Smooth seas and clear skies greeted us this morning as we started our first sea day on our Panama Canal cruise.
Many of the changes of returning to a normal cruise from a Grand Voyage are not obvious until you start to look for something at a particular time or place and only then do you realize that was only a feature on Grand Voyages.
Good Morning Amsterdam is no longer as this is a World Cruise Only event. Judy’s daily crafts at 2:30 is also gone but on other HAL cruises one of the Show Hosts will occasionally run a craft project. We will see if anything pops up this cruise for crafts. The Daily On Location still shows a “Crafters Meet” at 9am in the Explorers Lounge. Art work is now populating the Ocean Bar in anticipation for the next auction. I will have to stop by an Auction on this cruise to check out the activity level.
We stopped by the Culinary Arts Center at 9am to see the Panama Canal Rolls Demo. I was always curious to see how they were made, so I didn’t want to miss this opportunity. The Culinary Arts Center was 80% full which surprised Donna as she was used to much smaller crowds during similar demonstrations on the World Cruise.
Making the rolls is fairly simple, prepare a standard yeast dough, let it rise, punch in down and then roll out a thin sheet cutting the sheet into rectangles then filling them with some peaches and folding them over. The recipe was not available as the print shop was flooded last night and all of her recipes were in a box on the floor and were ruined. She will have them printed and available at future events. A copy of the recipe is HERE and under World Cruise Reference
On our way back to our Cabin we spotted some of the crew getting ready for their drill which would be starting in a few minutes. This always reminds me of my Navy days as shipboard fire drills are pretty much the same on a cruise ship as they are on a Navy ship.
Our Cruise Critic Meet and Greet was at 10:30 am today with a total of 5 people in attendance including Judy and me. We chatted with the other couple from Melbourne and a woman from Vancouver BC who was attending without her husband. We met in the Explorers Lounge and we had a lovely conversation for almost an hour. The Australians will be getting off in San Diego and spend 18 days traveling the western USA seeing some of the National Parks and since we live in San Diego we were able to give them a few tips about what to see in San Diego. There were only about 30 or so people signed up for the roll call.
There was a Blackjack Tournament today but the entry fee is $20 instead of $10 on the World. The first place prize is double, I guess it all balances out. I entered but didn’t hit any cards and was knocked out early.
George held a black jack class earlier that was extremely well attended and we will see if that turns into greater participation in the Casino. I am seeing more action on the slots, but not much more action, if any, on the card tables.
I had won a free lunch in the Pinnacle Grill back on the World Cruise and we decided to take advantage of the free lunch today. There were only a handful of other guests and there wasn’t any special dress code as many of the men were wearing shorts. We both chose the Tomato Broth with Spicy Lemon Chicken soup for a starter, while Judy selected the Cod Sandwich and I picked the Pinnacle Burger. The soup was fabulous, probably one of the best we had all year, full of chunky chicken with just the right amount of spice. Judy felt it was a tad too spicy, but still very good, so YMMV depending on your preference for spicy food.
The Pinnacle Burger was stacked 6 inches high complete with Avocado, Mac and Cheese, lettuce, tomato and more. Judy’s cod sandwich was not nearly as tall with a nice broiled piece of Cod between a bread roll with thin spiral sliced cucumbers on top.
For dessert I had a delicious warm brownie with coffee ice cream and Judy had the Strawberry Pavlova which she said was outstanding. We had a wonderful lunch, but we generally don’t want to spend as much time in dining rooms and this takes longer than grabbing something in the LIDO. But if you are in the mood for a longer lunch in a nice setting, you can’t go wrong here. We also noticed that some of the evening entrees West Coast Seafood Cioppino were also offered here for lunch. Worth checking out if some of your evening favorites are on the lunch menu.
A few other changes from the world were in the LIDO. The noodle cart I enjoyed every day is gone, now replaced by a table for 6. The custom sandwich maker has been replaced by a custom pasta maker. It is the same person, so they aren’t saving any manpower but must believe that more people desire custom pasta instead of custom sandwiches. There is a wider selection of premade sandwiches with all the ingredients listed on the sign in front of each one.
The food choices in the food line are now labeled with small, easy to read printed white signs. During the World Cruise the entrees were identified by writing a description with a sharpie directly onto the Plexiglas shield. Even though the signs are easier to read what the entrée is now, the handwritten method was an interesting touch. I will ask around as to why they changed.
The sushi bar was previously self-serve, but now you have to ask for a tray to be handed to you over the counter – maybe this is a food safety precaution in place early in the cruise.
Early this afternoon we passed very close to Cuba. We thought about the Carnival Cruise ship which was in port making it the first time a cruise ship has visited Cuba in decades. The Seaview pool had more people than on the World, but there were still plenty of deck chairs available.
I played in the Hold’em tournament with a new group of people. There was one holdover from the previous cruise. I had horrible cards and didn’t get a playable hand until the blinds were at $800/$1600 (original stake $4000)
NOTE – this is $4000 tournament dollars, not real dollars – The buy-in remains at $60.
My first playable hand was K J suited and I was the big blind. Only one caller had a history of playing weak hands and she had far more chips than I so I figured she would call my $1200 “all in” easily. She called as expected and since we were the only 2 left we showed our cards immediately before the flop. When she turned over a 5-6 I felt pretty good, since per the book I had a 60% chance of winning with 2 over cards. But, when the flop came 5 5 10, my goose was cooked as I was now staring at trips with only a K high. I managed to get a pair on the turn, but no luck on the River. Oh well, that’s poker!
Tonight was our first Gala night and we were joined at our table by all four members of Abba Fab. We had a wonderful time as they are not only great entertainers, they are great dinner guests and we enjoyed our conversation with them very much. We learned that they used to perform a Karen Carpenter tribute show and since Judy went to high school with Karen Carpenter (Judy never socialized with her and only remembers her as someone who played drums in the band) we perked up instantly. I am sure that their Karen Carpenter show would be as wonderful as their current offerings.
The Gala Night Menu has returned to the small square menu that folds out – there are less choices than on the world – only 3 choices in each category. A copy of the menu and all menus is on the blog under world cruise reference.
Showtime was the HAL cast performing “Jazz Blues Rock and Roll”. We missed the first 15 minutes of this show when it was first performed back between Israel and Greece in April as were going to the Toga Party instead. We enjoyed this show very much. Lots of great song and dance numbers starting with “Bye Bye Blackbird” and closing with “It’s Now or Never” with a few numbers featuring the dancers only in between. Fantastic show which we enjoyed very much.
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