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Can it be almost a month has passed since I reluctantly parted company with the QM2? How is this possible when, if I close my eyes tight, I can almost feel the pulsing of the engines and the sounds of the ocean rushing below my balcony? Sadly it is. But while it lasted it was one heck of a ride! I hope I won’t bore you. This got very long...maybe it’s been my catharsis. I'll post it in segments.
So many reviews, the good and the not so good, have been written about her that I doubt there is much of consequence I could impart. A while back I told Pepper that his review had set the bar very high for those of us who attempt to follow in his path and maybe that’s what has slowed me down in writing this. So I won’t dwell on the obvious and well documented, but instead invite you to join me as I fall in love with the QM2. Some of you who read my “Live From...” blog might recognize some of this as the blog that came from my journal.
With apologies to the original movie, long a favorite of mine, this truly was “An Affair To Remember”.
Embarkation day...could there be a more exciting morning...killing time, eating slowly, all the while itching to yell “let’s go!!” I am squirming like a 5 year old! How can the rest of them be so civilized about this. To kill time I call back to the kennel...yes, the dog has survived a night away from his parents. OK, one less worry.
Finally the pier and tiny glimpses of the ship...my excitement ratchets up...fast! Until I see THE LINE...I thought this ship only held 2500 people. There must be 3 times that number in this line. But finally, as all long lines must eventually do, this one moved forward....into the building. That’s progress although after an hour and a half in there I think it was cooler outdoors. After drinking way too much warm water and eating too many stale crackers we are finally directed to...(drum roll please) “the keeper of the computer”. In just seconds I am handed my reward for patience. It’s hard to suppress the giggles (women my age are not supposed to giggle after all) when I look at that small card in my hand. Queen Mary 2 Passengerit says, and right there is my picture. MY picture! OK, I’ve looked better, much better, but I’m recognizable so I’m sure they will let me on the ship when they look at it. Needless to say our embarkation photo does NOT grace our mantle! It’s kind of like that old passport joke...”if you look as bad as your passport photo you really need this vacation!”
As we’re directed to the walkway that will take us to the ship I see her up close for the first time. There it is...that bow, that evocative classic bow with the words “Queen Mary 2” proudly emblazoned on it. It was photos of that bow that took me back to my old liner past and cemented my determination to sail on her. She truly takes my breath away. I don’t think that’s ever happened to me before. Probably my favorite picture of the entire trip is the one my husband quickly took of me as I met “my Queen” for the first time. My face is reflected in the dirty glass of the building. The bow with the words Queen Mary 2 directly across. And the awestruck look on my face is almost one of childlike wonder. For a brief moment I am once again the little girl whose Daddy would take her to Liner Row where she would gaze at the grandest of the grand and dream...probably with that same look on her face. I am tingling all over....the love affair has begun.
On the way to the gangway we pass the Todd English table with menus and a helpful staff member who cheerfully takes our reservation for our St Kitts night. Well then, that was easy. One less thing to do the first day.
It’s almost anticlimactic how quickly we find ourselves on the gangway. I pause briefly on that temporary connection to the world and for the first time see the length of this ship...WOW! The press of the line moves me forward and I am onboard the QM2. I am onboard the QM2!! I don’t think I ever really believed this day would come. For a year I fantasized about savoring this moment but instead it became a blur of activity. Uniformed staff smiling and welcoming us, checking cabin numbers and directing us accordingly. I must say here, that all the postings I’ve read of disappointment that a “white gloved staff member” didn’t physically take one to his cabin, really seems quite untenable. How on earth could it be expected that each passenger be escorted with so many coming at one time. I’m sure if one were infirm provisions would be made, but I’m still physically capable of toting my carry-ons (way too many of them I might add), so this was of no consequence to me at all.
For over a year I inhaled the deck plans, studied them relentlessly...at that moment I hadn’t a clue where I was....nor did I care. I was ON the QM2...no one could be more excited, wherever it was it was very attractive, and I followed the line to the elevators. The elevators were incredibly slow...and full. A tip should you find yourself in this predicament where everyone has loads of hand luggage and wants to get on first....press both up and down and take the one that comes first and is empty...at least if you go down it’s not far and you’ll be on when it goes back up. This tip works for disembarkation day too!! In no time we were at Deck 11 and the door to 11059. We peek inside....there’s that balcony....yup, this could be the real thing after all.
There are so many descriptions of the Britannia cabins online that I’ll just say we were delighted with ours. Plenty of room....the balcony was to-die-for...ALL the excess of clothes I brought for us both fit just fine in the closets and shelves, and my way-oversized suitcases fit neatly under the beds. I tucked the Pepsi I had brought into the fridge and checked out the bathroom. I don’t know what the problem is some people have mentioned but I thought it was just fine. Despite being used to a huge bath at home, this one functioned well and I found the shower more than adequate including the dreaded leg shaving routine. And the Canyon Ranch goodies were delightful...use and enjoy them!
Loved finding envelopes waiting in our mail holder. Weeks earlier I had made our spa appointments and right there were our confirmations. So then, another thing handled. This is getting too easy. I’m beginning to feel pampered.
Best of all, our luggage was waiting for us and in an hour we’d all unpacked, met at the “B” elevators and headed forward for my first glimpse of the Deck 11 observation area. What a cool spot, .right under the bridge and overlooking the great bow. It doesn’t get any better in my book! Be sure to walk from one side of it to the other. In port or underway this is a great place to get the full sense of this ship. I felt as though I should have stripes on my sleeves and issue orders to the others....yes, I tend to be delusional at times.
Next stop...my fantasy land. Somehow I knew before boarding the Commodore Club would become my favorite place. It did not disappoint! Be sure to arrive at least once via the outside elevator. I had some doubts about being able to handle this elevator.Elevators in general do that to me and then there’s that nagging little height thing I have. I was so enthralled with it I never thought about the other things.There is something magical about ascending the side of the ship while overhanging the water then stepping into this little piece of paradise. Even by day, without the incredible mood lighting, this space envelopes you. I’m amazed at how such a large space can feel so cozy. More on this fantastic venue later....
Finally the moment had arrived....darkness had descended and the other ships in port had sailed. I had this moment of superiority watching them from the heights of QM2’s uppermost deck....and shamelessly I felt they paled by comparison. Somehow rock climbing walls, “movies under the stars” screens and bizarre hull art look a bit garish when one is sitting on a true work of art. I know, I know, love is delusional at times but after a few hours onboard I was beginning to recognize the signs. I was definitely well past infatuation.
When I crossed many times growing up my favorite moments started with the call for “all ashore who are going ashore”. I almost tingled all over knowing that shortly the horn would blow. Even at those ages nothing affected me as much as that sound. And now, so many years removed from those glory days of the old liners I was about to hear one of the most famous of all...the original Queen Mary horn. I was dancing a silent jig inside where no one could see it....
How to describe it, that resonant sound. It is almost a visceral thing that wraps itself around you, reverberates inside of you from the top of your head to the tips of your toes and swirls around in your mind and in your heart. There is that one instant when you feel so full of it that you think you might just explode from the very essence of it all. As the last blast fades away what lingers is an almost sensual embrace where every pore still vibrates, every molecule still tingles. If you close your eyes for a moment and allow yourself to float away with the sound it’s as close to an intense romantic moment as one can get while surrounded by a large crowd of strangers!
Long after the sound has faded what lingers in your soul is the siren call of the sea whispering “follow me...follow me”....how could I resist? My Viking blood was in full boil! And moments later you realize that the regal Queen has slipped those fragile bonds and is heading to her true home...the sea.
Leaving Ft Lauderdale is so festive...lights glow everywhere. On deck a party is in full swing,. On shore the condo residents along the departure channel blow horns and sirens, yell and flash lights in hopes she will blow her horn again. She does...I am smitten!!!
I cannot find the words to express my feelings and emotions on reading these first two parts of your affair to remember. The sheer quality of your writing, the images in my mind that your words evoke, your superb descriptions, the joy that you convey, the pictures you are painting with every sentance, the way you express your love for this Liner, the flood of memories you have brought back to me from my time on board with every word you put down... all of this sets a new high in reviews of voyages that others will try and fail to beat. It I wasn't already in love with the Queen Mary 2 myself , then I would be after just two parts of your wonderful work. Thank you so much for all your hard work and gratitude that you decided to share it with us. You have me hooked, I shall be checking in every few minutes awaiting the next unmissable instalment of this memorable affair.
With admiration and deepest thanks
"It's not the only way to cross, but it's the only way to cross"
So many reviews, the good and the not so good, have been written about her that I doubt there is much of consequence I could impart. A while back I told Pepper that his review had set the bar very high for those of us who attempt to follow in his path and maybe that’s what has slowed me down in writing this. So I won’t dwell on the obvious and well documented, but instead invite you to join me as I fall in love with the QM2.
Penny - Cunard only have two ships - that could limit the amount you can write about them, however every review is different. I love reading about people's reactions to the ship, what they did onboard, where they visited, etc.
I have never been on the QM2 - I think that I will do, but not too soon I hope . I loved your blog and I'm loving your review - they let me feel as if I'm experiencing the ship without going aboard.
Penny, your way with words is amazing. You can put on paper exactly the way I feel about our QM2. You are a very talented writer. Thank you so much, I await your next installment.
THE HORN http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zGVc87bws0
Last edited by cusyl; January 14th, 2007 at 03:59 PM.
Hey, Penny. I was on that same cruise too as you well know. Your writing sends goose bumps on my skin as I am recalling that very night we sailed out of Fort Lauderdale and got half the town to celebrate our departure - er, I hope that was a good thing and they were not trying to get rid of us. HA HA HA!
Meryl Streep as Penny and Sean Connery as the Captain in the movie version? Keep writing.
I have tears streaming down my cheeks. And that's a good thing! It's for a good reason this time.
We're still on the first night (day, actually!) and there is so much more to go! I truly wish I had been able to swing being on board with you.
But then, I wouldn't now be able to see things virginal through your unjaded eyes.
I can even see you, in your Sunday coat and muffler with matching faux fur hat, holding your father's hand, eyes wide as saucers at the beautiful grande dames of the sea. New York's liner row, and all of her denizens spread out before you.
Heck, you even evoke the old Jimmy Buffett- Back before he was a gazillionaire, when he spent his first check from the record company (they were records back then!) to buy a boat. The Hemisphere Dancer.
Follow in my wake,
You've not that much at stake
For I have ploughed the seas
and smoothed the troubled waters.
Come along let's have some fun
The hard work has been done
We'll barrel roll into the sun just for starters
Just for starters
Barometer's my Soup
I'm descended from a deckhand on a sloop
I'll travel all the songlines
That only dreamers see
Not known for predictability!
Sail the Main course,
in a simple sturdy craft
Keep her well stocked
with short stories and long laughs
Go fast enough to get there
But slow enough to see
Moderation seems to be the key
Oh my eyes have seen some horizons
And I've crossed the ocean for more than just thrills
No I'm not the first
Won't be the last
You lust for the future
but treasure the past
Those last two lines embody what you have said so well.
Lust for the future, but treasure the past.
You know, I can feel the tingling in my breast of that lovely horn- Her basso notes reverberating and fading over a distance, the doppler effect lingering in our wake.
I can't wait for our next chapter... and our next trip.
You've taken me there on a cold grey foggy day, with sadness surrounding me. You've taken me to a happier place and time, and filled my heart with a ship's song- and my memories with the innocence and pure joy that so many of us have left behind, afraid to experience the joy for fear that it will leave us.
But the joy is worth the sorrow. The sorrow only makes the joy more vivid, more substantial, more precious.
Yes, Meryl Streep and Sean Connery.
I think you and Kyle could write a best-seller together, or at least some dynamite ad copy! With your words and his evokative photos, you could go far! Perhaps a short subject. Maybe Cunard's next ad campaign? Better yet required viewing for all new (and old) Cunard employees, especially those shoreside ones whi don't understand why we need to know every detail, months before the trip, why the slightest little things loom ever so important in our eyes.
Does your husband know that you are having such a passion for another lady?
Thank you for letting me put my complaints, whining and cynicism away, if only for a short time and join you in a time of sparkling eyes, a grin wrapped all the way round your ears, and all of the troubling news of the day, and of our lives, slips effortlessly away. It's a good thing more people don't discover this. The company that makes ****** would go broke!
It is so easy to forget what makes life worth living. Those golden moments that make you sure you're alive, and damn glad of it. Thank you for reminding us.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
And yes. The picture of your reflected in the glass, nameplate behind you is a classic.
WOW...and thank you all so much for so many kind words! And to think I needed some pretty serious cajoling from Steve and a couple of good friends to actually post these memories of mine. You all touch me very much with your words of praise and enjoyment. I'm so glad you're enjoying my ramblings...and my 'affair". Not many people would be bold enough to live their affairs online afterall.
Mary...Thank you...I searched for Martin, I really did. And I left the Vuitton suitcase in case he showed up after I left.
PaulNH...many thanks to you. Truly a compliment coming from one whose review I thoroughly enjoyed and respected ...one I felt then had set the bar high for the rest of us. Most appreciated!
Pepper....once again you flatter me with such kind and generous words. I don't need to tell you how grateful I am for your encouragement. Thank you so much, and thank you for your review which spurred me on finally.
Malcolm...Most appreciated. Your approval and enjoyment, coming from a true QE2 devotee, means a lot to me and I thank you. You are most generous.
David...what a trip we had. It was great meeting you and sharing it. Meryl Streep? You can suggest her after meeting me? I am flattered beyond belief! And Connery as the Captain? Hmmm. perhaps I need to re-evaluate with whom to have this affair!!! Thank you my friend!
Cusyl....Once again you flatter me with praise for my writing style. Thank you, altho what's really scary to some is that's the way my brain works! And I'm still wishing we'd met, me in your lifeboat and you hanging my room service request! What an offer...never to be repeated and I passed it up!
Vic....thank you from one QM2 lover to another. I'm enjoying your voyage too and so glad it was as good as mine.
Cruiselov and Atomica...thank you both..and just wait til you hear that horn!!
And Karie...once again you have hit the nail on the head. How does she do that??? I struggle for days trying to pull all the emotion I've been carrying around and put it into words and you pull this perfect song out of the air and there it is..."lust for the future, but treasure the past" That about sums it all up. I'm so glad under the circumstances I was able to take you someplace happy for a moment. And by the by....it wasn't a faux fur hat I wore with my Sunday coat. In all likelihood it would have been a hand knitted cap done by my Mom with matching mittens clipped to my sleeves because I lost them all the time. Not a lot of store bought goodies for this little girl. My Mom was an immigrant...some things she never gave up.
So thank you all again...more tomorrow. Hint...the affair blossoms
Cheers, Penny...who wishes she was as classy as Meryl Streep
If my words were poetry, then you are surely my muse.
You evoked the emotions. I merely tried to inadequately express in words how you made me feel.
Mine was a white rabbit fur muffler and hat. It went well with my Easter outfit - short sleeved, to fit over the cast on my arm- From pulling the iron over on myself trying to get to the kitchen drawer for the chewing gum, despite my mother's admonition to wait, she'd get it.
Fortunately for us, she sewed those lovely Easter Dresses. and it was nothing for her (HA!) to change mine to short sleeved! And of course, growing up the daughter of an IBEW Electrician, working for the REA (rural Electrification Act) an only child moving all over rural Tennessee and Georgia, my mother, too, learned frugality. But I am the one who dares not throw away anything which still has a little life in it. So wasteful! I reuse my paper grocery bags (keep that petrochemical plastic stuff away from me!) and cringe at the thought of filling landfills with our barely used detritus. Mother knitted some of our stuff too. But Sears or Montgomery Wards could always be trusted to produce just the right "Special" accessory to go with Mom's home-made clothes.
And I meant to put a copyright mark. I certainly did not write the song. That is Jimmy Buffett's Barometer Soup, from the album of the same name. It was the first CD Marc ever bought me. Come to think of it. I remember opening it at his Aunt Christine's Beach house in Wells, Me. The one whose funeral is Saturday. <sigh>
I can't wait for the next chapter! It will be a marvelous week, with your review and Randy and Mary's blog to look forward to!
who has been looking and planning!
Last edited by travel-to-go; January 14th, 2007 at 11:53 PM.
I’ve really, really enjoyed your review so far, and your enthusiasm and love for QM2 comes through in spades. What has really made your review so special is that the way you describe your feelings about the ship are almost poetic; rather than just saying “I was really excited”, you’ve spoken with your heart and conveyed a deep love for QM2 rather than a superficial ‘one-night-stand’.
At each point where you have paused to take in the gravity and spectacle of your situation, I’ve smiled inwardly and even felt butterflies in my stomach. In exactly one-hundred and forty days time (but hey, who’s counting?), I will be going through exactly what you did when I board QM2 for the first (and probably only) time, and reading your review has just made me even more excited! I was particularly amused when you spoke of having memorised the deck plans through months of studying them and then suddenly forgetting it all when you realised you were actually standing there in the grand lobby. I too have looked over the deck plans countless times and I can see myself having the same mental block as the feeling of actually being on board for the first time overwhelms me!
Please don’t let us have to wait too long for the next instalment – trying to sustain my excitement in between each chapter is very tiring!
Part 3----Impressions...and Privilege...the affair blossoms
Before I even opened my eyes that first day at sea I thought about how I was feeling, now that my dream had been realized. I was waking up on the Queen Mary 2...had I died and gone to heaven I wondered? Nope...it was just my bed moving, not a heavenly cloud floating in the breeze....or was it? I thought of the incredible beauty of the ship we discovered yesterday...of the kindness and courtesy shown by every crew member we encountered.... of the proud sense of Cunard’s grand history evident everywhere in this Queen that will carry the tradition into the future. Then it came to me... I felt privileged. I felt privileged to sail in this lap of luxury and become a miniscule part of the future history of this great ship. Privilege...it’s a grand feeling.
I thought of our traveling companions, the closest of friends for over 32 years. It’s the kind of friendship that, when told of your plans to celebrate early retirement and my husband’s birthday on the QM2, they book too and surprise us. True friendship is such a gift. I don’t have family members who would understand the importance of this trip to us as they did. Then again, I don’t have family members I’ve been so close to for over 30 years.
The sun and I got up together this morning. I guess if I don’t want this to happen I should really close the drapes, but who can resist that blazing moment when the sun pops up from the ocean like some brilliant orb of the deep. And I, in my Deck 11 aerie, am first to witness this miracle. I’m sensing a pattern here that will be repeated through the week...sleep deprivation. I’m too old for sleep deprivation. Strangely I found, as the week progressed, I didn’t care! If I am to die of sleep deprivation let it be here! I’ll have one huge smile on my face when it happens! New love affairs can have that effect.
I can’t imagine how anyone could resist early morning on a balcony at sea. I don’t care if it’s a glass one or an in-hull sheltered balcony, early morning at sea is not to be missed. And there is no place that invites reflection better than a balcony enhanced by the soft whoosh of the water below and the obvious swell of the ocean under your feet as you sway to find your elusive balance. Could QM2 be performing just for me? How terribly thoughtful. Lovers tend to do thoughtful things.
So I reflected....on the kaleidoscope of excitement that was yesterday. On the sound of that horn...why do I keep hearing it in my head? Several times I crossed on the old ships from the age of 3 through college. Memories like this will never go away no matter one’s age and this first morning on this elegant liner I’m awash in nostalgia. Back then streamers were a huge part of the moment, a fragile thread that tied you briefly to loved ones gathered on the dock to bid you farewell, some of them driving several hours just to come on board and say good by. What fun streamers were in those last moments of connection to the land. No streamers yesterday. No one to bid you bon voyage either. Ah well, the dinosaurs are gone too...but not forgotten.
Somewhere during the evening we felt the sea wake up and come to play with us. I suddenly felt the almost imperceptible swaying at dinner. Fabulous....as was our first dinner onboard. From start to finish it set the tone for the dinners to come....elegant, impeccably served, perfectly paced and decidedly delicious. Our two servers and our sommelier were like poetry in motion, always with a smile. Britannia Restaurant lived up to the anticipation and expectation just fine thank you very much. A wonderful dining experience set in the most elegant of surroundings. They could have fed me day old bread with a side of water and I’d have smiled in that beautiful room. And if someone in your party is celebrating a birthday or anniversary do what I did and advise Cunard on your voyage personalizer. I expected perhaps my husband might get a card to acknowledge his big day. What I didn’t expect was a birthday ”cake” at dinner accompanied by 3 very excellent singers. Can you spell embarrassment? My evil twin was in her glory...wretched thing that she is. Some of you may remember her from the past. Somehow she got onboard!
Ahhh, enough reflection for now. Last night I filled out one of those delicious little cards that makes breakfast appear magically at your door. Another pattern set to be repeated almost every day. How on earth could anyone resist breakfast in bed with the balcony door open and the vast ocean a moveable painting on the wall? Right on time it comes, delivered with a flourish and the first of the “good day Madams” I will hear repeatedly throughout the ship. Have you any idea how easy this is to get used to? And how hard it is to train my husband that this is now the proper way to address me?
This morning is spa morning. I marvel how easy this all is. Arrive at the spa...meet your masseur...go directly to heaven. I meet Tomo, a gentle, soft spoken man with magic fingers. The term Shiatsu is elevated to new heights as he skillfully locates all my aging pressure points and miraculously makes them young again. He finds my “chi” ( I never knew it was lost till I met him), and gets it moving in the right direction. The brochure called it a “relaxing and invigorating massage”...surely a contradiction in terms I thought. Then again, I never thought the Red Sox would win the World Series either, so what do I know! Between him and that amazing thallasotherapy pool I leave in a state that can best be described as limp, wet noodle, yet at 1 AM I am still going strong. Someone should bottle this man! Cunard, are you reading this?
Winds are at 50 knots...the seas running 9-15 feet...the floor comes up to meet my foot as we duck-walk from side to side down the corridors. How thoughtful the QM2 is to anticipate my every move . Is there no end to this fantasy fulfillment? My new love seems to guess just what I’d like every moment of the day. Wish fulfillmant seems to be the order of the day. Despite my attempts to remain discreet has my husband guessed about this affair of mine I wonder?
Cheers, Penny...more to come in the pursuit of decadence
Wonderful, I was awaiting this next part, holding by breath. Just when I thought it couldn't get any better.. it did! Thank you a zillion times for taking me back to the happiest part of last year.. my own time on board the QM2.
I know how difficult it is to write a review, so I truly appreciate all the very hard work you're putting in here.
With many thanks
"It's not the only way to cross, but it's the only way to cross"
You glossed over that dinner- Oh, sure, you threw it a backwards glance, but I want details- Every sip, every bite: the menu, the choices, the wine, and of course, the dessoert! (If that isn't too personal! (*)
Then when you're done, the trip forward to the Commodore, the sparkle in your eyes as you sip, perhaps a club soda, or maybe a tonic, with a light twist of lime? And discover the twinkling lights ot the QM2 Alter-ego behind the bar- The CCers at 10, maybe (if you managed to tear yourself from the Brittania in time) and you sit, greaceful, one ankle tucked behind the other, and tip your head back and laugh, the sound of tiny tinkling bells that warm one's entire chest with merriment.
Oops! You notice a light going out in the QM2 behind the bar- Another cabin giving way to slumber in that gentle rocking mother's arms that is the sea. Or did you notice? With Paul behind the bar to make even a tonic and a twist sound as sophisticated as champagne cocktail, perhaps creating one of his special garnishes.
Go back, girl. I want to hear every breath-taking moment!
who wishes she could record each entire trip, to play it back later.