This 21-day New York Norway New York voyage was my fifth on the Queen Mary 2. The elegant ocean liner experience is a high priority for me and I had voluminously posted my opinions regarding the new ''loosened up'' dress code in the Cunard forum. My previous reviews had gushed so many superlatives that CC members there regarded me as a ''Cunard Cheerleader''. Well, there was good and bad with the bad being a huge disappointment that kept me from booking another voyage on board. (This review will also explain why my ratings for this voyage are so skewed.)
First the good. We had a special sail away that took us up and close to the Statue of Liberty as it was the liner's 200th Atlantic Crossing. The Catholic Chaplaincy has also been restored on QM2. (Chaplains also serve the crew who can be away from home up to nine months at a time.) My Princess Grill stateroom was mid ship, very comfortable and had plenty of storage space. Insights Speakers, except for one shameless and boring self-promoter, were good to excellent.
I dined in the PG where the service was excellent especially when our table was served by Andrea. I had requested a table for six and was seated with one other solo and two couples. Stanley Williams is a very attentive Ma'tre D'who spends a lot of time supervising his restaurant. (I've seen other Ma'tre D's just sit at their kiosk.) Food was also excellent and going off menu was no problem provided the request was made by lunch time. A table mate requested an American breakfast regional specialty and the staff found an online recipe and prepared it. There were only two so-so meals where the meat was dry or tough.
Upon arrival there was a note in my stateroom that the call at Geiranger, Norway had been replaced with lesund. Not having been to Norway previously and having no ''must see'' list it was OK by me but several passengers were disappointed to have missed Geirangerfjord. The reason given was concern with obtaining a safe anchoring position at Geiranger. I can only speculate that perhaps the ship could have drifted and partially run aground. She had to navigate into some pretty narrow spaces. Docking at Stavanger I had heard some high RPMs and vibrations coming from her aft propulsion pods as if the bridge crew was coaxing her to quickly ''move her ass'' out of harm's way. To make up for the missed Geiranger call however we made a special tour up the Hj'rundfjord after leaving Bergen. It was a spectacular sight not just for us but also for the locals who must have wondered, ''what is THIS doing here?'' In all I was on four ship sponsored excursions in Norway and felt that they fulfilled their advertised expectations.
The ship had two embarkation calls in Southampton and Cunard offered tours for in-transit passengers. I would recommend taking a tour because there is really not much to do in Southampton other than riding a free shuttle to a second tier shopping mall. Walking about on ones own can be a long hike if the ship docks at the QEII or Ocean Terminals.
Queen Mary 2 of course is a ship beyond comparison as there is no other ocean liner in service. On the eastbound Atlantic crossing we encountered the calmest seas the ship had ever seen. Two table mates, who had been on literally dozens of cruises but never on QM2, gushed over how remarkably smooth she was. We really could not feel the ship move there was only the smooth throb of her engines beneath us.
Now the bad. The first was a minor annoyance. Cunards new wine list has dropped de-alcoholized wines. There had been only one white and one red but it allowed me to enjoy dinner without calling attention to the fact that I cannot drink alcohol. I brought some bottles on board and the sommelier provided excellent service by keeping them for me so I didnt have to lug them from my stateroom each evening.
Now the big, big disappointment. Cunard is not enforcing formal dress on formal nights. When Peter Shanks announced a ''loosening up'' on non-formal nights it was pledged that formal nights were part of ''Cunard DNA''. Those who wanted to go casual on formal nights would be welcome in the Kings Court and the Winter Garden but formality would be required in the main and specialty restaurants as well as the theatre. What has instead happened is a de facto ''formal wear optional'' standard. While most passengers did dress nicely for the evening I saw sweaters and daytime tops in the restaurant with women by far being the worst offenders. The slack to non-existent formal enforcement trickled down to complete loss of daytime decorum: as in two men in the Kings Court whose attire consisted of swim trunks and pool towels wrapped around their torsos. Ive ranted on this in detail in the Cunard forum where some have said its my problem to ''worry about and judge people over how they dress''. Thats too bad because it is impossible to maintain an elegant evening atmosphere if a substantial number of people go casual. I see that many passengers are now waiting for ''deals'' before booking so perhaps Cunard has found that satisfying this casual ''getaway fare'' demographic is more profitable than pleasing their traditional customer base. The traditional customer base being those who book in advance because they anticipate and expect - and elegant and luxurious experience and were willing to pay for it.
Cunard tossed away something special. The Cunard dress code acted as a filter on guest behavior compliance to the expected standard of dress enforced courtesy and consideration to fellow guests.
All in all I had a good voyage but not a great one because I saw Cunards own self-destruction of the elegant Queen Mary 2 transatlantic experience. Since this was an important consideration for me I will take a wait and see approach going forward before booking in the future.