Bar Harbor, Maine was our first port of call after sailing away from historic Boston, Massachusetts on our 10-night Autumn’s Palette itinerary with Crystal Cruises. Our visit brought a first look at a bit of Fall color, something we were afraid would prove elusive this early in the season. A little more history came along with our visit in Bar Harbor too, continuing an anticipated key element of a sailing from New England to Canada. It was a day best described as ‘themed moderation’ that added up to a marvelous experience.
Bar Harbor brought the first of several walking tours we had selected for our Crystal Serenity sailing, for a couple of reasons. Crystal Cruises’ 19-star (or so it seemed) culinary reputation preceded our journey, indicating there would be a number of ‘you have to do this’ dining events. That assumption has proved absolutely correct so far. We would need the exercise.
Also, walking tours meant fewer thoughts along the lines of “well that would have made a nice photo” as we passed iconic landmarks on a tour bus operated by a third party. Third parties are in the business of moving people from place to place, not the business of creating memorable moments along the way.
Called “Victorian Bar Harbor On Foot”, the 90-minute tour ($39) took us through the tiny town led by a guide in period costume.
We passed a number of mansions in the town of 5000 residents, each with a unique flavor of its own. Close to 35,000 acre Acadia National Park, many of those residents work supporting the tourism infrastructure.
Rich in history, we were warned in Crystal Serenity’s daily Reflections newsletter not to bring up the fact that Maine was a province of Massachusetts until 1820. Apparently there are some hard feelings there.
Still, one has to go back much further in time to appreciate this geographic area.
The ancient Vikings first discovered the coastline of North America some 500 years prior to any other navigator arriving from Europe. Or so says the legend. Science supports the belief that Vikings did make settlements in Canada during the 11th century.
Fast-forward to recent history and Bar Harbor was a playground for the wealthy with names like Vanderbilt and Astor building summer estates here. Now, those mansions are bed and breakfast hotels, each with a unique flavor of it’s own.
Also full of flavor, Lobster, any way you can imagine it being prepared, seemingly on every street corner. I’ll save that topic for later as it appears to be one that will demand a great amount of attention. Apparently, lobster is to New England as Fried Chicken is to the South and mass consumption of the crustacean is required.
Not required, mass consumption of anything at Tastes, the dining venue on Crystal Serenity that we tried that night, continuing the themed moderation focus of the day.
Served family style, the small portions served come from an eclectic menu of globally inspired cuisine from around the world. From a menu of 16 items, diners are encouraged to choose four or five to share as a good starting place. The unique dining experience starts with a basket of fried chickpeas for all, ‘just to get us going’, our server explained.
Served in a garden-like setting on the ship’s top deck, the menu items are sourced in association with California’s Sapphire Restaurant in Laguna Beach. Selections include intriguing titles like Crispy Tostada Ceviche (Seabass, Cucumber, Guacamole, Lime), Chimichurri Steak (Black Bean, Sweet Potatoes, Bay Leaf, Sea Salt) and Caesar Fondue (Shaved Parmesan, Herb Focaccia Crouton).
We chose Buttermilk Fried Chicken, a deep fried boneless chicken breast, served on a Cheddar-Green Waffle with Maple Gravy as one of our selections.
Also chosen, Saffron-Marinated Lamb Kebabs with fresh Bay Leaves, served with a unique Mint-Lemon Yogurt.
Oven Roasted Cauliflower was a surprisingly good choice with Parmesan Cheese, Lemon and Capers mixed throughout.
California Street Tacos were filled with Beer Braised Short Rib, Pico de Gallo, Roast Chicken and Chili Verde.
Warm New England Crab Dip was a simple mix of Lump Crab served with Old Bay Crackers that one might have thought should have been relegated to an appetizer menu, but menu sections is exactly what Tastes is NOT all about.
The portions are small but unlimited. Still, saving room for dessert is a good idea with a choice of an Apple Cobbler, Chocolate Crème Brulee and/or Bananas Foster. All were lovely.
Not so lovely, setting our clocks ahead an hour as we make our way to Saint John, New Brunswick, the next stop on our itinerary. Planning to see a show on the ship after dinner, we stayed in our suite where earlier in the day, between going ashore in Bar Harbor and dinner at Tastes, another little culinary event had occurred.
Returning a bit late for teatime and a bit early for canapés served by Almir, our butler who WILL be coming home with us, a combination of the two events.
Almir’s ability to customize our experience is a big part of that “anticipate and serve” notion we touched on yesterday in Crystal Cruises Adventures, On And Off The Ship. Another example of just how keenly focused Almir is happened today too and will make a great end to this account of the day.
Whitney has small hands, not monkey-weird small hands but small enough that she opted for the iPhone 6 rather than the larger 6 plus for fear she would not be able to use it effectively.
Our suite’s refrigerator is kept stocked with beverages we like, without having to ask for them. Usually, I will try to find someone who cares to say “Can you get rid of all the soft drinks except Diet Coke?”. On Crystal Serenity, that was not necessary and there has been plenty of Diet Coke, without mentioning the topic.
Whitney drinks regular Coke and is fine with the normal sized Coke cans. Again, her hands are not appreciably smaller than other humans, but a bit smaller nonetheless. Attentive Almir replaced the regular size cans of Coke with some that are not quite as wide, a bit taller and “easier to manage”, he explained to Whitney.
I don’t know that I have experienced attentiveness on that level before in any other situation, on land or at sea. Pretty impressive, I must say.
Stay tuned for more live via Instagram, Facebook and Twitter as we explore Crystal Cruises for the first time and make our way from Boston to Quebec City on a 10-day Autumn’s Palette itinerary. See all our blog posts on Crystal Cruises too.