Cunard’s QM2 and QE2 – Southampton, England

Queen of the High Seas

In 1840, Samuel Cunard secured the first contract to carry mail by steamship between Britain and North America, and to this day the line that bears his name remains the most recognized in the world. Flagship Queen Elizabeth 2, launched at the end of the 1960s, was the last great ocean liner built for the rough north Atlantic, and for more than 30 years was the only ship sailing that route on a regular schedule. The 1,791-passenger ship is a treasure, an anachronism of luxury, strength, and speed in an age of more prosaic cruise ships, delivering a nostalgic six-day crossing full of white-glove service, informal lectures, time spent in the spa or library, and much gazing out over the rail at the never-ending sea.

In 2003, QE2 sailed her last transatlantic season, replaced on the route by younger sibling Queen Mary 2. Billed as the largest, longest, widest, tallest passenger ship ever— more than twice the size of QE2 and more than three times the size of the legendary Titanic—QM2 is also the first real ocean liner built in more than three decades. The onboard ambience she’ll offer is more Y2K than fin de siècle, with a shipboard plane­tarium, a spa run by Canyon Ranch, and a restaurant overseen by chef/restaurateur Todd English. Expect a large dose of golden-age steamship aura mixed into the modernity, including a lounge designed to resemble London’s Kew Gardens, wooden deck chairs and thick blankets, and one of the original Queen Mary’s whistles mounted on her funnel, audible up to 10 miles away. You can literally hear the future coming.

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