A transatlantic crossing on Queen Mary 2 is one of those travel experiences that just has to be done. It is not a cruise, more of a journey of discovery in the company of like-minded travelers from a wide range of nationalities. It is estimated that over 10 million people have emigrated to North America to start a new life with Cunard over the years and the sense of history and exploration is unique and even a little overwhelming when you board the famous Queen Mary 2.
Often during a 7 night crossing, whilst promenading round the deck or gazing from within, you will see no sign of any other ships and a real feeling of being in the middle of a vast ocean. This can be daunting to some – what to do for 7 days and nights at sea? Well – there is so much to do, so much to enjoy that the most heard comment on approaching New York is ‘Are we here already?’ And as for the arrival into New York – it is right up there as one of travel’s great experiences. Each time I have done it has been terrific. Up early at about 0430, up to the top deck with many fellow travelers, under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, the first sign of the sunrise is the sun glinting on the top of the Statue of Liberty and there before you is the famous skyline of Manhattan – and beyond that all that North America has to offer.
One aspect of a crossing that is not known to many is that you can take your dog to and from New York on Queen Mary 2. Many people see their dogs as part of the family or a personal companion and there are a growing number of holiday and travel options where your dog is now able to travel as well. The cost of our local kennels at home is £20 a night – so two weeks away and leaving your dog at home can set you back £280. Even more difficult is when you may consider going further afield for a longer trip – for example to spend a summer travelling or visiting relatives in North America – what to do with your dog in that situation ?
Well – one of Cunard Line’s best kept secrets are the kennels on Queen Mary 2, although not a total secret as they are always the first thing to sell out when a new season goes on sale. Imagine treating your dog to a luxurious trip on the famous Queen Mary 2 to and from New York from Southampton. There are 12 kennels up on Deck 12 – and the dogs are taken care of by a Cunard ‘Kennel Master’. Each dog receives a special Cunard Frisbee to play with, name tag, food dish and scoop, blanket and their own kennel space. Yes – they are also provided with their own special life jacket as their safety is every bit as important as other passengers. They are walked twice a day on their own private deck area and owners can visit their dogs at certain times of the day to see how they are enjoying their voyage. As you would expect – their food is premium and as a special touch just before bedtime every dog is given a healthy gourmet cookie freshly prepared by one of Cunard’s wonderful chefs. So when you return to your stateroom after a night out to find your bed ‘turned down’, slippers by the bed and a chocolate on your pillow, then there is no need to feel guilty as your dog has been equally treated as an esteemed guest with a cookie before bedtime.
Many people may be surprised that it is so easy to take your dog to or from North America. There are some things you have to organize in advance such as Pet Passports, Vaccinations and a recent heath check from your vet – but this is not too onerous and you can find full details on the Cunard website at www.cunard.com or if travelling from the UK at www.defra.gov.uk. So how much does it all cost? Well for each dog the cost is $500 for an ‘Upper Berth’ kennel or $700 for a ‘Lower Berth’ kennel – great all inclusive value for travelling in comfort on one of the finest ships afloat and roughly the same price as the kennels at home.
One final tip as you decide which way to cross the ocean. My advice for your first crossing is to travel from Southampton to New York. That way you will experience five 25 hour days as the clock goes back I hour each evening – so an extra night in bed for you on 5 nights out of the 7 nights onboard. You will arrive in New York refreshed with no jet lag ready for a few days to shop and experience New York before returning home or continuing your travels in North America. Perfect.
Peter Shanks was President and Managing Director of Cunard Line until October 2013 after 12 years with the business, prior to that he held a number of senior roles across the travel industry.
See also: It’s a Dog’s Life on the North Atlantic on the Cunard site.