Cerebral Crossing, Part Three

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Night moves aboard the newly remastered QUEEN MARY 2, as she continues eastbound from New York to Southampton.

Cunard Line

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THE SANDS OF ALANG: The latest DVD about shipbreaking in Alang, India

All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2016 unless otherwise noted.

Wednesday, October 12 — Tuesday, October 18, 2016

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“Transatlantic” treadmills.

Our late seating dinner afforded time for an early evening regimen in the well-equipped fitness center on forward Deck 7. In the center of the room, there is a wonderful melamine panel set entitled “Transatlantic” that captures the essence of working out on a crossing with a nod to the transatlantic mural in the original QUEEN MARY’s first class dining room.

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Cardio on the port side.

Invariably, we would flock to one of the elliptical machines on the port side of the fitness center, which, unlike many floating gyms, boasts a lofty ceiling. No hunched-over cardio this week!

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Britannia Restaurant, facing aft from Deck 3.

Dinner in the Britannia Restaurant is offered in early (5:30) and late (8:30) seatings for those in standard cabins like our Sheltered Verandah and Interiors. For those in slightly more prime Verandah Staterooms, there is an open seating option in the Britannia Club annexes on aft Deck 2 which offer a few variations on the standard Britannia menue.

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Olé soufflé.

We had table 346, a two-top hidden in the aft recesses of the Deck 3 balcony. It was far removed from the hustle and bustle of the room’s towering epicenter but the staff, under the direction of head waiter Narciso, made us feel front row/center with their doting service and attention to detail. And extra props to them for always having cruets of balsamic vinegar and olive oil waiting for us. As mentioned in the prior post, the Britannia fare is hearty and well varied. The standout dish was a piping hot chocolate soufflé that was pierced with a dash of molten chocolate sauce.

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Bamboo boys.

As a result of the remastering, a portion of the newly remodeled Kings Court buffet venue on Deck 7 now becomes a specially themed, candle-lit, extra-tariff ($17.50) dining venue each night. On our crossing, it altered between American Cuisine, Bamboo (Pan Asian) and La Piazza (Italian). We opted for a night in Bamboo.

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Bento box in Bamboo.

The Bamboo menu offers three courses that include a starter, an entrée and dessert. I began with a nice Bento Box that was modified for my non-shellfish/beef-seeking palate.

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Indonesian chicken in Bamboo.

For the main course, I went with a tangy Indonesian Chicken with Peanut Sauce.

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The Verandah Restaurant, facing port.

Another extra-tariff dining option, the Veranda Restaurant, is located on aft Deck 4. Replacing Todd English, the revamped space now boasts new soft fittings and paintings inspired by the Doris Zinkheisen circus murals in the QUEEN MARY’s Verandah Grille.

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The Verandah Restaurant, facing starboard.

The Verandah Restaurant commands a rather steep $49.50 per person but the service and setting are impeccable — white glove and then some!

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Palate-cleansing intermezzo in the Verandah Restaurant.

The new menu is French-themed and features a variety of rich and exotic choices that are surf-and-turf-centric.

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Inverting the ratatouille in the Verandah Restaurant.

There are a few nice vegetarian selections in the Verandah, including an expertly presented “Inverted Ratatouille” that was as tasty as it was innovative.

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Princess Grill, facing aft.

One evening, we were invited to dine in the Princess Grill. Although not quite to the standards of the spectacular Queens Grill on the starboard side (see first post), the hallowed bistro on aft/port Deck 7 has been refreshed with new soft fittings.

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Princess Grill setting.

Cunard’s current Grill Class dining structure originated in 1968/9 with the advent of the QUEEN ELIZABETH 2. It was Cunard’s way of providing top tier suite and penthouse guests with an extraordinary, exclusive dining experience without segregating the ship into the class divisions of yore (although the QE2 did, indeed, operate as a two class ship in her early transatlantic service). Needless to say, the Grills were the stuff of legend in the days before multiple, extra-tariff dining choices became the industry mode.

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An evening in the Grill.

Our Grill sampling was enjoyed on one of the three formal nights. I might add that the other four evenings were Informal, with jacket required, so casual interlopers need not apply. This is Cunard, after all, and guests must observe the stated dress code in all dining venues except the King’s Court buffet on Deck 7.

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QUEEN MARY bling.

We spiced things up with some original QUEEN MARY cufflinks that were gifted by a thoughtful friend.

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Scallops in the Grill.

Since my mostly vegetarian Princess Grill options weren’t as photogenic, I’ll share some of Mike’s choices, which included a seafood salad and…

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Escargot in the Grill.

…escargot. In addition to the regular courses, the breads were utter perfection, as were the petits-fours that drew our evening in the Grill to a close.

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Fiberoptics and piano in the Commodore Club.

On a few nights, we made time between dinner and the late show to listen to the excellent pianist in the Commodore Club, which, with its shades drawn and vivid fiberoptic lighting, takes on o completely different look.

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LED screen in Royal Court.

Versus movies in Illuminations and ballroom dancing in the Queens Lounge, the Royal Court was the setting for the QM2’s mainstage live entertainment. Its new LED-enhanced proscenium and backdrop and state-of-the-art sound and lighting put it in the upper echelon of sea-going show rooms.

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“Rhythm Of The Night” with the Royal Cunard Singers and Dancers and The Royal Court Theater Orchestra.

The Royal Cunard Singers and Dancers offered up Broadway-style fare headed by four vocalists and a troupe of dancers backed by the eight-piece Royal Court Theater Orchestra.

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Mr. and Mrs. Ben Makisi light up the stage.

One of the most outstanding joys of the week was the gifted tenor from New Zealand, Ben Makisi. His sparkling, crystalline voice showcased every style, from Rossini to Maori and Adele…and then some! His adoring wife even joined him on stage for a musical ode to their homeland.

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Conjuring up Benny Goodman in the Royal Court.

Another fantastic performance came courtesy of clarinet, saxophone, ukelele and banjo player, Kenny Martyn, whose Benny Goodman tribute was tonic for the soul.

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Masquerade in the Queens Lounge.

My two left feet steered me clear of the dance floor in the Queens Room but it was nice to peek in at the various masquerades and balls held there. And speaking of two left feet, just beyond the Queens Room, of course, there was the night owls’ pulsating netherworld of G32.

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Midnight on the promenade.

After the late show, we would more often than not head up to the Kings Court on Deck 7 for a cookie and a glass of ice water before taking a stroll around the promenade.

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Night wing: Aglow on the Atlantic.

From the forward end of the promenade, it was a quick panoramic elevator ride to those wings on Deck 11, for a view of the floodlit funnel over spotlit seas.

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Full moon on the face.

But nothing that week would match the intensity of the full moon beaming down on the “face” of the QM2 as she neared the end of her crossing.

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Captain Oprey in command.

In the sitting area on the newly extended starboard bridge wing, I was granted a visit with QM2‘s esteemed Captain Kevin Oprey. One of Cunard’s most popular masters, he hails from Southampton and grew up during the final heyday of the great British Blue Water liners. His grandfather was reputed to be a clipper ship captain and his father commanded the tender that ferried passengers to and from the great liners that would anchor in the Solent. As a boy, he not only got to witness the comings and goings of the Union-Castle, P&O, Shaw Savill (his brother was a purser on the NORTHERN STAR and SOUTHERN CROSS) and other esteemed liners but thanks to his father’s tender service, he would spend hours wandering the halls and decks of ships like the original QUEENs MARY and ELIZABETH, the CARONIA, HAL’s NIEUW AMSTERDAM, the AMERICA and UNITED STATES, the FRANCE and even a few slightly more obscure objects of sea-going desire like the Dutch WILLEM RUYS and ORANJE. As an adult, the good captain went on to serve aboard a wide variety of vessels, including some of Royal Caribbean’s recent newbuilds before switching over to his favorite ship, the QUEEN MARY 2.

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Aft from port wing at sea.

Captain Oprey actually signed off at the end of our crossing but will be returning to the helm of the QM2 when she begins her world cruise next year. Sadly for his many admirers, he will then take a short break before rejoining the ship again at the end of her long voyage and then sign off for good. Hopefully, he will have time to finish his autobiography, which should be packed with all sorts of fascinating anecdotes about a master mariner’s life at sea.

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”Robbie” Howie, HD to the Queen.

QM2‘s Hotel Director Robert Howie is another man whose work schedule is nothing short of mind-boggling. The Scotsman’s seafaring days date from the pre-Carnival Princess Cruises era, when he served aboard the line’s pioneering “Love Boats” PACIFIC and ISLAND PRINCESS. He helped “bring out” no less than eight vessels, including the Renzo Piano-designed (first) CROWN and REGAL PRINCESS and members of the subsequent Sun and Grand Class platforms. He even spent an eventful year in Nagasaki for the Mitsubishi-built SAPPHIRE and DIAMOND PRINCESS. Known as “Robbie” by an ardent following of appreciative guests, he is one of those gifted people that makes what he does seem all too easy. On the morning I stopped by, he was juggling the ship’s behind-the-scenes hotel operations, impending customs/immigration minutaie (it was the day prior to arrival in Southampton) and the aftermath of a passenger’s medical emergency.

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Southampton.

The QUEEN MARY 2 delivered on her promise to get us from New York to Southampton in a leisurely seven days. We are very fortunate that there is a market for such a mighty and unique vessel that can fulfill the duties of both a liner and a modern cruise ship. And, thanks to her remastering, she really is better than ever.

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Ocean Terminal blues.

We bid farewell to the magic ship at the conclusion of Voyage M622 in the gray Southampton drizzle as our coach motored off to London.

End Of Cerebral Crossing

Very special thanks: Jackie Chase, Meryl Press

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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