The decor of the ship is stunning and the quality of service on the trip, whether in our room, for meals, whether formal or otherwise and for excursions and entertainment were all quite outstanding. We thoroughly relaxed and enjoyed ourselves and made a number of new friends from far and wide.
HOWEVER, there was one aspect which was completely unacceptable - the embarkation and disembarkation arrangements. In Miami we had to wait for over an hour after the published time to board the coach taking us to the ship and, once on the quay, the boarding clearance arrangements were akin to what I imagine it must be like waiting for the start of a West End department store sale (and not helped afterwards by the boarding photograph being posed next to a very tatty and peeling lifebelt!).
Once on board, however, everything was fine and very enjoyable, as stated above, UNTIL it was time to disembark.
Absolute chaos is the only word I can use for what then happened - and yes, I do appreciate that this was the first time that the US Customs and Border Protection Agency had (apparently unexpectedly) insisted on doing clearance on board ship, as we were later told, but there can surely be no excuse for having to wait in a queue for 2 hours fifteen minutes after the time we were given to start queuing (and did). The queue itself eventually stretched from one end of the ship to the other and then half as much again!
As you will appreciate, this meant that it went through all three lift lobbies at least once and even obstructed the exit gangway. Not the memory I am sure which was intended to be the one with which passengers would leave.
What made the waiting infinitely more frustrating was the complete lack of any policing by any member of the crew to make sure that selfish passengers did not jump the queue wherever there was an opportunity to do so, as happened much too frequently. This was much to the anger of those others - the vast majority - queuing stoically for their turn to come.
Raised voices were the least of the problem - I myself saw one incident that became physical, a sorry spectacle if ever there was one after such a marvellous trip and I cannot imagine this was an isolated case. Anodyne apologies that eventually came over the tannoy, no matter how genuinely meant, did not help since they were not backed up by any visible action to keep things under control or improve the situation.
Whoever was or should have been responsible for avoiding this debacle will, I hope, already have been made very aware that an enormous amount of passenger goodwill was lost through their/his/her inaction.
We were hoping to be able to take further trips with Cunard, to Alaska, Norway and across the pond, for starters, but I for one will first need some reassurance that lessons have been learnt and that such incidents will not be repeated.