We carefully chose a balcony cabin on deck 8 after deciding that Britannia class would do fine for us, but a week before we sailed we were phoned and offered an upgrade to either Princess or Queen's Grill. Never having been offered an upgrade on our two previous cruises, we decided to go for it and didn't regret our decision for one moment of our thirteen day cruise!
Our cabin was just super and so spacious with a full size bath,a double balcony, well stocked bar, canapes before dinner, friut bowl, flowers and all sorts of little things which made the trip feel very special. Dining in the Queen's Grill was fantastic, with an amazing choice of food each evening and an a la carte choice if nothing on the menu appealed. It was all beautifully prepared and presented and only once did my husband have to send anything back when a rack of lamb wasn't up to standard. The staff were great, smiley and good fun. Two of our table companions became instant friends, but the other two on our table for six were hard work and after two days, fortunately went to eat in the Lido, even though we tried really hard to engage them in conversation.
Drinks and wine were expensive, but we decided to partake anyway and enjoy them. The 15% addition to the drinks bill is annoying, especially when space is left for added gratuities, and that's after the daily gratuities bill.
There were lots of activities happening on a daily basis and though all the lectures didn't appeal, we attended some and enjoyed the presentations about the various ports of call we'd be making. The Russian emphasis was interesting and educational. We opted for a couple of tours, but pleased ourselves in Kristiansand, Stockholm and Tallin after looking at Trip Advisor reviews. We were so pleased that we booked on the expensive Hermitage tour in the evening as other reviewers thought it was great too. No St Petersburg traffic jams, no battling hordes of other tourists and a very special visit round the museum, followed by a concert by the St Petersburg State Orchestra and rounded off with a glass of champagne. Magical,and we can thoroughly recommend that trip. We were less impressed by the state of a bus the day before which seemed pre-war and was actually dangerous in many respects. However, on writing a letter about it we received a 25% discount, though that wasn't the issue. We were more concerned that the bus shouldn't actually be in use.
Although we're not keen on variety shows, we did visit the theatre every night for the second house show and have to admit that the standard was excellent with enthusiastic dancers, singers, lovely costumes, great music and a real sparkle to the performances.Extremely professional standard.
We also enjoyed the Captain's cocktail parties, although the photographers began to get a bit tedious as the photos were expensive & we were happy with our own snaps!
We were blessed with hot sunshine every day and the private area for Grill guests was a welcome change from having to try and bag a sun lounger every time we wanted some sunbathing time. Staff on hand to bring drinks,etc made it a very pleasant place to be. Cream teas were super too, though you had to be either early or late to get a table. Having chosen a port side cabin, we had amazing views every day with glorious sunsets every evening to round off the relaxing days.My husband took advantage of the well stocked gym every day to try to combat all the superb food and drink, but he was on his own on that one!
All the port visits were interesting even though the time flew too quickly and free shuttle buses were really useful to make the most of each day.
It was all a good taster should we decide to return to this area and we were more than happy with what was provided for us on the QE. All in all it was an exceptional cruise and we enjoyed it immensely. We never experienced any grumpy staff and had really pleasant dining room people plus a lovely steward for our cabin...no complaints about their level of service.
The downside is that we were thoroughly spoilt by the Queen's Grill experience and it'll be quite hard to return to the Britannia norm next time we cruise!