Day One: First Night on Le Panache

There are really only two things that can make or break a cruise for me. I am not caught up in worrying about the thread count of my sheets, or the fragrance in my toiletries. And in my experience, most cruise itineraries are great if you approach them in the right spirit.

But if the passengers are disagreeable, or the food is below par, I won’t be having a good time.

The passengers on this sailing of Le Panache are a different lot. They turn out to be older than we are, by quite a bit, and two of the couples are ultra critical of everything, from the server’s slip in French pronunciation tothe shape of the dinner knives. But they are unfailingly interesting – in the way that, say, a group of Agatha Christie characters marooned in a country manor might be. Conversation was never dull, opinions were seldom insipid, and the shared stories were novel worthy.

So the passengers proved to be fascinating on-board entertainment.

The food?

Fabulous, and this was a real surprise for me. I expected the meals to be fresh and good, but I didn’t anticipate the cuisine of our chef Sebastian.

Our first dinner on board was Michelin Star quality. The fresh oysters and champagne were just a hint, as the starters, of what was to come.

The first course was a mushroom soup, made with five kindsof mushrooms, with fresh basil and a drizzle of white truffle oil.

Main course was duck magret with a strawberry jus, pickled beetroot and sweet potato puree.

Each meal had a cheese course, but not just any cheese – two superb cheeses came out for each occasion. This time it was a Reblochon and a Blue Auvergne, each one at the perfect stage of ripeness and temperature, served with dried fruits and nuts

Dessert was a white chocolate and cointreau pannecotta with berry compote and vanilla ice cream.

Sigh. I think I am in heaven! And each dish was plated with considerable artistry.

We went to bed quite happy.

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