While many people prefer port-intensive cruise itineraries, I absolutely love the days at sea. This itinerary from Cape Town to Southampton has many days at sea. In fact 10 of the 16 days are sea days. There is so much to do on board that it is impossible to get to do everything I would like. Another difference for me from the majority of my previous dance cruises, is the fact that I can take advantage of different dining experiences on board, without feeling anti-social because I am not dining with the group.
On this ship, in the evening the Chef's Galley is offering three different international menus. One is Coriander, Indian cuisine; the second is La Piazza, Italian food and the third is Lotus, Asian food. To enjoy one of these dinners, you need to reserve, and there is a supplement of $10 per person. We visited all three during these sea days. The other dining option is the Todd English restaurant, open for lunch or for dinner. Here the menu is al la carte and a bit more pricey, but the food is excellent.
On this cruise, I chose to book several excursions as there is so much to see and I was hoping for excellent and knowledgeable guides. However in Lesbos I planned to simply walk around the harbour area of Mytilene and find a taverna to have a lunch of calamari and Greek salad.
Amazingly for this time of year, the weather was again very good- sunny and quite warm. For this dance-camp on board we decided to schedule dance lessons for mid-morning. I was craving the authentic Greek style calamari that I remembered from years past so the plan was to go ashore and find a seafood tavern in the harbor area.
The Queen Elizabeth docked in Mykonos in the new port area, a short drive round the bay from the old port and harbor front area. Shuttle buses were running back and forth between the two areas for most of the day. I signed up for a morning excursion to Delos, a short boat ride from Mykonos.
Although I have cruised several times on the Queen Mary 2 (and love cruising on this ocean liner) and once on the Queen Victoria, this was my first time on board Cunard's Queen Elizabeth. Once I had checked out my cabin and seen that my luggage was not yet there for me to unpack, I took my camera and went exploring. Very quickly I realized that I liked the smaller, more intimate feel of this ship which has the capacity for 2,092 passengers compared to the maximum passenger capacity of 3090 of her larger sister ship.
The ship is 964 ft long and is the second-biggest Cunard ship, with the Queen Mary 2 (QM2) being the largest at 1132 ft long. Whereas it often takes me till the end of the cruise to figure out where I am on the QM2 (I am a bit directionally and spatially challenged) I felt I could quite quickly figure out my space and directions on the Queen Elizabeth.
The Air Canada flight from London to Vancouver departs Heathrow around 10 in the morning. Disembarking in Southampton from the Queen Victoria after the Ballroom Dance Cruise around the British Isles, I knew that there would be no way to catch that flight, so I had elected to stay overnight at the Sheraton Heathrow Hotel near the airport and travel back to Canada the following day.
A friend, Nancy, who was traveling back to the US also had a flight the day after the cruise, so we decided to take a Thames River Dinner Showboat Cruise.
Several of us had booked a van to drive us from Southampton to London. After dropping the others off at the Heathrow terminals, the driver took us to our hotel. We had to wait quite a while to check in which was a bit annoying but we had arrived before the official check-in time so we could not really complain.
After leaving Halifax we had a full day at sea en route to Quebec. The dance workshops and dance lessons that filled the sea days can be read about in Dance Boot camps at Sea.
While we danced on cruise day 5, the Queen Mary 2 sailed North-East from Halifax till she rounded Cape Breton and entered the Cabot Strait which marks the entrance to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Entering the St. Lawrence River we berthed at the port of Quebec.
I have visited Quebec City several times since we stayed a few nights in the city on our cross-Canada journey so many years ago. On each subsequent occasion it was for a scientific congress and so I had less time to explore the city than I would have liked.
Halifax has a special importance for me as it was our entry point to Canada almost 40 years ago when we immigrated with our three young children from South Africa. Our original intent had been to land as far east as we could and then take a couple of weeks and drive the trans-Canada highway to Vancouver. This cross-Canada journey had been an adventure that my husband had wanted to do as a boy. Where this idea came from I have no idea but at last here was the opportunity for him to do it.
From a practical perspective, when we found out that there was no direct flight to St. Johns, Newfoundland but there was one to Halifax, it was a no-brainer to decide that Halifax would have to do and we would have to complete the Nova Scotia- eastwards part of the highway travel at a later date. So it was Halifax we flew into and there that we officially became landed immigrants to our new country. We spent a few days there, drove out to Peggy's Cove; bought a VW Camper to drive cross country. Got to Fredericton and the engine packed up. Not good. We spent several days - unplanned - in Fredericton waiting for parts.
After a busy day and the very satisfying but filling lobster lunch at the Fish House Grill in Bar Harbor I felt as if I would not want to eat again for a year.
But we were asked to gather for group pictures before dinner, so there I was at dinner time with the gang in the lobby, watching Wendy try to marshal her staff for the pictures of the hosts for this cruise.
Wendy was trying to get everyone together while Honey was adjusting Chris's cummerbund and Bruce was giving advice in the background.
Imogen and I took advantage of the moment to get a photo too.
Bar Harbor, Maine - day three of the Autumn Escape East Coast ballroom dancing cruise.
Our stop in Bar Harbor was memorable for two things- the tour of Acadia National Park with stunning views out over Frenchman Bay; and the buttery, lobster lunch that left us messy and smelling of shellfish but smiling in total gastronomic happiness.
The Queen Mary 2 dropped anchor out in the bay beyond the sandbar from which Bar Harbor gets it's name, and we were tendered into the port. Bar Harbor is known for being "cottage country" for the ultra rich and famous in the mid-19th century. Although the cottages were in fact palatial mansions. Most were destroyed by a massive fire in 1947. Now it is a summer resort dominated by inns, motels and bed and breakfasts, with a tiny permanent population of around 4800 people.
There is a very picturesque harbor with a tourist centre advertising the wide range of water-activities available. Some of these activities include whale watching aboard jet powered Australian designed catamarans that take you 20 miles south of Bar Harbor where the larger whales feed. They often see harbor porpoises, sharks, seals, pods of pilot whales, dolphins and often humpbacks, Minkes and finback whales. You can sign up for a lobster fishing and seal watching boat tour or even head into Acadia national park and take a rock climbing course.
However my organized roomie, Carol had booked us on Oli's Trolley Sightseeing tour, a one hour sightseeing ride that includes a 15 minute stop at the summit of Cadillac Mountain, and a stop at Thunder Hole. It was a good choice.
We disembarked from the tender and made our way up to the landing. As we rounded the corner of the building we were entranced by the fragrant scent of freshly baking, and there in the window we saw a tray of freshly made blueberry muffins.
We promptly turned round and headed into the bakery/cafe where I bought a delicious blueberry muffin and Carol acquired blueberry scones. Great marketing technique. They say olfactory stimuli are among the most powerful sensory inputs and it certainly worked on us.
Fortunately my friend Carol is a great organizer because left to me, I would probably not see much of the various ports at which we call. Remember for me its the journey! But thanks to Carol we had a itinerary planned for this first destination in Boston.
We decided to have an early breakfast in the King's Court buffet, where we met up with Dorothy and Bruce, and enjoyed a good chat. I was scheduled to have a lesson with Honey at 9:30 so I headed down to G32 where we worked on styling and following. Its those arm movements that get me every time. I think I have to just get less self-conscious and just let my arms move naturally.
After the lesson I found Carol waiting in the cabin and we headed ashore. We had booked a Boston Duck Tour and needed to get to the Tour start center at the Prudential Building.We got there a little early and wandered through the shopping center before returning to wait for our tour.