All at sea for a holiday of a lifetime
This is a story about one of the best holidays I’ve ever had. And I say that even though I had to work twice in the middle of the trip. But there’s also a ruinous aspect to the whole thing. Let me explain.
I was invited to be a guest speaker on the Queen Mary 2 on one of its North Atlantic crossings from New York to Southampton and I was allowed to bring a guest. The brief boost in my popularity before I decided whom to invite was slightly marred by the realisation that I had to think of something to talk about for 50 minutes and then deliver it to a large audience.
I chose the subject of my career but with some added behind-the-scenes revelations of what it’s actually like to work on a television series or be in a film, both of which I’ve been lucky enough to do. I also decided to invite my friend Claire Carter. As you may know she used to host a show on BBC Radio Gloucestershire before annoyingly being promoted to the breakfast show in distant Somerset. We became friends when we worked on a radio drama together and I knew she’d be good company.
What Claire probably didn’t realise when she accepted my invitation was that she’d have to let me practice my talk on her a few times. This must have been pretty tedious for her by the fourth or fifth time but she consistently managed to feign interest, which I greatly appreciated.
So, we flew to New York and on landing at JFK were immediately driven to the port in Brooklyn. My romantic fantasy of sailing away on a huge ship required someone to wave to on the dock as we departed. Luckily a dear friend of mine, Alastair, who lives in Brooklyn was willing to indulge me, standing on the dock and waving a large red handkerchief with great commitment as we sailed away.
Cunard’s flagship ocean liner, the Queen Mary 2, is more than just a floating five-star hotel. With its theatre, cinema, gym, spa, ballroom, swimming pools, multiple restaurants and bars, dog kennels and even a planetarium, it’s a world unto its own. Every inch is recently refurbished, deco elegance and, not surprisingly, the sea views are amazing.
The number of events and onboard activities available was seemingly limitless; there was even a masquerade ball one evening. But ball or not, at 6pm each evening all passengers are required to change for dinner into either black tie or cocktail SHIP SHAPE: Queen Mary 2 was intended for routine crossings of the Atlantic Ocean, and was designed differently from many other passenger ships. The ship has a maximum speed of just over 30 knots (35mph) and a cruising speed of 26 knots (30 mph), much faster than a contemporary cruise ship. Some of the facilities include 15 restaurants and bars, five swimming pools, a casino and the first planetarium at sea. attire. One could imagine this to be a bit of a chore, but it actually became a treasured part of our day, greatly enhanced by our butler Roger (yes, our BUTLER) bringing Claire and myself drinks and canapés to ease us through our transition into formal wear.
The first ‘work’ part of the trip happened on day two. I’m not sure if it should be described as a talk or a speech, or even a One Woman Show, but my Powerpoint presentation and I managed to at least keep people’s attention for an hour, so I was happy with that. The second part came a few days later and that was just a Q&A session with Jo, the entertainment director and members of the audience, so a much easier endeavour.
What I didn’t realise was that they were filming both of these and that immediately after my talk the recording of it would be played on a permanent loop on channel 23 of the onboard television system only to be replaced by my Q&A session immediately after I had done that. Claire took great pleasure in switching the television to channel 23 at every opportunity just to torment me.
It takes six days to cross the Atlantic and once my talk was under my belt Claire and I were determined to see as much of the ship as possible. I took far too may photos, mostly of Claire and mostly in revenge for the television channelchanging thing. Both of us felt considerably more relaxed than we had anticipated, even when, at one point, it was announced that we were 500 miles from land in any direction.
The ruinous part of the trip is that both Claire and I realise that we would be hard pressed to have a better holiday. Any journey or break will feel a bit humdrum after a crossing on the QM2. On the plus side, after listening to my speech so many times, if Claire ever appears on Mastermind, her specialist subject could easily be ‘The Life and Times of Emma Samms’. Poor love.
‘The best holiday ever... and why Claire Carter is now an expert on my life and times’