My first glimpse of QE2 was amidships on Deck 2, near the old photos in the circular
reception area. First, though, while boarding, I touched the outside of the ship,
something I’ve done on all of our recent cruises—and, now, a crossing.
I skipped sailaway and took a QE2 orientation tour. This was to acquaint us with
the layout of the ship and public rooms. About six of us took the tour. It was while
on this tour that I learned that one of the speakers on this crossing is John Maxtone-Graham!
How about that—the one famous person I had dreamt of sailing with is on our crossing!
I’ll attend his lecture tomorrow, and then go to his book signing. They even have
The Only Way to Cross for purchase! I had believed it to be out of print.
August 12, 2003
This morning, I spent over $200 on history books in the Cunard bookstore. In addition
to finally getting a copy of The Only Way to Cross, I also purchased books on SS
France/Norway, Rotterdam, Queen Elizabeth 2, Queen Elizabeth, and Queen Mary.
I am now sitting in the theatre, awaiting the first of the lectures by renowned maritime
historian John Maxtone-Graham. I will take notes below. (Among them: When showing
us a photo of Titanic’s main staircase, he said, “This should be familiar to many
of you, as this is from where a gunman fired six shots at Leonardo DiCaprio and,
unfortunately, missed each time.”)
I had planned to have a quick lunch at the Lido and then sit outside in my reserved
deck chair. The Lido, however, was crowded, and I shared a table with a fascinating
gentleman. He’s a 70-year-old from Canada and he’s been on QE2 since the ship last
left New York a few weeks ago. It is his first time outside the Americas, and he
enjoyed the Mediterranean, even if he “had to do a lot of walking in the heat.”
We just turned our clocks back one hour for the second consecutive night. I am enjoying
the 25-hour days.
John Maxtone-Graham was highly personable at the book-signing. He signed my new copy
of The Only Way to Cross, and then graciously signed My Ocean Liner: Across the North
Atlantic on the Great Ship Normandie for my son. (Note: This is a children’s book
by Peter Mandel for which John Maxtone-Graham had written the introduction.) He
then posed for photos—one with my son, and one with me. When I told him I had reviewed
Liners to the Sun for an online cruise magazine, he offered to sit with me for an
Tonight was the Captain’s cocktail party in the Queens Room for those dining in the
Grills or Caronia Restaurant. Our 9-year-old looked so darling in his tuxedo. He’s
been a real trooper on this trip. There is a children’s program, yet he’s preferred
to stay with us and watch the evening shows. He’s even been enjoying the adult entrées
in the Caronia Restaurant. Tonight, he had roughy and rice pilaf and ate it all.
The ship is rocking fairly nicely tonight. There is a lot of creaking, and walking
on the upper decks, especially fore and aft, is not easy. Our cabin location is superb—low
and center—so it is a gentle rocking for us. I rather like it.
This evening’s show was a concert by the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Stars, followed
by some late evening fun in the Queen’s Lounge. I’ll let Neil take it from here:
A passenger was playing the harmonica with a three-piece jazz trio. He played a hot
blues number. Two sax players joined the trio of bass, guitar and drummer for a few
songs. A third sax player joined the band. It was truly a jam session. Players got
introduced, picked a key, and started to play. Next, a keyboard player stepped up
to the piano and there were seven people wailing away. The original trio then called
up the sax and trumpet player from the Dizzy Gillespie All Star Alumni Band to play.
It was a fascinating and fun night of music. They players seemed to enjoy the freedom
they had to play whatever they wanted.
August 13, 2003
Our third day at sea began when we awoke at 6:30 am. We had a delightful breakfast
in the Caronia Restaurant, and continued to explore the ship. I have seen many of
the Cunard artifacts from over the years, as well as some remnants of the ship’s
history. Among these is the D-staircase, Upper Deck, on which remains a wall that
used to prevent the First Class from entering Tourist territory (or, preventing Tourist
Class passengers from accessing the First Class D staircase, if you will). There
are doors along this wall, which were presumably used on cruises.
This is the life! I am up on Sun Deck relaxing in my reserved deck chair. There are
approximately 30 others here, about one-quarter to one-third of the area’s capacity.
In the center of this area is a large marking for a helicopter landing. I just read
in one of the books I purchased that this was added during the Falklands War in the
early 1980s. The decking is a marvelous teak. Straight ahead is the orange and black
Cunard funnel. This area is adequately protected from wind by large, windowed walls
on each side as well as aft. An entry to the indoors is forward. My back is facing
Lifeboat #18. There is more open space aft of our little enclosure, and then the
decks are gently tiered downward.
It is overcast today with a light breeze. I haven’t heard the weather report yet,
but it feels like it is in the 70s. The ocean is somewhat calm again after a windy
evening. I saw a few whitecaps last night and early this morning, but there don’t
appear to be many (or any) now. There is still sufficient feeling of motion. I do
enjoy it, and it adds to the ambiance of being on a ship.
I had afternoon tea in the Queen’s Room. It wasn’t as elegant as I had expected,
but was still nice. It was crowded—had to share a table—met two gentlemen from New
Jersey who have been on QE2 previously. One traveled standby in 1986 when returning
to the U.S. from school.
Dinner was wonderful, again. Our waiter is getting better. I’ve been told that waiters
must graduate to Caronia from Mauretania. I can see how the change can be difficult,
as Mauretania has two seatings whereas Caronia has one in which passenger arrival
times are flexible.
Excellent entertainment tonight. First, we saw the show in the Grand Lounge—a tribute
to Hollywood by the onboard company. Subsequently, we heard the Dizzy Gillespie Band
in the theatre. We sat in the Upper Deck and got some great photos. Actually, still
photos of all of the shows are encouraged!
August 14, 2003
I’ve discovered one drawback to making a westbound crossing—it’s difficult to get
a sunrise photo. Either the clock is turned back the night before (making sunrise
feel so early) or you have to remember to set an alarm.
Having just missed sunrise this morning, I chose to take photos of some of the “off
limits” areas of the ship. So, there I was, in the Queens Grill Lounge, with no one
else around, in my pajamas and a sweater. I also got photos of the Britannia Grill.
One more thought…while walking through a near-empty ship, I realized that it is the
people that bring life to a ship. An empty ship is somewhat sad.
I have found another favorite spot on the ship—the indoor swimming pool on Seven
Deck. The water was warm and relaxing and I swam several laps. I shall try to return
here each morning.
I also tried the outdoor pool on One Deck. There’s far more motion there, so I got
out rather quickly. It was also fairly noisy around the perimeter with two Jacuzzis
(one filled with kids), a splash pool, and lots of passengers milling about.
I am presently enjoying afternoon tea in the Lido. While it is less formal than tea
in the Queens Room, the food and tea are exactly the same. Surprisingly, I like the
Lido. Waiters stop by more frequently with sandwiches, sweets, and tea than in the
Queens Room. So, I give the Queens Room an A for ambiance and the Lido an A for service.
Regarding service—after I told one of the waiters that I did not wish for anything
containing sugar, he returned with two sugar-free cakes for me. I hadn’t even asked.
Dinner was excellent tonight. There was a special Queen Elizabeth menu from 1957.
I had three items—warm crabmeat au gratin appetizer, strip loin with green beans,
carrots, small potatoes and Yorkshire pudding as a main course, and a beautiful peach
mousse for dessert, which was accompanied by a thin piece of chocolate with the words
“Welcome to Cunard” on it.
One of tonight’s highlights was during dinner—a mom and her 3-year-old daughter visited
us at our table. The little girl had seen our son at the pool earlier, and claimed
him as her boyfriend. How cute! The two later shared a couple of dances in the Queens
Room. The band even played “Sunrise, Sunset.”
August 15, 2003
I went up to the outer decks at about 5:30 am to await the sunrise. There were about
half a dozen other passengers, as well, including one who had his camera atop a tripod.
It was very windy, so I took shelter by an exterior wall until the sun finally rose.
I believe I got several fine photographs as the sky turned from dark grey to orange,
then to pink, then a light blue, and—finally—the large brilliant orange ball made
its way over the horizon.
To ward off the chill, I then headed downstairs to the Pavillion, where I enjoyed
a cup of Earl Grey, a warm croissant, and wonderful conversation with a woman who
is transporting her car back from the U.K.
After breakfast, I went to my reserved deck chair on Sun Deck, got a wool Cunard
blanket, and fell asleep! Ah, the life! We are now in the Caronia Restaurant for
lunch. I shall be meeting John Maxtone-Graham at 2:00 in the Queens Grill Bar for
our SeaLetter interview, and need to prepare some questions. Neil is about to suggest
a few—but, before that, we are looking through the restaurant windows as we see dolphins
in the ocean.
It was a fabulous meeting with John Maxtone-Graham. He was very kind, and presented
me with a beautiful chart of all of Cunard’s ships.
I am now in the Grand Lounge listening to the jazz band rehearse. This is one excellent
feature of this ship—rehearsals are open to all rather than being shut in a closed
While going on a self-guided tour of the Cunard Heritage Trail, I happened upon the
Queens Room, which was being set up for formal tea. I figure I’ll stay 15 minutes
or so before heading out to find my husband and son, who are listening to jazz music
upstairs in the Grand Lounge.
I just heard someone say, “Hello, Mrs. Plotnick.” It was our dining room waiter.
He said that he serves during tea time every two days. The harpist has begun, and
my tea just arrived.
I just discovered another “find” while riding the elevator by A Stairway. The elevator
stops at just the following Decks: Boat, Upper, Two, Three, Four, Five. In other
words, it skips the former First Class decks, Quarter and One. The staircase, however,
goes all the way from B to Five. You can get a photo from A Stairway that shows the
elevators on Upper Deck, but blank walls immediately below on Quarter Deck. I love
stuff like this!
August 16, 2003
After another high calorie breakfast in the Lido (scrambled eggs, English bacon,
toast, fresh fruit, cheese, and tea), we have few plans for today.
It’s a beautiful, sunny day. It was already warm when I walked my laps around the
outdoor promenade on Boat Deck at 7:30—no sweater required. I hope to spend a bit
of time outdoors today, although I must go again to the indoor pool as it was a real
I am in the theatre once again in anticipation of a fine lecture by John Maxtone-Graham.
Today’s is, sadly, his final lecture. He will speak about his book, Liners to the
Sun, which is special to me as it was my introduction to his writing.
August 17, 2003
Our QE2 voyage is now complete. It is nearly 10:00 am and we are sitting in the
Lido waiting for our disembarkation number to be called. All in all, it has been
a wonderful voyage. The seas were smooth. Entertainment was fine and varied—including
jazz, classical, rock and Caribbean-style music, so there was certainly something
for everyone. And, passengers were also very kind.
As an example, I received a very lovely gift from (a fellow passenger) last night
at dinner. I had admired a beautiful accessory that went atop the edge of the dining
room table suspending her purse via a small hook. The part on the table was a stunning
floral design. She presented it to me after dinner last evening, and insisted gently
that I keep it as a memento.
I was certain to thank John Maxtone-Graham for making my first crossing more memorable
than I ever could have imagined. He is a wonderful gentleman and I hope to hear him
This has been a fabulous holiday, and truly lived up to our expectations of a dream