Proud Mary

The 10 Coolest Things About the QM2

By: Theresa Norton Masek

SOUTHAMPTON, England By now, you’ve heard it’s the ship of superlatives. Bigger, longer, taller, etc. Now let’s take a closer look at the cool features introduced on the Queen Mary 2. Some are truly groundbreaking; others are just highly likeable amenities that will make six days in the North Atlantic a lot more pleasant.

From jetted bathtubs with a sea view to an honest-to-goodness library, from an over-the-top spa to a virtual-reality tour through the universe, these features will please your clients, if not cause their jaws to drop. Here are our picks for the 10 Coolest Things on the QM2.

1. Sit down in Illuminations Planetarium and recline in the upholstered chair. Look up at the dome. It lowers and you’re enveloped by the dark sky and glittery stars. Suddenly, the sky bursts into light and you’re moving on a virtual 20-minute, tour of the universe. Illuminations doesn’t open up to show the real night sky you have to head out on deck for that but offers a dazzling show that really makes you feel like you’re traveling on the Enterprise.

The 473-passenger room is also used for movies and lectures, but for the best seat at the planetarium show, grab a red chair centered under the dome.

2. The two-story Grand Duplexes have circular staircases that lead to round bedrooms and an elliptical trainer on a landing overlooking the sea. How cool is that? You can also recline in the whirlpool tub in the Balmoral and Sandringham duplexes and look out the window. Obviously, these two 2,249-square-foot accommodations are the most lavish onboard with a price tag to match (about $22,000 with early booking discounts for a six-day crossing). If your client can’t afford that, consider the smaller, 1,194-square-foot Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth suites they each have private access from a glass elevator. And if a standard inside is in your clients’ future, reassure them that it’s still a very roomy 194 square feet (and starts at just $1,499 including one-way air to or from London).

3. It might be April in the Northern Atlantic, but it feels like the South Sea Islands in the Winter Garden. The design is based on the Kew Gardens Conservatory but the look is full of palm fronds, wicker and a trickling waterfall. We’re also told there’s “aroma management” to make sure it smells nice. This is the spot for afternoon tea and classic concerts.

4. Can you say you’re Oxford-educated if you attend one of the QM2’s special lectures? Or a veteran of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts if you’ve attended one of its classes on the QM2? Well, either might be stretching the truth a bit, but both those esteemed organizations are part of the QM2’s onboard enrichment program, offered in a classroom complex called ConneXions.

5. Most cruise ships pay lip service to their libraries, but the QM2’s is a beauty. Surely, it’s about the largest library at sea, with rows of burled wood cabinets with glass doors holding no less than 8,000 hard-cover books, 500 paperbacks, 200 audio books, 100 CDs and six computers. Cunard promises a full-time librarian no waiting for a member of the cruise staff to show up for an hour! With leather sofas and armchairs, and newspapers from around the world, it’s an ideal place to while away an afternoon or two.

6. I didn’t have the chance to dine at the Todd English alternative restaurant, but I loved the circular entryway with a red, tufted round couch in the center, piled with fancy fringed and beribboned pillows. It’s a perfect place to wait for your reserved dining time. The classy gray-and-burgundy dining room has upholstered banquettes with more of the fringed pillows to tuck behind your back. A peek at a menu showed options might include Paella Olivacious, described as braised lobster, clams, mussels, fish and chicken in a chorizo broth with saffron-flavored, short-grained rice. Or how about butter-poached lobster with crispy sweetbreads, Vidalia onion Roquefort cream, peas and country ham. Yum. Even better, there’s no cover charge although reservations are required. By the way, English is a Boston restaurateur, TV chef and two-time James Beard winner.

7. Who can argue that the Canyon Ranch SpaClub isn’t one of the coolest things on the ship? The world-famous health resort opened its first seagoing spa in a 20,000-square-foot, two-deck space on QM2. The facility includes 24 treatment rooms, a great gym with TVs on all the treadmills and stair machines, and a bubbling thalossotherapy pool with built-in recliner lounges, neck fountains, a deluge waterfall and body massage jet benches. Prices aren’t outrageous and they’re discounted on port days, which makes sense. A 50-minute massage is $99 in port, $119 on sea days, while a 50-minute Mango Sugar Glo body scrub is $109 and $129.

8. It’s easy to fall under the nostalgic spell of Cunard’s 165 years of history, and the Maritime Quest is a self-guided tour through the decades. Passengers pick up a handset at the purser’s desk for an audio tour or a little foldout pamphlet that leads them to the displays throughout the ship. The photos and history from Cunard’s extensive archives depict crew life, the war years, celebrities, passenger diaries and more.

9. The QM2’s ballroom, the Queen’s Room, boasts the largest dance floor at sea, at 1,225 square feet. Two huge chandeliers hang in a coved ceiling over the parquet dance floor. The dance floor is adjacent to a band shell and surrounded on three sides by seating for 562 passengers.

10. You are here. Don’t laugh, but the signage on this massive ship is masterful. Maps are clear, easy to read and always right where they should be. The signage makes the massive ship easier to navigate, always a cool thing.