We are veteran cruisers, and this was our 35th, the fifth with Cunard, the second on the QM2. We chose this crossing because it would give us a few days in Hamburg beforehand, an excursion in Southampton, and a crossing, which would give us the opportunity to dress up and dance every evening in the Queen's Room. My husband and I (from Florida) met our son Ron (from Tennessee) in Newark where we enjoyed a leisurely overnight stay in the wonderful new Embassy Suites at Newark Airport. The next day we boarded our nonstop flight on United Airlines to Hamburg. The flight was long but enjoyable, even in economy class. The price for the flight through Cunard Air was amazingly low.
In Hamburg we had arranged through Cunard to be met by a driver who was waiting to take us to the Hamburg Marriott. When we arrived at the hotel around 9 AM, they had our room ready, and invited us to have breakfast in the Executive Lounge which was part of our package. Our stay at the Marriott was outstanding in every way. We enjoyed the huge pool and fitness room, as well as the complimentary tasty meals and snacks provided all day long and late into the evening in the Lounge. We especially enjoyed the complimentary "wine and spirits" that were available. Service was the best we'd ever had in any hotel. We nearly walked our legs and feet off trying to see as much of Hamburg as we could see in a short few days. Our favorite was the trip to the Minitaur Wunderland, a three floor extravaganza of model railroad (and other forms of transportation) exhibits. Absolutely breathtaking creations of miniature towns, ports, cities, and attractions.
On embarkation day we took a cab to the port in Hafencity, and after a bit of a queue boarded easily, where we were nicely greeted by two rows of staff and directed towards our cabin 4223. We were instantly charmed by our cabin with the sheltered balcony. Our cabin steward, John, introduced himself to us just minutes after we entered our cabin, and took care of us very well for 10 days. After getting our luggage settled we headed up to the Kings Court for lunch. This was one of the few times we actually used the King's Court, which is indeed (as noted by other reviewers) the weak point of this particular ship in some ways. Not that it is bad, but just not outstanding, needing some upgrades in furnishings, selection, quality, and layout, in our opinion. (However, there is one secret that I must divulge: The only decent coffee on the ship--unless you buy it in Sir Samuel's--is found in the King's Court, at one of the beverage stations sort of in the middle section, from a machine marked "German Classic Coffee, always available". On the other side of the same machine is really awesome hot chocolate. My son and I both bought large mugs in the gift shop and filled them with this coffee each morning as the coffee in the dining room was not to our taste at all).
After lunch we headed back to the room where the guys took a quick nap before lifeboat drill (which was quick and painless compared to others we have endured). I of course got busy unpacking their things, finding it easy to put everything in proper place with plenty of room for all of us. The beds turned out to be rather soft, but we adjusted to them over the course of the trip. The bedding and pillows were of high quality, comfy and warm. My son had a pull out couch which was supplemented by an "egg crate" pad that we requested, and he said that it was comfortable enough. The bathroom was very tiny, and the shower miniscule but serviceable with good water pressure. The slippers and robes were a welcome touch. The balcony was huge and we enjoyed it when it wasn't too chilly out. One annoyance is that when the sofa bed is pulled out you have to crawl over the bed to get to the balcony, and actually fold it up a bit in order to open the fridge.
Having requested early seating, it wasn't long before we had to prepare for dinner. Jackets for the men, nice dress for me. One of the high points of our trip was the companionship of our delightful tablemates. George was an author returning from a European book tour, and the other a couple, John and Anne, from a town near Stonehenge. We enjoyed all of our meals in the evening with these new friends and are still keeping in touch. The food in the Britannia dining room was very good, no complaints except for the venison they served on the first night which my son and several others ordered. If they are going to serve game meat, someone needs to go in the kitchen and show them how its done! I knew better than to order that, and was more than happy with my broiled fish (Plaice); in fact, I got fish almost every night and was very pleased with all of it. On the nights I ordered steak or beef, it was also very good. My companions enjoyed the lobster one night, and all concurred that it was delicious! I am certain we got the best waiter in the dining room, Mariano, who was absolutely one of the best waiters ever. Everything arrived quickly, and at the appropriate temperature. It only took us a day or two to decide that we would eat all three meals in the dining room (or lunch at the Golden Lion Pub) for the most part, and we enjoyed all of them! Sometimes we were lucky enough to get Mariano at lunch. The wait staff works so hard, I don't know when they ever get any rest!
There were so many wonderful things to enjoy on the QM2. We made sure to attend the lectures by Bill Miller, ship historian, and never missed a dance class taught by Ilona and Wilfried, our onboard dancing stars who performed a routine for us nearly every evening in the Queen's Room, where a live orchestra played heavenly music for ballroom dancing on a big and beautiful rectangular wood dance floor. Now, this floor is not as big as the floor was on the QE2, and got VERY crowded on the 5 formal nights when special parties took place. Everyone was having a great time, but some dance couples were not aware of the "line of dance" direction, which created a few hiccups on the dance floor especially if the dance happened to be a quickstep! Fortunately there were many dance hosts to dance with the single women, and they were kept busy! The dance show, Appassionata, in the Royal Theatre, was one of the best shows we've seen shipboard; we also very much enjoyed the RADA production of Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice". One night we enjoyed the film "Shadow Recruit" in the Illusions theater. During the afternoon, HighTea in the Queen's Room is so popular that if you're not there 15 minutes early, you'll have to wait for a seat. The view from the gorgeous library in the bow on deck 8 is so wondrous that the book selected from the thousands available falls unread to the lap! If all of this isn't enough to do, head over to the row of tables with games along the enclosed promenade near the Royal Court and start a game of chess with someone. We enjoyed all of these activities and more!
In Southampton we took a tour to Stonehenge and the Medieval town of Salisbury. The Salisbury Cathedral was one of the most magnificent sights I have ever seen. We would like to go back and spend more time in that town as it was utterly charming, like stepping back in history. Of course Stonehenge was breathtaking as well.
There is simply nothing else like crossing the Atlantic on a real ocean liner! This was our third crossing, and we were loving every minute. One night at dinner, the seas were so rough that a huge wave crashed way above the windows in the dining room, giving us the momentary illusion that our deck was under water. The whole room broke into applause! Seas may have been rough, but the QM2 is built for it! No one missed a meal or a dance even though the floor sloped from time to time. On another night, the captain announced that we were altering our course south due to icebergs!
We finally arrived in Halifax and it was a beautiful day. Having decided not to purchase a tour, we walked easily off the ship and along the wharf of this lovely harbor town. It was fun to just look at the many sailboats and enjoy seafood snacks along the way.
Once back on the ship we sadly realized that our voyage was almost at an end. Two short days later we were disembarking in Brooklyn, where once off the ship we waited in a queue for nearly an hour to get a cab to our hotel in Manhattan. I made a note to self to circumvent this situation next time, somehow. After an overnight at the Conrad Hotel, enjoying some New York pizza and the Battery Park area, we were driven in style by Carmel Limo back to Newark airport where our flights were delayed but we eventually made it back to our homes.
We loved our trip on the QM2 in every way, and can't wait to do it again! The three of us are unanimous in our agreement that this was the best vacation we'd ever had. We've decided that next time ("Lord willing and the creek don't rise...") we intend to cross the pond BOTH ways by ship, spend a few days in Southampton visiting the friends we met onboard (they've invited us!) and avoid that loooong flight. Maybe a crossing isn't for everyone, but it certainly is for us!