I hated cruises, and I can’t remember why

Queen Mary 2 in Table Bay, Cape Town. Picture: Whitestar

Queen Mary 2 in Table Bay, Cape Town. Picture: Whitestar

Published Feb 5, 2024


The concept of luxury cruises never appealed to me.

Why spend days and nights on end on a floating hotel? Hell, I don’t even like hotels.

There’s a famous and popular golf resort and estate close to Kleinmond in the Western Cape my wife absolutely loves. After our spa treatments, we’d lounge at the poolside, missing our children.

After two cocktails, I’m bored.

Imagine being on a boat, in the middle of the Atlantic, doing nothing but lounging on the pool deck. At least at the resort, I can jump in the car and explore the area. I could go for a walk. I could play golf. I could go for a bike ride.

I admit, I have been sorely mistaken.

This week, Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 was docked in Cape Town, and I was invited to step aboard and explore the ship.

@lancethewit10 Come explore the Queen Mary 2 with me. It’s one of the largest ocean liners in the world! #oceanliner #oceantravel #cruise #travel #queenmary2 #cunard @CunardLine @white star line/ cunard line @Whitestar💫 ♬ original sound - Lance Witten450

It didn’t hurt that it included dinner at Steakhouse at the Verandah with Cunard’s head of sales for EMEA Bob Dixon and the team at White Star Cruise and Travel.

For starters, I ordered the tea-smoked duck breast, a delicately flavoured appetiser where the duck shone, with only hints of the tea smoke and jalapeño dancing delicately on the palate. I sampled some salmon — it was exquisite and made me regret my choice of appetiser.

Tea-smoked duck breast. Picture: Lance Witten / IOL

For mains, I ordered the Australian Wagyu sirloin with truffle-oil fries, because of all the exquisite red meat cuts on offer, why would anyone choose anything other than the Wagyu?

I will admit the Angus rib-eye looked incredibly appetising, as did the sole.

Australian Wagyu sirloin served with truffle fries and sauce au poivre (pepper sauce). Picture: Lance Witten / IOL

Dinner was an experience.

An army of waiters, a South African sommelier (of course), attendants topping up your water glass, sticky sweet house-baked soft dinner rolls with the most delectable maple-smoked butter, soft piped music, lush carpets underfoot, comfortable chairs, strong after-dinner coffee to accompany the selection of cheeses I ordered for dessert... it felt special.

The ship itself is magnificent.

You can’t truly grasp the scale of the thing until you’re aboard.

A bronze bust of Queen Mary in the Queen’s Room on board the Cunard Queen Mary 2. Picture: Lance Witten / IOL

There are 13 decks, and I venture to guess it’d take maybe two full days to discover and explore everything on board.

As Bob explained passionately over dinner, Queen Mary 2 is an ocean liner, not a cruise ship — the differences including a stronger, thicker, deeper reinforced hull to brave the tempests of the Atlantic Ocean, 90-ton stabilisers to minimise pitch, roll and yaw, powerful gas turbines to push through any squall that may arise... she truly is an engineering marvel.

At 20 years old, she’s getting on in years, and some of the Art Deco can feel a little dated, although she’s recently undergone some extensive refurbishments during her last dry-docking — new mattresses in all the cabins, carpeting replacements, even new ceilings and lighting in many of the common dining and leisure areas.

A bronze bust of Queen Mary in the Queen’s Room on board the Cunard Queen Mary 2. Picture: Lance Witten / IOL

The library is exceedingly plush — the bookcases and wall cladding are burr-Walnut, the velour of the couches beckoning to you immerse yourself for hours in their welcoming embrace.

There’s a gym, spa, and salon aboard, a shopping mall, art gallery, live music in the lounges, a grand lobby featuring a dual curved staircase, a ballroom, a planetarium, a nightclub that has been known to host parties until 4am, a massive dining room seating 1,200 people, pool decks, an indoor swimming pool, verandahs, and two secret glass elevators not shown on any of the ship’s maps or floor plans. There are even accommodations for your pets, who get their own chef.

The dining options aboard are many and varied, and I doubt you would run out of options. There is entertainment aplenty if, like me, you find yourself easily bored by just doing nothing.

Stepping on board the Queen Mary 2 is like walking into another world entirely, in a gilded age of luxury and excess.

So, I guess, I could cruise. Where do I sign up?

Lance Witten on board the Queen Mary 2. Picture: Allison Foat