TILBURY DOUBLE HEADER FOR CRUISE AND MARITIME

Marco Polo will have company at Tilbury come 2015

Marco Polo will have company at Tilbury come 2015

For the first time since the 1970’s. a British cruise company will have two passenger ships berthed at Tibury together on March 27th, 2015. Cruise and Maritime Voyages will have both the veteran Marco Polo and the newly acquired and refurbished Magellan, in the Essex port on the same day.

Celebrating her fiftieth anniversary with a series of gala sailings next year, the beautiful, 1965 built Marco Polo will be embarking passengers for a six night, ‘Springtime Gardens’ theme cruise that will take the 800 passenger, adults-only CMV stalwart to Amsterdam, Zeebrugge, Jersey, Guernsey, and Honfleur.

By way of contrast, the 46,052 ton, 1250 passenger Magellan -originally built for Carnival Cruises in 1985 as the Holiday- will be sailing for North Shields to embark further passengers for an eight night Norwegian Fjords cruise, following on from her original, twelve night maiden voyage.

For those interested to know such things, Marco Polo is scheduled to sail at 1600. A sailing time for the wait listed Magellan is not listed on the CMV website, but I assume that it will be pretty much around the same time. For passengers on both ships, it could make for quite an interesting dual procession down the Thames.

These are interesting times for CMV, as the line has also acquired the sleek, elegant Astor, as well as taking the famed Azores- the former Stockholm– on long term charter from Portuscale Cruises.

In addition, the company is getting it’s feet much wetter in the river cruise industry, with a trio of boats sailing the Rhine in 2015, as opposed to just one in 2014.

For Tilbury, and the newly named London Cruise Terminal, the presence of these two ships marks the greatest amount of alongside gross passenger tonnage in fifty years- almost 70,000 GRT for the two vessels combined. And, with more than 2,000 passengers to embark- and a similar number to disembark from the previous cruises- it should be a bumper day for the local taxi drivers and restaurants in the Essex port, famed for it’s links with Queen Elizabeth I and the arrival of the original, post war Caribbean immigrants aboard the Empire Windrush.

Before and after World War Two, Tilbury was a busy passenger port for liners of both P&O and Shaw Savill, running on the emigree trade to Australia and New Zealand. The arrival of large scale commercial aviation eventually put that trade to the sword, but now the Essex port is starting to see a slow but steady renaissance as a cruise port. With frequent train links from London stations such as Fenchurch, Tilbury is actually the most convenient departure port from central London.

Interesting times, for sure. As ever, stay tuned.

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REPORTS OF ‘ARMED MEN’ ON PASSENGER SHIP (SECOND UPDATE)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust breaking comes the news that an as yet to be named passenger ship (now positively identified as a small freighter, see update below) has sent a distress call after the discovery of ‘armed men’ on board.

The vessel- believed to be of Moldovan registry- is currently off the Greek island of Corfu. The registry seems to point towards this being a ferry, rather than a cruise ship.

The report came first via NERIT, the Greek state owned television media station.

Meanwhile, two Albanian seaman have been killed in attempting to rescue passengers and crew from the stricken Norman Atlantic ferry in the Aegean. It seems that the two men were part of a working tug boat crew.

And, despite claims that all rescue operations on the stricken ferry are complete- and the list of fatalities on board currently stands at ten- there seems to be a worrying discrepancy between the numbers actually reported as saved, and those counted as originally embarked via the passenger manifest. Four UK citizens are reported as among those rescued.

However, there has been widespread praise for the Italian master of the vessel. Captain Argilio Giacomazzi stayed in charge on board the stricken vessel for more than thirty-six hours after sending out the original distress call.

More details here as they come through. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: 

The highly regarded website, gCaptain (www.gCaptain.com) is reporting that the vessel sending the distress call is the BLUE SKY M, a small cargo carrier. She is said to be carrying several hundred migrants on board.

31ST DECEMBER UPDATE:

Latest reports state that the Blue Sky M was, in fact, abandoned by her crew at sea. No sign of any armed men has been found on board and the ship, carrying an estimated 1,000 mainly Syrian refugees, has been brought safely into the Italian port of Gallipoli.

NORMAN ATLANTIC; ROUNDING OUT A QUARTET OF TRAGEDIES

Virgin Atlantic had a lucky escape today

Virgin Atlantic had a lucky escape today

Reports state that as of noon today, the blazing ferry Norman Atlantic has now been completely evacuated, with the death toll now raised to ten people. The 27,000 ton ferry was on a routine voyage from Greece to Italy, with some 478 passengers and crew aboard, when a fire broke out on the vehicle deck in the early morning of December 28th. The sight of the drifting, blazing ferry has become one of the most sobering book ends to what has been, by any standard, something of a benchmark year for travel.

Our minds were focused on the sea back in the summer, when the ghastly remains of the Costa Concordia were raised from the waters off Giglio. There, the grisly carcass finally gave up the last of it’s thirty-two dead, before work began in Genoa on disposing of the hulk itself.

This, and the loss of no less than three major airliners- two from Malaysian Airlines and, just the other day, the jarring loss of an Air Asia flight, have kept the commercial aviation industry firmly in the spotlight, although for all the wrong reasons. Then, just today, a Las Vegas bound Virgin Atlantic flight was forced to make an emergency landing at London Gatwick because of unspecified undercarriage problems.

To the great relief of everyone- not least those on board- that saga had a far happier ending. But, with Al Qaeda now reportedly publishing manuals instructing would be solo suicide bombers on how to single out the best British Airways and Easyjet targets, the year is ending on a note of tension which is at it’s highest since 2001. Meanwhile, in the UK, the powers that be continue to fudge, fumble and prevaricate about increasing airport capacity in the London area. Though there are diametrically opposing views on the best way to proceed here, everyone does agree that some decisive action is needed. No signs of that thus far.

And yet, it is worth recording yet again that commercial aviation is, by far, the safest form of transportation on the face of the planet. For millions of business and leisure travellers, it remains quite literally the only game in town.

At the same time, a gradual drawing down of night trains across several key European routes will simply serve to funnel more people into planes and cars. A Catch-22 situation that shows no signs of any resolution.

These are just some of jarring, saddening and, at times, plain inhuman actions that mark out the end of this most unsettling of years.

Let’s all hope for a better, more harmonious travel year ib 2015, on land, sea, and in the air.

QUEEN MARY 2-A MUSICAL PROGRESSION

“I can always tell when a bad karaoke singer walks up to the mike. The drinks glasses start throwing themselves off the shelves.” Anonymous cruise ship bartender, 2014

“Madame Edith has a very unusual voice; was it trained?”

“Yes. But it escaped, and got back out into the wild again…” Rene Artois, cafe owner of Nouvignon, France

Lush and langourous; the string quartet performing in the Grand Lobby

Lush and langourous; the string quartet performing in the Grand Lobby

Ah, music at sea. It seems to be always in the background. And yet, all genres of music play a huge part in the enjoyment- or lack thereof- on a voyage of any kind.

This is all the more true on a transatlantic crossing on board Queen Mary 2, where passenger attention, shorn of the diversion of ports of call, invariably turns inward. And, on such voyages, the entertainment programmes are always far more extensive than on a normal, warm weather cruise.

On our voyage, the sheer size and scope of the Queen Mary 2 really worked to our advantage. The great liner has a vast entertainment handle, and no shortage of public rooms in which to showcase a wide range of musical disciplines to suit every taste, at almost any hour of the day and night. We were quite literally spoiled for choice.

Most nights, the Chart Room was suffused with the sounds of soft, sultry jazz, courtesy of the extremely talented Andrew Huggett trio. This beautiful room, expansive and softly lit, lends itself perfectly to the enjoyment of that most ageless of ocean liner combinations. Martinis and jazz on an ocean liner are as perfect and enduring a pairing as Fred and Ginger ever were.

There was a very talented show band, piano players and harpists, an excellent reggae band with a surprisingly diverse repertoire- Paul Anka’s classic Diana on steel drums, anyone?- and an extremely talented string quartet that used to play in the lobby some lunchtimes and evenings. In particular, this latter set up gave this greatest and most gracious of liners a sense of elegant, almost ethereal style. Like the jazz combo, their presence fitted the great ship to perfection. They were never less than a joy to hear.

And, of course, there was karaoke……

This happened only twice on the seven night crossing, perhaps out of consideration for the sensibilities of any sharks swimming adjacent to us.

But seriously, there were some very talented people on this ship. One particular lady did a rendition of the Carpenters’ Rainy Days and Mondays that filled the room like a powerful, quiet storm. I was awed by her.

QM2 passengers enjoy the big band dancing after dinner

QM2 passengers enjoy the big band dancing after dinner

Alas, others almost filled the lifeboats. One particular piece of weapons grade caterwauling set wolves howling from Tuscon all the way back to Tromso. No wonder one woman put paper napkins in her ears.

But even that misses the point, really. Music- certain songs, from certain genres and times- act like emotional lightning rods for all of us. They are, quite literally, the soundtrack to our lives, the highs and the low points alike. And how much we enjoy the quality of live music can add greatly to the enjoyment of any voyage.

On the Queen Mary 2, I was totally blown away- pun wholly intentional- by a rollicking, big band Dixieland concert in the Winter Garden. On another night, I sat spellbound as the string quartet served up a swish, lushly put together hour of Christmas classics in the Chart Room. With the vast, opulent ship beautifully decorated for the holidays, that concert had a sparse, poignant beauty that was impossible to describe, but equally impossible not to love. It was, quite simply, gorgeous.

And, at the other extreme, it was such fun to hit the two story G32 disco one night, and drink in an entire conga line of classics by Chic, Tavares and Earth Wind and Fire like fine wine. On a real Saturday night, Saturday Night Fever came back to life on the rocking and rolling ocean. It was like suddenly bumping into a posse of old, fondly remembered friends. Quite the night, that was.

And yet, above and beyond all this, it was the song performed by the Queen Mary 2 herself that really stayed with me. The sound of water swishing. boiling and hissing along those vast, imperious flanks; the gentle hum of the ventilators on deck and the subtle, gentle shudder underfoot.

And, most thrilling of all, the deep, sonorous boom of those great Tyfon steam whistles on the funnel as they roared out across the stony Atlantic, every day at noon. In it’s own way, this is a sound as timeless and classic as any Duke Ellington tune.

Music at sea. Yes, it matters. And on Queen Mary 2, as with so may other things on board, the quality really does fit the stage. Lovely stuff.

QUEEN MARY 2 PHOTO GALLERY

Here’s a series of interior and exterior shots, taken aboard Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 as she sailed westbound on her last scheduled transatlantic crossing of 2014. The monumental ocean liner left Southampton soon after midnight on December 15th, 2014,some seven hours late,  owing to a problem with one of the Azipods. None the less, she arrived in New York on time at 0630 the following Monday, December 22nd.

The weather was unusually calm for a crossing at any time of year, never mind one undertaken in the middle of December. At one stage assailed by a Force 9, the great, graceful ocean liner rode out the storm with astonishing grace and poise.

So, without further ado, I give you the legend that is Queen Mary 2. Enjoy!

The great, iconic funnel

The great, iconic funnel

The Grand Lobby

The Grand Lobby

Aft pool and murky Atlantic horizon.....

Aft pool and murky Atlantic horizon…..

Two Deck corridor

Two Deck corridor

Two Deck forward

Two Deck forward

Wall mural in the stunning Britannia restaurant

Wall mural in the stunning Britannia restaurant

The bow, pushing into a forbidding ocean

The bow, pushing into a forbidding ocean

Formal night in the Queens Room

Formal night in the Queens Room

The Queens Room

The Queens Room

Pavilion Pool at night, with the roof closed

Pavilion Pool at night, with the roof closed

Deck-ship-at sea

Deck-ship-at sea

Steamer chairs outside on promenade deck seven

Steamer chairs outside on promenade deck seven

Forward, covered promenade bulkhead on deck seven

Covered promenade on deck seven

The name says it all

The name says it all

My cabin, 12014. Deluxe balcony outside

My cabin, 12014. Deluxe balcony outside

Corridor bas reliefs are quite incredible

Corridor bas reliefs are quite incredible

LOUIS ANNOUNCES 2015 ITINERARIES FOR NEW SHIP

Celestyal is going to a three ship fleet as of May, 2015.

Celestyal is going to a three ship fleet as of May, 2015.

Celestyal Cruises has now got around to announcing a first set of itineraries for the recently acquired Celestyal Odyssey, originally built as the Olympic Explorer in 2002.

The 24,318 ton, 836 passenger ship will operate a series of three and four night itineraries from Athens, taking her to ports including Mykonos, Rhodes, Patmos, Kusadasi, Heraklion, and Santorini, beginning on June 8th through to July 10th, and resuming on September 11th through to October 16th.

In between, the Celestyal Odyssey will sail a new series of cruises that embark from both Izmir and Cesme in Turkey. While actual ports are yet to be announced, the line has stated that itineraries will feature a mix of old Aegean staples and some less visited, off the beaten track options. These will run right through July and August, and will also resume on October 19th.

The three and four night summer runs from Athens will complement the already popular, heavily booked itineraries offered by her larger fleet mate, the Louis Olympia. Typically, the three night cruises commence on a Friday before noon, and the four day ones kick off on Mondays. The extra day is typically spent in the beautiful port of Rhodes.

With a trio of smartly styled, ideally sized ships now in place for the summer of 2015 in the Greek Islands, the recently rebranded Celestyal Cruises will place an on board emphasis on Greek heritage, culture and cuisine to tie in with the myriad ports visited in the region. With an interior decor designed to enhance and illuminate the vast historical lore of these fabled waters, the Celestyal Odyssey will offer one of the best, most price effective and contemporary cruise experiences available to passengers in the region.

The Celestyal Odyssey features some 420 cabins, including a run of upper deck suites with private balconies, located amidships. She was originally built by Blohm and Voss in Hamburg, Germany, as one of a pair of very fast (27 knot) sister ships for the long since defunct Royal Olympic Cruises.

With a single, rakish funnel and long, low lines, the vessel has a sharp, artfully raked prow that gives her the appearance of a large private yacht. Her arrival reinforces the Celestyal brand to three, with the 24,000 ton Celestyal Cristal continuing to serve the seven day Greek Islands and Turkey cruise itineraries every Friday out of Lavrion.

Meanwhile, parent company Louis Cruises, continues to own and operate the veteran, 1968 built Louis Aura. At the present time, it seems likely that the former Norwegian Cruise Line  veteran will go back out on charter, possibly to French interests.

As ever, stay tuned,

QUEEN MARY 2- THE END OF THE ADVENTURE

Deck. Ship. At sea....

Deck. Ship. At sea….

By the evening of Sunday, December 21st, the Queen Mary 2 was just hours from her New York arrival. The weather had calmed, though it was still cold outside. Inevitably, our thoughts turned to our imminent reunion with reality, and our onward travel arrangements for the next day.

That last night on board passed as all final nights on a westbound crossing do; a frantic whirl of final drinks parties, lines at reception checking on final arrangements, the exchanging of contact details, last pictures and, of course, that final farewell dinner.

At some stage in the small hours of the morning, the Queen Mary 2 threaded her way upstream, passing the Statue of Liberty and the floodlit, steel and concrete forest of Manhattan, before making her way towards Red Hook. By the time I peeped out through the curtains of my room, the great liner was already docked, shackled to her specially built pier in Brooklyn.

The day was grey, and overlaid with swathes of mist. It matched my mood perfectly. I literally did not want to leave the Queen Mary 2, but knew that I had to.

One last. leisurely breakfast allowed me time to say goodbye to most of my table companions, and to thank the serving team that had looked after us so well for a week on the ocean. It would become more leisurely than anticipated, thanks to the shore authorities.

For reasons best known only unto them, the powers-that-be in Brooklyn held up the debarkation process, and a good few impatient passengers were left cooling their heels. This was much to the chagrin of the Cunard staff on board, who had no control over such events. They had 2700 passengers, plus their luggage, to disembark, plus another 2700 to embark for the Caribbean. The entire vast ship had to be cleaned, re-stocked and refreshed from bow to stern. Every single moment is precious on turnaround day.

We were finally cleared at around eleven 0’clock. The actual debarkation process and luggage collection took about an hour. It was painless, efficient and, together with two working contractors I had met on board on the last night, I took a cab to JFK airport.

The drive took around an hour. It cost $99, and all three of us later confessed our amazement at surviving the transfer. To call the driver ‘fast and furious’ would not be to do him discredit. We arrived at JFK both shaken and stirred.

The price was a good deal between three people; however, for individuals and even couples, the Cunard coach transfer service was a better deal, at $44 per head. A later Cunard option offered a sightseeing coach tour of New York, which finished at the airports (both Newark and JFK were offered) for around three in the afternoon. This costs $99 per person, and seems a good deal for those with late departing flights. It runs subject to numbers being available

All three of us fell into the late departure category but, with the Christmas rush season upon us, we all agreed that it was best to try and get through the refugee sized queues at check in as quickly as possible. With ample experience of flying on this day in the past, I was dreading JFK and the whole painful mess.

And then a real life, Christmas miracle happened….

Not only were the British Airways desks at Terminal 7 open a full six hours before departure, but we were the only three people in line. We were processed- and politely so- with incredible ease. But it was what followed that really took the wind out of our sails.

We all know the TSA security preparation drill, right? Remove all coats, shoes and belts. Anything metallic out of your pockets. Laptops removed from holdalls…

Well, not this time.

Notices before the scanners informed us that there was no longer any need for any of this hassle. Hardly daring to believe what I was reading, I rocked up wearing the lot. And I was processed, without fuss or effort, in a matter of minutes.

From arriving curbside at JFK, we had completed check in and security, to go airside in less than thirty minutes. On one of the busiest, messiest travel days of the year. Shocked? Yeah. Me, too.

So, there was time to eat, do some last minute Christmas shopping (some great warm weather clothing at good prices here) and have a final, farewell beer. My British Airways flight was called bang on time.

Right at the last minute came an early Christmas present; an at-the-gate upgrade to Club Class. I left New York with a smile on my face.

My last sight of the Queen Mary 2 had been as she sat alongside the Brooklyn terminal. I glanced back one last, long moment at her. The great, black and red Cunard smoke stack loomed sharp and proud against the grey skies and ranks of serried skyscrapers.

After a week of slicing through the Atlantic on this vast, wonderful creation, it was strange to see her stilled, silent and waiting; a stalled colossus, looming over the bustle all around her.

And that same evening, as my flight arced abruptly into the freezing Manhattan skies, somewhere down below, the Queen Mary 2 was heading downstream, bound for the balmy, welcoming waters of the Caribbean at Christmas.

If her passengers have half as much fun on board as we did, then my guess is that they will be going home with smiles on their faces, too. Quite the adventure, all things considered.

QUEEN MARY 2- THE NO RACE FOR SPACE OPTION

“Gotta go. Gotta go, get away…’ Georgie Fame

Deck. Ship. At sea....

Deck. Ship. At sea….

A few days away from New York now, and I’m already getting somewhat reflective on the adventure that is still unfolding like an old movie reel all around me.

Here on Queen Mary 2, there is the sense of being both participants in and, also, observers of some grand, period drama. Everything about the big liner is lavish, over sized and spectacular. Which, of course, is exactly what you would want from a ship that has this level of heritage, poise and breeding.

Wide, broad walkways form a series of spectacular thoroughfares throughout the public areas, flanked by enormous, brushed steel bas reliefs of life in ancient Egypt, Mexico and contemporary America, among others. These spaces, crowned by dramatic, almost double height ceilings merely serve to emphasize the colossal scale and grandeur of this Cunard paragon. She’s an exciting, beautiful and charismatic lady.

But the real sense of space is betrayed by the numbers on board. Built for a maximum of 2700 passengers- and the ship is pretty much full for this westbound crossing- the Queen Mary 2 has far more personal space than many similar sized cruise ships, which usually pack in around 4200 passengers on board.

There are times when you literally find yourself wandering deserted corridors on board. But- my word- make sure you grab a window table before 11.30 in the Golden Lion if you want first dibs at the delicious ritual of a British pub lunch at sea, It’s like that every day, too.

And yet sometimes, there are moments so warm and wonderful that they bind everybody in the vicinity like some sinuous, silken web. Last night, before dinner, a string quartet swung lushly through a series of popular old Christmas themed standards in the Chart Room for an hour or so. With the magnificently decorated corridors as a backdrop, it assumed a quite magically beautiful feel. You would have to be made of stone to have been unmoved.

And there lies another truth; out here, every feeling and sensation seems to be heightened, sharper, somehow more intense. I have always called this strange, intangible feeling ‘sea magic’, because it certainly does not exist on dry land.

There is real harmony and contentment out here in this charmed, artificial place, in this magnificent palazzo on the ocean which is, for now, our entire world. No matter that the seas outside are a surging, roiling mess. No matter that the wind is howling like a cross between an angry banshee and a Celine Dion mega mix.

Why would it matter, when the food remains superb, and the Martinis are sublime? We drift through a series of spectacular, deftly served public rooms, not always sure of where we are heading, or even why.

We bump into friends and exchange gossip. We make new friends, and often delight in the series of suddenly discovered, quirky co-incidences that bind us together on some strange level.

But, most of all, we just move like wraiths through this astonishing hinterland, this unique pastiche of space and grace. We savour it’s grandeur and warmth like fine wine and, of course, we dread the inevitable, looming end of the show.

Such is the world of the transatlantic liner in the 21st century.

QUEEN MARY 2: IN HER OWN TIME

“We have all the time in the world….” Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong

Deck. Ship. At sea....

Deck. Ship. At sea….

Truer words were seldom said. Here in the surreal, floating fantasy world that is Queen Mary 2 on the Atlantic, time is not at a premium.

We have embarked on a crossing, rather than a cruise. Stripped of the need to go ashore every day or so, our attentions have turned inwards, towards our fellow ship mates and our own, often suppressed sense of personal indulgence.

Here, each day on the Atlantic is like a blank canvas, and each is yours to fill- or leave blank- as you desire. There is a mind boggling programme of scintillating lectures, a huge, expansive library, and a spa so big and all embracing that it makes relaxation a pure art form.

There is a high rolling casino, an entire arcade of luxury shops, and more bars, lounges and restaurants than you can possibly take in. You can do all of it, or absolutely none.

For here, time becomes your own once more. There is time for a lie in, time to take an hour over breakfast. Time to have breakfast in bed, even.

There is time for a brief, snatched conversation with a stranger in a lift to blossom into a blooming, beautiful friendship. Time to spend with friends, to make new ones. To rediscover the virtues of old ones.

Our days on QM2 have a strange dual quality. They seem to unravel so slowly, yet they are, in fact, actually passing at a steady rate of knots. We are already more than half way across the Atlantic, yet it seems like only five minutes since our delayed departure from Southampton.

And people seem kinder, more relaxed. People show each other courtesy and respect. Smiles are everywhere. Even the kids seem extraordinarily well behaved.

For sure, we are cocooned in what can only be described as a kind of pampered stupor. And, lord knows, this pretty balloon will burst with one almighty bang when we reconnect with reality- that strange, absurd concept- when we dock on Monday.

I know it is coming, and I eye its approach with a kind of uneasy dread. But for now, the carnival that is Queen Mary 2 is whirling and pirouetting at a magical rate of knots. There is still no shortage of indulgence on offer.

And that is a truism for every soul on board; you can be as sociable or solitary as you wish, day in and out, and no one will chide you for it. You can splash out, just chill out, or go somewhere down the middle.

As usual, Satchmo had it right. Love to all.

QUEEN MARY 2- FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD…..

“I hear you’re leaving the ship tomorrow, darling. What time is the crane arriving to pick you up?’ Anonymous

When life gives you peaches and ice cream.....

When life gives you peaches and ice cream…..

So, welcome back to the Queen Mary 2 as we continue on our course to New York. The weather has taken a bit of a turn for the worse out here. Captain Oprey tells us we have 2,000 miles to go to New York.

Nothing serious weather wise, just higher winds and more aggressive waves. For the first time, there is a pronounced pitch as the ship drops at the bow. When the bow slams back into those charcoal grey, white flecked rollers, it does so with an audible thump.

But I digress. Today- like most days out here- is all about the food.

I have a wonderful table in the pretty little Britannia Club restaurant. With flexible dining times for all main meals, our table for eight might have a mix of three to seven dining companions at any one time.

It’s a pleasant, well travelled, generous bunch of souls. Multi- national, too, with Croatia, England, France, Germany and America all represented round one table. Their tales and exploits provide me with daily food for thought. For sure, boredom is not on the verbal menu here.

We are also being looked after very well. With pleasant, competent wait staff that are attentive without being overly intrusive, meals are a focal point of our days and nights on the Atlantic.

Last night, an excellent Chateaubriand and a light as air Lemon Souffle got the universal thumbs up around the table. And breakfasts here are far more leisurely affairs than the buffet up in the huge King’s Court area on Seven Deck.

I mean, when was the last time that you took an hour or more over breakfast, lounging over waffles, good bacon, fresh fruit and cereal, with a side order of rolling ocean views through the big, floor to ceiling windows? For sure, the best way to start the day.

Of course, these are not your only options. Far from it. Breakfast in bed is an alternative that I intend to try. For lunch, there’s the always popular Golden Lion pub. Like it’s illustrious predecessor of the same name on QE2, it does a wonderful Shepherd’s Pie, or there is also Bangers and Mash. As ever, the Fish and Chips wins out for yours truly.

Tonight, I’m looking forward to dinner in the Todd English restaurant. Located up on Eight Deck, this room incurs an extra charge per item, and needs to be booked in advance. However, the reputation of Boston-born Chef English is sufficiently stellar to make it well worth doing. And, as I’m dining with a couple of fellow ocean liner enthusiasts, you can safely bet that there will be a hefty side order of maritime history on the menu.

King’s Court, located amidships, literally provides food around the clock, as well as 24/7 free tea, coffee and soft drinks.

And- should I not feel inclined to take the trek to any of these venues, room service can rustle me up a Caesar Salad, a BLT or a Minute Steak, among many others. This comes without any charge.

So, that’s it for now. I am off to check out the vast, sprawling Canyon Ranch spa after lunch. It is possible that I may spend some time in the pool and hot tub, wallowing like some supine, bloated sea monster after my lunchtime indulgence.

Of course, all of this is purely in the interests of research…..

Stay tuned for more dispatches from the Atlantic Front, coming soon.