How does one top a twelve day (12) voyage on Cunard’s Flagship Queen Mary 2 especially the 175th Anniversary Voyage from Southampton via Liverpool to Halifax retracing the original of the Britannia from Liverpool, those many years ago, by Samuel Cunard.
Well, you do not, but you can be part of it with 2,315 other souls who booked on this historical voyage.
My wife Elizabeth and I spotted this cruise for July 2nd -14th 2015 to celebrate Cunard’s 175th Anniversary from Liverpool to Halifax then Boston, finally New York back in early 2014 . Our travel agent, as we live on Vancouver Island was up in the early hours to Cunard to book a stateroom for us as they were selling fast . In fact for 24 hours they held a suite for us out of Liverpool (all $25,000 worth of it) sadly I asked her to start our trip out of Southampton with an Outside Stateroom instead
To give ones perspective , our TA was booking with Cunard at 05:00 pst while I was sleeping and by 09:00 pst we had communicated and I sent an message to a Facebook friend ( We are Cunard Fanzine) in my Cunard group to query why the Liverpool bookings were gone for us normal people. Bless her (Helen) responded and said, book out of Southampton, loads of space, so we did , course we were not one of the esteemed Liverpool 400 who would embark in Liverpool but we would embark in Southampton, much easier and allow us two extra days on QM2 plus four days in Southampton.
Course we also decided on four days in New York after QM2 arrived at her final port.
Many have shared about this trip on various cruise Blogs on this trip so I will leave out some of the same info. Though a good reference point is a blog written by a friend of mine, who is also part of the ‘We are Cunard Fanzine’ group. http://solentrichardscruiseblog.com/2015/07/24/queen-mary-2-anniversary-voyage/
As a child I left Liverpool to immigrate to Canada via Halifax, Pier 21 , http://www.pier21.ca/home/
Now being retired it was my dream to recreate this trip but in comfort and able to truly enjoy a Cunard voyage, our first Cunard experience and on its flagship QM2 across the Atlantic. Elizabeth and I have travelled on various cruise lines over time to many destinations and once retired the prior work part of me being systems and computers caused me to join cruise forums and create my personal cruise blog. https://robbarcruises.com/
In deciding on our flights as they would be one-way ones with help of my TA we managed to arrange Air Canada business class on Aeroplan points a year ago to Southampton and from New York. I also contacted Imperial Cars Southampton Ltd to transport us from Heathrow to Novotel in Southampton , then from hotel to ship.
We spent 4 days in Southampton.
12 days on QM2 and 4 days in New York.
On July 2nd, we boarded the ship at the City Terminal, after a bit of a wait we were processed very fast and onboard by past noon.
Part of the sail away and excitement was to see and hear the Irish Guards performing for us on deck then with my friend watching them on the quay playing for the sail away. Was I excited, of course
It turned out that we of the same Facebook group were together at the same dinner table in the Britannia Restaurant for second seating,
For us from the West Coast , it was lovely to dress up for Formal and informal nights which of course on Cunard means the men have jackets on in the evening regardless while the woman have cocktail dresses and such on.
and one could not find fault with the food nor services, so many choices.
Cunard always arranges gifted speakers to give talks during the day so talks were presented to attend or one could find a quiet spot to read and relax, even people watch
The voyage starts:
Liverpool: Was after a sea day and we were treated to a fantastic concert at the Liverpool Cathedral, it was about 2 1/2 hours long and well worth it. For me, my highest emotional point was saying to myself, wow , back in my country of birth and singing ‘Rule Britannia’ in this church..
What more do I need.
Cunard pulled out all the stops for this Anniversary voyage with special meals and menus including an Anniversary hardcover book given to each passenger and lapel pins.
After Liverpool, we made our way across the North Atlantic and though we sometimes had Force Gales where the decks were closed , we could not feel a thing , look out the porthole and see the swells and waves but this Ocean liner just moved through at 21. Knots, average speed. We were in an Outside stateroom on deck 5- section A (#5003) near the bow and did not notice any true movement though we could see it. For meals, we used the buffet at times (Kings Court) and mainly had cabin service for breakfast. We took all our evening meals in the Britannia Restaurant, lower level, deck 2. The service was excellent including the wine / bar service.
We had fun…. The first night the wine menu was presented to Elizabeth with the first page opened showing wines starting at $120 US + , both of us went gulp! Then I said to her, try some of those other pages, surprise we were now in the more affordable area, not inexpensive but what a quality restaurant would offer.
Did I mention the lovely menu options for all tastes and the decadent deserts, course the Canyon Spa offered on the menu selections to help one enjoy but not gain weight, sure.
Our cabin service was spot on, lots of space for four pieces of luggage and gifts we accumulated from ship or shore. We kept the nightly chocolates on our pillows for our grandchildren Arrived in Halifax after enjoyable days at sea including some lovely lunches at the Golden Lion, just pay for your drinks. I also spent time in the Commodore Club having a few Highland Park Scotch or the Chart Room and Liz and I would venture for a nightcap in the Queens Room watching the more experienced folks dance to the QM2 Orchestra.
During our North Atlantic crossing we also enjoyed listening to an amazing couple (four times) who played classical and modern on a Spanish guitar and Oboe, called the Zoco Duno and attended the QM2 Interdenominational Sunday Church service led by the Captain, for us it was like being in our local church.
In Halifax, we went back to see Pier 21 and I even got a returning immigrant sticker. We then went on a lovely walk of the Harbour area, took a trip on the Theodor Too Tug boat and of course went to a local store for some supplies. That night, Halifax sent us off in style with a 21 gun salute at sail away, an escort by Mr Tugboat and the Royal Canadian Navy .
Another sea day and into Boston,
where we went to the John F Kennedy Museum, a marvelous experience and learning about that period of time. They also have a bookstore of many items to purchase. Only hitch into Boston prior to leaving for tour was it took awhile for us to be processed by USA Immigration on the ship. Considering the QM2 had about 2,315 passengers, our tour was delayed about 30 minutes only, left at 10:30 instead of 10am Our final sea day and of course packing day prior to arrival to New York.
A few days prior to our arrival, Cunard advertized their White Star Luggage service as being available for passengers to send luggage from ship to one home destination. We elected to explore this option and in fact sent one piece onwards from New York to Victoria. I have included that part of the trip at the end of this section on New York.
New York: Disembarkation Day:
Reading some of the boards as we were to go to the Sanctuary Hotel for our four days. http://www.sanctuaryhotelnyc.com/ which is near Times Square. I asked for a porter to get me a Black Cab instead of a Yellow Taxi , these are fixed rates based on area in town , black newer SUV’s or large cabs. In essence one pay s a flat rate plus tip also I tipped the luggage porter. We were off the ship at 10:30am and into a Black Cab by 11am, into our hotel by 12:30pm as traffic was thick and the hotel offered coffee or tea and a couch plus amenities while we waited for our room to be available as check in time is normally 3pm , we were in our room by about 2pm
New York: What can one say , it is the city that never sleeps, people always in a rush and we experienced restaurants where dinner conversations were like yelling matches, at least to our tender Pacific West Coast ears. Turns out , it is normal.
We used the Hop On Hop Off Buses for two days and basically rose the two loops , lovely way to see the city , waterfront and get to know where we were an how far things really are from each other.
Do New Yorkers read books was a question for us as we could not find a bookstore nor large grocery stores, seems people in the city buy what they need for a few days and walk or bike it home as many did not have parking spots like we are used to . Of course we had to experience a Hot Dog from the sidewalk vendor
and I found an Irish Pub 30 feet from our hotel. Best find was Starbucks and numerous TD Toronto Dominion Bank branches so I could get monies without a fee. We did lots of walking and toured Macys and Lords and Taylors.
Value for this voyage . QM2 and Cunard , 6 stars ****** service We are now looking to book QM2 again next year , perhaps Florida to San Francisco on Queen Victoria or around Canada / new England on QM2, as I do have a brand new tux to wear.
Post script: White Star Luggage service I had read about transporting your luggage to the ship prior to a voyage via the service Cunard offered called White Star Luggage service By the time I looked into it , was three weeks too late. It intrigued me as to send ones luggage not really needed while in transit as we would spend time in Southampton prior to boarding and it would reduce concerns about air weight and transporting luggage for long distances. We live on Vancouver Island and would fly to Southampton then back from New York. About seven days prior to end of our cruise the Pursers office announced that staff would be available to coordinate transfer of luggage from port to your home city if wanted by White Star Luggage (DHL). I went down and discussed the options and discovered the options and costs were to my mind not that expensive to ship a 50 lb luggage case. From New York city to Victoria Canada , about $190 US for 3,030 miles. As were staying four days in New York we elected to have only three pieces of luggage with us and ship back our formal clothes and extra we did not plan to wear. In our case our weight limits and number of bags (4) were allowed free on Air Canada but we thought why not try this service and see the results for future cruises. So we hipped one item back. The way it works is you fill out forms indicating your approval, agreement and destination, supply passport to be copied and a credit card for payment as to option chosen. We had one day to complete the process as the information had to be sent and approved by DHL and Cunard prior to arrival in New York. The fun part was to fill out a form that detailed the items being shipped and their approximate value for Insurance purposes. You are automatically covered for $2,000 US and can add another $1,000 increments for $10 US. We chose $3,000 🙂 Imagine Liz’s surprise when I asked her to decide what had to go into this suitcase 7 days prior to disembarkation. No gifts, food et cetra are allowed. Only Clothes though I did add all our daily news items on actual night of packing prior to New York. The Pursers office confirmed all was well 2 days later and sent ne copies of my itemized list though nerd here took a picture on my iPhone, just in case The day we received our luggage tags we also received a special plastic pouch with scan code papers and instructions. one inside the suitcase and UNLOCKED. Once off the ship we went through customs and just outside the hall our luggage porter took us to the White Star representative. pile of luggage already there. The rep checked m name off a list and that was it. Six days later , 2 after we got home we had a call from DHL. please send by email , copies of our passport and list They would clear through customs and send to our home The only glitch was I sent a copy of our declaration of goods intransit instead of the official carbon copy , it not bother DHL but did bother a CBSA person Lesson learned The item I did do right was to declare to an agent not to the scan machines that we had this intransit Within 2 weeks all was at our home.. We will use White Star Luggage service ( DHL ) again It works and is safe
I hope you all have enjoyed my account of our trip , long perhaps but it was overall a wonderful trip for the both of us and we were pleased to meet Cyber Friends who are now real friends in the flesh
Rob (aka Robbar)