It’s always a sad moment when you realize it is the last day of a vacation. However, the last day also happened to be our last day of cruising, and Ian’s Birthday! What better way to spend your birthday, than on one of the biggest cruise ships in the world?
All night, I had had a hard time sleeping, as coughing fits continued to wake me every hour or so. I had finally been inflicted with Ian’s cold, which he was still getting over himself. But, no matter how much we might have wanted to stay in bed and let the cold win, we had our hearts set on the Galley Tour and Brunch. So, pulling ourselves together, we traversed the length of the ship, and met with the tour group waiting outside Silk, the main dining room two floors up from American Icon, at 10am.
Once we were in the kitchens, we were met with the Executive Chef, who gave us the run down on the first station inside the doors, the soup (both hot and chilled) station. He explained that this was the location each and every server from the dining room came in order to prepare and serve every bowl of soup served during dinner. Until then, I had no idea that our server had been the one running off to the kitchen to get our soups each night. With how many tables our servers waited on each night, it gave me a new respect for how much running back and forth to the kitchens they did every night.
After getting a call on his kitchen staff phone, the Executive Chef handed us off to another member of staff, in order to handle a situation elsewhere in the kitchens. I can’t imagine what kind of protocols there are for random events, such as when issues arise while the Executive Chef is entertaining a tour group, but the transition to a new crew member was seamless, and he had us on the move again, showing us the area in which entrees were prepared. Each member of the kitchen staff had their own individual task in creating the meals they were set to prepare that morning. One chef was cooking chicken on the grill. Another was poaching eggs for eggs Florentine. The smells in the active kitchen were bewitchingly tempting, and I couldn’t wait until we could enjoy brunch.
Moving through three floors of the kitchen, we were shown the enormous walk-in refrigerator, prep rooms where Caesar salads were being prepared for brunch, huge vats where soups and sauces were stewing, and eventually we found ourselves in the bakery portion of the kitchens. As the breads and cakes were my absolute favorite part of every meal, the bakery was unquestionably my favorite part of the tour. Surrounded by the smell of baking breads, I felt like I had died and gone to a fluffy wonderland of confectionery. Our guide introduced us to the Executive Baker on the ship, who showed us the towering ovens, and a neat little piece of equipment which turned a large lump of dough into 36 individual rolls, ready for baking, in less than six seconds! Being able to personally thank the Executive Baker for all of the delicious products of his labor was the highlight of the galley tour for me.
With the tour coming to a close, we were invited to wash up before heading out to the dining room for brunch. This was where things got a bit annoying. There were two simultaneous tours of the kitchens, and our tour ended slightly after the first tour, meaning we were seated at tables which were partially filled, and with people who had already ordered their food, and had the opportunity to pick over the appetizers set for the table. Normally, this would not be problematic. Had we been able to order our food straight away, we might have been served more quickly. However, the rest of the table was served their entrees before we were given a chance to order from the servers. By the time we eventually did receive our entrees, the rest of the table was finished eating, and leaving to go enjoy other activities on the ship. As soon as we finished our minimal entrees, Ian and I were far from enticed to stay longer, so we headed up to Windjammer to have a more substantial meal. However unfortunately it ended, we truly had enjoyed the tour of the kitchen, and the experience of seeing the active galley of a cruise ship.
Satisfied with the meal we had made at Windjammer, we went back down to the state room for a surprise I had set up for Ian’s Birthday; a chocolate cake. Even out at sea, I figured we had to at least celebrate a little bit, so, on formal night, I managed to sneak away and secretly order the cake as a small bonus to his cruising birthday. Lamentably, we didn’t have enough time to finish the rich cake before we had to disembark the next day, so maybe I should have ordered it for the day before, so that we could have finished it off.
By this time, the Bailey’s in our mini fridge was calling to us, so we took a trip down to the Starbucks in the Royal Promenade. Ian ordered a pumpkin spice latte (what a girl 😉 ), and I ordered a chai cream Frappuccino with a pump of pumpkin spice. Drinks in hand, we went back up to our rooms to spike them with the Irish cream, and watch some television. The cold Frappuccino helped my sore throat, and lying in bed relaxing for a few hours helped us to feel better.
Though we enjoyed hanging out in the room, there was one last show on board that we wished to see; the Blue Planet Production Show. At a quarter to five, we went back downstairs, to Amber Theater, to get our seats for the show. About an hour in length, Blue Planet is a Broadway production show including dances and acrobatic performances to songs such as Steve Winwood’s Higher Love, ATC’s All Around the World, and an incredibly well choreographed trampoline performance to Stevie Wonder’s Higher Ground. The sets depicted different wonders of the natural world, including a tree which came to life with performers who blend perfectly into the limbs until the music began, and an underwater scene, projected onto a semitransparent front curtain, which was truly wondrous to behold. Leaving the theater, the songs and performances stuck with us for the rest of the day.
After checking the dining room menu, Ian decided nothing looked all that appetizing, so we dined back at Windjammer again, before taking in one last sunset. Sailing away from the sun, the best place to view the sunset was from the very back of the ship. First checking the view from the FlowRider platform on Deck 15, we chose to head down to the running track on the outside of Deck 5, and were met with the most spectacular sunset of the whole cruise. The whole trip, Ian fought the humidity every time he took pictures. As it was, his lenses were all inflicted by the onslaught of condensation, and the only successful pictures of the night came from my phone.
With nothing left on the agenda, we went back to Starbucks, spiked our drinks with the last of the Bailey’s, and descended into the casino to while away the night. Ian played the slot machines for a bit, while I lost twenty dollars on the coin pushers. The one big win of the night came from the scratch cards I chose to pick up on a whim. Originally, we only purchase four $5 scratch cards, and we each scratched off two. Both of Ian’s ended up being $5 winners, so they effectively broke even. One of mine was a loser, but the other had ten separate wins on it, worth a total of $70. Instead of cashing them out, we chose to see if the winning streak would hold, and traded the winners in for sixteen new scratchers. From there we progressively lost our fortunes, but we had fun while we did. Once we noticed how late it was getting, we realized we still had to pack everything back in the room for our departure the next day, so we left the noise and lights of the casino for the quiet of our room.
Sad the trip was ending, but satisfied with our first actual expedition as Geeks Who Seek, we ate some more of Ian’s birthday cake and packed our suitcases. There are two ways in which we could have disembarked the next day. We could have left our luggage in our hallway and had it taken down to customs for us, or we could handle our luggage ourselves, and skip over stopping through baggage claim at port. Wishing to make everything as quick and efficient as possible, we decided to disembark with our luggage, and kept it in our room that night. Though I came with a small checked bag and my backpack as a carry on, I had brought a compactable duffle bag in my suitcase. With another five days between the cruise and when we were expected home in Colorado, I packed all of my clean clothes into the duffle as another carry on for the plane, and packed all of my dirty clothes into my checked bag. Packing this way helped make things easier as we stopped through Austin to visit Ian’s family on our way back to Colorado. As it was late and we had to be off the ship by 10am the next morning, we turned in, and got a few hours of sleep before we had to get up for our final breakfast at Windjammer.