We travelled in a large group with our travel agent to Singapore and on the whole had a good time amongst ourselves. The ship was a big disappointment in terms of facilities, service and food.
On first impression, the public rooms looked tastefully furnished but after a few days, we soon realized that the public rooms seemed claustrophobic because of the low ceiling height. There were many smallish rooms except for the Queens Room and Royal Theatre. There were not many places where you could sit without being hassled by the waiters. It's totally revenue orientated, even the shops and the spa staff are constantly advertising their products. We did not feel relaxed in this kind of environment. There is definitely a non-inclusive feel on the ship where the Grill class passengers, round the world cruisers and loyalty club passengers were given priority, special treatments and cocktail functions which were not available to first time Cunard passengers.
Our balcony cabins were tight and badly configured. We had to maneuver ourselves between the awkward bathroom door, cupboard doors and the bed when we get changed. There is not much drawer space which the Captain admitted to many times. Makes us wonder what the interior designers were paid for. We all heard about the laundry room arguments and we believe them - there were only 3 washing machines, 3 dryers and one ironing board on each deck! The laundry room is so tiny. Washing detergent was complimentary......not that we used the washers.
The prescribed dress code was outrageous, where men had to wear a jacket every night - jacket without tie for casual elegance, jacket and tie for informal and suits/black tie for formal. In fairness to those who observed the dress code, there were no strict policing by the maitre d's. My husband got tired of it in the end and we chose the "alternative dining" at the Lido in the end (elegant casual required).
There were not enough production shows, too many second rate entertainers and the second-sitting show started too late at 10.45pm! The string quartet which featured every night in the restaurant or the lobby was so bad that passengers tried to avoid them. The double story library was a farce as it was not spacious at all.
The legendary White Star service is long gone. Staff are over worked and stretched to minimize cost and passengers are bombarded by waiters, photographers and spa staff to increase revenue. We also heard that there was not a full complement of staff on this new ship. Officers and entertainment staff were not friendly or welcoming. We had to force them to smile or say hello as they walk past passengers without any effort to be courteously polite.
Food was mediocre and uninspired to say the least. The menu in the dining room was quite predictable but we were lucky to have a great team of staff there. The Lido buffet did not have the choice we used to have. The "alternative" dinner at the Lido offering themed Indian, Oriental or fondue nights were more interesting, if you could manage to be the first few handfuls to make reservations at 9am in the morning. The Todd English restaurant had only slightly better service and food for an extra USD30 for dinner. Afternoon tea is still a tradition on Cunard and we enjoyed the atmosphere at the Queens Room. Pity the sandwiches were always dry.
Cunard also placed the blame on others for not getting prime docking berths in Brisbane, Hong Kong and Singapore. By opting for cheaper port fees, the ship berthed at container terminals.
We were disturbed to hear that several gay passengers were put off the ship without the ability to defend themselves. We heard rumors that vindictive "Grill" class passengers set up these poor passengers by making false complaints of indecent behavior in the spa area. These passengers were given the marching orders by the Captain who only wanted to wipe out any bad publicity. We heard that the passengers were not given any warnings. We would be outraged if it happened to us, especially if we had planned a longer cruise. I warned my husband not to go near the spa just in case he gets accused too. The disturbing bit I heard was that the married men do play up in the sauna area on some ships. Whilst we do not condone such behavior, it is totally unacceptable for fellow passengers to make up complaints and let the Captain play judge and jury.
The arrival into Sydney and the royal rendezvous with the QE2 was a highlight of our cruise. The Sydney residents sure knew how to throw a party on the fabulous harbor. Nevertheless, we could not hear their loud cheers from our balcony because the ship's entertainment crew boomed louder Aussie music over the public address system throughout the entire rendezvous/farewell.
On the whole, the cruise did not meet our expectations, given the amount of publicity Cunard has built up over the past year. Shame on Cunard for cutting corners and making the experience as generic as the other Carnival brands. Did anyone else enjoy their cruise or were they too busy catching up on the latest gossip or complaint on the ship?