FARES: With an advance booking through Cunard, an inside cabin for an Atlantic crossing runs about $1,500 per person, double occupancy. An ocean-view cabin is $2,200, a balcony $2,500. The fares rise from there to $24,000 per person for a Grand Duplex apartment (whew!).
TOUGH TICKETS: The two most difficult reservations on the ship, without question, are dinner at the Todd English restaurant and any treatment at the Canyon Ranch SpaClub. Neither can be reserved in advance of the trip. In the departure lounge, seek out a table near the gangway where Todd English reservations are taken. A supplement of $30 per person is charged for dinner, $20 for lunch. (You can probably skip lunch; we found it disappointing.) Book spa treatments the instant you get to your cabin. My wife waited until the next morning, and learned that the next available opening for a manicure was four days hence.
EASY SWIPE: A technological wrinkle enhances the experience on this voyage. When you check in, you're photographed and issued a photo ID badge with
TIME CHANGES: One advantage of a westbound crossing is that you get to set your clock back an hour on almost every night of the voyage. This permits late-night revelries without any real forfeiture of sleep.
TIPPING: No need to board with a fat envelope of currency to take care of the stewards, waiters, etc. A charge of $11 per passenger per day is automatically added to your account to cover service gratuities (though you're permitted to tip individuals something extra, obviously). As on most cruise lines, a tip of 15 percent is also assessed on every purchase of alcoholic beverages.
THE BRIDGE: No tours are offered, but the ship is experimenting with allowing passengers to observe the officers at their work through a window at the back of the bridge. Located on Deck 12, this peek behind the scenes is only offered at sporadic times, but it's fascinating to see the screens holding radar readouts and electronic charts, as well as the big Starship Enterprise-type chairs and a tiny steering wheel worthy of a video arcade.
SISTER ACT: The spirit of the original Queen Mary lives on aboard the QM2 _ and an item of its hardware, too. One of the Queen Mary's original steam whistles was converted to use compressed air and mounted to the starboard side of the QM2's funnel. It is one of four whistles on the ship, and still sounds a resonant bass A, two octaves below middle C.
By the way, the new ship is the Queen Mary 2, not Queen Mary II, signifying that this is the second ship by that name. The Roman numeral is only used for a ship's name when it corresponds to the title of a British monarch.
SEASICKNESS: If rough seas get the best of you, relief is available in two forms. Cinnerazine pills are dispensed at the Purser's Office Reception Desk. They're effective if taken before a seasickness incident, according to medical staffers. If you've already vomited, injections of Phenergan can be administered in the Medical Center on Deck 1. According to passengers we talked to who availed themselves of this remedy, you feel zonked for a couple of hours but then are spared any seasickness distress for six straight days.
INFORMATION: www.cunard.com; (800) 728-6273.