Cruise Critic’s Editor-in-Chief Carolyn Spencer Brown is taking a transatlantic voyage this week on the Queen Mary 2. Stay tuned for installments of her trip.
When a plane can zip over the vast Atlantic in 6 ½ hours (or slightly more, or less, depending on where you’re headed) why on earth would you choose a method that takes eight full days?
You’d be surprised. Frankly, I’m surprised; as someone who toys with restlessness and boredom on a quick flight between New York and London, my eight night cruise this week aboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 has so far been a revelation.
Seasonal repositionings in which cruise ships transfer between the Caribbean and Europe in spring and fall, have devoted followings for their really low fares (you can find deals for under $50 per day that often include one-way air and a hotel stay). There’s the camaraderie; on some ships the experience is akin to a semi-annual family-and-friends reunion, as the same passengers travel together time and again. And there is, for fans of the sea day, a lot of time on the water.
There’s a caveat, here, that may apply to some passengers and not to others. Often, life onboard these repositionings isn’t much different than a port intensive voyage, which means you’ll have the usual cruise distractions like casino, spa, theatrical entertainment, restaurants and an assortment of lounges. But many of these trips don’t involve extra enrichment or other diversions to fill out the repeated days at sea.
Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, the only contemporary ship actually designed and built to cross the Atlantic on a regular basis, is an entirely different experience, as I’m learning. The daily program is packed full of activity (on our first day, for instance, there was “Castles of the Sea: Those Fabulous Ocean Liners;” line dancing; a pub sing-along; “Search for Life” at cruising’s only planetarium; a lecture on Irving Berlin; and a workshop on making movies on your Apple Computer). And the ship’s unique construction means it doesn’t allow for toying by the mighty Atlantic Ocean, which means a smooth ride, in most cases.
True confessions: Before boarding Queen Mary 2 in Southampton earlier this week, I was nervous about the experience. I love a sea day but up until now there’s largely been a limit. No itinerary has included more than three at a stretch before pulling into a port of call. On this trip: It’s eight straight days before we arrive in New York.
And won’t it get boring? On my only other Atlantic crossing, some 15 years ago on a cruise ship that was simply repositioning from Europe to Boston, there was no special effort to put on extra events. The days were all the same, one after another. I got itchy and restless. My bar bill on that cruise took my breath away.
And yet, before this crossing – and even now, on day three – the chance to spend eight days on an ocean liner, without the urgency of sightseeing and other obligations, feels purely luxurious. While Internet and, in a pinch, satellite phones, are available, there’s nothing like being seriously out at sea to feel as if you’re away from it all. Because you are, truly, away.
Throughout our week on Queen Mary 2, I’ll be sharing the experience of what it’s really like to cross the Atlantic (both here and on the Cruise Critic Facebook page). And if there’s anything in particular you’re hankering to know, please drop me a note via the comments below and I’ll find an answer for you.