Monday, July 25, 2016

A Day at Sea

Today was our first sea day.  With no scheduled excursions, we were able to sleep in and have a leisurely breakfast at the Lido Buffet.  We found a nice table by the window where we could see the grey skies, the grey seas, and the raindrops covering the glass.  The food selections were good, with plenty of hot and cold options.  I started with a toasted bagel, cream cheese, and lox (though the lox had seen better days).  I followed it with a Belgian waffle and berry sauce, and ended with some cold cereal.

At 9:15, they screened a short documentary film on aquatic life beneath Glacier Bay.  I have to say, they hit every possible cliché in describing the various plants and animals beneath the water, including the overly inspirational ending about what world we leave to our grandchildren (which actually fit well the demographic of the audience).

Afterwards we headed to the library to read today’s New York Times and do the crossword puzzle or nap (I’ll let you guess who did which).  I decided to explore the ship a bit, finding the fitness center, and later I met my father, and we went to see the cooking show.  Luckily we got to the theater room early as it filled up and people stood along the sides.  Instead of a film, the curtain opened to reveal a stage kitchen.  One of the ship’s chef’s and an emcee walked through how to prepare two meals: crème brulee and pappardella with shrimp and artichoke hearts.  Each recipe was tied into one of the ship’s specialty restaurants, serving as a not-so-subtle advertisement.  As it happens, dad and I had signed up for the “Le Cirque” dinner at the Pinnacle Grill on Thursday night.  That means we’ll be going there three times (at least) on the trip.

I have to say that so far, everyone of the passengers who’ve met on board have been friendly and pleasant.  Just sitting in the theater, I had a fun chat with a French-speaking Canadian next to me.  Last night, I met Mary, who we had met in Fairbanks and seen almost every day since then.  She was worried when dad and I weren’t on the train from Denali, but it turned out we were just in a different car.  She and her husband were worried we missed the bus. After the show ended, dad and I checked out the various lunch options.  Dad wanted me to choose between the sit-down lunch in the main restaurant vs the Lido Buffet.  As we toured both, it seemed to me that dad preferred the Lido Buffet, and, to be honest, it looked better so that’s where we went.

Dad had a salad and braised red cabbage, while I had pasta with a fresh-made sauce of shrimps, scallops, onions, tomatoes, and mushrooms.  It was quite good.  I thought I should get some vegetables, so I got some of the same red cabbage, but also sweet potatoes, and Vichy carrots.  At first, I wasn’t going to get the latter based on its name alone, but it turned out to be thinly sliced carrot coins, sautéed with onion.  It was very tasty.  I should have skipped dessert, but how can I pass one up.  I tried the fruit crumble, but it wasn’t too my taste.  It was a very southern dessert:  i.e., overwhelmingly sweet.  I could have used more tart notes.

After dinner, dad went down to nap, while I decided to get a little exercise. I decided to walk the lower promenade deck, which surrounds the ship.   Since I had planned to spend the day indoors, I was only wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and my long-sleeved shirt on top.  The exterior deck was cold, damp, and windswept, though I did see one passenger bundled up in blankets sitting on a lounge and whale watching (neither of us saw any). 

Each circumnavigation of ship was a quarter mile, so I did two laps before it got too cold to be outside.  I went inside and went back to the library to read about the town we’re visiting on Wednesday.  Instead, I got into a conversation with someone I had been seeing on various tours since Fairbanks, but we had never chatted.  He said he heard I was a professor.  I told him that while having a loud voice that projects over distance works well in the classroom, unfortunately, it isn’t so appreciated everywhere else.  He turned out to be a civil engineer specializing in nuclear power, which led to a really interesting conversation.  Unfortunately, after 20 minutes I looked at my watch and realized that I had to race out or I was going to miss the wine tasting program I had signed up for.

Here again, I met five very nice people. I was the last to arrive at this table and they asked if I knew anything about wine. I said that I knew it came from grapes, and that was about it.  We had fun drinking and talking about the wines and afterwards, I went to the cabin to find dad to head to afternoon tea.  We arrived a few minutes late, so we were sat at larger table with a family of four from Tennessee: a grandmother, a daughter, and two granddaughters.  We had a very nice time as well.

Even though I had very little for tea, I felt I needed a lot more exercise, so I went outside again (after first grabbing my windbreaker.  The rain had stopped and the sun was assiduously trying (though unsuccessfully) to break through.  This time I walked 10 times around the ship, bringing my total to twelve, amounting to three miles.

I started walking around clockwise, but I soon realized that I was the only one walking in this direction, as everyone else was going counterclockwise (not that there were that many people out on deck, less than a dozen altogether at any time).  I noticed that I was passing the same woman each time at the same spots on the ship:  the bow and the stern.  She was a small, Asian woman, maybe my age, but she walked with a determined, steady gait and an expression of resoluteness, as if nothing would ever stop her from completing this exercise.  She became my way of keeping pace.  If I fell behind, I would meet her before the midpoint, and I knew I had to hurry to catch back up. 

Around my 7th time around, though, she disappeared.  Now I noticed another couple that had been a few yards behind her, and began to use them as my pace marker.  The next time, though, they had somehow moved twenty yards ahead.  I said “you’re making me feel old.”  The woman asked how many laps I had done, so I said 8.  When I next saw them on the opposite end of the ship, she said that I had a lap up on them.  When I reached the 10th lap, I waved goodbye to all the people I had been seeing twice each lap and went inside.

Back in the cabin, we watched part of the DNC and we changed into our suits and ties for dinner.  This was the first of two “gala” nights (what formerly was known as “formal” night).  We had a complimentary dinner at the Pinnacle Grill, so we headed up.  Dad and I ordered virtually the same meal:  large shrimp cocktail and a Caesar salad with anchovy as starters, the 7 oz petite filet mignon with green peppercorn sauce for the main course, and the vanilla soufflé for dessert.  The only differences:  his steak was medium, mine was medium rare, my soufflé came with a chocolate truffle with Drambuie, and I ordered a cognac with dessert.   The meal was excellent.  When the shrimps came dad exclaimed “these are prawns!”  Earlier dad had pointed out that the 10 oz steak was the same price as the 7 oz steak.  I told him that I didn’t think I could finish a 10 oz steak.

Dad had hoped to see the show at 8 pm, but we didn’t get out of the restaurant until 8:30.  As it was, this was probably a good thing.  We saw the last 15 minutes and it clearly wasn’t something to his taste: a mix of pop songs with a handful of show tunes, with staging and choreography that just screamed “Jazz Hands!!!!”  The dancers all looked as if they were auditioning for a rejected MTV video.  Tomorrow night is the comedian; dad’s looking forward to that.

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