Santa Barbara Travel Client Live Blogs On Crystal Serenity

A Week on Crystal Serenity:

A Santa Barbara Travel Client’s Rendition of his Montreal- Ft Lauderdale Sailing

Crystal Serenity

Crystal Serenity


Day 1-2:

People always ask me, “Don’t you get bored being on a ship for so long?” Well, no. In fact, it is the opposite. I can hardly find time to sit on my Verandah and smell the salt air. Most times I won’t debark at port just to have a slightly slower pace. Besides, everybody leaves and it is like having your own 750 passenger yacht! (That’s when I hot tub). I know now why ships are referred to in the feminine text. Each is beautiful in their own way, with alluring nuances and quirks. Like a perfect marriage, find the right one and you savor every minute.

On this particular trip, I had the pleasure of checking out Crystal Serenity. I can safely say I definitely developed a taste for 6-star cruises. A little bit more money, but extremely worth it. Our last cruise was on Regent and I wanted to compare the top two lines to see the difference. And there definitely was a difference. Really excellent choices if YOU know what lights your fire!

We are on a 15 day, Montreal to Ft Lauderdale sojourn. We port in Bar Harbor Maine tomorrow. I have to say coming out of the St. Lawrence into the Atlantic was an E-ticket ride. Strong winds added to our excitement. Fortunately, it was during our sleep hours, but all the jiggling made for interesting dreams!

One of Crystal’s strengths is its education/entertainment program. After 60+ cruises, I can say with some confidence that you can find no better offering. This morning, I heard lectures on Boston (Redcoats and Minutemen), North Korea (Controlling the Spread of Nuclear Weapons by Professor Louis Rene Barnes), and instead of going to hear how the wristwatch was invented, I slipped into a very informative lecture/instruction on iPad tricks. We ate lunch quickly and headed back to “Computer at Sea” for Adobe Photoshop Magic. And I’m only into day two! I didn’t go to that many classes when  I was at Stanford 60 years ago!

Yesterday was just as hectic with fantastic night life. After a delightful Nobu dinner, we heard a Broadway production of “The Life of Billy Joel”, some great jazz and a nightcap at Karaoke (I’m working on my rendition of Big Bad Leroy Brown).

People who say they get bored cruising are on the wrong ship!

-John M.

Karaoke aboard Crystal Serenity

Guests enjoying karaoke

Day 3-4:

We are in Quebec and I had forgotten what a charming city it is. Really like a mini France with English spoken. Absolutely gorgeous fall foliage on a three-hour bus ride from Montreal. We got off to a booming start with a long bar session with my wife buying a $65 bottle of wine to take to the room. When asked why? “It’s only $25 at Costco.”

Too early to comment on the ship, except the foyer bar is terrific. Met some charming people, one lady on her 37th Crystal Cruise. Why? She loves to dance and the cruise line provides partners. Expensive shoe shuffling.

This Crystal ship is different than others we’ve sailed. No sports bar. No TV, or football, or baseball in the public areas. Each morning was packed with interesting lecturers. Listened to a former ambassador this AM. They have a large computer program with speakers and person to person instruction. I’m finally learning how to do stuff I was embarrassed to ask my grandkids!

Leisurely chugging down the St. Lawrence with Bar Harbor Maine as our first stop. Interesting sideline…we will plow through herds of migrating whales as we round Newfoundland. Ship has to slow down to 10 mph.

Love and wine bottles to all,

– John M.

Crystal Serenity Penthoue Veranda

Crystal Penthouse Veranda

Day 4-5:

Judy and I hit the sack early last night. Didn’t miss any of the entertainment as we watched a replay on our stateroom’s TV at 7:30am while enjoying our coffee and orange juice. Nice feature. They do the same with lectures.

We tender at noon into Bay Harbor. Before that, we go through a quick “face” immigration inspection in the Galaxy Lounge. We may decide to stay on board as we have tickets to the Magic Castle show at 4:30pm. Hard to get. They only accept 25 people per show, only do 8 shows per sailing, and we caught a lucky break as someone cancelled and we were next in line! The shows all sold out BEFORE the cruise left Quebec. 550 people are out of magic on this cruise. Not us, timing is everything! Ship sails at 6pm, temperature is up to 50 degrees and we’ve been here before influencing our decision. Dinner tonight is at specialty restaurant “Prego”.

Our Nobu experience was excellent. Such exquisite tastes and settings. Could eat there every other night. Each guest can dine twice in their  specialty restaurants on the house and then there is a nominal charge of $30. Still a bargain! Food? Judy and I share different opinions. I think Regent Seven Seas Cruises is better while she likes Crystal. Either way, it’s overkill. You really have to have a modicum of will power or the notches in your belt disappear. I’m close to beltless already and more than a week to go!

One thing I will comment on is their soups. “Tastes” is one of their eateries on the 12th deck. It serves the same menu daily. We have been there twice for soup and salad. Soup is the only item they change. Each day I have had seconds. Yesterday I ordered the Tuna salad made with fresh Ahi Tuna, (no Bumblebee for me!). It was delicious.

How can you not love cruising?

-John M.

Nobu on Crystal Serenity

Dessert at Nobu Restaurant

Day 6-7:

A warm, bright, sunny day greeted us chugging into historic Boston Bay. I swear I see tea leaves floating alongside. We dock just opposite of the end of Logan Airport’s main runway which gives me a constant view of activity. Fun for me as I can sit on my Verandah and identify the different aircraft (using the ship supplied binoculars). It also is one of the main shipping channels which is busy, busy, busy with people and cargo heading out to far worldly points. The Holland America Zuiderdam tooted as it went by. Everybody was waving at each other.

Judy was all set to visit the Kennedy Library today but I talked her into going to a movie instead. Ship has a charming theater and shows a variety of movies from Blockbusters to “Indies”. Changes twice a day. They even provide you popcorn. Both of us have been to Boston a couple of times so I felt no urgent need to disembark. Besides, we both have come down with small colds so we are saving ourselves for tomorrow…Newport, RI.

The Magic show was terrific! Up close and personal – that really enhances the cleverness. Tonight’s plans are solid. Early dinner then off to the Cove to hear Frank Sinatra music, then to the major stage “Beatles” production, “Across the Pond”, and then hustle off to Stardust Club for the “Rock and Pop-A-Mania” show. Close out the evening with a nightcap at Karaoke (I’m still practicing my version of BBLB!).

-John M.

Crystal Serenity Cruise Dancers

Crystal Cruise Dancers

Day 8-9:

What a trip! If you are rich enough and so out of touch with reality that you build a house with 21 horse stalls INSIDE the house (with horses, of course), this is your kind of town! What a fascinating place.

Absolutely gorgeous scenery, old, multi-million homes and stories galore. We had a wonderful guide driving us around in her red and white trolley car while she related the weird and wild history of America’s gentrified playground. This is one of those places you can’t mentally absorb. It is a place that is so full of excess, wacky egos and stunning scenery that you leave your jaw ajar automatically.

Serenity is parked in the middle of zillions of sailboats, tendering passenger’s back and forth at a rapid rate. The town of 24,000 swells by three during the summer season but is now slowing down to get ready for the cold winter. Not today! It’s warm and in the high fifties. Tomorrow is two days in New York. This place is the ying, the “Big Apple” is the yang.

-John M.

Day 10-11:

Sunrise was at 7:13am. Judy and I popped out of our beds 2 minutes later. We had just entered the Hudson River on our way to downtown “Big Apple”. What a gorgeous morning, blue skies, a few puffy clouds and a ton of warm, emerging sun. In silence, we relaxed on our Veranda watching the worlds most iconic city float by.

Our daughter had lived in Manhattan for a decade and many of the sights were recognizable from previous visits. A tinge of anger, fear, sorrow as we passed the sight of 9/11 Trade Towers. The vast changes in all our lives since. I didn’t feel this on land but somehow the “Serenity” of a slow moving ship, the sharp fresh air and immensity of our surroundings was mesmerizing. Tugs showed up, pushed us into Pier 95 and our two day visit began.

After a week I have definitely fallen in love. Crystal is my choice of cruising. There are so many reasons “why”- I will try and explain some. They are NOT grandiose things, but small things. Comfortable, cozy, friendly, thoughtful, relaxing…things that definitely appeal to me. Oh sure, I could point out the negatives, there are some. It is an “old” ship by today’s cruising standards and it shows in places. But overall, to me, it overcomes those niggly little quirks with an over abundance of aforementioned attributes. Let me just mention one.

Movie Theater

Located on deck 6 is a small theater used for computer lectures and movies. Complete with wide, comfortable seats, personally served hot popcorn and some unique foreign and “Indy” films. Our film today? Midwife. A French production with subtitles. I found it interesting for two reasons. One, my hearing aids need hearing aids so having English subtitles allowed me to actually understand! Two, I learned things about France I wasn’t aware of. Not a bad way to spend an hour and twenty-two minutes of your life. Afterwards we slip around the corner to the Latte bar and a savory Blueberry muffin with delicious coffee. One last thing. They show and change films twice a day.

I love cruising.

-John M.

Day 12-13:

Sitting in the Bistro drinking the best cup of coffee anywhere! This is their Latte Bar –midship with expansive ocean views — where we came to have our last breakfast. A plethora of fresh fruit, over warm muffins and breads with various selections of meats and cheeses will tide us over until our speaker arrives next door in the Hollywood Theater at 1:30pm. “Where did the Cod go?” is our subject, and while this doesn’t sound too stimulating, the speaker, a local Norfolk University professor is TERRIFIC. His speech given earlier on the Cunard-Collins steamboat competition in the North Atlantic was very fascinating.

Our last day before docking in Ft. Lauderdale. We have an early call to bus to Miami International. This is clean up day. Pack (ugh), return the Connelly novels to the library unread. Darn! I told Judy I was DEFINITELY going to read a couple of books on this trip but between the iPad and activities…when?

About my only complaint so far has been the substitution of Norfolk for Savannah. That was one of the two places where I had definitely expected to get off the ship. Next time. Our last days have been fast and furious. I don’t drink anymore but the policy of free alcohol (the really good stuff!) keeps forcing me to sip Malibu Rum and coke. Judy on the other hand is never without a wine glass in her hand. She l-o-v-e-s it! I over eat. The food is good I can’t decide so I order everything! Coming home, Judy is a walking winery and I am wearing nothing but my underwear as my pants no longer fit.

Our only regret? Not having our family along to share it with. Or, at least some close friends. We realize we are spending their inheritance (Just a touch of guilt). But after putting up with each other for 56 years, this is such fun and fantasy that we ignore our parent pangs and enjoy. After all, we celebrated our oldest daughter’s 16th birthday on the Love Boat. We took all the kids AND my parents through the canal.

The big night aboard the ship was the costume party where all the passengers were given help in making a costume and then showing it off on stage in front of ALL the fellow travelers. (Much smaller ships, in the mid seventies). Those who sailed before knew this was coming and PREPARED. I HAD BEEN TIPPED OFF so we were too! As there was eight of us, finding something we all could do was hard. My father, a strong, silent ex-cowboy, wasn’t an enthusiastic participant. I only convinced him to join us on the cruise by explaining there was golfing instruction on board. (They hit the golf balls into the ocean!) Now I wanted him to dress up as a dwarf with a wig, cap and red nose in a t-shirt identifying his dwarf name. (Tough assignment!)

Our youngest daughter was Snow White and the rest of us in our special outfits were the dwarfs. Dad? He was perfectly cast in his red shirt marked “Grumpy”.

I hope the kids will always cherish and keep this cruising memory of our family.

-John M.

Contact Kathy or Your Santa Barbara Travel Advisor to Book a Crystal Cruise

Kathy Reimer

Travel Advisor, Ventura

(805) 869-1151

Contact our Santa Barbara Travel Advisors

Contact One of our Experienced Advisors for a Travel Consultation

Our seasoned travel advisors have experience inspiring, designing and executing custom made trips for any type of traveler.  Going somewhere off the beaten track, most likely we have been there.  Call us about Africa, Antarctica, Fiji, Southeast Asia, Expedition Cruises – We Cover the World!


Erin Zetter
Travel Consultant, Santa Barbara



Tina Slimp Santa Barbara Travel

Tina Slimp
Travel Advisor, Santa Barbara


Kathy Reimer
Travel Advisor, Ventura

(805) 869-1151



Single Day Safaris with African Travel

Leave the Cold Weather Behind and Join African Travel for a ‘Day-on-Safari’ This Winter

Leave the cold weather behind and join African Travel for a ‘Day on Safari’ this Winter. From sunrise to sunset, enjoy a beautiful mix of relaxation, Big 5 viewing, delectable cuisine and classic Saharan adventure. Marvel at the sights, sounds and smells that the majestic African landscape exudes.


Early Morning-

At dawn, embark on a magical morning game drive. Sit back during a quick brief by your expert ranger on the wildlife you will anticipate. Be ready to snap pictures of a lifetime of the Big 5 that you are sure to see.

Mid Morning –

After all of the early morning excitement, you are sure to be hungry. Head back to your lodge for a hearty breakfast of fresh-squeezed orange juice, eggs prepared how you like, and perhaps even some pastries. Dine outside and observe elephants meandering down to the nearby waterhole to enjoy a morning drink.

Late Morning-

At this time, you are free to relax and explore the lodge or surrounding areas as you please. Your personal butler and safari lodge staff are at your service and cater to your every request. Take a dip in the refreshing infinity pool, join a guide during a bushwalk to learn about the secrets of tracking, or simply lay back in your hammock, taking in the different senses of the bush.

Early Afternoon-

Join your safari comrades under a cool palm-thatched canopy for a divine lunch of local specialties and international favorites. Your world-class chef pairs organic produce with gourmet recipes, inspired by European, Asia and African cuisine.

Mid Afternoon-

As the animals retreat to the shade, spend a leisurely afternoon pampering yourself with a tranquil spa treatment, or explore the local community. Visit a children’s school and the local village, or drop in at a wildlife conservation center to learn how its programs protect the animals, as well as create jobs and benefit the people.

Late Afternoon-

Now that the sun is setting and the day has cooled, join your ranger again for an afternoon game drive. Seek out the stately eland as if forages among the grasses, video the young elephant calves tucked among their mothers’ legs, and search the shadows as your tracker scouts the leopard emerging from its siesta.

Early Evening-

Revel in the elephants’ trumpeting echoes across the savannah as you watch the sun go down while sipping sundowners – the safari tradition of serving wine or cocktails as the sun sets. On your drive back, look out for even more wildlife.


Enjoy Pan-African cuisine in the lantern-lit dining room at your lodge. Raise your glass of South Africa’s finest wine and toast your day’s adventures.

Late Evening-

With a glass of fine brandy, gather around the campfire and wrap up your evening with telling stories from the day and gazing at the milky way. Sink into your luxurious pillows and cool sheets for a refreshing night’s sleep.


Contact Erin Zetter or your Santa Barbara Travel Advisor for More


Phone: 805-869-1140



Toll Free: 1-800-350-9333

AmaWaterways Christmas Market River Cruise – Single Supplement Waived

Enjoy Your Holidays Aboard an AmaWaterways Christmas Market River Cruise on the Rhine

Single Supplement Waived

Cologne, Germany, AmaWaterways River Cruise

Cologne, Germany – Photo provided by AmaWaterways

7-night cruise- Amsterdam to Basel

Departs December 16, 2017

Ditch the stress this holiday and enjoy shopping along Europe’s most magical Christmas Markets. Enjoy excursions such as walking through the Orangery in Strasburg, France, or wine tasting with local Vintners in Rudesheim. This 8-day ‘Christmas Markets on the Rhine’ itinerary was practically designed for you:

Day 1- Arrive in Amsterdam, The Netherlands- Embarkation

Arrive in charming Amsterdam and board your luxurious river cruise ship. Meet your fellow travelers tonight at the Welcome Dinner.

Day 2- Amsterdam

The famous canals of Amsterdam await discovery on your city tour. Begin with a scenic canal cruise and see the tall narrow homes lining the water, the Skinny Bridge, and the house where Anne Frank and her family lived in hiding during WWII. Next, you’ll walk to Begijnhof, known for its historic buildings dating back to the Middle Ages and have some free time to explore. Later, enjoy a panoramic city tour on which you’ll see the Royal Palace, Westerherk and stop for photos at a Dutch windmill before returning to the ship. This afternoon depart for Germany.

Day 3- Cologne, Germany

The ship arrives in Cologne around lunchtime. You will have a guided tour of the city, strolling through the Old Town and Cathedral Square, and visiting the fabled Gothic cathedral.  This evening, you will experience the elaborate Christmas Market in Cathedral Square, one of Europe’s largest and most renowned. The ship cruises overnight.

Day 4- Rhine Gorge- Rudesheim

This morning, cruise through the picturesque Rhine Gorge, admiring its many castles and fortress ruins and the legendary Lorelei Rock. This afternoon you will arrive in the winemaking town of Rudesheim where you will have the option to take one of three excursions: wine tasting with a local vintner, a gondola ride above the town to see the Niederwalddenkmal Statue, or a guided bike tour along the Rhine River to one of Germany’s best wine regions. Later you’ll have time to shop at the town’s Christmas Market and explore the Drosselgasse, the town’s most famous and charming street, a narrow passage lined with shops and taverns. This evening, visit Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum, home to a remarkable collection of old robotic and self-playing musical instruments, or join us for some Rudesheimer Coffee. The ship sails overnight.

Day 5-Manheim – Heidelberg

Arrive in Mannheim, where you have a choice between three excursions this afternoon. Your first option is a half-day excursion to the historic university town of Heidelberg, where you will visit the red-walled castle with its Great Vat (a 49,000 gallon wine cask) and enjoy beautiful views of the Neckar Valley and city below. You can also opt to visit the Mannheim Baroque Palace, intended to be the second largest Baroque palace complex in Europe. It was designed to highlight the important role of the Palatine Prince Electors in the Holy Roman Empire. As a third option you can enjoy a tour of Speyer one of Germany’s oldest cities, known for its cathedral, numerous churches and the medieval Altportel (Old Gate). You will have time later to visit the local Christmas Markets. This evening, the ship continues onward to Strasbourg, France.

Day 6- Strasburg, France

Capital city of France’s Alsace region, Strasbourg is situated on the Rhine at the German border. After arriving this morning, enjoy one of three excursions. The first option is a panoramic tour that will take you past the Orangery, the European Parliament and the Place de Republique. Afterwards, explore on foot with a walking tour of the lovely “La Petite France” neighborhood, where you will see the Gothic cathedral with its famous astronomical clock, and have a chance to visit Strasbourg’s famous Christmas Market – said to be the oldest and best in all of France. Your other options are a bike tour to the Old Town, or a hike that starts at the Orangery and makes its way to the cathedral. The remainder of the day is yours to spend as you wish. The ship moors in Strasbourg overnight.

Day 7-Breisach, Germany

You have two exciting excursions to choose from today. The first is a walking tour of Riquewihr, a picturesque town renowned for its historic architecture and for its Riesling wines, followed by time at the town’s Christmas Market. A second option is a walking tour of the beautiful towns of Breisach and Freiburg, where you will visit the historical city center and Freiburg’s Munster, a Gothic cathedral constructed of red sandstone. You will also visit Christmas Markets here. Your third option is a guided bike tour of Breisach that takes you through that Rheinau woods. Tonight, the ship cruises towards Switzerland.

Day 8- Basel-Disembarkation

Disembark your cruise in Basel.


Contact Kathy Reimer or your Santa Barbara Travel Advisor for more information:

Phone: 805-869-1151


Or 1-800-350-9333