Inside Cunard’s £850m Queen Mary 2 – the longest, tallest and most expensive ocean liner


Travel writer Jo Kessel filmed her two-night voyage on one of the world’s most iconic ships. The footage shows her exclusive Princess Grill Suite (one of the ship’s highest-category cabins) and the perks that come with it. Plus, it has the inside scoop on the ship’s planetarium, its library with 10,000 books and a special cocktail called the ‘Transatlantic Love Affair’.

Luxury British cruise line Cunard is one of the world’s most prestigious and upmarket. Its flagship is the £850million Queen Mary 2, which is still the longest, tallest and most expensive liner ever built. 

It is also the world’s only ocean liner – designed to transport passengers across thousands of miles of wide, open Atlantic. All other vessels in the cruise industry are ships, not liners.

Cunard’s very first ocean liner was Britannia, built in 1840. Over the centuries there have been various incarnations with the 2,691-passenger Queen Mary 2 (QM2) being the most recent – its predecessor was the Queen Elizabeth 2. The line is constantly updating and refreshing and a few years ago the QM2 received a £90million facelift.

Sailing in any cabin on the QM2 is a bucket list experience. But its most exclusive accommodation are ‘Grill’ suites – deluxe cabins that come with their own VIP lounge, sun terrace and restaurant. Keen to see what staying in a top-dollar cabin on one of the world’s most iconic ships is like, I checked into a Princess Grill suite, hoping to capture it on camera.

Jo Kessel films her two-night voyage on Cunard's Queen Mary 2, which is still the longest, tallest and most expensive liner ever built

Jo Kessel films her two-night voyage on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, which is still the longest, tallest and most expensive liner ever built

Queen Mary 2 is the world¿s only ocean liner - designed to transport passengers across thousands of miles of wide, open Atlantic

Queen Mary 2 is the world’s only ocean liner – designed to transport passengers across thousands of miles of wide, open Atlantic

The video starts by exploring Queen Mary’s exteriors. The top deck on most cruise ships has a central swimming pool, but not on the QM2. While there are pools – five in total – its core open deck is dedicated to classic cruise games like quoits, shuffleboard and paddle tennis, all great fun to play.

The mainstay of Queen Mary is its famed seven-day transatlantic crossing between Southampton and New York. It’s for these that the ship has such a unique design, with a wider-than-normal wraparound promenade as well as a vast expanse on the top deck for passengers to stretch their legs.

Occasionally the ship does sail elsewhere. Mine was a two-night mini-cruise from Southampton to Hamburg. From there the ship continued to the Norwegian fjords before returning to Atlantic crossings.

One of five swimming pools on board the 2,691-passenger Queen Mary 2

One of five swimming pools on board the 2,691-passenger Queen Mary 2

The ship's core open deck is dedicated to classic cruise games such as quoits, shuffleboard (above) and paddle tennis. Jo says they're 'all great fun to play'

The ship’s core open deck is dedicated to classic cruise games such as quoits, shuffleboard (above) and paddle tennis. Jo says they’re ‘all great fun to play’

A few years ago the Queen Mary 2 received a £90million facelift, Jo reveals

A few years ago the Queen Mary 2 received a £90million facelift, Jo reveals 

The QM2 is a historic ship whose classic interiors hark back to a bygone era. The footage reveals the grand atrium’s sweeping staircases – it’s impossible not to channel your inner Kate Winslet as you float down it. Equally impressive is its vast wooden library, complete with 10,000 books. The late Queen Elizabeth II (who is the godmother of this ship) found this space particularly inspiring when she toured the vessel prior to naming it in 2004.

Back in Titanic’s time passengers sailed first class, second class or steerage. And while today even Queen Mary’s cheapest cabins are pretty classy, the top-end cabins really do offer a taste of how first-class might have been. Ditto my Princess Grill suite, which is where the video heads next. 

It’s unbelievably spacious, decorated in royal reds and blues, with a walk-in wardrobe and an oversized balcony. If only it came with Leonardo di Caprio! It does come with other perks, however, including access to an exclusive lounge, sun terrace and restaurant.

Jo describes her Princess Grill suite as ‘unbelievably spacious, decorated in royal reds and blues, with a walk-in wardrobe and an oversized balcony’ 

Jo says that the vast wooden library, complete with 10,000 books, is 'impressive'

Jo says that the vast wooden library, complete with 10,000 books, is ‘impressive’ 

Cunard has a reputation for being a glamorous, elegant line whose passengers love dressing for dinner and the film shows me getting glammed up for Gala night – it makes a pleasant change from jeans and a T-shirt. 

But would the exclusive restaurant reserved for Princess Grill suite guests really prove superior fine dining? The answer is a resounding yes. Sizzling in the frying pan was a rack of lamb, a speciality I’d had to pre-order earlier in the day. Not only was the artistry of it being prepared ‘a table’ a feast for the eyes, but the dish was a treat for the taste buds. It was melt-in-the-mouth superb; ditto the crepes Suzettes for dessert.

The remainder of the video offers a snapshot of the many activities available to make the most of a day at sea. On the schedule are dance classes galore – I tried the line-dancing one in the Queen’s ballroom, which really got the heart pumping. A sit-down was in order afterwards and the ship’s planetarium is the hottest ticket. It’s the largest at sea and is the perfect place to lie back and ponder not just our starry universe but also how incredible it is that a liner even has a planetarium!

Cocktails are also a Cunard classic. The most famed is the ‘Transatlantic Love Affair’ served in the Commodore Club. Ingredients include sherry, gin and prosecco. The piece de resistance is when the barman sets light to it. 

'Cunard has a reputation for being a glamorous, elegant line whose passengers love dressing for dinner,' says Jo

‘Cunard has a reputation for being a glamorous, elegant line whose passengers love dressing for dinner,’ says Jo 

The ship has a wall of fame featuring the Hollywood greats that have sailed on it (and its predecessors)

The ship has a wall of fame featuring the Hollywood greats that have sailed on it (and its predecessors)

Afternoon tea, pictured, is served by white-gloved waiters and accompanied by a harpist

Afternoon tea, pictured, is served by white-gloved waiters and accompanied by a harpist

Jo says that the ship's planetarium, pictured, is the 'perfect place to lie back and ponder not just our starry universe but also how incredible it is that a liner even has a planetarium'

Jo says that the ship’s planetarium, pictured, is the ‘perfect place to lie back and ponder not just our starry universe but also how incredible it is that a liner even has a planetarium’

TRAVEL FACTS

A two-night mini-cruise on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 sailing from Southampton on October 20, 2023, costs from £259pp in a balcony cabin and from £549pp in a Princess Grill Suite, price based on two sharing. Visit www.cunard.com or call 03453 550 300. 

Then there’s afternoon tea served by white-gloved waiters and accompanied by a harpist. The signature scones with clotted cream are divine.

There’s a romance about the Queen Mary 2 that no other ship captures. This is classic cruising at its finest and life on board often feels like a scene from a movie. Indeed, the ship has a wall of fame featuring the Hollywood greats that have sailed on it (and its predecessors) over the years, from Clark Gable to Elizabeth Taylor to Charlie Chaplin. Better still, this is a ship that knows how to party and that’s where the film ends, with some boogying in the nightclub followed by a high-octane Broadway-style theatre show.

Two nights is a good taster, but I was left wanting more. And the great news is that more is on the cards. Stay tuned for Cunard’s brand new ship Queen Anne, coming to our seas in May 2024.

For more videos from Jo, visit her YouTube channel, Go With Jo.  

QUEEN MARY 2 BY THE NUMBERS 

  • The Queen Mary 2 was built in 2004.
  • She measures 1,132ft (345m) in length, weighs 150,000 gross tonnes and has 14 passenger decks.
  • The QM2 can accommodate 2,691 guests in 1,360 cabins and there are 1,250 international crew members on board.
  • Cunard has been operating passenger ships on the North Atlantic since 1840.
  • There are currently three Cunard ships (Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria). Its fourth ship Queen Anne will enter service in May 2024.



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