The next eight days, seven nights were aboard the Crystal Symphony. This was our tenth cruise and a much more luxurious experience than we have ever had in the past. (Two in the Eastern Caribbean, one Western Caribbean, and one each in the Sea of Cortez, L.A. - Acapulco, New York - St. John's Newfoundland, Athens - Istanbul, a river boat on the Danube and Amsterdam - St. Petersberg.)
This was a much smaller ship than most, a max of 922 passengers (we sailed with less) as contrasted to up to 3500. A sense of spaciousness was everywhere and no lines. Our cabin had a big picture window but no balcony -- it's Alaska after all. We found we liked the main dining room (come when you want and no lines) better than the four specialty restaurants: Japanese, Chinese, Brazilian and Italian, but they were very good too. So much redundancy to delight passengers! Plus the Lido Deck buffet and another small coffee bar with lots of food. One afternoon, they pulled together a few of their 20 entertainers to serenade us with Mozart during which a huge Viennese table was kept full by the wait staff, dressed in period clothing. It killed off appetites for dinner but we ate anyway -- late. One hundred of the 550 crew are involved in cooking and baking. It was my Birthday so they said to have the "Special Breakfast".
Two examples. I tried to sign up with the concierge for a tour of the bridge. "I'm sorry sir, since 9/11 we are not allowed to to them any longer." I expressed disappointment; "I'm a sailor and interested in such things". Two days later: "Please don't tell anyone but it is arranged for four this afternoon." Lene is in the Captain's chair wearing Conrad's hat. Crystal has a saying: "Once you have been Crystalized, you will never ride another line." They are right!
The other special experience was Friday night religious services. They followed shortly after a Mass, led by a priest who was very friendly to us, comes from Westchester and is invited for a sail on ILENE. The ship not only announced the venue in the daily newspaper (in the motion picture theater) but provided prayer books, two electric sabbath candles, yarmulkas, good red and white wine, two ship-baked braided challah breads and a plate of gefilte fish with hard boiled eggs and horse raddish!
One of the best features of the trip was getting to know Chris and Tom, who we shared many moments with. They are Aussies and while we may not go "down under" to visit them, they travel a lot and we will see them in New York.
The entertainment was excellent and imaginative and we played trivial pursuit during the three at sea days, taking one first place and two seconds. I worked out in the gym most days and partook of the sauna, though the steam room was shut down due to a broken part.
Our route: We departed from Vancouver on a glorious sunny afternoon and, after stops in
And visited the Mendenhall Glacier, which is right next to a waterfall so you have both a frozen and a liquid river side by side. Yes it rained that day.
In Skagway, (which translates to Windy Place -- and it is) we took a free tour with the National Parks Service ranger, followed by a hike uphill to woodland fresh water Lake Dewey. Here is a view of Symphony, dwarfed behind the larger Holland American boat.
The shore experiences, however, were not the most impressive part of this cruise. Two of the "at sea" days involved getting the very large boat inland through huge fjords with high waterfalls
and glaciers that came down to the sea (as compared to the Rocky mountain glaciers, which end on land).
s/v ILENE's binoculars got us a closer view of the glacial faces.
Look at the tiny whitish dot to the right side of the narrow entrance through which we entered.
Not such a tiny dot afterall, but a Disney boat larger than ours.