Impressions of cruise ship culture
I could be aboard the Queen Mary 2 this week sailing from Brooklyn, New York to Southampton, England. The journey, over seven nights, would have cost $1,100 for an interior stateroom.
Not that I was seriously tempted let me tell you, but I was curious after enjoying lunch aboard the largest ocean liner ever built. She was docked recently in Halifax.
While waiting to pass through strict security before boarding, one of the 2,675 passengers heading out on a day trip joked, “leave us some food.”
Our first impression was the elegance those travelers had departed.
While we were sipping mimosas, Captain Chris Wells welcomed us to the flagship of the Cunard line for a Canadian Maritime Heritage Foundation event. Samuel Cunard was a Canadian, born in Halifax, who had vessels crossing the Atlantic in 1840. Undoubted heritage.
The original Queen Mary began her voyages in 1936. Her successor, which went into service in 2004, replaced the Queen Elizabeth 2 when she retired in 2008. She has 14 decks and towered over Pier 21.
We toured some of Queen Mary 2’s facilities. They include 15 restaurants and bars, five swimming pools, a casino, a ballroom, and a theatre, which doubles as the first planetarium at sea.
There were fresh flowers everywhere and many visual references to British royalty. Live music is not unusual. We listened to a jazz trio before the speeches and learned the dancing floor is the largest aboard any vessel.
Obviously an ocean liner with a floating art gallery attracts the luxury class, but the passengers who remained on board did not appear snobby. The average age is over 70. The more voyages one undertakes the cheaper the pricing is.
Our tour guide explained that 75,000 eggs are required for a seven-day voyage. He also told us the Queen Mary 2 can “turn on a sixpence.” She has four stabilizers while most cruise boats only have two. So I would probably get less sea sick aboard her.
The liner was intended for routine crossings of the Atlantic Ocean, so she was designed differently from many other passenger ships.
Expenses were increased by the high quality of materials and as an ocean liner, she required 40 per cent more steel than a standard cruise ship. The Queen Mary 2 is powered primarily by four diesel engines, with two additional gas turbines for extra power.
I was delighted to learn there is one deck on board that houses pets. An information panel harkening back to the original Queen Mary had illustrations of ponies and raccoons, as well as the usual spoiled dogs and cats.
There’s another deck that includes an actual morgue. Our guide said the Queen Mary 2 commonly has three deaths on board each year.
When conceiving the liner, her designers aimed to reduce the ship’s impact on the environment by improving fuel efficiency and through better management of waste. Fourteen years later, according to Cunard, the ship exceeds some requirements of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution From Ships, but it’s hardly perfect environmentally.
Every year, millions of people take cruise vacations on gigantic floating playgrounds, but most travelers do not realize that taking a cruise is more harmful to the environment and human health than many other forms of travel.
There is a Cruise Ship Report Card that allows vacationers to decide which cruise to board based on a cruise line’s environmental and human health impacts. The Cunard Line as a whole comes in second.
There was an undoubted glamour to being aboard the Queen Mary 2. I felt some privilege being able to visit, but the lure of a trans Atlantic voyage just isn’t there for me.