Dispatch, QM2: The crossing begins


Donna Tunney QUEEN MARY 2

Travel Weekly’s Donna Tunney is aboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 for a transatlantic cruise. Her first dispatch follows. Click to read her second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth dispatches.

So long, Manhattan. Hello, North Atlantic.

Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 pulled out of the cruise terminal in the late afternoon Tuesday under the first hint of blue sky that New York had seen in days.

Twenty-six hundred passengers, the vast majority of them sporting British accents, began their seven-day voyage to Southampton, England. The onboard atmosphere was festive as Cunard’s flagship made its way past Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, and under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, but a tad reserved until the drinks started flowing on the outdoor decks. Folks started to loosen up.

An hour later, as the ocean liner made its way south, the sound of a howling wind broke the silence of empty corridors as passengers retreated to their staterooms to dress for dinner.

My dispatches from the Queen Mary 2 this week will showcase the ship’s design, amenities, activities, dining options and service.

Some questions come to mind.

What kind of traveler best fits this cruise product?

Is a transatlantic sailing still as glamorous as old movies make it out to be?

Who are my fellow passengers?

What is there to do all day?

The Queen Mary 2 entered service in 2004. It’s 1,132 feet long (imagine 41 double-decker London buses end to end) and 131 feet wide, and is 150,000 gross tons. Its whistle is audible for 10 miles, according to the Cunard fact sheet. Sounds impressive, but once we reach the open ocean, a 10-mile stretch is I guess what qualifies as a drop in the bucket.

There was, of course, an earlier Queen Mary, which was owned by Cunard-White Star Line and began sailing transatlantic cruises in 1936. Its final voyage came in 1967. After that it began a new life as a museum/hotel in Long Beach, Calif.

That ship’s fastest eastbound crossing was done in 1966, in four days and 10 hours. (The Queen Mary 2 moves more slowly these days to conserve fuel.)

So here I sit with my iPhone, iPad, Mac laptop, digital camera/video recorder and a slew of chargers and computer cords. It’s a computer bag full of electronic gizmos few could’ve imagined on the original Queen Mary back in the 1930s.

But my guess is that I’m not so different from the folks who sailed transatlantic cruises six decades ago. I’m keeping fingers crossed for calm seas, and I bet they did the same thing.

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