PHOTO: Queen Mary 2’s teak-lined promenade has plenty of cushioned deck chairs. (Photo courtesy of Peter Knego)
On a postcard-perfect New York City day, many passengers worked their way up to the top-deck railing of Cunard’s Queen Mary 2. With the Lower Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty in our wake, there were loud cheers as the liner cleared the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge with just a few feet to spare.
For the next seven days, until the ship reached Southampton, England, there would be no land in sight, just endless vistas of sky and sea. A far cry from the typical, port-filled seven-day cruise, this time-honored Atlantic crossing is exactly what Cunard’s loyal guests, most of them avid repeaters, keep coming back for.
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Fresh from a $132-million refurbishment last summer, the 13-year-old Queen Mary 2 has never looked more regal. The liner’s charcoal gray hull and brilliant white superstructure glisten like new after being blasted to the raw steel and coated with some 2,721 gallons of fresh paint. Acres of teak decking were stripped and re-caulked, and the ship’s interiors have been refreshed with 438,091 square feet of new carpeting, 6,500 pieces of new furniture and 4,000 new works of art.
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Notable tweaks include the removal of two elevators that were crammed into the Grand Lobby on Decks 3 and 2. Not only is the space more open and elegant without the lifts, but also up on Deck 7 their removal adds more space in the once-congested King’s Court buffet eatery. The King’s Court itself was stripped to its framework and reconfigured with a larger central serving area and new seating banks, significantly improving its efficiency.
Just steps away from the King’s Court, the underutilized Winter Garden was transformed into the Carinthia Lounge, a blue-and-gold-hued venue with a wine cellar, coffee bar and snack counter. At night, it becomes a cabaret-style entertainment lounge with a jazzy low-key vibe.
Aft on Deck 7, the Queens Grill, the dining domain of guests in top-category Duplex, Penthouse and Queens Suites, has also been completely revamped with a posh mid-century ambiance with a palette of beige and gold that is offset by red velvet wingback dining chairs. The neighboring Princess Grill, the restaurant reserved for the next highest tier of Princess Suite guests, received a less dramatic makeover in soothing blues and beiges.
The Todd English concession on Deck 8 has been phased out for the Verandah, a French bistro-style eatery that has become a popular fixture on Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth. It offers a selection of mouth-watering courses that are as rich as the $50 per person cover for dinner ($20 for lunch).
The Royal Theater has been upgraded with new seating, an LED-framed proscenium and a new LED-backdrop that adds some digitally enhanced dazzle to the evening shows. Most of the ship’s other spaces – from the Canyon Ranch Spa with its new tiling and teak-framed aqua therapy pool to the three-deck Britannia Restaurant, which caters to guests in lower-tier Britannia category staterooms – have been enhanced with new fittings and furniture.
Daytime activities include enrichment lectures, dancing and fencing lessons, movies, celestial projections in the Illuminations planetarium, shuffleboard contests and performances or workshops hosted by the resident Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts troupe.
Weather permitting, the teak-lined promenade is a hugely popular draw with its cushioned teak deck chairs and invigorating access to fresh sea air. Not to be missed: between 4 and 5 p.m., there is an elegant afternoon tea in the Queens Lounge ballroom, replete with white-gloved stewards and a harpist.
In addition to early- and later-evening production shows and guest entertainers in the Royal Court, nighttime entertainment includes dancing to a band in the Queen’s Room and piano music and cocktails in the Chart Room. The ship also houses an array of other bars and even a disco in the Q32 club. The ship’s well-traveled, mostly 60-plus mixture of British, American, European and Australian guests tend to relish dressing up in the evening. There are no casual nights, only “informal” with jackets for men and smart outfits for women, or “formal” with most donning black tie and gowns – and the dress code is enforced in all but the Kings Court buffet.
Along with a block of new cabins up on Deck 13 (30 Club Balcony and 5 Interiors), six 133-square-foot Category KC Singles have replaced part of a photo gallery on Deck 3 and nine 159-square-foot Category KB Singles now occupy what was once the aft portion of the Empire Casino on Deck 2. For many of QM2’s single guests who have had to pay a supplement, this is a welcome but possibly short-lived development, as the cabins may soon be re-categorized as doubles.
Following the ship’s disembarkation in Southampton, several hundred guests stayed on for the return crossing to New York. For many of QM2’s devoted followers, it’s all about quality time spent on this special ship, which now looks and functions better than ever.
JUST THE FACTS
Cruise Line: Cunard
Ship: Queen Mary 2
Size: 151,800 gross tons, 2,961 guests
Entered Service: 2004
Itineraries: East and westbound transatlantic crossings between New York and Southampton, April through November; two “Grand Norwegian Explorer Cruises” (22 or 26 nights from New York; eight nights from Southampton or Hamburg in July and August); 12-night Caribbean cruises from New York in November and December; five-, seven- and 14-night cruises to New England and Canada from New York in July and September; 134-night World Voyage from New York, January through April 2018
Rates: Seven-night transatlantic crossings are priced from $1,199 to $4,799.