Queen Mary 2
Planning a 7 day cruise with Cunard
When we were told that taking the Queen Mary 2 was an option for our posting transportation, we jumped at the chance. If you are not familiar, military likes to do things as cheap as they can get away with. For a transatlantic posting, they have a company that is in-charge of finding the cheapest flight and booking it for us. Not everyone is interested in taking an 8 day cruise across the ocean, so many agents are not aware of it as a possibility. We started talking to people, who talked to other people, and found out that the Queen Mary 2 was available, as long as we could prove it was the cheaper of the two options and the hubby could take the time off.
The military wasn’t going to hand us everything; the cruise is 7 days longer than the flight, we had to use annual days to cover the difference. He has 25 days to use for the whole year, 10 of which are being used for my sister’s wedding and a trip to visit his family. 5 days are being used for the cruise, since 2 of those days fall on a weekend.
We did a little research and asked our agent to do their research and found the flight to New York City, the cruise and the train from London to Dusseldorf, was a few thousand dollars cheaper then flying straight from Ottawa to Dusseldorf. Hurrah – we are going on a cruise.
Not that this isn’t an amazing opportunity, but it comes with a few draw backs. Knowing too much and not enough at the same time.
First, we have to pay for everything up front, then they reimburse us. We are not using the same agency that would have booked our flights, we are our own travel-agent. We pay, we submit, and a week or two later, money appears in our account. This sounds a little discriminatory; what if I don’t have that kind of money to front the bill for a week or two (because they will not pay for interest charges while you wait for a refund) – I can’t answer that question. I will ask, though, how badly do you want the cruise option?
Second, there are rules on the boat. Dress code, specifically. After 6 pm, informal attire only. This means something different for Canadians then it does to the British. We hear informal and think casual. They actually mean somewhere between ball gown and Capri pants. A nice sundress will not do it; the men have to wear a jacket, therefore the ladies are required to wear something that equals a man’s jacket. I choose to believe that equals a cocktail dress, so I went shopping this morning.
Third, good luck finding information regarding the day-to-day on board the ship. I have a 2 year old son, I wanted to see what he would be doing before I booked this very expensive, non-refundable mode of transportation (at least a bored toddler on a plane only lasts 7 hours, not 8 days). All I was able to find were the various day-care age groups and that the facilities were free of charge. I asked Google, what do i do with my toddler – answer, daycare. I asked Facebook, daycare. What else can we do together, as a family? There is a family pool and museums, some movies play throughout the day. Apparently, they give guests an itinerary when they board the boat, and it changes every time they sail. hence no one was able to answer my question properly. FYI – an every changing itinerary is a valid answer.
Fourth, this isn’t an all-inclusive vacation. The flight before and the train after are all up to us to book and coordinate. We Googled when they leave New York and when they arrive in London, in order to properly book the rest of the transportation. For future reference, check in is between 1 -345 pm on Sunday and disembarkation is between 8-11 am the following Sunday. We were, however, able to purchase a coach from the airport to the port, and from the port to the train station. This is where it gets tricky, they don’t mention which airport or train station. Once everything is booked, a personal account is created on the Cunard website where I have to input my personal information and travel documents. This is where I tell them which train and airport I require transportation. This would have been nice to know before I booked the tickets, because this account tells me how long it takes to get from the port to various locations – IE, my station is 2 hours away. Good thing I booked the train for 230 pm.
Fifth, and hopefully the last, luggage. We needed to check 4 modes of transportation and their luggage limitations. I say 4 because there is a connection on the train where we change companies. Trying to navigate 4 separate websites and what they will allow on board is tiring, at best. Air Canada allows 2 pieces per purchased seat, plus one free baby item per group(stroller, car seat, play pen…), and a third checked back for the military member. The cruise does not have a limit, only suggesting ‘as much as will comfortably fit in your room’, so that is a relief. The Eurostar (London to Brussels) also does not have a limit; two pieces of carry-on per person and the rest is stored. Thalys, (Brussels to Dusseldorf) does have a limit, however. They will allow one piece of carry-on plus 2 pieces of luggage per seat, and one free baby item per group. Taking the least limit into consideration, we now have two pieces of luggage each, one carry on each and one free item (the stroller); the carseat and playpen will have to act as a 2nd piece for the kiddo and I, hubby already needs his second piece for his military dufflebag. There is a choice to purchase additional bags for 30euro each, but then we would need to carry it around. Some of the baby’s checked bag will be used for toys, we will be in a hotel for a month before our effects arrive.
We are packing everything we need a week early so see if we have enough arms to take it all with us, space in the car to make it to the airport in one trip and see if we can’t cut down the weight of our luggage. I mean, we will have access to laundry and I know I am often guilty of packing things I will never wear on the trip.