We sailed south on the first leg of QM2's 2014 world cruise to Cape Town. The first few days to Madeira were not the greatest. The weather was roughish, the passengers were newcomers and the crew was shaking down. In addition, the poor weather kept everyone indoors which, with a full ship, left little room for manoeuvre.
Madeira was a pleasant interlude and from there onward we had a pretty good voyage to South Africa as everyone settled down. The nine-day sea leg from Tenerife to Cape Town was on the long side and as we passed near the Cape Verde islands and not so far from St. Helena it felt like a missed opportunity.
We had a cabin on Deck 4 with a sheltered deck - fine by us as we are not sun worshippers but did appreciate the protection from the wind. The cabin (and our attendant) was fine - no issues at all.
As ever on cruises, food loomed large. QM2 could really do with another restaurant - perhaps in the under-utilisied Winter Gardens space. The Kings Court buffet isn't as good as the one on the Queen Elizabeth - not sure why but the choice seemed narrower and the space rather cramped. My wife never really enjoyed the evening meals in the Britannia restaurant but I was less critical - it is never going to be straightforward to feed 2,300 people to a five star level at two sittings night after night. The Todd English restaurant was pretty good but expensive. The best bet, we found, were the themed nights in the buffet (American, Italian, Indian etc).
Anyone who has cruised with Cunard will know in advance that the line hikes up alcohol prices to sky-high levels. A glass of wine and a beer in the Commodore Bar, for example, cost £10 (gratuity included automatically - another gripe). The answer is to bring on board as much of one's own booze as you can. Were Cunard to lower their prices to UK levels, I'm sure they would sell twice as much drink. But perhaps they don't want to?
Entertainment was generally good. Some excellent lecturers were on board for this leg, notably Peter Hawthorne on Africa, Ambassador Walker on foreign policy issues and the charming Martin Saunders on life as a wildlife cameraman. Louis Hoover was the pick of the singers; he got successive standing ovations and put on an extra show without charging a fee. Hannah Kuipers (harpist) was another standout for us.
QM2 or Queen Elizabeth/Queen Victoria? We have come down on the side of QE/QV for a cruise - these ships are simply better designed for cruising.
While on board we heard a rumour (there are many!) that Cunard was up for sale/had been sold by Carnival. All the officers claimed to know nothing about this so the rumour simply spread faster. One for Cunard's PR department to address.