Once we decided to undertake this adventure of moving our vulnerable one-year-old child to a third world country, G quickly booked us on the Queen Mary 2. From Southampton to south Brooklyn, it would be seven days at sea, and it would be two days too long.
In the lead up to our departure, we repeatedly pitched it to each other as a folksy, no-frills trans-Atlantic passage of old – bunk beds, hard knocks, class warfare, icebergs.
It was a cruise.
But not, like, a regular cruise. There were no stops because there was no land. There was no sun because it was the north Atlantic. There was no one else under 75 because it was a seven day crossing, without stopping, in cold weather. At meal times the parked stroller disappeared in a cluster of mobility scooters, and we couldn’t use the heated indoor pool in the sunroom because all of chairs were occupied from 6am by elderly couples in parkas who stayed all day in an effort to warm their ancient bones.
With a one-year-old, there were no late nights, but it worked out well because there were early mornings. If it sounds awful, it’s because parts of it were (ice rain), but it was also leisurely and full of lovely people – employees and travellers. Everyone else on board was a grandparent, and told us so as they touched our baby’s hands, face, and mouth. A was the star attraction and she basked in the glow, hard. (There was one old lady who was travelling alone who sat near us at dinner and announced loudly to her table the second night: “I don’t know why people bring babies on boats.” Fortunately she switched to a later sitting, but we did see her again in the formal night photos. She wore a sequinned one-shoulder dress and struck a pouty pose with her arm raised behind her like Beyonce, or, like a bag of sand in an evening gown.)
When we were east of Nova Scotia, the maître d’ told us how, at this point in voyages past, a Titanic survivor who lived on the island would take a water taxi up to the anchored QM2 and board for the remainder of the journey. It was a tradition carried over from the QM1. She did this until she died a few years ago, and she survived the Titanic as a one-year-old, so by my count she dined off that tragedy for the better part of 80 years.
As I expected, I did feel like Rose in Titanic. But not a poised and elegant Rose descending the grand staircase to an eager, well-oiled Leo. I was more Rose slipping and flailing off the back of the ship. I couldn’t walk near the edge and maintained a white-knuckled grip on the stroller handlebar at all times. I knew the weak spots in the railings on every deck, because unless there was a five-foot concrete barrier I would vividly envision A slithering out of her stroller, sliding along the wet deck, and shooting off into open ocean. On Day 5, G convinced me to look over the edge of a little viewing platform that jutted out from deck 8. I stumbled backwards in a circle and clutched a pillar. A life at sea is not for me.
The middle of the Atlantic is disorienting but truly beautiful (when sunny). I thought I could envision it but, standing on the top deck bear-hugging a bolted-down steel mast, ocean in all directions was something I hadn’t accurately imagined. I would post a photo, but it wouldn’t help you, either.
We did have fun. As I said, it was a cruise. G ate six meals a day and A and I took a dip in the arctic pool once the sun peeked out.
And inside felt safe. I could have stayed by the window for hours.
All in all a positive experience but one that made me ready for land. On Day 6, a bird appeared on deck and I became emotional. As I said, it was two days too long.