To Plan A Trip

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Contact Cunard ( www.cunard.com ) or your travel agent to see what’s on the schedule, from the 6-day Atlantic crossing to a 38-day passage around Cape Horn. Know that however long your voyage, you will not be bored. Not only does the ship itself reward days of exploration, but there is a full program of activities, entertainment high and low, movies, fitness classes, a wonderfully well-stocked library to browse, and lecturers specializing in liner history and the places you’ll visit. On my trip a very good university lecturer pulled together the disparate pieces of Caribbean history; he specializes in the sugar trade (and his wife in coffee). A “heritage trail” through the QM2 tells the story of all the great Cunard liners, with wall exhibits, an audio tour, and interactive stations where you can watch newsreel footage of the first Queen Mary coming into New York Harbor.

The accommodations range from interior bunks to huge suites. At a certain level, Junior Suite and above, you are entitled to dine in one of two smaller, very elegant grills. But the vastly agreeable Britannia dining room, which accommodates 1,300 passengers in each of two sittings, is a fine choice too, its only drawback being the imperative of those sittings. You must decide to eat at six or at eight-thirty for the duration. In any of the dining rooms you can ask for a table for two, or risk getting to know strangers at a larger table.

When entering or leaving a port—or at noon at sea—listen for the ship’s resonant whistle. There are actually two whistles, mounted to the left and right of the funnel. The one at left, converted from steam to compressed air, is a treasured relic of the original Queen Mary , on long-term loan from that very ship, which is anchored in Long Beach, California (and at present in bankruptcy, according to its owners). The other whistle is new. Together they produce a mighty blast that will be heard, it is hoped, down through the miles and years to come.