George Nicon Andritsakis
Long Live the Queen! An Unforgettable Voyage on the Queen Mary 2
**This article originally appeared on my FL310 Travel Blog on December 3, 2016. It's been updated for this website.**
I have been waiting to try Cunard's Queen Mary 2 for more than 9 years now, ever since I was a wet behind the ears, newly minted travel agent. I had heard the stories, knew the history, and started booking Cunard from the get-go. Well, in 2016, I finally got the chance, as I had passed Cunard's Commodore Training program and earned my Graduation Cruise. Now, you have a choice of the 3 Queens of the fleet, but I wanted the Flagship, the Queen Mary 2, on the route the Queens made famous for centuries...the Transatlantic crossing between New York and Southampton, UK.
It all started during the Orthodox Easter week of 2016. A bet was made with several coworkers that I could finish off the entire Cunard Commodore training in 3 days. Not one to back down from a challenge, I accepted, and off I went, cramming my brain with everything Cunard had to offer and knocking down one level after another until late Sunday afternoon I had achieved my Commodore Status with a 98% passing grade. Score! I won my bet and made plans to take the entire family with me across the pond later this November, for their 38th anniversary. Pre- and Post- Cruise stays and airfare taken care of, my parent's cabin upgraded to a Club Balcony Stateroom, and mine and my daughter's cabin paid for, and we were set.
Waking up in New York on November 12 (after an amazing eventful night on the town) we were filled with excitement and anticipation as our ride took us from the Waldorf Astoria in Midtown down across the Brooklyn Bridge and around to the cruise terminal. Even before we got out of the ride the Cunard porters had already unloaded all our luggage and had them ready for check-in.
At the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, Cunard check-in is a snap, especially if you have a group that needs wheelchair assistance, and/or are one of the higher Status World Club Members such as Platinum or Diamond Tier, you can take advantage of the expedited check-in and World Club Elite Lounge before boarding. Because both of my parents were in wheelchairs and I am a Platinum Tier World Club member (Thank you Cunard Agent Training!), we were sent over to the World Club Elite Lounge, then on up to the Queen Mary 2.
Once on deck, you get a purely British welcome aboard and there are quite a few porters there to help you find your stateroom, and as we were taking Mom and Dad up to their stateroom first, we got a good look around at the Foyer and all the high-end shops, and had our Embarkation photo taken (available for purchase from the photo shop during the cruise) while our luggage was delivered to either stateroom. From the rotunda of shops you are taken to Stairwell B, the 2nd main elevator bank on the ship, and on up to Deck 12, where we were sent down the hallway to Stairwell A, the only elevator bank with access to the Club Balcony staterooms on Deck 13.
The Club Balcony staterooms on Deck 13 are nicely laid out and spacious, as far as cruise ship staterooms go. Just a bit larger in square footage than the regular Balcony and Sheltered Balcony staterooms, it comes with an updated bathroom, glass-fronted balcony, and a slightly larger and plusher sitting area. Deck 13 is the highest stateroom level on the ship, and you would think being that high up and that far forward from the ship's center of gravity, you'd be rocking back and forth the whole time. Not so much on the Queen Mary 2. She was designed as a higher speed ocean liner versus the regular cruise ships elsewhere, so no matter where you are on her, you're going to be rock steady, unless you're in a storm, of course, but that goes without saying.
Leaving the folks to relax, unwind and unpack, the teenager and I headed on down to Deck 6 to our stateroom. Our room was in the aft-middle of the ship, and a heck of a long hike from Stairwell A (our stateroom was two doors down from the entry to stairwell C, the third main elevator bank onboard). Long trek aside, our stateroom was another Cunard-Only design, the Sheltered Balcony. What's interesting about these cabins is that they are balconies that have been "punched out" of the ship's hull below the deck line, allowing for a huge increase in total balconies available. The balcony is the same size as the normal balconies above, but it is not as exposed to the elements with the hull surrounding it, giving a massive open-air "window" to the sea.
With our luggage unpacked and stowed, we met up with the folks in the Kings Court buffet, up one level on Deck 7. In the hustle and bustle of checking out of the Waldorf Astoria, to checking in and getting on board, somehow we forgot to eat a single thing, and we knew we couldn't hold out until our reservation at the Smokehouse. So, snack time it was, and having killed the hunger pangs sufficiently, the Teen and I went exploring.
We managed to cover Decks 2 (Cunard Connexions Internet and communication center, the Royal Court Theatre, Casino, Purser's Office, the Photo Gallery, Golden Lion Pub, and the lower level of the Britannia Restaurant), Deck 3 (Illuminations Planetarium, the upper level of the Royal Court Theatre, the galleria of shops, upper portion of the Grand Lobby, the Duty Free shop, Veuve Cliquot Champagne Bar, the Chart Room, Sir Samuel's Coffee Bar, the Upper Level of the Britannia Restaurant, the Queen's Room, the Art Gallery, and the G32 night club), and Deck 8 (the well-stocked Library and Bookshop, the Beauty Salon, the Verandah Restaurant, and the outdoor Terrace Pool). Having explored a bit, we hustled back to the stateroom and changed for the folks' Anniversary Dinner.
On any given Trans-Atlantic crossing there are 3 formal nights, where ladies are in elegant gowns or fine dresses and the Gents in tuxes or dark suits with ties frolic the night away. The first night out of port is an informal night, as it should be, as passengers are unwinding from the hustle and bustle of embarkation. For someone like me, I relish and look forward to formal nights. Dressing up to the nines and looking like an overfed and underpowered James Bond is my forte!
During formal nights there are balls and dances to go to, and cocktail receptions to sip champagne at, and even a Captain's night for the upper Tier World Club members and Club and Suite level passengers to hobnob with the Senior Staff and get their photo taken with Captain Wells. That was probably the most fun I had at any of the get-togethers on board.
On the typical Trans-Atlantic sojourn, you have a wealth of activities to do and places to see to while the time away. Our favorite places were the board game tables on Deck 3 on either side of the Royal Court Theatre, the Library, both stateroom balconies (believe it or not, it was not that cold for being early November), and the Golden Lion Pub. The Carinthia Lounge is also a great place to relax, and have a sip of wine and some very fine canapes. There's also the plethora of shopping choices and the casino as well. The Queen Mary 2 is also home to Illuminations, the ONLY planetarium at sea. It is an amazing and incredibly unique space on board.
Disembarking in Southampton was quick and painless, especially since we had early disembarkation due to the Platinum Tier status and wheelchair assistance. The gangway in Southampton was smaller than the one in New York, and less steep, which made the descent to dry land easier. Since we had already cleared UK Customs on board during the voyage across the pond, all we had to do was pick up our luggage and find our driver for the 2-hour journey to London. Luckily, he was already there waiting for us, and within 10 minutes of disembarking, we were cruising up the M3 to the 2nd greatest city on Earth.
The week onboard the Queen Mary 2 was one of the most sensational, relaxing, and uplifting travel experiences I've had yet, and even though I'm not much of a Cruise fanatic, I would gladly board the Queen again, hopefully in September 2020 for Symphony Week, a week of private and personal Symphony performances onboard the Queen Mary 2, led by Anthony Inglis and the UK National Symphony (UK's National Symphony Week 2020).
To book a cruise, or to get more info, send me a message or call me on the website here, or hit me up on social media, and I'll get you on your way.