Day Four aboard the Holland America Amsterdam

Today I decided to see what the food options would be like for vegetarian traveling aboard the Amsterdam.

For first breakfast I had the garden veggie omelette with two vegi-links. Both more than satisfactory

Veggie Omelette
Veggie Omelette

Honestly, it was good. Really good. But there were no super flavour stand-outs.

Lunch on board, although we were in Skagway for the day, I still wanted to test the veggie options for lunch so I did come back on ship at lunch time.

I was very pleased with the veggie lunch choices available at the buffet on the Lido deck. There was a definite flavour punch from the veggie curry that I had alongside a scoop of Jasmine rice. Add in the double scoop of broccoli, peas and carrots, and I was pleased with my lunch options.

Veggie Lunch
Veggie Lunch

Later in the day I went back ashore in Skagway and walked up Broadway to the Skagway Brewing Company where they actually brew the beer right there in the building.

A cool thing about Skagway, and perhaps all of Alaska, is that people can bring their children into what I would call a bar, as long as the bar is still serving food. So that means that families were coming into the Skagway Brewing Company to enjoy a beer and burger while their kids were sitting there with them. It was a very chill atmosphere. Of course when the kitchen closes at 10pm, the kids have to get out and it is adults only.

Bexar and Blue Tip Porter
Bexar and Blue Tip Porter

While at the bar I was pleased to see that they offer a Blue Top Porter. Seeing as the bag I am traveling with, my Bexar Goods Vagabond backpack has a brother called the Porter Satchel I thought it only fitting that the Vagabond had his picture taken with the Blue Top Porter.

I was back on the ship in time for dinner. Sticking to the test of the veggie options I started my meal with a puree of farm veggies. This soup was excellent with a complete flavour profile (I really don’t know what that means but I heard Guy Fieri say it once so it must be good). It was a good, rich tasting soup.

Farmer Vegetable Puree
Farmer Vegetable Puree

The dinner entrée was breaded and roasted eggplant slices with a scoop of onion couscous with a chunky tomato sauce. I was glad that I was not terribly hungry this evening because once again, although the dish was good, it just tasted somewhat uninspired. Good, not great.

My test of any meal is to ask myself, “Would I order it again?” I can say, I would not order that dish again.

About Skagway. It is a very funky little town. In the summer for the tourist season there are close to 4000 people living here. In the winter, after tourist season has ended, there are 500-800 people who stay the winter.

Skagway
Skagway

During tourist season there is a jewelry store for every man, woman and child who stays the winter. It is insane. It may be difficult for a local Skagway resident to buy groceries, but in tourist season that local could buy a diamond or tanzanite necklace any day of the week.

However, at the end of the day, I resisted the endless selection of watches, rings and necklaces and just got back on the Amsterdam. Perhaps I will find the selection of watches and jewelry more complete in Juneau. I will try and report out tomorrow.

 

 

 

Day Two aboard the Celebrity Century

Day Two aboard the Celebrity Century started for me at 4:16am when the ship gave out a mighty groan and moan while violently listing to the port side and then back to starboard. It settled down basically immediately so I went back to sleep until my internal alarm clock awoke me at 10:30am.

I’m not the kind of person who gets up and eats right away. I need a cup of coffee or two and a leisurely stroll around the neighbourhood (usually with a dog) before I am ready to eat. So this morning I went up to the buffet, poured myself a coffee from the 45-gallon drum of coffee that was available and went for a walk.

I walked around the buffet admiring the unique breakfasts available to every ethnic group.

American breakfast photo If sausages and carved roast beast are not to your liking, try the English breakfast photo Blood sausage, kippers and beans not to your liking?

The Asian breakfast photo offers up congee with beef or without. Or perhaps you would prefer some stir fried tofu and potatoes with cheese. Or Miso soup.

Also at each station is someone ready and willing to make you an omelette with whatever you want in it.

Once my veins were re-caffeinated I went back to the room, got properly attired and then headed back to the Grand Dining room. I really do prefer sitting down and having someone bring my meal to me than the free for all of the buffet. And the thing is that you can order whatever you want off the menu and get it made to suit your tastes.

I ordered the Eggs Benedict. On the menu was smoked salmon, cream cheese and capers. I asked for that to be added to my plate so that could create my very own Westcoast Benedict. (photo) As soon as I placed my breakfast order the other people sitting at my table commented that my order was a very “westcoast” style. The truth then came out that all of us were from Vancouver, albeit two of them were from Vancouver, Washington.

Knowing that the kitchen was seriously under the gun with breakfast orders coming in, I was very pleasantly surprised to have my Bennies arrive very quyickly with the eggs cooked to perfection. The egg yolks were the classic egg porn-look as I broke the yolks open. A very pleasant way to begin the day.

After breakfast was done I returned to my room, freshened up and prepared myself for lunch.

Before going for lunch my travel companion and I elected to attend a food demonstration in the Murano restaurant. The Murano is the restaurant that you have to pay to eat in. Always being ready to enjoy a food-prep demonstration, we thought this would be a fun event.

Honestly, it was more like being on the midway at the PNE. The demo consisted of 25 minutes of encouraging the attendees to book for a lunch, a dinner event, a Champagne tea service and a hands-on cooking event in which if you booked early, for $100, they would give you the accompanying cookbook at no additional charge. By the end of the demonstration I was bracing myself for a pitch to buy into a timeshare opportunity on the ship.

The fun part of the demonstration was when the chef flambéed the filet mignon while the restaurant manager was furiously shouting “no-no-no” and phoning the ship’s bridge to keep them from activating the sprinkler system in the room full of spectators.

After that demonstration lunch back in the Grand was uneventful. A non-descript potato and leek bisque followed by prawns and butterfly pasta. A little dash of salt and a grind of pepper added some life to the bisque. I have noticed that the food is light on the garlic. The prawns would have benefited from a heavier hand on the garlic throttle. I wonder of that is to avoid too strong of a flavour for the majority of the passengers? I’m not sure.

Post-lunch snacks were compliments of the Cova Café, a little coffee shop in the middle of the ship. They have the most adorable little sandwiches that you just want to hug and cuddle. (photo)

At 2:30 they pull the sandwiches and offer equally as adorable pastries. Very quickly I realized that it is better to take small portions and return for more if you like. This is ion contrast to the people in front of me at the Cova Café who kept saying, “oh, one more of those…” until their plate was stacked with 12 sandwiches.

Next up is dinner, which if memory serves me correctly is formal night so I may be pulling out the matching Puma tracksuit.

I suppose it is important to note that I am enjoying EVERYTHING about this northern adventure. Yes, there are people encouraging me to support the alcohol and boozer industry and yes there are people trying to have me purchase photos of me and my travel companion (special right now for $19.95) and all sorts of other amazing services and products but this cruising business, it is FABULOUS!!

 

A Visit Aboard the Regent Seven Seas Navigator

I am home again after visiting the Regent Seven Seas Navigator. Ahh…the Navigator….a world unto itself. A world where the service level is unparalleled, where at every turn there is a smiling crew member welcoming you aboard, offering assistance, offering a glass of Champagne. Ahh…the Navigator.

Seven Seas Navigator
Seven Seas Navigator

I was intrigued by the Regent Seven Seas Navigator after I read that in December 2009 she had been in a German dry-dock for 40 days where she received a $30 million refit. To put that into context, the typical cruise ship is in dry-dock for 7-10 days when being refit. So I was excited to see what the end result was like.

The result is what I would call a boutique-style, six-star cruise ship. Boutique in the sense that she carries some 490 passengers with a crew of approximately 360. The Navigator has some of the highest space and service ratios in the cruising world.

All of the suites, and this vessel is an all-suite, all oceanview vessel, are well appointed and spacious. The suites are extraordinarily large, some of them are over 1100 square feet. Each with beautiful natural lighting due to the fact that every suite has a balcony with an oceanview.

Penthouse Suite on the Navigator
Penthouse Suite on the Navigator

Another benefit that comes with some of the suites is the individual attention of a butler. Yes, a butler. When I asked Florian Kibgilka, Food and Beverage Manager and my tour guide aboard the Navigator what a butler might add to your cruise experience he informed me that it is the personal touch that some people enjoy. The butler will see that your shoes are polished, your appointments and reservations are made, your breakfast arrives as you like it and when you like it. And perhaps most importantly to some, the butler keeps the mini-bar in tip-top shape.

In Suite Mini-Bar on the Navigator
In Suite Mini-Bar on the Navigator

The butler simply makes your cruise experience everything you want it to be.

Regent Seven Seas made the decision to go all-inclusive in their cruises in order to change their cruise culture. Each guest is provided a complimentary bottle of Champagne when they arrive in their suite. The ship’s management and crew found that many people were then staying in their rooms and enjoying the free drinks without coming out of their suites. This detracted from the cruise experience because there was not the energy of people meeting and mingling in the social settings. Now you can wander into a cocktail lounge and order a drink when you want. Interestingly, I was told that over time there has only been a slight increase in the volume of alcoholic beverages served.

Smoking aboard the Seven Seas Navigator is very closely controlled. There is not smoking in the suites or in the public spaces. However, there is a smoking room called the Connoisseur Club. As we entered the smoking room the pleasant aroma of cigars and pipes took me back in time to when I was a small child and I would visit with my great-Grandfather.

In the smoking room you can find a selection of fine single malt and blended Scotch whiskeys to be enjoy.

Scotch Cabinet in the Smoking Room
Scotch Cabinet in the Smoking Room

My eyes really light up when I saw in a glass showcase of its own a bottle of Remy Martin Louis XIII. I asked if this was part of the all-inclusive beverage package and was advised that in fact it was not.

Remy Martin Louis XIII
Remy Martin Louis XIII

As you can see in the above photo, at some point, someone has enjoyed this fine Cognac. Understandably, I was not offered a sample during my brief visit aboard.

And then there is the food…Prime 7, Compass Rose, La Verandah, the Pool Side Grill, and little coffee shops nestled everywhere. If you don’t feel like leaving the comfort of your room there is 24 hour room service. Of course if you are in one of the suites that has butler service, your wish is his command.

Myself, I enjoyed a beautiful lunch in the Navigator’s largest dining room, the Compass Rose. My lunch companion was my on board tour guide, Florian Kibgilka. And remember, he is the Food and Beverage Manager so not only was the kitchen trying to impress me, they also had their boss sitting at the same table as me. For now I will say that our lunch server, Annika was perfectly attentive.

To hear about the details of our lunch, check back in tomorrow and I will provide a full account of my lunch as well I will talk about the many other dining options that are available on board the Navigator.

DisclosureMy tour of, and lunch aboard the Regent Seven Seas Navigator is being sponsored very generously by the kind and thoughtful people of Regent Seven Seas. I am not obligated nor expected to write about my experiences aboard the Navigator or any follow-up entries, but I certainly feel that my readers will benefit from my description of my tour of this ship. In any review I write or publish on my site, I retain editorial control at all times. Should you have any questions or concerns, contact me at editor@theleftcoast.ca

A Tour of the Cruise Lines in Vancouver

Pretty exciting times here at Stacey Robinsmith dot com…we have been invited aboard the Regent 7 Seas cruise ship, the Navigator for a tour of the ship’s amenities and a lunch.

The Navigator does the Vancouver to Alaska run all summer long for the Regent 7 Seas cruise line accommodating 490 guests at an unusual level of luxury and some of the highest space and service ratios at sea. She, the Navigator, has all-suite, all-ocean-view accommodations with luxurious marble baths. She also has food service that is unparalleled in the cruise industry. I have also heard that the ship staff are superbly attentive.

As well, we have been in touch with the people from Princess Cruise lines to arrange a comparative tour of their cruise ships.

More details to follow!!