East to West or West to East?

One of the first decisions we had to make when planning the trip was whether we wanted to travel from East to West or vice versa. There seemed to be a certain air of comfort in travelling Eastwards, getting the train or boat to France and then out through Europe but when we mapped the weather charts we realised that if we travelled in the opposite direction we would essentially be following summer around so it was an easy decision to make. More importantly, this also meant that we would get any long boat journeys (guaranteed to put the most extensive dents in the budget) out of the way first, giving us the option to work somewhere we could get a work visa for (e.g.  Australia or New Zealand) if we need to.

When we first thought about how we wanted to cross the Atlantic, we had various methods in mind: getting a room on a cargo ship, joining a yacht crew or putting an ad in a paper/online to see if anyone was thinking of sailing over (which someone we know had managed to do successfully a few years ago). With July fast approaching, the reality of actually having to organise the passage had started to weigh heavily and I suddenly remembered terrifying images I’d seen of small boats being tossed around in huge Atlantic waves (when they weren’t being swallowed by the notorious Transatlantic fog). Despite having lived in Southampton for three years and still getting ridiculously excited by the sight of the sea, a hardened sea dog I am not, so that also put the crew thing out the window for the moment as we’d definitely be in need of some training before hand which we didn’t have time for. This left the cargo ship option, but after having received quotes back from a couple of freighter companies, both of which tallied way over £1000 per person, we knew we’d have to think again.

Somebody asked us whether we’d considered boarding the QM2 or similar on one of their classic transatlantic crossings, which we were reluctant to due to our own prejudices of large ‘luxury’ liners (particularly their high levels of waste and carbon emissions, not to mention the formal evenings and ‘entertainment’ phoniness of the whole thing) and preconceived ideas about the price. However, we were running out of options, and  as slow travel was really the key driving force behind the trip, we decided there was no harm in looking into it, all the while holding onto the small comfort that the transatlantic passage was essentially a ‘voyage’ rather than a ‘cruise’ anyway, given that the boat would go from A to B. After several phone calls, a price quote that wasn’t massively higher than a return flight to NY and a few budget calculations, we decided to bite the bullet, save some money and book onto the QM2, leaving Southampton on the 20th July and arriving in NY on 27th. If nothing else, it will be an interesting opportunity to hear what reasons other people have people for sailing, and we’ve been assured that you won’t starve to death if you don’t bedeck yourself in formal attire every evening, (though we’re packing some cereal bars just in case)…

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