I flew from Washington,DC. to London with Virgin Atlantic Upper Class and stayed at the Crown Plaza St.James over the weekend prior to sailing. We (my darling Aunt and I)have made our own arrangements for this.On Monday the 30th of October we set off from London Waterloo on Southwest Trains at 10.39am enroute to Southampton where we arrived at 12.15pm. From Southampton central station we took a taxi to the Mayflower terminal (this was a short notice change from Cunard)where we checked in after an approximate 30 minute wait in line.We were greeted by the staff on deck three and escorted to our stateroom 5230, to our super surprise this was an outside cabin with balcony (we actually had booked a inside). Our Cabin Steward Eric was already waiting for us, as was our luggage and several bottles of Champagne,Sparkling Wine and Wine. After getting over the excitement of the cabin, we wanted to first check our restaurant seating and went straight to the Britannia Dining Room.We had requested a table for 2 for the early seating at 6pm, however I noticed that we were to sit on a table for 8. After speaking to the Maitre D' this was quickly changed and we were assigned table 52 on deck 2. Now it was time to book a table for Todd English as everyone had advised me to do as early as possible, so we opted to dine there on the "informal" night on Thursday. I also booked Spa treatments for my Aunt and myself for the following days. After all the arranging it was time for some refreshments and as our charming and very efficient cabin steward Eric had told us we went to deck 7,the Kings Court for some light refreshments. After unpacking and changing it was time at 5pm for the emergency drill and after this we set sail promptly at 6pm. We did not attend the cocktail party on deck 12 but opted to enjoy a few glasses of champagne before taking our seats for dinner. To not stretch this review to long I will now give an overview of our experiences: Britannia Dining Room Table 52: Our Waiter Nened, Junior Waiter Jason and Sommelier Pol were at all times extremely courteous,accommodating and helpful.We dined at the Britannia every evening with the exception of Thursday when we dined at Todd English. The food for Dinner in general and I say this from a hoteliers background was,just as I expected it, standard banquet food but nothing special and on several occasions it lacked taste,finesse and the portions (especially the main course) should be smaller. Also one normally one would not hurry 3 or 4 courses in 45 minutes.As I said before I did NOT expect any superlative dishes, however more consistency and flavor would help. Breakfast and Lunch in the Britannia is a different experience as one has not the usual table. Staff seem totally de-motivated, coffee tastes awful, and again on several occasions tasteless food and extremely slow service. Todd English: As I mentioned earlier,I had made bookings immediately as I was advised that it would be booked quickly.We arrived at 6.30pm and were greeted by the Maitre D', the restaurant was at this time only used by two other couples and it did not fill to more then 8 tables throughout the evening. Our waitress Anneke was delightful and very knowledgeable about the menu. I can highly recommend the Potatoe Love Letters (if you love truffles), this dish actually gave me goose bumps because of it's delightful taste!For desert the Fallen Chocolate Cake was Divine! Again even here all dishes are supersized and I think less is more. Overall it was a wonderful experience and the $30.00 surcharge is rectified.
Kings Court Lunch: This area leaves a lot to be desired, but not the food but the organization (if you don't like to wait in line I advise to go at 11am or later after 2pm). The Carvery offers delicious meats, Lotus tasty stir fry's and La Piazza Italian dishes and deserts.Chefs Galley does delectable sandwiches and fresh burgers.I very much enjoyed taking Breakfast there as one has a choice and doesn't need to take full sizes of everything, although on several occasions the "regular" coffee machines did not work.
If you are looking for a midnight snack,BAD LUCK unless you count Hot Dogs,Burgers and Frozen Pizza as your staple foods!This needs strong improvement!
Afternoon Tea: The Queens Room is rather a let down, first of all it is a hurried affair( and this is the opposite of what afternoon tea is supposed to be->relaxing)there are no individual pot's of tea (just 1 kind from tea bags)waiters just race around and give you whatever they have on their trays.The better option I found is having tea on deck 7 in the Lotus section. Yes, it is self service, however the selection is nicer, you can sit by a window and really relax!
Golden Lion Pub: Probably the best fish and chips & minted peas I have ever had (and I had many of those).Really very delicious "Pub Dishes" again GO EARLY, before the "Trivia" or entertainment starts.
CANYON RANCH SPA: A must for everyone seeking relaxation and needing a little TLC, the Canyon Ranch Massage with Joseph is fantastic and the best in the world (go for 80minutes not 50 as this will not be enough to relax) and the Ayuverda Treatment is also very good. The Spa facilities are immaculate and good value for money, also try to avoid the first two days as there will be guided tours and show rounds for all the other passengers.I still give this a 5* as it is a great place to really unwind.
The Library & Bookshop: I have visited the library frequently and there are free copies of the London Times,Frankfurter Allgemeine and the Wall Street Journal available (to read there) as well as a selection of up to date magazines and probably the best selection of books anywhere at sea!
The Commodore Club:I visited several times, mainly to joins the "Friends of Dorothy" meetings, however this seemed a rather excluding group so I enjoyed my afternoon tiple by myself and again the staff especially John the Steward were superb.
Entertainment: This is where I rank the QM2 superior to anything else, as nothing is a must but everything they offer is of superior quality and worth ones time.
Oxford Lectures are a wonderful way to spend time learning or refreshing ones memory. Especially the lectures by Sir John Johnson and Dr. Angus Hawkins as well as Dr.Lucy Worsley.
RADA: A team of superb and charming young RADA graduates who gave refreshing performances of Shakespeare,Oscar Wilde and a Poetry reading.
Pianist Adam Johnson: I attended 2 wonderful concerts by this young pianist and the audience and myself were delighted.
Royal Court Theatre: We saw the Rock at the Opera and Appasionata Shows, which were produced to the highest standards and I actually enjoyed them (although I tend to go only for more serious classical music).
Casino: Supernice and helpful staff and it was fun loosing a few $$$ at the Roulette table and I have no regrets!
Illuminations:We went to see several Planetarium presentations for which I advise you to get tickets EARLY (9am)as they go fast!
The Cruise Director Allistair Greener is very charming and himself quite an entertainer.
Religious: There is a daily Catholic Mass held in Illuminations and on Saturdays one for Sunday obligation, there is also a Sabbath Service on Friday afternoon. I found this very nice, but was wondering why there is no C of E Vicar, as the majority of passengers is British.
To wrap up I would like to say that for me this trip was thoroughly enjoyable and it was everything I expected. I will do it again as soon as possible (time allowing)and can highly recommend it to everyone. One personal note I would like to make is that I wished all passengers should be more geared towards the "dress code", I did see an awful lot of Bathrobes (even Pajamas) in the Kings Court and people in track suits or just jeans in the evening. Now I do not want sound pompous of like stiff upper lip, but I actually planned my wardrobe 6 month ahead and gentleman,one does only need one Dinner Suit and 4 Shirts and a Club Jacket for all other occasions.
I hope you all enjoyed this!Feedback & Questions are welcome!