We decided to visit friends in New York. We usually fly both ways, but having missed the opportunity to travel on the Queen Elizabeth 2 when she was sailing we planned a trip on the Queen Mary 2.
Travel to Port of Embarkation
We decided to travel to Southampton by car, park near the port. Then on the return journey take the National Express bus from Terminal 5, Heathrow to Southampton Bus Station where we were met by Alternative Parking who took us back to their site to collect the car. I would strongly recommend them. They were very reasonable, efficient and friendly.
The stateroom 5004 on Deck 5 was very comfortable. Excellent bed with comfy pillows. Nice lighting, both bedside and central. Plenty of wardrobe space. I even managed to get both large suitcases into the wardrobes as well. A table with two small armchairs was handy for an in cabin breakfast. Bathroom was small but adequate with a good shower. Very restful neutral colours.
There is a wealth of Information available on the QM2, the Cunard website tells you every thing you could possibly want to know about the ship from public rooms to staterooms. It also describes how to get to the ship, parking at ports, an opportunity to ask many questions about the ship and a wealth of other information. I studied the site in detail before we sailed and thus had a very good plan of the ship in my mind. As we were right at the bow and the main restaurant was at the stern we got lots of good exercise going to and from meals! I must say this really is a beautiful ship! No garish decorations like some cruise lines I could mention. Just very good taste with a slant towards art deco, just like the original Queen Mary.
We dined in the Britannia restaurant on the upper level. We had a fixed 6.30pm dining which worked out well as it gave us plenty of time for post dinner activities. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner was excellent with very good quality food and lots of choice. You can take your own wine on board for a corkage fee of $24.00 per bottle. This worked out well for me as my wife does not drink and so the bottle lasted me the week. We had tea in the Queens Room most afternoons. This is a very pleasant experience, just like tea in a London grand hotel without the high costs. Tea was finger sandwiches, followed by pastries and then scones, jam and cream with proper tea. The Kings Court restaurants on Deck 7 offer relaxed casual dining with a choice of Carvery, Asian, Italian and a Chef's demo restaurant. The Asian was excellent and the Italian was a good place for an early morning coffee with danish pastry. Very useful after an early morning circuit of the Promenade Deck. Three circuits equal just over a mile. A good way to combat cooked breakfasts!
You are really spoilt for things to do. During the day there is the Planetarium with films from New York's Natural History Museum (very interesting). You can take part in lots of activities all described in the Daily Programme & Tonight's Entertainment delivered to your stateroom every evening for the next day. We found the excellent library a nice place to read, as it is right up in the bow on Deck 8 with lovely views forward of the sea. There is also a very good bookshop with all sorts of goodies to buy. Including a chart of the ship's voyage where you can enter the way-points across the Atlantic and then have it framed as a memento of the voyage. The Captain will sign this and any books you might buy.
Overall the service on board was excellent. The stateroom was always made up every day whilst we were at breakfast. Fresh towels were provided daily. The restaurant service was very good with two waiters at our table for two. One point here though. We had asked for a table for two for evening dining, however we found that we were close to another table for two which effectively made it a table for four. Whilst we did not mind this, if you really do want a table for two you need to ask for one on the balcony next to the rail surrounding it as then the next people will be behind you not beside you.
You are really spoilt for evening entertainment. You can go to a show with the Royal Cunard Singers & Dancers who were really fantastic! You can enjoy a pre or post dinner drink in one of the many bars. Our favourite was the Chart Room near to the Britannia restaurant. This is a very elegant Art Deco inspired room with comfortable chairs and couches and a great range of cocktails. The Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar was very attractive, but never seemed to have much clientele. Probably because a glass of champagne was around $20.00, but then it is Veuve Clicquot!
RADA on board presented "The Canterbury Tales" which we enjoyed. The pub quiz with prizes in the Golden Lion pub was fun. On two nights there was a Ball held in the Queens Room with music and dancing after dinner. You could also watch a film in the Illuminations Theatre. We made several groups of friends on board with whom we will stay in touch. As you do not visit ports on a Transatlantic voyage except for the destination, you do have more time to relax and enjoy the voyage and just talk!
Port & Shore Excursions
As we were staying with friends in New York we did not take any excursions in the city, however these are available and can be booked on board at the Excursions Desk.
The process for disembarkation is straightforward. You are given coloured labels the last night of the voyage to attach to your luggage.You need to pack and leave your suitcases in the corridor outside your stateroom before midnight. The colour of the labels determines when you will disembark in New York. Our labels were Orange which meant a disembarkation time of 10.30am which suited us fine. We waited in the Queens Lounge until called and then left the ship and walked into the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal and joined the line for Immigration. The process was fairly quick considering the number of passengers involved and then we found that there was no queue for the limousines but a long queue for taxis. A limo to downtown Manhattan was $40.00 including tolls, not much more than a taxi!