High Winds, Rough Seas…and Veuve Cliquot
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Although it is far warmer outside than it has been in past aboard Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 as we continue our westbound Transatlantic Crossing, the weather itself is actually refusing to cooperate today.
Winds hit Gale Force 8 on the Beaufort Scale, meaning just stepping out on deck was a struggle as the strong wind lifted spray almost 80 feet up from the waterline to Deck 7’s Promenade. Even in my stateroom on Deck 11 – nearly 200 feet above the surface of the ocean – driving spray caked my balcony (and my glasses!) in a thin layer of sea salt.
Since going outside was looking progressively less and less appealing as the day went on, the coziness of the ship’s bars and lounges began to work their magic on my fellow guests and I. So when I ran into some of my tablemates from dinner, it was decided: today was the day to try to have a drink in each bar and lounge on the ship.
Pub lunch on Deck 2 was, as you might expect, fantastic. The pub is amazingly cozy with the swells from the North Atlantic sweeping up close to the windows that line the starboard side of the lounge. Yet my beer – and it is beer you go here for – barely rippled.
So what can you get at the pub? Becks, Stella Artois, Boddington’s, Old Speckled Hen, and Guiness, just to name a few. Most of the above are all draught, but the Golden Lion also boasts a wide selection of bottled beers from around the world, including Grolsch, Carlsberg, Peroni, and Heineken. You can get beers in the other lounges, sure. But the beer list, particularly on draught, is nowhere near what the Golden Lion Pub has.
The Commodore Club on Deck 9 is, as always, a staunch favorite of mine – both for the views and the stunning martini list. Many cocktails and drinks up here are only available on this menu, including Cunard’s special “Transatlantic Love Affair”
There’s a fantastic quote that graces the first page of the Commodore Club’s menu. It reads, “Total abstinence is an impossibility, and it will not do to insist upon it as a general practice.” The author of that quite? None other than Queen Victoria.
My favorite martini here? Still the Four Leaf Clover, with its Chase Vodka, cloves, honey and apple juice. Honourable Mention: the Metro. Hendrick’s Gin, Cointreau, Cranberry Juice, sweet and sour mix with a hint of fresh lime.
But there is one lounge that, up until now, I had never ventured into – not on my last crossing, not on this one. And that is the Veuve Cliquot Champagne Bar.
Located on Deck 3 just forward of the Chart Room, Queen Mary 2 is the only ship in the world to feature a dedicated bar that solely specialises in Veuve Cliquot champagnes. It is decorated, unsurprisingly, in the same shades and colour palette found on bottles of Veuve: soft yellows and oranges, deep blacks, light rose’s.
Now, Veuve isn’t cheap – anywhere. On the ship, a bottle of Veuve Yellow Label goes for $80. But a flute goes for $17 or thereabouts. So, when you break it down, a bottle that might yield eight flutes of champagne is a better deal by far.
And so I crumbled and bought a bottle. Call it research – or my one extravagance of this crossing.
Now, you could pair that champagne with $35 worth of Caviar, but I passed on that. My wallet already felt uncomfortably lighter. But how much the champagne cost paled in comparison to the wonderful experience here. The bottle was placed on ice in a large bucket next to the table, and crystal flutes were dutifully brought forth. I managed to snag a table by the windows, within view of the seas that had, by this time, steadily improved.
The entire experience was more relaxing than I had imagined. The Veuve Cliquot Champagne Bar is far quieter than the adjacent chart room, and you’re surrounded by high ceilings, beautiful Art Deco paintings, and bottles of champagne everywhere as far as the eye can see.
On the menu: Veuve Yellow Label; Demi Sec Non Vintage; Veuve Rose; and Veuve Cliquot Vintage 2004 – the year of Queen Mary 2’s maiden voyage. Can’t finish the bottle in one sitting? Not to worry – you can bring it to the dining room with you. And, on formal night, that’s never a bad thing!
You can also elect to sign-up for Champagne Afternoon Tea in the Veuve Cliquot Champagne Bar. At a cost of $30 per person, this includes a flute of Veuve Yellow Label non-vintage, along with a different selection of teas, pastries, scones and whatnot. These are unique to this venue, and are different from the ones served in the King’s Court on Deck 7, or in the Queen’s Room on Deck 3, where High Afternoon Tea is served promptly at 3:30 p.m.
You can even sign up for a special Champagne Tasting on select days of the cruise, for a cost of $68 per person. Five different kinds of champagne are sampled, each of which is paired with its own unique food dish. And yes, caviar is included.
Outside, the weather had steadily improved during the afternoon. After stormy skies and a severe soaking midday – when we crossed approximately 120 nautical miles to the north of the final resting place of the RMS Titanic – the sun came out in full force this afternoon. The heavy swells and gale winds didn’t abate any, but the brilliant sun brought a few hearty souls out to the Promenade Deck on Deck 7 for a stroll around.
Tonight, it’s another jam-packed evening of fun here onboard Queen Mary 2. But for me, fun means finding the last-available seat in the Chart Room on Deck 3 and listening to the fantastic Mark Hodgson Trio work their magic until 12:30 a.m. If there’s a complaint I have about the ship, it’s that the music here is just too good, and the Chart Room is always filled (and I mean filled) to capacity.
However, in the grand scheme of things – that’s not a bad problem to have! It’s just one more way you can enjoy yourself on this eight day crossing of the Atlantic Ocean – and lasting proof that ports of call just might not be necessary after all.