My husband and I both have fond memories of ocean voyages decades ago. He and his mother and brother traveled from Panama to New York in the 1950s when his dad was in the Navy. I traveled from New York to Norway and back in the 1960s. We both remembered enjoying being at sea, and have never been interested in island-hopping cruises with non-stop manufactured fun. We stumbled on a cable program about the building of the QM2 several months ago, and knew that this was the ship we'd been waiting for.
My husband's initial thought that the QM2 was way beyond our budget was allayed later that evening when I did some online checking and found prices that we could afford. And a few weeks later the opportunity came to get away. I found a too-good-to-pass-up deal online on a Britannia Club stateroom, and we jumped on it.
We drove from Baltimore to the Brooklyn terminal on the morning of embarkation. With EZPass we didn't waste any time at toll booths. The only real bottleneck was at Exit 13 of the New Jersey Turnpike (just past the toll booth), where there were more cars than lanes to get onto the bridges to Brooklyn. The only other delay was sitting in a long line of vehicles inside the terminal area, inching our way toward the terminal building to unload.
A porter helped unload the car, and I waited at the terminal while my husband parked. At that point we were about ½ hour behind our assigned boarding time of 12:30. The check-in line was already fairly long, but we watched it grow longer behind us and were happy we arrived when we did. Once we checked in, we had our photo snapped, entered the ship, were greeted by assembled crew, and directed to the proper elevator.
I had read on the boards that on embarkation, it's wise to hop on a down elevator, as the up elevators fill up fast, and that's what we did. When we got off the elevator at Deck 12, we saw one of our bags in the elevator area - and the others were already in our cabin. Joue (pronounced Joey), our cabin steward, arrived moments later with the final bag, showed us around and noted that we could call him by pressing the steward button on the phone.
The room was clean, comfortable and quite lovely. There are two built-in closets with hangars (the smaller one would probably do for coats on a cold-weather sail) separated by a console with four drawers, a fairly deep shelf and the room safe. We could have used an additional drawer, but we managed well enough. Suitcases stowed under the bed.
The bathroom was clean and functional, with decent counter and shelf space for toiletries. As noted elsewhere, the shower is unlighted, but the shower itself was easy to regulate and had great water pressure.
After getting settled, we did some shipboard exploring and ventured into the King's Court on Deck 7 for a late-ish lunch. The buffet was understandably crowded, but we found enough to tide us over until dinner and then found a table in a little bay window where we observed some folks already doing their three laps around the deck that make up a mile.
Although we were scheduled to leave in late afternoon, the Captain announced that our departure would be delayed until 9 p.m. so we could see fireworks to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Brooklyn Bridge. The times of evening activities were adjusted accordingly.
We made it into the Britannia Club dining room at about 7 p.m. We were seated at a table for six. I'm not sure how "they" made table assignments, but we all enjoyed each other's company so much that dinner became a highlight of the day, and we were often the last ones to leave the dining room.
On that first evening, the staff did their best to get us out in time to make it up on deck to see the fireworks. Alas, we emerged onto Deck 13 just in time for the last big boom. Apparently the fireworks had gotten wet during the afternoon's rain, and the show was over almost before it began.
However, a bunch of us hardy souls stayed topside as the ship made its way out of New York Harbor. It was unseasonably chilly, and very windy at the top of the ship, but the view of the skyline and the lights and the Statue of Liberty were worth it. Many of us made our way to an observation platform even higher up to watch the ship go under the Verazanno Narrows Bridge. We saw a helicopter fly by at eye level, and then watched in wonder as the front masts cleared the bridge. Everyone cheered, and then we turned to watch as the stack just cleared by 7 or so feet - and we cheered again.
After that, we were ready to head back to our room. We filled in the hangtag to order room service breakfast and settled in for the night. Actually, we were up half the night either out on the balcony, or sitting up looking out the door/window as we passed the lighthouses along the Long Island shore.
Our Friday at sea was all we had hoped for. The weather was clear and sunny. Breakfast arrived on time and as ordered. We paid a visit to the observation are of the bridge, just down the corridor from our room, and then set off to do more exploring. We had discovered the glass elevators that run between Decks 7 and 11 at the bow, and they became one of our favorite conveyances. It's a great (and quick) way to travel between the observation deck and Atlantic Room on Deck 11, the Commodore Club on Deck 9, the Library on Deck 8, and the Gym and Promenade on Deck 7.
As you explore, be sure to find the "Propeller Farm" towards the bow. This is an array of beautiful curved metal fins that look like sculptures, but we were told they're extra propeller fins.
We lost track of time that day and all of a sudden it was 2:30, too late for lunch in Britannia Club, so we hot-footed it to the Golden Lion Pub, which serves until 3. That's definitely the time to go. The place was more than half empty, and we got a lovely table by a window, where we watched some fishing trawlers in the distance bounce up and down on the whitecaps. Our Queen didn't even feel the swells! We had the lunch specials - barbecued chicken for my husband, and an Indian curried chicken dish for me. Both entrees were excellent.
Then we were back out on deck to enjoy the weather and relax. We found sheltered deck chairs (just aft of the lifeboats) on the sunny side, and just chilled out (and napped - this was the first non-working vacation for both of us in so long we couldn't remember the last one). And then it was time to get ready for dinner.
Note that we didn't do any activities. There's plenty to do if you want things to do, but if you just want to relax, this is definitely the place to do it. And the ship is roomy enough that you never feel like you're part of a crowd.
We were lazy again the next morning, and were in no particular hurry to get off the ship in Halifax. Our cabin was on the outboard side of the ship, and we were treated to watching the crew conduct its own lifeboat drill. The passengers had assembled on Thursday afternoon in their assigned places, and practiced putting on life jackets. This time the crew actually launched the lifeboats, drove them around in circles, and then recovered the boats.
My husband had been in Halifax several times, once as part of the crew on a 45-foot sailboat, and so we opted to see things on our own rather than sign up for a shore excursion. The dock is a short walk from everything in town, and there are taxis available (with posted fares) if you want to hire one on your own to go farther afield. The terminal in Halifax is bustling with lots of shops, too.
As we left Halifax late that afternoon, it started to rain. A kilted piper and drummer stood in the doorway of the terminal building and played us off. Many of us found semi-dry places on the deck to watch and listen. Somehow, "Scotland the Brave" seemed especially poignant as the ship pulled away.
From there we took our favorite glass elevator up to the Library, and watched for the landmarks and lighthouses as we made our way back out to sea.
On Sunday morning we arrived in Boston. As we came into the harbor, we were joined by small armed Coast Guard vessels, one on either side of the ship. There was a crew member stationed at the forward gun. Any time a small boat tried to venture too close, the Coast Guard boats went into high gear and chased them off. Such is life in the post-9/11 world.
The biggest hassle of the entire voyage was going through immigration in Boston. Originally we were given times to proceed to the immigration check-in. However, there were problems with the docking and gangplanks in Boston, and the immigration folks were late getting on board. So - everyone was directed to report to the appropriate area (one for U.S. citizens, one for others) at the same time. And the line stretched literally from one end of the ship to the other. It moved relatively quickly, and the immigration folks did little more than glance at passports before handing out landing cards.
My Massachusetts cousins met us near the ship. Because of security concerns, visitors aren't allowed on board, so we weren't able to show off "our" ship, but we ventured off into Boston proper and took their adopted Chinese daughters (ages 6 and 9) to Old North Church and Paul Revere's House - and had some great pizza and enjoyed a street performance festival at Faneuil Hall. That wore us all out, and we were back on board in time to get ready for dinner and trade experiences with our table mates. By the time the staff gently hinted that it was time for us to go (they had started setting other tables for breakfast), we were ready to call it a night.
On Monday we finally "did" things - a couple of lectures, a book-signing, and an informal veterans' gathering. Then it was time for lunch in Britannia Club, the art auction, and time to hit our favorite deck chairs before we had to get ready for the evening.
We opted for the early performance of "Apassionata," an energetic dance show that was repeated later in the evening. And then it was off for our final dinner. As dinner ended, our waiter and his assistant presented us with a folder with all the menus from our sail. It's a nice souvenir, and useful. There were some things on the menu that translate to home.
And that's a nice segue into the dining experience. We thoroughly enjoyed dining in Britannia Club. The space is intimate and the open seating means that you can arrive at any time during posted meal hours. The table was ready for us in the morning for breakfast, and at lunch, as well as for dinner.
The food was generally excellent. When we asked for really crisp bacon for breakfast the first time, we got it - and got it without asking every other morning. The staff got to know us by name, and picked up on our preferences quickly. And they didn't bat an eye if someone ordered three appetizers, as one of our table companions once did. I ended up following that lead (to a point) and opted for a second appetizer instead of a salad that evening. The only disappointment was the lobster tail, which wasn't served with drawn butter - but I didn't think to ask if we could get drawn butter, so I shouldn't complain.
And so our sail ended and we came back into New York. The helicopter escort flew by at balcony level. And all too soon it was time to head down to the Winter Garden and wait for our turn to leave the ship.
Disembarkation went very smoothly. We found our luggage (placed outside our door before midnight) easily, and then found a porter with a cart. He went with us all the way to the car. My husband had paid for parking before we left the terminal, and once the car was loaded, we were on our way home.
All in all, this was a wonderful way to take a vacation, and we hope to sail on the QM2 again before too long.