Cruis­ing the high seas

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - SENIOR -

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.

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