Travel day at last. Alarm goes off at 2:30 a.m., then again at 3:00 a.m. United Cab arrives at 4:00 a.m. With no traffic on I-10 and few people flying out at ungodly pre-dawn hours, we were through security and walking down the concourse to our gate by 4:40 a.m.
Concessions in MSY do not open until 5:00 a.m., so we had to wait a little while before Lynn could purchase coffee. Thankfully she had the foresight to make a ham and cheese sandwich in advance that we munched on while we waited for the plan to take off.
If New Orleans was foggy and muggy, New York was foggy, rainy and cold when we landed three hours later. The cab to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal cost nearly $50. Combined with a $42 ride to MSY, we spent nearly a hundred bucks in transportation before we ever boarded the QM2.
The Brooklyn terminal is a huge warehouse-like structure, staffed by very chatty, friendly officers who guided us through the security lines (much easier than airports), then to check-in to receive our guests cards, then guided us to a seat in a huge hall to wait on the ship.
Also waiting to board the ship were hundreds of “in transit” passengers .” These were people who boarded the QM2 in Southampton, sailed to St. Thomas, then on to New York and finally back to England. Talk about a Great Loop.
For the most part, the “in transit” passengers are ancient. Wheelchairs, electric scooters and canes are everywhere by the hundreds. One even collapsed while waiting, bringing out the EMT officers and finally being wheeled out of the terminal wearing an oxygen mask.
Our boarding number was 20, so we were prepared for a long wait to walk aboard the ship. In the meantime, I bought a hot dog at the concession stand (not bad but definitely not ballpark standards). Soon after, they called out numbers in large groups, so our 20 card was the third group called.
Actual boarding was uneventful and most well organized. Our group walked through a long enclosed gangway into the main lobby of the ship, where we were greeted warmly by the staff to direct us to our respective cabins.
Ours was the most forward on Deck 5, the last one before the crew’s quarters. Although nicely spacious, our cabin is smaller than the ones closer to mid-ships, and the port looking out over the Atlantic is small and round instead of large and rectangular. Nonetheless, we found it quite comfortable and spacious.
When we unpacked, we found some of the clothes in my bag a bit damp from leakage of rain through the zippered top. Two t-shirts and Lynn’s bathrobe needed a bit of drying. But more importantly, the wine was fine.
By now, we were extremely hungry, so off to the King’s Court buffet restaurant we went in search of a quick lunch. Seemingly, so did the other 2,500 or so passengers. The King’s Court is a multi-room affair offering everything from burgers and hot dogs to prime rib and sushi. We were glad to sample their salad bar (Lynn) and carvery (Tom). Our review was that the food for a buffet was not bad but not exciting either. Something tells me that will be our experience everywhere else too.
The mandatory safety briefing and lifejacket donning session was held at 4:30 p.m. Our muster station was located in the gym, and our muster teachers were all strikingly beautiful young British women. Turned out they were doing double-duty—these were the dancers in the show staged each evening at the Royal Court Theatre. If the ship goes down, I hope they jump into the same lifeboat with us.
After a short nap—remember, we had been up since 3 a.m.—we continued our exploration of the huge ship. Map in hand, we found our way to the Commodore’s Lounge overlooking the bow of the ship to view our embarkation. About 5:30 p.m., the bow of the ship slowly moved away from the pier.
Our voyage had begun.
And then the waiters closed all the window shades that looked out over the bow. They obscure the bridge’s view ahead so must be closed when the sun sets.
We retreated to our stateroom for a free glass of wine and view of the Hudson passing by through our porthole.
Since we had chosen the late 8:30 p.m. dinner seating in the Britannia Restaurant, we explored yet another bar, the Carinthia Lounge, where they specialize in Portuguese and Spanish wines (and Port, needless to say).
Then it was off to the Britannia to meet our dinner companions. And can you believe it? Sitting next to us were Conrad and Barbara Streuli, the parents of Stu Streuli, New York Yacht Club’s communications director. We had plenty to talk about. The third couple was from Cleveland by way of New York, and they too sail and boat. Cunard did well in our pairing. An auspicious start to the crossing.