We travelled out to New York on a direct flight from Glasgow with Continental Airways. This was arranged through Cunard as part of the overall package. This is not a good idea. The aircraft is cramped and service on board is not wonderful. try to get a flight with BA, which although through London would be much more comfortable. Terminal 5 is great.
We arrived on time at Newark and quickly passed through immigration and customs and were promptly met by the Cunard representative who directed us to our transfer, a city car, which took us to our selected hotel in Manhattan, the Waldorf Astoria. This iconic hotel sits on Park Avenue and is ideally situated for everything a tourist would want to do in New York. 5th Avenue shops, Broadway, Times Square, Central Park were all within an easy 10 minute walk. Taxis are plentiful and inexpensive when returning from a long days sightseeing. The hotel was great full of character and the rooms are typical of an American hotel, big, clean and all the amenities you would need for a short stay. One word of warning, prices in the bars were high reflecting the status of the hotel. Buy water and wine elsewhere and drink it in your room! At the end of our stay we were ready for the QM2 and again the transfer arrangements to the berth in Brooklyn went to plan. We arrived at 2.30pm and I would suggest if you are making your own way to the ship to go earlier as the queues to check in were lengthy and we had to wait aroung 45 minutes.
Nevertheless once on board we quickly found our stateroom and set off to explore. Being that little bit late meant that the buffet was closing when we got there in readiness for the boat drill and we had to wait until the drill was finished before getting a snack. The organisation of the Kings Court buffet could have been better and we decided that we would not be visiting again.
After the drill we returned to our cabin, the bagggage had been delivered, we met our steward and unpacked ready for dinner. A word on our steward. He introduced himself as Ronaldo, explained how to contact him if needed, showed us the features of the stateroom and left. We hardly ever saw him again after that few minutes. He carried out his duties expertly, maintained the room to a very high standard, clean towels, toiletries, bed turned down each eveing without us being bothered by his intrusions. A great way to serve your clients.
So to the dining experience. We were in the Britannia Club section of the restaurant, a table for six guests, were there is no set time to dine, go anytime between 6.30 and 9.00. Our table companions were a great crowd, the chat was fun and we regularly found ourselves staying to the last people present. This always sets the tone for a great cruise. We did have some doubts regarding people turning up at different times for their meals causing an odd feeling to the meal but in reality this did not happen as we usually agreed at what time to eat and everyone arrived dutifully on time. Indeed we often met for a pre dinner drink. The food was superb. Great choice at every meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner, we did not want to try any of the other venues so good was the restaurant. There was a good choice of wine at a range of prices to suit all pockets, indeed the general price of drinks was similar to a bar at home. Service was good and again unobtrusive, the waiters were weel mtrained and experienced. The maitre d' for this restaurant was superb, meeting and greeting at all meals, using your names and willing to meet any unusual special requests without fuss.
We decided to visit the spa for a massage. On QM2 the spa is run by Canyon Ranch, is very weel organised and offers every type of treatment you may wish to try. A word of warning here, the prices are top notch, probably double the equivalent on shore. But hey you are on holiday and can worry about the cost later. We each had the signature Canyon Ranch massage. Fantastic. As part of having a treatment you get a day pass to the other spa facities, such as the sauna, steam room, hydrotherapy pool, all of which are worth a visit. I used the gym daily, it is very well equipped and staffed by professional trainers. The gym classes were limited in choice and again a warning, a charge of $50 per week has been introduced for the classes, probably not worth the money so burn up the calories in the gym.
There was plenty of lectures to attend during our cruise, delivered by experts on their subjects and each lasting about an hour. If you don't want to sit for so long then the lectures are shown on stateroom TV and you can dip in and out as you wish. The entertainement on board was limited. The production shows in the theatre were not the best and the specialist enetrtainers not our cup of tea but speaking to people who did attend found them reasonable.
At the end of our cruise we had to get back to Glasgow and found the easiest and best value was to arrange the transfer ourselves. we arranged for self diembarkation from the ship. This involves carrying your own baggage ashore but at a time to suit yourself in our case 7.45am. We had arranged a private transfer to Heathrow with a company called Smith for Airports. This was a good decision. The cost was less than the coach transfer offered by Cunard and was at our own choice of time etc. We were at Heathrow within 1 hour of leaving Southampton.
One thing which we found irritating was the number of teenagers that were travelling on board. By the second day they had all met up and were roaming the ship in packs. They dominated the indoor swimming pool and jacuzzi and seemed to have taken over certain areas of the ship. Our solution was to let the dogs out of the kennel and put the teenagers in the kennel. A bit outrageous maybe but just a warning to others travelling without children.
To sum up our experience. Fab, fab fab on every front. Try to get the opportunity to travel transatlantic with Cunard, they have been in business for a long time and the experience built up over those years does really show.