Travel day joy!

Greetings!

We are now relaxing at beautiful LaGuardia with its many fine amenities (/sarcasm) awaiting our flight at 3:00 pm. This morning was the usual stress-free experience disembarking a huge ship. We got up at 5:45 am, just as the QM2 was docking in Brooklyn. We didn’t need an alarm, as our usually quiet and wonderful cabin 6005 (as opposed to the amazing vibrating cabin 4198) was shaken by the massive bow thrusters pushing us into the berth.

We got up, finished our preparations and proceeded to the King’s Court for breakfast. We had breakfast every day on the cruise at this massive buffet facility that is over half the length of deck 7 and has three different themed areas (the Carvery, an Asian buffet and an Italian buffet). However, we had not experienced this facility with virtually every other passenger there at the same time, jockeying for their last bits of eggs, bangers (sausages in British lingo), English bacon, grilled tomatoes and baked beans (I really don’t get that one) before leaving the ship. Some folks were leaving the QM2 to return home (like us), some were leaving for day trips into the city, and the rest were doing five-day hotel packages in NYC. The QM2 sails tonight for Boston, followed by a visit to Halifax, Nova Scotia, returning to New York on Tuesday to start another transatlantic voyage to Southampton.

We finally found a table in the King’s Court, ate quickly and went out on the promenade and were treated to spectacular views of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. Weather here is surprisingly cool, with partly cloudy skies.

Around 8:15 am, we were allowed to disembark, collect our baggage, proceed through customs and immigration, and head for the airport bus. Just as we were leaving the ship, we found out that there would be no porters to help us with our bags. A collective groan went through the crowd. “Welcome to America! Our fine unionized dock porters are all taking a well-deserved five-day Independence Day holiday and will not be there to help, despite the fact that one of the largest ships in the world is disgorging hundreds of elderly and/or disabled passengers. Have a nice day!”

So, gritting my teeth, I slowly pushed the wheelchair with two bags on board, dragging the third carry-on, while Steve handled the two large roller bags, while we walked the long distance from the terminal building to the bus. I must admit my language was not G-rated and I felt badly for many of the older passengers who struggled with their large bags. Shameful…

We finally boarded the bus, then sat and waited for more than thirty minutes before leaving for LaGuardia. Once we arrived here, we had to wait about 45 minutes to check our bags. My theory of radioactive dirty socks was validated, as two of our three checked bags exceeded the weight limit and we had to pay $100 per bag (we’re in economy plus on this flight so no free pass on overweight bags). However, on a bright note, one of the United agents that helped us was one the nicest guys we’ve met wearing a United Airlines uniform (seriously).

So now we’re passing time in a small pre-security area bar and restaurant; there are no amenities of note on the concourses. Even the Red Carpet Club is located in the main terminal. We will be very glad to get home and back on Weight Watchers!

A quick summation of the trip:

1) United first class to London – comfortable seats, lousy food and mediocre service.
2) London: Grosvenor House hotel was ok, steakhouse restaurant was spectacular. London Eye was fun. City looks pretty good!
3) Disney Magic: Many good and not-so-good points, as previously documented. Overall, it was a very memorable experience.
4) Oslo: So-so shore excursion to museums, gorgeous city and harbor and very friendly folks.
5) Copenhagen: Great shore excursion to Tivoli Gardens and on the canal boats (other than wheelchair hassles); another beautiful and interesting city.
6) Warnemunde: Excellent shore excursion to the abbey, on the steam train and visiting one of the Baltic sea resorts. A lovely day and quite relaxing.
7) St. Petersburg: Absolutely fascinating, absolutely frustrating. Ballet was great, city tour went around in circles and wasted lots of time at a souvenir shop, the Hermitage museum was fabulous. Lunch was ok. Somewhat turned off by the general unfriendliness of the citizens and the shabby Stalin-era apartments between the cruise dock and the main part of the city.
8) Helsinki: Our favorite port on the cruise. A beautiful city, gorgeous countryside, an excellent lunch, lots of interesting stops on the tour.
9) Stockholm: Good excursion around the city and at the Vasa museum. Not enough time. Amazing four-hour cruise through the islands on our way out.
10) Dover/Southampton: Interesting drive between cities. Pretty good hotel, but it had the usual bizarre English plumbing and no A/C. Excellent dinner at the White Star tavern.
11) QM2 transatlantic crossing: All in all, one of the big highlights of the trip. Service is very low-key, possibly bordering on unfriendly in a few cases, but the ship was magnificent and we were very grateful that the cabin problem was swiftly resolved. Food was adequate to excellent. We would do it again!

One other comment before ending this blog entry: Steve & I were probably responsible for dozens of new iPad purchases, especially by crew members who had money to burn. In fact, we would not be surprised to learn that several QM2 crew members descended on the Apple store on Fifth Avenue today, hoping to pick up an iPad. This gizmo was so wonderful during this trip!

We might post a photo or two later on and will end this journal with a “safe arrival” message from home.

Cheers!

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