There’s something timeless about being at sea. Yet the people, the buzz of activity, the ocean waves, those are constantly moving. When we pulled into Southampton after seven days and seven nights on the Atlantic Ocean, I pulled back the curtains and felt that with land came an awakening, but not from a mindless slumber. My week on board Queen Mary 2 had engaged so many senses it was more like leaving an exciting dream, one I hope to always remember.
Waiting for me at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, a yellow school bus parked nonchalantly alongside, was the jewel in Cunard’s crown, the iconic Queen Mary 2. After the bustle of New York and immigration formalities, I stepped on board to a royal welcome; a splendid line of immaculate stewards, porters and bell-boys, all beaming as I stepped on board. The grand lobby that followed was equally impressive, the flower arrangement on the centre plinth as large as the crystal chandelier overhead.
There followed one of the most impressive sail-away parties I have ever attended, with the Manhattan skyline and Statue of Liberty bidding us farewell as we made our evening departure from New York. With the following morning came a startling realisation - we were at sea. And not for just a few hours, cruising from port to port, but truly at sea with nothing but the endless waves of the Atlantic all around. Three brisk laps of the wrap-around promenade deck and one mile later, that fact had slowly begun to sink in. The views were spectacular. The spout of a passing whale, perhaps heading for the Newfoundland Coast, seemed to bid me farewell.
The first day at sea was full of excitement. Discovering the ship for the first time, I was delighted by the sheer amount of space on board, a marvel as the ship was sailing full without a stateroom spare! I quickly discovered a piano in every lounge and a wealth of friendly passengers, all eager to share their experiences of the ‘Big Apple.’ The buzz that evening, for the first formal night of the sailing, was intoxicating. Gentlemen stood resplendent in their suits and tuxedos, as did the ladies in their choice of finery. Dinner was exceptional, with the kind of personalised service Cunard proudly lay claim to. Already I felt like I knew my waiter, and our table’s Sommelier had certainly already ascertained my personal tastes! Already one of my big foibles regarding Cunard was dispelled, there was nothing posh or stuffy about that formal night. Sheer elegance reverberated from every part of the ship, romantic couples waltzing in the Queens Room to the live orchestra, and the smiles of those watching, well, you can’t put a name to that kind of feeling.
The next morning arrived and I’d already lost track of the days, and it didn’t bother me one bit. My phone lay abandoned at the bottom of my suitcase, and as I sipped a coffee in the Carinthia Lounge, I yearned for my book at the sight of others delving into theirs with almost more eagerness than their breakfast!
That morning I opted for an on board lecture. The guest speaker was none other than John McCarthy, who many will remember was taken hostage in Lebanon. As John masterfully and sensitively took us on his journey, I have never seen a packed theatre so enraptured. From the infamous taxi ride that never made the airport and the darkest moments of his imprisonment, to the joy he found in human company, even those of his guards. Wonderfully, we were able to return two days later for the second part of his lecture, and although I missed a well-attended Q&A session, Cunard’s lecture channel on my stateroom TV allowed me to catch up.
Tedium at sea was a far distant thought, something I laughed at as the voyage progressed. My mind was alive with questions, my tastebuds delighted by dinners and Cunard’s famed white-gloved Afternoon Tea, my ears engaged by the pianists, harpists and violinists who delighted us at every turn. I learned to Waltz, finding a wonderful partner from amongst the Dance Hosts, who sought me out for each turn around the dancefloor. In the on board Planetarium, the only one at sea, I saw the planets of our solar system and discovered just how dramatic and different their weather is (diamond rain, anyone?). And I found true contentment in sailing the Atlantic, a crossing that certainly delivers you to land a renewed person, a voyager in every sense of the word.