Aboard the Queen Mary 2 –Last night was the Captain’s Welcome Party and if there was one thing I learned from Capt. Chris Wells it is that this is not a cruise, it is a transatlantic crossing. This is not a cruise ship, it is an ocean liner.
To Cunard, which has made thousands of these crossings since 1840, this is a very important distinction. Cunard was the first steamship company to operate a scheduled transatlantic service and offers the only scheduled service today.
There are many who choose to travel to Europe this way so they don’t have to fly. In our printed program, Cunard lists a number of itineraries for people who want to travel from New York to Europe, then spend a number of nights (from five to 19) on the continent before returning on the Queen Mary 2 to the U.S. and they promote these bookings.
Chet and I have crossed the Atlantic three times previously, all on repositioning itineraries. We made all three trips in autumn and so we flew to Europe, boarded the ships there, and then traveled back to North America. Twice we sailed the southern route, and once we sailed the northern route (which included stops in Iceland and Greenland). In all three cases, there were port stops at the beginning and end of the cruise even though in one cruise we did have seven days at sea in one stretch.
But this crossing is different for us. We are traveling the other direction, from New York to Southampton, at a different time of year, and there are no ports at either end. You get on the ship and seven days later you get off. So this cruise is all about the ship experience and enjoying being at sea.
We have discovered that many passengers aboard, and of all nationalities, are booking back-to-back crossings…that is, they sail over, spend the day, and then sail back.
Because the Queen Mary 2, the current flagship of the Cunard fleet, was designed for regular transatlantic service, she is constructed a bit differently. She has a deeper keel, a thicker hull and less outdoor space than ships that typically sail in warmer climes.
This has proven to be a good thing as the weather this week continues to be very windy and cold and most days are spent inside.
So, this is not a cruise ship and this is not a cruise. Here are some other ways that the Queen Mary 2 transatlantic crossing experience is distinctive:
We change time zones at noon rather than midnight. So, yesterday and today at noon, we changed our watches to 1 p.m. and headed to lunch.
The ship has a kennel…as all three Cunard ships do…and there are six dogs and six cats in residence.
The passengers on board are definitely of an older demographic, however, there are 124 children aboard this week, most from the U.S. One little lady I met on the elevator, about age 8, informed me she has been on this ship five times. Interesting. Many of these children are traveling in family groups that include grandparents.
Speaking of the older demographic, I don’t think I have ever seen so many wheelchairs, canes and walkers yet everyone seems to be getting around fine, and many are on their own. I met a lovely woman from Manhattan yesterday who told me she was sailing back-to-back weeks from New York. She said she chooses this cruise to be near the sea, “I never get tired of watching the ocean.”
She said she prefers traveling by herself because “when I travel with others I usually do what they want to do and I am miserable.” Then she confessed to staying in her cabin earlier that day to watch a movie. She was traveling alone, using a walker, and doing just fine.
Tomorrow: What all there is to do on board.
June 19, 2012
Photos by Chet Janssens