After a wonderful cruise on Jewel across the Atlantic and visits to Brussels, Whitby (UK), York, Nottingham, Peterborough, and Reading we finally arrived in Southampton to board Queen Mary 2 for our return crossing of the Atlantic. We had travelled on QE2 on a number of occasions (the last one being in the 80's) and were very much looking forward to Queen Mary.
We stayed at the DeVere Hotel the night before so we were well rested before the crossing. We returned the car to Enterprise the morning of the trip and they took us to the ship with all of our luggage. After a very uneventful check in procedure we finally got onto the ship at around 12.30 (our scheduled check in time was 2.30 but no one seemed to mind that we were early). We found our cabin (a B2 balcony on deck 5) and within minutes the luggage arrived and we unpacked.
We then set out to begin the exploration. We were a little alarmed to find that the wall decorations on Deck 5 was the entire story of the sinking of the Titanic!!!. Overall the ship impressed us immensely, the level of decoration, the polished woods and the wall panels really took your breath away. The entire ship was beautifully decorated even to a higher standard than we remembered relative to the QE2. There was never a delay for the elevators which were more than enough for the ship.
There were more than enough bars to suit any taste from the Champagne bar to the English Pub. We were somewhat quick to discover that Cunard was very different to the US cruise lines in that the staff did not really want to know who you are, what your name is and what you like to drink. We have become so used to the levels of friendliness by the staff and officers on the US cruise lines that we felt that this was a little "stand offish" by the crew and officers. The pursers desk was understaffed every time we went there, with long lines and very disinterested staff.
We ate in the early seating of the Britannia restaurant and found the menu to be considerably inferior to, for example, Jewel of the Seas, which we took on our Eastward crossing. The service was very friendly and efficient in the dining room but, interestingly enough, we were asked to vacate our table by about 7.45 so that it could be prepared for the next sitting. In our entire cruising experience (some 30 cruises) this was the first time this had ever happened.
The breakfast sitting in the main restaurant was quite exceptional in that the food was very good and if you did not feel like socialising you could get a table for 2 just by asking. They set out many tables for four and would give them to a couple on their own.
There were many alternatives for lunch and we tried many of them including the Golden Lion English Pub. We only tried the Kings Court once and it became known by many passengers as "the feeding trough".
We did try Todd English's Restaurant once but we were more than disappointed in the choice of dishes (there was no salad course) and the way dishes were put together was beyond our comprehension. For example, my wife had grilled sea bass and it was served on a bed of corn with rice as an accompaniment - all starch with no green veggies. I tried their Creme Brulee but could only eat half, it was tasteless. At the end my wife and I decided to have a cup of coffee as we did not think they could mess that up; they did- it was only lukewarm!!. A total disaster.
We found the internet service to be very good and the enrichment series and concerts to be exceptional. They had three principal lecturers and a series of classical music concerts by a pianist and a string quartet. Much, much better than Royal Caribbean on their crossing. We went to the passenger talent show just to see whether it was as good as the one on the Jewel. We were not disappointed. A young lady with an exceptional voice sang the Sarah McLaughlin song "Angel" beautifully and a 76 year old man sang "My Way" with an enormously strong and melodious voice.
The entire ship was beautifully decorated and it was only let down by the food standards and the friendliness of the service personnel both in the bars and the restaurants. The formal nights were duly attended in dinner jackets and evening dresses but, again, the food was not up the dress standards.
The one thing we did find useful, after five weeks away, was the self service laundry on each deck.
Disembarkation was again uneventful except that the tour desk put a leaflet in your cabin listing their transport services to the various transportation hubs. They listed, for example, a town car service to LaGuardia with a limit of two suitcases at a cost of $145 or you could take the coach for $40 each. Because we had four suitcases we decided to take a taxi to laGuardia. We got outside onto the concourse and we were approached by a limo driver who took us to LaGuardia for $58 total including all of our suitcases. He told us that his company had a contract with Cunard and he could not understand why they would charge $145 for the same trip. I guess it is profiteering gone mad.
Will we undertake another crossing on the Queen Mary? I don't really know. It fell well below our expectations, other than its appearance, but I guess when it is compared with the hassle of a transatlantic flight it might be preferable despite its drawbacks.