While my wife and I have quite limited experience with cruising/crossings, we have made transatlantic flights dozens of times and have come to dread the security hassles, tiny seats, poor service and the suspect food that are the present day realities of international air travel. We were able to book (through the Cunard website) a premium balcony (deck 12) for the April 2012 crossing to New York at a price not much greater than airfare. A month before departure we were given a complementary upgrade to Britannia Club.
We took the express train from London to Southampton, an under two hour trip, and easily caught a taxi for the five minute ride from the train station to the port. Embarkation was easy and the entire boarding process was a welcome change from recent airport experience. Cunard staff were personable and efficient and we were able to get to our stateroom with a minimum of aggravation. Chilled sparkling wine was waiting for us in the room - which we used to toast the smooth on-time departure.
The food and service in the Britannia Club section was first rate. Portions were small, but they will bring second helpings - or even a different entree - if you ask. In spite of working out an hour a day on the elliptical machine, I gained about five pounds on the seven day crossing. I thank Cunard for the free upgrade, and having tried the Britannia Club, I can vouch that the upgrade is worth the extra cost and I will pay it when making a future booking. We ate twenty meals on china plates on the QM2, compared to one meal served on a plastic tray with United! A most welcome experience.
The staff on board (more than half are Filipinos)were excellent. Having lived in Asia for a number of years, I have come to appreciate that 'you get back what you give'. We treated our room steward, wait staff and others with respect and pleasant conversation and we got back great service in return. The golden rule works wonders on this ship.
Tips are added daily to your ship account. We verified that the service staff do indeed receive this money and in fact count on it as an important part of their pay. It's a modest amount of money and we recommend that you leave this charge on your bill. The folks who receive it are far from family and friends, working short term contracts for small pay.
On board entertainment (plays, variety shows, planetarium, library, the ballroom band) was fine for us. Those looking for all night revelry will be disappointed, but the offerings were just right for us and our days were pleasantly full.
We departed under our own power, wheeling our bags off the ship and into immigration in NYC and we are glad that we did. We got off early, avoiding the later crush of passengers. We had arranged a rental car in Brooklyn from the nearest Avis, which is close, but not walking distance. We took a limo from the pier, while it was very quick, it was a bit pricey ($40).
We will definitely make this crossing again.