Life Is Like A Ship, Part One

Well, now that we’re back on terra firma (with NORMAL internet service), it’s time to tell you about our crossing on Queen Mary 2. Before I get into all that, I want to tell you about the ship we called “home” for a week.

There she is!

At the time of QM2’s maiden voyage in January, 2004, she was the largest ship in the world: built at Chantiers de L’Antique in France, she is 1,132 feet in length (the Empire State Building is 1,250 feet high; the Statue of Liberty is 305 feet high), gross tonnage is 150,000, cruising speed is 28.5 knots, the ship has 17 decks (rising to a height of 200 feet above the waterline), passenger capacity is 2,260 and there are 1,253 officers and crew (including, as we learned from executive chef, Klaus Kremer, 150 chefs in the many galleys aboard – more about that later). In a word, QM2 is BIG!

(Sad to note that, within two years of QM2’s launch, Liberty of the Seas became – at that time – the world’s largest ship. Currently, the largest ocean vessel is Allure of the Seas, weighing in at 225,282 gross tonnage and over 6,200 passengers. That’s one big ship.)

Queen Mary 2 is also – although neither Cunard nor any of the ship’s crew will say it – a class ship. What does that mean, exactly? Well, if you think about flying on an airplane (ugh!!!), you have your first class, your business class, and your coach class. When you travel on QM2, it is the cabin in which you sail that determines your “class”. 

Now I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about this so-called class structure. What it really means is that the cabin in which you sail determines the restaurant in which you take your meals. Every passenger has access to almost every other part of the ship, except as noted below.

The “first class” option is the Queens Grill cabins. These cabins, all with private balcony, range from the standard 506 sf option to the fabulous Grand Duplexes that are 2,249 sf. All of these cabins include butler service and other lovely amenities. All Queens Grill passengers (about 200 in all) dine in – where else? – the Queens Grill, located on deck 7, starboard aft. You are given a designated table which is yours’ for the entire voyage. For dinner, there is no early or late seating – you show up when you like – typically 6:30 – 9:00 PM. The menu here is the most luxe on the ship and it’s here that the caviar flows, if caviar is your thing (it’s definitely NOT AAC CPA’s thing). You also have the same service staff and they are VERY accommodating. The Senior Maitre d’Hotel, Osman, actually remembered us from our last voyage, and made sure that we had a swell time. Which we did.

Queens Grill Cabin

One of the Grand Duplexes

Queens Grill
Queens Grill

The other Queens Grill perks are access to the Queens Grill Lounge, which is located directly across from the Queens Grill, and is the perfect venue for an intimate cocktail or afternoon tea (which is so much better than fighting over tea sandwiches and scones in the Queens Room down on deck 3). Also, and this you have to find for yourself because no one talks about it and it’s not on the deck plan, you have access to the Queens Grill Terrace, located aft on Deck 11. It’s a place to take some sun, read a book, or use the hot tub. It’s generally quiet and a lovely place to relax.

Queens Grill Lounge

One last perk, which can be of great help, is the Concierge Lounge located midship on deck 9. It’s there that you can get assistance with on-board reservations, tour details, travel arrangements, etc. They also have snacks all day long, should you feel peckish between meals.

The “business class” option is the Princess Grill cabins. These cabins, also with private balcony, are about 381 sf. Princess Grill passengers (also about 200) eat in the Princess Grill, located just across from Queens Grill on the port side. As with Queens Grill, you are assigned your own table, which is yours’ for the evening. The Princess Grill menu is also quite good, but not as yummy or extensive as the one in Queens Grill. Princess Grill passengers also have access to the Queens Grill Lounge, Terrace and the Concierge Lounge.

Princess Grill Cabin
Princess Grill Cabin

Princess Grill
Princess Grill

Both Queens Grill and Princess Grill passengers have early embarkation and early disembarkation, which can be a great benefit, as you’ll see in my next post.

Almost all other passengers dine in the Britannia Restaurant, perhaps the most dramatic location on the ship: a grand two-story dining venue. Here, you are assigned either an early or late seating, each of which serves up to 1,100 passengers at a time. Let’s say that, while you’ll eat well in Britannia, your dining experience will be decidedly different than in the Queens or Princess Grills. Britannia cabins are typically between 248 sf for a cabin with balcony to an inside cabin, which measures about 159 sf (which is about smaller than the closet space in the Grand Duplex). 

Britannia Restaurant

Britannia Cabin
Britannia Cabin

There is one other option – the “premium economy” option, if you will – and that is Britannia Club, which is essentially a 248 sf cabin, but you get a specially designated section of the Britannia Restaurant.

So, as with any real estate, for some people it’s location, location, location! For most, it’s about making the voyage, and these are the passengers who will say: “Why should I care where my cabin is? I’m not going to spend any time there.” And there are others who will say: “I love hanging out in my digs and the bigger and more luxe, the better. Bring it ON!” As with many things, there are no wrong answers. Whatever floats your boat, right?

So how do you feel about it?

The larger point that I want to make – and I am passionate about it – is that, when you make a crossing, you’re part of a maritime community. New friendships will be forged, unique experiences will be shared and wonderful memories will be made. As I’ve said before, I think it’s the best way to travel. It doesn’t matter in which cabin you sleep or restaurant you eat, you’re going to have an experience you will never forget.

Now that you have the lay of the land, as it were, we haven’t even discussed how you might spends your days (and nights) while aboard QM2. AAC CPA and I always try to encourage friends to join us one of our many crossings, and the response is somewhere between total boredom and abject terror. “What would I DO stuck on a ship in the middle of the ocean for a week or more?” they shriek. 

Well, the simple answer is this: you have options. You might choose, for instance, to go into the ship’s library (which has over 8,000 volumes – yes, I said that) and just take out a few books, sit on your balcony or in some cozy nook and read a book a day, take an afternoon nap, a brisk walk around the promenade deck and eat yourself into oblivion. Or, you might take advantage of the myriad activities that are occurring around you all day long: lectures, performances, computer workshops, games, daily duplicate bridge (YAY!), competitions, luxurious spa treatments, gym workouts, movies, barhopping (there are many bars on board). It’s all there for you to enjoy – or not.

And, in my next post, I’ll tell you all about our week on board the glorious QM2.

To be continued……..

Embarkation Day

So, greetings from Deck 9 aft on Queen Mary 2. It’s now about 11:30 PM and we’re out on the open seas. There’s nothing like a crossing to get the pulse racing. Think about it. For the next week, there’s nothing around or near us but the North Atlantic Ocean. It’s kind of thrilling, in a way. For those of you whose ancestors may have come to America from Europe in “the old days”, they most likely sailed on a ship to get to the new country. Perhaps not like we’re doing this week, but you get the idea.

Backing up, we were picked up at the hotel this morning at 10:30. Our driver, Pan, took great care of us and delivered us to the ship just before 1:00 PM. We were whisked through check-in and on board within 15 minutes. Surprisingly, our luggage made it to the cabin before we did.

Here’s AAC CPA just getting on board:

06 - Boarding QM2
AAC CPA Deck 3 – Boarding

We got settled in, met our butler, Michael, and headed up to Queen’s Grill to check our table and have a bite of lunch. So far, so good.

12 - Queens Grill
Queens Grill on Queen Mary 2

Then we took a walk around the ship to reacquaint ourselves with the layout. After many years of sailing on Crystal, this ship is very different and much bigger.

01 - Veuve Cliqout
Veuve Cliquot Bar – One of many watering holes

AAC CPA on board posing with an extra set of propellers

03 - Vogue
AAC CPA vogueing out on deck – Thanks, Nick, for the caption

By 4:30 it was time for the life boat drill – mandated by law and kind of like the safety announcement you hear whenever you fly. Nobody really pays attention but you have to know how to get into your life jacket and where to go in case of emergency. So there it is.

08 - Life Boat Muster
The obligatory life jacket photo

Then back to the cabin to get ready to sail away. There was some kind of “party” on 8 deck aft with champagne, which was not free. As it turned out, we received a bottle of the bubbly in our cabin and decided to have our own party on our balcony. We put a little Ella on the boom box thing, popped the cork, and watched our departure from Southampton. Perfect.

09 - Bon Voyage
Hail and Farewell (with champagne)

Then it was time to get ready for dinner. Tonight is “informal” meaning jackets with or without ties. We decided to go for it.

But first: a pre-dinner cocktail at the Queen’s Grill Lounge. Guess what we had?

10 - Negroni
First Negroni of the Voyage

Then over to Queen’s Grill for our first dinner. We have a lovely window table for two, in the front of the Grill. (Thanks, Osman.) We have a team of 3 waiters and a sommelier to spoil us. We like it. Tonight, it’s Dover Sole, which just might have been caught in Dover today – it’s that fresh. And a lovely Chassagne-Montrachet to accompany our meal.

Then a brisk stroll around deck 7 – the promenade deck. It’s just a bit brisk this evening. Hope we packed the right wardrobe. We’ll see.

The ship is very quiet tonight. It’s as if everyone disappeared into their cabins after a long day making their way aboard. Tomorrow we’ll see who’s here and what everyone is up to – this will be our community and neighborhood for the next week. And it’s up to us to make an adventure out of it.

Stay tuned.

PS. We turn the clocks back tonight, so everyone gets an extra hour of sleep – or an extra hour to play.