‘The liner, she’s a lady…’ Rudyard Kipling
Those words flitted through my mind as I sat at breakfast this morning in the Britannia Club on board the Queen Mary 2. Sunlight danced on the rolling, gunmetal waves as the liner romped at a stately twenty two knots across an unfeasible, calm December Atlantic.
We were several hours late setting out on this, the last scheduled westbound crossing of 2014. A fault with an Azipod line obliged Captain Kevin Oprey to wait until midnight to warp this colossal floating city clear of her berth. Thus, most passengers missed the departure of the ship, but it was just one of those things that cannot be helped in the scheme of things.
Soon after noon yesterday, the QM2 swept past Bishop’s Rock, and our crossing could truly be said to have begun. The sea was signature Atlantic trademark; surging rollers crowned with white caps that flailed the great hull at force 4. Above us, a leaden sky sent skittish rain squalls drumming against the decks of the big liner as she held to her course.
On board, an air of quiet, unruffled calm suffuses the ship. The broad passageways of Two and Three Decks are beautifully decorated for the Christmas holidays, as is the stunningly beautiful Grand Lobby. Christmas trees have sprung up everywhere, like so many mischevious elves.
After a good lunch, it was somewhat incongruous yesterday to listen to an excellent live band as I sat, gently par boiling in an upper deck hot tub. This upper level area- the Pavilion Pool- sits amidships. As well as a pair of hot tubs, it has a swimming pool, lots of plush, comfy sun beds and chairs, and a full service bar.
Best of all, the entire complex is covered by a sliding perspex roof. Just outside, through the glass windows, I could make out my fellow passengers, promenading bravely in the face of the weather as they tried to work off another lunch. Sorry, but I was more comfortable watching rather than participating, thanks all the same.
To get to a point of sorts; right at that moment, I felt more than a pang of sympathy for the huddled masses, six miles above us, hurtling across the Atlantic in a succession of essentially characterless metal tubes. Down here, we’ve eschewed jet lag for Jacuzzis, and seats no wider than a pygmy’s hankie for a seemingly endless amount of spacious, spectacular vistas, variety and vast, beautifully plush spaces to just indulge in.
And Queen Mary 2 is handling the seas with great style and panache; of course her great size- and she is the largest ocean liner ever built- helps this, but it is just as much about intelligent design, too. Deep, wide, tall and powerful, this truly is ‘Proud Mary’ afloat.
Last night was the first formal night of the crossing, and Captain Oprey’s welcome aboard cocktail party drew a large, properly attired and perfectly primped crowd to the Queen’s Room. It was the sort of elegant event that Cunard does better than anybody else and, of course, it was wonderful to see everybody in their finery.
A first, excellent dinner in the Britannia Club was followed by a few hours of soft, mellow jazz in the Chart Room. This gorgeous space- so reminiscent of the same room aboard QE2- was packed to capacity, and deservedly so.
Later, I checked out the kind of industrial chic, funky, two level G32 disco. Again, the room was packed with party goers but, by this stage, the Queen Mary 2 was indulging in a little rock and roll of her own, as the force eight predicted by the captain at his party duly served notice that even the biggest ship will still move at sea. But, by the time I woke to the welcome sight of sunlight streaming across my stateroom floor this morning, the sea had fallen back to a kinder, more benevolent state.
There’s already an ‘Alice through the Looking Glass’ quality about this voyage. Once more, I find myself sagging with pathetic ease into the timeless traditions of a westbound crossing. I have visited the huge- and hugely popular- library to pick out some reading material. And there’s a pub lunch in the Golden Lion at noon that suddenly seems like the most important meal of the day right at this moment.
For the next few days, our most terrible dilemmas will center around our choice of meal orders. The Queen Mary 2 and her human cargo are in between two continents and, right now, we are strictly part of neither.
Only a very tenuous thread seems to connect us to reality of any kind. The normal, the mundane and the plain tiresome elements of everyday life have been packed away in the hold like excess baggage, unwanted for the voyage. And that is exactly as it should be.
For now, I send you my best wishes from this extraordinary, elegant lady. I’ll be posting updates in the blog so, if this piques your attention, please stay tuned.