The legendary Cunard Queen Elizabeth 2 on the Hudson River in New York City, October 16, 2008, as she departs for the final time.

01 May, 2012

Make it Count

Bravo Carnival!  With some trepidation, I went into this cruise, but with an open mind.  Look for a future post on the ship itself and our cruise experience with Carnival.  Their “Fun Ship” the Miracle worked her magic on us while we cruised onboard for a week in April. We had a fabulous time, completely unwinding, leaving the stresses of work behind.
While we were all aware our cruise would coincide with the 100th anniversary of the sinking of Titanic prior to taking this cruise, a fact I reminded the family once we had booked the cruise.  Once onboard and into full cruise mode, though, that fact became more of a distant memory as the cruise wore on.  In fact, we forgot about April 15th completely, though for me, who was more thorough immersed in all the Titanic anniversary hype, it did take some time to get out of this mode.  Yet instantly, I would get brought right back to Titanic on our return a week later as we sailed up the Hudson.

For one who has been thoroughly immersed in Titanic mania for more years than I care to mention, there were constant little reminders staring me in the face right at the beginning of the cruise; ones I chose to keep to myself to avoid boring my family who are well versed in my ship obsession and others I’d reveal as I saw fit.   
“New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra was bouncing around in my cranium during the sailaway.  It wasn’t playing on the ship's tannoy, as would be the case on QE2, but only in my head.  There’s this whole mystique of sailing out of Manhattan that truly is something to be experienced. 

This would be the first time we’d actually done this.  We sailed into Manhattan on QE2 back in January of 2008 and now we would be doing a round trip out of the Manhattan cruise ship piers.  Mental note; Miracle was tied up to Pier 88, same pier that the Normandie burned, rolled over and died in during WW2.  Granted it was the opposite side, I think, but it is still the same historic pier.

This is the only way to sail in and out of New York City, as countless other liners have done in the past, including the Carpathia, and all of the great Cunarder’s and other famous liners such as the S.S. United States.  For instance, our QM2 trip last year from Brooklyn was completely anti-climatic and just not the same.  Why, why, why did I wait too long to experience a classic Transatlantic Crossing on QE2, which in our case, included the glorious Manhattan arrival.  Geesh!  I am sounding like a Cunard marketing brochure.

 Of course, any trip to these piers brings back the memories of QE2’s final call and subsequent departure in tandem with Queen Mary 2.  Bittersweet memories for sure.  Look, there's the Miracle next to my beloved ship back in 2008. 

The mandatory lifeboat drill was our first priority after getting to our cabin and exploring the ship for some time.  Yes, we did have enough lifeboats! There would be no need for Rose to count them.  SOLAS regulations, a direct result of Titanic have taken care of that for us.  I swear I caught a glimpse of Thomas Andrews watching over us on deck during the drill.  Yes, we also had a very detailed drill thank you to the latest disaster, Costa Concordia and that showboating Italian captain.  Very impressed!  They took a head count.  It was here I learned we also have an Italian captain, instantly posting this fact to Facebook.  I missed the bit about not using phones or cameras during the drill….oops, my bad.  Friends responded “nice knowing you.” 
Everyone took this drill seriously, really.  Although the girl with the green hair in front of me seemed a bit distracted and disinterested, she too was texting away like mad, probably trying to get her last bit in before we got out of cell phone range.  One takeaway here I’ve never heard mentioned before was the request to always wear shoes throughout the ship to avoid stepping on glass.  Was this in response to Concordia or just practical? Doesn’t much matter as it makes total sense. 

Standing on the boat deck (beautiful real teak decks mind you), listening to a crew member talking while another one stood on a chair demonstrating how to don the life vest, my mind wandered to the scene in Cameron’s Titanic on the boat deck.  You know the scene where you hear the steam venting from the boilers and seeing all the chaos.  One of the officers then asks the women and children to step forward and the noise diminishes for both dramatic and practical effect in the movie.  True Titanic fanatics appreciate this clever device, knowing that the sound of the steam venting of the boilers, needing to be vented since the ship was stopped, was truly deafening and added to the chaos.  Here we were all lined up just like the movie.  The only distracting noise was from the longshoremen on the pier below with their forklifts loading up the ship.   No need for warning shots to be fired by ships officers, though, and the tuxedo clad quartet was nowhere to be found.  They’d have really stuck out too since I think I saw only one tux the entire cruise.  Thanks have to go out to another Facebook friend who warned I would be mistaken for the wait staff if I brought my tux on this cruise.  Sadly, I would not be doing my James Bond impersonation in the Casino this time, but I digress.
My mind further wandered here as they show off all the safety features of the vest.  Yeah, I know how the vest goes on, the whistle (Rose reference again…’Come back!”) and how the strobe thingie works. 

My eyes catch a detail off in the distance of the structure of the pier; look at those exposed rivets of the original frame.  Rivets= Titanic = old! This is one old pier with a lot of history.  I bet most of the passengers on this cruise have no idea how old these piers are and their history.  Seeing the rivets, reminds me of Fenway Park and my Massachusetts roots.  I offer one of my useless facts to my kids; “Did you know that Fenway Park opened the same day Titanic sailed from Southampton in 1912?”  Rolled eyes were the response from mildly amused offspring and spouse.   “You know you are full of useless information, dad!”  Tough crowd I say.
As we sail down the Hudson, I make out the remnants of Pier 54, the pier that Cunard’s Carpathia docked at, delivering the survivors she rescued from Titanic.  Dutifully noted in my brain, but at this point we were all standing on the forward observation deck over the bridge and looking down the Hudson at  the Freedom Tower….oops, 1 World Trade Center, easily the highest structure now on the Manhattan skyline.  There was an eerie sense of quiet as we neared Battery Park.  Lots of New Yorkers on board, mostly solemnly admiring the view.  Lots of picture taking; sounds of beeps from the point and shoot cameras and shutter sounds from the DSLR cameras like my Nikon.  I filled a 4GB graphics card alone here, but came prepared with my backup card in pocket. 

Battery Park and the Winter Garden appeared as an ever present reminder of 9/11, like an open wound.  Seeing the tower proudly rising offers consolation, but every time I pass by this site, memories of that day flood back to the surface.  1 World Trade Center is looking proud and defiant now.  I wish there were two of them.  I guess one is like giving them the middle finger. 

Our first reminder of Titanic occurred on our way to dinner on the first formal night.  That dreaded backdrop of grand staircase and clock appeared again amongst the sea of ships staff photographers angling for our business.  I thought it was tacky on QE2, was aghast to see it still in use on QM2, yet not really too surprised to see it once again on the Miracle.  Despite this, we got our picture taken with this backdrop and we even purchased it.  Picture prices are reasonable and it was a good picture!  Shocking!  You don’t even have to buy the leather-bound holder if you don’t want to.  Cunarders know what I mean there.  Overheard in the gallery area, were complaints about how expensive the pictures were.  Really.  All I said was “they’re half price compared to some other lines.“  No one is twisting your arm to buy them either.

“Meet me at the clock!” then became an overused comic relief statement uttered too many times throughout the cruise.  Obviously, seeing the 3D version of Titanic right before our sailing was having some detrimental impact.  Kelly even did a Rose impression one early morning, goofing around, asking for Jack, while we were standing above the bridge, trying to talk with the 20 knot breeze in our face.  How come they could do that so easily in the movie? 
Actually, there was an area of the ship that had a split stair, that Kelly thought reminded her of the Titanic staircase, but a modern one.  While not prominently featured, it included a water fountain, and also a plaque from the builder, Kvaerner Masa-Yards, now part of the mega shipbuilding conglomerate STX Finland Cruise Oy, builders of the current largest cruise ships in the world for Royal Caribbean; Oasis and Allure of the Seas.  Ultimately, we never decided to meet here and “make it count."
“Make it count!” I’d toast at dinner with my kids, in reference to Jack’s toast in the movie.  Corny, yes, but we were really having a good time!  This is NOT Cunard.  At this point, I was calling this cruise the “anti-Cunard” cruise.  There was actually plenty of life on board here and the ship was still rockin’ after 11PM!  I did not get my feet run over by a octogenarian in a scooter either on this cruise!  No offence to Cunard loyalists, but different ships for different folks here.  Carnival caters better to families, plain and simple.  How many four person cabins will you find on Queen Victoria for instance?   We did not have to fight our way through a sea of scooters, wheelchairs, and walkers to get to our table in the main dining room either, a plus.
I did not make off with the men after dinner to the library to have a cigar and a brandy.  I never did find the equivalent to Queen Mary 2’s Churchill’s on board although the Frankie and Johnnie’s nightclub had that stale cigar/cigarette smell to it, along with some menacing looking ceiling fixtures.  Instead, the kids went off to their kids clubs and we either made our way to see evening’s show or the comedian in the “Punchliners” comedy club.  Is that a veiled reference to ocean liners in the name?  George Lopez is the creative consultant for this program and it appears to be very popular.  Absolutely no mention of Titanic was made by any of the comedians in any of their acts, although the adult shows dived right into much more entertaining steamy topics.  Dentures would have been hitting the floor if these guys were performing on a Cunarder.  That Catskills style comic, though, was somewhat of a bore compared to the Brooklyn born and raised comic who really hit it off with passengers, who all appeared to be from the tri-state area. Yeah, we like our friggin’ comics when they get down n’ dirty.   Lisa Lampanelli would have fit right in.  No topic was off limits, but he never touched on any Titanic humor.  I think he just ran out of time after dealing with “Princess” in the front row, who was apparently having an orgasm every time he looked at her.  You had to be there.  Let’s just say she was more than a handful and leave it at that.

While we at sea for the actual Titanic anniversary, nearing our first port of call, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Carnival thankfully did not run the Cameron movie on board, have a Titanic themed diner, or even mention the tsignificance of the day in the daily program.  For that I am grateful.  A very small mention might have been nice, but the ‘Funtimes” ain’t the Daily Programme on a Cunarder. 
"Funtimes" is focuses heavy on the shipboard activities and is completely lacking the typical items I’ve become accustomed to such as detailed information on the ships position, course, and other navigation facts of the day.  Different ships, different “guests”, and different priorities I guess.  Heck, we never got any towel animals on any Cunard cruise!
 So, that night while we slept in our perfectly posh obstructed view cabin (by 1912 standards – we even had our own bathroom!), others were observing more somber remembrances of the occasion off in the North Atlantic.  We slept soundly; knowing our lifeboat would have been easy to jump right into if the need arose.  Yeah, there it is right outside our french doors in the above picture. All kidding aside, this was a great cabin - an outer cabin for the price of an inside unit, with the ability to get some fresh air and take in the sounds of the seas rushing by.  
It wasn’t until seeing the archway of Pier 54, heading back to Pier 88 on April 20th, was I reminded of the significance of that day in history and Titanic began bearing down on us again.  Carpathia would dock at this pier 100 years ago to the day with the Titanic survivors.  Sadly, there was no Bill Miller or Ted Skull narrating our arrival up the Hudson.  I could have filled in......
As we approached Pier 88, I could make out another ship.  It was the Fred Olsen Line’s Balmoral, fresh from her historic transatlantic crossing and rendezvous with the Azamara Journey at the approximate site of the sinking of Titanic.  Passing through customs, the agent made a comment, throwing me off guard a bit, saying I should be getting back on the Balmoral, which was heading back to Southampton.  He noticed my QE2 shirt, worn proudly that day.  I sighed, “Only if she were still sailing.”  Unsolicited, the customs agent then mentions he misses her dearly and all the people he met when she used to dock in Manhattan.  Wow!  Once again, bringing it full circle all back to QE2. 

No comments:

Post a Comment