On my first trip to Europe in 2005, when I told friends I would take a Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 transatlantic crossing rather than fly, a lot of eyebrows were raised. Sideways glances prevailed.
Their biggest question was: “Why spend seven days to get to Europe when you could be there in seven hours?”
When it was time for them to fly to Europe, all they mostly had were complaints. Jet lag, cramped seats, long delays, longer lines at customs and horrible food (if there was any food) were part of their conversation.
Why I Take a Queen Mary 2 Transatlantic Crossing
To my friends, speed was of upmost importance. Not for me. And remember, I don’t fly, so the shortest transatlantic crossing to Europe was and is always my goal.
Plus, for me, the “getting there” is always part of the experience. Or for some people, it’s the entire experience! That’s why you’ll find many Queen Mary 2 passengers book back-to-back transatlantic crossings!
A Queen Mary 2 transatlantic has always been my first choice to go back and forth to Europe for 14 out of my 22 transatlantic crossings.
For me, crossing to or from Europe aboard Queen Mary 2 allows for long relaxing days at sea, quiet moments of reflection, interesting people to meet and outstanding entertainment and enrichment.
What to Expect on a Queen Mary 2 Transatlantic Crossing
Ever since Cunard launched Queen Mary 2 in 2004, legions of new transatlantic enthusiasts have chosen a more civilized means to cross the Atlantic. There have been cruise ships repositioning to Europe for many years; those seasonal cruises in Spring and Fall when cruise lines bring their ships to Europe or vice versa over the course of two weeks.
But that’s not Queen Mary 2 and it’s not an authentic “crossing.” And those are cruise ships…not ocean liners built for the North Atlantic like QM2.
Cunard has made this excellent form of transportation available to almost anyone who has the time and inclination to appreciate such an experience. I’m one of those people.
It’s truly throwback travel for the 21st century.
My First Queen Mary 2 Transatlantic Crossing
Queen Mary 2 was less than a year old when I stepped aboard for my first westbound transatlantic crossing from Southampton to New York City.
I really didn’t know what to expect. On the eastbound transatlantic, Celebrity Century was my transport for 14 days from Ft. Lauderdale to Amsterdam. As a cruise ship and not an ocean liner like QM2, there were some bumps and rocking in the mid-Atlantic.
Queen Mary 2 was built, as were her predecessors, as an ocean liner. Long and sleek, able to handle the roughest of seas.
And that was the first thing I noticed was the length of the ship. Compared end to end, Queen Mary 2 is a mere 117 shorter than the Empire State Building is tall.
Designed with convenience in mind, with four banks of elevators, you really never feel like you are walking forever.
Embarkation at Southampton was easy, as I’m sure it is today. As though I was boarding a plane (as if!), I was asked to remove my shoes and belt and all the other usual items into a bin.
READ MORE: How to Choose the Best Dinner Seating Time Aboard Queen Mary 2?
Aboard a Queen Mary 2 Transatlantic Crossing
If you’re a bit hesitant to be the equivalent of a small cork bobbing about in an enormous body of water at nature’s mercy without a bit of land in sight, you can put your worries aside.
Just remember that Queen Mary 2 is a purpose-built ocean liner, not your typical cruise ship. The ship was built with a double thick extra steel hull and four enormous stabilizers.
The promenade deck is way up on Deck 7 to avoid a possible splash zone in rough seas, and a dining room smartly located on the lowest decks and mid-ship. Queen Mary 2 was built to take to the North Atlantic in January with grace.
Is There the Usual Jet Lag?
Expect to arrive on either side of the Atlantic refreshed and ready to go without any jet lag. On an eastbound, New York to Southampton cruise, on five of the seven full sea days there’s a one-hour later time change, usually during the night. Sometimes at noon, too.
Of course going to New York clocks are set back one hour resulting in six 25-hour days. And there still never seems like enough time to do everything you had planned.
How to Pass the Time at Sea
I could write a multi-sheet laundry list of all the things you can do aboard Queen Mary 2 but I’ll highlight what I find most interesting and fun.
There are enrichment lectures – I’ve attended presentations by John Cleese, Richard Dreyfus, Roger McGuinn, Angela Basset, James Taylor and Roger McGuinn.
There’s an incredible library (the largest at sea) with cozy arm chairs, a Planetarium (the only one at sea) and live music in venues all around the ship. Dance classes, computer lessons, cooking demonstrations and so much more.
Test your skill at trivia in the Golden Lion Pub, take an Adobe Photoshop class or learn how to paint with watercolors.
Schedule an appointment for a massage or salon treatment at the Canyon Ranch Spa. Step into the thermal suite for a steam and then let the thalassotherapy pool bubble your cares away.
Wifi is available throughout the ship, including staterooms, but the prices to connect are steep so use your minutes wisely. As you’d expect there’s a TV in every stateroom and there’s almost always a clear satellite signal with excellent reception even way out in the middle of the North Atlantic.
Try a wine tasting seminar, a floral arranging class, browse the shops for logo and designer clothes, or simply sit down in the atrium and people-watch.
One of my favorite travel throwbacks is to stretch out on a polished teak deck chair along the wide promenade deck and stare out at the sea. Weather permitting, of course.
Each evening at turn-down, your room attendant will leave the next day’s activity planner. Bring a highlighter pen so you can mark the activities you’d like to try.
Choose Your Queen Mary 2 Stateroom
I’ve had every accommodation aboard Queen Mary 2 (except Grills Class!) and I have to admit, budget permitting, my favorite is the sheltered balcony. Even an inside stateroom is fine if my budget is a bit thin.
On the North Atlantic, especially in winter, the sheltered balcony is actually usable.
Dining Options on Queen Mary 2
There’s the two-story Britannia Main Dining Room when most of the passengers are assigned to dine for breakfast, lunch or dinner. If your accommodations are in the Princess Grill or Queen’s Grill, you’ll have an intimate private dining room reserved solely for the Grills’ guests.
Three out of the seven nights are considered Formal Nights and guests still seem to enjoy getting all dressed up. During the day, it’s a more casual atmosphere, especially in summer with the pools and outdoor areas in use.
Non-formal nights still require some semblance of decorum though country club casual dress is perfectly fine.
King’s Court buffet is where you can have a casual breakfast, lunch, dinner or late-night buffet without having to wear your best duds.
The venerable Todd English specialty restaurant is gone and The Verandah restaurant took its place. Inspired by the original Verandah Grill on the Queen Mary, for a nominal fee guests can dine on contemporary French cuisine.
In warm weather up on Deck 12 is the Terrace Bar but I’m always crossing in early spring or winter so I’ve never had a chance to see this venue in action.
Your Fellow Queen Mary 2 Passengers
The history of Cunard Line and Queen Mary 2 is almost as varied as its passengers.
Cunard Line was formed in Britain in 1839 by Canadian-born Samuel Cunard. Queen Mary 2 is registered in Bermuda not England and in 1998, Cunard Line was purchased by U.S.-based Carnival Corporation but operated under the auspices of Carnival UK.
Plus, Queen Mary 2 was built in a French shipyard. Quite a multi-national mix and so are the people onboard.
While the majority of 2,600 passengers tend to be British, it’s nearly equal with the amount of Americans, followed by Canadians. Several times a year, when Queen Mary 2 cruises between Hamburg, Germany and New York, there’ll be a contingent of 200-300 Germans onboard, too.
The remainder can be a mix of at least 20 additional nationalities from all over the world.
Are Dogs Allowed on Queen Mary 2
Yes! One of the most unsung advantages of a Queen Mary 2 transatlantic crossing is that your pets can go, too! Queen Mary 2 is the only ship with pet kennels. There’s even a Kennel Master and he takes his job very seriously.
Included in the “Remastering” of the Queen Mary 2 was the addition of 12 more kennels for a total of 24 spaces for Fido or Fluffy the cat.
Of course there is official paperwork to complete and your pet’s shots must be up-to-date. No more 6 month quarantine; everything is completed before arrival and once you dock in England…off you go!
How I Begin and End Every Queen Mary 2 Transatlantic Crossing
Shortly after sailaway, I always have a martini on embarkation night at the Commodore’s Club on deck 8.
Mid-cruise I’m sure to eat a traditional British Fish & Chips with Mushy Peas and a pint of Guinness at the Golden Lion Pub.
And last but not least, east or westbound, I have a farewell glass of bubbly at the Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar. Cheers!
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I’m the editor and creator of CruiseMaven.com, a solo traveler cruising the world on waves and wheels, collecting recipes along the way. I hope my articles and photos entertain, advise and inspire you to travel the world without flying. Take a breath…stop for a local meal and a glass of wine along the way.
Sherry Laskin says
There are ships from Southampton that include a stop or stops in Ireland. In 2023, Princess, Silversea, Celebrity, Norwegian and Oceania all have Southampton departures and go to at least Cobh, Ireland. I hope that’s a good start for you. Thank you very much for reading my article and taking the time to send your question.
I have done transatlantic New York to Southhampton back in 2006. I don’t fly. I traveled to Ireland. It was a long journey. Are there any ships that leave Southhampton to Ireland do you know? Thank you
Sherry Laskin says
Thank you for watching my video and reading my article! Much appreciated. You or your travel agent need to reach out to Cunard to find out if there will be a priest onboard in October. Under normal circumstances, I would say yes. I remember seeing the notice for Catholic Mass in the daily planner. Whether or not the cruise line has made arrangements this far in advance…I don’t know.
They may not yet know either. My advice would be to place your deposit on the stateroom of your choice now and then keep track of the final payment due date as well as any new refund policy. Again, under normal times, you could cancel up until the day BEFORE final payment was due and get a full refund on your deposit. By that time, the cruise line should know if there is a priest booked on your sailing.
I hope this is helpful information and I apologize if I didn’t provide an accurate answer to your question.
Barbara Lagarenne says
Just watched your YouTube of the staterooms on the queen Mary 2.
Planning on booking for oct. 2022,
I do have one question, interested to know if they still have a Catholic priest on board for Sunday Mass. it is important to me to know this.
Appreciate your answer as I plan to book as soon as I hear
Sherry Laskin says
Thank you for reading my article and taking the time for your comment. In all my 14 transatlantic crossings aboard Queen Mary 2, I don’t think I’ve ever even seen “barf bags” placed around the ship. QM2 is amazingly steady, even in 20′ seas and gale-force winds and a horizontal blizzard (a 15 December crossing). The dining room is always full and aside from a little momentary loss of equilibrium, I’ve never been even slightly queasy. And you’re right, I used to get horribly seasick as a kid but not anymore!
A transatlantic crossing on any other ship in high seas or winds, despite stabilizers, you’ll feel the ship movement much more as it creaks and squeaks with the motion. If you want to take a transatlantic and concerned about getting seasick, go with Queen Mary 2. Book a stateroom lower and in the middle of the ship. My favorite is the sheltered balcony on deck 5.
Thank you again for reading my article. I hope I’ve clarified your concern.
Terry Allen says
25 years of travel without a plane.
I’m sure by now you don’t get sea sick. But what about the rest of us?
I didn’t see mention of it in your article.
Sherry Laskin says
Thank you for your comment. I totally agree…it’s an incredible experience. Happy Travels!
Miles Johnson says
I did a Southampton to New York in 2013, I really enjoyed it.
Sherry Laskin says
Hi David, Thank you very much for reading my post about the QM2. You should have a fabulous time. I’m glad the article was helpful. I still think the funniest part on a westbound crossing is by day 5, passengers are up wandering around til 2am because of the gradual time change. Thank you also for taking the time to leave your kind comment.
David Coffee says
Thank you for this post, Sherry. I’ll be taking my first crossing from Southhampton to New York next July. Great information.
Sherry Laskin says
No, Cunard is not an all-inclusive cruise line. You can, though, buy one of their beverage packages. You can do this when you are onboard.
Hi! Can you tell me if alcohol is included? Thank you!