Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Monday, August 2, 2010

Monday Evening Quarterbacking

Perhaps the best part of sea days is sleeping in. With nowhere to go and no way to get there, we didn’t have to get up in the proverbial dark and fetch a tray from a room service steward. We ate a leisurely breakfast in the MDR with two other couples from Oregon and London, respectively, and ate like civilized adults, finishing around 10 a.m.

We met Roxanne for trivia a bit past 11:00, but Ed had a massage scheduled and Barbara slept even later than we did, so there were just three of us at the table when we were approached by an elderly couple who asked if they could join us. While they didn’t add much to the competition [and we rejected one of his correct answers], we discovered that they are next door neighbor’s of one of D’s former teaching friends, Dick Wasserman. The last we heard of Dick and his wife Betty, they were living in New Smyrna Beach, FL. Now, apparently, they are in Arizona. D gave the husband his card to give to Dick, so maybe we’ll hear from him when we all get home. And this is why your mother said to where clean underwear.

We lost the trivia match by just a few questions. As usual, some of the correct answers floated around the table and, with a few different decisions, we could have one our personal Holy Grail of prizes, the coasters. We still have almost four weeks to work on that goal.

Since we had finished breakfast so late, we were not ready for the Asian buffet which began right after trivia. We gave the casino some money by playing slots, but there are no games that really catch our fancy as there have been on other ships. We found the same thing on the Prinsendam last year, and the selection has not changed. D has not been playing blackjack, either. Eventually we went to the Lido and got sandwiches for lunch, then returned to the cabin for a long afternoon nap; even D napped for a change instead of writing the journal.

Tonight was another formal night, the third of six on this segment of the cruise. There will be four more on the Baltic leg of the trip. The Black and White formal night is a tradition here. The dining room is decorated with black and white crepe paper balls; the chairs have white covers which make them seem like ghosts; and there is the captain’s Black and white Ball, which we skipped, in the show room. After dinner, though, we returned to the room and read until almost midnight.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Land of the Midnight and Mid-day Sun

We have continued to be lucky with the weather and the seas. While there was a little motion this morning as we chugged toward the Top of the World, Longyearbyen, Norway. Yesterday and today were cloudy but bright and there has been no rain. In Iceland, we had predictions of rain for all three ports, yet there was nary a drop. We got wetter at the waterfalls than we did from rain [and some of us got soaked at Geysir when it erupted]. Likewise, the seas have continued to be almost perfectly flat from day one.

When we sailed to Antarctica in 2004, we were advised to book an inside cabin, which we did, in order to avoid the 24-hour day. We are now so far above the Arctic Circle, that there is no night. In summer, the earth’s axis slants toward the sun and light falls over the North Pole and down on parts that lie in shadow. It is the curvature of the Earth that creates night. With the Sun practically overhead, there is no curvature and, hence, no shadow. It is day time all the time. In Longyearbyen, the sun is above the horizon for 127 days and nights [well, days and days]. Conversely, when the earth’s axis is tilted away from the sun, the North and Longyearbyen have endless night. And remember that the Southern hemisphere is the exact opposite – when the north tilts toward the sun, the south tilts away and vice-versa thus creating opposite seasons in the two hemisphere’s. Since the equatorial areas are in the middle, they have very little change in daylight or seasons. Thus endeth today’s science lesson.

We didn’t bother with breakfast this morning and stayed in the room until it was time an invitation-only Indonesian lunch. Roxanne and Ed were also among the 130 people invited. We were told last night that the invitees are those passengers who are staying aboard for the Baltic cruise. We have been joking with the wait-staff and the dining room supervisor, Tommy, about having real Indonesian food, but to no avail. Tommy has even gone so far as to say that the tempe they serve, even to the crew, is not good. So we were pleasantly surprised to see an invitation to a “private Indonesian luncheon honoring HAL’s Indo-nesian heritage with a special ‘rijsttafel.’” It is scheduled at the same time as trivia, but we are being brave.

In Indonesia, a former Dutch possession, rijsttafel is more a ritual than a meal, according the captain in his introductory remarks. While ours was a series of fixed plates, he said that authentic rijsttafel is a series of small plates brought to the table one by one and that there could be as many as forty different dishes or variations. Ours was shorter so there would still be time for Bingo.

We started with rice crackers[karak gender] and then an assortment of steamed vegetables [celery, carrot and bean sprouts] accompanied by a peanut sauce[bumbu gado-gado]. This was followed by soto ayam, a chicken consommé with vegetables and flavored with coconut. The entrée was nasi goereng, Javanese fried rice, accompanied by spicy shrimp, chicken satay, Sumatran stewed beef, chile-spiced green beans and banana fritter. Dessert was pudung nasi saos, rice pudding with brown sugar sauce. There was also cheap ship’s champagne.

Our assumption that the guests were passengers continuing on the ship after the stop in Amsterdam seems to have been erroneous. Captain Albert said that the group included some who were continuing, some who were 4-star alumni and some who had traveled often with HAL. The bottom line is that we are not sure what the criteria were for selection but that we enjoyed the food and conversation at the table.

The captain also said that he hopes to spend some time tomorrow after we leave Longyearbyen searching for North Pole ice. We are certainly not going to the Pole, but he hopes that the ice floe has moved far enough south for us to at least touch the edgy part and get some pictures. Time will tell how successful his efforts will be.

This afternoon we went to a cupcake afternoon tea, a variation on the usual tea which is presented each day we are at sea. After dinner tonight, we will wander through the casino to avoid the cast show which we didn’t like last year and have no desire to see again.

Tomorrow – The Top of the World [and dry teck]

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