At sea again. 4/9/19

Just what we need, another day at sea! You really have to be into looking at water or the inside of a boat to enjoy this many days at sea.

We played our last round of trivia today and did not win. Just as well because the prize was a Viking book. We really do not need anything heavier in our suitcase. We have enjoyed playing trivia on all the sea days

Since I am writing this several days after the fact, I imagine in the afternoon we did some hand laundry, watched some TV, looked out the windows, read books, and took a nap.

For dinner we ate at The Restaurant and our main was sole meunière. Too many bones for me.

Sole meunière

 

Cadiz, Spain. 4/8/19

Today we are in Cadiz. The optional tours are for Seville and Jerez. We visited Seville and Jerez before when we had arranged a tour in Seville and had tickets to the Andalusian equestrian center so we opt for a walking tour of Cadiz. Plus it is free.

Our docking spot and a view of Cadiz

Our boat pulls into Cadiz and soon we are on our way. The city is clean and inviting with gardens and streets with overhanging terraces. Here is some of what we saw.

Our first view is of the Plaza of Spain which celebrates the first Constitution of Spain drafted in Cadiz in 1812 and established a constitutional monarchy with many of the same freedoms as the American Constitution. Unfortunately it was repealed under King Ferdinand VII in 1814 who reestablished absolute monarchy.
The monument on the Plaza of Spain has a center column with extracts from the Constitution and is flanked by sculptures symbolizing agriculture and citizenship. The two bronze horsemen represent war and peace.
On the other side of the monument is Hercules the mythical founder of Cadiz.
An enormous ficus tree outside of the art museum
Typical narrow street
Flowers are everywhere
Church of San Antonio
Ornate bank building
Door knocker on the house of Manuel de Falla, the famous composer
We stop at the Mercato Centrale and there are wonderful looking vegetables
and pork products
and more fruits and vegetables
Then we stop at the New Cathedral and go inside
Inside is a monstrous monstrance
A grilled choir
with carved panels inside
John goes down to the crypt where Santa Victoria’s non-corrupt body lies in a glass container
Also here is the burial site of Manuel Falla, the composer and favorite son of Cadiz
We also see the City Hall
One of the motifs are tuna which is a nod to the origianal settlers of Cadiz, the Phoenicians
Then we take a couple of pictures of me in the City Hall plaza

We go down to dinner at the Chef’s Table tonight where the theme is ‘Las Route des Indes.” Here are a few highlights.

Tuna tataki
Beef tenderloin with purple potato mousseline
Incredibly delicious tarte tatin

We are hoping to see the Straits of Gibraltar before it gets too dark but it seems that we are not going to make it. However we do see the lights of Morocco on one side and the Rock of Gibraltar on the other. We wave and shout, Hi Africa! Seeing Africa was one of our agenda items to complete.

Africa!
You can see the enormous Rock of Gibraltar on the other side

 

 

Another day at sea. 4/7/19

Just when you think that you might have dry land for a while there is another day at sea going from Madeira to Cadiz, Spain.  So not much happening today.

We start the day by having room service knock on the door at what seems like an hour earlier than we expect. John is still sleeping so I stumble out of the bedroom looking, I imagine, rather disheveled to answer the door. I say I thought I asked for breakfast at 8:45 AM. He says it is 8:45. Did you remember to turn clocks ahead an hour last night. Abashedly I had not. So kind of an embarrassing start to the day

We go down to play Trivia before lunch and resume our old position of second. We assign areas of expertise to study up on before the final Trivia on Tuesday. John is looking into world capitals and I am still the NASCAR expert.

We have lunch. I am so sick of luncheon boat food. John tries the porchetta since he tried making one at Christmas with so-so results. The one onboard is much prettier and John says it tastes good too. I am still not feeling particularily like eating due to my stomach distress of yesterday.

John’s magazine-ready shot of the porchetta

We take a nap and go down for the Port Talk late in the afternoon. Our next stop is Cadiz tomorrow morning. There are excursions to Seville and Jerez but we have been to those places before and have had excellent times there so we opt for a walk around Cadiz.

Dinner is at Manfredi’s and works out pretty well. We abandon our beloved octopus carpaccio for antipasti for two followed by a first course of tortelli with truffles for me and a risotto for John. We split a Fiorentina (giant steak from Florence) and still cannot eat it all. No dessert.

The fabulously delicious bread basket from Manfredi’s
Antipasto plate
My tortelli with truffles and ricotta
It’s hard to make a mushroom risotto look pretty
My half of the Fiorentina with watercress garnish

Land ho! Madeira, Portugal. 4/6/19

After a reasonable night’s sleep we are ready to explore the beautiful island of Madeira, Portugal. What a change from St. Martin. Our ship pulls in at about noon and we are scheduled to take a tour at 1:15PM. I am feeling much better today and we are so happy to get on land.

Arriving in Madeira
First impressions are favorable

After a delightful ride through the city of Funchal and the countryside with its terraced farming gardens we arrive at the Cabo Girão Skywalk. The skywalk is partially a see-through section down the cliff and spectacular views of the island abound.

Bird of Paradise plants on the walk out to the skywalk
Wow, what a view
It’s a bit windy up here
John’s hair does not move in the wind

Later we travel down to the fishing village of Camara de Lobos where we are treated to the local drink, poncha, a combination of rum, lemon juice, and honey. We have a brief time to walk around as well.

A street in the small fishing village of Camara de Lobos
Our group bellying up to the bar for some poncha
The bar crew squeezing the lemons, muddling the rinds, and straining the poncha
John enjoying his glass of poncha
Look! I found a little church to visit
The small natural bay at Camara de Lobos
Noah’s Ark landed here
Portuguese fishermen playing cards by the bay. The stones keep the cards from blowing away

Finally we end up in their biggest city, Funchal. It is clean and lovely. There are flowering trees and shrubs everywhere. We had hoped to see their early 16th century cathedral but it was closed by the time we get there. Unfortunately we get to this last site late and only had 20 minutes to explore. Otherwise this is one of the better included tours we have been on from the Viking Ocean trips.

Statue of Joao Goncalves Zarco (1390-1471) He was a Portuguese explorer who established settlements and recognition of the Madeira Islands and was appointed first captain of Funchal by Prince Henry the Navigator. (Wikipedia)
This is the early 16th century cathedral in Funchal that we did not get to see
Fancy bank building
Downtown garden across from our location

Later we have dinner at The Restaurant. The food is seeming repetitive at this point. Everything comes with a garnish of watercress. They must be out of everything else.

Seared foie gras with watercress garnish
John starts with a scallop ceviche
We both have the Bergen fish soup which is much like the fish soup we actually had in Bergen
My dish of dried out chicken with watercress garnish
John has a quick seared piece of tuna with a watercress garnish

 

 

Atlantic crossing, day 6. 4/5/19

This is the worst day of our trip, mostly because I cannot imagine a worse one for me. After a night of almost no sleep due to, once again, a lot of pitching and yawing, and shuddering of the ship. We get up bleary-eyed to have breakfast.

Good morning, Atlantic Ocean. You look so benign but I know you are not.
Huzzah, land now appears on the tracking screen

I have decided to have corn flakes because I have been having a lot of eggs. Now I know that I am somewhat lactose intolerant but I figure that the amount of milk that I will put in the cereal will not be a big deal. I was so wrong. By the time I am only part way through breakfast I tell John that I am not feeling well and need to lie down. I am having severe pains in my stomach which ultimately leads to a breakfast explosion. This was followed later in the day by a good deal of intestinal distress. Like I said this has to be the worst day of our trip.

(Aren’t you glad there are no pictures of this part!)

Needless to say I miss the 10 AM lecture and the Trivia contest where my team takes uncontested first place by answering 15 out of 15  questions correctly. Go team!

At 4:30 PM I pull myself out of bed to go to our special invitation-only tour of the kitchens. We see everything that the culinary team does and the Head Chef is our tour guide. But by the end of the tour I am having a hard time paying attention since the lower half of me is now experiencing lactose intolerance big time. I manage to get to the bathroom in time but just.

Head Chef Gary leads our tour
The kitchen is staffed 24 hours a day. Chef says that they work 4 hours and then have 4 hours off and then work another 4 hours. This is The Restaurant hot foods kitchen.

After napping again I feel better and we go to dinner at the Chef’s Table where the menu is Mexico. It pretty much is not Mexico at all but is tasty nonetheless.

Our amuse bouche is tostados de pulpo.(octopus) It is fairly tasty but does not taste even remotely Mexican. It has a bunch of fennel on it and no lime or salt. We ask for lime and salt.
First course is at tamalito de pollo. John says the masa in the tamale is UGH. And it is dressed with watercress instead of cilantro and has feta cheese on top. I am less judgmental.
Our palate cleanser is nopales con limon. It is really good.
The main course is a piece of short rib in a mole-esque sauce and also sweet potato purée. It is really, really good even if the sauce does not taste like mole.
For dessert we have a chocolate presentation which is pretty good. That is high praise from someone who does not like chocolate.

I am hoping tonight we will sleep. Since I am writing this the next day I know the answer to this hope is no hope. The seas are really rolling and even our furniture is moving around.

Atlantic crossing, Day 5. 4/4/19

Our hopes for a better night’s sleep are completely dashed by the roughest seas so far. We sleep about one hour at the beginning of the night and then wake up at 1:30 AM. There is a loud noise and a big shuddering of the ship. We lie in our bed frozen wondering what will happen next but it is just more of the same all night long. Around 6 AM we fall back to sleep exhausted for a couple of hours.

Not happy skies or seas this morning

Normally we would be having room service for breakfast but since our cabin is in the extremely rocky part of the boat, we opt to eat down in The Restaurant. It’s fine but not as comfy as sitting in our pjs having breakfast in our room.

At noon we go down for Trivia where we are back in our usual position of second. Once again there are no NASCAR questions so my extensive knowledge goes without use.

During the Captain’s announcement he addresses the big bang and shuddering of the ship the night before. He says we hit a water mountain and it was just the ocean’s way of reminding us who is boss out here. The other guests were as discomfited as we were and it ends up with a very quiet day aboard ship as people try to catch up on lost sleep and improve their queasy stomachs.

Mid-afternoon we have a special tour of the bridge. There are two second officers, a third officer, and a lookout taking care of the running of the ship. Somehow I imagined a large crew bustling about taking measurements, logging events, and watching  screens and the sea. Certainly I expected the Captain or the First Officer. Apparently they are only called when it seems like there could be some sort of trouble.

Two second officers, a third officer and a lookout run the show
Lookout seaman who scans the horizon and uses the binoculars once in a while. Seems pretty low tech
What the lookout is seeing
Emblems of different ports
The second office who gives the talk. He looks about 16.

Dinner tonight is at Manfredi’s. They have an excellent assortment of breads and a couple of specials as well as their usual menu. We like the sound of their specials until tomato sauce or some other “American” ingredient is added which really does not fit at all. We cobble out what we want from the existing menu. Our dessert (not shown) is the remnants of our basket of bread, some parmesan cheese, honey, and a glass of grappa.

Octopus carpaccio – the best!
John is looking pretty dapper in his duds. A guy complimented him in the elevator.
My first course is capellini with shrimp – good!
John’s pasta fagioli rates an okay
John has the swordfish with watercress which he enjoys
I have meal varsala known more popularly as veal Marsala when presented properly. It would seem that they have a dark btown sauce that they use for multiple purposes by adding bits of flavoring. Does not work. No mushrooms. It is sad.

Finally, advancing our clocks one more hour forward so that we are up to seven from Pacific Time, we head for bed really hoping that the seas will let us sleep tonight.

Atlantic crossing, day 4. 4/3/19

So, we are still crossing the Atlantic Ocean which is really big.  It is Wednesday and we do not get to Madeira until Saturday. The waves and wind have picked up and now the waves are 3 to 4 meters. You really have to pay atttention when you are walking around or you will bump in to someone or something. Today, instead of eating in our favorite places, favorite seats, we are opting for dining in the lower decks of the ship near to the middle where the motion is not as extreme. The boat makes a lot of creaking noises and every once in a while there will be a slamming into the side of the ship. Bad for sleeping.

Dear Ocean, please calm down a little.

The highlight of the day is that we tied for winning the Trivia contest! Go our team. The questions were easier than the days before. But we get a bottle of champagne and our team captain, Steve, says we will all share it at 4PM on Deck 1. We go but no one else shows up. Hmpf!

Since we did not sleep much last night we spend the day fitting in little naps. Hopefully tonight the pitching of the ship will not be so bad.

We eat at The Restaurant tonight which John has taken to just calling The. Both at lunch and dinner it is getting a little harder to find something that we really want to eat.

Crispy calamari
My veal loin
John’s very large sheep shank
Cheese plate for dessert

 

3 meter waves, Atlantic Ocean crossing, Day 3. 4/2/19

Our Captain who comes over the intercom every day at noon with a jolly “Good afternoon, good afternoon, good afternoon!”, tells us that the seas are a little higher today at 3 meters but that everything is great, the weather is beautiful, and the ship is performing beautifully. Plus it is the friendliest and happiest ship on the sea. Our room, however, being on Deck 5 all the way aft is rocking and rolling a little more intensely today.

The Atlantic Ocean

We make our way down to the Star Theater for the cooking demonstration at 10 AM and especially enjoy the head chef’s explanation about what they do with waste. They have two refrigerators one that is a longer term refrigerator and the other which is a 4 hour refrigerator. Any food moved into the 4 hour refrigerator must be used within that time period or thrown out. They do their best to estimate how much the passengers will eat and move that amount into the timed refrigerator, after that, any of the food at the buffet or one of the restaurants along with whatever is left in the 4 hour refrigerator has to be ground up and ultimately dumped at sea. It seems wasteful but these are U.S. health regulations.

Star Theater set up for a cooking demonstration
Head Chef Gary and Chef Aldo make beet carpaccio, risotto, and fresh pasta carbonara and pesto

At noon we are back to try our hand at trivia again. Once again we get 10 out of 15 correct. Our goal for tomorrow is to get 12 out of 15. I have been studying up memorizing dates of historic happenings and NASCAR winners in case there are any questions along those lines.

Since it is too rocky up on deck 7 for me to eat the lunch buffet, we decide to have lunch in The Restaurant which is centrally located on deck 2. It is disappointing. I order gnocchi prima vera but it is definitely gnot gnocchi but a shaped pasta. There are a lot of peas in it. Not my fav. John has a Reuben on incredibly thick bread so he has to deconstruct it to eat it.

Our lunch starts with a chicken spring roll
I have gnot gnocchi
John’s thick Reuben with not French fries

Before heading back to our room we make a detour to look over the Viking exhibit. There are various Viking artifacts and a video about the Bayeux Tapestry. The Tapestry depicts William the Conqueror’s invasion and conquest of England. William who was a Viking became King of England. We have seen the Bayeux Tapestry in France where you stand on a moving walkway and zip by. Having a slower explanation makes the Tapestry really come to life.

Viking artifacts
Video of Bayeux Tapestry

We spend the afternoon reading and napping. We have dinner at Chef’s Table at 8 PM. Tonight’s offering is Asian Panorama. It’s pretty good and we have a table by the window so I can look out at the horizon.

King Crab amuse bouche
John taking notes
Chicken and lobster shu mai
Sort of Peking duck
Trio of desserts left to right, green tea cheesecake, creme brûlée, and chocolate banana spring roll

Sleeping tonight does not bode well. Our end of the ship is shuddering and pitching. It is noisy with the hangars in the closet banging around and the bedroom making creaky noises. I imagine I will be tired tomorrow.

Mal de mer, Atlantic crossing, day two. 4/1/19

Today, as you can see from the picture, the seas are a little higher with some whitecaps. I start feeling sick right after breakfast and spend most of the day in bed. I need the extra sleep though because I am thoroughly boat lagged and only had about 3 hours of sleep last night.

Higher seas today

Here is our position in the Atlantic Ocean. #2 is St. Martin and #3 is our next port of call in Funchal, Madeira on Saturday. Boats do not go very fast.

Position of the boat

I encourage John to leave me alone and go down to play Trivia where without my stellar help they do worse than yesterday. He also braves lunch alone and brings me back a roll and a cookie. Later he goes to a talk about pirates. Yaarr….

I am feeling better at dinner time and discover that at our restaurant, Manfredi’s, which is on Deck One in the middle of the boat, that there is almost no movement at all. Maybe I need to spend more time down in that area!

Manfredi’s, the Italian restaurant, prepares our dishes to a good or very good standard. The service is better here too. When we leave at 9:45 PM there are still 7 other tables full in our room and no one is trying to shoo them out. Here is what we eat.

First they bring a yummy basket of bread
While we munch on bread, John records our experience in his ubiquitous little notebook
I sample the wine
First course for both of us is octopus carpaccio. It is spectacular!
Then I have tortelli with ricotta and truffle.
John has snail risotto which arrives without the snails
Problem remedied!
Next I have swordfish with watercress. I share this with John.
His entree is mussels with crab in a saffron cream sauce
I order a pistachio torte but it is sweet and dry so John and I share the orange pieces and whipped cream.
John asks for one of his favs which is parmesan and honey

Later as I am lying in bed it seems like every little movement of the boat is amplified. Maybe that it is because I am experiencing it over the length of my body rather than just through my feet. It would be hard, though, to sleep standing up.

Atlantic crossing, day one. 3/31/19

Unless I can figure out something other than water and food to take pictures of, my blog is going to be very repetitive and not so interesting until we get to Madeira on Saturday.

Here is the view out the back of the boat from our cabin.

Atlantic Ocean day one

We do a lot of lazing about today probably destroying any progress we have made with boat lag. After having breakfast in our cabin the first thing we do is play trivia with our Canadian pals and two random ladies who are looking for a team to be on. We come in second but it is fun and everyone agrees to meet tomorrow for another try.

Then it is lunchtime. The offerings today are not as good as yesterday and I opt for a slice of pizza after not eating my first plate so much. We split a cookie for dessert.

First plate of lunch had some cod, dried out Thai pork, mushy cauliflower, some beans, and a vegetable skewer

Nothing interesting going on this afternoon so we read books and nap.

For dinner we are eating at The Restaurant again. We go down at 8 PM. Although the food is good the service is quite rushed. It is like they don’t want you to linger over anything since the servers and the rest of the restaurant staff want to get out of the restaurant. When we don’t like our desserts and ask for a cheese plate instead, they are especially unhappy. They bring our cheese and continue setting up for breakfast around us.

John and I both have the very good corvina and shrimp ceviche.
For the main course I have porcini dusted venison with green beans and maple pumpkin. All good although the beans are cold. My favorite part is the pumpkin.
John has braised halibut with a celeriac purée and a side of creamed spinach. They are doing a really good job cooking fish.
For dessert I try this thing called a Lamington roll which is some sort of Australian dessert. Thumbs down.
John has some semi curdled creme brûlée

 

 

 

On the way out I explain to the hostess that we would like slower service without your entree coming before you have finished the first course. She replies that most people complain that the service is too slow. Ah, well, we will try again another night to slow things down.

We go to bed around 10PM and I sleep until 2 AM and then I am awake for the rest of the night.