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April 2012

Combe House Devon promotes "dog-friendly walks" for canine guests

Toby the Dalmatian at Combe House Devon

ABOVE: Toby the Dalmatian poses with his Combe House Devon hotel as a backdrop.

We're suckers for anything dog-related, so when Pat Edgar of PRMatters in England sent us a press release about "Toby's Dog-Friendly Walks around Combe House Devon," our ears perked up.

It seems that Toby, the resident Dalmatian at Combe House Devon, was co-author--with his best friend and owner Alan Bartlett--of a book about "the best coast and country doggie walks for hotel guests and their four-legged friends."

(About the hotel: Combe House Devon which was recently named Devon's "Hotel of the Year," is an Elizabethan country house on a 3,500-acre estate near Exeter where Arabian horses and pheasants roam freely. The South West Coast Path, beaches between Sidmouth and Lyme Regis, and the rugged open spaces of Dartmoor are just a short drive away.)

If you're visiting Combe House Devon with your dog--and why wouldn't you?--you and Rex or Rexella can enjoy 10 walks that are graded from "easy" to "challenging," with distances ranging from half a mile to six miles. Some walks start from Combe's doorstep, while others involve a drive to a moor or beach. Dog-friendly pubs are also featured in the book.

Each walk description has icons that represent whether there's water to play in, space to run, sticks to chew, stiles to negotiate, etc. (Humans will also appreciate the symbols that show if there's parking, where "poo bins" are located, and whether livestock are present and dogs should be kept on leads.)

Pat Edgar tells us that "Highlights include a challenging walk from the Donkey Sanctuary, which warmly welcomes dogs, down to Weston Mouth Beach, a two-mile outing with stunning views of the Jurassic Coast from Golden Cap above Charmouth and an easier route near Bovy River on the edge of Dartmoor."

The Combe House book is one of a series of West Country dog-walk guides written by Toby and Alan and published by Scriven House Books. It's free to dogs who stay with their owners at their hotel. (Sadly, Toby died last Christmas, but Harry--a "roguish Scottish Deerhound"--is now leading Alan on new adventures.)

More tidbits for dogs and their companions:

At Combe House, dogs can stay with their owners for £10 per night. Some rooms open directly onto the grounds, while Combe's restored Thatch Cottage has its own large walled garden.

Dogs can "join their owners in the Great Hall and curl up in front of the huge crackling log fire." They're also welcome in the sitting rooms and cocktail bar. Complimentary "doggie room packs" include water and food bowls, treats, a chewy bone, and Toby's book.

Rates for humans start at £215 per double or twin room per night, breakfast included. A three-course dinner with canapés is £52 per person.

For more information, or to book a room, call Combe House Devon at 01404 540 400 or visit

Photo: Combe House Devon.

Cunard's transatlantic shuttle: Queen Mary 2

Queen Mary 2 infographic

ABOVE: For a full-size version of Cunard's Queen Mary 2 infographic, click here. INSET BELOW: A pet wrangler pampers a Shih Tzu in Queen Mary 2's onboard kennel.

Dog kennel on Queen Mary 2The word "shuttle" may seem inappropriate for Cunard's deluxe transatlantic service between New York and Europe, but the numbers say otherwise:

  • Cunard has been transporting passengers back and forth across the North Atlantic since 1840, starting with the paddle steamer Unicorn and progressing through such famous liners as the Queen Mary, the first Queen Elizabeth, and the Queen Elizabeth 2.
  • The Cunard fleet's current flagship, Queen Mary 2, will sail the equivalent of 12 times to the moon and back during the vessel's expected 40-year lifetime.
  • Although many cruise lines schedule a handful of transatlantic "repositioning cruises" each year, Cunard is the only line with regularly-scheduled service for passengers who want to travel from North America to Europe (or vice versa) by ship.

In 2012, Queen Mary 2 will offer 25 transatlantic crossings: 19 seven-day crossings between New York and Southampton, plus another six nine-day extended voyages between New York and Hamburg. (This year's season begins in May on May 4 with a New York departure; the last crossing of the year will be a December 15 sailing from Southampton.)

If you're already looking ahead to 2013, you'll find that Queen Mary 2's first scheduled transatlantic crossing next year is on January 3, from New York to Southampton.

Not all of Queen Mary's 2 voyages are transatlantic crossings: The ship will also cruise in Europe during 2012, with sailings to the Baltic, Norway, the North Cape, Iberia and Spain. Cruises can be combined with transatlantic crossings at either end to create "Grand Voyages" that let passengers "revel in glamorous on board experiences with an extended roundtrip luxury cruise vacation."

For more information on Queen Mary 2's transatlantic crossings and other voyages, visit

BELOW: Queen Mary 2 leaves New York Harbour for Southampton, England.

Cunard's Queen Mary 2 in New York Harbor

Photos: Cunard.

Compagnie du Ponant brings music to la mer


ABOVE: L'Austral is a 264-passenger megayacht that caters to a French- and English-speaking clientele.

Compagnie du Ponant, a French cruise line that serves the small-ship luxury market, is combining music with maritime pursuits during its 2012 summer and fall season. This year's musical cruises include such themes as "Magic Platters," "Mamma Mia!" (in French), chamber music, and opera.

For example:

  • On July 13, Ponant's newest ship--the megayacht L'Austral--will depart Venice on one of its many Adriatic roundtrip cruises from Venice this season. The July 13th voyage will have a "Bel Canto" theme, with a mixture of solos, duets, and quartets from operas such as Don Giovanni, Tosca, The Magic Flute, La Bohème, Rigoletto, and Carmen.
  • On September 28, L'Austral will offer "symphonies and Sifnos, rhapsodies and Rhodes" as it sets off on a eight-day cruise from Athens to Istanbul. Performers aboard the ship will include the New York-based Rose Colored Glasses Chamber Ensemble and the Swiss-born American pianist Gilles Vonsattel. Passengers will be treated to six concerts during the voyage, featuring the music of Beethoven, Sibelius, Ravel, Brahms, Schnittke, Debussy, Milhaud, Liszt, Schumann, and Dvorak.

Although Compagnie du Ponant is based in Marseille, the company has an international following, and most of the line's cruise staff are fluent in both French and English.

We'll be publishing a first-hand report on an Adriatic cruise with L'Austral later in the summer, but in the meantime, you can learn about Compagnie du Ponant and its cruises (including advance-purchase discounts and other special offers) at

Ship image: Compagnie du Ponant.