Wednesday, August 01, 2007

All aboard the Discovery

I really didn't know what to expect, well I am a total cruising virgin. The Discovery MV brochure had mentioned city excursions with a note of exact number to steps to climb into each monument, a plethora of BBC history lecturers on board, an internet suite and a total lack of facilities for children. So my assumption would be a boat full of maybe the older in some cases not so agile travellers with a keen interest in exploring both the culture and history of our ports of call and a predilection for a spot of silver surfing. And their wouldn't be hoards of screaming sugar high children roaming the decks on their way to their next activity. And I was fairly accurate, there are about 615 passengers and 300+ staff which I believe makes our ship a compact and bijou cruise liner compared to some of the floating towns others are. We meet our Pilipino steward Ernie who is really nice and get settled in our cabin. This boat has no balconies so if we wish to take the air (which one of us is very partial to) we have to ascend to the upper sundecks. We wander up to Promenade Deck Aft and wave goodbye to Harwich and England for a fortnight. We have been given a newsletter that details tonight’s required attire, various entertainment on offer, the ship’s etiquette and distance to our first port (649 nautical miles) and average speed (16.41 knots). Our first rendezvous is a lifeboat muster clutching our lifejackets to hear how we are informed if we’ve struck an iceberg in some sort of Titanic style. We all hope it’s the only time we’ll be wearing our lifeboat jackets!

I'd heard that cruises are just a non-stop 24 hour feeding frenzy but this doesn't seem to be the case as meals are all as a specified time and we're on the second sitting for dinner so I'm utterly famished. Fortunately we manage to locate the shop and procure some emergency Pringles!

I'm most intrigued to discover what our evening meal entails. According to our daily information newsletter tonight’s attire is casual – slacks and sports shirts for gentlemen and similar attire for ladies. I’ve no real concept of a female equivalent to slacks so I’ll just stick my usual probably not really casual at all dress, with just a smidge of sparkle.

We descend to the Seven Continents restaurants for the first time to experience our first taste of cruise dining. We are seated on a table of four with C and P, they have travelled on this ship before so can fill us in on some of the finer points which is very useful. We meet our waiter Ericson and the busboy and turn to consult our large menu for the first time. My first thought – someone really enjoys writing flowery menus, and as it is my role to read out all the dishes offered this could take some time! And someone really favours the excessive use of Capital Letters in Menu Writing also, and why this annoys me I can’t really explain, but it does!

So after some consideration, I plump for Salmon Mousse with Sour Cream and Caviar for the starter and then the chosen soup is Cream of Chicken with Spring Onions. My initial thought is that everything tastes very neutral, perfectly acceptable but unfortunately somewhat bland. I actually had to remind myself what the soup flavour was as I really couldn’t tell. They seems to be more promise in the both the menu writing and food presentation that is actually delivered. But I do really appreciate that this is my taste and turns out to be not in line with the majority of the passengers. But personally I’d like my chilled mousse slightly less chilled, so the flavours could emerge. I’d like my meat to be less cooked but I know many including M would recoil of my love of say just beyond mooing beef but that’s just the way it is. I also like my vegetables and pasta to be cooked a little less than they favour and in the case of the pasta, definitely less claggy. We discover later that there is some distance from the pass to the table which can’t help to ensure everything arrives at optimum flavour. But mass catering is a real challenge I know and one of the top tips to secure a meal more akin to my particular taste is to book a table at the Yacht Club on the top desk. This must be investigated tomorrow.

I do realise that I am so very fortunate in my food. I get to eat in fabulous restaurants, though not by some incredible fluke but because it is important to me to dine well and so I do. I have friends who are wonderful cooks, I am au fait with many a purveyor of the finest of produce and have a vast some say excessive collection of wonderful cookbooks to inspire me to culinary greatness.

I plump for the main course of Turkey Porcini” Turkey Breast Stuffed with Wild Mushrooms Served with a Mushroom and Thyme Sauce, Vine Ripened Herb Crusted Tomato, Asparagus Spears and Fondant Potatoes which took slightly longer to read than to eat. I explain to Ericson how I feel about tomatoes which he duly notes. I don’t really fancy any of the various desserts including Tia Maria Parfait or Coconut Rice Pudding so we order chocolate ice cream instead.

The turkey is… well turkey is often extremely lacking in oomph possibly why I eat it so rarely and the ice cream? I am stunned but this is horrible. I can’t say why but somehow it sits there in its stainless steel bowl and tastes wrong.

Well we’ve had our first experience of cruising food, it’s pretty to look at, inoffensive to eat (apart from the ice cream) but it’s what we’ve got to look forward to for the next two weeks so look forward to it we must and I intend to enjoy it as much as I can. Maybe another glass of wine will help!

1 comment:

s.j.simon said...

lol. did you know that chocolate was banned in switzerland for many years. read this