As we live in Southampton, getting to the port is very quick and easy. And as Mother in Law is Platinum Cunard member, we were all whisked to the front of embarkation line with her - very pleasant surprise! We arrived just after 11 and were on board around 12.00 - it was lovely to be able to explore the ship when it was so quiet. Also had lunch in the Lido buffet - very nice food, much better layout than the QM2 buffet, and much better standard of food - something that was continued throughout all food venues on board.
The ship was full to capacity, and it showed on sea days, particularly as the weather was not so great for the first and last couple of days, making it a bit of a bun fight for a seat.
The entertainment was a real mixture, with 1 night being the resident Queens Room lounge singer as the headline act,and another night the Theatre Orchestra headlined with Dixie Jazz themed night. It did seem like Cunard were penny pinching - I expected more headline acts. Having said that, the Dixieland Jazz night was great, and the flautist and west end singer were exceptional. Unfortunately, they also had a dated British comedian, David Copperfield, who seemed to think it was ok to make fun of gay people and told some rather off colour jokes. A lot of people found him very funny, I didn't.
This weird mix of culture and low brow entertainment seemed very odd. It's almost like someone has told Cunard to go for more 'mass appeal' with some light entertainment. Problem is, they've crossed the line into tasteless and sometimes offensive entertainment. One afternoon was an on deck game 'I'm a Crew Member, Get Me Out of Here' where crew members had to complete a range of tasks to stay in the competition. Many of the tasks were funny and silly, like finding a pair of false teeth, or rescuing an inflatable croc from the pool. Some were in poor taste, like clenching a coin between the buttocks, waddling across the deck and 'pooping' it into a glass. Contestants were blindfolded for the elimination, females having buckets of ice poured down the inside of their t-shirt, and males having the same down the open front of their shorts - all this while the entertainment director clapped and cheered. And the production show 'A Slice of Saturday Night' has been mentioned in other reviews, I will just add that I don't expect to see a cast member pretending to have someone fondle him on stage, and simulate an orgasm - on ANY cruise ship - I want to be entertained and not offended.
If you are on late seating dinner, eating at 8.30, with a show at 10.30, finishing at 11.15-11.30, that doesn't leave a lot to entertain you after dinner. Many of the 'alternative' activities, like quizzes and karaoke, started whilst we were still at dinner, which meant we missed most of them - pushing these back by 15-20 mins would take the emphasis off all being geared to early diners.
The ship is beautiful , I preferred the layout to that of the Queen Mary, The staff were unfailingly polite and helpful, and the food was excellent. As on our previous Cunard cruise, most entertainment ended at midnight, leaving us with not a lot to do but find a bar, but we were expecting that this time, so it wasn't such a surprise.
Overall, I enjoyed the QE more than the QM2, particularly as the food and service was so much better, but Cunard seem to be going in the wrong direction in terms of entertainment.
One final word about our Cabin 4115 - I don't know what exactly was the source of the noise, but every night it sounded like there was a huge bathtub of water sloshing around above our heads. This was so loud that it kept us awake, and made for a very tiring voyage, as we didn't get much sleep. The cabin is also opposite a crew cupboard/closet and so is very noisy early and late - don't book this cabin if you are a light sleeper!