Friday, July 8, 2016: A Day Spent Sailing Towards Vancouver:
Being a Lector at my Birthday Mass:
I awoke on my birthday with a jolt to realize that we needed to race down for 8.00 am Mass. Since I wanted to serve as Lector, it was important to get there early. By 7. 50, I was in the Hudson Room and Fr, Tim was presenting me with the reading for the day. I went through it rapidly, quite thrilled indeed to be able to hear Mass on board on my birthday. It was our last Mass of the cruise and Fr. Tim said a special blessing for us.
Breakfast at the Lido and a Final Lecture:
As usual, the Lido was mobbed by people who wanted a long and leisurely brekkie on their last day on board. I got the Swiss Muesli for a starter followed by waffles with strawberries and cream and OJ. Llew and I found a really nice spot to watch the many islands of the Vancouver Archipelago slide by us—some large, some small, some far away and misty, others really close at hand. When we felt quite sated, I decided to go for a presentation to the Queens Lounge on ‘Alaskan Explorers’ given by naturalist Humberto—and it was very informative indeed. He spoke to us about Vitus Bering, about Dahl (after whom the porpoises are named), about Seward (after whom an Alaskan city is named), about George Vancouver’s role in mapping out the region and finally about the Alaskan Purchase (from Russia).
After an hour, we decided it was time to return to our stateroom to begin our packing as tomorrow by this time, we will have docked at Vancouver. Determined to enjoy every last minute on board, we also wanted to make sure we stayed on track.
Packing Our Cases for Departure:
For the next hour or so, Llew and I focused on getting all our stuff into our suitcases (concealed under our bed) while also keeping aside the things we would need for the rest of the day (including semi-formal dinner wear) and clothes for the next morning’s departure. We are quite amazed by how much we have accumulated even though we kept our buys to the minimum.
Invitation to the Mariner’s Lunch at the Manhattan:
Packing done, Llew and I decided to go for the Mariner’s Lunch at the Manhattan for which we were especially invited. We were ten minutes late but we need not have worried. Sit -down service for a three-course lunch was offered. We both opted for the Crab and Shrimp Cocktail served already dressed in a light mayonnaise with shredded lettuce. For a main course, I chose the halibut with grilled shrimp served with a lime-cilantro sauce and grilled asparagus, while Llew got the beef brisket with mashed potatoes. And for dessert, both of us chose the Mixed Berry Cobbler which was absolutely delicious. Coffee and petits fours were part of the meal and we enjoyed them both before we got back to our staterooms.
Finally, a Session at the Gym:
I was keen not to leave the boat without putting in at least one session at the gym. Having walked around the deck several times for exercise, I decided I ought to go and check out the gym and take in the views of the passing islands which were just a visual treat at every juncture. And indeed, that was where I went after I climbed into a T-shirt, shorts and my sneakers. For the next half hour, both Llew and I were at the elliptical machine gazing at the prow of the ship and the route that lay ahead of us. It was absolutely delightful and I was sorry I had not found the time to get to the gym every single day. But then, that’s the problem with being on a cruise that offers so much. It was essential to me to have tried varied experiences each day and to have immersed myself in the true spirit of cruising which does involve dashing from one end of the ship to the other and from the lowest floors to the topmost.
Playing Bingo for a Free Cruise:
By this time, we discovered that a single game of Bingo was being offered in one of the lounges and that the prize was a 7-day cruise for two to the Caribbean or Mexico. Well, you have to be in it, to win it, right? What a great Birthday Present it would make! So off we raced to the Queen’s Lounge to buy our tickets—a card of six for $35 and to play a form of Bingo which was slightly different from the “Housie” with which we are more familiar. I have to say that it was fun and when we started sweating for just 2 more numbers on one of our cards, we were sorry that someone else won the house, but not so sorry when we discovered that the guy who won the prize was also celebrating his birthday! Oh well, at least one Birthday Person got a really unforgettable present that day!
Time for a quick nap and Cookery Cards:
We did actually find time for a nap—a short one for me, my usual 20 minute shut eye-- before I darted off to the Explorer’s Lounge to pick up all the recipe cards that pertained to the many cookery demonstrations that had been carried out on the liner. Several of these demos had been presented when we were sightseeing in the various ports—and so we had missed them. It was good to collect about thirty recipe cards for some of the delicious concoctions we had enjoyed during the cruise. That task accomplished, it was time for us to get back to our staterooms to shower and dress for dinner as we had reservations at the Pinnacle Grill which is one of the specialty restaurants on the ship.
Off for a Birthday Dinner to the Pinnacle Grill:
We would be wearing our glad rags for the last time on the cruise and we were glad that it would be on my birthday. Our 8. 30 pm reservations at the Pinnacle Grill saw us seated at a lovely sea-facing table with an amuse-bouche of stewed mushrooms placed before us in tiny demi-tasse cups. We were sorely disappointed that the Alaskan King Crab Legs were all gone—but in all fairness, it was the last day of the cruise and we had a very late reservation. After we ordered drinks (a Cabernet for Llew, a vodka cocktail for me) we got down to ordering our three-course meal: it was going to be special, we hoped, for it would be nice to save the best for last. Since our friend Tony who had tasted the Lobster Bisque at the Pinnacle Grill on our last cruise had pronounced it the best he had ever had, both Llew and I decided to have that. And it was amazing--just filled with lobster bits and very flavorful indeed. For a main course, I chose fish again with shrimp scampi while Llew had steak and for dessert, the two of us chose the Not—So Classic Baked Alaska with Cherry Garcia Ice-Cream and Bing Cherries Jubilee which is a HAL specialty, a demo item by Chef Suraj, a few days ago. And just when we thought the meal was done, along came a waiter with a massive slab of Chocolate Mousse Cake to celebrate my birthday. Sadly, he did not sing Sarta Murliya—which is the traditional Indonesian song that is sung almost every night at the Manhattan. He merely sang a quiet Happy Birthday, but there was a candle and he did procure a knife and I did cut the cake—which Llew and I only proceeded to taste (it was awesome) as we were filled to bursting with our celebration meal.
I can only say how blessed I feel that for several years in a row, I have celebrated my birthday in different parts of the world—in the past few years, it has been in Berlin, Kyoto, South Africa and now in Alaska. Outside, our ship was worming its way through what is known as the Seymour Narrows—as the name says, it is a very narrow inlet through which the captain maneuvers the craft. Islands passed us by in the soft shades of a North American dusk as we inched closer home with every nautical mile we covered. It was a lovely birthday and one that was made special by the many email and Twitter messages I received from family members and friends around the world.
Last Night and Birthday Bash at the Piano Bar:
We ended a really terrific day at the Piano Bar in the company of the one and only Jimmy Maddox who, on having been told at the gym, where we had met him earlier this morning, that it was my birthday, decided that he would sing and play for us his funny Birthday Song. Well, it was a funny song indeed and it was great fun to have the entire crowd at the bar (and there were hordes as it was the last night and Jimmy had accumulated a faithful band of fan followers) as we ushered the almost-end of my birthday. It had been a night to remember and I was so thrilled by the way things had turned out. Llew, who was feeling a trifle unwell, had left earlier, but I stayed until midnight, when the bar closed, to see my birthday out in it’s entirely. Since we had put our clocks one hour forward at midnight, my birthday came to a sudden and abrupt end—but it was true fun while it lasted and I had a ball!
Back in my stateroom, I found I had about ten minutes to zip up my case and place it outside our door for removal by the porters. I met the deadline and before long, Llew and I were fast asleep. Our last day on board had been packed to the gills but it had been a fabulous day and an amazing cruise and I have to say I was sorry it ended.