Sunday, July 17, 2016

Cruising the Inside Passage En Route to Alaska

Sunday, July 3, 2016:
At Sea—Sailing to Alaska Along the Inside Passage
            We had the kind of day today of which people think when you say the word ‘cruise’, i.e one on which you eat too much, drink too much and overdo everything.
Sunday Mass on Board:
I awoke early (as is my wont) leaving Llew to lie-in while I showered and got dressed. He followed right after and we were able to make it to 8.00 am Mass on board as it was a Sunday and we wanted to start the day right. In the Hudson Room, over 150 people had assembled so that there was only standing room although we managed to find seats. The priest was an Irishman but we did not get his name. Later on, we discovered that he is Fr. Tim McCarthy from Vancouver.
            The sea was choppy and for the next two hours, we were off  balance. Father, therefore, suggested we sit down throughout the service which was very inspiring. By the time Llew and I made our way to the Manhattan Dining Room for brekkie, it had calmed down somewhat—but, apparently, several cruisers on board were sea sick and actually had to see the doctor on board for a shot. But here is how we spent our free sailing day on board:
Sit-Down Breakfast in the Manhattan:
            The Dining Hall was packed when we entered but we were seated with three other folks right by the window—we kept our eyes peeled on the water for whales but none revealed themselves to us. We are still probably too far south. Breakfast for Llew was the Full American: eggs over easy with sausages, hash browns, brown toast. Mine was a custom-made omlette: I chose ham, mushrooms and Gruyere cheese with smoked salmon on the side. Both of us had freshly squeezed orange juice—which is always a treat on Holland America Line ships. We both declined the trays of baked pastries that came around as we can do without the carbs.
Setting Up Internet:
            At 10.00 am, I returned to our stateroom to set up the Internet on my mobile phone. For some reason, I am unable to get on to network connections on my laptop when I am traveling unless I use a dongle. I am not carrying one with me, so there is nothing I can do now. Anyway, set up was very simple and because Llew was keen to watch the UEFA match between Iceland and France that was being screened live in the Casino Bar, we split up and off he went.
Cookery Demonstration:
I headed off to the Culinary Arts Room to watch a live demonstration of three dishes that are served in the three specialty restaurants: Dungeness Crab Cakes (Pinnacle Grill), Rigatoni with Sauteed Vegetables (Canaletto) and Penang Red Curry (Tamarind). We were given samples of the pasta and it was very good. An hour later, I left to join Llew for the next item on our agenda.
Champagne Art Auction:
            Our next stop was the Art Gallery where a glass of Champagne was offered to each person who participated in the Art Auction. Although Llew and I had no intention of bidding on any of the works, it was fun to watch the proceedings while sipping bubbly.
Lunch at Lido:
            We intended to head off for lunch next to the Manhattan but when we saw that the line for a table was so long, we decided to get to the more casual Lido Buffet style restaurant where the menu is identical to the one in the Manhattan and the choices more plentiful. Before long, I picked up a small plate of Middle Eastern appetizers (hummus, babaganoush, feta cheese, one dolmas—vine leaf wrapped rice—and an olive) which I ate with focaccia bread which was great. For my main course, I went to the salad bar and ordered the Asian Sesame Salad with Seared Tuna which was simply great and made me feel virtuous. Llew chose the Roast Lamb Au Jus from the carvery and the Steak with Mashed Potatoes and Veg. Since the salad made me feel good, I opted for a small ice-cream sundae made with chocolate and biscotti ice-creams, a splash of chocolate sauce and nuts and I tried something I had never eaten before—Holland-America’s signature Bread Pudding with Sauce which was every bit as delectable as other bloggers say it is. I had a tiny sample portion as I was already beginning to feel I was eating too much. I hate this Gourmet Remorse with which cruising tends to leave you.
A Short Nap and Some Surfing:
            It was time for a short 20 minute nap which I enjoyed thoroughly in my stateroom as the sea was back to feeling as calm as a mill pond. Half an hour later, I was dressing to head out again while Llew decided to shower and relax some more. Iceland had lost the match and he was disappointed. Together we watched a program on TV in our room about London’s Food Scene that was great fun.
High Tea in the Manhattan:
            I went off for High Tea on my own as Llew was too full to eat another morsel, he said. The place was packed and I wondered how I would cope on my own (as eating alone is not my favorite thing to do) when I spotted Kathleen, another cruiser who was also sipping tea alone. Her husband had also decided that High Tea was not his thang! She had a daughter named Rochelle who was exactly the age of mine! How was that for coincidences? We had a lovely cozy conversation over delicious finger sandwiches (I had smoked salmon on mini bagels and roast beef with tiny cornichons), the fluffiest scones with cream and strawberry jam and bite- sized pieces of chocolate cake which were all washed down with decaff Earl Grey which made for a really wonderful tea.
Brisk Three Mile Walk Around the Deck:
            It was time to find a way to work off all those accumulated calories and since we can get to a gym at home anytime, it made sense to enjoy a more unique experience—walking around the deck of a moving ship. And that was exactly what we did. The air was bracing so we bundled up well in our hooded parkas and began our brisk walk. Three rounds make a mile and within half an hour, we did three miles. No marks for guessing how much we wanted to pat ourselves on our backs. But not for long as food beckoned again.
Invitation to a Wine and Cheese Reception for Returning Mariners:
            With barely ten minutes left before the Wine and Cheese Reception ended, we rushed off to meet Tina, one of the PR people on board, who had invited us to a very cool reception to meet other returning mariners like ourselves to try to get us to sign for their frequent cruiser program. Each of us was given a goodie bag with a very neat gift—a selfie stick! How appropriate for a cruise that promised to offer a lot of opportunity to pose. We each picked up a glass of wine (red for Llew, white for me) and after chatting with Tina for a long while, we carried our wine glasses out with us and rushed off to our next venue of interest.
Sip and Savor in the Explorer’s Lounge:
            One of the most loved dishes on board this ship are the Dungeness Crab Cakes (served in the Pinnacle Grill). Earlier in the day, I had watched chef Felix prepare them. Since Alex, our Culinary Hostess, had informed us that they were sampling the crab cakes at 5.00 pm, I was keen to take Llew along to get our tidbits. And how fabulous they were! They really are among the best crab cakes I have ever eaten. We had two each—served with a very light Sauce Marie-Rose (mayonnaise lightened with a bit of tomato ketchup) and as we continued sipping our wine, Alex began a Foodie Trivia Quiz—Llew and I formed one team. We called ourselves the Almeida Allies—and though we did not do too badly, we did not win. However, participating in the quiz was a great deal of fun and we had a really good time.
Meanwhile, we watched people dressed to the nines making their way to the Main Dining Room to begin the first sitting on what HAL calls one of tis Gala Nights—a formal night which most people take seriously. It was grand to see how well everyone was dressed and as they began to troop through the ship, it was a delight to take in the fancy clothing.
Time to Dress for the Captain’s Cocktail Party:
            It was time for Llew and me to dress for a very special event—Llew and I were invited to the Captain’s Cocktail Party in the Silk Den, the Asian bar on the 11th floor’s Observation Deck. On our last cruise to the Baltic Sea, we had received a similar invitation and we were delighted by the sense of deja-vu. I ordered a margarita (as I had done the last time) while Llew got some more red wine. We met some of the more important members of the officer strata and as we nibbled on Asian eats such a shrimp tempura and spring rolls, we got to know them a little better. As we were already togged out in our own formal gear, it seemed like a very special party indeed.
Dinner at the Manhattan:
And on to the next item: if one has a cocktail in hand, dinner cannot be far behind. We were seated a good half hour later but we enjoyed every bit of our meal. Both of us started with the Escargot Bourguignon—which was absolutely scrumptious—served with a toast point. I then moved to an Arugula Salad with apples and peaches (also very good) while Llew chose the Roasted Artichoke and Carrot Soup. For a main, I got something I had really enjoyed on the Baltic cruise—Maple glazed Duck Breast with Cranberry-Corn Stuffing and Candied Figs (divine) while Llew got a version of Surf and Turf (Steak and a large grilled Shrimp). For dessert, I had the Black Forest Cake while Llew had the Chocolate Souffle with Warm Chocolate Sauce. Overall, it was a very good meal and we enjoyed it thoroughly.
The Marquee Show at the Showroom on the Sea:
            It was time to race off again—this time to see the stage show called The Marquee—which is a song and dance extravaganza—with a number of really talented young people who performed all sorts of circus-style acts including juggling, gymnastics as well as well-choreographed dance routines. The quality of the show was quite amazing indeed and we had a grand time. Just when I thought it was time to call it a day after what had been a most eventful 12 hours, we got side tracked again.
A Beatles Sing-Along at the Piano Bar:
            Passing by the Piano Bar on our way out from the theater, we simply could not resist popping in there to enjoy the singing and piano playing of Jimmy Madox who had a faithful band of fans around him joining vigorously in the sing-along. It was a 60’s special night and he played a lot of Beatles, Rolling Stones and other 60’s artistes. Needless to say, Llew and I joined in lustily and had a really fabulous time.
            At almost midnight, we finally decided to call it a day. We headed to our stateroom and passed out after what had been a truly amazing and most enjoyable day for me.      
            Until tomorrow…                          

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