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          On every cruise we have been on [thank you, God] we have wanted to take a tour of the ship.  After all, we reasoned, when we visited the “Queen Mary”, admittedly in permanent dry dock in Long Beach CA, they took us all over the ship!  Well, at last!  We had been at sea for several days when the announcement was slipped under our door, and Ron immediately signed us up.  And a good thing, as only 10 people get to do this tour!  But there was a caveat: no dresses or swimwear.  And I had brought no trousers, or even leggings with me.  Hence my shopping for some in Helsinki.
            The tour began with snacks and juice in the Medusa Bar, a truly hideous disco worthy of its name.  We met our tour guide, the head of HR on board; sadly, I made no note whatsoever of his name.  In fact, I caught very few names, now that I think on it.  At this time, we handed over all cameras, cell phones and other implements of espionage, and we followed “Vinny” to the theater in the rear of the ship.
            We were greeted by one of the [nameless] AV dudes, who told us about the audio board and lights, props and set pieces.  Ron and I volunteered in a little theater [called The Little Theater, since you ask] a thousand years ago, working lighting.  And there was one time I got to throw flour down from the catwalk to simulate dust.  So we know about theater.  We also love live theater, but usually so not go to the shows on the ships because they are TOO LOUD.  Yes, TOO LOUDSo we enjoyed seeing how the sets are attached to the floor so nobody gets killed is the ship pitches about.  Then we met the Dance Captain, who took us backstage, where he explained that the several shows on each cruise ship stay with that ship.  When new performers come in, they learn the shows that belong to the ship.  These shows are tremendously costly to produce, with top name people, mainly in NYC, choreographing and selecting music.  There are people who choose their cruise, not by destination so much as whether they’ve seen the shows or not.
            All the costumes, headgear, wigs, make-up etc etc were all backstage, which in the stern of the ship, so that the dressing room doubles as a passageway from one side of the stage to the other.  I once knew a costumer who traveled for 6 months on a cruise, with her baby, fitting and repairing the costumes.  Forty years ago, I would have done that in a heartbeat [without the baby].
            From the theater to the galley, also excellently orchestrated and choreographed.  Our first visit was to the kitchen where a [nameless] man showed us how to carve vegetables into flower shapes, a skill I will no doubt use daily from now on.  From there, we were met by the [nameless] Chef de Cuisine.  I’m sure that you all knew the “Chef” is short for Chef de Cuisine, which mean Chief of the Kitchen.  I, however, did not.
            He explained that, while the guests onboard have a 12 day menu, the staff has 27.  This way they can’t figure “Monday, it’s meatloaf.”  They get all the same menu items, except for lobster.
            The galley is enormous and all made of gleaming stainless steel.  This cuts down on fire danger and is easier to clean.  I would like my dream kitchen to be made of stainless.  If I MUST have a kitchen, that is.
The galley is set up in stations based on courses and meat/veg etc. All of the appetizers are made to order, since there is no way to anticipate how many of each to prepare.  [In the formal dining room, you are given a menu, with 6 or so choices of appetizers and 10 or so choices of entrée.]  For the main course, the chef has calculated, based on experience, how many of each item to prepare, so most of those items are cooked ahead of time.  As the waiters are serving bread, then appetizers, the kitchen is setting up the stations for the entrée.
The waiters come to the kitchen with large trays and they circulate through the galley, like a buffet line.  Each plate is then covered with a warming lid; the waiters may carry no more than 10 of these per trip [that’s a lot].  They come up from the galley on escalators, the kind that are flat, without stairs, and out to the dining room.  There are a lot of waiters, a lot of tables to serve and they never know who’s going to show up at mealtime.
Our next stop was Dessert Island, where we watched a [nameless] guy ice the little cakes you get for your special occasion.  And a [nameless] man dipping strawberries in dark and white chocolate so it looked like each was wearing a tuxedo.  I shall be doing this next week for sure.  They gave us little wedges of cheesecake to sustain us, since they noted we hadn’t eaten for 2 hours, a record for a cruise ship.
The waiters seem to have a good time with the guests and the kitchen staff [usually with less English] seemed content.  Forty years ago, I would have done that in a heartbeat.
We like to go to the dining room rather than the Trough.  It is nice to sit down after a long day of touristing AND it keeps us for pigging out too badly.
1.            You sit with the same people most nights who would disdain you for being a piggy and
2.            if you say no to bread and butter, you save a lot of calories and room and
3.            you only eat one dessert.

Then we toured the lockers for the food and beverages, met by the [nameless] head of supplies.  He had a great title but I can’t remember.  Fish, meat and poultry all have separate freezers so they do not flavor each other.  The freezers are kept at 10 below, whereas the thawing lockers are kept cool enough that it takes 3 days to thaw.  All the lockers are big enough for 12 people on tour and racks of meat without crowding.  All the meats come from the USA!
Soft drinks and beer have their own cool locker.  All of these come from the US as well, except for specialty German beer and sausage for their um-pah-pah evening.
Next up: we continue our ship tour.


Footnotes.  On all our trips, our feet are noted for great fatigue and blisters.
1.The Trough is the buffet on any ship where they offer food at all hours of the day and night. 
2. Cousin Vinny is any relative who has a sideline, often involving kickbacks.  Some Cousin Vinnys will drive you to the airport etc.  Upscale Cousin Vinnys have specialty shops that the tour busses call into.  These Cousin Vinny stores have bathrooms and sometimes free samples of their wares.
3. CTC is cheap tourist crap.  Such stores are sometimes Cousin Vinny stores.
4. Foamer is usually used in connection with trains, and means one who loves locomotives and knows all about them personally, by name and number, and are foaming mad for trains in general.  Ron and Carol like trains very much and love to ride them, but we are not foamers.


N4 68 Baltic Cruise “Behind the Fun” edition
www.bucklesfamily.net for photos
www.carolbuckles.livejournal.com for my blog