Saturday, August 30, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

En garde onboard

Cunard's Queen Victoria adds fencing to cruise activities.

If you're sitting on the fence about taking a cruise, maybe fencing aboard Cunard's newly launched Queen Victoria will tilt you toward the sea.

The 167-year-old British line is the first to add fencing lessons to the growing list of specialty entertainments at sea, which include bowling, boxing, wave surfing, ice skating, rock climbing, and Grand Prix racing simulations.

Though fencing appears an unusual choice for shipboard entertainment (we don't even want to think about rough sea days), it is a much-admired skill among landlubber aristocrats. It also was a favorite pastime of Prince Albert, husband and consort of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, and thus appropriate to a vessel bearing her name. In the endeavor, Cunard is partnering with Leon Paul Fencing Equipment, a British company whose name has been synonymous with fencing for nearly 100 years.

"Fencing is often described as physical chess," notes Ben Paul, the fourth-generation president of Leon Paul. "It's tactically challenging, while also providing great exercise."

If nothing else, fencing is also a terrific conversation starter at Victoria's daily white-gloved tea service.

So you won't walk away with a gash across your cheek, a mark of distinction among some European aristocrats in earlier centuries, Cunard offers passengers fencing lessons by a certified instructor using equipment identical to that used by world champions.

Accommodating beginners and accomplished fencers wishing to hone their skills, the daily classes of up to 10 passengers are for foil fencing. That's the preferred method for elementary fencing classes, using a flexible and lightweight blade with a blunted tip. Fencing instruction is available for passengers age 16 and older.

For more information, go to www.cunard.com.

If swordsmanship isn't your metier, consider a cruise on Costa Serena or Costa Concordia, which sport a Grand Prix race-car driving simulator. Costa says the gizmo is the most accurate representation of Formula One driving available and uses the same software and technology that Grand Prix champion drivers train with, providing four levels of driving difficulty.

Costa Serena's simulator outpaces the one on the Costa Concordia, with virtual speeds of up to 217 m.p.h. and nearly a half mile longer. In addition, the racing circuit on Costa Serena mimics those of the world's best racing circuits, such as Zandvoort (Holland), Suzuka (Japan) and Interlagos (Brazil).

For more information, go to www.costacruises.com.

Arline and Sam Bleecker Chicago Tribune
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