Queen Mary 2

p1150103-w500-h500.jpgThree hundred and fifty kilometres within the Arctic Circle, lies the city of Tromso, our furthest north destination of this Norwegian Fjords cruise to the Arctic Circle..

At about  7 AM yesterday morning the Queen Mary 2 crossed into the Arctic Circle. I  was watching the seas from my verandah. The sky was clouded and gray-blue waters stretched out to the horizon.

There was not a ship in sight, and sadly, King Neptune did not appear from the depths in person to issue his call (as written in the Daily Programme) for “all icebergs, sea lions, narwhals,  polar bears, whales, mermaids and other creatures of the frigid north to show due deference and respect to all those bluenoses crossing over into the northern reaches” of his realm. So just like crossing the equator, I had to take the crossing of “the line” on faith. Hard for an empiricist to do.

Madeira is a lush green island, the largest in the Madeiran Archipelago west of Morocco and about 280 nautical miles north of Gran Canaria. Ilha da Madeira translates from Portuguese as Island of timber. 

Madeira holds a special sentimental value for me as I noted in a previous post (Cape town to Southampton: cruise days 12 to 16).

We docked in Funchal, the capital city, on the southern coast of the island. The name derives from funcho,  Portuguese for fennel, a plant that grew abundantly in the area.

While the last post was weighted in favour of dining - no pun intended- in this one I will post more formal pictures. 

Monday 21st, 2013 Las Palmas at Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria is an island approximately 150 kilometers west of the north-western coast of Africa, at the border between Morocco and Western Sahara.It is the second most populated island of the Spanish archipelago, the Canary Islands. Tenerife has the highest population. Gran Canaria has so many different micro-climates that it is sometimes called a Miniature continent." The QM2 docked in Las Palmas, the capital and port city of the island. The weather was great, 28 C and sunny and I think most people chose to visit the beaches.

Vigo, Spain. Last port before Southampton

The fourth and last port stop on this 16 day cruise between Cape Town and Southampton was Vigo, in Galicia- the north-west region of Spain. I again picked a short excursion, around 4 hours, that would give me an overview of this port city but not mean hours sitting in a bus.

Our guide began the tour narration with some interesting insights into the cooking and cuisine of this area.

10 April 2013 Cape Town, South Africa

We embark on the Queen Mary 2 and overnight on ship in Cape Town, before sailing out the next evening.

The Peninsula  Hotel  in Sea  Point runs a complimentary shuttle, and six of us booked transfers to the Queen Mary 2 on the shuttle.  Because the ship is so big it has to dock in the container port and there are currently no facilities for the check-in and embarkation procedures. So after an abortive attempt to enter the dock area, our shuttle driver finally landed us at the Good Hope Centre, where the embarking passengers were checked-in. Shuttle buses then drove us through the dock area where we could board the ship.

A late October cruise from New York to Halifax and back, on Cunards' Queen Mary 2 with Dancers at Sea.

This was my itinerary:

Fly to New York and overnight at Avalon apartments in Long island City.

Saw an adaptation of Ibsen's An Enemy of the People - great play and I enjoyed the production

October 21st Sat: Embark New York on the QM2.
Meet the staff and guests at the 5: 30 PM cocktail party. This group was one of the largest I have encountered on Dancers at Sea – 47 in total with 9 male pros and hosts and two female dance hosts. The male instructors were Robert Cooper, Andre Gosselin and Matthew Gann, and hosts Chris Bookwalter, Jorge Doctolero, Dale Moreth, Richard Conti and two new hosts (new to DAS), Peter and Lior. Amber was the female pro and Carrie the other female host. I knew a few of the guests from previous cruises but not too many.

October 22nd Sunday  Newport, Rhode Island (Formal Black and White Ball)

October 23rd Monday, Boston, Massachusetts. In the afternoon I went to see Salmon Fishing in Yemen in the Illuminations Planetarium theatre behind the Royal Court Theatre on deck 2. It's movie that I had wanted to see for ages, and I enjoyed it a lot. I had actually not previously found time to go movie watching on board the QM2. Better than some of the cinemas back home.

cantilevered Chinese Fishing NetsCochin or Kochi, is a port city in the Arabian Sea, on the west coast of India in the state of Kerala. The name Kochi translates to "small lagoon" in Mayalam. Mayalam is the local language in Kerala,  derived from Sanskrit and Tamil and is one of 22 official languages of India. It is one of the 85 related Dravidian languages, spoken by 215 million people. Amazing what one learns when going on a ballroom dance cruise!

local fish stallAnyway I signed up for an excursion that featured two highlights - the Chinese Fishing Nets of Cochin, and an introductory demonstration of Kathakali (the classical dance drama of Kerala) and Kalaripayattu, the ancient martial art of Kerala. Check out the links below to my four YouTube videos of these highlights.

Ports of call from Hong Kong to DubaiBetween Hong Kong and Dubai, the QM2 docked at five ports. The first, Phu My in Vietnam, was the port for Ho Chi Minh city. Next was Laem Chabang, the port for Bangkok, and that was followed by a stop in Singapore where there was a major turnover of guests departing  or boarding the ship. Between Singapore and Dubai there were only two stops on the 9 night segment; Phuket in Thailand and Cochin, India. On my previous South East Asia cruise, two of the ports of call were in Vietnam. While I really enjoyed the visit to Na Trang, a sleepy looking fishing village on the south centre region of Vietnam I was less enchanted with the visit to Ho Chi Min city (Saigon), the port of call on this current voyage, so on this cruise I decided to stay on board when in Phu My.

Our elegant group on the Oriental Ball formal nightWith this cruise covering 16 days, and ten of them being sea days, Robert, our dance instructor, had scheduled a series of dance workshops covering the gamut from waltz to west coast swing. Each workshop was supposed to last an hour but several times they were going so well that we ran over time.  Because none of our group are beginners and we are all pretty much at a similar level, each session has been really enjoyable and we have been able to pick up new skills in each individual dance, while continuing to focus attention on posture, frame and movement.

Amazingly everyone turned up punctually for the second workshop at 9:30 am, even my cabin mate Linda, who is not known for coming to the dance workshops on these cruises. We joked that after a week of rooming together I might actually “sleep in” to 7 am and take a nap in the afternoon, while she might actually get up in time to attend all the workshops.

sole in lemon butter I thought that on this dance cruise I would experiment with the structure of the Travelblogue with respect to the Sipping and Supping aspect of my posts.  Instead of interspersing the food talk and pictures with my dance and travel experiences, I plan to keep a Culinary Sampling of the meals, mainly dinner, aboard the Queen Mary 2 on this trip.

Since my firm resolution on this trip was not to gain a pound, and to lose inches by virtue of all the hip and core work I would be doing during my Dance Boot Camp, my culinary choices obviously represent a somewhat slanted view of the range of dishes provided at each meal - my sample is appetizer rich and dessert poor. But here goes:

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