DAY 6 – AN EXTRAORDINARILY FUN DAY AT SEA
Sunday was not destined to be a day of rest on this cruise. We were up early in order to get some breakfast before our Behind the Fun tour started at 9:00 a.m. This is a special “sea day excursion” that – unlike other special paid activities such as the Chef’s Table and steak house – you can’t pre-book; you have to go to the excursion desk after you board the ship to sign up.
The cost is $95 per person (on the Miracle in July 2015; I believe the cost is less on some ships that have a shorter tour). You get a behind-the-scenes look at areas of the ship that are normally off-limits to passengers, and if you’re at all into that sort of thing, it’s a great way to spend a morning at sea.
You’d best get to the excursion desk quickly on that first day, because the tour is limited to 14-15 people and it’s “first come, first served.” The good news is that if there’s a lot of interest, they will sometimes do a second tour. That’s what happened on both of my Miracle cruises; for the first one we were on the second tour but this time we made it onto the first list.
Once you’re on the list, information about when and where to meet is delivered to your cabin the first night. In this case, we were meeting in the Joker’s Club, which is the ship’s card/game room. Our guide was the same one Sharon and I had toured with in May, Joel. He’s super friendly and a lot of fun.
First up, there’s “inspection” to ensure that everyone in the group followed the instructions that came with our tour tickets. The rules are:
- Wear closed toe shoes
- No purses/bags
- No cell phones
- No cameras
Invariably somebody “forgets” and brings a phone, and Joel collects it to hold onto until the end of the tour. It might seem the obvious reason for the camera/phone ban is that the cruise doesn’t want people taking photos because it would make the tour less special/desirable to other cruisers and they might not sign up for it, but there are less obvious and more important reasons that have to do with security and safety.
If people were allowed to take photos of the ship’s “innards,” they would post them on the web or social networks – that’s a given. And such photos could be used by terrorists to plan and sabotage the ship. What better “captive audience” for an attack than a cruise ship at sea?
After everybody is in compliance and has been “wanded” to detect weapons or electronics, we’re issued “all access” passes and we’re off to see the wizards who work so hard to keep things running smoothly so we guests can enjoy our cruise.
I’m not going to go into great detail about the tour, because you really have to experience it for yourself to fully appreciate it. And I’ve already written about the sequence of events in my review of the May cruise so you can go back and read that one. Everything proceeded in pretty much the same way.
By the time the tour was finished, it was almost 1:00 p.m. – time for the chocolate extravaganza on the Lido deck. I was trying to eat lightly in anticipation of the big dinner I’d be having that evening at the steak house, so I only had some fruit and a small piece of chocolate cake. Tom tried the chocolate sushi. Then we went to the gym for half an hour of exercise to try to get a head start on the upcoming calories.
That afternoon, we went to John’s Marriage Show, which was as funny as the rest of his shows. Then we had an hour or so to relax in the cabin before it was time to get ready for one of the things we’d been looking forward to all week: our steak house reservation. When we got back to our stateroom, we found that our Behind the Fun treat – chocolate tuxedo strawberries and mini cakes and cookies – had been delivered, but we saved those for later. We had to leave plenty of room for the wonderful steak house food.
Sharon and I didn’t eat there when we cruised in May; she isn’t really a “foodie” so we decided to save some money and just enjoy the MDR. I had eaten at the Magic’s steak house more than once, and loved it – but this was Tom’s first time and he was anxious to find out whether it was really as good as I’d told him it was.
Our reservation was for 6:00 p.m. and we were there on the dot. Nick and Nora’s is in a really nice location on deck 10 at the top of a winding staircase from the Lido deck. It’s a much prettier setting than the one on the Magic; there are two levels, upper and lower, with walls of windows on each side of each level.
Looking at the menu, it was hard to choose from the delicious appetizers, soups, salads and entrees.
I finally settled on crab cakes, lobster bisque, and the grilled halibut – fresh Alaska halibut that only this particular ship’s steak house offers. Now Tom is actually a steak lover, so he really had a dilemma when our waiter came by with a selection of choice cut beef (accompanied by one lonely lobster tail) for him to consider. Finally he settled on one and we enjoyed a glass of wine while we awaited our first course.
We’d been seated at a table on the window, so we had a wonderful view of the sea and since the restaurant has the “open kitchen” style that seems to be so popular in high-end eateries there days, we also had a view of the chefs, who smiled and waved whenever I looked their way. Something that always strikes me about Carnival staff and crew members, every time I cruise, is how very friendly they all are and how they go out of their ways to engage with the passengers.
As fantastic as all the food on the menu is, it’s something that’s not listed on the menu that makes me want to go to the steak house every night if I could. That’s the wonderful rosemary bread that they bring around to the table to get you started. The very first time I went to a Carnival steak house on the Magic, on my first cruise with Sharon, we ate so much of that bread that we hardly had room for our dinners. It really is that good.
The first “mini course” that comes out is the little “compliments of the chef” dish that’s always a surprise. I’m never sure what it is, but it always tastes great.
The crab cake was sumptuous, not big – but that’s a good thing, because by the time you finish all the courses, you’ll be more than full. Our second selections were the lobster bisque and Tom’s beef Carpaccio.
Oh, my. This was the first time I had ordered lobster bisque at the steak house, but it won’t be the last. It was the best I’d ever tasted. At last, the main courses arrived. My halibut melted in my mouth and Tom seemed to think the steak was pretty good, too.
After all that, I knew I wasn’t going to finish my dessert, but the Hazelnut cheesecake is so delectable that there was no way I could pass it up – even though the slice is big enough to feed a small family for a week. Tom ordered the same thing.
As I suspected, I was only able to eat a few bites, but they were absolutely yummy bites, and I took the rest back to the cabin in a “to go” box. It had been a five-star dining experience, as usual.
After dinner, we went to the “Ticket to Ride” show – a tribute to the Beatles – in the Phantom Theater and it was just great. Having grown up in the 60s, I found that it brought back a lot of memories, and I guess most of the audience felt that way as almost everybody was singing along.
When we got back to the cabin after the show, we found the best towel animal yet just hanging around, waiting for us. We also found our last edition of the FunTimes, a gentle reminder that we only had one more day and this time tomorrow night, we would be packing to go home.
It made me a little sad to realize that the week had gone by so quickly, and that we were leaving Alaska. But we still had Victoria, Canada to explore; our May cruise had only stopped there long enough to drop anchor so we didn’t get to see any of it. I drifted off to sleep that night thinking about how nice it would be to have a winter home in Texas and a summer home in Alaska.