We have been with Cunard now on 3 occasions and whilst they are not our most favoured cruise line we chose this cruise because of the destinations which were part of the 2014 World Cruise which for this segment visited Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Colombo, Mumbai, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. We have been to Singapore and Dubai before but missed Abu Dhabi on a previous cruise because of civil unrest but as the other destinations had not been visited we thought that the itinerary appeared very good.
We had a few days in Singapore before the cruise started and were surprised how it had expanded since our previous visit but it is still a very nice and safe place to visit with lots to see and do and very pleasant and helpful people.
The pre voyage documentation received from Cunard was very helpful and personalized for this part of the World Voyage and whilst we had asked for a table for 2 persons and this was stated on the agents paperwork we only found out that we were on a larger table when we joined the ship and it would have been more helpful to know this in advance. The other surprise was the cost of the India 6 Month Visa which when you add the cost of postage and photograph amounts to over £120 for a 1 day visit and had we have known this before the cruise we may have decided not to book this cruise.
The embarkation process was good and not too much of a delay and our cabin was on Deck 4 but having been on the QM2 and Queen Victoria previously we had expected the ship to be a little better which appeared to have been the view shared by some other passengers that we spoke to. In fact quite a number expressed the view that they would not choose Cunard again which is also the view that we expressed.
We have travelled on quite a number of other ships and without doubt the food on this cruise was some of the poorest that we have experienced in recent years. The choice was very poor; the quality was low and the service very mediocre.
On the first day we attended the afternoon tea and whilst I did not taste the cream my wife indicated that it had gone off and so we pointed this out to the waitress who notified her supervisor who indicated that he had received some other complaints and would notify the chef who would get back to us which he never did. Some of the other problems that were noted included:
• Mold on food.
• Staff serving food without protective gloves.
• Staff preparing food without protective gloves.
• Very small portions of food.
• Lido Restaurant not cleaned from previous day.
• Wrong orders in the Britannia Restaurant.
• Guests ignored in the Britannia Restaurant.
I was pleased to see that the ship had Stella Artois on tap as this is what I normally drink at home – I am not sure what they have done to it but it tasted like flat cheap beer with a 15% service charge on it so this was another disappointment but at least it saved me a lot of money.
About half way through the cruise there was an outbreak of Norovirus on the ship and the self service restaurant was changed into a staff service facility but this created long queues and we were informed that a strict sanitation programme was being implemented but this was continually breached by staff and sometimes by guests who lost their temper. In one instance a lady threw her tray and contents over the counter and several guests voiced angry concerns at the long queues and waiting periods. Once, when I was in the Lido a passenger helped herself to some food and the serving assistant told the passenger that it was necessary for her to serve the food because passengers were not washing their hands after going to the toilet.
There appeared to be no overall control of the sanitation programme as even managers were observed breaching the controls. One person that I spoke to indicated that he had been confined to his cabin for 3 days with the virus and asked to pay £70 but refused indicating that he informed the staff that as he had got the virus from the ship and would not pay. On another occasion there was a wine tasting event and plates of cheese were made available where passengers were allowed to pick the cheese without any control by staff – in my experience this is one of the best ways to spread infection.
One control that they had in place was the wedging open of public toilet doors, which was obviously to stop the transfer of infection by hand, but in some toilets you could see into the men’s toilet quite easily.
At the end of the first week the Captain was asking for blood donors for some of the passengers and shortly afterwards the ship was diverted to transfer 2 people to hospital. Whilst we were never informed exactly how many people had Noravirus from the number of passengers that we spoke to we felt that the number could have been quite high and unfortunately my wife was also one of those affected?
The evening entertainment programme was heavily biased towards singing, dancing and music and I felt that this could have been varied a little more and one guest informed me that he was on the ship 18 months ago and the dance routines were the same as then.
The excursion programme was quite comprehensive and there was something to cater for most people although if you carried out some research there were better value private tours available together with companies that guarantee to get you back to the ship.
One other problem that we noted and caused a number of accidents was that the ship appeared to have leaks in a number of locations and buckets were placed beneath them and on several occasions guests tripped over buckets. When I asked about these leaks I was informed that they were "condensation" leaks, which occurred, in hot climates.
Whilst we enjoyed the places that we visited, we together with quite a number of other guests felt that the Queen Elizabeth had fallen far short of meeting our expectations.
At the end of the cruise we had a few days in a hotel in Dubai and the service was excellent in every respect and I remember watching the chef at breakfast cooking eggs, omelets and pancakes at the same time as wearing gloves and I thought that this hotel could certainly teach Cunard a thing or two and also how to keep and serve Stella Artois.