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To judge from the adverts, Queen Mary 2 is a veddy, veddy British ship, right? The answer is, sort of, but not always in that good way. She is a Cunard ship, something you are never allowed to forget, given that every deck is plastered with “historic” Cunard posters and displays. But in fact, “Carnival Corporation & plc,” the Miami-based company that owns many of the major cruise ships today, also owns QM2. Carnival tries to give each of its lines “brand identity,” and Cunard is the “classy” brand. Words like “posh” and “traditional” describe her ships, and they work hard to keep up the image, from the plummy Thames Valley voice announcements in the elevator (“Deck Fowah”) to the well-scrubbed, Bristol-bright bridge officers. But thus is a classic case of selling the sizzle in place of the steak. Queen Mary 2 is about as authentically British as Disneyland’s “Main Street” is genuinely American. If you’re prone to like that sort of product placement, then QM2 may be just the ship for you. Stephen Michael Payne, QM2’s chief designer, built her as a trans-Atlantic ocean liner, not a cruise ship. She has a much deeper draft hull than most cruisers. It takes about 33 feet of water to float QM2, meaning she cannot dock at many of the Caribbean destinations and other shallow ports favoured by the cruise industry. But that keel depth also gives her stability in the open sea and a capacity to cut through the waves that most cruise ships cannot match. Where they wallow, QM2 slices the water like a speedboat. Well done, Mr. Payne …. But QM2’s interior is a kind of mash-up mixing Edwardian and Art Deco. There is a certain clientele for this kind of pseudo-historical rubbish, and it is mainly old people. QM2 is essentially a floating Old Age Home. On our trip, the average age was certainly well past sixty. This is not meant to be ageist. I am 73 myself, and as I have aged, I have become more aware of how bad design impinges on older people. By this standard, Queen Mary 2 is a shameful failure masquerading as a Downton Abbey set. Her design should accommodate the special needs of seniors far better than it does. Her sight-lines are broken and confusing, and her passageways often meander up and down staircases in utterly maddening ways. This is entirely Mr. Payne’s fault. Add some confusing – or completely absent – directional signs (which may or may not be Mr. Payne’s fault) and you create a burden on the elderly that any ship should be ashamed of. And for anyone with mobility issues, QM2 is a nightmare. The Edwardian theme of Cunard’s advertising suggests QM2 was built with a kind of old-world craftsmanship. When she was launched in 2004, The London Times gushed purple, “She will be heir to all that has gone before, and will carry the grace and elegance of a bygone era into the future.” (7 November, 2000) Well, in fact she was built in France at the Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard using the same techniques used to build the “Liberty Ships” of World War II, i.e. box-like segments that were fabricated and then welded together. This isn’t quite what Cunard wants you to remember about QM2. You might be reminded, though, whenever you exit on Deck 3 from “C Elevators,” because the segments there were so mis-aligned in fabrication that there is a 10-inch rise or fall between them, something the builders welded plates over, but which remains as an unmarked tripping hazard or a ramp-way for wheelchair passengers to negotiate. In a land-based building, the law would forbid this sort of hazard, but I stumbled over it several times, so I suppose it’s alright if you’re veddy, veddy Cunard …. Steven Payne is on record as wanting a ship that would assert historical linkages between QM2 and her predecessor ships, particularly Queen Elizabeth 2. That seems to mean using a whole lot of columns, particularly big, fat columns. Mr. Payne seems never to have met a column he didn’t like. QM2 is riddled with them, everywhere you could imagine, even in passageways scattered where they interfere with foot traffic. He even thoughtfully included a great many columns throughout the Queen’s Room (a concert and show venue) just so your view would be almost certainly blocked. Arrive early for any show or be prepared for a neck-ache the next day. There is an on-board chiropractor who seems never to lack customers. The worst of the bad design is the buffet restaurant on deck 7, the “King’s Court.” Words cannot describe just how badly designed it is. Food is served at unlabeled stations that appear to shift from one meal to the next. No signs disturb your befuddled meanderings, meaning once you have examined the dishes on offer, you are left to ponder where the one you really did want might have been located. More than once, I just gave up and ate whatever I found in front of me. Self-service drink stations (hot and cold drinks) are so badly designed that language cannot capture how poorly they function. I observed seniors staring in bafflement as they tried to get something to drink with their food. This part of the vessel was supposedly radically redesigned during the 2016 refit. Good Lord! The mind quails at the thought that this abomination could be somehow better than whatever went before. Really, the whole area amounts to a monument to design truly awful. It should be filmed and studied in design schools all over the world as an example of what NOT to do. Once you get some food, any food, you have to make your way to seating that is mainly invisible from the serving area, and is divided into so many small alcoves that you cannot see where you want to go. (Did I mention all those columns?) And because you cannot use a tray, you have to make several trips between the serving areas and your seat as you get drinks, dessert, etc. Don’t get lost, or you’ll wander blindly about in search of your spouse, your family, and all your other food. I recommend leaving a trail of breadcrumbs to guide you back. This kind of bad design means most people try to sit as close to the serving stations as possible, leading to a sort of Darwinian competition for seats at busy times. All of this, of course, is infinitely worse for those who use canes, walkers, or wheelchairs. Survival of the fittest, indeed. Signage – or its absence -- on QM2 deserves its own special mention. Their motorways aside, the Brits are often not good at putting up signs. Some sort of genetic quirk makes them consider signs of any sort as blight on an otherwise pleasant view. In this, QM2 is indeed a “veddy British” ship. Something similar should be said about maps and printed material on board ship. Signs and directions are conspicuous by their absence. QM2’s graphic design people should be sacked immediately and competent people should be hired in their place. Here are a couple of hints: However cool it may seem to a twenty-year-old, light grey text on ivory-coloured paper is very hard to read, particularly by seniors in the dimly lit spaces favoured by QM2’s planners. Maps of this ship should include the designated elevator bays by name -- just to eliminate guesswork. Deck plans fixed to the walls should be oriented in the direction the maps point (i.e. not at right angles, so the bow points left or right). Some cruise liners use figures woven into their hallway carpets to suggest directions; Cunard might want to consider something similar – if that wouldn’t mar the Masterpiece Theatre atmosphere. Most of these, and similar points, are commonplace in better design schools all over the world. Some of their graduates might consider working for Cunard if offered enough money. One strange issue: I don’t drink alcohol on a sea voyage – I tend to get seasick and alcohol triggers me – so I bought a soft-drink-and-juice package for about $50 that allowed me unlimited non-alcoholic beverages. Somehow Cunard’s carbonated soft drinks – served in a glass, never a can or bottle – taste funny, all of them. They have a soapy or chemical under-taste. They’re like East German soft drinks in the 1970s. (Really, I remember the taste from when I was there.) Plus, the soft drink sticker on your ship’s card is a foolproof way to get all the waiters to ignore you. It’s like you have become the Ship’s Leper the moment they see it. This is especially true of the Golden Lion Pub. My recommendation: fool the waiters by pretending to order something alcoholic and then switch to apple juice at the last minute, but please don’t bother with the soft-drink package. Finally, some practical hints to would-be voyagers: Cunard seems allergic to putting up hooks in the suites that might allow you to hang up hats, windbreakers, or other light things. But the walls are steel (whatever their finish), meaning strong refrigerator magnets with hooks can hold clothing items, while flat magnets can pin up papers, including the daily schedule, which otherwise scuttles under the bed the moment you look away. Also, the bathrooms in your suite lack any sort of night-lights (an issue for us old guys who use the loo several times a night). Dollar store battery-powered fake tea lights make great night-lights for cabins and bathrooms. There are free washers and dryers aboard, but they get booked up quickly near the end of the voyage. You might think if you arrive when their signs say they open at 7:30 AM you can surely get a machine. Foolish child. You will find that the stewards have kindly opened the launderettes early to accommodate the end-of-voyage rush and all the washers are busy. Plan to arrive at 7:15 or even earlier. Signs don’t count for much on Queen Mary 2, even where they do exist. To sum up, you don’t have a lot of choice if you want to experience a North Atlantic Ocean crossing. QM2 is basically it. Overall, the experience is about what you can expect on any cruise ship, better sea-handling, about average service, but the pseudo-British veneer and badly designed interior spaces may limit your enjoyment. The food is reasonably good – apart from the soft drinks – regardless of what others say in reviews. Avoid the King’s Court and just expect to be baffled by how to get around on the poorly signed main decks. And mind that unmarked tripping hazard on Elevator C, Deck 3!

Queen Mary 2: Fool Britannia

Queen Mary 2 (QM2) Cruise Review by Torontobert68

13 people found this helpful
Trip Details
To judge from the adverts, Queen Mary 2 is a veddy, veddy British ship, right? The answer is, sort of, but not always in that good way. She is a Cunard ship, something you are never allowed to forget, given that every deck is plastered with “historic” Cunard posters and displays. But in fact, “Carnival Corporation & plc,” the Miami-based company that owns many of the major cruise ships today, also owns QM2. Carnival tries to give each of its lines “brand identity,” and Cunard is the “classy” brand. Words like “posh” and “traditional” describe her ships, and they work hard to keep up the image, from the plummy Thames Valley voice announcements in the elevator (“Deck Fowah”) to the well-scrubbed, Bristol-bright bridge officers. But thus is a classic case of selling the sizzle in place of the steak. Queen Mary 2 is about as authentically British as Disneyland’s “Main Street” is genuinely American. If you’re prone to like that sort of product placement, then QM2 may be just the ship for you.

Stephen Michael Payne, QM2’s chief designer, built her as a trans-Atlantic ocean liner, not a cruise ship. She has a much deeper draft hull than most cruisers. It takes about 33 feet of water to float QM2, meaning she cannot dock at many of the Caribbean destinations and other shallow ports favoured by the cruise industry. But that keel depth also gives her stability in the open sea and a capacity to cut through the waves that most cruise ships cannot match. Where they wallow, QM2 slices the water like a speedboat. Well done, Mr. Payne ….

But QM2’s interior is a kind of mash-up mixing Edwardian and Art Deco. There is a certain clientele for this kind of pseudo-historical rubbish, and it is mainly old people. QM2 is essentially a floating Old Age Home. On our trip, the average age was certainly well past sixty. This is not meant to be ageist. I am 73 myself, and as I have aged, I have become more aware of how bad design impinges on older people. By this standard, Queen Mary 2 is a shameful failure masquerading as a Downton Abbey set. Her design should accommodate the special needs of seniors far better than it does. Her sight-lines are broken and confusing, and her passageways often meander up and down staircases in utterly maddening ways. This is entirely Mr. Payne’s fault. Add some confusing – or completely absent – directional signs (which may or may not be Mr. Payne’s fault) and you create a burden on the elderly that any ship should be ashamed of. And for anyone with mobility issues, QM2 is a nightmare.

The Edwardian theme of Cunard’s advertising suggests QM2 was built with a kind of old-world craftsmanship. When she was launched in 2004, The London Times gushed purple, “She will be heir to all that has gone before, and will carry the grace and elegance of a bygone era into the future.” (7 November, 2000) Well, in fact she was built in France at the Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard using the same techniques used to build the “Liberty Ships” of World War II, i.e. box-like segments that were fabricated and then welded together. This isn’t quite what Cunard wants you to remember about QM2. You might be reminded, though, whenever you exit on Deck 3 from “C Elevators,” because the segments there were so mis-aligned in fabrication that there is a 10-inch rise or fall between them, something the builders welded plates over, but which remains as an unmarked tripping hazard or a ramp-way for wheelchair passengers to negotiate. In a land-based building, the law would forbid this sort of hazard, but I stumbled over it several times, so I suppose it’s alright if you’re veddy, veddy Cunard ….

Steven Payne is on record as wanting a ship that would assert historical linkages between QM2 and her predecessor ships, particularly Queen Elizabeth 2. That seems to mean using a whole lot of columns, particularly big, fat columns. Mr. Payne seems never to have met a column he didn’t like. QM2 is riddled with them, everywhere you could imagine, even in passageways scattered where they interfere with foot traffic. He even thoughtfully included a great many columns throughout the Queen’s Room (a concert and show venue) just so your view would be almost certainly blocked. Arrive early for any show or be prepared for a neck-ache the next day. There is an on-board chiropractor who seems never to lack customers.

The worst of the bad design is the buffet restaurant on deck 7, the “King’s Court.” Words cannot describe just how badly designed it is. Food is served at unlabeled stations that appear to shift from one meal to the next. No signs disturb your befuddled meanderings, meaning once you have examined the dishes on offer, you are left to ponder where the one you really did want might have been located. More than once, I just gave up and ate whatever I found in front of me. Self-service drink stations (hot and cold drinks) are so badly designed that language cannot capture how poorly they function. I observed seniors staring in bafflement as they tried to get something to drink with their food. This part of the vessel was supposedly radically redesigned during the 2016 refit. Good Lord! The mind quails at the thought that this abomination could be somehow better than whatever went before. Really, the whole area amounts to a monument to design truly awful. It should be filmed and studied in design schools all over the world as an example of what NOT to do.

Once you get some food, any food, you have to make your way to seating that is mainly invisible from the serving area, and is divided into so many small alcoves that you cannot see where you want to go. (Did I mention all those columns?) And because you cannot use a tray, you have to make several trips between the serving areas and your seat as you get drinks, dessert, etc. Don’t get lost, or you’ll wander blindly about in search of your spouse, your family, and all your other food. I recommend leaving a trail of breadcrumbs to guide you back. This kind of bad design means most people try to sit as close to the serving stations as possible, leading to a sort of Darwinian competition for seats at busy times. All of this, of course, is infinitely worse for those who use canes, walkers, or wheelchairs. Survival of the fittest, indeed.

Signage – or its absence -- on QM2 deserves its own special mention. Their motorways aside, the Brits are often not good at putting up signs. Some sort of genetic quirk makes them consider signs of any sort as blight on an otherwise pleasant view. In this, QM2 is indeed a “veddy British” ship. Something similar should be said about maps and printed material on board ship. Signs and directions are conspicuous by their absence. QM2’s graphic design people should be sacked immediately and competent people should be hired in their place. Here are a couple of hints: However cool it may seem to a twenty-year-old, light grey text on ivory-coloured paper is very hard to read, particularly by seniors in the dimly lit spaces favoured by QM2’s planners. Maps of this ship should include the designated elevator bays by name -- just to eliminate guesswork. Deck plans fixed to the walls should be oriented in the direction the maps point (i.e. not at right angles, so the bow points left or right). Some cruise liners use figures woven into their hallway carpets to suggest directions; Cunard might want to consider something similar – if that wouldn’t mar the Masterpiece Theatre atmosphere. Most of these, and similar points, are commonplace in better design schools all over the world. Some of their graduates might consider working for Cunard if offered enough money.

One strange issue: I don’t drink alcohol on a sea voyage – I tend to get seasick and alcohol triggers me – so I bought a soft-drink-and-juice package for about $50 that allowed me unlimited non-alcoholic beverages. Somehow Cunard’s carbonated soft drinks – served in a glass, never a can or bottle – taste funny, all of them. They have a soapy or chemical under-taste. They’re like East German soft drinks in the 1970s. (Really, I remember the taste from when I was there.) Plus, the soft drink sticker on your ship’s card is a foolproof way to get all the waiters to ignore you. It’s like you have become the Ship’s Leper the moment they see it. This is especially true of the Golden Lion Pub. My recommendation: fool the waiters by pretending to order something alcoholic and then switch to apple juice at the last minute, but please don’t bother with the soft-drink package.

Finally, some practical hints to would-be voyagers: Cunard seems allergic to putting up hooks in the suites that might allow you to hang up hats, windbreakers, or other light things. But the walls are steel (whatever their finish), meaning strong refrigerator magnets with hooks can hold clothing items, while flat magnets can pin up papers, including the daily schedule, which otherwise scuttles under the bed the moment you look away. Also, the bathrooms in your suite lack any sort of night-lights (an issue for us old guys who use the loo several times a night). Dollar store battery-powered fake tea lights make great night-lights for cabins and bathrooms. There are free washers and dryers aboard, but they get booked up quickly near the end of the voyage. You might think if you arrive when their signs say they open at 7:30 AM you can surely get a machine. Foolish child. You will find that the stewards have kindly opened the launderettes early to accommodate the end-of-voyage rush and all the washers are busy. Plan to arrive at 7:15 or even earlier. Signs don’t count for much on Queen Mary 2, even where they do exist.

To sum up, you don’t have a lot of choice if you want to experience a North Atlantic Ocean crossing. QM2 is basically it. Overall, the experience is about what you can expect on any cruise ship, better sea-handling, about average service, but the pseudo-British veneer and badly designed interior spaces may limit your enjoyment. The food is reasonably good – apart from the soft drinks – regardless of what others say in reviews. Avoid the King’s Court and just expect to be baffled by how to get around on the poorly signed main decks. And mind that unmarked tripping hazard on Elevator C, Deck 3!
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Cabin Review

Cabin
Better than the public areas. Inside cabins were intelligently designed to optimize space. My major complaint (apart from the business of no night-tights in the loos) is that the desk/vanity table juts into the footpath from the bed. It is awkward to navigate. Better design might have remediated this problem.
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