A great steak dinner, the ultimate salesman, the Promenade parade, lounging in Labadee

Editorial comment first: Yay, Broncos and congratulations to Peyton Manning on his record 51 TD passes this season.

When we last left off in our saga aboard the Behemoth, we were on our way to get ready for dinner last night. We had a fairly early reservation at Chops Grille on Central Park. We got a table outside in an enclosure that protects you from the wind that can blow through the park (even though you are sheltered on all sides by staterooms and other ship structures). I ordered Forest Mushroom soup, a six-ounce filet and a baked potato; Steve got a duck appetizer, a six-ounce filet and the green bean side dish. Now keep in mind our food experiences so far on Oasis included a pretty good Johnny Rocket hamburger, a mediocre room service breakfast on Sunday and a hot dog. After several cruises on Oceania, our expectations were not high, but we were pleasantly surprised by our excellent dinner. The appetizer and soup were delicious, the steaks were cooked to perfection and the sides were wonderful. We had a bottle of Duckhorn Merlot (2010), which was decanted by our waiter using an interesting Italian blown glass gizmo that fits on top of the bottle (being a college student in the 70’s, it reminded me of some of the glass bongs my fellow students used to smoke pot - not me, of course, as I prefer ethyl alcohol in various drinkable forms).

Speaking of our waiter, this guy was the ultimate salesman. He was from southern Turkey and must have had a previous career hawking Turkish rugs and brass gewgaws to tourists. First, he persuaded us to upgrade significantly on our wine selection, then he brought a card to order champagne on Christmas Eve (we didn’t bite on this, as we are doing the Chef’s Table dinner with wine pairings tomorrow night). He talked up another specialty restaurant, the Solarium Bistro, which we then booked for Friday night. At the end of the service, darned if he didn’t bring over one of the decanters in a box and a copy of their fancy cookbook (we didn’t buy either item). We thought this was very amusing and we enjoyed his enthusiasm. Of course, anyone reading the blog from our Jewels of the Aegean cruise in 2011 knows that we not only succumbed and bought a Turkish rug but also a gorgeous silk pillow case after our private tour of Ephesus (we love that rug and Ruby sits on it all the time).

After dinner we hopped on board the Rising Tide bar just before it descended to the Promenade deck. We made our way to the Globe and Atlas pub and got a seat on the Promenade on Deck 5 to watch the huge crowds standing in line to get their pictures taken in front of the two-story Christmas tree. The crowd was genuinely Felliniesque, a term we have used for very diverse groups of people of all shapes, sizes, and types (and wearing every type of outfit under the sun); we stole that term from the late, great Italian director Federico Fellini, who populated his films with remarkable characters. His best movie, by the way, was “Amarcord”, about the memories of a boy growing up in Italy during the 1930’s.

While we were sitting at the pub and listening to an awesome big band, Steve remarked that it looked foggy. Sure enough, special effects fog was pouring out of the Globe above our seats and suddenly a lighted ramp unfolded above us. This platform was for the Captain and his top crew as they introduced themselves to the throng of passengers crowding the Promenade below. Most impressive!

We had a good night’s sleep and a continental breakfast delivered to the room this morning before disembarking at Labadee. We went down to the gangplank deck, using an escalator(!) from the deck above and we thought we were in a terminal building (the exit area is that huge). We walked along the dock and over the new causeway to the Labadee resort area. Labadee was created by RCI many years ago as a private resort for its cruise ships. It is located on the northeast coast of Haiti, not far from the border with the Dominican Republic. We visited it in 1987, on a cruise on Song of Norway and had to tender in at that time. It was closed for a few years due to the perpetual political difficulties of Haiti, but they recommitted to the facility to allow the monster ships to dock here and added more facilities.

Now a bit of a rant: Months ago, I was perusing ideas for Labadee from the shore excursions. I am not a real beach lover these days, especially after having joint problems and now back problems and I find the whole getting wet and drying off rigmarole, with the additional irritation of sand stuck to everything to be quite annoying. I like looking at beaches, however, and like being comfortable. Steve may or may not get in the water, so it also of fairly low importance to him. So I found the ideal solution - book an over-the-water cabana, with personal service and shade. The cabanas were pricy ($250 for the day), but seemed like a ideal solution. We told our TA to book a cabana and RCI came back with a response that they don’t book these for two people. I called baloney on this and said there was nothing in the booking information on-line that required a larger party. So we tried again - this time they said we had to be in a suite to book a cabana. I looked again at the on-line information and found nothing that required us to be in a higher level of cabin to book this option ($250 is $250, regardless of whether we are in an inside broom closet or the Emperor Suite). So I waited a few days, then I sent a tersely-worded complaint directly to RCI about our difficulties booking a cabana (no, tell me it’s not true! A tersely-worded complaint from Barb? Impossible!). Voila - I got back a response telling us to book at our earliest convenience. So we went ahead and booked a cabana at Nellie’s Cove.

When we got off the ship, none of the signs said anything about Nellie’s Cove. We got on one of the trams and told the driver we wanted to go to Nellie’s Cove and he assured us he would stop there. The tram proceeded through the large resort area all the way to the end and we still didn’t know where the Cove was. The driver stopped to turn around and several people on the tram asked again about Nellie’s Cove, including us. “Oh, you want to go to Nellie’s Cove? Why didn’t you say so?” Oy, my aching head. We finally arrived at our destination and found out we were in a cabana on the opposite side of the cove (of course). When I woke up this morning, I had the unfortunate recognition that my lovely Rheumatoid Arthritis was flaring up a little bit and my back is killing me. It could be because we are walking somewhere between 2 and 3 miles a day so far just going from one bar stool to another on this monster, so I was a slowpoke today. Well, we settled in at our cabana, which was very nice, right by the beach. We had somewhat inconsistent service from the two attendants, but it worked out ok for the most part, At lunchtime, we went to a private area and had the usual beach fare of hamburgers, jerk chicken and some sides. Of course, in the warm afternoon air, Steve promptly fell asleep (my back kept me awake, sadly).

We headed back to the ship at 3:00 pm and are now sitting up at the Solarium Bar on Deck 16 forward, where you can see almost all of the Labadee resort. Captain Patrik keeps tooting the very loud horn to hopefully rouse the folks that remain at the resort to hurry up and get back to the ship as we sail at 5:00, heading to Falmouth, Jamaica. Steve has also been pushed into action on downloading photos, so we should have a few up shortly after he clears some email.

At 7:30 tonight we see the diving show at the Aqua Theater at the aft end of the Boardwalk; we’re doing casual fare tonight before the show (probably pizza from Sorrento’s on Deck 5). More from Jamaica tomorrow, on Christmas Eve.

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