Day 60-61 - At Sea
|Friday, December 8, 2023: Days at sea are the best. We sleep in a little longer. We take our time getting our breakfast, which today was pancakes and French toast. There's no rushing about. They're the best.
|By 11:30 AM, we had rounded Cape Palmas and left the Gulf of Guinea behind.
|That's the rocky coastline of Liberia out there, so we added it to our list of countries we've seen but not visited.
|The specialty food today was Indian, ...
|... with lots of Indian desserts, ...
|... but we didn't get Indian food because we love Asian food so much. We took our lunches out to the Lido Pool because from 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM, there was a free cocktail hour. The captain had announced it yesterday as we were leaving Abidjan and said that it was to make up for any trouble that people had experienced in that port.
|Servers were walking around and passing out colorful cocktails, so we took a yellow one and an orange one. We don't know what they were, but they were tasty.
|As we were leaving, we grabbed a blue cocktail to go with our desserts. This one had obviously been made by a different bartender because it was loaded with tequila.
|At 3:00 PM, we went to Cupcake Afternoon Tea in the main dining room.
|The descriptions don't always match up exactly with what you get, but it's usually pretty close.
|You can sort of see it here, but our tea tower had seen better days. It was leaning backward and although Tom tried to straighten it, he couldn't without fear of breaking it.
|The first two plates were delicious, interesting, and flavorful, but you know we were really just here for the cupcakes. From the top left they were lemon meringue, chocolate, carrot cake, and red velvet.
|They sat us at table number one, which had a wonderful view over the Promenade Deck to the sea. It always looks like it is going by so much faster from down here than from our balcony on deck eight.
|For dinner, we had reservations at the Pinnacle Grill for Rudi's Sel de Mer. The host who sat us told us that this was the last ever Sel de Mer dinner fleetwide because Holland America was discontinuing it.
|For posterity, here is a photo of the menu from the last ever Rudi's Sel de Mer.
|Unfortunately, this is the only photo we have of Debbie in her beautiful dress. Tom was trying to take a photo of the carafe on the table behind us for Stretch's Pizza (our code for taking a picture of someone in order to get whatever is in the background), which is why her face looks so strange.
|LEGO Debbie and Tom were also having a nice seafood dinner.
|We ordered glasses of wine, and our server brought out tapenade and small loaves of warm French bread.
|For our starter, we both ordered Rudi's seafood tower which came stacked in three nesting glasses with a glass lid (not shown).
|From left to right they contained lump crab, then North Sea shrimp, and finally octopus.
|For her main, Debbie ordered the broiled lobster, ...
|... and Tom ordered the salt-crusted branzino.
|Sides were served family-style. We ordered the truffle mashed potatoes and ratatouille.
|At the start of the dinner, the sun was so bright that we had closed the window shades, but we opened them again in time to enjoy the sunset.
|Before they brought out dessert, they brought us this lovely display of petits fours.
|Tom noticed dolphins swimming by the window, and Debbie somehow managed to get this photo of all three of them as they went by. You can just make them out in the lower left of this photo. They swam near the ship for several minutes, but we just couldn't get any better photos of them.
|For dessert, Debbie ordered Rudi's souffle. She had no idea that it would be as big as her head. After the first perfectly-baked bite, she declared it to be the best souffle that she'd ever eaten.
|Tom ordered the crepes Suzette. The crepes were perfect, but the sauce was just a little too bitter for his liking.
|After dinner, we headed up to the Lido Pool for the "Once Upon a Time" event. There were decorations in keeping with the storybook theme, ...
|... including loungers made up to look like beds arranged around fanciful toadstools.
|There were three of these circular arrangements that would be used later in the evening for readings of three different bedtime stories.
|Back in our room, we watched a few movies before going to bed around midnight. We went out on the balcony to look at the stars before turning in, still amazed at how many cloudless nights we've had on this trip.
|Saturday, December 9, 2023: It was quite surprising to wake up to a sunrise that was directly behind the ship. We must have turned westward during the night. Breakfast was a return to the basics, with muesli for Debbie and scrambled eggs and potatoes for Tom.
|We were not seeing the coast of Sierra Leone this morning from our position about 100 miles off-shore.
|Today was muster drill day, something that has to be done every thirty days aboard ship. We watched the emergency procedures video in our cabin, and got a photo of during the video of the standard arrangement of a Neptune suite. Since ours is a back corner suite, our arrangement is slightly different.
|After the video, we went down to our muster station to have our keycards scanned. On the way back to our cabin, we stopped by the Neptune Suite to request more Diet Coke for our cabin, ...
|... and were surprised when Alexa had a dozen cans already there for us to take. We were thrilled when we got back and realized that we had all three variations of Diet Coke: actual Diet Coke, Coca-Cola Light, and Coke Diète. You can really see the differences in the cans when they are side-by-side. Coca-Cola Light comes in a slightly smaller can, and Coke Diète has a gold lid.
|Lunch was from Taste of Asia, with a sushi sandwich and tamogoyaki egg.
|The specialty food station was a celebration of Swiss rolls, ...
|... and with more than a dozen flavors to choose from, ...
|... we had a difficult decision ahead.
|Debbie got two different flavors, and Tom got three, but the only two that we could identifie were Black Forest (right side of the left plate), and Tiramisu (left side of the right plate). The others were all chosen by pointing.
|Around 2:00 PM, we went to the Pinnacle Bar for a holiday-themed mixology class. LEGO Debbie and Tom joined us with their own set of barware.
|The bar staff were ready for a lot of participants this time, and had set up sets of glasses and jars of peanuts throughout the bar area.
|When we saw Pam in the Lido at lunch and told her that we were bringing today's LEGO display to the mixology event, she told her husband Steve, and he showed up to join us.
|Of course, Steve also had to take photos of the display so that he could show Pam.
|Our host for the event, Darin, explained how to make our first cocktail, ...
|... and then the bar staff did a dance routine to ABBA's "Mamma Mia."
|Cheers! Our first cocktail was called a Paper Plane, and it contained equal parts bourbon, aperol, sweet vermouth, and lime juice, and was served with an orange peel garnish.
|Another member of the bar staff, Chester, set up a visual logic puzzle for us to solve in order to win a prize. The challenge: move two sticks to make three triangles. After several incorrect guesses, ...
|... Debbie solved the puzzle.
|Chester presented her with her rewards: a paper airplane, ...
|... and another Paper Plane to drink!
|Darin explained the second cocktail, ...
|... and then Paul, the host of our two previous beer tastings and apparently lead choreographer for the bar staff, taught the mostly eager participants some sweet dance moves, ...
|... and then led everyone in another round of the "Mamma Mia" performance.
|The second cocktail was Rudolph the Red Margarita made with Cuervo 1800 tequila, Cointreau, cranberry juice, and sour mix. Cheers!
|For the second logic puzzle, we needed to move two sticks to turn a chair upside down. Steve won this round, ...
|... and Clarence gave him a second margarita as his prize.
|They announced that there would only be one more mixology class before the end of the cruise and the theme would be "everyone's favorites." We were given voting slips and asked to vote for our three favorite cocktails from all of the mixology classes. They passed out the list of the cocktails that had been served in those classes in case we wanted to vote for some of those.
|For the third dance break, Bobby, in the center, showed off his best ballerina moves, ...
|... and we were joined by bar manager Marinka and officer Adrian.
|This number was set to "All I Want for Christmas," ...
|... and featured a chorus line.
|The third cocktail was bartender Paul's choice, and was a variation on a margarita. It was all of the ingredients as the second cocktail with the addition of colada mix which turned pink. It was listed as Paul's Christmas Margarita.
|Cheers! By now, Steve knew the drill - clink before drink.
|The third logic puzzle involved moving one stick to make the equation correct. Debbie bounced up and down like a little kid while she waited for everyone else to guess incorrectly, and then she solved it.
|Chester was sad when she declined to accept the award. Debbie donated her winnings to anyone at the bar who wanted it, ...
|... and our new friend Christopher gladly accepted it.
|It was time for another dance break, with Christopher taking Bobby's place as prima ballerina.
|We'd been drinking at this point, so everyone's moves were getting better.
|The last involved turning the word "Fox" into the name of another animal by only moving two sticks. This gentleman solved it, ...
|... and we all raised our glasses to him. The last drink was a mojito made with Holland America's own De Lijn gin and topped off with ginger beer. It was the best mojito that we've ever had.
|At the end of the event, Paul posed for a photo holding today's LEGO display. At one point, our host Darin used the phrase, "It's hard to be Paul," because he's so smart, charming, and versatile.
|We hung out after the event and talked with our new friends Theresa (black shirt) and Christopher (green shirt) for nearly two hours. Betsy (blue shirt) had been in the class, but left after it was over, and then returned later with her husband David (red shirt).
|When we left, we stopped by the newly opened Captain's Collection shop. They had the grand opening ceremony during our sea day yesterday.
|This shop contained everything that had a Holland America logo.
|They had taken all of the branded items from all of the other stores and put them in this one location. Tom finally bought the 2023 Grand Africa baseball cap that he'd been eyeing for the last two months.
|For dinner, we went to the main dining room for another Master Chef dinner, ...
|... and were seated at one of the best tables ever. It was right at the rear windows overlooking the ship's wake.
|For starters, Debbie had David Burke's crab cake, ...
|... and Tom had Rudi Sodamin's green chili and corn chowder.
|For our main, we both had David Burke's roasted spice crusted prime rib, served with vegetable stew and horseradish-mustard mousse. So tasty!
|After dinner, while our cabin stewards were cleaning our room, we were lucky enough to be on balcony as we passed hundreds of dolphins sporting in the water on either side of the ship. They were leaping out of the sea and slapping back down in the water, over and over and over again. They were around the ship for nearly twenty minutes before we finally left them behind.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy