ONBOARD THE QUEEN MARY 2 — Even royalty needs a facelift
from time to time.
The venerable QM2 (if an ocean liner can be considered
venerable at the age of 12) went under the surgeon’s knife earlier this year
for a $132 million refurbishment that Cunard Line calls the ship’s “remastering.”
It even has its own hashtag, #qm2remastered.
Cabins were added, a lounge was completely redone, the
buffet restaurant was retooled and the ship was updated throughout.
The biggest change on the QM2 is undoubtedly the Carinthia
Lounge, which takes the place of the Winter Garden just forward of the Kings
Court buffet restaurant. Hotel director David Shepard called it “one of the
most successful venues” of the remastering. “It’s become an extremely popular
venue, day and night.”
The new Carinthia Lounge is busy with passengers throughout the day. Photo Credit: Rebecca Tobin
I was a guest on the ship during its Aug. 9 eastbound
transatlantic crossing, and I found that Shepard wasn’t exaggerating. At any
time of the day, the Carinthia was busy.
People carried their lunch plates from the Kings Court or
from a food station in the lounge itself; listened to live piano or jazz music;
read or napped; knitted as part of a knitting circle overseen by one of the
social staff; or admired the display of vintage ports going back more than 170
years. A bottle of 1840 Ferreira can be purchased for $4,445.
Shepard pointed out that unlike the Winter Garden, which had
walkways straight through the room, the path through the Carinthia meanders just
enough to cut down on the speed of walking passengers. And the color scheme of
the room is a pleasing cream and blue, just right for slowing down and
The Kings Court buffet also looks brand new. A new flow for
passengers around the buffet makes things less crowded. Certainly it was
bustling during peak breakfast and lunch periods, but I didn’t notice long
lines at food stations or waits for tables.
Cunard created a bank of 15 cabins for single passengers on
its second and third decks by reducing the footprint of the casino and photo
gallery, respectively. I was a little surprised that Cunard shrunk the casino,
but a smaller photo gallery makes sense, as almost every photo of every
passenger could easily be found in an easy-to-navigate menu on about a dozen large
The iconic Britannia restaurant looks very much the same despite an extensive refurbishment. Photo Credit: Rebecca Tobin
The Queen also has a new Deck 13 with the addition of 30 Britannia
In other instances, the remastering was subtle. For example,
a pair of elevators was removed from the QM2’s Grand Lobby. My guide pointed
out their absence; I’d totally forgotten about them. The room seemed just the
same, if not more spacious and elegant, without the elevators.
For passengers dining in the exclusive Queens Grill, the
restaurant was updated with comfortable new chairs and window treatments. Grillwork
partitions edge out from the exterior wall at intervals, breaking up the room
just so slightly. In the Queens Grill and Princess Grill, waiter stations were
moved from the center of the room to adjacent to the galley entrances.
The cabins are in the process of being updated to slightly
more modern lines. A fountain was removed at the entrance to the Canyon Ranch
The remastering video in our cabin showed a time lapse of
the hull being scrubbed and repainted. My balcony on deck 4, which was cut from
the hull, was clean and showed no signs of paint buildup. Technical and structural
changes were also made.
The Kings Court buffet was completely redone. Photo Credit: Rebecca Tobin
But past passengers expecting a serious overhaul of the
Queen won’t be in for a shock. Cunard Red will always be Cunard Red. The color
schemes and formal touches remain the same, especially on decks 2 and 3, where
the Britannia restaurant, Royal Court Theater and Queens Room are still the
focal points of the evening. Guests still walk past the giant art deco panels
on the wall on their way to the restaurant or Chart Room.
The formality and tradition of the transatlantic crossing
remain intact. “It’s the sense of occasion for me,” Shepard said. “It’s all
about a formal, memorable impression.”
During the cocktail party on formal night for Britannia-level
passengers, the ship’s captain, Christopher Wells, quipped: “Cunard has spent
100 million … changing the carpets, ladies and gentlemen.”
That wisecrack got a lot of laughs, but there was plenty of
new carpeting around the ship, including sunbursts on the elevator landings
that were inspired by designs from the original Queen Mary.
The Queens Grill was updated with new furnishings. Partitions along the outside wall edge into the room to break it up slightly. Photo Credit: Rebecca Tobin
A short documentary and time-lapse video of the remastering showed how much of the inspiration
for the QM2 was taken from the Cunard archives.
For example, the Todd English specialty restaurant was
replaced by the Verandah, a French restaurant that takes its name from the
original Queen Mary. The concept has been updated, however. The original
Verandah was available only to First Class passengers, while on the QM2 anybody
can book a table.
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