ong live the Queen. And, if Cunard
Line has its way, long live the buzz. That buzz about the world's
biggest passenger ship, reached a fever pitch here last week.
That's when the trump card of godmothers, Britain's Queen
Elizabeth II, named the ship during a pier-side ceremony attended
by more than 2,000 people.
Eighteen months ago, the Queen Mary 2's inaugural cruise sold
out like a rock concert: All the cabins were snapped up within 24
hours. Today, according to executives, bookings, especially for
regular transatlantic service, continue to move faster than
Even so, "There's there's a lot of pressure," Cunard's senior
vice president of sales and marketing, Deborah Natansohn, said in
an interview before the christening. "It is, I think, the most
anticipated ship. It's wonderful to see the excitement build and
the exposure and attention it's gotten."
Billboards all over Southampton welcomed the ship to its British
home port, and last week television crews roamed the enormous
vessel -- along with a select group of past Cunard passengers; the
line held a lottery to determine which former guests would be
allowed a sneak peek.
The QM2 hosted a short series of "friends and family" shakedown
cruises between its delivery in December and the sold-out Jan. 12
maiden voyage, but TravelWeekly.com was among the first in the
global media to get a preview of the new liner.
Despite the pomp and circumstance surrounding the inaugural of
the QM2 -- and the unprecedented size of the vessel -- it isn't a
fussy or an overly formal ship. It may cut an intimidating exterior
profile, but its interiors are inviting rather than
The last time TravelWeekly.com visited the QM2, it was under
construction in the Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard in France
and the guests walked down corridors illuminated by bare bulbs.
Now, every wall sconce is perfectly in place.
Agents who have seen the computerized renderings of the
interiors will find that they were a fairly accurate depiction of
the finished product.
The furnishings are clean and modern, with art-deco touches,
rectangular lamp shades and neutral colors. There are many nautical
influences in the design, particularly in the Commodore Club, which
is all dark wood and maritime elegance, right down to cocktail
tables inlaid with maps and views of the QM2's bow from the
windows. A model of the QM2 is mounted behind the bar.
"It's very classy, let's put it that way," said Cunard vice
president of sales Lee Robinson, who gave TravelWeekly.com an
informal tour of the ship.
Robinson's favorite cabin configuration was, not surprisingly,
the 2,249-square-foot, two-deck-high Balmoral Suite, with
two-deck-high windows looking out on the aft pool.
Beneath the Balmoral is the boldly red-curtained Todd English
restaurant. Once word spread on the shakedown cruises, Robinson
said, passengers stood in line for hours to get a table.
But the ambiance in the other "main" restaurants -- the
everyman's Britannia Restaurant and the junior suite-level Princess
Grill (the top-drawer Queens Grill was closed to viewers) -- seemed
just as pleasing. There were several tables for two in all the
restaurants, including the eateries in the lido-like Kings
Weighing in at 151,400 gross tons, the QM2 has more than enough
space to provide for all those small tables. The ship radiates
Ceilings are high, corridors are wide. The smallest staterooms
are 194 square feet. Passengers can roam rows of bookshelves in the
The ship's size means that trying to view the entire vessel in a
four-hour period is nearly impossible. But that could well be an
advantage for passengers on a six-day, transatlantic voyage who
might still be exploring the ship on Day 4.
To help keep the buzz alive, more ceremonies are scheduled. For
its foray to U.S. shores later this month, officials in Fort
Lauderdale, Fla., plan to write "Welcome Queen Mary 2" on a sandy
beach, and a U.S. Navy destroyer is to lead the QM2 into Port
Everglades. As many as 6,000 travel agents are expected to either
sail or tour the ship during its welcome weekend there.
More celebrations are planned for April in New York, when the
QM2 and her venerable sister ship, the Queen Elizabeth 2, will be
in port together for the first time.
Cunard finished up a series of sales seminars, and it plans to
continue its consumer and trade campaigns -- the "Can You Wait?"
theme can work just as well even though the ship has been
introduced, Natansohn said.
To contact reporter Rebecca Tobin, send e-mail to [email protected].
Old hat: Dressing for the queens
SOUTHAMPTON, England -- What hat does one wear to a
A naming ceremony featuring two queens doesn't happen every
year, so it seemed fitting that the very proper invitations to the
Queen Mary 2's inaugural events contained some special requests.
For example, it was politely suggested -- "presumed," actually --
that ladies at the naming ceremony wear a hat. Never mind that the
invitations added the hat was "not compulsory."
Cunard Line got into the act, too. "My sales force has a little
competition to see who will have the best hat," said Deborah
Natansohn, Cunard's senior vice president of sales.
And while many ladies did go bareheaded for the ceremony, which
featured a full orchestra and choir, fireworks and a flawless
christening by Queen Elizabeth II (in a hat, of course), hats
ranged from brightly colored to feathered to wide-brimmed.
Meanwhile, men had a similar conundrum. There were four
different categories of dress and an explanation on how military
members were to wear decorations (no more than two stars, no
riband). Civilian gentlemen also were invited to wear "black tie
with decorations." -- R.T.