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Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 is now somewhere in the middle of the sea, making her historic 200th Transatlantic Crossing.
Passengers boarded the ship in New York City on Saturday and began the journey to Southampton, England with a tour of the harbor. I was lucky to get a ride along the seven day extravaganza, ending on July 13.
As the ship glided out of New York City harbor, it majestically passed the Statue of Liberty twice, “The great swing,” fellow passenger and maritime historian Bill Miller called it, as he provided commentary throughout the sail-away.
There’s an unmistakable air of elegance from the moment you board the QM2. The meticulously dressed staff; the well-appointed cabins; the fine china in the dining room; the architectural drama of the ship; the dress code that requires passengers to dress smartly (That is, save the flip flops and cover ups for the pool).
It’s all quintessentially British and all 100 percent Cunard --grand, but not flashy. Art fills the ship and a grand staircase winds through her center. There’s gentility in the air, marred only by the smattering of unruly children and humbug of the few passengers who have not given themselves over the ship’s classic tone.
The QM2, long regarded as one of the world's most luxurious cruise ships, was built in France and launched in 2004. It is the flagship of the Curnard line, now a subsidiary of the Carnival Corporation, and is larger than its sister ships, The Queen Victoria (launched in 2007) and the Queen Elizabeth (2010).
She has sailed more than 600,000 nautical miles. A half million passengers have crossed the Atlantic on the massive 1,132 feet long, 151,400 ton beauty. (Just for reference, that’s only 116 feet shorter than Empire State Building.)
In honor of the historic 200th crossing, the ship is presenting a variety of commemorative events and speakers onboard this week, including Stephen Payne OBE, largely responsible for QM2’s design; Nick Owen, BBC newsreader and Classic FM presenter; and Nigel West, intelligence and espionage expert.
A wealth of entertainment is also being offered. Singer Roger Wright; the “Unusualist” David Copperfield; guest artists from Juilliard; and actors from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts are all performing. Guests can also enjoy musical review style shows with the ship’s own singers, dancers, and orchestra.
Throughout the day, from the silly to the sublime, there are more activities offered onboard than any one person could manage, from scavenger hunts and table tennis tournaments to afternoon tea and ballroom dance lessons. There are also cinema showings, planetarium shows, and a variety of live music.
The crowd aboard the ship, as might be expected, is an older one, and many of the ship’s offerings cater to these passengers, with shuffleboard and ping pong the primary activities on the Sports Deck and classical music playing at the pool. But the Canyon Ranch Spa on board also offers a variety of fitness classes and an impressive gym. (As well as an array of spa services, of course.) And there’s a nightclub open till the wee hours.
The first days aboard proved to be hot and sunny. But by Tuesday morning, the fog and cold had rolled in. No matter. With so much to do, including eating, one hardly even notices. “Some people have the idea that the more they eat, the cheaper the crossing is,” jokes the ship’s entertainment director Paul O’Loughlin.
The food is impressive aboard the QM2, as is their famous White Star Service. Guests are taken care of by the same waiters at the same tables for every meal in their appointed dining room (based on cabin class). And after just the first lunch, our waiter called us by name and took note of our dining preferences. There is a vast buffet restaurant and several specialty restaurants, as well.
And should you want to avoid the dreaded cruise weight gain, the QM2 offers a Canyon Ranch Spa Menu at every meal, complete with nutritional information, to keep you on track. And these are no skimpy meals. They are complete and perfectly delicious. I’ve eaten them at nearly every meal thus far.
Although one can request a table for just your party, most guests are seated with others on the cruise. And for some, it can be the highlight of their week. “Getting you as our dining partners was like winning the lottery,” I overheard one couple gushing to another outside the Britannia Restaurant, where the majority of guests dine.
On several of the nights, the ship is also hosting balls and parties, including Sunday night’s Black & White Ball and last night’s 200th Crossing Party, where guests packed the ballroom. One particular couple, in their 70s, was tearing up the dance floor, tango, waltz, cha-cha. They knew them all.
Watching the band play and the elegantly attired guests dance, the decades seem to melt away. That is the true glory of the Queen Mary 2 and the spirit of the 200th Transatlantic Crossing, keeping alive the glorious traditions of dressing for dinner; taking an evening constitutional around the deck; and retiring to the lounge for a bit of live jazz before retiring for the night.
Amid all the fun, the ship's crew slowly prepares you for your final arrival and adjustment back to reality. Six days before docking, the ship’s clocks are moved ahead one hour every day at noon in order to arrive in synch with U.K. time by the time we arrive in Southampton England.
A girl could get used to this sort of thing.