This is a tricky review to write. We spent 19 days on the Queen Mary 2, and it was a lovely break. We’ve often cruised before, but this was the first with Cunard who came recommended. We booked the Queen’s Grill service – this is the First Class tier, and as Cunard claims the First Class level in general, I suppose this was the First Class of the First Class. So we had high expectations.
The service was really good by and large, our cabin was spacious and well-appointed and the staff mostly charming, motivated and friendly. But we also had issues some of which were serious – things which Cunard really should address or assist with, and these often took the edge off the experience. Hence the title – ‘Close…but No Cigar’.
In the interest of balance, I have also asked Cunard to respond at the end which is why it’s taken a few weeks to post this review. Cunard accept all the issue and are very apologetic. They have refunded some items such as the tours described below and they compensated us unasked for others (£1200.00 as a credit). But I also awaited their response to publish here – which as I say is at the end. You can judge from the response whether Cunard address the issues and actually change anything.
So what did we like? Lots. We saw wonderful things and places, and had some great experiences. An example is our Butler. Friendly, helpful where he could be, in a role many will say is not clearly defined beyond stateroom cleaner and servicing. But twice he saved us specific upset. The first was the late arrival (by several hours) of one suitcase – with all Mr’s clothes in. Krishna (the Butler) went the extra mile to track it down in security and bought it to us, just as we prepared (indeed so we could dress) for dinner on the first night.
On another occasion my wife lost her ‘Fitbit’ watch as we hurried late for a shore excursion. Not hugely valuable, but it was a Christmas present from our son, so sentimental. We knew it was lost between our stateroom and the theatre. Again, after we’d asked the Purser for several days if it had been handed in, we asked Krishna if he could help. He went to security, and they checked the cameras along the entire route from stateroom to theatre. They found where it was dropped, and a passenger who then picked it up was spotted. A polite call by the Butler and security to his cabin, and apologies that he’d not yet handed it in, and it was returned. This is particular is probably the best piece of Customer Service we have ever seen…well done.
The food was excellent as expected, and the dining staff like all others, engaging, interested, keen to help. Both the daily menu and a la carte were simply superb and to our taste. The sommelier was knowledgeable and engaging and added to our experience.
The talks on board, the Planetarium, afternoon tea, the films, the range of games, the choir we joined (after abandoning dance – see below) were again all great fun and world class.
So…what went wrong? It was several things – some serious, some less so but none the less all were surprising. And (to note) I deliberately left it two weeks before writing this review (and then longer to allow Cunard to respond) to allow some perspective and objectivity – but these did really affect our experience.
The stateroom was spacious, and we went in. The very first thing I noticed was (apart from one orchid flower in a bowl of water) no flowers. There’s a shelf right by the door where they are placed in all pictures from Cunard – so the first thing you see. Small detail but we like plants and flowers around us, and we had noted their provision with pleasure from the brochure. In the end we bought flowers for the room on day two, but then three days after sailing an orchid potted plant did arrive unannounced. Just as you’ll see in all the brochure pictures. We didn’t mention it to the Butler as we found a more serious fault described below and didn’t want a general ‘moan’, but a room is either prepared or not. And had I known these were coming (and when we ordered through the Concierge I did explain why I was buying), I’d not have bought more flowers. And totally get this really is a first world problem!
But also on arrival anywhere, I tend to hunt for electric sockets – charging both phones, tablets and so on, we need power, and often I find a hidden socket behind bedside lockers so we can keep these on our bedside tables. No sockets. But what I did find behind my locker was a lot of filth and dirt, what looked like a dead insect or cockroach, and other mess (as you’ll see in the pictures accompanying the review). My wife’s was worse – among the filth and piles of dust were coins and a number of the QM2’s internal newspaper. Dated August 2018 (again you can zoom into the picture). This means the last time the room was properly cleaned was more than five months before our arrival – and judging by the dust a long time before that. But demonstrably not since August 2018.
This we did raise with the Butler, and it was sorted out the next morning (he did offer that night but we just wanted to get on). There were also hairgrips all over the walk-in wardrobe floor and under the dressing table – my wife picked up about 20 over the next week – presumably the vacuum cleaner rejects these.
So not only had this room not been cleaned properly (for months) but also (if you’ve ever seen TV programmes) Cunard shows the highest level of pre-guest inspection, with each room being checked before being released for new guests. I sort of understand that occasionally in a difficult turnround this may be missed. But half a year – not cleaned and/or inspected? And you have to wonder what else was missed or short-cut? Sorry, that’s not good enough in any hospitality venue, let alone Queen’s Grill on QM2.
In the walk-in wardrobe the bottom two of four drawers were broken (we assume someone tried to climb on them to check the shelf above). We unjammed them and they worked after a fashion. But as above, either they were inspected before we arrived and ignored, or simply not checked after previous guests.
And finally a detail (see picture again) but outside on the balcony a large piece of the paintwork was peeled off and peeling. QM2 is a working ship, we get that. Conditions can be harsh. But we don’t live with broken furniture or peeling walls at home, so why should I on holiday, especially with such a large maintenance staff? The paint loss must have been noticed as the missing pieces, the size of a couple of dinner plates had been cleaned away.
Honestly, some of the shows seemed under rehearsed and the in-house troupe didn’t match other cruise lines we’ve been on. It’s subjective, and some on the other hand we did get to see, particularly external entertainers, were excellent. But it didn’t matter – as after the first few days we really gave up on the Theatre as a regular event.
The problem is that most passengers (in Britannia class) eat dinner from 1800. They finish around 2000 – and head to the Theatre where the shows begin at 2045. In Queen’s Grill though the service starts at 1830 – and you don’t finish until 2015-2030 – unless you hurry your meal or miss courses (and as I’ve said the food is excellent). But by the time you get to the Theatre, it’s basically already full. Three nights in a row (the first three nights) the only seats we could get were high up on one end of the balcony, which wraps around the stage so you’re actually just behind the action and actors. You can’t see the set, band or whatever as they’re hidden from view by the side of the stage. The acoustic high up is also pretty dreadful.
The second show is 2230 ending at 2315ish – that’s too late for us, and we don’t want to hang around for two hours after dinner anyway. And we couldn’t eat after the 2045 show as these are 45 minutes long and end at 2130 plus. The Queen’s Grill restaurant take last sittings at 2130, and even if we snook I late – who wants to eat alone with the staff hanging around?
On two nights the show timings were bought forward to 1900 for the first show. This worked well both times and we enjoyed the entertainment. On another night we really wanted to see the show so ate at the self-service Kings Court which was good – but not a choice for every night simply to see the entertainment.
There are easy fixes – for example open the Queen’s Grill at 1800 – or move the show time to 1900 regularly (clearly it can be done). Put aside some seats for Queen’s Grill – after all we’re paying a huge premium. On Celebrity in Suite Class, the Butler saves a seat or two for First Class guests on a roped off row. Again an easy fix and something the Butler could do over and above being a stateroom cleaner. And then on Celebrity the Butler will bring you a drink – there’s no service in the balcony on Cunard.
This issue I did raised with the Concierge – many people talked about the shows – but we felt we missed out. I think the final straw was a show with apparently fabulous backdrops – we weren’t even aware there was a set from where we had to sit. The Concierge said she’d talk to the different teams – and acknowledged this was a complaint she’d heard before from others. A week later she asked if the Assistant Entertainment Manager had been in touch – he/she hadn’t. They never did. We came to the conclusion that ‘I’ll talk to the Management’ was Cunard crew’s way of Kicking issues into the Long Grass – more below. Again, this was a disappointment.
Mrs B and I have only tried dancing lessons once – 20 years ago. After lesson three we considered calling lawyers. But this time I thought I’d really give it a go. She loves to dance, and it must be possible to master something. And Cunard do say ‘Try/learn something new’.
The easiest seemed to be Line Dancing, so we attended the first lesson. Within five minutes we were into ‘So that’s two grapevines, a slide, a chasee, then a pivot…’ which meant nothing to me. I was sunk.
So afterwards I went to the two dance instructors and said ‘It’s clear everyone had experience, do you have a beginner’s class, for those who’ve not line danced before?’. The response was abrupt. No, they expect everyone to come with at least two years’ experience. So much for learning a new skill. But actually they felt it was such a good idea, such a revelation, they’d raise it with their Manager (see Kicking into the Long Grass above) and they took my Stateroom number. I didn’t hear another thing. It’s interesting to note that out of 50-60 people in the Line Dancing class, only five were men – we don’t generally do these things outside a holiday or leisure and the gender mix reflects this.
So we moved onto Ballroom. Again two excellent instructors, and at the end of the first hour, I felt I’d got the real basics of waltz. Just needed developing and repeating. But next day we did Cha-Cha. OK, try to master two in quick succession from no skill at all. And day three was the Tango. Again I was lost. An hour isn’t long enough, and two or three days on each dance would really have consolidated things. Again though ‘that’s not how it’s done’, previous experience is clearly required.
My Dancing Days will have to wait for another time…
We pre-booked some Cunard excursions – Seville, Delphi (Greece), and the Holy Land. We’re pretty young and fit, and also well-travelled. We tend to be adventurous so the first two tours we booked were described as arduous, lots of walking, uneven surfaces, hills and so on. Cunard call these ‘High Activity Level’, as explained on the booking form. Other activity levels are offered on other excursions.
For Seville, the problem started before we even went on board the QM2. A key destination there is the Cathedral – the third largest in Christendom. It was central to the tour when we booked and our reason. But an email a few weeks before departure explained that because we were there on a Sunday, the Cathedral was closed to visitors. Now it was always a Sunday, so who didn’t check such a thing when creating the programme? No matter we went ahead anyway (and will return another time to see the Cathedral – it’s great from the outside!). What this indicated was a general lack of attention to detail and ownership over the excursions.
In the event, we had a lovely tour of this wonderful City and a Moorish castle, and apart from missing one fellow passenger after lunch (she sat with another group, and was completely unaware when we left, the Guide saying she seemed to be struggling with it all a bit) all was fine. Then, as we walked through the old town, an elderly American lady fell on cobbles. She had clearly been getting very tired and it was a long walk (‘high activity’), and couldn’t pick her feet up. Down she went, cutting her leg, and clearly in shock. Worrying for her and us – so the Cunard Rep (one on each coach plus the guide in theory) stayed with her, and we were hurried to the end point, so the Guide could then leave us for 45 minutes, and go back and bring this lady to us. She was at a guess 80 years old, clearly exhausted, and very upset.
The next stop was Greece, for Delphi. We were late driving from the ship as our Cunard Rep didn’t turn up for the coach. After 15 minutes, long after two other coaches had departed for Delphi, our local Guide gave up and said we’d go without the support. The Oracle at Delphi is up a fairly long hard hill climb on smooth stones and broken ground with large steps, in the heat. As we got off the coach it was clear the Guide was weighing the group up. Some of the less fit were already struggling – so she said that we’d go up slowly, and stop every 50 metres or so people could get their breath back. It’s about a 10 minute climb up the stone steps for people such as us, but the regular stops meant it took 40 minutes to reach the temple level. We did try going ahead – but without the guide to explain we lost all the context.
Eventually reaching the temple level, we had about 10 minutes at this Wonder of the Ancient World we’ve longed to see for so long. Other groups had had half an hour plus to explore – and we missed key things, it all felt rushed, and really not what we’d expected. We’d set off late, and then had a lengthy climb.
Worse was to come. On the way down a British man, tripped and fell. He’d already spent his time sitting quietly apart at the top, and I’d asked him if he was OK, and he said he was tired. In the tumble he gashed his hand badly and again was shaken up. However after a slow descent he sat outside the museum restaurant and had a drink and seemed fine.
Then after the museum (I think this gentleman sat outside) we went for lunch. Again, my wife and I found ourselves helping this man clearly a bit shocked still, and his wife. So we were last in the restaurant (remember, no Cunard Rep to assist on this trip as they overslept or whatever…). He wouldn’t bandage his hand as he said he wanted it to ‘dry’, so we sat through lunch on four person table with his blood dripping onto the table cloth and forming a pool beside him. What we did discover though was that he is 88 years old. And because of this, and he now felt he shouldn’t have done the trip, he had a furious and loud row on the coach with the guide on the way back when he refused to complete a Cunard accident form.
Cunard have a clear and absolute Duty of Care to their guests. So I discussed this with the Concierge (same time as I raised the Theatre timing issue above). Fine, I get it that Cunard don’t know people’s fitness levels. But they do know our ages from the start, and permitting an 88 year old onto a trip marked ‘high activity’, up a long hillside in the bright sun, on smooth irregular marble steps and stones and lose earth. That’s ridiculous. They can clearly provide a clearer description – and the fact that in Seville they didn’t even spot it was Sunday when putting the excursion together shows a lack of attention to this sort of detail when selling the trips.
We hope no one ever has a much more serious injury or health event. But if they do, someone old and frail pushing the boundary too hard, blame will be shared – Cunard are not taking their responsibility for welfare if they let people who are clearly going to struggle onto these trips. It’s not good enough to say an 88 year old should have read ‘High Activity Level’ and not taken part. Two trips in a row we saw potentially serious accidents, both resulting in blood loss. And, although it’s clearly of less importance, that totally spoils the experience for the rest of us.
Our Champagne Evening
One of the nice things about Queen’s Grill is we get out own deck at the back of the ship. So we decided on the last Gala (dressing up) night, to invite some (10) new friends to start the evening with a Champagne reception on the back deck as the sun set over the sea. We’ve done it before on other companies – Celebrity again for example. There, one call to the Butler, and it’s sorted.
However there’s a bar on the Queen’s Grill deck so I asked there for starters which seemed logical. The barman tried to help, and said he’d have to ask his Manager if there would be room for ten people (a deck some thirty metres by ten!). Then he’d need to get us to talk to the restaurant team, and the drinks team to arrange the canapes and drinks. It was all too much, and he later came and said it would be best if we talked to the Concierge. So off we went.
The Concierge said of course it was possible, but she’d need to talk to our Butler. She said there was no need for me to raise it with the Butler, she’d plan it, and she clearly then discussed it with the Butler. And thus, He came to us in our room to get more detail.
Yes, entirely possible, he said. The champagne (we reckoned 4-5 bottles) and canapes can be brought to the room, and I could take them onto the deck. That’s not his role. But I explained that would mean I spent the entire event shuffling back and forth, pouring drinks and serving food and so on – not what I’d planned. I asked about glasses – he said well, you have four here already in your room, so I’ll bring another six. Again to be taken to the deck and then back to the room. This wasn’t the special black tie event I’d envisaged. So I went back to the Concierge.
Her first comment was ‘I told you not to speak to the Butler’. That miffed me slightly – what were we supposed to do when he came to our room to discuss it? And unless he had, how would we know the planning was going slightly off line? Frankly I felt I got a bit of a telling off which was both inappropriate and undeserved. But the outcome was that the Concierge took arrangements back in hand.
This was just as well as at the last minute (after invitations had been sent out etc.) she contacted us to say we had to shift the date forward as we’d were still in the security area south of Yemen, and because of the piracy risk decks were closed at nightfall. I said this was shame as I’d done invitations – and in passing, why had the original dates for the decks to be closed, announced before we planned the event and already taken into account, been changed?
No answer really came forth apart from, a little later, she showed me the sunset chart (a Word document on her computer screen) from the Bridge which showed sunset getting later by about ten minutes each day, except oddly for the original date I’d planned the event. That day alone, sunset actually jumped back half an hour. And then the next night jumped forward 40 minutes. I queried this apparent phenomenon of nature – and asked for a copy of the chart as I really didn’t understand what I had been told. She told me that sunset times were in confidence for staff only! I’m pretty certain, like our Sunday trip to Seville, someone didn’t do the sums right to begin with, so the night deck closure was extended by one day, but was covered up with my own ‘sunset chart’ in apparent justification. It was really bizarre, but I may be wrong – this may have been a new bit of physics.
I then talked with the Bar manager, the Restaurant Manager (who both rang the room, and were very understanding and efficient). Went round and reissued invitations with the new date. I also rang the photographers to get someone to come and take a picture – my responsibility apparently. And after days of too’ing and fro’ing it was finally a relief having talked to (I think) seven different people, all in different departments, that it was sorted out. But a long, long way from one call to the Butler or whoever and it gets arranged. And had I known at the outset how complicated it would be, I’d have had second thoughts.
So the event went ahead, an area of the deck was roped off, chairs were put off, a lovely lady served the canapés and drinks and it was excellent and enjoyed by all.
BUT there was a sting in the tail. In the phone conversation with the Bar Manager he said ‘What champagne would you like’. I said the Laurent Perrier they serve on board ($75 a bottle) would be fine, but then added as a throwaway, that my wife and I do prefer Taittinger, it’s what we have on special occasions, and if there was any that would be nice. The Bar Manager said he’d not got any, but would see if the Restaurant Manager had some. On the evening, when I arrived the champagne was in buckets with nice white serviettes round the necks. I asked the lady serving whether they’d found Taittinger and she said she was pleased to say they had. Full marks!
When it was poured though I could see the bottles were a different shape and not a label I recognised. Tasted wonderful though. And we drank our way through five bottles. Guests departed, and I said I’d sign the bill. I then discovered the $75 a bottle Laurent Perrier had indeed been substituted with Taittinger as asked – but Vintage Taittinger, at $225.00 a bottle. Our bill was not $375 for the hour long soiree, but $1125. I’m circumspect, we and our close friends had a truly wonderful event as the sunset over the deck, and thus I paid without quibbling. But this may have really spoilt the evening for some, and when one asks for a substitute, I think it’s reasonable to expect some equivalence on aspects including price – and if not to be contacted again to check it’s OK to triple the price and cost. But there we go…lesson learned, and I hope we’ll prevent other also doing this the hard way.
And frankly, the different departments, the tiers of bureaucracy – it makes doing anything special painful. The customer certainly isn’t king!
If you think we’re high maintenance, that’s fine. I really want to stress what I said at the start that we enjoyed our time away, and most of what Cunard does is world class. We found much – food, most staff, facilities, our stateroom (once it was clean) completely engaging and worthwhile.
We’re not generally moaners, so there’s nothing lengthy here about internet (its cost and awful performance), the rude on board Israeli immigration staff I reported to the Concierge, the chaos of getting passports back (kept for Israeli immigration but it was mayhem when they were returned after our trip to Delphi – one person handing out 40 passports to a queue of 100 people and a total lack of security which means we could have walked off with any number of other persons’ passports).
But from time to time I have been a ‘mystery shopper’ so I do spot things which aren’t right – especially customer services – and maybe that should also be taken into account here. Just playing fair. And frankly, Cunard could do with one or two ‘Mystery Guests’ to get the sort of feedback we’ve given!
These are specific and detailed points, some of which are clearly serious. For that reason, and because I’ve never written a review like this before, before publishing I have invited Cunard Customer Services. Their response follows below.
But now you will also see why this is called ‘Close…but No Cigar’.
Cunard Customer Services say: 'Thank you for your patience in regards to my response time, I have been feeding relevant information back to both ship and shore-side departments after our initial conversation we had.
In regards to a reply about action that is taking place internally to answer the issues you have brought to my attention, unfortunately this is something that cannot be disclosed, as I’m sure you can appreciate takes several departments working closely together and also a time frame that can range anywhere from a couple of weeks into a couple of months. What I am more than happy to do is outline the issues we have discussed and how they have been addressed with management teams to ensure that hopefully we can prevent these issues reoccurring.
Having taken the time to read your comments, I am most sorry to learn of the issues experienced during your voyage on Queen Mary 2 and that this voyage did not live up to your expectations as a first time guest on Cunard Line.
As I am sure you are aware we endeavour to ensure that our passengers are offered clean, well presented accommodation. Our standards of housekeeping and sanitary procedures are very high and we make every effort to ensure that these are met. The conditions that you describe are certainly not reflective of the conditions that we expect for our guests. I would wish to assure you that we do have a policy in place and the stateroom stewards are very well aware of the standards we expect. If they deviate from this standard, action will be taken with both onboard and shore-side management.
However, as I am sure you will appreciate there are in excess of 1000 staterooms on Queen Mary 2 and it is physically impossible to check each and every one before our passengers embark on turn-around days. We therefore do have to rely on the training given to the stewards who attend to the staterooms and the realisation of the importance of adhering to the standards laid down. I am pleased that the problems were rectified at the time, but I am sorry for the unnecessary inconvenience caused. Further to this, I am sorry that your walk in wardrobe was not up to the level of standard we expect in a Queens Grill suite and I fully appreciate what an important aspect of your cruise this facility is. I have logged your comments for senior management's review and I have sent this across to the Housekeeping Management team onboard the ship.
In regards to the experiences you had with the theatre and the timing of the shows conflicting with your dinner arrangements, I sincerely apologise for the inconveniences this caused you. It would be virtually impossible to provide a venue onboard that could accommodate all passengers who simultaneously wished to attend and watch a particular event. Generally speaking, however, we find that passengers differing interests results in a reasonable availability of seats in the public venues. However, I regret that this was not what you experienced on this occasion and apologise for the inconvenience and disruption caused as a consequence. I have logged your comments about your Butler reserving seats or a separate section of the theatre being reserved for Grill Guests with the Entertainment Team onboard as well as the relevant team here that deal with the acts and production. This will be looked into and seen if something can be arranged to improve the operational side of the theatre, especially with our Grill Guests.
In regards to the experience you had with our dance instructors onboard, this has also been passed onto not only the Entertainment Team, but the management onboard so this can be investigated further. Dance classes should not be exclusive to people who have experience as we promote ‘trying something new’ and it is not a necessity. I apologise that you were made to feel this way. I have also fed back your comments regarding the pace at which the classes are taught. This will also be looked into, mainly by the ship based management team to see if the way these classes are taught can be amended to ensure guests get the full experience they have signed up for, as well as actually learning a few dances.
I would like to assure you that guest satisfaction is extremely important to us. We are constantly reviewing the services and facilities that we offer to our customers as we endeavour to ensure that all aspects of our holidays are maintained to the same high standards. We record all guests’ comments and these are reviewed on a regular basis in an effort to locate any trends, positive or negative, arising. In this respect, your comments and observations have been most helpful and I would like to thank you for taking the time to share them with us.
I am most grateful to you for detailing your experiences in relation to the shore excursion, and it is disappointing that the tour did not operate as described. Although shore excursions do not form part of a passengers’ overall contract with Cunard Line, we understand and appreciate what an important contribution tours make to cruise holidays. As such, a great deal of research is carried out before we finalise our shore excursion programme to ensure that passengers are provided with a high quality service.
I have highlighted as a matter of urgency and importance the safety issues you have brought to light regarding the two excursions you experienced issues on with both the Health and Safety departments onboard and shore-side. As I am sure you can appreciate the safety of our passengers is of upmost importance to us and would be at the forefront of any decisions made, therefore this will be reviewed by the Hotel and Land department in our Head Office that organise these trips.
It goes without saying that we must rely heavily on local agents who operate the tours on our behalf, and in general terms, we receive a great deal of positive feedback. Nevertheless, your comments are very much appreciated and will certainly assist us in the future. Although of little comfort or consequence to you at this stage, I have ensured that your comments are forwarded to the appropriate management for their review and consideration with future cruise itineraries. In this respect, I must thank you for taking time out to outline the issues you experienced on two of your shore excursions.
I would also like to sincerely apologise for the level of service you have received trying to plan a special evening with friends. After our discussion on the phone and all the issues outlined, I completely agree with you that in fact, the events that occurred were completely unacceptable and this has been fed back accordingly. The level of service offered to you by several members of staff onboard i.e. concierge, Butler and bar manager, I can assure you is not the luxury service we set our high standards to. As explained over our telephone call, a private event should have been as simple as asking your Butler and everything else simply falling into place. I apologise that you had to constantly go back and forth between several managers to get the evening organised.
What I was concerned to read as well, was the choice of champagne not being confirmed with you before your evening commenced. This has been reported back to the management team onboard to ensure correct training is carried out and this mistake does not occur in the future – as you stated, this could have easily ruined a holiday without being budgeted accordingly. Thank you for your comments and criticisms, we do appreciate all feedback and I have passed on the comments to relevant senior management here in our Head Office for review as this as stated above, was unacceptable.
I understand after speaking to you over the phone, you were looking for an answer, rather than compensation, but I do strongly feel it is necessary I offered you something an apology for all the inconveniences caused to you onboard and the level of service you experienced from members of staff onboard.
We do look forward to welcoming you back onboard in the near future, as we will have the opportunity to fully restore your faith in the service we know we are able to offer.' Read Less