When was the last time you danced in a conga line round Heathrow’s Terminal 3 just because you were headed to the USA? Well, on the Queen Mary 2 you might well go all celebratory despite yourself. It’s that sort of a ship.
Jazz bands on the deck, champagne and even an occasional conga line mark a departure from port. Suddenly transatlantic travel returns to being glamorous, romantic and dramatic – what most of us sense it might have been, long before we ourselves started moving around the planet.
Long before wide-bodied jets, cheap fares and high security started to make airline passengers feel that they were being punished for travelling, there was a world of steamer trunks, staterooms and slow, sedate progress across the great ocean.
That world has been somewhat replicated on some of the higher-end cruise ships. But the Queen Mary 2 is the real deal simply because she is the only ocean liner in the world. To sail with the QM2 is to make a crossing not take a cruise. So, even the traveller who disdains the idea of meandering around some ocean or the other, can justify a passage on the QM2. You have a purpose. Well, even if you don’t the boat does. It is following in a tradition started 175 years ago when Samuel Cunard’s steamship, the Britannia first sailed from Liverpool to Halifax, Nova Scotia. For decades afterwards, crossing the Atlantic became both routine and the stuff of romantic legend – sometimes not so romantic. Charles Dickens made the crossing in its early days, got horribly seasick, described his fellow passengers as ’jackasses’ and said that trying to store his wife’s suitcase in their stateroom was like ”trying to squeeze a giraffe into a flower pot.”
He’d have a different opinion today. On Cunard’s recent 175th anniversary crossing from Southampton to New York via Liverpool, Halifax and Boston, I wept when I had to disembark and not because I’d had plenty of space to store my luggage – which I did – in my very comfortable stateroom with its kingsize bed, soft cotton duvet, flatscreen tv and view out on all that water. But I’d fallen in love with life on board this great liner that gives you pretty much everything a human being might need, starting with the wonder of vast, awe-inspiring nature in the ever-present ocean, where whales sometimes blow past and dolphins dance in the QM2’s vast wake. And they feed our bodies: food of every kind to fulfill every appetite – breakfast in bed if you so desire or elegant in the grand Britannia Restaurant or casual buffet; themed lunches – Mexican, sushi, Indian, great platters of smoked salmon, salads of every colour, delicate pastries and on to afternoon tea – either elegant in the Queen’s Room or shovel up as many scones as you can in the buffet. Then casual dinner in the buffet or sweep down the grand staircase to elegant supper in the dining room. From that first ”Britannia” sailing when an unfortunate cow was suspended in a hammock to provide milk across the ocean, ships have ensured a steady supply of food.
The Queen Mary 2 feeds our brains too with lectures by astrophysicists from Cambridge or historians with amazing tales to tell of the floating palaces of the past. They have a full big band to dance to in the biggest ballroom on ocean. Or if that’s too staid, there’s a night club next door where you can dance til dawn. The Chart Room bar has a fantastic jazz trio with an Oscar Peterson-style pianist. Actors perform Shakespeare in the full sized theatre. Dancers and singers give us Broadway musical-style shows. And if we are inspired we can learn to dance ourselves with Vladimir in the Queen’s Ballroom – every day at noon. All the while, as we cha cha or samba across the floor, the great ship is moving from the Old World to the New. A liner, unlike a cruise ship, is custom built for crossing the North Atlantic, moving faster and staying more stable should a storm blow up. Dickens would have approved.
I want to find out more about the Queen Mary 2
Janette stayed in the Westin Hotel at Times Square after getting a good deal of $166 plus tax per night.
These days room prices are constantly changing but this proved an excellent choice thanks to a high and therefore, quiet room with fabulous views that proved a peaceful haven in the heart of everything.
In the USA or Canada try www.cruisedirect.com or call 1-800-7-Cunard. Prices vary considerably and can sometimes be surprisingly cheap with an inside cabin starting at £799 per person.