This morning in Manaus, a day before we disembark from a charmed 15-day Caribbean/Amazon cruise, we met Seabourn Quest top chef Andreas Lang outside the Restaurant to accompany him as he shopped at a local market. It was a tour of sorts, free but limited to the number of passengers that fit in a modest van with the jovial chef. We bumped a few blocks to the market, open-aired but covered and sprawling, and exited into a riot of humanity. It was Sunday, but that didn’t seem to matter to the customers and the sellers, even with the heat and humidity quickly turning the place into a sauna.
The market was divided, after a fashion, into stalls selling meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices, and naturally, Brazil nuts. We plunged in, following our enthusiastic leader in his chef’s whites and the Portuguese-speaking officer with the cash bankroll. After quickly threading through the meat portion of our program, for the most part mysterious hunks that no one wanted to slow down to wonder over, came the just-caught fish—a wonderland of the Amazon’s bounty of hundreds of varieties. So fresh were they that there was no fishy smell to the market in spite of hundreds and hundreds on proud display. The Amazon is a prolific river. But no piranha were to be found, except the dried souvenir kind.
There were small, beautiful fish, one sort with a lovely decorative yellow bullseye on its tail that reminded some of the Brazilian flag. There were large fish, fat in the middle and snout-nosed, something like fresh-water albacore. There were some very large catfish-like bottom feeders. And there was one huge fish somewhat like a shark, maybe six feet from nose to tail and paraded around like a celebrity. There was one fish with another fish partly into its gullet, netted in mid-meal. Chef Andreas chose a trio for the ship’s restaurants—one was 14 kilos, 30-plus pounds—and a big, ugly catfish type that cost about $5 a kilo.
He shopped for fruit, settling for watermelon, vegetables such as gigantic red sweet peppers, herbs like cilantro, and Brazil nuts at a stall that also displayed the pod that holds the nuts until it bursts. All, he promised, would be served onboard. We ended our morning after two hours roaming the market with chef, hot but with a better understanding of what provisioning a cruise ship in a foreign port is like.
And that night in the Colonnade, a Brazil-themed dinner featured the ingredients we had helped shop for that morning. Its centerpiece was that huge catfish displayed in all its Amazonia glory, the flesh moist and tender. Our final dinner on Quest was one we had helped create.
The trip to the market with the Seabourn Quest chef was just one of many magical moments and special treats on this cruise, others were cruising the mighty Amazon which was the highlight of the trip and before dinner tippling at the Cheer’s –like bar where Martin, the barkeep, kept his Irish eyes on his patron making sure all drinks were freshened. The Observation Bar, which is located on deck 10, attracts a steady crowd of regulars and like in the TV series, “Cheers” everybody knows your name or face. Most spent quite a few hours perched on their bar stools, consequently consumed plenty of the free drinks (Seabourn offers inclusive fares). Other highlights were deck parties, evening shows such as one dedicated to Elton John, dinners on deck, early morning swims after fetching free cappuccinos from the popular Square and then enjoying breakfast on our suite balcony. You really should read the other articles on this page to get the full picture of just how well Seabourn does a cruise.