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Wednesday
Nov132013

Musings of a Cruise Virgin - Four and Twenty Blackbirds Baked in a Pie

I like food. I like to cook and I like to eat! So, gluttony aside, what were people putting away at twice the normal amounts as they sat down to eat. How was the actual food? In a couple of words, it was very good. (If I had come from any other place other than the fresh food capital of Northern CA, the food would probably be considered excellent!) I did hear people talking about some dishes being the best they had ever had, so clearly, other people thought the food was excellent.

Here is a sample dinner menu from the main dining room:

Appetizers

  • Caramelized Orange and Grapefruit Cocktail (Gourmet Vegetarian)- Citrus fruit segments dusted with brown sugar and placed under the broiler, mixed with diced melon and a tequila drizzle.
  • Lobster Parisienne- Chilled Maine half-lobster accompanied by vegetable yogurt salad and garlic aïoli dressing.
  • Carpaccio of Beef Tenderloin- Razor-thin slices drizzled with fruity olive oil, topped with shaved Reggiano-Parmigiano cheese and accompanied with a robust whole grain mustard sauce.
  • Double-Baked Cheese Soufflé (Gourmet Vegetarian)- With arugula and roasted bell peppers.

Soups and Salad

  • Roasted Shallot and Butternut Squash Soup (Gourmet Vegetarian)- Topped with red beet crisps.
  • Chicken and Wild Rice Soup- Wild rice with chunks of chicken in a flavorful chicken broth.
  • Chilled Coconut Nutmeg Soup (Gourmet Vegetarian)- A blend of coconut, yogurt, milk and vanilla finished with a dash of nutmeg.
  • Apple, Pear and Cucumber Salad (Gourmet Vegetarian)- Marinated in fruit juices and arranged on frisée, with dried cherries and a Blue cheese crouton.
  • Choice of Dressing: Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar, House Italian, Thousand Island, Blue Cheese, Asian Sesame Ginger or fat-free Italian.

Entrées

  • Ribbon Zucchini Risotto (Gourmet Vegetarian)- Sautéed zucchini ribbons blended with creamy Parmesan risotto, finished with a roasted red pepper rouille.
  • Blackened Chicken Caesar- Crisp romaine tossed with creamy garlic dressing, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and crunchy seasoned croutons, topped with slices of blackened grilled chicken breast.
  • Sea Bass Sauté- Tender fish fillet topped with red onion, lemon, and capers, served with a crispy polenta cake, green beans and julienne of red bell pepper.
  • Filet of Beef Wellington- Mouthwatering tenderloin of beef topped with a duxelles of duck liver and mushrooms, wrapped in a puff pastry, served on a mirror of Madeira sauce with duchess potatoes and a medley of green asparagus and Chinese pea pods.
  • Roasted Rack of Veal- Roasted until tender and encased in a crispy basil coating, accompanied by a rich forest mushroom sauce, Parisian vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes.
  • Quail with Apricot Bread Stuffing- Tender quail stuffed with Grand Marnier-scented apricot breading, served on a Port wine reduction with Savoy cabbage, roasted potatoes and cherry tomatoes.
  • Oven-Baked Eggplant Parmigiana (Gourmet Vegetarian)- Slices of eggplant breaded with a Parmesan crust, layered with Provolone cheese and baked in the oven, served with spaghetti tossed in marinara sauce.

As you can see, there was quite a variety of dishes, with several different meat/poultry/fish offerings and always a vegetarian option or two. (I was also pleased to see that the Holland America Line only served sustainable seafood.) They always offered sides of vegetables and potatoes as well and a desert menu that had some main offerings but always a few daily choices as well. I tended to get the cheese plate for dessert, mainly because other than ice cream, most of the desserts were not GF, but really because it was light and always seemed to perfectly top off the meal.

What also was very nice was how Holland America accommodated mine and everybody else's eating limitations. Because I eat gluten free, I was able to get the next day's menu, the night before. I would then put my name, stateroom, and GF on the menu, choose what I wanted, and the next day, when I would show up for a meal, I'd tell them my stateroom. Somehow they'd find my menu and my restrictions and they would then prepare my meal GF. These accommodations were also available for many different types of dietary restrictions, so not only were they cooking for 3000, but many of those 3000 people required dietary adjustments. Sounds like a logistic nightmare to me, but it all worked out, every time! I found that pretty amazing.

Obviously, from a cooking standpoint, there were limitations in that you were on a cruise ship, 3000 people had to be fed, and fresh food was not always available mainly due to health reasons. For example, the clams and mussels had to be cooked and then frozen before they came on board, so any dish that had clams or mussels were just unfrozen, reheated clams and mussels. The dish was still very good, but this food snob could usually tell the difference (although I have to admit, the difference was not so much that it interfered with my eating enjoyment as I slurped up my Moules Mariniere!)

As an aside, it was interesting to me to see how a cruise ship dealt with germs. If you think about it, cruise ships typically transport closed populations of thousands of persons, often from diverse parts of the world. People bring their own germs with them and so all us passengers are at risk for becoming ill while on board, most commonly from person-to-person spread of viral gastrointestinal illnesses. I know the Center for Disease Control keeps a sharp look out at all cruise lines. All cruise ships participating in the Vessel Sanitation Program are required to report the total number of gastrointestinal illness cases to the CDC after every cruise. So, as a cruise ship, how do you prevent such outbreaks?

I'm not sure about the behind scenes actions, but what the ship did that I could see to minimize the risk of spreading our germs was that they stationed people around the ship, primarily in front of the restaurants. These people carried hand sanitizers and you could get a squeeze prior to you going into the restaurant. Also, in the bathrooms, they had placed a paper towel dispenser right by the door with instructions to please use a paper towel to open the door. When you returned from a visit to a Port of Call, you would also be offered a squeeze of the hand sanitizer. Finally, although the Lido restaurant was a buffet, they did not allow the buffet part for the first 48 hours. All food was physically served to you so you didn't get your germy hands into the food! I guess, after 48 hours, we all shared the same ship germs, so by then it didn't matter. It seemed to work as I never ran across anyone who mentioned anything about being sick.

Back to the food eaten. For an average week on board, there would be 11,830 lbs of meat consumed; 3814 lbs of poultry; 1875 lbs of fish; 2575 lbs of seafood; 1675 lbs of butter and margarine; 137,500 lbs of fresh vegetables; 7750 lbs of potatoes; 2300 lbs of watermelon; 5500 qts of dairy; 300 glns of ice cream; 23,040 eggs; 950 lbs of sugar; 24K individual sugar packages pcs; 3500 lbs rice (for the crew); 3150 lbs of flour; 362 cases of assorted sodas; 332 cases of assorted beers; 450 bottles of champagnes and sparkling wines; 1636 btls of wine; and 280 cases of water. That is A LOT of food!

My absolute favorite dinner was in one of the specialty restaurants, The Tamarind where I went one evening with Harriet, the leader of our Phenomenal Life Group. The Tamarind food was based on Southeast Asia, China and Japan's culinary traditions. It was on the very top floor, so you had a great view, and it was very nice that we arrived at sunset!

Just so you can drool, here is a sample menu from The Tamarind:

Soup

  • Yin-Yang Scallop consommé- Tender sea scallops and julienne cut squash, in a ginger-infused shellfish broth sprinkled with minced scallions.
  • Jewels of the Sea- Delicate shrimp-filled won tons with sliced baby bok choy in a fragrant lemon grass and sesame broth.
  • Chicken Pho with Wild Lime and Rice Stick Noodles- Shredded chicken and rice noodles in a coconut milk broth flavored with lime leaf, cilantro, galangal, mint, bean sprouts and Serrano chilies.

Appetizer

  • Trail of Spices Satay Sampler- Malaysian-spiced lamb, Chinese-pork, Thai-spiced beef, Indonesian-spiced chicken, and Vietnamese-spiced shrimp served with Asian pickled vegetables and two traditional dipping sauces.
  • Shrimp Tempura Indochine- Sweet, fresh shrimp dipped in a light batter and fried, and served with a tart-and-sweet green papaya salad and garlic chili sauce.
  • Shanghai Ribs- Five-spice rubbed baby-back pork ribs, served over a Chinese pickled cabbage salad with tamarind chutney.
  • Street Side Pot Stickers- Succulent lobster, pork, and chicken dumplings, shallow-fried till crispy on the bottom and served with a vinegar-soy ponzu dipping sauce.
  • Spring Roll Delights- A trio of spring rolls: crispy duck, vegetable, and a rice paper wrapped lobster roll, served with plum and sweet chili sauce.
  • Thai Beef Salad- Rare-seared beef, tossed with scallions, tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers, presented on salad greens and sprinkled with fresh mint, chilies, and a lime-leaf dressing.
  • Green Papaya Salad- Finely shredded raw vegetables and spinach, tomato, water chestnuts and papaya tossed with lime juice and palm sugar.

Sushi & Sashimi Menu

  • Sashimi- Sliced, raw fish served with pickled ginger and wasabi; Tuna, Salmon, Halibut, Mackerel.
  • Nigiri Sushi- Thinly sliced raw fish seasoned with wasabi, wrapped around seasoned rice; Tuna, Salmon, Halibut, Mackerel.
  • Hosomaki- Nori wrappers rolled with seasoned rice and one filling; Cucumber, Avocado, Pickled Daikon, Tamagoyaki.
  • Futomaki- Nori wrappers rolled with seasoned rice and assorted fillings.
  • Rainbow Roll- Reversed California roll topped with an assortment of fish.
  • California Roll- Crab, avocado and cucumber.
  • Salmon Tsutsumi Roll- Salmon, avocado, cream cheese.
  • Tuna Tsutsumi Roll- Vegetable roll topped with tuna slices.
  • Yozo Roll- Halibut, masago, asparagus, Japanese mayonnaise.
  • Yoshi Roll- Tempura swai, avocado, scallion, Japanese mayonnaise.
  • Wraps- Indonesian vegetable, seafood, lettuce, chicken.

The Tamarind entrées were all based around the five Chinese elements which signified the different types of energy in their states of constant interaction. The Tamarind chefs employed water, wood, fire, earth, and metal (cooking tools) as they combined the essential elements of several Asian cuisines in order to ignite new culinary possibilities.

Water

  • Hoisin-Lime Glazed Swai- Pan-seared until golden and crowned with tender wok-cooked Asian greens.
  • Asia-Pacific Hot Pot- Presented in a flavorful lemongrass stock with fresh scallions, shallots, garlic, lemongrass and cilantro, featuring shrimp, scallops, manila clams, basa, crab legs and squid.
  • Pompano Baked in Rice Paper- Steamed pompano, marinated in citrus-infused sake and golden-baked, served atop a bed of steamed Asian greens.
  • Cedar Planked Halibut with Shrimp Scampi- Roasted garlic and cilantro butter.

Wood

  • Wasabi and Soy Crusted Beef Tenderloin- Served on an oak plank with tempura of onion rings and vegetables.
  • Scallops and Prawns with Garlic, Ginger, and Chili- Steamed to perfection and drizzled with a light soy sauce, coriander and red chilies, served with yogurt sauce.
  • Cantonese Duck with Hainan Rice- Roasted, served on a bed of chicken broth infused rice, and garnished with flakes of fresh chili and cilantro.

Fire

  • Szechuan Shrimp with Thai Basil- Sautéed with chili pepper glaze, Asian spices, straw mushrooms, sweet bell peppers, and scallions.
  • Penang Red Curry Coconut Chicken- Mildly spiced chicken with snow peas, eggplant, zucchini, pimientos, opal basil, lemon grass, and lime juice. Presented in a bath of red curry and coconut milk.
  • Vietnamese-Style Lamb with Mint- Thinly sliced marinated lamb, sautéed with bell peppers, shiitake mushrooms, spinach leaves, minced garlic, and scallions.

Earth (Vegetarian)

  • Five-Spice Seitan and Tempeh- Seared with thinly sliced red bell pepper, enoki mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli, scallions, garlic, ginger, and soy sauce.
  • Sesame Udon Noodles- Japanese wheat noodles stir-fried with tofu and vegetables. Sprinkled with toasted peanuts and sesame seeds.
  • Sweet and Sour Vegetable Tempura- Asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms, green beans, and carrots dipped in a light batter and fried.

On The Side

  • Steamed seasonal garden vegetables with red miso garlic sauce.
  • Steamed jasmine rice or brown rice.
  • Stir-fried cucumber, snow peas, mushrooms, scallions, and chili with sesame seeds.
  • Bok choy with oyster sauce.
  • Sake-braised oyster and shiitake mushrooms.

Desserts

  • Tamarind Chocolate- A bittersweet chocolate shell filled with a rich tamarind-flavored chocolate and ginger mousse.
  • Mango Cloud- A light egg white soufflé served with a mango sorbet.
  • Tempura Ice Cream- Coconut and Javanese coffee with infused lemongrass sauce anglaise.
  • Chocolate Almond Fortune Cookie- An almond baked tuile with a surprise filling of chocolate ganache.
  • Ginger Banana Bread Pudding- With tempura bananas and caramel sauce.
  • Trio of Sorbets- Passion fruit basil, lychee green tea, and wasabi.

“Pan Asian Boutique” of Coffees and Teas- (which were actually different than the 'normal' teas you were offered around the ship, and were excellent.)

Are you drooling yet? I actually regret that I didn't go back for another meal. As you can see, I enjoyed every minute of my Tamarind Chocolate Dessert!

Just an FYI if you are wondering? With all the eating I did, turns out that I only put on .6 of a pound by the time I got back (and I think that came from the travel day!). I definitely think not gaining weight despite what I ate was because I never took the elevator and walked those stairs many times a day. Definitely, you needed something to offset the good food!

Tuesday
Nov122013

Musings of a Cruise Virgin - Gluttony or Just Plain Good Food

If you believe in this stuff, Gluttony is one of the 7 deadly sins. It is defined as an "inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires". Apparently, if you commit the sin of gluttony, you end up in hell and would be force-fed rats, toads, and snakes. Luckily, although gluttony was clearly a big part of the cruise, I did not see anyone eating rats, toads or snakes (although I hear they all taste like chicken...).

Basically, I am somewhat of a food snob. Well, maybe more than 'somewhat'. I am a food snob. A lot of that comes from living in Northern California where you will be hard pressed to find a restaurant or a cuisine that is not above average to absolutely wonderful. Even little local restaurants that you find on every corner have excellent food, using our fresh, local ingredients that are so available here. But it is also because I love food - how it looks, how it smells and how it tastes (and sometimes even, how it feels!). Food is good, and I could very easily become a glutton if I didn't constantly watch my eating.

I was really looking forward to exploring the food on the ship as I had heard countless stories of excellent food, gluttony and weigh gain from taking a cruise. I talked to a gentleman who said he lost 30 pounds before the cruise so he could eat as much as he wanted. His lost 30 pounds gave him the room to do so, and actually, if you ate what was available and didn't climb the stairs, you probably could gain 30 pounds! Sitting at various tables, at various different restaurants throughout the cruise, with different types of people and different menus, I was fascinated watching people as they ate because some of them really did eat everything available.

Most people aboard the cruise had the 'As You Wish' plan. In other words, you could eat anywhere, at anytime it was available, and eat anything and everything you wanted. You didn't need to worry about the cost as no one kept tabs on what you were eating. In addition, there were three specialty restaurants on board that you would have to pay an additional minimal $8-15 dollars if you chose to eat there, but again, you basically could eat all you wanted even in the specialty restaurants. The specialty restaurants just took the food and food service up a notch.

The basic restaurant was The Lido. It was part service and part buffet, and very relaxed. You could go through the line and then take your food outside onto the deck and eat, or you could eat in the dining room. Breakfasts featured pancakes, fresh fruit, omelets and more. For lunch, choices included sushi, pizza, gourmet sandwiches and an extensive salad bar. Although I did occasionally eat breakfast there, I never ate dinner in the Lido because, as my roomie said, she was there to be served. So she wanted to sit at a table and be served. But from talking to people, the dinner buffet was good.

The main dining room was on two levels with surround sound picture windows. It was usually open for breakfast and dinner (sometimes lunch) and was probably where most of the passengers ate regularly. You could come anytime you wanted, eat with people you knew, or sit at a 'shared table' and get to meet and know other passengers (which is usually what I did). The last option was if you chose to eat at a set time every day, then you would sit with the same people every meal and were seated upstairs in the smaller, more intimate dining area.

Both floors had white linens, sparkling crystal and Rosenthal china. On the two 'formal' nights, even the chairs were covered with white cloth to really 'classy' up the joint. The two formal nights were when we were 'at sea' and people really did dress up! There were guys in tuxedos and women in long gowns, but they were probably the exception. However, suits were required and nice tops/slacks and dresses for the women. While most people dressed nicely every night, these two nights just took it up a notch. Although I had to actually dig REALLY deep in my closet to find something dressy (I found a sparkly jacket that had belonged to my mother which I didn't even know I had), it was actually quite fun to play dress up.

Of course there were photographers to take your picture as you entered the dining room, and roving photographers to take a picture at your table which, of course, were then for sale. Here's a picture of our Phenomenal Life group on one of our 'formal' nights. Pretty good looking bunch of phenomenal people if I do say so myself!

Back to the gluttony. Because you could eat what you wanted, I would occasionally sit at a table where people would get 2 Hors d'oeuvres, soup and salad (or a couple of each), plus an entrée or two. If I, for example, was eating something they hadn't ordered, and it looked good to them, then they would just order it for themselves as well. So at times, there was a huge amount of food on the table. There was no way I could have eaten as much as many of my fellow table-mates ate, just because I would have been stuffed. However, there were times when I might get a shrimp cocktail and also an escargot and that would be fine.

I enjoyed watching people eat especially when they were really enjoying their food. However, what bothered me and what I did not enjoy, was watching the amount of food wasted, from not only the tables where I sat, but all the food I could see being carried away from the other tables as well. Yes, it did all get recycled and composted, but it seemed such a waste. I was obviously being very judgmental, something that I try not to do.

I'm of the generation where my mother used to tell me to "eat all the food on my plate because there were starving kids in Africa" (or occasionally China). Hopefully, I never said that to my kids, but because of that, even now it can be a struggle for me to stop eating when I'm full just because of that little voice in the back of my head (although I never could figure out how my uneaten brussel sprouts would help a kid in Africa). But here, clearly people came on this cruise just so they could eat (and eat, and eat...). It was part of the cruise culture. So I put away my judgments, enjoyed the food I ate, let everyone else do what they enjoyed, and hoped that the poor starving children in Africa or China had something to eat that night. Bon Appétit!

Monday
Nov112013

Musings of a Cruise Virgin - Turbins and Grand Turks

I consider myself to be somewhat well travelled. But I had never been to what I thought of as the true Caribbean; white sands and crystal clear blue water. I visited Isle de Mujeres years ago which did have beautiful water, but that island is off the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and not what I considered the 'hey, mon' part of the Caribbean. So I looked forward to our first port of call on Grand Turk, of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The Turks and Caicos Islands are true tropical islands in the Lucayan Archipelago which is part of the Antilles/Bahamas island chain. There have been people living there since 500AD, arriving from Hispaniola and Cuba.  

When the Spanish arrived in 1500, they captured the indigenous inhabitants, the Tainto Indians, and used them as slaves. In a few years, the area was totally depopulated until about 100 years later. The political control over the next few centuries went from Spanish to French to British, although none of these countries ever established an actual colony on the islands. [Currently, the islands are a separate autonomous British Overseas Territory with their own government.]

During the 1700's, the islands became popular pirate hideouts. Bermudan salt traders also used them during that time. After the Revolutionary war in the United States, the Loyalists fled to the islands to raise cotton and export salt, bringing with them or using the local inhabitants as slaves. They were never really successful and when they left the islands, their slaves remained.

Eventually the British took the islands annexing them to the Bahamas. After slavery was abolished by the British in 1833, all slaves were freed on the islands. In addition, a couple of Spanish slave ships were wrecked off the coast with most of the slaves on those ships surviving. They swam to shore, were freed and began living on the islands. Many of the native inhabitants can trace their ancestry to those Loyalists' slaves and those surviving the wrecked ships!

Grand Turk is the largest island in the Turks Islands with the name coming from the Turks Cap cactus. One of its claim to fame is that John Glenn's Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft landed in the vicinity and he was taken to Grand Turk. However, it wasn't until mid 1980 when Club Med build a huge resort, that Grand Turk became one of the prime vacation destinations worldwide, helped by the building of the Grand Turk Cruise Center where we landed.

It was, as I expected since we landed in the 'Cruise Center', filled with touristy, fake (most items came from China), overpriced and cheap souvenirs. There were lots of these shops and places to eat and drink. It actually had the Caribbean’s largest Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville restaurant which was blasting out Jimmy's songs. While loads of people were shopping and enjoying themselves, that was not what I was looking for. I wanted to swim.

As I could see from the ship as we were docking, the beach itself was jam packed with neat lines of chaise lounges and boats for all us cruisers, again, none of which I was really interested in. I wanted to lie in the sand, close my eyes, swim in the incredible water, all the time while not worrying about stepping on another person or bumping into another swimmer.

So I walked down the incredible white sand beach as far as I could go, away from shopping and crowds until I hit the pier. When I got to the end, I had my sought for peace and I took advantage of every minute of it! I spent the next couple of hours mainly floating around in water that was as warm as a bath and as clear as could be with white, white sand underneath. Then I'd lie out on the sand. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Absolute heaven!

I was hungry but I didn't want to go back to the ship to eat, nor did I want to go back to the cruise center and eat in any of those 'cruise-centered' places. As I was walking back, I stumbled upon Jack's Shack which had everything I was looking for - local flavor and good food! Jack had come to Grand Turk 10 years ago to build the cruise port, met his wife Janet (a relocated Canadian nurse) and fell in love with her and Grand Turk. They now run the place which was right on the beach. It consisted of a small circular bar, a few tables,and a kitchen run by chef LeRoy and his assistant.

I ordered the jerk chicken, a local Caribbean food. LeRoy is from Jamaica and he takes his Jamaican spices and mixes them for the jerk. Although I didn't get to hear him sing, apparently he is also a rasta DJ and cabaret singer at night. I thought I was only going to get a couple of small pieces, but ended up with a full half chicken. It was my first taste of 'jerk' and it was excellent! Nom, nom... I would go back just to hear him sing and to eat more of his chicken!

I could tell that this was a local hangout because all of the crew of the Nieuw Amsterdam that were allowed off ship were there including the night time entertainers and many of the higher level staff. They clearly knew where to go whenever they came to Grand Turk!

While eating and drinking, listening to reggae, and using the free wi-fi, I met some very interesting people, including 3-Toed Big Dick and his family from Boston (and yes, he really does just have 3 toes). I ended up running into them several more times on board ship. It is interesting that despite the ship having 2000 passengers, you did run into the same people on occasion which was fun as you got to know them a little better each time.

The time flew by. I don't feel I had enough time to just 'hang out' but we had to be back to the ship by a certain time, or they would leave you and you would have to find your own way to catch up to them! So I headed back to the ship and said good bye for now to white sands, balmy waters and jerk chicken. Puerto Rico was our next stop. 

 

Sunday
Nov102013

Musings of a Cruise Virgin - Is It Better to Give or Receive? (Depends!)

As I indulged in sipping my tea and eating my finger foods during Afternoon High Tea, (who got rid of Afternoon Tea as a regular part of the day, anyway?), I was musing over the service industry. There is the classic service industry where you are being directly served (like tea and cakes), and there is behind the scenes service, yet don't we all 'serve' in some way or another?

I was a lawyer for 30+ years. I served my clients. As a publishing consultant, I now serve my authors. Doctors serve their patients. Sales people serve their customers. CEO's serve their companies. Parents serve their kids and ultimately, kids will probably end up serving their aging parents. Even politicians (supposedly) serve their constituents (although in the United States, that recently has become very questionable!). I tried hard to think of something someone does that does not 'serve' in some way and I wondered if serving others was just part of being a human being, or was it something learned or taught?

Clearly, there are levels of service. I realized that probably what made a difference in the types of service was not so much the actual act of service itself, but how that service was provided. If, at today's tea, I had to keep calling people over to get more hot water, or never got offered the afternoon treats, or was ignored, then I would not have felt that I was really being served and my total experience would have been less. But when someone was attentive to what I needed, was there to fill my cup and offer more treats, the experience of Afternoon Tea was excellent. I had been properly 'served'.

I think that what a cruise actually 'sells', is service. Yes, on a cruise you get to go to wonderful ports, and eat, and shop, or do nothing, but it is the constant 'service' by the staff that makes it enjoyable and probably the bottom line as to why people go on a cruise. It is being pampered if you want it, or being left alone if you want that. On the ship everyone was there to provide service. You could not go anywhere on the ship without being greeted by any employee with a 'Good morning' (substitute afternoon or evening), and I actually got used to being called madam by everyone. Cruising is a 'service' industry that is taken very seriously. They were 'in service' to provide for all our comforts. That's what a cruise is all about.

Although that sounds wonderful (and it is), it actually takes a bit of getting used to as strange as that sounds, especially if you are used to being the one 'in service'. For example, I am used to doing everything for myself, my family and my business. It was strange to have people seat you, place your napkin in your lap, place a rolled towel under your legs when seated on a lounge chair, turn down your bed, bring you a beverage, or a million other little niceties. But that is what you pay for on a cruise. You pay to have people 'in service' to you.

And this is what got me reflecting. It was interesting to feel the initial hesitation in me to have people doing for me. But when I actually thought about my hesitation, I realized that to live a full life, you have to not only give (be in service) but also be able to receive as well. Since I've personally spent my life mainly in the 'giving' mode, being on this cruise made me re-assess my ability to actually open myself up to receive. I had to shift gears and realize that it was entirely alright for me to be on the receiving end of service. Once I realized that, I became perfectly content in having people who wanted to make my experience better be in service to me, and I was grateful for it. After all, I was on vacation, and that's why I was on the cruise.

“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it's wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.” Elizabeth Gilbert

Are you mostly a giver and if so, my question to you is how easy is it for you to receive?

Saturday
Nov092013

Musings of a Cruise Virgin - A Butcher, a Baker and Candlestick Maker

Imagine having to feed 2100 guests and 850 crew members, 3 times a day with originality and verve. Not only do you need to have the food preparation, but cooking, serving, and cleaning up after it is all done. You have to deal with specific dietary requirements of numerous guests and all the picky eaters, and it all has to be done within a specific time frame. Makes me shudder when I think of what it took to just get dinner on the table for my fussy family of four!

To get the meals prepared, there are 150 people in the galley consisting of 30 chefs, starting with the Executive and 2nd Executive Chefs, 5 Sous Chefs, 19 Demi Chefs, 36 assistant cooks, 5 apprentice cooks, 24 pantry cooks, a butcher, a baker and candlestick maker. There is a coffee pantry, in-room dining kitchen, a cold kitchen for all the cold appetizers and salads, individual bakery, fruit and vegetable preparation kitchens, a butcher shop, fish kitchen, soup kitchen and sauce kitchen. All have to perform and work together for every meal, serving close to 3000 people.

In addition to the Chefs/Cooks, there is the service staff. When I was sitting in the dining room, I tried to figure out the uniforms of all the 223 members of the service staff, but because of the variety of different looks, I never could. There was basic blue. Then there was blue with brown down the sides. There was brown and brown with blue down the sides. There was a maroon and a red as well. Clearly, each uniform designated a certain job.

Each of the 6 different dining rooms had their own manager and chief Chef. Then there were 61 dining room stewards, 59 assistant dining room stewards, 13 in room dining stewards (you can order food for your room 24 hours a day!), 42 wine stewards, 32 specialty servers and 2 doormen. Phew! The additional 30 General Purpose Attendants are behind the scenes and generally don’t have direct contact with the passengers. However, without them, everything would fall apart! They continuously clean all glasses, silverware, china, trays and plate covers, each requiring its own separate type of machine for cleaning.

The specific General Purpose Attendants assigned to dish washing have their own responsibility. Some sort the china and garbage on the trays that are returned to the Galley by the Dining Room Stewards. One attendant pre-washes the china and cutlery before another attendant feeds all the items into the correct dish washing machines. At the end of the machines, other attendants empty the machines and store the contents on shelves or in trolleys for the next meal service.

Because of the 6 different restaurants being on different decks, the Pot Wash and Dish washing stations need to be manned on different floors. Besides the dish washing chores, the General Purpose Attendants also ensure that all floors, walls and ceilings of the various galleys are clean during the service and cleaned and sanitized after each meal service.

 

 

 

 

 

I am a big recycling fan. Clearly, the ms Nieuw Amsterdam took recycling very seriously, not only for the actual ship but also getting the passengers to place their garbage in the correct bins as there were recycling bins in our staterooms and all around the ship.

Garbage was separated into color coded bins: yellow bins for leftover food, blue bins for empty bottles and tins or broken china and glassware, grey bins for all remaining waste. They actually go through ALL the garbage from around the ship at least twice to do proper recycling. Even though the recycling happened behind the scenes, I loved that aspect of the cruise line being responsible Earth partners. We get to enjoy all the beauty along the way, and they are helping to keep that beauty for us by recycling. Good job Holland America!