July 30, 2018 - Today, Viking Sky is docked in Lerwick, the main port for the Shetland Islands.
Our day begins early, at least for Rickee, who loves to sleep late. We are required to have our passports cleared by UK Immigration in The Star Theater at 8:45am. Viking divided guests based upon their shore excursion departure times, which made for much better crowd control.
After a brief passport check, we get a red sticker placed on our stateroom key to let security know that we have cleared Immigration.
We have time for breakfast at World Cafe after the passport check. This was Rickee's first time for breakfast since we embarked! She ordered Eggs Benedict, and said they were cooked perfectly. She also says the orange juice served here is possibly the best she has ever tasted. That word "best" keeps coming up on this cruise, doesn't it?
This afternoon, we have chosen the optional 'Castles, Valleys and Shetland Ponies' excursion ($79/pp).
Viking offers a similar excursion as an included tour, but it does not include an inside visit to the Skalloway Castle and Museum. After a drive through the town of Lerwick, we had a brief photo stop at the Broch of Clickimin. The broch was discovered in 1861 and has been restored. It is thought to have been constructed in the 3rd century AD.
We then drive the beautiful valley roads to a hill overlooking Skalloway Castle where we have another brief photo stop. Next we drive into the small village of Skalloway, Shetland, where we have nearly an hour to explore the castle and adjacent museum.
Scalloway Castle was the home of Patrick Stewart, earl of Orkney and Shetland. He was notorious for his oppression of the Shetland people. He was accused of using forced labor in the castle's construction in 1599, and was eventually executed in Edinburgh in 1615.
The castle itself stands as a sophisticated and impressive example of a late 1500's tower house. One of only two castles constructed in Shetland, for many it stands as a symbol of Earl Patrick’s harsh rule.
The Skalloway Museum offered a lot of interesting historical exhibits to enjoy as well as a nice gift shop.
Rickee spent time exploring the various exhibits while I visited the gift shop for some souvenirs.
After our visit to the museum and castle, we re-boarded the motorcoach for a short drive to see the Shetland ponies. There were a couple of other motorcoaches already there when we arrived and everyone was huddled around the small group of ponies.
The lady who owns the farm was giving a presentation on the history of the Shetland ponies. The Shetland pony is a breed originating in the Shetland Isles. Shetlands range in size from a minimum height of approximately 28 inches to an official maximum height of 42 inches. Visitors had the opportunity to interact with the ponies, all of which seemed very disinterested in the attention they were getting.
After spending some quality time with the ponies, we board the coach again for a drive through the green valleys of Shetland. The roads are narrow and the scenery is spectacular on this beautiful summer day. We have really lucked out on the weather this trip.
We arrive back in Lerwick at the pier at about 4:45pm. In our opinion, this excursion was well worth the extra cost for the visit to the castle and the museum.
Tonight, we have a dinner reservation at The Chef's Table restaurant. The Chef's Table is one of two specialty restaurants on Viking Sky (and all Viking Ocean ships). The Chef's Table has several different fixed menus that are featured on a rotating basis. Think of each as a tasting menu selected by the chef. Tonight's menu theme is Venice Carnival.
Each course at The Chef's Table is paired with a wine to complement the flavors of the dish. And, while there is no extra charge to dine at The Chef's Table, or to enjoy the wine pairing, there is an optional Premium Wine pairing for $25/pp. We opted for the standard wines. First we were served an Amuse Bouche of Roasted Pepper and Tomato Jelly with Goat Cheese Latte Foam. I found it to be quite delicious.
Our first course was Beef Carpacchio with Fig and Mustard Vinaigrette. Rickee is much more of a Beef Carpacchio fan than I am, but I did enjoy it. Even though Rickee prefers the Carpacchio served at Manfredi's (with shaved Parmesan and Olive Oil), she finished her dish as well.
Next, an intermezzo consisting of a Bellini Granita with Peach Juice Foam was an excellent palate cleanser to prepare us for the main course, a Cod Filet with Jerusalem Artichoke Risotto with Latte de Tartuffo. A beautiful piece of Cod has been Sous Vide* to perfection, placed on top of perfectly al dente artichoke risotto and topped with a truffle foam. It was one of the most delicious pieces of fish I have ever had.
Our final course was a dessert called Mascarpone Passion. An amazing marscapone mousse topped with a passion fruit crémeux and surrounded by rasberry jewels was the perfect ending to a delicious meal.
Service throughout the meal was exceptional from our waiter, Francisco, and his assistant, Henny.
The wines paired with the meal were also good; however, we did find the red wine listed on the menu to be different from the one being poured. We were familiar with the Merlot on the menu and preferred it to the one poured. When we mentioned this to Francisco, he immediately replaced our red wine with the Merlot we liked. A visit to The Chef's Table is a must when sailing on a Viking Ocean cruise. In fact, why not go twice to try a couple of different menus? We plan to return in a few days to try one of the Asian-inspired menus.
Tomorrow, Viking Sky will be anchored off the coast of the Orkney Islands where we will visit Kirkwall.
* (Wikapedia) Sous Vide is a method of cooking in which food is placed in a plastic pouch or a glass jar and cooked in a water bath or steam environment for longer than normal cooking times (usually 1 to 7 hours, up to 48 or more in some cases) at an accurately regulated temperature. The temperature is much lower than normally used for cooking, typically around 55 to 60 °C (131 to 140 °F) for meat, higher for vegetables. The intent is to cook the item evenly, ensuring that the inside is properly cooked without overcooking the outside, and to retain moisture.