Cunard’s flagship is a grand ocean liner in the classic sense: elegant and formal, her art deco flourishes, glittering chandeliers and elegant ballroom harking back to the golden age of ocean travel.
Queen Mary 2 was built specifically to operate a transatlantic service and for much of the year, sails between New York and Southampton, as well as embarking every January on a world cruise. Yet despite the grandeur of this 2,691-passenger ship, Queen Mary 2 is surprisingly accessible to all budgets, with dozens of cabin grades from comfortable but cosy inside accommodation to lavish, split-level suites.
Where to sleep
Queen Mary 2 is one of the only ships at sea to offer a traditional class system. The cabin you book dictates the restaurant you’re assigned – Queens Grill, Princess Grill or the main Britannia dining room. The most expensive cabins, in the two ‘Grill’ classes, Queens and Princess, are gorgeous, done out in smart cream, gold, scarlet and navy with stylish, black-and-white photography of Cunard’s iconic buildings on the walls.
The bulk of cabins are Britannia grade, which means you eat in the magnificent Britannia dining room but are assigned a table and a dining time. If you want the freedom of open seating, splash out a bit extra on Britannia Balcony Grill class, a more exclusive section of the main dining room with open seating.
Where to eat
The Queens Grill and Princess Grill restaurants are assigned to passengers in the poshest cabins and have their own lounge, bigger menus and a lot of tables for two. Expect real fine dining in these, with lobster and chateaubriand regular features on the menu and waiters performing showy tableside preparation. In the Britannia dining room, there is plenty of choice, as well as an always-available menu of comfort food like pasta or steak. There is a separate vegetarian menu in the main restaurants, too, although you need to ask for it and order from it at breakfast for dinner.
Elsewhere you will find proper pub grub (fish and chips, or pie and mash) and draught beer in the Golden Lion Pub, and an extensive buffet in the King’s Court, which also creates a more romantic setting in the evenings for themed dinners, among them Mexican, Italian, pan-Asian and Indian. There is also a fine-dining restaurant, The Verandah, offering classic French cuisine for a supplement. A new addition in the ship’s £90 million refit in 2016 was the Carinthia Lounge, a lovely, restful space where you’ll find small plates of salad, paninis, pastries, crepes and club sandwiches; the perfect grazing food for lunch on a day at sea.
What to do
Queen Mary 2 offers a spectacular array of entertainment and activities, day and night; even on a seven-day Atlantic crossing you’ll find something to fill every moment, should you wish. There is a roster of top guest speakers, for starters, from astronauts to historians. The library is stunning, with thousands of books, and as the only one at sea, the planetarium is a must. There are two swimming pools, one of them indoors, and a wonderful promenade deck for an early morning stroll. You could book a round of golf in the simulator, visit the gym or splash out in the Canyon Ranch spa; a treatment in here gives you free access to the saunas and thalassotherapy pool in the thermal suite. Then there are pub quizzes and karaoke in the Golden Lion, dance classes and even acting classes with RADA. In the evenings, as well as shows and live music, a highlight is ballroom dancing in the Queens Room, where gentleman hosts are at the ready to partner single ladies.
What I loved
Travelling on Queen Mary 2 is without doubt an occasion and this is one ship where you will want to dress up; it’s impossible not to be swept away by the glamour. There are at least two formal nights on transatlantic cruises and part of the fun is getting ready for dinner and then exploring the different bars and lounges, drinking cocktails, people-watching and dancing. If in doubt, dress up; and if you forget something, don’t worry, as there is a whole arcade of shops on-board.
Make the most of a transatlantic crossing by getting organised. Study the daily programme and make yourself an itinerary for each day; those seemingly long, empty days at sea fill up fast. On a westbound crossing, there are five time changes, so you gain five hours and can enjoy a lie-in most days. On an eastbound crossing, though, you lose five hours, so you’ll tend to have a lot of energy at night but may struggle to wake up in the mornings!