Monday, August 07, 2006

The Alaskan Adventure--Part VI

It was a full day at sea. We awoke to the knock of a room service steward cheerfully--and quietly--bearing a tray holding my light continental breakfast of coffee, juice, and muesli. Rick and I both had a cup of coffee in bed while looking at the daily newsletter to see what events interested us. Tonight was formal night, too, and we had a mission: we had to find Rick a tie. Long story, but we had sailed sans tie, and needed one for dinner this evening.

There was a culinary demonstration at 10. If I hurried, we could make it. I did, and we did. After the cooking demo by the cruise ship's executive chef and maitre, there was a tour of our dining room's galley. We watched as the kitchen staff prepared for tonight's special dinner.

We also were intrigued by the many centerpieces, all carved out of food. Here's a cute one made primarily from fresh pineapples.
As we left the galley, we saw merchandise being piled up on the dining room tables and banquettes. We asked one of the staffers what it was all about; she told us it was the Pre-Inventory Sale advertised on the back of the daily newsletter, and that it would be open to passengers in about an hour. I nudged Rick and pointed to where I saw a steward dumping a box of TIES onto a table. We knew where we'd be in an hour.

We decided to go back to the room and download some pictures from the camera onto the laptop and tidy things up a bit for Artemio, as well as to see if our dinner clothing needed any attention. Shortly after that, we wandered into the big sale.

It was huge. Everything from coffee mugs to women's dresses was on tables, racks, and stands. There were beaded evening purses, teeshirts, watches, shawls, perfumes, cosmetics, sweatsuits, jackets, you name it. And the prices were cheap. We browsed for a while and met up with one of our Virginia friends. She was pressed into service to help select a tie for Rick, and we found out she was killing time before the art auction, where she hoped to offer the winning bid on a picture for her daughter. She invited us to join her and meet her husband there.

*Just the day before, being an appreciator of art, and, let's face it, a champagne whore, I had gone to the art auction preview for free champagne and cheeses. I saw a gorgeous art deco picture and inquired about it from the dealer. He said, "You have a good eye. This, of course, is an Erte, and it is a coloring of a set piece saved from his studio that caught fire. It is appraised at $45,000, but I'm pleased to be able to tell you that we are starting the bidding at only $29,000. All you need to do is grab one of those green placards over there and put it on the piece, and I'll be sure to bring it up for you tomorrow." I totally maintained my cool, and amazingly, so did Rick, but inside I was screaming my bloody head right off.*

We thoroughly enjoyed the art auction and were impressed by the quality of the offerings. In addition to the two or three original Ertes, there were etchings of Chagall, and several paintings by the young woman who is being hailed as the new Picasso (sorry, but for the life of me now I cannot recall her name!!). It was a relaxing way to learn about some new artists and see some beautiful pictures. And no, no one had requested the Ertes!

We spent a great deal of time on deck enjoying the warming weather. As we got closer to Canada, the weather turned much warmer. We were told to expect temperatures in the 80s in Victoria, and although I had appreciated the dry air and coolness of Alaska, I was a bit tired of having to bundle up on deck so much.

When it neared dinnertime, we returned to our stateroom to dress. We were looking forward to this evening's offering: lobster. I hadn't had really good lobster in ages. Rick knotted his new $10 silk tie and off we went to the Marquis. We ordered a bottle of champagne and scanned the menu. I had caviar for my appetizer and don't remember anything else but the lobster. It was tremendous. The headwaiter Marcel served it, and the Junior Waiter James bent low and said, "May I assist you, Madame?" He then proceeded to cut away the meat from the shell and take the shells away on a separate plate. I took one bite and wept. I mean it. I looked at my husband. He was someplace else, expression rapturous and floaty.

Me: Rick. I'm starting to wonder if we're dead.
Him: Huh?
Me: I think we could very well be dead.
Him: Why's that?
Me: Because of this. Champagne, caviar, lobster. It's heaven. We must be dead.
Him: Then what a way to go.

We finished our lobster and sat back, eyes misty and faces orgasmic. Marcel came by. "How was the lobster?" he said, bowing deeply. Somehow we managed to come out of our afterglow.
"It was exquisite," I said reverently. "Well, then I shall bring you more," he murmured. Rick and I locked eyes. Our wish had been granted. This was never going to end. Marcel and James repeated their Lobster Dance. Rick and I dared to eat more. We toasted our incredible lives. We toasted Marcel. We toasted James. We toasted the four lobsters that had given their lives to make this evening possible. Eventually, though, it did end, but with a lovely dessert, lovingly and professionally served by Marcel, our new best friend in the whole entire world. It had been a dinner--no, wait-- A Dinner To Remember.

Later that evening was the main event (well, in the eyes of the cruise director, anyway...!), a champagne waterfall followed by free champagne and the passengers dancing the night away in the Atrium Lounge. Yep, you guessed it! I would be there! It was quite the big to-do. The waterfall construction engineer was none other than the maitre Luigi, and we took our spot to watch it happen.
After piling up the glasses, he filled the top ones and also sprayed them all with champagne to make them pretty and sparkly. Assistants also put little champagne grapes in each of the outside glasses to make them attractive.

Once it was all done, the countdown was executed, and...

Then that free bubbly was up for grabs. You better believe I guzzled plenty. Then, music filled the air and suddenly, a space opened in the crowd. The wait staff of the Marquis dining room filed in! My Marcel! My James! They came out and cut the rug to "The Electric Slide" and "Night Fever" and "The Macarena" like you wouldn't believe. It was a blast.
I got pulled into the dancing by the cruise director (you won't believe this, old "Love Boat" show fans), Julie, and we were all dancing the night away, refreshed periodically by glasses of champagne. "This is the life I was meant to have lived," I informed Rick in between steps and gulps of air and Korbel.

"You were the one who didn't ever want to go on a cruise," he said mean-spiritedly. "International waters are the Wild West of the Twenty-first century, you always said. I could be the victim of a terrible crime and no one would do anything about it, you always said. How many horrible things have we seen on Dateline, 48 Hours, and 20/20, you always said. Now all of a sudden, the cruise life is the life for you. Have another glass of champagne."


  1. v-grrrl,
    I am not a real party-type social person, either; probably a reaction to my job as a high school teacher. Believe me, that night was a rarity for Rick and me. Most of the cruise we spent just the two of us, exploring the decks, going to the naturalist's lectures, and things like that. You can choose to be "alone" on a cruise, and lots of couples do. There are so many choices.

  2. Hello, Neil!
    Actually, having such an extraordinary experience like that just ensures that it will always be the pinnacle--I can't ever expect another time like that one, so it will just stand alone as an incredible memory that I'm glad I have. Sure wish I could have brought some of the cruise staff home with me, though...

  3. That is hilarious that you both were thinking that you must be dead. I agree that would be the way to go. I've had a lot of good meals in my life, but I guess not quite that good.

  4. anali,
    I think it wasn't just the meal--although it was exemplary--it was the whole experience: the food, the service, the formal dress, the atmosphere, the fact that we could have more lobster just by practically telepathy....
    Ahhh, just thinking of it gives me a bit of the feeling all over again. I hope it always does.


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