Embarkation: Upon landing in La Guardia, we had a driver waiting in baggage claim. He quickly took our bags and brought them to our limo, which then whisked us to the terminal. As our flight arrived early, we were one of the first couples to arrive in the Brooklyn terminal. We were escorted to the VIP lounge, and my wife and I were the second and third people on board (after being raced past by a passenger who had a bigger urge than us to be first).
Cabin: We were fortunate enough to have an upgrade as a result of our travel agent’s efforts, and received a P2 cabin on the 10th deck (10088). Fantastic cabin position, as we were just outside of the hallway to the elevator. Take our elevator to deck 7, and voila, we were right at the entrance to the Princess Grill, and the Grill Lounge. Take the elevator up one deck, and again, we could walk right out to the Queens Grill Lounge. The cabin itself was well appointed with a nice walk in closet. Inside the closet was both a brush for brushing off your suits, as well as an umbrella and sewing kit. Both came in handy during the sailing. Our queen sized bed was very comfortable, and even my wife commented how unusually well she slept in it. Our mini refrigerator was stocked fully, and there was a complimentary bottle of Dom Perignon and a basket of fruit from our travel agent as well. Cunard also had a complimentary bottle of chardonnay placed in our refrigeration In recognition of our wedding anniversary. Three days into the cruise, another bottle of champagne arrived with a plate of chocolate covered strawberries. This was compliments of American Express (who I will get to later) Our deck had two nice deck chairs (I believe they were teak), and table. All in all, it was laid out perfectly. Our cabin steward Kristine was wonderful and very attentive.
Restaurant: We dined in the Princess Grill. I have numerous comments about this restaurant and its staff. As we walked in on the first day, we were greeted by the maître de. He asked our names and welcomed us on board. The rest of the restaurant staff was lined up on both sides of the walkway into the restaurant, dressed in their tuxedos. This is where we first saw what Cunard professionalism is all about, and it was consistent throughout the trip. The dining room staff snapped to attention, smiles on everybody, and each staff member greeted us by name. It was pretty impressive. The meals on board were cooked to order. My bride orders her beef very rare (blue), and it was perfect every time. I have special dietary needs, and each day I was given a copy of the menu for the next day to circle my choices, so that the chef could address my specific needs. Again, complete and utter professionalism. Our waiter Yorgie (probably spelling his name wrong) was very attentive, as was our sommelier. The head waiter Rafal was amazing. When he found out my wife was Polish (as is he), he spoiled her at every chance. I must say as this was our first cruise with Cunard, the Queens Grill would be hard for me to go to, because we were treated like royalty in Princess Grill. Queens Grill Lounge: I experienced my first traditional English Tea here. We had made friends with a British couple who had the table next to us at our table for two in the Princess Grill. (For the record, sitting at a table for two is not banishment into solitude. We were able to converse with 4 tables to the right of us, all of which were tables for two).
The English Tea in the Queens Grill Lounge was hosted by the head waiter Rafal. He was so polished and charming. Cudos to Cunard for their staff. It is the best I have seen.
Canyon Ranch Spa: My wife enjoyed a day of spa therapy, but just one. She had a facial, manicure and pedicure, which she enjoyed. I rather forced it on her to get her relaxed. Once she gave in, she enjoyed it. I opted for a 3 day aquaspa pass, and enjoyed the aquatherapy, as well as steam and saunas. American Express Mariners Club: This was a maiden voyage for us as members of this club. It is supposedly an exclusive option for American Express Platinum Card members. Additional benefits for us included two cocktail parties, and a fully hosted shore excursion. The first cocktail party was a miscue from some party, and was scrubbed. As a result, we were sent another bottle of champagne. The second cocktail party was quite fun. By then we had gotten to know our host, and Bill was quite a nice man.
Champagne Bar: We did venture here, and enjoyed a mini bottle of Veuve Cliquot. It was delicious, and the atmosphere there was quite nice as well.
Library: We spent some time here reading the books we had brought on board. It was more for effect than anything, as our balcony was perfect for this task, and was used more frequently for this purpose.
Captains Cocktail Party: He is a charming man, and his staff is of the highest caliber. We enjoyed the cocktails and snacks that were provided. We also met our table mates there, and had great conversations with them.
Ports of Call: We sailed out of NY and had two glorious days at sea. I enjoy the time to decompress and really get into the cruising state of mind. This ship is magnificent and glided through the water effortlessly. St Martin: We opted for the Two Flags, one Island tour. Not sure if this is the exact name. It basically was a photo tour of both sides of the island on a nice bus, culminating in a shopping stop in Marigot on the French side. Our tour operator was very entertaining, and gave us descriptive details about our different areas we visited. Shopping in Marigot was ok, but with the Euro being high, we decided to wait until we visited a few more islands before purchasing anything of significant value. Grenada: I must say this island confuses me. We have been here before, and frankly, I think they miss the boat (pun intended). Most of the islands have a mini mall right in the cruise terminal, to make it convenient for shoppers to infuse their tourist dollars into the local economy. There was and continues to be nothing like that here. You could purchase some spices from the 4 tables or so that were outside the terminal, but that is about it. We did not opt for a tour here, and instead, I decided to walk in port. I was met by two crewmen that were on break. They told me I was welcome to join them on their walk. That consisted of walking around the bay to the other side. There was a bayside restaurant there where we enjoyed a few beers chatting. Then it was back to the ship, and some sunbathing on deck. Barbados: This continues to be a favorite destination for me. We opted for a photography tour, which was by bus. Our guide took us to numerous places on the island, where my wife took some rather spectacular photos. It should be noted that she has the eye for this. I am afraid my talents lie elsewhere. There was one curious note that was pointed out to us repeatedly. It seems that on this island, wherever there is a church, a rum shack is within walking distance. It was explained to us that perhaps some people go there to wallow in pity regarding their sins. In any case, it was interesting. St Lucia: The most beautiful island in the Caribbean. We were given a complimentary shore excursion from American Express. This excursion was quite lengthy. If memory serves, it was about 7 hours. During this tour, we visited botanical gardens, which had some very beautiful photo opportunities. We then were whisked off to a plantation for a tour. This plantation was a working banana plantation, as well as a cocoa plantation. They showed us how the cocoa bean is processed. It was interesting. We were then treated to a rather lavish Creole buffet lunch at the plantation. I say lavish, because it was fairly extensive and interesting. The food was ok, nothing spectacular. St. Thomas: In the morning we took a taxi downtown for shopping. I am grateful we did, as our US dollar had the best value here that we saw. My wife had her eye on a John Hardy piece. It was 90 dollars cheaper on St. Thomas. I still think that this island offers the best duty free shopping in the Caribbean for US residents. I am sure others will differ, its just my opinion. We had a shore excursion to Magens Bay that began at noon. A day of sunshine at a beautiful beach was enjoyed by us and our British friends. Magens Bay is referred to as crowded and over rated. I found it to be perfect, with lounge chairs available, as well as refreshments, and rest rooms. I believe I received my sunburn here. Following St. Thomas was an additional two days at sea. I believe that they lingered a bit in their speed, perhaps deliberately. I say this because it was blazing hot on our first sea day coming home. We spent the entire day on deck sunning ourselves and drinking iced tea (horrors).
Disembarkation: Very smooth operation. We waited in our assigned area (Chart Room) until called. Our bags were waiting for us. Immigration was very smooth. We had just made it outside when my limo driver called my mobile phone to inform me he was waiting for us. We literally walked out, there he was. He took our bags, and off we went back home. Our flight home……..now that is a whole other story, which I will spare you from hearing.
General comments: You will note that I did not mention the casino or many other features on the ship. I apologize for this, but frankly we had no interest in gambling, or shopping onboard. We did purchase some logo items as gifts for family back home. I will say that from what I saw, you could purchase just about anything on board duty free. It seemed to be more expensive. However, if you did not wish to hunt on islands for values, this would be a great option for you, as the prices were not outrageously overpriced on the ship. You should always expect to pay a premium for convenience, and this is pretty much what you get here.
Dress Code: I brought 3 tuxedos, and two suits. I found that I should have also packed a sports coat. My wife brought 3 formal gowns, and 4 elegant evening wear. The rest of our clothing was suitable for our entire trip. I will say it is a challenge to pack all your required clothing into your suitcases without going over the weight guidelines, but we didn't care. We wanted to dress up and enjoy the fantasy. I found that for the most part, passengers adhered to the dress code, at least they did in the Princess Grill.