It takes five days to sail to Hawaii.
This is day four
Gordon and I are quietly leaning on the railing at the top of the grand staircase (where else would we be) watching the small dance floor one level below where a small group of passengers are, despite their age and lack of ability, dancing to a terrific little jazz band.
Approaching rapidly on our starboard side (I am getting quite good at these nautical terms) is a small rather alarming squall of a woman, all wind and bluster
“Excuse me, but do you mind if I ask your names” she asks in a voice that would frighten a drill sergeant.
As she talks she bounces around on the balls of her feet. She is rail thin without an ounce of flesh on her bones – all that nervous energy does wonders for the figure
“We have been on this ship for four days” she says “desperately trying to find some fun people. There just aren’t any”
We had come to the same conclusion, and I am not sure that she is making us change our mind
“But then we spotted you” she continues, still bouncing “We have been watching you all day”
She reminds me of someone, but I can’t think who. It’s is hard to think with all that bouncing and talking
“and I said to Chris, my husband, that we have finally hit the jackpot. I can just tell that you guys are so much fun. I had to come over and introduce myself”
Tigger! I finally get it. Tigger from Winnie the Poo. Sort of fun and sort of annoying all in one.
While I am thinking, Gordon is talking. He is making her laugh a lot. Her laugh is a loud bray, more Eyeore than Tigger , but still right off the pages of A.A. Milne. And Gordon makes the perfect Christopher Robin.
Eventually they both pause to take a breath at the same time and I take the opportunity to ask where her husband is.
“Oh, that’s him, over there” she says pointing to a man the other side of the atrium. He is at least 50 yards away, and there is a jazz band playing between him and his wife but he hears her quite clearly. He waves in response, but appears to be too embarrassed by his wife to actually join us.
I suspect he must find himself in that position quite regularly.
“I am so happy we have found you” she continues. “We must get together soon”
But Gordon is already saying we would like that.
“My name is Susan” she says.
Remember that, dear readers. Something tells me there is more of Susan to come
Many of you have asked what we think of Crystal, and before I begin I should say that I think our experience has been coloured by the fact that we are on a world cruise. I suspect if we were on a regular cruise for a couple of weeks our experience would be quite different (or the other passengers would be). But never let it be said that I shy away from giving my opinion, so here goes!
Crystal, like the drug of the same name, is expensive, over rated and bad for you. But it gives you a buzz and can be addictive. So much so that everyone we meet has sailed with Crystal before, some of them many times. We appear to be the only Crystal Virgins on board
This Crystal crowd is surprisingly different from other cruise ships. We are surprised to find that it is a younger crowd than we are used to. There is a noticeable group of people in their thirties and forties. But to counteract that there are others in their nineties and even two over one hundred years old.
The other major difference is net worth. This is a very wealthy crowd indeed. Passengers on Seabourn and Oceania are well off, but Crystal feels like very rarefied air indeed. There are 950 passengers on board. It is rumoured that thirteen of them haven’t left the ship in seven years. 400 of them, on for the world cruise, are clearly the elite and have little interest in mixing with others. The remaining five hundred odd are easily ranked by the number of legs of the cruise they are taking. As we are only taking one we are clearly at the bottom of the pile and only others of the same low rank show any interest in being friendly
The World Cruisers are easily spotted by the cumulus clouds of power and influence that seem to float above their heads, while diamonds, platinum and gold rain down on them in a glittering profusion. And if that doesn’t work, they wear personalised little jackets and carry black totes that say “Crystal World Cruise” on them. Some of the them are gracious and some of them are friendly but many of them are not. They sense that we don’t belong and they are right. It seems to bother them more than it bothers us.
“How long are you on for?” is the first question all of them ask. Our all important answer determines whether the conversation is to continue after that. It usually doesn’t
At the epicentre of this well heeled crowd is a pod of pompous passengers blowing out sprays of imagined self importance, cigar smoke and whiskey breath through their tiny round pursed airholes (be careful how you pronounce that last word). They float aimlessly from bar to restaurant, hoping for a bigger fish to recognise them or a smaller fish to fawn over them.
Their impeccably dressed wives, straining to remain upright under the weight of designer labels, precious gems and vodka, skin stretched tightly over their cheekbones with hairlines the envy of Queen Elizabeth 1st, vie for top ranking which appears to be based on whether they are wife number 1, 2 or 3 (we have yet to meet a first wife!)
If there is any doubt in your mind about the amount of money that comes on board with these passengers, you need look no further than the spa. It commands a huge area on the top deck with three receptionists working full time making appointments and dealing with an endless stream of customers.. There are beautiful wood paneled corridors filled with soft lighting and large floral displays leading to a myriad of private rooms with such names as ” Water ” , “Harmony” and even the much more suitable “Prosperity”
A small army of workers, all slim and elegantly dressed in beautifully tailored white pant suits, take care of your every need (well almost your every need). The masseuses, beauticians and hairstylists are to be expected as are the acupuncturists, but what really sets this spa apart is that they have their very own Doctor . His name is Dr Tarun Prasad and he is a young dashingly handsome man wearing a dark beautifully tailored suit, a white shirt with gold cufflinks and a tasteful tie. Not to put too fine a point on it , he is dishy and clearly chosen to appeal to the elegant ladies of a certain age who make spas their second home. He also appeals to men of a certain age, but that is another story
Dr Prasad specialises in “facial and body rejuvenation” something else that will appeal to those ladies. His card says he will help you to “optimise your aesthetic appeal”, which suggests that he assumes he is dealing with a well educated crowd with an extensive vocabulary. I have met some of them and he may be wrong.
So if you sail with Crystal you can come on board, make an appointment with Dr Prasad and disembark looking 20 years younger and 10 lbs lighter. It would work for me, if only there wasn’t a little voice in the back of my head saying “Who exactly is Dr Prasad and why is he working on a cruise ship”
The mysterious Dr Prasad serves as a useful segway into another very noticeable difference with the Crystal users. Dr Prasad belongs to a mere handful of people of colour on board this ship.
This is the whitest cruise we have ever been on. And when I say white, I mean white. There aren’t even suntanned people. Usually a cruise has more than it’s fair share of sun worshipers, racing to see who gets the better tan and the deepest wrinkles. But on this ship they all stay inside or outside in the shade. The only colour is provided by a group of 8 extremely elegant Spanish passengers, but even they are very light skinned.
It is also the straightest cruise we have ever been on. Out of the 950 passengers there appears to be only three other gay couples. One couple is in their 40’s, handsome, fit and determined to ignore us.
A second couple, Ed and Ron, is older than us and are making quite the splash on board. We learn that they come from Palm Desert (very near to us in Palm Springs) but we have had little time to chat with them, mainly because they are always surrounded by admirers. The admirers are all women, their husbands too frightened to get near. The cause of all the attention is the many colourful outfits worn by Ron. Here he is at the formal night
That’s him on the right! He has tried to tone it down for the occasion but has not been entirely succesful. His trademark is colourful (that is the nicest term) trousers. The Fabulosity Meter loves him.
The third couple is our age and wants to be friendly. But they wear matching Brooks brothers shirts and khakis with sweaters carefully draped over their shoulders. One has a pink sweater, the other a blue, imparting way more information than we need without even saying a word. So far we have managed to avoid their friendly advances. Fortunately they don’t show the determination of Susan
But all is not bad. It is early days yet and we have already met one wonderful gentleman He is on the world cruise and even though he knows we are only on one leg of the cruise he has been remarkably friendly. Even more remarkable is the fact that he is 101 years old
He tells us that although he has done four world cruises (which we rapidly calculate to mean he has spent one million dollars with Crystal Cruises), this is the first one he has done with his new wife. She too is friendly and has the required taught skin and Elizabeth 1st hair line. She laughs when she tells us she is Roger’s trophy wife. I want to talk to her about optimizing her aesthetic appeal