We decided to take this trip as we had previously enjoyed cruising on Thompson cruises and fancied going 'upmarket.' We were really looking forward to experiencing the QM2
The organisation before the trip was good with a lot of information from Cunard but as we were using a tour agency we also,had excellent information from them which arrived before the information from Cunard and they arranged all our transfers.
The embarkation was swift and trouble free and we were soon in our stateroom with our luggage and the welcoming bottle of sparkling wine.
Although the ship itself was certainly a step up from others we have sailed on, that was where the difference ended. The ship was beautiful, very clean and well appointed with a large stateroom which gave us a lot of space but the ship seemed to lack the soul that smaller ships have and the size meant we spent a lot of time walking from one place to another and in the end tended to use just a small area of the ship rather than explore it all.
Our steward was lovely and gave us super service and the waiters were also very attentive but the service in other areas of the ship was average and did not match the hype we had heard from Cunard about their ship and staff. It was good but certainly not exceptional. It was certainly not better than on much cheaper cruises we have had. This was also true of the food. The meals were nice but not exceptional and the menu was rather limited. I was however very impressed by the attention I received when I told the waiter I had an allergy as I was invited to chose my meals ahead of time to ensure they were free of the food I was allergic to. It was though, rather difficult to have to choose the following day's meals immediately after finishing my dinner!
We were on a table that was right at the top of the Britannia Restaurant and right next to the kitchen door which was far from glamorous - even though the restaurant itself was lovely we were only able to see this while walking to and from our table and we could have been eating anywhere. We did enjoy the look of the room at lunchtime when we had a freer choice of where we sat and we would have preferred a better choice of table in the evening. We asked to move later in the cruise but were then put on to a table on the other side of the restaurant in the reciprocal position, next to the kitchen!
My husband liked the Kings Court buffet where there was a very good choice of food available all day but I didn't like the atmosphere there as it reminded me of any high street department store restaurant. I would have loved the opportunity to eat on the deck but there were no outside eating areas.
I was looking forward to the formal nights as I rarely get an opportunity to dress up and although the men looked wonderful in their black or white evening jackets, I felt the majority of ladies did not really dress up as I had imagined they would. This meant that the 'balls' I was expecting were more like any normal dance. I really did expect more glamour. There was little difference between the formal nights and the informal.
Our main disappointment though was the feeling that Cunard was doing whatever it could to get as much additional cash out of us as possible. . The price of drinks was high and all had 15% added as well as an additional space on the ticket for yet another gratuity. The bottled water was nearly $4 a bottle which was extortionate and it has always been free on other cruises we have taken. Like most other people we spoke to, we asked for the $11 per day, per person gratuity to be taken off our bill as we preferred to tip the staff we had dealings with rather than have this amount taken by the company without knowing where it went.
We also felt the tours were overpriced and that the person giving the tour information lectures was not very subtly trying to steer people away from doing their own thing on shore by warning that taxi drivers might overcharge or they might not get back to the ship in time so they would be better taking an organised tour. We only took one organised tour and wished we hadn't because we had a much better time and more value for money by hiring a local taxi driver who was in every case ready to take us wherever we wanted to go for a fraction of the cost of the organised tours and to give us lots of information about the places we saw. To be fair, I think this is true of most cruises and I would always prefer to arrange my own days on shore.
The itinerary sounded really exciting but unfortunately we arrived in Cochin on Independence Day and everything was shut. This was especially annoying to many people as everyone had paid a lot of money for a visa to go there, even if they didn't want to go on shore, and of all the places we visited this was the most disappointing.
Langkowi on the other hand was wonderful. We hired a local taxi and the driver spent the whole day taking us to all the points of interest, including a trip on the river to see the eagles and a bat cave . He was so pleased to tell us lots of information about his island. . Excluding the cost of the river trip we were only charged $85 for the whole day which was about six hours in all.
Photographs on the ship were about $24 for a single print which was also very expensive and it seemed a shame to see so many prints that would obviously be destroyed as they were not being bought. If they had been less expensive they would have sold many more I suspect. We were photographed at every turn, as was everyone, so there must be a lot of photos destroyed at the end of every cruise.
Although the ship was very clean and attention to hygiene was excellent, especially the efforts to avoid the spread of Norovirus by the implementation of a closed buffet for the first 48 hours and the constant use of hand gel, there was an awful smell.about the ship on several days, especially in the corridors and on deck 7 which seemed to be connected to the discharge of effluent. This was very unpleasant and on one occasion was very strong outside the restaurant. I'm not sure if there was something wrong with the equipment but a lot of people were complaining about it.
Another extra Cunard didn't tell us about ,was the threat of pirates! We had to blackout the staterooms at dusk every evening and were not able to go on deck which was a shame. It reminded me of the war!
On the last day we were told to wait in the Winter Garden for a member of staff to take us to disembark. Despite being there twenty minutes before the appointed time, we were left there along with a large number of others for nearly an hour and then told the staff member had taken people away half an hour before the allotted time.
This was followed by us being asked for $300 tax for our 400 duty free cigarettes by the Singapore customs, despite having been assured by the staff in the duty free shop that the tax was only 7% of the purchase price on board. Of course we had to forfeit them as this tax was more than the purchase price.
Cunard must have had people disembark in Singapore before but the information they provided about the custom rules there was woefully inadequate and could have caused us big problems if we had put our purchases in our suitcase as we intended, believing we had the right to take in 200 cigarettes each. This could have caused us a large fine or imprisonment according to the customs officers. The staff were giving out completely wrong information and I think this was unforgivable!
I had expected to spend a lot of money on this cruise and am aware that this review sounds as if I am penny pinching but that isn't the case. I simply didn't feel we got value for money as far as the extras were concerned and that Cunard were taking advantage of a captive audience.
All in all we did have a good time and we met some lovely people on this cruise but it was definitely not what I had expected, given the hype that Cunard gives out about their cruises over others. I would probably go on a similar cruise again but would check out the itinerary with more care ( public holidays en route etc.) and would be more prepared for the reality of what to expect next time.