This was our 4th trip on the Queen Mary 2. We traveled once each of the past four years on the transatlantic. Three of the four trips we went Queen's Grill (first class) including this one. Three of the four were westbound (Southampton to NY) including this one. The first trip was in June 2009, the second in January 2010, the third in October 2011 and this last one in November 2012. It was our final trip on Cunard (Carnival). Never again. This time we took a red eye from JFK into Heathrow (LHR)and had a car service pick us up at the airport and take us to Southampton. The embarkation area has not changed over the last few years and is unexciting. There is a roped off area for Grill guests to wait but the hard plastic chairs are no better. There was food and drink available for purchase. I would not recommend arriving early or well before your boarding time as it is quite boring to sit there and wait. The security process prior to boarding was worse than in any airport I've been through and I've seen quite a few as I am an Executive Platinum million miler with American Airlines. Many, including my husband, were frisked very closely and embarassingly. The staff was rude as if we were inconveniencing them by showing up.
Once aboard, we were happy with our cabin. Since our last trip, there was a minor refurb. Last trip the furniture and carpets, etc. were really showing their age. The bed was much more comfortable and the worn out furniture replaced. One negative was the TVs had been replaced with smaller ones. We feel the new TV is a little small for the size of the room.
The food and service at the Queens Grill restaurant was horrible - especially in comparison to our previous trips. Food was served cold when it should have been hot. My husband's steak ordered medium was served cool and was like shoe leather. We were constantly having to ask for our water glass to be refilled and for more bread. One positive note - they do have gluten free bread available that was some of the best we've ever had. We resorted to eating at the deli/pizza place at the King's Court many nights. The food and service must be a cost cutting measure for Cunard. We did complain nicely but the next night things were worse. We ordered prime rib. The cart came out and the maitre d served us himself because he knew we were unhappy. As he started to cut into it, you could see it was still frozen in the middle. He apologized and off to the deli we went in tux and evening gown - eating pizza and drinking wine. The food there was actually pretty good. We saw many of the ship's officers eating there as well.
The lectures/speakers on this trip were not quite as interesting to us as on previous voyages. We did enjoy the way that the lectures are replayed on the TV so you can catch ones you missed or listen to it again. We also enjoyed the trivia in the Golden Lion Pub. Our favorite bar is the Commodore lounge with its view from the front of the ship and the piano music as well as the Churchill Cigar Lounge. They have outlawed cigarette smoking in Churchill's which seemed very odd to us. Every trip we've met some really interesting fellow passengers. In a way, it is sad to say the "entertainment" option we enjoyed the most this trip was watching a movie in the theater - great sound!
A week or so prior to our trip, because of Superstorm Sandy, I called Cunard to confirm if the ship was going to be able to dock in Brooklyn as it normally does. The woman put me on hold to check and told me yes there was no damage to the pier. A few days before the trip, we received a message from Cunard that we may have to dock in Manhattan due to the storm damage. The day of disembarkation came and it was a complete nightmare. They did the immigration check on board because the facilities available in Manhattan were not as accommodating as in Brooklyn for this. The line was humongous and it took almost two hours. It was all one line instead of splitting up US vs. non-US citizens. You are supposed to have an assigned waiting area and be called by groups to disembark but this procedure did not work at all well due to the immigration hold up. Again due to the facilities in Manhattan, we could not disembark through the lobby as usual, we had to take an elevator to a lower deck. Again the line became quite lengthy and we had an inadvertent tour of some of the crew only areas before finally getting off this ship. There were no taxis immediately outside the building. We had to walk a block in the rain and cross a street - very inconvenient. I realize Cunard had no control over the storm damage but it seems there was plenty of time to plan how to handle the disembarkation much more smoothly.
The Queen's Grill restaurant staff used to be the most experienced, top servers and chefs. It seems they are now rotating staff throughout the ship and the servers and chefs were more up to Denny's standards. We are big tippers and we learned from our other trips to tip up front with the wait staff. The first dinner, we always give the maitre d $200. As you sit down, the whole staff for your table comes to welcome you. The head waiter we gave $100, the other waiter $100, the bus boys/assistant waiters (three of them) we gave $50 each. It appears the tipping does not have anything to do with the service received. The table staff often ignored us. We filled out a guest comment card about this yet we never heard from Cunard. Guess they don't care about unhappy passengers. Several of the public restrooms were just disgusting this trip.
Also, a few days after disembarkation, another charge for over $200 was made to our credit card. I called for an explanation. The representative I spoke to asked me if I had taken a bath robe or anything from the room. I was so insulted! Then I was told they would look into it then get back to me because they had to contact the ship and the ship would not be in port for a few days. I guess they can't use the radio or cell phones? He finally did get back to me and told me it appeared to be a duplicate charge from one of the bars and that they were issuing a credit. Finally, three weeks after our trip and multiple phone calls later, the credit was issued. Beware of giving your credit card to Cunard. I now understand why several passengers were paying in cash.
Don't be fooled by the brochure. The pictures and the descriptions are less than realistic.