This is a shortened version of my review originally posted in October 2006. It was suggested to me that, with the start of the Transatlantic season in a few weeks, some new members might find parts of this interesting and useful.
I am deeply indebted to Penny (Patwell) for her help in preparing this.
My plans to sail across started while I searched web sites for articles and photographs about the construction of the Queen Mary 2. I devoured any information and facts about her during this period. Very early on I had decided on a westbound crossing, 25 hour days and the entry into New York being the deciding factors. Eventually I selected and booked cabin 5032 for a westbound crossing departing 24th September 2006.
My reasons for choosing this cabin were several. To be on the port side, i.e. the “sunny” side on a westbound crossing. To have cabins both above me (so early morning deck cleaners and joggers would not disturb a “lie in”) and beneath (therefore a deck away from late night noise in the public rooms below). I made sure the cabin didn’t have a connecting door, wasn’t near a laundrette, stair tower or lifts (again, all because of potential noise issues). Others had said that she was very stable even in a heavy sea, so I was concerned that, if the crossing was smooth, I wouldn’t be aware I was at sea at all. So by booking a “sheltered” balcony cabin almost as far forward as possible, I would feel any motion going. I know some dread rough seas but I’ve never had problems with seasickness. I was accompanied by a friend who, before the voyage, was not as passionate about QM2 as I was. The voyage soon changed that!
I booked Cunard transfers and took advantage of the “Windsor Combination” that gave me 2 nights at the Sheraton New York and Towers Hotel on Seventh Avenue and a British Airways “World Traveller” (economy/coach) flight back to London Heathrow from JFK.
I began “chatting” to CC members on the roll call set up for this voyage, they all seemed very nice but when we met up on board, they really were the greatest people you could wish to meet and travel with. My thanks go to them for helping to make the crossing truly memorable.
In the summer I discovered that QM2 would not be going to Brooklyn, her usual destination after a westbound transatlantic, or to the west side piers in Manhattan, but would dock at Bayonne, New Jersey.
Six weeks or so before departure, I received the tickets etc. in a smart leather wallet. My voyage was really going to happen!
I won’t bore you with all the packing details but suffice to say that I took too much, didn’t need half of it! It’s easier for a man, three evenings are formal so all I needed was a dinner suit and dress shirts for these nights and some smart casual outfits for other evenings and the days at sea. I knew that the fourth night (in this case the Wednesday) would be an “informal” night (i.e. a jacket and tie for men). This would involve taking a jacket that I wouldn’t wear at any other time whilst on board or in New York. So I decided that this night I would dine in the “Kings Court” (where there is no dress code). I also decided to book a table at the “Todd English” restaurant for the last “formal” evening (Thursday on this trip).
Not wishing to be travelling to Southampton on the day of sailing (only away from it!) I also booked a hotel for the night before sailing. I found a room at Jury’s Hotel at the north end of the town centre (my first two choices were fully booked as this was also the weekend of the Southampton Boat Show).
Early Sunday, 24th September, after breakfast, I walked down to the piers at the south end of town, just to check that she had, indeed, arrived that morning. I had planned to try and board around 1pm and then have lunch. The cab turned up ten minutes early and so I found myself getting out of the taxi in the departures hall at exactly 11.30. I took the cases over to the conveyor belt and next saw them in the cabin. There was a very short wait for the usual processing of ticket, passport and on board identity card. After security I entered a waiting area (with small coffee shop) where I was given a boarding card with a number on it. I was prepared for a long wait (as I was so early) but within minutes they were calling out my number. Passing into a glass walled corridor (alongside the enormous grey bulk of this huge ship) a photograph was taken by the on-board photographers next to a ceremonial “welcome to Queen Mary 2” lifebuoy. Days later I declined to buy this picture as, dressed casually, with an overnight bag over one shoulder, coat in my hand, against a very forgettable background of airport style lounge seating, I looked surprised and uncomfortable. The fact that they charged $27.50 for this very unflattering photograph also helped decide against purchasing it.
I crossed into the ship and had my pass scanned. It was now 12.15pm, only 45 minutes after arriving at the Queen Elizabeth II Terminal. As we were at Southampton I entered at Deck 3 straight into the “Grand Lobby”. Those boarding at Bayonne for the next voyage, entered via one of the four “tender embarkation” areas on deck 1. These rooms, with bare walls and plain carpets, with much clutter in them, would be a very poor entry to this great ship. Thankfully the atrium, sorry, “Grand Lobby” leaves an altogether better first impression. It really is a superb space that works well. I looked down into the well with two curved staircases to deck 2 below and up through Decks 4, 5 and 6. Originally there was a glass deck-head above giving glimpses into Deck 7. This was removed to give more seating areas in the “Kings Court” on Deck 7 (but is still shown “Glass Floor“ in the very latest brochures). There are 2 glass walled “scenic” lifts/elevators in this lobby that go from Deck 2 to this “food court“ above. These lifts are designed to connect the three decks with the majority of the public rooms on them (Decks 2, 3 and 7) so be aware that they do not stop at decks 4, 5 or 6 (which are cabin decks).
Whilst there were many staff lined up in the lobby to “meet and greet” me, to say “welcome” and smile, none came forward to take me to my cabin. A crew member did ask me for my cabin number and I was then directed to the correct bank of lifts. Was this a problem? For me, not really. I had done my homework and knew where my cabin was and the quickest way to get there. But I would like to think that, if I looked as if I couldn’t carry my bag far, would find the layout confusing or needed assistance, that someone would be on hand to escort me.
There was a queue/line at the bank of six lifts that would take me up to deck 5. So, as it was only two decks, I walked up (I would recommend using the stairs whenever possible as it helps work off some calories!).
Inside the cabin, as promised, was a small plan of the Britannia Restaurant with the location of my reserved table marked. I had requested “early” seating at a table for two. My reason for not wanting late dining was because I feel happier dining early, taking in a show, retiring to one of the bars and then going to the night club. If I was cruising with a port to explore during the day (and therefore returning from a shore excursion), it would be better to have more to time to shower and change before dinner. Some like more time to attend to their hair and makeup (I have neither!). I knew before boarding that I was to get the requested time but this was the first chance to see if I was to share a table or get one for just me and my travelling companion. I was disappointed to see that my allotted table (299) was a table for four on the upper level of the Britannia Restaurant. I decided to ask if I could change tables. I also found a kind invitation to attend the CC “get together” the following day.
I had asked for the cabin to be laid out as two single beds. It was set up as a double. Obviously I requested this to be changed and, by time I returned later, it had been (although the correct size bed covers didn’t arrive for another 2 days). On the balcony the previous passengers had left the green cushions on the two resin deck chairs. They were soaking wet. After briefly inspecting the cabin (details later) I set off to explore.
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