My Husband and I are new to travelling via cruise, and as such we decided we'd try out the shortest cruise we could find. That lead us to booking a last minute deal to join Cunard's QM2 for 2 nights on a sailing to Hamburg.
BOOKING: We phoned to book our cabin and opted to upgrade to a Princess Grill room. The staff on the end of the phone were very helpful, and gave us lots of hints and tips to get the most from our journey.
EMBARKATION: This could not have been simpler or quicker for us. We arrived at shortly after 12pm, our luggage was unloaded from the car we arrived in, and whisked straight away. We walked straight up to a desk, checked in and were shown straight through to the ship. No waiting, no stress. We met our concierge as we boarded and were directed straight to our room. Our luggage was not there when we arrived but it was no surprise as it would have been virtually impossible to get it there before we arrived as we literally walked straight on. We had a lovely bottle of wine and some delicious nibbles waiting for us in our room which we thoroughly enjoyed on our balcony as the ship sailed off.
ROOM: We were on deck 10 in room 095 and it was better than we expected. We're used to staying in luxurious surroundings and enjoying some of the finer things in life and the rooms lived up to our expectations. It was spacious, light and airy and the balcony was lovely. When we booked, cruising friends told us we'd never use it, but we spent so much time enjoying the fresh air on our balcony, I don't think we'd have enjoyed cruising without a balcony to step out on to last thing at night and first thing in the morning.
RESTAURANT & FOOD: Due to having a Princess Grill suite, we were able to eat in the Princess Grill restaurant. This made all the difference for us, our eating habits in normal life are quite erratic so it would have been difficult for us to get into a routine enough to want to eat at set sittings. The Princess Grill was not only beautiful and intimate (we had a table to ourselves) but we could please ourselves to a large extent with what times we wanted to eat. The food was beautifully presented and tasted sublime. Our waiters were attentive and remembered everything from our names, to snippets about our life, to how much sugar I liked in my tea. I also highly recommend the Wickham Vineyard Fume wine - we had rarely tried English wine and were so surprised by how good it tasted that we have since visited the vineyard and now regularly buy the wine from there!
They only did afternoon tea one day in the ballroom and the crowd to get in was crazy. We did que for awhile and try to get a table but it was impossible and the stampede to get there was ridiculous. In the end we decided to visit the Queens Grill Lounge for a drink, not realising that they served Afternoon Tea here too. We actually preferred this area for afternoon tea, no mad rush, no crowds, just relaxed and refined atmosphere with plenty of delicious food beautifully prepared, presented and served.
ENTERTAINMENT ONBOARD: We really enjoyed everything about our stay onboard. Although we weren't so interested in taking classes, or listening to talks, we did enjoy a bit of shopping (I'd forgotten my perfume and thankfully the shops onboard stocked Chanel Chance). We also spent a lot of time at the tables in the casino soaking up the atmosphere and making back some of the money we spent on the cruise itself! We enjoyed the Planetarium experience and saw a couple of the shows in the theatre. There is virtually NOTHING better than sitting in your seats, watching a show and having a member of staff bring you drinks so you don't have to get up! We enjoyed drinks in several of the bars, including the Commodore Club and the Chart Room. I highly recommend trying to Shipwrecked Martini!
DISEMBARKATION: I think the only disappointment of the whole journey was how early we had to leave the ship. Our bags were required to be outside our room by midnight the night before, and we didn't manage this due to being in the Chart Room with family members who were also onboard at the same time until gone 2am. I don't see how anyone can be expected to be dressed up and enjoying their time onboard only to be told they basically have to be fully packed and go to bed before 12am. As it turned out, it was OK though as we forgot whilst having a good time, rushed to pack and get our bags out at about 2-2:30am and all was well.
In the morning we got up, had a lovely breakfast and then sat in the Chart Room until our numbers were called to disembark. At which point everything was again seamless. We walked straight off the ship, our luggage was right there and easy to find, and a taxi rank was available to take us on to our hotel in Hamburg. All in all, the whole process of disembarking took less than 10 minutes.
OVERALL THOUGHTS: We thoroughly enjoyed our entire experience with Cunard on the QM2. The only regret was that we booked such a short cruise. We are now about to book a much longer cruise and can't stop talking about what a fantastic time we had onboard. The main problem we had was that there were so many opportunities to eat that after the first 24 hours we felt like we'd over indulged and we actually missed dinner on the 2nd day as a result of not being able to physically consume any more!
We look forward to joining Cunard for a cruise (or two!) in 2014.
Again, easy and uncomplicated disembarkation. Walked straight off the boat and although it is all uncovered, it was very quick. Straight off the boat, quick flick of our passports and into like a warehouse with all our luggage in rows. Then straight back out the doors and there's a taxi rank and a car park right in front of you. Although you don't really need either if you're staying in Hamburg as it's all so close together you can walk to most places.
Southampton port is easy to find as it's so well sign-posted. Our experience was flawless and quick. We arrived at the gate and were directed to the correct area. We drove right up to the doors and there was someone to open our car doors and unload our luggage. We walked straight into the terminal and there was no line to get to the priority boarding desk at all. Check-in was quick and efficient and very friendly (everything is done with a smile!), and we walked straight through what I assume was security and straight onboard. The whole process was uncomplicated and took maybe 10 minutes at most.
Although it was a lovely day, this would have been a perfect port for rain as everything was entirely covered and warm.