Welcome Aboard the RMS Queen Mary 2!
Thursday, August 27, 2015
It’s time. The moment I’ve been waiting for is finally here.
Just before ten o’clock this morning, I left London’s One Aldwych hotel. I got into a Mercedes C Class car and sat back for the two-hour drive to Southampton, England. While I was sad to leave London, I was fully aware that the start of my adventure still lay ahead, berthed at the Ocean Terminal in Southampton.
My transfer arrived in Southampton just after noon. The city was bombed heavily during World War II, so much of modern Southampton is a mix of medieval and Victorian architecture, interspersed with newer buildings constructed in the 1960’s through to present. And although the security guard at the Ocean Terminal gave my driver directions to Berth 46, it didn’t really seem necessary. After all, Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 absolutely towers over everything in sight.
This was the first time I’d ever embarked from the Ocean Terminal before, having previously always embarked ships at the nearly Mayflower Terminal to the west. Upon entering, I was given the standard health form to fill out (have you been to Sierra Leone? No. Do you have diarrhea? No), and then I made my way up the escalator to the check-in area.
At first, I was a bit nervous: the room was packed with people all waiting to check-in. But even this turned out to be a very easy process. I was given a letter on a blue-coloured placard (lucky letter ‘R’), and instructed to wait my turn. The letter currently being accepted up to the check-in area was ‘H’.
With time to kill, I sat down and read the newspaper while I waited. The Ocean Terminal has a small café and there are complimentary newspapers and magazines available throughout the terminal.
After about 45 minutes, my letter was called. I waited perhaps five more minutes in a small line, at which point one of the ladies welcomed me to the podium and I handed over my e-Ticket boarding pass, my health questionnaire, and my passport. My passport was checked and returned to me. My photo was taken for the purposes of identification, and I handed over my VISA so they could take an imprint of it to be used for my onboard account purchases.
Lastly, I was given my keycard and directed to proceed to security, which was the usual procedure.
Then…I walked up the gangway and into the opulent world of the Queen Mary 2.
When you embark, you enter directly into Queen Mary 2’s striking multi-story atrium on Deck 3. Decorated in shades of crimson red and anchored with two glass elevators, backlit panes of glass topped with dark walnut railings and ivory white décor, it is elegant and grand without being gaudy or overbearing. In fact, the atrium sets the tone for Queen Mary 2 herself: graceful.
My home for the next eight days across the Atlantic is one of Queen Mary 2’s Category BC Midship Balcony Staterooms on Deck 11.
Part of Cunard’s Britannia Class stateroom categories that include inside, oceanview, atrium view, and balcony staterooms, my Category BC Balcony is approximately 248 square feet (including balcony) and can sleep a total of two people.
It’s not so different from other standard cruise ship staterooms, both in size and layout – but it is notable in its fit, finish and appointments. Curved surfaces elegantly outline the closet and bathroom walls, and the small vanity and desk area. Blonde woods are highlighted with elegant black accents, which are then outlined with shades of brass on light fixtures.
Each Britannia stateroom includes bathrobes, slippers, toiletries by Penhaligon’s of London, a flat-panel television set, a mini-bar, and an uncommon amount of closet and storage space. There are also two British-style grounded power outlets on the desk, and two North American ones. For maximum flexibility, bring a UK-style power adapter in order to use the other two outlets.
I sat on the bed. It seems softer and fluffier than I remember. Certainly the “wall of pillows” that adorns the headrest seems far more elaborate than my last crossing back in 2012.
My balcony is quite deep when compared with most cruise ships. Situated under the Deck 12 overhang, it’s also reasonably sheltered from the elements, particularly rain. There is room for two lounge chairs, a small coffee table, and perhaps half a dozen people.
Of course, you could argue the real draw of Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 is found outside your stateroom – and you’d be right. From the largest ballroom at sea to the largest library at sea to the only planetarium at sea, boredom is simply not an option here. Every good book needs to set the stage; let’s set ours now with a walk around this magnificent vessel:
We finally departed the Ocean Terminal under a gorgeous sunset just after 6:00p.m. On Deck 8 at the stern, bar staff offered up flutes of Veuve Cliquot (for an extra cost) to toast the sailaway. The vast majority of guests partook; in fact, it was hard to find a guest walking around who lacked a glass of Veuve and a small plastic Union Jack flag (those were free!).
It’s hard to put into words how exciting it is to be crossing the Atlantic aboard QM2. I stood at the stern and watched Southampton, and England, slip away. We might catch a glimpse of the Irish coast tomorrow but by and large we’re leaving Europe behind entirely. Out ahead of us is nothing but 3,165.2 nautical miles of ocean that we’ll have to cross before we reach New York. Queen Mary 2 is up to the task.
The most poignant thing I saw today – and a perfect symbol for why I love this ship so dearly – was an older couple that boarded the elevator along with me when I embarked. The older chap, a man with white hair, glasses and a kind face, looked thoughtfully at his wife. He ran his hand along the woodwork that lined the Stairwell C elevator bank and nodded approvingly. “There’s a of memories here,” he said. He spoke of the ship as if he were talking about her long-serving predecessor, the Queen Elizabeth 2 – and her arguable predecessor, the Queen Mary.
Queen Mary 2 looks so good that it’s hard to believe she’s been plying the oceans for 11 years now – carrying on a tradition of transatlantic ocean travel that Cunard has successfully upheld for the past 175 years. The world has changed a lot since Samuel Cunard first deployed Britannia across the Atlantic in 1840, but the thrill, joy and excitement of this journey has withstood wars, technological advancement and time constraints.
Tonight, we leave the Old World behind – and chart a course for the new one.
Our Live Voyage Report continues tomorrow as we spend our first full day onboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 as we set out into the open Atlantic, bound for New York! Be sure to follow along with our adventures on Twitter @deckchairblog.