Supping Away

steak with pont neuf potatoesLucien
36 Wellington Street,
Toronto, ON.
Ph: (416) 504-9990.

albacore tuna crudoIt was a balmy evening in Toronto and we took a leisurely stroll down Yonge Street to Lucien. We were a little early for our reservation but I had just arrived in Toronto after an early morning flight from Vancouver, and was really hungry.

I was happy that we were seated immediately, and ready for my first glass of wine in a couple of weeks. While we were perusing the menu I sipped a glass of Astrolabe Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.

the sushi lollipopsThere are a number of specialty restaurants, cafes and a bistro on the Eclipse. The one I knew we just could not miss was  Qsine. As it turned out, the time went by so fast we did not make it to dinner in either Murano or the Tuscan Grille though I heard glowing comments about the food from other diners. We did get to the Champagne Tea in Murano on the last afternoon of the cruise.

But I am glad we made a point of trying Qsine. The dinner at Qsine was definitely the most interesting and innovative dining that I have enjoyed in any specialty restaurants aboard during my recent cruising experiences. The variety of tastes and textures was simply fantastic and the novel way each dish was presented was exciting to see.

view from my officeThe Eclipse was only due to arrive in San Juan around 3 PM so that meant the morning was full of potential on-board activities. The time zone changed to Atlantic time, an hour ahead of Eastern Standard. I really intended to sleep a bit longer anyway, but no luck. We have had our sliding door onto to the verandah open each night so we get lots of fresh air so I wake to the sound of the sea. I took my laptop out onto my “office with a view” and caught up on writing till the coffee arrived at 7 am.

my on-board office - nice!Sunday morning early - the first full day on board and I was so eager to find out about the Celebrity Life Activities that I woke up before sunrise. It was 6 am and the Eclipse was moving swiftly but smoothly on her way to San Juan, Puerto Rico.  I was writing my travelblogue from the spacious balcony of our cabin, seated in a comfortable chair with a strong breeze whipping up my hair, and listening to the sound of the water rushing by against the hull of the ship. It seems that my internal clock wakes me at 6 regardless of the time zone.

We had ordered room service breakfast for later this morning – coffee for me, tea for Pat, and some fruit. As well I thought I would try out their plain yogurt. The tray arrived on time. The yogurt however was a no-fat variety and had that slimy texture that comes from thickeners. That’s why at home I love the thick Greek style yogurt that has no additives. Crossed this brand of yogurt off my list for the rest of this trip. But the sliced pineapple was sweet and delicious. And the coffee was hot.

Remy and Philippe teach cha chaToday was my first opportunity to check out the Celebrity Activity Lets Dance Program. The dancers who perform in the shows teach these lessons. The first one listed was a waltz lesson with Vitaliy and Anna.  It was held in the stunning Sky Lounge at the front of the ship on deck 14. There is a medium sized circular dance floor there. It’s a marble floor – so not great for the legs but certainly a nice space. The problem is that it does not come with dance partners!

Maybe twenty-six people showed up for the lesson. I was curious to see what they would cover in the time allowed. They demonstrated a basic box and a turning box, a hesitation step forward and sideways, and a promenade step.  At the end they played one waltz for people to practice what they had learned and I sat and watched.  It was fascinating to see the difference in what people had picked up and how they moved in time to the music – or not.

Shortly after that the next class was scheduled in the Foyer on deck 3, which also has a marble floor.  This class was cha cha cha with Philippe and Remy. About the same number of people crowded onto the floor.

Remy, who is English, said that they would be teaching International style cha cha cha and indeed they taught the basic step, the New York step and an underarm turn. I decided I could lead those steps so I partnered with Pat to practice.I am not a very good leader though as I have not developed that aspect of my dancing and in fact, my main objective these days is to be able to follow anyone on the dance floor easily.

Ixchel's templeWednesday

Our concierge at the hotel arranged for Raul, a taxi driver with a fair command of English, to drive us around the island. We originally decided that a 5 hour excursion would be fine but as it turned out we added another hour at the end because the water at Playa Corona was so great.

the layout of the siteWe started going north on the coastal road and then turned east along the center road that runs east-west across the island. We turned off for six kilometers along a not-so-great road to San Gervasio,  the best preserved Mayan ruins on Cozumel. There were six different cruise ships docked in Cozumel and on the road we were passed by people racing in jeeps along the dirt road. APat shows the ways we arrived at the ruins tour buses were also pulling up  disgorging hordes of tourists. I guess next week we will be part of the hordes if we do any excursions off our cruise ship.

Compared to the magnificent Mayan ruins at Chetzen Itza the site here was smaller and far less well preserved. But we still took about 70 minutes to walk around the site.

The most important temple left there was dedicated to the Mayan Goddess Ixchel. According to the handout written by Ric Hajovsky, she was associated with the moon, sex, childbirth, disease, beekeeping, planting, water, writing, and weaving. Obviously a woman of many interests- actually rather like me – except for the disease and beekeeping – although as a retired doctor I suppose disease would have also been considered one of my interests. Hmmm... 

This 7 day visit to Cozumel was not originally on my travel agenda for 2012.   My travel plans for the first six months of the year were aimed more at making up for the year of ballroom dance that I had lost with my severe back pain that culminated in emergency spine surgery.  So I had planned to start the New Year in the South Pacific taking a dance cruise on the Ocean Princess.  Shortly after getting back from that, I had to head off to New York for an exciting family event  - and the added bonus of a theatre and restaurant blitz.

But a chance call from the timeshare exchange that I use, offering a great priced cruise and resort deal, caught me in a reckless moment and before I knew it I was signed up for a 7 day stay at a resort in Cozumel, to be followed by a 7 night Caribbean cruise.

Although I have stayed in Cancun and several times in Playa del Carmen, I had never stayed on the island of Cozumel. The map shows the beaches of Cozumel as well as San Gervasio, the local Mayan ruins. The hotel we were booked into was located at Playa La Ceiba - and called El  Cid La Ceiba Beach Hotel.

lobster cevicheHaru
205 West 43rd Street,
New York, NY
Ph: (212) -398 9810 or Reserve Online

Haru is so conveniently located for pre-theatre meals, particularly round the Times Square theatre district, that on this trip I actually dined there twice. 

the ebi and vegtable tempuraOn the first visit we were seated at a table in the window alcove. I liked that as it was  a bit secluded from the main activity in the restaurant.

We had just come from seeing Bob, a SITI Company production, and after dinner we were going to see Mary Poppins just around the corner at the New Amsterdam Theatre. With seeing two such different genres of theatre in one day there was so much food for thought that real food initially took second place to conversation.

charcuterie platterAlobar
46-42 Vernon Blvd,
Long Island City, NY
Ph: (718)  752-6000 or Reserve Online

Alobar on Urbanspoon

octopus saladAfter finishing up our shopping in Manhattan we caught the 7 train across to Long Island City. For dinner we decided to try one of the nearby restaurants that had been on my son's "to visit list."

We decided to share a salad, and then also share a large charcuterie and large cheese platter.cheese platter

After some debate we decided to try the evening's special salad of grilled octopus with shaved lardon on a bed of arugula with pine nuts and a malt vinegar and olive oil dressing. We enjoyed the salad though the dressing was not especially exciting.

the spicy roll combination platterInakaya
620 8th Avenue,
New York, NY
Ph: (212) 354-2195 or Reserve Online

Inakaya on Urbanspoon

the chef uses a paddle to reach over the barThis was my first day in Manhattan on this trip, having arrived really late the previous evening.  I met my son to get a number of shopping tasks done. On our way from my hotel we passed Inakaya, and decided to stop in for lunch. The place was full but there was room at the sushi bar.

the salmon, yellowtail and eel combination roll platterI liked the design of the restaurant. It is open with high ceilings and an unusually wide and comfortable sushi bar. As you can the chef has to use a paddle to hand dishes or a bottle of sake across to the patron.

Since this restaurant's specialty is Robata, Japanese barbecue, we had to try one of their Robata dishes so we chose to share one of their specials for the day: the US Kobe Beef duo featuring sirloin and tenderloin on skewers. The meat was incredibly tender and the dish came with grilled vegetables.

Les Rolottes early eveningOne food experience we did not want to miss was a visit to Les Roulottes – the Papeete Food Night Market.  Street food dining has taken on a new flavour so to speak, in many cities including Vancouver.  From the days when street food meant only hotdogs, pizza or pretzels, the street cart program at least in Vancouver has encouraged a varied “gourmet” street dining experience  with carts at different locations throughout the city (Vancouver Foodie Tours Tastes Curbside Kitchen Food).

Papeete has its Roulottes. These are like the street carts we see in Vancouver but they are located in a large market area near the cruise terminal. There are tables to sit at and enjoy your meal.  The vendor who was recommended to us was said to serve "restaurant quality" foods.

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