The Advantages of Floating in the Middle of the Sea

Good evening and greetings from somewhere in the middle of the North Atlantic. How is everyone today?

I have to begin by mentioning that the internet service on the QM2 is not good, and that’s being very charitable. So it may happen that you won’t be hearing from me too much during our crossing – I guess you could all use a break from my meanderings, right?

We’ve now been on the ship for a little over 36 hours and, so far, we’re having a very pleasant time. All of the crew we’ve met – our butler, the staff in the Queen’s Grill (Osman the maître ‘d and the team that serves us), and others are very friendly and professional and seem to want one thing only: for us to have a good time. And that’s how it should be!

There must be something about sailing across the Atlantic on an ocean liner (more about that in a bit) that agrees with me: last night I slept for 8 hours (unaided, if you receive my meaning). In my case, that’s basically miraculous. Since we set our clocks back last night, we had the benefit of an extra hour of sleep or play, and I put mine to good use. I was up bright and early and off for a lovely run. I had hoped to run around the promenade deck, but it was too wet and windy for that, so I made my way to the gym that, by the way, is amongst the best we’ve seen at sea. And at 7:30 this morning, it was PACKED! I guess we all have to burn off the calories that we’re consuming.

So, remember a few posts ago where I harangued all of you about the difference between a cruise and a crossing? I wanted to expand on that thought today so we all know what we’re talking about (especially me). I’ve heard people – you know who you are – refer to ships as boats (boats are small, ships are not), and talk about cruises that are not really cruises. And what is this thing called an ocean liner? Is that a ship, too, and what’s the difference?

Note: If you could care less about this minutia, please skip ahead – I’ve got a couple of cute pictures of our cabin and a shot of the ocean below. Don’t worry – I won’t be disappointed.

Here’s the deal: a cruise ship’s itinerary is almost exclusively port-intensive. You sail to the Caribbean or the Mediterranean or the Greek Islands or the fjords and every day or so, you’re docking in some exotic place, getting off the ship and seeing the sights and going shopping. Or, if you’re like AAC CPA and me, you find the good Margarita place and watch the people go by, most of who are passengers from the ship you just left. Note that these itineraries are sailing in bodies of water that are not particularly challenging to the vessel. There will be wear and tear, but that comes with years of sailing.

An ocean liner, on the other hand, is made of sterner stuff. Its role in life is to cross the ocean (no ports – just go from point A to point B), turn around and return. And then repeat.

In Philip Dawson’s excellent book entitled Queen Mary 2, he differentiates the difference in design between a cruise ship and a “true ocean liner”:

“ Essentially the liner would need to have a relatively deep draft and refined hull form for good stability and seakeeping during sustained high-speed sailing in deep waters. The liner would need the power to cover longer sea passages at higher speeds than normally needed for cruise service, reserve power to make up for lost headway due to fog, gales and heavy seas and the structural stamina to withstand North Atlantic sailing conditions as comfortably as possible.”

This is to say that you never know what the North Atlantic is going to do to you when you’re sailing across it and you need a vessel that can withstand the worst weather imaginable.

Remember when QM2 made its inaugural crossing from Southampton to New York back in April 2004? The ship was in service for just 3 months at the time and we were scheduled to sail on the 3rd crossing, about 2 weeks later, and were very curious to know how the 1st crossing had gone. So, it was with some surprise (and not a little bit of fear) when a friend of ours’ told us that Cindy Adams, syndicated columnist for the NY Post, was aboard, and posted her column from the ship reporting that she and many other passengers were extremely unhappy. Apparently, over the 6 days of the crossing, the ship went through 2 major storms with waves crashing 60-70 feet up the side of the ship. Ever heard that phrase: “Batten up the hatches”? I think there was a lot of battening on that voyage.

In spite of the bad seas, the ship arrived on schedule in New York and the passengers had an exciting adventure to share.

Just two weeks later, we were on the same vessel, making the same voyage. Would you believe me if I told you that the ocean was so smooth the entire time, you wouldn’t know you were on a ship unless you looked out to see the ocean all around you?

As I said above, you never know what’s going to happen – and that’s part of the excitement of traveling by ship across the ocean.

01 - 1st day at sea
1st day at sea – nice, huh?

02 - Cabin 1
Our cabin

03 - Cabin 2
And another view of our cabin.

PS. Oh yeah, and we won $100 at the blackjack table tonight – WOO-HOO!!