We set off on a Caribbean cruise—heading right toward Tropical Storm Olga.
By Charlie Huisking
After skating through the hurricane season in Sarasota without experiencing so much as a small-craft warning, I booked a mid-December Caribbean cruise on the Crystal Serenity.
And wouldn't you know it, as we set sail from the port of Miami on Dec. 11, we found ourselves heading toward Tropical Storm Olga.
Our first day at sea started out pleasantly enough, even though a friend and I lost the morning trivia competition. (Who knew that Richard Nixon was the first president to visit all 50 states? I didn't think he was that gregarious).
By mid-afternoon, though, the seas were churning. The blue-green waves were 10 feet high, and the wind was howling as I walked on the promenade deck.
The Crystal Serenity is a remarkably stable vessel, however, and I encountered only a few passengers who admitted to seasickness.
That night was the formal Captain's welcome dinner. Even though my friend and I had brought dark suits for the occasion, we didn't feel like dressing up.
So we decided to stay in our robes and have room service in the cabin. And I'm not talking a turkey sandwich and fries, either. On Crystal, you can order course by course from the main dining room menu.
So Sasha, our Serbian steward, brought me wild mushroom soup, a spinach salad, tender pink Chateaubriand and a white-chocolate mousse with fudge chunks.
By late evening, the storm had moved far enough west that the seas were subsiding. But we still arrived at our first stop, Grand Turk Island, four hours late the next morning.
The happy result of the delay, however, was that the snorkeling trip we had booked had to be rescheduled from an ungodly 8 a.m. to a more civilized noon.
The Turk Islands are one of the top skin-diving spots in the Caribbean, and the snorkeling is terrific, too. Though I've seen more-colorful fish on previous excursions, I've never seen fan coral like this. At one point, I was surrounded by thousands of pieces of coral, some bright purple, others pea-green, all undulating back and forth like a convention of synchronized swimmers.