Cruising the high seas
FOR the Tans, cruising the high seas is a truly royal experience.
Tan Beng Theam and his wife, Annie Cheah Suan Nee, are among the privileged few who have been on three of the Cunard’s most luxurious ocean liners.
Since their first voyage on the Queen Elizabeth 2 almost two decades ago, the couple have been on the Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria.
Tan beams with pride when he shows off his Cunard Gold Level World Club pin.
“Not many people are fortunate to have travelled three times on a Cunard cruise. I received my pin at a special cocktail party hosted by the Captain. It was all very formal – as is the tradition on board all Cunard ships.
“The Cunard Line has built a reputation on its classic British heritage and it’s something we appreciate,” he says.
In 1993, the Queen Elizabeth 2 took them from Athens to Southampton. Eleven years down the road, they boarded the Queen Mary 2 at Southampton on a cruise to Athens.
“In March this year, we sailed on the Queen Victoria from Hong Kong to Shanghai, Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore.
“On cruises, there is no hassle of having to move your luggage from one hotel to another every night as you would on a land tour.
“The air of luxury and elegance, getting dressed up for dinner and going ballroom dancing are things I enjoy,” Tan says.
The couple have also been on other cruise ships to the Norwegian Fjords, Mediterranean and Alaska. “These are smaller ships,” Cheah laughs. She fondly recalls a Mediterranean cruise on the Costa Concordia to Marseille, Cyprus, Rhodes Island and Alexandria.
“That was two years ago. The Costa Concordia is an Italian boat. The feel is very different from the Cunard. I love the informal atmosphere. There’s always music playing and there are more youngsters on board,” she says.
The couple started to plan more cruise vacations after Tan’s two hip replacement surgeries and a knee operation.
“We never stopped travelling – the only adjustment to our yearly holidays is that we go on more cruises rather than land tours which can be physically taxing,” Cheah says.
Asked which Queen is their favourite, Tan says: “Each is special and unique in her own right”.
He says the Queen Elizabeth 2 was exciting because it was the first luxury liner they’d ever been on.
“We went with a big group of friends which was very nice.
“Our Queen Mary 2 cruise was also special because we were in Greece during the Olympics and former British prime minister Tony Blair was also on board. We didn’t get to meet him though. The security was so tight; it was a unique experience,” he says.
For Cheah, the many activities on board the Queen Victoria made the trip memorable.
“There were so many games. We played mahjong and bridge and went line dancing. There was something to do every day,” she says.
Tan says the legendary Queen Elizabeth 2 was retired in 2008 and is now a floating hotel in Dubai.
The couple are counting the days when they will pack their bags to board the new Queen Elizabeth next year.
The new addition to the Cunard “royal family” is already creating a buzz with its lavish three-tier Royal Court Theatre (complete with regal private boxes), Garden Lounge inspired by the glass houses of England’s Kew Gardens and Queens Room – a ballroom lined with artwork and photographs of Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal family.