England, New York and a Transatlantic Voyage – June 2024 (Month 123)

Last month I just reported on our Road Trip to Italy.

This month I was lucky enough to have two holidays – the first a long weekend in England with my landlord and landlady, and the second the long-planned cruise from New York to Southampton with Cunard’s Queen Mary 2.

A visit to England with Gudula and Frank

I had mentioned to Gudula and Frank that they were welcome to go and stay in Mum’s house if they wanted to visit England and they came up with a long weekend (a bank holiday on the Thursday) that they could visit – and it worked out well that I could come too.

So I booked the ferry for the three of us. As I only have access to the Stena Lounge for 2 people I bought an extra Stena Lounge Seat for each leg of the journey so that we could all eat together.

Someone had to stay at home to look after Poppy and Klaus, who had to work on the Friday, agreed to do that.

So Gudula, Frank and I set off on the Wednesday afternoon (I worked that morning) in Gudula’s car (a VW Golf).

We went early enough to try to miss the traffic around Rotterdam but we weren’t that lucky. We had a journey of about three hours to get to HvH and as we were far too early for the ferry we went to the beach instead, where we first had an ice cream and then went for a walk.

Although it wasn’t a particularly warm day there were lots of people on the very large beach.

I liked this sign which showed the start point of my two holidays this month – Harwich (for the UK) and New York (for the cruise).

We walked along the edge of the Maas towards the North Sea, watching the ships go by.

And here the view back to the beach from the end of the walkway.

We had decided not to have a meal before getting on the ferry, and that we would just eat the goodies in the Stena Lounge. We got on the boat after a short wait and had a look around – this is the view down to the refrigerated truck trailers on the boat, with the Maas in the background.

After Gudula and Frank had seen the ship we went to the Stena Lounge and started the snacking.

Both Frank and I don’t drink so it was just Gudula who enjoyed the free wine.

After the savoury course (cheese and biscuits, crisps, mini pretzels) it was time for the small cakes. These were all really nice!

Klaus and I usually go to the cabin before the boat leaves at 22:00 but this time I stayed up so we could watch the boat leave – the Stena Lounge is right at the front of the ferry now so you can see the chaps casting off the huge ropes. The ferry initially turns round 180 degrees using the bow thrusters which is very noisy, and also it seems like the boat is too wide to make it round… but it does.

After this we went to our cabins for bed and agreed to meet the next morning in the Stena Lounge.

I had my usual bacon and egg on toast breakfast the next morning in the lounge, washed down by tea.

Oh, and the obligatory croissants too.

We then headed to the car and I took over the driving (I would do all the driving in the UK).

I took the scenic route to Ipswich via Ramsey, Manningtree and the Shotley Peninsula. Gudula found being on the wrong side of the road as a passenger a bit scary at first but got used to it.

We arrived in Witnesham at Mum’s house and brought in all our luggage. Frank immediately started doing some garden work – and in fact over the long weekend he filled one and a half bins of garden waste. It helped that Dad had lots of garden gadgets (trimmers, strimmer etc) which still seemed to work. Gudula does most of the gardening at home but she enjoyed doing a puzzle that Anna had started and was laid out on the dining room table whilst Frank did his gardening in the fresh air.

I had contacted the neighbour Maureen to say we had arrived and she came round for a cuppa and a chat – it was lovely to see her again!

Frank mentioned that he had filled up our green bin and she said that the bin men would come the next day but she had half of her bin still free and we were welcome to use it. So we went round to her house to fetch the bin but first to say hello to Daisy the tortoise. Here is Gudula meeting another of my pets (not quite as lively as Poppy).

Daisy seems in great health and was eating as soon as she was put into her pen in the garden – see evidence of dandelion leaves around her mouth!

Maureen also showed us round her garden as it is beautiful – Gudula and she were swapping plant names (German and English names are often quite different), and we were very impressed by how much work she puts in to the garden.

We borrowed her bin for Frank to fill it some more and then it was time to pop out for lunch at the Shed in Sproughton.

This is a mini antiques barn which also has a café called Nora’s Tea Room which is a WW2 themed café. Klaus said we had to go there!

First of all Gudula had a browse around the antiques and deco articles, which she enjoyed very much. Then it was time for cake at Nora’s (for them) and a cream tea for me.

Our next event was a visit to Aldi on the way back from the Tea Room.

Gudula was amazed at this multipack of crisps – this is not something you get in Germany.

She really likes salt & vinegar crisps so got a couple of packs from Aldi, and a few other bits and bobs.

We wanted some cheese and some rolls for breakfast so then went on to Morrisons which has a much larger selection. Gudula really enjoyed looking around the supermarket and noting the differences from German supermarkets.

I picked up a few bits and bobs I needed, mainly custard.

After this we returned to Buckshorns and Frank did some more gardening and Gudula puzzling. We then all went for a walk, doing the usual 4.5km round walk I like to do in Witnesham but all getting very muddy shoes as a result.

As we walked past the posh house near the church a lady outside started chatting to us – she lived in the old servants’ quarters and her daughter was married to the owner of the big house. We had quite a long chat about various things and she said next time I was passing I should pop in and see her, her name was Maria. Very friendly! (I had said we were visiting from Germany so that made us interesting).

Frank also did a bit of car pimping. I had bought along the headlamp beam deflectors which I bought for Priscilla but never stuck on (her headlamps aren’t very bright) but as we would be driving in daylight on this holiday I didn’t really want to stick them on Gudula’s car. Frank had clearly detected this so he did his own headlamp beam reflectors using masking tape. Impressive! (And they seemed to work).

The plan for the evening was Fish ‘n Chips. Frank and I drove to Fircroft Road Fish Bar and got two fish and chips between the three of us, which we ate in Mum’s kitchen.

Gudula also decided to try some of the local(ish) brew so had a bottle of Bishop’s Finger (which is actually from Kent, but that’s South East at least). She also opened some crisps directly after the fish ‘n chips which I thought showed real devotion to potatoes!

The next day we enjoyed our breakfast of rolls, cheese and toasted muffins and after some more jigsaw puzzling (Gudula) and gardening (Frank) it was time to head off to Snape Maltings, which opened at 10.

The start wasn’t ideal as we came to a road closure after about 5 minutes driving and the diversion took us back past Mum’s house and into Ipswich. The diversion avoided the scary narrow lanes which I don’t like driving.

It was also a wet and windy day so Snape Maltings wasn’t as scenic and we couldn’t really do a walk. We looked around the different shops there but it seemed a bit less impressive than last time I was there.

We then headed off to Aldeburgh and found a parking space to the south of the town and then went for a walk on the beach – which was very blowy!

As we were walking along and I was a bit apart from Gudula and Frank a lady came up to me and started generally chatting (about swimming in the sea). The lady Maria on the walk yesterday randomly started chatting to me too – this almost never happens to me, but used to happen to my Mum a lot. I assumed it’s because she looked more open and friendly than I do, but perhaps it’s more to do with people being willing to speak to someone on their own and not thinking they might be interrupting a couple. Whatever, I found it nice that people chatted with me – England does seem a bit more friendly with regard to chatting to strangers (at least in the East of England).

We stopped at a fish stall and Frank had some smoked mackerel and I had a mini crab tart. We headed for a café I had been to before, the Chocolate Teapot, but it was full so we had to do a bit more walking and found Magpie’s Bakery and Tea Room which was actually really good.

Frank had an Apple Cake.

I had a cream tea.

Gudula had carrot and coriander soup (not photographed) with sourdough bread. We really enjoyed the food.

On the way out we looked at all the cakes and Gudula noticed the Rocky Road slice so we bought one to eat later when home. Frank didn’t try any of this as Marshmallows aren’t his thing it seems.

After the food we needed to stretch our legs a bit so walked to the Martello Tower to the south of the town. It is now holiday accommodation but I didn’t see any sign of any guests.

We returned home via Ipswich to avoid the worst of the detour again and after a bit of a relax we walked up the road from Mum’s house to the Moon & Mushroom pub in Swilland.

We ordered our food and then I was really pleased to see Mum’s friend Margo arrive with her husband Pete. It was great to see her again and we had a brief chat. She told Gudula and Frank she had heard lots about them from my Mum.

Gudula sampled some local(ish) beer.

Gudula and I both felt we ought to have a dessert so each went for the Brownie. Very tasty!

The next day was Saturday and our final day in Witnesham. My niece Gwen was coming up to visit for the day and I had planned for us to have Afternoon Tea in Dedham at The Essex Rose Tea room. Before that we decided to have a look around Ipswich Town Centre as there were a few things that Gudula wanted to get. One of these was Terry’s Chocolate Orange as Frank’s sister had requested them; I thought it was possible this was only a Christmas thing but we found them eventually in Poundland.

We also needed to buy shoelaces for Frank which we ended up getting in Deichmann (a German shoe shop!) for £1.49. I think this was the only thing he bought for himself in England.

We browsed some other shops, went into two churches which had both been converted into other things (a music venue and a social café) and also found ourself in a more rough bit of the high street. There was a pro-Gaza demonstration going on right in the middle of Ipswich too, and there were lots of people around generally, but there were also loads of empty shops.

We had thought when we arrived in Ipswich we would have our Afternoon Tea there but in the end we had finished our browsing and had time to go to Dedham. Gwen was setting off to drive to Ipswich so we went to Dedham and had two Afternoon Teas between us three, with an extra scone.

We enjoyed the food and as we were getting into the car (with a bit of speed as I noticed a traffic warden in the parking area we were at and we hadn’t bought a ticket as I didn’t realise we needed one) when I had a phone call from Gwen – she had arrived. I thought she meant Buckshorns (Mum’s house) but then she said “I think I can see you”. She had come to Dedham after all – we were lucky we hadn’t driven off and missed her, two minutes later and we wouldn’t have known.

So we followed her back to Witnesham and she and I had a good chinwag whilst Gudula and Frank went for another walk. We also did some cleaning of the house and washing the bedsheets, knowing that the next visit would be Klaus and me just 10 days later.

We then drove separately to Bekash Tandoori for an Indian meal. I am very happy with their service and the food is good – the price is also very decent as we had puppodums each, a main meal, shared two rices and 3 Naans and also had some Saag Aloo and Gudula had a beer – all for £67. Which I think is very good value.

We said our goodbyes to Gwen and then we headed off to Harwich. We were a bit later so were able to drive straight onto the ferry and then went straight up to the Stena Lounge for some cakes (even though we were full of curry!!)

One rather amusing thing on the ferry was that as I was bending over to tie my shoelaces the day before Gudula had noticed a small hole in my jeans by the back pocket. I had no spare jeans (only capri pants and it was too cold for them) so I had put on jeans-coloured underwear and hoped the jeans would survive the next day and a half.

Well, walking up the 18 flights of stairs from Deck 3 to Deck 11 appeared too much for the jeans and Gudula pointed out that the hole was rather larger…

So I had to take off my jumper and wrap it round my waist so it obscured my backside. This meant I felt rather chilly on my arms but saved my blushes.

I slept rather poorly as we had gone to the cabins rather late so was not happy when the wake-up music of “Don’t Worry Be Happy” blasted out in my cabin. However after some breakfast and tea I was a bit more human, although still with chilly arms due to jacket around waist.

We were off the ferry by 08:45 and headed to Kempen. I said to Frank we normally get home at 11:00 and in fact we got home at 11:01 so that was pretty accurate. Nils and Poppy were there to see us, Klaus was out cycling and had mistimed our journey so was still riding back when we got home. It was lovely to see him again.

All in all it was a nice short break. We did lots of browsing of shops which isn’t really Frank’s thing so I think that’s why he did a lot of gardening. If Gudula has enough holiday left they may have another short visit later in the year if the house isn’t sold – they know where it is now and they know the area too.

I know Mum often talked about my life in Germany and my landlord and landlady so it was nice for me to be able to bring them to visit Mum’s home, linking up two aspects of my life even more.

Poppy’s birthday

The 4th June was Poppy’s 14th birthday. Although she is now almost completely deaf and has a significant cataract in one eye, she is fit and active and very happy. We hope this continues for a long time!

Pre-Cruise Cakes

Before we headed off on our Transatlantic Voyage we were invited by Gudula and Frank for cake as a thank you for the England trip. And if someone invites us for cake, we don’t say no”

Poppy’s second-favourite person Lars was visiting so she was sitting on his lap hoping for cake – she was unfortunately unsuccessful in her mission.

A Transatlantic Voyage

As mentioned at the top of this blog post, this month was our cruise from New York to Southampton to celebrate my birthday, rescheduled from 3 years ago for my 50th.

The plan was to fly to New York from Heathrow (Cunard organised the flights at what turned out to be a very bargainous rate), and to go out two days earlier to have the time in New York (and allow any missing luggage to find us again). As the flight was 11:40am from Heathrow we arranged to spend the night before in the Hilton Heathrow as that included car parking at a reasonable rate, and we also then decided to spend the previous night at Buckshorns (Mum’s house) to check it over again.

This was my schedule – as you can see, an eight day cruise ends up taking two weeks when Helen likes to build in buffers to cope with disasters!

Monday 10 June – Hoek van Holland

I worked on the Monday and finished at 11:00am. After a salad lunch Klaus and I set off to HvH, with the usual slow traffic. We stopped for McDonalds and to chill out a bit and then joined the early queue for the ferry. Once we were on we stocked up with the Stena Lounge goodies.

Tuesday 11 June – Ipswich

We arrived at Mum’s house and checked it over (all fine). We headed into Ipswich for some last-minute tasks (searching for an overbody bag for Klaus – without success). We had lunch in a small café in Ipswich and then chilled out in the afternoon – I spent some time continuing the jigsaw puzzle that Anna had started and Gudula had continued. Klaus and I had an early night as we were both pretty pooped.

Wednesday 12 June – Battlesbridge and Heathrow

After a slow start the next morning we got ourselves ready to head to Heathrow.. As we would be passing Anna’s part of the world she arranged to have an extra long lunch break and we agreed to meet near Battlesbridge at a café Gwen recommended. Klaus and I were ready early so headed to Battlesbridge Antiques Centre first for a look around, but the stall where I had found my fantastic bargain vintage dress several years ago (which was in the suitcase and I would wear for the last Gala Evening on the boat) was no longer there.

We were early enough that we stopped for a pre-lunch cake, which we shared between the two of us.

We did a drive-through of Wickford to see if it could be a possible place we might move to next year (no), and then headed to the Garden Centre that Gwen had recommended.

We met up with Anna there and Hari had also come along which was lovely.

We had a proper lunch first (sandwich) and then followed up with some cake. They were very tasty and very large!

Anna gave us a little gift for the cruise – a tin with the things we might need.

Contents included two rubber ducks (apparently these are hidden on cruise ships and it’s a fun game to find them and to re-hide them, but this appeared not to be a thing on the Queen Mary 2 as we didn’t see any ducks so brought ours home again), highlighter pens for marking what we would like to do in the daily schedule paper, carabiners, magnets for extra hanging space in the cabin (which we used) and, best of all, lanyard Cruise Card holders, which we used the whole time.

After a nice lunch and chat we headed off to the Heathrow Hilton, parked Murphy and checked in. We had a decent meal in the hotel in the evening.

Thursday 13 June – Heathrow Airport to New York

We awoke with plenty of time, got dressed and without having any breakfast we headed off. We took the Hoppa Bus for £6.40 each to the terminal the next morning.

We arrived more than 3 hours ahead of our flight so couldn’t check in yet so we had to chill out with our suitcases for a bit – we had a coffee in Café Nero and watched the planes taking off and landing.

We then checked our baggage in and went through security – it was incredibly busy with people everywhere, very expensive shops and not loads of spare seating. I was pleased to see this sign at the gate we eventually went to – the computer may have been low on memory but we found the gate easily!

We were a bit surprised to discover we were in an early boarding group. It turns out Cunard had booked us on “World Traveller Plus” which is effectively Premium Economy. This made Klaus very happy as he has long legs and assumed we would be squeezed into Economy (as did I). What is also interesting is the portion of the cruise cost for the flights as about £500 each, but if we tried to book this exact flight through the BA website with World Traveller Plus it’s over £2,300 each! Even months in advance. So our flight was a bargain.

And we got a pillow, blanket and packet of goodies including socks, mask, toothpaste and toothbrush and a pen.

They also served us drinks – I was on the water of course. Klaus and I were sitting together in a row of 2 seats, I had the window (which I like) and he had the aisle (which he likes).

The journey was fine – we both watched Oppenheimer and then I watched Barbie, although I had to have the subtitles on both as the noise of the aeroplane cut through the noise-cancelling headphones they provided.

When we arrived in New York we were delighted to be able to collect both pieces of luggage (they made it to New York!) and the ESTA paperwork was fine – we both got stamps in our passports.

I had pre-booked a taxi and he was a bit late so we stood at the Taxi Pickup Area and marvelled at the dented cars doing crazy driving. Our driver also had a dented car and about 5 different iPads to distract him from watching the road but our 45 minute journey from JFK Airport to Red Hook, Brooklyn, was fine.

We arrived at the hotel and Klaus’s cousin Tony was already waiting for us. He had been at a business event in Chicago and was flying back to Charlotte, North Carolina. He decided to stay overnight in New York as he could catch up with us, so we headed to a restaurant I had researched for some New York pizza.

After I had eaten a quarter of my pizza I started feeling a bit rough – probably partly due to lack of sleep as I had not slept well the last few nights and it was now Very Late At Night for Helen. I couldn’t eat any more pizza so when the others had finished they walked me back to the hotel and I took my pizza remains in a doggy bag – I ate them at 3 in the morning!

Klaus and Tony, after dropping me off, went to the café beside the hotel and had a chinwag for three and a half hours. We will see Tony again, this time with his wife Jill, in August in Mannheim.

Friday 14 June – New York

The next morning we had a decent breakfast at the hotel and then it was time to go sightseeing. We had marked some places we wanted to visit and so we went mostly on foot but occasionally using the subway to get to some of the sites.

Here are Klaus’s photos of our visit to Manhattan.

Times Square by Klaus
Empire State Building by Klaus
Inside Grand Central Station by Klaus
Grand Central Station by Klaus
Grand Central Station by Klaus
Grand Central Station by Helen

As we were walking south from the Grand Central Station (and looking in a couple of shops – everything very expensive!) we found ourselves at what looked like the Ghostbusters Library… which is apparently also the Library in “The Day after Tomorrow”. We really liked this library, which had an exhibition about explorers of the antarctic and arctic on the ground floor, and we eventually found the books and reading rooms.

A good Booke…
Quiet please!
New York Public Library by Klaus

We were feeling a bit under-caked by now and it was very hot so we wanted a drink, so we tried to find somewhere suitable. Which was not actually so easy. Eventually we found a café where we could sit but they didn’t have any cake cakes. Klaus went for a doughnut thing which was OK.

I ended up with an exceptionally uninteresting chocolate chip cookie which cost $7!!

We found the prices of food really high throughout our time in New York, plus you have to add the tip to the price you see and also the sales tax for some items.

We did some more walking around and Klaus did some more photography – here are some of his pics.

My ice cream at the Highline – $7.89, so very pricey. Note the pink shoulders, it was a sunnier day than expected.
View from the Highline
View to Little Island, looks like a lot of stiletto heels!
Klaus and Helen on Little Island
Fire Station round the corner from our hotel, with memorial to those who died in service
Chocolate factory round the corner from our hotel – we didn’t go in but it didn’t look terribly hygienic from the outside!

On this day we had our evening meal at a place called OurHaus in Red Hook and it was really good food. Whilst we were there a colossal rainstorm did its thing – unbelievable amounts of water. You can see from my app Drops below that the line light/moderate/heavy is very low down – they don’t usually expect this much rain.

Fortunately the rain was over within about 20 minutes. During that time I asked for a cup of tea and Klaus a coffee but they had no hot drinks (!!!), only alcohol, but I had a teabag and the chap said they had a kettle and milk so I got a tea (free of charge!). We would go back there again, it was a very small and quirky restaurant but with excellent food.

We had received an email from Cunard to say the Queen Mary 2 would arrive 4 hours late the next day so they wanted to delay our embarkation by two hours. So we had more time to spend in New York before heading to the ship.

Saturday 15 June – New York and on Queen Mary 2

So the next morning, after another hearty breakfast by me and minimal breakfast by Klaus, we packed up our luggage and stowed it at the hotel and headed out for some more walking. First of all we decided to go to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal as we could actually get a ferry from there to Manhattan Financial District – and we would also know where to go to catch our boat. We concluded that the pavements were too poor quality for us to walk with our wheeled suitcases the 900 metres from the hotel to the cruise terminal, so resolved to get an Uber later. The ferry to Manhattan was a fair price so we hopped on, enjoying the cool breeze on the water.

We arrived in Manhattan and had a walk around.

The 9/11 memorial

We wandered around generally – the financial district is weird as the buildings are so tall you don’t see much sun; also there are a few churches nestled among the skyscrapers and they look dwarfed. The temples to God cannot compete with the temples to Mammon in NY.

We walked along the riverside and got our first view of Queen Mary 2. She is big!

It was time for refreshment and once again we found it a bit tricky to find somewhere good.

The Trump Building, I don’t think it has anything to do with him anymore.

We ended up walking a really long way along the river before heading back into the buildings. Eventually we found a café with overpriced cakes (I had New York cheesecake) and where they overfilled my paper cup of tea and I ended up sloshing it on my right hand and burning my thumb. I rushed into their kitchen to run it under the tap and after a few minutes I realised it wasn’t too bad and so went back to our table (Klaus had not noticed a thing or heard me shrieking as I got burned). It was really painful for the next couple of days but by the end of the cruise it was mostly OK again.

The cheesecake was OK but not worth twice what you would pay for a cheesecake slice in Germany, which would be three times the size.

Klaus said he would like to walk onto the Brooklyn Bridge so off we went – and ended up walking all the way across it to Brooklyn (which was the right direction for our hotel).

In the background, Queen Mary 2 at her berth in Brooklyn Cruise Terminal

We needed more food and were walking along the main shopping area in Brooklyn but didn’t find any suitable cafes so ended up in McDonalds, which turned out to be really expensive. For a Big Mac meal and a small ice cream (I just had the ice cream) it was $18.

We had had enough really so headed back to our hotel, with the idea to sit in their lounge and wait until we needed to call our Uber. However, it turned out that most of the rest of the hotel guests had Cunard Luggage Tags and were also waiting in the air conditioned hotel lobby so there was no space for us to sit. No problem, we could go to the café next door and I could have a proper piece of cake (red velvet cake) and Klaus could recharge with a coke.

We sat there for an hour watching women’s football (soccer) followed by Baseball (seemed a bit dull).

We went back to the hotel and there was enough space for us to sit down and wait. We got our luggage back and then called the Uber which came in three minutes but had trouble getting to the port (it seems they close a road to car traffic) so we had him drop us off as we knew we could walk from where we got to.

The ship was enormous!

We ended up in a colossal queue of people waiting to go through airport-style security and then passport control. This queue shuffled slowly along and we were probably in it for over an hour. We had dropped off our luggage without issue but found ourselves in a huge hall with roped lanes so we walked a giant zigzag up and down. There were a large number of older people who were on their feet for a long time and I didn’t see much in the way of loo opportunities. There was a dog in the queue behind us too – there are kennels on the QM2 and apparently you have to book two years in advance to get a place, but it’s way nicer for the dog than flying.

Eventually we were through the security, passport control and we walked on to the ship. Which is grand.

We found our cabin – I had chosen cabin number 11111 so I could remember it, and it was also on the starboard side (POSH) and right in the middle so would have the minimal movement with heavy seas. The entire cruise ended up having good weather and waves never more than 2 metres so this wasn’t really necessary.

There was a leather cover on our bed so that we could unpack with the suitcases on the bed when they arrived (which was a couple of hours later).

We started off by enjoying the balcony view.

Lower Manhattan with New Jersey in the background
Statue of Liberty
Nice sailing boat coming past

We got the wifi going. We had each bought a wifi packet which was $19 per day (so $144 in total). This seems like a bit of a luxury but we really wanted to be able to keep contact with the families whilst underway. When my sister did her cruise from Singapore to Vietnam, China, Japan etc it was so interesting keeping up with her travels, so I thought the same would be worth it for us. The ship has Starlink and this worked really well – we could send photos, update social media, download podcasts. What didn’t work was using a VPN and my bank software would not make the secure connections with each bank to download transactions (although I could access each individual bank separately through their own apps). Apparently we would not have been able to stream/download video but that didn’t matter as I had downloaded loads of BBC and Amazon Prime episodes and didn’t watch a single one the whole time, too much to do!

Eventually our suitcases arrived and we unpacked (there was plenty of room). The cabin was compact but nice enough, with a sofa which was comfy to sit on. It was a bit short of electric sockets – they were only over by the desk so we couldn’t charge our gadgets on the bedside table.

We dressed for dinner as is required on Cunard cruises and went down for our first very tasty meal.

Here am I wearing my birthday present earrings from my sister (a few days early!)

The meal was very good, five courses which were all beautifully cooked and displayed. The portions were small but the quality was high and so we did not feel there hadn’t been enough to eat – for those used to bumper portions in pubs then they might seem a bit small. The service was also excellent.

We were on a table for two but the gap between our table and the next was about 20cm and there were four tables in a row. An American couple, Anne and Michael, sat beside us and we got chatting. They were really nice and friendly and stayed at that table for the rest of the cruise (except for two evenings when they ate in a different restaurant). The people the other side of them were not very talkative, and we had no-one the other side of us.

On subsequent evenings the diners on the other table changed until Heather and Dave came to sit beside us and then they stayed dining at that table for the rest of the cruise. Dave was really helpful as in his company he had been involved in getting visas for skilled workers – exactly what Klaus will need in the future. He gave us some contact details for an agency who can handle this. We really enjoyed chatting to them too.

During our first evening meal the boat sailed past the Statue of Liberty which we could see from the window.

It was dark by the time we finished and went to bed (we were on the late sitting which started at 20:30 and were there for more than two hours, what with all the food courses and the chatting!)

Sunday 16 June – at sea

Our first night on the boat was good, and we woke up to a view of just the sea from our balcony. Here is Klaus enjoying a relaxing start to the day.

Here we are on AIS/MarineTraffic (the circled blue arrow on the right)

Each morning Klaus took a photo of the view from our balcony – you will see the different colours of the sea and the sky as we head on our 5500 km/3400 mile journey.

After breakfast in the Britannia Restaurant (with waiter service – but I was able to choose a Full English Breakfast!) we went around exploring the ship.

What is this mystery object? There are 8 of them on the foredeck, screwed down onto the deck. It turns out they are spare propellers.
Queen Mary 2 was previously registered in Southampton but now in Hamilton, Bermuda. Apparently because on Bermuda-registered vessels the captain can perform weddings at sea but not on British ones. I’m sure that’s the main reason, nothing to do with taxes…
I took this photo of Zodiac Liferafts as I thought they looked rather sad with their googly eyes

The ship has been in service for 20 years and that was sometimes a bit visible – the carpets are heading towards the time when they must be renewed, and our bathroom sink had a crazed surface, but overall it had the feeling of an upmarket hotel. What was also really noticeable was that you didn’t see very many people at all – the ship is so large that the 2500 passengers never made it feel busy.

We had decided to walk up and down stairs, rather than using the lifts (there were 24 lifts in total!), to hopefully offset just a few of the extra calories. As the Britannia Restaurant was on Deck 2 and we were on Deck 11 that was quite a lot of stairs, although when I was wearing high heels we had to take the lift.

We had lunch in the Britannia Restaurant (again, 5 courses, all beautifully prepared) and then chilled out in the afternoon. We received a daily schedule with what was available to see and do but on this first day we felt like taking it easy, so we did.

Here are some examples of the schedules later in the week.

And here are all the folded schedules for the voyage.

They were an A3 sheet folded into 3 and printed in colour both sides, with information about special events, ship information and also a bit about navigation and whether there is a clock change.

On this cruise five of our days were only 23 hours long. The way Cunard handled this is that at midday the clocks would go forward. The captain would make an announcement and it would also be in the daily information sheet. We wondered why they didn’t do the clock change overnight but perhaps then people would get confused if they set their alarms. As our phones were on Flight Mode we had to manually set the times anyway, and it did mean that sometimes the gap between breakfast and lunch was only a couple of hours! (Lunch was at 13:00 in the Britannia Restaurant).

I didn’t regularly photograph my food but I did take the opportunity to take a few photos so you can see what we were eating.

This was a lunchtime offering.

(I forgot to photograph the dessert on this occasion, which was a slice of cheesecake).

What I did want to go to was the Cream Tea in the Queens Room at 15:30.

When we arrived all the tables already had people sitting at them but mostly 2 people (a table seated 4) so the staff said we should join another table. I aimed for two elderly ladies as they can be great company – and these two American ladies were.

My first conversational gambit with most people was that the jam and other preserves we ate on board came from near where I used to live, as they are Wilkin & Sons from Tiptree preserves.

The Afternoon Tea was served to us by staff wearing white gloves. They continually pressed sandwiches on us (I actually found them a bit dry), and other goodies. Tasty though!

They had proper clotted cream, hurrah!

They came round multiple times with each course so cake eaters would have no problem here. And we didn’t pay anything extra for any of the food on the entire cruise, so it really is all-in food-wise.

We also had a couple of mini cakes but I forgot to photograph them as I was too busy chatting.

Which, interestingly, was a bit of a theme of the holiday. We met people and had some really interesting conversations with them – so much so that I tended not to concentrate on the food so much. That was especially true of the evening meals where we were so busy having a good time chatting with Heather and Dave, Anne and Michael, that the time flew by.

Each day I took a screenshot of where we were and we sent it to Klaus’s family in a WhatsApp group (Tony who we had spent time with in New York was included, as was Klaus’s father and daughter),

We did some more exploring…

And we went to our first event, a talk about sailors instruments for navigation using the stars or the sun.

There was an England football game which we could have seen in the Golden Lion, a pub on board, but we decided to watch it in our cabin.

There were two Gala Nights on the Queen Mary 2 where people are asked to dress up a bit extra (men in dinner jackets/tuxedoes, women in ballgowns). If you don’t want to dress up at all you can eat in the restaurants on Deck 7 (there are several different ones) but for the Deck 2 restaurants and entertainment we had to dress up. Here is Klaus in his Smoking (German term for dinner jacket). We didn’t get a picture of me in my black ballgown, unfortunately. The theme was “Black & White” which meant my blue evening dress, bought before we knew the themes, did not fit either of them (the other was Roaring 20s and the evening dress was not a Roaring 20s design either), so I had had to buy another black twinkly ball gown. Unfortunately we forgot to photograph it… but here is smart Klaus.

Monday 17 June – at sea

Queen Mary 2 passes to the south of Georges Bank. This is a large submerged sandbank between Cape Cod and Cape Sable Islands, larger in area than Massachusetts. This has been a long standing important fishing ground, especially for cod and halibut. Proceeding onwards, we pass to the north of Sable Island. This narrow, crescent-shaped sandbar is believed to have been formed from large quantities of sand and gravel deposited on the continental shelf near the end of the last ice age.

From the Navigator (on the Daily Programme)

Within a couple of days Klaus had come to the conclusion that he is definitely a sea chap. He could happily sit and watch the water for hours on end, listening to a podcast or just wandering around. He did lots of the great photography that I have shown here on his walks around the ship.

The exhaust coming out of the funnels was a rather obvious bit of climate-killing, I shall be arranging for 91 trees to be planted to try to offset this trip!

We continued our explorations of the ship, and this time found the library which is the largest library on a cruise ship currently in service.

The Library

I chose to attend my first lecture which was in the Planetarium (called Illuminations).

The Planetarium

Weirdly it didn’t seem to have any stars on the ceiling. I assumed they turned this off for a talk but looked in a couple of times when the Planetarium was empty and there were no stars. After several days we found out it had broken down and could not be repaired outside of dry dock. We would have appreciated a notice or something on the door, but there you go.

This talk was by Chris Butler for the RAS (Royal Astronomical Society) and was called “Ocean of Stars” and was about the long and fascinating connection between seafarers and stargazers – Astrolabs, sextants, that kinda thing. It was interesting stuff!

We were now in Canadian waters…

On this day we decided to have Afternoon Tea in the Carinthia Lounge. This was self-service on comfy sofas but still the scones and Tiptree Jam. And other goodies!

I specifically went to the Carinthia Lounge for a string trio concert – three people from Ukraine. The viola player was better than the violinist and cellist but it was good to listen to them. They played some James Bond themes and some classical pieces – it was a nice bit of culture.

Klaus used the time to do more photography of course.

The overall theme of the cruise, Olivier Theatre at Sea, wasn’t really my thing (nor Klaus’s) so we didn’t go to any of the major events linked to that, except for dropping in at the back of the theatre on two occasions to see what was going on.

We spent a lot of time walking around the ship and looking at things. And over time we started bumping into people we had already met so could chat with them, which was nice.

Our evening meals continued a great time to dress up a bit and chat to people. Here is a pic Klaus took of me at dinner that night.

And here he is, awaiting his dinner!

Tuesday 18 June – at sea for my birthday

Queen Mary 2 will pass north of the Titanic wreck site which lies to the south of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, Canada. The Grand Banks form part of the continental shelf extending from Newfoundland and North America into the Atlantic. Known for both its abundance of marine life as well as its famous fog patches, the Grand Banks are a rich natural resource.

From the Navigator, Daily Programme

The original purpose of this holiday was to celebrate my 50th birthday, but three years later we finally managed the birthday cruise. And I decided to have a Room Service breakfast. I ticked most of the options on the menu and a huge amount of food arrived…

Tea & Coffee Pots on the desk in the background

It turned out to be surprisingly tricky to eat such a large meal on a small table, and the balcony table is even smaller. But we managed!

And my birthday morning’s view was lovely too!

We were just heading past the final bit of land before the Scilly Isles…

And the weather forecast was looking good! Although that looks cold it’s not too bad walking around the boat and by the swimming pools on the aft deck it is so sheltered that people were sunbathing.

And the wave forecast from Klaus’s app, just 1.2 metres

As usual we did our laps around the boat on Deck 7, where 2 laps is 1.1km. And you get lots of nice views.

Klaus had booked us both a massage on my birthday and so that was the special treat. It was very relaxing and the ladies were very attentive.

Klaus’s massage finished a few minutes before me and he chilled out looking out of the window of the spa area. Shocking weather we had!

When it was booked we were a bit annoyed to see they added an automatic service charge of 15% to it, and to remove this you would have to speak to the Pursers Office. As the massage wasn’t cheap this felt a bit odd but having seen the setup, and having had good service, we each paid our tips. Cunard have a general $16 per person per day tip added to your Onboard Account (although as part of our booking we were automatically given $125 so we only had to pay another $3 of our own money for the remainder of the general tip). That goes to the cabin workers and also the restaurant workers – if you buy drinks they also have a tip and also the spa and wellness departments.

Needless to say, I bought no drinks as I just drink tea and water. Klaus did treat me to a hot chocolate when we were relaxing in the Chart Room one evening, listening to music an hour before dinner. He had wine most evenings and was served by an excellent and friendly Sommelier called Reinson. He built up a good rapport with us and our tablemates over the holiday. He tried to get me also to have some wine but I said no, and I did feel he perhaps pushed it a little hard (what if I had been a recovering alcoholic?) But he was great fun and added a bit of sparkle to the evening – and Klaus tried a good variety of different wines.

On a side note, when I got back to my cabin I had a birthday card from the Captain/First Officer with a voucher for $50 off a Mareel Spa treatment. I went to the pursers office to see if I could get the reduction from what Klaus had already paid but no, of course. Oh well.

After the massage I went off to a talk in the Planetarium. This was “Wreckhunting 101: How to find shipwrecks” by underwater archaeologist Professor Bridget Buxton. The blurb reads:

The methods and technologies of successful wreck hunting, from the library to the remotest oceans.

She was really funny and made lots of cricket jokes (she is a Kiwi). She also referred to Australia as “a desolate island off the coast of New Zealand”. She had two other talks during the cruise and I was able to get to one and see the other on the television in the cabin (they replay the talks, although with no running order listed so you just have to hope you catch it). I found this aspect of the cruise really interesting – they had three different speakers and I went to at least one lecture by all of them and found them very good.

Klaus spotted some random artwork.

We had another lovely lunch in the Britannia Restaurant. As you can see from the photos below, the portions are not too big but everything was very tasty.

We always got a roll with our meal and this is something that I found less good – the bread on the boat was really not great. The rolls were tasteless and even the bread for toast in the morning felt a bit dry. The croissants at breakfast were fine though!

Straight after lunch we had to collect our passports and queue for immigration. Basically a member of the Border Force for the UK is on the cruise and over three days she checks the passports of all guests departing the ship at Southampton. This is managed against your Cruise Card which is used for payments etc.

For some unfathomable reason I decided this was only necessary for non-British passport holders so I went along to accompany Klaus but without my passport. Which was a very numpty thing and the woman thought I was a bit crazy (I went and got my passport and rejoined the queue again).

She also rather confused Klaus as English wasn’t her native language and when she asked him “Where do you live” her pronunciation was odd and he thought she was saying “where do you leave?” which seemed like a weird question as we got on the ship at New York and the first place it would stop was Southampton. She repeated this but I had understood it and said “Germany”. Klaus had thought she couldn’t be asking where he lived as she had his passport in her hand which showed he lived in Germany. She then asked how long we were staying in England and Klaus was so flustered he couldn’t remember and eventually said “two days”, to which I said “we are going back to Germany the same day.” So she presumably mentally catalogued us as weird people who didn’t know what we were doing but we were allowed into the UK anyway!

I later saw her enjoying a jacuzzi and another passenger told me that she did this regularly, normally her husband came with her. Nice job for 6-7 hours’ work (I assume the cruise was free). But it meant we could just walk off the boat at the end without having to go through any security checks.

On this afternoon I went to the classical concert with the Japanese pianist, although the acoustic was so bad for the piano in the Royal Court Theatre that I left after 10 minutes.

This is one thing I particularly liked about the cruise – there were lots of events you could go and if you came late or had to leave early it was no problem. So we stuck our heads in the Theatre door for two evening events, I was delayed for one Lecture but went quietly in when I got there, and you could leave if it wasn’t your thing. It took a lot of the time pressure off.

The musical events were largely repeated on other days, the lectures weren’t but were of course available on the television in the room.

And after this we went for the posh Afternoon Tea, again having to sit with another couple who were a bit stiff to start with but warmed up after a while and we had an OK chat.

After a bit of a relax outside it was time to go to our room to dress for dinner.

This was not a Gala Night (dinner jacket event) but as I had bought three evening gowns for 2 Gala Evenings I decided to use the third for my birthday meal. This was a dress I had bought in Germany and Mum’s friend Viv in Ipswich had adjusted the hem for me. This ended up a bit of an event (her sewing machine broke down so I had to leave it with her and pick it up on a subsequent visit) and so this dress was somehow intertwined with Mum now in my mind. So I was happy to wear it to remember Mum on my first birthday following her death.

It was nice in the evenings when dressed up to wander around Deck 2 – lots of people are wearing their nice clothes and it’s fun to see all the different dresses (and shoes).

We had a lovely evening chatting to our table companions – it was a good birthday!

Wednesday 19 June – at sea

Today Queen Mary 2 continues along her great circle track crossing over the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, approaching an area known as the Maxwell Fracture Zone. The ridge is roughly 10,000 miles long and 1,000 miles wide. It follows a curved path between the Arctic Ocean to an area near the south of Africa. It generally runs equidistant between continents either side of the Atlantic. The ridge is growing and is estimated to be spreading by between 2-5 cm per year in an east-west direction.

From the Navigator, Daily Programme

The next day the weather wasn’t quite as good.

It was still warm enough to do the usual walk around Deck 7 four to five times for our morning constitutional, but this time with a fleece on.

Notice that in the photo below a chap is painting. This was going on the whole time, there were always several people painting the ship, but you could still often see rusty areas.

Seafaring is one big fight against rust and corrosion I suppose. Our balcony had some rusty spots at the bottom of the metalwork and some of the doorhandles on the outer doors were a bit green and sometimes a bit loose. Also the doors were quite hard to open as they had often swollen a bit. Again, it was a 20-year-old ship so it is to be expected.

Today we were making significant progress across the Atlantic.

I took the photo below in a hurry and it’s not very good but this is a school of dolphins. In the disturbed water at the bottom third of the shot there were four or five, and there is one fin visible further up on the left hand side (I have ringed it in the following photo)

Terrible photography but this was one of many occasions when we saw dolphins. And the fact that my shoes are in shot is because Klaus and I were lying on sun loungers (although it wasn’t sunny) just looking out to see again.

There were four full days in a row when we didn’t see another ship. We did, however, see seabirds now and again. How did they get out to 1000km in the middle of the ocean? We also occasionally saw a sparrow which we assume lived on the boat somewhere.

Klaus took a pic of me checking out Cunard’s catalogue of their other cruises. We both fancied the round the world cruise that does Cape Horn..

I had my first dip in the swimming pool at the aft of the boat today, followed up by a short time in the hot tub. The water in the pool was heated so it was very pleasant.

That lunchtime we were eating on the German table – we had had an invitation to come to lunch and meet other Germans and the German rep. This was in the Britannia Restaurant again but a different area to where we usually sat.

There were ten of us in total, two of whom were actually English speaking (me and a Korean lady) who were partnered with Germans. The lady rep gave us lots of interesting information, including that there were 55 Germans on the boat. Klaus had heard German spoken twice in the whole time we were on the ship, I hadn’t heard any. She also gave us information about her job, about Cunard and this boat, and also that the average age when Cunard do the Round British Isles trip is 85 (people presumably knowing they are always in reach of a helicopter repatriation). I reckon the average age on our cruise was 65-70.

Going to this event had meant I missed the second lecture by Professor Bridget Buxton but was able to catch up with it eventually on the TV in the cabin. It was “Underwater treasures of the Holy Land: recent underwater discoveries in Israel shed new light on the world that Jesus knew.”

That afternoon there was another event with her, “Insights up close”, which was in the small room G32 which is where they have the evening discos. I had hoped it would be a repeat of the earlier lecture but actually it was a Q&A which was really interesting. She is a very good speaker, an interesting lady – and she also told us that she had dived twice to Titanic on the Titan submersible. She said it was a year ago yesterday that the accident with Titan happened, and was obviously emotional about it.

Whilst I was attempting to be slightly cultural, Klaus was enjoying our balcony.

Klaus took these photos of the corridor where our room was.

We had done more exploring and found a games area where there were puzzles in various stages, as well as chess sets and other board games.

It was now getting more foggy and the captain, in his usual midday announcement, told us that there was some slightly inclement weather on the way so we would be avoiding it – which I think meant we sped up a bit.

In the evening it was normal evening clothes (not a Gala Evening). I asked Anne our table companion to take a pic of us.

And we took a selfie…

Thursday 20 June – at sea

After sailing over the Mid Atlantic Ridge, Queen Mary 2 will sail towards the Porcupine Abyssal Plain, passing to the north of Pendragon Escarpment and King Arthur Canyon. Oceanic plains are more common in the Atlantic than any other ocean. These abyssal plains are formed by sediment accumulating in depressions, thus smoothing out the seabed. We will also pass near the Rockall Basin which has features named after the Lord of the Rings, such as Gondor Seamount and Isengard Ridge.

From the Navigator, Daily Programme

We were over halfway across the Atlantic and now there were two metre waves but we didn’t really feel them.

We had been on the boat for days, but we were still discovering new things – new rooms to chill out in, new vantage points for good photography. And, of course, the ever-changing sea which never got boring.

We had heard from several other guests that the Golden Lion Pub did good pub food (we could eat there for free, there was always a choice of restaurants where we could eat and they had different characters). I had heard that there was a good steak & ale suet pie there which was a bit of a draw, and fish ‘n chips for Klaus.

As we arrived there were no available seats as a bingo game was finishing, but once that was over half the people left and we were able to find a comfy bench seat. We were chatting to some people who were also at the table and they were very interesting about living abroad (as they did) and rules about importing furniture and other goods when you move to the UK (you have to be aware of customs charges and VAT, etc). This sort of info was very helpful.

As you can see, the pub looks like a pub…

Klaus enjoyed his fish ‘n chips and I see they reused the Tiptree Jam Jars for tomato sauce.

My pie was a proper pie!

All four of us went for sticky toffee pudding and vanilla sauce for dessert. It was very tasty.

After this hearty lunch we wandered around the boat some more.

We had another good look around the top deck of the boat.

I photographed Klaus taking the photo below
The quoits ‘pitch’. There was also a golf swing netted area and a racquetball court.
These domes contain some of the nav equipment

Klaus and I had a game of quoits too – we had to make up the rules as we had no clue but ended up 1-1 for games.

Looking down onto Deck 7

I went swimming again, and once again had the pool to myself. There were four in total, three of which were outdoors, but only the indoor pool ever appeared busy.

On our television and also in a couple of other places there were information screens. Note that this map shows the position of RMS Titanic; Titanic featured surprisingly often on Queen Mary 2, with information boards and a lecture later.

Tonight was the second and last Gala Night with a theme of Roaring 20s. So we got dressed up and went down to The Chart Room which is a lounge and bar.

Klaus went for a cocktail.

And we listened to the harpist.

We bumped into Heather and Dave so got them to take some photos of us.

I had been worrying about this dress for months as I got it as a present from my sister year ago (when I was 3kg lighter) and it was too small then. This was the dress we found at Battlesbridge Antiques Centre. Anyway, it was tight then and it was even tighter now, especially as having eaten loads of carbohydrates I had retained water somewhat. However, it was of forgiving material and once I was in it it was mostly OK!

Once again I decided to photograph the evening meal so you can see the sort of food we received every day.

Petit Fours for both Klaus and I
Here is Klaus in his Smoking / Dinner Suit with a suspiciously empty wine glass!

This was another lovely evening. Lots of women had proper 20s flapper dresses (I had seen these on Amazon for 30€ but thought they looked a bit itchy and bad quality for the cruise; it turns out people wore them for fun with no problems), and the men had handkerchiefs or some other 20s item. There were lots of feather headbands for women too.

There is dancing in the Queens Room during the Gala Evenings but Klaus and I didn’t go for this. For us the Gala Evenings were really just dressing up a bit more for the evening meal.

It was a lovely evening anyway.

Friday 21 June – at sea

We continue proceeding on our track which eventually takes us to the south of Bishop’s Rock, which we will reach tomorrow. Bishop’s Rock traditionally marks the end of an eastbound crossing. This is a small rock ledge, 4 miles to the west of the Isles of Scilly, which is home to a lighthouse built in 1858. The lighthouse has a height of 49m (161 ft), making It the joint tallest in England along with Eddystone Lighthouse in Cornwall.

From the Navigator, Daily Programme

Klaus and I breakfasted in Kings Court as we watched people walk by on the promenade deck.

Afterwards we did our walks and then Klaus settled on a chair to listen to a podcast (he is the black object at the end of this row of chairs!)

I carried on walking around on my own for a bit, doing 5 laps as I needed the exercise.

I then headed off to a talk by Penny Legg at 10:00am called “To Victory! Together?”. The blurb is:

Life on the wartime British Home Front was tough but most did their best to help with the war effort, dreaming of victory. Unfortunately, there was a significant section of the population who were not so civic-minded. This new talk on WW2 crime highlights the darker side of a country whose population was, supposedly, all working together for victory.

This was an interesting talk as I am interested in the history of WW2.

After this I joined Klaus for another walk around the ship as I had a short time until the next talk, another by Bridget Buxton. We had a look around Deck 12 at the top, and you can also go and observe the bridge (from a glass area behind them). There were about 10 people on the bridge the whole time, lots of displays etc, it was interesting stuff (no photography allowed).

Here we are outside.

What was also interesting was the locations of all my family on “Find My” with the iPhone. Notice that it appears Klaus fell overboard and got left behind… (the first Klaus is his work phone which he switched off at Hoek van Holland)

It was then time for me to head to Professor Bridget Buxton’s next talk, “Titanic Revisited”.

Why are we so obsessed with RMS Titanic? New research leads to surprising answers.

As you see, I had a front-row seat this time.

This was a fascinating talk as it was looking at the Titanic history from a feminist viewpoint. At the time I tried to describe it to Klaus’s father on WhatsApp, and this is what I wrote (translated back from German into English):

It was really interesting – a feminist view of how the Titanic disaster was used to validate the position of men in society against the suffragettes. When the women returned, they were told not to ask for the vote, otherwise they wouldn’t be in the lifeboats next time.

There were many false stories about the heroism of rich white men (for example, that they rescued dozens of children from the water) and about black and Italian men being dangerous and murderous towards women – they weren’t there, they were locked up in third class! But the newspaper reports showed that the rich white men were heroes and therefore should continue to rule the world.

I found it really interesting to look at a topic from a new angle. She also looked at the reactions to the films on this topic. And she spoke very briefly about how she was the first scientist to visit the Titanic on Titan. She was by far the best speaker I heard on this trip.

I think maybe Klaus’s father thought this was woke nonsense but actually it was very compelling – with examples of newspaper articles, letters etc.

The afternoon was a bit less busy (I had to recover from doing so many things in the morning!) and we dressed for dinner early, went down to the Chart Room and Klaus had a drink and I had some hot chocolate (the only drink for me on the entire cruise that we had to pay for).

This would be our last evening meal with our table neighbours as both were booked in to other restaurants the next day so we got the Sommelier Reinson to take a photo of us all. On that evening we had had two new table neighbours who I didn’t actually talk to but Klaus had a conversation with the chap that was shaping up to be really interesting and he was disappointed we had to leave it (the chap had been some kind of racing driver or something? Not sure, he was a Dutch chap).

From left to right: Dutch chap, Heather, Klaus, Helen, Dutch chap’s partner, Michael, Anne, Dave

We so enjoyed our time with Anne and Michael, Heather and Dave, and were sad to say goodbye to them. We saw them once or twice about the ship after this (and Anne and Michael popped in to see us in the restaurant the next evening) but this was our last time for a really good chat. Heather and Dave seem quite keen on cruising so perhaps we will bump into them on another trip one day.

Saturday 22 June – at sea

After passing Bishop’s Rock Queen Mary 2 will steer rhumb line courses past Start Point, Lizard Point, the Bill of Portland and Anvil Point. In the early hours of tomorrow morning we will sail around the east coast of the Isle of Wight and pick up the Southampton Pilot at Nab Tower. After making the turns around Bramble Bank and Calshot Spit we will make our final approach into the port of Southampton.

From the Navigator, Daily Programme.

So this was our last full day on the boat. Klaus said he could have happily stayed on it and gone back again to New York, we were having such a good and relaxing time.

He was still finding new things to photograph as we wandered around the ship.

Klaus had often been tracking our location on AIS/MarineTraffic, which is fascinating as we were often the only ship within a large area. As I mentioned before, we went for four days without seeing another ship – the ocean is vast.

Mind you, AIS isn’t always 100%. Klaus spotted this…

Here is what Klaus said to the German family group on WhatsApp:

And here is our daily update. Weather conditions are becoming more British (okay it is not raining so far). This is our last full day on the boat and we have to start our preparations to disembark today. But we will enjoy this last day. Again we had a lovely dinner and met interesting people again.

At lunch I found a whole area in the Kings Court buffet restaurant where they had loads of proper cakes. I waited to the last day to find this! So I tried some Black Forest Gateau and it was really nice.

I had really hoped that we would be awake for travelling through the Solent (I had sailed there on a sailing course years ago) but that would unfortunately be overnight.

After our evening meal (with just Klaus and I on our table as the others were elsewhere, although Anne and Michael popped in to say goodbye), Klaus did some more evening photography.

Whilst Klaus was out and about he saw a cruise ship behind us – the Queen Anne also making her way into Southampton.

We had to put our suitcases outside the room between 17:00 and 23:00 and so had to pack an overnight bag for the next morning (and also for our following night on the Stena ferry).

The suitcases were gone before we went to bed. Tomorrow we would set foot on land in England again!

Sunday 23 June – Southampton to Harwich

I woke up at 4am and saw that we were passing Portsmouth – you can just about see the Spinnaker Tower in the first pic.

Fortunately I went back to sleep again and when we both woke, Queen Mary 2 was tied up at the Queen Elizabeth Terminal.

There were several other cruise ships berthed – including the Queen Anne (another Cunard ship) on the left, then Norwegian Prima (and not visible in this photo the Arvia).

Here is the Arvia – similar length but with double the number of passengers, significantly more displacement and much slower than QM2. A different kind of cruising.

We had breakfast in the Kings Court and then I topped up with my last pastries…

We were meant to be disembarking at 9:15 so Klaus and I did some more walking round the promenade deck. Some people had already left the boat (Express Disembarkation). We were being let off in groups and we were one of the last ones so the boat was getting emptier and emptier.

Klaus’s father asked us to show where our cabin had been on the boat so I did this excellent piece of image markup

And then it was our turn to disembark.

This went very smoothly – we had to queue up to have our Cruise Cards scanned and they checked our faces against the cards, and we just walked off down a long ramp.

I had arranged a taxi from Southampton to Heathrow and had updated them with time adjustments (we arrived a bit later so needed the taxi a bit later). This ended up a bit disorganised as the taxi driver told us to leave the building (so we went outside) but he meant to go to the Meet & Greet area which was within a building, just not the MAIN building. So we couldn’t find him for 10 minutes or so, were wandering around outside with our luggage, and the taxi firm were saying we would have to pay extra as we were late (they didn’t charge me extra as it happened). The driver didn’t answer his phone to clarify it for ages. In the end we worked out what was happening, found him and got in his Tesla.

This was our last view of Queen Mary 2, this is her backside!

I was a bit grumpy because of all this hassle – the entire reason I had pre-booked was so we had a seamless journey back – but my mood improved as the journey went on. The difference in driving style (and car tidiness/cleanliness/undentedness) between the New York Taxi and the Southampton Taxi was remarkable.

He dropped us off at Heathrow and we collected Murphy without issue. We set off driving back towards Ipswich but had agreed to drop in to see Anna on the way, although she was actually on her way back from Lyme Regis so about an hour behind us. We went straight to her house and chatted to Roderic who was there – he had gone out for supplies which were cookies and chocolate bites. Just to add extra calories to the holiday!

Anna arrived with Val and we had a bit of a chat, and then we decided to head off to Ipswich and Mum’s house. We had two hours there to chill out and do more puzzle. Maureen came round for a chat as well which was really nice. I didn’t quite finish the puzzle but it probably only needs another half an hour next time.

And then it was off to our next cruise ship, the Stena Hollandica.

And our healthy evening meal.

This journey was also fine, we slept OK and were back in Kempen, greeting Poppy, by 11:15 the next day.

So… if you’ve read this far that is impressive! You have read through 12.648 words!

What do we feel about cruising?

This was my second cruise but the first one was a river cruise on a small boat (120 people) so the two can’t really be compared.

Firstly, I think it was actually very good value (particularly if you just drink tea/coffee and water). Cost per day per person including gratuities and wifi works out as 369€ (this does not include the massage birthday present or Klaus’s drinks). That is flights to New York from Heathrow, full board with excellent quality food, afternoon tea and cakes, entertainment, lectures, swimming pool, room tidying twice per day, transport from America to the UK…

  • I had not expected we would enjoy chatting to other people so much, and how much of this we would do. It was a real highlight of the holiday, especially the evening meals with Heather, Anne, Dave and Michael.
  • I thought I would want to watch TV programmes on the iPad but I didn’t want to do that at all. We both continued listening to podcasts as we could do this whilst sitting on the loungers watching the sea go by.
  • The clientele of a Cunard cruise largely fit with the sort of people we like to be sociable with. These are not the same people who will go on an all-inclusive unlimited drinks Ibiza hotel trip. We even touched on political topics with some of the Americans and they seemed very level-headed (in other words, not Trumpy).
  • The ship had so much space that you never felt it was really busy (except for Afternoon Tea in the Queen’s Room, although you could also have Afternoon Tea in many other restaurants so didn’t need to go to this busy option). Walking around the Promenade Deck was also OK, occasionally we had to overtake slower walkers but that was no big issue.
  • The staff were uniformly excellent – helpful, unobtrusive, friendly. I just hope they get a decent wage.
  • Dressing for the evenings makes it really special. We really liked this aspect of it.
  • Just sitting and watching the sea going past for hours is a pleasure, not boring. The sea always changes.
  • Cabin 11111, being right in the middle, was a good choice. We felt almost no boat movement because the seas were so slight, so it wasn’t that vital, but with colossal waves we would have been very grateful for this room. We did do a lot of stairs though!
  • There were jewellery shops on board but they are clearly catering for the clientele in the posher staterooms – I saw a necklace which cost a six figure sum. Klaus very narrowly avoided buying a new watch (an IWC, he has liked them for ages), so having such shops available all the time can be a bit risky! It was the VAT Charge to bring it to Germany that put him off this time…

And some other things that were specific to me:

  • Really glad they had Twinings English Breakfast tea – I was a bit worried how the tea would be, if it would be some random brand like we get here in Germany that doesn’t hit the spot – but that was not the case. Phew!
  • I really liked seeing a range of ages and body types wearing nice clothes. I liked seeing how people 10 years or 20 years older than me look when they are in their posh frocks. Yes, we have saggy batwing arms and other places, but if you feel good in it then go for it. I was really encouraged to feel confident with dressing well. And I was pleased to see realistic depictions of what we look like when we age – as you don’t really get those in magazines.
  • Klaus and I have very similar hobbies, likes and dislikes, but he needed more relaxation time as his job is so stressful. I really liked the fact I could go to events on my own, dip in and out. On a longer cruise I would probably do more (they have dancing lessons, things like that) but this was our first experience and we were both pretty pooped and mentally worn out from the onslaught of New York
  • I would much rather do a cruise that starts and finishes at the same place, and definitely doesn’t include flying. So we are looking at round trips from Southampton and there are legion.
  • I am not that good at small talk and getting to know people, plus my face blindness means that I sometimes blank people I have previously met (so they are offended), but on the cruise I was able to at least recognise 10-12 people we had met, and it was fun to chat to them when you bumped in to them.
  • I loved having someone else doing the mental effort of deciding what food we will eat today.
  • Having washing machines available was really handy but they can get a bit busy so I would do more washing earlier in the cruise and not leave it so late.
  • The tapwater on the boat, although made through a watermaker, tastes better than the tap water at home in Germany!

As you can probably imagine, we are now looking at future possible trips. Next year will all be about moving to England but the following year… who knows? And we both now have on our bucket list a round the world voyage as we would love to visit New Zealand and Australia but don’t fancy the flying. A Cunard round the world is around 108 days…

So anyway, well done for making it through this enormous post – I hope you enjoyed reading about our experiences of the Queen Mary 2. I would love your comments!


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