Since watching the first piece of steel
placed at a ceremony on July 4, 2002, I have observed with
excitement the magnificent Queen Mary 2 grow from dream to reality.
carrier of the Royal Mail and the flagship of the historic Cunard
Line is spectacular, to say the least. At long last on a windy and
rain-swept day, we boarded the liner in New York for an eight-day
sailing to three Caribbean islands.
I travel in a
wheelchair, so these comments are focused on how the ship handles
handicap issues. Boarding went very well, and the courteous staff
moved wheelchair passengers to the head of the line and assisted on
the gangway. We were on board within 45 minutes of arriving at the
As you view this
ship from land, you are struck by its enormous size. It is 150 tons
and dwarfs everything around it. This size compels the use of a
power wheelchair or scooter. Pushing a manual wheelchair from the
Commodore Club on Deck 9 to the Britannia dining room on Decks 2
and 3 would exhaust an NFL linebacker.
The public rooms of
the QM2 are generally accessible and are connected by wide
corridors. The two exceptions are the Queens Lounge Ballroom and
the G32 late-night dance club. They are located behind the
restaurant and require the use of special lifts for wheelchair
The major negative
issues for a wheelchair guest are that the midship elevators are
small and the companionways outside the staterooms are narrow. Each
day, going and coming from the cabin required four or five turns to
maneuver the power chair out of the cabin door. Once in the hall,
we were faced with an obstacle course of cleaning carts and vacuums
as we moved toward the elevator.
Having your spouse,
dressed for a formal night, move laundry bags on the way to dinner
took the edge off what should be an elegant evening.
Our room was a
handicap cabin, and the size was adequate. There was a roll-in
shower and an excellent array of grab bars in the bathroom. The
toilet seat was low and not comfortable for a disabled
Some new ships have
installed seats for aiding wheelchair swimmers to enter the pool;
we saw none on the QM2.
Deck 7 is a
wonderful teak deck that enabled me to completely circle the
outside of the ship. It is one-third-of-a-mile long and is
completely wheelchair-accessible. I loved motoring around this
deck, taking pictures as I went.
The ship is a
wonderful success as an ocean liner and will be the standard of the
industry for years to come. A travel professional, however, must
point out that the wheelchair traveler has some unique challenges
on this ship due to its size and design. It is unfortunate that the
largest passenger ship ever built has some of the smallest
elevators and narrowest cabin companionways on the seas.
who has been sailing on cruise ships since 1976, has been in a
wheelchair for 10 years and retired from his position as a judge in
2000. He and his wife, Eileen, maintain a Web site,
, where cruise passengers in wheelchairs can share their thoughts
about access on ships. Tuohey can be e-mailed at[email protected].