This is the final shout-out to the ship and crew of Crystal Cruises. We had the best time in the Caribbean and would certainly go again if we get the chance. Some of the passengers would remain onboard for another week, as they toured the Panama Canal, Colombia and other stops, but we couldn’t go the extra week (and had already been through the Panama Canal previously). So it was a sad farewell but the memories linger!
I had toured the ship’s kitchen one of the days at sea, and it’s incredible to see how they prepare all the great meals we enjoyed.
Again–wonderful staff members giving it their all. We ate in the Italian restaurant on our last night and the food and presentation here was also delicious and impressive.
The next place we stopped in Costa Rica was the zip line. I had ridden one in Costa Rica and Thailand before, and was excited to experience the thrill of flying through the trees again!
To our surprise, we ran into some of the staff from the ship that were also going on the zip line. It was great that we ended up in the same group so we could get better acquainted. Later I was able to share photos with them, since they didn’t have cameras.
The girls had been tricked into thinking they were going to the beach, and they were dressed accordingly, which we thought was hilarious.
Their names and countries are Aleksandar (Serbia), Stanko (Serbia), Diana (Montenegro) and Lori (Croatia).
What a delight to spend this time with them, laughing, squealing, and being goofy (rather than the normal stance they would take serving on the ship)!
And — to top it off — guess who waited on us at breakfast the next morning? This is always the best part of traveling — the food AND the people we meet!
We hadn’t known this before we booked our cruise, but one of the speakers for the week was our own former U.S. Senator Al Simpson. We were thrilled to know he would be speaking throughout the week. In addition, his close friend, Norman Mineta would be sharing the speaker’s platform. Norman was the U.S. Secretary of Commerce under President Bill Clinton and the U.S. Secretary of Transportation under President George W. Bush, the only Democrat to hold office on his cabinet. He was in this position on 9/11 and was the man who issued an order to ground all U.S. civilian aircraft, something that had never happened before. He also worked on the implementation of the Transportation Security Administration department for airline safety. Here is an excellent video of Norman’s recollections of the events on 9/11.
We listened to all their speeches throughout the week and they were fascinating, funny at times and entertaining.
The story of how the two became best friends is amazing, and they took turns sharing the story with us. Norman’s family had been detained at Heart Mountain–near Cody, Wyoming–one of the Japanese internment camps during World War II. Al’s Boy Scout leader decided to take his troop of young boys out to the camp to play competitive games and camp-out together. They ended up in the same tent and became fast friends for life, though one joined the Democratic party and the other joined the Republicans. Maybe this is why Al was always so good at crossing party lines and working to compromise rather than hating the other side, something that is badly needed now.
We had met Al several times before, and he invited us to have lunch with them in the Palm Court; it was a special treat to sit with these two giants of the political world–men with integrity, kindness, intelligence and openness. Their wives, Ann and Deni, are also about as kind and caring as anyone you could meet.
We asked a lot of questions about Washington and about 9/11, of course, and they willingly answered them all. What an honor and privilege to dine with these special people!
Here are some photos from breakfast and from our dinner that evening.
The staff members on Crystal Cruises are truly wonderful. I loved meeting them and learning where they came from. One special event that I attended was the “Mozart Tea.” It was really special–the music, food and costumes.
I had seen the man on the right previously–he’s from Peru, where I have been to visit sponsored children.
This man at the piano was dressed like Mozart and played beautifully.
The snacks were incredible.
Here are many of the other staff members we met–all were so nice and special in various ways. This man kept the decks clean and is from the Philippines, another country I’ve visited.
Our personal maid is also from Peru and she was great.
We just couldn’t thank them enough for the wonderful service they offered!
Our next stop in Jamaica was on a beach where we awaited our boat to go snorkeling. It was certainly a beautiful area, and this is Paul sitting with our wonderful driver, Ainsworth. We booked him and all our excursions each day–snorkeling, touring the Blue Hole, etc.–on our own, not through the cruise packages. It was much cheaper this way and provided more variety. It really isn’t terribly expensive to hire a driver or boat for the day or half a day if you prefer.
Our boat arrived and off we went for another fun snorkeling adventure!
Then Ainsworth took us to a special place for the best Jamaican lunch ever–jerk chicken, pak festival (similar to a hush puppy), fried plantains. Delicious!
We also had an opportunity to sample various flavors of Jamaican rum.
This was my favorite. They call it “BTB” — “Better Than Bailey’s.”
We also wandered about town a little and saw the colors of Jamaica.