We booked this short cruise after we returned from our wonderful cruise, Mediterranean Idyll on the Queen Elizabeth in August 2013. http://www.cruisecritic.co.uk/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=227123
This Winter Getaway Voyage on the Queen Mary was for just 4 nights leaving from Southampton on Wednesday11th December sailing to Zeebrugge and then onto Le Harvre on Friday 13th, and returning to Southampton on the Sunday.
We booked a sheltered balcony cabin but after the prices came down upgraded to a Princess Grill guarantee cabin.
10 days prior to leaving we were allocated our cabin number 10061 which was a P1 midships on deck 10.
This was our first time on the Queen Mary so were very excited.
We stayed overnight in Southampton on the Tuesday at the West Quay Premier Inn. This is very close to the cruise terminals and had pretty good reviews. We parked in the adjoining car park which is not part of the hotel but guests get a special rate of £5 a night. The hotel is basic but comfortable, just avoid a room over the entrance as there is noise as people arrive and leave throughout the night.
In the morning we took a taxi over to the port at 11.30 am, (£10) and arrived 15 minutes later. Our luggage was taken from us and we made our way into the Ocean terminal and up the escalator. It was very quiet and we checked in immediately at the priority check in desk. Boarding hadn't yet started so we waited just outside security for about 10 minutes until we were called to board at noon. We were on the ship by 12.10pm. Our room was ready and two of our cases had arrived but the other two didn’t arrive until about 1 pm so we opened one of the two bottles of Pol Acker to celebrate our arrival. After we unpacked we went down to the Princess Grill Restaurant for lunch.
Our Princess Grill cabin, number 10061 was starboard, midships on deck 10 and felt much larger than the Princess Grill suite on the Queen Elizabeth. The cabin is squarer in shape giving a feeling of more space compared to the long narrow suite on QE. This also means our balcony was wider and slightly deeper. The balcony has great un-interrupted views and has no overhang which most of the Britannia balcony cabins do have, directly above on deck 11. This doesn't matter on a winter cruise but if you like the sun and are on a summer cruise then some of the cabins on deck 11 will be more shaded. There are two wooden recliner loungers with padded cushions and a small table.
The bed was very comfortable as on all Cunard ships and there was lots of storage with a great walk in wardrobe plus two further double wardrobes. In addition there are further storage cupboards, drawers and display shelves plus a drinks cabinet with a fridge below. A safe and a flat screen TV with a fairly good selection of channels.
All our cases were stored easily under the bed.
The bathroom is also larger than QE although the bath itself is a little shorter. The Shower over the bath is good and has a flexible hose unlike the fixed shower on QE so you can adjust height etc.
Our cabin was beneath Britannia balcony staterooms on deck 11 and above a Queen Suite on deck 9 so is very quiet with no public areas to cause an issue. There is a staff access area door a short way along the corridor but didn't cause us any problems. Lifts are also conveniently close just a few yards away but again nothing can be heard from these.
We set sail about 4.30 and it was already getting dark. We joined the Sail Away party on deck 12 and had a glass of champagne as we left Southampton. It was very cold out on deck so we went and explored the ship.
Our overall impression was that the ship is beautifully kept with all public areas looking impressive, but feeling much bigger than QE. It also felt much busier and crowded but I suppose we are used to cruising in warmer months or locations so half the passengers are normally outside whereas on this winter cruise everyone is occupying their time inside the ship. The crew all smiled and seemed friendly enough.
When we last sailed on the QE (Cabin 8081) we were really impressed with the food and service in the PG restaurant. The PG on the QE is much smaller and feels a little more intimate. The PG on the Queen Mary is twice the size and consequently feels busier, but overall I would say the standard on the QM is very high with good food and service but not quite up to the standard of the QE, this could be just our experience on a short cruise. We felt particularly lucky to have been assigned a window seat. Table number 2, a first for us.
We arrived in Zeebrugge at 8.30 am on Thursday and had booked just a simple transfer to Bruges which took about 25 minutes. Bruges was an interesting and attractive city which we spent about 6 hours exploring. There was mention of a Christmas Market in many of the brochures but wasn’t the only reason we went, which was just as well as it was very disappointing. Just a few garden sheds located around an ice rink selling woolly hats, jewellery, and a few other things. A few food stalls and that was about it, In total maybe 40 or 50 sheds which took about 15 minutes to walk round.
However Bruges itself is full of great shops, restaurants and interesting architecture and well worth a visit.
We were back on the ship by 4pm and set sail for Le Havre at 6.30pm.
We then had a quiet Friday at sea arriving in La Harvre at the earlier than expected time of 4pm rather than the scheduled time of 10pm. This was ok but meant all the shops and casino were closed early at 3.30. This was a shame as we like to wander around the shops before dinner. We obtained tickets for the Planetarium show today, “Passport to the Universe” which was really interesting although it felt a bit odd sitting in a Planetarium on a ship.
Friday Night was our only Formal night and also the Big Band Night in the Queens Room, with the Royal Court Theatre Orchestras. This was absolutely full and had a great atmosphere. Almost all of the ship adhered to the dress code apart from just a few.
Saturday morning we took a free shuttle to La Harvre having decided not to do the Paris trip which meant a 6am start. A couple of hours in La Havre and another Christmas market we returned to the ship for a relaxing afternoon of lunch in the Princess Grill and a massage. The weather for December had been pretty good with really sunny days both in Zeebrugge and La Harvre however the captain announced that we would be leaving La Harvre for Southampton early as bad weather had been forecast that evening.
We set sail at 5pm for Southampton which was just a distance of 98 nautical miles and would see us arrive in Southampton around 5.30am.
We spent our final evening taking in the atmosphere of the ship and having our final meal in the Princess Grill. We both had Lamb Shanks which were fantastic.
We spent a couple of hours at the end of the evening in the very busy Casino and fortunately won over $400 on the slot machines. We cashed in and virtually settled our on board account which was a great end to the cruise.
As we made our way through the night to Southampton the bad weather hit us and the ship was rolling about so much books were falling off our shelving. We did arrive as predicted at around 5.45am.
Our disembarkation time was 8.50am from the Chart Room, so we went and had breakfast in the PG and made our way down to the Chart Room at about 8.15am. A few minutes later there was an announcement telling us we could now begin to disembarkation early so we made our way to the Gangway.
A few minutes later we grabbed a trolley and located our bags almost immediately. Outside there were lots of taxis waiting so we jumped in and returned to the Premiere Inn to collect our car. The return journey only took 10 minutes and cost £6.50.
We were back on the road home before 9am which must be one of the easiest disembarkations ever.
Overall this was a great break away and when you consider the prices offered for this level of service, food and accommodation you really are hard pressed to beat it. We would definitely sail on the Queen Mary again but will be booking a Mediterranean Cruise on the QE next summer first.
Some photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bruce-penny/sets/