Our day starts with a phone call from reception” The captain would like you to join him, the chief engineer and the hotel manager at his table tonight, will you be available?” Later in the day the official written invitation arrives. I guess we will be dining with the captain then.
Food on board is mainly served in two prominent areas. Every day, breakfast, lunch and dinner is available in the formal Galaxy Restaurant with a set 8 course menu (with 2-4 choices per course) or the more informal buffet option in the Sunrise Terrace. In addition you could have breakfast delivered in your room and a 24hour room service menu is available should you want to snack during the day. Lastly between 4 and 5 pm every afternoon, tea, coffee and cake is served on deck with a midnight feast from about 11pm that is themed every night- the chocolate feast being a firm favourite! The formal dinners also has a nightly theme mostly consisting of Gala events or featuring the cuisine of a specific country as interpreted by the Italian chefs.
Tonight is the dinner of all dinners since it is the last gala evening of the cruise. At 08h30 pm we arrive dressed to the tee (I am in one of my favourite Marianne’s of course) to meet our fellow table guests in the reception at a private little seating area. We are six passengers: ourselves; a couple from Argentina and then a lovely couple from Ohio, USA (whom we have actually started a friendship with, earlier on the trip). The captain and hotel manager (Giuseppe) arrive and we are formally escorted by the maître’d to the restaurant. With great fanfare and some applause from our fellow guests we arrive in the dining room. Well, we have been having dinner in this restaurant for give or take the past 2 weeks. The food has been great and the service excellent, tonight hover it is a bird if another colour all together.
There are a few advantages sitting at the captain’s table. Your portions are much bigger; the quality of products are exceptional; there is a wine course with every dish this is chosen and funded by Il ‘Capitan. Your food arrives before everybody else’s and anything is possible!
We choose to start with appetizers of “Duetto Imperiale” (rosette of smoke salmon and marinated shrimps with dill. Then follows the salad course: Romaine lettuce and baby artichokes with Parmesan shavings and a balsamic vinaigrette. Captain Ponti is a stocky little man with a peaceful nature. He smiles easily but takes his work very seriously. He has a long history with the company and share some details of the other ships he has worked on. Giuseppe - the hotel manager is entertaining with an excellent sense of humour and even thought he had only been on the Melody for 4 months he has helped launch many of the prominent ships in the fleet.
The soup is next, excellent shellfish bisque with brandy accompanied by freshly baked Italian breads (focaccia; cheese bread andwhite bread rolls). For the pasta course the risotto with porcini mushrooms is a winning choice and even the captain considers another portion. The main course is a no brainer and nearly everybody at the table choose the oven roasted lobster flavoured with mustard butter, coriander and anise served with pilaf rice.
After the main course all lights in the dining room are switched off and a wonderful surprise arrives. All our waiters walk in with flaming baked Alaska’s on their shoulders. They parade between the tables and create a magical energy in the room. Normally dessert is followed by a cheese and fresh fruit course but tonight the evening has many surprises in store (more about this later). The lovely dinner ends off with a selection of "petits fours" brought to each table. On the spur of the moment the very friendly Alexandro, one of the American guests (he is actually a gregarious Italian chef that owns his own restaurant in the USA) entices the captain to end the meal with grappa! So the best bottle of Italian grappa is produced and we all have a taste of this powerful digestive.
Just when we thought that this is it, the maître‘d announces that there will be a magnificent midnight feast for the cheese and fruit course! We have no space, but go upstairs to see the spectacular display. Fruit-, ice-, bread- and cake sculptures compete with each other to be the most impressive. There are tables laden, not just with bread, cheese and fruit but also various pastries, and elaborate cakes!
The evening’s extravaganza goes on until early morning hours and we secretly thank our travel angels for organizing such a special spot for us to view it from!