Queen Mary 2 Ship Review
Editor’s Note: This review will be updated after Queen Mary 2’s “remastering” is completed in late June 2016.
The Queen of England did the honors at the naming ceremony and fanfare and fireworks greeted her at her first arrival into nearly every port – the 151,400-ton Queen Mary 2, or QM2 as she is affectionately known, took the cruise industry by storm when she was launched back in 2004 and still turns heads.
The gracious old-world QM2 is considered the only real ocean liner built since Cunard’s QE2 debuted in 1969, with antiques, memorabilia and artwork reflecting this legacy. QM2’s long and lovely black and red hull and her razor-sharp prow able to slice through open-ocean waves are a sight to behold in this age of boxy white behemoths.
In late 2011, QM2 underwent a major refurbishment that refreshed her staterooms and public areas, offering new color schemes and redesigned spaces like the popular Golden Lion Pub.
In 2016, she’s slated to undergo her most dramatic transformation to-date. When she emerges in June, she’ll sport new staterooms, redesigned public venues and other brand-new amenities that are designed to keep this truly beautiful ocean liner relevant well into the next decade.
See our June 2016 report from the shipyard, Queen Mary 2 Remastered: A Makeover Fit For A Queen
For much of the year, Queen Mary 2 earns her keep sailing seven-day transatlantic voyages between Southampton, England and Brooklyn, New York. But you can also find Queen Mary 2 sailing to the Mediterranean, the Baltics, the British Isles, Canada & New England, and the Caribbean.
Fans of longer voyages will be delighted to know that Queen Mary 2 sets sail on a World Cruise each and every January, and those who want to see her seakeeping abilities firsthand would do well to book one of Cunard’s famous “Winter Transatlantic Crossings” that take place in November, December and January.
Maritime Author John Maxtone-Graham once coined the phrase, “the only way to cross” – and that’s very applicable for Queen Mary 2, the ship that will want to make you hang up your plane tickets and sail the deep blue seas between continents forever.
Dining and Staterooms aboard Queen Mary 2
Carrying 2,592 passengers double occupancy, QM2’s cabins are split into two groups, the Princess and Queens Grill class staterooms (the top being the huge Grand Duplex Suites, all with private dining rooms, lounges and deck space) and everything else, which comprises cozy 159-square-foot insides on up to the roomy, 248-square-foot deluxe balcony cabins. The Junior Suites, also known as the Princess Grill suites, are especially appealing with their huge bathroom with tub, walk-in closet, sitting area, and big balcony.
The exclusive Queens Grill and Princess Grill restaurants that serve suite passengers are low-key and elegant, while the grand Britannia Restaurant is a sight to behold, with a vaulted, Tiffany-style glass ceiling and curved balcony. Everyone is welcome to dine in the cozy and chic Todd English restaurant ($30 cover charge at dinner, also offering lunch for a reduced price) and the King’s Court buffet venue.
For those who want the ultimate in English tradition, you’ll want to head down to the Golden Lion Pub for Pub Lunch. Get there early: Seats at this popular (and complimentary) venue go fast once passengers discover how good the Fish & Chips are.
QM2 Public Areas
Since QM2 was designed for comfortable cruising even in rough seas, the majority of QM2’s many public areas set down on Decks 2 and 3, including the elegant Empire Casino, intimate Gold Lion Pub and the stunning Chart Room. Its high ceilings and green-glass deco wall maps are beautifully retro.
The Illuminations planetarium is a one-of-kind place to see 3-D films about astronomy and space, while dancers should head to the Queens Room ballroom, with a high arched ceiling and crystal chandeliers. Up on Deck 9 you’ll find one of the best spots for a drink and good views in the bow-facing Commodore Club.
The two-story Canyon Ranch Spa is popular, for both its range of treatments and aqua-therapy pool. Besides the well-stocked gym, many passengers love a long walk around the ship’s lovely traditional outdoor Promenade Deck to soak up the views and sea breezes (three times around equals one mile). Other diversions include a pair of gold simulators, pools, ping-pong, paddle-tennis and more.
QM2’s 2016 Refit
Shipboard refits are sometimes a touchy subject, but everything that Cunard has announced for this special ship seems to fit right in with her essence. Indeed, the refits seem to correct under-utilized spaces and breathe new life into existing ones.
Taking place between May 27 and June 21, 2016 at the Blohm + Voss shipyards in Hamburg, Germany, the refit promises to be the most exciting change in QM2’s 12-year history. Here’s a look at what we can look forward to from this modern-day greyhound of the sea:
New Solo Staterooms
Last year, Cunard announced a range of enhancements that were made to accommodate the changing needs of its core passenger base aboard Queen Mary 2, and one of the first announcements related to solo travellers. The upcoming refit will include the addition of 15 staterooms designed specifically for solo travellers, which will become the first solo accommodations added to the Queen Mary 2. The line noted that these solo rooms were designed to better serve the increased number of guests choosing to sail alone, as well as to those travelling as part of a multi-generational family.
Known as Category KB and KC, these solo oceanview staterooms will occupy some interesting areas of the ship. Nine Category KB staterooms will be installed on Deck 2, in the area currently occupied by the Empire Casino’s slot machines. These will be relocated to the forward part of the Empire Casino, adjacent to the Grand Lobby. We can see why Cunard chose that area: The Casino, even in the evenings, is far too big on this ship for the relatively small number of guests that use it.
Solos can also select one of six Category KC oceanview staterooms on Deck 3L, the so-called “tween deck” that functions as a pass-through to access the Queen’s Room without having to go through the Britannia Dining Room. Currently, this space is home to Images Photo Gallery, which will be relocated across the hall from the Golden Lion Pub on Deck 2. From the deck plans, it appears as though the corridor will still provide access to the Queen’s Room aft, and the G32 Nightclub that exists beyond the Queen’s Room.
More Britannia Club Balcony Staterooms – And A New Look
Cunard is also increasing the number of Britannia Club Balcony staterooms aboard Queen Mary 2 with the installation of 30 new Category A2 staterooms on Deck 13, marking the first time accommodations have been featured on Deck 13 of this ship. They will take the place of the current (and rarely-used) Splash Pool and Regatta Bar. Ranging from 242 square feet to 248 square feet, these rooms let guests dine in the more intimate Britannia Club Restaurant, which is situated adjacent to the main Britannia Dining Room. Guests have assigned tables, but may come as they wish between 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
The line will also be refreshing the décor of current and new Britannia Club Balcony Staterooms. Colors include a nautical palate of blues that is designed to soothe and entice travellers to linger in their midrange accommodations.
Humans aren’t the only beneficiaries of this extended drydock: A total of 10 new kennels will be added to Queen Mary 2’s uppermost deck, expanding the total number of kennels aboard the ship to 22 from 12. Both dogs and cats can sail on Transatlantic Crossings, and the existing 12 kennels sell out well in advance, according to Cunard.
The kennel refurbishment will include a new inside play area, a larger outdoor walking area for the pets, and an enhanced Owner’s Lounge. Cunard will also install a lamp post and a fire hydrant inside the dog walking area; features that were included originally aboard Queen Elizabeth 2 and originate from suggestions made by the Duke of Windsor.
Goodbye, Winter Garden; Hello Carinthia Lounge
Located forward on Deck 7 just aft of the Canyon Ranch Spa, the Winter Garden was perhaps one of the most baffling public rooms aboard Queen Mary 2. It was one of our favorites, but we appear to be alone in that regard, as the room remained largely empty and under-used, save for the occasional spa lecture.
Cunard seem to have realized this, having announced plans to dramatically transform the lounge for the better. The new Carinthia Lounge will feature a dedicated patisserie and an afternoon tea service, with the option of a special Veuve Cliquot Champagne Afternoon Tea experience (this used to be held in the Veuve Cliquot Champagne Bar on Deck 3). When the sun sets, the atmosphere will evolve into an inviting evening spot with premium wine, small plates and relaxed entertainment.
“The Carinthia embodied the spirit of travel in the 1920s, which saw the rise in popularity in world voyages and winter cruises, and it is our honor to bestow this name onto our new lounge set to launch following refit,” says Richard Meadows, president, Cunard, North America. “We believe this space will truly elevate the Queen Mary 2 experience, adding new innovative culinary options, as well as another level of refined relaxation and entertainment for our guests.”
Revitalized Culinary Options: A Better King’s Court, and A Farewell to Todd English
If there was one space that seemed to have always been problematic aboard Queen Mary 2, it was the King’s Court Buffet on Deck 7. Queen Mary 2’s casual eatery suffered from a lack of window seats and a disjointed layout that made it difficult to navigate, even after repeated crossings. But no more: Cunard is re-doing the entire area with new décor and what it promises will be an “interactive experience,” featuring rethought food stations and galley options. In fact, Cunard spent 18 months carefully redesigning the King’s Court from the ground-up, and the results look beautiful. While the general arrangement plan stays largely the same, there will be a host of new features like pre-set tables and waiter-served drinks.
Cunard chefs will take center stage in the reimagined Kings Court as they guide guests through cooking demonstrations highlighting the remastered menus and the fresh, high quality ingredients used onboard. Various food journeys will be rotated throughout the dining experience, from enticing hot and cold buffet options to light snacks, afternoon treats and alternative evening dining cuisines such as Indian, Italian, Pan Asian and Tex Mex.
The popular Chef’s Galley area, serving Italian pastas and pizzas for lunch, will also offer a Chef’s Table tasting menu on select evenings. Hosted by the Executive Chef, the Chef’s Table will offer guests the opportunity to hear insights and recipe tips while enjoying a tasting menu expertly paired with fine wines.
Also changing is Todd English, Cunard’s specialty restaurant located on Deck 8 aft. Rebranded as The Veranda, a favorite among guests onboard Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, this remastered dining venue will evoke the special personality and flavor of French regional cooking with seasonal influences, while still maintaining the unique viewpoint overlooking the ship’s stern decks.
The refit will also spruce up existing passenger areas, and will include regularly-scheduled technical maintenance like the repainting of the hull and the inspection and cleaning of the ship’s four Rolls-Royce “Mermaid” propulsion units. Queen Mary 2’s last large-scale refurbishment occurred in 2012.
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