Originally Standing out on the balcony with the Manhattan skyline to the north, easily spying the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings, and the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island to the West, one quickly appreciates how special it is to leave on a cruise from New York City. Not just any cruise, though, since I’m on board the Queen Mary 2 for an eight-day journey to the Caribbean, round trip from New York.

The beginning of any journey is always memorable but all the more so on board Queen Mary 2 for a myriad of reasons.

Upon For starters, one is definitely impressed by the sheer size of the vessel, the largest in the world when it was launched three years ago. At 151,000 tonnes, it remains one of the largest but with a passenger count of 2,600, it is still quite spacious. Once on board though, the crew will quickly remind you that this is not a cruise ship but rather an ocean liner and the construction of the ship reflects this. With a top speed of 30 knots and its deep draft, the Queen Mary 2 effortlessly cuts through the ocean waves providing a smooth sailing experience.

Wandering about on board, there is definitely an air of elegance that conjures up the bygone era of grand Trans-Atlantic crossings and stirs the imagination. Reminders of Cunard’s heritage abound on board in the form of an exhibit detailing all aspects of Cunard’s history from the activities guests enjoyed on board to the celebrities who sailed in the past, excepts from passenger journals, and anecdotes concerning the ship’s construction to operation. An audio guide is available and one could easily spend an entire afternoon getting acquainted with Cunard’s illustrious past.

Concerning the present, there’s more than enough to keep one occupied. In fact, Cunard publishes a guide titled 101 things to do on a Trans-Atlantic crossing. I doubt that anyone can accomplish all in only six days – so I’ll just highlight a few of my experiences.

Entering the grand Britannia dining room, for instance, you realise that you are now a part of history – as it is everything that you imagine it might be. This was my first encounter with Cunard’s White Star Service, best described as personable and professional; and it remained that way for the duration of the voyage and in all of my interactions with the staff on board.

Some distinguishing traits of the Queen Mary 2 include the Queen’s Room, the largest ballroom at sea. It also serves as the reception area for the Commodore’s cocktail, where a charming young woman announces each person individually to the Commodore as you enter. Illuminations is the site of the only Planetarium at sea, an experience that is only surpassed by a late-night stroll on the promenade deck to the front of the ship. When I did so, it was amazing to me that I was the only one there, especially as the sky was clear and there was no moon. Since I was standing directly beneath the bridge, there were no lights to interfere with the viewing of the stars. This is one experience that I particularly enjoy when out at sea but is not always possible on all ships.

Speaking of stars, there was a rumour that Roger Moore was on board this cruise but I never did spot him. On one of the formal nights, I dropped in at the Empire Casino, definitely the appropriate setting to find James Bond, but he wasn’t there.

In almost every respect, the experience on board the Queen Mary 2 equals the service levels on many six-star lines, and the suites on board are priced accordingly. The majority of the staterooms on board, however, from inside to balcony staterooms, are an extraordinary value with ten-night sailings to the Caribbean this fall from only $1,599 Canadian.

The Queen Mary 2 is as perfect a cruise for groups of friends and family to travel together as it is for marking a special anniversary. In whichever way you define romance, you’ll find it on board the Queen Mary 2. As Cunard reminds us, the Golden Age of ocean travel is now.

For more information about the Queen Mary 2 and other Cunard ships, please visit their web site at: www.cunard.com or call: 1-800-7CUNARD or call your travel agent.

Sean Flynn is an owner of CruseShipCenters, which has 3 Montreal-area offices; Beaconsfield, Dollard des Ormeaux and Downtown on rue de la Montagne. The telephone numbers are listed in the company’s advertisement in this issue.