Booked this cruise for our wedding anniversary as Cunard do a free package of extras, although this has now been removed if booked after April 2011.
We flew BA from LHR and had 1 night in Venice which was independently arranged. Caught the bus to Piazza Roma and an easy walk to our nearby hotel on the grand canal. BA is cramped for short haul and offers a sub roll type sandwich and 1 drink by way of catering - even charter airlines offer a hot meal so a very poor show by BA.
From Piazza Roma we caught the people mover for 1 Euro and a 10 min walk from there to the ship. Embarkation was quick and we were on board by 12.15 with luggage arriving soon after. The P grade cabin is just a longer version of the standard balcony cabin (with a bigger sofa) which is a shame as the balcony is quite small whereas the P grades on QM2 have a much better sized balcony. We arrived to find the usual Pol Acker waiting in an ice bucket and our anniversary champagne, together with a bottle of Prosecco (no idea why that was there). The luggage arrived quickly and unpacked. There are no wardrobes in this type of cabin, just a walk in closet area for hanging items and shelf space (incorporating the safe) behind wardrobe doors. The major disappointment was the size of the bathroom. It is really tiny. Having a bath in there didn't help as it took up the space. It would have been better having just a shower cubicle with a glass door to save room and also enabling you not to have to scramble in and out of the bath to take a shower. Also, once the shower curtain was drawn (what is this? I thought all showers had screens nowadays!( it was extremely dark, so you had to leave the curtain partially open to be able to see.
We were very happy in the princess grill dining room and had a table for 2 as requested. We were seated side by side in front of a window (with a drawn back curtain partially obstructing the view) which was much better than previous tables for 2 where we have been sat opposite each other and virtually on top of the next door table nearly making it into a table for 4. Raul Lucas was the Maitre d' and very pleasant and Phil Grey was the head waiter in our section. We have had Phil before in Queens Grill and he is a wonderful - very friendly and professional for his age. He's off for 2 months so hope his hols go well and he enjoys his work as much again when reboarding in November. We felt the service was very good but as we tend to dine late anyway, most diners had finished or nearly finished by the time we arrived.
We dined one evening in the courtyard between the two grills restaurants with friends from Queens Grill which was lovely but thoroughly confused the Maitre d's and waiters by doing so as they had to provide us with different menus and levels of service. They were very kind and gave us the amuse bouche offering from QG which is not something PG offers. The courtyard does need more sun umbrellas for lunchtime dining which is something Andrew Nelder keeps requesting but never seems to get.
We didn't bother with the entertainment on board and spent our evenings in the casino where the staff were very friendly and we got to know them well. We had spa treatments and again, the staff were excellent. We used the spa pool but really felt it wasn't worth the cost to pay for the facilities on a daily basis.
The main gripe we have is with regard to the sunloungers on the grills terraces. There is an upper and lower terrace. On the lower terrace there are beautiful padded loungers (about 25) but on the upper deck there are cheap blue and white plastic loungers which are used by the pools. On our previous QV sailing, the upper terrace had these decent padded loungers but they have now all been removed. We did ask about this and were informed they had broken and Cunard had never had them replaced. As there were so few of the decent sunbeds, it was always a scrabble to get them and you had to be an early bird to acquire one. We were also never asked our room number whilst sitting in this area and felt the deck attendants should have enquired to ensure we were entitled to use this area.
We did 6 tours on the trip and all had early starts so made it quite tiring. Only 1 trip had the guide using the headphone system. This was wonderful as it enabled you to listen to the history of the place whilst still walking around on your own. The remainder of the tours didn't have this option and keeping close to the guide to hear what was being said was a nightmare as there were so many different tour groups attending the historical sites, it was impossible to hear everything. We were herded around a lot and not really given time to explore on our own. The worst for this was the Pompeii tour as we arrived during a strike and had to hang around for ages in the heat waiting for it to open and then only had a very short time to look at the sites - not impressed with the organisation of this at all. The tour company should have known about the strike and postponed the trip until later.
Disembarkation was easy. As we had a Cunard transfer organised, we got off slightly later than the grills decks, departing from the Queens Room. This was well organised and even trolleys were waiting for us at FCO airport when we arrived. The departure gate at FCO was a nightmare with business class being boarded last which is rather strange.
On the whole, a nice holiday and one in which we felt the service in the princess grill dining room was better than our last experience in QG. It also appeared less crowded. We are only able to take short holidays due us still being at work which is in contrast to everyone else on the trip who seem to have retired. We would have liked a little more R&R time and will look at other trips which might include more sea days or go back to the transatlantics which we enjoy - if not, it's back to the Maldives again!!