Mavis makes her mark

GO-for-it gran Mavis Bensley is to live the dream she and her late husband had for years, by going on a round-the-world cruise. The 71-year-old retired teacher from Ipswich, will board Cunard's famous ship the QE2 in Southampton tomorrow , for its jubilee cruise to 23 countries in 16 weeks - where the next adventure is never more than a few days away.

GO-for-it gran Mavis Bensley is to live the dream she and her late husband had for years, by going on a round-the-world cruise.

The 71-year-old retired teacher from Ipswich, will board Cunard's famous ship the QE2 in Southampton tomorrow , for its jubilee cruise to 23 countries in 16 weeks - where the next adventure is never more than a few days away. Here's the first of her weekly reports.

COME on, we've all said it at sometime or another, “if I win the lottery…if I come into money…when I retire - I'd like to go on a world cruise.”

How many of us actually get to realise this dream? Not many I suspect. Well I am, and since I am travelling alone I'd like to share the experience.


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What started off as a 'just looking' exercise, became a fact-finding mission ending up by taking the plunge. 'Just do it' became my motto.

After collecting a dozen or so brochures, I gradually whittled them down by using various criteria:

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1) Are single cabins available? (why does a single traveller have to pay up to 200 per cent of the brochure price? Do I eat twice as much as everyone else? Do I sleep in two beds?)

2) What route does the ship take?

3) What will it cost - is it value for money? Can I afford it?

4) How long is the cruise?

5) What perks or discounts can I get?

My final choice was the QE2 because it has single cabins, the route seemed exciting and exotic, and I got a good price after one or two offers from different travel agents.

The early booking discounts were good - all tips are paid ($10 US a day is a saving of over £1,000) and $500 on board spending money. Booking was easy, the travel agent did all the work I just paid the cheque to sign up for 108 days at sea means I miss the English winter!

The reactions from my family and friends were varied, ranging from cries of “Good for you” to “You must be mad going away all that time on your own!”

Most were positive though, and tinged with envy.

Once the euphoria wore off a little, a hundred questions came to mind: What to pack? What visas and vaccinations do I need? To say nothing of “What have I done?! The details in the brochure covered most queries or promised that relevant information would follow.

Poring over the brochure several times, revealed many interesting snippets, such as a facility for sending luggage in advance. Hands-free travel is a big bonus especially as there is no restriction on the amount of luggage you can take on this cruise, provided you can get it all in your stateroom (note: they are not called “cabins”).

Another interesting snippet is that Cunard provides single lady travellers with male escorts, as dance partners at gala evenings - hmm, we'll see about that!

Shopping has been great fun lately. Shop sales have been sooo tempting. I've bought clothes I never would have dreamed of before; sparkly tops, shoes, belts, bags, glamorous lingerie and nightwear, evening attire, sun-bathing ensembles, shorts, t-shirts, vest tops and even a few “sensible” clothes.

For days I've been singing “Well my bags are packed and I'm ready go go…”

I've got my visas, insurance, train ticket, booking for the Cunard coach from London to take me to the ship, my passport, travellers cheques and dollars. Everything is priced in US dollars. Excursions are booked and my daughters have each paid for two of them, as Christmas and birthday presents.

My hair and nails have been coiffed, and I have even sorted my affairs in case the ship does a Titanic or Marie Celeste - heaven forbid!

Friends, family and neighbours dropped in for a “sailaway” drink. The house is cleaned and sorted - though goodness knows why, because I'm sure it will be like Miss Haversham's place when I get back. Spiders will make the most of it!

Anyway, I can't think of anything else to do, but I know when I have set off I'll be thinking “did I put the light out, turn the gas off, lock the back door?'

It will soon be too late to worry about little things. I'm on my way.

My New Year's resolution? Just Do it.

N

Mavis' first port of call is New York on January 8. Read her next instalment next week.

The Queen Elizabeth 2 has been the flagship of the Cunard Line for over 30 years.

She made her maiden voyage in 1969 and is one of the last great Transatlantic liners.

Cruises cost from £10,449 for a single inside cabin, to £132,549 for a grand suite.

At 70,327 tons and 963 feet long with a top speed of 32.5 knots she is also one of the largest and fastest passenger vessels afloat.

Facilities include five restaurants and two cafes, three swimming pools, a pub, a 481-seat cinema, casino, shopping promenade, hospital and a branch of Harrod's.

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