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A Cruise to Nowhere aboard the QE II

Sailing New York harbor

Between 4 p.m. and 5 on a glorious Friday afternoon in May a long line of limos and taxis pulled up to Pier 90, 51st Street and the Hudson River, the QE2's regular docking space when Manhattan is her port of call. People hurried out of the vehicles, down the length of the wharf and onto the ship with great speed. The liner wasn't sailing until 7 and wasn't scheduled to go anyplace special, just out into the Atlantic Ocean for the weekend. In two days it would bring the passengers back to the pier from which they embarked. But being aboard the Cunard Line's best-known boat just for the sake of cruising is what this trip was all about. It was to be a "Party at Sea."

Experienced cruisers like us have our own drill upon boarding–check out the room, then immediately go to the video library to borrow those films we'd like to catch up on before bedtime. On this trip we had more urgent business, visit the new Steiner Health Spa and schedule some treatments before the appointment book got filled. We signed up for European holistic treatments such as inhalation, a variation of aromatherapy; phytomer (seaweed) underwater massage; and a cathiodermie facial.

The decision to bring the famous London beauty company aboard to operate the recently refurbished and very handsome fitness facilities, now spanning two decks, was a smart one. "Wow" was our reaction when we saw the gigantic thalassotherapy pool styled in nautical motif and filled with therapeutically beneficial salt water. Designed to accommodate many men and women at the same time, it has a series of jets that function somewhat like an aerobic circuit, massaging various parts of the body as you move from station to station. The gymnasium is supervised by four certified fitness instructors and features Life Stride, Life Cycle and Life Step cardiovascular equipment, as well as Cybex weight machines and free weights. During a typical day at sea about seven different classes take place, such as aerobics, body conditioning, step challenge and stretch. Trainers are on hand for personal fitness sessions and the sports directors organize shuffleboard, paddle tennis, basketball, volleyball and complimentary golf lessons.

Passengers, who wish to take part in a total fitness experience, have the option of eating "The QE2 Spa Suggestion," a complete meal—two courses at lunch and three at dinner—appearing on every menu and "representing today's awareness of the need for a healthy well-balanced diet." At noon the selections might include a spa chef salad as a main course and pineapple with blackberry coulis for dessert. In the evening vegetable terrine could be the appetizer; grilled fillet of cod, the entree; and American glacé ice cream, the finale. The QE2 "High Energy Health and Fitness Breakfast" offers cholesterol-free hot dishes, a variety of fresh fruits, cereals and breads. The kitchen also turns out many other tasty dishes that are not listed as spa foods, but are low in calories, fat and salt.

The QE2 is the only passenger ship still operating regular sailings between New York and Southampton. The five-day crossings will continue until the end of October when the ship is scheduled for a $45 million refurbishment. Business travelers may bring a companion on a transatlantic crossing for the price of a single cabin.

Fares start at $3,870. Depending on the grade of cabin booked special air fares of either $299 or $999 for a one-way British Airways Concorde flight between London and New York or Washington, D.C. apply. A companion ticket aboard the Concorde may be purchased for $999. New York/Newark, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. serve as regular gateway cities.

Tel. 800-7-CUNARD.

Fall 1994