2014 The Eagle Triumphant; America & D-Day
via the Queen Mary II

Road Scholar 15617

Luggage Late updates: one-two-three is a magic number. 123 hours is "all" it took to finally get my luggage.

I hadn't planned on a trip like this but my travel agent suggested a trans-Atlantic cruise on the QM2 - but didn't tell me that meant the "Queen Misery Too". The standard sailings were just sailings with no special theme of interest so I looked at ones like this one: organized by Rode Skalur so that I'm part of a small group rather than lost in a huge (2600) herd of cattle, and with many included lectures and field trips of interest and themed on World War II, an area of history that interests me. Also (re my France tour later this year - late update: that trip is now cancelled), this tour visits parts of France not included in that tour.

After all the hassles on the Horrible Awful (formerly Holland America) cruise through the Panama Canal, THIS IS DEFINITELY MY LAST LARGE SHIP CRUISE. After the HAL trips, I've gotten VERY negative on large ship cruises; they are too large and with too many people, excursion departures are awful (and with no excursions on this cruise, it will be VERY boring just watching the water go by). Also having to eat in the main dining room is NOT my choice of ways to have meals. Thus I am starting this trip with a very negative expectation of the cruise part of the trip. The land portion should be excellent (and the D-Day session do turn out excellent). That is why I'm taking the trip.

From now on, I'll stick with the Voyages to Antiquity cruises on the Aegean Odyssey.

There have been some great parts of the trip; primarily the lectures, site visits, and presentations organized by Road Scholar, Major General Hollands, and Dr. Jean-Pierre Benamou, the recognized top French expert on D-Day and the 2nd World War. Driving through small villages and along narrow country roads in Normandy was excellent also.

However, the accomodations on the trip (New York, good; Southampton, horrible, Normandy, Abominable, and Paris (cramped) have left much to be desired (understatement). The cruise on Queen Misery too was not good due to the extreme formality which locked me in my cabin in the evenings. Meals - breakfasts, except the one we didn't get, have been good to very good; we have had a few good lunches, but the dinners .... All this is enough to make me have second thoughts about the upcoming long France tour - which I do cancel after some more "second thoughts."

Now to make matters worse, British Airways left my luggage (and several others) behind at Heathrow and still (48 hours later) haven't found it.


Day -49, Thursday, April 24 - 7 weeks to departure - More Expense
Today I received a pamphlet from Cunard stating their dress codes for dinner - and had to go out and buy a very nice dinner jacket and a pair of slacks to go with it. I haven't owned one in 13 years ever since I retired from teaching, and probably hadn't worn one for about 30 years. Even on sale it adds $25 to the cost of each of the 7 onboard dinners - and will probably be donated to "Goodwill" when I return. ****!!!

WEATHER FORECAST - only partially correct: Thursday AM in Houston: nice, clear, dry. Thursday PM in New York: 50-60% chance of RAIN. FRIDAY in New York: RAIN.

Day 1, Thursday, June 12 - Arrival and Orientation in New York
I booked "Custom Air" so Rode Skalur made the air reservations, included in the price - except they misquoted it. Rode Skalur fouled up and booked just the Paris-New York return, requiring a late $$ adjustment running the price up a lot.

I have a very early flight for an afternoon arrival in New York. I'll have to book a StuporShuttle pickup about 4:30AM. HORRORS? Is this an omen of what is to come? Unfortunately, YES!! Also it seems that Houston's IAH airport and New York's JFK airport don't like each other. Apparently there aren't any direct flights - or maybe it is just more Rode Skalur foul-up. At least I only have one more really early flights for the rest of the year - the Chattanooga trip in October. This is what Rode Skalur provided:

US Airways US 1961Houston - Charlotte7:05 A - 10:36 A2:312:48

The first flight went very well and I managed to find an only-slightly-overpriced sandwich for lunch. Then there was the long almost 3 hour wait. I received a flight schedule change from Road Scholar on May 1 giving me a longer connection time in Charlotte but makes for a much later arrival at the hotel in New York. That is, if the forecast weather doesn't delay my arrival in New York.

US Airways US 671Charlotte - JFK1:24 P - 3:22 P1:587:17

At least this was the plan. Then the weather problem kicked in. We "pushed back" from the terminal more or less on time, taxiied for a while, then there was n announcement of a long "ground hold" here in Charlotte due to a massive air traffic backup in New York because of all that rain. We finally departed "only" a bit over an hour late.

US Airways US 671Charlotte - JFK2:30 - 4:251:558:20

We finally made it to JFK with light showers at landing. I had called and verified that someone WILL meet me at the airport for the transfer to the hotel - but Rode Skalur lied - nothing new about that. The final documentation package says that due to scattered arrival times and points, there will be no group transfer in New York City to the hotel. However, we will reimburse participants who booked their domestic air through Road Scholar Travel Services for their transfer, and a receipt must be presented to the group leader during the program. So I had to book a SuperShuttle transfer from JFK airport to the hotel. Actually SuperShuttle should have to pay us for enduring the slightly over three hours of nightmare traffic that it took to get to the hotel. Having experienced this, I would never consider driving through New York on a trip, and would will hesitate to visit the city even on a commercial vacation trip.

The traffic was definitely a nightmare - there are apparently no traffic rules; the lane markings mean nothing; lane changes are made without warning and maybe several times a minute; yellow traffic lights are ignored; red lights only obeyed if someone else got into the intersection ahead of the driver; pedestrians definitely do NOT have the right-of-way, and also the horn is basically just held to honk continuously. The only "rules" are to drive by the horn and with extremely aggressive intimidation. Our driver would make even the most aggressive NASCAR race driver look like a timid "little old lady." It is enough that I'm deleting any plans for a longer NYC visit as part of some upcoming trip.

Having survived, check in at the hotel (only one night) and take some time to settle into our room before our disorientation meeting. Be welcomed by our group leader, Ernesto Flores, to discuss the program details, our ship-board documents, initial introduction to our fellow participants, and for our Welcome Dinner at the hotel. The trip is listed as full, but we have less than expected: only 12 sacrificial cattle. At least that was what was to have happened. Between the ground hold in Charlotte, an over-an-hour wait (so much for the promised 20-30 minutes) for the shuttle, and the 3 hour nightmare, I finally arrived well after the disorientation meeting (I didn't need it - I'm alread disoriented after that nightmare traffic) just before the late dinner (hamburger) was over. As it turns out, our dinner at "Bill's Burgers Bar and Grill" in the hotel was the best dinner of the trip. Actually I didn't eat many dinners: Night 1 in New York, none on the ship since I was confined to my cell, the night in Southampton, the seafood "not" dinner at Hotel Abominable, and the last (farewell) dinner. Lodging: New York Marriott Downtown (D)


Day 2, Friday, June 13 - Embarking on the Queen Mary 2 (Queen Misery too)
Breakfast is at the hotel. It was NOT a buffet; instead the voucher Road Scholar provided gave us only a very limited choice, and the food was not "excellent". Despite the Road Scholar hotel description of "Some rooms offer views of the Statue of Liberty, New York City Harbor, or Wall Street " this is not the case. All we can see is the buildings across the street. There is a narrow (street) angle where we can sometimes see the River, but with the fog and gloom this morning, even the opposite shore of the river is totally "invisible." We have a free morning to go out in the rain to explore the city. HA!! Although the rain was "letting up" it was still more than I wanted to experience. I would have used the morning to get online but since the Marriott wants $19.95 a day (or the 3 hours until I have to check out) I'll have to skip that. Lunch is on our own but instead I just SKIPPED lunch due to the rain.

Eventually at 1PM the group gathers in the lobby for our transfer from our hotel. Make that more like 1:30. There are two different Road Scholar groups heading to the QM2 on different tours. We were both scheduled to leave at the same time - and of course the luggage got mixed and some was put on the wrong bus. That took a while to straighten out.

Fortunately the rain has stopped but it is still overcast with thick haze. This kept us from seeing, much less photographing points of interest such as the bridges and particularly the Statue of Liberty - but it was only vaguely visible in the gloomy weather. At least I did get to "see" it. Eventually, despite the traffic, we did get to the Queen Mary 2 (aka Queen Misery too) boarding dock where we had to go through a long security process before actually getting onboard, barely by our scheduled check-in time of 2:30. At least it did give me enough time to go up one deck to the Kings Court for a late lunch/early dinner. My cabin is the very small 6022 on deck 6. It is smaller than either the Horrible Awful ships and definitely smaller than the Odyssey. Then we had the mandatory safety drill but by the time it was over, the more formal dress code took effect and there wasn't much chance to familiarize ourselves with the ship. It's now only about 160 hours - 10 hours of lectures = 150 hours of boredom to go. Further reading of the Cunard propoganda had made me think there would be several interesting things to see/hear, but many of them are, of course, at extra cost.

We were supposed to have a FORMAL Group dinner in the Britannia Restaurant (Dining Palace). But I goofed. Remember my comments about not wearing a dinner jacket / sport coat. Well, 30 years without wearing one, and 7 weeks since I bought a temporary one … which is still hanging in the closet at home to be donated to "Goodwill" when I return.

Fortunately the official propaganda from Cunard says "Any guests wishing to dress more casually on formal nights are welcome to dine in the Kings Court or Lido main buffet … although we request that they not use other areas within the ship." So I have the questionable privilege of having my dinners on deck 7 in the Kings Court dining area - for tonight and the other 6 nights onboard. My first experience this afternoon was not very encouraging. Chalk up another win for Voyages to Antiquity.(BD)

By the way, I tried to connect to the ship's wireless network but the ship is British and apparently they use a different connection protocol. No connection was possible. As we set sail (depart) there quite a few dark clouds above. An Omen of what is to come? Possibly. Not long after that we are in a fairly heavy fog and some very light rain.

And another side note: there are an amazing number of passenger onboard who brought their pet dog along with them and who take the dog (on a leash) along as they mover about the ship.

ADVANTAGES to the QM2:
7 nights in the same location - no packing and re-packing;
Excellent Road Scholar lectures;

Very nice "Small Road Scholar group size" so have "friends" - not lost in the herd;
Escape from the gilded dining room - eat in Kings Court;
Food - decent to fairly good but not excellent;
Being able to say (later) that I've cruised (survived) on the "Queen Mary".

SO-SO / POOR:
Cell block is smaller than on Horrible Awful cruises and much smaller than on the Odyssey;
Very poor directions marking where to find places/things;
Way overdone "gilding" of almost everything;
As expected, lots of "commercialization".

DISADVANTAGES:
Huge ship - way too many "cattle" and too many decks;
Formal atmosphere, even during the day;
Once the formal dinner times (hours) have started, unless we are dressed formally, we are requested NOT to go into the public areas except in that formal attire;
This also means that I'm not allowed out of my cell and am barred from going to any of the better programs and presentations in the evenings.
Long, tedious, Formal dinners - though I managed to escape them;
Seven days of (almost - except for the lectures) complete boredom just watching the water go by.

If we don't want to spend lots of money in the shops or gambling or eating in the extra cost dining areas, at least there are a few decent lectures and presentations to keep the herd from just drinking and drinking and eating and drinking although most of the best ones are at an extra cost.

Day 3, Saturday, June 14 - Watching the Water Go By / Road Scholar Lecture
Overnight weather: foggy (fog horns much of the night), some heavy rain (I guess what was forecast for yesterday moved offshore), only slight rolling, strong winds on the open deck (7), lots of low-level haze so we can't see far from the ship - not that there is muchto see. Breakfast is onboard (the ship is still rolling some) in the King's Court. It gets mixed reviews. At least, unlike on Horrible Awful, the food was fresh and hot when Kings Court opened for full breakfast at 6:30. After breakfast I did enough exploring to find the room where we have our meetings (deck 2) and the large library (deck 8).

Today, these are our Lectures: "The Prelude to Armageddon - 19th Century" and "World War One" led by our military history expert, Major General Graham Hollands, British Army. The lectures are well organized and very good, excellent in fact. Today's topics cover the English / French / Georman / European / American conflicts up through 1918 and the end of WWI This takes us up to noon.

We have to remember to turn our watches forward one hour at noon today. Then lunch is in the venue of our choosing. The best options are either the various King's Court venues, or a light lunch at the Boardwalk Cafe if the weather permits. This afternoon is at boredom unless we attend a lecture presented by one of Cunard's guest speakers, view a planetarium $$how or just take a nap.The weather has finally cleared up but the ship is still rolling noticeably. The rest of the afternoons are the same. So it turns out that I'll be existing on a) Deck 6, forward - my cell; b) Deck 7 midships - food; c) Deck 2 far forward - meetings; and d) Deck 8 forward - library.

Day 4, Sunday, June 15 - Watching the Water Go By / Road Scholar Lectures
The seas got rougher overnight with quite a bit of rain and there are good-sized whitecaps tossing around making the rolling of the ship much more pronounced. Getting out on the open deck is definitely not an option, at least for me. Many of the crew working there are wearing rain gear. This morning we also have to be very careful when walking, particularly while carrying our breakfast trays in the Kings Court. There is a possibility that some people might get seasick. At least I don't seem to ever get seasick. The rain continues, and in an announcement, the Captain says that the much higher waves are due to the fact that we have cleared the shallow water of the Continental Shelf and are now out in the deep Atlantic and he acknowledges that today's weather is NOT that of the much touted beautiful cruise day. He implies that this will probably continue.

Today we have the Lectures: "The Peace Conferences and the Rise of Hitler" and "Appeasement and the Path to Perdition". This picks up the history after 1918 where we ended yesterday and takes us up to the end of the preliminaries in 1938 and 1939. Tomorrow we start the war. After lunch those of us imprisoned on decks 6, 8, and 11 have our turn at UK Immigration Inspection. We have to present our passport and QM2 ID card which takes about 45 minutes. Hopefully this will facilitate our desertion and escape from the ship in Southampton.

The rest of the day is about the same but at 4:45PM, join our group leader up on deck 9 (at least it isn't on the wildly rolling deck 14) for a "Road Sholar" (as spelled by the QM2 staff) unwelcome crock-tale party but it is on a "formal" night so I felt very out of place and left early. The weather and waves are still rough so it may be another "bad" rock-n-roll night. Taking a shower can be dangerous.

Day 5, Monday, June 16 - Watching the Water Go By / Road Scholar Lectures
Up early again then have to wait until 6:30 for the Kings Court to start serving a full breakfast (same menu each day). After Gale Force winds (per the Captain) last night, the weather is much better but still not great. At least it has never been near what I experienced crossing the Drake Passage northbound where 1/4th of the passengers were ok; 1/3rd were seasick, and ½ were sure that they were dying. It's just been rougher than I had expected and poorer ondeck weather.

Now we get to start World War II. These are our Lectures: "World War II in Europe" and "Planning and Deception" bring us up to D-Day. The lectures run about 30 minutes overtime today but nobody is fussing - they are excellent. At noon, for the second of 5 times, we have to set our watches forward one hour. Southampton (England) time is 5 hours ahead of that in New York and 6 hours ahead of Houston. The rest of the day is the same as yesterday but without Sunday's crock-tale party.

Day 6, Tuesday, June 17 - Watching the Water Go By / Road Scholar Lectures
Again get up then wait for breakfast. It is a calm sea this morning, just very "breezy" on deck (10.5k wind + 19.8k ship speed). When I get back from breakfast, the crew has left on our doors the colored luggage tags for when we are to be ejected from the ship. Even though we don't get to escape for three more days, apparently they are as eager to get rid of us as we are to escape from them. After the stop in Southampton, the ship will continue on to Hamburg. Then it will turn and retrace the route back to New York.

We have the Lectures: "The German Armed Forces on D-Day" and "The Allied Armed Forces on D-Day". At lunch we again (3rd time) set our watches one hour forward. These show us the planning done by each side for the invasion and status of the forces as of D-Day. At lunch we (3rd time) set our watches one hour forward. Then it is another long afternoon and evening except for reading a good book.

Day 7, Wednesday, June 18 - Watching the Water Go By / Road Scholar Lectures
We have our last double lecture this morning: Lecture: "The French Occupation and Resistance" and "Interpreting the Battlefield". Then there is time for us to share experiences of the war, ask questions and discuss the causes and ramifications of D-Day.

The weather has gone downhill again: the waves are higher - also the wind - and the sky has turned gloomy and overcast. So much for getting out on deck. Yesterday was the only nice day of the crossing. The only excitement of the day is the 4th time to set our watches forward one hour - and read more of my book (a new Jeffery Deaver / Lincoln Rhyme book). Ho-Hum

Day 8, Thursday, June 19 - Watching the Water Go By / Road Scholar Lecture
After a medium rough night, this is the last full day above this rhinestone bedecked motorboat. Major General Hollands leads a final discussion as we prepare to disembark and begin learning about World War II firsthand. Since there is only one lecture, Ernesto moved the disembarkation info meeting to the morning. We discuss the logistics of disembarking as well as what to expect during the UK and France component of our program. For the 5th and last time, we reset our watches. We are now on Southampton (England) time. The afternoon is free to get packed and ready for tomorrow. We have to have our luggage packed and set outside our door by midnight. Starting about 5, the weather cleared up very nicely and very quickly, but since it was already into Formal Hours time, I couldn't be allowed out to enjoy it.

Day 9, Friday, June 20 - Arrive and Escape (disembark) / D-Day Preparations in the U.K.
I've been awake and on "countdown" since about 4AM. We arrive in Southampton and have an early breakfast at 6AM before disembarking. Remember, our luggage was already consigned to oblivion last night so there is very little packing left to do. We have to be out of our cells by 8:15 and Ernesto has asked for an 8:30 escape time (we get 8:40). I'll leave the cell at 8 just to be safe. Allowing for paperwork and reclaiming our luggage, assuming it is there, we should be on the bus maybe about 9.

The Lectures have really been exccellent, BUT
HALLELUJAH! ESCAPE FROM THE Queen Misery too!

8:50 AM - escape successful - back on terra semi-firma and on the bus at 9:20.
Now the good part of the trip starts.

After escaping from the "Queen Misery too", we pick up our local Portsmouth guide, Claire Dixon, who did a great job for us. Our first stop is "The Royal Naval Museum in Portsmouth's Historic Dockyard" is one of Britain's oldest maritime museums. Then still at the Dockyard, we visit the "the HMS Victory."

The Museum's aim is to preserve and present the history of the 'Fleet' - the ships and the men and women who manned them. The history of the Royal Navy dates back over a thousand years to King Alfred's first battle at sea in the year 882. The Navy has defended Britain from invasion, attacked enemies and eventually established Britain as the dominant world sea power in the 19th century. Today, the Fleet's role involves peacekeeping, fighting piracy and the prevention of drug trafficking. The influence of the Navy can be felt at every level in our society: in our speech, literature, dress, music, character, culture and customs. The history of the Navy is, to a remarkable extent, the history of Britain.

Then still in the Dockyard, we visit the "HMS Victory" which is is currently undergoing a period of restoration and visitors have the unique opportunity to witness the process taking place on the oldest commissioned warship in the world. Note: the last time I saw the USS Constitution, it was undergoing the same type of repairs and upkeep. The restoration of this fine ship is a proud memorial to Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, Britain's greatest Naval hero, and his stunning victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. Her topmasts and rigging have been struck, or taken down, and her planking is under investigation. This is nothing unusual as wooden ships like HMS Victory needed constant care and attention from the day they were launched. These repairs are simply the latest in a long tradition of regular upkeep. The last time HMS Victory was seen without her top masts was back in 1944, so this really is a once in a life time opportunity to see HMS Victory under-going such extreme maintenance. Interestingly, with her topmasts down, HMS Victory will look much as she did after the Battle of Trafalgar when she had to be towed to Gibraltar for repairs.

I've been on the HMS Victory at least three times before. It has been several years since the last time and I'm getting much older. Since there are lots of ladders and low overheads, I'll skip getting aboard this time. I do wish that I/we were going to see it under full rigging. As an alternative, I finally managed to get in to see the Mary Rose which was to have been King Henry VIIIs flagship. The Mary Rose museum / display is fantastic. This was a major highlight of the trip.

Lunch is at a quaint and historic country pub, The "Customs House" which was indeed originally the Customs House for the port, with beamed ceilings and an old wooden hearth. Now I get to eat a meal with the whole group. The entrée choices are "fish and chips" (seafood - no) or "steak pie." This is a "(just) beef pot pie" with a large order of mashed potatoes on the side. It was excellent - better than almost everything on the "Misery."

After lunch, next is a brief visit to the D-Day Museum which was established in 1984 to tell the story of Operation Overlord from its origins in the dark days of 1940 to victory in Normandy in 1944. Ermesto said that this visit is short since we visit two other D-Day museums, and we have to save time for our next visit - the Southwick House. They do have that fantastic embroidery and an excellent film about people in England living through the bombing.

The Museum's centerpiece is the Overlord Embroidery. Inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry, it is a moving tribute to the efforts and sacrifices of the Allies in defeating Nazi Germany. The scenes depicted in the Embroidery's 34 panels are vividly described in a multi-language sound-guide. Within the Embroidery gallery is the audio-visual theatre, where archive film footage, music, wartime images and the words of those who lived through it combine to evoke the atmosphere of World War II.

There in the Museum's displays, visitors experience the sights and sounds of Britain at War - the air raid warden's living room in the Blitz, the factory resounding to the strains of 'Music while you work', and the troops preparing for D-Day in their forest camp. The climax of the displays is a dawn to dusk reconstruction of the Allied landings by sea and air on D-Day itself - World War II's "Longest Day."

The last section of the exhibition, 'Portsmouth Memories', features the recorded reminiscences of local men, women and children who experienced life on the Home Front or took part in D-Day. The final image in the exhibition - a photograph of the rows of gravestones in the war cemetery at Ranville in Normandy - is a reminder of the price of victory, which must never be forgotten.

Our last Field Trip is to "The Southwick House" which was General Eisenhower's Headquarters for the planning for D-Day - Operation Overlord. This was in the original schedule then left out of our itinerary, but Ernesto managed to get it inserted back in. This actually proves to be more interesting than the D-Day Museum. There are maps on the walls showing the planning and detailing the hoped for actions. General Hollands did the presentation here.

We check in to our hotel for only one night and have a poor dinner in the hotel.. The hotel DOES have wi-fi as advertised, but being a Hilton, it isn't free and is actually quite expensive. The room is a nice size but has no a/c (just a desk fan but at least it does work) and almost no lighting. It is so dark that a bear could feel comfortable hibernating here for the winter. As it turns out, also we don't get our scheduled buffet breakfast tomorrow morning. This hotel is NOT recommended. Ernesto rates it as horrible. Lodging: Hilton Portsmouth (BLD)

Day 10, Saturday, June 21 - Ferry and Pegasus Bridge
D-Day plus 70 years and 15 days. It is also "The Longest Day" of the year re daylight. This is a get-up-very-very-early day. We have to get up by 5AM and have our luggage out at 5:30. Then Ernesto has arranged that the hotel have our buffet they will provide only a "continental" breakfast ready at 6AM. There is almost no time for us to gulp down a roll and "maybe" some orange juice before we have to check out of the hotel by 6:15 in order to take the bus to the ferry port. We get to the ferry port quickly and are onboard by 7:15. However the ferry doesn't leave until 8:30. There we take the early Brittany Ferries (Normandie) from Portsmouth to Caen, France. There is plenty of time to reflect on the many soldiers who crossed these same waters on June 6th, 1944. It is a 6-hour trip which would normally mean 8 - 1 but there is another time change so it is 8:30 - 2:30 (now 7 hours ahead of Houston) which is 3:30 in France.. Since it is that long, we have lunch on board the ferry as we cross the English Channel. It is only the 2nd time we've had an option on the menu and the selections are so unappealing that I skipped them and just made another pass at the appetizers.

We finally make it to France (Caen's port at Ouistreham) at 3:30 but have to wait for over 30 minutes for our luggage to be unloaded.so there isn't much time left in the day despite the long daylight hours. Thus our schedule for the rest of the day, and the next few days, is completely rearranged. Thus our schedule for the rest of the day and for the next few days, is completely rearranged. The originally posted schedule on the web doesn't match the printed preliminary document sent by Road Scholar which doesn't match the printed final documentation which doesn't match what we actually see and do in our days in Normandy. Some things even get left out totally.

We start with our first activity in France a visit to the new Pegasus Bridge - (the old one is still standing as a memorial nearby) site of one of the very early morning (June 6) Allied paratroops landings in order to seize two bridges between Sword Beach and Caen. General Hollands give us a full description of the activity there. It is his last presentation before he leaves us later this evening.

It is after 6 before we get to, and check in at Hotel Abominable. Although it is administered by the officially listed hotel, it is NOT there. Ernesto is p*****!! Our hotel was supposed to be Ferme de la Ranconniere. It is NOT what Road Scholar contacted for. Instead it is Hotel Abominable, formerly known as Le Manoir de Mathan. It seems that there is a big sport-car event going on and there are 10 Ferraris parked in the guest parking, so they probably appropriated our rooms and we get stuck in the barracks. Furthermore:

Hotel Abominable formerly known as Le Manoir de Mathan
i) It is about a mile away in a much less interesting location;
ii) It looks like a cross between a barracks and a slab sided prison building;
iii) Most of us are on upper floors (1 or 2 long flights of a very narrow circular staircase (dangerous in my mind);
iv) We have to haul our luggage across a gravel courtyard, then up those stairs; though one of the surly employees finally helps a few of us (we will need help again when it is time to check out;
v) There is no light in the corridor (attic) so trying to unlock an unfamiliar door in the dark is hard;
vi) The rafter beams in the rooms make it dangerous to move around (I hit my head several times);
vii) The rooms are swelteringly hot (no a/c or fans);
viii) There is nowhere except the bed to put our luggage when we want to open it; the space allocated is way too short;
ix) Although we have a huge "wardrobe" for hanging things, there are NO drawers, shelves, etc, etc. so, with the above problem, any time we want anything out of the luggage, we have to haul it onto the bed; open, then close/zip shut when finish, etc.
x) The bed is very poor (way too soft);
xi) Some of the nicer rooms have a small refrigerator, but not my room;
xii) Even though I leave the window open when I leave in the morning, the staff persists in closing it resulting in a VERY hot room when I return in the evening;
xiii) Since we are a mile from the hotel itself, the promised free wi-fi is NOT available (free or otherwise);
xiv) According to the room rates posted on the cell door, I'm paying an abominable €140 or $200 a night for this disaster;
xv) The dinners I skipped are rated as poor to bad by others.

On a scale of 1-10, I would rate Hotel Abominable as a minus 50. Basically it ruins the whole Normandy experience - but Normandy is why I came on this trip. So it is "Thumbs Down" on the trip despite all the excellent activities.

Later (7:30) we have to make our way all the way to the main buildings in order to have dinner. For me, it is inedible - all seafood - and the staff don't seem to care.. So much for eating any dinner. Ernesto had told us earlier that "the staff is NOT service oriented". Then we have to make our way back to Abominable. It is a long walk. Just after midnight (12:35) there was a long series of fireworks being set offas part of a music festival in Bayeux. It was very close (easily visible just behind the prison, and very loud. Lodging: Hotel Abominable formerly known as Ferme de la Ranconniere, (4 miserable nights)


Day 11, Sunday, June 22 - "The Paratroopers of Sainte-Mère-Église" and "Utah Beach"
D-Day plus 70 years and 16 days. After a long miserable night and a fair breakfast, we meet our new tour expert for the tour of France who is Jean-Pierre Benamon, founder of the Normandy Museum and the D-Day Academy. At 9 (make that 9:20), we leave for our daily adventures - and all the time dreading having to (HORRORS!) go back to Hotel Abominable this evening.

We have two activities/presentations today: "The Paratroopers of Sainte-Mère-Église" and "Utah Beach." Our first Our first stop is at Sainte-Mère-Église": On the way from Hotel Abonimable to Utah beach to Sainte-Mère-Église, we stop at the drop zone to learn about the paratroopers landing and freeing of this town. Upon our later arrival in town we visit then famous church and then enjoy independent exploration of the Airborne Museum in Sainte-Mère-Église. It is an excellent museum.

We then head towards Utah Beach with a stop at the Utah Beach memorials where we first have an excellent lunch (one of the best meals) at a restaurant named after Major General Teddy Roosevelt, Jr, whose initiative led to an easier time in the battle for Utah Beach.

After lunch we cross the road and go down to the beach to learn about the Allied landings. Jean-Pierre guides us through an on-site presentation about the landing that took place here.

It is still only about 4 so Ernesto and Jean-Marie throw in an extra: a brief stop in Bayeux were we have about 30 minutes to get a quick look at the cathedral and part of the town - most of which is closed down since it is Sunday. We will be back here again on Wednesday.

Then, explore the German artillery battery at Longues sur Mer with its huge long range guns (taken from Navy cruisers damaged or sunk in Norway) overlooking the beaches. and also visit one of the observation/fire control bunkers.

After a long, tiring day, it is back to Hotel Abominable - and I find that the **** cell-keeping staff has rearranged the room back to the way THEY want it, and also have again closed the window such that the room is again miserably hot. ****!!!! It takes over an hour to get the room to begin to cool down. ****!!!! After last night's non-dinner-disaster, and since I had an excellent lunch, I just skipped dinner - and found out later that "I hadn't missed anything" good.

Day 12, Monday, June 23 - Omaha Beach and the American Cemetary
Note: World War II period trucks are used for transport along Omaha Beach; we must be able to climb and descend a short ladder in order to get in and out of the trucks. There will be assistants on hand for this, and the experience is a highlight of the program and should not be missed. (No loss if we did miss it!)

D-Day, plus 70 years and 17 days. Breakfast, again nice, is at the hotel. This morning we visit several locations on Omaha Beach, which is where the father of my neighbor, Richard, went ashore on D-Day + 10 which was 70 years and 6 days ago. It was the site of the bloodiest sector of the D-Day invasion where many American GIs' young lives ended.

Our first stop is Pointe-du-Hoc, learn about the U.S. Ranger Assault Group's attack. Take time to look around the bruised landscape. Pay homage to their sacrifice as we stand on the sand overlooking the Channel. We see another artillery battery and large concrete bunkers overlooking the invasion area.

We then climb into a World War II period truck or jeep for 3 different drives. I did one ride in a deuce-and-a-half and one in a 1943 jeep. We just drive through town and not drive along the beach. The first stop is at the Chateau d'Englesqueville where the first U.S. monument to WWII soldiers was built. Our second ride takes us to the west end of Omaha beach we do get down to the beach itself and step into their shoes for a short time as Jean-Pierre evokes the sights, sounds and myriad emotions of June 6 1944.

After another jeep ride we have an excellent lunch (select from the full menu) at La Sapiniere Restaurant in St Laurent-du-Mer.

Then we head off to one of our most important stops: the huge American Cemetery in Normandy. There Jean-Pierre and Ernesto have arranged for us to have a ceremony of laying a wreath at the base of the monument to the fallen soldiers. In it, first we form a line facing the American Flags as the National Anthem is played with chimes over loud-speakers. As it happened, a large force of soldiers were there who took part by going into parade formation and saluting the flag with us as the Anthem was played. The members of our group who are veterans then laid the wreath followed by a minute of silence and the playing of "Taps." It was a very "moving" experience. We then have time of our own to look out over the many, many rows of graves, and also to visit the chapel which is beautiful.

Our last bit is as we drive through Arromanches: a drive-by-shooting from a moving bus of some of the remains of the Gold Beach Mulberry Harbor - with about 30 seconds of commentary. From the moving bus with dirty windows, it was hard to see much of anything. We were really shortchanged on that activity compared to what was originally listed.

Return to the miserably hot attic cell at Hotel Abominable for dinner at a local eatery of some kind. However after one bad dinner experience at the hotel, and a bad report on the second dinner, and since I had had such a great lunch, I just skipped dinner. The next morning Ernesto reports that it was very poor, and that the service was so bad / slow that it took from 7:30 to about 10:20 to have dinner. Totally unacceptable. I'm glad that I didn't go. (BL)

Day 13, Tuesday, June 24 - The Battle of the Hedgerows and the Bayeux Tapestry
D-Day plus 70 years and 17 days. Another miserable night in a too-soft bed. Then to compound the matter - a mis-step on those **** steps! Nothing broken, but my back may be too sore to do much of anything today.

After breakfast, we start earlier than so we can have time to to explore the hedgerows, which proved to be a very unique and difficult obstacle for American soldiers. Getting there means driving down some very narrow country roads, a couple of which are just dirt tracks (quite a feat for our driver since we are in a large bus). It is quite easy to see why getting throw the hedgerows was such a problem. All through the trip, when traveling from site to site, we often were going through very interesting small villages with exceptionally narrow roads. It was worth it - at least for us - to see so much of the countryside and the small villages.

Next is the Field Trip and Lecture "Saint-Lô": Travel to Saint-Lô On site, our lecturer will discuss the significance of Saint-Lô to the war. Along the way, Jean-Pierre has tried to bring to life what all had happened by focusing on Major Howie of the 29th National Guard division from landing on Omaha Beach through all the fighting and then to St Lo where he was the first officer to enter St Lo when freeing the town.

We make a quick to to visit the large German Cemetery near St. Lo. It is arranged / landscaped very differently from the US and UK cemeteries. We then have lunch is at a local restaurant, L'Ambiance, which is not as good as the other included lunches.

Then we have the Field Trip "Bayeux Tapestry": This afternoon, return to Bayeux and discover the legendary Bayeux Tapestry that is part of UNESCO's "Memory of the World" registry. Take time to linger over each of the 58 scenes which depict in exquisite detail the Norman invasion of England. It is fantastic! However, using the (free) audio-guides, there is no way to pause them to really look at the Tapestry; we have to keep moving at the pace dictated by the audio-guide. Disappointing in that way. I would really have liked to have more time to study it but I think that the audiotapes are set to have no pause in order to force people to keep moving and get out of the way of the next visitors. The gift shop there is very nice with several things I would have liked to have bought but not at their extremely inflated prices. Later, enjoy some more time to explore Bayeux on our own - as least I do as much as my very sore back (those steps) will allow.

. It is now back to Hotel Abominable and the oven-like cell before our dinner there but I just skip it. Later reports say that it was another very poor one. The best thing is that this is our last night at Hotel Abominable.

The visits to the Normandy sites have really been exccellent, BUT
HALLELUJAH! FREE AT LAST! FREE AT LAST! Escape from the attic of HOTEL ABOMINABLE!

8:50 AM - escape successful - back on the bus
Free at last!

Day 14, Wednesday, June 25 - The Caen Memorial and Transfer to Paris
We have to have our luggage out in front of our cell door by 8AM when, hopefully, some surly member of the staff, after a large bribe from Ernesto, will start taking them downstairs and dragging them across the gravel courtyard and to the bus for us.

Yesterday was our last day with Jean-Pierre. Ernesto does the work today, then he and "Paris Walks" guides do the tours Thursday. After breakfast - decent this time - Escape from Hotel Abominable and board our group coach for Paris. We leave at 8:45. We do make one extra stop: the D-Day Academy founded by Jean-Pierre. It is just a quick stop, but we do get to learn more about it and its functions. Physically it looks like a large warehouse but is filled with all kinds of WWII equipment, weapons, remnants of crashed airplanes, uniforms, etc. It is a fascinating place to visit. I could have spent far more than the 45 minutes we were allocated.

Next, but before heading to Paris, we have the Field Trip "Caen Memorial" and then begin our transfer to Paris.

Stop en route in Caen for an exploration of the incredible museum-memorial dediated to the examination of 20th century conflict and the achievement of peace. Watch the museum's video that delves into the emotions and horrors of war on both sides, and walk through the impressive collection and exhibits detailing the World Wars and the many ramifications of conflict.

We have a very nice lunch is at the Caen Memorial. Then we drive on and finally, after 3 hours of a boring interstate-like freeway, then an hour of congestion, we arrive in some very large town. Eventually the driver finds our hotel, check in and then take some time to relax and unpack. As we were "warned," the hotel rooms here are quite small/cramped, but it is much better than at Hotel Abominable. There are no activities scheduled or planned either this afternoon or evening in Paris. Dinner is at the hotel, but as usual, I skip it. At least we don't have to go out and find something to eat. Lodging: Villa Montparnasse (2 nights)

Day 15, Thursday, June 26 - The Occupation and Liberation of Paris
Update: I've renamed this "hotel" (dog house) as Hotel Abominable Junior. Already: the room is so cramped that it makes the packing in a can of sardines look roomy; the toilet malfunctioned; there is almost no soundproofing between rooms (I'm still awake at 12:20AM); the lights controls are set that in order to turn off the main light in the "bed" room, ALL lights are turned off - even bedside and bathroom lights; one of the elevators got stuck - fortunately with the doors open; I'm almost afraid to try one of these elevators, but I'm on the 5th (US 6th) floor and that is just too many steps. Also dinner last night was reported to be very poor. As for France, not previously reported, the bus, though large, has almost no leg/knee room giving a very uncomfortable ride, particularly on longer drives.

I've had those repeated second thoughts about my planned long France tour later this year and have DECIDED TO CANCEL IT. I don't want to go through more of this.

We really have only this one day for all of our visit to Paris. This morning the field trip (done by "Paris Walks," the French cousin of the great "London Walks" that I have enjoyed in London so many times. Our afternoon walk, noted below, is also done by Paris Walks.

Although the walking tour was listed as topic Paris Resistance, it was actually a 4 hour walking tour of central Paris during which we saw many of the most famous sites, with only occasional mention of how a particular site played into the Resistence. After an hour or so break for lunch we did the second part of today's walks.

To start, we begin at the Hotel Meurice, once the German Headquarters, and end at the Notre Dame Cathedral in the morning tour. As part of the tour, we also had about a 10 minute ride on the Paris Metro which was crowded but nice, and our guide spotted a team of two young female pick-pockets standing near us, and warned us to be careful about them.

Lunch is on our own.- an overpriced but decent hot dog and coke from one of the many street side sandwich vendors. We ate in one of the open air eateries just across the street from Notre Dame and watched all the people go by. Nice.

The afternoon walk, an optional field trip to explore Ile de la Cite, the island on the Seine at the heart of Paris. This took about 2 more hours but overall we got an excellent (in my opinion) tour of the central part of the city - maybe better even than had we been on a bus tour. This way we could stop and look, etc. We were getting quite tired, but to me, this was the better of the two tours - more of the "old town." Overall, the walks were excellent since they focused more on the city as it is rather than just the WWII Paris Resistence.

For our (poor) Farewell dinner, we took the coach a few blocks to a local restaurant then after dinner have a final Field Trip "City of Lights: which is a "leisurely" drive through much traffic congestion around the illuminated monuments in the City of Light - except that none of them were illuminated. All that was lit up were the store windows. Boring! It was a total waste of time. To make it even less enjoyable, it was raining. (BD)

Day 16, Friday, June 27 - Departure
After breakfast, a group departure transfer is organized for all participants who purchased an air inclusive program and depart on the group date. With a hotel departure time at 7:15 (7:35), there is no time for breakfast since the breakfast room doesn't open until 7 and we still have to get our luggage down and get checked out of the hotel. At least the air foulup revision gave me a direct flight back to the US from London, but why not direct from Paris? Another Rode Skalur failure? The connection time is good - just that long 10 hour flight (11 hours in the seat but at least it is an aisle seat.) It is over 15 hours from first boarding to getting off in Houston courtesy of Rode Skalur. For the direct flight as on the France trip, it is only about 11 hours - AF 0636 Paris - Houston 10:30A - 1:55P 10:25 which is only 15 minutes longer than the London-Houston flight.

But I'm stuck with this thanks to Rode Skalur - assuming it goes at all. When I tried to do early online check-in, all I got was a message "Schedule disrupted - will keep you advised." However, despite no breakfast, the day started well - whatever problems the airlines were having got cleared up and the schedule stayed safe. I made it to London with no problem.

British Air BA 307Paris - Heathrow10:55 A - 11:15 A1:203:05
3:40

The arrival in London was on time and there is time for lunch here, but I don't have any British Pounds. Fortunately they do also accept Euros so I did get a reasonable lunch.

Then when I checked in with BritAir, for some reason they upgraded my reservation/seat substantially ... to a cross between "Economy +" and "junior business" = more comfortable seat, wider seat, more leg room, a bit more personal service, better food choices, etc. It is also 20 rows closer to the front of the plane. They call it "World Traveler Plus."

However, although the boarding was slow, it wasn't until they had almost finished loading the luggage when somehow the handlers managed to bend/distort one of the luggage bins making it impossible to load. They tried for a while (15 minutes) but gave up and we left.

British Air BA 197Heathrow - Houston2:20 P - 6:30
2:55 - 7:00 P
10:0515:05

Unfortunately my luggage was in that bin so it is still in London. Supposedly they will send it on tomorrow's flight and it might (promised?) get delivered sometime tomorrow night. BritAir was definitely aware that there would be some unhappy customers and had an agent with specially printed forms ready for the unlucky ones to fill out. Now if only they do deliver it sometime tomorrow evening …

With the time required to get through Immigration and Customs formalities then wait for the StuporShuttle, I don't get home until 9 PM.

Tomorrow is Saturday, so maybe I can get my mail fairly quickly and not have to wait two or three days.

Day 17-19, Saturday-Monday, June 28-30 - Luggage??
Well, do I get luggage today, or not??? ANSWER: After 29 hours, NOT

Day 20, Tuesday, July 1 - Luggage??
Well, do I get luggage today, or not??? I finally managed to get a Baddish Air (Bad Air) agent on the phone who referred me to a specific web page. Here is their xxxcuse ("explanation") as posted on their web pages:

"We continue to make good progress with sending delayed bags back to their owners around the world following four days (Thursday 26 June to Sunday 29 June) of intermittent IT-related faults with Heathrow Airport's baggage system in Terminal 5. The faults meant that some flights on each of the four days left with lower than expected numbers of baggage.

We are very sorry for the difficulties these faults have caused and we continue to work round the clock to re-unite remaining customers with their luggage as quickly as possible. Large numbers of delayed bags have now departed from Heathrow and we have drawn up detailed plans for the remaining bags. The processes to repatriate baggage are complex due to security and customs regulations in each country. Given the volumes of bags and the nature of global travel, it may take several days to reunite bags with their owners.

Due to the volume of delayed bags, which need to be processed, a common message shown to you on the baggage tracing system will unfortunately be "Tracing continues. Please check back later."

Updated messages in World Tracer are normally automatically generated by Terminal 5's baggage system once a bag has been located, placed in the baggage system and then loaded on board a flight. Due to the instability of Terminal 5's baggage system - and to re-flight bags back to customers as soon as possible - some bags are being sent using other methods. This means some of the World Tracer delayed bag reports will not be updated until our teams at airports round the world receive a bag at its destination airport. Courier services who work on our behalf to deliver the bag to the correct address are also updating the system and will endeavour to contact you to arrange a suitable delivery time.

Late update (8PM) - I just received an email message that my luggage has been identified and "the delivery process has been started."

Day 21, Tuesday, July 2 - Luggage??
Well do I get it today? At 10:30 AM I received an automated call from the courier service for Baddish Air indicating that I might actually get my luggage today. YES! FINALLY! One-two-three is a magic number. 123 hours is "all" it took to finally get my luggage.

Selected pictures
Click to enlarge

Southampton
Pegasus
St-Marie-Eglise
Utah Beach Day
Omaha Beach Day
Cemetery
Cemetery
Mulberrys
Bayeux
Paris


FIELD TRIPS (15) AND LECTURES (15):
Day 3: Saturday:Lecture: "The Prelude to Armageddon - 19th Century"
Lecture: "World War One"
Day 4: Sunday:Lecture: "The Peace Conferences and the Rise of Hitler"
Lecture: "Appeasement and the Path to Perdition"
Day 5: Monday:Lecture: "World War II in Europe"
Lecture: "Planning and Deception"
Day 6: Tuesday:Lecture: "The German Armed Forces on D-Day"
Lecture: "The Allied Armed Forces on D-Day"
Day 7: Wednesday:Lecture: "The French Occupation and Resistance"
Lecture: "Interpreting the Battlefield"
Day 8: Thursday:Lecture: Operation Overlord: Utah and Omaha Beach
Day 9: Friday:Field Trip "Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and the HMS Victory"
Field Trip "Royal Naval Museum"
Field Trip "Southwick House"
Day 10: Saturday:Field Trip/Presentation "The Pegasus Bridge"
Day 10: Saturday:Field Trip/Presentation "The Paratroopers of Sainte-Mère-Église"
Day 11: Sunday:Field Trip "Omaha Beach"
Field Trip "Calvados and Cheese: Normandy's Pride"
Day 12: Monday:Field Trip/Lecture "Discovering the Canadian and British Sectors"
Field Trip/Lecture "The Artificial Harbor of Gold Beach"
Day 13: Tuesday:Field Trip/Lecture "Saint-Lô"
Field Trip "Bayeux Tapestry"
Day 14: Wednesday:Field Trip "Caen Memorial"
Field Trip "Transit to Paris"
Day 15: Thursday: Field Trip/Lecture "The Occupation and Liberation of Paris"
Day 16: Friday:Field Trip "Explore Ile de la Cite"
Field Trip "City of Lights"

HOTELS:
New York Marriott Downtown (1 night) 85 West Street at Albany Street, New York, NY 10006 USA, phone: 121-238-5490 x0. 4-star hotel. The only Marriott hotel centrally located in Lower Manhattan, New York City's Financial District. Some guest rooms offer views of the Statue of Liberty, New York City Harbor, or Wall Street. (doubtful if any Rode Skalur rooms have a view).

Hilton Portsmouth (1 night) Eastern Road, Portsmouth, PO6 1UN UK:England, phone: +44 23 92 21 91 11. Full Service Hotel. Just a ten minute drive from Portsmouth's Historic Dockyard and city center, this Portsmouth hotel is near a host of historic and cultural attractions. Discover Charles Dickens birth place or Portsmouth's rich naval history at the Royal Naval Museum. Visit Portsmouth's Historic Dockyard and see Lord Nelson's historic flagship HMS Victory. Enjoy views over Portsmouth from the Spinnaker Tower. Wireless internet access

Ferme de la Ranconniere, (4 nights) Route Creully Arromaches, 14480, Crepon France. +3.30.23.12.22173 Three-Star Hotel. Situated in a peaceful little Bessin village, this wonderful listed 13th century manor stands close to the Normandy landing beaches, in the land of William the Conqueror. BUT WE DON'T ACTUALLY STAY THERE. We stay in Hotel Abominable instead. The promised Complimentary Wi-Fi Internet access is NOT available.

Villa Pantheon (2 nights) 41, rue des Ecoles, Paris, 75005, phone: +33 (0)1 53 10 95 96. Hotel. The hotel is on the left bank of the Seine in the Saint Germain district near the Pantheon and the Sorbonne. Wireless Internet. Participants should be aware that hotel rooms in Paris are often considerably smaller than hotel rooms in the United States.

QUEEN MARY 2



RMS Queen Mary 2 (also referred to as the QM2) is the first major ocean liner built since Queen Elizabeth 2 in 1969, the vessel she succeeded as flagship of the Cunard Line. The new ship was named Queen Mary 2 by Queen Elizabeth II in 2004 after the first RMS Queen Mary, completed in 1936. Queen Mary was in turn named after Mary of Teck, consort of King George V. With the retirement of Queen Elizabeth 2 from active duty in 2008, Queen Mary 2 is the only transatlantic ocean liner in line service between Southampton and New York, which operates for part of each year. The ship is also used for cruising, including an annual world cruise.

Although not of British construction, the ship was designed by a team of British naval architects, led by Stephen Payne. At the time of her construction in 2003 by Chantiers de l'Atlantique, Queen Mary 2 was the longest, widest, and tallest passenger ship ever built, and with her gross tonnage of 148,528 also the largest. She no longer holds this distinction after the construction of Royal Caribbean International's 154,407 GT Freedom of the Seas in April 2006. Although later cruise ships are larger, Queen Mary 2 remains the largest ocean liner (as opposed to cruise ship) ever built.

The Queen Mary 2 was intended to routinely cross the Atlantic Ocean, and was designed differently from many other passenger ships. Queen Mary 2 has a maximum speed of just over 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph) and a cruising speed of 26 knots (48 km/h; 30 mph), much faster than a contemporary cruise ship.

CABINS Category ED - Britannia Oceanview Stateroom Decks: my cell (cabin) is 6022 on Deck 6. This is the class reserved by Road Scholar.

Britannia Oceanview Staterooms are beautifully decorated and include a large porthole window. These staterooms have a king-size bed which may be converted to twin beds, small sitting area with sofa, dual height coffee table, and bathroom with shower. Thoughtful amenities include 24 hour room service, interactive TV, refrigerator (not in my jail cell), safe, bathrobes (not in my jail cell) and slippers, and daily newspaper. Square Footage: 194 a cramped 159 sq ft. Note: my cabin on the Veendam was 197 sq feet, so this may be smaller. Conflicting: Rode Skalur says 159 sq feet; Cunard page says 194 sq feet. I would say, from approximate measurements, just the narrower 159 sq feet cabin.

DINING OPTIONS:
There are 10 restaurants in all but only two are of any real interest to me. As with the custom of ocean liners in the past, each QM2 stateroom is matched with a reserved table in the main dining room.

Kings Court (DECK 7) serves as Queen Mary 2's lido buffet, and is not at the top of the ship but on Deck 7. Kings Court is a good choice for a casual breakfast or lunch. At night it is transformed into four intimate dining venues: The Carvery, La Piazza, Lotus and Chef's Galley. During breakfast each of the connected venues offers pretty much the usual morning fare. At lunchtime and in the evening, they all focus on their specialties (roasted meats and contemporary British Cuisine) at the Carvery, pasta at La Piazza (Italian), Chef's Galley and the Lotus (Asian). This is my choice, but Rode Skalur scheduled dinners in the Britannia.

In the evening, one of the four restaurants remains a buffet, while the other three become alternative restaurants. Reservations must be made for the King's Court alternative restaurants. The Chef's Galley accepts relatively few diners, so reservations must be made in advance. A fee is charged for the Chef's Galley.

The area opens for continental breakfast at 4 a.m., and full breakfast runs from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. These buffets are open from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dinner is from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Britannia Restaurant - Main Dining Room This is on decks 2 and 3. The stunning 3-story Britannia Restaurant has a grand sweeping staircase that creates a dramatic showcase for those wishing to make the ultimate entrance. This opulent dining room fits the QM2 well - setting the stage for long, tedious, boring FORMAL dinners though "luckily" I managed to escape this.

Boardwalk Café - This casual eatery near the pool is good for lunch. Located towards the rear of Deck 12, this cafe is only available when the weather permits. The food is prepared and displayed, self-service style, inside, beyond the two doors.

LARGE SHIPS COMPARISON

Descriptor2011-13
Aegean Odyssey
- Multi
2012
Zuiderdam
Caribbean Cruise
2014
Veendam
Panama Canal
2014
Queen Mary 2
America
& D-Day
Cattle capacity
378
1916
1350
2620
Crew
180
817
580
1253
Length
461'
936'
720'
1132'
Beam
67'
106'
122'
135'
Speed
18 knots
24 knots
22 knots
30 knots
Cattle decks
5
11
10
14