Akihabara Cat Cafe, Shibuya and Robot Restaurant, oh my!

This morning we head off into Akihabara to hunt for anime and expensive plastic.  No seriously, this seems to be what Akihabara is all about.  Plastic figurines of famous anime characters line the walls of every store here and I have no idea how or why they sell – but they obviously do.  Mandarake is one of THE biggest and most well known anime/manga stores in Akihabara – it is 8 floors of collectables, anime, manga, DVDs, CDs, figurines, collector cards and lord knows what else.  It is a veritable rabbit warren.  Back out on the street, even your regular little corner agift store is packed to the gills with merchadise in every nook and cranny.  Everyone is a bull on the china here, there’s no avoiding it.  They have so much merchandise all crammed into such tiny little stores that you can’t help but knock half the products… which is why they are all secured to shelves using clips and hooks and everything swings and moves as you walk through the store.And of course, EVERY store has its adults-only upstairs areas (which are sometimes as many as three or more floors bigger than the floor of Dragonball Z toys and Pokemon plush that attracts people into the place!  So much porn! When I wondered out loud, ‘Who actually pays for porn in this day and age?’, the Teenager replied, ‘Well, if you want something specific, you have to pay for it.’ 😮 Gaming and vending machines are everywhere… throw in your yen, and manouvre the dodgy gaming controls for a chance to win an enticing soft yellow squishy thing!  🙂  Or throw in slightly more yen and get a chance to win this off license Pikachu.  🙂 Racks and racks of toy dispensing machines line the streets.  They usually take between Y200 and Y500 and dispense a random little plastic toy-in-a-ball.  They must be profitable, but I can’t help but wonder who is buying all these toy-in-a-balls? They’re obviously designed to be collectable but still…
This one is a corker – there are five plastic wearable badges in this machine, with one of five cute anime girls on each button which you will get at random… …and on the bottom of the machine are pictures of a man having a sad/tired rough time.  We used the Google Translate over the text and basically, it was saying that if you buy this badge, you can escape the drudgery of your everyday life and be happy! Happiness!  This little machine is selling escapism and happiness… that’s one helluva badge! Manga stores everywhere. Even more floors of porn… Mr K lost in the back of the porn floors… I didn’t go up, but he said, the higher up the floor the more ‘extreme’ the content gets.Phew after all that searching through figurines and anime and dodging the porn, we stumbled onto the Mocha Cat Cafe. Now I am not a cat person as many of you will know, but the whole concept intrigues me somewhat.. why would you pay to go hang out in a cafe full of cats?

Being a thoroughly modern and quintessentially Japanese experience, we thought we should add it to our day of quintessentially modern Japanese pursuits.  A lovely lady helped us with some hand sanitiser, slippers and of course, the Rules (rules? for being around cats?!?) and explained the cost – Y200 for every ten minutes you stay, and you must buy a refillable drink for Y350, so a minimum of Y550 per person to go in and ‘relax with cats’.Inside was a space with a lovely decor, delighfully Japanese’d Christmas Carols playing quietly in the background and a huge anime library where you could sit down and watch some tv while you cuddle some kitties.The anime library – with a huge selection, no doubt designed to keep you in the kitty cafe as long as possible.Cats chillin in their weird little hanging birdcage things… very well fed cats btw.  You can feed the cats for an additional Y500.
For 1pm on a Wednesday, it was amazing well patronised.  There were quite a few people there, even one lady on her laptop who had obviously settled in for quite a while to get some work done. After, oh I’d say about eight and a half minutes of quality looking-at-cats time (Nope – didn’t pet any, me and cats, meh), we went looking for somewhere for some cheap and cheerful brlunch.  It was pretty cold today so we went looking for some small Japanese curry bowls which we thought would fill the bill given we were planning a very late dinner tonight.  We came across this place down the road from the cat cafe that looked perfect – nothing on the menu but curry.  So in we went. From the pictures on the menu, portions looked perfect for lunch and it was chicken, pork or prawn curry… order your curry and biru from the little machine and go take a seat. We were right about this being a great curry restaurant but not so much on the polite portion sizes.  We got huge plates of curry, which I have to admit did not look so appetitisng… but once you tried it, absolutely delicious.  Probably the best katsu curry I have ever had.  The Teenager was very happy with his wash, probably the first meal we’ve had that filled him up!After I was waiting outside and found out from the signs that this place has prize winning curry in 2015 for some big curry conference/competition – so no wonder it was good.  I have no idea what the place was called though.  Couldn’t fathom it for love or money. After lunch, we went for a wander into Shibuya, just because we could – to do a bit of shopping and have a look around. Oddly, this slick black store is a Disney Store… and no, I didn’t go in. The retail pain of working the Disney Store over Christmas is still altogether too raw.
Then it was back to Shinjuku for our booking at the Robot Restaurant.  When we were in Tokyo two years ago, we had booked tickets to take the then, Small Child, to go see the Robot Restaurant as we thought it would be quite the spectacle for a kid.  Unhappily at the time, it was closed for renovations the week we were here. Now, we come back and I thought he’d be over it, but unhappily he still wanted to go.  So we duly went and bought tickets.

Let the tacky tacky Japanese game-show/restaurant/cafe thing begin! Right from the front door you get an inkling of what you are in for – more glitter, sequins, neon and mosaic mirror tiles per square inch than you would have thought humanly possible. We were then welcomed into the Guest Waiting Room whereupon it took my eyes a full ten minutes to recover from the visual assault on the senses. It’s like Versace and Las-Vegas-Fat-Elvis had a litter of tattooed, vajazzled love children, and they vomited all over the place in here. This is his, ‘somewhat overwhelmed but trying to be blase about it look’.  😉  Neon ceilings floors and walls, golden seashell glass-topped tables, gilded rose embossed chairs, massive tv screens and oh, so so many mirrors just on every surface. Even the bathroom was a sight to sore the eyes. Then the bell went and it was time to descend into the basement of the building for the show itself.  We were treated to quite a few Christmas Carols in the waiting area while we sipped on our freebie sake (which tasted nothing like sake…?) and I was getting concerned that we may actually have been stuck with an entire Christmas themed show… I definitely would NOT have signed up to sit through that. Upon being shown to our seats – the first thing wheeled in front of us?  The souvenir cart swiftly followed by a drinks cart.  Then it was a few safety rules (keep your hands in, don’t touch the robots, no flash photography) and it would soon be on with the show. 

The show was performed in three acts – the first of which involved a lot of drumming, a lot of neon, scantily clad warrior girls and a LOT of screaming at full volume.  I have no idea what it was about… but have the vague idea it was some sort of welcome? We then had a fifteen-minute interval where, you guessed it, they tried to sell us more souvenirs and drinks.  🙂  The next vignette appeared to have some sort of post-apocalyptic theme running through it – robots had taken over the earth but the humans were fighting back or some such.  It was all a bit obscure, to be honest, and passed in a blur of lights and loud noises.

You may think these photos are out of focus or dodgy, but I like ’em!

Then another intermission/selling opportunity, before a slightly Christmassy themed intro and a feathery jumping birds/tropical bonanza of a finale.  I’d stay it doesn’t get weirder than this, but we’re  in Japan… and that’s probably way too big a call.  🙂

And yet, through all this noise and lights and pyrotechnics and craziness… these two beside us slept through the lot!
By the way, if anyone is interested in going to this overpriced tourist trap, err, I mean unique Japanese cultural experience – there is a Tourist Information centre at Shinjuku bus station that has tickets for about Y2,000pp cheaper than you can buy online or at the RR.  It’s well worth a couple of bucks on the subway to head down there to pick up discount tickets.

After the show, and still reeling somewhat from the experience, we went for a last wander through Shinjuku all lit up and found a late dinner.  Of course more sake and another magnificent sashimi platter.  *sniff sniff*  I’m going to miss the food when we leave.

Fuji-goko the Five Lakes District

Fuji-Goko is the collective term for the district containing five large lakes that are situated along the northern base of Mt.Fuji, which towers at the border of southern Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures. The lakes are Yamada Lake, Kawaguchi Lake, Saiko Lake, Shoji Lake, Motosu Lake. The largest is Lake Yamanakako, the smallest is the Lake Shoji, the one with the highest surface attitude is Yamanakako Lake, and the deepest is Motosu Lake. The town of Fuji-Kawaguchiko surrounds the lake of the same name, and this area offers the best viewing of Mt Fuji.

We were headed to the Kachi-kachi Ropeway to go up to view Mt Fuji.  🙂

The Kawagauchiko Ropeway takes travellers up Kachi-kachi Yama, which translates roughly as ‘Fire-crackle Mountain.  The ‘kachi-kachi’ bit being an onomatopoetic word for the sound a fire makes, and ‘yama’ meaning mountain.  The cute little hiking rabbit and his tanuki (Japanese racoon) companion are a cutesy little theme that run through the complex.  Lake Kawaguchiko and the town of Fuji-Kawaguchiko. Mt Fuji.  On our last trip, Aunty Mary, Mr K and the Teenager all hiked to the top of Mt Fuji, but this is the first time they have actually seen it!  The weather was so poor they climbed the entire mountain in raid and clouds and fog, so they never actually saw the peak of the mountain after their arduous journey.The Usagi shrine dedicated to the rabbit from the Kachi-kachi Yama myths… must have been one special rabbit! It is said that if you ring the Bell of Tenjo while watching Mt Fuji and make a wish,  your wish will come true.

The Kachi-kachi Ropeway is named after the story about the antics of a rabbit and a tanuki (Japanese racoon) who were said to have lived on Kachi-kachi Yama… the rabbit looks like he is trying to put out the fire on the tanuki’s pack. The rabbit helping the poor, crying tanaki. No idea what is going on in this one… The two friends looking off the mountain, farewelling guests. They’re so very Japanese and so cute!  Anyway, this morning I thought I’d go looking for info on the legend of the rabbit and the tanuki… and found this, copied directly from the Wikipedia article on Kachi-kachi Yama:

The trouble-making tanuki
As the story goes, a man caught a troublesome tanuki in his fields, and tied it to a tree to kill and cook it later. When the man left for town, the tanuki cried and begged the man’s wife who was making some mochi, a sweet rice dish, to set him free, promising he would help her. The wife freed the animal, only to have it turn on her and kill her. The tanuki then planned a foul trick.

Using its shapeshifting abilities, the tanuki disguised itself as the wife and cooked a soup, using the dead woman’s flesh. When the man came home, the tanuki served him the soup. After the meal, the tanuki reverted to its original appearance and revealed its treachery before running off and leaving the poor man in shock and grief.

Enter the rabbit
The couple had been good friends with a rabbit that lived nearby. The rabbit approached the man and told him that it would avenge his wife’s death. Pretending to befriend the 
tanuki, the rabbit instead tortured it through various means, from dropping a bee’s nest on it to ‘treating’ the stings with a peppery poultice that burned.

The title of the story comes from the especially painful trick that the rabbit played. While the tanuki was carrying a heavy load of kindling on his back to make a campfire for the night, he was so burdened that he did not immediately notice when the rabbit set fire to the kindling. Soon, the crackling sound reached its ears and it asked the rabbit what the sound was. “It is Kachi-Kachi Yama” the rabbit replied. “We are not far from it, so it is no surprise that you can hear it!”. Eventually, the fire reached the tanuki’s back, burning it badly, but without killing it.

Yikes!  Yeah, really cute, hey!  😮

I couldn’t tell you what they are exactly, but apparently, there are a smattering of references to this myth in Super Mario Sunshine.

The video game depicts Mario in a tanuki outfit and he goes adventuring in a mud boat (the longer version of the myth has the tanuki make a boat out of mud which sinks), and Mario’s boat will only stay afloat for so long as it disintegrates in the water and when it bumps into things, or something like that.

At the base of Kachi-kachi Yama is the world famous Fujiyama Cookie shop!  Where, you can buy all manner of Fuji styled cookies and candies. Camembert cheesecake… sounds amazing.  Amazingly suspicious!Also – the widest variety of weird KitKat flavours known to man… Wasabi flavour, Strawberry Cheesecake flavour, Sake flavour, Apple flavour.   Nearby was the Ide Sake Brewery, unfortunately, we spent too much time up Kachi-kachi and missed the last brewery tours, but we made a mental note to make up for it this evening.After this, it was back into town for a little shopping and then the bus trip back to Shinjuku bus station, whereupon we did a little more shopping 😉 and then went hunting for dinner.

Meals here have become a bit of a point of contention… Mr K and the Teenager are not fond of seafood and would prefer noodle or ramen every night, whereas I am in sushi Mecca and would happily eat sashimi until the cows come home (or the tide goes out – dunno mixing metaphors, whatever) and am not a fan of the soggy noodle.  Most small restaurants here seem to be one or the other – they specialise in sushi and sashimi or they are a noodle bar/ramen restaurant. So finding a place that serves both is actually harder than you might expect.  Tonight – we hit the jackpot with a little place not far from Shinjuku station.

The restaurant was called Sakusui – and we will definitely be back!  To quote their own website:  “Delicious and cheap and filled with stomach!”

Ordered the large sake, and my cup was running over *and* it came with a bottle to keep it refilled… for Y350

Saw this on the menu. Obviously, we had to order it to find out what it was… turned out to be a tasty tasty Martian alien octopus thing.

And the most delicious and affordable sushi platter ever, Y990, which at the moment is around AUD$11. Fabulous food in a busy little restaurant – I would highly recommend hunting this place out if you are in Shinjuku.Another wonderful day in Japan over it was back to our shoebox hotel room for… another soak in the tub.  🙂  This time with extra sake!

Ikebukuro and Tokyo Tower

After yesterday’s monster cultural walking tour of Tokyo, today we thought we’d take it a little easier and head to some pop culture highlights instead.  Last time we were here, the Teenager was all over the Pokémon stuff on his DS and was loving the Pikachu love that was often on display in Tokyo.  We even took him to the Yokahama Pokémon store and he loved it.  This time, well, this time we are all a little Pokémon mad, having taken up Pokémon Go (which btw has proved to be excellent exercise over the last year) and so we decided to head to Pokémon central this morning – the Tokyo Pokémon Mega Centre in Ikebukuro’s Sunshine Centre.Ikebukuro Main Street.

The Sunshine Centre is covered in Pokémon murals and accents before you even get anywhere near the place… And then we found the place – basically a Disney Store but for Pokémon, and at this time of year – packed to the gills with people, lots of loud annoying music, kids running  amok and more plush toys than you can poke a stick at. Unfotunately not a lot of merchandise that was designed for adults… I was hoping to find something I could buy in bulk to take home for our local raid teams, but seriously?  Golf balls, stationery or phone cases was about the extent of useful stuff that adults might like.  I don’t think they are catering for their PGO market here – which from what I have seen is largely being played by 25-45 year olds.  Oh well.  Marketing opportunity missed there, Nintendo. While we were there a legendary raid popped on the Pokemon Mega Centre gym, so of course we had to raid the Groudon.  I managed to catch it, but Mr K had to try again on the other Pikachu gym right beside it.

Just as we were leaving, things got really out of control – a Santa Pikachu turned up with the staff and the kids went crazy!  So much noise and excitement and absolutely none of it decipherable by non-Japanese speaking tourists like us.And of course the ubiquitous vending machines full of Pokemon crap.  Mostly Ditto for some reason…

For lunch, we found this restaurant which had some amazing looking okonomyaki in the display window… well, amazing for over glossy plastic representations of food, but we thought it looked like a potentially delicious cabbagey omelette spot for lunch.However, we got inside and rapidly discovered that it was teppanyaki okonomiyaki?  Cook your own damn cabbagey omelette restaurant?  The Teenager looked somewhat unimpressed at having to cook his own lunch, but when in Rome, right?  There was a pile of useful instructions, not in English of course, but it gave comfort knowing that locals don’t necessarily know how to cook their own okonomyaki either.  😉  Our lunches arrived – raw.  And looked full of possible deliciousness… so long as I didn’t fuck up the cooking bit.  😀  Thankfully, our server was kind enough to show us how it’s done – for the first one.  Preparing the plate, cooking the meat/seafood, mixing the cabbagey mixture and then forming it into a 14cm pancake.  Cook covered on one side for 4 mins on a lowish temperature, then use the spatulas to flip it over and cook for another 4 mins on the other side.  Handy hourglass timers were provided to make sure your okonomyaki was cooked through.   Et voila!  Tasty tasty okonomyaki lunch! Lunch was delicious and went down lovely with a cold glass of umeshu and biru.

Next stop after lunch was on the Teenager’s ‘must do in Tokyo’ list – a place called J-World, which is an amusement centre based on his favourite anime shows, One Piece and Dragonball Z.   He was pretty excited to be there… but only pulled this face for me after I prompted him to not look so blasé.   Now I am not an anime fan, and have no idea who all the characters are but this amusement centre/theme park was pretty full on.  Rides, interactive experiences, virtual reality stuff, Segway clouds (?), a restaurant full of themed food, and of course the inevitable gift shop.  I had no idea this One Piece thing was so huge… it’s about a pirate named Monkey.D Luffy on his quest to claim the treasure, the One Piece.  From what I can understand it involves a lot of high drama and screaming alarmingly in Japanese at other adventuring characters.  This of course is the token female character… Nami.  And this is how she is attired while her cohorts are wearing shirts and shorts or even suits or a long pirate coat.  Poor thing, can’t afford clothes.   Kinto-un from Dragonball Z apparently.

Many rides and hilarity later, it was time to get the hell out of the noisy anime amusement centre and find some solace… in sake!  We left the Sunshine Centre and back to Ikebukuro for dinner.  We wandered past some chain restaurants, and even a bloody Denny’s before we decided to head into the back streets to look for something a bit more local.  We found a restaurant with a great looking menu, actual chairs instead of stools, and *drumroll please*… cheap sake taster plates!! Sake fuelled, Mr K soldiers on through his biru while we wait for some dinner.   Ooh.. maybe there is fugu / blowfish on the menu?  Do we risk it?  Ah, not so much.  Drinking on an empty stomach is never advisable but dinner was well worth waiting for… fresh sashimi – the tuna is so much better here, I swear all the tuna we have in Australia at sushi restaurants is frozen, or frozen poorly or something.  In comparison, I can honestly say I have never had good tuna back home, excepting maybe Sono at Hamilton. The texture is entirely different.
Grilled chicken and pork pot stickers.
Gyoza – of course, no meal seems to be complete without some. Some weird bean sprout omelette yumminess the name of which I can’t remember. Sake!  All the sake! Then it was back to the trains – have I mentioned how awesome Tokyo trains are?  Cheap, clean, efficient… kinda easy to navigate once you get the hang of them, super easy to navigate if you travel with your own transport industry professional!  😉  They’re great, and people are polite and mind their space, I love them – to go to Tokyo Tower. Several stops and what seemed only a few minutes later, and up we pop in a new part of town, and the Tokyo Tower in front of us.  Tokyo Tower is a communications with public observation decks in the Shiba-koen district of Minato. At 332.9 metres (1,092 ft), it is the second-tallest structure in Japan. Apparently it is inspired by the Eiffel Tower, and it is not difficult to see how.  Allegedly, its distinctive orange and white colours come from a necessity to comply international air safety regulations…which then begs the question why isn’t the Eiffel Tower orange and white?  Hmmm.  #showerthoughts I came here on our last trip to Tokyo and it was pretty cool to get a chance to go up the tower at night as well as having been up during the day.  At the moment it is all Christmassy – lights, themed photos, projected snowflakes everywhere, and live performers on the observation deck.  Oddly, but completely in keeping with our visit to J-World on Anime Day, we stumbled onto a One Piece 20th Anniversary exhibit and store at the Tower.  There is Nami again in her signature green bikini, and loads of cool merchandise – cooler stuff than they had at the offical store in the city. More One Piece – the little guy above with the ‘X’ on his hat is called Chopper, and he is supposed to be a reindeer that area a Hito Hito No Mi devil fruit which makes him anthropomorphic (or as the Teenager would say – makes him into a human hybrid or allows him to have human characteristics at will). Anyway, back to the Tower… it was covered in projected snowflakes and sparkly Christmassy stuff.  It was lovely.  The views were great and my little handheld camera either totally didn’t cope or I was completely inept, because my photos from up the Tower are not great. We stopped for a bit and had a blindingly sweet coke spider (yes, it’s freezing cold outside but there is still ice cream and frozen treats everywhere) and then after that sugar rush my photos got way better.  😉  Thus endeth out second day in Tokyo!  🙂

Regal Princess Dining

Usually, we like to have a late traditional sitting in the Main Dining Room – but for some reason, when we booked this Baltic cruise from Australia using an Australian travel agent, we were unable to select traditional dining and the TA wasn’t able to alter it either.  So we were down for Anytime Dining whether we liked it or not.  We thought we’d change it when we got onboard but turns out that was not as easy as I had hoped.  There were plenty of options to change to early sitting traditional, but late sitting, not so much.  Oh well.  Our first night in the MDR, the first thing I noticed was the HUGE portions.

I remember this from the Royal Princess in the Mediterranean, the meal sizes are much bigger than we are used to Down Under.  This rib-eye steak meal, for example, was roughly about 60% this size on the Sea Princess earlier this year… maybe that is because when you’re on the ship for 80 day, they know you are not going to eat that big?  🙂  Or perhaps the Royal and the Regal are catering to a different demographic.  Who knows?

We had a couple of underwhelming experiences in the MDR this trip, partly because the rhythm of the anytime dining just doesn’t suit us – the wait staff don’t get to know you and your preferences, everyone at the tables near you are at varying stages of their meals, so the servers are often coming back and confirming what you are waiting for.  It’s just a bit weird, and must be a lot of additional work for the wait staff compared to the traditional sittings.

We were planning on going to some of the specialty restaurants anyway, so we made some bookings early in the piece.


The Crown Grill is a nice casual space near the Wheelhouse Bar on this ship, the only downside of its location is that it can be a bit noisy.  And when seated near large groups of diners it can be even noisier still.  All good though, the service this visit was a little rushed (they had three tables of 10+ near us), but the food of course, is wonderful.

Current Menus:  Mediterranean Style Spiny Lobster Cake… Black Tiger Prawn and Papaya Salpicon… The Grill Salad with Grape Balamic Dressing… Black and Blue Onion Soup… 14oz Rib Eye… Filet Mignon… The Crown Dependence Dessert Selection… Lemon Meringue Pudding Tart…
(which btw, might be the best lemon meringue pie I’ve ever tried!)


We always love Sabatini’s, and have dined there on the Royal, the Diamond and now the Regal.  I have heard rumours that they are going to update or change Sabatini’s somehow, but I hope they don’t diverge too much from the wonderful Italian restaurant they’re known for.  Everything was delicious, the service was excellent and the ambiance in the restaurant was quieter and less rushed. Love it!

Current Menus:  Burrata alla Panna con Carpaccio de Pomodori… Vitello Tonnato… Spaghetti allo Scoglio…Penne con Brascato de Manzo… Tris d’Aragosta…Lombata di Vitello al Forno…Zabaglione… Torta Profumata ai Limoni di Sorrento…


We did get back to the ship after one of our ports at 3:30pm, as per the scheduled itinerary, and I called Room Service to request some Engish Breakfast tea for two (as is our habit after a long day ashore).  I had forgotten about the hour, and when I was offered Afternoon Tea in the room, I thought – why not?  Afternoon Tea in the cabin is one of those little loyalty perks that Princess offers their Elite passengers, but it’s one of those things we rarely remember. So when all this, turned up… I was somewhat surprised.  A little bit of overkill for two people, but a nice touch.


My husband loves his pizza slices up on the Lido deck, and usually, goes for a few slices of pepperoni on each cruise.  Personally, I prefer the pizza from the pizzeria.  Thankfully Princess is loudly applauded for having the best pizza at sea – so hopefully these options won’t change anytime soon.

Made to order – Hawaiian with shrimp and anchovies!  😛 


This cruise, to celebrate Mr K’s birthday, I had wanted to book us onto the Chef’s Table.  I’ve done it before on the Caribbean Princess, and it was an enjoyable evening of seeing behind the scenes, having some interesting conversations with other foodies, and getting to know the Executive head Chef and Maitre D’Hotel.  So I had called to request a booking on the Chef’s Table as soon as we boarded the ship – literally, got to the room, put some things in the safe and called Dining Reservations, first thing.  It was a wonderful evening to celebrate a special occasion.

It starts in the galley with an introduction to the head chef, some champage and canapes. Carving displays. Working hard hustling out up 1200 meals at a time! Sesame Marinated Big Eye Tuna Carpaccio, Yuzu Dressing… Lobster Tail on Buckwheat Blini with Caviar Citrus Vinaigrette… Beef Tartar with Horseradish… Panko Coated Black Tiger Prawns… Fortina Cheese and White Truffle Mini Quiche… Creamy Italian Carnaroli Rice Rissotto with Wild Porcini Mushrooms… Roasted Orange & Crystallized Ginger Sorbet Double Impact Surf & Turf Baked Cambert with Pinenuts… Chocolate Raspberry Mousse and Hazelnut Brownie, and French Macaroon… And this?  Well I have no idea what this is.  The Maitre D’ was speaking to some people about dietary requirements (we had one vegetarian and two no seafood and two no lactose on the table), he turned to me and asked if I had any dietary requirements, and I said to him, “No allergies at all, sir. Though I have a particular dislike for all things chocolate!” Which 1) raised some looks of incredulity from my fellow diners, “How can you not like chocolate?”, and 2) was information that was obviously filed by the Maitre D’ and they made me a special non-chocolate dessert!  I have no idea what it was, but it was fabulous, something vanilla mousse-like in layers of soft caramel biscuit thing.  Delicious, and so very thoughtful.  And of course, Chef Giovannis’ Homemade Gourmandises…

It was a lovely evening, we met some lovely people, felt thoroughly spoiled by the staff and tried some truly delicious things.


This trip, is the first time we have been invited to the ‘Most Travelled Lunch’.  Each cruise, the Princess Captain’s Circle host arranges a lunch for the 40 most travelled people on the ship – these invitations go out to people according to those in the program who have the most days at sea with Princess.  And this trip out of 3800 passengers on the ship, we were lucky enough to be invited.  The luncheon was held in the Sabatini’s restaurant, and we were seated with Ralph, who is the Customer Service Manager of the entire ship – he is repsonsible for the purser’s desk, the shore excursions department, photography department and more.

Lovely custom napery… Personalized menus… Tian of Seafood…Butter Poached Lobster Tail…
Norman Love Fantasy Delight…

It was a lovely luncheon actually, and a wonderful opportunity to discuss ship related things with a knowledgeable member of the staff.  Ralph was intimately involved in the launching of the last three Royal Class ships, and is back on the Regal getting ready to launch of the Ocean Medallion innovation.  We had very interesting conversations.

All up the dining has been superb!

HOHO Virgin in Barcelona

Out my window this morning…Okay, so I am pretty well travelled I guess, but for some reason, I have never found myself on a Hop On Hop Off Bus.  Most cities have them and they’re designed to mass transport tourists directly to the sights, but I have somehow managed to avoid them, either by just going places on foot or by using public transport.  Today, feeling rather tired after yesterday’s stressful and exhausting adventures, we decided to get on the HOHO bus and just potter around Barcelona and see where we ended up.

We saw about four different buildings designed by Antonio Gaudi, his mark is definitely all over the city of Barcelona.
This building was a personal residence owned by some very rich earl – it takes up an entire block and the family typically lived on the bottom floor and rented out the top floors. The Segrada Familia in all it’s be-scaffolded and be-craned brilliance.  This is such a beautiful building and it is much further completed than when I was here 20 years ago, I dare say a trip back when it is finished would be well worth it… 

Barcelona really does have lots of wonderful architecture Sarria The Monestir de Pedralables The Palau Reial-Pavellions Guell – but unable to get a decent photo of the famous dragon gate… more Gaudi.Futbol Club of Barcelona
Pg. de Gracia – More Gaudi Painted under a street awning. In the pavement. We drove around for about two hours – most of my photos were crap.  Too many people, cars, lamp posts, trees in the way.  The commentary was good, but if I can’t move to a better vantage point or wait for people to leave my shot, I can’t take a decent photo.  So I guess HOHO buses are not for me.

After that we went down to the pier at the Port Olimpic for some lunch at El Cangrejo Loco, which was recommended by Antonio for their fabulous paella.  It’s a gorgeous spot right near the Playa Nova Icaria with gorgeous views.  Quite a nice restaurant. hoho 31ADuck breast lasagnehoho 32 Seafood paella.hoho 33

After this we bought the kids back to our hotel room for a much needed cool down in the pool.  Spent a few hours up on the roof with a few vodka breezers and some donuts that Mum bought… not a bad way to spend a bit of down time in Barcelona.  A bit later in the evening, the mob came over near our hotel for a bit of dinner.  The street our hotel is on – the Rambla Catalunya has a string of restaurants with alfresco dining in the middle of the road, so we chose one of those restaurants and had some more tapas and paella.  It was okay, but not great.  Took a few night pics of the area from the street and the hotel balcony…

While we were waiting for tables for dinner, there was a guy sitting on a park bench, playing a flute.  He was really quite good and seemed to be enjoying himself.  A few people were watching and enjoying him play, when a little girl walked over and put some coins in his flute case which was open in his lap (he had no cap/bucket on the ground as is customary), and then the poor guy looked all flabbergasted as he tried to give the money back and explain he was just playing.  It was very cute. So tired.  Going to have an easy sea day tomorrow in my hotel room, I think!