The inaugural tandem trans-Atlantic crossing by Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth 2 was a wonderful experience that shall not likely be repeated in my lifetime. I am so glad that I sailed on this wonderful and grand true ocean liner, and I am thrilled with the service in first class, and with our suite and superb treatment by all staff. QM2 is a winner, and our family shall sail on her again.
We were in the first class Queen's Grill of the QM2, and enjoyed our private dining room and lounge, as well as a massive (48 sq meter) cabin with all the amenities. Staff was almost universally attentive, well-trained and polished. There was an initial problem with the dining staff, but it was fixed, and everything became perfect and monitored.
25 April 2004, Sunday QM2 was available for boarding at noon, but was not scheduled to depart until 19:30. We arrived at the pier at about 13:00. Police controlled the entrance, and it was slow going. There were red-suited trumpeters at the doorway to the pier. Cunard had decorated the entire check-in area with Cunard pictures and paintings and ribbons. We went strait to the Grill-class check-in desks and were seen to immediately. Pam still did not know about the Queen's Grill room, thinking we were still only in Princess Grill. It was instant boarding for us. Only once when we were in our massive suite did I tell Pam that this was actually Queen's Grill and not Princess. There is a great deal of jumping up and down. She bounces. I am very pleased. I do not know how I managed to keep this a secret for nearly two years. Amazing. Our room is fantastic, and we play in and with everything. The room is already stocked with three bottles of champagne, including Moet & Chandon. Once the immediate novelty of a first class stateroom and a butler and sub-butler and concierge wore off, we then went to check out our table in the Queen's Grill private dining room, and discovered they were serving a late lunch for any starving first class passengers. We were starving, having not eaten since 10:30 that morning. The best part of first class service was immediately demonstrated when one of our three waiters placed a plate of wheat-free bread beside Pam without being asked. They were ready for her special dietary needs. What strikes us again and again is that this is really a massive ship, with more than enough room for everyone. There are about 2500 passengers aboard for this historic crossing. But even with this vast number (not the largest passenger compliment at sea, but the largest passenger space ratio for a large ship: 57.25) there is always room to be alone. And it is off to dinner at 18:00: early so that we can eat and get outside for the sail away and the fireworks. QM2 pushes back from the pier at 19:30 with mighty blasts from the giant horns. QE2 remains at her pier until we have moved down the Hudson River. The cold is ripping at us, but there are probably 2000 people on deck to see the fireworks. We are not disappointed. From barges in the river are set off a beautifully choreographed display at 20:30. QE2 now passes us, and we head out under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and into the Atlantic Ocean. The historic tandem crossing is now underway. The journey is between 5650 and 5920 km depending on route.
26 April, Monday Breakfast was served to us at 8:15 in the elegant Queen's Grill dining room. We went to clear UK Immigration in the G32 nightclub. The inspectors were wearing civilian clothes; unlike the overly militarized US officials. Our passports are stamped as of 01 May in Southampton even though that is still five days and thousands of km away. We went for our first afternoon tea in the Queen's Grill Lounge near our dining room. This is the only private tea venue on board. After a delightful tea and treats, we retreated to our suite, and John had a bathe and enjoyed our private Jacuzzi. One of our staff delivered canapes at 17:30 as we were dressing for a reception, We had both been invited to the captain's reception for Grill passengers. Dinner in the Grill is appallingly slow. But at this fifth meal we do actually get to see our table-mates. We entered the dining room at 20:00, and managed to get out at 22:25, just in time for the late theatre stage show. My goodness, I am so disappointed with the dining room service. What is the point of charging first class prices, or of paying them, if the service is shoddy and inattentive? I should have bought Britannia class tickets instead of Grill. Service has been appalling. Water is a scarce item. Plates sit uncollected for long periods, so much so that food becomes crusty. Water glasses are NEVER refilled without a request. In fact, the ice totally melted in our glasses. Bread rolls are also a scarce commodity a second time round. Waiters bring or suggest wheat foods for Pam. It is so slow that we almost did not make it for the show. This has to be corrected, and I shall act in the morning. The show this evening is Appassionata, which we had seen in March. It is the best show aboard, and we would not miss seeing even a repeat. It is great. Amazing dance performances astound us.
27 April, Tuesday We awoke early and looked out the plate glass window beside our bed to see the QE2 directly abreast on the starboard side. It is a wonderful sight. There is a great beauty to the massive and stately beast surging though the North Atlantic swells. The waves are breaking high up the black hull. At 11:00, right after ring toss, John visited our deputy concierge to complain about the appalling service to which we were treated in Grill. Marie-Pierre went a bit white, and said it would be fixed. It was fixed by lunch, and from then on just about everything was nearly perfect. Our waiters, Simon, Tamryn, and Rosslyn, are getting ever so good. Raul, head of Queen's Grill, came to see us, and asked if everything had improved. All is well. We feel great. This dinner is the best yet! Superb food and service combined into a perfect dining experience. We went back to the suite instead of to the show, and discovered that our suite had been stripped. Everything was missing. There was a note on the bed from our butler, Jeffery, informing us that bad weather was expected, and that he had put away all breakables. We found the flowers in vases behind the chesterfield, and the champagne wedged between pillows in the cupboards.
28 April, Wednesday We both had a wonderful sleep. Pam said the ship was rocking, but John felt none of it. It is a beautiful morning, and the sun is shining upon us. After a very nice lunch we attend an Oxford university lecture on the history and structure of the periodic table. We almost had a nap, but had to rush off to high tea in the lounge. One simply cannot survive without an infusion of Earl Grey tea and cucumber sandwiches and the usual host of desserts. So sad. Very tough life. There are of course special wheat-free sandwiches for Pam. We had a wonderful, long, relaxed dinner of several courses and many wonderful things. After it was off to the Chart Room for drinks. After that it was back to our suite for more drinks and chatting in a quieter atmosphere. All in all a great evening, and perhaps the best of the crossing.
29 April, Thursday Today started perfectly with breakfast in bed. Jeffery brought in our cold and hot meals, laid out the linen, china, and silver table settings, and left us in peace and our bath robes. The salmon omelet was superb. In fact, all the smoked salmon each morning has been so fresh and wild tasting. It tastes too good to have been farmed salmon. Now for the ultimate relaxation: we are off to the Canyon Ranch spa. Our goal is to relax in the thalasotherapy spa pool and ancillary spa places until lunch. There are great changing rooms with a myriad of facilities: a Finnish sauna, reflexology foot baths, aromatherapy sauna, steam room, ice scrub, Jacuzzi, and full body shower and mist chamber. In the Turkish style aromatherapy sauna, there is a choice of music styles. After the heat of the saunas, John frequently rubs himself with the grated ice which continually falls into a bowl. Pam feels that this is a sign of insanity, yet tries it herself. She now knows it is a sign of insanity. We are now boneless. Our bones have melted away in the pleasure of the spa. We need wheelchairs to make it to lunch (not really). It is high tea time again, and wheat-free goodies are on the platter just for Pam. Patrick, our maitre'd, had promised wheat-free scones, and his staff delivered. It was the first time Pam had eaten scones, and these came with the required Devon clotted cream. It was the final party which interested us. We had been nominated by a staff member to be invited to the senior staff reception. People who are noticed by senior staff as interacting, fun, conversational, or have a duplex suite are invited to the party. Not all Grill passengers are invited. Many are fun Britannia passengers. Then it was off to the G32 nightclub. We chatted with Helga 'Hurricane Helga' the Queen's Room singer from Montreal.
30 April, Friday At 14:00 the RAF Nimrod anti-submarine jet did several passes: each one closer than the previous. QE2 has moved up very close, and is directly off our starboard stern. The Nimrod flies between us at funnel top level. Bullion was served, and because of the wind and cold, I got a rug for Pam's shoulders. But nothing is faultless. We found out that over night the spa pool flooded and sent water into passenger accommodations on decks five and six.
01 May 2004, Saturday The ships pulled into the Solent far too early for crowds to have gathered, or even for passengers to see the arrival. John got up at 05:00 expecting to see us sail up the Solent, but discovered we were already nearing the QEII ocean liner terminal in Southampton. The QE2 had gone ahead and was already docked far along the water nearer the container terminal. It is our last meal in the Queen's Grill dining room, and we have a lovely breakfast. There is of course wheat-free toast for Pam and smoked salmon for John. We chatted with many passengers and staff. Crew were in a bit of a frenzy, as the ship would be emptied, cleaned, and reloaded with provisions, baggage and passengers for the return crossing in less than ten hours. Pam got more autographs in our passenger list booklet given to all passengers. As Grill passengers can leave whenever they wish, we are off the ship by 09:00. There is no immigration, and customs is self-declaration.