Crossing the North Atlantic aboard the Queen Mary 2

We are spending the next two weeks aboard the Queen Mary 2 which is Cunard Cruise Line’s flagship.

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We depart from New York and will cross the Atlantic Ocean arriving in Southampton, England six days later. The ship will then depart Southampton that same evening arriving back in New York after another six days at sea.

Day 1 (Tuesday April 14th): We are up at 3:00 AM this morning for our flight to New York City. After a harrowing taxi ride though New York City, we arrive to the Queen Mary 2 around 2:00 PM that afternoon. We are assigned stateroom 5079. From our balcony, we have a great view of New York City and the Statue of Liberty just across the river.

For this crossing, there are 2400 guest aboard the ship. Over half of the passengers are British. Americans number about 600. We are surprised to find that most of the passengers are our age or younger. We had assumed that most would be older. There are quite a few children on board. We later learned that this week is holiday for the schools in England. We spend the afternoon walking around the ship trying to get our bearings. The Queen Mary 2 is very elegant and also very very large. Aboard there is a movie theatre, gym, spa, English pub, several restaurants and bars, a planetarium, casino, along with several nice shops. There is even a kennel aboard for those wishing to take their dogs with them across the Atlantic. For our crossing there were six dogs aboard. There are a total of 1200 crew members for our trip. The Queen Mary 2 is considered on ocean liner and not a cruise ship. She is designed to cross oceans. There is 30% more steel than on standard cruise ships and the bow has a sharper profile along with a 50 foot bulbous extension. Her draft of 32 feet is much more than that on most cruise ships which usually have only about 24 feet of draft. This gives her added stability but restricts entry into some ports. With a length of 1112 feet 12 stories tall, she is very impressive. Her beam is 124 feet. She is propelled by 4 Rolls Royce pods. Two pods are fixed and two are maneuverable 360 degrees. She is equipped with three bow thrusters and four retractable stabilizers.

We are departing New York Harbor at 6:00 PM. We learn that today is the anniversary of the Titanic Sinking in 1912. Passengers on the cruise just before us launched a memorial reef into the North Atlantic as they passed just miles from the spot where she sank. This is a yearly tradition aboard the Queen Mary.

Our dinner tonight is in the Britannia Restaurant.

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We have a great window view and enjoy our first dinner at sea while crossing under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. There is just 12 feet of clearance at high tide. This area is very familiar to us as we anchored in Sandy Hook, just a few miles from here, last year as we came through this area with IT. As the evening progresses we work our way out into the Atlantic. We have very calm seas for the first evening. We must advance our clocks one hour each night due to the time change.

Day 2 (Wednesday April 15th): During the night, we passed just 60 miles south of Nantucket. Today we are on a north-easterly course and will be passing an area called “the tail of the bank” which is a position at the southern extremities of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. The wind is a force 9 today (40 MPH) which is very strong but surprisingly the seas remain very calm.

There are several great lectures during the week hosted by celebrity guests. Today we attend a lecture with explorer and TV presenter Paul Rose called “BBC Oceans”. After the Captain’s welcome aboard cocktail party, there is a formal dinner in the Britannia Restaurant.

Day 3 (Thursday April 16th): Today the wind is still blowing and it is too cold to go outside so we decide to purchase a three day pass to the spa. This spa is part of the famous Canyon Ranch Spa collections. During our trip this area becomes our favorite and we spend many hours here. With the day pass, we get unlimited use of the hydra pool, whirlpool, foot baths, and three saunas.

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The spa also has its own private relaxation area. This becomes our favorite spot to just read or watch the ocean go by. This afternoon we sign up for a galley tour of the Britannia Restaurant. This is only one of 10 different galleys aboard. It is quite impressive. Almost 16,000 meals are prepared each day aboard the ship. It is so clean you could eat off the floors.

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We learned that Cunard just received a 100 % on their NYC Health Department inspection for the fourth time in a row. After our galley tour, we spend almost an hour at the bridge observation viewing area on deck 12. Passengers are not allowed in the bridge but there is a plexiglass viewing area. From here we can see all the navigation instruments and watch as the two very young looking Third Officers navigate the ship.

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Tonight is the second of three formal dinners in the Britannia Restaurant. Our table mates for this trip are Bill and Lola. They are from Washington State. We enjoy spending several evenings with them during dinner. They are also boaters so we have lots in common. Our table service is top notch and the meals are again fantastic, reflective of Cunard’s level of service.

Day 4 (Friday April 17th): The winds have finally died down and the seas remain calm. The seas are so surprisingly calm that we almost wish we were aboard our own boat crossing the Atlantic. Today they are a mere 1-4 foot and the winds are only 9 knots. We have not experienced more than 6 foot seas the entire trip. It is amazing to be in the middle of the North Atlantic with such docile seas.

Today is a great day for walking outside. Three laps around deck 7 equals one mile.

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While walking we scan the horizon for any other ships. Still none are to be seen. We have now traveled 1800 miles and have another 1400 to go before reaching Southampton. This afternoon we enroll in a computer class for Photo Shop. Aboard the Queen Mary there are several different computer classes offered each day. There is always something to keep you busy and educated while at sea.

Day 5 (Saturday April 18th): The weather today is really crummy. It is cold, rainy, and foggy outside. The winds are gusting up to 60 knots. Seas have increased to 6-12 foot. No one is venturing outside. Even with these seas the boat stays very stabile. She is steady as a rock and barely moves. Today we are crossing an area known as the Maxwell Fracture Zone. This is part of the underwater mountain range known as the Mid Atlantic Ridge. Depths here range from 700 meters to over 4000 meters. At the end of today we will have traveled 2400 miles since leaving NY City and have 800 miles to reach Southampton. Even in these winds and seas the boat is able to maintain her speed of 29 knots.

Although we can’t go outside, there is still plenty to do. We hit the gym early and then spend several hours in the spa facility.

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This afternoon we attend a virtual tour of the bridge. The ships navigational chart for this voyage is also auctioned off for the Prince Charles Charity. $600 is the high bid. Tonight is the gala dinner in the Britannia restaurant. Lobster and Chateaubriand are two of the choices on the menu along with baked Alaska for dessert. The meals have been fantastic all week. In one hour’s time, over 1200 dinner meals are served.

Day 6 (Sunday April 19th): Today we near the south-west coast of England. Early this evening we cross the Celtic Sea and pass approximately 15 miles south of Bishop Rock in the Isles of Scilly before continuing up the English Channel. The seas have calmed down considerably but the wind continues to be fierce. It remains rainy, windy, and cold throughout the day. It is still way to cold to walk around the outside decks so we enjoy the day inside. After visiting the gym and spa, we attend a second lecture by scientist Nick Lewis. This lecture pertains to living and working in Antarctica. Next is a second lecture by Dr. George McGavin in which he recounts his trip to the jungle of Guyana in search of wildlife that lives there. Both lectures were very enjoyable. An advanced class on photo shop is offered in the afternoon so we also attend that. There is always something to do aboard.

Day 7 (Monday April 20th): We are up early this morning (5 AM) for our arrival into Southampton. Just after passing the Isle of Wight, a pilot boarded the ship. We were soon docked around 6:30 AM. We spent the day exploring the town. Southampton is rich in maritime history. The Mayflower sailed out of here on her way to the New World. This was also the port from which the Titanic sailed on her disastrous trip across the Atlantic. We are docked just next to where the Titanic was berthed prior to her fateful departure. The flowers are in bloom and we also spot many different memorials to the Titanic while walking through the town.

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After loading a new group of passengers, we depart from the docks at precisely 5:00 PM for the westbound leg of our transatlantic crossing. This is voyage # 906 for the Queen Mary 2. The seas are once again flat calm. We have 3176 nautical miles to go before reaching New York City. Tonight we enjoy a great dinner in Lotus which is the Asian specialty restaurant. The menu is a set 5 course tasting menu. We sample some very different and unique foods. Everything is delicious and we have a very enjoyable dinner. This evening we start setting the clocks back one hour each evening for the next five nights. We get to gain back some of the sleep we lost on the trip east.

Day 8 (Tuesday April 21st): We started the day off with a bit of excitement. Everyone was notified by the captain that someone was very ill and would have to be emergency evacuated by helicopter. Before hearing the announcement, we had noticed that our heading had reversed back to England and our speed reduced. (We were wondering what was going on.) No one was allowed out on the decks for this emergency evacuation. A rescue helicopter flew 100 miles from Falmouth, England to pick up the passengers. They did not land on deck but hovered overhead and winched the patient up to the helicopter. From our vantage point in the library, we watched as the helicopter made several attempts at this pickup. After the third missed attempt, the ship altered course once again and the rescue was successful.

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We are not sure if this passenger is alive or dead. About 6:00 AM there was an announcement for a Chaplain. We hope everyone is O.K. We loose about five hours of time during this delay but I am sure we will have no problems making this up. The ship is amazingly fast (30 kts).

Today the weather cooperated and we even saw the sun for several hours. The seas are flat calm and the wind is only 10 mph. It is still a little brisk walking on the decks but we did manage to get in our three mile walk. Each afternoon there is a high tea served in the Queens Ball Room. We attended for the first time. Along with tea, we were served scones, finger sandwiches, and pastries by white gloved waiters while listing to a harpist. It was quiet elegant.

This evening is the formal Black and White night with a Captain’s reception before dinner. Having experienced this last week, we elected not to attend and instead enjoy a very peaceful evening in the spa relaxation area while watching the sunset from the viewing windows. We have the place to ourselves. I think this is the best seat aboard the ship and very few people know about it. Tonight we once again gain an hour of time.

Day 9 (Wednesday April 22nd): Today we continue on a south-westerly course as we again cross the Maxwell Fracture Zone. Depths here shallow out to less than 1000 meters before deepening again quickly to over 3500 meters. The closest land to us is the Azores, 469 miles to the south.

After visiting the gym for our morning workout, we spend the next few hours in the fabulous spa. This morning we again have the place to ourselves. We then hit the outside promenade deck for our three mile walk. It is brisk out today. The seas have increased to about 8 foot and the winds are blowing 37 knots. Combined with our forward motion we have a wind of about 60 knots. It is difficult to make any forward motion while walking outside. The captain soon comes on the loud speaker with the noon report from the bridge. We learn that the patient helicoptered off earlier this week is doing well in the hospital in England. That is good news. We attend one of the Canyon Ranch seminars this afternoon. Today the topic is on “Effective Fat Loss”. An appropriate topic seeing how much we are eating. It is a great seminar but we are amazed that only eight other people show up for this.

This evening we enjoy an Indian dinner in the Chef’s Galley Restaurant. This is our first visit to this restaurant as it was completely booked all last week. Here we enjoy an interactive dinning experience with the Chef doing a cooking demonstration in which he prepares our meal for dinner. This restaurant only holds 20 people and is quickly booked each evening. The theme tonight is Indian but it changes daily. The presentation and dinner are both great and we have already signed up to attend several other dinners here during the week.

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Day 10 (Thursday April 23rd): The seas increased during the night. We now have up to 12 foot swells. The Queen Mary 2 handles these seas with no problem what so ever. She is an Ocean Liner. The front deck was designed to handle up to 100 foot waves. This afternoon we reach the half way point on our west bound crossing. Tonight we will pass over the Newfoundland Basin as we approach the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.

Today we learned that there are 1290 Great Brittan guest aboard for this segment. We have seen very few Americans aboard. 200 passengers joined us in Southampton who just returned from a world cruise aboard Cunard’s ship Queen Victoria. Both the Queen Mary 2 and QueenVictoria offer world cruises each year. These cruises travel around the world in a time frame of about 100 days. What a trip that would be!

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We once again spend our morning in the gym and then the spa. While in the spa, we meet a gentleman who was on the Queen Victoria for over 60 days. We enjoy talking with him about that ship and his trip. This afternoon we attend a seminar on Martini Mixing called “Mixology”.

Day 11 (Friday April 24th): Today we pass just 15 miles south of the Titanic. It is still cold and rainy. The seas have calmed considerably and are now only about four foot. We spend the morning up in the library. Like everything else aboard, this area is also impressive.

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It is the largest library onboard any ship in the world. You could spend months reading all of the books here. This afternoon we attend one of the Planetarium films. The Queen Mary 2 is the only cruise ship with her own planetarium. Each day a different film is shown. The remainder of the day is spent in the gym and spa. We once again set our clocks back an hour this evening before turning in.

Day 12 (Saturday April 25th): The weather decides to cooperate for our last day at sea. The sun is out and the seas are calm. Everyone is outside enjoying this gorgeous weather. After the gym and spa, we do our daily three mile walk around the promenade deck. While walking the decks, we see a pod of pilot whales pass just feet from our port side. After one last gym workout, we enjoy our last spa visit. We are a little sad to be leaving. One could easily get used to this lifestyle. As one guest said to me earlier, “Time aboard the QM2 is reality; life back home is just a bad dream”.

Day 13 (Sunday April 26th): We are up early this morning for our arrival into New York City. We join several hundred others on the observation deck as we pass under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge at 5:00 AM. Everyone is excited about our arrival in NYC. Although still dark, the Statue of Liberty’s torch is lit and can be seen for many miles away.

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A police helicopter repeatedly circles overhead as we work our way to our Brooklyn berth. The Captain expertly backs the QM2 into her slip. The maneuverability of this ship is amazing with the bow thrusters and stern pods. She can be placed with inches of a chosen location. As we disembark in orderly Cunard fashion, the ship is already being prepared for a same day departure for another crossing across the Atlantic with 2400 new passengers aboard.

We have thoroughly enjoyed our cruise on the QM2. She is a fabulous ship. We hope to return someday on another adventure. Now it is time to return aboard our little boat, Idyll Time, and begin preparing for our own summer adventure to the Great Lakes and then home to Chattanooga to complete the Great Loop. Maybe our paths will cross with the QM2 as we pass through New York in the next month. We will be looking for her.

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