This was our first ever cruise and I was very apprehensive of spending a week in the company of so many people.
We had decided to take the option of onboard credit and so booked our own arrangements for getting to Southampton and parking the car. The night before the cruise we drove down from North Yorkshire and checked into the Botleigh Grange Hotel on their Gourmet Cruise and Stay package. We felt the hotel was greatly in need of redecoration but the room was very comfortable, clean and quiet. The six course dinner was very good; excellent selection and well cooked and presented. The only critism of the restaurant I would have is that it was more of a function room than intimate restaurant. If they'd turned the lights down a bit that would have helped.
The hotel package included a taxi to the port the following morning and there was plenty of parking for us to leave the car safely at the hotel.
The taxi arrived early and we arrived at the Ocean terminal by 11.30. Our luggage was immediately taken from us by a cheerful porter and we were directed to check in. Having booked a Q3 Penthouse suite we had priority check in which took literally minutes before we were seated in the area dedicated to Queens Grill guests.
At 12.00 prompt, our designated boarding time, we were called to board.
Our suite was located very close to the lifts mid-ship. All in all, we'd left our overnight hotel and were in our suite in less than an hour.
As we entered the suite we were greeted with champagne on ice and strawberries dipped in chocolate.
The room did seem to have a strange layout but you soon become familiar with this. On entering you are presented with a desk and seating area. The desk is a great place to store all the shipboard information, daily programmes etc., and the sofa and table somewhere to sit and then rest the G&T as you read it. Opposite is a bar area and small fridge, well stocked with mixers and soft drinks, and refilled each day. Two complimentary bottles of spirits to our request were also provided, after we'd told our butler what we wanted.
The bedroom area had a lovely dressing area and walk in closet. Clothes storage was not a problem, there was ample hanging space and loads of hangers, some padded!. Good storage under the bed and room for the empty cases. In fact there were cupboards and drawers we never used.
The marble bath room was lovely. Large whirlpool bath and separate shower. The shower has a glass door so no nasty, cold, clinging shower curtain. Wash basin and toilet were in a separate room that was accesible from both the sleeping and living areas. Overall the room was excellent and very comfortable.
The balcony was large, twice the size of normal balcony rooms, and provided with two reclining chairs, foot stools and small table.
Lunch was provided on the first day in the Queens Grill. We were allocated a table for two as requested on booking. The table was not quite next to the window but we still had good views out and could easily see the beautiful scenery, especially when the couple on the next table, very regular cruisers, didn't come up for a meal.
The food in the Queens Grill was superb throughout and the service absolutely correct and quite excellent. Our allocated waiters Seeven and Bryan attended to our every need. Because of this we did not bother with any of the alternative dining venues.
Our luggage had arrived in the suite as we were at lunch and butler Natalia arrived as we were unpacking to introduce herself and was always on hand if needed but never obtrusive.
In Stavanger we were moored close enough to walk into the market and explore the old part of the town. In the afternoon we took a Cunard organised tour in order to see further afield.
We eventually booked Cunard tours in Stavanger, Olden and Geiranger and all were as advertised. There did not appear to be much price advantage trying to book tours once ashore. In Bergen we discovered the hop on, hop off buses and would in future check these out in appropriate ports of call. The buses have a dedicated route and on payment of a fee you can get off at any points of interest and take a subsiquent bus to continue your journey. Tickets are valid for 24 hours.
I took three on-board photo workshops and found them very useful and interesting. They were organised at times which did not clash with excursions and usually on sea days. The nominal fee was very acceptable.
In Olden my husband and I renewed our wedding vows after 32 years of marriage. I have to say a big thank you to all the Cunard Queen Elizabeth staff who made it a very special day. The service was conducted by the Captain in the Admiral's Lounge; beautiful flowers, cake, champagne and a photographer provided. Superb memories.
Overall we found the entire trip a wonderful experience. The ship was beautiful and elegant. All the staff we encountered were friendly and helpful. All of them. Everyone smiled and looked like they meant it! The service throughout was superb.
I think the Grills experience was a perfect choice for us and we would book the same trip again without question. We actually took advantage of the onboard deals to book for next year, two weeks this time!
Well done Cunard and Queen Elizabeth.