We hope everyone is doing well at home!
Our day spent exploring the ship on September 8 was very relaxing. First, we slept in very late, finally getting up after 10:00 am. We had a nice little continental breakfast at Baristas, the coffee bar on Marina. We spent more time on our verandah watching the crazy boat traffic, then had fantastic burgers at Waves grill on deck 12 (can you say Kobe beef? Of course you can!) Naturally, we’re eating too much! At 4:00 pm, we went to our culinary class (Indulging in Italy); I helped Steve prepare some fun and easy menu items, including a roasted beet and caramelized mushroom salad with goat cheese, four varieties of lettuce, and toasted walnuts. The main course (interrupted by the lifeboat drill) was penne pasta with Italian sausage and more mushrooms, combined with cream, garlic and parmesan. Dessert was an easy tiramisu. The class was a lot of fun and served nicely as our dinner.
At 8:00 pm, we had our “meet and greet” with folks from our Cruise Critic roll call. I actually started the roll call for this cruise in July 2010 and we ended up with about 50 members who have shared travel trips and tour suggestions for many months. It was strange to finally associate a face with a name. Cruise Critic is a terrific travel resource (www.cruisecritic.com).
We stayed up for the sailing from Venice at 11:59 pm. The cruise ships go right past the heart of Venice, which was spectacular even at that late hour. We had a very short night and had to get up very early today.
We’re underway again tonight ( September 9) after stopping at our first port today, which was the off-the-beaten-path northeastern Adriatic sea port of Koper, Slovenia (near Trieste, Italy, for map aficionados). When planning this cruise, I have tried to steer clear of ship excursions as much as possible for three reasons: 1) They are incredibly overpriced, 2) The excursion is never what is advertised, and, 3) I need to control the tour situation with my knee problems and the ubiquitous travel wheelchair. Alas, we were unable to find a good private tour here and we wanted to go farther afield than just the sleepy town of Koper (Koper IS the car shipping and receiving hub of Europe, so I guess that’s something). I reluctantly booked a ship tour advertised as “wheelchair accessible” that went to Lake Bled, in the Alps near the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana. Lake Bled is two hours from Koper and is a popular year-round resort (the rowing world championships were held here last week).
Well, apparently “wheelchair accessible” on this tour means that your wheelchair gets a nice ride in the luggage hold of the bus and its occupant (me) spends a lot of time sitting and waiting for everyone else. The two main features of the tour, a visit to the Baroque church on the island in Lake Bled and a stop at the Grad (castle) high on a hill overlooking the lake, were not at all “accessible”. The island is reached in unique and beautiful small wood vessels (known as Pletna) that are propelled by a standing oarsman and they have no space for a wheelchair; it wouldn’t matter anyway, as the beautiful church is reached by climbing “only” 99 steps. So I sat at the bottom of the steps and waited for everyone else (at least I got to ride on the boat).
The Grad (castle) was much worse; it was at the top of an extremely steep cobblestone path, so I sat on the bus for 45 minutes, stewing about how expensive this excursion was and how the brochure was so misleading. Oceania, just like every other cruise line, really falls down on the job creating interesting and realistically described shore excursions. We have one more ship excursion, in Istanbul, so we’ll see what happens. I do intend to visit the Destination Services desk tomorrow to let them know our thoughts on this experience.
Once everyone returned to the bus we went to a restaurant on a golf course and had lunch. This had to be the weirdest lunch I have ever had: It started with a flavorless vermicelli soup, followed by a salad that had corn, shredded cabbage and pinto beans (!), then the pièce de résistance, the entree. This was a rubbery piece of turkey breast that had been pounded flat, seared, then baked and finally covered with some bizarre zucchini sauce. I can say that the potatoes were good. I don’t think the Food Network will be optioning a show anytime soon highlighting this cuisine.
Our tour was late getting back to the ship because of traffic. One of the only positive things about a ship tour is that the ship will wait for you if you are delayed returning. We did like our guide, who had a wealth of knowledge of all things Slovenian; she talked about the break-up of Yugoslavia and other very interesting topics. The countryside was also spectacular, with beautiful scenery, dramatic mountains and lovely villages.
Well, that was a long report. We ate in Red Ginger tonight on the ship; this is another specialty restaurant and it was outstanding (so was Jacques, by the way). We both had the duck and watermelon salad and the miso sea bass. Yummo!!!! Incredible service, too!
Tomorrow we visit Dubrovnik, Croatia, where we have a private tour set up. Look for a few pictures (hopefully) soon.