Ferry From Southhampton, England to Saint Malo, France

Getting here from there

A little background on the logistics of how we planned our travel from home back to ICE FLOE deux in Port Napoléon, France.  I have already described why we chose to take the Queen Mary 2 across the Atlantic – no luggage restrictions.

The Queen Mary docked in Southampton, England at 6:30am.  Our luggage had been stacked in the corridor outside our stateroom the evening before.  It was picked up some time during the evening and was waiting for us when we disembarked at 10:00am.  
We had completed a customs check in while on the Queen Mary so all that was required was that we show our passports, collect our luggage, and go.  We were lucky and found a taxi van that was large enough.  The taxi deposited us at the Brittany Ferry Terminal in Portsmouth around noon.  When we booked out passage on the ferry there was little information available on luggage handling or restrictions so we inquired about this as soon as we arrived.  We were informed that, just as had been the case aboard the Queen Mary, there were no restrictions other than that the luggage fit in our stateroom.  How relieved we were to find our luggage would not be a problem.

Unlike the Queen Mary, we were told we would be responsible for getting the luggage to and from our stateroom.  We knew this was not an insurmountable problem, although it certainly would be exhausting.  We were pleased to learn that there was not only food aboard the ferry, there was a restaurant – we were all set.  We grabbed a small lunch in the Ferry Terminal and sat down for a very long wait – the ferry would not board until 7:30pm for the overnight trip across the English Chanel.

Guardian angels were looking out for us as we sat blissfully in the terminal reading and knitting.  As it turns out, carrying the luggage to our stateroom would involve:

  1. carrying it down a hallway from the ferry terminal waiting area
  2. loading it onto a bus
  3. getting it off the bus
  4. carrying it up a series of 6 long, steep, switchback, ramps to board the ferry on the 6th floor
  5. carrying it up two narrow flights of stairs up to our tiny cabin

Had we needed to negotiate this entirely ourselves, we might still be at it – AND if the luggage actually fit in our cabin, we would have needed to sleep on top of it!!

Our sleeping cabin aboard the Brittany Ferry
Our guardian angels came in the form of ferry personnel who knew all this, and had a MUCH, MUCH, better plan.
After all other passengers had boarded the ferry, these men and women helped us push our luggage carts and load the luggage into a bus (just for us).  They accompanied us to the Ferry dock, reloaded everything onto new luggage carts and assisted in pushing them up the 6 steep ramps where the ferry personnel transported it directly into a luggage storage area.  We only needed to bring our overnight necessities to our cabin and begin exploring the ferry.  First stop, a bar with some nice, cold, beer on tap.

One of several eating areas aboard the Britania

I am not sure what experience you may have with ferries, but ours has been limited.  In addition to a bar, multiple eating areas (restaurant, cafeteria, snacks), the ferry had a small arcade, jungle gym, and entertainment including live music, a movie, and a very talented showman and magician, Alexander Wells.  It was such a lovely conclusion to a day full of half-baked plans that had worked out better than we could have hoped for.

Mr. Wells, demonstrated his sword-swallowing skills with a long balloon (so as not to frighten the many children), made bottles of wine appear out of thin air, astonished us with card tricks and other slight of hand magic, all with a theatrical flair, that brought to mind our dear friend Dobbs.  What a way to cap off an “adventurous” day.

Alexander Wells – check him out on You-tube

In the morning, our guardian angels were every bit as helpful and to our added delight, our luggage fit in the car George rented for the trip from Saint Malo to Port Napoléon.

Now you see it
Nothing Short of Magic

And now you don’t

Aboard the Queen Mary 2

The Queen Mary Experience

Our week aboard the Queen Mary is nearly over.  What a wonderful time we have had.  The experience for us has been less an adventure at sea, and more a week of leisure in a luxurious resort with great comfort, varied entertainment, great food, interesting people and conversation, beautiful artwork, and pretty much any accommodation you could want.

The seas have been relatively calm with only one day when the swell grew to 8 or 9 feet.  Most often, we can barely detect the boat rocking.  There have been several days of winds that, combined with the 20+ knot speed of the boat, could nearly knock you off your feet.  Temperatures have ranged from the high 30’s to the 60’s with variable degrees of sun and clouds.  We have, on occasion, found warm sheltered areas to sit outside, but we have spent most of our time within the ship.
The ship is enormous – almost as long as the Empire State Building is tall and has 13 decks.  Three trips around the promenade deck equals 1.1 miles.  Nonetheless, it is very easy to get around.  When full, the ship carries approximately 3000 guests and nearly half that many staff members.  There are comfortable and well-designed areas to suit whatever degree of quiet, privacy, or venue you may be looking for.

A daily schedule is provided each day with activities you may want to join or attend.  There is an evening show in the Royal Theater, afternoon presentations related to our solar system and galaxy in the Illuminations Theater (“The only Planetarium on the Ocean”).  Musicians are often performing in the smaller casual meeting places like the Chart Room or the Corrinthian Lounge.  There is live music and dancing every evening in the Queen’s Room.   At some extra charge you can enjoy any number of spa treatments, see a chiropractor, visit a salon, or participate in wine or chocolate tastings.

These seats along one corridor were very comfortable and provided a great view of the ocean.

George and I spent an afternoon spotting whale spouts and relaxing.

I have joined a knitting group that meets most days at 3:00pm.  As many as 25 knitters have attended.  In addition to sharing projects, travel plans, and life stories, I was provided with instruction for a much neater and easier way to knit a heel for the Christmas Stockings I am working on.

One corridor has a wide assortment of board games and a partially completed puzzle.  Many guests spent time here.
There is a large and beautiful library with computers, comfortable sitting areas, periodicals, and a large collection of books you can check out.
George and I in our fancy attire required after 6:00pm
The chocolate bar
The champaign lounge
Wine tasting room
The Chart Room
A small casino

There has only been one instance in which an area was crowded and that was when a very accomplished clarinet performer put on a Dixie Land concert with the Queen Mary resident band in one of the larger, cozy lounges.  This clarinetist had put on such a wonderful show the evening before, many more people attended than expected for the additional performance.  It was an excellent show which concluded with an impromptu parade of band members and guests parading single file to a raucous “When the Saints Come Marching In”.

Queen Mary 2 – The Dining Experience

 Dining Areas

All dining areas offer equivalent china plates, silverware and linen napkins.  All food is included in the price of the cruise with the exception of one small optional restaurant we never chose to eat at.  There are self-serve stations where you can obtain complimentary water, ice, fruit beverages, milk, coffee, and tea.  All other beverages (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) must be ordered from ever-present staff and cost extra.  You could purchase a bottle of wine and the Somalia would keep partial bottles for the next time you dined in the Britania.

There are large dining areas with tablecloths, waitstaff, and new menu selections at each meal.  The efficiency with which large numbers of guests are served is unprecedented, in our experience.  The quality and variety of food is exceptional.  Each guest is assigned a specific table for dinner in one of the large dining areas.  This table is held for you every evening.  The menus change each day and generally offer a choice of several appetizers, a salad, several entrees, and several deserts.  There is always a vegetarrian option.  You can partake of any or all.  Accomodations such as requests for more vegetables or substitutions are routine.  There is no need to confirm whether you will eat there.  At any time you can choose to eat at an alternative dining venue.  We had our dinners there about half of the time – lunch, less often, and breakfast only once.  There are many types of activities throughout the day and these sit-down meals were at a specified time which did not always fit our schedule.

Britania Restaurant to which we were assigned

A portion of Britania restaurant was also open for breakfast and lunch and we could choose private or group sitting.  Most (including us) chose group sitting.  It was always interesting to get to know a little about other passengers.  We have been astonished at the number of people who have taken one or many other Trans-Atlantic cruises and other cruises on the Queen Mary.

There is a large self-serve dining area (The King’s Court) that is open nearly around the clock offering breakfast, lunch, dinner, as well as, endless confections.  High and low tables for two, four, and larger groups are set with placemats, linen napkins and silverware.  The food in this court is also different every day and very good.  For example, we have feasted on exquisite rack of lamb, shrimp dishes, sushi, roasted vegetables, salads, fresh and smoked fish, and stir fry. 
Below are three pictures of the King’s Court

A wide selection of food is nearly always available in the King’s Court and is refreshed throughout the day featuring breakfast, lunch, and dinner choices.

There is also a separate afternoon tea in a room reserved for this meal (in the event three great meals a day is not enough).

There are a number of smaller areas that often offer live entertainment, a bar, and a selection of things to eat.  What is available changes and depends on the time of day,  Seating is comfortable apolstered chairs and small low tables.  There are also bar stools.

Some food pictures

Setting Sail and the Royal Wedding

Setting Sail on Queen Mary 2

Shortly after stowing our luggage we attended a mandatory lifeboat drill.  In the event of an emergency that might require abandoning the ship we would be alerted with a loud alarm of 7 short and one long blast.  We were to bring our life jackets, warm apparel, a warm hat, and a boat identification card to a specific area where ship personnel would supervise the boarding of lifeboats.   We pulled away from shore at around 6:00pm.  Shortly out of the harbor we passed by the iconic Statue of Liberty.  

 It was a foggy, cool, evening, but many gathered on deck for the departure.  George and I enjoyed our first beer on board.

 It was a foggy, cool, evening, but many gathered on deck for the departure.  George and I enjoyed our first beer on board.



We enjoyed a wonderful dinner of lamb shank and retired to our cabin for restful night’s sleep.

The Royal Wedding

Shortly into our voyage the occasion of the royal wedding between Prince Harry and now Princess Meghan dominated events on the Queen Mary.  The ship’s Royal Theater opened at 6:00am and broadcast live coverage of wedding preparations, the event itself, and commentary afterward.  British pride and nationalism was in evidence everywhere.  The ship and many passengers were decorated in British red, white and blue.  The British Royal Regalia (a group sing along) was held in the Grand Lobby that concluded with the British national anthem.

Trans-Atlantic Passage

So Many Firsts

To start off, this is the FIRST posting to the FIRST blog we have ever written.  During our 2017 sail in France and Spain we created and e-mailed periodic updates to friends and family.  E-mail came along with considerable limitations (data-wise and otherwise). Our daughter, Allison, gave us a Christmas present of taking the FIRST steps of transitioning our means of communication to a BLOG.  George is an early adopter and took it from there – And here we are – BLOGGERS.  We hope to add, at some later time, summaries of our 2017 and 2015/16 trips.
Image result for Queen Mary 2 photoGeorge and I began our 2018 sailing adventure with a trans-Atlantic cruise aboard the Queen Mary 2.  We had never taken a cruise before and we came by this FIRST experience for reasons having nothing to do with an interest in checking this off.
We began to research passage on the Queen Mary as a means to bring our beloved dog, Chaze, with us.  As it turned out, Chaze was nearly twice as long as the maximum size dog allowed and we had to abandon the dream of bringing him to France aboard the Queen Mary.  How he would have loved being able to accompany us to restaurants and stores and beaches.  He would relish the great deal of attention and admiration he would undoubtedly receive.  As my brother Michael summed up, Chaze ranked up there with a short list of the most special dogs that have ever lived – along with Rin Tin Tin, Lassie, and two of his own beloved dogs – Kip and Diesel. Sadly, Chaze passed away in February,  just shy of his 14th birthday, and will never get to visit France.  We miss him.
As we were looking into the Queen Mary passage, we came upon a mention that there were no limitations concerning the amount of luggage you could bring on board (other than that it must fit in one’s stateroom).  We had sailed ICE FLOE deux in 2017 through France’s rivers and canals from Cherbourg to the Mediterranean and along the French Riviera to Spain’s Balearic Islands without some much-needed, voluminous, and heavy sailing paraphernalia. We had stumbled upon the most economical means of getting both ourselves and this equipment to our boat.
Our boat-related luggage included eight large duffle bags, a small chest freezer, and a bag of long poles (fishing net, boat hook, et al) totaling ~ 500lbs.  Our personal items were packed into two small duffle bags, three shoulder bags, and one garment bag.  We arrived at the terminal and loaded our luggage onto a large cart while we were waiting in a long line of cars that were either dropping off passengers for the cruise or picking up passengers from a previous trip.  A steward met
me with the cart and promptly took the luggage off our hands.  The next time we saw it was when we arrived at our stateroom.   There was a remarkable amount of storage space in the cabin and it was very easy to stow our baggage and restore order to the cabin.  We could have brought twice as much!!
We boarded the Queen Mary on May 17th for a seven day passage from Brooklyn, NY to South Hampton England.
Enjoying a complimentary bottle of champaign in our stateroom on the day of our arrival
Our state room after “stowing” our stuff

The video that was posted in our original post on Blogger was not supported by WordPress so alas, we have no photos to share with you at this time of our lovely stateroom (that accommodated everything we brought in its ample closets, save the freezer and grill that we kept on the balcony.