We had cruised on this ship to Norway , late in the year, and found it cool on the ship and cold in the fjords. Still it was easily the best and most economical way to see them, We researched flight and ferry options as well as hotels and all worked out at least twice as costly and without the views from the 10th deck of QE.
We knew the Med - from Venice via Dubrovnik, Piraeus, Kusadasi, Greek Islands and Sicily to Civitavecchia would be different. And it was. Knowing the ship already was helpful as we paid a bit extra for a balcony cabin so that we could open a window and avoid being blown away by the aircon. The drawback was that the few smokers on Cunard are now addicts and chain-smoke on their balcony from before dawn untikl midnight or later. When they do, the smoke is sucked straight into your cabin and there is nothing for it but to close the window. From May 2014 QE balconies will be smoke-free and the problem should evaporate.
The QE aircon seems to circulate germs and if you sit for long in a cabin with the windiows shut , you are likely soon to be sneezing and coughing. We noted many of the Japanese passengers wearing face masks, which is what they do when they have an infection.
Perhaps a more upsetting problem was the stomach upsets. We were ill four times, usually just a couple of hours after eating breakfast in the Lido. We eventually narowed this down to the salads, prepared in the Lido kitchens, lettuce, tomato, cucumber and such. Of course, I would never, ever eat this anywhere in the Third World as I know the likely outcome. But we were misled by the ubiquitous alcohol hand washing which confronts you, whenever you enter a restaurand, into thinking that Cunard had the bugs under control. Not so it seems. This was not Norovirus or anything like it, but a vicious little bug which sent you running to find a toilet in some strange port. My reward for reporting this to the medical staff was to be confined to my cabin, for the remainder of the trip
Feeling unwell obviously detracts from a holiday and colours your recollections. But I will set that aside. An advantage of the Med compared to Norway is that all the ports have cheap cafes, bars and drink shops. In fact at Venice and Dubrovinik entrepreneurs who obviously knew something of Cunard`s drink prices had set up stalls at the entry to the ship. They did a great trade and you can pay in eouros rather than US dollars.
It is possible at each port - aside from the Italian Civitavechia and Messina - which are ugly dumps - to walk off the ship and take a local bus, train, taxi or Dolmus to whereever you may want to go. Thus you can avoid the high-price excursions. Our favourites were Corfu and Santorini - where we found that we could avoid the worst crowds by taking a €30 boat trip to the end of the island. Venice and Athens even in November are packed out in the rourist spots - I did not even try Rome - but it is possible to wander around the back streets and find places of interest if you are not determined to tick off the Parthenon and the Colosseum.
On board meakls and service were generally excelent and we found that paying $10 extra for the serviced sector of the Lido, where Asian and Indian food is served at your table is always a good investment. One of the chefs is from Goa so he knows Indian cuisine. The Verandah, a considerably larger investment never disappopints, although one night we had a waiter from South America who was the split image of Manuel.
We left for Heathrow Terminal 5 early on the morning of the hurricane, expecting the flight to be cancelled. In fact everything went very smootly right through to the coach to the cruise terminal. Boarding was not to Southampton standards but we will not complain after Fiumcino. Four queues and three hours - the first half a mile long as the airport tried to load two 767s=500pax through a single desk. Nowhere to eat that was not already booked out by Japanese waiting for their charter to Tokyo- who had been bussed in before us. Goodbye Fiumcino - never again.
There were a lot of Japanes on the ship - sometiomes it seemed over 500. And though invariably quiet and polite - they contrived to converge on the buffets in a swarm. There they would beetle around, heads down, collecting plates and mugs and building large, but orderly queues everywhere. Collisions were inevitable as they rushed from the omelette hot plate to the waffles. The English - older, quieter, more reserved than in Norwayand it proved hard to strike up many aquantainceships, either with the Japanese or the English..