Background:I consider myself an experienced cruiser, and have sailed most of the world. While my favorite line is Crystal, I like to cruise more than I can afford with them and have also sailed with Windstar, Silversea, RCI, Cunard, HAL, Celebrity and Carnival. I have now sailed all recent Cunard ships, QM2,QE2,QV, and now QE.
Pre-cruise:I stayed at the Gem Hotel at 449 W 36th Street. The location was superb and the hotel was fine, but I was a bit surprised that as a member of the Choice group they don't provide a breakfast.
Post-cruise:I had a same evening (19:35) flight out of Heathrow and arrived at the airport just after 11. I booked a cabin at the Yotel Heathrow. It was well equipped but tiny. It was a good option for a few hours, but I don't think it would be either very comfortable or a great value for an overnight stay.
Ship: At 90,000 tons and somewhat over 2,000 passengers the ship to me is big but is small to medium size in today's market. It is a very modern ship, as would be expected having been built in 2010. Everything is well laid out and there are ample open spaces.
Service: Very Good. My waiters and room steward did an excellent job and service was generally good around the ship.
Port & Shore Excursions: This was a direct transatlantic crossing with no ports. There were 2 things that might have come under the heading of "tours".
1. I booked the behind the scenes tour on the ship. We saw pretty nearly everything on the ship, backstage, mooring deck, medical center, engine control room, a fire locker, trash area, print shop, food storage area and galley, bridge, and perhaps some things I have overlooked. At $120 it covered a lot and I believe was somewhat less expensive than similar tours on other ships.
2. At the end I had a transfer to Heathrow. We were moved up in the departure sequence and our bus was pretty uncrowded. Our arrival was delayed by close to an hour for one party that couldn't be located. I don't believe anyone had tight flight connections but it could have been a problem.
Summary: While Cunard talks about ocean liners, QE is a cruise ship through and through. QM2 handles a crossing much better than QE does. As a cruise ship, it is very nice.
Travel To Port of Embarkation: I used Amtrak the day before for about the 2 1/2 hour journey from BWI to New York. For me the hotel was within walking distance and an uptown bus took me within walking distance of the dock.
Stateroom: My inside stateroom was a bit small but more than ample for one. It was very well appointed with US(2), UK, and European electrical outlets and a mini-fridge. One thing to be careful about is the electricity. The lights are controlled by inserting your room key in a slot by the door. If the key is removed one or perhaps 2 of the outlets will be active but the rest will lose power. The bath was quite tiny with only a small shower. Leaving the TV on the bridge channel gave a good idea of what conditions were outside.
Dining: As is traditional with Cunard, your cabin category determines your dining arrangements. The 3 upper categories (about 15% of passengers) have a reserved table for all 21 meals per week with about a 3-hour flexible time period. I was with the 85% of passengers who dine in Britannia and the food and service were very good, at least in line with other mainstream cruise lines. The cold fruit soups were one of my favorites.
The lido was set up cafeteria style and lines occurred but were generally pretty short. There are stations for custom omelets, pancakes, waffles, and pizza. It does have a cafeteria feeling but all the food I had was good. I had lunch in the extra cost Veranda restaurant. For me, it wasn't worth the price for regular use but it was an excellent meal.
Entertainment:The Royal Cunard singers and dancers were excellent. I thought the guest entertainers on board were of variable quality. There were a number of bands, pianists, and small musical groups in various places around the ship with a wide variety of entertainment choices.
Disembarkation:There is one nice thing about Cunard crossings that happen before we even get to our destination. UK immigration officials sail with the ship so there is no need for the traditional checks as we disembark the ship. Disembarkation times are mostly by deck. Since I had a transfer I was fairly early in the process, but things seemed to be moving fairly smoothly up to that time, and i assume it continued that way after my departure.