Note: This article was originally written in 2002, before the Queen Mary 2 had entered service. Some of the comments are no longer relevant, nor do they necessarily reflect our opinions as they are today. We have kept this article on the site nevertheless, since it is an interesting reflection of the time before the QM2 took to the seas.
In June 8th 1998, Cunard announced that they would build a new ship for the transatlantic run between Southampton and New York. Thus far only known as ‘Project Queen Mary’, the news struck like a bomb among shipping companies and enthusiasts alike. For the first time since the 1960s, a new transatlantic liner would be built!
Cunard, which today is part of the giant of the cruising industry – the Carnival Corporation, was not very generous in their press release. The new liner would operate on the North Atlantic in the summer, and spend winter as a cruise ship, just like the QE2. It would measure about 84,000 gross tons and have a passenger capacity of 2,000 people. However, with the success of Carnival’s 101,000-ton Destiny and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s 137,000-ton Voyager of the Seas in mind, Cunard soon decided to increase the scale of their new project.
At first, not all believed that Cunard’s new ship would ever become reality. But today, the design has been decided upon and a building contract has been signed with the French yards of Chantiers de l’Atlantique, once builders of such glorious ships as Normandie and France. It has also been confirmed that the new liner will be named Queen Mary 2.
Queen Mary 2 will, when she enters service in early 2004, become the largest passenger ship ever at an astonishing 150,000 gross tons. At 1,132 feet, her length will easily eclipse even that of the 1,035 feet long Norway, which entered service as France in 1962 and has since then held the honours of being the longest passenger ship. Unlike other modern cruise ships, Queen Mary 2 has been designed for a 30 knot service speed and to cope with heavy seas, but she will also have some of the characteristics necessary for a cruise ship. For instance, in spite of her great size she will only draw 32 feet of water.
Outwardly, Queen Mary 2 will sport a liner-style appearance with the superstructure stepped back from the raked bow, leaving a lengthy forecastle above the bows. She will also have a 360 degrees, ‘wrap-around’ promenade deck suitable for classic relaxation in steamer chairs. The ship’s single funnel will be similar to that of the QE2. To me, this is a bit disappointing. Some early design ideas for Queen Mary 2 showed her with more funnels than just one. Wouldn’t it be great to see a new two- or even three-stacker take to the waves? Naturally, these additional funnels would be dummies, but they could have been used to house navigational equipment such as antennas, GPS etc. Of course, extra funnels would occupy valuable deck space, so it is not really plausible that Cunard ever considered this option very seriously. But, it would have been nice if the designer could have come up with a funnel that differed from the QE2’s. During the 30+ years that QE2 has been in service, her funnel has become somewhat of her trademark, in my opinion.
As for the new ship’s name, I think that Cunard could have done better than Queen Mary 2. Yes, the name is a great tribute to the marvellous original Queen Mary from 1936, but I do not like that number ‘2’ in the name. To me, Cunard would have been wise to choose a traditional Cunard name with an ‘-ia’ ending. This was done when the Vistafjord was renamed Caronia, and I think that Cunard should have continued this with their new ship as well. There are many famed names to choose from: Mauretania, Aquitania, Berengaria, Britannia – and that’s just naming a few!
Still, the designs released by Cunard show a beautiful ship. It is nice that Queen Mary 2 will sport a black hull – all too many ships today are painted white. With a black hull, the superstructure appears more balanced and proportional to me.
Internally, Queen Mary 2 will become a showcase in her own right. The 1,300-seat Main Dining Room will rise through three decks and span the ship’s full 135-foot width. With an overhead light well and a sweeping central staircase, one will undoubtedly be able to make a grand entrance for dinner. Other public amenities will include a live stage, 570-seat cinema, planetarium, a maritime museum and much more. On board catering facilities will include 8 galleys, 14 buffet outlets, 43 walk-in pantries and 14 bars. There will also be a forward lounge and suites and five aft duplex suites with double-height windows overlooking the stern and the bedroom in a sort of left arrangement. The nightclub will also be on twin levels overlooking the stern.
As for the ship’s staterooms, some 78% of these will be outside, and of these 72% will have private verandahs, all amidships and above the boat deck. Essentially that means about 56% of the accommodation will have verandahs. All cabins will be connected to the Internet, in addition to the public Computer Centre and Internet Café.
Furthermore, Queen Mary 2 will offer her passengers spa- and exercise facilities, a 5,200 square feet shopping area, a winter garden, five swimming pools (two outdoor, two indoor and one with a retractable glass roof) and much more. Throughout the ship, the decoration will be done largely in Art Deco and 1930s in reflection of the original Queen Mary.
On January 16th 2002, construction started in the shipyards of Chantiers de l’Atlantique in Saint Nazaire. Pamela Conover, Cunard Line’s president and chief operating officer pressed the button that initiated the cutting of the first steel for the new ship. There can hardly no longer be any doubts about that the ship will actually be built! When Cunard’s $780 million Queen Mary 2 enters service in 2004, she will probably be a dream to sail in. As the first newly commissioned transatlantic liner for a good 30 years, she will write history in the process.