Sunday, April 17, 2011

Crystal Symphony - Goldring Travel's Pacific Exploration of Crystal Cruise's Luxury Experience - Part III

Our journey begins with an ordinary flight on an overcrowded plane leaving from an airport jammed with families like mine getting away for Spring Break. As I am sure my regular readers can guess: one of our bags was lost. (This trip should be different?) Fortunately, it founds its way to Seattle and was in our room by the next afternoon.

We arrived at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel and were whisked up to our Deluxe Executive Suite on a corner of the hotel, giving us plenty of windows in a very comfortable suite; but on a low floor so there was a good bit of noise from the road. At special rate of $199 per night I really cannot complain at all. The service has been friendly and efficient.

As our six hour flight (with not very good pay as you go airline food) and lost luggage had us very much awake at 10:00 pm Seattle time we decided to have a bite to eat. Being a bit frugal, I purchased the Entertainment Book (on sale for $13.50) and saw that the highly rated Shuckers restaurant has a “buy one, get one free” entrée offer…and it is located in the Fairmont. What a great meal! I had Scallops with Wild Mushrooms, Green Beans and Crab-infused mashed potatoes. (Being late I just tasted the potatoes.) It was excellent…seriously excellent…as was everything the family ordered.

Now, nicely satiated, it was time to sleep…for a couple of hours. My phone rings and it is American Express. Somehow my credit card number had been stolen so the Fraud Unit was calling me. American Express cannot get me a new card until I return to New Jersey. Oh well. The biggest issue I have is I need to get back to sleep.

After a lazy start, it was time to get moving. We take a short walk and then take the Seattle Center Monorail to the, you guessed it, Seattle Center. We were going to see the new Nirvana exhibition at the Experience Music Project; very appropriate as Seattle is the home of grunge music. The building is, shall we say, unique but inspiring. The exhibition was not going to be open for an hour as there was a private event finishing up. This gave us the opportunity to explore the museum and explore we did. What a great place.

(Hint: The Entertainment Book has a “buy one, get one free” coupon for both the EMP and the integrated Science Fiction Museum, so we had two free entries; saving $30.00.  That put my savings at $60.00 for a $13.50 investment, but there is more to use in Vancouver!  Don't be shy, things like The Entertainment Book are great investments when you travel and the establishments offer the coupons for a reason.  just make sure you use them for what you want to do; not because there is a coupon.)

After marveling at a two story sculpture made up of approximately 700 guitars and other musical instruments we entered into the Jimi Hendrix exhibition. (The museum is named after the Jimi Hendrix Experience.) I felt at home. I also felt weird that here I was loving the Jimi Hendrix exhibition while we waited for my son’s interest, Nirvana, was just next door. We then went up to the second level where they have the real “experience music” exhibition. It is a fantastic place where you can try out all sorts of musical instruments/equipment and it even has studios where you can learn, hands on, how to use, say, a mixing board. The interaction and excitement was a great thing to see. (We spent some time remixing some Annie Lenox music.)

It was then time to attend the sellout session of the weekend, the panel discussion by three of Nirvana’s roadies about what it was like to be on the road with the iconic punk/grunge band. I found it interesting, but my kids found it incredible. Definitely a unique and memorable experience; with everything from reflections of nine guys hitting the road in a van to playing before over 100,000 people.

After that it was off to see the Nirvana exhibition, which at that point actually felt secondary as the panel discussion was so personal, the “stuff” to look at seemed detached. The exhibition, however, was really done well and was also very interactive.

Then back onto the monorail and a short walk to Pike Place Market; a favorite place of mine. With fish flying in the air and tulips and other flowers everywhere, the frenetic pace of the market was really enjoyable. We took a needed break, however, for lunch. We ate at Pike Place Chinese Cuisine; a two table wide cramped little restaurant with a pushy, but friendly, owner that promises a table in two minutes, but has you order your lunch and wait 20 minutes for the table to clear. It was, to be sure, well worth it. This tiny restaurant makes some wonderful food. I had a very fresh seafood soup (a little light on the seafood, though) and an excellent fried oysters in ginger and green onion dish. The wine offering was “chardonnay”…that’s it. Again, every dish was very fresh and tasty.

After walking the market some more, and exploring the many shops, fish stalls and flower stands, it was a leisurely walk back to the Fairmont Olympic Hotel for a needed rest before dinner.

Dinner was at The Brooklyn, a Seattle staple for excellent seafood, which is only two blocks from the hotel. It has an older, stayed, but classy, décor and some really excellent seafood. My appetizer of fresh oysters, Dungeness crabs and large shrimp with three sauces was awesome. Followed by fresh halibut, I was very happy. My family ordered the Bouillabaisse and also the farmed sturgeon and they were perfectly prepared. We have been spoiled.

Tonight is a relatively early evening as we have a 7:40 am train to catch to Vancouver to start our cruise on the Crystal Symphony.