An American Dream Comes True

One of the most thrilling cruise experiences known to man is sailing past the statue of libertyAmericanDreamComeTrue1
A transatlantic crossing on Queen Mary 2 is the most stylish way to arrive in New York, says Deborah Stone. Follow the couple’s transatlantic crossing to New York. Dawn was breaking as we sailed past the Statue of Liberty – a salmon-pink glow streaking the purple sky.
The green copper folds of Liberty’s robes were lit up and her golden flame and crown blazed triumphantly. Sailing into New York is top of the must-do list when it comes to holidays of a lifetime, and we were really arriving in style on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 at the end of an eight-day crossing. The world’s only purpose-built transatlantic liner harks back to a golden age when crossing the Atlantic in style was only for royalty, aristocrats, tycoons and Hollywood stars.

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But like all modern cruise ships, QM2 is not just for the privileged few. It attracts passengers from all walks of life: from couples of all ages to multi-generational family groups and solo travellers. When my husband, Nick, and I boarded the ship in Southampton, we just wanted to fulfil our dream of celebrating our wedding anniversary by visiting New York for the first time. We had not realised there would be so much to do on the way: the ship’s modern facilities include an elegant thermal spa, a ballroom with a sprung dance floor, and a 3D cinema – which doubles as the only planetarium at sea. And that’s not to mention the indoor and outdoor pools, golf simulators, a well-equipped gym and daily lectures and classes that include RADA acting workshops. After finding our balcony stateroom with its large double bed, acres of storage space and TV, we ordered a bottle of champagne and sipped a glass or two on our balcony as we sailed into the sunset.

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Dinner was in the Britannia Restaurant, which has lovely Art Deco-style lamps and etched glass – plus a lively buzz. A grand staircase sweeps up to the top terrace of diners, who can look down onto the lower dining area with its 1930s New York decor. The next morning, after breakfast from the self-service Kings Court, I went to a free Stretch It Out exercise class at 9am, meeting up with Nick at the 11am beginners’ bridge lesson – where we were among about 30 passengers eager to discover the secrets of bidding suits.

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Mealtimes on the QM2 are as long and varied as you want them to be: you can choose from the extensive breakfast buffet in the Kings Court, or opt for a waiter served menu in the Britannia Restaurant. If you have Princess Grill or Queens Grill accommodation, you will have your own exclusive restaurant, but we really enjoyed a bacon roll and tea from Kings Court, eaten outside on deck gazing out to sea. At lunch, we sometimes had fish and chips or cottage pie in the wood-panelled Golden Lion Pub, after testing our memories in the morning pub quiz. The free quizzes became an addiction – and a good way to meet people. Our team was an interchangeable mix of ages, depending on who was in the bar.

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Sometimes Nick and I would miss lunch so we could fit in afternoon tea in the Queens Room. This has a glorious, miniature Hollywood Bowl-like stage and is very glamorous at night, during the after-dinner dancing to a live orchestra or pre-dinner cocktail receptions. It is pretty grand during the day too with shafts of sunlight creating a golden atmosphere, and a harp player transforming even unknown tunes into magical melodies.

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On our anniversary, we spent most of the day in the thermal spa, breathing in the eucalyptus scent of the steam room, relaxing in the bubbles of the warm mineral-water pool and reading (or dozing) on loungers. Then, in the evening, we went to the Todd English speciality restaurant where the lobster bisque was superb. My sirloin steak was so big I couldn’t eat it all, and the fallen chocolate pudding was a chocoholic’s dream (perfect for me). Just a day’s sail away from New York, the weather warmed up and we took a stroll around the deck. Swimming along beside us was a pod of porpoises – we could see their dark-coloured fins and sometimes a quick flash of their backs. It was as if they were welcoming us to America.

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The next morning, we were up by 4.30 for one of the most thrilling cruise experiences known to man: sailing past the Statue of Liberty and being mesmerised by the lights of Long Island as we headed for the Manhattan skyline. It was an American dream come true for us, and one made all the more stylish thanks to our Queen Mary 2 transatlantic crossing.

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New York Must-do’s

Go Shopping: New York’s department stores are legendary and 100-year old Bloomingdales on Lexington Avenue is as much a tourist attraction as it is a fashion emporium. Similarly, have your Audrey Hepburn moment with a visit to Tiffany & Co on nearby Fifth Avenue.

Visit Central Park: Escape the traffic among the park’s trees, but not before you have visited Strawberry Fields, the Alice in Wonderland sculpture nearby, Belvedere Castle, the six-acre Conservatory Garden and the Carousel in the south end.

Take in the museums: Even if you just stand outside the landmark Guggenheim Museum, you will have seen an amazing work of art. On the opposite side of the park is the awe-inspiring American Museum of Natural History – where the Night at the Museum films were filmed.

Enjoy the Views: The Brooklyn Bridge has a pedestrian walkway above the road offering superb views of New York’s iconic skyscrapers – including the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building, as well as the New York Harbour and the Statue of Liberty.
Many of New York’s best attractions are free: these include the High Line – an abandoned elevated railway track which has been transformed into a park. Enjoy a stroll from Wall Street towards Battery Park where you can take the Staten Island Ferry to get that last glimpse of The Statue of Liberty.

Published 4th March 2016

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