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|Queen Mary 2 |
The most important reason for the QM2 fame is because she is the only ship that can be properly named an ocean liner
Arturo Paniagua Mazorra (September 14, 2004)
An Ocean Liner
On the 8th January 2004, Queen Elizabeth II christened in Southampton the Queen Mary 2, the new transatlantic liner operated by the old British ship owner 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, regenerating in the new XXI century, the liner media protagonism 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 the new Queen Elizabeth 2 gracefully make her way into New York harbour 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 flight that is over with the recent retirement of the Concorde, the "ocean liners", oddly enough, live on. The new $800 million Queen Mary 2, will take over trans-Atlantic duties from the Queen Elizabeth 2 next April.
The most important reason for the QM2 fame is because she is the only ship that can be properly named an ocean liner. She is not a conventional cruise ship, because 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 increment of almost a 40 %, compared to a conventional cruise ship.
The QM2 delivery also marks the cruise ship resurrection after the 11th September 2001. The Queen Mary 2 was ordered before that tragic date, and some analysts put in doubt the viability during the following months after the WTC attacks. But thanks to the vision and ambition of the Carnival Corporation we can look ahead to arguably the most significant debut since the original Queen Mary herself in 1934.
Back then, in an era characterised 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. However, the cruise offers increased by 11 % in 2003, and in the year 2004 will grow an additional eight per cent.
The prices are recuperating, and there is almost unanimity in auguring a splendid 2004 for the industry...after the Queen Mary 2' effect.
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 the ship owning industry.
The consequences were an erratic management, which offered a diffuse product, with a mix of ultra de luxe small yacht-like Sea Goddess twins, with the tradition of the Queen Elizabeth 2, and, at times, with mass market built cruise ships like the Cunard Countess.
In April 1998 Carnival Corp, together with a group of Norwegian investors, bought Cunard to the Anglo-Norwegian industrial group Kvaerner for $496 millions. Without this money, it's doubtful if Cunard would have survived. A month later, Cunard Line become Cunard Ltd. and merged in that company the fleets of Seabourn and Cunard itself, creating the big worldwide operator of deluxe cruises.
In that time, the Carnival' share in Cunard Line was of 68 %. In 8 June, 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.
But Carnival soon reorganized her luxury branch. Her yacht like ships, the three original Seabourn ships, plus 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 first time in many years, Cunard were offering a homogeneous product, based in the solid maritime tradition of decades, in the English refinement, and in the romanticism of the transatlantic crossing.
A year later, October 20 1999, Carnival bought the 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 notable commercial activity, her own name, but owned two ships more than 25 years old, with a prestigious name and history, but with some installations and cabins out of the cruise market.
It was necessary to associate newly the Cunard branch with the opulence of the ocean liners of the first half of the XX century. Then, was the time when the decision to build the Queen Mary 2 was taken. The dream of Micky Arison, the owner of Carnival Corp. to build the biggest passenger ship of the history, began to become a reality.
But the renovation of the Cunard fleet is not finishing with the Queen Mary 2. Cunard was the first operator that signed a construction contract for a cruise ship after the September 11th 2001 events. On the 14th December that year, Carnival Corp. signed an agreement with Fincantieri to transform a Holland America Line hull to a Cunard cruise ship, with delivery in January 2005. On 31st March 2003, Cunard announced that the new ship would be christened Queen Victory.
The keel laying of this ship which will substitute for Caronia when delivered, was made last July 12th, the same day that the Oosterdam was delivered to HAL. But late April, Cunard ordered a bigger and more luxury Queen Victoria in Fincantieri. And the former one will be delivered as scheduled to P&O as Arcadia.
Construction of the Queen Mary 2
The first job of building the QM2 was to tender it to the shipyards. This operation began in June 1999. Already at that moment, 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 rumour that the QM2 would be build in a Far East yard. In 8th. November 1999, plans were drawn up for the QM2.
Eventually the order was 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.
In the event, she was built in France because the British yard couldn't handle such a huge order. The Alstom large experience in building this type of ships, and her financial solvency, convinced Cunard to sign a letter of intent to build the Queen Mary 2 on March 10th. 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 6th of that year.
The price of the ship was $780 millions, the biggest ever paid for a merchant ship. The interior design was unveiled in London.
But if this figure is divided by the number of lower berths,2600, the resulting figure is almost $300.000. 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 de-luxe ships, as the Silver Whisper and Silver Shadow twins, that cost $150 millions each, and contain only 388 berths, have been more expensive to build per lower berth (around $380.000).
In February 2001, the tank tests of the QM2 model were successfully carried out in Holland.
The Queen Mary 2 construction began on 16th January 2002, when Pam Conover, the Cunard president, started the steel cutting. On June 11th, 2002, the maiden voyage date (12 Jan, 2004) was announced. On 4th July the first block was lowered to the building dock, and only one month later on August 8th, 2002, the first block of QM2 was floated out and moved to the second position in the building dock.
On the 1st. December 2002, the hull was floated out to the deeper end of the building dock, and on March 12th 2003, the funnel was placed on site, and this finalized the steel work on the building dock. On March 16th, 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. In December, in a workers family's visit to the shipyard, a gangway collapsed and 16 people died, as well as some serious injuries.
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 22nd December in St. Nazaire. The France, for example, 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 the 26th December she arrived at the home port of Southampton. From there she made three skeleton cruises with Cunard employees in the New Year.
Then on the 8th. January 2004 Queen Elizabeth II christened QM2. Her first cruise, a 14 day transatlantic trip, began on the 12th January in Southampton, with calls in Las Palmas and Santa Cruz de Tenerife, and finally in Fort Lauderdale on 26th January.
The Largest Ship of the World
The QM2 size is actually colossal: she is 150.000 gross tons, double the size of the old Queen Elizabeth 2, or more than the four cruise ships of the 2004 fleet of the Spanish operator Pullmantur. The exterior is outstanding because of her 62 meters air draft.
Maybe, the size of the QM2 tunes best with her base port in the other side of the Atlantic, New York. In fact, her air draft is limited because she must pass under the Verrazzano Bridge, in the entrance channel of the skyscraper city, and only has three meter of clearance.
The old Queen Elizabeth 2 had 15 meters clearance.
The QM2 size was due to three motives: technical, commercial and marketing. Technically speaking, Cunard decided that the Queen Mary 2 should be constructed completely in steel (the Queen Elizabeth 2, for example, has her five upper decks built in aluminium) and the best manner to counteract the great weight is to increase the breadth.
Furthermore, the need of a fine hull to reduce the resistance for a ship of great length.
From commercial point of view, Cunard needed a ship with a capacity of over 2.500 passengers, and also a relative high gt/pax 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 gt/pax ratio is 57.25, 50 % more that in the post panamax type Carnival Destiny cruise vessels, and 30 % more than in the mega ships of the Voyager of the Seas class.
Finally, the media impact to own the largest ship of the world (not to mention a certain drive to be the biggest of them all, topping rivals Royal Caribbean) was a very important factor.
The hull is maybe the most impressive part of the Queen Mary 2.
Accustomed 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 free board deck forward is over 22 meters. 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 made necessary 15.000 kilometers of welding, completed in less than a year, to build the ship. Furthermore, the hull has strength well ahead of 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 the designed thirty years 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 are located 15 meters maximum from the waterline. In the QM2, however, are situated at 27 meters, thanks to an exemption due to weather conditions in the North Atlantic. This fact also assumes that the hull seems yet larger. In the forecastle, the Queen Mary 2 is fitted with a whaleback breakwater identical to the Normandie's one. 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, the great red funnel, with the unmistakable traditional colour of Cunard, which crowns the centre of the ship.
Not a Thematic Ship
Inside, there are also places where to check the magnitude of the QM2: the theater, the main restaurant.. I had only a day to visit the QM2, that is a scarce time to see thirteen passenger decks and over 39.000 m2. But the first impression is that Cunard has not been stingy with the QM2.
Her size is just the double 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 well 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 helps in this 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".
The cruise ships haven't avoided this trend, and almost every new building has part (or all) of the decoration inspirated in a "theme".
The Egyptian sphinxes, Burma temples, golden elephants, etc. are usual motives on today cruise ships. And, of course, there are some cruise ships with heavy "Las Vegas" influences.
But the Queen Mary 2 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 colour combination which can be called extravagant, in which any European can feel comfortable.
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 has an international crew. But the English flavour which one waits to find in a Cunard ship are found in her British complement of officers, that serves a mainly American clientele (50 % passenger load), combined with a notable 40 % of British passengers and the balance of other nationalitiesand also in the atmosphere found on board. Logically, the English operator has wanted to care of her own national market.
The Cunard maritime tradition, and the British Royal family portraits are other constants on board, as well a huge collection of art works selected by Art&Enterprise, with a value of € 5 millions and composed of over 300 pieces.
The layout of the decks show a genuine appreciation of the true liner style, with less emphasis to show the ship' 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 (red skins, 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 Lay Out
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. While the two upper decks have concentrated outdoor activities, such as pools, buffet, etc.
The lay out 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, etc), which exploit here all of the hull's breadth, and also have introduced an intermediate deck for public use, the number 7, placed between cabin decks.
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 will surely be used also as a jogging track.
A complete circuit of this deck is supposedly a walk of 620 meters, all teak decked, with plenty of typical wooden made lounge chairs of ocean liners. The forward part 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 certain horizontal border between the standard cabins (decks 4, 5 and 6), and the most expensive suite cabins (decks 8 to 12).
But the spa and buffet are located on deck 7, far from the outside decks (12 and 13). The only activities here are sun bathing and to see the sea from enormous surfaces decked in traditional teak, but there aren't the profusion of bar and activities that are found in a conventional cruise ship. The Queen Elizabeth 2, the former liner in the North Atlantic run, has a different lay out.
On QE2, all cabins, except some few suites, are situated on the hull, and up, in the whole superstructure, are located three continuous decks of spacious public rooms.
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, and thus can 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 to enjoy reading a book in the lounge chairs (all wooden made), than it is to sun bathe after having a swim in the pool.
As well as 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, on the starboard side.
That 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 pc's with Internet connection, and a seating section forward, to read in a quiet atmosphere. The book shop is located starboard, with lots of QM2 and ocean liners memorabilia and books.
For vertical movements, the QM2 has four stair towers with lifts spread the length of the vessel. The two central towers, located fore and aft the atrium and near hallways, are fitted with six elevators each, and work well.
The Most Important Public Rooms
The most important part in 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 these are only five decks high. In contrast with the enormous atriums found in other cruise ships designed to generate a towering feeling, the QM2 designers opted for a more discreet space, maybe looking more human that immense mills.
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 window 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 atriums two lower decks are the Grand Lobby.
The passengers embark through a gate on the atrium lower deckand the first impression on board is unforgettable. Here also is situated the pursers desk and the shore excursion desk on the starboard side, and the casino, on the port side, which is pitifully small compared with today's standard, with maybe 50 slot machines.
In the second atrium deck (number 3) is a shopping center of over 500 m2 called Mayfair Shop, where are represented the de luxe shops such as Hermes, Chopard, as well as other boutiques offering everything from jewellery to logo souvenirs.
But the most impressive part of the atrium is 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, mainly 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, cafes, etc. but lacks the spectacular found on the RCI ships.
In order to achieve these hallways, the diesel engines 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 found also in the QE2). The Golden Lion is a great space which was more popular every night than any other space on board. This could be one of her best features.
The floor has a red carpet, and both walls and ceiling are beigeand a lot of wood, The furniture is also red, green and black, with classic details such as the lighting of the tables, and the portraits of old houses. The casino can also be accessed on deck 2. On deck 3, with more headroom, the bar looks roomier than on deck 2. The Chart Room, plenty of nautical charts, with a green decoration and a lot of veneer wood, is another favourite 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, is 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 deck high.
This traditional facility is another place, which is impressive by the size, and 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 classical crystal chandeliers. It has a classic decoration in blue and yellow, with a precious 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 is classic, with wooden tables and large brown chairs. For me, one of the most elegant venues in the QM2. I enjoyed mainly her recessed ceiling, and the half round art deco proscenium, located aft.
Lastly, the discotheque G32, a completely inside space, plenty of TV monitors, stainless steel, and neon, located in 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 for the younger QM2 passengers.
It has a large wooden dance floor, a band stand, a huge video wall and torch like lighting, as on Costa Mediterraneabut only in this space.
On the deck 7, as on deck 2, the ceiling is higher, and so the public spaces feel roomier. After the spa, is found the Winter Garden, another heritage of the two Cunard old Queens. All ocean liners which sail in the twentieth century have a space with a conservatory motif so evocatively achieved on the Titanic as long ago as 1912.
There Cunard, serves the classical English tea 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 in the aft wall, gives an agreeable trickling, that combines well with the classical concerts played here. The asymmetrical lay out, with port fore to aft circulation, works well, as well as the marble floor corridor within this venue.
This is a big venue, with more than 270 seats which are used intensively, and is one of the few spaces on board that feels a little cramped.
The Queen Mary 2 has eight galleys, all located on a vertical path rising from the store room on deck 1, 14 buffet lines, 43 pantries and 14 bars.
Also, the QM2 has 10 restaurants. The larger one is the Britannia restaurant, located in the center of the ship on the 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 aft of 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 emphasise the towering effect. I think the high ceiling of this place, of unprecedent height, is the true example on board of 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 is very high, I thought, but taste is a choice of everything, and there is some debate about that. I found everything was OK, from soups to food to drinks, and enjoyed mainly the dessert. Waiters were all hospitable, if understandably the service was not up to par.
Another QM2 characteristic is that the passengers of the most expensive cabins (suites, apartments, and junior suites) use the 200 seat Queens 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 in the splendid Art Deco chairs, 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 her illustrated predecessors, including the Queen Elizabeth 2.
But this isn't the only segregation on board, because there is also a Queens 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 the promenade deck.
Thank to an ingenious use of the illumination and to the employment of mobile partitions, this space transforms at night into four restaurants of national flavour, reservation is needed, but 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 that can watch the chefs prepare the dinner, thank to four screens.
Furthermore, the QM2 welcomes the first restaurant at sea of the North American chef Todd English, specialist in Mediterranean cuisine, located aft on deck 8.
The restaurant, which requires a reservation, is accessed by means of a tent like circular room in gold and red, featuring interesting artworks. I enjoy the innovative "U" shaped counter, the golden frames, the amphoras and indirect lighting.
The passenger can experience dining al fresco on the outdoor terrace next to the main pool.
The QM2 also boasts the largest afloat wine cellar, with more than 350 labels and, on average, 45,000 bottles.
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 deck 2 and 3. It's decorated completely in red, both carpet and upholstery, and has 1,094 seats between her lower level and the 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. Sightlines are quite good here, with only three pillars each side, and the balcony level has a notable slope.
It has two different ambiances in this venue: down, on the lower level, there are sofas, big chairs and circular tables; and in the upper level there aren't 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.
However, it's only a new conventional afloat theater.
One of the Queen Mary 2 great novelties is located just forward, in the form of the first and only planetarium at sea, named Illuminations. Location of this space, forward of the theater, is a risky decision, because it could provoke orientation problems. However, it works well thank mainly to two lateral passageways located both sides under the Royal Court balcony level. The entrance halls are decorated with big mythology sculptures, Illuminations is capable of housing 493 passengers, with splendid sightlines, 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", over 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 aluminium sky dome, which descends from the ceiling. Illuminations double as 3D and conventional movies and 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 of Veuve Cliquot in 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 help this feeling.
The QM2 also is only ship with a spa managed by Canyon Ranch. It's really immense: almost 2.000 m2 over two decks, with 24 massage rooms, an inside pool and a team of 51 people. The gymnasium, aerobic and weight room 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 lay out is worse than found on conventional cruise ships, usually located in a higher deck, surround with 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 healthy people gives more importance to this factthan the spa views.
The Queen Mary 2 has 17 decks, 13 of them dedicated to passengers. She can transport 2.620 passengers in 1.318 cabins, 955 (almost 75 %) of them fitted with balcony, attended by a crew of 1,300 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 m2, situated aft on deck 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, and an enormous balcony and butler service. If it is necessary, every apartment can be connected to a neibourhood suite, and thus offers the privilege of allowing a 200 m2 area to enjoy of the cruise.
Four real suites are located forward; these measure between 80 and 100 m2, and offer magnificent sea views. They have two baths with jacuzzi, a private elevator, and a balcony.
The 944 cabins with balcony, are located in four full decks, and are accessed thanks to two murderously long passageways, one on each side of the ship.
These cabin corridors haven't any artwork. The suite corridors on upper decksyes. They run the length of the ship and can be hypnotizing but again aren't cheap ...just too plain. The standard cabins have 18 m2, (23 m2 if we are counting the balcony) 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, but at the moment the walls are empty. The compact bath was 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 made and you can see for a distance. I think this is a big problem for a tropical cruise. The de luxe cabins (27 m2) and 78 suites (36 m2) 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. Also, 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 m2 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, eliminating the risk of the species transfer, 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 shore recycled.
Activities on Board
The QM2 use on the transatlantic run gave a challenge to Cunard and to her designers: how to keep active and happy the passengers on a six day voyage without a port of call ?
The response is a group of options very difficult to find on earth: health and beauty treatments, gastronomy, etc., and also teaching. The Cunard enrichment program called ConneXionsSM of 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 m2, 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 who select 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 sophistication of power station 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 lengthening the hull, and partly from the powerful propulsion plant.
The electric energy is generated at high voltage by four diesel engines Wartsila 16V46C, located in the double bottom, which develops 67.200 kW (57 % of the total) and by two turbines of General Electric LM 2500, which develops 50.000 kW (43 % of the total), located on the highest deck of the ship, just under the funnel, thank to the lower weight.
Due to this lay out, 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 power of the Queen Mary 2 is 117,000 kW, sufficient to supply Southampton.
The four diesel engines are of the green type which uses 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 360º, all with highly skewed blades for low noise and vibration.
The first QM2 cruise was a transatlantic positioning trip which begun 12 Jan 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 the 26th March, she begun in Fort Lauderdale her first true east bound North Atlantic cruise to Southampton; and on the 16th April, she made the first west bound transatlantic trip from Southampton to New York. In April and June, she will be engaged in transatlantic, Caribbean (from New York); Western Europe (from Southampton) cruises.
On July 5th, she will begin her first Northern Europe cruise from Southampton; and later more transatlantic crossings. From the 12th. to the 30th. August, she will be in Piraeus, chartered for the Olympic Games as a floating hotel.
After that event, she will offer transatlantic and New England cruises. And, finally, on the 17th, October, 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.
As president Pam Conover said, "Cunard has fantastic brand equity".
I believe the Queen Mary 2 is not built like a cruise ship, but as the guardian of the Cunard heritage. In fact, I think that is a step backward in some of the ship layout design.
But, in other ways, she is trail blazing. She is conservative in the restaurant lay out, 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 array of modern, contemporary design and thinking, but with a sense of the true liner heritage.
And because she looks different to anything else currently in the cruise world lead I am led to conclude that she should, indeed, live up to all the expectations of grandeur renewed.
Al last, a Queen without size, elegance and tradition is unthinkable. And the QM2 is reality, plenty of power and tradition. Long live the Queen!
For further information: Cunard Line