I was amazed at the QM2. Cabin, entertainment and food were excellent. Also the speakers....very interesting. As a single traveller I found new friends and thoroughly enjoyed all the formal nights and getting dressed up. My inside cabin had a kingsize double bed, very spacious and private en-suite facilities. I loved ordering breakfast in my cabin at no extra cost. Staff were very good and the passengers kept informed at all times.
My husband and I cruise quite a bit since we retired, most often on Holland America. However, we wanted to sail on the Queen Mary 2 from South Hampton to New York after a trip to Europe. First of all, I do have to say that the Queen Mary 2 has very elegant dÃ©cor, although slightly shabby. The staff was very attentive and friendly and the cabins were clean and had probably the most comfortable beds and linens I have experienced on a cruise ship.
But, be prepared to bring a lot of semi and formal clothes. On other ships we have been on, we have 'dressed' for dinner but were able to change into more comfortable clothes after dinner in order when visiting bars or the clubs. Not so on the QM2...you dress appropriately for dinner and must stay that way all night. And if you are not dressed appropriately, you have special areas (i.e. buffet) to eat or in your cabin. It was fun to dress up a couple of times but I got tired of not being able to really relax in the evenings.
This past October I cruised on Cunard's Queen Mary 2 from NYC round trip to Quebec City. I have cruised about 20 times on other lines, but this was my first cruise with Cunard. I was looking forward to this cruise, especially being on such a great ship as the Queen Mary 2. As a consumer, I think it is important to provide feedback, both positive and negative, to the service provider as to the experience of any cruise. No one can view the total cruise experience from the eyes of a traveler better than the traveler himself.
In preparation for this cruise I packed one suit with dress shirt and tie for any formal night that might be in the schedule (on all of my previous experiences cruising, there were no more than 2 nights where formal attire was suggested). Once onboard, to my surprise a jacket was required for every evening meal in the main dining room. When this became known to me, I was disappointed that I could not dine in slacks and a dress shirt anywhere except the cafeteria. Further, after a couple of days on thecruise, a notice was included in the daily bulletin that a jacket was required after six in the evening for ALL (capitalized as was shown in the bulletin) facilities, and that if I was not dressed in a jacket, I should not utilize any of the facilities so as not to negatively affect the experience of other passengers.
I have included the dress code(s) below as a reference: the codes appear to assume that you will either be dressed "to the nines" after 6 pm or you will be in shorts, tank tops, and sandals. I don't dress that casually at home, so I would most certainly not dress that way in a public space. What this dress code effectively meant was that after 6 in the evening, I could only eat in the cafeteria, sit in the Winter Garden, or go to my room. Without a dress jacket, I was not welcomed in the library, the computer room, the evening's entertainment, the main lobby, bars, shops, coffee shop, or the casino. I was left with little choice as to how I might spend my evenings. (The TV reception in the room was about as bad as I have ever experienced).
Needless to say, I felt like a second-class passenger, which I guess I actually was but did not realize it until I boarded the ship. This class distinction may be exactly what Cunard strives to maintain; however, I found the entire experience degrading, such that I shall respond by using other carriers for my future cruises. I had really wanted to experience all three ships Cunard offers.
I would like to end my feedback on a positive note. Our cabin steward was excellent: efficient, friendly, and offered advice on shore excursions. She was the brightest spot in our days.
Below are direct quote from Daily Programme: "Dress requirement: Informal- Jacket required, tie optional for gentlemen, cocktail dress, stylish separates or equivalent for ladies. Please note that after 6.00 pm, shorts and blue or worn denim (for men and women); sandals and sleeveless tops (for men) are not considered appropriate within the ship. Any guests wishing to dress more casually are welcome to dine in the Kings Court buffet on deck 7 and relax in the Winter Garden, but should not use other areas within the ship, including our Alternative Dining Restaurants, out of respect for their fellow guests."
"Dress requirement: Formal- Dinner jacket, tuxedo or dark suit with tie for gentlemen. A range of gentlemen's formal wear is available to hire on board ship. Evening or cocktail dress for ladies. Please note that after 6.00 pm, shorts and blue or worn denim (for men and women); sandals and sleeveless tops (for men) are not considered appropriate within the ship. Any guests wishing to dress more casually are welcome to dine in the Kings Court buffet on deck 7 and relax in the Winter Garden, but should not use other areas within the ship, including our Alternative Dining Restaurants, out of respect for their fellow guests."
The noon report said that we had cleared the Grand Banks of Newfoundland at 8:00 AM this morning. We were skirting the Flemish Cap and were 100 miles E of the Grand Banks. It was Monday, July 9 and we were on West Greenland Summer Time.
But the night before had been like nothing I'd ever experienced in my life. I wrote in my trip journal: "The noise in this cabin is incredible. The wind is howling outside, rattling the glass, and whistling. It's enough to drive you crazy. I wasn't anticipating something like this in July at all. I thought this was the best weather of the year. If it isn't, when is?"
The whole experience of being out in the North Atlantic with fog closing in on you can't be compared to land. Neither can being thrown forward on your toes when the ship rolls. But for us it was transportation to Europe since we don't like jets. That single consideration made it well worth it, especially the Cunard shore excursion in Southampton to Stonehenge, Salisbury, and the New Forest which turned out to be the most Gothic placeon earth (the ship itself sounded a little Gothic and spooky, didn't it?)
We have just returned from the autumn getaway aboard the Queen Mary 2. What a magnificent liner she is. We loved everything about her. The food was wonderful, the service impeccable. We appreciated the smaller servings at meals which allowed us to try many dishes and still not feel stuffed. Our cabin in the Britannia Club class was very comfortable. We've had NYC hotels rooms smaller than this! People who have complaints about this liner probably shouldn't be on her. It's not for people looking for all night parties and swinging singles. It's more sedate and formal and that is part of the charm. It was the most relaxed vacation we have ever had!
Cunard's QM2 is one of the last bastions of civilized travel. Elegant and then some. Big? You bet! The corridor on our deck 10 went on forever, a golf cart would be helpful for us seniors. Be prepared for extensive walking to enjoy all the ship has to offer.
We booked Princess Grill. The Jr. Suite was extremely comfortable and had tons of storage space, a walk-in closet and a very adequate bath -- no jacuzzi though. A convertible sofa, chair, desk and bar with a selection of glasses and refrigerator. A large balcony with two comfortable lounge chairs. The Princess Grill class allows you access to the Queens Lounge and private deck area and, of course, the Princess Grill restaurant for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We did not have to carry a tray the whole trip, again a plus for seniors.
Expedited embarkation and debarkation is also included in Princess Grill class.
Princess Grill service is superb. Ladies are escorted to their table and seated by the Maitre'd. Food for the most part is very good. A nice touch on the Princess Grill menu is an ala carte section for those who wishsomething other than what is offered on the regular menu. The beef filet was awesome! Food presentation was exceptional. The sommelier is very sharp with an extensive list of excellent wines.
The public areas and various lounges offer something for everyone and are elegantly extravagant.
We did not attend any of the shows. At our age we were content to repair to our suite after dinner and relax, but we did hear from others that the shows were quite good. The Planetarium is a must see, and also the glass elevators in the Grand Lobby.
The weather was good and at no time was there noticable ship movement even at higher speeds, and this ship can move! Tender service at the anchoring ports was efficient but the tenders are hot. Typical of Cunard ships are several decks that do not allow through traffic fore to aft without going up or down a deck. A compact deck guide is in each cabin and is a must for traversing the ship.
Dress codes dictate a jacket each evening for gentlemen, some with tie, some without, and we appreciate this requirement.
Anyone looking for an elegant way to cruise will be truly impressed and satisfied with Cunard's QM2.
This was our second sailing on the QM2 from Brooklyn. The ports of call were Halifax, Nova Scotia and Boston, USA. Boarding was quick and painless. Lunch is readily available at Kings Court, serving a variety of dishes, Asian, Italian, etc. Assorted juices and many variety of teas are available at all times. This is the place you want to go to grab a late night snack, hot offerings and pizza is also available.
Our room was on deck 11, cat. A2 (a lovely upgrade from a B5). The room appeared just a little smaller than our previous one on deck 8 (B5) but the view from up there was gorgeous. We had early dining at the Britannia room, table for 6. Must say service was better than in '07.
We had met a few folk who were in the Queens Grill and they just loved the level of service and dining options. After hearing much about the 3 different classes of service onboard, in a nut-shell, you get what you pay for. I was a little disappointed that there was no lamb served at dinner. I later found out thatall Grill class passengers were able to get lamb, cooked tableside or however they liked.
The shows were all very good. The Planetarium is excellent, a must do while onboard. The Black and White ball is most fun, though a group of experienced ballroom dancers/teachers were taking over the floor. G32 is lots of fun, even for our age group 50+, the lively band does a terrific job of getting everyone on their feet. I do still love disco and got my fill.
The staff were friendlier and more approachable this time around, but I didn't see much of the cruise director. We were privileged to have seen the Brooklyn Bridge's 125th anniversary fireworks display, we were so close, and it was spectacular. The ship didn't leave Brooklyn until 9PM, good call by the Captain. Our sailing was smooth, but for cloudy skies in Halifax, the weather was lovely. Our stop in Boston was wonderful, couldn't ask for better weather and our duck tour excursion/sights was grand.
Overall, she's an incredible vessel, and you'll never feel crowded while onboard her.
We chose a transatlantic voyage because we had heard this is a beautiful ship with great entertainment.
It is a beautiful ship and our cabin was better than average. Room steward was very good.
Although beautiful, the ship has a strange design, with venues tucked away here and there. In 6 days, we did not really get comfortable with locations. This makes it difficult to "browse" in the evenings to find just the right spot for pre and post dinner fun. The dining room was "in the way" on two decks, preventing easy promenade on the two main public floors. The promenade deck offered great space for outdoor walks or jogging.
The entertainment was good and disappointing too! The dance bands were excellent, and this is what we came for. The only problem was even with more room than any other ship, everyone else came for this too, and we had trouble finding a table and space to dance. The theater productions were okay to poor. The Rock at the Opera was just a series of song and dance routines, with no apparent connection than opera, with no energy and poor singers (particularlyone male soloist).
The bridge teacher was excellent, and the bridge games were well run and attended. Lectures offered were interesting. However, the weather prevented much use of the Planetarium.
We liked the food and had reasonable, but not outstanding service in the dining room. Room service was prompt and good, with reasonable variety.
The buffet area is set up to be specialty non-buffet restaurants for dinner, with corresponding (Italian, Asian, etc.) food at lunch. This prevents the feeling of going to a cafeteria, which you usually have on the ships, but also makes it difficult to decide what to eat and then find a place to sit together with your companion if he has wandered off in search of a different cuisine.
All in all, we would recommend this ship and cruise, but I do think all the pre-cruise hype made us expect more than was delivered. It was better than many ships we have been on, but did not knock our socks off!
The Britannia is two seatings for dinner and open-seating for lunch and breakfast. I like the late dinner seating because there is no time pressure. Tables can and do stay there conversing until after eleven. During the open-seating meals, guests are placed at a table by one of the assistant restaurant managers. I like joining one of the larger tables because you get to meet more people and the people on QM2 tend to come from such interesting backgrounds that good conversation often ensues. I was not dissatisfied with the performance of the waiters at any of the tables I was at during this voyage.
There are several alternative venues for meals. The most popular of these is the King's Court, which is the ship's self service buffet. This area is very large but not very well designed. The different stations which specialize in different cuisines are too far apart to easily take something from one area and combine it with something from another. Also, there is not enough seating despite the size of the area. Finally, the views of the sea from some of the seats are obscured by the ship'swrap-around outdoor promenade deck. This is one area of the ship that needs to be re-thought.
The second and fourth day of the cruise was sea days. As such, they were a mini-taste of what it is like on a transatlantic crossing. One of the things that Cunard excels at is in the quality of the lecturers that are presented. They are not people who simply recite a few facts about the upcoming port but rather are accomplished scholars and/or public figures who are often thought provoking. This time, Dr. Dr. Eric Roorda spoke about the economic and strategic significance of Halifax and maritime historian Ted Skull discussed the history of the Cunard Queen-class ocean liners. These lectures were in the Illuminations theater, which not only serves as the ship's planetarium but is an art deco movie palace that shows recent films on a large screen, the way movies were meant to be seen.
Halifax has a number of interesting sights and areas of scenic beauty. The old British fortress on top of the hill in the center of town has people dressed in Victorian uniforms re-enacting parade drill and firing a large cannon everyday at noon. There is also an afternoon tea in the fort. The little town of Peggy's cove looks like it was created by a set designer who wanted to show a fishing village on a rocky shore with a lighthouse. In town, there is a board walk that leads from the cruise ship terminal to the navy base on the other side of town. Amongst the places of interest along the way are the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic with exhibits about Halifax's long connection with the sea and World War II corvette HMCS Sackville. One can also take a ride on Theodore the Tugboat.
The night of the first sea day and the night after leaving Halifax were formal nights. Unlike some cruise ships, most of the passengers do don formal wear on these evenings. It is all part of the ocean liner experience.
In sum, Queen Mary 2 is a great ship and this was an enjoyable short cruise. It also gave me the opportunity to photograph more parts of the ship which allowed me to finish building my virtual tour of the ship. http://www.beyondships.com/QM2tour1.html
LONG LIVE THE QUEEN!
As the mighty Queen Mary 2 passed her smaller predecessor, the graceful Queen Elizabeth 2 at Southampton, the two ships exchanged a volley of salutes. The deep blasts coming from the QM2 whistle initially startled me. Her deep-throated sound, a copy of the original Queen Mary, stirred something deep within my bones. Throughout the week, the sound of that horn, (although, on some foggy nights in the Commodore Lounge, I felt it as much as heard it ) linked me to the proud heritage of Cunarders plying the North Atlantic.
This was a day to say farewell to a dear old friend, our beloved QE2. Earlier that morning, we disembarked from our final cruise on her and shortly thereafter, Queen Elizabeth came aboard to bid farewell to the ship she had proudly christened over 40 years earlier.
I first glimpsed her unmistakable profile on a cruise to Hawaii in 1989. What a beauty. And her beautiful classic silhouette remains mostly unchanged -- if only my own had stayed so shipshape (ouch!) over the past 20 years. From the start, we were captured by her spirit. On our first trip, muchof the "jet age" formica and jarring 1967 colors still remained -- a far cry from the classic luxury liner heritage one might expect and over the years, she underwent many refits and remodels. Her dining rooms changed size, names, even briefly swapped locations and her engines and propulsion system was totally replaced, yet she still maintained that special allure and grace that we experienced on first encounter and was always, unmistakably "QE2." Truth be told, she has never really lived up to her hype, yet it doesn't matter -- she has been well-maintained, yet something always felt a bit "tatty" to me. Perhaps that's part of what made her so easy to love.
Seven days earlier, we boarded the QE2 in Civitavecchia, joining a Mediterranean cruise en-route which had departed Southampton a few days previous. This was to be our fourth and farewell voyage on her, and our first cruise on the Med. A bit about us: we're a gay couple in our 50s from San Francisco. These were our 19th and 20th cruises. We've been on a wide variety of ships and cruises, but generally prefer more traditional cruising. Before joining the QE2, we had spent 8 days in Spain (Madrid & Barcelona) and a too-short visit to Rome.
QE2 -- EMBARCATION AND CABIN We were READY for a return to familiar comforts on that day. We had originally planned on spending the morning at the Vatican Museum, but instead, I had spent hours sitting in a broken chair in a trailer at Ciampino Airport as I waited for Italian customs to inspect suitcases I had shipped in advance of the cruise. Lesson learned. Do NOT use zip strips when shipping to Italy. Authorities will not cut them without in-person permission of the owner. Our luggage shipping service had given me an address where my bags were held (Customs was characteristically circumspect on why they were holding them). However, when my cab tried to get there, we were stopped by Italian police with big guns, so he let me out. I think the Polizia were trying to be helpful, but they only spoke Italian. They kept on gesturing in one direction and indicating (I think) that I should walk back down that road and then turn right. Did I mention that they had very big guns? After turning right, and wandering near some locked fences and trailers, I found a woman named Paola who took pity on me. (She had come out of her company's trailer to feed some cats, and I became another stray.) She spoke little English, but was able to call the local folks at DHL (they were in an area inaccessible to me) -- and let me sit in the tipsy chair in her office as I waited and waited for customs to open my bags so they could check out my tuxedos and underwear. A couple of long cab rides later, we were on the dock ready to board.
While we waited for someone at the Purser's Office to come out to check us onboard, we had the pleasure of meeting Shannel, a lounge waitress who was manning the water and juice station on the dock. She was a true joy -- we visited her often in the Yacht Club bar. (Not that we drink a lot but) She had just transferred to the QE2 on this voyage from the QM2. To her delight, she found out a few days later that she was going back "home" to the QM2 on the same day we were due to board -- so we saw her on that ship as well (She also spread the word among the bar staff -- so from the start, we heard "Shannel told us about you!")
We were quickly checked-in, greeted our cabin stewardess (who had thought we missed the boat when we failed to board at Southampton) and proceeded to race around the ship, reacquainting ourselves with her quirks. Yes, the map in the Chart Room still says "Le Harve" the little Princess Lounge on 1 Deck is open before dinner, and you still use the funny curving staircase to get to Boat Deck from the Yacht Club.
Our cabin was one of a handful of Caronia class rooms squeezed in amongst the original first class cabins assigned to the Queens Grill. (We had been fortunate to be upgraded to one of these on our Panama Canal transit. They are HUGE with walk-in closets and bathrooms larger than entire cabins on 5 Deck.) Our cabin was a bit old fashioned, with portholes instead of windows and twin beds that can't be slid together, but it was immensely comfortable, with original wood paneling, ample closets and a large bathroom.
QE2 DINING We ate in the single-seating, Caronia Dining Room. We shared a table for six with two couples from the north of England who had not known each other previously, but who got along famously. Just as they had become used to being the only ones at the table set for six, we appeared. No problem (I presume) -- it was a pleasure dining with them and we had many wonderful conversations.
Food was uniformly excellent and service was flawless. We had dined in the Queens Grill on our two previous trips -- in fact, when we had last dined there, it had a different name (Columbia). I wondered if the food in the "regular" dining rooms could compare. It did. Although we could not order off-menu (the extra perk of dining in the grills) -- the items on the standard menu were all tasty and perfectly prepared. Each dinner listed choices for appetizer, soup (including my favorite vacation indulgence -- cold fruit soup), salad, entree and dessert. (On the two-seating Britannia Dining Room on the QM2, the first section combined the starters and soups, and was sadly lacking the delicious chilled fruit varieties.) The menus seemed to be somewhat more attuned to English passengers, since the ship has been primarily marketed in the UK and there were only a handful of Americans aboard. An additional advantage of having a single sitting is that breakfast and lunches were also at our usual table with our assigned waiters instead of open seating.
We enjoyed having a sommelier for our table. Not that we have exotic tastes in wine, (in fact we often had only a single glass from the "list at the back.") but we find a lot is lost when their trained advice is replaced by a corporate recommendation published on the menus (with associated kickbacks to the line)
QE2 ENTERTAINMENT, ACTIVITIES AND LECTURES On board activities and entertainment was of the level one would expect for a traditional line such as Cunard. There were numerous lectures and presentations. One of the special guest lecturers was a well-known (in the UK) author and police investigator. We did not attend his lectures but were told that they were fascinating. There was the usual bingo (reasonably priced) and napkin folding, but this is not the line for wacky pool games.
Of particular note are the port lectures. Unlike other lines, where these presentations only serve to direct you to stores on the recommended (kickback) list -- these lectures highlighted the history and attractions at the ports. We REALLY appreciated this -- and the maps with the recommended shops were still included in the Daily Programme, for those interested.
We noticed a definite upgrade in the production shows. To be frank, these were never the highlight of the QE2 experience. First off, until the mid-90s reconfiguration of the Grand Lounge there was no actual stage, and the troupe always seemed talented and eager but with limited resources. On this trip, not only did the (small) stage itself look improved, Cunard has upgraded the entertainment itself. The shows were interesting and the staging and talent was impressive (The Russian dancing during the "a Passionata" show was not to be missed!). The headliners were a mixed bag. We enjoyed a singer, Paul Emmanuel, but a guy who "rocked out" while playing a harp strapped to his belly was less impressive -- we left during his Riverdance number.
QE2 -- PORTS AND EXCURSIONS Before boarding, we arranged a private tour in Rome with Through Eternity Tours (www.througheternity.com). They matched us with an amazing woman named Gracelyn, who seemingly knew everything about the art and history of Rome, lived in San Francisco for a number of years and had been living in Rome since the mid-90s. We spent about 8 hours walking all over Rome, with a break at a wonderful spot for lunch. This was a highlight of the entire vacation and I cannot imagine a better way to see that beautiful city in a short time.
In short, she was astonishing. We hit it off immediately, the tour was magnificent and I cannot recommend it highly enough. The downside of this was that she set a standard that could not be matched for later tours during excursions later on this trip.
The next day we saw Florence. About half of the time was spent riding a bus back and forth to Florence from where we were docked in La Spezia (substituted at the last minute from Livorno). A long day, a hot day. A suggestion -- if you want to visit the Uffizi Gallery (HIGHLY recommended) you will probably need to get advance tickets via the internet. Admittance was not included in most ship excursions.
Next, we docked at Cannes. We took an excursion to Nice, Eze and Monte Carlo. We loved walking through the market at Nice, and the elegant beaux arts casino at Monte Carlo made us feel like James Bond (We DID have martinis, but we'd never be shaken or stirred enough to order them with vodka). The unexpected highlight of the excursion was the charming mountain town of Eze -- a village seemingly constructed of steps, untouched for centuries.
The ship still travels magnificently, cruising along at over 30 knots. In fact, the Commodore stressed that only she could travel from Barcelona to Gibraltar in a day -- something that standard cruise ships cannot. The downside of this was we had to leave Barcelona early and we had to be back on board by 1:30 PM. We spent four days there just a week before, so we had already seen the major sights further north (Gaudied ourselves silly by touring Sagrada Familia and La Pedrera, walked La Rambla, with diversions to the cathedral and the Picasso Museum). Instead, we set aside some time to visit Montjuic, the park on the hill near the port and ride the funicular to the Miro museum. I must admit that still don't "get" Miro, but still enjoy his work. Most delightful was seeing groups of young schoolchildren captivated by his colorful, simple art. Afterward, we stopped for a drink at a cafe under the trees back on La Rambla. While watching the passing scene, our tablemates happened by with the disturbing news that they had fallen victim to pickpockets. (Luckily, the losses were not too bad) Yes, those warnings are true. It does happen. Use caution.
In Gibraltar, we walked to the tram that runs to the top of the rock and enjoyed the monkey business of the barbary apes living there. Just as we arrived at the top, it started drizzling -- quickly turning to rain. No matter -- we were ready to get back to the ship and were looking forward to our first sea days. Good thing, because between the remainder of this cruise and the crossing, we had eight of them ahead of us.
I'm not going to dig out our Daily Programmes to figure out EXACTLY what we did those last two days at sea, but I know it involved: eating, having a drink, bingo, having a drink, shopping for souvenirs, eating, having a drink, lecture, napkin folding, having a drink, playing trivia, drinking tea, dressing for dinner, having a drink before dinner, actually eating dinner, having a drink after dinner, seeing the show and then having a nightcap. I actually claim that the motion of the ship makes me sleep well, but my bar tab may hold a different explanation…
QM2 TRANSFER AND CHECK-IN I had been a bit worried about what would happen on the day we were to check out of the QE2 and board the QM2 -- especially since they were at different wharves a couple of miles from each other. There was no information available in advance. Worldwide port logistics and details have always been one of Cunard's strengths and I remembered the "White Star Service" signs throughout the ship, so I hoped for the best. A few days before arrival, I got instructions from the excursions office. There were only three of us transferring between ships. They arranged cabs for us and helped us load up. As we were waiting, we saw a number of guests arriving for lunch with the Queen (big cars, nice suits and silly hats).
We arrived at the Mayflower Docks a bit before they were ready to accept boarding passengers and had to wait outside for about a half hour. We were among the first group processed and ultimately were on board within an hour. It was all basically painless.
My jaw dropped once we came aboard the QM2. She is a stunner. Gorgeous. We entered on Three Deck. Especially impressive is that this deck is so tall -- ceilings are almost twice as high as on a normal ship. In fact, the two main public decks occupy the space normally taken by three. Upon boarding, you are confronted with a grand atrium with lots of marble, white plasterwork and (SOLAS-approved) wood. On these two decks are the shops (from essentials to extravagances), most of the bars, an extensively appointed showroom, the amazing Britannia Restaurant, the Queens Room ballroom, the planetarium, the G32 nightclub, Pursers Desk, excursions and cruise sales, a computer center, multiple classrooms, and photo and "art" galleries -- and there are 10 other decks!
QM2 CABINS We had a standard B3 cabin midships on Deck 4. Like most modern ships, all the basic cabins are prefab and identical -- differing only in location. On this ship, there are two kinds of balconies -- the ones on the lower decks (4-6) are cut into the hull and the ones on decks 8-12 are attached to the sides. Especially on a crossing, their extra shelter was appreciated, and as a fellow passenger, Tom Kanitra from the rec.travel.cruises newsgroup, observed -- when we look down, we see the sea. When the upper deck balconies look down, they see lifeboats.
The cabin was nicely appointed with a great mattress and bedding, ample storage, and a decent bathroom with a good size shower. The beds combined to make a king and there was a little couch and desk with a 20 inch TV.
I have a major objection to their television programming. Not the "Good Morning with Ray" show in the morning (it was fine), nor to the wide variety of free movies shown on multiple channels (a welcome change from some other lines). No. I objected to their choice for the one, single source for broadcast news for most of the voyage. Fox News. In my opinion, such a highly-partisan channel is a poor choice for this ship. Even if one accepts the argument that it's a necessary counterbalance to a perceived liberal bias of other networks, it follows that "the other side" should also be represented in order to be fair and balanced. Fundamentally, I would argue that an operation that describes itself as "America's News Channel" has an inappropriate focus for an international ship. (This sailing had large numbers of Brits, Germans and French passengers.) I'm aware that as the ship makes its voyage, different satellites come in range, so the choices may be limited -- but I find it hard to believe that BBC Worldwide, CNN International (or even Murdoch's Sky News International) were not available.
QM2 DINING The main dining room, The Britannia Restaurant, is spectacular. It has tiered seating over two decks on three levels with a grand staircase at one end and a dramatic tapestry of the Queen Mary opposite. It is simply the most beautiful dining room at sea. (Sorry -- no argument. It's an irrefutable fact!) There are two seatings, aside from a small section called "Britannia Club" with a single seating. We had a table for two in a wonderful location on the main floor. When the ship was launched, there were a lot of problems getting dinner service up to expectations. (They feed over 2000 passengers in the limited time available for two seatings -- and unlike the cookie cutter operations on large lines with similar ships, this was all new), Based upon other passengers' comments, I'd say that they've basically got it down. However, given our experience, they aren't completely there yet.
Our service was merely okay -- on a par with what we've experienced on Princess or NCL -- but not what they proclaim as "White Star Service." Most meals had an unexplained pause at some point for twenty minutes or more. (On a couple of occasions, the waiter notified us of the problem which we appreciated). More often than not at some point, we missed being offered something (ground pepper, horseradish or other accompaniment, or the tray of chocolates and candied ginger at the end) and refills on water or coffee were often neglected. I believe the problem in our case was a new assistant waiter. However, if the operation has such little tolerance for a glitch like a rookie employee, I think they might need to revisit their staffing calculations. Not a real problem, but an area which might use further refinement.
The food was excellent. No problems for any of the dishes. All were tasty and prepared as ordered. As previously mentioned, I missed seeing more chilled fruit soups. I also enjoyed the fruit sorbets on the QE2 and would have liked seeing them appear more often as dessert options. Although I found something to enjoy at each dinner, I was surprised not to see an "always available" selection of items published on the menu. (Later I found out from another passenger that their waiter told them of an unpublished list, but such items took extra time. Why it's a secret and why our servers never shared it with us, I have no idea.)
We also ate at the premium restaurant, Todd English (reservations required, $30 surcharge). It was a wonderful experience. The food was truly special, the service was impeccable and the room was beautiful. I ordered the beef tenderloin -- it was delicious and the portion was more than ample -- as was I afterwards!
Cunard celebrates tradition. This includes things like traditional dining with assigned seating, which we appreciate. It allows waiters to learn your preferences, and avoids the repetitive "who are you, is this your first cruise, where are you from?" drill when seated with strangers during open seating. Their embrace of tradition also applies to dress code. If you object to dressing up, this is not the line for you. There are three dress codes, which are more stringent than most other lines. Most evenings at sea are formal, which means tuxedos (worn by the majority of men) or suit and tie. Next comes semi-formal, for which both jacket and tie are required. And, finally there is elegant casual which means jacket required, tie optional. Obviously, women's dress requirements are similar. Casual dress is allowed at dinner in the Kings Court dining areas.
The Kings Court buffet is an interesting experiment. Like on many recent ships, there are different areas for different types of items, which limits long, meandering lines and offers more variety. On the QM2, the buffet is broken up into four different sections which can be quite distant from one another, and can result in a nomadic buffet of passengers clutching their trays, searching for that last item they saw -- somewhere. During breakfast, there were multiple omelette stations with no waiting (a first!). At night, they partition the areas to provide separate rooms for Italian, Asian, and a demonstration kitchen, Chef's Galley. We didn't try them, but were told that the Chefs Galley experience is fun.
Another great dining experience is the Golden Lion Pub lunch. They serve traditional pub grub like a plowman's lunch, cottage pie and fish & chips. Perfect with a pint!
QM2 ACTIVITIES AND PUBLIC ROOMS How many ships have a planetarium? This one does! There are a wide variety of public areas and activities to fill them throughout the day and night. This is especially important on a crossing where every day is an "at sea" day. About that planetarium. It really is impressive. It's housed in a room with steeply raked seating which is also used for lectures and movies. (The planetarium dome drops down from the ceiling when used for that purpose.) The half hour shows are licensed from the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Let me tell you, the motion of the ship adds a virtual reality aspect to the experience when the show has you swooping around the universe! One caution, it's really, really easy to fall asleep. The shows are scheduled for that drowsy time an hour or two after lunch, and once you tilt your chair back and they turn the lights down -- well, it's almost inevitable.
Lectures were presented mainly in the Planetarium or the large, two-deck showroom. On this trip, we were lucky to have John Maxtone-Graham, naval historian, author of many books including "The Only Way to Cross." I have perhaps never seen more accomplished and entertaining presentations than his lectures. If you are lucky enough to cruise on ships featuring his lectures DO NOT MISS THEM. His lecture on the Titanic was spellbinding and even his final presentation which consisted of skits presented with his wife, which was by far his weakest, was worthwhile if only while he was giving a brief biography to hear him mention (in his sonorous upper-crusty accent) one of his son's endeavors, a show called "Beevis and Butthead."
On the other end of the ship is the beautiful Queens Room. If any one room exemplifies the QM2 it would be this large ballroom. It has a stage with a rounded bandshell proscenium which for some may recall the Radio City Music Hall. Ensconced therein is the twelve piece Queens Room Orchestra which plays dance music for the many couples who fill the immense dance floor. (Not me -- "Dancing with the Stars" would be more aptly named "Stumbling with a Klutz") The two chandeliers and beautiful furnishings make this a very elegant room. One evening we enjoyed hearing the large orchestra play a program of big band music and watching the older couples in formal wear do swing dancing like when it was new. Formal tea was served in this room each afternoon by white-gloved attendants. (Yum!)
Most evenings we stopped by the cozy and beautiful Commodore Club. Located forward of the suites on Deck 9, this forward-facing lookout bar is defined by the graceful curves of the front of the ship beneath the bridge. A classy room, it's just the place for a martini before dinner and a drink after.
Each afternoon, the ship hosted a meeting there for "Friends of Dorothy" (an old-school euphemism for "gay") About two dozen friends showed up each day -- and the get-together was a great preamble to trivia contests down in the pub. Our winning team's name was the "Dorothys."
Besides offering lunch, the pub was bustling day and night also featuring pub trivia contests and the like. The lovely Shannel handled the crowds there with warmth and style.
Across from the pub was the casino with a wide variety of tables and slot machines, I was pleased to see that the table limits for Blackjack were reasonable. My only problem was the so-called "Fun 21" table which offers a simplified version of 21 with decreased odds. Both on the QE2 and the QM2, this table was usually empty, as people crowded the others offering traditional rules. Perhaps Cunard should pay attention -- their passengers probably aren't the Fun 21 type. (Surprising to see this. Carnival has a subsidiary which concessions the casinos for all their lines and they aren't exactly known for "leaving money on the table.")
On a more uplifting note is the extensive library and bookshop located directly beneath the Commodore Club. Besides a large collection of books (maintained by a professional librarian) -- there are computer terminals and lots of comfy chairs where you can curl up and gaze at the sea from a spectacular vantage point.
THE TRANSATLANTIC EXPERIENCE Yes, the ship is beautiful, the food excellent, the activities diverse and the service exquisite -- but there's something special about a crossing. Most specifically, there's something extraordinary about the Queen Mary 2 as she's racing across the North Atlantic, doing exactly what she was designed to do. She is the latest, and soon to be the only representative of a proud tradition. That heritage sets her apart. I can't describe how or why I felt it from the moment I stepped aboard, but she's inescapably part of that long line of glorious liners and she quickly seduced me with the romance of those who had crossed before me.
She rides the North Atlantic like a champ. Her strengthened hull and distinctive bow cut through the most daunting waves, and her extra size really makes a difference as well. On our second day out, the seas were at least twenty feet, and I heard some guessing thirty. Yet, she handled them with ease. Yes there was a bit of motion -- but far less than a standard cruise ship might encounter in normal Caribbean seas. The dramatic wings at the front of the ship (with the rakish black stripes) and a similar barrier aft provide shelter for the upper balconies as she speeds along at thirty knots or more. Yes, her bow is beautiful and her look dramatic -- but most importantly, it's all there for a reason. The ship is an amalgam of the 21st century technology and experience going back to the 19th.
Yes, I was sad when I said goodbye to my beloved QE2, and indeed my eyes are getting moist as I write this, but thanks to Stephen Payne, her architect, Commodore Warwick, her first master, Mickey Arison the CEO of Carnival who championed her and countless others (some of whom tragically lost family at the shipyard in St. Nazare) -- there is a proud new ship to carry on the tradition and I have a new, special place in my heart for my "beloved QM2."