Queen Elizabeth -- From Southampton to New York -- 10th to 18th Jan 2012
This was our first time on any Cunard Ship, in this case the Queen Elizabeth, and our first time sailing across the Atlantic. We were to sail out of Southampton and fly back to Heathrow. This leaves us with a problem of where to leave the car -- at Southampton or Heathrow. So we decided to drive down to Heathrow, stay overnight in a Hotel then drive to Q-Park, where we left the car ready for our arrival back in the UK. We were then transported to Heathrow Airport, Terminal 3, to catch Cunard's Coach to Southampton.
We arrived at Southampton about 1230 hours. The cases were taken to our cabin by the Baggage Handlers and we boarded Queen Elizabeth shortly after 1330 hours. The Wife was overwhelmed with the size of our cabin -- 6108 - and very large 'L' shaped balcony. After drinking our complimentary bottle of champagne we then headed for the Lido restaurant for lunch. After which we wandered around to familiarise ourselves with each deck and the facilities. We noted the two outside pools were too cold to use at any time during the crossing. The mid ships pool should have been covered over to keep the warmth inside the pool area as the only other option was the indoor Spa pool which was very small and so overcrowded. No swimming on this Transatlantic Crossing then!
As we left Southampton, Queen Mary 2 was just in front and there was a huge display of fireworks to help send both ships on their way. The QE was starting her world cruise by crossing the Atlantic. The QM2 was off towards Africa. Because our cabin was on the Port side we could see the fireworks from our very large balcony on deck six.
We were allocated a table for six, first sitting, in the Britannia Restaurant and met our dining companions on the second night which was a formal dress night. We had three formal nights, three semi-formal nights and two smart casual dress nights and were expected to adhere to the dress code for the whole evening. After each evening meal we made our way to the Theatre where we were entertained by an operetta singer, clarinet player, comedian and the Cunard Show team who were excellent. During the day we walked around the shops (very expensive) attended various seminars and learnt to dance ballroom and Latin dances. There was a well stocked library, a room full of computers for internet access (at 50p per minute), art displays which could be purchased ($800 and upwards), bingo ($20), deck games, cookery demos, spa treatments and hairdo's (from $35), gym and fitness classes.
Up until Friday 13th January 2012 we had sunny weather all day with moderate seas and an air temperature of 14 degrees Celsius. On the Friday, we hit the 'lumpy seas' as Captain Wells described them. Lumpy was an underestimation. The seas were 4.5 metres high and splashing right over the bow to the top decks. The poor Queen was shuddering and causing banging and squeaking noises all night long. It was difficult to stand up and even more difficult to keep the wine in the glasses and the food on the table during the evening meal. As a result the Captain slowed down to 10 knots from 22 knots which made us 7 hours late for our arrival in New York. This completely messed up our meeting with our Manhattan Relatives planned for 1100 hours at Pier 90. A couple of days before arriving in New York we also had ice and snow which restricted all the activities to those held indoors only. By the weekend the seas had calmed down and we were getting used to the rattles, bangs, and squeaks on board as the Queen rode the smaller three metre waves.
Our course into New York was described affectively by the second in command right from the entrance to the Bay, under the Verazzano Bridge, past The Statue of Liberty and into Pier 90 on the Eastern side of Manhattan. Deck five was opened up at the front of the ship for anyone wishing to watch the journey in the open air. For those who wanted to keep warm, the Commodore Club on deck 10 was a more sensible place to view everything.
We were then heading for a very frustrating disembarkation shortly after docking. The US Customs wanted everyone, all 1800 people, to provide fingerprints, from both hands, as well as passport checks. This was further delayed by letting those on an Excursion leave first followed by a restricted flow through to Customs, deck by deck. Trying to inform our Relatives of the delays was impossible as our mobile phone didn't work and neither did the ship's telephone. So, not until 1530 hours could we finally land and meet our Relatives. It's a funny feeling walking on terra firma after seven days at sea.
We were also informed that the next day, the final day on board would mean we had to get off the ship at 0800 hours. It was chaos as people were shoving and pushing to beat the queue and load suitcases onto coaches. All the coaches were full and so extra ones had to be ushered in. All this in freezing cold winds blowing down our necks. The Coach Staff, who were coordinating passengers onto the coaches, didn't have a clue as to who was boarding which coach and kept saying British Airways only. We were on a Virgin flight. During the subsequent boring six hour tour of Manhattan we had only one hour to look at the shops and that was including lunch time. My Wife was very angry about this as her main aim for the trip was to visit places she once new and to shop in New York. Finally we arrived at JFK Airport and then had to wait four hours for our flight to Heathrow. A sad ending to an otherwise enjoyable cruise.
Quality of Food
We preferred breakfast via room service or in the Lido Restaurant. Lunch was normally taken in The Lido and the evening meal in the Britannia. The food choice was excellent in all cases.
Harpists, pianists, guitarists and string quartets were playing all the time at various points on the Ship and during the evening meal. The evening shows were good except for the plays. Theatre boxes were available at $170 per box including drinks but their view of the stage must have been restricted.
We had to cancel the Evening Tour due to the late arrival in port. The freebee tour, taking us to the airport, was a time wasting event. The Coach Rep was an American Comedienne who spoke in an incomprehensible accent.
The Cabin Steward brought us the wrong case and didn't provide tissues until three days at sea. In fact most of the Staff were aloof and did not engage in any conversation with the Passengers. This is unlike any other cruise where Staff have been very accommodating and friendly.
We were not involved in many activities either because they were of no interest or there was an extra cost. We did enjoy the dance lessons, line dancing and some of the seminars. The shops were not worth the space they occupied because everything was mortally expensive and not particularly interesting.
Cabins -- 6108 was very large, the size of a Princess suite, with a large shower and very large 'L' shaped balcony. The Wife was impressed.
Having cruised fourteen times before I would rate the QE about three star. Poor communication, poor forward planning and organisation let the Cruise down badly.