First, my apologizes for not being able to attend the Cruise Critic meeting on Nov 22 onboard. Family obligations prevailed.
Our Family of 20; 11 from upstate NY and 9 from London all had a Fantastic voyage onboard the QM2.
PRECRUISE: Family from London flew in on Thursday Nov 20 and stayed at the Newark Crowne Plaza (formerly Four Points by Sheraton). They had a comfortable stay. Rooms had been recently renovated. The hotel offers a complimentary airport shuttle that runs continuously every 20 minutes. Online rates were under $120.00 per night. The rest of us drove down on Friday Nov 21 and picked up the family in Newark.
EMBARKATION: We arrived at the Brooklyn terminal just after 1pm. Porters were friendly and very helpful. They took care of our coach load of luggage with no problems. Checkin was a long hot process, but alas we were all onboard.
CABINS: All our staterooms were ready and luggage had already begun to arrive by the time we made to our cabins. We had 8 balcony (B5) cabins on Deck 8 midship and 1 inside cabin on deck 6 midship. Cabins were attractive, comfortable and spacious. The beds were high enough to fit large suitcases underneath. There was not enough drawer and shelving space but we managed. The bathroom was small but efficient. Extra storage space was available in the cupboards under the sink. Shower hose was detachable and strength hot and strong. Balconies were a decent size with 3 lounge chairs (plastic but very comfortable) and a table. We were able to open the adjoining balconies. They were also obstructed by lifeboats. This did not bother us, especially because we knew exactly what we had booked. If you do not mind the obstructed view, I would consider Deck 8 to be an excellent location. You are 1 floor up from Kings Court,the spa,and the gym. You are on the same floor as the library, the salon, Todd English and the Terrace Pool and Bar.
SERVICE: We found service to be consistently excellent throughout our voyage. Our stateroom attendants were efficient and responded to pages within minutes. The waitstaff in all dining areas were friendly and professional. The front desk personnel were always smiling and willing to help with all reasonable requests. Management in all areas seen to have the interest of all passengers at heart.
FOOD. We found the food to be way above average to very good. We found it very helpful to pay close attention to meal times and locations that are posted in the Daily Programme. There was always food available. The Kings Court may take some getting used to but it is best to sample from one of the four areas at a time and not try to maneuver all areas in one go.
BREAKFAST: Kings Court was really good. Made to order eggs were available in the Carvery. Omelettes, pancakes and waffles were also available in the Chef's Galley. Dining Room was surprisingly full for breakfast, which was always served hot and fast even with a large table.
LUNCH: Kings Court restaurant serves their specialties during lunch. There was always a large selection in each area. The hot desserts were to die for. Fresh whipped cream was available on request Dining Room was also very good the one time we had lunch there. Not sure if the menu remains the same. Golden lion pub; had fish and chips during one lunch. Well worth the wait for a table. Children are allowed during lunch as it is non smoking during this time.
FORMAL TEA: Queens Room; Not to be missed. The white glove service, the scones, the tea, the scones, the live band, the scones, the dancing, the scones
DINNER: We had 8:30pm Dinner in the Dining room was always an exquisite affair made even more so when surrounded by well dressed individuals. The waitstaff was efficient and served each course in a non rushed pace. Plates were well presented with portions that are sufficient even if small by America's standards. You are more than welcome to order another course of any meal. All meals were excellent. At the end of dinner the last evening we were presented with a folder containing the Dinner Menus for our voyage. A very nice touch. *There has been more than a few mentions on the CC board concerning the friendliness of the dining room staff. The servers have many passengers to take care of in a timely manner. Their life story no matter how interesting is a not a pre-requisite to us having a meal. Our orders taken in a timely and professional manner is. Kings Court: Chef's Galley; Most of us ate here for the Steak Night. There is no additional charge for this location. It was an intimate affair that is definitely a most do at least once. The head Chef was very entertaining which made the wait in between courses less noticeable. Steaks were huge. Chicken and Veal or Lamb was also presented. All meats were well prepared and tasty. The head chef prepares an item from each course and then all the meals are cooked behind the scenes. La Piazza had a good selection during buffet nights. Lotus; Some of our family members ate here during ala-carte evening and could not stop raving about it . Carvery: Some of us ate here during ala-carte evening. The portion were huge and surprisingly very good. Todd English; did not eat here, hopefully next time Room Service for breakfast and lunch came hot and on time. For breakfast you can pre-order the night before noting the time you would like delivery.
For VEGETARIANS; the dining room staff went above and beyond. Each evening they presented the dinner menu for the next day and another menu from which you can pre-order all your courses. We had one vegetarian family member and she raved about all the dishes.
DRESS; During the day the attire was varied. We all made an extra effort to be elegant casual during sea days. Everyone onboard seem to abide by the dress code for dinner in the main dining room.
FELLOW PASSENGERS; definitely a much older crowd than most cruise ships, and not exactly multi-generational. This was not a minus for us as our family members were well aware of the passenger makeup before-hand. Among our family we had under 17; 6 30-40; 4 50-60; 6 over 70; 4
ENTERTAINMENT and Public Places: Theater; the production shows seemed fair. Somehow I was never able to get to the shows on time so cannot give a complete review Guest Performers: Fair to Excellent Planetarium; was down for the first few days but was able to attend two of the shows, highly recommended. Although no one could figure out how to operate the reclining seat. Lounges; were well attended during the evening so much so that it was difficult to find a seat depending on the Entertainers. Queens Room; some family members did attend the day dance lessons and really had a good time. In the evening it was an excellent location after dinner even if you did not participate in the dancing G32; This night club was very cosy. After midnight all life was found here and that includes the casino. Casino; not a very lively place. Slot machines were always in abundance. The casino was also not smoky. The stores; Some bargains could be found. I was not offended by the hallway sales, some of the better bargains could be found there. Library; busiest library I have ever seen on and off a ship. Spa; Some family members did the day pass and thought it was relaxing and well worth the additional expense Gym; my Mother-in-law visited the gym daily. She mainly used the treadmills. She thought they were old and not very comfortable. Not all equipment was in working order. Our teenagers thought the equipment was good most had TV's attached. Towels and water were provided Bingo; the weakest purse ever. However you have many chances to win not much. Guest Lecturers; Saw them on TV. Very informative.
Internet and In-cabin TV; The interactive TV was discontinued during the dry dock weeks prior to our sailing. The wireless internet available throughout the ship was sporadic to non-existent the first few days but did improve later in the sailing. We had our lap-tops with us and was told to prop the cabin door open as the signals were in the hallways. Computers were available in the Connexions and the Library.
THE KIDS ZONE: I have 3 children; 2, 3, and 15. We also had 3 additional teenagers. This sailing was at full occupancy and had only 80 passengers under 17 years. Our teenagers occupied themselves, they had been warned a head of time that there may not be many teenagers. Our toddlers on the other hand absolutely loved the Kids zone. They went from 7pm - midnight the first 6 nights and then 1-4pm the last day when they had a big party for the kids. There were at least 8 one year olds on board. The zone also has an outside play area, however the staff takes only 5yrs and above out there. THE STAFF HERE IS INCREDIBLE, THEY GENUINELY LOVE CHILDREN.
Ports of Call. St Kitts: Two of our teenagers had monkeys put on their heads and then to compound the atrocity they were charged US$10 each to take a picture with their own cell phones. The girls were mortified and scared at the time. By now they are somewhat able to laugh it off especially with the evidence still on their phones. (No need to flay us. An adult was only a few yards behind them) Some family members did do a private tour of this Island, the picture they took are absolutely breathtaking Grenada: Most of us did private tours here including the water fall. Recommended. Bonaire: We all just walked around in the area close to the QM2. Seems like a beautiful Island. One of my sisters' would like to return for a land vacation.
Debarkation; our gathering place was the Winter Garden. During the debarkation talks the approximate time for each color was announced. Our color time was spot on. We were off the QM2 through immigration, collect our bags and through customs in less than half an hour, and with 20 people that is no easy feat.
Post Cruise; Sawgrass Tours (Fort Lauderdale) was on time, friendly and professional. We did a tour of Miami, a stop at the Hard Rock Casino and then was dropped off at our hotel; The Gallery One Double Tree. Highly recommend this hotel especially for families. Their 2 bedroom suites can accommodate up to 8 people with ease. The full kitchen is a big plus. Location is unbeatable. The Galleria Mall is next door with many fine stores and one of the best food courts I have ever encountered. The water taxi stops at this hotel and you can also take the trolley to the beach and other shopping. The trolley ride is under $2.
IN CLOSING. This was a perfect family vacation. The QM2 provided excellent cabins, service and food. We were able to gather and dine in the most exquisite rooms,theaters and halls. We hope to again sail onboard her hopefully next year.