Dancing to New York

There was only one way Georgia Thompson was going to cross the Atlantic: she would do it dancing.

Her first cruise was sixteen years ago, since then she’s been a passenger on the Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Victoria, and the Marco Polo. She’s cruised the Baltic and the Mediterranean, and last year took on the grandest of them all; Southampton to New York on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2.

At a staggering 1,132 feet long and 131feet wide, the QM2 came into service in 2004. It remains the only ocean liner sailing a transatlantic schedule every year, carrying up 2620 passengers on-board.

But despite the fairytale that comes with this decadent vessel, Georgia wasn’t attracted to the QM2 for the romance of the great golden age of travel. She didn’t do it for the food and booze either. She didn’t even do it for the opulence or the legendary voyage to New York.

She did it for the dancing.

A passion for showing off her moves meant Georgia Thompson – who’s never had a dance lesson in her life – would inevitably grace the dance floor of the renowned ocean liner that boasts the largest ballroom in the cruising world.

And the Queen Mary’s obsession with size doesn’t stop in the ballroom. This cruise liner is 147 feet longer than the Eiffel Tower is tall, and 113 feet longer than the original Queen Mary (the ocean liner, not the monarch).

With 14 decks and a whistle that can be heard for 10 miles, the attraction is in its grandeur. And for hard-out cruising travellers, it’s something to aspire to.

But Georgia claims she’s not a traveller; she’s a sun worshipper. And for her, that’s what cruising is all about. When she isn’t spinning on the dancefloor attracting a crowd of onlookers, she’s on the upper deck basking in the sun. This lady can clearly take the heat – on or off a polished floor.

So attracted was she by seven days at sea and no demanding excursions ashore, Georgia and her partner Peter geared up to dance their way across the waves to New York in August last year.

The first stop on their trip was Dubai, a stopover on their flight from New Zealand to the UK. But the couple were disappointed to arrive in the United Arab Emirates during Ramadan. Although it’s a significant time in the Islamic calendar, to the lay person it just meant nothing was open. The couple traipsed through lavish shopping malls like ghost towns. And it was “clothes dryer hot”, which was tough to take, even for the sun queen.

After eventually arriving in London and staying one night, the couple booked a private car to drive them to the port in Southampton. Georgia had done the trip before and remembered how exhausting and stressful it was to haul hefty cruise luggage through the tube, the bus, and the train. She says it probably only worked out about $100 more to book the private car, which was worth every cent for the convenience.

Georgia and Peter

Georgia and Peter

The transatlantic voyage is a seven-day journey steeped in history and tradition. But for Georgia and Peter, it was a veritable dance-off. With three hours of dancing every night, the pair went on board with suitcases full of evening wear, and bags of energy.

The nice thing about anyone fancying a good old dance is that, on the QM2 you don’t need a partner. With Gentlemen Hosts supplied for anyone dancing alone, this liner provides trained male dancers for ladies without partners in toe.

The Queen Mary is reminiscent of the old ships. Georgia likens it to a villa: a bit dark and lots of little alcoves. If you didn’t get an alcove seat at dinner on the Queen Mary, you’d be looking at a painting instead she says, albeit a very beautiful one. Quite the opposite to the Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Victoria, which Georgia compares to open plan living – light and airy.

Affectionately known to Georgia and Peter as “the cupboard”, the couple stayed in an economy cabin. They weren’t on-board for the accommodation. Who needs a luxury penthouse when you’ve got a grand ballroom?

The food was good and she didn’t suffer sea sickness, which was no surprise as she’d weathered rough seas on the QE2 many years ago.

According to the dancing queen, the theatres on Elizabeth and Victoria are more functional than the Queen Mary, whose grand pillars and old-fashioned aesthetics perhaps don’t lend themselves as well to entertainment as other ships do. There were restrictions on what you could see depending on where you sat.

As non-drinkers, Peter and Georgia’s tab at the end of each night was never expensive. The couple needed one thing only to sustain their dance moves all night: water. The waiting staff in the ballroom welcomed the dancing pair, who attracted other guests to the ballroom coming to watch. Staff were attentive and there was water for them whenever they stepped off the dancefloor for a break.

Whilst energetic in terms of the dancing, the seven-day cruise was relaxing too and Georgia puts that down to gaining an hour each day. Coming the other way can be exhausting she says because you lose an hour a day instead.

With the Manhattan skyline in view, the Queen Mary 2 sailed into the New York harbour at about 7.30am after seven days at sea. And while the couple loved the chance to visit New York, they had seen it all before. For Georgia and Peter, this holiday was nothing to do with the adventure of sightseeing anyway – it was strictly ballroom.

Story by Emma Mackie


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