Home   Cruise, Port and Shore Excursion Reviews   Features   Forums   News   Humor  Quizzes   Links
 
 

Cruise Ship Review
Cunard Line

Queen Mary 2

by Arturo Paniagua Mazorra

[Queen Mary 2 at Funchal, Madeira]

The History, Construction and Design of Queen Mary 2

On January 8, 2004, Queen Elizabeth II christened in Southampton the Queen Mary 2, the new transatlantic liner operated by the old British company Cunard. The ceremony was the culmination of the presentation of the ship, in which Cunard showed the QM2 to more than 15,000 people. In a year which will see fifteen new cruise ships, six of them of post-panamax size, the delivery of the QM2 has received unprecedented media coverage, recreating in the 21st Century the media attention which existed with her "old mates" of the thirties: the first Queen Mary, the Normandie, the Rex, etc.

The QM2 has justifiably become a star. In May 1969, two months after the Concorde's first flight, Cunard showed off the new Queen Elizabeth 2 as she gracefully made her way into New York harbor for the first time. Everyone assumed that this sleek new flagship of the Cunard Line would be the last great ocean liner ever built. But she wasn't. Three decades later, and when the age of supersonic commercial flights has ended, the ocean liners live on. The new $800 million Queen Mary 2 has taken over transatlantic duties from the Queen Elizabeth 2.

The most important reason for the QM2's fame is that she is the only ship that can be properly named an ocean liner. She is not a conventional cruise ship, because she is able to sail in North Atlantic waters, facing the bad weather and gales found in those latitudes, while delivering a fast and pleasant voyage to the passengers. Built for this route, QM2 has cost Cunard a budget increase of almost a 40% over a conventional cruise ship.

The delivery also marks the cruise ship resurrection after September 11, 2001. The Queen Mary 2 was ordered before that tragic date, and some analysts put in doubt her viability during the months after the attacks. But thanks to the vision and ambition of Carnival Corporation, we can look ahead to arguably the most significant debut year since the original Queen Mary herself in 1934. Back then, in an era characterized by the Depression, her launch marked a period of re-birth and national pride. Today, the Queen Mary 2, with her huge size and many novelties, has become the cruise industry's bold new frontier, the new model pattern in an age otherwise exemplified by anonymous newbuilds.

Genesis of A Giant

The delivery of the QM2 was the last milestone for the revival of Cunard. In the nineties, Cunard had had a succession of owners, Trafalgar House, Kvaerner, etc. whose core business was not the operation of cruise ships, or even owning ships. The consequences were an erratic management, which offered a diffuse product of a mix of ultra deluxe yacht-like Sea Goddess twins, the tradition of the Queen Elizabeth 2, and, at times, mass market-style cruise ships like the Cunard Countess.

In April 1998 Carnival Corp, together with a group of Norwegian investors, bought Cunard from the Anglo-Norwegian industrial group Kvaerner for $496 million. Without this money, it is doubtful that Cunard would have survived. A month later, Cunard Line become Cunard Ltd. and merged within that company the fleets of Seabourn and Cunard itself, creating a big worldwide operator of deluxe cruises. In that time, the Carnival Corp. share in Cunard Line was 68%. On June 8, 1998 the Project Queen Mary was announced, a two-year study about the construction of the next generation of passenger ships for Cunard. The British naval architect Stephen Payne headed this project. But behind this project was Micky Arison, the owner of Carnival Corp. His dream was to build the biggest ocean liner ever built, and Cunard was the instrument of his ambition.

Carnival quickly reorganized her luxury branch. Her yacht-like ships -- the three original Seabourn ships, the two Sea Goddesses and the Royal Viking Sun were integrated under the Seabourn branch umbrella, while the Cunard branch was configured around the transatlantic tradition, with a two-ship fleet: the Queen Elizabeth 2 and the Vistafjord, which was christened Caronia and registered under the British flag. The first consequence was that, for the first time in many years, Cunard was offering a homogeneous product, based in the solid maritime tradition of English refinement, and in the romanticism of the transatlantic crossing. A year later, October 20 1999, Carnival bought 100% of Cunard Line and began to rebuild it as the cruise line of distinction.

At that time, Cunard lived in a contradictory way: it held a valuable commercial resource, her own name, but owned two ships that were more than 25 years old, each with a prestigious name and history, but with some outdated installations and cabins. It was necessary to re-associate the Cunard name with the opulence of the ocean liners of the first half of the 20th century. It was at that time that the decision to build the Queen Mary 2 was made.

But the renovation of the Cunard fleet was not to end with the Queen Mary 2. Cunard was the first operator that signed a construction contract for a cruise ship after the September 11, 2001 events. On the 14th of December that year, Carnival Corp. signed an agreement with Fincantieri to transform a Holland America Line hull to a Cunard cruise ship, with delivery scheduled for January, 2005. On March 31, 2003, Cunard announced that the new ship would be christened Queen Victoria. The keel laying of this ship, which will replace Caronia when delivered, was made July 12, 2003 the same day that the Oosterdam was delivered to HAL. But in late April, Cunard ordered a bigger and more luxurious Queen Victoria from Fincantieri. The original hull will be completed and delivered to P&O as Arcadia.

Construction of the Queen Mary 2

The first job of building the QM2 was to award the job to a shipyard. This operation began in June 1999. Cunard knew that the ship would be the most expensive ever built. The European shipyards, specialist in this type of ships, had then an extensive order book; this was the reason for the rumor that the QM2 would be build in a Far East yard. Eventually the order came down to a duel between Harland & Wolf, the company that built the Titanic in the Belfast yards, (now closed), and the French shipyard Alstom Chantiers de l'Atlantique.

She was built in France because the British yard couldn't handle such a huge order. Alstom's experience in building similar types of ships, and its financial solvency convinced Cunard to sign a letter of intent to build the Queen Mary 2 on March 10, 2000 with the French shipyard. However, difficulties in the project definition meant that the signing of the definitive contract in Paris had to be delayed until November 6 of that year. The price of the ship was $780 millions, the biggest ever paid for a commercial ship. But if this figure is divided by the number of lower berths, 2600, the resulting figure is almost $300,000 (per berth). This figure, which serves to compare the construction prices between cruise ships, is just double that found on Voyager of the Seas, Grand Princess or Carnival Conquest, all prototypes of post-panamax size vessels built in the last years. Furthermore, those ships have been series-built, which has permitted the owner to split the project cost between several vessels. Only some ultra-deluxe ships, as the Silver Whisper and Silver Shadow twins, that cost $150 million each and contain only 388 berths, have been more expensive to build per lower berth (around $380,000).

[Building a Queen]

The Queen Mary 2 construction began on January 16, 2002, when Pam Conover, the Cunard president, started the steel cutting. On June 11th, 2002, the maiden voyage date (January 12, 2004) was announced. On July 4, the first block was lowered to the building dock, and only one month later, on August 8, 2002, the first block of QM2 was floated out and moved to the second position in the building dock. On December 1, 2002, the hull was floated out to the deeper end of the building dock; on March 12, 2003, the funnel was set in place, finalizing the steel work on the building dock. On March 16, the Queen Mary 2 left the building dock for the fitting out basin. The first sea trials took place in the last days of September, and were repeated in November. Then in December, during workers' family visitation, a gangway in the yard collapsed, and 16 people died in the accident.

At last, only 38 months after the signing of the firm contract and after less than two years of construction and fitting out, an extraordinary feat for the shipyard, the QM2 was delivered on the December 22, 2003 in St. Nazaire. (The France, by contrast, was built in five years and six months.) QM2 sailed to Vigo the next day to make dock trials on Christmas day. And, at last, on December 26 she arrived at her home port of Southampton, England. From there she made three skeleton cruises with Cunard employees in the new year. On the January 8, 2004 Queen Elizabeth II christened QM2. Her first cruise, a 14-day transatlantic trip, began on January 12 in Southampton, with calls in Las Palmas and Santa Cruz de Tenerife, and finally in Fort Lauderdale on January 26.

 

The Largest Ship in the World

The QM2's size is truly colossal: she is 150,000 gross tons, double the size of the Queen Elizabeth 2, and more than all four ships combined of the fleet of the Spanish operator Pullmantur. The exterior is outstanding because of her 62 meters "air draft" (height). Perhaps the size of the QM2 tunes best with her base port on the other side of the Atlantic, New York City. In fact, her air draft is limited because she must pass under the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge, in the entrance channel of the skyscraper city -- she has only three meters (9¾ feet) of clearance. The Queen Elizabeth 2 has 15 meters (48¾ feet) clearance.

QM2's size was due to three motives: technical, commercial and marketing. Technically speaking, Cunard decided that the Queen Mary 2 should be constructed completely of steel (the Queen Elizabeth 2, has her five upper decks built of aluminum) and the best way to counteract the great weight of the steel is to increase the breadth. To reduce the ship's water resistance as much as practical called for lengthening the hull, giving her a narrower aspect.

From the commercial point of view, Cunard needed a ship with a capacity of over 2,500 passengers, and also a relatively high gross tonnage-to-guest ratio was required for a luxurious experience. So, the economics of the project demanded that QM2 could not be smaller than QE2. Both facts meant a big ship was needed. The QM2 gross tonnage/passenger ratio is 57.25, 50% more than in the post-panamax type Carnival Destiny cruise vessels, and 30% more than in the megaships of the Voyager of the Seas class.

Finally, the media impact of owning the largest ship of the world (not to mention a certain drive to be the biggest of them all, topping rival Royal Caribbean's) was a very important factor.

The hull is perhaps the most immediately impressive part of the Queen Mary 2. In contrast to the typical white hulls of the Caribbean cruise ships, the immense black hull of the new Cunarder will be, without doubt, one of her identity signs. This hull, designed and built for the North Atlantic run, is different from various points of view. It is higher than the conventional cruise ships, better suited for Mediterranean and Caribbean sailings. Thus, the height from the keel to the freeboard deck forward is over 22 meters (71½ feet). The steel work, which is composed of 300,000 metallic pieces and weighs 50,000 tons, was grouped in 94 blocks, some of them of 600 tons weight. This required 15,000 kilometers of welding, completed in less than a year, to build the ship. Furthermore, the hull has strength far exceeding the norm, which means than in some areas steel of 10 millimetres of thickness was used and is designed with a fatigue life of 40 years, 10 more than a normal cruise ship.

The paint used on the hull is ecological, TBT-free. The fine bow section of the Queen Mary 2 derives from that designed thirty years earlier for her predecessor, QE2. It's designed for operation of the ship at a speed of 26 knots, while keeping adequate stability at the waterline. Aft, the hull has a Constanzi form, a combined transom and cruiser stern, utilized for the first time in the Oceanic and Eugenio C, in the middle sixties. This choice produces an additional buoyancy.

Another interesting detail is the position of the lifeboats. The rules state that they be located 15 meters maximum from the waterline. In the QM2, however, they are situated at 27 meters, thanks to an exemption due to weather conditions in the North Atlantic. In the forecastle, the Queen Mary 2 is fitted with a whaleback breakwater identical to the Normandie's. Also the promenade deck forward is sheltered, as on the Rotterdam V. The cabins, as a white block of apartments, are all located in the superstructure, on top of the hull. This choice has permitted the change of the traditional "cow eyes" of the old Queen Elizabeth 2 to balconies. And of course, there is the great red funnel, with the unmistakable traditional color of Cunard, which crowns the center of the ship.

Not A 'Theme' Ship

Inside, there are places to see the magnitude of the QM2, such as the theater and the main restaurant. I had only a day to visit the QM2, but the first impression is that Cunard has not been stingy. Her size is double that of ships that transport the same number of passengers. As a consequence, it is possible to feel solitude on deck, while her ample salons absorb the passenger load, and the circulation is always fluid in the wide passageways. The roof is high in the public room decks (3.5 meters), well ahead of the 2.5 meter standard: this also promotes the roomy feeling.

Another QM2 novelty is that the interior decoration doesn't have any theme. Today it is a novelty that something related with the tourism or vocational industry is not "thematic." Cruise ships have not avoided this trend, and almost every newbuild has part (or all) of the decoration inspired in a "theme." The Egyptian sphinxes, Burmese temples, golden elephants, etc., are common on today's cruise ships. And, of course, there are some cruise ships with heavy "Las Vegas" influences.

But the Queen Mary 2's inside decoration is different. Cunard split the commission between two design teams: the British DesignTeam, which had 20% of the work, and the Swedish Tillberg Design, which had 80%. Both have given this ship their own personality that displays in almost all the areas an atmosphere always elegant and discreet, very British, without any detail or color combination which could be called extravagant. Don't forget that there is little that is British in Queen Mary 2; her owners are US-based, she was built in France, and she has an international crew. But the English flavor which one waits to find in a Cunard ship is found in her British complement of officers that serves a mainly American clientele (50% of passenger load), combined with 40% British passengers, and the balance of other nationalities. The Cunard maritime tradition, and the British Royal family portraits are other constants on board, as well as a huge collection of art works selected by Art&Enterprise, with a value of €5 million and composed of over 300 pieces.

The layout of the decks show a genuine appreciation of the true liner style, with less intentional display of the ship's size (for example, with multi-deck atriums), and more accent on a series of well-balanced public rooms, which provide a relaxed choice for the six consecutive days at sea on the transatlantic run. Particularly interesting is the decoration of the hallways between the Britannia Dining Room and the atrium, with large metallic murals of diverse themes. Curiously, the mural dedicated to the United States has a lot of typical North American icons (Native Americans, baseball, etc.), but also a discreet reference to the Simpson family. But the ship is so big that, in some forward corridors, the decorators used (I think the true word is "abused"), old photos of Cunarders, or other old ocean liners, to decorate the ship. The use of laminated surfaces in certain zones also should have been limited, particularly when in other spaces the designers had made splendid use of wooden veneers (the library is a fine example).

The QM2 Layout

In the modern cruise ships, the salons and public rooms generally are located on two or three inside decks -- the lower ones for passenger use, where the passenger finds almost all of the amenities used mainly in the afternoon and night time, and the upper ones feature outdoor activities, such as pools, the buffet, etc. The layout of the Queen Mary 2 is different. It is very similar to the old Canberra, of P&O, though also has influences of her predecessor, the Queen Elizabeth 2. The designers have kept on the two lower decks a lot of public spaces (theater, cinema, main dining room,), which exploit here all of the hull's breadth, and also have introduced an intermediate deck for public use, Number 7, placed between cabin decks.

[Part of the buffet, Deck 7]

This Deck 7, the first of the superstructure, is also the boat deck, and houses the buffet and the spa, two places that in conventional cruise ships are located in a higher position. It also serves as a promenade deck, as in the old ocean liners, though it will surely be used also as a jogging track. A complete circuit of this deck is supposedly a walk of 620 meters [3/5 of a kilometre; 2/5 of a statute mile; 1/3 of a nautical mile -- Ed.], all teak decked, with plenty of the traditional wooden lounge chairs of ocean liners. The forward part of this deck is sheltered, as in the old Rotterdam of Holland America Line. In this zone, two doors permit access, in good weather, to the forecastle. This deck also forms a definite horizontal border between the standard cabins (Decks 4, 5 and 6), and the most expensive suite cabins (Decks 8 to 12).

On the outside decks (12 and 13), the only activities are sunbathing and watching the sea from enormous surfaces decked in traditional teak -- there are not the profusion of bar and activities that are found in a conventional cruise ship. The Queen Elizabeth 2, the former liner on the North Atlantic run, has a different layout.

The QM2 has four outdoor pools, one of them exclusively for children. Located on Deck 12, forward of the funnel, there is a pool fitted with a glass roof, which can therefore be utilized in inclement weather. The other pools, as in the Queen Elizabeth 2, are situated aft, in the terraced superstructure, all surrounded with a teak sun deck. The available space is enormous, but is fragmented and, as a consequence, the outdoor decks of the QM2 do not impress in equal degree to the inside ones. It seems that the Queen Mary 2 is designed more for walks under the sun in the middle of the Atlantic, or for enjoying reading a book in the lounge chairs, than it is for sunbathing after a swim in the pool.

[Todd English restaurant]

In addition to the immense public rooms located on Decks 2, 3 and 7, there are other spaces situated in the extreme fore and aft on Decks 8 to 11, most intimate and reserved, such as the alternative restaurant Todd English, Commodore Club, etc. prepared to offer relaxation and intimacy, while enjoying ocean views. Of these small spaces, maybe the most notable is the Library, with 8,000 books, located forward on Deck 8, starboard. It has a classic green decoration, with veneered furniture, and is the second largest library afloat in the world, second only to the Universe Explorer's library. It also houses personal computers with Internet connection, and a seating section forward for reading. The book shop is located nearby, with lots of ocean liner memorabilia and books. Spread along the length of the vessel are four stair towers with lifts. The two central towers, located fore and aft in the atrium and near hallways, are fitted with six elevators each, and work well.

Important Public Rooms

An important part of a modern cruise ship is the atrium. The Queen Mary 2 is not singular in this aspect, and also has a space of this type, located amidships. But it is "only" five decks high. In contrast to the enormous atriums found in other cruise ships designed to generate a towering feeling, the QM2 designers opted for a more discreet space, perhaps on a more human scale. The decoration of the atrium is classic, with two splendid curved stairs forward, and two touches of modernity: two steel and crystal panoramic elevators aft, and cabins with windows facing this space. In the highest section of the forward part of the atrium there is an enormous metallic mural of the old Queen Mary.

The atrium's two lower decks form the Grand Lobby. The passengers embark through a gate on the atrium's lower deck, and the first impression on board is unforgettable. Here also is situated the Pursers Desk and the shore excursion desk, and the casino, on the port side, which is pitifully small compared with today's standards, with maybe fifty slot machines. On the second atrium deck (Number 3) is a shopping center of over 500 square metres (about 5300 square feet) called Mayfair Shop, where are represented deluxe shops such as Hermes and Chopard, as well as other boutiques offering everything from jewelry to logo souvenirs.

But the most impressive part of the atrium are the vast hallways in between the Grand Lobby and the other public rooms on Decks 2 and 3. They are huge, with giant bronze and glass murals. For me, they are one of the most successful spaces on the ship, particularly the hallway on Deck 2, due to the higher headroom. They are so wide that they absorb well the passenger circulation after dinner to the evening entertainment spaces forward. This hallway works the same as the street on the Voyager of the Seas class cruise ships, and also contains an assortment of bars, cafés, etc. In order to achieve these hallways, the uptakes from the engine room to the funnel, in the same manner of Normandie or Vaterland, have been divided, and so avoid disrupting the central thoroughfare, which is free to connect public rooms.

On both sides of this passageway the passengers from the Britannia restaurant on Decks 2 and 3 find the bar "territory," which invites attendance before and after dinner. On Deck 2 is the Golden Lion pub (that can be found also on the QE2). The Golden Lion is a great space which was more popular every night than any other space on board; his could be one of her best features. The floor has a red carpet, and both walls and ceiling are beige with a lot of wood. The furniture is red, green and black, with classic details such as the lighting of the tables, and the portraits of old houses.

The Chart Room, with plenty of nautical charts and a green decoration with lots of wood veneer, is another favorite place. Forward is located the Champagne Bar and opposite is found Sir Samuel's, the wine bar on board, with an Art Deco atmosphere, fitted with dark wood furniture and violet tones.

Aft of the Britannia Restaurant, on Deck 3, are concentrated the two most important places for evening leisure of the QM2. It isn't easy to find these places. Primarily, there are two lateral passageways located under the Britannia Restaurant balcony level's terraces. The starboard side corridor houses the Art Gallery, and on the port side is found the photo gallery. The Queen's Room, located atop the galley, is a proper full breadth ballroom, two decks high. This traditional facility is bigger than the same space found in the Queen Elizabeth 2. It is capable of housing 1,100 people, and has an enormous wooden dance floor, the largest afloat, located below two great crystal chandeliers. It is classically decorated in blue and yellow, with a beautiful carpet. The sides, which are higher than the central section, features large windows, and has a splendid natural light, very useful when the classical Cunard tea is served at four o'clock every afternoon. The furniture features wooden tables and large brown chairs. For me, one of the most elegant venues in the QM2 -- I enjoyed mainly the recessed ceiling, and the half round Art Deco proscenium, located aft.

The discotheque, G32, a completely inside space with plenty of TV monitors, stainless steel, and neon lighting, is located on the poop of the ship. The two-level G32 is an imaginative nightclub/disco, decorated mainly in grey (walls) and red (carpet), located far from cabins, and caters to the younger QM2 passengers. It has a large wooden dance floor, a bandstand, a huge video wall and torch-like lighting, as on the CostaMediterranea, but only in this space.

On Deck 7, as on Deck 2, the ceiling is higher, and so the public spaces feel roomier. Aft of the spa is found the Winter Garden, another heritage of Cunard's earlier Queens. All ocean liners that sailed in the twentieth century had a space with a conservatory motif so evocatively achieved on the Titanic as long ago as 1912. Aboard QM2, classical English tea is served at five o'clock in the afternoon, amongst a tropical decoration that includes wicker furniture, fountains, a foliated skylight, country paintings and natural plants. The fountain, located on the aft wall, emits a pleasant trickling that combines well with the classical concerts played there. The asymmetrical layout, with port fore-to-aft circulation, works well, as does the marble floor corridor within this venue. This is a big place, with more than 270 seats which are used intensively, and is one of the few spaces on board that can feel a little cramped.

Gastronomic Variety

The Queen Mary 2 has eight galleys, all located on a vertical path rising from the store room on Deck 1, fourteen buffet lines, forty-three pantries and fourteen bars. Also, the QM2 has ten restaurants.

[Britannia Restaurant, with mural of original Queen Mary behind Captain's Table]

The largest one is the Britannia Restaurant, located in the center of the ship on two lower decks (2 and 3), as in the traditional ocean liners, with wide hull dimensions. In modern cruise ships, this room is located in the higher position, and in the aft part of the vessel. This huge and impressive dining venue seats 1,347 passengers at a time in two seatings. Two levels, the lower one on Deck 2, and a balcony level on Deck 3 around a central well, compose the Britannia Restaurant. The upper level is terraced upwards, with three levels, and this design permits good views of the whole room of diners. Aft of the well there is an enormous picture of the old Queen Mary in Manhattan, just behind the Captain's Table, while the roof up from the well imitates a traditional recessed skylight (here, in fact, it is three decks high). This dome imitates the skylight of the old ocean liners.

Forward of the mural are located two-curved staircases, connecting upper and lower levels, with glass railings. I think the best option is to enter on Deck 3 to descend through the stairs to the lower level -- an unforgettable experience. The carpet here is newly blue, with shell details. The white classic columns, which look independent, also emphasize the towering effect. I think the high ceiling of this place, of unprecedented height, is the true example on board that represents the vertical height of yesterday's ocean liners. The galley is located aft of the restaurant on Deck 2, and four escalators take stewards to the upper balcony deck. The food quality was very high, I thought, from soups to food to drinks, and I particularly enjoyed the dessert.

Another QM2 characteristic is that the passengers of the most expensive cabins (suites, apartments, and junior suites) use the 200-seat Queen's Grill, decorated in cream, red and gold, and the very elegant indeed 178-seat Princess Grill, decorated in cream and silver, with green and red upholstery on the splendid Art Deco chairs. These restaurants are located aft on Deck 7. The lighting here is very intimate, with artwork in cases with halogen light. There are floor to ceiling windows aft, and blinds to protect from the sun. So the Queen Mary 2 is, in this aspect, a two-class ship, as were her illustrative predecessors, including the Queen Elizabeth 2. There is also a Queen's Grill Lounge and Terrace, the latter an outside deck complete with exclusive Jacuzzi and bar service. However, other passengers will not feel "second class," as the main dining room, the Britannia Restaurant, is certainly one of the most glamorous locations aboard the whole vessel.

King's Court, an immense venue that occupies the central part of Deck 7, overlooking the teak promenade deck, works in the daytime as a buffet for breakfasts and informal meals, without a direct access to the pools, but with some splendid seating areas in the large bay windows overlooking Promenade Deck. Thank to an ingenious use of illumination and to the employment of mobile partitions, this space transforms at night into four restaurants of national flavor. Reservation is required, but there is no surcharge: one Asian, Lotus; one Italian, La Piazza; Carvery, of British ambience, and the so-called Chef's Galley, with capacity for only 36 passengers who can watch the chefs prepare the dinner, thanks to four screens.

The QM2 also boasts the largest wine cellar afloat, with more than 350 labels and, on average, 45,000 bottles.

Novelties

There are two great entertainment facilities, one sited directly behind the other, forward of the atrium on Deck 3. Firstly, the Queen Mary 2 Royal Court theatre, which is located on Decks 2 and 3, is decorated completely in red, both carpeting and upholstery, and has 1,094 seats on lower level and balcony. The lateral grey walls and the black ceiling are much too anonymous for this ship, and the blue neon doesn't help one to forget this feeling. Sight lines are quite good here, with only three pillars on each side, and the balcony has a notable slope. There are two different ambiances in this venue: down, on the lower level, there are sofas, big chairs and circular tables; in the upper level there are no tables, only continuous sofas. As a consequence, a lot of people prefer the lower level. It has a big semicircular stage, and a proscenium of iron works backlit by a shifting rainbow of lights.

One of the ship's great novelties is located just forward, in the form of the first and only planetarium at sea; it is named Illuminations. The location of this space, forward of the theater, is a risky decision, because it could provoke orientation problems. However, it works well, thanks mainly to two lateral passageways located on both sides under the Royal Court balcony level. The entrance halls are decorated with big mythology sculptures; it is capable of housing 493 passengers, with splendid sight lines, because there are no pillars. The seats are steeply raked, and wrapped around a small stage which has some video screens. Here, the passengers can enjoy the so called "planetarium show," about the firmament, the creation of the universe, etc. When working in this role, capacity is reduced to 150 seats, which can recline at the touch of a lever to allow a fine look upward into the aluminum sky dome, which descends from the ceiling. Illuminations doubles as a theatre for 3-D and conventional movies, and as an auditorium for lectures. The decoration here (a DesignTeam work) is richer than in the main theatre, mainly in garnet tones, with wood and carpet walls, and Etchell glass railings.

The Champagne Bar is the first Veuve Cliquot on a cruise ship. The French company assigned its name to this venue located on Deck 3, close to the atrium, as well as the bottle that christened the vessel. I think the beige decoration and the green leather and dark wood counter, are one of the better on board. Also, the high head room on this deck helps this feeling.

The QM2 also is the only ship with a spa managed by Canyon Ranch. It's really immense: almost 2,000 square metres (more than 20,000 square feet) over two decks, with 24 massage rooms, an inside pool and a team of 51 people. The gymnasium, aerobic and weight rooms are located forward, with views over the bow, and aft are found the treatment rooms, the central indoor pool, the thermal suite and the steam room. The layout is worse than found on conventional cruise ships, where it is usually located on a higher deck, surrounded by floor to ceiling windows, and fitted with an outdoor section. But Canyon Ranch Health Spa offers the very latest and most progressive health and beauty treatments anywhere in the world, and the health people give more importance to this fact than the spa views.

Cabins

The Queen Mary 2 has 17 decks, 13 of them dedicated to passengers. She can transport 2620 passengers in 1318 cabins, 955 (almost 75%) of them fitted with balcony, attended by a crew of 1300 captained by Commodore Warwick. The cabins offered on this ship are very extensive -- up to 25 different types, for all budgets. The most luxurious are five duplex apartments of over 150 square metres (1584 square feet), situated aft on Decks 8 and 9, gifted with a curved stairway and a great bay window aft to see the ship's wake. Every apartment has a gymnasium, walk-in closet, a fully-equipped galley, two marble bathrooms, an enormous balcony, and butler service. If it is necessary, every apartment can be connected to a neighboring suite, thus offering the privilege of a 200 square-metre (2100 square feet) area to enjoy the cruise.

[One corner of a QM2 suite]

Four suites are located forward; these measure between 80 and 100 square metres (845-1056 square feet), and offer magnificent sea views. They have two baths with Jacuzzi, a private elevator, and a balcony.

The 944 balcony cabins are located on four full decks, and are accessible by two murderously long passageways, one on each side of the ship. These cabin corridors haven't any artwork. They run the length of the ship and can be hypnotizing, but again aren't cheap . . . just too plain. The standard cabins have 18 square metres, 23 if we are counting the balcony (190 or 243 square feet), and the disposition is that of a standard ship of this category. The cabins are lovely, in soft gold and burgundy, with some touch of black wood. It feels big and roomy. The compact bath is well designed and has shower and toilet. The balconies have a closed steel lower half, a precautionary measure to North Atlantic gales. On the upper suite decks, the railing is glass and you can see for a distance. The deluxe cabins (27 square metres, or 285 square feet) and 78 suites (36 square metres, or 380 square feet) are bigger, roomier and better decorated than the standard balcony cabins. All are value for money!

There are also twelve cabins with windows facing the atrium. Furthermore, there are 293 inside cabins, some prepared for families with two upper beds. All cabins have interactive television (with a lot of utilities), comfortable beds with duvets, mini refrigerator, a table and a desk, etc. There are 30 cabins equipped for the physically challenged.

The vacuum sanitary system on board comprises over 2,200 toilets. The sanitary water is collected and handled in a membrane bioreactor, of 700 square metres filtration area, that converts it into clean water that can be released into the sea. The residuals of this plant are sent to the organic residuals treatment plant, and the resulting water is used as ballast, or used to clean open decks and windows, or in the laundry. The bilge water is handled in an installation that reduces the oil content to less than 5 ppm. Lastly, the incinerators on board eliminate the residuals that are impossible to recycle or to recuperate. The paper, plastics, glass and packed residuals are compacted to be recycled on shore.

Activities

A transatlantic run presented Cunard and its designers a challenge: how to keep passengers active and happy on a six-day voyage without a port of call? The response was a diverse group of options: health and beauty treatments, gastronomy, and also teaching. The Cunard enrichment program called ConneXionsSM on the QM2 is developed in seven classrooms, fitted with mobile partitions to be able to get classes of 230 students, including computer learning courses, that fill over 2,000 square metres, all located behind Illuminations, on the lower deck forward. The planetarium will be used for lectures, also. The classes offered are of a varied list of topics: contemporary architecture, learning languages, painting, movies, etc. A part of this program is called Oxford Discovery and is teamed with the University of Oxford, which selects the lecturers. The course program will be announced 90 days before departure, and this is one of the principal attractions of the Queen Mary 2.

The Most Powerful Passenger Ship

The power plant of the QM2 is of the type CODEG (Combined Diesel Electric and Gas turbine electric plant). This type of plant is the latest, most sophisticated power concept, so popular in modern cruise ships, and guarantees that she can cross the North Atlantic in six days. In spite of her size, the Queen Mary 2 has a service speed of 26.5 knots, with a sea margin of 25%, while the maximum speed is 30 knots, with all the generator equipment on duty. This achievement was partly obtained from the narrow beam and the lengthening of the hull, and partly from the powerful propulsion plant. The electric energy is generated at high voltage by four Wartsila 16V46C diesel engines, located in the double bottom, which develop 67,200 kW (57% of the total) and by two General Electric LM 2500 turbines, which develop 50,000 kW (43% of the total), located on the highest deck of the ship, just under the funnel, thanks to their lower weight.

Due to this layout, it is possible to supply the large air volume that these gas turbines require, without the need of big uptakes to carry this air to the engine room. With all these engines working, the Queen Mary 2 generates 117,000 kW, sufficient to supply Southampton, England. The four diesel engines are of the green type which use common rail technology injection to ensure lower emission rate. Propulsion is carried out by four 20 MW Mermaid podded propulsion units, two fixed (the forward outside ones) and two steerable through 360°, all with highly skewed blades for low noise and vibration.

Itineraries

The first QM2 cruise was a transatlantic positioning trip which begun January 12, 2004, from Southampton to Fort Lauderdale; later, she sailed in the Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale, and also, like the old Normandie, sailed to Rio de Janeiro. On March 26, she left Fort Lauderdale on her first true eastbound North Atlantic cruise to Southampton; and on April 16 she made the first westbound transatlantic trip from Southampton to New York. In April and June, she was engaged in transatlantic, Caribbean (from New York), and Western Europe (from Southampton) cruises. On July 5th, she began her first Northern Europe cruise from Southampton; and later more transatlantic crossings. From the 12th to the 30th of August, she will be in Piraeus, Greece, chartered for the Olympic Games as a floating hotel. After that event, she will offer transatlantic and New England cruises. And, finally, on October 17, she will offer her last Mediterranean cruise of the season from Southampton, before crossing the Atlantic to begin her second Caribbean season from New York and Fort Lauderdale.

Last Thoughts

As president Pam Conover said, "Cunard has fantastic brand equity." I believe the Queen Mary 2 is not built like a cruise ship, but rather as the guardian of the Cunard heritage. In fact, I think there are steps backward in some of the ship's layout. But, in other ways, she is trail-blazing. She is conservative in the restaurant layout, in her full promenade deck, in pool location, in her particularly ceremonial use of the public rooms (mainly the magnificent Queen's Room), and in her own route, the nostalgic transatlantic crossing. But also she is evolutionary in her multi-role venues, such as the King Court, in the balcony cabins, etc. and is a complete revolution in her propulsion technology.

She is elegant, but reserved, and she will be enormously successful in her crossing and cruising trips. She has a superb mix of modern, contemporary design and thinking, but retains a sense of the true liner heritage. And because she looks different from everything else currently in the cruise world, I must conclude that she should, indeed, live up to all the expectations of "grandeur renewed."

In the end, a Queen without size, elegance and tradition is unthinkable. And the QM2 is now reality, with plenty of power and tradition. Long live the Queen!


[spectrum line]

Arturo Paniagua Mazorra is a true ship history afficionado and resides in Madrid, Spain. He has written several other articles for The SeaLetter and can be reached for questions or comment at: arturo.paniagua@uc3m.es.


© 1995-2005 Sealetter Travel Inc
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please
Contact Us