Thursday, May 24, 2018

Passage to Southampton on the Queen Mary 2 with Dogs

One of the first things that one learns when traveling on the Queen Mary 2 is
that she is NOT a Cruise Ship...
She is an Ocean Liner.

Purposely built to cross the stormy North Atlantic Ocean in all weather conditions,
her hull is 40% thicker.

Her open decks and lifeboats are much higher above the water...

She is much stronger and with a top speed approaching 30kts,
she faster than any cruise ship afloat.

She is the only Ocean liner currently in service and perhaps may be the last.

The other thing that you learn is that you are not on a cruise.
You are making a crossing.

Cunard has been plying the Transatlantic trade since the 1800’s
and the RMS Queen Mary 2 is the last ship left that carries on the tradition of regularly scheduled trans-Atlantic service between England and the US.

Sunset on day 1 off the Long Island Coast

Embarkation with Pets

One of the great things about bringing the dogs is the Embarkation Process. 

At first our experience is like all other passengers 
but soon we get pushed to the head of the line.

Arriving at the terminal the porters take all of our luggage 
which will magically re-appear in our staterooms in a couple of hours.

We are an instant attraction as many people are quite interested in the fact that we have dogs 
and that they are actually getting on board with us!

We enter the terminal and immediately clear thru a security check where we show our passports 
and e-ticket so they can confirm that we are allowed on board.

Next we clear thru the security lines. 
Much the same as airport security, only without much of the hassle.
We dont need to remove shoes and the metal detectors are no where near as sensitive. 

After clearing thru security the whole process has so far taken about 10 - 15 minutes.

As we exit the security area, they notice that we have dogs and we are immediately directed 
to a far end of the terminal where our dogs paperwork will be checked.

We are greeted by a Crew Member who scans the dogs microchips and checks the Third Country Health Certificate & Rabies Certificates. 
She checks that the numbers all match, record them on a manifest, 
and in a few minutes says it all looks fine.

She takes our paperwork & says it will be returned in a few days but first
it must be transmitted to the authorities in the UK and then we will be
able to simply stroll off of the ship upon arrival without further checks

At this point we can breath a big sigh of relief… our dogs will be permitted to board!

We now are informed that we need to check in with our credit card and obtain our onboard key 
which will open our stateroom plus serve as our on-board charge card. 

Now - if we had to get on the regular line - we would be standing in line for what looks like 
at least an hour + as several hundred people were lined up.
Fortunately for us… dog owners go to their own special check in line no waiting required. 
n a matter of minutes we had our check in completed 

We were directed to step back to our waiting area 
and told that our kennel master would be down in a few minutes to
escort us all up to the 12th deck to the kennels. 

By now we are part of a group of about 6 or 7 dogs 
and after about a 5 minute wait - we are warmly greeted by Oliver Cruz our Kennel Master, 
who promptly escorts us up the gangway into the ship, 

Into the Grand Lobby...

Grand Lobby Queen Mary 2
thru the art gallery, and up the D Lift to Deck 12 where we see where our dogs… 
and we... will be spending the better part of the next 7 days on our passage.

Oliver & Lucy with John on the right

Prior to boarding all of us pet owners were busy trying to get our dogs 
to do their business one last time as we knew that they would be locked in the kennels 
until the ship departs some time after 5p. 

Being a noisy asphalt covered lot with the hustle and bustle of embarkation 
none of the dogs seemed to be in the mood to cooperate. 

Enroute to the Kennels one dog in our group - Gina Lolobrigidia 
decided to deposit a nice warm muffin right on the carpet in the Art Gallery!

As her embarrassed owner tried to clean it up, we tried to reassure her and
I mentioned that I was so glad that it wasn’t one of mine -
only to see Lucy squat and pee on the carpet. 

Fortunately Kate had thought ahead and had a bunch of paper towels 
so we hurried to clean up and get the group up to the kennel before
any more of the dogs in our group got the same idea and we deposited any more Doggy Art. 

The Passage

Statue of Liberty as the QM2 Departs NYC

Approaching the Verrazano Bridge

The Stacks clear by about 10' at high tide

The QM2 Clears the Verrazano Bridge

Now into the Atlantic - we head east into the unknown.

Exiting NY harbor and beginning our crossing, the days quickly settle into a routine 
which revolves around the dogs.

The kennel hours are 0800-1000, 1100-1200, 3:00p-6:00p and 8:00p-8:30p
I’m up at 0600 breakfast at 0715 and at the kennels to let the dogs out at 0800.
We hang out with the dogs and all the other owners for 2 hrs 
and then leave for an hour till we return from 11am to 12 noon.

The “Off Duty" stretch from 12 noon to 3pm is our play time.
It is the longest stretch during the daylight hours when we are not permitted to visit the Kennels.

So that we could experience a little luxury - we purchased 6-day passes
to the Canyon Ranch Spa Aqua Therapy Center, 
therefore, each day we head to the Ranch to enjoy the largest spa afloat.

The Aqua Therapy Center itself is over 20,000 square feet and there also are 
massage, chiropractic, acupuncture rooms, a gym etc

Hot tubs, bubbling pool, water falls, several steam rooms and sauna, 
Ice cold showers, and to finish it off…. a relaxation room with a sea view to stretch out in 

and enjoy watching the world pass by as you settle back into your lounger with full muscular relaxation and quiet soothing music.

One day while crossing the Grand Banks we saw dozens of whales spouting!
.All from our loungers.
Our view in the Canyon Ranch Spa Relaxation Room.
 After the spa - it’s a quick lunch at Kings Court, perhaps some laps around the deck, 
(3 laps equal one mile) and we are back at the Kennels from 3p-6p.

The ship is so large that between our laps and just transiting, we averaged about
4 1/2 miles per day.

Around 5pm Oliver and John break out the food and we begin the process 
of getting 20+ dogs fed 
while making sure that Lucy does not try to eat every morsel in the house.

John lays out the dogie buffet
The humans enjoys a slightly different dining experience.

Britannia Dining Room Queen Mary 2

We had picked the 6pm dinner seating and we found the rush getting dressed for dinner 
after visiting the dogs just too much, 
so we mostly stuck with the alternative food venues such as Kings Court 
which is buffet style and open about 22hr a day.

We only dressed formal one night and ate in the Grand Britannia Dining Room.

Since the QM2 still carries on the tradition of dressing up after 6pm in most public spaces 
we spend much time dressing up - and down - after 6pm

I must change out of my shorts and put on at least a nice pair of slacks, a collared shirt,
and a jacket except for limited areas.

I find it to be a nuisance but tolerable

Perhaps some more laps, a cocktail, change back into our “dog clothes” 
and its up to the Kennels for the 8-830 final visit and bedtime for the Doodles.

While up there we often got a nice sunset off of our great spot on deck 12 aft.

Sunset  from the Kennels at bedtime for the doodles
A last stroll on the Poop Deck before bed.
The first several days for the dogs are quite stressful for most 
and it manifests itself in stomach upset and its end result - diarrhea.

Almost all of the dogs experienced it at first and Oliver & John had been working overtime 
keeping the dogs, the kennels, and the deck clean.

Oliver is a pro at mixing the right ingredients and with some rice, pumpkin, and 
perhaps a Pepto Bismol tablet, most of them including our two
had gained their sea legs after a few days and they are back to their normal selves.

For Gracie & Lucy I think that much of the stress comes from the fact that 
they had never been separated from us at night, 
nor do they live in a kennel, so it was all a new and very strange routine to them 
and as you dog people know…. dogs are all about routines.

On the 5th full day - when it was time for me to leave 
the Doodles finally jumped up into the kennel on their own - so that is progress! 

We’ve gotten to know the other dog owners quite well. 
We spend the hours with them and the dogs and talk about all sorts of thing including
the daily poop updates. 

Which dogs are eating well, which are pooping firm etc.

Inside seating during rough weather
Poppy & Belle are dual English/US Citizens

Towards the end of the crossing some of us guys even hit the pool bar - a short walk 
forward from the Kennels - for an afternoon libation.

Since 4 of us will be returning together
this gave us a good head start for our return crossing in October

12 Deck Pool Queen Mary 2

Although the dogs now seem to be having a good time when out and about with the other dogs,
they are still creatures of habit and this is a huge change to all of their routines.

I am sure that the dogs will be jumping for joy when their paws hit terra firma!

Some of the owners, like us, are taking an extended trip and will be on our return trip. 
Some have homes in Europe and the US and make the seasonal migration across the pond. 

A few are moving to the UK - or returning to the UK after living in the US.

One couple is planning to rent a Caravan (Trailer) and travel Scotland 
looking for a new home to homestead.

One is traveling over by ship and then flying back after a few weeks.

We are from the US, Canada, France,  and the UK .

It is an eclectic bunch indeed, but one common thread among all of us 
is our love for our dogs and the desire to provide them a safer means of transit 
across the Atlantic Ocean.

On Sunday we had our Kennel “Photo Shoot”
The dogs were issued their QM2 coats, and the ships photographer came up to the kennels 
and took a bunch of photos.

This photo was taken by our friend Gary so I escaped the photo fee$

After the photo shoot we had a dog “parade in the large open deck right outside of the kennels.

We all enjoyed this opportunity to run with the dogs and enjoy an even larger area 
outside of the kennel confines.

Dog Parade on Queen Mary 2

Dog Parade on Queen Mary 2

Because the Kennel Hours conflicted with afternoon high tea,
we had to make a choice between being with our pets or going to tea… The Pets won!

One day however - our mate Craig went down and surprised us all with a plate 
so that we could have a mini tea up in the kennels.

It would have been nice if Cunard would take the dog owners into consideration 
and bring a proper tea up to us once or twice during the crossing,
but I guess the thousands that we paid to bring the dogs across 
did not allow enough profit for this small consideration.

It was one of several disappointments in Cunard that tarnished an otherwise
pleasant voyage.

I will discuss the pros and cons of Cunard in my next post but for now I'd rather just
focus on the positives.

Craig serves afternoon Tea in the Kennel
Speaking of positives... 
Perhaps the greatest gift of this trip has been the wonderful people that we got
to know and spend 7 days of our lives with.

The stories that we exchanged... the laughs that we had.
These wonderful friends really made the 7 days fly by.
I really think some will be friends that we will know for a long time.

And 5 or 6 will be on our return in October...  Yay!

Our Kennel Mates have also been teaching us the finer points of the Kings English.
This will be immensely helpful as the US and Brits are brother nations but
separated by a common language.

We have learned for instance that "Getting Knocked Up
has a whole different meaning in the UK,

and if a friend was unable to knock up his wife….
It would be perfectly acceptable for me to do it for him. 

Some times we grabbed a moment of quiet relaxation when we could.

Kate watches the sea rush by in the QM2 Deck 3 Game Room

When we arrive in Southampton on Thursday, we will get priority disembarkation
and will be the first ones off of the ship with the dogs.

I will hit the ground running as I will need to get the rental car, dog food, 
sim cards, visit the vet, and find our hotel…

While learning to drive on the left side.

(Short story - It was quite freaky - but more on that in the next post)

It should be an interesting first day and I will bring you up to speed on that and more 
on our next post.

Since you are receiving this post - it means that we’ve crossed the pond
and landed in the UK so for now….

Greetings from the United Kingdom! 

Tally Ho!


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