Why Fly? Crossing The Atlantic On The Queen Mary 2
A civilized transatlantic journey
Crossing the Atlantic on the Queen Mary 2 is far more civilized than travelling by plane—if you can spare a week for spa treatments and ocean views
The Queen Mary 2 is an option for our Transatlantic posting. If you are not familiar with the military structure, like many organizations, they strive to bring down costs. For a transatlantic posting, they employ a company which provides rock-bottom pricing and booking services, a corporate travel agent.
8 days Crossing the North Atlantic is not for the faint of heart, many would not volunteer for such an adventure, we on the other hand where all over that. A Cunard Transatlantic cruise was just the adventure we where looking for. Some agents many not be aware of this entitlement.
Also see; Expat Guide to Moving to Germany
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 will be used for the cruise, since 2 of those days fall on a weekend; plenty of time left to travel before they reset.
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 dollars cheaper then flying straight from Ottawa to Dusseldorf and staying in a hotel for 7 days (including food and incidentals). Hurrah – we are going on a cruise. This amazing opportunity presented some drawbacks. We needed a more well round knowledge base to work from, so there was a considerable amount of self-study required.
Firstly, 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 does sound 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 is an evening dress code on board the ship, informal attire only after 6 pm. This means something different for Canadians then it does to the British. 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. We hear informal and think casual; their meaning for the ladies, is somewhere between a cocktail dress and business casual. Evenings consist of a Required/Optional (The ship’s newspaper will confirm the dress code of the day) jacket and optional tie for gentlemen. Shopping for a cocktail dress will be fun 🙂
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 ever changing itinerary” is a valid answer that I would have been happy with.
Plans, Plans, Plans…..
This cruise is not direct to destination or an all-inclusive vacation, it is essentially a business trip with leave days. There has to be very careful plan of all the interlinked modes of transportation. The flight before and the train after are all up to us to book and coordinate. We calculated when they set sail from New York and when they arrive in South Hampton, in order to effectively coordinate the remainder of the journey to Germany.
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 motor-coach from LaGaurdia Airport to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, and from the port at Southampton to St. Pancreas train station in London, through the Cruise line.
This is where it gets tricky, they don’t mention which airport or train station so my previous statement required further digging on the Cunard website. 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. They will not move my luggage from the plane, to the coach, from the coach and onto the train. They will, however, take my bags from the coach and place them in my room, then from my room (the night before) to a loading bay off ship so that I can collect it from before getting onto the coach towards London.
My Goodness: The Luggage
We needed to verify the luggage limitations of four modes of transportation. I say four as we had to change trains during the final leg. Navigating four separate websites with all there individual restrictions and limitation was 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 car-seat and playpen will have to act as a 2nd piece for the kiddo and I, hubby already needs his second piece for his military duffel-bag.
There is a choice to purchase additional bags for 30 euro 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 to 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.
Bottom Line; Take the Cruise
Despite how hard it will be to plan everything, and pay it off before something bounces, the Queen Mary 2 is definitely an option you will want to look into. If you employer doesn’t already have it as an option, mention it. Maybe they don’t realize the cost savings. If they say no, offer to pay the difference. Whatever it takes, it is a once in a life-time opportunity and it was well worth the few sleepless nights planning and scheduling to have my son demand weekly since I told him we move next year “are we taking the boat again? will it take 7 days or 7 hours to get to Canada?”
Have you travelled with Cunard? How was it? Comment Below!
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