Queen Mary 2 - Eastbound Transatlantic
Towards the end of 2012, Cunard were selling their winter cruises really cheaply.  The back to back transatlantics in November between my two trips were peanuts but sadly I couldn't stay on an extra two weeks.  Ditto the one on the 15th December, the day I disembarked after the Canary Islands cruise.  However, the 3rd January crossing was rapidly dropping, and single wasn't bad either!  Due to other cruising commitments, I wasn't going to go solo unless it had been peanuts but I renewed my ESTA on the 9th December while aboard just in case.  The day before we returned, my friend, Rob shocked me by wanting to come despite hating flying.  His dad organised his ESTA and it was booked on the 22nd.  We chose an A2 balcony for £599 per person including flight but it was guarantee so we had to wait for it to be allocated.  Our flight details arrived on the 18th while cabin 11016 was allocated on the 19th.  Norovirus had broken out during the Christmas cruise, hitting the papers on the 28th December.  As a result of this, Cunard sent an email to those booked on the following transatlantic:

Dear Guest,

We wish to draw your attention to a change to the embarkation schedule for your forthcoming voyage from Brooklyn Cruise Terminal on Queen Mary 2. During the current voyage, Queen Mary 2 has experienced an increase of gastrointestinal illness on board. The ship will therefore undergo an additional and extensive sanitisation once all guests have disembarked. Embarkation will be delayed in order to allow a thorough disinfection of the ship. We kindly ask that you arrive at the Cruise Terminal four hours later than your previously published check-in time. We appreciate that this may not be possible for all guests and limited seating is available in the terminal. A bag drop facility will be made available at the cruise terminal to allow you to take advantage of a complimentary shuttle which will operate a return service into Manhattan. Thank you for your attention to this notification.

By the time this had been sent, the Center For Disease Control (CDC) had reported 194 of 2613 (7.42%) of passengers while 11 of 1255 (0.88%) crew had been ill while it was 204 of 2613 (7.81%) passengers and 16 of 1255 (1.27%) crew by the 2nd January.  People panic reading the media but all you need to do is wash your hands.  I know the sanitisers aren't any help against norovirus but they kill general germs so use them.  Although you can get ones which fight norovirus so why aren't the cruise lines buying them?  It would make more sense.  They all need to force people to use them, the way Royal Caribbean did during my 2011 Indy cruise, resulting in our small outbreak being nipped in the bud fast.  It was a bit of a worry what scare stories the media would come up with as the 3rd drew closer!

The day arrived when it was up at stupid o'clock.  I'd woken at 1am and couldn't get back to sleep which was frustrating as my transport was picking me up at 4.30am.  Due to light traffic, we arrived at Terminal 5 seventy minutes later, and ten minutes early.  Rob was already there with his parents, as they live not that far away.  It was annoying self-check-in kiosks but thankfully Rob's dad found someone to help and I was given 43J and him 43K, which was a window seat.  There were no seats together with an aisle, which I needed for my back.  Bugger!  After breakfast we went through security.  The first time it has been a nightmare!  First of all, my bra set the sodding machine off then they kept my handbag back, claiming it contained an e-reader when it was an A5 envelope!  I use those for my documents each time I fly (and cruise) and never had any mistakes before, even in Terminal 5.  So we had to wait while an Indian gentleman was dealt with.  He had many things confiscated including a knife from the cutlery drawer!  Then my bag was searched and no e-reader.  There's a surprise - not!  A quick stop in Boots before waiting for our gate to open.  Once we arrived at B44 there wasn't that much of a wait before boarding.  We went to find our seats and the British comedian, David Copperfield, had taken my aisle seat!  Well, at least I knew we were in for some good entertainment and had to explain to Rob who he was.  Rob was very nervous of flying after a prior bad experience but did very well.  In front of us were two women who were glued at the hip, not even going to the toilet without the other.  One let me go before them as she was waiting for her friend.  Are they five years old or what???  They were getting all the free booze they wanted then, shortly before the end of the flight, a crew member came along, checking seat numbers, asked if they would take part in a survey then crossed them off his list.  I love how Hoity and Toity thought they were superior yet were in cattle class.  The flight landed at 10.50am, twenty minutes early and, after disturbing David Copperfield the entire flight, he couldn't wait to escape!  Hoity and Toity also pushed ahead with Toity blatantly eating a banana in the immigration queue.  Many people didn't understand the simple instruction about turning your phones off.  I was glad we were quite forward in the queue because further back was horrendous.  We got through fairly fast then went to collect the luggage.  As we headed out to find the Cunard rep, Rob had spotted Hoity and Toity on their knees with open suitcases, giggling like drunks while a TSA officer stood over them, arms folded.  We had our names crossed off the list then followed another rep to the bus.  It was freezing outside but refreshing after the boiling hot building.  We were sat on the bus by noon so really good going.  Unfortunately, Hoity and Toity were on the same bus with Hoity constantly complaining about seats so kept moving.  Bloody annoying these two would be on Mary for an entire week so we hoped we didn't see them again.  The drive to Brooklyn was an interesting one and we saw the Manhattan skyline from the coach.  Pity the port area in Brooklyn in so derelict.  After the luggage was offloaded, we had to identify it then hand it over.  One of the blokes saw my Norwegian Epic T-shirt and asked, "Did you do the Epic out of Miami?"  I told him no, Rotterdam in 2010 then Barcelona in 2011. " "Cool!" he replied.  I was only wearing it as a joke I knew Rob would get after a particular comment I made during the last night of our Jubilee cruise.  I love Red Hook for one reason - no one stops you taking photos of your shippy!  Though, having heard stories about US security, I was keeping an eye open as I had in Fort Lauderdale in December 2011.  I had posted on Facebook I was off to visit an old friend and here she was in her black, white and red glory!  Unfortunately, due to time restraints and being in British Airways and Cunard's hands, we couldn't make any plans to meet friends in and around New York so just didn't tell them.  It would have been unfair if the trip was cancelled due to Heathrow being closed due to snow or something.  Next time we'll book an pre-crossing hotel.
You were able to check-in then either wait at the terminal for embarkation (which began at 4pm) or take the shuttle into Manhattan.  We decided to to the latter.  Being a Platinum World Club member, I had priority check-in so we went to the desk after going through security.  We were given number five then went to the shuttle stop, catching the 1.30pm, before driving through the streets, passing One World Trade Center.  Our bus was number 8 and the driver told us we had to return to the SAME bus (number 8) so to be there for 4.30pm.  This was confirmed by a lady from Intercruises on the pavement.  We had been dropped at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Broadway and managed to meet our friend Oskar, who had done the Christmas cruise on Norwegian Gem then would be flying back to Norway the following day.  We didn't have long but it was great catching up (meeting for the first time in Rob's case) before we're in Stavanger in July.  After Oskar went with his parents, we killed time only to then discover we could have got any shuttle back after all - grrr!  It was sodding freezing.  David Copperfield had been on our shuttle and was first in the queue to go back so I got a quick photo before we went to the back.  Bus 8 turned up and if an Intercruises woman hadn't miscounted four of us, we'd have ended up back on the thing after all instead of 17/18.
We returned to the port at 5.30pm and joined the huge security queue before boarding straightaway.  You weren't even stopped taking photos in the gangway.  It was great finally getting to the cabin, although there were signs all around deck 3 telling you which stairway to take.  We don't get that in the UK!  After dumping our stuff in 11016 it was the Golden Lion for a much-needed drink before a freezing stroll around the decks and food!  The Britannia was open seating (but still first and second) so we went to Kings Court instead due to our 9pm sailaway.

Muster was at 8.15pm and we were in the gym.  It's amazing how many take their coats then can't put the life jacket on over it.  Afterwards, we managed to get the lift straightaway then we went out onto deck 13 for our sub-zero sailaway.  It was Kevin Oprey in command again and although we were meant to depart at 9pm, we were twenty-five minutes late.  Poor Mary sounded a bit weird as she blasted off so must have caught that cold again she had on the 4th December.  A few more came out as we neared the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge around 10pm before most of us returned inside to defrost.  Rob was tired so I went to the Golden Lion alone.  Down there was Elizabeth, who had been on my 2011 Mary cruise and she even remembered my name.  She had been on since the 15th, jammy cow!  Derek Conlon, who had been on since my previous cruise and would be there until the end of the world cruise, was doing requests from an Australia couple and did very well without any music in front of him, even going ten minutes over his knocking off time.  His version of Sweet Child of Mine by Guns N' Roses in a Jerry Lee Lewis style was different to say the least.  Pity the woman sounded like a cockerel when she whooped.  Then I went to bed after a mammoth twenty-nine hours and thirty-five minutes awake!

A much-needed snooze was disturbed at 7.38am by the phone ringing.  Due to the cold of the previous day, I had an awful sinus headache when I woke up properly.  After the noon whistle and Captain's report, we went for breakfast in the Chef's Galley.  Due to norovirus precautions, everyone was being served.  It's staggering how many people fail to listen to advice regarding hand washing.  If they're not going to wash or use the sanitisers, can the crew smash their hands with a hammer to stop them touching anything?  Bit of a lazy day, popping down to the Golden Lion for Derek's pre-first sitting set.  David Copperfield wandered in and saw us.  His night must have been ruined like his flight!  They say you get what you deserve but we have no idea what he did to deserve us.  Poor man deserves a medal!  It was the first of three formal nights and when we went to dinner found we were on exactly the same same as the Jubilee cruise - 165!  Our waiters were different but Sommelier was the same as then as well as my cruise in November 2011.  He remembered Judith and Helena from my table back then, saying Judith was on for the Christmas cruise.  I asked the waiter for the salad I had made for me on Celebrity Constellation, Vision of the Seas and Independence of the Seas.  They did it but I had expected it to come sliced, not chopped.  Nice one, Cunard!  A wander through the Golden Lion and David was all dressed up with bow-tie and orange jacket so he wasn't trying hard for black and white night either.  We didn't stay for any drinks, just chatted with him before heading out to avoid the karaoke.  Why do they have it on bloody formal night???  Back to the cabin for more sleep after checking the info channel where our transatlantic had become a transcontinental according to the maps!
Another almost noon wake up.  It was our first day putting the clocks an hour forward at twelve.  A shame it wasn't 11am thus making the noon whistle at the correct time instead of now 1pm plus skipping the quiz so seats were free in the Golden Lion!!!!  We had been doing a mediocre cruising speed since the night before and Captain Oprey said we had an engine issue which should be back online a few hours later.  We went to the Commodore Club and if you so much as breathed you were glared at by the old fart chair-hoggers who weren't even drinking.  Classical music was put on which relieved the morgue atmosphere, although the dead are more lively than this lot!  Buggered if I can remember the rest of our exciting sea day apart from another formal night, so I'm glad I had company!

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© Patricia Dempsey 3rd-10th January 2013
Not to be reproduced without permission