Sunday, November 10, 2013

the Cunard patina has dulled...

I still ask myself whether I was expecting too much when I parked my car in the open lot that serves as a parking facility for the Cunard's famed transatlantic cruise, but my disappointment upon entering the port facility that the new owners (Carnival Cruise Lines) had chosen as the docking port for Cunard line's flagship Queen Mary 2 was an ominious warning of what I was to experience when I approached the Red Hook arrival and departure terminal. 

And I remember thinking that my car was unprotected and that there was no one at the guard station to stop me from entering—as if I was at dock only for tankers, and as I discovered, this was a facility that is used by vessels that carry solely cargo—it was 8 a.m. and at the port entry I asked the man and woman wearing blue uniforms emblazoned by the word "security" how to get to the Queen Mary 2 terminal, and the puzzlement on their faces was accompanied by shrugs, but also what seemed to be a lack of understanding as to what I was asking, which acquainted me with the fact that their familiarity with English was limited. 

I used a combination of Spanish and English to ask the question again, but then one of them said, "Go in you ask," and the sentence was left hanging in the cold morning air, much as I was.  But then I had spent almost $200 to stay at the only hotel facility within what for me was walking distance (20 minutes) and I had visited the night before only to find the porty entry gate open (no guards), and then I walked to the end of a long road (some ten-fifteen minutes) only to see no signs, nothing that would tell me I was at the Queen Mary 2 terminal.

Such was my introduction to what should have been a spectacular entry to Cunard's transatlantic flagship, Queen Mary 2—I was soon to find out that I had a 5 hour wait ahead of me, where I and other unfortunates who had arrived early (either by taxi or no thanks to a family member who had kindly offered transportation there).  I was also to find out during those 5 hours while I waited with the those who had paid extra for accommodations that would put them in the best accommodations Cunard offered (Princess Grill Club), while they with me were also shuffled through a small entry area prior to the usual security much like an airport (which I had hoped to avoid) equipped with the usual security appartus save for a body scanner. 

The pleasant port terminal staff opinioned that the entry waiting room was far too small for the number of passengers carried by the Queen Mary 2. 

And yet it was 4 hours before the Security staff got their act together and we were all sitting in a full small entry waiting room, waiting to lift up luggage and whatever one had onto the x-ray machine roller and no one from Cunard there to help.  Luckily for me, one of male passengers gallantly lifted my heavy middle size rolling suitcase to allow me entry into a slightly larger waiting room that reminded me of the 34th St. Port Authority bus line waiting room.

I was amazed that the members of the Princess Grill club had to wait where I was another half hour before they were made to line up like bus passengers in front a sign that said "Princess Grill Club Lounge,"   They too had the misfortune to arrive early expecting to board and occupy their top accommodations because of their status. 

Though I was still thinking about leaving my car in a parking lot that had no guard at the gate, and I was wondering if I would come back to find that my vehicle was stolen due to the proximity to Red Hook where car jacking and car thefts plus worse were a known commodity, but all I had was a parking stub with the time stamped on it, and no guarantee whether I'd find my car.  The rate of $22 for the first day and $20 thereafter was vastly over-priced considering the unprotected small lot, while the cruise port in mid-town Manhattan had more reasonable rates, parking garage, and security.

As I and other chatted to make the time pass, everyone questioned why this Cunard flagship was using an out-of-the-way too small port facility like Red Hook, versus the former more convenient mid-town Manhattan dock that was Cunard's traditional docking space—another forewarning of the sad downgrading of what once was a venerable proud English line,which its new owners had managed to do in those several years of purchase.  Sadly an American cruise line known for cheap cruising and mega ships that could crowd in enough to make the rock bottom prices profitable, had succeeded in making the famed transatlantic Cunard cruise ship just another version of their other low priced cruise offerings. 



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