Wedding aboard the Queen Mary 2

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On 14th November, my friends Jan and Tony (known as T) were married on the Queen Mary 2, mid-way across the Atlantic during the transatlantic crossing from Southampton to Brooklyn New York. The wedding was in the Atlantic room at the front of the ship and conducted by the captain in accordance with the laws of Bermuda – a bit like having a marriage certificate from the Bermuda triangle!
The room was only slightly large for our party of ten, the captain and the three ship’s photographers. A few of us had brought our cameras. I did bring mine, but I will also be relying on my friend Ben, who took some fabulous photos. I have included one lovely photo I took on my phone and I will upload additional images when the ship’s internet allows, or certainly when I’m back on dry land.
I was a bit overcome by the wedding because it was so lovely, and also somewhat unsteady on my feet, not because of champagne, as we had that after the ceremony, but due to my very high heels and the rough weather which is particularly noticeable at the front of the ship. Captain Christopher Wells, who has been a ship’s captain for 40 years, explained as I was wobbling around that standing with your weight balanced evenly between your feet and not locking your knees helps stability. This is more like a neutral pose for dancing or martial arts, rather than a natural way of standing. It definitely helps. The Order of Service for the marriage included the precise location of the ship: latitude 52°28’1” N, longtitude 024°01’4”W.
It was a beautiful ceremony, the nicest and happiest civil ceremony I’ve ever been to, and there was a lot of giggling. Jan wore a sexy red satin dress, which suited her slim but voluptuous figure and bubbly personality. T was remarkably steady on his feet, and they both held it together pretty well. The two moments where everyone seemed to struggle not to burst into tears was when Stuart, Jan’s best (boy) friend, walked her up the aisle to give her away, and the reading, by Carol, who has been best friends (and colleagues) with Jan for 16 years, of ‘Love me when I’m old’, a funny and slightly naughty poem. It was so perfect that it got to us all and is the reason for my lack of good wedding photographs.
After the wedding and a lot more photographs, we all went to the champagne bar, which was brilliant. The girls – Carol, Stella and I – helped Jan choose a gorgeous designer watch as her wedding present for T. We then went to the Todd English restaurant, where the food was far superior to the Britannia, for a celebratory dinner. My previous reference to the passenger demographic of the ship was about the soft food, this time it is about attitude not age. Apparently the restaurant had some complaints about the laughter emanating from our table. Yes, of course we were drinking champagne, telling funny stories and laughing a lot, but it wasn’t late or raucous and I cannot comprehend how anyone on holiday could object to a happy wedding party.
After dinner we went on to a comedy show in the Royal Court Theatre. Jon Courtenay, pianist and comedian, played beautifully and shared some great gags about the QM2. I particularly recall two involving toilet humour: the first was about mishaps concerning the vacuum toilet system – umm, it’s important to get up before you flush and someone apparently tried to sue Cunard because they got stuck on the toilet! They were physically ok, but incredibly embarrassed because they had to call for help! However, I am reliably informed that this could not have actually happened as all the unfortunate passenger would have had to do to free themselves is lift the toilet seat to release the vacuum – assuming they weren’t sitting directly on the porcelain! The other story was more resonant. Jon recalled getting out of bed to go to the toilet and finding his bed had been made when he returned. This too is probably not true, but every time I go back to my stateroom, five seconds later the steward knocks on the door. This is solicitous, but can be awkward depending on the reason for returning to the room. If I’m online, it’s quite expensive as internet access is charged per minute, but it could be a lot worse!
Our champagne fuelled party giggled more than anyone, and I think Jon appreciated this as some of the audience looked like they were dead – I was quite relieved to see them getting their kicks in the casino later.
Silliness – nosing the captain! T’s daughter Alyssa has been doing this prank where you go up to people, including total strangers, and prod them with your nose! This can be done by going straight up to them and doing the deed, or in a ‘subtle way’, for example by dropping something on the floor and prodding them with your nose as you get up, so that it looks like you’ve touched them by mistake! And Alyssa managed to nose Captain Wells! This happened without any warning, so none of us captured it on camera!
Silliness 2 – stories about Jan and T. Carol related the story of how the happy couple met, from an office point of view! Jan and T met at a business event and it was love at first sight, or certainly lust! For the first time ever, Jan called into work to say she couldn’t come in – “I just can’t get out of bed,” she said. This was true, but she was not calling in sick!
Everyone around the table recounted how we had met Jan. For me it was pretty straightforward as I had interviewed her for a magazine. It was a phone interview and we got on so well that she invited me to her office for coffee the following week. We have been friends ever since.
There were a few stories of Jan being a bit of a heroine at parties and industry events, most of which involved champagne and people in various states of undress. I didn’t tell mine because it is not a wedding kind of story. But Jan has been my heroine too. Some years ago, I unwisely became involved in an upsetting situation with a deeply vindictive individual. Although at the time we had not been friends for very long, Jan was the first person to call me to check that I was ok. She was there for me immediately. There are times when you find out, among other things, who your real friends and heroes are. Years later, all of our circumstances are very different; with 20:20 hindsight, I’m so glad I found out. It is one important reason why I am where I am today.

All at sea – like sleeping with someone new

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This is the first instalment of my blog from the Queen Mary 2 transatlantic crossing from Southampton to Brooklyn, New York. The first night on board was disconcertingly like sleeping with someone new – I am not referring to sex, but the intimacy of sleeping together – and I have a cabin to myself! It was a stormy night and the bed was full of unfamiliar movements that were disturbing, in a vaguely exciting way.
This is my first ever sea voyage, a trip organised to celebrate the wedding of my friends Jan and Tony, known as T. Jan is English and T is American, and they decided to get married mid-Atlantic. So here we are. My blog about the wedding is to follow.
The first thing I noticed on arrival at Southampton was the sheer size of the ship, and the number of people who choose this way to travel to America in November. We are a mixed-age group of ten people ranging from early twenties to early fifties – the youngest being T’s daughter and her boyfriend – but we all felt very young as we boarded given that the majority of passengers seem to be retired people.
The time difference is disconcerting as the clocks go back one hour each night, but not every night, so that we arrive in New York without jet lag, which would be a bonus except that I am flying straight back to London.
On the first morning I got up an hour before I had ordered coffee in my stateroom, terminology for the luxurious cabin. I have an ocean view balcony stateroom – having taken the advice of the travel agent, and a colleague in the travel industry, I opted for a midship stateroom with a covered balcony, which was completely the right thing to do as it has been raining heavily on and off ever since we arrived, and I can stand outside and look at the sea without getting completely drenched.
The sea was foreboding before we left and on the first morning it was rough enough for several of the decks to be closed due to ‘inclement weather’. I took a walk on the soaking wet decks before they were closed. There were a few runners out, but I didn’t feel stable enough on my feet to run. My walk brought me to the gym and I managed about ten minutes of wobbly trotting on the treadmill and a slightly awkward stretch.
Every night we meet for dinner in the Britannia restaurant. There are two sittings, and we chose the late sitting at 8.30pm. We are seated together at the same table which is perfect because we are travelling as a group. However, if you were travelling alone or with just a few people, you might have to share a table every night with random strangers, which could be great or not so great depending on who you were seated with.
It is fun getting dressed up for an elegant dinner every night, but the downside of the passenger demographic is that the food is all pretty soft! On the first night I chose steak and chips which looked like it was going to be one of the few non-denture-friendly options, but that was soft too. Apparently, according to some who travel this way regularly, the first two days of this crossing were exceptionally rough, and on the second night of soft food and rough seas, I had to leave the karaoke bar early. I was concerned enough to get some seasickness pills from the purser, although I haven’t resorted to using them yet.
I found the spa, and bought a membership. In rough weather this is a better option than the gym, as it has Jacuzzis, saunas and massages, none of which require too much balancing, and the beauty salon, where I booked a manicure and hair styling – no scissors, as that would be risky given the movement of the ship…
To be continued…

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