Saturday, June 20, 2009

Cunard Adventure: Part I

Through our ten-year marriage (celebrated yesterday, by the way), Rod and I have sniffed dismissively at the prospect of a cruise. None of it appealed: the fixed itinerary, the canned entertainment, the excessive quantities of food, and, worst of all, the thought of being mewed up with all those people. So it was with some shock that I learned Rod had booked us on an Atlantic crossing on the Queen Mary II, the flagship of the Cunard line.

I have now been on board for roughly eighteen hours, not enough time to form definitive opinions but certainly a sufficient span from which to jot down initial impressions.

The QMII earns its reputation for luxury. Our "Princess" suite features a comfortable queen-sized bed, walk-in closet, sofa and sitting chair, and various other amenities such as a little fridge and stemware. We have a nicely apportioned balcony with two deck chairs. Weather permitting, we can sit outside and gaze at the Atlantic.

Public areas are also quite grand, with sweeping staircases and plush carpeting. Everything is immaculate and staff materialize out of thin air with the quiet, helpful advice one expects from Cunard's famed "white glove" service. My favorite area, perhaps predictably, is the handsome, wood paneled library, which houses over 8,000 volumes and contains lovely desks and seating areas. Afternoons will me find comfortably settled in one of the overstuffed chairs, working on my book or blogging about the QMII.

Many of the other public spaces, while grand, are not to my taste. I suppose I expected something out of Noel Coward--the sort of art deco or high modernist furnishings that The Shakespeare Theatre Company recreated so lovingly in their current production of Design for Living. Instead Cunard has gone for a style I can only describe as "Vegas with taste," which means that it isn't very tasteful at all. Beiges, pale woods, and muted golds predominate, but the carpeting is faux leopard while trim is gilt. Never in my life have I seen such a surfeit of bad art. I'm not sure what the designers were thinking.

Food so far is good but not superlative. We dined last night at the Princess Grill, and I had a very respectable haddock, preceded by a chilled asparagus soup. Both were fine. Rod started with an excellent pumpkin soup, followed by a very good crab cake. Dessert, however, was a disappointment. The grill made us a special little cake for our anniversary, which we shared with other guests at our table. A sponge cake with whip cream and strawberries, it was not to my liking.

As we went to bed, winds increased and the seas roughened, not a good foreboding for tomorrow.

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