|It's not enough for Cunard that Queen Mary 2, due for launch next January, will automatically claim the biggest-ship-ever crown. No, Cunard is busy lining up enough first-ever features and amenities that will ensure that the QM2 experience is unique beyond its size.
The latest development: London's quite prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art has signed on; its members will perform plays and lead acting workshops. Cunard's announcement includes a list of graduates of RADA -- illustrious personages of yesteryear such as Sir John Gielgud and Vivien Leigh, not to mention current thespians like Anthony Hopkins, Joan Collins, Glenda Jackson, Peter O'Toole, Kenneth Branagh and Ralph Fiennes but the members
who will be onboard will be less well-known.
Another new addition to the 2,620-passenger, 150,000-ton ship is a "Chef's Galley" restaurant, whereby passengers are taught by the chef how to prepare their meal just prior to dining. The Chef's Galley will feature both Cunard
chefs and guest appearances by world-famous chefs sponsored by Gourmet magazine.
Other unique features of Queen Mary 2? Look for a 75 percent private balcony ratio, cuisine overseen by internationally known chef Daniel Boulud, a celebrity-chef restaurant by Boston's Todd English (among the ship's ten
different eateries) and the first planetarium at sea. The ship will also have a spa by Canyon Ranch, a pet kennel and a state-of-the-art kids facility that's staffed by British nannies.
QM2 will mostly sail transatlantic itineraries -- replacing Cunard's storied QE2 in that role -- but will also sail to the Caribbean, South America, Canada/New England and Europe. Rumors that the ship¹s launch may be delayed due to problems with pods and other shipyard-related functions are
premature; while there have been challenges, the shipyard has rearranged the construction timetable. A spokesman for Cunard Line says QM2 is still slated for its January 12, 2004 debut, a 14-day transatlantic from Southampton to Ft.