We have cruised many times, including several cruises on the QE2, but with a growing family, other expenses and priorities intervened and we have not cruised for some 10 years. Of all the cruise lines we have used, Cunard has always been favourite - or maybe it was really the QE2 which held the magic? Either way, the whole Cunard experience was always so special that I felt it was worth the extra cost which Cunard represents. However, I was shocked when Cunard demanded £2,498 for a reduced cruise of only five days, with NO flights included. I did not need the flights because we have a a house in Corfu and I wanted to board the ship in Corfu on 27th July - two days into the cruise which started in Rome. This was an important date as, coincidentally, it was my husband's 60th birthday and this cruise was my surprise gift to him. the plan being that we would board on his birthday in Corfu, disembark in Venice five days later and then make our own way home. So as I was excluding FOUR flights (two flights from UK to Rome and two from Venice back to the UK) PLUS the first two days of accommodation and food, I was expecting a more meaningful reduction than the couple of hundred pounds which Cunard offered. I objected to the price, pointing out that it equated to £500 per day, but all Cunard would offer was an on board credit of 230 dollars each - and as the cruise was so perfectly timed for my husband's birthday, I still went ahead and booked it.
The first problem was embarkation at Corfu as we were joining the ship two days into its itinerary and no one seemed prepared for this. After being checked by security three times, we were left standing at the gangway in the blistering heat for some 20 minutes before we were finally allowed on board. However, our cabin (sorry stateroom) was lovely and we were soon eagerly looking forward to a Cunard style dinner. Oh dear - what a disappointment! The menus throughout the cruise bore no comparison to the special gastronomic experiences of the old QE2 and dinners are now just three courses of pretty run of the mill food! Similarly the wonderful QE2 midnight feasts are, apparently, just history now and the food in general was nothing special.
Overall we felt that the food had been ''dumbed down'' and this was even more true of the entertainment - which was dire! No more spectacular shows or famous names - just a very tired, second rate comedian (whose biggest round of applause came when he announced he had no DVD's for sale), a couple of OK pianists and one good live band. On one particular night the choice was a dance exhibition in the Queens Room or a dance troupe performing in the Theatre - great planning!
As for the famous ''white star'' service, well this, too is a thing of the past. Cunard boast that they never say no to a passenger, they always offer alternatives. Really? Then explain this:
Late one evening we went to the Golden Lion (the on board pub) and noticed that the food menu looked rather inviting - although it did not indicate when food was served. We checked in our Daily Newsletter and it also contained no times and so we assumed that food must be served throughout the Golden Lion's opening hours.
The next day we arrived at the Golden Lion at about 2.20. We were the ONLY people in the place, but, as was par for the course throughout this cruise, it was at least 10 minutes before a waiter appeared. We ordered our food - only to be told that food service ended at 2.30. By this time it was 2.32 and, although we pointed out that we had been seated and waiting to order BEFORE 2.30, the answer was NO.
We went to the Lido Buffet, where sandwiches, cakes and scones were all laid out - but with trays covering them and when we asked if we could take some, we were told NO. Apparently, the food was laid out for tea time and it was still only lunch time - perhaps someone should have told the waiter in the Golden Lyon??So we went to choose something from the lunch buffet and, as we preferred the cold food, we asked for some cold plates (as only hot plate section was stocked) - and guess what, we were told NO.
Think you'd better revise your claims Cunard!
Our on board credit was soon swallowed up with Gratuity charges, ridiculously over-priced wine and unbelievable internet and phone charges. Most bars and restaurants offer free internet access these days, but Cunard charge an incredible 75 cents per minute. And to make things worse, the service is unbelievable slow AND it does not always log off properly. We estimate that we paid over 50 dollars for about 15 minutes of effective internet access. Trying to maintain communication with family by phone is just as expensive as Cunard don't permit incoming or reverse charge calls and charge a ridiculous rate for outgoing calls.
Apart from service in the restaurant and the stateroom, the service throughout the ship was dire - slow, inefficient and sullen - sometimes even rude. We lost count of the times that we gave up and went to the bar to get drinks for ourselves. In fact standards generally have fallen way below the level we have always associated with Cunard and there is a sloppy attitude to dress codes and even behaviour. For example there was group of teenagers who had, apparently, met up on our cruise, whose parents all seemed happy to let them roam around on their own 24/7. In spite of the age restrictions in the Yacht Club and the designation of the Lido Pool for families, this group comandeered both and we did not see one crew member take them to task about their foul language and anti social behaviour and intimidated passengers felt compelled to retreat to other parts of the ship to escape the offensive mayhem.
In spite of all the problems, we still enjoyed our cruise - but it will be a long time before we consider doing it again because at Cunard's prices it needs to be a special experience - and, although cruising on the QE2 was always VERY special, this cruise on the Queen Elizabeth just didn't come close!