Two Great Speakers

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.

 

 

 

Awesome Staff

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!

 

Jamaican Cuisine

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.

Then we headed back to the ship.

Another great meal!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Hole

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.

 

Island Life

After our snorkeling adventure on Grand Cayman we had some time to explore the island a bit.  We walked along the beautiful beaches and enjoyed the scenery.

At lunchtime we stopped at a resort for lunch.

Soon it was time to head back to the ship, which can be seen in the distance.  The Crystal Symphony is the smaller one.

There were lots of fishermen along the wharf cleaning their catch of the day.

I love some of the older homes on these islands.

Then it was back on the tender for return to the ship.

Here’s another peek at the excellent cuisine of the Symphony!

Stingrays

On Grand Cayman we went on a snorkeling adventure, and saw some of the beautiful homes on our way out of the harbor.

The first stop was in a shallow area that stingrays frequent.  We actually got out and swam with them, touched them, fed them and took lots of photos.

But I didn’t last long in the water because I was so frightened by their huge bodies and tails.  It was really scary to be that close.  But soon we headed to another spot where we snorkeled a bit deeper and saw a lot of other fish.  

And, believe it or not, we came home with this beautiful conch shell!

Grand Cayman

Our  first island stop was at Grand Cayman.  We were ready for adventure after a delicious breakfast.

At this particular stop we needed a boat “tender” to get us from the ship to the main land.  Here’s the view of the ship as we left it.

We passed this cute little church on our way through town.

This is some artwork we saw somewhere, and it shows what my next post will be about.