Not really near the Spratley Islands
Years ago, travelling through Hong Kong on our way to places with Edward, there always seemed to be some news about the Spratley Islands in the South China Morning Post and the name just hit the spot with him. The Spratleys, the Paracels and other small groups of islands in the South China Sea are still a focus for discussion in this part of the world and every time I hear the name, I think back to a small boy and his interest in them.
So, looking out over an empty sea this morning, I wondered if we’d be sailing anywhere near these islands and thought I’d go and take a look at the nautical chart to see. The Captain must have been reading my mind however, for before I had chance to do that, he explained in one of his daily announcements that we’d not be sailing anywhere near them. A shame – but never mind. Perhaps it’s wise to steer clear of disputed waters.
We’ve been at sea all day today, on our way to Nha Trang in Vietnam. On the programme this morning was a lecture we thought might be interesting, so we spent an hour learning a little more about a country we really love. I’m not sure we learned anything we didn’t know already, but it piqued our imagination and got us in the mood, which was good!
The other activity for the day was a tour of the galley with the Executive Chef. I’ve done this on previous cruises and I’m not sure these things change, but it’s always a privilege to be invited behind the scenes and this morning was no exception.
First stop was the wine store – not the main wine store, needless to say, which is somewhere down in the depths of the ship, but today’s wine selection, which is the 350 bottles or so which we will work our way through during the day. The Head Sommelier was on hand with a bottle of champagne too, which was a fine way to begin our tour.
The chef was relaxed and happy to answer any questions we had whilst explaining how each area worked. Here, we’re in the patisserie/bakery which operates 24/7 and where everything is made from scratch with one exception – the bagels. Before moving on, he passed round those two plates of petits fours because it must have been at least an hour since we had eaten anything!
Around the corner was the main hot area, where the bulk of the main course dishes are created. With an hour or so to go before lunch, it was fairly quiet, as the chefs prepared the sample dishes for today. I hadn’t realised before but every day, before every meal service, a sample of each dish on offer is prepared and presented to the restaurant staff who familiarise themselves with it in order to be able to advise diners when making their choice.
Somehow I managed to avoid including those ten sample plates in my photograph which is annoying! At this point, the chef tastes everything to check that it meets his exacting standards, too. Such small but significant points which are key to making sure everything is first class.
Last but not least, the cold prep area, which was completely quiet at this point but which was about to swing into action, so we needed to be moving on. Actually, a huge pan of paella was being prepared on the deck, so though the offer of brunch was there in the restaurant, we decided to go on up and enjoy the sunshine – and possibly the paella too
The Sangria wasn’t half bad either!
As I got ready for dinner this evening, I looked out from our balcony, wondering if there might be sight of land of some kind. But not a single Spratley was to be seen.
Just one single ship, sailing along the horizon heading who knows where. We too were heading towards the Horizon…bar that is, in our case!