Queen Anne's funnel lift
High style on the high seas
Award-winning travel writer Jonathan Thompson reflects on the elevated style on show on board Queen Mary 2 after a World sector voyage on board Cunard's famous flagship.
According to Cunard, its renowned White Star Service is “a commitment to ensuring each guest is pampered,” with staff going “above and beyond, exceeding expectations.” Or to put it simply, as one of Queen Mary 2’s white-gloved officers does as I board: “If we can, we will.”
It swiftly becomes apparent during my week aboard the famous ocean liner that, when it comes to high-end luxury, Queen Mary 2 both can and will.
The vessel herself is ridiculously stylish - all immaculate lines and impeccable pedigree - and that standard is reflected on each of her pristine decks, from the ornate art deco drama of the Britannia Restaurant to her flamboyant ballroom, the largest afloat. Even canine companions are given the White Star treatment here: assigned to spacious, luxury kennels (with the recent addition of a traditional British lamppost and New York fire hydrant to ensure they’ll want for nothing during their voyage).
In keeping with the Golden Age decor permeating Queen Mary 2’s cabins and corridors, there’s a smart dress code: “Informal” requires a blazer for gentlemen, while “Formal” requests full black tie, adding a pleasing elegance to proceedings.
Dinner jacket or no, each evening is best begun in the sleek Commodore Club at the front of the ship, toasting the sunset beyond. Here, the drinks menu includes an intriguing collection of seven new cocktails, each named for one of Cunard’s most distinguished Commodores, and designed to mirror an aspect of their personality. My personal favourite is ‘Over The Top’, a fragrant distillation of the spirit of Sir James Charles, a 1920’s Commodore noted for his extravagant dinner menus at sea, from roast oxen to gazelle surrounded by foie gras and garnished with peacock feathers.
There were plenty of things I’d anticipated from this, my first taste of a round-the-world voyage, but it’s fair to say they didn’t include one of the sharpest haircuts I’d ever received, an unexpected bonus. Ditto a bespoke personal training session on the ship’s bow, punching boxing pads as the ship sliced her way through the waves of the Indian Ocean below.
Nor was I anticipating the presentation of a lengthy menu of male-specific treatments at the outstanding on board spa, TARDIS-like in its expansive use of space, with 24 treatment rooms spread over two decks. And that’s before even mentioning the opportunities I didn’t have time to experience, from fencing classes to sommelier lessons. To summarize, when it comes to men’s lifestyle choices, Queen Mary 2 offers up an embarrassment of riches: everything any major city does - served up with added panache.
Pretty much everything on board, from the understated hum of the engines to the chords of the resident string trio, purrs elegance and finesse. You half expect a young Frank Sinatra or Fred Astaire - both Cunard regulars in their day - to emerge from a Cryo-Chamber on one of the upper decks and stroll past you at any moment.
Perhaps the term ‘White Star Service’ itself is the only misnomer about Queen Mary 2 - as everything I saw and experienced aboard the ship was decidedly gold star standard. It’s reassuring that, whatever happens back in a beleaguered post-Brexit UK, Cunard’s flagship continues to sail at the height of British elegance. This is a ship of superlatives, floating back to a golden age where glamour never fades.