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Post Seven - Dining, Take 2

The Olympic: Titanic Romance, Without the IcebergThe Olympic: Titanic Romance, Without the Iceberg

I tried to avoid the topic of the Titanic, I really did. I didn't want to dream about the movie's sinking scene while in the middle of the Atlantic. But it was futile. People talked about it at meals. The string quartet played the movie's theme during dinner between Mozart and Bach. And then there was the Olympic.

This gourmet restaurant is patterned after the exclusive first-class dining rooms on the Titanic and its sister ship, the Olympic (which was retired in the 1950s). From the décor to the dessert, everything is designed to emulate the experience passengers had back then. The entire place seats only 130 people (tiny for a cruise ship), and it requires reservations. The paneling in the restaurant (shown in this photo) adorned the Olympic's first-class restaurant in its heyday. The tables are set in the style of the original restaurant right down to a replica of the Olympic's china.

Our five-course meal lasted about three hours, and the chefs only began preparing each dish after we ordered it, including pastries. The Steak Diane was seared at our table over a small flame. We drank Burgundy.

In one corner, a violinist played classical and jazz pieces. At one point, I requested "Satin Doll," hoping for a Stephan Grappelli-styled rendition. The musician read my mind. Scott and I toasted him, sat back, and listened.

Sunset After the Olympic RestaurantSunset After the Olympic Restaurant

After three hours at the table, it was time for a walk. We made it to the stern just in time for this sunset.

Our Dinner CompanionsOur Dinner Companions

The complainers on board (NOT pictured in this photo) were obnoxious! We were swimming in luxury, but some people still found reason to nitpick. I overheard them in the elevators, at breakfast, in the lounges. What did the staff--some of them from Third World countries--think of these unappreciative, whiny people?

Fortunately, we didn't sit with any of those people. Scott and I felt lucky to be matched up with excellent dinner table companions (two others, Geri and Manny, aren't pictured). Dottie and Larry (center) were long-time avid sailors, and Larry once had actually crossed the Atlantic on a small boat with some friends. Shirley and Bob were serious cruisers, on their 16th ship in three years. These people were living it up in retirement, and it was a pleasure to dine with them.

We agreed that our only complaint was having to listen to all the complainers! I remember Dottie saying, "If these people can't be happy on this ship, where can they?"

Captain's Gala Dinner: Oh, the Insanity!Captain's Gala Dinner: Oh, the Insanity!

This was the last formal night, and the menu was particularly elaborate. The chefs unleashed their full culinary powers to use butter and cream in as many dishes as possible. During dinner, the cruise director even introduced the chefs, maitre-d', and kitchen manager.

The Parade of Baked AlaskasThe Parade of Baked Alaskas

The madness peaked when the cruise director introduced the dessert: The Parade of Baked Alaskas.

The band kicked in to a rousing Dixieland jazz version of "When the Saints Go Marching In." The kitchen doors swung open, and one by one, the entire wait staff streamed into the dining room, single file. They snaked past every table, each waiter carrying a flaming baked Alaska, each assistant waiter in tow, dancing and twirling a dinner napkin. The crowd loved it, whooping and clapping in time with the music. It actually put a lump in my throat.

Goran and MarekGoran and Marek

Our most excellent waiters, holding the baked Alaska for our table.

The Captain's Gala Midnight BuffetThe Captain's Gala Midnight Buffet

But the feeding frenzy wasn't over. At midnight, the kitchen staff rolled out the mother of all gourmet buffets. It was sumptuous, set up like a royal feast from another century, with giant ice carvings, dozens of spun-sugar sculptures, and food arrangements so beautiful they didn't look like food. This was set up 20 minutes early to allow for viewing and picture taking. The entire ship showed up with cameras. Really.

It was the most amazing display of culinary art I've ever seen--better than standing in front of Fauchon's, a gourmet store in Paris legendary for its food. This shows one section of one of four massive buffet tables.

So Beautiful! Not Like Other Watermelons...So Beautiful! Not Like Other Watermelons...

The two large oval floral carvings on pedestals are watermelons. The red and white flowers on the centerpiece are tomatoes and radishes.

Next Up: Bermuda and Funchal

Copyright 2001
Scott & Karen Semyan