Alright y’all, it’s time to hear some more about our #EpicCaldwellVacay. Because it was seriously EPIC, and maybe the most epic part of it was sailing from New York to Southampton on the Queen Mary 2. I feel at this point I should explain that Cunard Line isn’t paying me to write this–which you might not believe because this is going to be an incredibly glowing review of our sailing! But if anyone from Cunard is reading this, I mean, if you wanted to offer us another sailing for free, I certainly wouldn’t turn it down. Just saying!
I love cruises and I’ve been on a lot of them, because one of my besties used to work in the cruise industry–in fact, The Hubs and I got engaged on our very first cruise, on the old Regal Princess in 2001. Before this sailing, I’d been on 19 different cruise ships from 5 different cruise lines. But Cunard Line, and the Queen Mary 2, are something special in the world of ocean voyages. QM2 was purpose built for North Atlantic crossings–she’s not a cruise ship, she’s an ocean liner, more stable than modern cruise ships, and designed for long stretches at sea.
And a North Atlantic crossing isn’t just any cruise. It’s a route with a lot of history, and having crossed the Atlantic by ship is one of those things that all serious world travelers should experience at least once in their life. Someone once wrote that the only civilized way to cross the Atlantic is not in a metal tube at 35,000 feet, but on an ocean liner with a martini in one’s hand. And having now done just that, I can confirm that this is true.
First off, I’d like to give a shout out to the stevedor who handled our luggage at the pier in Red Hook. (For those who don’t know, a stevedor is the guy at the port who collects your luggage from you and loads it onto the ship.) In all of the cruises I’ve been on, I’ve never met a more pleasant stevedor. And that was BEFORE we tipped him. He assured us that we were going to love the QM2, that everyone he talks to after their crossing raves about it.
I’d also like to give a shout-out to the staff in Red Hook who made embarkation completely painless. Vancouver: you could learn some lessons from these guys, a lot of lessons, a seriously huge amount of lessons. I think we stood in line for a grand total of 5 minutes, including security, checking in and getting our cruise cards, and getting on the ship.
We stepped aboard into the atrium of the ship and walked toward the elevator to get to our suite (yes, I said suite, SQUEEEEE) and I gasped and The Hubs said “Oh Wow” because it was that beautiful. And we’ve been on many beautiful ships, but none with this level of detail and elegance. QM2 had just come out of a major interior refurbishment and it showed–everything was immaculate. Extremely well done, Cunard!
Now, about that suite. When we decided to do this vacation, we decided we were going to fucking DO IT. I’m retired now, so I’m spending my 401K doing things that bring me joy, just like any other retired person. If science finds a cure, great, I’ll go back to work and start saving for retirement again. In the meantime, I’m gonna live while I’m alive and that includes staying in a Queen’s Grill suite on the QM2. I dreamed of getting one of the two-story duplex suites, but it would have been $42,000 for our family of four. No I’m not making that up. My 401K isn’t THAT big.
Our suite was gorgeous, you guys! It had a king size bed, a sleeper sofa, coffee table, desk, walk in closet with a table and mirror for sitting down and doing makeup, a bathroom with a jetted tub, a balcony big enough for two loungers; and A MOTHERFUCKING BAR!!! The bar came with glassware, a pod-based coffee maker, an electric kettle for tea, and Wedgwood coffee and tea cups. It also came with two bottles of liquor, so obviously scotch (their bourbon selection was lame, and I wanted to feel closer to the UK) for me and rum for The Hubs. The bottles were delivered by our butler.
YES I SAID BUTLER.
His name was Vishal and let me tell you all the lovely things he did for us. He unpacked for us, so we could just go enjoy the ship our first day instead of spending it doing a chore. He arranged for us to get planetarium tickets. (YES I SAID PLANETARIUM.) He made sure our laundry got done. And every morning, he’d bring us breakfast. And not just bring us breakfast like a room service person. No. He’d lay out a white tablecloth on the desk and on the coffee table, and then he’d carefully put out the place settings, and ask who was eating what, and then serve the food. And THEN he’d say, “Can I also bring you some donuts?” Because donuts weren’t on the normal room service menu that we left out with our order each night, but he figured the kids would want some. By the second day he knew we all liked chocolate donuts the best and brought us a plate of those instead of an assortment.
Now, one of the perks that comes with a Queen’s Grill suite is that you dine in the Queen’s Grill. You don’t dine with the folks from steerage, I mean, Brittania Class, no no, you dine with your peers, and there’s a special menu because you’re special. And you don’t have to drink with the hoipoloi, because there’s a special bar just for suite passengers. And there’s a sun deck with a hot tub and a bar that’s only open to suite passengers, so you don’t have to sunbathe with the lesser people. We also got personalized stationary. The entire experience was a bit surreal, but very nice.
How did we pass the time for 7 long days at sea? Honestly, at the end of each day I’d say to myself “Where did the time go?!?!” Well, there was a kids’ program for The Kids, and both of them enjoyed it. We also went to a planetarium show; played trivia; played bingo; read books; goofed off on iPads; watched a zillion dolphins swimming alongside our ship; ate lovely meals; danced; went to the art gallery; saw a comedy show; and dressed for dinner every night, which actually was one of the more fun parts of the trip.
There’s something just really cool about getting gussied up to eat a fancy meal that everyone liked, even The Boy who usually hates shirts with buttons. But put him in something with a tie, and he’s like “yeah, this is cool.” My guys both wore kilts one night. The Girl and I wore really similar aqua dresses with aqua maryjanes. You guys, we looked pretty fly–check out our photos!
I also spent a lot of time just staring at the sea. I always do that on cruises, and it’s interesting how each stretch of sea has a different look and feel to it. I honestly couldn’t explain what’s different, but…something about the North Atlantic is just special. I see why people treat a crossing as a special event.
When it was time to disembark, I was sad to be leaving. The Girl had made a friend from Switzerland and discovered a love of duck (she ate half a duck one night, I’m not even kidding you guys); The Boy learned how to play bingo; The Hubs slept a ton, his favorite thing to do on vacation; and I got to sail the North Atlantic like I’ve dreamed of doing for decades.
More about the rest of our trip later!