Cerebral Crossing, Part Two

To do or not to do during the course of a day as the newly remastered QUEEN MARY 2 makes a typical eastbound crossing.

Cunard Line

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All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2016 unless otherwise noted.

Wednesday, October 12 — Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Hull hole of calm.

The QUEEN MARY 2 rides so beautifully, it took a moment to realize we were actually at sea when awakened by room service with tray-upon-tray of breakfast indulgence.

A portion of our White Star brekky service.

Never order room service when hungry. With so many choices, it was hard to narrow it down to the essentials, so we just ticked off everything in sight before hanging the sign and heading off to dinner the prior evening: eggs over easy, veggie sausage, pork sausage, hash browns, an omelette, English muffins, bran muffins, yogurt, fruit salad, English Breakfast tea (with all the trimmings), honey, black currant preserves, etc. We had to use both beds and our cocktail table to properly tackle the spread on our first morning. For the rest of the week, as our waistlines expanded, we were far more restrained and actually even skipped breakfast to allow more space for lunch and afternoon tea.

Sir Samuels, facing starboard.

If we had time before the first lecture, we would head to Sir Samuels on starboard Deck 3 for a specialty coffee.


Sir Samuels also offers up a full menu of Godiva chocolates for sale.

Cappuccino versus chocolate.

At a reasonable four for $6.00, why not augment a cappuccino with a selection of Belgian chocolate?

Macchiato mandate..

Even more than the cappuccini, those Illy espresso macchiatos invariably provided the right charge.

Stephen Cole at the podium.

Typically, our first lecture began at 10:00 AM. The celebrity keynote speaker of the week was U.K. journalist Stephen Cole, whose “Isis: The Shadow Of The Caliphate”, “Open Borders: The Problem Or The Solution?” and “The European Union: The Failed Experiment” delved into some of today’s more sobering topics.

Supersonic speaker.

Other Cunard Insights speakers included Dr. Helen Doe (subjects from Nelson’s Navy to Isambord Kingdom Brunel‘s shipping empire), Astronomer Susan Bowler (“In Search of Extra-Solar Planets”, “Hunting For Aliens”, “The Birth and Death of the Universe”, etc.), NY Times journalist Elizabeth Becker (who used no visual aids but nonetheless presented a riveting talk about Pol Pot in addition to offering various travel and tourism insights) and former Concorde Captain Tim Orchard, who presented a trio of lectures about his supersonic subject.

When ceilings descend.

When not used for lectures and movie screenings, which included a number of current American and British films (and even Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe’s 1960 swan song “The Misfits”), Illuminations takes on the role of planetarium when its ceiling dome is lowered over the center portion of the room.

Queueing for the Planetarium.

With only 150 seats that lean back underneath the dome’s stellar projections, access to the afternoon shows (usually three per day) is controlled by issuing first-come, first-served tickets each morning at 9:00 AM in the Cunard Connexions meeting room complex directly below Illuminations on Deck 2.

When Planets Collide.

Two programs were offered on our crossing: “When Planets Collide” and “Mission: Asteroid”.

Royal Court Theater, facing starboard from Deck 3.

The variety and scope of the enlightenment and entertainment offered in the Royal Court each day was also most impressive. In addition to the lectures, there were recitals by virtuoso Russian pianist Mikhail Shilyaev and…

Et tu Brute?

…performances by the five-member Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) ensemble. Their “Shakespearean Death Scenes” was esprcially well executed.

Jane Austen in the Royal Court.

The RADA troupe also paid homage to Jane Austen with a performance of “Pride and Prejudice”. In addition, they hosted workshops and demonstrations in the Queens Room and other venues throughout the week.

Britannia Restaurant, facing forward from port Deck 3 terrace.

Generally, we would take lunch after the 11:00 AM lecture. Several times, we opted for the open seating, full service experience in the gorgeous Britannia. Each day, with one exception, because of our eastbound course, we lost an hour at noon, so it would automatically morph into 1:00 PM when the doors opened.

Britannia Restaurant table setting.

As noted in the prior post, the Britannia is an impressive, commanding space whose detailing lends itself to repeated scrutiny. The table settings are also quite lovely, with their silver plate cutlery, Wedgwood china, fresh flowers and linen napkins.

Savory pies in the Britannia.

Food on the QM2 tends to be hearty with a nod to the British palate that often features delicious baked pies (savory and sweet), plenty of meat and potatoes and a pleasing variety of fish, soups (warm and cold), cooked veggies and salads.

Where tapestry meets skylight.

One afternoon, we were lucky enough to score the two-top table centered directly underneath the stunning tapestry of QM2 at New York and that domed skylight.

The Golden Lion Pub, facing aft. Photo by Mike Masino 2016.

Another preferred lunch option was the Golden Lion Pub on Deck 2, which, along with the Carinthia Lounge on Deck 7 was probably the most busy and constantly patronized space on the ship, day and night. Had we not deferred our first visit until mid-crossing, we would have lunched there more than just twice. The Golden Lion is also the “go-to” for the latest in soccer and other sports broadcasts, BINGO, quizzes and karaoke.

Battered cod versus chicken tikka masala in the pub.

There are several classic pub choices like shepherd’s pie but we were particularly impressed with the crispy, piping hot fish and chips (with trimmings like tartar sauce and malt vinegar) and the wickedly good, spicy chicken tikka masala.

Deck 3 passage, facing forward.

Inevitably, we would spend time between lectures, food and tea wandering about and savoring the finer details of the QUEEN. There are interesting panels lining the midships passage on Decks 2 and 3. One set depicts the four seasons.

Deck 3 passage, facing aft.
Verre eglomisé in midships passage.

The gilded glass or verre eglomisé panels featuring the zodiac and the seven continents towards the forward end of these passageways are especially impressive.

Homer Simpson in the works.

In one of the bronze-style panel sets depicting the passage of time, there is a small caricature of Homer Simpson, which is the designer’s tribute to the late John Maxtone-Graham, ocean liner historian emeritus and father of Ian, one of the series’ writers.

Stephen Card’s MAURETANIA ii.

Throughout the ship, there are countless morsels waiting to be devoured by ocean liner fans, such as the stellar paintings of the “Green Goddess” CARONIA and the second MAURETANIA by Stephen Card. Other fine maritime artists (including Gordon Bauwens whose LUSITANIA encountering MAURETANIA is one of the most superb examples) are also well represented in the lobbies and stairtowers.

On deck with Robert Montgomery, Loretta Young, Bob Hope and Alexis Smith.

Certain areas sport displays touting Cunard’s heritage. While they may not be the actual objects and treasures encountered on the Heritage Trail aboard the lamented QE2, they contain some cultural and historic nuggets that make walks between, say, Illuminations and the Royal Court Theater, all the more delightful.

Sea chess.

Unlike many large ships, the QM2 is brimming with quiet corners where one can read a book, ponder a game of chess or just stare out at the sea.

Totally random Art Deco carpet shot.

Everywhere, there are gorgeous new carpets to tread, many boasting patterns inspired by those originally commissioned for the QUEEN MARY of 1936.

Port Promenade, facing aft.

Throughout the day, every day, we would spend time walking around that magnificent promenade on Deck 7. Another gift to those who love the very essence of an ocean liner, the promenades are lined with teak and boast gorgeous cushioned teak deck chairs.

Majestic face.

The forward portion of the promenade has both an enclosed walkway and an open area at the base of the QM2’s finely sculpted superstructure.

Queens Room, facing port.

We made sure to attend the afternoon tea in the Queens Room, which is used throughout the day for dance lessons, quizzes, workshops and lectures.

Tea time in the Queens Room.

At precisely 4:00 PM, guests flow in, take a seat and succumb to the strains of a pianist or harp player while staff circulate with silver trays offering up sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and delicious cakes.

Reflections in the Queens Room.

The Queens Room is a rounded, domed space brimming with pleasing details that lend themselves to a tea-fueled scrutiny.

Carinthia Lounge, facing aft.
Cookies and sweets in the Carinthia.

When we could not make it to the Queens Room, our alternate choice was the Carinthia Lounge, where tea is also available, along with some delicious self-service cookies and sweets.

Queens Grill tea.

Perhaps the ultimate tea is served in the exclusive Queens Grill Lounge, whose large windows peer out onto the starboard promenade.

Full rainbow.
Cumulus fantail.

We were graced with practically perfect weather throughout the crossing, save for the last day, when it rained, resulting in intermittent rainbows and reflecting puddles.

Leaning into the breeze.

At their worst, the sea conditions peaked at Force 6 on the Beaufort Scale, which had no tangible effect on how the QM2 rode. She was as steady as a rock, leaving my sea legs untested.

“Queen Mary 2”.

The irony of being on a ship that intentionally lacks all the distractions (water slides, climbing walls, roller skating and pool games etc.) of most of today’s mass market behemoths was trying to find time to relax between the non-stop enrichment and cultural programs.

Midships teak.
Facing forward from the funnel platform.

It was the quiet moments on deck, marveling at the myriad architectural features that made this crossing on the second MARY so unique. As with her interiors, photos just don’t do the scale of her freshly scrubbed teak decks and glimmering deck houses justice.

Deck 14, starboard side.

High winds often kept access to the Deck 14 viewing areas off limits but on a few days, the following winds made it seem as though the ship were at a standstill.

Whistles and smolder.

At noon, the whistles would blast in succession, saving the best for last with the original QUEEN MARY’s restored Tyfon rumbling up the ghosts of the Atlantic. Even without the whistles bellowing, it was hard to take my eyes away from that quietly smoldering, black and deep orange funnel.

Games deck.

The games deck area on Deck 13 offers a choice of shuffleboard, a golf driving range and deck tennis.

Shuffleboard time.
Tennis anyone?

I let Mike talk me into a round or two of paddle tennis and some shuffleboard but he probably came to regret it.

Forward Deck 11 observation terrace.

More perks for people who actually enjoy being on board a ship include the glass-fronted Lookout on forward Deck 13 and the wonderful open terrace overlooking the bow on Deck 11.

Port wing sunset.

Few views can match that of the QM2’s mighty superstructure towering over the sea from the wings of Deck 11.

Bridge Viewing Area, facing starboard.

On the one day when the Deck 11 wings were closed due to high winds, we discovered the Bridge Viewing Area on Deck 12, which peers into the QM2’s wheelhouse.

Commodore Club afternoon.

Another hideaway that we never got to haunt quite enough is the handsome Commodore Club, which provides stunning views over the bow from the vantage of Deck 9.

Goal posts and deckhouses.

At the aft end of the superstructure, the QM2‘s uptakes bear more than a casual resemblance to the goal post funnels of Holland America Line’s SS ROTTERDAM of 1959, a favorite of QM2’s knighted architect, Stephen Payne.

From Grill Terrace to the sea.
Stern wake.

And just a bit further aft and down from the Grill Terrace on aft Deck 11 or the Terrace Pool on aft Deck 8, there were wonderful views over the ship’s terraced stern and wake.

Rays and funnel.

And so it went each and every day, until the onset of night…

End of Part Two

Click Here For Part Three

Special Thanks: Jackie Chase, Meryl Press

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

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."
Peter Knego

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