Sunday, June 15, 2008

Cruise Day #3, At Sea

We started today much like yesterday. I began with early morning reading followed by breakfast on the balcony after Libby awoke. These seas were only a little higher today (described as “slight” on the televised ship’s log) with waves running between1.5 and 4 feet in height. As a result, little motion is felt within the ship. The skies continue to be overcast, and the temperature is warmer (though somewhat masked by the wind, both natural and resulting from our forward progress).

After our leisurely start, we headed to the gym for some exercise. I spent about 15 minutes on the upright stationary bike, which I departed as the seat started to make my rear-end sore) and another 25 minutes on the treadmill (which was perhaps my first time ever on such a device). Libby, who seemed unbothered by the seat, spent the entire time (45 minutes or so) peddling up a storm. Amazingly, I both rather liked the treadmill and extraordinarily feel more connected to the psychological motivations of hamsters as well. :-)

The ship’s unrelenting siege from the “food cannon” finally overwhelmed our fortifications today. We raised the white flag, humbly surrendered, and simply skipped lunch altogether. We shall return to battle with an early supper tonight at Le Bistro, NCL’s signature French… well… bistro (what did you expect?).

This afternoon I attended the first “NCL U” event: a lecture on the influence of Christopher Columbus’s “discovery” of the Western Hemisphere. The lecture was delivered by an experienced cruise lecturer (over 70 cruises in 17+ years), who billed himself as both a historian and minister (he had conducted the morning’s worship service as well). Overall, the quality of the lecture was good and entertaining. It was probably more pro-Columbus than is “politically correct” amongst academics today. Indeed, contemporary scholarship tends to focus on the negative repercussions of colonization for native peoples and largely rejects as being conceptually flawed the idea that Columbus could “discover” an already inhabited place. Nonetheless, the lecturer’s wider point is nonetheless true: the Europeans’ discovery of a large chunk of the world that was previously unfamiliar to them had significant implications on many civilizations and shaped the subsequent course of history.

We followed this lecture by a talk on art hosted by the Art Gallery Director and Art Auctioneer for Park West. As this was not part of “NCL U,” I expected this discussion to be another opportunity to promote shamelessly products (fine art) under the guise of “education.” As it happens, I was largely wrong. The discussion was actually a very good introduction to the techniques of fine art printmaking, including etching, lithographs, and serigraphs, as well as more modern digital techniques. As I have knowledge of this subject, I could have easily picked out bull sh… err (family blog)… untruths. But, I found no such glaring examples and clear statements regarding matters of opinion vs. fact. Moreover, the presentation was well organized, informative, and entertaining. In general, the idea of art auctions at sea is fairly controversial. Park West is featured across most of the major cruise lines and seems to have a decent enough reputation. If you’re buying art works that 1) you can afford and 2) don’t view as an investment, I think there’s no problem in buying from Park West works that bring you joy and/or aesthetic pleasure. If, however, you’re intending to make a serious investment or wish to build a museum quality collection of works on paper: do a lot of research, speak to experts, do your due diligence, and buy from the Sotheby’s, Christie’s, or other reputable auction houses / galleries that exist on dry land.

At 4PM, I went to a to my second “NCL U” event of the day, a beer tasting (surcharge: $15). Unlike the Columbus lecture, I’m not sure I’d call this educational in the classic sort of way. But, as your faithful reporter, I thought it my sacred duty to cover the full range of “NCL U” events. We had six beers (roughly 1/3 of a bottle each) which I will try to report (please pardon any misspellings, as I did not have a note pad with me): McEwan’s Scotch Ale, Celebrator, Pilsner Urqell, Mythos, Hoegarden, and Fran-something-or-other (a German wheat beer). The bar staff lined up six glasses and poured out the beers one-by-one while reading the description/information to us. I generally love tastings of all sorts and this was no exception. There is just no equivalent for drawing distinctions than direct side-by-side comparisons, a la the “Pepsi Challenge.” Since it would cost $30+ to try all six beers aboard the ship individually, I highly recommend the types of events as a means to “try before you buy.” (For the record, I enjoyed the wheat beers as I always do, but I also really liked the McEwan’s Scotch Ale).

All in all, I would say the new NCL "U" program is enriching... in more than one way! :-)

1 comment:

floating seals said...

Hi Paul
Could'nt wait to get home from work today to read what your've been doing.
Glad you are relaxing and enjoyed the lectures.
Please tell your lovely Dad he brought a tear to my eye.