I booked the Q1 Balmoral Suite on the 2011-12 holiday cruise to be able to finish a writing project without distraction. This suited my purpose perfectly and the voyage was a success. This review is intended to assist those considering one of the better Queens Grill Suites, about which there is relatively little information online. Here are the main points:
-QM2 is too large to duplicate the more up-market experience available on Regent Seven Seas, Silversea, Seaborne, etc. However, the Queens Grill experience is distinct. If you are considering one of the top Queens Grill suites, don't be put off by the negative reviews, most of which are for standard cabins.
-Q1 has a distinct advantage over Q2, which is a wall of side windows, which completely changes the brightness, cheerfulness and interest of the cabin. The terrace is also considerably larger. If you are going to pay for Q2, I would recommend that you pay the extra for Q1.
-The main drawback of the Q1 and Q2 suites is their location overlooking the busy (on a cruise) 8th deck pool area. This does allow you to hear the music and catch some of the fun of the "sail away" parties without having to leave your suite, but you are in full view of those both below and above and have to retreat deep toward the rear and corners of the terrace to achieve any privacy.
-There was no special arrangement for Q1/2/3 passengers upon arrival at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, so one deals with luggage, and waits in security lines, with the general pool of passengers. After this, I was directed to a special Queen Grill check in desk, where I was identified as a Q1 passenger and then escorted quickly through lines directly to the cabin. Thus embarkation was nice and relatively painless, but it could have been even better. In many good international airlines, first class pax call when they are five minutes out from the terminal and are met at the curb by someone who then takes care of the luggage and escorts you through the whole process.
-The service in the suite was excellent. The butler was polite, friendly, efficient, accommodating, sensitive and altogether terrific. I ate most meals in the suite while working, had him bring breakfast in three separate courses, and had all sorts of special requirements relating to my work. He handled them graciously.
-The suite is well laid out and well furnished. Closet space and bathroom on second level are wonderful. The whole thing is extremely comfortable. (The second floor of the Balmoral Suite has a very loud creaking sound whenever the ship is in motion. I had to wear ear-plugs. This should be fixed.)
-The Queens Grill restaurant is well run, well staffed and produces excellent results. When you stay in a Q1 suite the food you eat in the cabin comes from the Queens Grill restaurant (and most of my meals were taken in the apartment). The QG restaurant needs to meet many different expectations and does it well. They stock the ingredients and have the expertise to meet most any culinary preference. They were warm and welcoming from top to bottom.
-I had some special requirements for furnishings and set up related to my work, and these were handled efficiently and without complaint by housekeeping in advance of my arrival.
-I thought that it was interesting that while taking care of all requests, the ship did not otherwise reach out proactively in any way to those of us staying in the top suites. We were not offered a tour of the ship, an audience with the Commodore (other than in the company of hundreds of others), or even a hello from the hotel manager to see if everything was OK. This is not a complaint, but an indication to me that Cunard, pretty much focused on the mass-market business of filling up thousands of cabins, is not devoting much energy to cultivating high-end customers.
BOTTOM LINE: You will be on a ship with thousands of fellow passengers, and thus the overall experience will never feel authentically up-market. But the QM2 is an engineering marvel that is worth experiencing, and if you can afford it, a Q1 suite is the way to go.