Leigh and Phil Cruise the Atlantic
on the Queen Elizabeth 2

 

     Leigh and I thought you might like an account of our recent cruise aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2. It was a Jazz Cruise with about 30 well-known jazz artists on board, headlined by Oscar Peterson and his quartet. The cruise began Tuesday, November 2, sailing from Miami, FL and stopping at Tenerife in the Canary Islands and Madeira Island before docking in Southhampton, England, on Friday, November 12.
     Our trip started when we drove to Portland on Sunday to catch a United flight to Miami. We stayed overnight with friends Sylvia and Vern Hulit, who drove us to the airport Monday morning. In Miami, Cunard put us up in the Embassy Suites (yes, we had a suite, not just a room).
     We visited the Bayside Mall in Tuesday morning and were fascinated by a display of macaws and parrots there. A huge yacht anchored nearby had an ultra-light seaplane on a pad at its stern.
     Boarding the QE2 late that afternoon, we sailed out on our way to Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Early on we met John and Mary Cross from England. John is with BBC, and has met a lot of celebrities who have appeared on BBC, including Benny Hill and Mick Jagger. He once operated a pirate radio station off the coast of England.

Our Cabin on the QE2


     Our cabin was on the Second deck. There are 13 decks on the QE2. We were far aft, near the H Elevator. There are 14 elevators on the QE2. They range from the A elevator far forward to the H elevator near the stern.
     Our cabin (2144) opened facing the stern. To our left (port) was the bathroom, which contained a toilet, a facing wash basin, and a tub with a shower. To our right (starboard) was the berthing space, with two single beds, separated by a bedside dresser with three drawers, with a mirror above. A 13" TV was mounted on the port side wall. In front of the beds were four closets with lots of hangers.
     Walking starboard past the beds was a narrower portion where there were two comfortable chairs and a small round table. On the table were two champagne silver buckets. One contained a small bottle of champagne, a gift from the ship. The other contained a magnum bottle of champagne, a gift from Mike Hamilton, Leigh's son, who was also on the cruise in room 3050.
     Starboard of that space was a wider space with a dresser and makeup desk. The porthole was above this dresser. On the dresser top were an ice bucket and glasses for pouring drinks.
Each morning a daily newspaper, the FAX edition of the NY Times, was under our door along with a daily schedule of events and notices of other things we might need to know. On any night when the clock would be turned ahead an hour, a laminated notice was placed on one of the pillows (each bed had two pillows).
     A steward is assigned for each room. Rolando was our steward. The beds were made each morning and covered with a colorful throw. As bedtime approached, the throw was removed and a corner of the thick quilted sheet turned down. A Cunard chocolate was placed on each edge of the dresser.
     If we left the cabin for more than 30 minutes or so, when we came back any hand towel, bath towel, washcloth or glass which had been used was replaced with a fresh one. The towels were thick and of excellent quality.

Eating aboard the QE2


     Our restaurant was the Caronia, forward on the quarterdeck. There are five restaurants aboard. Although the amenities in different restaurants were different, the food was identical. So the lobster we had in the Caronia was identical to that served in the Mauretania, Brittania Grill, Princess Grill or the Lido .
     Two waitresses served us, Nicky and Diane. In addition, a wine steward was available. We were selected to sit at the Chief Engineer's table. There are four tables at which the senior officers of the ship sit. Chief Engineer Tony Lee was a gracious host and on occasion during the cruise, other officers of the ship replaced him when his duties prevented him from attending.
     First, the wine steward would approach and enquire what wine, if any, we would like. Then Nicky placed the menu in front of each of us. We selected from about four appetizers, a choice of soup or salad, a choice of about four entrees, and later Nicky would bring the menu back so we could choose from around 10-15 desserts. Dessert was followed by a choice of petit fours.
     Our tablemates were Brigit and Bob, Julia and John and Jean. Bob is the owner of an English company, John is a retired English hematologist and Jean is a retired travel agent from North Carolina. John is a pianist as a hobby, and plays with various groups. In fact he had three gigs lined up for the week after his return to England. We were delighted with our tablemates, and were fortunate that there were two English couples to chat with.
     Anyone who had a birthday found the table decorated with balloons. Waiters and waitresses sang Happy Birthday and a cake was brought to the table in their honor. On the last night aboard, the waiters staged a Baked Alaska Promenade, marching around the restaurant with plates of Baked Alaska and lighted sparklers.
     If we did not wish to eat in the Caronia, the Lido was open four all three meals, for a four o'clock tea and for a midnight buffet. We ate most breakfasts and lunches in the Lido as well as the midnight buffet. The Lido consisted of a buffet line where conventional meal elements were available. Plus, there was another buffet line where we could have a sandwich made to order, scoop up a fresh fruit salad, or select from about six different cheesecakes, plus an enormous selection of petit fours, six kinds of ice cream, pastries, and fresh whole fruits.
     At the midnight buffet there were often flambés to choose from.
     When we carried our loaded trays of food to one of the hundred or so tables, before we could even offload the trays to the table, a steward took the trays from us and arranged our selections on the table. Often there was a steward there to take each tray.
     At this point is seems a good place to say that there were 1,567 passengers on the QE2 for this voyage, and there were 1,009 crew aboard to attend to our every need. All members of the crew we encountered were exceptionally courteous and helpful.
     We met the Captain of the QE2, Paul Wright, on Wednesday evening, the 3rd.

Tenerife in the Canary Islands
and Oscar Peterson Performs


     We arrived in Tenerife on Monday, the eighth in the early morning. We went ashore and looked around the shops, ending up with a rubber-wheeled train ride around the city. The Canary Islands are beautiful, awash in flowers of all kinds.
     Oscar Peterson gave his performance that evening. He played to a full house, and passengers were given tickets of two colors to ensure that everyone got to see one of his two performances (8:45 and 10:45 pm).
     The following day, we encountered Oscar and his wife in the Queen's Room, and got his autograph. I noticed that his wife was using a Macintosh Powerbook. Later I commented to her that I noticed they used a Macintosh.
     "Of course," she replied, "what else?"
     This was not the only example of the true professionalism of Oscar Peterson. During the Q&A session where artists responded to questions from the audience, Oscar was the ONLY jazz musician aboard with an understanding of the value of the Internet. He is making an interactive CD, and is quite aware of what is going on in the electronic world.
     One evening, during Clark Terry's performance, Oscar Peterson wheeled in and Clark asked if he would sing a number. Oscar agreed, and sang "Route Sixty Six" with the quintet. Later when I encountered Oscar on the ship, I asked him about singing that number. He laughed and told me singing that number was the "first and the last time I will do that." So we had a special treat on the QE2.
     You may or may not know that Oscar suffered a stroke a while ago, and is just regaining decent use of his left hand. He used a motorized wheelchair to get around the ship. While his left hand was severely incapacitated, Oscar used only his right hand and many in audiences never knew his left was unused, since his quartet "covered" for him so well. His guitar, bass and drummer are outstanding performers in their own right.
     One interesting thing we heard during the Q&A was the reverence which all the jazz musicians had for Art Tatum, the pianist. They seemed frustrated that the audience did not understand the importance of Tatum in the music world. Finally, Jimmy Heath expressed it something like this: "You all know what Michael Jordan is to the world of basketball? Well, Art Tatum is the Michael Jordan of music." We found this amazing and will send us to amazon.com in search of some Art Tatum CDs.
     Oscar Peterson said he was so in awe of Art Tatum that he could not even play if he knew Tatum was in the room. Once he was asked to play with Tatum and said "With you here, do you think I am going to sit down and play the piano? You must be crazy."
     Tatum once told Oscar that "This is my time, and when I'm through, you got it," in tribute to his appreciation of Oscar's obvious skills. When Tatum died, Oscar went out to talk with Tatum's wife for a column about Tatum. As he spoke with her, he saw Tatum's Steinway rolled over into a corner. He says he thinks about that every time he plays the piano. You could hear the audience take in a collective breath when Oscar told that story.
     Oscar told his father at one time that he wanted to leave school to be a jazz piano player. His father said "Absolutely no. But if you want to leave to be the best jazz pianist in the world, you got it."
     Finally, Oscar on Clark Terry: "Winton Marsalis is scared to death of this man."
It was difficult for us to decide which group to listen to, since at any given hour of the evening (and sometimes afterno0ns) there were at least 3-4 groups playing at the same and/or overlapping times. We found that aside from Oscar Peterson, the groups we liked the best were Lou Donaldson and Junior Mance. Lou Donaldson's group included Lonny Smith, the Doctor of the Hammond B3 organ. Lonny's solo on Alligator Bogaloo brought us back three more times, and this tune was played three out of four times. Lonny's interplay with drummer Danny Burger was very entertaining. Junior Mance's piano playing was tremendous.
     During one of the jam sessions, led by Jimmy Heath, pianist Monte Alexander rushed up from the audience and took away the bass and played a solo, much to the delight of the audience.
     Anywhere on the ship where drinks were available, a waiter would soon arrive at our table. If we told the waiter that we did not care for a drink, they laid a cocktail napkin on the table to indicate that we were taken care of. At no time were we pressured to buy alcoholic beverages. At no time were we pressured to buy ANYTHING. Sitting to listen and having nothing to drink was just as acceptable as ordering several $75 shots of very rare scotch.

Madeira Island


     On Tuesday morning we arrived in Madeira. We went on a tour which included a wicker factory, an embroidery factory and a ride on a wicker toboggan down two miles toward the harbor from a point near the cathedral. Our guide was Carlos, who had a delightful sense of humor. When he told us that when he needed embroidery, he bought the materials and his aunt made the item for him, one of the passengers asked is she would do some for him.      Carlos replied, "Sure, it will be ready the day after the ship leaves Madeira."
     The island is full of hibiscus, poinsettias and bougainvillea, among thousands of varieties of flowers.
     We found Madeira to be the most beautiful spot we had seen in a long time. The houses are all white with red tile roofs, and the entire side of the hills are filled with them. The average price of a house in better sections of the island is $500,000.

Arriving in Southhampton and the Trip Home


     We arrived in Southhampton Friday morning, November 12th. To prepare for this, we were instructed to use provided colored and numbered baggage tags and place all of our luggage outside the cabin by 1 am on the morning of the 12th. These tags identified the location in the baggage building where we retrieved our luggage to place it on the busses provided.
     We were told the story of a passenger who packed all his luggage and forgot to save clothing to wear ashore. He went ashore in his pajamas to reclaim his luggage. Luckily Phil saved clothing to wear ashore, since he sleeps in the nude.
     The trip to Heathrow took almost two hours, which meant that we missed our scheduled flight to Dulles with transfer to Portland. So we caught a slightly later flight to San Francisco with UAL shuttle to Portland. Our luggage did not make it on the flight we arrived on, so it was delivered by courier to Sylvia and Vern's house at the ungodly hour of 5:30 the next morning.
     The flight back was the most wearing, since we got up at 10:00 pm Thursday night, Portland time (6 :00 London time) and did not arrive in Portland until 10:00 Friday night, Portland time.


 
THE 17th ANNUAL
FLOATING JAZZ FESTIVAL
(MUSICIANS ON BOARD)

OSCAR PETERSON QUARTET
Oscar Peterson (piano)
Ulf Wakenius (guitar)
Nils-Henning Orsted-Pederson (bass)
Martin Drew (drums)

SHIRLEY HORN TRIO
Shirley Horn (piano)
Charles Ables (bass)
Steve Williams (drums)

HOUSTON PERSON QUARTET
WITH ETTA JONES
Houston Person (tenor sax)
Stan Hope (piano)
George Kaye (bass)
Alan White (drums)

LOU DONALDSON
QUARTET
Lou Donaldson (alto saxophone)
Lonnie Smith (organ)
Randy Johnson (bass)
Danny Burger (drums)

VANESSA RUBIN
AND HER QUARTET
Vanessa Rubin (vocals)
George Colligan (piano)
Carroll Dashiell (bass)
Woody Williams (drums)

HENRY JOHNSON
QUARTET
Henry Johnson (guitar)
Kenny Drew, Jr. (piano)
Larry Gray (bass)
Paul Humphreys (drums)

FLOATING JAZZ FESTIVAL
BIG BAND
Led by Jimmy Heath (sax),
with Carol Sloane & Carrie Smith (vocals)

 CLARK TERRY QUINTET
Clark Terry (trumpet)
David Glasser (alto saxophone)
Don Freidman (piano)
Marcus McLaurine (bass)
Sylvia Cuenca (drums)

JIMMY HEATH QUARTET
Jimmy Heath (saxophones)
Jeb Patton (piano)
Wayne Batchelor (bass)
Steve Johns (drums)

NICHOLAS PAYTON SEXTET
Nicholas Payton (trumpet)
Tim Warfield (saxophone)
Robert Glasper (piano)
Sean Conly (bass)
Adonis Rose (drums)

CAROL SLOANE AND HER TRIO
Carol Sloane (vocals)
Bill Mays (piano)
Dean Johnson (bass)
Ron Vincent (drums)

JUNIOR MANCE AND THE
FLOATING JAZZ FESTIVAL TRIO
Junior Mance (piano)
Earl May (bass)
Jackie Williams (drums)

CLARK'S KIDS
Maurice Brown (trumpet)
Adam Schroeder (baritone sax)
Kurt Morgen (bass)
Mike McKenna (trumpet)
Helen Sung (piano)
Lucianna Padmore (drums)

MONTY ALEXANDER (Piano)

MIKE JONES (Piano)


 Leigh and Phil on the Queen Elizabeth 2

The Jazz Musicians aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2

Visiting the Canary Islands and Madeira

Phil & Leigh's Account of the Voyage

Queen Elizabeth 2 Fact Sheet

Food Aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2

Queen Elizabeth 2 Staff