This was a seven-day westbound transatlantic crossing from Southampton to New York.
Whereas the weather on the eastbound crossing that I took in early July was consistently sunny, the weather of this crossing varied considerably. There was rain and fog as well as sunny days. QM2 had no problem handling the seas. However, most of the guests spent their days inside the ship.
Queen Mary 2 is particularly good at offering things for passengers to do during the day. Its lecture program on this voyage was headlined by racecar driver and celebrity Jackie Stewart who spoke about his life and the challenges of extreme dysflexia. West End star Maria Friedman did an interview and a matinee concert. There were also experts talking about the Middle East, astronomy, and the lives of various showbusiness personalities. A troupe from the Royal Academy of Dramtic Arts gave acting lessons, did poetry readings and put on a performance of Oscar Wilde's “The Importance of Being Ernest.” Artist Gerda Mentens gave watercolor lessons useful to guests with basic or advanced skills. The planetarium showed filns projected on an overhead dome. There were classical music recitals. All of this is on top of the usual cruise ship attractions such as spa talks and art gallery lectures.
In the evenings, the main entertainment venue is the Royal Court Theatre but there were also big screen movies in the planetarium. The shows in the theater included revues by the ship's production cast as well as performances by visiting entertainers. The production shows are typical cruise ship shows. The performances by visiting comedian Mike Doyle and the electric violin performances by Katerina Rossa were the most popular of the shows by the visiting entertainers.
I had nearly all of my meals in the Britannia Restaurant, the ship's large dining room. I prefer the dining room over the Kings Court buffet for three reasons. First, the food tastes better coming fresh from the galley rather than after sitting under warming lamps. Moreover, the quality of the food in the Britannia on this crossing was the best of the three crossings that I have done this year.
Second, the service in the Britannia is very good: prompt and efficient.
Third, there is the conversation. For breakfast and lunch, the Britannia is open seating and you can opt to share a table with other guests. In the evening, you have an assigned table at either the early or the late seating. You can choose to share the table with other guests. It is almost always the case that you get into conversations with the other people at the table. Since QM2 attracts a diverse but well-educated clientele, the conversations are usually interesting and broadening.
Recently, Cunard made some name changes in its dress code. (The dress code only applies in the evening; the rest of the time you wear what you like). “Formal” became “Gala” and “Informal” became ”Smart Attire.” The specifications for each category did not change. However, the name change to “smart attire” seems to have had some observable effect on the non-formal nights. Both before and after the name change, neck ties were optional on such nights. Now, however, neck ties seem to have all but disappeared from the dining room. This is consistent with the fact that in most offices, “smart attire” means no tie.
In contrast, the name change to Gala seems to have had no noticeable effect. Passengers still dress-up on Gala nights just as they did when they were called Formal nights. Gowns, tuxedos and dinner suits and dressing like it was an occasion are part of the traditional Cunard lifestyle and help to recall the Golden Age of transatlantic travel in the last century. There were three Gala nights on this crossing.
Another change on this crossing was to the ship's specialty restaurant. As an experiment, the French-inspired Verandah was transformed into the Steakhouse at the Verandah. (See separate review). The plan is to test guest reaction to a less formal but still sophisticated venue.
Cunard is attempting to walk a fine line. On one hand, tradition and formality are things that set Cunard apart from other cruise lines. On the other, the world continues to move toward a more relaxed lifestyle. Cunard needs to evolve without alienating its base. But Cunard is good at adapting. It is what has enabled the line to survive since 1840.
On this voyage, the number of British guests narrowly exceeded the number of Americans. In addition, there were guests from Australia, Germany, France and numerous other countries. Thus, there was a good international mix.
While the majority of the guests were of retirement age, there were also quite a few families with young children. This was most likely due to the fact that the schools both in the UK and in the United States were not in session.
Above: Entertainment Director Paul O'Loughlin introduces the Parade of Chefs in the Britannia Restaurant.
Cruise review - - Cunard Line - - Queen Mary 2 - - Summer 2018