The line(r) of beauty

Invited to tour Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 when she recently docked in Cape Town, Martin Jacobs reveals the significance of this berthing, shares some of the vessel’s more interesting facts, and sneaks you into his favourite spaces.

Just the two of us

Cape Town shared a historic moment with Cunard on Friday 12 April when two of the latter’s ‘queens’, Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria, berthed alongside one another in the city’s port. The moment, marked by fanfare that included Cape minstrels performing for passengers on the quay, was not only a first for the city, but for any port on the African continent. Geopolitical circumstances resulted in changes to both ships’ itineraries, which saw each making an otherwise unscheduled stop in Cape Town at the tail end of their world tours. While two Cunard ships have simultaneously berthed in Cape Town’s port once before, in 1985, that occasion only included one of the three ‘queens’, whereas Friday’s dual berthing saw two ships from Cunard’s flagship fleet vying for attention. Locals flooded Cape Town’s cruise terminal, eager to see the two stately cruise ships side by side. Many waved from the building’s balconies to family and friends embarking Queen Mary 2 on a two-week voyage to Europe. 

Fast fact: Queen Anne, launching this May will be the fourth ‘queen’, an addition to the flagship fleet. She will dock in Cape Town for the first time on 12 April 2026, exactly two years to the day following this historic occasion.

Fine liners

While global cruise companies have, post Covid, committed to spending billions of dollars on building new cruise ships – each bigger, wider, taller and more lavish than the next (one need only think of Royal Caribbean’s recently launched Icon Of The Seas, with its capacity for 7 000 plus passengers, to comprehend the scale of growth) – Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 proudly boasts one advantage over all other cruise ships: she is the world’s only cruise liner in service. Built specifically for transatlantic crossings, most being cruises from Southampton to New York or back, Queen Mary 2 comprises 40 per cent more steel than contemporary cruise ships, guaranteeing her the might and resilience to withstand transatlantic storms. Coupled with a rounded stern, bulbous bow, and ability to accelerate to cruising speeds that, to this day, continue to outsail other cruise ships, it’s this that qualifies her as a liner. As a representative of Cunard mentioned onboard in passing, “She’s the only vessel you’d want to be on when braving an Atlantic storm!”

Fast fact: Constructed to replace Queen Elizabeth 2, which sailed from 1969 to 2004 and was Cunard’s only other liner, the ship was conferred with the RMS (Royal Mail Ship) prefix in honour of Cunard’s legacy. She boasts 22 kennels for the transportation of dogs – and the occasional cat – between the United Kingdom and the USA.

Royal flash

Built at the turn of the century, Queen Mary 2 entered service in 2004, meaning she’s not as old as one might imagine. But her elegance, both in the ship’s graceful exterior lines and within, are pure old-school charm, and evoke a golden age of sailing that was rich in style, glamour, and sophistication. And while she has certainly kept up with the times (current day mod cons are many), one’s correct in thinking that Havaianas and jeans aren’t welcome after sunset. Most certainly not in the liner’s showstopper dining room, the Britannia Restaurant, a glorious two-deck space that spans Queen Mary 2’s full width, can accommodate almost all the liner’s passengers in one sitting, and is home to one of the ship’s most beautiful artworks, a Barbara Broekman tapestry of the vessel against a New York skyline, below which is the prestigious captain’s table.

Fast fact: In addition to Britannia, the liner offers passengers several other restaurants, a champagne bar, ‘traditional’ English pub, extensive library, ballroom, theatre, nightclub, pools both indoors and out, and the world’s only at-sea planetarium.

Words and production: Martin Jacobs
Images: Martin Jacobs and courtesy of Cunard

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