Updated: Nov 10
Saturday morning began a long 8-day crossing. While I’d spent 3 and 4 days at sea without a port stop, I didn’t realize how tedious a crossing this long would be. [And I have a 6-day crossing at the end of my trip!] Any new crossings will need at least one or two mid-ocean stops in the future.
Breakfast once again of oatmeal, sitting with two couples. Bill Miller made a presentation, and the Excursions Team presented a dog-and-pony PowerPoint presentation on the English and Dutch excursions available. There was no “organized” solo/single lunch table, so I was seated with Joan and two couples. When I was finished, I spotted Rowena and Judy, and sat with them. They’d tried to book a specialty dinner in Pinnacle for the night I was booked, but the schedule was full. I was tasked to change mine to match theirs.
A CruiseCritics Meet&Greet was scheduled - my records showed 2pm, while it began at 1. Arriving late, I learned only one officer showed up, and no freebies were handed out. I’d brought my photobooks, which a few looked at, until I headed to Deck 3 for tea.
Seated at a table for 8 with two empty seats, it was a pleasant learning experience for me, albeit the savory was the star over the sweets. Then off to Rolling Stones for Happy Hour with half price drinks in addition to throwback prices on Heineken, wine and three gin drinks. The red wine was fair, but at 75-cents, I choked down two. I sat with a Dutch couple (he had engineering consultation work on the ship in the past) and a couple from Halifax. I still had my photobooks, so they got passed around, plus on to the St Louis couple (Amiens).
Returning to my cabin, I read until it was time to head to my first specialty dinner at Tamarind. I was joined by Hank, Rowena and Judy, because, in addition to my 3 starters (shrimp tempura, sweet and sour soup, dumplings) and my two curry mains (barramundi and chicken,) I had Judy’s crispy duck leg. To finish, with the unfiltered saki we’d enjoyed throughout the meal, I had both the lemon-garlic and the passionfruit (marvelous!) sorbet.
Easter Sunday found my oatmeal mixed with berries and banana slices, pecans, raisins, brown sugar (just a little) and hot milk. My juice was the combination of orange and cranberry. I was seated with a couple from Bergen, Norway and another solo passenger. Bill Miller’s talk was on the history of Holland America Lines - a span of 150 years. He was followed with Karijyn giving a talk on Coffee, Tea and Cocoa, which tied to the spice trade that triggered freight traffic.
Lunch found me seated with Tyler and four other solos - Mickey, Carol, Tom and one more. I had the specials of the day, which included French Dip and twice baked potatoes. Afterwards I did a bit of a wander, spending some time in the jewelry shop looking at blue diamonds. [I’d picked up a blue diamond solitaire post earring on my first HAL cruise while in Curacao, which matches my eye color. I thought to see if I could find a different size post.]
Finding a comfortable nearly quiet spot to read, I overlooked the Build Your Cocktail talk. Then on to happy hour where I sat with Jan and Vincenza of Curacao, later joined by Murray. I have no notes for dinner. [Menu follows.]
Monday morning included a talk by Bill Miller on the great liners, with Karijyn talking on Marconi and his tie to the Titanic sinking. I had a cobb salad for lunch with Janis and 2 couples, before I headed to Rue de Sel for the upper tier wine tasting.
Five wines were poured: Feudi di San Gregorio Greco di Tifo ‘18 (from Campagna); Flanagan Chardonnay ‘18 (barrel fermented, Russian River Valley); Allegrini Palazzo della Torre ‘19 (Veneto, amarone and corvina); Numenthia Termes Tempranillo ‘15 (100%, Spain); and Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label Brut. Jayson, the MDR sommelier, introduced me to David and Bill from Scottsdale, who I invited to join our dinner table on the nights we had empty seats. (They had open dining on deck 2 of the MDR, while our late seating was on deck 3, where Jayson is assigned.) I also talked with a former political journalist who is now a travel blogger.
When I packed, I included a pair of flipflops (aka in Hawaii “slippers”) and a single pair of shorts. I decided to wear them that day with a t-shirt, and found that I was chilled as the day progressed. So after the tasting I returned to the cabin and changed to long pants and shoes.
Up on the aft deck at 4pm, a memorial service was held honoring those who died on the Titanic crossing. We had deviated to sail over the spot, and many joined the service. Instead I had headed to Billboard to get my preferred seat - Elliot Finkel, the pianist, was to offer a classical recital. He started with a late Mozart sonata, and three Rachmaninoff preludes. He followed with the Chopin Ballade and the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody. For an encore, Cole Porter in the style of Liszt, per Finkel. It was a delightful hour.
From there to the Happy Hour getting the three throwback gin drinks. Pounded down two and took the G&T to the Crows Nest on 12 where I was to meet the California trio. I ran into Tyler, so we all talked before descending to the MDR for dinner. while I scooted down the stairs to my room to collect the first of the two Chateauneuf-de-Pape bottles I’d brought on board. Jayson showed up to uncork,
I suspect hoping for a taste. (I shared a small pour with him the following day.) My selections were pumpkin soup, the oxtail main (which was a fail) and, despite ordering tres leches cake, got flan as well as the cheese plate. (Good aged gouda and emmentaler.) I spotted the pair from Scottsdale and sat to talk a bit, so that I was late to the Rebecca Kelly presentation in the main theatre. I was up in the back corner, as was Elliot Finkel, so I got to chat with him a bit. All in all, a good day.
Tuesday, on my way to breakfast, I stopped to get the NYTimes crossword puzzle which had been distributed in the library. None there, so I headed to the MDR traversing the length of the ship to fill out a table. Something must have been awry, as we were all served late, and our conversation kept us occupied. If fact, the Bill Miller talk at 10 had to be skipped until the 3pm version, as we chatted. The ESC talk was on bicycles, so I of course attended. The first clock change took place at noon, so lunch in the MDR began at ship time 1300 hours.
After lunch I grabbed my reader and read until the lecture. Following Mr Miller’s talk, I picked up a G&T which I took to the Crows Nest where I read until the trio joined me for cocktails.
We were the full table of 7, although Tyler had invited Rebecca to join us (no show.) The four of us left (Tyler had split a tad earlier to get his seat down front) for the theatre where Cantare performed love songs. They started with Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, which I felt was their best number of the evening.
Wednesday was a sleep-in morning for me - I got up at 9:15 and went straight to the theatre for Bill Miller’s talk on HAL and other Dutch liners, with a focus on the growth of cruising. The ESC talk, by a former Test Kitchen host (?) was on bread; it was her first presentation post Covid, and she was very awkward and uncomfortable. I decided to head to Deck 3 and get outside, walking a full lap in brisk and windy conditions, particularly crossing the bow to port.
The meal in the dining room was a special offering of Dutch brunch. I was seated with the Dutch/Indonesian couple from Quebec and Bill and Renee (he is LDS, she of Louisville) from Ft Worth. We started with a smoothie, served in a sorbet cup, consumed with a spoon., and tasting much of beet. The crab cake main was served with an egg, which I found to be a small portion. The fruit plate dessert came with pistachios and cheese.
After lunch was a walk-around wine tasting, which I did with Bill and David. Perhaps a dozen wines, I found the best in show to be a ‘17 Albarino, followed by the two shiraz/syrah offerings. [That brochure has already been sent back to the States, so I can’t provide more information now.] With a slight buzz on, I headed to Happy Hour, where I sat and conversed with the Dutch marine engineer and his wife over a glass of white wine.
The quartet opted to try cocktails at the Ocean Bar - since it is two rooms, of course we wound up moving together. The trio took the lift to the Pinnacle dining room. My notes on dinner were that the soup was great - that’s it. After dinner to the theatre and Elliot FInkel again performed with the backup band. Off to the cabin where I began drinking water to head off a booze head.
Thursday I was under the weather to start, but got to breakfast to join 3 Canadians and Margrite, a Dutch woman. The bananas were unripe, so I had a slightly less adulterated bowl of oatmeal with my mixed juice and decaf coffee. Bill Miller spoke on the Cunard Queens and the high level of service thereon. Karijyn did a presentation on the excursion offerings for Plymouth and Dover, with nothing appealing to me. Lunch was with Judy and Rowena, and we planned to meet in the Crows Nest at 4 where I would bring both volumes of Cathedrals to the Glory of God.
Heading there early with the books, I read for an hour. When they arrived, all browsed the books, remarking on how different cathedrals are from country to country. They returned to their cabins and I read a bit more, as well as getting a chance to speak with the Catholic priest Fr Flanagan, who was making the crossing. Our quartet had planned on cocktails at Tamarind, but they really weren’t set up for us - Rowena’s cocktail must have taken 15 minutes to prepare and serve. [I sent a suggestion that a mixologist be added to the staff there.] Dinner of a caesar salad, pea soup, noodles and chili shrimp. I crashed after dinner, hoping to get more rest (I’d abstained all day); besides, my nose was running - I heard this symptom referred to a cruise crud. Note: I didn’t seem to take any pictures that day!
Hitting the home stretch on day 7, Friday saw me refreshed after sleeping well. I picked up my brown luggage tag for debarking in Rotterdam and collected a copy of the crossword puzzle at the Customer Service desk before heading to breakfast. I joined a table with two couples and a Dutch woman. No brown sugar, but ripe bananas for the oatmeal.
Before Bill Miller’s talk I checked with him regarding dinner wear on Cunard, learning I might want to rent a suit for my return crossing. I sat with Hank and the Dutch woman from breakfast for his talk. As ever, entertaining and informative. The following talk on spirits was only fair.
I took my camera with me that morning, so I walked around Decks 2 and 3 - the shops, casino, bar areas - to get a few more pictures.
For lunch I had a cobb salad and a half portion of the pasta dish, which turned out to be ravioli-like in a red gravy. My tablemates were a Texan couple, Margrite, and a widower who was meeting his girlfriend in Europe before they toured Italy. I gathered my photobooks to take to the Crows Nest - I’d offered to show them to the retired bishop from St Petersburg (Florida) who was also making the crossing.
My evening plans were to join the $100 wine cellar dinner. After dropping off my books and camera in the cabin, I grabbed my sports jacket and headed to the Ocean Bar for an aperitif. The offerings were a Ritz or a Negroni, which were too sweet for Bill and David, who had joined me there. A rather large group, we were part of the second group allowed into Pinnacle. The menu indicated that the first course was foie gras, served with a Chateau d’Yquem. Not foie gras, it wasn’t even a decent pate - cold, soggy and flavorless. Nice wine, though. Served in an espresso cup, the pumpkin soup was accompanied by a gruner veltliner. This was to me the best pairing, with both being tasty. The seafood entree was 3 pieces of “butter steamed” lobster and a deep fried crab cake ball, served with Dom Perignon. No butter flavor for the lobster; the roe/caviar garnish had little flavor, but the crab was good. As I’m not really into bubbly, I found the champagne underwhelming. Our mains were rather slow to arrive - and were cool (at my kindest.) Veal rack with a porcini mushroom crust, the parsnip foam was minimal, the au jus too little. It was served with a Barolo, which was excellent. After yet another long pause, the dessert was served. “Chocolate fudge with sea salt, ginger gelato” was the billing - tart dark chocolate in a pastry shell with a scoop of bland gelato on top. My immediate assessment was that it could have been improved with a shortbread shell, and using more ginger, perhaps as shavings. Two after dinner drinks were offered, “sherry cobbler” (sherry with orange and ginger) and “port of call” (port with raspberry and something I scribbled); both were too sweet. We all felt the evening was a fail, and we passed along our sentiments to both Mark and Kaye. The “boys” headed off to the casino. I returned to my cabin to start pushing water and read for a bit.
Final sea day, Saturday I tried something different for breakfast: a Spanish potato torte, which was delicious. I was seated with two men from Nashville and two women I’d shared tables with before. (I’m horrible at remembering names.) No lectures, so I wandered and read. Lunch of meatloaf and a cobb salad, with two couples. I read more afterwards, sitting on Deck 3 overlooking the BBKing space. It was a fancy dress night for dinner, so I grabbed my sports jacket again. WIth the table, I had the shrimp/scallop starter, which was served like escargot and the cucumber salad to start. The beef tenderloin, served with shrimp. Pian served me the sugar free tiramisu and some passionfruit sorbet from Tamarind. I finished off the last of the second bottle of CdP.
Ending the evening, we headed to the World Stage for a recital by Elliot Finkel. He played the Mozart Rondo alla Turca, Liebestraum, Saint-Saëns’ Dying Swan, a British rag, a Chopin Polonaise, “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina”, and a medley from Rhapsody in Blue. His encore was a Chopin Nocturne as in the style of Irving Berlin.
Eight consecutive sea days is definitely too long. Especially at the start of a long vacation/holiday trip.
You can purchase your own copy
(or have me send it as a gift) of
Cathedrals to the Glory of God
by clicking this link: