Day 28-31 - At Sea
|Monday, November 6, 2023: Breakfast this morning was from the Lido Market, where Debbie had muesli with apricots and Tom discovered that he could get congee without having to go the Pinnacle Grill.
|We had booked a different cruise with Holland America for next fall, and when Debbie tried to cancel it, she found out that the deposit for that particular cruise was non-refundable. We decided to head down to see the Future Cruise Consultant to see if she could do something about it. When we arrived, we signed up for the next available slot, which was in about 25 minutes. We later learned that as Neptune Suite guests, we should have arranged to see her in the Neptune Lounge instead.
|The Future Cruise Consultant's desk is on deck one midships on the starboard side, at the bottom of the grand atrium. We found seats in some of the comfy chairs. ...
|... and Tom headed up to deck three to do some shopping, leaving Debbie waiting patiently and surfing on her phone, ...
|... while he bought a new waterproof watch. It's the red one in the bottom right corner, a Casio G-Shock that was very much like his current one, except in red. Then we had a nice chat with Chantal, the future cruise consultant, and got slots of good information.
|When we went up to the Lido for lunch, we were delighted to see that today's specialty food was a cheese buffet. Hmmm. Cheese.
|Tom went throught the line, selecting some new cheeses that he'd never had before including Old Amsterdam and Port Salut, ...
|... along with some old favorites like Edam, Gouda, Havarti, and Feta.
|He added a generous helping of green and black olives to round out the plate.
|There was also a taco bar, so he got two tacos to go with his cheese. Debbie had some sushi and a roast beef sandwich.
|Shortly after returning to our cabin, the captain started his usual noon announcement, but then had some exciting information for us. At some point last night, the captain was called to the bridge after the officer of the deck reported radar contact with a small unknown boat that was circling the ship. We were in the Gulf of Aden, a few hundred miles from the coast of Somalia, which meant that the contact might have been pirates. A second small boat was also detected a little later. The captain ordered an increase to the ship's speed, and we left the unknown contact behind us. He said that it might have just been a curious fishing boat, but that he wasn't taking any chances. How exciting is that?!
|After lunch, we headed down to the Pinnacle Bar on deck two for another beer tasting. This time, it was lagers and ales, and we learned all about the differences between the two.
|Like last time, Paul the bartender asked trivia questions and awarded a bottle of beer for the first correct answer. Debbie won the first round, winning a bottle of Dos Equis, the first beer that we were tasting today.
|After pouring the second lager, which was Peroni from Italy, Paul led us in a toast, and then asked another trivia question.
|Debbie won this round, and the next round, winning two cans of Peroni Nastro Azzurro. She decided that she wasn't going to answer anymore questions at this point so that the rest of us could have a chance.
|Our third beer was our first ale, an IPA from Lagunitas. Paul explained that these were the last bottles of Lagunitas on the ship, and that he'd had to raid the secret stashes of the other bartenders on board to get enough for our tasting. He went on to explain that there had been lots of supplies waiting for the ship in the port of Aqaba, and that since we didn't go there, the ship was running low on some things. Important things like beer from America.
|Tom won this round's trivia question, receiving a bottle of Hoegaarden for his prize. That also happened to be the fourth beer that we were tasting today, which was a wheat ale.
|Here are the four beers that we sampled. Ignore the Peroni on the left. Debbie had so many winnings that it was hard to keep them out of the photo.
|We put all of our winning into our cabin's mini-fridge, and celebrated with some mid-afternoon ice cream.
|Tonight was formal night, so we got dressed in our finery and went down to the dining room for dinner. The menu was a fancy four-part folding one, with "Gala Dinner" on the front and Chef Rudi's stylized signature on the back.
|The theme tonight was all-time favorites, ...
|... and there were plenty of delicious choices.
|This, however, was not one of them. Debbie had selected the pâté de fois gras as her appetizer, and decided after a few bites that she didn't need to get it ever again.
|Tom had the cream of four mushroom soup, which was poured tableside over a dollop of cream.
|Dinner for both of us was the surf and turf. The steak was cooked perfectly and felt like it could melt in your mouth.
|We stayed for dessert tonight, with Debbie having the pineapple crisp, and Tom having the Snickers cake.
|Our minifigs on Debbie's LEGO daily calendar display were dressed up in their fanciest clothes both for our formal night and to celebrate Jill and Jared's half-anniversary. They were married six months ago today. Congratulations!
|Having figured out the pattern on the previous formal night, we weren't surprised this time when we got fancy chocolates and a towel animal during the evening turn-down service.
|Tuesday, November 7, 2023: Day 29 started with breakfast in our room, with Debbie getting pancakes and Tom having congee again. We spent the morning working on various projects on our laptops and enjoying the slow cruise through the Indian Ocean on our balcony.
|Today's specialty food station in the Lido Market was Dutch Delights, where almost every item listed inexplicably had something in double quotes. You've already made it clear that these are Dutch foods, you don't need to put every Dutch word in double quotes.
|Back to the food. The selection was very good, with solid entrees like pea soup, sandwiches, and quiche, and interesting looking desserts which we would come back for later.
|Debbie settled on a Beenham sandwich and an apple and berry pannekoek. She hadn't seen pannekoek on the menu and the server called it a pancake, so she was halfway through it when she suddenly realized that this was just like eating a pannekoeken from her favorite Twin Cities restaurant. So delicious! Fingers crossed that they'll offer this again later in the cruise!
|The only thing Tom got from the Dutch Delights station was more of the Old Amsterdam cheese that he liked from yesterday's cheese buffet. Instead, he used the taco bar to get salsa for chips and salsa, which he had been craving since the second day, and sushi, udon noodles, vegetable tempura, and spicy chicken from the Asian station.
|When we went back for dessert, we watched as a crew member prepared poffertjes, the individual spherical pancakes made in this special pan, ...
|... before selecting some of those, and then adding a deep-fried olibollen, a chocolate covered bossche bol, and somehow more of the Old Amsterdam cheese. Our investigators are still trying to figure out how more cheese got on the plate.
|It was a gorgeous day, and Tom spent some time on the balcony reading a book on his Kindle.
|We were still sailing south, just a few hundred miles off the coast of Somalia, so our minifigs decided to re-enact part of the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama. LEGO Debbie is the captain now.
|At 3:00 PM, we headed back up to the Lido to experience For Cake Sake, a cake extravaganza featuring a selection of 18 different cakes and pastries.
|The crew was in bowler hats and bow ties for the event, and the desserts were all attractively presented.
|Don't you want to eat everything here?
|There were vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and mocha eclairs.
|We took our selections back to our room to enjoy them in our fantastic cabin where we ate every last bit of everything. All of it. Yum.
|As great as the food is, this is why were are here: the ocean, the view, and the gentle, almost imperceptible motion of the ship. We try to spend as much time on our balcony enjoying this view as we can.
|At 5:30 PM, we had reservations at the Pinnacle Grill for the Tamarind pop-up dinner event. It was a celebration of Asian cuisine, ...
|... and we had a lovely table by the window.
|Dinner started with a bowl of Asian chip-like things and a selection of sauces. They increased in spiciness from right to left, with the hottest one being in the red bowl, of course. The milder sweet chilli sauce was amazing.
|It was a special event, so we ordered drinks with dinner. Debbie got the Pink Coral cocktail, which was vodka, Grand Marnier, sour mix, and cranberry juice served in a martini glass with pink sugar around the rim. Tom got the Blue Zen cocktail, which was rum, blue curaçao, colada mix, with a pineapple wedge. Cheers!
|We were each allowed to get two starters, and we both chose the satay sampler which featured Malaysian lamb, Chinese beef, Thai chicken, Indonesian pork, and Vietnamese shrimp served with a mildly spicy peanut sauce and shredded green mango.
|Debbie's second starter was the Chinese five spice baby back ribs, ...
|... and Tom's was the vegetarian ramen noodle soup, which was poured tableside.
|For her main, Debbie got the red curry coconut chicken, which she asked to be prepared as mild, and it was perfectly spiced when it arrived.
|Tom got the cashew barramundi in red Thai curry served with eggplant, zucchini, and snow peas.
|We had pre-ordered dessert, and by the time they came, we were very full. Debbie ordered the mango posset, which was a coconut macaroon, passion fruit jelly, and mango sorbet.
|Tom ordered the exotic fruits, which were chopped dragonfruit, kiwi, passion fruit, and several others that he couldn't identify served with a green tea-lemongrass syrup and mandarin sorbet to hold it all together.
|After paying the bill and heading out, we passed this decoration on a table just outside of the restaurant. We both thought that it accurately described how we were both feeling after eating all of that delicious food.
|Wednesday, November 8, 2023: Ah, another glorious day at sea and another leisurely breakfast in the cabin. Today marked our 30th day of the cruise, and we were having a great time.
|How could you not, with weather like this? We spent the morning out on the balcony, until it was time for lunch.
|Poutine! It's poutine! We loved how there were flags for both France and Canada on display. And, oooh, they had a selection of toppings and different cheeses. What will we get?
|We took our plates back to our cabin and ate lunch on the balcony. We both got the cheese curds, Debbie added frizzled onions to hers, and Tom added a spicy meat blend to his. While it was all delicous, we weren't sure that the crew had ever had poutine before because they were stingy with the gravy and poured it under the cheese rather than over it.
|There was a barn dance tonight, so our minifigs got dressed up in their boots and hats and yee-haw'd themselves into a frenzy.
|This. This is why we are here. Open skies, sunshine, and all of that ocean.
|The menu for the main dining room was decorated with the barn dance theme, ...
|... but there wasn't anything that we wanted that wasn't being served in the Lido Market, ...
|... so we headed up there instead. The crew was dressed in plaid and jeans for the occasion. We wondered just how many specialty outfits each of them had, and more importantly, where did they keep them all?
|Debbie had roast beef from the carvery, with mashed potatoes, a couple of whiskey-glazed ribs, and a slice of pecan pie for dessert.
|Tom also had the ribs, with fried rice, mac and cheese, and ... hey, is that cheese on that plate? Tom does love his cheese.
|After dinner, we went out on the balcony again to watch the sunset. The sun was just peeking out below the low clouds on the horizon.
|Just ahead of ship, there was a line of showers that stretched for miles on either side of the ship. There was no way we were going to avoid the rain, ...
|... and we were so happy! We'd been hoping to experience a good storm at sea, and so far we hadn't had any, at least not during the daytime.
|Five minutes later, we were in the storm, with a light rain coming down and being whipped by the wind.
|It wasn't a very big storm, and a couple of minutes later, we were in a clear space. Can you see the curtain of rain on the right side of this photo? It makes a line on the ocean that is very visible from a long way off.
|Just 20 minutes later, we were in clear skies again. The sunset was still visible, outlining the clouds off in the west and lighting up the sky over there with a beautiful orange glow. For tonight's entertainment, we watched "Me Before You," which we'd seen before, and "Mr. Malcolm's List."
|Thursday, November 9, 2023: This will be the final picture of our breakfast, we promise.
|We crossed the equator during the night, so minifig Debbie and minifig Tom thought it would be a good teachable moment to show all of our readers where the equator is.
|Lunch today was from the Distant Lands Asia station where they were celebrating the food of South Korea, complete with matching flags. Tom showed a lot of restraint by not getting the kimchi. It looked delicious, but it also looked like it was at a level 12 of spiciness on a scale that was only supposed to go to 10.
|When we went to lunch, we found a note in our mail slot that said King Neptune had pardoned everyone aboard during this crossing of the equator, but that he would be back in person when we crossed it going northward in December.
|In the afternoon, Tom went to the Crow's Nest to cancel our shore excursion in Durban, South Africa, and on the way back, he passed the Pinnacle Suite on deck seven. Since it is the largest and most expensive cabin on the ship, it deserves a fancy wooden door.
|At 3:00 PM, we went down to the dining room for afternoon tea. It wasn't an ordinary tea, however, ...
|... it was Cupcake Afternoon Tea.
|A handy card at each table explained ...
|... what everything on this adorable tower was.
|Starting from the bottom of the tower, we had a smoked salmon and cucumber tower sandwich, a grilled eggplant and tomato jam sandwich, and an open-faced chicken Caesar sandwich. The chicken Caesar was the best sandwich we've ever had at an afternoon tea.
|In the middle of the tower was a golden raisin scone, a vanilla and lemon scone, and a bonus raspberry mini-muffin. There was no mention of the muffin on the card explaining what we were getting, but we looked around at other people's towers and they had them too. Must have been a late addition after going to press with the cards.
|At the top of the tower were all of the cupcakes. They were, starting from the top and going clockwise: chocolate, red velvet, carrot, and lemon meringue.
|After finishing our tea, we took a walk on the promenade deck for the first time. It wraps around the entire outside of deck three.
|Just before completing our circle, we were at the back of the ship, looking at the rear windows of the dining room. The rear railing slanted outward here, allowing a fantastic view straight down.
|We celebrated our last day at sea before the next day's landfall in the Seychelles with dogs, burgers, and fries from the Dive-In, supplemented with two of the beers that we'd won at the beer tasting.
|The view was gorgeous, ...
|... especially when the sun backlit the rainstorms on the horizon.
|When Tom went to pick up dinner, he'd stopped by the Neptune Lounge and asked the concierge, Alexa, if there was any Caffeine Free Diet Coke aboard. She called an hour or so later to say that not only had she'd found some, she'd put in a standing request to keep some in the Neptune Lounge for the remainder of the cruise. A very happy Tom brought five cans of Caffeine Free Coke Zero, which was the next best thing, back to the room.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy