This was our 11th cruise and our second with Cunard, having been on the QE2 in 2006. We had been with several different cruise lines since, mainly P&O. We had liked the QE2 so much that we were really looking forward to having 20 nights on what is billed as a 5* ship. P&O are 4*, likewise RCI. We thought we would be just that notch further up the scale.
Oh dear. We found our cabin and went out onto the balcony - a sheltered one which is carved out of the hull of the ship. One word described the furniture, the floor and the window in the patio door - dirty. The window had still not been cleaned when we were getting off the ship. The balcony is a good size but on reflection we would not have chosen it as it was not condusive to sitting out, say in the evening with a drink as once you were in your seat you could not see anything of what was going on outside. We had been in the cabin about 30 minutes when the toilet overflowed so had to call the plumber. This happened again about 2 days later but this time in the middle of the night. Again, the plumber was called. The cabin was a reasonable size and the bathroom probably bigger than normal, especially the shower area. The shower was OK but not the best we have had. The toiletries were replaced in a haphazard fashion. Also if you wanted to used the hair conditioner, you had to wait ages for it to come out of the bottle. Fortunately we had taken our own. The bath towels were replaced twice a day but on occasion, it was like trying to dry yourself with a sheet of cardboard - not what I expected from a 5* ship. There was a reasonable amount of drawer storage space and the safe was a really good size and at eye level so you didn't need to grovel around on the floor to use it. The hanging space however, was a totally different story. 2 sections, one with those silly fixed coathangers that have no hook but to make things worse,these were grouped in 2s. The other section had a line of hooks that could be pulled out of the cupboard. Neither section was tall enough to take my long evening dresses without them dragging on the floor. Also no hangers in section 2. Fortunately, again we had taken our own. Also, take your own hair dryer unless you want to use one of those silly ones where you have to keep your finger on the button - might be OK for the men but not for women with hair to style!! The beds were comfy. The inside of the cabin was kept clean by our steward. There was a flat screen TV but no way of calling up your on board account to view in your cabin. Very old fashioned.
We were assigned to the Britannia restaurant - deck 3 right at the top. A table for 6, all of us having got on in Dubai but 2 were leaving at Singapore whilst the remaining 4 were going on to Honk Kong. We got on fine although my husband would have liked some other male company, being the only man out of the 6 of us!! Our waiters were good and attentive. Food was fine although the portions were found wanting on several occasions, especially if you had the vegetarian main course and the soup had to go back on occasion as it was only luke warm. The ambience in the restaurant was missing something - perhaps it was to do with the classical music we were subjected to by a string quartet who no doubt were very talented but we wanted more than funeral dirge music over dinner. We ate breakfast in the Kings Court. This was OK but somewhat disjointed - not as slick as the buffet restaurants on the P&O ships. One thing that was good was the fruit and I ate tons of it. Also the 24/7 availability of tea, coffee, juice and water/ice was excellent. At each place of major take on of passengers, the ship operated a 2 - 3 day norovirus lock down in the restaurants. This made for very slow progress in the Kings Court.
The ship looked tired in a lot of areas and the level of the floors in the main corridors on decks 2 and 3 were very uneven, almost a trip hazard. We thought the decor was somewhat boring and needed updating. There was no wow factor in the atrium or anywhere else for that matter. Also there was often a nasty smell of sewage around the stern on most decks. As were were flying to and from the ship I found it necessary to use the launderette facilities. In the one on deck 5, there were 4 washers and driers, 2 ironing boards but no water, no sink and nowhere to hang anything that you had just ironed. Cunard, go and see what they are like on P&O - then change yours.
We both fell ill, but I was the worse and had to visit the ship's doctor. Yes, I had a virus but they could not give me any anti - biotics, only cough medicine and some tablets - that'll be $140 please. I also bought some cough medicine in the ship's shop but so many people were suffering (it was known as the Cunard Cough) that the ship was almost out of stock and the shop assistant took almost pleasure in telling people that there would not be a restock until Sydney which was no use to most of them.
On sea days we sat on deck 8 at the stern. There were plenty of sunbeds but you had to be careful if it was windy as the beds could be thrown about - I personally witnessed one as it was tossed into the air and over the side of the ship into the sea. The towels provided were plentiful and excellent quality - much better that what we got in our bathroom. You would be well advised to not sit on deck 7 which was below us as you were prey to all sorts of things being blown off deck 8!! The ship persisted in playing classical music which really got on your nerves after a few days. We did not want rock and roll but some gently middle of the road music. However, when people complained, they were told that the music would be changed only on return to Southampton as this was a classical cruise!!!!!
We only did 2 Cunard trips from the ship - Bangkok on your own for which Cunard provided coach transfer from the port to the city. There was not enough time in Bangkok though. The other was the Mekong Delta from Phu My - a long day but well worth doing. Otherwise we did not get off the ship if we had been to a place before or we did our own getting - around at a fraction of the cost that Cunard wanted. Koh Samui was taken off the schedule and there were an awful lot of disgrunted people about that.
The price of drinks on this ship is outrageous and they add another 15% tip!!! We have never drunk so little on a cruise. Of course, the pricing explains why so few people had wine with their dinner (around our dining area anyway) and also why the bars were deserted in the evenings. Between 8.30 and 9.30 pm it was like being on the Marie Celeste if you did not go to the show. This does not happen on P&O. And whilst on the subject of tipping, we made sure that the "compulsory" $11 a day EACH was removed from our account and we tipped staff as we saw fit when we were disembarking.
When we booked the trip, it was one sector - Dubai to Hong Kong but when we boarded the ship it had been changed to 2 sectors - Dubai to Singapore and Singapore to Hong Kong. As the ship tallied up the on board accounts on reaching Singapore, they then took the amount owing from whatever source of funds you had stipulated. A lot of people were very unhappy with this as thay had budgeted for one payment only at Hong Kong. The disembarkation at HK was chaotic, about 1,600 people were leaving the ship and everyone had to get off at a container berth and were then bussed to the Asia World Expo centre next to the airport - 40 minutes away from the ship. From then, you were on your own - not good if you were staying independently in HK.
In summary, this review might sound as if we had a poor trip. Whilst there were some highlights, it was not the standard of ship we had expected and felt let down. Cunard are very good at selling their product but it is a pity that in some respects, the realisation does not match the expectation. A lot of passengers felt the same way. In our opinion, this ship is no better than any other we have been on. 5*? We don't think so.