Another Calm Atlantic Crossing
Bernard Strutt | July 23, 2019 | Cunard | Queen Mary 2
Our 5th time on QM2 which remains our favourite ship although we continue to cruise with P&O as Caribean and occasionally Baltic tier passengers. We were doing the 21 day round trip from Southampton.
We travelled down from Trowell on the Intercruises coach, which also had passengers for Queen Victoria on board. No queues at checkin and cabin 4018 was ready when we boarded around 3pm and luggage all arrived shortly after. Evenings we dined, second sitting in the lower part of the Britannia Restaurant at a table for 2. Actually the table was so close to the next one we could have been at a table for 4! Fortunately for the first 7 nights the adjacent couple were pleasant company for dinner, from Vancouver and both vegetarian which was slightly embarrassing when ordering my rare steak. Portions in the restaurant seemed have got smaller and the printed menu was reduced to three courses but alternatives were available including a separate vegetarian menu on request. Our two waiters were very good and assured me that their real names were John Erik and John Poll with name badges of Erik and John. Breakfast and lunch were taken in the Kings Court buffet where we had no problems finding a table. Some of the waiting staff in Kings Court were African, from Zimbabwe, which is the first time that we have ever encountered staff from Africa on cruise ships.
We made good use of the library and the Thermal Spa. We had one lunch in Golden Lion (for the steak and mushroom pudding) and attended two shows in the Royal Court. But other than taking part in the golf competitions in the simulator we did not take advantage of any of the other facilities and activities on the ship. I did manage to read more than 20 books during the three weeks were on board.
The crossing to New York was mostly fogbound with the ships horn sounding for much of the time, the Ocean was flat calm and when walking round on board it was difficult to believe that you were on a ship. A litre of Gordon’s Gin from room service for drinking in cabin $65, but could pick up two litres from on board duty free shop the day before New York for $32.
In New York QM2 berths in Brooklyn. The disembarkation was chaotic with no provision for passengers in transit. We left the ship at 9.30 and were told to join the line of passengers waiting to claim their luggage. The line stretched about 50 yards back from baggage hall and we were told that wait was over an hour, we decided to go back on board and wait. In spite of an argument with port staff who said we could not go back there was no problem reboarding. We left the ship again at 11.30 and found that there was a separate line for transit passengers. Having had our ESTAs checked, fingerprinted and photographed the agent did not stamp our passports but we were allowed in to USA (we have been to USA more than 50 times). By then it was really to late to do much as we were due back on board for 4.30pm sailing. On a previous occasion we had walked to IKEA – free WiFi and free tea and coffee every day with US IKEA Family Card which like in UK you can pick up in store. This time we just walked past all the taxis to the new ferry terminal to check the details. Ferries every 30 minutes to Pier 11 Wall Street $2.75 one way, ticket machine on ferry dock, tickets valid for 12 months , advise getting two tickets per person so that do not have to queue for ticket for return journey. Ticket machine takes cash and cards but some people had difficulty with their card. Having checked out ferry we went back to cruise terminal where there is no WiFi.
More chaos! Eventually got directed to transit passenger line where passport and cruise card checked. We had priority boarding but the so called embarkation lounge for Platinum and Diamond passengers was already full with around 20 people and we were given a number and told to sit in main hall. The embarkation lounge itself was a scruffy little room with a few plastic chairs down one wall and some water dispensers on a counter. Eventually our number was called and we were allowed back on board..
Due to depart at 4.30 but about then, the Captain announced we would be delayed because a flight from Manchester was late and needed to await those passengers. About 7pm two Mercedes mini buses arrived and decanted a number of people most clutching Macy’s bags. It turned out that about 40 people on Cunards trip to Macys had been told when dropped off by their coach driver that return coach was 3,30pm. Apparently the return coach returned for 2.30 ( which was time in the published programme) and picked up the 3 passengers who were waiting there and left for the ship. The people who turned up for 3.30pm then had anxious wait for transport back to ship as taxis etc were in short supply and difficult to access because Manhattan was closed down for the Gay Pride March. Cunard refunded the cost of the trip $49 and gave a bottle of wine. After the Macys trip had reboarded a fire engine and an ambulance arrived on the quayside. Firefighters and ambulance crew came on the ship and a lady was eventually taken off in a wheel chair although she did manage to walk unaided into the ambulance.
We started our cruise up the east coast with dinner back in the Britannia watching out for our new neighbours who turned out to be two wonderful ladies from Brooklyn on a break from work by taking their first cruise. Their anxieties about any rough seas was totally unfounded as the sea was a flat calm for the whole 7 days of their cruise.
Trip up to Halifax was again fogbound but Halifax was sunny and warm. We had to fill in a Canadian Customs form on the ship and were able to walk off the ship with no further formality and no passports. We had arranged to meet with friends in Halifax and we went for a walk around Halifax Public Gardens were we had coffee in cafe/visitor centre. I had a look at the visitor book and the last people to sign were the Potters from my home city of Sheffield, whether they were on the QM2 I know not. We had lunch at a local bistro before returning to the ship to take advantage of the free WiFi. Incidentally the shipped berthed at Pier 22 and in the terminal there were a number of stalls selling local produce of rather better quality than we have seen elsewhere. Within walking distance of the terminal and the opposite the Rail Terminal is a large Atlantic Supermarket. A dozen Schweppes 150ml tonic waters were C$6 in the store, credit cards accepted.
Boston. US Immigration on board, checked passport and ESTA, stamped passport. Sun shining warm and busy on 4th July. Cunard Shuttle to near Quincy Market. Starbucks about 30 yards from drop off point. Good WiFi and plenty of seating upstairs. Big crowds, various entertainers around market. Had two bowls of Boston Chowder and a Seasonal Sam Adams in Sterlings – $30 including tax and tip.
Newport, RI. By road 73 miles from a Boston, QM2 took about 30 hours. Tendering. First 4 tenders got away before Captain suspended sailings because fog had rolled in from the land and Newport had disappeared. Restarted tendering about noon and went ashore. Starbucks almost opposite landing area on Thames Street. Bought two T shirts for $10. Caught return tender in bright sunshine but halfway to ship QM2 disappeared into fog. As got closer the ships hull appear ghost like from fog.
Brooklyn. Got quickly through immigration- just quick look at passport. Caught ferry to Wall Street – $2.75 one way ticket, could have bought additional tickets for return as tickets valid for 12 months. Apparently could get transfer ticket for $1 on ferry to get onto other ferries from Wall Street. Walked to Seaport and went up to roof where only outlet open was bar/restaurant on roof. Went to a Starbucks down street opposite Pier 11. Bought 3 I❤️NY T-shirt’s for $10 from one of stalls near Seaport. The next ferry stop after Wall Street is 33rd Street if one wished to walk to Empire State Building or even Macys.
The crossing back to UK was just as smooth as previous two weeks but without the fog. One one day we had lunch at the Boardwalk on deck 12 in bright sunshine, so bright we got a little sunburnt!
Our new friends from Brooklyn left the ship in New York so we got new people on the table next to us for dinner. On first evening a very pleasant young Canadian couple turned up. They were with the Canadian Armed Forces relocating to Latvia (to protect us from Putin?). They had two boys aged 10 & 11 on board with them and 17 pieces of luggage. However they could not understand why they had been shown to a table for two but the head waiter turned up and apologised to them for being shown to wrong table!
Once the Canadians had been relocated an English Couple arrived at your table. We could see immediately that they were a miserable pair. Nothing was right for the lady(?) who questioned why on earth she should go to Macy’s when she could shop at Harrods in London. She ordered the food and wine for her husband and said that she bought all his clothes for him (from M&S). The table was far too noisy for her and to our great relief they did not turn up on second night.
On the third night another English couple arrived at the next table. They were a pleasant pair and the husband turned out to be one of the guest speakers. He was a former Primary School Headteacher but his lectures on board were about famous singers including Nat King Cole, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. However they only stayed one night and the table remained empty for remainder of crossing.
UK immigration was done on board ship in days after leaving Brooklyn. Disembarkation in Southampton somewhat chaotic. Told to meet in Royal Court Theatre but no staff there. Joined line for exit but when got to front were stopped from disembarking because got wrong colour ticket but eventually it was announced that all luggage ashore so were let through. No sign of customs at the exit to the baggage hall. First on coach, Italian (?) driver surprised to see us so early. Ellison Coach had WiFi so was able to watch part of the cricket World Cup Final. Waited about an hour for last passenger to board. Coach was going on to Washington. Route to Trowell via M3, M25 and M1 to avoid traffic restrictions around Silverstone for F1 Grand Prix. Stopped for less than half hour at Rothersthorpe, driver suggested bring back coffees to coach. Dropped passengers at Leicester Forest and then got to Trowell at 2.30pm.
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