She is one of the most iconic passenger ships of modern times and the last true ocean liner sailing the classic transatlantic passage from Southampton to New York and back. I have sailed the one and only RMS Queen Mary 2 a few times already and even though they say “some things cannot get better”, I found out during my latest visit to the queen in the port of Hamburg that they surely can. Having been remastered just a few months ago, QM2 returns into service with retouched interiors that once again reinforce her statement: You are not taking a cruise. You are about to make a journey.
It is always a pleasure to look at her wherever she shows up. The glowing red funnel is one of her most distinctive marks and makes it easy to spot her in any port around the world. Apart from her unique and matchless silhouette, the most important thing that one has to understand is that she is not a typical cruise ship, but built and designed for year round transatlantic passages.
Having been aboard her predecessor, the legendary RMS Queen Mary, a few weeks ago in Long Beach, California, it actually is quite interesting to see how many details of the original hull design had been adopted and developed into the newly constructed ship that entered service back in 2004.
This includes the high leveled outdoor promenade and life boats which were typical for classic ocean liners to safe these from high waves and strong winds as well as the three decks of metal enclosed balcony cabins underneath. These are actually my favorite cabins onboard as the verandahs are well protected from wind and weather so that you can still enjoy a glass of bubbly in the fresh air when the sea is rocky.
The remarkable front section with the distinctive black stripes. QM2 holds room for a maximum of 3,000 passengers, yet she normally sails at a capacity of around 2,600 guests in three “classes”: Britannia, Princess Grill and Queens Grill.
The typical crossing takes around seven nights from Southampton to New York or vice versa. On some passages, she does halt at Halifax, which adds another night to the itinerary. Cunard also has a strong connection to the port of Hamburg, Germany, from where several transatlantic passages to New York and mini cruises to Southampton start.
You might think that spending a week on the Atlantic Ocean might kill precious time for business. Yet the ship is equipped with a massive Conference Center in its belly with every communication and office fittings that you would need to work from your “home at sea”.
As mentioned before, Queen Mary 2 cannot be classified as a typical cruise ship. This shows in the way her interiors are laid out as well as the classic style that even reflects in the public bathrooms.
There are lots of spaces onboard that do not provide around-the-clock entertainment or music playing over the public address system. Even the elevators run silently with just a distinctive British voice announcing the decks. The ship is a retreat from the noise and stress of the modern world. She is more or less enforcing you to find your very own pace and to decelerate.
Wherever that means to you to find some time to enjoy a parlor game with fellow travelers, take long walks on the outdoor promenade or attend one of the many lecturers talks aboard. No belly flop contests and no water slides. It can be best described as a return to the original overseas travel. Seven days of pure relaxation and time. Your time to do whatever you feel like doing. It is just you, the ship and the ocean.
The Clarendon Fine Art gallery onboard Queen Mary 2. Open to everyone interested, but no annoying invitations to complimentary art auctions with cheap sparkling wine selling secondary paintings like on contemporary cruise ships. The gallery features artists such as Chagall, Picasso or Dalí.
Even though I know the ship, it is always a good idea to carry a deck plan when walking around. The layout of QM2 is different to a regular cruise ship and there are quite a few steerage. These are accessible by stairs and elevators for walking impaired guests.
Illuminations is an auditorium, planetarium and 3D-cinema in one.
The elegant two-story Royal Court Theatre is located midships and is the arena for Broadway style shows and musicals performed by the Cunard Royal Dancers and Singers. The stage has recently been digitalized with large LED screens. This is also where the Sunday church service is conducted.
For the gamblers the Empire Casino awaits. It is not as large as on other ships this size, yet offers the most popular games of hazard such as Roulette, Blackjack or modern gaming machines.
One of my most favorite atriums at see, the Grand Lobby. Being more reminiscent of a luxurious grand hotel, the newly laid carpets add a beautiful Art Deco touch to the already impressive design. Different than the atriums of modern cruise ships, the Grand Lobby is an intimate and quiet spot during the day with live piano music and a popular photo location on gala nights.
One of QM2´s most popular bars is the traditional Golden Lion Pub which is a Cunard classic. The interiors are designed in the style of a typical English pub and besides a wide range of ales and stouts, guests can also enjoy classics like Fish & Chips or Cottage Pie, play darts, sing karaoke or watch live sports coverages. Particularly in the late afternoons and evenings a cheerful meeting spot.
The beautifully appointed hallway linking the Grand Lobby with Britannia Restaurant. The walls are covered with reliefs that are dedicated to the continents of the world and natural phenomenons like Aurora Borealis. For everyone traveling on QM2 for the first time, it is the duty to find the tiny Homer Simpson figure hidden in the North American relief.
As mentioned before and linked to the strong traditions of British overseas travel, Cunard is most likely the only company in the world that has maintained to “class distinction” aboard its queens until today. While all public spaces are accessible to every passenger onboard, dining is strictly separated. Base passengers are invited to the gorgeous Art Deco inspired two-story Britannia Restaurant. This includes all Britannia inside, outside and balcony staterooms onboard. Dinner is conducted in two seatings, the first at 6:30pm, the second at 8:30pm.
Britannia Club passengers have a dedicated area inside the Britannia Restaurant which allows them to dine at their convenience within 6:30pm and 9:00pm.
The Mayfair Shops are the place to be if you are seeking for some exclusive shopping onboard Queen Mary 2. The columns of the upper level of the Grand Lobby have received a makeover and the atrium makes you think you are staying at a luxurious yet intimate boutique hotel rather than an ocean liner.
Most people do not know that Cunard merged with its rival White Star Line (RMS Titanic) during the 1930´s to become Cunard White Star Ltd. The Great Depression had asked for sacrifices and it was the only way to complete the final works at the presently built RMS Queen Elizabeth. In the 1950s, the company overtook the final shares of White Star Line and was renamed into Cunard Line. The only remains of the once so proud competitor is the White Star Service, first class service unsurpassed.
Having been for decades close partners with Veuve Clicquot champagne, Cunard formed a new partnership with Laurent Perrier in May 2017. For this reason, the onboard champagne bar was redone and renamed into Laurent Perrier Champagne Bar. A great spot to enjoy a glass of bubbly after a busy excursion day or as an aperitif before dinner.
Chart Room Lounge & Bar is a maritime inspired Jazz bar and a beautiful retreat during the day to read or play a set of cards while enjoying a cocktail or drink. I could sit there for hours and watch the ocean pass by through the massive panorama windows. Also a highly popular spot after dinner to catch up on gossip.
Commemorating the original RMS Queen Mary´s 80th birthday this year, Cunard worked closely with British interior design firm SMC to shape the updated interiors in order to resemble the glamour and style of the only true ocean liner left in modern times and to transfer them into modern times aboard Queen Mary 2 and the two other queens, Elizabeth and Victoria (which had been currently refurbished in Palermo, Italy). Art Deco elements play a major role in the refit.
Sir Samuel´s has been converted into a café and bistro during the day, focusing on freshly backed Danish pastries and muffins in the mornings, as well as quiches and sandwiches during noon. Serving cakes and cookies in the afternoon makes it a popular place to enjoy the large variety of coffees and teas available, or maybe a selection of fine Godiva pralinés? In the evenings, Sir Samuel´s turns into a wine and cheese bar, so definitely one of my favorite spots to hang out!
Again a little view into the amazing Britannia Restaurant. I talked about dinner times previously, now it is time to simply enjoy the view from the upper deck. Even though I generally enjoy sitting by the window during dinner (I know, there is nothing to see at night, but still), here I love being placed in the center area of the lower level or right at the balustrade of the gallery surrounding it. There is nothing more entertaining than watching people having dinner at their tables.
The Queens Room is Queen Mary 2´s largest social venue. During the day, the ballroom is the scene for Cunard´s highly popular afternoon tea service and turns into a glamorous dancing stage with Big Band tunes in the evenings. This old school activity is one of the major differences that sets the travel concept of Queen Mary 2 apart from a regular cruise ship. Even though Cunard had loosened the dress code aboard its ships some time ago, you will not see guests wearing shorts or t-shirts or many jeans around. The attire is always elegant or smart casual the least and you can tell that everyone (young and old) really enjoys to pay tribute to the ocean liner feeling by packing the adequate wardrobe. Dancing classes are held throughout the day (Waltz, Foxtrot or Swing) and single female travelers can look forward to Gentlemen hosts to dance the night away with.
Right behind the Queens Room, the younger crowd (and those who have stayed young by heart) can enjoy classic and contemporary dance floor music in the G32 night club. Queen Mary 2 has been converted into a smoke free environment and smoking is no longer allowed inside G32, which I personally favor a lot. Being a non-smoker for quite some time now, she might be a good reason for everyone trying to quit as smoking is only allowed on the outside aftdeck of Deck 7.
During her latest refit in May 2017, all staterooms have also received a tasteful and contemporary Art Deco refresh. This includes new carpets, new day blankets, new furniture and lighting, newly designed single staterooms and an additional section of balcony cabins above the bridge, as well as water heaters to every stateroom onboard. I was able to visit some cabins during the ship tour and I personally think that they turned out very well. This, for example, is a typical Britannia interior stateroom. The beds can be either converted into a double bed or separated. The only thing that I was hoping for was the removal of the shower curtains in the bathrooms in favor of glass shower doors. But I guess, this can be best described as keeping the traditions.
This extremely large Britannia outside cabin with large panorama window is located on Deck 10. Cabins on the lower decks may feature porthole or panorama windows facing the Grand Lobby.
Very classic, QM2´s stairwells. All carpets feature the same design scheme as already seen in the Grand Lobby, but held in blue and gold shades. The walls are covered with polished wood and the elevator doors are beautifully engraved. Linking to the glorious ages of transatlantic travel, each deck and staircase is fitted with beautiful maritime paintings.
The ship is equipped with altogether three swimming pools. Two of them are located on the aftdecks high above the sea level, the third one on the top deck with a retractable glass roof. The lower one is primarily intended for families with children as the kids playing area is located right adjacent.
Deck 7 offers a circulating outdoor promenade for relaxing, jogging or walking and features a large number of public spaces.
Like the Fitness Center with state-of-the-art cardio and weight lifting equipment.
The Canyon Ranch Spa Club is also one of my personal favorites to retreat to on a grey and windy sea day. The thermal suite offers a large hydrotherapy pool and a selection of saunas and steam rooms. There are far more spectacular spas aboard modern cruise liners these days, but the ambiance here is tranquil and relaxing.
A brand new addition is the beautiful Carinthia Lounge. This elegant lounge has replaced the previous frumpy Winter Garden and serves as a premium wine bar with live entertainment and piano music in the evening, while serving light bites during the day.
The biggest winner of the refit (at least from my perspective) is the Kings Court buffet restaurant. This venue has been completely redesigned and now looks better than ever! Particularly the bright self-service areas add to a contemporary yet elegant atmosphere and the layout helps to balance the crowds during peak hours. Well done, Cunard, loving it already!
A vast improvement is also the redesign of the Princess Grill restaurant. While the layout has remained more or less the same, the new color scheme and fabrics contribute well to an elegant dining location for the Princess Grill passengers. The restaurant operates on an open table and open seating concept and is exclusively available to Princess Grill suites guests.
Mirrored right on the starboard side, doors open to the luxurious Queens Grill restaurant. Accessible only to guests of the ship´s most luxurious suites and penthouses, the Queens Grill truly reflects a royal dining location with sparkly chandeliers, plush chairs and fine bone china. This would be my favorite place to enjoy an exclusive candle light dinner, wouldn´t it?
Untouched by the latest renovations, the impressive Library and the Book Shop are truly magnificent locations onboard QM2. The view over the bow is breathtaking and comfortable leather armchairs and sofas invite you to read, nap or research. It is also a fantastic place to write letters or draw up emails on your computer as it is even silent if well frequented. I love the maritime souvenirs that can be purchased inside the book shop and I am sure, one will find a suitable reading matter along the over 10,000 books in various languages.
Queen Mary 2´s preceding speciality restaurant Todd´s English has been converted into the line´s exclusive à la carte Verandah restaurant. While the design is similar to the ones already on offer aboard Queen Elizabeth and Victoria, it was originally introduced aboard the legendary RMS Queen Mary and served French inspired gourmet cuisine to celebrities and first class passengers back then. Verandah continues to deliver this classic tradition today on the last original ocean liner.
Terrace Pool and Terrace Pool Bar have received updated lounge seating and sun loungers. This area is a popular social gathering spot throughout the day and in the early evenings. From here, you can also climb over three decks probably the most famous steps aboard a ship.
My absolutely favorite bar aboard any ship that I have ever sailed on or visited in the past six years is the extraordinary Commodore Club aboard Queen Mary 2. I cannot really explain wherever it is the location with the outrageous view, the color scheme in blue, brown and white, the beautiful model of Queen Mary 2 behind the Art Deco counter, the canapé service on silver trays along a personalized Gin Tonic or the combination of all. Whenever I walk into this beautiful hideaway, it almost feels like coming home and I would not want to be anywhere else in that particular moment.
Right behind it, cigar and pipe lovers will find a dedicated lounge called Churchill´s. This photo shows the Boardroom on the other side, yet the layout is pretty much the same. Only the decor and fittings differ.
Even though the time was short, I was lucky to be granted a sneak peek into one of the ship´s most exclusive suites: The Queen Anne Suite (10002). Together with the opposite Queen Victoria suite, she is the only Queens Grill accommodation without a balcony, yet her elegant and homely interiors consolate by far over this. At least I could deal with it. The lovely bedroom features floor-to-ceiling windows towards the sitting area that allow lots of daylight inside and when having raised the blinds, you could even look outside. Gorgeous! All Queens Grill suites provide private butler services.
While the newer Cunard Queens offer a private sundeck to their Princess and Queens Grill passengers, Queen Mary 2 remains a little basic on that offering even after the refit. A small terrace above the penthouses is dedicated to premium passengers and is equipped with a single whirlpool.
Again, tasteful wall art in one of the stairwells.
The new carpets in the cabin corridors. Like the zig zag shape and the fading grey scheme.
A Britannia Club balcony cabin on Deck 10. Love the view onto the bridge from up here and the rear of the impressive hull. Can imagine how great the view must be from up here during sunset or dawn hours! What a comfortable accommodation, I would love to just unpack here, don´t you?
As Queen Mary 2 is designed for the transatlantic passage, her “indoor” Pavilion Pool is located midships all the way on the top deck. The retractable roof can be opened on sunny days and closed if the weather calls for it.
The top deck also holds two sun deck terraces as well as a dog pound with an enclosure. The queen is the only ship to offer this kind of service and the dogs are walked every day by staff and you can visit your pet whenever you please during opening hours.
Sadly, it was soon time to leave the ship again, but not before enjoying a delicate lunch at Britannia Restaurant. Knowing that I would be back onboard in November made the farewell a little more bearable. As extraordinary as Queen Mary 2 had always been, the refurbishment has well added to her very special atmosphere. A home away from home with a traditional style that is everything but old-fashioned and a royal heart that beats in every corner of this magnificent liner. See you soon, QM2, I cannot wait to sail you again…