Good afternoon and greetings once more from somewhere between Salaleh, Oman and Aqaba, Jordan. We had an internet outage last night for a number of hours, so it was as if someone had cut off my right arm. Peace (and internet service) has been restored and all is well with the world.
Tuesday morning view from our terrace as we sail towards Aqaba
We’ve been aboard the beautiful Seabourn Encore for 8 days now and I thought I should give you a sense of what it’s been like on board. As I think about this particular entry, it’s going to focus mostly on food, as that’s one of the main features of traveling by ship. There may be a couple of detours along the way, but our main focus will be grub.
There are five dining venues on the ship:
- The Restaurant
- The Colonnade
- The Patio
- The Grill by Thomas Keller
(There is also, of course, in-room dining 24/7.)
Of these venues, both Sushi (midship on deck 8) and, most importantly, The Grill by Thomas Keller (aft on deck 8) are new to Seabourn. In fact, Seabourn has entered into an agreement with Keller to provide venues on each of the Seabourn ships. For those of you “in the know”, Thomas Keller is an internationally renowned chef, whose flagship restaurant is the French Landry in Yountville, California. Just down the street and within walking distance are Ad Hoc and Bouchon, two less formal and more affordable restaurants. He also opened Per Se in New York in 2005. He is a big deal.
Sushi is the smallest dining venue and is open for lunch (Bento boxes) and for dinner (sushi and sashimi).
The Restaurant, located midship on deck 4, is the main dining venue, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The Colonnade, aft on deck 9, is a casual dining venue, offering breakfast and lunch buffets. In the evening, it offers a theme cuisine and, on certain nights, it features a set menu by Thomas Keller and is by reservation only. The concept is a spinoff of the Ad Hoc experience in Yountville.
The Patio is the most casual venue located poolside on deck 7. It’s the go-to place for burgers and hot dogs at lunch, light snacks, but also offers a dinner buffet each evening.
Arguably the prime dining experience is The Grill by Thomas Keller and is the only venue requiring advance reservations. When you’ve booked passage and paid for your cruise, you may make one online reservation to dine there. Once you’re onboard, you can then make a 2nd reservation and, if your cruise exceeds 2 weeks, you may request a 3rd reservation, which will only be guaranteed the night before. The menu offers many of Keller’s favorites and every ingredient is sourced from a purveyor with whom Keller and his team has had a long-term relationship. So, for instance, if lamb is on the menu, it will be sourced from Keith Martin’s Elysian Fields Farm; if it’s butter, then Keller uses the entire annual production of Diane St. Claire’s inventory. (According to Keller, St. Claire’s expansion has been specifically to accommodate Keller’s needs.)
So, without further ado, I’d like to share with you some of our onboard culinary adventures over the past week:
Night #2: Dinner at the Colonnade featuring a 4-course set menu by Thomas Keller:
Located aft on deck 9, the Colonnade features both inside and outside dining. In the evening, it’s so pleasant to eat al fresco as a gentle breeze keeps you cool and comfortable.
AAC, CPA anticipates his candlelit dinner, courtesy of Thomas Keller
The menu for this evening’s feast
Over the course of this voyage, The Colonnade will present 3 different Thomas Keller 4-course menus. The others feature ribeye steak and a traditional clambake.
First course: gem lettuce with green goddess dressing – huge portion!
Hickory smoked BBQ ribs with deeeelicious sides
Cheese course with amazing honey
Save room for potted cheesecake with poached blueberries
Before going any further, I must mention the excellent service at all dining venues. It is friendly, genuine and very professional. Within a day or so, all of the servers knew us by name and they have, without fail, delivered every time.
Night #3: Dinner at The Grill by Thomas Keller
Having made an online reservation in advance, we were delighted to be able to dine at the Grill so early in the cruise. Before dinner, however, we stopped by the bar adjacent to the Grill so that our new BFF, head mixologist Bobby, could create some fabulous libation for us.
Bobby’s amazing Negronis – our fave cocktail
And the man himself, Bobby, hard at work doing his magic
After enjoying our Negronis, it was time for the main event.
AAC, CPA seated and anticipating dinner
Caesar Salad prepared tableside – hearts of romaine only, please
For me, the broiled and naturally fed veal T-bone with a silky bernaise
For AAC, CPA Elysian Fields Farm lamb medallions with herb crust
Although wine and spirits are all-inclusive, we decided to spring for a bottle from the premium wine list as a fond reminder of a wonderful Malbec we had last year in Buenos Aires.
A lovely 2013 Catena Alta Zapata Malbec from the Mendoza region
How about a slice of dark chocolate layer cake for dessert?
Let me again commend the entire wait staff – the service was absolutely first rate and we enjoyed our meal immensely.
Day #6: Lunch at Home
We decided on Saturday that we wanted to eat on our terrace for lunch. We were docked that day in Salalah, and decided not to leave the ship.
We craved club sandwiches and pommes frites – tablecloth included
And, for dessert, my fave: mint chip chocolate ice cream and cookies
(And they even brought us chocolate sauce for the ice cream!!)
The reason we ate at home was that we needed to do some laundry. One of the few flaws in Encore’s design (which we’re told will be remedied in about 3 weeks) is that there is no self-service laundry. Now I know that it may strike you as strange that something like that would be an issue with us, but the fact is that AAC, CPA likes to do his own laundry. We were told that we could stuff a laundry bag with as much as it would hold and it would only cost $50!! AAC, CPA took that as a challenge and he determined that we would do it ourselves and pocket the $50.
Laundry day aboard Seabourn Encore
And, for no particular reason, here’s another photo of the fabulous sunsets we’re enjoying every evening. Because we’re sailing westward and our cabin is at the very front of the ship, it’s as if we’re getting a front-row seat.
Another fabulous sunset
AAC, CPA enjoying the sunset with glass in hand
EVENING #8: Sushi for One (or “If you knew sushi, like I know sushi”)
For those of you have been with me for the long haul, you may recall that our very own AAC, CPA has some food quirks – his likes and DISlikes are legion. Sad to tell, he intensely hates sushi – not that he’s ever tried it, I’m pretty sure. As Sushi (the dining venue) serves only sushi and sashimi at dinner time, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll give it a shot.
Therefore, I decided to go all by my lonesome last night, just for a pre-dinner hors d’eauvre. I sat at the sushi bar and, once again, had wonderful service and a delicious sampling of the menu, accompanied by a lovely French Sauvignon Blanc.
Nigiri – Akami and Safe (tuna and salmon)
An Okayo signature roll (salmon, asparagus, avocado, salmon roe)
And our sushi chefs – hamming it up for the camera
So there you have it, a small sampling of our culinary adventures thus far. And I haven’t even mentioned any of the buffets yet!
More to follow!
PS. Look what just sailed by us:
Friend or foe, I wonder?