In anticipation of a milestone anniversary, now about ten years ago, my husband and I decided we wanted to celebrate in a grand way. Still working and short on vacation time, we booked a six-day, transatlantic crossing on Cunard Line’s legendary Queen Mary 2 (QM2), leaving Southampton, England on Tuesday morning and returning us to New York City the following Monday.
We chose the iconic Cunard Line because of the elegance and tradition associated with its ships. We settled on a “crossing” as opposed to a “cruise” because we truly wanted to slow down and relax on a floating resort. Our day-to-day lives were hectic enough that we coveted uninterrupted downtime— time on a luxury ship with white-glove service as well as time alone with each other. We were smitten by the beauty and allure of ocean liners that we had previously only seen on posters and postcards.
Celebrating the Queen Mary 2
At the time it was built, the Queen Mary 2 was the largest cruise ship on the seas. Although it pales in size to newer megaships, the vessel hasn’t lost its luster. When you see the ship’s 17 statuesque decks for the first time, you can’t help but be awe-struck by its size and grace. At a length of 1132 feet (the equivalent of five city blocks on Fifth Avenue) and a height of 237 feet (from the keel to the top of her trademark red and black funnel), the ship is larger than life.
Friends always ask whether the Atlantic waters are rough. Sure, they can be harsher than those of the Mediterranean or Caribbean Sea but the Queen Mary 2 is built to take them. Its hull is narrower and deeper than that of a conventional cruise ship, affording it the necessary stability and speed for the North Atlantic seas.
Living the life on Queen Mary 2
When we entered the door to our Princess Grill cabin with a balcony on the tenth deck, Room 10051, we were delighted by the space and light. Blond wood cabinetry with black accents — and tasteful damask upholstery on the king-size bed — complemented the stunning art deco paintings, sculptures and décor found elsewhere on the ship. With a walk-in closet and floor-to-ceiling wardrobes, there was adequate space to settle in and comfortably stow all our belongings.
Since we were headed home from the start, we weren’t in any rush to reach our destination. We simply wanted to enjoy the trip — as did an earlier generation before ocean travel was supplanted by jet airplanes.
On Board Activities and Entertainment
The daily program offered more social, recreational and educational offerings than we could squeeze into a day, so we had to make strategic choices. We ruled out sunbathing and outdoor swimming because the air temperature in the Atlantic, even in the middle of summer, can be a bit brisk unless you sunbathe with jackets and blankets (and some did!).
We stuck to our plan to exercise and relax each day at the two-story Canyon Ranch Spa on board and to catch up on reading as we sat beside the portholes on the third deck only distracted by the huge waves crashing against the boat. When there was a heavy rain, it felt as if we were peering into the window of a washing machine. We took classes in digital photography, attended a lecture on how to write a book, attended a talk on British politics and visited the first planetarium at sea.
Whether you are cruising or crossing, sea days are structured around three meals — and our experience on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 was no different. We took advantage of complimentary room service most mornings, and sipped cappuccino on the balcony with no land in sight. We enjoyed elegant meals in the Todd English restaurant or the Princess Grill, two of the 15 restaurants and bars on board. Later in the evening, we tried our luck in the casino, danced at the Black and White Ball, or watched live theater performances. High tea was our chance to sit back and observe fellow travelers from all over the world.
All good vacations come to an end, but no ending was more glorious than this one. Because the ship passes through five different time zones, we felt as if we had cheated time. Each zone gave us one more hour of sleep.
As the sun was rising, we slowly pulled into New York Harbor to witness spectacular views of the Statue of Liberty. It was thrilling to think about what it was like when our grandparents made the same journey without the luxury, security and modern amenities of Cunard’s Queen Mary 2.