NYC & Queen Mary 2 Voyage
Trans Atlantic Crossing / New York / Tennessee May / June 2008
by Syd & June Burns © 2008

Syd and June Burns, of Penrith, England, cruised the high seas in style aboard the Queen Mary 2. Excellent on-board access made their voyage a luxury, indeed.

Thursday 15 May

Rail to Southampton. First part easy until we changed at Birmingham. A good job we travelled 1st Class as there was chaos onboard. The train was full to bursting, owing to a fault somewhere. June was wheeled on and eventually got her seat. We were glad to get off and be met by old friends who helped us to the Novotel.  A really good wheelchair friendly place. A night out in the town, excitement about the QM 2.

Syd & June Burns aboard Queen Mary 2
Syd & June Burns add a touch of class to the Queen Mary 2 voyage.

Friday 16 May

A taxi to the boarding area and then a slick operation to process us. Wheelchair access was fast tracked, so that from being dropped off to getting aboard was 20 minutes maximum. Oh, that the airports were like that. The cabin was large enough but only after a table and chair was removed. The first thing we did was to knock the table over, breaking two champagne glasses, but thankfully, not the bottle. All was rectified in double quick time.

The bathroom was more than adequate. It had a roll-in, roll-out shower and all the facilities were as good as any June had come across in a five-star hotel. There were also plenty of accessible toilets throughout the ship, but  the doors were so heavy to open and close that June could not manage them herself. However, there were always plenty of helping hands when June used them without me being around. I think maybe a modification is underway on the doors as we were told that the new ship Victoria has push-button access.

We explored the ship and found the only other fault. There were raised metal strips where the main doors could be closed in an emergency. They were uncomfortable when the front bogey wheels on the chair passed over them. We soon got used to where they were. Not bad, two minor complaints in a 6-day voyage.

The obligatory life boat drill followed. Dinner was at 6.30 p.m. and elegantly casual. That meant the men had to wear a jacket without a tie. We had a table for 6 and the people were a great combination. Food and service absolutely impeccable.

Syd & June explore the ship.   June enjoys easy rolling on the Queen Mary 2
Syd & June Burns explore the elegant ship.   June Burns enjoys a roll on the spacious Queen Mary 2.

Saturday 17 May

Up early, great breakfast and attended an art auction. Knowing nothing about art, we found it really interesting and informative. We had a few drinks and then lunch. Lunch was wherever you fancied. The main dining room was a bit formal, so we chose to eat at the Kings Court, which was a self-service food hall. We had a Chinese meal with as much as you could possiblly eat.

Everywhere was wheelchair friendly. We made a mistake in the afternoon of sitting in a bar and then being surrounded with people attending a reading of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Not our scene at all but to get out we would have interrupted everyone. So we had to grin and bear it all. At least it was something different, not an activity we would want to repeat. The evening meal was a black tie event. Everyone was so elegant. The food and service was superb. The evening was finished off in the Commodore lounge, listening to piano jazz.

Sunday 18 May / Tuesday 20 May

We attended lectures which answered a lot of questions we had about Photoshop. Visiting the Planetarium every day was something special. There was a reserved space for wheelchair.. We needed a map to find where it was. Plenty of walking around the deck .even though it was a bit breezy, calling in at a few bars en route. Dinner was as good as ever. A jazz combo was playing in a lounge called the Chart room. There was all types of entertainment going on, from shows, drama, classical, jazz, to a nightclub and a pub called the Golden Lion. There were casinos and an internal swimming pool For quieter moments there was the largest library afloat.. And, of course, eating 24 hours a day if you required. Enough to keep entertained if you wanted or just relax. Shopping was a delight even for Syd, with big names like Harrods, Hermes, etc.

Wednesday 21 May

The last full day aboard. We made the most of the day. We were so impressed that we have booked again for next year to do the extended crossing to Newfoundland, finishing off in Boston. It was a good job we booked on board as we got the last wheelchair cabin. It was the same one that we were using. There are only 30 wheelchair cabins on the ship .There was a full gala dinner with everyone dressed up to the nines. The dinner finished off with a grand march of 125 chefs and heads of departments. Really spectacular. It was a matter of hugs all round to our table companions and then a round of the bars to say goodbye to all the staff. Cases were put outside the cabin doors and they were whisked away quickly.

Thursday 22 May

Syd was up at 4.30 a.m. to see the ship arriving at New York. June had the right idea to stay in bed. Too cold and not as spectacular as thought, mind you going under the bridge was amazing as the top of the ship had only a few feet to spare. Special treatment for disembarkation. Each wheelchair had a designated helper who took us through baggage, immigration and customs. A taxi quickly took us to the Marriott Midtown arriving around 11 a.m. To our joy we were whisked into our room as we thought we would be waiting until afternoon. We wandered around NYC covering many miles. We were really disappointed at the quality of the sidewalks. All broken and potholed. June had a very rough ride in places. Got w/chair tickets to see the shows Cry Baby and Lion King. One of the few advantages of being in a wheelchair is that the price was well under 50% of standard price and in really quality seats. We ate at a French restaurant one of many in the area. Disabled toilets were at a premium. As usual we just wandered into big hotels.

Friday 23 May

We took a Greyline tour bus which was booked by the hotel concierge. He was a most helpful man who really went out of his way to put us on the right tracks. The tour was a little disappointing as June was strapped in on the bottom deck of the bus and could not see anything, but the guides were good. We were fast tracked onto the bus at each stop. We thought we would do a lot on the tour but Ground Zero stopped us in our tracks. Such an emotional place, especially at the church. There was not a dry eye inside. June and I just hung o to one another along with another hundred. We were shell shocked and repaired to the Hilton Hotel that was completely rebuilt and stayed for an hour with a drink. We ate at an outlet called Oliva, very quick and efficient with piano jazz to accompany. The show Cry Baby was a spectacular '50s musical. We were met at the door and shown to our seats with true courtesy which made the night even better. Couldn't have been bettered.

Saturday 23 May

Met up with our friend Mary Lou who is blind and one of the most courageous people ever. She bussed down on her own from Hartford, CT to stay with a friend and then taxied to our hotel for breakfast with us. She stayed till noon and then we put her in a taxi. She is inspirational. Next stop Rockefeller Centre and a view from the top. Fast tracked again Turkish Day March. A colourful march to say the least. Last night's show was bettered by seeing The Lion King. Treated like royalty. Good w/chair seats and the show was breathtaking. Had a late dinner at the Lexington Marriott. Really good toilet facilities.

Sunday 24 May

Syd & June at the United Nations,
Syd & June touring the United Nations.

A pottering about day. Weather great so we walked to the UN building. It was not an inspiring building at all. We were not surprised that very little ever happened there. Sunday was a dead day to go exploring there. We lunched at a Swedish Bistro then packed for the next adventure. We returned to the French restaurant for dinner. La Mangeoire. A balmy night so we sat outside. We indulged ourselves at the Lexington Marriott with a few celebratory drinks. We survived and enjoyed New York. We thought the sidewalks were the worst we have encountered anywhere in the world.

Monday 24 May

Left the hotel early for JFK. Very quiet fast journey being Memorial Day. Plane delayed to Knoxville. Great rush at DC to catch the connection but all was well. Arrived at the Marriott a lovely room all that was required for a wheelchair.

Went into town to explore. It was shut. We were getting starved and eventually found the square. It was hot, hot, hot. Falling into La Costa. Extremely welcoming, great wheelchair  toilets and the food was something you would die for. The first pint of beer never touched the sides. Back to the hotel where we found we were elite members of the Marriott group. Free hors d'oeuvre's. Spent the rest of the evening there.

Tuesday 25 May

Up early having a free breakfast. Took a trolley bus into town. Wonderful free ride with a lift to get the wheelchair on board. The lovely lady driver introduced us to all her passengers and we were bombarded with information on Knoxville and environs. The information Centre was the next call where they had traditional country music at noon daily. We spent a few hours there. Finished the day off by the pool, really chilling out and read.

Wednesday 26 May

Picked up by Annette and Paul and taken to their second home at Sampson's Glen on Douglas Lake Tennessee. Like home from home to us now. Once again like an Irish Parliament, everyone talking, no one listening, great fun. Saw our first baseball game and Syd had the honour of pitching the first ball. The Smokies v Carolina Mudcats. We were the guests of honour and had more than our fair share of hot dogs and beer. I imagine baseball is like cricket to an American, totally incomprehensible. Exhausted by the time we got back.

Thursday 27 May

Shopping at various outlets. The dollar is in our favour. Went into the Smokies to Cherokee. A great day. All wheelchair friendly. Bought beautiful dolls and managed to stay late. Relaxing for the rest of the day with home cooking.

Friday 28 May

Out for a cruise on the lake. Temperature rising and really great fun. June very comfortable off the wheelchair. A bit more shopping and then off to Clinch Mountain Overlook, Different for we Brit's. Annette and Paul had set it up. We were welcomed with a big cake, hugs all round and set up for a night of local country music with some of the most talented musicians ever. How can you beat vinegar pie. No drink as they were good practicing Christians. Syd sang with the band, ending up doing some sort of country dance. Wonderful welcoming people. One of our best nights ever. Still not sure about vinegar pie, though.

Saturday 29 May

Sitting around talking and then a mad dash to pick up some cicadas. June is in a group that is into making dolls. Fairy wings. Annette had found someone who was inundated with cicadas. We met with the lady and then June and I spent a few hours dewinging the dead ciradas. Different to say the least. Went for a meal at Ruby Tuesday's. June said best disabled toilets. Getting knackard by now.

Sunday 30 May

Last day at Sampson's Glen. How sad. Breakfast on the porch, talked till mid day and then off to the airport via the Cracker Barrel for lunch. Another great place for disabled toilets. Knoxville Airport, totally relaxing, even has rocking chairs in the lounge. What a difference to the DC airports. Total shambles. We were late getting in and the ground staff couldn't care less if we caught the connection or not. Eventually they got June off the plane and then it was a charge like Ben Hur across the airport. Two minutes late but they let us on. We got to the aircraft door, but there was no aisle chair as requested by the incoming pilot. June was in distress by this time, and once again we were touched to near tears when all the best seat passengers all jumped up and offered us their well-paid seats. Our faith in human nature is abounding. Well done you much-maligned Americans. We arrived at the Marriott JFK worse for wear but all was set right by the greeting and swift transport to our room.

Monday 31 May

Had a lie in, great breakfast and lounged around the hotel as they allowed us to stay in the room until 2 p.m. We were totally refreshed by the time the hotel shuttle took us to the BA ticketing. The woman was totally brain dead and had no idea how to process a wheelchair. Security went crazy when they found that we were not accompanied. Eventually we got through with our usual thoughts that we would sooner walk than travel BA. Good seats on the flight until the back fell out of Syd's seat. We were moved rather quickly to another but reinforced our thoughts on travelling BA. We would still sooner walk. However, as it was all part of the deal with Cunard we never had much option. A quick flight and we were picked up by our taxi at Manchester Airport on time. The vacation was that good that we are doing an extended QM next year that goes Southampton, New York, Halifax, and finishes at Boston. All in all a brilliant holiday with only minor glitches at airports. We can put up with that. Once again, avoid Washington, DC airports.

Don't miss Syd & June Burn's many other adventures:

London Holiday '09

Amsterdam Weekend '07

Springtime in London '07

Weekend in London '07

New Zealand Part I

New Zealand Part II

Barcelona '06

Palma Mallorca


East Coast Of America (Boston to Richmond and return)

Chicago and Las Vegas

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