Year Started: 1840
Ships in Fleet: 3
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.
Good for: Seniors. Overall Service. Foodies.
Regions:Sydney, Cape Town,Southhampton
Regions:Southampton, Hamburg,, Palermo, Korcula, Venice, Dubrovnik, Corfu, Messina, Valencia
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
This was the WORST cruise and the ugliest ship I have been on out of 12. We did a 2 week back to back for my mom's 80th birthday. We had to change cabins and get off for customs/immigration. My mom requires a wheel chair and the staff were very slow in providing this service. I had repeatedly requested, and was billed to have the room decorated for her birthday. It did not happen. Thankfully I brought some decorations and we did it ourselves.
1.Cabins are extremely small. We had 3 people in a balcony cabin. When the loveseat was opened there was no room to open the fridge or balcony doors. The bed blocked everything and to get into it I had to climb on bed #2. Forget using the washroom at night. The closet space was very small; 3 women - 2 wks of clothing (3 formal nights a week)hangars had 4 & 5 items on them. By the end of 3 days we were ready to jump off. Each of us paid the same price, usually the 3rd person gets a reduced price - you don'thave a real bed, it's a foldup love seat.
2.Deck 8 balcony cabins are FULLY obstructed by life boats. We paid extra for this ugly view!
3.The ship sailed in the Atlantic ocean not in the Caribbean Sea. Very windy, cold, rough waters. They changed the itinerary a year ago and did not advise passengers. People that booked the cruise specifically for San Juan (met and were married there, had family, friends they were going to visit were furious). We could not use the outside pool because of the cold. The inside pool was very small not enough room for passengers hiding from the brutal wind.
4.Very little in the way of activities and the entertainment was below average. Passengers were falling asleep during the shows. However the ballroom was beautiful. The band played from 10:00 to 12:00PM. Then that is it for the night unless you enjoy loud music at the disco. Even the casino closed at 12:30am or by 12:00am if we were in port the next day.
5. My mom who had turned 80 spent most of the time in her cabin. The ship was very confusing and all areas of the ship could not be reached by elevators. For seniors (majority of the passengers) it was a nightmare. They had to climb stairs, if they could not do this they were excluded. My mom was in tears many times. So much for a special birthday. It was to be her last trip but I feel guilty leaving her with such unpleasant memories that I am planning to take her back to Royal Caribbean, one of the best we've been on.
6.The staff were of no help, I explained and showed them correspondence with regard to the plans for my mother's birthday, flowers, champagne, ballons, a gift certificate, a birthday cake etc. and since it was not done for the 1st week could they do it for the 2nd. They assured me they would but did not. All our complaints fell on deaf ears. New staff did not know or care to know, the ones leaving did not care.
7. Very expensive--more than any other cruise I've been on. A glass of TAP water at the bar was $1.75US, not even bottled.
8. Only 3 channels on TV and the same shows repeat daily.
9. Photos were more money and the quality poor.
10. Same menu at breakfast. Different stations, hard to find a seat. If you reserved one you couldn't find it after you got the food.
11. Wrote Cunard a letter and they did not even apologize -- blamed our travel agent. Having been one I know they do not set the prices, they book through the cruiseline and must call in for pricing and availability which changes everyday. Agents do not make changes to the itinerary, provide the food, hire the people on board, or build the ships.
Shame on you Cunard. Our party of 5 gave you a 3 out of 10. You've lost our business forever and anyone else we can protect from making the same mistake. All marketing, big hype and no quality!!!!
The Cruise was simply not acceptable.
From misspelling my partners name which took several attempts to correct (remember the card is used as ship ID for boarding and needs to match the passport) to the lack of concern about an item lost in boarding, the check in process lacked what was to be expected.
Stateroom, we had a hull balcony, forget looking out your window and seeing anything but metal. The ship even took out banister out for a new coat of varnish and took 4 days to return it, You would never want to sit on the verandah it is so enclosed.
The Shower was tiny and the water temperature very unpredictable with sudden bursts of hot or very cold water. Closets way too small. We hate late dinner seating, so of course our maid knocked on our door about 30 mins before dinner to do service day after day while we were getting dressed. We asked her to come after the start of dinner but she never comprehended this and just dumped the towels everyday.
Activities, Very limited and none after 4-5PM unless you wanted to sit in a bar. Entertainmentwas promised as Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. They dropped this and now it is the Solid Gold Dancers talent-less and embarrassing. A few of the special acts were OK but there was nothing I would ever call really decent.
Ship, Basically a plastic museum of the way it used to be, lots of placards of the past, all it made you feel was sad they have forgotten the past except to use it to dupe you into thinking you might get a taste of it on this ship. No grand gathering place.
Food, In Brittania the choices were a bit limited and the food just acceptable. The Kings Court was a disgusting tasteless abomination. It was worse than a bad cheap Vegas buffet. I have nothing good at all to say about it.
Service, They do not know the meaning of the word. There is NONE. The Kings Court was blank stares, failure to meet any need, closing earlier than promised, managers who simply do not care. By the end of the cruise every passenger was saying the same things. I cannot say enough bad about service. One Brittania manager did her best to help us, without her I would have left the cruise early-I thanked her with a pair of Diamond & Tanzanite Earrings on the last night. The casino people were also good. The rest should be made to swim with the fishes!
There is much more I could say, none of it good. I will never cruise with them again.
Cunard Line Queen Mary 2 by paulras Southern Caribbean November 26, 2004
Embarkation - always annoying. NY's port is just awful. We had to drop off our luggage at one pier, walk out to another pier to obtain a number. Then we were instructed to walk down the hall to a holding area where our number would be called. After only 5 minutes, we were told to walk all the way back to the original pier where we sat in a security line before checking in. Fortunately, we ignored the 1:30 check-in time and arrived very early at 11:30. Security opened up at 12:15 and we were on the ship by about 12:40.
First impressions of the ship - it is really very big and at times hard to figure out how to get around even with the maps. Décor is very nice - not over-extravagant and not cheap.
Public areas on the ship: Britannia Dining Room - beautiful room, cozy but not crowded. Food was consistently good to very good.
Kings Court - haphazard confusion; such a big ship but bottlenecking occurs here way too often.
Queens Room - another beautiful room; verynostalgic of the big band era.
Pub - great food, open space.
Casino - seemed very small; only a few people create bottlenecks; lost my $$
Pools/Decks - spacious; never seemed crowded.
Commodore Club - wonderful lounge, excellent waiters. A truly hidden secret.
Winter Garden - rarely used room. I honestly never saw it being used.
G32 - great layout for a disco; music was too 70s. DJ Ed admitted that he's required to stick to the oldies since the crowd trends older.
Things to do: Spa - the best I've experienced at sea. Canyon Ranch is 1000% better than Steiner on other ships. The first time I ever regretted booking only 50 minutes for a massage.
Activities - not many going on. The ship tends to be more low-keyed.
Shows - unfortunately, the entertainment was sub-par except for the Opera tribute. The tribute to Judy Garland seemed like something Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel would have put on. I heard many people complain about many of the shows.
Shore excursions - basic excursions offered and fairly well organized. You can book on the TV, but some excursions forced you to run down to the tour office to book them for no apparent reason. Four of the five islands required tendering which makes those early morning excursions even earlier.
Planetarium - good shows but they didn't seem as exciting as the planetarium shows I saw when I was a kid. Maybe I've grown up too much! Though in both shows I attended, there were several people asleep snoring.
Todd English - the food was wonderful and well presented but the service was spotty. At times the waiters and maitre d' would check on things every minute, but when we had a problem with the tuna being overcooked, they disappeared. Plus we waited forever for coffee - came about 10 minutes after the dessert was served.
Television - the worst at sea. Only a few channels which tended to repeat the same shows or movies throughout the entire 10 days. Trust me, the Thanksgiving episode of Friends gets pretty boring after the 5th day.
Disembarkation - annoying again. We had to be out of the cabin by 8:30 and were to wait in the Queens Room until 10:45. No breakfast after 8:30, so the wait was unbearable. Fortunately, at about 10:15, they announced (in person) that our deck could leave before the other two decks ahead of us. Didn't make sense, but we were glad to leave after waiting 90 minutes.
Overall: The ship is beautiful, well kept and very stable on the ocean. The large size makes it difficult to find your way around - I can't tell you how many times we had to cut through the dining room when it was closed because we went the wrong way. But there was little need for the gym because of all the walking.
The Commodore Club was a great retreat and the spa was wonderful. The service all over the ship was very good; not extraordinary but very good. Spotty service in Todd English. Activities during the day tend to be on the light side. Some may find it boring.
My biggest gripe is the tendering. The ship doesn't fit in many ports. Only one port (Barbados) could take us. It's really a pain to have to wait for tenders all the time and in Martinique our tender had to sit in the water 30 minutes more because there was a backup at the pier.
Overall, the 10 day trip was a very good one. We enjoyed ourselves but were never really Wow'ed. Having been on Celebrity twice before, we feel that the QM2 falls slightly short on service and food but was still quite good. I would travel on QM2 again, but Celebrity would be my first pick.
Cunard Line Queen Mary 2 by jwfhunts Southern Caribbean November 16, 2004
Having been on Queen Mary 2 for a somewhat disappointing Caribbean cruise in March 2004, we decided some nine months later to "try" the ship again to see if the problems encountered in March had been resolved and if the level of service and food had improved - we were not disappointed. For this cruise, we chose the New Yorker's Caribbean cruise, departing from New York on 16 November 2004. We booked Cunards fly/cruise programme from the United Kingdom. Pre-cruise documentation and information were issued on time; all was correct, relevant and informative.
At London Heathrow airport, we had an early check-in for our 8.20am departure to New York. At check-in a uniformed Cunard Representative was available to ensure that procedures progressed smoothly. The flight departed and arrived on schedule and on arrival in New York, after having passed through Immigration and Customs; we were greeted by a Cunard member of staff who directed us to our waiting coach for the transfer to the pier. After a short drive to the pier in Manhattan, luggage was quickly taken from the coach tothe ship. The ship looked stunning and the first view of it had many of the passengers in the coach gasp with awe. The flight and transfer procedures were excellent, though I do wish that Cunard would re-introduce the included pre-cruise one night stay option at point of departure of the ship. As they now use same day connections to the ship from the UK, passengers travelling from UK Regional airports have to overnight at a London Heathrow hotel, as regional UK flights are not available to connect with the early morning departure to New York. It makes it a very long day, with the early start and 5 hour time difference. At the pier we had to queue for almost two hours to board the vessel. Whilst this was frustrating, the need for the security for guests, crew and the ship is perfectly understandable, and procedures within the terminal building were in place to have passengers screened just as quickly as possible. When one actually arrived at the check-in desk, check-in was swift and efficient.
On boarding Queen Mary 2, guests are directed, rather than escorted to their staterooms, though members of staff are available on each floor level to further assist guests to reach their cabins. For this cruise, we chose a C1 grade outside cabin. This was situated immediately below the promenade deck which is also used as the jogging deck, unfortunately some guests on board did not adhere to the time schedules for using the deck for jogging and some noise from guests could be heard the cabins below though this was not excessive. The cabin was extremely spacious, decorated in light colours was warm, inviting and extremely comfortable. The cabin was airy and had excellent lighting. Drawer space and closet space is limited but adequate for a ten-day cruise. Beds are large, comfortable and furnished with crisp white sheets and light but effective duvets. The cabin was equipped with a compact en-suite shower room, a hairdryer, fridge, The television system on this ship is amazing and it actually is of benefit to spend a short time exploring the television in the stateroom, from here, you can order room service, see your bill, find out what's on, see who is who and so much more. The en-suite bathroom was adequate, there was always piping hot water and good pressure from the shower. Complimentary Canon Ranch toiletries were available.
Cabins were thoroughly serviced twice a day with great attention to detail - fresh flowers were watered regularly and other little `personal touches` were noticeable. Fluffy white towels were changed as necessary.
In relation to cabins, it is interesting to note that in the 2005 brochure, balcony cabins on decks 4,5 and 6 (grades B3, B4, B5 and B7). which I call `hole in the wall cabins` are now described as `sheltered balcony cabins`, and that obstructed view balcony cabins have been re-classified as B6 grades.
Notification of our dining allocation was contained in the copious amount of literature available and this was as per our request at the time of reservation. All the information awaiting us in the stateroom was relevant, factual and useful.
There is a reasonable room service menu available 24 hours a day as well as a full breakfast service between 7.00am and 10.00am. Food ordered was promptly delivered, well presented and of good quality.
A word of warning - The light on the stateroom telephone indicating that there is a message waiting is so dim that it is hard to see, even in the dark - so messages can be easily missed. The cost of telephoning from the cabins and also the use of e-mail facilities on board are not cheap.
The ship itself is spectacular both in décor and appointment. Though plastic ashtrays in the Winter Garden do look out of place. The ship is maintained in an absolutely spotless condition throughout. Life on board is more casual than on other Cunard ships. I think that the expression - sophisticated without being snooty describes it perfectly.
At this stage we decided it was time to eat so we proceeded to the Kings Court for some food. Regretfully, whilst the food on display at all the stations looked appetising, was well displayed, and tasted good - this food service court is somewhat confusing as one has to visit and queue at many dispensaries to obtain their requirements. This area could have been designed better to be more user friendly but in saying that the food served in this area throughout the cruise was in general very good. The lack of staff available to assist guests who have difficulty in carrying trays was noticeable, as was the time taken to clear and refresh vacated tables.
The customary Muster Drill was scheduled for 5.00pm. In March I made comment that the notices on display on the back of cabin doors indicating the whereabouts of the Muster station should actually name the room where one should muster rather than show a marked deck plan. This would be very useful, as many guests had difficulty in finding their actual Muster Station, as was the case in March. Unfortunately this has not been acted on.
On completion of the Muster Drill, the Captain announced that our departure from New York was delayed to 8.00pm, due to operational reasons. This would not however delay our scheduled arrival time at our first port of call - St Martin.
On returning to our stateroom, our luggage was already in our cabin - not bad when one saw the huge amounts of luggage coming on board.
We were scheduled for first seating dinner at 6.00pm, we chose this rather than the later option of 8.30pm in The Britannia Restaurant, as the earlier time best suited our needs. Our first meal in the Britannia Restaurant was excellent - there was a wide choice on the menu, served by most energetic and efficient waiters. The food was hot and well presented. Service was slick but not intrusive, quick but not rushed, a theme, which continued throughout the cruise at dinner. Our section waiter at the beginning of each meal carefully explained the contents of each dish to us. It was obvious that during the past number of months, Cunard has spent a great deal of time improving the operation and service in the Britannia and certainly it has now reached if not exceeded the Cunard standards that we know and expect at dinner at any rate. We were fortunate in this regard but we did hear from others who were very disappointed at the standard of service, so whilst we were very satisfied some stations in the Britannia have still to get there.
After dinner it was time to explore Queen Mary 2 and watch our departure from the port of New York which was spectacular - there is something beautiful about leaving this port in the evening with the lights of the buildings twinkling in the background.
The welcome aboard show was varied, though typical of most welcome aboard shows on cruise ships, however in the Royal Court Theatre there are a number of seats which have obstructed views of the stage, so be aware of this, additionally, it tends to get very hot in the upper level. The theatre is very busy most evenings. My advice is to go early and get a good seat.
On this first day, the thing that was most noticeable was that the crew seemed to me more relaxed and happy, they smiled and acknowledged guests in corridors and other public areas, with the simple greeting of good afternoon or good evening - this continued throughout the cruise - such a change from March when they seemed to be so tense, sullen and disinterested.
Two days at sea followed. It is pleasing that Cunard has the policy of not making un-necessary announcements over the ships loudspeaker system. Each day had a full programme of events catering for all tastes. From Enrichment lectures, to quizzes, from Bingo to Art Auctions, (which in my opinion have now outlived their usefulness on all cruise ships) from Dance Instruction classes to deck tournaments - there is something for everyone - the full details are published the evening before and delivered to each cabin in the Daily Programme. Unfortunately the Port and shopping lectures dealt more with shopping than providing information on the actual ports. A good way of exploring the ship is to join one of the many ship familiarisation tours. There are shops on board to tempt you with their wares, one of the best libraries afloat, an excellent gymnasium, a beautiful spa and lots more to occupy the day. A visit to the Canon Ranch Spaclub is a must for those who wish to be pampered - there are wide ranges of excellent treatments available and not un-realistic prices. A number of swimming pools and lots of decks space to catch the rays during the day are available - the list of events is endless.
Food, food glorious food, is available almost 24 hours a day in the Kings Court -the buffet style system in operation on deck 7, whilst in my opinion it is not really user-friendly as previously mentioned, offers a wide choice of fresh, and attractively displayed food, catering for all tastes. The wide breakfast menu is excellent both in the buffet and in the Britannia Restaurant - however it was noticeable that Fruit Juices available were very weak, as if they had been watered down to such an extent that it was difficult to actually taste the flavour - On occasions in the Britannia Restaurant at breakfast, service was unacceptably slow - a wait of 45 minutes from ordering until the fruit juice arrived. - When the main course arrived some further 15 minutes later, it was more often than not what we had indeed ordered - on most occasions the breakfast hot food was only just luke warm. I brought this to the attention of the assistant maitre-de in-charge of the section at the time and also to the attention of the Pursers Office - but many others guests experienced the same thing. This matter needs Urgent attention. The Britannia Restaurant operates as open seating for both breakfast and lunch. For a typical English style pub lunch - the Golden Lion pub is outstanding, especially the fish, chips and mushy peas. Formal afternoon teas on all Cunard ships are served in the finest British tradition - from freshly cut sandwiches, to scones with fresh cream to calorie-controlled (if only) cakes in the elegant Queens Room - a far superior location than the Winter Garden which was previously used or informally in the Lotus eatery. In the evening, the ship takes on a completely different character and transformation, especially in the Kings Court dining area. Numerous specialty restaurants are available for that perfect evening meal - note that some of these restaurants require advance reservation and some have an additional but not expensive service charge. In relation to alternative restaurants, The Todd English restaurant is open for both lunch and dinner but reservations are a must - whilst I did not experience this particular restaurant, reports from other guests were good - members of my group remarked that it had exceeded their expectations an ideal place for a meal to celebrate a special occasion.
The evening entertainment programme was varied, professional and indeed entertaining. The young and enthusiastic Royal Cunard singers and dancers gave it their all - the three major shows performed were outstanding. Guest entertainers on others evenings did exactly what they were engaged to do - entertain - Cunard have now got it right in respect of variety, excellence in respect of the individual artistes and scheduling of evening entertainment events.
Bars took on a different ambiance with different styles and types of music filtering from each - again something for everyone. Drinks were attractively presented, full of content and reasonably priced. In saying this a 15% automatic gratuity is added to all drinks on board. However on the receipt document they have a section for guests to include a tip if required - this is already included and in my opinion is `naughty`. The layout of the receipt is presented in such a way to confuse passengers - Cunard - don't be greedy. A gratuity and a tip are the same thing.
Thankfully in these times of cutbacks, one of the oldest traditions of cruising is still maintained by Cunard - the Captains Welcome Onboard Cocktail party - albeit of a shorter duration - as a frequent cruiser, I still enjoy these most formal of formal events. True you have to queue to meet the Captain, but in the end its worth it - unfortunately many cruise companies have wiped this great social event onboard from their schedules - please Cunard or should I say to the President of the Carnival Corporation - keep this event ongoing. especially on the ships of the Cunard and P&O fleet.
There also seems to be also a vast reduction in the number of Officer Hosted tables at dinner.
Photographers as on all cruise ships were all around the vessel to catch those special moments on camera. Portraits while of good quality were expensive. The Photoshop offered a wide range of facilities, including developing services, cameras and accessories for sale and simply offering advice.
Well stocked and well laid out shops on board offered a wide range of good quality merchandise and fairly reasonable prices - the staff were friendly, and anxious to satisfy the customers needs rather than just make a sale. However the setting up of tables for `sales` in the passageway on deck two, turned the area into what looked like a public market - this should be dis-couraged by the ships on-board management.
The shore excursion office offers, interesting and a variety of tours of differing durations in each of the ports of call. These can be booked via your stateroom interactive television, by completing a booking forms and dropping it off in a box at the office or by personally visiting the office. Staff on duty were most knowledgeable and gave frank and honest opinions as to tours best suited to guests requirements. Do book early as some of the most popular tours do get booked out quickly. There were mixed reports as to the quality and content of the tours offered. Numerous passengers complained of the poor quality of tours especially in St. Thomas, together with the aggressive attitude of some drivers demanding `tips` and making guests `feel uncomfortable` if they didn't subscribe to the `suggested amount`.
The Pursers Office is open 24 hours a day and staff on duty were totally professional in their approach, taking time to listen to exactly what the passenger enquiry or complaint was and dealing with the enquiry or problem in a sympathetic, yet decisive manner resulting in most cases to satisfactory resolution.
The Future Cruise Sales Office - office? -It is more like a cupboard tucked away under the stairs from the main thoroughfare on Deck 3, has an excellent and knowledgeable staff but who must be frustrated to have to work in such cramped conditions. There is very little in the way of privacy for guests wishing to discuss their future cruise requirements. This is a popular and no doubt very profitable office for the company - yet there are no seats or indeed a place to even to wait other than in the corridor, if both the consultants are busy. This office needs to be re-located to gain maximum benefit and increase its potential.
During the next five days the ship visited the delightful and so different islands in the Caribbean of St. Martin, Martinique, Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Thomas. Regretfully the weather was not kind on our visit to the islands, incessant rain most days until we reached our last port of call, St Thomas, when the sun shone all day.
Queen Mary 2, being so large has to anchor at many ports of call. On this cruise, Barbados was the only port where the ship could dock. At all the other ports, she commanded her position at her anchorage point as the true "Queen of the Seas." There was no mistake the Queen Mary 2 was in town.
The organisation and tendering ashore procedures were excellent. When one considers that some 2600 people may want to go ashore at an anchor port, in addition to the crew members who have time off, we never had to wait longer than 10 minutes to catch a tender from the ship to the shore. A slight delay did occur in St Lucia due to the fact that the weather was so bad and only half of the number of tenders could be used, but again the waiting time was minimal.
I had many reservations about coming back on Queen Mary 2 after such a disastrous cruise in March, but credit where credit is due - this time I certainly was not disappointed - many of the problems experienced by passengers in the `early` days have been resolved and in time with a few minor adjustments things will be as near perfect as possible.
I recognised many staff on board who had sailed with me on previous Princess Cruises, as well as from other Cunard Ships - this is good in some ways, but needs sensitivity, Cunard has a tradition all of its own, as does Princess and indeed as does P&O Cruises and for that matter Carnival Cruises - each must remain different - each must be identifiable to their own specific individuality, to their own particular line or brand product - which over the years has proved so popular with their band of loyal followers -minor interaction in the interests of efficiency and cost effectiveness are possible, but to try to blend and mix the products together would in my opinion spell disaster.
A further point for the Carnival Corporation to note is that since the beginning of the great Cunard line, single passengers have always been staunch supporters of the company and the same applies today. Whilst on Queen Elizabeth 2 and on the former Caronia there were many single cabins for solo guests - this is not the case on Queen Mary 2 or as I understand on the new Queen Victoria - please don't ignore or neglect these passengers - many more solos are taking holidays and research shows that this trend will continue and infact grow. Solos do not mind paying a supplement for the sole occupancy of a double cabin, but in the lower grades to charge a supplement of 200% for sole occupancy is outrageous. When one considers that solos only pay one Port Tax charge, only occupy one seat on an aircraft and only pay one airport tax and security charge, on fly/cruises, only occupy one seat on transfer coaches, have only luggage for one to be transferred and in most cases only eat an amount of food for one, but can 200% be justifiable? I know the arguments of the cruise companies - selling a double cabin for sole use means lost revenue. Is it really? If single supplements were more realistic - say 50% - this is guaranteed income - more often than not what happens is that companies find that they have a number of empty cabins when doing their analysis a few weeks before sailing, and what do they do - they discount - which causes annoyance to those passengers who have booked and paid for their cruise many months in advance as recommended by cruise companies - but herein lies another story. All that I ask is please do not take advantage of the single traveller and do let them continue to travel with Cunard at realistic supplements.
In all a very good cruise, despite poor weather and I look forward to further voyages or cruises on Queen Mary 2.
We arrived in Southampton after an early morning flight during which the pilot knocked a wheel off!! We got to the dockside in good time and were there by 10:30am. Upon arrival we were approached by a member of Cunard staff and informed that check in would open in about half an hour, which it did. After a smooth check in, we proceeded to the waiting area to look out at the ship. I had forgotten just how big she was! She really is enormous. We were amongst the first to board and had been on the ship about 10 seconds when we heard a voice say "James?" It was the DJ whom we had made friends with first time. We were remembered by all the crew from our first cruise on her, even down to our preference for sesame seed bread rolls! Our bags were in our cabin when we got there along with a complimentary bottle of champagne, which we took up to the sailaway with us.
Once the emergency boat drill was done we were ready to go! On time and with no problems we slipped ourmoorings and headed out into the solent and the sun! We decided to get room service on the first night as we had been allocated early seating, we booked very late and this was the only option left available. I am glad to say that room service was very quick and the food not bad at all. We headed up to the bars, we went to the Commodore Club for the first time and James decided to have a cigar in the Churchill Lounge. What an experience, lovely leather chairs, an amazing humidor with every cigar known to man, expertly cut and lit and drinks brought to the table. I thoroughly recommend the appletinis. We sat with some new friends listening to the fog horn whilst we were cozy and snug in our lounge, seemingly in suspended animation! Fantastic. And then down to the casino and G32 to dance the night away.
We then had a day at sea and took the opportunity to get reacquainted with the ship and our favorite spots. Deck seven, with a good book from the superb onboard library, the largest afloat, is a particular favorite. We ate in the Britannia that night. We had a lovely table for two and the service and food were both excellent, I am happy to report. Again, we stayed up all night dancing in G32.
We chose to do an organized tour only in Rome and our own thing in the other stops. Our first stop was in Vigo, Spain. When we arrived, it looked like a dreary, industrial town, but we thought we'd go and take a look. Well we were pleasantly surprised. What a fantastic place to wander around and explore! We ate at a cafe on the dock with a great view of the channel and the ship. It was very good value for money, we had expected it to be overpriced.
Back on board and ready for sailaway. Out to the back and the band, Xtasea, started playing as we pushed away from the dock. We had a flotilla of boats to lead us out, a TV helicopter flying with us and thousands lining the shore to wave goodbye to the new Queen of the Seas. We then ate in the Lotus, which has a tasting menu, lots of dishes to try, eleven in total. The food was of a very high standard and the waitstaff were superb. My husband is allergic to shell fish and they replaced these dishes with no problems.
Another couple of days at sea saw us heading to Livorno, via a technical stop in Cueta. This stop was to replace Gibraltar. We asked about and were told that the stop in Gibraltar was cancelled due to the dock not having been dredged. We ate in the Britannia again and again I can report no problems.
We received our gold worldclub member pins this time and were invited to a cocktail party. I am very pleased to report that this is at 11am and includes lots of free alcohol, I chose to take it easy and only had a couple of glasses of champagne.
We arrived into a cloudy and overcast Livorno, port for Pisa and Florence. We disembarked just as the storm arrived, thunder, lightning and torrential rain! We took the free shuttle into the town centre and jumped on a bus to the train station. We made our own way to Pisa, cheap and very easy to do! We were back on board by 3:30pm and I was off to the Spa. I had chosen to have a Cocoon treatment. I have never been so relaxed in my life, well worth $109.00, which included an exfoliating mitt and extra moisturizer to take home. The spa staff are helpful, courteous, discreet and very thorough.
We left Livorno to the sound of a traditional band on the dock side and thousands of well-wishers lining the shore.
Rome, Italy. I am very glad we chose to do the ship organized excursion here as Civatevecchia is so far from Rome itself. The tour disembarkation was very smooth, we had heard of problems in Livorno, but we had no problems at all. The coach was modern, clean and comfortable. The guide, Serena, spoke excellent English and was very knowledgeable. We picked up another guide at the Vatican, Barbara, again she spoke excellent English and was again very knowledgeable. We also visited the Coliseum and then had free time. My only complaint is that we didn't have long enough in Rome, 9 hours, so we will be going back. We then had another day at sea to Athens.
We also ate in the Carvery and La Piazza on this trip. The food in the Carvery is traditional British roasts. It was good quality and plentiful, this is not suitable for vegetarians at all. I wouldn't recommend La Piazza to anyone, we didn't enjoy it much at all. I ate the swordfish and I would say it was average and my husband did not enjoy the lamb at all, the tiramisu was very good though. The service was fairly good here, but not the greatest.
We spent a day docked in Athens, before disembarking and flying home, we chose to remain on board and soak up the sun. People were disembarking from 3am due to strange flight times. It was very smoothly done, considering the security surrounding the ship. Speaking of security, we had two submarines, two warships, were blocked in by floating barrage balloons and lots of gunships whilst in Athens. Also the FBI, MI5 and MI6 sweeping the ship due to the high profile she has and the people due to stay on her in Athens.
For our last two nights it was back to the Britannia,we had managed to sort a late seating, thanks to Rey, an assistant maitre'd, who was one of the serving team from our last cruise. We had to send a dish back this time, a medium rare steak that was too rare for us. It was replaced in under thirty seconds. We really had no service issues at dinner throughout the whole trip. The bar staff in the golden lion, especially, were excellent. We love G32 and spent many a happy hour there.
We had a really great time and are already looking forward to our next trip. Long may she rule the seas.
Food, very good in the Britannia, Golden lion, Carvery and Lotus.
Service, excellent throughout.
Entertainment, we only went to one show, but it was very good and the day time entertainment was superb.
Cabins, Very good size, always kept clean and our stewardess was just great. Always saying hello when we passed in the hall and very quick with anything we wanted.
Tours, the one tour we took was good quality, but we could have done with longer in the Vatican. The tour office however are still rude and surly when questioned about the cost of the airport transfer in Athens.
Staff, friendly and great fun to be with, keep us coming back, again and again!
Room service fast, on time and good as you can expect from any room service.
Dress, the dress codes are enforced in the Britannia and grills. Formal is formal, evening gowns and tuxedos.
To put her size into perspective, the Westerdam sailed past and we all said, "gosh, this is a big ship!" We utterly love her and are planning our next trip. We just can't stay away.
The ship itself and passengers she attracts are great. One really gets the feel of a liner form the Golden Age that we associate with the grand MGM musicals. Food and beverage staff is not yet up to speed.
CUNARD SCREW UPS:
Telephone calls to Cunard before the voyage never got me the same answer twice. At one point laughter broke out in the background and unable to hear the customer service rep.
Bar service was bad everywhere and waited 5-10 minutes for a drink. The Brittannia Dining Service was worse than my QE2 Mauretania service of 6 months ago which was unfit for a Dairy Queen much less a Cunard Queen.
THE CONNSUMATE SCREW UP: I was in a party of 4 and had us sitting separately on the first night. The other 2 were mistakenly assigned to a table for 6 with 8 people. The assistant Maitre 'D idiot got officious, the Maitre D' Neville saw what was going on and chewed out the assistant Maitre d idiot. We finally got our table together, but were upset about missing the first night. They offered no compensation or apology letter at all.We had good waiters, but the kitchen was slow. One day at lunch it took 40 minutes to get an entrée of grilled trout, I skipped desert to get to an activity on time. Britannia service was never consistent and other passengers were near mutiny. For lunch since I had pub grub in the Golden Lion which was excellent. Not wanting to bet on what the Britannia would screw up next we ate dinner at the Carvery.
Conversation with Maitre D" ineffective
Me:I sailed the Rembrandt with Premier a budget line and had flawless service MD: I was the Maitre D' in the last season on that ship Me: that was the cruise I took We then recognized each other Me: That ship sis not have the high tech state of the art galleys the QM2 does MD: We worked hard to make it happen.
If this Maitre d' on the Rembrandt provided flawless serve, then on the QM2 the bottom barrel we received, bad service on the QE2 6 months earlier, I deduce the problem comes from Cunard management.
She is large, and dwarfs the Carnival Victory docked next to her. QM2 is elephantine in scale and Stalinist in her proportions. Mussolini would feel at home on her.
The flow planning and layout is excellent. QM2 is bigger than the QE2 and SSNorway combined yet is much easier to navigate than either of them, especially the QE2. There are 4 distinct stairtowers that cover all decks and the freedom of choice reduces the feeling of being too big. Unlike the QE2 all stairtowers lead to Rome. QM2 has as many public rooms as a ship half her size, but they are scaled larger. It rarely takes more than 5 minutes to get anywhere. The ship does have an uptown-midtown-downtown feel as one goes from the bow to the stern, the public rooms get more festive.
The décor is retro Art Deco patterned after the Queen Mary 1 with definite design DNA. The spaces on deck 3 are patterned after the Normandie with a huge gallery leading to the Britannia Restaurant with carved relief panels descending from the Dupas originals. The galleries tween decks are also a Normandie copy. However they are useful and fun when traversing the Britannia Dining Room when closed. At the bow there are Queen Mary 1 long galleries to sit and watch the ocean on a cold day. The Illuminations Planetarium is right out of Radio City Music Hall. Queens Lounge has the ambience of the SSNorway's Club Internationale with the Rainbow Room thrown in. I did not use the Winter Garden. The Royal Court Theater is not as well executed. The only rooms out of context are the shopping mall ersatz Victorian Golden Lion Pub, and the G32 disco which is out of Las Vegas. The fake wood used everywhere looked it. I wish they had used laminate in a more imaginative way. Late Art Deco used laminate since at the time it was an exotic material. Overall I wish QM2 was more adventurous in its interior design.
The cabins are finished in light sycamore with dark accents. We had an obstructed balcony double on Deck 8. The room was a good size, but the bathroom was too small, smaller than the bathrooms on the SSNorway N grade and QE2 M4. I used the balcony only to take afternoon naps. At night, I would prop the door open, turn of the A/C and sleep to the sound of the ocean.
Her deck space is excellent and plentiful. The tinted windows on the wind screens detach one from the sea. The winds on Deck 13 can be severe even at 15 knots. The 7 deck promenade gives the feel of a liner. The aft terracing is quite graceful and well laid out. The deck spaces get progressively quieter as one works their way to the bow.
The podded propulsion system gives hardly any vibration at all. The ships rocking motions are a slight jiggle; however we had very calm seas. The last night we were hauling 26 knots with authority and stability.
QUEEN MARY VILLAGE
The people on board were very nice and only a handful that should have taken the Carnival Dysentery instead. The 4 day cruises bring out the worst passengers and was not the case here. I did miss the international flavor and the eccentrics that are usually on the crossings like my QE2 voyage 6 months before. Passenger complement was a full cross section of young, old, mellow and festive. There were 200 kids on board of which some behaved better than some seniors. There was plenty of activities for all and each public room and activity automatically drew the like minded. This is one of the first adult cruises not traveling alone. I had my brother, sister-in-law and personal friend aboard. I did run into a QE2 tablemate and Simon Lasky a QE2 musician. A neighbor from home was also on board by pure coincidence, and a friend whom I met on Rembrandterdam 4 years ago. One person I met was on Rembrandterdam a week after I was and had an affair with the same crew member. We compared notes for half an hour. My cabin steward Jeremy was also a delight. He too was on the Rembrandt with me. Socially I was not alone for a minute with my family, previously known friends on board, and the lovely new people I have met.
GAY AND LESBIAN TRAVELERS
Cunard tends to attract the demographic group, more so than many other lines. There were about 250 gay and lesbian passengers on board; 55 from Peid Piper's partial ship charter. The Commodore Club, nicknamed Commodorothy Club from 10:30 to midnight and the G32 after midnight are the LGBT hangouts. There were 2 Friends of Dorothy parties. The people ranged from tweedy intellectuals, Bohemians, to GUPPIES, and Prada poofs. Everyone was friendly and the crew attentive. People of same gender dance after 1am in the G32 with no stares.
ACTIVITIES AND ENTERTAINMENT
There was more than enough to do and could not attend everything I wanted to. I attended all 3 Bill Miller lectures, the musicians were good all around. The Vegas style shows do not interest me so I cannot comment. The ship really does not have a British flavor at all.
The QM2 is a great piece of hardware that the hotel staff has not yet learned to manage. What keeps me coming back to Cunard is the wonderful passengers she attracts, and great cruise format, especially on the crossings. What Cunard does well it does like no other, when it screws up it does so beyond one's wildest imagination. When debarking it felt like leaving a familiar home.
I have just returned from a crossing on the new QM2. The ship itself is absolutely spectacular. much more like old Queen Mary than any other modern cruise ship. Sadly to sail in this spectacular setting you must put up with mediocre food and mostly poor service.
The Brittania Dining Room menus were designed more for European than American taste. There was only one truly enjoyable dinner in six nights aboard. The dining room service was the worst I have ever seen in 33 years of cruising. The casual dining rooms are chopped up into 4 small areas with the serving areas far apart and inadequate seating for a full ship.
The ship had a high percentage of British, rude French, and German passengers so the smell of smoke hits you the minute you board the ship. The incredibly beautiful Chart Room was so smoky in the evenings that I could not sit in it. Only in the lovely Commodore Room with two distinct halfs could you enjoy a cocktail in a relatively smoke free environment.
On a positive note, the lecture series was excellent and a highlight of the crossing. Sadly theevening shows were typical cruise ship dreck just on a larger stage.
The embarkation process was incredibly smooth, the debarkation the exact opposite. I am glad I experienced the QM2, just for the ship itself, but have no desire to return.
Prior to sailing we reviewed the 3 reviews from Cruisemates readers so I will not repeat what others have said but will add our comments.
We booked a standard outside cabin. It was roomy, nicely furnished but our window was a porthole---very small.Bathroom as small as any ship we had been on. It was certainly no better than other cabins on newer ships.
The ship is outstanding but it's size makes it a challenge to find everything. It took almost 3 days to find our way around and since the ship is so long,it is a long walk if you make a wrong turn. (We have been on 32 cruises in the past 10 years and we feel the ship is just too big).
As mentioned by other reviewers,there is no escort to your cabin and everyone we spoke to mentioned this was a bad start to a cruise. Food and service in main dining room average although it improved as we traveled. The 4 alternative restaurants which serve breakfast and dinner buffet style convert to sitdown, reservation requested restaurants in the evening and we found to be very satisfactory. The cultural programwas excellent---lectures and classical group by outstanding people. The entertainment was very uneven---production shows excellent, other entertainment, fair to poor.
Embarkation photo $27.50---no other photos are less.(Cunard would sell many more if they priced their photos more reasonably).
Our cruise origiated in England and about 60% of our passengers English, 25% Asian and about 15% American. Atmosphere very formal---most men wore coat and tie each evening.
Almost everyone we spoke to said the cruise did not meet their expectation as it was priced higher than premium lines they had sailed before. We felt the same way. Bob Roth