Majestic time without Her Majesty

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queenelizabethinsouthampton.jpgI am still getting my breath back after the hectic events of the Queen Elizabeth naming ceremony, partly because of the ferocious air-conditioning in my cabin, but mostly because of the hectic schedule of events.
Into a mere 12 hours was crammed a champagne reception, the ceremony itself, a quick tour of the ship, another champagne reception, a four course dinner, and then a thorough examination of the ship’s bars and the Yacht Club disco – which I seem to recall took until 2.00 am.
That left just five hours sleep before the alarm clock summoned me to a quick breakfast in the Lido restaurant, and by 8.30 am I was walking down the gangway, with the sound of the atrium piano tuner ringing rather too loudly in my ears.
I must pause here for a moment to pay tribute to Mrs Greybeard for her ultra-quick change of outfits from suit and hat (well, fascinator) for the afternoon to her slinky evening dress which put my tired old DJ to shame. And for her stamina on the early-morning dance floor.
Well, we’re only young once!
However, that’s all an age away now and the ship is well into her maiden voyage. So I really should catch up with last week’s travels around Scotland’s west coast on a rather different vessel.
glentarsan.jpgGlen Tarsan (above) is just 85ft long, a tiny fraction of Queen Elizabeth’s 964ft, and while I could see across half of Hampshire from my Cunard balcony, the porthole in my Scottish cabin was just about at water level. When the seas got rough, looking out of it was rather like looking into a washing machine on a heavy wash cycle.
A converted Irish trawler, one of two operated by The Majestic Line, the boat carries just 11 passengers and a crew of four. Setting out from Oban for six nights, we had expected to spend time exploring the peaceful island of Iona, the wildlife haven of the Treshnish islands, and possibly even to enter Fingal’s Cave by boat.
In the event, southerly gales confined us to the east coast of Mull and sent us deep into Lochs Sunart and Linnhe in search of shelter. Which is one of the advantages of cruising – rather than being stuck in one place in a hotel on land, we could travel in search of the best weather, taking our accommodation with us (in the same way that giant cruise ships dodge hurricanes in the Caribbean).
Not only could we go anywhere we wanted on the sea, we also had free run of the ship. Captain Iain Skipper Iain Duncan must have felt he was being squeezed out of the little wheelhouse at times as we crowded in to enjoy the scenery and look out for porpoises, seals, otters, stags, sea eagles and other bird life.
Engineer Bob McLean, who doubled as the tender pilot, showed us proudly round his spotless engine room, while chef Doug Wilson sweated in the tiny galley preparing the most delicious meals, and bosun Vicky Lindus did her best to keep us in order and supplied with drinks – a difficult task at dinner when unlimited house wine was available.
We were fortunate to have a fascinating mix of interesting fellow-passengers for a memorable week away from it all. Threats of mutiny over having to miss Iona soon evaporated and we found fascinating places to explore in Tobermory, Glencoe and Lochaline instead.
With the on-board entertainment limited to two shelves of books and a handful of DVDs we made our own fun – fishing (unsuccessfully) over the stern, or stargazing on a clear moonless night when the Milky Way twinkled as brightly as a Christmas tree, but with thousands more lights.
For a full report of the week you’ll have to wait until it reaches the pages of the Daily Mirror in a few weeks’ time. I’ll keep you posted.

By | 2017-06-15T16:00:19+00:00 14 October 2010|Cruise Destinations, Cruise Ships|0 Comments

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

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