I have just returned from the 29 day Caribbean Cruise on the above vessel. From the outset the vessel is a great asset and ambassador to the Cunard fleet and it is my firm resolve that I will cruise on the same vessel again on the same voyage later. The 'rank and file' staff [with a couple of exceptions] are the most positive feature of the vessel, but I felt that in common with other guests that they were in some ways browbeaten in terms of their work schedule.
A two hour process with many reception points closed - surely an ordeal especially for families with small children - of which there were many - it was comforting to notice that my fellow passengers in fact helped these families in the form of helping getting tea and coffee [which had to be bought] and general support. When embarked my luggage had arrived in my Stateroom  and I was greeted warmly and sincerely by my Stewardess [Anastasia].
Ideal for myself on my own who as a 'squaddie' in another life has known much worse - for two people I would image this would be somewhat claustrophobic. Well appointed and spotlessly clean as were all the others I was invited to socially. However the peace and calm of this was short-lived; on the move and at night more so, the balcony door however took on a life of its own with a loud rattle and whistle that was akin I imagine to standing on the footplate of a moving steam engine. The weather was out of the ordinary but as the Commodore repeated on more that one occasion that the ship was built with this type of these weather conditions in mind - the stability is one thing - the condition of the Stateroom and comfort of the passenger I presume is another! A prompt response from a very profession technical team slightly resolved this but a mix of tape and paper wedges plus an ear-plug discovered miraculously in the depths of my toilet-bag resolved this until New York; the return was slightly better as the weather was much calmer.
After retuning the television myself I was greeted with an interesting selection of programmes - the interest waned after a few days when I knew all the words to 'Vicar of Dibley', Victor Meldrew, 'Faulty Towers', 'The Office', 'Only Fools and Horses', Catherine Tate and a modern version of The Mikado and Falstaff - my French translation enhanced by Sherlock Holmes - my art appreciation forced fed on a mix of Clarendon Fine Art and Rolf Harris - my knowledge of the past history of the Cunard Fleet honed to such a degree as to the inside leg measurements of the keels of all the Fleet past and present. And some obscure Chef called Todd English ..........
I did not spend all my time in the Stateroom I can assure you it was enough to drive you out of it! Once the Guest Speakers came on board I have to admit this was a plus point.
No provision for tea of coffee either - it was noted how many flasks of were prevalent outside staterooms early in the morning and late at night - surely an in room provision would have eased the pressure on room service?
In essence a devisive and sly 'con' - in this day and age there is simply no way that this type of extortion should be allowed to continue. This was my most expensive outlay, as my account will reveal - at least four minutes absorbed by logging on and off and also in contradiction by the inference in the brochure that areas of the Ship were 'wi-fi free' areas. When I actually sat down and worked this out it revealed that this must earn well over $8000 per day - if this is linked to the Maritime Communications Network as an adjunct to the other Ships communication systems is should be free - all the internet users aboard have their own internet provider at home so this should also be a free charge system akin to establishments such as Starbucks ashore; I note also that the Crew also get charged, hence the rush to get free wi-fi access ashore.
Automated Guest Gratuity:
Having worked in the Food Service Industry at every level since 1964 I noted this system in place with a secretive and sly grin; on enquiry to the Ships Officers I was not given a clear and objective response as to how this was distributed. I duly completed a request form thus formally asking for it to be removed. On the Southampton - New York leg it was and then returned and then removed. New York to the Caribbean it returned and stayed there for a week - requests to the aloof Front Desk [with exception of Henry] was somewhat dismissive - I wrote to the Purser - she rang me with some story about a 'glitch in the system' during the re-fit - after a week it was removed after open letters were sent out [I presume] to all the passengers.
Excellent! A wide and varied menu well presented and maintained - the staff, well supervised and supported efficiently. One gripe - cold plates - hot food - hot plates - cold food. Chefs were extremely polite in spite of several occasions of being confronted by extremely rude guests - the carvery roast beef [Martin?] was the best I have ever tasted, even better than Simpson's and the Soups were excellent - [tall Afro Caribbean Chef]. The extraction system however allows the food smells to waft up and down the stair wells?
Dress code in the evening was non-existent - on one occasion I went back out of respect to put on a tie - to return to find the man in front walking to his table in a cardigan and baseball cap!
Breakfast poor - from experience the worst meal to deal with in any high class environment and I sympathise here - but no excuse for it being slow and tired - food warm - coffee and toast awful with the tea even worse with a terrible chlorine after taste.
Lunch - forget it - menu a 'mish mash' of tired dishes with no real menu balance or structure whatsoever resembling in many ways an America roadside Diner with a slight UK acknowledgment. The most dismal experience was when I was invited to the Solo Travellers Christmas Lunch - good start - Champagne and CanapÃ©s - then presented with a snack menu consisting of pasta, fish pie and the like - the response was that the main Christmas Fayre event was to be in the evening - a disgrace!
Dinner - on the whole good but the minute [poor] starters and the salad course option lent itself to the American palette - whoever designed the service system for the dining room needs to be spoken to - trays with plastic covers are carried the full length of the dining rooms by the poor waiting staff - females included - no wonder the food arrives luke-warm - on every occasion I had to request extra vegetables - sweets on the whole were good and well presented - coffee awful!
There seems to be a total lack of support to the waiting staff by the Chefs de Rang and the Management who seem to [with a couple of exceptions] prance around and get in the way instead of making themselves useful
Wines - a superb list - but very expensive, was well served by an experienced team - it is obvious that Kelly Schaeffer - whose wine tastings were also superb has got it right and 'Oliver' also.
Afternoon Tea - small tables - good service - scones like Mother used to make and very good pastries and sandwiches.
Todd English - no comment - bitterly disappointed - I could do better and can .............
On the whole good but the prices with the service charge was obscene - in common with others I soon had my own supply bought on shore which is your own fault entirely! Staff were pleasant and charming in all areas . The Pub Quiz questions were very good and thought provoking presented by Declan and Ellen [?] Pub Food excellent....
Resembled a Fol-de-Rol meets 'end of the pier' - cheesy - in the main poorly choreographed and utterly out of touch with its location - with the exception of David Copperfield - the solo artists were good however - the harpist an undiscovered talent as was the string quartet. The guest speakers were a good and wide spectrum of interest and well attended - the latter screening on television was an added bonus.
The Zone was a good respite area I gather from friends I met on-board - but perhaps a clear option to provide nursery products for babies could be offered before embarkation - my companions had to bring 6 boxes of paraphernalia with them!
There is a White Star Mission Statement that only pays lip service to reality. The staff with a few exceptions - are eager, polite and willing - the supervisory staff in The Britannia have to learn how to encourage, coax and get the best from their team by mutual respect- from experience I know how this is done and it does not happen there.
The Cunard Deposit Scheme - published with the daily newsletter - and the Office remained closed afterwards!
This was not meant to set out as a saga - but in common with my other fellow passengers it has cost me a great deal of money - I don't for a moment regret this but I have to consider whether or not it was 'value for money' and it was.