Bar Harbor

Yesterday, the Symphony docked in Boston. Irene went ashore to take a tour of Boston and Cambridge, while I stayed aboard to get some work done. Then today we reached Bar Harbor, Maine, which is a favorite of ours. We always enjoy spending time in Acadia National Park. Hike in Acadia National ParkWe decided to take the Crystal excursion with a small group, a hike up Goreham Mountain. We'd read that it was somewhat strenuous, but decided to do it anyway. It was very beautiful but rocky (after all, this is Maine), which made for difficult walking. Afterwards, we stopped in Bar Harbor for clam chowder, a real treat. There's nothing like local cooking done the right way. This afternoon Irene and I hosted the Ensemble cocktail party for guests from Ensemble travel agencies in the US and Canada. It was a beautiful afternoon, and we all marveled at the sunset and sailed away from a very special place.
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Newport, RI

We had not visited Newport, Rhode Island in over 30 years. We decided to take the Crystal excursion to The Breakers, the famous Vanderbilt mansion, and then a drive around the other mansions and coast. The Breakers was fabulous. Spacious bright rooms and incredible furniture. The grounds are exquisite, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. We walked to the Touro Synagogue, which is the oldest in the United States, the building dating back to the 1750s. The congregation was founded in the late 1600s! We had a fascinating tour of the synagogue, and enjoyed listening its the history and the story of its founders.
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Pre-Cruise in NYC

Me at the statue of libertyAfter living in and around NYC all our lives, we became Big Apple tourists for the day. It was a beautiful Indian summer day so we took the complimentary Crystal shuttle early in the morning that dropped us off near Times Square. First stop: the discount Broadway ticket booth where we got tickets for the musical Memphis, the matinee performance. We then walked to the Museum of Modern Art, and spent a very enjoyable couple of hours seeing the exhibits. One of our favorite things about MOMA, is the outdoor sculpture garden. If you close your eyes and just listen, you'd think we were in a foreign country—we hardly heard a word of English. There are so many foreign tourists in New York! We walked back to the theatre and enjoyed the show. It turned out to be a little stressful, in that the show ended at 4:45—and no empty cabs to be found—and we had to run back to the ship on 12th Avenue on the Hudson River, as the Symphony was sailing at 6 pm, all aboard at 5:30. We made it, but Irene wound up with blisters on her blisters.
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Lighthouses and Lobsters

Having been on so many cruises, it surprised many of our friends to learn that Irene and I have never been on a New York to Canada sailing. Well, we're off on Crystal Symphony, volunteering as Ensemble hosts for this New York to Montreal itinerary. Crystal Cruises is one of my favorite cruise lines and I'm sure this cruise won't disappoint. The ship is absolutely spotless, and the crew, in my opinion, is just about the best at sea. The food is fabulous, both in the main dining room and at the specialty restaurants, Prego and Silk Road. One thing that sets Crystal apart from other lines is their range of activities during days at sea. The lecturers are excellent! I'll take several courses in digital photography, and anxious to learn more about Adobe Elements 9. This, in itself, is very worthwhile, and courses like this are free. Crystal has bridge teachers on every sailing and we plan on taking lessons and playing duplicate bridge several afternoons. I love the ease of getting to the ship. We live in New Jersey and a car is taking us directly to the terminal. No airports, no change in time zones. Absolutely great!
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Rome

Homeward bound to beat hurricane Irene!
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Livorno and Tuscany

It was our last day and we decided to call our good friend and driver guide, Maurizio, to drive us around Tuscany. We started early in the morning with a quick drive to Pisa to see the famous Leaning Tower and Baptistry. We were delighted by our stroll through the cemetery and by the beautiful frescos and cloisters. Then it was on to Lucca, a remarkable walled city in Tuscany.
Pietrasanta

Pietrasanta

Our next stop was the very upscale beach resort of Forte dei Marmi, and after that came the rarely-visited hill town, Pietrasanta, a stop that included a quick walk and pizza lunch. The pizza is so thin and tasty, and totally unlike what we have in the States. Lunch over, we took a drive to Sant'Anna di Stazzema. This was the site of a mass killing of men, women and children by German troops, in retaliation for a raid by the Italian Resistance during World War II. Very moving monuments and sculptures. Our last stop was the pretty lake town, Torre del Lago, home of the Italian composer, Puccini. That evening we were invited to dine with our friends at the exclusive La Reserve Restaurant on the Marina, an intimate venue that holds a maximum of 24 guests. We were treated to a seven-course gourmet dinner, each course matched with a fabulous premium wine. This was the perfect finale for a great cruise. We were so pleased with the Marina and we know we'll be back.
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