The first time we took our son on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 during its inaugural season in 2004. We sailed from Southampton to New York after spending a week in London. It was an excellent adventure.
The QM2 isn’t a “cruise ship”; it’s a transatlantic ocean liner. Ocean liners are meant to carry passengers from Point A to Point B. They are built strongly, with a great deal of steel in the hull, and they have a deep draft.
Cruise ships take passengers on a journey that begins and ends in the same port — in this case Fort Lauderdale. The bow of this ship — Holland America’s near-new MS Koningsdam — is shorter and wider with a reduced draft.
Like Cunard, Holland America is one of the more upscale cruise lines. Inspired by music, the Koningsdam (a new-generation cruise ship) features Lincoln Center Stage, B.B. King’s Blues Club, Billboard Onboard, and the Rolling Stone Rock Room.
This is what attracted us, along with a chance to show our son the Caribbean. (Shannon and I honeymooned on Anguilla and St. Barts in the ’90s, and I sailed in the Grenadine islands with friends in the ’80s. We revisited St. Barts with our son about 10 years ago, renting a house on the beach).
“What we’ve done with classical music has really raised the bar, because there’s just nothing else like it in the cruise industry,” Holland America cruise director Jonathan Rogers said.
The classical music is sponsored by New York’s Lincoln Center. On this trip, we heard classical music from a “piano quintet” (string quartet and piano — a Steinway, no less).
All of these young musicians were trained at the Milan Conservatory. Examples included “Masterworks by Brahms,” “Masterworks by Dvorák” and “La Musica Latina” (featuring music from composers in Puerto Rico, as well as Tango music).
The Lincoln Center Stage is an intimate seating area and was decorated for Christmas. You could order a glass of wine or a cocktail while listening to the music — a great pre-dinner activity.
We opted for a new program called “Club Orange,” which included an intimate dedicated dining room, priority tender service and other perks.
The food was top notch: fresh fish from the islands, fresh salads, prime steaks, and a special Christmas Eve and Christmas menu (one entree was roast goose). Delicious stone crabs were on the menu one night. It was a three-course fine dining experience.
We ate breakfast in Club Orange too, enjoying fresh fruit, eggs benedict, even steak and eggs (which our son liked). Before breakfast, we sipped coffee on our veranda, staring out at the ocean.
It was a civilized and polite group of travelers, including happy families who had gathered for Christmas. The newspaper was a digest of articles from The New York Times; a digest we’ve received at first-rate hotels in Hawaii.
Tomorrow we’re going to visit a private island in the Bahamas for snorkeling and swimming. There’s also a beach barbeque. All told, it’s been a great experience and time for some “family togetherness.” We’re looking forward to the New Year.
Here’s a video from our iPhone: