Cunard’s Remastered Beauty Still Rules the Waves

Queen Mary 2 at her Brooklyn berth on Monday, May 15, 2017. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Right now, I’m at the halfway point of my eastbound transatlantic crossing aboard Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2, which departed New York on Monday on her first voyage of the season to Southampton, England. There’s nothing quite like waking up to the sight of nothing but miles of ocean, stretching as far as the eye can see, for seven days in a row. Some people tell me they find that thought intimidating; I find it freeing.

Out on the open Atlantic. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

This is a journey that Cunard specialises in, and one that Queen Mary 2 was created expressly for. But I’m onboard primarily to check out the results of QM2’s 2016 Remastering. It is the largest refit that the massive ocean liner had been through since her debut in 2004, and my first four days onboard have left a very positive impression.

This is my third crossing onboard Queen Mary 2, and my fourth time onboard overall. I can’t be coy about it: this is my favorite ship for a number of reasons, and my personal library is filled with books on her design, construction and fitting out. Consequently, I find myself paying attention to little details, which has aided me greatly in seeing the sweeping changes that have been made to her.

Staterooms have benefited from a substantial makeover. Note the new headboard, pillows, bed throw, couch, lighting and artwork. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

I love these new pillows. Too bad they don’t sell them in the gift shop! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

The hottest ticket onboard are QM2’s new Britannia Single Oceanview Staterooms. Fifteen of these were added during the Remastering, with nine on Deck 3L (in place of the former Photo Gallery), and six on Deck 2, in a space carved out of the Casino. Measuring between 178 and 183 square feet, these booked up long ago – and their residents (I’ve met three so far) have positively gushed about how much they love their new rooms. If you want one of these, you’re going to have to book very early indeed.

Other changes are more subtle, like the mosaic of Samuel Cunard at the forward end of the Deck 3 corridor. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

The rendering next to Cunard has been removed and replaced with a new graphic showing a photograph of Queen Mary 2. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

New “sunburst” style carpeting graces the elevator lobbies. Shown here is the C Stairwell elevator bank, Deck 5, facing forward. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Also added during the refit: 30 additional Britannia Club staterooms created on the all-new Deck 13, and refits for all existing Britannia Club staterooms on Deck 12 that better mimic the colour scheme and patterns found aboard the original Queen Mary. Cunard even doubled the number of kennels onboard Queen Mary 2, from 12 to 24, to allow more four-legged friends onboard the crossings.

A New Lease on Life: the former Wintergarden on Deck 7 is now the Carinthia Lounge, with an extensive menu of wines from Iberia. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Other big, visible changes include the addition of the Carinthia Lounge in place of the former Wintergarden on Deck 7, and the redo of the Kings Court Buffet, also on Deck 7. The latter was taken down to the steel in order to fix the layout and flow problems that plagued the original. Besides sporting a newer look that manages to be classy and functional at the same time, the new King’s Court has eliminated nearly all of the bottlenecking that used to occur. I typically avoided the old version like the plague, but this new iteration has proven to be a substantial improvement.

Staterooms have also been upgraded with new soft furnishings; oversized, wall-mounted flat-panel television sets; new lighting; new headboards; and new artwork. The result actually looks classier than before, in particular the new royal blue pillows emblazoned with the Cunard emblem.

The Kings Court on Deck 7 was stripped to the steel and rebuilt from the ground up…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…and the results are impressive. Modern decor, and far better passenger flow, can be found here in addition to near 24-hour food service. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

But I’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover other enhancements; the kind you don’t typically hear about. Almost every public room onboard has brand-new carpeting that introduces an entirely new look and feel to these spaces and, in most cases, is an improvement. Gone are the dark brown carpets in staterooms introduced during the 2011 refit, and the dark tartan-esque carpeting in the Golden Lion Pub on Deck 2 has been replaced with an appropriate pattern that looks like it’s from the turn of the century. Stateroom corridors now boast a blue gradient colour scheme, while elevator banks and the ship’s Grand Atrium have a sort of crimson starburst thing going on that’s quite attractive.

Corridors boast new carpeting…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

that actually lightens them up (though I do miss the old style). Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Speaking of the Grand Atrium, look closely and you’ll see that the glass elevators that used to run between Decks 2 and 7 are gone. They were removed as part of the refit to the King’s Court, and the change has been positive. The Grand Atrium now feels more open, and fewer bottlenecks occur on the passageways leading down the centerline on Decks 2 and 3.

The Grand Atrium aboard Queen Mary 2. Still just as grand as ever. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Queen Mary 2’s Grand Atrium, facing aft from Deck 3. Note the removal of the two glass elevators that would have run down the port and starboard sides of the atrium. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

I’m also pleased to see Cunard has developed new menus for almost every one of its public rooms. In the Commodore Club on Deck 9, new handcrafted cocktails pay tribute to some of Cunard’s past Commodores of the fleet. There’s even a reinvention of the last cocktail reportedly served aboard Titanic, Punch Romaine, in honour of Captain Arthur Rostron, who would run Cunard’s Carpathia at full speed through the ice field to rescue survivors. My favorite so far: the Land of Hop & Glory; a malty concoction made of brandy, cognac, King’s Ginger, Ginger Ale, malt extract, hop bitters and beer foam that honours Commodore Cyril Illingsworth.

In the Commodore Club on Deck 9…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…new menus and craft cocktails pay tribute to the line’s past Commodores. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

In the new Carinthia Lounge, Illy coffee concoctions are served throughout the day, while at night the place becomes a bastion of fine wines and port wines from Portugal. If you want to turn heads, order the 1840 Ferreira Port that celebrates the year Cunard inaugurated scheduled transatlantic steamship service, for $4,445 per glass. If that’s out of your budget, don’t worry: the $7.95 ruby port I had the other evening was “very drinkable.”

Sir Samuels on Deck 3 now serves up Godiva chocolate creations, and introduces a special (extra-cost) Chocolate and Champagne High Tea. And in the Chart Room, you can indulge in a new menu of favourites and classics while listening to some great jazz music.

Sir Saumels, named after Cunard founder Samuel Cunard, now serves up Godiva chocolate delights on Deck 3. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Overall, Queen Mary 2 looks and feels like a brand-new ship. But fortunately, Cunard hasn’t had the desire to tinker with what didn’t need fixing. To that end, you can while away your day with multiple lectures, dramatic performances, movies, trivia sessions, art classes, live musical performances, or a day at the 20,000-square foot Canyon Ranch SpaClub.

Even Queen Mary 2’s hydrotherapy pool – part of the 20,000 square foot Canyon Ranch SpaClub complex on Decks 7 and 8 – got a nice sprucing-up. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Of course, some things never change. It’s nice to see the 493-guest Illuminations Theatre filled to capacity for one of QM2’s fantastic daily lectures. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

And, of course, you can still walk the gorgeous wraparound Promenade on Deck 7, or simply sit in a deck chair and look out at the open ocean. The choice really is yours.

I’ll have day-to-day coverage of my voyage starting next week here on From the Deck Chair, where I’ll go into the 2016 Remastering and the voyage in detail. For now, though, I can say this: Cunard’s investment in Queen Mary 2 really paid off. Refits are a tricky business, but these changes enhance what was already a great ship, and provided fixes for the few things that weren’t working.

Queen Mary 2’s wraparound Promenade Deck looks as nice as ever. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

If you’ve never crossed the Atlantic on QM2, there’s more reason than ever to do so. And if you have, this extensive new Remastering should provide you with pleasant little surprises at every turn.

Speeding off into the Atlantic onboard Queen Mary 2. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Our Voyage Report from onboard Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 will begin on Tuesday, May 22. Follow along with our current cruise adventures on twitter by following @deckchairblog.

 

 

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