New York

The arrival in New York is a sad highlight of the crossing. We all knew it was approaching, but when it arrived - I rather wished we had a couple more days on the ship.

0430

At 04:30 we were up - and dressed, as the QM2 was scheduled to cross under a major bridge at 04:45.

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Dora in some very fashionable early morning deck gear.

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Up on deck the city of New York was shimmering in the darkness. Ahead was the bridge, showing some navigation lights to assist us.

Verrazano Narrows Bridge

By now I guess there were several hundred people up on Deck 12, all with cameras, some with Champagne !!.

I was expecting people to cheer when we passed underneath - but there was more of a "ohh-ahh".

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We cleared the bridge - but it looks very close indeed.

Statue of Liberty

We now moved ahead slowly passing through "The Narrows" - the skyline of Manhatten growing ever larger.

We all had been informed by the captain, that we should be seeing the statue of liberty - but trying to see it in a dark area, with a brightly light skyline proved a little more challenging.

Then, as often occurs, we could see the statue - and how could we have ever missed it.

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Liberty off the side of the QM2.

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Getting of the Ship

With the QM2 docked along side, we grabbed a quick coffee before getting our suitcases and proceeding to disembark.

The disembarkation process was somewhat drawn out and confusing, and one of the few things that Cunard should try and address. But after 45 mins we stepped off the ship, into the US Immigration process.

With US immigration formalities completed, a short walk and we were out of the cruise ship building.

Sitting there in the morning sun was the QM2 - looking majestic, solid and dependable.

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Gallery

There are some more photos including these in the gallery.

Last day at sea

The last day at sea

Very sadly, our last day at sea has come around. After the rather opulent previous evening, we arouse at 0715 and went for a stroll around the deck.

Good Morning everyone

So far on this voyage we have experienced, mild, cold, stormy, windy and wet conditions - often in combinations of each other. We have not experienced warm and sunny - until this morning.

Clear blue skies, a slight breeze (the Queen Mary 2 is doing 18.5 knots) - and a lovely sun-rise.

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Dora - all prepared for the cold.

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Roaring 20's Ball

Our penultimate day at sea was to culminate with the final formal event of the cruise. However before that started we had another fully packed day at sea.

Walk around the deck

At around 08:00 we went for our morning stroll, this felt a little earlier that usual, as the clocks had not gone back (for the first 3 days we got 25 hour days) - the TV in your stateroom reminds you of this each evening prior to going to bed.

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20's Ball

As this was the final formal evening (in total there were 3 on our 7 night cruise), we (correctly) assumed that this was going to be the biggest one. Certainly people went to the most effort;

Getting ready

Dora trying to decide which to do first, drink champagne or get up !! fn

Having made her decision, Dora quickly sprang into action - appearing a few minutes later looking very 20's glam.

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Main Deck Festivities

On the formal evenings, the main thoroughfare becomes awash with ship's photographers (who also double as the ship's dance company) - they are strategically positioned in the Grand Lounge and it's approaches - so you can try and avail of that special photo.

Of course memories like this do not come especially cheap - at aprox $26 per photo (you can choose which ones you like and do not like - so there is no obligation on your part). However business looked much brisker than usual.

These are my (somewhat cheaper) efforts.

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A quite striking fresco in the Grand Lounge ceiling.

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Dora looking very lovely.

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Richard our table waiter

The crew has an amazingly high number of Filipinos on board. Which was really nice to see. They were all very attentive and helpful - none more so that our table waiter Richard.

In total there were just 1 Filipino passenger as a guest (2 others being Naturalised Americans) - but the crew were ever so happy to see, chat and joke with us whenever possible.

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Vic and Judy

The smashing couple seated next to us were Vic and Judy, who had been cruising on Cunard for the past 12 years and were not only great company but a great source of information.

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As Vic would often comment - "I will wait until I am old until we do that" ... a lovely attitude.

Evening Meal

As this was the last formal evening, it was fitting it was also the most sumptuous evening meal. With a choices like

  • Caviar
  • Fois Gra

Followed by

  • Lobster
  • Beef Wellington

And finally

  • Baked Alaska

It was a splendid effort by all of the ships crew.

So with the band playing the Radetsky March, the 168 chefs !! and 82 kitchen assistants did a lap of honour in our dining area. Yet again 80% must have been Filipinos.

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Before retiring

After dining we carried on enjoying the evening in the Queens Room, where the 20's ball and the big band were. We also sampled the in-house band who were playing some 60/70's music in the adjoining room.

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Gallery

There are some more photos including these in the gallery

Grand Banks

General location

We have continued to steam on the great-circle route, having crossed the Grand-Banks aprox 18 hours ago. We are currently proceeding down the coast of Canada. The Great-Circle route has now been replaced with a more direct "plumb-line" course.

The past 2 days has seen some very varied weather indeed - from calm and peaceful (presently) to gale force 9 winds - mercifully the sea state did not get more than force 5.

Titanic

It seems hardly possible to complete an Atlantic crossing without your mind wondering about the terrible tragedy of the Titanic. You may think that Cunard would not try and draw people's attention to it (Airlines never show movies where a plane crashes) - but on our access deck - there is a very large display regarding the Titanic and the Corinthian.

At midnight yesterday - we passed 200 miles North of where the Titanic lies. We quietly raised our glasses - at the appropriate time.

The weather has generally been rather solemn, with dark clouds looming on the horizon.

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Life on Board

We have rather quietened down regarding - all the things to do - as it was simply becoming a little too busy. And the 'holiday - what holiday ?' conversation was starting to pick up.

We have continued with the Ballroom Dancing lessons although the Quick-Step yesterday simply confused the living daylights out of us. I think today it is "The Jive" ... so we shall see how that goes.

20's night

This evening is the last formal ball of the cruise - the "Roarding 20's". It will be interesting to see who gets dressed up in what. Some people really make a super effort - others less so, and possibly about 20% of the passengers make no-effort at all, in fact by not dressing up they are excluded from 80% of the public areas after 18:00.

Upper Decks

Dora was off exploring the other day.

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Nautical themes abound on-board, not really surprising.

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This was us last night for an "informal evening"!! - We were by no means the most over dressed - this is quite the norm on-board.

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Dora ready to party....

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Trying to remember the dance steps ....

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Flemish Cap

Flemish Cap

We awoke to a howling noise, and un-mistakable feel of large waves thundering into the ship. The previous days calm weather had been very dramatically replaced with some angry seas.

Refreshing walk

Prior to breakfast, Dora and I take a few laps around the deck. It was much quieter out there this morning - with only a few hardy soles braving the conditions.

Mid Atlantic Ridge

Mid Atlantic Ridge

At some time close to Noon today we reached the northern track of our course and have since started to head south.

The weather has improved with the swell dropping from 5m to maybe only 1-2m, the wind also has softened and we even saw the sun for a few brief minutes.

Life on Board

Dora and I have nearly adjusted to the life on board, some of the classes we attend seem fixed in their timings, namely fencing and ball-room lessons. Today we very excitingly did the laundry, but compensated for it with a Movie in the cinema.

This evening is another formal event, so we are attending the Captain's Cocktail Party.

Early morning deck photos

A small collection of early morning, walking on deck images.

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Dora, trying to stay a little out of the wind.

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I see no ships, land or anything !

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Rather empty decks, with no takers for the sun-beds.

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Ireland is about 600 miles astern.

Formal Evening

We were received by the Captain of the Queen Mary 2, he and his officers held a very pleasant reception in the Queens Ball room.

For the evening we were quite dressed up.

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Dora on the sweeping steps.

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A penguin - relaxing looking at the on-going festivities.

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Dora - relaxing prior to dining.

Bishops Rock

Bishops Rock

Despite turning our watches back 1 hour prior to retiring, we awoke to a slight degree of "where are we ?". Our almost soundless cabin was totally dark, and yet a slight 'pitch and roll' could be felt.

As we opened the curtains - where we were greeted by a very green expanse, on the very horizon we could see 2 flashes from a lighthouse. Which due to the most informative notes in the daily paper, indicated that we are about to pass the Bishops Rock lighthouse.

This (I have very recently understood) is the traditional starting point (from a nautical point of view) of the Atlantic crossing. So - we have begun.

Daily planning

The ship produces a newspaper which is delivered to your stateroom (cabin) in the evening. The main current dilemmas are

  • Should we go to the buffet restaurant to be on time for some possible fencing lessons ?
  • Where do we get tickets for the Planetarium ?
  • Ballroom dancing lessons are as 12:00 does this effect our lunch options ?
  • This evenings "Black and White" Ball - what will it be like ?

To say that there are a wide range of things to do - would be a massive understatement.

Deck Walk

Ships log: 0730 - at the eastern edge of the north Atlantic.

This is the view from our balcony.

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Dora and I went for several laps of the deck. 3 Laps is 1 mile - I think we just about managed that. The ship was pitching quite heavily at times, the feeling not surprisingly was most noticeable at the bow & stern.

We managed to see several large pods of Dolphins which was lovely. They raced towards the ship, no doubt intending to play at the bow.

Breakfast

Ships log: 0800.

As we had already got things planned for the morning - we chose to eat in the self service restaurant. Very nice selection of food - self-service. A pleasant way to start the day.

Dora looking rather wind battered.

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Fencing Classes

Ships log: 0900. Queens Ballroom.

I used to fence (as in sword not farmers field) at school and for my University , but all of this was a very long time ago. So I was very keen to have a refresher set of classes.

The first logistical challenge was finding my way to the Queens Ballroom. This took a little longer than planned, but I was there to see the conclusion of the Palates class.

Classes are limited to 12 people, and Roger our instructor soon has us warmed up, and advancing and retreating in that special fencing manner.

Wow - I had forgotten how physically tiring this all was. Myself and a few other people were soon quite red faced and huffing and puffing.

The class in total lasted for 50 minutes, and I am planning to be back tomorrow morning for session 2.

Maritime Lecture

10:10 !!

A quick shower, and we attended a maritime liner lecture. Alas I needed some liquids - so we cut this a little short.

Coffee time

11:00

With plenty of lovely restaurants and coffee shops around the ship we took a mini break.

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Ballroom Dancing lessons

12:15 Yes, the title is correct. In the ball-room, the on-board professional dancing couple give group lessons once a day. There must have been 100 people for todays lesson - The Cha-Cha-Cha

Dora survived without needing hospital treatment, just how much we may remember for this evening is anyone's guess.

Planetarium

13:30

Oh - yes this ship has the worlds only floating planetarium.

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It was a nice show - nothing too difficult to grasp, and a pleasant rest.

Lunch

14:00.

Rather wearily, we tucked into a delicious 3 course meal. Again the choices of restaurants is very wide ranging.

I will stop the micro-blog on the day, there is literally something going on on-board for 18 hours a day.

Outfit of the day

As this evening was the first formal event, we were more dressed up than usual.

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Yours truly, all dressed up.

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Dora looking glamorous.

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Dora planning some retail therapy !

Gallery

There are some more photos including these in the gallery.

Southampton

Southampton bound

Very sadly we said goodbye to our friends from Salisbury, and started the short journey to Southampton, via the New Forest.

We managed to get some glimpses of the area - seeing plenty of horses, donkeys and cows in the process.

We returned the hire car, only to find a surprise chip in the screen... which of course would cost me £££ - Never mind - it was still cheaper than the two taxi rides would have been (only just).

Taxi to the Docks

We got a very zippy taxi driver - yet it still took over 25 mins to get to the Dock area.

Boarding the ship

The taxi dropped us in a rather clean shed !! A large shed with lots of Union Jacks hanging from the rafters. We wheeled our bags to a drop off area and then stood in a line for approx 30 mins.

There were at least 30 check in staff - but they needed to see (and to verify) all the paperwork - even having a US Visa (Or ESTA) - seems to require other people to confirm it.

After what seemed like a very long check-in process - we were issued 2 ship ID cards, and we carried on forwards.

We soon descended from deck 7 to deck 5 - and entered our stateroom.

The Stateroom

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Dora looking happy we finally made it on-board.

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A small welcome present.

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Me checking that the bed meets our requirements !

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Settling in

After squaring away the cabin, we went out on deck for a wander, to see the sights, as we will not see any land for 6 days once we get fully out to sea.

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Checking the sun-loungers meet our requirements - it's all go !!

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Dora looking relaxed just prior to sailing.

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OOTD 1

Outfit of the Day - day 1

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myself - a formal evening dress.

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Gallery

There are some more photos including these in the gallery.

Salisbury

Salisbury

We awoke to a lovely crisp UK morning, sun, clear skies. In our gracious hosts garden we watched a pair of very fat wood-pigeons walk around the garden as we tucked into our traditional breakfast.

We had been booked onto a Tower Tour, by Wendy.

Salisbury has a very impressive Cathedral. fnfn

We were blessed with a lovely day - it was a little chilly out of the sun, but the leaves were just starting to turn, and the area around the Cathedral was quiet and peaceful.

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Black Madonna

This state is called the Black Madonna - I think for fairly obvious reasons.

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Tower Tour

The Tower Tour can be booked at the Salisbury Cathedral, places are limited to max of 12 people per tour. You need to be Ok with heights, and able to walk up approx 330 steps.

The tour guide we had for this was called Des - he was excellent in his knowledge, enthusiasm and sense of humour. He is highly recommended.

First Level

After ascending 62 steps (yes I did count them) - we got possibly one of the best sights we were to see - a view down the main body of the Cathedral.

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After Des explained how the roof was constructed we were able to look at the West Wall in great details as we were standing literally by it.

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This is the crest of Richard the Lionheart.

Second Level

We rose again approx another 60 steps, until we appeared in what more resembled a barn than the roof of an English Gothic Cathedral.

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The differences in how the roof was supported, is alledgedly due to the Tudor construction techniques being used in conjunction with 13th Century building mechanisms. Unless someone took the time to explain them to you - you would simply miss them.

Clock Deck

We rose again, until we reached where the clock mechanism was situated. Resembling a potting shed, we could trace the wires that lead to the roof.

End of the Original Tower

We carried on climbing until we reached where the original tower had been, but in the 1300's the "extension" was added. This required some extra bracing to be made due to the weight of approx 6,000 tonnes being added.

What you can see here are 14th Century iron works for re-enforcement (the thin rods) along with 17th Century (Sir Christopher Wren) braces.

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Whilst it looks ugly on the inside - none of this is visible from the outside.

Bell Deck

I think we rose another level to where the bell are situated. We had been warned they can be loud - and indeed they were.

We listened to the quarter-past peel - but were mercifully spared the large on the hour bell.

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Just in case you were wondering if Dora was there .... She was (of course) !

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Final Deck - the 8 sided room

Another climb - this time much more narrow, and we reached the end of the "easy to get to" section, and from here onwards only the trained staff were allonwed to proceed.

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Despite our altitude being approx 220 feet, the section above us was another 180 feet. Inside the wooden structure was totally original ! Dating from 1320 or thereabouts.

The view

We enjoyed views over the town from 3 sides (the 4th being out of bounds due to a Peregrine Falcon nest)

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Terra Firma

There is a large font in the centre of the church, as as it was quite and peaceful - it produced some interesting reflections.

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Off to the pub !

After a hearty bowl of soup, we headed out past the "water meadows" - until we reached a lovely pub. Where we all sat down and relaxed for 40 mins or so.

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Gallery

There are some more photos including these in the gallery.

2017 Oct UK

Flying Visit

Having gone to bed the day earlier at 20:00 !! 02:00 still felt as thought it was in the middle of the night. I again seemed to have a traffic violation, but the police were unable to say where or when (I just treat this as some type of a travel tax).

The flight from Muscat to Dubai was painless (except for the time of the day) - and after a short wait we boarded the A380 to London.

the flight on the A380 was very good, and despite a very loaded plane we had space to move around. The inflight meals and entertainment were what we have come to expect of Emirates over the years - a nice way to arrive.

UK Immigration

For a British person UK Immigration has never been an issue - but for people who have already had to endure the rigors (and considerable expense) of applying and being granted a UK Visa - there is the Queue.

I waved good-bye to Dora at the UK/EU Left and ALL OTHERS (here be Dragons) Right sign, to literaly walk through the autometed immigration process.

I have never used my Bioetric UK Passport before - and it was excellent expierience.

Downstairs to the baggage hall and within 7 mins I had all the luggage, next issue would be - when will Dora arrive.

In fact it took her less than 20 minutes to get through the queue.

Heathrow - full marks today. I hope everyone's expierience is as painless as our was.

Hire Car and away

We have chosen to use a hire call for the 2 days we are here - as it was cheaper than the Heathrow to Sailsbury taxi fare (£120).

With Mr Hertz also being quick and painless - we were soon heading M25 South, to M3 to A303.

Despite our overnight stop being just a little south of Sailsbury, we kept on past the Sailsbury exit, past Andover until we saw the signs for The Stones - yes, Off to see a World Heritage site called Stonehenge.

Stonehenge

The new Stonehenge visitors centre is a long long way away from the Stones. In fact you can not even see them. There is however a nifty Bus service - you can walk the 2 miles if you want, but most people do not like this concept - and with a cold grey sky, threatening signs of rain - we did not like this idea much either. Of course this means you need to pay the National Trust;

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Dora, showing slight signs of excitement prior to boarding the bus to take us to the Stones.

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Dora, enjoying the very fresh air that was blowing in from the South-West. Wait a few more minutes and it would be rain.

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Despite it being early Oct, and in the middle of the week, it was still very busy. With lots of EU cars stopping.

The ticket office informed me that in summer they peak at 15,000 visitors per day! Not sure that would be just as enjoyable expierience.

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Not sure who this is :) ... Trying not to look cold.

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The massive stones at the centre of the ring. Quite amazing to wonder how (and why) this was accomplished over 3,000 years ago.

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Now fully acclimitised to the UK weather, Dora seems to be back into her stride. It was nice that the weather was "fresh", the clean crisp air made a pleasant change from the hot, dusty atmosphere were are more accustomed too.

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Gallery

There are some more photos including these in the gallery.