Our cruise ship departed from Southampton, about 90 minutes south of London. We were told to allow two and a half hours for the drive, but light traffic and our rented BMW made short work of the trip. This allowed us extra time to digress through the suburban countryside of Southampton before heading to the port. The country homes had the same charm reminiscent of those in London, but more spacious size and lots.
Entering the port, our gaze was irresistibly drawn to the Queen Mary 2. It is simply awe-inspiring, even for the veteran cruiser. The QM2 is the largest, longest, tallest, widest and most expensive cruise ship afloat today – a blessing given that the high Atlantic seas can be a little choppy this time of year! At 14 stories tall, the ship sports a black hull, a bright red-and-black smokestack, with everything else painted white. We made our way on board and found our cheerful, immaculate cabin with our luggage already delivered. It was technically a B3 class cabin (a lovely room) that included a very private hull balcony. Halfway through the cruise we upgraded to a Q4 cabin, how could we sell this cabin without experience? This spectacular suite had amenities such as a deep, oversized whirlpool bath, a private butler and a private dining room. So this is what it feels like to be part of the Royal Family├óÔé¼┬ª.
Our first dinner on board was at the Todd English restaurant, named after a famous chef known for Mediterranean cuisine. A small surcharge as part of this private-dining experience was more than offset by the exceptional cuisine and presentation of our meals. (We heartily recommend the beef tenderloin, and our sommelier showed good instincts with an excellent Chateau Segur Bedoc, 1999 vintage.) The pi├â┬®ce de r├â┬®sistance of our meal was a warm chocolate torte, the inside of which flowed out the moment our forks touched the desert – chocolate paradise! A champagne party was also taking place outside the restaurant and we sauntered out for a few moments between courses to view the lovely skyline we were leaving behind in Southampton.