Queen Mary 2 - January Getaway
This review is written by Amy Blume.

January 6th, 2007, found my mother Carolyn, my sister Karla, my husband Jason and I in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for the beginning of our cruise on Queen Mary 2.  A Caribbean round trip from Ft. Lauderdale to St. Thomas and back.  It was the first time my mom was to sail aboard a Cunard Queen and she was very excited.  On our flight early in the morning the day before I snapped the following photo of Carnival's Paradise and Queen Mary as we flew high over Long Beach.

The trip started out a little hard in that we had an early morning flight and then ended up waiting two hours for our luggage at the Hollywood/Ft.Lauderdale Airport.  Thankfully we were spending the night at a hotel nearby and had some time to recover before boarding the ship.  The part of Ft. Lauderdale that we stayed in wasn't unsafe but it was a little grungy.  It was five miles from both the airport and the port, which was why I chose it, but next time I think I would choose one of the beach front hotels.

The ship parade that followed our bumpy bus ride from the hotel and the extra long two hour wait in the terminal was well worth it however.  
Regal Empress, Zuiderdam, Sea Princess (II), Island Adventure, Enchantment of the Seas, Star Princess (II), Carnival Liberty, Seabourn Pride & Radiance of the Seas were all in port that day as well as our Queen.
We arrived and found our staterooms.  We had two Deck 6 hull hole balconies side by side almost all the way aft.  There were three things which proved negative about this placement.  The walk to any stairway/elevators was very long.  The wind sometimes blew smoke from the stack perilously close to our balconies.  Also vibration of the ships motors (which had not been apparent on my more midships room the last time I was aboard) was a little distracting to sleep through.  The next order of business once we had located our little homes, was to take a walk around the outside of the ship.

After our runabout it was time to get mustered.  We headed down to our cabins for our life vests and up to the Princess Grill.  It was nice having such elegant surroundings by which to contemplate the possible dangers to your vessel and yourself.  I made with the camera to prove that I'd actually stepped inside.

Once that was finished and we returned the jackets to our cabins, we made our way on deck and watched the departure of all the other ships in port save Sea Princess who departed after us.  The captain announced that we were ready for departure, calling it charmingly "cruise ship rush hour".

Dinner that night in the Britannia was casual and we met our waiters.  I wish I could remember their names but thought they were nice and the service was good, it was just not the same as old Vlad on the QE2.

I had the Roasted Strip Loin and Jason had the Pan Seared Cod.  Both were what you would expect from the Britannia.  The quality of the meat itself was excellent, but the recipes had that cruise ship sameness that I suppose comes from trying to cook thousands on meals at one time.  Of note was our Sommelier, a nice young woman who didn't let us feel inferior for having eccentric and cheap taste in wine!  She was also on task with the non-alcoholic sodas and would bring Karla's diet Coke to the table without needing to be asked.

After dinner we strolled through the public rooms but decided that overall we were tired and needed to rest.  The beds had of course been turned down and chocolates rested neatly on our pillows.  After a good rest and some looking through excursions on our interactive television, I decided to take some photos of our room before our first day at sea got going in earnest.  QM2's cabins are always comfortable. The only complaint I have is the lack of tub and the small size of the showers.

Karla and my mother were still sleeping in next door after a hard day of travel yesterday, so Jason and I headed upstairs to have a pub lunch in the Golden Lion.  It was as always very pleasant.  The view outside the room is fairly close to the water being on the deck two and the pianist who was playing some standards and some more popular music was actually really wonderful.  I meant to go see him play in other locations/shows on the ship but regrettably didn't get to do so.  I'm a bit of a night owl everywhere in my life other than on ships because i like to see them go into and out of port.  The unfortunate corollary is that I never see any of the shows or night time entertainment.  Finally mom and Karla were awake and we managed to get them out of bed by way of promising them tea in the Queens Room.

Tea was very crowded that afternoon unlike the other days we partook.  Must have been a first day at sea event for most of the clientele.  After stuffing ourselves silly with tea, sandwiches, scones and other sweets we decided to take a stroll on the boat deck, by far one of my favorite places on the ship.

Dinner was the first formal night.  It was supposed to be the black and white ball so we were all dressed up to the nines and then of course were very tired after dinner.  We all just went back to our rooms to have an after dinner drink on our balconies, which were balmy and warm in the Caribbean night.  We enjoyed that very much not being that social outside our own group, but the next day everyone had nice things to say about the ball.

Morning in the Caribbean we were awakened by the strange quietening of engine vibration that puts us to sleep.  There had been a little ocean motion as we traveled through the night.  The wind had picked up a little but the oceans were very calm.  We were clearly pulling in close to St. Thomas.  We were told later that day by our tour guide that this was the last time people would have to tender from the QM2 at St. Thomas as they were almost finishing their new docking facility.  Everyone was up early this morning because we had a schedule excursion to go to St. Johns to snorkel and laze about on the beach. After a filling but crowded breakfast in Kings Court we made our way up to the Theatre to wait for our group to be called to the tenders.  It was a very quick procedure and we were soon stepping out onto our tender.  Carnival Destiny was docked around the corner.

Finally docked at Charlotte Amelie we had half an hour to shop before we had to be back up to the pier before our boat to St. John left.  Unfortunately the same tourist's disease seems to have afflicted the city.  The haggling and the calling and near assaulting by the locals for your tourist dollars is really uncomfortable and except for the charming donkey I could have done without it.
Once we had boarded our excursion boat and found out that our tour guide had once worked on QM2 when she first started, we were taken out of the madness of St. Thomas and passed our beautiful ship. Please excuse my extensive coverage of the ship and my complete lack of coverage on St. John.  St. John was beautiful but I was too busy snorkeling.
   
We saw a number of famous people's homes, such as Madonna's bvove, as well as the island of St. Croix that makes my favorite brand of rum.  The water was beautiful and I was very excited to get to see Sea Dream II anchored near St.John.
St. John was quiet and very beautiful.  It was the opposite of St. Thomas.  It seemed a real place with a community and culture.  Most of the island is a park, part of the American National Forests.  The only down side being that there is no hospital on the island and if you need any serious care you have to be taken by helicopter over to the nearest hospital at St. Thomas.  It was all over too soon and as we returned I took even more pictures of the Queen.
Back on St. Thomas we didn't even bother to stay, but instead made our way into the tender line to take a very overcrowded tender back to the ship.  Once there we dropped our things and made it just in time for more tea!  A nap was required about now, and as we rested I noticed Carnival Destiny making the escape from St. Thomas.  She blew us a salute and the proud Queen regally returned it just as she herself started the engines.
That night was Pirate Ball and I regrettably decided against dressing as a pirate for dinner.  Other people did and they were very entertaining.  They seemed to have already consumed too much rum for dinner and the decorum at this night was very... different... than the other nights we had enjoyed in the Britannia.  Once again after a long day we decided to forgo the ball and head back to our rooms for more drinking on the balcony.  

The next day was our last day at sea and after a lie-in we took some pictures around the ship.
The entire day went by in the idle way that a sea day can when you are interested in relaxing more than anything.  After attending a good planetarium show, we ate at the Kings Court, which was very crowded most of the day.  We had tea and then dressed for dinner that night.  Then because we didn't want to admit the voyage was almost over, we didn't go to bed after dinner, but packed the majority of our luggage and after leaving it for our nice steward we went out to gamble.  A word to the wise: the bartenders at the Golden Lion make really good Margaritas for a bunch of limey Englishmen!
After saying goodbye to our steward and making sure we didn't forget to leave that extra tip, we made our way to the Queens Room, our designated waiting place.  In the future I wouldn't do as they say and and go wait there, because there's absolutely nothing to do, and you might as well be up by Sir Samuel's so that you can buy some coffee.
When our color was called (orange in this case) we headed out through the Britannia and down the hall to the gangway.
I tried to get a good image of the shps together, but by far the best one I took was after we'd taken to the air on the flight home.
In all it was a wonderful cruise although the ship still seems to me to be a little large.  I keep leaving feeling as though I haven't spent any time in all of the places I had wanted to.  The library and other forward rooms I never seem to get to especially in the daytime.  The long walks though good for my figure left my legs a little tired for being on vacation, but I suppose when you are on what Cunard calls the largest Liner in the World that's to be expected.

For a review of the mega ship stalking that we watched from the decks of
QM2 go here.  For the QE2 arriving at Ft.Lauderdale go here.  Carnival Destiny photos can be found here and Sea Dream II here.

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© Amy Blume 6th-10th January & 28th May 2007
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