Another day at sea

Saturday:  We left Navplion yesterday right after everyone got back, and steamed through the night.  Today, we are going though the Dardanelles and the Bosporus.

The Dardanelles straits are first: ranging from .75 to 4 miles wide, we passed through them early in the day.  This is the area of the world where the Crimean war was fought, with Gallipoli on our left.  My knowledge of history is woeful, but there is a huge monument here to the 250,000 who died.

After the Dardanelles, we enter the Marmara Sea, about 7 hours later we come to Istanbul.  I felt like we were on a watery freeway, for all the ships going in the same direction with us.  The amount of sea traffic here is stunning.

During the middle of the day, I listened to the lecture from Howard Fineman, Newsweek magazine writer and frequent NBC talking head.  He spoke about the fractionalizing of the media due to the internet and how that impacts our political system.  I see him often on MSNBC; it was fun to see him in person.

Lunch was the Grand Buffet—an ostentatious display of the culinary arts from the kitchen.  Watching the people attack the food like a ravening horde amused me—this is a cruise ship, after all.  You can have anything you want every night, as much as you want.  Yet when they put a tray of lobster tails out, these people behaved as though they had never had the chance to eat a lobster before.  The artistry and design of the food was magnificent, but it was severe overkill as far as I am concerned.

We played cards in the afternoon, for lack of anything better to do.  The standard of play is so hideous that all you can do is laugh—but not at the table, at the poor rookies who are dropping tricks left and right.  Micky and I had a 64% game, coming in second by a mile to the 74% someone else racked up.  Gail and Linda won the other direction.

Around 5 pm, we approached Istanbul and the straits of the Bosporus.  These straits are the dividing line between Europe and Asia—the older, business oriented section of Istanbul is in Europe, while the newer, mostly residential, part is in Asia.

Passing through Istanbul was beautiful and awe-inspiring.  We were fortunate that the ship picks up a concert pianist who is Turkish but American educated (so his English is flawless) and very knowledgeable about the history and geography so he narrates the transit of the straits in the morning and the evening.

At dinner, we went to the specialty restaurant, Prego.  This is basically a mediocre Italian restaurant with incredibly obsequious service.  Gail ordered the carpaccio, and the maitre d’hôtel proceeded to make a major production of adding fresh lemon juice, then he added the oil, then he added the balsamic vinegar, then he came back with the black pepper.  I thought for sure that this was a Monty Python sketch, and he would next appear holding a live duck to wave over the food for some mysterious purpose.  For all that, my Insalata Caprese was bland and tasteless, and my fish the same.  There is no extra charge for this restaurant, except for a nominal $7.00 for the staff.  Tonight, we are trying the other specialty restaurant, Silk Road, with supposedly great Japanese food.  Since this is a Japanese cruise line, perhaps it will truly shine.

The evening show was bland.  Not bad, just bland.  The ship’s dance instructors did a routine more athletic than rhythmic, the cruise director brought out his dummy and did a ventriloquist act, the singer from two nights ago reprised Old Man River, and there was a comedian whose specialty is to be non-offensive.  No, really, it says so right in the ship newspaper.

Next stop: Nessebur, Bulgaria.

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