Second time -- this time Britannia
After a fantastic voyage on Queen Mary 2 in November, 2011 in a Princess Grill suite, I just had to go again. This time due to availability and budget, I booked an inside Britannia stateroom. If you read my November 2011 review, you will see how out of synch I was with many of the reviewers. So, taking a "step down" from Grills class, am I still out of synch or am I now one of those that sees nothing special about QM2? With this being "cruise" number 98 -- am I too jaded?
Transfers and embarkation -- flawless. Everyone encountered on land was friendly and were focused on ensuring a nice start to our voyage.
Accommodation. Booked an inside received an upgrade to an oceanview (no balcony) on deck 6 forward. New cabin carpet since refit. Not convinced it was the best choice but it works. The sofa doesn't match and looks like a cheap left over. That being said it was very comfy. Bed and bed linens -- same as I had "upstairs". Flat screen TV was a welcome change however interactive part of the system seems to have been eliminated and the sound quality was not good and had a hairline difference between too low and too loud. Lighting -- plentiful and soothing. Electrical outlets -- always too few. Bring a power strip. Closets and other storage -- plentiful and cleverly designed. Beds are high enough to stow luggage underneath. Bathroom had shower only with a shower curtain which seemed too small. Floor of shower stall looked dirty but it wasn't - just a bit worn. Water pressure was a problem through-out the trip and the wait for hot water could be long. Sound-proofing excellent. The room temperature never got as cold as I would like in the room but I had 7 wonderful restful nights.
Compared to Grills class -- much smaller room, small bathroom with shower only, and no balcony. How does it compare to other cruise lines? The same as Celebrity and better than everyone else.
Room service was on time and totally correct every single time. Yes, everything correct. Hot food was hot and cold food was cold. Selection good. Compared to Grills Class -- missing the white cloth set-up and a few less options. Compared to other cruises lines -- equal to suites on Princess, Holland America, and Celebrity. Far superior to everyone else.
Dining. To be honest we only ate in Britannia one night. It wasn't really a problem with food or service, it had to do with the pace. I have found I don't like having to wait for all the other tables in the server's area to order or finish a course before I can proceed. I do not enjoy making dinner into a lengthy affair. The food in Britannia is the base menu in all restaurants. The Grills get some added selections. Here is where the big difference is for me. In the Grills you come and go as you want and they service you at your pace. Food quality and presentation was very good and, contrary to many posters, I did not find the portions skimpy. Food in Britannia on QM2 holds up well when compared to comparable cruise lines.
Kings Court Buffet. On my November trip I didn't have one meal here. I agree with everyone that the design is awful. Decor is a mess. Not enough tables. But, the food quality was VERY good and variety was good. Temperatures were right for all items. Lots of beverage stations. Note to cruise lines -- glasses -- then ice -- then drink machines. Celebrity is the only line that seems to have this figured out. Too many reach arounds and excuse me -- pardon me --opps, I'm sorry in this area. Speaking of glasses -- no plastic here. Real plates (and trays!) and glasses (real glass). HUGE assortment of hot beverages and the standard boring selection of cold beverages.
Service. Now here is a big difference from my November trip. On this voyage the crew and staff were VERY friendly with many smiles and a real sense of welcome and appreciation. Captain Camby was at the heart of this with his warm and friendly approach. A huge improvement. Excellent service in every venue at every interaction. No hard sell, no ongoing public announcements, and limited "mail" at your door.
I will not go into activities and public rooms since I covered that in my November review. I will say that the redone champagne bar, Commodore Club, and Red Lon Pub are beautiful and a big improvement.
Class system. OK -- if you are travelling on QM2 you are likely a well-travelled person. You have flown internationally (you almost have to in some way to be onboard), and have seen planes with First, Business, and Economy. You all get there at the same time. If you want more room, special check-in line, private lounge access, and other "perks", you pay for it. This is no different. With one big exception, travelling on QM2 is not like economy in anyway. Nobody in bars, shops, or other places even know if you are Britannia or Grills. For those people that say the class system is alive and well and feel put off with Cunard, I can only imagine you feel the same way about British Airways, American Airlines, Singapore Airlines, or others. This analogy has a flaw in that placing Brtiannia in the economy slot is wrong -- it certainly is not.
Cunard's Britannia exceeds the offerings of most other cruise lines across the board. It also exceeds the suite experience offered by several cruise lines. This is a fantastic all around experience. Being onboard QM2 is like nothing else.
So, what would I do in the future, Grills or Britannia? I would likely stay with Britannia, get a balcony, and save the extra money for some spa splurges.
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