Queen Mary 2’s Gallic Discovery

The opportunity arose for us to take what could loosely be described as a bit of a ‘stocking filler’ cruise. A number of like minded friends on the ‘We Are Cunard Fanzine‘…

https://solentrichardscruiseblog.com/2013/11/03/we-are-cunard-fanzine-launch/

…and the Bolsover Cruise Club Forum

http://www.cruiseclubforum.com

…expressed an interest and, without any lengthy publicity, just word of mouth, we rustled up a table of nine (six members and three friends) with little problem.  Having launched a live blog from Queen Mary 2  last November when I did a solo Eastbound Atlantic crossing on the same ship I thought I’d give it a go using the cruise forum site of Bolsover Cruise Club...

 

 

 

 

The Itinerary…

 

 

We arrived at Southampton’s Ocean Terminal where Queen Mary 2 was berthed bows on…

 

…and with our ‘Diamond’ priority embarkation we were being given the traditional Cunard welcome as we crossed the brow at 11.45…

 

It is always delightful to know that when you embark on one of the Queens your accommodation will be available. None of this dragging pull along cases and carrying suit hangars around the ship: the staff have pulled out the stops and everything is ready.

Similarly, I also prefer to arrive in my stateroom knowing there is a bottle of something on ice…

 

 

As this four day soiree was to be with friends whom we wanted dining time together with  we opted for the Britannia restaurant and stateroom. This proved a golden opportunity to experience a level of stateroom that we had not experienced before: after all, there’s no point in being a serious cruise blogger if you can’t reach out to all cruisers.

On this occasion we opted for one of Queen Mary 2’s ‘sheltered balcony’ staterooms. We were pleasantly surprised, particularly at the overall size of the balcony and the size of wardrobe storage space…

 

******

 

 

These staterooms occupy decks 4, 5, and 6 and are so constructed as to offer a degree of protection when the Queen Mary 2 is fulfilling her primary roll as a trans Atlantic liner. They are, incidentally, given a category grading above those in a higher position, but with an  ‘obstructed view’.

Having quickly settled in we headed off  to check out our table position in the Britannia Restaurant before meeting up with our friends. Perfect. A round table capable of seating 9 or 10, adjacent to a picture window and, very important, as far away from the waiters’  station as possible…

 

I have to confess here that one of our friends was already on board doing a back to back trans Atlantic as well as this short ‘Gallic Discovery’. We had all booked separately and therefore some work was required ‘behind the scenes’ to ensure we were together. Well done Paul Inkpen and Stanley, the Britannia Restaurant’s Maitre d’, for your excellent work.

 

Our next stop was the Golden Lion Pub. We aren’t great fans of buffets at the best of times and decided it was far better to get the cruise under way with a pub lunch. It was certainly a good time to arrive, before anyone else finds the place…

 

 

*****

…and hey ho, a firm favourite was soon on the table…

 

Within the hour the Golden lion became quite lively and one or two of our friends joined us for the odd drink.

 

With the safety drill complete it was time to cast off from Southampton. Cunard has a reputation for a good sail-away party and this one was no exception. It was good to see so many in the queue for champagne…

 

…and even better to be enjoying it…

 

 

By prior arrangement our group met for pre-dinner drinks in the Commodore Club. A firm favourite for seasoned Cunarders, this intimate cocktail style lounge,  with  pianist and exceptional service is an ideal venue for just such gatherings. I would hasten to add that the hot and cold canapés that are offered at the tables are an added attraction.

After dinner our group each had their individual priorities towards entertainment. For my wife and I the decision was simple – The Queens Room…

and a few hours of Ballroom and Latin dancing followed by a few ‘bops’ in the G32 Night Club.

The next day, Friday, the ship docked at Zeebrugge. Bruges always seems to be where everyone wants to end up but for us it was going to be farther afield, Ghent. Altogether a far more interesting place than Bruge with less of the touristy pitfalls. For those who were travelling ashore independently there was a complimentary shuttle service into the town of Blankenburg, from where the trains run every hour to Bruges and Ghent. What was equally interesting was the fact that I observed 25 ship’s shore excursion coaches alongside the ship.

The weather was kind to us and we were rewarded with an excellent day in Ghent. On this occasion the highlight was a full visit to Ghent’s Castle of the Counts…

 

…from where I was able to take this view across the famous Ghent Tower Skyline…

 

 

 

From left to right is Saint Baaf’s Cathedral, The Belfry,  St. Nicholas Church and lastly the clock tower on the Post Plaza.

 

The train journey from Blankenburg to Ghent takes 50 minutes and the return fare for two of us was €12.00. A reasonably full guide to Ghent can be found at…

 

https://solentrichardscruiseblog.com/2013/05/21/one-way-to-do-zeebrugge-ghent-edition/

 

Back onboard we enjoyed another good dinner in the company of our friends and, with no ballroom dancing that evening – it was a Party Night in the Queens room with the resident Caribbean band – we took the opportunity to see a show featuring the amazing harmony group, The4Tunes..

 

 

The first occasion on any cruise ship that we have witnessed a double standing ovation for visiting acts.

 

Our third day on board was a sea day as we transited between Zeebrugge and Cherbourg. There were certainly plenty of activities going on around the ship including the Planetarium, a Royal Academy of Dramatic Art  performance of Hamlet and a number of ‘Insight’ lectures. The sea day also gave us the opportunity to join an old friend for lunch in the Todd English Restaurant…

 

 

That evening was the only ‘Formal’ evening of this short cruise. I’m pleased to report that our table not only dressed for the occasion but maintained the spirit of the formal evening throughout the meal – men’s jackets remained on: as did those of all the tables around us…

 

 

In conjunction with the Formal Evening the Royal Cunard Singers and Dancers performed their production show ‘Apassionata‘ which my wife and I have previously enjoyed. We therefore chose the Queens Room and the ‘Black and White Ball’.

 

Our final day was a call at the port of Cherbourg. This gave us the opportunity to take one of the ship’s excursions, an all day trip to Mont Saint Michel,  entailing a 2 hour drive through very pleasant French countryside…

 

 

*****

 

 

Queen Mary 2’s popularity extends well beyond British shores and no less across the channel and into France. The residents of Cherbourg and it’s surrounding area turned out to give Cunard’s flagship a resounding sendoff: the Captain reckoned some 5,000 spectators and hundreds of small craft…

 

 

Our final evening on board was once again spent where our heart is, the Queens Room and the spectacular music of the combined Queens Room and Royal Court Theatre Orchestras giving a ‘Big Band Night’.

 

And so once more home again to Southampton and the Ocean Terminal…

 

…another excellent and fully enjoyable Queen Mary 2 experience.

 

Summary:

This was the first time that my wife and I had sailed on one of these short 4 day voyages and I expect we would not have tried this one had not the opportunity to join friends from both the Bolsover Cruise Club Forum and the ‘We are Cunard Fanzine’ arisen.

It was interesting in many ways and I am particularly glad we took the opportunity. There are many misconceptions about both short cruises and the passengers that utilise them.

I have read one or two reviews on this same cruise. There is the usual, rather tedious,  criticism of Cunard’s ‘Dress Code’ and the position of the ‘Kings Court  buffet’ on Deck 7. On the first point I would say if you aren’t happy with the dress code then why bother cruising with Cunard: the brochures are quite clear on what is required. I was very impressed at the number of passengers who made a real effort to conform and I would guess there will always be those pseudo rebels who aspire to cruise at a higher level with style but lack the general character to carry it off.

On the issue of the Kings Court Buffet the fact is that Queen Mary 2 is a unique design and therefore does not mirror the layout of the majority of mass market cruise ships:  some passengers obviously have trouble handling this. The servery counters are  are all clearly marked and accessed from multiple directions while seating is available the length of the buffet. Multiple beverage stations are well situated and  equally spaced for convenience. Buffets are buffets and it does often  make one wonder why one needs to utilise a buffet restaurant when there are perfectly good full service restaurants available.

There are of course  times when buffets may be more convenient. We did use the Kings Court one morning for breakfast when on an early departure for a shore excursion.  Having mentally noted the serving counters we wanted to use  we simply collected what we required and enjoyed our breakfast in the more than pleasant and calm Winter Garden…

 

 

All in all we thoroughly enjoyed this short cruise. It was certainly enhanced by having so many friends join us and at times the social whirl became quite hectic. The reality still remains though that the only way to fully appreciate all that Cunard has to offer  is to sail for a decent length of time.

 

Fact of the Day: Queen Mary 2 boasts  32 live musicians onboard, more than any other cruise line.

 

 

 

2 responses to “Queen Mary 2’s Gallic Discovery

  1. Well done Richard and spot on as usual .. Quite right about the bot of fizz waiting for ALL guests on arrival in their Cunard stateroom. Who on earth wants to be standing around on arrival in a ships lobby/atrium trying to juggle with hand baggage and drinking fruit punch.

  2. It is amazing how much one can fit in on a short cruise. I bet you felt you had been away a week as it must have been so action packed. Great photos as usual and I am pleased you all had a good time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s