Vacation time is the best time of the year. Particularly, because it is the only time of year that I get to share all those precious moments and experiences with the one person I love. 2018 has been a tough year, so both of us were in urgent need of relaxation and rebooting of our energy levels. And nothing soothes feeling worn-out and tired better than a good old Transatlantic cruise on the last ocean liner there is: RMS Queen Mary 2.
Day 1: A humble start
The worst part of cruising is the getting there, particularly when you are traveling with lots and lots of luggage. Cunard does offer White Star Luggage service, but with around 250 US-Dollars per piece a very luxurious and exclusive add-on. So we managed the transport ourselves, finding us after a very early rise at a completely overcrowded Munich airport and a bit of limited time until the final baggage check-in deadline. Luckily, we made it just in time and only a bit later it was already boarding time for our flight to London Heathrow. I had spent about an hour the night before with the US branch of Cunard trying to get us last-minute on one of the company´s coach services from Heathrow to Southampton. But unfortunately, all of them had already been booked out and even my primary choice National Express had no more seats available. So while freaking out at first, I was finally able to organize us a Budget rental car which we drove cross-country from Heathrow down to Southampton in just about 2 1/2 hours. After dropping off the car in Southampton and mounting our taxi towards Queen Elizabeth cruise terminal at the port, long, long queues awaited us upon arriving at the terminal. Another 60 minutes of slowly moving forward before we could finally check-in for the crossing. And then finally, almost 8 hours after getting up, as we opened up the door to our metal-framed balcony stateroom on Deck 6, all we could think about for the moment was a little power nap before it was time to attend the drill before Mary´s departure towards New York City. And what a compensation this marvelous sunset was as the ship slowly sailed out of the harbor. Ahead of us the mighty Atlantic Ocean and six full days at sea. My ice-cold pale ale had never tasted better before …
Day 2: Starting out Grey
As wonderful as the foregoing sunset had been, the first official day at sea welcomed my eyesight with a dreary and foggy grey passing outside the veranda as QM2 quietly plowed through the even sea. It was time for breakfast which we took inside Britannia restaurant and since it was not raining outside, a wonderful opportunity to begin the day with a decent stroll around the spacious promenade deck. The “2018 Fashion Cruise” was out and about and most passengers were attending the different varieties in entertainment and lecture about the subject, which left most of the public spaces, particularly the library, to be wonderful hide aways to retreat to in peace and quiet. Well, except the snoring of some gentlemen who had retreated here to obviously find a good night´s sleep. But until it was time for a delicious lunch at the ship´s Golden Lion Pub (one of my favorite to do´s of the day), I spent hours diving into the rich collection of maritime reading before feasting on those superb Fish´n Chips that you are served in one of the few pubs at sea. And while most people believe that time passes much slower when crossing the Atlantic Ocean, let me assure you, it does not! It just felt like as if we just had lunch that it was already time to proceed to the Queens Room for Cunard´s legendary Afternoon Tea. As it was the first time during the crossing, we knew that it was a good idea to get there at least 15 minutes early. Nestled comfortably in one of the arm chairs right at the dance floor, a fantastic place to savor a steamy hot cup of tea along with delicious snacks while enjoying the illustrious audience around. The wind was howling outside, but nevertheless, we decided to refresh us with a quick dip in one of the whirlpools on the aftdeck before it was time to change for pre-dinner cocktails at the Commodore Club. This is one of my favorite bars of all time with a stunning view over the ship´s bow and an excellent cocktail menu. The evening climaxed in Cunard´s “Welcome Aboard Ball” and it was again wonderful to see that everyone aboard dressed up accordingly. Because you are not doing a transatlantic cruise here, you are journeying from Europe to the New World…
Day 3: No Day like the one before
Many people wonder what is generally the best time to do a Transatlantic passage. When the weather was more predictable, it surely were the Summer months. These days, any time of year can surprise you with unexpected weather conditions. Just like it was grey, windy and chilly the day before, Day 3 welcomed us with blue skies, a bright sun and mild temperatures. Just perfect to spend most of it outside in a sun lounger, reading or simply listening to music and watching the clouds pass by in the sky above. It is that moment when you slowly begin to realize that you are truly on vacation and that, no matter what time of day, time is at your personal convenience. Sticking to a specific schedule? No reason at all (Ok, well, despite lunch at Golden Lion 🙂 ). As the Atlantic weather can be quite moody, there was no question than to take every minute of sunlight as it came. So after a quick breakfast at the beautifully remodeled Kings Court buffet, we took our sun screen and everything else we might have been in need of upstairs onto Deck 13. Our favorite place to hang out as not too many people come up here and just the perfect spot to listen to the ship´s horn blowing as the clock striked noon. It was not windy and the sky was still bright, so just inviting to enjoy a light lunch at the Boardwalk Café right next to the Kennels where some guests had their dogs put up. Also a great place to meet fellow travelers for a little chit-chat before we retreated back to our little wellness refuge. While my partner stayed the entire afternoon in the sun, I decided for a relaxed workout in the gym in the afternoon with a 30 minute jog around the boat deck with a light Ocean breeze cooling me down while running my errands. And now that I had made some room and exercised, just about time for a little Afternoon Tea. As both of us felt a bit lazy afterwards, we headed back to our cabin and watched a movie before getting changed for cocktails and dinner later on. The sunset that day was simply gorgeous! The sky burst in orange colour and as my eyes wandered the horizon, suddenly a huge swarm of dolphins occurred right next to the ship, racing themselves and jumping out and splashing back into the water. What a wonderful scenery! As many dolphins as I have seen on all of our travels, it delights me every single time and a warm shiver ran down my back as I was waving at them with pure happiness. The perfect day. Nothing more, nothing less.
Day 4: When Time has no Relevance
What time do I have to get up? What is there to get done today? Is there a trip or excursion to plan? Someone to call? I don´t know exactly how long it took us to finally lift our legs out of bed, but it surely felt like an eternal moment. It was already light, so much could I tell. The deep blue Ocean greeted us through the open curtains and we stepped outside to get an idea of the wind and temperature condition. The metal framed balcony cabins are simply the best option for a crossing. They give you shelter from wind and rain and you can even enjoy your breakfast outside once the environment may be a bit appalling. Great stuff, really! Hagen went to get us coffee and I just stood at the railing looking into the blue. The mild September breeze ruined my hair, but I just could not take my eyes off of the ever-moving waves. We halted like this as if time didn´t matter. And it really did not. What was there to miss? Food? Entertainment? Anything? I realized that I was already in relaxation mood. Nothing really mattered except feeling good. Concentrating on the freedom of your own mind, your body and your soul. All what mattered was the here and now. You in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by the power of Nature and the love of the most important person in your life. I took a deep breath and listened to the sound of my beating heart. I could even feel my pulse tickling inside my right wrist. Time for yourself. No commitments and no obligations. We considered for a slight moment to pay visit to the Canyon Ranch Spa Club, but hey, why wasting a day lying in the sun and fresh air in favor of staying in an air-conditioned environment? So we packed our beach bag, grabbed a quick and healthy bite at the beautiful but a bit crowded Carinthia Lounge and headed up again to Deck 13. A few people were enjoying themselves at Shuffleboard while some teens tried out the Sports Centre. It was fun to watch. Here and there, I took a short stroll around the deck and gazed day dreaming onto the horizon. Craving for bubbly? Sure, why not? We still had our welcome bottle and found ourselves two beautifully comfortable loungers down on the promenade in the shadow of one of the massive life boats. Life is there to enjoy, I thought. And every moment was worth to be luxurious! We laid there forever. Talking, laughing, dreaming. Just being happy and thankful that all this was possible and that nothing was there to be taken for granted. Before we went back to the stateroom to change for the evening, we enjoyed a quick game of Backgammon on Deck 3L. Another dip into the whirlpool and after our daily routine of pre-dinner cocktails and a sumptuous meal in Britannia, we enjoyed a few rounds of champagne and a few talks at the Cunard World Club celebration inside Queens Room. Completely weary, there was just enough energy left for the pianist concert inside the Royal Court Theatre before the lights went out that night.
Day 5: Laundry Day
Rough and whipping winds and a grey sky welcomed us on Day 5 of our journey. Thanks to the windproof construction of our metal enclosed verandah, we were still able to enjoy our breakfast al fresco. Here and there, we saw some tail fins of whales heading West with us. New York was only three more nights away and the amount of used clothes stacked inside our stateroom. So we decided that it was the perfect day for doing our laundry. Those of you, who are not familiar with the Cunard fleet, may wonder that we were willing to spend so much money on services that are just overdrawn expensive on cruise ships. But to calm your minds, all of the three Queens are equipped with various launderettes located on almost every deck with guest staterooms, which feature commonly three high-speed washing machines and the same amount of dryers. Washing powder ist being generously provided by Cunard, but picky as I am, I always bring our own liquid detergent, particularly for wool and silk. And it can be quite tricky to get your stuff done in one single day as the launderettes are in constant use! It even seemed that some people spent the entire night in there, just in order to get their laundry done. I personally hate it, when other people take your personal clothes and underwear with their hands out of the machines once the cycle is finished, so I always work with the timer on my phone (about 30 to 35 minutes) to remind me when it is time to get back there. We even carry a larger shopper on these trips with us, just in case you need to swap decks to dry your laundry somewhere else. So to make this short, it almost took the entire day to get done. But as we had always more or less 30 minutes in between, there was always enough time for coffee, a snack, or a little nap inside the cabin. And ironing your shirts often ended in highly social events once the launderette was packed with people. Some did even bring drinks or bubbly. It was raining heavily the rest of the afternoon and some of the outside decks were closed due to heavy winds. The Ocean itself was surprisingly pretty flat though, which made the sighting of whales and dolphins very easy. Being a bit drowsy due to our ongoing inner relaxation, time flew by and then suddenly it was already time for drinks again. This evening, we had pre-reserved dinner at the Verandah speciality restaurant and were absolutely devastated that Cunard had changed the beautiful and most delicious French inspired menu to an inconceivably ordinary Steak house setting with an absolutely average quality. We have actually eaten better inside Carnival´s Fahrenheit steak house a few years ago and would NOT recommend a reservation here AT ALL!
Day 6: A Day in the Sun
As if yesterday has never happened! The sun stood high in the picture perfect sky and the Ocean posed in his most majestic blue he had on offer. Just a mild breeze cooled off from time to time and it was self-explaining that we would spend most of the day again up at our favorite spot. Still a bit frustrated about the dinner experience from last night, we decided to contact guest services for a bit of feedback on that unacceptable change, but the polite yet a bit cool staff member saw no reason for reimbursement. Being just one cruise away from the Platinum Membership with Cunard, this is one of the major fields where the line has to definitely improve big time if it wants to reach the same level of customer service provided by Celebrity Cruises, Windstar or Oceania to name just a few. Anyways, the day was too beautiful to be upset about this ignorance. After lunching once again at the Golden Lion Pub with a crisp and refreshing ale along, it was time to join the onboard planetarium for one of the amazing IMAX films on show. QM2 is the only ship in the world being equipped with a planetarium and even though some of the seats were not reclining correctly, I always get so relaxed in there that it is hard work to actually stay awake. After finishing the journey to far away galaxies and solar systems, my journey took me straight away to the next available sun bed up on Deck 13 forward. The views were simply stunning and I fell asleep for a little bit over my favorite tunes. Having an extra hour almost every day when doing the westbound crossing is truly a great help in overcoming any kind of jet lag, helping you to arrive in New York refreshed and well-rested. The evening began with our traditional pre-dinner drinks at Commodore Club, which today was an extraordinary experience as a huge whale kept swimming right ahead of Queen Mary 2, showing off its gorgeous tail fin every time it dived and a perfect blow once reaching again the surface. The captain decided to perform a bit of a go around, as the whale obviously was too busy to present itself right in course of the ship. Not to imagine what kind of injury the four propellers would cause to the peaceful marine mammal. The entire Commodore Club was gazing with excitement through the panoramic windows and the everyone seemed to stand still for one single moment in time. Magical! Dinner itself also provided us with an unforeseen experience. Tonight we were invited to sit at one of the Officer´s tables with a handful of fellow passengers. And while enjoying a glass of Laurent Perrier, I got detailed and interesting insight into the technical department by Officer Sunjab. What a day, right? Just another one aboard the last ocean liner in the world …
Day 7: The New World is near
As if the ship would dock in New York in just hours, the last day at sea seemed like arrival day. People were running around, rushing to do things or just seemed pre-occupied in their heads with stuff. What you should be aware of is, that quite a number of people using Queen Mary 2 as transportation between the United States and Europe, do actually work on the ship during the crossing. The well-equipped conference center and internet terminals are always busy, explaining also why most of the public areas (especially the sun decks) are particularly quiet during the day on a sunny day. I took this beautiful morning for a run on the promenade deck which gave me such an uplifting workout that I felt energized the whole day. Today, we attended a very interesting lecture about tropical storms around the world. How they form, evolve and how they are monitored. After a quick-lunch at Kings Court we also concluded our final day at sea with a last sumptuous Afternoon Dance Tea at the Queens Room. We took a long last stroll over the outside decks afterwards, a last bath in the rear whirlpool with the view on the world´s most perfect wash of all ships there are, and a last cocktail at Commodore Club to conclude the most relaxing and rejuvenating week that we had in a long, long time together. Just one more night separated us from the Big Apple, where our next adventure was waiting just around the corner. Instead of having dinner at Britannia tonight, we spontaneously decided to head a bit earlier to the buffet. As most of the packing had already been done hand in hand with doing our laundry, we ordered a bottle of bubbly to the cabin and concluded the remaining suitcases and bags while cheering to life, love and happiness. I knew that I would have a light sleep anyways, and I normally wake up with early dawn at the final day during every cruise. So it did not really matter that we finalized the evening with an in-room movie and switching the lights off early. For most people stuck in their everyday life, tomorrow is just another day full of work and obligations. After a week onboard Queen Mary 2, tomorrow was a new day full of chances to be the best day ever.
Day 8: New York, New York
I think it was around 4:30 in the early morning and the cold and wet wind was blowing heavily outside while QM2 slowly approached the gateway to the New York harbor. It was still dark outside and Hagen and I stood at the railing, watching the massive ship majestically pass underneath the world-famous Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Of course, it is much more impressive to reach New York during the day, but if you want to see the Manhattan skyline during daylight or during dusk, you will have to book one of the Eastbound crossings to Southampton. Booking a cabin on the starboard side on the Westbound service is also a wonderful idea if you like to enjoy the panoramic outlook onto the Financial District once the ship has docked at Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. Cunard is very unromantic in terms of vacating your cabin after arrival. Due to the tight turnaround schedule, all staterooms have to be vacated by 8 am the latest. I have literally seen Stewards knocking mercilessly passengers out of their cabins after eight o´clock. We left the ship around noon, enjoying breakfast before and then relaxing a bit on the outside promenade before disembarking at our own convenience. I had pre-arranged a limousine pick-up with Legends Limousines from home, which worked out perfectly. The driver picked us up in a black mini van, and while Queen Mary 2 was getting ready to head back over the Ocean towards the Old World again, we were driven prominently towards out next adventure: A two-week Indian Summer cruise onboard Celebrity Summit towards Quebec City and back to Cape Liberty. Farewell, dearest lady! We will see you again!
Queen Mary 2 is a one-of-a-kind. It is the perfect ship for finding back to yourself during one of her Transatlantic crossings or to simply reboot your system once being worn-out and tired. It is not the right ship for classic fun cruisers seeking mass-entertainment and belly flop-contests, but perfect for singles and couples of all ages seeking old-fashioned maritime adventure and luxury while being close to the Ocean and Nature. The most classic approach to sea travel and definitely the right place if you enjoy to dress up.
Cannot wait to be back sometimes! By the way, if you have not seen it yet. Here, you will find a detailed ship tour of the latest interiors aboard Queen Mary 2. Enjoy.