Style: Stately home afloat
Scene: The world's waters - depends on time of year
Seen on Deck: Seasoned Cunard lovers in cruise casuals. Not seen on deck, anyone under 25 (any advance on 25 anyone?).
There is the polite clink of silver spoons against bone china and a hum of gentle conversation against the background of afternoon piano playing. Waiters in white jackets serve pots of tea, fluffy scones with snow drifts of cream and iced cakes to guest who sit at tables adorned with white cloths and starched napkins.
In an age when far too many super-ships resemble floating tower blocks with 'Vegas-inspired interiors the Queen Mary 2 harks back to the grand days of cruising. She looks like a ship, with enough open deck to stroll around and classic interiors that feature wood panelling and oil paintings and sweeping staircases just made for gliding down in evening attire.
Cunard line is good at keeping up traditions and those who patronise the cruise line like it that way. One dresses for dinner (Black Tie is required around three times a week on an average voyage), dinner seating times are set and there's a subtle but definite class structure on board. Those in the top suites (The Luxury Travel Bible
readers of course) have their own private table in the Queen's Grill and don't mix with the hoi polloi for meals. Although everybody it seems ends up in the Golden Lion Pub at some stage.
My companion, Miss Maureen, and I seem to have hurtled back in time and have taken on the persona of two gentlewomen of a certain class undertaking a grand voyage. We are only on the ship during its circumnavigation of Australia but we're pretending it is a circumnavigation of the globe requiring steamer trunks and months at sea just as it would have been in the days of the original Queen Mary. Although the 151,000-tonne QM2 is considerably larger than her earlier namesake (nearly twice the size of the original), a fact we have cause to remember during our morning constitutional around the ship's 600 metre teak Promenade Deck.
Despite its size and the number of passengers there is no shortage of liveried staff on hand with a crew of 1200 catering to the needs of up to 2600 passengers.
The stately Queen Mary it has to be said does cater to equally stately passengers; Miss Maureen and I are two of the youngest aboard. It puts a spring in our step when other passengers call us 'girls' and laugh at the speed with which we fly around the sizable ship. So many things to do, so little time ... such long corridors.
We had planned to spend much of our time rugged up in blankets relaxing in the wooden sun-loungers that line the decks, reading edifying novels and staring out at the silvery horizon but there is so much on offer we barely have moment to spare. There are bridge lessons and art classes, golf simulators, a mini tennis court, lectures, films, art auctions, a planetarium. You name it, you can probably do it aboard QM2. We even indulge in a little line dancing and almost end up in the talent show but decline the invitation because it clashes with cocktail hour.
When it comes to bubbles we're on the right ship, since 344 bottles of the stuff is consumed on board each day.
Now Miss Maureen is partial to a good bottle of champagne or two, so I am beginning to think she may be the one with aristocratic tendencies and I the mere lady-in-waiting. When it comes to bubbles we're on the right ship, since 344 bottles of the stuff is consumed on board each day. And I'm reliably informed by our cabin attendant that nearly a quarter of a million corks are popped on wine and champagne bottles aboard the ship each year, which, if lined up, would stretch to the top of Mt Everest. As we head to the Veuve Clicquot Champagne bar I am confident that with Miss Maureen aboard we'll reach the summit that little bit sooner.
There are endless places to imbibe a cocktail or two; The Commodore bar, the Winter Garden with its indoor fountain, the nightclub, The Pavilion bar, The Chart Room, The Golden Lion Pub but Churchill's with its dark wood, leather armchairs, cigar smoke and malt whiskey is probably the most traditional of them all. You can imagine Winston himself would have been quite at home.
Meal-wise the fare is as traditional as the decor. Think choices like grilled Scottish kipper or smoked haddock for breakfast and Chateaubriand or Duck a l 'Orange for dinner. However, those looking for variety can dine a la carte at the only Todd English restaurant on the high seas.
After dinner who could pass up the chance to foxtrot in the largest ballroom at sea? Not Miss Maureen it seems, so we head for the Queens Room. Luckily for Maureen the sexagenarian dance hosts are on hand to make all her dreams come true and help her rumba the night away (at this point Miss Maureen points out that to make all her dreams come true the dance host would have had to be about 50 years younger and look like George Clooney - but you can't have everything).
Our days pass in a whirl of activities, on-deck quoits and bracing walks. We also explore the library, reminiscent of libraries you find in English manor houses and lose each other amongst its dark wooden bookshelves; with more than 8000 hardbacks, 500 paperbacks and 200 audio books Queen Mary 2's library is the largest at sea.
Miss Maureen also dallies with the captain on a rare and privileged visit to the bridge while I head for the spa. The Canyon Ranch SpaClub has to be one of the most lavish spas at sea and the adjoining gym has treadmills with views of the ocean.
The highlight of our cruise has to be the show in the vast Royal Court Theatre which is as sparkly and glittery and lavish as you'd expect.There's a big band and a fantastic quartet of crooners bashing out show tunes and Frank Sinatra numbers in fine style.
But Queen Mary herself is not to be out-sparkled., after all her 2016 refurbishment was the most expensive refit for any ship in Cunard's 175 year history. The next morning we sail into Sydney Harbour in the dark; and the 'Queen Mary 2' sign near her funnel - which is, naturally, the largest illuminated ship name sign in maritime history - is lit up lit up like the crown jewels.
The ultimate tiara for the grandest queen of them.
The high seas
The 2249 sq. Ft, two level Grand Duplex.
|Most Indulgent Moment:
Spending time in the Canyon Ranch SpaClub
The private on-deck Jacuzzi on the Grills Terrace
|The Little Things:
Love those attentive dance hosts.
There are specially designed zones for kids from 2-17 yrs and a night nursery but frankly Granny goes on board QM2 to get away from the kids.
Formally smart, smartly casual
Break out the steamer trunk
|Dent in the platinum:
|Luxury Cruises Link: www.cunard.com
Hilary Doling 2/7/16