I made it the gym on Friday but was really unmotivated. It was a struggle to get up, and only the fact that I was already in the gym when I woke up properly persuaded me to train – so I just hopped onto the first exercise bike I saw and slogged away for 40 minutes. Probably minimal benefit but it did at least make me feel a little bit virtuous!
About 10 am we went to the top deck of the ship and sunbathed for a while. Normally sun bathing bores me rigid, but I’m currently reading a new teenage vampire series of books (the Morganville Vampires by Rachel Caine – definitely recommended if you’re into Twilight / Vampire Diaries (better written than both if you ask me)) and that kept me happy till lunchtime.
In the afternoon we’d booked a trip called a Taste of Madeira. We actually picked this trip because we hoped to try real Madeira wine, but were disappointed to find they were really offering tastes of Madeiran table wine, which is a relatively new and as yet undeveloped industry for the island. The trip consisted of driving on a coach through the countryside for quite a while, which was very beautiful. The only problem was that we had multiple stops at lookout points which lasted long enough to film a short movie let alone take a few snaps! One of them was at a little bar, and we found time for a local beer called Coral, which was rather nice – for a lager. The vineyard was fairly small – all the agricultural farms and business are small on Madeira because the island is so steep. They were offering a red and 2 white wines, and served them with wedges of a local wheat bread spread with garlic butter plus 3 different Portuguese cheeses (they don’t make their own cheese on Madeira because the islands topography makes it impossible to raise cows etc; instead they import all their dairy products from the mainland). It was quite nice, but again dragged on a bit as they left us there for an hour and there wasn’t nearly enough food and wine to fill that much time!
Breakfast: You know it was the buffet…
Lunch: There is a great little place on the Solstice Class Celebrity ships called the Bistro on Five (because its on deck 5…). It was a cover charge - $5 per head to eat in there – and it specialises in Crepes and Paninis. I had a small Caesar salad as a side dish (because I didn’t appreciate how big my main course would be – luckily M was willing to help out by eating the chicken I didn’t notice was on top) and a vegetable Panini which was not only very large, but also came with a small side salad of its own and a little bowl of crisps (we ate about 4 each and left the rest)
Dinner: OMFG. As well as the cheap cover charge restaurant mentioned above there are also 3 that only open for dinner. They are rather more expensive – about $25 - $35 a head – and vary usually by ethnicity. The one we went to on Friday was a bit different, a new concept they were trying out on this ship. Its called Qsine and consists of a large menu delivered on an iPad; all the diners pick their favourites and then the waitress looks at all the choices, selects the most popular ones, and recommends a loose structure to the meal – in this case, fishy dishes first, then meat, then a course where you ‘travel to one or two of several countries’ before dessert. All the dishes are tapas sized and intended to be shared by the whole table. looking at the description of our meal you’ll no doubt notice that there were no veggie options for me, and it left me feeling a bit heavy (above and beyond the fact that I’d eaten loads…)
‘Popcorn’ fish and chips, lava crab, disco shrimp and lobster escargot – all fabulous except the lobster escargot.
Trio of meatballs (one turkey and cranberry, one Kobe beef, one veal); spring rolls – duck and vegetable; Persian kebab – chicken and vegetables marinated in yoghurt and lemon juice with spices, served with saffron rice (my favourite from this course)
Travelling course: US (slider party) and China (sweet & sour pork, kung pao shrimp, beef in black bean sauce, another one I can’t remember and a vegetable stir fry plus sticky rice. Loved the sliders, slightly disappointed by the Chinese stuff – it was good, just not as exceptional as most of the rest.
Dessert: We each picked a dessert and shared them, plus some more that were donated by the waitress. I picked the Cupcake experience – they brought us a cupcake each, plus 3 different piping bags of icing and a few toppings to decorate your own cupcake (mine was red velvet and delicious!!!). M picked something called the Chocolate Tombstone – a layer of rice krispie treat, a layer of chocolate mousse, and a layer of ganache. Vey nice but unbelievably huge! There was also a deconstructed cheesecake – the topping was in a dish and there were little biscuits to dip into it; a little apple bread pudding with gelato and vanilla crème; and then the surprise extra – chocolate covered strawberries and tiny crème brulee served inside egg shells. I ate until I was in pain and unable to do anything except fall into bed and groan – not at all softly. But I didn’t regret it because the food was so different from anything you’ll experience anywhere else , so it really was a case of ‘use it or lose it’! It was an amazing, totally unique experience and very memorable, not least because we had a wonderful South African waitress called Charnae – she was very funny, informative and friendly, and really helped to give the whole meal a great atmosphere!
Snacks: 3 wedges of Madeira bread plus some Portuguese cheese