As promised, here is the first in a series of posts about our vacation. As it turns out, I did not end up doing massage today, having awakened at 2 a.m. with a sore throat and my sinuses full. It was fairly obvious that my extended hours sitting next to Jim on the airplane ride home enabled the virus he met in Portugal to make an intimate acquaintance with my immune system and overcome its defenses.
Not wishing to share this boon with my clients, I elected to take the day off, much to their distress. To a person they were disappointed that they were not going to get relief, but understanding of my decision to not expose them to this cold virus. So, after I slept for several hours, the mail came. The mailman actually knocked, which meant there was a package.
The package contained a new rock! Ærchie came through with a wonderful rock which told him it needed to come live with me. It comes from the Great Sandy Desert in Western Australia, and I have to say what with Mike’s death and my rotten cold, it provided just the pick-me-up I needed. It truly is a wondrous rock indeed:
Notice the little depression in the center that will hold water when it rains and provide a tiny swimming pool for labyrinth sprites.
Having had my spirits and energy lifted so beautifully, I addressed myself to the computer in an effort to make some sense of the past 4 weeks. It isn’t that easy to transport myself back to the very beginning of our trip, since so much happened between then and now. But the pictures helped a lot.
We got a taxi from our hotel and arrived at the ship about an hour before we were scheduled to embark. No matter. The staff on the Seabourn ”Pride” are accustomed to connections that are not completely convenient, and they had a contingency plan. We were ushered aboard the ship immediately, which astonished us because every other cruise we have been on there has been a ticket counter much similar to the one you find in international airports to negotiate. No such thing here.
We walked up the gangplank and were immediately ushered into the “Magellan Lounge”, which was the venue where all the entertainment was presented. Comfortable couches and armchairs awaited us, and assiduously attentive waiters immediately offered us champagne, and if that did not suit there was a full bar, coffee, tea, soft drinks, whatever your little heart desired. In addition to the libations, there was also a table set with sandwiches, cheese, crackers, cookies, and other little snacks. If you could not be troubled to go to the table yourself, a waiter would go over there for you. There were several people with limited mobility aboard, and this nicety was a necessity for their comfort.
Eventually, they were ready to begin the actual boarding process, and we went up to a table where personnel from the purser’s office took our passports, took a photo of us that was imprinted on our ship’s ID card, and gave us our room keys. That was the last time we used those cards except for getting off and on in Funchal. Unlike many cruise lines, that imprint your card every time you order a drink or a glass of wine with dinner, all the drinks were included in the price of the cruise. Oh, if you wanted the Napoleon aged brandy, they would charge you $6 for the privilege, but no one was so crass as to ask for your ID. They knew our names, our cabin number, how we liked our water (with ice, or without, with gas or not), whether we were likely to order a third glass of champagne.
After we had been ID’d and photoed, a person presented themselves to escort us to our cabins. It was not possible to carry your own bags, they were politely but firmly extracted from you before you could even pick them up. You were in the lap of luxury now, and by gum, the people on board that ship wanted you to know it “right now.”
Our cabins were spacious, and fitted with marble bathrooms complete with a bathtub that was more than ample for a comfortable soak. I regret to inform you that I neglected to photograph the accommodations, I was so enwrapped in the experience. Seabourn has a lovely website complete with 360° views of the rooms, bar, spa, and workout rooms. Feel free to visit it and browse to your heart’s content.
Shortly after we were escorted to our cabins, the ship began to pull away from the pier. We changed into our green clothes for the Sail Away Party, since it was St. Patrick’s day and lots of people were sporting green. We went up to the Sky Bar and joined in the festivities.
The Sky Bar became one of our favorite places to visit late at night after the shows. There was a Club Bar downstairs, but it was noisy and full of cigarette smokers. Robert, the bar tender at the Sky Bar, got quite chummy with us and we thoroughly enjoyed our conversations with him and with John, another guest who liked to frequent the Sky Bar late at night.
It was a windy day when we sailed, and my choice of hair-do for the event proved to be rather wrong, actually. I didn’t mind the way it looked so much as the quantity of time required to brush the tangles out of my mop of hair before we went to dinner.
But no matter. As we left Ft Lauderdale, there was a presage of the next few days’ weather crashing up onto the beach out side the breakwater.
Indeed, the whole voyage was marked by the heavy seas and high wind created by the storm off to our north east. For the first few days it appeared that there were hardly any passengers aboard due to the high seas. There was a lot of seasickness which we, fortunately, did not share. That storm finally crashed into land and all of the Iberian Peninsula experienced some extremely wet weather because of it. We visited Funchal before the floods started, thank heavens. But I digress.
The voyage officially begins when the harbor pilot leaves the ship, and here he is waving at us from the pilot boat.
Now, I have to say that the entertainment was pretty good on board, considering that most of it was provided by the Cruise Director and his staff. They were assisted by a very funny magician from England and a concert flautist from Ireland. There were a couple of lecturers aboard: Michael Freedland, an author of many show business biographies, and Ambassador Samuel Hart, retired. Both of them gave several talks, and they were interesting and well attended. Since there were only 173 passengers aboard, it was quite possible to get to know the lecturers very well, and we ate breakfast a couple of times with the Ambassador and were invited to eat at both the lecturer’s tables at dinner. We also got to eat with the Ship’s Doctor one night as well as the Staff Captain.
Our cabin attendant, Rita, was wonderful. She was also amazing. It did not matter what time of day we got up and went to breakfast. When we returned our cabin was made up and ready for the day. This was true no matter whether we arose at the crack of dawn or slept in until ten. In the evenings, our bed was turned down. On Easter morning, when we returned from breakfast we found that the Easter Bunny had been by.
One night Rita encountered me in the hall as I was stalking along in a rather bad humor. I had been down to the laundrette to check on our laundry and discovered that one of our fellow passengers thought their clothes were much more important than ours and removed them from the dryer, piling them up in a heap on the ironing board so that His clothes could get dry. I was pretty steamed, and Rita, not being blind or an idiot, could see that in an instant. She asked me what was wrong, and I told her. After dinner that night, in addition to the usual chocolates and next day schedule, we found this cute towel creature on our bed.
Now, I don’t know how the grapevine works aboard ship, but the culprit in the dryer situation actually came and made very nice to us the next evening. I think regretted his bad manners.
Well, of course, the highlight of any cruise has got to be the food. The food aboard Seabourn “Pride” was produced by a staff of about a dozen people overseen by Chef Marcus, who was Swiss and trained at the Culinary Institue in Paris. All I can say is that it was a miracle that I only gained five pounds. Well, I did spend about an hour in the gym riding the stationary bike every day.
Following is a series of photos I took during the Galley Buffet, where all the food for the evening was laid out in the galley and you could walk through and pick what you wanted to eat. With a great deal of self control I was able to limit my caloric intake to about 4000 that meal. More or less.
This is the arrangement of fruits and vegetables carved into a floral display. This was right next to the sushi display, which included an array of sashimi grade tuna that was superb. The pickled ginger was not from a jar, but marinated on board right before the meal.
When you walked along past that, there was a young man making fondue on your left. To the right was a long counter where you could order up a steak. I have already shown you the cheese station in yesterday’s post, but here is the bread array right across from it.
Around the corner from that was the pasta station, where Valentina and Emilian, a pair of waiters from the restaurant upstairs, were engaged in making fresh pasta marinara with toppings you could choose.
Continuing around the corner, you found another counter equipped with several casseroles and all the fried food you could imagine. Southern fried chicken, fried soft shell crabs, french fries, fried calamari, etc. etc. I was able to limit myself to only one soft shelled crab.
Finally, right before you exited the galley to the dining room, was the sous chef engaged in carving a whole salmon that had been baked in a salt crust and served with a chimmichurri sauce. “Oh my God” is all I have to say about that. It was wonderful.
Out in the middle of the dining room was the dessert table. In the background of this picture you can see a stainless steel serving station that contained the fresh homemade ice creams of the day. The “volcano” in this picture is a Baked Alaska. Down in the lower right corner is their sop to those of us who cannot eat all the rich stuff featured, a wonderful fresh fruit salad and sugar free gelatins. I don’t believe those got touched that night. . .
In the nick of time for our expanding waistlines, we arrived in Lisbon and had to leave the ship. I will leave you with a little story that illustrates the incredible commitment to service the Seabourn instills in all its personnel, from the lowliest deck cleaner to the officers.
I mentioned that we had dinner with the Staff Captain during the cruise, a young man who is being groomed to become a full Captain of one of the Seabourn ships. He was funny and charming, and amused to discover that his girlfriend was our cabin attendant. The night before we were to arrive in Lisbon, Jim and I were invited to eat at one of the big tables with one of the lecturers as our host. At the end of the scrumptious meal, during which the waiters were attentive and yet invisible, I was asked if I would like some coffee. I ordered a decaf capuccino.
At 2 a.m. when I still had not fallen asleep I realized that that decaf capuccino was not decaf, and I was a little annoyed by it. Next morning, as we were disembarking, the Staff Captain was standing at the door and asked us how we were doing. I told him that I was very sad to be leaving, and yet I was extremely tired.
“Oh, why are you tired?”
“I was not able to sleep very well last night,” I told him. “I’m pretty sure that it was the capuccino I ordered after dinner. I told the waiter I wanted decaf but I’m pretty sure it was caffeinated.”
His face darkened. ‘Who was your waiter?” he demanded.
“Oh, I don’t remember. We were invited to have dinner with Michael Freedland, and you know how it is at the big tables. The waiters are so good you don’t even notice them.”
“We will find out who it was. We can’t make it up to you since you are leaving the ship, but the problem will be dealt with.”
“Well,” I replied. “It would be sufficient if someone went to his cabin and woke him up every hour tonight.”
“We can do that,” was the reply. I’ll bet they did, too.
Cruising in the lap of luxury. What a great idea. Spoils you, though.