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Majesty of the High Seas

The Queen Mary 2 harks back to the golden age of liner travel when elegance, luxury and glamour were the only way to cross the ocean
Jack Bettridge
From the Print Edition:
Alec Baldwin, May/June 2004

(continued from page 2)

Educational programs include courses in designing and cooking taught by Architectural Digest and Gourmet magazines, respectively. Seven classrooms will teach wine appreciation, foreign languages, painting and seamanship, among other disciplines. The only planetarium at sea is another learning option. Conover says Cunard had been looking for something unique for passengers who seek learning experiences on long crossings. She points out that the planetarium can be used for a number of visual shows as well as theater. It did, however, present a challenge as the U.S. Coast Guard wanted a sprinkler system built into the screen.

Physical programs center around the only Canyon Ranch SpaClub at sea, with its panoply of massage therapy, therapeutic pools and beauty treatments. There are four other pools, one of which has a retractable glass roof. The promenade deck, at a third of a mile in circumference, is large enough for jogging.

Shopping is another diversion, with the Mayfair Shops, which lean heavily toward high-end British goods such as Alfred Dunhill, and a bookstore. Of course, there is a casino and a library, one of the most impressive at sea, with 8,000 volumes. The Royal Court Theatre seats 1,105 for a variety of shipboard productions.

Situated off of the Commodore Club, with its magnificent views at the ship's bow on the ninth deck, is perhaps the best diversion of all: Churchill's, the ship's clubby cigar corner. Inside the well-appointed room that fits about 10 or 12 sits a lone smoker, puffing on, appropriately enough, a Churchill. "Welcome," he says, snapping out of his reverie. "You've found the best place to be on board."

It would be were the Cuban cigars in the locked cabinet on the far wall available. Sture Myrmell, director of food and beverage for Cunard, explains that Customs rules prohibit the sale of Cuban cigars on cruises that don't enter another country. He says that he reads Cigar Aficionado to keep up on which cigars to buy. They include Montecristos, Romeo y Julietas and Cohibas from Cuba, as well as Arturo Fuentes and a selection from Nat Sherman. The prices for Cubans are reasonable for a cigar bar, as they are sold duty-free.

"We haven't had a dedicated lounge on other Cunard vessels," says Myrmell. "It's not the same thing as sitting in a quiet room in a corner with a magazine and a cigar." Arison, the Carnival chairman, says that demand for cigar-smoking facilities changes constantly aboard his company's ships. "We went from nobody wanting them to a big push for them and then it collapsed again. We always have somewhere to smoke, though." Smoking is allowed at the ship's 13 other bars and lounges, which include a Veuve Clicquot Champagne bar. Churchill's distinguishes itself with its atmosphere and a collection of vintage Armagnacs.

Myrmell's duties also include arranging the dining on board, and for that he has secured the services of Daniel Boulud, of New York's Daniel and late of Le Cirque, as culinary adviser. "We wanted to modernize the cuisine," he says. "It wouldn't be possible to cook the exact style of Daniel, which he does for 200 people a night over several seatings, but we also didn't want to have volumes of food, massive baked potatoes—traditional cruise fare if you will."

For the QM2, the biggest challenge of cooking at sea is serving 1,300 passengers at two successive seatings, which forces the galley to prepare a large quantity of food at once. Furthermore, the crew of 1,300 must be fed. Arranging to have fresh ingredients at far-flung ports is the other challenge.

The ship has 10 dining venues, including a pub and a snack bar. The largest is Brittania, modeled after the line's dining salons of old. Top-class passengers may eat at the Queens Grill, which allows à la carte dining. Junior suite passengers can eat at the Princess Grill. King's Court on the Lido deck has an English carvery and an Italian and Asian restaurant. The Golden Lion and Boardwalk Grill serve "fast grub."

There is also Todd English, at which the restaurateur of the same name had great input both in the cuisine and decor, down to the design of the china and silverware. English says his presence at the venue, which overlooks a pool, is with the intention of encouraging a younger generation of cruisers. "We worked together much in the same way I did with Steve Wynn at the Bellagio. There was some head butting, but that's always healthy." One point of contention was that he was not allowed to have the wood-burning stove he desired. His menu includes "greatest hits" from his other restaurants, a tapas bar and modern Mediterranean fare. All is done with the modern eater who doesn't want to overindulge in mind.

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