Cruise Guide: Cunard aids PBS monarchy series

By Michael Coleman 

The Cunard Line has underwritten a new PBS television series which begins airing this month.

Monarchy: The Royal Family at Work is a six-episode special that provides an exclusive look inside the modern British monarchy. 

Authorized by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, filmmakers were granted exclusive access for a behind-the-scenes look beyond the majestic gates and velvet ropes of Buckingham Palace. 

The series takes viewers along as Queen Elizabeth II visits the first permanent British settlement in the U.S., spends time with President Bush at the White House and visits the newly democratic republic of Estonia where no British monarch has set foot before.

Episodes include:

The State Visit, Parts 1 and 2 (11/12, 8:00-10:00 p.m.) This episode follows the elaborate preparations that go into preparing for a visit from the queen. Highlights include celebrity photographer Annie Liebowitzs formal photo shoot with the queen and exclusive interviews with Liebowitz, the queens press secretary, President Bush, and First Lady Laura Bush, who personally leads a private tour of the White House.

Headquarters (11/19, 8:00-9:00 p.m.) Buckingham Palaces 650 rooms form the nerve center of the British monarchy. Its from here that the queen directs the business of the royal family, entertains heads of state and conducts her private life. Highlights of the episode include Queen Elizabeth preparing for her annual move to Balmoral in Scotland. 

Head of State (11/19, 9:00-10:00 p.m.) For the dramatic ritual that opens Parliament, the queens coachmen don full livery, and two of her horse-drawn carriages parade through the streets. One transports the queen, the other carries the crown jewels. The episode leads viewers through the elaborate state opening of Parliament. The episode also attends the weekly private audience between Her Majesty and the British prime minister. 

The Queen and Us (11/26, 8:00-9:00 p.m.) This episode tells the story of four invited guests as they savor each moment of a garden party at Buckingham Palace. Less formal occasions in every area of the country pack the queens schedule, but she isnt the only member of the royal family who regularly crosses the country. In rural Northumberland, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall take tea and get a tour from a local organic farmer. 

Inside the Firm (11/26, 9:00-10:00 p.m.) To handle 4,000 state visits, balls, school dedications, nursing home visits and charity events, the queen depends on her husband, her children, cousins and now a new generation of grandchildren. In this episode, the queens children talk frankly about the roles they were born into and the challenges of royal life. 

Viewers should check with their local PBS affiliate to confirm local broadcast dates and times.

Its fitting that Cunard has sponsored such a major undertaking. Operators of the luxury ocean liners Queen Mary 2, QE2 and Queen Victoria, it has long been synonymous with the quest for new discoveries and is the epitome of British refinement since the company’s first paddle-wheeled steamer, Britannia, crossed the Atlantic in 1840.

Cruise Guide: New cruise ships poised for debut

By Michael Coleman 

The cruise industrys top players will be positioning five of their latest ships in Fort Lauderdale this winter.

The amenity-laden and technologically-advanced passenger vessels ever constructed, at a combined cost of some four billion dollars, will each offer roundtrip Caribbean voyages from Port Everglades.

Heres a brief look at what life will be like onboard. Passenger capacity in parenthesis. 


Carnival Splendor (3,006)

The cruise line renowned for bringing fun to the high seas will soon introduce its biggest Fun Ship to the North American market. At 113,000 tons, Carnival Splendor will offer a host of onboard restaurants, a 21,000-square-foot Cloud 9 Spa (adjacent to the facility will be 68 spa staterooms and suites a first for Carnival) and numerous family-friendly features. From January March 2009, Splendor hosts 14- to 18-day South America voyages the lines first within the region before repositioning to Long Beach, California, for year-round seven-day Mexican Riviera voyages beginning March 29.


Celebrity Solstice (2,852)

The 122,000 ton Celebrity Solstice will debut Nov. 23 and in a cruise industry first will introduce a half-acre-sized lawn on its top deck. The ship will feature a host of dining venues and varied entertainment options including new theater productions in partnership with Poet Theatricals. Look also for another first: Celebrity has paired with The Corning Museum of Glass to produce a hot glass onboard show from a specially designed, dedicated glass blowing studio. 


Eurodam (2,104)

The largest-ever vessel constructed in Holland Americas storied 135-year history, Eurodam debuted in the Netherlands this summer. She transitions to Europe at the end of April for a season in the Baltics. At 86,700-tons, she features 56 spa staterooms named because of their close proximity to the onboard Greenhouse Spa and Salon. The ship has also unveiled The Retreat featuring 14 on-deck cabanas complete with a host of leisure amenities. 


Independence of the Seas (3,634)

The largest ship debuting in Fort Lauderdale, at 160,000 tons, is also the worlds largest passenger vessel. Independence of the Seas shares such a distinction with sister ships Freedom of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas. Look for Royal Caribbean staples: an onboard rock climbing wall and ice skating rink plus an interactive water park complete with a FlowRider surf simulator, nine-hole miniature golf, whirlpools and even a boxing ring at sea. Theres a Johnny Rockets eatery, Sorrento’s Pizzeria and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream shop onboard.


Ruby Princess (3,080) 

When the 113,000 ton Ruby Princess launches in early November, look for an English-style onboard pub featuring fish and chips, bangers and mash, cottage pie and an array of British and Irish beers. Look also for unique enrichment programs (from astronomy to mixology), two new stage shows and an Ultimate Ship Tour complete with visits to the engine control room, funnel, bridge and other typically off-limit spaces.