My wife and I recently completed a 24 night Southampton to Southampton voyage entitled 'Grand New England and Canadian Wonders' onboard QM2.
We have in the past made many trans Atlantic crossings onboard QM2, normally spending five or six days in New York before returning home on her. This was the first occasion that we continued with QM2 while she sailed along the Eastern seaboard of the United States and Canadian coast, calling at Newport Rhode Island, Boston, Bar Harbor, Halifax and Quebec before returning to New York for the voyage home.
The itinerary of this voyage included two 6 full day Atlantic crossings. This may seem a little daunting to many cruisers, however QM2 and Cunard have a pretty unique mix of activities and entertainment onboard QM2 so I thought, just for a change, that my review would concentrate mainly on the Atlantic crossings. I will skip mention of the usual cruise ship sea day activities, quizzes, bridge classes, bingo and spa lectures - QM2 has considerably more to offer in addition to the normal run-of -the mill activities.
Without any doubt the biggest daytime draw is Cunard's 'Insights' programme where up to four high profile lecturers with considerable experience from varying interests give talks and answer questions on their specialist subjects which range from politics, naval history, astronomy , celebrity personalities and a host of other subjects. The Insights programmes are generally held in Illuminations, a purpose built state of the art 500 seat auditorium which is also home for the Planetarium, the first at sea, and another first at sea the 3D cinema.
On this particular cruise the three most popular speakers were undoubtedly Lembit Opik, who needs no introduction, ITN Cameraman Phil Bye MBE and Roger McGuinn, the founder of the Byrds Rock Band.
There are three separate Planetarium features on each voyage and each presentation is run four time a each day.
Cunard is famous for it's 'ballrooms at sea' and certainly QM2's is put to considerable use during the day. Selections on this particular voyage included tap, line and Ballroom dancing, the latter using professional instructors who have competed at some of the highest levels.
The ballroom is also the venue for the famous White Star Service Afternoon Teas and on two occasions the Ballroom orchestra played for Afternoon Tea Dances.
QM2 has its own computer learning centre called ConneXions and classes, some complimentary and others at a charge, are available throughout the day.
On this particular cruise there was the addition of a 'Song Writing Experience' with a team of song writers headed by Chris Difford: co-founder of the successful band Squeeze. Those passengers taking part were given the opportunity to perform the songs they had written at a special performance in the ship's Royal Court Theatre.
Another regular and firm favourite with Cunard, The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, gave a number of daytime 'workshops' as well as performing a number of afternoon and evening plays throughout the voyage.
Live music is always available at a number of venues around lunch times. The Poolside, The Chart Room and our favourite, The Golden Lion Pub where, particularly on Dixieland jazz days, one often struggled to find a seat.
So there is always plenty to do on QM2's Atlantic crossing; something to meet every one's taste and, in our case, often requiring a bit of planning to fit what we wanted to see and experience, into our daily schedule.
No review of this particular voyage would be complete if it did not mention the fire. Our particular experience of this was somewhat quintessentially British, maybe something Noel Coward would have understood perfectly. Of course not everyone shared this particular experience.
At roughly 8.00pm on Tuesday 4 October we were fifteen minutes into the Senior Officers' Cocktail Party in the Queens Room when the first broadcast called for the 'Assessment' Party to go to a particular location. A few minutes later we heard another broadcast stating there was a fire in the Gas Turbine Generators on Deck 12.
Naturally the Captain and his Officers left immediately for their places of duty but those guests already at the party continued their social chatting as though nothing out of the ordinary was happening. Drinks were still available and the pianist continued to play.
The Captain calmly made a broadcast from the bridge explaining the situation and, as a precaution, the crew were called to their emergency stations which, quite correctly, required them to have their life jackets at the ready. Quite correctly, at no time were passengers instructed to proceed anywhere: the crew were simply taking sensible precautions should events require further action.
It so happens that the outer areas of either side of the Queens Room are a recognised muster station for crew members and it was quite surreal to find fifty odd passengers in Formal attire drinking champagne while the crew were waiting in the wings, life jackets on.
Within fifteen minutes the fire had been brought under control and was then safely extinguished. Waiting staff were soon back to full strength and the party continued to around 9.00pm.
The whole incident was a most pertinent demonstration of the calmness and professionalism of the officers and crew of QM2 who conducted themselves in the manner and traditions expected of British seafaring.
Overall we had an excellent cruise and very much look forward to returning to Queen Mary 2 in the not too distant future