Airship luxury

On the Costa you meet all kinds of people, and if your interest is aviation there are rich pickings. There are pilots who flew single-engine planes across America carrying US Mail, practically without instruments and certainly with nothing more than a sandwich to sustain them. When commercial carriers started transporting mail and passengers, on-board sustenance was still not a priority, although later there was a period when airlines vied with each other to provide the best meals.

So how about a sommelier on an airship? Yes, I swear they existed, and the son of one of these German wine aces lives among us. The zeppelins operated between the wars, and 'flew' across the North Atlantic carrying passengers in the greatest luxury. It was a two-day journey at low altitude, so there was no lack of oxygen to interfere with taste buds. The father appears in photographs serving wine to the dinner guests, all in evening dress. The only problem was that the airships covering the route were German-run and a Teutonic regime applied.

Unable to appreciate their British and US passengers' love of gin, for example, there was never enough to last the voyage, but German beer never ran out. Nor did the principal breakfast fare of sausages, cheese and black bread. The menus were based on those of Berlin's Ritz Carlton, and while the German passengers were contented, other nationalities were not quite so complementary, as the journals of some of the British and American aristocrats testify. But it was a delightful change from the blue riband passenger ships, and much faster.

Regrettably, as any history buff knows, the era ended in 1937 when the Hindenberg exploded in a ball of fire while attempting to land in New Jersey, causing heavy casualties. Unsurprisingly there was little appetite for this form of travel subsequently.