The program is designed in the tradition of the Algonquin Round Table, a group of journalists, editors, actors and press who began meeting for daily discussions over lunch at a large round table in the Algonquin Hotel in New York City at the turn of the 20th century. In this case, Liner Notes' host Paul Holdengraber, a program director for the New York Public Library, lunches with a new group of guests once a month at the captain's table onboard Queen Mary 2. (Guests join the ship for lunch and a closed taping session while QM2 is docked in its Brooklyn homeport; the show typically becomes available a few weeks after taping.) Each episode will focus on a different travel-related theme, such as "falling in love with a place" or "the benefits of wandering."
The series kicked off on Monday, March 17, with its first episode: Through Irish Eyes, in honor of St. Patrick's Day. The very dramatic introduction was reminiscent of "Masterpiece Theatre," but the guests -- Pulitzer-Prize-winning novelist Frank McCourt ("Angela's Ashes"), travel journalist and photographer Peter Guttman, and several Irish authors, among others -- took listeners on a literary pub tour of Dublin, discussing must-see spots and where to find the best music.
Upcoming topics include Earth Day (April) and Mothers and Daughters (May, for Mother's Day); episode titles and themes beyond May have not yet been published.
Cunard isn't the only cruise line offering media mind candy to passengers. Earlier this month, Crystal Cruises announced the launch of "Newspaper Direct," a service that enables guests to have delivered to their stateroom a full-format newspaper from a list of 370 publications from 65 countries, from the Wall Street Journal to Japan's Okinawa Times (there is a fee of $6.50 per paper). Silversea offers printed copies of world news obtained by satellite in suites on its World Observer enrichment cruises (on non-World Observer cruises, guests receive complimentary news in their suites, but it's from their country of origin and doesn't focus on the entire world).
Guest speakers on upcoming World Observer cruises include Nicholas Gage, formerly an investigative reporter and foreign correspondent for the New York Times, and Michael Buerk, one of Britain's leading broadcast journalists.
--by Melissa Baldwin, Managing Editor