ABOARD CRYSTAL SERENITY_It’s Christmas Eve, we have arrived at Grand Turk and Houston, we have a problem.
While the sun has broken through the clouds, the windy weather continues, forcing Captain Giske to make a last-minute change: Instead of docking alongside Carnival Horizon, we’ll be using tenders to go ashore. Unfortunately, due to the winds, shore excursions involving the water — snorkeling, SCUBA, etc. — had to be canceled as well. As Hotel Director Hubert Buelacher explained it to me, it was just too risky to maneuver the ship between the dock and the reef.
We didn’t have a shore excursion planned for this stop, so we took one of the tenders over to check things out. The way the tender was bouncing against the dock, it’s obvious the captain made a wise decision.
This was our first time in Grand Turk, a British overseas territory located 575 miles southeast of Miami. Altogether, there are 30 islands that comprise the Turks and Caicos group, famed for its diving and fishing.
The cruise terminal area offered a number of shops and restaurants, as well as long stretches of snow-white beach. Umbrellas and beach chairs were first-come, and pretty much all occupied in the popular Magaritaville section, which also featured two swimming pools. We grabbed a drink and cooled down before heading back to the tender dock.
Things were much calmer there, at “Whale Beach.” The beach itself was more rocky, but the waters a beautiful aquamarine, and not nearly the mob scene we just left. It also had a restaurant and bathroom facilities. We spread our towels on the sand and soaked up some Caribbean vibes before returning to the ship for lunch.
We wanted to try something new, so we headed to the Silk Kitchen and Bar on Lido Deck 12, midship adjacent to Marketplace. While it offers open seating for lunch, reservations are required for dinner. The food is Chinese-inspired, and the decor is contemporary, casual elegance. It’s also a new addition from the makeover in 2018, taking the place of Tastes.
Initially, we had some confusion over seating. We learned seating for Marketplace overlaps the Silk area, which wasn’t exactly clear. No matter, the ever-efficient wait staff took our order and we enjoyed dim sum and chow mein noodles. Later in the voyage we’ll be returning here for dinner.
So what’s happening around the ship this afternoon? Time to check Reflections — the daily program that’s more like a mini-newspaper, full of articles, features and activities. We can catch a movie in the Hollywood Theatre, try our hand at paddle tennis, take dance lessons or any one of a dozen other choices. One of the more interesting offerings is the Crystal Visions Enrichment Program, featuring guest lecturers who cover a wide range of topics. That’s definitely on the list as the cruise continues.
But today we’re doing Afternoon Tea in the Palm Court.
Besides being big Anglophiles, we just enjoy having wait staff in tuxedos and white gloves serving us tea, scones, finger sandwiches and assorted sweets. It’ so — what’s the word — civilized. And civility is one of those things in short supply these days.
This is a casual night, so my tux can stay in the closet. For dinner, we’re, as Crystal says, “traveling to South America” and going to Churrascaria, the Brazilian steakhouse on Lido deck 12 that is Marketplace during the day. While we don’t eat beef, there are plenty of other options available, served on skewers by “gauchos.” The parmesan chicken was wonderful, as well as the pork loin. You also can choose sides like marinated vegetables and baked potatoes, along with a salad bar. Add a Brazilian rum cocktail and top it off with delectable churros, and it’s all more than good.
Tonight’s production in the Galaxy Lounge is the ship’s holiday show. Beforehand, we head to Palm Court for a pre-show drink. Instead of our usual lemon drop martini, our wait person suggested we try their own variation, the “Teeny Lemon Martini,” with limoncello. Why not? The verdict — our new favorite!
The holiday show was a nice mix of song, dance, world Christmas and Hanukkah traditions and some humor added for good measure. Afterwards, there were two late night religious services offered — one Protestant/Interdenominational, the other a Christmas Eve Mass. We went to the former, and the only thing missing was holding real candles while singing “Silent Night.” Safety first, even in church.
Now it’s time to get to bed. Otherwise, Santa can’t come see us.
Happy holidays, everyone!
Cover Photo: Whale Beach on Grand Turk, with Crystal Serenity in the background