Queen Mary 2 Reviews

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40 User Reviews of Queen Mary 2 Cruise Ship

Transatlantic Crossing
Publication Date: June 26, 2007


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, much

of 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."

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Publication Date: June 16, 2007

Ref review of QM2 by Godfrey Smyth in December 2006

Having just got back from a simply fabulous cruise to Norway on QM2, I was horrified to read Mr Smythe's review of this ship.

I have to say I have never read such a load of rubbish. All I can assume is this gentleman takes pleasure in finding fault, or he is in the employment of a Cunard rival.

The review in fact totally misrepresents the standards of this ship.

I don't propose to go through his numerous critisisms line by line, but surfice it to say these critisisms are simply not true.

This is a fantastic ship that remains true to the values of the best traditions of quality cruising.

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Transatlantic Crossing
Publication Date: June 2, 2007

I find that the POLL regarding the QM2 is flawed based on my own experience. We found the service to be EXCELLENT. The dining room staff, front desk people and cabin staff (including our daily breakfast being delivered to our cabin), could not have been more friendly, professional and cooperative. This is an international staff, many of whom work months without a break, and are earning funds to send home to Malasia, Bali, Boznia, The Ukraine, the Philippines and other exotic locations. They chatted with us about their lives when we asked, and we found that by treating the staff with respect and dignity they were even MORE service oriented and professional.

I don't hesitate to give the QM2 crew and staff a five star rating!

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Soythern Caribbean
Publication Date: December 29, 2006

Queen Mary 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EMBARKATION: Good and fairly quick (2 hours)

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

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


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Western Caribbean
Publication Date: December 9, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deck 10 is all staterooms.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

Day 2. At Sea

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

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

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

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


Day 7. At Sea

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

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

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

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Transatlantic Crossing
Publication Date: July 30, 2006

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

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


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

midday again.

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

The Cabin

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Entertainment & Activities

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

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

Ports of Call

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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Transatlantic Crossing
Publication Date: April 15, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Eastern Caribbean
Publication Date: December 21, 2005

Holiday Cruise, NYC to NYC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Eastern Canada
Publication Date: September 26, 2005

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

I. Ship Construction:

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

2.) Although

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

II. Food

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

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

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

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

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

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

III. Entertainment

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

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

IV. Service

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

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

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

V. The Mentality and Rudeness of the Ships' Officers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Transatlantic Crossing
Publication Date: August 27, 2005

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

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

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

a small table.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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