Embarkation... and Welcome Cocktail Party
Last year when I took the East Coast Labour Weekend Dance Cruise on Queen Mary 2, my son Michael joined me on the voyage and we travelled out to Brooklyn together. This time I had to get a cab out to Brooklyn Pier by myself. I had no problem getting a cab within minutes of leaving the apartment building - the cab driver assured me in barely intelligible English that he knew exactly where Pier 12 was - and I had my IPhone GPS on just to make sure we were heading in the right direction.
As we drove round small narrow back lanes and my IPhone compass was going nuts , I started to get a bit anxious but we rounded a corner and voila! There was the QM2 ahead of us. What an impressive sight.
I left my big suitcase with the porter but decided to carry on my smaller duffel bag just in case the suitcase did not make it to the cabin before I had to change for dinner. Thee was quite a long line of people waiting to check-in. I chatted to the couple behind me in line. They were from England and we talked about the stops on the British Isles cruise I had just done. When the line began to move forward and I bent to pick up my duffel bag, the gentleman picked it up and insisted on
carrying it until we got to the front of the line. I protested at first but one of the lessons I have learned in my recent years of traveling solo is to accept acts of kindness graciously, and when I get a chance, to "pass it on".
The check-in was quick. I registered my credit card - and later learned that Cunard seems to have a problem with shared cabins that are not shared by a couple. They can't seem to register two different credit cards to one cabin at check-in. so my cabin mate had to go later to the purser to get hers registered. When she did that it seemed to have screwed up my credit card because midway through the trip I got a letter telling me I had no card registered to my name in the cabin.
The only gripe I have with Cunard - and it may actually be a problem with other cruise lines too, is the assumption that two people in a cabin are a "couple". Because our cabin was booked first in Carol's name, the only copy of the cruise information book, and the baggage labels, went to her address. It seems to me that if the two guests have different names and live at different addresses, each should get an individual packet of information.
Anyway I was looking forward to catching up with my cabin-mate, Carol. We shared a cabin on the South-East Asia trip, and had lots of fun, and now we have almost 8 months of stories to catch up on.
When I got to the cabin there was a notice saying that there was a small itinerary change - Hurricane Earl and all that. I had read on line that the cruise line said "the Queen Mary 2, currently making its way across the Atlantic, will arrive on schedule in New York City on Friday, and will remain in port until early Saturday. As a consequence, its originally planned Saturday call in Newport has been canceled. QM2 will now proceed directly to Boston, where the ship will arrive on Sunday as scheduled."
I packed away the stuff I carried on and then went to check out the ship - specially the Queens Room dance floor which I remembered from the previous 4 day cruise as being quite superb. By the time I got back to the cabin Carol had arrived, and shortly thereafter both our suitcases arrived at the door. We did our best to get sorted out before the Emergency Drill, and then it was time to change for Wendy's welcome cocktail party.
Wendy had said to meet in the Golden Lion Pub. There were several people I knew, and a few faces I did not recognize. Four of the five hosts were there.
I had not met Chris, a dance instructor from Pennsylvania, nor John and Philip. It was great to see Sam, who I met on a previous cruise. I think of him as Gentleman Sam because he is always making sure that we are supplied with plentiful glasses of water, and because he presented each of the ladies on a previous cruise, with a fan. I have taken mine on all subsequent cruises and found it invaluable.
It was also good to see Honey, who teaches in Atlanta, and was on the British Isles cruise. She has a great lead for everything from West Coast Swing to Quickstep. Whenever I see her I find myself rolling my shoulders back and down and standing taller in the hope that I will eventually develop as good a dance frame as she has. Robert, our lead instructor host, was to join the ship in Boston, as he had students competing over the weekend.
The other guests included people I had met on previous cruises, Dory and Cynthia, Dorothy, Bira from the South Pacific Cruise, Bruce, Bill and Sharon. New faces to me were Sandra, Inge, Loren and Karen, and Ken. With Carol and me that made twenty-one altogether in our party. This is a nice size for a group and I figured that the dancing should be good.
Shortly after 6 we walked to the Britannia Restaurant for the early dinner sitting. Wendy had arranged for three adjacent tables for our group. I joined Carol, Dorothy, Chris, Ingeborg and Philip. On the recent British Isles cruise on the QM2 sister ship Queen Victoria the food was excellent and the dining room service superb so I expected a similar level of service on this voyage. As you will see, in general this expectation was met.
I had decided to enjoy the dinners but be moderate in my eating. So I enjoyed a salmon mousse appetizer and then ordered the Canyon Ranch (spa food) entree of chicken with orange marmalade.
For dessert I had a cheese plate with nuts and fruit. Left the crackers.
After dinner we went to the Queens Room to dance to the Queens Room Orchestra under the direction of Bill Gibson. The featured vocalist, George Evans, is from Toronto. Apart from his smooth voice and danceable vocal styling, he has one of the best entertainment personalities of any of the orchestra vocalists I have encountered on these cruises; joining in the dancing in between his singing spots and generally creating a relaxed and friendly atmosphere in the ballroom.
Although folks were tired from travel, most of our group danced until the set ended at 11:30. The first evening its quite interesting getting to know the way the different hosts dance and becoming familiar with their styles and favorite dances. John led me through a cool merengue with my arms twining and turning till I thought there is no other way we can spin. Sam's waltz and foxtrot got me gliding around the floor - and what a great dance floor! I tried tangos with Chris and Philip, chacha, rhumba, even a couple of hustles to Wendy's recorded music in between band sets. And a quickstep with Honey, she of the perfect frame and clear lead, left me a bit breathless.
I noticed that there were six Cunard dance hosts on board. There were also a lot of women for them to dance with, sitting on the opposite side of the floor to the area where we were congregated so I did not get to dance with any of the hosts or chat to them. Hopefully later on the cruise.
It's going to be a great dance cruise. Luckily I am in good shape for several hours of dancing. And hopefully I will be even fitter when I disembark.