We had never been on a cruise before our trans-Atlantic crossing on the Queen Mary 2 in August 2011. This ship is marketed as top notch, quality, luxurious... ha! Admittedly we have nothing to compare it to, but if this is supposed to be top of the line then we'll never cruise again!
Embarkation at Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in New York went fairly smoothly. The only negative element was the guy who took our bags. We don't mind tipping, however there are large signs posted about that say 'Tipping is not obligatory'. After this guy had taken our cases (putting them onto a trolley with other bags which we could have done ourselves) he stood there saying 'Tipping is not obligatory' repeatedly until we gave him a tip! We felt harrassed about that. Not the fault of QM2, but it was not a great start. It should be noted that the queues to get on board were lengthy and there was nowhere to sit down. To us it looked like the older folk were having trouble with that. Once on board there were more long queues to use the lifts to get to your cabin - which you had to find yourself. Lots of confused passengers wheeling suitcases up and down the (very narrow!) corridors. In the short trip from the dock to our cabin our luggage was damaged.
Accommodations: we were on Deck 11, up high, with a glass balcony. The room felt small and we wondered how people of a 'portly' body shape would physically fit in the bathroom. Shower slightly mouldy, and the whole room looked a bit 'used' and like it's due for a refit. We were very disappointed with the bed - a so-called king that was actually two singles pushed together, creating an insurmountable ledge in the middle. We like to cuddle at night but it was impossible in this bed! TV was very small and thus watching it from the bed was almost impossible. The hair-dryer was curiously mounted in a drawer in the corner of the cabin above the fridge and was difficult to use. Some parts of the ship are pretty, if you like that Las Vegas style. Closer inspection, however, reveals that the extensive wood veneer is actually plastic. Horrible patterned airport carpet everywhere, even on the steps - a nightmare if you have any kind of vision disorder!
Food: we were booked for the late sitting in the Brittannia Restaurant. We only ate there twice because it was bad both those times. The food was absolutely ordinary - the pasta had a 'Heinz' tang, and a chicken dish was inedible. What made it worse was that the waitstaff were curt, we were rushed through our meal and staff were setting up for breakfast for the following morning around us, even at the vacant places at the table where we were sitting. It felt stupid sitting there in our black tie gear with that kind of service going on. We ate breakfast there only once - again, very ordinary, very rushed. We chose to eat in the King's Court Buffet for almost every other meal - if you can put up with the 'trough' atmosphere and the rudeness of other guests (seriously, the tea and coffee is not going to run out, people!) then at least you have a variety of things to choose from and you can see what you're getting! Contrary to other reviews on here we found the Lotus (Asian) food to be quite palatable. We did try the pub for lunch one day and it was laughable - the fish was over-battered, had a very strong odour and get this, one of the portions had seven chips only - we counted them.
Staff: We couldn't believe how badly some of the senior food staff treated others - publicly berating them, loudly. Who wants to see that? Most staff we encountered exuded despondency. The guy who made up our room was efficient but was so efficient that he deliberately took our 'comments' card before we had a chance to write anything on it - the same night we'd been given it! We asked for another one but it wasn't provided.
Entertainment: This ship does not have a dedicated cinema. We assumed it would. The theatre shows a film daily ('a' meaning 'one', but we'd seen all the 'latest releases' on the plane on the way over) but alas, 3D Michael Flatley and the opera 'Carmen' didn't tempt us. The alternative is watching movies on the TV in your cabin. For some reason 'Inception' was only available dubbed into Spanish, which by the end of the week was really frustrating as we were getting desperate for entertainment! How hard would be be to install those great 'on demand' systems that are in most long-haul planes these days? We weren't interested in going to the shows/live acts/classes so can't comment on those - we were using the ship as 'transport' rather than 'cruise'. There is a fairly decent library - thank goodness. We found that the most interesting thing to do on this ship was watch the other passengers. After a few days everyone seemed really bored, and you could see people having extended fights and giving each other the silent treatment. It didn't matter what the language was, you could tell she was saying 'Why in hell did you get me this from the buffet? You know I hate this!' The promenade deck was the scene of much thunder-faced stalking about. The general mood only lifted the day before disembarkation in Southampton - presumably because everyone was looking forward to getting off!
In retrospect, we should have known better. The fares are cheap for seven nights of 'luxury' - it can't be done! We were so glad we'd paid extra to have that glass balcony - we spent a lot of time looking out at the ocean, which was great - good weather and plenty of dolphins. Judging by what we've read in other reviews here, (how we wish we'd found this site before booking!) it's a real shame that given the long history of Cunard, it no longer delivers a luxury-quality cruising experience. In short - a LOT of passengers, not quite enough staff, however-many-thousands of meals per day - is it any wonder the food was ordinary? Please don't plan for this to be a 'trip of a lifetime' - that would just be very sad.