Queen Mary 2 Caribbean Celebration Voyage December 20, 2007 - January 3, 2008
Getting to the ship This is the first cruise on the Queen Mary 2 for me; I've been on 8 Princess cruises over the past 2 years. I flew from SFO to JFK using the cruise line air package on an overnight flight. I use the cruise line air whenever I need to fly to the ship so when the airlines have a problem getting me to the ship it doesn't become my problem. After landing in JFK I was met by a friendly Cunard rep and in about an hour I was on a van heading to the ship. The drive took about an hour with lot's of traffic. The Brooklyn cruise terminal in nice and new and it was an easy flow into the check in area from the van. There was the usual security check in with about a 10 minute wait to get my cruise card. Since I got there early (around 11:00am) I waited with about 20 others in the waiting area which is spacious, new, well lit with bathrooms and what looked like vending machines for some pre boarding gourmet food. At 12:00 noon they opened the doors and we began boarding the ship through some nice heated glass enclosed gangways. It was nice going through the gauntlet of white gloved ship board employees and Santa Claus as I found my way to my inside cabin.
The QM2 The ship is the longest, widest, fastest passenger ship in the world and it's in great shape! Most everything was clean and shiny. I had an inside cabin and it was clean and well maintained. The whole ship is very classy with wonderful art, with a lot of Cunard history to read about throughout the ship as well as a lot of paintings of various ships thought maritime history. You get a great feeling for what Cunard is all about. The public rooms are great, the Royal Court Theater is classy and elegant, I saw numerous shows there and never had a problem finding a great seat, the Illuminations theater that has the planetarium in it is beautiful, I saw 3 of the planetarium shows, a lecture and one movie in it. All shows started right on time and were great. The Queens Room is huge! I tried the afternoon tea service and the service was exceptional, I always had a full cup of tea plenty of things to eat. The New Years Ball was great with lots of elegantly dressed people, free champagne, dancing and balloons at midnight. Again everything was on time and classy. The ship itself is the smoothest sailing ship I have ever been on, a lot of the time it seems as if the ship is standing still even though it's cruising at 26 knots!
The Food Since I have food allergies I ate both breakfast and lunch at the Kings Court buffet everyday. For breakfast I usually have fruit and hot cereal of which there is always an abundant supply of. The fruit was always fresh, ripe and delicious. For lunch I made a huge salad of which there was always a great selection of veggies to choose from. I like to put cranberry sauce on my salad and the Kings Court staff always made sure I had some everyday. One thing I have found on cruise ships is that you can ask for almost any food item and the staff will get it for you, they almost never say no! The Kings Court buffet is a large collection of different food stations throughout most of deck 7. I have read that it tends to be confusing because each station looks the same yet may have different food available depending on which side or end of the ship you're on. I found that by walking around to all of the different stations I was able to fill my plate up with whatever I wanted. There was always plenty of seating and I was always able to find a window seat for both breakfast and lunch when it was cold outside, the rest of the time I sat outside on one of the lounge chairs on deck 7 and had a marvelous view of the ocean or islands while eating. For dinner I have always eaten in the main restaurant at the later seating. This way I don't have to rush to dinner and have the same waiter and table mates each night. The Britannia restaurant is huge as well seating over 1110 people at once. When I booked my cruise I had optioned for a late seating and was told numerous times by Cunard over the phone that I was 17th on the waitlist which is usually never a problem to get a table. When I showed up to my cabin there was a dinning room map saying I was assigned to the early seating. So I went to the head maître de and asked if there were any available second seating places open. He said the second seating was entirely full and he would try and find a seat for me tonight of which he did. This went on for next 6 nights allowing me to sit at a number of different tables before a permanent table opened up. One of the staff in the restaurant said that this is the only ship were the second seating is always full and there is lots of space at the first seating. My theory on that is that the crowd is of a higher caliber and 6:30pm it too early to eat dinner. All the dinners were great every night. I order a special salad, sautéed vegetables and a yam for each night, while choosing between the various fish, lamb and chicken items. For dessert I either had a bowl of berries, chocolate cake (that they made without eggs for me) or they made me an Apple Tart Tatin. Like I said if you ask they will make it for you. The head waitress and crew were always friendly and efficient, getting me everything I asked for and all the while that I was going from table to table the assistant maitre de made sure each new waiter got my special diet to me every night . I was talking to one of the officers while up on deck and he had mentioned that about 30% of the Queen Mary 2 crew went over to the Queen Victoria and I think some of them were from the Britannia dinning room because it seemed that they were a little short staffed and a bit hurried. The food was always hot and delicious and I was able to make all the late shows on time.
The Service I found the staff to be very helpful - it seemed every time I turned around there was someone with a name badge asking if they could get me something. Everyone from the Passenger Services Desk to the Deck Crew were willing to go the extra mile to help. My cabin steward had my cabin clean and well stocked all the time and he was always around most every time I was going to or leaving my cabin. Entertainment The Cunard dancers did a good job with their shows and the violinist, opera singers, comedians were all fabulous! I saw all but one of the shows. The theater is great from just about any seat. The other entertainment throughout the ship was great as well.
The Spa and Gym I hit the gym 10 times - I lift weights rather than do cardio so there were no real problems waiting for the machines. The equipment was enough for me to do maintenance workouts. I was there at 4-5pm and there was never any waiting for equipment. Everything was clean and worked! In the mornings I walked the Promenade deck for an hour everyday at sea to burn some extra calories so I could eat more chocolate cake. I only gained 2 pounds on this trip.
Shore Excursions I booked all my tours through Cunards for peace of mind regarding schedules and getting back to the ship on time. If it's a Cunard tour, they'll wait for you if it's late getting back to the ship. We were always right on schedule, arriving spot on time at every port. We tendered at three ports so debarkation was slower on those islands. We were given assembly times for our pre-booked tours and they were orderly and we got off the ship without too much delay. All in all the process was organized and smooth. On 6 of the islands I took a snorkel trip of which were great, there were lots of turtles, a few sting rays and a zillion colorful fish. All the tours were right on time and everyone was very helpful in making sure we all had a great time.
Disembarkation When we arrived in NYC it was freezing cold, literally. There was ice on the outside decks and the temp was 14 degrees! On the mornings of disembarkation I usually get up eat breakfast and find a nice lounge chair either on top deck if it's nice or down on the promenade deck and wait there for my color code to be called thus avoiding the congestion at get off time. Since it was so cold I waited inside in the Royal Court theater for my color to be called. Once my color was called it was a quick 5 minute wait in line and off to the bus to JFK I went. Cunard is an upscale cruise line and they do a great job of providing an exceptional cruise experience while making it affordable and the Queen Mary 2 is a one of a kind liner, I will definitely cruise on Cunard again.