Posted by: facetothewind | June 20, 2014

Sail Away

Four generations after my Italian forebears set sail from Italy bound for America with scarcely more than a suitcase of hope for a new life, I find myself on a ship crossing the Atlantic going the opposite direction, for the same reason. In those intervening hundred-something years since my great grandparents landed in the new world, America has gone from the land of possibility to one where I have lost hope for what I hold dear. And so here I stand on the rear deck of a ship sailing east, seeking a new life in the old world knowing all too well that wherever you go…there you are.


My ancestors were undoubtedly packed onto a crowded steamship with meager accommodation such as global travel for common folk was in 1906. Perhaps some measure of their dreams for prosperity were accomplished as evidenced by the fact that 108 years later, I’m on a magnificent luxury ocean liner being ridiculously pampered for the week of this crossing. Whatever chutzpah they brought with them seemed to trickle its way through the generations all the way to my wallet.


At times the Queen Mary 2 felt like a bus with a ballroom. At times like I was on the Lawrence Welk Show. At other times like a boutique hotel gently rocking me to sleep at the end of another 23 hour day. This ship is the rightful heir to the throne in a long line of historic ocean liners. Standing next to Tilda Swinton and Wes Anderson in the ballroom perhaps some photographer snapped a photo that will appear on the wall of the next ship to ascend the throne. And I as a commoner will have been a very ancillary part of history, cropped just outside the frame.


Queen Mary 2 when launched was the largest passenger ship on earth. Ten years later it ranks 7th among the world’s cruise ships, though Cunard is careful to draw the distinction between a cruise ship and an ocean liner, a class in which she stands, er floats, alone. The architecture is part of the distinction with a high bow (for cutting through the open seas), as well as the absence of beer belly and wet t-shirt contests at the pool. The QM2 spends her summers shuttling back and forth between Europe and the United States, carrying people who choose a more leisurely journey – 7 days versus 7 hours. For some it’s fear of flying and the requisite stress, jetlag, and exploded toothpaste in your luggage.


For others it’s a chance to experience the rebellious elegance of slow travel in a fast world. But why do we relish the chance to dress up and indulge ourselves in such luxury?  Could it be that those who can afford such experiences are running a deficit of feeling special?


The legions of unhappy white faces attended to by smiling brown faces is certainly some indictment that privilege doesn’t necessarily afford one joy. And so standing alone beneath the ship’s giant red funnel in the middle of the ocean, I felt giddy for this rarified moment. Surely it’s a peak experience but in this moment with only the sea as my witness, it somehow felt a bit lonely.


I could safely say that my travel companion Jean and I are both poignantly aware that all our own privilege — however pale compared to those on the higher decks — hasn’t brought us the love we both seek, someone to make us feel special. And so for now the canapés and champagne, the white gloved tea service and the chocolates placed carefully on our turned-down beds will have to do.


Peak experiences are in short supply in my life. Booking passage on a transatlantic crossing is guaranteed to deliver a number of them each day. So was it worth it? Yes. Every penny. The food was extraordinary, the music wonderful and abundant, the service impeccable. It was also a chance to spend good quality time with my friends. So would I do it again? With the right people and the right circumstances, most definitely. Was I bored with 7 days at sea? Let’s just say I didn’t open my book once.

Watch the video…

Click on photos to enlarge and advance through them with right or left arrows…


Next stop: London



  1. Ciao, David, from Vienna! Love the pix, will take a closer look when I get home later this week. First time I’ve checked email in 3 weeks and am plowing through 400 messages. We are having a fantastic trip; sounds like you are, too. So glad you’re loving Paris again. How can one not?!


  2. Oh, and P.S. Don’t forget we were served by plenty of white people, too. I don’t agree that the QM2 is one of those WASP country club experiences.

  3. Oops, typo: Caption that says “Leaving New York Harbor, Friday, June 13, 2004” should read “2014.”

  4. David, I finally had a chance to watch the video. Wonderful!! I especially love the shot from on high with the blue, blue water where you really get a sense of how fast the ship is going. Love reliving the memories. xxoo

  5. David–Lisa sent me your video from the QM2 and I loved it. I’m going again in January but wish it were tomorrow. I felt as though I were along for the ride. Thanks for the memories. P.S. My sister and I meet Lisa and Tim a year ago May on the QM.

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