Meals You’ll Love on Viking River Cruises

Taste of Austria (8)TRAVEL THERE: MEAL BY MEAL ON THE VIKING TOR

Every meal is a treat on Viking River Cruises!

Breakfast

From 6 – 11 AM a Cafe Breakfast was available at a coffee station next to the Lounge.  In fact, food and beverages were always available there.  The food ranged from croissants and danish in the morning to cookies mid-afternoon, but there was always something.  The liquid libations offered even more variety:  coffee drinks both hot and cold; hot tea and hot chocolate; both bubbly and still water; even juices in the morning.  The Cafe Breakfast service satisfied the needs of both the early risers and late sleepers, while the coffee station itself kept the rest of us from getting peckish throughout the day.  There was at least one day we visited it for a second breakfast and on most days we took advantage of it for an afternoon break.  At 7 the Aquivit Terrace served a Continental Breakfast.

At 7:30 the Restaurant opened up for a Full Breakfast and I do mean full.  There was a lovely buffet where you could get anything from a made-to-order omelette  to a bagel with lox.  A list of all the things available would take up more word count than I want to spend on it.  I was particularly fond of the mushrooms sauteed in butter, not something I usually eat for breakfast, but once I tried them I ate them every morning.  Healthy things like fresh fruit and yogurt were available as well as diet-busters like bacon and breads of every sort.  I’m not very experimental in the morning, so I had no interest in things like pickled herring and other local “delicacies” they offered up, but you might be.

Were you able to visit all the stations on the buffet and still not find something you were interested in, a menu was available for other selections.  My husband chose to order from the menu on several mornings, but that wouldn’t keep him from enjoying the buffet too.  The menu included all those taboo treats like French Toast, Pancakes and Waffles.

Of course, coffee, tea and a variety of juices were available, but should you have an interest in it, champagne was also being poured.  Many of the passengers enjoyed mimosas, but I can’t start the day drinking.  I’m a wimp!

Lunch

Most of the shore excursions were planned to get you back to the boat for lunch at 12:30.  Lunch was served in the Restaurant in much the same way as breakfast, but with different selections.  Instead of a chef preparing fresh egg dishes, the lunchtime chef offered made-to-order pasta.  There were a wide variety of casual foods offered around the buffet, but you could also order off the menu.  The Aquavit Terrace was also available.

20160417_130007Most days we’d order off the menu and then graze the buffet for tidbits until our meal arrived.  The menu items were served in European proportions.  You could get as many as you wanted, but a three course meal could be eaten without feeling as if you’d just ingested half the boat.  Well, perhaps the desserts were overly indulgent, but the other two courses were very reasonable.

The items on the menu offered a wide variety.  There was usually a regional specialty, something for the meat-and -potatoes sort and something else for the vegetarian.  The vegetarian choices were delightful, even if you weren’t vegetarian.  I would usually opt for the regional specialty, unless it was pickled something or other.

The wine started flowing at lunch, but that’s when I got my caffeine fix.  I’ve already complained mentioned the fact that Diet Dr Pepper was not an option, so I’d have a bottle of Coke Light, Europe’s answer to Diet Coke.  Pretty much any other non-alcoholic beverage you were interested was available at lunch.

I did mention desserts didnt I.

I did mention desserts didnt I?

Dinner

If you liked the idea of a buffet, then you could go to the Aquivit Terrace for dinner, but in the Restaurant dinner was off the menu.

Passengers generally dressed up a little for dinner, but if you happened to stroll in from enjoying free time at the port and were still wearing your sneakers, you wouldn’t be turned away.  For the most part Viking passengers dressed up the scale from your average ocean cruiser, but there was no formality.  There was no pool or beaches, so folks weren’t running around in swimwear.  The chilly weather discouraged shorts, tank tops and the like.  I liked dressing up for dinner and you could tell other women did, too.  My husband usually wore nice trousers and a long sleeved shirt.  Jackets and ties were not worn.

Each evening before dinner there was a briefing of some sort up in the lounge.  The cruise director would ask if we enjoyed our day and then give us the lowdown on what would be happening next.  Some evenings this event would be accompanied by a glass of free champagne.  We always took advantage of that, but we never ordered drinks.  The bar was always open, but unlike the wine with meals, alcoholic beverages in the bar were not free.  With so much wine flowing at dinner, we saw no reason to invest in cocktails.  That was not true for all the passengers though.  We saw the bartender mix a lot of martinis.

Most evenings we’d find our cruise buddies, Deb, Mike, Gwynne and John at the briefing and then take a table with them for dinner.  The fun we had around the table made dinner one of the best parts of the day.  The food was to die for and as I’ve mentioned the wine never stopped.

At both lunch and dinner the menu was divided into two parts, but different things were offered for each meal.  The left side had the chef’s daily menu and the right side was labeled “Always Available.”  I usually ordered from the day’s selection, but Deb was all about the Grilled Salmon on the Always Available side of things.  The dinner choices on either side were divided into three courses, but you could order it anyway you wanted.  Also, like lunch, they provided a variety of things to please the adventurous, the meat-and-potatoes sorts and the picky (for whatever reason).

I’ve chatted for too long about food, but it is an important part of a cruise.  Next week I’ll start sharing our exciting stops along the Danube.

 

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Gift Card Showers

Gift Card Showers - A New Trend in Gift Giving

Gift Card Showers – A New Trend in Gift Giving

TRAVEL HERE: APPARENTLY IT’S NO LONGER THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS

Let me begin with a disclaimer.  I was recently one of the hostesses for a gift card bridal shower.  I adore the bride and if she’d wanted a mud ball shower, it would have been my pleasure to throw her a mud ball shower (not that I know what a mud ball shower is).  However, the bride had no idea what kind of shower she wanted and when one of the hostesses suggested a gift card shower, that seemed to please most everyone.  We had a lovely shower, the guests seemed to love it and the bride was pleased – mission accomplished! 

Seems as if in this, as in most other things, I was reminded of what an old lady I am.  I always swore I wasn’t going to be one of those people who sat around extolling the good old days.  When I was in my teens, everybody at my church knew the anti-rock-and-roll mom.  In all other things she was an absolute delight, but if you dared  show a fondness for any music newer than the Big Band Era, she became your worst nightmare.  Hopefully, I’m not anybody’s worst nightmare, but how awful is it that I want to buy a present, not a gift card, for a bride? 

The Way It Used to Be

Back in the day, when one of the young ladies in our church showed up with an engagement ring, all of our mom’s would go into a tizzy.  Immediately, there would be a lot of chatter about which ladies would be the most appropriate hostesses for the bride-to-be’s shower, usually a Miscellaneous Shower, but on occasion they would agree to a Kitchen Shower or perhaps a Linen Shower .  That was usually decided before Sunday School was over and by the time the pastor finished the sermon, the only question was which hostess would actually earn the honor of having the shower at her house.

Please understand, the bride might have just gotten engaged the night before, with no idea of a wedding date or guest list, but the bridal shower wars had begun.  Most of our church showers had 10-20 hostesses and the bride was hard-pressed to come up with more guests than there were hostesses, especially since her closest girlfriends would also want to throw a Lingerie Shower for her and Miss Manners said no one should be invited to more than one shower.  What’s more, anyone invited to a shower, by necessity, had to be invited to the wedding.  (For those who might be interested, there was an exception made for close relatives and members of the bridal party.  They could be invited to multiple showers, but they were not required to show up with a gift to each shower or if they chose, they could present personal gifts or tokens of affection.)

To today’s modern bride this all might seem burdensome.  You’ve already been living together for several years, you’re having a destination wedding and you can’t imagine the idea of polishing silver.  You’re also horrified at the thought of all those hand-written thank-you notes.  Surely, email would be OK – right?  Fine, do your own thing.  Miss Manners has died an agonizing death.  I’m just here to tell you that all of this used to be more fun.

Registering Your Selections

With a major mall planted every 5 miles in Dallas, it’s hard imagine the original reason brides registered their selections.  There was a time when you only registered at one store and which store told a lot about the life you planned to lead.  The store would help you be smart.  They’d discuss the lifestyle you intended to have, the number of guests you would invite and how many of those guests were in-town.  Based on these factors and some others, they’d help you decide what to register for and then they’d take steps to make sure they’d actually have the things you registered for in stock, in time for all your events.

Back in my mother’s time, this store would usually be the local jeweler.  Many of these stores had a dining table on their sales floor and they would set it with the selections of “their” brides.  The table would be set with a variety of settings and next to each would be a crisp white place-card with a bride’s name on it.  When one of the local “it” girls made her selections, everybody in town went to see what she had chosen, whether they were invited to the wedding or not.  Then her selections would be the talk of the town for a season.  Before you get to judgmental, think about what you watched on TV last night.  I’m thinking there’s a chance that discussing a real person’s choice of china and silver might be more entertaining than a lot of what shows up on TV.

In the days of those marvelous church showers of my memory, life had already gotten more “convenient.”  I registered at Joske’s, because that’s where my mom worked.  She decided it would be “convenient” if I also registered at Sanger-Harris.  The Joske’s where I registered promised to display my choices, but that just meant everything I had chosen would be somewhere on the sales floor, not on a dining table with my name on a place-card.  A bride in those days only registered for a few items, the ones she really wanted.  She’d inform the hostesses of the colors she planned to use in her home, so people could buy more “practical” gifts like towels and skillets, but they had to depend on their own taste.  One of the nightmares I remember from this double registration was keeping each store aware of the actual total I had received of the various items.  Not so convenient after all.

Opening the Gifts 

The day of the shower was a real bonanza.  You knew you were going to get at least one gift of amazing proportions, because the hostesses always went in together on a single gift.  Sterling silver was beyond anybody’s pocketbook by the time I married, but I had registered for fine china, fine crystal, “good” flatware and casual china – eight of everything.  When all the presents were stacked up and ready for me to open, I have to admit the one which interested me the most were the ones wrapped by Joske’s and Sanger’s.  Those were the gifts for which I had registered.  I thought that shower was my only real chance for a complete set of china.  Since I now have four sets of china, none of which came from that day, this is pretty funny.  For the record, I inherited most of it.

Though none of the crystal and china I opened that day made it to this end of my life, some of the funny odd things I had not registered for are still with me.  Porcelain items fired especially for me in the church kiln, a casserole dish that didn’t match anything, a watercolor painting and various small kitchen utensils that I can’t stand to let go of, even though I have never used them.

Things Kept Getting More Convenient

Due to lots of advertising and the counsel of greedy salespeople, brides found more and more stores at which to register and more and more items to include on that register.  No longer was a wedding guest left to their own taste in the bath towel department.  Some brides registered for all the same stuff at forty stores and others choose all different things at four stores.  As you purchase your gift for the forty-store bride, you are aware that everyone invited to the wedding may be buying the exact same item at one of hundreds of stores throughout the world – let’s not even talk about online shopping.  If you wanted to buy a complete place-setting for the other bride, you might have to make purchases from all four stores.

Things got so convenient that shopping for a bride got to be a real pain in the neck.  You knew when you got to the shower there was every chance in the world that this purchase that you had labored over might be reduced to humiliation when the bride opened the fifth sugar bowl of the day.  The thing I hated most was that more often than not, your gift was actually a piece of paper assuring the bride she could trade it in on one of her crystal goblets.  No store anywhere made any effort to have your selections in stock.  They just wanted to get the money and the bride was left with the job of hounding the store for that last pickle fork that no one anywhere seemed to have available.

I Want to Buy a Gift Anyway

When I graduated from high school, I received a gift in the mail from the sweet woman who had cleaned our home in Dublin, GA.  Gertrude was beloved by every member of the family, but it had been several years since she’d seen me in person.  We exchanged Christmas cards and visited her each time we were in Georgia, but I guess it was hard to judge my size from a picture.  Gertrude sent me the hugest pair of nylon panties I had ever seen in my life, but as my mom pointed out, it was the thought that counted.

I still feel that way.  You might end up hating an item I purchase for one of your occasions, but it has been my pleasure to go out and shop for it.  If you did register your selections, I will buy one and I will have the store wrap it in their most opulent gift wrap.  If I was left to my own taste, then I assure you that I labored over what to buy with complete joy and I will most likely wrap it myself with many kudos for whoever thought up gift bags.

I’ve gone on for entirely too long about this today, but it’s been bothering me ever since the first time a sales lady told me how convenient it was for the bride to get that card saying I’d purchased a serving piece from her fine china.  If I buy you a huge platter in triple digits, I want a huge box at the shower and I want to hear all the oooohs and aaaaahs.  If I can’t have that, then I guess I might as well get you gift card.

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Shopping in El Paso

Shopping, but in Juarez, not El Paso's Sears

Shopping, but in Juarez, not El Paso’s Sears

TRAVEL BUG TALES: DADDY MAKES EVERYTHING ALRIGHT

So, we’re in El Paso, but our hanging clothes are still in my closet in Dallas.  Mom insists the outfits in our luggage will not take us everywhere we need to go.  So it was time to go shopping.

Saved by the Sears

When it came to clothes shopping, my family was usually on the JC Penney’s team.  I’m not sure why we ended up at a Sears store in El Paso, but that’s what happened.  At the front door Dad disappeared to do something mysterious and Mom took us to the girl’s dress department.

I’m guessing Dad went to the credit department and explained our dilemma.  “Hi, I’m George Cave.  We’re here on vacation and need to pick up a few things, but I left my credit card at home.  Can you help?”  Knowing my father he told them a whole lot more and I bet before he left the office he knew everything about the people who he’d been talking to.  Dad was that guy.

Nowadays, all you have to do is give them your name and they can tell you anything and everything about yourself, re-fi your home and forecast your horoscope, but our shopping emergency happened in the days before computers ruled the world.  He probably had to give them his driver’s license and wait around the credit department while a phone call was made to some centralized billing location.  I’m imagining a huge room where someone had to go through a file cabinet or card file to find our account.

Meanwhile Mom was fluttering around with us among the dress racks.  Had I been on the store’s security detail, I would have been suspicious of my mother.  She was dancing around like a cat on a hot tin roof.  I guess she was nervous about whether Dad would succeed at his assignment.  My dad did everything my mom told him to do, but he didn’t always do it exactly the way Mom expected him to and that caused her a lot of anxiety.  Of course, we’re talking about Ruth and pretty much everything caused her a lot of anxiety.

A visit to the caverns

A visit to the caverns

The Red and Gold Culotte Dress

Over the the last week or so, as I worked on this series of posts, I’ve been going through all my photo albums trying to find a picture of me in the dress we bought that day.  I know there was at least one picture of me in it, but since it was a picture of a birthday party for my sister, she might have it somewhere.

I loved that dress.  It had a roll collar, short sleeves and a drop waist.  The color was tomato red with gold stripes – not metallic gold like it would be today, but the goldenrod color used for some copy paper.  The fact that it was culottes caused a dilemma for my parents.  School dress codes were strict in those days and culottes weren’t kosher.  Would I ever wear it again after the vacation?  Mother let me try it on, but warned me she had reservations about it.

Not sure who this guy is!

Not sure who this guy is!

I remember my dad showing up after his mysterious disappearance.  He was grinning ear to ear and mother’s relief was obvious.  “Daddy, daddy, look what I’ve found!  Isn’t it a great color?  And look it’s culottes!  I can’t wear them to school, but I can wear them to Duck Inn and choir and…”  I wanted to be the one to tell him about it, because I knew Mom would start with all the reasons it was impractical.   Duck Inn was our favorite place to get catfish and we went every couple of weeks, so I figured including it would give the idea that I’d be wearing it a lot.

There was some discussion of price and if I remember correctly, we’d found it on the clearance rack and my dad thought, for the price, if all I did was wear it on vacation I would get our money’s worth.  I wore the dickens out of that thing.  It was if I had to prove Dad was right to let me buy it.  I actually wore the dress to shredding, which was a weird thing.  I was growing fast and Mom was fastidious about the laundry, so most of my clothes looked brand new when I outgrew them.  This one started fraying where the skirt was connected to the bodice.

Susan at White Sands

Susan at White Sands

Vacation wise, I don’t remember what we saw in El Paso, but I do remember going over into Juarez.  We saw the bats erupt from Carlsbad Caverns and then went down inside the next day.  Somewhere along the way we visited White Sands National Park and the Palo Duro Canyons.  We went to Houston that year to, but for the life of me, I can’t remember whether it was on the same trip or on another one later in the year.

Come back next week and I’ll share a few tidbits from that trip to the Houston area.

 

 

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What Do You Eat on a Viking River Cruise?

Happy Tummies on Viking River Cruises

Happy Tummies on Viking River Cruises

TRAVEL THERE: THREE SQUARES A DAY & ALL THE WINE YOU CAN DRINK ON THE VIKING TOR

From first meal to last, Viking River Cruises does everything right.  Everything I loved about meals on other cruises they incorporated into their food service and what I hated they left out.

Single Seating Service

The overriding difference between river and ocean cruising is size.  For me that was good news.  Everything I wanted was either on the same floor as my stateroom or one floor down.  I could be in my room one minute and in the next I could be sitting in the dining room.

Here's a peek of the dining room on the evening of the regional buffet. dig those desserts!

Here’s a peek of the Restaurant on the evening of the regional buffet. Dig those desserts!

Each meal was served in one seating and you sat wherever you wanted.  One thing I had really liked about assigned seating on ocean cruises was that your server really got to know you and within a day or two they had all your preferences down.  It also narrowed down the thousands of possible table mates to a table-full of people to have dinner with and I’d always been lucky enough to really like the people we sat with.  Well, on the riverboat, we got to know all the servers and by the end of the cruise each of them knew us well enough to provide incredibly individualized service.  The small number of passengers also made cruise friends a lot easier to find.

Two Dining Venues

We chose to eat all our meals in the Restaurant.  The spacious room had tables of various sizes spread comfortably around the room.  On both sides were large windows looking out onto the river, sometimes at a city where we were docked and at other times at changing scenery, as the boat made its way to the next destination.  In the center of the room was a three-sided buffet for breakfast and lunch.  Dinner was usually from the menu, except for a special regional buffet one evening.

The Aquavita Terrace Buffet on the Regional Buffet night.

The Aquavit Terrace Buffet on the Regional Buffet night.

The other venue was the Aqauvit Terrace.  Had the weather been a tad warmer, we would probably have been all over this, especially at lunch.  The Terrace was at the bow of the boat, offering a view of the scenery ahead.  Half of the seating is actually outside on the deck, but some is inside a glass-encased section at the end of the lounge.  That’s where the buffet is and all the meals in the Terrace are served buffet style.  Rumor had it that the Terrace menu focused more on sandwiches, salads and small plates, many of which were included on the Restaurant’s menu.  Perhaps I should have checked it all out for you, but I was on vacation after all.

All the Wine You Can Drink

This was one of my favorite things about the cruise.  The battle of the bottle on the other ships was a confrontation we could not win.  On Viking we couldn’t lose, because there was no battle.  Each evening they had a small selection of wines, both red and white, which were included in the price of the cruise.  Most nights it seems there were only two (one red, one white) but on some of the evenings regional specialties were included which expanded the selection.

My husband, who is a little more picky about wine than me, was always quite pleased with the red choice.  I adored the white wines, especially the regional specialties.  If you are a wine snob, there is a package you can buy that affords you premium wines, but we didn’t need it and we didn’t meet anyone who did.

It really is all the wine you can drink.  Once the wait person finds out which color you prefer for the evening, they’ll keep pouring it for you until you tell them to stop.  If mid-meal you want to change colors, that’s fine too.  I don’t exactly know how they afford to be so generous, but this single act of generosity endeared me to them forever.

I’ve still got a lot more to say about food, but I’ve run out of words today, so come back next week for a description of the meals.

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Whatcha Doing This Summer?

Summertime fun on Lake Ray Hubbard

Summertime fun on Lake Ray Hubbard

TRAVEL HERE: THE LAKEPLEX OFFERS VARIETY

Dallasites have a long hot summer ahead of us.  My husband and I have just returned from a glorious river cruise vacation, so we won’t be leaving anytime soon.  Not to worry, there’s plenty to keep us busy.  Here are some of the things we’re looking forward to.

In Rockwall County

We’re lucky to live in Rockwall County which is sort of a destination of it’s own.  The Hilton at The Harbor is one of the top venues for conferences and conventions in Texas.

Restaurants like Gloria’s and Dodie’s line the patios of The Harbor complex.  Couples and family of every description frolic on different levels, enjoying fountains, views and often entertainment.  On Summer Thursdays, the Concert by the Lake Series brings in a variety of tribute bands that will get your toes tapping and inspire you to get up and dance.

If you’d prefer to be on the water then you want to Sail with Scott.  Captain Scott offers two ways to enjoy Lake Ray Hubbard:  The Seawolf and Harbor Lights.  The Seawolf is a 40 foot long hand-built catamaran of Spanish Cedar.  There are daily cruises at 1,3,5,7 &9 costing $30 per person – but go online and make reservations, because Scott won’t be there if no one has made a reservation.  You are welcome to bring your own refreshments.  Whether you need a little “me” time, want to have a special evening for two or to plan a party for you and 48 of your friends, the Seawolf is a great option.

If you’ve got a larger group to entertain, then you’ll want to talk to Captain Scott about chartering a Harbor Lights cruise.  Habor Lights is a 57-foot double decker party barge accommodating 95 passengers.  It can be chartered for weddings and other special events or you can join one of the public cruises.  For instance there will be a Memorial Day Cruise complete with BBQ and swimming.  The price is $50 per person (less for kids depending on age) and all you have to do is bring your swimsuit.

Downtown Rockwall is another fun place to visit, the old courthouse square has been beautifully renovated and the square is lined with darling shops of many varieties and a smorgasbord of restaurants.

The San Jacinto Music Series started May 13.  Every Friday and Saturday night through the summer the  San Jacinto Plaza plays host to musicians from 6:30 to 9:00.  The concerts are free and you don’t worry about a map.  Downtown is at the intersection of 66 and 205.  Park by the courthouse, listen and follow the music.  You can bring your own vintages and victuals or try out one of our delicious restaurants sprinkled around the courthouse.  Some seating is available, but you can bring your own or make yourself at home on the brick sidewalks.

On Saturday mornings you can find me at the Rockwall Farmers Market.  If you like fresh, you’ll love this!  You’ll find some of the most gorgeous vegetables you can imagine here, grown by local farmers and everything was just picked.  But there’s more than fruits and vegetables to enjoy.  Musicians play in the shade of trees.  Fresh-baked pies, home-canned pickles and a variety of specialty foods are also available.  Sampling is encouraged!  It’s a fun morning and quite relaxing, because it’s hometown style rather than downtown style.

I haven’t even mentioned Buffalo Creek Golf Course, San Martino Winery or the huge Harry Meyers Park.  You’ll just have to check us out!

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Teaching Tools and Credit Cards

Imagine! These poor travelers had no hang-up clothes!

Imagine! These poor travelers had no hang-up clothes!

TRAVEL BUG TALES: WHAT HAPPENED WHEN MOM REALIZED WE DIDN’T HAVE THE GARMENT BAG

We were on a family vacation.  I was supposed to load the garment bag.  Had I done it?  When Mom first asked, I couldn’t remember whether I did or not!

We Were in Trouble, Big Time

After my weak, “I’m not sure, but I might have,” Mom’s death stare turned to Dad. “Did she bring them to you?”  Good old Dad, either he couldn’t remember or he knew for sure I hadn’t, but he didn’t want to to get into it.

He refused to stop the car and look right at that moment, too.  I’m sure he wanted to avoid the possibility of hearing the chewing out we would receive if the bag wasn’t in there.  It would have gone something like this:

“I cannot believe this. I give you one simple thing to do and you didn’t do it.  You had plenty of time to ___________________ (fill in the blank with some non-essential kid sort of thing that I did), but you couldn’t do the one thing I asked you to do. And George, you are no better.  We discussed this.  You knew the hang-up clothes were in Jane’s closet.  This is not the first trip this family has made.  I’m working now and I cannot do everything all by myself.  I have to depend on the rest of you and you always let me down.”

Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure we got this harangue in spite of Dad’s efforts.  After she got started, he told her it didn’t matter one way or the other, because it was too late to turn around at that point. Besides, each of us had an entire suitcase of clothes.  His ploy didn’t work.  We were treated to a lecture on the inappropriateness of our suitcase clothes for some of our activities.  After thoroughly explaining this point, we returned to the previous discussion of our unreliability in the face of her need for our cooperation.  Then we got a little reminder of all the things she did all the time.

At some point Dad had to stop, either for lunch or gas or a potty stop.  Once Mom confirmed that we were all unreliable louts based on the evidence of the missing hang-up bag, I’m sure Mom repeated each and every word of her earlier lectures.  In fact, this particular incident was referred to and discussed (by her) for years to come.  Mom was almost as big on repetition as a teaching tool as she was about ironing out wrinkles.  Obviously, it worked pretty well, since I can remember to this day that sour feeling of failure at the bottom of my stomach.

What Happened Next?

Eventually we arrived at El Paso.  We unloaded the car and then went shopping.  During the drive my parents had decided to buy something to wear for our dress-up occasions on the trip – though I can’t think for the life of me what these situations might have been.

To me this seemed like a lark, but from the position of adulthood, it probably wasn’t so  much fun for Mom and Dad.  In those days, money wasn’t such an easy thing.  Those of us who depend on ATM’s and credit cards can barely remember when these tools weren’t readily available.  Forget paying with your phone.  Our only phone was hardwired into the kitchen wall.

When we traveled we always used traveler’s checks.  This type of currency is still available, but I can’t even remember the last time I used it.  I remember serious discussions about how many travelers checks we’d need.  You didn’t want to buy too many, because there was a percentage fee for them.  You didn’t want to buy too few, because you didn’t want to be stranded.  You always took a little cash, but very little, because it could be lost or stolen.  Unlike money, travelers checks could be replaced, if you had written down your serial numbers, which of course my parents always did.  However, four new outfits would have wiped out our stock of traveler check.

We had all kinds of charge cards for Dallas stores, but, in those pre-WalMart days, each city had its own set of stores.  Master Card was in its infancy and was called Presto-Charge.  It worked great in Dallas, but it was unlikely they had it in El Paso.  Dad had a walletful of gas cards, but while service stations still provided service, if you wanted to purchase more than a soda and a candy bar along with your gas, you were out of luck.  There were cards like Diners Club and American Express, but folks like my parents didn’t have them.  Those were for high-rolling jet-setters.  What’s more, one of the things my parents always did before leaving on a trip was lock their charge cards, except for the gas cards, away in the bank box.

Most likely, on top of the concern about the form of payment to offer, the cost of four new outfits probably wasn’t in my parents’ budget.  We didn’t exactly live paycheck to paycheck, but every penny was spoken for.  Dad was saving up for a house and Mom was already socking way everything she could for my eventual college education.

Where were we going to go to get the outfits we needed for the rest of the trip.  Find out next week!

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May 13, 2016 · 8:00 am

The Question of Food When Cruising

Our Taste of Austria Dinner

Our Taste of Austria Dinner

TRAVEL THERE: WHAT I LIKE AND DISLIKE ABOUT DINING AT SEA

Food is one of the biggies on a cruise and Viking has it down pat.  You’d have a hard time feeling hungry at anytime on board, yet it’s not the obscene food orgy of ocean cruising.

Cruise Food I Have Loved

My favorite food I’ve ever had on any boat was a dessert on the Carnival Ecstasy.  I ordered it the first night, because it was chocolate.  I ordered it the rest of the nights, because it was the best thing I had ever put in my mouth.  The name of the chocolate creation, which I cannot for the life of me remember, did it no justice.  I have no picture of it, but will never forget it.  The rest of the food on the boat was good, sometimes really good, but it wasn’t the best overall I ever had.

The best dining experience on any ship was on Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas.  I was traveling with all the people I loved best, so that may have enhanced the enjoyment.  This was old fashioned cruising where you really dressed up for dinner and had assigned seating at a specific time in a single venue.  Every meal, every night was a unique and wonderful experience.  We also had the best waiter I have ever had aboard any ship any where.

What You Won’t Suffer on a Viking River Cruise

I am not a fan of multiple restaurants on a cruise.  I don’t want to make reservations.  I don’t even want to have to make a decision about which restaurant I’m going to choose.  I don’t want to pay a premium.  I like it the way Viking had it.  They just fed me.

On our “Free-styling” Norwegian cruise a few years ago, my husband felt like the only style unavailable was the one we wanted – particularly when it came to breakfast.  Breakfast is his favorite meal.  He loves to linger over the menu and the meal.  The only sit-down breakfast service on that cruise was quite early in the morning and on a cruise, Bill doesn’t do anything early in the morning.  On top of that he had to navigate the huge buffet, when all he really wanted was for someone to bring him exactly what he wanted for breakfast and he wanted it piping hot.  Was it a lovely breakfast buffet?  Yes, but he didn’t want a breakfast buffet.  Viking solves all of this.

Another of our pet peeves with Ocean Cruising has been the battle of the bottle.  We like wine with dinner.  While we love a particularly good wine, we’re perfectly happy with a decent wine.  On-board various ships we’ve ordered by the glass, ordered by the bottle and pre-ordered a selection of wines.  Either way we’ve done it we’ve felt the ouch of the price, because we know we can get a perfectly good wine at Trader Joe’s for around $10 a bottle and it bothers us to pay more for less.  To make things more interesting Bill loves red and thanks to my sinuses I prefer to drink white.  Viking made wine with dinner a breeze for the same price of a breeze.

And speaking of bottles, even getting a glass of water on your average cruise ship is a hassle.  They’ll sell you a soft drink package, they’ll tempt you with fancy cocktails and they’ll charge you for a bottle of anything – even water, but try whetting your thirst for free.  It’s not easy.  Viking completely abandoned that business model.  There were bottles of free water all over the place and a dispenser for bubbly and still water at the coffee station.

On most cruises I sort of feel like the emPHAsis is on the wrong sylLAble, as my mother used to say.  There’s entirely too much attention paid to shoving food down your mouth.  It takes a page or two of the daily newspaper to explain all the food choices and then if all else fails, they will deliver food to your stateroom 24 hours a day.  I had all I could eat and more on Viking, but I didn’t have to make a career of managing my food choices.

So now that we have discussed cruise food in general, next week I’ll introduce you to the way Viking does food.

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Filed under Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL