I booked back-to-back transatlantic voyages, leaving on the Queen Mary 2 from Brooklyn on January 3 and returning to New York on the Queen Elizabeth on January 10, the day of my arrival in Southampton. The first half of my trip was great, but I chalk that up to a great table in the evening, late seating. We closed the Britannia most evenings. The staff was very tolerant and we were never once asked to leave. The crossing was quite rough both coming and going, but very noticeable on the Queen Elizabeth, while tolerable on the Queen Mary. I wouldn't again cross the Atlantic on the Queen Elizabeth in the winter but I hope to repeat my trip on the Queen Mary 2 next January. For women, probably best to leave those very high heels at home, at least in winter crossings.
Cabins: Balcony cabinets on both trips were very similar, although the bathroom on the Queen Elizabeth is a bit smaller than on the QM2. I had no problems with either--it is a ship after all. Beds were extremely comfortable and surprisingly for me, I slept better than I do at home and with no hip pain when I woke in the morning. Again, the cabin size was adequate for one and would be for two as well. Plenty of closet space. I did have an unpleasant smell in the QE2 bathroom for a few days, about which I did not complain. Still it was unpleasant.
I had two unpleasant events on the Queen Mary 2: (1) was charged for a bottle of wine that I had not ordered. I did get it straightened out, but found it uncomfortable having to protest a charge. I couldn't find the wine steward my last night to give him his tip and considering the overcharge not too concerned about not finding him. (2) was also charged for drinks from the refrigerator on the Mary (I don't drink water or soda and removed nothing from the refrigerator--actually left a can of seltzer that I brought with me from New York), which charge was also amended in my favor but it took almost a week. I would suggest that you check what is in the refrigerator at the beginning of your trip with your steward to be sure there are no misunderstandings later.
Breakfast: Much preferred the Lido (cafeteria on the Queen Elizabeth) to the King's Court (same type of venue on the Queen Mary). If the voyage had not been so rough I probably would have had my breakfast in the Lido every day as the pancakes were great. I didn't because I found I had to get every item individually as the ship rocked so much and I was afraid of dropping a full tray. Breakfast in dining room for Mary and Elizabeth was adequate, but very slow at times. Whatever you do, don't order the French toast--it's really awful and the pancakes are usually cold when they finally arrive. I did have breakfast in my room a few times and it always arrived on time. I order tea and the pot and tea bags are delivered separately. By the time I was able to get the wrappings off the pot, etc., my tea was cold. Toast always arrives cold as well. But it is relaxing and I plan to continue to do it on occasion. (Obviously, I'm planning to travel again on Cunard.)
Lunch: I was alone so elected to eat in the dining room so I could meet new people every day. Food was quite good on a few days but just adequate most days. Desserts were always good (sigh!). But then I didn't expect five star food (as some people apparently do) and I was satisfied. (Should note that I gained ten pounds in 15 days, so the food had something going for it.)
Tea: Never missed it. My favorite time of the day. Sandwiches are always good as are the sweets (love the fruit cake and wish they served it every day), and the scones with jam and cream are spectacular. Tea, my favorite drink aside from champagne, was hot and plentiful. I'd travel Cunard ships just for the high tea.
Drinks: Prices are no worse than bars in New York and in many cases less. The house wine (white) is quite good, and with tip added, about $8.00 for a 5 oz glass. Frozen margarita is a few cents more. If you order a bottle of wine at lunch or dinner you can have it brought to your table until it is finished. My recommendation.
Dinner: Food was very similar on both Mary and Elizabeth. I had two excellent dinners on Mary (steak on one evening and lobster on another) but nothing exceptional on Elizabeth, not even the lobster, but again more than adequate. My expectations are apparently not as high as that of others who write reviews. I paid a bit more than $100 a day for both trips so to expect food the quality of what is served at Lutece seems a bit fantastical to me.
Activities: I took beginning bridge lessons on both ships. Teacher on Mary was perhaps the worst teacher I've experienced in my lifetime and I was a teacher and also rated other teachers. Teacher on Elizabeth was excellent and because of her I may become a bridge player after all. I can only assume that some of the people who run activities are not vetted properly, but then they don't get paid so what can one expect. I missed all the lectures on both ships as well as all the entertainment. It's not my reason for traveling--I like the experience itself and the opportunity to meet new people.
Tipping: On Mary I left the automatic charge but also tipped (generously, I believe) my room steward and the two waiters at dinner service. On the Queen Elizabeth, I cancelled the automatic tip and tipped even more to those with whom I came into daily contact. I thought it through and decided that one tips for exceptional service and how can you assess exceptional service if you don't come into contact with the person you are tipping. Cunard should raise the salaries of its employees and, if necessary, raise rates and let tipping resume its proper role. I gather that in some cultures tipping is not usual (my observation on both ships is that the English are rather stingy in that area) but I don't see why people who do tip (as I do) should have to make up for the penury of others. Stop with the automatic tips, Cunard!
So, final word, I will travel again on the Queen Mary 2, but only on transatlantic voyages. It's fun and I would recommend it to everyone if you can afford it. Remember, if you travel in the winter you can probably do it for a bit more than an economy flight. Hope to see you on board.