Rushville Republican

April 23, 2013

Stuart: The art of navigating cruise ship food lines

Don Stuart
Rushville Republican

RUSHVILLE — Rumor has it that my kids accompanied my wife and me on our family vacation this past spring break. I’m not so sure.

We took a cruise on the Carnival Liberty, and during the long stretches when we were at sea, my wife, her parents, who joined us on the trip, and I would exchange stories of spotting our kids (or kids who looked like our kids, at least) as though we were discussing the latest blurry photographs of the Loch Ness Monster.

Of course, I discovered at the end of the trip that I did indeed have children aboard; the final bill showed mega-charges galore from the on-board arcade.

They racked up these expenditures days we spent just sailing, during which time I never did figure out my starboard from my aft. I would head in one direction confident I would wind up where I wanted, only to find myself 30 minutes later passing my original starting point going in the opposite direction.

And the Carnival Liberty is pretty big! So that was a LOT of walking! Thankfully, there’s food strategically positioned approximately every three feet the entire length of the ship, so no matter how weak I got after, say, 20 to 25 steps, I could always pause for precious nutriment to fuel my quest. (I was usually trying to find the exercise facilities, but strangely, always wound up getting there feeling a bit too full to exercise.)

My inability to navigate my way around the boat exposed me to mocking from my travel companions. This is because this was our second cruise, and the first ship we were on, the Carnival Valor, was laid out absolutely, positively and in every way shape and form emphatically exactly like the Carnival Liberty. Heck, even the restaurants had the exact same feeding troughs.

Which reminds me, who is this “Emile” that the Liberty’s massive buffet is named for? I suggested to my wife and in-laws that maybe it’s celebrity chef Emile Lagasse. They gently told me that that guy’s name is “Emeril,” and only rolled their eyes a bit while doing so. Though I swear from the far reaches and bowels of the ship, I heard three kids, who sounded like my kids, laughing at me.

I found a website that makes a cryptic reference to Emile being a “famed art nouveau glassmaker,” which doesn’t seem very relevant to food. Although come to think of it, some of the humongous piles of uneaten food that people left on their plates did sometimes end up in picturesque messes that might qualify as works of art nouveau. (And some people ate so much fried and greasy food, day in and day out, meal in and meal out, that they inevitably began passing, well, put an “f” in front of “art nouveau.”)

Anyway, a little extra Internet searching revealed that the entire decorative scheme of the Carnival Liberty is based on “the work of artisans.” And further, I learned that “Emile’s” indeed honors an art nouveau artiste named Emile Gallé, who, in a nice twist of fate, also lent his last name to something that results from consuming all the high-cholesterol goodies in his buffet, galléstones.

One of my favorite dining experiences was the Mongolian Wok, which is part of the overall offering at Emile’s. Dining at the Mongolian Wok involves waiting in seemingly interminable lines, where I learned that even people mellowed by the sun and sea vapors and excessive booze are NOT willing to save a person’s spot while a person goes to get a snack to sustain that person during his or her long wait for Mongolian stir fry.

Finally, you reach a point where you fill up a bowl with food, choosing from a wide variety of assorted vegetables, noodles, and meats. Then you wait. Lastly you hand your bowl to the cook, and marvel as he stir fries it all up with your choice of spicy sauce. While you wait.

Of course, I enjoyed the delights of the Mongolian Wok every day without enduring any waits whatsoever. I simply told my in-laws that they should “try this or that from the wok today, it’s really good!” They waited. And waited. And waited. And when they finally settled down to eat, they found my recommendation waaaaay too spicy! And guess who got their loverly art nouveau leftovers?