Had to think long and hard about this voyage. We have sailed many vessels, mostly brand new, from Crystal, Holland America, RCI, etc. (21 voyages so far). The hype of Cunard maybe is a little too much and maybe our expectations were too grand. Overall experience..... good looking ship, good ports, average to below standards in service, okay cabin. Was a bit worried about Cunard as this cruise was booked almost one year ago and yet we did not receive our tickets until we were only 5 days out from the cruise. Don't feel that they were on top of communication.
ARRIVAL: We arrived in London and spent two wonderful SUNNY days in the UK! Our transfer pickup at Heathrow was excellent. We were the only pickup and had a private driver who escorted us to the Renaissance Chancery Court Hotel in London. He was an excellent host and we enjoyed the ride into the city. The hotel is a beautiful establishment and we would highly recommend the stay here. Staff was great and only a minor problem with room service delivery for breakfast; otherwise a 5+ to stay. Main problem came on the morning of embarkation. We were scheduled for an 11:30 a.m. transfer, so we went out to breakfast. When we got back at 9:30 a.m., a representative of Cunard ( from the Queen Mary 2 ) had our bags removed from our room and had left us a phone message saying that we had missed our transfer and it was our duty to catch a train to Southampton! Naturally stressed, we phoned Cunard representatives, who stated that we were still being picked up at 11:30!! The hotel had kept our bags (we thought they had taken them to the QM2!). Our bus did arrive as scheduled and we proceeded to Southampton for embarkation. Never received any word from Cunard as to the stressful miscommunication or why the QM2 rep had removed our luggage. More about London in the PORTS section.
EMBARKATION: Heavy traffic to Southampton (took almost three hours due to road work and accidents). Boarded the ship in record time; no more than 10 minutes! Service well organized and very hospitable. THE SHIP: The vessel itself is a well dressed, sleek liner. Very posh look throughout the vessel (though most woods and marble areas are either plastic or Styrofoam) Lots of faux marble walls and nice furniture. The ship feels very homelike for a large vessel and is easy to navigate through all decks. A standard array of bars and lounges throughout, with nothing ordinary from other ships. The spa areas are very nice, but again, are about standard with other vessels. The Wintergarden area next to the main pool is a very nice space, with a retractable roof, to have a nice tea or freshly made juices from the juice bar. The Internet Centre (English spelling) is very comfortable, with enough cubicles for this large of a vessel. Internet service very slow (most guest though so company could make more money!) Two out of twelve days the internet was down. Did not use the casino (again standard) and the shops did not have much selection for this size of vessel. Looked nice, but no substance. The LIBRARY is a standout as an architectural body of work. Very good service and selection of books. Purser's office service was also very efficient and helpful.
CABIN: Much has been said of the QV cabins. I had read all of the CC reviews so knew what to expect. Yes, it is nothing special for a ship in its class, in fact, a bit inferior. Standard balcony cabin with not much (as everyone has noted) space. Knowing that there are literally no drawers, we opted to take two dozen hangers with us. This REALLY helped as the closet space is ample if you have hangers! Bathroom has no place for cosmetics or medicines. Bed and pillows a disappointment. One very thin sheet over the bottom of the bed, so slept in the crack every night. No sheet on the bed, only a European style comforter. Bed had a covering and two nice throw pillows, but the cabin attendant only placed it on our bed twice during the entire voyage! Service to our room (Emma) was sorely lacking and I would state here that this is a major point of disappointment. Mini bar not serviced 6 out of twelve days. Room not made up (even when we were out of the room for extended periods) twice. No personality from our attendant. Turndown each night just very standard Cunard candy (we stacked them up so there were over twenty pcs. Of the same as we did not choose to eat them). Half bottle of sparkling wine on arrival was nice, but no fruit service to rooms whatsoever. When we think of the service that we have received on Crystal or Holland America, this is not acceptable.
ENTERTAINMENT: We only saw shows two nights on this voyage. We had booked late seating this voyage as we wanted to have time to relax after long tour and port days. Unfortunately for us, the late seating show was at 10:45 p.m. each night. All ships that we have been on have the late seating shows early. I can only assume that this is due to being a British ship (did both encounter this last year in Med on Carnival Freedom). Now we could have made most shows, but unfortunately, our dinner service was soooooooooo slow that we rarely made it out of the dining room until 11:00 p.m. (see FOOD). The entertainers were good although the main show "Victoriana" started great and went out of control by the middle. We asked our British friends what they thought (as the show was about British music halls) and all agreed that it started nice but ended up as a very misunderstood mishmash of ideas. All of the entertainers and bands on the shop were very good. You had every kind of venue that you could expect.
FOOD: Britannia Dining Room.... Again, as in a vessel of this stature, a nice looking room. Very understated, yet it was nice. It seems every ship we go on in the last few years can never get the doors open on time on the first day. Usually 15 minutes late and this ship was the same. Sat with a table of 10 persons. Service was lackluster. I guess we have been travelling too long, but what is now "White Star service" would be considered mediocre by past standards. I realize with the ever growing cruise industry it is very hard to find labor. I DO understand this; however, my expectations of this ship would have been lower than Crystal and higher than Holland America. Our service on Carnival was better! (And I know that Carnival Corp. owns Cunard). SLOW service, auctioning off food (not remembering who gets what), are unacceptable in this class. Servers used to know exactly what you drank after the first day. On this ship, they had to ask me EVERY night for beverage (which was always decaf!). Food product okay..small menu with no alternatives listed on menu (i.e. Caesar salad, steak, chicken, etc.) Now you could ask and get it, but sad that it is not on the menu. Food just warm, not hot. Most meats not at the desired temperature (chef LOVES cauliflower..on every plate and then on the buffet the next day! ) Desserts some of the worst at sea. Had really expected a higher standard here and was completely let down. Thought maybe Princess Grill or Queens Grill class may have been better, but had long discussions with passengers in those classes who were not happy.
LIDO BUFFET: Food just okay, nothing different between ships. It would be nice if the breakfast could just change a bit every day. Hard to move around in this space, but understand constraints.
GOLDEN LION PUB: Eat lunch HERE!! All items, particularly the Fish & Chips, were very good! Food came out HOT each time.
TODD ENGLISH: Beautiful facility, good food and good service. Worth every penny and probably should have eaten there more. On a side note, Cunard should have thought about a Brit chef for this ship (Gordon Ramsey, Jamie Oliver). Most Brits know who they are and probably would have packed this restaurant. Todd English is a great chef, but most Europeans have no clue who he is! We talked several Brits into eating here after we told them of Todd's reputation and they all enjoyed themselves.
LOUNGES: Again, best fun and food at Golden Lion Pub! Good champagne at the VC Champagne bar, but poor service. Hemispheres is a good dance club, but before midnight, is filled with too many teenagers with no place to go. Queen's Room is a wonderful space for dancing and enjoying an evening. Very elegant! Also, must say here, a great English Tea every afternoon....don't miss this.
ROOM SERVICE: Had a lunch from Room Service that was very good. Seems like one half the ship had RS breakfast each day as there are not enough elevators (lifts) on the vessel to handle this procedure. Each morning every elevator is jammed with servers taking RS breakfasts.
PHOTO SHOP: Only bought one picture this cruise as I thought $27.50 for just one pick is a bit much! However, did want to mention the excellent service help we received as we had a battery problem with our camera. The way the cabins are designed, you cannot plug in your charger! A tip...the camera shop will charge your battery for you at no cost to you. Thanks to those who helped us! PORTS: Will go through this quickly...
LONDON: Better than ever...great sunny days, excellent shows", Wicked", dinner at Gordon Ramsey (one of the best dining experiences in Europe), wonderful food markets, historical sights and don't miss the Food Hall at Harrods!!
GIBRALTAR: Nice half day..take the walking tour..excellent. You will love the apes and the caves!
CANNES: Went to the beach at L'Annex. Great beach facilities and some of the finest, freshest seafood you will ever eat! A highlight in a town where there isn't much to see (suggest if you don't want the beach experience, take a tour! LIVORNO: Booked a tour to Volterra and it was cancelled last minute. Had been to Florence before, so we took the Chianti tour with two hours in Florence and the rest in Greves. Had an enjoyable time.....you will like this if you are a foodie or enjoy wine as we do.
ROME: Were in Rome for three days last year so we took the bus" On your own tour" into town. We had a great 6 hours to walk, shop, eat and explore. Highly recommended!
MESSINA: What a disappointment!!!! Arrived on Saturday and no one on the ship bothered to tell anyone that the ENTIRE town is CLOSED up on Saturday. Take a Tour as there is NOTHING here even if it had been open. We couldn't even find a good restaurant that was open. Also, one minor complaint about the itinerary.... we arrived in three or four ports at noon. In Europe, all the shops and businesses tend to close between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., so just be aware!!
CORFU: Nice tourist shopping area, okay restaurants good walking tour of fortress; otherwise take a tour!
DUBROVNIK: One of the cleanest towns I have ever seen!!. You MUST walk the fortress walls to gain the scope of this jewel. Nice restaurants and shops.
VENICE: Crown jewel of ports. Wonderful food shops, sights, people watching!! Okay, yes we did take a gondola tour and yes, they are expensive, but it is something you will remember forever!
DISEMBARKATION: This process tends to always be painful, especially if you have a late flight. The vessels crew did a very good job with this process and it is only about 20 minutes to the airport. So, there you have it. I don't know that the hype of CUNARD made me expect more, but in cabin service and food and beverage, they have a long way to go. I don't feel that I would spend my dollars on Cunard again only because there are so many other vessels in that caliber that offer a better experience. We do thank those who made our voyage pleasurable, but do think that Cunard needs to really work on their "White Star Service"!