The prospect of traveling onboard Queen Mary 2, the world's only ocean liner, is thrilling -- now more than ever -- following the ship's £90-million transformation in 2016. The ship truly feels like a five-star hotel, without losing Cunard's maritime heritage.
The biggest change was in the Kings Court buffet, which features a completely fresh design. Two central elevators were also removed. We love the area's new look; the redesign has transformed the space from a chaotic feeding frenzy into a calm space for daily grazing. The space could still benefit from more tables; we spotted some passengers taking their plates to Carinthia Lounge (the former Winter Garden) at busy times.
The Grand Lobby has also lost its two glass elevators, and thanks to its new starburst carpet, the space feels like it has come to life and finally found its purpose. QM2's 15 new single cabins -- a first for the line -- are impressive, too. Designed to offer solo travellers or those cruising with friends their own cabin space, this new addition to the ship is one we love. Although they're the smallest cabins onboard, the new singles feel spacious and light and, best of all, everything from furnishings to the bathroom fit-out is shiny and new.
With four elevators removed and 50 new cabins added, the ship could have become overcrowded around the other elevators, but this doesn't seem to be a problem. Our transatlantic crossing sailed at capacity, yet the ship felt as spacious as ever. Remarkably, in fact, some areas often seemed quiet. One evening in the brand-new Carinthia Lounge, for example, we were among only a handful of passengers in the room. A favourite area during the day, Carinthia Lounge felt lacking in character in the evenings, although the sophisticated tones and seating are a step up from the aged space it replaced.
Some things never change, though. There's still just the one daily captain's announcement at noon, which provides an update on the ship's progress. In some ways -- from the row of wooden sun loungers bearing the ship's royal motif on the Promenade Deck to the Art Deco-style Britannia Restaurant and abysmally slow and expensive internet -- QM2 does a decent job of allowing its passengers to feel that they've stepped back in time. In other ways, however, it's difficult to tell whether you're sailing with Cunard or some other mass-market cruise line. Apart from the ship's Art Deco ambiance, stellar enrichment, afternoon tea offerings and sometimes confusing layout, the often over-romanticized vessel offers only a surface-level taste of what a passenger would have experienced during the golden age of ocean liner travel.
For a line that bills itself as a luxury product, the ship under delivered in some areas. Notably the (un)helpfulness of a couple of crew members and the quality of food in the ship's main dining room, Britannia Restaurant, where the majority of passengers eat. One evening in the Britannia Restaurant we ordered the beetroot salad, which arrived with a few tiny cubes of beetroot hidden below a handful of mixed green leaves, while, on another occasion, a simple breaded chicken breast arrived soggy and inedible.
The ship's "remastering" was an opportunity not just for improved functionality and aesthetics, but for Cunard to improve on these areas, too, and we feel they haven't been addressed. However, the ship really excels in its specialty dining, both at Kings Court Specialty A La Carte -- the ship's daily changing themed restaurant -- and its new addition, The Verandah.
Despite these niggles, traveling on QM2 still feels like a special experience, and there's a feeling of quiet excitement onboard. Dressing for dinner is taken seriously, and passengers enjoy the romance of walking the Promenade Deck, dancing in the Queens Room and experiencing the Planetarium. And the thrill of approaching New York (if you're on a westbound crossing) becomes progressively more palpable the nearer you get to the U.S.
Passengers wanting to experience cruising at its most elegant and formal will love QM2, but if you're looking for a more modern variety of relaxed luxury -- a ship that provides top-notch service without fanfare -- QM2 is probably not for you.
QM2 has one of the most rigorous and formal dress codes at sea. This is a ship where passengers appreciate formality; even informal nights require jackets and dresses. If dressing up isn't your thing, it's not the ship for you, unless you are OK being restricted to the buffet at night.
During the day, it is recommended that passengers dress in stylish casual wear, including shorts, smart jeans or chinos and collared or casual shirts. Swim and leisurewear are suitable around the pools.
On a seven-night transatlantic crossing, there are typically three formal nights, which means dinner jacket, tuxedo or dark suit with a tie for men or evening or cocktail dress for women. Men tend to stick to tuxedo on formal nights, and on themed nights, such as the Roaring Twenties, women go all-out. (Think feather boas, decade-appropriate headgear and tasselled dresses galore.)
On informal nights, men are still required to wear jackets, although ties are optional. Women are advised to wear cocktail dresses or two-pieces. After 6 p.m., shorts and blue or worn denim (for men and women), sandals and sleeveless tops (for men) are not appropriate in certain areas of the ship, such as the main dining rooms. Passengers wishing to dress more informally in the evening are recommended to dine in the Kings Court buffet and use the Carinthia Lounge.
The ship's two-tier Royal Court Theatre (Decks 2 and 3) is a beautiful space with plush red seating wrapped around a central stage that features an LED screen. The theatre features a variety of shows and talks during the afternoon and evening, including short productions and workshops performed on selected voyages by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).
Nightly productions include two showings (8:45 and 10:30 p.m.) with daily changing productions such as "Broadway Rocks" and "Rhythm of the Night," performed by the Royal Cunard Singers and Dancers. The shows are intermixed with pianists and vocal harmony groups.
If you're concerned that seven solid days at sea could make you stir crazy, don't be. QM2 has daytime activities going from 7:30 a.m. until evening entertainment takes over at 7 p.m. All activities are listed in the ship's Daily Programme.
QM2's Illuminations theatre (Deck 3) is home to the ship's Planetarium, with daily shows, such as "Cosmic Collisions" and "Stars Over the Atlantic." The space reserved for the Planetarium in the central part of the theatre is limited to 150 seats, for which tickets are available each morning at 9 a.m. from the ConneXions Desk. While shows take place usually three times daily, at 1:30, 2 and 2:30 p.m., tickets tend to go quickly. Even if you don't manage to snag one, it's worth going in case there are no-shows. Whatever you do, don't be late. Not only could your spot be given to someone without a ticket, but once the doors close, additional passengers aren't allowed to enter.
The 500-seat lecture hall is also equipped as a movie theatre. Films are usually shown twice a day.
Illuminations is also the location of the ship's renowned Cunard Insights talks, which sees speakers offer informative daily lectures about a variety of topics. Talks usually take place twice daily.
For another unique Cunard activity, passengers can try their hand at fencing in the Queens Room (Deck 3). Conducted by the ship's sports host, the daily 9 a.m. class alternates between class 1 and class 2 levels.
Other activities include: Transatlantic Olympic Games in the Pavilion Pool (Deck 12); bridge classes in the Atlantic Room (Deck 11); a darts competitions and themed quizzes in the Golden Lion Pub (Deck 2); a talent show and various dancing classes -- line dancing, anyone? -- in the Queens Room (Deck 3); games and tournaments in the Empire Casino (Deck 2); and Hostess Corner: Needlework and Knitting, which is not a class but a chance for passengers to get together and work on their individual projects in the Chart Room (Deck 3). Some additional classes, such as watercolour art and flower arranging, are available for a fee.
Musical entertainment is also available during the day, including live jazz in the Carinthia Lounge, a pianist in the Golden Lion Pub and "Chart Room Melodies" in the Chart Room.
Live music continues into the evening, with jazz, a string band, a harpist and a pianist alternating between the Chart Room, Golden Lion Pub, Carinthia Lounge and Commodore Club.
For something extra special, classical musicians perform concerts in Illuminations. Karaoke is also a lot of fun, particularly when it takes place in the Golden Lion Pub. Illuminations also schedules an evening and late-night movie show.
Empire Casino, just off the Grand Lobby, features blackjack, roulette, slot machines and three card poker. The casino hosts nightly special events, such as Happy Hour Slots and raffle prize draws.
The 10,500-square-foot Queens Room -- the largest ballroom at sea -- is an expansive space with tall ceilings and Art Deco touches. The venue hosts a mix of evening entertainment, usually focused on dancing, including ballroom and Latin dance music and "Dance Music for Enthusiasts." Cunard also employs gentlemen hosts as dance partners for females sailing alone.
The ship's nightclub -- G32 (Deck 3), named for the code by which Queen Mary 2 was known at the shipyard during its construction -- is a surprisingly lively affair. Open daily from 9:45 p.m. to 3 a.m., the club features live music, tribute acts and a DJ. The venue is open to adults (18 and older) only.
QM2 offers a different bar or lounge to suit every mood -- a boon on a ship where you spend the majority of your time onboard instead of in a port. From the relaxed and informal ambiance of Carinthia Lounge to the elegant surroundings of the Commodore Club or the informal Golden Lion Pub, the ship has all bases covered, with live music throughout.
Empire Casino (Deck 2): A full bar service is available inside the ship's casino, with a selection of barstools situated around the bar, although many passengers enjoy a drink over the casino's gaming tables.
Golden Lion Pub (Deck 2): This all-day venue is a lively QM2 favourite, featuring a wide selection of beers on tap and in bottles, wines and cocktails. The large L-shaped bar is flanked by barstools with leather-clad booths and individual pub-style tables filling the space. There's a dartboard in the pub and regular entertainment throughout the day.
Chart Room (Deck 3): One of the ship's somewhat understated bars is one of our favourites. Why? On a westbound transatlantic crossing, it offers the perfect sunset view -- a glimpse of dolphins in the water, too, if you're lucky -- and a refreshing glass of Champagne to the backdrop of live music.
Sir Samuel's (Deck 3): The ship's coffee bar, serving specialty illy coffee and other drinks, has struck up a partnership with luxury chocolate brand Godiva, offering a selection of confectionary, chocolate cakes and Godiva's incredibly indulgent ice creams.
The Tasting Room (Deck 3): The Tasting Room is hidden away -- perhaps to give it more of an exclusive feel -- by the side of Sir Samuel's. Although we didn't see any tastings taking place during our voyage, the venue hosts food and wine pairing events and themed wine tastings. The typical cost of a wine tasting is $115 per person.
Laurent Perrier Champagne Bar (Deck 3): Located in the ship's Grand Lobby, the iconic Laurent Perrier Champagne Bar is known for serving a particular brand of Champagne. Caviar tastings are also available to complement your glass of bubbles. (Note: Until May 2017, this was the Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar).
Carinthia Lounge (Deck 7): With striking mustard yellow and peacock blue furnishings and decorative bronze room dividers subtly breaking the space up, the ambiance inside the Carinthia Lounge is refined yet relaxed. Well used during the day, the room is a low-key affair in the evening, with live music and a focus on Iberian sherries, wines and a special vintage port collection.
The theme of the Iberian Peninsula is a connection to Britain's maritime past, in case you're wondering. If you're not a fan of Spanish wines, a selection of other drinks is available, including hot and cold illy cocktails, beer, cider, spirits, soft drinks, tea and coffee.
If you are a fan of port, though, check out the large collection on offer. The menu features 61 varieties, including 46 vintages and a bottle of 1840 Ferreira priced at $4,445! There's also an amusing port etiquette guide at the back of the menu to entertain passengers.
Grills Lounge (Deck 7): Open from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. to midnight, the Grills Lounge is reserved exclusively for Grills passengers. Its elegant and luxurious style has the feel of a business lounge.
Terrace Bar (Deck 8): This table-service poolside bar offers an informal spot to enjoy a large selection of cocktails, "softails," beer, cider, wine and sparkling wine. Terrace Bar has a casual feel and is perfect for watching the sun set. We never had a problem getting a table there, despite the small number available.
Churchill's Cigar Lounge (Deck 9): Churchill's comes to life at night, when the ship's cigar-loving passengers indulge in cognac, whiskey -- among other drinks -- and conversation.
Commodore Club (Deck 9): The ship's observation lounge is just as popular for a morning coffee or daytime beverage as it is an evening cocktail. Tip: Try the Transatlantic Love Affair cocktail, which is prepared tableside by your server with a theatrical final twist.
Pavilion Pool & Bar (Deck 12): One of two poolside bars onboard, Pavilion is ideal for those seeking refreshments by the covered pool.
There are four pools onboard QM2, all featuring whirlpools: the Pavilion pool (Deck 12), the Terrace pool (Deck 8), Minnows pool (Deck 6) and the indoor Canyon Ranch SpaClub Therapy pool (Deck 7). The Grills Terrace (Deck 11), reserved exclusively for Grills suite passengers, also features a whirlpool.
The Pavilion pool is sheltered below a retractable glass roof with air-conditioning when the roof is closed. The Terrace pool, located on the far side of The Verandah, is for passengers ages 18 and older. Minnows is the ship's family pool with a shallow swimming area, and Canyon Ranch's Therapy pool is for spa passengers only.
There are no climbing walls or water slides, but there is a well-equipped Sports Centre (Decks 12 and 13) featuring open-air areas for sports, including a mini-golf range, paddle tennis, deck games, table tennis and shuffleboard. Daily events, such as a table tennis tournament and a golf competition, are listed in the ship's Daily Programme.
The ship also offers an 18-hole golf simulator known as The Fairways (Deck 12) for an additional cost of $25 per person.
Each of the pools, with the exception of the Therapy pool, is surrounded by a sun deck (Decks 6, 8 and 12) with ample space and availability of sun loungers. There's also a supply of towels. There is an additional sun deck on Deck 13, with loungers, tables and chairs and the Grills Terrace, a private sun deck on Deck 11 that's reserved for suite passengers.
One of the ship's most unique attributes is its Kennel Suite (Deck 12), which has the capacity to carry 24 four-legged passengers on transatlantic crossings. Overseen by two kennel masters, the Kennel Suite includes the kennel area, a separate room for visiting owners and a large walking deck -- complete with an original New York City fire hydrant and 1916 lamppost from the streets of Liverpool.
The cost of a kennel space starts from $800 for an upper kennel. Cats require two upper kennels (one for the litterbox). Spaces fill up fast, with one fellow passenger traveling with their pet dog on our voyage revealing they booked a kennel place 12 months in advance just to secure a spot. The Kennel Suite offers set visiting hours for owners (8. to 10 a.m., 11 a.m. to noon, 3 to 6 p.m. and 8 to 8:30 p.m.) and provides food for the pets. (However, some owners bring their own pet food, specifically if their pet has a preference or dietary requirement.) Daily treats are also provided in the form of freshly baked dog biscuits, and pet owners can even have room service offerings like chicken and steak sent to their furry family members. During the voyage, the Kennel Suite arranges for the ship's professional photographer to capture a group shot of all dog owners with their pets as a complimentary keepsake to take away.
Certain dog breeds are prohibited from traveling by the U.K. Pet Travel Scheme, including American Pit Bull Terriers and Japanese Tosas, among others. Oversize dogs, such as Great Danes and Irish Wolfhounds, are also not permitted to travel due to their size. Pets are required to have up-to-date vaccination certificates in order to travel, too.
Bridge lessons and games take place in the Atlantic Room during sea days, and the library (Deck 8) -- one of the largest at sea -- contains more than 9,500 books. There's also a collection of magazines and a seating area. Books are available for loan and must be returned before the end of the voyage. The library doesn't feel packed, but it is well used and a favourite feature onboard for many of the ship's passengers. The ship's bookstore (Deck 8), leading to the library, is also well-stocked in fiction and nonfiction books, including new releases. Additionally, the bookstore sells interesting Cunard and QM2 souvenirs, such as reference books, ship models, key rings, pens and magnets, among other items.
The rest of the ship's boutiques are grouped around the Grand Lobby (Deck 3) selling duty-free items, perfume, watches, designer products, cosmetics, accessories and more Cunard-branded items. Newer additions include the Barbour concession within the Mayfair store and Michael Kors designer boutique, which has replaced Chopard.
The ship's art gallery, Clarendon Fine Art (Deck 3), offers a varied collection of paintings, sculptures and photography works. The ship's art director hosts regular art talks and gallery tours.
Equivalent to a hotel reception desk, the ship's 24-hour Purser's Office (Deck 2) serves as an information center, currency exchange, mailing facility and lost-and-found. Expect to wait in line up to 10 minutes during the day and into the evening.
The ship's Tour Office (Deck 2) is located next to the Purser's Office and handles tour reservations and transfers, including private, coach and chauffeured car services.
Laundry facilities are available onboard, located on Decks 4, 5, 6, 8, 10 and 11. Each of the ship's laundry rooms includes at least two washers, two dryers and one iron and ironing board. Laundry rooms are open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Detergent is provided within the laundry rooms, but many passengers bring their own.
The ship is Wi-Fi enabled, but the service is slow, frustrating and expensive, operating on an archaic per-minute system. Reception is particularly abysmal in cabin areas. Various internet packages are available ranging from $49 up to $167.
Computer stations are available in the Internet Centre in ConneXions Room 1 (Deck 2), which is outfitted with nine desktop computers and two printers, and in the Library (Deck 8), which has six desktop computers and a printer. All computers are connected to the internet. Computers and printers are free to use with an additional charge applied to internet use.
QM2 also features a boardroom (Deck 9), located just off Commodore Club, a Medical Centre (Deck 1) and a florist. (Flowers can be ordered through the Purser's Office or the Concierge Lounge for Grills passengers.)
The ship's Canyon Ranch SpaCub -- one of the largest spas at sea -- offers a wealth of spa, beauty and hair treatments for men and women, including hair cutting, styling and colouring; waxing; massages; facials; body scrubs and wraps. Facials start from $161, massage start from $149 and couples' massages from $296. More advanced treatments, including vitamin and oxygen-boosting facials, start from $161. Men's grooming brand The Gentlemen's Refinery offers 45-minute razor shaves, including a steam towel and face mask, among other treatments. The spa also features VOYA, an Atlantic seaweed-based line of products from Sligo in Ireland, with treatments that include seaweed wraps.
Canyon Ranch SpaClub features a thermal suite, including two saunas, an ice fountain, an aromatic steam room, foot spas and sensory showers. The Therapy pool is surrounded by loungers, which can get busy on sea days. A one-day SpaClub Passport is reasonably priced at $40, although the use of spa facilities is included in the price of a treatment. Spa offers are promoted in the Daily Programme. The relaxation area features comfortable padded loungers and a selection of magazines, teas and flavoured water.
The spa's changing rooms feature lockers with slippers and robes, showers and changing facilities. The spa is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and the hair and beauty salon 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Passengers must be 18 years or older to use the facility.
The thermal suite facilities only just seemed to meet demand, and it can be tricky to find two loungers together by the pool on a sea day. Although the feeling in the spa is peaceful, it lacks that luxurious feel some top spas convey.
The ship's Canyon Ranch SpaClub and Fitness Centre (Deck 7), open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., contains all of the equipment you would expect in a modern gym, including exercise mats and balance balls. There are various weight machines and free weights up to 30 kilograms, as well as one rower, 16 treadmills, three regular exercise bikes, four recumbent bikes, nine ellipticals and an area for stretching.
All equipment is by TechnoGym, but we noticed some of it was tired and didn't work. The incline wasn't functioning on one treadmill, while the audio and fan didn't work on others. There's a water cooler and supply of wipes in the gym area. Headphones and bottled water are not provided.
Fitness classes, such as yoga and Pilates, take place daily in the Queens Rooms (Deck 3) for an additional cost of $12, while complimentary full-body stretch classes are also available.
There's also an outdoor jogging track (Deck 7). One lap around the deck is equal to 0.3 miles.
Like it or not, the ship's class dining system still exists, which means those cruisers staying in non-suites are allocated to the Britannia Restaurant or Britannia Club, while suite-class passengers eat their meals in either the Princess or Queens Grill restaurants. If suite passengers would like to experience the Britannia Restaurant, it is possible, upon request.
We found that while dining options onboard cover all tastes and requirements, food is hit and miss in the main dining room. It lacked in quality and culinary flair. Dishes were often overcooked, and as a result, they were short on flavour and texture. Vegetables tended to be overcooked, and some elements of a dish, such as a potato dauphinoise on one occasion, had dried out because of overheating.
Health-conscious passengers are well catered for, however, with Canyon Ranch healthy options listed on the main dining room and Grills menus.
Specialty dining in the Kings Court buffet offers excellent value for money, with a daily changing themed menu keeping the options fresh. The Verandah steakhouse restaurant offers passengers a prix fixe fine dining experience reminiscent of a Michelin-starred restaurant. Although predominantly a lounge bar, Carinthia Lounge offers an epicurean selection of dishes not to be missed at breakfast and lunchtime.
Vegetarian options are available on all menus, although some are more limited than others, particularly in The Verandah. While all dietary requirements can be catered for, it is advisable to contact the line to make any requirements known ahead of sailing.
Kings Court Buffet (Deck 7): The ship's extensive buffet is open on a nearly continuous basis, offering Continental breakfast (5 to 6:30 a.m.), full breakfast (6:30 to 11 a.m.), lunch (11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.), afternoon snacks (3:30 to 5:30 p.m.), dinner (6 to 10:30 p.m.) and late snacks (11 p.m. to 2 a.m.).
Transformed during the ship's refit -- with two central elevators removed to make way for an additional serving station -- the space is ultra-stylish and has a chic city canteen feel. It seats passengers at a mix of tall tables with stools and two-, four- and six-seat tables. In keeping with the ship's ambiance, the design features on-trend Art Deco-style floor tiles and gold lamps hanging over the food stations.
We enjoyed the food at Kings Court; it felt diverse, with a balance of staple dishes like chicken, steak and salmon, complemented with more unique dishes, such as a fall-off-the-bone lamb shank and baby back ribs. The cheese station was impressive -- and far better than the cheese board served in the Britannia Restaurant -- including several different types of cheese, chutneys, crackers and accompaniments like a selection of nuts. Desserts at lunch and dinner usually include selections of dishes such as tiramisu, chocolate mousse cake and cheesecakes, along with one hot dessert. Think Bakewell slices (a traditional British pastry-based dessert consisting of a cherry base, a light sponge filling and an almond-flaked top) and custard. There are three self-service ice cream machines offering vanilla and chocolate soft serve in Kings Court. Tip: Don't pull down on the ice cream lever with too much force; it can get messy! Cones are also provided.
During busier periods, it can sometimes be difficult to find a free table in the Kings Court -- particularly a window seat. Despite occasionally searching for a free table, the space didn't feel chaotic or congested during our voyage. The only time we experienced lines at the food stations was at lunch during one particular sea day when the chefs prepared several stations' worth of desserts that included fancy cupcakes, pastries and fondue. Waiters are quick to attend to drink orders at the tables.
Cutlery is neatly wrapped in cloth napkins, and both Wedgwood mugs and disposable cups are provided at the self-service drinks stations.
Breakfast includes fruit, cereal, pastries, cold meats and cheeses, smoked salmon, a range of breads and hot items, such as eggs cooked to order, two different types of sausages, back and streaky bacon, baked beans, black pudding, hash browns and sweeter dishes like pancakes with maple syrup.
Lunch includes salads, pastas, tiger prawns, smoked salmon, cheeses and meats, pizza, different types of fish and roasted dishes like beef and pork, complemented by items such as burgers and hotdogs in the Chef's Galley.
A similar offering is available in the evening, with a range of cold meats and cheeses, made-to-order pizzas in the Chef's Galley, salads (smoked chicken, Waldorf and orzo), steamed vegetables and usually two types of potato dishes, along with a selection of cooked meats and fish selections.
Complimentary drinks in the Kings Court include a selection of Twining teas, coffee, water and fruit juices (cranberry, pineapple, apple and orange). The beverage menu allows passengers to order soda, beer, wine and spirits, too.
Britannia Restaurant (Decks 2 & 3): The Britannia Restaurant is the largest of the ship's main dining rooms, serving breakfast (8 to 9:30 a.m.), lunch (noon to 1:30 p.m.) and two dinner sittings (6 p.m., with last orders at 6:30 p.m., and 8:30 p.m., with last orders at 9 p.m.). The restaurant features a range of table sizes that accommodate from two to 10 people. Two-seat tables are more limited and often get booked up in advance. (Passengers can request a specific table size pre-cruise.) Tables are fixed, too, so diners sit at the same table with the same tablemates each day.
Britannia Restaurant is iconic. From the towering fabric Queen Mary memorial in the background to the stained-glass internal domed roof and sweeping staircases, the restaurant retains all of the glamor that is reminiscent of the Art Deco period. The room fills with energy during the evenings, and, particularly on formal nights, it has a fantastic atmosphere.
The breakfast menu is traditional, starting with a chilled juice followed by fresh fruit, compote and yogurt, hot and cold cereal, fresh bakery items and assorted cold cuts and cheeses. This selection is followed by a "main course" of Cunard's Get Up and Go Signature Plate, featuring eggs with smoked salmon and chives, bacon, sausage, hash browns, black pudding, tomato and sautéed mushrooms. There is also a selection of other breakfast entrees, including eggs cooked to order, a variety of omelettes, additional sides, pancakes and waffles.
The lunch menu includes a selection of appetizers, salads and sandwiches, entrees and desserts. Typical dishes include spaghetti carbonara or grilled swordfish steak.
Dinner service includes six appetizers, six entrees and six dessert options. On our voyage, starters included dishes such as beef consommé, frog legs and a mushroom feuilleté with a mascarpone and herb cream sauce, followed by a salad course. Entrees included chicken curry, roasted rack of spring lamb and fillet of haddock. Vegetarian dishes -- usually two per menu -- might include vegetable moussaka and a potato pancake with Quorn croutons and bean cassoulet.
The dessert menu features classics like caramelized pears, chocolate fondant and dulce de leche. There's always a cheese board featured among the dessert options -- although we found it a poor choice -- and there's also a spa selection of low-calorie dishes.
While service in the Britannia Restaurant was generally very good -- our servers were professional and charismatic -- the food was generally subpar. Dishes felt mass produced, and there appeared to be a lack of quality control. For example, the quality of the cheese board deteriorated during the voyage.
Britannia Club Restaurant (Deck 2): Serving the same menu as the Britannia Restaurant, but set off in a smaller, more intimate area, Britannia Club passengers can dine from 8 to 9:30 a.m. for breakfast, noon to 1:30 p.m. for lunch and anytime between 6:30 and 9 p.m. for dinner, giving passengers flexible dining times in the evening.
Princess Grill (Deck 7): Breakfast (8 to 9:30 a.m.), lunch (noon to 1:30 p.m.) and dinner (6:30 to 9 p.m.) is served in the Princess Grill for Princess Grill suite passengers only.
Lunch options include a selection of low-calorie Canyon Ranch Spa dishes, such as a cream of tomato soup followed by a chicken meatball sandwich and finished with a fruit plate. The regular menu starts with appetizers and soups, followed by salad and sandwich options, entrees and desserts. Typical dishes include grilled pork cutlet with horseradish mash, wild mushrooms and a Madeira sauce or a pasta dish with arugula, sun-dried tomatoes and a chicken sauce.
Two menus are available in the evening -- the Dinner and A La Carte -- allowing Grills passengers more choice. Appetizers include dishes such as zucchini and goat cheese tart and terrine of ham knuckle. This is followed by a salad and a selection of entrees, such as Scandinavian arctic char, New York strip steak au poivre or caraway-roasted pumpkin risotto. There's also a daily Cunard Signature Classic dish, which must be ordered by lunch on the same day. On our sailing, this included a Dover sole meuniere. Typical desserts include parfaits, panna cottas and souffles, and for those who have saved space, the cheese trolley is presented at the end. Food is notably improved in the Princess Grill, with ingredients of a better quality and dishes that are more creative.
Queens Grill (Deck 7): Breakfast (8 to 9:30 a.m.), lunch (noon to 1:30 p.m.) and dinner (6:30 to 9 p.m.) are served in the Queens Grill for Queens Grill suite passengers only. Queens Grill, which has the feel of a private club restaurant, has extra tables for two for those who prefer to dine as a couple.
The menu works in the same way as in the Princess Grill. Breakfast flows with several courses, including fresh fruit, cereal, yogurt and smoothies and bakery items to start, with a choice of pancakes and waffles and/or a breakfast entrée dish to follow. Entrée dishes range from a full English or American breakfast to a more extravagant petit fillet mignon with fried eggs and hash brown potatoes.
Lunch includes a three-course Canyon Ranch option plus a series of appetizers and soups, salads and sandwiches, entrees and desserts. Typical dishes include an avocado and grapefruit cocktail and a broiled ocean perch with sautéed spinach.
Typical dinner dishes include quail breast saltimbocca, crawfish salad and roasted pumpkin velouté to start, followed by a salad and a selection of entrees. Entrees include dishes such as fillet of hake with a sweet corn risotto; rack of Romney Marsh lamb; and usually at least one dish designed for sharing, such as the chateaubriand.
Desserts include several options, from the fruity to the chocolatey. This is all rounded off by a cheese trolley. Better quality ingredients, improved cooking techniques and the clever pairing of ingredients make this one of the most refined restaurants onboard.
Boardwalk Café (Deck 12): The ship's fast food restaurant on Deck 12, by the Kennel Suite, serves burgers, fries, hotdogs and soft drinks, but has no seating, and, as a result, is weather-dependent. Opening times vary; we didn't see it open once on our sailing.
Carinthia Lounge (Deck 7): The ship's Carinthia Lounge, which was added during the 2016 refit, isn't just a stylish space to meet with friends or enjoy a drink. It also serves some of the tastiest dishes on the ship. We often opted for the Carinthia Lounge for breakfast (8 to 10 a.m.) or lunch (noon to 2:30 p.m.) as an alternative to Kings Court because of its small gourmet plates.
Feast over a delicious breaded haggis ball or a gooey fried egg over spicy sautéed mushrooms and tomatoes. There are also classic eggs Florentine and breakfast panini, as well as a range of gourmet pastries, yogurt and granola pots available.
At lunchtime, passengers can graze on an equally appetizing selection of plates, including an addictive pulled barbecue beef flatbread; chicken, asparagus, mushroom and Gruyere cheese savoury crepes; a charcuterie platter and club sandwich, among other dishes, with a selection of eclairs and cheesecake pots for after. All dishes are freshly prepared by the chefs behind the counter.
Queens Room (Deck 3): A signature Cunard service is the line's afternoon tea offering, which is served in the ship's Queens Room. Served daily (3:30 to 4:30 p.m.) to the backdrop of classical music, the traditional afternoon tea includes a selection of fine leaf teas, finger sandwiches, pastries and freshly baked scones with clotted cream and fruit preserves.
Golden Lion (Deck 2): The Golden Lion serves pub lunches (noon to 3 p.m.) with a menu that features dishes such as cottage pie, fish 'n' chips and other British pub classics.
Room Service: Twenty-four-hour room service is available to all cabins. The menu is varied with two salad options, one soup, sandwiches, a varied selection of hot dishes, hot sandwiches, burgers and desserts. The room service menu also has a limited number of vegetarian options, with five of the 18 savoury dishes listed suitable for vegetarians. A service charge is not applied to food orders. Although our room service arrived on time, the experience was hit and miss. The pizza and pulled pork tacos were lovely, but on another occasion, the toast we ordered to accompany our breakfast was forgotten. On still another occasion, the Mediterranean frittata we selected arrived as an unappetizing and soupy mess, made with a poached egg on top instead of scrambled egg throughout. When we called to order a replacement, we added bacon and were told it's not normally available for brunch, which we found strange.
Kings Court Specialty A La Carte (Deck 7); $17.50: Between 7 and 9 p.m., a section of the Kings Court is transformed into a specialty dining venue. Every night is a different theme: Aztec, offering regional Mexican cuisine; La Pizza, which is a celebration of Italian cuisine; Bamboo, a Pan-Asian theme drawing on Japanese, Singaporean, Indonesian, Thai and Chinese cuisines; Coriander, focusing on Indian regional cuisines; and the brand-new Smokehouse, featuring classic American barbecued dishes. Expect dishes such as buffalo chicken wings and Maryland crab cakes to start and coconut-crusted shrimp or buttermilk southern fried chicken and mac 'n' cheese on the Smokehouse menu.
Each individual menu also features a tailored selection of drinks. For example, the Smokehouse's menu plays on American wines and beers, while Coriander's drink menu features international wines -- including some Indian choices -- and Indian beer. Kings Court Specialty A La Carte offers great value for money; as testimony to its popularity, it was fully booked on every night of our voyage.
The Verandah (Deck 8); $20 for lunch, $49.95 for dinner: This elegant steakhouse is a nod to America's love for all things meat. Elegant but plush surroundings set a tone of decadence, which begins with delicious homemade pull-apart bread that's brought to the table covered in sweet butter and herbs.
Next, several cuts of meat are presented and explained to diners before they order. They include several sizes of 35-day dry-aged Scotch grass-fed Black Angus, 28-day aged prime USDA grain-finished Angus and Australian grass-fed wagyu beef, as well as seafood add-ons.
In terms of mains, passengers can choose from options like lobster cocktail, clam chowder or Caesar salad; entrees on offer include grilled whole Dover sole, a "Cunarder" Angus beef burger and a veggie burger; and a selection of side salads, veggies and sauces round out the offerings.
Before eating, cruisers are presented with a choice of knives with which to cut their meat. The interesting part? They all have names, are made from different materials and are designed to fit different hand sizes and shapes. For dessert, try the coconut and cookie crumble topped with sorbet.
Kudos to the restaurant's chefs who pack serious culinary flair into every dish. The result felt like dining in a Michelin-Starred restaurant.
QM2's 1,360 cabins are available in four categories, ranging from Britannia Singles to the ship's suites, which are divided into four sub-categories, ranging from Princess Grill to Queens Grill Duplexes.
One important point to note when booking on QM2 is that different cabin categories come with accompanying restaurants. Passengers in Princess suites eat in the Princess Grills, for example; the Queens Grill passengers also have their own special restaurant. The result is that the suite experience feels more private, with more personalized attention and better quality of food and service than elsewhere on the ship. (That said, the Grills restaurants don't have the same energy and buzz that you find in the main dining room.) Suite passengers also have access to a private sun terrace with its own whirlpool (Deck 11), the Grills Lounge (Deck 7) and Concierge Lounge (Deck 9).
Cabins are well lit and airy, and they feel spacious inside. Even the smallest of the cabins, the Britannia Single, with two large circular windows, feels light and roomy. The cabins' new look gives them a more contemporary feel with subtle extravagances -- notably the plush royal blue cushions and soft furnishings -- that lead to a more luxurious feel. All cabins feature upholstered chairs, sofas with an oval coffee table and carpets that feel ultra-soft on the feet.
With the exception of the single cabins, all have king beds that can be converted into twins, sandwiched between a nightstand and a bedside lamp. All cabins feature Samsung satellite flat-screen TVs with a selection of multi-language film and TV channels. (One nice touch is a TV channel list that's provided as part of a welcome packet in each cabin on embarkation day.) TVs are attached to the wall opposite the bed or placed on a fitted cabinet in the larger cabins. All cabins have a direct dial telephone, refrigerator, hair dryer, safe -- which fits a laptop -- ample hanging and storage space, writing/vanity desk and chair, a two-seater sofa and coffee table. While some of the bigger suites contain illy coffee machines, all cabins also offer tea- and coffee-making facilities, including a kettle, Twinings English breakfast tea and Cafe Hag instant coffee sachets.
All cabins carry Luxury Penhaligon toiletries, including shampoo, conditioner, a combined shower and bath gel, and a body lotion, plus robes and slippers. All bathrooms feature a clothesline. There are two 220v British three-pin and two 110V two-pin sockets in all cabins, plus a 220v and 110v shaving socket in all bathrooms. Passengers can control their cabin temperature with their own easy-to-use temperature control system.
All cabins include artwork by Paul Ward, the renowned architectural photographer, featuring photographic details of the three original Cunard offices -- Liverpool, Southampton and New York. Passengers in all cabins also receive a nightly turn-down service and a Godiva chocolate placed on the bed. It should be noted that the cabin stewards are excellent.
As well as the more obvious differences, such as size, subtle variations are visible between the lower and higher category cabins, too. Only suites feature teak flooring on the balconies, for example. Non-suites oddly have their hair dryers attached to the inside of a desk drawer, yet the suites have them in the bathrooms.
Interior: The 194-square-foot interior cabins, located on Decks 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13, are sub-categorized into Standard Inside and Atrium View Inside cabins, with the 12 Atrium View cabins looking into the ship's Grand Lobby.
All interior cabin passengers receive a complimentary half-bottle of sparkling wine in their room on arrival, in addition to all of the amenities and features listed above. Interior cabin passengers are allocated to the Britannia Restaurant.
Oceanview: There are two categories of ocean-view cabins, made up of 15 single cabins -- in two sizes, 178 and 183 square feet -- on Decks 2 and 3, and 62 standard outside cabins -- 194 square feet -- on Decks 5 and 6.
Single cabins are decorated in a colour palette of fawn, neutral and violet with two large feature windows that allow light to flood into the room, giving a spacious feel. The 178-square-foot cabins include a double bed and one marble-top bedside table containing two drawers, with a stylish hanging ceiling light above, which frees up space on the nightstand to use as a shelf. The 183-square-foot single cabins include nightstands on both sides of the bed and a traditional bedside lamp (not an overhanging lamp) to one side, offering more storage space with the added drawers. The single cabins feature impressive "no-slam" wardrobe doors, too, which means there's less possibility of disturbing your neighbours.
Single cabins include a built-in window seat and either a large armchair with footstool or a short-length chaise lounge, a small circular table by the window and a large mirror over the desk space. Because of how new they are, bathrooms in the single cabins are arguably the most impressive of all the non-suite cabin bathrooms onboard. Finished with contemporary marble-effect grey tiles, the bathrooms include a shower with a small triangular corner shelf and a shower screen door -- meaning no clingy shower curtain -- and three larger shelves by the sink. There is one shelf and one rail for towels above the toilet.
Standard outside cabins feature a king-sized bed that can be turned into two twin beds.
As with all cabins, the finishing details include royal blue bed coverings with gold trim and luxury cushions on the bed and armchair. All ocean-view cabin passengers receive a complimentary half-bottle of sparkling wine in their room on arrival and are allocated to the Britannia Restaurant.
Balcony: There are two types of balcony cabins, Britannia Balcony and Britannia Club, with minimal differences between the two. With neutral colour tones used in the carpets, walls and furnishings, both feel spacious and light.
Located on Decks 4, 5, 6, 8, 11, 12 and 13, the 248- and 269-square-foot Balcony cabins, some of which are sheltered (Deck 4, 5 and 6) or have obstructed views (Deck 8), make up the largest proportion of the ship's cabins.
Britannia Balcony cabins include a king-sized bed, which can be separated into two twins, with a nightstand and lamp on either side, containing one drawer and a shelf below.
With four drawers and one and a half wardrobes designated for hanging space and a shelf above the hanging rail, there's ample storage space.
The bathrooms offer a shower, vanity sink and toilet, with one small corner shelf in the shower, two soap dishes and two small corner shelves above the vanity unit. Unfortunately, bathrooms were not modernized in the ship's 2016 refit, and the uncomfortable shower base and clingy curtains remain.
Balconies each feature two plastic-covered sun loungers and a small circular table.
The difference between Britannia Balcony and Britannia Club cabins is that a pillow menu and a full bottle of sparkling wine are offered to Britannia Club passengers. Balcony passengers dine in the Britannia Restaurant.
Suites: Suites are categorized into Princess Grill, Queens Grill, Queens Grill Penthouses, Royal Suites and two sizes of Queens Grill Duplexes. The bigger they get, the more luxurious they feel.
Princess Grill: Located on Deck 10, the 381-square-foot Princess Suites are larger and more luxurious than the ship's Balcony cabins. With a stylish ash grey and cream colour scheme on the walls, the updated cabins feel like stylish hotel suites. They contain more high-end fixtures, such as the plush nightstand lamps and grey wall padding behind the bed. There's extra desk space with shelf storage above and a short-back armchair, as well as a sofa in the sitting area. The balconies are each equipped with rattan-style furniture, including two padded armchairs and a coffee table-size table; decking is teak.
Princess Grill cabins also contain separate glass cabinets and walk-in wardrobes with plenty of storage space. There's a bath and shower with a clingy shower curtain in each bathroom.
Added features include a concierge service, sparkling wine and chocolates in the cabin upon arrival, daily fresh fruit, personalized stationery and an upgraded soft velour robe and slippers. There's also an atlas provided in the cabin -- useful for tracking the ship's progress the old-fashioned way.
Queens Grill: Located on Decks 9, 10 and 11, the 506-square-foot Queens Grill suites each feature a spacious living area, dressing room with walk-in wardrobe and bathroom with separate shower and whirlpool bath. Extra amenities include 24-hour butler service, concierge service, Champagne and chocolates upon embarkation, complimentary in-cabin drinks (including two bottles of wine or spirits of your choice and soft drinks), pre-dinner canapes, daily fresh fruit and a turn-down "surprise" on formal nights. Regular nightly turn-down service with chocolates is also provided, and there's an atlas and a selection of books in the cabin's library.
The luxury factor is upped once again with splashes of red and other touches, such as the marble-top oval coffee table with stylish gold trim and legs, and other high-end furnishings lending a designer showroom feel.
Queens Grill passengers also receive priority embarkation, disembarkation and tender service. All Queens Grill passengers receive allocated dining in the Queens Grill.
Queens Grill Penthouse: Located on Decks 9 and 10, the six 758-square-foot Penthouse suites feature the same décor style as Queens Grill suites, with a dining room table and chairs, illy coffee machine (in addition to the kettle), a luxury Wedgwood tea set, an L-shaped sofa, two armchairs, a coffee table and luxury thick woollen blankets neatly stacked on an armchair in the living area.
A central island, which holds the TV, separates the living area from the bedroom. There's a walk-in wardrobe and separate walk-in rain shower and bath in the bathroom. Additional amenities are provided in the bathroom, including a body sponge, Gilchrist & Soames bath salts and a foot scrub.
While the lower category cabins are light-filled and airy, the more exclusive suites can afford to play with colour schemes and patterns because of their size. The Penthouse features red, neutral and grey, as well as a boldly patterned carpet, which actually makes the space feel homier. Furniture is classic but has that same designer-showroom quality. The luxury flows onto the balcony, which features teak decking and timber furniture.
Royal Suites: The four Royal Suites include two cabin sizes: 1,194-square foot Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth (with balconies) and 796-square foot Queen Anne and Queen Victoria (without balconies).
Located at the front of Deck 10, the Royal Suites command breath-taking ocean views and feature a marble floor entrance, a dining area for eight (Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth) or four (Queen Anne and Queen Victoria), a secondary living area with a bathroom and flat-screen TV. There's another TV in the bedroom, which also features a walk-in wardrobe and master bathroom with shower and separate whirlpool bath.
Queens Grill Duplexes: There are two types of Queens Grill Duplexes onboard -- Duplex Apartments known as Windsor, Buckingham and Holyrood, and Grand Duplex Apartments known as Balmoral and Sandringham. The only difference is the size, which ranges from 1,471 to 2,249 square feet.
Queens Grill Duplexes, located on Decks 9 and 10 (accessed via Deck 9) have a luxury beach condo-style feel, with a sweeping staircase taking centre stage. Duplexes include two-bathrooms -- one downstairs and one upstairs. There's a butler's kitchen for preparing refreshments or in-room dining, a dining room table and chairs seating eight, a large open sitting area furnished with side tables, a large coffee table, an armchair with footstool and a freestanding writing desk with a chair.
Upstairs, passengers benefit from their own ocean-facing TechnoGym exercise bike, an armchair with a side table and binoculars for spying dolphins and other passing sea life.
There's a large bedroom -- featuring a flat-screen TV -- that leads to more spaces, a writing area with desk and chair and "his and hers" dressing rooms with connecting bathrooms.
One bathroom features a whirlpool bath -- including a window over the bath so passengers taking a soak can also see out to sea -- a sink and vanity unit with a shaving mirror and a toilet, while the other features a shower, sink, bidet and toilet.