First of all, I would like to apologize that it has been quite quiet here on HideousJourneys lately. But believe it or not, a traveler like me needs some vacation time as well. Back home, I am ready to share some of my latest travel adventures with you. And they all have to do with cruising again, finally. But before we are setting sail for the Caribbean, let me give you insight in one of my favorite mini cruises there is: The crossing from Hamburg to Southampton (or vice versa) on a Cunard Queen.
Cunard connects a long tradition with Germany´s largest port. During the great time of ocean liners, the British company had already connected Hamburg with its home port Southampton and New York on various crossings over the decades. This tradition has been pursued into modern times, and so all of the present three queens are frequent guests in the Northern German Hansa.
The majestic ships in their elegant dark blue hull, the white superstructure and shiny red funnel had been regular guests to the easy-to-reach Hafen City Cruise Terminal (always my favorite) a stone´s throw away from the city´s latest landmark Elbphilharmonie, since the completion of the Steinwerder Cruise Terminal on the other side of the port, Cunard had to relocate.
While the terminal itself offers a modern and state-of-the-art environment, it is quite a hassle to get there once you are used to travel by public transport. From the airport, it is a 25 minutes ride to Hamburg Central Station. There, the trains arrive on an underground track from where you will have to take the escalator up and take a short walk into the main station building with the main tracks. Commuter trains S3/S31 will take you to Veddel (BallinStadt) station. Once you leave the train here, follow the signage in the opposite direction of the train´s travel, take the stairs down and then exit the building to the left. You will have to take the underground tunnel to the other side of the tracks and then follow a tiny, tiny little sign displaying Bus 256. Make sure to take the bus from the other side of the main road once you get there! The service runs on a very irregular schedule, so it might be a good idea to download the HVV app before you leave for your trip. From the closest stop to Steinwerder Cruise Terminal Argentinienbrücke, it is another 10 minutes walk to the terminal.
There also is a shuttle service provided to/from the cruise terminal to Veddel train station at a nominal charge, but once you miss your original shuttle, you will have to buy an extra ticket. This might be a more comfortable alternative to the public bus though.
Unfortunately, Cunard offers Priority check-in only beginning at Platinum Level or for its Grill Class guests. Being Gold Members, we had to queue in the huge line, yet the process went by quite fast.
Just a little later, we opened the door to our Britannia inside stateroom on Deck 10 midships. The ship sailed on full capacity and before enjoying our bottle of welcome sparkling wine, we took some time to explore the updated interiors (take a tour here) and to check out our designated dinner table at the Britannia restaurant.
As we had done the sail away from Hamburg already, there was no need to stand on deck on this rather grey, windy and rainy day. So we opted for a relaxed cocktail at our favorite bar onboard, the beautiful Commodore Club which offers a wonderful selection of signature drinks. Just a few other passengers had found their way at this particular time, so it was just the right spot to enjoy a sophisticated drink while listening to the easy tunes of the harp player performing in the background.
Before heading to dinner, it was the right time to catch a few glimpses from the observation deck on Deck 11 forward. You can actually take the two panoramic elevators right from Commodore Club up. This is also my favorite spot for amazing views of the surroundings and parts of the ship during a crossing. Ahead lied a quiet day at sea, great to enjoy at a personal pace. Most people who take this short cruise always try to experience everything that the ship has to offer at once. Don´t do this, otherwise you will be stressed the entire time and enjoyment will rather result in stress!
There was not much energy left for any evening activity, so we decided to retreat to the cabin after dinner and take a well deserved good night´s sleep. After a refreshing and rejuvenating rest, the next day welcomed with a moody and rainy scenery outside and lots of wind. But as Queen Mary 2 is designed as an ocean liner rather than a cruise ship, there are tons of places inside the ship to keep one busy and entertained when having no opportunity to relax in the sun. So I picked up two tickets for an afternoon show inside the onboard planetarium Illuminations before enjoying a hearty breakfast at the newly designed King´s Court buffet restaurant.
Another thing that I consider a must do (not only for 1st timers) is the museum style walk through the history of maritime transatlantic travel distributed all over the ship. Lots of historic photographs and informative texts are exhibited around decks two and three. Or you take some time for yourself and try to complete one of the many available puzzles on Deck 3L.
After the planetarium show, the sky had cleared and allowed us to promenade a bit outside. The perfect weather to enjoy a warming soup for a late lunch before heading up to the gorgeous library and the adjacent book shop on Deck 8 afterwards.
At 3.30 PM, it was time for the famous Afternoon Tea inside the glamorous ball room Queens Room. To tell you the truth, this Cunard classic is way more fun (and much less crowded and stressful) once you enjoy it during the transatlantic crossing. But if you come at least 30 minutes prior to the beginning, you can settle down at your preferred table with a book and wait comfortably until the spectacle begins. During this short cruise, it truly became a bit of a mass circus with people running into Queens Room as if department stores opened their doors for a Black Friday blowout sale.
Another thing that we enjoy when traveling on a Queen (particularly on a grey day like this one) is our ocean liner champagne moment. Now even more as Cunard just recently teamed up with one of my favorite brands Laurent Perrier. So why not settle down inside the stylish Champagne Bar for a semi bottle of Laurent Perrier while watching the ocean pass by?
The rest of the afternoon, I hit the gym for a quick workout before taking another walk on the promenade.
Deeply relaxed, we warmed up the evening with a draft beer and playing darts at the cheerful Golden Lion Pub before heading a last time for this journey to Britannia for dinner. A great opportunity to search the famous “Homer Simpson” figure in one of the wall murals along the impressive hallway… A hint: You can find him sitting in his arm-chair somewhere inside the American mural.
The evening, we called in once again for a farewell drink at the cozy Commodore Club after the show inside the Royal Court theatre. Queen Mary 2 would continue her way to New York after our disembarkation the following day and we definitely would not had mind to stay aboard for the crossing at all. Just thinking to have six full days at sea with no schedule, priceless!
But before it was time to switch off the lights, we took a chance on the windy weather and sneaked onto the Grill Terrace at the stern of the ship which serves as a reserved sun deck for Grill passengers during the day. From here, you have a wonderful panoramic view over the stern and the wash of QM2. The perfect location to touch glasses on one of the comfortable outdoor sofas and to end our weekend escape in style.
We disembarked at early noon and enjoyed a beautiful sunny day in Southampton before flying back to Munich. Here is a review on the direct flight from Southampton airport and how to spend the hours in-between with a place to store your luggage!
I love these shorties on the Cunard Queens! They are not only a wonderful alternative to a typical city getaway, they could also be a fine way for you to change over from continental Europe to Great Britain (or vice versa) in combination with a tour or simply if you have a return flight from London or surroundings. For an overview of all 2018/19 short cruises, check out the Cunard website. A fab way to also experience wherever the ocean liner concept is suitable for your cruise style in general. I know I´ll be coming back for more….