Guest Gary currently is onboard Oosterdam and will be sending in posts from his trip.
Aboard the Oosterdam, En Route, Melbourne Australia, 4-10-13
“I know why you keep coming back. It is because we keep changing the menu,” so stated Captain Arjen Van Der Loo during his speech Monday at the brunch for Mariner Society members (repeat Holland America voyagers.)
I don’t know about the psychic pull of changing dining room menus, but Holland America Line has an almost mystical ability to seduce passengers back to its ships and itineraries over and over again.
Before Captain Van Der Loo spoke at the brunch, he had placed beribboned metal medallions around the necks of repeat HAL passengers at a reception, symbolic of their having ridden the waves with Holland America for at least 100 days. After the reception, I spoke with Drew, the cruise director, who had acted as master of ceremonies; he announced the name of each medallion recipient before they marched on stage to meet their honorific fate and be photographed with the Captain and Hotel Director Brunink.
“The ceremony appeared to me to be long. How many recipients were there,” I queried Drew. “There were so many on this cruise due to get an award, we had to split the event into two days. During the two receptions, Captain Van Der Loo gave out 110 bronze (100 days), five silver (300 days aboard) and one gold (500) medallion. “Oh, by the way,” he emphasized, “one Mariner on this voyage has sailed 634 passenger days aboard HAL ships.”
Jeanne and I have always been pleased and sometime pleasantly surprised by the culinary delights we encounter in Holland America dining rooms. So far on this voyage, we have uttered WOW! with, of all things, a date desert; another WOW! went up for a pate en croute appetizer. I delight in the chilled soups, from the traditional Spanish tomato-based gazpacho, to concoctions created out of various fruits; I enjoy one each evening. The veal, beef, pork, lamb and duck creations presented to us have, without exception, been expertly prepared and beautifully plated. Dian, our table steward, is bright, efficient and when prodded, has a delightful laugh, ranging up to a giggle. Our 8 p.m. appointment at table 25, upper floor of the Vista Dining room is something we look forward to each and every day.
Bineesh, the assistant maitre d’hotel assigned to our table for two, in addition to being attentive to our dining room needs, has an interesting background. First, he is an East Indian, while the serving staff is universally Indonesian (a throw-back to the time when the island country was a Dutch colony). While India is overwhelmingly Hindu and Muslim, Bineesh is a Roman Catholic; further, he studied for the priesthood for four years in a Jesuit seminary. “A priest friend from the seminary officiated at my wedding,” he said and chuckled. Often times when we encounter a Catholic Indian, he or she is from the state of Goa, a long-time Portuguese and Catholic colony. Bineesh, however is from the Indian state of Kerala, where, he told us, St. Thomas personally took the word of Christ. My desktop Encyclopaedia Britannica assures me that St. Thomas died in India, circa AD 53. Bineesh could well be correct that St. Thomas proselytized in the state of Kerala.
Jeanne bought me a bathroom scale in Auckland. Thus far I have been a steady 115 kilos; this, despite breakfasts of two Eggs Scottish (Eggs Benedict, with smoked salmon substituted for Canadian Bacon,) milk and a parfait of yoghurt and fruit. Late lunches are light. Our evening Vista Dining Room dinners are four or five course delights, including, of course, caloric—usually chocolate—desert concoctions. Anyone claiming to dine at home in a similar luxurious state — food and service — is obviously a person whose veracity cannot be trusted.