Thursday, August 02, 2007

Carry on cruising

After finishing our meal last night we thought we'd check out the “Welcome Aboard Presentation” of the cruise activities in the Carousel, some say c-arousal show lounge which has a small stage ringed by seats and those tiny tables attached to the seats on which to perch precariously your cocktail. Something we later discovered doesn’t always work as the combination of little glass table, wet wine glass and natural motion of a cruise ship was destined to cause your drink to slide back and forth in a menacing way threatening to douse your fine clothes. But on the first night we didn’t have drinks and frankly it might have helped. It seemed that many were keen to hear the Cruise Director Andrea extol the virtues of the delights on board so we could only secure two front row seats, well at least we’d have a good view! What we didn’t realise that as well as introducing the BBC History magazine lecturers and various learned gentleman who’d educate us on our ports of call plus the ship’s onboard photographer and spa beauticians we were to meet a couple of dancing girls as well. And to the accompaniment of Andrea’s singing these girls cavorted around in a smattering of sequins and giant pink ostrich feathers. It was all so fabulously incongruous!

But today we have a day cruising at sea so we can really get to explore our temporary home. And the itinerary certainly helps you to fill all those hours if you don’t fancy sunbathing or curling up with a book somewhere. The first thing to do is sign up for any activities you wish to partake in and they were popular. I thought I’d put my name down for the art class but the sign-up line was enormous, it seems plenty of people had the urge to rattle those paintbrushes. Well we haven’t got too long to wait to exert our creativeness and in the meantime you could always take part in the “Deck Quoits Fun Tournament” or attend the “Introduction to the Vikings” or “Afghanistan in a Dangerous Neighbourhood” lectures or even partake in a Salsa Class with Ernesto! M and I opted to catch some of the North Sea rays instead; it is so incredibly peaceful to only see sea all the way to the horizon on every side. Occasionally the sun would glint off another white cruise ship or you’d see a greyer cargo ship toting its wares but other than that we were completely alone under the fabulously blue sky and apparently unusually calm sea.

We’d chosen to eat breakfast and lunch in the Lido; this is the eating area at the top of the ship and handy if you want to grab regular bouts of fresh air, M? This meant that we had our first taste of a cruise buffet, and buffets always have their challenges. Your first task is recognisance, you need to case the joint as you really don’t want to peak too early and pick the first dish to catch your eye to find something more interesting further down the line. For breakfast I left the safer choices of cold meats, cheeses and cereals and opted for the cooked breakfast. The sausages and the hash browns fare okay but the eggs are a tad rubbery. I think I’ll plump for a new plan for tomorrow. For lunch I am particularly surprised by the abundance of hot comfort food in August but maybe that’s what the majority of the passengers crave – hearty stews, meaty pies and crumbles. Though I have to admit the mash potatoes was surprisingly buttery and delicious. Definitely something to note for the future!

All this working hard sitting in the sun, reading and painting gives us a keen appetite for the evening meal, I know hard to believe after the breakfast and lunch but as least we were too late for afternoon tea so we missed that. Tonight it’s formal so it’s the full on posh frock and glamour. We have to report in our finery to the Carousel lounge to meet and greet the Captain and rather scarily have our photo taken grinning with the Captain. As the Captain got our names wrong and didn’t look at us at all I don’t think our resultant expressions are worth of recording for posterity. After attempting to balance our drinks on the glass tables which were having none of it at all as we consumed some oddly flavourless canapés we descended to the restaurant to have our formal meal. Everyone looked very swish in their glad rags and sequins; tonight could have been sponsored by Swarovski. And as I don’t really do casual very well I have to up my game for tonight so it’s Art Deco tiara and vintage Chanel evening bag for me. Well you have to make an effort!

Our first observation was that the ship’s menu writer has really polished up their quill and Inappropriate Capital Letter for tonight’s menu; it is definitely going to take longer to read it all out that to consume it. But with Ericson waiting patiently for our decisions I opt for a starter of Veal Liver Tart with Port Wine Jelly and Apple, then a bowl of Cream of Asparagus Soup. Oh wow, aspic hmmm, something I’ve never really understood. It just seems a provincial hotel’s idea of fine dining in the 70’s and has a whiff of Fanny Cradock about it. But it’s probably just my personal prejudice!

For the main they pulled out the stops and offered us Beef Wellington or Honey Glazed Duck Breast in Orange Grand Marnier Sauce or the pièce de résistance of Lobster Thermidor – Tender Lobster Cooked in a Cream, Mustard, Herb and Cheese Sauce Served with Vegetable Rice Pilaff, Asparagus Spears and Glazed Carrots. It was a good effort but not the greatest. We then had a Sorbet palate cleanser and then we chose the Duet of Chocolate Terrine With Berry Coulis from Ericson’s presentation. One of our waiter’s roles every evening meal was to present the dessert selection for our delectation. I went for the chocolate option which came with the largest mint leaf in the world.

So that was our full day of continuous cruise eating, I believe that if we’d had the inclination we could have tucked into some Italian snacks in the Palm court. We passed! Tomorrow we arrive in Denmark.

No comments: