I had a great back-to-back crossing. I will give you my impressions for different aspects. Every section of my review will include my overall impression and then some details. If you want the long story short, just read the first paragraph of each section.
My name is Julie (29), I'm from Quebec, Canada and this was my 4th cruise, 2nd solo cruise, first Transatlantic, first on Cunard (others have been with NCL).
I got a fantastic deal for a solo cruise, less than 2 weeks before the embarkation day.
I had been dreaming about a Transatlantic cruise aboard QM2 for many years and I couldn't wait anymore. Since dbf is not into formal nights at all and has never cruised yet; a Transatlantic aboard QM2 didn't seem like the best idea; I was therefore actively trying to find a roommate or a good solo deal (which rarely happens on QM2).
There was less than 2 weeks to go and my hopes to find a roommates were not so good. In fact, I was getting discouraged since the good deal I had seen was not even available anymore.
There was a good deal on the Eastbound Crossing but it was near 200% single supplement, and I had to add the flight back to this amount; too expensive for me.
I was checking a website, one last time, just to know I had tried everything and, for no good reason, I checked the back-to-back crossing solo occupancy rate. There was NO single supplement on an already amazing rate, meaning the back-to-back crossing, would cost me no more than a one-way crossing + airfare (roughly 100$/day).
I was ecstatic and I knew I had only a 20-minutes session to complete the booking but I first had to confirm with my boss and my boyfriend than it was ok for them and I did it in that time frame.
I learned later than on one segment of this crossing, there was only 1 place left, not 2, because of the third/fourth occupancy that was high that week, it's probably why I had no supplement.
I was now booked and I had less than 2 weeks to go!
TRAVELLING TO AND FROM NEW YORK
I opted for the overnight bus to New York and almost missed I finally made it.
I live near Quebec City, QC, Canada and when I take a cruise out of New York, I always take the overnight bus. It's definitely more affordable than the plane and the schedule works better than the train.
My boyfriend was supposed to drive me to Montreal (where the direct bus to New York is). He called me saying he couldn't be here on time (for a good reason), my plan B was to take the bus from Quebec City to Montreal and it went well. I had a bit to eat and then proceeded to the bus line (Greyhound asks you to be in line 60 minutes before the departure to secure your seat - this is where is almost went wrong.
The line was HUGE and I was crammed to a corner near the entry door (still I was lucky to be inside, lots of people arriving after me had to wait outside). I was hoping to make the 10pm bus but now know this was impossible, there were 2 other busses that night, one at 11pm and the last one at 11:45pm. I got on the last bus but there were less than 10 seats when I got on. Would I have missed this bus, I would have missed the ship!
I reserved a seat on the shuttle to get me back to the bus terminal and there, I had to wait another 2 hours in line to come back to Montreal after debarking the ship, but I was not as worried this time since I had no ship to catch.
I wrote a message to Greyhound about that, but they never got back to me.
I was at the port quite early (around 9 I think) but better to wait there than the bus station. People were still disembarking.
I found the porters who were getting ready for new passengers and they gave me luggage tags (I had not received them since I had booked so late). They were very friendly and helpful.
Then I entered the terminal and there was a small waiting room and we were only about 8 people there. Later, they opened the check-in waiting lounge and I got the very first seat.
Check-in itself went smoothly and I went to another waiting room. Of course, lots of people had priority so I was not the first onboard.
Debarkation was a lot of waiting in lines but I guess it's normal.
QM2 is a very elegant ship and its interior looks much better than it appears on the pictures I had seen before the trip.
I had an inside room, forward. It was a nice room with plenty of storage space (even with dbf, I think we would have been alright for 12 nights). The shower was way smaller than what I'm used to with NCL but the TV was much bigger (I usually don't watch the TV much but during the storm, it was nice to watch movies on a good size TV).
Food is very subjective, but here is my opinion: Excellent in most cases!
I'm not a buffet person and it was a disappointment for me that the dining room was not open for lunch on embarkation day (NCL, which is supposed to be a lower category cruise line does this better, offering you both options). I went to the buffet, it was a little crowded but the Asian fare was very good. I went another time to the buffet for lunch, maybe twice for breakfast and stopped one at tea time, they had a great selection of finger size desserts.
The dining room food was excellent. I had planned on trying the other venues but it was so good (and my tablemates were so nice), I went to the DR every night instead. I had their spa selection most evenings but other times I chose among the other items, everything was perfect.
I requested steamed vegetables with my meals; otherwise you don't get much. Those were cooked to perfection too.
The portions seem a little small but I had an appetizer, sometimes a soup, an entrEe+veggies, and a dessert and I was stuffed every time I left the table.
For lunch, I sometimes went to the DR or the pub. I didn't eat a big lunch most days.
I also ordered room service a few times, for breakfast; I simply had cereals, fruit and juice. Everything was perfect here again. On NCL, they call you when they are on their way to deliver your food, you have time to prepare the tip, get dressed, etc. I thought it was the same on all ships but they don't do that on QM2, the first time they knocked on the door, I was fully asleep so it took me a couple of seconds to realize what it was, dress in my bathrobe and open the door... and I still had to open the safe to get to my wallet. After apologizing a lot to the poor crew member, I made sure, for next time, to put a wake-up call 15 minutes before the scheduled delivery time!
SHIP ONBOARD ACTIVITIES
Since I was on a B2B crossing, I had a lot of sea days but I never got bored, there was so many different things to do! In fact, I had to leave out some activities that interested me since there were other things at the same time.
I went to both CC get together and it was nice to meet fellow CC. I also showed up for the Young-Adult-Get together and I met some people of my age there (and they offer free mimosa). I recommend it for the 18-29 old crowd.
I went to 4 art auctions and I was lucky because they changed the art director in Southampton and each had his/her own style. On the second week, I bought 3 pieces, 2 small, unframed pieces at a very low price and 1 mid-size piece lithograph. The artwork showed up at the house before the anticipated date and I am very happy with the quality of the product. I looked up the price of the same piece on internet and I saved about 25%.
I enjoyed tea time in Queen's Room twice, it was a nice experience.
The first week, I saw all the planetarium films and I enjoyed them all even if many of them repeated some information contained in the other movies.
On the return voyage, I took the Bridge lessons every morning and I enjoyed it so much, I'm now taking lessons here in Quebec City. I highly recommend it to anyone (teenager to elderly) who wants a brain challenge but fun too.
Other activities I participated in and enjoyed:
- 1 RADA workshop - Hat making for the Ascott Ball - Simply watching the sea go by on deck - Etc.
The dance lessons were too crowded and it was going too fast for me, I gave up after 5 minutes each time I tried them.
Since I didn't have enough time to do everything, I skipped the lectures since I could listen to most of them on the TV when I was getting ready for dinner.
On top of all this, I worked out every day (except storm day), either in the gym or taking a class downstairs (by the way, I think it is great that their fitness class are downstairs because I had a stateroom right under the gym and was worried about vibration but there were none since people were not jumping on top of the cabin).
I didn't go to many shows since it's not much my type of thing, but I must say that Rock @ the Opera is not to be missed.
At night, I was often in G32 dancing or in the Queen's Room to watch people dancing. The live bands were all very talented and the Caribbean band had the party going every time they played.
The spa facilities are very nice. On embarkation day, they have a 20% discount on some treatments, I enjoyed a massage right after we left Southampton. Be advised that the spa is not as private during that day. Of course your treatment room is private but there are tours of the public areas of the spa : - Thalassot herapy pool - Hot tub - Steam Room - Finland sauna - Aromatic sauna - Special jets showers - Ice fountain I didn't mind since I paid less but if you don't want any intruders, I would choose another day.
I was expecting an older crowd but it was not at all. There were many teenagers, lots of young couples and families too. I heard that the Westbound trip was marketed as "kids sail free" it's probably the reason why.
Before to even know my tablemates, I asked the Maitre D' to change table of the next week (because I had to repeat my formal dresses, and didn't want them to know). This was a mistake, my tablemates, mostly solo travelers + an older couple, were all fantastic, I was sad to leave them at the end of the first segment and half of them were taking the trip back to New York. But it's ok, I met another group of nice people the following week, but I must admit it was not the same as the first table where we almost had a party going every night.
The ship officers and crew members were mostly excellent.
At each CC get together, we had senior officers and also, Julie, the Captain's wife, and the Captain himself for a short speech at the end of the meeting. I find this extraordinary and it was fascinating.
One of my few disappointments about this cruise was that we were supposed to have an officer (the Staff Captain, who is young and very cute too!!!!) at our table one night (we had a card stating "guest" in front of his place) but he never showed up. I talked to him later and he said it was not on his duty assignment that week and he sent a bottle of wine one night. I'm not saying it's his fault but it's not fun to expect such a nice treatment and then having it removed.
I did mention it to the Food & Beverage Manager at the next CC meeting. I told him not to have his staff put the little card on the table before making sure someone would show up. He said he would look into it and I also got an invitation at his table one night, I think it was a very nice touch from him and I think all people at the table had a great evening.
I found my room steward and both sets of dining room staff simply perfect! Some bartenders were a little pushy sometimes though or rolled their eyes if you skipped a drink twice in a row (hey, I won't feel any obligation to drink more than I want to when I already paid to be on the ship).
I was happy, the weather was very nice and the Captain said it should remain the same all day. I debarked early in the morning and walked to the Hythe Ferry. It's about a 20 minutes' walk. The ferry isn't expensive and it's a nice way to get good pictures of the ship (in the port of New York or Southampton, you cannot get a good picture). After, I was planning to do a free guided walk that the city offers but I got there 15 minutes late so I started to explore by myself. Luckily, I found the tour in route and joined them. It was supposed to be a 90-minutes tour but it lasted over 2.5 hours. It was very interesting and highly informative but the weather had changed, the wind was awful and cold rain was pouring. At least, I had brought a light jacket with hood + a baseball cap but I still had my sandals on. I found a taxi at the ferry station instead of walking back (I was freezing).
STORM AND POWER FAILURE ENCOUNTERED!
On the Westbound crossing, we encountered two special "events". One night, all Power was lost. No engine were running, we were drifting at sea and only emergency power was on, no TV, no regular lighting, nothing. This lasted for about an hour.
I knew it was probably not a big problem but I was getting ready for the worst., I prepared a bag of essential goods (towels in a big Ziploc bag), bottled water and sodas, chocolate pillows and a box of cereals I had not eaten from that morning room service, first aid kit, etc.). I had also prepared my warmer clothes. Of course, I didn't need any of this but doing something was keeping me from stressing from the situation.
When the power came back and I heard the ship moving, I went back to sleep. When I woke up the next morning, we had power for normal hotel operations but we were not moving. The Captain informed us at 9 am that they were researching what caused the initial problem and had to stop the engines for this reason. We gained power back late in the morning.
We were already many hours behind schedule and we encountered a big storm the following day. The seas were so rough, I saw a cart rolling in the hallway and a vase broke on the floor. It was interesting to watch but I started feeling sick and went back to my cabin for all the afternoon. Sitting down on the mattress was the only position I could endure, as soon as I lay down or stood up, I felt very bad.
I heard an officer say he checked the data and QM2 had been through only 3 storms of that nature since it debut.
It was a real experience but I was glad when it ended (the storm, not the cruise).
This Transatlantic crossing was a dream come true for me and I'm sure I'll always remember it.
Since Cunard is more expensive, I don't think I will go very often but I might if I find another good deal like this one.