It would be impossible to find any part of our cruise ship, called the JOURNEY, where you couldn’t find or order food within two minutes of your arrival. First, there’s your stateroom fridge-freezer. There’s a gift bottle of vodka and a bottle of red wine resting on a cabinet. And then there’s your amazing butler Roy who is always on call: you simply dial the phone, and he appears magically within three minutes. Roy will do anything for you; he unpacked Tom’s suitcase, put everything in the dresser drawers way more neatly than Tom would have, arranged by color. I didn’t allow him to unpack me, as I have my own compulsive ideas about where all my stuff should go.
Roy couldn’t be more pleasant and caring; we want to bring him home to do absolutely everything for us in our real life. Roy will bring you food anytime you summon him, day or night, for any sort of snack or light meal that you request. He will usually arrive with it in less than ten minutes. And he might bring you some tasty extra treats that you didn’t think to ask for. Like a small but brilliant chunk of chocolate cake to down with your decaf pumpkin latte, which he also brings you unasked. He tells us that some of our neighbors eat most of their meals in their cabins or on their veranda, which seems utterly eccentric to us.
One public room after another has food. The Mosaic Café on Deck 5 is a calm den to relax and read the daily paper. And the waiter will arrive with small croissants, smoked salmon canapes, tiny tuna sandwiches. Lunch in the Windows Café presents a giant global buffet. There’s also a bar at the pool, in the library, the cabaret, the living room and of course all the bigger restaurants.
You can’t walk twenty feet down any hall without being in the presence of a reading room, very quiet and comfortable to relax in with your Kindle and the sea all around. But in the corner lives a table with turkey/bacon brioche, tandoori chicken flat bread, and fruit tartlets. What is a person to do?
The two hotsy-totsy dinner eateries which either come with one’s room or there’s an upcharge of $35 for the luxury, are the Aqualina (mostly Italian) and Prime C (meat in all variations). They are across from each other and share their own kitchen. We find out that we can special-order Dover sole 24 hours ahead, which isn’t on the menu but available to insiders who know the ropes and is gorgeously prepared at the table, reminiscent of a ballet. I imagine a crew member fishing off the end of the ship for our special-order sole. But mostly likely, it was in the freezer along with the salmon for which that area of Norway is renowned. Interesting that the ship’s salmon is actually frozen, from Alaska. Another special order, a dessert only available to insiders, is the warm Limoncello souffle. Don’t even ask. Thank God I only discovered its existence 3 days before the trip was over, since I had to have it every night for dinner. And thus I skip breakfast.
There’s a lot of overweight travelers on the ship. I don’t know if they started out that way and took the cruise so they could eat to their heart’s content or if they got so fat on the last ship and just kept it up. We notice (how could we help it?) that people hang out at the bars all day, instead of going to the gym, taking line dancing or watercolor classes or doing the ping pong tournament. Then, when it’s mealtime they order two appetizers, a main course, sometimes two, a variety of vegetables and a chocolatey dessert. This ship is a glutton’s fantasy of paradise. But: I lost 2 pounds on the trip; Tom lost 3. We never ate breakfast and limited ourselves to one alcoholic drink a day.
The alcohol allotment is a constant mystery. In your room it is free; when you return from an excursion, you are offered a glass of prosecco as you walk up the runway; if you order it in a bar or specific restaurants it can cost $8 , but not always. It annoys me to keep trying to figure it out.
Enough about food. We had several breathtaking shore excursions. The very best is a boat safari to see birds on an island sanctuary called Gjesvaerstappan, a national preserve that’s home to, literally, hundreds of thousands of birds living free. The captain identifies them as they circle over, but I can’t tell a puffin from a non-puffin. There are black juillemots, common juillemots, razor bills, jannets. They are all gorgeous and have interesting life stories which I can’t recall now. I don’t care, I am overwhelmed by the universe of birds flying all around me, wherever I looked. On this boat, we ride past the highest point in North America.
When the bus that will take us from the boat back to the ship breaks down, and we must wait an hour for a pick-up, I have a bizarre conversation with a scholar named Carolyn who is on the cruise leading a group called the Richard III Society. The purpose of this group is to rehabilitate the reputation of the ill-reputed 15th century King of England. She gives lectures about the ill-fated monarch, and I try with earnestness to remain focused on what she’s saying. But all I can think of is the spectacular array of thousands of birds as far as I can see, the breathtaking fjords, the blessed sunny weather and yes of course, the limoncello souffle.
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