This is the sixth time that I have crossed the Atlantic. I crossed once on a small charter ship, once on the QE2, and the rest on cruise ships including the Norway. This used to be the Isle de France, one of the liners that were until the 1960s the only comfortable way to cross the divide between Europe and North America.
This trip started in Fort Lauderdale and would end in Civitavecchia, the port of Rome. The Cunard ships still make the New York - Southampton crossing in five days, but the Ruby Princess took a more southerly course at slightly lesser speed. So it took eight days to reach Gibraltar. Some people think that such a long period of time on the open waters would be both boring and a waste of time. I have never felt that way. This is a time to detach from the duties of everyday living. I choose this opportunity to read good books, either e-books or those found in the onboard library, and to take part to some of the onboard activities. Consider that typical day on board offered around 80 different activities one could take part in. Normal people do not get such opportunity in their regular life. One can be as active or as passive as one wants on board a cruise ship.
At night, when most cabins' lights are off and the ship more quiet, I enjoy sitting on the balcony of the cabin looking at the sky. The display of stars is not as complete as if i were on top of a mountain where thinner air brings the cosmos closer, but impressive non the less, especially for a city dweller like myself.
Every cruise offers an opportunity to do something different on board and this one was no exception. We were invited to the Chef's Table Dinner. There is an extra charge for it, but, as you will see, it was well worth it. We met our fellow diners (we were twelve in total), in front of one of the three full service public restaurants on board and were given white smocks to don over our suites and dresses before we could enter the kitchens area. The short walk through the restaurant certainly intrigued the passengers that were having dinner at that time.
Once inside we met Executive Chef Paolo Merlo who would describe the functioning of the kitchens while we savored the Appetizers. They were:
Crab and Lobster Margarita with Avocado and Tequila
Tuna Tartare with Light Wasabi and Pickled Ginger
Fontina Cheese and White Troufle Mini Quiche
Red Bliss Roast Potato with Sour Cream and Caviar
All this accompanied by French Champagne
The kitchen prepares food for five eating opportunities for passengers and two for the crew. In addition the Crown Grill and Sabatini, the two specialty restaurants on board, have their own kitchen. After the appetizers we took off the smocks and were seated at a special table in the dining room.
The meal continued with the following menu:
Creamy Italian Carmaroli Rice Risotto with Wild Porcini Mushrooms
Amalfi Lemon Serbet Surprise
Roast Veal Shank and Beef Tenderloin Carved Table Side with Peppercorn Sauce and Jus. Today's premium Market Vegetables (we had just left Gibraltar)
Oven Roasted Potatoes and Caramelized Shallots
Baked Camembert with Pine Nuts Port Wine Reduction and Walnut Bread
Hazelnut Parfait and Chocolate Heart
All of course accompanied by very nice red and white wines.
And finally Coffee and Tea with the Executive Chef (who had been table side all along) with Homemade Mignardises
At the end we received a copy of Course the book of recipes prepared on Princess ships signed by Paolo Merlo.
I think we will try to repeat the experience on a future cruise. The end of this cruise also reserved a pleasant achievement. Linda and I are now Elite members of Princess Captain Circle. We are looking forward to greater benefits on our next (already booked) cruise.