On the Queen Mary 2: Sex, Spies and the Roaring 20s on a Sea Day

Photo by Susan J. Young

During my three days onboard Queen Mary 2, there have been two sea days. So what’s to do onboard during time at sea?

Certainly, Cunard Line's guests expect and appreciate high-quality enrichment lectures. Yet, the topics can be surprising. Let's just say the sea day’s lectures/talks covered everything from spies to sex and to the Roaring 20's

Hands down, though, the grand slam, home-run speaker – an incredible hit with guests who packed the Grand Theater and were still talking about her days later -- was 90-year-old Dr. Ruth Westheimer, simply known as “Dr. Ruth” to consumers who have watched her TV show or have read her dozens of books. 

As a renowned psycho-sexual therapist, Westheimer presented two Celebrity Speaker programs, “Sexually Speaking” and “Sex after Sixty.” People in their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, as well as some younger ones too, listened and laughed, chuckled and clapped to extremely frank advice and chatter about anything and everything involving human body parts and sexual tips.

A tiny woman with a feisty spirit, Westheimer thanked the British for taking 10,000 Jewish children into England during World War II. She also told the audience her parents were killed by the Nazis and, at the age of 10, she escaped when Switzerland accepted 300 Jewish children. She also went to Israel at 16 and served in the Haganah.

During a Q&A, guests submitted questions on paper, so they were read by the cruise director, and weren’t embarrassing to the guests themselves.  Westheimer replied candidly before heading out for a book signing with cruise guests.

The line quickly stretched down the hall, evidence of how much people enjoyed her chat and her past TV show.

Spy talk was on tap in the Illuminations theater a few hours later during an Insights Lecture by Michael Kushner, code-breaking and signal intelligence specialist. He gave a talk and slide presentation entitled, “Spies, Lies, Double Agents and the Real James Bond.”

To start the program, he put up a photo of Daniel Craig, played the James Bond theme song, and said, is this what a spy looks like? The answer, of course, is “no,” as real spies must fit into a society as normal folks – someone you might never expect.

Then he proceeded to talk about the ineptness of Nazi intelligence in Britain in World War II, and how the British didn’t have foreign agents in Germany, as they didn’t need to – instead turning the German intelligence agents into double agents and feeding the Nazis the wrong information.

Kushner said Adolph Hitler believed these agents more than his own generals, who actually did believe the D-Day landing would come at Normandy. But instead, Hitler's intel from the double agents caused him to focus in error on Calais.

One of the “wow” moments for Americans in the audience came when Kushner relayed that during World War II, U.S. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was given intelligence that the Japanese were scoping out everything at Pearl Harbor -- and given that information five or so months before the actual attack on the U.S. Pacific fleet.

Kushner says it's not known if Hoover told someone within his organization who did nothing or whether he simply chose to ignore the intelligence. The rest is history and the U.S. entered the war.

If sex or spies didn’t interest guests, another Insights Lecture by Giancarlo Impiglia focused on “Petra – the City Carved from the Rock,” a look at the Jordanian site that’s now a prime tourism attraction. On the second sea day, he also spoke about "The Roaring 20s and 30s -- the Revival of Art Deco." 

Other lectures included "How the Environment has Influenced the Course of History," presented by Dr. Joseph Bishop.

Onboard Queen Mary 2, other sea day activities included a watercolor art class, trivia/quiz contests, port presentations, an art talk, duplicate bridge tournament, an informal needlework and knitting session with the social director, jackpot bingo, a veteran’s get-together, a ballroom dance class to teach guests to dance the foxtrot, and much more.

Stay tuned for our look at an excursion ashore in Rockland, Maine, in the next post.

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