The Only Way to Cross (In comfort)

London to New York by air, in economy class, consists of 6-7, circulation stopping, cramp inducing, stomach churning, jet-lag inducing, dehydrating, mind numbingly boring hours. It’s no wonder that some call it ‘cattle class’. As for the food – the plastic tray that they serve it on probably has more nutritional value than the food itself.

You could of course upgrade to a bigger seat or even a bed, if you have that kind of spare money, but you are still trapped in the same flying bullet, for the equivalent of a working day.

The Queen Mary 2

If you are looking for an alternative, let me suggest a ‘crossing’ on board Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 (QM2).  Today, she is the only ship that is still regularly scheduled to cross the ‘pond’ . She continues the tradition of the great Ocean Liners of the past, which in their day were the only form of intercontinental transport.

The QE2 having a rough ride on the North Atlantic, Jan 2008.

O.K, not always in comfort: above is QM2’s predecessor, Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) having a rough ride on the North Atlantic, Jan 2008. (She’s now long retired andfloating hotel in Dubai)

The seven night ‘crossing’ has no ports of call apart from Southampton and New York at either end and approximately three thousand nautical miles of the Atlantic in between.

The On-board Experience

Those who have not experienced a ‘crossing’ (…it’s not a cruise) might imagine that it’s a bit boring, but they could not be more wrong.

The QM2 offers a traditional atmosphere, with a host of cultured entertainment on board, which has included: lectures from guest speakers, Royal Academy of Performing Arts (RADA) plays and drama workshops, ITC courses and even planetarium shows. For those looking for something less cultured, there are multiple bars, west-end style shows, the nightly disco, bingo and the casino, which was  one of the biggest afloat when the ship entered service.

Now you may think that the transatlantic experience is only for the very wealthy, but once again you might be wrong. I’m not going to claim that it is cheap, but the fares are not always as much as you might imagine. In 2021, the QM2 departures from Southampton start from £899 per person (based on two people sharing a cabin), which includes a flight home. US fares for a crossing start at $1,100. Now that fare is based on an inside cabin (no window) and all of your food and entertainment, which a weeks stay in a nice Hotel would not.

A cabin with a window is not that important on a ‘Trans’ in my opinion, as there is nothing much to see, apart from sea.  A balcony cabin is not much use either as it’s often very windy on a ‘Trans’.

OK, so maybe I’ve convinced you that you would not get bored and it’s not totally unaffordable, but “wouldn’t I get sea sick?” you might ask.  Well the good news is that if you did a ‘crossing’ in the late spring or summer months the seas are likely to be kind. Let’s also not forget that the QM2 is a very big and probably the most stable ship of them all. Apart from her older sister, the QE2, she is the only other ship specifically built to be able to regularly endure the rigors of the north Atlantic. (I know that my images are not helping here, but they were taken of the QE2 in January – the Atlantic winter.  It’s not always that rough).

Although QM2’s ‘class system’ now offers five grades of dining experience and many grades of cabin, the cheapest cabins are perfectly adequate and the ‘Britannia’ restaurant (the basic grade) offers very good food and service (although ‘Grill Class’ should be batter). The ‘Britannia’ restaurant is also the most stunning in terms of size and grandeur of all the restaurants on-board QM2 and arguably of the the most stunning afloat.

Sea life has its ups and downs

However I can here you say: “Yes that’s all very well, but  seven nights to get to NY is a waste of my vacation” . May I suggest that seven nights on board the QM2, eating fine food, being pampered by well trained staff, and relaxing and enjoying the extensive on board facilities is not just a journey, it is a vacation in itself

Finally, what more can I say to finally convinced you that a crossing to NY on board the QM2 is one of travels great experiences. For example, to To stand on the deck before sunrise and see the QM2’s majestic funnel pass under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, with only three meters of clearance to spare, is breath-taking. This is shortly followed by see NY begin to wake and the builds of Manhattan begin to illuminate. Then you get your first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty and the NY skyline, which makes ones heart race, just as it once did for millions of migrants bound for the new world.

I have been very fortunate to have crossed the pond on three Cunard Queens and the legendary SS Norway.  It’s a priceless experience.


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3 Responses to “The Only Way to Cross (In comfort)”

  1. Malcolm Oliver Says:

    Welcome aboard Sage! A nice story.

  2. Sage Says:

    I did a cruise across this summer–17 days, but with stops. It was great and even found the night with 70 knot winds and 8 meter seas to be exciting (of course, only because none of the three of us got sick). I came across your blog looking for reviews of a book by this name.

  3. julie Says:

    yes we went transatlantic april 2009, the weather was rough, very windy and big swells, but the ship copes very well in rough seas, there is so much to do on board and the space so great that you forget about the weather. arriving into new york was amazing,its the only way to arrive in new york,fantastic. also went around britain on qm2, i must say the seas were rougher than the transatlantic crossing, really bad but it was still a pleasure to be on such a grand ship, i cant wait to travel with cunard again.

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