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6 Cunard Mexican Riviera Cruise Reviews

WHITE STAR SERVICE (Part 2) We have just finished our second cruise on Cunard's Queen Victoria. We had tried this cruise line once before (please read White Star Service Part 1 August 2008). This will give you a very unbiased ... Read More
WHITE STAR SERVICE (Part 2) We have just finished our second cruise on Cunard's Queen Victoria. We had tried this cruise line once before (please read White Star Service Part 1 August 2008). This will give you a very unbiased report of our first voyage out of Southampton. Quick synopsis is that we really thought the name CUNARD stood for what should be the best on the seas, especially in food and service. We were not overly happy with what we received, but, this year, thought "Why not try the "Queen's Grill"? We had heard that this was THE food and service of Cunard! So as we were contemplating travelling on the Queen Mary 2 later in the year, we decided to take a five day four night cruise out of Los Angeles to see what the mystique of the "Queen's Grill" was. We arrived one half hour before the ship could be boarded in San Pedro. Sorry to say that the CUNARD personnel (rental personnel), were not in sync with mgt and really didn't have much of a clue as to how and where passengers should go. We asked about a separate line for "Queen's Grill" passengers and were just told to take a seat. After I walked around a bit, I found a line for Grill passengers. After starting to get into this line, we were told that we would have to sit down and wait. After we sat down, another person came by and said "Grill passengers get in line". Of course after we did, another woman came up and reprimanded the first one for telling us to get in line. The check in process was one of the poorest we have ever had with any of the many liners that we have been on. As we had been on the ship before, we knew exactly where to find our "Queen's Grill" Suite and headed there. The Suite was nice with good amenities. We think the Holland America Deluxe Verandah Suites have a better feel, but that's our opinion. Plenty of closet space, nice bathroom (although lighting is terrible). Met our Butler (who is basically the same cabin steward you get with ANY cabin on the ship, but gets to wear a Tux!) Was pleasant and took care of the few things we asked for. Went to the "Queen's Grill" for our first luncheon. Met by the Maitre D', Osman, and shown to our table. NOW the meat of this review really is about food and service so here goes. Let's put it this way....the truth needs to be heard...Soylent Green is PEOPLE, The is no Easter Bunny, Darth Vader is Luke's father and you get the same food in the "Queen's Grille" as you get in the main dining room! There, it has been said! We actually thought that there would be a kitchen with a grill chef that would prepare "special foods" similar to the BLU dining Rooms on the Solstice class Celebrity ships. Guess there must be an elevator to the 2nd deck main kitchen to pick up your food (couldn't get a kitchen tour, imagine that ) .There ARE 10 Ala carte items that you can order from, but nothing special or out of the norm. Amazing that so many guests were eating the Caviar (which is actually so cheap that persons who know what good caviar is, would not eat this!). So first lunch, order apps and Entrees. Takes one and a half hours to get! Nobody in the dining room except A LOT of servers, Maitre D's and asst Maitre Ds'! Everything is so portion controlled that you have to ask for everything. Each meal you are only allotted one butter pat per person. You MUST ASK to get more. Water is never poured from a pitcher, they take your glass and bring it back (but you have to ask for more water when you want it). Rolls have become so tiny that two equal one of what used to be served. AND, of course, you have to ASK to get another roll. In the main dining rooms, the servers would know automatically after the first day what your preferences were (i.e., always OJ for breakfast, decaf coffee or tea, etc.) Never happened each day, with a smile, was like we had never existed the day before (imagine that for servers who only have about ten persons to wait on.), Same lunch was better in main dining room (oops, forgot, it IS the main dining room food...just has to come up 8-9 decks!) SO, plates cold, food slightly warm. Dinners thru the week were okay, but again, nothing special, Plates cold and food luke warm. Only hot food all week was night before getting off and wife had Duck flambE! (they did heat the duck for thirty seconds before soaking in flaming Grand Marnier ). Breakfasts again, had to ask for more butter, had to ask for coffee and refills, had to ask for croissants (is this REALLY service?) Do not try the desserts as they are truly the most pathetic of the food groups. Amazing when your "server" does not know what the breads of the evening are, just "would you like a white roll or a brown roll?" Food is auctioned off instead of knowing that guest number one gets the chicken and guest number two gets the steak. I understand this with new servers in the main dining room, but in the "Queen's Grill"? Most foods were very bland, again guessing this is what the Cunard following is used to. Tried the Buffet once for breakfast and once for lunch. Will say that this is perhaps the most terrible buffet at sea! I know the average age of a Cunardian is 70 or over (we are almost 60), but please, go benchmark some other lines and come up with better than this! Even the parent company, CARNIVAL, has better than this! Rarely was the buffet well stocked and the set up is just so incredibly poor that it is very difficult for the aged passengers even to get around. Although I did not think the wine list was very good, I will note that "PETER", our wine steward, was very accommodating. If you read my initial Part one review, you will note that we really enjoyed Todd English. Alas, we did not book this time as we thought "Queen's Grill" would be something special, possibly even better. NOT!! BEST HOT FOOD, BEST SERVICE....Golden Lion's Pub..what a shame but this food is actually cooked to order and comes to your table hot and tasty. We enjoyed Tea on our first cruise and looked forward to this event on this cruise. Instead of having tea in the magnificent Queens Room Ballroom (the best dancing ballroom at sea), we decided to have tea, where else, the QUEEN'S GRILL LOUNGE! This was handled by the Princess Grille crew, who again seemed like they just got on the ship! There was no rhythm or direction to the service. We got some of the items, but not others! I could have asked, but just waited to see what was going to happen. After about thirty minutes, someone finally offered us scones (just as we were about done!). Another secret, but promise you won't tell...PRINCESS GRILL food is just like the QUEENS GRILL food...both the same food from the Britannia restaurant where you could pay thousands less to eat mediocrity! Now, I DO realize that ships have to make money and I DO understand the food service business as I have proudly been part of it for forty years. I understand efficiencies in this day and age and I understand a good food cost. I manage thirty five restaurants and have to watch these things on a daily basis. When my Eggs Benedict Canadian Bacon is so thin that I can't imagine how they got it off the meat slicer, well, it's time to find another line. Truly, buyer beware....Do not be duped into the mystique of the GRILL restaurants. You can get much better on the Crystal Ships, the Solstice class Celebrity ships, and yes, even the newer Holland America ships (owned again by Carnival). Concierge in Queen's Grill Lounge did not seem to be very knowledgeable about the ship...maybe she was new. Upon debarkation, we were seated in "Queen's Grill Lounge". No pastries, coffee, tea, water etc. offered to departing guests like so many other lines that we have been on do. I realize there is a vast majority of persons that are loyal to the Cunard "Legend" and we had hoped to be one of those. Unfortunately, it was not to be. We have cancelled our "Princess Grill" experience on the Queen Mary 2 and will stay with lines who continue to be contemporary both in food and service. IF you really need to save a few dollars, stop putting dollies and parsley on every plate. The most amazing part of this voyage was that absolutely NO comment cards were given out on this voyage. Obviously, Cunard and Carnival, wanted to forget about this trip too! Read Less
Sail Date February 2011
Queen Victoria Voyage 105, Los Angeles-Ensenada-Los Angeles, February 2011. This was a short 4 day sampler cruise, drawing many passengers from the US West Coast. This cruise was per day, the most expensive I have ever taken, and chosen ... Read More
Queen Victoria Voyage 105, Los Angeles-Ensenada-Los Angeles, February 2011. This was a short 4 day sampler cruise, drawing many passengers from the US West Coast. This cruise was per day, the most expensive I have ever taken, and chosen because of Cunard's brochure hype about dancing. I therefore applied high standards to the dance environment on the ship. I was able to obtain information from passengers who had been on the previous Hawaii cruise, and also from experienced Cunarders, to verify my observations. Music and Dancing. The Queens Room is a large, two-deck high area supposedly based on one of Queen Victoria's residences The extra height, opening into the next deck, seems to help air circulation when full. The dance floor is about 25' x 50'. It is the most attractive ballroom I have seen on a ship. Hemispheres is located on Deck 10, behind the Commodore Club. Although much small than the Queens Room, is is also an attractive dance venue. The dance floor is large enough for Latin but unfortunately, the floor while wooden, includes a metal inlay. As one might expect, the metal and wood are shrinking at different rates, resulting is some rather uncomfortable raised edges. The following is the text of a letter sent to Cunard regarding the music. I was recently on Queen Victoria V105, Ensenada. I chose this trip over Cunard's competitors (notably, Cunard's sister line Costa) based on the promise of good music and dancing. I am pleased to report the recorded music played between band sets was excellent. While the DJ was not a dancer and did not always get the mix quite right, it was among the best I have ever heard on a ship. Whoever is responsible deserves a good bonus. However, I am being generous to say the Queens Room Orchestra was a disappointment. What music was within British Dance Council tempo ranges, was often by accident, something else having been announced. The noise emanating from the wind section was inexplicable. Several bars into the music, one of the horns would start inane tootling, totally out of sync with the tempo. Almost all of the complaints I heard about off-tempo music actually originated there. Even experienced dancers found it difficult to follow, the drummer not being very strong either. The Orchestra also had the usual problem of playing on and on; one passenger timed an already too-fast cha-cha at 7 minutes. As a Carnival shareholder, I question what cost/benefit calculation is being done, to justify such mediocre music. I was told that voyage V104, passengers walked out in disgust, leaving the band to play to an empty room. I understand some easy-listening, non-dance music is required, but what is the demand for "bossas" and "shuffles", whatever they are? The band Changez was capable of decent Latin rhythms, even some nice ballroom, when they tried, although they often slipped into Caribbean-y mishmash for 20 or 30 minutes at a time. I like many things about the Queen Victoria, but with such unreliable music, I cannot recommend it to any of the dance groups I travel with. The Commodore Club is not a dance venue, although it is one of the most attractive lounges at sea. Food The menu and portion sizes are geared to British tastes. I was very satisfied with the food, but there were just a few too many not-quite-right issues to warrant an unqualified 5. Pub lunch is available in the Golden Lion, and is very popular. Cabins Cunard operates a three-class system. Each class has its own restaurant. Queens Grill and Princess Grill are open seating, Britannia is fixed dining. The Grills also have a (small) reserved lounge and deck area. Otherwise, the ship is open to all. I was traveling in Britannia class. I found my cabin to be nearly identical to most others I have traveled in, one notable item being a shortage of shelves in the bathroom. Dress Code- When Cunard says formal, they mean it: tuxedo, or a dark suit. Jackets required every night in the restaurant (not the buffet). For a short, US West Coast sailing, the dress code was well respected, I saw only one t-shirt/blue jeans. This is apparently better than a UK Bank Holiday cruise. Activities- As this was a very short cruise, only a few activities were scheduled. There were no Captain's receptions. Value For Money- Average, with the proviso that the live music did not live up to the brochure hype. For me, that meant the cruise was not worthwhile. Read Less
Sail Date February 2011
The inaugural tandem trans-Atlantic crossing by Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth 2 was a wonderful experience that shall not likely be repeated in my lifetime. I am so glad that I sailed on this wonderful and grand true ocean liner, and I ... Read More
The inaugural tandem trans-Atlantic crossing by Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth 2 was a wonderful experience that shall not likely be repeated in my lifetime. I am so glad that I sailed on this wonderful and grand true ocean liner, and I am thrilled with the service in first class, and with our suite and superb treatment by all staff. QM2 is a winner, and our family shall sail on her again. We were in the first class Queen's Grill of the QM2, and enjoyed our private dining room and lounge, as well as a massive (48 sq meter) cabin with all the amenities. Staff was almost universally attentive, well-trained and polished. There was an initial problem with the dining staff, but it was fixed, and everything became perfect and monitored. 25 April 2004, Sunday QM2 was available for boarding at noon, but was not scheduled to depart until 19:30. We arrived at the pier at about 13:00. Police controlled the entrance, and it was slow going. There were red-suited trumpeters at the doorway to the pier. Cunard had decorated the entire check-in area with Cunard pictures and paintings and ribbons. We went strait to the Grill-class check-in desks and were seen to immediately. Pam still did not know about the Queen's Grill room, thinking we were still only in Princess Grill. It was instant boarding for us. Only once when we were in our massive suite did I tell Pam that this was actually Queen's Grill and not Princess. There is a great deal of jumping up and down. She bounces. I am very pleased. I do not know how I managed to keep this a secret for nearly two years. Amazing. Our room is fantastic, and we play in and with everything. The room is already stocked with three bottles of champagne, including Moet & Chandon. Once the immediate novelty of a first class stateroom and a butler and sub-butler and concierge wore off, we then went to check out our table in the Queen's Grill private dining room, and discovered they were serving a late lunch for any starving first class passengers. We were starving, having not eaten since 10:30 that morning. The best part of first class service was immediately demonstrated when one of our three waiters placed a plate of wheat-free bread beside Pam without being asked. They were ready for her special dietary needs. What strikes us again and again is that this is really a massive ship, with more than enough room for everyone. There are about 2500 passengers aboard for this historic crossing. But even with this vast number (not the largest passenger compliment at sea, but the largest passenger space ratio for a large ship: 57.25) there is always room to be alone. And it is off to dinner at 18:00: early so that we can eat and get outside for the sail away and the fireworks. QM2 pushes back from the pier at 19:30 with mighty blasts from the giant horns. QE2 remains at her pier until we have moved down the Hudson River. The cold is ripping at us, but there are probably 2000 people on deck to see the fireworks. We are not disappointed. From barges in the river are set off a beautifully choreographed display at 20:30. QE2 now passes us, and we head out under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and into the Atlantic Ocean. The historic tandem crossing is now underway. The journey is between 5650 and 5920 km depending on route. 26 April, Monday Breakfast was served to us at 8:15 in the elegant Queen's Grill dining room. We went to clear UK Immigration in the G32 nightclub. The inspectors were wearing civilian clothes; unlike the overly militarized US officials. Our passports are stamped as of 01 May in Southampton even though that is still five days and thousands of km away. We went for our first afternoon tea in the Queen's Grill Lounge near our dining room. This is the only private tea venue on board. After a delightful tea and treats, we retreated to our suite, and John had a bathe and enjoyed our private Jacuzzi. One of our staff delivered canapes at 17:30 as we were dressing for a reception, We had both been invited to the captain's reception for Grill passengers. Dinner in the Grill is appallingly slow. But at this fifth meal we do actually get to see our table-mates. We entered the dining room at 20:00, and managed to get out at 22:25, just in time for the late theatre stage show. My goodness, I am so disappointed with the dining room service. What is the point of charging first class prices, or of paying them, if the service is shoddy and inattentive? I should have bought Britannia class tickets instead of Grill. Service has been appalling. Water is a scarce item. Plates sit uncollected for long periods, so much so that food becomes crusty. Water glasses are NEVER refilled without a request. In fact, the ice totally melted in our glasses. Bread rolls are also a scarce commodity a second time round. Waiters bring or suggest wheat foods for Pam. It is so slow that we almost did not make it for the show. This has to be corrected, and I shall act in the morning. The show this evening is Appassionata, which we had seen in March. It is the best show aboard, and we would not miss seeing even a repeat. It is great. Amazing dance performances astound us. 27 April, Tuesday We awoke early and looked out the plate glass window beside our bed to see the QE2 directly abreast on the starboard side. It is a wonderful sight. There is a great beauty to the massive and stately beast surging though the North Atlantic swells. The waves are breaking high up the black hull. At 11:00, right after ring toss, John visited our deputy concierge to complain about the appalling service to which we were treated in Grill. Marie-Pierre went a bit white, and said it would be fixed. It was fixed by lunch, and from then on just about everything was nearly perfect. Our waiters, Simon, Tamryn, and Rosslyn, are getting ever so good. Raul, head of Queen's Grill, came to see us, and asked if everything had improved. All is well. We feel great. This dinner is the best yet! Superb food and service combined into a perfect dining experience. We went back to the suite instead of to the show, and discovered that our suite had been stripped. Everything was missing. There was a note on the bed from our butler, Jeffery, informing us that bad weather was expected, and that he had put away all breakables. We found the flowers in vases behind the chesterfield, and the champagne wedged between pillows in the cupboards. 28 April, Wednesday We both had a wonderful sleep. Pam said the ship was rocking, but John felt none of it. It is a beautiful morning, and the sun is shining upon us. After a very nice lunch we attend an Oxford university lecture on the history and structure of the periodic table. We almost had a nap, but had to rush off to high tea in the lounge. One simply cannot survive without an infusion of Earl Grey tea and cucumber sandwiches and the usual host of desserts. So sad. Very tough life. There are of course special wheat-free sandwiches for Pam. We had a wonderful, long, relaxed dinner of several courses and many wonderful things. After it was off to the Chart Room for drinks. After that it was back to our suite for more drinks and chatting in a quieter atmosphere. All in all a great evening, and perhaps the best of the crossing. 29 April, Thursday Today started perfectly with breakfast in bed. Jeffery brought in our cold and hot meals, laid out the linen, china, and silver table settings, and left us in peace and our bath robes. The salmon omelet was superb. In fact, all the smoked salmon each morning has been so fresh and wild tasting. It tastes too good to have been farmed salmon. Now for the ultimate relaxation: we are off to the Canyon Ranch spa. Our goal is to relax in the thalasotherapy spa pool and ancillary spa places until lunch. There are great changing rooms with a myriad of facilities: a Finnish sauna, reflexology foot baths, aromatherapy sauna, steam room, ice scrub, Jacuzzi, and full body shower and mist chamber. In the Turkish style aromatherapy sauna, there is a choice of music styles. After the heat of the saunas, John frequently rubs himself with the grated ice which continually falls into a bowl. Pam feels that this is a sign of insanity, yet tries it herself. She now knows it is a sign of insanity. We are now boneless. Our bones have melted away in the pleasure of the spa. We need wheelchairs to make it to lunch (not really). It is high tea time again, and wheat-free goodies are on the platter just for Pam. Patrick, our maitre'd, had promised wheat-free scones, and his staff delivered. It was the first time Pam had eaten scones, and these came with the required Devon clotted cream. It was the final party which interested us. We had been nominated by a staff member to be invited to the senior staff reception. People who are noticed by senior staff as interacting, fun, conversational, or have a duplex suite are invited to the party. Not all Grill passengers are invited. Many are fun Britannia passengers. Then it was off to the G32 nightclub. We chatted with Helga 'Hurricane Helga' the Queen's Room singer from Montreal. 30 April, Friday At 14:00 the RAF Nimrod anti-submarine jet did several passes: each one closer than the previous. QE2 has moved up very close, and is directly off our starboard stern. The Nimrod flies between us at funnel top level. Bullion was served, and because of the wind and cold, I got a rug for Pam's shoulders. But nothing is faultless. We found out that over night the spa pool flooded and sent water into passenger accommodations on decks five and six. 01 May 2004, Saturday The ships pulled into the Solent far too early for crowds to have gathered, or even for passengers to see the arrival. John got up at 05:00 expecting to see us sail up the Solent, but discovered we were already nearing the QEII ocean liner terminal in Southampton. The QE2 had gone ahead and was already docked far along the water nearer the container terminal. It is our last meal in the Queen's Grill dining room, and we have a lovely breakfast. There is of course wheat-free toast for Pam and smoked salmon for John. We chatted with many passengers and staff. Crew were in a bit of a frenzy, as the ship would be emptied, cleaned, and reloaded with provisions, baggage and passengers for the return crossing in less than ten hours. Pam got more autographs in our passenger list booklet given to all passengers. As Grill passengers can leave whenever they wish, we are off the ship by 09:00. There is no immigration, and customs is self-declaration. Read Less
Sail Date April 2004
Starting my 30th year as a cruise ship traveler I booked on the new QM2 (delivered Jan 2004) for the Three Continents cruise from March 26 to April 12th............ The QM2 is a large ship and it is difficult to get around due to its ... Read More
Starting my 30th year as a cruise ship traveler I booked on the new QM2 (delivered Jan 2004) for the Three Continents cruise from March 26 to April 12th............ The QM2 is a large ship and it is difficult to get around due to its size 155000 tons and the poor arrangement of the public areas and the vast endless corridors of cabin doors. At first sight the interior and public areas of the QM2 are impressive but after a few days onboard these areas seem less impressive and in some cases without merit. Outside Veranda cabins on Decks 4,5 and 6 are approx 250 square feet and the veranda is cluttered with two huge lounges and a table which make movement on the veranda next to impossible. The interior of the cabin is adequate and somewhat cramped due to too much furniture, closets and the king size bed. The bathroom is rather small and does not compare favorably with other newer cruise ships facilities. One of the most important features of the newer cruise ships is the variety of food choices and the QM2 is no exception. Unfortunately the food preparation, presentation and service misses its advertised goals and falls far short in passenger expectations. The main dining room for the majority of passengers, The Britannia, is overwhelming in size and noise. The decor is stunning but that is where this dining venue starts and stops. The King's Court (cafeteria style) doubles for special restaurants during the evening and serves the traditional breakfast and lunch buffet. One restaurant that hardly rates comment is the Todd English Grill ($30 cost). It is a disaster from food service/presentation/menu selection and horrible wine stewards. Entertainment during my voyage on QM2 was without a doubt the worst I have ever seen on any ship. The Royal Court theatre is the main venue for the evening entertainment and is a stunning room and unfortunately the production shows and featured performers did not measure up to the quality of the Royal Court theatre facilities. Shore excursions were fine but not notable, neither was the Tour Office staff who appeared to be stressed out and overworked from the get go. Would I cruise again on the QM2, most likely NOT primarily because the ship and the media attention and kudos from Cunard and the shipbuilder never came close to my expectations. I had truly hoped that the QM2 would bring in a return to the "grand" days of cruise liners and it did not... Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
We flew from Nashville to Miami & were then bussed to Port Everglades for boarding the ship. This was the first east bound voyage for this BIG, beautiful ship. But that is a major part of the problem that prevents enjoying this ship ... Read More
We flew from Nashville to Miami & were then bussed to Port Everglades for boarding the ship. This was the first east bound voyage for this BIG, beautiful ship. But that is a major part of the problem that prevents enjoying this ship compared to smaller ones. If a person goes on a one week cruise, they would not even learn their way around in that time. The layout is very confusing, and the maps provided in the rooms and in the public areas are difficult to use. The layout is very difficult for handicapped that have to move about the ship from one end to the other. I met one gentleman who required a wheel chair, and the charge was $50. The ship follows the traditional English class system in determining when and where you eat. Full suite, penthouse, or apartment passengers eat in the "Queens Grill". Next is the Princess Grill which also has only one seating for dinner. Then the Britannia Dining area has two seatings, one at 6:30 and one at 8:00. The food for all areas seemed to be virtually the same, only the service area was different. The evening entertainment is outstanding, but if one eats in the Queen or Princess Grill, it is impossible to get a decent seat for the 8:30 p.m. show. There are many bad seats there because of pillars or other blockages. I requested an appointment with the Cruise Director to discuss the situation. He refused to meet with me. The food service and presentation were outstanding, but the food quality was far below what we have experienced on other ships. The arrival and departures at every port were very emotional because of the big welcoming and farewell locals that turned out to see the ship make a first visit to each port. There were bands, balloons, dignitaries, & everything that one could imagine. It felt good to see the reception for a ship that is American owned by Carnival Cruise Lines. The ship was built in France. We were fortunate that the ship was not completely booked which allowed Cunard to give us a complimentary upgrade from a Junior suite to a Suite which was very nice with king sized bed, nice bathroom, sitting area, and a balcony that we thoroughly enjoyed. We sailed from Port Everglades for Bridgetown, Barbados that is always a nice stop. The economy there is primarily tourism, agriculture, and illegal drugs. They are very nice people and we spent the day on a catamaran plying the coast and snorkeling in the wonderful climate & sunshine. From there it was a long voyage to Dakar, Sagal, Africa that is on the northwestern tip of Africa. It is a very large city of about 1,500,000 persons. It is hot, dry, dusty, filthy, and very poor with little hope of getting any better. There is no public education system. Therefore, only the wealthy can afford to pay for the tuition, books, uniforms, supplies that must be purchased. So there is a 4% literacy rate. Husbands are allowed to have up to four wives. With the wives & children all together we were told that often there will be 20 to 30 people living in one very small area. Street vendors are everywhere with anything one wishes to buy, and many things one does not wish for. Anita need a pair of sunglasses because her's are bifocal & do not work very well going up & down the stairs of the ship. A street vendor had a board maybe 3 x 4 feet with hundreds of sunglasses on it. Anita spotted one she wanted & sent me out from the bus to negotiate. I asked our guide how much the price should be & was told $2, max $3. The vendor started out asking $25, and finally came down to three just as our bus was ready to depart. It was an experience to visit once, but no one had any desire to linger or return in the future. Ten hours was more than enough. From there we sailed to two different islands in the Canary Islands. They are wonderful and attract a large number of tourists from England. Both of the volcanic islands were modern, neat, and clean with everything one could want. These are places worth re-visiting. Again, the crowds were out on arrival & departure. From there to Madeira, an island off the coast of Spain. It is where fortified Madeira wine is made in small quantities. Again, a clean, modern city that was very enjoyable. Then to Lisbon, Portugal. Surprise to me is how far inland it is from the coast. We must have gone by river for at least 15 to 20 miles to this large, vibrant city. Tourism abounds. There are over 200 public parks, all well maintained. The city is beautiful and CLEAN. We were there on Saturday before Easter so the town was very busy. Our only purchase was a 750ml of Dow 1966 vintage Port wine for $30. It was wonderful, especially when enjoyed with some of the nice chocolates from the ship. Then from Lisbon to London. One of the ship's turbines developed a problem so we were late departing Lisbon and could not cruise at the standard 28 knot speed. This suited us just fine because it is not very comfortable being out on the ship's deck when relative winds are 35 to 40 miles per hour. So we fell about 6 hours behind schedule which caused flight connection problems for many. So Cunard rearranged schedules for many for the following day departures and put them in the Holiday Inn overnight. It really did not effect us except we missed out on an organized afternoon walking tour of our hotel area. London is another very large, very clean city with anything one wants. Many people went to plays, visited museums, went shopping, or sightseeing. Our travel agent that booked 271 passengers on the ship, provided us with excellent information, service, and guidance.  The ship was a real experience for us and most everyone else. It was full of very experienced travelers. 70% of the passengers were 70 years of age, or older. There were 24 children on board. The comments from virtually everyone were that the ship is just to big & carries to many passengers. The layout is difficult to negotiate. When arranging shore tours and departing for them it becomes a cattle call. In several of the ports it required 25 or more full sized busses to handle the people going on tours, most that left at nearly the same time. In all ports the ship did provide shuttle busses to a convenient place in the city. All in all, it was a fun trip and something to remember, but there are other cruise ships for a lot less money with better advantages and much less disadvantage. We love Celebrity Cruise Line and plan to use them for any future cruises. Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
I sailed with friends on Queen Mary 2's 17-night Three Continents Cruise on March 26th 2004, from Fort Lauderdale to Southampton, calling at Barbados, Dakar, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Madeira and Lisbon. This review however is only ... Read More
I sailed with friends on Queen Mary 2's 17-night Three Continents Cruise on March 26th 2004, from Fort Lauderdale to Southampton, calling at Barbados, Dakar, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Madeira and Lisbon. This review however is only about the ship. Although I have sailed on the QE2 a number of times, my main cruising background is with Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, NCL, Holland America, P&O and Princess. EMBARKATION I noticed that the ship carries portable check-in terminals in large flight cases for processing passengers at the port of embarkation. They are taken off the ship on arrival. Credit card details are recorded, and key cards are produced with the passenger's photograph. On this trip the embarkation procedure seemed to be well organised and the whole procedure was completed within an hour. GENERAL IMPRESSIONS The ship's exterior is absolutely stunning and I feel she is as beautiful as any modern ocean liner could be, bearing in mind the economic necessity of having lots of balconies. The profile is very well balanced and until one sees the ship in person it is difficult to get a sense of scale. She has a very high waistline and I think this makes it difficult to appreciate her incredible height from a photograph. True perspective is gained when other "large" ships are alongside. The interior depends very much on personal taste. It is more the general sense of scale and spaciousness that impresses than any specific feature. One's senses are not bombarded and there is nothing breathtaking like the Royal Promenade on the Voyager Class ships. Most of the interior dEcor is rather understated and many regard it as very tasteful. There are a lot of wood laminate finishes, some of which I found realistic and others that reminded me of "melamine" in the sixties. I do not wish to give the impression that the dEcor is disappointing because, irrespective of flaws, the whole ship is just amazing. However, there is a rather indefinable synthetic feel, which denies the ship a solid character of its own. Perhaps it is trying too hard to recreate something that cannot be achieved with modern materials and labour costs. On boarding the ship on deck 2, one enters the main lobby area, which has a warm feel with rich red carpeting, lots of wood effect, attractive plasterwork and cornicing, but compared to other ships it is otherwise rather restrained. The atrium is not especially large and climbs only from deck two to deck seven. On both decks two and three, the ceilings are much higher than usual and on each of these floors there is a very broad passageway running from the Royal Court Theatre, forward, through the atrium to the Britannia restaurant, aft. Looking through from one end to the other is quite striking and gives a great sense of spaciousness. Deck 7 has a wrap-around teak promenade deck - three times round equals 1.1 miles. There are traditional wooden steamer type deckchairs lining the length of the deck adjacent to the ships rails. These deckchairs are easily accommodated to the forward part of the ship where the deck is especially wide. Unfortunately, further aft there are numerous alcoves within the King's Court dining area that protrude onto the deck and also safety equipment, both of which cause narrowing which detracts from what would otherwise have been an extremely impressive feature. BRITANNIA RESTAURANT The main dining room is initially very impressive, but within a few days the laminated wood panelling became wearing and looked unnatural to me and not as appealing as elsewhere on the ship. The sweeping staircases are no more impressive than I have seen on Royal Caribbean or Celebrity. The illuminated art deco style glass ceiling and the huge QM2 tapestry can be seen from only from relatively few tables - those in or directly adjacent to the centre section of the room. There are some tables to be avoided, especially near to the kitchen entrance. They are rectangular and badly arranged, being close together and having the layout of a school canteen. Service is very inconsistent with many of the waiters apparently still learning. This was the case with our initial waiters but after a table change we had two excellent waiters. Experienced waiters make a tremendous difference to one's dining experience. The menus have a European influence and are quite imaginative. The choice is slightly narrower than I would have hoped for. Perhaps an extra option at each course would improve matters. The soups were all delicious. The regular bowls are small, but larger ones are available on request. In other respects it would seem that previous concerns over portion sizes have been addressed. Although the quality of the beef was sometimes a little disappointing, the food overall was much better than I expected - certainly significantly better than Royal Caribbean and Princess, but not yet up to the standards I have experienced with Celebrity, which is my benchmark for quality. The lobster dish that came with steak was, without doubt, the best lobster I have ever had on a ship. For past QE2 passengers, by comparison I felt the food quality was much better than the Mauretania Restaurant and compared favourably with the Princess Grill, but the dining experience certainly did not. On one evening our waiter advised that one of the entrees was not available. This surprised me because, unlike other ships where the menus are re-used on each sailing, all the menus are individually dated at lunch and dinner. There needs to be a decision taken about music in the restaurant. At the moment the same music is repeated at every meal. Little, if any, thought appears to have been given to the selection of recorded music, and much of it is inappropriate - including the 1812 Overture, which does nothing to help create the proper atmosphere. A live string quartet would be much more appropriate for this venue. If recorded music has to be used, there is no need for repetition. I am delighted to report that the hackneyed nightly round of waiters singing "Happy Birthday" is not present on this ship. Nor is the tacky Baked Alaska Parade or any other similar tip-soliciting performance by the waiters. Also missing was any sort of gala buffet. PRINCESS AND QUEENS GRILLS I much preferred the dEcor and ambience of both Grills to the Britannia Restaurant, although I was not fortunate enough to dine there myself. There are no set seating times and one retains one's own table and waiter for all meals. A much superior level of service and a wider choice of food can be expected. TODD ENGLISH Due to overwhelming demand, this alternative-dining venue has had to introduce a charge of $30 for dinner and $20 at lunch. Understandably, attempts are being made to discourage passengers from passing through the restaurant to the Terrace Pool and Bar during dining hours. However this is the only access route without using stairs, so I suggest requesting a table well away from the through traffic. There has been a lot of hype about this restaurant and perhaps my expectations were too high. The dEcor, ambiance and service were all absolutely excellent. Although many of the dishes were individually good, I found the overall meal to be too rich. The Lobster Chowder was very intense in flavour and there was too much. The Butternut Squash Ravioli had a beautiful taste but the portion was enormous and very, very rich. The Short Rib of Beef was melting and the accompanying gravy was full flavoured but, after the other food, this dish was rather heavy going. The Falling Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream was truly fantastic and was the only dish I would wish to eat again. So when I look back at this dining experience, I am glad I tried it. However I cancelled my second booking not only because of the cost, but also the food in the Britannia Restaurant seemed to improve after the first couple of days. Comparing Todd English with Ocean Liners on Constellation, both had excellent service, albeit in quite different styles - Ocean Liners being much more formal and theatrical. However the main difference to me was that I enjoyed every dish at Ocean Liners and the overall dining experience was more balanced and satisfying. I suspect that the current charges will be necessary to control demand on the six-night transatlantic crossing but on longer cruises $20 for dinner and $10 for lunch would seem more realistic. If that were the case I would have given it a second chance and would have chosen much more carefully from the menu. KING'S COURT This is a very large area, which has four separate themed food sections, one at each corner. Chef's Galley and La Piazza are located forward and quite some considerable distance aft is The Carvery and Lotus. At night, parts of this enormous venue are sub-divided into sections using screens that are assembled each afternoon. However, there is still no great sense of intimacy as passengers can still pass through. Tablecloths and place settings are laid and waiter service is provided. There is no extra charge unless one chooses to dine in the Chef's Galley, which is a smaller section accommodating only around 25 passengers. Reservations are essential and there is a charge of $35, which includes wine. Diners get a good view of the chef preparing the meal in the open demonstration kitchen - aided by cameras and plasma television screens. The oriental food served at Lotus made a pleasant change from the regular dining room food. The tasting menu with twelve different items was very enjoyable, but no a la carte alternative was offered. Initially, it seemed that twelve courses were going to be served but then dishes were grouped together on one plate, so there were actually only five courses. Most passengers' experience of King's Court will be by day when it is used for buffet breakfast and lunch. A table can be hard to find unless one is a real early bird. The idea of extended choice sounds good but the problem is that with each section serving different food one has to wander about trying to find everything one wants, and at busy times this can be a slow and frustrating experience. So although some of the food is very good, it is almost impossible to have a relaxed meal. One suggestion would be to ensure that every section (except Chef's Galley, which is too small) should have all the basic essentials available at breakfast and lunch. Another little thing that would be easy to do is to provide napkin-wrapped cutlery with the trays, rather than have waiters laying them on tables. At breakfast, it is worth searching out the freshly made waffles, which were delicious. It was also a challenge to find the oatmeal. Then it ran out and was not available anywhere on board for over a week. Other food items ran out half way through the cruise - frosted flakes, homemade cereals, fruit yoghurts and sugar-free maple syrup. Bagels were often unavailable. On one occasion the cartons of milk were sour even though they were within two days of their expiry date. As is usual on ships, coffee was below expectations, varying from okay to undrinkable. It was impossible to get a decent piece of toast unless one found someone who was willing to go and make it fresh. Juices are always available from the fonts in King's Court - not just at breakfast. At lunchtime, the Chef's Galley prepares sandwiches and burgers to order. Freshly carved meats are offered at The Carvery. La Piazza has some imaginative salad combinations and a wide variety of hot dishes from run-of-the-mill to more adventurous Italian food. I did hear reports that the daily souffle was excellent. La Piazza is also open for late-night snacks serving pizza, pasta, chilli, burgers, fries and the like. However the most popular section for lunch is Lotus. The stir-fries are delicious and passengers stand in line whilst two chefs freshly prepare them. Unfortunately the ventilation system is totally inadequate. The sizzling woks produce a lot of smoke, which permeates the decks above and below, adjacent to Stairway B. The general consensus amongst those I spoke with was that the whole King's Court venue needs to be better organised. As the cruise went on, more and more frustrated passengers turned to the Britannia Restaurant. It is only the lower level of the dining room that is open for breakfast and lunch and demand was such that occasionally it struggled to accommodate everyone. BOARDWALK CAFE This is a small inconspicuous canteen situated forward of the covered pool area on deck 12. It has a very utilitarian feel and seems totally out of place on a ship like this. On entering one feels as if one has wandered into a crew area. The food is the most basic type of pizza, hot dog and burger food, which seems likely to be appreciated only by those who are in a hurry to find a quick snack. Wood coloured plastic tables and chairs are set up on the huge open deck space outside the cafe, when weather permits. There has been no attempt to make this area attractive. The dining area needs to be more defined. Perhaps the deck space should be broken up in some way - maybe an elevated area with a canvas-type covering and some decorative lampposts might help. QUEENS ROOM If there is one room that captures the essence of what this ship is attempting to achieve, it is the Queens Room. It is a traditional style ballroom on a truly grand scale with a very high ceiling. The focal point is an unusual semi-circular art deco style bandstand protruding from the rear of the room directly onto the large dance floor, above which two large chandeliers hang from an imposing vaulted ceiling. This is a quiet, elegant lounge for taking afternoon tea, but it really comes into its own when filled with passengers on a formal evening, for example at the Captain's Cocktail Party or a themed ball. The atmosphere is quite unique but not stuffy. It is difficult to imagine another venue that could more closely recreate the grandeur associated with ocean voyages of a bygone era. An orchestra plays here nightly for traditional dancing. Sadly, the room seemed to be underused and the acoustics are bad unless the room is pretty full. The rather plain backdrop to the bandstand seems unimaginative, bland and out of place. There is one other significant flaw: when people enter or leave the G32 nightclub, noise floods into the Queens Room. A late night comedian's routine was repeatedly interrupted and at other times blasts of disco music clashed with the orchestra and damaged the atmosphere. It seems to be a standing joke that this room is difficult to find and the deck plans do not help much. One can either go directly there by going aft to Staircase D and taking the elevator to deck 3. Or one can simply make one's way to the entrance to The Britannia Restaurant where there are short stairways port and starboard to level 3 lower. There is a windowed corridor on each side of the ship cleverly wedged between the upper and lower level of the Britannia Restaurant. These corridors are in the void between the ceiling of the lower level and the floor of the highest tier of the upper level, at the sides. G32 This is the most impressive nightclub I have yet seen on any ship with an ideal layout. It is ultra modern, high tech and very tastefully done, with excellent sound and lighting and arrays of plasma screens. An excellent band called Onyx alternated with a DJ throughout most evenings until the early hours. Accessible only from the Queens Room, one enters on the lower level and there are stairways at each side up to the mezzanine level. Here one can simply have a drink and listen to the music, or look down on the action below. On this cruise, the average age was over seventy, so it was rather underused. However, with a younger age group I really feel this would be a first-class venue. ILLUMINATIONS This is another unique feature of this ship and is more than just a planetarium. When being used for the special shows, the large concave projection screen is lowered over the central section. Only the red, reclining seats in the middle section under the dome are used for the planetarium shows. There are three special shows lasting about half an hour. Of the two shows for adults, "Infinity Express" was much the better being both educational and, through its use of special effects, very entertaining. There is also a children's show, which I did not see. This venue is like a second theatre with lectures, concerts and recitals and is fully equipped as the ship's cinema. I prefer its design to the main theatre with its traditional individual seating and excellent sightlines. ROYAL COURT THEATRE This main theatre is rather smaller than one would expect. There is a large proscenium stage, which brings the audience closer to the action and makes the theatre feel more intimate. On the lower level the sightlines are better than upstairs, but it is nevertheless badly designed with lots of obstructions. Downstairs, two rows of movable rotating chairs are crammed between each long row of fixed sofa-type seating. This makes it awkward to get in and out of some seats and also means that latecomers who move chairs around can affect one's view. The theatre has all the latest high tech devices, including a hydraulic orchestra pit that can be raised or lowered on cue and the stage rotates and changes levels in seemingly endless variations. There is a show each night at 8.30pm and 10.45pm. These are the usual type featuring either a headline act such as a singer, comedian, magician or instrumentalist, or a glamorously costumed production show performed by the ships troupe of singers and dancers. There was a fair mix - some good some bad. Of the three production shows " Rock @ the Opera" stood out but, disappointingly, the ending was an anti-climax. COMMODORE CLUB This surprisingly small observation lounge seems rather plain by day; at night it is transformed. The combination of a talented pianist, subdued lighting and the professionalism of the bar stewards make this a superb venue for a pre-dinner drink. The atmosphere is intimate, very sophisticated and highly recommended. There is a huge illuminated model of QM2 above the bar, which is stocked with an amazing variety of spirits - well over a hundred bottles all of which have to be removed for storage each night. The Martini and cocktail lists are impressive and the bartenders have the opportunity to show off their undoubted skills. Alcohol prices seemed very reasonable to me and certainly much cheaper than I am used to on other cruise lines. Draught Becks, Stella Artois and Bass Ale are all on tap. There are no soda guns in this bar. This means that if one is having a spirit with a mixer one always gets it from a can or bottle, at no extra charge - what a difference it makes to a gin and tonic! GOLDEN LION PUB This is a large room with high ceilings, extremely popular at lunchtime when finding a table can be difficult. Typical "pub grub" such as bangers and mash and cottage pie are served at no extra charge. The fish and chips with mushy peas and tartare sauce are highly recommended. The actual bar with its traditional barstools, wooden gantries and draught beer taps is very attractive and has an authentic feel, although the dEcor of the room as a whole lacks the true character of a British pub. At least there is a good selection of beer on tap at only $3.50 per full Imperial pint (20 ounces). These include Bass Ale, Guinness and Boddingtons Pub Draught (this is the only location on board where this beautiful, smooth beer can be bought on draught). Lagers include Stella Artois, Becks and Budweiser. There is also the novelty of half-yards of ale, sometimes available on a "buy-one-got-one-free" offer after 9.00pm. A pianist plays here during lunchtime and prior to dinner, and Karaoke takes place later in the evening. WINTER GARDEN This lounge is brightly decorated with plants and flowers painted on the walls and ceiling and has the feel of a conservatory. Background bird noises are played to add to the effect. I had mixed feelings about this room and did not spend much time there although many passengers really liked it. Afternoon tea is served here and live harp or piano music is played and, occasionally, a classical recital. CHART ROOM BAR This is the main venue for jazz, which was originally intended to be the Commodore Club. It is very elegant in cool pale green colours and very spacious - all the tables are set far apart. I don't think the wood effect works in this room but the ambiance would be improved if it had only one entrance, instead of three. VEUVE CLIQUOT CHAMPAGNE BAR This is a pleasant bar serving Champagne and caviar. A fine place to people watch, but its open plan style gives it the feel of a hotel lobby bar. SIR SAMUEL'S WINE BAR This is an attractive wine bar with wine and cheese tasting. Blocking off direct access from the shops would give the room a more intimate feel. LIBRARY AND BOOKSHOP The library is beautiful and the atmosphere is very pleasant. There really is a huge collection of books stored in beautiful shiny wood trimmed glass cabinets. The passageways between are a little narrow, and can become congested on sea days. There are computer stations for internet access and comfortable seating with views over the bow. The bookshop is adjacent and sells maritime books and cruise memorabilia. ATLANTIC ROOM This narrow card room overlooks the bow and is a lovely quiet spot when not being used for tournaments or lectures. CONNEXIONS This is a very large facility with many different computer equipped rooms. There were seminars on various computer related topics like digital imaging and Windows XP. CASINO Less glitzy than other ships, it is probably as tasteful as a casino can be, bearing in mind the number of slot machines and the noise that they generate. CANYON RANCH SPA CLUB All the latest treatments are available and the general impression is that the standard is high, as are the charges. Use of the beautiful Aqua Therapy Centre is included with most spa treatments or can be purchased for a charge of $25 per day ($19 on port days), and there are three-day and five-day packages available at $49 and $79 respectively, but these days must be taken consecutively. The thalassotherapy pool features the usual neck fountains and (new to me) a "deluge waterfall" which was fantastic. At one end it has a submerged airbed where one can stretch out and be massaged by vigorous bubbles. There is a separate whirlpool that was out of order for the whole cruise, because of an electrical problem. There are two saunas: one herbal and one traditional Finnish and an aromatic steam room with a refreshing scent and relaxing music. Whilst I accept the need to charge for the use of this facility to prevent it from being crowded, many people felt the charges were far too high. Also it seems wrong that on a ship like this that one cannot have access to a sauna without paying. There is no charge to use the fully equipped gym. SHOPS The shops were mainly expensive big name franchises like Hermes, Dunhill and so on - so not much here for bargain hunters. There were however the usual sort of "inch of gold", "designer watches" and other "special sales", when display tables were set up outside the shops. Duty free alcohol was expensive and was stored until the last night of the cruise. PAVILION POOL The Pavilion Pool is a solarium type area with a sliding glass roof. It is much smaller than similar facilities on other ships and also rather stark by comparison. There are comfortable wooden deckchairs with cushioned pads. Considering the number of passengers, I was amazed that this smallish area was never full, and a deckchair could always be found. One has to bring one's own pool towel from the cabin, as they are not available poolside. Admittedly they are beautiful green jacquard towels with the Cunard logo. I know it doesn't seem right on an upmarket ship that one has to carry one's own towel around but, on the other hand, the fact that everyone was responsible for his or her own pool towel may have helped reduce chair hogging. OUTDOOR POOLS The main outdoor pool is the Terrace Pool on deck 8 aft. There is plenty of deck space and this is the normal venue for sailaway parties. The only access to this location without using stairs is via Todd English. Minnows Pool on deck 6 is for children. There is also an extremely shallow splash pool on deck 13. CABINS The standard cabin style is as good as on any premium line. They are tastefully decorated and well fitted with wardrobe and storage space. The en-suite shower rooms have a slightly larger than usual shower compartment and an attractive sink top, but no toiletry compartments, just shelves. There is an interactive television and a keypad is provided for internet access. There is a charge of $1.50 to send or receive an e-mail. In the cabin and throughout the ship my laptop displayed an available Wi-Fi connection to "QM2 Internet". There has been a lot of talk about "hull balconies". These are the balcony cabins on decks 4, 5 and 6 where an opening is cut into the side of the ship. The superstructure restricts the view from inside these cabins. As far as the Q and P categories are concerned, there is a very high premium to be paid for these. I think most people realise that a large part of this is for the privilege of dining in one of the grillrooms. Queens Grill passengers also have the use of their own lounge. There is also a very nice private deck aft on Deck 11 with its own Jacuzzi. OBSERVATIONS Everywhere she goes the QM2 attracts the sort of attention previously reserved exclusively for the QE2. Crowds gathered in all the ports - not just where she was making her maiden call. Security around the ship was very evident. I know it is obvious but the ship is huge and there really can be a lot of walking between the various venues. The corridors are deceptive and seem to go on forever. Probably the best cabin location to minimise the amount of walking would be just aft of midships and slightly forward of the "C" stairway. The cruise director, Paul Becque, was excellent. He had a great personality but was not overpowering. Not of his choosing I am sure, but there are too many unnecessary announcements repeating information contained in the daily programme. It's nowhere near as bad as most of the mainstream cruise lines, but I prefer Celebrity's "no announcements" policy. Aside from the normal type of shows, this ship provides slightly more "highbrow" activities including a wide range of enrichment lectures, drama workshops and computer learning. At only three months old one would not expect the ship to be lacking in routine maintenance, but many areas required paint retouching, varnishing, repairs etc. Many of the wooden deckchairs were unstable and needed bolts retightening. The moulded plastic strips around all the swimming pools (where the water overflows) were loose and were frequently floating in the water. Many more staff need to be deployed on cleaning - especially windows. The carpeted areas of King's Court were heavily stained. You just do not see the continual cleaning that you do on other lines. Towards the end of the cruise a medical emergency occurred when a passenger collapsed on the stairs that lead down to the dance floor in the Queens Room. The only crew reaction was to call the medical centre but no crewmember came to tend to the passenger whilst they lay on the floor. It took over twenty minutes for medical staff to arrive. Many passengers felt the response time and the failure of crew to provide immediate attention was rather poor. Technical problems resulted in the ship's arrival in Southampton being delayed by over 4 hours. Many passengers due to fly back to the USA the same day had to have their flights rebooked and the majority were accommodated in a hotel overnight. This was a massive task and the staff seemed to do a good job. CONCLUSION QM2 is a special ship that provides a totally different experience and I think most open-minded cruise enthusiasts would be willing to pay a bit extra to experience her. I thoroughly enjoyed the cruise. The per diem cost was about 70% more than I normally pay. For me it was worth it on a one-off basis. I would gladly go again if the price was right, but I wouldn't be willing to pay anywhere near as much next time. For those contemplating sailing on the QM2, I would recommend that they be realistic in their expectations. They should not expect the ship to match their fantasy of the ultimate possible cruise experience. Unless one travels in Grill Class, the standard one can expect is similar in many respects to that of other "premium" cruise lines, like Celebrity and Holland America. Although the ship has yet to reach its full potential, the plusses outweigh the minuses and the ship will provide a memorable experience because it is unique. Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
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