There are ocean cruises, and there are ocean crossings… and only one Queen Mary 2.
In the off-season, this jewel of the Cunard line sails on extended world cruises to multiple ports, but during warm weather, it is the only ocean-going vessel that hosts regularly scheduled crossings of the North Atlantic — 26 of them between New York City and Southampton, England. In an era before Boeing and Airbus, this was how kings and commoners commuted between the Old World and New World — although generally in less splendor.
A crossing today means that for five days and six nights going east — and six and seven coming back — the traveler is trapped inside a prison of delights. Once on board this huge vessel, there are no ports of call in between to vie for your attention and no way of changing your mind or getting off early — unless you enjoy high diving and marathon swimming. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Reinhard_Schuldt)
Boarding in New York is normally at the Brooklyn terminal on a Tuesday afternoon with a rigorously held departure time of 5 p.m. Take one last glance at lower Manhattan, wave goodbye to Lady Liberty, then marvel at how close the ship’s flags come to touching the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. This Tuesday evening will be your last sight of land, and perhaps even of other vessels, until daybreak off southern England the following Monday.
If all this relative solitude from the rest of the world makes you nervous — just you and around 2,500 other passengers and a crew of more than 1,300 — then quickly dress for the first seating, if you’ve planned ahead, at 6 p.m. For the next week, you can lose yourself in a sea of impeccably prepared food and drink.
This is what my two brothers and I did recently going to and coming from England where we drove on the wrong side of the road for a week in between while the ship did a one-trip-only extension to Germany and Norway. (Photo courtesy of Roger Morris)
The basic rhythm of the QM2 centers around two factors — where and when you eat the evening meal. Everything else is flexible. If you paid more money for a larger cabin or a suite, you will eat your main meals in the Grills. If you paid less, your cabin will be smaller, but still relatively large, and you will eat in the spacious and elegant Britannica restaurant. If you choose the 6 p.m. seating, you may have to rush to dinner. If you choose the 8:30 p.m. seating, you may have to rush to the evening show.