The ship itself is very clean and I would categorize it as "understated elegance". There is a very small Grand Foyer and all of the furnishings and public areas are very tasteful. That said, the entire ship seems to be laid out as one big afterthought. Apparently, Cunard had the ship designed as an ocean liner, then the interiors were laid out once the hull was built, at least this was the explanation we were given. If you like getting lost, this is the ship for you! If you enjoy finding interesting public rooms on the last day of your cruise, ditto! We were constantly going down a small flight of stairs, through a long "hallway" (that was made into the photo store or something of that sort) only to end up going up another short flight of stairs and stumbling onto the Ballroom, which was very grand but good luck finding it. Then off of the Ballroom were double doors leading to the disco, which had no windows outside to the view (both of these rooms were on level 3.
The upstairs buffet was another horribly interesting space, it was so cut up, with 4 different food stations, plus the chef's galley (which was always closed) and the La Piazza (which we could not find) that if you were to meet someone up there for lunch you would NEVER find them. Many of the tables were hidden behind a pole and four small, two-top tables were squeezed into an afterthought of space.
The Gymnasium was another afterthought. The entire space was completely cut up and too small for the amount of passengers.
The Atlantic room for games or cards had a nice view, once you found it, but the tables and chairs were VERY uncomfortable...you would not want to sit and play games there, plus you could not find where the games were kept.
The Library was PACKED with insufficient seating but an excellent selection of books and a nice (but overpriced) store.
We were scheduled for five ports: Boston, Newport, Bar Harbor, Halifax and St. John. Unfortunately, the sea was too rough to navigate the Bay of Fundy, so we did not go to St. John. All of the ports were nice, the only negative was the fact that you had to tender into Newport and Bar Harbor and we both think that the tender drivers were on their first voyage. It took 4 tries for them to hook up to the boat in Bar Harbor...everyone commented on it.
Maybe our expectations were out of whack on this, we expected the food to be outstanding, although we were in the Britannia Room, not the Queens Grill (see below) I would rate it as very good but not outstanding. The selections at dinner were limited, typically 4 entree's with meat and one vegetarian. I have a food allergy (wine) which was put on our cruise personalizer and mentioned to our travel agent, but it was not picked up. The staff was very concerned with this, since apparently EVERYTHING is cooked with wine. So I had to pre-order my meals the day before.
Afternoon tea: Not good... the scones were like soft dinner rolls and the service was erratic. We went once, it was not worth a second try.
One very odd thing was that our dessert order would be taken, coffee cups placed out but no coffee served until after were were nearly done with dessert. It took a couple of days to figure out that is a "British" thing and once I asked our waiter to serve the coffee sooner he did.
We visited the specialty restaurant on board (which is on deck 8, off of a residential corridor, again, a complete afterthought on location). This was a great experience and worth the $30 dollars per person charge. The staff was attentive and the food was outstanding, even with my food allergy.
Again, we expected to be in awe by the service but I would say this was the biggest downfall. In the buffet (Kings Court) you could not find anyone to take a drink order. It did not matter what time of day. My husband finally got a bus boy to get him a soda, but begrudgingly. There were plenty of bus boys but no drink servers to be found. Most other cruise lines you barely sit down and you are approached for a drink order.
Our Room Steward was another very odd duck. She would not dispose of used glasses! At one point we have 5 dirty glasses with straws sticking out of them when I finally realized she was not disposing of them. So I emptied them in the sink and stacked them up on the bathroom counter and only then would she remove them.... WIERD! I asked for a blanket and that took almost a day to arrive.
My husband purchased the soda package and one evening he ordered a soda in the Commodore Room, he asked for two and the bartender ignored him. He asked again and she answered with "do you have two stickers?". He said no, so she gave him one, he drank it there and had to order a second one, then left.
Our waiter at dinner was efficient but had no personality...at all! If you asked him for recommendations of what was good, he was little help.
First, I have to say that the clientele on the ship, the average age was about 75 years old. We knew it would be a more sophisticated clientele and frankly we enjoy being around older folks but the entertainment did not seem to match the clientele. The show with the dancers and singers called "Crazy in Love" was so bad that we walked out. It opened with an extended version of Beyonce's "Crazy in Love" song, which seemed inappropriate for the audience. All of the songs were awful and the singing matched.
The movies played also seemed off - for instance they played two children's movies "Coraline" and "Monsters vs. Aliens" on two of the nights in Illuminations (the theater) which no parent on vacation wants to see and no one over 50 would be interested in.
The big band and singer (Michel Chartier) were excellent, making the Queens Room the place to be, pretty much every night. We enjoyed watching the dancers and Cunard was wise to hire dance hosts which kept the single ladies dancing all night. The orchestration was wonderful and the room was the hub of activity for the ship.
The juggler and comedienne were great and VIBZ, the band in the disco was fabulous!
One last thing to mention is the caste system on the ship. This is the main reason we would most likely NOT book with Cunard again. We were in a deluxe balcony suite which wasn't cheap but there were guests in the Queens Grill and Princess Grill suites. It seemed that they were having a different experience than the "lower" class folks, for instance, they have separate dining rooms and a completely different (more diverse) in room breakfast order. From what we heard, their overall service and separate afternoon tea were exceptional, so maybe they get the "A" team and everyone else gets the "B" or "C" team. The only place the tables were even were in the Todd English Restaurant.
The fact that everyone dresses for dinner was appealing to us, and people really did, which was nice. We had three formal nights, one was a black and white ball and one was a masked ball. However, overall it just was not the experience we were looking for and for the same money or less we would have had a better experience on Celebrity or Princess.