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12-night Transatlantic crossing

Sunday and midway! Another time change. My upstairs “neighbor” delayed until 7am to begin pacing. Made another trip to customer service to register my complaint. Breakfast of eggs Benedict, juice and hot chocolate. After lunch, I headed to the Chef’s Table where Joey, the Filipino sommelier was holding a premier wine tasting. Eight of us in the room, Ben and Julie from Clearwater, Wendy and Jim from Williamsburg and Gilles and Jonathan from Essex (UK), with Joey and me. We started with a lightly oaked Chablis ’19 from William Fevres; an Emmolo sauvignon blanc ’17 from Napa; a Santa Lucia Highlands Bella Glos pinot noir ’17 (9 months in oak); Sequoia Grove ;18 cabernet sauvignon; and a Spellbound ’16 petite sirah.

Day 1 – Boarding and Departure

So, on October 17, 2022, I boarded the Anthem of the Seas in Southampton (England,) and was assigned to cabin 6628. Over the summer, RCL had offered an upgrade from an Oceanview (on deck 3) to an obstructed view balcony (on deck 6). The ship’s capacity is just over four thousand, and the manifest for our transatlantic was about twenty-five hundred. My new cabin suited me well, and I hoped to enjoy fresh ocean air as we crossed the Atlantic.

Boarding, I pulled my small roller to the stairs and carried it up two levels and through the partially open fire door to my cabin. After taking my camera out, I left and began exploring the ship. First was a climb to the pool deck where I was able to view Southampton and its harbor in the bright sunlight. [I will rarely, if ever, use the elevators/lifts when on a ship. Too much to eat and not enough opportunities to exercise.] Once I surveyed the top levels, I headed down into the concourse and walked past the closed luxury shops and deluxe restaurants, getting a feel for what was where.

RCL practically insists that the passengers use their phone app – little paper is printed or distributed. I checked the schedule to find that single/solo travelers would gather at Vintages, the wine bar at 5pm, so I headed that way. To start, 7 women were sitting with their beverages, a mother/daughter pair from Australia and the rest from the UK. Most had early dining, and left a half past five, promising to meet again for coffee at breakfast time. I finished my Italian syrah and headed back to the top deck for sunset shots as the ship moved out through The Solent between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. The zoom was able to get shots of a castle, a ferry, the Spinnaker Tower and Solent Forts.

Assigned dining at 8pm, to a table for 8. We were two: an English fellow, Tim, whose apparent reasons for sailing were to ride the WaveRider as much as he could, and to earn more points to upgrade his RCL status. His partner had not joined him, as she needed to work, but he seemed pleased to be solo. At the table adjoining, a single English woman was at a table for 8 – we suggested she join us, but she declined. For dinner, Maryland crab cakes and French onion soup to start, prime rib as a main and the cheese plate to finish.

Day 2 – At Sea

Preferring to be served, I headed down to Deck 3 for breakfast and had oatmeal, coffee and juice. I followed that with the Excursions talk, not hearing anything of interest. I headed to the Park West talk, an Irish lass leading her team in a very animated discussion of 30,000 years of art. As I spent too long talking with Alfredo, the curator who hangs the art in the gallery daily, I was too late for sit down lunch, and discovered that most alternate dining venues involved an upcharge. I climbed the stairs to the buffet and had a Thai chicken salad and a garbanzo bean salad.

Back to deck 5 after lunch, I joined the sommelier-led presentation on Women in Wine. Seven wines were tasted: Chandon Brut NV (California); Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc ’19 (Marlborough, NZ); Lucien Albrecht Riesling ’18 (Alsace Grand Cru); La Crema Chardonnay ’18 (Monterey, California); Castello di Albola Chianti Classico (Tuscany); Castellum ’16 (Cite de Carcassonne) [merlot, malbec, cab franc, cab sauvignon, marselan]; Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon ’17 (Duckhorn, Napa).

Joined the solo travelers again, slightly larger group and one more male. Again dispersed for early dining. Dinner had Canadian Marvin from Alberta join us: beef carpaccio, pumpkin soup; lamb rogan josh; Grand Marnier souffle, carrot cake. Tim was able to get pistachio ice cream, which soon became a favorite and part of every dinner. We all left to go to the theater to see Jamie Allan, Magician and his show.

Day 3 - At Sea

Breakfast was the burrito – large and filling. The sommelier hosted a Macallan whisky tasting in Bolero: Quest, Lumina, Terra and Enigma.

We were experiencing rough seas, and the captain had adjusted course to avoid the worst.

Dianna, from the neighboring table, was finally convinced to not sit alone, and joined Tim and me. I went overboard with starters: duck terrine, baked potato soup, seafood puff pastry and a Caesar salad. Lasagna for the main, and bananas foster and pistachio ice cream to finish. The bottle of wine I’d ordered on Sunday to have with dinner was finished – I’d made it 3 nights!

Day 4 – At Sea

Dining for breakfast, I sat next to Jo from Ontario. We talked while I had my oatmeal with coffee, juice and a banana. I headed up to 14 to the Solarium, an enclosed adults-only space filled with towel-covered chaises. I worked on writing up my trip until my specialty dining lunch was scheduled to begin.

Jamie’s, as in Jamie Oliver, is an Italian dining experience. I was booked for a 1pm lunch, and it took the reception staff a bit to square that away. Two starters: crispy squid (fried with lemon and garlic mayonnaise) and black truffle arancini (crispy black truffle and mozzarella balls with bechamel sauce.) The pasta course was two small portions of tagliatelle: Bolognese (pork, beef and red wine ragu) and truffle (cream, truffle, nutmeg.) Pan roasted salmon, with shellfish, tomato white wine sauce and garlic aioli; sides were polenta chips and an arugula & parmesan salad. The accompanying wines were a Danzante pinot grigio (Veneto DOC) and Madaresso nero d’Avola. Dessert was a pavlova with a latte.

Despite being perhaps one of only a half dozen dining, the wait staff was rather slow. I’ll transcribe from my notes: “Squid were pieces, not rings, chewy. Nice batter, sauce could use a punch. Rice balls awesome, love sauce, needed a better way to consume. Truffle pasta is awesome, loved the cream sauce. Nutmeg! Bolognese was standard; would season higher if me. Salmon was good, but skin was soft. Included more squid. Polenta was in chunks. While I ate all the dessert, much too much sugar and not enough raspberry. Latte was cool, perhaps due to my delay.”

Dinner started with salmon rillette and pumpkin soup. Main was steak au poivre; and dessert a warm chocolate cookie with vanilla ice cream; and a portion of pistachio ice cream. I started a new bottle of wine, a Cote du Rhone which I had them chasing all over to locate, as it is no longer on the regular menu but the sommelier had promised I would have a bottle.

After dinner I went to the comedian’s show, followed by a singer. RCL was launching its newest ship, the Icon of the Seas, and there was a balloon drop that probably resulted in several of the Covid cases that occurred. I stayed on the sidelines and left before the actual drop.

Day 5 – Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel, The Azores (Portugal)

The passenger in the cabin above me was up again very early, but not as obnoxiously pacing as the prior day. I had French Toast with a couple from Philadelphia before joining my excursion tour group in the Royal Theater. [Due to the storm and rough seas which diverted the ship to stay closer to the European coasts of France, Spain and Portugal, we were 2 hours behind schedule. (I honestly believed the captain would skip the port day entirely, so being able to get on land was welcome.)] The tour was Sete Cicades and Wine Tasting, and we were directed out of the auditorium and across the pier to a bus. Our guide Maria entertained us as we rode up the caldera wall to an overlook, and then down to the town situated on the shore of the green and blue lakes.

Back up the caldera wall to the Vista of the King, and then back to Ponta Delgada and the Marina Hotel, where four buses of tourist gathered for an impromptu wine tasting. There were tables with large blocks of four cheeses, a supply of crackers and pieces of bread, and local women would (seemingly grudgingly) pour small tastes of 3 reds and 3 whites. Almost interesting, but underwhelmed.

When I left the ship, all I had was my cabin key and phone. As credit cards and cash are useless aboard, my pockets were empty and I didn’t have anything but a passport. At least I grabbed it. Fortunately, I have a small cash stash in the phone case, so went and converted it to euros. My room steward Amos, when I asked if he needed anything from shore, admitted to a craving for peanuts. After checking out the Church of St Peter, and then having a local beer at a pub (served by Ethiopian Breun), I found a shop and got four kinds of peanuts. The pier entry was the lower level, and quite the queue had built up to check before boarding the ship.

The single/solo group was light, so I read a bit on my balcony before heading down for dinner. Dianna was awaiting me, and Tim joined us after a bit. Started with shrimp ceviche, and escargot (took two tries, as the first wasn’t hot); a radicchio and arugula salad; braised baby back boneless ribs; to finish, Mississippi mud pie with raspberries. Amos was gracious and pleased with his peanut supply additions.

Day 6 – At Sea

Apparently a time change occurred overnight. Since my watch adjustment is done through the phone, and the phone was still on Azores time, I had to switch watches until we reached land again in Canada. Back down for breakfast, I’d learned on day 2 that the OJ served gratis (you could get a glass of fresh juice for $4) was better tasting when mixed with cranberry juice. By day 6, I had the wait staff trained and along with coffee, a large glass of mixed juices would appear. I went back to oatmeal and a banana, and had a nice conversation with the couple at the neighboring table. Back to the room to proof what I’d written so far, and then up to the sunny side of the Solarium, where I just rested for a few hours, not inclined to write.

At 12:30 I dropped down to the dining room and started with a baby spinach salad (blue cheese, candied cashews, white balsamic vinaigrette); crispy, with a mild flavor, it needed more cheese for me. Shepherd’s pie (braised lamb and gravy, sides of minted peas, carrots, mashed potatoes); the veggie were cold, but the lamb and gravy were very hot, so mixing them worked out. I asked for a half a truffled grilled cheese, but got a full one (melted mozzarella, parmesan, braised leeks on a sourdough ciabatta with fries and a salad; this batch of fries were crispy, but came with ketchup: I prefer mayo (Belgian style); the grilled cheese was bland. Pistachio panna cotta with berries and mint to finish, which was okay – the ice cream had more flavor than the flan. They served a good Arnold Palmer.

Dinner started with cream of garlic soup, and a pea and artichoke salad. The main was an Indian chicken dish with rice and a salad. For dessert, chocolate souffle and pistachio ice cream.

Day 7 – At Sea

Sunday and midway! Another time change. My upstairs “neighbor” delayed until 7am to begin pacing. Made another trip to customer service to register my complaint. Breakfast of eggs Benedict, juice and hot chocolate.

After lunch, I headed to the Chef’s Table where Joey, the Filipino sommelier was holding a premier wine tasting. Eight of us in the room, Ben and Julie from Clearwater, Wendy and Jim from Williamsburg and Gilles and Jonathan from Essex (UK), with Joey and me. We started with a lightly oaked Chablis ’19 from William Fevres; an Emmolo sauvignon blanc ’17 from Napa; a Santa Lucia Highlands Bella Glos pinot noir ’17 (9 months in oak); Sequoia Grove ;18 cabernet sauvignon; and a Spellbound ’16 petite sirah. [No pictures.]

There was leftover cheese from the tasting, so I snagged some and got a couple bags of crisps to bring to the solo group. Still a smaller group, but they seemed a bit friendlier, enjoying the free nibbles. I headed into the gallery and did their “scavenger hunt”, matching art on the walls to hints on a page.

We were five at dinner: an Australian woman, Penny, was another orphaned solo dinner, and she hit it off well with Marvin. I went for four starters: ratatouille and goat cheese tart; hickory smoked chicken wings; roasted corn and poblano soup (excellent); and a Greek salad. The truffled shrimp and crab risotto failed for me. Dessert of warm berry compote; chocolate cappuccino mousse (boring) and pistachio ice cream.

Afterwards, I headed to the Royal Theater and watched the Beatles show – a cover band who played mid-60’s tunes for an hour.

Day 8 – At Sea

Breakfast was oatmeal, side of corned beef hash, mixed juices, coffee and the all important banana. After speaking with Tim, I went to the Ambassador desk to inquire about my points for the cruise, but he was unable to tell me how I booked, so couldn’t say if I earned double points (given I had to pay twice the bid amount for the upgrade.) I also asked if my birthday was noted (it was 4 days later) and he said no. Despite having to put that information into my profile to board! This further frustrated me regarding Royal Caribbean, who seemed to be “nickel and diming” passengers at every turn. No notes on lunch, but pictures:

While I made no notes on dinner, the pictures on the phone include a view of the menu, plus pictures of Salmon and shrimp fritters and Bay scallop gratin for starters; Beef Bourguignon for a main; Eton mess and Red and White cheesecake. No picture of pistachio ice cream, but I probably had that too.

Day 9 – Halifax

The ship was pulling in about 8:30, in time for those with early excursions. My plans were to see three cathedrals, and then walk about the city, so I headed to breakfast and then passed through security and onto the pier. An even larger Norwegian cruise ship was also berthed, which I passed on my way towards the cemetery and church. Seeing an ATM, I collected local currency.

St Mary’s Cathedral Basilica, Halifax

St Mary’s Cathedral Basilica has its main entrance to the south, facing The Old Burying Ground across Spring Garden Road. A gray and misting day, the central tower was disappearing into the low fog level. Fortunately, it was lifting while I went inside.

Tours are given in the afternoon, so I was on my own. With flat white walls, columns and vault, there are accents of red where clerestory windows could be, and the bosses and capitals were burnished gold. Brightly colored stained-glass windows displayed the Old Testament stories on one side, the life of Mary on the other. In the apse, murals of angels bracket Mary, with stained-glass scene of Mary, Queen of Heaven filling the curved half-dome. A wooden screen fills the lower wall of the apse, with the cathedra situated in the middle under the archbishop’s coat of arms. In the loft to the rear, dark gray organ pipes fill the space at the ends of the side aisle, while the console (and probably choir) are over the central door entrance.

After admiring the ornate windows, noting that Adam (in the Creation window) looked particularly French), I exited to get more outside pictures, with less haze. Passing the court house with its façade of medallions of kings and lions, I continued up Spring Gardens until I came to Victoria Park.

Cathedral Church of All Saints, Halifax

The Cathedral Church of All Saints faces east to the park. There is a rising driveway loop to the stairs and small parking lot. My nemesis, mature trees, edged the street, but using either side of the loop, I found decent angles.

The front doors were locked, and I strolled through the parking lot to see if I might gain access by visiting the office. No one near the entry, but a set of stairs led to the nave at what would be the larger transept. A stunning large stained-glass window in the transepts’ south wall welcomed. Looking down the central aisle into the nave, another large window with a more modern window, depicting Christ preaching from a boat admits the light from the east.

Turning west the narrower quire is up a few steps, with organ pipes above on the north wall. A wooden open table sits in front as the altar, with the baptismal font directly behind. Up more steps into the sanctuary is a covered high altar, backed by a wall-to-wall carved reredos, below yet another magnificent large stained-glass window. Bracketing the quire were the columbarium and the reserve sacrament chapel.

Google Maps showed that my next objective was 40 minutes away by foot. I walked along the Public Gardens to Bell Road and Windsor Street to the west leading Chebucto Road.

This put me decidedly into residential Halifax, however I passed a Lebanese church, a Muslim school and an Arts Conservatory. The light “spitting” rain continued. Three blocks down Swaine Street, at the corner, stood St Aidan Anglican Church, the pro-cathedral for the Anglican Catholic see.

St Aidan Anglican Church, Anglican Catholic Pro-cathedral, Halifax

Probably a converted house, steps lead from the sidewalk to the portico at the front door. With a cross mounted on a small steeple, the information panel indicated the building also hosted a Lutheran church on Saturdays. It was locked, calling the phone number went to voice mail, and no windows showed its interior.

Deciding to take an alternate route back towards downtown, I walked through a residential tract where the streets all bore the names of trees. Reaching Quinpool, it looked much more commercial, and would lead me towards the Citadel. Combining a pit stop with lunch, I spotted the Oxford Taproom, the first outpost for the Garrison Brewing Company. Not really a dining establishment, I quaffed an Irish Red while eating a (too cool) Indian beef patty. For a second beer I had a dunkel, with a charity-benefiting bag of popcorn.

Now 2pm, I headed towards the Citadel. Crossing the five-point intersection into the Halifax Common, Cogswell Street took me through greenswards to the driving entrance up a hill to the entrance. Following signs, I reached reception and paid my entry fee ($7C for senior in shoulder season), collecting a plan for the site. University students dressed in uniforms act as docents, and guides lead tours around the star shaped hilltop fort. Leaving the visitor center, I crossed the grounds and climbed stairs so I could walk the walls. The mist continued, with a bit of fog giving the battlements an eerie feeling. I imagined seeing the yard below filled with military personnel, hustling from staircase to doorway. On this day, the few tourists and the actors were the only ones visible. Many now-disabled cannons are on display. I visited the center’s displays, and the shop before descending to street level and heading back towards the ship.

“Stepping” my way south and east in the grid of streets, I walked past the Burying Grounds as I got closer to the harborside. Out through the thickening fog was Georges Island and its lighthouse. Reaching the cruise piers, I stopped at Garrison Brewing Company to have a nut brown ale, which hadn’t been available at the taproom.

Back on board, the singles group seemed friendlier, albeit still breaking after an hour. My drink had moved from scotch and soda to bitters and club soda. Collecting my reader, I found a spot to read until dinner.

Three of us: Tim, Dianna and me. Crab cakes and lentil soup to start, chicken parmesan (bland) for a main, and lava cake, with a side of pistachio ice cream.

Tim left us early, as he had taken advance of the top deck being open, and wanted to get more time on the WaveRider. Dianna and I talked life philosophy and her challenges once the cruise ended. She had hoped to spend the day in New York before flying back to England, but RCL had her booked on an early flight to Boston with a long layover until continuing to Heathrow. From there, she’d have to train back to west Yorkshire. She thought she’d see Manhattan, fly to Manchester, and a much shorter train ride. I encouraged her to approach Customer Services.

Returning to my room, I had the door to the balcony open as I lounged and read until bedtime.

Day 10 – At Sea

Having left my phone without charging, I had both breakfast and lunch in the Main Dining Room. Leaving the phone plugged in after determining that there was little in the way of activities of interest, I spent my day writing, completing through my arrival in Cork, and wandering through the shops. Lunch was grilled sweet corn cakes, salmon alla plancha, carrot cake with a beer.

At dinner, I started with the Vidalia onion tart, with my tablemates we all had the broiled lobster tail. Dessert was Baked Alaska and the molten chocolate cake, with a side dish of pistachio ice cream.