This week’s dream:

Old England on the high seas

An ocean liner is different from a cruise ship, said Beverly Beyette in the Los Angeles Times. “Purists sometimes dismiss cruise ships as clusters of floating flats” that quickly return to the same port from which they departed. Liners, on the other hand, cross oceans and may not return to a port of embarkation until much later. The Queen Victoria, the newest Cunard liner, is the latest entry in a grand tradition of gracious ocean-liner elegance that has included the Queen Mary, the Queen Elizabeth, and the QE2. The library on Deck 2 is a showpiece, with a spiral staircase, leather chairs, and a skylight. This deck also contains the red-plush-and-gilt Royal Court Theater, and an assortment of bars and lounges cluster around the triple-decked Grand Lobby “with its make-an-entrance staircase.” “Let the others have their casual dress, free-choice dining, and rock climbing.” I’ll take Victoria’s formality. After all, “a Cunard voyage is special.”

Cunard sells not only elegance but Britishness, and “clings fiercely” to such

British traditions as afternoon tea served by white-gloved waiters. Victorian decor is evident everywhere—crystal chandeliers, mosaics, marble, and art deco and art nouveau touches. Places to eat and drink include a casino, the very clubby Commodore Club on Deck 10, the intimate Todd English restaurant, and the Golden Lion pub, which serves up bangers and mash and fish and chips to the lunch crowd. Recent entertainment included a Victorian music-hall show enthusiastically cheered on by British passengers waving miniature Union Jacks—as many Americans in the audience stood by “bewildered.”

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The ship does make stops for shore excursions during its voyages—Lisbon and northern Spain in my case. “Daily programmes” include “fencing classes, napkin folding, whist,” and lectures by celebrities—actress Sylvia Syms and race-car driver Jackie Stewart are two recent examples. Some passengers complained of price-gouging and souvenir hawking, but there was simply so much to like. Did I mention the harpist at tea, the string quartet in the Grand Lobby, and the collection of historical Cunardiana?


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