It’s Not A Cruise – It’s A Crossing!
Monday, August 31, 2015
It’s been five days since my feet have touched land, and I don’t mind at all. In fact, I’m already worrying about the fact that this eight-day voyage (one day longer than most crossings aboard Queen Mary 2) is coming to a close on Friday. If I was smart, I would have booked a roundtrip crossing – which you can do, from either Southampton, England or New York (Brooklyn).
But it’s not just zipping across the ocean that is the draw here – it’s Queen Mary 2 and all that she has to offer. And on Cunard’s 175th Anniversary this year, the line is pulling out all the stops. Onboard, there are special anniversary cocktails and martinis. Napkins are printed with the line’s 175 marquee logo. The gift shop is filled with anniversary swag. For Cunard, nearly two centuries in operation is a Very Big Deal.
This morning, guests were treated to another spectacular performance by the National Symphony Orchestra, as conducted by Anthony Inglis. I can’t get over how spectacular these performances are; a crossing on QM2 is special enough in its own right, but these live classical music concerts have really raised the bar on shipboard entertainment, in my mind.
Unsurprisingly, the 1,094 seat Royal Court Theatre on Decks 2 and 3 was filled to capacity. It was standing-room only by the time I entered for the 11:15 a.m. performance of Serenade for Strings by Tchaikovsky. Running just 35 minutes in duration, you could have heard a pin drop in the theatre were it not for the rich, full sound that filled the room just as it had last night. It was impressive, thrilling and enormously moving.
Grammy-nominated Inglis has been featured at London’s Royal Albert Hall more than any other artist in the building’s history. The Manchester Evening News described him as, “one of Britain’s most popular conductors.” This is no doubt due to his associations with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Phantom of the Opera, and Welsh artist Catherine Jenkins, whom you’ve likely heard before for her haunting song, Adiemus, which was featured quite heavily in commercials by Delta Air Lines in the mid-1990’s.
What’s particularly cool about this is that not only is Inglis conducting the NSO, he’s also functioning as a guest speaker onboard. Today at 2:15 p.m. in the Royal Court Theatre, he gave an hour-long talk into his professional and personal life that was fascinating and often times quite witty. I never pictured conductors as having a finely-tuned sense of playfully self-depreciating humour, but Inglis frequently had the room in stitches.
Today, Queen Mary 2 is tracing her way along the Labrador Basin, about 450 nautical miles off the coast of St. John’s, Newfoundland. This evening, we’ll sail past the Flemish Cap, a shallow that rises to just 102 metres on the otherwise 3,500 metre ocean that surrounds us. The Flemish Cap was popularized by the 2000 movie, The Perfect Storm, which focuses on the true story of a fishing boat that runs into trouble off the Flemish Cap.
And what a gorgeous day it is to be out on deck! While the wind is blowing against our forward superstructure at about Beaufort Force 5 (and can be heard distinctly when you’re sitting in the Library on Deck 8), the temperature has warmed up significantly since yesterday. That, coupled with our positively boring sea conditions should be enough to convince you, if you’ve never been, that crossing the ocean doesn’t have to some white-knuckled battle with seas, surf and spray.
This afternoon, I went and got my hair cut at the Canyon Ranch Spa. While the main Spa is located forward on Deck 7, the Salon portion of the Spa is located on Deck 8, and can be accessed either by the main A Stairwell or an attractive access staircase situated beside the entrance to the gymnasium on Deck 7.
It’s hard to believe that I’d never had my hair cut on a ship before until last year. Now, I get it cut nearly every time I sail. Today was no exception; for $42 (including tip), I got a nice clean haircut and a scalp massage to boot. Well worth the money, and the surroundings aren’t bad either: the Salon is situated on Deck 8, port side, overlooking the bow of the Queen Mary 2.
And this afternoon? This afternoon I went up to my favorite spot – the Commodore Club on Deck 9 – and had my favorite martini: the Four Leaf Clover, made with Chase Vodka, cloves, honey and apple juice, and garnished with a Granny Smith apple slice with three cloves inserted into it. I dunk the whole thing in my drink and let it bob there, adding to the flavour. The views from the Commodore Club are perfect, and it is the ideal place for me to get some writing done. Writers need inspiration, after all!
There’s a reason I’m trying to write throughout the afternoon: evenings are busy. I mean really busy! Here’s what is happening tonight from 5:00 p.m. on aboard the beautiful Queen Mary 2:
- 5:00pm – Canyon Ranch Fitness Abs Express. Knightsbridge Room, Deck 1, C Stairway
- 5:00pm – Friends of Dorothy LGBT. Commodore Club, Deck 9, A Stairway
- 5:15pm – Harpist Lara Szabo. Chart Room, Deck 3, C Stairway
- 5:15pm – Pianist Pat Patton. Golden Lion Pub, Deck 2, C Stairway
- 5:30pm – Canyon Ranch Fitness Foot Fitness. Knightsbridge Room, Deck 1, C Stairway
- 6:30pm – Harpist Lara Szabo. Wintergarden, Deck 7, B Stairway.
- 7:15pm – Pianist Pat Patton. Golden Lion Pub, Deck 2, C Stairway
- 7:30pm – Pianist Andrew Cavendish-Grey. Commodore Club, Deck 9, A Stairway
- 7:30pm – Pianist Geza Torocsik. Chart Room, Deck 3, C Stairway
- 7:30pm – Harpist Lara Szabo. Wintergarden, Deck 7, B Stairway
- 7:45pm: Sequence Dancing with Social Hostess Imogen. Queen’s Room, Deck 7, D Stairway
- 8:00pm: Early Evening Trivia. Golden Lion Pub, Deck 2, C Stairway
- 8:00pm: Movie: Carmen in 3D. Illuminations, Deck 3, B Stairway
- 8:30pm: Pianist Pat Patton. Golden Lion Pub, Deck 2, C Stairway
- 8:30pm: Pre-Recorded Strict Tempo Music. Queen’s Room, Deck 3, D Stairway
- 8:30pm: 175 Blackjack Tournament. Empire Casino, Deck 2, B or C Stairway
- 8:45pm: Showtime: Comedy with Adrian Walsh. Royal Court Theatre, Decks 2 and 3, B Stairway
- 9:00pm: Pianist Geza Torocsik. Chart Room, Deck 3, C Stairway
- 9:30pm: Pianist Pat Patton. Golden Lion Pub, Deck 2, C Stairway
- 9:45pm: Cunard’s 175 Party Night with Vibz. Queen’s Room, Deck 3, D Stairway
- 9:45pm: DJ Orlando’s All Request Express. G32, Deck 3, D Stairway
- 10:00pm: Jazz Jam. Chart Room, Deck 3, C Stairway
- 10:00pm: Texas Hold’em. Empire Casino, Deck 2, B or C Stairway.
- 10:00pm: Music Trivia. Golden Lion Pub, Deck 2, C Stairway
- 10:00pm: Pianist Andrew Cavendish-Grey. Commodore Club, Deck 9, A Stairway.
- 10:30pm: Showtime: Comedy with Adrian Walsh. Royal Court Theatre, Decks 2 and 3, B Stairway
- 10:30pm: Karaoke. Golden Lion Pub, Deck 2, C Stairway.
And that’s what’s on this evening! More impressively, many of these events run until 12:30 a.m. or beyond. After all, what’s the rush to get up – particularly when tonight we get to wind our clocks back another hour!
Tonight, after another stunning dinner in the grand embrace of the Britannia Dining Room, I took in the comedy of Adrian Walsh in the Royal Court Theatre. For a man who’s most vulgar word in his act is “ass”, Walsh is remarkably funny. He’s an older chap from Northern Ireland, and he knows his audience well. There’s some jokes at the expense of the younger generation, but more than a few at the expense of his very own generation. I liked him. In a world where comedy has to be crass and vulgar (which, don’t get me wrong – I do enjoy), he came across as gentlemanly. That’s rare for a comedian these days; they frequently come across as bullies.
This evening, the Queen’s Room was alive with music, drinks and dancing as guests helped Cunard celebrate their 175th Anniversary with a huge birthday bash. Modern music was played courtesy of onboard band Vibez, and our famous onboard dance couple – Sergey and Olga – dazzled guests with a performance at 11:00 p.m., before the entire evening culminated in a massive balloon drop at exactly 11:30 p.m.
It’s rather incredible, actually, to think that all of this – everything we’ve done today and for the past four days – has existed solely on board this wonderful ship. We are alone on the Atlantic; gone are the days when ships would pass each other in the night, crossing on opposite routes as they carried people between the Old World and the New.
I was on deck at Noon this afternoon, when Queen Mary 2 sounded her whistles. She does this every day at midday to test them. Her four whistles were sounded one at a time. Her bow whistle went off first, rattling the deck under my feet as it did so, as I was on the promenade immediately forward of the bridge when it sounded.
Then, the whistle located six stories up on her radar mast sounded.
The one that sent chills up my spine, however, was when the two massive whistles mounted to her funnel sounded. One of these – the one on the starboard side of the funnel – is the original whistle from the RMS Queen Mary, which was built in 1936. The other is a modern but accurate replica. Together, they can be heard for 10 miles.
I heard them fire, and then echo across the open ocean. One hundred years ago, another ship might have sounded back. But not anymore. It’s just us out here, and Queen Mary 2’s deep-throated roar slowly but surely evaporated, carried off into the distance.
Were it not for this ship, it is an experience that surely would have died out long ago. And I couldn’t be happier that Cunard – and by extension, Carnival Corporation – is keeping it alive. Hopefully for another 175 years to come.