ABOARD CRYSTAL SERENITY_Not only is it Christmas, but also it arrived an hour earlier thanks to an overnight time change.
There are big holiday doings all around the ship. The Big Man himself is scheduled to arrive at 10:30 in the Palm Court, where he’ll distribute gifts to the boys and girls onboard. Over in the deck 5 atrium, a battalion of chefs and ice carvers are preparing what has to be one of the world’s largest feasts at sea, the Holiday Grand Gala Buffet.
Tables stretch literally around the atrium and down the halls, centered by an ice carving of reindeers pulling a sled. Giant twisted loaves of bread spell out, “Happy Holidays.” Culinary teams are working feverishly to have everything in place by noon.
Above it all, in the Bistro on deck 6, I am having tea with Hotel Director Hubert Buelacher, who tells me that of the 942 guests on this cruise, almost 70 percent are repeat customers. That says as much as any award about the customer satisfaction Crystal engenders with its clientele.
Buelacher, who started working at sea as a chef, has been with Crystal for a major portion of his career, and currently oversees the majority of Serenity’s 644 crew.
This is a sea day, and we are enjoying the bright sunshine from a cozy couch in Palm Court. Outside, just about all the loungers and deck chairs are occupied around the pool as guests read, relax and enjoy their favorite drinks. Thankfully, the winds have slowed down and so far today has been steady as she goes.
In the afternoon, Pam elects to enjoy some downtime in Palm Court while I’m writing my daily cruise diary. We meet up at Trident Grill on Lido deck 12 for a late snack. Besides burgers, hot dogs and specialty sandwiches, Trident is a great option for breakfast, which they serve until 11 am. Next door to Trident is Scoops Ice Cream Bar, where you’ll really have decision gridlock as you survey the choices of ice creams, frozen yogurts, sherbets and all their assorted toppings. For me, it’s simple: Vanilla with butterscotch.
Tonight the dress code is black tie optional, and in honor of Christmas, I’ve packed a bright red bow tie to go with my tux. It’s also a perfect match for Pam’s elegant red dress. We have reservations for Umi Uma, the specialty restaurant on deck 7 from the legendary master chef and creator of Nobu worldwide, Nobuyuki Matsuhisa.
Its contemporary design sets the scene for an extraordinary dining experience. The wine steward recommends the hand-picked Chardonnay, and it’s an excellent complement to one of Nobu’s signature dishes, Nobu-Style Black Cod, marinated in Saikyo Miso with peach and ginger, which was cooked to perfection. Pam started with the eggplant appetizer and followed that with the broiled salmon. The restaurant also includes a walk-up sushi bar that’s first come and doesn’t require reservations.
Tonight’s show in the Galaxy Lounge is singer-songwriter-actress Lovena B. Fox, who delivered a powerhouse performance with the Crystal Serenity Band. Her rendition of Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” had people out of their seats and rolling along that river with her.
Afterwards, we made our way to our late night mainstay, Palm Court, for a round of those delicious “Teeny Weenie Lemon Martinis” (I got the recipe from the bar staff, so I’ll be making these when we get back) and listened to the Crystal Quartet as the Ambassadors and their dance partners took to the floor.
Tomorrow we’re in St. Maarten, one of our favorite islands, where we’ll stay overnight. Stay tuned!
Cover photo: Pam and I celebrate Christmas at Umi Uma