Cunard Line Reviews

Year Started: 1840
Ships in Fleet: 3
Category: Upscale

Summary: The infamous line of British descent is now based in America but still has a large British clientele. Classic cruise style: ballrooms, tuxedos, gala events. Queen Mary 2 is last true Ocean Liner in service.

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Cunard Line Cruise Ships

1 Reviews

Regions:Barcelona,St Petersburg,Brussels

Good for: Seniors. Overall Service. Foodies.

38 Reviews

Regions:Sydney, Cape Town,Southhampton

8 Reviews

Regions:Southampton, Hamburg,, Palermo, Korcula, Venice, Dubrovnik, Corfu, Messina, Valencia

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from 47 reviews

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User Reviews

47 User Reviews of Cunard Line Ships
Soythern Caribbean
Publication Date: December 29, 2006

Queen Mary 2

I recently came home from the Queen Mary 2 New years Eve Cruise.

To summarise - for American passangers - give this ship a wide birth. It is expensive, over-crowded, badly air-conditioned, over-hyped, cigarette smoke all over, lousy public rooms,poor excusions, over-priced drinks, and poor cabins.

HOTELS: Avoid at all costs the Wyndham Hotel in Fort Lauderdale. It is a dump and fleapit. Stay in Miami.

SHIP INFO: Huge and over-crowded. The crew are OK, but basically this a Carnival ship in a Cunard disguise. Do not expect anything but feeble attempts to emulate the old Cunard Line.

For $2400 per person, I expected a lot. I did not get it: 1) Breakfast in bed was consistently greasy & bad. 2) The public rooms are small and hot. 3) On New Years Eve, the ballroom accomodated only 500 people. Group tours received preference e.g. Singles Travel International. We could not get in. What a rip-off. We spent the evening in the smoke-filled Golden Lion Pub - what a disappointment. 4) The so-called queensize beds are merely two singles pushed together, with a prominent ridge in the middle. This is very uncomfortable. Cunard

also does not provide two sheets: only a cover and a comforter. Make sure and ask for a top sheet (typical money-saving trick). 5) The food in the Britannia is great, but the Kings Court Group is shoddy, poorly planned, and has the atmosphere of a burger at Walmart. 6) Service quite good on the ship as a whole. But drinks on deck are impossible.Very little privacy. 7) On the 4th day of the cruise, Cunard started diluting and underpouring the drinks. I found this unacceptable. 8) Their practice of adding a 15% gratuity and then also leaving space for a tip is ludicrous and dishonest. 9) The ship is very poorly sign-posted, and there are too few restrooms. 10) There are too few observation lounges. 11) Of the 8 nights at sea, 3 dinners were formal. In my mind, this is overkill. 12) The much ballyhood Pirates Ball was a bust. Only very few in costume, chaotic, and not a lot of fun. We left in disgust. Drinks were being diluted and underpoured.

I sensed confusion in the crew - often wrong times on the cabin TV, and wrong wakeup calls.

ENTERTAINMENT: Average, and British oriented. One show was poor. The Royal Court Theatre was too hot.

CABINS: Only just OK. You should book an in-hull balcony cabin. All others are over-priced or dismal. Size: good. Bathroom nice. Furniture: Beds very poor.. Adequate storage. Couch comfortable. Table much too small. Lighting - not romantic. The in-cabin TV broke down a lot, and the PA system could not be made to work.

ACTIVITIES: Very poor. Little going on. Prominent spots for religious services. Few movies, poor lectures, few dance lessons. Very little live music. There was only one chess set & one scrabble set on the whole ship.

SHORE EXCURSIONS: Wide choice, but very disappointing, and badly organised. I think Cunard must have outsourced these to some shady operaters. We were crammed in to a shabby taxi on St. Kitts, which was overloaded by two passangers. There was no commentary. Advice: hire your own taxi. Barbados, St. Kitts & St. Thomas are poverty stricken, dirty & a waste of time.

TEA: 4pm tea is a joke: only one tea available (English Breakfast). Not hot, but luke-warm. Accompanying sandwidges would not be out of place in a homeless shelter.

ENTERTAINMENT: Average, and British oriented. One show was poor. The Royal Court Theatre was too hot.

DANCES: Outside - only OK. Very expensive drinks. Inside - OK if you could get in.

EMBARKATION: Good and fairly quick (2 hours)

DIS-EMBARKATION Chaotic, poorly planned, and a vacation ruiner. All the luggage is piled in one place, when it is supposed to be sorted. It took me 45 minutes to find all my bags. I was on the priority list to dis-embark. This seems a farce, as I was repeatedly held up. The transport bus was hard to find. Hint: use a taxi.

Fort Lauderdale airport cannot hold 2000 travellers. We were in line for 5 hours, and made it to our flight with minutes to spare, exhausted. Hint: depart from another airport eg Miami, and don't use US Air.

IN SUMMARY: DON'T EVEN THINK OF CRUISING ON THIS VESSEL. IT NEARLY RUINED MY MARRIAGE

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Western Caribbean
Publication Date: December 9, 2006

In 1840, the Boston Daily News printed the following: "Since the discovery of America by Columbus, nothing has occurred of so much importance to the new world as navigating the Atlantic by steamers." This is one of the more memorable quotes displayed on the new Queen Mary 2 (QM2) walls. Then, again in 2004, the London Times printed the following: "She {QM2} will be heir to all that has gone before, and will carry the grace and elegance of a bygone era into the future." Cunard has made the QM2 a floating homage to the first Queen Mary which after 33 years in service is now docked in a lagoon in Long Beach, CA. She sits as a beautiful museum to the last of the "Three Funnels." This venerable ship during WWII carried over 1.6 million troops along with her companion Queen Elizabeth. The two were painted battle ship grey, dubbed the "Grey Ghosts" and eluded the enemy with their superior speed. After WWII, the Queen Mary returned to transatlantic crossings with the slogan "Getting there wasn't just half the fun -- It was the fun." On her final voyage in

1967, Queen Mary navigated Cape Horn, South America, for the first and only time, and came to her final resting place in Long Beach.

The QM2 maintains the traditions of her Cunard predecessors which includes a "style" of British elegance and the same two octaves below middle "C" horn, which can be heard for 10 miles. In our quest to sail on as many of the new ships as possible, we considered the QM2 to be another great conquest. She is a floating museum to another time and era in sailing and now in cruising. Her many attributes are worthy of a long, say perhaps "Around the World" cruise, where leisurely time on board can be spent in discovering new areas to explore, or visiting her extensive library.

EMBARKATION In Ft. Lauderdale embarkation is relatively hassle free. We were scheduled for check in at 1:30pm, since the QM2 operates a staggered check-in schedule by deck number. The upper decks are first and then on down the ranks -- yes, there is still class distinction on board Cunard! This system prevents congestion or overcrowded areas on the piers. But, it can also mean barely boarding in time for Boat Drill for some. We had boarded the Carnival Legend at this same Pier a month before, thus we knew the ropes -- take the elevator up, and we had wheel chair assistance from there on to our stateroom. Now began the interesting discovery of the layout of this ship. We have two names for it, labyrinth or maze -- either will do.

THE SHIP Great care has been given in the design of this ship to ensure that it is the continuation of the Cunard Line tradition; some times even to the point of convoluted access to many areas. There are four main stairways paired with elevators and labeled from forward to aft: A, B, C, D. There are thirteen Decks (one of the few ships with an "unlucky" Deck 13). There are two very impressive corridors, both in size and decoration on Decks 2 & 3, leading from the Britannia Dining Room at Stairway C and going forward to Stairway B. On the walls of one, there are faux bronze bas relief of flora, fauna and landmarks of the major continents of Europe, Africa, Asia, N. America and S. America, and the other corridor depicts Aurora Australis and Aurora Borealis. These are of monumental proportions just like a homage to Earth and its inhabitants: very worthy of close examination. These were our first impression of the QM2, when we boarded at Stairway C and walked forward to the Grand Lobby and to Stairway B -- and, as the cruise went on, we still felt in awe of them, whenever we passed by.

Deck 1 has the Kensington, Knightbridge, Belgravia and Chelsea Meeting Rooms and the ship's Medical Center.

Deck 2 forward has Illuminations, the Planetarium/Theatre, with fantastic science and astronomy shows, lectures and movies. Access to this area is along a museum display of Cunard history and photos of distinction (i.e., launchings, famous passengers, a veritable litany of "Who's Who.") Next, is Connexions -- the on line computer area, the Royal Court Theatre and then the Video Arcade. Here, on both sides of the Theatre, there are two walkways set up with tables and chairs adjacent to windows where passengers can play many kinds of games such as the following: checkers, chess, dominoes,Trivial Pursuit, Scrabble, etc., or just relax and look at the waves flowing by. Midship are the Purser and Tour offices, the Empire Casino and the Golden Lion Pub (serving lunch of Shepherd's/Cottage Pie, Fish and Chips, etc.). Aft is the Britannia Restaurant and the Picture and Art Galleries; the latter two are difficult to locate, especially using the folding Deck Plan, given to us at embarkation.

Deck 3 forward are again Illuminations/Planetarium and the Royal Court Theatre, the Champagne Bar and the pricey Mayfair Shops. Toward aft is the Balcony of the Britannia Restaurant: a lovely place with simple white double columns, which give stature to the room. The back wall is a huge mural of a "Ship Celebration". Next is the Queen's Room, the largest ballroom afloat, where formal dances were held all week -- Excellent. At Captain Christopher Rynd's Cocktail party, there were royal flags hanging from the ceiling. The night of the Masquerade Ball these were changed to gold, black and red flags. Finally, hidden behind the Queen's Room, is the Disco Club G32 (Shipyard's Hull # of the QM2) where Capt. Rynd hosted the officers Cocktail Party, a very formal affair we attended.

Decks 4, 5, & 6 are all staterooms, plus laundries located by B & D elevator's and the Children's Play Zone aft of 6 with the Minnows Pool.

Deck 7 is all Public Areas including the outdoor Promenade with excellent chaise lounges, reminiscent of the old liners, and the following dining areas: King's Court which is divided into the Carvery (English fare), Lotus (Oriental Food), La Piazza (Italian & Mediterranean selections) and the Chef's Galley (featuring cooking demonstrations and dining by reservation). Here are located the private Queen's and Princess' Grills, reserved for guests in Suites and Junior Suites, respectively. Forward are the very pretty Winter Gardens and the Canyon River Spa Club and Gym.

Deck 8 forward has the largest and most beautiful library afloat; the stacks are all made of burl wood and hold more than 8,000 volumes. Then, there is the Book Shop and the Beauty Salon. The midship is all staterooms and aft is the Todd English Supper Club ($30 per person, reservations required). Its windows overlook the Terrace Bar & Pool.

Deck 9 forward has the Commodore Club with Naval memorabilia then a meeting room, "The Boardroom". Here is also Churchill's Cigar Lounge with fine cigars, lighters and liquors. Near Stairwell B is the Concierge Lounge. All the rest of this deck is staterooms, except aft is the Queen's Grill Terrace.

Deck 10 is all staterooms.

Deck 11 forward are the Observation Deck and the Atlantic Meeting Room. The rest is just staterooms.

Deck 12 forward has staterooms; midship is the Pavilion Bar, Pool, Fairways, Shuffleboard and the Boardwalk Cafe`.

Deck 13 forward has the Lookout, Sports Center, Regatta Bar, Splash Pool and the Sun Deck.

This cursory review of the QM2 does not truly evoke the British ambiance, we so enjoy, that pervades this Cunard ship. All public areas are stately and prominently feature portraits of British royalty as a constant reminder of the ship's origin. There are many areas with uneven walkways and stairs which have individual elevators for the handicapped. There are sloped corridors near the Planetarium and excellent statuary near the entrance to Illuminations. It is true that there are mostly carpeted decks, which make it difficult for those with wheelchairs to navigate around the ship. Many of the other newer ships in public areas have changed to marble or tile on which wheelchairs roll much more easily.

CABIN We had stateroom # 6144, Cat. B5 (269 sq. ft. including balcony) on Deck 6, since it was very difficult to book a wheelchair accessible cabin on the QM2 in this category, even when booking several months ahead. When entering on the left is a four section armoire, three for hanging clothes, and one section with shelves and personal safe, plus four drawers. Then, the to be expected seascape on the wall, a small vanity/desk with a narrow black and golden banded mirror and two wall sconces in matching black and gold. There is a TV console and a mini refrigerator.

When entering, on the right is a tiny compact bathroom with a black onyx topped counter with a single sink, glass shelves and a mirror. There is a large shower stall with safety bars. Next is a queen size bed, with two night stands and the same black and gold reading lamps. The bed had an odd peaking in the middle, since there was a "bridge" joining the twin units in the center. We asked the Cabin Steward to remove it along with the weighty duvet and add a top sheet. The Caribbean is like our home in Florida, where heavy linens are not comfortable. Many of the newer ships have also gone to quilts or puffs minus a top sheet. When discussing the linens with Hotel Director David Stephenson, he said there are over 17 different ways to make a bed, just ask the steward and it will be done any way you please.

The carpet is gold with maroon flecks and the drapes and bed linens beige and gold. Very nice and restful. The balcony had two recliners and a small table. However, in order to see the ocean from this "sheltered" balcony you must stand up to the rail, since the window consists of a 4x6 sq. ft. opening in the hull of the ship. The explanation for these unusual balconies is that the QM2 is an ocean liner and not a cruise ship, thus she has been built for the high seas. However, ocean view glassed balconies are Cat. B1 and B2 on Deck 8 and above; Cat. B6 also on deck 8 have balconies with partially obstructed view; Cat. B3, B4, B5 and B7, on decks 4, 5 and 6, have "sheltered" balconies. Needless to say, Vincent was disappointed in lack of ocean view from the "sheltered" balcony, but one consolation was that when we encountered rough seas, the QM2 was steady in high seas.

There is one idiosyncrasy of this specific cabin which should be mentioned. There is a "cazillion" watt spot light placed just over the balcony and used to illuminate the side of the ship when the Pilot's boat arrives or departs in each port. Often this light is forgotten on and the balcony and stateroom are blindingly illuminated late into the night. Twice we called down to the purser's desk to remind them that the spot light was forgotten on well into the wee hours of the night.

We always have excellent cruises, because we politely request our needs, and on this cruise Steward Greg was excellent and gracefully met all our requirements. He was both efficient and kind.

FOOD AND SERVICE Cunard Line is like no other line and both food and service are typically very British. Hotel Director David Stephenson is quite secure in the Cunard Way. This line caters to a worldly group of passengers and maintains evident class distinction based on accommodations. We found the service all over the ship to be wonderful, but in the Britannia Dining Room it was excellent. We met once again Maitre D' Beniamino Acler (Italy), whom we knew from Princess Cruise Line. He is a wonderfully cordial man, whom we see as the epitome of fine Italian manners and dining service.

The Restaurant Supervisor is Luigi Dolge, a very active and observant fellow. Our Waiter was Hansel and his assistant Michael. Most lines have done away with the wine steward, but Cunard maintains a Sommelier and Jaksa was quite up on wine. He enjoyed talking with Vincent about specific wines. Vincent takes his wine seriously, since he is Italian born and bred.

The dining room menus were some of the most cryptic afloat, but still more than adequate. If you are a duck lover, you won't be disappointed, since it often appears on the menu. The beef was excellent; the fish was good; however, don't miss the swordfish, which was superior. Dinner in the dining room was usually very formal with so many formal evenings during the week. Alternative dining was either at the specialty restaurants or King's Court on Deck 7.

King's Court is basically divided into several sections. Mandatory hand sanitizing is done. Thank goodness, especially since several ships have had Norwalk Virus outbreaks recently. The Carvery section serves typically British fare including roast beef, mushy peas, etc. There were several waiters to help with trays. La Piazza specialized in Pizza, Pasta, Lasagna and vegetables like zucchini and eggplant. The Lotus specialized in Asian cuisine, including soups and rice dishes. The best venue here is the Chef's Galley; we made reservations as soon as possible.

Chef's Galley is a small studio that seats approximately 36 guests, with a showcase for the chef who prepares four courses and then after each course the "audience" is served. Chef Ion Lungu prepared each course beautifully and the waitress Karen (a polyglot from Salzburg, Austria) and her assistant Laurence served each table. First course was Tian of Smoked Duck and Cassis Foam. Second course was a Risotto al Barolo with gorgonzola, diced apple and hazelnut. The entree was roasted New Zealand Loin of Lamb with pea and butter crust. Dessert was Todd English's Chocolate Fallen Cake which remains molten chocolate in the middle (this is served with a long handled soup spoon with a huge bowl end)! Excellent Chef, service, food and show, all of which we enjoyed immensely.

The Upscale Todd English Restaurant is the provenance of Todd English, owner of Oliver's of Boston, MA voted #1 restaurant in Boston and top 10 in the USA. The meal was interesting in both preparation and service. There was an array of beautifully shaped plates and unusual menu items. The Lobster and Baby Corn Chowder is first served in a huge soup plate with the dry ingredients (the lobster and vegetables) then the creamed broth (the wet ingredient) is poured on at the table from a pitcher. Very interesting! The highlight of our meal was the "Love Letters" -- delicate mascarpone cheese ravioli arranged on an oblong platter. They were excellent. Mary had grilled veal and artichokes, whilst Vincent had Lobster and Ricotta puffs -- the latter were as light as feathers. For dessert try Mr. English's famous lemon tart; it is marvelous.

We also enjoyed dining in the Britannia because dinner was more evenly paced than at the other venues, where a meal was 2 to 3 hours long. Daily we went to the Golden Lion Pub, at 11:30am where there was trivia, and sometimes we stayed on for Fish & Chips or Shepherd/Cottage pies. Service was much more relaxed, and there was even live music (a jazz band and singer were tremendous).

ENTERTAINMENT Cruise Director Ray Rouse is an old acquaintance of ours from our many cruises on Costa. He has tremendous energy and aplomb, and is savvy about music and dance from his long career in Ballroom Dance. There are the usual activities on board: Trivia, exercise, dance classes, formal dances and balls -- in one week 3 formal nights, 3 elegant casual nights and 1 informal night. If you enjoy dressing up, this is the ship for you!

The shows were distinctly sharp and very British. Dancers are of the highest caliber: Petre and Roxana Samoila`, international Ballroom Dancers, are an exquisite couple who both taught and performed at the Black & White Gala and at other Balls. Ray Rouse warned us not to miss "Apassionata" with its cosmopolitan approach to music: Waltzes, Tangos (Nelson of Argentina was terrific in both dance and with Bolos). Many of the dancers were from Moscow, Russia, with deep Ballet background. The leaps and athletic aspects were breathtaking. Ray was right, and the audience agreed with a standing ovation. We felt it was the best dancing afloat. Sergei was the lightest and most spectacular dancer we've seen in person

.

Another show we enjoyed a lot was the performance of Petrina Johnson, a well known British singer, who not only did justice to many show tunes (including Evita) but also did some wonderful impressions of famous singers like Cher and Judy Garland. Two Thumbs up on entertainment!

Illuminations had several extraordinary planetarium shows: we saw "Cosmic Collisions", "Infinity Express" and "Passport to the Universe" -- all excellent. We also saw here the great George Clooney movie "Good Night and Good Luck" and Vincent heard NASA lecturer Richard Underwood and deemed it well worth attending. The full fledged educational program is only on transatlantic crossings.

PORTS OF CALL

Day 1. Ft. Lauderdale, FL USA Sail Away 4:45pm

Day 2. At Sea

Day 3. Montego Bay, Jamaica Arrive 8:00am Depart 5:00pm Tendering to shore. Many passengers prefer Ochos Rios, since there is no tendering and all the best excursions are on that side of the island.

Day 4. Georgetown, Grand Cayman Arrive 7:00am Depart 5:00pm Tendering to shore. Best attractions here are the Stingray City, sandbar snorkeling and the Seven Mile Beach.

Day 5. Mahahual, Costa Maya, Mexico Arrive 9:00am Depart 6:00pm. Great shopping for artifacts and souvenirs near the pier. Excursion to Mayan Ruins at the site of Chacchoben (1 hr. drive).

Day 6. Cozumel, Mexico Arrive 8:00am Depart 6:00pm Best port in the Western Caribbean for shopping; close to the pier is the convenient Punta Langosta Mall

.

Day 7. At Sea

Day 8. Ft. Lauderdale, FL USA Arrive 7:00am

DISEMBARKATION Again, like embarkation it was done in an orderly fashion, Deck by Deck. We had wheelchair assistance from our stateroom to the Golden Lion Pub, where we waited for our Deck 6 cream color to be called. Luggage was easily located. We were off by 9:15am. There were no problems and it was painless.

SUGGESTIONS This was our first Cunard Cruise Lines cruise, a good cruise; however, it did not meet our expectation. Let us say we had better cruises on less famous ships. This ship is a classic beauty, the service is excellent, and the food and ambiance is definitely British, but somehow we had a much higher expectation that was not met. A possible explanation for our disappointment may be that we are experienced cruisers and repeaters on the most popular cruise lines (Frequent Floaters) and we know what to expect from each line and how to get the best enjoyment on each ship, whilst we had not experienced a Cunard sailing before. We feel that every cruiser should go at least once on a Cunard ship, and then decide if that is what s/he prefers. We are sure that for some people it will be the only way to cruise, but perhaps not for others.

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Transatlantic Crossing
Publication Date: July 30, 2006

This was our third time on Queen Mary 2 and our second this year, having done the first New York – Southampton transatlantic crossing of the year in April.

This cruise departed from and returned to Southampton and the itinerary was Southampton – Vigo, Spain – Barcelona, Spain – Cannes, France – Civitavecchia, Italy – Livorno, Italy – Gibraltar – Lisbon, Portugal – Southampton. The duration was 12 nights.

Embarkation

We were given an embarkation time of 1.30pm, but as usual, my partner and I left home far too early to drive the 150 miles to Southampton, arriving there at 11.30. Two years ago, we arrived at 11am and were on board before midday. Last year we arrived at the same time and had to wait until 2pm to board (QE2). We gave the car to valet parking and joined the queue for check in. From joining the queue to getting our boarding cards took 20 minutes. Expecting a wait to board, we went to the bar in the departure lounge for drinks but ended up gulping them down as we were called for boarding almost immediately. Hence, we were on board before

midday again.

We spent most of the afternoon on deck – it was hot and sunny in Southampton for a change – and we had the added bonus of witnessing the retirement of the commodore of the fleet, Commodore Ronald Warwick. He left the ship and was piped along the quayside before being helicoptered away.

The Cabin

Our cabin, was 8047 on the starboard side of deck 8. This is one of the restricted-view cabins but along with the cabins on either side has a small rescue craft in front and so the view is reasonably open. In April, we had 8045 which arguably has a better view. These cabins have glass balconies and are much lighter than the more expensive cabins with hull balconies.

On the previous two voyages on QM2, I thought that the amount of storage space was limited, but as both were cool-weather voyages, there was no need for the whole range of shorts, T-shirts and accessories for a hot weather voyage. We were both concerned whether or not there would be sufficient room, but it worked out fine. One of us had everything hanging in the larger wardrobe, and the other everything folded on the shelves. Drawer space was fine.

The beds were very comfortable and made up as a double bed. In April, they were made up as two singles, although still side by side – I don't think the room configuration allows anything else. They were also sufficiently high to enable us to get our enormous suitcases underneath, plus carry-on bags and laptop.

Food

We chose second sitting in the Britannia Restaurant and thought we had specified a table of 6. On the last two sailings, we had very good tables on the upper levels, but on this occasion, we were allocated a table of eight on the lower level at the foot of the staircase. We tried to change it, but were told to come back after 6pm because the maitre d' was off duty. As it was, we never did make the change and it turned out that our table was hosted by the Staff Captain! I discovered when we got home that the mix up was on our part as I had actually failed to specify table size in the booking.

We always select second sitting (except when on QE2 in the Caronia Restaurant) as this gives us ample time to get back from shore excursions, relax with a drink, watch the sail away and then wash and change for dinner.

I generally thought the quality of the ingredients used in the food was excellent, although unfortunately rather bland in taste. Sometimes I found it a little difficult to make a selection, particularly of entreés, and resorted to having two starters instead. I didn't mind unduly as the helpings could be very large.

I have to say, there were two exceptions to this. I ordered Tomato Carpaccio and this turned out to be four slices of wafer thin tomato with a tuft of lettuce on top, and a teaspoonful-sized scoop of Boursin (garlic) cheese. Fortunately, that was a starter. Later on, I ordered an asparagus dish (Green Asparagus, Pressed Tomato & Truffle Dressing) which even the steward tried to talk me out of as it was so small! It consisted of a fan of five asparagus tips about two inches long accompanied by a roasted half tomato and nothing else! I was thankful I wasn't hungry, but in fairness, the staff was always more than willing to change a dish or bring something extra.

In the past, we have always eaten all meals in the Britannia Restaurant, but on this occasion, used King's Court quite often, partly because it was convenient to the cabin and partly because of the timing of shore excursions. This time, rather than regarding it as one place spread over a large area, we viewed each servery separately and it made it much easier to use. We particularly liked the fresh sushi served several times during the voyage.

We didn't try any of the other eateries on board, although we did have a very nice afternoon tea in the Queen's Room.

Entertainment & Activities

We only attended three shows, the first being the Cruise Director's (Ray Rouse) introductory show and the second an excellent solo violinist, Claire Gobin. The third was part an Abba tribute and part an American comedian, Marty Brill. The latter had done an earlier show where I believe he offended some of the audience, and although his jokes were a little ponderous, they were funny in the end.

Other than a couple of films, we took no part in daytime activities being either ashore or enjoying the weather on deck. During the two cold days, the first and last, we spent most of the time reading in the Commodore Club, it still being the most intimate and comfortable space on the ship.

Ports of Call

Last year, we did mainly day shore excursions at many of the same ports and these proved to be both expensive and tiring as it was extremely hot. This year, just as hot, we only did half-day trips with the exception of a day trip to Florence. This actually proved more enjoyable and gave us the opportunity to sit on deck in the afternoon, watch port activity and read. Also, with the exception of Florence, we avoided the big towns.

From Vigo, the excursion was Classical Galicia, touring around the estuaries to the north of Vigo, some of the coastal villages and ending with a tour of a winery and a wine tasting. This was not so much of a tasting as a guzzling as the winery was keen for us to sample as many of their whites, rosés and reds as possible! There was absolutely no pressure to buy, although the route out of the building was via the shop and a lot of people did make purchases.

The next port of call was Barcelona. We took a trip to the Monastery of Montserrat in the hills inland from the city, a spectacular setting at about 1400 feet above sea level. It was a rather industrial drive inland until we climbed into the hills but from there it was quite beautiful.

Cannes was another hilltop destination to the village of Gourdon by way of the Gorge de Loup. This village has been restored and has spectacular views over the coastal plane and the ship could just be seen through the haze. If you are not interested in soaps, fragrancies, glassware and wood carvings, there is not a lot to see in the village. We found a bar instead and enjoyed a couple of gins and tonic underneath an umbrella!

From there it was Civitavecchia where we avoided Rome and went to the town of Viterbo perhaps 25 miles to the north east of Civitavecchia and 45 miles north west of Rome. Here, we visited the 15th. century town hall with its magnificent interiors, the cathedral of St Lorenzo, and then the medieval San Pellegrino district. For a time, Viterbo was the home of the popes.

We elected to do a day trip from Livorno to visit the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. It was quite a long coach trip, perhaps the best part of two hours. We had a short walk from the coach to the gallery in the Piazza della Signoria and a bit of a wait to get into the gallery itself. As soon as our guide started to talk about the artwork on display, we realised we had made a horrible mistake! It was all far too in-depth for us! As a result, we left the group, toured the gallery at our own (very fast) pace and walked around the town instead. The centre of Florence was very crowded (and extremely hot), but away from there it was quite pleasant.

During our day at sea between Vigo and Barcelona, we passed through the Straits of Gibraltar around midday. The captain took the ship close to the North African coast and then turned the ship north to sail past the Rock of Gibraltar. On the sea day between Livorno and the next port of call, Gibraltar, the ship sailed along the north coast of the Spanish islands of Majorca and Ibiza. This made for an interesting few hours.

Last year, we took an organised tour in Gibraltar – the cable car to the top and then a visit to the seige caves and St. Michael's Cave. This year, we went ashore on our own, walked through the town to the cable car and actually beat all the organised tours! We took the car to the top of the Rock to get the photographs we couldn't get last year because it was so misty, took the cable car back down, walked through the town and caught the tender back to the ship. It was a very pleasant morning, although very, very humid.

The next morning, we sailed up the estuary of the Tagus River towards Lisbon just before dawn, and got a spectacular view of the sunrise in front of us through the 25th. April Bridge. Our shore excursion was a coach tour of Lisbon with a visit to the district of Belém. This was probably the least satisfactory of our shore trips, as we saw little of the city itself. At Belém, we were taken to the Maritime Museum and the Church of Our Lady of Belém, the Monument to the Discoveries and Belém Tower. All a bit rushed and therefore not particularly interesting.

Disembarkation

After a final (and rather cool) day at sea, we arrived back at Southampton at 8am. We had a leisurely breakfast and vacated our cabin at 9am. We were instructed to wait in the Royal Court Theatre until our deck was called to go ashore. Having sat in there at Easter in a dark and gloomy environment, I rebelled and we waited in a window seat in the Sir Samuel Bar. Disembarkation was called about 10.45. It took only minutes to find our luggage and clear customs, and although we had valet parking, the car was not waiting in the hall outside this time, but in a car park adjacent to the terminal. It took just a little bit longer to get going than usual, but we were home by 1pm, passing en route about 100 miles out of Southampton, two of our dinner table companions.

Conclusion

After three voyages on QM2, would we travel on her again? Unreservedly yes. It's a great ship for hot weather cruising with a huge amount of deck space for sitting out. The only drawback is the speed of the ship which can make it quite windy on deck. We had one rough day, and two rough nights (sailing through the Mistral wind blowing out of France) and the ship behaved impeccably. It's a luxurious ship with a very high standard of service and still turns heads. Whenever we passed another ship, the rails were lined with people looking at us.

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Transatlantic Crossing
Publication Date: April 15, 2006

OVERVIEW We were on Queen Mary 2 nearly two years ago and whilst we loved the ship, the service left a lot to be desired. In retrospect, we were probably expecting too much for a ship that had not been in service long. This transatlantic was a bit of a tester to see how things had changed and also served as part of our honeymoon. The outcome? We felt that service had improved enormously and that the crew seemed much happier and worked better together than they had before.

PUBLIC AREAS Public areas abound on Queen Mary 2 and despite not very good weather on the crossing, they never seemed crowded. The one exception might be King's Court at lunch or breakfast where the rather disjointed layout made it seem busier than it probably was as people moved from counter to counter looking for food.

The once we were in the Winter Garden, it was being used to display artwork and looked more like someone's attic than a lounge. Being separated from the outside windows by the corridors leading fore and aft, it was a rather gloomy room. In contrast, the

Queen's Room is magnificent and it has the aura of a grand hotel when afternoon tea is served.

The Golden Lion pub seemed to be popular throughout the day, although the Chart Room, Sir Samuel's and the Champagne Bar were less busy except before lunch and dinner, and in the evenings. Our favourite spot, though, was the Commodore Club on Deck 9. It is very comfortable and much more intimate than other public rooms. We would spend two or three hours reading there each morning. It also has the advantage of a magnificent view over the bow, except for us, we had two days of thick fog and two days of heavy rain when nothing could be seen.

Having been at sea for 2 1/2 years, the ship was still spotless inside and out and no sign of wear and tear.

FOOD AND SERVICE As mentioned above, on our previous cruise, service was very poor. On this voyage it was completely different and could not be faulted. The food was excellent, although I found the portions too large, but I think it's just me. Others at our table in the Britannia Restaurant seemed quite able to eat a starter, salad, entrée and dessert meal after meal! The menu was not extensive, but it was always possible to find something to tempt.

We also tried the Todd English Restaurant for a birthday lunch (we were packing in the occasions on this trip!). It is a beautiful room. The service was impeccable, but unfortunately, the food was not to our taste. The ingredients were first class, but too many strong and strange flavours appearing unexpectedly - is this fusion food? However, others we spoke to loved it, so I wouldn't hesitate to recommend you at least try it.

A criticism from our previous cruise still exists, namely King's Court. We still found the layout very confusing and difficult to use. We only had lunch there once, on the day of embarkation. I wanted cold meats with salad, but the counter with the cold meat only had pasta salads. Vegetable salads were at another counter down the corridor and which I had to hunt out. Perhaps it is a matter of becoming familiar with the layout and perhaps I am biased - I much prefer to sit in a formal dining room being served by liveried stewards! We have never tried King's Court in the evenings, so can't comment on what it's like then.

CABINS On our previous cruise, we had a hull balcony cabin on Deck 4, which to Norway and the fjords didn't matter because it was too cool to sit out (although we did on the last day back to Southampton). We decided to try a restricted view cabin on Deck 8 and selected one behind the small command lifeboat on the starboard side. Although restricted, we had a reasonable view over and around the craft and, of course, the cabin was much lighter than on lower decks without the restriction of the hull. Despite reading reviews that you can't use a balcony on a transatlantic, we sat out for several hours on the one sunny day we had. We had the advantage, of course, of having a south facing cabin on an eastbound transatlantic. Another reason we chose this cabin.

The cabin was comfortable and reasonably spacious with enough storage space for what we needed for a transatlantic, although I am not so sure for the Mediterranean cruise we are taking in July when we'll have all the extra shorts, T-shirts and short sleeve shirts not required on this crossing. The beds, made up into a king size bed, were very comfortable and sufficiently high to enable us to get our enormous suitcases underneath.

Our steward, John, did an excellent job in keeping the cabin clean and tidy and no matter what time we went for breakfast or for how short a time, the room was always made up by the time we got back.

ENTERTAINMENT The two major shows, Appassionata and Rock at the Opera, we saw on board QE2 last summer and so we were not too interested in seeing them again. However, we did see Appassionata and thoroughly enjoyed it. The show benefited from the much superior stage of the Royal Court Theatre. We also attended a show by an Elton John look-alike, Jonathan Kane - he was excellent - and saw a couple of plays by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. We also watched a number of films.

Throughout the ship, there are live entertainers in the various public rooms. We didn't use the Queen's Room in the evenings, so have no experience of the orchestra there. We particularly liked, though, the pianists who played in the Commodore Club in the evenings. They took turns and played in other parts of the ship as well. The jazz band in the Chart Room was not a favourite, however - far too loud, making pre-dinner conversations very difficult.

ACTIVITIES The activities on board were plentiful and varied, although we participated in none of them - just not enough time! There was a series of Oxford University lectures, computer courses, on-deck sports activities for the hardy and the usual shipboard round of quizzes and demonstrations. These sometimes made it difficult to find a quiet spot to read. This is one reason why we settled on the Commodore Club - the only activity there was a French-language discussion group which didn't disturb.

Of course, there were no ports of call as such, but we had the experience of the ship leaving the new Brooklyn Cruise Terminal for the first time. There was a gala event on board for the New York City mayor and other local bigwigs, and we expected the terminal to be chaos. In fact, it all went very smoothly and we were on board within 30 minutes of arriving. Almost an extra day on board which gave us the opportunity to re-explore the ship and take photographs of Manhattan from a different viewpoint.

WHO GOES? The passengers on this crossing were remarkably mixed with no one nationality dominating, which was nice. I felt the age group was younger than on previous cruises, although being in my late fifties, that's maybe not surprising!

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Eastern Caribbean
Publication Date: December 21, 2005

Holiday Cruise, NYC to NYC

Boarding: Went smoothly considering the transit strike was in full swing. We stayed the night before at the LaGuardia Marriott hoping the strike would be over the next morning. It wasn't but the concierge got us a limousine for the same price of $45 as the regular taxi fare from LGA to Pier 92. The only other option was the Marriott van back to LGA and stand in line for a taxi with a minimum passenger load of four people. The usual 30 minute ride was 80 minutes. We were on board at 12:30PM even with the strike and the ship having to disembark a full complement of arriving passengers

Cabin: We were on Deck 8, cabin 8014. One of only two B category cabins on that deck with a partially obstructed view of about 25%. All the other B category cabins have no ocean view except when they are tendering or having lifeboat drill and are not worth the money. The cabin was spacious and immaculate. Plenty of drawer and closet space. Bathroom more than adequate. Multi-function TV took a little getting used. It had multiple

music, movie and re-run sitcom selections plus CNN. The best feature was an e-mail capability to send and receive for $1.50 each way. Much cheaper than the Internet cafe. Our cabin steward was a lovely young lady and room service for breakfast was prompt and courteous.

Food and Drinks: We were at first or early dinner seating and our waiter and assistant waiter very attentive. The food on the best night in our opinion never measured up to what we have enjoyed on our six Holland American cruises. Before dinner drinks in the bars or lounges only offered what looked like a coarse breakfast cold cereal or trail mix to nibble on with the occasional peanut. No napkins or hot hors d'oeuvres as served nightly in all lounges on Holland American. I think they were possibly served in the Queen and Princess category staterooms.Our major complaint was the the wine service. Never more than 2 ounces if that in any glass we were served. Mixed alcoholic drinks were supposedly 1.5 ounces of whatever but were noticeably weak and mostly ice cubes.Solo pianists and a harpist played the bars before the evening meals but we missed the musical groups that played in the Holland American lounges and afforded an opportunity to dance.The food in the Lido Buffet was plentiful and varied for breafast and lunch.

Long lines when first opened. Seating a complex arrangement between four buffet alternative serving areas with only a very few window seats with ocean vistas. Self service salad bars hard to negotiate as choices are hard to reach. Deserts mostly the frozen then thawed variety.We did not try the evening dinner reservation only specialty buffets or the Todd English restaurant. A dinner companion thought the latter was nice but not worth what they paid.

Entertainment: Two wonderful show and ballroom orchestras and solo vocalists. Stage production song and dance numbers superb. Christmas eve show a one to remember spectacular. Plus, the usual comedians, jugglers and instrumen soloists on alternate nights. The movie theatre has great seating and had a good supply of first run movies. Plus, it also served as a facilty for the many visiting lecturers on board. Many art displays with numerous sales and auctions throughourt the cruise

Ship Decor and Facilities: Ship beautifully decorated for the holiday season with gorgeous trees and wreaths everywhere. The library the best we have ever seen on any ship. The beauty salon and health/excerise facility superb. Four swimming pools.Never crowded and plenty of chairs on the open decks. The best of London's stores are represented in the shopping aracde

Tours and Cruise Ports. We did not sign up for any island tours. We had been to all them on other cruises. We did walk or tender in early before the day got too hot to just people watch and see the shoreside entertainers in the visitor centers.Tender service is efficient thought it is slow early on as the tours have priority.On disembarkation in NYC take the Cunard airport shuttle buses. You are the first off the ship unless you want to carry your own luggage. We docked about 6:30AM. We were off by 8:30AM and at LaGuardia by 10:00AM.Taxis can scarce during the city commuting hours and waiting lines are not much fun with a lot of luggage.

Summary Would I go again? No. The ship comes no where close to providing the level of service and food we experienced in the days before Carnival took over Cunard.Plus, any ship that size is too big for a couple of seniors in their early 80's.

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Eastern Canada
Publication Date: September 26, 2005

My wife and I have just completed the Splendor of the Fall cruise on the QM2, Sept.26 to October 8 2005, round trip NYC. We both agree that this has been our worst cruise, particularly with respect to value-for-money, among the 44 cruises that I have taken since 1955, and 41 cruises that we have taken together since 1970. There are so many aspects that went wrong during those horrifying twelve days that I feel it best to list them in the following categories for the sake of clarity:

I. Ship Construction:

1.) Upon entering the ship, the rampant employment of cheap Formica on almost every wall in the public areas envelops the passenger in an environment of imitations. If a wooden paneling theme is preferred, at least the use of wooden veneers should be considered, not shiny plastic sheets that actually allow the bumpy background to show through, making the Formica paneling to resemble wallpaper plastered on rough concrete surfaces. Coupled with those large faux copper wall murals in some of the major corridors, one feels like being entrapped in a penny arcade. The cubby-hold size Grand Lobby is simply pathetic.

2.) Although

this is the largest passenger liner afloat, the width of corridors on the cabin decks is barely enough for a wheel chair to glide through and only if passing pedestrians would politely squash their bodies against the walls to make way, rubbing against the "wooden" railings constructed of thin steel tubing.

3.) The soundproofing of our cabin is adequate (deck 11, next to the top deck), if they have not installed an inter-connecting door that allows light, noise from TV, conversations and worst of all, alarm clock bells to seep through. We were awakened by our neighbor's two alarm clocks at 5 and 5:15 am every morning. This is a joke, a very sad one indeed.

4.) The hot water in the shower automatically switches at-will from ice cold to searing hot without warning, depending on whether your neighbors are simultaneously showering also or not.

5.) There is a small sign stating "Mind Your Steps" at eye-level on the inside of the toilet door. A cheap, thin and rectangular acrylic sheet with very sharp corners and edges was glued on it to protect the sign from wet steam, but not from cutting the fingers of anyone who happens to grab at it to open or close the door.

6.) The TV volume for different stations range from deaf to blaring loud, an annoying factor particularly during late night viewing.

7.) On the morning of disembarkation, I was trapped in one of the public toilets due to a defective lock. Fellow passengers went out immediately to ask for assistance from the crew, but none of the staff would respond. Fortunately, we finally managed to unlock it with brute force from both sides. I was amazed to find that a fellow female passenger told us later that she also encountered a similar experience in the ladies room. A warm farewell indeed.

8.) The tender station is a joke. There is a steep staircase that you must overcome before reaching the tender platform. Although there is a single wheel chair elevator available, with the majority of the passengers being quite elderly, the pace of movement is therefore unavoidably extremely slow. This phenomenon is never encountered in other ship designs.

9.) The huge doors leading to the promenade deck are all opened manually and not by push-button. This process against a strong wind or draft is almost impossible for a strong young man, let alone the average passenger. Some sections even have double doors. Getting out to the promenade deck from the inside is okay by opening the doors in sequence; however, coming back in is an entirely different story. One would feel trapped in that little cocoon space between the doors and would have to open the inner door against one's own body, a tricky maneuver even during calm seas.

10.) The main theatre is the smallest amongst ships of this size, with all the removable rotating seats impossible to get into unless one is blessed with string-bean legs that are flexible.

11.) The much lauded jogging path is a joke. It goes up and down steep staircases and cuts right into the playing areas of some deck shuffleboard. Either one of the two sports would have to be interrupted to maintain goodwill between passengers.

12) The full-width Lookout above the bridge has a parapet wall that is higher than the eye-level of most passengers, providing the majority therefore only a view of the sky. If they depend on this for iceberg-watching, good luck.

13.) On the top deck where many passengers congregate during departures from and arrivals at various ports, the view is blocked by numerous thick rectangular pieces of glass blurred by sea-spray that are installed at eye-level above the railing s. It is a pitiful sight seeing everyone trying to peer through the slots between those glass blocks to catch a glimpse of the happenings outside.

14.) Although the ship is about 50% larger than the Golden Princess, it actually looks smaller and definitely less grand when both the ships were moored side by side at Newport. In my opinion, the overly tall black-colored hull makes the QM2 look like an oversized lifeboat.

15.) The designer apparently thought that he could get away by instituting three decks of hull-balcony cabins below the promenade deck. (the opening to the outside of a hull balcony is like that of a large rectangular window, having steel parapet wall below the railing instead of glass). In all others ships, the cabins with an outside large rectangular window but without a balcony would provide a good view and a feeling of closeness to the sea for the occupants, but not so with the "innovative" hull-balcony cabins on this QM2. Our fellow passengers in those cabins complain severely that they could not see anything but a small portion of the sky when inside the cabin, due to the faraway placement of the rectangular opening, with no improvement even when they were lying in the deck chaise lounges in the balcony, due to the tall steel wall.

16.) The buffet restaurant (King's Court) is made up of four small sections of identical size, with each one boasting some glassed in sections with sea-view that are blocked by some mysterious wall partitions that make it impossible for passengers to know if seats were available in those sections unless they carry their trays an actually venture into them, creating a chaos in traffic.

17.) Even though the elevators are equipped with gleaming stainless steel doors, the door sills are constructed of thin extruded and anodized aluminum angled beams that are all banged up, scratched and abused by wheelchairs and luggage carts.

18.) The buffet troughs in the Kings Court Restaurant has an inner row that cannot be reached without bending the back fully and fight for an abnormally long pair of tongs. The servers inside would simply watch the poor wobbly old ladies drop their pickings and forced to give up the dish without rendering any help.

II. Food

1.) The general quality of food is compatible with cruise fares for a lower deck inside cabin, but certainly not to our cabin with a glass veranda on the top of the fare list for Britannia Restaurant. I feel they should bring back the Caronia Restaurant on the QE2 due to the wide range of fares covered by the Britannia passengers, and perhaps combine the Princess and Queen's Grills into one.

2.) The opening hours of one and a half hours for most breakfasts and lunches force many passengers to retreat to the horrendous King's Court. Although there is an egg-cooking counter at each line, it is not always manned by chefs. There are always plenty of assistant M'ds, head-waiters and waiters milling around; however, they all looked and did not see anything, rendering absolutely no help to elderly passengers struggling with their wobbly trays.

3.) The food standard in Kings Court is pathetic at best, with no coffee or juice refilling by staff manning carts that are common in many other ships. The staff in fact was so rude as to tell passengers to go to the next restaurant section to get a plate if they run out in this line. No assistance is ever rendered. At times one could not help but feeling being thrown into a refugee food line.

4.) Two ladies in an adjacent table (Platinum members, traveling more than 7 times with Cunard Cruise Lines) were complaining to the M'D during one dinner at the Britannia restaurant that their fish was impenetrable by a fork. The M'D tried and agreed that the fishes are occasionally tough, and that if they wanted to be assured to get fishes that could be cut, they should book on the Queen's Grill cabins during their next cruse. Simply horrifying! You should see the color of the two ladies’ faces.

5.) The "English" tea served every afternoon consisted of lukewarm and weak pre-brewed tea, scones that were tough and dry, left-over whipped cream instead of clotted cream, finger sandwiches made from thick bread slices and very thin fillings. We had to skip that practice after the first three days.

6.) The Todd English Restaurant that charges $30 per person extra was unbelievably bad. They actually charged my wife two dollars for ice tea. By the way, those "two and a half" ounce martinis served in the ship's numerous bars are barely one and a half ounce at best, including of course lots of melted ice thrown in, whether shaken or stirred. We had to send back the chef's recommendation of a tasteless, salty and sour conglomerate of seafood that was cold and stale. The lamb rack served was no better than the ones at Britannia. The restaurant was barely 30% full when we were there, and yet the waiters served dishes from left and right, and even across my nose to land onto my wife's side of the table, and vice versa. I believe that this venture is being kept alive, at the expense of abusing Mr. English's reputation, by the "oohs and ahhs" uttered by so many passengers that are apparently very impressed by the provision of finger-washing bowls, though served with water at an incorrect temperature, and the likes of having their soup poured into the plate, even though they are lukewarm to actually ice-cold. They offer a tasting menu that consists of one appetizer, one main course and a dessert. I would suggest calling it an eating menu instead, after all, even at the Britannia there are four groups of courses offered. The experience is a thirty dollars fiasco.

III. Entertainment

1.) The general entertainment including music combos and soloists at the various bars is quite adequate.

2.) Cunard went one step further to provide an onboard planetarium that provides a venue for movies, lectures in addition to the planetarium shows. During the latter showings to a limited crowd of guests in reclined chairs, the shows lasted only 25 minutes. There were a total of only three such films, forcing them to repeat four times during this 12-nights cruise. Basically after the first three days, the repetitions drew no more interest. Not a single of the many widely available hour-long shows such as those about the Grand Canyon, deep sea ventures were made available. All movies shown there were on a standard screen that was not an extra-wide screen, and yet the aspect ratio was left at the wrong setting, allowing the actors and actresses to become unusually fat and stubby, an annoying feature that could be so easily corrected by a flick of a switch, and yet no operator cared, or maybe simply ignorant and unaware of this very basic error.

IV. Service

1.) While our regular room steward Alex was ashore, his temporary replacement of Serbian descent was extremely rude. When we requested clean towels for covering the wet cushions on our balcony chaise lounges, she repeatedly accused and scolded us for taking the old towels away from our cabin, refusing to stop even after being told that the old towels were taking away by Alex for washing. This unbelievable behavior from a stewardess somewhat reflects a general discontent among the service staff, causing me to wonder whether Cunard truly distribute our mandatory $11 per day gratuity fairly among them. In our interim on board charge statement the mandatory gratuity of $11 per day was listed as gratuity; however, after apparently numerous complaints from passengers about the level of service, in the final statement, this item was changed from "Gratuity" to "Hotel and Dining Charge", secretly implying that this item is no longer optional for guests who wanted to give their own desired amount of gratuity directly to the staff of their choice.

2.) The massage staff at the Canyon Ranch rendered good service, while the same could not be said about the rude staff at the check-in counter, possibly explaining why the Ranch was never fully occupied.

3.) No service is ever provided to guide passengers to tenders or the gangway(s) in the form of numerous signs with arrows normally found on other cruise ships. Most gangways are located high up that required long zigzag staircases to reach the pier. No officers are ever in sight to guide the passengers, resulting in our first time experience of queuing up around the ship in circles just to get to the gangway.

V. The Mentality and Rudeness of the Ships' Officers

1.) We booked our cruise months ago and were promised a table for two for late seating. We confronted the M'D of Britannia at 1 pm on the day of embarkation about the 8:30 dinner seating. He rudely informed us that priority is given according cabin grade and time of booking. We tried to tell him that our 11th deck cabin commands almost the highest price for this Britannia restaurant scale of passengers, to no avail, and were rudely told that we would be put on the waiting list. The next day we noticed that there were many empty tables left unoccupied and confronted him again. He very rudely and reluctantly assigned us to a corner table.

2.) The lady officer manning the waiting-room for passengers awaiting tenders to shore was commanding us to take a seat, never have we heard the word "please" among any officers on the ship.

3.) One morning while dashing to the elevator in order to make it to the restaurant for breakfast before closing (after witnessing their refusing an old crippled man in wheelchair who was half a minute late at arriving at the door) we were followed into the elevator by a lady officer in a white security uniform. She dashed in and continuously punched at the button with two triangles having their respective points facing toward the sides. She mumbled and cursed at the maintenance staff for failing to heed to her repeated complaints about the working function of that button. We of course did not have the heart to tell her that she was punching the door opening button. She gave up after a minute or so and we were on our way down, not before we had to give up going to Britannia and settle for deck 7 in order to join fellow refugees at the Kings Court food line that closes later than the Britannia.

4.) One old lady friend of ours forgot to take her cruise card out for scanning before getting on a tender and was stopped by an officer, who upon seeing her card in her purse told her it was okay for her to proceed to the tender, to the horror of the crew manning the scanning station who had to run to fetch her back in order to scan her card.

5.) While fumbling my cruise documents during embarkation at the New York pier, one lady Cunard officer asked me whether I was a platinum card holder. I told her I was an American Express Platinum card holder and she sneered back at me with utter contempt. That was when I found out that there were actually people who have traveled more than seven times on Cunard to receive that "honor". To be put down before even entering the ship is downright demoralizing, to say the least.

6.) As we queued one day waiting for a tender, we were approached by a nice older lady from Hawaii. She was worried about boarding the tender and asked me to hold her. As we were about to go down the step stairs, I asked an officer to help hold the lady too as the staircase was very steep. The officer had the guts to just snicker and look away.

7.) Towards the end of the cruise I receive an invitation to attend a cocktail party for repeaters, together with a small box containing a Cunard pin. Since my wife and my two sons traveled with me some years ago both on the QE2 and the Dynasty, she should also be awarded a Gold Member status. We ventured down to the cruise sales office to clear up the record. Two British lady officers by the names of Anna and Wendy were sitting there with empty seats in front of them. We explained to them our plight while all the time standing on our feet. Suddenly Wendy waved her hand rapidly and signaled for me to scoot sideways. I moved aside and was surprised to see a British gentleman enter and was immediately invited to sit down, while all along my wife and I were left standing. Anna was hopeless in pretending that she could operate the computer in front of her and suddenly stopped her computer searching and handed me a box containing a pin very reluctantly. I asked about the invitation to the party, to which she rudely replied that my wife may also attend, if she wants to. This is truly magnificent guest relationship at its opposite end.

8.) After a shore excursion taken in full sunshine tour ended I entered Britannia Restaurant for lunch, while still wearing my college baseball cap. Upon entering, a head waiter or assistant head waiter by the name of Ancyn used his finger and pointed directly at my face while blurting out the order of "Remove that cap!" I was too shocked to raise any objection to this utter rudeness.

Is Cunard really going out of their way to make their customers feel that they are first class passengers only if they book Queen's or Princess Grill cabins, and retreat to accepting steerage treatment in Britannia? I am finding it difficult to try to remember any more aspects of our horrifying experience. Many fellow passengers shared our same feeling towards QM2 and it became perversely amusing hearing the constant whines of passengers. We were all actually counting the hours before we could disembark that contraption.

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Transatlantic Crossing
Publication Date: August 27, 2005

This was our first trans-Atlantic crossing, though we have been on several Caribbean, Alaskan, Panama Canal and New England cruises. We've also sailed on everything from Carnival to NCL, from Celebrity to Holland America, but never before on Cunard. We're a family of three. 50+ year-old parents and a 13 year old daughter.

EMBARKATION: We arrived much too early (10:30 am) at Southampton, even as the ship was unloading from its arrival that morning from NY. We didn't expect to board until 2 or 3 pm, based on our cabins, but were on board at noon with no trouble. Check in was efficient as was embarkation, though we had to find our way to our own cabins once on board.

CABINS: We had two. an inside single on deck ten and a double with balcony on deck eight. We'd been warned that the deck 8 cabin would have a "restricted view", and it did. right into a lifeboat. You could glimpse a little water, but mostly we wanted it for the fresh air (and a place for me to smoke cigars), and the balcony was fine, complete with two chaise lounges and

a small table.

The cabins were both quite roomy and well appointed. The bathrooms, though small, were fine, equipped with showers. Hair dryers were in a drawer in the living area, the telephones came with voice mail, and there were plugs for both 110 and 220 volts. The cabins were very quiet and well sound-proofed.

The TV offered the usual fare. CNN, BBC, movies. but reception in mid-Atlantic was spotty. There's also an interactive TV system where you could see daily schedules, report problems with your cabin (which didn't work), see the weather or a GPS map of the ship's location. One channel played nothing but documentaries of passenger shipping in its heyday, keeping in the mood of the rest of the QM2's décor and theme.

THE PASSENGERS: This was a much different crowd than we had sailed with before. There were only a few kids, though QM2 had programs for both younger kids and teens. I'd guess the mix was about 50% Americans, 30% Brit's and 10% each for Germans and French. Average age of the pax was 50+. But everyone was well -to-do, given the fares, and well behaved, ie no 20-somethings in drunken water fights in the pool. The behavior mirrored the service where everyone from waiters and stewards to deck-hands and painters greeted each passenger as "Sir" or "Madam".

There is a handsome disco, but it was near empty perhaps due to its mix of Tony Orlando and 70's dance hits. The big bands playing in the adjacent dance hall were excellent and well patronized. There were two formal balls.

PUBLIC ROOMS: The ship was truly spectacular with room after room, each in a different style. from the grand Royal Court Theater to the Illuminations auditorium and planetarium, to the many bars, cigar lounge and intimate (quiet) reading areas. The on-board library was incredible, with thousands of books on loan. The shops were very upscale and pricey, but offered reduced price sales on tables in the halls.

The Casino was spacious, with everything from table games to slots, from a nickel to $5 a pull. The corridors were wide and well appointed with art. And though fully loaded with 2500 passengers and 1500 crew, we never felt crowded. There are four major stairway / elevator passages to get you between decks 1 to 13, and unlike many ships the elevators are numerous and speedy. We never had to wait more than a minute for a lift, even at peak times.

THE FOOD: We weren't in first class, so we dined in the Britannia (main) dining room, early seating. The food was great and the service superb. The food choices were numerous, including Canyon Ranch Spa cuisine, and the servings were sufficient. In addition, the deck seven complex of four restaurants ("Kings Court") offered an alternative for lunch and dinner of Asian, Italian, Carvery and general buffets at no additional cost. We didn't try the premium surcharged Todd English or the 24 hr room service, but never felt hungry. Breakfast is offered as a sit-down in the Britannia or in a bit awkward free-for-all in the Kings Court.

Drinks aren't cheap, but the wine list is impressive and the sommeliers knowledgeable. Thanks to ownership by Carnival, the QM2 has adopted the all-you-can-drink soda card plan. though at $27.50 for a six day crossing, it isn't cheap either.

It being Cunard, there were three formal nights (black tie or suit for men, glittery gowns for the ladies), one informal night (jacket and tie for men) and two casual nights (our first and last at sea). Most men really did wear a tux, but I got by with a dark suit and bowtie.

ENTERTAINMENT: As we were constantly reminded, we were on a "voyage" and not a cruise. There were no ports of call, so everyone had to stay busy during five days at sea. Mind you, there was no shortage of activities to choose among.

The usual singers and dancers appeared each night in the Royal Court Theater in shows ranging from weak to pretty cool. A juggler / comedian named "Edge" was very good. Seating was plentiful, even just before show time, on two levels.

The Planetarium is not to be missed, offering three different programs across the week. Each of the five daily seatings holds only 150 people, so (free) tickets can go fast.

The Oxford University lecture series was an unexpected treat, replayed on the TV each evening. We had three professors discussing Art, Astronomy and Entomology. The bug guy was fabulous. funny and informative. culminating in a cooking demo of insects. Deep fried grub worms anyone?

The real celebrity of our crossing was mystery writer P.D. James who, at age 85, was sharp and articulate. Her lectures were very well attended and were worth everyone's time.

RADA, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts did a three part workshop on acting which was fun, as well as offering two performances of brief plays and a Shakespeare workshop. The actors were great and every approachable.

CANYON RANCH SPA: Cunard has an interesting tie-in with the upscale US spa, Canyon Ranch, which runs its salons, exercise and wellness programs. My wife and daughter enjoyed their massage ($225 for the pair), I had a teeth-whitening session ($258) and my daughter got a haircut ($119). The yoga workshops (free) were quite good and the exercise machine-room was impressive.

There's a complete wrap-around outdoor deck (3 laps = 1.1 miles) which was also popular. The deck also had numerous deck chairs and blankets. The top-side region offered immense open spaces, most of them quite empty due to the coolish and windy weather of the crossing in late August.

There are several pools and hot tubs, one of them under a retractable glass roof.

TRANSATLANTIC: The QM2 is making a number of "trannies" this year and next, but if you can arrange it, go west. You gain an hour each of five nights! There's not much you can do about the weather, but be prepared. Our late August crossing was sunny and smooth, but another QM2 vet told of a May gale with waves crashing into deck eight! A big ship, even with stabilizers, isn't going to be smooth in weather like that.

ARRIVAL IN NYC: As an incentive to fill out the end-of-cruise questionnaire and survey, one winner had his bar tab wiped out. Arrival day in NYC you have to be up by 5 am to watch the QM2 sail into NY harbor, but it's worth it. There was an excellent marine historian who gave commentary on the outdoor decks, and we were at our berth by 6:30 am. Immigration was an on-board walk-thru formality by 6:45 am, and "self-help" (those with just carry-on bags) disembarkers were able to leave by 7:30 am. We walked off the ship at 8 am with our wheeled luggage, never saw a Customs agent and were on the streets by 8:15 am.

MORE INFO: If you have any specific questions on topics I didn't address, I'm happy to answer them as time allows. E-mail me at jim@camcomm.com or check my travel blog at http://talkingtransportation.blogspot.com/

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Eastern Caribbean
Publication Date: March 25, 2005

This voyage onboard the Queen Mary 2 was my second cruise. A cruise a few years ago on the Celebrity Millennium convinced us that a cruise vacation could meet, if not exceed, those on land. After a wonderful experience with Celebrity and the barrage of media coverage of the QM2, we had extremely high expectations for this trip.

Embarkation in New York City went very well. Cunard provides a required boarding time in your tickets. The time given for us was 3pm. We arrived shortly after noon and were on the ship by 1pm. As we entered the ship on deck three, a line of white-gloved staff welcomed us aboard and pointed out the direction to our stateroom.

Upon arrival in our Britannia Class cabin we found a chilled bottle of sparkling wine compliments of Cunard (or our travel agent). Both in their size and character, the cabins on the QM2 are very similar to those on Celebrity Millennium-class ships. Enough closet and draw space for three or four was available, a cozy bathroom with shower, interactive television, and two chairs and a desk. The only complaint with the room is that the

hairdryer provided is attached awkwardly inside a drawer. For our cruise, the room was very well designed.

The ship itself is simply beautiful. Everywhere one turns there is a new work of art or another corner to explore. The Grand Lobby and Britannia Restaurant steal the show. These rooms are reminiscent of salons found on ocean liners of the past. In the evenings as passengers meander from salon to salon, the Queen Mary 2 truly glitters.

Dinning in Britannia each evening was wonderful. Both the service and food were excellent. Entree choices ranged from Surf and Turf to many varieties of seafood (including lobster) to chicken -- each excellently prepared and expertly served. Desserts were heavenly. Comparing the QM2 again with our experience on Celebrity, the dinning in Britannia did fall a bit short: on formal nights Celebrity served sorbet between courses to cleanse the pallet -- QM2 did not, also meals were four (or five) courses but one was expected awkwardly use the same fork and knife for at least two courses such as appetizer and salad as enough silverware was not presented on the table. Overall, the dinning experience in Britannia was similar to a 4-star restaurant on land.

There is no shortage of other dinning options on the QM2. Breakfast and lunch in the Kings Court buffet restaurant are very good. Kings Court is divided into four areas, each highlighting a different theme of food such as Asian, Italian, and meat and potatoes. At lunchtime the restaurant can become a bit crazy as passengers search for the buffet line of their choice. Kings Court also provides a buffet tea in the afternoons. However, for a classic British experience take tea in the Queen's Room. Wonderful tea, finger sandwiches, pastries, and scones combine with beautiful music and flawless service to produce the highlight of any afternoon. Another fun stop for a meal is the Golden Lion Pub. The fish and chips here was amazing. In the warm weather of the Caribbean, the staff also set up buffets on the pool deck during parties. Breakfast room service was also very good and arrived punctually.

Entertainment on the QM2 was superb. Shows in the Royal Court Theatre ranging from Broadway-style to comedians received nightly applause. The singers and dancers performed many old favorites as well as new material. The venue the Royal Court Theatre is a beautiful room however many oddly-placed support pillars make sightlines horrible in some places.

Other entertainment onboard was also top-notch. The bands in the lounges, Queen's Room Orchestra, string ensemble, harpist, and pianist were all excellent. The Black and White Ball in the Queen's Room is not to be missed; however, coming later might be a good idea so the party is in full swing which is the case for many events on the ship. The Pirate's Ball was a bit amateurish and seemed out of place on the QM2. The poolside band which also played in G32 was phenomenal and made sure everyone was having a blast! The deck parties while in the Caribbean were a load of fun and the staff even set up outdoor buffets. The planetarium shows in the Illuminations Theatre were also very good and something interesting and novel to watch on a day at sea. We did not attend any lectures but many were rebroadcast on the cabin television throughout the cruise. On the whole, there was no shortage of excellent entertainment on the Queen Mary 2.

Workout and exercise facilities onboard were very good and available free of charge. No one in our party used any of the spa services, however, the spa offered a variety of services including personal trainers, massages, hair styling, etc.

As a final note, and again comparing the QM2 with Celebrity, both lines offer wonderful cruising experiences that I would call very similar. Some things offered by Cunard Line on QM2 were not present on Celebrity - and vise versa. I found it odd that pool/beach towels were provided in the cabin on the QM2 while no towels were present poolside if one forgot to bring their towel along from the room. Self-service laundry facilities are available on many decks on the QM2 and are a nice addition to the ship.

Our voyage on the Queen Mary 2 was wonderful and by far one of our favorite vacations. The ship is stunning and the service is excellent. While the name Queen Mary 2 suggests cruises onboard will be the last word in luxury, the QM2 should be equated with a 4-star resort - excellent, but still room for improvement. Will we cruise again on the QM2? I hope to go again as soon as possible.

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Eastern Caribbean
Publication Date: March 17, 2005

We recently (March 17) sailed to the Caribbean on the QM2 out of New York. I was reluctant to take this cruise for two reasons: the class/caste division imposed by Cunard; and some negative reviews I read on this website. But the lure of the new, biggest and most elegant ship could not be overcome, so we did the cruise despite my misgivings.

Despite my uncertainty about this trip, we came home with a very positive overall feeling. So, here is our experience.

Embarkation

Boarding was painless if somewhat lengthy. We faced the unnecessary unpleasantness of a Cunard representative asking us if we were "Platinum or Grill;" when we hesitated, she responded: "If you were, you would know" and diverted us to the steerage lines. So much for the not-so-subtle and always present class discrimination! Money (hopefully, not always class) hath its privilege.

As one guest at breakfast remarked to the table: ‘There certainly is a class distinction on this ship; and we put them all in the Grill quarters so as to deprive them of our company.' Too bad! This will always color my view of this majestic ship. My grandparents probably would

have probably felt the same nearly a century ago.

Once on board, we settled into our cabin on Deck 5 -- an "in hull" balcony stateroom that was spacious by most cruise line standards – with a small bottle of champagne. The baggage arrived on time; we unpacked and found spacious closets with more than enough hangers, etc.

Universally, the service by the ship's personnel was efficient and pleasant.

Food

Contrary to the earlier reviews that I read, we found the food, ambience and service more than adequate. Not one meal was substandard and several were nearly up to the standard of the Todd English restaurant, which we also enjoyed. By chance we were lucky; we were seated in a small room at the back of the lower level of the Britannia dinning room. The noise level was so low that we could easily converse at dinner, and the waiting staff was not stressed. Try table 139 for four if you get a chance.

One review in this series complained about the ship's "plastic décor." OK, the paneling was not real wood, but I would not want to have a forest and species of plant life decimated for technical correctness. Also, the faux bronze bas-reliefs in some of the main corridors were fiberglass – but so what? This ship needed to be sleek and swift and energy efficient. You can't move something the size of four football fields by weighting it down with real bronze, real marble columns, and gigantic crystal chandeliers. The overall décor was typical British-understated elegance, not the glitzy faux opulence of many of other cruise liners. I liked the overall ambience. The fresh flowers were real and elegant.

Room for Improvement

Now, a few negatives. The overall view we heard from a number of guests was that the entertainment was substandard. We only lasted about 10 minutes at any of the shows, then retired to the small bars with some very good pianists/singers. We liked them very much, but I wish we could have found one bar that could warm a snifter so that the Remy Martin cognac could really be appreciated! How difficult is it to instruct barmen to execute that for a guest.

We are not gamblers; so, we enjoyed the usual dispensing of a few dollars while trying to be free rollers and then gave up to our better instincts. But one of our traveling companions who is a serious gambler found the Casino to his liking and profit.

I found it difficult to reconcile my billing summary on the last day because I was never given a guest copy of the tabs at any bar, etc. Unless you have a record of what you spent, you cannot check the bill presented on the last day. I had no problem with the final bill, but how could one dispute anything without documentation?

Also, the tabs included another line for an additional tip, even though a gratuity is already included. Fifteen percent is an adequate bar tip even in New York City. And the dining room service gratuity is automatically included in the final bill. Change your computer system.

Disembarkation is always more of a disaster for guests who are part of a travel agency group that gets preferential treatment with luggage retrieval. The mayhem that one experiences after a nicely controlled (if lengthy) disembarkation is followed by a harrowing experience of finding luggage and then going onward to ground transportation. It is always a distasteful end to what was generally a happy cruise experience.

Overall, it was a great and memorable experience. Our recommendations to others? Absolutely go, if you understand the realities of cruising.

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Southern Caribbean
Publication Date: March 9, 2005

Queen Mary 2 is an absolutely remarkable ship. Whether it is a return trip or your first time aboard, this classic ocean liner continues to WOW you. There was not a moment during our magnificent trip that I didn't find myself staring in awe at the gorgeous interiors and elegant surroundings within QM2. Each moment, each day aboard QM2 is a gift. She grows on you and hypnotizes you. One can't help but feel an enormous amount of respect for the designers and engineers that created this grand dame of the seven seas. QM2 is everything she is cracked up to be and more.

Embarkation:

Our check-time was 1 pm. We arrived at the New York Cruise Ship Terminal about 12:30 pm. The lack of any type of Cunard representative was the biggest drawback early on. Regardless of your boarding time passengers were herded into a large holding area upstairs. We sat there for about 20 minutes and soon after were told to line up at the security check in. Apparently, a new boarding procedure was in effect during our March 9 departure and there seemed to be a lot of confusion.

However, once we lined up and made it through the security clearance area it was just a 10 minute wait to line up and receive our QM2 boarding passes.

Despite the early boarding gaffs we were among the fortunate one's and were aboard ship by 1:30 pm. A computer glitch later that day delayed many other passengers from boarding as expediently as we had.

Cabin

We were booked in cabin 11072, port side. I was curious as to how bright the room would be due to the deck 12 overhang. The room allowed plenty of sunlight. Both my girlfriend and I found our room to be very comfortable and spacious for two. There is ample storage area. The interior cream décor is very soothing. The mattress and linens are very comfortable. We also enjoyed the robes and slippers finding them to be very cozy. It gets a trifle dodgy if you are exiting the bathroom while someone is looking in the closet. I had heard others complain about joggers and shuffleboard sounds spiraling down the steel framework of the ship, yet, we heard nary a sound on our 8 days at sea, save for the ocean gurgling and fizzing below.

Britannia

The service on QM2 has vastly improved since my trip last July. I would say it has taken a 360 degree turn for the better. Our head waiter Woody and his assistant Marvin were very friendly and polished. We never waited long for our appetizers, entrees or for our plates to be cleared. All of our meals were delicious, the soups in particular were very tasty. You must try the chilled fruit soups, they are super. Keep your eyes peeled for the English Sticky pudding, it has a caramel topping that is sublime.

We received equally excellent service from the other Britannia staff during breakfast and lunch when seating is open. We were particularly fond of Roslyn who catered to our whims with great gusto and style at breakfast. Roslyn is a true Cunard pro, she has been aboard QM2 since the maiden voyage and prior to that spent three years in Caronia Class aboard QE2. The entire restaurant staff are a unified force to be reckoned with. You need only watch these hardworking waiters and waitresses scampering like white rabbits amid the culinary wonderland that is Britannia.

High Tea

This is a sumptuous affair and ranks among the highlights of our trip. I would recommend skipping lunch one day in order to properly prepare yourself for an enjoyable experience. As fate would have it we returned rather late from our beach excursion in St Martin, and were quite ravenous. Once again the service was perfect. Troops of white gloved waiters arrived with trays of tantalizing offerings. The delicious array of triangular sandwiches sans crusts consisted of egg, ham and cheese and a splendid salmon and cream cheese. I always like to show my support for the fine QM2 bake staff and once again there were up to the task with a delectable selection of sweets. Much has been written about the famed English scone and clotted cream, it is fact quite delicious.

My only critical remark of the entire affair is the tea had not been properly steeped and the first two cups were rather weak. The entire repast is something to savor however. Sitting in the gigantic and opulent Queens Ballroom which stretches the entire width of QM2 and seeing the hilltop of a tropical island through the far window and watching a tourist pirate schooner sail by an adjacent window is the stuff that fantasy is made of.

Public Rooms

Each of these elaborate lounges has a distinct ambience all its own. Everything and everywhere aboard QM2 sparkles. The faux wood veneer in the elevators is so bright it appears to have a holographic effect in its shine. The detail continues in every inch of this ship from the ornate carpeting to the noble friezes that line the hallways. The Samuel Cunard Wine Bar, The Chart Room and the Veuve Cliquot Champagne Bar are all accessed via deck 3. Of the three the most popular and one of our favorite is the Chart Room. This grand room with its high ceilings and art-deco design is the perfect spot for a pre or post supper cocktail. Should you decide to skip the show, you will have the entire lounge to yourself. The Chart Room is also the spot to hear some wonderful piano playing at the hands of the inimitable Barty Brown.

One level down 2 deck is the home for the Golden Lion Pub. We were frequent visitors to this cozy lounge each morning at 11:30 am for pub trivia. We garnered three victories and with our winning tickets were enabled to shop for gifts at the end of the voyage. I picked up a lovely leather QM2 eyeglass holder while my girlfriend traded her tickets for a nifty QM2 key fob. At night the jazz trio at the Golden Lion really cooks.

This is also the venue for an enjoyable evening of horse racing. After two races, the six horses are put up for auction and a special Owners Race is held the following evening during the Big Band Dance at the Queens Ballroom. We purchased the six horse and had good fun decorating and carting him around the ship, I felt a bit like a QM2 pledge. It was good fun, especially after our horse won the coveted Owners Race.

Don't miss the Commodore Club on Deck 9 forward. In the evening this cool and sleek venue oozes sophistication with it's leather arm chairs, neon lighting and a magnificent, monolithic model of QM2 behind the bar. During our voyage this lounge was often quiet, I don't think many people ventured to this nocturnal nook, but you should.

Todd English

We made our reservation within the first hour we were aboard ship. While it is possible to make reservations for restaurants and excursions through the inter-active television in your cabin, I always prefer to do it in person. I reserved all of our excursions through the television and then confirmed them at the tour office on 2 deck. As is turned out the in-cabin booking system wasn't working, so always best to go in person. We chose to dine at Todd English toward the end of our voyage, to have something else to look forward to. I would highly recommend not eating lunch, high tea or a bag of chips prior to this meal.

The mediterranean menu consists of some exquisite but, very filling and rich offerings. The service here was very thorough and attentive. The curious choice of rock n roll background music was promptly changed to a more appropriate jazz sampling after a fellow passenger complained. Our waitress suggested that we try two appetizers. I would suggest only one and save room for your entrée. We both had the Lobster Chowder. At first it seemed rather innocent, a giant china tureen is served with a modicum of cooked lobster and a fraction of garnishes. A moment later our waitress appeared clutching a French Press containing the main body of this extremely flavorful soup which she then poured into our giant bowls.

For our second appetizer choices I tried the pear and goat cheese salad, very tasty. My girlfriend opted for the lobster risotto which was served in an immense tray. The lobster was plump and juicy, the risotto was lovely.

By the time our entrees arrived we were full. I ordered the Halibut, flaky and moist perfectly cooked but, I was barely able to make a dent in it. The fallen chocolate cake for dessert was very good. By the time we adjourned from our supper though we both could walked back to New York, I felt as if I had eaten a small anchor.

Excursions

I find in general excursions are really a crap shoot. The sole excursion I booked on the QE2 Christmas Cruise in 2003 was a blast, a jeep 4x4 jaunt in Barbados. I went hog wild on this trip and booked three excursions. In St. Thomas we took the Panoramic Tour. While I've been to this island many times I hadn't really seen much of it. Don't waste your time with this one. We climbed up into the twisting hills. Enjoyed some lovely views but, after the first epic view of the harbor and QM2 the rest is much the same. The tour also included the obligatory stop for a banana daiquiri at a spot called the Mountain Top. A very touristy location cluttered with two-bit t-shirts and run of the mill muck. The balance of the tour was dull. Our guide pointed out 75 mango trees and at least one scurrying iguana.

St. Kitts is a beautiful island. It rained quite a bit, though the sun did peek out. We chose the Rocky Roller Drive. This tour was more enjoyable and our guide was very knowledgeable of the area. Once again we climbed into the hills this time aboard a converted British Troop Truck. There was a good deal of lurching and straining. We strolled through the rain forest, watched a band of monkeys bound into the bushes. The locals were all very friendly and waved to us as we drove by. The downside of this tour was a ridiculous stop at a miserable excuse for a plantation, it was nothing but a shabby, worn old house. There was a bar below that offered complimentary punch. I feel as if you put your faith in Cunard to deliver a solid excursion and then end up being taken for a ride with these absurd stopovers in tourist traps. The 4 hour beach excursion in St. Martin was our favorite. The best part about any excursion is the thrill of returning to QM2!

Tenders

If you are signed up for a morning excursion you must meet in the Royal Court Theater around 8:45 am and await for your tour to be called. If you are not signed up for a tour it's best to wait till around noon or so before descending to one deck. Afternoon tours meet at the pier. We never had to wait for a tender to arrive when we were ashore. Arriving back at the ship isn't too bad, just a matter of waiting in a short line while security scans bagged items and checks identification cards.

Overall

We adored this incredible ship. The cruise staff works hard to ensure everyone is enjoying themselves. I particularly liked the assistant cruise director, a very personable and friendly chap. It will be interesting to see what QM2 will look like after she goes into dry dock this November. The rumors we heard were the Champagne Bar would be history, along with the Wintergarden which will serve as extended area for the Kings Court. It would be a shame to see the Veuve Cliquot Bar go by the wayside, although, it was almost always empty.

QM2 attracts a wide spectrum of passengers. One of the highlights for us was the great friendships we made aboard. From our Cruise Critic Cronies to our Pub Trivia Pals. The open seating at lunch and breakfast is condusive to meeting a wealth of fine folk. Not too mention tablemates at dinner. We often asked people how they were enjoying QM2, most said they loved the ship. Some people however continue to moan and groan. I cannot fathom how anyone would have a negative comment for this classic ocean liner. Several people quibbled over the B elevators being too small. Others still griped that ship is too large. At least one fellow complained about the engine being too loud. Out of 2600 hundred passengers you will never please everyone. I suppose for every 2600 hundred people that gawk into the Grand Canyon many people are struck by it's majesty and immensity while others find it to be nothing but a giant hole in the ground.

I stood on the observation deck in St. Martin while the massive Adventure of the Seas steamed by, her decks filled with hordes of passengers getting their fill of QM2. Shortly thereafter, this quiet moment was traded for two trios of triumphant horn blasts as the ships took part in a mutual salute and their mighty horns echoed into the Caribbean night. That's magic, folks. A cruise on QM2 is a state of perpetual bliss, she is the jewel in the Cunard crown long may she sail and may we be transported along with her on purely blissful pursuits.

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