By Deborah Yaffe, Oct 6 2016 01:00PM
Last year, I blogged about a ship named for Jane Austen on which well-heeled passengers could cruise along Europe’s scenic rivers. And now comes word of an even more palatial, sort-of-Austen-related naval excursion: next summer’s Arts & Literary Tour cruise around the British Isles aboard the ocean liner Queen Elizabeth.
“Join fellow guests in celebration of our cultural heritage at relaxed events. . . talks and Book Club get-togethers,” Cunard’s web site proclaims. “You’ll also be joined by some very special guests including acclaimed actor Robert Powell and Jane Austin expert, Louise West.”
(Yeah, I noticed that too. They spell it right everywhere else on the site, though, so I’m opting for uncharacteristic magnanimity and refraining from unkind reflections. Mostly because I really, really want Cunard to hire me to work their next literary cruise.)
The voyage begins in Southampton on July 1, 2017, and proceeds through Rotterdam, Inverness, Glasgow, Dublin, Liverpool and the Channel Island of Guernsey before returning to Southampton on July 14. Prices start at $2,300 per person and go up from there. Way, way up – the Grand Suite, which appears to be larger than most of the places I lived between the ages of seventeen and thirty-one, goes for more than $21,000. Per person. (For the 360-degree view, click on "Queen's Grill" and then scroll down.)
Janeites will have noticed that, except for Southampton, where Austen and her mother and sister lived with one of Austen’s sailor brothers from 1807 to 1809, none of the ship’s ports of call has any Austen links. Perhaps the associations are stronger with Dickens and Kipling, the other two writers whose works will apparently be discussed en route. But I doubt it – I suspect the literary theme is just a way to give a pleasure cruise the veneer of intellectual respectability.
Still, Louise West, the former curator of Jane Austen’s House Museum, is a legit Austen expert. And you can play croquet on board! Bring on the veneer, I say.