Across the Atlantic

Today is already the last day of our cruise. (Pardon me: the Queen Mary 2 is actually an ocean liner, not a cruise ship, and we’re on a crossing not a cruise—or so I’ve been told by some other passengers.)

It’s been a year of firsts in so many ways, and so why not one more? This is the first time I’ve ever been away from dry land for so long. Unlike a typical cruise, a crossing like this doesn’t have any port days, just day after day on the endless ocean, the horizon a flat, blue line line in every direction. Each day at noon the captain announces where the nearest land is, usually some speck of rock and dirt miles and miles away that I’ve never heard of. There’s been little to interrupt the watery view; it was a few days before we even spied another ship, and then only in the far distance. Once we spotted a passing freighter. Luckily, we’ve been in the right place at the right time on two occasions to see big groups of passing dolphins arcing out of the water.

A few nights ago, a tremendous storm woke us at three in the morning when the glassware on the counter in our room all started clattering over. By then we were used to the continuous rocking of the ship, but now it was leaning decidedly in one direction. While we got things picked up and secured, we heard the sound of more things falling over coming from other cabins. The feeling of leaning continually toward one side was eerie. The next day the captain informed us that the nearly hundred knot winds from the storm had caught the starboard side of the ship like a sail and pushed us into a five degree tilt to port. Of course, the girls had slept through the whole thing.

The people you meet on board

Traveling means meeting people from all over and this has been no exception. Our first day, we met a pleasant couple from a London suburb while we were in the long line to get boarded. And even with thousands of people aboard, we’ve managed to run into them numerous times. Then there’s the thoroughly bronzed guy who looks like he lives his life on the pool deck. And he just might—he told me he’s done this crossing alone upwards of thirty times. We met a family from the UK who always travels to America this way because the wife doesn’t like to fly. And it’s been impossible to miss the large group of Mennonites in their traditional garb, with bonnets for the women and decidedly old-school hairstyles and Abe Lincoln beards for the men.

Let’s eat… and eat and eat and eat

If you want to pad your waistline, there’s no better way to do it than aboard a cruise ship. I can certainly see how people get on board, start eating… and never stop. A variety of restaurants serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and you can always get second breakfast or elevensies at the buffet. There’s a pub-style place with good fish and chips, a French restaurant, and a place just for dessert. Each afternoon white-gloved waiters serve tea in Queen’s Room with all of the usual accoutrements. And just in case you don’t feel like following the dress code (I’ve never dressed up this much for dinner in my entire life), room service is available twenty-four hours a day.

Entertainment

Without any port calls, Merideth was a bit concerned that life aboard ship might get a little dull. And while this ship doesn’t have all of the amenities that some do (like rock climbing walls and waterslides), there’s always something going on: there are no shortage of fitness classes, shows, concerts, dancing, lectures, watercolor classes, and more. Last night we enjoyed a great magic show and today we went to a throughly entertaining one-act version of Pride and Prejudice that had us all laughing. We’ve had plenty of time to read, watch the Olympics, and play some throwback board games like Trivial Pursuit and Clue and Monopoly (which is just as brutal as you remember). And spending time at the pool is always a good idea. But there’s no doubt: this ship and this itinerary definitely appeals to an older set. There aren’t a whole lot of other kids aboard, but plenty of people who don’t have a lot of hair left. Sometimes I feel like I somehow ended up at a weeklong AARP retreat.

Worship at sea

On Sunday we attended the ecumenical worship service led by the captain. It consisted of readings, prayers and hymns. We sang a number of hymns, including “Be Thou My Vision” and “How Great Thou Art,” which the Captain described as “a typical American hymn—long and loud.” One of the officers read the passage from 1 Kings about Solomon asking the Lord for wisdom, and one of the entertainment directors read the passage from Luke in which Jesus tells a parable about an arrogant Pharisee (whose prayer is full of pride) and a humble tax collector (who pleads to God for mercy). The Captain read “the sailor’s version” of the 23rd Psalm, which begins, “The Lord is my pilot…” And being a British ship, the prayers included blessings on the queen.

One last night

This afternoon we’re getting packed up once again, and tonight we have our last dinner on the ship. We also get one more night with an extra hour of sleep, which will be quite welcome since we plan to get up around 5 a.m. to see the Statue of Liberty as we arrive in New York in the morning. It’s a bit hard to believe: tomorrow the girls and I will see America for the first time in over a year.

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