Determined not to miss the fireworks promised in the daily program for 10 p.m. on our overnight call in Copenhagen (these are sponsored by the port and are an honor paid to the ship’s maiden call here), I decided to dine in the Lido after my first day ashore in Copenhagen. Taking a page from the QM2’s successful playbook, Cunard subdivided the Lido Restaurant into three smaller dining venues: a cafeteria, a fondue eatery (cheese and chocolate fondues) and an Indian restaurant. The latter two have table service, and while seats are limited, reservations are accepted. I am told the Indian restaurant and the fondue restaurant will rotate among a variety of restaurants, including a carvery (which has made one appearance so far), an Asian restaurant (yet to be seen) and an Italian restaurant (not scheduled for the maiden voyage); all of which are found in the Kings Court on the QM2.
I entered the Indian restaurant without a reservation and was seated immediately. Each table was covered with a white tablecloth and decorated with a single silk scarf down the center (as the tables are in Lotus, one of the Kings Court restaurants on the QM2). The server placed pappadam and condiments on the table. Appetizers arrived mixed and were meant to be shared around the table. There were four choices for each of the following: main course, side dishes and dessert. The menu advised diners to order one main course and one side dish per person and to share dishes around. The food arrived promptly, piping hot (or in the case of the sorbets, freezing cold) and was very well seasoned. The chefs made a visit around the restaurant to introduce themselves and to solicit comments. I enjoyed my visit hugely and would gladly return.
Lasting about 10 minutes, the fireworks were modest with many low-to-the-ground rockets and few of the showering-from-the-sky explosions of color. Large crowds of passengers watched from the open decks, but there were few on-lookers on shore. Having sailed through the salvos arranged by Cunard in Southampton, however, I’m afraid any other fireworks would seem anticlimactic in duration and extravagance, and no stationary display can match the sensation of sailing through fireworks while they explode overhead in Southampton. Still, it was a lovely gesture on the part of the Danish port authorities (and one not conferred on us by the Dutch).
A perfect winter’s day greets our second morning in Copenhagen with a sunny sky and crisp temperatures, and I’m heading to Tivoli Gardens.
Tivoli Gardens is, first and foremost, known as Copenhagen’s famous amusement park, but to define it in terms of carousels and roller coasters is to sell it short. Any time of the year this is a unique playground for adults as well as kids; it’s a cultural Mecca (the Tivoli Symphony Orchestra, among others, performs in a concert hall here) and a culinary one, too (The Paul, one of at least a dozen restaurants -- mostly more casual -- here, has procured a Michelin star, and its European cuisine is outstanding, fresh and relevant, while the ambience is charming and cozy). Christmas, with extra lights and festivities, just ramps up the excitement all the more.
From November 16 to December 30, Tivoli re-emerges as a Christmas market. In addition to the year-round structures, temporary shops line the paths, selling all sorts of holiday treats: food and drink (glogg, a mulled cider; Belgian waffles; popcorn), holiday decorations (including those Scandinavian favorites, gnomes, which predate Christmas and originate with Norse folk religion), and gifts.
Queen Victoria offers a shuttle ride from the port to the heart of the city (not all that far); today I took the ship’s shuttle bus to New King’s Square and set out along Stroget, the capital’s primary shopping street. No sooner had I begun my walk, than I was asked to step aside for a marching band. Along strutted the Queen’s Guard in red tunics and bearskin hats, leading a troop of riflemen. (Here in Denmark, gun-toting soldiers are less a reminder of war than of the steadfast tin soldier immortalized by Hans Christian Andersen.)
Located downtown, between City Hall and the Central Railway Station, Tivoli is not a place for bargains. Admission to the park costs $79 NOK ($16 USD) for an adult, and the shops are expensive. A ticket for unlimited rides costs $200 NOK ($40 USD). On this wintry December Saturday, Tivoli was filled with families with children and prams with infants. All were wrapped up against the chill. The children particularly seemed to enjoy one exhibit, a winter garden, featuring hundreds of mechanical elves at work and play. Tivoli has its own guard, the Tivoli Boys Guard, which is a fife and drum unit that sports red tunics with white bandoliers. The group was playing Christmas carols and leading a pony-drawn carriage (empty at the time I saw it). Coincidently, I saw this same group (minus the carriage) when I returned to the ship. The Guard had come to play for the passengers.
I returned to the ship from my outing to Tivoli, and I repaired to the Cafe Carinthia. The Cafe Carinthia, off the atrium, sells specialty coffees and teas, as well as alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages. For the price of a drink ($1/tea; $2.25/most specialty coffees), one can be served at one’s seat and, depending on the time of day, enjoy free food: pastries in the morning, sandwiches after noon. I had a very satisfying salmon sandwich on an onion roll, as well as a cup of tea. It definitely beat queuing up in the Lido and hunting for a table, which is the rule at breakfast and lunch, rather than the exception.
Regarding the Lido, I noticed that people who travel in pairs work as tag teams: one snags a table, while the other gets food; then, they trade places. We solo travelers haven’t a chance. The same thing goes for deck chairs, but that isn’t an issue on this cruise.
One of the perks of a maiden voyage is maiden-voyage loot. Loot comes in two forms: for free and for sale. (There is, I suppose, a third category -- purloined -- but let’s stick with honest loot.) Four evenings I have returned to my cabin to find free loot: the first offering was a numbered, limited edition magazine, illustrating Queen Victoria’s building, launching and naming. Production was held up so that photographs taken at the Queen Victoria’s naming ceremony last Saturday could be e-mailed to the printer (in Wales) and inserted before the finished magazines were trucked to Southampton for the sailing. (I have every expectation of seeing these on e-Bay before long.) The second freebie was a hardcover book on Queen Victoria, called “Queen Victoria, a Liner for the 21st Century.” Subsequent passengers will find these books in their cabins but will be discouraged from taking them home.
My favorite of the freebies is a lovely Wedgwood commemorative plate that has the ship’s name and the date of the maiden voyage, one of a limited edition of 1,200. The fourth freebie was my Cunard World Club Diamond Cunarder Pin. It is not diamond encrusted, alas (although I don’t know where I would ever wear such a thing). It is black cloisonne and quite handsome. I am sure to be the envy of mere Platinum Cunarders.
The shops sell the second category of loot, for-sale loot. I look forward to seeing what kind of for-sale loot is on offer when the shops reopen while we are at sea.