Friday, December 7, 2012

Thursday, December 6  -- Drink Up!

Today was another delightful sea day.  Sleeping late; playing trivia; napping; eating.  The whole Trivia team was present and on point today [no pun intended] and we tied and then won another HAL pin.  We now have three wins in seven days.  There are several other teams which have won, as mentioned yesterday, but we are taking a certain delight in defeating two particular teams which have outspoken, rude participants who are apparently playing for blood not fun.  One team includes the rabbi who, as a staff member, is not supposed to receive the prizes.  He ignored that when his team won the other day.

The highlight of the day was the night.  Yesterday we received an invitation to cocktails with the Captain and Fermin in the Crow’s Nest.  This was not wholly unexpected since the captain normally hosts a reception for 4-Star Mariners.  However, Gildus asked us if we would like to dine with Fermin at “the big table” tonight and, of course, we accepted gratefully.  The invitation arrived this morning.

The cocktail reception is o-so-fancy.  Waiters brought trays with red and white wine, cheap champagne and orange juice, but we have learned that one can order pretty much anything at these affairs.  MA ordered vodka on the rocks and D had a Diet Coke.  And a refill. 

We sat with Barry and Vicky [from the Trivia team] and made small talk.  It was nice to have someone to spend the time with because most of the people looked new to us.  We recognized faces and made connections, but we didn’t really know anyone else.  We think Barry and Vicky were in the same situation.

The captain spoke of the difficulties obtaining potable water on the Amazon and recounted a cruise from years ago when his ship ran out on a voyage up the Orinoco.  After Captain Gundersen made his remarks, some of the guests left to go to dinner; others, who had already eaten, stayed to chat and perhaps get one last free drink.  We, on the other hand, were summoned by Gildus to join the queue of passengers dining at the Captain’s Table [minus the captain].  We followed along dutifully.

The Captain’s Table sits almost in the center of the MDR.  A round table, it was set for eight diners.  Place cards had been set out and we were assisted to our assigned seats by Gildus, Aaron and Widi, all of our friends from the MDR.  In addition to place cards, we each had a scroll-like menu for the evening.  Interestingly, the menu for the Captain’s Table is usually more limited than that of the rest of the MDR; in previous dinners there, we have found that the items we had were available to the majority of diners along with others we were not offered.

Tonight’s menu included choices of fresh fruit or a sampler of pate and caviar; five-onion soup or Caesar salad; and lobster thermador  or filet au poivre.  Dessert was not specified but turned out to be a shell of sugar and almonds filled with chocolate mousse and topped with berries.

We both chose the fruit, salad and lobster.  Fermin ordered everything we did not.  Was this an omen?  If it was, it was a good omen for dinner was delicious.  The wine helped, too.  Ferdie, the assistant beverage manager, also serves as the cellar master and he offered us a choice of red or white wine.  MA chose white, but D asked Ferdie which he would recommend because D drinks rose when he drinks at all.  Rather than make the suggestion, Ferdie offered to bring D rose instead.  Another offer accepted.

Dinner concluded with liqueurs.  MA asked for a B&B and everyone else asked for cognac.  D and one other diner passed on after-dinner drinks.  Ferdie served each guest by first swirling the liqueur in the snifter to help warm it up; brandy snifters are supposed to be held by the bowl, not the stem, so the contents will warm and release magical vapors.

The other five diners [absent ourselves and Fermin] included a Swiss woman who now lives in Kansas; a Canadian couple; and an English couple who live at least part-time in Key West.  Conversation was easy and everybody joined in.  Fermin is an excellent host and has more stories than a children’s library.  We closed down the MDR at 10:30 only because the waiters were circling like sharks, waiting to clear and reset the table for breakfast.

We waddled back to the cabin and swore we would eat only salad and fruit for the next year.

Tomorrow – We enter the Amazon


Friday, December 7 – The Amazon Adventure finally begins

Today could have been a normal sea day and to some extent it was.  We ate breakfast in the MDR and killed time until Trivia.  Once again, we prevailed and took home the much-sought-after HAL travel mugs.  We already have several, but that did not dim our enthusiasm.  We now have a definite target on our collective back with four wins in eight days.
We entered the Amazon after midnight and anchored off of Macapa, Brazil, this morning so that the Brazilian authorities could clear the ship.  This took several hours as the officials had to check every passport for Brazilian visas and Yellow Fever immunization.  Because of work in the Macapa harbor, the captain could not let passengers ashore.  It did not bother us, but Vicky and Barry [and others, obviously] had shore excursions already paid for.  The water has gone from the crystal blues of the Caribbean and South Atlantic to the chocolate brown of the silt-laden Amazon.

As usual, we stayed in the OB swapping stories with the others.  Mark told several stories of his experiences as a ship’s physician, experiences which are funny only in retrospect.  We returned to the room to read for a bit before heading to the Lido for lunch.  We ate outside by the pool; the heat was not unbearable but the only table in the shade was near the smokers’ corner and had no air circulating.  We considered it training for tomorrow’s first foray into the Amazon rain forest.

At three o’clock, we went to the main showroom to hear a presentation by another passenger on the culture of the disappearing Amazon tribes.  He showed photos, some of them 50 years old, of several tribes and described their life style, gender roles and cultures.  It was quite fascinating and he was a good speaker unlike some staff we have heard.

On the way to the showroom, D stopped to see his new, best girlfriend, Debbie the Events Manager.  He has plied her with Cruise Critic pens and she is now putty in his hands.  The flyer he has prepared for the second and last CC meeting promises food, prizes and surprise guests.  The food is already taken care of thanks to Debbie and Ferdie and we hope that the Captain or Fermin will come to the meeting to get our reactions after three weeks.  However, he had no prizes.  Debbie did not hesitate.  She asked how many he needed and winced only ever-so-slightly when he said 30.  She gave him a case of 24 [wait for it] HAL travel mugs to give to the members.  That means each family, not each attendee, can have one.  If everyone shows up who came last week, we will be fine.  And heroes.

Our section of the MDR was empty tonight for no obvious reason, so service was quick.  Once again, Endang came through with escargot for MA [a holdover from yesterday because we weren’t there]and “big shrimp” cocktail for D.  We chatted again with Pedr and Manute before heading back to the room.

One of the items we purchased from Passport Health when we got our Yellow Fever shots was a spray can of insect repellent designed to be sprayed on clothing.  We did not plan ahead and did not spray the clothing prior to leaving West Palm.  We should have.  One of the safety warnings says to spray only outdoors and to avoid direct contact with the spray.  There are not so many open areas on a moving ship on which to do this, especially at night.

D decided to take the clothes we plan to wear tomorrow and spray them at the bow end of the Lower Promenade deck, the one with the wraparound teak deck.  Only at the extreme front of this deck is there no wind; it is protected and there is not even a hint of air movement.  And not a hint of light.  While there were plenty of lights on the sides of the deck, there were none at the bow.  So, in the dark and without hangers [because that would have required planning], he draped the clothes over a handrail in order to spray them but not himself.  Only one piece came back a little dirty, but we will know for next time – we can’t wear these outfits for all four days in the rain forest.  If we did we would repel more than insects.

And then it was time to update the blog and then read.

Tomorrow – Santarem, Brazil

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