Joining Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 (www.cunard.com) during her annual World Cruise last year was a dream come true. In June 2016, Cunard’s luxury ocean liner upped its game even more by debuting a massive, $132 million retrofit and facelift (hey, she’s a queen), making one of the world’s only classic British luxury ocean liner experiences even more luxe and cinematic, with a touch of contemporary 21st-century sheen. I mean, it even has a 3D planetarium on board.
To sample this sublime experience and those upgrades, I boarded the ship in Shanghai, China for a week’s worth of QM2’s 2017, 188-night, 38-port World Cruise itinerary, with ports of call in Incheon and Busan, South Korea, and Nagasaki, Japan. And speaking of queens, I’d soon find “Friends of Dorothy” both on board and in those Asian cities.
Built at Saint-Nazaine, France’s Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard, between 2002-2003, QM2 embarked on its maiden voyage in 2004, from Southampton, England to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Several years later, the vessel made its first World Cruise.
Measuring 1,300 feet long and 236 feet high (keel to funnel) with 14 decks, QM2’s capacity is 2,705 passengers and 1,178 crew. Accommodations include a dozen stateroom categories including five duplex apartments (ranging between 1,566 and 2,249 square feet each), six penthouses, 737 Britannia Balconies and 281 interior staterooms.
I checked into my balcony stateroom on the eighth deck and quickly reviewed the daily printed program for a key bit of information, indicated at the upper right corner: if the evening’s dress code was “formal” or “informal.” In true British style, even “informal” requires a jacket and smart-casual button-down shirt/crew necks, nice pants, plus “brogues, loafers or boots” for men. Formal, meanwhile, represents full-tilt dress-toimpress James Bond mode, with tuxedo, or at the least a proper two-piece suit with tie, slacks, and shoes (upscale kilts are acceptable). Shorts and denim are strict no-no’s after 6 P.M., anywhere on the ship.
You will literally be shamed and relegated to your room on formal nights if you don’t dress the part. They don’t want anyone messing up the vibe, so be sure to check the “what to pack” section of Cunard’s website well in advance of your departure.
During the day, however, casual dress rules, although many passengers, middle-aged and up, during my voyage opted for crisp buttondowns, sweaters, and pressed polo or golf shirts.
One afternoon at 5 P.M, I checked out the daily LGBT gathering, “Friends of Dorothy” that usually takes place at the Commodore Club on Deck 9. Ispotted a well-dressed gay male couple in their 60s, butsince I was slumming it in a T-shirt and arrived solo, I got shy and skedaddled.
One thing I wasn’t shy about, every single day spent at sea, was jostling for a table at the Golden Lion Pub for lunch. Decked out (no pun intended, but let’s run with it) like a traditional UK pub gone nautical with views of the ocean churning past, brown-leather banquettes and wood tables aside the ship’s windows, the Golden Lion is rightly renowned for a delicious, crisp beer-batter fish and chips and tasty beer and cider selections (I particularly enjoyed the bottled Old Rosie cloudy cider, aged in oak barrels).