A Queenly Crossing Of The Atlantic

(AP)
It came as something of a shock to me, as I was crossing the Atlantic Ocean on the Queen Mary 2, when the Captain announced that we would soon pass near the site of the Titanic sinking from 1912. I thought (from my extensive research of watching the movie) that it happened much farther north, near Greenland. But the sinking actually occurred outside of Newfoundland, near the Grand Banks fishing area that also claimed the "Perfect Storm" fishermen (including my celebrity lookalike twin, George Clooney).

I was lucky enough to be on the 100th trans-Atlantic voyage of the QM2, and Commodore (not Captain) Bernard Warner explained that besides not having today's technical equipment, the Titanic also had the misfortune of sailing too far north in April, when icebergs are still out, and going a little too fast. He went on to point out that the QM2 was built for trans-Atlantic runs, and in fact has nearly cornered that market, with 25 crossings scheduled this year between New York and Southampton, England, where I boarded. "This is not a ship; it is a liner," he said in his Commodorish British accent. "And we don't cruise, we make crossings and voyages."

(Cunard Line)
What do you do for six days on a ship in the middle of the North Atlantic? In the case of the QM2, you draw on the nostalgia of Cunard, which dates back to 1839 when Samuel Cunard began delivering the mail from England to the U.S. The ship's décor is very nostalgic, with a self-guided walking tour of Cunard history, lots of artwork devoted to the company's ships. A highlight is the two-story mural of the ship sailing into New York that greets guests of the Britannia Restaurant, and Sir Samuel's, a coffeeshop named after Cunard himself. There is a planetarium with shows narrated by Tom Hanks and Harrison Ford, lectures, movies, and the largest ballroom at sea, with abbreviated performances of plays by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (because cruise ship patrons can't be expected to sit through whole plays).

You also do something that no four-hour flight to London can match: You get up at 4:30 in the morning, go out on deck with a thousand other people and watch the ship barely slip under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge into New York harbor. The moment when it passes the Statue of Liberty is just about worth the price of admission by itself.

And how was the ride? Steady as she goes, Commodore. I barely felt the ship rock at all in six days. Bet those swells on the Titanic wish they could have said the same.
  • Jim Gullo

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