Aboard Wed AM

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Ellen's picture

05/18/2011: I'm sitting in Sir Samuel's, one of the bars on Deck 3 of the Queen Mary 2, waiting to order some Green Tea and writing, but no one seems to notice that I am here. I wanted to just sit down and have someone come up to me and ask me what I wanted. This is a cruise ship, isn't it? I am supposed to expect good service, right?

I watch the busy woman with the glasses and pony tail crossing the room from the bar to several other tables, serving coffees and teas. Perhaps you have to go to the bar to order something here. How strange. I stand at the bar, still not getting attention. I am still expecting someone to ask me what I want. I am about to be bold and brash and call out that I wish to have some Sencha Green Tea with Lemon when I notice the server go over to the area I had just been sitting in and begin to clean up. OK. I'm wrong. I should have expected service there. I stroll back over and call to the server, trying not to be the ugly American. “May I order something, please? I was sitting here earlier, but no one came by.” She is surprised and apologizes. She seems harried, and I realize that she is just overbusy. It was about time I got over myself. My excuse? Tired from traveling. Tired of being overlooked because I was a solo diner.

When I was sitting there typing on my lap top earlier, I must have looked like the last, and apparently abandoned, member of a larger party. When I got up from the table, the server took it as a cue that the party was now completely finished with their refreshment.

My tea has now arrived and I am trying to ignore the fact that it arrived as a tea bag and hot water instead of a steaming pot of fresh tea leaves brewing. I am spoiled from visiting the Boulder Dushanbe Tea House. What a snooty individual I am! Yes: I am truly playing the part of the decadent dreamer, or the pampered princess. You choose. After lunch, I am having a massage and manicure.

Despite my complaints here, I am enjoying the ship. I did have a complication last evening with my luggage which stressed me. I was expecting my large bag to be waiting for me in my cabin when I arrived aboard, but it was not, and the Purser did not know where it was. So I had to leave for dinner before finding out if I was going to be wearing the same outfit all week (capris and a red blouse with 3/4 sleeves would look stunning at the Royal Ascot Ball!)

But the balance of the night was great. I had dinner with my assigned dinner table companions in the Britannia Restaurant and discovered one young woman was traveling solo to Paris from the ship! We promised to compare itineraries. She is going directly to Spain, though, from France, so we will miss each other once we leave Paris, I think. But it would be fun to hook up for dinner one night while there. The other folks are from all over the U.S. Only one couple is not. They are British and have lived in the U.S. for 40 years. Everyone was polite and very interested in my research and a couple of them knew a good bit about Eleanor of Aquitaine and British Royalty.

After dinner, I went straight back to my room. A few minutes later, my bag showed up in the hands of my steward, Bianca, who was glowing with excitement. She had shared my frustration earlier at not having my bag before dinner, but had assured me it would arrive. I think she took personal pride in the fact that it did arrive.

Now as I sip my tea in the bar, I ponder the question, why am I here? This luxury liner with its jewelry and clothing and art boutiques, its spa and Queen's Ballroom, its restaurants full of servers in white linen jackets and bars that stay open until 2:00am, seems to be a far cry from the atmosphere of serious research study that I craved and that sparked the idea for this journey. I was to use this ocean trip to prepare for my intense research later. At least partly. But this is my first day on board. Time to get used to the ship and have some fun enjoying it before I burrow into its corners to read and write. The last thing I want to do now is read the histories of France and Spain that I brought with me, or examine the Dresen train system maps to figure out how to not get trapped in a train and miss my stop, ending of in Berlin. I haven't even found the library yet!

The White Star staff on board the Queen Mary is exceptional. Other than the busy woman in Sir Samuels, every staff person has greeted me with a hearty good morning. Every single one of them. And they work hard. Constantly. They seem cheerful about the work. Like they know why they are here and why they are working so hard. I hope it is true. Hope that they are sending oodles of money home or working towards university or an eventual Visa in the country of their choice.

There are so many languages spoken here. So many accents. People of every color and culture. And we are intimate somehow on this ship. We are all headed in the same nautical direction. We all trust the Captain and his crew to get us to Southampton safely. We all wish to have a pleasant time of it. Most of us are at our leisure. The rest are working their butts off. But, except for the uniforms, you can't tell who is on vacation and who isn't. Everyone is smiling or enthusiastic. Actually, the White Star staff is smiling just a little more. That's just not right. I and my leisurely commrades have expectations -- high ones -- that are likely too high to be met in any reasonable world.

The ship's bell just rang for noon. The Captain came on to tell us that the fog we began to encounter some time early this morning is starting to abate, but the weather report is only momentary on the Atlantic, and will change again. Our route will take us quite close to Novia Scotia and we will pass south of the southernmost point of Newfoundland tomorrow.

__________________________
Ellen
Ever learning, Everlasting