Cunard transatlantic cruise review
By Victoria Gavin | 25 Jul 2016
A transatlantic crossing on Cunard’s iconic Queen Mary 2 allows you to experience the best of New York and sail the Atlantic in sumptuous style, discovers first-time cruiser Victoria Gavin
New York City’s lights are twinkling in the distance, the resident band is playing live and there’s a celebratory atmosphere on board Cunard‘s Queen Mary 2. After a whirlwind tour of the Big Apple, we’re waving farewell to the city that never sleeps and our sailaway party is in full swing.
Our time in Manhattan made us feel as though we were starring in a glitzy American rom com: shopping on Fifth Avenue; crossing the Brooklyn Bridge; exploring Central Park; and a palatial suite at the Peninsula hotel, although sadly without Bradley Cooper or Paul Rudd in tow. A full day of sightseeing began with a trip to the Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Center – the perfect place for an exceptional view of the city, including the spectacular Empire State Building in all its glory.
Following a boat trip to the Statue of Liberty and a walk down Wall Street, we passed sombrely through the World Trade Center site and paid our respects at the vast 9/11 Memorial pools. Later we set off down Fifth Avenue, admiring shop windows and becoming part of the unmistakable New York City atmosphere, and eventually find a traditional American family restaurant for dinner.
After 48 hours in New York it was time to board our ship, Queen Mary 2. Looking up at the red funnel from the cruise terminal, I was struck by the ship’s impressive size and timeless elegance. Stepping through its magnificent atrium we found our stateroom where our luggage was already waiting for us – our seven-night crossing from New York to Southampton had begun.
Our stateroom was spacious and had cleverly designed wardrobe space, a dressing table and seating area with sofa and coffee table. The bathroom was smart and compact, with all that we needed. As first time cruisers facing seven nights at sea, my friend Sally and I had some concerns about what we were going to do to pass the time. But there was so much on offer we had trouble fitting it all in, from entertainment, lectures and morning dance classes followed by afternoon tea dances and dancing in the Queens Room in the evening (you could dance until the early hours if you want to).
Queen Mary 2 is equipped with brilliant facilities: the Royal Court Theatre; Illuminations planetarium; the largest library at sea; and the luxurious Canyon Ranch SpaClub, where massage therapists are on hand to administer an array of luxurious treatments including aromatherapy massage and reflexology throughout the voyage. And we were thrilled to find out that treatment bookings include use of the spa for the whole day, where there’s an aqua therapy pool, Finnish and herbal saunas, steam room, whirlpool, ice fountain and powerful sensory showers.
Most evenings we dined in the Britannia Club Restaurant, which provides an excellent menu with a huge range to suit all tastes. Despite the staff preparing hundreds of meals, they were still able to adapt any dish to your own personal preference, serving sauces on the side, adding or removing various elements or even providing an entirely different alternative. For me, the beef Wellington with dauphinoise potatoes were a highlight, but all food we ate there was outstanding.
There is a vast selection of hot and cold food available at every lunch but we relaxed in to the cruise and became used to the idea that we could have a lie-in if we chose. We tended to opt for a late breakfast, skip lunch and look forward to the decadent afternoon tea, with its glorious selection of finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones and delectable pastries.
For those that want an even more sophisticated experience, guests can choose to enjoy tea in the Queens Room, which offers the same fantastic selection of sandwiches and cakes but with waiter service, although there’s nothing like being able to pop back to the buffet for just one more piece of passion fruit torte.
Relax and unwind
On board Queen Mary 2 there are five swimming pools and a surprising amount of outside space: walkers can be seen doing circuits around deck seven throughout the day and I’m happy to find out that three laps is one mile.
The thought of being thousands of miles from anything is daunting at times but the feeling of freeness and the ability to really forget all the stresses of everyday life as you look out over the ocean is incomparable.
You know you are well and truly in the middle of the Atlantic when all signs of habitation disappear. We were delighted then, when gazing out at the sparkling sea one afternoon, we spotted numerous dolphins leaping through the waves, and within seconds there were four or five pods swimming alongside us. It was a fantastic sight and a truly a magical moment.
Jazz things up
The evening entertainment was brilliant with the resident dance group providing fast-paced dance routines with stunning choreography and fabulous costumes, coupled with singing from some excellent singers. We also watch a mind reader, a fabulous comedian and a brilliant performance from jazz singer Gregory Porter during his onboard debut for Cunard’s first ever Jazz at Sea show.
What is amazing is that our crossing was fully booked yet you could walk around the ship and find several peaceful areas in which to relax. Many people spend time in their staterooms and there are so many restaurants, bars and lounges that there is always a choice between finding a quiet spot to read and enjoy the serenity of the ocean or taking part in the myriad activities available on board.
Queen Mary 2 is undergoing an extensive refit shortly. Improvements will include the addition of Cunard’s signature fine dining experience restaurant The Verandah; upgrades including 30 new Britannia Club Balcony staterooms and 15 Britannia Single staterooms; lavish enhancements to Queens and Princess Grill suites and restaurants; and the Winter Garden will become the elegant Carinthia Lounge. I would love to go back on board to see the enhancements – it’s already a beautiful ship and it will be interesting to see how Cunard improves on what is already near-perfection.
On the final evening of our cruise, we sipped cocktails as the sun gently fell towards the horizon and reflected of everything we’d experienced on board: relaxing in the spa; the delicious meals and excellent entertainment; the fresh sea air blowing away every care in the world. And I realised something that took me by surprise: I am now a cruise convert and cannot wait to plan my next voyage.
Where to stay
The Peninsula New York hotel located in Midtown Manhattan makes a plush base for a transatlantic cruise-and-stay. Combining classic luxury with contemporary elegance, it is renowned for its world-class service and attention to detail. We were amazed by the hotel’s lavish entrance, with its stunning chandelier, sweeping staircase and vibrant flower displays. A deluxe suite comes with a sitting room, study and dining area, two bathrooms, a dressing room, and generous double bedroom, stylishly decorated in cream and taupe. Breakfast is the epitome of luxury; freshly squeezed juices, an array of cereals and fruits, and an extensive selection of hot food, all served impeccably. Superior rooms start from £490 a night, excluding breakfast (newyork.peninsula.com).
GETTING THERE: A Britannia Balcony Stateroom booked with a Cunard Fare is available for £1,499pp including flights and transfers (cunard.co.uk). For more information on New York City, visit nycgo.com.
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