NBC Showcases QM2 as New York Treasure

October 19, 2006

Cunard's Queen Mary 2, which calls New York City home (at least seasonally), has become such a part of the city's fabric that it's being featured on "Jane's New York" this weekend. The show, which will air on a series of NBC stations (check your listings for time and day), naturally focuses on the ship itself. And while QM2 fans won't see too much that's new -- it's reminiscent of television evangelists preaching to an already dedicated choir -- this episode, "On Board Queen Mary 2: The Trans-Atlantic Adventure," offers some nifty vistas of New York, and is a terrific primer for folks not all that familiar with the ship.

It's hosted by Jane Hanson, an Emmy Award-winning news anchor at New York's WNBC-TV. Hanson spends some time with QM2 captain Christopher Rynd, visiting the bridge to learn about how the ship is operated, and visiting with passengers as he makes the rounds of the ship. Some other highlights:

The galley portions of the show offer some insights that were new even to us. Pasta and vegetables are made only 10 portions at a time. Puff pastry is the only type of bread not made in the onboard bakery. And you eat what ripens first -- fish and tomatoes, for instance, are often on menus in the early part of the journey. As the week wears on, food with a longer shelf life is served.

As the ship passes under the Verrazano-Narrows BridgeCruise Director Ray Rouse's comment that "we will not see land again for the next five days ..." gave me chills. Indeed, the ship sails a six-day voyage without a peek of land between New York and England, its final destination.

The ship's departure from New York, with the Manhattan skyline in the background, was dramatic. In addition to the spectacular scenery, the show included footage of officers on the bridge at work -- a sight most travelers will never get to see -- and a pretty cool look at the New York Police Department helicopter that safely shepherded QM2 out to sea.

For Hanson, a first-time cruiser whose series basically focuses on iconic New York themes such as restaurants or neighborhoods, the trip was full of surprises. "I didn't think it was going to be quite as luxurious as it was," she told Cruise Critic. "And just the sheer magnitude about what keeps such a floating city going for six days was fascinating. It's not like you can run down the corner to buy a pint of milk if you run out."

The biggest surprise? "I've always heard this stuff about the food on cruise ships [being mediocre]," she says. "I live in New York and go to great restaurants all the time. But I was stunned by how good it was, particularly at Todd English."

Hanson shared some other insights with us:

"People were complaining that the seas weren't rough enough, that they were too calm," Hanson marveled (we told her to try a crossing in January).

Formal nights occurred three days out of six and some people really dressed up. "One woman was wearing long white gloves, a tiara and a silvery gown," she says.

On the night of the ship's formal Black and White Ball, Hanson spied a gent in complete dress uniform of the Canadian Royal Mounted Police. "He and his wife had been saving for years for this trip," she said. "He was there in full dress at every single event."

The most interesting place Hanson and her television crew visited was the laundry. Alas, there wasn't enough time in the 30-minute show to air the footage. "Who thinks about the laundry," she laughs. "But I was fascinated. It's way below. Because they do 16,000 meals a day, and every one has cloth napkins (not to mention bed sheets and bathrobes), it's open 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

The gentleman host concept was an eye-opener. "It was just like that movie ["Out to Sea"] with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. I thought it had made that stuff up! But it was exactly like that. The hosts were a caricature and yet they were having a blast."

On this particular voyage, which took place in July, the officers on the bridge spotted a small boat off the port side -- at 3 a.m. Turns out it was two people who were rowing across the Atlantic. "Can you imagine being in that small boat and having the biggest [well, almost the biggest] ship at sea come right up next to you?" Hanson says that the officers on the bridge at that time had quite a spirited conversation with the folks in the rowboat.

When we asked Hanson about the overall highlights and lowlights of the trip it didn't take her long to answer. "It's one and the same, pro and con," she said. "For the first three days I loved the fact that you could look out at sea and see the infinity of it. You could relax and think about your life and examine all kinds of things because, frankly, there's time. There's something that's very soothing and at the same time quite rejuvenating."

And yet? "By day three," she sighed, noting that the unchanging landscape of nothing but ocean got a bit tedious, "you're thinking 'is that all I'm going to see'?".

"On Board Queen Mary 2: The Trans-Atlantic Adventure" will air on NBC stations in the following cities: Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Dallas, Washington, D.C., Miami, San Diego and Hartford. As we mentioned, check local listings for time and day.

--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor