My husband and I recently completed 14 years of living in England and thought that taking the Atlantic crossing on the QM2 out of Southampton in August with our 16-month-old twins would give us a chance to recharge our exhausted batteries. As you might expect, the logistics and details of an overseas move are many and complex--even without a pair of toddlers on our hands! We were desperate to have some time to enjoy ourselves after weeks of dealing with the upheaval, so we were already on our knees before we embarked. We had the option of taking a flight back to the US, which would have been covered by my husband's employer, but we thought that 7 hours of having unhappy toddlers on our laps would be sheer hell.
Sadly, we traded the free 7 hours of hell for an extended 7-day version that we paid for ourselves. We were even more exhausted and literally on the brink of collapse when we disembarked in Brooklyn. Evidently due to a recent takeover by P&O, the policy for dealing with 1-2 year-olds on board had changed to one in which there is currently ZERO help available for parents unfortunate enough to have children in this age range on board. Our 16 month-old twins had to be monitored by us the entire time. Except for a minimal offering of a night nursery which stipulates that the child must be asleep or close to it before drop-off (ha! this does not really work in all practicality...) and that offers no assistance if the child awakes (a pager is issued to the parents so that they can be summoned to come back when the child starts crying). Since this service is only available from 6:00pm-11:00pm, there is little opportunity to enjoy the late evening entertainment that is on offer...sigh... And this is the only 'service' that exists!
We just spent a week chained to a room in the Play Zone with age-appropriate toys but no staff (i.e. one parent must be there to monitor the child) commiserating with other parents caught-out by this change. When we weren't in the Play Zone room, we were chained to our stateroom when they were napping. Since the night nursery closes at 11:00 and we had changed our dining time to the late seating (8:30pm) to take advantage of this 'service', we had no more than 15 minutes after the conclusion of our meal to avail ourselves of any of the entertainment on board (which meant that we listened to some jazz for 15 minutes on two occasions). We saw none of the balls, no movies, no talks, nor any of the shows that looked as if they might be really enjoyable :-( We had ONE, uninterrupted evening meal together, and two others where one of us had to leave to retrieve a crying twin from the night nursery.
Most nights were lukewarm meals carried down from the King's Court and eaten in our respective rooms (each parent taking one twin at night). We spent an entire week in expensive purgatory, knowing that lovely/fun things were available but that we had no means of taking advantage of any of them. Complaints to the assistant purser were to no avail--we couldn't even pay to have someone babysit because no one had been given the required background checks to do so! We have more options on land for care than we did on this ship :-( At least when our twins are sleeping when we are at home, we can go to another area of the house and do something. We couldn't even watch the movies on the televisions in our rooms while they were napping in our rooms--how sad is that?!
Other parents caught-out by this were former employees on the ship, who had booked their cruise a year earlier (prior to the P&O) takeover. They still had friends on board who could babysit for them, and they graciously offered to watch our two for an hour near the end of the crossing, but unfortunately other things conspired against us, and we didn't even get to take advantage of an HOUR off :-(
I sincerely hope that I am not offending anyone by this review (my ratings on most of the services are low because we weren't able to try them), but we have just paid an exorbitant amount of money to be made miserable. All the assistant purser could woodenly say was "I'm sorry, but that's the policy." Other passengers that we talked to were shocked that there wasn't some sort of paid nanny service available (which we would have GLADLY spent money on!). Could someone be kind enough to recommend a point of contact for us to further our complaint? We feel that we were misled, and so were the other parents that were caught in this unforeseen trap.
Many thanks for any assistance that can be provided. We would also like to know if others have encountered this kind of situation or agree that it is not acceptable to discriminate against the parents of 1-2 year-olds. After all, if they are allowed on board, why isn't any proper assistance provided for them?
Many thanks for your time and attention :-)