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Cruise Ship Information

RMS Queen Mary 2 (also referred to as the QM2) is a transatlantic ocean liner. She was the first major ocean liner built since Queen Elizabeth 2 in 1969, the vessel she succeeded as flagship of the Cunard Line. The new ship was named Queen Mary 2 by Queen Elizabeth II in 2004 after the first RMS Queen Mary, completed in 1936. Queen Mary was in turn named after Mary of Teck, consort of King George V. With the retirement of Queen Elizabeth 2 in 2008, Queen Mary 2 is the only transatlantic ocean liner in line service between Southampton and New York, which operates for part of each year. The ship is also used for cruising, including an annual world cruise.

The ship was designed by a team of British naval architects led by Stephen Payne, and was constructed in France by Chantiers de l'Atlantique in 2003. At the time of her construction, Queen Mary 2 was the longest passenger ship ever built, and with her gross tonnage of 148,528 also the largest. She no longer holds this distinction after the construction of Royal Caribbean International's 154,407 GT Freedom of the Seas in April 2006.

Queen Mary 2 was intended to routinely cross the Atlantic Ocean, and was therefore designed differently from many other passenger ships. The ship's final cost was approximately $300,000 US per berth. Expenses were increased by the high quality of materials, and having been designed as an ocean liner, she required 40% more steel than a standard cruise ship. Queen Mary 2 has a maximum speed of just over 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph) and a cruising speed of 26 knots (48 km/h; 30 mph), much faster than a contemporary cruise ship. Instead of the diesel-electric configuration found on many ships, Queen Mary 2 uses integrated electric propulsion to achieve her top speed. This uses gas turbines to augment the power generated from the ship's diesels.

Queen Mary 2 '​s facilities include fifteen restaurants and bars, five swimming pools, a casino, a ballroom, a theatre, and the first planetarium at sea. There are also kennels and a nursery on board.

On 19 October 2011, Queen Mary 2 had her registry changed to Hamilton, Bermuda, from her home port of Southampton, England to allow the ship to host on-board weddings. This marked the first time in its 171-year history that Cunard has not had a ship registered within the UK.

Atmosphere on board

Perhaps no ship currently at sea excites a lover of maritime history like the Queen Mary 2. The flagship of the Cunard line and successor to the much-missed QE2 does its best to echo the company's storied past, evoking as much traditional 'Britishness' as possible, despite being part of US-owned Carnival Corp. Launched in 2004 with a christening featuring Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Mary 2 attempts to conjure the traditional charm of ocean voyages with classic afternoon tea, elegant decor and dressy eveningwear, along with an outstanding outdoor Promenade ringing Deck 7. No neon, no PA announcements and no vendors enticing you to buy things all contribute to a refreshingly adult cruising experience. QM2 is also the world's only purpose-built liner, as opposed to a ship, designed especially for Transatlantic crossings.

In 2014 the ship marked its 10-year anniversary with another suitably royal occasion -- a tour by Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who was by his wife's side when she christened the ship 10 years previously. Yet for a ship that's so formal, a cruise on QM2 doesn't always deliver the level of luxury that you might expect. The sprawling Kings Court buffet on Deck 7 can be a zoo at peak hours, with passengers jostling for prime window seats, and service in the shops can be indifferent. Even within the sanctuary of the vessel's upper echelons -- the Princess and Queens Grills Restaurants and Lounge -- some staff can still be stiff and unhelpful.

Thanks to its size (at 1,130 feet, Queen Mary 2 is longer than three football fields, and one of the longest passenger ships afloat) the ship can seem surprisingly quiet in spots -- despite carrying 2,600 passengers. Indeed, it has the hihest passenger to space ratio in the industry, and as we prowled the corridors reading the delightful historical placards, we found ourselves alone in some hallways. Part of the appeal of this ship is just these nooks and crannies where you can read, play cards or simply stare out to sea.

And in an era of noisy cruise ship bells and whistles, this throwback to quieter values is exactly what Cunard's passengers crave. There is just one announcement a day -- at noon, by the Captain -- telling us our progress, and that's it. Otherwise silence. The daily program, along with Canyon Ranch's onboard spa and fitness facilities, provides plenty of diversions, but they're more sedate than rock-climbing competitions and waterslide races. Plus there is something to be said for a rigorous dress code; donning sport coats and cocktail dresses does prompt you to sit a little straighter (even if wearing heels gets old after a few days). If you're looking to add a little elegance to your life, a crossing on Queen Mary 2 will certainly fit the bill.

At time of writing (May 2014), the ship has completed 215 Atlantic crossings and sailed some 1.5 million nautical miles, 420 voyages and called at 177 ports in 60 countries.

Family with Kids/Teens

Queen Mary 2 is perfectly family-friendly in terms of facilities, but it does have the look and feel of a really "grown up" ship, and families might be happier on lines like P&O or Princess. Having said that, there's a colourful children's playroom with toys on the starboard side of Deck 10. The Zone, a teenagers' room with computer games, Wii, Xbox and air hockey, is on the opposite side of the youngsters' domain. Both areas feature outdoor deck space, as well. The facility operates on port days, but you have to book for younger kids in advance. The few youngsters spotted on our cruise seemed perfectly happy and at ease in the surroundings and clearly loved dressing up on the formal nights, but you get the impression that if any children started letting off steam and running around, there'd be "looks" and tut-tutting from old-school cruisers.

Past Passenger Programs

Queen Mary 2 differs greatly from regular cruise ships in terms of its layout and public room design. Being one of the longest, widest and tallest passenger ships ever built (it trails only Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class), the designers have come up with interesting solutions in terms of traffic flow and public room design. You may need a little extra time to figure out Queen Mary 2; even after five days onboard, we still got lost.

There are four main staircases, and these are marked A to D, with a map of the ship at each. The ship's daily program offers, as a convenience, the deck number and stairway for each place hosting an event, so pay attention to this.

There are up to 14 decks of accommodations and public rooms. Most of the public rooms, such as the reception area, the Royal Court Theatre, Illuminations (Planetarium), Britannia Restaurant and the Queens Room (ballroom), are located on decks 2 and 3. The ceiling height on these decks is awesome at 3.8 meters -- the equivalent of 1.5 decks! Such expansiveness (not to mention fabulous art) contributes to an elegant ambience.

These lower decks also have a few smaller areas tucked away for activities, including the ship's ConneXions Internet cafe, where computers are available for passenger use. Internet and Wi-Fi rates are $0.75 per minute, even if you are on your own device, unless you buy a package: 120 minutes for $47.95, 240 minutes for $89.95 or 480 minutes for $167.95. (These bring the price down to about $0.30 to $0.40 per minute.) Wi-Fi onboard works on all devices and is available throughout the ship, but is patchy and very slow.

Close to ConneXions is the Apple Centre, a classroom where computer instruction takes place. (Some workshops are free, while some charge a fee.) Rooms for card games like bridge or and mahjong are also available there.

Many of the smaller corridors have placards outlining the ship's history. Read them on your own, or pick up a headset at ConneXions that takes you through them. (A few corridors also have interactive kiosks for a kid-friendly history lesson.)

If you simply enjoy watching the sea -- the white caps and the endless horizon -- venture forward on Deck 2, where there are wide windows almost at water level. There you can really appreciate QM2's speed (up to 26 knots).

Deck 7 can be described as the ship's daytime outdoor activity center, and it's where you'll find the very popular encircling Promenade deck -- complemented by comfortable old-fashioned looking steamer lounge chairs -- and the Canyon Ranch SpaClub.

There's also the Winter Garden, a charming bar and "conservatory" modeled on Kew Gardens, with trees and natural light. We saw lots of small groups playing cards, reading or simply dozing in the Atlantic sun. The Winter Garden is also one of the venues where Cunard performs onboard weddings.

The huge, well-stocked library, which has stunning views forward on Deck 8, is deservedly popular, although don't expect to find the latest bestsellers. (Some of the choices are a little dated.) Still, the library has wooden carrels and some wonderful nooks and crannies; on sea days, it proved one of the most popular places to sit and read.

Adjacent is a fantastic book and souvenir shop, specializing in all things maritime (not limited to QM2); you can buy books, postcards, posters and other collectibles, as well as writings by authors and lecturers sailing onboard, who also do their book signings here.

Among more practical concerns: free self-service launderettes with complimentary detergent are found on decks 4, 5, 6, 8 and 10. Hours are 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Laundry and dry-cleaning services, including pressing for all those formal clothes, are also available for a fee.

A variety of smaller public rooms, including the elegant Boardroom adjacent to the Commodore Club on Deck 9 and the Atlantic Room on Deck 11, are available for small meetings and passenger-arranged cocktail parties.

QM2 does not accommodate bridge visits, but it does have an observation deck behind the bridge. The facility is open on sea days between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

QM2 is one of the few ships that allows four-legged friends onboard, with a kennel on Deck 12 that houses dogs and cats on transatlantic crossings only (for a fee). The kennel master walks the dogs and feeds them with the line's food (or you can bring your own). Not all breeds can be accommodated, however; if you have a big dog, check the line's restrictions.

Also keep in mind that the U.K. has very strict rules about bringing in animals, and Pet Passports are required. Plan ahead for any veterinary issues.

Fitness And Spa

One of the nicest pleasures of a crossing is the luxury of time. And that means time to indulge in spa sessions or exercise. In Canyon Ranch's first-ever at-sea spa, there are 20,000 square feet of space on two different decks.

The Canyon Ranch SpaClub is divided into three different areas: the Fitness Centre foremost on Deck 7, the SpaClub and Aqua Therapy Centre just behind, and the Salon on Deck 8. The Fitness Centre is fitted with latest gym equipment; each has its own TV. The Fitness Centre is open from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. daily, and its use is complimentary. However, if you want to use any lockers or showers, you have to buy a SpaClub Passport to the Aqua Therapy Centre, costing between $40 per day and $105 for a week. The Passport also allows you to take specialized fitness classes, such as Pilates or indoor cycling, and it gives you access to the Aqua Therapy Centre.

The expansive Aqua Therapy Centre is equipped with a good-sized aqua therapy pool, a whirlpool, reflexology basin and sensory showers. Sauna-lovers will be in heaven, as you can choose from a traditional Finnish sauna, an aromatic steam room and an herbal sauna before cooling down with the ice fountain. While access requires the aforementioned Passport, you can also use the center for free with the purchase of any Health & Wellness service, massage or body treatment. If you're a spa hound, make sure you leave enough time before or after your session to indulge.

At the Canyon Ranch SpaClub, services include a range of massages, facials, body wraps and scrubs. All prices include a 12.5 percent gratuity. The therapists also do not try to sell any body care products after the treatment, which is not the case in many other cruise lines' shipboard spas. The SpaClub does have a lounge where you can relax before and after your treatments, with views onto the Promenade Deck; some fashion magazines scattered about, and flavored water and herbal teas.

The Beauty & Skin Care Centre one deck up offers lovely sea views in addition to treatments. It's open from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. daily. Make your appointments early, as it's extremely popular. Services include hair styling (shampoo, haircut, blow dry) and nail treatments (ranging from finger or toe polish changes to full fingernails and even a 50-minute "age defying" treatment).

Shipboard sports facilities include a basketball court and a paddle tennis court on Deck 13 and a single Ping-Pong table in the Pavilion pool area. The basketball and paddle tennis courts themselves are nice, but their forward location normally makes them too windy for an enjoyable game. There are also golf simulators called Fairways that book up early, as well as extensive shuffleboard. There's no running track, although some passengers keep up a brisk pace on the Promenade.

Besides the Aqua Therapy Centre, QM2 has four pools (and, for Queens and Princess Grill passengers, a separate outdoor terrace with Jacuzzis). The Terrace Pool on Deck 8 is considered the "main" swimming area, with two whirlpools, the Terrace Bar and its own bandstand, where musicians play during sailaways and deck parties. Because weather on a transatlantic crossing can be iffy, the Pavilion Pool on Deck 12, which features a glass retractable roof, is your most reliable swimming option. When the sun is out, the chairs surrounding the top deck Splash Pool and accompanying whirlpools can get crowded.

The Minnows Pool adjoins the children's play area on Deck 6. Swim diapers are not allowed.

Food & Dining

Queen Mary 2, and fleetmates Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth, are the only ships afloat to assign dining based on a class system. Or, to be more charitable, to assign passengers to dining rooms based on the cabins they occupy.

As such, only the top-priced cabin categories entitle passengers to eat in the ship's most exclusive dining rooms -- Princess Grill and Queens Grill. These restaurants feature anytime seating between 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. (although you're still placed at a regular set table) and menus with more flexibility, as well as access to the charming Queens Grill Lounge, which is across a hallway from the Queens Grill and just a few steps from Princess Grill.

Remaining passengers -- and these account for the vast majority -- are assigned to dine in the ship's eye-catching, double-deck Britannia Restaurant. Breakfast and lunch are open seating; passengers receive set tables and dining times -- either 6 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. -- at dinner. One fare class, Britannia Club, does allow passengers to select anytime dining in the main dining room, with those tables set off in a corner of the restaurant.

In the Grills and Britannia, breakfast is served from 8 a.m. until 9:30 a.m., lunch from noon until 1:30 p.m. One interesting fact about Queen Mary 2's transatlantic sailings is that the lack of ports (and the subsequently more relaxed approached to dining) means that the restaurant tends to fill quickly for both meals (only the lower level is open). So get there early or late.

Overall, while the food in all the standard dining rooms is of average quality, the mealtime service is impeccable, and there are plenty of choices for picky eaters, including Canyon Ranch spa cuisine. Even passengers in the Princess and Queens classes should give dinner in Britannia a try, as the energy of the larger dining room gives the experience a more festive feel. Wine-lovers will be thrilled to find a dedicated button on in-room phones that connects to the sommelier, though there's a $20 corkage fee for personal bottles brought into the restaurants.

Kings Court serves as Queen Mary 2's lido buffet, located on Deck 7. It's a rather vast and complicated area, and it can get extremely crowded at prime breakfast and lunch hours. Snag a table near the bay windows if you can. While the waiters and waitresses do not offer to carry your trays to the table or get refills, they do bus the tables when you're finished. The area opens for continental breakfast at 4 a.m., and full breakfast runs from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

For lunch, Kings Court has several themed areas: The Carvery (roasted meats and contemporary British cuisine), La Piazza (Italian) and Chef's Galley (hamburgers and sandwiches). These buffets are open from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. At night, the different dining areas all get linen table cloths and decorative screens, along with waiter service, but are sadly lacking in any sort of atmosphere. One section is designated as a rotating alternative a la carte option -- American Bistro, Lotus (Asian) or Coriander (Indian) -- which comes with a $15 cover charge. However, a note of caution: As ever, when the buffet area on a ship is 'transformed' into a specialty restaurant do not expect the quality you would get in a dedicated specialty restaurant. We made the mistake of eating in Lotus one evening and although the service was superb, the cuisine was inedible: it looked (and tasted) as if it had been reheated from the buffet earlier in the day, and rearranged on our plates. Reservations are encouraged. Hours range from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., with late snacks offered from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Todd English is the ship's alternative restaurant. While the restaurant used to charge per person, it is now a la carte and it can add up mighty quick, with appetizers averaging $5, entrees $10 to $12 and desserts $5 to $7. Advance bookings for dinner are especially crucial. If you're a foodie, a meal there is well worth it; we felt the signature "love letters" -- potato ravioli stuffed with beef in truffle butter sauce -- was the best dish we tasted during our trip.

Another popular but completely free alternate dining area is the ship's Golden Lion Pub. It serves authentic pub food from noon until 2:30 p.m. and is often crowded with passengers seeking bangers and mash, fish and chips with mushy peas, and ploughman's lunch. You can dine at tables or at the bar. Light lunch choices, such as salads and quiches, and snacks are also served at Sir Samuel's, the liner's coffee bar.

Two other lunch outlets can be found on Deck 12, namely the Boardwalk Cafe and Pavilion Pool & Bar. While the Boardwalk Cafe is not open during inclement

weather, the sliding-glass roof in the Pavilion ensures service during any kind of climate. The menu in the Boardwalk is typical of that found in onboard grills, while Pavilion serves a limited number of items, such as soups and sandwiches. Don't even attempt to go to Boardwalk Cafe if the weather is windy or rainy, as there's no indoor seating (or indoor access to the grill counter) available.

Beginning at 3:30 p.m., afternoon tea is available in three different areas. While Queens Grill Lounge is open only for "premium" passengers, Kings Court serves casual self-service snacks. More traditional English afternoon tea is served daily in the Queens Room, the ship's expansive ballroom. Don't miss an opportunity to sample this "white glove" service, where waiters and waitresses serve tea, finger sandwiches, pastries, and, of course, scones with clotted cream. It's quite an event.

Room service can be spotty; while a pot of coffee arrived quickly one morning, we couldn't even get through during peak hours on another, and Cunard stubbornly still refuse to provide in-room coffee or tea-making facilities which means you are at the mercy of room service. The breakfast menu provides a multitude of made-to-order choices, but the regular room service meal is limited to simple items, such as salads, sandwiches and pizza. Princess and Queens cruisers can order meals to their rooms from the grills.

Entertainment

Regular transatlantic passengers are generally good self-entertainers, but the ship also provides plenty of organized activities, so no one will be bored.

Passengers looking for like-minded companions can find daily group sessions for bridge, needlework and knitting, watercolor painting, Texas Hold'em, whist, bingo and mahjong. Special classes in flower-arranging and napkin-folding are also held, and a book club meets every voyage. Trivia is always popular with British and North American passengers alike -- some days up to five contests are held -- and it can be hard to get a seat.

QM2 also sets itself apart with its multi-tiered enrichment and speaker program. "Cunard Insights" explores historical and contemporary issues presented by explorers, academics, former politicians, musicians, historians, filmmakers and the like. Obviously, there's quite a bit of variety. One crossing might feature former Byrds frontman Roger McGuinn, another Jeffery Weinberg, an expert on U.S. presidents. On our crossing, author Bill Bryson appeared as the resident "celebrity" onboard; some passengers told us that they had booked the cruise just to see him. And in 2014, acclaimed film director Wes Anderson was onboard, joined by some of his collaborators -- Jason Schwartzman, Roman Coppola and Tilda Swinton -- to present special screenings of his films as well as a question and answer session for passengers.

There are several other prongs to the enrichment program. Depending on the sailing, the "Julliard Jazz Series" features performances by students and faculty from the prestigious music institution; Royal Astronomical Society presenters talk stars and solar systems; and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts graduate company presents specially edited versions of classic plays and novels, each lasting no more than one hour. There are also movies shown several times a day in Illuminations. The Canyon Ranch spa also hosts daily lectures in nutrition and fitness in the Winter Garden.

Queen Mary 2 also offers an extensive computer learning program in its Apple Learning Centre, across from the ConneXions Internet cafe. Apple iStudy courses, taught on Mac computers, cover topics like basic computer skills on Macs and PCs, photo editing, moviemaking, tablets and social networking. Some classes carry a fee, while others are free.

Many of the QM2 public lounges are in a class of their own. Queens Room is the largest ballroom on any passenger ship, and it also features the largest dance floor afloat. This space is used regularly for Captain's cocktail parties, afternoon teas and ballroom dancing to a live orchestra in the evenings. All beverage service is taken from tables, as there is no bar.

Strangely unobtrusive is the ship's two-level disco, G32. It's tucked behind the Queens Room; you actually have to cross through it to get to the disco. Regardless of its tricky location, the bar can get packed (maybe because of its sleek steel-inspired interior or, perhaps more likely, because passengers heading west on crossings get an extra hour of sleep five evenings in a row).

Apart from the regular melange of public rooms featured on all cruise ships, QM2 offers a few "extras." Illuminations is the only planetarium at sea, and it's used for lectures, movies and, of course, planetarium films -- all of which prove to be very popular. Go early.

Shows and live entertainment are held every evening in the plush Royal Court Theater. Cunard strives for a variety; during our trip, shows ranged from an acrobatic display to a pianist concert and an oldies review performed by a 1950s-style girls group. There's usually an early and a later seating, typically at 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.

In addition to regular bars, such as the Golden Lion Pub and the Chart Room, Queen Mary 2 features the first-ever Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar at sea. It serves seven different Veuve Clicquot Champagne labels, with prices from $13 per glass. The best place to enjoy the horizon (and/or sunset) is in the martini-oriented Commodore Club on Deck 9, which offers piano entertainment during the evening. The adjoining Churchill's Cigar Bar provides a haven for stogie smokers.

Live music lovers will find plenty of opportunities to groove. Music starts in the Golden Lion (which also hosts karaoke most nights) and at the Pavilion Pool shortly after noon, and keeps going until the wee hours in the G32 nightclub. QM2 is also a dream for dancers, as classes in line and ballroom-style dance are held daily. Don't have a partner? No worries; QM2 has a Gentleman Hosts program, so single women (or those with flat-footed husbands) can have a chance on the floor.

Finally, the Empire Casino has 11 gaming tables -- including Roulette, Blackjack, Three Card Poker, Fun 21 and Texas Hold'em -- scattered around 100 slot machines. The minimum age to play is 18. Tokens can be purchased at the casino desk, either in cash or via your onboard account if you've registered a credit card. (There's a $1,000 per-day limit.) Some machines take money directly.

Fellow Passengers

On Queen Victoria, you will be travelling mainly with quite well-traveled, well-to-do people in their 50's (and up). However, the ship does attract first-timers too, and it's not a bad choice for those who want an elegant experience that focuses on good entertainment and service.

A spring cruise from Southampton in April had some 1,500 Brits, 200 Americans and around 200 other nationalities from around 30 countries onboard. The ship caters mainly to couples -- there were quite a few gay ones too on the cruise -- but you will feel welcome if you come just on your own.

As the duration and geographical coverage of the cruises the ship takes vary greatly, from a four-night mini-cruise to circumnavigation, so too will the passenger mix.

Our recommendation

Queen Mary 2 is Cunard’s flagship and the most magnificent ocean liner ever built. Booking a Transatlantic Crossing to or from New York on this incredible ship is a holiday like no other and her European cruises from Southampton are also very special.  She offers so much space on board and such an array of state of the art facilities including a 3D Cinema, planetarium and a superb spa.