The Crystal Mozart: Heaven (By Way Of Hell)

OK, before you accuse me of crafting a title strictly based on its click bait rating, at least give me a chance to explain myself.  This will involve a brief stroll through a personal hell (although for those of us who lived it, it was anything but brief) before we can turn our attention to the celestial portion of this post.

On December 4, 2018 I was on a Carnival cruise when I got a text from my son-in-law that my wife Teresa had been taken to the hospital by ambulance with what they feared was a heart attack.  That shocking message was followed fairly shortly with the update that there was good news, it was not a heart attack but only gall bladder stones.  While I was feverishly Googling gall bladder surgery (relatively routine, couple of days in the hospital, etc. and feeling very much relieved), the doctor called me mid-surgery to inform me that the stones had moved into the common bile duct and he needed my permission to remove them.  Naturally, I agreed.   Never have I made a more momentous decision with less forethought and more dire consequence.

In the process of removing the stones, the surgeon nicked the pancreas and thereby caused what proved to be the onset of severe pancreatitis.   Teresa spent the next 139 days in either the hospital or rehab with multiple trips to both.  During the entire duration she suffered from severe nausea and pain.  I will spare you the details . . . to be honest, more out of consideration of my psyche than yours.  Some very ugly memories are tucked away in the recesses of my grey matter that I am none to eager to disturb.

I will share one little window into the ordeal because it directly relates to our sojourn from “the outhouse to the penthouse”.   During some of those truly dark days when Teresa was loosing all hope that she would ever feel better (and honestly, my faith was wavering a bit), I would make her talk about the next great vacation we would take and all the cool things we would do and see and experience.

Finally, on Easter Sunday (rather apropos, I agree), she came home to stay.  She arrived home to a hospital bed set up in the spare bedroom, a wheelchair, and full daytime care.  She was so debilitated at first she could not even get out of bed.  She very slowly progressed to sitting in a wheelchair, to walking with a walker, eventually a cane and now mostly unaided.

Somewhere in the midst of this progression, a realization struck me with the force of a thunderbolt.  I had spent months in the hospital elevating her spirits by dangling an amazing vacation in front of her.   You know where I am going with this, right?  It dawned on me that I had a dug myself a very deep hole that would require some serious shoveling to escape.

This is where the story finally takes a turn for the better.  It’s about time, you are probably thinking.   Sorry for the slow slog though our misery but at least there is a happy, if not ending, middle.  We still have a few challenges to overcome on the medical front.


As those of you know who (out of sheer boredom, I assume), follow this blog, I am not just an avid traveler but a participant in the travel business.  Over the years we have catered to every taste and budget.  This has afforded me familiarity with the good, the bad and the uninhabitable.   It didn’t take long before the options narrowed down to the one cruise line that has an unassailable reputation as the crème de la crème.   If you didn’t notice the name emblazoned across the bow of the river ship above, I am, of course, referring to Crystal Cruises.

In a couple of subsequent blogs, I am going to carry you along on our journey from Vienna to Budapest, with some magical stops along the way.  Before we set sail, however, let me regale you with a few of the reasons the choice was so self-evident.

Crystal Put the Lux In Luxury

Imagine (not that you have to, of course) one brand that has risen to the pinnacle of success in luxury travel regardless of whether you are dreaming of ocean, river, yacht, expedition or air travel.   In just thirty short years, Crystal Cruises has staked out a claim as the “World’s Most Awarded Luxury Cruise Line”.

The only way to reach such lofty heights is to have an unrelenting and unmatched focus on a superior standard of excellence.  Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, famously bragged that as owner and general manager he was in charge of everything from jocks to socks.  Well, as I found out, Crystal Cruises is the master of everything from turn downs to toilets.   Here is a somewhat humorous  illustration of what I mean.   Do you know what you are looking at below?

This is the front and the back of the most sophisticated toilet remote control I have ever seen.  Which is not surprising as it is the only toilet remote control I have ever seen. With this little jewel you can adjust the water level, the temperature, pressure and width of the seat, you can set the seat to oscillating or pulsating (not an easy choice) and even program settings for two different users.  You can set the back of the seat to automatically rise when you approach the toilet.

OK,  admittedly I have never given much thought to my tush temperature (other than that one time on a boy scout camp out when a visit to the latrine put me in mortal fear of frost bite of my entire nether regions) but when getting out of bed on a cold night, having a warm repose is not all bad.  I guess my point would be, if Crystal Cruises devotes that much attention to bathroom niceties, just think how much attention they give to all the other components of a great experience.

As you will see, when you return for the next installment (I am the eternal optimist), I clearly made the perfect choice.   If you have any trouble finding your way back here, just reach out to my port side butler, not to be confused with my ship side butler.  I know, that sounds decadent . . . but in a very nice way!   See you back here soon!