17 March, 2008

Living the Long Easter Week-end

You may have been wondering why I've been so quiet. Well, it's because I was doing this trip.

On this ship:

That's Cunard's Queen Mary 2 -- 151,400 gross tons of ocean-going gorgeousness!

Don't call this a cruise. Oh no no no! This is not a cruise ship. This is an ocean liner. This ship is built along the same lines as those classic liners that crossed the Atlantic daily when the only way to get to Europe from here was by boat. This piece of gorgeousness doesn't limit its Atlantic season in September. Oh no. This tough girl crosses the Atlantic well into the autumn. She's no munchkin either. QM2 is only 117 feet shorter than the Empire State Building is tall.

Her sister ship, the Queen Elizabeth 2, did it for forty years. She, the old girl, could go faster backwards that most cruise ships can go forwards! She retires this year and will become a floating hotel in Dubai. Bob and I took our honeymoon aboard her back in 2003. We crossed the Atlantic back then -- New York to Southampton, just like in the olden days.

Around 2pm we met the ship at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. This was a new experience for us since last time, we met the QE2 at the New York Passenger Terminal on the West Side of Manhattan. I don't know why QM2 launches from Brooklyn. I know that when she was built, she was carefully engineered so she could fit under the Verrazano Bridge at high tide (she squeaks through with something like a meter to spare). Who knows.

We sailed at 5pm. Well, it was more like 7pm after the tugs had to help us away from the dock in that 45 knot wind! Dinner Thursday evening was casual, but we dressed anyway. We chose the later seating to avoid the bluehairs. We should have realised that on a short trip on a school holiday weekend, the bluehairs weren't the problem; the screaming rugrats were! But they weren't at the 8:30 seating either. =)

Friday night was the formal evening. The evening event was The Black and White Ball. I was originally hysterical because none of my formal gowns are black or white. So I was going to have to make something new. With all the pattern drafting I've been doing lately, who has time to sew!

Bob had a wonderful idea. How lovely it is to have a husband who has not only a real eye for style, but a practical bent too. I was working on the Regency Evening Gown pattern, and he said I would look gorgeous in it, why didn't I make one for our QM2 trip. I happened to have some white silk satin, so I made this gown: .

Saturday we woke up in Princess Cays, the Bahamas. We scheduled a little snorkling. Honestly, we almost didn't get off the boat at all. The ship is just so relaxing and the cattle drive that was the waiting line for the tenders was quite beyond bearing. But bless the Cunard staff -- they directed us to a remote end of the beach where there was no one but ourselves and we sat in the shade of a tree and snorkelled in a cove where the water was only thigh-high for as much as 100 yards. The coolest thing was when we were staning in the surf and these fish leaped over our feet. As the tide washed up, big fish were following the smelt into the shallows. And the big fish were literally out of the water for a few seconds as they chased them on shore. It was like Wild Kingdom!

Back on the ship it was a semi-formal evening. Guess what the theme was: The Buccaneer Ball! Can you stand it? The itinerary enjoined us to wear our best pirate gear. They really had no idea what they were asking! I really couldn't wait to see what the kind of people who take trips on the QM2 wore to a Buccaneer Ball! Here's what we wore:

Or maybe you want to see a full-length shot:

Mostly there were a couple of pirate hats and some of the kids dressed up. We must have delighted the staff though because for the rest of the trip, they were complimenting us. We were even approached in the whirlpool by someone! (Where does one keep a business card in a swimsuit?) Frankly I don't know how anyone recognizes me without the gear. I'm quite a different looking person without the hair and the stays and all the kit!

The Ship's Photographer told us that in his two years onboard QM2, he'd never seen a more beautiful gown. I was delighted.

Sunday was a leisurely return. The activity of the day was reading. There was rain and wind so they had all the deck chairs strapped down. So we went to the beautiful library that overlooks the bow and sat up there on leather couches and read library books. I read a Poirot mystery of course!

Monday morning we arrived back in Brooklyn and the world crashed into our consciousness again. We had to be out of our staterooms by 8am but waited in the lobby until our deck was called around 10am. At least the Grand Lobby has lovely couches! Customs was quick and easy and so was collecting our car from the lot. Staying awake on the 2-hour drive home was difficult though.

Cunard knows its market. People don't choose Cunard for a holiday cruise. They choose them because they are the oldest and only surviving ocean liner company in the world. They actively cultivate an atmosphere of the Golden Age of Ocean Travel onboard. Even though the ship's keel was laid in 2002, the interior decor is largely Art Deco. And many of the pictures on the walls in the passageways hark back to the Jazz Age. The formal dining arrangements, balls in the Queen's Ballroom, and high tea every day give a feeling of living in another time. And because they carefully hand-deliver your luggage to your stateroom, you can do what you can't do on any airline in the world -- take luggage you don't want damaged! And get this -- there is no limit on the amount of luggage you take on a Cunard ship! So you can literally have steamer trunk after steamer trunk of gowns and suits and things you bought in Paris. Isn't it lovely!??!?

And in true running-ahead-of-myself fashion, we're planning our next trip already. For a very special birthday, I want to cross the Atlantic on the QM2, take the Orient Express from London to Venice, and perhaps come back on a Cunard crossing if we can time it right. I am already planning my wardrobe -- evening gowns and day suits... even a pair of plus-fours for the golf simulator onboard! And can you believe the pups could come with us? They couldn't leave the ship, but doggies have their own steward who takes care of them, and you can hang out on the kennel deck all day with them if you like. No wire cages here! Good Lord... I could be an Erte print!


Kate said...

Oh my God. What a wonderful trip!

Capt. Red Llewellyn said...

OhmyWord dear Kass! was looking for a garbed pic of you to add to my blog when giving resource credits (i want all my in-world friends see how gorgeous you are to go with such smarts & expertise!) and this is just splendid! but funny how the DH has the same slightly smug expression in his garbed pics! LOL Brilliant! thanks again for all your help with my corset talk...it had been a few years since Paula, Chort & I did that PPT for that educational talk on the history of underwear..[grins] THAT was a fun day! and getting your input is always extra special...luvyameanit! Cheers babe!

Rev. Sharon said...

What a superb post!! *applauds* Oh how I wish I could take a trip on that vessel! OH the costumes I would want to take along... *laughs happily at the very thought* Thank you for sharing your journey with us all, and thanks for the delightful pics of you and The Estimable Husband!