The procedure for boarding the ship was amazingly fast and efficient. From arrival at the dock to being on-board took no more than 10 minutes. However, once on board, travelers were on their own, with no assistance available to orient themselves or even find their cabin. Fortunately, the ship is laid out logically and signage was good. Luggage arrived very quickly and was undamaged.
The QE is a really beautiful ship. The interior is very elegant and the ship sails amazingly smoothly and quietly. Docking was so smooth that the only way to tell it had occurred was to look outside. The theater is the most beautiful I have seen among the 10 ships on which I have sailed and had charming box seats available for a few lucky patrons. Shows were limited, but of high quality. Other entertainment included a harpist and string quartets which were very good and added to the subdued, elegant mood.
Food in the main “Britannia” restaurant was consistently very good. The specialty restaurant (The Verandah) was exquisite. The food there was truly extraordinary, service outstanding and atmosphere elegant yet inviting. The onboard service elsewhere was usually very good with well-trained staff. The exception was a few dour-faced eastern Europeans among the crew whose attitude was not up to what one expects of a 5-star cruise line. The informal dining buffet experience was a disappointment especially when compared to the parent company (Carnival) and Royal Caribbean. This was offset by the Britannia being open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. As a result, we typically ate there and were pleased. Afternoon tea was an unusual and wonderful treat. White-gloved service, excellent tea and snacks, and live music made this a “must” for all days at sea.
One feature that stood out, especially in comparison with other ships, was the library. Not only was it architecturally beautiful, it was extremely well-organized and had a nice supply and variety of books. I spent much more time there than envisioned at the start.
Unfortunately, shore support was truly dreadful. In spite of several requests for assistance as far as 6 months in advance, Cunard was completely useless in assisting with visa requirements. It was truly amazing that they could provide no information at all (except for India which requires visas from everyone) for most ports of call. Oddly enough, Cunard magically acquired this knowledge once we were on board, leading to a huge fiasco with last minute requests for 50 passengers trying to get to Dubai. Although ultimately resolved at the 11th hour thanks to persistence by the purser, the stress of not knowing where we would ultimately leave the ship detracted from our enjoyment of this otherwise enjoyable cruise.
Summarizing, I would say that while we enjoyed the trip and really admired the ship itself, the atmosphere was a bit too quiet for our tastes. We would be unlikely to rebook on this ship or the very similar Queen Victoria, but might explore the larger Queen Mary 2 at some time in the future.