In a year featuring an extraordinary number of extensive ship renovations, a standout is the Queen Mary 2 refit. For one thing, it’s likely to garner a lot of consumer press, not only due to the iconic nature of the ship itself but because she’ll be showing off the makeover in high-profile areas like NYC during the week of July 4th.
“It is big news for us; it is big news for the industry,” says Richard Meadows, President of Cunard Line North America.
A 2nd reason is that judging by the length of the dry dock, this is no ordinary upgrade. “The dry dock runs from May 27th to June 21st,” reports Meadows. “That right there informs the scope of work. When you consider most dry docks are 7–10 days, this is a big commitment.”
Meadows sums up the highlights: “She’ll come out of the dry dock significantly enhanced. The Queens and Princess Grill suites and the restaurants will be re-outfitted and redesigned. All the new Britannia club staterooms will be complete, as well as the single staterooms and the additional kennels for our canine friends.”
Meadows emphasizes that the renovation enables an elevation on the overall culinary side: “The new, intuitive layout of Kings Court will allow us to do more interactive experiences with our guests. We’re now going to have spaces within Kings Court that enable more demonstrations and allow our chefs to take centre stage."
One of those chefs won’t be Todd English though. That celebrity chef’s contract with Cunard is complete. But Cunard is Cunard. The brand doesn’t need a celebrity chef at this point, because its celebrity is its heritage. And the renovation ties in neatly with cuisine changes.
“We have an interesting history that is very relevant to our guests today,” says Meadows. “For instance, the Verandah concept started back on the Queen Mary as the Verandah Grill. That was an exclusive dining option for guests who were in the suites and the Grills. So what we’re doing is we’re taking a nod to our rich history in a way that is very current and relevant.”
They are doing that by adding Verandah, a French restaurant that has been successfully implemented onboard the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria. Meadows is confident of its success on QM2: “The Verandah’s culinary experience is fantastic. The food is very creative and elegantly prepared.”
He says cuisine is perhaps even more important for Cunard than other lines.
“If you step back and look at an experience on a crossing, culinary is a big part. It is something that people pause to reflect on, to really slow down and enjoy. So we’re crafting these venues to make sure they exceed the expectations of what guests sailing on a crossing would expect.”