Stroll up the wide central stairs past the landings decorated with full wall depictions of sections from the Bayeux Tapestry (which we saw last year on our river cruise in France’s Normandy region) and enter the Wintergarden on deck 7 with me.
The sun is streaming through the scrolled wooden latticework that decorates the glass ceiling. Tables are festooned with small ceramic pots containing tiny fir branches festooned with little gold baubles. There are white ceramic reindeer prancing the length of the teak ledge separating the serving area from the guest seating. White couches and blue chairs are arranged in 2’s, 4’s and 6’s around tables set with pure white plates and teacups, sparkling silverware, and pale blue linen napkins. To port and starboard are enclosed decks with views of the ocean; aft is a view to the pool deck.
A violinist and a cellist are playing chamber music selections in the background as people greet each other and choose seats.
As tea time begins, peruse the selection of 19 kinds of full leaf teas. Maybe you’ll choose lemon black, like I did, with its fresh lemon peel tones. The tea arrives in individual pots with infusers filled with the leaves and flavourings. Pour the steaming liquid into your cup and enjoy its colour and scent. No sooner have you savoured your first sip than a steward arrives with currant scones, clotted cream, and Mamsen’s preserves, made using the recipe of the cruise line owner’s Norwegian mother. Shortly after, the 3-tiered display of tea foods is placed on your table. On the bottom 2 tiers are tiny sandwiches: smoked salmon with a slice of quail egg and a dollop of caviar on a slice of baguette; cucumber and daikon radish on crustless white bread; double decker tuna salad on rye; and curried chicken salad on a tiny pumpernickel roll. On the top tier are 4 delectable desserts: a Chilean walnut tart, a mandarin custard tart, a coffee and chocolate mousse square dusted with cinnamon, and a Cassis macaron. Taste everything (but remember that in 4 hours there will be dinner to enjoy too).
Breathe. Relax. Smile at each other. Be very, very grateful. Life is good.