This voyage exceeded our expectations. While not perfect in every respect, nothing in this world is. There were so many positive notes that we will surely be back.
Getting There and Back. Finding Red Hook terminal took a bit of work as the driver of the black car we took from Manhattan did not know where the cruise terminal was. He read the instructions provided with the cruise documents and it was pretty straight forward from there. We purchased Cunard's transfer services to Newark airport.
Embarkation. We arrived in Red Hook at about noon and were caught in a long, very slow moving lineup of cars (two lanes crawling towards the actual terminal entrance). It was raining hard and it was a good 20 minutes till we were close enough to get out of the car and walk the rest of the way. We noticed (too late for us) that a couple of yellow cabs had taken a shortcut and dropped off their passengers at the same spot we got off avoiding the lineup. They had obviously been there before.
On Board. We were greeted by smiling, courteous crew members and were able to go to our cabin (in-hull balcony on Deck 5) immediately. Our cabin was immaculate and our stewardess, Melissa, appeared shortly to introduce herself. She was, along with every other crew member we met, instrumental in our enjoyment of this voyage. Everyone we came in contact with was attentive, truly useful (more on this later) and at the same time completely unobtrusive - there, but not there if you know what I mean.
The passenger mix was mostly American with a healthy dose of Canadians and not as many British as will be found on the Transatlantic crossings. This was a grown-up crowd with seniors dominating, a handful of teenagers and even fewer children.
Overall Impressions of the Ship. QM2 is a beautiful vessel. We found no fault with its cleanliness or state of repair. Its décor is elegant, tasteful and understated - a true pleasure to walk about admiring the quality of its finishes. It is large and it takes quite a while to get your bearings (5 days is barely enough to get used to its layout). It is also the smoothest sailing I've experienced.
Its public areas are all welcoming but expansive - the only place where we were never able to find a table for lunch was the Golden Lion Pub. A favorite of ours was the Commodore Lounge where we enjoyed a few quiet pre-dinner drinks.
I concur with other CC members who have said that setting up the tables with the "sale" jewelry, perfume, etc. in the principal hallways really detracts from the beauty and elegance of the ship.
Lots of nooks and crannies to curl up with a book or play a board game, as well as comfortable lounge chairs on deck to watch the ocean rush by.
The Crew. There is much debate on this board as to what constitutes great service. QM2 is a huge ship carrying over 2500 passengers. This in itself will have an impact on how "personal" service is. Having said that, the fact that no one knew us by name was more than offset by the demonstrations of truly helpful and sincere attention we received. One example: walking into King's Court late in the afternoon to see if reservations could be made for that evening at Chef's Galley. A busy waiter left what he was doing and took it upon himself to phone the head waiter on our behalf to ensure that we could get our reservations. Many other small gestures that made it a smooth and enjoyable experience: Never once did we go back to our cabin to find that it had not been made up. Our stewardess had this special ability to be almost invisible while at the same time attending to our cabin in the most prompt and impeccable manner.
Eating Alternatives. We had one dinner and one lunch at the Britannia Restaurant. This room is beautiful and we found the food to be generally good. Service at dinner time was spotless and efficient while service during lunch was slow. We spent two hours there, mostly waiting for our food to arrive. I attribute this to the large number of tables assigned to a small number of wait staff. Nothing to complain about but we were there for a good two hours - a bit much for lunch when there's so much to do!
We had hoped to have lunch at the Golden Lion but, as discussed above, it was overflowing every time we tried. We had a quick lunch at the Boardwalk café - burger was very good, seemed freshly made and not cooked to death as it's the norm now everywhere in North America. Nothing special here but nevertheless no complaints either. We attempted to lounge there for a while but it was too windy. Lunch (and breakfast for that matter) at the King's Court is fine but not remarkable. We also ordered breakfast through room service - the menu is limited but it's a good option if you want to avoid the crowds of King's Court. In fact, it was the best option when we wanted to fit in a workout before going to shore on port days.
We dined at Todd English once; it was a truly enjoyable experience with excellent food and a very good, reasonably priced wine list. I highly recommend it. We also dined at three of the alternative restaurants in Kings Court. La Piazza and Lotus offered very good food and excellent service while the Chef's Galley on our last night was a great way to end this memorable trip. The Chef was very personable, providing an entertaining demonstration of the dishes we were to enjoy and giving the small audience great little "tips". Service was impeccable, as good or better than that at any top restaurant on land. It seems to us that there has been a lot of thought given by Cunard to ensure that guests have a variety of dining options, all of which are special in some way.
Facilities. Great library with very decent collection of books in different languages - something for every taste. A couple of hours were spent there reading by the window in a most relaxing atmosphere.
We soaked away our tiredness in one of the whirlpools at the back of the ship after a full day walking through Boston. Great spot to watch all the activity around the port and the nearby airport.
Entertainment and Enrichment. Rock @ the Opera and Apassionatta are both great shows. The skill and quality of the dancers (with one exception all from the Ukraine) is fantastic. The comedian was just ok in our opinion. We missed the vocalist performance. The RADA performance of Great Expectations (less than 1 hour long) was just too rushed. You can only make it so short before it really loses too much.
We attended three of the four lectures - all entertaining and informative and one of the planetarium movies, Cosmic Collisions - good fun.
Cunard gets much deserved Kudos for the breadth, quality and variety of the entertainment and enrichment activities.
Onshore experience. Halifax and Boston (both new destinations for us). We did our own walking tours of these cities as we do whenever possible so I can't comment on the ship's shore excursions. The weather was not great the day we were in Halifax and a long walk through town and a visit to the Citadel fort was all we could fit in before having to go back on board. The day in Boston was much longer and we only returned to the ship when we could walk no more. Following the Freedom Trail and returning to port walking along the seaboard was great. Weather was beautiful that day.
All in all, a very memorable experience which we look forward to repeating.