This was our first actual cruise, having done the Southampton-Brooklyn ferry on five occasion my wife and I decided we should try a proper cruise. It should be remembered that all our views are subjective - some will agree some not. So here goes.
EMBARCATION. It was the longest queue we have ever seen at Southampton but thanks to the efficient system we were through and on board within 30 minutes. We were anxious to see the results of the refurbishment but everything looked much the same. And it was just like coming home - cabin on Deck 5 spotless and with a warm welcome from steward Jamie.
DINING. Food in the Britannia restaurant much the same - excellent service and fine quality. But two major differences - portions seemed distinctly smaller and the food, never hot in the Britannia, seemed to have dropped a degree or so. Some meals were sent back to be warmed up. No matter how they try the King's Court still remains a jumble of nooks and crannies and still resembles a works canteen, albeit an upmarket one. Food here is often lukewarm but the quality and the variety seemed greater than in the Britannia.
ENTERTAINMENT. Yes Apassionata is still running along with some new shows and the usual 'headliners', many of whom we had never heard of but turned out to be excellent, especially guitarist Sam Piha whose link up with flautist Louise Garner provided afternoon highlights. Films on board QM2 are nothing more than a disgrace - surely a company of this size can provide a better selection and a better service. Those seen on the outward journey to New York were repeated on the return journey. Enrichment lectures are a feature of Cunard voyages and on this trip there were some absolute crackers - highlight being a former Scotland Yard detective's behind-the-scenes look at the Krays, the Brinks Matt bullion robbery and the M25 killers Kenneth Noye.
EXCURSIONS. Cunard's policy on excursions continues to baffle. Two weeks before sailing we received an e-mail cancelling one we had booked, with subsequent reimbursement through a credit card - only to find that it was available from the tours office on board. Another was cancelled by e-mail less than 48 hours before it was due to take place - and again a similar excursion was on offer. Point to remember is that all these trips are billed in dollars which the credit card companies change into pounds sterling - at a cost.
NOROVIRUS. No review can ignore the effects of the virus. It changed the whole ambiance of the cruise. And the crew worked hard to contain the spread of the virus. But were those early outbreaks norovirus or food poisoning? The rumours claimed the latter. My wife went down with the bug at 8.30pm on Christmas Eve. Christmas, therefore, was a washout with confinement to cabin for the next 48 hours. I notified the medical department at 7.30am on Christmas Day and the so-called hit squad arrived within 15 minutes to sanitise the cabin and bathroom - an operation repeated three times a day until clearance. The treatment by medical staff and cleaners was superb and could not be faulted. The system however could. The medics provided a menu plan with special meals to be ordered from room service. Unfortunately room service was too busy supplying double burgers and chips to be able to supply any food or drinks to the suffering. A recorded message repeated for two hours on Christmas Eve. What to do? Head to the King's Court and probably spread the virus. I was later told this problem was being addressed with dedicated phone lines for those with the virus.
CONCLUSION Our comments should be taken in the knowledge that we love the majesty, the grandeur, the splendour and the opulence of the QM2 and will undoubtedly sail on her again - whether on a cruise or ferry we are not too sure.