Location is everything wherever you go but especially in the Britannia. The center tables, far from the windows, make you feel you’re in a Friendly’s. The canniest move we made was to tip the maitre d’ handily on our first night, avoiding the bad table that was assigned us and ensuring, each evening, a dramatic window table.
We ate once in the Todd English Restaurant — you pay a supplement to dine there — where the food pops more than it does in the Britannia. But here you must survive near-toxic levels of smugness and pomposity. As soon as you notice that the appetizers include something called “Todd’s Truffled Potato Love Letters,” you know you are in for it, in a Nicholas Sparks kind of way.
I haven’t yet mentioned the casino (I lost $75 in two hours at the blackjack table) or the swimming pools or the gym or library or bookstore or the fact that the QM2’s waiters pull the corks on as many as 600 bottles of wine each day at sea. I haven’t mentioned the weird thrill of hearing the ship’s horn, a sound David Foster Wallace once likened to, on a different vessel, the “flatulence of the gods.” I haven’t mentioned that the first thing Cree did, when she got home, feeling guilty, was post Cunard a $20 check for that Champagne flute.
The Queen Mary 2 maintains the remnants of a class system. It has restaurants, lounges and elevators the herd cannot enter. You wonder: Is traveling on the QM2 really an upper-class thing to do, or is it a middle-class notion of an upper thing to do? You begin to suspect it’s the latter. You are far more likely to meet a salesman from Des Moines aboard the QM2 than a barrister, novelist, fashion designer or duke. Cunard pushes “luxury” as much as luxury.
It’s better to end with sex — or with human interaction, at any rate — than class. On our first day at sea, my friend Will attended a singles’ meet-up. (He has a beautiful girlfriend back home. I asked him to go for my article.) He reported the sad news: 60 or so women crowded this event, all of them over 65, yet there were only a handful of men.
He had also learned one of the open secrets of a certain tier of the cruise industry. Many of these men had been given free passage and meals; they were on board to host tables and dance with single women. On our final nights on the QM2, we’d see these women and their dance partners. They all looked as if they would make this crossing again in a heartbeat.
So would I.