T+L’s Take: Queen Mary 2 Gets a Makeover
The Queen Mary 2 has always been a ship of many superlatives. It is the world’s largest ocean liner and has the biggest ballroom and the biggest library at sea. (Also numbered among its claims to fame: it is the only ship currently making regular transatlantic crossings between New York and Southampton and has the only planetarium and kennels at sea.) And now, 12 years after it was first launched, it has undergone the most extensive refurbishment in Cunard history: a $132 million stem-to-stern makeover, or “remastering,” meant to evoke the line’s former flagship, the Queen Mary, which launched in 1936 and is now permanently moored off Long Beach, California as a floating hotel.
The essentials of the voyage remain the same: Staterooms are divided into different classes, each of which have different dining rooms and different perks. Britannia passengers are assigned tables at one of two seatings in the swank, two-floor Britannia restaurant. Britannia Club suites come with a pillow menu and access to the Britannia Club restaurant, where they can dine at any time they want. Both Princess Grill and top-tier Queens Grill passengers have exclusive access to a concierge and the Grills Lounge, and eat their meals at their own dedicated restaurants without worrying about a seating time.
And no, there aren’t any water slides. But there are plenty of things to do during your eight days at sea. Expect everything from watercolor classes to ballroom-dance lessons to live music to lectures to champagne teas at the Veuve Clicquot bar. A crossing on the Queen Mary 2 is also a great way to experiment with a digital detox. Though satellite Wi-Fi is available on the ship, it’s expensive and a little slow, and the siren call of the Canyon Ranch spa, the sternside hot tubs, and your freshly checked out library books will soon prove far more alluring than your Facebook page.
Travel + Leisure was recently invited as a guest by Cunard to sail on the Queen Mary 2’s from Southampton to New York after the ship emerged from 25 days in dry dock. Here are some highlights of the refit:
If you had never set foot onboard the Queen Mary 2 before, you would be forgiven for thinking you’re walking onboard a brand-new ship. That’s because part of the “remastering” included the installation of 594,000 square feet of new carpets—the equivalent of more than 10 football fields—and 4,000 new framed pictures, as well as a spruced-up hull coated with 3,900 gallons of paint.
Already in place on the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, this formal à la carte dining room replaces the Todd English restaurant. It pays homage to the Queen Mary’s Verandah Grill with details that echo the original, from circus-themed artwork to black Art Deco carpeting to a menu replete with seasonal French dishes like wild turbot in papillote and rum au baba. The frogs legs alone are worth the $35 cover charge for dinner. (Lunch costs $20.)
“Sailing solo” coffee gatherings are a mainstay of a QM2 crossing, and now there are staterooms to match. Fifteen new Britannia-class single staterooms were constructed on Decks 2 and 3, each of which has a twin bed and a slightly smaller seating area than standard staterooms. Also new: 30 additional Britannia Club balcony staterooms on Deck 13, which come with access to a private Britannia Club restaurant.
About half have been kitted out with new furniture, linens, and a cloud-like bed, with the rest due for makeovers by the end of the year. Bonus: Each room now has an electric kettle, so now guests can have a cuppa without waiting on room service.
The ship’s top-tier Princess Grill and Queens Grill suites have also gotten a refresh, with glam art deco details—like bespoke carpeting designed to resemble rugs on the Queen Mary—and new configurations geared toward maximizing space.
Cunard has answered Grill passengers’ calls for more tables for two with, well, more tables for two, both in the Princess Grill (which caters exclusively to passengers in Princess Grill suites) and the Queens Grill (the domain of guests in Queens Grill suites). Both have a more luxe, modern feel, aided by new Art Deco decor and rich color palettes that echo those in the Princess Grill and Queens Grill suites.
Gone is the glass elevator connecting the lobby’s two levels, opening up the space and making it a more welcoming spot for guests to congregate. A dramatic new starburst carpet and new additions to the Mayfair Shops on Deck 3 give passengers a reason to linger after a visit to the purser’s desk.
In its previous incarnation, the ship’s buffet restaurant was often log jammed during breakfast and lunch, but the removal of an elevator allowed crews to open the space up, improving flow and giving it a less frenetic feel. With modern new tables and banquettes also in the mix, it’s now a place passengers want to stop and hang out a while.
Replacing the Winter Garden, this chic, airy lounge is one of the ship’s best additions. In the morning and afternoon, passengers can snack on small plates and pastries for breakfast and lunch. In the evenings, guests settle in to listen to live music, preferably over a glass of port—one entire wall is dedicated to displaying vintage bottles, with some dating back to Cunard’s inception in 1840.
The Queen Mary 2 is the only long-distance passenger vessel at sea that carries cats and dogs, and kennels can fill up a year in advance. To answer the demand, Cunard added an additional 12 kennels for a total of 24. Also new: a refurbished “poop deck”—complete with a lamppost from London and a fire hydrant from New York City—and an owner’s lounge where passengers can play with their pets indoors.