The grande dame Queen Mary II has a new spring in her step. Fresh from ago-million makeover, the world’s only ocean liner has new carpets (enough to cover the Wembley Stadium pitch five and a half times), artwork and soft furnishings. The biggest change though, which becomes apparent during the first meal of my crossing from Southampton to Brooklyn (some guests boarded two days earlier in Hamburg) is in the restaurants. The new-look, all-day buffet Kings Court feels more relaxed an
d inviting, and there’s a new Carinthia Lounge with an informal cafe for coffee and snacks. That’s not to say that any of the old-school glamour the 2,690 passengers love on this 17-storey behemoth has disappeared – far from it.
There are still four formal nights – including two with themed events in the super smart Queens Room, the largest shipboard ballroom in the world – where eveningwear is de rigueur and dancing takes place to a live orchestra playing big-band classics and country and western hits.
Afternoon tea is a ritual, with white-gloved waiters serving scones and delicate cucumber-sandwiches. And dinner at the Chef’s Galley is a fine-dining take on international gastronomy where the highly skilled cooks rotate menus every other evening (fresh pasta made to order in front of you one night; French-inspired Cajun and soul food the next). Even pampered pooches are well-looked after here, with 10 more kennels added and a master to attend to their every need.
Days blur into one with chocolate tastings in the Godiva bar and pub quizzes in the very English pub, the Golden Lion. RADA workshops and fascinating talks by experts -from historians to TV stars (actor Richard E Grant, singer Gregory Porter and fashion designer Zandra Rhodes have all been on board recently) take place in the beautiful Royal Court theatre.
There’s a cavernous ‘Illuminations’ planetarium, and the largest floating library in the world – with over 8,000 books – should satisfy even the most avid bibliophile, plus golf simulators, five swimming pools and a mini tennis court for sporty types. But for those who just want to soak up the hypnotic rolling seas and ocean sunsets, there’s nothing quite like watching the inky blue waters of the Atlantic turn teal as the US coastline draws near and the Statue of Liberty welcomes the ship to New York.