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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Day 3 & 4: At Sea


Day 3: December 16, 2012

Our cabin phone woke us this morning with someone looking for Jack. So, we got up and headed for breakfast, our first meal in a real dining room. We decided that the buffet was a bad idea and that eating 3 meals a day was also a bad idea. So breakfast and dinner will be our routine.

Leslie had pouched eggs and I had the Eggs Benedict. We also had coffee and a fresh fruit compote of mango, cantaloupe and banana.
Princess Theater, where many shows and lectures took place.

After breakfast, we had heard about a speaker who'd edited a famous book about the Titanic and I wanted to hear him so we headed to the Princess Theater for his presentation. It was a rambling, disorganized mess that I came close to suggesting we walk out on, but it didn't turn out to be that long so we hung in there.

Deck 7 Promenade Deck
Then off for a walk around the Promenade Deck. Deck 7 has a broad deck without any steps that allows you to circumnavigate the entire ship.  So we walked a mile, about 3 times around the ship and then I retired to the cabin to read The Path Between the Seas by David McCullough, the award winning history book about the creation of the Panama Canal. I started reading it before we left for the cruise but it is epic both in tale and length.

A nap in the afternoon followed by dinner in the Bordeaux Dining Room pretty much filled out the day.

We were hoping for more than we got in our formal dining experience. The menu was unimaginative and the presentation of each course equally so. Macaroni and cheese was a pasta option. There was a hamburger option as a main. Nothing at all grabbed our attention as something we just had to try. I could have created a more imaginative menu.
Another view of the Promenade deck.

We began with an appetizer, a shrimp cocktail that consisted of 5 small shrimp on a bed of shredded lettuce, a half slice of lemon and a bit of cocktail sauce. Leslie ordered the crab cake which was missing the lump crab that makes a fine crab cake so mouth-watering. She then ordered the Shrimp Bisque which was unmemorable and I the caesar salad which tasted like the parmesan cheese you sprinkle out of the green can. It had packaged croutons and the presence of any anchovy flavor was missing entirely.

I thought I'd try one of the "signature" dishes the cruise line brags about--the fettachini
Alfredo in a parmesan cheese basket. The fettchinni sauce was missing the parmesan cheese that would have given it a richer flavor. It just tasted like a cream sauce. The parmesan cheese bowl presented looked like it had been in an accident on the way out. It had a train wreck irregular shape rather than a carefully formed circle or oval and the bowl wasn't crisp but rubbery instead requiring me to pull it apart like taffy.

Our mains were equally disappointing. Leslie ordered the sea scallops which were tiny things plopped in a bowl with peas and a cream sauce. My tri-tip was cut so uniformly as to suggest it had been slipped out of a package and reheated.

For dessert, I ordered a chocolate sundae in which the ice cream had bits of ice embedded in it. A sure sign the ice cream had been around a while and or hadn't been properly sealed between uses. Leslie ordered a caramel nut tart that presented as a chocolate something.

Our biggest disappointment was in the way the food was presented. A sprig of parsley was the norm on nearly all the plates we were given at any meal, something more reminiscent of a coffee shop than a high end restaurant. Given the formality of the wait staff and maitre 'd one would think they were in for a really special experience.

The only high spot in our meal was the wine. We'd purchased a wine package when we first boarded which gave us 7 wines from the wine list up to $45 each. As the cost of the package equalled $31 per bottle, we thought this sounded like a good deal and a way to  try some wines we might not otherwise experience. Our Italian red was delicious.  Not as full bodied as we expected but after about an hour in the decanter, which we had to request (a request they were happy to fulfill) the wine opened up beautifully. With our decanting request we also gained the attention of the sommelier who gave us a lot of attention and even gave us a wine we should try the next night.

I have a theory as to why the food was so blasé. I suspect it has a great deal to do with the clientele. How many folks are willing to try something exotic or out of their comfort zone. Give me comfort food, food I am used to. Why waste time and money on garnishing the food when it isn't appreciated anyway. I don't know. Perhaps I am wrong but it seems that the cruise line just doesn't think the presentation is important. Nor do they spend much energy on the creativity of the sauces or the individual look of the plate. My tri-tip steak should not have looked like the gentleman's at the next table?

We went back to our room to watch a documentary on the making of the Panama Canal and by the time it was over we were ready to sleep.

Day 4: December 17, 2012

Another good night's sleep. The ship's gentle rocking and the distant vibration of the ship's engine's lulled us into a deep, restful sleep.

Up and off to breakfast in the Provence Dining Room as we did yesterday. I ordered poached eggs on whole grain toast with two sausage links, pineapple juice and coffee. Leslie ordered Eggs Florentine, pineapple juice, toast and coffee. The breakfast was fine. Nothing we couldn't have got at any nice coffee shop but at least it was white tablecloth and the service was very attentive.

We asked to be seated at a table for two so we could just be together and talk, but the way the dining rooms are laid out, two tables for two are set next to each other separating us from our neighbors by about 6-8 inches making you feel obligated to at least greet them civilly. Often enough that can lead to a very friendly conversation with a couple you've never met.

This morning we had another couple seated next to us despite there being ample seating all over the dining room for couples to be able to experience a more intimate breakfast experience. Leslie noticed the woman was wearing a Hilo, Hawaii t-shirt and used that as a means to break the ice. However, we quickly realized they were not in any mood for a conversation. We sort of rolled our eyes at each other and just continued on with our previous conversational heading. We were about done anyway, so we excused ourselves, with no reaction from our "table mates", and headed off to our next destination--Leslie to a Zoomba class and I to our cabin to read and journal.

Tonight is a formal night in the dining room. This should be interesting. I am hoping the chef realizes this and rises to the level of the dress code. We'll see.

Hold the presses! Now that was a dinner more like what I would expect and what my prior cruise experience on Princess was like. I saw no one that wasn't well dressed. Most gentlemen were in dark suits. A few were in tuxes and there were even a few in dress military uniform. Women were dressed to the nines as well.

We elected to try the smoked duck and a sushi with kimchi. We also chose a delicious onion soup and our main choices were a filet of Barramundi, a fish neither of us had tried before and leg of lamb. Dessert was an Oreo cookie, peanut butter pie and I forget what Leslie's choice was. 

Sunset on the Promenade after dinner.
On the way back to the cabin, we stopped in the atrium along with what appeared to be most of the passengers to hear the captain greet folks and watch the pouring of a champagne fountain. It was all part of the dinner experience that was the Welcome Aboard Dinner and reception. Had a brief Love Boat style promenade out on deck. Kissed my sweetheart at the rail.

Then, off to the cabin to watch a movie. The movie was not shown but by the time we'd figured it out we were pretty done in and decided to just go to bed and slept for 10 hours.

It was a relaxing, calm, quiet day at sea.