Queen Mary 2
It had been 10 years since we travelled on a Cunard Line ship and the last time was also in winter, when Andrew & I took the delivery voyage of the newly refitted and renamed Caronia in December 1999. That crossing of the North Sea from Hamburg to Southampton was pretty terrible but never having made a winter crossing of the North Atlantic before, he & I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to experience it for the first time aboard the enormous Queen Mary 2!


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When she entered service in 2004, Queen Mary 2 was the largest passenger ship in the world at 148,528 tons.
Itinerary Show General Map
Sunday
3rd January
- Fly to New York, USA
& stay overnight
Monday-New York, USA
(pm) embark Queen Mary 2
Tuesday-at sea
Wednesday-at sea
Thursday-at sea
Friday-at sea
Saturday-at sea
Sunday-at sea
Monday 11th January-Southampton, UK

We were rather impressed with Cunard's personalised pre-cruise documentation; and to discover that even after an absence of 10 yrs, our long history of travel with them had resulted us being Platinum & Diamond members of the Cunard Club, made us feel rather nice, especially since it meant we got various "perks" on board, as well as "Priority Boarding"!
Sunday 3rd January
Flight to New York, USA

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Getting up at 4.00am wasn't so nice though, and nearly getting lost trying to find the car-park in the dark didn't help! Flying Virgin Atlantic, we were departing from Heathrow Terminal 3, which is now exclusively for Virgin, but we needed a "Full English Breakfast" to put us in the right mood.

Following a failed attempt to blow-up a Delta/Northwest Airlines plane at Detroit Airport at Christmas, there was increased security but it didn't result in too much of a delay.

Show Picture Full Size I was looking forward to our "Premium Economy" leather seats on Virgin Atlantic but my footrest and headset were broken and the "cheese & mushroom tortilla wrap" was disgusting! Luckily, things improved after that and we even arrived early at JFK. Anticipating a long queue, we then swept through immigration in no time.

Greeted by a temperature of -6 deg C, we were met by a private limousine and our overnight stop was the rather nice Art Deco Edison Hotel, close to Times Square.
(left) The Art Deco Lobby of the Hotel Edison, 228 West 47th Street, New York

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Classic
Post Card
Christmas in Rockefeller Plaza
(left) The Tree & Skating Rink and (right) Angel & Stars
Christmas Baubles
1251 Avenue of the Americas

With just the one night in New York, we walked over to the Rockefeller Center, where the Christmas lights were still blazing and the skaters were enjoying the ice-rink in front of the beautifully illuminated gilded Statue of Prometheus by Paul Manship (1934).

The Top of The Rock
The Observation Decks on the 67th, 69th & 70th Floors of the 850 ft-high GE Building reopened to the public in 2005. Although not as high as the Empire State Building, it's nothing like as crowded and the views are just as spectacular. The ascent to the 67th Floor is in a glass-roofed elevator and when they turn the lights out and tell you to "Look up!", it's like going to warp speed in Star Trek!

Show Picture Full Size Once there, an exhibition area leads to the enclosed observation spaces and then to the open decks on the 69th & 70th floors. It's just as well there are glass wind-screens, because with the wind-chill factor up here tonight it was -13 deg C!

However, the view was fantastic!
(left) Post Card and (right) View of the Empire State Building
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The Rainbow Room - Since 1934, this has been one of the most famous and fashionable restaurant/night-spots in New York (and one of the most expensive!) with its Art Deco interior and revolving dance floor, together with stunning views from the 65th Floor of the Rockefeller Center. However, victim of "the recession" and a new landlord, the Rainbow Room closed in November 2009.

Our evening meal was at "Dave's Ribs", preceded by a Flirtini cocktail & followed by an Irish coffee!

Monday 4th January
New York & Queen Mary 2
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After a terrific New York Breakfast in the diner next door to the Hotel and tempted by the brilliant winter sunshine, we took a brief & freezing constitutional before being picked up by our Limousine.

Show Picture Full Size Queen Mary 2 now docks at a new Cruise Terminal in Red Hook, near the old Brooklyn Navy Yards, rather than the piers at the foot of 50th Street where I saw her with QE2 in 2004. It's closer to JFK Airport and for the ship it means a quicker and easier turn-around; but for passengers staying in Manhatten, it's a 45 minute drive through run-down districts to get there.
(above) An aerial view of Queen Mary 2 docked at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, Manhatten in the background (Internet photo)


Show Picture Full Size Boarding was through the Grand Lobby, which I found to be surprisingly understated but it was rather nice to have "Priority Check-in" because of our Platinum & Diamond Cunard Club membership.
Show Picture Full Size And for posterity, we had to have a photo; although $24.95 is a rip-off!
(left) Welcome Aboard! & (right) Our cabin 4021
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Our accommodation on Deck 4 took the form of a B4-grade "Premium Balcony Cabin". The cabin itself was very comfortable and was equipped with all the usual elements, including free sparkling wine and a fridge. However, the cabin was not large, partly due to the balcony, which was unusual in being inside the body of the ship and hence, "sheltered" from the wind and spray, something we found to be an advantage. However, I would have preferred the rail to be just a little bit lower!

Taking advantage of our early boarding, we set off to familiarise ourselves with our new ship.....


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John McKenna's 6.5 x 7m
Sheet Bronze Relief
above the Atrium
Champagne Bar Chart Room "Winter"
Grand Corridor Deck 3

We soon discovered that getting to know QM2 wasn't going to be easy! Designed for the Atlantic, she's laid-out rather differently from most other ships and we discovered various "in-between decks" that just seemed to make things confusing. And finding that the main Buffet was down on the Promenade Deck instead of "up top", didn't help! See the full Report and more photos at the QM2 Gallery >>

In general though, the quality of the interior was impressive, with sumptuous rooms, Art-Deco overtones and an impressive selection of artwork. The Grand Corridor on Decks 2 & 3 midships leads to the Britannia Restaurant, where we were to meet our table-companions for the week.

Show Picture Full Size The Britannia Restaurant (Decks 2 & 3)
This is the main restaurant of the ship and it certainly says "Ocean Liner"!

However, while we were breaking the ice with our new companions, the menu took us somewhat by surprise - and on the first night, being given half the breakfast menu by mistake didn't bode well!
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Perhaps the last 2 years cruising with Celebrity have spoiled us and our expectations were too high but we found much less choice and variety in the menu selections available and on the first night, we were distinctly unimpressed. Then on the second night, I chose a rare steak and had to send it back, it was over-done; an unfortunate mistake but not an auspicious start!

Generally though, the quality and presentation of dishes was good and as the week progressed, the variety on the menu seemed to improve until, by Saturday, I was spoiled for choice at every course! Nevertheless, the nightly "cheese selection" amounted to just four tiny pieces of cheese on one plate, with no choice and just a couple of biscuits! Dinner Menus: Tuesday >> , Wednesday >> & Saturday >>


Tuesday 5th - Sunday 10th January
6 Days Across the Atlantic
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Fortunately, our route took us to the south of the worst of the weather and the first few days proved almost Spring-like. Ironically, Cunard's Queen Victoria was making the same journey the other way from Southampton but she experienced a much rougher crossing. There were hopes that the two ships might try to pass one another but when we did, there was 90 miles between us!

Show Picture Full Size Tuesday 5th January - At Sea Day 1
I set a pattern for the week by having my swim at 6.45am in the Pavilion Pool. As the only "free" indoor pool aboard, it's a bit small but as there was only me in it, this was fine! Breakfast & lunch were taken in the Kings Court Buffet, which is one of the worst I have experienced. It suffers from a necessity to transform into the ship's 4 "alternative dining" venues in the evening, La Piazza, Lotus, the Carvery & Chefs Galley, and is just a confusion of congested serveries, each one too small.

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Pavilion Pool The disappointing
Kings Court Buffet
"Illuminations" - The Planetarium
Art Deco "divine" statuary and 21st century technology

On the other hand, Illuminations is the second of QM2's theatres and it's great. A feast of Art-Deco design, it serves as a lecture-theatre, an excellent cinema and, thanks to its domed ceiling and digital projection system, as the Planetarium, an innovation unique to QM2 and one which I loved.

Dance lessons in the afternoon take place in the Queens Room, the largest ballroom at sea. The room is impressive, with its "clam-shell" stage and bronze busts of King George V & Queen Mary but to me it lacks that "Ocean Liner" feel and it seems just like any grand hotel ballroom on land.

My liking for this room was not improved by the Captain's Cocktail Party that evening; the ship was by no means full but it was very busy and we didn't see much in the way of canapes. Then at dinner later, there were more issues, with both Andrew & I having to send back our steaks! It was getting a bit embarrassing and we were starting to develop a complex...... Show Picture Full Size

Wednesday 6th January - At Sea Day 2
While UK temperatures plummeted and the south of England was smothered in its worst snowfalls in over 20 yrs, we basked in brilliant sunshine and I today explored the outside decks, which are vast.

There were also two excellent talks this morning: one by the BBC's John Humphrys and another on actress Bette Davis by ex-BBC TV Producer, Barry Brown.

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The Open Sundeck (Deck 13) & Funnel
The original Queen Mary's whistle is on the left (starboard)
The Library
The largest at sea
Commodore Club
Model of QM2 above the bar

Later, we discovered the wonderful Library, the largest at sea - not only with a view, but also a brilliant bookshop; while above it we found the the Commodore Club, a fantastic retreat, with its huge model of QM2 behind the bar, as well as a tempting Martini menu - which we had to sample!

Dinner tonight was much improved and we were settling-in well with our table companions, Steve & Angie and Colin & Lynda. Everything was most satisfying; not so however, with the main Production Show in the Theatre! A huge stage, competent cast and a different style but it was still just an unfortunate hotch-potch of songs with a rather tenuous thread linking them. Show Picture Full Size

Thursday 7th January - At Sea Day 3
I was completely stunned at 6.45am, to discover someone else in "my" pool, then to be joined by two more! The tiny pool was quite overflowing with passengers!

The high-spot of our day today was lunch in the ship's "Speciality Dining" venue, Todd English. There is an additional $20 cover charge for lunch ($30 for dinner) but as a Diamond member of the Cunard Club, mine was complimentary, so I shared my good fortune with Andrew!

Show Picture Full Size Todd English Restaurant (Deck 8 aft)
With excellent service and a mediterranean-style menu, presentation was not only stunning but it was also mouth-wateringly delicious. It was one of the best lunches I've ever had but it was so good I could barely face dessert and we both left stuffed!
Sample Menus: Typical Lunch Menu >> & Typical Dinner Menu >>
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After that, a turn around the deck was called for. Three times around the Promenade Deck is 1.15 miles (almost exactly 1 nautical mile) but I barely managed it today before discovering the scenic lift up to Deck 11 and the Open Promenade. There's a great view over the bows and weather-deck with its secondary wave-breaker in the style of that of the great liner Normandie of 1935.


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Bridge Tower
& scenic lift
The Open Promenade
Deck 11, below the Bridge
The "Normandie" Weather-Deck
& the spare propeller blades


Carried on the Observation Deck below are 8 spare propeller blades, arranged in a sort of "sculpture-park". When it's not too windy, they allow passengers out there, which is rather nice.

Friday 8th January - At Sea Day 4
Evidently, for the others concerned, the novelty of an early-morning swim had worn-off by today because I had the pool to myself again! Mind you, losing 1-hour every night was beginning to take its toll - and we still had 3 nights to go!

Still sunny & mild (54 deg F), I sat on deck for a while enjoying the sun before Mastermind with John Humphrys in the Theatre. There was now more of a swell building and by nightfall, the cabin was groaning - at least I think it was the cabin!
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Saturday 9th January - At Sea Day 5
By noon, we were officially into a "Force 8 Gale" with 15-18ft seas and some of the outside decks were closed "for health and safety reasons" but the complimentary Wine Tasting helped to distract attention elsewhere! I tried to look knowledgeable while Andrew drank everything he was offered!

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Golden Lion Pub
Deck 2 midships
A Force-8 Gale
with 15-18ft seas
Empire Casino
Deck 2 midships
"Aurora Borealis"
Grand Corridor, Deck 2

We then tried Afternoon Tea in the Queens Room but concluded it's not all it's cracked-up to be. True, there is white-gloved service, tea-pots and finger sandwiches, etc, but in such a large room with so many people, it just lacked atmosphere and refinement. And service was so fast it was almost cursory; I never got the chance to ask for Earl Grey and as for Andrew wanting coffee....

On the other hand, at the Senior Officers Cocktail Party (another perk of our Cunard Club membership), this time we got plenty of drinks as well as 2 visits by the steward with the canapes! Sitting at a table helped but as this was an "exclusive event", there were fewer people this time.

Sunday 10th January - At Sea Day 6
A slow, lazy morning, packing and dozing in the Chart Room - watched snow showers over the sea, as we approached the south coast of England!
Show Picture Full Size Rounded-off the day watching the movie Star Trek in the splendid Cinema ("Illuminations"), then drinks with Colin & Lynda in the Commodore Club before dinner.
(left) Art-Deco statue of Roman God Mercury outside "Illuminations"
(right) A nice portrait of us with our table companions, Colin & Lynda
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Cunard's decision to lengthen QM2's eastbound crossings to 7-nights is not such a bad idea, since it means that there is no changing of clocks on either the first or last nights. Instead, you lose 1-hour on the 5 nights in the middle. Also, it was nice to see that, on the Atlantic at least, QM2 maintains a largely formal order of dress in the evenings, which helps to elevate the atmosphere on board.

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Southampton, UK
Arriving at the "new" Ocean Terminal around 5.00am, it was an incredibly smooth disembarkation; our coach back to Heathrow Airport (for the car park) left dead on 8.15 - and it was bitterly cold again!

Southampton's "new" Ocean Terminal
The city's 4th Cruise Terminal opened in May 2009, located in the famous Ocean Dock, the same dock that has seen the departure of ships like Titanic in 1912 and the great Cunarders, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. It's difficult to believe that this building cost 19m; it's little more than a gigantic shed and not a patch on the iconic "Ocean Terminal" that used to stand on the other side of this dock. Designed for "the biggest modern cruise ships", they say it can handle up to 4,000 passengers at a time. The only problem is that the new Oasis of the Seas already has 5,400 passengers! Seems to me the building was under-specified.....

I was pleased we chose the Atlantic crossing on which to sample QM2, as her size would have made her difficult to get to know on a cruise, with so much else to do ashore every day. Our choice of cabin was also a wise one, with its unique "inboard" balcony on the starboard side; it was low down and stable, sheltered from the wind and yet had a nice view of the sea and the chance of some sun when there was any. QM2 is certainly at home on the Atlantic and every bit the "Ocean Liner".


See Detailed Mileage Log for this cruise >>

Cruise Mileage: 3,214 nautical miles
Total Mileage to date: 142,226 n miles

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