On the QM2, cruise passengers rediscover a quality lost in modern life

Queen Mary 2 and the Statue of Liberty
Queen Mary 2 and the Statue of Liberty

One of the most anticipated films of the year is being released today (December 10). Directed by Steven Soderbergh, Let Them All Talk features a cast of A-Listers including Meryl Streep, Candice Bergen, Dianne Wiest, Lucas Hedges and Gemma Chan.

The plot revolves around Alice Hughes, a Pulitzer-winning author who embarks on a voyage from New York to Southampton in order to collect a literary award in England. Hughes, played by three-time Oscar-winner Streep, seeks to reconnect and, perhaps, heal old wounds with two former college friends and her nephew who join her on the trip.

Undeniably a throwback to the cinema’s epoch of schmaltzy romance on luxury ocean liners, the setting for this comedy-drama is Cunard’s flagship Queen Mary 2. The cast was swelled by 2,600 fare-paying passengers who became unwitting extras during filming – in the halcyon, pre-Covid times of August 2019.

For 180 years Cunard has dominated travel across the northern Atlantic Ocean. With its motto “speed, comfort and safety”, the line offered passengers not only fast sea crossings, but an incomparable way of life. Today, Queen Mary 2 reigns supreme as the only liner offering scheduled transatlantic voyages.

A journey between the New World and the Old World is at the beating heart of Cunard’s raison d'être. Passengers rediscover an enigmatic quality so rare in today’s frenetic lifestyle: time. This profound attribute, which QM2 offers aplenty, is the very essence of a transatlantic crossing. During six days of languor and indolence, passengers begin to appreciate they are undertaking a voyage with all the rights of passage. The boundless teal blue ocean, the air suffused with a salty tang, the gentle rise and fall of the great hull: the essence of travelling for travel’s sake.

QM2 has 19 decks and can accommodate 2,620 passengers
QM2 has 19 decks and can accommodate 2,620 passengers

Fanciful illusions of being transported back to a ‘Golden Age’ of travel, when sirens of the silver screen promenaded the decks and flirted over dinner, are the stuff of Hollywood legend. That era may be consigned to history, but aboard Queen Mary 2 its spirit lives on, conjured up as an ode to nostalgia.

Christened by the Queen in January 2004, this maritime colossus offers a manifestation of what modern-day travellers expect of a venerable ocean-going liner. Imposing salons with high ceilings and sweeping staircases are all there; so too are indulgent facilities such as an aqua-therapy centre and planetarium, urbanities unimaginable in the Forties and Fifties when ‘Going Cunard’ was a prerequisite for the rich and famous.

True to her Cunard lineage, QM2 offers a range of accommodation from the ample to the opulent with subtle differentiation between Queen’s Grill, Princess Grill and Britannia Restaurant grade cabins. Some travellers are content with a modest cabin; others prefer to splash out more than 20 times as much for a split-level penthouse. Needless to say it’s in one of these palatial suites where Alice Hughes holds court as she struggles to complete her latest manuscript.

The expansive Queen’s Room, with its Hollywood Bowl stage and huge crystal chandeliers, is the largest ballroom at sea and a perfect setting for refined afternoon teas and Captain’s cocktail parties, not to mention the sequinned Strictly Come Dancing fraternity.

Also spanning two decks is the Royal Court Theatre, venue for revue-style shows and Cunard’s ‘Insights’ programme, where diplomats and politicians ponder intriguing world events, renowned authors discuss their bestsellers, celebrities share their secrets, and explorers reveal enigmas of the natural world. The cinema and planetarium that is Illuminations is crowned by a concave glass dome that brings the night sky to life in a stunning diorama.

The watering hole of choice for some passengers is the Commodore Club. With unimpeded views over the fo’c’sle, this room exudes a sophisticated vibe, which is enhanced by an accomplished pianist whose repertoire ranges from Ravel to ragtime. Equally popular is the Golden Lion Pub, where nightly karaoke draws big crowds. Aboard QM2 social exclusivity has no place.

The Canyon Ranch Spa offers an array of pampering and revitalising treatments, along with fitness regimes for toning – and atonement after the excesses of lazy days at sea. Moviegoers can judge for themselves whether Alice Hughes indulges in one of the spa’s Euphoria Rituals before consigning her troubled past into the untold fathoms of the Atlantic Ocean.

Let Them All Talk is available on  HBO Max from today (December 10).