Friday, April 24, 2009

Day One

You start at the very beginning.....a very good place to start.

We, the family and a few assorted others- "temporary children" - piled in two cars on Friday, March 27, 2009 to head to Atlanta. Why all the kids, you ask. Well, it just so happened that there was an awesome 4 band concert that the kids really wanted to see. After much sorting out, advances, retreats, and the bribing of one house official (when the concert sold out and we possessed five tickets for six teens), the kids were parked at the concert venue, we were checked into two rooms at the Embassy Suites Centennial Olympic Park and Mom and Dad had dinner with Grumpy Guy's best friend, Brubru. We met up with the temporarily deafened headbangers at concert's end, and we all went for a post-concert nosh at the dining institution known as THE VARSITY.
From Maison Cou Rouge

After a DELIGHTFUL night's sleep and breakfast, we all headed out for a few hours light shopping at Lenox Square Mall. Having indulged in a Pryor family tradition of a trip to the Godiva Store, we all linked back up with Brubru who treated us to lunch.

Lunch with Brubru always seems to run long, which is how I missed my flight to Los Angeles. Ok, that and I read the flight time, 4:59 as my departure time, which was 4:10. Not to worry, my divine travel agent Teri always figures for things like this, and Delta kindly put me on the 5:30 flight.

In LAX, I relaxed in the lounge, meeting up with cousins Bill and Suzanne (oh, at this point, I guess I should just drop all pretense of figuring out aliases...everyone knows who everyone else is.....) who would be my travelling companions for the next 5 days. CruiseGran would join us when we finished the "overland" excursion of the trip as she had already visited these places.

Once aboard our Cathay Pacific flight late Saturday night (oh, try to fly CP if you can--they are marvelous.......truly), we were delighted to find our proper seats

--um--cubicles--um lounge chairs??--

upstairs directly behind the 747's flight deck. Talk about FUN!!!

The 15-hour flight seemed to race by, and before we knew it, we were landing in Hong Kong. On Monday. This never fails to flip me out. (I mean, I KNOW I got it back on the 16th, leaving Tokyo at 6pm and arriving 2 hours later in Atlanta...but I'm getting ahead of myself...) It's like "poof- let's forget about Sunday..." But moving on.

Here's what the arrivals info looked like......

alternating in English

I'm impressed by the wierdest things, I know.

As always with Crystal Cruises, we were met by wonderfully helpful people. Seems that our Crystal representative for the excursion, Alex, was on the plane with us, so we began our adventures right then and there.

On arriving at the Intercontinental Hotel, we were immediately taken to our rooms, even though it was only 9am. Open the door, and this is my room...

Tea arrived immediately-

And a quick shower and phone home, and I was ready to start investigating!!!!!

Monday, April 20, 2009

What Makes Crystal Serenity So Special - 2009 Edition

This year, I have decided to begin at the end.... to put the best first....and start off my travels with the people that always make traveling on a Crystal ship special--the crew.

When a line has been voted "best large cruise-ship line" for THIRTEEN years in a row, and there is a reason...and it is not steel and paint, carpeting and furnishings. It is the PEOPLE.

I always wait until the last few days to remember to take photos of the crew. I keep saying I'm going to do it earlier, before I get rushed and weepy (I always cry a little when I have to leave. I'm a sap--I'll never change..).

Crew come and crew go. I missed some of the folks from last year's cruise--my wonderful Matthias has left, and Oleg and Eugene are between contracts. But others of "my ship family" were there--Branislav and Nina, Borislav, Jasmina...Jaco and Roli...Ruel...and all my Lido guys. Well, I could keep typing, or show you pictures.....Here are a few.

Captain ├śkland likes his mid-morning coffee on Lido when the sun is shining

The "whites" (aka officers) like to enjoy a laugh when we sail away from Japan

My breakfast of miso soup was always made even better with a smile

Breakfast on Lido

was always run brilliantly by Sigi, pictured here with my cousin. Doesn't hurt that he always has a table ready for us in the evening at Silk Road.....( how much Nobu food can we eat on one cruise?????)

Of course at Silk Road, we had our wonderful sommelier, Christian

Earl always had a smile for EVERYONE, even the teenagers who kept having him fetch them ice cream while they lounged in the hot tub..

Jasmina wasn't our stewardess-

Simona was, but she was camera-shy. Jasmina was dear enough to remember Girl from our 2007 summer cruise and wanted to see pictures of her--so kind! Remembering my kids always gets a hug from me!!

I saw the galley crew taking a small break while they prepared for the Grand Gala Buffet-also known in the family as"the ChumFest"

Boy did they earn the well deserved break!!

With my love of food, you KNOW that I would get to know the head waiters

Bojan always smiling--and fixing my cheese plates wonderfully well

and Peter ordered lamb especially for CruiseGran--and stuffed us full of "bbrrreaddd"

Always organizing, especially before the Gala Buffet

Alvin always up to mischief

and I don't know why I didn't get a picture of Ross, but he was there, too.

I don't have a better picture of "little Bro" aka Borislav--but he's there in the middle

but I did get Big Bro (Branislav)--it wasn't until he said "bye" that I started crying that last day....

Serenity always looks picture-perfect due to the outstanding deck crew

working hard both at sea and in port

If it's not washing or painting, it's varnishing

The Crystal Trio serenaded us all OVER the ship

And when not in the dining room, the wine stewards were in the Bistro

I think they like what they do

Goran, on the left, remembered me from last year and was always ready to show me photos of his son

and Roli, from last year was also back for a photo with our wonderful, funny and beautiful senior waiter, Nada

and Jaco was still aboard--such a sweetie!

Mario, our sommelier in Prego, was camera-shy, so I had to sneak a photo

but my cousin Bill got a great photo of our dining room wine-o Sven--he went out of his way to make us happy!!

(are you getting a sense for my priorities on board?? I DO love my guys-and girl!!- who wear grapes on their lapels!!)

Happiness is a guy in a striped shirt

any time of the day

and if they aren't in stripes, they are in tuxes..looking smashing!

The amazing and excellent chefs responsible for me blowing my diet

Led by two fabulous men, Executive Pastry Chef Harold Neufang

And Excutive Chef-the head honcho- Werner Brenner

and saving the best for last--the ever-smiling and heart-of-gold Guy, Ruel-

who not only remembered me, but "Chief Jan" so fondly.

Miss you ALL so very much...but I WILL BE BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!