Beat reporter Andrej Warhola, Jr. reporting on the Queen Mary 2 . . . Last week I took my maiden voyage on a cruise ship aboard the Queen Mary 2 on her New York City à Halifax, Nova Scotia route. The more classic Queen Mary 2 trip is of course the trans-Atlantic crossing, but the New York City to Halifax jaunt was a really nice way to wade into the pond.
The Queen Mary 2 is the largest ocean liner ever built. She has 17 decks and can carry up to 2,620 passengers and 1,253 crew. The famous Cunard Line operates the Queen Mary 2. Cunard has been around since 1840 and was responsible for, among other storied ships, the doomed WWI liner the RMS Lusitania. (RMS, incidentally, stands for Royal Mail Service because back before air mail, ocean liners would carry these things called letters across the world’s oceans.)
I’ll leave out a more involved history lesson, but suffice to say there is lots of cool stuff to explore on the Internet and the library about the industrial/technological phenomenon that is an ocean liner. People still rhapsodize about the marvel of human flight, but traversing the globe’s oceans is an equally impressive and evolving feat.
Instead, I offer a brief summary of my own experiences on the Queen Mary 2. The accompanying photo shows me as the Queen Mary 2 leaves New York Harbor, skimming under the Verrazano Bridge. Any boat intending to eventually come in or out of New York Harbor must keep Verrazano Bridge clearance in mind, and the Queen Mary 2’s architects kept her height in check for this reason. Even still, a passenger ritual is to stand on the uppermost deck of the ship when passing the Verrazano and say things to your neighbors in a panicked tone: “I don’t think she’s going to make it, I really don’t!”
Once out at sea, the ship is akin to a little floating country and there is a lot to see and do and, well, eat. Let’s keep to the seeing and doing parts. Every morning you get a schedule of that day’s events which includes classes (arts and crafts, exercise, dancing); lectures (the topics vary, but usually pull from the expertise of fellow passengers – e.g., the history of skyscrapers, or how to improve your personal relationships); shows (movies, Planetarium expositions, Olympic gymnastics demonstrations, big band concerts, string quartet recitals, Motown sing alongs, etc.); competitions (e.g., card tournaments); and more.
Social events also loom large on the itinerary. Every evening people dress for dinner; have cocktails in gorgeous bars; and then migrate to the vaulted banquet halls to dine and chat with their fellow travelers. There are black-and-white nights where everyone must don formal wear and it all feels like a bit of a throwback to a more buttoned down era.
Indeed, the ship also feels like a bit of a throwback to a different era with respect to things gay. I will explain. There are loads, loads and loads of gay people on board the Queen Mary 2, passengers and crew alike, and yet it’s not an overtly gay environment. As a result, it is an exciting, secret project to run around the boat and keep your eyes peeled for a handsome porter or a perky show dancer, strike up a conversation, and see if you can find the Jack to your Rose on the high seas (it took me a while to get to that obligatory Titanic reference, didn’t it?).