Saturday, November 29, 2008

On the Golden, Day Two

Today the seas have calmed even further, and the ship steams quietly south southwest towards Hilo, where we will arrive early Monday morning. With no shore excursions possible, Princess tries to fill the day with activities of all sorts: lei-making, ukulele lessons, photography and computer seminars, movies (“The Dark Knight”), trivia, bingo, line dancing and yes, even a shuffleboard contest – all the middle-of-the-road pastimes one associates with cruise ships. I have foregone them all, preferring to play poker in the casino (I’m up, but only a little) and sit on the balcony and read the first of my books (“Pied Piper” by Nevil Shute, best-known for his novel “On The Beach”) as the ocean slips past at the rate of 20 knots an hour.

And eat. I’ve done some eating, though not nearly as much as possible. The options are many, but not terribly varied: there is a traditional dining room, where one is seated with other cruisers. You eat at the same time every evening and sit with the same people. There are also two “anytime” dining rooms, where you can either share a table or dine in solitude. Additionally, there is a 24-hour buffet, a hamburger/hot dog grill, a pizzeria, a coffee bar and two “specialty” restaurants, one Italian, one a steak house. These last two require an extra fee of $20/person. There is also a “chef’s table” option, which is $75/person additional, but it includes eight courses, paired wines, a trip to the galley and a visit from the chef. It is, however, reputed to be quite excellent.

Which is more than one can say for most of the food on board ship. Like pretty much everything else on Princess, the food is militantly middle-of-the-road. There is nothing to offend, but also nothing to inspire. Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s impossible to create world-class cuisine for 2500 people, and have it ready 24 hours a day. From time to time, a dish arrives that is quite good, but mostly it’s all very workmanlike. And given that I’m only paying about $100/day for my lodging, entertainment (such as it is) and food, I’d say they’re pretty good workmen. On our previous cruise (aboard the Emerald Princess), though the food was of slightly higher quality, the pizza was awful. On this ship, though, the pizza is actually pretty decent. My guess is the guy throwing the crusts is better at his job. Maybe the lower humidity in the Pacific (as opposed to the Caribbean) enters into the equation. Either way, it’s nice to be able to grab a slice in the afternoon, or to temper the bitter taste of an exceptionally bad beat (as when I flopped a straight, only to lose to a full house).

Tonight is formal night, though not for us. Black tie just isn’t Bob’s style. But we’ll put on our nicer duds, head down a few decks and see what the industrial kitchen is putting on the plates.

Tomorrow: who knows, we’ll see what mood strikes. Perhaps if I do well at the morning poker tournament (the first of the trip), I’ll bore you all with the details.

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