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39 Cunard Repositioning Cruise Reviews

Having read all the previous reviews, I found that all the positive experiences and observations about the fabric of the ship were borne out on this transatlantic cruise. Cunard's pricing policy on beverages encouraged me to take ... Read More
Having read all the previous reviews, I found that all the positive experiences and observations about the fabric of the ship were borne out on this transatlantic cruise. Cunard's pricing policy on beverages encouraged me to take care of my liver function, although it was really good that Cunard are relaxed about guests having a private supply in one's cabin for a pre-dinner snifter. We chose to travel White Star steerage class, and we found Brittania dining perfectly acceptable. The segregation of Grills and Brittania facilities/guests is not discrete; it is not my 'cup of tea' and will influence whether I cruise with Cunard again. Embarkation was disrupted by matters outside of Cunard's control. Because of fog the ship couldn't berth in Venice and went to Trieste, and guests were bussed from Marco Polo to Trieste (2 hours). The difficulties were further aggravated by fog and delays to flights from the UK and continental airports with guests boarding from 2 hours to 3 days late! In the circumstance, matters were handled reasonably well BUT communication could be much improved as well as the reorganisation on the ground. Disembarkation at Fort Lauderdale went smoothly. I think the FL home security services must have gone to a better class of Charm School than at other US ports/airports! Getting onto buses and then transferring from the 'holding' hotel to airport was again somewhat disorganised. One wonders how the Americans managed to put a man on the moon (or was that a spoof event as some suggest.) I cannot fault the cruise experience itself, but I have come to the conclusion that No Fly cruises from the UK has great attractions. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
We are from the UK travelling on our second Cunard cruise out of about 30 in total. We tried the QM2 in her inaugural year and been slightly underwhelmed, nothing to put us off Cunard particularly but we felt it lacked the value for money ... Read More
We are from the UK travelling on our second Cunard cruise out of about 30 in total. We tried the QM2 in her inaugural year and been slightly underwhelmed, nothing to put us off Cunard particularly but we felt it lacked the value for money of, say, NCL, Princess or Celebrity. However, we bought some cheap one-way airfares with the intention of doing a westbound transatlantic cruise this year and when we started to compare the itineraries on offer the QV itinerary stood out a mile, by calling at both Madeira and Bermuda it took a southern route with only 4 days at sea to cross the Atlantic (I don't mind a few sea days if it is calm and sunny but not too many at a time, especially if the sea gets choppy). Price-wise it was only slightly more expensive for 16 days than most of the other lines were offering for less interesting 12/14 day voyages and we were pleased to have the chance to give Cunard another try. Sadly it got off to a bad start before we even left home. First, shortly after booking and a couple of months before departure, we got an 'emergency notification' that the unusual port of Charleston has been cut out apparently due to lack of customs officers to perform the US immigration procedures. We later found that the same thing had occurred on the QV's eastbound crossing earlier in the year. I fully understand that many guests were put out about the substitute port of Nassau, after all that is a much visited port for the American guests in particular, but having never been to either Nassau or Charleston we were not particularly bothered - any cruiseline changing itineraries after taking bookings gets a big black mark from me on principal, but in this case a beach day quite appealed. However, one of the big attractions of this itinerary was the late arrival into Fort Lauderdale at 11am, we had thought how lovely it would be NOT to be thrown off the ship at the crack of dawn for a change especially as Miami-London flight invariably depart in the evening. Now the substitute of Nassau meant that we were scheduled into Fort Lauderdale at 6am to clear customs there so no relaxing last day after all - oh well, we cancelled our airport shuttle that had fitted beautifully between scheduled arrival and earliest possible flight and booked a hire car instead so that at least we have somewhere to keep our luggage, and I will now be able to take advantage of some of Miami's shopping opportunities. Next communication from Cunard was that departure from Venice was brought forward from 9pm to 5pm on the 2nd day. Oh well, we thought, we have been to Venice a few times, not a problem but a shame for anyone visiting for the first time to have their time cut by 4 precious hours. A week or so before sailing another 'emergency notification' this time regarding Madeira, apparently QV had originally been scheduled an afternoon and evening in port on the first day there, which I had seen on some documentation and thought it odd as our schedule said 6pm arrival, but apparently this was another change for the early bookers - oh well, it does not affect our expectations. At this point I noticed that the Bermuda stop had also been extended by an hour until 5pm and that our guarantee inside cabin which had already been upgraded to an obscured view outside had now been changed again to a 'proper' outside so emergency notifications are not always bad news. So the evening before departure we were packed and ready to go and I logged into our CC rollcall for the last time and what do I see but a Cunard Emergency notification - yes another one but we had not received it - saying that Venice is fogbound and the ship is in Trieste and that we have to proceed to Venice port as normal and a shuttle coach will be provided from there. By this time the UK office was closed so I phoned the US office (not inappropriate as we had booked through a Canadian travel agent friend, a fact that had caused Cunard's UK office to tell me they could not help me when I phoned with a simple query just after booking). The person I spoke to told me curtly and word for word exactly what the kind CC person had already posted, I asked whether there would be a shuttle into Venice on the Monday but he just kept repeating that the ship is in Trieste and will depart at 5pm on Monday. Oh well, we have been to Venice before, Trieste will be a new port for us, but anyone taking a long flight in the hope of seeing Venice must be very disappointed. In fact on arrival at Venice airport about 8pm, nearly 2 hours late, we were met by 2 very pleasant Cunard representatives who confirmed that the ship was indeed in Trieste, 2 hours drive away, apologised for the inconvenience and told us to leave or luggage with the porter and wait about 20 minutes for the bus. In fact it was quite a lot longer until the bus came but there were only a dozen or so of us so we were soon underway and the time soon went, check in was smooth and we were on board shortly after midnight. Very hungry by then, we found our cabin, which was very nice and larger than most, dumped our carry on bags and headed for the lido buffet, to find everything covered in clingfilm. I took this to mean it was closed but in fact one section was open with staff serving over the clingfilmed-off displays meant for self service. It soon became apparent that this was because of an outbreak of norovirus on the ship. This cruise was starting badly. By the next morning our luggage had arrived (along with somebody else's, inexplicably intended for deck 4 - they were delighted when we reported it as they had waited up most of the night for it). After breakfast at the 'buffet' we headed out to explore Trieste, along with most of the ship, to find that it was freezing cold and most shops close on Mondays. But it is an attractive city, we wandered around for about 3 hours, found a couple of department stores and some supermarkets open, saw the Roman amphitheatre which is right in town, admired the typical Italian architecture, and generally enjoyed being somewhere different - but Venice it is not, of course. It was indeed very foggy and we could understand why a big ship could not safely navigate into Venice. There was no shuttle bus back to Venice and, surprisingly, the only tours on offer were a walking or bus tour of Trieste - cancelling the Venice tours must have cost Cunard a fortune. The next day at sea was cold and wet and got quite rough as the day went on.We attended the first of an interesting series of lectures about the Olympic games which, along with an ex-BA pilot who spoke about navigation, kept us interested throughout the voyage. Our allocated dining table was right by the aft windows, above the propellers, unfortunately the position I could most feel the ship's motion and also very awkward for DH to weave his mobility scooter through the tables and people to the back to the restaurant. I would have liked to have moved but it seemed so rude to our table companions, who were delightful so we opted not to leave them. We arrived into Katakolon to find that the weather had improved and the sun was shining. My research had led me to have low expectations of this port, the main attraction of course being nearby Olympia, but we long ago gave up on visiting ruins with the scooter. However Katakolon itself is a pretty village with a street of quite a few tourist orientated shops and several bars and restaurants long the seafront. We set off somewhat ambitiously towards the 'best beach' of the area at Agios Andreas. Surprisingly we made it, although the beach was nothing spectacular and nothing was open there, it was a truly beautiful walk about 2 miles each way through peaceful quiet countryside edged by orange, lemon and olive trees. One elderly lady saw us admiring her garden and presented us with a freshly picked orange, which was amazingly sweet. We walked back a slightly differerent route along Katakolon beach itself, which is compressed enough to take the scooter without getting stuck in the sand as the locals, bizzarely, drive their cars along it. Nice sandy beach but covered in washed up seaweed and large jellyfish, some the size of dinner plates, not somewhere I would want to swim even if it was warm enough. Our short morning call at Gibraltar was pleasant, Cunard surprised us by NOT collecting up duty free alcohol purchased ashore, maybe redeeming themselves slightly for the unforegiveable faux pas of stating in the previous 2 daily programmes that we were (I quote) "en route for Gibraltar, SPAIN" ! We got back on board to find the norovirus precautions ended, so the buffet was back to normal and the other food outlets - Cafe Carinthia, Todd English and the Lido burger bar - open for the first time. Actually we struggled to see why they were ever closed as none of them have the same potential for cross infection as does the buffet, I suppose just to minimise the number of places to be sanitised each time. Madeira was also very nice, we docked at 6pm on the first day, at the furthest berth from the city, there was a free shuttle bus into town but it was complete choas, we walked/scooted there along the seafront and got back on board just in time for our evening meal. On the Monday we used the shuttle, explored Funchal town, market, 3 or 4 shopping malls and 2 lovely parks and then walked/scooted back to the ship. Funchal has developed almost beyond recognition since our last visit about 10 years ago, another lovely day. The Atlantic crossing passed quite well, some days pleasantly sunny and others windy with rougher seas. It was particularly rough when we arrived in Bermuda and some doubt as to whether we would be able to dock. After a few attempts and with the aid of a tug and a rope taken across by the pilot boat we made it into Heritage Wharf, part of the old Royal Naval Dockyard. This was another itinerary misdescription by Cunard as it was listed as Hamilton but we had long ago checked the Bermuda Port Authority website (thinking it unlikely that a ship the size of QV would get into Hamilton port itself) so we were prepared. However I was furious to find that our departure time had been brought forward to the original 4pm rather than 5pm as it had been extended to following the loss of Charleston. There was no emergency notification, in fact no notification or explanation at all, just the all aboard time printed in the daily programme delivered to our cabin the evening before. I rang pursers desk to see whether it was another printing error (as had happened in Gibraltar) but no, we sail at 4pm and they did not know why it had been changed. We wanted to see as much as possible so joined with 2 other couples and hired a taxi van for the day which cost $40 each,it was supposed to be a 3 hour tour but we left at 10am, drove to several beaches along the south cost, the lighthouse, a couple of the best hotel, a private golf course, nearly to St Georges, then had a free hour in Hamilton and got back to the ship about 2.30pm, our driver was called 'Hop', he is 79 and a really fantastic guide to his beautiful island. It is over 20 years since we went to the Bahamas on our first ever cruise, it was grotty then and does not seem to have improved much, judging by the condition of Nassau. That said we spent most of the day wandering around the town, looking at the shops and the Straw Market, and a couple of hours on Junkanoo beach, so not such a bad day. Things we liked about the Queen Victoria: The air conditioning - it sounds stupid but my sinuses invariably react badly to the cold air on a cruise ship, the QV temperature was comfortably warm and not the usual fridge-like temperature in the public rooms (except the front fews rows of the theatre) and it was the first cruise for ages that did not give me cold-like symptoms - wonderful ! The winter gardens - a really nice (and not air conditioned) seating area for when the weather was not good enough to be outside. Entertainment - good mix of original shows, guest acts, classical music, lectures, quizzes and comedy - probably among the best cruise entertainment we have experienced, not to mention the famous themed balls, which we did not really experience much as they seemed to be aimed mainly at early sitting diners. Things we disliked: DH hated having to wear a jacket every evening, even on 'casual' nights. The 3 gentlemen on our table all became uncomfortably hot on most evenings and DH felt it discriminatory that ladies could and did wear blouses or low cut dresses but he could not wear a smart shirt without a jacket. The most unnecessarily pompous part (in our opinion) is that the dress code applies in all public areas from 6pm, so in effect rules out staying out beyond that time in daytime clothes and making it a very long evening of hanging around waiting for late sitting dinner. On most lines we would not go to our cabin to shower and change until about 7.30pm. Fixed seating dining - I know, of course we knew about the dress code and the dining arrangements when we booked, and we could not have asked for nicer tablemates than on this particular cruise, but it made me appreciate the benefits of flexible dining times on other lines and that would certainly be our preferred option for the future. Cunard seem completely clueless about disability issues. We informed them we were bringing the scooter and that we did not need a wheelchair accessible cabin. We did not need or expect ant special treatment, but surely it would have been common sense NOT to allocate a scooter user to the least accessible table area in the entire Britannia restaurant ? In Madeira we were repeatedly told that we should use the deck 2 gangway 'because it is a slope' (even though it was 2 storeys high and an incline of close to 45 degrees that no scooter could possibly cope with) rather than the few tiny steps from deck 1, which as we demonstrated each time was dead easy for DH to walk and me to carry his folded scooter. On return in Madeira the low gangway was closed and the steep ascent was very difficult for him. Ok close a gangway during quiet times but surely keep open the more accessible one ! Now to the food, which is certainly not a dislike, we thought it was roughly on a par with Princess/NCL but nowhere near the standard of our all time favourite Oceania. The desserts, in particular, were disappointing. I usually struggle with too many sweet choices but on the QV I skipped dessert completely many times in both the buffet and restaurant because everything contained fruit, which I do not like. Once the buffet was properly open it was quite good, we liked the freshly made pizza and pasta stations. Cunard make a big fuss about afternoon tea in the Queens Room and it was nice but we have been spoilt by Oceania's far superior afternoon tea offerings. Evening meals varied from excellent to fair but our waiters were both always very pleasant and efficient, as indeed were all the crew. Will we book Cunard again ? Possibly but they are certainly not my line of choice and it would have to be a good enough bargain to be considered a ''mystery cruise" as I would not trust them to honour a published itinerary. Naturally the Venice situation was not anyone's fault, last minute changes happen occasionally and I think overall Cunard handled it very well. My problem is that they clearly have no qualms about substituting less desirable ports or changing shore times after bookings have been taken, airfares arranged etc leaving guests with no real option but to put up with the changes. We got a refund of $11 each on our account which we put down to the Trieste port tax being less than Venice, but would have far preferred to have followed the itinerary we booked and paid for. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Our first week was really enjoyable, the weather was reasonable for the time of the year. The second week unfortunately was spoiled by the weather (not Cunard's fault) We were Britannia club dining, which was very elegant and ... Read More
Our first week was really enjoyable, the weather was reasonable for the time of the year. The second week unfortunately was spoiled by the weather (not Cunard's fault) We were Britannia club dining, which was very elegant and the service was excellent. It is of course a large ship and after dinner exercise consisted of walking mostly round the ship from one venue to another. On the down side the Kings court food hall was very scattered, it had four areas, after choosing your meal, the particular area could close whilst half way through a meal, if you wanted 'pudding' another 'open' area had to be found! Albeit it was easy to order breakfast in your room,(there was a card on the back of your door) the 'complimentary' room service according to another passenger had a 2.50 dollar charge, I wouldn't know, no-one ever answered the phone!This was confirmed by other passengers who also tried for room service. Dressing gowns in varying materials were supplied with slippers. These are for the 'use' of, if you wish to bring them home there is charge for the dressing gowns. I thought the entertainment was staid for the most part. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
This westbound transatlantic crossing represented the third and final segment of a 22 day voyage. So after being acclimated to the routine of the ship it's a different perspective from someone just coming on board. During the ... Read More
This westbound transatlantic crossing represented the third and final segment of a 22 day voyage. So after being acclimated to the routine of the ship it's a different perspective from someone just coming on board. During the layover in Southampton I had taken one of the in-transit tours offered. Upon returning to the Ocean Terminal there appears to be some delay in boarding arriving passengers, but the in-transit people get to go to the front of the queues and re-board. The first dinner on board was Elegant Casual, but everyone seemed to have taken the effort to dress a notch or two better than casual. Thankfully the change of passengers meant that there were now six at a table for six in the Princess Grill. My new table mates were an American couple from Savannah, Georgia and a British couple. We could enjoy the first of several evenings of civil political discussions since British citizens are not personally involved in American politics and vice versa. Service however was noticeably slower after a change of some crew members at Southampton. Either they were short staffed or the new waiters need to learn their roles. First day at sea was a beautiful afternoon with many people using the promenade deck chairs but, as it was late September, are bundled up to some degree. There was a storm to the north of us causing swells and the ship was pitching but not nearly as much as it had been on the EB when the pitching was causing the props to cavitate. The Cruise Critic meet and greet on Cunard ships is traditionally held on the first sea day, 2PM, in the Commodore Club. One member and her husband came. We had a nice conversation but the gathering of 10-20 that I've heard to usually meet on the QM2 does not happen. I can only say that the three of us came to the announced place at the appointed day and hour. Daytime entertainment/diversions: For anyone who has an interested in the history of Atlantic ocean liners this voyage had been tailor made. However on this segment the Insights speaker, David Drummond, doesn't have the same passion for his topic as did Bill Miller on the eastbound crossing. Some passengers thought it was too much of the same thing -- two speakers following each other on essentially the same topics. Later however the Insights lecture switched topics that ran the gamut of historical events to popular culture: Shackleton's attempt to reach the South Pole, Billy Wilder films, New York as shown in films, and US singer Frank Sinatra. One activity offered on a sea day is a tour of the Britannia galley. If one has never seen it, don't miss it. The galley is an engineering and logistical marvel. Afternoon tea is a Cunard tradition at sea that I hope never ends. It's just an enjoyable way to spend some time with fellow passengers and do ask for a scone! The scones on QM2 were heavenly. Evening activities: On these multiple-segment voyages the evening entertainment and ball themes tend to re-cycle. I think the first formal night is always the Black and White Ball. One evening was the Big Band Ball which combined the Queens Room and Royal Court Theatre orchestras. For dancers a night with a live big band is not something that is common even on land today. On this crossing the evenings also offered Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts presentations of Much Ado About Nothing and The Canterbury Tales. These were abridged readings but a welcome change from the production shows that were already seen in one form or another on the previous voyage segments. One night event that I had anticipated an a transatlantic crossing was a chance to see the stars under the guidance of the Royal Astronomical Society. Unfortunately we did not have even one evening without cloud cover so the telescopes were never brought on deck. A comment on something really dumb by Cunard: It's common for there to be a Captain's cocktail party on a formal night. And, for those who have reached Cunard World Club gold status or higher, an invitation to the CWC party. During the British Isles tour, I had received invitations imprinted with my name and stateroom number but specified, ''for guests boarding at Southampton and Cherbourg''. Didn't they know that I had boarded in New York? What was the point of sending out invitations addressed to those who didn't qualify? During the crossing the clocks are set back on five nights at 2AM ship's time. Manually change your laptop clock and you'll see time zones that most of us didn't know existed. As the ship neared Newfoundland a flock of sea birds followed along our starboard side. Either people throw them food or the motion of the ship stirs up the sea critters that they feed upon. It's just another wonderful sight at sea -- especially from the aft hot tubs! On QM2 the aft pools give a wonderful 180deg view of the sea. The sea birds kept following us throughout the afternoon. They would drift in the air foils and occasionally skim the surface of the ocean to scoop up a snack. This afternoon I met a British woman who is travelling on the WB with her husband for their first voyage of any kind. They wanted to try a TA and thoroughly enjoyed it but they had already arranged to fly back after their stay in New York. I was really fortunate to have been on the QM2 for almost three weeks. To do only the TA, seven days is really a very short time to really enjoy the QM2. On this WB trip, almost half the passengers were British, about one third American, and the others from all over the globe. I noticed a difference in the evening dress of the passengers. On this WB trip more men wore black tie formal wear than dark business suits but the women tend to wear short cocktail dresses rather than the long dresses that were seen on the EB trip. Perhaps it's British cultural practice to reserve long dresses for white tie formals. Sunday morning on QM2 still offers the opportunity for Catholic Mass. Fewer ships carry a priest on board and I'm grateful that Cunard still does. One reason they might continue to do so could be the makeup of the crew. Over 600 crew members are from the Philippines, a country with a large demographic of devout Roman Catholics. Being able to practice one's religion while working on QM2 may be a tremendous incentive to sign on with Cunard rather than with another line. The last two days on board a dense fog developed. It's quite an extraordinary sight to see a ship of this magnitude enveloped in fog so thick that her bow was partially shrouded when viewed from the Deck 11 observation area. It casts a beautiful ethereal effect on the open decks. QM2's fog horn is almost as impressive as her A flat whistle. The fog horn and motion of the ship give that unmistakable feel of the sea. To borrow the title from the sound track of the 1997 Titanic film: Unwilling to Leave, Unable to Stay. On the last sea day Captain Oprey spent an hour in the Library autographing memorabilia -- probably the only part of the Captain's job that sucks. But having the Captain sign off on a souvenir makes it more special. On disembarkation day an early breakfast is scheduled 6-8AM, so even those choosing the Self Help disembarkation get a change to have a full breakfast before leaving. Arrival in New York, with the vessel shrouded in heavy fog at dawn, was a sight that no camera could really capture. As we approached the Verrazano Narrows bridge only the illuminated footings could be seen at first. As we neared the bridge to slip underneath, the bridge lights appeared through the fog as if some spectral gate had formed to frame us. Despite the advantages of radar and GPS, steering a ship like this with no visibility must still be a difficult thing since familiar landmarks cannot be seen for reference. QM2 docks at her usual berth in Red Hook, not the west side of Manhattan. Either way, we still would not have a view of Lady Liberty. Apparently she hasn't paid her ConEdison bill because she's dark. In summary, this had been a very relaxing and very educational 22 days on board Queen Mary 2. I had noted wear and tear in an earlier review but that has since been addressed in the November/December refit. That, and three other negatives that keep me from rating this voyage five stars. One being the slow restaurant service after the crew change at Southampton. Two, the PG Maitre d' not reseating me on the middle voyage segment as requested. And three, the registry change to Bermuda will lower standards. On this voyage the QM2 was touring her home country. Its citizens were immensely proud of her and that she was theirs. How soon was this to end with the registry change from Great Britian to Bermuda. Her radio call letters GBQM -- which told the world where she came from and who she was -- would be replaced by the meaningless alphabet soup of ZCEF6. She's forever lost something special, and I think I'd rather remember her as she was. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
My husband and I just returned from a transatlantic crossing on the QM2. It was an anniversary celebration and an opportunity to experience a transatlantic crossing. We were in a Britannia stateroom...very nicely appointed except for the ... Read More
My husband and I just returned from a transatlantic crossing on the QM2. It was an anniversary celebration and an opportunity to experience a transatlantic crossing. We were in a Britannia stateroom...very nicely appointed except for the very small bathroom! Unlike previous reveiwers, we found the dining room to be very good in terms of both food quality and service. We also enjoyed the Chef's Galley for dinner where you watch each course being prepared, recipes discussed and then given to each guest. Well worth the $10 charge but be sure to book ahead as it fills up every nite. The afternoon tea was lovely. The food was great and beautifully served in the Queen's room where a full orchestra played. The dining room always had a Canyon Ranch excellent offerring so it was easy to keep to a diet. The buffet however was dreadful so we only ate there once. We have taken several cruises and feel we are in a position to make comparisons. For the price point, our QM2 trip was an excellent value. Be careful when you book because the fares and on board credits vary tremendously. We found the "funny" tube like balcony disappointing since you cannot see the sea unless you stand up so I suggest a regular balcony. We had some rough seas but the ship is so well built for this type of crossing, we never felt a thing and were able to sit and walk on the promenade deck the whole time. Service all thru the ship was fine, easy on and off the ship despite having to take care of 2600 passengers. Don't worry about not having enough to do without ports...there's lots scheduled everyday but a lot depends on who they have for the lectures. We especially enjoyed Bill Miller who gave 4 lectures on the history of travelling by ship...he really made us feel like we had stepped back in time on the QM2. The planetarium shows were also very good. It's truly a ship for dancing with lessons given everyday and orchestras playing all evening long. People do dress on the QM2...almost all were in long gowns and tuxedos. Day wear is casual and "nice" jeans are accepted everywhere during the day. While there were some excellent singers, the resident singers and dancers were just fair. The RADA group were excellent as were the musicians from Julliard. Overall we really enjoyed the trip...it was like going thru the Panama canal...a one time event for us. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
While eating breakfast one day in the QM2's Britannia Restaurant on a crossing from Southampton to New York, I had an experience that captured many of my reactions to this ship. My partner and I had decided to forego our usual ... Read More
While eating breakfast one day in the QM2's Britannia Restaurant on a crossing from Southampton to New York, I had an experience that captured many of my reactions to this ship. My partner and I had decided to forego our usual morning run through the buffet in favor of something more pampered, and we opted to sit at a 6-person table rather than eat alone. Among the passengers already seated was a wiry, sixty-something, somewhat-weathered, vaguely-upmarket British woman and her husband. Her order included fruit salad, and when it arrived she was not pleased: it consisted entirely of two types of melon, when what she had expected were additional ingredients like pineapple, strawberries and grapes. She lectured the server vigorously and with an edge, pointing out that she knew well that there were other types of fruit on board because she had seen them at the buffet line. The server explained that this was what was had been prepared for that meal, but she was rough with him and would have none of it. He took it back from her and retreated. By now neither my partner nor I was feeling comfortable, and I noticed that one of the other two people at the table was getting a bit squirmy. The woman's husband was mute; we were sure he'd been through scenes such as this before, poor thing. The waiter may have been gone by now but the woman still had more to say, and so she turned to the rest of us to point out the weakness of the tea. This led (inevitably, because I suspect it's really where she was looking for an excuse to go all along) to the observation that Cunard is not really a British liner anymore -- the tea would have been better in the old days. She then moved on from food, reminding us that the recognized currency on the ship is now the US dollar, not the British pound, as it once had been -- a pity. I don't know where she might have taken us next, but we were saved when the waiter reappeared with exactly what she had wanted in the first place. She was thrilled, triumphant, transformed, and thanked him profusely. The meal could finally proceed, even if the mood were grim. Whenever anyone asks me what it was like to travel on the QM2, I can't help but think of that breakfast, which serves as both launching pad and repeated reference point for this review. It certainly raised some matters that were central to my own QM2/Cunard experience. First and most important is that this little drama took place in a restaurant (actually, I'd call it a dining room, but more on that later), and the issue was a problem that someone had with her food. This piece is, in fact, very much about eating, and I think that's appropriate, for say what you will about the service, entertainment, spa, casino or lounges: on any big ship, it's basically about the food. This is especially true on a transatlantic voyage where there are no ports of call between points of departure and destination, and therefore nowhere other than the ship to eat or pass the hours of the day. Many, if not most, of the crew is there to support the creation, delivery and cleanup of food. For those passengers unskilled at finding ways to amuse themselves, say by reading, playing bridge, or going to movies or the gym (and there are more than a few of these), eating is the main event of the day. Nor should we forget all of the time spent talking about the food and dressing for dinner. Cunard's pre-sailing literature could not be more clear on this: "Dining on board a Cunard ocean liner is one of the greatest thrills that awaits you." They have set the bar high, they throw everything at it, and we have every right to think first of food when we evaluate the shipboard experience. This is a happy situation for someone like me who enjoys eating well and cooking for others, and who has also worked in professional kitchens; writing a food-focused review of the QM2 is an agreeable task that Cunard has invited by its pitch. To be clear, then, this isn't a blanket review of the entire sailing experience, but given the degree to which the quality of the dining experience drives the overall perception of a voyage, the focus on eating seems reasonable. Specifically avoided was any attempt at a thorough discussion of service on this ship, except where necessary in the context of eating. Service is not a minor issue, but to get into that would make an already very long piece much longer and distract from the main point. Besides, there is no lack of opinion on this in other reviews, and anyone seriously thinking about traveling on Cunard should consult those for more information. I'll dismiss the entire topic by noting that the service was so uniformly good that if I could spend the rest of my life being treated as I was on the QM2, I would die a very happy man. What I knew at the outset of this task, and what became even more apparent the more I worked, however, is that eating is about much more than food, and so in the end I found that I could not feel that I had done the matter justice without allowing myself to stray now and again. Service couldn't be entirely avoided, for example, since food is served, but then there are the issues of class and dress: for me, they all came together and I wasn't happy until I had herded them all into same discussion. I wish that I could offer a simple, unqualified answer to the question how does Cunard do with the food? but, as in many things, it all depends upon your expectations. While sailing on the QM2 was a good experience that I would eagerly repeat and always choose over flying if I could spare the seven days, I must say that I found the food to be only so-so, not great, and for me the trip would have been much improved if some food matters had been handled differently. I took that copywriter who said that QM2 dining was a thrilling experience at his word, and my expectations were higher. Our table-mate who ordered the fruit salad clearly expected more as well, and if you seriously hold Cunard to its stated promise then you too will probably have a few disappointments before your trip is over, though I hope you won't raise such a fuss as she did. If you appreciate a nice presentation and good service, and if you don't care too much about the details but just want to eat decently, then you'll likely be more than satisfied. This is not a bad score, especially when you consider the sheer number of food events that happen on a seven-day trip -- there is no way they could all be perfect. They do well even in the Britannia, the lowest of three levels of dining rooms, where the great majority of passengers eat their meals, and where I took mine. The room is comfortable, the tables are set nicely, the staff is attentive and the menus are tempting. For me, however, it was far from excellent and certainly not thrilling. Starting with the small stuff, one was aware of little shortcuts taken out of convenience, economy or occasional carelessness. On an airline they would likely go unnoticed, even in Business or First Class, because you don't expect much there other than real eating utensils and plates, cloth napkins and an endless gush of alcohol; on a ship, where more has been promised, these slip-ups are seen, they persist in memory (perhaps out of proportion to their importance), and many people gripe about them, though usually just among themselves. The Fruit Salad Lady chose to take her complaint public, but that was not typical. This woman caught them in one of their small missteps and, as much as I hate to allow her any credit at all, she was right -- fruit salad should be more than some cut-up pieces of melon, or it should be called something else, perhaps mélange de melons? -- I'm sure they could think of something. As a survivor of commercial kitchens I'll venture a guess as to what happened here. Fruit salad was on the menu, there was an excess of melon already cut up, probably from the previous day's lunch, and there was no reason to dive into new ingredients when they had more than enough of something already prepared to get them through today. Coincidentally I had my own little fruit-salad-like disappointment at breakfast on our eastbound crossing, worse (to me, at least) than the one I just described. The menu said fruit compote and I ordered it. I know what fruit compote is and I know how easy it is to prepare well, so easy that you might not even want to use the term "cooking" to refer to the process -- the entire recipe for a very good version could be communicated in a single sentence. What I got was a mixture of several different canned fruits, or if they were not canned they were prepared by someone who had succeeded in making them look and taste canned. In retrospect, it is interesting how disappointed I felt when the waiter slid this dish of fruit in front of me. It was only a small item out of a larger order, but it said something about the effort that was being put into the food, and it didn't feel good (this is perhaps what the Fruit Salad Lady was feeling). I ate it, I didn't complain, but I didn't order it again, and for me it took the wind out of an otherwise nicely prepared and presented meal. My partner, too, had one of these experiences. His order of pancakes arrived without syrup, an easy mistake for a waiter to make, and one easily corrected. We flagged down our server and asked for some. The tables are set nicely, even in the Britannia, so we expected a little pitcher of syrup, but we could easily have dealt with one of those little pear-shaped glass jars with the sliding spout cover that you'd find at any Denny's. Instead, the waiter returned with the uncapped, drippy plastic bottle in which the syrup had been originally packaged, reached over my partner's plate and squeezed a large quantity of it over the pancakes without so much as a word (it made an unappetizing sound when he did this), and then walked away. You don't expect something like this in an upscale venue such as this. On the surface it was just one of those rare service infractions, a harried waiter who seemed not to want to be bothered. Worse, however, was that it gave us a chance to get a look at that syrup bottle, laying bare a nasty little truth about what we were being served, something I wouldn't have bought for my own home (and I know first-hand about cutting corners on products in restaurants -- these are things you don't want the customers to see). I'd love to have had a look at the packages from which they got their bagels, English muffins and many other baked goods -- this was not high quality stuff, and I'm certain very little of it baked onboard. I recalled the scene in Brideshead Revisited in which Charles and Julia are crossing the Atlantic by ship and Charles wants tepid water in his scotch. They had no tepid water, but they did have boiling water and they did have ice water, so the waiter brought little silver pitchers of each and mixed them to the proper temperature at the table. That sort of thing wasn't going to happen to us at this meal. These may be minor events in the overall picture, but I'm going to stand my ground against anyone who thinks I'm being too picky. When you book a room on this ship you have been sold The Fantasy (even if you are eating in the Britannia), a big part of that Fantasy is the food, and when you suspect that someone is economizing at your expense or that the a member of the staff is being dismissive you are disappointed. If you are one of those people for whom food is important, then you are likely to have noticed what I noticed. It as though you are watching an otherwise-well-produced play in which one of the actors momentarily slips out of character; sadly, it is what will be remembered about the evening. Dinner was more consistently troublesome. It is the biggest food event of the day, and expectations run high. Everyone marches in dressed for the part and is seated, the waiters are delightful (really, they are), and you are given one of those menus on which so many things look good that you don't know where to begin. You order an entree, your flatware is adjusted to match the order, and the sommelier does his thing. The food arrives, and it usually looks fine. But then you dig in and it doesn't have much taste. It's not bad; it's just not as good or flavorful or interesting as it sounded on the menu. It certainly isn't thrilling. This didn't happen always, but it did happen regularly. I ordered fish often because I enjoy it but my partner does not, so I don't make it at home as frequently as I would like. For me eating a piece of fresh fish with a light sauce can be a great food experience, but ordering it from a menu can be like watching the fabled canary in a coal mine: when things aren't going just right in the kitchen it will be one of the first dishes to show it. I ordered fish on several consecutive days, hoping that my past experience was the exception, but it never got any better -- it was always somewhat dry and overdone, the sauce a bit gummy, as though it had been sitting somewhere for a while before finding its way to our table. I eventually gave up. My partner, more the carnivore, ordered several meat dishes. He had better luck than I, but there were still disappointments, several overdone items and, saddest of all, a huge and gorgeous medium-rare piece of beef that was tasteless and tough. His reactions were especially noteworthy as has he is not remotely a foodie (I've been trying to turn him into one for years, but my work is not yet done). The appetizers were a complete crapshoot, all nicely presented but unpredictable in flavor. Some were actually more canapés than appetizers, single tiny bits of food abandoned in the middle of not-so-tiny plates, surrounded by a few artfully-placed sprigs of this or that, perhaps a caper or two and a little drizzle of sauce, barely enough to taste. More than once these would arrive at our six-person table and people would stop and look at each other with a questioning smile, astonished, eyebrows raised, the thought running through everyone's head: "what on earth is this supposed to be?" What was going on here? I think it's the same thing that goes on aboard any big ship, and it brings me back to the distinction I raised earlier about whether you call the Britannia a restaurant, as Cunard does, or a dining room, as I would. This isn't a restaurant in which meals are prepared to order. This is catering (and maybe they should call the Britannia a catering hall, but I know that doesn't sound nice). Hundreds of people are being fed at once, and the only way this can be done is in assembly-line fashion. If the menu includes items that are best hot and fresh from the grill, oven or sauté pan, then you order these at your risk, as I did with my fish. (I should have known better, but I really wanted it, and I kept hoping.) There are foods that can be prepared very well this way, moist, slow-cooked things that just seem to get better when they sit in a warm oven, like ribs, chili or lasagna. But the QM2 is serving more upscale food here, so that sort of thing isn't even on the menu. I like to think that they try their best, but with this sort of menu at least some of it is always wanting. The most truly unforgivable food events on the QM2 took place on the buffet line. This was my first Cunard vacation and I assumed that the buffet would be handled the same way as I had experienced on two previous trips on another line. What I recall there, and what made complete sense to me, was that a subset of the restaurant menu was offered at the buffet. This meant that if you didn't want to bother dressing for dinner, weren't hungry at the appointed hour, or if you just weren't up to talking to your table partners for one more night, you always knew you could grab a tray and get a nice meal without any formalities. On the QM2, what was offered at the buffet was just cafeteria food, unrelated to anything going on elsewhere on the ship. We've all eaten in cafeterias, so let's be more specific: I'd place their buffet alongside what you would expect to get from a very good college food service. In other words, it was somewhat better than average, but nowhere near the top. If I had to go through the choices offered at any one meal I'd bet I could identify those items that had been pre-made or frozen prior to that meal, if not prior to the voyage. They were more numerous than they should have been. The packaged French fries were especially inexcusable, as were the omelets at breakfast, made in batches on a flat grill and then piled, overlapping, in a pan on a steam table. I would be willing to swear that most of the baked goods were produced elsewhere. Salads were meager and uninteresting. If you want to see how good a buffet can be, visit the take-out department in any one of the larger Whole Foods branches, or some other high-quality local store. The food looks so good you just want to put your face into it. It's hard to understand why Cunard can't do as well as a supermarket chain on this. As a final food point, one that applies to all of the situations I've described so far, one should consider the idea that cruise-line food is always rather uninteresting because most cruise passengers do not have well-developed or adventurous palates, and that a ship must therefore always cater to the lowest common denominator. For me, that isn't a passable excuse. We entertain regularly at home for guests with widely varying tastes, and I've cooked professionally in places that serve a clientele that is not sophisticated with respect to food. Everyone likes and appreciates good food -- the trick is to cook well while avoiding the extremes (like food that is too spicy, or too many ingredients of which some may be suspicious, like squid or beef tongue, although you can get around even this in situations where a customer has a choice). Nobody likes food that is bland or uninteresting, although many may tolerate it. Repetitive, predictive food is what children insist upon; it is not what you feed adults. Now, after all of these comments about the food, let me drag you back to the fruit salad incident and remind you how it ended. The woman was at first told that what she had been served was all that was available, but when she persisted she got what she wanted. So while there is no way that each of the several hundred people eating breakfast in the Britannia that morning could have been accommodated for a specially-composed fruit salad, the occasional isolated complaint is handled immediately and graciously. There is a little game going on here -- "standard issue" in the Britannia is dispensed to everybody in a way that strikes a bargain between nice, on the one hand, and efficient and economical, on the other, and it isn't always what you might expect, but if you are unhappy and willing to press the matter you can get it fixed with little or no pushback. What was even more surprising is that you can even do this at the buffet line. Here's what happened to us. After a few days of eating fairly heavy food, my partner just wanted some plain cooked vegetables. We were standing at the buffet line and he noticed some broccoli as part of a cluster of raw vegetables on a bed of ice, and so he asked whether he could get some. We were at first told that the broccoli was there only as part of the display for that meal, but then someone volunteered to prepare some for him. We took the rest of our food to a table, and in about five minutes a server tracked us down and presented us with a huge plate of broccoli, perfectly steamed (i.e. not overdone) -- it was the best and freshest thing we had from the buffet during the entire voyage. So you can eat at the buffet but you don't have to settle for what's on the buffet line. Who knew? I now suppose that I would not have had to put up with a number of the food disappointments if only I had pressed, but I really don't enjoy complaining and prefer to get what I have been led to expect to begin with -- one shouldn't have to make a fuss for that. Unfortunately, even the correction of her order could not have addressed the lost sense of Britishness on the Cunard fleet bemoaned by the Fruit Salad Lady (here begins one of those digressions away from food that I promised you, but in the end it all leads back). Since this was my first Cunard vacation I knew nothing of how it was in days past, but as the line is now owned by Carnival it is understandable that some things would have changed. I've traveled to the UK numerous times and that non-foodie partner of mine grew up in England, so I probably have more of a feeling for things English than most Americans. I wouldn't describe the QM2 culture as screamingly British; as on most ships the staff included many Asian and Central/Eastern European workers in addition to some from England and Australia -- all of that seems the same from one cruise line to the next. And the food, blessedly and despite all of my complaints, was better than the usual UK fare, even though that seems to have improved well beyond what I recall during my last visit some years ago. What I did find to be entirely English on this ship was its fascinating treatment of the issue of class, which to my understanding is unlike anything found on other lines. I apologize for the appeal to stereotypes, but the English do have a thing about class, and it's more than just an obsession with the Royals. It is well known to readers of English fiction (I count myself among these, and I am hard-pressed to think of an English novel in which class is not at least a minor theme), and speech is no less a class identifier today than it was for Henry Higgins. In the glorious, pre-jet-age days of transatlantic crossings, you bought a first, second or maybe third class ticket, and the ship was all carved up into separate areas for the different passengers; the structure was iron-clad, and everyone knew his place, just as it should be. That system is long-gone. Browse the websites of the various cruise lines and you'll see that you can spend anywhere from a modest sum for a small inside cabin to an eye-popping fortune for a large balconied suite, but even at these extremes you are not members of a different class and are free to wander the public areas of the ship and use whatever facilities, like lounges and specialty restaurants, for which you are prepared to pay. Cunard, now be owned by Americans but with its culture still rooted in the UK, seems to have a longing for days gone by, and has implemented an ingenious compromise between old and new when it comes to class. It is recognized that there are people who are willing to spend a lot of money on travel and who would love nothing more than to buy a first class ticket (by that very name), but that leaves the rest of us, the majority in fact, who won't or can't spend as much -- we too want to live that Fantasy, but we aren't willing to be called second-class, and without our business (and we do fill most of the cabins) the ship will not sail. How do you satisfy everyone? Those fortunate few who buy the costliest suites get to eat in the Queen's Grille, those who pay somewhat less eat at the Princess Grille, and the rest of us eat in the Britannia. The C word is never used. Note where we find ourselves now -- I promised you we would be back to food, and here we are again. The name of your restaurant is the proxy for your C word. (It's actually a little more complicated than that -- those Queen's Grille people have their own private lounge, their own sundeck and several other services, nowhere near the degree of separation that Charles and Julia enjoyed when they sailed from NY to Southampton, but enough to allow them to keep to themselves for much of the day without feeling too constrained.) An interesting thing happens when you arrive at the terminal to board the QM2, a process to be compared to the check-in lines at an airport. If you have a business class or first class ticket at JFK, you can go to a shorter, dedicated line, where you are handled less like a head of cattle. Arrive at the cruise port for a trip on the QM2 and what do they ask you? "What dining room are you eating in?" The staff in the departure terminal couldn't care less where you eat: they just want to know if you are a first class passenger so that you can be treated accordingly. So the class system lives on, even if as a slightly diluted and disguised version of its former self, and is now more tightly coupled with dining than ever. As I pointed out at the beginning of this piece, the majority of your waking hours on a transatlantic crossing will be spent doing something that involves food, so the three-tiered dining room arrangement is an economical and relatively inoffensive way of achieving a substantial separation between passengers, implementing class with a whisper. Since that separation is not absolute, I did meet people in some of the lounges and other public areas who were Princess or Queen's Grille passengers and had a chance to ask them about their experiences, so I can offer a few second-hand observations. Not surprisingly, dining at those levels is judged more highly, particularly so in that it is easier and more accepted to order anything you wish, regardless of what is on the menu. I'm told that preparations are more complex and pleasing to the eye by those who have eaten in both venues (though they were never shabby in the Britannia) but, interestingly, I heard the same comments about the food -- though it may have been prettier and presented more ceremoniously in the Grilles, it didn't reach expected levels, and I'm guessing that you'd have a more satisfying food experience at most two-star restaurants in New York than you would have in any venue on this ship. There is a subtle management of expectations here. One could imagine everyone thinking that he was going to be getting first class treatment. Most get less than what falls to top-paying guests, but nobody gets anything horrible, and the hope is that everyone will play along with whatever has been meted out to him; when that fails, adjustments will be made cheerfully. I suspect that at the core of the Fruit Salad Scandal was a different understanding by the plaintiff, on the one hand, and Cunard, on the other, about her class, and that this misunderstanding played out in the context of her food. She was partially in error when she said that the QM2 had lost its identity as a British ship. It remains quite British in its implementation of class: as a passenger eating in the Britannia, she had actually bought a very good third-class ticket, infinitely better than what that would have meant in the old days, but third class nonetheless. Of course she would never have thought of it this way. In a multi-priced setting those paying the larger tab sometimes look upon themselves as having bought a special right to be imperious, which is sad. I can only imagine that the staff felt that she hadn't paid enough for her passage to allow herself to feel so entitled or, to put it another way, that for her level of accommodation on this voyage (dare I say it?) she didn't know her place. Cunard is responsible for such misunderstandings, as it is they who have tiptoed around the class issue in an attempt to please everyone optimally and still keep on budget. It is they who set the expectations. I hate to say it, but I do appear to now be defending this woman, even if only in part. She took them at their word -- she was told that she would get something excellent and that's what she demanded, but behind the scenes they thought that they could give her something that was just OK, and this time they weren't going to get away with it. She was unhappy, and in the end so was the waiter. Her table companions were the collateral damage. If the total dining experience is driven by more than just the food, then it stands to reason that the Cunard would do all it could to get as many of those other pieces right as well. This comes through in the design of the eating spaces and in the management of service, both big determiners of how much we enjoy ourselves when we eat, and both done very well. Cunard goes a step further, however, in its handling of the dining dress code, and that merits some examination as a final point. All of the ships I've been on have had some version of this, but it wasn't until I was several days into our voyage that I started to give some real thought as to how our dress relates to how we feel about the way we are fed. A particular level of formality is declared for dinner on each day at sea. Even the lowest level requires a sport coat at dinner for men (no tie, though), and the highest is formal wear or at least a dark suit and tie. Sailing on the QM2 is for most people a special event, and it's fun to make it more so by dressing up. On my previous two- or three-week cruises on other lines, I recall perhaps two formal dinners during the entire cruise, so I would have expected one formal night on this one-week crossing, certainly no more than two. On the QM2, there were four formal nights out of seven. Formal shouldn't be the norm; it should be a rarity, a special experience, a celebration, and to do it otherwise begs an explanation. I thought that there were two motives here, one related to class, the other to food, and both help fill out our understanding of those issues. If you would like as many people as possible on the ship to feel like they are having a first-class experience, then get them to dress up as much as you can -- then they'll have that experience at their own expense. Going beyond that to the special case of food, people who have dressed formally for dinner may be more likely to judge their dining experience as excellent than those who have not. In this, Cunard is playing the cognitive dissonance card, which goes something like this: "if I paid good money to be on the QM2 and then went to the trouble and expense of dressing formally for this dinner, then that dinner must have been a good one." My roles in the scene (what I paid and how I dressed) are then consistent, or consonant, with my perception of Cunard's role (how they fed me), and I would have felt uncomfortable had it been any other way. I believe that Cunard attempts to stack the decks of passenger opinion about both the general aura of the ship as well as the quality of the food by railroading as many people as possible into dressing up on what I found to be an annoying number of evenings. If I'm going to put on a dinner jacket, it's got to be for better food than they were dishing out. It was more than I was willing to do, and I admit to being a tuxedo scofflaw. I didn't bring one (I was going to be traveling for 4 weeks in Europe and wasn't about to drag one around with me), nor could I bring myself to rent one at their extortionary rates, so I appeared in a sport coat and tie regardless of the day's code. I thought I looked pretty good, and well matched to what I was being served, but I have to admit that I was uncomfortable with my transgression, minor as it was (in my defense the original plan was to have eaten at the buffet on formal nights, but after experiencing the food there I didn't want to do that -- I had never intended to attend those dinners in the Britannia at all). Nobody ever refused to seat me or asked me to leave the table, despite various printed threats. I was surprised at the small number of conscientious clothes objectors at dinner, by the way -- overall this was a very compliant bunch. Afternoon tea was an especially interesting event from the perspective of food, class and clothing. Cunard provides passengers with guidelines for acceptable dress in the ship's public areas, not just for dinner, and I thought that those guidelines were reasonable: casual is fine, but not too casual. High Tea on the QM2, however, is a classy event that just begs for some formality. This is not a Carnival ship on a four-day, alcohol-sodden, Hawaiian-shirted bender through the Bahamas -- it's a Cunard liner crossing the Atlantic, which in itself means there is some history behind it, and it bears an iconic name and a certain cache, even if the ship is in its second edition. Cunard appeals, and rightly I think, to those who would love to relive the glorious past, and the dress guidelines help set the tone. The day we appeared for Tea at the Queen's Room, a large ballroom where the ritual is staged, there was a squadron of servers (I think they were even wearing white gloves) weaving through tables and chairs with tea and coffee service, as well as mounds of those supremely tasteless, crustless little English finger sandwiches that never have enough butter or cream cheese. To our right were two fifty-something women who were nothing less than drop-dead gorgeous; perfect makeup and hair, stylish suits, tasteful jewelry, fabulous shoes, it was all I could do not to stare at them. They ate their little sandwiches, sipped their tea and spoke in a proper inside voice. They were doing this right. At the table on our left, slouched in his chair, was a man in a T-shirt from some sports team, a baseball cap, flip-flops and shorts. It was an incongruous vista. The Four-O-Clock-Tea-On-The-Queen-Mary thing may be a great, genteel, civilized Fantasy but, like a little girl's tea party, it only works if everybody plays his part, and you cannot rely upon that happening. Cunard set the stage and pointed everyone in the right direction, but the passengers were part of the scene and they didn't all follow through. This is a really big point: Cunard is not responsible for every disappointment you may experience on this ship. (I haven't forgotten my own clothing faux pas at formal dinners, to which I have already pleaded guilty; I've told myself that mine was only a minor infraction, and I hope I didn't diminish some other passenger's evening, but the fact is that I may have done so and contributed to someone else's disappointment. ) Again, one must be reasonable about expectations. If you are just dying to immerse yourself into that Charles and Julia Fantasy, you may find that it just doesn't come together for you (at least not in the Britannia), unless you are one of those people who can ignore a lot of what is going on around you. As we met people on this ship over the course of our two transatlantic crossings, we could not help but be impressed by the number of repeat customers, loyal passengers who love it and have been on it as many as ten times or more, big numbers when you consider that the QM2 is still fairly young. Some of those had views on dining similar to my own, but many didn't seem to care and whatever disappointments they had had with the food weren't enough to keep them from coming back (and perhaps some of those who did care simply did not return). As I said at the outset, what you will get on this ship is still far better than what happens on an airline, so this is not surprising. But if the food scene on the QM2 isn't so bad as to keep me from returning the next time I want to travel directly to Europe, a trip for which there are no other sailing alternatives, it was wanting enough to make me think twice about sailing on this line for a more standard cruise itinerary with several ports of call, where there is lots of competition among the various lines -- I know that there is room for improvement, and I'd like to see what someone else can do. If having one's expectations met is key to enjoying one of these sailings, then the next trip will be made with eyes open a bit wider. My intent here was to help potential passengers experience fewer surprises, rather than to discourage them from choosing this ship. Remember that if you choose a Britannia cabin you do so at a somewhat lower class than others -- I knew that when I booked my ticket, but I didn't get the full picture until I was there. On a ship of this size and with these relative numbers of passengers and crew, realize that not everyone can be treated as well as the brochures would expect you to believe, but the trip should still be comfortable and fun. If something happens that you really don't like, then you can complain (politely, I hope) and it will probably be addressed. While finishing this review a friend whom I had met on our voyage told me of a woman seated at his table on a previous trip who repeatedly sent back salads because the lettuce wasn't properly chilled, and insisted on bringing her own floral arrangement to the dinner table because she didn't like the standard issue. She was his Fruit Salad Lady; yes, there are more of them out there. If you are inclined to this sort of thing, then either try to get over yourself and stop making your fellow passengers uncomfortable, or instead buy a first class, Queen's Grille ticket, which will kick you up to a level of service at which you are less likely to experience such disappointments, and if you are still unhappy you will have paid a price that entitles you to be silly, obnoxious and unreasonable -- the staff in that venue expects that sort of thing. Realize, too, that you and your shipmates are all players in setting a scene over which Cunard does not have complete control -- i.e. you are not only there to receive, but also to give -- so be considerate, be a good sport and play along. Note to self: bring that tuxedo next time, don't be a grinch, and dress up with the rest. As for Cunard, I offer this as a substitute for the all-too-brief post-sailing standardized survey that I filled out after both of my trips on the QM2, expansions beyond the simple check-marks that were requested on just two or three questions about food; they needed more feedback than that, so now they have it. I only wish that they could find a better balance between what they are prepared to offer to whom, and what they intend to imply, if not promise to all. It would be a good thing to keep those fruit salad incidents to a minimum. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
I went on the 24 night roundtrip voyage on Queen Elizabeth from Southampton to New York and New England for my 30th Birthday. The ports of call themselves were beautiful, fantastic, everything I thought they would be and more even though ... Read More
I went on the 24 night roundtrip voyage on Queen Elizabeth from Southampton to New York and New England for my 30th Birthday. The ports of call themselves were beautiful, fantastic, everything I thought they would be and more even though the weather wasn't great. Going to New York has always been a dream of mine and to have that dream come into reality was bliss. However I shall keep this review about the ship, the ports of call can always be searched alternatively. Allow me to begin this review by stating that I chose the Cunard line for a purpose; I have a specific interest in maritime history and the days gone by as it were, and I wanted to relive the nostalgia of the vintage era. The ship lived up to it's name - the passengers, well, they were a different story altogether. I will start with the good points about the ship as there were many. First of all, the ship was pristine, glistening marble and wood, polished tables and stunning decor. The cabin, we were A4 Balcony, far exceeded my expectations. It was spotless, the bed was comfortable, our room steward was beyond fantastic - he put up with doing some extra cleaning due to my allergies and immunity etc. There wasn't a great deal amount of space for clothing etc but we managed and sitting on the balcony at 5am watching Lower Manhattan pass by slowly is something I will never forget and something one cannot experience if flying into New York. The Matri-D's were excellent, there was a man whose name passes me by now, but I nickednamed him Jose Marino for his slight resembelence to the Portugese manager. He was so friendly, he used to go out of his way to come and speak to us every day and say hello. Our restaurant Matri-D', Ali, was also friendly and rather amusing, one felt as if they were talking to old friends rather than staff of a large ship. We were seated in the Britannia Restaurant towards the back of the ship where we had glorious sweeping views of the sea as we ate. The food was excellent, simply excellent although I could have done with a slightly bigger plate as it was so delicious, the portions were somewhat small. The ship itself is furnished in wood and bronze with stunning art deco decor and a real feeling of being in the gilded age itself. You could not fault the design of the ship with its sweeping grand staircase and beautiful ornate furnishings. If you are looking for a ship with a pizzeria and a shopping mall, a duplex on sea then you are looking in the wrong place. Cunard is all about taste, refinement, elegance, tea in the afternoon served with white gloved waiters whilst listening to a harpist, classical music accompanying your dinner, ballroom dancing and old style glamour. This was fine by me, I suffer from a host of medical conditions and rest a lot so I felt the haze and rush of Royal Carribean would not have suited my needs. The entertainment staff were excellent, they really got the guests involved, especially the Head of Entertainment, Keith Maynard, who I gather has quite a following amongst Cunard fans (lucky Keith!). Not surprising, he cut a fine dash in his tuxedo and was funny, witty and professional, and dare I say it rather naughty in the Mr and Mrs Quiz! This brings me round to the question, and my first complaint, what was there to do? The answer was not much if you are under 65. This cruise was not marketed as an over 60's but may has well have been, Cunard know where their cash cow lies and do little to offfer much to any other demographic - every facility and design of that ship was catered with the over 60's in mind. Yes, one might argue, this is the greatest percentage of cruisers. But, what about the other 20 or 30%, does their money not matter? I am in my thirties and was quite honestly disappointed. As I stated above, I was not looking for nightclubs, a booze cruise so to speak but found myself wandering around at 8pm wondering what an earth to do with myself in my ballgown. The entertainment was not to my liking at all, apart from the odd thing like the comedian and magician who were both excellent. Shows and musicals are not my forte so unless one wishes to go to the Royal Court Theatre or wait from dinner till 11pm for the Golden Lion entertainment, especially if you are on the early sitting for dinner, there is little else to do. No evening films, no evening classes, nothing, apart from aimlessly wandering the decks. The same applied to the daytime activities. All were catered for the over 60's...bingo, bridge, ballroom dancing classes, lectures - none of that appealled to me. Whilst I would not have wanted to hang from a rock faced wall or skated on ice at sea, I wouldn't have minded something to do. I did however attend David Henderson's lectures on air travel which were excellently presented and Seth Golpin and Bill Millers lectures were also good but I missed them and caught them on the TV. If one fancied a little music, the DJ did not start until so late that it was time for bed by the time he had put his first track on. I would like to have gone to Michael Jackson night but my condition means I need to rest early and everyone else was supping cocoa and reaching for their slippers by then. Which brings me around to my primary complaint: the people on board. I worked in PR and can easily mix with all types of people from all walks of life but I have never encountered such rudeness and hostility as the passengers on this cruise. A lot of these people were of retirement age, or older, and some obviously had a lot of money and were loathed to breathe the same air as anyone who they felt was beneath them. You walked into the elevator, for example, said good morning to someone and they snubbed you. I use a walking stick at times and twice was pushed over, the first time I was knocked off my feet outside the arcade shop by a man bustling past who did not even turn round to apologise even though I told him he had just knocked me over. I was speechless. The second time was in Quebec City, where a man did not wish to wait for me to hobble past, barged me out of the way and grabbed my arm and bruised it as I fell, he then walked off and turned around and shouted at me, in full view of other passengers, shouting that my stick was in his way. He carried on striding ahead and kept turning around and hesitating as if to start an argument but his long suffering wife, who was also disabled, with a stick, chastided him to the best of her ability. These people did not say excuse me whilst queuing for tea, they just pushed you out of the way, barged in front of you if you walked too slow and tutted if you said something they did not like. My mother takes medication that keeps her alive, without it she would be dead, simple as that. Whilst taking her medication at breakfast one morning, this hideous couple started whispering and pointing at my mother. The man then leans over and shouts "if you take any more of them your going to rattle". I was astounded, who made it his business. These people continued whispering and pointing at my mother whilst we were in Halifax much to our annoyance. As I said before, I sometimes use a walking stick. I suffer with a very rare genetic disorder which means my ligaments tear and the collegen that supports the joint does not exist and all my joints move, dislocate, fracture etc on mimimal exertion. This has also affected my heart and sometimes I need a wheelchair, other times I can manage. Because of this, I spent the entire cruise being stared at, people pointing at me, whispering and making nasty comments. One woman at tea was saying to her husband "one minute she has a stick, where is her stick now" as if God made it her business. Folded in my bag was the answer but I confronted her and she got very nasty. These people looked me up and down like they were eying up vermin, like I was something on the bottom of their shoe which I have to say, ruined my holiday, as I could not relax and unwind, I felt like I constanty had something to prove with people whispering and backstabbing. What do they know of rare genetic diseases and how ill I felt? The attitude of the ship's staff towards my disability left little to be desired. I boarded the ship in a wheelchair and made it known I would need assistance yet there was no protocol for assistance, no-one to ask where to go and what to do. When we got to New York we were told at the terminal there was no wheelchair assistance to get me on and off the ship and they left me standing there until I collapsed and was then given a chair to sit on. Of course I got filthy looks from passengers who had seen me walking a little bit without the need of a chair. It was only at the END of the cruise I was told that I needed to book the wheelchair from the pursers office to get on and off the ship and that they pick you up from your room. I had never been told this. I only found out through my horrific experience getting off the ship by tender at Bar Harbour. We were delayed due to bad weather so some tenders had gone, others were waiting. To get off, if you are part of a tour you went to the Queens Room, got your ticket and went when your ticket was called. If you were not part of a tour you were put at the back and had to wait till the very end to get off, apparantly the Captain announced 'open tender' and anyone could then disembark. I went to the Queens Room to ask for a wheelchair, to be told by a very rude man who SHOUTED at me "WHEELCHAIR, WE DON'T, YOU CAN'T HAVE A WHEELCHAIR". Then I was told to go the pursers desk, who then sent me back to the Queens Room to get a ticket despite me telling her I was not on a tour and needed a wheelchair. I was in tears by this time and feeling rather unwell with all the walking backwards and forwards. Eventually I braved the tender alone, thinking I'd use my stick and manage, only to be told "I wasn't disabled enough to use the lift, I had to walk". Excuse me I said, I cannot manage two flights of stairs? You are not in a wheelchair therefore you walk was the curt reply from the woman checking people off the ship. "How dare you" I fumed, "what is this, disability discrimination?" The Entertainments Manager luckily was there and told me to go ahead and use the lift. Who are they to judge my pain and condition, the Department for Work and Pensions? The Lido The staff in the Lido were horrific. Not all of them I must stress, some of them were lovely but the particular individuals I encountered were so rude and nasty I would not sail on this ship again. Some of the staff huffed and puffed and clearly could not be bothered to work. The tables were never cleared away, we had to ask each time for a table to be wiped of the previous passengers food reminants. One girl REFUSED to wipe the table, I had to get her manager. They could not be bothered to wait for people to get their drinks and barged in to do their job with little regard for the passengers. This lead to my having an accident. Two surly buffet staff were waiting to fill the coffee machine, there was a queue a mile long for tea and hot water. Instead of saying excuse me, or letting people get the hot water and tea whilst putting the coffee people to one side, they pushed in and huffed and puffed their way through the process of replacing the filter. I came to my turn of getting hot water and they would not move. I said 'excuse me' and they said 'you can get there'. I replied I could not and would they please move. They pointed at a tap next to me with hot water which I proceeded to use but instead of waiting for me to finish, these two buffet stewards pushed me and I scalded my hand with boiling hot water. I screamed, dropped my cup, and went to get some ice. We called the Matri-D over, a loathesome chap called Theo who strutted around looking down his nose at everyone. He came over and looked me up and down with a look of disgust and said he wasn't there therefore could not possibly comment. He saw my hand was burnt and red raw and stuck up for his staff, offered no apology yet looked at me with pure malice. I told him off for looking down at me and said with absolute horror "are you not going to offer me an apology". To which he repeated his first response of that he was not there. I could not believe the attitude of this man who was paid to wait on passengers, not make them feel two feet tall. Prices Everything on this ship was inflated, grossly overpriced. Hair Colour for $90 only to be charged an extra $30 to dry it, $15 to remove nail polish? Even the spa treatments were triple what I normally pay in the heart of London. The tours were grossly expensive as well, one could have picked up city buses in Boston and Newport for a few dollars rather than pay over $60 each. We did Quebec by ourselves and thoroughly enjoyed it. I only did a few tours, there were a lot of complaints about the organisation of the tours but the New York one I did was absolutely fantastic - couldn't have asked for a better experience although my fellow passengers were grumbling and glaring at me, grinning from ear to ear taking in the sights and squealing every time we got to a landmark. The Boston tour we did was also excellent. To sum up: I was truely ashamed to be British from the attitudes I got from my fellow passengers. There was no tolerance of others, no manners, no please and thank you. Yes I met a few nice people, I will not lie that there were some nice people on board but 95% were as described and I thought it was the younger generation wherein the problem lies.... Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
I booked the 14 day trip with a Travel agent , in another state. Originally booked D7, when price dropped I was upgraded to B2. I also booked the Transport/Hotel/transport package with Cunard. I booked my flight (through my agent) with Jet ... Read More
I booked the 14 day trip with a Travel agent , in another state. Originally booked D7, when price dropped I was upgraded to B2. I also booked the Transport/Hotel/transport package with Cunard. I booked my flight (through my agent) with Jet Blue from Fort Myers to New York, since Jet Blue is non stop but Cunard uses Delta, which takes twice as long and requires change of plane, terminal in Atlanta. On arrival in New York I was met by two Cunard reps who helped me with my cases and took me to the transport, which proved to be a limo just for myself.Very good arrival indeed. At Hotel (Hilton) thereceptionist informed me that the room allocated would not be ready until 3.30 but if I would accept a handicap room I could go straight up. I accepted the room of course, the only difference being a walk in shower in place of a tub. Stay was very pleasant. Next day again two Cunard reps, there on time and very helpful . I think Cunard has switched the agency they use, as in the past the rep at the hotel (same person each time) has been at least one and half hours late getting there, walking in with coffee in one hand and her breakfast in the other,and often missing when the transport arrived. This time was so very different, and very good Embarkation went as usual, arived at my cabin, checked my dinner seating card,freshened up and went to Kings Court , obtained a deli sandwich, a desert and took these to my cabin . No sign of my steward. Went to muster, back to cabin to change for dinner. Still no sign of steward, and no sign either of my luggage, although supposedly I had Priority handling on my tag.( It arrived after I had left for dinner) Went into bathroom to shower, no soap or toiletries. Fortunately I do carry these in my carryon. When ready since there was still no sign of my steward I left a note asking for missing items. Went to Chart room, asked for glass of Pinot Grigio , told this was not available. This has happened before, but this time instead of buying the more expensive drink they offered I said that if they had no Pinot Grigio then I would simply have a glass of water. Waiter went to bar, conference with bar tender, and returned with my requested glass of Pinot Grigio. Strange to relate, exactly the same thing occured a week later on the night we left Southampton! The ship does need the overhaul she is to have in November, the number of "soft spots" in the floors have multipied considerable. Seats in Illuminations are broken. Dining:- Food is subjective, so I will not comment except to say that the alternatives are not listed on the menu, and the servers did not mention them either. Since I ordered an alternative on several nights I was able to inform my dining companions they could do so also. This should be addressed by whomsoever is in charge of menu. Shops:- Not really my scene, however I did have need of a cosmetic, only to find that the shop was closed for 2 days when we left Southampton , excuse was they were arranging for a big sale on perfume! Shows:- These are the same ones as they have been for past 5-6 years, Cunard really needs to bring in some new programs. This is true also of several of the individual acts, same people, same act. Parties:- As noted on the main page of CC, no invites for parties on the Soton/NY cruise, no bottle of wine in the cabin either on that section. Believe this policy has now been reversed. Steward:- This was the invisible man. I never saw him, there was no cart outside my door when I left for breakfast at 8.30 each day, and every day he would "forget" something when cleaning my cabin. After first day he never put the coverlet and throw pillows back on the bed, he would make it but the cover etc remained rolled up in corner., some nights no clean towels to replace the used ones he had taken away, no wash cloths on another night, It was always something he failed to attend to. I played a game with myself every night trying to guess on my way back to my cabin what it would be that night. A notice re change of venue for CC meet reached me 2 days after the meet took place. He was very odd indeed. One day the daily event sheet had an item that some of the staff had not completed their training and passengers were asked to be tolerant of their shortcomings. Personally I think that Cunard need to be more concerned re the lack of service to passengers because of untrained staff rather than asking us to be tolerant. We pay for "White Star service" we should receive this. I am a loyal Cunard passenger, because I like to do Transatlantic and I like the formal atmosphere. I will be on the QV in Feb for 17 days LA to New York. I hope Cunard takes care to keep up the standard not let things slip. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
Summary: Overall the ship, service and staff (everyone who you meet would always say hello or a greeting) are top notch and we enjoyed this experience on being on an Ocean liner rather than being on a Cruise ship while crossing the ... Read More
Summary: Overall the ship, service and staff (everyone who you meet would always say hello or a greeting) are top notch and we enjoyed this experience on being on an Ocean liner rather than being on a Cruise ship while crossing the Atlantic. On the whole, the transatlantic cruise was an enjoyable experience, but I would most likely not repeat this itinerary in the near future, based on a couple of reasons. The first point is that I prefer to have the opportunity to visit a few port of calls during our time onboard. The second reason is that as the Cunard cruise line is very traditional and too formal (i.e., the need to be in a business suit for the duration of the cruise during dinner time) for my liking as I personally like a little less formality when cruising (if it is just a couple nights I actually look forward in dressing up, but every night, it becomes a chore). Passengers: We were a party of six, consisting of myself, DW, DD's (ages 6 and 3, respectively), DFIL, and DMIL. There was a promotion when we booked that third and fourth passenger under 17 years old could sail for free on this itinerary. As the result we noticed that there was a fair number of kids on the cruise. Pre-boarding: We flew to London a week before to see the city before boarding the ship on August 28. During our stay in London, we were able to take in a few attractions (London Eye, Themes river cruise, and Legoland in Windsor), historical landmarks (Buckingham Place and Hampton Court Palaces) and some shopping (Harrods). Embarkation: As DFIL and DMIL are Cunard Diamond World Club members, we were able to check-in via the priority line and were able to get processed, photographed and issued our ship ID cards within 15 minutes. We then passed through the security screening before being allowed to step onboard the QM2. As it was past noon time we were able to go to our cabins before heading to Kings Court for lunch. As we arrived later (approximately around 1:30 PM), it seems that there were no issues with large groups of cruise passengers waiting to be processed. At 4 PM we went to the Spa on deck 7 for the required reporting to the muster stations, wearing of the life vests and safety review. Twenty minutes later we finished and returned back to the cabin to store the life vests and walked the back of the ship to watch the sail away. We actually left the port 10 minutes early at 4:50 PM, just behind and ahead of a couple of P&O ships and the RCI Liberty of the Seas who were also in Southampton. Cabin: We had a Portside Oceanview cabin #6016 on deck 6 that sleeps four. The cabin was situated near the front of the ship just ahead of stairway A. It was configured as two beds on the bottom and two dropping down from the ceiling. I ended up sleeping on the upper bunk for most of the cruise with my older DD and DW sleeping on the other upper bunk. The younger DD always slept on the bottom bed. Whereas the upper bunk beds were firm and comfortable, we found that the lower beds were a little lumpy and showing signs that they needed to be replaced. We found that the beds on the HAL ships that we sailed most recently on werethe most comfortable in comparison to the QM2 beds. Our cabin steward was Ireneo and he was very good in keeping the cabin clean and making the beds and the daily night turndown service (loved the chocolates). It seemed that Ireneo was always working, when we would go to the cabin. Given that he seems to have a lot of cabins to upkeep, I was not surprised that we didn't get any towel animals. The In-laws had an Aft Portside Inside cabin #4202 on deck 4 (that also can sleep four) which was just behind stairway D. Food/Dinner Service: We were assigned to table #99 (seating for six) in the lower Britannia Main Dining Room (MDR) deck 2 for first seating at 6 PM. Our waiter was John and his assistant Randy. John would handle to meal orders and were able to accommodate the kids' needs and wants. Randy served the desserts and the after dinner beverages. The kid's menu did not change, but given the number of choices available on the menu, the kids were able to find something to eat. On most nights I ordered the beef courses while my DFIL ordered the fish dishes. DW tried the Spa menu selections and found them not to be too much different from the selections on the regular menu. The meals in general were good but not inspiring in comparison to other cruise lines. The desserts I found were ok, but not very exciting. For our 10th anniversary, we were given small cake that was made on the day of and it was very good. Other than going to the MDR, we spent most of our lunches and breakfasts at the Kings Court buffet on deck 7. The Kings Court is composed of four serving areas: Carvary, Lotus (Asian), Italian, and a Grill station. During breakfast the Carvary and Italian stations would serve selections that would make a full English breakfast, while the Asian would have some similar selections with the addition of fried rice or Congee (rice porridge). The Grill would serve made to order omelets & eggs, pancakes, and waffles. The selections for breakfast did not change throughout the cruise. For Lunch, the Carvary would have a daily selection of meat that would be craved on demand. The Italian station would have various pizzas available along with different type of meats and veggies prepared in a Mediterranean style. The Asian selection would have a soup and noodles and some veggie stir-fry. The Grill would serve sandwiches and burgers (always had a line-up during the lunch hour). We also went to eat at the Lion Pub as it had a pub menu that they served from noon to 3 PM everyday. We also went of afternoon tea on most days (3:30 to 4:30 PM), where brewed tea, various finger sandwiches, desserts and scones (with butter and jam) would be served with live entertainment in the form of a string quartette, a harpist twice and a dance band. One day we also tried the self-serve tea which was located Entertainment: During the first couple of days, DFIL was able to get hold of some tickets to watch a couple of shows in the Planetarium (Illusions Theater). It was an interesting experience to be able to watch shows on the creation of the universe and the exploration of life on other planets in the middle of the ocean. At night time the Illusions would then show regular movies. I was able to catch Sherlock Homes at 10:30 PM on the last night before we arrived in New York. I was able to attend a couple of the song and dance presentations, listened to a theater show singer and take in a play performed by RADA. I missed the first day's entertainment and skipped the Violinist. Laundry: It was a welcome surprise that on QM2 there are several self-serve laundry facilities located throughout the ship on several decks and fore and aft of the ship. The ship even provides complementary laundry detergent in self-dissolving single use packets. At each laundry station there are usually three pairs of washers and dryers along with a couple of irons and boards. They are opened from 7:30 AM to 9:00 PM everyday. Since the kids were always waking up early, I was able to get to the laundry stations first thing in the morning (during the three times I washed our clothes) and didn't have to wait for a machine to be available. On the second last day of the cruise, there was an offer for laundry service by the ship for $30 and up to 30 items of clothing, so long as it fit into the laundry bag. Given that self-serve was free and on previous cruises the cost was $20 for a bag of laundry, we didn't bother taking up on the offer. Children's Program: On the first day, we signed up both kids for the children's program and the older DD attended the program for a couple of days before deciding that she wanted to follow us instead. The younger DD did not attend the program as she was not interested in any of the activities that were being offered. In all, the program was not very well organized as there were only two age groups - Ages 1 to 5 and 6 to 17. Being that older DD just only turned 6, she was the youngest in the group and as such not a lot of activities were geared towards her age or interest (in DD opinion it was to much boys oriented stuff). Disembarkation: As the ship time was being adjusted almost every night throughout the cruise, my kids who were still on London time was waking up earlier and earlier. On the morning when we were to arrive into New York, they woke up at 4:45 AM (ship time) and luckily were able to see the statue of Liberty as we sailed by the monument at around 5 AM. Leaving the ship was a very easy process, as we followed the In-laws and were able to leave immediately shortly after the 8:30 AM (when we needed to leave the cabins). After giving back our ship ID cards to security to scan, we then left the ship to pick up our luggage and clear US immigration at the Brooklyn port. We then took a cab into Manhattan were we stayed for two additional days before taking a short flight back home from LaGuardia. Additional Notes: As Transatlantic cruises go, this one was uneventful other than some rain during the first couple of days out from Southampton. Before this cruise, QM2 was in Hamburg, Germany and as such during the noon time announcements there were German and French announcements in addition to the Commodores updates. Due to weather fronts, the QM2 would need to skip a port on her next cruise destination (New England and Canada) and stay overnight in New York before heading directly to Boston, MA. Even being a full ship, it didn't feel crowded and in fact that the indoor covered pool (deck 12) was never full was a bonus as DD and I were able to swim a couple of times without bumping into people all the time. During the formal night dinners, I noticed that almost 90% of men were in Tuxes and women in proper dresses. This is the first time I have seen the dress code being followed so closely. The staff was not very pushy about getting drinks, taking pictures or going for art auctions and this made the cruising experience much most pleasant. As I stated previously, all the ship's staff were very kind and courteous and would also greet you as they passed by in the corridors. Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
Just completed my 5th Queen Mary II westbound crossing (had done the same many years ago on the QE II one time as well) While the experience can never compare to the QE II I have enjoyed my crossings, as I love being at sea. Last year ... Read More
Just completed my 5th Queen Mary II westbound crossing (had done the same many years ago on the QE II one time as well) While the experience can never compare to the QE II I have enjoyed my crossings, as I love being at sea. Last year we were upgraded to the Princess Grill, and the experience was superb, so we booked Princess for this year and were upgraded to Queens. My expectations for the dining experience were high, but was I in for a let down. We were on the first trip where they made some changes, as far as I am concerned downgrades. there was a A la Carte menu every night, which was cut down to 3 nights, when the Maitre De saw my displeasure, he told me if I didnt see anything on the menu lunch time to let him know. the nights of A la Carte the menu was bigger but there were still cuts, portions were smaller, must of the plates were delivered cruise style, and the wait staff, though great were very overworked. I know everyone is trying to save money, but this is not where it should be done, and again I should not have had to feel that it was a downgrade from the Princess grill of the previous year (I am sure that has gotten worse as well) The bottom line is the grills are the top of the line, and the guest's should be treated as such with spectacular food and instant service. While I probably would go again in the future, I cant even see the point of paying for the Queens Grill (their feeling is if they can upgrade someone, and they like it they will go for the higher one the next time, which we did, and we were let down. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
After a wonderful cruise on Jewel across the Atlantic and visits to Brussels, Whitby (UK), York, Nottingham, Peterborough, and Reading we finally arrived in Southampton to board Queen Mary 2 for our return crossing of the Atlantic. We had ... Read More
After a wonderful cruise on Jewel across the Atlantic and visits to Brussels, Whitby (UK), York, Nottingham, Peterborough, and Reading we finally arrived in Southampton to board Queen Mary 2 for our return crossing of the Atlantic. We had travelled on QE2 on a number of occasions (the last one being in the 80's) and were very much looking forward to Queen Mary. We stayed at the DeVere Hotel the night before so we were well rested before the crossing. We returned the car to Enterprise the morning of the trip and they took us to the ship with all of our luggage. After a very uneventful check in procedure we finally got onto the ship at around 12.30 (our scheduled check in time was 2.30 but no one seemed to mind that we were early). We found our cabin (a B2 balcony on deck 5) and within minutes the luggage arrived and we unpacked. We then set out to begin the exploration. We were a little alarmed to find that the wall decorations on Deck 5 was the entire story of the sinking of the Titanic!!!. Overall the ship impressed us immensely, the level of decoration, the polished woods and the wall panels really took your breath away. The entire ship was beautifully decorated even to a higher standard than we remembered relative to the QE2. There was never a delay for the elevators which were more than enough for the ship. There were more than enough bars to suit any taste from the Champagne bar to the English Pub. We were somewhat quick to discover that Cunard was very different to the US cruise lines in that the staff did not really want to know who you are, what your name is and what you like to drink. We have become so used to the levels of friendliness by the staff and officers on the US cruise lines that we felt that this was a little "stand offish" by the crew and officers. The pursers desk was understaffed every time we went there, with long lines and very disinterested staff. We ate in the early seating of the Britannia restaurant and found the menu to be considerably inferior to, for example, Jewel of the Seas, which we took on our Eastward crossing. The service was very friendly and efficient in the dining room but, interestingly enough, we were asked to vacate our table by about 7.45 so that it could be prepared for the next sitting. In our entire cruising experience (some 30 cruises) this was the first time this had ever happened. The breakfast sitting in the main restaurant was quite exceptional in that the food was very good and if you did not feel like socialising you could get a table for 2 just by asking. They set out many tables for four and would give them to a couple on their own. There were many alternatives for lunch and we tried many of them including the Golden Lion English Pub. We only tried the Kings Court once and it became known by many passengers as "the feeding trough". We did try Todd English's Restaurant once but we were more than disappointed in the choice of dishes (there was no salad course) and the way dishes were put together was beyond our comprehension. For example, my wife had grilled sea bass and it was served on a bed of corn with rice as an accompaniment - all starch with no green veggies. I tried their Creme Brulee but could only eat half, it was tasteless. At the end my wife and I decided to have a cup of coffee as we did not think they could mess that up; they did- it was only lukewarm!!. A total disaster. We found the internet service to be very good and the enrichment series and concerts to be exceptional. They had three principal lecturers and a series of classical music concerts by a pianist and a string quartet. Much, much better than Royal Caribbean on their crossing. We went to the passenger talent show just to see whether it was as good as the one on the Jewel. We were not disappointed. A young lady with an exceptional voice sang the Sarah McLaughlin song "Angel" beautifully and a 76 year old man sang "My Way" with an enormously strong and melodious voice. The entire ship was beautifully decorated and it was only let down by the food standards and the friendliness of the service personnel both in the bars and the restaurants. The formal nights were duly attended in dinner jackets and evening dresses but, again, the food was not up the dress standards. The one thing we did find useful, after five weeks away, was the self service laundry on each deck. Disembarkation was again uneventful except that the tour desk put a leaflet in your cabin listing their transport services to the various transportation hubs. They listed, for example, a town car service to LaGuardia with a limit of two suitcases at a cost of $145 or you could take the coach for $40 each. Because we had four suitcases we decided to take a taxi to laGuardia. We got outside onto the concourse and we were approached by a limo driver who took us to LaGuardia for $58 total including all of our suitcases. He told us that his company had a contract with Cunard and he could not understand why they would charge $145 for the same trip. I guess it is profiteering gone mad. Will we undertake another crossing on the Queen Mary? I don't really know. It fell well below our expectations, other than its appearance, but I guess when it is compared with the hassle of a transatlantic flight it might be preferable despite its drawbacks. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
In June 2010, we embarked on a 12-day cruise on Disney Magic to the Northern European capitals (see another review for this experience). As the time approached for our cruise, Europe was experiencing periodic airport closures due to the ... Read More
In June 2010, we embarked on a 12-day cruise on Disney Magic to the Northern European capitals (see another review for this experience). As the time approached for our cruise, Europe was experiencing periodic airport closures due to the pesky unpronounceable volcano on Iceland. We weren't too concerned about not making it over there to begin with, but did not relish the thought of getting stuck on the way back due to jobs and other commitments. A little research determined that the QM2 embarked on a 6-day westbound transatlantic voyage on the day after our Disney cruise (disembarking in Dover) was completed. I contacted Cunard and booked a low-price inside cabin on a guarantee, with the hopes that we would get an upgrade. We had already planned to rent a car for a day and stay overnight at Heathrow after leaving our other cruise, so we changed the car rental, booked a Hilton in Southampton on Hilton Honors points and decided to end our vacation with our first transatlantic voyage. We are veteran cruisers and world travelers (QM2 was cruise number 17), mid-fifties, no children. I have some disability issues, walking with a cane or occasionally using a travel wheelchair. Pre-cruise booking experience: The agent at Cunard was very helpful and courteous. He did not guarantee that we would have an upgrade, but was optimistic. Our fare seemed very reasonable as insurance to get us home ($2200 total) in case of airport problems. By comparison, we had originally booked a shore excursion to Berlin on the Disney Cruise when we were in Warnemunde that was going to cost us almost half this amount! Needless to say, we canceled out of the Berlin trip and took a much cheaper excursion, now that we were adding on to our trip expenses. Embarkation in Southampton: We were told to arrive at the ship by 3:00 pm, for staggered embarkation based on our cabin level. We got there a little early, thank goodness. The ship was docked at the Mayflower docks, which are apparently inferior to the docks that are normally used (occupied by a P&O ship). The lines were horrendous, even in the disabled line. We were not upgraded, unfortunately, and proceeded on board after over an hour in line. A nice attendant helped us find our room (4198 - very far aft, inside cabin, port side) just in time for us to grab the life jackets for the safety drill. Room experience: Our inside cabin seemed adequate, with plenty of storage space. We had a small bottle of champagne on ice, which was nice for first-time Cunard cruisers. However, later that first evening and on the second night, we found out the truth about room 4198. This room is located above the bandstand in the Queen's Room. The music was quite loud and we noticed some minor vibration. A call to the purser's office did get results and they turned down the volume on the band music until it finally stopped at 12:30 am. On the second night, we returned to our room to the sound of loud music again, this time accompanied by the worst vibration we have ever experienced on any ship. Apparently, room 4198 is positioned perfectly to pick up vibrations from the azipods; these vibrations apparently increased significantly when the ship went to a faster transatlantic speed after clearing the ship traffic around England. Another call to the Purser's office got results, to Cunard's credit. A Purser came to our cabin almost immediately, evaluated the vibration and offered to move us that night. It was now after midnight and we were in our sleep wear, so we agreed to move in the morning. We wish we had moved during the night, because the vibration was almost enough to shake you out of the bed and the bathroom was a nightmare (extreme vibration in a closed space that shook you to the bones). The next morning, the Purser's staff quickly and efficiently helped us move to another inside cabin 6005, far forward on the starboard side. This room was very nice and quiet and we didn't mind the ship movement. Kudos to Cunard, unlike our experience on Disney that required multiple complaints before action was taken. Ship experience: The QM2 is gorgeous, in our opinion, with immaculate public spaces and lounges and beautiful works of art. The captain is quite personable and we loved his jokes every day with the noon report. We liked the shipboard history museum plaques (located all over the ship), spent time in several lounges (favorites: Chart Room and Sir Samuel's), and enjoyed the Illuminations planetarium (it was a dated show, but a planetarium at sea is incredibly cool). The weather was quite chilly on this voyage, so we spent almost all of our time indoors. Our cabin attendants (first and second cabins) were somewhat indifferent. We saw our attendant for our second room one morning and said hello and he barely spoke to us, running down the hall to work on cleaning rooms. The shops were nice, with an interesting variety of items for sale, including a good one-day sale on QM2 shirts and hats. The eight bells ceremony was fun every day at noon and we also liked the tradition of paying honor to the victims of Titanic when we passed near its location. One other very positive thing: The shipboard internet was very quite fast and reliable, when compared to other cruise ships we have been on in recent times. The prices were reasonable and included thirty free minutes if you signed up the first day. Apparently, they had upped the bandwidth for the system on-board to ensure good reception for the World Cup games. Two sad notes: We did hear a "code alpha" on the public address system during the night (third night out) and found out that a gentleman passed away during the night in a cabin on our same deck (mid-ships). We also had to return to the Southampton docks right after leaving them, because a crew member had become critically ill right after sailing out (we heard it was a heart attack). Food and beverage experience: We had early seating in the Britannia and had a great table with two other couples on the upper level near the center. The food ranged from adequate to quite good, with very unobtrusive service. The soups were the best thing on the menu, but we also enjoyed a couple of the entrees, especially the pork and beef. The portion sizes are reasonable. We ate in the specialty restaurant, Todd English, one night and had an excellent dinner. They charge $30 per person for this experience. Wine prices all over the ship were very high (glass and bottle), but the selection is quite nice. Our wine steward in Britannia was a charming character and he have some good recommendations and we attended a wine tasting (mostly boring commentary). The bar staff was good, but seemed overworked. We had lunch twice in the Golden Lion Pub and really loved the fish and chips and Ploughman's lunches. The pub was packed with World Cup game viewers, but was still a great experience. The King's Court was massive (the buffet service on deck 7). We only had breakfast there every day and thought it was merely adequate, with the same English-type breakfasts. Don't arrive too late in the morning, as you will spend your time trying to eat your breakfast while the staff mops the floors and vacuums the carpets under your feet. Entertainment: We are inveterate show-avoiders on most cruises so we cannot speak about the shows, but we did enjoy the music in the Chart Room, particularly the jazz trio and the harpist. We did not attend any lectures, but some of them looked interesting, particularly the ones on ship navigation. We also avoided the casino, although it looked quite nice. There are lots of good places on board to sit and read a book or play board games. Debarkation: This was not fun. We had booked a bus transfer to LaGuardia airport and were advised that we would leave the ship by 8:15 am. The line was long to get off the ship and there were no porters available in the terminal to help move bags. I ended up pushing my own wheelchair with two bags in it and dragging another, while my husband pulled the two big roller bags from the terminal to the bus (quite a distance). I was not a happy camper and probably turned the air blue with my commentary. Lots of elderly people were struggling with their bags with no help available. Shame on the Port of Brooklyn - apparently many of the porters were off for a five-day holiday weekend (July 4th). Once we got to the bus, we sat on board for almost an hour before leaving for the airport. Overall: We would definitely do another transatlantic voyage or minimum-stop voyage on the QM2 and know which cabins to avoid. I'm not sure I would do a conventional cruise on this ship with lots of ports, as the embarkation/debarkation experiences were not the best.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
Traveling with extended family filling 3 different grade cabins on transatlantic voyage from New York-Southampton. This ship is amazing and huge however, I feel that with the ship being so large you lose that more personal feel that you ... Read More
Traveling with extended family filling 3 different grade cabins on transatlantic voyage from New York-Southampton. This ship is amazing and huge however, I feel that with the ship being so large you lose that more personal feel that you seemed to get from traveling on QE2. The staff food and cabins were all what I would expect form Cunard with all three being equally terrific. What I did not like was the actual layout of the ship with dead ends and no go areas and very few inside seats with views of the sea which is very unlike the QE2 which had inside deckchairs/loungers were you could sit for hours in front of picture windows and relax as the world goes by. Instead the only sheltered seating with sea views that we could find was in the buffet food court with a few tables having sea views (these were always taken). Equally disappointing was the entertainment, I don't really know how to describe it other than very poor, my wife and I tried to watch several shows attended the nightclub and watched bands all with the same result, us leaving and walking on deck. The children enjoyed the zone area where they could go and spend hours doing various activities, it was also a godsend to us as keeping them entertained with the shows etc. would have been impossible. Embarking and disembarking was a breeze and I thought the price of drinks and services were acceptable. If you are quite happy reading a book or lounging around relaxing as I am this is a for you Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
This was my first ever ocean cruise.  I had been on a river cruise earlier this year.  We got off to an inauspicious start, waiting around for about 3 hours at the Sheraton at Heathrow airport.  We were treated to cookies and coffee or ... Read More
This was my first ever ocean cruise.  I had been on a river cruise earlier this year.  We got off to an inauspicious start, waiting around for about 3 hours at the Sheraton at Heathrow airport.  We were treated to cookies and coffee or tea (self-service) and parked in the bar area while awaiting the arrival of the rest of the passengers who were to accompany us on the bus ride to Southampton.   Why we were not simply put on a later flight from NYC, I don't know.  There were plenty of flights that would have made the timing much better.  (Cunard booked our flight on Virgin Atlantic.  There's a reason why VA is so cheap.  They don't feed you very much.  Bring your own food or expect to land in Heathrow with a ravenous appetite.  The seats are crowded together and seemed particularly narrow.  If at all possible, have Cunard book you on British Air or book your own flight on another airline.  Perhaps an upgrade to would have made the flight more bearable, but it was an extra $350 each.) As was expected, the wait at the ship's terminal was lengthy, but there were over 2500 passengers checking in, passing through security, and boarding.  It was civilized and organized.   However, the only food available was from an independent kiosk that had a very limited selection of overpriced food and beverages. Our cabin was roomy and clean, if somewhat worn-looking. This is a bit surprising considering the ship was only  launched in 2004. Our king-sized bed had two parallel depressions, running from head to foot.  However, it was still quite comfortable.  The loveseat was a bit shabby, as was the bed cover.  Everything was very clean.  There was an abundant supply of quality toiletries.  We were met with a split of sparkling white wine, chilling on ice, and two glasses. The staff & crew are amazing. They do everything they can to make the voyage a wonderful experience. The word "no" is rarely heard from them.  They are from dozens of different countries all over the world and are impeccably trained.  We were always greeted and addressed as "madam" or "sir."  The bathroom had one outlet that was only compatible with an electric shaver.  My husband uses a Waterpik for dental hygiene.  Our cabin steward tried to get us an adapter, which didn't do the job, and even went so far as to borrow an electrician's extension cord long enough for my husband to use his Waterpik in the bathroom while plugging it in to the only compatible outlet that was 10 feet away over the desk.   Afternoon tea was delightful but sometimes crowded, and was always accompanied by live music, either a solo harpist, or a five-piece band.  The food included finger sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream, and an assortment of pastries.  There was no choice of teas, but the blend served was fine.  Waiters circulated about the room constantly offering more of whatever, and a teacup was never allowed to go empty.  The British know how to do afternoon tea. Despite 7"-9" seas, the trip was pretty smooth.  The ship is huge.  Three laps around the Lido deck is a mile. That's huge.  Specs regarding the ship can be found on Cunard's web site.  We went to all three formal evenings and danced in the ballroom (also the room where they serve tea) on the "largest ballroom dance floor at sea" every night.  The evening entertainment ranged from poor (a RADA production of a condensed version "Hobson's Choice" that was unintelligible; the tenor Preston Coe who was less then stellar) to excellent world-class musicians (Robin Hill, guitarist; Nicola Loud, violinist) performing.     The Illuminations planetarium was a neat daytime diversion, although some of the projectors were slightly out of alignment, thus making orbits segmented.   The downside?  Mediocre to downright terrible food was the biggest disappointment, although I give kudos to the pastry chefs.  If the QM2 can bring up the quality of the meals to be on par with the quality of the service, we'll be back.  Otherwise, we'll take our future cruises on other lines. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
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