Thoughts From Our Recent Cunard Queen Mary 2 (QM2) Cruise Southampton to New York City – May 9, 2014
Before I begin, I wanted to thank so many of you on this board for answering all of my questions many of which I posted nine months to one year ago. Whereas on some of the other boards I often am the one giving answers, on this board I was clearly the newbie as we were on this recently completed cruise. The information that many of you provided really was a big help as we prepared for this voyage.
These thought that I am providing are based on this one voyage and are based on both my views and the views of my wife. We all see things from different perspectives but I at least thought it would be nice to share our views and experiences from this voyage.
This was our first time sailing on the Queen Mary 2 (QM2) and with Cunard. My wife and I are very experienced cruisers having sailed several different lines.
We were very pleased with our cruising experience on board the QM2 and it did exceed our expectations in certain areas including dining and enrichment and the layout of the ship. There were little items that we that we missed from sailing on other cruise lines, but in the scheme of things it was no big deal particularly because we were on the ship for only one week.
Would we do this again? Absolutely.
We would take another crossing on the QM2 if it made sense in terms of getting us to Europe or back to the United States as part of an overall trip that involved another cruise or land program.
With that said, we would probably not sail on the QM2 for a port intensive cruise or on a World Cruise as our preference is to be on a ship with far fewer guests than say the QM2 for those types of cruises. For these types of cruises we would sail on our favorite cruise) or if it was not an itinerary that was we would select another luxury line for that specific cruise.
There are aspects of the ship that provide a luxury experience and for us that included the Queens Grill, the Lectures, some of the lounges and certain areas of the ship. On the other hand there are other aspects of the cruise experience that are more oriented with Premium/Mass Market Cruise Line. We didn’t focus on them but they would be bothersome to us on a longer voyage.
On a scale of one to five stars with five being the highest and one being the lowest we would rate our experience four stars. With that said, if we were not in one of the suites we might not have given it four stars. Again, this is subjective and like most things it is our opinion and some will see it similarly while others will have an entirely different opinion. Also, we have no sense of how things used to be so longer term Cunard passengers might also have a different view. Often we have heard on our sailings when we have met long terms Cunard Passengers that the Cunard experience of today was not like it was on say the QE2, which was a favorite of many long term Cunard Passenger’s. Of course, you hear the same comments by long terms passengers on most cruise lines.
We sailed not only on the Queen Mary 2 but also with Cunard Cruise Line for the very first time from Southampton to New York City. We embarked in Southampton on May 9 and arrived to New York City on May 16. This cruise market the ten year anniversary of the crossings on the QM2.
We made the decision to take this cruise for several reasons including:
We have always thought about ending a World Cruise that ends in Europe by crossing back to the United States via cruise ship rather than returning home by airplane.
The timing for this crossing worked out perfectly as we were returning from Istanbul on May 7 and had to stay over near London Heathrow until May 8 because of the timing of the flights. When we compared the price of purchasing Business Class tickets to fly home, to the cost of this Cruise on the Queen Mary 2 (QM2) even with the additional night at London, we thought that for the slightly incremental cost to cruise that this was a perfect time to sail on the QM2.
Other factors included that this cruise sailed from West to East so we would get the benefit of setting the clock back on several nights which for us as early risers is much more preferable over setting the clock forward.
While we love sailing with Crystal Cruises and Crystal has now become our favorite cruise line, we have always said if there is the “right” itinerary we would sail another line for that specific itinerary and for us this was the right itinerary. We will have more on this later.
Finally, we do like to try out cruise lines from time to time as we both love to cruise so even from a knowledge standpoint, it’s nice to learn more about the cruising industry by sailing another line from time to time. Again, for us, this is driven by itinerary.
Cunard determines dining based on your accommodation. There are essentially four dining venues one of which each person is assigned to. For the top priced suites, which are known as Queens Grill Suites, you are assigned to the Queens Grill Restaurant. You do have your own table but dining is open seating. You can arrive for breakfast, lunch and dinner anytime you want within the hours that are specified It is an intimate dining room. Far less dine there for breakfast and lunch and dinner people arrive at various hours so even for dinner it was probably never more than 60 to 70 percent occupied at the peak dining period when we were there and often for about half our dinner it was far less crowded than even that.
The next tier of suites is called Princess Grill Suites and those choosing these suites are assigned to the Princess Grill. The menu is very similar to Queens Grill as is the size of the dining room. Our understanding is that there are some special items that you can’t get in the Princess Grill as you can in Queens Grill.
The next set of accommodations is the Brittania Club Rooms. The rooms are pretty much the same size as the Britannia Balcony rooms but have a few additional amenities and allow guests to dine a the Britannia Club Restaurant. This restaurant has a menu similar to the Britannia Restaurant but rather than having two fixed seating’s it offers single seating dining for dinner with a more intimate dining room than the much larger/two tiered Briannia Restaurant.
The reason I am providing so much detail is that the dining experience can be quite a bit different based on which dining venue you are assigned to. To some extent some people refer to this as a class system for dining and regardless of what it is called it does reflect restaurants that are specific to the accommodation one books. Some like this, others don’t.
We had priority for both embarkation and disembarkation because of the type of accommodation we had so for us the process for getting on and off the ship worked very well. If I were to rate this for just embarkation I would give it four to four and one half starts.
The only negatives related to disembarkation day. Our written instructions said that we could stay in our suite until 8:00 AM at which time we would go to the lounge that we were assigned. That was precisely our plan. We had a do not disturb sign on the door. At around 7:20 AM there was a knock on the door and our butler opened the door to ask when we were leaving. That was not a real question and we could tell he wanted to get us out. We said we would be there until 8:00 AM but would leave then. Then at around 7:45 AM he comes in along with the stateroom steward asking if they can start to clean. He really should have waited till 8:00 AM. We just decided to leave the room and went to our assigned lounge. At 8:00 AM we were told that we could go off the ship in the first group, which was the original schedule so that was all good. There were very few porters but that is not something that the cruise line can control so we managed the luggage on our own.
The dining experience we had at the Princess Grill was wonderful and is very comparable to any of the luxury lines that we have sailed on with high standards of service, cuisine and a beautiful dining room. It took us a couple of days to realize that we could change up items on the menu and that we could pre-order items for any meal as long as we did that ahead of time. We thought the dining experience was outstanding. It is truly one of the best dining experiences at sea.
We did not try any of the specialty restaurants since we were so very pleased with the Queens Grill and we were only on for seven nights.
There is also a buffet type of area known as Kings Court that is open 22 hours a day serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, pizza and the like depending on the time of the day. While many people ate there, due to its sheer size and appearance and even the type of food offered this one would not work for us. However, I would sit there early in the morning and have coffee and read and write so not to disturb my wife who was still sleeping and it offered a better Internet connection than in the room.
We had one of the Queens Grill Suites. There are three categories of Queens Grill Suites and the price varies based on location. We took one with a mid-ship location so we paid more than the other two categories. There are three other sizes of Queens Grill Suites that are larger and more expensive. The Queens Grill does also include butler service.
The layout of the room was quite nice. There were two desks and one had a curtain so I could sit at the computer and not disturb my wife if I stayed in the room. There was a comfortable couch and side chair and the living area was quite roomy. The entranceway featured a closet for items such as Jackets that we thought were convenient. The bar countertop area and the cabinets above it were impressive and very useful. There were lots of outlets in the room, which was another positive. The bed was comfortable.
The bathroom was a nice size. The tub/shower was one thus saving on space. Surprisingly there was one sink.
The room did look a bit worn and probably could use a nice update in a future dry dock.
The butler was very accommodating to the notes that we left him about the amount of water that we preferred be left for us and the type of fruit we liked or other needs we had.
The room does come with a bar setup of two bottles of spirits or wine, a bottle of champagne and various items such as soda. The butler told us that if we consumed the bottles of wine that he would replenish them. Ironically, the white was a Chardonnay under the Cunard label and the first night when we went to the Queens Lounge for a pre dinner drink we were going to order a glass for Anne Marie but the lounge person didn’t recommend it saying it didn’t taste good so we heeded her advice. Two days later we decided to try the wine in the room and she was absolutely correct. Wine is subjective but we could not drink it so we never tried the bottle of Merlot and just would go to the Queen Lounge for a pre-dinner glass of wine.
We only had drinks at one lounge, which was the Princess Lounge, and it was available for those who had Queens or Princess accommodations. We thought that most if not all of the other lounges looked very attractive and welcoming. We found the Princess Lounge to be like a country club where the staff learned our names, our preferences for what we would drink and even the type of snack that my wife, Anne Marie preferred.
We also wanted to note that there is a concierge lounge for those in the Queens and Princess Grill Suites that provides some light daytime snack, coffee and water. It was located about three doors from our room. Depending upon time of day there were one to two concierges there at any given time. They can assist with many items so you didn’t have to go down to the purser’s desk as well as other items such as booking your transfers or providing tickets to the Planetarium. From time to time we would use the lounge if our room was not ready. We also had all of our questions answered by one of the concierges the day we boarded the QM2 and the following day as well. Newspapers and some magazines were available there as well.
We found service to be outstanding in the Queens Grill and in the Queens Grill lounge. We thought it was good in other areas such as with the room staff. I would give it five star+ in the Queen Grill and the Queens Grill Lounge and probably three to three and one half stars in the other areas of the ship with some being four star and other areas close to three star.
Enrichment Program *****
Many activities were offered throughout the daytime. We thought the lecture series was very strong. Since this was the 10-year anniversary of the QM2 crossing’s several lectures and others such as a former captain of this vessel spoke about the history of Cunard as well as the history of the QM2 and crossings. We enjoyed the talks.
We also went to two Planetarium programs and enjoyed them with one narrated by Harrison Ford and the other one Narrated by Tom Hanks and enjoyed this a great deal.
We did not attend other programs such as Trivia.
Each night one or two different programs were offered and it represented a range of entertainment. We thought that the entertainment was quite good.
Ship Appearance ****+
The ship is obviously large but it is maintained very well and we found it easy to get around. We love to walk and since we found it too cold to walk outside there were many areas of the ship to walk so we could get in long walks each morning and night. We liked the two rooms that were used for lectures finding the seating quite comfortable and the views from the seats quite good. Some of the public rooms had been updated in the last dry dock and were quite attractive. The public room that in our opinion could benefit a great deal from an update would be the King’s Court.
The QM2 is a true ocean liner and the perfect ship for crossing rough seas. While one afternoon the seas were quite rough and we could feel the motion quite a bit, we know it would have been far worse on most other cruise ships.
The layout of the ship was very logical and it was easy to get around. We liked that the stairwells were labeled A, B, C and D. A represented the most forward areas of the ship and D represented those areas all the way to the back of the ship.
Because the weather was cool we didn’t spend anytime outside other than at the sail away so we didn’t sit outside nor did I play Paddle Tennis neither did we expect to do on this crossing.
Fitness Center ***+
Surprisingly the Fitness Center worked well for us as it was not as large as I thought it would be given the size of the ship. We are not sure how it might work with a younger passenger base on board the ship say for a port intensive cruise in the summer but maybe that is not a factor on these types of ships. The equipment was good as was the television and other related electronic capabilities.
What we had forgotten about is that because they charge for bottled water that bottled water was not available and only small paper cups and water by the jug so for those who need water while they exercise you would be best to bring a water bottle with you that you could fill yourself somewhere around the ship.
Given the size of the ship we were surprised that there were very few laundry rooms and they had very few washers and dryers. It was no big deal for a one-week cruise but to us it would have been a challenge on a long voyage. They did have a promotion towards the end of the ship where for a set price you could have around 30 items of clothing laundered.
Overall, we had a very nice experience and with the right itinerary we would sail on this ship again. As I said, our overall experience clearly exceed our expectations.