We are first time Cunard travelers (American) and we crossed on the eastbound April 16th sailing and then returned on the westbound May 4th crossing. My husband and I have been on other ships, Carnival (once and only once!), NCL and Holland America.
My review will be very different from the previous reviewer's thoughts…and we were on the same crossing!! It only goes to show that people, on the same ship, with different attitudes, can have totally different opinions.
In addition to my general review, I have also included what I hope will be some helpful information for future QM2 customers.
The Brits outnumbered the Americans on both our crossings 2-1. My husband and I had a great time talking to all the Brits we met. They were of all ages and most had extensive travel experiences. They were great to talk to. If you're on the QM2, open your mind to all age groups and nationalities. You'll have a great time.
We had a B5 balcony cabin. Deck 8, obstructed view. We were fine with this. We could see a little ocean between the boats.
Britannia Dining Room
We ate in the Britannia most meals. The wait staff was great. On the April 16th crossing (the first of the season), the head waiter was omnipresent. He made the rounds of almost every table every night to make sure things were going ok. He really wanted to hear if there were any problems. One breakfast the service was a little slow, but it was only that one time.
Although some things were better prepared than others, considering they're doing about 2000 meals a night…we thought the food was just fine.
We had lunch there once. Thought it was excellent, too bad we had to look out at the smokers congregating out on the deck! But again, the food was great.
Best planetarium show - Cosmic Collisions, worse - The Search for Life. Worth going to see regardless.
We thought 'Rock the Opera' was just OK, but 'Apassionata', was excellent. Saw it twice. I felt bad for the RADA actors. They did a speeded up version of Great Expectations that was almost painful to watch. For schedule purposes they had to do it in under an hour. Yikes…good thing I read the book.
Used it twice, very convenient and free, including detergent. I didn't have any of the personality clashes I've heard about in other reviews. Actually had some very nice conversations while waiting for the dryer to stop! Again it's just the attitude you go in with. If you're open to new experiences and talking to people, you'll have a great time.
Thing to Do On Board
Yes, it's true; they don't have an action packed schedule of events. Crossings are about relaxing, reading a good book from the QM2 massive library, or just taking it easy. My husband did take a couple of classes from the Cunard Connections Computing Center. He is an extensive computer user, but learned a lot. Check into it if you want to pick up some tips.
Last comment before getting into the practical side of thing. There are NO endless and loud announcements during this cruise! It was great. The Captain would come on at noon to give a brief report and that was it. This was heaven to us.
Now to some practical information for future Cunarders…
We parked our car at the Brooklyn Terminal even though we were going to be gone for over 3 weeks. Obviously this is not for everyone but for us it worked out. We arrived about midday on the 16th of April and left a little after 7AM on the 10th of May. The cost $459.
When you return, there are two ways to pay for your parking; there are two machines on your right just as you're about to step out the terminal door. There's no sign or anything you just have to look for them. Or you can walk out to the parking lot and there are machines BEFORE you step on the lot. It's easy to walk right by them so watch for them. Do not go to the gate expecting to pay there.
At both Southampton and Brooklyn the process was very smooth. Everyone very polite and helpful. We did self disembarkation at Brooklyn and were off the ship by 7 AM. You can't beat that.
Luggage Storage at Southampton and Brooklyn
We had one bag that we did not want to haul around Europe with us in between crossings. I went to the purser's office to get information on luggage storage. They handed me a sheet with some information about costs but made it clear that they had nothing to do with it and we had to handle it once we were on shore.
The sheet described the cost, 25 British sterling for storage; another 25 for delivery back to the ship and 5 pounds a week storage fee. So about $110 for one week's storage. That's high, but since we were heading straight for St Pancras and Paris - we didn't want to spend a lot of time dealing with our luggage.
So here's the rub…after being told that Cunard had nothing to do with it…I found out others were allowed to pre-pay on board and just had to take their bags through customs and drop them off. The purser's office was obviously telling different people different things.
Anyway, I got to the proper window at Southampton and found they did not take credit cards. It was either a British check (which I didn't have) or 55 sterling cash (which luckily, I did have). I actually left the luggage for more than a week, but they only charged me for one week's storage. When we returned to the ship on May 4th, the bag was waiting for us in our cabin. Very convenient.
Just a note on this service, you must take your bags through Customs first. There is a window in the baggage area called, 'Baggage Inquiries' THIS IS NOT WHERE YOU WANT TO GO. Pass through customs and you will see another Inquiries window through the double glass doors.
On the return trip I noticed that the daily programme advertised a storage option for NYC. The cost was $95 for storage and delivery and $5 a week storage cost. Sure enough after getting through customs we saw representatives of this company waiting at a desk. This certainly would be a convenient and cheap (if you spend pounds or Euros) way to store your luggage in NYC.
Cunard Transportation in Southampton
We needed to get to St Pancras for a 2:04 PM Eurostar trip. We used the Cunard provided coach ($89 per person). That is very high, but we had a large on board credit to use, so essentially Cunard was paying for our trip to London. If we had taken a taxi to the train station and gone on from there, it would have been out of our pocket. We got to St Pancras with time to spare.
We did take the train from London back to Southampton on May 4th; I think it was about 56 pounds for the two of us. We did have to wait for taxis at Southampton. There were two waiting but they went quick, then one or two would straggle in and pick up passengers. Not too bad of a wait, but don't expect to see a long line waiting for you. We shared a taxi with a nice British couple.
Go on a crossing, you won't regret it.