We met QM2 after a whistle stop overnight stay in NYC, where we made the most of every last drop of our time in this fab city! Consequently we boarded (well raced on actually!) at 3.45pm and didn't see another passenger during the whole checkin procedure, so arrival to actual board took all of five minutes - bliss!
Our starboard side state room was an 'in-hull' balcony type on the 4th deck and it was just lovely. Spacious, bright, spotless & sweet smelling. Our Cabin Stewardess, Hershey was a complete darling, in when we were out, never an unwanted intrusion but always instantly on-tap when occasionally needed.
We used and enjoyed our balcony, morning noon & night, not at all windy considering our 27 knots and so frequently propped the balcony door open to enjoy hearing the waves and smelling the sea while we got ready for the day or dinner!
Our sailaway was delayed by an hour because of some kind of hiccup with late staff arrival, but we had a great sunny view of NYC with a good band and champers, so who cares! We squeezed under the Verazzano Bridge with what looked like just inches to spare and the crossing was as smooth and as calm as anyone could wish for, although a little more sun and slightly less cloud would have been gratefully received!
Our meals where nearly all taken in the Britannia. Initially we were on a table of 10 on the lower level for the first night with some table mates who we didn't completely gel with and who didn't look too pleased about our 2 youngsters. The larger table numbers also seemed to slow the whole process of placing an order, getting served and getting wine sorted to a snails pace, which was a bit of a bore and so after dinner we asked the Maitre D to help. He kindly relocated us to upstairs, where we had a perfect table for just us with a great view and more attentive and speedy waiters led by Antal - a great improvement and a much more relaxed situation for us as a family.
The balls were fun and like all others we dressed up to the nines and joined in the spirit of the whole thing. Glad to report that there was no change in the usual glamour of the ball & formal attire during the evening. The ball room is grand and lovely to watch for a while but the style of music and dance is not really aimed at for our age group. G32 could be, but willing and able passengers were very thin on in the ground initially. Thankfully for our 20 something daughter it all hotted up a bit on the last three nights, although she much preferred the real disco to the band as she felt the floor emptied to the band and only picked up to the disco.
The activities and lectures were as plentiful and varied as first time around, although we did miss the top class presentation skills of John Maxtone Graham from our first crossing. All the guest lecturers talked on interesting subjects and about interesting people, but their presentation skills could have been a bit sharper and better rehearsed. Personally, I think Cunard could work a bit harder on their briefing preparation & support process's before letting speakers loose on the paying public.
The staged entertainment was well received with a good standard of dance & song shows, excellent classical music presentations and an enchanting abridged drama presentation of Mid-summers Night Dream. We liked the new Entertainments Director, Alistaire Greener just as much as the previous chap Ray Rouse and enjoyed finding out or catching up with the days activities through his little TV presentation - with the shortened 23 hour days this was a very helpful way of keeping up!
Particular highlights for us as a couple were the Martini Mixology session at the Commodore Club and the classic red wine tasting session in the Britannia - all great fun and we learnt a lot in a fun way about martini's and wines we may never have otherwise tried.
Last time around we dined at 6.30pm because of our little one, this time around the little one ate with his ship mates from the Kids Zone leaving us to dine at 8.30pm and to enjoy a pre-dinner drink at the Commodore, which has a seriously good team of personable bar staff who know a thing or two about mixing great pre-dinner cocktails.
The Kids Zone staff were just outstanding and my son loved them all and felt completely at ease and welcomed right from day 1 - this was a marked improvement from last time around, where he seemed to be a bit intimidated by one rather OTT male supervisor - although that could have also had a lot to do with his young years at just 8 then. Two years on I am glad to report that we all had a much more positive experience. The choice of activities and standard of care provided by the Kids Zone is quite excellent and there were about 30 kids of varying ages on the books during our voyage and the kids all got on famously. If I were to ask for any addition/improvement it would be that a supervised kids swim session were added to the days agenda, as it was very hard to fit a swim session in with our son after a late finish in the Kids Zone, if he and we were all going to get to eat!
We didn't participate in any arts & crafts sessions or drama sessions this time around, although the feedback we heard was universally good. I was a little disappointed to see the RADA/drama topics remained exactly the same 2 years on, otherwise I might well have given that another go?
Two years ago we crossed from Southampton to NYC with the benefit of 25 hour days - absolute bliss! This time we crossed NYC to Southampton and really found the 23 hour days hard work and always felt weary! The only way we could keep up and fit all the meals into our shortened day was to have just a simple breakfast of tea and fruit or tea in our cabin and to have either an afternoon nap or an early night - neither of which I would normally choose to do whilst on an adventure, but needs must!
We never got to try the spa 1st time around but I did indulge this time with a day spa ticket and thoroughly enjoyed the whirlpools, saunas & steam rooms - it was lovely and very very relaxing although personally I found the lack of view of the sea a bit of a disappointment and so a couple of hours in the spa on one occasion was quite enough for me. The hairdressers above the spa were superb and unlike the spa had one of the best sea views on the ship - with a couple of leaping dolphins thrown in riding the wake especially thrown in - delightful!
We met and made some good fun friends on board courtesy of CC thank goodness, although as 40 somethings the age group of other passengers was generally a bit too elderly and infirm for us - not sure why, but this really struck us more on this TA than our last two years ago - possibly something to do with the last coinciding with main summer school holidays?
All in all a great trip, slightly exhausting, although now we have tried and enjoyed both ways we feel we have probably maxed this experience out now?