Peter Knego’s latest Sea Trek begins with a visit to the QUEEN MARY 2 on the ninth of her twenty three day, multi-million dollar transformation at the Blohm and Voss Shipyard in Hamburg with rare images, both inside and out, of the ship being rebuilt.
All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2016 unless otherwise noted.
Monday, June 6, 2016
After so many long flights in so few days, it was tempting to just lay low and not join my colleagues for dinner overlooking the River Elbe at the Clouds Restaurant atop the jagged glass facade of Hamburg’s Tanzende Turme building.
As always, I’m glad to have made the extra effort. It was wonderful catching up with friends old and new and admiring the view as much as the great food.
All the while, it was hard not to be transfixed by the massive but partially obscured form below us, that of the QUEEN MARY 2, which had come to the famed Blohm and Voss shipyard for a massive refit. Cranes as tall as skyscrapers surrounded the ship, loading containers full of supplies and building materials. As the late afternoon light faded, the glow of welders’ torches and flashlights became more vivid. It was an “amuse bouche” of things to come.
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
From just beyond the gates of Blohm and Voss, the towering form of the QM2 was like that of a sleeping giant, anesthetized and unconscious, as no less than 5,000 workers performed a complex surgical process, one that was both cosmetic and life extending.
Once inside, it was hard not to marvel at the historic yard, itself, which dates from 1877. Now mainly a maintenance and drydock facility that builds the occasional superyacht (including Adam Abramovich’s massive ECLIPSE), this yard was the birthplace of numerous ocean liners, from the then world’s largest VATERLAND (later U.S. Lines’ LEVIATHAN) and BISMARCK (later White Star’s MAJESTIC) of 1914 to the Blue Riband-winning EUROPA of 1928, the tragic WILHELM GUSTLOFF of 1937 and even the small but gorgeous WAPPEN VON HAMBURG of 1955 (now undergoing restoration as the AURORA in California). It was a ship lover’s hallowed ground, even without the mighty presence of the QUEEN MARY 2 looming above.
We were led to a kiosk near the stern of the ship to surrender our passports in exchange for our security passes. As we walked past, like a mantis disgorging an ant, a huge crane lowered a smaller crane from the top of the ship down to the quayside.
We donned hard hats and were led aboard via a makeshift gangway near the ship’s stern. There was no time to pause and take in the chasm below us but I snapped a few quick shots of the ship’s two port side pods in the process of being disassembled and “tuned up”.
We stepped into the main crew alleyway, which was a beehive of activity with supplies being loaded and workers racing in all directions. We headed up to the Grand Lobby where the panoramic elevators had just been removed.
As we would soon discover throughout the ship, the decks were stripped to the steel and bulkheads were covered in plastic.
For some clarity and perspective,, I am including the occasional rendering of key spaces as they will appear when the refit is finished.
The gargantuan project is being overseen by Carnival U.K.’s Alison Clixby, Director of Hotel Design and Projects and involves a number of contractors, including Trimline UK (Numerous deck areas and public rooms — their other clients include P&O Cruises, Princess, Viking River, etc.), McCue Marine (Queens, Princess and Veranda Grills — other clients include Thomson Cruises, numerous yachts, etc), MJM Group (Suites and Cabins — other clients include NCL), and several more. There are 1,200 crew members, 2,500 contractors and 1,500 Blohm and Voss yard workers toiling round the clock, night and day, on this historic transformation of the QM2.
We proceeded directly to the top of the ship where the basic framework for 35 new cabins on forward Deck 13 was nearing completion. When QM2 emerges from drydock, she will have 30 new Category A2 Club Balcony Staterooms and 5 Category IF Standard Insides installed here.
This is a view of the same space taken early in the ship’s career.
The two sports courts on forward Deck 13 will be moved aft and situated on either side of the base of the Deck 14 observation platform.
The underused wading pool and Jacuzzis on Deck 13 have been removed and will not be replaced.
On Deck 12, the Magrodome pool area is being completely resurfaced.
All of the teak on the ship’s outer decks is being sanded and re-caulked.
The QM2’s kennels are located on aft Deck 12 and carry a wide range of pets, from dogs and cats to ferrets. Per crossing, an upper berth kennel costs $800 and a lower berth $1,000. Cats require two upper kennels (one for the litter box) for a total of $1,600 and having a second pet in the same kennel costs an additional $800. At various times a day, attendants walk dogs on the top deck and there are daily visiting hours when guests can mingle with their pets. 10 new kennels are being added for a grand total of 22 and there will be a New York fire hydrant and a Liverpool lamp post for dogs‘ use. The kennel lounge area is also being reconfigured and will sport murals by Karen Katon Oprey, daughter of QM2’s Captain Kevin Oprey.
With some 300 containers’ worth of supplies, furniture and fittings being loaded onto the ship, no open deck space has been spared. Protective covering has been laid over the decking during the refurbishment.
The terrace on aft Deck 11, exclusive to Queens and Princess Grill guests, is being restored and will be getting new and/or refurbished deck furniture.
All Queens and Princess Grill Suites will be reconfigured during the drydocking period.
With so much of the accommodation needed to house contractors during the refit, suites were being remastered one at a time.
Queens Grill Suites are on Decks 9, 10 and 11 and measure approximately 506-square-feet. The one I had access to was not only being transformed but was also being used for training new staff.
When finished, the Queen’s Grill Suites will feature Cunard-inspired artwork, neutral surfaces and bold crimson accents.
All 381-square-foot Princess Suites on Deck 10 were also being stripped and reconfigured with new furnishings and soft fittings.
Here is an “in progress” view of Princess Suite 1026.
And here is what the Princess Suites will look like when their transformation is complete.
Many of the Britannia Club Cabins will also be transformed during the refit but all will not be complete until later in the 2016 season.
This is what the 248-square-foot Britannia Club Cabins will look like when finished.
And, just for old times’ sake, here is a view of a Britannia Club Cabin early in the QM2’s career.
The cocktail tables in most staterooms will stay on board but they will be getting freshened up after twelve years of heavy use.
From the Deck 8 terrace, the view over the fantail looked nothing short of organized chaos. Containers full of carpeting (some 40,150-square-meters’ worth) were being hauled on board as containers full of discarded furnishing (to make room for some 6,500 new pieces of loose furniture) were being hauled off.
In a nice tribute to Cunard’s past, a large portion of the newly woven (80 percent wool/20 percent nylon) carpet boasts patterns that were originally designed for the QUEEN MARY of 1936.
Located on aft Deck 8 with a view of the Terrace Pool, Todd English was an excellent extra-tariff specialty restaurant but its time at sea has now come to an end.
The space was undergoing a complete redo into the Verandah Restaurant, a Cunard-exclusive, extra-tariff French eatery.
Inspired by the Grills on the first QUEEN MARY and QUEEN ELIZABETH, Verandah Restaurants can also be found aboard QM2’s current fleetmates QUEEN VICTORIA and QUEEN ELIZABETH.
Up on forward Deck 9, one of my favorite spaces on any ship, the magnificent Commodore Club, had just received its new, deep blue carpeting.
From the Commodore Club, it was down to Deck 7, where the Canyon Ranch Spa begins an entire deck of public rooms. Only the Thalasso Pool area was remotely recognizable, and it was being completely redone with new teak framework, new deck surfacing and lighting.
Even the tilework in the Canyon Ranch was being replaced.
Directly aft of the Canyon Ranch, as welders’ torches sparked, saws buzzed and workmen’s hammers pounded away, one of QM2’s least adored venues, the Wintergarden, was being re-conceived into a lounge named Carinthia — after two of Cunard’s esteemed ships.
When built, the Wintergarden was intended as a tribute to the great winter gardens on ocean liners of the past. Somehow its frescoed ceiling trellises, wicker furnishings and flamboyant artwork never gained their intended following.
Other than the basic framework, nothing of the room’s original guise will remain.
The new Carinthia Lounge, which will sport a Regency-inspired look, will serve as a light breakfast and lunch venue, the go-to for elegant afternoon tea and an evening tapas and low key entertainment lounge.
For old time’s sake, here is another view of the now erstwhile Wintergarden.
The next space on Deck 7, the King’s Court buffet eatery, is also being expanded and completely revamped.
The King’s Court will boast new serving and cooking demonstration areas.
The dining areas in the King’s Court will also get a new look with cool, sophisticated colors and an early 1960s sense of style that seems to have taken a fond cue from ships like the EMPRESS OF CANADA and CANBERRA.
Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea. With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications. Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India. He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."