Well, after much longing & anticipation we've now finally managed to complete our trip on the QM2. It was the final leg of the 2013 World Voyage, from Cape Town to Southampton - 16 nights.
We have thoroughly enjoyed the voyage, visited some remarkable places, met some very interesting & entertaining people and been looked after by incredibly attentive, efficient a friendly staff. That said, there is little or nothing about QM2 that "wowed" us, I'd been promised that stepping aboard would be awesome by the Cunard/QM2 aficionados - well, it wasn't. Big, wide ship - yes, but nothing spectacular or jaw dropping about it internally, nothing at all. The central lobby is rather odd with 2 lifts that disappear up a void (like a funnel) and emerge in the awful King's Court - more of which of later. They are the most pointless lifts I have used on land or at sea.
Overall, the ship is an interesting mix of grand style and expansive open decks combined with some design flaws & quirks plus some genuinely ridiculous features, including those 2 glass lifts. Some of the other bizarre features are;
* the incredible misuse/under use of the Winter Garden. Why is this most pleasant of lounge areas turned into an overspill for people who come and eat their meals at the side of you as you sit reading, listening to a lecture or simply minding your own business? Also, why does the bar close at 9.00 pm, rendering the lounge pretty useless in the evenings? It is so rarely used for any entertainment. When it is used it is a crazy, obscure time when most folks are dining!
* the total lack of control over the Grills Deck (supposedly exclusive to Grills guests - try having folks standing on your lounger, whilst you are sill sitting on it at sailaways!). Granted Cunard can't be responsible for he incredible rudeness and lack of manners that far too many of the guests display but I'd prefer a daily check of eligibility and some greater control over sail aways in particular.
* the ludicrous design features that result in you having to shake a "6" to get from the Queens Grill to any central area of the ship unless you trawl through the appalling are known as the Kings Court - which is just about the worst buffet are I have ever encountered, including cross channel ferries. One lunch in there was enough, it is a complete mess with no logic to the food station layout amongst the most obvious negative points.
In comparison with the Queen Vic, on which we have travelled twice, many of the QM2's features fall short but some are considerably better. The Commodore Club is an example where the Vic is light years better - the CC on QM2 is more of a corridor and just isn't large enough for such a vast ship, particularly when the brilliant David Read is performing! However, the pools and deck areas are far superior on QM2, as is the Queens Grill dining room - which is a very impressive space indeed. The Planetarium is unique and a very useful addition - enjoyed watching a film, "The Hobbit", as well as the actual planetarium presentations in there.
General entertainment was of a good standard - enjoyed the comedy pianist, Fourever (think Il Divo), The Manhattan Dolls (Andrews Sisters style, great 3 part harmonies)& laughed at Adrian Walsh (old fashioned humour but classy and not offensive). The pianists were good but David Read is a wizard - he's back in October as main act not as a cocktail pianist!
The staff have been brilliant bar the "absent" Maire D - never spoke to us at the table or greeted us on arrival at the restaurant. Others including those on adjacent tables had a similar experience. Having met Andrew Nelder and Osman on our previous Cunard voyages this was a major but not too worrying surprise. The waiting staff - David, Andrea and Viktor plus Slivin on the wine were simply exceptional. Fabulous people, great service.
We visited some terrific places - Cape Town was spectacular and we did get a great day to visit Table Mountain (incredible experience & marvellous views) and do the red HOHO bus trip. Walvis Bay was terrific and a tour to Swakopmund proved to be a surprising bonus - the rug making factory was amazing (yes, really), the crystal gallery was fantastic plus the dunes and lagoon were magnificent - all done in under 6 hours! You can keep Gran Canaria for me but we spent a day doing the "2 stops on your own" calling at Maspalomas (pretty duff but nice sea front) and Puerto Mogan (lovely marina and waterfront but spoilt by developments since our previous visit a few years ago). Madeira was out of this world - lovely weather and a beautiful island - did the toboggan thing ( fabulous, would do it again) and visited Blandys (nice drop of verdelho & malmsey). Funchal is quite exquisite. Vigo looked lovely but we settled for the views from the ship as I'd had been "a bit wobbly" (dodgy stomach). Nice bay and some great vistas.
Disembarkation at Soton was a breeze, swift and efficient - top class job. Sadly embarkation at Cape Town had been borderline farce - the chaos at the Good Hope Centre, random calling of shuttle bus numbers and hordes of folks milling around or being herded by uncoordinated staff was a tad messy to say the least.
Despite the odd grumble, including my stomach's, and my incredulity at the design flaws this is still a tremendously impressive ship and we have had a lovely 16 days. Crossing the equator was a novel experience, 7 consecutive days at sea was a very relaxing process and the overall trip has been wonderful. Met some lovely people - Richard & Ann on the next table, David & Diana plus David & Michael from the GD & CC plus the locals from Nott'm, Kath & Terry - hope they enjoyed it as much as we did.