On QM2: Dancing on a Grand Scale

Photo by Susan J. Young

Nothing defines elegance better than couples fluidly gliding across a magnificent ballroom’s dance floor as crystal chandeliers sparkle above. Whether the dance is a cha-cha-cha, samba, quick-step, waltz or foxtrot, it’s pure magic as the action unfolds. 

Add a "live" band and a singer crooning Frank Sinatra 40's and 50's hits or renditions of songs from the 20's and 30's, and it’s a great way to experience a vibe from another time, another place, another era.

While these ballroom dancing opportunities have lessened over the years, enthusiasts of all generations can still indulge their passion at some hotels or at special events.

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Thankfully, though, ballroom dancing isn't just a land-based activity, as I discovered on my recent New York to Quebec City sailing on Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2.

One evening I entered that ship’s elegant Queens Room, a magnificent, large-scale ballroom, reminiscent of those on the grand ocean liners of the past.

My initial plan was to just pop in for a "quick look” before heading elsewhere on the ship. But instead, I lingered…  

In fact, time passed so quickly. Soon, the band was packing up for the evening. 

It was a joy to watch people of all ages, nationalities and skill levels select a partner – sometimes a seemingly wrong match in terms of height or ability – and spin, waltz, dip, two-step, glide and create their own moves, too.

Even when the floor was packed, the dancers never seemed to run into each other, leaving me to wonder, “How do they do that?”

Skilled partners certainly help. During my cruise, five of the line's dancing "gentlemen hosts" and one female hostess danced with guests without partners who wanted to take a spin around the dance floor.   

It was encouraging to see cruisers who may have danced regularly in the past with their spouses (who've since passed away) still able to enjoy the dance experience. 

I was sitting alone at a table on one side of the ballroom, when a dance hostess in the ballroom approached me and asked if I’d like to dance.

Given a knee injury, I reluctantly declined, but told her just how much I enjoyed eyeballing the action.

Entertainment staffers and some of the professional dance performers on the cruise were stand-outs, of course. 

But no one judged the abilities of any of the guest dancers. The only factor of importance was whether people were having a great time. And they clearly were.

A short woman danced with a very tall guy, both chatting and laughing as they moved around the floor. Another couple seemed a bit stiff in their style, but had all the precise steps. A younger couple from the same family twirled and glided a bit more gracefully around the floor.

People finished one dance, and with seemingly never-ending energy levels, went quickly “into hold” for the next number.

I enjoyed Cunard's “live” band under the musical direction of Blake Walters, as well as the outstanding vocal talent of Michel Chartier.

If clients love Frank Sinatra tunes or such songs as “What a Difference a Day Makes,” “It Had to be You,” or “Sweet Georgia Brown,” they shouldn’t miss this Queens Room offerings on Queen Mary 2.

Even when a “live” band isn’t playing in the Queens Room, guests often can take dance lessons or dance to recorded music.

I loved the sense of occasion, a feeling of the past, a throwback to an era gone by – and yet something joyously kept alive by people who still see the beauty in this art form.

No, the couples definitely weren’t “So You Think You Can Dance" material, but no matter. People just enjoyed the experience. 

After watching the dance action the first night, I made a point to return a second night for the line's themed Roaring 20's Gala. Photographic banners of a young "flapper" of the era hung from the ceiling.   

It was a hoot to see many of Cunard’s guests dressed in either flapper or gangster attire. Some gentlemen wore suspenders, a classy straw hat, bow ties and appropriate jackets.

Ladies were decked out in fringe or glittery dresses, feather boas around their necks, and 1920's-era hairdos, often secured by a headband with a feather. 

Some of the women held long cigarette holders, a Roaring 20's accessory. But no smoking was permitted; the holders just completed "the look." 

As the band played their last number, the couple next to me outfitted in Roaring 20's attire headed for the nearby and more modern G32 lounge. 

I followed and discovered a bit younger crowd dancing to a live band, followed by DJ-spun tunes from the 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's and 2000's.

With cool mood lighting and touches of orange and hot blue coloring, G32 offered a dance floor and energetic aura. I stayed an hour, conversed with friends I met on the cruise, and then headed for my stateroom.

That said, even days later I can’t get the vivid imagery and live music from the Queens Room ballroom experience out of my head.

Certainly Queen Mary 2 doesn't have all the wow activities of some newer cruise ships. But then it has one thing most of those don't -- the chance for guests to go dancing in a formal ballroom.

It’s a classic, grandiose, mood-setting, engaging and highly personal experience – one not to be missed, whether guests choose to dance or just watch the action.

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