ABOARD CRYSTAL SERENITY_With Tortola in our rear-view mirror, we have two days at sea as we make a heading for our next — and last — port of call, Key West. Besides still decompressing from all the New Year’s festivities, this time will allow us to be, among other things, culturally-enriched and join Mozart for afternoon tea.
For the former, there are a number of “Enrichment Program” onboard lectures scheduled, ranging from science and shipwrecks to the state of the world. What’s nice is that if you can’t hear it in person, you can watch on the Crystal channel in your stateroom. We opted to attend “Le Casimir 1829” in the Hollywood Theatre, where maritime archeologist Dr. Simon Spooner spoke about a ship carrying lead crystal perfume bottles that sank off the Dominican Republic after striking a reef. Fascinating — like “CSI at Sea.”
The ship seems unusually quiet. By this stage of the cruise, everyone has settled into a comfortable routine. In fact, the staff knows us by name at all our frequent haunts. It’s obvious there’s a feeling of family between repeat Crystal guests and long-serving ship personnel.
One of the sea days features a special edition of afternoon tea — the “Mozart Tea.” It has the wait staff dressed in 17th century costumes, accompanied by Mozart classics played on violin and piano. We order our tea and choose from an extensive buffet of pastries, feeling oh-so-refined, helped along by a dress code that “swimsuits, coverups/robes and baseball hats are not appropriate for tea time.” It’s always sad when there have to be rules that state what should be obvious.
Since it is a sea day, the shops and casino are open. There are three shops, all located on Deck 6 around the Crystal Cove atrium: Facets, featuring jewelry and watches, The Crystal Collection, fine jewelry, and Apropos, an “upscale fashion boutique.”
The latter boasts a collection of Robert Graham attire, one of my personal favorite designers. In fact, I brought two RG shirts on this cruise and even had Pam take my picture with a RG mannequin.
This is also the night we have reservations for the Stardust Supper Club.
Once or twice during the cruise, depending on the length, Stardust is transformed from an entertainment venue to a true Supper Club, where diners are treated to a multi-course dinner while the Crystal Showband and a singer evoke New York of a bygone era. Word to the wise: Book this one early. We heard there is usually a waiting of list of 40 or 50 people.
We shared a table with a couple from Mississippi who were on their 14th Crystal cruise. While the food was excellent — as always — service was slow (maybe on purpose to stretch out the evening) and we would have liked more time for dancing.
Over at the Galaxy Lounge, it’s “Crystal on Broadway: The Show,” which features songs from three Broadway productions: “Something Rotten,” “West Side Story” and “Rent.” Lead vocalists Lauren Heavner and Carl Draper were outstanding, along with their talented supporting cast. Coming up next at Galaxy is “The Music of Billy Joel,” while comedian John Joseph will be featured in Stardust.
Football fanatics can catch the NFL playoff games in the Studio on Deck 7, or watch from the stateroom TVs, reception permitting. There have been a few times where we lost TV signals and the Internet has been sporadic as well.
As our cruise winds down, Crystal, in their usual efficient manner, has delivered our luggage tags and disembarkation information directly to our stateroom: No lining up in a public space for the usual “tag grab” we’ve had on other cruise lines. And we don’t miss it a bit.
Sea days are also a good time to enjoy our balcony. On one side of us is Cuba, and on the horizon we can see another cruise ship steaming toward Miami. Crystal has thoughtfully provided each stateroom with a pair of binoculars, which we break out to see which ship it is. No — still too far away to tell. That’s okay — with our drinks, a cool breeze and the rolling blue waves passing by, we’re good.
Cover photo: Mozart Tea in the Palm Court