On my first trip to Europe in 2005, my friends asked why I would take Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 transatlantic “cruise” rather than fly. First I would say, “it’s called a crossing, not a cruise.”
Their next question was: “Why spend seven days to get to Europe when you could be there in seven hours?”
When they had to fly to Europe, everyone had the same complaints. Jet lag, cramped seats, long delays, longer lines at customs and horrible food (if there was any food) were part of their conversation.
In this article, you’ll learn what it’s like to take a Queen Mary 2 transatlantic crossing and maybe you’ll give it a try.
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, 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 crossing 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-feet 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 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.
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.
I’ve also discovered some out-of-the-way secret hideaways on Queen Mary 2 for when I want to just disconnect from the rest of the folks.
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 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 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! Here’s how to bring your dog aboard Queen Mary 2.
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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