no breeze. The ship is hardly leaving a wake. The slow sail is a way of evening out the distance to Charleston so we don’t get there at like midnight.

Lots going on today. The buffet on Lido is the American Classic Buffet.

We were reminded that America is a land of immigrants so the food might not all be apple pie. I had a dish that satisfied my curiosity about fried okra.

I had other food that I can’t seem to identify,

but I will say that it’s hard to keep America down.

Later in the afternoon, I stopped by the afternoon tea where the Crystal Ensemble of singers and dancers modeled original movie costumes

from the private collection off Greg Scheiner.

I didn’t stay long as Greg said the trouble with today (referring to gowns) is people don’t “flow” like they used to. Deciding to prove him wrong and flow, I went to the bar.

Night brought the Captains Farewell Reception where one can again rub elbows. By the way, I, my friends, have rubbed elbows with Tippi Hedren.

Dinner started with caviar, then a wonderful soup. I threw all garlic cares to the wind and ordered the special pasta. Sorry said Antoneo, that has garlic. I’m bringing you the pheasant. OK, it was quite good but when I get home I’m going to ask my wife for spaghetti for our first dinner together.

Owen and I stood in a short line waiting for the Crystal Lounge doors to open so we could get a front row seat. Going down the aisle, I actually had to outpace a woman pulling her husband behind her.

Drinks are served and placed on convenient tables. Owen ordered sparkling water. It never arrived. It went down the back of a man behind us. We didn’t see how it happened, but Sheila from Brazil,

after wiping and apologizing, disappeared and her place was quickly taken by Roxanna wiper and apologizer #2.

Then folks, the highlight! Showtime! The show was titled “Across the Pond”. I sat transfixed and my one wish was that I could somehow share what I was hearing and watching with everyone I know. It was spectacular; each dancer, each singer, each choreographed move way beyond anything Owen or I had ever experienced. What talent!!

They received tons of applause all through the show, and at the end, those of us who could, gave a standing ovation.

Tomorrow Charleston South Carolina. I’ll be looking for okra.

Sibling Serenity Canal Day 13

June 6, 2012

Fort Lauderdale is our first US port’ and we all must go through immigration. That means off the ship, through one of the three immigration stations and then back on the ship. There were three lines delineated by the ubiquitous poles and tape. From right to left the first two lines had about 20 people each; the third had one couple waiting. I took that. In two minutes I was done. What is it about humans that they figure the short line isn’t the right one for them?

Wait a minute, not back on the ship until all guests have been processed. What’s that about?

We were directed toward two rooms filled with passengers sitting and waiting to get back on board. No one was being let back until all had gone through immigration. For me this was 40 minutes, for some it had been close to two hours, but no irritation, at least discernible, was seen.

Owen, discounting my hint that there was not much to do in Ft. Lauderdale now that spring breakers were discouraged from visiting, took a cab ($15) to the beach. He did not take his swim suit. He had a cappuccino. Then a taxi back to the ship ($15).

Our side of the ship was on the Inland Waterway, and yachts were passing one after the other. All big, one named Aspen Alternative, but the biggest was being towed by a Lilliputian tugboat. We watched as it went towards Miami.

Why was this beautiful boat being towed all that way? Suddenly I had the scenario. A woman married to a very rich man towards the north had finally had enough. She left their palatial mansion and ran to the boat. There, she hired the tugboat telling them that she had no idea how to steer a yacht.

In case hubby reads this, the yacht is named Mystique.

Some huge freighters came by; interesting to see them so close without much room between us and them.

And then the Bubble Boy’s boat.

The theme of this cruise is Hollywood to New York, with the emphasis on Hollywood. As part of the mix, Tippi Hedren is on board talking about her experience acting in the Hitchcock thriller “The Birds”. She also has a few interesting things to say about her relationship with the famed director. Before dinner, there was a Tippi gathering where guests could have their picture taken with her.

The band played and guests danced with the Dance Hosts.

Owen and I watched and both agreed that one of the Hosts did not dance at all well, or perhaps he was doing the Serenity Shuffle.

While at dinner, I watched as a small boat came by with a couple of guys putting away their fishing poles. Suddenly, a patrol boat came along side and clamped on to them. They were boarded. I have no idea why, and the only photo I could get was through a slightly grimy window.

Owen went to see The Artist in the theater. He really liked it. Perhaps, plus speaking Italian, he can read lips.

My wife and I watched it on DVD but tired of it not too long after it started. However, trusting that my brother knows film, we’ll try it again.

At 9 PM we headed out to sea for Charleston, South Carolina.

Sibling Serenity Canal Day 12

June 5, 2012

We are at sea heading to Fort Lauderdale. Not much to report. It’s a quiet day, but not for the chefs. Today the buffet was a major presentation in the Crystal Court. Like a lot of food!

I actually ate by the Neptune Pool and had a Funky Monkey. This is an alcoholic drink with 5 different bumps of booze (several I didn’t recognize). It’s served frozen and was good but probably dangerous to have two.

We ate at our assigned table for dinner. We had nice conversation back and forth; no politics. One couple is leaving in Ft. Lauderdale. He is retired from Nabisco. I asked him if that meant he tossed his cookies?

I had a Martini with dinner. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but when Serenity leaves NY it will be all inclusive. In other words booze will be included with no extra charge. Good thing. The Martini cost $10 plus 15% tip.

Under the heading “it’s a small world” or “some kind of separation degrees”, our Cruise Director, Gary Hunter, was eating at a table for two across from us. I went over to say hello. About five minutes later the other guy at his table came over and said I think you did an Infomercial with my mother in Florida. I did, about twenty years ago. The cool thing is he recognized me. After 20 years, I hardly recognize me.

The movie was Money Ball. Owen saw it and thought as I did, that it was a tour de force for, not only Brad Pitt, but each actor in every scene. We arrive in Lauderdale early morning tomorrow.

Sibling Serenity Canal Day 11

June 4, 2012

Grand Cayman

I guess the trouble with progress is, well, progress. The port area is bigger, more stores, more tours being sold, and huge cranes building more, more.

In the stores, the sales people don’t press you to buy; some don’t even look at you.

As you know by now, I went into town to see if I could get a Philip Stein watch at a lower price then was quoted at Cabo. These watches are “scientifically proven to shield the body from electronic pollution”.

There on the first street was the Philip Stein Boutique.

Can’t do better than that. I stood for a bit while a salesman fussed around with watch straps. Finally I asked him if could see the least expensive watch.

“Do you want dual time?” he asked.

“The least expensive,” I repeated.

“Rubber or metal band?” he asked, sorting through the display case.

“The least expensive.” I reiterated.

Up came a watch. He took a few seconds to check the price tag. $495

I continue to suffer from electronic pollution.

My reason for going ashore was the watch. Owen walked through the shopping area heading inland. He saw some nice small homes and lots of chickens running around. But I wasn’t alone, I made a new friend.

Owen and I felt we should go to our assigned table in the main dining room. We were feeling a bit guilty about not being there for three nights. The others at the table did not come to dinner. The lady next to our table told us that they had invited others to take our places the last two nights. Hmmmmm. We will get to the table tomorrow night early and claim our seats.

As I’ve said this is a wonderful ship. The one thing I’ll take home is an appetite for papaya. Each day perfectly ripened papaya is there for both breakfast and lunch.

I’m not sure where to find ripened papaya at home, but I’ll seek them out.

A day at sea tomorrow as we head towards Fort Lauderdale.

 

Sibling Serenity Canal Day 10

June 1, 2012

We are at sea for Grand Cayman. Weather is lovely. Some clouds and at last away from the 90 degree heat.

The pool area is active and the Neptune pool area is filled.

The food there seems to attract more than the Lido buffet. This buffet is the one area that could use some help. Everything else on Serenity is at the top of the cruise game, but comparing the buffet’s offerings with other cruise ships, this doesn’t measure up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One thing I forgot to mention is the bed pillows. Mine are plumped with feathers and down; soft yet supporting. I’ll have to find out where they can be bought. Not quite satisfied with that, try the Side Sleeper if you sleep on your side, or the Back Sleeper if you sleep on your back, or the Stomach Pillow if you sleep on your stomach, or the Body Pillow, if, I suppose, you are missing someone.

Each night our butler brings us appetizers. He lets us choose from what is offered in his area of deck 11. We’ve had wonderful ice cream scoops of caviar the last three nights.

Tonight it is lobster and shrimp.

The service on the Lido and everywhere else is beyond expectations. Bartenders pour a hefty drink, tables on Lido are bussed quickly and coffee, tea, whatever is brought to you. Refills come faster than you can empty your glass. This is Crystal!

Owen and I were excited to see the next production show scheduled for 8:30 PM. We had reservations at 7:30 in Prego, which we changed to 7. We wanted to get front row seats and people with the same idea start to line up before the doors open at 8.

Our order was taken quickly, but somehow it was 8:40 before I was finished with an incredible lemon-cello soufflé. Well, OK so no show, but the movie Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol was in the theater. It had started, but we grabbed two seats anyway. I sat through one of the dumbest scenes I’ve ever experienced. I left. Owen boogied about 10 minutes later.

To the cabin to read to sleep.

Sibling Serenity Canal Day 9

May 31, 2012

Cartagena

We are tucked in next to huge container ships.

The bay is home to taxi boats that take people from one corner of Cartagena to another.

One man really drew my compassion. He lacked the ubiquitous outboard and, for one reason or another, was paddling the long distance by himself.

We also have our guard boat making sure that other boats do not come close to Serenity.

Here, the Old City is the destination for tourists. It’s circled by a ring of fortress walls built by the Spanish around 1585.

Actually they were started then, but took over 200 years to complete. Today, inside the walls, it’s basically a shopping mall. Pick any street in Old City, even one just wide enough for one person, and almost every door opens to a shop or restaurant.

Owen was interested in the architecture of the historic churches with their fortress like facades. Taxis to the Old City run $20 each way; $30 if you use the same cab for round trip. Owen’s driver turned out to be a guide as well and pointed out a few things not covered by the guidebooks. He also bought Owen a tube of Coconut Milk. Owen is now hooked as he said he got a tremendous burst of energy from it. But little sightseeing. Sad to say all churches are closed from 10 AM until 4 PM. I guess G-D is too busy on the other side of the world during those hours.

I had planned to go with him, but I realized that the only thing I wanted to find out was if I could get a Philip Stein watch cheaper than in Cabo San Lucas. Wisely, I held back and stayed aboard Serenity.

We ate sushi for dinner and went to the show featuring our Cruise Director, Gary Hunter. He is an incredible ventriloquist and with a funny act. Lots of laughs from the audience.

As you may remember, Owen did the big “no-no” and in kidding me about Fox News turned the table talk into politics. One of the men was strongly opinionated and had no room for any dissension. He walked up the theater aisle next to our seats and Owen said hello. I guess it was the ventriloquist in him that let him say hello without moving his lips. But his teeth were grinding.

We are now friends with travel agent Lori and her mother. Owen knows many more passengers than I do and spends time with the USC film professor that lectures on board.

At sea tomorrow heading to Grand Cayman. I wonder if the Philip Stein watches will be priced low enough for me. I think I might convince my wife it is a journalistic purchase so I can determine if their “magic” happens.

Or not.

Sibling Serenity Canal Day 8

May 29, 2012

Owen and I rolled out of bed at 6 AM to see us enter the first lock. Serenity has a perfect place to see it all on the upper deck forward.

As we watched the water raise our ship in the Miraflores locks, it was impossible to conceive that it will take 52,000,000 gallons of water to transit us to the Caribbean. That water comes from the Gatun Lake, and there have been some dry seasons when transit had to be limited.

It will cost us about $200,000 in cash (no credit cards) as our toll. A man swam the canal, it cost him 36 cents…..in cash. To me the strangest cargo to transit was the London Bridge.

The bridge was bought to be put in place as the showcase piece of Lake Havasu development on the river connecting California and Arizona. I walked across it on the opening of the development, the pathway strewn with roses. The rumor is Robert M. McCulloch thought he had bought the Tower Bridge. Buyer beware. No return without a receipt.

No matter the cost, and the widening, and the updating and technology, it’s two guys in a rowboat who tie the ships line to the “mules”.

The widening of the canal will be finished in about two years. At the moment there are huge piles of dirt everywhere,

but nothing disturbs the crocodiles.

Nor does anything disturb our wish to retire to this island and watch the world sail by.

For a look at the widening and the canal in operation, Google “panama canal cams live”.

It being casual night, Owen and I ate at Tastes next to the Neptune pool. Great service, “casual” food, and lovely atmosphere.

Our table mates had asked us to let them know when we were not going to eat at table 92, but as we usually didn’t plan ahead, we had no idea how to do that. As the sun set, the guilt faded.

We are now headed for Cartagena, Colombia and will arrive in the morning.