Christmas at Sea

Christmas at Sea

After we left Turkey on our Viking Cruise, we headed out to sea. We were originally supposed to stop in Crete; a place we were all looking forward to experiencing. Unfortunately, since we would have been there on Christmas day, everything would have been closed. So we were forced to skip that stop and spend an extra day at sea.

Despite the fact that it would have been really cool to stop in Crete, we can’t complain about the time we spent at sea. First, because the company offered us ample credits to compensate for the missed stop. We put ours toward the alcoholic drink package, which paid for itself within a day. Second, because there were plenty of interesting things to do while we were on the ship, including observing the sea surrounding us while we were on route.

On Christmas Eve, my husband and I spent some time on the balcony to our state room. We weren’t in our state room often. We spent most of the trip out and about and exploring. But it was nice to take some time to settle down and simply enjoy the moment.

It was dark at the time. We cracked open the bottle of wine left for us on our first day, and simply watched the water pass. The only lights came from our ship, so most of what we saw was the white foam kicked up by our passage. But we could also see large dark shapes in the distance, representing the Greek isles we passed.

It was calm and quiet. And actually quite easy to imagine why these seas may have called to eager sailors during the age of myth. There was something magical about it, and I’m glad we took the time to experience it.

High Tea at Sea

As I mentioned, there were plenty of things to do while we were at sea. One event that we took advantage of during our extra sea day was High Tea. The ship actually offered High Tea every day during the journey. But since we usually indulged in shore excursions, we missed most of our opportunities to indulge.

High Tea is exactly what it sounds like – a traditional English Tea. I was particularly excited about the teas they had on offer, because several I had never encountered before. These were all loose leaf teas. So we were served a teapot and a small kettle of hot water. When your tea ran low, you could simply pour more water into the pot, and the staff would bring you more water if you wanted.

In addition to the tea, we were offered platters of snacks. These included small finger sandwiches and small pastries. We were also served scones and cream. There were little notches on the tea pots where the scones could sit to keep warm – a detail I appreciated.

It’s somewhat ironic, but although we lived in England for a year, we never attended any kind of High Tea. The closest we came was visiting a tea and cake shop. So it was fun to experience. There was live music in the background while we drank our tea, ate our snacks and chatted about everything we had seen so far. It turned out to be one of my favorite sea experiences.

My First Opera

There were several on-ship activities offered every day, even when we were at port. They often included movies. We skipped most of them so we could spend more time exploring each stop. But while we were at sea, it was easier to make time for the shows.

We were heading toward Italy and a major part of the country’s history involves the Opera. I’ve never actually seen one. I took a theater class in high school that was supposed to include watching an opera, but we never got that far. So when they announced they would be showing one on the ship, I jumped at the chance to see it.

The performance we saw was from the Metropolitan Opera and was called The Magic Flute. Originally performed on the 30th of September 1791, it was composed by Mozart. The story features Prince Tamino being saved from a dragon by the servants of the Queen of the Night. After which, the queen tasks him with rescuing her daughter, Pamina, from the high priest Sarastro.

Of course, the moment Tamino and Pamina see each other, they fall deeply and madly in love. But Tamino is tested by Sarastro to see if he can become part of his enlightened society. And it turns out that the Queen of the Night has her own villainous purposes.

I really enjoyed the music and costume designs. But I admit during the viewing, parts of the story escaped me. The video we saw was an abridged performance. But after some research, I discovered they didn’t actually leave much out. I admit I was exhausted the night we saw the show, so that also probably accounts for the gaps.

Still, the experience ignited an interest in opera in me, so it was definitely worth the time!

Special Restaurants

There were three restaurants on the ship. One was the sort of general restaurant where we ate most of our meals, but there were two specialty restaurants we visited during our time at sea.

The first involved a special tasting menu. I believe it was different each night, although we only visited once. It was my first experience with a tasting menu, though I am familiar with how they work. Instead of ordering from a selection of offerings, you’re essentially served a five course meal. Each of our courses also came with a wine pairing.

I will admit that the tasting menu was a little fancy for my taste. The food was great, don’t get me wrong. But it was so good I often found I wanted a little bit more. The appetizer, for example, was a delicious consume with 1 reindeer ravioli, and I instantly wanted more. But all of the food was absolutely delicious. I especially enjoyed the main course, which was some of the best lamb I have ever tasted.

The second restaurant was Italian themed. They offered us so much food, I actually skipped the soup course because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to eat it all! But as with the other special restaurant, everything they served us was amazing. Interestingly enough, one of our favorite things was the simple bread and oil combination we were served at the start of our meal. Because it turns out a really high-quality oil paired with fresh bread is one of the most divine things you can experience.

Volcanic Activity

Twice while we were on our journey, it was announced that we might be able to witness volcanic activity. The first time we passed near Mount Etna, which was apparently active at the time. The ship was scheduled to pass the volcano late in the evening, so we stayed up late in hopes of catching a glimpse of it.

Unfortunately, the night we passed Mount Etna there was also a time change for the ship. So I think we may have gone out on deck an hour later than we should have. Either way, we weren’t able to catch a glimpse of the volcano or her smoke trail.

Lucky for us, we had a second chance to glimpse an active volcano on our second night at sea. This time it was Mount Stromboli. We were eating at the Italian restaurant at the time, so several of us got up and crowded the windows to catch a glimpse while others hurried out on deck to snap photos.

It was an extremely worthwhile distraction. We didn’t get a clear view of the volcano because it was dark, but that made it easy to see the light of the lava as it glimmered at the lip of the volcano’s caldera. With the higher quality camera my husband’s parents brought with them, they were even able to snap a photo of the smoke trail trailing beside the volcano as we passed.

I have never witnessed active volcanic activity before. And while it may sound silly, there was something somewhat magical about it. We were, of course, safe from any form of dangerous eruption, so that certainly helped.

I have a little more to share about the ship in a future post. But for now, I’ll leave things here. Our next stop was Sicily!

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