This was our second time on QM2 (the previous being a crossing) and we circled Great Britain as part of the ship's fifth anniversary celebrations. We took the train from London, cheaper and less hassle than the Cunard coach we used for the same trip last year. We met a nice newlywed couple who were also QM2 bound at this time. Funny, we didn't see them for the rest of the trip. They kept to their room a lot. Seasick, I presume. Embarkation had improved as well. We entered the new terminal after leaving our checked luggage with staff, took a lettered card, sat down and visited with other passengers. In little time at all we were whisked through and on board. Maybe 4 hours after leaving London, but I was relaxed enough not to keep track. Rather uncharacteristic for me.
Cunard sells a soft drink card which I find great value (you break out on it at 2/day) so I bought one in the Golden Lion pub, then I explored to find those areas I never got to last year and of course counted the life boats. Several were missing but some were cruising about so no problem. Last year The Count caused a bit of consternation 'til I figured out those barrels on deck 7 held inflatables. A quick bite to eat was enjoyed in the King's Court, QM2's central quick dining offering on deck 7. It is buffet style for breakfast and lunch comprising 4 different sections, then for dinner 3 of these are designated theme restaurants, while one remains buffet. One stays open late. It seems 24 hours something nice is available. Not often you come across a buffet serving up beef Wellington as I found later on in the trip.
The luggage had arrived by the time we got back to our room so unpacking was next and checking to make sure the TV still had that great institution available in the US that our government in Canada did not yet trust us to watch: Fox News. I must say my wife didn't share the extent of my enthusiasm. She likes it but not starting at 5 am. Our room was a sheltered balcony chosen because we want a view, air and the sounds plus I would be a bit claustrophobic in a D class. Even the atrium view room our kids had last time was a bit confining for me. Also inside rooms (if theirs was representative) have the water supply pipes above them and this caused some noise that our outside room avoided. We were on deck 5 with staterooms on decks both below and above to minimise noise. And slightly aft of center for a smooth ride. And about 3 doors away from egress to staircase C so it would be handy but without too much commotion. Also C delivers one directly to the action on deck 7's King's Court so it's handy to bring something back to the room. Our idea of the perfect location.
Dinner was taken in the Britannia and we went for late seating since it might afford us more time to get ready if we had spent the day ashore. The food was its usual magnificent. The service not quite as crisp as last time: the Cunard insignia rarely nailed the 12 o'clock position when a plate was set down before us as we were impressed with on our first voyage. We had a six place table so that if one couple was difficult at least we had a spare. Luckily one couple was very gracious and pleasant. The protocol for late arrivals/no shows didn't create a problem: we waited for a while then went ahead after 20 minutes or so. One couple did inform us of their intention to dine in an alternate restaurant the next evening which was considerate. Please note that it is only good manners to inform other guests or the m 'd in such cases.
Breakfast and lunch was usually at King's Court although I notice the breakfast selection in Britannia is wonderful as well. Lunch on 2 occasions was at Golden Lion where such delicacies as steak 'n kidney pie and fish 'n chips are available. It can be packed as can King's Court but joining someone with a few spare chairs can be quite enjoyable. Near King's court the Winter Garden has spaces as well if an art show/sale is not on.
I like the dress-up aspect of Cunard and generally exceed minimum substantially. There were four formal nights. Only one semi-formal. So I went semi on some of the elegant casual evenings. To the amazement/amusement of one fellow with a Tex (Okie?) accent: 'My but your momma shore does dress you purdy'. (And he didn't even know about those armbands I had picked up at John Lewis in London!)You can still go to the buffet on formal nights dressed casual if you want. We saw some interesting styles I must say. One guy had a regular tie (ie not a bow tie) with a cummerbund, loud patterned shirt and a sport jacket. Quite an eye opener indeed. I read in reviews and heard firsthand some moaning about the formality. All I can say is I believe Carnival may still be offering cruises.
We did do tea in the ballroom and the experience was wonderful. A harpist or string quartet entertains at this time. The same fare can be had in the King's Court but it would be self serve with tea in a mug. Nice food but not the whole experience.
Mass is held I believe each day. On Sunday the Commodore held a service in Royal Court and it was well attended compared to last year (400 or so?). I would say it is multi-denom with CE base. The message was the same as previous, his repertoire of course not being limitless. Jerusalem seems popular as well as that one about 'those in peril on the sea'. Donations were for flood victims in the Philippines since many of the crew come from there. I enquired of our steward and he said his family was in that zone but safe. And he much appreciated our concern.
There is entertainment evenings in the Royal Court and this time it included Liverpool Philharmonic, John Evans (a Liverpool comedian), a Beatles impersonation band, some opera, and much more. I prefer the lower level in that theatre as it is a bit warm higher up and esp in the back of the lower level under that low ceiling with those lights.
We did go ashore but just to sight-see on foot. I won't go into the port experiences because this review is confined to the ship. It was nice to be greeted like that esp Greenock and Liverpool. I was quite thrilled to see the islands in the NW of Scotland and we were lucky with the weather. And Scapa Flow of course set my imagination going although we only saw the outlying islands and weren't sure which would have been the entry channels.
Overall a great time and we booked another one while on board as certain perks are available if you do. I would however prefer a crossing to this cruise. The manners of some of the people not being up to par. It seems Cunard sold segments I guess to introduce as many people as possible to the experience. Some were quite boisterous and didn't improve with alcohol. Also being close to the coast meant cell phones which you wouldn't have to put up with in the middle of the Atlantic. I don't want to end this on a down note but it will be one of the considerations when looking at future trips. Thanks for following this far. Thanks Cunard for the magical experience.