Crystal_Serenity_at_sea_0217SIZE DOES MATTER
I’ve been on several ships but never one as large as the Crystal Serenity which is a 68,000-ton ship where luxury abounds. Large means space and, even with 1070 guests, I never felt crowded. My first impression: this is a floating village, and that’s what it became during my trip to South America.

LET’S EAT . . . AGAIN
The chatter always included where to eat dinner.  Prego, obviously Italain, with the best carpaccio I’ve ever eaten anywhere and a very fine wine list. I liked the Chilean Merlot, remembered by the servers who always asked if I wanted a glass.


dscn0908_0217At the Silk Road/Nobu Restaurant, waiters are very understated and know they have a sophisticated clientele. They, therefore, don’t blanch when asked for cold sake. The Dining Room, where you don’t usually need reservations, certainly doesn’t take second place to any of the above. A welcoming staff who knew that my request was for Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. Ditto Tastes Restaurant, on the same deck, and with a menu of choices for the pickiest eater. 

Breakfast was an event in itself every morning at the Lido Buffet on Deck 12, particularly when seated outside. Waiters, who seemed to recall everyone’s name, were always on alert for empty coffee cups.

In the afternoon Deck 6 was the most popular because of the interesting groups that gathered there during the day and evening, at the bar, and also because the shops were conveniently nearby. 

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FLICKS OR FACTS
Choose what you want to do even if it isn’t a sea day. Hear historians speak about politics, learn to knit, go to the movies, play Trivial Pursuits (my fav.) or learn to cook. Jon Ashton, English born, now a resident of Chicago, has a long cookery resume: TV chef, food columnist and a terrific, warm, humorous personality. The talented chef taught us many things and one was that, no matter what your age, Jon, ‘the cookie monster’s different variety daily.

These stacks of sweets went to the Bistro at 11:30am. I loved his mocha-nut brownie bars that were always gone in minutes. Good news and bad: I have his recipes but I’m totally off ovens, stoves and rolling pins.

PORTS OF CALL
If you’ve heard of Manta, Ecuador; Salaverry, Peru; Matarani, Peru; Iquique, Chile, (where there hasn’t been a drop of rain in 400 years) and Coquimbo,Chile, you win. I had never heard of them but have visited some of the countries.

Without question, Colon, Panama, for me, was one of the high points. Just going through the Canal was a sensational experience. 
And as much as I covet Panama hats, Manta, Ecuador, had me wishing to be back on board. Ditto regarding a few other p. o. c. (Ports of Call). 

Guayaquil, Ecuador, was a wonderful surprise with its narrow, picturesque, cobblestone streets and art galleries. And then there was Valparaiso, Chile, where I visited the Nobel Prize-winning poet, Pablo Neruda, house, now a museum. It’s tall, narrow and when I finally reached the 5th floor, I felt as though I had climbed the Andes. I returned to Lima after an absence of 14 years. Like a child, it has grown into a beautiful adult. A must-do while there is eat at Astridy Gaston, for sensational food and beautiful decor.

APROPOS 
It was most apropos, on sea days, to spend some time in Apropos. With only three shops on this huge liner, just about every aspect of a wardrobe, from jewelry to watches and clothing, was available and often the designers were on board until the next P.O.C.

IF IT’S A BAD HAIR DAY, IT’S A GOOD HAT DAY
That’s when your newly-purchased Panama hat, which you couldn’t deny yourself, was the best head gear. The Spa & Salon surprised me with its very talented staff. For those who are fitness-oriented, the gym, even on sea days, was crowded, from weights to Pilates, a dip in the pool was a grand place to read and watch the waves.

DISEMBARKING
All good and fattening things come to an end as they did in Valparaiso, Chile. I extended my trip, since I was in the area, and visited Santiago, Chile, on my own. It’s about 1 1/2 hours on the ship’s shuttle to the Hyatt Hotel. Staying at the Sheraton Hotel, though slightly out of the way, was most acceptable. And there’s always Uber.

IMG_3530_0217Santiago is a city I adored. It’s beautiful, with the best food at Mestizo. The city’s various malls, from high end to medium, are
gathering places. 
 Costanera Centre is the most important mall in the tallest building and starts on floor 3. My favourite, however, was Parque Arauco Mall because I had a most fortunate, unpredicted meeting with Carina. She’s a sales person at Bimba y Lola Boutique, whom I met while searching for yet another handbag. She suddenly decided to take time off and become my ‘personal shopper’, accompanying me to her favourite boutiques. Witty, beautiful, warm, and talented, she is the prototypical South American.

WHERE TO STAY ON LAND
The Belmond Hotel, Panama City
Beirut Restaurant, near the Belmond, good food and friendly, helpful staff.
Don’t believe that everyone speaks English . . . they don’t. Study up on a few essential phrases such as: Donde esta el bano, por favor?(Where is the bathroom, please?)- a good starter.

COSTANERA CENTRE, Parada 13 
Parque Arauco, Parada 1 
Crystal Serenity, the floating village, is a fine experience for just about everything.  
Sheraton Hotel: near the Providence Contemporary Sculpture Park, Parada 1.  

COPA AIRLINES. Superb attention. A great airlines for South America and I’m not writing this because they gave me a ‘freebie’. I paid for my flight.

GO TO WWW.INDULGEDTRAVELER.COM FOR MORE DESTINTATIONS. WE ALSO SET UP ITINERARIES, FLIGHTS, HOTELS IN THE MOST EXOTIC COUNTRIES.

 
 

BARBARA KINGSTONE , AN AWARD WINNING TRAVEL/LIFESTYLE WRITER. MEMBER OF THE SOCIETY OF AMERICAN TRAVEL WRITERS (SATW) AND CO- FOUNDER OF TRAVEL MEDIA ASSOCIATION OF CANADA (TMAC).

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