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AFTER ALL THESE YEARS cruising every January, was Cunard for me? Having heard about the advantages of transatlantic sailing travel compared to cruising for so many years, thought I’d give an ocean-liner a try. So, the brief 4th of July sailing offered on the Queen Mary 2 appeared to be a great opportunity to experience one of the legendary Cunard ships. She was built to sport the often-stormy high seas of the North Atlantic and this excursion was meant to show off her brand-new $132 million refurbishment. From the first moment we embarked the “QM2,” to find White Star bellmen kitted out in snug red uniforms welcoming us into the Grand Lobby, classical music lilting through the air from a string quartet, and sparkling wine on ice at the ready in the cabin, we had the distinct feeling of participating in a time-honored sailing tradition. Just the lush new raspberry carpet was enough to dispel the discomfort of long embarkation lines due to Coast Guard inspection when a ship begins its Canadian itinerary. As if Cary Grant & Audrey Hepburn could waltz in at any time—or the Kennedys or the Windsors—I felt the sophisticated spirit of grande sailing nostalgia carrying us along, beside all those celebrated characters who had sailed aboard the 1st Queen Mary, now moored in Long Beach since 1967. To enhance this phenomenon, Cunard displays dozens of beloved celebrities in life-size sepia “Welcome” murals throughout the ship. Compared to the latest giant cruise ships which are, frankly, shaped like boxy shopping carts, the Queen Mary 2 appeared particularly sea-worthy in the Brooklyn port, with her graceful nautical lines and distinctive single red funnel. The ship’s extensive renovation began May 27, 2016, with QM2 sailing into her dry-dock berth at the Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg, and sailing away refurbished by SMC Design less than 4 weeks later. ADDING CABIN SPACE for 75 extra passengers can bring the total count now up over 2690—with some crowding consequences, to be sure; particularly before the first evening’s dinner, and in the Queens Room, where an edifice of Queen Mary herself sternly reigns over proper High Tea service. Yet, this gracious also holds the late-night dances accompanied by a full orchestra. Additionally, the refitting project included expanded kennel facilities for traveling dogs and cats. Yet when I visited their spiffed-up facilities on one of the ship’s upper decks, complete with a playful British red fire hydrant, it turned out that all the dogs onboard were actually on much longer sailings than me. WANDERING around the decks, I was able to explore the ship’s generous library, an impressive glassed-in cigar lounge worthy of its namesake, Churchill; and forward from my own cabin, a small, sleekly crafted Observation Deck. All of these features made Queen Mary 2 stand out from previous sailing experiences over the years on cruise ships. As we slid away from the port in Brooklyn on our way to Halifax, the ship lingered in New York Harbor, so we could toast Lady Liberty in the foggy twilight from the upper decks. Even though it was a cloudy and chilly sunset, everyone was celebrating with Champagne and the festive atmosphere there on the Queen Mary 2 Observation Deck was one I shall not soon forget. AFTERWARD, gathering for cocktails at the Commodore Lounge, which is located deeply angled into the bow of the ship and my favorite location, our group of 10 friends, especially the frequent Cunard sailors, were all pleased with their “remastered” accommodations. They described cabins now decorated in champagne colors with deep blue velvet piping and Art Deco touches, flat-screen televisions mounted into the wall. In particular, everybody was delighted with the coffee-making equipment added to each stateroom. Other than a few little glitches, like sharp, hard-to-touch Jonathan Adler drawer handles, everyone was happy. One of our group was returning to his favorite window cabin looking out to an Art Deco mural high overhead in the hallway. And, after some concern by another that her newly added single cabin might be a wall-to-wall single-bed affair, there was in fact room enough in there for soft seating, a writing desk, and large picture windows. Fifteen single cabins were added in response to the solo travel market expanding by 15% in the last two years. THAT FIRST EVENING, we dined at sea together beneath towering maritime artwork depicting the original Queen Mary practically sailing into the room. Cunard’s English cuisine was elegantly served in the two-story Britannia Restaurant, with pleasant wines available. And from the dinner table, we experienced what for us was the chief distinction in the ocean liner experience, compared to cruising: remarkably stable sailing. The rough seas we entered provided dramatic-sounding waves against the large dining hall windows, but the ride of the ship was so smooth, we could barely tell it were moving, and our Champagne glasses never spilled. The next day at sea, between walks around the Promenade deck and hearing the traditional mid-day bell ring, we enjoyed a “lecture” with James Carville & Mary Matalin quipping back and forth at each other about the current political environment; and then, the first of two scheduled planetarium shows presented in the Illuminations Theatre; which were incidentally produced by the American Museum of Natural History, right here in New York City. One featured Tom Hanks describing the limitless variety of celestial bodies in the universe, and the other narrated by Harrison Ford explored the possibility of life on other planets. Also highly entertaining was a dramatic production performed by students from London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA), which featured a pastiche of Shakespeare scenes and an evening show starring London cabaret singers. Beside the main dining room, there were quite a few other meal-time opportunities. One of the decks has been entirely opened out and re-fitted as a sort of open-house medley of casual dining offerings, with the ever-popular radically refurbished King’s Court buffet as its centerpiece. In one corner, a chic French restaurant, the Verandah, has been added. One of the couples at our dining table left us one evening to try this new café and came back smiling, as it specializes in regional styles, and they enjoyed the fresh seasonal garden ingredients in their dishes. Throughout the dining deck, spacious food stations surrounded by Cunard’s re-figured expanded seating now provide a variety of dishes, some featuring Smoke House, Pan-Asian, and Tex-Mex elements. The refurbished buffet area also serves a full assortment of breakfast and luncheon food throughout the day. At one end, the former Winter Garden bar has been refurbished and creatively re-named “The Carinthia Lounge,” with a contemporary floor-to-ceiling glass wall case housing Cunard’s international vintage port collection. Not only does it offer salad bowls—my favorite—and pastries for breakfast, lunch, and traditional afternoon tea; in the evening, it kicks up into a rather upbeat gathering spot, serving cocktails, stylish small plates, and light entertainment. We had a harpist for supper one night and truly splendid jazz percolating through our favorite meal together, a serendipitous luncheon where we ended up sitting together. EXCURSIONS were available in Halifax to explore this historic region, which is the home of Sir Samuel Cunard, who founded the Cunard line. I’d visited before, however, and was quite happy to leisurely wander the beautifully developed Harbour Walk and enjoy a particularly crisp Canadian Summer day with new growth green bright in the foliage after heavy rain the day before. In Boston, we sampled a ride on the “Duck Boat,” an amphibious vehicle which picks up passengers as a bus; then drives down a ramp and splashes into the Charles River, and functions as a ferry. Toward the end of our journey, small children were invited to come up front and “drive” the Duck Boat and be photographed at the steering wheel by the friendly driver—and frankly, I did as well. Another highlight of our holiday was the late-night opportunity to view the much-beloved Boston Pops Fourth of July Fireworks display, which we were able to see perched upon the highest Lookout Deck, while at anchor in the bay until the performance was over. During one of the days at sea, it was a pleasurable adventure to try out a massage at the Canyon Ranch Spa. This area of the ship has been beautifully designed with a gracious Relaxation Lounge outfitted in chaise longues looking out to sea across the Promenade Deck through smoked glass. The treatments rooms & the massage itself were wonderful. And afterward, you can relax in the Canyon Spa whirlpool room, which is perhaps one of the loveliest & most expansive at sea. ALL THIS OCEAN-LINER ELEGANCE comes at a cost, of course and, while Cunard cabins are generally higher priced than most cruise lines, their premium Princess & Queens Grill service is priced, rather like 1st-class air travel, at more than twice the fare of basic balcony staterooms. Unfortunately, inherent in the non-premium level of service, which makes up 85% of the passengers, is an inescapable culture of standing in slow-moving lines, much longer than their cruise-ship equivalents. It was, nevertheless, a pleasure to enjoy the little luxuries unique to the Cunard sailing experience: such as proper fish-course cutlery and sparkling new stemware, scones and clotted cream at high tea, Penhaligon’s cosmetics in the bath and excellent jam in little jars. All of it made me long, truly long, for the leisurely week-long experience of a transatlantic sailing. For years, I’ve harbored a fantasy of being tucked into a deck lounger with blankets at sea, and being served the strong beer-spiked beef tea consommé I remember from the nostalgic ocean-liner stories of my Canadian grandmother. While most days did not warrant blankets, afternoon tea was indeed served out on deck to those of us reading in deck chairs & all those walking laps around the Promenade deck behind us, three laps of which constitutes a mile.

QM2 MAIDEN VOYAGE FOR OLD-SCHOOL CRUISER

Queen Mary 2 (QM2) Cruise Review by VKMcCarty

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Trip Details
AFTER ALL THESE YEARS cruising every January, was Cunard for me? Having heard about the advantages of transatlantic sailing travel compared to cruising for so many years, thought I’d give an ocean-liner a try.

So, the brief 4th of July sailing offered on the Queen Mary 2 appeared to be a great opportunity to experience one of the legendary Cunard ships. She was built to sport the often-stormy high seas of the North Atlantic and this excursion was meant to show off her brand-new $132 million refurbishment.

From the first moment we embarked the “QM2,” to find White Star bellmen kitted out in snug red uniforms welcoming us into the Grand Lobby, classical music lilting through the air from a string quartet, and sparkling wine on ice at the ready in the cabin, we had the distinct feeling of participating in a time-honored sailing tradition. Just the lush new raspberry carpet was enough to dispel the discomfort of long embarkation lines due to Coast Guard inspection when a ship begins its Canadian itinerary.

As if Cary Grant & Audrey Hepburn could waltz in at any time—or the Kennedys or the Windsors—I felt the sophisticated spirit of grande sailing nostalgia carrying us along, beside all those celebrated characters who had sailed aboard the 1st Queen Mary, now moored in Long Beach since 1967. To enhance this phenomenon, Cunard displays dozens of beloved celebrities in life-size sepia “Welcome” murals throughout the ship.

Compared to the latest giant cruise ships which are, frankly, shaped like boxy shopping carts, the Queen Mary 2 appeared particularly sea-worthy in the Brooklyn port, with her graceful nautical lines and distinctive single red funnel. The ship’s extensive renovation began May 27, 2016, with QM2 sailing into her dry-dock berth at the Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg, and sailing away refurbished by SMC Design less than 4 weeks later.

ADDING CABIN SPACE for 75 extra passengers can bring the total count now up over 2690—with some crowding consequences, to be sure; particularly before the first evening’s dinner, and in the Queens Room, where an edifice of Queen Mary herself sternly reigns over proper High Tea service. Yet, this gracious also holds the late-night dances accompanied by a full orchestra.

Additionally, the refitting project included expanded kennel facilities for traveling dogs and cats. Yet when I visited their spiffed-up facilities on one of the ship’s upper decks, complete with a playful British red fire hydrant, it turned out that all the dogs onboard were actually on much longer sailings than me.

WANDERING around the decks, I was able to explore the ship’s generous library, an impressive glassed-in cigar lounge worthy of its namesake, Churchill; and forward from my own cabin, a small, sleekly crafted Observation Deck. All of these features made Queen Mary 2 stand out from previous sailing experiences over the years on cruise ships.

As we slid away from the port in Brooklyn on our way to Halifax, the ship lingered in New York Harbor, so we could toast Lady Liberty in the foggy twilight from the upper decks. Even though it was a cloudy and chilly sunset, everyone was celebrating with Champagne and the festive atmosphere there on the Queen Mary 2 Observation Deck was one I shall not soon forget.

AFTERWARD, gathering for cocktails at the Commodore Lounge, which is located deeply angled into the bow of the ship and my favorite location, our group of 10 friends, especially the frequent Cunard sailors, were all pleased with their “remastered” accommodations. They described cabins now decorated in champagne colors with deep blue velvet piping and Art Deco touches, flat-screen televisions mounted into the wall. In particular, everybody was delighted with the coffee-making equipment added to each stateroom. Other than a few little glitches, like sharp, hard-to-touch Jonathan Adler drawer handles, everyone was happy.

One of our group was returning to his favorite window cabin looking out to an Art Deco mural high overhead in the hallway. And, after some concern by another that her newly added single cabin might be a wall-to-wall single-bed affair, there was in fact room enough in there for soft seating, a writing desk, and large picture windows. Fifteen single cabins were added in response to the solo travel market expanding by 15% in the last two years.

THAT FIRST EVENING, we dined at sea together beneath towering maritime artwork depicting the original Queen Mary practically sailing into the room. Cunard’s English cuisine was elegantly served in the two-story Britannia Restaurant, with pleasant wines available. And from the dinner table, we experienced what for us was the chief distinction in the ocean liner experience, compared to cruising: remarkably stable sailing. The rough seas we entered provided dramatic-sounding waves against the large dining hall windows, but the ride of the ship was so smooth, we could barely tell it were moving, and our Champagne glasses never spilled.

The next day at sea, between walks around the Promenade deck and hearing the traditional mid-day bell ring, we enjoyed a “lecture” with James Carville & Mary Matalin quipping back and forth at each other about the current political environment; and then, the first of two scheduled planetarium shows presented in the Illuminations Theatre; which were incidentally produced by the American Museum of Natural History, right here in New York City. One featured Tom Hanks describing the limitless variety of celestial bodies in the universe, and the other narrated by Harrison Ford explored the possibility of life on other planets.

Also highly entertaining was a dramatic production performed by students from London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA), which featured a pastiche of Shakespeare scenes and an evening show starring London cabaret singers.

Beside the main dining room, there were quite a few other meal-time opportunities. One of the decks has been entirely opened out and re-fitted as a sort of open-house medley of casual dining offerings, with the ever-popular radically refurbished King’s Court buffet as its centerpiece.

In one corner, a chic French restaurant, the Verandah, has been added. One of the couples at our dining table left us one evening to try this new café and came back smiling, as it specializes in regional styles, and they enjoyed the fresh seasonal garden ingredients in their dishes. Throughout the dining deck, spacious food stations surrounded by Cunard’s re-figured expanded seating now provide a variety of dishes, some featuring Smoke House, Pan-Asian, and Tex-Mex elements. The refurbished buffet area also serves a full assortment of breakfast and luncheon food throughout the day.

At one end, the former Winter Garden bar has been refurbished and creatively re-named “The Carinthia Lounge,” with a contemporary floor-to-ceiling glass wall case housing Cunard’s international vintage port collection. Not only does it offer salad bowls—my favorite—and pastries for breakfast, lunch, and traditional afternoon tea; in the evening, it kicks up into a rather upbeat gathering spot, serving cocktails, stylish small plates, and light entertainment. We had a harpist for supper one night and truly splendid jazz percolating through our favorite meal together, a serendipitous luncheon where we ended up sitting together.

EXCURSIONS were available in Halifax to explore this historic region, which is the home of Sir Samuel Cunard, who founded the Cunard line. I’d visited before, however, and was quite happy to leisurely wander the beautifully developed Harbour Walk and enjoy a particularly crisp Canadian Summer day with new growth green bright in the foliage after heavy rain the day before.

In Boston, we sampled a ride on the “Duck Boat,” an amphibious vehicle which picks up passengers as a bus; then drives down a ramp and splashes into the Charles River, and functions as a ferry. Toward the end of our journey, small children were invited to come up front and “drive” the Duck Boat and be photographed at the steering wheel by the friendly driver—and frankly, I did as well.

Another highlight of our holiday was the late-night opportunity to view the much-beloved Boston Pops Fourth of July Fireworks display, which we were able to see perched upon the highest Lookout Deck, while at anchor in the bay until the performance was over.

During one of the days at sea, it was a pleasurable adventure to try out a massage at the Canyon Ranch Spa. This area of the ship has been beautifully designed with a gracious Relaxation Lounge outfitted in chaise longues looking out to sea across the Promenade Deck through smoked glass. The treatments rooms & the massage itself were wonderful. And afterward, you can relax in the Canyon Spa whirlpool room, which is perhaps one of the loveliest & most expansive at sea.

ALL THIS OCEAN-LINER ELEGANCE comes at a cost, of course and, while Cunard cabins are generally higher priced than most cruise lines, their premium Princess & Queens Grill service is priced, rather like 1st-class air travel, at more than twice the fare of basic balcony staterooms. Unfortunately, inherent in the non-premium level of service, which makes up 85% of the passengers, is an inescapable culture of standing in slow-moving lines, much longer than their cruise-ship equivalents.

It was, nevertheless, a pleasure to enjoy the little luxuries unique to the Cunard sailing experience: such as proper fish-course cutlery and sparkling new stemware, scones and clotted cream at high tea, Penhaligon’s cosmetics in the bath and excellent jam in little jars. All of it made me long, truly long, for the leisurely week-long experience of a transatlantic sailing.

For years, I’ve harbored a fantasy of being tucked into a deck lounger with blankets at sea, and being served the strong beer-spiked beef tea consommé I remember from the nostalgic ocean-liner stories of my Canadian grandmother. While most days did not warrant blankets, afternoon tea was indeed served out on deck to those of us reading in deck chairs & all those walking laps around the Promenade deck behind us, three laps of which constitutes a mile.
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Cabin Review

Standard Inside
Cabin IE
Brand-new fittings quite impressive & elegant
Deck 10 Inside Cabins, Suite Cabins