By Richard Carroll
The Queen Mary 2, a historic Cunarder and the definitive queen of the seas, is sailing through a thick patch of shifting fog and rough sea, creating large, 20-foot swells and generating bulky scraps of churning sea foam. Farther from the ship, a muscular wind riffles the whitecaps into a string of pearl-white beads.
In spite of the climate's fluid expressions, the ship is easily negotiating its way through the North Atlantic's weather tantrums on a westward-bound voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City, passing to the south of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland that form part of the Continental Shelf and then tracking north of where the Titanic lies hidden beneath the frigid waters.
Sailing the North Atlantic provides a wonderful sense of freedom with the vastness of the sea and a hazy horizon that fades into the mist, putting one in intimate touch with nature and its fickle, ever-changing personality. The clouds, heavy with moisture, are pushed around by moody wind patterns while beneath the water's surface are great mountain ranges, deep valleys, tricky sandbars and shallows that were the demise of ancient mariners.
The Queen Mary 2, a superlative ocean liner designed specifically for trans-Atlantic crossings, was built as an ocean liner rather than as a cruise ship, with 40% more steel than the typical cruise vessel. With great pride she has racked up more than 300 trans-Atlantic crossings, not an unusual achievement for a Cunarder.
The historic line was founded in 1839 by Samuel Cunard, who must have been born with saltwater in his veins and seaweed between his toes. He launched the wooden, steam-powered, twin-paddle Britannia in 1840, making her maiden voyage of 14 challenging days with 115 adventurous passengers and countless sacks of mail. Refrigeration had not yet been developed so Cunard cleverly sailed with live chickens for eggs, a cow for fresh milk and cats in search of stray rodents. Built before stabilizers, the ship subjected passengers and crew to regular bouts of seasickness.
The Queen Mary 2 reflects Cunard's incredible history with the style and demeanor of the bygone era of ocean travel — but with Broadway shows lighting up the night along with busy pubs, live music, and Latin and ballroom dance classes. The Queen has the largest dance floor afloat with a big band and vocalists who know how to swing, a National Geographic Planetarium on Deck 3, and a dress code in place in respect to the captain, the ship's staff, and a long-lasting Cunard tradition of style and elegance.
The classic grace of cruising is never more evident than in the ambience of the ship's library, with 10,605 nicely arranged volumes in a setting designed for a queen. Located on Deck 8 in an intimate reading area and surrounded by the pathless Atlantic, the largest library afloat is a wondrous bonus. A small bookstore adjoins the library, offering the world's culture. Life slows to a thoughtful, gentle pace to allow for an appreciation of the mighty Atlantic and the mesmerizing movement of the ship.
A seven-day trans-Atlantic crossing allows passengers to focus on enjoyable thoughts, revitalize their spirits and bodies, and prepare for the upcoming travel experience, arriving fresh and rejuvenated and best of all rejoicing with a gleeful goodbye to jet lag. The ship furthers the pleasure with gala evenings in smart attire, dining in the Britannia Restaurant Deck 3, show time in the Royal Court Theatre, and for those in dancing shoes, a floor with space to show off your tango moves in the Queens Room.
Executive Chef Roland Sarguman, born and raised in Malaysia, has been cooking for Cunard for 22 years.
"We present multinational options," he said, "as well as vegetarian, low-sugar, gluten- and lactose-free entrees, and Canyon Ranch Spa selections, a carb gratification."
Dining choices abound, from the Steakhouse at the Verandah and a London-style pub lunch at the Golden Lion Pub to changing alternative selections at Kings Court, such as La Piazza Italian cuisine, a huge buffet on Deck 7 and the traditional Cunard Afternoon Tea. For a nightcap, the Champagne Bar is beckoning.
The essence of Cunard's remarkable history is showcased and celebrated throughout the ship, a history lesson afloat that is accessible via a leisurely stroll. With some 249 ships, Cunard's captains have sailed across the seas for nearly two centuries. On Monday, April 15, 1912, the famed Cunarder SS Carpathia steamed through fields of ice under a cold, clear, starry sky and rescued 705 survivors of the doomed Titanic. During World War II, Commodore Sir James Bisset commanded both the Long Beach, California, Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth, carrying a record 16,683 American GIs to the war in Europe.
Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, film personalities and many of the of the world's royalty have experienced a Cunard Atlantic crossing. On this cruise it was everyday hard-working folks of all ages, and it was extraordinary indeed.
WHEN YOU GO
For more information: www.cunard.com
Richard Carroll is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
Afternoon tea with scones, cakes and a variety of teas has been a classic Cunard tradition for more than 150 years. Photo courtesy of Halina Kubalski.