My first experience of Cunard (and I know that mini cruises aren't a true reflection of longer voyages as I've done a few of them), but I was really looking forward to trying the white star service. This was my 6th cruise, been on P&O, RCI and Celebrity ships.
Arrived at noon and there were already a couple of hundred passengers ahead of us. I saw Artemis of course in the Ocean Terminal where QM2 should have been, but assumed that check in would commence shortly at Ocean Terminal. Whoever was in charge on Monday in the management team should be ashamed. Now I realise that it was a difficult situation that the Artemis ship being in the wrong berth, but they knew at 2am the problems, that there were all the passengers, and only 3 buses and a lot less check in desks available at QE terminal. The little coffee bar at Ocean Terminal ran out of loads of snacks even, and you couldn't buy a sandwich. I wasn't too worried, but my mum has to eat fairly regularly due to a medical condition. Another poor lady who was diabetic was really poorly. In airport terminals at least you can get something to tide you over, and let's face it, we all expect lunch sometime in the afternoon. Cunard knew it was going to take 4-5 hours to load passengers, and there wasn't even a bottle of water complimenatary offered. Why did they not think of either sending down bottled water/sandwiches and some staff. After all, as very few people were on the ship, surely the staff in Kings Court could be utilised to help out. Or if not, an outside company to provide. After 3 hours in Ocean Terminal, we boarded the bus and thought that was it, but when you looked out of the window and saw a huge Q inside and right the way outside, my heart sank. It was another hour standing in very cramped lines, it was nearly too much for my parents to be honest. So we arrived on board at 4pm (4 hours after arriving!) only to be told by a rather rude staff member that Kings Court was shut for the muster. As we didn't know the ship, I'm not sure if there was food elsewhere. Well I grabbed a couple of things anyway and then left to try to find our cabin. Again, Cunard Management, how about a phone call to tell the manager of Kings Court to stay open? (and there were a lot of people behind us I can tell you). Muster was changed to 5pm with people still boarding, no apology or proper explanation from the Commodore. By this time, the 4 of us were feeling really tired and stressed with the whole experience. I hated the fact that I had no time at all to know where anything was. We were on 1st sitting at 6pm, so just changed and went down to the restaurant.
I liked the food in Brittania, I did notice that the waiters didn't introduce themselves, but the service was efficient so that was fine. I have to say, the majority of staff I saw over the few days didn't really seem very happy in their jobs. I'm sure it's a lot of work for them with the 2 day cruises but it's just the impression I got.
The cabin was very nice, a deluxe balcony. But no dressing gowns or slippers. I didn't bring my own. The next day I phoned down to ask for some, they said they would sort it. They never arrived and later in the day when I handed in the audio handsets we had borrowed to the pursers desk and asked again, I was told they don't provide them on short cruises. I explained that I hadn't brought my own and was told that they do sell them if I wanted one! I left it at that and just asked that on QE next May on a 5 nighter, should I bring my own? I know this might sound petty, but it was just unexpected and even when I politely asked for one, twice, it still didn't happen. At check in, they said you can check your bill on the tv (which is what I take as average these days), but the TV was old and you couldn't do it. Not a lot of choice of tv channels, but then you are not going to watch tv I guess.
We didn't go into Cherbourg and were looking forward to seeing a Planetarium show, well, there wasn't one, so we watched the A Team film instead. There is a really interesting area by Illuminations about the history of Cunard and passengers, a nice way to spend a few hours looking around. When the daily itinerary came, I thought there was a page missing or something, I know it was a port day, but not a great deal of choice, I thought there would be a dancing lesson or something (again I would love to learn to dance properly). We just chilled out around the ship and explored.
It was lovely to see black tie on the second night. I was unsure whether to pack my hubby's tux and wish I did, as the dress code was semi formal and you know how it is, men don't like to stick out and be the only one in a tux.
The shows were quite good. Loved the theatre, really nice and the best thing was that you could arrive about 5 mins before the start and still get a decent seat. This is a big plus in my opinion, on other cruise lines (particulary Azura), you have to get to shows quite early. Everything started on time as well.
Generally, the other BIG advantage QM2 has over other ships is that there is more room for everyone. Always somewhere to sit and relax if you wanted. No 'argy bargy' in the lifts, it's all very civilised. Unless it's afternoon tea time of course, a very unbritish-like scramble for tables ensued, not quite like I expected. The staff didn't seem very happy in here, there was only one nice happy chappy in there that came to us. Again, staff should be on hand to organise the Q, there was a lot of pushing in. On longer cruises, this wouldn't be a problem, but everyone is going to want to do tea and there was only one day to do it. It doesn't take the brightest management forethought to realise this and maybe, here's an idea.... extend the afternoon tea time from the hour and send some staff to organise the Q.
We decided to try the Britannia for breakfast on the last morning. At Kings Court I asked if I could order Eggs Benedict the first morning, they said only in Brittania. On disembarkation day, they won't make you eggs benedict. I know it's a little thing (and compared to P&O, where you can only have it on a Monday), it might sound a bit picky, but still, with Celebrity, they don't have a problem with it (you can order most things in any restaurant and they will do it).
In summary, QM2 was a really beautiful, grand ship which I would like to do transatlantic, but for me, I still love Celebrity Eclipse the best. Best service by far. We are trying 5 nights on QE next May and hope that the staff will be a little happier maybe? I just feel that little things were cut on this taster cruise and I'm afraid Cunard, it showed.....
All too quickly it was time to leave. This seemed to take a long time as well, but you don't mind that.
A special mention goes to the CPS boys in the car park, we had a flat battery and they got us going in a jiffy! Everytime we visit Southampton, they all seem lovely staff, always happy to help with a smile and very efficient - they were great.
Quality of Food 3 stars
Kings Court and Brittania 1st sitting. Nice that even at busy times, always found somewhere to sit in Kings Court, no problem. Liked Brittania, lovely food and good service.
Entertainment 4 stars
Production show was good. A little long for me (they are an hour). But didn't need to arrive much before start of performance. Very good quality singers, exceptional
Staff 3 stars
Only a 2 nighter, so not enough time really. Overall, a lot of the staff, although perfectly courteous, didn't seem overly happy.
Children's Facilities 3 stars
We didn't have our children with us this time, but went to the club and had a chat in mind for future transatlantic voyages. Seemed quite nice what I saw. Quite tricky to find down the end of a stateroom corridor.
Onboard Activities 2
Not a lot of choice but it was a port day/short cruise. Very disappointed no planetarium show and no dance lesson. This is what I thought was a taster cruise for you to see the facilities. Afternoon tea was a right scrum! But on a longer voyage I'm sure it wouldn't be a problem.
Cabins 3 stars
Very nice cabin. Old TV and no interactive facilities which I like, but I'm used to the new ships and take this for granted now. Cabin steward was fine, the invisible 'Jason'. Never saw him once but kept everything ship shape. As grats are added to your account, I suppose he didn't feel the need to introduce himself.