We have recently returned from a Christmas Markets cruise on QE. (13th to 23rd December). In recent weeks, it had been heavily discounted. This was probably due to its close proximity to Christmas, and sailing on Friday 13th! But even so, we sailed with an under capacity, 1700 out of a possible 2000 odd. This did affect the ambience on board, due both to the low numbers and the fact that no-one was spending in the bars etc. ( Perhaps when some were spending £40 per night all found, £6 a drink seems expensive!) It seemed like a ghost ship, but it did make many things much easier, eg not queuing overlong for the afternoon teas or shuttle buses, waiting for the lifts, choosing a seat in the theatre etc.
The ports of call were the usual ones for Christmas Markets. Having been to Bruges and Brussels markets previously, when we docked in Zeebrugge, we decided to explore Blankenberge which was more interesting than the name suggests.
High winds prevented us from docking in Amsterdam and we made a detour to Rotterdam, all expertly handled by Cunard in terms of reorganising shuttles etc.
We stayed overnight in Copenhagen, which was lovely, as we could visit Tivoli Gardens and linger longer in the evening.
We made a maiden call into Gothenburg, which unfortunately was spoilt by dreadful weather, but this was our only bad weather day. This prevented us from visiting the Christmas Markets, which are the biggest in Sweden. While we waited to disembark, I asked embarking passengers "was it worth going out in the rain?" And the answer was no, everyone could only battle with unruly umbrellas and couldn't even look up in the driving rain. We got on the shuttle bus and drove the twenty minutes into the city centre, and saw the dripping huddled queue waiting for the bus to come back, and made a quick decision to stay on the bus, albeit moving upstairs to the front seats. So our only view of Gothenburg was on a circular bus shuttle!
Oslo was lovely, our second time there so we took the number 30 bus out to the Folk museum, a mostly outdoor exhibition of houses through the ages. We had some lovely sunshine and it was a wonderful experience, albeit not as well staffed as its website suggests, but it was winter! On our return it was an easy walk around the markets and a stroll back to the ship.
We stayed in a Britannia Club balcony grade cabin. The cabins are on deck 8, so the highest deck, but as they are midships, it was a comfortable position, although we were not tested by heavy seas, unlike the next cruise! You could hear the footfall from the deck above, which could be more noticeable in the summer. The balcony was the biggest we have had in balcony grade, really roomy. We were given a whole bottle of bubbly and some chocolates. The so called pillow menu was a choice of two, synthetic or feather. The synthetic was lovely and soft, and the pillows were huge to match the bed. We are considering ordering a Cunarder mattress when ours is a little older! The bedding is of a higher quality, so altogether this enhanced our sleep. The steward was also one of the best we have had in over a dozen cruises, so I assume they match the more experienced stewards to the cabin grade?
The restaurant was lovely, and the staff were excellent, soon remembering your little likes and dislikes. It holds about 80 pax, but as we were only numbering 24 on this particular cruise the service was amazing! There is also an a la carte section to choose from. One of the best points for us was that we could arrive any time as it suited within the opening hours, so tables for two seemed a sensible option to choose. And to be honest, and especially after having experienced a very "sociable" rail journey holiday the previous month, it was a lovely change just to relax and enjoy our own company! Another bonus was that we could order anything from the menus to be sent up for room service, which we did on two occasions, and it was lovely. The food was also the best we have experienced across Cunard and P&O, whether this was down to being in Club, I couldn't be sure, but rather suspect. These are the only differences I could see. Whether it is worth the extra money, and it is quite a bit, we remain in doubt. Perhaps save the extra and use the alternative dining venues?
We thoroughly enjoyed our little pre Christmas break. After we left Oslo , Captain Wells announced an outbreak of NV and we were put on red alert, but luckily, we emerged unscathed.
It was our first time on QE and she is a lovely ship. Quite similar to QV, but now one of our favourites.