Sunday, June 30, 2024

June 8, 2024 – Miami, FL – Intermittent Sprinkles – 80s

Embarkation Day

The room never got too warm and the street construction noise wasn't an issue so we got a decent night's sleep.  

I went down to breakfast in the lobby area – a large venue with lots of tables - as soon as it opened (I prefer, especially in Florida to avoid any crowds if I can).  I was disappointed to find no waffle or pancake makers (although Ellen said that frozen waffles appeared on the buffet when she went down).  There was pre-made French Toast sticks available but I had cold cereal and coffee for breakfast.  Ellen went down after I got back up and had her breakfast. The options were OK (especially if you went down when the waffles were available) but not up to what we are used to.

At around 11:00 AM I called for an Uber and was picked up at 11:08 AM in a black Camry.  The ride to Port of Miami was 9.32 miles and took 17 minutes.  The ride cost $22.19 including a $3 tip.  There were quite a few ships here today but we spotted Crystal Serenity as we approached the port. 

The porter grabbed our bags and we checked in with someone at the desk who was handling guest entertainers.  

NOTE:  We spoke to various crew members and found out that the ship is sailing at about 80 percent capacity.  Serenity used to hold 1040 passengers but, as a result of some changes to cabins as part of the 2023 refurb, the guest capacity is now 740.  There are about 600 folks aboard on this cruise.  

Check in was quick and we headed to the Marketplace Buffet (Deck 12 Aft) for lunch.  The Trident Grille, Tastes Kitchen, and the Marketplace Buffet are located linearly as you go aft on Deck 12.  The Trident Grill is open for lunch and early dinner; Tastes has a great lunch but the dinner options are kind of "vegan" and odd; the Buffet is only open for breakfast and lunch. 

A lot of the folks working at the Trident Grille looked familiar and I had an Impossible Burger and gazpacho for lunch.  The Impossible Burgers are cooked perfectly on this ship and come with lettuce, tomato, pickle, and onions along with fries or onion rings. 

I will never tire of the gazpacho, the best I have tasted (and I try every gazpacho I come across) since Ellen used to make it from scratch eons ago. 

A Corona completed the meal.  Ellen tried the Tuna Salad but she’ll give something else a shot next time. 

We are in Cabin 7016 – Promenade Deck Portside Forward.  

The room is very nice but we have to keep the shades drawn because there are a lot of walkers on this ship.  The cabins on this ship are all very nice (some have been upgraded – we saw some of the “show” cabins on Deck 7.  What I like are the two sinks, the size of the bathroom including the bath and shower.  I especially like the shower since it has both excellent water pressure but also a hand held shower head.  Very nice bathroom. 

Crystal Serenity is a little different since emerging from both COVID and bankruptcy.  However, I couldn’t really tell what had changed – perhaps the Galaxy Lounge is a little snazzier.  It doesn’t matter because it is still a lovely ship.

We filled out our requests for escorting on the ship and handed them into Marina Bregles, a very nice woman from Portugal.  She indicated that she will be communicating with escorts via WhatsApp.  She also encouraged escorts to send her photos from their excursion to use as promotions (I guess).

Setting up the internet on this ship was very easy and we had it on both our phones, the Kindle, and laptop at the same time.  That was a very nice perk.  

We went up to Palm Court, Deck 12 Forward, to get some views of Miami and the Port.  

The MSC Seascape - a monster ship - is docked a ways down from us.

Captain Vincent Taillard is the Master of the Vessel.  He is from France, is a little difficult to understand because of his accent but is very brief with his daily update.  I saw him only once around the ship on this cruise but as long as the ship is steaming along, that's OK.  We have never sailed with him before.  

The Cruise Director is Rafael Derkson and I have never sailed with him previously. Holly England is the Assistant Cruise Director and, as is generally the case, a member of the singer/dancer troupe.  Rafael has a background in music and is from Montreal Canada.  He has only been the CD on Serenity for a short time - before that, he was the Musical Director.  He is pretty low key compared to other Crystal CDs and is not the meet and greet kind of CD such as Russ.  I rarely saw him around the ship - I am assuming he was busy keeping everything going smoothly.  There is a lot going on on this ship.

There was a note in the cabin that there would be a meeting of the Entertainment Group at 6:00 PM this evening in the Galaxy Lounge.  We went to the meeting and, as instructed, sat in the Front Row.  Rafael introduced everyone – there are six speakers on this cruise including me: 

Ed Larson – Pirate Guy

Bill Toone – Biologist – Animal Behavior

Jeff Larsen – World Affairs - mostly NATO

Roger McGuinn – Folk Icon sailing with wife Camilla (we know them)

Dean Allen – African Slave Trade

Arts and Craft instructor (Lydia Carriere) and assistant (Amy Desamson)

Also on this cruise is a Bridge Instructor and Golf Pro

To be honest, I am only interested in Roger’s presentations because one of the reasons I go on ships is to get away from politics and world affairs.  NOTE:  I was originally scheduled to do four talks but got bumped for another talk on Russia and NATO so only three this cruise.

The meeting was pretty low key compared to previous meetings of the Entertainment Staff. There was no going over the rules, which I know and practice.  

We were instructed not to have early dinner in the Waterside Restaurant tonight as it was expected to be busy.  We also paid a visit to the Maître D’ to see about Specialty Restaurant Reservations and were told to come back tomorrow afternoon (passengers get first dibs). There are two Specialty Restaurants - Osteria D'Ovidio, an Italian Restaurant replacing our beloved Prego and Umi Uma, famed Asian restaurant created by equally famous Chef Nobu.  On land, we wouldn't be able to afford this restaurant but the food in Umi Uma is just not our kind of cuisine.  It is very popular with the guests.  

We had a pre-dinner drink in the Crystal Cove - Ellen likes the Apricot Sours and I had a Margarita.

As instructed, we went to dinner later and got a great table, #89 (and a great waiter in Craig).  Mario, our past Maître D' was still at the helm.  We both had the broiled salmon.  Cooked perfectly and delicious. 

We had dessert up in Tastes Kitchen (Deck 12 midships) and met Neal Fullerton, the Piano Man from the Avenue Saloon. We had a wonderful time chatting with him.  The best dishes are the Bananas Foster and Key Lime Pie - you wouldn't be able to recognized the Taste version but they were good.  

The show tonight was “Crystal in Motion”.  

All of the shows are in the Galaxy Lounge and at 9:00 PM – that generally conflicts with Neal and some of the other acts that are on at the same time.  The stage and effects have been upgraded on Serenity (the ship now has a back screen like most ships these days, where graphics enhance the show).  The Singers and Dancers are, as expected, very good, especially the female singer, Lauren Heavner.  The coolest number was the Irish Step Dance complete with the male dancers dancing in Plexiglas boxes filled with water.  We have seen this before but it’s still neat to watch.

The other act we are planning to attend when the schedule works out is “Key and Melody”, a husband and wife duo from the Philippines. She has a perfect voice and the songs provide dancing passengers an opportunity to shake a leg.  They usually perform up in the Crystal Cove or in the Stardust Lounge.  The ship has about six “gents” that dance with single women on board.

It's been a long day, so we head to the comfort of our room.  The temp control appears to be work very well on this ship.  Even though people might be walking the deck, you can't hear them in the room.

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