Queen Mary 2, February 11 - March 6 2004
I knew that this was going to be a cruise to remember, therefore I took copious notes in my daily journal. The ship was advertised to be the most luxurious oceanliner in the world, with white glove service and attention to every detail. I typically travel the luxury lines of Seabourn, Radisson, and Crystal, so my expectations were heightened.
My flight arrived at 12 noon, and although my cruise ticket indicated that I was to board no earlier than 3:00 PM, I got in line with several hundred passengers. Soon after, a Cunard representative announced that Queens Grill, Princess Grill passengers, and those paying with American Express Platinum card could skip the long line, and embark immediately. Having done the latter, I was whisked to the front area, checked in, and embarked the ship. This was very smooth for me, but I did hear a few people grumbling as to how long it took them to get on the ship.
I expected to be greeted by a staff member, who like other lines, would take my hand luggage, and introduce me to my stateroom. This was not the case. I was told which floor to go to, and I was to find my stateroom on my own. I was a bit surprised, as this, being my 36th cruise in 9 years, was a first.
I booked a category B1, outside stateroom with a balcony. The cabin was a bit crowded, with little storage space. It was very plain, and although it had a refrigerator, there wasn't anything in it. The wood tones were actually plastic, and the carpet was already showing signs of wear. Email was available on your television at a cost of $1.50 per incoming and outgoing emails. The cabin had a balcony that was basically a picture window with the glass removed. It was actually a hole in the hull. This made the cabin strangely dark and gloomy. If laying on the lounge out on the balcony, there was no water view. I was a bit disappointed in this arrangement. Had I known this fact in July of 2002 when I booked the cruise, I would have chosen another balcony category. The balcony staterooms on the higher levels offered clear glass balconies with beautiful views. The only category one should be aware of is B3. These balconies are fully obstructed by the lifeboats.
I heard from the majority of the passengers that their stewards or stewardesses were very good. Unfortunately mine was not. On 3 occasions, she did not make up the stateroom (the card was out every time), and had to be reminded daily that I was out of things. We were not provided a pool towel until the 3rd day. There were plenty of excuses. When my stateroom was ignored the day of the second leg of the trip, I was told that she was busy making up the staterooms for the new passengers. I could understand that, but I was also a paying passenger who happened to elect to do 2 segments. She told me that she used to work for Silversea Cruises, to my amazement. She was not up to standard.
This was just my experience, and not the experience of others.
Obviously this ship is quite a sight to behold. She has lovely lines and a prominent bow. The designers achieved a look of a traditional oceanliner with the size of a mega cruise ship. The interior space was a bit disappointing, and so much of the ship's accessories were plastic. The public rooms were generous yet lacked the traditional elegance of yesterday. It was a bit difficult to find certain rooms such as the Queens Room and G32 nightclub, without much practice. 3 times around deck is over a mile, which illustrates just how big this ship is. Although she can accommodate 2600 passengers, I was able to make friends easily and was able to find them on deck or the many public areas. The only areas that were not accessible to everyone were the Queens Grill lounge and dining room, the Princess Grill dining room and the Queens Grill sundeck. The ship being so huge, it was agreed by all the staff that 1800 crew was needed to run this ship. The ship has a capacity for only 1300 staff, so service across the board was extremely slow, spotty and disappointing. Much of the crew had never been on board a ship before.
The Bars and Lounges
I personally preferred the Commodore Club for pre-dinner cocktails and post dinner brandies, and the G32 nightclub for late night dancing. G32 was well attended, but the DJ was limited to what songs he could play. Many requests were not on his corporate "play list". Policies like this are ridiculous. This is supposed to be an adult nightclub with adult music. There were other bars and lounges such as Winter Garden, Golden Lion Pub, Sir Samuel's Wine bar, the outdoor Regatta Bar and the Veuve Clicquot Champagne bar. Each offered its own feel or personality. There was one similarity though. The liquor pour was slight across the board. Although drinks were on the expensive side, from $4.50 to over $6.00 a pour, one could never say they were heavy handed or a drink was ever on the house. I experienced an incident where management threatened a group of bartenders in one of the lounges if they strayed from Cunard's drink policies. The ship claimed to have the most extensive wine cellar at sea, yet they were out of several selections throughout the voyage.
The Culinary Experience
The Kings Court for breakfast and lunch were at the very best, mediocre. The food was cold a lot of the time, the juices were thick and there was no skim milk to be found. Never staff members to carry a tray, only to quickly take your plate if you look the other way. Very crowded at times, and nicknamed by many, "the trough". For dinner, the Kings Court is transformed to 4 alternative restaurants. The Chefs Galley offers a type of interactive cooking demonstration. You watch the chef prepare your meal, as he explains his techniques. Wine is included, and there is a charge of $30 per person. The Carvery offers a selection of heavier meats and fare. La Piazza is the Italian restaurant, and offers pastas, red sauces and the like. The Lotus is the Asian restaurant. Though the first mentioned restaurants were average to good, the Lotus was the worst alternative restaurant experience I have ever had on a cruise ship. The nice table promised by the maitre 'd faced a blank wall, the unusual "condiments" on the table were never explained. No bar service, and the wait between courses was agonizing. After the 4th course (of 12) and 1-½ hours later, we left. The service was non-existent and the only way I can describe the food was that it looked and tasted like a $5.99 all you can eat Chinese lunch buffet. Todd English was the stand-alone alternative restaurant. It is open for lunch and dinner, and reservations are required. The ambience didn't strike me as elegant, and much of the wait staff was inexperienced. I did, however, recognize a wine steward from the Royal Viking Line, and was happy to see him. The food was very good, but a bit on the rich side. I understand that after my cruise, Todd English will command a surcharge of $20 per person for lunch and $30 per person for dinner. This is a shame, as its one of the only "escapes" from the poor food and service in the Britannia Restaurant. I witnessed a fiasco at Todd English during disembarkation / embarkation day on the second leg of my voyage. Because so many staying on board wanted a reservation at Todd English, many crowded the restaurant 2 hours before reservations were to be made. Because of the sheer size of the crowd, a passenger suggested that everyone write their name and stateroom number on a list of paper until the maitre 'd arrived. It actually was a very good idea, until someone lost page 1 with 20 names on it! The "honor system" did not prevail, and tempers rose. I was able to make my reservation, but soon after a punch was thrown, security called, and Todd English was closed due to a "technical difficulty". All this over trying to make a dinner reservation. This incident was very sad. They opened for business the next day with little fanfare.
The Britannia Restaurant is the 2-seating restaurant where the majority of the passengers dine. The majority of the food is bland and unappetizing, although some items such as the lamb and rolls were tasty. Because the room is so understaffed, the wait throughout dinner can be irritating. Often the food is cold, because the kitchen is so far away. Without a lot more wait staff, this restaurant will never be right. Also missing was the on site flambEs, special orders, and baked Alaska. The room itself is very grand, but the food and service do not do it justice. There was an incident where a waiter knocked one of the maitre 'd's over the head with a peppermill, after being berated in front of several passengers. I assume he was asked to disembark at the next port!
Princess Grill and Queens Grill are the 2 restaurants for the upper class stateroom passengers. I dined in Queens Grill several times, invited by friends, and enjoyed first class food and service. The ambiance was charming and relaxed, and the food selection grand. The only difference between the Princess Grill menu and the Queens Grill menu is that the Queens Grill menu has an additional "ala carte" section.
During the day, the Boardwalk Cafe opens at deck 12. It is open air, and because it is on an empty deck, you have the feel of eating in a parking lot. The fare is hamburgers, hotdogs and chicken. Overcooked, stale buns, and bad taste. This is a "must avoid".
Overall, QM2 MUST get their act together in the food and service categories, or I believe she will not survive. She most certainly did not live up to her advertisements and promises in this category.
The Canyon Ranch Spa and Gymnasium
This was a pet peeve of mine. I regularly use the gym, and found out that the way Canyon Ranch designed this area, you either had to sign up for a spa service, or pay $19 a day to use the locker room to shower and change. This was ridiculous. So many of us had to drag our sweaty bodies along public areas, to our staterooms, only to take a shower and change. I'm assuming that Canyon Ranch planned to charge for use of the gym across the board, therefore stowing the changing areas deep in the spa area. The gym itself is equipped with all the latest machines and free-weights. The only minor complaint in the gym was that the music videos on the small TV's in front of the machines were so outdated. I did not book any of the over-priced spa services.
I always say that if you make new friends on board a ship, you are definitely going to have a good cruise. If you meet new friends and can enjoy a first class experience on board, you are going to have a great cruise. This cruise was a good cruise.
The marketing team for the QM2 should receive a medal for their efforts. The hype and expectations were high, and Cunard fell flat on its face. For the fares charged, one should have received 5 star service, great food, and lovely accommodations. This did not happen. I personally would never sail QM2 again, and would think twice about Cunard line in the future. Had I known its shortcomings, (especially the lack of crew, and the impossible task of finding births for more), I would have cancelled this cruise in a heart beat. I'm sure others had a good time, and were awe struck by the ship itself. The awe of being on her, in my opinion, goes away in a day or so.