Her sleek, graceful lines and imposing girth are something to behold. A maneuverable city of shimmering lights and elegant spaces capable of housing thousands, designed specifically to shelter passengers as they cross the notoriously powerful North Atlantic. Her sumptuous public spaces, fine dining and refined atmosphere are something out of a long-dead age of self-respect and professionalism. This may sound increasingly familiar to readers of past Amidships posts, but there's one thing that is very different about this ocean liner.
She is the last one in active service as intended, a vestige of a bygone era.
She is the RMS Queen Mary 2.
Of course, not everyone is going to agree with my statement that she is the definitive ocean liner (aside from the Normandie), and I invite such disagreement. To me, however, there is something truly perfect about this particular liner - an atmosphere or act of seduction, for lack of a better definition - that is evident in even the tiniest of details. Having sailed for over a decade now, Queen Mary 2 has proved herself as a worthy addition to Cunard Line's heritage. Ironically, as the golden age of ocean travel and the Cunard name are but a shadow of their glorious former selves, the heartbeat still lingers. So long as a true ocean liner is in service, the legacy will remain - as will the prestige and enduring culture that the golden days brought about in some form or another. While things will never be the same as in the days of the original Queen Mary, Normandie and Andrea Doria, the Queen Mary 2 couldn't feel more like a beloved relative of those great ships. With tradition comes honour.
As for the vessel herself, she catches the eye and full attention of many a passerby wherever she sails - a similar response generated by the great liners of yesteryear. Regardless how one looks at it, the QM2, as she is lovingly nicknamed, respectfully takes us back to those days and couldn't be a more fitting torch-bearer. Her interiors (especially after a massive refit currently underway in Hamburg) are extraordinary - an observation that historian John Maxtone-Graham made regarding the Normandie that I believe is equally relevant here, decades later. A favourite space of mine - especially when refitted - is the impeccable Grand Lobby. Again a hallmark of liners past, this space was created under the guidance of architect Stephen Payne due to the fact that people expected it on a modern ocean liner worthy of the Cunard brand.
Unquestionably, it is, especially in the above renderings of the space's ongoing overhaul. One can picture Tallulah Bankhead, Fred Astaire or Marilyn Monroe descending the sweeping staircase and strolling past the grand piano. Other spaces on board are equally impressive - among them being the sweeping Commodore Club. An inviting bar built into the upper forward superstructure, it offers breathtaking views overlooking the vessel's sharp bow whilst encapsulating patrons within a half-moon shaped masterwork of panelling and nautical decor. A fantastic place for a cocktail and forward-facing views.
Then, there's the iconic Britannia Restaurant - the main dining venue on board. Featuring a classic domed, glass-panelled ceiling lighting fixture and a striking tapestry by Barbara Broekman, the restaurant is a favourite of many who have travelled on the QM2. Accompanied by a harpist, a string trio serenades diners amongst the champagne bubbles and tinkling of fine dinnerware. Other beautifully appointed spaces include the aft decks, offering the iconic sweeping view astern of the ship's massive wake and endless horizon, with each deck tiered increasingly forward to maximize scale and impact whilst being protected by windbreakers adapted from the RMS Queen Elizabeth 2. Peppered with loungers, pools, a live band and deck games, the aft of the Queen Mary 2 is a much-adored section of the ship.
Of course, when mentioning the currently ongoing refit or "Remastering" of Cunard's flagship, one would be ill-advised to not mention the Carinthia Lounge. This sleek, modern mingling space has taken the place of the Winter Garden - while lovingly executed, it rendered little to no foot traffic or utilization. Cunard was wise to redesign the large space and convert it into a glowing, comfortable lounge, complete with some of the most beautiful brass reliefs I've ever seen, right behind the bar counter. The shimmering, glitzy rendering offered by Cunard evokes a minimalistic but thoroughly "un-tacky" atmosphere, unlike that of the Winter Garden with its painted frescoes of foliage and neon wildlife.
On top of new spaces such as the Carinthia Lounge and Verandah (the latter replacing the Todd English restaurant), Cunard have committed to re-carpeting the entire vessel, replacing and updating all staterooms and, from a casual observer's perspective, completely cleaning, repairing and modernizing every square inch of the ship. This was a dry-docking that was greatly overdue - the North Atlantic is anything but a timid force of nature. All exterior decking is being replaced, and the entire hull is getting a much-needed blasting and repainting after so many years of slicing through the sea.
In conclusion, there is so very much one can say about the lasting legacy of the great liners. Cunard, through the Queen Mary 2, evidently aims to carry that legacy into the selfie-taking, aggressive and easily offended modern age. However, should the line keep her updated, reliable and worthy of the price of stepping onboard, then I have no doubts of the QM2 serving as a vestige and torch-bearer of a much-loved culture of travel for decades to come. Ever since first learning of the ship's existence as a child catching an Entertainment Tonight special about the ship, I felt drawn to her presence. To see Mary Hart perched upon the forepeak, exploring the luscious interiors of the then brand-new liner - I've never felt such an attraction to an atmosphere. Queen Mary 2 propelled me into a bygone era, and I am certain that the legacy of that era will be ever-stronger thanks to her.
For more information on RMS Queen Mary 2 or her sister ships, visit Cunard's website.
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Tony Strublic is a gifted, powerful artist whose work is both striking and full of essence. To see some of his sketch work or make an order, consult his personal website or Facebook page. QM2 and other liners covered by Amidships are featured.
Video Credits (in order): Cunard, CrossOceanic