Although we have been on a fair number of European cruises, this was the first time we have sailed transatlantic and was the last part of an overland trip from California home to the UK.
We booked in advance a cabin (stateroom) with balcony directly with Cunard as they offered a good deal with an inclusive airfare to LA; from experience we prefer to have an outside cabin despite the extra cost.
We were independent passengers so arrived at Brooklyn with our hire car. It is a shame that Cunard do not use the main Manhattan terminal: we found it very difficult to find the Brooklyn terminal despite our research and it was not helped by such minimal and appalling road signage: it was almost as though Cunard had been banished to the outskirts of town. After dropping my wife and luggage I had to drive the car back to the centre of Brooklyn as there are no hire car facilities at the terminal. I returned to the terminal in a NY taxi, whose driver had no idea where the terminal was so I ended up directing him.
Back at the terminal, our baggage had already been loaded; check-in and boarding was a quick and efficient process.
Our outside stateroom was on deck 6 and was perfectly adequate and comfortable; everything worked properly and our cabin steward was very discreet and highly efficient throughout the voyage. We had allocated dining in the Britannia Restaurant at second sitting and had requested a table for two, which we actually had.
It has to be said that this was definitely NOT a cruise ( we never expected it to be), but rather a voyage. The ship itself is exactly as would be expected for a classic liner and no expense has been spared on its internal layout, facilities and elegance. There was always plenty of space for everyone, despite the ship apparently being at capacity on this voyage.
Most ships generally have an inbuilt identity: QM2 seems to struggle in this respect. It is almost as though the ship is trying to do its best to pretend it is not British and pander to its American and German clientele. This was especially true with its on-board US Dollar accounts and automatic 15% gratuity system, rather like Royal Caribbean. The restaurant menus were obviously tweaked towards American tastes while the vegetable portions were decidedly miserly. We were quite disappointed with the wine list which we thought was unnecessarily large and expensive, especially with the 15% on top. Every one of the less expensive wines that we requested was out of stock so we ended up paying a minimum of $41.00 for a bottle of decidedly average wine. We never expected wine to be cheap (if we are going to do it we do it properly!) but this really was excessive.
The Kings Court Buffet was certainly adequate although there was not nearly as much choice as there would have been on a P.& O. ship and generally seemed to aimed towards German tastes. It was nevertheless refreshing to see that most plates were not piled to the obscene heights seen on some cruises, although we were concerned to see that so few passengers appeared to make use of the hand sanitizers.
Some areas of the ship, especially in the theatres and Britannia Restaurant, felt very cold to European tastes and I know we were not alone in this opinion. The indoor games area in particular was so cold that it was impossible to stay there without a warm jacket. Presumably the AC was set to American tastes.....
The theatre presentations were the most professional and slick performances that I have ever seen on board a ship and the quality of the musicians was superb. There was a little too much emphasis in the bars towards 3-piece jazz for my liking but it was nevertheless good.
The on board lectures were absolutely first rate, particularly Bill Miller who entertained packed theatres with his knowledge of ocean liners and Nigel West who did likewise with his knowledge of security and spies. We felt as though we had been to college for a week.......
All in all, we had a very enjoyable time on the voyage and I would definitely do it again; however I do not think that a conventional cruise with Cunard would be for us: P.& O. have the edge there.
Nevertheless, I would highly recommend the experience.