Voyage to the Americas! Queen Mary 2 transatlantic crossing to New York at Christmas Part One…
We often go away in winter - it's not intentional, more something that we realise has become a bit of a pattern. A couple of years ago we were looking for somewhere to go in Autumn/ Winter. We had a look at various places and hadn't come up with much when my mum flagged up the Queen Mary 2 transatlantic crossing to New York in December.
My husband and I had both talked about going to New York at Christmas almost from when we met, and this cruise was perfect!
• Looking for a holiday - check
• We wanted to go to New York - check
• We had always talked about doing a cruise - check
• New York at Christmas - CHECK!
We booked a sheltered balcony as we felt a full balcony wouldn't be worth the money and didn't think we'd spend any time on it in the middle of the Atlantic, but at the same time we didn't want a claustrophobic feeling that we thought we'd get with an inside or outside cabin.
We booked through JetLineCruise and the deal was brilliant. It included 1 night stay in New York and flights back to Heathrow for less than just the crossing would cost direct from Cunard. (Blog post for New York is here).It is worth noting that the logistics can be complicated as you leave from Southampton, but return to London Heathrow, so on at least one of the legs, you'll need to rely on family or friends dropping you off / picking you up, or make your own way back.
We were dropped off at the port in Southampton by family on a grey and foggy 15th December and went into the terminal to await boarding. After going through security - much like an airport - we boarded the Queen Mary 2 around 3pm and to say we were taken aback would be an understatement.
We went to our room and were greeted with a bottle of bubbly on ice, and some chocolates - all adding to the excitement and spectacle of the trip. We wandered around the boat and explored a little before it was time to set sail, where we went up on deck to wave Southampton off and look at the bright lights down the Solent.
The first thing we did was visit the library on-board and checked out some books that would see us through the week. This was a tip from my parents (serial cruisers) who recommended an early visit to ensure you got your pick of the books. We then crossed over to the Commodore Club that is positioned right at the front of the boat and had a cocktail and beer respectively. In there, there is a fantastic model of the Queen Mary 2 behind the bar which is definitely worth going to see.
It is breath-taking. Its opulence and design is outstanding and it is so impressive upon entering the atrium. In addition, the whole ship is decorated for Christmas which only adds to its magnificence, with Wind in the Willow characters surrounding the statuesque Christmas tree in the Atrium, and the Christmas scene laid out in the foyer by the lifts.
One important element to remember is that, unlike most cruises, you don't get off. This was a little niggle in the back of my mind when we booked but I needn't have worried, there was plenty to do and we were also looking for a bit of time to unwind and relax and if you ask me, this is it! No mobile phone signal, no Wi-Fi (you can use the internet if you want but you pay for it) and no distractions.
We then dressed for dinner and headed down. The food was really nice, personally not as nice as P&O which I had been on twice before, but still good. We were on the early sitting on a table with a quiet group of older travellers who did not want to interact or chat much at dinner. Our sitting at 6:00 (which we had originally picked) was too early for us as we did feel that they turned the tables around quickly to prepare for the 8pm sitting. The first night we had finished dinner within an hour and were roaming the boat from 7:15 onwards without much idea on what to do.
In fact, we wandered down to the nightclub G32 and spent much of our evening there…perhaps too long…think we went to bed around 3am! However, we met a great group of people there - Brits, Americans and Canadians and we subsequently spent many nights with them over the course of the journey.
The feel on the boat is very sociable, people you sit next to at mealtimes or in bars strike up conversation with you and its all very easy. The next day we spoke to the maître d' who changed our seating arrangements for us and we had a great table of people, again - much older than us, but great company and with some really interesting stories to tell. One owned a vineyard in Napa Valley, one lived in South Africa for many years and one was a former mayor of a town in Britain - all really interesting characters.