by Vanessa Lee
Atrium - Courtesy of Cunard
There is something very special about cruising or crossing an ocean on a Cunard Line vessel, and none is more venerable than the recently remastered Queen Mary 2, a gracious and charming Grande Dame of the sea and flagship of the fleet. The pride and indeed, the love for this stylish ship, was very evident when I cruised on her last summer, just after she had emerged from an extensive make-over – a suitable buffing for a ship that had just turned 12.
Champagne Bar - Courtesy of Cunard
Having sailed QM2 on more than a few occasions, I knew her well. With all the design changes and onboard enhancements, however, it was rather fun to find some enjoyable new spots on board. At the same time however, we enjoyed seeking out old favorites such as the very sexy, fabulous Champagne Bar from Veuve Clicquot. This gorgeous art-deco spot transports one back to the original Queen Mary and the illustrious heyday of transatlantic crossings back in the 1930’s through to the 1950’s. When the ship really gets her glam on – such as on the night of the renowned Black and White Ball, with ladies in long evening gowns and gentlemen in dinner jackets and tuxedos – this lounge, along with the adjoining Chart Room are the hot spots in which to see and be seen. One does feel very special – in a way that is unique to Cunard and their storied history of grand ships, but even more so, to the timeless sophistication of such grand events.
Courtesy of Cunard
This ship has always projected an air of understated elegance and glamour, and with her remastering she is more brightly burnished than ever. As a Cunard Liner, the Queen Mary 2 has a certain responsibility to the legacy of the fleet that has come before. In keeping with the history of those fabled predecessors and particularly the first Queen Mary built in the time of the art-deco movement, there is a definite nod to the tradition of storied ocean liners, criss-crossing the Atlantic and heading out on grand journeys and spectacular world cruises – something for which Cunard is appropriately known. Queen Mary 2 remains the only ship in the world that regularly spends a week crossing the Atlantic Ocean between the excitement of New York City and Southampton in Southern England, offering her guests the chance to truly relax, recharge and perhaps enjoy some well-deserved self-indulgence!
Queens grill Restaurant - Courtesy of Cunard
The remastering brought a few notable additions to QM2 which we found to be extremely popular and a welcome change for guests, many of whom sail this liner on numerous voyages. The long underused Winter Garden room has been completely renovated and is now the Carinthia Lounge (the name being another long-standing Cunard one), a convivial and social gathering place during the day and into the early evening. There is entertainment here, a bar with some small bites of food offered and a fabulous wall of ports taken from a collection of very special vintages, many from years pivotal to Cunard’s lengthy and impressive history. The line, in fact, dates back to 1840 when Samuel Cunard of Halifax inaugurated a steamship line (latterly becoming Cunard) to carry mail across the Atlantic between the New World and the Old.
Another area of the ship we very much enjoyed was the Verandah Restaurant on Deck 8 (replacing the Todd English alternative restaurant) which is a perfectly lovely and exquisitely designed room. Offering superb cuisine, attentive and charming service, the wonderful atmosphere makes this a must for an intimate and delicious, world-class dining experience with an emphasis on French cuisine. Reservations are required and there is a small per person dining charge – well worth it. All three ships in the Cunard fleet now have such a restaurant on board.
Queens Grill Suite - Courtesy of Cunard
Princess Grill Suite - Courtesy of Cunard
Particular attention has been paid to both the Princess Grill and Queens Grill lavish Suite accommodations, as well as the Grills cocktail lounge and of course, the very special Grill Restaurants offering what I believe to be some of the finest dining at sea. When reserving one of the spacious and exceptional suites in either the Princess Grill or Queens Grill categories, guests have access to their own restaurant, the aforementioned lounge for morning coffee, afternoon tea and cocktails as well as certain deck areas reserved specifically for them - and, often to a personal butler depending on the accommodations chosen. To sail as our forebears did, in the lap of luxury and to really appreciate Cunard at its finest, then pamper yourself with a choice of one of the Grills is an experience that’s sure to delight.
Britannia restaurant - Courtesy of Cunard
These areas of the ship have been refurbished with great care and with the use of rich fabrics in just the right colors, gorgeous carpets and wall covering and draperies, many again created with a nod to the original and venerable Queen Mary.
Other areas experiencing changes include the Kings Court buffet which has been refreshed and redesigned; there are now 10 more kennels offering creature comforts for our four-legged friends (even the occasional bunny rabbit!), and there is also the superstructure change that fits seamlessly into the ship and affords Deck 13 with more Britannia Club staterooms, many of which have also been redecorated.
The cuisine in all dining venues has been enhanced, the butler service refined, the wine list updated to offer 468 varieties, and the curated onboard events and entertainment, including the award-winning Insights program are as impressive as ever. There is no doubt this remastering and the investment of more than $132Million has made the much-loved QM2 even more elegant and charming.
Bravo Cunard….. this lavish transformation has captured our attention and our accolades and we wish Queen Mary 2 along with her sisters, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth, fair seas, prevailing winds and a continued bright future.
Originally published in Cruise & Travel Lifestyles Winter/Spring 2017 issue.