British all the way
Canada & New England
We were apprehensive about the many sea days on this Transatlantic voyage, but need not have worried. Our standard balcony room was comfortable, especially the beds, and had all the facilities we needed, including an enthusiastic, helpful but unobtrustive steward. Check-in was easy at Southampton, we boarded the ship, met the steward in the room and went up to the Lido restaurant for lunch. From then on we had everything we needed provided for us. The entertainments every evening were mostly excellent, the dinners in the Britannia restaurant high quality, with dishes such as steak and fish showing no evidence that the chefs were catering for 2,000 passengers. Waiters upheld the White Star service Cunard is so proud of. We had the early sitting, otherwise we would have missed the shows, as second sitting's shows started at 10.30. On two of the last sea nights they had their show at 7pm, and I was surprised that not more people took advantage of this. Most of the passengers were More
elderly and tended to avoid the late night disco in favour of an early night, although they were scarily enthusiastic on the ballroom dancefloor, with even the mobility scooter users joining in on the sidelines. With a handful of exceptions, the passengers were British, and appreciated the Golden Lion pub with its traditional pub food at lunchtime, and the afternoon tea served in the Queens Room every day with accompanying string quartet, harp or pianist. I think the strong British culture was a bit much for the minority of Americans and other nationalities, though. Having experienced the loud behaviour of US guests on Carnival, and to some extent Royal Caribbean, the 'sorry', 'excuse me' and 'would you mind' around the ship was welcome to me, but would have baffled people used to a different ship board culture. Entertainment in the day consisted of fascinating lectures, the occasional new release movie, and a wonderful rendition of Twelfth Night by the resident theatre company. No belly flop or hairy chest contests on deck - people who like this sort of thing on cruises might have been disappointed. An excellent libary on two floors with a spiral wooden staircase separating fiction from non-fiction, a globe, maps and guidebooks with armchairs for reading was a joy, and as we walked around the ship on seadays when the weather was not so good, most of the bars and lounges had people sitting and reading (and a few knitting and embroidering). The Spa was good, but costly, which led to some annoyance when so many of the facilities were not working on certain days.
A number of passengers liked to complain, but I could not understand what they could possibly have to moan about. They referred to the old days on the QEII and the Queen Mary, but I had to wonder if it was a case of looking at the past through rose tinted spectacles.
We had attended a number of lectures on skyscrapers by Seth Gopin, who had slides of arriving in New York on the Queen Mary 2. This encouraged us to get up early to see the arrival in New York, which was magical, as we went past the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, with a commentary by one of the other guest speakers.
The final Port of Call was supposed to be Sydney, but ended up being changed to Corner Brook because Sydney was full of cruise ships. The people of Corner Brook were very friendly and welcoming, offering us free luggage labels and lapel pins, and a shuttle bus (school bus) to the shops. We walked the Corner Brook Stream trail, which was created by the paper company when it put in the pipe to extract the water for their factory, next to the dock. When the QE arrived it blew its horn, and the paper factory replied with its own factory horn. There was a cafe on the hill above the dock with free wifi, and this seemed to be a popular place. There was another walk up to Captain Cook's lookout and a museum, but we didn't visit them, as we were a bit tired by the time we finished the walk. (This is included because Corner Brook is not on the list of ports of cal)
I would highly recommend the Queen Elizabeth, and particularly enjoyed the theatre company, the resident dancers, the food, and the service. I would recommend this cruise to people who enjoy ballroom dancing, access to a large supply of good reading, interesting lectures and good quality entertainment. I would not recommend it to people who like loud noise, lots of bingo and rowdy entertainment, or for families with children (although there was provision for children on board if there had been any).
The only thing that spoiled it for me was the constant moaning by some of the other passengers, but I think they were in a minority. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
Quite a sweet little place, but difficult to get to. The ship anchored, and people had to go ashore in tenders. There were so many wheelchair users and disabled people, that many of them must have had to miss out. The fog made it uncertain up to the last minute whether we would get off at all. We were lucky, as we disembarked early because we had a tour booked. Chaotic labelling, and the ship's sports director sulking in a hoodie and not holding up the lollipop sign with the tour number meant that we had a German couple who were on the wrong bus and had missed their tour, so had to come along with us. The tour was a walk in the Acadia National Park, which was fine for us, as we could see the trees and plants and wildlife close up, without being affected by fog and rain. The tour guide was inexperienced, and had trouble with stroppy elderly people who complained that they were too far back along the path to hear what she was saying. She confessed that this was her first tour, and she had been a teacher, taking children into the forest. She referred queries about plants to her colleague who was a botanist, but told tales of what the native Americans said about the forest, and at one point asked us to be very still and quiet and count on our fingers how many sounds we could hear. I think children would have been enchanted. They took us to the top of Cadillac mountain, but we could not see more than a few feet through the fog. We considered attending the art show on the village green on arrival back in town, but it was raining, and we took the next tender back. Shortly afterwards the tenders were cancelled for a while because the fog got worse.
Slightly lower rating, because of the distance from port to city.
For Boston, we walked 40 minutes from the port to town, because the shuttle bus arranged by the tour office was expensive, and didn't go where we wanted. We found on our way back that the Silverline trams link South Station with the Design Center, which is where the ship docked. If the tour office had given this advice, we would have used the tram to get into town. It was raining, and the subway trains were packed. We have been to Boston several times, so this didn't affect our opinion of the city, which we love. We bought a man's sports jacket in Filene's basement, and went to the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, a strange art collection bequeathed by an eccentric woman, situated in the University campus. A long way out, but worth the trip.
Halifax was a great port of call. They held a ceremony to mark the maiden visit of Queen Elizabeth, and to re-dedicate the statue of Samuel Cunard. Descendents of Cunard were there, and speeches were made by local dignitaries. The ship's officers attended in their white uniforms, Captain Wells made a speech, and a piper in full Highland dress played. There was a new cruise terminal, with excellent facilities and a farmer's market. It advertised free wi-fi, but no-one could access it. However, the Gray Line's pink hop-on-hop off Routemaster buses were excellent. We bought the tickets from the ship's tour office, and went everywhere, with different guides telling us different stories. One guide had grandparents who were scarred from the great Halifax explosion in World War I, which had killed and maimed thousands and wiped out a huge area of the city. Another guide told us of her grandmother who had arrived in Halifax from Nazi Germany, and spent the war years helping other Jews who had escaped with money and transport. The Maritime museum was fascinating. We liked the exhibits on Titanic and Cunard, and the temporary exhibition 'Hello Sailor'. Rather alarming that gay cabin stewards used to try on the lady passengers clothes. I am sure our steward would do no such thing! The Citadel was very impressive, as was the brewery.
It was wonderful to sail right into Manhattan and be able to walk out and get the subway.
Disembarking at New York was difficult, as it took a long time to get through immigration, but that is always the case. People moaned because they were told to carry their passports or driving licences on shore. I have never heard such a fuss! I would never walk around a foreign country without my passport - what if there was an emergency and I was stranded there without my documents? Anyway, the moaning carried on as far as Bar Harbor. A lot of people didn't like the excursions, particularly in New York. It seemed to be based on the coaches being held up in traffic, which was due to the UN meeting, and the Hamas leaders being in town, so large parts of the East side were blocked off by police cordons. We took the subway, but used a taxi to get back to the ship on the last day, and were glad we had left 3 hours, as New York was gridlocked. Someone just caught the ship by seconds, they had to extend the gangplank again for them to board. This was a one-off, and if we had taken the trouble to research what was going on, we would have realised traffic would be bad for the UN meeting. The good thing was that when we went to Little Italy to meet a friend for dinner, we found ourselves in the San Gennaro festival and were right in the middle of the parade - straight out of the Godfather movies! So the timing was not too bad after all.
Newport was easy to walk around, no need for a tour. There were a lot of gift shops and clothing stores right by the dock. We followed a walking map to the old church, where a lady volunteer gave us a guidebook, and an explanation of some of the interior. There were notices around the town showing the dates and history of some of the older buildings, with drawings so you were sure which ones they were talking about. We had clam chowder in an Irish pub, and really enjoyed ourselves.
Portland was very good, as the town laid on a hop on hop off bus at very reasonable rates, with tickets available at the tourist information office at the port, so no need for an excursion. A lady gave us a voucher for money off lunch at a pub, so one of our hops off was to this pub. We had lobster rolls, as we had been told to eat lobster in Portland. We also had a guided tour of the house the poet Longfellow grew up in, which was interesting, even though we had not known much about him before (we had just about heard of Hiawatha).
Excellent port of call. Very near the town, with a walkway through to the old town and old port, with a wonderful farmers market. We took the funicular up to the Citadel and the Heights of Abraham, which is now a beautiful park. We had a guided tour of the Citadel which was compulsory because it is a working garrison. It only cost four Canadian dollars. The old town is full of very expensive shops, but we had dinner in a restaurant in Sous le Fort, which was very French and lively. Day 2 we went on an excursion to Montmorency Falls and the Sugar Shack, where we tasted maple syrup poured onto 'snow' and made into toffee. Quebec is like France, but the people are kind and appreciate you speaking French, so it is like France only more welcoming. I would go here again.