U.K. Editor Adam Coulter is on his first transatlantic crossing with Cunard, sailing on Queen Mary 2′s 10th anniversary trip from Southampton to New York. Below are a selection of his initial impressions of the voyage and life on the ship after a few days onboard.
1. (Extra) time is a luxury.
On the seven-night westbound (i.e. UK to US) transatlantic crossing, which I’m on, the clock is put back on five separate occasions. It happens every night in the first three days you are at sea and then twice more before you arrive in New York, giving you an extra hour on each of those days.
(This is obviously reversed when you travel eastbound, and would likely make for a very different blog; people who have taken one of these voyages tell me they feel rushed instead of rested.)
Imagine when the hour goes back in the autumn — and then imagine it happening five times in seven days. You’ve suddenly got loads of extra time – which might leave you wondering, isn’t a regular 24-hour day on a transatlantic crossing hard enough to fill?
Good question. My response would be: “You’d be surprised.” Even if you’re not filling every moment with an onboard lecture/flower arranging/Pilates/ballroom dancing etc., you will find the time slipping by, surprisingly quickly — even with the extra hours.
Which leads me to my next impression:
2. It’s a chance to really slow down …
Back home, weekdays are a rush: Up at 7 a.m., get kids dressed, get them to school, get to work, get home, get kids to bed, sleep … and repeat. Onboard QM2′s leisurely ocean crossing, I have so far: Read each day’s newspaper plus every single supplement cover to cover; read 102 pages of my book; enjoyed a massage and spent a morning in the Spa; wandered around and read the fascinating history documented on the ship’s walls; take baths rather than showers and, yes, sleep in late. Instead of timing everything to the minute, as I do at home, I leave the days completely open. Or I book one thing I want to do, and work round that.
3. … and do things you wouldn’t normally do at home.
I’ve started keeping a diary onboard — something I used to do at home, but stopped.
I also attended two lectures, both fascinating. The first was by Dr. Stephen Payne, who designed this ship, and spoke about Titanic and her legacy (fun fact: the bulkhead design pioneered on Titanic and widely condemned because they did not reach to the top of the ship, has not been altered. QM2 has the same design, just a lot more lifeboats).
The second was author Lynn Truss, who gave a highly entertaining talk about her best-selling book Eats, Shoots & Leaves. (I resisted the urge to ask whether she’d questioned Cunard yet about its dodgy punctuation — ‘Queens Room’, ‘Queens Grill’.)
And I saw a stunning film in the world’s only planetarium at sea, narrated by Harrison Ford, about the search for extraterrestrial life.
4. On Cunard, formal means formal (and informal means pretty formal).
So far we’ve had two formal nights over three days. And when I say formal, I mean black tie for men and cocktail dresses for women. And for Cunarders, formal night starts early. I made the mistake of wandering down to the public areas about 5 p.m. in my post-gym workout clothes and felt somewhat out of place. Everyone I saw was already dressed for the evening. I scampered back to my room very quickly.
Informal on Cunard, incidentally, means no tie — not jeans or T-shirt — jacket is still required. And up until a few months ago, a tie was required (and believe me that policy change caused a bit of a furor among die-hard traditionalists).
5. Not having a kettle in my room is driving me crazy.
As a Brit, I like my tea, and I think it’s extremely civilized to have tea and/or coffee making facilities in your cabin. What’s the harm? Indeed most ships and hotels have them, so why doesn’t Cunard? It’s a good question, and it was answered very clearly by the former MD of the line Peter Shanks in a members’ Q&A last year. He explained that there were no plans to introduce them as Cunard liked to keep the tradition of delivering tea to your room. Which is fine, if it’s delivered promptly and the water is hot and stays hot, neither of which is the case. So come on Cunard – let’s get kettles in staterooms!
Have you been on a Cunard transatlantic sailing? Do you agree/disagree with our take? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
*Interested in a transatlantic cruise? Read the Member Reviews.
*Read more about QM2.