Updated by Chris Gray Faust, Destinations Editor(4.0)
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.
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.
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