Days 96-102 … Southampton to New York

May 10, 2009

April 20-26, 2009 Monday-Sunday

Note:
There are three (3) posts here, so continue scrolling down at the bottom of this post if you wish to read the two earlier QM2 posts.

Webcam from the Bridge of the Queen Mary2 is HERE.

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These are the final 6 days in a round the world cruise in 2009 — the first 96 days are HERE.

As we left England behind us, the seas gradually became choppier. By the third night at sea we were in Force 7 Gale winds, and by the following morning the gales were above 30 knots and Force 8. Waves reached twelve feet. On Deck 2 passengers can sit in the hallways running from the Royal Court Theater to t the Planetarium (“Illuminations”) and be near the water line. In twelve-foot waves, passengers are occasionally looking UP at the water. That might sound high, but on the upper decks the waves are not very formidable.

Nonetheless, in this kind of sea, Mary 2 was rocking. This made one of our dinner companions very uncomfortable and as early as the second evening she was sucking green apples and sipping tomato soup, both of which seemed to help. The North Atlantic is a renowned stretch of rocky water; people pay big bucks for this kind of ride in an amusement park. Buckle up.

Dorothy, my good rightwing friend from the Queen Victoria’s commodore lounge is on board heading home to01a pacific ocean NZ use DSC04997 useme Montana. She is 83. Dorothy and I became friends because we would sit together in the Queen Victoria Commodores lounge in the morning and read the morning newspapers (before they were all snatched away along with anything else paper because of the norovirus). Dorothy managed to get herself invited to the Captain’s table the second night, perhaps because she had corresponded with him, but more probably because she is a very good Cunard customer.

Later in the week she came and sat beside me on the stairs during the “Groovy Choir”, a sing-along in the atrium several days a week. I became very fond of her.

Life aboard the Mary 2 was cheery and amiable. Want to see a dog? The kennels were on Deck 12 and dogs were usually running loose on a protected section of deck.

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Children were everywhere including lots of babies – five proctors in the kid’s zone on deck 6 were looking after 22 children.

More than half of the QM2 passengers (1,300 of 2,400) would sail back to Southampton doing a roundtrip. One couple we met was coming over to shop at Macy’s in New York on Sunday before the QM2 headed back to London that same night.

By Friday we had passed within 15 miles of the site of where the Titanic sank in 1912. The site was marked on the navigation map posted on Deck 12, and the Commodore pointed out its approach and passing over the ship’s loudspeakers. By now we were now 300 miles south of Newfoundland, Canada, still two days sailing from New York.

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The sea now became even choppier, and the skies had grown dark and blustery. Wind whipped and rain smattered. On my mile walk (3 laps) around Deck 7 on Friday morning I fought winds which, when added to the speed of the ship, were between 35 and 45 knots. The ship was running at between 25 and 28 knots. The crew washes the decks between 7 and 8 am, which meant besides the wind there was a water hazard.

By noon Saturday the wind was still ripping and cold, but the sun was bright. We were 140 miles south of Nova Scotia and only 180 miles from the coast of Massachusetts. Buttoning the ship up for arrival in New York was well underway.

The Captain said we would pass the former location of Ambrose Light at 3:45 in the following morning (Sunday), and slide under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge by a mere 12 feet at 4:45 am. And enter New York Harbour.

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Then, after we passed the Statue of Liberty the Mary will do a 180-degree turn and back for a half mile into its berth at Red Hook/Brooklyn, arriving about 6 am. The ocean part of our world journey would end, and the journey itself would end Sunday night with the arrival of our flight from Islip to Orlando.

As cold as it had been on the North Atlantic, New York would be a balmy and warm.

Carol Anne spent the last of her 102 days at sea dozing in lectures while I finished photographing the ship, re-shooting the things that I had not managed to get in focus the first time.

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I ran into one of the RADA performers and we walked the deck until she found two more members of her troop. We chatted about the business in London (not good for actors, but then it rarely is good for actors, alas) and some about Hollywood. The rumor is that Ellis Jones, director of the RADA onboard program, would be rejoining them in another crossing or two. Everyone is fond of Ellis, including me. Ellis did rejoin; so the rumor was true.

Ellis later wrote that “Hobson’s Choice” won top approval from passengers on one of the crossings after I left the ship. Richly deserved.

More invitations were arriving. Friday night it was a senior officer’s party that conflicted with the RADA poetry reading, although somehow we made both events. Carol Anne was happy that liquor still was being served when we arrived, but peeved because early arriving guests had wolfed all the food.

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Our tables companions in the Britannia mostly spent the week vomiting because of the rough seas, but finally Thursday night we were all reunited again.

The location of our table, arguably the second best in the Britannia, had apparently been an increasing subject of discussion between the two other couples at the table. They decided that I might be one of the owners of the shipping line traveling incognito and that, for some reason, I selected them to sit at my table. When the ship’s Cruise Director hailed me from his seat at the Captain’s table, rose and shook my hands eagerly introducing me to his wife, they became even more suspicious.

Denial seemed to go nowhere. I finally put my foot down. I said that if this discussion continued any further this table would be gone the following night and they would be dining in the kitchen of King Court buffet for the rest of the trip. They seemed to think this was hilarious. Carnival Corporation owns Cunard. The only financial relationship I have with them is they cashed my check for our tickets.

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Right on schedule the Queen Mary 2 pulled up and stopped near Ambrose Light and at 3:45 a.m. Sunday morning boarded the pilot, along with five others. For 80 minutes, the QM2 glided in a large arc running between the channel markers, and then, with less than 20-feet to spare, slid under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Straight ahead, Manhattan. On the left coming into view the Statue of Liberty. On right the Brooklyn Bridge in the distance and Red Hook. The QM2 came to a halt a few minutes before 6 a.m., did a 180-turn and backed one-half mile into the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal and docked.

By mid-morning we were off the ship and on the way to Islip on Long Island to catch a flight to Orlando.

By early evening we were home – our 102 days at sea ended.

Note:
There are three (3) posts here, so continue scrolling down past the bottom of this post if you wish to read the two earlier QM2 posts.

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PHOTOGRAPHS

Carol Anne and Manhattan with Brooklyn Bridge on right

Choppy Ocean off New Zealand

QM2, Deck 7

Kennels and dogs, Deck 12

Saga Rose, much beloved former Cunarder on way to breakers this fall – the QM2 passed her in the Atlantic Ocean and paid homage (HOOOOONNNK!). Research suggests the 587-passenger Saga Rose was initially, Sagafjord, 1965 and that the 655-passenger Saga Ruby was first Vistafjord, 1973, later Cunard Caronia III. However, a ship’s officer insisted the Saga Rose had formerly been the Cunarder Caronia III. When you figure it out, tell me.

Lookout on Deck 13 Forward of the QM2

Cabin 8105 – there’s a reason we got a great deal. On the other hand, we had a personal lifeboat, didn’t we?

The QM2 funnel. Cunard is very anal about its funnels.

QM2 docked at Red Hook, April 26, 2009. Our last look.

Sanford, FL, airport, one of two serving Orlando, FL. Sanford International, although lightly used, was the airport we used in 2008 to fly directly to Iceland.

In front of home in Celebration, Florida, after 102 days, posed and dressed exactly (on purpose) as we were when we left on January 13. Our friend George Moran picked us up at Orlando International Airport with his wife, Barbara, brought us home, and took this picture. (below)

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“QueenMary2.wordpress.com” and “QueenVictoria.wordpress.com” are copyright 2009, Seine-Harbour Productions LLC, Studio City, California.

Atlantic Ocean, II

May 8, 2009

The Queen Mary 2
April 20-26, 2009 Monday-Sunday

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Queen Mary 2 Bridgecam HERE.

How the Queen Mary 2 came to be.
Within a year after jets were placed in service in 1958, ocean liner traffic across the North Atlantic dropped by 90-percent and the big ocean liners began to be scrapped left-and-right.

Within a decade the Queen Mary (1936) and the Queen Elizabeth (1940) were gone. No longer would people be taking ships to go somewhere; the only hope passenger ship companies had was that people might like cruising, lolling around and eating and drinking.

The list of great ships that went away was astounding.

The SS United States, the fastest liner ever built and likely the final holder of the Blue Riband ever, sailed into New York Harbour on July 4, 1952, and into history a mere 15 years later. No one ever knew how fast the United States was because a Defense Department representative always traveled in the engine room until after she was taken from service. No matter. She was gone.

a01 qm2a cunard picture DSC01790 USEME leftleftThe France, built in 1960, fared somewhat better. She eventually became the Norway and lingered into the 21th century with runs for Norwegian Cruise Lines from Florida. Then she caught fire and soon after was sent to the breakers.

Cunard alone held steadfast in regard to ocean liners:

In 1969, with the original QM and QE retired, Cunard placed the Queen Elizabeth 2 (72,000 tons) in service amid speculations this would be the last ocean liner ever built.

Years passed and Cunard itself passed into the hands of Carnival Corporation.

Then, as the QE2’s end drew new, Cunard surprised the cruise industry again by commissioning what would become the greatest, most powerful and easily the most luxurious ocean liner ever built – the Queen Mary 2 (150,000 tons). This elegant monster – more than twice the size of the QE2 and almost twice the size of the earlier Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth — was placed in service in 2004.

a01a a qm2 helicopter DSC01513 usemeHALF This is the ship that Carol Anne and I boarded around noon, April 20, for our final ride home to New York.

Aboard.
On board for the first time we looked at one another and said “ohmygod”. The Queen Victoria had been gorgeous but along side the Queen Mary 2, the Victoria seemed like hardly more than a shrimp boat. The QM2 was regal and magnificently elegant.

She is also fast as she would soon demonstrate – 28 knots versus 22-24 knots for the Victoria. Her speed may have saved the life of a passenger on our first day at sea.

With the British isles behind us, QM2 did a 180-degree turn in mid-ocean in the middle of the night and headed back to meet a military helicopter being sent to meet us in mid-ocean. The helicopter lifted the sick passenger off the top deck of the ship and the QM2 turned around and retraced her steps west. Later we were told that the passenger was, indeed, saved. We arrived on time in New York. No problem.

Now that we are “platinum”, the second highest tier in the Cunard hierarchy of customers, we were social butterflies on the QM2.

We were invited to a private reception for those on the World Cruise who had come over from the world cruise on the Queen Victoria. We were invited to a reception for “platinum” customers. We were invited to the general catchall reception for those who dine in the Britannia.

Would we like an intimate wine tasting with the sommeliers? Well, come on down! Enough already! – we headed off to eat more soft ice cream.

Then there was that dining table next to the Captain’s. One evening the Entertainment Director rose and wrung Pete’s hand as he passed the Captain’s table. Then this man introduced Pete to his wife (not all that bad-looking babe, come to think of it). The other couples at our table watched with disgusted interest deciding there might be something more to my dressing poorly and having bad posture.

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Just when we thought we were done, we got invited to yet another invitation to a reception that was just a reception. It was nice of them to keep us in mind, however …

Formal nights.
Before we shipped out in January we wondered whether the Queen Victoria get too formal for us. Carol Anne scrubs up well, but Pete views formally dressing in a tux as an appearance in a penguin costume. Prep school finished him on wearing ties and unrumpled shirts decades ago.

In the end, even the British on board both Queen Victoria and the Queen Mary 2 seemed to tire of the formal nights often fleeing with us to the Kings Court Buffet on Deck 7 (QM2) or the Lido Buffet on Deck 9 (QV). And formal didn’t always mean exactly formal. At the Gala Dinner in Singapore Pete wore Crocs because he couldn’t get a shoe on his injured foot and sat next to a distinguished elderly British gentleman who wore a tux and white tennis shoes “because I just felt like it.”

By the time we settled onto the QM2 we had become comfortably formally informal – as were most passengers. “Formal” nights became simply camp and fun; most people, but not all, played along.

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PHOTOGRAPHS:
Queen Mary 2 Library, Deck 8
Samuel Cunard himself welcomes QM2 passengers on board.
A helicopter meets with the QM2 in mid-ocean to save passenger’s life
Deck 12 where the kennels are located.
The main atrium sing-along featuring standards and a jazz band.
(Below): Route map, Southampton to New York/Red Hook

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Copyright 2009, Seine-Harbour Productions LLC, Studio City, California.

Atlantic Ocean, I

May 5, 2009

The Queen Mary 2
April 20-26, 2009 Monday-Sunday

Queen Mary 2 Bridgecam HERE.

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Arriving in Southampton, we had gone as far as the Queen Victoria could carry us. The Victoria would retrace her steps back to the Mediterranean and begin shorter European tours until summer.

The last 4,700 miles of our 41,000 mile around the world journey would take place first on the Queen Mary 2, and then end with a flight from New York to our winter home in Florida.

The Queen Mary 2 had ended her round the world tour two weeks earlier and had set off on the first of more than a dozen trips to New York and back. More than 200 of the Victoria’s Worlders, including us, would go home on the QM2’s second trans-Atlantic crossing in April. The voyage would not end on the docks on the west side of Manhattan, however. We were docking to Red Hook, Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, New York City. To dock in the middle of this Nowhere, the QM2 would have to turn around, and then unceremoniously back up a quarter of a mile.

By the time the Victoria docked in Southampton, we were tired and not especially looking forward to finding our way around a ship that is 40-percent larger than the Victoria (150 tons versus 90 tons).

In reality, we were not prepared to like the QM2 at all.

We loved the Queen Mary 2.

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The Queen Mary 2 is the only “ocean liner” left in the world. Every other ship today carrying cruise passengers are “cruise ships”. It’s all about the hull: The QM2’s hull extends an astonishing 34-feet below the water line versus roughly 20-feet for the Queen Victoria.

Okay — the QM2 is not a cruise ship. What does that really mean?

First and foremost it means that liner passengers are actually GOING somewhere. The QM2 carries passengers from Southampton across the Atlantic to New York City. There may be a lot of people on the QM2 just out floating aimlessly around, but when the QM2 docks, you’ve arrived. Get off the ship! For much of the year, the QM2 directly competes on the North Atlantic run with the airlines. Cruise ships do not compete with airlines for passengers (no one in their right mind goes flying for free peanuts and pleasure these days).

So, while no longer crucial, speed does matter — and stability matters a lot. Hulls of ocean lines are like knives built to slice through the water. The hulls are designed for stability in rough waters and for speed. Liners date to a time when time was money. The faster a ship could cross the North Atlantic the more likely she would be to win passengers. And it was great business for the ship holding the mythical Blue Riband (the fastest ship across the Atlantic). The reason the Titanic did not slow down on its maiden voyage in 1912 even among icebergs? Heck, her owners wanted her to win the Blue Riband on her maiden voyage. Full speed ahead!

Cruise ships, on the other hand — every other type of ship carrying passengers today — have flatter hulls and are slower. It doesn’t matter. After jet airplanes began flying the Atlantic in under 8 hours in 1958, the race to be the fastest ship across the Atlantic was meaningless.

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PHOTOGRAPHS
The Queen Mary 2 docked in Southampton, April 20, 2009
Cunard poster hanging in the Queen Elizabeth 2 Terminal, Southampton
The Britannia Restaurant with large Captain’s Table in center and our table right next door to its right (did they mistake us for someone else?)
(Below): Route map, Southampton to New York/Red Hook, on Deck 12, location of the sunken Titanic clearly marked so the QM2 could sail right over her carcass

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Copyright 2009, Seine-Harbour Productions LLC, Studio City, California

Southampton, England

April 22, 2009

Southampton, England
April 20, 2009 Monday

Webcam from the Bridge of the Queen Victoria is HERE.

Carol Anne’s extended Gallery of Photographs for each of our 40 World Cruise 2009 ports is HERE.

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Southampton is both a new port, and a very old one.

The Mayflower sailed from here in the 1620s. The Titanic sailed from here in 1912 on its first, last and only journey (it met its iceberg end a mere two days after leaving Southampton).

The port of Southampton is reached by navigating from the English Channel past the Isle of Wight and then sailing half a hour northward. This is not an easy approach because tides and currents are formidable, as the officers of the Queen Elizabeth 2 (now out of service and docked in Dubai, UAE) were reminded last year.

On her final departure from Southampton last fall, the Queen Elizabeth II ran aground because of tides. Unlike ships today, which need tugboats only in certain conditions (modern ships have bow thrusters), the QE2 needed tugs nearly every time she went to sea. The QE2 also brushed a Japanese warship in docking in New York when a tug lost power and she drifted in the current of the East River earlier in her career.

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Southampton was the 41st and final port of the Queen Victoria’s 2009 World Tour. She started from Southampton on January 3rd crossing first to New York. We boarded her at her third stop in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on January 13, more than three months before.

As the Victoria proceeded up river to Southampton, the Queen Mary 2 trailed her. The QM2 would be our ride home to the United States, along with 225 others on the world cruise. The QM2 had also cruised the world, ending her world tour in Southampton two weeks before our arrival. The Mary 2 was returning the day we arrived from her first of more than twenty 2009 trans-Atlantic roundtrips to New York City.

This was the first time the two ships had been in port together since Fort Lauderdale three months ago.

Initially we had planned to spend our day in Southampton touring Windsor Castle, but Cunard canceled that tour due to lack of interest. We remain interested in seeing Windsor because we are friends with the architect who had overseen reconstruction of Windsor Castle after the fire in 1988. With that tour cancelled we then hoped to putter around Southampton for the better part of the day. Unfortunately, disembarkation lengthened and lengthened erasing most of our time ashore.

We had been told we would be moved over to the QM2 and checked in early, giving us most of the day, but that didn’t happen. Next we learned that a shuttle promised to Victoria’s in-transit passengers also would not happen because “Cunard didn’t order any buses for passengers”, a waspish crew bus driver snapped at us.

Eventually we did get to Southampton and had a look at the downtown.

Southampton was mostly leveled in 1940 during two nights of Nazi bombing. We walked the old town wall and had a look at what was left of the 14th century Catchcold Tower once used to store arms. The Catchcold was last used to defend Southampton in World War II. The name Catchcold made no sense to me – when you figure it out, please tell me.

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As has often been the case in many other ports, time had grown short. We retreated to the Queen Mary 2 to have a look around at our new digs. The Queen Victoria was wooded, comfortable and tasteful. After three months she really had become our home.

The Queen Mary 2 was stunning, magnificent and grand. We had not expected to like the Queen Mary 2. We loved her immediately.

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PHOTOGRAPHS
The Queen Mary 2 docked at the Queen Elizabeth2 Terminal in Southampton, England, April 20, 2009.
Taxi and car passenger drop-off at the Queen Elizabeth 2 Terminal
Carol Anne in front of Southampton’s Bargate
The Catchcold Tower
Map, approach to Southampton (below)
Map, approach to Southampton (below)

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Copyright 2009 by, Seine-Harbour Productions LLC, Studio City, California

Day 1 — Ft Lauderdale

February 23, 2009

dsc09238-pmc-cas-500gb The First Day
January 13, 2009 Tuesday

This is a reprint of the first post in the Queen Victoria World Cruise 2009 — the other 41 posts HERE.

INTRODUCTION:

On Tuesday, January 13, 2009, my wife, Carol Anne, and I flew from our winter home in Celebration, Florida (Orlando / Disney World area) to Fort Lauderdale. That evening we sailed on the Cunard Queen Victoria to Curacao. We joined The Queen Victoria at her second stop on her world tour, a tour that had begun 3 days earlier on January 10 in New York City, and we would be traveling through the Panama Canal, to Hawaii and on to New Zealand, Australia and eventually return through the Mediterranean Ocean to Southampton on April 20.

Originally we had intended to sail on the Queen Victoria for 37 days to Sydney, Australia, then disembark and spend about six weeks crisscrossing Australia visiting friends, riding trains and seeing sights. By the time we reached Los Angeles, however, we had decided to remain on the Queen Victoria and continue west around the world to Southampton, England. Having decided to complete the world tour with the Queen Victoria, we next booked passage back to New York (and home) on the Queen Mary 2.

Having planned to sail halfway around the world, we had decided to completely circumnavigate the world.

The sheer audaciousness of this appealed to us both.

PHOTOGRAPH
Taken in front of our home in Celebration, Florida, by our friend George Moran, morning, January 13, 2009. Scroll up for a picture taken in the same spot with us dressed exactly the same, taken the evening of April 26, 2009, on our arrival back in Florida. Both this picture, and the April 26 picture above (scroll up), were taken by George Moran.