In an era where "work from home" actually can mean "work from anywhere," Cunard's Queen Mary 2 seems like one of the best places to work remotely. After all, the ship's bread-and-butter cruise is the seven-day transatlantic from Southampton to New York City (or vice-versa), which includes zero port stops. Plus, the liner is filled with quiet nooks and crannies ideal for hiding away from the crowds and getting into the work zone.
Cruise Critic put it to the test, sailing a seven-day itinerary on QM2 while on assignment. Is the ship one of the best places to work remotely? Here's what we found.
Queen Mary 2, the world's only true ocean liner designed specifically for crossings like ours, offers so many tiny, off-the-beaten path spots that it's set up for anyone who needs some quiet time. The ship's layout means you can find yourself meandering down a hallway, only to discover a giant library or a card-playing area filled with green-felt-covered tables.
This meant that when we felt like leaving our cabin to do a little writing, our options were seemingly endless -- and mostly unobtrusive. Our favorite spot was by the Pavilion Pool on Deck 12, which has a generally consistent Wi-Fi signal and is a good place to watch people without getting in the way of productivity.
If you're looking for a really quiet spot, the card tables on Deck 2 work well, providing a surface for your computer and ocean views through portholes. We met an author onboard our sailing who said he booked QM2 for crossings because he loved the quiet spots and the ability to get away from everything.
If you're someone who only needs to touch base with the office through emails or via a chat function like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, you'll have smooth sailing on QM2. We purchased the premium internet package for our sailing, at a around $150 for the full week, and it worked for keeping in touch with the office. We also were able to do some light Googling to help with research. Cunard's website loaded relatively quickly.
But when it came to streaming meetings using a video service, the struggles were real and consistent. Audio and video lagging was routinely an issue, and even turning off our video didn't help to fix that problem. As a result, we were more passive participants in meetings, though we certainly got the gist of what was going on. If you're planning to host a meeting from Queen Mary 2, don't. If you are content simply showing up to follow along, you'll might be OK. (You'll have the same issues contacting family or friends via What's App or Facebook video.) We found the internet got worse the farther from shore we got, to the point we were unable to attend online meetings at all.
Audio worked better, and we were able to use Wi-Fi calling to keep connected. Likewise, we used WhatsApp to make audio phone calls with success.
We tried throughout our cruise to make our company VPN work with zero success. If VPN is important to your work, you'll likely have to purchase a two-device package; we stuck with just one. And even if you do, the VPN might not work. Our office chat feature, Slack, also was spotty at best, working near the shore but only intermittently once we were at sea.
Aiming to use Cunard's internet during off-peak hours, when more people are sleeping, didn't seem to change the quality of the internet significantly. Downloading and uploading big files is doable, but both operations will require patience. Find out more about working from cruise ships by reading our feature on which ships are great for remote work.
With seven days at sea, you'll be able to enjoy your cruise even if you have some work that just can't wait till you get home.
Part of the perk of sailing a crossing on Queen Mary 2 is that you'll see a packed cruise daily loaded with activities, but you can pick and choose your favorites. Another bonus: Most sessions are repeated, so if you have something on your work schedule that you can't move, you don't have to worry about FOMO -- it's likely you will get another crack at that activity.
It's also worth noting that if you're heading west from Southampton to New York, you'll get an extra hour five days in a row. That means even more time to take in everything you want to do. Conversely, you lose an hour a day on the reverse sailing. If you have meetings with other time zones, make sure to double-check that you're logging on at the right time.
[PHOTO: The Carinthia Lounge is a lovely spot for guests to relax on Queen Mary 2. (Photo: John Roberts)]
QM2 is equipped for Wi-Fi throughout, but some spots are just better than others. The best on our sailing was at the Pavilion Pool, but we also had some luck in the Carinthia Lounge and in the card area on Deck 2. The worst? Our cabin. Look for routers on the ceiling in public spaces -- they'll be inconspicuous, but you can spot them by the flashing lights -- and set up near them.
The signal drops sometimes without warning, and you'll likely need to log in at least once each day. To do so, type internet.cunard.com into your browser, which will bring up your log-in window.
Your phone likely will work better than your laptop or tablet when it comes to a strong signal. Also, when you're closer to the shore -- near the beginning or at the end of your cruise -- you'll have a better, more consistent signal. I was even able to take a couple of laggy meetings and follow a streaming fitness class with only a few hangups.