food reviews

Eclipse at Anchor at St. Thomasthe itinerary of the cruiseThis is my first time aboard a Celebrity Cruise Ship, and the first cruise I have taken in recent years that has not been with my favorite ballroom dance group, Dancers at Sea. My cruises in the past three years have been on the Princess and Cunard lines, with one New Year Cruise in the Caribbean on Costa.

On Princess ships I have done a Wine Country Cruise from LA to Vancouver, an Asian Cruise from Beijing to Bangkok, a South Pacific Cruise from Honolulu to Tahiti, and one from Tahiti to Honolulu.  My Cunard  cruises have included the British Isles Cruise on the Queen Victoria  and two cruises along the East Coast of the US and Canada, a Labour Day weekend cruise  and an Autumn East Coast Cruise, both on the Queen Mary 2.

As this is my first cruise on Celebrity and each cruise line has its own unique flavour, I an really curious to see how Celebrity compares with my previous experiences. As a food writer and foodie, the culinary aspects of the cruise are really important to me. And of course, I am also especially interested in the aspect of dance opportunities on the Celebrity fleet.  As well, on the dance cruises I am usually more interested in dancing myself than seeing the dancers and singers in the shows, so this time, I will have the time to get to see each of the shows on board too. So on-board food and wine experiences, music and dance, and the production shows are the aspects to which I will pay particular attention on this cruise.

heirloom tomatoes at the marketCheck out time was 11 AM so there was plenty of time to enjoy coffee and a light breakfast  before packing and getting our perishables into the cooler for transport home.

selection of breads and pastries at Pure BreadsWe stopped at Function Junction to pick up some fresh bread at Pure Breads. I got a rustic baguette and a "seriously seedy" bread, both of which were so tempting I hoped I would have some left when my family arrived to stay the next day.

Our next stop was at the Farmers' market in Squamish where I got some great purple and yellow heirloom tomatoes, some blue potatoes (blue all through the vendor assured me), and  containers of raspberries and blueberries.

The ship docks in the port of Shanghai but the distance from the pier to the city may vary from a half to a one hour drive depending on the size of the ship and where it has to dock. The Diamond Princess is a big cruise ship and has to dock quite far out. The city spans the Huangpu river, a tributary of the Yangtze River.

After dinner on our first night of sailing, tired though everyone was, we were determined not to miss even one evening of dancing so we headed off to the Wheelhouse Lounge to dance for an hour or so and then we had an early night. Dancing would start in earnest the next day with the first of our dance workshops in the morning, and then a full evening of dance in the evening.


Saturday, November 7 - Of Foxtrot, rhumba and dance parties


Dance-wise this first full day at sea kicked off, so to speak, with two dance workshops. We met at 9 am in the Wheelhouse lounge where all our workshops will take place. The floor is slightly larger than the one on the Pacific Princess and alright for a group lesson with a small group.

In this group there are no beginners. In fact all the women are quite good dancers and the age range I suspect is much narrower than on previous cruises I have been on. So in our group we have 9 fit, active, dance-crazy women guests, Bernie, Carol (who is not yet on board),Helene, Kim, Joan, Jean, Linda, Marcie and me, one couple, Julia and Harry, and the hosts, Brian, Craig, Greg and Raoul.

 

I have noticed that sometimes when there are couples in the group the men dont dance with any of the other women while the wives dance with the hosts, which alters the one-to-three ratio but Julia and Harry are just great. They are a delightful couple, fit right in to the group and Harry cheerfully dances with all of us. Unusually, in this small group, four of the 16, me, Helene, Julia and Harry, are Canadians. We joked that we were almost ready for a Canadian takeover.  

Anyway I digress from the workshops. Greg ran the first hour teaching an foxtrot sequence. Everyone picked it up really quickly. Then Brian took the second hour to introduce a rhumba sequence that gave us an opportunity to work on cuban hip motion, rhumba walks and spiral turns. Both workshops went  really well. In this small group it was easy for people to rotate in and out and we all had a turn to practice.

We all love our dance hosts. They have really strong leads, are a pleasure to talk to and are like energizer bunnies - they just keep going, dance after dance. I guess it makes their job easier when they have dancers that they don't have to drag around the floor. In fact of the group, I think I have probably been dancing for the least amount of time, and because most of my training has been in the International Standard and Latin, I have only  learned the basics of some of the dances in the past few months- since May in fact - so I think I am doing pretty well considering.

But because these guys are so easy to follow I can usually do most of the patterns they try and the rhythms are pretty simple so I feel quite comfortable now with dances like the hustle and night club 2 step and I am definitely finding it easier to follow more complicated moves. Just gotta remember to count "don't hop, two, three," for the syncopated hustle and it feels much smoother and easier. I am still not mad about salsa- need to go to some salsa dances back in Vancouver to get better at it and I still have to get my Argentine Tango lessons with Carlos back on track. But first I have to be back in Vancouver long enough to get back into my regular dance and fitness routine.

Although I find I am having a lot of fun doing these American style social dances, I guess realistically it is mainly because of the chance to dance with so many excellent partners. I still love the discipline and formality - if that's the right word to describe it - of the International style. I hope to be able to do my gold level routines in Standard and Latin sometime next year but although I really love my dance lessons,  without a regular dance partner I just dont get the opportunity to practice - or just to dance for enjoyment.

The first thing on my mind on my return to Vancouver from the South Pacific Dance Cruise: Hawaii to Polynesia was getting my visa to visit China. Beijing is where I will embark on the Diamond Princess for 16 dance- filled nights and days while cruising from  China to Thailand.  And I only had two weeks to get ready.

"Another dance cruise?"  you may ask - "you are almost turning this into a profession".  And rather than blush and confess that I am now a confirmed dance cruise addict, I will loftily refer you to the explanation for this new tendency towards globetrotting on moving dance floors. It can all simply  be blamed on last year's New Year resolution to develop  spontaneity.  Well that is my story and I am sticking to it for the rest of the year.

But back to the visa. I had my passport photo ready and my plan was to go Monday morning to the Chinese consulate visa application office and apply. I figured that would give me a few days lee-way if it took longer than I expected.

My friend Susan told me "you have to go early"  but I figured if it opened at 9 I would let the lineups dissipate and get there a lttle later. So Monday morning I took my time and strolled into the Visa office just after 10. The place was absolutely jam packed with people, occupying every seat on the rows of benches and also lining up outside. I asked the man at the desk where one gets a number and he just laughed at me.

"We've given out all the numbers for the day"  he says.

So I asked him what time do you have to be there to get a number. "Well" he says,"when I get there at 7 in the morning there is already a line-up. Ok so Susan was right- why did I doubt her?

Tuesday September 8th

Back in Manhattan after an awesome dance-filled Labour Day Getaway Cruise, feeling great except for my tired feet. I am ready for another 5 days of dance, theatre and fine food. First thing on the agenda will be to pick up a pair of practice shoes for the next couple of lessons. Somehow on board ship my feet must have grown  from a  dainty size 4½  to something huge. By the end of the voyage I felt like one of Cinderella's sisters,  trying to squeeze my foot into a shoe that was suddenly far too small. Oh well, no prince for me I guess.

I plan to spend the rest of the day catching up on writing, laundry and planning my feasts  for mind and body for my remaining days in the city. 

Wednesday, September 9th  - No Gill,  you're not in a Bruce Willis movie !

I guess it was bad karma for being amused at the lady in the elevator who was scared of heights but my day started out with a bang - literally. I have only two phobias - I shudder at fluttering things like butterflies and moths - and I have a mild degree of claustrophobia. While my ultimate claustrophobic nightmare would be to be in a submarine, being trapped in an elevator would come pretty close.  And guess what happened.

With my day planned out to the minute - subway to Times Square, pick up theatre tickets, visit  Worldtone dance shop, have lunch, go to dance lesson, have supper, see play - I was feeling quite the jaunty travel-writer as I waited for the elevator on the 11th floor of my building. After all I had sort of mastered the routes I needed on the New York subway, only turned in the wrong direction about 5 times, and was comfortable finding my way around the various areas of Manhattan where I needed to go. After all in theory with an intelligently numbered grid system even a directionally challenged person should hardly stray  too far wrong. But back to the elevator.

So the elevator comes, I enter and press the button for the Lobby. Doors close,  the elevators starts to move - and I hear a loud bang. The elevator drops precipitously and then stops. My stomach continues downward. Oh Oh. I look at  the indicator - it still says 11  and it is not moving.  I press the Door Open button - no response.  Something was definitely wrong but an intrepid world traveller does not panic, even a claustrophobic world traveller.

Salmon sashimiGoldfish Pacific Kitchen
1188 Mainland Street,
Vancouver, BC
Ph: 604-689-8318 or Reserve online

Vancouver is a truly a foodie's paradise. Top quality ingredients daily are sought out by innovative chefs to produce a bounty of fresh taste sensations. So much so that I rarely have a restaurant meal that I don't enjoy. But every now and then along comes a dining experience that stands head and shoulders above even the many excellent meals  I have recently enjoyed. Completely unexpectedly, last night I had such an experience, thanks to the "Chef's Table" concept at Goldfish Pacific Kitchen and the magic touch of  new Food Development Chef, Ryan Mah.

Goldfish restaurant has been open at least as long as I have lived in Yaletown and I have previously enjoyed both  dinners  and lunches there.  But looking back on the restaurant reviews in my archives on ReviewFromTheHouse.com, I realized that  I had not dined there since I introduced the Sipping and Supping section of the website.  It was time to review this restaurant, I thought.  Planning a relatively early supper, I noted that Goldfish was once again offering a prix fixe meal between 5 pm and 6:30 pm.  With a choice of an appetizer, an entree and a dessert for $25.00, it seemed like really good value, so we thought we would check it out.

Sushi buffetKentizen
2029 88 W. Pender St.,
Vancouver
Ph: 778-863-8281

We were planning to see Antigone Unbound later  at the Leaky Heaven Circus Studio above the Russion Hall, so finding ourselves in the general vicinity of Chinatown we decided to wander around and find somewhere for a casual supper. I remembered that there was a place inside the Tinseltown complex that I had wanted to check out so we took the escalator to the second floor and wandered into Kentizen. It was still early,  around 5:30 and so we took a window table and studied the menu. As we were debating the merits of Japanese food versus Chinese food, the manager suggested we check out the buffet.

One look at the sushi portion of the buffet and I was sold. So we each took an attractive oblong transparent blue glass plate and helped ourselves to some of the sushi, edemame and other items.

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