Making oneself at home on the Crystal Symphony
A brief round-up of yesterday and last night.
After a day at the Mount, a day on which the Banker disembarked into the sunshine to walk around said mountain but I opted to stay on board all day, getting my “exercise” from two laps of the pool in the afternoon sun and 1km around the Promenade deck, we prepared for dinner at the Italian restaurant, Prego.
Each evening we receive a cruise newsletter for the next day, telling us where we are going and when, listing at great length the many dining options for throughout the day (starting with the “Early Risers” (bully for them) coffee and pastries available from 5am, and culminating in bar snacks in the Avenue Saloon at midnight), and prescribing the appropriate attire for the following evening. Mostly this is Resort Casual which suggests ladies may wear sundresses or pant suits (my skin crawls at the term) and men can get by with slacks and no jacket, but absolutely no one may wear shorts or baseball caps after 6pm. Except in their cabin.
We will have one semi-formal, optional black-tie night during our stint on board, but pleasingly our journalistic party seems to relish making some sort of effort every night, so I would non-boastingly classify us more as Elegant Casual.
A friend had made me a Carmen Mirandaesque headdress, replete with brightly coloured fabric roses and chrysanthenums and a tiny butterfly (also not-real), and since I’m not averse to a bit of attention-seeking, I donned this modern update on the fascinator with white dress and colourful shoes. While the others met for pre-dinner drinks at the saloon bar, I took off to experience the magic of Bernard Walz, reputably one of Australia’s best, most awarded, entertaining pianists. He did a spot of jazz (RIP Brubeck), Morricone’s theme tune from the movie Love Affair, and a montage of Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven. Rounding off with a classical version of Bohemian Rhapsody, he suggested to the audience of old people and me that if we knew bits of the song, we should sing along. Quietly. I know every word, so sang along under my breath, loving every minute.
Then to the bar to meet my pals, who had told the other pianist (from Night One) that I was “cheating on him” by watching the Aussie. He obviously didn’t bear a grudge as he invited me to do another number with him after our dinner.
Prego was superb. Fantastically attentive staff (from Portugal, Hungary and other non-Italian-speaking countries, who nonetheless spoke bits of Italian) served us delicious beef carpaccio, mushroom soup made of five types and served in a mini wholemeal loaf, and (for me) veal scallopine at limone, and many of the others lasagne. I ordered my meals in Italian; the Banker ordered hers in an Italian accent. When we deliberated over which dessert to order, they brought us several, so I had souffle al limoncello (my favourite liqueur) as well as an affogato (my favourite dessert of any kind). We drank sangiovese and a lovely Italian white I’d not heard of before which is, apparently, very hard to come by.
As with all the meals we’ve had on this ship, the food was sensational, and the staff uncompromising in both their attentions and the light-hearted manner in which they recommend dishes and joke with us.
As soon as dinner was over, feeling distinctly second-windish thanks to the espresso in my dessert, we made our way back to the Avenue Saloon where Mark (pianist no. 1) was conducting a game of “Name That Song” with a packed audience. We budged in by a friendly Jewish couple from Fortworth, Texas, and sang along to the show tunes as Mark read out the answers. Once over, most of the older people went to bed, so I did my rendition of Big Spender to the small but loyal crowd of my fellow media team and two sets of other punters who had stuck around thinking, perhaps because of the headdress, that I must be a paid-up part of the entertainment crew. They were most encouraging, and before long we were all up doing songs and having a great time. Bernard even stuck his head in and was cajoled into doing Bohemian Rhapsody so we could sing our lungs out properly. Who needs karaoke when you’ve got (two) real guy(s)?
To bed, into a deep sleep, and then a proper day at sea began.