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Semi-Live: Valiant Lady, January 7th to January 13th


Ripheus
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2 hours ago, ceilidh1 said:

My biggest (and possibly only) peeve with VV is that they have this beautiful sparkling terminal and they make people wait outside. I don't get it. By the time folks are allowed inside, boarding has pretty much started - so what is the point of that lovely terminal?


I think they designed the terminal backwards, all the waiting space is on the top floor after you have done check in and security. There is generally no need to wait at that point and can just board the ship as check in and security are the slow points! They should in my opinion move the check in desks to the top floor to open up a waiting area on the middle floor before security.

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If I’m remembering the Miami terminal correctly, I’d bet that you have to stay on that side of the glass because of immigration. Kind of like an international flight, you have to be diverted through a passport check instead of just being dumped in the terminal like a domestic flight. 

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3 minutes ago, neverendingcruising said:

If I’m remembering the Miami terminal correctly, I’d bet that you have to stay on that side of the glass because of immigration. Kind of like an international flight, you have to be diverted through a passport check instead of just being dumped in the terminal like a domestic flight. 

Nice thought, but this was on the upper level, right where you exit the gangway.  Immigration was a long walk and downstairs.  In Barcelona we had a similar wait, but they did obtain about a dozen folding chairs  so that both mobility impaired people and the person with them could sit.  We've done mobility assist on several other lines and multiple ports, and never encountered anything like the mess at VV.  I do understand that the ship's personnel are responsible for the part that is on board and the gangway and the terminal crew is responsible once you get off the gangway; that's the way it is at every terminal.  
 

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12 minutes ago, neverendingcruising said:

If I’m remembering the Miami terminal correctly, I’d bet that you have to stay on that side of the glass because of immigration. Kind of like an international flight, you have to be diverted through a passport check instead of just being dumped in the terminal like a domestic flight. 

The glass seperatjng arrivals and departing passengers is on the top floor just before boarding. All arriving passengers doing check in are separated from disembarking passengers 

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I agree that the wheelchair assistance at the port is terrible. We just went through this with my mother. At embarkation, wheelchair guests were waiting out front just like everyone else, and while there was some seating, it was very limited, and I don't know that there was enough. At disembarkation, as mentioned there was flat out no where to sit. My mom was quite distressed at the choice she had to make: stand for an indeterminate time waiting for a wheelchair, or walk herself out. Neither option seemed doable to her at the time but we went with the walk as we felt we had more control over what was happening that way. But it wasn't good. I have a hunch if she had requested wheelchair disembarkation from sailor services on board, they might have wheeled her off the ship and then she could have sat in that wheelchair to wait for the port wheelchair. But I'm not sure honestly. I know I did see them bringing wheelchairs on board.

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On 1/8/2024 at 9:56 PM, Moochi said:

 

 

I ordered a Yellow-Bellied which is made of tequila, scotch, yellow chartreuse, and light larger. Sounds like an Old Fashioned twist right? Nope. It was served in a Collin’s glass, with a good amount of lime juice and whatever sugar syrup. It tastes like an experimental but terribly failed margarita. And why does the color look like a margarita? The scotch and larger should give a golden hue to the drink!

 

 

Not a single one of those ingredients is in an old fashioned

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55 minutes ago, hotsauce126 said:

 

Not a single one of those ingredients is in an old fashioned

you are not wrong about the ingredients in a typical old fashioned. Bourbon, sugar syrup, angostura bitters, and an orange peel. 
 

An old fashioned style cocktail would consist a base spirit, or split base in this case; a small amount of sweetener such as sugar, or sugar syrup, or a sweet liqueur such as maraschino liqueur, benedictin, or yellow chartreuse; and bitters for seasoning. This drink fits perfectly in this formula. So yes, it’s an old fashioned. It’s possible that the bartender has his own take on this drink and pour way too much larger on top to make it a high ball. But either way, there shouldn’t be any citrus juice or simple syrup in this drink. 

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Well, we got a little caught up in our vacation and didn't quite find the time to post further...

 

But we have notes. @Moochi and I will continue posting about our first Virgin Voyage. 

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For dinner after Nassau - and after plenty of drinks at Loteria Gigante - we of course had to go to Pink Agave. It was fantastic. Service was prompt and consistently good. The food was great. 

 

For apps, we had the shrimp and the elote. Both were delicious, but we had to order a second shrimp just to make sure we loved it so much. 😁

image.thumb.jpeg.1ca944c47f0ef58671655e7c531d9586.jpeg

 

For mains, I had the steak and DW had the duck. image.thumb.jpeg.4fde1f960224196c38cdac8e5d45918c.jpegimage.thumb.jpeg.181853a4381343f0b11da9763111cd33.jpeg

 

The steak is not very photogenic, but after many (very many) trials throughout the week, I can confidently say it's the best steak on the ship. @Moochi enjoyed her duck, and I'm sure she'll have a thing or two to add about it. 

 

 

For dessert, we shared three: the chocolate tacos, the bread pudding, and the milhojas.

 

The chocolate tacos were a miss for me. I just don't think they're very good. DW really enjoyed the milhojas, and we both enjoyed the bread pudding. 

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For dessert, we shared three: the chocolate tacos, the bread pudding, and the milhojas.

PinkAgaveDessert.thumb.jpg.af846461cb73fd7f0a8c95264fd7cdb9.jpg

The chocolate tacos were a miss for me. I just don't think they're very good. DW really enjoyed the milhojas, and we both enjoyed the bread pudding. 

PinkAgaveDessert2.thumb.jpg.8a8b7af745fa882317795367859e079b.jpg

 

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On 1/10/2024 at 4:08 AM, jon81uk said:


I think they designed the terminal backwards, all the waiting space is on the top floor after you have done check in and security. There is generally no need to wait at that point and can just board the ship as check in and security are the slow points! They should in my opinion move the check in desks to the top floor to open up a waiting area on the middle floor before security.

They asked us to wait outside after check in and gave us the bracelets. We were joking about what if we gave the bracelets to someone else and let them board....

 

We sat at the 2nd floor waiting area for about 10-15 minutes after passing X ray. Then they called DBE and SOR to board. That group has at least 300-400 people, so there was another 10 minutes waiting in the line. 

 

It's just designed so backwards. 

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We took it easy on the drinks for dinner, as we had had quite a few during the Loteria. I did have an Oaxaca in Fashion with dinner. It was quite good. 

OaxacainFashion.thumb.jpg.b4fceaea2826cdd63e69b325b4edf8e0.jpg

 

After dinner, we headed to the Pink Agave bar to try some tequila or mezcal. I had a coconut mezcal agua fresca. @Moochi had a Fresca with mezcal instead of vodka. I loved mine; DW was indifferent about hers. 

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Then we headed to On the Rocks to see what that area was about. It was packed. We ordered a couple of drinks but were given something else entirely. We didn't go back. 

OntheRocksDrinks.thumb.jpg.95ab38bb6aa4e3928c55d32bcba68f68.jpg

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15 minutes ago, Ripheus said:

 For apps, we had the shrimp and the elote. Both were delicious, but we had to order a second shrimp just to make sure we loved it so much. 😁

 

 

For mains, I had the steak and DW had the duck.  @Moochi enjoyed her duck, and I'm sure she'll have a thing or two to add about it. 

 

 

For dessert, we shared three: the chocolate tacos, the bread pudding, and the milhojas.

 

 DW really enjoyed the milhojas, and we both enjoyed the bread pudding. 

The moly shrimps were so good that when we ordered shrimp from Dock House everyday after that, we wish they were moly shrimp from Pink Agave... I think I need to learn how to make the sauce. My favorite Youtube channel Epicurious had a great video on that by Chef Saul.

 

The duck was great. I like how sweet the sauce was. Growing up outside of Shanghai, every dish has sugar in it, especially braised red meat. A sweeter sauce just tastes right to me. If I had to say something less positive, I wish the skin was either more crispy or broken down. It was slightly less tender than the meat.

 

The milhojas was refreshing after the heavy duck dish. It was probably assembled in advance so the puff pastry was less crispy and crumbly than I like. But it was still a very tasty dessert. 

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Tuesday (yes, we're that far behind in posting) was our first sea day. My baby got her beauty sleep, which is not something we've experienced while cruising before now. It was wonderful. There's no rush to get up and find food because we know food is available in the Galley or elsewhere. 

 

When we finally did get up, we headed up to the Sun Club Cafe. DW had a poke bowl. I passed. I've never been a fan of poke bowls, and the bao buns didn't look appetizing to me. We headed to the Galley to eat and for me to find some food. The burgers are probably the best burgers I've had on a ship. I know X's Retreat burger is lauded on here, but VV's burger is much better. It's not trying to be anything but a burger, and that's exactly what I want in a burger. The fries that come with the burger are the real star here though. I think they must be some kind of beer battered or something; they're out of this world good. Sorry, no pictures though.

 

DW wasn't satisfied with the poke bowl so we headed to the dock house for something tasty. We ended up coming to the dock house any time DW was hungry. There's not much of a menu (we discovered on Friday that they have a separate happy hour menu), but the food is very good. We always ordered the same: two orders of steak skewers for me, and shrimp and octopus for DW. 

DockHouseFood.thumb.jpg.c0fc66107ecbe30295c6abe6eac823cc.jpg

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We then had the Beyond Tequila event. I would highly recommend this event for anyone with even the faintest interest in either tequila or mezcal. It's well worth the money, both in terms of education and in value of given drinks. 

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8 minutes ago, Ripheus said:

I know X's Retreat burger is lauded on here, but VV's burger is much better.

Disagree lol. That burger didn't have onion jam on it.

 

10 minutes ago, Ripheus said:

the Sun Club Cafe. DW had a poke bowl.

Another failed rice dish. I didn't learn my lessons did I? And this time I got two bowls! The tuna and five spice chicken. The rice was cooked magically with slightly less water this time, but still mushy. I love rice. I can eat a properly cooked bowl of good short grain rice on its own. This is the third time I've tried rice on VV and it's consistently terrible. What rice do they buy and what rice cooker do they use?? Tuna has too much sinews to my liking but the flavor is fine. It had too little seasoning to be the topping of a big scoop of rice. I just ate all the tuna and very little rice. The five spice chicken was tasty but dry. Yes, I'm very picky about Eastern Asian food. 

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After more Tequila, we went to the Test Kitchen for dinner. Overall, that experience was good but not fully baked. The food was outstanding. As a proof-of-concept, VV is definitely on the right track. However, the execution is a bit disjointed. Land based tasting menus tend to be immersive insofar that each dish complements or contrasts the other dishes. Pairings are offered to heighten the experience. The dishes on the menu we had were connected neither by flavor, nor texture, nor story. For most of the dinner, it was too loud in the restaurant to hear what the server was saying about the food. Likewise, the pairs were off. None of the wines DW had paired well with the dish it was served with, and we had no idea what wines were given. The cocktail pairing had a similar issue. Even worse, the glassware they use for the cocktail pairings is cute by not appropriate for actually tasting the drinks. To be clear, I thought all of the drinks were quite good; I just think they need a bit more explanation. Perhaps it might be a good idea to either pass out a card with what's what or have a little placard at each table to explain what's what. 

 

...Pictures and a video to follow...

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Test Kitchen for day 3 dinner

 

We were seated in the middle section of a very long table with another couple. They obviously had experience with Test Kitchen before and modified the menu with a few vegetarian dishes.

 

We were served the menu with mushroom.

 

There are three available drink pairings, wine, cocktail, and beer. I ordered wine pairings and DH got cocktail. We both love drink pairings. It is always fascinating to me that the chef and sommelier can find the perfect drink that enhances the taste of the food and vice versa. It’s odd that drink pairings are not printed on the menu under each dish. I thought it’s because of supply challenges and everything is subject to change. 

 

First course mushroom. It has similar texture as liver mousse, but made with mushroom, and shaped into a cute mushroom. I love liver mousse and mushroom, and find the dish very tasty with the crunchy bread.

 

The wine pairing was…well I don’t know. I think it was a sauvignon blanc? Honestly I don’t understand much of what our server was saying. Neither do other three native speakers sitting next to me. It didn’t bother me enough that I ask for a different server. I see it as a game of guess what’s in this dish and what’s the chef’s intent. The only issue was, the wine and the mushroom dish didn’t go well together. The mushroom mousse was umami, savory, earthy, creamy, airy. I think a buttery creamy oaky Chardonnay or a light bodied red wine such as Pinot Noir can work well here. The pairing was a crisp white wine with some minerality and almost feels too sharp for the dish.

 

The second dish was green peas with raw egg yolk and caviar. The presentation was great. The dish came with a glass smoke dome. The runner reminded us to have the camera ready. The dish was not bad. I wish there was more salt on the peas. It will cut some of the grassy taste from the very raw peas. I’m more used to raw egg yolks served with warm food, but cold is not bad. I will take that. 
 

The wine pairing was still unknown and weird choice for the dish. Actually the first wine will work better with peas.

 

The third dish was scallop. It was delivered by the runners. Our server was with the table next to us so we didn’t even get the explanation of the dish that we couldn’t understand. There were seared scallops, prosciutto, and two different types of seaweed, in a very flavorful broth. Ha I found the salt that was missing from the pea dish. The broth here was very salty, and all the ingredients in the broth were naturally salty already. The whole thing was… you guessed it, very salty. So I chugged that unknown wine pairing. Besides the over seasoning part, the dish was delightful. The scallops were perfectly cooked, and the broth was swept clear.
 

I cleaned plates of all first three dishes, despite the little flaws. 


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Edited by Moochi
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After dinner on Tuesday, I spent a little time in the casino. DW wasn't feeling particularly well, as the seas were a bit rough. 

 

The casino is alright. The biggest problem with the casino is its location. It's right in the middle of a main thoroughfare between the center stairway, the Manor, and the Red Room. The bar, too, is awkwardly located in that it's really very close to On the Rocks. Yet the other side of the casino has no bar. Normally, this wouldn't be such an issue but for the aforementioned traffic in the area. The massive crowds were enough for me to not to want to come back to casino after Tuesday. 

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Wednesday, we had breakfast at the Wake. I had the clam chowder and the steak and eggs. DW had the shrimp and The Wake eggs. The clam chowder is really more of a clam bisque; I think they even use sherry in the base. Very tasty. The steak and eggs were good too, though I wish they just delivered a true steak rather than the pre-sliced portions. For dessert, we had some sort of yogurt thing. It was good too. DW liked it more than I did. (I would have preferred another steak!) To drink, I had a Bloody Maria; VV uses Filthy Foods mixes for their bloody marys and cherry syrups. DW will have more to say about this, I'm sure, but suffice it for me to say we're fans. 

 

Wake Clam Chowder.jpg

Wake Dessert.jpg

Wake Bloody Maria.jpg

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Wednesday was our Turks and Caicos day. While the island is very beautiful, we were utterly bored there. The port area is nearly dead. We ventured outside the port area briefly to see if we could find a decent liquor store. No such luck. Our driver took us to one that was closed and then to another that had some super cheap beer and way overpriced wine. $40 later, we were back on the ship. I know some people had a lot of fun at Margaritaville there or the beaches. Neither DW nor I am big on the beach or crowded pools, so that's not really our scene. I'd love to go back there sometime to explore more, but this visit was a bit of a dud for us. 

 

After our foray on the island, we landed at the dockhouse again for a late lunch. This time though, we brought a beer (Ommegang's Three Philosophers) from the Draught House. Speaking of the Draught House... I think this was the biggest alcohol related surprise of the trip. We were very pleasantly surprised by the depth of the beer menu there. At home, we typically drink dark beers all year long, so it was nice to be able to buy an American stout on the ship. Of course, there were light beers, seltzers, canned cocktails, a sour or two, along with the typical roster of domestics/European beers. 

More Dockhouse Food.jpg

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29 minutes ago, Ripheus said:

For dessert, we had some sort of yogurt thing.

It was coconut panna cotta. It looks beautiful and tastes great. The raspberries were filled with jam. Yummy! It was excellent. The only thing I would improve is to add pine nuts just before serving so it doesn't get soggy. 

 

Why double deserts? I ordered "the wake" benedicts, and it was not what I have imagined. Let's leave it that way.... I only provide constructive criticism to things that has a way to save.

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Continuing my thoughts on Test Kitchen food on Night 3. The first half is here.

Sorry for the wrong order. That's what happens when we enjoyed ourselves too much onboard and neglected to post. 

 

IMG_3572.thumb.jpeg.97cbc42ac99bf34e422af86029625c87.jpeg

 

The 4th course, beef.

The presentation was beautiful. The star was a piece of slow roasted beef, with cherry sauce that made a splash effect on the plate, tart cherries, and some thickened gravy poured table side. The beef was nothing special. Not juicy. The side dish, the crispy potato stack, got my attention. I'm not a huge fan of potatoes in any form but was impressed by the Test Kitchen potato. It was crispy, fluffy, soft, buttery, with a nice fried aroma. There was white powder on the potatoes. It was dehydrated something. Didn't hear what the server said. Sigh. The paired red wine was a pinot noir? Tasty but too light bodied for this dish. 

 

IMG_3573.thumb.jpeg.0bc8f2b8d2177c4af1ca77468a9333fe.jpeg

 

The 5th course, blue cheese dessert

I didn't hear what was in the dish. It was a pudding/mousse with pear, pecan, and some oil? It was cold, smooth, creamy, with the blue cheese funk. I inhaled it. 

 

IMG_3574.thumb.jpeg.dbf7942efcf7a8324179f96900a78913.jpeg

 

The last course, chocolate

This was the only dish I didn't care much about. Not the biggest fan of any chocolate desserts, and I was full by then, plus the wine pairing was not great. I would be much happier with a glass of tawny port. 

 

My thoughts about the restaurant overall? Idea is great, food is awesome, presentation is excellent, service is average, drink pairing shouldn't exist. I'm very excited to go back to Test Kitchen on our next voyage to try the other menu.

 

 

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