The Queen Mary 2 moored starboard side at berth 46 on the Ocean Cruise Terminal in Southampton around 6:30 am. All of the guests, except the 500 of us remaining on to NYC, would be departing in Southampton. The QM2, like Princess, but unlike HAL, doesn’t make announcements during the disembarkation throughout the ship, but only in the particular lounges specified for your particular departure group. Consequently had we not known so many people were disembarking, we would have never really known based on the lack of any announcements.
The UK required 100% passport to passenger inspection so everyone, even if you decided to stay aboard, was required to present themselves to immigration authorities at some time during the morning. We were planning on meeting our tablemate from the 2016 World Cruise since he lives about 30 miles away.
We proceeded to Deck 3 to leave the ship a little after 10 AM and discovered that the immigration officials had positioned themselves right before you entered the upper Grand Lobby. There wasn’t any line and we were cleared by the authorities immediately. Once in the terminal we wound around various hallways and corridors and then down an escalator to the large hall where the baggage was staged for the disembarking passengers. All the bags were long gone by 10 am and we had to walk the length of this long space before we could exit toward the street.
Our friend, Kelvin, was waiting for us and we quickly left and walked a hundred yards or so to where he parked his car. As I normally do when I first arrive in countries where cars drive on the left hand side, I tried to enter the car on the driver’s side, instead of the passenger’s side since they are, of course, reversed on right hand drive cars.
Stonehenge, about 30 miles away, would be our destination as we have never been there and Kelvin hadn’t been there since he was a young boy. Salisbury, home to the Salisbury Cathedral, is right on the way to Stonehenge and would make an interesting stop if you have more time. Stonehenge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is currently owned by the Crown and managed by English Heritage.
On the way to Stonehenge I pulled up their website and learned that they recommend buying tickets online in advance and reserving an entry time. They cautioned that during busy periods it may be impossible for walk up visitors to gain entry to the site. Since we were visiting during the middle of the week I was hoping that the crowds wouldn’t be too bad. Kelvin recalled that the site used to be accessible without any tickets by simply parking alongside a nearby road and walking across a field. The site is still visible from the road, but there is fencing to prevent people from walking in and I suspect that stopping alongside this road is probably prohibited.
The drive to Stonehenge took about 1 hour and 30 minutes. There is a large parking lot for cars, and another lot for tour buses. From the parking to the visitors center is about a 200 yard walk along a level sidewalk. When we arrived in the visitors center, we were pleased to observe that there were only a few people in front of us to buy tickets and there wasn’t any issue in getting tickets for immediate entry. The price for seniors (over 60) was 14.30 pounds. I think full price was $18.30. There was a small fee for the audio tour, which was a handheld handset that would play recordings when you pressed a button that corresponded to a marker on the path circling the site. If you wanted to save a few pounds, 2 people could probably share one tour and then take turns listening.
Getting to the actual site required taking a shuttle bus for about 5 minutes or walking about 25 minutes. The buses leave the visitors center every few minutes and there wasn’t much of a wait. The bus lets you out about 100 yards or so from the sidewalk that starts the clockwise circle around the site. We took one lap around the monument at a very leisurely pace, listening to the 8 audio tour stops along the way. Although the monument had a different look as you walked around, the difference was subtle, so if you were in a hurry, you could walk to the monument then head counterclockwise around the site to stop 8 which is the closest point you can get, and then return to the bus.
The site was very interesting and contemplating how this was constructed and for what purpose made for an interesting visit. The entire roundtrip from visitor center to the site and back including one lap around the monument took 1 hour. Back in the visitor center is a gift shop, a café and some more exhibits. Plan for 30 minutes to an hour here depending how in-depth you want to get with the exhibits and how much time you need in the gift shop and café.
On the way back to Southampton we stopped at an English Pub called Wheatsheaf Inn. The Inn was very nice, had a traditional English menu, and wasn’t very crowded. We had the Fish and Chips which were very good. The chips were hot and crispy with a soft interior and the fish had a nice crisp batter covering the hot moist cod inside. Highly recommended.
Since we had a friend with a car, we didn’t investigate rental car options, but if rental cars were available nearby, I would recommend getting an earlier start and hiring a car, driving to Salisbury, then on to Stonehenge and stop at the Wheatsheaf Inn on the way back.
The ride back to the Queen Mary took about 1 hour and we arrived around 4pm with an all aboard time of 4:30 with our departure scheduled for 5pm.
There was another sail-away on deck 8 aft with a live band, that was much the same as the one when we left Hamburg. Since we already participated in a lifeboat drill, we were excused from the one scheduled this afternoon for the newly embarked passengers.
At 7:45 there was a single show for both seatings that presented a few numbers from the Cunard Singers and Dancers, followed by a dance demonstration by the onboard dance instructors Volodymyr and Nadiya, and then an instrumental performance of Lady Gaga’s Poker Face by the Royal Court Orchestra. I find it a little humorous that the introductory song by the Queen Mary 2’s Royal Court Theatre Orchestra was a song by Lady Gaga – times they are a changing! After the bands performance there was a final number by the Cunard Singers and Dancers before they wrapped the show at 8:30, just in time for late seating.
Joanna Haley, the Entertainment Director, mentioned during her remarks that the Queen Mary 2 has 34 musicians on the ocean liner playing in the theaters, ballrooms and various lounges. As a comparison, the Amsterdam which carries a little less than ½ of the passengers had 11 live musicians on the world cruise or about 1/3 the number of live musicians as the QM2.
Our table was full tonight with 2 new singles and one new couple. Our oval table of 8 was full and we all had a wonderful time getting to know each other and discussing our daily activities. One of our tablemates has cruised about 100 times on Cunard and was fascinating to talk with and learn more about Cunard and the ins and out of this wonderful ocean liner.
For dinner Judy had the lamb chops and I had the baked cod which were both wonderful. Since there wasn’t a late show we all lingered a little longer than normal.
Tomorrow is our first sea day of the “crossing” and will also be our first formal night with the Black and White Ball.
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