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  • Neil Wylie

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2023 Embark Queen Mary 2

Updated: Jun 19, 2023

Today is embarkation day, but before I cover events of the day, I’ll just a say a few words about the past few days as we journeyed to New York and boarded the Queen Mary 2.

We set out from home on 12/30/22, taking a rental car down to San Francisco airport where we spent a pleasant night in the new Hyatt hotel located right in the airport – the airtrain from the rental car center has a stop at the entrance to the hotel, very convenient. We had a nice room with a view of the runway. The next morning we made our way to the terminal for our 8:30AM flight to Newark; boarding was delayed an hour, but we finally got on our way.

Following an event-free flight and a taxi ride we checked in to the Westin hotel at Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan, it’s actually a few blocks down E 42 St from Grand Central – a really great location. This was our first time in New York at New Year's Eve and the hotel was very busy. We had planned to keep things very low key, since we have to pass a covid test in order to board the ship – fortunately we found a “quiet” table (located in a corner and spaced out from others) in the hotel bar and enjoyed a nice dinner, retiring to our room before midnight.

We had a fantastic New Year's Day lunch at the Park Avenue Tavern located just a short walk from the Westin Hotel. Then, in keeping with our plan to avoid crowded spaces, we made our way to the Brooklyn Bridge only to find it overwhelmed with people – even from a block away we could tell that there was no way we’d be wading into this mass of seething humanity. We will actually be back in New York twice more before finally returning home on this trip – so we will have other chances to visit the bridge. We wandered through lower Manhattan past the World Trade Center, stopping for coffee and cake at a great Greek restaurant (Marathi) before returning to the hotel.

For our final day before boarding the ship we decided to take a stroll through Central Park; we’ve done this a few times before and really like it. Before setting out for the park we took our required covid tests and obtained negative results which we duly recorded via pictures on our phones for presentation at boarding. After our park walk, we stopped at Nordstrom for a quick lunch before walking back to the hotel – quite a hike! The weather for our New York stay was unseasonably warm with a high of about 54F for both days, and no rain until the final morning – on previous visits at this time of year we’ve experienced extreme cold and snow, so we felt very fortunate. One of our favorite dinner spots in New York is Cipriani’s which is located on the mezzanine level overlooking the concourse in grand Central. For our final night before boarding we had a fantastic dinner at Cipriani’s – the fresh pasta is outstanding. We had used the Luggage Forward service to send three of our bags ahead for delivery direct to our cabin on the ship, they were actually picked up from our house about 3 weeks ago and Sandra has been keenly tracking their progress on her phone via Apple Airtags; this morning we could see that the bags had been moved from a local warehouse out to the dock in Brooklyn.

Embarkation on 1/3/23... After checking out of the Westin at noon we hung out in the lobby drinking awful coffee killing time until our advised boarding time of 3PM. In the past we’ve almost always arrived earlier than our assigned boarding time and never had a problem getting on the ship early, and so around 2:30 I ordered an Uber for the trip over to Brooklyn. Boarding was very smooth and quick, about 20 minutes from being dropped at the terminal to getting on the ship. Now a confession… despite my normally meticulous preparation and planning I made a fairly large mistake with our boarding paperwork. I had carefully printed and filed both sets of boarding passes and luggage tags, one set for the Queen Mary 2 crossing and one set for the Queen Victoria world cruise; somehow, I managed to use the Queen Victoria boarding passes and luggage tags for the Queen Mary 2 crossing boarding! Incredibly none of the check-in agents or security employees spotted this error until the very final check at the entry to the ship. Our covid test results were not asked for, neither was our proof of vaccination status – however the later had been submitted electronically a few weeks ago. We finally found our way to the correct cabin, and I was able to track down the 2 bags that had received the wrong tags; they had been delivered to 8116 (our Queen Victoria cabin number) instead of 8012 (our Queen Mary 2 cabin number). Two of the three bags that we had shipped ahead were already in the cabin and third one arrived a bit later, this service worked our really well. Our cabin was a pretty standard balcony located on the lifeboat deck, but forward of the row of lifeboats so we have an unobstructed view. A note on Covid protocol; no requirement for masks or distancing, this is relaxed from our last cruise in January of 2022. A very small number of the crew and passengers are wearing mask, hand sanitizer is readily available but not much in use. We have decided to carry masks and use them in crowded areas, like elevators. Our tradition when first boarding a cruise is to head straight to the pub for a drink and light lunch, incredibly we found the last open table in the Golden Lion and enjoyed continuing our tradition. As the ship left the dock the weather was extremely foggy and damp so we opted to not go out on deck as visibility was very poor. In the evening we dressed (smart casual) and headed to our assigned table in the Britannia Restaurant for the 8:30PM seating. Service was a bit hit and miss as it is evident the ship is understaffed and the staff are not quite as experienced as we are used to. We rounded out the evening with a drink in the Commodore Club, but once again the service was very slow despite the room being sparsely populated. Normally a waiter appears as soon as you get settled, on this occasion we waited about 15 minutes before being served.


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