Archive for the ‘Cunard Line’ Category

A Cruise To Remember: Top Ten Family Cruises

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

During my two decades of cruising, I’ve learned that family vacations can take one of two tacks: Either they are full-on disasters or they go down as one of the “best vacations ever.” Over the years, I’ve experienced both.

On the full-on disaster side, my wife and I had been a little too ambitious, hauling our daughter, not yet six months old, to Walt Disney World and, only a few months later, across six time zones to England. What were we thinking?

Compare that to the “best vacation ever,” of which there were many, both here at home and abroad. Quite simply, my kids (and yes, your kids too) love to cruise. And why not? After all, where families are concerned, a cruise ship is little more than a floating, self-contained family resort, with all the features and activities that adults and kids could ever wish for.

This site is designed to help you make the best choices for your family cruise vacations. I took the liberty to provide my top ten personal favorites starting with the cruise line that I felt offered the best overall family cruise vacation.

You should know, however, that I had a tough time ranking the cruise lines, I applied no formal methodology. Rather, I relied on my personal experience, input from others, advice from travel agents, and of course, the final word from the experts: kids, and especially my two children.

The rankings, in fact, are not that important. My kids, for example, had a tough time choosing between the many cruises they’ve been on. You won’t go wrong choosing any of these cruises. They are the top ten of several hundreds ships and possible cruises.

Please participate and share your own experiences. In doing so, you help other families like mine and like yours choose their perfect family cruise.

Bon Voyage!

Ralph Grizzle
Editor, The Avid Cruiser & Family Cruise Advisor

Top Ten Family Cruises

  1. Best Overall Family Cruise ExperienceDisney Cruise Line
  2. Best Non-Disney Family CruiseCarnival Cruise Lines
  3. Best Cruise For Adventure SeekersRoyal Caribbean – Freedom-Class Ships
  4. Best All-Over Home-Away-From HomePrincess Cruises
  5. Best Low-Key Family CruiseHolland America Line
  6. Best Upscale Family CruiseCelebrity Cruises
  7. Best Family-Style Luxury Cruise ExperienceNorwegian Epic – Suites And Villas
  8. Best Niche Cruise Experience: River Cruising AMAWATERWAYS
  9. Best Adventure Cruise With A PurposeLindblad Expeditions
  10. Best Multiple Generations Luxury CruiseCrystal Cruises

2010 Winners:

Cabin A112

Sunday, September 7th, 2008

Valarie D’Elia & her family on Queen Mary

The Southern California sun is streaming through the portholes as my mother and I awaken in our cabin on the Hotel Queen Mary in early November. I am delving back into the recesses of my mind for details from our last visit — in 1965.

At that time, it was a tropical sun that shone through the very same portholes. We woke up in this exact cabin, five mornings in a row, sailing on a Thanksgiving cruise between New York and Nassau. By the mid 1960s, the legendary Queen Mary was mixing in tropical itineraries with her transatlantic runs; demand for the glamorous but lengthy crossings had dropped with the advent of air travel.

Why we are able to make this nostalgic visit and sleep surrounded by the same wood veneer walls comes down to this: a case of deliberate déjà vu.

My parent’s attic is stuffed with memorabilia from a century of travel dating back to my great grandfather who started a travel agency in 1902.

Continuing the family tradition, I now stand guard over the Queen Mary mementos and add to the collection with memorabilia from her successor, the Queen Mary 2. As Cunard continues its legacy, so does my family.

Many items dating back to that Thanksgiving cruise have surfaced, including our orange, black and white passage contract ticket that indicates we occupied cabin A112 in first class. On this pilgrimage with my mother Rita, I book that exact cabin and arrive with our dated document along with several other keepsakes that will prod us when our memories fail.

qm2_qm.jpg

A Royal Rendezvous, Valarie D’Elia as present, as was I (Ralph Grizzle), at Cunard's historic meeting of the Queen Mary, docked in Long Beach, and her namesake.

We are also carrying emotional baggage. My father passed away six months ago and it’s my mother’s first big trip since she lost her lifelong traveling partner. I design this voyage into the past not to distance her from her memories, but to douse her with them. I hope that looking backward will help her move forward.

38 Years Later
When we approach cabin A112 for the first time in 38 years, the recognition of the wide corridor stops me in my tracks. As we unlock the cabin door, though, the memories fail to come flooding back as I hoped.

A king-size bed; I remember twins. The cabin doesn’t ring familiar with my mother either, because she’s been saying all along that we had adjoining cabins.

But there it is, blending with the woodwork, a locked door, connected to an adjacent cabin, now linking us firmly to our past. My grandmother also sailed with us back then. She had her own cabin, but we can’t remember where. But then again, neither could she. My mother remembers Grandma making pencil marks along the corridor panels of English Sycamore, pointing the way back to her stateroom.

As my mother and I reminisce in our cabin, I look in the mirror above the dresser and think of the little girl who stared back at me last time I was here. Did my fancy little clothes hang in these narrow closets?
Did my tiny hands tug at this chest of drawers? Today when I look through the portholes, I easily see a parking lot. Back then, I needed a paternal boost to press my nose against the glass to peer at the whitecaps of the Atlantic Ocean. Today, waves of nostalgia wash over me.

Cabin A112 retains the obsolete amenities of a first class cabin. Colored buttons once summoned help to draw our salt water bath. Also sprouting from the cabin walls are other vestiges of our personal time warp. Instead of air conditioning, Punka Louver ventilators drew in fresh air from outside. The original wall clock, by T & F Mercer of St. Albans, is stopped at 9:25. Time is standing still for us.

The Queen Mary is not only haunted with our personal recollections but also document ghost sightings throughout the ship. We forge our own path, however, with the help of the old activities bulletins we saved.

On our repeat visit, the TV in our cabin broadcasts news about the Iraqi conflict. The week of November 23rd, 1965, the BBC World Service broadcast in the Flamenco room likely mentioned that 240 Americans were killed in Vietnam.

While my parents paused at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. to hear the news, my brothers and I were busy in the children’s playroom on Main Deck forward being entertained by kid’s TV personality Ray Heatherton, aka the Merry Mailman. The Cunard Cruise News bulletin, another dated pamphlet, noted that my brother Danny won the children’s table tennis tournament. To this day, he covets the Lesney matchbox cars in their colorful, crisp cardboard boxes he was awarded as his prize.

The Dance of Life
My mother fondly recalls dancing her way through the ship. She took advantage of the time we were in the playroom to kick up her heels with my father, moving to the music of John Collins and His Orchestra in the Lounge, or the Serenaders in the Observation Bar. She now confesses that after dinner, they would tuck us in, sashay to the dance floor and never look back. As we revisit our past and view the nicks in the original yellow linoleum floor on the Promenade Deck, I can’t help but wonder if a few of those scuff marks were made by the high heels of my young raven-haired mother.

On our repeat trip, the roles are reversed and my mother tries to keep up. Life-sized photographs featuring old-timers such as Fred Astaire, Bob Hope, Loretta Young, even Liberace, line the Promenade deck. According to our historic bulletins, this was also where we purchased the black and white photographs that we cherish. I search out the exact location on “R” Deck, precisely where we stood the day the ship’s photographer snapped the photo of our proud family. I position my mother and stand to her right, just as I did back then. Instead of coming up to her waist in my ankle socks and patent leather shoes, I now tower over her in heels. It’s a lonely photo of just us two, and I’m uneasy trying to reconcile the time that has passed and the fact that my grandmother and father are gone forever. My mother is feeling the weight of the years as well.

Back in our cabin she admits she’s starting to feel confined. Certainly it’s not the dimensions of this sizable stateroom that are crowding her. “Where did the time go?” she asks. When we sailed her to Nassau, the Queen Mary moved at an average speed of 26 knots. Today we are transported back in time almost four decades, and the ship hasn’t moved an inch.

The next day, we tour the historical exhibit from WWII depicting Queen Mary as a troop ship — the “Grey Ghost” from 1940 through 1946. From ceiling speakers, Bing Crosby serenades us with Million Dollar Baby. Mom hums along and a soft shuffle develops in her step. This way, cha, cha, cha, that way, cha, cha, cha, cha. I smile and sigh.

There’s my mother, dancing on the Queen Mary again. — Valarie D’Elia

Valarie’s website Travels With Val