We booked this trip almost 12 months ago and had been hoping for a "voyage of a lifetime" ever since. We were not disappointed - transatlantic on the QM2 is truly a magical experience.
The main concern we had for the trip was that we would only have a good time if our 3 young children (aged 7, 6 and 3) were also happy throughout. They were more than happy at "The Zone" and it became increasingly difficult to get them to spend any time at all with us as they were much happier with their new friends at their club!
This is how it went:
Booking: We booked through an Internet agency and because there are very few interconnecting 2 berth & 3 berth cabins we had to wait a long time for a sailing that suited. The agency (Ideal Cruising) was OK and no more - and we still have an issue over some on-board credit that we have yet to resolve.
Embarkation: Really poor! Other reviews have said the same thing. There simply *must* be a better way to get everyone on board and the queues at Southampton were appalling. The kids were very frustrated by the time we managed to get to actually climb on board.
First impressions: Wow! The first impression of the ship as you walk on board is that it is big, grand, and quite beautiful. The central corridor down the ship on deck 3 is very, very wide and walking down that to find our deck (deck 6) was a great way to get an impression of the ship. Given that the ship is now 3+ years old, we were amazed that everything looks so new, so clean, so perfect - not a scuff or a mark anywhere.
Staterooms: We had the interconnecting cabins we'd requested and they were fine. The balconies (which are sheltered on deck 6) were bigger and much more usable than we'd expected, and on many days we watched dolphins and humpback whales from the balcony. There was enough wardrobe space for us and the stewardess (Annika) was excellent in every respect.
Dining: The Britannia restaurant is huge (seats 1000+?) but cleverly designed so that you don't feel that you are in a particularly large space. I was expecting "mass catering" type menus, the sort of food and service you'd receive at a decent wedding, but in fact the food quality, presentation and service would grace a top city restaurant. Great choice (including healthy options at every course) and the service was simply perfect. You have the same table, waiter and assistant waiter at dinner, and it is more flexible at breakfast and lunch. There are special kids menus too (home-made fish fingers, pizza, chips etc) if none of the grown-up choices are suitable.
We also used the informal food-court style "Kings Court" but felt that this was much less successful. The food itself was fine, but somehow standing in a queue with a tray made it feel like you were at a cheap cafe rather than the opulent and stylish QM2.
Atmosphere: The general feel on board is relaxed and everyone you meet has an aura of "I'm so pleased to be here"! There were only approx 50 children on board as it was school-time, and when the kids were out and about most other passengers gave them a smile. We did receive a couple of "looks" and "tuts" from the grumpier elements on board, but in the main the crew and fellow guests seemed pleased to have some youthful energy on board ship.
Entertainment: The planetarium was generally full and very interesting; the cinema was OK (not great picture quality, but better at the back of the auditorium); the live shows were simply stunning. The lecturers on our crossing were of variable quality but there was a very good variety of topics covered. There are information boards all over the ship covering a variety of topics relating to Cunard's history. These are very well done (by the Maritime Museum) and very cleverly made us feel part of a long tradition of transatlantic crossing even though the ship itself is still very new. We all particularly enjoyed the details of the facilities on board the original Queen Mary (including a cow to give the children fresh milk!)
The cruise director, Alistair Greener, was very good indeed and his daily TV show ("QM2 Live") was a fun way to start the day and a good opportunity to send messages from the kids to Mum as we entered the daily competitions. The range of activities available for all ages and tastes is simply staggering - none of us were ever short of something to do or watch and in fact there were things we just couldn't fit in!
Kids Club: "The Zone" is at the back of deck 6 and is the place for children from age 1 and up. There are two sides to the area and on our crossing our two youngest were in the nursery whereas our eldest was in the more grown-up area. There was plenty to do each day and the kids had their own programme of events which meant that they could pick and choose what they did. Our only criticism was that the programme was only loosely followed and on several occasions the anticipated event didn't happen at all, which was a shame when a particular activity had been anticipated and looked forward to.
Physical Activities: The track on deck 7 wasn't really useable as a running track as it isn't wide enough to have runners and walkers on it at the same time; the gym though was a very good substitute and the staff there were very friendly and approachable.
Comfort/Weather: We were lucky that the majority of the crossing was very smooth indeed. The ship did move a little, but it is such a big, well-stabilised ship that I imagine it would have to be very rough indeed to be uncomfortable. We used the outdoor pools on the sunny days and the pool on the top deck (with its moveable sunroof) when it was cooler.
Other Memories: We saw dolphins galore and as we approached the US we started to see large whales including some great close-up views of humpbacks and a probable Sei whale. The kids loved this especially as it was possible to get such a great view from our own balcony.
Summary: The Queen Mary 2 truly lives up to its billing and heritage as a supreme transatlantic liner. When on-board the service, food and entertainment surpass expectation and the joy of 6 days at sea takes some beating. It is, perhaps surprisingly, a great family holiday and certainly those with younger children need fear nothing.