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Cruise Ship Review
Take a Bite Out of the Big Apple

New York City

by Toni & Jack White

Statue of LibertyThe Port of New York is an exciting place to begin or end a cruise. However, be prepared for massive confusion when thousands of cruise passengers disembark from megaships at the same time. If your tour doesn't provide bus service to the airport or hotel, book a taxi or limo in advance for you and your luggage to be picked up at a designated area. Facing a three-hour wait for a taxi, we "schlepped" luggage through the streets of New York seeking transportation.

The Algonquin

Our stay in New York extended beyond the Carnival Victory inaugural cruise and a cruise up the coast to New Brunswick on the Regal Empress. Due to its proximity to the theater district, we chose the recently-renovated Algonquin Hotel, which was built in 1926. The Algonquin has been named one of "America's Ten Great Historic Hotels" by Historic Traveler magazine.

The historic inn's charming, A-rated library-like dining room was the site of the famed literary Round Table. Among the regulars who dined at this table were literary legends Sinclair Lewis, William Faulkner, Gertrude Stein, Simone de Beauvoir, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, James Thurber, Robert E. Sherwood, and Alexander Woollcott. A portrait of literary lights dining at the Round Table is prominently displayed.

Adjoining the lobby is the Oak Room, often called New York's best cabaret. This room has featured Michael Feinstein, Harry Connick, Jr., and Diana Krall. The Blue Bar is decorated with artwork of longtime Algonquin regular, Al Hirschfield.

The Bronx is Up and The Battery's Down

New York traffic is not conducive to out-of-towners driving, and parking places are scarce and expensive. Taxis, subways, buses, and FEET are the means to best enjoy this throbbing city. Visitors should avail themselves of a double-decker tour bus ride for an over-view of the city. Tourists enjoy the Empire State Building, open 9:30AM to midnight; the Statue of Liberty; Ellis Island; Greenwich Village; Trump Tower; 5th Avenue; Radio City Music Hall; Carnegie Hall; Lincoln Center; Brooklyn Bridge; Stock Exchange; Hall of Science; Top of the World Observatories; New York Harbor Cruises; Liberty Helicopter Tours; World Trade Center; Staten Island Ferry; United Nations; Metropolitan Opera House; and New York Aquarium in Coney Island.

Depending on the season, the U.S. Tennis Open, Yankee Stadium, or the Jets football team attract visitors. New York has renowned museums: Museum of Modern Art, American Museum of Natural History, Children's Museum of Manhattan, Guggenheim Museums, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Less famous, but no less interesting, are the Jewish, New York City Police, and Lower East Side Tenement museums. All of the museums are user friendly and easily reached by public transportation.

Carriage Ride

If you tire of touring and shopping, relax with a horse and buggy carriage ride. Walking is faster, but the rides are extremely popular.

Theater

No trip to New York is complete without taking advantage of live theater performances. We purchased excellent seats for popular shows directly at the box office on the day prior to a performance. Some experienced theatergoers wait until the day of the show, hoping to score cancellations for sold out performances. Tickets, of course, may be ordered in advance of your trip. The concierge of your hotel often can obtain tickets for guests. We enjoyed "Swing," "Dirty Blonde," and Tony Award winner, "Contact."

 

The Russian Tea Room

Russian Tea RoomThe "Big Apple" has outstanding restaurants for every budget and taste. Our favorite "Bite of the Big Apple" on this trip was the magnificently-appointed, pricey Russian Tea Room. We were last there in the '50s when it was THE place to dine and be seen. Thirty million dollars of renovation later, it is again a place to dine and see, especially the upper floors.

Entering this famous restaurant, one steps back to the elegance of Tzarist Russia where opulence was the watch word. Red leather banquettes, gold leaf ceiling, pink tablecloths, samovars, and antique clocks decorate the room. Walls covered with paintings and wall sconces of lights decorated with red lamp shades, and sections of mirrored walls stun the senses. Gold leaf firebird wall sculptures adorn scalloped curtains. Surprisingly, the dinnerware was French with a pumpkin color design resembling wheat. Dessert plates were the same pattern -- but in lipstick red. Cream, sugar, and sugar substitutes were served in silver containers on a silver tray.

We were seated in a comfortable front booth in view of the large bar. Service was attentive. Many well-trained personnel cater to well-dressed diners, although several guests arrived in t-shirts and khakis. Our jacket and tie, and ankle length dress seemed appropriate. The gorgeous setting deserved respect, and we enjoyed a violinist and instrumentalist, who played the bayn, the Russian equivalent of an accordion without a keyboard. They serenaded with romantic selections.

Our first course consisted of tiny veal and lamb dumplings in broth, followed by Russian Caesar salad prepared with romaine lettuce, Russian dressing and pumpernickel croutons. Salmon, wrapped in a puff pastry and champagne sauce, was ambrosia. Beef Stroganoff, the restaurant's most popular dish, was delectable, but a rich cholesterol no-no. A dessert crépe was filled with passion fruit mousseline topped with fruit. Chocolate cheesecake topped a flat tart. A raspberry and chocolate lattice circle sported a white chocolate feather. Dinner with a bottle of wine easily results in a $200 bill. At 9:00pm diners were still entering; this restaurant boasts 800 reservations on a Saturday night.

On the famed second floor, a 16-foot acrylic bear aquarium, weighing approximately 2500 pounds, revolves filled with red parrot fish and sturgeon swimming leisurely. The 150-pound head is removed to clean and feed the fish. A half-million dollar Faberge tree grows behind the bear. The original stained glass ceiling from Maxwell Plum's is fascinating. A faux Christmas tree is decorated with Russian ornaments and bears. Little wonder that Hillary Clinton celebrated her birthday in these unique surroundings. Actors Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones held their wedding rehearsal dinner there.

Tavern on the Green Gardens
Tavern on the Green Gardens
(Not mentioned in article but great photo by Jack White!)

Photos courtesy of Jack White.

Line

[Toni & Jack White]Jack and Toni White of Rancho Mirage, California have, for many years, been freelance travel writers specializing in cruise travel. Their articles have appeared in newspapers throughout the United States and Canada, including the Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, and Vancouver Sun. Prestigious Palm Springs Life magazine published their article on filming the movie "Out to Sea" on the Holland America Line Westerdam. They also write regularly for Mature Living and Plus, formerly Senior Life.

Jack graduated from USC as an architect. His background in architecture allows him to review, write, and produce photographs from a unique perspective. Toni attended UCLA after graduating from Hollywood High School where she had been the Feature Editor of the Hollywood High School News, where one of the writers was comedienne Carole Burnett. Toni lived abroad for many years in South America and in the UK and has a familiarity with different cultures that influences her writing. The Whites love to travel and especially want to share their passion for cruising with you.

Toni & Jack White may be reached at: JACNTONI@aol.com.


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