Number of Cruises: 65
Cruise Line: Cunard
Ship: Queen Elizabeth 2
Sailing Date: January 3rd, 2006
Itinerary: 6-day Transatlantic Crossing
“A Voyage of Superlatives”
Sail Date: January 3, 2006
From/To: Southampton to New York
Dining Room: Princess Grill
Cunard once used the slogan which proclaimed “Getting There is Half the Fun”. In the case of this six day transatlantic crossing, getting there was all the fun! This voyage was truly one of superlatives. The classic ocean liner, the vast Atlantic Ocean, the incredible food and service, and most of all the charming fellow passengers.
Things got off to a very good start. Cunard offered this crossing for a song, and even threw in the one-way air to London for good measure. I was booked on American Airlines from my home in Atlanta through Chicago and onto London. I ended up forfeiting my confirmed flights and instead opted to fly on Delta (which happens to be my employer). I was cleared on the flight in Business Elite and flew nonstop from Atlanta to London Gatwick. What a pleasant way to start things off. Upon arrival in Gatwick I was met by a Cunard representative who shuttled three of us off to a nearby hotel (Hilton as I recall) to await our transfer to Southampton. It was only an hour before we were on our way to QE2. The social aspect of this voyage quickly became apparent as I shared the bus ride with a new entertainer joining QE2 and a fellow Atlantan. We chatted the entire two hours to Southampton.
Embarkation was really the only negative I can recall about this crossing. It was agonizingly slow and inefficient. One might think this was the first time embarking the ship. Once checked-in and through the usual security measures things quickly improved.
It was my good fortune to be upgraded from a C-grade cabin to a P1. My cabin (2108) was located on the Port Side just aft of the Pursers Office. It was a great location and a truly fabulous cabin. Cabin 2108 was an original First Class cabin so the finish was a bit above grade. Wood paneled bulkheads, recessed ceiling, walk-in closet, full bath with tub, illuminated vanity mirror, refrigerator, safe, and tons of dresser space. This cabin was truly designed for extended voyages, or at the very least occupants with extensive luggage! I quickly settled in and met my cabin stewardess Bing. She was a gem and most efficient. Waiting for me were two bottles of champagne. One bottle was actually for my brother who was supposed to be traveling with me, but he unexpectedly had to cancel the trip due to a business obligation. The pressure was on to enjoy this beautiful cabin solo, and rest assured it was not a difficult task. Everything in the cabin worked as it should. Wonderful water pressure, steady hot water, and air conditioning that could freeze a side of beef if so desired.
I decided to stop by the Princess Grill soon after embarkation and let the Maitre d’ know my brother would not be joining the table. My initial dealings with Andrew were an indication of things to come. He was professional and accommodating. Andrew assured me I was at an excellent table and I would enjoy myself. He was right! I was assigned one of only two tables for eight. They are both round and in the center of the small dining room. Joining me were a couple from Jersey (Channel Islands) UK, another couple from Helsinki, a single lady from Louisiana, and a single gentlemen from Las Vegas. We all got along famously and dinner became an event to look forward to. Service and food in the Princess Grill was exemplary. The staff addressed you by name at all times, and you basically wanted for nothing. In fact, I can honestly proclaim my dining experience was the best of any ship I’ve sailed except Silversea. I could not have been more pleased. Most nights there was something wonderful being prepared tableside and you could also order many items a la carte. In addition special requests were encouraged if you had a unique desire. Our table got along so well that often times we found ourselves the last remaining occupants, lingering well beyond 10:30pm on many nights. Never once were we rushed or given those not so subtle hints that it was time to vacate the dining room.
I think the best entertainment was my fellow passengers. They were far more interesting than any Las Vegas show or comedian. I did not attend one evening show on this voyage, as frankly I was having too much fun socializing. Special mention must be made of the lecture series. They were excellent and well attended. Any ship buff or historian was certainly in heaven on this voyage. On the lecture circuit were Ted Scull, John Maxtone-Graham, Patrick Allitt, and Dr. Peter Crimes. Also onboard was the charming (and new friend) Ann Haynes who was available to sign her book “Union-Castle Line Purserette”, and Douglas Ward, author of the infamous Berlitz Guide to Cruising. Especially enjoyable for me were Ted Scull’s ocean liner and New York lectures, and of course those given by John Maxtone-Graham as well.
I can’t talk about entertainment without mentioning all the parties. They were great fun and it seemed I couldn’t return to my cabin without finding another invitation. I enjoyed my first visit to the Officer’s Ward Room for a cocktail party, as well as two private parties given by fellow passengers (one in a suite and another in the Yacht Club). In addition there was the “Senior Officer’s Party” in the Queen’s Room and of course the traditional Captain’s Welcome party and the Cunard World Club past passenger party. All very festive indeed!
You can’t write about a traditional transatlantic crossing in this day and age without mentioning QE2. There has been so much written about this great ship by so many talented people that I dare not try to compete. Suffice it to say, the “Queen” has won me over. My first sailing on QE2 left much to be desired, but things were vastly different this time around. The ship seemed more cheerful and much of this had to do with a crew that seemed content, well trained, and happy. Is this the result of Princess Cruises at work? I don’t know. I do know I did not encounter a single rude crew member and the ambition seemed to be one of pleasing the passengers. The ship itself looked very good and in tip top shape. Everything worked as it should, cabins and public areas were spotless, and maintenance seemed to be of a very high standard. As with any ship 35+ years of age, not everything is going to look new and shiny and I think this is part of the charm. QE2 is a lady that has circumnavigated the globe many times over and it shows. This is a good thing. She is like a favorite old shoe that fits perfectly every time and is extremely comfortable. Favorite areas were the Princess Grill, Princess Grill Bar, Chart Room, Theater, Indoor Pool, Library, Book Shop, and the Yacht Club. Outdoor decks looked superb and I noticed plenty of beautiful new teak furniture.
This may sound a little strange, but many of us ship enthusiasts (myself included) were a bit disappointed in the fine weather. We had a few short hours one evening of moderate seas, but it was over almost before it began. We did experience a several days of consistent ship movement (side to side and not fore to aft), but nothing too serious. The last day was truly calm and this was especially evident when all the wonderful creaking in my cabin subsided. The air temperature was unexpectedly warm most afternoons. Several days I took my stroll on deck with nothing but the clothes I was wearing and no additional jacket. The first and last days were the chilliest, but I wouldn’t go as far to call it cold. Maybe next year we will experience the rough seas we all had hoped for.
My Fellow Passengers.
Special mention must be made of my fellow passengers. They were truly the reason this crossing was such an enjoyable success. Unlike your typical passenger on a 7-day Caribbean cruise, only a certain type of person is attracted to a North Atlantic Winter crossing. Call us insane (as my partner does), adventurous, or both! I’ve never traveled with a more interesting and enjoyable group of people. In fact many of us started communicating well before our voyage on the various Internet message boards. It was great fun actually meeting the online personalities and seeing how they stack up against their online persona. In every case I was not disappointed and feel I have made several new friendships for years to come. We nicknamed ourselves the “WCC”, or Winter Crossing Club and I’m hopeful this will become an annual event so long as QE2 is still with us.
One adventure we WCC members enjoyed was a “Cabin Cavalcade”. What is a Cabin Cavalcade you may ask? Since QE2 is not a cookie cutter ship, almost every cabin on the ship is different even within the same cabin category. We all thought it would be great fun to embark on a cabin exploration one afternoon. Participation was excellent and I would estimate we viewed twenty or so cabins of various WCC members. Many cabin types were represented from small inside single cabins, to large original suites midship on One Deck. It was great fun if not a little chaotic at times due to the large number of people involved.
One evening several of us went on an expedition to the funnel. This meant climbing steep stairs and ladders in our finest evening wear, and braving the elements of rather cold weather, drizzle, and sea spray. In the end it was worth it as we laid our hands on the base of the great funnel and posed for some incriminating photos!
Special thanks to all my new friends (and a few old ones to) for making this crossing something to remember. I must also thank Captain Rynd and his lovely wife Julie for making this crossing extra special. Their hospitality is greatly appreciated. When my brother had to cancel I was a bit concerned about sailing solo. Would I get lonely? Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact I had very little time to myself as you couldn’t walk around the ship without running into someone you know and getting involved in shipboard chat. Simply put, there were not enough hours in the day to enjoy all the stimulating conversation and shipboard gossip.
Disembarkation and Going Home.
Our arrival in NY on January 9, 2006 was during the wee hours of the morning. Too early in fact for me to get out of bed and watch the spectacle. It’s hard to awake at 4am when you just hit the sheets a couple hours earlier! By the time I awoke we were alongside at the Passenger Ship Terminal on the West Side of Manhattan. While outdated, this facility has many memories for me having visited so many ships here as a child. Sad to say, but the facility looks identical to my recollection from the late 1970’s. For this reason, and I’m sure many others, this could very well be QE2’s last visit to the West Side piers. Beginning later this year, all Cunard ships (along with many other lines) will dock at a new facility in Brooklyn. It’s hard to imagine arriving in NY by sea and docking anywhere besides the West Side piers.
I purchased a Cunard transfer to La Guardia airport and it went without a hitch. I was able to catch an 11am Delta flight to Atlanta and even got confirmed in First Class. I was pulling into my garage by 2:30pm. Just like the beginning of this adventure (and the middle for that matter), the ending also ended on a very positive note.
Until next time, long live the QE2!