Editor’s Note: Cruises that go terribly or tragically wrong are always in the news, starting with the Titanic. But what about the many, many cruises that are sheer joy? Last year retired French professor Jeffry Foster went on a world voyage. We are presenting his diary in several parts. Here’s Part 2:
World Voyage Part 2
by Jeffrey Foster
Monday, January 9: The show last night was based on the last night of the Proms and Worbey and Farrell were absolutely delightful. If you can view them on Youtube, do so. I always enjoy listening to the last night of the Proms in mid-September on France Musique. It’s such fun.
For me, it is interesting to compare things from my more recent sailings aboard Cunard. While the food is of fine quality, it is not quite as good as it used to be. On my last voyage I reached the platinum level of the World Club and was given a very nice pin. After boarding this time, they were not aware that I received this pin several years ago, so they gave me another platinum pin. However, it certainly is not of the same quality of the first one. What has not changed is the first class white star service. As for the entertainment, the lecture series is still outstanding, the planetarium shows interesting, the dancers and singers enjoyable, the classical musicians : harpist and string quartet enjoyable and this time the R rated Carmen was different. I look forward to see what will be done during a world cruise.
This morning I attended two lectures : climbing Mt Cook iin New Zealand and a history of cruise ships. The QM2 is no longer the largest ship sailing. I cannot imagine the Allure and Oasis having about six thousand passengers ! For this sailing the QM2 had 2496 passengers with guests from over fifty nations. The kennels were full:seven dogs, three cats. The ship sailed into Southampton in the early hours of the morning, thus ending the transatlantic part of the cruise.
Tuesday, January 10: After breakfast, I joined an excursion called New Forest Scenic Drive. It is a short ride from the port to New Forest. This area was created by William the Conqueror for hunting. The Forest(which originally meant that it belonged to the king) is known for its natural beauty filled with its famous free running ponies, quaint villages and lovely landscapes. We were told that a pony is measured not by inches, feet or meters, but by hands and that a poney cannot be more than fourteen hands and two fingers ! Our first stop was the marina village of Hythe opposite where the ship berthed. We then proceeded to Beaulieu (pronounced biewlee)which dates back to the thirteenth century. Lyndhurst is the New Forest capital and is where Lewis Carroll’s friend who was the minister at the church lived. Carroll was fond of the minister’s family and made the minister’s daughter Alice the main character of his famoous work. She is buried in the churchyard. It is said that Carroll modeled the rabbit on the minister who was always hurrying about the place.
Tuesday, January 10:Last Thursday I received a very nice hand written letter welcoming me from the World Voyage Concierge. Today there was a letter from the Hotel Manager saying that he will contact us after each segment of the World Voyage for feedback. From 2:00 to 3:00 today we were invited to an informal cocktail reception to meet people who are going on the full cruise. This voyage is broken into six segments. There are only 283 of us for all six segments. Normally there are 600-700 people. I wonder if the economy is what is causing the reduction in number. We have a special room on Deck 11 set up for us every day with some refreshments.. While sitting in my room before dinner, there was a knock at the door and I had a delivery of a beautiful bromeliad. What a wonderful surprise ! I have met several people doing the full world voyage who are a pleasure to know.
Wednesday, January 11: This morning I attended a lecture on Madeira and I am eager to see it in person. Then it took a long while to attempt to get back on the internet. The connections are exceptionally slow and quite frustrating. This morning I attempted unsuccessfully to connect to a site and place an order for my medication. It wasted a minimum of fifteen minutes. We have to pay for internet use aboard. I finally managed in the afternoon to place the order… Fortunately I attended a talk on the World Club.
The World Club was started in the 1980′s and when I booked a translatlantic crossing then, there was absolutely no record of my voyages prior to that date. Therefore I could not receive credit for my Queen Elizabeth crossing in September 1962 and my return in June 1963 when I studied at the Sorbonne for the academic year. And then after taking a group of students from Colgate University to spend a spring semester in Dijon, I returned home that June 1971 aboard the QE2 with my yellow lab César in the kennel. Today I went to speak to the Club representatives and was finally awarded credit for those three sailings.
In the afternoon I attended a lecture on The British Royalty in films. There were over ninety films dealing with this subject and the lecturer emphasized Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria. It was lots of fun seeing excerpts of some very old films. After dinner, I attended the piano vocalist Jacqui Scott who starred in Cats and Evita in the West End of London. Her performance of songs from the Beatles to musicals was so entertaining that I was sorry when it was over.
Thursday, January 12: Finally a little sun this morning, so I strolled around the deck a couple of times before going to three lectures. The first « Game capture techniques in southern Africa » was given by a wildlife conservationist. His is a rather dangerous occupation, but his talk fascinating. The second quite nostalgic « Irving Berlin at the Movies » with many film clips. The third was a talk on Tenerife,Canary Islands.
Friday, January 13 MADEIRA: I took an excursion called « Coulours of Madeira »(Madeira means wood in Portuguese) .The only wild animal on the island is a rabbit ! The lush gardens have flowers all year because of its climate around Funchai (57°-79°) Because of its mountaneous terrain, one can experience the four seasons by simply going higher and higher on the isalnd. There are cable cars to assist with this We drove from the ship through Funchai to Camacha which is the center of the Madeira wickerwork. There was an interesting Catholic church and a very modern church. From there we went to the leading embroidery factory in Funchai where ALL work is done by hand. For me, I was thrilled since you all know how I love needlework. Then it was to the Funchai Market which is a social as well as commercial occasion.
The entrance walls are done in blue and white mosaic. The sidewalks are also mosaic. Before returing to the ship for lunch, we stopped by to sample Madeira wines. I was unaware that there are four kinds of Madeira wine from semi-dry to sweet and all are before or after dinner wines. I don’t ever think that I will forget the time I had in that embroidery factory. Besides the doylies and tableclothes with napkins, there were embroidery silk blouses, exquisite organdy white christening and confirmation dresses. It is a wonderful place for someone who enjoys handwork.
The Christmas flower here is not the poinsietta because it is an outdoors plant that grows up to two meters. Instead they fill the house with lady slipper orchids. At the market they were two for one euro. Flowers are so beautiful and inexpensive. Once back on the ship I was able to sit on my balcony and do some sudoku. In the harbor at the same time was a Canadian naval vessel. The French naval ship Mistral was waiting to take our spot at the port after we left.
Saturday, January 14 TENERIFE (Canary Islands, port of Santa Cruz): Today we had an Italian vessel from Genoa called Aïda parked in front of us. On its bow was painted huge big red lips, a perfect lack of taste ! It seems the Canary Islands were not named after the bird, but after the dogs(from the Latin for dog) that were originally found here. The island was formed by the volcanic rock of a dormant volcano. As a matter of fact the natural black sand beaches are from this volcano. The weather here is warmer than in Madeira. The Canary Islands belong to Spain, but are closer to Africa than to Spain. While there were many narrow streets, there are many more modern buildings than Madeira. I prefer the quaint, charming Madeira.
The excursion I took was called “Gardens of the Valley” . The Botanical Gardens were founded in 1788. The Risco Bello Gardens were quite different with waterfalls and terraces while the Orchid Gardens has the oldest dragon tree. A bus took us for a drive to the north side of the island to Puerto de la Cruz where we visited these three gardens. This is not the main season to see flowers. On the way back to the ship, it seemed that many people had heavy eyes and were yawning. I guess since we are in the country of the siesta, most of us needed one. All of these excursions have a good deal of walking. And on the ship, which is truly big, I walk for much of my exercise, rarely using an elevator. It’s so enjoyable having the perfect weather to be able to sit on my balcony. The show this evening featured another singer from London who did well with her songs but when she attempted Puccini and then Bizet it was torture to hear.
Jeff Foster is a professor emeritus who served as chair of the French Department at the College of Charleston, Charleston, SC. He has been a volunteer at the Spoleto Festival USA and has been the house manager of the Chamber Music Series for about thirty years. He loves to travel and goes to France every year.