Posted on Tuesday, July 23, 2013 by Peter Knego
In this restored Sea Treks blog, originally posted in 2007, Peter Knego dines his way across the Adriatic and Aegean from Venice to Piraeus aboard Princess Cruises then-brand-new EMERALD PRINCESS.
All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2007 unless otherwise noted.
Friday, May 18, 2007:
Doug left at 8:30 to wander Venice, allowing me to indulge in a late morning sleep-in and begin documenting the vast EMERALD PRINCESS. I started on Deck 18 with the glass-enclosed Skywalker’s and its sweeping views over the stern. From there, I continued to Deck 7 and worked my way forward from the Fusion Nightclub through the Photo Gallery, the Crown Grill, Explorer’s, Crooner’s piano bar, the lively Piazza, the Library, and the Princess Theater.
Merely walking through these spaces does not do them justice. Princess ships are laid out in such a way that they rarely feel crowded, despite the vast numbers of people they carry. Thus far, getting around the EMERALD PRINCESS has been easy and congestion-free. There is a good flow to the public areas, which are augmented by the many large windows and sea views along the way.
Muster drill was held at 12:40 PM, just prior to departure. Our station was in the Princess Theater, allowing us a seat for the proceedings, unlike the uncomfortably compressed “on your feet” line up on my last cruise (MONARCH OF THE SEAS).
Sail-away was magnificent. The slight windchill on the forward Deck 15 platform atop the bridge was not enough to dissuade us from some stunning views of La Serenissima as the EMERALD gently glided through the canal and into the main sea lanes. Bathed in sunlight, the campanilles were breathtaking, each one slightly askew due to the relatively soft compressed mud they were built upon. We had one final view of the MARALA, which looked tiny from our nearly 20-story perspective.
EMERALD PRINCESS entered the deep blue Adriatic, leaving a wide, white wake behind her. A cool wind blew across the upper decks as we sought shelter near the pizzeria and the midships Deck 15 pool. I approach most shipboard pizza with caution, but the Margherita looked like the “real thing”. It was not only the best pizza I have had on a ship, it rivaled most I have enjoyed on the Italian mainland. A couple slices, combined with my well-endowed daily salad and a bowl of cappuccino were all I needed to achieve “EMERALD Ecstasy”.
Documenting some of the ship’s upper decks in the brilliant afternoon light was followed by a trip to the gym, which has a great assortment of ellipticals, treadmills, Nautilus machines, free weights, spinning cycles, and an aerobics/stretching floor. The sea views from its deck 16 vantage are impressive and pleasantly distracting.
We joined the media group for cocktails at Crooner’s, which gave us a chance to meet more of our fellow voyagers before we headed into the Manhattan-themed Crown Grill. For $25, this extra-tariff dining venue offers seafood and fine cuts of steak. Although neither are my preferred choices, most of the people in our group were impressed with their selections and the attentive service. I asked for a vegetarian alternative and enjoyed it very much, along with the scalloped potatoes, asparagus, and other vegetable side dishes that came with the regular dinners. Dessert was an apple/berry strudel, baked to perfection.
After dinner, a few of us wandered into the Fusion Nightclub to catch the tail-end of the Princess Pop Star karaoke contest, then listened as the live band took over and played some 80′s classics.
A quick stroll along the promenade revealed no ship sightings, so off to sleep we went.
Saturday, May 19, 2007:
Room service delivered our breakfast right on time at 10:30. We lingered over mueseli and fresh melon on our shaded balcony as a partial waterspout formed on the distant horizon. Nine decks below us, the blue seas refracted the ship’s brilliant white hull into fan-like patterns. The water’s surface was a liquid mirror until meeting the froth of EMERALD’s bow wave. Mahogany-tinted jellyfish and an occasional styrofoam cup floated past.
I was granted permission to go to the fo’c’sle for my “face” shot of the superstructure, an incredibly powerful series of wedding cake like terraces topped by the tinted glass wheelhouse and its dramatic white steel pillar supports. For some reason, I thought of Yoko Ono’s iconic wraparound sunglasses looming over the bow of the ship. The fo’c’sle, itself, is a wonderful crew space with a pool, Jacuzzis, and sunning platforms. The mooring deck is just below, enclosed within the ship’s whale-like bow.
It was a carefree afternoon, with time spent in the cafe sipping more cappuccino, eating pizza on deck, working out, and getting the first blog page loaded. We sailed past some magnificent islands, which appeared to be Kefalonia and Ithaca. In the distance off our bow, occasional white spots sent me charging down several decks to retrieve my cameras, only to reveal themselves as small coasters and not the flotilla of passenger ships I had hoped for. We did eventually pass a dramatically lit MILLENNIUM-class ship late that night.
We gathered at the Da Vinci dining room for our special Chef’s Experience dinner ($75 per person and worth every cent). First, we were led through the galley where we washed our hands and were served blue crab margaritas with avocado and mango; a foie gras terrine on toast with apple chutne; a Fontina cheese mini quiche with white truffles and buckwheat blinis with caviar and creme fraiche. Princess’ executive chef, Alfredo Marzi and maitre’d’extraordinaire, Generoso Mazzone, hosted us and explained how the gourmet specialties were prepared. We then headed down to the Michelangelo Dining Room for an asparagus risotto with lobster tail and claws, and Bloody Mary sorbet.
The main course was a flambéed trio of beef, veal, and pork tenderloin, their au jus dripped over buttery mashed potatoes. I partook of a phenomenal halibut, garnished with various side dishes, including roasted onions, asparagus, glazed carrots, and white asparagus. Next, we were served a stilton cheese tart with a port wine sauce, rosemary, and candied walnuts.
Dessert was a white amaretto parfait with vanilla-soaked plums served atop magnificently sculpted sugar clam shells.
We watched a portion of the Motown tribute in the Princess Theater, which was packed to the rafters, then circled the promenade, stopping at the stern to marvel at the EMERALD’s powerful wake, a gurgling, horizontal waterfall.
End of EMERALD PRINCESS Re-Trekked, Part Two. Much More to Come…
Special thanks: Julie Benson, Karen Candy, Martin Cox, Bianca Le Moeul, Doug Satterblom