When it comes to dining options on my Alaska cruise, things have changed a bit since the days of “The Love Boat” and Titanic. On Star Princess, passengers have the option of a fixed-time dinner in a formal dining room, sharing a table with the same guests throughout the voyage – the old-school way – or “Anytime Dining,” which means just that: You can eat anytime you want, at almost any of the ship’s 11 dining venues.
I chose to go old school. Since I’m on my own, it seemed a good way to get to know some other passengers. And the two “formal nights” scheduled for us traditionalists seemed a good way to experience a bit of the days of yore.
It’s not quite the Titanic, though (a good thing, in the big picture) – black-tie isn’t required, even on formal nights, so I’m not getting zooted up like Leo Dicaprio, though I think there is a cigar bar for after dinner if you’re into that. I did bring my tweed jacket, white shirt, a couple silk ties and the Nunn-Bush dress shoes.
My table of six includes me, from Seattle; Dave and Donne, from Alberta; Leo and Kim, from the Detroit area; and Pam, from Sacramento. Our head waiter is Jose, from Argentina, a jovial fellow in formal coat who is built for comfort more than speed, but that doesn’t stop him from doing his job with a flourish.
Pam is the cruise junkie of our crowd, a veteran of about 30 voyages. She was on the Sapphire Princess in Mexico just two weeks ago.
Now a confirmed Princess Cruises fan – she raves about their service – she has horror stories about Royal Caribbean, and shudders about the décor on the Carnival Splendor, with an all-pink theme: “I have never seen so much pink in my entire life!”
She is sticking with Princess now because, as with airlines, the more cruises you do with them the better the perks, such as free laundry service and free Internet. The latter is a big bonus – I’ve paid $99 for 200 minutes of satellite Internet access while we’re at sea, and that time zips by (though the service itself is decidedly unzippy).
My first dinner in the Amalfi dining room: appetizer of spring rolls with peanut
sauce; a frozen pina colada-like “soup” (more like an actual blender drink, but who’s complaining?); grilled salmon with new potatoes, and a flourless chocolate cake with “double cream” topping and a sprinkling of fresh blueberries and formerly frozen strawberries. The only thing that wasn’t already paid for was wine. Tip from Pam: If you’re on your own, order a bottle and they’ll serve you from it through the week, a better buy than ordering a glass every night.
Yes, I really did bring my bathroom scale along. My pre-dinner weigh-in on Day One: 198.
We’ll see how that holds, considering that as I post this I just finished my second Amalfi dinner which, by a bit of a mixup, ended in two desserts: raspberry crème brulee and Bananas Foster, for everyone at our table.
To be polite, I ate both. And they were worth the extra waddle I’m vowing to do around the deck in the rain tomorrow morning. I suffer for my craft.
Coming up: Exploring Juneau, Alaska’s water-bound capital.