End of the Cruise Considerations

Some end of the cruise considerations and words of advice to help improve your future cruise experience.

Cruise Ship
Cruise Ship

First, after you have packed all your clothing, throw in three more pair of socks. Make that four. They take up virtually no room and there is nothing more comfortable than clean, dry socks after being on your feet for extended periods of time.

Next, if you meet someone and it sounds like they are English, do not begin by asking if they are English. Instead, ask where they are from. That way, when you find out they are in fact Irish, you will not be subjected to a detailed history of every battle and war that the Irish fought to earn their independence from British rule.

An Irish accent is lovely until you start hearing a rant about the six counties who are still under British rule and the 26 counties who have been independent of British rule since 1912 or 16 or 22 or something. If you pay heed to any of my advice in this post, pay heed to this one. And the extra socks.

Finally, when packing your clothing, do not bring that suit or dress that is just a tiny bit too snug. On the final evening of your cruise that piece of clothing will be a taunting reminder of just how many times a day you ate Eggs Benedict. And crispy bacon and sausages and hash browns and toast and pizza and steak and lobster and crab legs dipped in butter….

Most importantly, when cruising, say hi to people, have fun and be kind. Particularly to the people working on these massive floating hotels. But have fun. I certainly did.

Day Three Aboard the Celebrity Century; Discovery Day

The Mob Moves
The Mob Moves

Day three aboard the Celebrity Century was a day of discovery. Did you know that they have shows and entertainment on these cruise ships? Comedians, dancers, game shows…who knew, I certainly did not.

However, before we get into the shows, a cool experience for me today, I joined with what seemed like the rest of the guests aboard the Century (photos of the mob) and went for a tour of the galley (that is nautical-speak for “kitchen”). While the massive group was waiting to enter the galley the executive chef asked if there were any questions he could answer. I don’t like to be a shrinking violet so I shot my hand up into the air and next thing I knew the director of food services had a microphone in my face and I was asking the executive chef; “Why do you not purchase more ingredients in the local markets? For example, the butter on the tables is from Wisconsin. Why do you not buy local?”

Although I accept his answer, I don’t think it was very factual; he told the gathered foodies that they Celebrity has a central purchasing policy in order to control the quality of the food that they purchase.

My take on it is that they probably have a central purchasing and warehousing operation because the scale of their central purchasing power is better leveraged to save money for the organization. However, I do accept that their belief in presenting quality ingredients to the guests aboard their ships is a sincere belief.

Which takes us to our dinner. Not our first or second early supper but our official six o’clock sit down in the Grand Restaurant with our Japanese lady friends.

When I am at home I find it difficult to cook a steak perfectly. Yes, it is true; I am not a barbecue master. So when I am out and I see steak on the menu, especially the daily fresh sheet, I like to order steak. Last night my travel companion and I both ordered the sirloin strip steak, cooked medium rare.

My steak was tough but “okay”.

Sirloin Steak
Sirloin Steak

(photo of my dinner) Not good, not bad enough to send back. However, the steak on my travel companion’s plate was so tough that he could not cut it with his steak knife.

What happened next was noteworthy. We called over our waiter who promptly recommended a substitute meal that he thought would be more to our liking. Can you believe it, that piece of meat was also as tough as you can get!

Now, keep in mind that we did not complain about the meal in order to get out of paying the bill or to get something for nothing (we realize the meals are all included in the fare). We wanted them to know that something had failed in their system.

Next thing we know, the restaurant maître d and the executive chef are at our table attempting to make things right! They apologized every which way to Sunday while adding in that nobody else had complained about their steaks that evening. That made me wonder if they were thinking we were not justified in complaining and that perhaps we just did not know what a good steak is really like.

We accepted their apologies, knowing that systems occasionally do fail, and prepared to move on. As we were walking out of the restaurant the maître d told us that he was personally going to see that there was a filet mignon (not on the menu or the daily special sheet) for both us for our next meal in the Grand Restaurant.

The lesson? The quality system failed Celebrity but the safety system, the PEOPLE they have in place made everything right. I can assure you, we left the Grand Restaurant as happy customers. Cudos to the people who are the fact of Celebrity.

I will leave the entertainment and game show stories to another blog post. I will leave this seed of a question for you; have you ever played the newly-wed game where the host separates husband and wife and asks them questions about each other and then brings them back together to answer those questions? Watching that game made me stay up late wondering how my Sweetheart would answer questions about me. Hmmmm…


Day Two Part Two Aboard the Celebrity Century

Day two aboard the Celebrity Century is in the books and we are into day three. That means we have eaten first dinner, second supper, late evening snack seen a dance extravaganza and had our first breakfast. Yes, this is tough work but I believe I am rising to the challenge of my work and representing the hungry class to the best of my ability.

First dinner was had on the pool deck at the Verandah Café. I had the choice of certified Angus beef, chicken, turkey or veggie burgers. I chose turkey burger and fries.

Turkey Burger
Turkey Burger

(photo) Add on a stack of bacon, grilled onions; a slice of tomato and a tiny side of fries (to help me avoid scurvy while at sea) and first supper was ready.

An interesting observation I have come to is that although it is “all you can eat” style food the staff aboard the ship serve basically all food. So at breakfast you can eat that ten pounds of bacon and sausages if you like, you have to tell the server behind the buffet line that no, those six slices of bacon are not enough and yes, you do want them to add another six slices. Having to actually say these words may in fact cut down on the gluttony and wastage of food. Although sadly I have seen some instances where sandwiches are left on tables with one or two bites taken out of them.

However, back to my food experiences. For our second supper we rejoined our assigned table in the Grand Restaurant. We seem to have been blessed with the location of our table; we are at a window overlooking the rear end of the ship.

The number of people dining with us has grown. A couple from New Brunswick and another couple from Las Vegas have joined us; now we have three people who are hard of hearing and two people who speak virtually no English.

The lovely lady sitting next to me speaks perfect English, albeit with a distinct Australian accent. We do have plenty to talk about seeing as she is an English teacher in Tasmania.

The elderly lady from Las Vegas asked us if our options for controlling students have been significantly reduced now that we cannot hit the students. My tablemate and I smiled sweetly at this question. Our Vegas friend pursued this line of questioning, asking how we control kids, how do we get them to do what we want. I shrugged and said, “Well, I usually speak to them and just ask them to do whatever it is I need them to do.”

For dinner I elected to have the cedar planked, blackened Cobia salmon.

Cedar Planked Salmon
Cedar Planked Salmon

. It was an interesting meal. Delicious yes, but not like any other salmon I have ever had. It was a very white salmon.

I noticed the Japanese ladies curiously poking at the little mound of mashed potatoes and gravy on their plates. Not wanting to be one to stereotype people but I couldn’t help but wonder if they would prefer rice to the mashed potatoes. As soon as I said rice their faces lit up. And when the wait staff returned with perfect mounds of rice they were virtually glowing and utterly effusive in their thank yous to me. Somewhere in Japan there are going to be several pictures of me standing there with my arms around two very grateful elderly Japanese ladies.

Purely in the name of journalistic enquiry I tried something at the end of dinner. The wait staff came around asking what people would like for dessert. I asked for the apple pie a la mode and the cherries jubilee with vanilla ice cream. The waiter did not bat an eye and simply said, “Thank you sir.”

Late that evening, after taking in the “Dance around the world” production in the Celebrity Theatre (a fabulous performance), we returned to the Verandah Café for our late evening snack. Seeing as were quite late in the evening, the only thing open was the pizza bar. Excellent veggie pizza.

Today we are sailing into Icy Strait. People can disembark the ship and go into the tiny community to purchase all sorts of stuff to take home.

P90XR Workout
P90XR Workout

I am choosing insetad to stay on board and continue my exercise regime. (photo of P90XR)


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!!


Day One Celebrity Century to Alaska

Day One on the Celebrity Century cruise to Alaska, and back. As we boarded the ship a very lovely young lady handed us a glass of Champagne. I now realize this is likely the last free alcoholic drink I will find aboard this ship, although I will not stop searching.

Once aboard the ship we were encouraged to head to the pool deck.  (photo of pool) Like all the other passengers, we eventually found our way to the pool deck. No sooner were we on the deck than a very suave young man swooped down upon us and asked if we wanted a rum or vodka drink in a souvenir glass that we could keep. (photo of drinks) Still swooning after our free glass of Champagne, we readily agreed, grabbed a drink each and sat down.

The suave young man then asked who was going to pay for the drink, and could he please have our room card to bill us. Ah ha. $20 for two drinks, however, keep in mind you get to keep the cheap plastic Celebrity glass. Lesson learned.

Insert photo of no soliciting picture

Off to the Islands Café, a buffet by any other name is still a buffet. The people walking around here were like actors in role from the set of the Walking Dead; zombies in a post-apocalyptic world. All carrying food trays and looking lost.

I have to admit, I grabbed a tray and helped myself. Being a first time cruiser it was a little disconcerting taking food and not having to pay for it. (I have acclimatized myself since then).

Our dinner time was set for 6pm so we made our way to the Grand Restaurant (photo). Having assigned seats and dinner companions was another odd feeling. You are seated at a table with four or six other people who you do not know. I can only imagine what the conversation was like at the table nearby where a five hundred pound biker was seated. Alone.

Our tablemates are two elderly Japanese ladies. Dinner conversation was basically limited to hellos and lots of smiles and stiff sorts of bowing while staying seated.

Once our dinners did arrive, the Prime Rib listed under the chef’s recommendations, the conversation grew to include words I am roughly translating to be “Holy Crapola”. The slice of prime rib was, well, massive. And delicious. (photo) Sadly, our tablemates left more than 90% of their meal on their plates. Which got me to wondering what the ship does with all of the leftover food.

Later on that evening, after our prime rib had settled and digested we headed back up to the Islands Café buffet. Pizza, pasta, quiche, stir fry, sushi rolls, pastries and all other sorts of desserts…whatever moves you was there for the taking.

Other than the food (really though, what else is there on a cruise?), some random observations…

The two most noticeable groups of people working on this ship that we have seen on this ship are the people offering alcoholic beverages and people cleaning or polishing anything that does not move.

There is a serious shortage of electrical outlets on board; in our room there is one outlet. One. Well, there is a second one in the bathroom. Other than that, you are out of luck and out of power.

Which brings me to my next random observation; the shower, although my initial observation was that it looked like an upright coffin, is actually the nicest part of the room we are staying in. The water pressure is magnificent and the water gets as hot as I want. And hotter. Awesome.

And then it was off to sleep. Sleep.