Live from….Queen Mary 2: Will a Transatlantic Cruise be Boring?

September 5, 2013 | By | 16 Comments

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.

 

    Comments

    16 Responses to “Live from….Queen Mary 2: Will a Transatlantic Cruise be Boring?”

    1. John M
      September 5th, 2013 @ 11:35 pm

      Our very first cruise, four years ago, was a 14 day Transatlantic aboard Celebrity Equinox from Fort Lauderdale to Rome with 7 straight sea days. We were likewise worried at first, but it was simply a revelation. It was and remains the best vacation we’ve ever taken, and we take a lot. We got hooked on cruising and have taken two more Celebrity cruises since (Alaska and Bermuda), and have the 4th booked for next year. We LOVED the sea days, and will take more trans-ocean cruises just to have them. Enjoy every minute of your voyage, it’ll be over before you know it, and the phone will be ringing, emails pinging, and duties calling. Bon Voyage.

    2. Mary German
      September 6th, 2013 @ 6:26 am

      Which cruises include the returned airfare & 50.00 or so a nite?

    3. Sheila Englebardt
      September 6th, 2013 @ 7:20 am

      So glad you are enjoying the TA experience. Our favorite vacations have be combining European vacations with aTA home. Lots of time to rest, enjoy the ship, avoid jet log, and 25 hour days as the time change occurs gradually. And the arriving home feeling like we really had a Vacation!

    4. Sheila Englebardt
      September 6th, 2013 @ 7:21 am

      After ldozen

    5. Carolyn Spencer Brown
      September 6th, 2013 @ 1:13 pm

      Mary, keep an eye on our deals section (at this point, in particular, our last minute deals for repositionings this fall). We feature them as they come in. Link is here: cruisecritic.com/bargains (then search using “region”). We’ve got a handful up now, none in quite the $50 range, but good deals nevertheless.

      We also encourage you to reach out to a good travel agent and ask them to keep an eye out for you…

      Thanks for posting.

      Carolyn

    6. Carolyn Spencer Brown
      September 6th, 2013 @ 1:14 pm

      Thanks, John and Sheila! John, I’m trying to avoid thinking about debark and real life…. And Sheila, great point about crossings as a way to avoid jet lag.

      Carolyn

    7. Angela M
      September 6th, 2013 @ 2:16 pm

      Carolyn, I’m curious as to the age demographic on board. A Trans-Atlantic is something I would love to do, but I have been (once) on a ship that had no age diversity what-so-ever and I do not want to repeat that experience (maybe when I’m 80 I’ll reconsider).

    8. Carolyn Spencer Brown
      September 6th, 2013 @ 4:19 pm

      Hi, Angela. It’s all over the place from a handful of toddlers (and one teen) but it’s mostly 60-plus. But we’re 40-something and having a great time. I think it depends on what the special entertainment is (here it’s England’s National Symphony Orchestra, which may draw an older crowd while John Cleese may attract more variety).

      Carolyn

    9. Carolyn L
      September 6th, 2013 @ 8:36 pm

      We did a trans from Southampton to FT Laud last year for the sole reason the MED Cruise the year afore I was so exhausted the first 5 days with horrendously long onshore excusion days and never saw the bloomin ship (SOlstice) until the 6th. I told my hubby the NEXT cruise I want LOTS of at sea days and it was AWESOME! We hit the ports early on, then sailed into wonderland of only doing what we wanted to on the ship everyday and could NOT believe when we had only 1 day left before Ft Laud! TONS of British on the ship as they winter in FL and had the future cruise office all messed up for days as they were grabbing their cruises BACK to England in the Spring. Don’t fear a Transatlantic cruise or think boredom –we were so busy everyday with am walking and listening to zumba music along our way. OPM walking, nice dining and oh did I tell you? We LOVE Celebrity line…they are the BEST!!!! Happy sailing!

    10. Mathy
      September 6th, 2013 @ 9:20 pm

      Today, I was looking at the QM2 and wondering if it would be wonderfully relaxing or terrifyingly repetitive. Great that you posted this today as well. I love your insight into the activities set for a TA journey and the ship’s construction for exactly that purpose.

      Are there groups of travelers who are repeating the TA journey on the QM2? I would presume that dining is an event and that it is probably dressier than on other ships that journey TA for repositioning?

    11. Nancy Hall
      September 6th, 2013 @ 9:38 pm

      My family and I sailed across the Atlantic on the Swedish ship Kungsholm in August of 1960 and returned a year later, after lived in Finland while my father completed a Fulbright fellowship. The crossing took ten days each way, from NY to Goteborg with stops in the UK and Germany. It will always be one of the peak experiences of my life. Anybody who has the opportunity should seize it. You won’t regret it.

    12. Joan Waters
      September 8th, 2013 @ 2:05 pm

      It’s good to hear that you’re enjoying your TA on the Queen Mary 2. I have a question for you. I understand that she is the only ship that has kennels and I’ve been curious as to how this is handled. Do passengers get to visit their pets. You probably won’t have an opportunity to find out too much about their program but if you are so incline, would you mind sharing whatever information you do have? Hope you enjoy the rest of your cruise. Many thanks, Joan

    13. AudalSomerset
      September 9th, 2013 @ 2:56 pm

      Travelled out to Fort Lauderdale T/A on Princess and loved it a very happy ship. Travelled from New York to Southampton on QM2 and hated it ship is beautiful but has no soul , apart from our cabin steward who was great other staff appeared to have a problem. Food left a lot to be desired not much fun when there is no where else to go. T/a can be great but do your homework and read reviews on different cruise lines.

    14. Carolyn Spencer Brown
      September 10th, 2013 @ 11:57 am

      Mathy, there were a lot of repeaters on our crossing (including my husband — 5th time for him) and I can see why. It’s addictive. He was ready to plunk down a deposit for a crossing next year! I told him we should talk to our travel agent :)

      Carolyn

    15. Carolyn Spencer Brown
      September 10th, 2013 @ 11:57 am

      AudalSomerset, so sorry to hear you didn’t have a good experience on Queen Mary 2. Did you write a member review for Cruise Critic?

      Carolyn

    16. Carolyn Spencer Brown
      September 10th, 2013 @ 12:00 pm

      The kennel was fabulous, Joan Waters. There were visiting hours three times a day (for two hours at a stretch twice, and then a brief “good night” opportunity at about 8 p.m.). The owners all seem to have bonded (there was a photo of the group of pet parents in the photo gallery); we were able to stop by and visit with Jojo, the kennel manager, and pet some dogs (the one cat was having a Greta Garbo moment). Very neat. We’d take our cats if we could…. It’s also expensive, though :) And you have to book way in advance. One funny tidbit: If a pet is super high maintenance and not happy, he’s brought at night to the purser’s office, where all the night staffers make a big fuss (we’re told they like it as much as lonely dogs). Pet parents cannot take the pets out of the kennel area.

      Carolyn

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