aboutWe are Akila and Patrick. Ourminds (and waistlines) expand as we travel, cook, and eat our way around the world with our two dogs.
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a history of luxury
on the queen mary 2

 Plymouth

Mayflower memorial Mayflower memorial

Mayflower Memorial at Plymouth

Four hundred years ago or so, a band of men and women launched from Southampton on two big ships to escape religious persecution in England.  One ship sank but the other --- the Mayflower --- left from Plymouth, England and arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts months later.  They suffered crowded conditions on the boat, the women crammed into a single small space and the men often sleeping above decks.  One woman gave birth on that ship and another was seven months pregnant when she landed in Massachusetts and a young sailor died from disease.

Queen Mary 2

Queen Mary 2

As commerce between the States and Europe grew, so did ship travel.  By the late nineteenth century, luxury ocean liners carted the aristocracy across the Atlantic Ocean, making the voyage in as little as six days.  Though the Titanic was the biggest and most expensive of the ocean liners, she was by no means the only cruise ship making the transatlantic voyage at that time.

Pool on the QM2

Watching us go under bridge

Pool and front decks

In 1839, Samuel Cunard was awarded the first mailship transatlantic voyage and, in the early 20th century, built two superliners --- the ill-fated Lusitania and Mauretania --- under British government contracts.  When the White Star-owned Titanic sank, Cunard Line's Carpathia was the first to arrive on scene and rescue the survivors.  In the intervening century, the Cunard brand has been bought out by Carnival Cruise Lines but the Cunard ships still make the transatlantic journey, each ship named after a particular queen.

Brooklyn

View of Brooklyn

 

View from QM2 when departing US

Views of New York when departing

It is this long history of transatlantic sailing --- of departing from Brooklyn with the Statue of Liberty at our backs and arriving in Southampton where the Titanic last saw shore --- that Cunard tries to preserve on its transatlantic voyages. 

Violinists in center

Grand ballroom

Evenings

The library on the Queen Mary 2 is a peaceful place with a stunning array of books in mahogany and glass bookshelves.  White-gloved waiters serve high tea in the royal ballroom at 3:00 every day with stacks of finger sandwiches and cakes to be placed on our plates.  The usual cruise activities --- hula classes and painting --- give way to more intellectual pursuits on the QM2.  A huge planetarium occupies the second floor and an astronomical expert lectured on navigating by the stars.  Members from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts put on a (very poor) adaptation of Hamlet.  And, at six o’clock, casual attire is prohibited in all public areas of the ship.  Some cruisers bring out pressed dinner jackets and hats fit for Ascot, as they twirl about after dinner to the full band in the ballroom. 

Chewy on the QM2 in his dinner jacket

Chewy in his Queen Mary 2 jacket

Even the kennels are a legacy of an earlier time.  According to Cunard records, Mr. Ramshaw, the world's only trained golden eagle, made at least 21 transatlantic crossings on mid 20th-century liners; Rin-Tin-Tin, star of 36 silent films, traveled on the Berengaria; and Tom Mix and Tony, stars of the 1930’s western series "Miracle Rider," regularly sailed with Cunard.  In the 1950s, Elizabeth Taylor brought her dogs on board the original Queen Mary, exercised them regularly on the ship's sports deck, even ordered special meals for them from the fish chef. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor also traveled with a beloved pup and, at the Duke's behest, Cunard installed a lamp post beside the kennels.

Chewy and Abby and the captain on the QM2

Chewy, Abby, me, and the Commodore (the captain) on the QM2

Today, the Queen Mary 2 has twelve kennels which fill up as fast as the spaces open up for the next year, as people moving and traveling between continents want to take their pets without putting them in the cargo hold of a plane.  (For more information on the QM2 kennels, check out our sister site The Road Unleashed where I will be writing about the kennels over the next few weeks.)

On the QM2

QM2 Hallway

Before we boarded the QM2, we grumbled about having to carry formal attire and the lack of casual areas onboard to have a simple meal.  But, now, I get it.  By dressing almost like those on the Titanic dressed, eating under glittering chandeliers on china plates, and taking in lectures on astronomy and painting, we take a small step back, to remember what it was like in earlier days of travel to and from the New World.

Details

Our room on the QM2

Bathroom on QM2

Our balcony

Our QM2 room

We booked the cheapest interior room onboard for about $999 per person.  A month before we departed, we were notified that we had been upgraded to a “partially obstructed view” balcony room.  Our room was spacious and incredibly comfortable, with a wide king-sized bed, a relatively large bathroom, and plenty of closet space for all of our things and much more.  The partial obstruction turned out to be a complete obstruction in the form of one of the emergency Zodiacs.

Laundry on QM2

Laundry

There are good laundry facilities on several decks on the ship and though we occasionally had to wait to use a machine, it wasn't for long.  Activities were plentiful and generally good, though the RADA performance of Hamlet was the worst Shakespearean production I have ever seen.  We particularly enjoyed the astronomy lectures and the planetarium shows.  I’ll be writing about the kennels and embarking and disembarking with dogs on The Road Unleashed, and a post about the kitchen and food on this site in the next few weeks.

09/15/2011 22:21
What a cool experience. How many days were you at sea?
09/17/2011 10:41
We were on board for 8 days though the last disembarkation day didn't really count because we left VERY early in the morning and we didn't board until the afternoon on the first day. So, we really had 6 full days on board to enjoy all the activities.
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09/16/2011 00:31
Oh, I'm not a fan of being forced to get all dolled up, but if that allowed you to travel with your pups, well then it's worth it.
09/27/2011 17:06
Denise, absolutely! That's exactly how we felt about traveling on the QM2.
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09/16/2011 08:11
The room looks pretty spacious, thought I'd really like to know what that pleather thing is on the bed. ;-)
09/27/2011 17:08
Kristina, the pleather thing was a cover that we could use to lay our suitcases on the bed while we unpacked because the room didn't have an ordinary luggage rack. It was actually a pretty clever way to do it because the room had plenty of closet space so we unpacked everything and stuck our suitcases away.
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09/16/2011 09:08
What an AWESOME experience, love that you could bring your doggy.
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09/27/2011 17:08
Andi, it was an awesome experience and both Chewy and Abby quickly became celebrities because everyone on ship came up to visit and pet the dogs!
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09/16/2011 11:46
Oh my....this post sure made me miss my time working on that ship. That three piece orchestra was located right in front of my office and I would often just sit back and listen to the music without doing much work :)

Glad to see that you had such a good experience on board. And that's the first I've heard of Commodore Rynd hanging out by the kennel!
09/27/2011 17:10
Earl, Commodore Rynd's wife was a huge fan of dogs and she came up frequently to hang out with ours since her own dog is back home in the U.S. The Commodore came up, too, one day and we had several visitors from the staff!
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09/16/2011 19:50
Lakshmi Sankar
Great description of your transatlantic voyage, Akila. As always, I loved the wonderful pictures. Love, Mom
09/27/2011 17:10
Thanks Mom!
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09/19/2011 01:20
Krista C.
What a neat experience, I haven't seen anything like this posted about anywhere else. The ship looks beautiful.
09/27/2011 17:11
Thanks Krista! The ship was absolutely beautiful --- stunning, in fact, almost a bit like a big Vegas casino but on the ocean.
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09/19/2011 07:44
It looks gorgeous, I would travel with pleasure! Looks very comfortable and the space is enough!
09/27/2011 16:18
The ship did have a lot of space, surprisingly, so we never felt crowded.
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09/19/2011 18:54
I have been looking forward to your posts, wondering what the ship experience was like for you as a family with pets. I'm glad you were able to take them out on the deck. :-)
09/27/2011 17:12
Thanks Lisa! The dogs really enjoyed their time aboard (except for the very difficult first day) and I'm going to be writing all about their experiences on The Road Unleashed.
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09/23/2011 03:32
My husband and I have been kicking around the idea of taking this journey in the opposite direction next month as an interesting way to wrap up our 1+ year RTW trip. I love the idea of sailing into NY and then taking the subway home! I've never been on a cruise before, so I have to ask - would you recommend the trip even without the reason of the dogs? Was it all old people onboard or was there a good cross section of guests? And finally... How was the food?
09/27/2011 15:41
Jesse, There's a LOT to do on the ship and it is incredibly luxurious. The food was great and most people seemed to really enjoy their trip. (I'll be writing more about food next week.)

To be honest, I don't know that I would recommend it unless we had the dogs but that's because of our personalities --- we don't really like cruising. We get kind of bored being in one place and both of us missed being on land. By the last few days, we both were going a little stir crazy but I know that not everyone is like that.

The travelers tended to be older (anywhere between their 50s to 80s) and the evening entertainment leaned in that direction, as well, so we heard several of the people our age complain about it. The only place with somewhat modern music was the nightclub which was also the smokiest spot onboard. For us, it didn't matter too much because we were up VERY early every morning to take care of the dogs so we didn't have much time to do much in the evenings anyhow.

Ultimately, I'd think about whether or not y'all enjoy hanging out and relaxing for a week on end. If so, then I think it's a great option.
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10/14/2011 00:32
That is an excellent report and thank you for the detailed pictures. Queen Mary 2 is Magnificent. You just have to see it to believe it.
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10/18/2011 12:16
We thought so as well, vasco! It is a beautiful ship.
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