Where to begin..

Stephen Bellingham on 12 June 2019
I knew that a transatlantic voyage from Southampton to New York on the iconic RMS Queen Mary II was going to be a special experience – but it was all and more than I could have ever expected. The Queen Mary is the world’s only purpose-built ocean liner, capable of navigating any high sea including the Atlantic Ocean. From the embarkation and departure from Southampton, marked by a lovely glass of champagne and music from the Jimi Hendrix tribute band ‘Purple Haze’, I knew I was in for a treat!

I had wondered if the fact that we would not be stopping en route might mean I would get bored – how wrong I was! In fact, there were so many entertaining and fascinating activities to choose from that I had trouble deciding what to see and do each day and could have happily stayed on board for the return sailing.

On arrival at your cabin – no matter what grade – you are welcomed by gifts of a bottle of bubbly, slippers, bathrobe and toiletries. Plenty of storage space for your luggage, a comfortable sofa, and, in my cabin, the delight of the enclosed balcony.

So, what did I get up to? Well, I enjoyed 4 different sets of lectures; 2 visits to the Planetarium; viewings of 4 of the latest-release films…and that was just during the day time. In the evenings I saw 4 great shows, enjoyed listening to fine musicians such as a harpist, pianist, 3-piece jazz group, pop duet, Spanish guitarist and – my favourite – Big Band Night! That was fantastic!

Then of course there was the amazing gourmet experience. I dined several times in the main Britannia Restaurant which offered freshly prepared food to order: a full breakfast menu, 3-course lunch and dinners. Needless to say, the evening dinners were exceptional, from lobster tails to beef Wellington and everything in-between! Each table has a dedicated waiter and our gentleman was brilliant. I was the only man at the table, with 7 ladies. When I joked with him that I always had to wait until last to be served, he remembered this and made a point of serving me first next time – reverting to professional protocol afterwards, of course. This was, however, so typical of the charm and personal service shown by the staff.

The whole experience was overwhelmingly enjoyable and it’s difficult to pick highlights – but the Big Band concert was truly brilliant, as were the London and York Theatre lectures. And as for the food - our first night was exceptional in the ship’s specialty restaurant, The Veranda Steak House. The meal included a lobster cocktail, then a 5-knife menu with the chef showing us the different meats and the different cuts on offer for us to select from. My dessert was a rum baba (my first for decades) which was actually set alight before my very eyes – need I say more?

There was a wealth of other high-quality eating places. The Kings Court buffet had a vast range of food from roast beef and tapioca to sushi. On different nights, part of this restaurant would be transformed to offer Italian or Asian menus, even an American Smoke House! The Golden Lion Pub served delicious traditional pub meals cooked to perfection. I also loved the excellent range of non-alcoholic cocktails such as you would not find in an ordinary pub. For a light snack, coffee or drink, often with live music, there was the Corinthian Lounge. For more great cocktails – the Commodore Club. And for a marvellous coffee, hot chocolate or afternoon tea there was the Sir Samuel, serving Godiva Chocolates – the relaxed atmosphere, waiter service and sea views was definitely worth the extra cost over and above the coffee offered elsewhere on the ship. A particular favourite for me was the Chartroom for drinks and excellent Jazz music before, during or after the evening’s entertainment.

As if that wasn’t enough, I had other great venues and experiences to choose from: The Queen’s Room which is the largest ballroom at sea; The Spa – amazing luxury and relaxation; The Library – a quiet place to hang out and enjoy the sea views; The Gym, which I had to visit 4 or 5 times to try to keep up with my food consumption! Then there were many shops including a great book shop; a casino and nightclub; an internet centre; various deck and indoor board and card games. The deck space offered 2 pools (one was covered and heated so usable whatever the weather) and a jacuzzi, as well as the compulsory pool-side bar!

This long list of things is just what I experienced – there was so much more! I will send some emails to my clients in due course to give them a full rundown – but this wonderful voyage of a lifetime offered something for everyone, whatever your taste in entertainment or dining.

As a footnote, because I have achieved the highest training level for Cunard cruises, I was honoured to be invited to various cocktail parties and events with the Captain – these were excellent, particularly as the Captain was a great orator who delivered information and anecdotes with such style and humour.