This was a 13 night cruise to the Caribbean. Round-trip New York City, Queen Mary 2 called at St. Maarten, Dominica, St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Kitts and St. Thomas.
It is often assumed that QM2 just does Atlantic crossings. While that was the primary purpose for which the ship was built, QM2, like her forbearer Queen Elizabeth 2, intersperses cruises between her crossings. She also usually does a world cruise in the winter.
Before I left on this voyage, a friend asked what is the difference between cruising on a liner as opposed to on a cruise ship? QM2 is the only true ocean liner currently in service and a cruise on her is indeed different than a cruise on other ships.
One characteristic of a liner is that it has greater speed than a cruise ship. Indeed, during the heyday of the ocean liners, speed was so important that a prize, the legendary Blue Ribband, was awarded to the liner that made the fastest crossing of the Atlantic. While not the fastest liner ever built, QM2's four dieseel engines and two gas turbines can power her along at nearly 30 knots.
In contrast, it is not so important for a cruise ship to get where it is going fast so they go at a more leisurely pace. Most cruise ships best speed is about 23 knots although a few claim to be able to do in excess of 25 knots.
In the years since QM2 was built, the price of fuel has risen significantly. Since the amount of fuel burned rises almost geometrically as you go above 20 knots, QM2 is rarely run at full speed. Instead, she proceeds along most days at a speed similar to a cruise ship. Also, most passengers these days are not in a rush to get to their destination. As a result, while QM2 could cross the Atlantic in five days, her crossings these days are typically seven day.
On this cruise, there was no need to rush to the Caribbean and so QM2 set off at a cruise ship pace. However, as she was steaming south a medical emergency arose that required a helicopter evacuation. QM2 had the speed to move quickly within helicopter range.
Another characteristic of a liner is that they are built to handle rough weather. While any ship will have movement given the right sea conditions, QM2 is quite stable. On this cruise, QM2 encountered a storm while heading south. Nonetheless, passengers continued to move about freely and no seasick bags were in evidence.
In order to maintain stability and to cut through the waves, liners typically have a deeper draft than cruise ships. QM2's 32 foot draft prevented her from entering the harbor in St. Lucia. She tendered passengers ashore from outside the harbor while cruise ship Celebrity Equinox (27 foot draft) docked at the town's cruise terminal.
The biggest difference between a cruise on a liner versus a cruise on a cruise ship is the atmosphere. Although not everyone on a liner traveled in luxury, the image of travel on an ocean liner that has come down to us is one of elegant, formal luxury. The cruise ship tradition is much more relaxed and informal.
When she entered service, QM2 was very much about the ocean liner tradition. Passengers dressed in formal attire most nights on a crossing and dining in the impressively grand main dining room adhered to the traditional system where you ate at a specified time and at a specified table.
Over the years, QM2 has become less and less formal. On this cruise, there were only three formal nights and the staff was quite liberal about the dress code. In addition, Cunard has introduced a flexible dine when you want option.
I have mixed feelings about these changes. I have good memories of many evenings spent among elegantly-dressed men and women dining in the grand style. However, these days, I confess to being reluctant to don a tuxedo and it is nice to eat on my own schedule.
Due to concerns about COVID, there were none of Cunard's trademark grand receptions in the ballroom. I missed these as this mixing of officers and passengers was a fun part of the Cunard experience. Similarly, I missed the officer-hosted tables in the main dining room on formal nights. However, those all but disappeared on QM2 well before the pandemic.
The ocean liner tradition also includes a high standard of service. Many cruise ships also strive for great service. However, the relationship between passengers and crew is often less formal on a cruise ship. Your waiter or room steward wants to be your friend. On this cruise on QM2, the crew were friendly but more distantly respectful than one typically sees on a modern cruise ship.
As they did on QE2, the activities on QM2 go beyond the activities on most cruise ships. There were lectures about the space program and astronomy as well as talks on the history of ocean travel. There were films in the ship's planetarium, which converts into an art deco movie palace with a giant screen in the evenings. Classical music concerts, watercolor classes, themed balls as well as production shows were some of the other activities.
QM2 also has facilities for outdoor activities including two outdoor pools with associated hot tubs. (There is also an indoor pool). However, inasmuch as QM2 was designed for sailing the often chilly North Atlantic, the outdoor facilities are not as extensive as on comparably-sized modern cruise ships. Along the same lines, there is no waterpark or surfing simulator. On this cruise, most passengers' outdoor activity was limited to walking the wrap-around promenade or relaxing in one of the traditional deck chairs.
Thus, a cruise on a liner is different than a cruise on a cruise ship. One experience is not necessarily better than the other, they are just somewhat different. Which one one prefers is just a matter of personal taste.
A "sheltered" balcony stateroom. It is called sheltered because the balcony is cut out of the hull as opposed to attached to the superstructure.
Cruise review - - Cunard Line - - Queen Mary 2 - - Caribbean Cruise - Fall 2022