Table of Contents

Train travel
in Australasia

This is a guide to travel between Europe & the United States using Cunard’s Queen Mary 2.

Transatlantic schedule & sailing dates 2022 & 2023

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

Westbound transatlantic – a practical guide

Eastbound transatlantic – a practical guide

Is westbound or eastbound better?

Which cabin to choose?

QM2 restaurants

QM2 bars

Entertainment

Travel with children on the QM2

Useful information – baggage, dress code, payment on board, WiFI, smoking, dogs.

About Queen Mary 2

Souvenirs & books about QM2

Watch the QM2 video guide

Connecting trains to Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, New Orleans

Connecting trains to Toronto, Montreal & Canada

Alternative transatlantic sailings by freight ship

Cunard maintain a scheduled transatlantic passenger service between Europe and the United States, usually one sailing a month in each direction between Southampton & New York from April to December taking 7 nights.

You travel aboard the greatest ocean liner in the world, Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 (QM2). It’s a crossing, not a cruise, and many people use the QM2 as their preferred mode of transport between Europe & the United States. The Queen Mary 2 is a proper ocean liner, built with the extra structural strength & power to withstand the rigours of the North Atlantic in all weathers. The QM2 took over the transatlantic service from Cunard’s 1967-built QE2 in 2004.

You can forget being bored, it’s a week of relaxation, with cinema, theatre, interesting lectures, spa treatments, swimming pools, cocktail bars, restaurants, an excellent library, shops and even the world’s only sea-going planetarium. Plus the cold grey Atlantic which I never tire of watching. You can also forget seasickness, the 150,000 ton QM2 is rock-steady in most weather amidships, you’ll need to walk forward towards the bows to feel any up and down movement. Westbound, the crossing is rounded off by an awe-inspiring early-morning arrival into New York City, in my opinion the best way to arrive in the Big Apple.

Crossing the Atlantic by ocean liner needn’t cost much more than a business-class flight, fares for two people sharing the cheapest Britannia stateroom start from �1,099 per person each way, for 7 nights accommodation, all meals & entertainment.

The Man in Seat Sixty-One says: “From personal experience, staggering round a transatlantic liner in a dinner jacket with a martini is the normal, rational, reasonable way to cross the Atlantic. Heading for an airport and strapping yourself to a flimsy aluminium tube is an unfortunate and eccentric aberration.”

The Queen Mary 2 arrived in New York after a transatlantic crossing from Southampton

Transatlantic sailing dates.

Southampton ► New York

2022 transatlantic sailings: 15 February, 20 March, 24 April, 8 May, 29 May, 24 June, 29 July, 21 August, 15* September, 18 October, 13 November, 15 December.

2023 transatlantic sailings: 11 January**, 23 April, 18 May*, 23 June, 14 July, 11 August, 4 September, 22 September, 19 November, 15 December.

* 8 night crossing, not 7. ** 9 night crossing by Queen Victoria, not QM2.

All crossings are now 7 nights except where shown. The Queen Mary 2 usually sails from Southampton at 17:00, arriving in New York 7 nights later at 06:30-07:00. The terminal she uses in Southampton varies. In New York she arrives at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal.

New York ► Southampton

2022 transatlantic sailings: 3 January, 8 March, 17 April, 1 May, 15 May, 5 June, 8 July, 5 August, 28 August, 7 October, 25 October, 3 December.

2023 transatlantic sailings: 3 January*, 30 April, 26 May, 7 July, 21 July, 18 August, 11 September, 13 October, 8 December.

* 8 night crossing, not 7.

The QM2 usually sails from New York Brooklyn Cruise Terminal at 17:00, with check-in opening at 13:00 and closing at 15:45. She arrives in Southampton at 06:30 seven nights later.

How to check sailing dates, times, prices & availability.

If you live in the UK or elsewhere in Europe, go to If you live in the USA or Canada, you can confirm sailing dates, times and availability at www.cruisedirect.com: Hover over CRUISE LINES at the top and select CUNARD LINE. Then look for SELECT DESTINATION at lower left and tick Transatlantic.

How much does it cost?

Typical Cunard one-way fares for transatlantic crossings. Late bookings in late season can often be cheaper than this!

fare per person including meals,

Inside = without window, oceanview = with porthole, see the cabin accommodation guide. All other staterooms & suites have a balcony, except the two Q3 Royal Suites.

Britannia = allocated to the Britannia restaurant for meals. Princess or Queen’s Grill = allocated to the superior Princess or Queen’s Grill restaurants for meals.

How to find cheaper tickets: You’ll often find cheaper fares if you buy your tickets from a cruise specialist such as www.cruisedirect.com (in the USA or Canada), both of which have online booking for transatlantic crossings and cruises. Agencies like these can save perhaps �100 per person or more off the official Cunard price, and you’ll also find cheaper fares if you shop for last minute deals and late-season crossings, as low as �799 or better, for example. However, be aware that in high summer transatlantic sailings can get full many months in advance.

Round trip fares: There are special round trip fares covering two back-to-back crossings with just 1 day in New York, but if you plan to spend more than a day at your destination you’ll need to pay one-way fares each way. In other words, for all practical purposes a round trip on the QM2 means buying two one-way tickets.

Cunard Fare & Saver fare: The Cunard fare lets you choose a specific cabin & dinner sitting up front. The Saver fares are several hundred pounds or dollars cheaper and guarantee a cabin in the booked grade or higher, but the cabin and dinner sitting time are allocated for you. You can log in to Cunard’s voyage personaliser at my.cunard.com/en-gb/mycruise/login a couple of weeks before departure to see what cabin & sitting you have been allocated.

What does the fare include? All Queen Mary 2 transatlantic fares include your cabin accommodation, all meals & afternoon tea, on-board entertainment such as shows, lectures, films, access to the swimming pools & library, plus the tea, coffee & juices available in the Kings Court self-service. The fare does not include alcoholic & non-alcoholic drinks served in bars or at meals, Canyon Ranch Spa access & treatments, or internet access. Also, a ‘discretionary’ fee of around $11-$14 per person per day will be added to your on board account each day as a gratuity for staff.

How to buy tickets

If you live in UK & Europe.

If you live in the USA or Canada.

How does the ticketing work?

London to New York.

New York to London.

Westbound transatlantic guide

Here is a typical transatlantic timetable, port transfer, embarkation arrangements & journey information for a typical westbound transatlantic sailing on the QM2. Although they normally follow this same pattern, always check the sailing time & check-in times for your specific date. If you find that something has changed, please let me know. If you’re sailing eastbound, see the eastbound information. Are westbound or eastbound crossings better?

Take the train from London Waterloo.

Fast air-conditioned trains run from London Waterloo to Southampton Central every 30 minutes taking around 1h17. No reservation is necessary, just turn up, buy a ticket and hop on the next train.

The fare is �46.10 adult one-way (�39.40 at weekends), children under 16 half price, children under 5 free. First class costs �78.30 (�49.40 at weekends).

Check train times & fares from London Waterloo or anywhere in Britain to Southampton at www.raileurope.com or www.nationalrail.co.uk. Direct trains run from Manchester, Birmingham, Oxford, Reading, Bristol & Cardiff to Southampton, so you won’t have to cross London. See a beginner’s guide to UK train travel.

For train connections from Paris or any other European city to London, see here. I’d recommend a night in London before taking the train to Southampton on sailing day.

Transfer by taxi in Southampton.

Make sure you know which of the four possible terminals the QM2 is sailing from, the QEII terminal (dock gate 4), City Cruise Terminal (dock gate 10), Mayflower Cruise Terminal (dock gate 10), or the new Ocean Terminal (dock gate 4). Map of Southampton, showing all cruise terminals, Southampton Central Station & the historic Ocean Terminal.

A taxi from Southampton Central station takes 10 minutes and costs around �9 to the Mayflower or City cruise terminals, around �12 to the QEII terminal or Ocean Terminal. You’ll find plenty of taxis waiting at the station, the taxi rank is on the same side of the station where most trains from London arrive, so no bridges or subways to negotiate., level access from platform to booking hall to forecourt.

QM2 check-in procedures.

Check-in typically opens at 13:00 and closes around 15:45. Cunard will give you a specific check-in time on your e-ticket to stagger people arriving, but you can arrive earlier if you like, it’s not a problem.

Visitors are not allowed on board, so anyone seeing you off will have to leave you at the terminal. Cunard either send you or allow you to download labels showing your departure date & cabin number, remember to put one on each bag before arriving at the terminal.

When you get out of the taxi at the terminal drop-off point your large bags are immediately taken from you and whisked away, they will magically reappear later in your stateroom. No bag should exceed 23Kg (50lb) but you can take as many bags as you like as long as they will all fit into your stateroom.

You then walk into the check-in hall and go to the first available check-in desk, this usually doesn’t take long. At the check-in desk, you show your e-ticket, your passport & your credit card for on-board purchases, and a webcam photo is taken of each passenger for security purposes. You may be asked to fill out a brief health form to notify the ship of any fever you have or any diarrhoea you’ve had in the last 48 hours. Each passenger is given a credit-card sized plastic card which is your embarkation card, your cabin key and your charge card for buying drinks & souvenirs on board.

After check-in there’s an airline-style X-ray & metal detector security check, then straight onto the gangway onto the QM2, entering the Grand Lobby on deck 3. It’s a painless process compared to airports. If you feel like a late lunch, or just a tea, coffee or juice when you board, you’ll find the King’s Court self-service restaurant on deck 7 open for business and offering all of these.

What’s an Atlantic crossing like?

The Queen Mary 2 is usually due to sail from Southampton at 17:00. This is the most usual time, but please check for your sailing date. Once on board and settled into your stateroom, listen for announcements about emergency drill. This is held at 16:00 and takes about 20 minutes. You listen for the alarm bells, fetch your lifejackets from your stateroom and go to your allocated muster station where staff will brief you on emergency procedures and you’ll listen to an announcement by the captain. When it’s over, return your lifejackets to your stateroom and head up on deck for departure.

Soon after 17:00 the QM2 sails, with a band playing on her aft decks and glasses of champagne available (around $17). She is sometimes moored facing upstream, sometimes downstream, and if she’s moored facing upstream at the City or Mayflower terminals, she’ll first head further upstream before turning around, somehow managing to turn her 1,130 foot length without hitting the far bank of the river or the small boats moored there.

Southampton’s historic Ocean Terminal: Cunard no longer use the traditional and historic Ocean Terminal dock, from which the original Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and even Titanic would have sailed. Indeed, the old 1950 terminal building was demolished in 1983 and this hugely historic location now looks totally unremarkable, a freight dock with a couple of multi-storey car parks next to it for vehicle exports. You won’t know that you’re looking at it unless you know where it is, so see this map. It’s just north of the QEII terminal, just south of the City & Mayflower terminals. About the old Ocean Terminal.

The Queen Mary 2 heads downstream into the Solent, heading directly towards Cowes on the Isle of Wight before making a tight turn to port (left) in the deep water channel, passing Ryde to starboard (right) and Portsmouth to port. The QM2 rounds the Isle of Wight using the deep water route to the east (although this looks like the long way round on a map) and heads out into the English Channel. By breakfast next morning, you’re well past Bishop Rock lighthouse and out in the Atlantic.

Seven nights at sea on the Atlantic. Cunard slowed down their crossings from 6 nights to 7 nights from 2011 onwards, although an occasional crossing may take 6 or 8 nights. This is two days slower than it used to be, as the weekly service operated from 1946 to 1967 by the original Queen Mary and her consort Queen Elizabeth took just 5 nights for the 3,150 nautical miles (3,625 miles).

There may be no coastline or islands to see in mid-Atlantic (or even other ships, usually), but I never tire of gazing at the brooding waters of the North Atlantic. It changes from day to day, sometimes smooth and glassy, sometimes choppy and sombre, sometimes sunny, sometimes foggy with the Queen Mary 2’s fog horn blaring at regular intervals.

You may get rough crossings especially in October, November or December, but my summer crossings on the 150,000 ton Queen Mary 2 or 70,000 ton QE2 have been rock steady all the way. You could be in a 5 star hotel rather than on board a ship!

The QM2’s clocks are put back an hour at 2am on 5 of the 7 nights because of the time difference, giving you a welcome extra hour’s sleep in this direction. You will pass within a few miles of the resting place of the Titanic (within 38 nautical miles on one of my westbound crossings) and an announcement may well be made on board. Naturally, you’ll find a whole programme of entertainment & activities on board every day, and if you really want to be bored you’ll have to work hard at it.

The QM2 arrives in New York at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal at 06:30. This is the highlight! Whether you’re a natural early riser or not, make sure you’re up and on deck by 04:45 on the morning of arrival in New York, as the arrival into New York by ocean liner is something you will remember all you life. There’s a forward-facing observation deck on deck 11, immediately below the bridge, accessed from ‘A’ stairway. You’ll see the lights of Long Island to starboard (the right-hand side), Staten Island to port, and the Verrazano suspension bridge dead ahead at the entrance to New York harbour. The Queen Mary 2 passes under the bridge with just a few precious feet of clearance above her funnel, and as she does so the fabulous Manhattan skyline comes into view. The QM2 no longer uses Cunard’s traditional terminal at Pier 90 on Manhattan itself, so she no longer steams right past the Statue of Liberty, but instead she turns to starboard (to the right) opposite the statue and heads into the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, berthing within sight of the famous Statue and Manhattan skyline.

QM2 disembarkation in New York.

A note explaining QM2 disembarkation procedures appears outside your stateroom a day or two before arrival, and each deck is allocated a disembarkation time. Disembarkation takes place between 08:00 & 11:00. The upper decks with the more expensive cabins disembark first (e.g. decks 9, 10, 11, 12), other decks such as 4, 5 or 6 later.

Labels for your bags appear outside your stateroom the day before arrival. You put a label on each of your bags and place them in the corridor outside your stateroom between 20:00 & midnight before arrival. Your bags will disappear and will be waiting for you in the terminal hall next morning, in an area marked with the same colour as your labels.

It’s then just a matter of going through the U.S. immigration check, a slowish process but no worse than any airport. They you walk out of the terminal.

Express disembarkation: If you want to get off sooner and are happy managing all your own bags, you can register for Express disembarkation at the purser’s desk on deck 2 the day before arrival. You are given an express disembarkation card. Express disembarkation passengers gather in the Queens Room from 06:45 onwards with all their luggage, and at around 07:00 when the gangway opens you simply walk off the ship with your bags, straight into the terminal. With a Deck 4 cabin we were allocated an 11:00 disembarkation time, which would have meant half a day in New York wasted, so I’d go for express disembarkation every time!

Transfer by taxi to Manhattan.

The Tour Office on deck 2 offers private transfers by minivan from Brooklyn Cruise Terminal to any Manhattan hotel for a ridiculous $429, or they can sell you tickets for a transfer bus for $59 per person.

However, both options are crazy, because a normal yellow cab from the terminal taxi rank to anywhere in Manhattan costs only $40 for up to 4 people and all your bags, and you’ll find plenty of taxis waiting right outside the terminal building. Enjoy the drive across the famous Brooklyn Bridge in a New York Yellow Cab!

You’ll also find plenty of black private hire vehicles outside the terminal with a fixed price of around $55 to a Manhattan hotel, also a good relaxed option. The ride takes 20 minutes.

By train from New York to other U.S. cities.

You can be at Penn Station by 11:30 or earlier, for onward train connections. Washington DC is only 3 hours away by train, Boston 4 hours or less. The Lake Shore Limited train to Chicago leaves Penn Station around 15:45 arriving in Chicago next morning, with connections for all points west including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Dallas, Seattle. You’ll also make the afternoon Crescent overnight train to Atlanta & New Orleans, or the afternoon Silver Meteor overnight to Florida.

You can book any of these trains online in advance at www.amtrak.com, collecting your ticket from the self-service machines at Penn Station. Note that between New York & Washington or New York & Boston you’ll be offered two different types of train: The premium-fare Acela Express 150mph high-speed train with business class and first class, but no coach class, and the slower but cheaper Northeast Regional trains with coach class and business class.

You can book Amtrak trains yourself, but if you want an agency to sort a package of train connections and hotels from New York to other US cities, call Railbookers on 0207 864 4600 (UK office) or 1-888-829-4775 (US office). Beginner’s guide to train travel in the USA.

By train from New York to Toronto, Montreal & Canada.

Two daily trains link New York with Canada, the Maple Leaf to Toronto and the Adirondack to Montreal. Both trains leave New York in the morning, so you’ll need to spend the night in New York. It’s a very scenic run along the Hudson River valley, past West Point Military Academy, Storm King Mountain and Bannerman’s Island. As it’s name suggests, the train to Montreal also passes through the scenic Adirondack Mountains and past Lake Champlain. Information on trains from New York to Canada. Change in Toronto for the famous Canadian trans-continental train 2-3 times a week to Winnipeg, Edmonton, Jasper & Vancouver.

You can book Amtrak & VIA Rail trains yourself, but if you want an agency to sort a package of train connections and hotels from New York to major Canadian cities, call Railbookers on 0207 864 4600 (UK office), 1-888-829-4775 (US office, toll-free) or 1-855-882-2910 (Canada, toll-free). Beginner’s guide to train travel in Canada.

London to New York in pictures.

Eastbound transatlantic guide

Here is a typical timetable, transfer & journey information for most eastbound trans-Atlantic crossings. Although they usually follow this pattern, please check sailing & check-in times for your specific date when you book in case they are different. If you find that anything has changed, do let me know. If you plan to travel westbound, click here. Are westbound or eastbound crossings better?

By train from Washington DC & other US cities to New York.

Amtrak trains link Washington DC & New York in less than 3 hours, Boston to New York in under 4 hours. The daily Lake Shore Limited links Chicago & New York overnight, with connections in Chicago from LA, San Francisco, Seattle, etc. However, the Lake Shore arrives at New York’s Penn station in the early evening, too late for same-day connections with the ‘Mary, so you’ll need to leave Chicago two nights before the ‘Mary sails and spend a night in New York before sailing day. You can check schedules and fares and buy tickets for any of these trains online at www.amtrak.com. Note that between New York & Washington or New York & Boston you’ll be offered two different types of train: The premium-fare Acela Express 150mph high-speed train with business class and first class, but no coach class, and the slower but cheaper Northeast Regional trains with coach class and business class. You can book Amtrak trains yourself, but if you want an agency to sort a package of train connections and hotels from other US cities to New York for you, call Railbookers on 0207 864 4600 (UK office) or 1-888-829-4775 (US office. Beginner’s guide to train travel in the USA.

By train from Toronto, Montreal & Canada to New York.

Two daily trains link Canada with New York, the Maple Leaf from Toronto and Adirondack from Montreal. Both trains arrive in New York in the evening, so you’ll need to spend a night in New York before sailing day – Check hotels in New York. It’s a very scenic run down the Hudson River valley, past West Point Military Academy, Storm King Mountain and Bannerman’s Island. As it’s name suggests, the train from Montreal also passes through the scenic Adirondack Mountains and past Lake Champlain. Information on trains between Canada & New York. The famous Canadian trans-continental train links Vancouver & Toronto three times a week, via Jasper, Edmonton & Winnipeg. You can book Amtrak & VIA Rail trains yourself, but if you want an agency to sort a package of train connections and hotels from a Canadian city to New York for you, call Railbookers on 0207 864 4600 (UK office) or 1-888-829-4775 (US office, toll-free) or 1-855-882-2910 (Canada, toll-free). Beginner’s guide to train travel in Canada.

By taxi from Manhattan to Brooklyn Cruise Terminal.

A normal yellow cab from New York Penn Station or any hotel in Manhattan to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal costs around $40 for up to 4 people and all your bags. Enjoy the drive across the famous Brooklyn Bridge in a traditional New York Yellow Cab! The taxi ride takes 20 minutes.

QM2 check-in procedures in New York.

Check-in usually opens around 13:00 and closes around 15:45. Cunard will give you a specific check-in time on your e-ticket to try and stagger people arriving, but you can arrive earlier if you like. Visitors are not allowed on board, so anyone seeing you off will have to leave you at the terminal then wave from the shore.

Cunard will have sent you adhesive labels showing your departure date & cabin number, remember to put one on each bag before arriving at the terminal, as when you get there your larger bags are immediately taken from you. They will magically reappear later in your stateroom. No one bag should exceed 23Kg (50lb) but you can take as many bags as you like as long as they will all fit into your stateroom.

You then walk into the terminal and join the short queue for a ticket check, then another short queue for the X-ray and metal detector security check, then you join a long zig-zag queue for check-in proper.

At the check-in desk, you show your e-ticket, your passport & your credit card for on-board purchases, and a webcam photo is taken of each passenger for security purposes. You also hand in a brief health form notifying the ship of any fever you have or any diarrhoea you’ve had in the last 48 hours. Each passenger is given a credit-card sized plastic card which acts as your embarkation card, cabin key and charge card for buying drinks & souvenirs on board. You then go up the gangway onto the QM2, entering the Grand Lobby on deck 3.

Apart from the time spent in the main queue (have a reading book and some refreshments to hand), it’s a painless process compared to airports. If you feel like a late lunch, or just a tea, coffee or juice when you board, you’ll find the King’s Court self-service restaurant on deck 7 open for business and offering all of these.

What’s an eastbound Atlantic crossing like?

The ship normally sails from New York at 17:00. This is the usual time, but please check for your specific departure date. Once on board and settled into your stateroom, listen for announcements about emergency drill. This is held at 16:00 and takes about 20 minutes. You listen for the alarm bells, fetch your lifejackets from your stateroom and go to your allocated muster station where staff will brief you on emergency procedures and you’ll listen to an announcement by the captain. After this you’re free to go up on deck and admire the Manhattan skyline astern and the Statue of Liberty to starboard (right-hand side). At 17:00 she casts off, and with a band playing on her aft decks and glasses of champagne available (around $17) she heads out to sea. Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty slowly disappear astern, and the QM2 heads toward and then underneath the huge Verrazano suspension bridge out into the Atlantic. There is just a few precious feet of clearance above her red funnel! An NYPD police boat follows behind (seeing you off the premises?), and a police helicopter buzzes overhead.

Seven nights at sea on the Atlantic. Cunard slowed down their crossings to from 6 to 7 nights from 2011 onwards, although an occasional crossing still takes 6 nights. Naturally, you’ll find a whole programme of entertainment & activities on board every day, and if you really want to be bored you’ll have to work hard at it! There are no islands or coastline to see in mid-Atlantic (or even other ships, usually), but personally I never tire of gazing at the brooding waters of the North Atlantic. It changes from day to day, sometimes smooth and glassy, sometimes choppy and sombre, sometimes foggy, sometimes sunny. You may get rough crossings especially in October, November or December, but my own transatlantic crossings on the 150,000 ton Queen Mary 2 or 70,000 ton QE2 have been rock steady all the way. You could be in a 5 star hotel rather than on board a ship! The QM2’s clocks are put forward an hour at 2am on five of the seven eastbound nights because of the time difference, giving you an hour’s less sleep in this direction – if there’s one reason why a westbound crossing can be nicer than an eastbound one, this is it! (update 2013: Cunard has tried the crazy idea of putting the clocks forward at midday on recent crossings, much to passengers dismay, as it can be confusing and means dinner is too soon after lunch!) You will pass within a few miles of the resting place of the Titanic and an announcement may well be made on board. On the last evening at dinner you may catch site of the Isles of Scilly in the distance (about 35 miles west of Land’s End), and later the lights of Cornwall twinkling to port. A first view of Great Britain! You’re now past the Bishop Rock lighthouse an in the English Channel. Incidentally, a modern transatlantic crossing is now two days slower than it used to be, as the weekly service operated by the first Queen Mary and her consort Queen Elizabeth from 1946 to 1967 took just 5 nights.

The ship arrives in Southampton at 06:30. You’ll need to be up early, at around 04:30, if you want to see the ship round the Isle of Wight and head past Portsmouth & Ryde and into Southampton Water, although this hardly lives up to the spectacular arrival in New York on a westbound transatlantic. There’s a forward-facing observation deck on deck 10, immediately below the bridge, accessed from ‘A’ stairway. Otherwise, you’ll find the ship docked at the Southampton Terminal when you awake, and the Kings Court & Britannia restaurants serving a welcome cooked breakfast to send you on your way.

QM2 disembarkation in Southampton.

A note explaining QM2 disembarkation procedures appears outside your stateroom a day or two before arrival, and each deck is allocated a disembarkation time. Disembarkation takes place between 08:00 & 11:00. The upper decks with the more expensive cabins disembark first (e.g. decks 9, 10, 11, 12), other decks such as 4, 5 or 6 later.

Labels for your bags appear outside your stateroom the day before arrival. You put a label on each of your bags and place them in the corridor outside your stateroom between 20:00 & midnight before arrival. Your bags will disappear and will be waiting for you in the terminal hall next morning, in an area marked with the same colour as your labels.

It’s then just a matter of going through the UK immigration check. They you walk out of the terminal.

Express disembarkation: If you want to get off sooner and are happy managing all your own bags, you can register for Express disembarkation at the purser’s desk on deck 2 the day before arrival. You are given an express disembarkation card. Express disembarkation passengers gather in the Queens Room from 06:45 onwards with all their luggage, and at around 07:00 when the gangway opens you simply walk off the ship with your bags, straight into the terminal.

Transfer by taxi to Southampton Central station.

The Queen Mary 2 can use any one of four different terminals in Southampton, either the QEII terminal (dock gate 4), City Cruise Terminal (dock gate 10), Mayflower Cruise Terminal (dock gate 10), or the new Ocean Terminal (dock gate 4). Map of Southampton, showing all cruise terminals, Southampton Central Station & the original historic Ocean Terminal. A taxi to Southampton Central station costs around �9 from the Mayflower or City cruise terminals, or around �12 from the QEII terminal or Ocean Terminal. You’ll find plenty of taxis waiting at the terminal, although there can be a long wait as there are so many other passengers. The taxi ride takes just 10 minutes.

Take the train to London Waterloo.

Cunard no longer organise a special ‘boat train’ in connection with QM2 sailings. However, fast air-conditioned trains link Southampton Central with London Waterloo every 30 minutes taking around 1h17. No reservation is necessary or even possible for Southampton-London trains, you just turn up, buy a ticket and hop on the next train. Southampton-London costs �46.10 adult one-way (�39.40 at weekends), children under 16 half price, children under 5 free. First class costs �78.30 (�49.40 at weekends). You can check train times & fares from Southampton to London Waterloo or anywhere in Britain using www.raileurope.com or www.nationalrail.co.uk. Direct trains run from Southampton to Reading, Oxford, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol & Cardiff, so you won’t have to cross London. Beginner’s guide to UK train travel. Find a hotel in London.

Onward trains from London to Paris & beyond.

Onwards to Paris: Allow plenty of time for onward connections, certainly several hours, and maybe stay in London overnight. For Paris, take a UK domestic train from Southampton central to London Waterloo (no reservation necessary, see the section above), then take a taxi or Underground across London to St Pancras Station. Eurostar runs every hour or so from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord in central Paris, journey time 2 hours 20 minutes. For a beginner’s guide to Eurostar travel, see the London to Paris by Eurostar page. You can book tickets online in advance at www.eurostar.com, and you should indeed pre-book, as London-Paris prices start from just �44 in advance but up to �180 if you wait and buy on the day of travel.

Onwards to other countries: See this page for information on getting from London to any country in Europe. Having crossed the Atlantic on the luxurious Queen Mary 2, how about taking the Venice Simplon Orient Express vintage luxury train to Italy? This runs on most Thursdays from April to October, and takes 24 hours from London to Venice, a real treat. You can book European trains yourself, but if you want an agency to put together a package of train connections and hotels from anywhere in Europe to Southampton for you, call Railbookers on 0207 864 4600 (UK) or 1-888-829-4775 (US office).

New York to London in pictures.

Which cabin to choose?

There are a bewildering range of staterooms on the Queen Mary 2 at varying prices, but they basically fall into these categories, in ascending order of cost:

Britannia Inside: An Inside cabin means it has no window, but even though this is the cheapest option, these staterooms are spacious, beautifully designed and have all the facilities mentioned above. They have double or twin beds for 2 people, although some rooms are fitted with an additional two drop-down upper berths making a 3 or 4-berth room. Some cabins are wheelchair-accessible. Allocated to the Britannia restaurant. Typically 155 sq ft.

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Britannia Atrium View: There are a handful of standard inside cabins on decks 4, 5 & 6 which have a small window opening onto the atrium above the Grand Lobby. They have double or twin beds for 2 people, but none of these rooms are fitted with additional berths. Also allocated to the Britannia restaurant. Typically 161 sq ft.

Britannia Oceanview: These are outside cabins meaning they have a small non-opening porthole for sea views. Some seasoned travellers will tell you that with no coastline or islands to see on a 6 day transatlantic crossing, a window is unnecessary. However, I enjoy seeing where I am and love gazing at the vast and always-changing waters of the North Atlantic. Paying the extra for a Standard Oceanview is well worth it, both for the views and the natural light. These staterooms have double or twin beds for two people, but some rooms are fitted with an additional two drop-down upper berths making a 3- or 4-berth room. Some are wheelchair-accessible. Also allocated to the Britannia restaurant. Typically 194 sq ft.

I’ve crossed with an inside cabin and with an outside cabin, and I think it’s well worth the extra for a porthole. It lets natural light into the cabin and it gives you a much greater sense of place – not to mention sunsets over the Isle of Wight and views of the Statue of Liberty as you pack up on arrival!

Britannia Balcony (Obstructed View): The cheapest cabin type to have its own balcony, allocated to the Britannia restaurant. These are all on Deck 8 above the promenade deck, but with their view heavily obstructed by the ship’s lifeboats. They have a double or twin beds for 2 people, and a few cabins have a 3rd berth in the form of a pull-out sofa bed.

I’d definitely pay a little more for an sheltered balcony, without any obstruction.

Britannia Sheltered Balcony: The next cheapest cabin type to have its own balcony, allocated to the Britannia restaurant, also with a double or twin beds for 2 people, a few cabins have a pull-out sofa bed as well. Sheltered balcony cabins are on decks 4, 5 & 6 below the promenade deck with a small balcony cut into the hull. Typically 269 sq ft, including balcony.

This is my own first choice (unless you can afford a megabucks suite, of course), arguably a better choice for a transatlantic crossing than a more expensive cabin with a more windswept balcony in the ship’s superstructure. See the photos below.

Britannia Balcony: Also allocated to the Britannia restaurant, these are slightly smaller than the Sheltered Balcony rooms, but have a glass-fronted balcony higher up in the ship’s superstructure, on deck 8 and above.

The open glass-fronted balcony lets even more natural light into the cabin than a sheltered balcony, but it’ll be more windswept than a sheltered balcony on a transatlantic crossing! Typically 248 sq ft, including balcony.

Britannia Club Balcony: Similar to a Britannia Balcony, but allocated to the single-sitting ‘Britannia Club’ restaurant, a separate off-shoot of the main Britannia restaurant. Typically 248 sq ft, including balcony.

Princess Balcony Suites: Suites with balcony, all allocated to the Princess Grill restaurant. Typically 381 sq ft, including balcony.

Queens Balcony Suites: Various types of suite, up to and including the extravagant Grand Duplex suites, all allocated to the Queen’s Grill restaurant. All have balconies, except the two Q3 grade Royal Suites. Size varies from 506 sq ft to 2,249 sq ft.

If you pay the more expensive Cunard fare so you can choose a specific cabin, here are some things to consider.

You can feel a slight up & down movement of the ship towards at the bows, but will feel hardly any movement at all amidships. For this reason mid-ships cabins are higher-graded and cost more (Even if you pay the cheaper Saver fare, you can select a higher grade to ensure a mid-ships cabin).

Some people have reported noise from below when occupying sheltered balcony cabins on 4 deck directly above the Illuminations or Royal Court Theatre, so 5 or 6 Deck may be preferable. However, we had 4101 & 4105 over the Chart Room bar and these were perfect.

Adjacent cabins with connecting doors are marked on the QM2 deck plan. Choose these if four of you are going to book two cabins. But don’t choose these if you’re only booking one cabin, as a wall with connecting door is never as totally soundproofed as a wall without.

Facilities in all cabins

Even the cheapest QM2 cabin (or stateroom as Cunard calls them) features comfortable beds, a private bathroom with shower, sink & toilet, a dressing table, flatscreen TV, a small coffee table & chair, 240v UK & 110v US style power sockets, pay-per-minute internet access, soap, shower gel, shampoo & conditioner, bathrobes, hairdryer, plenty of wardrobe space, room service menu and a solid electronic safe for your valuables that’s large enough for a 14″ laptop. A bedtime chocolate is delivered to your stateroom when the steward turns down your bed.

Where cabins can be configured with either twin beds or a double, you can select your preference in advance using the online voyage personaliser at my.cunard.com/en-gb/mycruise/login the same online system where you download and print your luggage labels and e-ticket. You log on with your Cunard booking reference and personal details.

Britannia sheltered balcony See 360� image

This is cabin 4101 on 4 Deck. The Man in Seat 61 says, “This is my own preferred cabin for a transatlantic crossing. Even at 20 knots in mid-Atlantic the balcony remains wind-free just as the word sheltered suggests. Some people say you won’t get much use out of a balcony on the Atlantic, but I loved being able to stroll outside at any time and stand at the rail watching the Atlantic drift past. On a sunny summer crossing off Newfoundland we did indeed sit outside, and even when inside, the French windows let in lots of natural light, making it a far nicer room than an inside or outside cabin, so upgrade if you can. I have yet to travel with a more expensive full-balcony cabin, but I expect those are a lot more windswept!”. Click the photos for larger images.

Britannia inside & oceanview.

QM2 restaurants.

Which restaurant?

The fare includes breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as afternoon tea in the Queen’s Room or King’s Court. It does not include drinks, other than the basic water, tea, coffee & juice available at the drink stations in the Kings Court buffet restaurant. Bottles of wine start at around $30 and real ale lovers can choose Old Speckled Hen or Spitfire for around $6 a bottle.

Your allocated restaurant: Each stateroom is allocated a restaurant. Most cabins, including the Inside, Oceanview & Sheltered Balcony, are allocated to the Britannia restaurant on decks 2 & 3. The more expensive staterooms are allocated to the more intimate Princess Grill on deck 7, and the very best staterooms to the Queen’s Grill, also on deck 7. The food is excellent, and you choose from a menu of half a dozen different starters, main courses and desserts, which changes every day.

Optional dining venues: You can also choose to eat any given meal in the informal King’s Court buffet on deck 7, or pub grub in the Golden Lion pub on deck 2, instead of your allocated restaurant. It’s entirely up to you, you can decide on a day by day basis.

There is also the Veranda Restaurant aft on deck 8. This does seafood and steaks, and is an extra-cost option – you reserve a table and pay extra to dine there instead of your allocated restaurant.

Room service: If you’d rather eat in your cabin, every cabin has free room service from a simple menu including burgers, pasta, cheese & crackers. You can order by phone at any time, it’s all included in your fare. However, if you order any drinks from room service, including soft drinks, these are charged at bar prices. You can also choose to have breakfast delivered to your stateroom, except on the morning of arrival. Just hang the breakfast order form on your cabin door before retiring.

Britannia restaurant.

Most staterooms are allocated to the Britannia restaurant, a magnificent two-storey 1,300 seat restaurant spanning decks 2 & 3 and reminiscent of the grand dining saloons of the great ocean liners of the past. There are two sittings for dinner, 6pm & 8.30pm. If you pay the Cunard fare you can choose a sitting when you book, if you pay the cheaper Saver fare you will be allocated a sitting, perhaps the less popular 8.30pm one. If you log onto your online voyage personaliser at my.cunard.com/en-gb/mycruise/login with your booking reference and personal details it will confirm your sitting before you travel. Evening entertainment is arranged so that both sittings can enjoy it, although the 6pm sitting gives you the rest of the evening free, and is arguably more relaxed than the later one. If you’ve young children, see the section below. There are no specific sittings or allocated tables for lunch or breakfast, you are allocated a table when you walk in, choosing your own table for 2, table for 4 or if you prefer, seats at a shared table so you get to meet other passengers.

Princess Grill & Queen’s Grill.

More expensive staterooms are allocated to the Princess Grill, the most expensive suites to the Queens Grill. Both are aft on deck 7, served by the same galley. There are no sittings, you can dine any time you choose when the restaurant is open. If you want a drink before dinner, the Grill Lounge is a lounge and bar exclusively for Princess & Queens Grill passengers, on 7 deck aft, directly opposite the entrance to the Queens Grill.

Kings Court.

The Kings Court buffet restaurant takes up most of the centre section of deck 7, and it’s open almost continuously from early until late, with only half an hour here and there were breakfast dishes are swapped for lunch or lunch for dinner. There’s a wide variety of food, all good quality, including a carvery. The window tables with sea views cross the promenade deck are the nicest. Tea, coffee, hot chocolate, water & juices can be had for free from the drinks stations in several locations around the Kings Court area. Stewards will take your order for wine, beer, cocktails, mocktails or fizzy soft drinks and deliver them to your table, these drinks must be paid for, added to your on board account.

The Man in Seat 61 says, “If you fancy a first breakfast in the Britannia restaurant then a second breakfast in the Kings Court, why not? After all, Second Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. “

The Verandah restaurant.

The Verandah restaurant aft on deck 8 is an extra-cost option, specialising in steaks and seafood. You can make a reservation at the Verandah restaurant whilst you are on board, or you can book a table for one or more nights at your desired time before you travel, by logging into your voyage personaliser at my.cunard.com/en-gb/mycruise/login booking the table and paying the extra.

The Man in Seat 61 says, “With our normal Britannia sitting not until 8.30pm, we booked a table at the Verandah for 6pm on our last evening before getting up early to see the arrival into New York. I wished we’d dined there on more than just one occasion, the steaks were top class.”

QM2 bars & lounges.

There is no shortage of watering holes on the Queen Mary 2. Personally, the Chart Room works for cocktails before or after dinner as it’s near the social centre of the ship on deck 3, but for quiet reading, working on a laptop and generally getting away from it all, the Commodore Club with its forward view over the bows is my top choice. Drinks are not too expensive: A tea is $2, a glass of wine perhaps $6, a cocktail $10. Although I’m a non-smoker 99.9% of the time, one of Havana’s Montecristo number 2 cigars and a 1979 Armagnac were sound recommendations from the barman on the last night of a return crossing from New York.

Champagne bar

Sponsored by Veuve Cliquot, the Champagne Bar is on 3 Deck, on the upper level of the Grand Lobby in the centre of the ship.

Commodore Club

Located on deck 9 on ‘A’ stairway at the forward end of the superstructure. It’s away from the hustle and bustle, a quiet and relaxing place for a cocktail and a read or chat. You get a great forward view over the bows, although blinds are drawn at dusk so the light does not interfere with the view from the bridge above. This is my favourite place on QM2 – it does a great range of cocktails and other drinks, the Churchill Cigar Lounge opens off the Commodore Club, the library is one deck down also on ‘A’ stairway, and the open-air observation deck below the bridge is two decks up on ‘A’ stairway. There’s a huge illuminated model of the QM2 behind the bar.

Chart room bar

Located on deck 3 near the Britannia restaurant, this is the largest and busiest of the QM2’s bars. Click the photo for larger image.

Golden Lion Pub

Located on deck 2 near the Britannia restaurant, this is not only a good place for a pint of London Pride, you can take meals here too, with pub-style food such as fish and chips or sausages and mash. Click the photo for larger image.

Carinthia Lounge

Located on deck 7 next to the Kings Court buffet with doors opening onto the promenade deck. This is a good place to sit, read, and have a tea or coffee. You may also find some complimentary snacks or soup here too, at the kitchen counter. Click the photo for larger image.

Afternoon tea in the Queen’s Room

Every day at around 3.30pm, afternoon tea is served in the Queen’s Room, on 2 Deck aft. A choice of teas comes with daintily-cut sandwiches, scones and cakes, served by stewards in white gloves. Afternoon tea is included in the fare, but a glass of champagne is extra.

Afternoon tea on the QM2A white-gloved steward pours the tea on QM2

Grill Lounge

The Grill Lounge is a lounge and bar exclusively for passengers travelling in the upmarket staterooms and suites allocated to the Princess and Queen’s Grill restaurants. It’s located on 7 Deck aft, directly opposite the entrance to the Queen’s Grill and the ship’s width away from the entrance to the Princess Grill. It seemed to be empty most of the time even with the ship sailing full, it’s main purpose seems to be drinks before dinner.

Churchill’s Cigar Lounge

This is a sealed and specially-ventilated room opening off the starboard side of the Commodore Club. Here you can order a whisky or cognac and choose from a cigar menu. The rest of the ship’s accommodation is of course non-smoking!

QM2 activities & entertainment.

A daily programme for the following day is delivered to your stateroom each evening. It shows details of the entertainment and activities on board, along with navigational & itinerary information and the opening and closing times of all restaurants, bars and other facilities. There’s an ongoing programme of shows, plays & lectures. For example, recent crossings featured talks by John Cleese about his work on Monty Python & Fawlty Towers, excellent lectures by an expert on New York skyscrapers, an edited version of Shakespeare’s ‘Taming of the Shrew’ and Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance of being Earnest’. The QM2 also features the world’s only sea-going planetarium, called the ‘Illuminations’. And of course there are several live bands on board, with dancing every evening, sometimes themed such as the ‘Black & White Ball’ and ‘Ascot Ball’. If it’s disco you prefer, you’ll find that in the G32 nightclub. You’ll also find the Canyon Ranch spa on deck 7, offering a wide range of treatments from manicures to massages, Jacuzzis to saunas. If you want to be bored, you’ll have to really work at it.

Library & bookshop

The QM2 has an excellent library – for me, one of its best features – located on 8 deck forward on ‘A’ stairway directly below the Commodore Club. You can take out books using your cabin key, or read them in the library, with comfy seats, some with a forward-facing view over the QM2’s bows. The library is open during office hours every day, outside these times the bookshelves are locked but the library itself remains accessible. As you’d expect, the QM2’s library has a particularly good section of books about ocean liners. Next to the library is a bookshop selling travel guides, QM2 souvenirs & ocean liner/QM2 books. Click the left-hand photo for larger image.

QM2 libraryQM2 library

Swimming pools

The QM2 has several swimming pools. The most popular (certainly on a transatlantic crossing) is the Pavilion Pool on 12 deck, with sun loungers, two hot tubs, see the photo below. The roof can slide away when the QM2 visits warmer climates, but it remains closed on the Atlantic. Towels are provided, there are toilets (visible below behind the two hot tubs) which you can use as changing rooms, or you can change in your cabin and use your bathrobe. You can see the funnel from the pool through the glass roof, towering above you. Don’t jump when the ship’s horns are tested at midday! There’s also a bar here, open at certain times of day. In addition to this indoor pool there are two outdoor pools on the open decks aft (7 & 8 Deck), one of which is only shallow for kids, the other designated as adults-only. Click the photo for larger image.

Illuminations

The QM2’s Illuminations towards the forward end of Deck 2 can be used as a lecture theatre, cinema or (with an ingenious dome lowered from the ceiling) the world’s only ocean-going planetarium. You’ll usually find varying recently-released films shown most evenings, and planetarium sessions at various times on most days. There’s also usually a lecture series or two during each crossing with subjects varying from New York Skyscrapers to pirates on the high seas to the design and build of the QM2. Click the photo for larger image.

Royal Court Theatre

The QM2’s Royal Court Theatre is used for various shows and performances, for example I have seen an interview with John Cleese here, and some stand-up comedy. Click the photo for larger image.

Royal Court Theatre, Queen Mary 2

Spa & gymnasium

The QM2’s Canyon Ranch Spa is at the forward end of Deck 7, with with treatment rooms and pool, plus a small beauty salon above on Deck 8. You can make appointments at the reception desk, treatments & massages are billed to your on-board account. There’s a free-to-use gymnasium at the forward end of Deck 7, pictured below right.

Queen Mary 2Queen Mary 2

The Cunard heritage trail

The Queen Mary 2 is filled with paintings, information panels and even interactive screens telling the history of Cunard Line, its ships, and the famous people who crossed the Atlantic aboard them.

Queen Mary 2Queen Mary 2

Travelling with children.

You won’t be the only family on the QM2, especially on a transatlantic run! You’ll find plenty of entertainment for children in the Play Zone at the aft end of 6 deck.

Arrangements for children & pregnant women on the Queen Mary 2

The Play Zone & child care

The Zone is aft on deck 6, staffed by a team of friendly young British-trained nannies. It has a toddler zone for ages 1-3, a Play Zone for ages 4-6 and The Zone with various computer games and other activities for older kids up to 17. There’s plenty to do, and activities such as treasure hunts or ship tours are organised by the Play Zone team.

Children from 2 to 7 inclusive can be left free of charge with the nannies in the Play Zone during its opening hours, 09:00-12:00, 14:00-17:00, 18:00-24:00 (shorter hours apply on the first and last nights). In other words, you can sign them into the Play Zone at 9am, pick them up at noon and take them to lunch, sign them back in at 2pm and enjoy an afternoon show, pick them up at 5pm and take them to the children’s tea provided in the King’s Court ‘Chef’s Galley’ area between 16:30 & 17:30. Then you can check them back into the Zone at 6pm until midnight, leaving you free to enjoy a formal dinner and evening entertainment while the kids play happily in the Zone and later settle down and fall asleep in front of some cartoons. Outside the Play Zone, children 1 to 7 must always be accompanied by an adult around the ship.

Children 8 and up to 17 can also use the Zone, signing themselves in and out. They are free to wander the ship solo.

I suggest calling Cunard to check current childcare arrangements as they tweak them from time to time, but they don’t properly explain them on their website – indeed, we didn’t know how extensive their childcare facilities were until we we actually on board!

Cabins & dinner sittings

If you have young children, it’s worth asking for a cabin towards the stern of the ship. We were given a stateroom at the extreme forward end of deck 6, whereas the Play Zone is at the extreme aft end of deck 6. That meant we had to walk a sixth of a mile from cabin to Play Zone to sign the kids in, then a sixth of a mile back again to get changed. It proved impossible sign the kids in at 6pm when the Zone opens, walk all the way back to the cabin, get changed into formal dress, then walk forward again to the Britannia restaurant for a 6pm sitting.

From this experience on our outward crossing, we changed our sitting for the return crossing to 8.30pm. The evening then worked better, although some after-dinner films or shows finished after midnight so could not be attended without leaving early to collect the kids. The dinner tended to take up much of the evening. A stateroom near the Zone, and dressing for the 6pm dinner sitting before taking the kids to the Zone, might be the ideal solution, but my wife’s and my opinion is divided!

If you’ve small children, remember to take your folding buggy (stroller). It’s a big ship!

Other useful information.

Baggage

There is no baggage limit on the Queen Mary 2, either in terms of total weight or the number of bags. You can bring what you like, as long as it all fits in your stateroom. However, for safe lifting by staff, no one item may exceed 23Kg (50lb). Bags are taken from you on arrival at the terminal and they reappear in your stateroom on board. At the end of the crossing, they are transported ashore for you. See the embarkation & disembarkation arrangements above. If you plan to go one way by ship, the other by air, one advantage of taking the ship on the return leg is that you can take as much shopping as you like!

Dress code

Cunard sometimes have to fight off a stuffy image, and it didn’t help that until 2013 they had a three-tier dress code as complicated as a Virgin Trains Saver Ticket restriction. However, they now have just two codes, formal and informal. One of two dress codes will apply each evening after 6pm in all the main restaurants and bars, although not in the Kings Court buffet restaurant. You’ll be told which dress code applies on which night in if you log on to your voyage personaliser and it’s also stated in the daily programme delivered to your stateroom.

Dressing up is part of the fun, but if you really don’t want to play the dressing up game you can wear casual clothes on any evening you like in the King’s Court buffet restaurant and relax in the Carinthia lounge – though Cunard say that shorts, T-shirts & denim should not be worn after 6pm anywhere in the public areas inside the ship.

Payment on board

Everything on board, including drinks in the bar, books from the bookshop, massages in the spa, purchases in the shops or internet access, is billed to your on board account. You simply show your cabin card and sign for the payment. At the end of the crossing, the total is automatically deducted from the credit card you gave them at check-in and you’ll get a summary of your account delivered to your stateroom half-way across and at the end of the voyage. Just be aware that Cunard follow the American practice of quoting you one price but charging you a slightly higher price, as all bar prices shown on the drinks menu have 15% service fee added to them automatically. As service is then included, there is no need to add a gratuity unless the service has been particularly special.

Internet & mobile phone access

Internet access is available for a fee throughout the QM2, both in your cabin and in all the public areas including bars but excluding the theatres & restaurants. It generally works well with good download speeds. You pre-pay for a bundle of minutes and this is added to your normal on-board account.

2019 prices: $15 for 30 minutes (= $0.50 per minute), $45 for 120 minutes (= $0.38 per minute) or $80 for 240 minutes (= $0.33 per minute).

You can spend these minutes individually, so for example you can buy 120 minutes and spend them over the course of the whole voyage, logging on to download emails, logging off again to compose replies offline, then logging on again to send, and so only using a few minutes at a time.

To use your own laptop, simply click on the ‘Qm2_Guest_internet’ internet connection and open a web browser to see the log-in screen. Register with your name & cabin number on this log-in page and the cost will be billed to your QM2 stateroom account. If you don’t have your own laptop, the Cunard Connexions rooms on deck 2 or the library on deck 8 have self-service internet PCs which you can use for the same rates. You’ll find power sockets for laptops (both British 3-pin and US 110v) in your cabin, and (if you hunt for them) British 3-pin sockets in certain areas of most bars including the Commodore Club on deck 9 forward and the Chart Room on deck 3. Tip: I found that the Commodore Lounge on 9 deck was the quietest and nicest place to work, there’s a 3-pin power socket near the skirting in the ‘bridge wing’ far side of the lounge. Mobile phone access is available on board throughout the crossing, although it isn’t cheap, you’ll need to ask your phone network for their rates.

Smoking

The QM2 is entirely non-smoking apart from the open decks and the Churchill Cigar Lounge forward on deck 9 next to the Commodore Club.

Laundry

As well as a hotel-style pay-per-item laundry service for laundry collected from your stateroom, you’ll find a small free-of-charge self-service laundrette on cabin decks 4, 5, 6 & 8, see the photo below. These have washers, driers, free detergent sachets, iron & ironing board. This came in very handy on both our outward and return crossings on a 7-week trip to the States, as we arrived in the US with bags full of clean clothes and arrived back in Blighty without a huge laundry backlog. Also useful for ironing dress shirts that have become creased in the baggage.

Taking your dog

Yes, you can take your dog across the Atlantic on the Queen Mary 2, but they will be kept in the ship’s kennels on 12 Deck during the crossing and (except for guide dogs) are not allowed in the public areas. Contact Cunard for details. There’s an exercise area next to the kennels.

Visiting the QM2’s bridge

There are no official bridge visits, but there is a viewing room behind the bridge with two large soundproofed windows so you can see what’s going on. It’s normally open 09:00-16:00 on sea days, although it’s closed in bad weather. The entrance is on the port (left-hand) side of the ship on deck 12, accessed via ‘A’ stairway. No photography is allowed now – the photos below were taken in 2010 although little has changed here.

Which is better, a westbound or an eastbound transatlantic crossing?

If you really haven’t got the time or money to go both ways by sea, you might want to go one-way by sea and the other by air. You can often find one-way QM2 fares with a ‘free’ air fare in the other direction. If you’re British and a shopaholic, the obvious advantage of going out westbound by air and back eastbound by sea is that you can shop in New York and bring back as much as you like, as there are no baggage limits on the Queen Mary 2. And you’ll have the leisurely voyage back home to look forward to at the end of your trip. However, for my money (not being a great shopper), westbound is much better. There’s the growing anticipation as you near America at the end of an outward westbound crossing, there’s the significant advantage of 25-hour days as the clocks are put back on 5 of the 7 nights due to the time difference, and best of all the spectacular arrival into New York harbour in the early morning, with that Manhattan skyline lit by the rising sun. When you’re enjoying your evenings on the town (or rather, the ship) until late at night, the 23-hour days on an eastbound crossing as the clocks are put forward can be a killer! On the other hand, if I were an American heading for Europe, I might well be tempted to head out by sea eastbound, returning west by air.

Forum for cruise reviews, questions & the latest advice

A good place to find advice & reviews about the Queen Mary 2 and other ships, and to post your own questions and reviews of your trip, is the online cruise forum at www.cruise.co.uk.

About Queen Mary 2

The QM2 was built in 2003 at St Nazaire in France, by Chantiers de l’Atlantique, the same shipyard that built the famous French Line ships Ile de France, Normandie and France. The Queen Mary 2 is no longer the biggest passenger ship in the world in terms of Gross Tonnage, as the Queen Mary 2’s 148,528 tons have now been exceeded, first by Royal Caribbean’s 154,000-ton Freedom of the Seas in 2006, and then by the 225,000-ton Oasis of the Seas in 2009. However, the QM2 remains the tallest, longest and widest ship ever built, at 1,132 feet long and 148 feet wide. For comparison, the original Queen Mary is just 81,237 tons, 1019 feet long, 118 feet wide, and the Titanic was only 46,000 tons, 883 feet long, 93 feet wide. Queen Mary 2 uses an unconventional propulsion system: Four large diesel engines and two gas turbines generate electricity, and this powers four electrically-powered propellers each housed in a ‘pod’ attached under her stern. The rear two pods swivel to steer the ship, so the QM2 does not have a conventional rudder. The propellers face forwards rather than backwards, and give her a top speed of around 30 knots (1 knot = 1.1 mph), although she normally crosses the Atlantic at 20 to 25 knots. See Queen Mary 2 Wikipedia entry.

Souvenirs & books about the QM2

Buy a superb model of the Queen Mary 2: The souvenir shop on board QM2 on deck 3 has a couple of models of the Queen Mary 2, but neither (in my opinion) are particularly well detailed, and yet they aren’t cheap, either. If you become a QM2 aficionado during your crossing (highly likely!) and want a top-quality model of the QM2 to sit on your shelves or desk, I highly recommend the 1:1250 Queen Mary 2 model at www.galerie-maritim.de. It is hand painted in die-cast metal. You can buy either a full hull version in a glass case, or a waterline model without a case. The models are small enough not to take up too much room, yet are superbly detailed. They are very expensive, but you won’t be disappointed!

Books about the Queen Mary 2:

The book by John Maxtone-Graham is beautifully written and illustrated, a great souvenir, search for it at Amazon.com (USA) or Amazon.co.uk (UK). It’s also available in the bookshop on board the QM2.

But by far the best book about the design, construction and operation of the QM2 is written by its designer, Stephen Payne, “RMS Queen Mary 2 Manual: An Insight into the Design, Construction and Operation of the World’s Largest Ocean Liner”, buy it at www.amazon.co.uk (UK) or www.amazon.com (USA). Highly recommended!

QM2 video guide.

Alternatives to the Queen Mary 2.

Passenger-carrying freighters

In addition to the QM2, some regular freight ships carry a limited number of passengers, and there are occasional crossings by other cruise lines – UK agencies listing both freighter and cruise line voyages include www.cruisepeople.co.uk/transat.htm.

There are links to other websites about travel by freighter at the top of the ‘shipping’ section on the useful links page.

Hotels & accommodation

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search site: www.booking.com

www.booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally prefer booking my hotels all in one place here. You can usually book with free cancellation – this allows you to confirm your accommodation at no risk before train booking opens. It also means you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary, and alter your plans as they evolve – a feature I use all the time when putting a trip together. I never book hotels non-refundably. I have also come to trust their review scores – you won’t be disappointed with anything over 8.0.

Tip: It can pay to compare prices across multiple hotel sites: HotelsCombined.com is a price comparison site which compares hotel prices on Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia, Accor, Agoda and many others. Though if there’s not much in it, I prefer keeping all my bookings together in one place at www.booking.com.

Hotels in New York.

New York has hundreds of hotels, the two most famous being the New York Plaza Hotel opposite Central Park and the Waldorf-Astoria on 4th Avenue. I’ve never stayed at the Plaza, but have to say I was not impressed by the rooms at the Waldorf, on either occasion I stayed there. Here’s my top tip for New York.

The Algonquin Hotel.

The Algonquin is New York’s oldest operating hotel, opened in 1902, and a designated New York City Historic Landmark. Perfectly located in mid-town Manhattan, a block or two from Times Square one way and Grand Central the other, with a lovely wood-panelled lobby and even its own hotel cat, which you may find wandering the corridors or sitting on the reception desk. To check prices & book, click here. For the Algonquin’s history see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algonquin_Hotel.

Algonquin Hotel, New York - lobbyAlgonquin Hotel, New York - entrance

In Los Angeles: Hotel Queen Mary, Long Beach..

If you get as far as Los Angeles after your transatlantic crossing, it has to be the Hotel Queen Mary, doesn’t it? She makes a good base to explore the Los Angeles – Hollywood – Disneyland area. The original Queen Mary of 1936 has been permanently moored at Long Beach in California since the late 1960s, some 25 miles from Los Angeles Union Station (about a $90 taxi ride), and it’s undoubtedly the most fascinating place to stay in LA. The hotel consists of most of the Queen Mary’s original first class cabins, and there are plenty of restaurants and bars available on board, too. Hotel guests can more or less wander the ship at will, and even sign up for ghost hunts at night on board (and yes, from my own experience there is definitely something going on aboard that beautiful but ageing ship!). Wood panelled art deco interiors have been preserved, although a few modern items have been installed such as televisions, and (as we worked out from a historic deck plan) in some cases two of the Queen Mary’s original cabins have been knocked into one hotel suite by turning one of the en suite bathrooms into a connecting corridor. She is one of the most atmospheric places I have ever stayed.

Train travel
in Australasia

This is a guide to travel between Europe & the United States using Cunard’s Queen Mary 2.

Transatlantic schedule & sailing dates 2022 & 2023

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

Westbound transatlantic – a practical guide

Eastbound transatlantic – a practical guide

Is westbound or eastbound better?

Which cabin to choose?

QM2 restaurants

QM2 bars

Entertainment

Travel with children on the QM2

Useful information – baggage, dress code, payment on board, WiFI, smoking, dogs.

About Queen Mary 2

Souvenirs & books about QM2

Watch the QM2 video guide

Connecting trains to Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, New Orleans

Connecting trains to Toronto, Montreal & Canada

Alternative transatlantic sailings by freight ship

Cunard maintain a scheduled transatlantic passenger service between Europe and the United States, usually one sailing a month in each direction between Southampton & New York from April to December taking 7 nights.

You travel aboard the greatest ocean liner in the world, Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 (QM2). It’s a crossing, not a cruise, and many people use the QM2 as their preferred mode of transport between Europe & the United States. The Queen Mary 2 is a proper ocean liner, built with the extra structural strength & power to withstand the rigours of the North Atlantic in all weathers. The QM2 took over the transatlantic service from Cunard’s 1967-built QE2 in 2004.

You can forget being bored, it’s a week of relaxation, with cinema, theatre, interesting lectures, spa treatments, swimming pools, cocktail bars, restaurants, an excellent library, shops and even the world’s only sea-going planetarium. Plus the cold grey Atlantic which I never tire of watching. You can also forget seasickness, the 150,000 ton QM2 is rock-steady in most weather amidships, you’ll need to walk forward towards the bows to feel any up and down movement. Westbound, the crossing is rounded off by an awe-inspiring early-morning arrival into New York City, in my opinion the best way to arrive in the Big Apple.

Crossing the Atlantic by ocean liner needn’t cost much more than a business-class flight, fares for two people sharing the cheapest Britannia stateroom start from �1,099 per person each way, for 7 nights accommodation, all meals & entertainment.

Read Post  The 7 Best Places to Visit in Europe in December

The Man in Seat Sixty-One says: “From personal experience, staggering round a transatlantic liner in a dinner jacket with a martini is the normal, rational, reasonable way to cross the Atlantic. Heading for an airport and strapping yourself to a flimsy aluminium tube is an unfortunate and eccentric aberration.”

The Queen Mary 2 arrived in New York after a transatlantic crossing from Southampton

Transatlantic sailing dates.

Southampton ► New York

2022 transatlantic sailings: 15 February, 20 March, 24 April, 8 May, 29 May, 24 June, 29 July, 21 August, 15* September, 18 October, 13 November, 15 December.

2023 transatlantic sailings: 11 January**, 23 April, 18 May*, 23 June, 14 July, 11 August, 4 September, 22 September, 19 November, 15 December.

* 8 night crossing, not 7. ** 9 night crossing by Queen Victoria, not QM2.

All crossings are now 7 nights except where shown. The Queen Mary 2 usually sails from Southampton at 17:00, arriving in New York 7 nights later at 06:30-07:00. The terminal she uses in Southampton varies. In New York she arrives at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal.

New York ► Southampton

2022 transatlantic sailings: 3 January, 8 March, 17 April, 1 May, 15 May, 5 June, 8 July, 5 August, 28 August, 7 October, 25 October, 3 December.

2023 transatlantic sailings: 3 January*, 30 April, 26 May, 7 July, 21 July, 18 August, 11 September, 13 October, 8 December.

* 8 night crossing, not 7.

The QM2 usually sails from New York Brooklyn Cruise Terminal at 17:00, with check-in opening at 13:00 and closing at 15:45. She arrives in Southampton at 06:30 seven nights later.

How to check sailing dates, times, prices & availability.

If you live in the UK or elsewhere in Europe, go to If you live in the USA or Canada, you can confirm sailing dates, times and availability at www.cruisedirect.com: Hover over CRUISE LINES at the top and select CUNARD LINE. Then look for SELECT DESTINATION at lower left and tick Transatlantic.

How much does it cost?

Typical Cunard one-way fares for transatlantic crossings. Late bookings in late season can often be cheaper than this!

fare per person including meals,

Inside = without window, oceanview = with porthole, see the cabin accommodation guide. All other staterooms & suites have a balcony, except the two Q3 Royal Suites.

Britannia = allocated to the Britannia restaurant for meals. Princess or Queen’s Grill = allocated to the superior Princess or Queen’s Grill restaurants for meals.

How to find cheaper tickets: You’ll often find cheaper fares if you buy your tickets from a cruise specialist such as www.cruisedirect.com (in the USA or Canada), both of which have online booking for transatlantic crossings and cruises. Agencies like these can save perhaps �100 per person or more off the official Cunard price, and you’ll also find cheaper fares if you shop for last minute deals and late-season crossings, as low as �799 or better, for example. However, be aware that in high summer transatlantic sailings can get full many months in advance.

Round trip fares: There are special round trip fares covering two back-to-back crossings with just 1 day in New York, but if you plan to spend more than a day at your destination you’ll need to pay one-way fares each way. In other words, for all practical purposes a round trip on the QM2 means buying two one-way tickets.

Cunard Fare & Saver fare: The Cunard fare lets you choose a specific cabin & dinner sitting up front. The Saver fares are several hundred pounds or dollars cheaper and guarantee a cabin in the booked grade or higher, but the cabin and dinner sitting time are allocated for you. You can log in to Cunard’s voyage personaliser at my.cunard.com/en-gb/mycruise/login a couple of weeks before departure to see what cabin & sitting you have been allocated.

What does the fare include? All Queen Mary 2 transatlantic fares include your cabin accommodation, all meals & afternoon tea, on-board entertainment such as shows, lectures, films, access to the swimming pools & library, plus the tea, coffee & juices available in the Kings Court self-service. The fare does not include alcoholic & non-alcoholic drinks served in bars or at meals, Canyon Ranch Spa access & treatments, or internet access. Also, a ‘discretionary’ fee of around $11-$14 per person per day will be added to your on board account each day as a gratuity for staff.

How to buy tickets

If you live in UK & Europe.

If you live in the USA or Canada.

How does the ticketing work?

London to New York.

New York to London.

Westbound transatlantic guide

Here is a typical transatlantic timetable, port transfer, embarkation arrangements & journey information for a typical westbound transatlantic sailing on the QM2. Although they normally follow this same pattern, always check the sailing time & check-in times for your specific date. If you find that something has changed, please let me know. If you’re sailing eastbound, see the eastbound information. Are westbound or eastbound crossings better?

Take the train from London Waterloo.

Fast air-conditioned trains run from London Waterloo to Southampton Central every 30 minutes taking around 1h17. No reservation is necessary, just turn up, buy a ticket and hop on the next train.

The fare is �46.10 adult one-way (�39.40 at weekends), children under 16 half price, children under 5 free. First class costs �78.30 (�49.40 at weekends).

Check train times & fares from London Waterloo or anywhere in Britain to Southampton at www.raileurope.com or www.nationalrail.co.uk. Direct trains run from Manchester, Birmingham, Oxford, Reading, Bristol & Cardiff to Southampton, so you won’t have to cross London. See a beginner’s guide to UK train travel.

For train connections from Paris or any other European city to London, see here. I’d recommend a night in London before taking the train to Southampton on sailing day.

Transfer by taxi in Southampton.

Make sure you know which of the four possible terminals the QM2 is sailing from, the QEII terminal (dock gate 4), City Cruise Terminal (dock gate 10), Mayflower Cruise Terminal (dock gate 10), or the new Ocean Terminal (dock gate 4). Map of Southampton, showing all cruise terminals, Southampton Central Station & the historic Ocean Terminal.

A taxi from Southampton Central station takes 10 minutes and costs around �9 to the Mayflower or City cruise terminals, around �12 to the QEII terminal or Ocean Terminal. You’ll find plenty of taxis waiting at the station, the taxi rank is on the same side of the station where most trains from London arrive, so no bridges or subways to negotiate., level access from platform to booking hall to forecourt.

QM2 check-in procedures.

Check-in typically opens at 13:00 and closes around 15:45. Cunard will give you a specific check-in time on your e-ticket to stagger people arriving, but you can arrive earlier if you like, it’s not a problem.

Visitors are not allowed on board, so anyone seeing you off will have to leave you at the terminal. Cunard either send you or allow you to download labels showing your departure date & cabin number, remember to put one on each bag before arriving at the terminal.

When you get out of the taxi at the terminal drop-off point your large bags are immediately taken from you and whisked away, they will magically reappear later in your stateroom. No bag should exceed 23Kg (50lb) but you can take as many bags as you like as long as they will all fit into your stateroom.

You then walk into the check-in hall and go to the first available check-in desk, this usually doesn’t take long. At the check-in desk, you show your e-ticket, your passport & your credit card for on-board purchases, and a webcam photo is taken of each passenger for security purposes. You may be asked to fill out a brief health form to notify the ship of any fever you have or any diarrhoea you’ve had in the last 48 hours. Each passenger is given a credit-card sized plastic card which is your embarkation card, your cabin key and your charge card for buying drinks & souvenirs on board.

After check-in there’s an airline-style X-ray & metal detector security check, then straight onto the gangway onto the QM2, entering the Grand Lobby on deck 3. It’s a painless process compared to airports. If you feel like a late lunch, or just a tea, coffee or juice when you board, you’ll find the King’s Court self-service restaurant on deck 7 open for business and offering all of these.

What’s an Atlantic crossing like?

The Queen Mary 2 is usually due to sail from Southampton at 17:00. This is the most usual time, but please check for your sailing date. Once on board and settled into your stateroom, listen for announcements about emergency drill. This is held at 16:00 and takes about 20 minutes. You listen for the alarm bells, fetch your lifejackets from your stateroom and go to your allocated muster station where staff will brief you on emergency procedures and you’ll listen to an announcement by the captain. When it’s over, return your lifejackets to your stateroom and head up on deck for departure.

Soon after 17:00 the QM2 sails, with a band playing on her aft decks and glasses of champagne available (around $17). She is sometimes moored facing upstream, sometimes downstream, and if she’s moored facing upstream at the City or Mayflower terminals, she’ll first head further upstream before turning around, somehow managing to turn her 1,130 foot length without hitting the far bank of the river or the small boats moored there.

Southampton’s historic Ocean Terminal: Cunard no longer use the traditional and historic Ocean Terminal dock, from which the original Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and even Titanic would have sailed. Indeed, the old 1950 terminal building was demolished in 1983 and this hugely historic location now looks totally unremarkable, a freight dock with a couple of multi-storey car parks next to it for vehicle exports. You won’t know that you’re looking at it unless you know where it is, so see this map. It’s just north of the QEII terminal, just south of the City & Mayflower terminals. About the old Ocean Terminal.

The Queen Mary 2 heads downstream into the Solent, heading directly towards Cowes on the Isle of Wight before making a tight turn to port (left) in the deep water channel, passing Ryde to starboard (right) and Portsmouth to port. The QM2 rounds the Isle of Wight using the deep water route to the east (although this looks like the long way round on a map) and heads out into the English Channel. By breakfast next morning, you’re well past Bishop Rock lighthouse and out in the Atlantic.

Seven nights at sea on the Atlantic. Cunard slowed down their crossings from 6 nights to 7 nights from 2011 onwards, although an occasional crossing may take 6 or 8 nights. This is two days slower than it used to be, as the weekly service operated from 1946 to 1967 by the original Queen Mary and her consort Queen Elizabeth took just 5 nights for the 3,150 nautical miles (3,625 miles).

There may be no coastline or islands to see in mid-Atlantic (or even other ships, usually), but I never tire of gazing at the brooding waters of the North Atlantic. It changes from day to day, sometimes smooth and glassy, sometimes choppy and sombre, sometimes sunny, sometimes foggy with the Queen Mary 2’s fog horn blaring at regular intervals.

You may get rough crossings especially in October, November or December, but my summer crossings on the 150,000 ton Queen Mary 2 or 70,000 ton QE2 have been rock steady all the way. You could be in a 5 star hotel rather than on board a ship!

The QM2’s clocks are put back an hour at 2am on 5 of the 7 nights because of the time difference, giving you a welcome extra hour’s sleep in this direction. You will pass within a few miles of the resting place of the Titanic (within 38 nautical miles on one of my westbound crossings) and an announcement may well be made on board. Naturally, you’ll find a whole programme of entertainment & activities on board every day, and if you really want to be bored you’ll have to work hard at it.

The QM2 arrives in New York at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal at 06:30. This is the highlight! Whether you’re a natural early riser or not, make sure you’re up and on deck by 04:45 on the morning of arrival in New York, as the arrival into New York by ocean liner is something you will remember all you life. There’s a forward-facing observation deck on deck 11, immediately below the bridge, accessed from ‘A’ stairway. You’ll see the lights of Long Island to starboard (the right-hand side), Staten Island to port, and the Verrazano suspension bridge dead ahead at the entrance to New York harbour. The Queen Mary 2 passes under the bridge with just a few precious feet of clearance above her funnel, and as she does so the fabulous Manhattan skyline comes into view. The QM2 no longer uses Cunard’s traditional terminal at Pier 90 on Manhattan itself, so she no longer steams right past the Statue of Liberty, but instead she turns to starboard (to the right) opposite the statue and heads into the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, berthing within sight of the famous Statue and Manhattan skyline.

QM2 disembarkation in New York.

A note explaining QM2 disembarkation procedures appears outside your stateroom a day or two before arrival, and each deck is allocated a disembarkation time. Disembarkation takes place between 08:00 & 11:00. The upper decks with the more expensive cabins disembark first (e.g. decks 9, 10, 11, 12), other decks such as 4, 5 or 6 later.

Labels for your bags appear outside your stateroom the day before arrival. You put a label on each of your bags and place them in the corridor outside your stateroom between 20:00 & midnight before arrival. Your bags will disappear and will be waiting for you in the terminal hall next morning, in an area marked with the same colour as your labels.

It’s then just a matter of going through the U.S. immigration check, a slowish process but no worse than any airport. They you walk out of the terminal.

Express disembarkation: If you want to get off sooner and are happy managing all your own bags, you can register for Express disembarkation at the purser’s desk on deck 2 the day before arrival. You are given an express disembarkation card. Express disembarkation passengers gather in the Queens Room from 06:45 onwards with all their luggage, and at around 07:00 when the gangway opens you simply walk off the ship with your bags, straight into the terminal. With a Deck 4 cabin we were allocated an 11:00 disembarkation time, which would have meant half a day in New York wasted, so I’d go for express disembarkation every time!

Transfer by taxi to Manhattan.

The Tour Office on deck 2 offers private transfers by minivan from Brooklyn Cruise Terminal to any Manhattan hotel for a ridiculous $429, or they can sell you tickets for a transfer bus for $59 per person.

However, both options are crazy, because a normal yellow cab from the terminal taxi rank to anywhere in Manhattan costs only $40 for up to 4 people and all your bags, and you’ll find plenty of taxis waiting right outside the terminal building. Enjoy the drive across the famous Brooklyn Bridge in a New York Yellow Cab!

You’ll also find plenty of black private hire vehicles outside the terminal with a fixed price of around $55 to a Manhattan hotel, also a good relaxed option. The ride takes 20 minutes.

By train from New York to other U.S. cities.

You can be at Penn Station by 11:30 or earlier, for onward train connections. Washington DC is only 3 hours away by train, Boston 4 hours or less. The Lake Shore Limited train to Chicago leaves Penn Station around 15:45 arriving in Chicago next morning, with connections for all points west including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Dallas, Seattle. You’ll also make the afternoon Crescent overnight train to Atlanta & New Orleans, or the afternoon Silver Meteor overnight to Florida.

You can book any of these trains online in advance at www.amtrak.com, collecting your ticket from the self-service machines at Penn Station. Note that between New York & Washington or New York & Boston you’ll be offered two different types of train: The premium-fare Acela Express 150mph high-speed train with business class and first class, but no coach class, and the slower but cheaper Northeast Regional trains with coach class and business class.

You can book Amtrak trains yourself, but if you want an agency to sort a package of train connections and hotels from New York to other US cities, call Railbookers on 0207 864 4600 (UK office) or 1-888-829-4775 (US office). Beginner’s guide to train travel in the USA.

By train from New York to Toronto, Montreal & Canada.

Two daily trains link New York with Canada, the Maple Leaf to Toronto and the Adirondack to Montreal. Both trains leave New York in the morning, so you’ll need to spend the night in New York. It’s a very scenic run along the Hudson River valley, past West Point Military Academy, Storm King Mountain and Bannerman’s Island. As it’s name suggests, the train to Montreal also passes through the scenic Adirondack Mountains and past Lake Champlain. Information on trains from New York to Canada. Change in Toronto for the famous Canadian trans-continental train 2-3 times a week to Winnipeg, Edmonton, Jasper & Vancouver.

You can book Amtrak & VIA Rail trains yourself, but if you want an agency to sort a package of train connections and hotels from New York to major Canadian cities, call Railbookers on 0207 864 4600 (UK office), 1-888-829-4775 (US office, toll-free) or 1-855-882-2910 (Canada, toll-free). Beginner’s guide to train travel in Canada.

London to New York in pictures.

Eastbound transatlantic guide

Here is a typical timetable, transfer & journey information for most eastbound trans-Atlantic crossings. Although they usually follow this pattern, please check sailing & check-in times for your specific date when you book in case they are different. If you find that anything has changed, do let me know. If you plan to travel westbound, click here. Are westbound or eastbound crossings better?

By train from Washington DC & other US cities to New York.

Amtrak trains link Washington DC & New York in less than 3 hours, Boston to New York in under 4 hours. The daily Lake Shore Limited links Chicago & New York overnight, with connections in Chicago from LA, San Francisco, Seattle, etc. However, the Lake Shore arrives at New York’s Penn station in the early evening, too late for same-day connections with the ‘Mary, so you’ll need to leave Chicago two nights before the ‘Mary sails and spend a night in New York before sailing day. You can check schedules and fares and buy tickets for any of these trains online at www.amtrak.com. Note that between New York & Washington or New York & Boston you’ll be offered two different types of train: The premium-fare Acela Express 150mph high-speed train with business class and first class, but no coach class, and the slower but cheaper Northeast Regional trains with coach class and business class. You can book Amtrak trains yourself, but if you want an agency to sort a package of train connections and hotels from other US cities to New York for you, call Railbookers on 0207 864 4600 (UK office) or 1-888-829-4775 (US office. Beginner’s guide to train travel in the USA.

By train from Toronto, Montreal & Canada to New York.

Two daily trains link Canada with New York, the Maple Leaf from Toronto and Adirondack from Montreal. Both trains arrive in New York in the evening, so you’ll need to spend a night in New York before sailing day – Check hotels in New York. It’s a very scenic run down the Hudson River valley, past West Point Military Academy, Storm King Mountain and Bannerman’s Island. As it’s name suggests, the train from Montreal also passes through the scenic Adirondack Mountains and past Lake Champlain. Information on trains between Canada & New York. The famous Canadian trans-continental train links Vancouver & Toronto three times a week, via Jasper, Edmonton & Winnipeg. You can book Amtrak & VIA Rail trains yourself, but if you want an agency to sort a package of train connections and hotels from a Canadian city to New York for you, call Railbookers on 0207 864 4600 (UK office) or 1-888-829-4775 (US office, toll-free) or 1-855-882-2910 (Canada, toll-free). Beginner’s guide to train travel in Canada.

By taxi from Manhattan to Brooklyn Cruise Terminal.

A normal yellow cab from New York Penn Station or any hotel in Manhattan to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal costs around $40 for up to 4 people and all your bags. Enjoy the drive across the famous Brooklyn Bridge in a traditional New York Yellow Cab! The taxi ride takes 20 minutes.

QM2 check-in procedures in New York.

Check-in usually opens around 13:00 and closes around 15:45. Cunard will give you a specific check-in time on your e-ticket to try and stagger people arriving, but you can arrive earlier if you like. Visitors are not allowed on board, so anyone seeing you off will have to leave you at the terminal then wave from the shore.

Cunard will have sent you adhesive labels showing your departure date & cabin number, remember to put one on each bag before arriving at the terminal, as when you get there your larger bags are immediately taken from you. They will magically reappear later in your stateroom. No one bag should exceed 23Kg (50lb) but you can take as many bags as you like as long as they will all fit into your stateroom.

You then walk into the terminal and join the short queue for a ticket check, then another short queue for the X-ray and metal detector security check, then you join a long zig-zag queue for check-in proper.

At the check-in desk, you show your e-ticket, your passport & your credit card for on-board purchases, and a webcam photo is taken of each passenger for security purposes. You also hand in a brief health form notifying the ship of any fever you have or any diarrhoea you’ve had in the last 48 hours. Each passenger is given a credit-card sized plastic card which acts as your embarkation card, cabin key and charge card for buying drinks & souvenirs on board. You then go up the gangway onto the QM2, entering the Grand Lobby on deck 3.

Apart from the time spent in the main queue (have a reading book and some refreshments to hand), it’s a painless process compared to airports. If you feel like a late lunch, or just a tea, coffee or juice when you board, you’ll find the King’s Court self-service restaurant on deck 7 open for business and offering all of these.

What’s an eastbound Atlantic crossing like?

The ship normally sails from New York at 17:00. This is the usual time, but please check for your specific departure date. Once on board and settled into your stateroom, listen for announcements about emergency drill. This is held at 16:00 and takes about 20 minutes. You listen for the alarm bells, fetch your lifejackets from your stateroom and go to your allocated muster station where staff will brief you on emergency procedures and you’ll listen to an announcement by the captain. After this you’re free to go up on deck and admire the Manhattan skyline astern and the Statue of Liberty to starboard (right-hand side). At 17:00 she casts off, and with a band playing on her aft decks and glasses of champagne available (around $17) she heads out to sea. Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty slowly disappear astern, and the QM2 heads toward and then underneath the huge Verrazano suspension bridge out into the Atlantic. There is just a few precious feet of clearance above her red funnel! An NYPD police boat follows behind (seeing you off the premises?), and a police helicopter buzzes overhead.

Seven nights at sea on the Atlantic. Cunard slowed down their crossings to from 6 to 7 nights from 2011 onwards, although an occasional crossing still takes 6 nights. Naturally, you’ll find a whole programme of entertainment & activities on board every day, and if you really want to be bored you’ll have to work hard at it! There are no islands or coastline to see in mid-Atlantic (or even other ships, usually), but personally I never tire of gazing at the brooding waters of the North Atlantic. It changes from day to day, sometimes smooth and glassy, sometimes choppy and sombre, sometimes foggy, sometimes sunny. You may get rough crossings especially in October, November or December, but my own transatlantic crossings on the 150,000 ton Queen Mary 2 or 70,000 ton QE2 have been rock steady all the way. You could be in a 5 star hotel rather than on board a ship! The QM2’s clocks are put forward an hour at 2am on five of the seven eastbound nights because of the time difference, giving you an hour’s less sleep in this direction – if there’s one reason why a westbound crossing can be nicer than an eastbound one, this is it! (update 2013: Cunard has tried the crazy idea of putting the clocks forward at midday on recent crossings, much to passengers dismay, as it can be confusing and means dinner is too soon after lunch!) You will pass within a few miles of the resting place of the Titanic and an announcement may well be made on board. On the last evening at dinner you may catch site of the Isles of Scilly in the distance (about 35 miles west of Land’s End), and later the lights of Cornwall twinkling to port. A first view of Great Britain! You’re now past the Bishop Rock lighthouse an in the English Channel. Incidentally, a modern transatlantic crossing is now two days slower than it used to be, as the weekly service operated by the first Queen Mary and her consort Queen Elizabeth from 1946 to 1967 took just 5 nights.

The ship arrives in Southampton at 06:30. You’ll need to be up early, at around 04:30, if you want to see the ship round the Isle of Wight and head past Portsmouth & Ryde and into Southampton Water, although this hardly lives up to the spectacular arrival in New York on a westbound transatlantic. There’s a forward-facing observation deck on deck 10, immediately below the bridge, accessed from ‘A’ stairway. Otherwise, you’ll find the ship docked at the Southampton Terminal when you awake, and the Kings Court & Britannia restaurants serving a welcome cooked breakfast to send you on your way.

QM2 disembarkation in Southampton.

A note explaining QM2 disembarkation procedures appears outside your stateroom a day or two before arrival, and each deck is allocated a disembarkation time. Disembarkation takes place between 08:00 & 11:00. The upper decks with the more expensive cabins disembark first (e.g. decks 9, 10, 11, 12), other decks such as 4, 5 or 6 later.

Labels for your bags appear outside your stateroom the day before arrival. You put a label on each of your bags and place them in the corridor outside your stateroom between 20:00 & midnight before arrival. Your bags will disappear and will be waiting for you in the terminal hall next morning, in an area marked with the same colour as your labels.

It’s then just a matter of going through the UK immigration check. They you walk out of the terminal.

Express disembarkation: If you want to get off sooner and are happy managing all your own bags, you can register for Express disembarkation at the purser’s desk on deck 2 the day before arrival. You are given an express disembarkation card. Express disembarkation passengers gather in the Queens Room from 06:45 onwards with all their luggage, and at around 07:00 when the gangway opens you simply walk off the ship with your bags, straight into the terminal.

Transfer by taxi to Southampton Central station.

The Queen Mary 2 can use any one of four different terminals in Southampton, either the QEII terminal (dock gate 4), City Cruise Terminal (dock gate 10), Mayflower Cruise Terminal (dock gate 10), or the new Ocean Terminal (dock gate 4). Map of Southampton, showing all cruise terminals, Southampton Central Station & the original historic Ocean Terminal. A taxi to Southampton Central station costs around �9 from the Mayflower or City cruise terminals, or around �12 from the QEII terminal or Ocean Terminal. You’ll find plenty of taxis waiting at the terminal, although there can be a long wait as there are so many other passengers. The taxi ride takes just 10 minutes.

Take the train to London Waterloo.

Cunard no longer organise a special ‘boat train’ in connection with QM2 sailings. However, fast air-conditioned trains link Southampton Central with London Waterloo every 30 minutes taking around 1h17. No reservation is necessary or even possible for Southampton-London trains, you just turn up, buy a ticket and hop on the next train. Southampton-London costs �46.10 adult one-way (�39.40 at weekends), children under 16 half price, children under 5 free. First class costs �78.30 (�49.40 at weekends). You can check train times & fares from Southampton to London Waterloo or anywhere in Britain using www.raileurope.com or www.nationalrail.co.uk. Direct trains run from Southampton to Reading, Oxford, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol & Cardiff, so you won’t have to cross London. Beginner’s guide to UK train travel. Find a hotel in London.

Onward trains from London to Paris & beyond.

Onwards to Paris: Allow plenty of time for onward connections, certainly several hours, and maybe stay in London overnight. For Paris, take a UK domestic train from Southampton central to London Waterloo (no reservation necessary, see the section above), then take a taxi or Underground across London to St Pancras Station. Eurostar runs every hour or so from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord in central Paris, journey time 2 hours 20 minutes. For a beginner’s guide to Eurostar travel, see the London to Paris by Eurostar page. You can book tickets online in advance at www.eurostar.com, and you should indeed pre-book, as London-Paris prices start from just �44 in advance but up to �180 if you wait and buy on the day of travel.

Onwards to other countries: See this page for information on getting from London to any country in Europe. Having crossed the Atlantic on the luxurious Queen Mary 2, how about taking the Venice Simplon Orient Express vintage luxury train to Italy? This runs on most Thursdays from April to October, and takes 24 hours from London to Venice, a real treat. You can book European trains yourself, but if you want an agency to put together a package of train connections and hotels from anywhere in Europe to Southampton for you, call Railbookers on 0207 864 4600 (UK) or 1-888-829-4775 (US office).

New York to London in pictures.

Which cabin to choose?

There are a bewildering range of staterooms on the Queen Mary 2 at varying prices, but they basically fall into these categories, in ascending order of cost:

Britannia Inside: An Inside cabin means it has no window, but even though this is the cheapest option, these staterooms are spacious, beautifully designed and have all the facilities mentioned above. They have double or twin beds for 2 people, although some rooms are fitted with an additional two drop-down upper berths making a 3 or 4-berth room. Some cabins are wheelchair-accessible. Allocated to the Britannia restaurant. Typically 155 sq ft.

Britannia Atrium View: There are a handful of standard inside cabins on decks 4, 5 & 6 which have a small window opening onto the atrium above the Grand Lobby. They have double or twin beds for 2 people, but none of these rooms are fitted with additional berths. Also allocated to the Britannia restaurant. Typically 161 sq ft.

Britannia Oceanview: These are outside cabins meaning they have a small non-opening porthole for sea views. Some seasoned travellers will tell you that with no coastline or islands to see on a 6 day transatlantic crossing, a window is unnecessary. However, I enjoy seeing where I am and love gazing at the vast and always-changing waters of the North Atlantic. Paying the extra for a Standard Oceanview is well worth it, both for the views and the natural light. These staterooms have double or twin beds for two people, but some rooms are fitted with an additional two drop-down upper berths making a 3- or 4-berth room. Some are wheelchair-accessible. Also allocated to the Britannia restaurant. Typically 194 sq ft.

I’ve crossed with an inside cabin and with an outside cabin, and I think it’s well worth the extra for a porthole. It lets natural light into the cabin and it gives you a much greater sense of place – not to mention sunsets over the Isle of Wight and views of the Statue of Liberty as you pack up on arrival!

Britannia Balcony (Obstructed View): The cheapest cabin type to have its own balcony, allocated to the Britannia restaurant. These are all on Deck 8 above the promenade deck, but with their view heavily obstructed by the ship’s lifeboats. They have a double or twin beds for 2 people, and a few cabins have a 3rd berth in the form of a pull-out sofa bed.

I’d definitely pay a little more for an sheltered balcony, without any obstruction.

Britannia Sheltered Balcony: The next cheapest cabin type to have its own balcony, allocated to the Britannia restaurant, also with a double or twin beds for 2 people, a few cabins have a pull-out sofa bed as well. Sheltered balcony cabins are on decks 4, 5 & 6 below the promenade deck with a small balcony cut into the hull. Typically 269 sq ft, including balcony.

This is my own first choice (unless you can afford a megabucks suite, of course), arguably a better choice for a transatlantic crossing than a more expensive cabin with a more windswept balcony in the ship’s superstructure. See the photos below.

Britannia Balcony: Also allocated to the Britannia restaurant, these are slightly smaller than the Sheltered Balcony rooms, but have a glass-fronted balcony higher up in the ship’s superstructure, on deck 8 and above.

The open glass-fronted balcony lets even more natural light into the cabin than a sheltered balcony, but it’ll be more windswept than a sheltered balcony on a transatlantic crossing! Typically 248 sq ft, including balcony.

Britannia Club Balcony: Similar to a Britannia Balcony, but allocated to the single-sitting ‘Britannia Club’ restaurant, a separate off-shoot of the main Britannia restaurant. Typically 248 sq ft, including balcony.

Princess Balcony Suites: Suites with balcony, all allocated to the Princess Grill restaurant. Typically 381 sq ft, including balcony.

Queens Balcony Suites: Various types of suite, up to and including the extravagant Grand Duplex suites, all allocated to the Queen’s Grill restaurant. All have balconies, except the two Q3 grade Royal Suites. Size varies from 506 sq ft to 2,249 sq ft.

If you pay the more expensive Cunard fare so you can choose a specific cabin, here are some things to consider.

You can feel a slight up & down movement of the ship towards at the bows, but will feel hardly any movement at all amidships. For this reason mid-ships cabins are higher-graded and cost more (Even if you pay the cheaper Saver fare, you can select a higher grade to ensure a mid-ships cabin).

Some people have reported noise from below when occupying sheltered balcony cabins on 4 deck directly above the Illuminations or Royal Court Theatre, so 5 or 6 Deck may be preferable. However, we had 4101 & 4105 over the Chart Room bar and these were perfect.

Adjacent cabins with connecting doors are marked on the QM2 deck plan. Choose these if four of you are going to book two cabins. But don’t choose these if you’re only booking one cabin, as a wall with connecting door is never as totally soundproofed as a wall without.

Facilities in all cabins

Even the cheapest QM2 cabin (or stateroom as Cunard calls them) features comfortable beds, a private bathroom with shower, sink & toilet, a dressing table, flatscreen TV, a small coffee table & chair, 240v UK & 110v US style power sockets, pay-per-minute internet access, soap, shower gel, shampoo & conditioner, bathrobes, hairdryer, plenty of wardrobe space, room service menu and a solid electronic safe for your valuables that’s large enough for a 14″ laptop. A bedtime chocolate is delivered to your stateroom when the steward turns down your bed.

Where cabins can be configured with either twin beds or a double, you can select your preference in advance using the online voyage personaliser at my.cunard.com/en-gb/mycruise/login the same online system where you download and print your luggage labels and e-ticket. You log on with your Cunard booking reference and personal details.

Britannia sheltered balcony See 360� image

This is cabin 4101 on 4 Deck. The Man in Seat 61 says, “This is my own preferred cabin for a transatlantic crossing. Even at 20 knots in mid-Atlantic the balcony remains wind-free just as the word sheltered suggests. Some people say you won’t get much use out of a balcony on the Atlantic, but I loved being able to stroll outside at any time and stand at the rail watching the Atlantic drift past. On a sunny summer crossing off Newfoundland we did indeed sit outside, and even when inside, the French windows let in lots of natural light, making it a far nicer room than an inside or outside cabin, so upgrade if you can. I have yet to travel with a more expensive full-balcony cabin, but I expect those are a lot more windswept!”. Click the photos for larger images.

Britannia inside & oceanview.

QM2 restaurants.

Which restaurant?

The fare includes breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as afternoon tea in the Queen’s Room or King’s Court. It does not include drinks, other than the basic water, tea, coffee & juice available at the drink stations in the Kings Court buffet restaurant. Bottles of wine start at around $30 and real ale lovers can choose Old Speckled Hen or Spitfire for around $6 a bottle.

Your allocated restaurant: Each stateroom is allocated a restaurant. Most cabins, including the Inside, Oceanview & Sheltered Balcony, are allocated to the Britannia restaurant on decks 2 & 3. The more expensive staterooms are allocated to the more intimate Princess Grill on deck 7, and the very best staterooms to the Queen’s Grill, also on deck 7. The food is excellent, and you choose from a menu of half a dozen different starters, main courses and desserts, which changes every day.

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Optional dining venues: You can also choose to eat any given meal in the informal King’s Court buffet on deck 7, or pub grub in the Golden Lion pub on deck 2, instead of your allocated restaurant. It’s entirely up to you, you can decide on a day by day basis.

There is also the Veranda Restaurant aft on deck 8. This does seafood and steaks, and is an extra-cost option – you reserve a table and pay extra to dine there instead of your allocated restaurant.

Room service: If you’d rather eat in your cabin, every cabin has free room service from a simple menu including burgers, pasta, cheese & crackers. You can order by phone at any time, it’s all included in your fare. However, if you order any drinks from room service, including soft drinks, these are charged at bar prices. You can also choose to have breakfast delivered to your stateroom, except on the morning of arrival. Just hang the breakfast order form on your cabin door before retiring.

Britannia restaurant.

Most staterooms are allocated to the Britannia restaurant, a magnificent two-storey 1,300 seat restaurant spanning decks 2 & 3 and reminiscent of the grand dining saloons of the great ocean liners of the past. There are two sittings for dinner, 6pm & 8.30pm. If you pay the Cunard fare you can choose a sitting when you book, if you pay the cheaper Saver fare you will be allocated a sitting, perhaps the less popular 8.30pm one. If you log onto your online voyage personaliser at my.cunard.com/en-gb/mycruise/login with your booking reference and personal details it will confirm your sitting before you travel. Evening entertainment is arranged so that both sittings can enjoy it, although the 6pm sitting gives you the rest of the evening free, and is arguably more relaxed than the later one. If you’ve young children, see the section below. There are no specific sittings or allocated tables for lunch or breakfast, you are allocated a table when you walk in, choosing your own table for 2, table for 4 or if you prefer, seats at a shared table so you get to meet other passengers.

Princess Grill & Queen’s Grill.

More expensive staterooms are allocated to the Princess Grill, the most expensive suites to the Queens Grill. Both are aft on deck 7, served by the same galley. There are no sittings, you can dine any time you choose when the restaurant is open. If you want a drink before dinner, the Grill Lounge is a lounge and bar exclusively for Princess & Queens Grill passengers, on 7 deck aft, directly opposite the entrance to the Queens Grill.

Kings Court.

The Kings Court buffet restaurant takes up most of the centre section of deck 7, and it’s open almost continuously from early until late, with only half an hour here and there were breakfast dishes are swapped for lunch or lunch for dinner. There’s a wide variety of food, all good quality, including a carvery. The window tables with sea views cross the promenade deck are the nicest. Tea, coffee, hot chocolate, water & juices can be had for free from the drinks stations in several locations around the Kings Court area. Stewards will take your order for wine, beer, cocktails, mocktails or fizzy soft drinks and deliver them to your table, these drinks must be paid for, added to your on board account.

The Man in Seat 61 says, “If you fancy a first breakfast in the Britannia restaurant then a second breakfast in the Kings Court, why not? After all, Second Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. “

The Verandah restaurant.

The Verandah restaurant aft on deck 8 is an extra-cost option, specialising in steaks and seafood. You can make a reservation at the Verandah restaurant whilst you are on board, or you can book a table for one or more nights at your desired time before you travel, by logging into your voyage personaliser at my.cunard.com/en-gb/mycruise/login booking the table and paying the extra.

The Man in Seat 61 says, “With our normal Britannia sitting not until 8.30pm, we booked a table at the Verandah for 6pm on our last evening before getting up early to see the arrival into New York. I wished we’d dined there on more than just one occasion, the steaks were top class.”

QM2 bars & lounges.

There is no shortage of watering holes on the Queen Mary 2. Personally, the Chart Room works for cocktails before or after dinner as it’s near the social centre of the ship on deck 3, but for quiet reading, working on a laptop and generally getting away from it all, the Commodore Club with its forward view over the bows is my top choice. Drinks are not too expensive: A tea is $2, a glass of wine perhaps $6, a cocktail $10. Although I’m a non-smoker 99.9% of the time, one of Havana’s Montecristo number 2 cigars and a 1979 Armagnac were sound recommendations from the barman on the last night of a return crossing from New York.

Champagne bar

Sponsored by Veuve Cliquot, the Champagne Bar is on 3 Deck, on the upper level of the Grand Lobby in the centre of the ship.

Commodore Club

Located on deck 9 on ‘A’ stairway at the forward end of the superstructure. It’s away from the hustle and bustle, a quiet and relaxing place for a cocktail and a read or chat. You get a great forward view over the bows, although blinds are drawn at dusk so the light does not interfere with the view from the bridge above. This is my favourite place on QM2 – it does a great range of cocktails and other drinks, the Churchill Cigar Lounge opens off the Commodore Club, the library is one deck down also on ‘A’ stairway, and the open-air observation deck below the bridge is two decks up on ‘A’ stairway. There’s a huge illuminated model of the QM2 behind the bar.

Chart room bar

Located on deck 3 near the Britannia restaurant, this is the largest and busiest of the QM2’s bars. Click the photo for larger image.

Golden Lion Pub

Located on deck 2 near the Britannia restaurant, this is not only a good place for a pint of London Pride, you can take meals here too, with pub-style food such as fish and chips or sausages and mash. Click the photo for larger image.

Carinthia Lounge

Located on deck 7 next to the Kings Court buffet with doors opening onto the promenade deck. This is a good place to sit, read, and have a tea or coffee. You may also find some complimentary snacks or soup here too, at the kitchen counter. Click the photo for larger image.

Afternoon tea in the Queen’s Room

Every day at around 3.30pm, afternoon tea is served in the Queen’s Room, on 2 Deck aft. A choice of teas comes with daintily-cut sandwiches, scones and cakes, served by stewards in white gloves. Afternoon tea is included in the fare, but a glass of champagne is extra.

Afternoon tea on the QM2A white-gloved steward pours the tea on QM2

Grill Lounge

The Grill Lounge is a lounge and bar exclusively for passengers travelling in the upmarket staterooms and suites allocated to the Princess and Queen’s Grill restaurants. It’s located on 7 Deck aft, directly opposite the entrance to the Queen’s Grill and the ship’s width away from the entrance to the Princess Grill. It seemed to be empty most of the time even with the ship sailing full, it’s main purpose seems to be drinks before dinner.

Churchill’s Cigar Lounge

This is a sealed and specially-ventilated room opening off the starboard side of the Commodore Club. Here you can order a whisky or cognac and choose from a cigar menu. The rest of the ship’s accommodation is of course non-smoking!

QM2 activities & entertainment.

A daily programme for the following day is delivered to your stateroom each evening. It shows details of the entertainment and activities on board, along with navigational & itinerary information and the opening and closing times of all restaurants, bars and other facilities. There’s an ongoing programme of shows, plays & lectures. For example, recent crossings featured talks by John Cleese about his work on Monty Python & Fawlty Towers, excellent lectures by an expert on New York skyscrapers, an edited version of Shakespeare’s ‘Taming of the Shrew’ and Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance of being Earnest’. The QM2 also features the world’s only sea-going planetarium, called the ‘Illuminations’. And of course there are several live bands on board, with dancing every evening, sometimes themed such as the ‘Black & White Ball’ and ‘Ascot Ball’. If it’s disco you prefer, you’ll find that in the G32 nightclub. You’ll also find the Canyon Ranch spa on deck 7, offering a wide range of treatments from manicures to massages, Jacuzzis to saunas. If you want to be bored, you’ll have to really work at it.

Library & bookshop

The QM2 has an excellent library – for me, one of its best features – located on 8 deck forward on ‘A’ stairway directly below the Commodore Club. You can take out books using your cabin key, or read them in the library, with comfy seats, some with a forward-facing view over the QM2’s bows. The library is open during office hours every day, outside these times the bookshelves are locked but the library itself remains accessible. As you’d expect, the QM2’s library has a particularly good section of books about ocean liners. Next to the library is a bookshop selling travel guides, QM2 souvenirs & ocean liner/QM2 books. Click the left-hand photo for larger image.

QM2 libraryQM2 library

Swimming pools

The QM2 has several swimming pools. The most popular (certainly on a transatlantic crossing) is the Pavilion Pool on 12 deck, with sun loungers, two hot tubs, see the photo below. The roof can slide away when the QM2 visits warmer climates, but it remains closed on the Atlantic. Towels are provided, there are toilets (visible below behind the two hot tubs) which you can use as changing rooms, or you can change in your cabin and use your bathrobe. You can see the funnel from the pool through the glass roof, towering above you. Don’t jump when the ship’s horns are tested at midday! There’s also a bar here, open at certain times of day. In addition to this indoor pool there are two outdoor pools on the open decks aft (7 & 8 Deck), one of which is only shallow for kids, the other designated as adults-only. Click the photo for larger image.

Illuminations

The QM2’s Illuminations towards the forward end of Deck 2 can be used as a lecture theatre, cinema or (with an ingenious dome lowered from the ceiling) the world’s only ocean-going planetarium. You’ll usually find varying recently-released films shown most evenings, and planetarium sessions at various times on most days. There’s also usually a lecture series or two during each crossing with subjects varying from New York Skyscrapers to pirates on the high seas to the design and build of the QM2. Click the photo for larger image.

Royal Court Theatre

The QM2’s Royal Court Theatre is used for various shows and performances, for example I have seen an interview with John Cleese here, and some stand-up comedy. Click the photo for larger image.

Royal Court Theatre, Queen Mary 2

Spa & gymnasium

The QM2’s Canyon Ranch Spa is at the forward end of Deck 7, with with treatment rooms and pool, plus a small beauty salon above on Deck 8. You can make appointments at the reception desk, treatments & massages are billed to your on-board account. There’s a free-to-use gymnasium at the forward end of Deck 7, pictured below right.

Queen Mary 2Queen Mary 2

The Cunard heritage trail

The Queen Mary 2 is filled with paintings, information panels and even interactive screens telling the history of Cunard Line, its ships, and the famous people who crossed the Atlantic aboard them.

Queen Mary 2Queen Mary 2

Travelling with children.

You won’t be the only family on the QM2, especially on a transatlantic run! You’ll find plenty of entertainment for children in the Play Zone at the aft end of 6 deck.

Arrangements for children & pregnant women on the Queen Mary 2

The Play Zone & child care

The Zone is aft on deck 6, staffed by a team of friendly young British-trained nannies. It has a toddler zone for ages 1-3, a Play Zone for ages 4-6 and The Zone with various computer games and other activities for older kids up to 17. There’s plenty to do, and activities such as treasure hunts or ship tours are organised by the Play Zone team.

Children from 2 to 7 inclusive can be left free of charge with the nannies in the Play Zone during its opening hours, 09:00-12:00, 14:00-17:00, 18:00-24:00 (shorter hours apply on the first and last nights). In other words, you can sign them into the Play Zone at 9am, pick them up at noon and take them to lunch, sign them back in at 2pm and enjoy an afternoon show, pick them up at 5pm and take them to the children’s tea provided in the King’s Court ‘Chef’s Galley’ area between 16:30 & 17:30. Then you can check them back into the Zone at 6pm until midnight, leaving you free to enjoy a formal dinner and evening entertainment while the kids play happily in the Zone and later settle down and fall asleep in front of some cartoons. Outside the Play Zone, children 1 to 7 must always be accompanied by an adult around the ship.

Children 8 and up to 17 can also use the Zone, signing themselves in and out. They are free to wander the ship solo.

I suggest calling Cunard to check current childcare arrangements as they tweak them from time to time, but they don’t properly explain them on their website – indeed, we didn’t know how extensive their childcare facilities were until we we actually on board!

Cabins & dinner sittings

If you have young children, it’s worth asking for a cabin towards the stern of the ship. We were given a stateroom at the extreme forward end of deck 6, whereas the Play Zone is at the extreme aft end of deck 6. That meant we had to walk a sixth of a mile from cabin to Play Zone to sign the kids in, then a sixth of a mile back again to get changed. It proved impossible sign the kids in at 6pm when the Zone opens, walk all the way back to the cabin, get changed into formal dress, then walk forward again to the Britannia restaurant for a 6pm sitting.

From this experience on our outward crossing, we changed our sitting for the return crossing to 8.30pm. The evening then worked better, although some after-dinner films or shows finished after midnight so could not be attended without leaving early to collect the kids. The dinner tended to take up much of the evening. A stateroom near the Zone, and dressing for the 6pm dinner sitting before taking the kids to the Zone, might be the ideal solution, but my wife’s and my opinion is divided!

If you’ve small children, remember to take your folding buggy (stroller). It’s a big ship!

Other useful information.

Baggage

There is no baggage limit on the Queen Mary 2, either in terms of total weight or the number of bags. You can bring what you like, as long as it all fits in your stateroom. However, for safe lifting by staff, no one item may exceed 23Kg (50lb). Bags are taken from you on arrival at the terminal and they reappear in your stateroom on board. At the end of the crossing, they are transported ashore for you. See the embarkation & disembarkation arrangements above. If you plan to go one way by ship, the other by air, one advantage of taking the ship on the return leg is that you can take as much shopping as you like!

Dress code

Cunard sometimes have to fight off a stuffy image, and it didn’t help that until 2013 they had a three-tier dress code as complicated as a Virgin Trains Saver Ticket restriction. However, they now have just two codes, formal and informal. One of two dress codes will apply each evening after 6pm in all the main restaurants and bars, although not in the Kings Court buffet restaurant. You’ll be told which dress code applies on which night in if you log on to your voyage personaliser and it’s also stated in the daily programme delivered to your stateroom.

Dressing up is part of the fun, but if you really don’t want to play the dressing up game you can wear casual clothes on any evening you like in the King’s Court buffet restaurant and relax in the Carinthia lounge – though Cunard say that shorts, T-shirts & denim should not be worn after 6pm anywhere in the public areas inside the ship.

Payment on board

Everything on board, including drinks in the bar, books from the bookshop, massages in the spa, purchases in the shops or internet access, is billed to your on board account. You simply show your cabin card and sign for the payment. At the end of the crossing, the total is automatically deducted from the credit card you gave them at check-in and you’ll get a summary of your account delivered to your stateroom half-way across and at the end of the voyage. Just be aware that Cunard follow the American practice of quoting you one price but charging you a slightly higher price, as all bar prices shown on the drinks menu have 15% service fee added to them automatically. As service is then included, there is no need to add a gratuity unless the service has been particularly special.

Internet & mobile phone access

Internet access is available for a fee throughout the QM2, both in your cabin and in all the public areas including bars but excluding the theatres & restaurants. It generally works well with good download speeds. You pre-pay for a bundle of minutes and this is added to your normal on-board account.

2019 prices: $15 for 30 minutes (= $0.50 per minute), $45 for 120 minutes (= $0.38 per minute) or $80 for 240 minutes (= $0.33 per minute).

You can spend these minutes individually, so for example you can buy 120 minutes and spend them over the course of the whole voyage, logging on to download emails, logging off again to compose replies offline, then logging on again to send, and so only using a few minutes at a time.

To use your own laptop, simply click on the ‘Qm2_Guest_internet’ internet connection and open a web browser to see the log-in screen. Register with your name & cabin number on this log-in page and the cost will be billed to your QM2 stateroom account. If you don’t have your own laptop, the Cunard Connexions rooms on deck 2 or the library on deck 8 have self-service internet PCs which you can use for the same rates. You’ll find power sockets for laptops (both British 3-pin and US 110v) in your cabin, and (if you hunt for them) British 3-pin sockets in certain areas of most bars including the Commodore Club on deck 9 forward and the Chart Room on deck 3. Tip: I found that the Commodore Lounge on 9 deck was the quietest and nicest place to work, there’s a 3-pin power socket near the skirting in the ‘bridge wing’ far side of the lounge. Mobile phone access is available on board throughout the crossing, although it isn’t cheap, you’ll need to ask your phone network for their rates.

Smoking

The QM2 is entirely non-smoking apart from the open decks and the Churchill Cigar Lounge forward on deck 9 next to the Commodore Club.

Laundry

As well as a hotel-style pay-per-item laundry service for laundry collected from your stateroom, you’ll find a small free-of-charge self-service laundrette on cabin decks 4, 5, 6 & 8, see the photo below. These have washers, driers, free detergent sachets, iron & ironing board. This came in very handy on both our outward and return crossings on a 7-week trip to the States, as we arrived in the US with bags full of clean clothes and arrived back in Blighty without a huge laundry backlog. Also useful for ironing dress shirts that have become creased in the baggage.

Taking your dog

Yes, you can take your dog across the Atlantic on the Queen Mary 2, but they will be kept in the ship’s kennels on 12 Deck during the crossing and (except for guide dogs) are not allowed in the public areas. Contact Cunard for details. There’s an exercise area next to the kennels.

Visiting the QM2’s bridge

There are no official bridge visits, but there is a viewing room behind the bridge with two large soundproofed windows so you can see what’s going on. It’s normally open 09:00-16:00 on sea days, although it’s closed in bad weather. The entrance is on the port (left-hand) side of the ship on deck 12, accessed via ‘A’ stairway. No photography is allowed now – the photos below were taken in 2010 although little has changed here.

Which is better, a westbound or an eastbound transatlantic crossing?

If you really haven’t got the time or money to go both ways by sea, you might want to go one-way by sea and the other by air. You can often find one-way QM2 fares with a ‘free’ air fare in the other direction. If you’re British and a shopaholic, the obvious advantage of going out westbound by air and back eastbound by sea is that you can shop in New York and bring back as much as you like, as there are no baggage limits on the Queen Mary 2. And you’ll have the leisurely voyage back home to look forward to at the end of your trip. However, for my money (not being a great shopper), westbound is much better. There’s the growing anticipation as you near America at the end of an outward westbound crossing, there’s the significant advantage of 25-hour days as the clocks are put back on 5 of the 7 nights due to the time difference, and best of all the spectacular arrival into New York harbour in the early morning, with that Manhattan skyline lit by the rising sun. When you’re enjoying your evenings on the town (or rather, the ship) until late at night, the 23-hour days on an eastbound crossing as the clocks are put forward can be a killer! On the other hand, if I were an American heading for Europe, I might well be tempted to head out by sea eastbound, returning west by air.

Forum for cruise reviews, questions & the latest advice

A good place to find advice & reviews about the Queen Mary 2 and other ships, and to post your own questions and reviews of your trip, is the online cruise forum at www.cruise.co.uk.

About Queen Mary 2

The QM2 was built in 2003 at St Nazaire in France, by Chantiers de l’Atlantique, the same shipyard that built the famous French Line ships Ile de France, Normandie and France. The Queen Mary 2 is no longer the biggest passenger ship in the world in terms of Gross Tonnage, as the Queen Mary 2’s 148,528 tons have now been exceeded, first by Royal Caribbean’s 154,000-ton Freedom of the Seas in 2006, and then by the 225,000-ton Oasis of the Seas in 2009. However, the QM2 remains the tallest, longest and widest ship ever built, at 1,132 feet long and 148 feet wide. For comparison, the original Queen Mary is just 81,237 tons, 1019 feet long, 118 feet wide, and the Titanic was only 46,000 tons, 883 feet long, 93 feet wide. Queen Mary 2 uses an unconventional propulsion system: Four large diesel engines and two gas turbines generate electricity, and this powers four electrically-powered propellers each housed in a ‘pod’ attached under her stern. The rear two pods swivel to steer the ship, so the QM2 does not have a conventional rudder. The propellers face forwards rather than backwards, and give her a top speed of around 30 knots (1 knot = 1.1 mph), although she normally crosses the Atlantic at 20 to 25 knots. See Queen Mary 2 Wikipedia entry.

Souvenirs & books about the QM2

Buy a superb model of the Queen Mary 2: The souvenir shop on board QM2 on deck 3 has a couple of models of the Queen Mary 2, but neither (in my opinion) are particularly well detailed, and yet they aren’t cheap, either. If you become a QM2 aficionado during your crossing (highly likely!) and want a top-quality model of the QM2 to sit on your shelves or desk, I highly recommend the 1:1250 Queen Mary 2 model at www.galerie-maritim.de. It is hand painted in die-cast metal. You can buy either a full hull version in a glass case, or a waterline model without a case. The models are small enough not to take up too much room, yet are superbly detailed. They are very expensive, but you won’t be disappointed!

Books about the Queen Mary 2:

The book by John Maxtone-Graham is beautifully written and illustrated, a great souvenir, search for it at Amazon.com (USA) or Amazon.co.uk (UK). It’s also available in the bookshop on board the QM2.

But by far the best book about the design, construction and operation of the QM2 is written by its designer, Stephen Payne, “RMS Queen Mary 2 Manual: An Insight into the Design, Construction and Operation of the World’s Largest Ocean Liner”, buy it at www.amazon.co.uk (UK) or www.amazon.com (USA). Highly recommended!

QM2 video guide.

Alternatives to the Queen Mary 2.

Passenger-carrying freighters

In addition to the QM2, some regular freight ships carry a limited number of passengers, and there are occasional crossings by other cruise lines – UK agencies listing both freighter and cruise line voyages include www.cruisepeople.co.uk/transat.htm.

There are links to other websites about travel by freighter at the top of the ‘shipping’ section on the useful links page.

Hotels & accommodation

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search site: www.booking.com

www.booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally prefer booking my hotels all in one place here. You can usually book with free cancellation – this allows you to confirm your accommodation at no risk before train booking opens. It also means you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary, and alter your plans as they evolve – a feature I use all the time when putting a trip together. I never book hotels non-refundably. I have also come to trust their review scores – you won’t be disappointed with anything over 8.0.

Tip: It can pay to compare prices across multiple hotel sites: HotelsCombined.com is a price comparison site which compares hotel prices on Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia, Accor, Agoda and many others. Though if there’s not much in it, I prefer keeping all my bookings together in one place at www.booking.com.

Hotels in New York.

New York has hundreds of hotels, the two most famous being the New York Plaza Hotel opposite Central Park and the Waldorf-Astoria on 4th Avenue. I’ve never stayed at the Plaza, but have to say I was not impressed by the rooms at the Waldorf, on either occasion I stayed there. Here’s my top tip for New York.

The Algonquin Hotel.

The Algonquin is New York’s oldest operating hotel, opened in 1902, and a designated New York City Historic Landmark. Perfectly located in mid-town Manhattan, a block or two from Times Square one way and Grand Central the other, with a lovely wood-panelled lobby and even its own hotel cat, which you may find wandering the corridors or sitting on the reception desk. To check prices & book, click here. For the Algonquin’s history see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algonquin_Hotel.

Algonquin Hotel, New York - lobbyAlgonquin Hotel, New York - entrance

In Los Angeles: Hotel Queen Mary, Long Beach..

If you get as far as Los Angeles after your transatlantic crossing, it has to be the Hotel Queen Mary, doesn’t it? She makes a good base to explore the Los Angeles – Hollywood – Disneyland area. The original Queen Mary of 1936 has been permanently moored at Long Beach in California since the late 1960s, some 25 miles from Los Angeles Union Station (about a $90 taxi ride), and it’s undoubtedly the most fascinating place to stay in LA. The hotel consists of most of the Queen Mary’s original first class cabins, and there are plenty of restaurants and bars available on board, too. Hotel guests can more or less wander the ship at will, and even sign up for ghost hunts at night on board (and yes, from my own experience there is definitely something going on aboard that beautiful but ageing ship!). Wood panelled art deco interiors have been preserved, although a few modern items have been installed such as televisions, and (as we worked out from a historic deck plan) in some cases two of the Queen Mary’s original cabins have been knocked into one hotel suite by turning one of the en suite bathrooms into a connecting corridor. She is one of the most atmospheric places I have ever stayed.

How to Travel by Cargo Ship Around the World

Imagine for a moment that you are on the deck of a ship, sipping a glass of wine. You turn your head towards the water just in time to spot a pod of dolphins swimming by. After lingering in the sunshine for a while, it’s time to head inside for a 3-course evening meal and a splash in the pool before retiring to bed.

Now, what kind of vessel are you on?

No, you are not on a standard commercial cruise ship. This is no luxury liner hopping between Caribbean islands. It is a modern freighter. Hundreds of cargo ships, carrying everything from fire engines to apples, are crossing the world’s oceans and many are happy to take you along for the ride.

A far more intimate and relaxed experience than you might imagine, the experience on board is a sharp contrast to the rough and industrial outward appearance a container ship tends to project. You will be one of a handful of passengers (usually a maximum of 12) among a crew that is unlikely to number more than a few dozen. There will be no evening cabaret shows as on a standard cruise, though you may have access to TV, video, and board games in a common area on the ship where passengers may meet the crew. You might be invited to karaoke with the sailors and you will almost always dine alongside the captain, who is far more likely to turn up in shorts and a t-shirt than full uniform. Some cargo ships also offer equipped exercise rooms.

Here was our first taste of the wonders of sea travel. Our introduction to freighter travel was a relatively short 5-day sailing between Australia and New Zealand. We joined the French ship CMA CGM Utrillo in the busy port of Melbourne, where our luggage—including two bicycles and bags—were quickly hauled on board and into a spacious cabin by a host of cheery Filipino deckhands.

The Costs of Cargo Ship Travel

Depending upon your destination (Transatlantic, Transpacific, South Seas, Worldwide, and other special combinations), your daily freighter travel costs will be about $100-$150 per day per person per day with a luggage allowance of approximately 30kg-100kg (66-220lbs) depending on the line you are taking. Generally, US dollars are the primary currency used on-board to buy soft drinks, snacks, beer, and toiletries. You can then use your credit cards at each of the locations you disembark.

Hospitality on Board

Our next surprise was how quickly we felt part of the family. Just moments after arriving, our fellow passenger (a French woman literally going “around the world in 80 days”) hinted that the captain was certain to throw us a welcome barbecue. “He does that for everyone new,” she said with a wink. Sure enough, the next evening was spent on the back deck of the ship, feasting on grilled fish and chatting with the seamen as the sun went down.

Barbecue with crew of freighter ship
Eating barbecue with the crew of the freighter ship. Photo by Friedel Rother.

One of our concerns before sailing was that we’d find the days long. It was just the opposite. There were three square meals a day (hearty plates of meat and vegetables for workers) and the time between eating was filled with strolls round the deck and trips up to the bridge to check our position and ask questions.

Had there ever been stowaways? Yes, once a harmless passenger was allowed to board. What about pirates? Not here but there were off the coast of Africa. And just how much fuel did a cargo ship need? Apparently $60,000 U.S. a day will cover it, in the current era of relatively low oil prices.

A Relaxing Way to Travel

With our curiosity temporarily curbed, we would return to our cabin for reading, journal writing, and maybe a bit of table tennis if we felt especially energetic. Far away from the hustle and bustle of life on firm land, we were truly relaxed. The experience was in complete contrast to our usual hurried airplane trips.

For Hamish Jamieson, the owner of Freighter Travel NZ and one of only a handful of travel agents in the world licensed to book tickets on cargo ships, the simplicity of being at sea is the main attraction.

“When you’re sitting up the front of the bow of the ship, on your own, and all you see is the sea going past and you hear the wind and waves, you’re in heaven. For me, an afternoon. sitting right on the bow, watching the world go by with my binoculars, that’s my heaven,” he said.

Flexibility Needed in Freighter Travel

Of course, nothing in life is all smooth sailing. While we didn’t encounter any problems during our trip, we did struggle with the uncertain nature of freighter travel before we boarded. Our initial departure date jumped forward first by three days and then seemed to bounce around by 12-24 hours every time we called to check the latest news. Ours was not an uncommon experience and you must prepare yourself for flexibility.

Even ports of call are not guaranteed because on a cargo ship, freight comes first, not the passengers. If the demand is not there for a certain stop, the ship will go where the business is.

“Our trip from the USA to Europe changed three times after initial booking,” said Rebecca Hogue and Scott Drennan, then on a journey around the world without using airplanes. Their initial trip from South Carolina to Belgium ended up being from Florida to Italy. “Had we not been flexible with our departure times and locations, things would not have worked out.”

As Mr. Jamieson is fond of telling his passengers, when you go to sea, there are two things you must pack: a sense of humor and a sense of patience.

Your trip may also involve some red tape, particularly where U.S. stops are concerned. American citizens are not permitted, for example, to travel within their country by cargo ship, although they can make international journeys. Meanwhile, travelers to the United States must have a visa, even if they would not need one to arrive by air. Only Canadians are exempt from this rule.

Be sure to budget time and money to get vaccinations like Yellow Fever if you are going through the Suez and Panama canals. A medical certificate declaring you to be in generally good health is another common requirement.

Where in the World Do You Want to Go?

But perhaps the hardest part of booking your cargo ship voyage is deciding where to go. Will it be to South America and around Cape Horn? How about a 55-day round trip from California to Australia and New Zealand via Tahiti and Mexico? Mr. Jamieson offers a few more ideas and favorite voyages based upon years of experience.

“For me the ultimate voyage is from Auckland, in New Zealand, to Singapore. It takes 40-45 days to sail what you can fly in just under 12 hours but it visits nearly every island in the Pacific on the way and it stops for 2-3 days. The second choice for me would be from Singapore through to Houston in Texas. It goes up through Thailand, Vietnam, half a dozen ports in China, into Japan, then straight across the Pacific and through the Panama Canal.”

With enough time and money at your disposal, there are few places in the world a cargo ship can’t reach. Voyage destinations on cargo ships can change, so the many options available will often surprise you. You just need to be adventurous enough to do your research (see resources below) and then get on board.

Cargo ship nearing New Zealand
Cargo ship cruising towards New Zealand. Photo by Friedel Rother.

The Golden Rules of Cargo Ship Travel

  • Be prepared to make your own fun. There are no programmed activities, aside from the odd safety drill.

Freighter Travel Resources

Maris Freighter and Specialty Cruises and Maris Freighter Club Int’l offers a variety of voyages to many destinations. You can go from island to island. You may cross the ocean 1-way. You can take coastal routes stopping at major ports. You may even choose from around-the-world cargo ship cruise options.

FreighterTrips.com is the agency we used where bookings are done by Hamish Jamieson. They are specialists in cargo ship travel, providing background, Q&A, pricing examples, and assistance on planning a trip.

Freighter Travel provides a general overview of freighter travel including extensive resources.

Cargo Ship Voyages works as an agent for shipping companies and offers many possible packages worldwide. Their ships offer room for no more than 12 passengers at once, including people from all walks of life, ranging from single travelers to families.

Freighter Expeditions offers information about cargo ship travel and itineraries worldwide.

Friedel Rother gave up her job as a journalist for Reuters to ride a bicycle around the world with her husband. They have published two books in addition to cycling.

Source https://www.seat61.com/queen-mary-2-transatlantic.htm

Source https://www.seat61.com/queen-mary-2-transatlantic.htm

Source https://www.transitionsabroad.com/listings/travel/articles/travel-by-cargo-ship-around-the-world.shtml

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