She’s big and bold and beautiful. She turns heads wherever she goes, and it’s not just men who are ogling her. Women are equally fascinated, and the cameras are clicking like crazy.
From certain perspectives around Sydney’s Circular Quay, Queen Mary 2 – the flagship of the Cunard Line – almost dwarfs the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
As we stand with other tourists and take in the sight of her, my daughter Jess googles “Titanic v Queen Mary 2”. After all, she can’t possibly be as big as Titanic, can she?
I’m not keen to dwell on such comparisons, as we’re about to board this magnificent ship to spend a day and two nights sailing from Sydney to Brisbane, just a small leg of the ship’s second circumnavigation of Australia (the first was in 2012), as part of her world tour.
But the statistics, it must be said, are pretty stunning. My press kit doesn’t give comparisons with Titanic, but it does tell me that at 151,400-tonnes Queen Mary 2 is “almost twice as large as the original Queen Mary and more than double the size of the legendary Queen Elizabeth 2”.
She is the largest ship ever to visit Australia, and at 345 metres long is about two-thirds the length of the harbour bridge which arches above her 17 decks as she sits at Circular Quay – or about the length of four football fields.
Soon we join the 2600-odd passengers – mostly British and Australians – and 1250 crew on board the ship. It’s all a bit daunting at first, and I never seem to find the right elevator to arrive near our cabin (sorry…stateroom) door on Deck 11. It’s really like living in a small town, with that many people. The only immediate difference is that there seem to be very few children, and the demographic is….well, older. But if first impressions count…the Grand Lobby makes a definite impact.
On the first night, we settle in with a glass of bubbles on our private balcony, high above the lifeboats. We’re still in port, with a view of Sydney’s historic Rocks area, but the weather’s a bit grey and drizzly so it’s no hardship to head for the bar and dinner.
During dinner in the Britannia Restaurant, we set sail. It’s 9pm and suddenly we’re gently cruising past the illuminated harbour bridge and moving out into the darkness.
While we sleep, we turn north and by morning we’re well up the New South Wales coast. Over a buffet breakfast in the Kings Court (there are regal names at every turn), we gaze out on the ocean. No land in sight.
With so little time, we can do no more than get a taste of this massive ship. Following the example of the many passengers we watched over breakfast, we walk the teak deck – two laps is a little more than 1km – to get some exercise. It’s windy and most of the deck chairs are either folded up or empty.
There are 14 decks to explore (the other three are crew quarters and back-of-house). Apart from the staterooms and suites, the ship also has 10 restaurants, 14 bars and clubs, five swimming pools, a library with more than 8500 books, a few shops, two golf simulators and a putting green, the world’s only floating planetarium, a half-size basketball court, and a whole lot more. Yes, there’s even quoits.
We gaze down from the top deck on beautiful swimming pools on the aft decks. Sadly, they are not for the likes of us! These are reserved for the use of passengers booked in Queens and Princess Suites (as are some of the restaurants).
There’s also the Canyon Ranch Spa Club, offering massage and beauty treatments, and the bookings are heavy as our second and final evening aboard is the night of the Black & White Ball, and everyone’s keen to look their glowing best.
Yes, dressing for dinner is still a requirement, even in these days of relaxed dress codes. On the Queen Mary 2, guests wishing to dress casually are asked to confine their dining to the buffet and their drinking to the Winter Garden bar “out of respect for their fellow guests”. In case you miss it in the daily information newsletter in your cabin, this request is broadcast throughout the ship before dinner every night.
Three nights a week, the dress code is “formal” – dinner jacket, tuxedo or dark suit with tie for gentlemen (if you don’t have your own, you can hire one) and evening or cocktail dress for ladies. Informal means no tie for the men and “stylish separates” for the women.
After a big day of prowling the ship from end to end, we glam up in our best black and white and head for dinner at Todd English. Although we’d never heard of him, Todd English is an American celebrity chef – and we certainly weren’t disappointed! (More on this in an upcoming blog).
When dawn broke, we were sailing up the Brisbane River. But just a little way…this ship is so big it can’t actually get up the river, so disembarking is in a temporary arrival facility quite a long drive from the city centre. It’s a minor inconvenience really, if not the best first impression of the city to passengers who’ve not been here before.
If you live in one of Australia’s major ports and would like to get a glimpse at this amazing ship, Queen Mary 2 will be in the following places in the near future: Darwin (Feb 27), Fremantle (March 6), Adelaide (March 10), Melbourne (March 12), Sydney (March 14) and Brisbane (March 16).
And stay tuned for more on Queen Mary 2. I can’t do her justice in just one post. And if you’d like to check out the views of some of the other bloggers on board with me, head to Eat Drink + Be Kerry, The Hungry Australian, Get In The Hot Spot and Rainbow Bakery.
A Glass Half Full travelled as a guest of Cunard Line.