Dec 2008 Cunard Queen Mary 2

[This is a sample blog post for a trip we took on the Queen Mary II in December 2008.  The rest of the blog for this trip is collected in a Kindle ebook called Travel With Us on the Queen Mary II.  See our Travel With Us page for more information.]

Our dear, dear friend Marla, who has been reading along with our blog (thus demonstrating her discerning taste and overall intelligence), mentioned in an email today that “you guys seem like you’re going to be glad when the cruise is done.” Which was basically true when I got up this morning; the fun but ultimately unsatisfying tour in St Lucia, followed by the unsatisfying outing to the beach in St Kitts, had left me feeling sort of demoralized and just wanting the cruise to be over. This morning, as we got ready for our snorkeling excursion (one of the ship’s offerings), I didn’t even really feel like going – just wanted to get it over with so I could pack up my snorkel gear.

But then we ended up having a seriously excellent tour, which completely restored my equilibrium and enjoyment of the cruise. I was sad to rinse out my snorkel gear for the last time, and, while I look forward to going home, I don’t have that same white-knuckle-through-the-last-two-days feeling I had before. Funny how that works.

Our tour was called “Sea Turtle Snorkel” – they loaded us up on a catamaran and took us out to a place called Turtle Bay. We were on the morning excursion, which left at 8:30am. As we came off the ship it started raining, and then it started pouring. By the time they walked us over to the catamaran, it had mostly stopped, though the sky didn’t really look like it was done. However, there were 41 people on the tour, and they all squished themselves under the covered part of the catamaran, and we decided that we couldn’t bear to squish in with them and would risk the rain – we went and sat by ourselves in the uncovered forward part of the boat (one other intrepid couple sat on the other side). About halfway to our snorkel location it poured rain again, but it was a warm rain, and felt kind of good pelting on my legs (my head and upper body were covered by a hat and towel – Lis’ too). It was actually a pretty fun ride, and nice to have the whole forward area of the boat to ourselves. Just as we were pulling up to the snorkel location, the sun came out for good, and we had a lovely sunny morning for our snorkel. The water was nice and warm, too.

At Turtle Bay they gave us a lecture on safety, etc, and stressed that we needed to be respectful of the turtles. The guide said that about every 10 to 15 minutes the turtles need to come up for air, and that when they do we need to be completely still so as not to spook them – they feel most vulnerable when they come up for air, he said.

Lis and I were among the first in the water because we were willing to jump off the side, rather than wait for the ladder at the front. Because of this, we were able to spend about 10, 15 minutes viewing turtles in peace. Then, just as a turtle we were watching started to come up for air, a huge mass of people came surging in to watch, swimming around to get in position and definitely not following the “dead man’s float” instructions. We were bummed about this, but both decided we’d rather miss the turtles than deal with the tour participants en masse. We swam off in a different direction, and at first didn’t see anything, but then found a little reef with lots and lots of fish, many of them quite colorful – plus the ubiquitous school of sergeant majors swimming right along with you (I LOVE the sergeant majors). We were able to enjoy the reef pretty much by ourselves for another 15 minutes, and then it was discovered by the crowd. But, we established a pattern that worked (for the most part) for the rest of our snorkel time – when the crowd was looking at turtles, we’d snorkel the reef, and when the crowd was snorkeling the reef, we’d look at the turtles.

The only really frustrating part was that there was always somebody breaking the “respect the turtles” rule. This one time, Lis and I and one other guy were floating above a turtle, watching him feed on turtle grass and waiting to watch him surface. The guide had said that if you are really still, sometimes they swim right up to you as they surface. The turtle started to come up, and headed straight for the guy, who had waited with his camera in position and was now perfectly still and about to have the turtle swim within two feet of him. And just then this asshole guy came swimming in and actually started chasing the turtle, trying to touch it. The turtle swam off and the guys on the boat screamed at Asshole Guy to stop touching the turtles, and I had to turn away, I was hating Asshole Guy so much. But imagine how Well Behaved Guy must have felt, being so close to such a great shot. I hope he got at least one good photo before Asshole Guy barged in. Note from Lis: Asshole Guy, who had a big hairy belly, seemed to be following Mary and me around. We’d swim away from the crowd as fast as we could and be somewhere enjoying fish, and then suddenly instead of looking at fish, I’d be looking at this big hairy belly through my mask… oh I hated him.

But, even though the other people, as usual, were difficult at times, it was a really great snorkel, and we got to stay there for about 1 ½ hours, which we’ve discovered is about how much we want at a time – 1 ½ to 2 hours. On the catamaran trip back, they drove fairly slowly and served rum punch (Painkillers) and chips and salsa, and played “party music.” Usually we don’t like these “booze and cruise” type deals, but it was actually very fun – we stayed at the front, so the people were behind us, so we didn’t have to really see anybody – it just sounded festive. Plus the sun was out, and the Painkillers were good – all was right with the world on the way back. It was really one of the most pleasant 45 minute boat rides I’ve ever done (I will say here that I think I’ve seen enough old men in Speedos to last a lifetime, though). Note from Lis: The Painkillers were really good and I hated everyone much less after 1.5 Painkillers, and also really enjoyed the music on the ride back to the port. With my very low tolerance for alcohol, I was also quite tipsy, and I stumbled back to the ship and then fell asleep on the bed until Mary said we must go to lunch.

Back on the ship we had lunch, and then had our tie-breaker darts game in the pub (Lis won), and then went back out to the cruise terminal to check in with our housesitter and make arrangements for our kitties in case the entire city of Portland continues to be snowed in on Thursday and Friday. (With T-Mobile, the calls in St. Thomas were free as long as we were off the ship). While we were on the phone we noticed some kind of lizard sunning itself on the rocks of the harborside, and then another, and then another, so we walked over to see – there were about 7-10 lizards (iguanas, maybe?) on the rocks. Then someone from a local shop brought out lettuce for them, and they ate it, and a bunch of us took their pictures – it was really fun.

Back on the ship, Lis stayed in the room and read, and I went up on deck to watch our final sail away – it was a beautiful afternoon, and I got some nice pictures of the harbor. Then on to our formal night dinner, which was good but not great. After a great initial job, they’ve been struggling with Lis’ diet over the last couple days, mostly just taking things away, so her meals have been getting more and more basic – plus we’re usually bored with cruise food by the end of a cruise anyway. After dinner we had an invitation to a cocktail party where the booze was free, so we put in an appearance, got some champagne, and then went to the ballroom to watch the ballroom dancers – mostly gentlemen hosts and their partners from among the passengers. This is always a somewhat dangerous activity, as the gentlemen hosts will sometimes see two “single” ladies and come over and ask us to dance. At one point this particularly smarmy looking gentlemen (not sure if he was an official gentleman host or not) got up and started toward our side of the ballroom with this weird on-the-make expression, and Lis’ eyes widened and she said “I’m scared – let’s get out of here” – but we were not his target. Still, the damage was done – I couldn’t get her to stay in the ballroom any longer. We headed back to the room and went to bed.

[This is the introductory blog post for a trip we took on the Queen Mary II in December 2008.  The rest of the blog for this trip is collected in a Kindle ebook called Travel With Us on the Queen Mary II.  See our Travel With Us page for more information.]

What a great week – on Tuesday Obama wins the election, and on Wednesday we “win” a free cruise to the Caribbean on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2!! Needless to say, we had a bit of trouble focusing for the rest of the week – Mary had to obsessively read all the election post-mortem, and Lis had to obsessively plan airfare and shore excursions.

So, how did this come about? Some time ago, Lis took Cunard’s Commodore Training Course, which included a free Graduation Cruise for her and a companion upon completion of the program. But, whenever graduation cruises were offered, they were always 1) in about 2-3 weeks and 2) snapped up before we could decide whether to do it.

On Wednesday, however, what with all the Post-Election excitement (and the after-effects of the Election Night champagne), our normal check-and-double-check-before-making-a-decision instincts were blunted. Lis got an email about some Graduation cruises and called out “Do you want to go to the Caribbean on the Queen Mary on December 9?” Mary responded, “Sure,” Lis called Cunard, and it was done.

Afterward, our instincts kicked in and we thought maybe we shouldn’t have done it – Lis was actually saying “maybe we should cancel” when her dad happened to call. She told him about it, and her reservations. He said, “OK, let me get this straight. It’s 10 nights, you only have to pay for airfare, all the food is free, and you’re thinking of not doing it?” Well, when you put it that way…

So, we’re very excited, pouring over travel books and Cruise Critic posts, trying to determine what we’re going to do in each port. Later we’ll post our itinerary and ideas for excursions.