Thursday, December 15, 2016

Queen Mary 2: My sister's wedding and onwards to Southampton

NYC/Queen Mary 2/Oxford/Paris 2015 Travel Highlight Blog
Queen Mary 2: My sister's wedding and onwards to Southampton
July 17-22, 2015

After departing Halifax and sleeping, we got up in the morning to the usual (free room service, yay!!!) which was always quite a fun and silly treat. We got dressed and headed to the upper deck for my sister's wedding ceremony... on the Queen Mary 2!

Today was the big day and Norm looked AMAZING. I was pretty stunned and shocked when I saw her -- what a fancy dress and amazing makeup and hair. Mom too... WOW!!!!! I can only imagine how Glenn felt upon first seeing my beautiful sister. :) So this was all very exciting for all of us and the ceremony was run by the ship's Captain. My Dad and I took over at some point to do some Jewish blessings and my Dad wrapped Glenn and Norma in his Tallis (Jewish Prayer shawl). The new couple said their vows, and stomped on a (crystal!) wine glass, hooray! Mazel Tov!!!! The new couple was beaming from ear to ear and many happy tears were shed during my Dad's amazing speech. The couple then signed a Ketubah created by Michal's cousin and we were off to take photos.

Mom and Dad looking great
The nervous and excited Groom!

Here comes the bride!

You may now kiss the bride...


Dad's speech
Ketubah signing
We wandered the ship and took some family photos before the new couple went off to take couple photos on the deck. Particularly hilarious was this painting of the Queen we found, with, I'd like to point out, another very lovely and regal lady (my Mom) looking strikingly similar to Her Royal Highness!

Michal and I also made sure to take advantage of some of the classes on the boat. There was a silly but kindof fun Yoga class that I took a few times, just to try to counteract the extreme amount of room service breakfast we were ordering every day :) There were some movies, and also some great live music acts which we went to.

There are many places to eat on the Queen Mary 2-- the Golden Lion Pub for lunch, the Britannia Restaurant (which was our main spot to eat dinner together every night), King's Court Buffet for late night snacks or random schmecking (always some random tasty cheese as a snack, plus later evening self-serve tea was great),  Commodore Club in the late evenings for Piano Bar and cocktails and the Queen's Room for afternoon tea. There is one "upgrade" restaurant, Todd English, where you can pay a little extra to upgrade to, so we decided to try it for one evening. The food was very tasty and flavourful (albeit quite rich!) and we really enjoyed the atmosphere - very quiet and chill up there which was nice.

So that was super fun. To wrap up the evening we figured we'd check out the "Dance Club" again and as we had suspected, it was the usual verrrrry small crowd there! Ha. We figured we'd have better luck seeing people at the Ballroom, and we did --there was a huge balloon drop and it was pretty stellar to watch (and participate) with hundreds of elderly British folks excitedly bashing balloons around playfully like little kids. It was awesome and hilarious and charming.

The weather had been a bit chillier on some of the earlier days so we hadn't spend as much time on the deck. It had started to get warmer during the days so we spent some time reading on chairs outside and chillin' out. Fun times.

The pool and the rear of the boat

Funny animal sculptures made of food
Oh no! The time of day when the King's Court buffet closed for a couple hours... oh no, what will we do!??!? We haven't eaten in 30 min! :)

Another day we tried the Golden Lion Pub for lunch which was OK for food, but a great spot to play BINGO (yes!!!) and had some fun windows closer to the water line which was cool to see.

Norm, apparently very much enjoying the view out the window!

Cunard has basically 2 flavours of evening wear expectations: formal, and insanely super formal (they call it "formal" and "black tie"). We had another "insanely super formal" evening and dressed up in our fanciest duds to go and eat like hell again. haha. You can take the boy out of the farm... but.. what's that phrase again?! Anyway, we had a great time and did our best to live up to the level of class you might have expected given what we were wearing. I think I did order two sorbets that night for dessert, though :)

Actually, hilarious and ridiculous story -- one of the nights there were lamb chops AND steak and I was really excited for both and couldn't choose. So I skipped the appetiser/salad and just ordered TWO ENTREES. This was insane. You could literally order TWO ENTREES. I went NUTS on this ship!! Seriously, given my excitement about food and general interest in "trying all the food", I should probably not be allowed on an all-inclusive ship like this. :) I was generally well-behaved, or at least as well-behaved as the rest of the Jutans were, haha!

I kid about the two sorbets (I think), but actually that evening was a CRAZY dessert BAR the pastry chefs put together. The guests were ravenous and they had to keep us in a formal line so that people didn't go mental and grab 1000 of everything. It was crazy. But after elbowing only one or two people out of the way, we got a cache of epic desserts and retreated to safety.

Seriously though, this display was super awesome, and included a huge ice sculpture version of the Queen Mary 2!

The pastry chefs were introduces and were very pleased with their work and to show it off to us!
Check this dude out on the left -- hey, I think he's trying to get ahead of us in line for the dessert bar!

We checked out an awesome dance show afterwards and then headed back to our cabin to a "cheers" with desserts!

Cheers! Me in my element: with an entire table of free desserts... haha
This really is a picture perfect look into my excitement for free dessert.

The next morning it was time for breakfast room service again (love those grilled tomatoes and beans, so Britishy!) and then a wander around the deck and to take some photos of the various areas of the ship.

It was a warm and beautiful day and so we sent some time in the pool on the back part of the ship, only to find the Indian-Canadian guy in the hot tub with us went to my high school in London, Ontario! That was unexpected!!

We enjoyed the outdoors of the ship and also went on a bit of a photo exploration tour so I could have some nice pics to blog now!

Glorious day!

Wandering on the upper deck of the ship

Really awesome elevator designs here
"The Library", which we had never set foot in until I took this picture
The fancy "Commodore Club" piano wine bar which we hung out in a couple of times

A funny random side elevator that went from one floor up to the Commodore Club directly, via one or two random special suite rooms which appeared to have direct elevator access!

Time for some chillin' and reading!

The pool on the rear deck of the ship was really awesome.
A nice picture of the main Britannia Restaurant where we ate every night
We took a break from swimming and wandering to take a Ballroom Dance class, and we were abjectly terrible. Michal said the teacher wasn't great, but I'm more willing to blame my own lack of coordination.

Soon, thankfully, it was time to eat again -- our favourite daily activity which we manged to get to three or four times -- the High Tea in the Queens Room. It was a very popular activity and was usually quite full. Of course, you could have as many scones and cream and lemon curd as you liked as well as small pastries, and of course, tea!! This was totally awesome and we loved going to this.

Mom and Dad getting ready to tuck into some scones
Me looking VERY pleased with myself
This tea was soo gooood
Gotta love that funny cake!

After another magnificent afternoon tea time, we headed to relax for a bit and change again into fancy clothes for dinner. I finally took a moment to take some photos of these amazing Art Deco "seasons" panels near the front entrance of the ship.

Those were really cool. We then headed for dinner and had our last meal all together on the ship, as usual, in the Britannia Restaurant. Michal and I went to bed after, but had trouble getting to sleep right away -- it turned out that was OK, as we were able to stay up to see the start of the shore coming into focus, as we edged closer and closer to England.

We're here!
At long last, the Queen Mary 2 ported in Southampton, England. We wrapped up, had a final breakfast (gotta eat again!) and then we headed off with our bags to the sunny (?!) shores of England! We were very excited to have arrived, and also very glad to have had this experience.

As I mentioned, none of my family had ever been on a cruise before -- we have generally opted for more "complicated" or more "local" travel experiences -- this involves needing to learn how to converse with people in a foreign country, learning local customs, trying lots of local foods, getting lost in train stations, not being able to find your hotel, etc. etc.! This type of "immersive travel" has been our go-to for many many years and is still my (and I think in general, our family's) ideal travel style, but this "stress-free" experience was really quite great actually. I wasn't sure what to expect of the cruise experience, but it was a lot like people say -- there is so much to do on the boat you don't get bored, you can always find something to do, a show to watch, or just relax on the deck. I even did "deck running" a few times with Michal while listening to our iPods, to help work down all the tuna melts!

I certainly ate WAY too much, but it was a whole lot of fun to go and explore and always find a new kind of cheese you could try and take a plate back to your cabin! Haha. It was a silly and fun treat to have included room service at any time of the day or night -- we ended up re-ordering the Caesar Salad many evenings, just because we could. The Tuna Melt became a favourite as well (though it oddly seemed to only be warm the first night we ordered it, otherwise was pretty chilled all the other times, oh well!) and for breakfast I was a big fan of the fried eggs, hash browns, baked beans and grilled tomatoes. Michal really loved that they could deliver us a late-night tea every night. Super fun.

We arrived in England and said farewell to Norma and Glenn, the happy couple, and to Glenn's family as well. Michal and I headed off to Oxford, England with my parents for a stroll down memory lane.

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