On the Queen Mary 2: Lobsters and Aviation in Rockland, ME

Photo by Susan J. Young

Queen Mary 2’s guests going ashore in Rockland, ME, on Tuesday certainly knew they were in lobster country, thanks to a greeting by a humongous red lobster display at the harbor’s arrival area.

Rockland lays claim to the title “Lobster Capital of the World,” and the succulent crustaceans love Maine’s cold, clean waters. The state’s lobster fishermen hauled in more than 111 million pounds of the large crustaceans in 2017.

Posing with the massive lobster display was a “must” for many Cunard Line guests. Others put their love for lobster into action, heading into town for a yummy lobster roll. Shoppers could find small shops selling gifts, crafts and yes, everything lobster, for a fun souvenir to take home.

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Popular too was the cruise line’s motorcoach shuttle to Camden, a chance for guests to do their own thing – perhaps dining in town (lobster, anyone?), shopping or exploring historic and cultural sites.  

Other guests headed out on a Cunard shore excursion, either “Mid -Maine Coast Highlights,” “Farnsworth Art Museum, Camden and Mt. Battle” or “Owls Head Transportation Museum and Lighthouse.”

Photo by Susan J. Young

For me, an aviation buff, the latter was an easy choice, as this transport museum, just minutes from town, has a superb collection of 150 or so historic aircraft, engines, ground vehicles, classic driving and racing automobiles, motorcycles, bicycles and even a lovely old fire engine and a stagecoach.  

What’s interesting is that most of the collection is operational – meaning the planes actually fly and the cars chug along. In fact, several of the historic automobiles including a bright red Ford Thunderbird were driven to the harbor parking lot to entice cruise guests to visit the museum.

As for the aircraft, the museum’s collection of 28 or so historic planes (some original, some representations) were all pre-1946, many from the early 20th century. 

One replica is a star exhibit, depicting the December 17, 1903, flight of the Wright Brothers on the sands of Kitty Hawk, NC.

I immediately headed for an aviation jewel, the museum's 1917 Curtiss JN-4D Jenny; the nickname "Jenny" was derived by slurring "JN" into "Jenny." Considered the most notable World War I-era aircraft design, the plane was both used as a trainer, and after the war, as a barnstormer/air show performer. Another original of note is the 1941 Stearman A75N-1 Biplane.

Maybe it was the bright red coloring, the “Tacoma to Tokyo” livery or the Fokker name, but my eyes drifted immediately to the 1923 Fokker C.IV, which was originally a two-cockpit observation plane but has experienced a number of modifications over its long lifetime.

Our visit to the museum was about 90 minutes, just about the right amount of time to peruse the exhibits. Our group was split in two and two docents led guests around to view the various exhibits. I also explored on my own, which was perfectly fine and advantageous for photos. 

On the automobile side, exhibits ranged from an 1886 Benz, built by Karl Benz as the first vehicle built from the ground up with an internal combustion gasoline engine to a 1957 Ford Thunderbird, among the more “modern” historic autos.

Back at the port, two ladies I met on the tour liked the museum but were bemoaning the lack of time to head for one of the port’s pubs for a Bloody Mary. That was aptly said, as many guests felt Rockland, a maiden call for Queen Mary 2, was a port that appeared low key on the surface, but had much to offer, including friendly locals staffing a visitor desk at the harbor to assist cruisers.

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