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Q&A: QM2 Designer Stephen Payne on What Makes a Liner a Liner and Will There be a QM3?
Home > Features > Q&A > Q&A: QM2 Designer Stephen Payne on What Makes a Liner a Liner and Will There be a QM3?
stephen-payne-q&a Ahead of next year's 10th anniversary of Queen Mary 2, designer Stephen Payne, OBE, went on the Cruise Critic Message Boards for a Q&A session with members. Payne received many words of thanks and also answered questions about Titanic 2, what he'd do differently if he could start again and -- the most popular question of all -- what makes an ocean liner a liner as opposed to a cruise ship? Payne also shared an anecdote from his childhood, which provided the inspiration for his chosen career.

What makes QM2 an ocean liner as opposed to a cruise ship?

Glojo: Queen Mary 2 appears to spend most of her time being used as a cruise ship and on some of these cruises she visits New York, but the port of New York is part of a scheduled cruise?

SP: Let me assure you and many others that Queen Mary 2 is unequivocally a thoroughbred liner. She embodies the hull form, strength, reserves of power and overall shape that are the prerequisites through and through. She may undertake round trip holiday voyages (cruises in other words) as well as offering a point to point ferry service (transatlantic crossings), but she is a liner. Period.

Design

Editor's note: There were a number of questions regarding design, ranging from the very specific to "what would you change on board if you could do it all again."

From where did you get your inspiration?

Swedishnuke asked: What ships gave you the inspiration for QM2's design?

SP: I have a belief that before attempting anything new you have the best chance of success if you can appreciate what has been a success and failure in the past. I therefore studied the designs of many transatlantic liners and drew inspiration from Queen Mary, Normandie, Queen Elizabeth 2, Rotterdam, Canberra and the great Swedish America and Norwegian American liners. I also looked at what (was happening) in the cruise industry to see how modern practices could help optimise the design -- things like baggage loading and distribution, catering and stores arrangements etc. I was adamant that only those things that wouldn't detract from the transatlantic pedigree of the ship would be included in her design as this was after all the raison d'etre of the ship. I looked close and hard at Queen Elizabeth 2 and after that process Queen Mary 2 evolved! Easy really. Just a few headaches along the way!! This process took around two years to complete in total. I worked with a junior colleague Rick Moore on this until we were ready to involve some of the other trades such as marine engineering and electrical engineering for the specification writing.

The Kings Court

This rather blunt question posted by Capn Pugwash elicited a lot of responses: Would you agree that this buffet is laid out very badly? Can you offer some explanation as to why you designed it in this manner?

SP: As mentioned elsewhere, ship design is a compromise between many conflicting factors. I chose the location of Kings Court on deck 7. This was influenced by the requirement to have a high tween deck height at this level in order to accommodate the lifeboats and their associated davit arrangements so as to allow the cabin deck above to have at least partially, rather than fully, obstructed views. As to the layout of the Kings Court, this was arranged by Cunard. The biggest complication, compared with placing the lido restaurant high in the ship, is that the cross passages from "B" and "C" staircases must be kept free to allow egress to the deck and the lifeboats. I have heard as many positive comments about the layout as I have negative and I think it is just a matter of personal preference. What the arrangement does provide is a novel way of sectioning parts off for the evening meal service.

The Grills

Whitemarsh: The only parts of the ship that I do have slight reservations about are the Grills spaces; the Grills deck that has a public thoroughfare through it and the Grills restaurants, which are situated just behind Kings Court and lack the views that the equivalent restaurants on the QE & QV have. Any reasons why these restaurants (and the lounge) were situated where they are? Was any thought given to having the Grills restaurants take up the back of deck seven so that their windows could overlook the stern?

SP: Designing a passenger ship is all about compromise and optimisation. I was keen to provide the Grill Rooms with as much height as possible in line with the other major public spaces on board the ship. Accordingly, deck 7 seemed an obvious choice as the tween deck height of this deck is much greater than the passenger cabin decks above (or below). The other important consideration was transportation of foodstuffs from the store rooms located low down at the aft end of the ship. Special elevators were needed and these were easily accommodated with the Grills and the associated galley in the location where they are presently situated. If I was developing a new design I would certainly take another look, but taking everything into account for Queen Mary 2 I still think that the Grills are in a good position.

Titanic 2

Kyle Bryson: As a designer, you successfully fused the modern prowess and historic elegance to create the QM2. I was wondering what you think about the proposed Titanic II project of the Blue Star Line, and whether or not you would be confident to submit a "functioning replica" if you had been tasked to create one, say a recreation of Mauretania or Caronia?

SP: The big problem here is that it's simply not possible to recreate the past. The rules and regulations under which we now have to design ships have moved on by leaps and bounds since Edwardian times and even since Caronia was built. A myriad of complex requirements completely negates building even a functional replica of such ships without enormous compromises and obvious changes. Blue Star's Titanic II is an interesting project -- it will be fascinating to see how closely her modern day designers are able to replicate the past!

If you could do it all again

Colin_Cameron: Firstly: If you had had an entirely free hand, free from any constraints be they physical, financial or otherwise, how would the ship have been different?
And secondly: If you were starting again, say on a (hypothetical) sister ship, is there anything you would do differently second time around?

SP: I would have loved to have had a taller funnel, something akin to Queen Elizabeth 2's. Unfortunately the air-draught (height from the waterline to the top of the highest part of the ship) at New York is restricted to 62 metres (203 feet) to allow passage under the Verrazano Narrows bridge. The funnel as extant on board is at the maximum height I was allowed. Hence the exaggerated wind scoop to provide sufficient upthrust to throw the smoke clear of the aft decks. If starting out again I would adjust the Lookout observation area on deck 13 forward. I would enclose it further to allow covered access straight from the "A" staircase and I would raise it up sufficiently so that you could see the tip of the bow as a reference point. On Queen Mary 2 this isn't the case. Otherwise, I would increase the size of the Captain's cabin to provide more space for a contained office within the cabin. A small point, but one that generates endless comments from some quarters!!

What is your favourite liner of all time and why?

JollyJackTar52 asked: Obviously excluding Queen Mary 2 which is your favorite Liner of all time & why?

SP: Of ships that I've sailed on, it has to be Holland America Line's former flagship SS Rotterdam of 1959. She was to me the most perfect ship with elegant modern lines, just big enough to be a good sea boat and blessed with some beautiful public rooms that stood the test of time remaining more or less as built to the end. I am very pleased that she is now a museum ship in her home-port of Rotterdam. I spent many happy days cruising on the ship and I was very fortunate in being asked to be the Project Manager for her successor, the present MS Rotterdam that embodies echoes of her namesake.

The 'Queen Mary Project' might never have happened

BlueRiband: In some of your talks it was mentioned that what was then called the "Queen Mary Project" was put on hold two or three times because the cost was becoming too expensive. How did you and your design colleagues break through that to restart the project? Was it the decision to break the Panama Canal envelope?

SP: Queen Mary 2 was a very expensive ship, largely due to her "liner" pedigree, which will be discussed in other posts. It was largely a case of maximising the number of cabins, particularly balcony cabins, to generate sufficient return to make the project worthwhile. This involved consideration into the number of decks and the length of the superstructure. It was not easy but I think the result works well. When the project stalled I simply had to go back and tweak the design until the sums added up.

Will there be a QM3?

Editor's note: There were a number of questions about whether there will be another purpose-built liner. The aptly named QM1 asked: If all goes according to plan, Cunard will start working on "QM3", the true QM2 successor from the late 2020s/early 2030s onwards with a premiere around 2040?

SP: The ship was specifically designed to have a structural design life of at least 40 years; so at ten years old Queen Mary 2 is still only a junior! Passenger ship design is an evolving science and it really is too early to imagine what will be in vogue and considered essential for a ship to be delivered in 30 years time. However, that said, fuel economy and minimising operating costs will be at the fore as this is the only way to remain viable. If market conditions warrant a direct replacement of Queen Mary 2 I would expect an epoch making design, full of traditional and exciting new features just as Queen Mary 2 provided. But that's a long way off!

And Grantthomas asked: With so many other cruise ships just being modifications on a common corporate hull design, do you foresee another opportunity for a bespoke Ocean Liner? Is QM2 really going to be the last Ocean Liner?

SP: All I can say is, "never say never." Nobody believed Queen Mary 2 would be built, especially as a liner, so if historical precedent is taken into consideration, who knows!!

And finally… a childhood anecdote

I first knew that I wanted to be a naval architect at the age of 5 after watching a BBC children's programme called Blue Peter -- which is still running today. The programme is a magazine style show providing reports about interesting items, things to do etc. In May 1965 when I was 5 the programme did a tour of Queen Elizabeth and even though we only had grainy black and white television I was hooked. Interest in passenger ships grew with a visit to Queen Elizabeth 2 in June 1969 at Southampton and a one-day trip Le Havre to Southampton on France in May 1974.

Although I kept telling my school that I wanted to be a naval architect they told me that they didn't know what this was and that I'd never get a job doing it. As nobody from my family had been to university before I was dependent on the school's advice and they said that I would be better off becoming a chemist. So I started a chemistry degree. One year in to the course I met my former physics master, Justin Johnson, who was one of the more younger school masters that had taught me and he said that he thought the school had ill advised me and that I should have become a naval architect. He urged me to reconsider and with his help I was able to switch degree and join University of Southampton's Ship Science course, where I gained my degree in June 1984. Justin kept in touch and took a lot of interest in my developing career. He was particularly interested in the design of Queen Mary 2 and always wanted updates of how construction was progressing. Justin sadly died of prostate cancer a few months before the ship was delivered. A terrible blow for all those that knew him.

I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Justin and in recognition of this, hidden away behind a lining on Queen Mary 2 is an eulogy to him, clearly stating that if he hadn't persuaded me and subsequently assisted me in becoming a naval architect, Queen Mary 2 in the form that she now exists wouldn't be with us today. Its important for me that his contribution, alongside everybody else involved, is recognised.

I hope Justin is able to look down with pride at what he did.


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