Queen Mary 2 (QM2) Review

Editor Rating: 4.0
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Why Choose Queen Mary 2 (QM2)?
  • Purpose-built for transatlantic service
  • Elegant ambience with high ceilings & fabulous art
  • Unique features: planetarium, ballroom, library

Queen Mary 2 (QM2) Overview

Editor's note: Queen Mary 2 goes into dry dock on May 27th, 2016, for its most significant refurbishment in 12 years. It comes out on June 21st and will make its first post-refurb crossing from Southampton on June 23rd. Among the many changes planned are: Fifteen single staterooms, a first for the ship. Thirty additional Britannia Club Balcony cabins, giving more passengers access to the exclusive Britannia Club Restaurant (which will also be expanded during the refurb). Britannia Club Balcony rooms. The addition of the Verandah Restaurant, replacing the Todd English restaurant, with an all-new menu that will be rolled out to the rest of the fleet once Queen Mary 2 comes back into service. Ten new animal kennels, along with a new inside play area and a larger outside walking area -- plus a lampost, for the dogs. A complete redesign of Kings Court, the ship's central buffet, with new serving stations, pre-set tables, waiters serving drinks and a reconfigured seating arrangement to create a less crowded experience. As part of the redesign, a bank of elevators will be removed in order to use the space for a central serving station, also reducing the number of entrances and exits to the buffet to make the flow of traffic less confusing. The addition of the Carinthia Lounge (replacing the current Winter Garden), an all-day venue serving a light breakfast and lunch, followed by an afternoon tea and evening drinks, refreshments and entertainment.

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 highest 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.

Queen Mary 2 (QM2) Fellow Passengers

As you might expect, given its charge as a transatlantic liner, Queen Mary 2 attracts primarily British and North American passengers, especially on its crossings. The ship's regular cruises to Hamburg also ensure a steady stream of German customers. That being said, the ship's iconic status means that you'll find all nationalities onboard. A passenger breakdown for a roundtrip New York-to-Canada sailing encompassed 26 nationalities.

QM2 passengers skew on the older side, with the average age around 70. Many choose Cunard for its adherence to tradition and a stricter dress code than you see followed on other mainstream lines. You will find more children and teenagers onboard during summer school holidays on itineraries that aren't transatlantic (such as Caribbean, Eastern Seaboard and Norway).

Queen Mary 2 (QM2) Dress Code

Cunard's suggested dress code is perhaps the most formal at sea -- and most QM2 passengers are happy to oblige. During the day, people tend toward country club casual, although a transatlantic or European cruise is dressier than a cruise in, say, the Caribbean. A crossing will typically feature three formal nights -- some with a theme, such as Black and White or Masquerade -- and three informal nights.

At 6 p.m., the ship's official dress code kicks in, and jeans and shorts are discouraged throughout the ship, other than at the Kings Court buffet and the Winter Garden bar. An "informal" night on QM2 can feel as fancy as a formal night on other ships, with most women wearing cocktail dresses or stylish separates and men wearing sport coats (note that it is only fairly recently that Cunard relaxed the dress code to allow gentlemen not to have to wear ties on an informal night). And formal nights are just that, with the majority of women in long gowns and men in tuxedos (or dark suits).

Queen Mary 2 (QM2) Gratuity

Despite the ship's British flair, the onboard currency is the U.S. dollar. Cunard charges a minimum $11.50 per person, per day, to shipboard accounts for regular passengers and $13.50 per day in the Grills. A 15 percent tip is automatically added to your bill for purchases in the bars and lounges (and there's also a space for an "extra" gratuity). Treatments in Canyon Ranch SpaClub include tips (12.5 percent), but you can add more there, as well.
Next:  Queen Mary 2 (QM2) Cabins
Updated by Chris Gray Faust, Destinations Editor

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Queen Mary 2 (QM2) Editor Ratings

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896 Queen Mary 2 (QM2) Reviews from our Cruise Critic Community

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Member Since 2015
2 reviews
0 forum posts
2 helpful votes
We did this crossing previously with friends to Southampton and throughly enjoyed it. As a result of us talking about it, we had another group of friends who wanted to take the Queen on to Hamburg, Germany. Just wish the embarkation was ... Read more
Member Since 2016
1 review
0 forum posts
1 helpful vote
Sailed May 2016
We enjoyed our transatlantic cruise very much. We had a lovely, large Queen Suite and enjoyed the Queen level experience . We were able to eat when we wanted and enjoyed a private lounge with entertainment. I enjoyed the Canyon Ranch Spa ... Read more
Member Since 2014
1 review
0 forum posts
10 helpful votes
Major disappointment. The weather was bad but not Cunard fault. Six days not being able to get out in deck was wearing but Cunard did what it could. Four formal nights was at least one to many. The service from staff was excellent ... Read more

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