Yesterday we were to visit Gdansk, Poland, but the winds were so strong that we could not safely dock, so we had a day at sea. They wouldn’t even let anyone outside because of the winds; I tried to open a deck door and the wind was so strong I could only open a crack before the wind blow it shut. In the morning you had to either walk like a duck or sway from side to side to be able to walk because of the wind. But it abated by the afternoon.
As a result, I could finish my blogs about Saint Petersburg.
There is a lounge on the ship called the Explorers Lounge with glass that wraps around the prow of the boat; it is very quiet up there and you get a great view of the sea. There are plush chairs, each with a fur on the back and a fireplace to warm your toes.
It also has a restaurant where you can get a Norwegian-style breakfast, so we ate there yesterday. The place is named ‘Mamsen’s’ which is a familiar for the mother of the family who owns the cruise line. All the food that is served there is from her recipes. The Norwegian pancake was covered with berries, but I ate them before I took this picture.
There is a second level to the Explorers Lounge that is the perfect place to watch arrivals and departures.
Since it was a free day, I took pictures of other parts of the ship that you haven’t seen. This is the indoor pool area; on each side there are lounging chair, where people can read or sleep (there was a lot of that yesterday).
Parts of the lounging areas have ornate wrought iron screens of depicting various flora and fauna of Scandinavia. Even the elevator has a sea motif.
The Star Theater is where all the lectures and presentations and show take place. It can seat about 600 of the 920 passengers and is in use a lot.
Because we were not expected to be at sea, but rather on shore, there were additional presentations in the Star Theater. One of the most interesting one was one on Amber. The Baltic area is one of the most prolific sources of amber in the world. We learned some interesting facts about amber.
Amber is not a gemstone; in fact, it is petrified conifer resin from extinct trees in the Tertiary period. Real amber must be at 1 million years old; archeologists have determined the amber began to be formed 2-10 million years ago. In some cases, amber contains fossilized extinct bugs which got trapped in the resin as it began to harden. Ancient people thought that amber was a gift from the sun god, because it often was washed up on the banks of the sea melting of icebergs or dredging that disturbs the ancient sediment. Others thought it was the tears of the gods or hastened honey.
Amber is and is sold by weight. There are three different type of knock-offs. The first is made entirely of plastic; another has been reconstituted by taking small pieces of amber and crushing them and them melding them into amber pieces. The third is when a piece of amber is split, a modern insect is place in the center and the two pieces are fused back together. If you see a piece of amber with a common housefly or spider in it, it is surely a fake.
There are four major colors of amber: the most commonly seen honey colored, white amber, cherry amber and green amber. Those pieces of amber that have bubbles in them result from impurities (water, air) trapped as the resin fossilizing. As the pressure increases they form what are called …. White amber is formed with calcium carbonite is trapped in the resin (they didn’t say how that happened). The green amber (see picture) is formed by exposure to marshy environment amid decaying organic matter.
The most expensive amber is known as cherry amber, and has been under the most pressure for the longest time. Sometimes the cherry color is so dark that is looks black.
Thus ends your lesson on amber.
After the amber presentation, the Executive Chef and Pastry chef did a cooking demonstration, making Mushroom Risotto with Duck Confit and Tiramisu. Some of the interesting facts they presented was they use 15000 eggs per day! Any leftover food that wasn’t on the buffets are chilled to 40 degrees, covered and eaten by the evening and night crews, so there is very little wasted food. They have an entire walk-in refrigerator for the number of berries that are consumed. There are 120 chefs/cooks who work 24 hours a day; included in that number is 22 people who are solely responsible for clean-up and making sure that the galley environment is safe.
Friday night we ate at the Chef Table, a reservation-based dinner that offers a complete meal at the discretion of the chef. Each course had the appropriate accompanying wine. Our meal was a five-course menu inspired by China’s Cantonese and Haiyang cuisine. We were given a window table so we had a nice view as we ate.
We started with amuse bouche that was a Hot & Sour Soup that was very flavorful and not overly hot; it was served with a French Muscadet. The first course was Fried Prawns, make crispy by panko. Pieces of Chinese red pepper were on top, and we both took them off. But the shrimp was very good! We drank a French Brise Marine white wine with it.
We had a palate cleanser of Coconut Granita, made with ginger and lemongrass. The Chinese believe that lemongrass helps flush hour toxins, kills bacteria, helps with digestion, and relieves aches and pains; ginger wards off strokes and heart disease and fights infections. I am not a huge fan of coconut, but this was very refreshing.
Our main course was Wok-Fried Beef in a black pepper sauce with rice in a lotus leaf. Accompanying this was a Spanish Basiano Tempranillo, which fit perfectly with the beef.
The beef was extremely tender and flavorful, with three scallops included. The black pepper sauce was a little spicy, but not too much.
The dessert was something neither one of us had ever had: Chilled Mango Cream. Mango was the base, but it also included sago (a type of tapioca), and pieces of pomelo (similar to a pink grapefruit). It was served with a French Gros & Petit Manseng wine. It was a delightful meal and not so much that you couldn’t walk out of the restaurant. We have two more reservations before we leave, and I looking forward to what they will do next.
Each day there is some type of tasting, and we went to the martini tasting. We had five different martinis and discovered that a Cosmo is much better with a little strawberry liqueur.
So ends the unexpected sailing day.