Cruise Ship Review: Queen Mary 2

A Premium Balcony Stateroom onboard the Queen Mary 2.

A Premium Balcony Stateroom onboard the Queen Mary 2.

Some ships a decade old “look it,” but not the Queen Mary 2, Cunard Line’s flagship, which is celebrating its 10th birthday. Refurbished in 2012, this 151,400-ton ocean liner seems classy yet fresh. Reflecting both historic legacy and modern sophistication, she’s already completed 420+ transatlantic voyages.

Travel Agent attended QM2’s christening by Queen Elizabeth in Southampton 10 years ago. We also previously sailed on a West Coast voyage. So we couldn’t wait to board in May for a transatlantic sailing from New York to Southampton, UK.

Boarding: Once our car arrived at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, luggage drop-off was easy. The inside security and check-in processes also went smoothly. Guests staying in Queens Grill and Princess Grill accommodations, and frequent guests, waited in a VIP lounge and boarded first. Britannia accommodations’ guests were ushered to a large waiting room, received boarding cards and were called by zone number. Fortunately, the wait was short. Our bags were waiting outside our stateroom less than an hour after we had dropped them curbside.

Grand Public Spaces: Slipping into QM2’s day-to-day routine on a seven-day transatlantic offers time to peruse the ship’s grand public spaces that tell the Cunard story. That’s important as the cruise director told us most guests sail transatlantic for the bucket-list experience, the ship and the Cunard legacy.

RELATED: Iconic Outlook: One-on-One With David Dingle, CEO, Cunard Line

While not as large as on some ships, the Grand Lobby is classy and elegant, with a horseshoe-shaped grand staircase and a “wow factor” bronze bass relief depicting the Queen Mary 2. The lobby’s lower level has limited seating, the purser’s desk, casino, shore excursion desk and glass elevators that head upward; just one deck up, guests can shop at high-end retailers and a logo item/souvenir shop.

Running from the Grand Lobby to the Britannia Restaurant are long, wide corridors with lovely murals, some metallic, that reflect the global regions to which the ship sails. A mix of retro-style and classy elegance, the Queens Room is the largest ballroom at sea with crystal chandeliers, a large dance floor, a full orchestra set-up on stage, and such glamorous events as the Royal Ascot Ball.

Dining, Bars and Lounges: For our extensive dining review and photos about our experiences on QM2, click here.

A thermal suite day pass will give guests access to a warm hydrotherapy pool at the ship’s Canyon Ranch SpaClub.

A thermal suite day pass will give guests access to a warm hydrotherapy pool at the ship’s Canyon Ranch SpaClub.

Regarding our favorite lounge onboard, it’s tough to say, as QM2 has multiple bars for all moods. We loved the Golden Lion Pub for its British decor and lunch-time fish and chips. The Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar was a good spot for a glass of bubbly. Those in Queens Grill or Princess Grill accommodations often gravitated toward the exclusive Concierge Lounge. Cigar smokers headed for Churchill’s Cigar Lounge. Some guests danced the night away at G32, a nightclub named for QM2’s shipyard contract number.

Onboard Activities: Guests on a transatlantic cruise recognize that the ship IS the destination. While I feared not having enough to do, that wasn’t the case. That said, it was a slow-paced week. I slept in later than usual on several days, enjoyed more leisurely breakfasts or lunches (not rushed because a tour was departing), checked out several books from the library, and explored the ship on my own time schedule.

Cunard’s robust portfolio of activities included planetarium shows, drama readings, a watercolor painting class, bean bag tosses, casino tournaments, line dancing classes, trivia contests, art lectures, a book club discussion, golf putting competition, big screen movies including 3D films, wine tasting, jewelry shows, champagne afternoon tea, guest talent show, iPad classes, and more. Some options carried a fee.

Fitness-minded guests—many bundled in sweatshirts and jackets—walked the 360-degree Promenade Deck. While QM2 doesn’t offer bridge tours, guests watched at a glass-paned bridge viewing area. Canyon Ranch Fitness Center’s free classes included Body Pump–Toning with Weights, while specialty classes such as yoga and indoor cycling carried a $15 daily fee.

In the Royal Court Theatre, Cunard’s singers and dancers performed admirably and costumes were impressive. We enjoyed an Irish comedian and the melodic energy of the singing FlyRights. One “miss”? The “Arabian Nights” performance of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art students was akin to watching a high school play.

Doubling as a second theater, QM2’s Illuminations planetarium is also the only one at sea; clients pick up planetarium tickets early in the morning, several shows are offered daily, and guests recline on red seats under the dome.

On our cruise, Cunard Insights lectures featured movie critic Rex Reed; Commodore Ronald Warwick, QM2’s first captain; and Simone Levitt, widow of the former founder of Levittown, among others. Around the ship, musical entertainment included a DJ, several pianists, a harpist, jazz trio, string quartet and the Queens Room Orchestra.

Cozy Spaces: Along one public corridor, guests relaxed with Monopoly, backgammon and jigsaw puzzles. The lovely library, impressive for its sea views and wood veneer cases with 8,000 books, was often crowded. Tell clients to just check out a book and find a quiet nook in one of the lounges, such as the Commodore Club, a good perch for forward facing sea views.

Another good spot to read, relax or enjoy tea is Winter Garden, where I listened to a spa lecture about foot physiology. Spa enthusiasts can book a plethora of treatments at Canyon Ranch SpaClub. On boarding day, the 80-minute sjal Diamond Lift Facial was $189. Guests buying a thermal suite day pass can enjoy an airy relaxation room with loungers facing the sea as well as a large warm hydrotherapy pool area.

Accommodations: Our Sheltered Balcony Stateroom (Category BC), #4048, fielded a large teak balcony with two chairs and a table. Located on Deck 4, it was closer to the water line than the many glass-balcony cabins on higher decks. While open-air, the balcony was fairly solidly “cocooned”, with the ship’s structure surrounding the balcony opening. We liked this mid-ship, lower deck stateroom for its stability during one night with Force 9 (very rough) seas.

In addition to a king bed, which can be split into two twins, the stateroom had a small couch, coffee table and combination desk/entertainment center with a small flat-screen TV, refrigerator, phone, hair dryer and several drawers. Decor was soft and warm, although not nautical.

Storage space was decent with one large hanging closet, another with drawers, open shelves and a quite roomy safe. However, the third closet was a “wasted-space” mystery; it had a tie-tack type apparatus at the top but no way to hang clothes or any pull-down shelves. Our bathroom had a fairly roomy shower by cruise line standards. Crabtree and Evelyn bathroom amenities were a nice touch.

Our stateroom steward Henry kept the cabin clean and neat. He also responded well when we asked for an extra sheet to be added under the duvets and for help in vacuuming glass after we dropped a glass.

Could Be Improved: Guests couldn’t understand PA system announcements at the Brooklyn terminal, plus terminal staff “yelled” boarding numbers at waiting guests. The in-stateroom entertainment system was outdated, but we’ve happily learned it will be updated during a 2015 drydock. Beyond wine tasting, which was well attended in the Britannia Restaurant, it would have been nice to have more culinary enrichment choices such as chef’s demonstrations or classes.

We Loved: Cunard’s service shined brightly; crew members greeted guests warmly with “good morning” or “hello” and responded well to questions. I loved sailing on this iconic ship, checking off a “bucket list” experience and learning—via historical corridor panels—about Samuel Cunard and the golden age of transatlantic cruising.

The moniker “grand dame” truly fits QM2, and with drydock enhancements in 2015, she should beckon cruisers for many years to come.

Agent Advice

Why might a transatlantic or repositioning cruise be a good fit for clients?

“My clients love the repositioning cruises because of the lower cruise fares, not having to endure the connections at the airports, and avoiding the long flights ‘across the pond.’ You arrive at your destination relaxed.” – Phyllis Dale, owner, Great Escapes Travel, Lake Mary, FL

“Trans-ocean cruises are a great way to try a luxury cruise line. These cruises are usually priced at a lower price per day. They also frequently showcase some very special entertainment such as famous Big Bands.” – Ruth Turpin, owner, Cruises Etc. Travel, Fort Worth, TX

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