I have to admit I’ve never considered myself “the cruise type”. I’ve always enjoyed exploring foreign lands during my holidays and couldn’t bear the thought of being stuck out in the open sea, whiling away the days beside a buffet table. But with Kiwi cruising statistics increasing year on year, it’s hard to ignore the hype.
Besides, the Queen Mary 2 isn’t just any old cruise ship. The luxurious flagship of the Cunard fleet is 345m long, 72m high and weighs a staggering 148,500 tonnes. This makes the ocean liner the largest cruise vessel to visit New Zealand. Onboard there are 15 restaurants and bars, five swimming pools, a casino, a ballroom, a movie theatre, a library holding more than 8000 books, a shopping strip to pick up the latest from Chanel and Hermès, and the world’s only floating planetarium.
So when the opportunity arose to sail across the Tasman, from Sydney to Auckland via the Bay of Islands, on the renowned ship, naturally I took it. The trip lasts five days and the experience couldn’t have been further from my imagining.
Docked in Sydney harbour, the enormous ship lives up to its regal name, as Australia’s largest city is dwarfed in its daunting shadow.
It holds 2620 passengers – as well as the 1253 crew needed to look after them – and today, my partner and I are told, she’s near capacity. Not that you’d notice.
We board quickly and arrive at our eighth-floor stateroom with plenty of time to spare before we’re expected at our welcome cocktails in the Commodore Club.
We pour a couple of glasses of bubbles and share a toast on our balcony, looking out over our stunning view of the Opera House. I could get used to this, I think. Come midnight we farewell our stunning port and head east for New Zealand.
The next day we prepare for life “at sea”. This consists of reading the cruise programme – delightful high teas, complete with string quartet, glamorous balls, pool parties, theatrical shows and, of course, a strictly formal dresscode after 6pm.
Needless to say, this is one trip where you will not require your khakis and bum bag.
Unfortunately, my formal wardrobe only consists of one cocktail dress and a couple of over-priced pulled shawls purchased on a stopover in Dubai. But luckily, by the second night and amid the excitement of our first sea ball, my self-awareness fades and I become distracted by the more splendiferous and exotic dresses on display.
Around 11pm we leave the ball and wander down to the Royal Court Theatre to catch an hour-long ‘60s-themed musical.
Enthusiastic performances of these golden oldie hits gets the group in a sing-song mood, so our next stop is the Golden Lion Pub where we let loose our inner rock stars with some awkward (yet hilarious) karaoke before hitting the nightclub. Yes, that’s right, the nightclub – even QM2’s sophisticated clientele enjoy a bit of a boogie now and then. We dance the night away, then gradually stumble back to the eighth floor in the wee hours of the morning.
The following day, bleary-eyed and feeling a tad queasy, we slowly make our way to the Britannia restaurant for what becomes a six-course breakfast.
Pancakes, waffles, croissants, scrambled eggs – you name it, we eat it. When we decide our outlandish meal has sufficiently soaked up the remnants of the previous night, we grab our books and hightail it the Terrace pool to score ourselves a well-positioned deck chair.
There we lie, lapping up the sun while home slowly grows closer. We even succumb to some poolside cocktails while relaxing reggae music drifts over from today’s pool band.
The next few days consist of more eating, drinking, dancing and a bit of pampering. My partner and I purchase a “Rasul” treatment at the award-winning spa – a muddy, steamy, messy experience that is oddly relaxing.
On the last morning, as we drift into Auckland harbour, we sit out on our deck in white robes for one last toast – this time with coffee – and pore over details of the past week.
My partner declares the week his best holiday yet. And I sheepishly admit I could be sold on cruising after all.
Launched in 2004, Queen Mary 2 offers regularly scheduled crossings between New York and Southampton, as well as sailings to the Caribbean, Northern Europe, and Mediterranean and round world voyages. The liner was refurbished in December 2011, with enhancements to all rooms. For more information, visit cunard.com/cruise-ships/queen-mary-2
Take a look at another amazing travel destination, Taiwan’s Sun Moon Lake here.
By Hayley Barnett.