We joined the Eastern leg of the South American voyage on March 22, 2006 in Valparaiso. The embarkation process was very smooth, it was not very crowded and we were registered and on the bus to the ship in about 20 minutes. The Cunard desk ... Read More
We joined the Eastern leg of the South American voyage on March 22, 2006 in Valparaiso. The embarkation process was very smooth, it was not very crowded and we were registered and on the bus to the ship in about 20 minutes. The Cunard desk personnel had given us very accurate information at our hotel in Santiago about when and how to register and, due to following this information, we were delighted that this was not the horrible experience that we had read about occurring on other QM2 cruises.
(However, we learned later that my credit card had not been properly registered, so all the charges for things such as shore excursions were on my roommates bill. It was not a big problem, but seemed like something that could have been corrected sooner so that we wouldnt have had to spend time at the pursers office sorting things out later.)
We were pleasantly surprised to learn that we had been upgraded to an A1 stateroom upon embarkation. No idea how it happened, but the quality of the room certainly made the cruise that much more enjoyable. There really is nothing to compare to the view from your room with the transparent balcony there were several days at sea that the sunrise and sunset were spectacular and the experience was greatly enhanced by the improved visibility. We were also lucky to have a port side stateroom, which given the direction of our cruise (eastbound) assured us the maximum ability to see shoreline and really enjoy sail away and other such events.
Our table assignment in the Britannia Grill (late seating, table 71) also was very satisfactory. We had a great service team, from headwaiter to sommelier, who really catered to our every need. There were several special requests from among us at our table and these were accommodated each and every time promptly and with a smile. We were very fortunate to have wonderful tablemates. We enjoyed our dinners with them so much that, although we were lucky enough to secure reservations for dinner twice at Todd English, we cancelled the second reservation to stay in Britannia with them.
The cohort on this cruise was overwhelmingly UK based. Not that this was a problem, but it meant that we spent a lot of time in the entertainment offerings worshipping at the altar of Andrew Lloyd Weber. The Brits especially are seriously bonkers about all things ALW. There were theatrical lecturers that devoted an entire 90-minute session to ALWs Bottom Drawer and each and every musical act included at least one ALW tune. It may be several weeks before we can get the music from Phantom out of our heads!
The shore excursions were consistently excellent. The tour guides and the arrangements were first class. The one guide in Puerto Montt was not expert in her English, but her fractured way of speaking, combined with a winning personality, made for a very memorable and enjoyable experience anyway. The flyover to Antarctica was the highlight of the trip for us. The weather was so clear that we had perfect visibility for nearly the entire flight over the Antarctic Peninsula. The content expert (a veterinarian with 25 years experience working in research there) and the flight crew were fantastic. The pilots were actually taking pictures during the flight and told us that it was some of the best visibility they had ever had on this trip. The other excursions we took in Ushuaia and Montevideo were also of very high caliber in terms of tour guides expertise and organization. The one slight glitch that we ran into was the delay in Ushuaia due to the extremely slow tendering process that day. By the time we got on shore, we barely had enough time to reach our Wildlife Tour cruise and no time to shop or see any other sights. The quality of the Wildlife Tour cruise in the Beagle Channel was well worth it, however.
We spent our time on sea days racing from lecture to lecture, using the gym, relaxing and enjoying the Canyon Ranch Spa and attending the planetarium shows. There were days that we hit the ground running at 8:00AM and, with quick breakfast and lunch, barely had time to fit in all the activities we wanted to attend most days. On nice days we walked Deck 7 instead of using the indoor gym. In addition, we used the Cunard Connextions for checking up on email and the library for research on ports of call and keeping up on the news. The cost of Internet connection is very steep and it would be nice if there were some better pricing for this service.
The lecturers on our cruise, Captain Richard Hayman, Richard Cowley, and former astronaut Kathy Sullivan were incredible. They daily gave well researched and professionally prepared lectures. Each in their on way was very engaging as a speaker, but with very different presentation styles. Their sessions were very popular and we learned quickly to get there early to secure a good seat.
Accurate information on Cruise Critic about the number of formal nights meant that we packed enough evening wear to be prepared for the four formal nights on our cruise. The information we had from Cunard was not nearly complete enough to give us enough to go on about what we would need, but fortunately, the detail gleaned from posts on the Cunard board on Cruise Critic meant that we were ready for the Black and White Ball, the Pirates party, the Ascot Ball, as well as the fourth formal night. It was a lot of fun, if not some small amount of hassle to have to bring such an extensive wardrobe, to see so many elegant dresses and attend the dances in the Queens room.
The Cunard recommended hotels for both Santiago and Rio were very good. We especially like the Hotel San Cristobel Towers in Santiago, but the Sheraton Rio was also very nice. One problem we ran into in Rio was the confusion upon checking in due to the hotel not being ready to accommodate us so early in the day (11AM). Understandable that this was rather early for our rooms to be ready, but they hadnt planned anything for us in terms of accommodating our hand luggage, etc meanwhile we had to wait. It would have been better to arrange a way for us to check in with the bell captain, since they were responsible for receiving our other luggage, so we could have left the hotel to go on a tour while we waited. The saving grace was the fact that the Sheraton has a great beach immediately adjacent to their property and we had our bathing suits handy.
Some thing we learned about maximizing our cruise the Canyon Ranch Spa frequently has 2 for 1 or half priced services on port days. The daily program advertises these specials the night before and you need to be ready to call quickly to reserve a massage or other services to take advantage of these deals. Also, since you then end up with a late day Canyon Ranch Spa service if you are in port all day, you can ask for a pass for another day when you have more time to enjoy the benefit of the Aquatherapy area of the spa which comes with booking these services. Since this is about a $30 value, this was a great way to stretch the use of these terrific features for minimal outlay.
We also found that the popular Chefs Grill omelet station was much less crowded after 9:00AM and we had better luck getting our made to order eggs later rather than earlier. We learned to order coffee, tea, etc early in our stateroom, do a little deck walking or hit the gym before eating breakfast to take advantage of this situation. Much better service and less jostling with the desperate omelet seekers who were crowding the window earlier in the morning!
The tour office is usually a real mob scene and, as soon as you know what shore excursion you want, it is best to book by dropping off the order form in the box outside the office. Nothing seemed to bring out the beast in our fellow passengers more than discontent with the shore excursions - the lack of availability on the most popular tours, the cancelled excursions due to our shortened port times, the misinformation about the Antarctic flyover availability, etc. If there is one area that seemed inconsistent with the high standard of service on the rest of the ship, it would probably be the communication, or lack of communication, around the shore excursion process once youre on board. Once of the principal reasons for this is the short hours of the tour office, the lack of the online ability to book excursions, and the general broadcasting of tour availability. The tour office personnel did a good job of handling the situation given the process limitations of the situation, but it seems unnecessarily inefficient and could use some serious management reengineering to improve.
In conclusion, our voyage on the QM2 was everything we hoped for and far exceeded any expectations we had for this cruise. Despite a few shortcomings, it was a memorable experience and well look forward to a future opportunity to cruise again with QM2! Read Less