Some­thing about Mary

A $160m overhaul has re­sulted in a stun­ningly lux­u­ri­ous liner

Central Telegraph - - TRAVEL - With Ann Rickard

THE mel­liflu­ous sounds of the strings as harpist Lara Sz­abo played were a suit­able match for the tin­kling of sil­ver spoons in china cups. Then there were the white-gloved wait­ers com­ing at us with sil­ver trays of cucumber sand­wiches and scones with jam and cream.

Wel­come to af­ter­noon tea on board Queen Mary 2, the most el­e­gant of cruise­lin­ers with an air of re­gal Bri­tish­ness that takes you into a world of royal in­dul­gences. QM2 sailed into Syd­ney Har­bour on Fe­bru­ary 25, glid­ing past her sis­ter Queen El­iz­a­beth an­chored out­side the har­bour.

Cu­nard’s two most fa­mous lin­ers spent a day and evening in Syd­ney, with Queen Mary 2 even up­stag­ing the Syd­ney Opera House af­ter a $160 mil­lion re­mas­ter­ing. We were on board to ex­pe­ri­ence this ex­trav­a­gant re­furb on a three-day cruise from Mel­bourne to Syd­ney.

Fifty new state­rooms have been added, with the new Bri­tan­nia Club Bal­cony state­rooms pay­ing tribute to the orig­i­nal QM art deco her­itage. A num­ber of new sin­gle state­rooms have been in­cluded to meet the in­creas­ing de­mand of lone travellers.

We at­tempted to cram in ev­ery­thing, and there was much, even though we spent too much time en­chanted by the men dancers – se­nior men who know the dif­fer­ence be­tween a cha cha and a tango – em­ployed by Cu­nard to glide the ladies around the ball­room. Nine of these gentle­men sail the world on QM2 giv­ing ma­ture sin­gle ladies a chance to en­joy an old-fash­ioned fox­trot. Strict eti­quette ap­plies and no ac­tiv­ity by the men other than danc­ing is per­mit­ted.

Danc­ing in the old-fash­ioned way is one thing, food and wine is another.

Queen of them all is The Ve­ran­dah Grill – rem­i­nis­cent of Cu­nard’s orig­i­nal Ve­ran­dah Grills for first class pas­sen­gers only. Con­tem­po­rary French cui­sine (slip­per lob­ster, ma­gret duck, prune and Ar­magnac tart in our case) is served in grand tra­di­tion by for­mally dressed wait­ers who, at the end of a volup­tuous din­ner, will wheel trol­leys of dainty petit fours and daz­zling liqueurs to your ta­ble.

Much of our time was spent in The Carinthia Lounge, a place of el­e­gance with curved lounges to sit in and be served cof­fee or light meals while admiring the col­lec­tion of 46 vin­tage ports dat­ing back to 1840. The Veuve Clic­quot Cham­pagne Bar is a siren-call to lovers of the bub­bly stuff, es­pe­cially when it’s served in Water­ford crys­tal flutes.

The Queens and Princess grills with a la carte menus work well, and the Kings Court buf­fet has a less fran­tic pace than most other ship-board buf­fets (in our ex­pe­ri­ence).

Bri­tan­nia Restaurant on two tiers gives you a chance to make a royal en­trance down its curved stair­case, and the Smoke­house restaurant with its clas­sic Amer­i­can dishes serves the best ribs and black­ened sal­mon we’ve ever had.

In the Golden Lion Pub, the fish and chips and cot­tage pie go down a treat af­ter a game of darts.

There are many “world-firsts”, and “world-biggests” on board QM2. Her li­brary has 8000 books as well as a book­shop, and the wine cel­lar houses 450 fine wines. We loved the stylish wine room where two of the ship’s som­me­liers took us through tast­ings of un­usual wines from Aus­tria, Greece and Ger­many.

Spa in­dul­gences are es­sen­tial on luxe cruis­ing and QM2s Canyon Ranch spa de­liv­ers a breath­tak­ing menu.

If we are ever lucky enough to make a transat­lantic cross­ing we can take our dog. Ten new ken­nels have been built and ken­nel at­ten­dees take pooches for a walk on re­served decks where a lamp post (for English dogs, if you don’t mind) and a fire hy­drant (Amer­i­cans, of course) en­hance their daily walk.

Ev­i­dence of the large amount of money spent on this royal lady is ev­ery­where – from the hectares of new car­pet to the ex­pan­sive shop­ping area where Go­diva choco­lates call and Michael Kors lux­ury goods make you yearn. The writer was a guest on board Queen Mary 2.

PHO­TOS: CON­TRIB­UTED

Queen Mary 2 in Syd­ney Har­bour and, right, Queen Mary’s Cap­tain Christo­pher Wells looks tiny against the Queen Mary 2 from the top of the Opera House.

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