SOUTHAMPTON, England — It is a makeover like few ships have seen.
The $132 million overhaul earlier this year of Cunard Line’s iconic Queen Mary 2 brought major changes to wide swaths of the vessel including eateries, lounges and suites. An entire new block of cabins was added. Every inch of the ship’s stately teak decks were sanded down and refinished.
USA TODAY got a peek at the revamped vessel in recent days on a sailing out of Southampton, England, and here we highlight five things we love about the vessel.
1. Revamped Grills suites. All 172 of the ship’s swanky Queens and Princess Grill suites received top-to-bottom overhauls during the ship’s makeover as did the exclusive restaurants that go with them. Already spacious, the suites now boast a much more stylish, contemporary design with crisp white-on-white bedding, neutral furnishings and luxurious carpeting inspired by the rugs on the original Queen Mary. The overhaul of the Grills restaurants brought its own striking new decor, improved layouts and far more tables for two — no more sitting with strangers during your cruise, unless that’s what you want. The Grills Lounge also has a sleek new look.
2. New cabins for solo travelers. The lack of rooms for singles on the Queen Mary 2 long has been a sore point for some Cunard fans, now rectified. As part of the makeover, the line carved out space for 15 cabins specifically designed for solo travelers — a first for the ship. Nine of the new rooms are on Deck 2 in an area that previously housed part of the ship’s casino (now significantly reduced in size). The other six single cabins are on Deck 3L. Due to their location on Deck 2, the former have higher-than-normal ceilings, decorated with illuminated coffers. Another 35 additional cabins for two were added to the top deck of the ship during the makeover.
3. New Carinthia Lounge. Call it the living room that the Queen Mary 2 never had. Located on Deck 7, the Carinthia Lounge is an elegant new space filled with comfortable sofas and low-back armchairs that offers a relaxing escape during the day and transforms into a stylish hideaway in the evenings. Decorated in neutral shades with gold and powder blue accents, the room features a bar serving specialty coffees along one wall and a small food station in another corner that serves up light breakfast and lunch items. This also is the spot for afternoon tea. Named after several former Cunard liners, the Carinthia takes the place of the Wintergarden, a wicker furniture-filled space that never quite worked as part of the Queen Mary 2’s original design.
4. New Verandah restaurant. Already popular on Cunard’s two other ships (Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria), this upscale, extra-charge eatery on Deck 8 serves up fine, contemporary French cuisine in a luscious setting. Named after famed restaurants on the original Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, it takes the place of the Todd English restaurant that debuted with the ship in 2004 and currently costs $49.95 per person for dinner, $20 for lunch. Main courses range from Wild Turbot en Papillote to Rack and Shoulder of Dorset Lamb.
5. Reconstructed Kings Court. One of the biggest flaws of the Queen Mary 2’s original design has been addressed with a massive makeover of Kings Court, the ship’s casual buffet eatery. A maze of broken-up spaces as originally conceived, the sprawling dining venue now is much more open and easy to navigate, thanks in part to the removal of two central elevators that cut through the area. Notably, Kings Court now boasts a spacious (and sleek) central food station zone that runs clear across the width of the vessel. Newly laid, Art Deco-inspired tile flooring, elegant seating areas with powder blue and cream chairs, and crisp lighting round out the fashionable, contemporary decor.
Gene Sloan, USA TODAY