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This was our 69th cruise, and we booked it for our anniversary.
We flew to Laguardia via Air Tran, which we upgraded to business class. The airline is one of our favorites. Upon arrival in New York we were met by Cunard reps, and after a bad series of transfer problems, not any fault of Cunard Line, we arrived at the New York Sheraton and Towers, an old haunt we have stayed at many times before. We booked the Queen Mary 2, Sheraton and transfers with Cunard Line.
Longing for pizza, the real deal, a NY pizzza, the concierge recommended Johns, a 10 minute walk from the hotel. Johns was set up into an old church in the 1980's, and the pizza was very good . Other meals enjoyed in New York were at the Carnegie Deli, still very good, Stage Deli, also very good, and a nice 24/7 bistro across from the Sheraton, Maisson. Our splurge was Le Bernadin, with dinner costing over $400.00, and worth every penny.
We had little time for shopping. We attended a performance of the musical "Wicked" at the Gershwin, superb, better than the book, and we took in a Live with Regis and Kelly, with guests that day Tony Bennett, Diane Sawyer and Jennifer Garner. All told, a lot of fun. I love New York, and never tire of it.
We had to have our bags ready for transfer to the Mary by 6:30 am, in our hotel room. An annoymous bell hop entered our room in the we hours and took the bags while we slept. We were transfered to Brooklyn and the Mary loomed ahead. What a sight.
As Cunard World Platinum members, we had priority boarding. We boarded in minutes of our arrival, sped to our stateroom on Deck 12, to find our bags already in the stateroom, our steward waiting for us. We booked in Cunards new Britannia Club level, which basically heightens the dining experience, not much else. We had two bottles of Pol Acker blanc de blanc iced from Cunard, and a lovely Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut from our travel agent, Mark. Our bath was smaller than our last stateroom on the Mary, our balcony was larger. During the enitire cruise we could not accesss the internet or e-mail from our tv in cabin, via wireless keyboard. That was no big deal. In addition to the bubbly, our fridge was stocked with various wines, bubbly, beer and sodas.
We ran to the Kings Court, the lido-buffet style restaurant on the Mary for lunch. Last time sailing we hated the Kings Court as it is pushy, noisy and not to our liking. It is still noisy and pshy, with passengers clawing through the food and slopping iced tea. We learned we, as Britannia Club passengers, could have had lunch in the Britannia Club. Who knew? This was our only visit during the cruise.
Britannia Club is a small intimate section of the Britannia Restaurant, the main dining venue, which is quite private. It presumably provides a dining experience similar to the Columbia, later renamed Coronia, restaurants that were popular on the Queen Elizabeth 2, which we enjoyed, back in the day. Last year we sailed the Mary to Hamburg from New York. The Britannia Club did not exist, and we had booked for the Britannia, and we found the entire experience then to be excellent. This time we found the Britannia Club to be truly exceptional. The menu is the same superb one offered to Britannia guests, with an al la carte menu for the club passengers. The al la carte menu offered fresh sliced Scottish smoked salmon, escargots, French onion soup gratineed, freshly prepared Cesar salad, NY strip sirloin, veal chops, rack of lamb, planked salmon, free range chicken and special desserts. The al la carte menu was the same each night. We were also able to special order a few things, something rarely encouraged on todays ships.
We woke to find us in Newport RI. We are died in the wool New Englanders, and we took this cruise to get our fill on New England. We had to have deep fried clams with the bellies in tact, and lobster rolls for lunch. We found "Benjamins Poor Richards" to our liking and the lunch was excellent, clam chowder, made from scratch, not from base, and the best sweet potato fries accented a fine lunch. The clams and lobster wonderful as well.
We lived in Boston, and North of Boston for many years, and have missed "our city" greatly. We made a reservation on line before the cruise ,at "Anthonys Pier 4", a real Boston seafood restaurant, sitting along side Bostons magnificent harbor. Waiters from way back are still there! We enjoyed outrageously large lobsters, and stuffed clams, and, the best Bloddy Marys ever. It was as if we never left Boston, being welcomed back to Anthonys. The lunch for two $150.00.
Bar Harbor was nice, there is nothing like Down Maine, as is the reference for coastal Maine. We booked only one tour during the cruise, and it was in Bar Harbor. We toured Mount Deset Island and Acadia Park, with a nice New England Lobster Bake . Our guide, Richard, had the down east accent, and New England sense of humer we don't find in Virginia.
The only disappointment during the cruise was Halifax, Nova Scotia. Halifax seemed seedy and dumpy. We stayed a week awhile back touring Nova Scotia and loved it. We just did care for Halifax.
We book three massages during a 9-11 day cruise, and the first ones were on our first sea day between Halifax and Quebec City. Upon booking we learned that Chrisian was onboard, the masseur we booked with before on the Mary, and we were delighted to find that Arturo, the spa attendent, was still there. Our spa visits were wonderful as a result. The spa and treatments are provided by the famed Canyon Ranch, and the experience is many levels above the Steiner concept of spas at sea, which is to say, very professional.
At night the Queen Mary 2 is very elegant, as one would expect. We had 4 fornal nights during our 9 day cruise. Approximately 98% of the male passengers donned a tux or dinner jacket, and the ladies looked like Linda Evans or Joan Collins from, Dynasty. The famous Ascot and Black and White Balls, Cunard traditions were held, as well as the Captiains Grand Ball and a Masquerade Ball, with pasengers wearing masks.
We were invited to four very elelgant parties hosted by the Commodore, or his senior oficers. Two were truly spectacular, with unending open bar and top notch hors 'oeuvres.
Our final destination, Quebec City. What a lovely, charming city. A silver mist enshrouded the skyline as the mighty Mary glided to her dock with the dominence of the Chateau Frontenac hovering on its cliff above. The first tinge of Autumn color had kissed the trees, and a cerulian bliue sky was revealed as the sun burned off the mist. Ahead, the Crystal Symphony seemed dwarfed by the Mary, sharing the pier with us.
We found assistance, in English, at the toruist desk ashore, and set off on foot to explore this place of beauty in North America, with European charm, and French accent.
We are weak when it comes to art galleries, and we found one we could not resist. The painting arrived a week later via UPS at our home. We noticed many shops featured made in Canada merchandise, and I must say, the items were of excellent quality. We did some Christmas shopping, notably, for our grandson.
We had more sea time as we sailed back to New York. It is always nice to find old friends among the staff and crew on a ship that we knew from other cruises. Our sommelier, Francisco, we knew from previous cruises on Royal Viking Line, when he was a bar steward. We made excellent aquaintences with our cheif dining steward Jacob, our bus boy Jason and their assistant, Venedra, as well as head waiter, David.
Were thjere any disapointments during this cruise? There always are, not the ship, or cruise line. First, our cabin steward did not tell us about the lunch, we wound up at Kings Court, he did not tell us about the pillow conceierge the Britannia Club passngers could enjoy and he never took care of the internet problems, not to mention, most days our stateroom was still unmade at 3:00pm. His station was a mere 8 cabins. Soap and bath accesories had to be requested frequently. On the last day, the luggage was not removed from under the bed prior to packing. There was one awful omelet at breakfast. That was about it.
On our last night at sea, we remembered our anniversary, and enjoyed ice-cold Stoli with caviar at Veuve Cliquot, the decadently chic champange bar, to celebrate, and share our thoughts about the wonderful cruise and the most magnificent passenger liner ever built. Later, we returned for some good drink, served by Felix and Filip at our favorite lounge, the Chart Room.
We had heard some scuttle-but during our cruise, about a new liner. Rumors at sea are often confusing, reality questionble and often unreliable. Well, two days after our cruise we received an e-mail from Cunard Line, Ltd. announcing the construction of the brand new Queen Elizabeth, sans suffix, to replace the QE2! At 92,000GRS, costing $800,000.00, and ready in late 2010. With the Queen Victoria, the Queen Mary2 and the new Queen Elizabeth, long live the Queens and Cunard.