The Zambezi Queen, for those familiar only with her present glorious incarnation, has a rather intriguing history. Referring to something that began in the early 1990’s in historical terms probably risks offending professors of classical antiquities but I am not sure how many academicians would openly admit to reading my humble blog anyway.
The ZQ, as she is sometimes affectionately called, was given the original charter to carry guests from Katima Mulilo down the Chobe and Zambezi Rivers and back. Unfortunately, there was one small miscalculation. The sheer size of the vessel made navigation difficult and it wasn’t long before the ship was unceremoniously converted into a floating hotel moored to the river bank for the benefit of visitors to the Caprivi Region of Namibia. This is like imagining a 50’s era Santa Fe Super Chief dining car ending up as a burger joint along a rural Arkansas highway.
Redemption came in 2008 in the form of two visionary entrepreneurs, Tony Stern and Brett McDonald. Where others saw only fading glory, they saw future greatness. The redesign and renovations were extensive with an entire new top deck added. As is pointed out on the website, “Celebrated South African fashion designer Jenni Button lent a hand in the classic yet contemporary interior with understated muted tones.” The very bright future was only burnished when the Zambezi Queen became part of The Mantis Collection (a world-class organization you will learn more about in future blogs).
I don’t know if a vessel that claims a total of 14 suites (10 standard and 4 master) qualifies as a small ship or a large houseboat. (If you are anal about such matters, you can find seven differences between a ship and a boat here.) All the suites share these features: they are all located on one of the first two decks, they all have floor to ceiling windows offering spectacular views and each has an outside deck where you experience the sights and sounds of Africa first hand.
If you harbor a secret fear that experiencing the wilds of Africa requires compromising your “comfort room” expectations, let me flush away those concerns . . . so to speak. As the picture to the left clearly reveals, you will not only enjoy a cabin with a spectacular view but one with an equally remarkable loo!
When we ascend to the upper deck, we find a surprising array of enchanting public areas. The dining room, the comfortable lounge with unobstructed views and the bar are woven together in a subtle fashion. Speaking of the bar, it is stocked with local and imported wines, beers and spirits with the locally sourced variety of each included in your cruise rate. As was pointed out above, we have Jenni Button to thank for the impeccable yet understated taste that runs throughout the Zambezi Queen.
For those who place almost as much value on ambiance as taste when it comes to food, you will not be disappointed. Let me introduce you to your Namibian wait staff.
Not only will you dine on savory, mouth-watering morsels but your meals will be delivered in a uniquely African manner. Close your eyes and you would think you were in the heart of Africa. Oops, that’s right. You are in the heart of Africa!
The Zambezi Queen experience includes opportunities for bird-watching, Tiger (the aquatic variety) and Bream fishing in season, water based game drives by tender boat and even a visit to a local village.
There is so much more to say about this incredible experience but alas, no time left to say it. I will just have to allow my feverish fingers to cool down until we meet again. In the meantime, the obvious solution . . . to me at least . . . is for you to let me assign one of my crackerjack staff (at least I think that’s what I caught them nibbling on) to explain how you can make the Zambezi Queen part of your own bright future!