carolinainmymind

can't you see the sunshine….

On the Queen Mary 2 (Part 1)

Right up front, I’ll just apologize to my friend Jules who has been waiting to see this post.  There will not be near as many pictures as she would like.  I’ll explain why in part 2.

So we went to sleep in our Southampton Airbnb.  ( Click on link if you want to see it.  I totally recommend it.  Good for someone in a wheel chair. Good for catching the QM2   Southampton rental air bnb. )   And look what we saw early the next morning

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The amazing thing was that we knew people from Monte San Savino, (the town we just moved from in Italy) Mark and Molly, who were getting off the QM2 after sailing over from New York City.  We were not able to catch up with them and I hope they had a good visit.   We had one last, fun pub lunch with Enzo and then he took us off to the dock.

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I was pretty excited and happy that things were going smoothly  until we got just inside the door and they said “You can’t have that trolley of carry on luggage.  You have to be able to carry it.”  We, of course had a trolley full, because Ben can not be separated from his computer, his drugs, his sleep machine, his change of clothes, his snacks…..  So I did what I tried to avoid having to do, stood in the lobby and repacked.  I managed to get it down to 2 bags that Ben had to hold (His crap, his lap) and three bags that I had to schlep.  My computer, my jewelry, my change of clothes and other things, all those went off to be checked.  And we took a big risk and sent the snacks too.  Anyway, we finally got on board.

Now I planned and booked this trip one year in advance.  In every communication I was very clear that we were moving and would have a lot of luggage and that Ben was in a wheel chair.  I communicated this with the booking agents and the on board staff more than one time.  In 2007, when we boarded to sail over with our 21 suitcases we were met with total shock that we had so many suitcases.  I wanted to avoid this.  In the summer I called to chat with a booking agent again about the amount of luggage that we would have.  She listened, put me on hold and came back and said “There is a sale going on.  Since there are two of you sailing,  your husband can stay in the handicapped room and you can be booked in another room for only $300 more.  Now if you want to sleep in the same room as your husband and the luggage wants to stay in your room.  Well, we can’t do anything about that.”  I said BOOK IT!  So our luggage traveled in its own room.

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Jules, this is what a normal, window (not balcony) stateroom looks like.  The bathroom and closet are to the left of the chair.  Some of the luggage is lounging on a love seat.  It really is fairly roomy.

But of course our cabin steward was totally baffled by all this luggage in one room.  No one had told him.  But there is a message.  “You have to go back to security.  There is a problem with your luggage.”   So I have to get Ben in the room, get him organized, make sure I can leave him alone.  Try to find a plan of the ship and figure out where I need to go.  Our steward arranges for the head of security to meet me at the elevator at the lowest floor.  The head of security takes me OFF the SHIP and back to where the two pieces of our luggage that I have carefully marked SECURITY have been stopped.  Several months earlier, I wrote to ask how to handle bringing on board  my knives that I cook with, the tools that were my father’s, other prohibited items.  “Pack it, label it, turn it over to security.”  That was the instruction I received from the QM2 on board services staff.  And that the staff that we were sailing with would be informed.  Suddenly, I find myself off the ship, Ben is alone, a good 15 minutes walk from where I am with no way to get in touch with me, I am surround by  five people, four of whom are looking at me like I have made up everything that I just explained.  I consider bursting into tears.  Realize that I need to keep my composure.  And stand there while everyone debates what to do.  The offending items are pulled out and divided into two bundles, my cooking knives and my father’s tools.  It is decided that AT MY OWN EXPENSE I can have these items shipped.  Without knowing shipping costs,  I have to make a very quick decision.  The knives are worth shipping, the used, important only to me hammers, screw drivers and other things can stay behind.  Finally back on the ship, I have to immediately get Ben and roll him through the ship for the safety drill.  Explaining what I have been doing and that is when my composure goes.  So once again, in a room full of people I am standing there with tears streaming down my face.  I am so upset and so furious and so sad that I had to give up my father’s tools and that I have to pay the shipping on my knives.  And that no one seems to know anything about all the emails that I have sent explaining our situation.

The safety drill over, we make our way back to the room.  There is a bright spot.

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Because we are returning guests, there is a bottle of bubbly waiting for us.  I immediately open it  and have a glass.  I have a few minutes to unpack and then it is time to start to get Ben dressed for dinner.  (Fortunately all of our luggage is in one room or the other.  And our change of clothes made it too)  Ben dressed.  Me dressed.  We set off for the dining room.  This is when it dawns on me that even though we are inside on a flat surface, it isn’t really flat.  There is a gradual elevation and decline where each section of the ship is joined.  Someone walking would probably not notice it.  Someone pushing a 250+ pound man in a wheel chair notices it.  We were at one end of the ship.  The dining room was almost at the other end.

We arrive at the dining room, about 10 minutes late.  Goodness knows what I looked like.  I was just happy that I no longer felt like I was going to have a heart attack.  I gave our names.  The extra snooty maitre d’ took one look and said “No one told me he was in a wheelchair.”  I could have lost it, fortunately my earlier glass of wine just made me laugh about it.  Ahhhh, yes.  Our table was up 3 levels.  With a nice long ramp up to it.

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We entered on the level with the lights hanging on,  our table was at the very top level.   I just looked at Mr. Extra Snooty and said “there is no way I can push him up there.”  By this time, some of the staff, many of whom are from the Philippines had seen a fellow country man in need and were pushing Ben up the long, long ramp.  (I really thought that man might have a heart attack.)  Mr. Extra Snooty is lecturing me “that is the table that you requested Madam.”  Excuse me,  I asked for a table with 8 to 10 other people.  How am I supposed to know that it is up 3 levels and can only be accessed by this long, long ramp?  But I don’t say that.  I agree that I will come back the day and change our table.  We manage to have a fun dinner with two very enjoyable sisters.

The next day I am back to arrange to change tables.  I am assigned a new table number.  Several hours later after an hour spent dressing because it is ‘formal night’  we show up again at the dining room.  Late of course.  This time it is my clothes.  Evidently packing and moving 40 + suitcases and pushing a large man around in a wheel chair has caused me to lose weight.  My beautiful dressy pants won’t stay up and I am tripping on them.  So travel takes longer since I have to stop every 30 feet or so and pull my pants up.

Anyway, we are seated.  At a table for two.  A table that sits over the top of an engine or something and vibrates,  no SHAKES!  It is very noisy too.  I am so irritated.  I do manage to get a staff member to take a picture of us.

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Jules, this is the picture of me in my fancy outfit.

Next day I am back with Mr. Extra Snooty, explaining that I love my husband but we are together ALL THE TIME and part of the fun of being on a cruise is to meet other folks and maybe have a chance to talk with them.  Could we please sit at a table with other people?  He gives us a new table assignment.  This time a table for 10 people on the same level as a restaurant entrance.

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We are seated with Stan (from the Bronx) and his wife and a father and daughter from Maryland.  Stan is one of those people who you ask a question and it just opens the flood gates.  You could tell from his wife’s eye rolls that she had heard these stories sooooo many times.  He was pretty interesting.  And I said I wanted conversation.

To wrap this very long post up, we ate dinner with this group several nights, missing one when Ben was ill.  At other times during the day we had encountered the charming sisters that we had dinner with the first night.  On the last night they had decided to hell with Mr. Extra Snooty (They were the ones to give him that nick name.)  and were inviting guests to join them at ‘their’ table.  So we abandonded Stan from the Bronx and his long suffering wife to join them again.  We had a very enjoyable meal.

The head of security had been back in touch with me and agreed upon reading the email from the onboard service staff that I was mislead.  He started the wheels turning to have me reimbursed for the cost of shipping my knives.  He went above and beyond in customer service and could not have been more professional or nice.  He saved the trip.

More in another post about food, what to do on the QM2 and other pics for Jules.

 

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Returning to the move

Hard to believe that it has been since December that I wrote about our move.  Not because it was an awful experience but because I have not had time to write.  We have had a little cold spell here and sometimes I just  refuse to go out.  That makes time to write.

My last bit about the move was on my previous blog, about the first part of our trip through France.  (click here if you want to read it  first part of trip )   We did make it to Calais.  Had a great hotel across from this HUGE shopping area.  I walked over and had to practice great restraint.  There was a CarreFour.  Ohhhh, it was hard.  I made a farewell tour of the rose wine aisle.  Picked up some croissants and cheese for our trip.  Walked back to the hotel.  That is when I decided to pull out the paperwork about how to use the Eurotunnel so that we could talk about it with Enzo at dinner.  That is when it all went downhill.  I realized that I had booked the wrong day!!!!!!  The Eurotunnel folks had expected us there that morning and now we were going to show up 24 hours late!  I immediately burst in to tears.  Nothing to do but get Ben organized, get him in to the restaurant, collect Enzo and while eating dinner, explain to him what I have done.  I can only imagine how this looked.  Two men and one woman in tears at a table in a restaurant. With the woman doing all the talking first in English, then Italian, then explaining the French menu in English and then in Italian, in between sobs.   I had some wine and calmed down a little.  We decided that after dinner Enzo and I would go to the Eurotunnel terminal and chat with them.

Well, the Eurotunnel folks could not have been nicer.  Maybe this happens to others.  For 40 Euros we were able to get re-booked.    The next morning everything went well.  We managed to get on an earlier train.  To cross the channel you board a train made up of modified  freight cars and passenger cars.  We were going in a vehicle so we went into the modified freight car.

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Just like the ambulance in front of us.  Having a wheel chair person in the vehicle allowed us to board first, in the first car.

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Driving to the front end of the train.  Keep in mind this is a modified freight car.  So no frills.  I never got back to the walk-on passenger section which is most likely very nice.  Anyway the train starts.

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There are only windows on the side of the train car that we were in so it was just like sitting in the back seat of a car when it goes through a tunnel.  You saw sky, then you saw artificial lights and then you saw sky again.   Didn’t take long.  Very efficient loading and unloading.  And then we were in England.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I owned stock in Eurotunnel.  Since then I have always wanted to go on it.  I was really tickled that I got to do it.

Without too much trouble we found our Air bnb rental in Southampton.  It was very well located near the dock where the Queen Mary 2 moors.  We had a lovely pub lunch

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Got settled in and watched the sun set.

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I had scheduled us to arrive two days before our sailing on the QM2.  Since we were traveling in December there could have been weather disruptions or vehicle problems.  The extra day allowed for that.  We had a quiet day and then we got to see our friends Howard and Margaret.  They drove quite a ways to visit with us.  We had a drink and dinner pulled together from the carry away options at Tesco.  So nice that we were staying in an apartment rather than a hotel.  We had glasses and china and were able to have a nice celebratory feast.

It was so thoughtful of them to come and that really meant a lot to both Ben and I.  They were off.  We all went to sleep.  Look for the next entry…..our trip on the Queen Mary 2.

 

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