We booked on Cunard Cruise M401 (Queen Mary 2 departing New York) with flights and all other arrangements booked through Cunard.
We were booked in Queens Grills class (Stateroom 11151). We have cruised a number of times before and sailed on QM2 on a transatlantic voyage (also in Queens Grill) about 18 months before.
First the plusses. The ship is, of course, magnificent. And we had a truly excellent Butler, Lita. Cabin service was excellent but I think that was very largely due to the fact that Lita is the sort of person who will go the extra mile to provide her guests with the best possible experience. Our Stateroom was well appointed and gave everything we could have expected. We like the Commodore Club and the Grills Terrace on deck 11 is an excellent facility when not overrun by people who are not entitled to be there. That needs better monitoring
The entertainment was varied. The Ships musicians were excellent. Their dancers and singers, less so. The star was undoubtedly Roy Walker. A number of the chairs in the Planetarium are in need of repair.
Most of the staff were friendly and helpful, with one or two exceptions.
One could not say that the food in the Queens Grill is bad, but it is certainly not up to the standard advertised or expected. My main complaint is inconsistency! A sirloin steak on one night was excellent on another it was so tough it was virtually inedible. Accompanying vegetables frequently arrived when the dish they were intended to accompany was almost finished.
Sole meunière served virtually dry. Only after a struggle did the supervising waiter prepare another. My wife had tough lobster (though one of our dining companions had apparently very acceptable lobster). My wife also had a dish described as tempura shrimp: deep fired in batter might have been more accurate! Certainly not value for money!
As a general point relating to the Queens Grill I wonder if it is perhaps over provided with waiters just under the level of Maitre D. The serving waiters were excellent, but too many people in the "flunky" category.
Brooklyn Cruise Terminal is barely adequate as a point of embarkation, but for dis-embarkation it is a disgrace. Rude and surly staff. No self use baggage trolleys. Far too few porters. And far far too few border officials. Only three desks open to deal with hundreds of people. I should have thought that as a major user of this facility, Cunard ought to carry some clout in trying to improve passengers' experience.
What we would have described as a very enjoyable cruise has left us with memories which are very unpleasant.
TRANSFER TO JFK:
The booking I made was for a cruise from New York to various Caribbean destinations and back with flights from and to London Heathrow. All of the flight arrangements were made by Cunard. I was not offered a choice of airline or of flights. In the result, the return flight booked from New York was BA116 on 3 January.
During the course of the return voyage from the Caribbean the Commodore informed us that a severe winter storm was forecast for New York at around the time of our scheduled arrival and so it was decided to significantly accelerate the ship's progress so as to ensure arrival before the storm hit New York. That was achieved.
As early as I could in the morning of our arrival at New York, I tried to check in on-line for my return flight only to discover it had been cancelled. I contacted the pursers office on board ship. I was informed that they had been in touch with British Airways and that the advice was that we should be taken to JFK Airport. Subsequently the Commodore informed us that the ship had been cleared for disembarkation and that we would be taken to JFK where we would be "put into the care of our airline who would look after us".
It was clear that the onward travel arrangements of a substantial number of others were likely to be adversely affected by the storm. The impression that I and other passengers I spoke to had was that it was Cunard's intention to get us off the ship and off their hands as soon as possible. That indeed was what happened. One of the other complaints I have relates to the woeful inadequacy of the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, suffice it to say that we were left to manhandle our own luggage with very few porters available and no self use baggage trolleys. We had to get out into very unpleasant weather conditions searching for some one to direct us to our transportation. Eventually we were helped to a coach which took us to JFK where we were "dumped".
We were deposited at the Terminal 7 arrivals level with again no trolleys visible. We then had to struggle to get ourselves and our luggage to the departures level where we found chaos! There was no indication of what was happening. No signage to indicate where assistance could be found. There were various queues but the people queuing really had no idea what they were queuing for!
But the fact is that there was no Cunard representative at the airport to "put us into the care of our airline", as the Commodore had put it.. The individuals we saw with "Cunard" signage claimed that their only function was to meet and arrange ground transportation for those arriving. I assume that there were not large numbers in that category since many flights (particularly BA flights) had been cancelled. I then tried on numerous occasions to contact the NY number Cunard had provided. On each occasion I got an answering service. My messages were not returned!!
I then tried to call Cunard in the UK. I was informed by someone that it was "not in Cunard's business interest to help people with problems on return flights".
It was clearly not Cunard's fault that there was a storm and, in fairness, they took sensible steps to ensure that we had as uneventful as possible a return voyage to New York. But where they were responsible for the booking of the whole trip it beggars belief that they claim that it is not in their business interest to seek to ensure that difficulties outside the passenger's control are mitigated as far as possible. It is likely to affect decisions as to whether to come back to Cunard or recommend Cunard to friends etc.
We had to queue for over 5 hours before we had any assistance from BA. There was wholly inadequate seating and no refreshment facility. It was disgraceful. The result was that the Commodore's promise to us was not fulfilled. I am sure he made the promise in good faith but somewhere along the line Cunard was unable to keep up to his standards. I cannot imagine it is in Cunard's business interest to be associated with this sort of story.
MY ON-BOARD ACCOUNT
On the morning of our arrival at New York I returned from Breakfast to find the statement of my on-board account had been delivered to the cabin. I was horrified to discover it contained (among all of the items I was expecting) an item for $11,000 + in respect of something described as "Concierge Postal Services". I immediately went to the Purser's desk to seek an explanation for this. Of course, no explanation was given and I was presented with a new statement of account from which this item had been removed. Unfortunately matters did not end there.
Shortly after our return to the UK I was doing some on-line shopping using the same credit card I had used for the voyage when the relatively small amount for my purchases was declined. On querying this with Barclaycard it emerged that, not only had my card been debited with the full amount of the original statement but that in addition there was what was described as a "pending transaction". It seems that the pending transaction was a debit amount placed against my card to cover the wrongly applied $11,000 +. Not only that, but I was informed by Barclaycard that there was nothing they could do about that and that unless Cunard took steps to deal with the matter this charge against my card would remain for several days. So the question for Cunard is why did they not release the "pending transaction" at the same time as they debited my card for the full amount on the original statement?
I spent the best part of two days in telephone calls trying to get this sorted out. In the end it was the dedication and persistence of a Barclaycard employee who was able first to explain exactly what had happened and secondly to ensure that despite Cunard's efforts I was actually able to use my Credit Card.
This issue raises wider questions about how retailers use (abuse might be more appropriate) the right to debit cards on which they have an authorisation.
In respect of the transfer to JFK I have been offered a credit of £250 towards the cost of a future cruise. Since these events have led us to conclude that we have no intention of cruising again with Cunard, that offer is, effectively, worthless.
In respect of the on-board account debacle, I have been told by Cunard. "Pre authorizations are a common practice with any credit account, and they drop off of the account at around 7 days after the transaction is completed. Whilst I appreciate that the large amount was debited from your card in error, unfortunately it is not possible to stop the automatic pre authorisation process". Their attitude seems to be almost that it is my fault. Oh yes. They have offered "A Hamper" for the inconvenience caused!!!