our week aboard the norwegian SUN

tony and i are back from our cruise. the first thing i want to say is that this was, quite simply, the best vacation i have ever had. several factors contributed to this, including the location (the carribbean), where i had never visited before; the vacation type (a cruise), which i had never experienced before; and the fact that tony and i were together and celebrating the first anniversary of our commitment ceremony. it was an amazing experience. i’ll try to put some of this into words here. if you want to start with the pictures, here is a link to my photostream on flickr. (when you get to the first photo page, click on the thumbnail of tony in the upper right of the page to go to the next picture in order. continue this process to scroll through the pictures in order.)

the cruise left out of miami and we had to connect through atlanta, so we were up and out of the house by 7am on the first day. it all went smoothly and we were in our stateroom by 3pm. we dumped our bags and set off to explore the ship. since we hadn’t really eaten all day, our first stop was the buffet! we enjoyed our first meal outside by the pool. then we were off to the lifeboat drill, followed by the poolside sailaway barbecue, then dinner in the seven seas dining room. after wandering around some more, we stopped back at the buffet for a snack. now you may notice a theme developing here. this was, first and foremost, an eating vacation. we had no less than SEVEN meals on any day on the ship. so this first part of the travelogue will be a discussion of what we did and saw besides the food. i’ll leave that for the last.

our first full day was at sea, so we mostly just sought out all the various parts of the ship and enjoyed the total relaxation of being on vacation. there were so many things to see onboard! the SUN has 9 restaurants; 10 cafes and lounges; a nightclub and a show lounge; a library and gameroom; a casino; a spa with sauna and steamroom; a shopping gallery; 3 pools and 5 hot tubs; basketball, golf, shuffleboard and pingpong; etc., etc., etc. plus, our stateroom had its own balcony, so we spent time out there–just sitting and watching the world slide by.

one of my favorite mornings was the time i spent in the spa. i luxuriated in a seaweed wrap and a massage. the wrap involves being painted from head to toe with a paste made from seaweed ground up with botanical oils like eucalyptus and lavender. then you are wrapped in a mylar blanket, draped with multiple layers of heated towels and left to sweat for 15 minutes. after this clearing of the pores, everything gets rinsed off in the shower. then it’s back onto the table for an invigorating massage. WOW! i have had many massages in my life, but none compared to this. the combination of the clarification of my skin with the pressure of the massage left me feeling relaxed and invigorated.

another great part of our experience was meeting up with other gay and lesbian family on the ship. the daily bulletin we received in our cabin each evening included the announcement of a regular “friends of dorothy” meeting in the champagne bar. (this is code for GLBT folks.) although we missed the first couple of nights, we enjoyed several evenings with men and women from all over the world. there were sometimes as many as eighteen of us there, from the us, canada and england. it was a nice part of our day, giving it just a bit of structure. plus i love a glass of champagne before dinner!

one highlight i don’t want to forget was the chocoholic buffet. held at midnight in the four seasons dining room, it featured dozens of cakes and confections, artfully arranged with a multitude of chocolate showpieces such as models of the ship and the statue of liberty, along with a half dozen ice sculptures. it was eye-popping as well as belt-popping. i am sure there were many folks up very late that night with sugar and caffeine coursing through their veins.

we spent one night in the casino, where we actually came out ahead! tony won big on the nickel slots, turning a $9 bet into $26!! and he’s not even a gambler! we also saw a couple of entertaining shows in the show lounge. one was a woman named jane l. powell, who bills herself as the “chocolate goddess of love.” she has a great voice and gave us a really good time. the other evening was a production called “cirque pan.” i think it was supposed to be some sort of melding of the peter pan fairy tale with a cirque du soleil style performance. mostly it just left me confused and a bit disappointed. at the end of it, though, we had a little staff appreciation moment. the cruise director came onstage and introduced the head of each of the departments on the ship (bridge, housekeeping, restaurants, etc.). then she brought up a representative from each of the SIXTY countries from which the staff hails. it was kinda cool, in a cheesy, “we are the world” kinda way. what can i say? i liked it.

alright, on to the shore excursions. the first that tony and i did together was to guatemala and the mayan site at quirigua. our guide was guite informative and it’s amazing to think that all these things were created more than 2000 years ago. our trip the next day into the jungles of belize was equally fascinating. here we visited the mayan site at altun ha. these ruins were even more elaborate, with huge ziggurats and temples. i had never seen any of this part of the world before and i loved it. the last stop was at cozumel, mexico. here, tony and i simply took the tender ashore and did some tourist shopping. the town was basically a huge mall, set up with countless stalls of folks selling nearly identical trinkets. we made the rounds, found the best prices and made our way back to the ship after a couple of hours.

now we come to the food. we had two special nights of dining, in the italian themed il adagio and the french le bistro. these dinners featured some special dishes that were worth the extra cost. a caesar salad prepared tableside, a couple of luscious slices of foie gras, a succulent veal chop, and some heavenly chocolate fondue. while we thoroughly enjoyed these two meals, we also felt very much pampered by our regular waitstaff team of oliver and lilibeth in the seven seas dining room. after being randomly assigned to them in the first couple of days, we started to request them each time we came to eat. they learned our names and our dining preferences (such as, by the time we got to sit-down breakfast we had already had three cups of caffeinated coffee and we were ready for decaf). they made us feel like honored guests, even when we came for a simple lunch. they were a very important part of our cruise experience. we also spent plenty of time in the two buffets onboard, the garden café and the great outdoor café. we had a snack in the sports bar one day; tapas in las ramblas on a couple of evenings; ate at the poolside barbecue on the first day; had a coffee and dessert in the java café one afternoon; even ate a bit of maki in the east meets west restaurant one morning (!) after viewing a sushi making demonstration. the strongest parts of the foodservice onboard were easily the breads and breakfast pastries. we loved having warm danish and croissants every morning, and the rolls at lunch and dinner were outstanding!

so now i’ll just make the big list of foods we ate. this is in no particular order, but i’ve put our faves in bold!

bratwurst and knackwurst…barbecued porkchops…shrimp cocktail…creamy corn soup…prime rib…asparagus and pearl onion tart…chocolate caramel pecan cake…olive and caper rolls…raspberry chocolate cake…banana frozen yogurt…frozen margaritas…cinnamon raisin danish…apricot cheese danish…corned beef hash…bircher muesli…french toast…apple walnut pancakes…turkey sausage…crisp bacon…sliced fresh fruit plate…bread pudding with custard sauce…ice cream!…pasta station in the buffet…various indian entrees with basmati rice, raita, dal and pappadums…grilled wahoo…lamb salad…cuban sandwiches…philly steak sandwiches…apple fritters…pineapple carpaccio with mint…bouillabaise…mushroom ravioli in onion broth…shrimp scampi…chocolate hazelnut cake…zuppa inglese…lobster tail…twice baked potato…clam chowder…escargots…chateaubriand…crepes suzettes…crème brulee…berry trifle…berry frozen yogurt…asparagus with hollandaise… poached eggs on toast…extra crispy hash browns…eggs benedict…cheese salad…roast duck…roast beef…roast chicken…roast suckling pig…roast pork loin…sauteed salmon with herb sauce…sauteed flounder…risotto with wild mushrooms…vanilla souffle with strawberry sauce…shepherd’s pie…fish and chips…mushroom salad…marinated olives…goat cheese balls with herbs…quiche savoyarde…cauliflower soup…crisp greens with oranges…leg of lamb…peach frozen yogurt…tomato saffron broth…grilled mahimahi…almond parfait…sauteed tilapia…singapore beef noodles…chocolate layer cake…chicken piccatta…potato gnocchi…forest mushroom soup…sea bass mille feuilles with duxelles…filet mignon with bearnaise…peach flambe with ice cream…chocolate fondue with fresh fruit…cheeseburgers from the grill…potato salad…coleslaw…chicken salad…stirfry station in the buffet…tomato and onion salad…sauteed pork chops…napoleons…foie gras with roasted apple…and much, much more. i figure this list covers less than half of what we ate over the course of the seven days. norwegian cruise lines definitely lost money on the food and beverage portion of our fare!

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