Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cruise: Day Two - Fun Day at Sea

I’ve learned something important to know about cruises: you never go hungry. The time between meals seems to fly by, mostly because there are a dozen or so meals per day. Or so it seems, anyway. We had seemingly just finished our pre-breakfast room service when it was time to hurry up and get to the main dining room for the real breakfast. The room service breakfast was really more about getting a cup of coffee delivered to me, but as it turns out that the walk to the coffee machine from our cabin is actually shorter than the walk from my office to the coffee pots at work, I think I will forego the delivered cup in the future and just go get my own. That allows me more control over the timing of my comings and goings as I walk around the still sleeping ship.

Not entirely asleep, though. There were a few other morning people sharing the decks with me as the sun rose over the eastern horizon. It’s still quiet, though. We’re all up there for the same reason: a nice cup of coffee with nothing more than the sound of the wind blowing over the decks, the whoosh of the ocean waters being rendered asunder by the bow, and the deep thrum of the engines to disturb the peace. The rubes with the irritatingly loud blasting radios are still below decks, hopefully suffering equally irritating booming hangovers. If there is a cruise karma, this is where I hope it gets applied.

Breakfast in the main dining room is a sedate affair. For the life of me, I cannot fathom (heh, nautical term!) why people stand in a lengthy line at the buffet when they can just as easily be seated in the dining room and have food brought to them. Better for me that they do, I suppose. There was no wait at all for a table. We shared a table with a couple on their honeymoon, the tenure of their marriage being naught but four days long. They were from Utah (and all that that implies) and stoically tolerated my ponderings as to whether the ship was moving about more than it had been, or if the mimosas enjoyed at pre-breakfast were at fault.

Or, again, both.

They were more taken aback by my choice of not-quite-so-healthy breakfast items: corned beef hash with a side of bacon. I considered also having a slice of ham and some sausage links, but decided to keep those as something to look forward to tomorrow.

There was nothing more important to do after breakfast than to begin our preparations for lunch, and no better way to do that than to find some deck chairs in the shade and read our books. Shade has a way of moving, though, so before too long we had to abandon that pursuit in favor of some indoor sport. Which in this case was to be found in the casino. While my personal cruise director was burning through our liquid assets at the prodigious rate of $.18 per pull at the slot machines, I was enjoying a more cerebral game of Jacks or Better video poker. She quit after losing a little more than $6.00 of her $10.00 stipend, while I increased my investment by 2.5% on the strength of a three of a kind.

Eights, I think it was.

We also had some shopping chores to take care of to replace a couple of my personal dress items. In one case, we needed to buy a belt. I’m sure I remember reminding myself to pack a belt for my dress-up attire, which virtually guaranteed that I would not. Perhaps I did pack it and it simply got lost in transit, or perhaps the mere act of thinking about packing it was enough for me to consider it already done. In any event, a belt was needed.

As long as we were shopping, I also decided to find a new tie. I haven’t bought a new necktie in more than a decade, and that fact is glaringly obvious in the dated look of the abomination I brought along. Lucky for us, both the belt and the tie were found in one of the ship’s shops (they were in ship shape, those ship’s shops!) for the eminently reasonable sum of $10.00 each. As you can imagine, a 100% silk tie costing a mere $10.00 was in a fashion that was all the rage just two or three years ago. Good enough for an old gray beard like me, or so said the young gal that picked it out for me. “I pick out ties for my Dad,” she told me.

Her dad was not available for a testimonial.
The New Tie

Okay, she didn’t call me an old gray beard in actual words, but it was in her eyes.

Lunch was again in the main dining room, and again we had to wade through the masses standing in line at the buffet only to be seated with no wait at all in the dining room. I just don’t understand it.

I started with a very good California roll (I only eat sushi because I love the wasabi) and followed with a Mongolian Beef salad. The meat was the star of the salad and deserved the acclaim afforded by its prominent placement in the title. It was tender and flavorful, and the supporting mixed greens made perfect companions. I finished with a caramel crème thingy that I had hoped would be similar to crème brulee, but was more like a bland lump of flavorless custard. I don’t think I’ll get that again.

The all-too-brief post-lunch / pre-dinner period was filled with a nap. It’s amazingly tiring, this doing nothing but eating thing. That, and I haven’t been sleeping very well. I miss my trench in the mattress, I miss my pillows, and the vibration of the ship somehow manages to influence my dreams in the most outlandish ways. I’m thinking an Ambien might be in order some night very soon.

After the nap, the cruise director departed to a lower deck for high tea with the ladies, while I went in the opposite direction and climbed to the highest publicly accessible deck to get a glance at the coast of Cuba off to the port side. The ship is doing a steady 20 knots, so there’s a nice breeze up there. Unfortunately that particular deck is where the kitchen exhaust vents are, and the smell of frying food pretty much negates the therapeutic qualities of the ocean air.

Still, high tea?? Not for me!

Tonight’s dinner was our first in the main dining room, last night’s repast having been enjoyed in the swanky steak house. It was elegant night, so we arrived resplendent in our best rags, me sporting both a new belt and a vibrantly slightly-obsolete tie. Our table was set for four, but the other two didn’t show. That was okay by me as we had shared a table for both breakfast and lunch. In both cases it was nice to meet and chat with new people, but it tends to complicate the pace of the meal. On the other hand, I always appreciate the chance to share my banter with folks that aren’t yet sick of it. One sitting is usually enough.

Dinner started with a bread service. That afforded me an early opportunity to soil my brand new tie with a healthy plop of butter dropped on it. Next were the appetizers, which in my case was a dish of baked white cheddar mushrooms and a shrimp cocktail. The mushrooms were superb in and of themselves, but the cheese sauce was exquisite. It was so good that I was mopping it up with bread long after the mushrooms were gone. It also made a nice companion stain with the butter when I dripped a big glob of it right onto my tie.
Baked Mushrooms (and tie decorating sauce)

I’m returning that darn tie to the shop tomorrow. I‘ll tell them it’s the wrong size or something more believable than the truth, which is that it is clearly cursed.

My entrée was a nice, juicy prime rib. The social director had the same, but paired her rib with a lobster tail for her second surf & turf in as many days. One could get used to this in a hurry, I think.
Prime Rib (and special "cow" knife)

We both had baked potatoes. Our waiter brought a nice tureen of sour cream for her potato, but offered none for mine.

I think he was worried that I’d spill some on my tie. He certainly had been given ample reason to think so, after all.

After a dessert of cherries jubilee and a few chunks of a good Gouda cheese, the waiter asked me to move over to the other side of the table to sit by my personal cruise director. I wasn’t sure what he was up to, but I played along. Soon after I finished moving to the other side of the table, our entire team of waiters brought out a small piece of cake with a candle on it and sang Happy Birthday to us, but replaced ‘birthday’ with ‘anniversary.’ I also heard another set of waiters singing the same tune using the word ‘graduation.’ It seems to be their one-size-fits-all tune. That said, it was a nice gesture and we really appreciated it.

After dinner we walked all the way to the other end of the ship for an after dinner show. It was a jazz orchestra supporting a group of lithe, young, scantily clad dancers in a very well produced show. The only issue was the 7 foot tall guy that plopped down in the seat right in front of me and obstructed my view. Why is it that those guys always have ramrod straight posture? A little slouching would have helped with my view.

“So what,” you say?

“Why do you need to see a musical,” you ask?

Did you miss the part about the lithe, young, scantily clad dancers?

Yep, definitely a fun day at sea!

1 comment:

  1. When Gina and I went on a Norwegian cruise two years ago, they had free drinks every night in the casino - as long as you were playing. So we happily sat down at the $0.01 slots and enjoyed our beverages every evening. Does Carnival have anything like that?