From the moment the taxi pulled up to the embarkation area at the pier I felt whisked into the romantic world of Cunard's premier ship, Queen Mary 2. The aura was palpable. Here was a glimpse into the romantic glory days of journeying across the Atlantic. This was going to be pure travel the way it was meant to be.
The gleaming ship standing tall, strong and beautiful in her port at Southhampton against the white fluffy clouds and brilliant blue sky was a sight to behold. Check-in was a breeze with representatives stationed at key locations and at the ready to answer any questions. In a matter of moments I was walking the gangway and leaving land for what I had hoped would be seven glorious days at sea.
This type of trip was called a crossing. We would be at sea for 7 days with no ports of call. The vibe, I am told, is different. I am not sure how, but maybe less touristic. And all your fun leisure time activities take place on board.
For me, after 8 months of solo travel it was time to return to New York City. When I planned this last leg of my trip, it seemed flying home was just too, well, boring and average. I had just taken a special journey and it seemed it had to end with panache. Cue the Queen Mary 2!
I found my way to my cabin. A sweet perfectly sized little world of luxury complete with a chilled bottle of champagne and fresh chocolates. Oh yeah, this was already good! A daily newsletter informed me of where my muster station was for the emergency drill and more importantly what was on for festivities on our first night at sea.
Too excited to sit still, I went out for an expedition around the ship. Meticulously cared for, the Queen Mary is shiny and lush in her trappings. She is huge! It would take a few days for sure to get my bearings.
As departure approached, I went up on deck and treated myself to a glass of champagne while the Captain explained the process of leaving port - we would travel upstream first and then turn around and head down the Solent and out to sea.
Music played, flags waved, we pushed off and just like that the journey began!
Soon it was time to dress for dinner. I was a tad nervous about who I would be seated with. This was the moment when all the nagging questions I had been asked by skeptical friends about the crossing arose - "Isn't it stuffy?", "Everyone will be old", "What if you don't like your dinner mates?".
I am happy to report that we were a wide range of individuals in age and nationality. My table was a delight and I looked forward each evening to our catch-ups as to how one's day was spent luxuriating on the boat. A few of us even peeled off one evening and had dinner at the delicious Todd English restaurant. Stuffy? No way!
Day to day life on board presents with so many options that it can be hard to choose just a few things to do. Originally, my plan had been to journal and go through the 15,000 photos I had shot while on my trip. Needless to say, with so much fun available I spent very little time in my cabin let alone "working". Cunard offers some wonderful lectures, guest musicians, classes, spa treatments and athletic pursuits. Personally, I took advantage of the very popular Bridge class and watercolor class. I attended a few lectures, availed myself of the spa one day and enjoyed an afternoon of listening to beautifully played classical music. At night, I went to the movies, watched one of the shows and danced into the wee hours. Boring? I think not!
Among other things, I enjoyed high tea one afternoon with a woman who has had more than 700 days at sea! One of our table mates liked to sing, so we went to the lounge and the pianist graciously let him get up and sing a couple of numbers. We were so proud! I met people from all over the world all with unique stories that led them to taking the crossing. From fear of flying to a long dreamed for trip to New York City to beginning a new chapter in one's life. With time on your side, you have the opportunity to delve a little deeper during the journey. I loved hearing people's stories about what made them want to go. And here on the ship, we could have those conversations.
While on the ship, life was in limbo and it offered an opportune time to reflect on what has come before like the trail the ship leaves as it plows through the icy waters of the Atlantic.
And it also offers the time to create the new path; one that may be have a bit of a chop and a little roll to it at times, but even so is filled with optimism as we blaze a course through those waters and look to the west!
All too soon, we were pulling into port in Brooklyn, New York. I was home. Although I was excited to see my kids and my friends, still I was a bit melancholy - the crossing had gone by like a blink of the eye. I wasn't done with the idea of being at sea (literally and figuratively).
When my very lovely maid, Margarita, saw me as I readied for departure, she said: "I heard you are going back with us to Southhampton when we leave tonight."
"What a thought!" I exclaimed. "But, alas no." And in that moment, I knew this would not be my last crossing. Taking the Queen Mary is truly the only way to go!