A word about us: we're a young-ish English couple from London.
We boarded the QM2 on a blustery day in Southampton. I was immediately glad we'd chosen to go westward: I am sure the approach to Southampton isn't nearly as spectacular as the one into New York. The QM2, for example, was berthed next to a gigantic Korean cargo ship.
We had been enormously fortunate to have been upgraded from Britannia to Queen's Grill due to a mistake on the part of our travel agent. The first advantage was clear during embarkation: our own express queue to register. This was quick and easy and we were ushered onboard.
Our cabin was huge, with a cocktail bar, walk-in-wardrobe, dressing table and bathroom with whirlpool bath, as well as a big balcony. We were greeted with a bottle of NV Perrier Jouet, and we had a glass as we sailed away.
As we left the harbour, the captain announced that we might expect heavy seas. He wasn't wrong. The sea picked up during the evening, but it did not disrupt our enjoyment of our first meal at the Queen's Grill. The food and service throughout the trip was marvellous, and not just in the Grill: we also ate at the buffet on and off, which was always consistently good, and also at the Chef's Galley one evening. The Chef's Galley is a nice feature where you can watch your meal being cooked by one of the chefs. We went on Indian night. The cream teas were also excellent and unlike some other ships, the QM2 offered proper clotted cream with the scones.
On the first morning, after a night of being tossed about in bed, I was not feeling terribly well and couldn't move more than a few steps without feeling sick. This came as a surprise to me as I have been in far heavier seas with no ill effects. Must be age. I took a travel sickness tablet and fell asleep for an hour, then was fine.
There is always a lot to do on this ship and we tried to do it all. We watched the ballroom dancing lessons, we went to the library and the gym, attended lectures and planetarium displays (some of which were cancelled because of the rough seas) as well as attending all the formal events and balls. The gym in particular was very nice, but mostly frequented by us and the show dancers. It's well appointed with plenty of free weights, but is short on floor space and is some sort of thoroughfare. This meant that I could be bobbing along on the treadmill whilst a crocodile of elderly people filed past. I must have been filmed or had my picture taken several times, as if I were a curiosity. A little more privacy in the gym would not go amiss.
I have previously cruised on Princess, and it's the subtle things that let you know this is a cut above:
Clotted, not whipped cream on the scones Drinkable tea Teak decks No intrusive announcements Free ice cream
This isn't to say that I don't like Princess: I most certainly do. However, six nights in the Queen's Grill may have spoiled me somewhat.
After the first rough day, things calmed down. The entertainment improved immensely, including an impressive operatic performance on one evening, and the cruise entertainment crew are certainly of a higher caliber than the Butlins-style Redcoats of Princess. A resident group of RADA actors performed some short Alan Aykbourn plays, which must have been near-incomprehensible to the majority American audience, but which we enjoyed immensely.
Unfortunately, due to the high winds on deck, the outdoor cafe did not open at all, and the outdoor pools were only open for the last couple of days. However, the indoor pool was beautiful.
By the fourth day I didn't want to leave. We had met quite a few people on board and had become accustomed to the routine. However, we did notice that we saw very few of our Queens Grill dining companions around the ship and we wondered where on earth they got to during the day. Perhaps the thought of mixing with hoi polloi was just too much and they spent the day languishing in their cabins between meals.
In short, this is a beautiful ship, with friendly staff, excellent food and good entertainment. Arriving in New York, even at 5am, was spectacular and I think it's an experience everyone should have. I am already planning my round the world trip... just need to remortgage the house...