This was our 2nd Cunard cruise this year, the first being in April on the Queen Elizabeth and could not have been further from the experience that we had on the QM2. I do not want to be a bore but the QE was exceptional in all but the disembarkation experience, so we were really excited by the QM2 no one more so than our 10 yr old son.
Embarkation was smooth and welcoming, with carols being sung by the tree in the main lobby and luggage arrived at the cabin as we did. The card and champagne welcoming us back were lovely personal touches. On closer inspection our bathroom failed our 'clean' test, but I consider myself fussy. Even so the faults were rectified gradually and the cabin staff were lovely. The cabin was fine, roomy and comfortable even with the extra sofa bed.
The Britannia Restaurant experience was mediocre, this was a Christmas cruise with 170 children so we were seated at a table of much older people all of whom made it clear that they were not pleased to be seated with a 10 year old! After a 'tip' we were moved but had to sit in a dingy corner on our own, somewhat of a defeat of our objective for choosing this cruise. We discovered that the information given on the booking forms is not passed to the dining room - surely essential when planning table seating? It was the attention to detail last time that made us book this cruise but it is the lack of it and lack of empathy this time that will stop us from doing so again.
The food quality was unpredictable as was the service. Some of the guests may have been happy to spend hours over breakfast and lunch but the constant delays in service were excessive with great gaps between courses. The staff, far from milling about were rushed off their feet and behind the scenes was clearly worse. Christmas lunch was uninspirational, we assumed saving the main event for dinner time. I choked on an elastic band in the fish pie, no one on the staff made any attempt to apologise or make up for this appalling experience, after interrogation by the Health and Safety officer as to the exact dimensions of the band (the waiter had whisked it away never to be seen again) I was told that I could see the ships doctor and that he might waive his fee! I decided to pass on that one! Nothing further came of this incident, but we received an invitation to the captains cocktail party where the food was spectacular but drinks service reserved for the 'preferred' guests. And yet two days later my husband found an orange plastic spatula in his carrots at dinner .......
Christmas dinner should have been spectacular (as New Years Eve did indeed turn out to be), but it was as dull as the lunch and just as unappealing. Cold and curled up pile of turkey with inedible Christmas Pudding, very poor. The waiter was embarrassed. The evening entertainment in the ballroom was interrupted with a presentation by the on board shopping advisor giving a talk about gemstones..... We called it a day!
On the whole the food was just too inconsistent and the good meals that included perfect souffles for over 1000 people made the insult to the passengers of providing so many mediocre meals so much worse. The Cunard chefs can certainly turn out excellent food, they just don't seem to be able to do so regularly!
Todd English, the much hyped speciality restaurant, felt more to us like the equivalent of TGi Fridays, big portions of mediocre food served in what dId at least seem an appealing environment. My scallops were like squash balls and even after returning the first plate the second plate showed little improvement. The food was not a patch on the Verandah Restaurant on the QE and not worthy of the additional charges made. Quite clearly not designed to cater for European tastes.
The Kings Court Buffet was a scrum at popular times, but the food was hot and edible, something missing in the Britannia. The staff here were by far the most unhappy. The queue at the 'chef's galley' was always a nightmare that no one seemed to get a grip of regardless of the numerous and agitated complaints made. There was simply no evidence of leadership. This is not my preferred restaurant as we chose this holiday for the dining experience. Incidentally when my husband asked for a drink he was laughed at and told to find a sommelier, which led to complaint directly to the hotel services manager who was in the restaurant for his own dinner! Understandably we then received service and we were given the utmost attention whenever we went into the buffet area, it's unfortunate that only after a complaint to the top did we get service.
In the evening the Lotus Restaurant was exceptional while the Piazza a let down, back to the inconsistency, but the dining times were restricted to last seating at 9.30, quite absurd really, and part of the clear focus on the older generation and the Americans that mostly eat early.
Entertainment and 'The Zone' (kids club).
The staff were a mixed bag, the entertainment director faultless remembering our sons name from day one, let down by a dreadful kids club. Here we were forced to complain because of the poor behaviour of the staff and were told that it was because the regular kids club staff were mostly on holiday and had been substituted with unhappy graduates that had been unable to secure their preferred work. Absurd as clearly Christmas must be a busy time for The Zone! The activities for boys of our child's age were frankly uninspirational which resulted in him and his mates spending most of their on board time in the pool. This led to complaints from the adults that feel that children should not be in the pool on deck 12, or even the minnows on deck 6, the staff were noticeably reluctant to straighten out the skirmishes which resulted in real stress for the mums and dads of these boys, quite unnecessary. As was the fact that the children's team were miserable even on Christmas Day, my film of the day evidences this better than any words. The staff were seen shouting at children and refusing to allow them to play with the toys as they HAD to watch a movie!
The entertainment in the evenings was also uninspirational to say the least, too many "club" acts and opera type singing, we had to question whether the entertainment staff knew that there were families on the ship, did they notice that the theatre was never more than just over half full.....? The entertainment was more Butlins than White Star, only the location was different. We were told that on past Christmas cruises there had been some big names, looks like more cost cutting. The pub quizzes were run by an intellectually void yob while the music in the Commodore Club and Chart Room was quite lovely and at times inspirational, these unlike the pub set the scene well and the children just seemed to know what was expected of them in here. The Cunard Big Band were superb, we even gave ballroom dancing a whirl what fun, so were Vibz the band and they played exceptionally especially on New Years Eve getting the crowd going.
All of the bars were good, leaving aside the somewhat strange atmosphere in the Golden Lion, strictly for the old lags and the sight seeing groups. The service in the Commodore Club was always impeccable and the staff deserve a special thank you.
Life boat drill, normally a painless experience except when the food and beverage manager is in charge of your station and you happen to stand in the wrong place. My husband a chunky six footer
was roughly manhandled with no apology from one place to another. We were too shocked to say or do anything but I suspect that his attitude was responsible for such a miserable food and beverage experience overall. Similarly the attitude and behaviour of the woman in the library/book shop. When returning a book from the library I was appalled by the Jabba the Hut impersonator who barely glanced up while demanding that I take the book to the returns counter, when I popped it down where I believed I had been directed I was snarled at and told that i would be charged for the book unless I replaced it in the correct place...... Jabba was undeterred when I enquired as to her line manager. This was a general attitude amongst the crew!
The Spa, again exceptional as were the team here, the treatments were wonderful and not pricey when compared with on land resorts. There was the time issue but this was more the company maximising the dollar than the staff. But it is worth noting that they add 15 percent to your bill too, this is how they pay the staff, a crime when you consider the cost of the cruise.
Excursions: these are pushed at every opportunity but my are they expensive. We paid 20 dollars each for a tour of Barbados from a great taxi driver in the port, the same was being charged by the ship was more than 3 times this. Similar was the experience in St Lucia, not to mention the snorkeling and rib ride that was changed to just a short rib ride leaving more time for shopping! We went on the ship's tour to the 7 sisters waterfall but actually the tour was led by a bored and unhappy man who warmed up when I flashed a few dollars at him to entertain my son. It transpired that little of the fee paid went to the driver. Eva on the tour desk couldn't have been less friendly or helpful in any circumstances, another sparkling example of the Famous White Star Service. I enquired which tours were most suitable for a 10 year old boy and she sneered and said none before going back to her phone.
The ship stops at nothing to promote their preferred shops, but these shops pay a premium to Cunard which I suspect has to be recovered from somewhere..... Back to the destinations they all have the same shops in smaller or larger ranges and the prices were clearly fixed, bargains seemed unlikely. We purchased a camera which was exactly the same price as New York minus the tax, but the HD card was more expensive overall it would have been less in New York. The beaches in Grenada, Barbados and Tortola were the most spectacular but beware of excursions organised by the ship it's cheaper to go it alone.
Finally back to the 'child haters', the zimmer users, the kids zone staff, the 60+'s in fact many of our fellow passengers seemed to have failed to take account of the fact that this was Christmas and Christmas is for children especially when they pay their fare just as the adults do. It's true that their needs are a bit different but why should they be sneered at and complained about at every turn? We experienced people on motorised scooters positively charging at the kids and other 'able bodied' passengers. If I were generous I might say that they had 'youth envy' but I don't feel generous as they seemed to want us to pack off the children to The Zone while on the whole they pushed, shoved and moaned their way around the ship. apologies to the lovely senior citizens that were quite the opposite but as even they agree they are in the minority. So beware if you are considering taking children on this Cunard Ships. But even us younger adults are not immune; my husband as I said is not a small chap but he is a gentle and studiously polite man. At the deck party he was pushed out of the way not once but twice by the same rude old man determined to get at the profiteroles, who then refused to apologise!
Overall the staff of QM2 just lacked the certain something that had been so apparent on QE, this is driven by the clear management problems as some of the officers are brutish and quite simply rude to everyone regardless. The staff were professional but too impersonal, over stretched, poorly led by officers that passed the buck and generally overworked (lots of examples of either cost cutting or recruitment issues). Cunard confuses us by promoting itself as a modern day olde world when in fact it is poorly disguising the fact that it is there to extract every dollar possible in every way possible. There is in my opinion a lack of honesty and while on the face of it Cunard are great value they are actually much more expensive for not enough of what you are told you will receive.
You are forgiven for thinking that we are just another group of moaners, we went with the intention of having a fantastic time as we had on the QE but the ship just let itself down over and over again, and it is only my sense of decency that I am not quoting some of the more honest officers on board. Cunard seem to have overlooked the fact that their future depends on the youth of today, we shall be making different plans for our next holiday along with a number of other families (all repeat cruisers). We had a great time but only because we were pushed to the other families with 10ish year old boys, furthermore we look forward to seeing them later this year.