So, let me tell you about my cruise. (You will note I have a firm grasp on your wrist.)
We had never been on a cruise and thought we should see what it is all about. One of my college classmates, now a widow, constantly goes from one cruse to another, and, I have found, she is not unique. What have we been missing?
Our cruise was an unlikely marriage of opposites. We were on a Road Scholar tour, formerly Elder Hostel, a group that emphasizes education over luxury and usually consists of wiry, old Appalachian Trail hikers in boots and L. L. Bean garb. Yet here we were on a Crystal Cruise, the cadillac of cruises that is ultra-refined and formal (we were advised we did not have to bring our own tuxedo because they would be available for rent). It was kind of like a hiking club convention at the Waldorf-Astoria.
Our Road Scholar tour with about 30 of us was on Polynesia, led by a professor from a Hawaiian college who gave excellent lectures each morning and led instructive tours at each stop. The cruise went from L0s Angeles to Hawaii to Tahiti and ended at Auckland, New Zealand, with stops at small islands in between. We bypassed Fiji because of a typhoon that did considerable damage to the island.
Our ship, the Crystal Symphony, was small for a cruise ship with a capacity of about 1,000 passengers. I suspect they gave our tour a deal they couldn’t refuse since it was only half full. One of our couples, who had gone on about fifty cruises, said they had always wanted to go on a Crystal Cruise but it was far, far too expensive. This, they thought, was a bargain of a lifetime, as well it may be since I can’t see how the cruise line can survive the new economy. But what do I know?
This unlikely marriage of opposites did work out. Like in any marriage, we both adjusted a little for the common good. I did not go to the main dining room for Captain’s Dinner or on the other formal nights where couples did go in tuxedos and long gowns, but there were several other classy places on board to eat and I had plenty of company. (The passengers that did go formal looked spectacular, I must admit, and I admired their resolve in carrying so much baggage, but I had no desire to join them.) On the ship’s part, they relaxed their dress code for wandering anywhere after 6 pm.
While docked in Honolulu, historic home of Charlie Chan (see posting of August 31, 2010), our tour leader pointed out a French ship being repaired that they had used in the past. Much smaller, it was half freighter and half passenger that was primarily island-hopping to deliver freight. That sounded like more fun, but then I would not have seen how the hoi polloi lived. The Road Scholar group could never afford to charter a ship just for themselves but manages to find suitable rides to hitch onto.
About a third of our passengers were Asian, most getting on in Hawaii. Asian food was offered at the breakfast buffet, and a sushi bar and Asian restaurant were always available. There were also many male gays traveling on the leg from Honolulu to Tahiti. They seemed to know each other, so they could have been part of another tour. They were a friendly, happy group and a relief from any stuffy formality. (“Hi” to Chucky from Atlanta.) There were only about four or five children, rarely seen, who were doted on by everyone.
There was no tipping, not even at the end of the cruise (tipping is not an Asian custom), and room service was always cheerfully available for free. We were each given a $400 credit for any special charges, such as a shipboard wifi connection, port excursions (we had our own by Road Scholar), on-board stores, spa treatments, etc.
For me, it was perfect. I got to see what a top-of-the-line cruise was like while still getting educated on Polynesia in my own style.
But be warned: I am not letting go of your wrist. This is just a summary, and I am not finished with the topic.