By Teijo Niemela, Cruise Critic contributor; updated By Greg Straub, Cruise Critic contributor
Queen Mary 2 (QM2) Overview
The superlatives speak for themselves.
Queen Mary 2 was the first passenger liner purpose-built for trans-Atlantic service in 35 years. That's quite a stretch when you consider that its predecessor, the half-the-size Queen Elizabeth 2, started service at about the same time the first jumbo jet took to the skies. To further the sea-air scenario comparing the venerable Queen Elizabeth 2 to the new Queen Mary 2 is like contrasting an early Pan Am Boeing 747 with today's oh-so-forward new Airbus A380 (like QM2, it will be the largest and most expensive of its kind ever to be built).
Indeed, perhaps Queen Mary 2 would never have been built if Carnival Corporation had not acquired Cunard Line from the Norwegian Kvaerner group in 1998. In the years prior to Carnival's acquisition, Cunard had been steered with a lack of clear course and imagination -- resulting in a fleet of rather mismatched vessels -- while still trying to hang on to its hallowed reputation.
What interested Carnival Corporation wasn't Cunard's past as much as its future. While the concept of a splashy (and is it ever!) new ship to be called Queen Mary 2 was well beyond drawing-board stages at Cunard prior to the acquisition, it was Carnival's interest and -- finally -- support, that made the $780 million investment a reality. The construction of Queen Mary 2 took place in the French shipyard Chantiers de l'Atlantique, the same yard that built other famous liners like Normandie and France -- not to mention more contemporary vessels like Coral Princess and Celebrity Millennium. QM2 was built in almost record time and was delivered to Carnival Corp. just prior to Christmas of 2003. She was christened with ultimate hype and fanfare on January 8, 2004, by Queen Elizabeth II, and four days later the brand-new Queen Mary 2 embarked on her maiden voyage.
What about the ship itself? While there are nods to classic Cunard -- the high ceilings, fabulous art collection and daily tea service create an elegant ambience -- this is a modern cruise ship through and through. Passengers will find the requisite large number of private balconies, a handful of alternative restaurants (including the much-ballyhooed, for-fee Todd English), Champagne art auctions and a massive (and pricey) spa run by Canyon Ranch. The ship also features cruising's only planetarium, Illuminations, which is used for lectures, movies and of course planetarium films. Still, size can be something of a limitation. With 2,620 passengers, it's impossible to provide the level of service afforded in days done by. That said, staff are almost always upbeat and helpful.
With more than half a decade since its last refurb, QM2 isn't the stunning lady she was in 2004. The ship is certainly showing signs of wear in its carpets, upholstery and floors. But there's good news: A two-week refit took place from November 24 to December 8, 2011. The aim was to restore some of her early good looks. The Golden Lion Pub underwent significant renovations, which gave the venue more of an American country club feel (warm colors, plush seating, new TV's). Additionally, cabins received new carpeting, bedding and furniture. New carpet designs and furnishings were added to most public areas, including Queens Grill, Princess Grill, Commodore Club and Sir Samuel's.
Queen Mary 2 (QM2) Fellow Passengers
Queen Mary 2 attracts a wide range of passengers -- in addition to English, German and French can be heard widely spoken onboard. As a result of its size and truly unusual amenities, QM2 attracts many first-time cruisers (not to mention virgins to the trans-Atlantic circuit). During summer school holidays, there are also more children and teenagers onboard.
Queen Mary 2 (QM2) Dress Code
A trans-Atlantic cruise is more formal than a cruise in, say, the Caribbean. During the day, people definitely tended towards country club casual. At night, even when it wasn't a formal-designated evening, people dressed anyway. A crossing will typically feature two casual nights, three formal nights and one informal night. The dress for formal evening is a tuxedo or alternatively dark suit for gentlemen and evening gown or other appropriate attire for the ladies. While dress codes are enforced in Britannia and Grill restaurants, passengers can relax a bit when dining in the Kings Court.
Queen Mary 2 (QM2) Gratuity
Cunard charges a minimum $11 a day to your shipboard account. While making purchases in the bars and lounges, a 15 percent tip is automatically added to your bill -- but, oddly, you have to fill in the total amount (and there's a space for an "extra" gratuity). Treatments in Canyon Ranch SpaClub include tips (12.5 percent), but you can add more there as well.
By crossing the Atlantic Ocean 'the-old-fashion-way' was truly an inspiring experience. Although we did not look faults or mistakes, as we were on a vacation and not participating in a detailed inspection tour, we really could not find any to ...continue
May 2013 firstname.lastname@example.org
Queens Grill first impression, priority embarkation means nothing except 3 dedicated staff, we still had to sit and wait while general boarding passed through security?
The Queens Grill Suite was not that impressive. A freshen up ...continue
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The Queen Mary 2 Eastern Transatlantic Crossing is a phenomenal way to get to Europe and should be experienced at least once by everyone who travels. It's like a 7 day vacation before your vacation. The ship is beautiful no matter what other ...continue