On transatlantic "Queen Mary 2", echoes of the past

Wed Sep 5, 2012 8:22am EDT
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By Peter Apps

ABOARD RMS QUEEN MARY (Reuters) - The first time Edward Harris crossed the Atlantic on a liner named "Queen Mary", he was a young man travelling in the lowest "steerage" class emigrating to America.

Half a century on, Harris - now 77 and recently retired as the owner of a U.S.-based travel business - is on his seventh such voyage, having developed something of a taste for sea crossings between his birthplace in England and adopted home.

More than twice the size of the original "Queen Mary" - launched 1936, retired 1967, now a floating Los Angeles hotel - the modern "Queen Mary 2" has a very different feel from those early trans-Atlantic liners, perhaps closer to the modern cruise ships that ply the Caribbean and elsewhere, stopping at ports along the way.

The wooden deckchairs that line the promenade deck beneath the lifeboats may be the most potent physical reminder of what life was like aboard the QM2's predecessors. But the sense of separation from the outside world that comes with seven days at sea between Southampton and New York remains largely the same.

"I love it," Harris told Reuters four days into an August voyage. "You can't get phone calls, you get into a rhythm. It's a great feeling, even on a completely different ship."

After an annual world cruise to Australia between January and March, the Cunard-owned QM2 spends most of the rest of the year on the last scheduled transatlantic passenger schedule as what one crewmember called "the world's poshest ferry service".

Certainly, some aboard - including this reporter, paralysed from the shoulders down and headed to the United States for an assignment in Washington with a bulky electric wheelchair and some unpleasant memories from flying - are using her as just that.

But for the majority of the roughly 2600 passengers aboard, many on their second, third or fourth trip, the appeal is the voyage itself.   Continued...

The cruise liner Queen Mary 2 passes the Burbo Bank off-shore wind farm as it heads to Liverpool, northern England in this September 15, 2011 file photograph. REUTERS/Phil Noble/Files