Inside Queen Mary 2’s Royal Renovations

QM2 is adding 15 new Britannia Single staterooms to Decks 2 and 3.
QM2 is adding 15 new Britannia Single staterooms to Decks 2 and 3.

Queen Mary 2 — or QM2 as she’s affectionately known — is unlike any other cruise ship. In fact, she’s not really a cruise ship — although to vacationers this 151,400-ton Cunard Line flagship fits the bill. Structurally, she’s a true ocean liner and the only one launched in this century. Her hull is much thicker than that of a typical cruise ship, and her prow is built to easily slice through turbulent North Atlantic waters on transoceanic crossings.

But she’s not just hardware. She’s a lovely lady, launched in 2004, carrying 2,592 guests in double occupancy and brimming with lovely artwork, maritime antiques, brass panels and much more. Both elegant and decidedly British, she retains an onboard ambiance that reflects the early and mid-20th century Golden Era of ocean travel, while still providing a modern cruise experience with everything from planetarium shows to cooking demonstrations and themed cruises.

Cunard last updated QM2 in 2011 with new colors, redesigned spaces and refreshed staterooms. Now, five years later, QM2 will receive the most elaborate update yet in a lengthy dry dock between May 27 and June 21 at the Blohm+Voss Shipyard in Hamburg, Germany. QM2 will emerge on June 21 “remastered,” according to Rick Meadows, president, Cunard Line - North America. The update is the most significant refurbishment that Carnival Corp. UK has ever undertaken.

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“A dry dock is normally one week, 10 days or two weeks, so the three-week dry dock demonstrates the amount of effort going into the ship,” says Meadows. “It’s not just the design aesthetics being changed. There are quite a few structural issues…QM2 has an iconic status, and I think repeat guests are really going to notice that the new designs onboard will really elevate that experience.” New dining spaces, new menus, upcoming themed cruises and entertainment options also are designed to attract a broad demographic that now includes Millennials and Generation Xers

Besides the flagship QM2, the line launched two smaller vessels, Queen Victoria in 2007 and Queen Elizabeth in 2010. Some elements guests love about those two ships — most notably The Verandah restaurant — are now navigating to QM2. “We really listened to guests,” Meadows says. “When they see the ship they will feel their wishes and ideas created the inspiration that took place.”

The Queens Grill Suite will sport this updated look following Queen Mary 2’s lengthy dry dock.
The Queens Grill Suite will sport this updated look following Queen Mary 2’s lengthy dry dock.

So what’s happening? All staterooms and suites will be updated, including the Queens and Princess Grill Suites and Restaurants and Britannia Club Balcony Staterooms; the latter will get a new nautical blue feel in the updated décor. Another 30 of those Britannia Club Balcony staterooms will also be added on Deck 13, replacing the little-used Splash Pool and Regatta Bar. The changes will give more guests access to the exclusive Britannia Club Restaurant, which will be expanded.

Solo travelers, as well as those singles sailing as part of a larger family group spread throughout the ship, will likely welcome the ship’s 15 new Britannia Single staterooms being added to Decks 2 and 3. To make room for those additional single staterooms, Cunard will take space in the current slot-machine area of the Empire Casino; the slots will be relocated in the casino. Some of the new single staterooms will also be configured in the space presently used by the Images Photo Gallery, which, in turn, will be relocated across from the Golden Lion Pub on Deck 2.

Elsewhere, on Deck 7, the Kings Court will get a fresh, intuitive layout and new interactive guest experiences; look for reconfigured pre-set tables, new menus, better configured food stations, galley options, cooking demonstrations and waiters serving drinks. One elevator bank is being removed to ease traffic flow through the space. Our experience was that the space never really worked well in terms of smooth flow, so this is one of the areas we’re most interested in seeing after the update. The goal is a smoother, more pleasant buffet dining experience.

In the evening, Kings Court guests will discover alternative options, including Indian, Italian, Pan Asian and Tex Mex cuisine. On certain nights, Chef’s Galley, which serves pizza and pasta at lunch, will offer a Chef’s Table tasting menu hosted by QM2’s executive chef; guests can learn about culinary trips and trends while enjoying a tasting menu and fine wines. Look for changes in the décor too, with Art Deco chandeliers, warm woods, neutral colors and mirrors to draw in the sea views.

The Carinthia Lounge, which will replace the existing Winter Garden on Deck 7, will be more “multi-purpose.”
The Carinthia Lounge, which will replace the existing Winter Garden on Deck 7, will be more “multi-purpose.”

The former Todd English restaurant, the ship’s alternative specialty restaurant, will be replaced with the new Verandah restaurant, much beloved by Cunard’s guests on Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth. In addition, the Carinthia Lounge will replace the existing Winter Garden on Deck 7; the latter has been a pretty space but a bit baffling in terms of what its role was in the overall cruise experience. The Carinthia Lounge will be more “multi-purpose,” says Meadows. It will serve a light breakfast and lunch, host a patisserie and afternoon tea service (including a Veuve Clicquot Champagne tea service option) and in the evenings, offer refreshments and entertainment.

The former Todd English restaurant, the ship’s alternative specialty restaurant, will be replaced with the new Verandah restaurant.
The former Todd English restaurant, the ship’s alternative specialty restaurant, will be replaced with the new Verandah restaurant.

And since many guests also transport their dogs and cats in the line’s kennels on QM2’s series of transatlantic voyages between New York and Southampton, England, the line is increasing the number of kennels from 12 to 22. Cunard’s permits ensure pets can board and after the voyage, disembark on the opposite side of the Atlantic Ocean with their owners, without extensive quarantining. The kennels are so popular that potential guests know to ask if there’s space for their four-legged friends before even booking their own cruise. To be added in the drydock are a new inside pet play area, a larger outside walking area and two “doggy perks” — a 1916 lamppost from a location near Cunard’s original Liverpool headquarters building and a New York City “fire hydrant.”

After QM2 emerges from dry dock, Meadows stresses that she’ll be refreshed but also continue to retain her elegant style and White Star service. “It’s that luxury on a grand scale — that pays tribute to our history,” he says. And the past remains a strong draw, no matter the generation.

Increasingly, Gen Xers, Millennials and young families, as well as Baby Boomers and Matures, can be spotted on QM2 perusing historic photographs and memorabilia, particularly on Decks 2 and 3 forward. Because while dry dock updates change spaces and new perks and features are added, one thing never changes — that special “feeling” of sailing the ocean blue on a grand liner, just as movie stars and world luminaries did so many decades ago.

More Ships Shaping Up

QM2 is one of dozens of ships being updated this year. Many, including Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America, went into dry dock in the first quarter, while last month Azamara Quest, Carnival Valor, Holland America Line’s Oosterdam and Royal Caribbean International’s Jewel of the Seas were among vessels receiving makeovers. Ships slated for dry dock refurbishments through year’s end include: Norwegian Dawn (May); Royal Princess (late September); Regent Seven Seas Voyager, Celebrity Solstice and Hurtigruten’s NordNorge (October); MSC Musica and Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas (November); and Grand Princess (December).

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