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
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
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,
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.
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
The island is full of hibiscus,
poinsettias and bougainvillea, among thousands of varieties of
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 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.