Published: January 29th 2013January 27th 2013
The captain said that we’d have clear sailing to Montevideo, and should rapidly cross the sea to the coast. We’ve had relatively smooth seas, including what can be rough waters in the Drake’s Passage and here in the South Atlantic. We awoke for what almost seems surreal: our final “sea day”! Sharon went to morning mass, while I got caught up in the blog.
Before the priest officially started the mass, he told those hearty early morning risers the following joke, so we all can see what everyone else was missing. He began: A man was stopped by Saint Peter at the Holy Gates and said, “I don’t think that you belong here.” “What?” the man gasped, visibly shaken. “I’ve attended church EVERY Sunday!” “Hmm… I’m afraid that isn’t always enough!” “But…” the man stammered, “I’ve made donations to the church.” “Well,” Saint Peter thought, “Let me take this to the Lord and see what He has to say.” Saint Peter came back shortly. “Well?” The man asked, “What did He say?” “Ah yes. He said I should give this five dollars back to you, and tell you to go straight to Hell!”
After mass, we ate in the dining room and indulged in a leisurely breakfast. After breakfast I waited in line to pick-up our passports from Holland America (they had been picked up when we boarded to facilitate travel in Chile); meanwhile, Sharon attended the disembarking meeting in the Showroom. Afterwards I worked some more on the blog, before meeting Sharon in the Showroom for “Win A Cruise” Bingo. Five people called bingo, something Sharon and I have yet to do on this cruise. They had a rapid 4-corner playoff… the runner-up’s each won $100. DJ Alex had said before the game that he’d had as many as 6 people in a playoff before, which you’d think is unusual because players have just a single chance card in the game; while, in the jackpot bingo games where players can have one, three or six game cards for the blackout round, there may have been once that there’s been two players that had to split the prize. DJ Alex had kidded that if there were two winners, then the cruise for two would simply become a cruise that the two winners could share together.
We went again to the Rotterdam Dining Room for lunch where we shared a table with one other couple from Nebraska. We prefer dining this way, meeting new people from all over the world, sometimes even neighbors from your own backyard. After nearly three weeks onboard, it’s not unusual to sit with people you’ve eaten with before, and this couple had dined with Sharon and I for dinner previously, and also with me by myself for lunch once. It is a pleasant familiarity dining with newly made friends. Sharon and I have had our own table maybe two times, but that can happen if that’s all that is available, or you come in late or at an odd time for the meal. They always ask what your preference is, or if you’d mind dining with others. I enjoyed the vegetable spring roll in sesame sauce and the five-onion cream of onion soup. It was very good, but they only listed Vidalia onion, red onion, yellow onion and white onion in the description of the soup. I decided to try the Coconut Crusted Catfish with Mango Salsa, while Sharon was thrilled to see The Yankee Pot Roast after having virtually nothing but hamburgers for over two weeks. Lunch was running late for us, we peeked at the dessert menu and not fining a must-have chocolate selection, opted to rush off to Team Trivia. Normally we’re able to finish lunch in under one hour when arriving on time as we did today, but today it was already a few minutes before one.
We arrived at one sharp in the Crow’s Nest, and were surprised to find that they were already on Question Four. I think this is the first time that Team Trivia has started on or before the normal 1 PM start time listed in the “Daily Explorer”, the activity planner cruisers get the previous evening for the next day’s activities. It highlights the day for us, giving us information such as Show performers, Show Times, Activity Times and Locations, and the availability times of various services (e.g. dining times in the various restaurants, spa/salon times, gym times) and brief descriptions of some of the exploration activities such as lectures. On previous cruises I’ve seen the “Sudoku Time” listed of when that day’s game would be available in the library, but I haven’t seen that this cruise (it’s always been there when I’ve stopped by). Today’s puzzle is the notorious “Sunday Puzzle”, and I was expecting another brain-twister, so I was a little disappointed to find that it was a pretty straightforward puzzle that could mostly be solved by directly finding cell solutions, without annotating the cell possibilities. In a couple cases it helped to annotate some cells with alternate possibilities, but it was nothing like last Sunday’s puzzle, which I was unable to finish. I took an extra sheet today in case I again ran into the problem with trying to put too many annotations in so many small Sudoku cell-squares. It really would be helpful if HAL would go back to printing the "Easy / Hard” puzzles on the full size sheet of paper, or at least do this for the Sunday puzzle. Putting them side by side on a half sheet may save space, but is hard to deal with on some of the tougher puzzles. Sharon did remember who it was that won Best Supporting Actress in 1962 for The Miracle Worker. Most other teams went with Ann Bancroft, but the Helen Keller character was actually the supporting actress part, played by Patty Duke. And Sharon knew what city Stanley Park was in, the bonus question for three points… Vancouver. Even though we annoyed Kelsey by having her read the first four questions again, I don’t think we understood the questions even once we heard them. We did pretty good, getting most of the ones we gave answers for earning us ten points… better than the three points we got a few days back when we answered all of the questions. It only took thirteen points to win today, and of course, we were grading the sheet of the winner, and they were grading ours.
We went to dinner, and the menu looked quite similar to the surf and turf choices we had the previous night with the captain. I was almost wondering whether we were going to get the escargot appetizer that I’ve enjoyed on each of my previous cruises. Sharon thinks that it usually does come during the final week, though I thought it usually came in the first week of the cruise. Now I’m having that twice in two days, so I’m very happy. I know some people think “Yuck” when you think of eating snails, and if that’s how you think of it I would only say that if you like butter and you like garlic, and you once in your lifetime think you can get up enough courage to order them, a HAL cruise wouldn’t be a bad place to try them. You don’t need to deal with holding the shell with that strange shell grabber thing, or scooping the snail’s body out of the shell, which could easily turn people off; instead, they are served in a nice little special plate with seven circular indentations (one in the center of the serving plate, and six around that near the perimeter) and you take the small fork and one by one you pop them in your mouth, taste the butter and garlic, and swallow. Tonight’s hot soup was the pumpkin and squash soup, which was very good. Sharon was happy to get the chilled pear soup that she has been somehow missing on the past two cruises that we’ve been on. We both had the filet with lobster tail “surf and turf”. The meal was delicious, and doubly good for me because Sharon doesn’t eat shellfish, so I got her lobster tail as well. The meat was perfectly prepared for both of our tastes (medium-rare for me/medium for her). But I did notice that last night’s steak was a full one inch thick if not slightly more, and we suspected that they came from the Pinnacle, they were ‘that’ good; while, tonight’s steak was about one-half inch thick. We both really enjoyed our steaks. I had the Crème Brule for dessert, while Sharon ordered the “chef’s toque” stuffed with chocolate mousse. Several at our table were wondering what a “toque” was, and Sharon explained that it’s a chef’s hat, and this dessert featured a small white chocolate molded chef’s hat filled with the chocolate mousse. Both desserts were excellent.
We were a few minutes late getting to the show where Mark Donoghue was performing on the violin when we arrived. He also played the harmonic, guitar (that looked like half of the guitar might be missing) and the piano. He played with a lot of energy and was highly entertaining. Mark has a British accent, and although much of his music was without vocals, sometimes collages of popular tunes that are easily recognized, he did offer us one song that he said, took him forever to get up the nerve to perform in public. This is because it needs to be sung by someone with a distinctly American accent, or more precisely, an American “country” accent. He did his best with “A Devil Went Down to Georgia”, and as much as he tried to suppress that British flair in his voice, and he came very close to hitting a “Walter Cronkite” articulation of English, I don’t think Walter Cronkite would sound quite right singing this song either. His fiddle playing was excellent, as was the medley of theme songs from Western TV shows of the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s.
After the show we stopped in the piano bar, or I should say, I stopped in the piano bar while Sharon rushed off to play her slot machine. I found a nice spot in the corner, and when the drink-girl came by I ordered a Coke for Sharon and a Long Island Iced Tea for myself. I thought I’d see if the drink I got was the same as what I received at the reception with the captain. Sharon came before the drinks came; although, before Sharon arrived, this whole secluded section of the bar had filled up with people all around me. At the table next to us, some ditzy blonde grabbed the glass of ice off of the drink-girl’s tray and then shook her finger saying “No, no… I want a DIET Coke!” seeing the Red and White Polar Bear can on the tray. She realized what she had done when the regular Coke can was set down in front of Sharon. One of Sharon’s pet peeves, I mean besides ditzy blondes, is people who think there are polar bears in Antarctica. Yet I’ve been seeing these little red cans with polar bears the whole cruise. I’m not sure how that advertising campaign went for Coke. First with the mix-up with the penguins, and then with the can that die-hard Coke drinkers hated. I’m wondering if HAL didn’t get quite a bargain buying up the surplus from Coca-Cola. Jamm the Piano Man was in great form tonight, playing only requests from the audience. People dropped their requests into a hat, and he seemed to accommodate a huge variety of requests from all eras. Once he said he couldn’t remember that last time he had played that particular request, did a brief check on his notepad, and started right in. Kelsey the Cruise Director had complimented him at the Show on a previous evening when she had come out to introduce that evening’s entertainment, with the typical warm-up banter of “How’s everyone enjoying the cruise. She had mentioned how Jamm had stayed up until 4 AM in the morning, playing for just one couple, and they were all having such a good time. I took a sip from my Long Island Iced Tea, and I could tell that it was good, but it didn’t quite seem the same as the one I’d had the day before. I couldn’t quite put my finger on the difference, I enjoyed the drink, it might not have been as strong, but still far better than I’ve ever had dining out. We listened to the music for quite a while; I even got some of those goldfish snacks. When Sharon finished her Coke, I helped a little bit, we decided to call it a night.