This was our sixth transatlantic on the Queen Mary 2, our third going westbound, and our first in the springtime.
It was a "special" voyage, because Cunard was celebrating QM2's tenth anniversary. We passengers were to travel on a week-long, floating birthday party! Sounded like great fun as well as transportation across the Atlantic Ocean. We booked six months in advance.
Embarkation was as expected. We boarded with the Diamond, Platinum, and Grills group for the first time, qualifying in the Platinum category for priority boarding. Priority boarding means "first" not necessary "fast." Since we anticipated a large number of Diamond and Platinum passengers on this crossing, we were prepared for a lengthy wait. From the time we entered the terminal, until we boarded the ship, was about an hour and a half. Most of that time was spent in comfortable seating. Maybe, the final 20 minutes were queuing. We were on board by 12:45.
Sail-away was delayed until evening so we all could enjoy the marching-band, which was playing from the pier, and some fireworks. The band was terrific! Then, there were fireworks, which really exceeded our expectations. It was a memorable experience and seemed to put everyone on the ship in the best of moods. British flags were passed out. Crew members took turns peeking out on deck. It really was exciting, for everyone.
Of course, all passengers found a bottle of sparkling wine in their cabins as a complimentary sail-away "welcome" from Cunard, which DH and I appreciated.
The ship and service were as we have experienced on other voyages aboard the QM2. Public areas were clean and presentable with maybe a few scuff marks, here and there, from constant use. Nothing objectionable. Our steward kept our cabin clean and resupplied unobtrusively, never forgetting special requests or specific desires.
One minor disappointment, which we laughed about, was that our suitcases--marked "priority" for the first time, were delivered among the last to our corridor. This created no inconvenience for us, just gave us material to joke about.
DH and I boarded the QM2 after 12 days of traveling through Spain and France, "camping" with friends. Consequently, the contents of our suitcases were in complete disarray. We were grateful that dry cleaning services put DH's tux and dress shirts back in order--at a reasonable price-- by the time they were needed, which was the evening after boarding. Self-service laundry --popular, but completely free, including the soap-- took care of washable clothing, in short order.
We ate, as on previous Cunard voyages, in the Britannia--the main dining room. Service was, for some reason (which we believed beyond our waiters' control) substandard for the first two nights. Meals were delivered with long pauses between delivery of each tablemate's plate and water glasses were never refilled… THEN, for unknown reasons, service improved greatly and the waiters had to time to check whether meals were satisfactory, water was replenished, rolls were offered multiple times, et cetera. Service became absolutely terrific…
Our tablemates were three delightful couples from various parts of the UK. Conversation was lively, so any lapse in service on the initial nights was overlooked in what became very pleasant rituals of nightly sociability.
The food was good. We felt the choices offered were "better" than those on our last crossing in '12. The only disappointment was the escargot, which was NOT escargot dearly loved with the rich, garlicky butter, but snails cooked in another type of (not flavorful) sauce. Hard to complaint, however, since every evening had no lack of satisfying and tasty offerings.
For lunch, we dropped into either King's Court (buffet) or the Britannia dining room, depending on our mood. Because we are experienced Queen Mary 2 travelers, we know which serving venue in the King's Court offers which-type-of-food and we know how to quickly find an empty table, away from the buffet areas--often in the Winter Garden. The King's Court can be confusing (and cumbersome) for those on their first crossing. In contrast, lunch in the Britannia is easy and pleasant without necessity to maneuver from station to station or carry a tray, while seeking a table. Regardless, we enjoyed noon meals in both places as well as one meal of fish & chips (with obligatory mushy peas) at The Golden Lion Pub.
For DH and me, the highlight of the voyage was the daytime lecture series, which featured (among others) ship designer Stephen Payne, author Lynn Truss, and longtime Cunard social hostess Maureen Ryan. In addition to enjoying their enthralling lectures, happenstance created opportunities to chat informally with each of these speakers. This is part of the fun of being on shipboard: you and the entertainers/speakers "live" (for a while) in the same "small town" so your paths are bound to cross. On Cunard ships, we have always felt the caliber of speakers was exceptionally high. On this voyage, we felt the speakers were especially interesting and their lectures a pleasure--- Even if I now realize Lynn Truss would not wholly approve of my overuse of parenthesis : ) and might frown at my other punctuation errors…
Days passed very quickly during the crossing. The week flew by. Three formal nights came and went. Laughter was shared at the dinner table. Two books were read. (Queen Mary 2's library is such delight! I always find an interesting book.) Meals were eaten. Snacks were consumed. We met with (new) friends for drinks in the Commodore. We tasted wines (all delicious!) DH ran daily on a machine in the Fitness Center. I admired him for doing this from a comfortable chair, looking out at the sea. Time zones were crossed and watches re-set, repeatedly.
Suddenly, it was the final day. Email addresses were exchanged. Suitcases repacked (so much easier than when there is need to try to keep clothing unwrinkled).
We arrived in Brooklyn thoroughly satisfied with every aspect of the crossing. As icing on a figurative birthday cake, Cunard presented passengers with a wonderful book about the QM2 to commemorate QM2's 10th anniversary. It was a generous gesture, which pleased and touched us.
DH and I self-disembarked around 7 a.m., independently pulling our bags through the Brooklyn terminal. Customs was less than a minute's pause, while the agent examined the form we had filled out on the ship. Waiting for a taxi was orderly with no more than 10 minutes in a queue.
One last long look at the Queen Mary 2 and we said "goodbye" to ship life---at least until next time.