Today’s latest, greatest ships truly have it all. Well, after just an hour onboard Cunard Line’s 150,000-grt Queen Mary 2 this week, I’d have to adjust that language a bit -- to say, “almost have it all.”
As one of Cunard’s three “queens,” the 2,600-passenger vessel serves as the brand’s flagship and exudes a special maritime-focused quality and classy elegance that many cruise ships don’t.
Perhaps it’s the feeling of being on a true ocean liner, a ship with a thicker hull that's built to take the pounding of rough North Atlantic waters week after week, year after year. From a personal perspective, I’d have to say that one feels incredibly safe cocooned in this vessel.
Perhaps it’s the sense of elegance and style that Queen Mary 2 delivers on a daily basis. In a way, it’s a throw-back to the early 20th century’s Golden Age of Ocean Travel.
How so? Guests appreciate and dress for “a sense of occasion.” While I’m usually enthusiastic about cruise line offerings of casual dining venues or anytime dining without structure, there is something to be said when circulating around a ship with guests dressed for a gala ball and sitting down at a fixed seating with a table of fellow guests, eager to each learn about what the others did for the day.
Plus, the ship offers other alternative dining venues as well, such as a casual Kings Court Buffet that has themed dining in the evenings and the Steakhouse at the Verandah.
Other public spaces include a full-service Canyon Ranch SpaClub, 3D theater, planetarium, 15 restaurants and bars, five pools, a grand theater, gym, lounges, Internet café and more.
Accommodations are enclaves of luxury, thanks to a major revitalization project in 2016. My balcony stateroom, #4039, is comfortable, spacious and well-appointed. I like the soft, rich color tones with deep blue accents, the roomy shower and plenty of storage space.
But the aura from this cruise ship extends beyond décor and space. What’s truly special is that history seemingly lingers around every corner.
Guests enjoy Cunard’s White Star Service, terminology rooted in the famed White Star Line, a historic line that merged into Cunard in the 1920s and that was known for its high-class service levels. While some people may recall that White Star Line operated the Titanic, it’s important to point out that accident was in a much earlier time when Cunard did not own the line.
In today’s world of prolific flights across the globe, it’s also easy to forget that ships, not airplanes, were the prime form of international transport in the past. I loved perusing the Stars Onboard historic panels near the Internet Center to learn about movie stars who sailed on Cunard’s liners when air travel was its infancy.
It was also fun to look at a historic photographic panel of British war brides who met and married GI’s in World War II and came to America on Cunard ships, putting their faith in love and family, while leaving their homeland behind. c
This week, I admit to being a bit caught up in the aura of this ship while taking a week-long cruise from New York City to Quebec City.
Maybe it’s the historical flair, maybe the lovely multi-tiered Britannia Dining Room and maybe the conversations with Cunard’s guests, many repeaters, who come from the U.K., Canada, the U.S. and beyond.
Then again, maybe it was me just feeling at home, settling in, and savoring the latest moment on this storied ship. In the early 2000's, I attended both the ship’s keel laying at the shipyard at St. Nazaire, France, and, soon after, the christening and naming by HRM Queen Elizabeth in Southampton.
A bit later, I sailed on the ship from Los Angeles to Long Beach for a “meet-up” with the original Queen Mary, now a hotel in Long Beach, CA. Three years ago, I also took a transatlantic cruise on this ship.
One factor is certain. Queen Mary 2 seems to weave new magic on each encounter. I feel as though I’m a sailor, not simply a cruiser, a grand traveler not simply a cruise guest.