We have just got of the QM2 having travelled from New York to Southampton, it continues its journey to Hamburg later today.
We are a couple in our mid 40's having been on a single cruise before (7 days bay of Biscay last year on P&O Oceana)
We have travelled to New York before and flew out for 3 days before joining the QM2 last Friday.
1st Impressions were of a truly massive ship as we approached the dock. Check-in was trouble free. We found our stateroom easily using the maps located near most lifts. Our thoughts were as follows :
The ship is very impressive and coped weather with what was described as typical transatlantic weather - rough sees (up to 12 foot swell) and force 7-8 winds (40+knots across the deck) for much of the trip. There was some movement and we did feel a bit queasy in a high cabin on deck 12 on 2 or 3 occasions, but nothing that spoilt our enjoyment or that needed any medication. It did mean that the upper deck (13) was closed for much of the journey. We thought the interior was clean and well maintained. There was a lot of information all over the walls about Cunard's history - previous ships and famous passengers for instance although we never found time to read it all. We had a small map, but i found the deck plans by each lift most helpful, and within a day we had no problems navigating.
2. Accommodation - we were in a Britannia club balcony room on starboard side on the 12Th deck. The bed was very comfortable and the room was perfectly adequately sized, with just enough hangars in the wardrobe - perhaps we would have struggled for clothes space on a much longer trip. The bathroom again was fine, with a decent size shower. Arthur kept it very clean for us.
We did use the balcony at the start and end of our trip, but it was too windy to spend much time mid atlantic. We did not notice much noise, although i was woken around 5.50am once by a couple talking loudly as they walked past.
It would be fair to say that we did not partake in many of the enrichment activities as we entertained ourself quite a bit. We did listen to 1 speaker which was ok, and saw another couple on the TV - the days talks were repeated on the TV in your room on channel 42 after 5pm each day , although my wife found some quite boring, they perhaps were targeted more to the older male -code-breaking machines, Alan Turin, voyage of the beagle etc There were also talks on murder and art history but i did not see those.
RADA - we did not use their workshops, although enjoyed their version of 3 of Chaucer's Canterbury tales
Juilliard Jazz - we never quite managed to get to these either.
Bingo/quizzes/ballroom - not really our thing
Cocktail Party - We bypassed the queue for the captain and met the hotel manager instead. We had our free sparkling wine and a couple of canapes. The captain spoke about the titanic and carpathia and it was over quite quickly. We did speak to the safety officer and i think the hotel managers pa, who were pleasant and fun to talk to, but after the Captain introduced his heads of dept, every-one vanished before we could talk to them. Mingling for 1/2 an hour would have been nice for at least some of them.
G32 DISCO- We only spent any time here on one night, when it was abba night for an hour. The dance floor was empty apart from us at the beginning, although had filled by the end of the hour. The strange bit for a disco was that the DJ said nothing for the whole 90 minutes we were there, just kept playing the songs.
We did a lot of laps of deck 7 promenade -it is 1.1 miles for 3 laps. It can take some concentration to match the slow walkers, power walkers, electric buggies and joggers but i never saw any collisions. We also enjoyed a walk on deck 12 to have a look at the dogs in the kennels -i think there were 11 on this trip. They had some fun pictures of the dogs in their life jackets in the photo image area of the ship.
We were never brave enough to use the outdoor pools, although did see them used by the occasional brave person. The covered pavilion pool was very close to our room. It did get very busy though, with loungers being saved with towels, although people seemed to pack up and leave, but left their towel on the lounger, so it was very confusing which loungers were still occupied or free. It was nice and warm under the glass roof and we did spent a few hours their once or twice.
I used the gym daily (for the 1st 5 days). It had decent equipment but at many times seemed too small, with the cross trainers/cycles in particular being fully used. A bigger gym, or limiting use of a machine to 20minutes at a time would be helpful. We found that lunch time was generally a good time, between 1-2pm. I expect 6am would also be good, but never managed to get there that early. We had a look around the spa but never used it - cost and not really expecting enough benefit to justify the cost to ourselves.
Drink- we tended to have a drink or two pre dinner and usually went to the Commodore club at the bow on deck 9 as it seemed quieter than the other bars being furthest from the dining room. We generally had cocktails ($8.95-9.95) each although also tried the chart room and the golden lion on the last evening when they were quieter.Half a pint of cider seemed more reasonable there at $2. We usually had some crisps or nuts and canapes as well-initially cold ones, then hot ones if we stayed long enough. We also tried the Sir Samuel coffee bar - $3.50 for a decent coffee and also had a nice quiche one day for lunch there.
Kings Court - 24 hours a day food of course - dinner ends at 11- then have another buffet hot meal until 4am, then cold breakfast until 6, then hot breakfast, lunch, cream tea, afternoon snacks, and back to dinner etc
We had some hot food once to say we had tried it -1am after our trip to disco - chinese noodles/sweet chilli chicken etc - it was fine, but we preferred the slower pace and service of the main dining room.
The cream tea we tried once but were a little disappointed by the scones (dry) and the whipped (not clotted cream)
We did have breakfast in bed once to try. We left the order on our door (before 1am) and received exactly what we had ordered at the right time (15 minute windows). The only negatives was that the hot food (oat meal and cooked breakfast) was warm and not hot, but moving hot food across the ship, i think it was as hot as one could reasonably expect and certainly edible.
The rest of our food we ate in the main club dining room - less frenetic pace and we looked forward to seeing the waiters/maitre d - In general we found the quality of the food to be excellent and hot. for much of the week i did enjoy the "canyon ranch spa" choices which list the calorie/fibre/fat content. It was one way of trying to limit any weight gain and i usually found they were still very tasty and in fact on "lobster night" my wife preferred the sauce and rice of my spa lobster to her standard version.
I can appreciate that people perhaps do not want to know the calorie content of everything they are eating, but personally i did not want to spend a month or more trying to lose weight i had put on, and would have welcomes the choice of having the option to see a menu with calories listed besides all dishes.
Portion wise at dinner, we found a 3 course meal without extra veg, was just the right amount to avoid being overfull. Appetites vary of course and some of our fellow diners enjoyed 2 starters and 3-4 desserts and extra veg on occasion. we did find on the last few days that we had had enough eating and tended to miss lunch in the dining -perhaps having the quiche in sir Samuel's or 3-4 finger sandwiches from the afternoon tea. We did not feel the need or inclination to use the a la carte kings court options or the Todd English restaurant.
we experienced excellent service from the bar staff and in the restaurant.
"Danny boy" as he referred to himself was excellent in the commodore club, making suggestions of drinks to try for my wife.
In the restaurant "Willy" and "Jimmy" our two waiters were brilliant as well. I think they were a little bemused by our choice of healthier options and tried to fatten us up as the week went on. I made the mistake of saying i was torn between the beef wellington and the canyon ranch lobster, and despite my protestations i ended up with both! We also made use of the flambe dishes for dessert especially later in the week with baked alaska (flambe cherries) and crepes Suzette - these were done by your table by the maitre'd.
We started off on a table for six -this was really due to an oversight on my part -the agent making our booking in September never asked me what size table i wanted -i would have chosen 2 and for some reason i never thought to try and change it. Our fellow passengers were perfectly pleasant, but while we are under 45 both other couples were in their 80-90's. They were keen to chat and shared many interests/experiences with each other - flying, the war etc, while being younger we had little that we could share and we consequently spent much of the evening listening to their interesting stories and really had no time to talk to each other or appreciate what we were eating. Perhaps many people would see that as the benefits of cruising, but we would have preferred some time to talk to each other and to be quiet and appreciate the food. We spoke to Iolata (apologies for spelling) our polish maitre d who was excellent. She could see we were embarrassed and concerned about how the other couples would react. She put us at ease and assured us this happened all the time and that they were happy to be a table of 4. Most of the other tables also had an average age of twice our own, but we did move to lunch the next day with a slightly younger German foursome and by the evening we had a table for 2 which we kept for the rest of the week. She really made our cruise by being so understanding and helpful, and we looked forward to seeing her smile every meal time.
We did keep the auto-tipping on our bill - $22 per day for the two of us. We also felt it appropriate to leave a small envelope tip for our waiters and also for our maitre d at the end.
6. Final Thoughts / Preconceptions from a younger 1st time Cunard couple
a. We will be the youngest there ? - yes there were a lot of older guests, but some young children, and quite a few of a similar age, we did not feel out of place
b. We will be bored - we were never bored even though we used only a small part of available entertainment. We enjoyed a leisurely drink for a couple of hours before dinner, eating at a relaxed pace, doing a lot of walking, using the gym and also reading and talking.
c. Its too formal - we enjoyed dressing up - ladies wore all sorts of length dresses on formal nights, there was no rigidity -in fact people did ignore the dress code all together especially in the commodore club we noticed and no-one was singled out or made to leave ,but it was nice to see everyone in their finery (even if my dinner jacket was one of those cheap M&S ones)
d. We got many lovely photos from the excellent photographers. It was a shame that they were so expensive, $24.95 each print, or as we chose $149.99 for 10 - they print all the photos they take, so we ended up choosing our 10 at the end of the week and giving them back 40+ more to throw away - there would be no extra cost to them by just giving us the photos, and it would be nice if this was an option for similar fee , say $200. All the shots were clear and well focused
e. Can i have the job of the customs officer ? - there were twice daily sessions on 3 days for each deck to have passports checked to avoid delay in Southampton. Our check took about 5 seconds, no electronics were involved, just a visual check. The accompanying crew member told us the customs agent is free for the rest of the week-we saw him in the bar and restaurants - seems a good job to me- perhaps its on a rota basis ?
f.Would we do it again ?
Yes, perhaps we would try a cruise next time instead of transatlantic, but we would use Cunard again.