This is Suzi’s family letter. With her permission I am posting it to give you her take on the voyage. She says she is not posting pics but I have added a few that I took that illustrate the point. I am not putting many pics up because it takes forever to upload even reduced pics. After we get off the ship I hope to post a gallery of QM2 photos along with some final observations.
Greetings from the North Atlantic. The time certainly goes quickly, with people already talking about packing for departure (though I’m not there yet.) The captain does a “noon report” and tells us that Sunday about 10 PM we were something like 40 miles north of the resting point of the Titanic. It was, of course, a big deal to these people… not just as “British” but both it and the Carpathia, which collected survivors, were a part of the history of the Cunard-White Star (now simply Cunard) Shipping Lines. Fortunately, while Rich’s grandfather was a steward for White Star Lines, he wasn’t “honored” to be part of that first/last Titanic voyage. We’ve had great weather with smooth seas (to the extent that the bathroom door, when left open, stays open.)
We left New York about half an hour late (something about port paperwork) which meant that the kids all but missed the sail out because by then they were well water-logged. Fiona is a natural leader and gathers people around her. Liam did get out of the pool for maybe two minutes as we went by the Statue of Liberty and Fiona jumped out long enough to see what it was that had Liam’s attention, but both spent the afternoon being kids rather than being steeped in history. Rich and Brian spent much more time being engaged in their surroundings. I split the difference with one eye on NY and one on the pool. I think there are about 200 kids under 18 aboard and a couple dozen of them were in the pool that afternoon with a great deal of splashing off excess energy. Fiona’s instant friend was talked into helping her take on her brother, so it was often two against one and he displayed an amazing ability to both hold his own and keep the game entertaining for the girls. At some mid-point he checked in with me with the “clarification” that it was his responsibility to see that his sister survived the trip, wasn’t it? with a glimmer in his eyes that said he was having as much fun as she was.
Every day at noon we lose an hour, which continues to seem very strange (HAL does clock changes at 2AM) and may be a part of the almost complete time disorientation that I’m feeling. I suppose it’s their plan to help us adjust to the time zones and is moving us all onto a later pattern. We’ve stopped trying to have lunch between breakfast and “tea,” but need afternoon tea to hold us until dinner as late as it is. The trick is to get something with food value into everyone, rather than just the ice cream that both kids (and their grandfather) love.
They were both disappointed that the first night wasn’t a “dress for dinner” event when we intended to simply dry them out (Fiona wore her new dress anyway.) The second night was the “gala” and they really “clean up nice” with the dress and a suit and tie. She’s been lobbying for us to “dress for dinner” every night… really surprising from the girl who is very fussy about what she will (and mostly won’t) wear. We have adjoining rooms and she came over shortly before dinner on Tuesday to ask Grandpa to “dress up.” Rich agreed to put socks on and shoes instead of crocks. She was happy with the progress, but clearly not excited about his compromise. Ultimately, he put on a sports coat, because she asked him. We had a good laugh as she left to supervise the men in her family. Five minutes later Liam was in his suit and Brian had also donned his jacket.
Actually, it’s spooky just how “grown up” Liam is in formal gear. Standing on line for immigration into Britain (they bring someone onto the ship so we clear faster on arrival) I note that he’s already taller than about ¼ of the folks in the line. And he’s proving to be a wonderful travelling companion; willing to try pretty much anything once, but very polite about rejecting the wrong guesses. (He’s even chosen vegetables now and again. Fiona won’t go that far, but usually adds fruits to her breakfast.) Liam’s had some percussion in his music class in school (he’s just finished 6th grade) and so was quite interested in accompanying us to the jazz set in the evening and was quite fascinated by Brubeck’s “Take Five.” He wasn’t as impressed when they went off into other stuff that might be described as “soft jazz ” or maybe “lounge music” and decided to head to bed. These late dinners have been hard on him… and I sleep better if I don’t head to bed directly after dinner. I don’t know how the Brits do it.
Blessedly that impression of maturity is not just in appearance but also ability to handle insanely slow service. Evening meals are late, our reservation was for 7:30 (initially they wanted us at 8:30.) Because other adults at the table ordered appetizers, we didn’t get our entrees until just before 9, with the kids’ meals arriving only slightly before that. With desert, we missed the 10:15 show. Liam was seated next to a retired NY educator and the two of them chatted about his school and such and after Brian took the kids off to bed and the rest of us were finishing coffee, she was commenting (almost gushing) about how amazed she was at his conversational abilities and what charming kids the two of them were. That was the “formal” night and the next night the maître de apologized and put us at our own table… controlling the number of appetizers somewhat controls the speed of service, but only somewhat.
Saturday there were several lectures, but we’re not as impressed with the quality of them as we are on HAL. They do film/televise them so we can catch ones that we miss, which could be a blessing, but we’ve been too busy to track them down.
Monday it took all afternoon to get through a round of “the train game” as Liam’s learning the concept of strategizing. He thinks more slowly, but he’s “getting it.” It’s not entirely fair to blame Liam for the lack of speed. This is a variation that Rich and I had not seen before so we were working on a learning curve too.
The lecture hall is also a planetarium which sounded like fun but the reservations had been fully booked. Once we tried it we weren’t as impressed as they wanted us to be; the chairs hadn’t been maintained to recline properly and the script sort of was using the gimmick rather than really taking advantage of it. Liam’s pretty much free range and has found what was described as a radio drama, but ended up being a history of Cunard script with slide presentation. He’d had a unit in radio theater at school so was quite taken with the project. He and Fiona were both selected to be “assistants” at the Saturday magic show, which was as much comedy as magic and great fun to watch. Fiona is a natural “ham.” She also enjoyed an afternoon of HER card game.
Sunday morning Liam missed breakfast with the group because he discovered that one of the activities was introduction to fencing, and then missed that because it’s for 18+. He was unhappy with that, particularly since when he attempted to replace it with another activity it was also 18+; fencing he could understand but none of us could explain why you have to be an adult to play table tennis. Both spend at least some time in the children’s activity program (in spite of the fact that Fiona’s incensed by the sign them in and out rules) so are getting some time away from each other but with other kids more-or-less their age, and giving Brian a break from full supervision.
Liam seems to enjoy limited independence, Fiona’s not so willing to let Brian out of her sight and he wants to watch the ocean not a swimming pool, at least some of the time. She spends as much time as possible with a gal about her size (but 2 years older) from Ithaca and so we’ve added a solution to the long dinners… eat with her family and the adults can chat while the girls play. Again, Liam’s on the cusp but seems to be enjoying listening to the adult conversation. Last night the girls had their own table, immediately adjacent to the table for 6. They also each had iPads and it was a lovely evening of “parallel play” on many different levels.
Having spent so much time on HAL, it’s natural that we compare the two ships. Not surprisingly, this is very “British” while HAL is more casual-American (except when honoring the Dutch Queen.) The breakfast cafeteria serves up the “full English breakfast” (baked beans, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, etc.) but not pancakes or waffles. The one fun bit though is that there’s an observation window-wall along the back side of the navigation deck. We can stand and watch all the activity on the Bridge. Rich is also thinking that the music is better. I’m not sure that I agree. A couple of the groups leave me a bit cool, though I do acknowledge that there are maybe twice as many musicians… and horn sections rather than synthesizers are a real plus.
Rich is managing to get some blog posts up but I’m not even going to try to include photos. It’s hard for us to believe, but we’ve decided that HAL’s internet program was pretty good compared to Cunard’s. It is, of course, a retrofit– the ship was built long before universal wifi was imagined– but it’s pretty marginal except in certain public areas… not where I want to be in my jammies.