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Published: January 7th 2022
Seasick. Yes, that is what ran through my mind as I woke up feeling slightly under the weather and sluggish in my cabin. Seasickness could truly be the only reason. (mmm-hmm). After hitting the snooze alarm a few times, I rallied and met Dave and Merry Jo for coffee, although I wasn’t up to facing breakfast quite yet. We lingered at the table as we sailed along the river. Today was a low-key day with no off-ship excursions, also known as a relaxing vacation day. The sun came out making for a perfect day to sit on deck and read. It was nice to sit on the Sun Deck and watch the scenery pass by while waiting for some more food. Lunch was always a full-on buffet with entrees, salads, desserts, and an action station of fresh hot food. One day they served a roasted pork belly that was out of this world, while the made to order item was linguini carbonara. Yes, lunch was always a highlight of the day. Well, until dinner rolled around. Or breakfast. Dang, I think I have just stumbled across the fact that I may be a food driven person. Fortunately, I don’t feel that
I was alone in that label, and Tauck caters to foodies like me.
In the afternoon, there was a cutthroat game of trivia in the lounge. It was a lot of fun and proved that other than being very good at television theme songs, I am not well versed in trivia. Fortunately for our team, Dave and my teammates had lots of sporting and other trivia knowledge. Cruise Director Jeremy had fun video clips to play with each question, drinks were served, we collaborated with passengers we hadn’t talked with much, and we KICKED the other team’s butt. I guess that is a little overly dramatic, but hey, with trivia, I think overly dramatic is permitted if not encouraged. Our prize was actually much nicer than I had anticipated; we received nice cork journals and Tauck pens from the gift shop. I ultimately gave mine to my friend Kim back in Seattle because I know she will use it whereas I would want it just to have it.
Basking in the glow of Trivia Triumph, I treated myself to a nap before dinner. For dinner tonight, we had reservations at Arthur’s, the restaurant on the stern of the
ship. This is the restaurant that has hydraulics to raise and lower the walls to allow passage through the tight bridges and locks along the river. Inside, it isn’t obvious until one starts to really look at how things are designed to fold down. Instead of an a la carte dinner, Arthur’s features Portuguese Petiscos, the name for Potuguese tapas. We dined with a couple from the Detroit area that we had spent some time with and had a very nice evening. This is a warning that I am going to start going on about food, so if you are hungry, or aren’t a fan of food talk, you might want to skip the next paragraph.
In the center of the dining room was a large table with a built-in ice well to hold the cold tapas. There were sardines, a garbanzo salad that was perfectly dressed, olives, prosciutto wrapped melon, salads, poached mussels, cutting boards of locally cured meats, sausage and cheese, and grilled artichokes along with fresh bread. This was a bounty and would have made me happy as can be if that was all there was, but there was more. The hot foods were not as
over the top as the cold food, but they were still tasty. I don’t remember what all was served, but there were cod fritters for sure. Victor the Maitre D’ used alcohol to roast off a chorizo. We had seen this in our Lisbon cooking class and it was nice to watch again. The real treat of this show was getting to eat the freshly roasted chorizo. I am a fan for sure. With the vast quantity of food, wine, and a special port, this was a gastronomic delight, and I was happy as could be. I opted to pass on the star talk on the Sun (Moon) Deck. In the Outback of Australia I was fooled by a star talk. They didn’t talk about the Kardashians or Miley Cyrus at all, but focused on stars and astronomy. Fool me once…..
The Andorinha docked in Spain overnight, although we technically weren’t in Spain. After a well-deserved breakfast, we went via motor coaches to the medieval town of Castelo Rodrigo. It was a long ride to get to the town, so we saw lots of the country. Along with port, this region is a major producer of almonds and fantastic
olive oil, so we saw terraces of grape vines and olive trees soaking up the late summer sun. We also saw cork drying in the sun, another major product of the region. The motor coaches follow along the river as we cruise, meaning we have the same drivers for each excursion. Sergio our driver was superb, and put that coach through twisty, curvy, steep roads that I would never want to drive.
Castelo Rodrigo was a fun tour. It was old, walled, and everything one would expect. Walking through this town on a warm, sunny day, I lived large and took my VOX headset off, so I didn’t have to listen to the non-stop commentary of the tour guide. Sometimes I want to enjoy the scenery in silence without having to learn the history. While I may not be able to tell you much about the town, I can tell you how it looked, felt, smelled and sounded as we wandered down ancient streets. Workers were doing work on one house as a dog came up to join our small group for a bit. I enjoyed myself so much more once I unplugged. At the small shop at the
end of the tour, I picked up specialty olive oils to take home as gifts. Sitting on the coach as we drove away, I was content and pleased with the day.
While we were out playing in the city, the crew had set up an elaborate Portuguese BBQ on the sun deck. The Chef was out grilling chicken, there were chafing dishes of corn on the cob, baked beans, and more that I couldn’t see. Then, out of nowhere, the skies opened and drenched the whole operation. I felt so sorry for the team because I know how much work went into setting this up, and now it was all torn down and moved to the dining room. While I was waiting for the change to happen, I stood an watched as a Viking ship very carefully pulled up alongside of us. A ramp was set between the two ships, and passengers from their ship walked through ours to disembark. It was fun to see the interactions between the two crews as they worked together on this.
This evening was the Chef’s Signature dinner. This was a dress up, be pampered evening for the whole ship. Tables were
elaborate with tuxedo fold napkins, china, silver and crisp linens. I really hate to say it though, but I was underwhelmed with the food at this event. The showmanship was top notch: soup was poured into our bowls tableside, puffs of smoked wafted out when glass domes were lifted, cloches were dramatically raised in unison, crème brulee arrived still on fire. Yet, the mushrooms in the soup were tough and chewy, my scallop was so small and overcooked that it lacked any flavor. The entrée was lovely, and the dessert was the standout of the dinner. I hate to rain on the parade, and hopefully you know me well enough to know that I am not unjustly harsh on dinners; however, this one lacked the substance I had anticipated. Still, an elegant evening like this is always a treat, and we all had a bang-up-good time.
Breakfast the next morning was a hoot. I tried to explain how I wanted my blueberries in my pancake, not on the side. It took a while, but I received my blue, as in blue colored, pancakes. I think they pureed the blueberries and folded them into the batter. It was unusual, but
I guess it was what I had asked for, and I loved the effort. Overall, I have been pleased with the food on this cruise, and the staff I talk with all call me chef instead of Mr. Vermillion. Heck I walked into the wheelhouse to chat with the Captain one day and he simply looked up and said “Hello Chef”. These are the small touches that make this trip special. Sadly, there is far too much to write about, too many photos to post and too many wonderful memories to include in this posting, so you will have to return to read the next installment. Actually, I don’t think that is sad at all. No, I think it is something to anticipate. See you then.
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