Photo: Queen Mary 2 © CUNARD
LEANING OVER THE POLISHED DECK RAIL, I’m aware latitude and longitude have given way to vast stretches of deep blues and a multitude of grays. Beneath my feet, depth is measured in fathoms, a deep well filled with countless mysteries likely to remain forever hidden beneath the shifting surface.
I’m aboard Cunard’s iconic Queen Mary 2, one of the world’s most luxurious ocean liners. With my husband, James, I’ve embarked upon a seven-night trans-Atlantic journey that began in New York, bound for the English coast. The route appeals on multiple levels, from the lack of daily port calls to the pure romance of crossing the wild seas by ship.
Leaving port in Brooklyn, we sail past the Statue of Liberty, watching from the balcony of our stateroom as the tall lady slips away into the gathering dusk. On the decks below, passengers line the rails, waving to the receding figure. We reach open water, and James pops open a waiting bottle of chilled Champagne to toast our adventure.
By morning, we’ve left all sight of land far behind. We’ve chosen the breakfast in bed morning room service option and relax over our coffee and tea while gazing at the water from our veranda. The movement of the ship can barely be perceived, and we watch as multiple pods of dolphins arc through the waves alongside the ship, joking Cunard paid a remarkable level of attention to details.
Later, we take a self-guided tour to admire the elegant Art Deco design and beautifully appointed spaces. Completely remastered in 2016, the QM2 is clad in gleaming new woodwork, a freshly painted hull, luxurious carpets and upholstery, newly varnished floors and restored artwork. Dining has expanded to include The Verandah restaurant, while more staterooms were added to the upper deck. Refreshed classic spaces include the largest ballroom at sea and a full-service Canyon Ranch SpaClub. On the lower decks, corridors display fascinating permanent exhibitions that detail the illustrious history of both Cunard and the QM2.
On each sailing, Cunard offers a range of entertainment options with world-class speakers and performances, and I begin the day with an Insights Lecture in the opulent Illuminations theater. Speaker Maureen Ryan shares colorful stories of her past as a post-war telephonist and Lady Assistant Purser aboard the QM2 and the Queen Elizabeth — posts she held during the days when most important positions on ships belonged only to men. Ryan explains Cunard’s origins began with a contract awarded to Samuel Cunard to transport Her Majesty’s mail between Britain and the Americas. It was a monumental feat he accomplished in 13 days, when most crossings took up to six weeks.
This evening is the first of several gala evenings taking place en route to England. All around us, women dressed in beautiful evening gowns and glittering jewels and men in formal tuxedos glide gracefully toward their tables. After our meal, we make our way toward the sumptuous Royal Court Theatre, meandering through the art gallery along the way. Tonight there’s a musical production followed by a ball, and we quickly learn our waltzing skills are not up to those of our fellow passengers.
The next day, we have time to catch a star show in the Planetarium before we head to the Queens Room for afternoon tea. The white-gloved wait staff float through the room, silver trays aloft, offering us a selection of delicate sandwiches and beautiful cakes.
Later in the week, James heads off to attend a class in conversational Japanese, and I take an afternoon workshop with New Yorker magazine cartoonist David Sipress. Later, we rendezvous in the Champagne Bar to strategize over our attire for the upcoming Roaring Twenties Ball. Happily, our Charleston dance moves are up to par, and we have an exceptional time in a setting that couldn’t be more historically perfect.
Before the sun rises on our last day aboard, we awake to the sound of the ship’s horns grandly announcing her arrival in Southampton. Back at our balcony rail, we reflect on the soothing nights and long, peaceful hours spent enjoying the great liner as she made her way across the wide, deep sea.
It’s unlikely Samuel Cunard could have anticipated someday a woman from Providence, Rhode Island, would cross the gangplank to the deck of the QM2 with enough anticipation to keep a whole fleet of ships afloat; yet here I am, rested and grateful to have made the journey. Known for its legendary White Star Service, the Queen Mary 2 bears the important distinction of being an ocean liner rather than a cruise ship.
Queen Mary 2 Info to Go
When booking a trans-Atlantic voyage with Cunard, options for travel arrangements include airport transfers to and from the ship. The Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in New York is accessible from LaGuardia (LGA), John F. Kennedy International (JFK) and Newark (EWR) airports. Options for the Southampton Port include London Heathrow (LHR), Stansted (STN) and Gatwick (LGW) airports. The ports lie less than an hour from the New York airports and less than two hours from the London airports, respectively. On both ends, transportation options include private car, taxi, Cunard shuttle service or train.