Just returned from a back to back cruise on the QM2. First was New York to the Caribbean calling at St Thomas, St Kitts and Tortola and then back to New York, followed by the transatlantic crossing to Southampton. I will mention the start of the trip as it is info I would have been interested in pre travelling. The layout of the ship is covered well in other reviews so I will not go into detail about that.
We booked with UK company after seeing an ad for the trip on the back of the Sunday Times travel section about 8 weeks before we sailed. We chose the voyage because we had never been to the Caribbean, love New York and always fancied doing a transatlantic crossing. We were a bit worried about travelling with Cunard as we had a very bad experience on the QE2 about 16 years ago and a pretty unsympathetic response from Cunard at the time. (As a consequence they have missed out on our money for all that time.) Anyway the QM2 sounded a lot better than the old QE2. There was an added incentive of travelling to New York on the new Silverjet service from Luton to Newark. This is an all business class flight with beds and proved to be excellent, although some people joining us the next day had a 10 hour delay due to mechanical problems. Nevertheless we had a fantastic experience. Bath travel had booked us into the Marriott Marquis in Times Square for 3 nights pre cruise and that was a brilliant hotel too. Although the first impression was of a massive impersonal hotel, the room was enormous and luxurious and the position of the place is excellent. We would definitely stay there again. There is a great hotel called the Edison just opposite that has a wonderful dining room for breakfast. There can be a queue but it moves fast and breakfast is excellent and great value.
We joined the QM2 at Brooklyn (transfers were arranged for us by the TA) in the afternoon and there was a long queue to board but all went smoothly albeit slowly. We had a stateroom on deck 5 with an in hull balcony. I was worried about the in hull balcony after reading various reviews but found it to be perfect for us. We didn’t spend much time on the balcony but the light and space it gave was wonderful. I am not keen on too much sun so was happy for shade if I needed it in the Caribbean. As it happened we were so busy on shore or on the decks and at the shows etc that we were hardly ever in the room. But when we were there it was nice to have the extra space. Our room steward, Emma was super efficient, very friendly and helpful. There was a launderette on the deck below that was closer to us than the one on our level and it was actually fun to do a bit of laundry during the second week, to get back in touch with reality. I was grateful for advice from the cruise critic boards to take fabric-conditioning sheets, as these are not supplied. Also fantastic advice was to take the double adapter plug as the sockets in the stateroom are very close to the desk so you can’t plug in anything that has moulded plugs. My DH was a bit skeptical about packing a plug but was grateful that we did in the event. Also remember to take highlighter pens for the daily programmes as there are very few announcements and you need to read your daily programme to plan your day. Another great thing we took on advice from other members was a hanging shoe holder. There was no problem in the stateroom with smoke smells from previous occupants, but we avoided the pub and the casino because of smoke. The air conditioning couldn’t cope and I just didn’t want to get it on my clothes and transport it to the stateroom. I wish there were non-smoking cruises. Some days the Mayfair shops smelled of smoke, which is not good when they are selling clothes. We especially enjoyed the RADA acting classes and the shows on the Caribbean leg of the trip. I wish they had a 2-week rota of shows as most were repeated the second week.
The staff were fantastic and worked so hard, especially on the transatlantic crossing when we lost an hour, every day, which was exhausting even when you are just relaxing. It was great to meet with fellow cruise critic members. Roll calls are a fabulous idea. We loved the attention to detail on the ship. The carpets and décor are fantastic. Reminded me of a floating Las Vegas resort. Very postmodern. Top quality contemporary materials with a nostalgic twist. Also enjoyed the art auctions and a lecture about the building of the ship by the chief architect. The Internet access was expensive and extremely slow. We were told by an on board travel agent that this was done on purpose because the demographics of passengers were such that most are not interested in the internet. I don’t know if that is true but it’s very cynical if it is. There was no indication of how much time you had left online either which is pretty poor for such a technologically advanced ship.
We did all our own excursions and found it easy and cheaper to do independently than anything offered onboard. It was approximately half the price to organize trips ourselves. One tip though, is that if you go into New York alone from Brooklyn, take a yellow cab (half the price of the private cars but you may have to wait a while to get one). If you are returning to the ship, pick up a cab downtown as it’s cheaper to get to Brooklyn and make sure you get into the cab before you tell the driver where you want to go (Red Hook cruise terminal – remember the Red Hook bit as most drivers don’t know where the cruise terminal is but do know where Red Hook is). We found out that if you tell the driver where you want to go once you are in the cab they have to take you; if you tell them your destination before you get in they are liable to drive off!
The few things we didn’t like along with the internet problems were as follows:- No clotted cream for cream teas served in the Queens ballroom, sounds petty but this is meant to be a top quality cruise. The rubbishy goods for sale in the daily market by the Mayfair shops were not in keeping with the quality of the cruise. They Mayfair shops were overpriced for supposedly tax-free shopping. We thought the Ayckbourn play performed by RADA was clichéd and old hat. This is not to fault the actors who were great, but the material was dated. Classic Noel Coward, or Alan Bennet pieces would have been better. The Lectures on the transatlantic crossing were disappointing, we had a talk on Princess Diana who has been dead for 10 years, for goodness sake let her rest in peace instead of having parasites making money off the poor woman. Former hostage, Terry Waite, gave 3 lectures; his ordeal was 20 years ago, time to move on. Surely it’s not healthy to go on about it for all this time. John McCarthy is not touting his story still. There was an ex Concorde pilot talking about his job – that no longer exists and Hugh Hudson talking about the making of Chariots of fire which was 25 years ago. The best talk was by the ships architect about the genesis of the QM2 and was truly inspirational. The Appasionata show is exceptional especially the Argentinean dancer. The backstage tour is worthwhile. There is a very interesting galley tour, which is not advertised, ask for a ticket at the pursers desk. We didn’t go to Todd English as we were so full all the time that we didn’t think we would appreciate it. Favourite places were the library, the Commodore Club and Illuminations for the Cinema.
In summary, the Caribbean part of the voyage was superb. The ship is wonderful and staff exceptional. The shows are stunning and I would recommend a week on board to anyone. As far as the transatlantic crossing goes, travel from the UK to New York not the other way round. That way you get an extra hour each day to enjoy the ship. The first sitting in the Britannia restaurant is the best for dinner even though it seems early. Several people who were on late seating on the first part of the trip changed to early sitting for the second half. The dressing up is fun ad taken seriously so ladies pack your sequins and feathers and gents take your dinner suit and a selection of bow ties. Have a wonderful time.