We just got off the Queen Mary 2 Independence Day cruise. NYC to Halifax, then to Boston and back to NYC. Many troubles along the way - most not due to Cunard, just bad luck! (Fog in Halifax, cancelled fireworks on the 4th, pouring rain and delayed disembarkation in Boston). I have only sailed 4 times prior to the trip, 3 times Carnival and once Norwegian, so I am by no means a cruise expert. I will also add some opinions on navigating with a passenger in a wheelchair, which I had never done before, and was a real eye-opener. These are my observations:
Embarkation: was extremely easy, mostly because my mom was in a wheelchair, and we were in a separate line for handicapped passengers to check in. Checked in and on the ship in less than 15 minutes.
Decor: very rich looking decor, but a bit worn in some spots. I did notice in many of the common rooms, mostly the casino, that the floors were very uneven, and some areas felt like there were holes in the floor. Especially noticeable when pushing a wheelchair. It was covered up by carpeting, but you could still feel the unevenness. Murals, carvings and historic maritime photos lined the walls of the public rooms. Looked rich, not obnoxious. One older Australian man I met said he thought the decor was "bloody funeral home decor".
Rooms: We had a wheelchair room - very last room, starboard side, aft. Ironic that the handicapped accessible rooms are as far from the elevators as you can get. Room had a large window, no balcony due to being handicapped accessible (maybe longer room because bathroom was large). Not much storage space as other ships, only 2 drawers for clothes, but again probably due to accessible room. Comfortable beds. We did smell vague cigar and/or cigarette smoke in the hallways and our room - ventilation must have pulled it in, and it was stinky.
Dining: Disappointing. Australian man also said "crap food - has no taste" (He said he was having a miserable time, so take that for what it's worth). One passenger commented that all of the food had elements of being "congealed". I could agree with that. I am not a picky eater, but the food in the buffet, and even in the Britannia Dining room was not great. One custard-type dessert had what I think was canned fruit cocktail mixed into it. It had a weird texture, and I'm not sure why the fruit was mixed into it. The steaks were okay, not great. My aunt had a salad but there was no dressing on it. The King's Grill buffet had typical buffet style choices. Nothing at all stood out. I would say this was a huge disappointment considering the price of the cruise. I expected way more. Even one of the dining room servers mentioned that since Carnival purchased Cunard, they have made significant cuts regarding the quality of food. I would agree. I honestly think the food was much better on the Norwegian Epic than the QM2.
Our waiter was very nice and engaging, and very enjoyable. However, on other cruises, I notice the waiter asked us on the first night what we would like to drink with our dinner, and had it waiting for us every night when we sat down. On the QM2, I had to ask every night for something to drink, and more than likely, it never showed up. Only 2 of the 5 nights I actually got a drink after requesting one, sometimes twice. Water was not refilled regularly, having to ask once or twice for a refill. Often, the wait between courses was long, as much as 30 minutes. The staff seemed very hurried, and I think they did the absolute best they could do. They were very, very friendly, but the level of service was not nearly what I thought it would be. I must say I enjoyed when our waited called us "rock stars" and "beauty queens"!
Other service: Some staff members on the ship were extremely helpful, especially since I was pushing a wheelchair around for most of the trip. Some were not. At the first show of the cruise, we walked in as the lights were going down. I was trying to find a place for my mom (in the wheelchair) and me to sit. She can go up a few steps, but the staff in the theater didn't know that. After ignoring me obviously trying to find a seat, I asked him for help. He said "There are lots of empty seats here" and pointed to some non-accessible. I said "She's in a wheelchair - are there accessible seats anywhere else"? He said - "No, just put her in the aisle." I asked where I should sit, and he said "Anywhere you want". Then he walked away. Sometimes questions were answered with a finger pointed in a direction, or an "I don't know, sorry". Some people went out of their way to find out answers for us, or to help any way they could. Waiting for a show to end and to retrieve my mom (a show I didn't care to see), I sat on a comfortable chair near the theater and closed my eyes. When I opened them, a staff member asked me if I was okay - she said she saw me and wanted to make sure I was well. I thought that was nice. Overall, I thought the staff was about 60/40. 60% were rude and/or indifferent, and 40% seemed to care about customer service.
Dress code: Being a person who likes to be comfortable and casual, I admit I was nervous about going on this trip and being appropriately dressed (not my choice of cruise - I went to accompany older relatives). I had nothing to worry about. It turns out that "informal" and "formal" means different things to different people. I saw everything from jeans and t-shirts, both day and night, to jewels and elaborate evening gowns. I saw many short dresses during the formal night, as well as dressier tops and pants. Some were even paired with athletic shoes. Not kidding. I would guess that since the cruise was skewed toward age 70 and older, many passengers had varying degrees of mobility problems, and dressy shoes weren't an option. I am all for comfort, but the t-shirts and jeans really stood out.
Overall: Nice ship, would not consider it "luxury". Too expensive - more than 3 times the cost of our 7 day Caribbean cruise on Norwegian. Wheelchair fairly easy to get around, although lots of obstacles and "half-floors" which required small elevators. Service okay, food so-so. Not as luxurious as it is billed to be. Needs to focus more on quality of food and service if it wants to be considered luxury.