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Queen Mary 2 – A Regal Atlantic Crossing
By John and Sandra Nowlan
QM2 Across the Atlantic
Linda Potter of Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario, thinks of the Queen Mary 2 as “her” ship. The retired librarian has now made seven trans-Atlantic crossings on the world’s grandest ocean liner. “I have the time to visit my relatives in Britain,” she said. “And I love the attention I get from the crew of this ship. There’s always something to do.”
Decades ago, crossing the North Atlantic was the staple of many ships and many shipping lines. Now there’s just the Queen Mary 2. The 151,000 ton vessel is the largest ocean liner ever built. Handling 2600 passengers, it stretches almost four football fields in length (five time longer than Cunard’s first ship, Britannia) and equals the height of a 23 story building. The current level of service and comfort would have astonished the line’s founder, Nova Scotia-born Samuel Cunard.
Queen Mary 2 is built tough to withstand the unpredictable rigours of the North Atlantic. For several months a year it continues a 170 year tradition of trans-Atlantic crossings. To join a modern Cunarder for its scheduled England to North America service is to relive the glory days before air travel became popular.
Many passengers take the six day New York to Southampton service but we, along with 100 other Canadians, chose the westward route mainly because clocks go back almost every night (sailing east loses an hour a night) and it’s a good opportunity to visit London prior to the trip.
Big Band Music in the Queen’s Room
Once in Southampton, passengers for the Queen Mary 2 are quickly processed and welcomed aboard. The first impressions are of sheer size and glamour. Corridors on the passenger decks are as long as 36 London double-deckers. Exploring the twelve decks and four staircases (there are lots of elevators too) provide excellent exercise plus a history lesson with dozens of portraits of famous Cunard ships lining the walls as well as giant photos of celebrity guests (Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Marilyn Monroe).
A quick tour of the ship before dinner provides insight into the care and imagination taken by the designers. Near the bow end we pass the library with its 8,000 volumes (the largest at sea), a well-stocked bookshop, two large, plush, fully-equipped theatres, one for complex production shows and concerts, the other housing a planetarium, the only one at sea. Towards the centre of the ship is the modern disco and the traditional Queen’s Room, the biggest ballroom at sea, and the venue for formal dances, afternoon tea and receptions. Nearby is an avenue of shops (Harrods, J. Stern, Hermes and several others), the casino, numerous bars and lounges (including the Golden Lion Pub serving lots of draft beer and traditional British pub fare) and the stylish three story atrium with its purser’s office and tour desk. The ship also has a kennel with a full time attendant to pamper travelling dogs and cats.
Food is important on any sea voyage and Queen Mary 2 boasts ten restaurants on several levels. The largest is the elegant Britannia Restaurant near the stern of the ship with places for 1350 diners. It rises three stories and spans the full width of the ship. Live harp or string quartet music accompanies the formal meals most evenings. Guests who book the upscale Queens or Princess Grill accommodation have their own dining rooms (about 200 seats each) with enhanced menu choices from a separate kitchen. Also available for all guests, at a surcharge of $30 for dinner, is the 150 seat Todd English, a restaurant named for the famous Boston chef. We were very impressed with the quality and presentation of the dishes.
Sophisticated QM2 Dance
Captain Nick Bates
The main buffet area, covering much of Deck 7, is called King’s Court. At lunch it’s divided into four sections based on food themes – Asian (Lotus), Italian (La Piazza), Traditional Meats (The Carvery) and American fast food (Chef’s Galley). At breakfast and lunch it can get uncomfortably crowded. One frustrated guest told us it resembled a busy university cafeteria. However, in the evening, tablecloths are set, candles are lit and the four areas become much more pleasant and relaxing. In particular, the Chef’s Galley turns into a showcase for the talent of the ship’s Demonstration Chef. He prepares interesting dishes directly in front of 30 or so guests and then waiters bring his delicacies to each table. On the night we were there, Indian food was the theme (it changes every day) and the cuisine was authentic and flavourful.
To work off the calories, the Queen Mary 2 has two pools, a full promenade deck, excellent gym equipment and a Canyon Ranch spa featuring some of the most exotic health club treatments at sea. Sandra enjoyed a 100 minute “Deluxe Conditioning Body Scrub” with antioxidant green tea and wasabi root extracts. Heavenly!
Each day on the QM2’s Atlantic crossing we were offered a multitude of things to see and do. As one guest from Ontario told us, “You could run yourself ragged during the week if you tried everything.” Choices on Day One included beginners bridge classes, an acting workshop with some talented graduates from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (late in the cruise they presented an hour long drama, “Hobson’s Choice”), the golf simulator, samba dance classes, art classes, computer lessons, a back pain seminar, a first run movie, blackjack and poker lessons, needlework, a Spanish guitar concert, a table tennis tournament, team trivia, deck quoits and several planetarium shows of “Cosmic Collisions”. In addition there were fascinating lectures in both theatres on subjects ranging from “Creating Cliffhangers in Novels” to “The Rise of Giant Insects” to “The History of Medicine”. And that’s all before dinner!
Champagne – Lots of Champagne
Other outstanding lectures later in the crossing included “Why I Write” with Erica Jong and illustrated talks on Antarctic Survival, The History of Puzzles and The Earth’s Mass Extinctions. To us, interesting lectures are a vital part of any cruise and Cunard seems to do them better than anyone.
With a megaship and a large thrust stage, evening entertainment on QM2 tended to be very sophisticated. A 20 member orchestra accompanied the four resident Royal Cunard Singers one evening and, another night, eight talented dancers joined them. Individual acts included an amazing tenor from Texas who was equally comfortable performing as Pavarotti or Roy Orbison.
Approaching New York, Marilyn Weaver of Newmarket, Ontario had mixed feelings. “I’m very sad to see these six days come to an end,” she said. “But it’s also my dream come true. I’ve always wanted to cross the Atlantic on Cunard just like my parents did when they came to Canada from the Ukraine.” Her husband, Keith, added that the week was amazingly relaxing. “Life is so busy, it’s nice to have a break. You don’t get pampered like this at home.”
QM2 Executive Chef
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|Print article||This entry was posted by Barbara Kingstone on January 17, 2011 at 6:24 pm, and is filed under Cruises. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.|