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5 Southampton to Hawaii Cruise Reviews

The ship is too big, with 4000 passengers and only one entry port you queue to get on you queue to get off and you queue to get back on. If it's raining when you return to the ship you will queue in the rain! But a shelter will be ... Read More
The ship is too big, with 4000 passengers and only one entry port you queue to get on you queue to get off and you queue to get back on. If it's raining when you return to the ship you will queue in the rain! But a shelter will be provided for the security staff who look at your boarding pass. It seems that P&O can't afford a tide table because on 2 occasions we warned that landing or returning might not be possible because there were unexpected high tide. The theatre only accommodates 900 with two shows so not everyone can attend, but the shows weren't very good so may be that's Ok. Service by the staff was poor you will have to wait for some to take your order, I suggest that after 10 or 15 minutes you go to a waiter perhaps they are called waiters because they make you wait. Cabins are small, there are no stairs open to the public amidships, how do you get down in an emergency if the lifts stop. The lifts are a disaster you wait for an eternity and then it's full because again it's too many people and insufficient resources. The meals in the principle restaurants are good if not the service, but don't expect to go the self service restaurants at 4:45 after a long day out ashore for a coffee and snack, it will be closed for child meals, go to the lido and they have closed early, complaints are ignored. Order flowers for special occasion at 8:30am wait they don't turn up now is it wait and miss breakfast? Went to breakfast flowers were delivered late. Poor service at every turn except the automatic adding of a service charge to save me rewarding good service! Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
Hail to the NEW Queen Mary 2 Pg 1 Arthur Stewart May 2004 ridger@optonline.net EMBARKATION-SOUTHAMPTON Anxious to check out the newest and largest cruise ship in the world, I booked on the Queen Mary 2 for her maiden voyage from ... Read More
Hail to the NEW Queen Mary 2 Pg 1 Arthur Stewart May 2004 ridger@optonline.net EMBARKATION-SOUTHAMPTON Anxious to check out the newest and largest cruise ship in the world, I booked on the Queen Mary 2 for her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York. Flying from JFK to London's Heathrow Airport, I picked up a coach that tooled me down to Southampton. We arrived dockside at about 3:00 PM. Although you could see the ship in the distance as we wound our way through the dockside, the enormity of it doesn't strike you until you step off the coach and look up at the towering monster. It has been aptly described as "The QE2 on steroids." As you go up the gangway and enter the grand lobby, you are in an atrium that reaches to the 7th deck. The Romans would be proud of its majesty! A shaper Guide takes your bag and leads you by an elevator to Deck 8 and then down an endless corridor to Cabin 8028. After the usual Emergency Drill in three languages at 5:00 PM, a Sail-a-Way party is held on the Aft Deck as the ship readies to sail at 6:00 PM. The weather is chilly but the sun has arranged for a layer of clouds to be positioned with rays beaming through openings forming a semi-circular fan backdrop to the occasion. Pierside, the express train from London, having discharged its passengers at the Terminal Entrance, wends its way back to London. The cars are Orient Express style, 12 "Wagon Lits" with shining bodies, curtained windows and silver trimming. Champagne flows as water and a Show Band "Onyx" made up of Tiger Woods Look-a-Likes kicks off with "In the Mood". Dancing erupts as hand held British and American flags flail the winds. Recorded music is then played at deafening decibels as those staples of British history bring the deck rails of crowded passengers to full voice with "Rule Britannia! Britannia Rules the Waves" followed by the moving tribute England "Land of Hope and Glory". Fireboats fore and aft spray a Niagara Falls curtain of water. Streamers fill the air from the upper decks. With a nod to Uncle Sam, "Anchors Aweigh" and the "Marine Hymn" follow. Tony and George would be proud! The ship's mighty whistle thunders "Under Way" and followed by a phalanx of small craft, the QM2 edges away from the pier into to Solient and it's on to New York and six memorable days on this palace at sea! THE WEATHER On our first day at sea, the weather turned foul. This comes as no surprise as it is generally known that the North Atlantic can behave this way at this time of year. I envisioned it as a confrontation between King Neptune and the Queen as follows: King Neptune: "So you think you're the biggest and the best! Well let's see what you've got!" Queen Mary: "Out of my way, Buster. You've met your match!" The battle got underway. The Beaufort scale read Force 10 and winds across the deck were clocked at 70 mph. Stay off the decks was the word. The seas erupted in mountainous explosions of white and green foam. The white horses were in full stampede. As you sat in the Commodore Bar on the prow of the ship, you watched in awe as the ship buried its prow in the waves and rose up as a dog shaking off the water. The spray from these frontal collisions would on occasion, wash the windows... and this was on Deck 9, well above the water line. It was beautiful! Speed was dropped from 24 knots during the night to 15 knots and then to 7 as the storm peaked. Next morning on my way to breakfast at 8 AM, it seemed every other Cabin had a "Do not disturb" sign on the handle. This continued for two days. The Lady plowed on. It had a date in NY and it must not be late. Conditions eased to sullenness for a period. The next day, although starting out sunny, suddenly turned yellowish dark and a sneak attack began. The Captain came on and said this was some unexpected turbulence and once again, be careful. On my way to dinner at 8:30 PM, I always stop in the Golden Lion Pub for a sip, a delightful copy of a London pub with gleaming brass, burnished walnut walls and taps of the finest English brews. It was located on Deck 2, near the water line. Seven windows on the outside wall gave you a clear view of the action outside. Once again the waves rose high and explosively and on occasion would rise up against the windows in fury and for a moment you were under the waves. It was awesome! On the 5th day, with one day to go, the day dawned bright and sunny, the waves calmed and the Captain leaned on the throttle, to 30 knots. We arrived in New York Harbor on time. The Queen passed her first test with flying colors. ENTRY INTO THE PORT OF New York This final day on the six-day cruise from Southampton was looked forward to with much excitement by the 2,746 passengers. This was it! The day dawned gloomy and foggy. The decks were crowded as the ship aimed for the middle point of the Verrazano Bridge. It moved underneath smoothly with an estimated 23 feet to spare. The flagship of the Moran Tugboat fleet led the way up the North River and her sister tugs formed an escort convoy. Police boats and Coast Guard vessels accompanied and they all looked so small from the 7th deck rail. The fog began to dissipate and slowly there emerged on the port side, the Lady. There hasn't been a time I have passed her that others) (and I don't get a feeling of pride and emotion. On 7 Deck is the cafeteria restaurant for those who shun the Dining Room. It is large and expansive and manned primarily by newly hired Filipinos. It was open for early breakfast but when the National Anthem sounded for the Statue of Liberty, the workers deserted their stations en masse, and flocked out on deck. The pattern was the same...first a look of awe and staring and then the cameras went to work. Singles, doubles, groups backed against the rail with the backdrop, the Statue. Very crowded, they stood on slippery deck chairs to see over the heads of the crowd. Slowly, they filed back into the restaurant and their stations. Wail 'til they see these pictures in Manila! The ship now neared the Battery and two fireboats joined the parade, shooting geysers of red, white and blue water into the air. Helicopters buzzed the ship providing early morning fodder to the Networks. At Ground Zero, the ship paused and sounded three long thunderous blasts on her whistle and then continued the march to Pier 92. As the ship made her turn into the berth, tugboats hovered nearby in case...they were not needed. Commodore Warwick slid her in slow and as smooth as silk and edged her to the pier. On the roof of the adjoining pier, the United States Maritime Academy band saluted with martial music and once PG 2 again with the National Anthem. Mayor Bloomberg greeted the Captain as the gangway landed and told Captain Warwick he had a bad dream. He said it was of the phone ringing and the Captain asking if he could raise the Verrazano Bridge just a bit for passage. NOTES AND COMMENTS When I arrived in my Cabin in Southampton, the television was on and the screen read "Welcome Arthur Stewart. See Instructions". In the desk drawer was a keyboard—computer style—with directions how to find out anything you wanted to know about on-board. Lectures, programs, shops etc. And if you were expecting e-mail, it would appear on the screen. The Lecture Programs were of the highest caliber. The speakers were from the Oxford University Discovery Program. There were several from other leading educational institutions in the UK and North America. Subjects covered in 3-4 one hour sessions included: Shakespeare, Dinosaurs, Trans Atlantic crossings when immigration soared, Opera, and Charles Darwin's Epic 5 Year Voyage on HMS Beagle. A highlight for me was the planetarium on board. A large theater with lean-back seats, the ceiling was a constant vision of the heavens. During the lecture, the lecture ceiling, now lowered, reflected a variety of star galaxies that were brilliant. Haven't seen that many stars in years. Commodore Warwick, Master, comes from a family of ship captains. His grandfather and father captained Cunard Liners. He took over as master of the QE2 when his father retired from that position. He has a lovely wife Kim who sails with him on most cruises. He said the happiest moment for him had been when, with special permission of the Governor of Massachusetts, he performed a marriage ceremony for his daughter in Boston Harbor. The Library, the largest afloat, (8,000 hard backs, 500 paperbacks, audio and CD ROMS) was located in the bow with windows overlooking the ship's prow. Wooden cabinets of oak polished softly contained a myriad of books on every conceivable subject. You could sit in a living room type chair and read at your leisure glancing now and then at the sea before you. Authors appeared regularly and you could get signed copies of their current book. In one room a "shop" was open for purchase of cards, QM2 bookmarks, napkins, etc. It was constantly busy. The Britannia Dining Room is a two-tiered restaurant with open seating at breakfast and lunch and two seattings for dinner at an assigned table. The main floor was vast and truly a grand salon. It was ringed with balconies and then a third, more cozy third wing. In total, the restaurant soars for three decks. Our table was near the door where the waiters went to get the food and return to your table. To do so, they exited by an escalator to the kitchen and when you saw a tray slowly moving upward toward the door, it was time to eat. The open seating was a positive feature as you got to talk with different people daily. At lunch, two young men (40ish) on my left had flown to London from Auckland, New Zealand to be on this trip. One was from the US, went to NYU where he later got his law degree and now works for a company in Auckland. The other was an applicant for a teaching job in London and would stay aboard for the return trip to Southampton. Another couple from Westport, CT asked me what the notice in the Daily Bulletin was that said "...friends of Bill will meet at 2:30 in the..." I informed them it was AA and it is on board every Cunard ship I have sailed. They mentioned attending a church in Westport—the Congregational Church. I asked them if they knew a Wally Scoffield. "Oh yes!" they beamed. He is our present Minister in the First Congregation Church in Riverhead, NY. And so it went. I did note that on several occasions people from other countries would lean close to you and ask, "Is Bush going to be re-elected?" The Captain's Compliments, and will you join him for cocktails..." The first blast was welcome aboard for all passengers who thronged the Queen's room at 5 PM for the inevitable picture taking of you and the Captain shaking hands. It's your Proof that you made this trip. The next invite was to the Frequent Floaters (5 plus cruises with Cunard) extended by the Captain. 700 Showed up for this gala and exchanged war stories of previous cruises and one-upmanship. Not to be outdone, the Senior Staff Officers threw another FF party and the same 700 showed up to do battle again, Surprising how so many couldn't make it to breakfast or lunch seemed in full fettle for these bacchanalia. Maureen Ryan, senior cruise hostess, always greets me with a warm properly mannered hug and updates me on some of the people I know so well from the QE2 who are still with her. She hosted a small group get-together for 70 passengers who had sailed on the original Queen Mary. Four of them were on her for her maiden voyage. They all told stories of what it were like and the gal from our dinner table who attended said it was a pleasant afternoon session—with tea. As to staff who left or were transferred to the QM2, I recognized and was warmly greeted by about 10. And, truth be told, the preponderance were bartenders. Don't tell. We were provided with a Passenger list of the 2,476 passengers on board. The first name on the alpha listing was..... Tahereh Abdolkarimzadeh through Helmut Zylla The ship picked up the Pilot at Ambrose light at 4AM and Robert D. Jones came aboard to guide her to her berth at Pier 92. A veteran of 45 years of service, he stood on the bridge with binoculars and hand held radio well away that the world was watching as he peered through the early morning fog. He knew that off Brooklyn he had to make two crucial turns. "We were flying along at 18 knots" and he asked Commodore Warwick "How'll she do?""Fine" he responded. "She's a lot like the QE2." Jones didn't want to hear that. He said on the QE2 you had to use a lot of rudder. (The QM2 had no rudder—it's all done by propellers strategically mounted) But this thing noted Jones "Pranced around just magnificent!" At Pier 92 Jones turned over the duty to the Docking Pilot. And that concluded his service as a Pilot. He retired as of that day. What a way to go out! FINALE A story line in THE New York Times summed it up perfectly: A QUEEN ARRIVES, AND EVEN IN JADED New York, JAWS DROP. Early debarkation was arranged and my time with Carl at the helm had me home by 11:30 AM. It took two days to come down from my high. In summary...Of my 10 years of cruising, there have been many notable events, places visited, people met, and friendships formed. This 6-day cruise was by far the most memorable of them all. It was as though you were in another world... and indeed you were. Each night you set your clock back one hour and another 25-hour day was yours to savor. In 1839 Samuel Cunard of Halifax, Nova Scotia had a dream of Trans-Atlantic shipping carrying the Royal Mail. More than 160 years later, the newest Queen of the Cunard Line carries his vision on. Read Less
Sail Date April 2004
RMS QUEEN MARY 2 MAIDEN VOYAGE ~ A REVIEW EMBARKATION. With high expectations, latterly fed by a frenzy of TV coverage that assured the world that we had all paid £26,000 for the privilege (our bank manager was especially impressed), we ... Read More
RMS QUEEN MARY 2 MAIDEN VOYAGE ~ A REVIEW EMBARKATION. With high expectations, latterly fed by a frenzy of TV coverage that assured the world that we had all paid £26,000 for the privilege (our bank manager was especially impressed), we finally arrived at Queen Elizabeth II terminal in Southampton for the voyage we seemed to have been waiting for so long. Even the weather smiled on us that day as the sun shone for the first time in weeks. The terminal was buzzing with excitement and embarkation was a very smooth operation. After 45 minutes in the waiting room, which was decorated with Cunard memorabilia, bell boys and white QM2 roses, we were ushered aboard willing ourselves to be impressed. There was no need, for as we entered the Grand Lobby, between ranks of white uniformed flunkies, this ship touched our emotions as none had before. Although we were not greeted nor offered assistance in finding our stateroom (a missed opportunity which did not bode well for service expectations), we wandered through this heart of QM2 impressed by the scale, richness and ocean liner tradition that oozes from the design. It is possible (if your eye sight is up to it) to stand with your back to the Samuel Cunard mural adjacent to the Royal Court entrance on Deck 3 and look through the Grand Lobby to the QM2 tapestry on the back wall of the Britannia Dining Room over 360 feet away! It was remarkably easy to find the way to our B4 grade stateroom on Deck 6 and we were suitably impressed when our South African stewardess greeted us by name in the corridor as we opened the door. ACCOMMODATION. The staterooms are a major leap forward for a Cunard ship, but no better or no worse than the latest staterooms on RCI, Celebrity, HAL or Princess. In design terms it is very simplistic (not even central light switching) and shows a strong art deco influences in the pale wood with black inlay headboard and furniture. Storage behind a neat bank of veneered doors comprises a double wardrobe with about 25 hangers, a second single wardrobe with a pull out rail for hangers from a suit carrier, four drawers, two shelves and a safe. For 2 weeks the storage is more than adequate and for longer trips there is always the free laundrette on each deck (4 washers, 4 dryers and 2 ironing boards for the technically inclined). Bedside tables with annoyingly stiff anti-roll catches, a dressing table / fridge / TV console with chair, height adjustable coffee table and sofa complete the furniture. Apart from the black inlays, pale red sofa and primary coloured art work, the colour scheme is generally beige and pale neutral. The shower room is more compact than expected, but with a huge shower tray and adequate storage size was never an issue. The internal layout of the B4 grade stateroom is similar in size and style to all B, C and D categories, with the exception that some C's (Standard Oceanview) have the combined space of the B stateroom plus its balcony and are huge. The only other grade of stateroom we saw was a P grade Mini Suite, which had identical dEcor but was 50% larger than the normal staterooms and had a walk-in wardrobe plus a more generous bathroom with full size bath tub. We were blessed with what has become known as a 'hull' balcony, an open balcony space within the hull with a rectangular opening cut into the top half of the deck height. The balcony is accessed by a glazed door in the floor to ceiling glazing of the stateroom. To me the location of this rectangular opening is a major design flaw, as it is impossible to see anything other than the sky unless you stand at the rail and look out. I can see no reason why the hole could have been made lower or a second hole cut below the first. If safety was an issue then why did they put a metal step a few feet convenient to the floor and compound it with furniture that lends itself to be stood on so that you can lean out of the balcony opening? The lounging furniture is a nonsense and takes up half the floor space. A table and chairs would be much more useful. That said, it was still good to have a balcony and we made good use of it - especially on the very rough Bay of Biscay crossing (when fresh air was sometimes need in a hurry and this type of balcony becomes much preferable to the unsheltered inaccessible 'glass' variety. The thinking behind these balconies I will touch on later. DINING. Pleased with our accommodation, it was with great excitement we ventured to the Britannia Dining Room. The photographs of this room catch the grandeur of the design but give no clues to its vastness, seating up to 1300 passengers at any one time. The vast illuminated glass ceiling over the double height space and curving double stairways gave the feeling of being in a large Edwardian liner. The space however is cleverly broken up and separated so that there are only a few places where you are aware of more than a hundred fellow diners. We were unlucky with our table companions (twice) and had no problems being moved which beggars the question why, with the computer based passenger data available in the Dining Room plus many months to plan it, was the dinner seating plan not more considered. Many of the people we spoke to in the first two days were also unhappy with their tables and had moved. After three restless nights we were invited to a table full of Cruise Critics (thank you Dan Tobey and Peter, Bill & Ray and Thulewx) and were set fair for the rest of the voyage. Much has been said elsewhere about service and food. All I will add is that, whether it be too few waiters, poor training, lack of planning or galley problems (and it was probably a combination of all four), service fell far short of what anybody could reasonably expect on the maiden voyage of an untried Cunard flagship. Service was very inconsistent and varied from the appalling to the acceptable. Food overall was a good banqueting standard. Ingredients were good, presentation was good but menus were sadly lacking in imagination and after a week it boiled down to a choice of fish, beef, chicken or pasta every night. If they can raise standards to those found in The Franconia Dining Room on the Caronia then they will have a winner. The 280 seater Queens and Princess Grills on Deck 7 are a complete and stark contrast to the Britannia, being very simple and most plain in dEcor. It must be said that initially I felt glad to be dining in Britannia with its wow factor dEcor, but after about a week it became a little overpowering (or maybe that was the stress of wondering what the service would be like each night) and the Grills started to look and feel more and more elegant each time I saw them! We heard that both these dining rooms also experienced service problems on the same scale as the Britannia. We generally took lunch in Kings Court on Deck 7, which is cleverly divided into four distinct areas by colour scheme and menu. Asian dishes; fish, meat and chicken; pasta and pizza; carved roasts; sandwiches; salads; - these delicious offerings and more were available at these four daytime buffets (Lotus, The Carvery, Piazza and The Chef's Galley). Again the only downside was the lack of staff at busy times when tables weren't being cleared quick enough for people to sit down. Against lunch buffets on other ships this compared very favourably. Like many other ships, QM2 has done away with the midnight buffet in favour of a late night buffet in Kings Court Piazza. Lunch in the Britannia was tried once, but strange table mates, haphazard service that included forgetting water and bread for the whole table, plus an uninspired menu meant the experience was not repeated. The alternative dining onboard has much to recommend it. Service and food in both Todd English and especially Kings Court Lotus were pretty good considering the stress on the staff by the second week. The rich dEcor of Todd English is an amazing concoction of styles from somewhere between Morocco and Byzantium - check out the tented entrance. Lotus (as well as Piazza and The Carvery) in Kings Court is transformed by screens and soft lighting into a series of charming and intimate casual dining booths. It seems that Todd English will soon be making a charge which is hardly surprising given the over subscription. but the Kings Court venues (apart from the Chef's Galley which charges $35 including wine) still remain an excellent free alternative to the main dining rooms. DRINKING. The bars onboard offer a variety of styles and atmospheres to suit every taste. Grand in scale and size, the three central bars adjacent to the Britannia Dining Room are ideally located for pre lunch or pre dinner drinks as well as for a quick one during a busy day tracking down those elusive souvenirs. Sir Samuels is modern and sharp in decor but colours, lighting and furnishing feel a little harsh and as a whole it doesn't strike me as a very inviting space. The Chart Room is Cunard elegance at its best. During the day very calm and restful and at night a sophisticated bar with live music - also one of the most stable places to be in case of storms! The much maligned Golden Lion was as expected, typical faux pub design (the steamer trunks and hat boxes were a step too far) but high on atmosphere which, as any Brit will tell you, makes any real pub more than just its decor. Always busy, this was the place for pub food, a pint and karaoke! The Veuve Cliquot Champagne bar is a very nicely designed corner of the Grand Lobby with a few art deco references, but blink and you'll miss it! The Commodore Club on Deck 9 became our favourite haunt. Restful observation room by day, it became sophisticated cocktail bar par excellence at night - even dispensing cocktails in Stuart Crystal, 'Jasper Conran' designed glasses which retail in the UK at $55 each! The dEcor with its dark wood and muted colours merely accentuates the shape and location of the space which, with the huge spell binding, bar mounted model of QM2, are the keys to its success. If you like to ride a roller coaster then you will want to drink in the Commodore in rough seas - those G forces are something else. Again, much has been said about the service in the bars. All I can add is that Cunard probably missed anything between 25 and 50% of its potential income from pre dinner drinks by having insufficient staff or inadequate bar facilities to cope with peak demand - with empty glasses on most tables and in many hands during the last 15 to 20 minutes before dinner, it was not uncommon to wait 5 to 10 minutes when actively seeking to be served. The Winter Garden is a strange mix of lounge and bar (which closed at 7.00pm) and was largely empty and underused once we reached warmer climes. It's dEcor is very tropical with wicker chairs, a trompe l'oeil ceiling full of palms and blue sky and a rather garish waterfall with bright fluorescent colours that seem out of place in this well mannered area. The entrance like a shrub lined park gate is a nice eye to detail. It strikes me that this is one of the areas that relates more to the Liner role than warm weather cruising and I'm sure it is going to be a bright and popular day lounge on cold grey North Atlantic crossings. One annoying aspect common to all these rooms was the smoking policy. If a majority are non-smokers, which is a fair assumption, then you would expect a well ventilated space in each room to be set aside for smokers. Unfortunately, on QM2 smoking is also allowed along the length of all bar tops which spreads cigarette smoke almost everywhere except the far flung corners of non-smoking areas in what have effectively become smoking rooms. ENTERTAINMENT. The main entertainment areas of the ship are grouped together forward on decks 2 and 3. In a few words, The Royal Court is a 'state of the art' theatre with a stage almost in the round and seating more akin to a luxurious cabaret lounge than a true theatre. The three or four shows we saw there were all technically superb, with great sightlines from comfortable bench or club seats. Dame Shirley Bassey gave two superb one hour celebrity guest concerts after a very rough crossing of the Bay of Biscay and laughed about it (no mean feat). Two production shows, La Passionatta and Rock @ the Opera, are very good and could be excellent once the cast eases into them more. Rock @ the Opera is worth seeing for the stage effects and costumes alone - well, I've never heard a stage set get applause before! Opera Babes, Magicians and Comedians we gave a miss. Curiosity drove us to witness Ruben Studdard killing us not so softly with some songs in between complaining how seasick he was and how drugged he felt (no mean feat on QM2 in a very calm Caribbean). Like a large portion of the audience we left early to enjoy a last cocktail. For me the real jewel in the crown is Illuminations. Theatre, cinema, lecture hall and planetarium - this space not only looks like a fabulous 1930's art deco Cinema, it also doles out excellent entertainment at every level. The illustrated lectures given by John Maxtone-Graham and Steven Payne were enthralling and packed to the rafters and the planetarium experience is mind blowing. Attending any of the lectures at the well laid out Cunard Connexions we deemed unnecessary when it became clear that they were being taped and screened on stateroom TV. The much vaunted interactive QM2 TV had not been fully commissioned so many of the functions were unavailable and, disappointingly, this included the normal details on ship course, speed, location and weather conditions. DANCING. The largest ballroom at sea is also one of the most stunning spaces on Queen Mary 2. The Queens Room is cunningly accessed via two Deck 3L fenestrated corridors housing the photo and art galleries in voids running below the raised Deck 3 seating areas on either side of the Britannia Dining Room. It is an impressive space richly decorated in blue and gold, with a lavish inlaid dance floor and sparkling crystal chandeliers above. The busts and memorabilia of Queen Mary and King George V add a sense of being somewhere exclusive. Not being a ballroom dancer I can't extend an opinion on the music or dancing offered there. If you venture through the Queens Room you reach the dark, double height space of G32, the supposed late night club. This is a big disappointment for me as a design and how it is used. From the richness of other public areas you are plunged into a hi-tech space with uninspired 60's retro dEcor. Maybe the designers were touching their caps to those two high points of 60's design, the France and QE2 (I jest), but the result is dull and uninspiring. Its convenient proximity to the Queens Room but remoteness from everywhere else, means that when the ballroom band stops playing there is usually a dichotomy of groups patronising G32 (the ballroom dancers V the partygoers). Throughout the voyage a combination of vocal group (how many Nat King Cole tributes can you take in 30 minutes!) and an inexperienced DJ (who looked all of 16) cleared the dance floor by half past midnight and kept all party fun to a minimum. Low bar returns from G32 must surely lead to a rethink and early changes. THE VOYAGE. Although the itinerary was predictable and traditional, the draw was in being the first to take a commercial voyage in the first Cunard 'Queen' for nearly 40 years. Nothing however, could have prepared us for the strength of welcome and the pure unadulterated joy of the inhabitants at most of our ports of call. The sailaway from Southampton was the beginning of a rollercoaster voyage of emotions which couldn't fail to touch even the most inveterate traveller. Maybe we left late because there was so much more luggage than Cunard had expected - well, this was THE Maiden Voyage, but nobody cared once we had backed up to Mayflower Park and that amazing firework display started crashing overhead to the strains of Rule Britannia, Land of Hope and Glory, Crown Imperial and other stirring anthems. This was the sort of send off that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and tears well in your eyes! The fireboats sent their water high into the black night sky and the escorting flotilla of boats, small and large, made as much noise as possible as we began edging back down Southampton Water past Town Quay and Queen Elizabeth II Terminal with the Commodore returning the greetings on the deafening steam whistle from the original Queen Mary. We stayed, frozen by the cold wind, until Southampton disappeared behind us and then had the pleasure of travelling down in an elevator and chatting with Steven Payne who was as happy and excited as any boy with a new toy could possibly be. The first day at sea through The Bay of Biscay came hurtling at us with a high class storm to make the ship slowly roll and pitch like she was alive. We drove through seas which must have been reaching upward of 40 feet in height (in order to frequently drench the windows of The Chart Room on Deck 3) at speeds of up to 26.5 knots and the G forces in Stairway A were something to play with! Needless to say the dreaded mal de mare struck down many during that first full day. By day 2 the storm had abated and day 3 woke early to a warm welcome in Funchal, Madeira. After a stroll around the town in warm sunshine it was all aboard to a warm but polite send off by crowds in their hundreds. Day 4 woke to a loud raucous welcome from fireboats in Santa Cruz de Tenerife and crowds in their thousands (obviously word was getting around!). After lunching on land with friends living on the island, it was back to the ship for dinner and a late sailaway with a generous firework display on the quayside. Day 5 woke to an even louder arrival in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. With crowds in their thousands to welcome us, the day would become one that will go down in folklore as one of the biggest receptions ever given by any port to a passenger ship. On the quayside the local association of carpet weavers created a vast QM2 carpet in coloured salt, the high speed oompah bands marched up and down in a way that only Spaniards can, folk dancers danced and crowds grew bigger and friendlier by the hour. Departure was originally slated for 5.00pm but the Las Palmas schedule to welcome QM2 would not be denied the chance to give a lavish 30 minute firework display par excellence, as we left behind us tens of thousands of adoring Canarians some two hours later. By the sojourn in the Canaries, the weather had warmed enough for sun loungers and steamer chairs to start appearing all over the open decks. The next 4 days were given over entirely to worshipping the ever strengthening sun as we sailed in a west south westerly direction. Time had come to explore the vast expanse of the outside teak decks. The aft sun decks 6 to 8 were the most popular with the timber loungers and green canvass covered mattresses filled to near capacity, especially near the pools. In spite of expressed misgivings, the duplex suites, the open seating of Todd English and the sunbathers of deck 8 all coexisted quite comfortably like the inhabitants of any sun kissed Marina or Lido might. The strange three deck shortcut open staircase from decks 8 to 11 is quite a climb, but at least it allows one to put a foot (even if it is only in transit) on the sacred sun deck 11which in sunny weather is reserved for Queens Grill passengers only. The climb up to deck 12 is worth it for here, and on the forward deck 13, there is more space and sun loungers than even a Carnival ship could fill. Equipped with an open air cafe, a pool with opening glass roof, two bars, jacuzzis, splash pool, sports and observation areas this is a sun seekers paradise, but strangely most of these areas were never more than 25% occupied. My only complaint would be that there is no shade in the form of awnings or canopies anywhere even in the vicinity of the Boardwalk Cafe. The other thing I could not get my head around was the sense of having 'splash pools' with only a few inches of water - surely they used to be called foot baths??? The heat was on by day 10 when we arrived at Bridgetown, Barbados and true to form we received a suitably relaxed and inform Caribbean welcome from the local brass band. One more day at sea and did the Commodore really say that we were currently doing 28.5 knots - it seemed we were hardly moving? Day 12 brought ours and the crews first tendering experience as we reached Charlotte Amalie on Saint Thomas. Having duly faced the intransigent and charming as ever officers of the US Immigration Department, we had a leisurely breakfast before taking the first 'open' tender of the day around 11.00am. The crew's lack of experience in handling the tenders, the unwillingness to fill tenders too full and the failure to be able to accommodate larger shoreside ferries against the tender platforms meant that the tendering process took longer than anticipated. This one assumes is something that can be overcome with practice and a little more forward planning. Moored in the very outer anchorage of the harbour, our presence in Saint Thomas must have gone almost unnoticed - we took the opportunity of this call to slip away to Magens Bay for an afternoon swim. All too soon Day 13 came and went, goodbyes were said, last meals were eaten, last cocktails shared and the triumphant arrival in Fort Lauderdale was upon us. We arrived out of the dawn to find the noisiest and most colourful fireboats yet throwing their red white and blue spumes high into the air. An unprecedented US Naval escort, a dozen helicopters and the most cacophonous reception from the famous landmark Condos made this welcome the cherry on the cake, a fitting end to a truly remarkable voyage. QM2, CRUISE SHIP OR LINER? Having once been the devil's advocate in the discussion of cruise ship or liner I now have to say that, having travelled onboard and having listened to authoritive sources, I know for sure that this ship has been built as a transatlantic liner. There is no cruiseship on earth that can sail at 26 knots through 40 foot seas and there is no way on earth that Mickey Arison has spent a 40% premium (over $200 million) for a cruiseship that looks like a liner! An interesting anecdote from John Maxtone-Graham credits Mickey Arison with being so inspired by the movie 'Titanic' as to want to create a dream of building the largest and most expensive transatlantic liner - why else would he want to buy Cunard? Stephen Payne described in great detail the research made into designing this ship so that it could handle any weather the Atlantic has produced in the past 25 years and be twice as seaworthy as QE2 (for example, a sea that produces a 10 degree roll in QE2 will only produce 5 degrees in QM2). Stephen also added that Mickey Arison told him 'I need seven decks of balconies or she doesn't get built', and how he was able to give him eight! John Maxtone-Graham amongst others has been disparaging about the 'hull' balconies but as he explained, these cabins produce more revenue with a balcony than they would if the balcony space was included in the cabin - so these balconies are purely revenue driven and without them the ship would not have been built! The other piece of enlightening comment from Stephen Payne was that nothing was allowed to compromise the design of QM2 as a transatlantic liner - something which should be born in mind when considering criticisms of the ship's cruising abilities and her unsophisticated warm weather outdoor deck spaces. On the aesthetic side, Stephen also thinks the funnel is too short but, save raising the Verrazanno Narrows Bridge, there was nothing to be done about it! So there you have it. The head of Carnival does have a dream and that dream is to re establish transatlantic travel by sea as a major rather than a niche market. Who amongst us can doubt that dream will probably come true? 2005 sees QM2 slated for 26 Atlantic crossings, which is already 42% of the year, and I believe the years following will see the Atlantic 'season' increase to whatever the market will support. She is utilised for cruising when the North Atlantic is too uninviting, like other great liners of the past, hence the seven day jaunts out of Fort Lauderdale and New York in December to March. Only market demand will decide if these warm weather cruises settle into premium or discount rates. I also believe that if Mickey Arison has gotten it right again, we will see a sister ship in service on the North Atlantic within 7 to 10 years. If as I believe, Queen Mary 2 has been built primarily for the 6 day North Atlantic crossing and if Cunard can overcome the annoying service problems caused by lack of crew or insufficient training, then I think she will be a huge success and succeed to the title 'Most famous ship in the World', if she hasn't done so already! Read Less
Sail Date January 2004
The QM2 itself is not friendly to single travelers, much less the attitude of the staff who are clearly trained for pairs of travelers. The dining room tables are mostly square or rectangular - not good for a singleton. Dinner aboard the ... Read More
The QM2 itself is not friendly to single travelers, much less the attitude of the staff who are clearly trained for pairs of travelers. The dining room tables are mostly square or rectangular - not good for a singleton. Dinner aboard the ship should be a social occasion, and having the ability to converse with tablemates is critical. Fortunately I was able to find a set of good tablemates at a round table, although that took a couple of days. "Cunard-ival" has turned its back on the singleton. Ironically, when I wished to be seated alone for a meal other than dinner, I was actually told on board twice (not once, but twice) that the only way I could get a table for one at breakfast or lunch was to dine at the buffet. I did not pay my fare to schlep my tray like some high school student through a second-rate cafeteria. My cabin (Category B3, Premium Balcony) was interesting. I am a tall person, standing about 6'2". The deckchairs were wedged in between the railing and the cabin bulkhead so that they were useless to someone my height. In order to sit in the deckchairs, I had to put my feet up on the glass panels or move the chair sideways on the balcony, thus rendering the use of the balcony door useless without moving the chair again. Even with the obstructed views of the ocean, I had expected the ability to enjoy breakfast on my balcony with the sea air, but was unable to do so. I have alluded to dining earlier in this letter, but let me directly address the food. It was practically impossible to order off menu. The menus in the Britannia Restaurant were not at all coherent between courses. One passenger at my table likened the incongruent menus to rolling a cup of dice in the game of yhatzee. The portions were small and I always left dinner hungry - because of course there was no time to eat a second meal since the late seating was waiting. Quite frankly, if this were a land-based restaurant, I would never return; however, I was trapped onboard a ship with few other dining options. Lotus was too heavy on the shellfish and seafood. To pay a service charge for the Carvery was ridiculous at the fare (read single supplement and cabin category) I paid. I did, however, have one good meal in two weeks aboard the ship - Todd English. One of the things missing on the QM2 is a nice middle-of-the-road dining option like the Caronia Restaurant aboard the QE2. Cunard is trying to mass-market luxury with this ship, and it does not work. Unless you are willing to move into the Princess Grill categories, I would not recommend any cabin category above a B6. Read Less
Sail Date January 2004
Boarding the Queen Mary 2 in Southampton was at first a magical experience. Well dressed men in London Fog overcoats and ladies in mink walked through the terminal as their luggage was ferried aboard. We never did see the ship as the view ... Read More
Boarding the Queen Mary 2 in Southampton was at first a magical experience. Well dressed men in London Fog overcoats and ladies in mink walked through the terminal as their luggage was ferried aboard. We never did see the ship as the view was obstructed, but as soon as we stepped aboard, we could tell what a technical marvel she was. We entered the lobby with its rich red carpeting and tall white pillars. We inquired about our room and were given vague directions, and no help with our luggage. Odd, I thought. In my cruising experience (which had been entirely aboard Celebrity Cruise Line vessels), passengers were taken to a stateroom by a steward. When we found our cabin, the first thing that greeted us was not a "Welcome Aboard" notice but a warning about the Norwalk virus. The ship sailed an hour later than planned. As we stood on the deck waiting to see the departure, no one told us there would be a delay. Instead, passengers who were scheduled to eat during first seating were told via the intercom that the dining room was about to close its doors. Also, Champagne, normally free on sailing day, was to be $9 a glass. Not that it mattered: they ran out of glasses. When our friends and fellow passengers Bill and Linda Valliant found their favorite wine on the menu on our first night out, they joked about the ship running out of that, too. The joke was on them: Not available, said the wine stewardess. Even the purser's desk was unprepared for the voyage. When I asked for stamps the first day so I could send some postcards home, I was told there were none. When sending a four page letter of concerns and complaints to the hotel manager. There was no acknowledgement of receipt until the 25th and all it was just a 3 line form letter. Cunard's slick brochures promised the "skilled attentions of one staff member per couple," and the promise was kept by our bedroom steward, Steven, who was very friendly and kept the room exceptionally clean. He was helpful in any way possible. The public rooms for the most part were nicely decorated. The Britannia Restaurant was three stories tall and had a large, lighted glass dome overhead -- a magnificent sight as people descended the winding staircases that led into the lower salon. The Britannia Restaurant was a different story. Its menu included haggis, fish tacos, and "boneless" chicken that I found out far too late had a bone in it, as I sat at the table choking. At breakfast, the toast was stale and cold. I had to flag down the waiters to get more water and another roll. Even seating could be a problem. One morning we were led past 50 or so clean tables and told to sit at one that still had dirty plates, crumbs and I don't know what else.We were lucky enough to eat there almost every day. The staff was wonderful and we met the nicest people there: a hotelier from the island of Sark; the author of Low Fat Cooking for Dummies; a corporate trainer from Pennsylvania, and even Lara Spencer from Good Morning America.The brochure also promised "menus created by some of the greatest chefs in the world," and the food was delicious -- but only in the Todd English restaurant. English is a world renowned chef who agreed to open a concession restaurant on the new ship. Thank goodness he did, as his selections were incredible: Boston Bibb salad, truffle loveletters, sirloin, and orange creme brulee Room service wasn't a reasonable alternative. Usually it had a recorded message saying to call back. One time, my friend Jim called and was told that it would be an hour and a half before we got our ginger ales. When our friends Bill and Linda went ashore at Tenerife, they came aboard raving about the food they had had, the best since the start of the trip. The restaurant? Pizza Hut! Passengers and crew got plenty of exercise walking about the ship. Try as I did, I don't think I got to visit every possible public area. On our last day at sea, we found an open promenade just under the bridge that could be reached only by elevator. I found the Queen's Lounge by accident one day, and it was a pleasure to take tea there. It was just as wonderful as the Savoy. The initial entertainment was a treat as we had Dame Shirley Bassey singing many ballads. We were also privileged to listen to the musical trio of Vive Classica who played many tunes from the turn of the last century. The program deteriorated from there and people had to make their own fun. There wasn't much to do other than listen to a few lecturers ( one of whom embarrassingly singled out a fellow for bringing a video camera, though no formal announcement had previously had been made ) or pay $25.00 to make your own corsage. Well, at least they gave napkin folding lessons to fill the time. There was much hype about this trip and there were speculation about who was aboard. Names bandied about included Rod Stewart, Madonna, and Elton John. Once during the voyage I thought I had spotted actress Debrah Farentino of CAPITOL on deck, but it turned out to be a look-a-like. But things kept breaking down. Toilets refused to flush, elevators wouldn't lift, hot water turned cold and computers shut down in the middle of work-related e-mail, or functioned slowly at what seemed 50 percent capacity. There were communications breakdowns, too. Lara Spencer was scheduled to do a segment for Good Morning America one morning. Our daily program told us to be on deck for 7 in the morning if we wanted to watch. We waited and waited but nothing happened. Finally we gave up and had breakfast. Later, strolling through the Winter Garden, we saw that filming had just wrapped up. The program had had the wrong time, and no one from personnel thought to tell us about their error. Another time, "Code Bravo" was announced over the intercoms and in the staterooms. All crew members were to report to a certain area. What did that mean? Again, there was no announcement or explanation, but we found out there was a fire. Quite a few of us were getting ready for dinner and did not know whether to finish taking our showers or grab our lifejackets. The fire was quickly controlled and eventually the voyage ended without serious incident. I experienced mixed emotions on the final day. Our home for two weeks was beautiful, but had many flaws. The camaraderie among fellow passengers could not be beat. I came away with so many addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses, and for that I will be forever grateful. Items commemorating the maiden voyage were very rare. Cunard did provide every passenger with a lovely wedgewood plate, which was small, but nice.We found a beautiful maiden voyage certificate in the bookshop that sold for $10.00. Passengers finally received a plain one near the end of the trip ( and after many complaints ) that resembled the NY State death certificate. Prices on the few maiden voyage items were exorbitant as well. $25.00 for a hat and $39.00 for a t-shirt, I passed on those items. Cunard certainly did not make one feel that they were special and that this was "THE" maiden voyage such as ONE passenger list per cabin instead of one passenger list per person. The final slap being a special menu folder reserved for only a few people to take home. We certainly paid extra as this was touted as "THE" big event, but we didn't get rewarded for being there. When we prepared to disembark, there was one last annoyance. We were held aboard much later than had been announced, and my luggage, as well as many other people's, had disappeared. Was it on the forklift that we saw dump many suitcases onto the dockside? Maybe. I found one suitcase in the wrong area, but no sign of the rest. I missed my flight while searching for an hour. My friend Jim did as well.We arrived home around midnight and the luggage arrived a few days later. It was not wrapped in any plastic and was dumped into the snow. I was surprised to find many rips in it as well. To sum it all up, I expected more of Cunard and the ship it billed as the "greatest ocean liner of our times." Was I satisfied with the experience? Yes and no. I had a good time despite the voyage, not because of the voyage! It was not at all as I expected it would be or more importantly, what was advertised. Hopefully, Cunard will invest more money in these areas so others do not experience what we did on the maiden voyage. Read Less
Sail Date January 2004

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