Wednesday, June 27, 2012

QM2 Crossing - Day 7

Disembarkation from QM2 in Southampton
My wife was very pleased about the fact that she did not have to pack our luggage the night before our arrival into Southampton and the end of our crossing, because our steward took-on that task for us.  The last night of a crossing is often filled with mixed emotions because of the reality that we must leave the womb and enter into the real world the following day.  We said our goodbyes to our newfound friends we made during this crossing, had a great dinner and  recognizing that we need to wake up earlier than usual the next morning, we went to bed at about 11:00pm.

When I woke up, we were just backing into our berth in Southampton andy the Ocean Cruise Terminal  46 and 47 just across from the dock that the Titanic departed from in 1912 at dock number 44 and 43.  It was rainy, but we were told it would clear-up as the day progressed.  We put our large piece of luggage outside our door before we went to bed.  We had pink luggage tags and Princess Grill passengers were asked to meet in the Chart Room at 8:30am for disembarkation.  We had a quick breakfast in the Princess Grill then headed down to the Chart Room.  I made a quick run around the ship to take a few last-minute pictures, then with great efficiency, it was announced in the Chart Room that we could proceed to the gangway.

I liked the new Ocean Cruise Terminal which was very efficient.  We easily found our large piece of luggage in the designated area, loaded all of our luggage onto one of the carts and proceeded to exit where the taxi's and buses were eagerly waiting.  It was a very short distance to the WhiteStar Tavern Hotel where we would stay for the next two nights, and I pondered the idea of walking, but it would have been a bit of a struggle and task to drag our luggage, so we took a taxi.

We made our way to the WhiteStar Tavern / Hotel, but as we expected, it was too early to check-in, however; the guest services person at the hotel was so kind to store our luggage while we went for a walk.  I don't want to go into details, but as my wife and I walked around the streets of Southampton we were a little discouraged by some personal issues.  We had a fantastic trans-Atlantic crossing on the Queen Mary 2, but we were facing some issues back home that gave us some concern.  We walked to Ocean Village and found a little cafe to rest a while and stay warm, because it was a little chilly.  I looked past a line of people waiting to get on a boat that tours the port of Southampton and saw a cinema and decided to go check it out and see if there might be a movie we could watch while we wait for our room to be ready.  Terri waited in the cafe and I went to check out the cinema.  To make a long story short, there was a local church conducting a Sunday morning service in the cinema and so Terri and I went to church.  It was called Life Church Southampton, and they had an excellent guest speaker that morning.  It's amazing how God works, because both Terri and I felt so welcomed and our hearts were comforted, which was just what we needed at that very moment.

After meeting some very friendly people at Life Church Southampton, it was time to check-in at the WhiteStar Tavern / Hotel.  We checked-in, our luggage had already been placed in our room, so we kicked-back and relaxed a little in our boutique hotel room.  My wife was exhausted, so she took a nap while I wrote in my blog and loaded some more photos and video onto my computer.  Later that day, June 24th, I wanted to watch the QM2 depart Southampton on her next voyage, so we walked to the Ocean Cruise Terminal.  QM2's departure was delayed an hour so we waited around the dock for two hours.  When it was finally time for QM2's departure, What A Great Show it was to see that massive and graceful liner move away from the dock and head out to sea.      

Monday, June 25, 2012

QM2 Trans-Atlantic Crossing Day Six

This morning we spent about hour in the Canyon Ranch Spa to luxuriate in the Aqua Thermal pool, then to the steam room.  I had two interviews scheduled this morning, one with the Chef and then the Chief Engineer, all before noon.  After my interviews I took a few more pictures and went up to deck twelve to catch the ship’s whistle again on video.  When QM2 opens up her voice it’s thrilling to hear those powerful Whistles. 

Lunch was in Princess Grill and we enjoyed continued conversations with our tablemates, and of course fine dining.  It was a challenge for me in retrospect, to manage my time onboard…it seems we spent an awful amount of time in the restaurant eating and socializing…and I kept thinking I need to get this footage or that footage, or explore the ship more.  I was also regretful that I didn’t see as many shows because we were either in the restaurant or too tired.  Some of the shows start at 10:45pm and by that time we had both had a long day of creating video, taking pictures, exploring the ship, so we were tired and ready for sleep.  It doesn’t help our time management situation since our suite is so ridiculously comfortable. 

This afternoon we filmed in the Commodore Room that has fabulous views forward over the bow. It reminded me of the Observation Lounge on the original Queen Mary.  I couldn’t get enough of the ship’s library, in fact I found a few books I absolutely must get….Ted Scull’s books and Daniel Butler’s book Cunard Line’s history.   Also, “The Queen Mary The World’s Favourite Liner by David Ellery” was one of the best books on Queen Mary I have ever seen and I’m surprised I don’t have it in my own library of Queen Mary books.

I scheduled to meet a fellow passenger in the Chart Room at 6:00pm then a young man at 7:00pm.  What a great surprise it was to have this young man come up to me and said, hey are you Barry Vaudrin that makes the Youtube videos?  He said, it’s because of your videos you made on the Queen Mary that I’m here on this trans-Atlantic crossing right now.  Basically he heard that his grandmother crossed on the original Queen Mary and so he was searching for videos on Youtube and found my Cruising Authority videos featuring the Queen Mary. My videos inspired him to go see the original Queen Mary in Long Beach and that sparked an interest to cross the Atlantic on the QM2.

It was our final dinner in the Princess Grill and we enjoyed further discussions with our tablemates.  Actually, they were people at neighboring tables.  It was yet again a fabulous dinner.   When we returned to our suite, my wife had one less thing to worry about….our cabin steward packed our luggage for us.  We put our large piece of luggage outside of our door and went to bed.        

Saturday, June 23, 2012

QM2 Trans-Atlantic - Day Five

I had no interviews today.  We went too Breakfast in Princess Grill then I did a lot of photos and video around the ship.  For lunch we did something special that I enjoyed very much, and we ate in the Britannia Restaurant.  Wow, I love that room, it’s so grand and reminiscent of the old liners with a beautiful use of wood veneers, lighting and décor.   I enjoyed another plate of Fish N Chips.

We had a leisurely afternoon, I did a little more video.  I spent time blogging and loading some of my content onto my computer.  We stopped in to watch the Royal Academy actors perform Made in Venice, and I must say their performance was superb. 

We walked around the ship a bit then spent some time in our suite.  We heard an announcement from the Captain that a water pipe broke and so all the cold and hot water throughout the ship had to be shut off while it was repaired. 

Dinner was in the Princess Grill and as usual was very satisfying, particularly for me because it was lobster and seafood night.   Waiting for my main entrée I decided to get up and walk around the ship outside a bit….I just couldn't let the beautiful evening at sea with the sunset go to waste.  I think I was gone about fifteen minutes and completely enjoyed my little walk.  After my little walk I was ready for my main entrée.  The dessert was incredible!  As we were leaving the Princess Grill a little girl ran past us as her mother was standing at the entrance calling to her…it turns out she was running into the wrong restaurant, she was suppose to be in the Queens Grill on the other side.  It also turns out that this was the wife and little girl of the Prince of Abu Dhabi.   

Friday, June 22, 2012

QM2 Crossing - Day Four

QM2 Trans-Atlantic Crossing – Day Four

We started out the day this morning in the Canyon Ranch Spa. For about two hours we enjoyed a very relaxing time of water therapy in the Aqua-Thermal Pool, the Steam room and then we just relaxed on a lounge chair.  It was an absolutely beautiful and sunny day, not typical North Atlantic weather, so Terri and I spent some time on deck.  I made a visit to the dog kennels on deck 12 and watched the owners and their dogs play on their own deck space.  I think there are six dogs and six cats on this crossing.  Next on the agenda was lunch in the Princess Grill, which has been an exquisite experience.

I had an interview with the Production Manager today at 4:30 then at 5:30 I spent some time on the bridge of QM2 where I took a few pictures and made a short video.  After our visit to the bridge, I worked on more video content…this will be fun for those watching my videos, but I had a steward wheel me in a wheel chair as I held my video camera, all the way around Deck 7, which is where the boats and wrap-around open deck are located.  I think four times around this deck equals one mile.  It took the steward about four and half minutes to make the full circuit around Deck seven.  What I’ll do in my video is speed-up the film so the circumnavigation around Deck Seven can be experienced in about sixty seconds.

I then had some urgent business matters to attend to regarding Cruising Authority and some paper-work that I needed to email.  I asked for the assistance of our Concierge who was very helpful with several important emails and documents that needed to be sent immediately.  All of this business activity set me back about an hour, so we were a little late for dinner in the Princess Grill.   A very convenient element to dining in the Grills is that there is no first or second seating, each Grill passenger is assigned a table for the duration of the crossing, so there’s no rush to get in and out of the restaurant in time.  We have enjoyed the discussions among our neighboring tables and getting to know our fellow travelers.  After Dinner, Terri and I wandered through the ship. We sat for a while in the Queens Room to watch the dancers.   It was fun to watch the Dance Hosts seek out various female passengers for a dance to the big band orchestra.  The Queens Room is truly one of the most beautiful rooms afloat, and I think it still holds the title as having the largest dance-floor at sea.    

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

QM2 Crossing Day Three

Day Three onboard QM2 in Mid-Atlantic

This morning we decided to have breakfast in Princess Grill.  I had the Eggs Benedict which is one of my favorite morning-time meals.  I also had a bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar.  My wife had an egg over-easy and bacon, along with her Sweet Tea.  One of our first evenings dining in Princess Grill I told the head waiter about the tea my wife prefers, and he said he would make for her a special brew just for her.  He has done a fantastic job creating my wife’s favorite drink…Sweet Tea, which is kind of a southern thing. 

After breakfast I had my first round of interviews with the Ship’s Hostess and the Entertainment Director.  Both interviews went fine and in a timely manner.  Next on the agenda for us was a special treatment in the Canyon Ranch Spas called the Rasul Ceremony.  It’s an ancient asian ritual where a man and a woman couple will spread exotic mud on each other, then sit in a steam bath, and finally rinse off the mud with a gentle rain or shower. In our Rasul Ceremony in the Canyon Ranch Spa, they had five different kinds of exotic mud in little dishes for us to use.  One was for the face, then another for the chest, arms, belly, and legs.  The idea is that the exotic mud detoxifies the body, and purifies the skin; It’s a fascinating experience for couples.  After our Rasul experience we hung out in the Aqua pool and sat in the steam room.  I’m a huge fan of steaming, and the steam room on QM2 is very nice, but I’m not a fan of the strongly scented eucalyptus oil that’s sprayed into the steam.  Some really like how the smell opens up the sinuses, but I prefer the pure and clean element of steam only.  Terri enjoyed the steam.  I told her it would make her skin feel better as the toxins come out, and you can loose a little bit of water weight by steaming. After our Spa experience we made our way up to Deck 11 aft and sat in the outdoor hot tub in an area reserved for Grill passengers.   

I still have not conducted any personal commentary as I want to do, but I still have some time to do that.  We ate lunch today in the Golden Lion Pub, and had their famous fish & chips, which was wonderful!  You need to ask for the malt, so if you’re on the QM2 and order the fish & chips, be sure to ask for some malt to go with the fish.  We went through immigration today which was extremely speedy, it took us about two minutes, then we were off to explore the ship a bit.

Today I also had an interview with Captain Christopher Wells, and surprised my wife with something very special.  After my interview with the Captain I made secret arrangements to renew my marriage vows with Terri, my wife of 15 years.  It was of course an enormous honor to have the Captain of the Queen Mary 2 conduct the renewal of our wedding vows.  For those who wish to marry onboard the Queen Mary it is now possible after a change in the ship’s registry from Southampton to Hamilton, Bermuda.  My wife was completely surprised when the Captain began to conduct this very special ceremony.  We have an official certificate signed by the Captain.   Our adventures on this Queen Mary 2 trans-Atlantic crossing continue!  Tonight we plan to dine in the Todd English Restaurant.     

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

QM2 Crossing Day Two

Day Two at Sea Trans-Atlantic Crossing – QM2
Our first full day at sea was very relaxing, in fact too relaxing, considering I was too relaxed to write anything or even take many pictures or video.  I haven’t had any interviews yet, however; tomorrow afternoon at 4pm, our third day, Terri and I will be meeting with the Captain for an interview.  Today, our second day at sea again has been very relaxing especially since we started our day with breakfast in our suite then we went to the Canyon Ranch spa for some “water therapy” as I call it.  Canyon Ranch has many wonderful services and treatments, but both Terri and I enjoy the large thermal bath with several different types of bubbly delight; one is a curved stainless steel bench just below the surface that you can lay on and relax every muscle in your body and seemingly float on bubbles. The next bubbly accent is a round area in the middle of the pool that has a surge of bubbles creating somewhat of a current that you can nearly swim against if you choose, or you can enter inside the semi-submersed circular rim and experience kind of a weightlessness as the bubbles lift you up.  Next, there are two large water nozzles pointed into the pool with a steady thick stream of water jetting into the pool…now when you stand under this thick stream of water, the force of the jetting water is like a deep tissue massage.  Finally, there is a waterfall you can stand under; the water comes out of a ceiling chamber and rains into the pool, so you can get refreshed under a waterfall-like experience.  It’s all very relaxing, particularly with the soothing lighting on the ceiling and sounds of the waterfall.  The thermal pool is warm water so it’s like a giant, but fancy, hot tub or water-zone for adults. 

Today the QM2 is passing through some fog, which is typical for this part of the Atlantic.  In the days of the older liners, fog was slightly more precarious because they didn’t have the satellite navigation and all the high-tech gear the QM2 has today, but it is still a weather condition that worries captains.  As a precaution, QM2 sounds her foghorn every two minutes or so, as we continue on at about 21 knots.  My wife decided to take a nap, and we have left our balcony door open so we can hear the gentle sounds of the QM2 making her way through the sea…I’ll never tire of hearing that sound.  There’s also a fascinating “wind” sound as the pressure from the corridors and our open balcony door force air under the door creating this unique sound.  We are not the only passengers with their balcony door open, because I can hear this whisking wind sound as I walk through the corridors.

Today we have officially passed over the exact spot the Titanic sunk one hundred years ago.  It’s amazing the advancements in society and technology at sea since 1912, sometimes I think we have come so far, but in many ways the culture aboard an Atlantic liner remains the same.  Titanic was an incredible ship in her day one hundred years ago, but the QM2 is four times larger than Titanic and of course far more comfortable and technologically advanced.

I still hope to produce some content for the video series I’m putting together.  It stresses me out a little that we are now on our second day at sea and I haven’t really produced much video or photo content.  I have also gone to bed far too early, simply because I was just too tired to continue on.  As I type this, my wife is in bed sleeping or napping, at 4:14pm.  I think over the years she has been sleep deprived so she’s taking advantage of the restful and relaxing environment here on the QM2.  I should mention something about our dining experience onboard so far.  We have the privilege of dinning in the Princess Grill Restaurant which is considered to be the finest dining at sea, just under the Queens Grill, but I don’t think there is too much difference between the two Grills.  Both my wife and I have thoroughly enjoyed the dining experience in Princess Grill.   I have noticed something that is different from the days when I worked on QE2 and of course the days of the original Queen Mary, and I don’t want to sound like I’m making a racial statement here, but nearly the entire waiter staff is from India, and sometimes because of heavy Indian accents, it’s tough to communicate.  My wife and I discussed this while we were dining, because it’s an interesting observation.  My thoughts are that we are on a British ship, or registered in Hamilton, Bermuda, and Cunard Line has such a strong British heritage, yet it seems we are dining in an Indian restaurant at times.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love Indian food, I’ve been to India; my observation is simply that the best of the best in the Grills seems to carry more of an Indian culture rather than the classic British experience.  The menu items have also been influenced by the Indian culture, with many entrées that are Indian specialties.

Monday, June 18, 2012

QM2 Crossing Day One

(Written at Sea in the Atlantic, about Queen Mary 2)
We had a nice flight from Minneapolis to New York on Saturday, June 16th, and upon arriving at Kennedy Airport, I called for our driver and we were picked up by private limo and taken to our hotel for the evening at the Hilton New York.  After checking-in to our hotel room, we set out to find some dinner and walk around New York a bit.  Oddly enough, out of the numerous times I have been to New York, I had never ventured into Central Park, so we made a special effort to walk into this amazing oasis of trees and rocks smack in the middle of an incredibly busy city.  While looking for someplace to eat, we came across a Todd English restaurant next to The Plaza.  Todd English is a chef that has certainly made his mark over the years.  Both Terri and I had met him and I recently had Todd English on my talk show, Cruising Authority.  Additionally, Todd English has a restaurant onboard the Queen Mary 2.  This restaurant in New York, however; was very eclectic with numerous food stations and many different styles of foods like an Italian area, deli, and some others.  It was a little confusing walking around this restaurant, but we were finally seated and ordered something simple, a baked Mac & Cheese with pork.

Our next stop was Times Square.  Even at 9:00pm this spot in New York is lit-up brighter than anything we've seen in Las Vegas with giant digital billboards and signs.  There were some Chinese protestors chanting and singing against the human rights issues in China.  We made a visit to the Hershey store fro some chocolate and then headed back to the Hilton.

Ok, June 17th happened to be Father's Day, and what an incredible day it was as we had some breakfast in the hotel and then boarded the bus for our embarkation on Queen Mary 2.  As we went over one of the bridges to Brooklyn, we got our first glimpse of the graceful QM2 waiting for our arrival.  Everyone in the bus got very excited when they saw the ship for the first time.  It really is something special when you see this ship in-person for the first time.  Photos do not do justice, because the QM2 has that bigger-than-life appearance to her. I was excited too, although this was not the first time I saw the ship, I couldn't help but smile, knowing that my wife and I were about to embark on a classic trans-Atlantic voyage about a regal ship, the Queen Mary 2.  Seeing this ship has certain meaning to different people, but for me, for my entire adult life and much of my childhood, I have studied the history of the original Queen Mary which is now permanently docked in Long Beach, California, and I have followed the QM2's design, construction and launch eight years ago, so for me this ship has enormous meaning.

We went through security and were routed into a special VIP line for Grill passengers.  The QM2 is one of the few ships in the world today that maintains somewhat of a "class" system.  The "class" is determined by which dinning room you eat in and there are three basic choices; The Britannia Restaurant, Princess Grill and Queens Grill.  The Britannia Restaurant is where the majority of passengers dine, weather in first or second seating.  I love the decor of this restaurant because it is such a regal and elegant room harkening back to the days of the original Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth.  Then their are the Grill Restaurants which only have one seating, and cater to a very upscale demographic.  For the quintessential luxury experience, by far the Grills accommodations and dinning offer the finest at sea.  My wife gasped as we entered our suite and saw the basket of fruit and chocolate dipped strawberries, not to mention the beautiful room that we will call home for the next seven days.  Our room, number 10032, has a bathroom with a tub, a walk-in closet, a mini-bar area, vanity and desk, a large Queen-size bed and sitting area and a large private veranda.  It's a very comfortable room, and we are looking forward to relaxing in this suite all week.

Our departure from New York was beautiful, the weather was perfect and at about 5:45pm we pulled away from the Brooklyn dock and headed out into the Hudson.  I took many pictures as we passed under the Verrazano Bridge, then we changed our clothes and went to dinner in the Princess Grill.  Our first night onboard QM2 was picture perfect.  I was a little tired because of all the anticipation of boarding this great ship.  After dinner we walked around a bit and called it a night.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Preparing for Two Famous Ocean Liners

Time is certainly clicking along and tomorrow my wife (Co-Host) and I depart for New York.  Last night, Lugless (FedX) picked-up our large piece of luggage and will deliver it directly to our hotel in New York.  This is such a fantastic way to travel, eliminating checked-bag fees at the airline, and dragging around a heavy piece of luggage through the airport.  This is an incredibly convenient service and for those who travel, contact Lugless and investigate for yourself how great this service is.

Today, (Friday) I will be busy making sure all my batteries for all my devices are charged and that I have all my cords and chargers and memory cards.  I'm also going to put all of the paper-work related to this trip in a file and pack it.  Last night I picked-up my Father-in-Law who will be staying with our son, Jacob, while we are gone.  I'm also going to get started with sales-calls regarding my Alaska cruise in August aboard the Oosterdam with Holland America Line.  Today, I'll also pack my carry-on.  For this trip, I'm not bringing my briefcase, because it's broken, so everything is going to be packed in my carry-on.  Today, I'll also work on my scripts and outline for my shooting schedule.

There is a lot to do when preparing for a trip like this.  It's a little different when a passenger is preparing for a crossing like this, as opposed to a Cruise Journalist.  Not that your usual passenger doesn't have a lot to do, along with some pre-vacation anxiety, as a Journalist pile onto of that all of the usual packing, planing and anxiety, but also the numerous variables related to filming, scripts, onboard interview schedules, time management while on the cruise and so much more.  Then after the cruise that's when I get very busy with editing hours of content into short, entertaining segments.      

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Preparing for Queen Mary 2 Trans-Atlantic Crossing

I'm in the process of introducing somewhat of a new brand under Cruising Authority called The Cruise Journalist, and this series of programing onboard the Queen Mary 2 will be the first integration of this new brand.  I've also put a lot of thought into what I'm going to call this series of videos filmed aboard the Queen Mary 2 during a trans-Atlantic crossing.  A possible title is "Two Famous Ocean Liners".

This Queen Mary 2 crossing will be the culmination of effort that has been in-motion for at least three years.  Now we are only a few days from our departure out of Brooklyn & New York.  Queen Mary 2 departs Brooklyn on June 17th which is Father's Day!  What an incredible Father's Day that will be for me!  I am also preparing to do all I can to make this voyage a very relaxing and enjoyable experience for my wife Terri.

There are still some loose-ends to the final preparations for this crossing.  It's very tiring sometimes as I try to pull the massive-level of details together right up to the last couple of days prior to departure.  Some of those last-minute details include the completion of scripts for the six-episode video series, fine-tuning the arrangements with all the brands involved, packing, preparing the cameras and laptop computer and making sure I have enough computer and camera memory.  I've also been collecting data and historical information.  It makes my head spin to think of all the details involved with planning an epic trip like this, but more importantly planning for a successful media campaign that our current and potential audience will enjoy.

Subscribe to this blog because I will be updating and posting here during the crossing on QM2.