The RMS Queen Mary 2 (QM2) is a Cunard Line ocean liner named after the earlier Cunard liner Queen Mary, which was in turn named after Mary of Teck. At the time of her construction in 2003, the QM2 was the longest, widest and tallest passenger ship ever built, and at 148,528 gross tons, was also the largest. She lost that last distinction to Royal Caribbean International’s 154,407 gross ton Freedom of the Seas in April 2006, but QM2 remains the largest ocean liner (as opposed to cruise ship) ever built, and her height, length, and waterline breadth are unsurpassed by any other passenger ship. QM2’s luxuries include 15 restaurants and bars, five swimming pools, a casino, a ballroom, a theatre, and a planetarium.
The Queen Mary 2 is the current Cunard flagship and makes regular transatlantic crossings. The ship was constructed to complement the RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) — the Cunard flagship from 1969 to 2004 – replacing it on the transatlantic route. The first RMS Queen Mary sailed the Atlantic from 1936 to 1967.
The prefix “RMS” on the QM2 originally stood for “Royal Mail Steamer”, but now stands for “Royal Mail Ship”. The QM2 is not a steamship like her predecessors, but is powered by gas turbines and diesel engines that produce the power to drive her four electric podded propulsors. Also like her predecessors, she is a transatlantic ocean liner, as opposed to a cruise ship, though she is used for cruising purposes from time to time.
The vision of a 21st century ocean liner — bigger than any that had gone before — started as the brainchild of Carnival CEO Micky Arison, who has stated that his company bought Cunard to create Queen Mary 2, not vice versa.
Cunard completed a design for a new class of 84,000-ton, 2,000-passenger liners on 8 June 1998, but immediately revised them upon comparing those specifications with Carnival Cruise Lines’ 100,000-ton Destiny-class cruise ships and Royal Caribbean’s 137,200-ton Voyager of the Seas.
Six months later, on 10 December Cunard released details of “Project Queen Mary”, the project to develop a liner that would complement Queen Elizabeth 2. Harland and Wolff of Northern Ireland, Aker Kværner of Norway, Fincantieri of Italy, Meyer Werft of Germany, and Chantiers de l’Atlantique of France were invited to bid on the project. If construction began immediately, the liner could be in service by 2002. But it was not until 6 November 2000 that a contract was signed with Chantiers de l’Atlantique, a subsidiary of Alstom. This was the same yard that built Cunard’s one-time rivals, the SS Normandie and SS France of the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique.
Her keel was laid down on 4 July 2002, in Saint-Nazaire, France. Approximately 3,000 craftsmen spent some 8 million working hours on the ship, and a total of 20,000 people were directly or indirectly involved in her design, construction, and fitting out. In total, 300,000 pieces of steel were assembled into 94 “blocks” off of the drydock, which were then stacked and welded together to complete the hull and superstructure. She is so much larger than those that Chantiers normally build that the shipyard treated her as “1.6 ships.”
The QM2 was floated on 21 March 2003. Her sea trials were conducted between 25 September-29 September and 7 November-11 November 2003, between Saint-Nazaire and the off-shore islands of Ile d’Yeu and Belle-Ile. The final stages of construction were marred by a fatal accident on 15 November 2003, when a gangway collapsed under a group of shipyard workers and their relatives who had been invited to visit the vessel. 48 people on the gangway fell over 15 m (50 ft); 32 were injured and 16, including a child, were killed.
Construction was completed on schedule. Due to the size of the ship, the luxury of materials, and the fact that, due to her nature as an ocean liner, she required 40% more steel than a standard cruise ship, the final cost ended up being approximately $300,000 US per berth – nearly double that of ships such as Voyager of the Seas, Grand Princess, or Carnival Conquest.
Cunard took delivery in Southampton, England on 26 December 2003. On 8 January 2004, the liner was named Queen Mary 2 by her namesake’s granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II.
More details and photo gallery here.