fathom Journey, Day Two - At Sea

Before getting in to yesterday, let me tell you about the passengers.  It's a very eclectic mix on this journey.  Heavily waited towards media types, both mass and social, with a good number of travel professionals.  And then a large number of first time cruisers, who tend to be here for the impact activities, more than the cruise ship.  Ages range from way old to mid 20's and a few families with teens or younger.  I am seeing, after spending one session with a family with two tween/teen boys, this would actually make a great family vacation.  We also have a few Brits, a large contingent of Aussies, some Canuckistani's, but it's overwhelmingly people from the US.
Anyway...it was a day at sea, so a lot of sitting around talking to people.  I attended two of the orientation type sessions.  They have put everyone into "cohorts" of 50 to a dozen people for the training.  The first one was  "Being a fathom Traveler" which was mostly getting to know your cohort a little as well as what to expect during the impact activities.  The other was a more free-flowing session "The Curiousity Advantage" with several exercises and quizzes about waht exactly drives curiousity, they signs and symptoms, etc, and an interesting test on what types and degrees of curiousity each of us exhibits.  I am glad I chose to attend that one.  After all, most travelers are driven by curiousity - about places, people, cultures, experiences.  Good to see where I have it and where i'm a little weak on it.

Lunch was  a bbq on deck with live music.  Standard food, good sounds.

Amongst the people I talked to was a great young couple from D.C.  They were at CruiseWorld last November and attended my presentation there.  Some of you might remember what a near fiasco that was, when I woke up the morning of my talk unable to...talk.  Personally, I thought it might have been the worst public speaking I ever did, as I was barely able to rasp and croak thru it with the help of tea and Cloraseptic.  But they seemed to think I did good.  And I don't care who you are, that's a nice little self-esteem booster right there.

Dinner on the other hand was a truly memorable experience.  I am so glad I decided to check out my new friend Emil's Ocean Grill.  I started with a Dominican Chicharron - spicy roasted pork belly with a chimichuri sauce.  Awesome, but rich.  This starter was 5 thick pieces of pork belly.  3 would have been enough.  I love a well seasoned hunk of pig fat as much as the next guy, but a little goes a long way.  Then a Cuban Ropa Vieja served with a fried plantain shell.  The shell was almost like a thick potato chip, and the crunch factor was the perfect counterbalance to the shredded beef/chilis.  For my entree I did the Sanchocho.  DA BOMB!!!  Not exactly as one would likely find it in a Dominican house, but the flavors were all there.  A small pork chop, chicken thigh, and beef filet with pumpkin and yuca in a slightly sweet stew.  It was accompanied by a small green salad, and a tray with red beans, tostones, rice and yuca croquets.  One of the things Emil and I had talked about the day before was how Caribbean cuisine was typically huge on flavors but lacking in presentation.  This was a beautiful little spread.  If you want to see pictures, check out my facebook page (www.facebook.com/daveholmantravel) for a little food porn.

So, as I was digging in to the Sanchocho, Mr Vega came out of the kitchen and sat down with me, and asked for feed back.  He was genuinely interested in whether the food was too spicy or not spicy enough, if the portions were right, etc.  He also apologized for the sancocho being too sweet, in his view, because the pumpkins he was able to source in Miami aren't quite the same as he gets in the DR.  I disagreed, but what do I know?  I atually thought it was just right.  I did let him know I felt the portion on the Chicharon was too big and the tostones were way over-salted, though.  But the meal, altogether, hit all the right notes.  Some spice, some sweet, great textures and most definitely beautiful presentations on everything.

Desert was a Dulce de Leche with vanilla ice cream, salted carmel ice cream and sweet yuca fritters.  Brilliant!  The Mexican dulce de leche tends to be custardy - this was definitely curds, with a slightly grainy texture.  Well set off by the ice creams.  And, using the fritters to mop up the melted ice cream?  Heaven...I'm in heaven. ;-)

After dinner there was a Superpower Party on deck.  Kind of fun.  Having people dress up to represent their superpowers, and music by the DJ to complement their choices.  Which sequed in to karaoke a little later.  And then I decided to pack it in for the night.  Big day tomorrow as we get to the DR.  As the Inaugural, there will be dockside celebrations and speechifying.  The bigwigs on board will by joined by local politicians and tourism officials, I'm sure.  And then straight to work planting some trees and what not, as I finally get a chance to #TravelDeep.

until tomorrow, my friends

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