Having had a most pleasurable telephone-booking session with a remarkably well informed young man (booking our cabin away from the lifts to benefit from reduced noise) we sampled a Taste of France to see if we enjoyed the Cunard experience.
You really do get what you pay for.
Paying the extra for a Grill level trip (Queens = First Class, Princess = Second, Britannia = Steerage) has the same result that you would expect on a plane (First, Business, Tourist) .. so our holiday experience was quite different from two others I have read from fellow passengers.
Just twenty minutes saw us transfer from sitting in our car to standing in our Suite, our bags already in the cabin. Excellent service. We sat on our reclining chairs on the balcony, drinking our Champagne and eating our canaps as we watched the activity on the shore then, after Compliments were exchanged between QM2 and two other departing vessels, we went in search of the Buffet lunch on offer. Looking in horror at the length of queues of passengers waiting with their trays to serve themselves we escaped to the stern, there to be welcomed by two MaitreDs into the Princess Grill and escorted past 12 beaming waiters to our reserved table.
Yes .. this IS the life.
Can I commend Harry, their Sommelier - a man of great knowledge and charm - the very epitome of Cunard service.
We avoided the Shows and the Casino .. these things are not to our taste; and we can recommend the Commodore Lounge and its pianist - but later had an unpleasant experience in the Chart Room bar where well-oiled northern business tykes drowned-out the String Quartet with their booming boasts of past deals they had done. My sympathy, Ladies, for having your artistry ruined. [Recommendation made to Purser to re-locate the performers or re-instate walking the plank for customers].
Not all the food (a major part of ship-board life) was up-to-scratch: a pastry base was quite under-cooked, a crme caramel had split, and their version of a Csar salad is a plain-Jane imitation of the real thing. [Complaint lodged with Restaurant manager]. Service standards remained impeccable at all times.
Care needs to be taken as drinks are American-size measures (just over our double) and swaying from table to table can occur even when tied-up alongside. Even so, not-at-all over-priced .. and the wine is particularly good value .. and all your tips are built-in (15%) so your dont need to flash the cash.
Better still, when you receive your bar-bill, it arrives in $s .. so settling the tab in s is even easier on the wallet.
As for the invisible photographers .. !
Apart from the embarkation shot (and I agree they cant be using the most flattering background) I couldnt find one. Their shop was un-manned; their Gallery closed; not a shutter-click to be heard - even though I had quite wanted a portrait taken of us on-board. Perhaps someone can tell me if they sail with the ship ?
I can quite understand that this short jaunt round the Isle of Wight can attract a different group of people as compared with a full-blown cruise but it is possible, on a vessel of such a size, to find the space which is best for you - and what places to avoid; something Cunard are obviously aware of and they have obviously addressed that particular conundrum.
Disembarking was plain-sailing and involved just walking off the ship, picking-up our baggage and walking to the car (which had been re-parked, closer to where we tied-up). Their baggage-handling really is top-notch. How do they do it in the time ?
From now on, I will NOT be seeing the inside of ANY airport. THIS is the way to travel.
No more queuing .. no more hassle .. no seats that arent wide enough .. no queue for the toilet .. no stranger falling asleep on your shoulder .. no crying infant within ear-range for 18 solid hours .. AND, they have life-boats.
I ask you .. Do airlines issue parachutes ?
So, the really BIG question .. do we go, again ?
Quite likely .. and on a 5/7 day event .. before taking the plunge and booking being away for a month or more. And definitely on THIS ship.