This was an eagerly anticipated first trip on the QM2 booked in Feb 07. Our original ports of call included Limon, Costa Rica but this was cancelled by Cunard in December 07 and Barbados added as the alternative. No reason was given for the change in itinerary.
The new itinerary was New York, Cristobal (for the Panama Canal), Curacao, Bonaire, Barbados, St Lucia, St Thomas, New York. We sailed out of New York in the evening as the lights came on in all the buildings and sailed under the Verezzano Bridge. At the end of the voyage we sailed in as dawn broke over New York, magical.
The voyage was a wonderful experience (the Commodore was keen to point out to us that it was a voyage not a cruise). The ship is magnificent and it was love at first sight.
The transfer from the airport was slightly chaotic (we were told to form ourselves into two groups of 38) but the embarkation process went very smoothly.
To celebrate a special birthday we had booked a Queens Grill Suite on deck 9, which was spacious and well equipped with fruit, a free bar including our choice of spirits or wine, a jacuzzi bath and a walk in wardrobe. Plus the usual amenities of bathrobe, slippers etc. The balcony was twice the size of ones we had experienced before on other cruise lines with comfortable wooden loungers.
We had the services of a butler but apart from having breakfast in our suite on tour days did not really use the service and truth be told we saw very little of him. The Queens Grill Dining Room where we had a table for two served excellent food at breakfast, lunch and dinner and at dinner the staff tried to satisfy any request for food even if it was not on the table d'hote or a la carte menu. Service was personal and of a high standard. The lead waiter for our table tried so hard to please and I have never seen anyone work as hard the Queens Grill Head waiter. You could also have the full menu served in your suite if you preferred. You could dine any time from 7.00pm to 9.00pm. After dinner if we didn't feel like going to a show or to one of the many bars we could sit in the Queens Grill Lounge and sip cocktails and on several nights listen to a pianist or singer. The staff here were friendly, efficient and knowledgeable.
The Golden Lion served excellent pub food at lunch time and Sir Samuels Wine Bar had very good sandwiches and coffee. We did not try any of the Kings Court buffet offerings.
As Queens Grill passengers we could slip into the Concierge Lounge during the day and have a selection of teas or a coffee together with, depending on the time of day, a sandwich, cookie, or cake and read the selection of daily newspapers available. Then the promenade deck was utilized in an effort to walk off all the calories. We weren't brave enough to try the gym.
Whilst I am still enthusing about the food, afternoon tea was excellent. We had this in the Grill Lounge and it was also served in the Queens Room and I think on deck for the sun worshippers. You could also have it served in your suite. There were plenty of loungers on the various decks for those who wanted the warm sun.
We enjoy formal nights and had packed for the number of formal, semi-formal, elegant casual found on our final documentation only to learn on boarding that the elegant casual nights had increased, so we could have packed differently. Not sure why this info could not have been changed in the final documentation.
The ship is large and we did need the map handed out at embarkation to find our way around and it was disconcerting at times on deck 3 to have to go down stairs walk along a corridor and then up again to find the venue you wanted on the deck you started on.
It was fun to sit by the windows on deck 2 and watch the waves particularly on the one day we had rough weather.
Shopping was limited and there were the usual table sales outside the shops but as I am not a shopper this was not a problem and as the only thing I needed, for the cold my husband developed, was available from the "general" shop.
The library was an excellent resource and we enjoyed the daily crosswords, sudoko and trivia quiz. The view aft from the library windows as you sat browsing through a book or just looking out to sea was very relaxing.
We didn't go to one of the Planetarium shows as my husband is not keen on the IMAX type experience and we were told this was similar.
We enjoyed viewing the bridge on sea days from the glass partitioned viewing area on deck 11 (I think it was deck 11).
There are free laundry facilities on several decks which is a boon for pressing clothes after a transatlantic flight. We did however wash smaller things in cabin and hung them to dry on the wash line over the bath, very handy and time saving as we always found a queue in the laundry.
The shows we went to were of a high standard, both in content and technical detail, although the computer crashed for the last show and it was cancelled after one song. There were 3 guest speakers who gave a variety of lectures during the day, an ambassador, a writer and a historian. There were a lot of other activities so you would never be bored, you could be as active or as lazy as you wished. We decided to be lazy.
The Canyon Ranch Spa was good and I had prebooked my treatments via email and confirmation of times etc were waiting for me in the suite when we arrived.
we had prebooked the Shore excursions which were on the whole good, the big disappointment was the Panama Canal Boat Trip which was too crowded for many people to see anything. This was because many of us on this trip had originally prebooked the train trips by the canal which were then cancelled due to the changes in port and our arrival in Christobal a day early. So the highlight of the trip was disappointing to say the least. Curacao, Bonaire, St Thomas and St Lucia were very good and I think we just chose the wrong trip on Barbados. The excursions were well organized by Cunard. Curacao Country Drive and Island tour of Bonaire were the best excursions and the Panama Canal Boat trip the worst. The immigration process at St Thomas was a little disorganized as we felt there were not enough staff around to direct those on early excursions.
We could keep in touch with family and friends by buying an internet package or by using the email facility on the interactive tv in our suite, this was our preferred option and we found it very effective. Cunard send you an onboard email address with your tickets etc so you can let friends and family have this prior to your voyage.
Any problems we had in our suite i.e. interactive tv broke down, the safe malfunctioned etc were rectified within 30 minutes of our reporting them.
After disembarkation Cunard had arranged a tour of Manhattan for us prior to taking us to the airport. So what could have been a long day was instead a fruitful one.
We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, nothing was too much trouble for the staff wherever we went on the ship. The voyage was relaxing and the mix of sea days/port days just right. We cannot overstate how good this ship is and I can't wait to sail on the QM2 again.