Although not familiar with Princess ships, I cannot agree with many of the comments I read in "Queen Mary is NO Match for Crown Princess!". We have a few critical comments of our own and a few good points that contradict some of the criticisms of the "NO Match" comment. For comparison purposes, our experience is with Regent Seven Seas (all four of their ships in some 8 cruises, totaling more than 100 days, with 2 more planned), Crystal, Celebrity, Holland America, Royal Caribbean and several river cruises.
My wife and I traveled on the QM2 on the roundtrip NY-S-NY from July 6-19, 2010, with the ship full or almost full on both directions, to celebrate our 52nd anniversary, having traveled only once before with Cunard, on our honeymoon to Europe going over on the QE cabin class and returning 40 days later on the QM first class.
The ratio of space and crew to passengers is the highest I have been able to calculate among the large ships (of course, excluding Regent More
and Crystal), with more public areas and spaces than all or most other large ships. Only at peak hours (just before dinner) did we find the two bars close to the main restaurant overloaded. And only at peak hours of lunch and dinner did we find the the cafeterias/buffets on Deck 7 crowded for a short period of time. At no other time, anywhere on the ship did we find crowds or were forced to wait in line for more than a few seconds. Throughout the ship we saw more empty sofas and chairs than one would think in a ship with 2600 passengers. It also has 32 elevators in 4 locations spaced front to back, plus several others for specific destinations and wheelchair users, never having to wait more than a few seconds for one to arrive. We also found embarkation and disembarkation efficient, friendly and fast.
In fact, we found the QM2 superb, meeting (and in some respects even exceeding) our expectations, both in design and in the distribution of facilities or activity locations. It has no central hub, which is ideally what passengers like most for the simple reason that crowds and congestion are avoided. By having its facilities located throughout the ship, mostly on two decks, passengers are stimulated to enjoy the ship while walking from one to another while admiring the beautiful decorations and designs - one of the ways the QM2 contributes to enhance the pleasure of cruising (the crossing for us), particularly because of the excellent stabilizers that quite often makes one forget the hotel is on a ship crossing the Atlantic. Particularly attractive are the walls of the two main avenues (decks 2 and 3), where most of the activity takes place.
Since I am not a shopper and do not enjoy window shopping, I did find objectionable the permanent flea market or street selling on the main avenue of the ship (deck 3), causing what I consider unnecessary congestion and agglomeration, although my wife greatly enjoyed them even though she did not participate as a buyer. I suppose one can say they contributed to the enjoyment of window shoppers, although I much preferred visiting the many elegant and classy shops on that same avenue.
Service everywhere and at all times was as expected (stateroom, restaurants, and bars)—efficient, friendly and competent. We found attendants everywhere at all times of the day and night, either doing something or waiting to do something, whether at the request of a passenger or of a supervisor. The exception was the Purser's Office, where the officers, although friendly and willing to help, were unable to assist us, or incapable of doing so, on several occasions, either because they were insufficiently and/or incorrectly informed, or because the QMary2 does not have (or perhaps does not care to have) the information provided in the Cunard website or by Cunard headquarters via email. I will relate two occurrences.
Since it is essential that I have access to the internet during weekdays and the website is silent regarding internet packages, I requested and obtained information via email from Cunard the packages offered. When I tried to buy the package with most hours, I found that no one on ship had ever heard of such package, emphatically telling me that they had never offered it on the QM2. The Internet (Connexions) manager, however, agreed to honor my request only because I was able to provide him with a copy of the email I had received.
The second occurrence involved our membership in Cunard's World Club for frequent passengers, which had us at a level above what QM2 had in its records, even though the correct level clearly appeared in our electronic ticket, the electronic card given to all passengers for identification and the electronic summary of passengers held by headquarters. This was important to us because benefits and perks increase with each level and in our case it meant receiving eight free hours of internet use. In this respect, its worth noting that internet access from our stateroom was intermittent and often unexplainably unavailable, even when close to land and more incredibly, when docked in Southampton. To me its incredible that internet access is very poor in the stateroom, given that the QM2 was refurbished in 2008. Its equally incredible that passengers cannot access their accounts via television and that Cunard does not have a library of movies for viewing in the staterooms via DVDs.
The stateroom, although ample and comfortable, and I am sure bigger than most other staterooms in other ships (including Princess), does not compare with those of any Regent ship, which we consider the best (or at least one of the best) in the industry, including Crystal, in terms of size, comfort, quality of furnishings, etc. The bathroom, however, was too small for a luxury ship, although well equipped (again, not comparable with Regent). The bed, however, was far from what one would expect on a luxury ship, particularly one that caters to Queens and Kings.
Crew members everywhere and at all times behaved as expected and as they should—polite and reserved, always active and efficient when required. In the main restaurant we never lacked the essentials. It was as if the waiters could read our minds and anticipate our needs to the point of even asking if we needed or wished anything else. Supervisors frequently came around to help and ask us if we needed anything. This was not the case in the alternative restaurants, the buffet style on deck 7, where the role of the waiters is to clean tables and act only when required by a passenger or a supervisor, such as a request for any of the drinks available, including items that would require they go to the kitchen or another restaurant to retrieve. In my view, these alternative restaurants had more than enough attendants (waiters and supervisors) ready to accept requests from passengers.
The food was generally good, adequate, but not exceptionally good on several occasions. In the main restaurant (Britannia), where we ate every night, the lobsters were rather dry, but abundant in quantity. The different meats we ordered were all of excellent quality and perfectly cooked to our specifications, except the venison. The soups were so good we asked for seconds on several occasions, while the deserts were often avoided because they were not as good as we had expected and require improvement. The wine list was very generous, as were the prices (a wine sold for $20 at a wine store near my home cost us $56 on the QM2 (not including the 15% service charge). In general, portions were small, as they should be, since one can always ask for refills or try something else. The seasoning, however, did not live up to the reputation of Indian cuisine, taking into account that the head chef was Indian (with the ship for many years).
So to sum it up, would we travel again with Cunard or on the QM2? Are we prepared to repeat the transatlantic crossing? The answer to both is affirmative, provided the price is right. At present, a repeat of the round trip crossing in 2011 would cost us about 30% more. So at present, a repeat trip is unlikely. Less