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QM2 10th Anniversary:
On 9 May 2014, the Cunard Line fleet gathered in Southampton, England to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Queen Mary 2's entry into service. The event attended by royalty (i.e., Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh, husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II). Bands from the British Army's legendary Brigade of Guards performed and there was a massive fireworks display in Southampton harbor. The event was reported by the major British television networks as an event of national significance.
Caribbean Princess, Carnival Miracle, Westerdam and several other popular cruise ships are turning 10 this year but none will have similar birthday celebrations. Why all the fuss about Queen Mary 2?
“First of all, Queen Mary 2 isn't any ordinary cruise ship. Queen Mary 2 isn't a cruise ship at all, she is an ocean liner,” explained Mr. David Dingle, CEO of Cunard line.
An ocean liner is different technologically than a cruise ship. Queen Mary 2 was designed to handle the rigors of a North Atlantic crossing. While the North Atlantic can be tranquil, it can also have fierce storms. QM2 is designed not only to survive such storms but to maximize passenger comfort in such situations.
Dr. Stephen Payne, the designer of Queen Mary 2, pointed out some of the differences between an ocean liner and a cruise ship. “A liner like Queen Mary 2 has a lot of ship under the water. That makes her very stable. [A cruise ship usually has a shallow draft so as to allow her to go into more ports - - ed.]. And if you make the ship very pointed at the front, it is very good for seakeeping and running through rough weather.”
“A liner invariably has a pyramid shape where most of the weight and the height is in the middle of the ship where the buoyancy of the ship can support it. It is quite different than cruise ships where the superstructure is pushed right forward.” (This allows a cruise ship to have more cabins and the revenue producing space - - ed).
“A liner has much more strength than a cruise ship because she has to withstand the forces involved at being pushed through the water at high speed [in conditions] when a cruise ship would have to slow down. We have a much thicker structure than any cruise ship. Part of the [hull] plating of Queen Mary 2 is some 38 millimeters thick compared to the 18 millimeters that you would find on the equivalent [size] cruise ship.”
“The liner inherently has a higher speed potential and it has greater stability and sea margins.” Queen Mary 2 was built to do just under 30 knots.
“It cost 40 percent more to build it than a cruise ship of the same size - - 40 percent was expended specifically to allow her to cross the Atlantic,” noted Dr. Payne.
But QM2 is not important just because she is a technological marvel.
“Queen Mary 2 is part of our heritage.” Mr. Dingle elaborated: “It is the next ship in line for the evolving ocean liner story. Ocean liners are really about history and creating history for the future. They do iconic things. They take people from one continent to another in a style, which no other form of transport offers.”
“Crossing the Atlantic is, I think, almost a life experience. We talk about people having bucket lists and it is just one of the things [you have to] to do. It is an experience beyond a vacation. It transcends even that.”
“What you have here is a heritage. 174 years ago, a man named Samuel Cunard founded this company,” observed Commodore Ronald Warwick, the first master of Queen Mary 2. “Cunard decided to bridge the Atlantic with a fleet of steam ships in 1839. This man had the perseverance to fulfill his dream. And here we are to this day. This is unheard of in maritime history. We have the traditions of the North Atlantic, we have the quality, the service. What we are promoting is the heritage of the sea.”
“QM2 is the modern embodiment of that heritage.” added Dr. Payne.
But Queen Mary 2 is not a monument to the past. She is a 21st century passenger ship.
“Remember Queen Mary was the first ocean liner to be built afresh for 37 years, so she is utterly distinct. She is very much of her time. And she will be of her time for many years to come. It is not very often that anybody is going to build a true ocean liner.” Mr. Dingle pointed out.
Furthermore, “when you look at the old Queen Mary and see her magnificent public spaces, you realize that less than one third of the passengers had access to such spaces. The real design challenge on this ship was to use the space to provide such compartments for all,” Dr. Payne added.
Contrary to popular belief, Queen Mary 2 is not a two class ship with separate public areas as in the film Titanic. “We work very hard to get rid of that kind of notion.” Mr. Dingle commented. As on several large cruise ships (e.g. Norwegian Epic), guests staying in the suites have their own restaurants. “On every large cruise ship, you can't accommodate all of your guests in one large restaurant So you have to have a number of restaurants. Somehow you have to decide who is going to be seated at each restaurant. It suits us to allocate our restaurants according to cabin type. We feel it is appropriate for those who have paid the highest fares to have enhanced menus. That is what we do really. If you eat in Britannia, you have to admit that it is a very good dining experience.”
Queen Mart 2's accommodations are contemporary and her facilities comparable to those of first tier cruise ships. “If you are going to sail across the Atlantic, it offers exactly what you want. We do from time to time operate itineraries that are much more akin to cruises. I have never come across anybody who was dissatisfied with the ship's facilities in terms of offering something which is much closer to a cruise holiday.”
Among other things, she has the largest dance floor at sea and there $15 million of entertainment equipment installed around the ship - - “more than any other ship when the ship was built,” Dr. Payne noted.
Moreover, whereas passengers on the old ocean liners largely had to entertain themselves, QM2 boasts the best enrichment program at sea including talks by celebrities and well-known authors, acting lessons and performances by its own troupe of players from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, its own planetarium and lectures by members of the Royal Astronomical Society, jazz performances and workshops by musicians from the Julliard School of Music, classes about Apple computers, as well as special activities, such as a song writing program with professional musicians, that are not presented every voyage but rather only once or twice.
“We emphasize our Insights Program as we call it for two main reasons,” Mr. Dingle explained. “First, clearly when you have successive days at sea crossing the Atlantic, you really need to provide a host of good daytime diversions. Secondly, and I think this is the most important thing about the Insights Program, it is a very intelligent program and the philosophy of it absolutely meets the guests that we carry. It is a very intelligent approach because we have a very intelligent group of customers. It talks at their level. I think that the program that we have would not necessarily work on very many other cruise ships. It is perfect for our type of guest.”
Then there is the ship's international reputation. Following her naming by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2004, QM2 has sailed not only on Atlantic crossings but on annual world cruises that have taken her to cities around the globe. A quarter million people lined the banks of the Elbe River in Germany just to watch the ship sail by. Spectators have tied up traffic in Sydney, Australia.
While she is no longer the largest passenger vessel in service, she remains the largest ocean liner ever built. However, people come out to see her not just because she is an imposing physical sight but more importanty because she has an aura of elegance and luxury. She casts a spell of enchantment similar to that cast by her legendary predecessor, Queen Elizabeth 2.
In short, all of the fuss over QM2's tenth anniversary was warranted because Queen Mary 2 is a unique ship which has been at the forefront of the cruise industry for a decade. As Cunard spokesman Michael Gallagher succinctly commented: “It reminds ourselves and the rest of the world that we have the most special ship afloat.”
In part II, the interviewees discuss Queen Mary 2 today and her future.
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Click here for the Queen Mary 2 home page
Click here for a photo feature on the 10th anniversary celebrations
Cruise ship interview - - Cunard Line - - Queen Mary 2 - - Cunard CEO David Dingle, Commodore Ronald Warwick, Dr. Stephen Payne - - page 1