This was a surprising good cruise. It was only a four night cruise and the destination was Princess Cruises' private beach resort in the Bahamas, Princess Cays. Queen Mary 2 tends to do voyages of six days or more and so this would mean a break in her stride. Also, the ship has a sophisticated, cultured atmosphere. A day at the beach is not what she usually does. Nonetheless, QM2 put in a top-notch performance.
It was immediately apparent on joining the ship that this cruise would be different than the three Caribbean cruises that I had done on QM2 during the course of the winter. On those ten day cruises, the majority of the passengers were British even though the ship had sailed round trip out of Brooklyn. In addition, they tended to be an older crowd, fifty-five and above with only a few young couples. On this cruise, the majority of the passengers were Americans and there were many young families with children. However, while this caused a slight difference in atmosphere, these passengers, like their predecessors, soon became captivated by the ship.
The first thing that people noticed was that there is something to all this talk about QM2 being an ocean liner rather than a cruise ship. Because the ship is designed to cross the Atlantic in less than six days, she is both fast and capable of handling rough weather. On this voyage, she employed her speed so that by the morning of the first day she was off the coast of Virginia, well away from the cold of New York, and by the morning of the second day, in the Bahamas. Similarly, QM2 showed her seaworthiness by easily handling a storm that she encountered the first night. There was a slight motion but the dining rooms were full and the passengers were out and about at the casino and the shows.
As noted above, QM2 was designed to do transatlantic crossings and during the summer months that is what she primarily does. Consequently, the ship and her crew are very accustomed to sea days. There is a wide variety of facilities and amenities including what is said to be the largest spa afloat, an indoor pool, a golf simulator, and a fitness center. However, what is more impressive is the enrichment program. This included lectures by Dr. Francisco Diego, whose enthusiasm for his subject caused even people with no particular interest in astronomy to come to his talks and often witty but thought provoking discussions by intelligence analyst Glenmore Trenear-Harvey.
Upon arriving in Princess Cays, the ship's catering department carried food and supplies down to the ship's tenders and then over to the permanent barbecue facilities on the island. While they were preparing for lunch, the passengers were shuttling ashore on the tenders. All of this went smoothly with little waiting.
The island itself is clean and well maintained. There is a large expanse of sandy beach with numerous deck chairs for sun bathing, cabanas, areas for swimming and for snorkeling. In back of the beach are a number of structures, most of which have a roof but no walls so as to let in the breeze and to allow a better view. These included bars, the aforementioned barbecue/buffet buildings, shops selling local crafts and offering hair-braiding. In addition, there were basketball and volleyball courts, a nature trail, and various water toys for rent including water bikes, rafts, and boats. The temperature was in the low 80s and the sun shined throughout the day.
While most of the passengers went ashore, some stayed on board and some went ashore only for the morning or the afternoon. Even though a large number of chefs and catering staff were needed ashore, most of the restaurants on the ship remained open without a diminution in quality of the food or service. The facilities such as the spa and the fitness center also remained open.
By late afternoon, the ship had embarked its passengers, the catering crew and their equipment and was heading back at high speed to New York. In the evening, there was a semi-formal dinner and a full program of entertainment. This included performances by comedian Steve Shaffer, a movie and a "Buccaneer Ball" in the ship's grand ballroom. Several passengers came in costume but most came to watch and to dance. Of course, the bars and the casino were in full swing.
The next day was Easter. Chocolate rabbits, ice sculptures and Easter eggs appeared. In addition to the normal entertainment program, there were services conducted by Catholic and Protestant clergy as well as an interdenominational service led by Commodore Bernard Warner.
Disembarkation in Brooklyn ran very smoothly.
In the end, people uniformly said that they hoped to return to the ship someday. Along the same lines, on the night before reaching New York after the entertainment program had ended there were numerous people walking around the public rooms with cameras or just looking so as to prolong the voyage.