We had received so much fabulous and glossy advertising about the Cunard fleet following our initial enquiry regarding such a special celebration for us in 2012. We were invited to 'sample' QM2 on a 3 day 2 night sail to Cherbourg.Our 13 year old daughter was to join us too. Our expectations were high and the advertising justified our thoughts and hopes too. Seeing QM2 docked at Southampton was awesome! She deserves her reputation for her looks - we were excited at what may lay ahead on board.
Due to Cunard very kindly upgrading our stateroom and now having no appropriate pre-printed luggage labels, we enquired at The Luggage Label Desk in the terminal for a couple of spare luggage labels. The man on duty wouldn't let me have two labels stating that Cunard are "...cutting back..." which then meant we had to make do with our scrappy photocopies! It was to be the beginning of a very underwhelming experience from a customer service perspective and was the eventual deal breaker for our notable special occasion.
We boarded the beautiful QM2 but no-one smiled, greeted us or made eye contact despite my daughter and I positively commenting regarding the attire of the two red clothed bell boys. We all felt the signage onboard was a little complex and we saw many passengers continually darting from side to side and looking puzzled trying to locate the correct direction for their rooms, us included. The first smile and greeting came from our room valet - all credit to him!
Upon entering the main restaurant for our 1830 sitting, the Head waiter checked our details but didn't welcome us, again no smile or positive contact. Our wine waiter exuded an unfortunate "chippy" attitude which made the three of us feel uncomfortable. We observed and heard several angry exchanges at the waiter's station. Our daughter was left out with regard to her drink request until we reminded the waiter and we had to ask for further drinks despite our glasses being empty. My husband and daughter were served before me at the table which was astonishing!
At the after dinner show in the main theatre we were hoping to have our spirits lifted, sadly we ended up leaving the auditorium after 30 mins - the singers were great but the show was sadly very badly put together and reminded us of something from the "HiDeHi" sit com.
Breakfast was tricky in the badly laid out King's Court, it felt quite a stressful experience trying to navigate our way around the whole area, locate our food stations, search for a table, find the drinks stations, realising that we could hear our neighbours conversation due to being seated so closely and the heating must have been turned up fully. As was the norm by now, not one waiter or server made eye contact, smiled or greeted us - we were treated like sheep! The hot dishes of beans, scrambled eggs and bacon looked most unappealing - the server literally 'dolloped' the fresher amounts on top of the older portions presented earlier.
Our day in Cherbourg was great despite exitting the QM2 without being wished a pleasant time by any of the staff who facilitated this process. Sailaway from Cherbourg was a sight to behold and the highlight of our trip with champagne, a lively band, blue skies and a phenominal escort of numerous other boats even the local churches rang their bells. Due to the ship departing over 30 minutes later than scheduled, we do not know the reason why, we were approximately 25/30 minutes late for our meal. Our waiter informed us that we could now not have our starter due to being so late despite our courteous apologies and query as to why the ship departed later than scheduled. The waiter just shrugged his shoulders! After a most unrelaxing meal with our waiter having a discussion in another foreign language at his station with his colleague we felt very uncomfortable and saddened at how our trip had turned out.
Trying to lighten the mood we visited the library but as we perused the shop/shelves we had to listen to the annoying conversation of the sales assistant and librarian - so much for peace and serenity! Back at our room we wanted to take a postcard of QM2 and a sample sheet of writing paper for scrapbooking purposes from the writing vellum that we had admired at the start of our trip if only we could find it! Feeling concerned we managed to discover that housekeeping had removed it to alledgedly "..stock up the contents.." prior to its sailing to New York the next day. Another reminder that our business was not important as the staff were thinking of the guests the next day at detriment to the guests that were onboard now.
Finally after another 'motorway style' breakfast in King's Court we left in no hurry to return, no staff member wished us goodbye or smiled. In the car park,we turned to look at the glorious QM2 in all her splendour, she looked as stunning as the brochure promised but the problem Cunard have is in their ineffectual training of many of their customer service staff. A point that was shared by two car-park attendants at Southampton who like us, want to feel proud and not embarrassed by everything that QM2 purports to be. It was clear to us that there are problems with staff, there is an ambivalence and an arrogance, many seemed so down hearted and down trodden - none of the staff we encountered seemed proud or happy to be doing their job, this unfortunately really is an unhappy ship as the staff we met simply do not do justice to the beautiful QM2.
Will we spend our notable occasion travelling transatlantic on QM2? The answer is, given what we have just experienced as frequent, global travellers,I very much doubt it. Perhaps Cunard Customer Service Delivery Staff should experience a secondment with the Customer Service Delivery staff on Celebrity Equinox - now that's what we call SERVICE.