(thanks to dippity for the photo)
Why the QM2? The Cunard line is known for being one of the higher end cruise lines. The QM2 is their newest and largest ship--the largest ocean liner (not cruise ship) in the world. An ocean liner is built specifically to make transatlantic trips, and that is what the QM2 does best. It's hard to describe the size of this ship, which is twice as long as the Washington Monument is tall, without being on it or seeing it in person. Mike and I were living in Maine when she made her maiden voyage up the east coast in 2004. We made the trip to Bar Harbor to see her and it was quite a show with much hullabaloo and fanfare. It was worth it. I'll never forget driving onto Mount Desert and seeing her smokestacks towering over the smaller islands. She made the other cruise ships look like toy boats. As we sat there that day, watching this beauty and all her bejeweled guests and listening to the bands play, I remember thinking to myself that if I ever had the chance to sail on her, I would. I went home and looked up the prices; reality told me it would be a long time before that dream came true!
Fast forward eight years. We sold our home in NC for a small profit, enough that we no longer had to worry about keeping up with a mortgage or the money needed to transition to Hong Kong. It was also our 20th wedding anniversary, and I wanted to plan a trip to celebrate the occasion. I had several items on my "bucket list" and I thought I might be able to combine at least a couple of them: being in Boston on the 4th of July, going to Nova Scotia and seeing Phantom of the Opera in NYC. As I began searching for all these items on the internet, I came upon a bucket list item I had hardly deemed thinkable: a 5 day cruise on the QM2 leaving from NYC and going to--get this--both Boston (on the 4th) and Nova Scotia!! I was pretty excited, until I saw the price...over 3 grand for two people. Undaunted, I began to look at discount cruise sites. Prices there were better, but not great. I had less than a month to plan the trip and I really wasn't sure what to do. So, I waited. And in this case, procrastination paid off. At this point, I can't remember the exact original price of the cruise, but waiting until two weeks before the sail date, I was able to get an inside cabin for just a little over half the original price! I found my deal on www.lastminutecruises.com, but there are other similar sites, such as www.cruisecheap.com, www.expedia.com and www.cruisedirect.com. All of them offer phenomenal prices if you are able to wait until the very last minute...which also could mean you wait one minute too long and miss out entirely.
Anyhow, we left one day early and drove to NYC from Maine. I had enough reward points saved up on my Wyndham reward card that I was able to get a room at the Wingate in downtown Manhattan for free! It was a very nice room, within walking distance of everything we wanted to see while we were there:
We went to see Phantom of the Opera, went to the top of the Empire State Building, ate a hog dog from a street vendor, attended Redeemer Presbyterian (no, Tim Keller wasn't preaching...drat), hailed a yellow taxi, hiked through Central Park, went to Times Square, rode the wooden elevator at Macys and got a corned beef on rye from a corner deli--all in less than 18 hours!! Many of these items were on the bucket list also:
Finally, we boarded the ship, and me, who is pretty much a cruise newbie, was blown away by the opulence. She has her detractors, but honestly, I don't know what people are looking for. Every inch is exquisite. Our stewards were so attentive and came within seconds of our ringing for anything. Here we are going under the Verranzano Bridge (you think for certain it's going to take down the smokestack) and going past the Statue of Liberty:
QM2 has the largest at sea library, a huge production theater and a movie theater, the only planetarium at sea, four pools, the obligatory casino and countless pubs and restaurants. There are so many activities to choose from each day. We went to the movies, had high tea, heard Historical lectures and Juilliard performances, hung out in the library, attended the Black and White Ball, and went to a couple of theater productions. We ate in the Brittania Restaurant each evening (a dress up affair) and had incredible 5 course meals including (but hardly limited to): lobster tail, duck l'orange, filet mignon, smoked salmon, sturgeon caviar, duck liver pate, 5 new cheeses each night (with names I didn't even recognize), baked alaska, creme brule, champagne mousse and so much more. Here are a few visuals for you:
Going to see Tintin
pointing to Dean Martin, who sailed on the original QM
a nice place to have tea and watch for whales
meet the captain night
On our way to Halifax, I saw some whales making a show, along with dolphins looking ever happy...another item marked off my bucket list. Our day in Halifax was delightful. After being greeted by bagpipes on arrival, we spent the morning walking around the city and then took a bus tour to Peggy's Cove, a picture perfect fishing village:
Then it was on to Boston, my all-time favorite city. Because we know our way around (very generally speaking), we opted to walk into town from port. We hiked up the famed cobblestone Acorn street and had clam chowder at Fanueil Hall before retiring to the ship to watch the fireworks. With all the guests watching from the top deck, the rain let loose, and the fireworks...fizzled. But honestly, I didn't mind at all. It was the trip of a lifetime for me, one I will never forget. All-in-all, NYC included, it set us back but just a tiny bit over 2 grand. $100 for each year of marriage. Knowing it was paid for up front: priceless. The memories will hold me a lifetime: