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Embarking the Queen

The Queen Mary 2; all 150,000 tons of her

RUSS_RAFF_crossing.jpegThe RMS (Royal Mail Ship—an honorary title) Queen Mary 2 is not a “cruise ship”; but is instead an “ocean liner.” QM2 is, in fact, the only ocean liner in regular service going back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean from Brooklyn, NY, USA, to Southampton, UK (fourteen times this year beginning on August 6 and ending on December 5). To be clear, sixteen other cruise ship companies make 38 other trips crossing the Atlantic leaving from somewhere else (maybe Barcelona, Copenhagen or Rome) and arriving somewhere else (maybe Montreal, Boston or Miami) but most of them are referred to as “repositioning” cruises and sold at a discount since they offer none of the normal ports of call as on their “regular” cruises.

What makes this 1,132-foot-long (not quite four football fields), over 150,000 gross-ton-ship an ocean liner and not a cruise ship? QM2 is designed for fast and stable crossings of potentially rough seas. QM2 contains 40% more steel than a similar sized cruise ship would have. QM2 is much faster, capable of doing 35 miles per hour. (Cruise ships average 23 miles per hour) QM2 is powerful with four diesel engines backed up by two more gas turbine engines powering four propeller pods, two of which are able to turn 360-degrees to more precisely steer and maneuver the ship. QM2 sailed its maiden voyage on January 12, 2004. Designers expect the ship to be in productive service for 40 years.

The ship docked for two weeks at Piraeus Harbor in Athens during the 2004 Olympics and served as a hotel for the United States Olympic bronze medal basketball team, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac and U.S. President George W. Bush. We are uncertain as to which cabin was assigned to which notable person but, suffice to say, there are plenty of fancy suites to go around, including five "Grand Duplex Suites" that measure up to a staggering 2,249 square feet in enormousness. We will dine with those dignitaries in the Queen's Grill Restaurant but probably won't rub elbows with them.

Cunard, QM2’s owner, which “provides cruising for the elite” began business in 1840 as a steamship company when Samuel Cunard commenced regularly scheduled Atlantic Ocean crossings. In 2015, cruise giant Carnival purchased Cunard for $500 million. Today, the Cunard division of Carnival operates two cruise ships (the 2,081 passenger Queen Elizabeth and the 2,061 passenger Queen Victoria) and one ocean liner: the 2,695 passenger Queen Mary 2. Five years ago, I sailed aboard the Queen Elizabeth across the Pacific Ocean and back for 36 wonderful nights.

Today, as a 70th birthday gift from B4, she and I cross the north Atlantic Ocean in style.

When QM2 is not shuttling between New York and Great Britain, it is also used for cruising, including one fabulous world cruise lasting 108 Days from Brooklyn to Brooklyn stopping in 40 ports including Cairo, Goa (India) and Beijing. You and your bestie can have a small suite for that journey for slightly more than $100,000.00 ($953 per night) or an inside cabin (talk about claustrophobia) for just over $40,000.00 ($397 per night). If that’s too much, you could hop onto the QM2 in Southampton and sail to Hamburg and back using up only four days and spending less than $1,000 for a nice inside cabin. The price will fall as the sailing date nears; unless the ship sells out and you miss out.

Prior to arriving here early this morning, QM2 sailed from Hamburg to Southampton to New York to up the St. Lawrence River to Quebec and then back here to Brooklyn to pick us up.

On our upcoming Transatlantic itinerary, there were inside cabins, balcony cabins and suites still available two months before sailing being offered as low as $1,400 for the seven nights. One week prior to sailing a balcony for two on this crossing purchased from vacationstogo.com would set you back only $1,568, a 59% discount. (It was on offer on Cunard’s site for $1,698). You could also buy a much smaller ocean view single (for one, you understand) for $1,734 or $1,684 at vacationstogo. As you can see, cruise pricing makes no sense.

All sold out were upgraded accommodation in Club Balcony (premium economy?), Princess Grill (business class?) and Queens Grill (definitely first class)—where, thanks to my loving B4, we will be regally ensconced in Queens Grill Suite 9028.

Much of QM2’s outdoor space is sheltered by wind screens to protect passengers when sailing at higher speeds in cooler weather. One of the five swimming pools can be covered by a retractable sliding glass roof called a “magrodome” and one other pool is completely indoors next to the Deck 7, Canyon Ranch Spa Club. One of my favorite features is a continuous wrap-around promenade walking/jogging deck where 2.6 laps equals one mile. The typical high school running track is four laps per mile.

QM2 sports an unconventional funnel design because a more typical, taller, funnel would not have been able to pass, at high tide, under New York City’s 228-foot Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. High tide today, by the way, is at 7:42 tonight. Even with that funnel, however, QM2 is too tall to transit the Panama Canal because Panama’s Bridge of the Americas limits clearance to just 201 feet.

Historical Fact: Headed here, the White Star Line’s Titanic set sail from our destination port of Southampton exactly 106 years and 6 months ago. Those who are very precise in their history of ocean crossings will, no doubt, remind me that Titanic didn’t sail directly from Southampton to New York. Her first stop out of Southampton was Cherbourg, France, where 274 passengers boarded while her second stop was outside of Cork, Ireland at the port of Cobh, (then known as Queenstown) where 120 more people embarked. Seven lucky souls disembarked there. Four days later, on April 14, 1912, the Titanic struck an iceberg where, of the 1,324 passengers and 908 crew, 1,503 human souls perished. We anticipate better fortunes on this October, 2018, crossing. That choice of words is intentional; this is not a "cruise;" it is, in fact, a "crossing." ad63db30-c4d9-11e8-bf40-0fd4d9a1488f.jpg8ecc04d0-c4da-11e8-88ea-d3ce4e7211e8.jpg

Second Historical Fact: Cunard took a cow on its first transatlantic crossing in 1840 to guarantee fresh milk for the passengers’ tea.

Third Historical Fact: One in five immigrants to the United States arrived in the United States at Ellis Island past which we soon sail. Cunard was then White Star’s main competitor until the two lines merged in 1934. My grandfather, Michael Francis Russell, born in Ireland on September 16, 1872 (either in Dublin or Kilkee in County Clare—we’re uncertain), one day and 76 years before my birthday which we here celebrate, arrived in the United States 215 miles north in Boston in 1893. Allegedly, he was a 21-year-old “cabin boy” aboard a ship whose name we do not know. Visas were not required.

But, as usual, I digress.

Cunard, alone among cruise lines (to the best of my knowledge) does not forbid the bringing of "personal alcohol" aboard; it does, however limit it to two bottles. So, we stop at Michael Towne's Wine & Spirits to acquire two bottles of prosecco, not to be confused with Champagne. Champagne must come from the Champagne region of northeast France and must be made from chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes. Conversely, prosecco comes from the glera grape, which is native to the Veneto region of Italy (just north of beautiful Venice). And, it is remarkably less expensive and noticeably sweeter in taste. Both are sparkling wines--lots of bubbles--but Champagne carbonates while it is being bottled while prosecco carbonates in stainless steel vats. But, as usual, I digress once more.QM2SailingFull.jpgQM2Champagne.jpgQM29028Bed.jpgQM2908Door.jpg

Checking in, boarding, finding our stateroom, getting our bags, B4 finding the spa and making appointments, meeting Joel our butler and James our steward all went well. Lunch at the Queens Grill was unimpressive because our table is adjacent to a servers dirty dish collection area and is cacophonous. I request a table change; we will see if that happens. Boarding we met Bob and Mel, a delightful couple from Brooklyn, together for 52 years, married for 14. My fondest wish is that we become friends with them during our crossing. DailyProgramme10072018.jpg

Our lifeboat drill is coming up in a few minutes.

Posted by paulej4 13:24 Archived in USA Tagged queen mary 2

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Bon Voyage my friends!
May the seas grant you smooth sailing.
More pics of the two of you please.
Liz oxox

by Liz Chatelain

I love the history and don’t mind your digressions:)

All interesting and personal.


by Ray stuart

Wow, I am living vicariously! You two look so happy.
Bring me back a doggy bag...or a towel!

by Liz Chatelain

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