Above: Stephen Payne.
For Part I of this interview - Following A Dream - click here
For Part III of this interview - Looking Ahead - click here
Although Stephen Payne acknowledges that creating Queen Mary 2 was a team effort, he is the one who is credited with designing the ship. In this article, he outlines some of the thinking underlying this great ship and explains why the ship is as she is.
When Carnival Corporation purchased Cunard in 1998, it determined that it would have to build a new ship to take over the transatlantic service from the then 31 year-old QE2. But what type of ship to build? "One of the big challenges that I had was to convince everybody that if we were going to continue crossing the North Atlantic, we had to build a true liner and not just a cruise ship. My concern was that in crossing the North Atlantic even in the summer months, at times the Atlantic can really kick up rough. A cruise ship would not be the comfortable and safe base in which to have a scheduled service."
"Going from a cruise ship to a liner involved a quite radical change - - the thickness of the hull, the power that you would need, and the shape of the ship. A modern day cruise ship is as voluminous as possible within her dimensions to maximize the earnings potential. Suddenly I was saying to the company, if you want to build a transatlantic liner, you have to have this arrow shape forward, especially. You have to move the superstructure back so that it is not vulnerable to damage. There was a lot of resistance because everything you do like that is costing money and losing revenue and the like."
"I showed some pictures of the old Michelangelo crossing the Atlantic and the huge amount of damage that she suffered on one of the crossings. I made the point that if the new Cunard ship were built to a lesser standard than what I felt was necessary and she became damaged during a voyage, she would immediately lose her reputation and it would be a very difficult thing for the company to get over. So I stuck out from the beginning saying: 'If you want to do the transatlantic service, especially from April through to December like they did with QE2, then you needed this proper liner."
Origin Of The Design
Even though no one had built an ocean liner in decades, people had drawn up plans for one. In fact, in the early 1990s, Cunard had thought about a new liner. "There was a project called the Q5 project. I have, in fact, a set of the plans for that ship. It was a very unusual ship. A very fast ship, it would have done nearly 40 knots in speed. It had very regimented class distinctions from the normal type cabins right down to very small cabins without private facilities. The idea being that a lot of students and people who wanted to travel cut price would fill up those spaces. For a ship in the modern era, it was a very bold step. It would have been quite big but certainly not past 100,000 tons, something like 80. It did not look like anything that had gone before, either. It was very, very radically different in profile."
Despite its lack of interest in operating ships, Kvaerner had also thought of building a liner. "I immediately saw that a lot of the things that they wanted to do just wouldn't work on a new transatlantic liner from experience with QE2."
Since none of the existing plans would result in a ship that would do what Carnival had in mind, "Micky Arison said 'You design something for us.' And that is what happened "
"I have a personal philosophy that says before trying anything new, you have the best chance of success if you look back at history. Because you have to realize what has worked and what was filed. There is so much about this ship, if you look around closely you can see that it has been done before. All I have done is take all the successful bits from other ships and brought it all together into this one new ship and added a little bit of new technology and new thinking. That has all been packaged together to create Queen Mary 2."
"I first of all took the plans of the QE2 and I laid them out on a desk. I looked at each space critically to decide whether I thought it had worked well over the life of that ship or whether or not we should update it. I looked at what we do in the cruise industry to see if we could incorporate in the ship the modern thinking such as baggage loading, stores, distribution, how we might power the ship, with one proviso - - I wanted to bring as much efficiency as I could into this ship without detracting in any way the transatlantic experience, which was the whole reason that this ship was built."
"The challenge was to provide a first class experience something akin to the ships of state of the 1930s - - the old Queens, the Normandie, the Rex, the Breman and the Europa - - but to give that experience to everybody rather than just the select few that were traveling in first class. This ship brings all that together and brings that true first class experience open to everybody."
The Size Of The Ship
Queen Mary2 was intended from the outset to take over the transatlantic service from QE2. However, QE2 only spent part of the year on the Atlantic. She also did occasional cruises and an annual world cruise. Carnival wanted the ship to have these capabilities as well. "It always was going to be a transatlantic liner that could be used as a cruise ship like the QE2. That is why we kept the same draft as the QE2."
But this presented a problem. On her world cruises, QE2 went through the Panama Canal. Moreover, when she went through the canal locks there was very little room to spare. Thus, the new ship could be no larger than the QE2 if she followed the same route.
Indeed, she would have to be smaller. In order to reduce the weight of the ship, QE2 had an aluminum superstructure. "QE2 towards the end of her life suffered greatly because she had a lot of aluminum and that got very brittle and being brittle, it needed a lot of repairs all of the time. With the bending and twisting, the aluminum becomes brittle whereas steel lasts a lot longer before it reaches that point."
Therefore, Payne wanted QM2 to be all steel. But making her all-steel ship within the dimensions required to transit the Panama Canal "would have meant that she was about one deck less than the QE2."
"So I decided that the ship had to be bigger, too big to go through Panama, for the economies of scale because this ship was going to cost so much more than a normal type cruise ship. I thought QE2 only went through the Panama Canal once a year on the world cruises and I thought that was rather a big restriction to place on any new ship just for one voyage a year. In fact, the Panama Canal is in the process of being widened and within a few years time, the Queen Mary 2 will be able to go through the new widened Panama Canal."
Building her larger also meant that she would have a more comfortable ride. "The size of the ship, the length and the width that gives you that stability translates into the ship has half the motions of the QE2. So if QE2 were rolling 10 degrees, this would be rolling five. It is a thing that size really does matter when you are talking about motion."
Cruise ship interview - - Cunard Lines - - Queen Mary 2 - Stephen Payne - Part I1- page 1