At Sea En-Route to New York
“There is one spectacle grander than the sea: that is the sky. There is one spectacle grander than the sky: that is the interior of the soul.”
Saturday, August 29, 2015
Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 barely moved around last night. The stillness with which she plows through the north Atlantic at 17 knots is remarkable; it is not until you step outside that you realize how strong the wind is, or that faint wisps of sea spray are carried up over 80 feet to the Promenade Deck, where they collect on camera lenses and eyeglasses in the form of crystallized salt.
The clocks were put back an hour last night, and they’ll be ratcheted back another hour again this evening. Call it the benefit of a Westbound Crossing: six 25-hour days as we trade the time in London for the time in New York, where we will arrive bright and early on Friday morning.
So what can you do aboard Queen Mary 2 with an entire day at sea? Well, you certainly can’t be bored. Here, lifted from the Daily Programme, is what’s going on around the ship today:
- 8:00am: Canyon Ranch Fitness Power Walk. Canyon Ranch SpaClub, Deck 7, A Stairway.
- 8:00am: Canyon Ranch Fitness Stretch & Relax. Canyon Ranch SpaClub, Deck 7, A Stairway.
- 9:00am: Crossword Available. Library, Deck 8, A Stairway.
- 9:00am: Canyon Ranch Fitness Power Pilates. Canyon Ranch SpaClub, Deck 7, A Stairway.
- 9:15am: Canyon Ranch Lecture: Chiropractic Benefits. Wintergarden, Deck 7, B Stairway
- 9:30am: Baggo Competition. Pavilion Pool, Deck 12, B Stairway.
- 9:30am: Beginner’s Bridge Class. Atlantic Room, Deck 11, A Stairway
- 10:00am: Watercolour Class. Chelesea Room, Deck 1, B Stairway
- 10:30am: Morning Trivia. Golden Lion Pub, Deck 2, C Stairway
- 10:30am: Solo Traveller’s Coffee. Chef’s Galley, Deck 3, C Stairway
- 10:30am: Intermediate Bridge Class. Atlantic Room, Deck 11, A Stairway
- 11:00am: Cunard Insights: Dr. John McMichan. ‘Herbal Medicines’. Illuminations, Deck 3, B Stairway
- 11:00am: Line Dance Class. Queen’s Room, Deck 3, D Stairway
- 11:00am: Deck Quoits Tournament. Deck 12, B Stairway, port / starboard side.
- 11:15am: Darts Competition. Golden Lion Pub, Deck 2, C Stairway
- 12:00pm: Eight Bells. Grand Lobby, Deck 3, C Stairway
- 12:00pm: Navigation Announcement. Public Address System.
- 12:00pm: Texas Hold’em Tournament. Empire Casino, Deck 2, B or C Stairway
- 12:15pm: Chart Room Melodies. Chart Room, Deck 3, C Stairway
- 12:15pm: Ballroom Dance Class with Sergey and Olga. Queen’s Room, Deck 3, D Stairway
- 12:30pm: Poolside Music with Vibz. Pavilion Pool, Deck 12, B Stairway
- 12:45pm: English Premier League Football: Newcastle vs. Arsenol. Golden Lion Pub, Deck 2, C Stairway
- 1:00pm: Planetarium: “Infinity Express”. Illuminations, Deck 3, B Stairway
- 2:00pm: Watercolour Art Class. Chelsea Room, Deck 1, B Stairway
- 2:00pm: Planetarium: “Infinity Express.” Illuminations, Deck 3, B Stairway
- 2:00pm: Snowball Jackpot Bingo. Queen’s Room, Deck 3, D Stairway
- 2:00pm: Quizzical Corner. Chart Room, Deck 3, C Stairway
- 2:00pm: Canyon Ranch Lecture: Skin Smart. Wintergarden, Deck 7, B Stairway
- 2:00pm: Duplicate Bridge Tournament. Atlantic Room, Deck 11, A Stairway
- 2:15pm: iStudy: iPad Workshop. ConneXions Room 6, Deck 2, A Stairway
- 2:15pm: Cricket Tournament. All Weather Court, Deck 13, A Stairway
- 2:30pm: Planetarium: “Infinity Express.” Illuminations, Deck 3, B Stairway
- 2:30pm: Friends of Bill W. ConneXions Room 4 & 5, Deck 2, A Stairway
- 2:30pm: Hostess Corner: Needlework and Knitting. Chart Room, Deck 3, C Stairway
- 3:00pm: Canyon Ranch Lecture: Nutrition and Exercise. Wintergarden, Deck 7, B Stairway
- 3:00pm: English Premier League Football: Chelsea vs. Crystal Palace. Golden Lion Pub, Deck 2, C Stairway
- 3:30pm: Cunard Insights: Charles Barclay: “Archaeostronomy: The Dawn of Science”. Illuminations, Deck 3, B Stairway
…and that’s just the morning and afternoon! It literally just took me 45 minutes to type all of that. That’s how much there is to do aboard Queen Mary 2! Which has, understandably, worked up a thirst and an appetite. So it’s off to the Golden Lion Pub for Pub Lunch.
The Golden Lion Pub is located on the starboard side of Deck 2, just off the C Stairway. It’s one of my favorite rooms on the ship, and not just because they have a great beer and scotch list. I love the design here, from the tartan-patterned carpeting to the inlaid tile work at the base of the bar, the glass dividers between the booths and the low-slung leather chairs and tables for two situated by the windows. I even love the faux beam work on the ceiling, which looks like the golden days of ocean liner interior décor.
I also love the Golden Lion Pub for one other distinction: Pub Lunch. Now, few people know about Pub Lunch at first. It’s not mentioned in the Daily Programme’s main events; rather, it’s tucked away under the general shipboard information on the last page. And once people find out about it, does it ever fill up fast!
In order to get a seat for Pub Lunch, I grabbed a book and ambled down around 11:15 a.m., despite the fact that lunch doesn’t officially begin until 12:00 p.m. A pint of Guinness helped me pass the time, as did watching the nearby Darts Competition going on just behind me.
For Pub Lunch, Cunard offers plenty of British favorites, including fish and chips with mushy peas, Bangers & Mash, steak & kidney pie, a Ploughman’s Lunch, a veggie pot pie, and more. Best of all: Pub Lunch is entirely free…well, provided you don’t drink. Personally, I find it impossible to have an English pub lunch without a beer, but that’s just me.
As you might have gathered from the schedule above, this afternoon was a hive of activity aboard Queen Mary 2, and yet I am trying my best to not spent all afternoon reading a book, hunkering down in the massive Library on Deck 8 forward, or just simply running around the ship photographing every last corridor, stairwell and who-knows-what-else.
A Transatlantic Crossing has a certain rhythm that you fall into. It’s very different from other kinds of cruises that temper days at sea with active days spent in port. Here onboard Queen Mary 2, there’s no need to go to bed early…or to get up at a set time. Evenings tend to last an amazingly long time, and there are still hundreds of guests up and awake well past Midnight. Mornings, particularly if you are an early riser, are quieter as much of the ship doesn’t start to stir until 9:00a.m. or later.
To shake my routine up, I attended a lecture, saw the Planetarium film, “Infinity Express” without realizing it was the same one I’d seen in 2012 (oops..!), and chatted with some guests over coffee in Sir Samuel’s. I also went to the Canyon Ranch Salon and made an appointment for a haircut on Monday morning. I’m still deciding exactly what Spa Treatment I’m going to do; I’m thinking Hot Stone massage. I had wanted to purchase a Thermal Suite pass for the week, but I’ve forgotten my bathing suit…and I’m not so enamoured with paying $79 for the ones in the gift shop. It’s been a while since I bought a bathing suit, but…$80 for a pair of thin blue waterproof shorts with a drawstring?
Aquatic misadventures notwithstanding, the only part of my routine I’m not wavering on is my six kilometre walk, taken at exactly 4:00 in the afternoon, around the Promenade Deck on Deck 7. I do this then so that I can return to my stateroom around five, shower, dress into my formal wear, and enjoy a pre-dinner drink before I head to my table at the Britannia Dining Room at six. One kilometre is 1.9 laps around the deck, so I have to do 12 laps to make six kilometres.
Before long, it was time for another fantastic dinner in the Britannia Dining Room. The onboard staff have been so good with my nut allergy; just like on past voyages, I am given tomorrow’s menu to make my selections, which are then prepared without any nuts whatsoever.
An admission: the food has been so good I’ve forgotten to photograph it! Tonight, I selected the chilled melon soup; tomato and ricotta ravioli; and apricot panna cotta for dessert, accompanied with coffee and red wine (but of course!).
I have a nice group of tablemates from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Sweden. I’m dining on the Britannia Dining Room’s second tier, within sight of the gorgeous two-story mural affixed to the bulkhead wall facing aft. To me, dinner is the gateway to the most spectacular of evenings. Dinging on Queen Mary 2 is special. I don’t think I’d ever book a Princess or Queen’s Grill Suite because I wouldn’t want to miss out on something so special (the latter two categories feature their own dining venues on Deck 7).
After dinner, it was up to the Commodore Club for cocktails, where the always-fabulous Anita recommends new cocktail selections for me, and I unquestioningly say yes. She hasn’t been wrong so far; in fact, her selections are spot-on with my tastes.
After two wonderful hours with great company in the Commodore Club, it was down to Deck 3, where the Big Band Ball was being held. Accompnanied by the Queens Room and Royal Court Theatres Orchestras, people danced the night away, completely filling up the largest ballroom at sea as they did so.
It’s now nearly midnight as I write this. I’m typing all of this out in The Chart Room on Deck 3, where the Mark Hodgson Trio is performing live Jazz music until 12:30 a.m. I spent many a wonderful evening here in the Chart Room listening to the Mark Hodgson Trio on my first Queen Mary 2 crossing in 2012, and tonight is no exception.
As Captain Christopher Wells said this evening at the Captain’s Welcome Cocktail Party in the Queen’s Room, this is not a “cruise.” This is one of two things: a “crossing”, or a “voyage.” But it is most certainly not a cruise; this is a journey with a true purpose.
I first read about this ship in 1998, when I was 15 years old and taking my first cruise with my family. I followed the construction of Queen Mary 2 up until her maiden voyage in January of 2004. I religiously collected brochures from 2004 on; I still have them all in my personal collection. A hurricane derailed plans to sail aboard her in 2008. I finally got the chance to do a proper sailing in 2012, when another hurricane – Hurricane Sandy – threatened to derail the whole thing again.
Now, hurricane-free, I am back for my second crossing. The reason I tell you all this is that I want to impart my love and adoration for this ship on you. Queen Mary 2 has a soul; she captivates millions of travellers around the world. Cloaked in the same mystique afforded to the classic Cunarders like Mauretania, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth 2, she offers guests something they can’t get anywhere else: the chance to cross the ocean by ship, just like the glory days of old.
What’s more, she serves a purpose. At my dinner table is a gentleman who suffers from an acute fear of flying. He uses QM2 to get to and from Europe from Canada. Another girl, from England, has a medical condition that prohibits her from flying. She’s making the journey over – her first cruise ever – just so she can see America.
To me, that’s important. Cunard isn’t just offering people a vacation or a crossing purely for pleasure. I’m one of those people who is only here because I truly love this ship and this journey. But there are many more who sail Queen Mary 2 for practical reasons, and the fact that Cunard offers these sailings enables my two tablemates to see something they may not otherwise experience.
This crossing is everything I had hoped it would be. This isn’t just a journey – this is life being lived by 2,600 guests from 33 different countries, all united in one common bond: their desire to cross the Atlantic.
Distance may separate us physically, but it is the journey that brings us together.