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!
One of the fun aspects of going on cruise in November is that we got to watch the ship transform into holiday decor. These changes came out little by little each day and were wonderful to see. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
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.
We arrived at the beautiful “Blue Hole” high in the hills of Jamaica and were eager to explore it.
When you arrive a guide is assigned to help you navigate the rocks, pathways and waterfalls. Ours was Morgan, and we had a lot of fun with him.
He pointed out some of the activities we would be enjoying shortly, like working our way down this rope. I wasn’t so sure about trying that.
But Paul did.
I did follow Paul through this tunnel that comes out in the middle of the waterfall. It was crazy!
And I took hold of the rope to swing out over the water, but I think I let go so quickly that they weren’t able to get a photo (after all these years of piano playing, my arms still aren’t very strong).
Over all it was really fun, and we were glad we got to see this beautiful area that few tourists see.
The Crystal Symphony has several dining areas. This is the formal dining room.
On the day we arrived at Jamaica we opted for the quicker buffet-style breakfast.
We ate outside on the deck so we could observe our arrival to the beautiful island.
It was pointed out to us that this building was used in one of the James Bond films.
We met up with our driver to take us to the Blue Hole — high up in the hills. It was a very interesting drive because we were able to see some of the poor housing along the way, which always concerns me because of my work with children in need.
My next post will reveal the area known as the “Blue Hole.”