At Sea, En-Route to Southampton aboard Queen Mary 2

At sea on the open Atlantic aboard Queen Mary 2. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Position as of this writing: 41° 6.9’ N, 62° 42.3’ W

Speed: 20.7 knots

Wind: 15 knots / Temperature: 16°C / Seas: 1 to 4 feet

After a night of calm seas leaving New York, I awoke to a beautiful, sunny morning aboard Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2. We’re surrounded by nothing but miles of open ocean – and the possibilities for my first full day onboard my favourite ship are endless.

First stop this morning was breakfast at the King’s Court buffet on Deck 7. I’m absolutely loving my aft Deck 6 stateroom location, as I can quickly walk aft and out the door to the open deck on QM2’s stern. From there, I can ascend the staircase to Deck 7, walk forward, and go into the King’s Court by the Staircase D entranceway. I could do that same walk inside, but it’s more fun to go outside.

The King’s Court Buffet on Deck 7 (seen here at night) has been entirely remastered. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

The room now sports more seating options, and much better decor. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Last year’s Remastering completely gutted the King’s Court, which was one of the few areas aboard QM2 that caused real frustration. Although pretty, passenger flow through this area, as-built, was poor, and the whole area tended to bottleneck up quickly.

Now, King’s Court has an entirely new layout, look and design – and it is a substantial improvement. I had no issues at all getting breakfast, finding a seat, or getting a glass of orange juice from the new beverage stations, which are placed so as to be out of the way of the main food serving areas.

If you’ve never done a transatlantic crossing before – with absolutely no ports of call and only open ocean for seven straight days – you might be worried. Some people think they’ll be bored; others feel they’ll be afraid of the vastness of the ocean. Will you see land? Nope. Ships? Unlikely. It’s just you, QM2, and the sea.

And that’s a wonderful, wonderful thing. Here’s why.

How will you spend your day at sea? Reading out on deck? Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Maybe a stroll out on deck is in order…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…or a cup of coffee in the new Carinthia Lounge. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Or a stroll through Cunard’s history walk, all the way forward on Deck 3 aft of the A Stairwell. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Today, there are so many scheduled activities and events happening around this massive floating palace that it’s hard to know what to do.

Three speakers are giving lectures today as part of Cunard’s Cunard Insights program. We’ve got Michael Lister speaking about Lord Thomas Cochranel; John Penycate lecturing on the fall of Russia’s Romanov family; and Nigel West talking on the tradecraft of espionage. Don’t know the first thing about Lord Thomas Cochranel or espionage? That’s the best part – think of Queen Mary 2 as your own classroom at sea.

Enjoying one of today’s (jam-packed) lectures – some of the best entertainment aboard Queen Mary 2! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

If you’ve got a flair for the dramatic, you’ll like Cunard’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) classes and performances. Today at 10:00am, a workshop on how actors prepare for their roles was held in the Queens Room on Deck 3, while a special performance, Cunard Street, was held in the new Carinthia Lounge on Deck 7 at 7:00pm and 10:00pm.

Also happening around the ship: a piano concert performed by Junko Ichikawa in the Royal Court Theatre at 2:30pm; watercolour art classes at 10:00am; a Killer Darts Competition in the Golden Lion Pub on Deck 2, followed immediately by traditional British Pub Lunch (and pub melodies) to accompany the frothy pints of Guinness that do flow at this popular shipboard event.

One of my favorite pastimes: Pub Lunch in the Golden Lion Pub! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Get hear early: the Fish & Chips is delicious. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Then, there are multiple shows in the Planetarium (yes, QM2 has a planetarium!), afternoon Trivia; three screenings of the movie, Fences; and Cunard’s legendary High Tea in the Queens Room. This white-gloved affair takes place each and every day at 4:00pm and is still the best high tea on the high seas.

All of this takes place before our Formal Night dinner, which leads into the Black and White Ball in the Queens Room at 9:45pm.

And those are just the scheduled events for today. You can still absolutely do your own thing, too.

The first thing I did when I got onboard yesterday – literally – was to hit the Canyon Ranch SpaClub on Deck 7 and purchase a pass (called a SpaClub Passport) to the ship’s elaborate Thermal Suite.

A good way to while away the time on the open Atlantic: a dip in the Hydrotherapy Pool in the Canyon Ranch SpaClub on Deck 7. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Comprised of a Hydrotherapy Pool, lounging area, and a full steam and sauna complex with aromatherapy-infused scents, two different passes can be purchased: a seven-day pass for $120 per person; or a six-day pass for $106. I went with the six-day pass, as embarkation day is crazy enough without me trying to cram a visit to the Spa in before its closing time of 8:00 pm.

The SpaClub Passport gives you access to the hydrotherapy pool…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…the aromatic steam rooms…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…the relaxing ceramic foot baths…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…changing rooms…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…and the Spa’s Relaxation Room. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Today, though, I made good use of my SpaClub Passport, spending well over 90 minutes relaxing in the soothing embrace of the spa. I am a big fan of hydrotherapy pools, and the one aboard QM2 is one of the best out there. I’m also a huge fan of the dry sauna that smells like old cedar; it’s tremendously relaxing.

Cunard has even thought of an easy way to change the time on these Eastbound crossings; one I’d forgotten about. Rather than setting your clock forward at night and losing an hour of sleep, the ship’s clocks are put one hour ahead at 12 Noon. That means that every day at Noon, you lose an hour and it automatically becomes 1:00pm. It kind of accelerates your afternoon, but it allows you to linger in the ship’s public rooms as long as you’d like to in the evening.

Looking out over Queen Mary 2’s bow…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…as the sun goes down over the Atlantic Ocean. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Speaking of evenings, I’m trying the Early Seating (6:00pm) dinner in the Britannia Dining Room for the first time. I’m normally a Late Seating kind of guy, but I wanted to experiment on this crossing. So far, I’m enjoying having more time in the evening after dinner (late seating routinely lets out at 10:30pm or later), but I’m finding my afternoons are rushed. So far. We’ll see how it goes.

Preparing for dinner in the Britannia Dining Room. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Every night is formal night on Cunard, with jackets required for men each evening. Ties are optional on some nights, but I wear one every night anyway. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

One nice thing that Cunard does is to group solo travellers together at a single table. I really appreciate that, as I don’t always find it easy to mingle on bigger ships like Queen Mary 2.

Meanwhile, in the Commodore Club…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

I’ve also discovered that QM2’s remastering isn’t just skin deep: Cunard has even developed new menus for nearly every public room and lounge onboard. This is most apparent in the Commodore Club on Deck 9, where the line has introduced a variety of hand-crafted cocktails, presented with considerable flair, that pay tribute to the past Commodore’s of the line.

A Commodore is the title for Cunard’s highest-ranking Captain. In the past, these have included famous Captains like Ron Warwick; his father, Ronald Warwick, Sr.; and Sir Arthur Rostron, who drove his ship, Carpathia, through the cold night to rescue survivors of the sinking of the RMS Titanic on the morning of April 15, 1912.

Sampling one of Queen Mary 2’s new drink creations in the Commodore Club…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…the Land of Hop and Glory. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

I sampled the Land of Hop and Glory. Named after Commodore Cyril Illingsworth, this amazing beer-cocktail is made with Somerset Cider Brandy, Cognac; King’s Ginger; Malt Extract; Ginger Ale and Hop Bitters. As the final touch, whipped beer foam is poured out, tableside, to top the drink off. Cunard bottles this mix daily right onboard, which is served like a traditional lager and accompanied with potato chips. Fair warning: this one’s deadly – so smooth and flavourful, you’re going to order another, $14 price tag or not.

As I made my way back to my stateroom tonight, I realized there’s one thing I never got the chance to do today: read my book that I lugged all the way here. Quite frankly, it’s been such a pleasantly busy day that sitting down and reading never crossed my mind.

That’s what makes these transatlantic crossings so magical, in my view: you’d never imagine that a day at sea could be so rewarding.

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Our Voyage Report onboard Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 continues tomorrow, as we take an in-depth look at what’s changed aboard QM2 en-route to Southampton! Follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog.

Across the Atlantic aboard Queen Mary 2

Monday, May 15, 2017New York (Brooklyn), NY. Departure: 1700Embarkation: The Crossing Begins
Tuesday, May 16Crossing the Atlantic OceanOur First Day out on the Atlantic
Wednesday, May 17Crossing the Atlantic OceanRemastering Queen Mary 2
Thursday, May 18Crossing the Atlantic OceanGetting There is Half the Fun: Cunard's Transatlantic Legacy
Friday, May 19Crossing the Atlantic OceanGrand Days aboard QM2
Saturday, May 20Crossing the Atlantic OceanElegant Nights aboard QM2
Sunday, May 21Crossing the Atlantic OceanRecapping our Journey Across the Atlantic
Monday, May 22Southampton, England
Arrive: 0700

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