Saturday, January 29, 2011

July 8 to July 13 Underway aboard RMS Queen Mary 2

What can I say? Underway on Queen Mary 2 from New York to
Southampton! Actually, there is quite a bit to say, and most of it is good.
The boarding process at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal seemed to go
smoothly, despite the large number of passengers involved. Our luggage all
arrived safely to stateroom 8059. The ship got underway on time and sailed
out, passing the Statue of Liberty, under the Verazzano Narrows Bridge, and
out to sea. Soon, the skies were overcast and the ship entered a fog bank.
We had gray skies and little visibility all the way across the Atlantic. The
fog signal sounded frequently, although I noticed that the ship maintained
course and about twenty-four knots speed no matter what. Also, no fog
lookout was in evidence to me in the eyes of the ship.

Scenes aboard RMS Queen Mary 2 leaving New York and at sea.

Bruce and Penny on one of the black tie nights.

We dined in the Brittania Restaurant at Table 90 along with Michael,
who was traveling alone including driving both ways across the United
States; the Coghlins from Wales who were quite friendly if rather reticent; Patrick and
Donna, she being an American and he one of those proud Imperial Tories
who acts like he resents the power and importance of the United States; and
Ron and Val, a delightful couple from Northumberland. The food was good.
There were three black tie/suit night, one jacket and tie night, and at the very
beginning and the very end, a jacket sans necktie night.

Dr. Peter Carrick-Adams gave an insightful series of lectures of
World War Two in the West. Having toured the Normandy battlefields
ourselves enhanced the value of the lecture and of the presentation images.
I toured the bridge viewing area and attended the lecture by two deck
officers about the ship. They have two licensed deck officers on bridge
watch at any given time, and carry a staff captain besides the master himself.
The staff captain is somewhat analogous to a U.S. Navy ship’s executive
officer. The bridge is very modern, with two comfortable-looking “captain’s
chairs” for the watch officers. There is an autopilot and engine control
console amidships, and an array of five large computer screens. The surface
radar picture appears on two of them, ship’s system status appears on two
more, and in the middle is a navigation plot that integrates Global
Positioning System output with scanned images from nautical charts.
During the lecture, a young deck officer insisted that each of them maintains
full proficiency in traditional piloting and watchstanding methods such as
those on which I was “raised,” but I wonder about that…Oh yes, one more
thing: the off watch deck officers comprise the underway firefighting team.

I am glad that we came on this crossing. It is a throwback to the pre-
1940 years and quite an experience. But the Oceania Line experience that
we had on our Panama Canal cruise was preferable, I think. Queen Mary 2
is a bit stodgy and impersonal. Unless someone wanted the historic ocean
liner experience of bygone days, I would recommend crossing by a different
means were one available. Such as by airplane, for example. The bottom
line is that six days at sea is a lot of time to give up that could otherwise be
spent enjoying one’s destinations. Unless, of course, one is going around the
world without any airplanes!

One the afternoon of July 13th, we finally opened the bottle of Wattle
Creek bubbly that had been meant for the first day on the Amtrak train.

Arrival in Southampton.

1 comment:

  1. A few comments in retrospect about the QM2 voyage. Cunard frequently pointed out that RMS Queen Mary 2 is an ocean liner and not a cruise ship.

    Restaurants: There are different sit-down, full service restaurants for each class of passenger. There are also a series of cafeteria-style restaurants, and in these you look for your own seats after you fill your tray. I thought the flow patterns were not well arranged in these, because we had to carry trays back across lines of other passengers and so on. Earlier in San Francisco, I had met some disembarking passengers when QM2 called there during the maiden voyage around the world. When they found that we were booked for a trans-Atlantic crossing, they regaled me with some severe criticisms of the ship and Cunard Lines. The cafeteria lines were one of them. I later read that Cunard had tried to ameliorate these problems. But we still found some difficulties.

    Formal wear: There is a dress code in the evenings. Tuxedos and suits are frequently required. If you are not carrying them in your baggage, you can rent them, or alternatively, order room service and remain out of the public areas. The rental prices seemed high, and we decided to buy our own things. For me, this meant going down to The Men’s Wearhouse and buying a basic tuxedo. Not a bad idea, because I will never have to rent one again. The problem is in carrying it. We mailed those things to our son in New York, and mailed them home from England. Another solution might be to have a friend ship them to you at the appropriate time if you don’t want to pack black-tie regalia and formal gowns in your backpacks.

    Smoking in public areas: There was no smoking allowed in any of the eating areas, but smoking was allowed in the pubs and bars. We found it so bad that we avoided them. So we couldn’t go for a drink in the evening because of the stench in the pubs.

    Lack of public lounge space: QM2 has the largest library afloat, but there is no place to sit and read other than your cabin. There are a couple of public lounges, but these were usually cordoned off for art sales. You can go out on deck to read but it can be cool and windy out there.

    Getting aboard and ashore: QM2 is a very large ship, and so expect delays at both ends. The couple that I met in San Francisco went on at some length about this. Access to boats heading ashore was prioritized by passenger class, and it could take hours to get ashore during port visits that were short anyway. A ship so large will often have to go to an anchorage and run boats instead of going pierside and rigging a gangway.

    We chose not to use Cunard’s transfers when we arrived in Southampton. We had to be out of the stateroom rather early, and take our luggage down to one of the public rooms. There were taxis available a short walk down the pier from the terminal, so we were glad that we took this on ourselves.