We embarked in New York City on 12/6/04. We spent the night before at the Embassy Suites at the World Trade Center in a room facing the Hudson River. There is nothing that can be said of the site of this ship sailing past you on the river, she looked like a city!
We had originally booked a B1 cabin and were astounded to be upgraded to a Q5 so we did not eat in the Britannia. The Grill was decorated in a conventional manner, not as opulent as the Britannia. The menu is the same but there is an additional menu of selections for dinner but you must order them at lunch.
Embarkation went well and was a separate line. We came earlier than was shown in our boarding info but we were processed and boarded even at an earlier time. The line for the other passengers was long but was moving along and most of the people were meeting new friends on the line.
Our cabin was wonderful! The service excellent and the balcony was much appreciated. As for comments about not hearing announcements in the cabin, most passengers prefer that. If you read the literature
in your cabin, you will find there is a TV Channel that also has the announcements so you don't need to stand in the hall!
We docked at three ports but much preferred taking the tenders. The beautiful view of the QM2 (sit topside in the tender) and the ports gave us the best pictures ever. The benefit of landing in the middle of town was fantastic - no taxis, no shuttles! However, anyone with a mobility problem requiring a motorized scooter will not get ashore when the ship does not dock. You can get onboard the tender (there is an elevator) and you can take a wheelchair that will collapse. As long as you can get on the tender, you will be okay. In all other ways the ship was very friendly to the disabled.
The offerings of the ship itself are superb. However, if you really want a floating Disneyland, this isn't the ship for you. There are no rock climbing walls, skating rinks, shopping centers, skateboard areas and dreadfully, no towel animals on your bed at night. I have taken 43 cruises and had never heard of them but I guess they please the children.
If you love the sea and passenger ships, this ship is a floating history lesson from all aspects. The lecturers were superb, the planetarium excellent, and the spa wonderful. The drinks were much less expensive than on other ships. You can even purchase the one or two week sticker for your card offering unlimited soft drinks. I believe it was $70 for two weeks.
Our good friend, met through the yahoo group, had a "in hull" balcony cabin. The cabin was furnished with the exact furniture we had in the Q5 except for one desk and the bar. We found it very acceptable. We ate lunch with him in the Britannia and were very pleased and loved the opulent feel.
This ship is almost perfect (they are missing a real Aerobic room). We did hear passengers complain that the ship was too big?! The Caribbean Islands were not much to talk about (this hasn't changed in 30 years). There wasn't much on the television. Entertainment was just "okay" and they definitely did not like the Shakespeare Play and best of all, who needed the large library!
I never went to the buffet. With the number of people who don't wash their hands after using the washrooms on ships, I have never wanted to take a chance on catching that stomach problem or a cold/flu. Doctors have told me the casino chips are the most disease harboring items on the ships so be careful! I heard no reports of illness on this cruise but why take a chance of ruining your vacation.
We didn't take children but did tour the children's area and it was delightful! We did this after some children were crying on the tenders, asking their parents why they had to get off the ship, they wanted to go back to the nannies! I now understand why. My husband even liked the water guns available in their own private pool area. Why can't we grown ups have them? They would definitely put out some of the cigars!
If you have taken cruises and don't like the nonsense of the stupid games (hairy chest and legs) and want a more refined experience, this is your ship. Children are well taken care of, adults are given many opportunities for entertainment either for learning or just being amused and although she is large, there are many areas where you can sit alone, read or just think while watching the sea. There are even religious services including one on Sunday given by the master of the ship. This is not to be missed and his officers provide a wonderful choir.
Enjoy this ship, and treat the staff like people. A thank you and a kind question about their families is very much appreciated. They work so hard for us at small salaries and send most of it to their families. We saw the tears in their eyes when they spoke of spending Christmas away from their homes but they were grateful to have a job.