January 28, 2022. 73°F/23°C
Actually, we already were.
Today’s highlight was the Equator Crossing Ceremony, thankfully not held in the middle of the night when we actually crossed. King Neptune and his court took over the pool deck, and we all witnessed the Pollywogs (those who have never crossed the equator) get inducted into the “Order of Shellbacks” (those who have).
It’s unclear where the line-crossing ceremony originated, but it has been around since at least the 18th century, and could be quite a brutal “testing” of novice sailors, occasionally even resulting in their death from the severity of their test/punishment, being tossed overboard, or being dragged through the surf. On the Star today it was more of a celebration, although King Neptune and his mermaids, assisted by “prosecutor” Davy Jones (resurrected from his deep-sea locker) presided over a kangaroo court to punish those Pollywogs responsible for various “crimes”. Johann our General Manager was accused of cruelty for making us continue to wear our masks despite zero Covid cases, Chris our Chief Financial Officer was accused of treason for leaking information to Carnival Cruises, and our navigator was accused of secretly rerouting our world cruise itinerary without the Captain’s knowledge, for instance.
The guilty (naturally they were ALL guilty) Pollywogs were “marked” – sometimes quite enthusiastically – with meringue and forced to “cross the line” by jumping into the pool in full uniform and emerging on the other side.
Once “cleansed” each new inductee into the Order of Shellbacks had to kiss the fish and down a shot of Aquavit. Don’t worry – the fish were masked as per Covid protocols. Safety first on the Viking Star!
Passengers also downed Aquavit shots, but were spared the kissing of the fish. Instead, we all got the dubious pleasure of setting our clocks ahead one more hour.
King Neptune apparently blessed us with smooth seas on his departure, although my stomach continued all day to argue with his definition of “smooth”.
Prior to the crossing ceremony, I attended Dr. Bradley’s lecture on the unique clothing of the indigenous peoples of the Ecuadorian highlands (in the Andes). There are several indigenous groups, all of whom are Quechua speakers, and all of whom wear similar 100% hand-made clothing, mostly made of wool from the sheep that the tribes herd. Pleated wool skirts, embroidered blouses, felt hats, and intricately woven belts are common elements of the women’s and girls’ clothing, while many of the men and boys have converted to western clothing for all except for Sundays and special occasions. There is currently a cottage industry involving machine-done embroidery which allows women to make much more profit for their work by producing items much faster, but that profit is seen only once the incredibly expensive machine needed to do the embroidery is paid for.
Dinner tonight in the Chef’s Table was on a Scandinavian theme, and shared with new friend Sandy, a retired grade 3 teacher from Seattle who is just SO much fun.
Before our meal, we were given a small platter of leffse, Norwegian potato pancakes that have the texture of a thick crepe, with the taste of potato. Yummy. Our amuse-bouche was a delicate veal and chicken consommé with a handmade ravioli stuffed with reindeer meat, paired with a Tassajara pinot noir from California’s Monterey Valley. We all agreed that the wine elevated the consommé into something really special.
Our first course was Salmon Déclinaison: salmon done three ways. We had Aquavit-infused gravlax wrapped around salmon tartare with lingonberries, served on pickled cucumber slices, and poached salmon crusted with fragrant dill, garnished with salmon mousse rosettes. Sandy and I loved it. Ted endured it. The wine pairing was a Marrenon Classique Lubernon Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Ugni Blanc and Vermentino white blend from Provence.
Our palate cleanser between the fish and meat courses was a frozen beet, cucumber and vodka ice with an orange and cardamom foam. it definitely cleansed the palate, but none of us were huge fans.
The main course was Lamb Får-I-Kål, which translates literally as “sheep in cabbage”, and which has been Norway’s national dish since 1970. It was similar to a cabbage roll, but with the lamb served 2 ways: shredded and seasoned with braised cabbage, and loin rolled into cabbage. While the lamb/cabbage taste combination was interesting, all 3 of us agreed that it did not compare to the German cabbage rolls our families made. It was definitely prettier though! The wine pairing was Anko Malbec from Salta Argentina.
Dessert was the hands-down highlight of the meal: silky white chocolate panna cotta, with crunchy sesame ice cream, and a delectable honeyed sesame wafer, assembled to look like a Viking helmet and all served in a cloudberry “soup”. Served with the dessert was Hjortron Cloudberry wine from Vastmanland County, Sweden.
We ended our day, as we usually do, by taking in the live show in the theatre. Tonight, guest singer Amy Jo Slater presented “Thank You For The Music”, a very different show to her Adele tribute, featuring classical, Broadway, and pop numbers. My favourite was her rendition of “Man of LaMancha”.
Tomorrow, Chef Thomas has a German-themed brunch planned for us. I can hardly wait!