View from our balcony at the pier in New York.

Here we are during the Ascot Ball i the ballroom. You can tell it was on the way over, rather than back, because I am wearing a tie.

 

 

 

One of the formal nights on the return trip.

 

OUR HONEYMOON ON THE QUEEN MARY

June, 2010

 

We booked a B&B to stay the night before departure close to the pier in Red Hook, Brooklyn, which the Queen Mary 2 uses. That evening, we got a cell phone message from Cunard saying the departure had been moved to Manhattan Pier 95. It seems the Staten Island Ferry had hit the pier in Red Hook and damaged it. So, we had a long taxi ride to the pier.

Cunard plays up the iconic nature of "the Queens," perhaps the most famous cruise ships. There still are class differences, as in the old days. When we arrived inside the terminal a representative asked us, "Are you among our Grill passengers?" I didn't even understand the question. It turns out that those who have booked the expensive suites dine in the special "grill" restaurants reserved for them. Apparently in English lore this has a lot more status that my association of "bar and grill."

We were all lovey dovey, of course, thrilled with our 11th deck balcony. The higher the deck, the more expensive. I splurged a bit. It turned out, however, that our balcony was shadowed by the overhanging 12th deck, depriving us of direct sunlight, or views of the moon. Finally, chocolates on the pillows. Do you know that most cruise lines have done away with that?

The ship was accompanied out of the harbor by a Coast Guard boat with a man on the front deck, brandishing a machine gun. One pleasure boat seemed to be approaching a little close, so they intercepted them and had them change course. I have photos of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, but they are gray and distant. Not very interesting. In 1922 my Grandfather, his wife, and eight kids came through Ellis Island, arriving from Sweden. Once in Manhattan, they attempted to ride on the subway, but the door closed, leaving half of the group in the station, with the other half being whisked away. Only my grandfather spoke English. They lived in Springfield, MA.

Most of the details about our honeymoon I'm not going to share. We continued to take dance lessons. The QM2 has the largest dance floor at sea, a whole ballroom and full orchestra. Formal tea was held there every day at 3:00. After a few days, we realized that our diet couldn't support three meals plus scones, clotted cream, jam, canapes, and desserts.

I bought a designer suit to get married in, and brought it for formal nights. We spent four days in Southampton, where we had a great time, and returned to New York on the Queen Mary 2 in the other direction. Why, you might ask, is the trip seven days going east and six days going west? Because of the constantly changing time zones. On the way over, we had 23-hour days, whereas on the way west, we had 25-hour days. that's why we take repositioning cruises from Europe to the US, rather than the other way around.

The ship itself is impressive, built as a true ocean liner, as opposed to a cruise ship. Most cruise ships have catamaran hulls, and draw 24 to 30 feet of water. The QM2 has a V-shaped hull and draws 36 feet of water. We passed within 25 miles of the place where the Titanic sank. No icebergs in sight, thanks to global warming. On the return, we were 200 miles north of the Titanic route. We wanted some rough seas to put the ship to the test, but it was calm in both directions. This is the ship I would like to take a world cruise on some day.

The first Queen Mary, you may remember, is in Long Beach, CA, as a hotel and tourist attraction. She and the Queen Elizabeth ruled the seas. The QE, built in 1940, was for 32 years the largest liner afloat. Plans to turn her into a hotel in Fort Lauderdale fell through. In 1972 in Asia, amidst plans to turn her into a floating university, she caught fire, burned completely, and capsized, leaning at a 60-degree angle. The photos of her demise and charred hulk are horrifying. Now Cunard has three queens, Mary, Elizabeth, and Victoria. There was a Queen Elizabeth II in there somewhere, and now a new Queen Elizabeth, inaugurated in Southampton by Queen Elizabeth herself, who had also attended the christening of the other two Queen Elizabeths.Wow!

While in Southampton we visited friends at the Priory in Christchurch, and the Isle of Wight. I bought two sets of bow ties and cumber buns, to make my dark suit look like a tux. We discovered fish pie. Yummy. And then we went back to New York. We met one man who went to New York for one day of shopping, getting back onto the QM2 to return to England the same day he arrived. What is the cruising equivalent of a jet-setter? A ship-setter? Anyway, our marriage was celebrated wonderfully on this honeymoon. When we started to show photos to friends, we realized they were all of us. We didn't bother to record the scenery.

I should mention our visit to Salisbury. I am a big fan of Gothic Cathedrals, of which that is an excellent example. (My favorite is Chartres Cathedral, in France, which have visited 52 times over a period of 46 years.) On the return cruise, a British couple went on at some length about how boring and uninteresting Southampton was. It's a good thing we didn't know that, as we had a wonderful time. It has been a major cruise port for centuries. We will certainly return to Europe in the future on the Queen Mary 2. It doesn't cost that much more than airfare would. Once, passenger jets were thought to be the death knell of cruising. Now, this offers a far greater experience than being crammed into an airplane. I'll take the open seas any day.