Here Comes the Queen

Start planning now for 2004,
Artistic rendition of Queen Mary 2
if you want to be the first on your block to sail on the first true ocean liner (as opposed to cruise ship) to be built since the Queen Elizabeth 2. Cunard's new Queen Mary 2, scheduled to take over the New York-Southampton transatlantic route from the QE2 in 2004, will be a completely 21st century vessel, setting a new standard for "the only way to cross."

Although the new ship won't begin to sail until January 12, 2004, there is already a list of people waiting to reserve space. Four early cruises have been designated "maiden" voyages--but from a sentimental point of view, the fourth will be the best. That's set for April 25, 2004, when both ships will depart New York--QE2 on her final eastbound crossing and QM2 on her first, passing the torch from one era to another in transatlantic sea travel. At the end of the voyage, QE2 will begin another phase of her long life, cruising from Southampton.


Cunard opens its books for Queen Mary 2's inaugural season on August 1, 2002. Reserving now will save you 20 percent off the brochure prices. But a word of caution: Any vessel's first season should be approached with an open mind. Things can go wrong, no matter how wonderful the ship or the planning may be. Other than that, get excited. Right now the Maritime Museum in Paris has an exhibit about her. The French are even developing a Queen Mary rose.

Here's the scoop on this much-anticipated vessel. She will be 1,132 feet long, measure 237 feet high from keel to funnel and have a draft of 32 feet. At approximately 150,000 tons she is slated to become the largest passenger liner ever built. The QM2 will have 13 decks and every amenity imaginable, and Cunard will offer pre- and post- cruise hotel packages so travelers can enjoy time in New York and London.

With the famed Canyon Ranch Spa aboard, passengers can be pampered for the entire crossing, leaving them refreshed enough to enjoy the sights, the theater and shopping before flying home. Once again, you will be able to cruise to the Caribbean from New York, thanks to QM2's speed and stability. Also from New York in 2004, Cunard has slated two short cruises to nowhere, celebrating Mother's Day and the Fourth of July.

Almost three-fourths of the staterooms have balconies. Those cabins are spacious, at 248 sq. ft.,
with eight-foot-deep verandahs. Standard cabins will be 194 sq. ft. The luxury component includes a concierge floor of suites; duplexes with their own exercise area, a breathtaking two-story glass wall and a butler; and penthouses. All will be huge. When combined, they can be enormous, up to an unimaginable 5,000 square feet.

Thanks to computer-generated images with fabric and furniture designs, we can get a realistic impression of what the ship's interior will look like. Britannia, the main restaurant,
will soar three stories, with two dining levels and a grand curving staircase. A giant tapestry of a classic Cunard ship will hang at one end of the room--just one piece of the $5 million worth of art commissioned for the ship. A very high-tech vessel, QM2 will cost a whopping $800 million to build. Each stateroom will have interactive TV so passengers can book shore excursions and spa appointments, pay their bill and read email right from the cabin.

Theoretically, there will never be a line, and the service will be pure luxury. To that end, there will be one crew member for every two passengers. Wow!

Foodies rejoice: Food quality should be exemplary with the renowned Daniel Boulud as the QM2's consulting executive chef. Award-winning chef Todd English, of "Olives" fame, will have his own restaurant serving Mediterranean cuisine.

After dark, the King's Court, a daytime buffet venue, will morph like Cinderella's pumpkin into four distinct restaurants: Asian, Italian, the Carvery, and the Chef's Galley, where diners will watch and listen as the chef prepares the evening's dishes before they enjoy the final creation. The Golden Lion Pub returns, as do the Queens and Princess Grills for suite passengers.

Queen Mary 2 will have five pools, including a family/children's pool and play area, and a terrace pool limited to adults only. Another will be an all-weather pool with the return of the innovative magradome, first introduced on QE2.

British-trained nannies will be on hand for infant care. Other innovations include the first seagoing planetarium, and an expanded enrichment/education program called Cunard Connexions, envisioned as an open university at sea. A museum-quality historical audio tour will guide ship buffs through Cunard's history as a leader in transatlantic passenger travel for more than 150 years. Tried and true amenities include the library, business center, florist, kennel, state-of-the-art fitness facilities, golf driving range and putting green.

The largest dance floor afloat and a full dance orchestra highlight the new Queens Room.
Never fear--Cunard's traditional white-glove high tea will be served every afternoon promptly at 4 p.m. Evening entertainment will be varied, from specially written shows to Q32, a nightclub with staff in overalls and hard hats while images of the ship being built appear on the walls. One other point: To accommodate all those balconies, the shops, casino, theater, Queens Room and Britannia are relegated to Decks 2 and 3, below the cabins. Kings Court, the Grill restaurants and the Spa are on deck 7.

Imagine New England in the autumn aboard this magnificent new ship, or Carnival in Rio from Fort Lauderdale. But I still think transatlantic is best. I guess that's the romantic in me.

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