We recently (March 17) sailed to the Caribbean on the QM2 out of New York. I was reluctant to take this cruise for two reasons: the class/caste division imposed by Cunard; and some negative reviews I read on this website. But the lure of the new, biggest and most elegant ship could not be overcome, so we did the cruise despite my misgivings.
Despite my uncertainty about this trip, we came home with a very positive overall feeling. So, here is our experience.
Boarding was painless if somewhat lengthy. We faced the unnecessary unpleasantness of a Cunard representative asking us if we were "Platinum or Grill;" when we hesitated, she responded: "If you were, you would know" and diverted us to the steerage lines. So much for the not-so-subtle and always present class discrimination! Money (hopefully, not always class) hath its privilege.
As one guest at breakfast remarked to the table: ‘There certainly is a class distinction on this ship; and we put them all in the Grill quarters so as to deprive them of our company.' Too bad! This will always color my view of this majestic ship. My grandparents probably wouldhave probably felt the same nearly a century ago.
Once on board, we settled into our cabin on Deck 5 -- an "in hull" balcony stateroom that was spacious by most cruise line standards – with a small bottle of champagne. The baggage arrived on time; we unpacked and found spacious closets with more than enough hangers, etc.
Universally, the service by the ship's personnel was efficient and pleasant.
Contrary to the earlier reviews that I read, we found the food, ambience and service more than adequate. Not one meal was substandard and several were nearly up to the standard of the Todd English restaurant, which we also enjoyed. By chance we were lucky; we were seated in a small room at the back of the lower level of the Britannia dinning room. The noise level was so low that we could easily converse at dinner, and the waiting staff was not stressed. Try table 139 for four if you get a chance.
One review in this series complained about the ship's "plastic décor." OK, the paneling was not real wood, but I would not want to have a forest and species of plant life decimated for technical correctness. Also, the faux bronze bas-reliefs in some of the main corridors were fiberglass – but so what? This ship needed to be sleek and swift and energy efficient. You can't move something the size of four football fields by weighting it down with real bronze, real marble columns, and gigantic crystal chandeliers. The overall décor was typical British-understated elegance, not the glitzy faux opulence of many of other cruise liners. I liked the overall ambience. The fresh flowers were real and elegant.
Room for Improvement
Now, a few negatives. The overall view we heard from a number of guests was that the entertainment was substandard. We only lasted about 10 minutes at any of the shows, then retired to the small bars with some very good pianists/singers. We liked them very much, but I wish we could have found one bar that could warm a snifter so that the Remy Martin cognac could really be appreciated! How difficult is it to instruct barmen to execute that for a guest.
We are not gamblers; so, we enjoyed the usual dispensing of a few dollars while trying to be free rollers and then gave up to our better instincts. But one of our traveling companions who is a serious gambler found the Casino to his liking and profit.
I found it difficult to reconcile my billing summary on the last day because I was never given a guest copy of the tabs at any bar, etc. Unless you have a record of what you spent, you cannot check the bill presented on the last day. I had no problem with the final bill, but how could one dispute anything without documentation?
Also, the tabs included another line for an additional tip, even though a gratuity is already included. Fifteen percent is an adequate bar tip even in New York City. And the dining room service gratuity is automatically included in the final bill. Change your computer system.
Disembarkation is always more of a disaster for guests who are part of a travel agency group that gets preferential treatment with luggage retrieval. The mayhem that one experiences after a nicely controlled (if lengthy) disembarkation is followed by a harrowing experience of finding luggage and then going onward to ground transportation. It is always a distasteful end to what was generally a happy cruise experience.
Overall, it was a great and memorable experience. Our recommendations to others? Absolutely go, if you understand the realities of cruising.
This was the WORST cruise and the ugliest ship I have been on out of 12. We did a 2 week back to back for my mom's 80th birthday. We had to change cabins and get off for customs/immigration. My mom requires a wheel chair and the staff were very slow in providing this service. I had repeatedly requested, and was billed to have the room decorated for her birthday. It did not happen. Thankfully I brought some decorations and we did it ourselves.
1.Cabins are extremely small. We had 3 people in a balcony cabin. When the loveseat was opened there was no room to open the fridge or balcony doors. The bed blocked everything and to get into it I had to climb on bed #2. Forget using the washroom at night. The closet space was very small; 3 women - 2 wks of clothing (3 formal nights a week)hangars had 4 & 5 items on them. By the end of 3 days we were ready to jump off. Each of us paid the same price, usually the 3rd person gets a reduced price - you don'thave a real bed, it's a foldup love seat.
2.Deck 8 balcony cabins are FULLY obstructed by life boats. We paid extra for this ugly view!
3.The ship sailed in the Atlantic ocean not in the Caribbean Sea. Very windy, cold, rough waters. They changed the itinerary a year ago and did not advise passengers. People that booked the cruise specifically for San Juan (met and were married there, had family, friends they were going to visit were furious). We could not use the outside pool because of the cold. The inside pool was very small not enough room for passengers hiding from the brutal wind.
4.Very little in the way of activities and the entertainment was below average. Passengers were falling asleep during the shows. However the ballroom was beautiful. The band played from 10:00 to 12:00PM. Then that is it for the night unless you enjoy loud music at the disco. Even the casino closed at 12:30am or by 12:00am if we were in port the next day.
5. My mom who had turned 80 spent most of the time in her cabin. The ship was very confusing and all areas of the ship could not be reached by elevators. For seniors (majority of the passengers) it was a nightmare. They had to climb stairs, if they could not do this they were excluded. My mom was in tears many times. So much for a special birthday. It was to be her last trip but I feel guilty leaving her with such unpleasant memories that I am planning to take her back to Royal Caribbean, one of the best we've been on.
6.The staff were of no help, I explained and showed them correspondence with regard to the plans for my mother's birthday, flowers, champagne, ballons, a gift certificate, a birthday cake etc. and since it was not done for the 1st week could they do it for the 2nd. They assured me they would but did not. All our complaints fell on deaf ears. New staff did not know or care to know, the ones leaving did not care.
7. Very expensive--more than any other cruise I've been on. A glass of TAP water at the bar was $1.75US, not even bottled.
8. Only 3 channels on TV and the same shows repeat daily.
9. Photos were more money and the quality poor.
10. Same menu at breakfast. Different stations, hard to find a seat. If you reserved one you couldn't find it after you got the food.
11. Wrote Cunard a letter and they did not even apologize -- blamed our travel agent. Having been one I know they do not set the prices, they book through the cruiseline and must call in for pricing and availability which changes everyday. Agents do not make changes to the itinerary, provide the food, hire the people on board, or build the ships.
Shame on you Cunard. Our party of 5 gave you a 3 out of 10. You've lost our business forever and anyone else we can protect from making the same mistake. All marketing, big hype and no quality!!!!
Cunard Line Queen Mary 2 by paulras Southern Caribbean November 26, 2004
Embarkation - always annoying. NY's port is just awful. We had to drop off our luggage at one pier, walk out to another pier to obtain a number. Then we were instructed to walk down the hall to a holding area where our number would be called. After only 5 minutes, we were told to walk all the way back to the original pier where we sat in a security line before checking in. Fortunately, we ignored the 1:30 check-in time and arrived very early at 11:30. Security opened up at 12:15 and we were on the ship by about 12:40.
First impressions of the ship - it is really very big and at times hard to figure out how to get around even with the maps. Décor is very nice - not over-extravagant and not cheap.
Public areas on the ship: Britannia Dining Room - beautiful room, cozy but not crowded. Food was consistently good to very good.
Kings Court - haphazard confusion; such a big ship but bottlenecking occurs here way too often.
Queens Room - another beautiful room; verynostalgic of the big band era.
Pub - great food, open space.
Casino - seemed very small; only a few people create bottlenecks; lost my $$
Pools/Decks - spacious; never seemed crowded.
Commodore Club - wonderful lounge, excellent waiters. A truly hidden secret.
Winter Garden - rarely used room. I honestly never saw it being used.
G32 - great layout for a disco; music was too 70s. DJ Ed admitted that he's required to stick to the oldies since the crowd trends older.
Things to do: Spa - the best I've experienced at sea. Canyon Ranch is 1000% better than Steiner on other ships. The first time I ever regretted booking only 50 minutes for a massage.
Activities - not many going on. The ship tends to be more low-keyed.
Shows - unfortunately, the entertainment was sub-par except for the Opera tribute. The tribute to Judy Garland seemed like something Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel would have put on. I heard many people complain about many of the shows.
Shore excursions - basic excursions offered and fairly well organized. You can book on the TV, but some excursions forced you to run down to the tour office to book them for no apparent reason. Four of the five islands required tendering which makes those early morning excursions even earlier.
Planetarium - good shows but they didn't seem as exciting as the planetarium shows I saw when I was a kid. Maybe I've grown up too much! Though in both shows I attended, there were several people asleep snoring.
Todd English - the food was wonderful and well presented but the service was spotty. At times the waiters and maitre d' would check on things every minute, but when we had a problem with the tuna being overcooked, they disappeared. Plus we waited forever for coffee - came about 10 minutes after the dessert was served.
Television - the worst at sea. Only a few channels which tended to repeat the same shows or movies throughout the entire 10 days. Trust me, the Thanksgiving episode of Friends gets pretty boring after the 5th day.
Disembarkation - annoying again. We had to be out of the cabin by 8:30 and were to wait in the Queens Room until 10:45. No breakfast after 8:30, so the wait was unbearable. Fortunately, at about 10:15, they announced (in person) that our deck could leave before the other two decks ahead of us. Didn't make sense, but we were glad to leave after waiting 90 minutes.
Overall: The ship is beautiful, well kept and very stable on the ocean. The large size makes it difficult to find your way around - I can't tell you how many times we had to cut through the dining room when it was closed because we went the wrong way. But there was little need for the gym because of all the walking.
The Commodore Club was a great retreat and the spa was wonderful. The service all over the ship was very good; not extraordinary but very good. Spotty service in Todd English. Activities during the day tend to be on the light side. Some may find it boring.
My biggest gripe is the tendering. The ship doesn't fit in many ports. Only one port (Barbados) could take us. It's really a pain to have to wait for tenders all the time and in Martinique our tender had to sit in the water 30 minutes more because there was a backup at the pier.
Overall, the 10 day trip was a very good one. We enjoyed ourselves but were never really Wow'ed. Having been on Celebrity twice before, we feel that the QM2 falls slightly short on service and food but was still quite good. I would travel on QM2 again, but Celebrity would be my first pick.
We arrived in Southampton after an early morning flight during which the pilot knocked a wheel off!! We got to the dockside in good time and were there by 10:30am. Upon arrival we were approached by a member of Cunard staff and informed that check in would open in about half an hour, which it did. After a smooth check in, we proceeded to the waiting area to look out at the ship. I had forgotten just how big she was! She really is enormous. We were amongst the first to board and had been on the ship about 10 seconds when we heard a voice say "James?" It was the DJ whom we had made friends with first time. We were remembered by all the crew from our first cruise on her, even down to our preference for sesame seed bread rolls! Our bags were in our cabin when we got there along with a complimentary bottle of champagne, which we took up to the sailaway with us.
Once the emergency boat drill was done we were ready to go! On time and with no problems we slipped ourmoorings and headed out into the solent and the sun! We decided to get room service on the first night as we had been allocated early seating, we booked very late and this was the only option left available. I am glad to say that room service was very quick and the food not bad at all. We headed up to the bars, we went to the Commodore Club for the first time and James decided to have a cigar in the Churchill Lounge. What an experience, lovely leather chairs, an amazing humidor with every cigar known to man, expertly cut and lit and drinks brought to the table. I thoroughly recommend the appletinis. We sat with some new friends listening to the fog horn whilst we were cozy and snug in our lounge, seemingly in suspended animation! Fantastic. And then down to the casino and G32 to dance the night away.
We then had a day at sea and took the opportunity to get reacquainted with the ship and our favorite spots. Deck seven, with a good book from the superb onboard library, the largest afloat, is a particular favorite. We ate in the Britannia that night. We had a lovely table for two and the service and food were both excellent, I am happy to report. Again, we stayed up all night dancing in G32.
We chose to do an organized tour only in Rome and our own thing in the other stops. Our first stop was in Vigo, Spain. When we arrived, it looked like a dreary, industrial town, but we thought we'd go and take a look. Well we were pleasantly surprised. What a fantastic place to wander around and explore! We ate at a cafe on the dock with a great view of the channel and the ship. It was very good value for money, we had expected it to be overpriced.
Back on board and ready for sailaway. Out to the back and the band, Xtasea, started playing as we pushed away from the dock. We had a flotilla of boats to lead us out, a TV helicopter flying with us and thousands lining the shore to wave goodbye to the new Queen of the Seas. We then ate in the Lotus, which has a tasting menu, lots of dishes to try, eleven in total. The food was of a very high standard and the waitstaff were superb. My husband is allergic to shell fish and they replaced these dishes with no problems.
Another couple of days at sea saw us heading to Livorno, via a technical stop in Cueta. This stop was to replace Gibraltar. We asked about and were told that the stop in Gibraltar was cancelled due to the dock not having been dredged. We ate in the Britannia again and again I can report no problems.
We received our gold worldclub member pins this time and were invited to a cocktail party. I am very pleased to report that this is at 11am and includes lots of free alcohol, I chose to take it easy and only had a couple of glasses of champagne.
We arrived into a cloudy and overcast Livorno, port for Pisa and Florence. We disembarked just as the storm arrived, thunder, lightning and torrential rain! We took the free shuttle into the town centre and jumped on a bus to the train station. We made our own way to Pisa, cheap and very easy to do! We were back on board by 3:30pm and I was off to the Spa. I had chosen to have a Cocoon treatment. I have never been so relaxed in my life, well worth $109.00, which included an exfoliating mitt and extra moisturizer to take home. The spa staff are helpful, courteous, discreet and very thorough.
We left Livorno to the sound of a traditional band on the dock side and thousands of well-wishers lining the shore.
Rome, Italy. I am very glad we chose to do the ship organized excursion here as Civatevecchia is so far from Rome itself. The tour disembarkation was very smooth, we had heard of problems in Livorno, but we had no problems at all. The coach was modern, clean and comfortable. The guide, Serena, spoke excellent English and was very knowledgeable. We picked up another guide at the Vatican, Barbara, again she spoke excellent English and was again very knowledgeable. We also visited the Coliseum and then had free time. My only complaint is that we didn't have long enough in Rome, 9 hours, so we will be going back. We then had another day at sea to Athens.
We also ate in the Carvery and La Piazza on this trip. The food in the Carvery is traditional British roasts. It was good quality and plentiful, this is not suitable for vegetarians at all. I wouldn't recommend La Piazza to anyone, we didn't enjoy it much at all. I ate the swordfish and I would say it was average and my husband did not enjoy the lamb at all, the tiramisu was very good though. The service was fairly good here, but not the greatest.
We spent a day docked in Athens, before disembarking and flying home, we chose to remain on board and soak up the sun. People were disembarking from 3am due to strange flight times. It was very smoothly done, considering the security surrounding the ship. Speaking of security, we had two submarines, two warships, were blocked in by floating barrage balloons and lots of gunships whilst in Athens. Also the FBI, MI5 and MI6 sweeping the ship due to the high profile she has and the people due to stay on her in Athens.
For our last two nights it was back to the Britannia,we had managed to sort a late seating, thanks to Rey, an assistant maitre'd, who was one of the serving team from our last cruise. We had to send a dish back this time, a medium rare steak that was too rare for us. It was replaced in under thirty seconds. We really had no service issues at dinner throughout the whole trip. The bar staff in the golden lion, especially, were excellent. We love G32 and spent many a happy hour there.
We had a really great time and are already looking forward to our next trip. Long may she rule the seas.
Food, very good in the Britannia, Golden lion, Carvery and Lotus.
Service, excellent throughout.
Entertainment, we only went to one show, but it was very good and the day time entertainment was superb.
Cabins, Very good size, always kept clean and our stewardess was just great. Always saying hello when we passed in the hall and very quick with anything we wanted.
Tours, the one tour we took was good quality, but we could have done with longer in the Vatican. The tour office however are still rude and surly when questioned about the cost of the airport transfer in Athens.
Staff, friendly and great fun to be with, keep us coming back, again and again!
Room service fast, on time and good as you can expect from any room service.
Dress, the dress codes are enforced in the Britannia and grills. Formal is formal, evening gowns and tuxedos.
To put her size into perspective, the Westerdam sailed past and we all said, "gosh, this is a big ship!" We utterly love her and are planning our next trip. We just can't stay away.
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 anda 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 email@example.com or check my travel blog at http://talkingtransportation.blogspot.com/
This voyage onboard the Queen Mary 2 was my second cruise. A cruise a few years ago on the Celebrity Millennium convinced us that a cruise vacation could meet, if not exceed, those on land. After a wonderful experience with Celebrity and the barrage of media coverage of the QM2, we had extremely high expectations for this trip.
Embarkation in New York City went very well. Cunard provides a required boarding time in your tickets. The time given for us was 3pm. We arrived shortly after noon and were on the ship by 1pm. As we entered the ship on deck three, a line of white-gloved staff welcomed us aboard and pointed out the direction to our stateroom.
Upon arrival in our Britannia Class cabin we found a chilled bottle of sparkling wine compliments of Cunard (or our travel agent). Both in their size and character, the cabins on the QM2 are very similar to those on Celebrity Millennium-class ships. Enough closet and draw space for three or four was available, a cozy bathroom with shower, interactive television, and two chairs and a desk. The only complaint with the room is that thehairdryer provided is attached awkwardly inside a drawer. For our cruise, the room was very well designed.
The ship itself is simply beautiful. Everywhere one turns there is a new work of art or another corner to explore. The Grand Lobby and Britannia Restaurant steal the show. These rooms are reminiscent of salons found on ocean liners of the past. In the evenings as passengers meander from salon to salon, the Queen Mary 2 truly glitters.
Dinning in Britannia each evening was wonderful. Both the service and food were excellent. Entree choices ranged from Surf and Turf to many varieties of seafood (including lobster) to chicken -- each excellently prepared and expertly served. Desserts were heavenly. Comparing the QM2 again with our experience on Celebrity, the dinning in Britannia did fall a bit short: on formal nights Celebrity served sorbet between courses to cleanse the pallet -- QM2 did not, also meals were four (or five) courses but one was expected awkwardly use the same fork and knife for at least two courses such as appetizer and salad as enough silverware was not presented on the table. Overall, the dinning experience in Britannia was similar to a 4-star restaurant on land.
There is no shortage of other dinning options on the QM2. Breakfast and lunch in the Kings Court buffet restaurant are very good. Kings Court is divided into four areas, each highlighting a different theme of food such as Asian, Italian, and meat and potatoes. At lunchtime the restaurant can become a bit crazy as passengers search for the buffet line of their choice. Kings Court also provides a buffet tea in the afternoons. However, for a classic British experience take tea in the Queen's Room. Wonderful tea, finger sandwiches, pastries, and scones combine with beautiful music and flawless service to produce the highlight of any afternoon. Another fun stop for a meal is the Golden Lion Pub. The fish and chips here was amazing. In the warm weather of the Caribbean, the staff also set up buffets on the pool deck during parties. Breakfast room service was also very good and arrived punctually.
Entertainment on the QM2 was superb. Shows in the Royal Court Theatre ranging from Broadway-style to comedians received nightly applause. The singers and dancers performed many old favorites as well as new material. The venue the Royal Court Theatre is a beautiful room however many oddly-placed support pillars make sightlines horrible in some places.
Other entertainment onboard was also top-notch. The bands in the lounges, Queen's Room Orchestra, string ensemble, harpist, and pianist were all excellent. The Black and White Ball in the Queen's Room is not to be missed; however, coming later might be a good idea so the party is in full swing which is the case for many events on the ship. The Pirate's Ball was a bit amateurish and seemed out of place on the QM2. The poolside band which also played in G32 was phenomenal and made sure everyone was having a blast! The deck parties while in the Caribbean were a load of fun and the staff even set up outdoor buffets. The planetarium shows in the Illuminations Theatre were also very good and something interesting and novel to watch on a day at sea. We did not attend any lectures but many were rebroadcast on the cabin television throughout the cruise. On the whole, there was no shortage of excellent entertainment on the Queen Mary 2.
Workout and exercise facilities onboard were very good and available free of charge. No one in our party used any of the spa services, however, the spa offered a variety of services including personal trainers, massages, hair styling, etc.
As a final note, and again comparing the QM2 with Celebrity, both lines offer wonderful cruising experiences that I would call very similar. Some things offered by Cunard Line on QM2 were not present on Celebrity - and vise versa. I found it odd that pool/beach towels were provided in the cabin on the QM2 while no towels were present poolside if one forgot to bring their towel along from the room. Self-service laundry facilities are available on many decks on the QM2 and are a nice addition to the ship.
Our voyage on the Queen Mary 2 was wonderful and by far one of our favorite vacations. The ship is stunning and the service is excellent. While the name Queen Mary 2 suggests cruises onboard will be the last word in luxury, the QM2 should be equated with a 4-star resort - excellent, but still room for improvement. Will we cruise again on the QM2? I hope to go again as soon as possible.
Queen Mary 2 is an absolutely remarkable ship. Whether it is a return trip or your first time aboard, this classic ocean liner continues to WOW you. There was not a moment during our magnificent trip that I didn't find myself staring in awe at the gorgeous interiors and elegant surroundings within QM2. Each moment, each day aboard QM2 is a gift. She grows on you and hypnotizes you. One can't help but feel an enormous amount of respect for the designers and engineers that created this grand dame of the seven seas. QM2 is everything she is cracked up to be and more.
Our check-time was 1 pm. We arrived at the New York Cruise Ship Terminal about 12:30 pm. The lack of any type of Cunard representative was the biggest drawback early on. Regardless of your boarding time passengers were herded into a large holding area upstairs. We sat there for about 20 minutes and soon after were told to line up at the security check in. Apparently, a new boarding procedure was in effect during our March 9 departure and there seemed to be a lot of confusion.However, once we lined up and made it through the security clearance area it was just a 10 minute wait to line up and receive our QM2 boarding passes.
Despite the early boarding gaffs we were among the fortunate one's and were aboard ship by 1:30 pm. A computer glitch later that day delayed many other passengers from boarding as expediently as we had.
We were booked in cabin 11072, port side. I was curious as to how bright the room would be due to the deck 12 overhang. The room allowed plenty of sunlight. Both my girlfriend and I found our room to be very comfortable and spacious for two. There is ample storage area. The interior cream décor is very soothing. The mattress and linens are very comfortable. We also enjoyed the robes and slippers finding them to be very cozy. It gets a trifle dodgy if you are exiting the bathroom while someone is looking in the closet. I had heard others complain about joggers and shuffleboard sounds spiraling down the steel framework of the ship, yet, we heard nary a sound on our 8 days at sea, save for the ocean gurgling and fizzing below.
The service on QM2 has vastly improved since my trip last July. I would say it has taken a 360 degree turn for the better. Our head waiter Woody and his assistant Marvin were very friendly and polished. We never waited long for our appetizers, entrees or for our plates to be cleared. All of our meals were delicious, the soups in particular were very tasty. You must try the chilled fruit soups, they are super. Keep your eyes peeled for the English Sticky pudding, it has a caramel topping that is sublime.
We received equally excellent service from the other Britannia staff during breakfast and lunch when seating is open. We were particularly fond of Roslyn who catered to our whims with great gusto and style at breakfast. Roslyn is a true Cunard pro, she has been aboard QM2 since the maiden voyage and prior to that spent three years in Caronia Class aboard QE2. The entire restaurant staff are a unified force to be reckoned with. You need only watch these hardworking waiters and waitresses scampering like white rabbits amid the culinary wonderland that is Britannia.
This is a sumptuous affair and ranks among the highlights of our trip. I would recommend skipping lunch one day in order to properly prepare yourself for an enjoyable experience. As fate would have it we returned rather late from our beach excursion in St Martin, and were quite ravenous. Once again the service was perfect. Troops of white gloved waiters arrived with trays of tantalizing offerings. The delicious array of triangular sandwiches sans crusts consisted of egg, ham and cheese and a splendid salmon and cream cheese. I always like to show my support for the fine QM2 bake staff and once again there were up to the task with a delectable selection of sweets. Much has been written about the famed English scone and clotted cream, it is fact quite delicious.
My only critical remark of the entire affair is the tea had not been properly steeped and the first two cups were rather weak. The entire repast is something to savor however. Sitting in the gigantic and opulent Queens Ballroom which stretches the entire width of QM2 and seeing the hilltop of a tropical island through the far window and watching a tourist pirate schooner sail by an adjacent window is the stuff that fantasy is made of.
Each of these elaborate lounges has a distinct ambience all its own. Everything and everywhere aboard QM2 sparkles. The faux wood veneer in the elevators is so bright it appears to have a holographic effect in its shine. The detail continues in every inch of this ship from the ornate carpeting to the noble friezes that line the hallways. The Samuel Cunard Wine Bar, The Chart Room and the Veuve Cliquot Champagne Bar are all accessed via deck 3. Of the three the most popular and one of our favorite is the Chart Room. This grand room with its high ceilings and art-deco design is the perfect spot for a pre or post supper cocktail. Should you decide to skip the show, you will have the entire lounge to yourself. The Chart Room is also the spot to hear some wonderful piano playing at the hands of the inimitable Barty Brown.
One level down 2 deck is the home for the Golden Lion Pub. We were frequent visitors to this cozy lounge each morning at 11:30 am for pub trivia. We garnered three victories and with our winning tickets were enabled to shop for gifts at the end of the voyage. I picked up a lovely leather QM2 eyeglass holder while my girlfriend traded her tickets for a nifty QM2 key fob. At night the jazz trio at the Golden Lion really cooks.
This is also the venue for an enjoyable evening of horse racing. After two races, the six horses are put up for auction and a special Owners Race is held the following evening during the Big Band Dance at the Queens Ballroom. We purchased the six horse and had good fun decorating and carting him around the ship, I felt a bit like a QM2 pledge. It was good fun, especially after our horse won the coveted Owners Race.
Don't miss the Commodore Club on Deck 9 forward. In the evening this cool and sleek venue oozes sophistication with it's leather arm chairs, neon lighting and a magnificent, monolithic model of QM2 behind the bar. During our voyage this lounge was often quiet, I don't think many people ventured to this nocturnal nook, but you should.
We made our reservation within the first hour we were aboard ship. While it is possible to make reservations for restaurants and excursions through the inter-active television in your cabin, I always prefer to do it in person. I reserved all of our excursions through the television and then confirmed them at the tour office on 2 deck. As is turned out the in-cabin booking system wasn't working, so always best to go in person. We chose to dine at Todd English toward the end of our voyage, to have something else to look forward to. I would highly recommend not eating lunch, high tea or a bag of chips prior to this meal.
The mediterranean menu consists of some exquisite but, very filling and rich offerings. The service here was very thorough and attentive. The curious choice of rock n roll background music was promptly changed to a more appropriate jazz sampling after a fellow passenger complained. Our waitress suggested that we try two appetizers. I would suggest only one and save room for your entrée. We both had the Lobster Chowder. At first it seemed rather innocent, a giant china tureen is served with a modicum of cooked lobster and a fraction of garnishes. A moment later our waitress appeared clutching a French Press containing the main body of this extremely flavorful soup which she then poured into our giant bowls.
For our second appetizer choices I tried the pear and goat cheese salad, very tasty. My girlfriend opted for the lobster risotto which was served in an immense tray. The lobster was plump and juicy, the risotto was lovely.
By the time our entrees arrived we were full. I ordered the Halibut, flaky and moist perfectly cooked but, I was barely able to make a dent in it. The fallen chocolate cake for dessert was very good. By the time we adjourned from our supper though we both could walked back to New York, I felt as if I had eaten a small anchor.
I find in general excursions are really a crap shoot. The sole excursion I booked on the QE2 Christmas Cruise in 2003 was a blast, a jeep 4x4 jaunt in Barbados. I went hog wild on this trip and booked three excursions. In St. Thomas we took the Panoramic Tour. While I've been to this island many times I hadn't really seen much of it. Don't waste your time with this one. We climbed up into the twisting hills. Enjoyed some lovely views but, after the first epic view of the harbor and QM2 the rest is much the same. The tour also included the obligatory stop for a banana daiquiri at a spot called the Mountain Top. A very touristy location cluttered with two-bit t-shirts and run of the mill muck. The balance of the tour was dull. Our guide pointed out 75 mango trees and at least one scurrying iguana.
St. Kitts is a beautiful island. It rained quite a bit, though the sun did peek out. We chose the Rocky Roller Drive. This tour was more enjoyable and our guide was very knowledgeable of the area. Once again we climbed into the hills this time aboard a converted British Troop Truck. There was a good deal of lurching and straining. We strolled through the rain forest, watched a band of monkeys bound into the bushes. The locals were all very friendly and waved to us as we drove by. The downside of this tour was a ridiculous stop at a miserable excuse for a plantation, it was nothing but a shabby, worn old house. There was a bar below that offered complimentary punch. I feel as if you put your faith in Cunard to deliver a solid excursion and then end up being taken for a ride with these absurd stopovers in tourist traps. The 4 hour beach excursion in St. Martin was our favorite. The best part about any excursion is the thrill of returning to QM2!
If you are signed up for a morning excursion you must meet in the Royal Court Theater around 8:45 am and await for your tour to be called. If you are not signed up for a tour it's best to wait till around noon or so before descending to one deck. Afternoon tours meet at the pier. We never had to wait for a tender to arrive when we were ashore. Arriving back at the ship isn't too bad, just a matter of waiting in a short line while security scans bagged items and checks identification cards.
We adored this incredible ship. The cruise staff works hard to ensure everyone is enjoying themselves. I particularly liked the assistant cruise director, a very personable and friendly chap. It will be interesting to see what QM2 will look like after she goes into dry dock this November. The rumors we heard were the Champagne Bar would be history, along with the Wintergarden which will serve as extended area for the Kings Court. It would be a shame to see the Veuve Cliquot Bar go by the wayside, although, it was almost always empty.
QM2 attracts a wide spectrum of passengers. One of the highlights for us was the great friendships we made aboard. From our Cruise Critic Cronies to our Pub Trivia Pals. The open seating at lunch and breakfast is condusive to meeting a wealth of fine folk. Not too mention tablemates at dinner. We often asked people how they were enjoying QM2, most said they loved the ship. Some people however continue to moan and groan. I cannot fathom how anyone would have a negative comment for this classic ocean liner. Several people quibbled over the B elevators being too small. Others still griped that ship is too large. At least one fellow complained about the engine being too loud. Out of 2600 hundred passengers you will never please everyone. I suppose for every 2600 hundred people that gawk into the Grand Canyon many people are struck by it's majesty and immensity while others find it to be nothing but a giant hole in the ground.
I stood on the observation deck in St. Martin while the massive Adventure of the Seas steamed by, her decks filled with hordes of passengers getting their fill of QM2. Shortly thereafter, this quiet moment was traded for two trios of triumphant horn blasts as the ships took part in a mutual salute and their mighty horns echoed into the Caribbean night. That's magic, folks. A cruise on QM2 is a state of perpetual bliss, she is the jewel in the Cunard crown long may she sail and may we be transported along with her on purely blissful pursuits.
The Cruise was simply not acceptable.
From misspelling my partners name which took several attempts to correct (remember the card is used as ship ID for boarding and needs to match the passport) to the lack of concern about an item lost in boarding, the check in process lacked what was to be expected.
Stateroom, we had a hull balcony, forget looking out your window and seeing anything but metal. The ship even took out banister out for a new coat of varnish and took 4 days to return it, You would never want to sit on the verandah it is so enclosed.
The Shower was tiny and the water temperature very unpredictable with sudden bursts of hot or very cold water. Closets way too small. We hate late dinner seating, so of course our maid knocked on our door about 30 mins before dinner to do service day after day while we were getting dressed. We asked her to come after the start of dinner but she never comprehended this and just dumped the towels everyday.
Activities, Very limited and none after 4-5PM unless you wanted to sit in a bar. Entertainmentwas promised as Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. They dropped this and now it is the Solid Gold Dancers talent-less and embarrassing. A few of the special acts were OK but there was nothing I would ever call really decent.
Ship, Basically a plastic museum of the way it used to be, lots of placards of the past, all it made you feel was sad they have forgotten the past except to use it to dupe you into thinking you might get a taste of it on this ship. No grand gathering place.
Food, In Brittania the choices were a bit limited and the food just acceptable. The Kings Court was a disgusting tasteless abomination. It was worse than a bad cheap Vegas buffet. I have nothing good at all to say about it.
Service, They do not know the meaning of the word. There is NONE. The Kings Court was blank stares, failure to meet any need, closing earlier than promised, managers who simply do not care. By the end of the cruise every passenger was saying the same things. I cannot say enough bad about service. One Brittania manager did her best to help us, without her I would have left the cruise early-I thanked her with a pair of Diamond & Tanzanite Earrings on the last night. The casino people were also good. The rest should be made to swim with the fishes!
There is much more I could say, none of it good. I will never cruise with them again.
Cunard Line Queen Mary 2 by jwfhunts Southern Caribbean November 16, 2004
Having been on Queen Mary 2 for a somewhat disappointing Caribbean cruise in March 2004, we decided some nine months later to "try" the ship again to see if the problems encountered in March had been resolved and if the level of service and food had improved - we were not disappointed. For this cruise, we chose the New Yorker's Caribbean cruise, departing from New York on 16 November 2004. We booked Cunards fly/cruise programme from the United Kingdom. Pre-cruise documentation and information were issued on time; all was correct, relevant and informative.
At London Heathrow airport, we had an early check-in for our 8.20am departure to New York. At check-in a uniformed Cunard Representative was available to ensure that procedures progressed smoothly. The flight departed and arrived on schedule and on arrival in New York, after having passed through Immigration and Customs; we were greeted by a Cunard member of staff who directed us to our waiting coach for the transfer to the pier. After a short drive to the pier in Manhattan, luggage was quickly taken from the coach tothe ship. The ship looked stunning and the first view of it had many of the passengers in the coach gasp with awe. The flight and transfer procedures were excellent, though I do wish that Cunard would re-introduce the included pre-cruise one night stay option at point of departure of the ship. As they now use same day connections to the ship from the UK, passengers travelling from UK Regional airports have to overnight at a London Heathrow hotel, as regional UK flights are not available to connect with the early morning departure to New York. It makes it a very long day, with the early start and 5 hour time difference. At the pier we had to queue for almost two hours to board the vessel. Whilst this was frustrating, the need for the security for guests, crew and the ship is perfectly understandable, and procedures within the terminal building were in place to have passengers screened just as quickly as possible. When one actually arrived at the check-in desk, check-in was swift and efficient.
On boarding Queen Mary 2, guests are directed, rather than escorted to their staterooms, though members of staff are available on each floor level to further assist guests to reach their cabins. For this cruise, we chose a C1 grade outside cabin. This was situated immediately below the promenade deck which is also used as the jogging deck, unfortunately some guests on board did not adhere to the time schedules for using the deck for jogging and some noise from guests could be heard the cabins below though this was not excessive. The cabin was extremely spacious, decorated in light colours was warm, inviting and extremely comfortable. The cabin was airy and had excellent lighting. Drawer space and closet space is limited but adequate for a ten-day cruise. Beds are large, comfortable and furnished with crisp white sheets and light but effective duvets. The cabin was equipped with a compact en-suite shower room, a hairdryer, fridge, The television system on this ship is amazing and it actually is of benefit to spend a short time exploring the television in the stateroom, from here, you can order room service, see your bill, find out what's on, see who is who and so much more. The en-suite bathroom was adequate, there was always piping hot water and good pressure from the shower. Complimentary Canon Ranch toiletries were available.
Cabins were thoroughly serviced twice a day with great attention to detail - fresh flowers were watered regularly and other little `personal touches` were noticeable. Fluffy white towels were changed as necessary.
In relation to cabins, it is interesting to note that in the 2005 brochure, balcony cabins on decks 4,5 and 6 (grades B3, B4, B5 and B7). which I call `hole in the wall cabins` are now described as `sheltered balcony cabins`, and that obstructed view balcony cabins have been re-classified as B6 grades.
Notification of our dining allocation was contained in the copious amount of literature available and this was as per our request at the time of reservation. All the information awaiting us in the stateroom was relevant, factual and useful.
There is a reasonable room service menu available 24 hours a day as well as a full breakfast service between 7.00am and 10.00am. Food ordered was promptly delivered, well presented and of good quality.
A word of warning - The light on the stateroom telephone indicating that there is a message waiting is so dim that it is hard to see, even in the dark - so messages can be easily missed. The cost of telephoning from the cabins and also the use of e-mail facilities on board are not cheap.
The ship itself is spectacular both in décor and appointment. Though plastic ashtrays in the Winter Garden do look out of place. The ship is maintained in an absolutely spotless condition throughout. Life on board is more casual than on other Cunard ships. I think that the expression - sophisticated without being snooty describes it perfectly.
At this stage we decided it was time to eat so we proceeded to the Kings Court for some food. Regretfully, whilst the food on display at all the stations looked appetising, was well displayed, and tasted good - this food service court is somewhat confusing as one has to visit and queue at many dispensaries to obtain their requirements. This area could have been designed better to be more user friendly but in saying that the food served in this area throughout the cruise was in general very good. The lack of staff available to assist guests who have difficulty in carrying trays was noticeable, as was the time taken to clear and refresh vacated tables.
The customary Muster Drill was scheduled for 5.00pm. In March I made comment that the notices on display on the back of cabin doors indicating the whereabouts of the Muster station should actually name the room where one should muster rather than show a marked deck plan. This would be very useful, as many guests had difficulty in finding their actual Muster Station, as was the case in March. Unfortunately this has not been acted on.
On completion of the Muster Drill, the Captain announced that our departure from New York was delayed to 8.00pm, due to operational reasons. This would not however delay our scheduled arrival time at our first port of call - St Martin.
On returning to our stateroom, our luggage was already in our cabin - not bad when one saw the huge amounts of luggage coming on board.
We were scheduled for first seating dinner at 6.00pm, we chose this rather than the later option of 8.30pm in The Britannia Restaurant, as the earlier time best suited our needs. Our first meal in the Britannia Restaurant was excellent - there was a wide choice on the menu, served by most energetic and efficient waiters. The food was hot and well presented. Service was slick but not intrusive, quick but not rushed, a theme, which continued throughout the cruise at dinner. Our section waiter at the beginning of each meal carefully explained the contents of each dish to us. It was obvious that during the past number of months, Cunard has spent a great deal of time improving the operation and service in the Britannia and certainly it has now reached if not exceeded the Cunard standards that we know and expect at dinner at any rate. We were fortunate in this regard but we did hear from others who were very disappointed at the standard of service, so whilst we were very satisfied some stations in the Britannia have still to get there.
After dinner it was time to explore Queen Mary 2 and watch our departure from the port of New York which was spectacular - there is something beautiful about leaving this port in the evening with the lights of the buildings twinkling in the background.
The welcome aboard show was varied, though typical of most welcome aboard shows on cruise ships, however in the Royal Court Theatre there are a number of seats which have obstructed views of the stage, so be aware of this, additionally, it tends to get very hot in the upper level. The theatre is very busy most evenings. My advice is to go early and get a good seat.
On this first day, the thing that was most noticeable was that the crew seemed to me more relaxed and happy, they smiled and acknowledged guests in corridors and other public areas, with the simple greeting of good afternoon or good evening - this continued throughout the cruise - such a change from March when they seemed to be so tense, sullen and disinterested.
Two days at sea followed. It is pleasing that Cunard has the policy of not making un-necessary announcements over the ships loudspeaker system. Each day had a full programme of events catering for all tastes. From Enrichment lectures, to quizzes, from Bingo to Art Auctions, (which in my opinion have now outlived their usefulness on all cruise ships) from Dance Instruction classes to deck tournaments - there is something for everyone - the full details are published the evening before and delivered to each cabin in the Daily Programme. Unfortunately the Port and shopping lectures dealt more with shopping than providing information on the actual ports. A good way of exploring the ship is to join one of the many ship familiarisation tours. There are shops on board to tempt you with their wares, one of the best libraries afloat, an excellent gymnasium, a beautiful spa and lots more to occupy the day. A visit to the Canon Ranch Spaclub is a must for those who wish to be pampered - there are wide ranges of excellent treatments available and not un-realistic prices. A number of swimming pools and lots of decks space to catch the rays during the day are available - the list of events is endless.
Food, food glorious food, is available almost 24 hours a day in the Kings Court -the buffet style system in operation on deck 7, whilst in my opinion it is not really user-friendly as previously mentioned, offers a wide choice of fresh, and attractively displayed food, catering for all tastes. The wide breakfast menu is excellent both in the buffet and in the Britannia Restaurant - however it was noticeable that Fruit Juices available were very weak, as if they had been watered down to such an extent that it was difficult to actually taste the flavour - On occasions in the Britannia Restaurant at breakfast, service was unacceptably slow - a wait of 45 minutes from ordering until the fruit juice arrived. - When the main course arrived some further 15 minutes later, it was more often than not what we had indeed ordered - on most occasions the breakfast hot food was only just luke warm. I brought this to the attention of the assistant maitre-de in-charge of the section at the time and also to the attention of the Pursers Office - but many others guests experienced the same thing. This matter needs Urgent attention. The Britannia Restaurant operates as open seating for both breakfast and lunch. For a typical English style pub lunch - the Golden Lion pub is outstanding, especially the fish, chips and mushy peas. Formal afternoon teas on all Cunard ships are served in the finest British tradition - from freshly cut sandwiches, to scones with fresh cream to calorie-controlled (if only) cakes in the elegant Queens Room - a far superior location than the Winter Garden which was previously used or informally in the Lotus eatery. In the evening, the ship takes on a completely different character and transformation, especially in the Kings Court dining area. Numerous specialty restaurants are available for that perfect evening meal - note that some of these restaurants require advance reservation and some have an additional but not expensive service charge. In relation to alternative restaurants, The Todd English restaurant is open for both lunch and dinner but reservations are a must - whilst I did not experience this particular restaurant, reports from other guests were good - members of my group remarked that it had exceeded their expectations an ideal place for a meal to celebrate a special occasion.
The evening entertainment programme was varied, professional and indeed entertaining. The young and enthusiastic Royal Cunard singers and dancers gave it their all - the three major shows performed were outstanding. Guest entertainers on others evenings did exactly what they were engaged to do - entertain - Cunard have now got it right in respect of variety, excellence in respect of the individual artistes and scheduling of evening entertainment events.
Bars took on a different ambiance with different styles and types of music filtering from each - again something for everyone. Drinks were attractively presented, full of content and reasonably priced. In saying this a 15% automatic gratuity is added to all drinks on board. However on the receipt document they have a section for guests to include a tip if required - this is already included and in my opinion is `naughty`. The layout of the receipt is presented in such a way to confuse passengers - Cunard - don't be greedy. A gratuity and a tip are the same thing.
Thankfully in these times of cutbacks, one of the oldest traditions of cruising is still maintained by Cunard - the Captains Welcome Onboard Cocktail party - albeit of a shorter duration - as a frequent cruiser, I still enjoy these most formal of formal events. True you have to queue to meet the Captain, but in the end its worth it - unfortunately many cruise companies have wiped this great social event onboard from their schedules - please Cunard or should I say to the President of the Carnival Corporation - keep this event ongoing. especially on the ships of the Cunard and P&O fleet.
There also seems to be also a vast reduction in the number of Officer Hosted tables at dinner.
Photographers as on all cruise ships were all around the vessel to catch those special moments on camera. Portraits while of good quality were expensive. The Photoshop offered a wide range of facilities, including developing services, cameras and accessories for sale and simply offering advice.
Well stocked and well laid out shops on board offered a wide range of good quality merchandise and fairly reasonable prices - the staff were friendly, and anxious to satisfy the customers needs rather than just make a sale. However the setting up of tables for `sales` in the passageway on deck two, turned the area into what looked like a public market - this should be dis-couraged by the ships on-board management.
The shore excursion office offers, interesting and a variety of tours of differing durations in each of the ports of call. These can be booked via your stateroom interactive television, by completing a booking forms and dropping it off in a box at the office or by personally visiting the office. Staff on duty were most knowledgeable and gave frank and honest opinions as to tours best suited to guests requirements. Do book early as some of the most popular tours do get booked out quickly. There were mixed reports as to the quality and content of the tours offered. Numerous passengers complained of the poor quality of tours especially in St. Thomas, together with the aggressive attitude of some drivers demanding `tips` and making guests `feel uncomfortable` if they didn't subscribe to the `suggested amount`.
The Pursers Office is open 24 hours a day and staff on duty were totally professional in their approach, taking time to listen to exactly what the passenger enquiry or complaint was and dealing with the enquiry or problem in a sympathetic, yet decisive manner resulting in most cases to satisfactory resolution.
The Future Cruise Sales Office - office? -It is more like a cupboard tucked away under the stairs from the main thoroughfare on Deck 3, has an excellent and knowledgeable staff but who must be frustrated to have to work in such cramped conditions. There is very little in the way of privacy for guests wishing to discuss their future cruise requirements. This is a popular and no doubt very profitable office for the company - yet there are no seats or indeed a place to even to wait other than in the corridor, if both the consultants are busy. This office needs to be re-located to gain maximum benefit and increase its potential.
During the next five days the ship visited the delightful and so different islands in the Caribbean of St. Martin, Martinique, Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Thomas. Regretfully the weather was not kind on our visit to the islands, incessant rain most days until we reached our last port of call, St Thomas, when the sun shone all day.
Queen Mary 2, being so large has to anchor at many ports of call. On this cruise, Barbados was the only port where the ship could dock. At all the other ports, she commanded her position at her anchorage point as the true "Queen of the Seas." There was no mistake the Queen Mary 2 was in town.
The organisation and tendering ashore procedures were excellent. When one considers that some 2600 people may want to go ashore at an anchor port, in addition to the crew members who have time off, we never had to wait longer than 10 minutes to catch a tender from the ship to the shore. A slight delay did occur in St Lucia due to the fact that the weather was so bad and only half of the number of tenders could be used, but again the waiting time was minimal.
I had many reservations about coming back on Queen Mary 2 after such a disastrous cruise in March, but credit where credit is due - this time I certainly was not disappointed - many of the problems experienced by passengers in the `early` days have been resolved and in time with a few minor adjustments things will be as near perfect as possible.
I recognised many staff on board who had sailed with me on previous Princess Cruises, as well as from other Cunard Ships - this is good in some ways, but needs sensitivity, Cunard has a tradition all of its own, as does Princess and indeed as does P&O Cruises and for that matter Carnival Cruises - each must remain different - each must be identifiable to their own specific individuality, to their own particular line or brand product - which over the years has proved so popular with their band of loyal followers -minor interaction in the interests of efficiency and cost effectiveness are possible, but to try to blend and mix the products together would in my opinion spell disaster.
A further point for the Carnival Corporation to note is that since the beginning of the great Cunard line, single passengers have always been staunch supporters of the company and the same applies today. Whilst on Queen Elizabeth 2 and on the former Caronia there were many single cabins for solo guests - this is not the case on Queen Mary 2 or as I understand on the new Queen Victoria - please don't ignore or neglect these passengers - many more solos are taking holidays and research shows that this trend will continue and infact grow. Solos do not mind paying a supplement for the sole occupancy of a double cabin, but in the lower grades to charge a supplement of 200% for sole occupancy is outrageous. When one considers that solos only pay one Port Tax charge, only occupy one seat on an aircraft and only pay one airport tax and security charge, on fly/cruises, only occupy one seat on transfer coaches, have only luggage for one to be transferred and in most cases only eat an amount of food for one, but can 200% be justifiable? I know the arguments of the cruise companies - selling a double cabin for sole use means lost revenue. Is it really? If single supplements were more realistic - say 50% - this is guaranteed income - more often than not what happens is that companies find that they have a number of empty cabins when doing their analysis a few weeks before sailing, and what do they do - they discount - which causes annoyance to those passengers who have booked and paid for their cruise many months in advance as recommended by cruise companies - but herein lies another story. All that I ask is please do not take advantage of the single traveller and do let them continue to travel with Cunard at realistic supplements.
In all a very good cruise, despite poor weather and I look forward to further voyages or cruises on Queen Mary 2.