May Georgina DeLory

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Quebec City celebrated its 400th Anniversary in 2008. Capital of the province of Quebec, it is in this unique city where French civilization first took hold in Canada. UNESCO in 1985 designated Quebec City a World Heritage Site. From Carnaval-the largest winter carnival in the world, to the Quebec City Summer Festival, there is every reason for the city celebrations to party on!

Quebec City, in Canada’s largest province, Quebec, is North America’s only walled city with nearly five kilometers of stone walls from 1690. Massive archways and fortification encircle the historic section of the city – Old Quebec City. The only thing old-fashioned about the city is the sense of security in walking the cobblestoned streets from the 17th and 18th centuries. The city was built atop a steep rocky bluff overlooking the St. Lawrence River in hopes of dissuading invaders by sea or by land. Even after walled fortification, the city fell in 1759 during the Seven Years’ War on the Plains of Abraham where the armies of Montcalm and Wolfe fought to the death. Lord Dufferin, governor general in the 1870s, proclaimed the walls that surround Old Quebec not to be dismantled but retained, cementing to this day the city as one of the world’s most popular European-style cultural attractions.
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Old Quebec City is divided between Upper Town and Lower Town. Around almost every corner of the narrow streets is a sophisticated sidewalk café and delectable restaurant. Museums and nightlife coexist. Both areas are serviced by complimentary tourist shuttle buses. Another way to access both of these historic areas is to take a ride on the funicular that operates on rails at an angle of 45 degrees between the two street levels. To get to the funiculaire in Lower Town use the 16, rue du Petit-Champlain entrance-near Place-Royale. Place Royale is the oldest historical district dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. This area eventually leads to the historic Port area, Musee de la Civilisation (with an open rooftop garden ideal for both adults and children) as well as other museums and attractions. The ferry to Levi is here. In Upper Town, the entrance to the funiculaire is on the Dufferin Terrace overlooking the St. Lawrence River near the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac. The Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac offers one of the best vantage points for viewing the St. Lawrence. Certain sections of ground near the hotel are under archeological excavation with free tours offered.
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One of the best examples of a fortification archway is from St-Louis Gate in Upper Town. Behind the fortification is the recreation of Quebec’s 400-year history. Museums offer multimedia exhibitions, artifacts, historical monuments, live interpretative centers and a model city built to scale. If you want to see how the military high brass enjoyed their meals you’ll see a beautiful dining room table set with lovely china, silver and glass. The morning I toured the fortification freshly baked bread samples were offered. The aroma was delicious. Spectacular views of the St. Lawrence River where now luxury cruise ships dock and of the surrounding architectural gems may be viewed along the paths from the ramparts. The Citadelle du Quebec is close to the St.-Louis Gate area and offers guided tours. This area offers an old French powder magazine (1750) and a former military prison (1840) and changing of the guard daily from June 24 to September.

A great place to make home base is hotel Manoir Victoria, within the walled city, and about a ten minute stroll along narrow café-lined streets to the St-Louis Gate. Take a horse-drawn carriage through the Gate if you prefer. The tourist shuttle bus is just across the street from the hotel; but the area around Manoir Victoria is perfect for long walks up and down gently sloping streets, shopping, and sightseeing. Jean-Lesage International Airport is 13 kilometres. Befitting an historic city, the hotel dates from the early 1830’s. Millions of dollars have been spent in renovations. In the spacious lobby you’ll see large armoires, plush leather sofas, paintings on high-ceiling walls and an out-of-the way backstreet entrance to Le Saint-James bistro open until 1: am weekends. The hotel has indoor parking, fine dining, business centre, spa, indoor pool and sauna, free wireless high speed Internet access in the room, and what I like best- room service. I enjoyed in the hotel’s dining room a Quebec-style breakfast…dark brown maple-syrup infused beans, luscious fresh fruits and local cheeses, croissant, eggs to order, and bacon. The area is quiet, ideal for family visits, solo travelers, and honeymooners.
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June to September for the next four years The Image Mill visual projection performance takes hold of the Port area in Lower Town once night falls. The free performance set to avant-garde music against a canvas of towering cement silos on the waterfront is the brainchild of artists extraordinaire Robert Lepage and Ex Machina. A ten minute bus ride from the Port area to the trendy Saint Roch district is the Cirque du Soleil street performance held Wednesday to Sunday evenings during the summer. The performance is a colossal extravaganza of costumed street performers heralded by sound effects and lights show as they make their way throughout the streets beneath the Dufferin Montmorency highway underpass to a huge stage. Children and adults gather on a grassy knoll to watch the 90-minute spectacle. I was spellbound for the entire performance.

Hotel Pur, a contemporary boutique hotel ten minutes’ walk from Dufferin Montmorency, was ideal for taking in the Cirque show. Conde Nast Traveller listed Pur in their 2009 Hot List. This place is full of twenty-something travellers, the neighbourhood trendy and full of affordable and hip restaurants, lively cafes, shopping, a movie house, and public bus stop around the corner from the hotel. Contemporary minimalistic-styled room, free Internet in the hotel lobby and free gourmet coffee from a high-tech machine to serve your java just the way you like it, 24-7! I enjoyed gourmet French pastry, fresh fruits, croissant, cheeses and delicious coffee bedside for breakfast before hitting the fitness centre with pool. Great hotel for a girlfriend’s getaway.
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Old Quebec City is truly a remarkable city-and walkable. Quebec architects made use of their fine sense of line and appreciation of the city’s founding fathers in modern application for heritage buildings. People live, work and enjoy life in the old quarter and welcome visitors with open arms. Permanent and travelling exhibitions in the city’s large and small museums you will see nowhere else make a visit to Old Quebec City a cherished lesson in history.

Note: The city of Montreal, Quebec is a few hours’ from Quebec City. One or two days in each city makes for a wonderful cultural experience. The Fairmont Queen Elizabeth hotel is adjacent the VIA train terminal in Montreal. I find this glamorous hotel ideal for a quick shopping/sightseeing sojourn in the city. Everything is at your fingertips when at the Fairmont. I walked from my hotel along Rene-Levesque Blvd West through the downtown business section towards Mont-Royal where you’ll find a huge park area and McGill University nearby. In September when I visited the area was full of excitement with students finding their way around the university grounds perhaps for the first time. After McGill I walked to Sherbrooke Street West, a major cross street. I had a quick pedicure at Spa-Eastman’s city location before visiting various churches and museums. It felt so good to have my tired feet massaged. Tip: the view of downtown Montreal from the spa is fabulous. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is on Sherbrooke Street West. Until August 29, 2010 there is the story of how Cirque du Soleil inspired the House of Boucheron to create a collection of luxury jewellery. Toe ring anyone?

The Holland America Line voyage on the MS Volendam with Captain Peter Bos at the helm would take us—my adult daughter and me, to the other side of the world, land of Maori culture and legend, from rugged sea coast where toned bodies surfed the huge waves in the western part of the Bay of Plenty, to lush vineyards that stretched against a backdrop landscape of eye-blindingly blue sea and, most importantly, to friendly locals. At the end of it all we would see the famed Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia, voted the world’s best city to live in for the second year in a row.

Cherie and I would fly Qantas Airline from Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand, to join the ship in harbour. The Volendam would circumnavigate the North and South Islands of New Zealand to ports of call with exciting names such as Tauranga, Napier, Christchurch and Dunedin. We would cruise Fiordland National Park—part of the Te Wahipounamu (native Maori name)World Heritage Area— to see immense valleys sculpted by glaciers during multiple ice ages, to get close to waterfalls, and to cruise into one of the park’s longest fjords, Milford Sound, visiting also visit Dusky Sound.

Two days at sea and we’d reach Tasmania, a southeastern state of Australia. But first we would cross Bass Strait overnight to reach in the wee hours of the morning Australia, the world’s smallest continent in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. First stop would be Melbourne. The next day we’d sail to Sydney before flying home.

On the Qantas flight to Auckland, we settled in for the fourteen hours’ flight with complementary wine from some of Australia’s best known vineyards: Yering Station, Adelaide Hills and St. Hallett. If it hadn’t been for the fine wines, top flight service and excellent dinner served by Qantas, the long flight would have been an ordeal. Cherie chose Moroccan-styled roast chicken and I chose seared tuna with lime and pepper sauce. While Cherie slept I watched half of the epic film “Australia” starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, both actors Australian born. I had never seen the film and found the Qantas screen too small to capture the full scope of the film. I hoped the Volendam would show Australia in its Wajang Theatre so I could really appreciate the film on the wide screen. I wasn’t disappointed and watched it twice, once with my daughter.

We arrived to Auckland around 6 a.m. After we passed through Auckland airport customs we took a bus to port where the ship was in harbour. Once through port customs we went aboard. Champagne greeted us in our cabin. A large picture window covered the room in natural light. It was fun to watch the action on the pier as people began to arrive to the ship. But this wasn’t the time to take in the true beauty of our home for the next two weeks. The Renaissance-era themed ship with fountains imported from Italy, valuable works of marine art by Captain Stephen J. Card, and elaborate fresh floral arrangements throughout the spacious common rooms would have to wait. The Volendam wouldn’t leave Auckland with her 1,351 guests until midnight. We made our way to the very top deck and enjoyed lunch in the Lido restaurant with views overlooking the city of Auckland and the harbour. Once off the ship we took the harbour seabus (five minutes by ferry) to Devonport—a small town with heritage charm with signs of Maori settlement that date to the mid 1300s. We found a naval base there. Massive trees along the seaside with thick roots spreading out from the base in search of deeper soil line many Devonport streets as the Pohutukawa tree is the national tree of New Zealand. We poked our heads into cafes, book stores, restaurants and gift shops. After we took pictures of clusters of sailboats with colourful sails we headed back to the ferry for the mainland.

We enjoyed dinner most evenings in the elegant Rotterdam dining room, taking Chef Rudi Sodamin’s recommendations. Does sashimi of salmon with wasabi mayonnaise as an appetizer sound good? A Merlot, Veramonte Reserve wine from Chile was served. The Rotterdam faced the ocean and offered a sweeping staircase leading from the upper floor dining level to the main floor. We enjoyed Trinity Hill Sauvignon Blanc from the famous Hawke’s Bay area of New Zealand the first evening. Some evenings we dined in the intimate setting of the Pinnacle Grill where fine wines from around the world were served. Pinot Gris from the Whitehaven vineyards in the Marlborough area was a feast in itself. Seafood and fine cuts of beef are a speciality. The exquisite cuts of meat are displayed on a silver trolley as sample that a waiter brings to your attention before you select your meal. The wine list was superb as was the dining. Porthole magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Bill Panoff, says the Pinnacle Grill offers an unmatched anywhere on the seven seas sophisticated dining experience.

We would be at sea for the next two days. We’d eventually circle White Island, the site of an active marine volcano. Spencer Brown, Travel Guide, offered expert commentary over the outdoor loudspeaker as the ship silently turned this way and then that way for an up close and personal vantage point of the spewing volcano. The ship is truly an engineering wonder. When in open sea, the top cruising speed is 18 knots. Environmental Officer Dolf Kramer, born and raised in the Netherlands, answered questions about how the ship preserves the environment. Long gone are the days when anything went overboard. Hotel Manager at sea, Robert Versteeg from Bithoven, Holland, and Cruise Director Rebecca, are just two of the “go-to” people on the Volendam if anything isn’t to your liking.

Over the course of our cruise, Cherie and I could be found just about anywhere on the ship involved in any number of exciting activities: the state-of-the-art Culinary Arts Center, sanctioned by Food & Wine magazine, where we learned the fine elements of creating an exotic martini, the history of coffee, or how to make Pannatone Tiramisu—a holiday tradition desert in Italy. There’s even a kid’s cookery program. We took part in many daily programs (Travel Guide Spencer Brown gave a talk on the First Peoples of New Zealand followed by a live didgeridoo performance). We caught nightly live Broadway-style shows in the two-story Frans Hals Lounge. The gym and spa offered ocean views. One of the cruise highlights was the Indonesian Afternoon Tea ceremony with organic teas and coffees from the world’s finest plantations and Indonesian sweets. Keeping in touch with the world and friends was a snap in the Explorations Internet Café.
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Our first port of call was Tauranga, New Zealand, a land settled and still revered by the Maori native people. The area is known for kiwi farms. We took a shuttle bus into town. The weather was unbelievably enjoyable, bright and sunny without a beating-down-on-your-head sort of feel. We bought cotton shirts and ate local oysters at a fresh seafood shack by the water where a seafood festival is held in November. We wanted to taste kiwi wine but couldn’t find it. The oysters were big and plump and tasted of sweet milk. I’ve never tasted anything like it. We hiked the rest of the afternoon, unexpectedly finding ourselves at the ocean amongst surfers. I found myself suddenly kicking up my heels at the edge of the surf while my daughter snapped photo after photo.

Still cruising the South and North Islands of New Zealand, we stopped at the port of Napier, a community founded in 1856 by Sir Charles Napier, a British official in India. A lively musical band and antique automobiles greeted us at port. Cherie took a stroll along a black sand beach in the morning while I myself toured some of the top vineyards of Hawke’s Bay. The vineyards are so lovely an entire week in the area wouldn’t be too much. At Church Road Winery, founded in 1897, I ventured deep inside the original concrete wine vats that now offer an intriguing wine museum. Mission Estate Winery, founded in 1851, is a vast estate ideal for weddings, fine dining and wine tastings. Mission hosts an annual concert. February 13, 2010, celebrates The Legends of Motown with The Four Tops, The Temptations, Mary Wilson of the Supremes, Martha & The Vandellas and many top names from Australia.
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The city of Wellington with its pretty harbour and picturesque architecture saw Cherie and me on the Kelburn Cable Car in the centre of the city and up a steep hill to the Botanic Garden with Carter Observatory. Get your cameras at the ready for the view is wonderful as are the formal gardens. The Lady Norwood Rose Garden was spectacular. There are countless shore excursions from which to choose, including where the film “Lord of the Rings” was filmed.

In Picton, originally called Waitohia, at the head of Queen Charlotte Sound, we were presented with a tiny nosegay of fragrant Old-fashioned roses when we got off the ship. The still floating hull of what is believed to be the ninth oldest ship in the world is that of the East Indian Edwin Fox. See it near the museum and the ferry wharf. We enjoyed a private lunch of locally caught river salmon at Barewood Garden after touring Yealands Estate winery. Peter Yealands is a local fellow who looks very much like a charming character straight out of a period swashbuckling Hollywood film, gray beard and hair in somewhat need of a trim; but highly knowledgeable when it comes to wine and the environment.

In Christchurch Cherie and I visited ChristChurch Cathedral in Cathedral Square where the annual Festival of Flowers (19 Feb. – 14 March 2010) decorates part of the church. We ate sushi in Cathedral Square, drank McDonald’s coffee, strolled along the Avon River but couldn’t rent an antique punt because we only had credit cards, and walked to the must-see nearby botanic gardens on Rolleston Avenue. Just minutes from Cathedral Square you can swim at the Centennial Leisure Centre. We watched the open tram rattle by and wished we’d first taken this for a firsthand view of the city. Nonetheless, Christchurch is ideal for walking as major cultural attractions are within one square kilometre of the city centre.
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In Dunedin we took the heart-stopping Taieri Gorge Railway over the southern hemisphere’s largest wrought iron structure to travel through tunnels and high up into the alpine hills. At one of the train stops I bought Strathdale organic clover honey and New Zealand Paua Shell jewellery used traditionally by the Maori and wished now that I’d bought more of both.

New Zealand’s daylight is of an extraordinary and luminous quality which made the cruise into Fiordland National Park all the more spectacular. The park is New Zealand’s largest national park at 3,000,000 acres with immense valleys sculpted by glaciers during multiple ice ages. Novelist Rudyard Kipling considered the Fiords the Eighth Wonder of the World.

In Tasmania, the 26th largest island in the world with a population of 500,000 mostly around Hobart and more than a third of the state World Heritage national park and forest reserve, we along with other Volendam passengers met Mayor Alvwyn Boyd and his wife Gwenda at Burnie pier. Lovely pewter “Burnie” pins were handed out. We took the free shuttle bus into town and walked along the short beach front before searching out a health food store to buy tee tree oil at The Soapbox on Mount Street. We learned that the highly praised local Angus beef is exported to a Japanese market.

We returned to the ship for a light lunch and then our shore excursion took us by bus to Gunns Plains Cave, about an hour’s drive from Burnie in Leven Canyon. We drove past lush vegetation where huge ferns seemed out of a prehistoric era gone berserk. Named after famed botanist and Tasmanian explorer Ronald Campbell Gunn, the Cave opened in 1909. The air is fresh even though the walkways are a touch damp. The limestone cave opening leads to a steep flight of 54 cement steps. The largest “ribbon” stalactite in the world is found here as well as stalagmites and flowstone suspended from the vaulted ceiling. When the lights were turned out momentarily, glow worms dotted the black space far above our heads like so many stars in the night sky.

The Volendam’s Greenhouse Spa and Salon continued to beckon with ocean views, terrace, steam rooms, hot tub, exercise facility and best of all heated ceramic lounge beds. The cruise ship has two pools on the Lido deck—one salt water and open to the elements, and one beneath a covered dome revealing natural light. One day while my daughter enjoyed a spa treatment I stretched out like a lazy cat over the smooth wood trim surrounding the outside pool. Blue skies above, warm breezes and, best of all, the gentle rocking of the ship lulled me to near sleep. Other times from various decks that were almost vacant of passengers I watched the Shy Albatross in flight with a wingspan of over two metres gliding above the southern oceans following the Volendam.
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Melbourne is the second largest city in Australia with a population around 3.5 million and the capital of Victoria. About 150 languages are spoken. Lively shops and restaurants line the harbour where the Volendam docked. We took a morning shore excursion into the country to see wildlife—Kangaroos, Koalas and the protected Black-tailed Wallaby. In the afternoon on our way back from a tour of the city by foot and historic rattling trolley ($3.70 each for 2-hours) we sat on a bench in the harbour and simply gazed out to sea and understood perfectly the many accounts of how friendly the people of New Zealand and Australia are.

We’d heard about the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb—one of the world’s preeminent engineering marvels—over 1500 metres of steel; but didn’t have the four hours’ needed to complete the climb. You can do this climb by day or by night. We can only imagine what the sensation would feel like to be atop Sydney Harbour Bridge: the Blue Mountains in the distance, the city at our feet.

The Sydney Opera House was all and more that photographs suggested. Sydney’s 4.2 million population is said to be the most densely populated in the world, but it’s hard to believe. The city appeared spacious and languid. There are chic terrace restaurants at the Opera House. We had signed up for a bus tour of the city and now found ourselves looking at the Opera House from a multitude of vantage points. Soon we were at the crest of a hill that overlooked Sydney. This was just a taste of a beautiful city, of a memorable cruise but a taste that tantalized.

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Get fit, polished, pampered and delightfully oiled at the only Canyon Ranch SpaClub® at sea! You’ll feel the energy to succeed and learn how to do it in style—befitting a ueen—on board the venerable Queen Mary 2 ocean liner, part of the Cunard Line of ships, offering classic luxury and ultra-modern amenities between two continents. Getting there is half the fun. While on a six days’ westbound Transatlantic Crossing (Southampton, England to New York City), my adult daughter and I discovered new things about each other. It was our first ocean voyage and it just happened to be on a ship with a storied pedigree:

 

 

Cunard Line, Queen Mary 2. By the 1830’s the Industrial Revolution prompted Her Majesty Queen Victoria to invite interested persons to bid for a contract to provide transatlantic mail service. Samuel Cunard of Halifax, Nova Scotia won the bid and signed a contract May 4, 1839 to carry mail on steamships across the Atlantic from Great Britain to North America. Cunard, along with four other financial backers, began the North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, which later became the Cunard Line.

The original Queen Mary was described by Hollywood film star Cary Grant as the eighth wonder of the world. Grant timed his sailings to coincide with the Queen Mary’s Atlantic schedule. There are no ports of call during a Transatlantic Crossing which allows for the opportunity to immerse oneself in the Golden Age of Ocean Travel as heralded by Cunard for 170-years.

Queen Mary 2 was named by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth ll in January 2004 and entered service on January 12th the same year. To date, QM2 has sailed the Atlantic 104 times — a journey for which she was especially built — and made calls to 115 ports in 45 countries. She celebrates five years of service in 2009.
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QM2 Grand Lobby
It’s amazing how a touch of brisk sea air revs up the metabolism, emotional spirits, and can easily trick you into believing you’re Tarzan. Pace yourself and you’ll easily have more than enough to keep you busy without becoming exhausted. You can always just chill out for the entire voyage on one of the Queen’s famous cedar lounge chairs and dine like royalty. We decided to let it go full throttle. We learned how to tango with professional ballroom instructors, took acting lessons, enjoyed unique spa treatments, attended gala balls, explored a grand ship, met the captain, met interesting people at the Empire Casino and jogging on deck, sampled cuisine from around the world (it’s like a world gastronomic tour), struck a pose at the Veuve Clicquot® Champagne Bar, took hundreds of photos (one photo in particular at midnight during a foggy evening offered lots of atmosphere) and we still didn’t do everything we wanted to do before the end of the voyage. We decided the frantic pace we set ourselves was worth it and made our spa treatments that much more enjoyable.

The beauty of sailing with the longest ship at sea, the Queen Mary 2 — an ocean liner capable of withstanding the fierce lashings of an angry Atlantic sea — is that there is very little chance of repetition in covering ground aboard ship. There is always something new and exciting to do and new people to meet. Public spaces are enormous, glamorous, and lined with valuable works of art. For my daughter and me it was smooth sailing for the entire voyage to New York City, except for one morning during an acting class when I had tightened my waist belt one extra notch in order to regain somewhat of my youthful teenage figure. I thought I was becoming suddenly sea sick. I’m no expert seagoing female…but I’m a quick study. I loosened my belt and continued to play at reciting Hamlet along with my daughter to pretend (at least I pretended) that we would one day set foot in the 1,105-seat Queen Mary 2’s Royal Court Theatre a mother-daughter duo.

They say getting there is half the fun. On the Queen Mary 2 it’s more than true. Every crossing has celebrity guest speakers and programs on tap, not to mention the opportunity to get in shape over the course of the voyage with fitness classes, and to stretch the mental faculties with science and medical lectures. Jim Horne, director of the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University, is one of the inaugural science lecturers for the new onboard Science and Sea program on the QM2 that began in April 2009. The Literature and Liners program showcases Christopher Buckley on an Eastbound sailing November 5, 2009 and The Kennedy Center Chamber Players New York City to Southampton, England September 8, 2009.
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Canyon Ranch SpaClub® Queen Mary 2’s 20,000-square foot SpaClub, offers AquaTherapy Centre and well-equipped Fitness Centre. Yoga on QM2 outside deck.
One of today’s health and wellness trends is towards treatments using water. What better place to indulge in the miraculous benefits of H2O than beneath a waterfall in the Aqua Therapy Centre at the Canyon Ranch SpaClub® surrounded by the intense blue of the Atlantic Ocean? The AquaTherapy Centre is primed for sublime relaxation with sensory showers, whirlpool, ice fountain, aqua therapy pool, and locker rooms. The Thermal Suite relaxes with aromatic steam room, Finnish and herbal saunas, and reflexology basins. Try one of the airbed recliner lounges, neck fountains, or air tub and body massage jet benches before a sports, chronic pain, arthritis, first-timer or therapeutic massage. The Centre is complementary with a Spa Club Passport on the day of any Health & Wellness, Massage, Body or Skin Care treatment. We absolutely revelled in the onboard Canyon Ranch SpaClub and had no difficulty arranging spa appointments to suit our personal schedule.
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Canyon Ranch SpaClub®
A jog on the ship’s open-air 360-degree Promenade Deck around the longest ship ever built (3 laps = 1.1 miles) is but one of the healthy activities available on the Queen Mary 2. Canyon Ranch health resorts on land and at sea set the gold standard in fitness, health and wellness, and spa treatments with state-of-the-art equipment, facilities and personnel that cater to both sexes at all levels of endurance. It’s possible to engage in a whole new way to live and view life after taking advantage of what Canyon Ranch SpaClub® experts have to offer. There are classes for the golfer, runner, dancer, cyclist, swimmer, yoga and cardio enthusiast and tips for pet owners. There is a kennel on the QM2. Canyon Ranch lecturer Dr. Joseph Alpert has given talks on bypass surgery and how to stay healthy, live longer and stay out of the hospital.

The SpaClub® is 20,000-square feet on two-decks (7 & 8) with spectacular ocean views and a staff of over 30 professionally trained spa associates. There is a hairdressing salon and a full complement of beauty treatments and well-being classes offered for men and women. You can get your teeth whitened to make any mother proud, your bones manipulated during a chiropractic session, your scalp thanking you due to a Wild Lime Blossom massage treatment, your brain cells multiplying from one of the educational lectures, and just in case the ship’s four stabilizers built by Brown Brothers of Edinburgh, Scotland don’t keep an even keel – which is unlikely – a massage for a queasy tummy is on tap; perhaps a relaxing drink in the Golden Lion Pub will do the trick instead, or at any one of a number of cocktails lounges.

Chandrika is one of the Ayuredic therapists on the Queen Mary 2. She says there are two main kinds of Ayurveda treatments offered on the QM2: Abhyangam massage and Kizhi (herbal pouch treatment) utilizing imported authentic Ayurvedic medicated oils. “Authentic” is the operative word here to keep in mind. Cunard is known for offering guests the highest possible quality of service to make your voyage a memorable one. Chandrika uses a special massage to reduce pain, inflammation, swelling and in the case of post running issues to aid in the removal of waste body by-products such as lactic acid.

 

 

Thai massage — where arms and legs are gently eased this way and that way for a long and careful stretch by the therapist– is one of the new treatments on the Queen Mary 2. The treatment makes use of pressure points on the body followed by deep strokes along body energy channels for cross-fibre friction massage. After our separate treatments, both my daughter and I agreed the Thai massage was an exhilarating experience that left us feeling taller, lighter, and full of energy to spare. The cocooning envelopment bed is another very popular relaxation treatment.

The SpaClub® is more than a place to get gussied up in one of more than 24 massage, body and skin care treatment rooms and ready for the numerous evening balls in the largest ballroom at sea in the Queens Room, or to be appropriately seen making an entrance down one of the sweeping staircases or in the always packed G32 disco. The SpaClub® is a refuge to discover your personal qualities at your own pace. The SpaClub® is also a place to learn the six steps to healthy eating for weight loss or weight maintenance. Canyon Ranch cuisine available in all QM2 dining rooms assists with a weight maintenance plan. The spa menu is extensive and exciting, designed by Canyon Ranch chefs and Cunard’s Executive Chef Jean-Marie Zimmerman. I think a week on the QM2 enjoying all the benefits of the SpaClub® is an ideal way in which to get ready for a wedding. All the services are available in one place…and what a special place this is sailing on the Queen Mary 2.

A personal meal plan can be organized during a Personal Analysis session to make things really easy. Issues of sweeteners, salt, carbohydrates, fibre and protein are addressed with nutritionally balanced meals. Canyon Ranch spa menu selections involve whole-wheat buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup and fresh fruit, salads using fresh herbs and quality oils and vinegars, soups such as roasted corn chowder with dill, lemongrass coconut chicken soup, soba noodles with seared scallops and cucumber salad, crab and mango salad, sushi, fish, raspberry mustard-crusted chicken breast, sautéed snapper with kumquat vinaigrette, seared beef tenderloin with truffle, and crème brulee with Grand Marnier liqueur make up just some of the sumptuous offerings.

Brandan, SpaClub fitness instructor, suggests for the first-timer to speak with the orientation gym instructor about appropriate classes and correct use of the equipment available to you. Brandan highly recommends a 60 minutes’ Personal Training session to make full use of the weight training, Pilates reformer work or Yoga/Pilates mat work. Brandan says often the PT sessions overlap into a custom nutrition plan for fat reduction and/or muscle gain. And for anyone taking part in a marathon pre/post voyage, a PT session will incorporate an LSD training and interval-training schedule along with stretching and strength training exercises, nutritional advice, massage, and advice to set a personal goal that leads up to race day.

And for those persons with mobility or physical limitations the “Sit ‘n’ be Fit” exercise class done in chairs and “Totally Tubing” class will teach you how to improve balance and muscle strength when getting up from a seat or toilet or when reaching up to lift objects down from a shelf, all very important movements as we age or recover from a prolonged illness where movement has been restricted. During one such class I learned that there was an imbalance on one side of my body. Strength training on this one side was in order. Just remember when you first board the ship not to let the elegance and grandeur overwhelm you so that you forget there is some measure of organizational skill needed to tap in to the ship’s extensive activities and spa offerings.
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QM2 private veranda accommodation
On the first day before sailing there is an open house and tour held at the Spa. Spa services may be arranged in advance of sailing (up to 21 days) or once sailing has begun. Read the “Today’s Activities” schedule delivered to your stateroom each day for important information on the ship’s activities. This piece of information is invaluable. Keep it with you as you travel about the ship just in case you have a change of heart and find yourself wanting to use the putting and driving ranges, and golf simulator on a whim and find yourself instead near one of the many fabulous pools. In addition to the SpaClub® indoor pool, there are four outside pools one with a retractable glass roof. Healthy choices.

And what would a fitness/wellness plan be without exercising the mental faculties. Queen Mary 2 isn’t just a BIG BOAT that knows how to treat a lady of stature….you can add a few new brain cells while you’re sailing merrily along with Cunard Insights program of learning. There are lectures, debates, performances, workshops and social gatherings featuring guests on an international standing. The Tribeca Film Festival (TFF) is a new part of the exclusive award-winning enrichment programming aboard the Queen Mary 2’s November 5, 2009 to April 29, 2010 Transatlantic crossings in association with Cunard Insights. Cunard is the sponsor of the festival’s World Documentary Competition. So if meeting film writers, producers, directors, actors and the like is of top priority to your enjoyment, then the Queen Mary 2 Insights program is for you.

 

 

Princess Grill Princess Suite
We weren’t surprised Cunard’s Grills Accommodation was awarded for 2009 by Berlitz top rankings for “Best Overall Food” & “Best Overall Service” with a five-star Berlitz rating among the Top Ten Large Cruise Ships. Additional information on Cunard is available in the 2009 Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships compiled by Douglas Ward a world-renowned cruise authority and president of Maritime Evaluations Group. Every moment my daughter and I spent in our Grills Accommodation felt like a lavish hotel room. We both can recall exactly how surprised and relieved we were to see multiple his/her cupboards and walk-in closet. But the walk-out private terrace with classic Cunard lounge chairs was the icing on the cake. Cool breezes and invigorating sea air. We also weren’t surprised that Canyon Ranch SpaClub was voted one of the “Top Ten Spas” by Berlitz. It all makes for an affair to remember.
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Next trip we want to combine a Transatlantic Crossing with a short Getaway voyage to Europe. Summer 2010 will see the Queen Mary 2 sail five voyages to Northern Europe from Southampton and Hamburg, Germany. And fall 2010 from New York the Queen explores Canada and New England. There are many connecting points at the front and/or end of a Transatlantic Crossing offering excitement and legendary adventure. We learned Cunard sails the world, too, stopping at different ports of call, and does sailings into Canada’s eastern provinces for more of a sightseeing holiday than the historic six-days’ Transatlantic Crossing.

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I believe getting there is half the fun. So my road to sanctuary began with a fall scenic drive from Montreal through Quebec’s pastoral Eastern Townships where I sampled fresh apples from nearby orchards and award-winning 100% Vidal ice wine from the picture-postcard lovely l’Orpailleur winery just outside of the village of Dunham.
At the winery I enjoyed a luncheon of fresh and delicate mixed greens salad, Duck Cuisseau with Cranberry and Orpailleur red wine sauce, and heart-stopping views of rows upon rows of ripening grapes reaching into the distance. The area is part of the Eastern Townships Wine Route near the US border. There are bike trails, too. Fall is an ideal time to visit. Produce is at its peak and bursting with flavour. My final destination seemed a mere hop, skip and a jump from the sophisticated metropolis known as Montreal.
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Lavender Fields in Quebec’s Eastern Townships during summer months

It was my first time driving in Quebec. I speak next to no French. I had absolutely no trouble at all reading the road signs; except for once when I missed a highway turn off. I took the next exit and ended up a short while later at a quaint-looking roadside vegetable stand. “Bonjour!” I said, receiving a friendly smile in return. After getting directions in very good English I was back on the road to adventure, the weather still delightfully warm with blue skies overhead. I wanted to listen to anything by a 70s Canadian rock group out of Winnipeg, Manitoba known as BTO, my hair flowing wildly out the window, car top down and spirits high-except I wasn’t in a convertible. What I did do is watch for the next road sign that would signal my highway exit and lead me to my spa elixir.
Spa Eastman is set apart from most personal escapes due to an elixir of natural beauty of landscape, refined accommodation with a rustic ambiance-both at the main lodge and seven pavilions-awareness of natural nutrition, personal renewal, sustainable tourism, local produce, organic cuisine, and attention to personalized service by French/English-Language speaking staff. If you ever longed to improve your French language skills or just to get a firsthand feel for the French language, Spa Eastman allows for superb French Pampering experience on all fronts.
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I adored hearing my massage therapist speaking in French inviting me to my treatment room. The spa treatment rooms are on the lower level of the main lodge with a health and wellness centre. As well, on the main level is a full treatment hair salon. Spa Eastman is growing yet again with a four million renewal renovation and expansion of the Eastman Pavilion, Superior Rooms, Therapeutic baths, and the thirty-three treatment rooms. Added will be a separate area devoted to hydrotherapy treatments.
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Guests of Spa Eastman are a cross-section of age groups with an outlook to relaxation and fun times. Some say we are what we eat and what we think. You won’t have any difficulty enjoying healthy cuisine and thinking happy thoughts at Spa Eastman named in 2007 among the top-10 best spas in the world and awarded “Best Affordable Spa” by Spa Finder Readers’ Choice Award. Men seem to love the pampering, too; especially the mud treatments.
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The central lodge is spacious with lots of natural light flowing through floor-to-ceiling windows. At every turn indoors and out there are increasingly restful views. There are several casual lounge areas on the main level of the central lodge offering reading material and one lounge with a huge wood burning fireplace that makes for an ideal social gathering spot. A large theatre shows feature films. Conference rooms conduct health and well-being lectures. There is a small elevator to take luggage to the upper floor. Many of the guest rooms have a fireplace (electric) and walk-out terrace. Views to mountains are lovely. For so large a place I was amazed at how intimate Spa Eastman feels. It’s easy to find a cozy spot to relax outside of your room in the main lodge or somewhere on the property. Three guided walks per day are included with your stay. On one such occasion, my small group of women were asked to keep our eyes closed as we led each other along forested paths. We were asked by the group leader to drink in deeply what we sensed with our entire being and to tell everyone what we felt. Later, eyes open, we compared notes. What we felt and what we saw didn’t meet even at the halfway point. It was an eye-opening experience to say the least. There is absolutely no pressure to join group activity. The day’s activity is listed for all to see on the main level. It’s a comforting feeling to have so many choices from which to choose a day’s activity.
Jocelyna Dubuc, Spa Eastman founder, president, and general director, took a big gamble in 1977 opening Canada’s first destination spa on 315 treed and manicured acres. Over the course of thirty-two years Spa Eastman has won numerous awards for its wine list, cuisine, facilities, programmes, and spa treatments and for its sustainable tourism mind-set. Most recently Spa Eastman was included in a Canadian Health & Lifestyle Magazine article on healthy spas and honoured in 2008 with the prestigious Phenix (Environment Grand Prix) award for Sustainable Development. Spa Eastman diverts over 23 metric tons of waste from landfills in their waste management programme which represents an 81% recycling rate. February 2009 saw the spa awarded the Grand Prix for Sustainable Tourism from Quebec’s Minister of Tourism, Mrs. Nicole Menard. Mr. Gerard marinovich, Spa-Eastman’s Vice President, welcomes the Minister’s confidence in Spa Eastman’s commitment to sustainable health.
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Jocelyna Dubuc along with Spa Eastman chef, Pierre Cornelis, and Spa Eastman pastry chef, Stephane Triballi, wrote Le Spa Eastman A Votre Table cookery book that won Gold in 2006 at Cuisine Canada’s Canadian Culinary Book Awards in Winnipeg held annually in the fall and sponsored by the University of Guelph. Spa Eastman cuisine is based upon a healthy and good-for-you ideology. Expect a gastronomic experience of the first order with a menu devoted to weight control if desired.

Most of the menu selections are based on the Spa’s own organic herb and vegetable gardens and berry patches and grape vines and use of local in season fresh produce. It’s not unusual to see delectable deserts and main courses adorned with edible flowers from the organic gardens. From brioches aux pommes to soupe de canard…eating well here is just part of the entire attention paid to the finer aspects of Spa Eastman’s wellness and pampering experience from the heart.
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Spa treatments such as Pressotherapy to take inches off legs and body are internationally recognized and sought after by guests. Couleur Caramel makeup offers ECOCERT certified products derived from organic agriculture that meet Spa Eastman’s sustainable development programme initiatives. Kinesiologists and fitness experts design a programme to benefit the entire body. I saw naturopath Ilona Dowgiallo for a complete health assessment and to discuss the benefits of eating according to my blood type. Ilona was kind, thoughtful and had me telling her some of my secrets…all to my benefit.
But it was the Duet Maple Sugar body polish and massage by two therapist’s that set me free after a day’s hiking across a small section of the 315-acres. Quebec is known the world over for its maple syrup products. Four hands stroking and kneading my body was an experience unlike anything I’ve had in the past and most enjoyable. I liked, too, the idea of deciding whether to take part in one of the daily activities such as snowshoeing, Swiss Ball Training, tai chi, aqua aerobics, yoga, Pilates, swimming (heated outdoor/indoor pools), fitness class, have my hair or face makeup done in the spa’s salon, or have a Miracle Mineral potion applied that I’m told is excellent for arthritis and muscular pain. Or to do nothing at all. There is such an extensive list of spa treatments, activities, lectures and guest programmers at Spa Eastman that return visits offer the ability to totally indulge in a new experience.
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Spa Eastman buildings and landscape are designed in such a way as to offer fairytale-like ambiance: towering trees, formal flower gardens, sweet-smelling bushes and secret places to sit awhile and absorb with all of the body senses the majesty of the place. If you enjoy painting in oil or watercolours or simply capturing nature in sketch, then this place is ideal for the artist. Photographer, too. Gently twisting walking trails connect one pavilion to the next and to the main lodge and indoor swimming pool. Lots of trees allow for privacy. There is a sense of peace and tranquility and utter safety in Spa Eastman’s world. There are lots of wide-open spaces with lovely green grass, and chaise lounge chairs by the natural spring fed pond and outdoor pool. You’ll want to take a picture by the grape vine trellis adjacent the outdoor pool. Lazy country roads surrounding the property allow for vigorous power walks or runs or leisurely strolls to examine nature. The town of Eastman was once known for copper and lumber production, hence the area’s dense forest; it is about a fifteen minute drive from the spa. So, if you’re searching for personal renewal, a girlfriend’s getaway, mother-daughter sojourn, or a wedding destination (remember there’s a hair salon)…Spa Eastman makes for an ideal elixir.