My spouse and I have more than 30 cruises behind us on various lines. He had sailed Cunard before and I was really excited about my first time with Cunard. We will sail with Cunard again but perhaps with our more realistic expectations.
We had just completed 20 days in the Mediterranean on another cruise line and I will be honest the cost of a QM transatlantic sail home was not much more than a flight from Rome so we flew to London and decided this was a good way to test the waters so to speak and give the QM a go.
We took the train from Waterloo Station and grabbed a taxi for 8 pound to the Cunard Pier. We sat on comfy blue couches until they called our number. Staff then guide you to the next available wicket. This was probably one of the best embarkations we have had.
The ship is beautiful, immaculate and elegant. The passengers were very polite and all the teens and little ones that we met were all well behaved.
We had ordered an obstructed balcony (lifeboat) but it was bright and cheery and we could still get a breath of fresh air and see snippets of the sea. A complimentary bottle of champagne was waiting for us. Our steward was very, very good.
I never tired of walking the main halls with the wonderful art and murals. The venues for dancing, the Queen's ball room, the theatre, the 3D cinema with the planetarium are all brilliant. The library is wonderful and the Winter garden room is charming.
The entertainment was great. The dance troop was fabulous, excellent choreography and variety of numbers. In all our cruising we have never seen dancers like these, especially the men. The night when all the musicians (20+) performed together was very good. I enjoyed Hamlet as put on by RADA. The female guest singer was wonderful so I caught part of her second show too. There was the usual a juggler, sigh. The lecturers were so good if we missed them we watched them later, on our room TV.
The games room for bridge at the front of the ship on level 11 is terible for bridge lessons. It is less than ten feet wide, long and narrow. Everyone was jammed in like sardines and it was noisy.
In the Gym/Spa, the area for the machines is cramped, crowded and dingy. No ocean views here. The area for the stretch, yoga and Pilates classes is on level one in the bowels of the ship. The room is alright but one must sign up for classes the day before. So the first day 30 of us arrived for the free stretch class and we were told that only the first 20 could attend. We then had to scramble as fast as we could to get up to the spa on level 7 at the other end of the ship and get our name on the list for the next day.
Those of us who got into the class at 8:00 a.m. then had to run up the stairs or get on an elevator first, run to the spa and join the line up. The signup papers are then supposed to be put out at 8:45. By 9:00 there are 50 people in the line up hoping to get into the next day's classes. I was always on the waiting list and some people didn't show up so I got into the classes but it did not seem right that those who could run faster through the ship always could grab a spot and slower folks were left behind. I asked one of the staff about this and suggested having a second stretch class and I was told "no don't worry by the fourth day there is lots of room". That's true the numbers dropped to 20 because many people just gave up. And the classes were quite good.
We dined in the Britannia first seating. We had very nice table companions, We had a rectangular table for six on the top level and it was very noisy. You really could not talk easily.
This is a ship which requires a jacket for the men for every evening meal and tux or black suit for the formal nights. Fancy attire every night is not our favourite thing but I understand it. However on the last night when many men had already packed their clothes, they had to keep out their suits jackets out. Country club casual that one night would have been appreciated.
On the whole the food was fine, but not exceptional. We felt the food did not match the attire requested. The dinner menu is more limited than most of the ships on which we have sailed. Food quality was on par with most Holland America and a few Princess ships but not as good as Azamara or Celebrity. Our table waiter and his assistant were very accommodating and did their absolute best. For example everyone at our table requested extra green vegetables and a variety arrived automatically every night from then on.
The King's Court which is the buffet area, really feels like a college school cafeteria and is not very pleasant but it is functional and one can of course go to the buffet dressed smart casual. We found the lunch buffet did not have as much variety but the quality was much, much better than many ship's lido decks. I will take quality over variety anytime. The Kings Court has special dinners at night. A cooking demonstration meal (we attended Indian night which was fun and different), a carvery and Asian and Italian. One pays an extra $10 for these.
I have a special diet. I have a gluten intolerance and it is my responsibility to communicate my needs. As with all other lines I pre registered. Perhaps because this is a seven day transatlantic run, there really isn't the time do develop a rapport with staff but there is a lack of communication between several staff even within departments. Suffice it to say that I got my gluten free items only after daily requests and finally after four days I received a few cookies and some cereal. I was then told that there were waffles, muffins, pancakes available and there were at least ten other passengers needing gluten free . On day five I attended the high tea and there were even gluten free scones with clotted cream..yum.
My husband and I decided to book a future cruise but as we did not want to pick a specific cruise we wanted to put down the $300 deposit each on a future cruise and we would then fit one into our travel schedule. Like everyone else, I left it to the second last day and I queued up when the office opened at 10:00. At 10:30 the line had not moved and I had another commitment so I chose to come back in the afternoon.
Once again I queued up but I was quite surprised when the young woman was very resistant to my request. She wanted me to pick a cruise anytime up to 2013. When I explained that we wanted to cruise again but wanted to put the cruise into our travels like a segment of a world cruise, she again insisted I pick a cruise. She then said that I could just keep cancelling with my travel agent until I got the cruise I really wanted. I replied that I did not think that was fair to my agent because of the extra work. So I asked if Cunard does allow a non specific cruise credit. She said yes but if I lose the piece of paper then I lose the credit. I was flabbergasted and there was a queue behind me so I asked if she had a form that I could fill out and she said I could call her line later if I was really interested. I found this off-putting so I did not try to call her later.
Disembarkation could not have been easier. We arrived to Red Hook Pier in Brooklyn at 7:00 a.m. on Labour Day. We chose to take our luggage with us and disembarked around 8:30 and we caught a cab right away to La Guardia Airport. With a tip it was less than $35.
I have since contacted Cunard customer relations to have them clarify the future cruise credit policy and they were straightforward enough to tell me that I had been given the wrong information and non specific cruise credits are accepted and they are automatically connected to our world cruise numbers.
Do we want to try the Queen Mary again?
Absolutely, the ship is gorgeous, the entertainment great fun and the food was fine. The positives far out weighed the negatives.