13th-17th July 2016 – Southampton- Hamburg – Southampton
A review by Gareth Roberts
QM2 on our arrival back into Southampton on the 17th July 2016, image courtesy of Cunard
QM2 freshly out of refit just about to return to Southampton for our Voyage (Cunard)
After sailing back to back across the Atlantic on Queen Mary 2 in 2014, I simply had to book a voyage on the remastered Queen Mary 2. The remastering of Cunard’s flagship had got me really excited. Once she entered dry dock I found myself on a daily basis systematically working through the Cunard Facebook groups, Various Cruise forums, Twitter and Instagram in search of a sneaky picture or two from the camera phone of a contractor, very sad I know. So on the night before I sailed I felt like a little boy on Christmas Eve again, struggling to get to sleep with the excitement of boarding this remastered Ocean liner in the morning. I’d seen ALL of the pictures, they looked stunning and it was going to be amazing. Why was I more excited about this particular voyage than normal, after all it was only 4 nights and the only destination was Hamburg, a great city but one that shares the same inclement weather patterns as my home town? Well there is something about Mary. The ship was designed by a team of British naval architects led by Stephen Payne. At the time of her construction, Queen Mary 2 was the longest passenger ship ever built, and with her gross tonnage at the time of 148,528 also the largest. Because Queen Mary 2 was intended to routinely cross the Atlantic Ocean she was therefore designed differently from many other passenger ships. The ship’s final cost was approximately £200,000 per berth. Expenses were increased by the high quality of materials, and having been designed as an ocean liner, she required 40% more steel than a standard cruise ship. Queen Mary 2 has a maximum speed of just over 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph) and a cruising speed of 26 knots (48 km/h; 30 mph), much faster than a contemporary cruise ship. She really is like a Rolls Royce powered by a Ferrari engine, although that is possibly not the best analogy as she is propelled by Rolls Royce Mermaid Pods.
QM2 in Hamburg (Jens Hagens)
In May of this year Queen Mary 2 underwent a major refurbishment at a cost of £90 million. She spent 25 days in dry dock, 19 of them out of the water. Over one million man hours went into the remastering, involving 1,200 crew members, 2,500 contractors and 1,500 shipyard workers. The project was to refresh both the interior and exterior of the ship. To this end, 594,000 square feet of carpet was laid involving 26 new carpet designs, enough to cover the Wembley pitch 10 times over. Some 6,500 pieces of furniture and 4,000 framed pictures were brought aboard. Many of the existing public rooms were given a new look. Technical and structural changes were made, with the most obvious to the eye being the addition of the 35 new staterooms on Deck 13. Despite this addition the ship however remains the fastest passenger ship in service, even though the gross tonnage has increased to over 151,000 GT.
But then just I was about the finally head off to sleep at 4am in the morning it dawned on me that maybe the reality would not live up to all my expectations generated by all the hype that surrounded the Remastering programme. Read on to discover if it did ………..
The aims of this Review are the following:
i) To capture my experiences of the ship as I found her just a couple of weeks out of refit.
ii) To contrast the new spaces with the ship I travelled on in 2014
iii) To offer a guide and advice for those who will travel on her in future
iv) To highlight any areas that didn’t meet expectations
Please don’t feel that this Review has to be read from start to finish and feel free to dip in and out. I have tried to focus on the areas that have seen greatest changes first.
The order in which I review my experience reads as follows:
- Deck Plans
- The Officers
- Remastered staterooms
- Grand Lobby
- Carinthia Lounge
- Kings Court
- Godiva @ Sir Samuel’s
- Tasting Room @ Sir Samuel’s
- The Verandah restaurant
- Commodore Club
- Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar
- Golden Lion
- Chart Room
- Churchill’s Cigar Lounge
- Queens Grill Restaurant
- Princess Grill Restaurant
- Britannia Restaurant
- Royal Court Theatre
- Queens Room
- Atlantic Room
- Canyon Ranch Spa
- Outside Decks
- Maritime Quest
- Mayfair Shops
- Clarendon Art Gallery
- Photo Gallery
- QM2 in Hamburg
QM2 arriving in Southampton on the 17th July taken by the very talented Andrew Sassoli-Walker
- Deck Plans
2. The Officers
I was delighted to see Captain Christopher Wells in charge of this voyage. He is extremely articulate and charismatic and always communicates his clear passion for his ship, he is also highly approachable. I also enjoy the fact that the ship gets to fly the Royal Navy’s Blue Ensign when he is Master of the ship, rather than the more usual Red Ensign of the British Merchant fleet. Captain Wells is able to do so as he is a Royal Naval Reserve captain and spends 2 weeks of every year with the Navy.
The Blue Ensign – The flag of the Royal Navy
3. Remastered Staterooms
My Britannia Balcony Stateroom
I was really impressed by my remastered stateroom and felt it closely matched the renderings, I particularly loved the new blue accent colours on the bed. The rooms feature new sofas, carpet, padded headboard and a large image of one of Cunard historic Head quarters and a large Samsung Widescreen TV. The bedside tables, desk, wardrobes have received a light refresh with new handles. The bathrooms have new shower heads and shower curtains but the remastering here has been very light. A Kettle has been added which I know is appreciated by some and utterly despised by others. I never got round to using it and it can easily be hidden away in a wardrobe should you desire.
An Image from one of Cunard’s historic offices and the new sofa.
Sky Sports News at sea what more can you want, the TV stations remain in standard definition but the moving map, showing the ships Speed and location is now in High Definition.
24- hour Complementary room service is of course on offer, with a choice of Hot and Cold items. This means that guests can of course still choose to have Tea or Coffee delivered to their room, instead of using the tea and coffee making facilities. Here is an example of the Room Service Menu.
Britannia Balcony before remastering.
I was more than delighted with my Britannia Balcony stateroom but for those of you with differing budgets, here is a brief overview of the other accommodation options available onboard.
Queens Grill Suites
The Queens Grill Suites include, Butler & Concierge Service, Bon Voyage Bottle of Champagne and Fresh Strawberries, Fresh Flowers, and a bar Stocked with Spirits, Wines and Soft Drinks. Pre-Dinner Canapés are delivered to your suite, Butler & Concierge service and In-Suite Dining from Queens Grill Menu and of course complementary 24 hour Room Service. Guests are allocated their own table in the exclusive Queens Grill Dining Room for the duration of their stay.
Princess Grill Suites
These Suites include, Concierge Service and In-Suite Dining from Princess Grill Menu. Strawberries and Fresh Flowers are provided. Complementary 24 hour Room Servie is of course on offer as it is in all Staerooms on QM2. Guests are allocated their own table in the Princess Grill Dining Room for the duration of their stay.
Britannia Club – Deck 12
These staterooms do not differ in size from the standard Britannia balcony staterooms. They retain their existing desk, bedside tables and wardrobes, although as in the standard cabins these have been modified with the new handles. The minor differences with the standard balcony staterooms include the wall behind the sofa being painted an Aubergine (Eggplant) colour and the addition of four smaller pictures, compared with the single larger one found in the standard staterooms. The headboard is padded all the way across and lacks the mirrored inserts. These staterooms have also had the curtains replaced and the lamps above the desk have been changed to match with those found on the bedside tables. (Despite the renderings this has not occurred in the standard staterooms.)
Britannia Club – 30 new staterooms on Deck 13
Despite being the same size as the other Britannia balcony staterooms, these brand new staterooms benefit from new look bathrooms, bedside tables, wardrobes, desk and mirror.New Desk and Mirror -Images below courtesy of Lesley SamuelsNew look bathroom, complete with glass shower screen (the shower curtains are gone).
New look cupboards and bedside tables
Britannia Sheltered Balcony Stateroom
The room itself is the same size and specification as that of a standard Britannia balcony/obstructed balcony stateroom. The only difference with these staterooms being the sheltered (enclosed) balcony, which is cut out from the superstructure of the ships hull. These cabins are located on the lower decks, which means a glass frontage would not be practical for a ship designed to cross the North Atlantic in all sea states at speed. Many guests actually find these balconies more practical on an Atlantic crossing, as unsurprisingly given their name they are more sheltered from the elements than the glass fronted balconies on the higher decks.
An example of a sheltered balcony on QM2
Britannia Single Stateroom – Deck 2
These nine staterooms have taken the place of what was part of the Casino. The Casino has been slightly reduced in size to accommodate these staterooms. They include a rectangular window, as found in the public rooms on deck 2. They also benefit from the new look hard furnishings and brand new bathrooms.
Britannia Single Stateroom – Deck 3
These six staterooms are located in an area of deck 3L that was occupied by the old Photography area which has now relocated to Deck 2. These feature the large circular windows found on deck 3L and again benefit from the new hard furnishings and new look bathrooms.
4. The remastered Grand Lobby and Corridors
The glass lifts in the Grand lobby are now gone in order to make way for the Kings Court transformation and it has really has opened up the space. I’ve got to admit that having seen the renderings of the lobby area I was a bit unsure of the carpet choices, but having seen them in person they are a bold and fantastic choice. Despite being inspired by designs from the old Queen Mary they look extremely contemporary. I always felt that compared to the other Queens the Grand lobby of QM2 looked very dated. The good news doesn’t stop there, the pot holes are thankfully no more.
I still must admit that I prefer the lobby/atrium area on Queen Elizabeth and Victoria but then again being Vista class ships (Cruise ships, disguised as Ocean liners) they are naturally designed around the importance of an impressive atrium area. Stephen Payne the Naval architect behind QM2 never originally wanted an atrium, but Carnival knowing that such features are expected on modern day ships insisted and after these recent modifications I think the space now works much better, feeling far grander.
If you contrast the images of the new look with the images I took back in 2014 I think most of you will agree that the improvements are very obvious. The impressive wide and grand corridors of Deck 2 and 3 now look even better for their new carpets. Although clearly these views are not universal. One online blogger said. “The carpets inside the lifts resembled a bloody murder, blueberry juice spillage and a load of sick while those adjacent to the lifts by Stairways B and C were quite hippy trippy man.” You can never please everyone but I thought they all looked really good, apart from the Stateroom corridor carpet which I felt was disappointing and I agree looks like it has faded on one side.
The lifts are no more, opening up the space
Stateroom corridor Carpet – To many people including myself this carpet is a little one sided.I very much enjoyed seeing the fairly recent addition of Cunard’s Freedom of the City of Liverpool in the corridor of the ship. A city which is still extremely proud of being “The Spiritual Home of Cunard Line”to quote Captain Wells.
The Grand lobby and Corridors before remastering
The glass lifts that used to run from the Grand Lobby into the Kings Court
The original Stateroom corrodor carpets which were significantly better
5. The all new Carinthia Lounge (replaces the Winter Garden) – Deck 7 Forward
I must start by saying that I seem to be one of the few people who didn’t hate the old Winter Garden. I could see what the designers were attempting to recreate, however I agree it was fairly soulless and had started to look a little tired. So it is out with the Winter Garden and taking its place is the Carinthia lounge. The best news about the change is that the Canyon Ranch Spa lectures are gone. One only knows why people wanted to spend their holiday reminded of their chronic arthritis and bad feet. For those of you who do, they have been relocated to Connexions, which is in the furthest corner of this great ocean liner.
Cunard have totally transformed this room into a truly vibrant space, instantly transforming it into one of the most popular areas on board. The area has 3 main zones. A bar area specialising in Vintage Ports, sadly my budget prevented me sampling the 1840 Ferreira at $4,445.00 a bottle. (They also offer a selection of Iberian wines by the glass.) The next zone is a relaxed lounge area, ideal for relaxing and listening to live music on an inclement sea day. (The Royal Court Theatre band performed twice daily with a varied set and went down brilliantly.) The final area is set out for enjoying the beautiful food on offer. In the morning you can benefit from beautiful breakfast treats, such as a lovely eggs Benedict’s, assorted pastries and some filled croissants. Later in the day you can enjoy a Club Sandwich, hot panini, topped flatbreads, mushroom filled crepes and delicious platters. The desserts are stunning as well and include Chocolate brownies, Double Chocolate Eclairs and gorgeously gooey Chocolate muffins. Ok I’m obsessed by Chocolate but there are numerous other delicious offerings including Raspberry compote. The food is all complimentary but the drinks from the bar including the Illy coffees are chargeable. The good news is that the Kings Court self-service machines are simply the other side of the doorway and offer, teas, coffee, iced water and a range of juices for free and you are more than welcome to bring them through.
RADA (The Royal Academy for the Dramatic Arts) still perform here of an evening and featured a late evening of Ghost Stories on our voyage, as well as a daytime performance of Pride and prejudice in the Royal Court Theatre.
The Bar Area
The Lounge Area
The Royal Court Theatre Orchestra with some Dixieland jazz.
The area of the Carinthia Lounge set up for food
A Club Sandwich and a Mushroom Crepe
Italian Meat and Cheese Platter
The Winter Garden as it was before being replaced by the Carinthia Lounge
6. Kings Court – Deck 7
I think it is fair to say that the Kings Court was by far the area on the ship that received the most criticism. To say that Cunard have totally transformed the space is an understatement. What was once described as a buffet that looked cosmetically like a Motorway services, even if the food was itself was far better. As you enter the Kings Court, you will find brand new sinks to wash your hands, a fantastic and welcome touch. Sadly apart from providing a nice refresh of your hands, the temperature of the water is far too cool to kill any Bacteria or viruses. All ships will suffer from Norovirus at some point in time and it is great to see Cunard investing in improved facilities for passengers, who in reality are 99.9% of the time responsible for bringing these viruses onboard. In my educated opinion on these matters it would be much more effective if Anti-bacterial soaps or Anti-viral gels could be added to these stations. Above all Cunard need to introduce hot water to these brilliant new wash stations; Heat is by far the best way of killing non-coated viruses like Norovirus, so the water temperature needs to be as hot as it can.
As you enter the Kings Court you will see that the lifts have been removed to create a really elegant and large marbled island service area, which prevents much of the confusion, congestion and chaos of the previous layout. This will surely make life much easier for those with physical disabilities. I would say that on the whole the food offering is fairly similar to what was previously offered, with some nice improvements. I must say I very much enjoyed my eggs being freshly prepared to order for me of a morning. If I have one slight criticism, the buffet breakfast items were more warm than hot, although they were very nicely cooked and I liked being able to make my own toast.
Even before the remastering Cunard had removed trays from the Kings Court. Personally I like the idea as it makes the whole place look less like a cafeteria and feel more like a restaurant. It does however result in people having to make multiple trips to the service stations, which to me is not an issue but for those with mobility issues it would be. It also resulted in the plates not being as hot as would be ideal as they needed to be carried with just a serviette. This obviously has a negative effect on keeping the food warm. I guess on a positive note it probably results in less food wastage as people can no longer get carried away, as many people do have eyes bigger than their stomach. Sadly some of us don’t have that problem 🙂
The Kings Court is not limited to the main island area, there are two further smaller service areas towards the aft of the ship, one of these being known as the Chefs Galley; Designed to allow the chef to be able to prepare your meal in front of you, it includes a LCD screen for close-up views of the food preparation. The Chefs Galley though is not usually used for cooking demonstrations but instead acts as a Pizza bar. Here you can order a pizza from 6pm, the choice of toppings being for you to decide. The Chefs galley also used to offer Pasta cooked fresh to order, however this has now relocated to the main buffet islands. I very much enjoyed all of the freshly cooked pastas I sampled from the Chef at this station.
The other service area at the aft is the location of the Speciality restaurant which rotates over the course of a crossing. It now has an entrance area where you are greeted and seated from. This currently consists of a rotation of Coriander (Indian), La Piazza (Italian) and Bamboo (Pan Asian) and Aztec (Mexican). This area requires a payment of $15 per person. Cunard literature talks about the introduction of an American Smokehouse as an additional rotation in this area, although this was yet to be introduced.
During the day at these two service areas there is more of a slant towards, Burgers, Hotdogs and slices of pizza. The area used for the speciality restaurant then turns into the area for the late night buffet. However one forum poster spoke to Executive Chef Nicholas Oldroyd when onboard “He told us that they are still working on the configurations in King’s Court and that the small food area I noticed this morning is going to become a pancake/waffle station and also serve pasta and pizzas at lunchtime beginning from the next voyage to leave Southampton. I also asked him about freshly made sandwiches and he pointed to an area in the main food court, where the fresh fruit is served at lunch time, that he said makes fresh sandwiches during afternoon tea service in King’s Court so whoever noted that they were disappointed that they couldn’t get a sandwich in The Chef’s Galley at lunch time, please note that the area and timing of where they are served has changed.”
Of an evening the tables in the entire Kings Court are dressed to create a more formal dining experience. You are free to dine in all but the speciality area free of charge.
A look at some of the produce on offer on the Main Island Buffet stations forward. At other times of the day you would also find a Carvery station and food freshly stir fried to order, an extensive salad collection was also on offer.
Service levels were the best I had seen in a ships lido, plates were cleared immediately and the whole area sparkled and demonstrated a very high level of cleanliness.
The main Kings Court dining area
Of an evening you will find the Pasta station by the main buffet island. Here you can watch the chef freshly prepare the pastas. I very much enjoyed what I sampled.
The Chefs Galley – Kings Court
Burger and Hotdogs in the day, the Subway style sandwich offering has been removed, with pizza’s cooked to your order from 6pm. It also hosts Chef demonstrations on select occasions.
Pizza cooked to order in the Chefs Galley after 6pm
The entrance to the Speciality dining area of the Kings Court of an Evening
The Kings Court is now dressed for evening service
Speciality Restaurant Menus in Kings Court
Coriander the Speciality Indian Evening in the Kings Court
La Piazza – Italian Speciality evening in the Kings Court
Bamboo – Pan Asian Speciality Night in the Kings Court.
QM2 will also see the introduction of a brand new American BBQ concept called Smokehouse.
Samples Smokehouse Menu:
» Smokehouse Signature Nachos
» Loaded Potato Skins
» Buffalo Style Chicken Wings
» Slow Cooked Smoked Chipotle Beef Brisket*
» Blackened Salmon
» Memphis Style Baby Back Ribs
» Buttermilk Fried Southern Fried Chicken
The fantastic brand new sink areas that stand at each end of the Kings Court. Cunard just need sort out the Water temperature.
The old Kings Court before the remastering
7. Godiva at Sir Samuel’s after remastering – Deck 3
Always the most underused of the Public bar areas, Sir Samuel’s has received the Godiva treatment. No longer a Wine bar, it is now classed by the crew as a dry bar, offering speciality coffees and hot chocolates at additional charge. The waiters are only too happy to get you a drink from the nearby Chart room however should you desire. I can confirm that the delicious Godiva desserts taste just as good as they look, although at an extra cost, unlike the free pastries that used to be on offer. My only criticism of Cunard in this refit is the lack of a dedicated Wine bar with Multiple by the glass offerings from regions across the world. The Glass House bar on P&O is a superb wine bar, offering exciting Wine flight choices, tasting plates and contemporary cuisine and this is something that would really add to Cunard line. The Godiva products are really good but so are those in Carinthia lounge and they are complimentary. I feel this venue is now a duplicate of Carinthia lounge but not as good as it lacks live music, atmosphere and dare I say it Wine.
Warm Godiva Triple Chocolate Brownie
8. The New Tasting room at Sir Samuel’s – Deck 3
Designed to offer a tailored venue for the onboard Wine tasting tutorials hosted by the Chief Sommelier. It feels a little out of place now that Sir Samuel’s is not a Wine Bar. The room is nicely fitted out with Audio Visual equipment to add to the experience.
Sir Samuel’s Wine Bar before the Godiva remastering
9. The Verandah Restaurant, formerly Todd English – Deck 8 Aft
One of the major changes is the Verandah restaurant replacing Todd English, which had been there since the ship entered service in 2004. The Verandah, a staple on the original Queens debuted on the current Queen Elizabeth, becoming so successful that it soon replaced Todd English on Queen Victoria. I’m sure some will miss Todd English but I for one am delighted to see the superb Verandah arrive on QM2. We enjoyed a superb meal here and the service was first class. The Maitre D’ of the restaurant was a most affable and charming man, having spent over 18 years with Cunard, starting out on the QE2. He was very keen to learn how we felt the product compared with that on the other Queens and how they could improve. All I can say is that it was every bit as good. This new menu on QM2 rolls out to the Verandah restaurants on the other Queens in late 2016. My only criticism was that the after dinner chocolates were not up to the indulgent standards of the chocolates we have received on the other Queens. It was well worth the $35 charge per head. They have sadly still not resolved the issue of guests walking through to access the outside deck.
Amuse bouche – Sardine Creme Brulee
Starter – Duck liver and Chicken Torchon, Fig Carpaccio, Espelette chilli, Candied hazelnuts
Starter – Frogs Legs Sucette, crisp shallots, caramalised black garlic
Amuse Bouche – Mushroom cappuccino
Main – Rack and Shoulder of Dorset Lamb, panisse fritters, nicoise tarpenade, smoked tomato chutney
Liquorish Magret of Chalosse Duck, Nave and orange fondant, yorkshire champagne rhubarb.
Galician Aged Beef Fillet – Escargots and Bone Marrow, Pont Neuf potatoes, romesco, marcona almonds
Amuse Bouche – Key Lime Pie
Hot Pistachio Souffle – Pomegranate and Rose scented Ice Cream
Rum au Baba, Creme chantilly, Demerara Rum shot
Cheese and artisan biscuits
After Dinner Chocolates
The Lunch time menu as it currently is
In the days before remastering the Verandah was Todd English, here are some images from my crossing in 2014.
10. The Commodore Club after the remastering – Deck 9
Very few changes here, apart from a very subtle carpet and fabrics refresh but it really didn’t need changing. The stunning model of QM2 still sits in pride of place behind the bar. A wonderful and sophisticated bar made even better for the Commodore’s cocktail selection, which you so must sample if you haven’t already. If you want a seat with a view, here is the place to be. The hot canapes of an evening also add to the premium feeling of this superb bar. My drink of choice in the Commodore Club would be the Chieftain of the Clan. The menu reads”As a dedicated collector of Briar pipes, Irving would have likely approved this re-imagining of his mid-morning coffee. The presentation was certainly dramatic and it tasted even better than it looked. The other Cocktail I tried was “Land of Hop and Glory”, described as “a quintessential rural pub experience in cocktail form” Once again service couldn’t be faulted and you immediately felt totally at home. I enjoyed a lovely conversation with a couple of New Yorker’s who regularly cross the Atlantic and love this bar and ship and what is noticeable is the passion people share for QM2.
The dramatic Chieftain of the Clan Commodore signature cocktail
The Land of Hop and Glory Signature Cocktail
11. Churchill’s Cigar Lounge after remastering
Significantly improved furnishings, a great place if you love a fine Cuban cigar and don’t mind coming out smelling like one.
Churchill’s Cigar Lounge before remastering
The place to be for stunning Champagne by the glass. A firm favourite of many a Curnarder, who make sure they allow themselves the time to work their way through all of the vintages on offer over the course of their voyage. It has lost the Zebra carpet in favour of one more in keeping with the Veuve Clicquot branding.
The Champagne Bar before remastering
13. The Golden Lion after remastering – Deck 2
This is the only room on the ship I felt looked better before the remastering. They have removed a carpet that looked quite sophisticated and replaced it with a faded one that looks like it has seen many years of service in a City boozer. I have yet to be able to confirm if it has been authentically aged at a huge expense with genuine beer spillage in a local corner pub. Thankfully not all is lost however, finally Cunard have introduced Cask Conditioned Hand pulled ales. They have two guest ales available at any one time and these changed over the course of our short voyage. Being a Real Ale enthusiast this is a real bonus, although I must admit they were a little flat even by Real Ale standards. They were however far superior to coming out of bottle. The food menu has been subtly remastered and is better than ever, I just can’t get enough of the lunches here and of course they remain free of charge.
Hand pulled Cask Ale now on offer in the Golden Lion
The New Golden Lion Menu
Beer Battered Atlantic Cod, Minted Mushy Peas, Chips and tartare sauce
Chicken tikka Masala, Saffron and Cardomen Basmati Rice, Onion Bhaji and Naan Bread
The Golden Lion before remastering
14. The Chart room after remastering – Deck 3
I love the Chart Room, like the Commodore it feels like a bar you wouldn’t find on any other ship. High ceilings, attractive decor, great conversation coupled with excellent live music. The seats are ridiculously comfortable and I just couldn’t help but stroke the new grey velour seats as if they were some kind of pet. I love the large charts on the wall and everything about the ambience of the room. If anywhere captivates the spirit of a transatlantic crossing it is here of an evening as the light fades.
15. The Chart Room before remastering
Queens Grill Restaurant after remastering – Deck 7 aft
I felt before the remastering the Queens Grill Restaurant failed to stand out as the premium dining room onboard. Thanks to this superb remastering it now really does and it is clear that Cunard have attempted to more obviously differentiate the Queens and Princess Grill from one another. The seats are extremely comfy and I can only imagine that the food is exquisite. Food can be flambeed at the table and guests are actively encouraged to order off menu.
Fancy a flambeed fillet steak, a wild mushroom risotto, a traditional Indian curry, Lobster for main course or for dessert a Baked Alaska, Crepes Suzettes, Bananas Foster or Strawberries Romanoff then just ask in advance. Cunard have modified the menus and to quote a forum poster.
“Overall, I felt the food was much improved with the quality of ingredients noticeably better and the cooking much sharper. As pointed out, ordering off menu is still available – albeit they do now insist on being given reasonable notice. I was told that Cunard have spent significantly on improving the Grills food – not before time in my view. My own view is that this has been money well spent and Grills dining is close to fulfilling the Cunard claim that it is “the finest at sea”.”
Steak Diane being prepared table-side in the new Queens Grill (Image Stewart Chiron)
Fresh Pasta dish prepared table-side in the new Queens Grill (Image: Stewart Chiron)
A delicious Banana Foster being prepared in the new Queens Grill (Image Stewart Chiron)
Queens Grill before remastering
16. Princess Grill after remastering – Deck 7 aft
The other Grills restaurant has received a more subtle remastering, which consists of new carpets and blinds. The food offering is of a significantly higher standard than the Britannia restaurant. Ordering off menu in the Princess Grill was once part and parcel of the experience but it now seems that that experience is now generally reserved for the Queens Grill, although according to recent email correspondence a limited amount is tolerated. Another clear attempt by Cunard to differentiate the two experiences.
Princess Grill before remastering
The Grills Lounge and Concierge Lounge
17. Britannia Restaurant after remastering – Deck 2 and 3
There have been few changes to the Britannia restaurant, apart from the impressive ceiling lighting being overhauled and the introduction of new carpets. The food offerings have been tweaked, although on the whole they retain a fairly traditional style, all be it with a few more contemporary twists here and there. Service levels were excellent from our waiter, who was only too delighted to accommodate requests. On one occasion he sourced a pate starter for one of my table guests which was not on the menu. Cunard don’t advertise an always available menu but it exists. A Chicken, Steak and Salmon are available but these are generally served without sauce, unless you have a kind waiter who can work their magic. I personally feel that the Captain’s table and the lower level of the upper tier of the restaurant are the best locations to be seated as they allow you to see the magnificent ceiling and all the tiers of the restaurant.
Britannia Club allows diners to have their own table for the duration of their voyage, meaning they can dine at anytime during restaurant hours. On the whole the menu is generally the same as that found in the main Britannia restaurant. The club areas are located to the aft of the restaurant and the setting is actually far less dramatic than the main part of the restaurant.
The Main Britannia restaurant
My view from the Captain’s seat
Deep fried Brie in Mushroom Crumb with a Cranberry Sauce
Steak Diane, Mushroom Cognac, Dijon Mustard Sauce, Pont Neuf Potatoes and Asparagus
Dark and White Chocolate Profiteroles
The big addition to the theatre is the new and stunning LCD screen which really adds to the experience when in use. Lighting and sound have been improved and the seats recovered. The evening entertainment included a guest group called the 4Tunes, who are made up from individuals from a West End musical theatre background. They were superb performing a range of hits including a brilliant version of Bohemian Rhapsody.
The 4tunes in action
Cunard have been introducing some new shows across the fleet. This is welcomed by regular guests who have already seen most of the existing shows. Rhythm of the Night and Broadway Rocks are the two new shows for QM2. Rhythm of the Night made great use of the new LCD screen and was an entertaining watch with some great performances from the Royal Cunard Singers and Dancers. It was energetic, vibrant, sexy and contemporary and not necessarily your traditional Cunard offering but that is not always a bad thing.
The new LCD screen in all it’s impressive glory
19. The Queen’s Room after remastering – Deck 2
Little has changed, the “Largest Ballroom at Sea” has an attractive and grand new carpet. It is still home to the excellent and complimentary afternoon tea. Those warm scones are my favourite, I always avoid the sandwiches so I can fit in an as many of them as possible. I also don’t really like tea, much to the distress of my tea obsessed family but thankfully a lovely pot of Coffee is available on request. Of an evening it plays host to the Captains Cocktail parties, although sadly there wasn’t one on this short voyage. Of a night the venue transforms into the ballroom and I have to watch on, wishing I could dance without causing significant injury to my dancing partner. One day I really must learn!
Afternoon Tea in the Queen’s Room
The Queens Room of an evening
20. The Casino after remastering – Deck 2
I’m not a Casino fan but if you are then I’m sure it is ok but obviously it is much smaller than those found on most American lines. It has got slightly smaller due to the installation of the new Single cabins but the difference isn’t as great as you might expect.
The Casino before remastering
21. G32 – Deck 2
People can no longer smoke in G32 which massively improves the experience for non-smokers like myself. The late night venue remains popular and always goes on to the very early hours on the crossings.
22. The Atlantic Room after remastering – Deck 11
I always found the Atlantic room rather ugly before but the remastering but it has been improved significantly.
The Atlantic Room before remastering
23. Illuminations – Decks 2 and 3
Sadly the attractive Illuminations Planetarium and the surrounding areas of the very front of the ship seem to have seen little attention during the refit. This is the only area of the ship that has not seen new carpets and disappointingly there are still some broken red seats in the planetarium area of the theatre. Still the only Planetarium at Sea.
The venue hostS the excellent Cunard Insight Lectures. Cunard always seems to excel in the quality of speakers they attract. Lord Mervyn King a former Governor of the Bank of England was a real highlight on my last crossing on QM2.
Planetarium shows are also available on sea days. Tickets for the planetarium shows are complimentary and can be collected from Connexions from 9am on the day on a first come first served basis. There were more showings than on my last crossing with up to 4 a day which meant that the performances were busy but tickets were easier to come by. Headsets were provided for the German-speaking guests onboard which resulted in all showings being in English.
The first show we saw was “To Space and Back”, which focussed more on the benefits of Space technology to life on Earth. I hadn’t seen this show before and it seemed like a newer show than some of the others I had previously seen. It was narrated by James May, formerly of Top Gear fame. I found it highly informative and made good use of the impressive dome of the Planetarium.
The largest library at sea is still very elegant still, although little has changed and the book line up has not been significantly refreshed. Computer work stations are now back in place, which will please some. The library was initially stocked by Ocean books, who also had the contract for the attached book shop. Sadly a few months ago the contract for this shop transferred to Harding’s, the company responsible for all of the other retail shops on board. The shop, once a paradise for Maritime and Cunard enthusiasts is now little more than an extra branch of the logo shop, featuring pens, pencils, note pads, mugs and just a couple of different books. Gone are the beautiful posters and the great collection of maritime books. Cunard please sort this out, this is most definitely a regression and not in any way an improvement. It is a sad loss to a line so proud of its history.
The Book Shop in the good old days
25. Canyon Ranch Spa – Deck 7 forward
Very little changed, a few lights have been replaced above the pool and the Spa pool totally scrubbed down. There are a few new pieces of additional Gym equipment in the fitness centre next door. There are rumours that it will receive significant enhancements sometime in 2018.
26. The Outside Decks
The remastered pool on Deck 6, the pool which once stood at the far end of the picture, complete with water guns has been replaced with the hot tub pictured, which is a definite improvement.
The Minnows Pool on Deck 6 before remastering
The Remastered Kennels
An increase in the number of kennels has resulted in the lack of public access to the aft of deck 12. I’m delighted to see a lamp post from the City of Liverpool, for the Dogs convenience. This lamp post which dates to 1916, once stood on the Pier Head right outside th Cunard building in Liverpool and was gifted to Cunard by the city council. For the American dogs onboard a New York fire hydrant has been provided by the city of New York. Both provide a really excellent link to Cunard’s rich maritime history.
The new deck space above the new Deck 13 Staterooms
This is open to the public on both port and sea days, as and when weather allows.
The Regatta Pool and Bar before they were removed for the new Deck 13 Staterooms during remastering. To be fair they were rarely used.
Lighting of the terraced aft open decks has all been refreshed and provides a nice effect on deck.
We were joined by a number of restaurant ships in Hamburg for our Sailaway. Sadly due to the late arrival of the CMA CGM Kerguelen, one of the worlds largest cargo ships, we couldn’t leave port, as the two ships would have been too large to safely pass each other in the River Elbe. This resulted in QM2 waiting until 1:25am to depart Hamburg.
The Terrace bar – Deck 8 Aft
Deck 11 – Grills Terrace
Pavillion Pool – Deck 12
The retractable roof stayed closed for the duration of our voyage due to inclement weather.
Deck 12 – Pavillion Pool Band Stand
The view of the funnel is now blocked by the new Britannia Club Balcony Rooms on Deck 13
Before the remastering
Observation Deck – Deck 11
The Bridge Viewing Room – Deck 12
This room is only open on Sea Days between 9am and 4:30pm.
The Lookout – Deck 13
The height of the Ship can be seen from the new Deck 13. We had to dock at the new terminal at Steinwerder in Hamburg, designed to take the new class of mega ships as dredging of the HafenCity Cruise terminal hadn’t yet been completed.
The Boardwalk Cafe – Deck 12 aft
Sadly this was not open on my voyage due to the weather but it is still present and this is how it looked when open on my voyage in 2014.
27. Maritime Quest
You can discover the rich history of Cunard as you explore the public decks. The Maritime Quest exhibition includes a number of interactive displays.
The Image of Samuel Cunard made up from a mosaic of Cunard Ocean liners
28. Connexions – The Internet Room
29. Mayfair Shops – Deck 3
Remastering has brought with it a number of new product lines.
30. The Clarendon Art gallery
A new carpet and some impressive art, I had my eye on the signed Lowry print.
31. Photo Gallery courtesy of Beyondships.com
32. QM2 in Hamburg
There has always been something truly special about a ship that can cross the Atlantic at up to 30 Knots, even in the roughest of Atlantic seas. A ship born from the history of the great Cunard ships, Mauretania, Carinthia, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and QE2. She has always had some very special public spaces onboard and has never once felt overcrowded; You can always find a quiet spot to be by yourself if you so desire.
There were however some issues and the ship as a whole was beginning to feel rather tired in a number of places. Kings Court being the main problem but to many the Winter Garden was also lacking and the pot holes in the main corridors continued to plague the ship despite the temporary repairs.
Cunard have well and truly sorted these issues, finding solutions far better than I could ever have envisaged. The Carinthia Lounge is a real joy, adding some brilliant food offerings, prepared freshly in front of you by a team of talented chefs. They have also managed to make the ship feel much more contemporary, yet in doing so have managed to add to the Art Deco charm, with the designs inspired by the original Queen Mary.
The Staterooms feel much more luxurious and the experience overall is far more indulgent. How many ships can draw the crowds that QM2 can? The answer is none. She proved this yet again on my voyage into Hamburg as the crowds flocked to look in awe at this magnificent vessel. There is something about Mary, and she looks even better now than she did back in 2004, with her superstructure gleaming once again and her Staterooms and Public Rooms modified. You can feel the pride of all the ships company in their newly remastered Queen and I feel it has upped everyone’s game onboard in the process.
My Voyage Score