A bit of a Mixed Bag: Queen Elizabeth Cruise Review by rhkennerly
Overall Member Rating
A bit of a Mixed Bag
Destination: Europe - Eastern Mediterranean
Thought I'd touch on some rough points, but keep in mind: the overall trip was excellent.
We chose this trip for the time of year and the Itinerary, not the ship.
CUNARD Arranged Flights: While a bargain, the seating on the SwissAir Airbus A330-300 to NYC > Zurich was hot (despite repeated requests from several passengers), cramped, and crowded. My seat in Economy was more like riding on a child's training toilet than a seat for adults.
(having said that, return on UAL Boeing 767-400 was excellent. Clearly "Star Alliance" partner doesn't indicate much about comfort.).
EMBARKATION: Venice is tough for the older or less mobile. Although we'd dropped our big suitcases at the "Left Luggage Office" overnight to keep from having to drag them over the bridges to our hotel the night before Embarkation [Left Luggage is next to the More PeopleMover entrance right off the PR bus drop, where all the airport blue buses drop people]. The "hike" from the PeopleMover terminus end to the QE was long, hot, a hard pull on uneven pavement, and generally exhausting (would it have killed the ship to at least have a golf cart for luggage?).
The three of us presented ourselves for check-in sweat-soaked, disheveled, and grumpy. This was particularly hard on the women (who like to "dress" for boarding). In any event, this was hardly the way one expects to begin a cruise.
MDR: we skipped it after the first 6 dinners, eating instead in the superior Lido. Early Seating in the MDR was crowded, noisy, and the food --while fine-- wasn't "special." The wait staff were harried.
By way of comparison, the Lido was cool, dark, and quiet. The Custom Pasta station was a standout. While the MDR was a pretty sterile environment, the smell of hot oil, cooked garlic, and frying onions permeated the Lido and made the experience far superior.
DRESS CODE: I know Cunard takes a lot of flack over this issue. I'm of two minds. First of all, I think there should be different standards of dress, depending on the cruise. On TAs, where there is nothing to do all day but pamper oneself, then the Titanic Recreatiionists should have sway with the dress.
However, on a cruise with this many ports and this much hardcore touring, the dress standards should be relaxed considerably. After 8-9 hours climbing to the top of the Acropolis and exploring Athens on foot, one is pretty deadened to the niceties of a coat and tie at dinner. By Santorini, everyone was pretty much numb to any downtime experiences.
(Frankly, I have never seen more nodding off over dinner than I saw on this trip. This was a ship of hardcore tourists, not the Titanic Recreation crowd at all. This observation was confirmed by the waitstaff in 10 Forward, the Commodore Club, where they complained that nightlife was almost existent. )
More important was the problem of packing for Dress Standards vs weight and baggage hauling. This is particularly important in Venice, where baggage handling facilities and porters are virtually non-existent.
A large number of passengers spent two days or more in Venice before the trip, often training off to Florence or Milan, cities not on the itinerary. And then spent several days in Rome at the end. We did both.
In this case, ship's standard evening attire is just dead weight and a real bother when you're EuroRailing around Italy before and after the trip (and at $500 per bag, shipping the excess back wasn't very attractive).
Having said that, I am aware of some hardcore ballroom dancers and other people who seemed to quite enjoy the dress-up part of the trip as much or even more than the touring.
Make no mistake, this is a GREAT itinerary, the trip of a lifetime. The QE was fine. Everything about the ship was "fine," but rarely "special." Less
we got what we paid for. A bit cramped, but workable. The "show" on this trip is the touring, not lounging on a balcony. After pretty hard days touring, we were dead on our feet most evenings. I'm sure we had neighbors, but didn't hear them.