Cruise M316 along the English Channel on the Queen Mary 2

(Please scroll down to see my photographs and read my report)

Date: Port: Flag: Tour escort: Comment:
03/08/2013 Southampton On board by 1 pm
04/08/2013 St. Peter Port Coast & Countryside Drive Glorious day
07/08/2013 Zeebrugge Brugges & Blankenberge
08/08/2013 Southampton Home by 10 am

Here's my report on the cruise:

I took taxis and the train to the Queen Mary 2 berthed at the Ocean Terminal in Southampton. On the first night I had a rib-eye steak in the King's Court buffet restaurant. There were plenty of lady dancers in the Queen's (Ball)room right from the first night. The dancing to the orchestra consisted of three 45 minutes sets ending at 11:30 pm.

Me on escort duty in Guernsey Lighthouse in St. Peter Port, Guernsey Me on escort duty in Guernsey

Me on escort duty in Guernsey

In St. Peter Port, Guernsey I was tour escort on the lovely Coast & Countryside Drive tour. I led my charges from the Royal Court Theatre down to the waiting tender. Thankfully I was on the second tender away so didn't have long to wait, unlike the independent passengers. Quest for Adventure was also anchored offshore, and I briefly waved to Cassie & Grazia on the jetty. We first drove north to the lovely Pembroke Bay, then south westerly along the coast to Fort Grey where we partook of morning coffee and 'gosh' fruit loaf. I was able to use their free wi-fi to update my status on FaceBook. We reached the gun emplacements at the south easterly point of the island before turning inland to see the pretty Little Chapel. Back at the pier there was a long queue for the tenders, so I walked into the charming town. They had a series of 'Taste of Guernsey' market stalls on the pedestrianised quayside, so I sampled various local cheeses and dips. I bought a delicious local tayberry ripple ice cream for lunch! At the Tourist Information Office I was also able to use their free wi-fi to update my status on FaceBook. After some more photography, I caught the 3 pm tender back to the ship for a later than normal siesta.

Martin & Richard

Martin & Richard

My colleague Richard and I had an aperitif in the Golden Lion pub listening to the cocktail pianist. On the second night I dined on lamb shank in the Britannia restaurant alongside my colleague, a couple from Ferndown in Dorset and a Geordie couple now living in South Wales. We then watched the excellent Beatles Experience show in the Royal Court Theatre. Dancing consisted of two one hour sets by the Queen's Room orchestra ending at midnight. We then snacked with two Mancunian ladies in the (post) midnight buffet.

On the first sea morning I started processing my photographs into a suitable powerpoint presentation, ready for going there next year on the Black Watch as a port lecturer. At 11:15 am we had a line dance class led by social host James Paul. He taught a 32 count dance called Rainy Nights and then a simplified version of Stroll Along Cha Cha, with the two turns at the end replaced with one quarter turn. At 12:15 pm we had a cha cha class led by German couple Wilfred and Ilona. I liked the way they slowed the music down to zombie speed. However they lectured us far too much about styling. Despite over running by a quarter of an hour they didn't even get as far as New Yorks!

Black & White Ball: Russ, Carol, Mike, Pauline, Richard, American Lady, David & Charles

Black & White Ball: Russ, Carol, Mike, Pauline, Richard, Marcy, David & Charles

In the afternoon I slept for two hours. My colleague Richard and I again had an aperitif in the Golden Lion pub listening to the cocktail pianist. I had the sirloin steak for dinner at our allocated table in the Britannia restaurant. The production company song and dance show "Apassionata" was excellent. The Ukrainian (?) dancers performed authentic Cossack dancing. The ensuing Black & White Ball then ran continuously from 9:45 until midnight. It included some sequence dances: the Mayfair Quickstep, Saunter Together, Party Samba and the Veleta, none of which the American hosts could do. The social host James Paul taught the Officers Gavotte during the orchestra's break.

On the second sea day we had to host the Solo Travellers coffee morning, so I missed the second line dance class. Only one lady, Pam from Coventry, turned up to talk to three dance hosts! At 12:15 pm we had a waltz class again led by the German couple Wilfred and Ilona. I dined on fillet steak (American I'd guess) after our regular aperitif watering hole. I had to slip away early for the sequence dancing set which included all the old warhorses except perhaps the Sindy Swing. Of course again the American hosts couldn't do these sequence dances. I then watched the comedian's show in the theatre. The Queen's Room orchestra had the night off so we had to dance to the loud Caribbean band Xtasea. Thankfully most of the time the floor was packed full of disco dancers, so we were only needed for the few slow numbers that they played.

Brugges in Belgium

Brugges in Belgium

On the final port day I caught the first shuttle bus into Blankenberge at 8:45 am, before jumping on to the 9:11 am train to Brugge. We were told to pay the conductor on board but he never reached my carriage! I managed to photograph most of the important sights before the drizzle started at 11 am followed by the rain at noon. I found the free wi-fi at the American fast food joint in the main square. I then caught the 1:17 pm bus back to Blankenberge, where I again found free wi-fi, this time in the public library. After a few wet photos, I caught the free shuttle bus back to the ship for a late lunch at 3 pm. The final evening followed the usual sequence: aperitifs in the Golden Lion pub, sirloin steak for dinner, the excellent Beatles Experience tribute band in the Royal Court theatre, two sets of dancing to the Queen's Room orchestra and finally socialising in the midnight buffet!

On the last day I opted for the self help check out and was off the ship before 8 am. The taxi driver said there were delays on the railway, so I opted to be taken to the coach station instead. I was then home before 10 am.

Queen Mary 2

Queen Mary 2

The Queen Mary 2 is an enormous ship and so there were plenty of good dancers for us. The ballroom is huge, but not quite as impressive as those on Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria. I couldn't get to grips with her strange layout of mezzanine decks (e.g. 3L) which involved odd staircases and ramps when going from one end to the other. The King's Court buffet restaurant was peculiarly strung out, so you had to walk a long way to inspect four or five different serveries before deciding what to eat. My biggest gripe however, was dancing in jackets which were hot and sweaty after doing so many jives, quicksteps and cha chas. Overall a very impressive ocean liner!

Good points were:

  1. Lovely double height Queen's Room dedicated ballroom.
  2. No silly rules to obey (e.g. access to pools and jacuzzis).
  3. Two excellent orchestras (ballroom and theatre).
  4. Quiet and smooth outboard propulsion pods.
  5. Lovely treble height Royal Court Theatre.
  6. Dining in the main Britannia Restaurant.
  7. Good cabaret acts & production shows.
  8. Free (small) launderette on every deck.
  9. Forward facing outdoor viewing areas.
  10. Efficient cabin steward and waiters.
  11. Lovely treble height Grand Lobby.
  12. UK travel expenses reimbursed.
  13. All round promenade deck.
  14. Lots of dancing ladies.
  15. Flexible dress code.

Score Card:

4 Guests hosted at dinner
2 Favourite Ports revisited
2 Ballroom dance classes attended
1 New PowerPoint presentation written
1 Line dance class attended
1 Tour escorted

Usual evening programme:

  1. 17:15-18:00 Aperitifs in the Golden Lion pub
  2. 18:00-20:00 Dinner in the Britannia restaurant
  3. 20:45-21:30 Show in the Royal Court theatre
  4. 21:45-22:45 First orchestra set in the Queen's Room
  5. 22:45-23:00 Orchestra break
  6. 23:00-00:00 Second orchestra set in the Queen's Room
  7. 00:00-00:30 Socialising in the midnight buffet!

For the record ...

Good free wi-fi: