The marketing for the Queens Grill makes all sorts of promises of excellence. This includes exclusive butler service that’s helpful, anticipatory, and will elevate your trip. Promotional videos show smiling butlers saying that they love ... Read More
The marketing for the Queens Grill makes all sorts of promises of excellence. This includes exclusive butler service that’s helpful, anticipatory, and will elevate your trip. Promotional videos show smiling butlers saying that they love going above and beyond for guests, and even get a kick out of being challenged with special requests.
To borrow a very British expression: bullocks!
To stay in the Queens Grill costs at least three to four times as much as the ship’s least expensive staterooms, and the largest Queens Grill rooms can be ten times as much and more. It’s supposed to be an ultra luxury experience inside a luxury liner. Butler service and access to the Queens Grill dining room are key exclusive perks for these high costs.
The fantasy spun in the advertising does not mesh with reality.
The butler is supposed to attend to your needs, and even unpack your bags, so you can immediately begin enjoying your trip. Our butler didn’t show up at all. In fact, it wasn’t until the second day of our trip, after I went to the concierge and asked why we didn’t have any stateroom attendant at all that our “butler” suddenly appeared. No one had welcomed us to our room, given us a briefing about the ship, explained the amenities of our stateroom, or provided us with needed details about dining and the so-called exclusive benefits that come with paying for staying in the Queens Grill.
I’ve been on more than a dozen ships, from the top ultra luxury to the bottom of the barrel. Even on a very basic Carnival party cruise to Ensenada we had a stateroom attendant who welcomed us on board and helped us get settled into our room.
So on day two of the Queens Grill on the Queen Mary 2, instead of enjoying my trip, I found myself involved in several awkward conversations with the butler and ship managers about what had gone wrong. It wasn’t enough that I alerted them. Now I had to help them dissect the problem, and then revisit the details over and over and over again. There were many elaborate, contradictory and ridiculous excuses (“the butler was shaving and showering” was my favorite) as to why we were abandoned. It was clear that had I not spoken up on day two of our trip, it’s likely that no one would have served us the entire voyage. For some reason, our luxury suite had fallen into a void that no one intended to service. Making matters worse, I got the impression that I had gotten someone in trouble for coming forward, which made me feel very uncomfortable.
After a rather long 5pm debriefing on day two (yes, this drama ate up the day) with one of the ship’s managers, I told her that I really just wanted to move on and enjoy the rest of my trip and didn’t want to discuss the matter again. An hour later another manager cornered me and wanted to unpack the situation all over again.
As an apology, that manager offered to treat us to dinner in a specialty restaurant on the ship. But I had to point out to her that the restaurant she offered is actually considered inferior to the one we had already paid for. She just smiled and nodded her head.
So any magic of having a butler was gone, and not getting briefed when arriving came with an additional cost. We didn’t know the “rules” for dining in the Queens Grill, which promotes itself as the best dining on the seas, with exclusive extras like caviar service and the ability to make requests for special meals. But when I requested the caviar, the waiter dismissed me like I was an idiot. They only serve caviar (and a large portion of the printed menu) if requested in advance. Oh, like through our butler, if one had shown up. It’s admittedly a bit pompous to order caviar in the first place, and then a nice twist when you’re treated like an ignorant rube for actually making the request. (Later in the trip I did get the caviar service, and it was Spartan presentation with just half a teaspoon of roe, making me wonder what the fuss was all about.)
So on that first night I ordered a shrimp cocktail instead, which was worse than ordinary – small size shrimp with no extra flair or effort, the kind found in a round plastic container in an Albertson’s supermarket in Boise, served over a dab of flavorless mashed avocado. I’m not sure how less creativity could have been applied to this dish.
For my main course I had steak that was allegedly dry-aged for 28 days. It had zero flavor, was overcooked and then smothered with a mushroom sauce to try to hide that it was an inferior cut of meat. The creamed spinach on the side was actually sautéed. The wine we bought was a much newer vintage than the year promised on the wine menu, and when I pointed this out to the wine steward (not a sommelier) and why the different years were genuinely significant to folks in the know about wine, he just smiled and walked away. The gourmet international cheese trolley consisted of plain goat cheese, cheddar, Danish blue, and Gouda – a mix of ordinary I hadn’t seen since my last trip to a gas station convenience store.
The service in the Queens Grill dining room was hectic and the staff seemed stressed and overworked. While serving us they were agitated with their eyes darting in other directions, apparently scoping out what they had to do next. Our table was next to one that had two screaming small children.
None of this qualifies as one of the best dining experiences at sea. A Cheesecake Factory has better food and more attentive service. Other meals were better, but my husband put it best when he said he’d give the food in the Queens Grill a grade of B. That’s a failing grade for something that bills itself as “the best.” Honestly, we skipped some meals. On the final morning of my trip I ordered a boiled egg for breakfast. When I cracked it open, the egg was still raw inside the shell – it had not been cooked. That egg pretty much sums up Queens Grill dining.
Other perks that come with the Queens Grill include exclusive access to a special lounge and deck, but in reality anyone can walk into these places. No one checks, and these areas aren’t superior to other lounges and decks. In fact, nuts served in the Grills Lounge were always soft and stale, as if they’d been left outside in the sea air for weeks.
Everyone, regardless of how much they paid, has full access to the ship itself, which is beautiful and impressive. So if you’re paying for the Queens Grill, the bonus amenities are not worth three times or more the cost.
And like the cheapest cruise lines, Cunard nickel and dimes for nearly everything. Even attending a yoga class will cost you an extra $12. There’s a charge for access to the steam, sauna and large whirlpool, even though that pool was out of service. None of these petty charges are waived if you pay extra to stay in the Queens Grill.
Our stateroom, however, was attractive and large. Not serviced until we spoke up, but lovely. I can’t say what the rooms are like on the ship outside of the Queens Grill, but from the photos online they look pretty nice, especially considering that they cost a tiny fraction of the price we paid.
Many years ago I sailed on the old QE2, and I was fortunate to be in the Queens Grill back then. Dinner was elegant, literally served with white gloves, and the service at every level was so excellent that the memory of it makes Downton Abbey’s staff look like a bunch of sloths.
Those days are long gone. I can’t recommend Queen Grill now, based on the cost versus the experience actually provided. Cunard did not deliver. It felt like a fraud. Read Less