A British experience of Queens Grill and rarely found hints and tips for all travellers
To put this review in context, at the highest levels of cruising there is an expectation that everything will be near perfect and when it is not, only the truly unavoidable and unplanned negative events should exist, the rest already thought about and avoided. This review of the Queen's Grills experience on QM2 on Queen Mary 2, Eastbound Transatlantic in August 2012 is a mix of the subjective with hints and trips for travellers, often not mentioned in other reviews. The less complimentary comments result from the expectations above. They do not dent my faith in the Cunard experience, or its overall quality which is probably unsurpassable. It is a sophisticated experience not a holiday camp at sea. When I returned I read a newspaper review of "Allure of the Seas". That will appeal to some, but not those who prefer Cunard. Would we return? Yes of course. Can there be improvements in the Grills experience to close the gap between marketing department hype and reality? Yes there can.
This was a package of flight, hotel, crossing and coach trip for connections. The Cunard aspects went well and booking staff on Cunard's phones were very professional. The choice of airline (Delta) and hotel, were excellent choices despite my early misgivings about choice of airline. Cunard's agents in New York (for the coach transfer to the ship) and those in the UK at Heathrow were less professional and average at best. In New York they were disorganised, lacked giving announcements, and gave confusing information on meeting points. Luggage was left unattended at the roadside outside the hotel (by now some travellers had given up and taken a taxi) but did arrive safely, as hoped for in the stateroom on the ship. Those at Heathrow, far too impatient, with a much disabled and slow elderly couple. Both ends of the journey could have been far better because of these issues.
We had a generous upgrade from Cunard (do not ask us why) but we greatly appreciated it. The stateroom had amazing space and everything was clean and tidy. Staff throughout the ship were polite and charming to Cunard's high standards. The butler experience is largely overhyped (in my opinion) by the marketing department. The butler has white gloves and an assistant, in blue gloves usually, but I have had equally good experience in other staterooms from the room steward, on past trips. The brochure extols the pillow concierge service with a choice of nine pillows. After our butler had sat us down and given his version on how it would work, I asked how the pillow service worked. He said "What pillow would you like?" I said "On the firm side". That left him some scope but fell short of a pillow concierge service (whatever that is). Three hours later he reported some difficulty getting the pillow. It did arrive though before bedtime. Pillows were a weak spot, we discovered. We found a pillow was unacceptably stained under the outer cover. We did not want other people's body fluids so left it at the bottom of the bed when we left the room, with a large note asking for it to be changed. The note was gone, on return, and the pillow was back on the bed, still dirty. No explanation of this failing except lots of "sorry, sorry". The replacement pillow took some while to arrive. The pillows are guarded fiercely on QM2 we concluded! We asked for unpacking and this was efficient but no offer of packing (I guess we could have asked).
Fresh flowers replaced as needed the brochure said. After 5 days the flowers were dead as in drooping and brown tinged. I asked for them to be removed and preferably replaced as we were entertaining. They were removed and nothing returned. The fruit bowl was topped up but some of the original fruit was looking old and crinkled (the plums!) by the end. I am a believer in asking for what I need but there are many things that I expect to be proactive rather than reactive. I left a note asking for lemon slices, this was ignored too. Maybe notes do not work, although the notes disappear (into the ether I thought).The service was largely reactive and although mainly efficient it did not meet my expectation of the excellence of a butler standard over the standard of the excellent room stewards on Cunard. That said the room was kept very clean, towels etc changed regularly and there were prompt responses to the phone page system. The butler and his assistant knocked twice on the morning of arrival, asking if everything was alright, one smiling over the shoulder of the other. I am content with a daily service charge and its principles of all being rewarded but this felt like being pressured to pay twice. It is one thing or the other, you pay as you think fit or as a service charge, both should not be expected.
These issues are small fry really. None of this spoilt an excellent holiday and we would welcome returning. The refit had refreshed the ship but we did not think it was worn before. Flat screen tvs are now fitted, ours was a 32" Sharp with an x-box, dvd player and a choice of nearly 300 dvds on request.
The Queen's Grill experience lifted the excellence of Britannia restaurant class to a higher level. More seating for couples although cosily near each other so you can be friendly with neighbours. Mostly Europeans with some Americans in the Grill when we travelled (Germans and Americans together comfortably outnumbered Brits on this voyage) A la carte menu on most nights can add chateaubriand , beef wellington, curry etc but regular menu very good and extensive too. Dining a la carte requires ordering by lunchtime same day for dinner. Grills lounge largely uninhabited and very comfortable with free lattes (the table menu would make you think it is chargeable). Busier when there is an after dinner entertainer e.g harpist .
There were a large number of children on this trip (around 250). In a large ship, not an issue even though the average age of those on board is high. However, large groups of the "children's' club" probably those 7-12, were at a cinema showing and also at an evening show and making a lot of unnecessary noise in the row near us. Their "minder", steering a narrow line between pleasing parents and providing a service, largely failed to keep any reasonable control. Presumably the parents were having a peaceful time elsewhere, sans children, leaving their collective darlings to spoil it for others. Perhaps I should expect it, but have not had it before with Cunard (perhaps we unluckily sat in the wrong places).
Now some hints and tips rarely found in other reviews:-
On a transatlantic trips the clocks move 1 hour most days so time is aligned on arrival. It used to be at night but this changed recently to changing at noon. In practice we found changing at night lost the difference invisibly but at noon left a late breakfast uncomfortably close to lunch and felt that the day was shortened. Westwards Transatlantic would be different (an early breakfast too far from lunch?)
It is possible to view the Bridge (officers at the controls) from the 12th floor (forward of course). Little is made of this and it does not appear on maps of the ship. Two signs conflict. One says no video or cameras, the other one from the viewing corridor, says no flash. We found people took pictures with no flash