5/5. “This is the life”, I kept repeating to Mark’s annoyance. We may have shot ourselves in the foot by starting our journey on the Queen Mary because the bar was set high. Really high.
In no way am I a travel expert, especially when it comes to luxury cruise liners, but I like what I like and so these reviews will be completely biased and weigh heavily on the quality of food, especially dessert. (I’ll try to keep this short, but sometimes my mind and stomach gets carried away).
To start, I will explain how and why we ended up taking the QM2. The thought of traveling without flying was a mere idea at the time. We started looking into what our options were. Travel by freighter or cargo ship, as it turns, out is very expensive and very unreliable. Our friend Rachel asked if we considered the QM2. We thought ‘NO WAY’, assuming it would be even more expensive and an inappropriate way to start our vagabonding trip around the world. Anyhow, much to our surprise, it turns out that it doesn’t cost much more than a plane ticket. And so we booked it!! (We hope to eventually travel by cargo ship somewhere down the wandering road.) I will share my thoughts on the environmental impact of our travel later in another post.
Even though we’re quite happy to ‘rough it’, Mark and I really appreciate the finer things in life. We enjoy getting dressed up, eating well prepared food and sipping vintage wines almost as much as we enjoy strapping on our hiking boots and chowing down on reconstituted lasagna. So we came to terms with the QM2 voyage pretty quickly. Ok, now I’ll start talking about the boat.
White Star service is supreme. From the moment we checked in to the moment we left the ship, everything was top-notch. When we entered our inside estate room, there was a bottle of nice Champagne on ice courtesy of the captain. The people working on the boat were above and beyond amazing. The ratio of employees to customers is something ridiculous like 1:2. There were people working everywhere and not one of them would allow you to pass without a ‘good evening’ or a ‘hello, how are you today?’. It really made you feel appreciated — I loved it! I especially loved our estate room attendant who would always call Mark ‘Mr. Rosen’, but he would roll his ‘r’ so much that it became, Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrosen. It sounded beautiful and exotic!
The boat itself is an amazing feat of engineering. Three times the size of the Titanic. You barely detect the 4 metre swells the ocean was throwing at us. It very gently rocked, which was lovely for putting you to sleep at night. It also made it tricky to walk in a straight line, which was a nice reminder that we were on a boat in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. Holy cow – we were on a boat in the middle of the ocean! It is so huge that it was difficult at first to gather your bearings and sort out which side of the boat was port vs. starboard, aft vs. fore. There was no shortage of entertainment anywhere, anytime, from theatre and poetry readings to a full-sized planetarium to live music to cards and board games to high end shopping. The list goes on… Mark and I enjoyed lying on deck chairs watching the ocean and time pass us by. Occasionally I made it out to the gym (usually when I ate two lunches and three helpings of dessert the day before…haha…I’m serious). In a vain effort to find fault, I tried to photograph all vermin on board. Lame.
The boat was filled with so many nationalities. The majority were Americans, Germans and Brits. I loved listening to all the different accents and watching them interact in the relatively confined spaces of the boat. There were definitely certain ‘types’ of people traveling on the ship. Some people don’t enjoy flying and so this is their mode of transport, some people are avid cruise-goers, and some people appreciate the way things ‘used to be’. Most people we met were fairly distinguished and in some way it felt like we were posers amongst society’s elite. In reality, I’m sure this isn’t the case. Our friend Neil did comment on Mark being a real ‘Renaissance Man’ after all.
The food. This is where I could get most carried away. Let’s just say that I was totally satisfied, the food exceeded my expectations, which is not easy to do. We enjoyed tea time most days. Mark has become a big fan of scones with jam and clotted cream (although he denies it’s clotted cream and prefers to call it whipped cream). The menu changed with each meal at each restaurant and it never disappointed. We’d have a cheese plate at the end of every meal. If you desire something not on the menu, they’d do their best to appease you. The deserts were out of this world. Jamaican rum pudding with caramelized banana and coconut ice cream was the highlight of my dining experience. The only thing I didn’t enjoy was the eggs that came with breakfast in bed. They were powdered eggs! I can’t really complain though because it was breakfast in bed. I feel silly even saying that.
This is the way to travel. Slowly. Each day, we advanced the clocks by one hour, making the time change a gradual shift, and giving your body time to adjust. We arrived refreshed and relaxed and weighing a few pounds extra. It made the traveling experience easy and enjoyable. Every last detail was taken care of. Every last detail on the boat was impeccable as well (did I mention the Wedgewood china, the silver silverware, the egyptian cotton bath towels or the soap that made my hair softer than ever?) If you ever have the time, DO IT. It was absolutely an experience of a life time and we’re so glad we did it.