February 15, 2022. 74°F/24°C.
It’s all blue waters and clear sunny skies, but no land in sight. So what do we do (besides eating)? Enrichment lectures, live entertainment, movies, books, physical activity, spa time, and Viking’s slate of special events of course!
This morning guest lecturer Nigel Cox, a former career diplomat who, among other posts, was Britain’s Minister and Consul General in Beijing, did a presentation on the origins of coffee as a ubiquitous and beloved beverage. Way back when our itinerary included Indonesia, he’d planned to entitle his talk “Java Jive”; despite changing the title (“From Whirling Dervishes to Starbucks”), he still began his talk with a clip of Cab Calloway performing the jive with an energy that COULD have come from caffeine. It was interesting to be reminded of coffee’s origins: the plant indigenous to Ethiopia, and the beverage (as opposed to chewing the beans) likely first to have been drunk in Mokha, which is in modern-day Yemen. Today, the majority of the world’s commercial coffee production takes place in Brazil.
I’m looking forward to strong sweet coffee in Turkey, and authentic espresso when we reach Italy. In a sweet day-after-Valentines dedication to his wife Olivia, Nigel ended his talk with another musical clip: “You’re The Cream In My Coffee”, performed by The Nat King Cole Trio.
Having just left beautiful Uruguay, the lunch theme in the World Café was Uruguayan Chivito sandwiches and churros. Chivito is the national dish of Uruguay: a sandwich made with steak, ham, bacon, mozzarella, tomatoes, mayonnaise, hard-boiled eggs and chimichurri. It’s somewhat similar to a Cubano, but without pickle. In our case, the sandwich was assembled before our eyes on a fresh ciabatta bun and then briefly popped into the pizza oven to melt the cheese. Viking makes it really, really hard to resist all the goodies but, despite the temptation of warm chocolate sauce, I didn’t indulge in churros after my sandwich and beer.
Pre-dinner our resident naturalist Stephen Marsh gave a talk on “High Fliers – Albatrosses of the World”. Stephen always manages to inject a good dose of humour into his nature talks. Did you know than an albatross can have a wingspan of over 11 feet (3.3 metres), and when not breeding can fly for months at a time without ever touching land?
We had a lovely dinner in the main restaurant, made more special by the fact we took the opportunity to sit at a random table of 6. Pierre and Kathy, Tom and Anne were wonderful company, and we had one of our favourite waiters, Evidence from South Africa.
Evidence is just one of the incredible wait staff here on the Star. His name is quite unique, and reminded Ted of a character in one of Alexander McCall Smith’s book series: Precious Ramotswe, of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, which is set in Botswana.
One day last week, while most of the ship was empty due to excursions, Evidence was our waiter in the Pool Grill. Ted took the opportunity of a quiet day to ask him about his name.
It turns out that Evidence is from South Africa, doing his fourth contract with Viking. He grew up near Cape Town, born just 4 years after apartheid was abolished, the youngest of 7 sons of a judge who was a contemporary of Nelson Mandela. A judge – suddenly his name makes sense.
Evidence told us that all of his brothers, ranging in age from 63 down to Evidence at 35, were given names that had to do with the law: Justice, Choice, Memory, Innocent, Tidy, MacDonald, and Evidence. MacDonald? Yes, his father’s most trusted advisor during his long law career.
Evidence also told us that his parents had fervently wanted a daughter, but in the end their family was complete with 7 sons. His mother was only 19 when his eldest brother was born, and 47 when Evidence arrived. His father said that Evidence was not just a name related to the law, but that this final child was the “evidence” of their uncompromising love. Ted and I were both in tears by the time the story was over.
Evidence hopes to spend 3 more years travelling the world with Viking, increasing his knowledge of the hospitality industry, before returning to Cape Town to start his own business and eventually go into local politics to be an influence for good. Given his innate charm, incredible work ethic, and solid plan, we have no doubt of his success.
Tonight’s guest entertainer was Greg Moreland, a comedian/magician who has been performing on cruise lines for over 20 years. His bio includes the sentence: “With a degree in Psychology from Willamette University in Oregon, you’d think by now he’d have gotten himself a real job.” The show was a lot of fun – probably the most we’ve enjoyed a magician in years.
Afterward, we capped off our evening in the Explorer’s Lounge listening to King’s always wonderful guitar and vocals. There were very few people there tonight, but those of us who were had the special treat of hearing the song he has written for his upcoming June 12th wedding back home in the Philippines. It was gorgeous! If he can get through it without tears while his wife walks down the aisle we’ll be surprised; I’ll bet there won’t be a dry eye in the church.