This was booked via a travel agent who advertised nationally in the UK. This was to be a surprise for my wife to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary which we had delayed because of our eldest daughter's wedding back in 2002. I presented it to her last Christmas 2004.
I had opted for the Cunard package which gave us club class seating on BA. This is always appreciated when flying together as we sit looking at each other which makes conversation much more enjoyable.
Another sweetener was our travel agent also bundled in a night at the 5* Essex House to which I added on two extra nights. Transfers to the passenger port were not included but its less than 45 minutes and $12 by cab from South Central Park even with the Sunday traffic. So no big deal.
The embarkation process was excellent, our check in time was 2pm to which we stuck to. We dropped our bags (5) and arranged for a porter to collect them. He must have been miffed, as he gave back the $1 my wife offered and failed to label the bag we obtained in Macy's which he promised to do. In our defence we only had a single dollar or a twenty and it does say tipping is optional. We did get the bag back later that evening after speaking to the pursers office.
We had our photos taken, passports checked and 'sail and sign' ID cards issued in less than 10 minutes.
Our first impressions of the ship were great. We had never sailed, cruised or crossed on a ship before and our expectations were exceeded.
We sat in our cabin drinking out half bottle of sparkling wine. We the ventured out on deck for the departure and Champagne reception $10 a glass but they do serve Veuve Clicquot with a huge strawberry.
The sights leaving NYC from the passenger port were fabulous, NY skyline, Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and all set against a lovely sunset.
We love the food and preferred to eat in the Britannia rather than the King's Court. I just can't understand why people pay all this money only to eat in a shopping mall type of food court. The only reason I can see is if you forgot (or didn't want) to pack any formal evening wear. To us the evening dining experience is about dressing up feeling a little bit special. Eat in Todd English one night which is a must do. Great food. We also liked taking afternoon tea in the Queen Room.
I must say the food standards are very high, except for a previously noted comment on the breakfast fruit juices (especially the orange and cranberry). To serve food at this high standard and to serve overly watered down excuses for fruit juice is appalling and we said so.
The planetarium, RADA sample Shakespeare scenes, the Oxford University lectures we both thoroughly enjoyed. We only managed to catch one of the evening shows which was a shame as the one we saw was good (comedy magician) if a little short 45 minutes.
We had two days of fog which didn't spoil anything for us as we occupied ourselves with the daily activities. There was a slight drama as a passenger had to be medivac'd to hospital. As no helicopter could fly we had to divert some 300 miles to St Johns, Newfoundland, where he and his wife transferred via coast guard boat.
We like the Chart Room which used quite a bit and only discovered the Commodore club later in the week. Had a few raspberry Martini's there which if featured as DOD (drink of the day) cost only $4.25.