October 29, 2010
Portland, Maine

FACTOID: Andrew Wyeth, Stephen King & Mr. LL Bean (Leon Leonwood Bean) all hail from Portland!

I was not a happy camper having to get up so early for immigration. And especially not knowing if there would be enough time to eat & get to my morning tour before 9. While I dressed, I picked at the fruit & cheese left over from last night. That was going to have to suffice for breakfast just in case.

How do all these people look so “put together” this early in the morning? I hoped I wouldn’t run into anyone I knew. I immediately run into Alice, Ralph & Doris waiting in line. Once I got through the line, there stood Tim Conway. So, it’s not just a rumor; he really is onboard. He’s thinner & much younger looking than I expected. And like the rest of us peons, he also has to stand in line.

It took longer than expected to clear the ship; & excursions were late leaving this morning. It was grey outside; but the temps made it to the upper 50’s. There was practically no wind; so it wasn’t unpleasant. Just grey.

My morning tour was the City Highlights & Portland Head Lighthouse (PWM-A). Our guide was Nancy; Driver, Clyde, in bus #2. Nancy did a fine job; didn’t bore anyone to death. And she wanted to start off by teaching us how to speak “Maine”….. “lob-stah” & “chow-dah”.

The port of Portland is really uninteresting; although it does sit within reasonable walking distance to “town”. We started off on a road that ran alongside Casco Bay toward the “East End”. We drove through residential areas along Eastern Promenade Street where beautiful homes of every variety of architecture all backed up to magnificent views of Casco Bay.

Next passing through an area known as Munjoy Hill & (what appeared to be) a red brick “light house”. It is now the home of the Port Observatory.

We drove down Exchange St, previously referred to as Fish St through the heart of the Old Port Area. Most of the wooden buildings in this area were completely destroyed by the great fire of 1866. This area is home to some lovely Museums, parks & statues honoring just about every noteworthy person who ever lived here.

Finally we entered the area known as the “West End”. The trees are still ablaze with color. Nancy said the colors peaked last week; & the fiery red “burning bushes” were just at their peak. I can only imagine how beautiful it would have been under sunshine. The sun tried to peak out a few times; but never did. In fact, there was a little rain during the late afternoon just before sailing time. We stopped for a photo op at the “widow’s view” park along the White River (?), with the mountains of New Hampshire way off in the distance.

She pointed out some gorgeous summer homes. Gothic style cottages, sprawling Victorian mansions; all used just a few short months of the year.

We proceeded about another 20 mins. to the town of Cape Elizabeth, which is home to the famous Portland Head Lighthouse. Built in 1791, its beacon still safely guides the busy marine traffic off the coast of Maine. We had about 25 mins. to walk up to the scenic overlook or explore the museum. If there had been time, there is a walking path that leads from the lighthouse along the coastline. I’m sure the vistas are breathtaking.

On the way back to the ship, I asked Nancy if she might recommend a place close by that would have authentic lobster rolls. She mentioned a few that were side by side right along the street next to the terminal. She reminded us not to be put off by the way they look cause that’s where the best food is. I perused the menus posted outside of a couple of them; but settled on the most “homely” looking building. Gilbert’s Chowder House looked slightly “seedy”; & you could tell the waitresses had probably been there forever. I had a luscious cup of clam “chow-dah” & (my first ever, genuine, authentic) “lob-stah” roll. Nancy said they are often served on a grilled hot dog bun; but mine was on a buttered/grilled thick slice of (what looked to be) home made bread. It was divine. They had CNN on at the bar; & the breaking news of the day was dominating the airwaves…..the security alert at the London, Newark & PHL airports. I know some of the Pax that are coming onboard in NY, were planning on flying into the NY area today for a long weekend. This could make for unpleasant travel delays.

As I was coming out of the Gilbert’s, I saw Ralph, Alice & Doris walking across the street. They were looking for a place for some lunch; & I highly recommended they eat at Gilbert’s. They did; & loved it,

I came back onboard about 1:30; went straight to the Bistro, in the mood for some of that great hot chocolate. While I was sitting there, Peggy (xrvlcruiser on CC) came up & sat down. We had a very nice visit. Pretty soon Alice & Ralph came in & joined us. I really lucked out with my table friends. These two are the most delightful people you’d ever want to meet.

In a little while Ioannis came in for his afternoon capp’o; so I sat & talked with him a while. Just as he was doing just about this time last year, he has the corporate people onboard this cruise working on next year’s budget. Always a stressful time for him. I had forgotten until he reminded me that tonight was the cocktail party in the Capt’s Quarters for all those who are dining at officer’s tables. I would have liked to have skipped it; but it is an honor to be asked.

Back in the cabin I could see that it had started to sprinkle rain; & I thought it was time for a short nap. I slept long enough that I really had to scurry to get ready for the party. I was about 10 mins. late. Everyone was talking loudly & having a good time.

We headed down to the D.R. a little early. The ship’s photog’s were trying to get people to sit for portraits. And Ralph grabbed us; & said let’s have some fun. The photog perched Alice & Doris on stools; & arranged Ralph, Norman & I behind them. We took several different poses; laughing so hard we could hardly see straight.

It’s (semi) informal night, the fabulous French Dinner menu (one of my favorites). And the Chief was dining with us again tonight. The wines flowed; the conversation revolved around Alice’s expertise in handwriting analysis & reading body language. Before the night was over, she had “read” everyone at the table, Ioannis, Aden & Davor (the waiters) & Ivo (Head Waiter). The looks on the faces as people realized that she had them “pegged” was priceless. Most of what she said about me was right on target. A few things, I’m still pondering.

For dinner I had escargot bourguignon, seasoned with just the perfect amount of garlic. Since I’ve been intrigued by all the pasta specials, I tried an appetizer portion of Parpadelle Boscaiola. This looked like an extra wide linguini noodle with garlic, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes & cream with a touch of white truffle oil. It was outstanding.

My main course was garlic-herb crusted rack of lamb served with a finely diced ratatouille, au gratin potatoes & sautéed haricots verts (in essence, skinny green beans that are way undercooked). I was having trouble cutting the lamb; couldn’t tell at first if it was the meat or the knife. Ioannis motioned to Ivo; & he brought me another small rack. This one was succulently tender & delicious.

For the 8th night in a row, I’ve not found anything on the dessert menu that excited me. Something seems amiss here. So, I let Adem select cheeses from the trolley for me

The meal ended at 10:30; everyone going their separate ways, looking for entertainment. I’m ready to call it a night. Just a little typing to do & a few photos from dinner to edit. Tomorrow we arrive in Boston for 2 days. My dear friend, Michael will be coming aboard in the morning. It should be a fun weekend!

Here are various photos of Alice doing her "readings" for Pauline, Ioannis & Ivo at the table tonight:

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