We normally sail with HAL or Celebrity but Cunard's QE fit the bill for dates and itinerary this time.
Cunard do tend to milk the whole check-in/embarkation process - where other cruise lines simply allow you to show up, check-in and board with ease, not so with Cunard, you are given a card with a letter on it and must wait until your letter is called out before you can check-in.
Having said that, our luggage was waiting for us in our room so that is to be commended.
We were in a standard balcony cabin and the first thing we noticed was the cabin size seemed smaller than what we have been used to on HAL. We could live with that, but the bathroom was very small with a small shower cubicle and curtain, and this became more annoying as time passed. Furthermore, the wardrobe internal space seemed a little ill-designed with a lack of shelving space.
Our room attendant however, was excellent throughout.
The food... well, the first couple of nights in Britannia restaurant was sub-standard both in taste and presentation, as was the service - not sure what on earth was going on but will say that both did improve as the cruise progressed.
The Lido food was altogether quite good, if not a little uninspired in terms of variety - the same things for breakfast each day, and afternoon tea consisted of scones jam & cream every day and dried up finger sandwiches which there never seemed to be enough of. The coffee was very drinkable - which is a plus - if you don't mind waiting in long queues that is, because the drinks stations are not well placed and there isn't enough of them.
The Lido chefs clearly worked very hard though (as on every cruiseline) however the same cannot be said for the Lido table staff - the majority (with a few hard working exceptions like the russian girl with a face like thunder) were not efficient at clearing tables. Either the Lido is understaffed or they are just a little bored/lazy - in fairness, who wouldn't be doing that job. Quite often, we would encounter uncleared tables or if cleared, tables and chairs were not wiped down with bits of food remaining and chairs were not pushed back in. One morning, we had a later breakfast and were surrounded by dirty tables for 45 minutes. This is not nice to look at and became annoying by the end of the cruise as we encountered this too many times. It is shoddy and not what we have been used to on other cruiselines. There was never a shortage of bar staff however, wandering through the Lido trying to obtain a drinks order !
We only bought 1 photo from the ship's photographers because frankly, the quality was below par for the price they charge. The one we bought happened to be taken by probably the most professional photographer onboard - a South African lady - the other 'photographers' seemed amateur.
Now for some good bits - the formal nights on Cunard are just that - very formal. We loved the effort that virtually all passengers made. If we were to dress up like that on some other cruise lines' formal nights, we would likely look overdone, but not so on Cunard.
We very much enjoy a full-wrap around promenade deck and thankfully, Cunard still incorpate this into their ships' design. Unfortunately though, we were most unimpressed with QE's exterior design other than the promenade deck. What were they thinking when they put a lawn bowls and paddle tennis area on the top front part of the ship - this should be prime viewing space. Also, you cannot go up any higher mid-ship because that is reserved for 'Grill' passengers.
The interior decor was quite lovely - very elegant art deco design mostly and we enjoyed the softer colour tones.
In summary, we will be unlikely to sail on Cunard again - apart from possibly QM2 because she is supposed to be very different.