We had a wonderful time on our recent voyage on the Queen Mary 2. Here is a summary.
The Queen Mary is now permanently moored in Long Beach where it is a museum, hotel and event center. My father sailed on the Queen Mary when he returned from WW II back in 1945. It is also where Judy and I spent our Honeymoon so it will always be a special ship to us. While cruising on the Queen Mary is no longer possible, we decided to try the next best thing and sail on the Queen Mary 2 on her iconic voyage – a westbound crossing. Why westbound? You get an extra hour of sleep each night for 5 of the nights and you get to sail into New York Harbor and see the Statue of Liberty the way she was intended to be seen, from a ship arriving from Europe.
Our cruise – er, voyage – started in Hamburg, Germany, and would have a single port visit in Southampton before continuing the crossing to New York City. One thing you learn quickly on the Queen Mary 2 is that she is not a cruise ship but an ocean liner and great pride is taken in pointing that out whenever they have the chance. Cunard vessels also go on voyages, not cruises, and have an entertainment director, not a cruise director.
As a final note, the QM2 is an OCEANLINER, not a cruise ship which make her seakeeping abilities much superior to a typical cruise ship. The seas picked up quite a bit as we closed on NYC and the remnants of Hurricane Hermine, but we sailed along much smoother that I would have expected on another vessel.
We loved the QM2 and plan to sail again on her, particularly on another crossing. The prices of some of the crossings can be competitive with business class airfare which makes taking the QM2 to Europe an alternative worth considering If you have the time. By their nature, a “Crossing” is all sea days which will often feature a special theme or guest like Fashion Week or Jazz legend Herbie Hancock. The Cunard website will feature these special crossings on their web site.
Other features of the QM2 we enjoyed include:
- Formal night means Formal night. Tuxedos required in all public areas after 6pm (except the Kings Court) and we found almost 100% compliance. Every other night is informal night which on the QM2 means jacket required, tie optional.
- The large central hallway presents a grand appearance and allows you to quickly get around without weaving thru the casino or lounges.
- 34 musicians are on the ship and you will find live music everywhere. In addition to the Royal Court theatre orchestra there is another wonderful 7-8 piece orchestra in the Queens room playing ball room dance music nightly. On one night, the two bands joined forces for a Big Band night. If you like ball room dancing, I can’t think of a more accommodating ship. The QM2 has the largest dance floor at sea and is one of the few ships with dance hosts on such short cruises.
- The lounges are busy after midnight. For a ship with an older demographic, this was pretty amazing. On many ships catering to older clientele, the bars and lounges can become ghost towns after 9pm. We found most of the QM2 bars and lounges comfortably full until past midnight.
- There is a nice suite of classrooms in the Connexions area and the theatre, “Illuminations”, which is also used as a Planetarium and a lecture space is another nice venue. Plenty of enrichment activities, classes and lectures available.
- The Photo Gallery features large flat screen monitors which makes finding your pictures easier than wandering up and down rows of photos trying to find your picture.
- The weather wasn’t great so we didn’t spend much time outside or use the pools.
- While the ship carries 2600 passengers, it never feels crowded and there was rarely much of a line for anything.
- Afternoon Tea features a live string quartet and is quite elegant. We went twice.
- While still slow, Internet was faster than on other ships, but the per minute cost was a little higher.
- Lounges are not taken over by artwork in preparation for Art Auctions. There are not Art Auctions on the QM2.
A few negatives:
- The casino floor space was cut in half during the remastering and they removed the poker table. This may be a pro depending on your point of view, but I missed not having a poker table. Note: It was advertised as the largest casino at sea before remastering, but no more. However, no one was forced to walk thru the casino to get anywhere.
- A pet peeve of mine – no room service on disembarkation day coupled with a requirement to vacate your cabin by 8:30 am.
- On board purchases, from drinks to photos, to spa services seem to be 10 – 20% more than on Holland America. For example a men’s haircut on the QM2 was $38 ($25 on HAL).
A few more details
Check in at the Hamburg cruise terminal was unremarkable. There were 9 check in stations for most passengers with an additional 3 set aside for suite passengers and others at the Platinum or Diamond loyalty level. We arrived around noon, which was probably the peak check in time and waited about 1 hour to get to the head of the line. Once we checked in, there wasn’t any line for security and we were quickly onboard.
The pre-voyage photo was taken on the ship in the Grand Lobby instead of inside the cruise terminal. We enjoy embarkation photos and find they make a wonderful memento of our cruise. After our photo we were on our way to our cabin.
Our first impression of the ship was wow! The Grand Lobby is spectacular. One feature that is quite striking is the height and width of the central hallway on Decks 2 and 3. Most cruise ships usually have parallel hallways on either side of a central core and you are generally required to pass thru the casino and other lounges to get most anywhere. On the QM2 the central hallways are Decks 2 and 3 extending forward and aft from the Grand Lobby with the Britannia Dining Room at one end and the Royal Court Theatre at the other. This central hallway is very wide and very high and runs along various lounges and eating venues, but you are not required to pass thru any of them to get anywhere and people in the various lounges are not distracted by people in transit.
By the time we got to our cabin, our bags were already waiting for us. We chose Cabin 6036 which is one of the larger oceanviews since it is adjacent to the balcony cabins nearby. You end up with the space of the balcony only inside your cabin. If you carefully review the deck plans you can find other cabins like these. Although the cabin could have accommodated more closet space, there isn’t any more storage in these larger cabins.
The cabin was newly remastered with a flat screen TV and carpeting. The bathroom was not upgraded and had a shower only, no tub, which was fine with us. As a sign of how the times have changed there was a built in ashtray next to the toilet. All cabins and balconies are no smoking on the QM2.
The room had a small refrigerator stocked with a few sodas and beer at reasonable prices (as far as a mini bar goes) and there was plenty of room to add your own items if necessary.
The flat screen TV has HDMI inputs and a USB input. There isn’t a DVD player, but if you have a USB stick that contains movies then this TV is capable of playing them. A note of caution – some TVs in some rooms were bolted to the walls and I wasn’t able to check if you could still access the rear input ports on these TV’s. If using these ports is important to you then it may be wise to bring along a USB and HDMI angle adapter which are available from many places – search for HDMI or USB angle adapter and you will find them.
There were quite a few selections on the TV, with all the cable news outlets represented: CNN, FOX , MSNBC, and Sky News. Like most ships these days, only the most pressing of safety announcements are broadcast inside the cabins. There is one of the channels, that plays all the announcements so if you quickly flip to this channel, you can avoid having to open your door to hear what is being said. A TV guide that covers your entire voyage should be waiting for you in your cabin or delivered the next morning.
Your cabin will have the usual booklet with all the safety features along with a room service menu and services available onboard.
The cabin has both North American electrical outlets and UK electrical outlets, bring an adapter and you will have access to an extra outlet. Another nice touch was a kettle that will make hot water along with an assortment of instant coffee and teas.
We were surprised to find clothes hangers that don’t have any hooks on them that require a matching adapter on the hangar rod. The other closet didn’t have any hangars at all, but our cabin steward brought some more once we asked.
Our Cabin Steward didn’t have an assistant, or at least one that he mentioned. Another observation was that the cabin stewards worked from carts (containing spare towels & supplies) in the hallways similar to what you would find in use by room service personnel in hotels.
The bathroom has a nice selection of soaps, shampoos and conditioners in small sizes, as opposed to dispensers on the walls of the shower you find on other lines. Water pressure was fine and the temperature was easy to control with a thermostatic valve in addition to the water volume control.
There is a digital thermostat to control cabin air temperature and it worked fine.
Our cabin was directly below the Deck 7 promenade and we only heard footsteps a few times, not often enough where it became a nuisance. One time when I left the room and looked at the foot traffic on the promenade, I was surprised to see how busy it was while I had heard nothing below in our cabin. I can only surmise that the few times I heard footsteps it must have been walkers wearing very hard heels or boots.
All of our breakfasts were from room service and our dinners were in the Britannia dining room (late seating). For lunch we ate in the Kings Court, Chefs Galley, Golden Lion Pub and room service. We tried the Hot Chocolate and a desert at Sir Samuels in addition to attending two afternoon teas in the Queens Room.
The food was excellent in every venue and our only disappointment was that we didn’t have an opportunity to try the Verandah Restaurant and the Boardwalk Café. The Boardwalk Cafe was never open during our voyage since it requires nice weather which is less likely to occur on a crossing due to the prevailing winds and cooler temperatures normally found on a crossing.
Room service breakfast is our standard for all our cruises. The QM2 did not disappoint with its wonderful hang tag menu of hot and cold choices. I was pleasantly surprised that it was possible to write in items like Eggs Benedict, waffles or French toast and had them all delivered the next morning. All of our breakfasts were delivered hot and on time.
One day I went to the Kings Court for Breakfast and found a wide variety of choices, everything from eggs benedict, fried eggs and omelets to order, cold cereal, oatmeal, a variety of breakfast meats, fried tomatoes and sautéed mushrooms. The Kings Galley (Aft) is home to pancakes, waffles and French toast in addition to eggs and other selections.
We never went to the Britannia Dining Room for breakfast.
The Carinthia Lounge has a small buffet with a few sandwiches and other light fare and is a very relaxing place to linger with friends over a light lunch. Beverages are available for sale from the bar or otherwise you have to get something from the beverage bar in the Kings Court.
The Kings Galley is the place for burgers, hot dogs and pre-made sandwiches. I stopped by here a few times for something quick and the burgers were hot and good. There were always some empty tables and one time the Captain and his wife sat down nearby for a quick bite.
Kings Court (aft), which is right next to the Chefs Galley, serves pizza and pasta in addition to salads and desserts. I never tried the pizza, but it certainly looked delicious.
The main Kings Court Buffet had a wide variety of hot and cold selections. The center section has breads and desserts while the aft buffets have sushi, salads, meats and cheeses. Soft serve ice cream is available from machines on both the port and starboard side and is very good. There are four beverage stations serving complimentary coffee, tea, orange juice, lemonade, apple juice and cranberry juice. One of the four stations serves iced tea instead of lemonade. I found the various buffet stations not very crowded and easy to get around even during busier times. It did take about 10 minutes of wandering around the Kings Court, Chefs Galley and Kings Court Aft to understand what was offered in the various areas.
We are a big fan of Fish and Chips and we enjoyed two lunches in the Golden Lion Pub. The place is packed when it opens at 12 so be prepared to wait until the first wave gets thru the kitchen. People tend to linger here and this was the only venue where there was a little trouble finding a table from time to time.
Lunch is available in the Britannia Dining room, but we never ate there.
We ate all our dinners in the Britannia Dining room at an oval table for eight. We find that an 8 top is a good size as it allows even people sitting across from one another to have a conversation.
The menus offered 6 choices for starters, entrees and desert. Not listed, but I have been informed by others, there are some always available options like salmon or chicken, but they are not listed on the menu. There is not a separate desert menu as they are listed on the main menu and when it is time for your desert selection they pass around the original menu once again.
We enjoyed the food very much and it was typical of our experience on most other cruise lines. Trying to review food is something that I don’t spend much time on as it is so subjective and can vary somewhat from day to day. My general observation was that the food on the QM2 was excellent and about the same as you would find on any other cruise line in this price range.
The QM2 presents the typical type of entertainment found on many cruise lines. They have a house cast of singers and dancers which are augmented by guest entertainers of the usual genres. Original singers, comedians, tribute singers and novelty acts.
ROYAL COURT THEATRE
Queen Mary 2’s main stage is the Royal Court Theatre (RCT), a large theatre with 2 levels. One of the new features from the remastering was the installation of a large video flat screen behind the stage which can display city scenes and other images to support the production show taking place. The theatre is beautiful and has wonderful sight lines and acoustics. We never had trouble finding a seat for any show or lecture, although a few events were pretty full, we were able to find seats off to the side which still provided a good view of the stage.
The Royal Court Theatre Singers and Dancers presented 2 excellent production shows, with the second show called, “Rhythm of the Night”, that made full use of the newly installed video wall.
The late shows were at 10:30 and were surprisingly well attended.
The Queens Room is a large ballroom with the largest dancefloor at sea. The ceiling is high and the room is very open and a perfect venue for parties and balls. You can expect 3 formal nights on a Crossing with 2 of the 3 being themed balls.
Small – no poker table, but $3 minimums on card games during the day and $5 at night.
A nice selection of shops selling the stuff you would expect. If you forgot to bring your formal wear, they sell tuxedos and they are also available for rent.
This library is huge with over 10,000 books and is the largest library on any ship sailing today.
The QM2 doesn’t have Art Auctions found on other lines, but sells art thru its Art Gallery during scheduled shows. The Art Gallery is on the way to the Queens Room and you almost have to walk thru to get there, but you are not bombarded with sales pitches along the way and browsing the collection is interesting and the art displayed changes frequently.Uncategorized