91. The Gala Buffet

 91.  The Gala Buffet

I’d bet that most of us think of food as something we eat for nutrition, that pleases the palate, and is best when it also pleases the tummy.  Food on board cruise ships gave us another perspective — food prepared to have visual impact, and not just the presentation on the plate.  I think the chefs liked an opportunity to show off their culinary skills!

Take a look at the Gala Buffet!  We were told that the midnight Gala Buffet would be prepared for photographing at 11:00 pm.  Bring your camera, BUT DO NOT EAT ANYTHING until seating begins at midnight!

We were first given a tour of the galley, and watched the sculptor chef starting on an ice carving.  The ice carving turned out to be a large sea monster, the first thing we saw at the buffet, along with the good ship melon.

Yes, I think the bowsprit on the melon boat is a potato.

Further down the buffet was a seafood fish, with scallops as scales, and shrimp fins on top.  The orange fruit cups are, in fact, oranges.


At the end of the line, if one is not impossibly full — dessert! Whew!


The master chef who spearheaded the amazing displays, also gave demonstrations to teach vegetable carving.

I think it would take great skill, and a lot of time, to make such beautiful fruit and vegetable displays!  It was fun to see, and marvel at their creative skills.


90. Aboard the Royal Caribbean

90.   Aboard the Royal Caribbean Visions of the Sea

Life aboard Visions of the Sea, a 900 ft+ Royal Caribbean cruise ship sailing the “Love Boat Route” from San Diego California to Puerto Vallarta Mexico, seems like a week-long fantasy!

Consistent with cruising lore, food and the dining ambiance was a major element.  The food was gourmet, and elegantly presented.  Buffets had “floral” displays made with fruit and vegetables.

Our cabin was a short elevator ride right below the “Windjammer Cafe”, the ship’s alternative smorgasbord.  For breakfast, Betty just rode up the elevator and returned to our cabin in minutes with fruit, oatmeal, scrambled eggs, pancakes and a Belgian waffle.  The Windjammer was a circular restaurant with a grand view over the bow of the ship.  Large beautiful models of classic windjammer sailing ships graced the entrance.

For dinner, we sat near the spiral staircase in the two-story main dining room, the Aquarius.  Many, if not most of the waiters appeared to be from the Middle East or India.  Our waiter was Ismael from Turkey.  The live dinner music close to our table alternated between a string trio and David, the piano player who caught our attention with old favorites of our time — romantic music by Mancini.

Imagine sitting down in a 5 star hotel restaurant with a menu of International cuisine.  Gourmet appetizers of fruit, salads, soups both hot and cold, topped by entrees that were both unusually elegant, and elegantly served.  You can order anything, as much as you want.  Betty asked our waiter if they had papaya — “yes,” he could get it.  He brought a saucer with two long slices of papaya; obviously from a “watermelon” papaya, from its appearance and taste.  We ended up with a saucer of 4 slices of papaya waiting at our places for a pre-appetizer every night.

I read the exotic entrees, and then spotted the Ala Carte “always available” section — broiled Norwegian salmon, baked or mashed potatoes, and Caesar salad.  That’s what I had most nights except the night I had a Burrito as well, and the trout almandine.  The meals were always delicious! Macadamia nut and butter pecan ice cream were impossible to resist!

One of the fun things we enjoyed doing that enhanced our cruise experiences was to get acquainted with crew members. We met some interesting people.  A lady playing piano bar was a retired music teacher, “playing” her way around the world by playing on cruise ships.  Our cabin housekeeper was from San Salvador.  He said he could work two years, and then be able to take care of his family.  The executive chef was from Croatia, and was a career cruise crewman.  We actually saw him on another cruise where he was promoted to Maitre ‘de.  His plan was to work on board for twenty years, and then he and his family would get a sailboat and cruise on their own.

89. Puerto Rico

89. Puerto Rico

Bienvenido a Puerto Rico! (Welcome to Puerto Rico!)

Betty and I stepped off our cruise ship, the Paradise, just to look around.   A taxi driver saw us and came over and said he would give us an hour tour of Old San Juan for $30.  There was time, so off we went.

San Juan is the capital and largest city in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the United States.  “Old San Juan,” was the original colonial settlement with narrow, blue cobblestone streets.  The cobblestones were furnace slag used by the Spanish as ballast on their ships.

We had no idea that Old San Juan contained so many museums and historical sites.  San Juan was founded by Spanish colonists led by Ponce de León in 1521, who called it Ciudad de Puerto Rico (“Rich Port City”).  Ponce de Leon was appointed the first governor of Puerto Rico.  One historical site is the Casa Blanca, (White house).  Built in 1521, it served as the first fortification of the San Juan islet, and was the residence for Ponce de León and his family.

In 1493, during his second voyage to The New World, Christopher Columbus landed in Puerto Rico.  He named the island “San Juan Bautista” in honor of John the Baptist.(Saint John)  One of the museums in San Juan is the Casa del Libro (House of the Book).  It is an 18th-century house that is now a book museum holding a rare collection of early manuscripts and books (nearly 5,000 works), dating back to the 15th-century.  Among the museum’s most precious possessions are two royal mandates signed by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain in 1493 for provisioning Columbus’ fleet for his second voyage.

What I enjoyed most was seeing the old forts.

The imposing Castillo San Felipe del Morro, or el Morro, a 6-story-tall complex with 65-foot-high, 18-foot-thick walls rising 150 feet above the Atlantic Ocean, protected the harbor.  San Cristobal, another immense fortress, built to protect the city from attacks on land, is a prime example of Spanish colonial military architecture.  The forts did the job and repulsed numerous attacks.

We were able to see el Morro from a distance from the taxi, but we drove up to the entrance ramp of San Cristobal.

Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the United States at the end of the Spanish American War in 1898.  Because Spain was able to maintain control of Puerto Rico so long, the population is mainly hispanic, and the country has two official languages of Spanish and English.

Our driver ended our tour by driving down the very narrow, colorful main street of Old San Juan.  The street was jammed bumper-to-bumper with slow moving cars carrying tourists leaning out windows to take pictures.
Whenever I rolled down the window to take a picture, the driver turned off the air conditioning and moaned about the heat, because it was a hot day!

After that slow ride through town, I was glad we got back to the ship before departure time.


88. Nassau

88.  Nassau

The PARADISE set sail from Miami, so we had a brief visit with my nephew before departing for Nassau.

The Commonwealth of the Bahamas is a chain of islands, and Nassau is the capital and largest city on Providence Island.  A popular cruise-ship stop, the city has a hilly landscape and is known for beaches as well as its offshore coral reefs, popular for diving and snorkeling.  It retains many of its typical pastel-colored British colonial buildings, like the pink-hued Government House.

Our cruise ship group was treated to a complimentary limousine tour.  One highlight stop for us was at Fort Fincastle, built in 1793 on a hill to protect the town and the harbor.  We were able to go to the top of the adjacent water tower which was built in 1928.  The tallest structure in Nassau at 126 feet, it gave us a panorama view of the city.  In the background of our picture, you can see Atlantis, the plush resort on Paradise Island.

Nassau has an interesting and colorful history.  It was originally known as Charles Town; founded in 1670 by British Noblemen who built a fort and named the town in honor of England’s King Charles II.  The town was burned to the ground by the Spanish in 1684 during one of their frequent wars with the English.  It was rebuilt and renamed Nassau in honor of the then King of England, William III from the Dutch House of Orange-Nassau.

In 1703 Spanish and French forces briefly occupied Nassau. By 1713, the sparsely settled Bahamas had become a pirate haven.  The pirates, led by the infamous Edward Teach, better know as“Blackbeard,” proclaimed Nassau a pirate republic, establishing themselves as “governors”.

In 1718, the British regained control of the islands and appointed Captain Woodes Rogers as Royal governor.  Rogers cleaned up the city, and rebuilt the fort, using his own wealth.

The population of African descent grew significantly when Britain abolished slavery in 1802, and after the American Civil War in the 1860’s.

Next — Puerto Rico