People who haven't cruised yet often cite fear of boredom as a reason they are hesitant to try out our favorite form of travel. But those who have cruised even once know there's no chance you'll run out of things to do on a ship.
Still, even veteran cruisers have to wonder about itineraries loaded with sea days, like a seven-day Queen Mary 2 crossing. If you're considering a QM2 crossing but are wondering, "Are cruises boring?", let us ease your mind.
Cruise Critic sailed a transatlantic cruise on Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2 from New York to Southampton, England to find out exactly what there is to do on a sailing with absolutely no port stops. We left wishing we had more time, as we were unable to get to everything we wanted to try out onboard.
Find out why you'll never get board on a QM2 crossing.
Let's start with the big question: Are cruises on boring on QM2? In a word, no.
Amanda Reid, the entertainment director on Queen Mary 2 as of 2022, says there's no chance guests won't find something that suits them.
"These sea days (are) filled with enticing and alluring events for everybody," she said.
Reid should know: She puts together the daily program each day, a task she says is a bit like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Her top tip is to spend time reading each day's program and highlighting what you want to do, then carry it with you so you know the locations. While you might not end up doing everything, you'll at least be prepared.
Reid's "perfect day at sea" would include a few lectures, a dance class, a Royal Shakespeare Company workshop, a classical concert or a play, a show in the evening and a visit to the Chart Room for jazz.
The best-attended activities include ballroom and line dancing classes, classical concerts and Cunard's Insight lectures that feature knowledgeable guest speakers discussing a wide variety of topics, from world events to aviation and maritime history. If these appeal to you, you should plan to head to the venue early.
The daily schedule for a weeklong transatlantic Queen Mary 2 crossing is four pages filled with tiny print announcing what is coming when. And it has something for everyone, whether you're interested in more passive pursuits like lectures or more participatory activities such as chairobics or flower arranging. The hardest part is deciding which options to try and which events you'll consequently have to skip. Most activities are included in your cruise fare, but some, especially those with specialized equipment or supplies, come with an additional fee.
We went into our transatlantic cruise from New York to Southampton with the idea that we'd try to take on the best variety of things we could to get a real taste for this type of journey. We're trivia nuts, so we found at least one session every day. We also enjoyed the variety of lectures, from a look at street art to discussions on the history of Cunard. Yoga and meditation offerings were excellent, and the planetarium -- the first of its kind at sea when Queen Mary 2 debuted in 2004 -- was fascinating.
Perhaps our favorite can't-miss activity was the ship's heralded afternoon tea in the gorgeous Queens Room, where servers in white gloves offer up tea and treats, including excellent scones with clotted cream. A nod also goes to the mixology class in the Commodore Club, where we learned about the various Cunard Commodores (the highest-ranking a captain can achieve at a passenger line) and the drinks offered on QM2 as tributes to those men. This one comes with a fee of around $50 per person but is really worth it to hear the history and sample (generously) some of the unique drinks offered onboard.
Want to know more about what is offered on QM2? Read our feature on 10 things you absolutely shouldn't miss.
When we weren't participating in scheduled fun on our transatlantic cruise, we took advantage of some down time to relax and refresh. Mornings tend to be the most lightly scheduled time period, so we often got up early, enjoyed breakfast in our cabin and headed out to explore the ship before others were awake. This was a relaxing activity in itself, as QM2 is laid out in such a way that you might pass by tiny but interesting corners or whole rooms without even knowing it. We kept the ship's deck plans handy for when we were out and about, just to make sure we didn't miss anything.
The ship's promenade on Deck 7 is a popular spot when the weather is warm for walking as well as reading. Grab a blanket and a book, and you'll be happy in one of the ship's ocean-facing lounge chairs there.
Queen Mary 2's Mareel Spa and Salon also offers a variety of pampering treatments, as well as thermal suite. For transatlantic cruises, a thermal suite pass is available for the full cruise or for day use. (Either one you choose has a two-hour daily slot you are purchasing; it's not a drop-in pass as it used to be when the spa was operating under the Canyon Ranch banner.)
Make sure you leave time for a pub lunch at the Golden Lion Pub. We ate fish and chips twice and would happily have gone back a third time. Enjoy a leisurely lunch and watch a game on the TVs or listen to live music.
[PHOTO: A lecture takes place in the planetarium on Queen Mary 2. (Photo: Colleen McDaniel); also tagged for Greatest Generations Foundation]
On our sailing, we were lucky enough to be joined by 18 veterans, including a 102-year-old who fought with the 29th Division at Normandy on June 6, 1944, and spoke about the experience to a packed house in Illuminations, the ship's planetarium, cinema and conference center. Talk about goosebump-inducing: Listening to these men from the Greatest Generation speak on their experiences in World War II is awe-inspiring.
Cunard's partnership with the Greatest Generation Foundation speaks to the cornerstone of a sailing on the line: The focus is on learning, our shared past and living history.
And while listening to veterans from WWII and the Vietnam War speak was certainly the highlight of our cruise, the enrichment on QM2 is nothing short of stellar. Many of the classes speak to history, but other lectures offer a look at the whys and hows of the world: Why do people pay so much for art, for example, or how planets are formed.
Most of these lectures take place in Illuminations, and almost all of them are available on replay on your in-room TV if you missed them live.
While we love the daily program and used it as our constant guide during our QM2 crossing, we also found a lot of value in the activities that weren't listed.
The art on Queen Mary 2 is exceptional, and we spent hours walking the stairways and hallways looking at the paintings and sculptures along the way. (Bonus: Homer Simpson is immortalized in one of the giant wall frescos around the ship; make a game of finding him.) The art deco inspiration is evident everywhere, and you'll delight in discovering the whimsy around each corner.
If history is more your thing, QM2 is a bit of a living museum, with objects and info around the history of the grand cruise experience. Most of this is located on Deck 2 at ConneXions, which will take you hours to get through if you stop to read each placard and inspect every display. You'll find similar placards on each deck, so give yourself time to explore.
Other less formal activities include a visit to the space on Deck 12 behind the bridge to watch the officers navigate. Nearby, you'll find outdoor facing elevators that give you incredible sea views. Find the "hidden deck" by heading all the way forward on Deck 11. Just forward of the Card Room is an exit door that gives you access to a view under the bridge and over the bow. It was deserted every time we visited, which makes us believe most people never find it.
Updated June 13, 2022