There are good and bad things about my experience with QM2. I traveled from April 28 to May 4 from NYC to Southampton. The best three things of the voyage were: the attentiveness of the staff; the cleanliness of the ship; and the comfortable cabin accommodations. The worst three things: the mediocre food quality; the campy decor; and the length of the trip, coupled with the mostly gray seascape and the limited choice of "things to do" for those not yet in the "twilight" years.
Check In: Check in at Brooklyn Passenger Terminal was acceptable, although somewhat slow. A computer breakdown was blamed for the slow down. Nothing major, however.
Boarding: From the moment you spot the photographer taking unsolicited pictures as you board you realize you are entering a Disney-like world that has nothing to do with the original glamorous essence of bygone transatlantic travel. Once on the ship, reaching the cabins took a while because three of the elevators on the central core of the ship were taken out of service to transport luggage. The fact that some 80% of the traveling public is in their "twilight years" also makes the process slow.
Cabin: My cabin was located on deck 11, with southern exposure (11029). The cabin was well designed, with all necessary appointments and conveniences. It had a spacious balcony (seldom used due to the poor weather), and a comfortable double bed and spacious cabinets. The steward, Bert, was very welcoming and efficient.
Dining: With exception of the Todd English restaurant, the food on board is close to standard cafeteria fare or standard large-convention banquet fare. The menu selections in the Britannia Room are geared towards an old-fashioned English or American palate, offering limited inventiveness. Younger, more cosmopolitan tastes are likely to find the menu offerings quite limited. Food presentation is very nice, but taste is generally bland. Service in general is quite good. The staff are adequately trained to be courteous and resourceful. Beverage offerings are also fine.
One big drawback to the dining experience is the fact that you are generally obligated to share a table with strangers if you are to dine in the Britannia or Princess Grill dining rooms. While you may find excellent company, the odds are against you if you are under 50...and even more so if you are a continental European (because..your table will likely consist of Americans or English travelers and you will need to adapt to their language and code of etiquette, including superficial politeness). The unfortunate thing with sharing tables is that it will give your dining experience an air reminiscent of a business convention banquet, where you are forced to pretend like you are interested in your neighbor's conversation, and that you find the food delicious. Luckily, you do not have to dine always in the Britannia or Princess Grills - you can make your own table arrangements at any of the cafeteria-like eateries on Deck 7, or at the Todd English restaurant (for a small supplement).
One even greater drawback is the insistence of formal dress code in the evening. While this may provide good entertainment - it is interesting to see the choices people make -- it would be great if such dress code would apply only to a few restaurants, allowing you, the guest, the freedom to chose to dress up or down. It is true that seeing the guest population dressed in their best apparel at night gives a nice air to the ship. But, the policy as currently enforced is restrictive. It is also excessive: 2 formal nights (black tie) and 2 semi formal nights (suit and tie) is too much for a 5 night stay. Those that in real life have to dress up will understand how uncool this imposition really is.
Todd English Restaurant: The food at this restaurant, together with service, are well worth the extra cover charge. The menu offering is far more creative than at the other restaurants, and you can chose your table any way you want it. The offerings still very much cater to an English or American palate -- i.e., do not expect Paris, London, Singapore, or New York dining. But, for the QM2, Todd English is certainly a cut above the other choices available on board.
Decor: If you fancy reproduction-type decor, opulent high gloss finishes, etc., you'll like the QM2. The public areas are decorated in reproduction Art Deco and are quite photogenic and to the liking of a majority. But, if you own a piece made by, or at least know well about, Jacques Emile Ruhlmann, or Ivan Da Silva Bruhns, or any of their contemporaries, rethink your choice of traveling on the QM2, because what you will see will make you twitch. This is not the Normandie. This is, at best, the Disney version of the Normandy.
Spa: The Canyon Ranch Spa offers a multitude of body treatments in very nicely appointed massage/treatment rooms, employing professional staff. The spa's wet areas (pool, whirlpool, aromatherapy, etc.) areas are excellent, clean and relaxing. But, be ready to pay extra for all this. The price tag will be more than you may be accustomed to paying at your local spa. But then again, you will be at sea, in the middle of the ocean, and you need to use your time.
The gym is quite alright. The equipment is Life Fitness, recent manufacture. It is a shame they did not instead install TechnoGym equipment.
Planetarium: This is a very nice facility, with very comfortable seating. Daily, there will be one showing on the planetarium screen PLUS a late afternoon and evening film show. These are great diversions that will help you kill a couple of hours. These are also free of charge.
Royal Court Theater: A nice touch -- this is a small theater and at least once there will be some sort of spectacle shown in the evening. We saw Apassionata, a sequence of dance sketches, which was entertaining.
Shopping: There is your standard Hermes, Escada, Swarovski and H. Stern shops plus a QM2 souvenir shop. The prices on the Hermes product line are very competitive. Other than that, the rest is pretty standard.
It is somewhat of a shame that during the day, the more attractive areas of the ship (main hallways on Deck 3) are used to display a bunch of souvenirs from the QM2 shop. This destroys the mood of these otherwise attractive hallways, giving them an air of a brocante, rather than an upscale ship.
On Board Enrichment Programs: Attended a few lectures by scientist Susan Humphries on oceanology which were first-rate. The Canyon Ranch spa also had a guest speaker who reminded me of one of the crazed religious Sunday mass preachers from Texas. Definitely a turn off.
Weather: It appears that it is common for the transatlantic crossing to happen mostly under cloud cover, with only a few sun opportunities. Even with sun, the speed at which the QM2 travels may make it somewhat uncomfortable to spend a day on the deck. Note as well that the seascape will be "barren" sea, with limited marine life to spot, unless you are lucky to spot a whale or a dolphin -- which are rare occurences.
Overall, the transatlantic crossing on QM2 is an interesting choice i if you have a week to spare doing nothing in a somewhat confined space. It is, most importantly, a good value for money experience. It appeals to an older demographic and delivers good service, comfortable accommodations, and passable food and beverage. Do it if you need to tick off your to-do list.
If you are looking for an exciting adventure, I suggest you book yourself on a first class air ticket to any destination of your choice, and stick to land-based experiences...or charter your own yacht. The original QM was all about the glamour of the rich and famous of the era (1930's - 1940's). In our era, that same glamour exists...but not on the QM2. It is a bit of a shame that Cunard did not think of giving this technologically amazing ship a more contemporary twist and instead resorted to recreating what is long gone. The experience would be much better if today's QM2 actually spoke the same language and to the same audience that QM did in its day.