As one of the most exciting harbour destinations in the world, Sydney plays host to hundreds of cruise ships every year, but none of them seem to generate the same excitement in the city as the arrival of the grand ocean liner the Queen Mary 2. It's even better when she's joined in port by her sister ship, the Queen Elizabeth 2. It's been 10 years since these two grand ladies of the sea arrived here together. In 2007 Sydney-siders flocked in their thousands to the harbour foreshore to catch a glimpse of these two spectacular ships together. It caught the authorities by surprise. No one expected that the arrival of QM2 & QE2 would generate so much interest but it seems the love affair is not over. Ten years on, Cunard Line, the company that owns both ships, has scheduled the dynamic duo to arrive together again to celebrate the anniversary. Despite a rainy Sydney reception, the crowds turned out again to greet them.
The Cunard company was founded in 1840 as the British and American Steam Packet Company. It has ridden the waves (if you'll pardon the terrible pun) of ocean travel popularity ever since. Its history includes the acquisition of the White Star Line, famous as the owner of the Titanic. During the 1930's, the great era of ocean liner travel, the company operated the original Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth liners across the Atlantic and beyond and the company became renowned for its opulence and high level of service.
The new versions of these ships harken back to that era. A tour of the Queen Mary 2 is like stepping back in time. Nostalgia with all the modern conveniences. On board, it's all about entertainment and cruising in style. The QM2 makes 23 Atlantic crossings a year and heads south in the warmer months for short segment trips. This trip she will travel to Tasmania for the first time ever stopping in Launceston and Port Arthur.
During the voyage passengers can take their pick from numerous lavishly appointed venues including the 1000 plus seater Royal Theatre which rivals any Las Vegas show room and features dancers and singers from around the world. The ship prides itself on its contingent of 50 resident musicians playing everything from big band music to cabaret and jazz. Then there's Illuminations, a raked theatre featuring a domed planetarium which doubles as a lecture theatre featuring speakers who are experts in everything from space travel to architecture. Guest speakers are invited from each port to give a local flavour to the talks. Again, the decor is a balanced mix of Art Deco and modern furnishings and the reclining seats of the planetarium look like a great place to lie back and watch the stars.
The numbers on the Queen Mary 2 are astounding. She has room for 2600 passengers with a ratio of one staff member for every 2 passengers. This ratio makes QM2 a favourite with the older tourist market. There are bars and eateries catering to every taste and for every occasion and an extensive library each reflecting the high level of comfort and attention to detail throughout the ship. The jewel in the crown is the Britannia restaurant. With seats for 1000 guests, it covers two levels and features the captain's table. It's de riguer to dress for dinner on the QM2! There's a luxurious spa featuring private rooms and its own indoor spa pool staffed by expert masseuses and beauticians.
Sydney's weather put a damper on any outdoor activities this visit but on deck there's a choice of 5 pools and numerous outdoor activities for guests to take advantage of.
Gazing from the deck of the Queen Mary 2 with the Queen Elizabeth 2 moored just beyond the Opera house it's not hard to figure out why people have such a fixation on these ships. Unlike their floating hotel/casino contemporaries, their lines are retro sleek. It's impossible not to feel some nostalgia for the great voyages of the past. It's easy to see why they've captured Sydney's collective imagination . Here's hoping it's not another 10 years before they visit again!