Sitting by myself, anticipating Afternoon Tea to start, a familiar tune flows in from the Piazza. The Romantic Strings Trio opens with Edvard Grieg’s “Peer Gynt” and my worries start melting away. My shoulders relax, the tension releasing. The live trio of two violins and a cello are lovely on the ears and the perfect accompaniment to Royal Afternoon Tea on the Regal Princess cruise ship.
I adore High Tea: the fun finger sandwiches, cream puffs, scones, and delicious tea. If you checked my pantry, you’d think I was running my own tea shop. After trying different treats in what I like to refer to as “The Hall of Desserts,” I was curious to taste the samplings offered in this exclusive event — well, as exclusive as you can get on a cruise ship.
I missed the first sign up day and had to go on a waiting list until a spot opened up on the final sea day of the cruise. For an additional $10, fellow passengers like myself could sit down to enjoy three rounds of tea matched perfectly to a coordinating tier of featured treats.
The first tea was a black Darjeeling designed to pair with the sandwiches on the bottom tier of the serving tray. Of course, sitting by myself meant double the delights. I tried a chicken salad sandwich and then a cucumber sandwich. I was surprised that the cucumber sandwich, the one I had been looking forward to the most, and have made several times over the years, was the least appetizing. Everything about it was wrong. The cucumber was more of peelings, rather than slices, and the peeling consisted mostly of it’s hard outer layer.
The good news was, if you really liked a sandwich, you could ask for another one. I had plenty to spare. The passenger to my left asked for another tuna sandwich, but I think she meant chicken.
The second tea featured was a tropical green tea that was meant to compliment the sweets on the middle tier. Whoops! I already got a head start on that one. The cream puff was exactly what I hoped it would be and it was luscious. With no hesitation, I then went straight for the chocolate roll with the strawberry swirl.
I was only half-listening to the history lesson on the background of afternoon tea when my eyes focused in on the fruit tart, which actually looked like a little fruit canoe. It was so good that I started dribbling drool as I took a tiny bite and I thought, “I’ll definitely be eating another one of these!”
There was a break in the music as the lead musician announced that they would be playing two pieces by Strauss next. I took a minute to examine the other offerings on the table. I wasn’t sure what to do with the glass of mixed berries next to me, but the couple at the next table poured some cream into theirs, so I decided to try the same, just to see what it tasted like.
When the waiter walked around and placed new cups for the third round of tea, I couldn’t help but feel like I was in Alice in Wonderland with the Mad Hatter shouting, “Clean cup, clean cup. Move down, move down!” The Strings began playing Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Memory.” I noticed the 20 people accompanying me all happily chatting among themselves in the roped off area. It was definitely the most relaxing common area on the ship.
The third tea was a white orchard tea with hints of melon and peach. The peach scent was strong from the moment it was poured into my cup, very aromatic. The scone — like heaven. From the first bite, I experienced soft, sweet, buttery baked goodness. Too much?
And then it was time for dessert. Oh yes, there was a dessert on top of all this great food. It was a traditional English pudding. I couldn’t help myself from bringing the cup close to my face and inhaling its sweet scent. The taste, however, was not as amazing. The fruity layer under the marshmallow clashed with the cold cream under it.
I was stuffed. Impressively, the meal concluded on time at 4:45 p.m. as a pianist sat down in the Piazza, ready to start his set.
Drink of Choice: Tropical Green Tea