Queen Mary 2 Transatlantic Crossing – Day 1

Welcome Aboard the RMS Queen Mary 2!

Welcome aboard Queen Mary 2! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Welcome aboard Queen Mary 2! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

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.

Arriving at Southampton's Ocean Terminal. Queen Mary 2 is hidden by the structure, but you can just see the tip of her funnel above the roof. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Arriving at Southampton’s Ocean Terminal. Queen Mary 2 is hidden by the structure, but you can just see the tip of her funnel above the roof. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

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.

Inside the terminal. Embarkation moved along very smoothly and orderly. It took some time, but it certainly wasn't stressful. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Inside the terminal. Embarkation moved along very smoothly and orderly. It took some time, but it certainly wasn’t stressful. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

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’.

Welcome Aboard! Guests first enter into Queen Mary 2's striking atrium. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Welcome Aboard! Guests first enter into Queen Mary 2’s striking atrium. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

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.

You Are Here. Making your way around the massive Queen Mary 2 is remarkably easy thanks to great signage...Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
You Are Here. Making your way around the massive Queen Mary 2 is remarkably easy thanks to great signage…Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
...and four separate sets of stairways and elevator banks. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
…and four separate sets of stairways and elevator banks. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

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.

Home Sweet Home: my Category BC Midship Balcony Stateroom on Deck 11. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Home Sweet Home: my Category BC Midship Balcony Stateroom on Deck 11. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
The reverse, facing the stateroom door. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
The reverse, facing the stateroom door. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

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.

Toiletries from Penhaligon's of London. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Toiletries from Penhaligon’s of London. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

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.

Bathrooms are functional and well-appointed. Note the high quality fit-and-finish in place of the modular plastic more commonly found on most large cruise ships. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Bathrooms are functional and well-appointed. Note the high quality fit-and-finish in place of the modular plastic more commonly found on most large cruise ships. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

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.

Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

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.

Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
What's on today? Plenty! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
What’s on today? Plenty! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

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:

The Veuve Cliquot Champagne Bar on Deck 3 is adjacent to the embarkation area. It is one of the first public rooms you see as you embark. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
The Veuve Cliquot Champagne Bar on Deck 3 is adjacent to the embarkation area. It is one of the first public rooms you see as you embark. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Immediately aft of the Champagne Bar is the Chart Room, one of the most popular lounges onboard. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Immediately aft of the Champagne Bar is the Chart Room, one of the most popular lounges onboard. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Also on Deck 3 - and across the corridor from the Chart Room - is Sir Samuel's, a coffee bar by day and a wine bar by night. The room is named in honor of Cunard's founder, Sir Samuel Cunard. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Also on Deck 3 – and across the corridor from the Chart Room – is Sir Samuel’s, a coffee bar by day and a wine bar by night. The room is named in honor of Cunard’s founder, Sir Samuel Cunard. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Moving forward on Deck 3, we come to the Royal Court Theatre, where Queen Mary 2's onboard nightly performances are held. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Moving forward on Deck 3, we come to the Royal Court Theatre, where Queen Mary 2’s onboard nightly performances are held. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Spanning Decks 2 and 3 is the grand Britannia Dining Room, one of the most beautiful spaces afloat. Guests in Britannia-class staterooms dine here.
Spanning Decks 2 and 3 is the grand Britannia Dining Room, one of the most beautiful spaces afloat. Guests in Britannia-class staterooms dine here. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Moving aft on Deck 3 is the Queen's Ballroom - the largest ballroom at sea. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Moving aft on Deck 3 is the Queen’s Ballroom – the largest ballroom at sea. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Aft still is the G32 Nightclub - proof that Queen Mary 2 is suitable for all ages. The name G32 is derived from the hull number given to QM2 during her construction at France's Chantiers de l'Atlantique, now known as STX France. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Aft still is the G32 Nightclub – proof that Queen Mary 2 is suitable for all ages. The name G32 is derived from the hull number given to QM2 during her construction at France’s Chantiers de l’Atlantique, now known as STX France. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Up on Promenade Deck 7, hundreds of lounge chairs are available for the taking. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Up on Promenade Deck 7, hundreds of lounge chairs are available for the taking. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Promenade Deck 7 is also home to the soothing Wintergarden...Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Promenade Deck 7 is also home to the soothing Wintergarden…Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
...and Queen Mary 2's Canyon Ranch Spa. Shown here is the hydrotherapy pool, part of the thermal suit package that can be purchased on a weekly or daily basis. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
…and Queen Mary 2’s Canyon Ranch Spa. Shown here is the hydrotherapy pool, part of the thermal suit package that can be purchased on a weekly or daily basis. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
One of my all-time favorite spots onboard: the Commodore Club, Deck 9 forward. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
One of my all-time favorite spots onboard: the Commodore Club, Deck 9 forward. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
It is matched only by the 8,000-volume strong Library one deck below, on Deck 8 forward. It is the largest library at sea. A small wing of it is shown here. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
It is matched only by the 8,000-volume strong Library one deck below, on Deck 8 forward. It is the largest library at sea. A small wing of it is shown here. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Also on Deck 8 is the Canyon Ranch Spa's Hair Salon. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Also on Deck 8 is the Canyon Ranch Spa’s Hair Salon. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Everywhere you go on Queen Mary 2, there seems to be another corridor, room, nook or cranny that has yet to be discovered. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Everywhere you go on Queen Mary 2, there seems to be another corridor, room, nook or cranny that has yet to be discovered. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

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!).

As sailing hour approaches...Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
As sailing hour approaches…Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
...the party begins out on Deck 8 aft! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
…the party begins out on Deck 8 aft! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Guests eagerly await the moment Queen Mary 2 drops her lines and eases out into the open ocean. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Guests eagerly await the moment Queen Mary 2 drops her lines and eases out into the open ocean. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

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.

Out on the open Atlantic at last! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Out on the open Atlantic at last! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Southampton and the setting sun fade off into the distance. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Southampton and the setting sun fade off into the distance. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

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.

Queen Mary 2's starboard bridge wing is seen towering high above Promenade Deck 7 as we set out on our journey across the ocean to New York. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Queen Mary 2’s starboard bridge wing is seen towering high above Promenade Deck 7 as we set out on our journey across the ocean to New York. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
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Beautiful! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

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.

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