12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
Business Travel Show Europe, presented by The BTN
21 November, London Hilton Metropole
QM2 ” Queen of the Sea
Malcolm Ginsberg reports from the North Atlantic.
RMS Queen Mary 2 is big, very big. It is the world”s largest liner and is likely to stay that way too for a very long time. From a pure tonnage point of view, and greatly so in terms of passengers, even larger ships are being built and planned, but these are pure cruisers, not ocean going greyhounds capable of crossing the Atlantic at nearly 30 knots in the height of winter. QM2 is something special, a real showstopper. Even in New York, not exactly short on the personality front, and now a regular visitor, she still causes the traffic to halt. QM2 carries a maximum 2,700 privileged passengers.
If your need is to cross the Atlantic in 2006 make the time to try Queen Mary. The cost is not excessive starting at ”799, one way by air via British Airways World Traveller. Throw in two nights at the Marriott Marquis in the heart of New York at Times Square and the starting price is ”949, a great deal. Of course you can upgrade but even a junior suite including balcony, concierge service and dining in the splendid Princess Grill starts at only ”2,375. Fly Club World and at ”3,128 the price is less than the BA return fare for that class of travel. Compare that with a week in a 4/5 star hotel in Spain during the holiday period including full board and literally 24-hour entertainment.
RMS Queen Mary 2 (RMS stands for Royal Mail Steamship, a traditional title that QE2 does not have) is really two ships in one. The last of the true transatlantic liners and a very fine cruiser. Next year from 13 April she will make a series of six-day Atlantic passages between the new Red Hook terminal in Brooklyn New York and Southampton. But check the Cunard diary. QM2 has a habit of slipping into a Northern Europe or Mediterranean cruise just when you wanted to go to New York or come back! Internally she is very much art deco in design with some fine embellishments and pieces of decoration. Novel for a ship are two exhibitions, one depicting Cunard and its history and the other a wonderful photo show of the stars and personalities who used the original Queen Mary as their transport from America to Europe. Churchill was a regular and Crosby spent much time on his crossings actually assisting in the ship”s darkroom. Photography was his hobby. Take a self-pacing radio tour via a headset loan from reception.
A frequently asked question is whether to take an eastbound or west crossing of ”The Pond” bearing in mind that as many as 500 passengers will be making a round trip. There are certain advantages of the westbound crossing. You get a 25-hour day as the ship makes up for the time difference between the UK and USA. Marvellous for the late night types. Entering New York harbour at dawn is one of the great seaborne sights, although sadly the passage up the Hudson will no longer be the norm. Eastbound you can have your holiday Stateside and get your strength back on the way home, except here you are limited to 23-hour days and with the big show not starting until 2245 and lasting an hour it is pretty late when you put the clock forward and go to bed. But it is straight into British time when you get home and no jetlag. Our photo shows a standard balcony cabin. Very comfortable and of course with room service.
As a cruise ship QM2 takes on a completely different mode from a transatlantic crossing. It becomes a family vessel, the fine children”s area catering for up to 400 youngsters from as young as one, to mid-teens. Speed is of no essence and the commodious deck areas can be really used.
Your cabin determines where you dine. For those with the largest of suites there is the Queens Grill and butler service. Princess Grill guests are offered much the same superb fare, fine junior suites and the use of the concierge service. The main Britannia Restaurant with its sweeping staircase is awe inspiring with a dining room team only too happy to satisfy any specific requirements. There are two sittings. Getting around the ship is very easy, although involves a lot of walking, and the disabled are very well looked after. Queen Mary 2 is spacious and has not one but two proper theatres, The Royal Court and Connexions, which also doubles as a real large screen cinema. However regular cruising types who try not to use the lifts in an effort to defeat one”s eating should be warned. Queen Mary 2 has 13 active decks. Mechanical transport wins in the end.
Old cruise hands will quickly take to QM2. Essentially it is the 21st century development of QE2, a ship that evolved over the years. Queen Mary has a great deal more balcony cabins and amidships a large swimming pool with retractable roof, perfect for the North Atlantic. The stern of the ship is traditional with two more swimming pools and on the top deck a sunning area complete with daytime caf” (plus a helicopter pad). Deck 7 includes the promenade deck, each lap one third of a mile. It is exposed to the elements but this did not seem to deter the many hardy souls happy to jog or walk along, everyone at a different speed, whatever the weather. The massive width of QM2 allows for a great deal of flexibility regarding the internal design of the ship and this is particularly noticeable with the informal eating area, on most cruise ships not much more than a glorified cafeteria. With QM2 the location, known as Kings Court, is divided into four quarters (which become themed restaurants at night) with small dining recluses actually projecting out into the promenade deck (but somehow not obtrusively). It is more intimate and you can eat when you like as an alternative to the main restaurant.
On the North Atlantic each day can be very busy, or you can sit out and catch the sun. Cunard Captains attempt to keep with the good weather. Long gone are the days when each liner tried to be the quickest. In 2005 QM2 tries to take a sunshine route across the Atlantic and has more than enough speed to meet the six-day schedule. Early risers can take a continental breakfast from 0400, or in their cabins at any time. From 0815 the ship swings into life with the Canyon Ranch Fitness Classes. There is Bridge from 0900 (for beginners too) and every day a series of lectures and talks typically covering history, politics (the Oxford Discovery programme) and even an acting workshop by RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art). Choose your crossing to suit your interest. You can play darts in the Golden Lion pub, get involved in a cookery demonstration in the Chef”s Galley or learn about the stars in the world”s only ocean going planetarium. There is also bingo. After all this is a British ship and in the same vein, karaoke. Each evening a spectacular show will delight all in the Royal Court Theatre and you can dance away the night in the elegant Queens Room, the largest ballroom on the seven seas. A 24-hour buffet makes it all possible.
There is a suite of conference rooms on deck 1, which also double for small lecture theatres left). The ship”s daily newspaper keeps you up to date with the British news (other versions available) and printed Internet adaptation of the nationals are available. The ship is best described as computer literate. Lots of (fairly expensive) satellite connected VDU”s and complimentary software courses each day. However every cabin has an interactive TV screen and keyboard and for one-pound sterling you can send and receive email. Keeping in touch in the middle of the Atlantic has never been cheaper. Or you can cut yourself off completely.
It all started back in 1936 with QM2”s distinguished predecessor. The legend of the Queen Mary is still very much with us. http://www.cunard.co.uk/QM2