Queen Mary 2's Illuminations Planetarium
Queen Mary 2's Illuminations Planetarium / Cunard Line
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Queen Mary 2's Afternoon Tea
Queen Mary 2's Afternoon Tea / Cunard Line
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Queen Mary 2's Britannia Balcony Stateroom
Queen Mary 2's Britannia Balcony Stateroom / Cunard Line
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Queen Elizabeth in Venice
Queen Elizabeth in Venice / Cunard Line
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Queen Victoria's Royal Bathhouse Hydro-Pool
Queen Victoria's Royal Bathhouse Hydro-Pool / Cunard Line
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Queen Victoria's Library
Queen Victoria's Library / Cunard Line
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Queen Mary 2's Afternoon Tea
Queen Mary 2's Afternoon Tea / Cunard Line
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Cunard Line

Our Review
Deal Expert / Travel Blogger

Cunard began offering regular transatlantic crossings way back in 1840. Although its modern fleet numbers just four ships (three plus the new Queen Anne launching in May 2024), far fewer than in the glory days of sea travel, this celebrated line remains the right choice for anyone looking for a traditional cruise experience. 

Cunard’s flagship, Queen Mary 2, is the largest ocean liner ever built to ply the Atlantic and she sails regular crossings between New York (out of Brooklyn's Red Hook terminal) and either Southampton, England (a couple hours outside of London) or Hamburg, Germany.

So what makes QM2 as she is affectionately known, an ocean liner rather than a regular cruise ship? Extra strengthening and a sleek hull design allow the vessel to handle rough seas more nimbly than any other ship at sea right now, which is not a small thing — especially during blustery winter months. 

The cruise line’s two smaller Vista-class ships, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, offer wide-ranging global itineraries with more frequent port calls in destinations ranging from Alaska to South Africa.

What We Love

Truly Formal Nights:Cunard has the most formal evening dress code (two or three nights of the sailing) on the high seas, a delight for those who like to dress up for an evening of dancing to a big band. Sure, it's now black tie optional, which means (at minimum) dark suits and cocktail-length dresses. But, unlike on other lines, about 90 percent of the passengers comply, creating an unusually elegant atmosphere.

Golden Lion Pub: You’ll quickly see why this traditional English pub is a crowd favorite. Order the fish and chips and wash it down with a pint. Plus, with soccer matches roaring on screen and daily trivia games, it’s a great spot to meet other passengers.

Recent Refurbishments: Queen Mary 2 emerged from a major makeover in 2016 looking fresh: the Carinthia Lounge was an instant hit for live music in the evening and small bites during the day; the French specialty restaurant, the Verandah, is well worth the extra fee; and there are new single cabins for solo travelers.

The Best Libraries: Home to 8,000 books, Queen Mary 2 has the largest book collection at sea. There are professional librarians in attendance, and the space offers wonderful views of the ocean from comfy reading chairs. In addition, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria both have two-level libraries.

Best Known For

Crossing the Atlantic: Cunard has preserved the option of bridging continents by sea. Long-held traditions include sipping broth on the deck with a good book and a wool blanket.

Afternoon Tea: A memorable daily ritual takes place in the Queens Room on all Cunard ships, with a choice of teas plus crustless sandwiches, fresh pastries, and scones with clotted cream served in multiple courses.

Three Different Stateroom Classes: Cunard guests are strictly assigned to either the Britannia, Princess Grill, or Queens Grill restaurants based on their accommodation class. Princess and Queens guests also have perks like the largest suites, exclusive access to the Grills Lounge, and at the Queens Grill level, a personal butler.

Who It's Best For

Those Who Like Crossings — and Free Time: For some, this is a bucket list experience, but Cunard also has many regular passengers who cross every year. And, with seven nights onboard, there’s ample time to relax, read a book, take a dip in the pool, or catch a show at the planetarium.

Pet Owners: Queen Mary 2 is the only ship at sea that allows dogs (and cats) onboard in its 24 kennels, making it an easy choice for animal lovers who need to transport their fur babies and don’t want to fly. A kennel master caters to their every need, walking them daily on the upper deck. The only caveat? The ship’s kennels are often fully booked far in advance.

Traditionalists: Even on sailings that aren’t crossings, the refined atmosphere remains. (Don't look for crazy water slides or poolside competitions here!)

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

The Dress Code Is Adhered To: Some may cringe at the formality onboard, but the repeat guests take it seriously. If you don’t like to follow rules, this probably isn’t the best choice for you.

Crossings Can Be Rough: Even though QM2 is built for crossings, the Atlantic is notoriously storm-prone, and there can be noticeable waves during particularly rough seas. Come prepared with seasickness remedies if you have a sensitive stomach, or choose a different itinerary.