My husband and I sailed on the Jan 15 - 22 sailing to St. Thomas, St. Maarten and St. Kitts. We loved it. I have been on QE2 for a crossing in June 2003. Loved that, too. When we got the Cunard brochure in November for a 20% discount and free balcony upgrade for the price, why not go and see the ship for myself.
I read all the reviews on Cruise Critic (just like I did before the QE2 trip) and they all seemed so negative, I went with a very open mind and was expecting to be disappointed. After a couple days, I commented to my husband that could these people with negative reviews have been on the same ship? Did we just happen to be on board when Cunard got everything right? I made a special effort to try to see if I could pick up any negative vibes on board from other passengers -- from what I saw, I think most people were having a good time.
The wait staff was excellent -- very professional and friendly. Our room was wonderful -- I could not believe all the closet space -- the bed is so comfortable, too. Really liked the in-hull balcony.
Did we find ship hard to navigate -- not really. Sure you could get turned around, but every stairwell and hallway has multiple ship directory plaques with a red dot "you are here" -- we used them a lot and had no problems. Plus, they give you a nice fold up map, which is easy to stick in a purse or pocket -- I used that for a couple days until I started using the ship signs.
Public rooms -- we made a special effort to visit every area of the ship (used the fold up map as a check list) and sit and enjoy. It would be hard to pick a favorite -- they are all so different and unique -- each giving you a different mood.
Food -- I found the food to be very good -- we loved the breakfast buffets in Kings Court -- such variety -- the wait staff was very helpful in this area. Yes, they could take away your items before you were done -- but my husband and I just took turns going back and solved that problem. How are the staff to know you are coming back? They are just told to keep it clean -- which they did. The layout could have been a little awkward among the 4 areas, but I have read that Cunard will improve that in dry dock November '05. But excellent variety.
Britannia Restaurant -- what a lovely room -- and to be so large and feed so many, I thought it had a nice quiet intimate feel. We had a table for 6, 1st upper level near the atrium, late seating -- our head waiter was fabulous. He would bring us extra food, make jokes -- loved him. He did tell us they move their stations every cruise. I did think the food was just a little bit better in Caronia Restaurant on my QE2 crossing -- but they had excellent variety -- and a Canyon Spa healthy choice offering -- my husband mixed and matched -- if he saw something he wanted off Canyon Spa and the regular menu, they would bring him what he asked for -- no questions.
Entertainment -- I thought it was very good -- the costumes for the production shows were beautiful -- good talented people. The orchestras and band were great -- all the piano players in bars, etc. were wonderful -- jazz band was good -- singers excellent.
I wasn't overly impressed with the Planetarium -- only did 1 show, it was OK.
Cruise Director -- very friendly -- upbeat -- kept you informed.
Pool areas -- I thought the areas were nice -- loved the 3 levels on the back of the ship -- hot tubs were fabulous (sitting in the hot tub watching the sunset on sail away doesn't get much better than that) -- chairs comfy -- loved the green towels found under sink in your bathroom (liked them so much we bought 1 -- $35) -- bar handy and they came around often asking if you needed something. Soft drink sticker on your card -- took advantage of that -- we are big soft drink people. If they made a mistake and charged you, you just showed it to your waiter and they reversed the $1.50.
Tenders -- worked like a charm. Shore Excursions -- we booked on board -- thought they were all good for what we got -- too bad you only had enough time in port to pick just one.
Deck 7 -- promenade -- 3 laps equals a mile -- my husband and I loved doing this many times on the trip.
In all honesty, I could not find anything to fault -- I could go on and on and I know this has been long -- but enjoy the ship -- she is beautiful and a wonderful ocean liner. If you are looking for relaxation and a feeling of mindless pleasure, you will enjoy. If you want a little bit more fun and excitement, perhaps you should book a "fun ship."