Mike and Renée's
Transatlantic Crossing on Queen Mary 2
October 4-10, 2008

What is more evocative of luxury sailing than the Transatlantic Crossing on Cunard? This was a new experience for us. Our many cruises have mostly been port intensive, and seldom have we had this many days at sea in a row. We found it to be an extremely relaxing and refreshing cruise and a wonderful way to get to Europe!
We arrived in New York the day prior to embarkation and took a taxi to the Red Hook Cruise Terminal. Boarding was very easy and soon we were settled in our cabin and ready for the buffet.From the pier in New York Harbor we had marvelous views of the city skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge. The beautiful weather brought lots of passengers on deck for the Champagne sailaway!
Of course everybody was watching for the Statue of Liberty lifting her golden lamp. Sailing past her is impressive, to say the least.
We had a standard inside cabin, and found it to be very comfortable and roomy enough. We used the trick of leaving the TV tuned to the webcam channel so we got a semblance of a tiny window and natural light!

The ship is huge, but absolutely beautiful throughout. This is one of four panels depicting the continents in one of the main hallways off the Atrium. After a relaxing afternoon (and of course the Boat Drill) we found our table and wonderful companions in the dining room for a great meal. Our tablemates provided great and stimulating conversation every evening, although trying to explain the American elections to Brits was a challenge!

We visited the spa early, and bought a 5 day pass to the Aquaspa at a rate of $95 per person. This was a terrific investment and we thoroughly enjoyed the spa every day of the cruise. The hydropool was a nice place to relax and make friends.
Every day was filled with activities. We enjoyed playing Trivia, attending lectures, and the ever popular pasttime of just sitting and relaxing as the ocean goes by.

One of the most interesting things on the cruise was the troupe of graduates from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. They gave a series of workshops on acting, and Renée had a great time participating and showing off!

In addition they presented two performances, one of Shakespeare and one of Noel Coward. Both of these were extremly good.

The days at sea passed quickly. There were numerous lunch options on the ship, and we tried the dining room, the buffet, and the burger bar on different days. All were very good. Our favorite lunch, though, was the pub lunch. I enjoyed fish and chips (with mushy peas) and Renée liked the Shepherd's Pie.

The first formal night, we tried Todd English, the optional restaurant. It was extremely elegant and definitely worth the $30 cover charge. I had Lobster medallions with mozarella dumplings and Ren?e had the filet and they were delightful. (Somehow, with three formal nights on the cruise, I did not manage to get a picture of us in our formalwear!)

Outside the pub is the ship's post box, fittingly designed to mimic those on London's corners at the turn of the century.

Dinner the second night was one of the three formal nights aboard. Cunard is well known for their formal nights, and there were a lot of tuxes, kilts, and very nice gowns, as well as just simple dresses and suits. Amazingly, I realized that I did not get a single picture of us in our formalwear!

We returned frequently to the spa. Before or after using the Aquaspa and Thermal Suite, we could relax in the Relaxation Room, with a nice sea view and that wonderful citrusy ice water.
The cooking demonstration in the main theater was very well attended. It was interesting and we got the complete list of recipes.

Many other activities filled the sea days. There is a great library and a very nice game room. Our tablemates reported that they enjoyed the opportunities to play Bridge and the instructors. There is also a good computer lounge as well as computers in the library. Wireless access is available from some of the public rooms and is fast and fairly reliable, although one day we did not have access for much of the day due to sunspot activity.

One of the most famous attractions on the Queen Mary 2 is the planetarium. Tickets are required but we found that if we got to the desk relatively early, it was not a problem to get tickets. There were several different shows during the crossing and they are fabulous multimedia presentations.
And every day, back to the Aqua Spa! The changing rooms featured very cooperative attendants, a nice touch some ships do not have. The Thermal Suite features a very good steam room, an herbal sauna, and a true Finnish sauna with the wooden boards which give it that nice aroma. There are two large showers which feature side showers and tropical rain showers. One then has the cold rain, and the other the icy spray! It will certainly invigorate you.

Another feature which was nice, especially after walking around this large ship all day, was the Reflexology foot baths. Warm water with gentle jets and pulses felt very good on tired feet.

Besides their theater performances, the RADA troupe also had a poetry reading one of the formal nights. We had everything from t s elliot to limericks, classical poems and modern poems with up to date messages. It was a very nice way to enjoy some culture.

All too soon our crossing came to an end in Southampton. Disembarkation was very easy and well organized. We took the ship's transfer to London (expensive!) and a taxi to our hotel (expensive!).

We walked from the hotel to the "tube" (not so expensive) and traveled a few stations to the Westminister stop. Here I got off and explored a bit, seeing the Houses of Parliament, Westminister Abbey, and "Big Ben," although I was informed that it is correctly called The Great Clock and Big Ben is only the bell inside.
Renée meanwhile continued on the tube to ? where else? -- Harrod's. She had a wonderful time shopping and came back with some nice English biscuits (cookies).
Then we boarded the London Ducks. This was a nice driving tour of the major sights of the city including Buckingham Palace, and then we drove down a launch ramp into the Thames itself and had a nice ride up and down the river past the London Eye.

That evening, walking down the street from our hotel we found a corner Fish and Chips place and enjoyed a nice Londoner's meal (expensive!). Expensive is pretty much the order of the day in London.

The next day we had an all day tour scheduled. We drove first through lots of London, then through the beautiful English countryside for our first stop at Leeds Castle. This is considered one of the best preserved examples of an English Castle.
One of the most impressive features of Leeds Castle is the large moat surrounding it. It is now a home for many ducks and swans.
Then we drove on through the countryside of Kent. Our guide described the Battle of Britain which took place over our heads, with young brave men defending the skies against the German attack. Of couse this inspired Winston Churchill to say, "Never have so many owed so much to so few."

Overlooking the white cliffs of Dover, we stopped at a pub for a nice English lunch. I enjoyed having Bangers and Mash and may be insprired to try to find it in the States! Of course a half pint of ale accompanied it.

Then it was on to the beach (covered with pebbles,not sand) to view Dover Castle and the famous White Cliffs.
The next stop was Canterbury Cathedral, site of so much history and the ancient see of the Archbishop of Canterbury. One of the main attractions is the altar where Thomas A Becket was praying when he was killed. The Cathedral choir was playing during our visit and that was a nice background.
The last part of the tour was a boat ride back up the Thames to London, with tea aboard. This was a lot of fun.

Dinner at the "All Out Bar" (very expensive) concluded our evening. The next day we took a taxi to Heathrow (disastrously expensive!) and made the long flight home. All in all it was a wonderful experience and a bit of a change from our usual cruises.

We like to discuss our travels. Email us at thehalls@bully4.us BACK to Cruising With The Halls
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