This was a seven night transatlantic crossing from Southampton to New York City.
This was our 47th voyage on QM2. People often ask why so many voyages on one ship?. However, voyages on QM2 are rarely the same experience. Yes, the ship has not changed all that much since she entered service in 2004 and yes, there is a set of things that are always offered on each voyage. But some voyages have themes such as Transatlantic Fashion Week with well-known commentators, designers and models giving shows and presentations. (See article). Or there was the time Cunard had professional musicians teaching the guests about songwriting.. On other voyages, there has been unique entertainment such as when Crosby, Stills and Nash performed concerts on the ship (See article). At other times, the ship has become involved in something unusual such as when QM2 rescued a lone yachtsman stranded in an Atlantic storm. (See article). Another factor is the demographics of the passengers. QM2 attracts an international clientele and the experience can be different depending upon whether the majority of passengers are British, American or German. Then, there are the people you meet. QM2 attracts intelligent, cultured people who have something to say. Some travel regularly on QM2 but most are unique to a particular voyage.
Queen Mary 2 is a unique ship - - she is the only true ocean liner currently in service. Whereas most cruise ships are a combination of aluminum and steel, QM2 is all steel. She was built strong so as to handle the unpredictable North Atlantic weather. She was also built to be powerful and fast. The ship can do almost 30 knots whereas most cruise ships top out at about 23 knots. Again, this was done so that she could keep to schedule regardless of the weather.
At approximately 150,000 gross tons, QM2 is a large ship. However, she carries 1,500 less passengers than comparably-sized cruise ships such as Freedom of the Seas and Norwegian Breakaway. As a result, there is more room per passenger.
Because she is an ocean liner, people often think that QM2 is a two class ship. Yes, she does have separate restaurants for passengers traveling in the suites. However, the same is true of the larger ships of Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and MSC. Furthermore, all passengers have full access to the main public areas and facilities with only one small lounge and a small outside deck area reserved for suites guests It is not at all like the system depicted in the popular Titanic movie of 1997.
QM2 is more formal than most cruise ships. However, she has become less formal over the years. During the day, passengers can and do wear just about anything. On most evenings, a jacket is required but a tie is optional. On the three “gala” evenings each crossing passengers generally wear formal attire (gowns and tuxedos or a dark suit). Passengers who do not wish to dress can dine in the buffet restaurant on Deck 7.
The ship has an elegant décor with art deco and art nouveau inspired elements. In addition to artwork, Cunard has placed large but tasteful placards telling the history of the line on the walls of the public areas. The latter are quite popular with guests as the ocean liner atmosphere and sense of history grip most passengers during the voyage.
Some passengers find navigating through QM2 somewhat confusing. Whereas the nautical elements of most cruise ships are built around the hotel, the hotel on an ocean liner is built around the nautical facilities. Consequently, the hotel has some peculiarities. A good thing to remember is that QM2 has four stairways/elevator banks A through D. If you know which deck the place you want to go to is on and which stairway it is near, it is generally not too difficult to find it.
We took the Cunard bus transfer from Victoria Coach Station in London to the ship. This has become a popular option and two buses were employed this time. The waiting area at Victoria was crowded but otherwise the transfer worked smoothly and efficiently. The coach trip lasted about two hours and dropped us off at the Ocean Terminal. Baggage handlers transferred the luggage directly to the ship.
In the past, we have not been impressed with the embarkation process at the Ocean Terminal. However, this time, we were pleasantly surprised at its efficiency. We were on the ship within a half hour of our arrival.
We were also impressed by the friendliness of the crew coming aboard. Traditionally, Cunard has followed a policy of reserved, unobtrusive service. This time, the service was still efficient but there were more smiles and “good to see you” comments from the crew.
Cunard follows the traditional passenger ship dining system. In the main dining room, each passenger is assigned to a specific table at either the early (6 p.m.) or late (8:30 p.m.) seating. There are some tables for two but most are larger tables. This often results in passengers sharing a table, which often results in new friendships being formed.
Breakfast and lunch in the main dining room are open seating. At the door, you are asked whether you would like to share or have a table by yourself. Sharing often produces good conversation.
We were pleased with the service in the main dining room. We also enjoyed the quality and variety of the food. The lunch and dinner menus change each day. The only issue was that too many of the superstar main courses (e.g. lobster, Beef Wellington, duck ala orange) were only offered on the last formal night. It would have been better if they had been spread out through the voyage.
QM2 has only one purpose-built specialty restaurant. Last year, as an experiment, this venue was changed from a fine dining venue to an upmarket steakhouse. The Steakhouse at the Verandah proved so successful that it is now permanent. We had an excellent lunch there on this voyage.
In addition to the Steakhouse at the Verrandah, each night sections of the Kings Court buffet restaurant are turned into alternative dining venues. Different cuisines (Italian, Indian, American Smokehouse, Asian) are featured during the voyage. Another section of the Kings Court is kept open to provide complimentary buffet dinners.
For the most part, we were not impressed by the Kings Court complementary offerings. One exception was the cheese station. It offers a variety of excellent cheeses, which are sliced to order. In addition, there are a variety of accessories such as dried fruits and seeds to enhance the flavor of the cheeses.
Sadly, the pizza made to order section is gone. Pizza may not be what you think of when you think of Cunard, but they used to do this very well. In its place are uninspired offerings that suffer from being kept under the warming lights.
Cunard excels at afternoon tea. While it is offered in other locations around the ship, the place to have it is the Queens Room. White gloved waiters come around with tea, plates of finger sandwiches, scones and pastries. A string quartet or a harpist plays or the troupe from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (“RADA”) give a performance. It is a classic Cunard experience.
Activities and Entertainment
QM2 also excels at providing things to do during a transatlantic voyage. A sea day on QM2 is not like a sea day on a cruise ship. QM2 offers all the programming alternatives offered on high-end cruise ships such as a spa/gym, pools, shopping, gambling, movies, and sports facilities. However, its offerings go beyond what you typically find on a cruise ship. You do not have to bring a book along on QM2, there is too much to do. Besides, the ship has a huge and beautiful library if you do feel like reading.
The lecture program on QM2 is a prime example. As on other ships, QM2 has talks by the people who operate the shops, the spa and the art gallery but it also has an extensive array of talks by people who are not trying to sell you something. On this voyage the speakers included the producer of a popular British television nature series, the author of a best selling series of books, a Concorde pilot, a former U.S. ambassador to the Middle East, an architect who spoke about landmark New York buildings, and an expert on the theater and film. These talks packed the ship's theaters and were also shown on in-cabin television.
The RADA troupe is composed of graduates of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. When they first came to QM2, they offered acting lessons and performed a play on each crossing. Their role has expanded considerably. On this voyage, they also performed a Victorian-style pantomime, gave jazz poetry readings with the ship's jazz trio, read late evening bedtime stories in one of the lounges and performed scenes from Oscar Wilde's plays in the Grand Lobby as well as in other venues around the ship.
Pianist Matthew McCombe performed classical concerts in the main theater that were well-received by the passengers.
In the evenings, the main theater hosted two production shows by the Royal Cunard Singers and dancers as well as performances by a visiting singer, an instrumentalist and a comedian.
Also in the evenings were a series of balls. The Queens Room on QM2 features a very large dance floor. It is used for ballroom dancing each night. However, on two of the formal nights, it was used for themed-balls - - the Black and White Ball and the Masquerade Ball. These have become quite popular with many guests even packing masks to wear at the Masquerade.
It is not possible to do everything that is offered. But then you can do as much or as little as you want.
Weather and Nautical
During this voyage, QM2 encountered a series of Atlantic storms including towering 20 foot waves. These did cause noticeable motion. However, QM2 is such a stable ship that the public areas including the dining rooms remained active with passengers who were out and about. The storms did not delay the ship from reaching New York on time.
On this voyage we had an inside cabin, forward on Deck 6. The room was comfortable and had plenty of closet and draw space. It was also kept clean and well-maintained by the steward.
Each night, the steward left pieces of Godiva chocolate on the bed. No towel animals.
Along this line, one minor item caught our attention. In the past, each stateroom has come equipped with a pen and pad of note paper. This time, there was a pad but in place of the pen, there was a pencil. This really did not fit with the overall elegant atmosphere of the ship.
Television producer Dale Templar speaking in the Royal Court Theatre.
Suzaanne Godfrey (above) and Matthew McCombie (below) both performed concerts in the ship's theater.
Above: The troupe from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts performing a scene from an Oscar Wilde play in QM2's Grand Lobby.
Below: A RADA actor reads a PG Woodhouse bedtime story.
Above: A plate of cheeses from the Kings Court.
Below: A sherry tasting flight from the Carinthia Lounge.
Classical music (above) and scones (below) at Afternoon tea in the Queens Room.
Cruise review - - Cunard Line - - Queen Mary 2 - - Spring 2019