Onboard the QM2: Busy days at sea


Managing Editor Rebecca Tobin spent seven days onboard the remastered Queen Mary 2, on a transatlantic crossing from New York to Southampton, England.

ONBOARD THE QUEEN MARY 2 -- A transatlantic voyage -- according to QM2 captain Christopher Wells, it's a voyage or a crossing, never a cruise -- is a unique vacation.

The Queen is the only ship that sails the North Atlantic on a regular basis, and the vessel (a vessel or a liner; not a cruise ship or, heaven forbid, a boat) was purpose-built for the practice: A long, slim bow with a high steel superstructure is its defining profile.

The arc of the vacation also, not surprisingly, is different from your standard cruise. Where a standard cruise might start and end with a sea day or two, this crossing is full of them. Each night when our next-day's program was delivered to our cabin, there it was.

Day Two, at sea, en route to Southampton. Day Three, at sea, en route to Southampton.

We signed up for the Eastbound crossing, a seven-day journey from New York to Southampton, England. Lest one think that a crossing is seven days of gray skies, endless ocean and infinite boredom, let me reassure you it's not. Our days sped by so quickly that I was grumbling on Day Six that I hadn't spent enough time in the Commodore Club with my Kindle, in the spa or at lunch in the pub.

There's one major drawback to the Eastbound crossing, and that's the time change. Each day at noon, after the Queen's four horns were sounded, including the thrilling deep bass of the original Queen Mary's whistle, the ship's clocks were advanced one hour, so noon suddenly became 1 p.m. Passengers with a 6 p.m. dinner seating had to learn to be canny about how and when to eat breakfast and lunch, or throw all inhibitions to the wind and just eat at four-hour intervals.

A major plus of the Eastbound, assuming the weather in New York is good, is that you can embark early, throw on your bathing togs and take advantage of the Queen's outdoor sundecks and swimming pools, with Lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge as a backdrop. On our first day, the weather in New York was 80 degrees and sunny; by Day Four we'd dropped to a bracing 60-with-rain. As Captain Wells said, the true color of the North Atlantic is gray.

Another well-documented tip on the cruise message boards: On the Eastbound, try to book a starboard cabin so you'll be on the "sunny" side of the ship.

What else is there to do onboard? Our kid liked a post-breakfast dip in the covered Pavillion pool, and she'd disappear after lunch for the Kids Zone. An elaborate toilette for dinner is de rigueur, so one must leave time for that. And then there's eating, lectures, crafts, trivia, theater, movies, dancing, music and the spa. Not to mention other activities (deck-walking, reading, watching the waves, napping) that sound minor but actually seem like luxuries, since when do any of us have time at home to read and look out the window?

A handful of the heavily trafficked areas of our voyage were:

The Atlantic Room, anytime. Above the bridge with sweeping views of the ship's forward progress. But you're not there to look at the ocean but to play bridge.

The Golden Lion Pub, noon. Hands down, the best daily lunch menu onboard; my family ate there three times on our voyage. Also, it has a tremendous selection of British ales and other beer. If Premier League football is on the telly, be sure to get there before noon.

Deck 6 aft, port side, 2 p.m. This is when all the kids return to the Zone for afternoon activities.

Queens Room, 3:30 p.m. For tea, love. And be sure to leave room for extra scones and clotted cream.

Queens Room, 10 p.m. Bless the QM2 for its themed formal nights. On our trip there was black-and-white night and masquerade, and both nights it seems like half the ship shows up for post-dinner drinks and dancing. Going early is a must if you want to stake out a prime table by the dance floor.

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI