This was our second Transatlantic crossing on the QM2 this year, following an eastbound crossing in April (see "Royal Wedding at Sea"). After a total of three voyages on this ship, I have to say it has become my favourite. In this review, I will only focus on what was different from our April crossing.
The adventure started off badly. There was a miscommunication between my travel agent and Cunard (will never know who was at fault), and despite our having purchased a transfer from Gatwick to the pier at Southampton, no one from Cunard was at the airport (South Terminal) to greet us, and after waiting for 90 minutes and some frantic phone calls, the Cunard rep finally came over from the North Terminal and informed us that all passengers had now left for the ship. But he pleasantly agreed to hire a private car to get us there, and we arrived alongside at 1:45 pm. The check-in lines were long and slow, and it took us just over an hour to get on the ship.
Once on the ship, things improved substantially, with one exception (well, maybe two!) noted below. We had purchased an A3 cabin on Deck 8 back in the summer. Within a few weeks, we had been upgraded to an A2 on Deck 11. Then just before we left for England, one week before the cruise was to begin, we got another upgrade, this time to an AA Britannia Club cabin on Deck 12. I was more than delighted with this upgrade. When we got to our cabin, everything was fine and our luggage was already there. One problem - some other guest must have had a bottle of red wine in his/her luggage and it had broken. The red wine seeped through my wife's suitcase and stained a number of articles of clothing. We called our excellent room steward Richard right away and he took the items off to be cleaned at no cost to us. They were returned the next day absolutely spotless. We eagerly anticipated our first meal in the Britannia Club dining room - a new experience for us. For those unfamiliar with this category (AA), it gives you access to two small private rooms at the rear of the Britannia Dining room (separate entrance off Stairway A). Here you have your own table for the entire cruise - all three meals) and you can arrive any time you want for dinner between 6:30 and 9). There are many two-tops, which is always our preference, and it was so nice not to have to fight for one for breakfast and lunch like you do in the big dining room. We ate all of our meals there, and were totally pleased with the service and the food. After the second day, the Maitre D' even moved us to a better table location by the window.
I believe you get the most important benefit of being in the Grills categories, without the extra cost,by being in Britannia Club. That is, the freedom to dine when you want at your own table. And better service in the Dining room as well. Here, the Assistant Waiters seem to help out at whatever table needs attention, rather than being assigned to the same tables as the senior Waiter. Yes, the cabins in the AA class are the same as in the A's, which are perfectly fine for us. It will be hard for us to not go this way the next time we sail on QM2, which I am sure is what Cunard hoped when they gave us the upgrade.
The second problem, as I referred to above, was that my wife became ill shortly after midnight on the first night. I insisted she go to the Medical Centre the next morning and they confirmed she had severe gastroenteritis. This same problem happened in exactly the same way two years ago on our first QM2 crossing, except she did not seek medical attention that time, and was ill for four days and stayed in her cabin. She was quarantined for two days, but felt fine after 24 hours, thanks to the medication she received in the medical centre. But you have to wonder why she got ill in the first 24 hours on two out of three voyages on QM2. They apparently did have an outbreak the previous cruise, but not on our deck, according to our Room Steward. I believe she contracted something at the life boat drill, which for us was in the fitness centre. We were sitting on the stationary bicycles and she may have picked up some germs there, as we do not recall sanitizing our hands after that and then headed back to our room to enjoy the strawberries they had left for us, of course eating them with our hands. So be warned, never touch food unless you have disinfected your hands, which we did on every other occasion with no further problems.
The rest of the cruise was near perfect. The weather outside was surprisingly warm and sunny and we enjoyed many walks on the promenade deck when it wasn't too windy. It was quite rough on a couple of days, but this ship handles rough water beautifully. There was a nice mix of people on board - about 1600 Brits, 400 Americans, 80 Canadians, 40 Germans and a smattering of other nationalities. I like the feel of the British influence compared to the other cruise lines we have been on.
The entertainment was a mixed bag. We had seen several of the shows in the Royal Court Theatre on our spring crossing, so that was a disappointment. I somehow expected they would use different shows on a westbound vs. an eastbound crossing. The performances by the RADA crew were identical to our previous voyage. I did thoroughly enjoy the 3D presentation of Carmen by the Royal Opera Company in the Illuminations theatre. The enrichment lectures, also held in Illuminations were fantastic. Roger McGuinn. lead singer of the Byrds, was excellent in his three presentations. I was spellbound by the presentations of Rick Reynolds, a British Airways pilot who chronicled the birth,operation and "assassination" of the Concorde. His presentations were SRO. Also very entertaining, surprisingly, were the four lectures by
Dr. Ken Johnston, a geologist, who spoke on plate tectonics, volcanoes, earthquakes, and the creation of islands.
The ship itself was in pristine condition for the most part. The love seat in our cabin had the paint worn off on the arms, and the chairs in the Britannia Club dining room had seen better days, but those were the only two things that caught my attention.
As I have written before, if you have the time this is a fabulous way to get from England to New York. I can't wait to do it again. Thanks Cunard for a
Disembarkation was smooth, except for some reason we waited on our coach for 45 minutes for two passengers, who never showed up. No one would give us an explanation of why they were putting the flights of 38 passengers at risk for the sake of 2 people. After the coach having everyone else on board at 8:45, we finally left at 9:30 for Newark International Airport and got there in 45 minutes.