Having booked our Cruise some 12 months in advance we were excited at the prospect of sailing on such a prestigious vessel and couldn't wait to board. Check in was swift and smooth - first impression of the 'Grand Lobby'? - is this it?
We were not however disappointed in our accommodation - basic balcony staterooms - very spacious, spotlessly clean, ample storage - excellent. Our cabin steward greeted us and we found it quite amusing that her name was Santa - we wondered whether her 'little helpers' might join us too?
On exploring the ship we found another staircase - the Clock staircase which I have to say inspired us much more than the 'Grand staircase'! The lights on the stairs though were somewhat dazzling and off putting.
The shops were limited - stock even more limited. Food throughout the cruise could not be faulted however the wait staff left a lot to be desired - it took nearly an hour for a wine waiter to enquire whether we would like a drink!
In fact we found the wait staff in the majority of the lounges very scarce - not quite what we had expected for this cruise line - we definitely didn't get service with a smile either - we felt we perhaps should apologize for asking them to serve us!
Entertainment? well, sadly lacking, very amateurish although the entertainment staff did their best but again - not what we had expected on Cunard. We were lucky on 3 or 4 nights to have visiting entertainers and they were excellent.
Not enough sun loungers as usual - non smokers taking up the seats in the smoking area and then complaining if smokers stood nearby - even hiding the ashtrays to try to deter anyone from smoking near to them!
The casino was much smaller than we had expected and really didn't feel like a casino - it felt more like a bar with a few machines and gaming tables in it. Casinos on other ships had a much more atmospheric feel to them - having said that we always came away winning!
Waiters were few and far between on deck during the day - again we felt this poor service
We felt there was overall a lack of atmosphere on the ship wherever we went. Too much emphasis was placed on outward appearance and formalities i.e. formal nights and not enough attention to basic detail like friendly, helpful, waiting staff.
Reception staff also didn't provide service with a smile - one passenger brought some of their fruit to reception complaining it was filthy and should have been washed before serving to them - they didn't want to know
The wait staff were very lax in ensuring the correct room card was returned to passengers - I even managed to sign for a round of drinks on someone elses card and it was only apparent when I tried to use the card to gain entry to my cabin! Reception staff - didn't want to know - couldn't see a problem and why was I complaining?
My cigarettes were on sale in the shop but I couldn't have them until the night before we were leaving the ship - I was told I could purchase cigarettes from behind the bar - the problem was they didn't stock my cigarettes behind the bar! When I asked if they could get me some from the shop - No they couldn't.
Overall we enjoyed the trip but came away very very disappointed - the 'special' holiday we thought we had paid for was very much lacking and we felt we could have had better service for half the money on another Cruise line.
Our world cruise in 2011 was going to be with Cunard on Queen Elizabeth - a last minute change of mind meant we booked with P & O instead - I think we had a lucky escape. Cunard are operating on their name only and not on the 5star service we paid for.