Category Archives: QM2 2016

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Canada, Halifax, North America, Nova Scotia, QM2,Cunard,Queen Mary 2

Queen Mary 2 – New York to New York

Category:QM2 2016,Travel Tags : 

As we mentioned in the intro to this section, we decided to take another cruise on Cunard's Queen Mary 2. We really looked forward to seeing all the changes in-store from her five weeks in dry dock. Cunard got us hooked on checking online to see the latest updates throughout the "Remaster."

We arrived in New York the day before the cruise and met up with our travel companions, Charmaine and Kevin. You may remember them from our transatlantic crossing last year. They've agreed to join us once again having arrived in New York from Texas a couple days earlier. With arriving late afternoon and having early dinner plans there wasn't really much time to sight see so we just grabbed a cocktail at the hotel's roof top bar before heading for dinner at Mario Batali's La Sirena. More about the Viceroy Hotel and La Sirena in later posts.

The next day was embarkation. The doorman at the hotel grabbed us a town car and we were off. We tried to get to the dock a little earlier than last year to avoid the lines. But even just getting to the dock was a challenge. Traffic in Manhattan was HORRIBLE this morning, perhaps every morning. But not only that, our driver didn't really know how to get us to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. Sure, he new what Brooklyn was and vaguely where it is, but beyond that he had to rely on us and our phones for directions. In all fairness though, getting to the cruise terminal is nothing less than convoluted. It's in an industrial area just south of the Brooklyn Bridge and requires many twists and turns to find. Come on PNYNJ - you can do better! Some signage would even be helpful.

After much ado with getting on-board (the ship docked late this morning so we had to wait about an hour to board). Oddly, there weren't many staff around to assist, nonetheless we quickly found our cabin, Queens Grill suite 9006, on our own. Knowing the lay of the ship from before helped as we were able to avoid the elevator bank that everyone else was using. Since we had carry-on luggage and bypassed the porters earlier, there was no need to wait for bags to show up so after a few photos of the pristine stateroom we were able to unpack right away and start re-exploring the ship. As you can see, Cunard has done an amazing job creating a beautiful art deco inspired suite. The colors, nautical with a modern edge, the amenities now include your own Illy Espresso maker, and many other perfect touches.

Perhaps due to the ship having just been remastered, the crew might be new to the Grills suites. We saw no one else assisting passengers to their suites much less greeting us. This only odd because Cunard makes a very big deal about the high level of attention you are to receive as having booked an'exclusive' Queen's Grill Suite. Our traveling companions had a different experience: their cabin steward was there to greet them and make them feel at home. Oh well. 

Cunard, QM2, QM2 Remastered, Queens Grill Suite
 Cunard, QM2, QM2 Remastered, Queens Grill Suite
Cunard, QM2, QM2 Remastered, Queens Grill Suite

Not to sound too critical, but here are a few things that could be improved upon:

  • No electrical plug next to the headboard. Some of us travel with medical hardware like a C-PAP, requiring our steward to search out and bring us an insanely huge and garish bright orange extension cord!
  • Beautiful writing desk situated to catch natural light from the balcony...again, no plugs for laptops, Surface or iPad's...and no table lamp or writing pad.
  • We liked the original teak lounge chairs on the deck with built-in foot rests, though the new more contemporary wicker chairs are fine but required us to bring over the one foot stool if we wanted to stretch out.

As I recall, we pulled out of port right on time, but by now the skies had let loose with a heavy downpour. The castoff party was moved to the Pavilion pool with its retractable roof (now closed!).

QM2, QM2 Remastered,Pavillion
 
QM2, QM2 Remastered

We, along with Charmaine and Kevin, hung around long enough to have a glass of champagne but the enclosed space with the band was just too noisy for us so we moved on - to our favorite bar on the ship, The Commodore Club - aahh quiet!

The changes on board the ship were by no means revolutionary, with some exception. Mostly more subtle, being updates to the "soft" furnishings like carpets, window coverings and upholstery in most areas of he ship. They did add a number of single-occupant cabins and 30 new Club Balcony staterooms on the top deck (not done yet, however). The biggest changes were in dining venues. The Kings Court Buffet was completely revamped for a better flow and layout (though still a little confusing). They also added a new American BBQ/Smokehouse which always smelled good but we never got a chance to try it. The other big change on this level was what was formerly the Winter Garden.  This was an Edwardian-style lounge with fake lattice and trompe l'oeil garden scenes which felt very dated (think First Class Lounge on the Titanic) was now transformed into a lovely lounge with a nod to the art deco of the original Queen Mary. Now called the Carinthia Lounge, this was also the place to sample vintage Port. They have a bottle from each year since the founding of the Cunard line in 1840, costing upwards of  multiple (tens of?) thousands of dollars! We had to pass on that extravagance, sadly.

The QM2 also has the only dog and cat kennels at see. This was displaced by the construction of the Club Balcony staterooms but apparently enlarged and expanded for more 4-legged guests. They still  have their own lamppost and fire hydrant.

QM2, QM2 Remastered

One other well-needed update was in the spa. Not much changed here other than the hydro-therapy room (aka gigantic whirlpool). The room previously had planters of fake palm trees and bamboo, all removed now making the room feel more fresh and open. The mis-matched ceiling tiles were fortunately replaced. Otherwise just general maintenance in here, maybe new tiling here and there.

Then:
Canyon Ranch Spa, QM2

And Now:
Canyon Ranch Spa, QM2, QM2 Remastered

Here's our dining table from our voyage last year as compared to after Remastering:

Then:

Night, Princess Grill, QM2, Ship

And Now:Princess Grill, QM2, QM2 Remastered

One other interesting looking addition to the ship is a Chef's Table with Sommelier Wine Tasting in the Sir Samuel's restaurant. Reservations for this would be a must as it's held in a small private room seating about 12 persons. Unfortunately, they weren't ready to get this program started on this cruise. They did, however, have some of the potential wines on display in the cases near this dining room, they looked great! We'll have to come back for that one. 

Coming soon: Culinary adventures and political intrigue on the high seas.

 


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La Sirena, NYC, New York, New York City, Restaurants

La Sirena – New York

Category:Dining,Food,QM2 2016

Dinner for our night in New York before once again boarding the Queen Mary 2 (see our last trip) was at La Sirena, a Mario Batali venture just in its 5th month. It’s a large, open space, so different than the current trend toward ‘micro’ restaurants. Of course, it’s a gamble to produce the high quality dishes typical out of a smaller kitchen, where attention to detail is a trademark.

La Sirena, New York, North America, Restaurants, USA

We had an early seating, mostly due to wanting to have time for cocktails on the Viceroy’s The Roof terrace later and be ready for bed early.

The staff was prompt, generous with their time in explaining the menu. I questioned portion sizes because American pasta portions are just huge, and if you want a multi-course meal it’s just ridiculous to be served an Olive Garden-sized plate of noodles and then have room to enjoy an entrée.

Our waiter said the kitchen would create the meal as we wished. If we wanted to share antipasti and salad courses, but wanted to selfishly have our own Secundi and Primi courses, so be it…which is precisely what we did.

We weren’t in any hurry, so we asked the Sommelier, Michelle, to offer up suggestions for champagne to start us out. She suggested a wonderful Champagne from Bordeaux.  It was just what we wanted at a good price too, given how restaurants mark up their liquor. We sipped and talked for quite awhile, the wait staff watching our pace from behind the scenes. Michelle needs a shout out here. She was not only knowledgeable, but kind enough to lead us to just the right red wine with dinner; ‘a Rina 2014 Etna Rosso Girolamo Russo, a Pinot Noir from Mt. Etna. Being from the Pacific Northwest, I wanted to particularly try a Pinot with the minerality forwarding the volcanic notes we’re used to. You could really taste the new earth of Mt. Etna but not in a slap ‘yo Mamma kind of way, but a robust, unashamed vintage.

Drinks, La Sirena, New York, North America, Restaurants, USA, Wine

Given all the various courses and combinations of proteins and sauces, this was no easy feat…but not a challenge for Michelle. She was just great on all accounts.

In short, the meal stood up to our strange ordering pattern and food requirements. This is what our table ordered:

Anitpasti

  • Soft Shelled Crab with rossato and fresh herbs, two orders thank you very much
  • Barrolo fresh mozzarella, English Pea purée
Food, La Sirena, New York, North America, Restaurants, USA Food, La Sirena, New York, North America, Restaurants, USA

I am crazy for soft-shelled crab and cannot find it easily in Seattle. I guess the local purveyors and restaurateurs just haven’t caught on to the love of soft-shelled crab. Seattle is Dungeness land, so no surprise.  Our server explained they were cooked in the traditional way, just dredged in seasoned flour and fried up. Perfection. No messing with it, straight forward and delicious. We had two orders of the crab and I think I ate most of them.

Salad

  • Frisée Salad with soft poached egg, pepperoni lardon and potato

Food, La Sirena, New York, North America, Restaurants, USA

Primi

  • Tortellini stuffed with cheeses, in a brown butter gremolatta
  • Black Squid ink pasta with local lobster (NO one touch my pasta course!…okay, I did share, but just a little)
Food, La Sirena, New York, North America, Restaurants, USA Food, La Sirena, New York, North America, Restaurants, USA

Secundi

  • Pork Loin Chop, rib-in, garbanzo purée and shaved fennel

Food, La Sirena, New York, North America, Restaurants, USA

Dolce

  • Chocolate Brownie with wonderful Grenache  and soft ice cream
  • Doppio Espresso and Americano finished out our meal.

Food, La Sirena, New York, North America, Restaurants, USA

 

Food, La Sirena, New York, North America, Restaurants, USA


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Hotels, NYC, New York, New York City, North America, USA, Viceroy Hotel

New York – Viceroy Hotel

Category:QM2 2016,Travel

Opened in 2013, the Observer (Kim Velsey, 10-10-2013) described the Viceroy as “Soho with a killer view of Central Park, new construction with a mid-century aesthetic, masonry with a soaring glass facade.” And that pretty much captures it. The chic vibe extends from the moment you approach the doorway where you are greeted with ‘Welcome Home’ (actually sounding genuine BTW), to the compact check-in area (our room wasn’t quite ready, so the GM comp’d us two cocktails at The Roof), to The Roof bar (more later), to our room. I have to say, the entire experience was congruent. I know that’s bit of an odd expression for describing one’s stay at a boutique hotel, but the term, like the experience, fit. See also this other write up on The Observer

In the same Observer piece, Viceroy CEO Bill Walshe said of the crowd the hotel hoped  to attract: The “Viceroy’s guests tend to be on the younger side: successful 25 to 50-year-olds in the entertainment and media worlds whose parents might have stayed at the Carlyle but who want something a little more modern for themselves.” Having stayed at both the Carlyle and the Viceroy, I’d say they hit their target audience on the money, so to speak. After all, the Viceroy isn’t the least expensive place you could stay in the area ($175-800/night), but by no means is it the most expensive either. And yes, the tenants seemed to be just as he predicted.

The Roof

Hotels, NYC, New York, New York City, Viceroy Hotel

 

Located on the 29th floor, getting off the elevators you enter the lounge and bar area proper. Warm tones, leather and wood – elements carried throughout the entire hotel. This is the place you’d want to be on an inclement or blustery winter’s night in the city. Turn right and The Roof terrace opens up to an unbelievable  panorama view looking north into Central Park.  To the eye, it seems like the luckiest of coincidences that there just ‘happens’ to be a straight, uninterrupted shot looking north through a narrow passage between flanking, hulking skyscrapers to the East and West. The park is there almost to touch.

 

Drinks, Hotels, NYC, New York, New York City, North America, USA, Viceroy Hotel Drinks, Hotels, NYC, New York, New York City, North America, USA, Viceroy Hotel

 

We had our two complimentary cocktails…oh, who’s kidding…we had a few…and a charcuterie plate before we had to get to the room a prepare to meet friends out for dinner. Keep in mind, we had arrived a bit early, probably 4pm, so the Manhattan crowd of 20-50 somethings had yet to be set free from their offices and crowd the terrace. For a while, we had The Roof almost to ourselves, sans a few squeamish guests afraid to go over to the edge and peer downward. What a great way to kick off our evening in the city before heading out on our voyage aboard the recently ‘remastered’ QM2. We returned to The Roof after dinner for with Kevin & Charmaine for a nightcap after dinner. By this time, though still early by NYC standards, was already getting crowded - many of the prime tables and seating having been reserved.

 

 

The Room

Hotels, NYC, New York, New York City, North America, USA, Viceroy Hotel

We had a terrace room on a lower floor, so the view wasn’t nearly as crazy good as at the bar, still, quite a nice surprise in Midtown, in the midst of Millionaire row. The room was updated 60/70’s, stylish, tasteful and comfortably sized. The linens, crisp, white with boarders stitched in gold played off other elements in the room and bath.

Hotels, NYC, New York, New York City, North America, USA, Viceroy Hotel

Nothing was left uncurated, but it didn’t quite seem as though Disney had come in and designed the place. The bath was unapologetically clad in marble and brass, a combination that is making a long-overdue come-back.  Masculine and  welcoming. We’re taking back the brass and marble décor scheme and making it our own! The ideas are percolating for our master bath 🙂

Hotels, NYC, New York, New York City, North America, USA, Viceroy Hotel

 

The Vicerory, Midtown or Central Park, where ever you want to place it, is definitely worth it. A wrap-around sense of being looked after, thoughtfully anticipating needs, in a smaller scale luxury setting.  It’s clear that the owners of the Viceroy want to cater to the new, young wealth so obviously present in this part of town, but don’t be dissuaded if you’re like us, in our 50’s and appreciative of style while also being cost conscious. We booked far enough in advance to get a very good price. Their website notes certain discounts for advanced reservations. Take advantage of that. We will be back ‘home’ for sure some day soon.

NYC, New York, New York City, North America, USA

 


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