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Grand Princess Martini of the Day – Raspberry Martini

rasberrymartini.jpgThere is little difference between this martini and the Midnightini we had last night.  They are similar in color, and very similar in taste.  If you read the previous review about the Midnightini, you’ll know I wish we had not tasted this one.

 The biggest difference is this one is a little sweeter, not quiet as alcoholic tasting, probably due to the raspberry flavored Vodka and the Sprite.  I actually took a second sip of this one.

Definitely avoid if you are a gastric bypass patient due to the soda and the sugar in the soda, but again, if you just wanted to take a sip and try it, it’s not all bad.

Grand Princess Drink of the Day – Mai Tai – Gastric Bypass Review

maitai.jpgSo you won’t find any sugary or carbonated sodas in today’s drink of the day.  Of course, you still shouldn’t indulge too much, because there is sugar syrup in this, sugar in alcohol, and this one packs a bit of a punch.

The drink itself includes light rum, dark rum, orange curacao, and juice, as well as a sugar syrup.  It is sweet and tropical tasting, and while I don’t like rum, you can almost get around it to the juicy part.  I won’t kid you – rum is the overpowering ingredient here, but you can clearly taste the sweetness of the syrup and the juices.

The drink, again, is beautifully presented, but with the amount of sugar in this one – on top of the alcohol, it’s not a good option for a bypassed stomach.

August 20th – Grand Princess Arrives in Cobh, Ireland

Oh, how I have waited for this!  The land of my people!  The auld sod!  I wake up this morning so excited that I’m grateful I got any sleep at all.  There’s a little nervousness that for some reason, the weather will keep us from this port as well, but we arrive in Ireland bright and early, and we are up again at the crack of dawn to head to the buffet for breakfast.  Our tour this morning meets at 8:15, and since this is our first port, we want to make sure we are there early so we know the excursion drill.

Breakfast is good – pretty much standard breakfast fare with a few things thrown in to tantalize the taste buds of an international guest list.  In addition to the eggs, bacon, sausages, cereals, and other familiar breakfast items, there is also rice and soup and another Japanese dish for the Asian crowd.  You will also find plenty in the way of cheese and sliced lunch type meats for breakfast, and something Jim was especially fond of – Dr. Bircher’s Muesli.  This is a cold, creamy cereal made with oatmeal, nuts, and fruit.  It had a nice flavor – although a bit odd in texture for me.  Jim really enjoyed it enough that I might find a recipe and make it on the weekends.

Anyway, we head down to the Princess theatre to meet our group, and we ask as we go in where the best place is for Dot to wait, as she can’t climb down the steps.  We are told by the person in charge that it is best for her to wait down by the midships elevators, and they will come and get her and take her down.  This is another indication of how poorly organized they seem to be in terms of dealing with disabled people on this ship.  We go take our seats, completely expecting that on our way out, we would meet up with Dot and go out to the bus.  Well, we make it all the way off the ship and we don’t see her anywhere. so we assume they have taken her on to the bus.  When we arrive at the bus, they do have seats up front reserved for handicapped people, so we figure they are holding the people who need assistance until they load the bus.  Russell heads off to find Dot and see what they did with her, and before we know it, the bus is pulling away and neither Dot nor Russell are onboard!  As we are pulling away from the port, we hear the tour guide tell the driver to stop, that they’ve lost someone, and sure enough, Dot and Russ climb on board.  They never helped her out to the bus or anything. 

Once we are underway, we meet our driver, Padraic; and our tour guide, Richard.  Padraic reminds me of so many pictures I’ve seen of my own family over the decades that it’s uncanny.  Our guide is excellent – telling stories of Irish history, jokes, and pointing out every point of interest possible on our way to Blarney Castle and Woolen Mills.

When we arrive at Blarney, I am nearly overwhelmed.  I will be setting foot on Irish soil, and Blarney Castle is one of the true Irish American pilgrimages.  Okay, so it’s not like Mecca, but who do you know that goes on tour to Ireland and doesn’t go see Blarney Castle?

Dot decides to stay in Blarney Village, visit the Woolen Mill and the shops, and the rest of us head on to the walk towards the castle.  It’s a beautiful place.  Everything is green, and I think the estimate of 40 shades might be a few short.  Everything is green – lush and beautiful.  I have heard stories – horror stories, actually – about Blarney castle.  The walk up the castle steps is steep and scary, and once you are at the top, where you find the infamous Blarney Stone, you have to bend over backwards to kiss the Stone.  I figure the climb up the steps I can tackle, and when I get up there, if the kissing of the stone is too scary, I just won’t do it.  Of course, Jim was with me.  ‘Nuff said.

So the stories, as it turns out, were not exaggerations by any stretch.  The stairway is steep and narrow, and through most of it, there is no real railing to hold on to.  At one point, we are grabbing onto a rope to pull ourselves up.  Jim bravely took Granuaile with him, I knew Brighid could do it, but I was so proud of Eilis for making the trek up without a word of complaint.  There were a few people behind Russell who asked forward if the journey got any easier, but I’m not sure what happened to them when I answered back that it most certainly did not.

The view from the top of this castle is absolutely breath taking.  I mean that.  You can see the gorgeous Blarney House from up here, as well as everything green imaginable.  It’s just incredible. 

And here is the legendary Blarney Stone.  It is true that you have to lie down and bend over backwards to access it, but you have to really reach down, bent way over backwards, while a small, elderly Irish gentleman holds on to your jacket so you don’t fall to your death.  Not that falling to my death from Blarney Castle wouldn’t be a poetic way for an Irish-American like myself to die, I decide I do not want to risk missing the rest of the vacation (actually, I don’t want to die and have the rest of them go on and enjoy themselves without me), and choose not to kiss the Blarney Stone.  Then you know you get those little voices that sit on your shoulder?  There’s the sweet voice of an angel on one side that tells you to do the right, moral and rational things?  And then on the other side, there’s Jim?  Yeah, well, the Jim voice won out.  How could I come all this way and NOT do this?  I bless myself, look for the Chapstick, and dive on in.  I did it 🙂  I kissed the Blarney Stone.

So, my souvenir for kissing the stone is to head to Blarney Woolen Mills to buy matching sweaters for the lot of us.  This is the point at which Jim says he did not bring any credit cards on this trip, as he didn’t realize we would be going to BLARNEY Woolen Mills while we were in BLARNEY Village to visit BLARNEY Castle.  I literally almost broke into tears.  The ONE thing I said I wanted this whole trip were Irish sweaters for the family, and here we are, at the McDonald’s of Irish Sweaters, and we are limited to cash on hand. 

I don’t even want to go into the Woolen Mills at this point, but Jim says let’s go look.  We go in, and I browse the shops, looking longingly at some of the most beautiful woolen sweaters, blazers, skirts, capes – everything is just gorgeous.  We find a table upstairs where they are selling the beautiful, very traditional fisherman style sweaters for buy 2, get 1 free.  And the ones you are buying are quite reasonably priced.  Jim says he didn’t want one anyway and would never wear it.  I justify not buying one for Granuaile because she’s so young and would out grow it so quickly, it’s almost a waste, and I buy sweaters for Brighid, Eilis, and myself.  I love my sweater.

We are back on the ship in time for lunch, and Eilis heads up to the kids’ club.  They bring on a lot of local entertainment during this trip, and today we have the Cork Irish Dance Group onboard to entertain us.  The group includes the male World Champion, and he is phenomenal.  This was a good show.

Brighid and Russell venture into the town of Cobh, where they find an Irish pub and share a pint.  UGH, teenagers!

Another really nice thing is that as we were pulling out of Cobh, a crowd of locals gathers to watch the ship pull out, and they are waving and cheering.  And on the dock, a group of musicians plays as we pull away.  It was really nice.

Dinner tonight is smart casual, but you see everything in the dining room from jeans and capris to business suits and nice dresses.  I don’t go overboard decking out the kids, because they want to go on to the kids’ club after dinner, and it would be a waste to dress them and then go change them again.  We have a really nice dinner, although a struggle continues over what Eilis can eat.

The shows tonight are Motor City, with the Grand Princess singers and Dancers; and comedian Troy Thirdgill.  I really want to go see the comedian, but I am just too tired, so we call it a night, get a snack from the buffet (a salad for me, pizza for Jim and the kids), and we watch a little TV before going to sleep.

It was a beautiful day – cool, crisp, fall like weather, with scenary so gorgeous, you just know God loves the Irish a little bit more than the rest of us.

Grand Princess Martini of the Day – Midnightini Express

midnightini.jpgOkay, martinis to me are just plain old nasty.  I have not yet found one with any redeeming qualities.  I’m sorry.  I know there are whole bars dedicated to people’s love of martinis, and it’s a whole culture I’ll never understand.  But, my husband wants to try every one of the drinks and martinis of the day while we are on board the Grand Princess, and this is our first.

Um, yuck.  I don’t like it much at all.  It looks darn pretty – it really does.  And I WANT to like it.  But the gentle black raspberry flavor of the Chambord is killed with vodka.  I know.  You can’t really do a martini without vodka (unless you use gin – ewww).  I am probably not the right person to review the martini of the day, but you people who are like me and are not really drinkers want to know what the buzz is, right?  The buzz on this is that it’s pretty, and pretty alcoholic tasting.  If you are hoping for this to be fruity and fabulous from the Chambord, it is not.

Drink of the Day Raspberry Fizz – A Gastric Bypass Review

raspberryfizz.jpgI know, I know.  The first thing you are going to tell me is that as a gastric bypass patient, I shouldn’t be drinking ANY alcoholic beverage.  It gets absorbed too quickly into the blood stream, you get drunk faster, and it’s just not good for you, darn it. 

So before you start throwing the gastric bypass book at me, I am not a drinker.  I do not like the taste of alcohol, and to have any more than a sip of something is a lot for me – even before I was gastrically altered.  I am going to review each of the drinks we had during our cruise – because we ordered the drink of the day and the martini of the day every day – but let’s just say that in terms of affecting me as a result of my gastric bypass, I didn’t drink enough of any of the drinks to have a negative impact on a flea.

So on to the raspberry fizz.  This drink is described as a fresh, fruity cocktail, so it sounds like one that will be right up my alley.  The less you can taste the alcohol, the better it is in my opinion.  The drink of the day is always in a lovely glass, very pretty and refreshing to look at, and the fizz is our first view of things to come. 

The drink is essentially Sprite (or some other lemon-lime soda), raspberry liqueur, and vodka.  The first taste to hit your tongue is the fruity sweetness of raspberry, but then, once you get it past your tongue, the burn of the vodka kicks in and ruins the whole thing for those of us that like the fruity sweet cocktails.

I would come to look back on this one as one of the best of the group of drinks I tasted, but it is by no means my favorite.  I enjoyed the refreshing fruit flavor in this drink, but it just didn’t do anything to hide the alcohol.

There is too much sugar in this drink as a result of the soda, and the carbonation is definitely a no-no once you’ve had gastric bypass.  I could not recommend this drink even to just sip it a little bit to be social as a result of the double whammy of sugar and carbonation.

August 19th – First Stop Guernsey St. Peter’s Port

Or is it?

I have read up pretty extensively on this trip, and have seen by reading reviews of previous guests on this itinerary that there are quite a few times that this port has to be missed due to weather or sea conditions.  We are booked on an early morning excursion, so we are up at the crack of dawn, showered, dressed, and sitting at breakfast.  Everyone still seems quite tired and crabby this morning, and I’m starting to rethink the whole early morning excursion thing I have going.  For me, it seemed to make the most sense to get up early – since my kids are generally up early anyway – go on the tours, and then come back for a nice lunch and nap before dinner.  No matter now, however, as we are here and up at dawn.  No one said there would be happy, sunshiney faces.

So as we are sitting there at breakfast, an announcement is made by the captain of our fine vessel that we will indeed be skipping St. Peter’s Port.  The weather is rainy, windy, and cold; and the seas are choppy and unsettled.  His first priority, of course, is for the people on the ship and their safety, and with the advice of the local pilot, he has decided to just sail on to Ireland.

Awwwwwwwww.  Not only do we skip our first port, which is disappointing, but we are all up, crabby, and tired and could have stayed in bed!  Well, damn 🙁

We now take our time eating breakfast, and I enjoy an extra cup of tea.  Eilis is chomping at the bit to get to the kids’ club, so that’s at least good news for her that she’ll be able to go and spend the majority of her day there.  We decide after breakfast to go ahead and and take her and Granuaile up to the kids’ club, and then scope out the revised plan of the day so we know what’s going on.  Each day in your stateroom – as on all cruise lines – you’ll get a little newsletter to let you know what activities are planned onboard, what the dinner attire is, and some port information.  As our original plan of the day calls for us to be at port and not at sea, the ship puts together a whole new schedule, adding a lot of activities to keep everyone occupied.

There are quite a few things I’d LIKE to do, but I end up going to a Photoshop class.  It’s interesting, and it’s free, and as a result, I sign up for the whole series of classes on our next day at sea.  I wanted to go with Jim to ballroom dancing class at 3:15, or I would have signed up for the 3 o’clock Excel for Beginners class – something I really needed.  As it turned out, we were busy with other things at 3:15 and never made it to class.

Some of the onboard activities for the day included a Putting challenge, line dance classes, paint your own ceramics, a digital photo seminar, origami class, and Bingo.  The casino opens up, and Jim and I enter a slot tournament.  That’s where we were at 3:15, because Jim qualified for the slot tournament finals!  He didn’t win, but he did get a nice collection of prizes, including a waterproof tote bag, a t-shirt, and one of those necklaces that holds your passport and credit cards while inside your shirt so you don’t get pickpocketed in port.  Eilis has a GREAT time at kids’ club – Granuaile only stays when her dad is there.  But over all, it’s a great first day at sea.

Dinner tonight is formal dress, and I love dress up nights.  Seriously.  I think this is what cruising is all about.  Dressing for dinner just harkens back to the day when it was a big deal to be traveling the seas, and going to the dining room was reserved for only the upper class.  Now, with cruises for every budget, they seem to be getting away from the formal nights and I’m sorry about that.  There are obviously some nights when you are rushing in from an excursion and may not have time to dress, but I think it’s just a nice thing to do to get dressed for dinner. 

My girls all look stunning when they are dressed.  Eilis is absolutely beautiful in a dress from Limited Too that has a blue and black pattern on it, with a sequin detail around the top.  Brighid is wearing her sophomore cotillion dress, which is just gorgeous.  And Granuaile is just adorable in her little twirly dress.  I’m excited to have pictures taken with everyone.

Dinner tonight is our first in the new dining room.  There is good and bad about being here.  This dining room is reserved for the most part for anytime diners.  You don’t have to have a set time to come here, you just arrive, like you would at a regular restaurant, and you are seated at the first table that will accomodate your party.  You can share a table if you’d like, or you can be seated alone.  The good thing about being here is that we are no longer under the air conditioning as we were at the other restaurant.  The bad thing is you miss out on the special formal night celebrations – like where the waiters sing, and there’s a baked Alaska parade.  Never the less, our waiters are wonderful, they treat the girls like queens, and the meals are always very good.

The shows tonight are a music and dance show called Cinematastic, featuring the Princess Singers and Dancers.  We opt to go see the Comedy juggler, Mark Nizer.  The show is okay.  I think part of the problem is that we are in rough seas, so we are lurching a bit from side to side.  Combine that with the fact that the show is in the smaller of the two theatres, so there isn’t enough room for some of the juggling tricks to really be pulled off without some fancy footwork.  At one point, Nizer actually has to leave the stage and stand on the floor down front to have enough room to do one of his tricks.  It’s a shame.  He is fairly funny, though, so the show is not without merit.  Eilis would have enjoyed it, but she is off enjoying the kids’ club.

We are back up in the room right after the show and getting everyone ready for bed.  Our beds are turned down, and there is a chocolate treat for everyone, along with tomorrow’s Princess Patter.  You have to love the little extras you get on a cruise 🙂  The kids love the chocolate bedtime treat, and they are soon settled and sleeping. 

Not the first day we planned for, but a great day regardless.