Queen Mary 2 was scheduled to sail from New York - Round Trip - to Princess Qay in the Bahamas on Friday February 15th, 2008, a four day Presidents Day weekend trip which should have been an excellent marketing opportunity for Cunard.
I left San Francisco On Thursday February 14th for the five and a half hour flight to New York. United Airlines flight # 8 left on time and arrived on time, very smooth flying at 37,000 feet above a country covered with snow and ice.
I stayed at the Sheraton Manhattan at Times Square. Hotel is comfortable although the room was small. However, it is situated in an excellent location within walking distance to several Broadway theatres and Times Square.
I left the hotel on Friday the 15th at about 11:30 AM for the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, Pier 12. The hotel doorman made sure the taxi driver knew where the terminal was before I got in the taxi. The ride took about 40 minutes and cost about $40.00, with tip, to get to the cruise terminal from Manhattan. Note, in the cruise documents that Cunard sent out they indicated I should arrive about 2:00 PM at the Cruise Terminal. However, when I arrived about 12:15 PM passengers were already boarding the ship. All cruise lines set these arbitrary times for arrival at the terminal but my best advice is to always arrive about noon and you will not have to wait in long lines for boarding which also gives you an opportunity to look around the ship prior to sailing.
The embarkation process was easy, although they did not have enough "check in" work stations, I would imagine that the lines would get longer as the afternoon wore on especially if the majority of passengers heeded Cunards instructions for arriving at the pier.
Upon boarding you were met with several staff members asking you if you knew where your stateroom was and since I did I went directly there. I did not see any passengers being escorted to their stateroom.
Upon arrival at my stateroom, 5227, an inside stateroom I was pleasantly surprised as it was larger than I expected and the bed had been set up in the configuration that I had requested. The stateroom was very nicely decorated, with quality appointments throughout and the bathroom was completely tiled with the exception of the shower. Also the bathroom was larger than I expected. The stateroom attendant did his job, but did not provide any better than average service.
One thing about boarding early is the opportunity to enjoy the "Welcome Aboard" lunch in the buffet restaurant on Deck 7. The buffet is seperated into three sections, Asian, Carvery and Italian. The space of each seems confined and with not many windows. Food was average to poor with not many choices. This was the only time I ate a meal in the buffet restaurant.
After Lunch I went straight to the Britannia Restaurant which is aft on three deck and two deck. My table assignment, 2nd sitting, was in my room on a floor plan of the restaurant. However, I was glad I went to see the table as it was not in a good position. I had asked to be placed at a table for eight, however I was assigned to a table for six right in the middle of an aisle where the waiters would be whizzing by on either side. I went immediately to the maitre d and he changed me to a table for eight in a much better location. The maitre d was very helpful and pleasant in meeting my request. If you don't like your table assignment always ask for a change that you are happy with.
Overall the food in the Britannia Dining Room was average and with generally fewer choices than on other cruises I have enjoyed. My table mates were very nice, not nosey and/or full of questions. Our dinner conversation was always pleasant. If you are at a table with the wrong people ask for a change right away as you don't want to suffer through every dinner with people you don't like or are uncomfortable with.
The waiter was pleasant and efficient. However, just like on other ships where the gratuities are automatically applied to your shipboard account the service staff do not develop a positive service relationship with their passengers because the gratuities are already in their pockets. I prefer to tip at the end of a voyage for service well done. In actual fact I think that service staff who provide excellent/outstanding service can actually earn more in gratuities if they are rewarded at the end of a voyage.
Again, food quality, temperature and variety were just average in the Britannia Restaurant and may be symptomatic of the fact that Queen Mary 2 have three other restaurants, Britannia Club, Princess Dining Room and Queens Dining Room all based on your room accommodation. It only stands to reason that if the food is excellent in the Britannia Restaurant there won't be anywhere to go with the other three restaurants in terms of variety and excellence. There were two formal nights (four day cruise?), no grand buffet, no singing waiters and we never saw the Captain from beginning to end of the voyage. Generally the Dining room was clean with the tables only set with minimal silver not the traditional settings that you find on some ships. The dining room seemed confined especially on three deck where there were mezzanine type arrangements for the tables with only the top row of tables able to see out of the windows.
Outside of the Britannia Restaurant there was one restroom each for ladies and gents, they were very small and not serviced regularly as one could see with paper towels consistently overflowing the trash and ending up on the floor.
We had a day at Sea and arrived at Princess Qay in the Bahamas and we utilized the tender to go ashore (well organized and not much waiting). The water was a beautiful blue and the sand was pure white. However, nothing really to do there other than scuba dive, snorkel or swim, only one shop.. I did take the Glass Bottom boat ride which was interesting. Saw a baby sea turtle but did not see much in the way of other fish.
In general the public room are comfortable but not grand. The Grand Lobby is especially small. They have a very large library and book store on eight deck, kind of out of the way but it is worthwhile when you get there. Afternoon tea is served in the Queen's room every day starting at 3:30 PM, get there early if you want a seat. They have a harpist who is a very good musician but not dressed to fit the occasion. The casino is poorly laid out and spread out over two rooms, noisy and very crowded in the evening.
The Golden Lion Pub serves pub lunches everyday including very nice fish and chips. You can have your lunch in the Golden Lion at no extra charge, if you can get in.
The Queen Mary 2 has an 1,100 seat theater, however I would classify the entertainment only average at best. We only saw the Cruise Director once a day and that was at the end of the show, all the rest of the time he was in hiding. In addition there is a planetarium where they have daily shows, tickets required (free). The theater is called Illuminations and is also where they show (old) movies.
One interesting highlight around the ship are a series of murals telling the cunard story and picturing some of the stars who travelled on the original Queen Mary throughout the years including my good friend Bing Crosby.
On our return day at sea there was a force 6 gale at our stern with a following sea and the ship rode very well, not much rolling and or pitching, which was very good indeed. Truly a ship built for transatlantic crossings.
Queen Mary 2 is not designed for cruising as we know cruising today. The decks are not conducive toward outdoor activities and the three pools they have are very small and not well situated.
In talking to a number of other passengers on board they all said that they were disappointed in the Queen Mary 2 and had expected more in the way of service and luxury and in fact the four day cruise was over priced. Very few stated that they would be interested in travelling on board Queen Mary 2 again on a longer voyage. I believe that Cunard missed a wonderful marketing opportunity with this four day trip as I feel that they did not put their best foot forward. Queen Mary 2 is definitely not competitive in the Caribbean cruise market and I would not recommend it for any Caribbean cruise with so may other choices out there. Transatlantic yes, Caribbean no!
Disembarkation was organized and completed ahead of schedule
Finally there was not any survey for passengers to complete at the end of the voyage and that is why I felt compelled to write this critique which I hope the readers will find useful.
In summary with the long proud history of Cunard they should do much better with their flag ship Queen Mary 2. They missed many opportunities on this four day voyage.
Thanks for reading these thoughts and about my experiences aboard Cunard Queen Mary 2.