Last night was the first of four formal nights (which Cunard calls “royal events”).
I know black tie is not everyone’s cup of tea, but people are easier on the eye when they are wearing the uniform, and everyone I saw last night conformed. As part of the festivities, Captain Paul Wright invited those of us who dine in the Britannia Restaurant (90 percent of the ship’s passengers) to join him and his officers for cocktails in the Queens Room. It was a festive throng gathered under two two-story Christmas trees, decorated in gold with white lights. The crowd, privileged to be onboard Cunard’s newest ship, cheered every mention of “Cunard Line” and “Queen Victoria.”
I dined with my table in the Britannia Restaurant last night for the first time. The six of us have a splendid table by the window overlooking the stern. Travelers with Princess Cruises will recognize how Cunard has divided the dining room with frosted glass panels to cut down on large vistas. Without the dividers, the room, which lacks height for its size, would look like a college dining hall. The Britannia Restaurant is not the impressive space the same-named restaurant is on the QM2.
Walking into the main level of the Britannia Restaurant, you will see a stylized Art Deco, revolving globe, where the tapestry depicting the QM2 hangs on that ship. It is an effective centerpiece to the well. (It is also more effective than the sculpture that adorns the main wall of the three-deck atrium.) The sculpture purports to be a stainless steel silhouette of a ship, quarter profile, cresting a wave. I had to ask an official of the line which ship was meant to be depicted. I was informed it was the Queen Victoria. To me it looks like the QE2, foundering, having run into a sea serpent, but, obviously, I’m no judge of art, as I never saw the QM2 in the tapestry in that ship’s Britannia Restaurant.
What my table had in common was sailing status: we were all traveling solo. (There are no single cabins on this ship, so we all paid the infamous single supplement, on this cruise, 175% of the per person price). There were three men and three women -- four American, one English and one Japanese -- and all of us had sailed with Cunard many times in the past. Conversation went well, as we all had tales to share of previous sailings with the line. (Two of us were new to the table last night, having dined elsewhere on previous evenings.)
At dinner, the Britannia Restaurant offers a spa selection of appetizer, entree, and dessert or a choice from among three appetizers, a choice between two salads, a choice from among five entrees (one of which is always beef; another, fish; another, pasta; and another, vegetarian), and a choice from among five desserts (one of which is always ice cream and another, a cheese plate). Coffee, espresso, cappuccino and tea (and all these in decaf) are served at the table for free. It takes a while for food to be served, but it is always as ordered (doneness, added or subtracted ingredients). The food has been uniformly delicious.
I was bound and determined to go to the show, a song and dance production featuring the ship’s resident troupe, but so far, I have not gotten out of the dining room earlier than 11:30 pm. Last night, that was a result of the captain’s cocktail party running long, but I’ll note if this is a recurring problem, as I only order three courses and don’t require three hours to consume them.
This morning we docked in Copenhagen for an overnight call. We have two full days to explore this Scandinavian capital before we sail tomorrow afternoon.
What a great port of call! This is a fairy tale city of spires and domes. Spared destruction in the last century’s wars, the city is a pleasure of scale and proportion. Ships dock some distance from the city center, and Cunard offered free shuttle buses to take people nearer the city’s heart. (They did the same in Rotterdam.) The shuttle buses ended at the New King’s Square, site of one of the city’s Christmas Markets. The handsomely made, matching stalls offered wares that ranged from excellent Danish sweaters and knitted caps to (Chinese) kitsch: Santa shimmying up chimneys. I had been looking to find Danish food items, but the only ones for sale were for immediate consumption: crepes.
Copenhagen has miles of pedestrian-only shopping streets, the main one of which is Stroget. The city’s two largest department stores, Magazin du Nord and Illum are easily reached on foot and offer high-end (and expensive) merchandise. As I am an admirer of Danish design, I had to visit the housewares departments. Most everything was out of my price range this visit. (Helpful information: The Danes voted not to enter the euro zone, so the Danish kroner is the currency here. Currently, the exchange rate is $1 USD for every $5 NOK.)
Yesterday (December 13) was the Feast of St. Lucy, which is celebrated throughout Scandinavia. (Before the reform of the calendar, St. Lucy’s Day fell on the winter solstice.) Tonight is the official start of the Christmas holiday here, and restaurateurs say tonight is one of the three hardest nights to get reservations in Copenhagen.
Happily, I brought my own restaurant (or several) with me to Copenhagen, so I am not worried about where I shall dine.