Queen Mary 2 Voyage
Voyage: M618, Southampton – Southampton
Date: September 2016
Itinerary: Southampton – At Sea – Zeebrugge – Guernsey – Southampton
It doesn’t matter how many times I see the Queen Mary 2, her size and elegant design always impresses me. She is completely unique and today is the last great transatlantic liner. I have travelled aboard QM2 many times, but the ship always provides a one-of-a-kind cruise experience.
This review is based on a cruise I took aboard the ship in September 2016 as a guest of Cunard. I embarked in Southampton, where QM2 was docked at the Queen Elizabeth II Terminal. I was travelling with the ship as a guest speaker, and was keen to check the ship out for the first time since her major “QM2 Remastered” refit.
The Queen Elizabeth II Terminal is quite functional and works well; despite having a very dated decor. Photo ID and tickets are checked on arrival, while boarding times are allocated depending on the time you arrive and your cabin category. It’s an orderly and effective way to organize over 2,695 passengers. For those travellers with Gold, Platinum or Diamond Cunard World Club status, express embarkation is offered.
When embarking QM2 at Southampton, travellers enter into the Grand Lobby. This five storey tall atrium-lobby is stunning, with the original bas-relief of the ‘QM2 on a Rising Sun’ dominating the forward wall. Changes made in 2016 include the addition of a stunning starburst carpet on the Deck 2 level, which adds a welcome pop of colour to this space; while the magnificent Boston Cup has been given a place of prominence on the Deck 3 level.
The refit also saw the removal of the Grand Lobby’s original twin glass elevators; which to me was a great improvement as it opens up the Lobby – making it a much more welcoming place to sit, mingle and meet fellow guests. From the Deck 2 level you can access the Pursers Office and Casino while the Deck 3 level is surrounded by the Mayfair Shops and Champagne Bar.
As I was aboard the ship as a guest speaker, my cabin was located on the forward end of Deck Five and was of the “Ocean View” category rooms with a large circular porthole. The cabin is comfortable and contains all the amenities you would expect including a shower room and ensuite toilet, ample closet space, a television, telephone, mini bar and writing desk.
The cabins are tastefully decorated and offer plenty of room. The shower had a pleasing water pressure and an adjustable shower-head, although the shower curtain is definitely a step down from the glass shower doors found on the older (now retired) QE2.
Bedding is offered as either two singles or a double bed, with daily morning and evening turndown service. QM2 provide 24/7 complimentary room service, and a leather folio contains both the menu as well as other important shipboard information.
On the back of the cabin door, a map depicts the location of each muster station. Before the ship departs, Lifeboat Drill is conducted and being located at the forward end of the ship, my muster station is The Gymnasium. This is always an interesting muster station, as you get to witness lifejacket-clad passengers sitting on the weights equipment and exercise bikes!!
QM2 is very large. At over 149,000 tons and 345m long QM2 is the largest Cunard ship ever built; as well as being the largest Ocean Liner in history. This allows the QM2 to offer a wide array of features, some of which are quite unique to the ship.
One such area is Illuminations; the ship’s Planetarium; the first of its type at sea. It offers a series of high definition Planetarium shows during the voyage.
Illuminations also doubles as the ship’s lecture theatre, and in this capacity can seat over 500 people. It is a stunning place to watch the enrichment talks and as a guest speaker myself, it is my favourite venue to speak in on any ship. There are clear sightlines from every seat, while speakers enjoy the same excellent perspective out to the audience, so everyone can enjoy a real sense of connection in Illuminations. The room also holds the ship’s cinema screen, and screenings of both 2D and 3D movies are offered.
In addition to Illuminations, the QM2’s design allows her to offer a second major show lounge; The Royal Court Theatre. Located just aft of Illuminations, this two level room provides space for the evening shows; including West End style productions as well as comedy shows, stand up and cabaret. It is a spacious lounge and offers good sightlines from most seats (especially on the lower level) while providing a large stage with modern sound and lighting.
On the lower level of the lounge, a drinks service is provided; with bartenders roaming the area prior to the commencement of each show. Guests on the upper level will likely want to avoid the front row, where glass balustrades do obstruct the view slightly.
The Queens Room is QM2’s ballroom and is home to the largest dance floor at sea. Located aft on Deck 2, the Queens Room is home to the QM2 Orchestra and as such the lounge hosts regular themed balls during the voyage. This is also the location for the famous Cunard afternoon tea, where white-gloved waiters offer a selection of artisan teas, sandwiches, cakes and scones. It is a very popular daily event and part of the Cunard experience that can’t be missed.
Found just aft of the Queens Room, G32 is the ship’s nightclub and is named for the yard number given to her when under construction at Chantiers de l’Atlantique in France. It’s interior is industrial in design, with large pipes, grey and metallic finishes and lots of flat-screen TVs. This area was refreshed during the 2016 refit, with new screens, lighting and sound systems.
QM2’s outdoor decks are among the finest ever put on a passenger ship. Her promenade deck is very wide, covered in teak wood and wraps around the whole ship. The ship has elegantly terraced aft decks, two large outdoor swimming pools and a third situated under a sliding glass Magrodome roof – meaning it can be used in all weather conditions. There is a sports centre on Deck 13, where paddle tennis and golf can be played, while the traditional shipboard games of Shuffleboard and Quoits are found on Deck 12.
Throughout the cruise many passengers take some time out to visit the Library and Bookshop. Located at the forward end of Deck 8, these rooms are decorated with rich wood paneling and soft lighting, creating an authentic library experience. There are forward facing windows which add to the ambiance, and lift access thanks to the exterior elevators that run up the side of the ship, connecting Deck 7 with the Observation Area on Deck 11. What makes this lift so impressive is its glass wall, so you can see over the side of the vessel while inside the lift! It’s a great place to take some photos or video!
Meals and Food
With a Britannia Grade cabin, I was assigned to the Britannia Restaurant. The restaurant is stunning, situated over three decks with a sweeping central staircase and bold tapestry on the aft wall. Service at each table is provided by a Waiter and Junior Water, and is overseen by Senior Waiters all under the watchful eye of a professional Maître d’hôtel. Our waiters were fantastic, prompt, polite and a lot of fun to talk to.
At dinner, the restaurant offers two seatings; an early and late, while Breakfast and Lunch are provided on an open seating on the lower level. The food was of a high quality, with a varied menu that changed each day of the voyage. This included starters, soups, entrees and deserts while a Canyon Ranch Spa selection provides advice and guidance on healthier meal options.
Fresh baked breads are hand delivered to each passenger at the commencement of the meal, while the restaurant offers professional sommeliers; making the Cunard experience stand out among many other lines.
The atmosphere in the Britannia Restaurant is fantastic. This starts from the string quartet on the Deck 3 entry; to the warm lighting and spacious feel of the room. There was only one formal night on our 4-night cruise. This is where the Britannia Restaurant really shines; as the formal clothing, gala menu and restaurant ambiance combine to create a truly memorable experience.
While most passengers will eat in the Britannia Restaurant, the ship does have a number of other dining selections. Guests travelling in the Q or P grades of accommodation will enjoy a table reservation in the exclusive and highly regarded Queens Grill or Princess Grill Restaurants. Found on Deck 7, they offer an open seating; high quality menu and highly attentive service. Additionally, The Britannia Club provides a more formal dining experience for those in Club grade rooms, and is found in an alcove of the Britannia Restaurant on Deck 2, aft.
Every guest can enjoy a casual dining experience in the Kings Court. Found on Deck 7, this restaurant was completely remastered in 2016. It’s original fragmented and confusing layout has been rebuilt; creating a friendly and inviting space with a variety of meal options.
Major changes includes a completely redesigned colour palate, introducing brighter, modern tones. A central buffet area provides access to a vast selection of food options; while secondary stations at the aft of the restaurant act as a pizzeria and grill.
Food can also be enjoyed in the newly created Carinthia Lounge. Occupying a space once home to the rather bland Winter Garden, the Carinthia Lounge is a very popular cafe, with a cakes and snacks selection available throughout the day. Barista coffee is on offer here, while the room also doubles as QM2’s Port Bar, with an impressive selection of aged Ports on offer.
Bars and Lounges
High atop the ship on Deck 9, the Commodore Club is a sophisticated, elegant and quiet space that specialises in cocktails. The bar’s main feature is a stunning model of QM2 which is illuminated within thanks to fibre optic cables and LED lights. The Commodore Club is the only bar aboard with a forward facing view, and is a lovely area to sit and watch the ocean go by during the day. At night, the atmosphere transforms with live piano music and hot and cold canapes on offer.
The Chart Room on QM2 is another elegant location for a pre-dinner drink. However it is as popular by day as it is at night. Situated on Deck Three, the Chart Room was refreshed during the 2016 refit to include new carpeting and upholstery. The walls are adorned with glass charts; original from the ship’s entry into service; while the large circular bar provides comfortable bar-seating and a wide selection of drinks.
The Chart Room links with the ship’s Champagne Bar which overlooks the Grand Lobby. This elegant bar comes alive at night, when pre-dinner drinks are served along with hot and cold canapes. The Commodore Club focuses on Cocktails from Cunard’s extensive range, and bartenders are on hand to dazzle you with their cocktail mixing skills!
On the Port side of Deck 3, Sir Samuels was reimagined in 2016. This wine bar now acts as the ship’s Godiva Chocolate Bar and Cafe. The addition of a Barista here has made Sir Samuels one of the most popular locations on the ship, while the tasty Godiva truffles look and smell divine.
The Golden Lion is the ship’s English Pub. There is a live band and large flat screen tv’s displaying live sporting events. The Golden Lion offers a range of draught beer, as well as bottled beer, wine, champagne, spirits and soft drinks. Each lunchtime, a Pub Lunch is on offer here, with Fish and Chips and Chicken Tikka being popular choices.
If you prefer to spend your cruise out in the sunshine, there’s plenty of options too. QM2 has a range of on deck bars, including the Pavilion Bar (Deck 12) and Terrace Bar (Deck 8), the latter being a fantastic location for a drink during the sail away parties.
On the forward end of Deck 11, the Atlantic Room provides a quiet and relaxing lounge for small functions and gatherings, while if you prefer to be pampered the Canyon Ranch Spaclub on Deck 7 has a relaxation lounge and thalassotherapy pool; as well as treatment rooms and access to the fully equipped gym.
I could keep writing about QM2 for pages and pages; there’s a lot to do aboard the ship! Hopefully this review has given you a little snippet into life aboard the ship. In my opinion, Queen Mary 2 is a ship like no other. A true Ocean Liner, she is a one off design where the little details were well thought out; combining with her large size to create a very special ship.
The 2016 remastering of the ship has, in my opinion, improved QM2’s interior. Her design has been enhanced by thoughtful changes to an already well thought out interior, including vibrant new carpeting, a simpler floor plan in several major rooms and an enhanced ambiance. I can’t wait to get back aboard Queen Mary 2 and would rate the experience 10/10!
Note: I travelled aboard Queen Mary 2 as a guest lecturer Courtesy of Cunard.