By virtue of size alone, you might not think to put Queen Mary 2, Cunard’s behemoth of a vessel, head to head with the intimate Viking Star. However, the target guest may very well consider both cruise ships for their luxurious qualities. Exactly which one is right for you, though, is a matter of debate. To help you come to a conclusion, we compared the two ships in a handful of categories -- atmosphere, activities, accommodations, and more.
Atmosphere and Design
At 148,528 tons, the Queen Mary 2 (often abbreviated as the QM2) can carry 2,695 passengers, while the Viking Star is just 47,800 tons with a passenger capacity of 930. However, it’s worth noting that the so-called Cunarder actually has a greater passenger-to-space ratio. In other words, though there may be nearly three times as many guests aboard the QM2, there’s also more ship volume for each individual to enjoy in comparison to the Star. That said, both ships are far roomier than many others in the cruise industry.
When it comes to architecture and decor, though, the ships couldn’t be more different. The Star is a sleek, modern vessel painted in all white. Meanwhile, the QM2 is a stately ocean liner with a dark hull and imposing superstructure, and its interiors are filled with Art Deco opulence.
Built as an ocean liner, the large Cunard vessel has a deep draft below the waterline plus four stabilizers, meaning it’s easily the most stable passenger vessel. The smaller Star is constructed as a standard cruise ship with a shallower draft and only two stabilizers. While it’s entirely safe, it is more prone to movement in rough sea conditions. Accordingly, those susceptible to motion sickness might want to opt for the steadier QM2.
Still, the Viking Star’s size allows it to access smaller ports around the world that the larger QM2 will never be able to approach. Plus, its double-decker Explorers’ Lounge observation venue beats the QM2’s single-level Commodore Club. So even though the Viking ship is smaller overall, such grand spaces make it feel larger than it actually is.
Viking Star’s all-veranda accommodations are as tasteful as the rest of the ship, with a streamlined approach to Scandinavian decor. The bathrooms themselves are a highlight of the ship, especially their showers, where even entry-level units are considerably larger than what is typically found on other vessels. Furthermore, Viking Star’s amenities include plush beds, lots of USB charging ports, and complimentary room service. The line also throws in free house beers and wines, as well as soft drinks at mealtimes; specialty coffees, teas, and bottled water; use of the spa’s thermal suite; self-service laundry; unlimited Wi-Fi; and one shore excursion in every port.
Comfortable beds are also available on Queen Mary 2, as is included room service, but bathrooms and showers -- at least in standard staterooms -- are much smaller. While an outright class system is no longer present on Cunard, some features are limited to certain levels. Britannia Club passengers can dine at the Britannia Club Restaurant, and Princess Grill and Queens Grill guests can similarly partake in their namesake dining rooms, as well as enjoy the Grills Terrace and Grills Lounge. For those seeking more attention, Cunard offers the option of butler service, which is not available on Viking.
The Viking Star and QM2 are also neck and neck when it comes to activity offerings, especially their spas. The Canyon Ranch SpaClub on the QM2 and the Liv Nordic by Raison d’Etre spa on the Star both have exceptional thermal suites with soothing thalassotherapy pools. The former also features more traditional saunas and steam rooms, while the latter offers passengers the opportunity to engage in a Nordic bathing ritual of alternating between hot and cold environments. However, the Star gets the edge because its facility is entirely free -- only treatments cost extra.
Additionally fantastic is the infinity pool cantilevered over the Viking Star’s stern. The Queen Mary 2 also has a wonderful stern with two pools terraced across its aft length. Both ships have an additional main pool that can be covered or uncovered below a magrodome. They also both excel in the areas of enrichment. Expert lecturers give engaging presentations on topics ranging from arts and culture to the regions visited.
Naturally, the number of overall activities is sure to be a bit higher on a larger ship like the QM2. Some highlights include fencing and a planetarium.
The QM2 has many more dining options, but the quality is better on the Viking Star. The QM2’s remodeled Kings Court buffet has improved its fare, but the main Britannia Restaurant is hit or miss. Other culinary highlights include the tapas-style selections at the Carinthia Lounge and pub fare at the Golden Lion (both free). The Verandah serves up French food in a dedicated specialty restaurant for a per-person charge at lunch and a higher per-person charge at dinner. And the Godiva chocolate bar at Sir Samuel’s offers a la carte priced truffles, pastries, fondues, and ice cream sundaes.
By comparison, the food aboard Viking Star is consistently great, from the pool grill to the alternate restaurants -- all of which are free. Only The Kitchen Table experience comes with a worthy surcharge for featuring a shore excursion to a local market and culinary demo in addition to dinner. The Restaurant is the main dining room onboard, and the World Cafe is the ship’s buffet. Both are tasty. Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant and The Chef’s Table are two other fine establishments, but but both require reservations. The first presents an extensive permanent menu, while the second offers a variety of set tasting menus that rotate throughout the cruise.
Inversely, entertainment is Viking Star’s weakest link. It does offer production shows in the theater, but they are underwhelming. The singers and dancers are actually quite talented, but the corny, canned material doesn't reflect their abilities. Elsewhere onboard, live music and smaller cabaret shows outshine the other production shows. The stage vocalists get to sound much better in Torshavn with a band backing in delightfully paired-down performances.
On the other hand, Cunard stages more grandiose numbers in the Royal Court Theatre as well as smaller scale Shakespearean plays performed by a RADA acting troupe. Both are in addition to Illuminations, which serves as a planetarium, lecture hall, and cinema. The QM2 also has wonderful live music, including Dixieland jazz, ballroom songs, string quartets, and more. Rounding out the entertainment offerings is the Empire Casino, which houses several table games, slot machines, and video poker. On the Viking Star, there is no casino at all -- a pro or con for some. There are also no photo or art galleries on the ship. It all boils down to what you cherish or consider clutter on a cruise vacation.
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