I took the Los Angeles-to-Sydney segment of Queen Elizabeth's inaugural world cruise, January 29 to February 22.
Communications were bad, beginning with Cunard's Website. I could book excursions but neither review nor modify or cancel my selections. Cunard's telephone Help Desk, with its jarringly ungrammatical ("Your call will be answered in the order it was received") was no help at all. Operators had plummy, fake-posh English accents (I am a Brit). At one point I was transferred to Princess Cruises. On-board messages were often misworded, as in "Captain James Cook chartered the two main islands [of New Zealand] in 1760."
Embarkation in Los Angeles was chaotic; no one was in charge; no-one to help; no signs; no advice; no information. People arriving by cab had their bags put onto porters' carts ahead of people who had been waiting for half an hour.
Queen Elizabeth is somewhat of a poor man's Queen Mary 2, downsized to fit into the Panama Canal with 2 feet to spare on either side and bulked up at the back to maximize cubic space, with low ceilings, narrow corridors, and tiny bathrooms with hopelessly small sinks. There is only one flight of steps either side from Deck 9's central pool area to the upper deck.
Many of the Staff appear untrained. Stewards in the buffet would remove a plate from under one's nose without a word, sometimes before you had finished eating. We found the purser's office to be uninformed about almost everything. Given the ship's purported British genes, it was unfortunate that the smiling Eastern European waitress in the Golden Lion Pub didn't know what bitter or ale or draft beer meant, or what kind of fish was in the fish and chips. Britannia Restaurant staff were good.
Food: My first dinner of steak in Britannia Restaurant was tasteless and overcooked ("medium" requested). Subsequent meals were better, sometimes average, never great. There were no spectacular surprises. Hamburg Grill on Deck 9 aft served me the first hot dog in my life that I couldn't finish, stringy and tasteless. Chaos reigned in the Lido buffet, where layout and traffic defied logic and common sense. There was no set direction of traffic and people entered from both ends. There was a paucity of choice and only average quality. Don't expect the raisins to be anywhere near the muesli, onions and capers near the bagels, prunes near canned fruit -- if you can find them at all -- or bowls anywhere near any of these. The soup was next to the dessert and both were difficult to spoon out from under their glass-covered containers. The cream cheese was near the bagels but across the aisle from onions and capers. Smoked salmon was not available at breakfast unless you asked for it, a chore that wasn't worth keeping up for 21 days. The capers ran out, I was told, after Port Denarau, Fiji. Smoked salmon finally appeared on display, but in the evening. Next morning a miracle: the capers re-appeared. On occasion the tea packages were distant from hot water and milk.
Captain Burgess was accessible and popular, but perhaps complacent. If the captain is ultimately responsible for everything that happens on his ship he has much to answer for. I wrote to him that some destination maps were either non-existent or lacked scale and any indication of where the ship or tender would be, so one couldn't estimate the time it would take to walk anywhere. This omission didn't seem to interest the tour desk, though it should have been easy for them to download and print maps. I would expect a marine officer to realize how absurd this was, but the captain merely passed my letter on to the hotel manager, from whom I heard nothing.
Disembarkation in Sydney was worse than embarkation had been. People awaiting transfers milled around without guidance, dragging their bags to and fro, pressing the few harassed Cunard staff for information as to which coach they should take. It took us 40 minutes to board our coach.
Summary: There good points, of course, such as a spacious theater with good sight lines and first-class lectures. Other good points -- I don't know. We may have received value for or money since the fare was reasonable for 21 days, but the cruise didn't begin to meet my expectations of Cunard. There was a dissonance between the aggressive formality (six black-tie evenings) and the tawdriness of food and (non-dining room) service. Parent Carnival Corporation seems to be milking the Cunard brand with what the auto business calls badge engineering, such as a cosmetically-modified Chevrolet branded as a Cadillac. The pictures and the bust of Queen Elizabeth, nostalgic relics and photos of early Cunard ships, and fine deco art fail to not counter the chintzy product. This will sully the entire brand.