We had traveled from Australia a week before the cruise departure and had been on a short driving holiday prior to the cruise. We drove to Southampton on the morning of the cruise and left our hire car at the Southampton Airport and took a taxi to the cruise terminal arriving at around 12 noon. Cunard's cruise terminal is very modern and functional and the check in experience was well managed and we were on board within 45 minutes or so.
Our cabin was immediately available and our luggage was waiting for us on arrival. We had booked a balcony cabin on deck 11 and we were pleased that it was of a similar size and layout to that of the Celebrity Solstice and Eclipse. Given the age of the ship and the wear and tear that cabins suffer, it was in reasonable order. The most noticeable differences were:
- Older style bathroom with shower curtain rather than the newer enclosed shower
- Small flat screen TV, which lacked any functionality other than showing a few
satellite news services and some old TV shows and a few movies. Many of the
channels were often unavailable and because there was no 'on-demand'
programming we didn't actually see the start or finish on any movie.
Our Cabin Steward did an outstanding job of keeping the Cabin in order and attending to our needs in a smiling and friendly manner. This level of service was unfortunately not forthcoming through the rest of the ship.
Many of the staff we came across in dining rooms, bars, shops, cafes and other public areas were often grumpy and unsmiling. Generally it appeared that staff were on cruise control, with very little real interest or passion for what they were doing.
We came to the conclusion that there must be some systemic staff/management issues on the QM2 that leads to such an unhappy bunch of people.
Our dining experiences on the QM2 were very poor.
We lunched three time in the Kings Court dining area, which consists of 4 poorly designed and disjointed areas that serve as a buffet for breakfast and lunch and as more formal dining areas for dinner. The food was of average to poor quality - a buffet is a buffet is a buffet, but this one is pretty low on the buffometer.
We took breakfast and a few lunches in the Brittania Dining Room. Again the service in the dining room on these occasions was generally indifferent, while the food quality was average.
The big disappointment was dinner in the Brittania Dining Room. Whilst the service in the dining room was a vast improvement on the other areas of the ship, the quality of the food was uniformly average to poor.
The per night cost of our cruise on the QM2 was significantly more than Celebrity's per night costs, so we thought that this additional cost would be reflected in a dining experience that would be better than Celebrity's very high standards. We were disappointed to find that the food was generally of a quality that you would find at a local pub - steak on the menu turned out to be a piece of roast beef - a crumbed turkey schnitzel that had been on the lunch buffet the day before - roast lamb that could have come from a boarding school menu, etc. etc. The deserts were again uniformly poor. There was little sign of culinary innovation or excellence and this was a great disappointment - clearly the kitchens are working to a price well below that which produces a quality outcome.
We finally woke up and realised that we had booked in steerage and that a first class experience is reserved for those who pay for suites, with their private dining rooms, lounges and deck areas. This class based approach may appeal to some elements of the British and US market, but it is not for us.
However, the ship itself is beautiful with wonderful public areas and decks that are well maintained and provide many places to get away and find a quiet place to relax and enjoy the passing scenery. The Norwegian ports of call and the countryside and scenery were spectacular and well worth visiting - perhaps next time we will cruise with a line less interested in selling their past and one more interested in serving their customers in the 21st century.