When a world cruise is not a world cruise -- Cunard Queen Elizabeth World Cruise 2012.
It has taken me six months to distil my thoughts on the Cunard Queen Elizabeth's full world cruise 2012. I was travelling with my partner and my brother. He was travelling as a single passenger and was paying almost as much as we were for both of us. I am a diamond Cunard world club member.
On a personal level it was a trip of a lifetime and a most rewarding experience. Needless to say this experience could not have been achieved except in the context of the full world cruise.
Of the 2000 passengers who sailed on board the Queen Elizabeth on 10 January, approximately 800 were on board for the full world cruise which returned to Southampton on the 27th of April. The voyage lasted a total of 107 days.
In 2009 we had sailed on board the Queen Victoria for of the final two legs of its world cruise voyage from Singapore to Southampton. That voyage lasted 33 days.
Through the advanced booking system for the year 2012 world cruise we had requested the two state rooms with forward views on deck six(6001 & 6002). The state rooms are classed ocean view C1. They are wonderfully positioned under the bridge and we enjoyed many hours throughout the trip gazing ahead and enjoying the views.
My first serious observation is that the Queen Elisabeth is not a ship designed for transatlantic crossings. The Southampton to New York section of the voyage found the ship having to cope with very difficult sea conditions. In the words of the Captain "we will do what we can to make you as comfortable as possible. This is a cruise ship and not a transatlantic liner and its design means that we will bounce our way across to New York" and bounce we did! What was most difficult to cope with was the constant banging of the bulbous bow of the ship as she pitched through the very stormy Atlantic Ocean. We were also unlucky with the six day section of the voyage from San Francisco to Hawaii, when the ship again encountered rough seas. Yes I know that there are readers who would say "well what else would you expect" my answer is quite simple; you would expect to be sailing in ship capable of dealing with those conditions, without the passengers experiencing such a great deal of discomfort. My suggestion to those considering taking the full world cruise from Southampton is that they consider flying to New York and boarding there. You might also consider taking the Queen Mary2 to New York.
My second observation relates to the expectations of passengers taking the full world cruise. We had been planning the trip for approximately 2 Â½ years. Our expectations were very much focused on the AROUND THE WORLD aspect. This had conjured up in my mind a seamless and integrated experience which would last 107 days. My most serious criticism is that this expectation was not achieved. What Cunard provide is a cruise around the world taken in a number of stages or legs but NOT a world cruise. My expectation of the world cruise was shared by the vast majority of those full world cruise passengers with whom I spoke. Many of them were scathing in their commons and a significant number had decided by the end of the voyage that they would never sail with Cunard again. The result of the linked leg approach by Cunard to the world cruise is that routine and sameness are clearly established by the end of leg two of the six legs. Crudely and bluntly it was obvious that Cunard's policy is to keep the" leg passengers" happy. Instead of finding it possible for the full world passengers to get to know one another better as the cruise moved on, we in fact got lost and dissipated in the constant changes that were taking place as hundreds of passengers left and new faces arrived at the end of each leg. This policy impacts on the passengers who are taking the full world cruise. For example no accommodation was given in the dining room to the "jackets required" dress code policy. While sailing in the Pacific on warm and balmy nights the full world cruise passengers were still required to comply with the dress code policy. This was to keep the marketing image of Cunard in place, for those passengers who were taking shorter legs of the journey. Who would wear a jacket to dinner on 107 consecutive evenings in their own home? A further example of this "leg" policy in operation was that the only crew who knew who the full world cruise passengers were, was the restaurant staff and the cabin steward. This resulted in a sense of indifference from bar and deck staff in the public areas. My suggestion to those considering taking the full world cruise is that they alter their expectations in advance from the notion of a seamless 107 day experience, see it as a number of cruises which are linked together and which takes you around the world without having to move from one ship to the next. Look at other cruise lines other than Cunard and see who they approach the Full World Cruise concept.
My third observation relates to the payment of our hotel charges. As full world cruise passengers our hotel charges were built into the ticket price. It was a shocking disappointment to find that while our hotel charges were taken at source that we were not allowed to see that those crew whom we considered to have given superior service, could not be singled out for special award from within the hotel gratuity. Passenger is who were taking shorter legs were allowed to cancel the automatic hotel charges and award whoever they liked! When we raised this matter with the hotel manager we were told that we could always reward any member of the crew whom we wished to. However this in fact means that we were required to make a double payment of the gratuity to those whom we wished to recognize. My suggestion is that you talk to your travel agent in advance of making your final reservation about this matter.
Finally as I get the last of my photographs into my album, I can say that it was an incredible experience shared with my partner and my brother and many wonderful passengers and fantastic crew.