Saturday, November 23, 2013

about sleeping late on the Cunard transatlantic to Southampton

I was expecting to rest and work on my E-book destination city guide series, but to my dismay, the hour was moved forward every day at 12 noon, and if I slept in I had to press breakfast into lunch and then before I knew it, it was late enough to get ready for dinner—after looking at the 4 page activity list, everything was taking place at about the same time to squeeze in all of it, but I would have been a marathon runner to make all, which took place in every nook and cranny of the sprawling decks on the Queen Mary 2, and I was so busy playing catchup with time to get some exercise on deck, and grabbing lunch, or what I could get of it since I didn't have time to eat in Britannia Restaurant, I couldn't find a minutre to spare.

Everyone was hurrying to eat something—the only relaxed passengers had to have been up at 5 a.m. to get time to eat and attend a lecture—though it would have had to be only 1 of the many as all were jammed in to the 4 hour day after 1 p.m.,  and lunch had to be fitted in, because the sea air seemed to bring a need to eat more.  I noticed that it had to be those early 4 and 5 a.m. risers who were napping on a deck chair.  Or was it that for many of us, those less than early risers there was so little time between 1 and 6 p.m., which was the first sitting for dinner.  And ladies had to fit in getting hair done, dressed, and made up to look just perfect for the first formal dinner. 

I had the chosen the 6 p.m., but I changed to the 8:30 p.m. seating as I realized my stomach couldn't eat all that food within the space of the few hours left in the day when 1 p.m. came an hour ahead of my inner body clock.  But then, I was dismayed to find out that I didn't to bed until after 2 a.m. as my table mates were having after dinner coffee and conversing—I realized that socializing and that hour forward every day meant rising at 7:30 a.m., but then I was so exhausted that following day.

It ended up that sleep wasn't possible, I was barely getting 5 hours even when I wanted to skip breakfast, as the Captain had found something he wanted to converse about, and I couldn't shut off the sound of his voice coming into my room—but then we had to do a deck drill, and lo and behold the 2nd day whizzed by, and I never got a chance to sit on deck chair, I didn't even walk the deck, I didn't have time.

Also I had to visit the Purser's desk and queue on line to make arrangements for storing my formal clothing hang up bag in Southampton, as I was returning on the 8th of October to take the transatlantic cruise back to Red Hook in Brooklyn, U.S.A.  I asked lots of questions about the storage since I had very expensive formal clothing purchased especially for the trip.  I had few chances to wear such things and I had given away what I had years earlier. 

When I was finally at the head of the line (about an hour later), and I wondered if I'd have a chance to eat some lunch, or something, because I was ravenous since I had eaten much earlier than usual, I managed to still my impatience and tell the clerk at the Purser's desk that I had no travel insurance since I had 1 piece of luggage and I was taking it on the train with me after we docked at Hamburg.  I also mentioned that the hangup bag had fit inside my luggage but storage until I returned on October 8 seemed like a good idea because my luggage would be lighter. 

I mentioned that I planned to put my 2 pairs of designer shoes specially ordered to fit me inside the bag, and I also was planning to include my lovely Christian Dior slippers, which I didn't need as I had the Cunard flat slippers to use while I was traveling.  The clerk noted that my luggage was insured against loss, and I didn't ask for how much, as I was certain that Cunard would give a passenger on the Cunard 's flagship Queen Mary 2 with an Ocean View room sufficient insurance to cover loss, which the clerk assured me wouldn't happen.  The clerk also noted that luggage storage was not considered the same as it would be if a passenger gave Cunard their luggage to load on board prior to leaving the port.

But then I had no way of knowing that my formal clothing which I had meticulously chosen was soon to be something only in my fond memories of those 7 hurried and harried days, as I left the bag with the tags given to me by the clerk and carefully filled out in front of my stateroom door at 6 p.m. the evening of the 28th of September—earlier that day I waited again on line to show one of clerks at the Purser's desk the tag I filled out—for some reason I was worried and needed to be reassured that the tag was filled out correctly.



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. 



Sunday, November 3, 2013

A very bad idea...

My intention to travel overseas and avoid the security hassle plus the 24-48 hours airport/flight struggle was the reason I decided to book a back to back transatlantic cruise on the Queen Mary 2, and I was looking forward to traveling the pleasurable way, but it never occurred to me that this would turn out to be a very bad idea.

Other than a brief mention about the number of days, that all sorts of delightful activities and such which would be part of the cruise experience, plus the promise of formal nights to enjoy unique cuisines amid the splendor of the appropriate ship's restaurant (depending on the level of booking for cabins that were considered for the more elaborate dinners available in the Princess Grill rather than in the Britannia Restaurant), Cunard offered no other information.

Not one word was noted on their website or in the literature sent to me about the daily time change that would become for me an impossible race for enough daily time to eat, enjoy activities and have moments to reflect in a deck chair about the beauty of an ocean voyage, also to continue with the writing of my E-book city destination series. I was looking forward to the cruise a way of a release from daily cares and the usual staying in touch, which was I believe the primary reason for most passengers to embark on such a trip.

Let me qualify this by making a mention that early risers had no problem with time—those like me who were looking forward to sleeping in and enjoying a leisurely breakfast in the cabin never realized what was expected but not possible, not possible when an hour forward took place at 12 noon daily for 8 days of the cruise.

After I inquired to Captain William Wells (on board lecturer and maritime historian) as to why this unexpected time conflict made my transatlantic 9-day cruise to Hamburg an unpleasant experience, I was told the time change at noon, rather than when a passenger was asleep, was instituted some 10 years ago as an innovation—I noted that it was hell for me, and he laughed and said it was part of standard transatlantic cruising operation, and he said this innovation was considered a boon.

Yet Cunard never mentioned any of this in their distributed literature or website. Nor did the good Captain make mention of the fact that the return transatlantic from Southampton to Red Hook, Brooklyn, New York did indeed make the time change (one hour backward) while passengers were sleeping—I discovered this apparent disconnect re an "innovation " and a "boon" when I took the return transatlantic from Southampton.

Little did I know that worse than an accelerated day due to the noon time change awaited me when I boarded the Queen Mary 2 in Southampton on October 8—though when I arrived in Hamburg on day 9 of the transatlantic cruise I was exhausted, yet I had 7 days yet ahead to take trains and hopefully rest up before my return transatlantic cruise. I didn't doubt that I would have those 7-days transatlantic back to Red Hook, Brooklyn USA to rest and work on my E-book No More Hotels In Paris.

As I noted, I didn't realize that a very bad idea would bring about one of the most uncomfortable and unpleasant travel experiences I have ever had when I boarded the Queen Mary 2 at Southampton on October 8.


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Clarissa Max's blog
Ghostly Max's blog
My view of the world blog
Words and meanings blog