Saturday, December 3, 2016

The QM2

Yesterday I had to make the hour-and-a-half trip to Roseau, Dominica's capital city. As the weather gets cold further north, it becomes cruise ship season here, and some days there are big ships in port. Seeing these ships docked allows me to reminisce about the time I first set foot on Dominica while on a cruise about ten years ago (never dreaming that someday I'd live here).
While this country needs the dollars brought in through tourism, it is a mixed blessing for residents, since the town becomes more crowded and traffic gets tied up. This is a conundrum faced by locals at tourist destinations everywhere. Overall, I think it is worth the hassles. Personally, I hope the visitors get to see what a fantastic island this truly is.
On this particular day, the ship in port was something special. I got to see the RMS (Royal Mail Ship) Queen Mary 2. I can remember when I was young and watching Walter Cronkite every night (and maybe it was in those Weekly Readers at school) the stories about how the original RMS Queen Mary was being retired and anchored at Long Beach, California, to become a floating hotel and museum.
The Queen Mary 2 (QM2) is from the old breed of passenger ships, and was built for transatlantic cruises between Europe and America. Constructed in 2003, she is largest ocean liner ever built—1132 feet long and over 236 feet tall (just squeezing under New York's Verazzano Narrows Bridge). Her top speed is about 35 MPH, with a typical cruising speed of 30 MPH (much faster than a contemporary cruise ship). It boasts fifteen restaurants and bars, five swimming pools, a casino, a ballroom, a theatre, and the first planetarium at sea.
The QM2 can carry more than 3000 passengers, with a crew of about 1250. Usually it runs back and forth between New York City and Southampton, England. It is currently in the middle of a 27 day cruise to the Caribbean, having departed from England on November 19, with an initial stop in New York (which will also be the final stop before heading back). Dominica is the southernmost island it is visiting on this trip, with stops already made at St. Maarten and St. Kitts, and with remaining stops in both the British as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands.
While visiting town this day, I happened to run into one of my students. He took the picture of me at the top of this story, and then I took a couple of him shown above and below. It was fun to see him in the capital city. I also took him up to see our Peace Corps office.
As I was leaving town, I made one more pass along the waterfront. I met one of the other Peace Corps Volunteers who was admiring this nautical masterpiece. He later sent me the beautiful picture below that he took from a spot south of town (thanks, Lew!).
All in all, it was a good day. I left with a backpack full of much needed groceries, as well as the memory of seeing this famous ship.

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