We travelled to Southampton by car and it was nice to be met by a porter who took care of our luggage not seeing it again until we were in our cabin. This is much more relaxed with no luggage restrictions than on our previous cruises where we have had all the hassle of catching planes, and worrying how much our cases weighed. We had been given a check-in time of 1.30pm, but did not board until about 3.30pm as Cunard had not allowed for a race being held in Southampton on the same day, causing earlier check-ins to be delayed.
We had booked a balcony cabin, but the travel agent had not warned us at the time of booking that it was what Cunard describe as a 'sheltered balcony'. The cabin itself was well presented, but the balcony was just a glassless opening in the hull of the ship. We have always had balcony cabins on previous cruises, but this was a huge disappointment. The balcony was very barren and painted in a dull light grey paint with solid metal surrounds with the edge being above eye-level when sitting. You can only see anything if you stand up. We visited the purser's desk to try to upgrade, but we had to stay where we were as we were told the ship was full, although we met other people who had managed to change cabins. This cruise was to The Iberian Peninsular which we believe replaced a cancelled Transatlantic crossing. Ports visited included Cherbourg, Lisbon, Vigo, Bilbao, Brest and Le Verdon which was a replacement for La Rochelle due to strike action. We were disappointed by this as we had been told that La Rochelle is a very nice place to visit. We felt the shore excursions were a bit pricey, so decided to do our own thing, but they did provide free shuttle buses in a number of ports. In Lisbon we got a Lisboa card which gives free or discounted admission to a number of museums, and includes travel on the buses, the metro, and including the rickety old tram 28 which weaves its way through Lisbon's historic centre, and was really enjoyable. Other passengers had got the hop-on hop-off bus which they said was better value, and went right up to the dock side.
Previously we have always gone for anytime dining, but this option is not available on the Queen Mary for dinner, although it is open dining for breakfast and lunch. We dined in the Britannia Grill, and our two waiters for dinner were very efficient and amusing, but for breakfast and lunch although they were all efficient we found some waiters were not very friendly. With the open dining breakfast and lunch we always opted to share a table, and met some very nice and interesting people. The food was very good at all times. The ship itself is luxurious, but the entertainment was not up to the same high standard. One show in particular was so bad we walked out after about 15 minutes as did a number of other people. The Planetorium was interesting, but it could have done with more than 2 shows. On previous cruises we have always had quite varied activities on the top deck, but not so with the Queen Mary. There was very little to do. If you plan to have afternoon tea in the ballroom you need to get there early, as we could never get a seat, and gave up trying. Cunard play on their history, and there were numerous photographs, and write-ups of the celebrities who have travelled with Cunard, but we did find this interesting. The drinks on average were not too expensive with 2 cocktails usually costing around $14, although some of the wines could be quite pricey. We were not given chits when we had drinks as on other cruises, so we kept our own record, but there were no discrepancies.
We along with other passengers who had cruised before, including on Cunard's other ships, felt that, although it is a very stylish and luxurious ship, there was something missing with the Queen Mary. It appears to be designed more as a liner for crossing the Atlantic in style rather than as a holiday cruise ship. Overall we were disappointed with the Queen Mary much preferring the Emerald Princess.