January 26-27, 2012 – En Route to the Falkland Islands
As we head further south, the temperatures are moving lower and the days are getting longer. At the northern portion of Brazil, near the equator, we had 12 hour days and 12 hour nights and high temperatures in the mid 90s. Now we have 14 hour days and 10 hour nights and high temperatures in the mid 60s. After 70 years of knowing that days are longer and temperatures cooler in the north, it is a daily revelation that we are headed toward the South Pole.
Life on Board – Meals. We decided early on in our cruising experience that if we enjoyed the normal daily epicurean routine on board, we would have to be taken off the ship at the end of the cruise with a crane. The opportunities to overeat are staggering. There are the regular three meals in the dining room, near constant buffets on the more casual Lido deck, hamburgers, pizza and a taco bar by the pool and then there is 24 hour room service if you are still hungry. Of course, the midnight buffet can’t be forgotten. All of it is free or at least built into the fare. The dining room has a dress code – most often it is “Smart Casual” which more or less translates into slacks & a sport shirt for men and similar dress for ladies. Basically no shorts. Every week or so they have a formal night which requires tuxedos or suits, ties, and formal or cocktail dresses. When formal nights occur, it is expected that we wear formal attire to dinner, in the lounges, at the show, etc. Formal dress is not required on the Lido deck – where the buffets are located.
Buffet on the Lido Deck
For several reasons, Sally and I long ago adopted a modified dressing and eating schedule. In the dining room, you sit at the same table (6 or 8 people) every evening. Maybe we are anti-social but the only table partners we would enjoy being with every night are our children and grandchildren when they come along on a cruise. On those occasions it is great to hear how their day went and as a daily routine is quite enjoyable (they probably hate it). Secondly, by the time you stop what you are doing, like a hot streak in the casino, get cleaned up and changed for dinner and enjoy the service of a 4 or 5 course meal, you have easily spent 2 to 3 hours of your precious day. Last and not least – two meals a day helps prevent adding pounds on the cruise – a critical issue on a 112 day cruise.
When Jeff was about 8 or 9, we took him on a cruise which changed our routine forever. The first night of the cruise, we changed and went to the dining room for dinner. Our table mates were two couples from Detroit, one of whom had a 3 year old girl with them. Both couples were so drunk they could barely sit upright and the little girl jumped up on the table and ran up and down. We decided to give it another chance the next night – same story. We talked it over, considered changing tables, and then came up with the idea of skipping dinner, or at least skipping the dining room.
For the past twenty years, that has been our practice. We occasionally go to the dining room to see if we want to change our practice, but so far we are sticking with it, and consider it one of the better decisions we have made. We have many friends who consider the evening dining room experience the highlight of their trips, but that is one of the things so great about cruising – everyone can do their own thing. Over the years we have noticed a steady increase of diners in the buffets and suspect a decline in the dining rooms, and there are many fellow cruisers who are dismayed by this trend, favoring the grand service and formality of the past – we are just not among them. This has also altered the traditional tipping procedures on the ships, which I will cover in a future blog.
One of the benefits of this practice is that we generally wind up eating only two meals per day – both in the buffet on the Lido deck – breakfast after exercise and a late lunch (early dinner) about 3 or 4 o’clock. The cookies we snatch in the library don’t count as either.