ROMANTIC RIVIERA – Nat’s Experience onboard Crystal Serenity (Part 2)

Day 3 – Calvi, Corsica

I have never been to Corsica before, and I was eager to get up and away today, so as soon as I woke, I was up and out onto the Promenade deck for my morning walk. It was a beautiful arrival into port with the sun rising over the hilltop Fortress.

We were back to Marketplace for breakfast and managed to get a table outside this morning. It was absolutely gorgeous to sit up there looking over the port whilst enjoying breakfast – although it was already pretty hot.

It was another tender ride today over to the port, and we were dropped at the little harbour close to the base of the walled fortress. Before we got too hot, we decided to take a walk up to the top for a view out over the bay, and it was well worth the walk. The view over the harbour as well as a view of our very own Crystal Serenity framed between a blue sky and sea was wonderful, and it was really peaceful up there.

We walked back down to the main town area, which was very quiet as it was Sunday, and found our way back to the harbour where we stopped for a drink before heading back to the tender port where we were welcomed with a cool towel.

Lunch was back in our favourite spot, the Bistro, where my cousin discovered the delicious Tea Lattes on offer, and we enjoyed some more cake…Our afternoon was spent as before, sunning ourselves by the pool with a cheeky ice-cream for some of us – just to help in cooling us down you understand.

Before dinner this evening, the onboard photographer was set up in the Crystal Plaza so we headed down to try and get a nice group photo of all of us, hopefully we managed it, we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see the results!

Dinner tonight is in what is probably my favourite restaurant onboard, the speciality restaurant Umi Uma. Umi Uma features a menu from world renowned chef and restaurateur Nobu Matsuhisa and includes some of his signature dishes such as Nobu-style Lobster with Truffle-Yuzu Sauce, Wagyu Beef Steak and Blackened Cod. Our waiter suggested that we dine ‘Family Style’ meaning that they would bring a selection of sushi & sashimi as well as other appetisers to our table and put them all in the centre for us all to try. This is a great option when there is a large group of you as you get to have (quite a lot) of everything, and usually get to try something that you probably wouldn’t have ordered for yourself.

We just had a small selection, that included 4 kinds of sushi, 5 kinds of sashimi and 5 appetisers…ok maybe it wasn’t that small a selection! Everything was absolutely delicious, although we did find that after all that some of us were a bit too full for our main courses. After a few of us electing to have a soup, we were onto the main courses, where we had a mix of dishes. Some of us choose the classic Wagyu Beef Steak served with three dipping sauces, whilst others in the group had the Chilean Sea Bass or the Lobster. All served with our choice of rice. Luckily, we all had room for dessert. I opted for my absolute favourite, the Chocolate Soufflé cake served with a Sesame ice-cream – heaven. Can you believe there is no extra charge for this amazing dining experience!

From Umi Uma we rolled ourselves down to the Galaxy Lounge, where tonight we had a Headline Entertainer onboard – Ben Mills who was an X Factor finalist back in 2006.

He did a great set with a mix of songs from Rod Stewart, Joe Cocker, The Beatles and more. I always love seeing the variety of entertainers that are brought on throughout different cruises, they are always so different and always brilliant at their art whether that be singing, comedy or whether they are a virtuoso pianist. I have never been disappointed.

After Ben’s performance, we were to be treated to a dance performance from the Crystal Dance Quartet in the Stardust Club. The show was just a 20-minute Latin dance show, but it was really great! It was perfect timing to get us in the mood for the new series of Strictly (or is that just me?)

We were going to have an early start tomorrow as we were Florence bound, so it was straight to bed for me after the show.

Day 4 – Livorno/Florence

There had been some discussion last night about whether we would go to Florence today as the temperatures were again soaring above 35 degrees. I had decided I wanted to plough on as I haven’t been to Florence for a few years, so I missed my morning walk to instead get to breakfast early and make sure I was on the first shuttle bus into Livorno town.

Crystal offers a complimentary shuttle bus in most ports when the local town is more than a 10-minute walk away, and they run really frequently so are great if you like to go exploring independently, rather than taking an organised tour. The shuttle today would take us to the centre of Livorno from where I could take a 5-minute bus ride to the train station (it’s about a 30-minute walk if you prefer that). Close to the shuttle stop was a newsagent where I bought both my local bus and my train ticket to Florence – the bus was only €3 return and the train was €20.20 return. The bus stop was right across the road and it came within a few minutes of me arriving, depositing me at the station around 20 minutes before the train departed.

In the time it had taken me to get to the station, my cousin and her partner had decided that they didn’t want to miss the chance of seeing Florence, so had jumped in a cab from the cruise terminal so that they could get on the same train as me – their cab was around €25 – so if you don’t mind it taking a bit longer, the free shuttle bus and local bus is a much cheaper option!

The train from Livorno to Florence takes around 1hr 20 minutes and the trains are really comfortable. Plus they leave on time, which is quite a novelty to someone who commutes into London every day.

I had been doing a bit of research into Florence’s sites, museums etc last night, and had found out that unfortunately, all of the museums are closed on Mondays (and today was of course Monday) and as it was the last Monday of the month, the Boboli Gardens, which was next on my list to visit was also closed – typical! So instead we decided on a whistle-stop tour of the main sites – The Piazza del Duomo which is home to the cathedral with its dome designed by Brunelleschi, the Baptistry of St. John the Baptist, home to Ghiberti’s “Doors of Paradise” and Giotto’s bell Tower. The cathedral was open for people to go into, but we took one look at the non-moving queue snaking around the piazza and decided that we didn’t fancy it. Instead, we walked on to the Piazza della Signoria which is home to the replica statue of the David by Michelangelo – we could only see the replica today as the original is housed in the closed Accademia Gallery. Next stop was the Ponte Vecchio for a scenic view over the Arno River and a window shop at the many luxury jewellery shops lining the bridge. Finally, we walked up to the Piazzale Michelangelo which is a viewpoint set up in the hills above Florence – a great spot for photos!

Attempting to re-trace our steps back to the station, we stopped to treat ourselves to a real Italian Gelato – I opted for the gianduja or chocolate & hazelnut flavour which was delicious. After getting a little off track, we eventually found our way back to the station (thank goodness for Google maps) and had around 30 minutes until the next train back to Livorno. Enough time for a little browse in the station shops. We were a lot more subdued on the journey home – the heat really does wipe you out – and were glad to arrive back onboard and be greeted by the security team with a cheery “Welcome Home!”.

We found the rest of our party up on the pool deck, where I grabbed a cabana bed in the shade and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon

Dinner tonight was to be back in Waterside, so we met in the Cove bar for pre-dinner drinks around 7pm. The menu in Waterside changes every evening, with choices from a Modern Cuisine menu and a more Traditional. I chose to have the Dover Sole this evening which was finished at the table for us and served with spinach and small potatoes – it was sublime (I am running out of superlatives for how good the food is!). I finished with a dish from the modern side of the menu called Sunset which was a lemon mouse, served with a lemon marshmallow and rose caviar. It was so light and delicious; I could have eaten five…

Our evenings arrangements all flow so easily, with the show about to begin as we finish dinner. The Galaxy Lounge is just a short stroll from Waterside, and we are seated in plenty of time, with a drink, to watch the variety show featuring the violinist we had seen on night one – Irini – and a comedian I had not seen before, Gary Delena. Irini was as wonderful as she was before, playing a mix of classical and contemporary pieces. Having been a violinist when I was younger, we can never get through a show featuring someone playing the violin without my Dad turning to me and saying “That could have been you if you hadn’t given it up” – I may have been ok at the violin, but I would certainly never have been Moscow Symphony Orchestra worthy…Sorry Dad! I also really enjoyed Gary Delena’s performance. I generally come away from comedic performances on cruises a bit ‘meh’ – I do think it is hard for any comedian to appeal to such a wide audience, but Gary was really funny, and I was glad to hear he would be doing another performance later in the week.

Day 5 – Livorno/Florence

After yesterday’s exertions I decided not to have my morning promenade today and instead opted for a lie in (turns out this was a slippery slope into rolling out of bed and going straight to breakfast). Most of the group had decided to make the most of our second day in Livorno and to jump on the train to Pisa. I am lucky enough to have been to Pisa twice, and didn’t fancy another jaunt in the heat, so decided to stay onboard, and my Mum joined me. We had a leisurely breakfast in Marketplace before finding a spot by the pool with a book.

Before embarking, I had made the most of the pre-reservation services for the spa and had booked a full body massage for lunchtime today. So promptly at 12:30 I made my way to the salon where I was warmly greeted and shown where to get my robe and slippers and then where to wait for my therapist. I completed a short consultation form whilst I waited, and very soon my therapist Ana Maria came to get me. I had booked a 50-minute Swedish Massage, and after Ana Maria had discussed what kind of massage I liked – soft or firm – any problem areas and what scent of massage oil I preferred, we were ready to start.

Oh and it was blissful…I think having a personal masseuse would be the second thing I would buy with a lottery win – after a World Cruise of course…

After my massage had finished, I got dressed and headed to the Bistro to grab a quick bite for lunch, as I had arranged to meet Mum at the cinema for the afternoon showing of Tolkien. The cinema, or Hollywood theatre, onboard is wonderful. The seats are super comfortable and it’s great to spend the afternoon in there with some fresh popcorn if, like me, you find being out in the sun all day a bit too much – the air-conditioned comfort of the cinema is perfect. I think there were only around 10 of us in the screening too, so it’s almost like having a private cinema.

We were due to depart port at 7pm this evening, and as it was the first evening we would be leaving port in the light, we all wanted to be up on deck to see the sail away and hear the famous sail away song – ‘What a Wonderful World’ by the indomitable Louis Armstrong. Unfortunately, we left port a little early, so we all headed up on deck as the last strains of the song were playing! Oh well, we’d have to wait for another night for the full experience.

Tonight, there was to be a Crystal White Extravaganza in the Crystal Plaza after the show, so, to get in the spirit, we were all in our white outfits. After sail-away, we thought we were dining in Prego, so merrily trouped down to deck 7 for the Maître D to let us know that our reservation was actually for Thursday…two days away…obviously Mum can’t be trusted to read the reservation confirmation properly! Oh well, back to Waterside we go which it turns out was absolutely perfect for my Uncle as it was the extravaganza menu featuring caviar, oysters and lobster – a fish lover’s dream, he was in heaven. Not being a fan of any of these, I instead opted for Veal Scaloppini in a calvados sauce which is one of my favourite dishes onboard and my usual choice in Prego too.

This evening’s main show was to be a Crystal signature show – Illuminate: The Tourist. If you haven’t seen the show it really is brilliant. The whole lounge is darkened so that the performers, who have all of their costumes lit up, really stand out. The music is a mix from rock n roll, to pop, and grime with everything in between. It really is a great show.

After Illuminate, we were ready for the white party. It was really busy in the Plaza with the band playing and the dancers around to dance with the guests. There were canapes being served on lit up trays and some special ‘white’ cocktails being served. After a few numbers, the band were joined by the show band singer as well as the violinist for a few tracks whilst everyone enjoyed a dance. This was my first Crystal White Extravaganza and I really enjoyed it – it was lovely to just see people really enjoying themselves and having a party.

Keep your eyes peeled for Part 3!

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