dressed up and nowhere to go on the Queen Mary II
on photos for image directory of Queen Mary II photos
advantage of a $999 discount fare that appeared in a
newspaper advertisement, I sailed across the Atlantic
on the Queen Mary II—the world’s longest,
tallest, most luxurious ocean liner. And the only ship
offering regularly scheduled crossings between New York
and Southampton, England.
The food was scrumptious. The service impeccable. The
1,132-foot-long vessel a marvel of design and engineering.
But before I could feast on Balinese duck and crème
brûlée during the first formal night in
the Britannia Restaurant, I realized they would never
let me inside.
Allow me to explain.
Steeped in a tradition dating back to the nostalgic grand
era of transatlantic cruising, the QM2 follows strict
dress codes at dinner. During the six-day voyage, Britannia
diners are treated to three formal venues, one informal,
and one casual affair. Unfortunately, I forgot to pack
My traveling companion, Veronica Morrissette, had packed
appropriately. Dressed to the nines, she applied the
last touches of makeup while I contemplated my own ineptitude.
Hungry, tie-less, wearing a black polyester Armani suit,
I rushed from my stateroom in a pre-dinner panic. Down
I went in one of 22 onboard elevators that service the
ship’s 17 decks. I passed the 8,000-volume library,
the 20,000-square-foot Canyon Ranch SpaClub, the Internet
center, and the 1,100-seat Royal Court Theater where
British opera singer Annette Wardell would perform later
I darted down a corridor, past tables topped with unfinished
jigsaw puzzles and board games. Glancing through the
plate-glass windows, I caught glimpses of the sea as
it rolled beneath a darkening sky.
Near the winding staircase in the grand lobby, the Con
Fuoco String Quartet played a Mozart melody—an
unlikely soundtrack to my impromptu shopping flee. Dozens
of silver-haired passengers mingled to the music. The
men wore classic black tuxedos. The women sashayed in
satin gowns, beaded taffeta dresses, and strapless fuchsia
corsets that would have been equally appropriate aboard
The only man wearing an open-collar shirt, I climbed
the staircase, aware of the curious glances. Finally,
I had reached the Mayfair shops.
Inside the Hermes boutique, I scanned the necktie offerings
and selected one that looked the least expensive. The
dinner bell sounded. I could almost taste the salmon
“I’ll take that one,” I said to the
saleswoman, pointing to a burgundy Jacquard twill. In
my haste, I
failed to notice the price tag.
“That will be $130,” she said.
I nearly had a heart attack.
“One hundred and thirty dollars for a necktie?” I
“That’s the least expensive tie we have,” she
Of the 2,500 passengers onboard, some were pampered in
the $25,000 to $30,000 per-person luxury duplex apartments,
replete with private butlers. Nearly 200 passengers forked
over $5,000 to $16,000 for lavish suites. (These folks
arrived long before the ship reached England.) A $130
necktie was perhaps a pittance for them. For me … well,
I can’t live that large.
I rushed over to the Dunhill shop. At $92, their most
economical tie remained out of reach. Unwilling to pay
$175 for a 3-day tuxedo rental, I purchased a sad, paisley
bowtie for $15. It clashed with my suit. Made me look
like a geek. When I returned to the stateroom to collect
Veronica, she confirmed my assessment. Her chuckles haunted
me all the way to the Britannia Restaurant.
Dinner was an elegant affair. We were seated at a table
for two on the second tier of the sprawling 3-level dining
room. Thirteen hundred stylishly dressed diners lifted
their menus. A harpist plucked the strings from her perch.
The heavenly melody drifted above the clinking champagne
glasses, up the sweeping central staircase, and toward
the massive stained-glass skylight high above the atrium.
Before ordering appetizers and entrées, we were
approached by one of 22 onboard sommeliers who proffered
the wine list and offered suggestions.
Veronica made our wine selection. The sommelier nodded
to let us know she’d made a smart choice. Before
leaving to procure our bottle, however, the sommelier
bent respectfully toward me. He hailed from Madagascar,
and spoke with a soft British accent.
“That is a very nice bowtie, if I must say so,” he
said, nodding approvingly. “You look very elegant
this evening, sir.”
Veronica could scarcely restrain her laughter. I smiled,
and straightened my paisley bowtie. Yes, dinner aboard
the QM2 is a truly elegant experience. As poised and
perfect as a sommelier’s gracious lie.