Livarot and Calvados

Linda’s birthday! Morning workout in the gym and then buffet lunch. Salad bar is okay, nothing spectacular.

Our tour today is all about fermented apples and cheese. First stop is the Graindorge Fromagerie, which by coincidence is an Alcorn McBride installation. The delightful visitor’s tour does a great job of promoting the brand and explaining the cheese making process, through engaging videos, a theatre, and windows into the factory. At the end of the tour we were served four generous slices of chess and some local cider. My favorite was the Livarot, followed by the Neufchatel, Pont l’Eveque and Camembert.

Second stop was the Chateau du Breuil, a beautiful estate where they make Calvados, a brandy distilled from apples. The guide her was quite informative, and we learned about the fermentation and distillation process, which involves double distillation, discarding the first and last alcohol and keeping only the heart. Then the brandy is aged in oak barrels, typically from 8 to 20 years. Each year, about 2% of the alcohol is lost (the “angel’s share”) but since it starts out at 144 proof, it still requires dilution with water prior to bottling. A tasting followed, where most agreed that the “Pommeau de Normandie,” which has 60% cider added back in, was more drinkable than the 15 year old straight Calvados.

Our guide for this tour was extremely informative. A fan of World War I history, he collects sets of letters exchanged between the front and those who stayed on the farms; he also collects historic labels from cheeses, including labels created for cruise lines and even one for soldiers at the front.

Upon returning to the ship we found a mountain of food and only an hour until dinner, so we provided catering service to Audrey and Emilio’s cabin!

Our dinner was at Ocean Liner’s, the cover charge French restaurant on deck 3. The room is lovely, and the food and service are a level above the main dining room, although still not at the level of restaurant that the decor evokes. A wine new to us, Nickel & Nickel Chardonnay, proved to be the highlight. The owner is the same as Far Niente, but the wine is more like Aubert. A 2007 Chambolle-Musigny by Drouhin was disappointing, and we save most of it to see if it would improve with a little air.

The entertainment on this ship is really the highlight. In the main theatre we enjoyed the terrific ships orchestra backing Mark Donoghue, who played classic rock on violin, harmonica, piano and electric guitar (not all at once). I particularly enjoyed his rendition of The Devil Went Down to Georgia, and also his medley of 1960s TV Western theme songs.

We set sail during the show, so Linda was able to get in a little casino time on the way out, and fought the machine to a draw.

We caught a bit of Perry Grant, whose show was very similar to the previous night’s. The night life was still going strong when we retired at 12:30.