Sunday, December 28, 2014

TRAVELBLOG POST #9 - May The Fez Be With You

Okay, just stick with me here.  It will make sense, I promise.

Didja ever just want to slap someone upside the head? Only myself, folks. Because when I pulled this post up to ready it for publishing, I realized the first part was stored on my iPhone, as I had been writing it while on a tour bus.  It was good stuff, and I looked forward to joining the two pieces of the essay.

Well, damn, spit, and dirty socks, the first part has disappeared off of the iPhone, assuming I saved it in the first place.  Just slap my face and call me Sally.

I'm pretty certain that what I lost was the entire island of Grand Turk. I guess I can't recreate the commentary, but I have some awesome pictures to show you.  Grand Turk was a big surprise for us, because more than one person told us there was nothing there but the beaches, and it turns out they were wrong.

Incredibly, outstandingly wrong.  That is a replica of John Glenn's capsule Friendship 7, the original of which splashdowned nearby (relatively speaking - close enough there was a Project Mercury tracking station and hospital on the island).

I thought my friend Chris Owens might enjoy these pictures.  The water, the sky, the sand - so many gorgeous combinations, so many shades of blue.

Isn't Nature incredible?

St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral, Anglican-Episcopal, established 1899. Gorgeous stained glass windows.

 Yeah, he is.


Salt was such an incredible part of the island industry and economy - and then it wasn't.  You can still see salt pans all around the island, but now they are used for drainage.

Polite donkeys waiting for the office to open.

Seriously?  All I saw were tame donkeys.

Donkeys are very polite here on Grand Turk.  This one is waiting his turn on line to purchase a hot dog.  No mustard.

Not a beach, just a view of a neighborhood in Heaven.

The water was unbelievable.

I could have spent another two hours in this museum.

While contemporary thought tells us that Columbus first landed on the island of San Salvador, some scholars believe he landed on Grand Turk.

It's hard to see, but there are articles and exhibits here devoted to the possibility that Columbus' ship Pinta was shipwrecked off the coast of Grand Turk.

I developed a great affection for this island when we were told the basis for the name.  Do you see the little red hat on top of the cactus?  The cactus happens to be indigenous to the islands (along with so many other cacti). The red hat apparently reminded someone in charge of the red fezzes worn by gentlemen in the Ottoman Empire and an occasional TARDIS, and thus the name "Turks" for the islands.  Very cool.  Fezzes are cool.

Oh yes, there are beaches - gorgeous beaches.


Speaking of cooking, things were weird in the dining room tonight.  Our servers were crazy rushed, and clearly under unusual pressure.  Yesterday they were dancing in the aisles; today they were stressing at their stations. The maitre d' and a few of his assistants were scooting around like the Warner Brothers' Roadrunner.  Beep beep.

Throughout this week's travelblog, while I've been raving about the cruise, I've been totally honest about the food.  No one who has cruised a while - and this is our 13th cruise, and the 12th on Carnival - comes onboard a Carnival ship expecting gourmet food.  For the most part, Carnival food is okay.  Quantity has always been great, if you are into that sort of thing. Since I haven't experienced hunger since June 2, 2003, quantity is not an issue for me.  There's always an extensive selection available, whether upstairs on the Lido deck for breakfast and lunch, or the main dining room for dinner.  I have always been able to find something tasty.  Occasionally there's a bomb, like the Baked Alaska or the Veal Parm.  The tilapia is always dry, but the salmon is delicious.  The appetizers are very good - beef carpaccio, escargot, fried shrimp with plum sauce, shrimp cocktail, smoked duck breast, and other tasty tidbits. Their flatiron steak is a good standby.  Soup is hit or miss.  I've noticed that the chefs here on the Sunshine are lax about seasoning.  Salt is almost always missing, and there have been several dishes that really needed a flavor boost from aromatics like onion and garlic. The salad bar and the plated salads are always good.  Cakes, pies, that sort of thing - pretty good.  The cheesecake is too light and airy, but we're from New York and we have certain standards the rest of the country will never match.  The warm chocolate melting cake and the soufflĂ© are to die for.

You get the idea.  Overall, the food is good, not great. There are high points and low points.  Last night was a low point.  Chewy, stringy, tasteless beef filet I've trained my husband to be a descriptive food critic), and the strangest oysters Rockefeller I've ever tried to eat.  My wild mushroom bisque was very good.  Rob said his apple pie was very enjoyable.  But those oysters - one of the worst things I've ever been served on a cruise ship.  I'm putting those on the Baked Alaska list.  Never again.

There must have been a boatload of complaints last night - literally - and that must be what was causing the air of despair among the dining room staff.  At some point, a maitre d' type lady came over to ask us how the food and service had been.  We told her about those two dreadful dishes. I also told her that the service had been great as usual.  The part about the service wasn't entirely true, but I wasn't throwing those kids under the bus. It wasn't their fault they weren't walking Gangnam style this evening, I am sure of that.

We were approached by two other dining room captains with black jackets and furrowed brows, and at that point we just told them everything was fine. They could see those unnaturally emerald green oysters on my plate and draw their own conclusions. Having both worked in food service, we have some idea how hard it is to please everybody in a crowded dining room.  When "everybody" adds up to 3000 passengers, it is virtually impossible.  I have to say Carnival comes pretty close.

But those oysters Rockefeller ... damn ...

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