We sailed on the Maiden Caribbean Voyage 1/31/2004 to 2/11/2004. We embarked shortly after noon and were given white roses as we entered the ship. We directed to the elevators where we found our way to cabin 10.039, an inside cabin. The ... Read More
We sailed on the Maiden Caribbean Voyage 1/31/2004 to 2/11/2004. We embarked shortly after noon and were given white roses as we entered the ship. We directed to the elevators where we found our way to cabin 10.039, an inside cabin. The furnishings were well appointed and the cabin clean and neat. We dropped off our carry on bags and took the elevator to deck 7 where lunch was being served in the King's Court. The serving stations were located in the center and tables against the windows on both sides of the ship. We surveyed the various foods available at the different stations and then carried our trays to a vacant table that had been set with napkin wrapped silverware.
As it was raining at departure time, the lifeboat drill was held inside the ship. The rain seemed to follow us most of the trip. The ship cut thru the water easily and we felt no motion on the ship. The tug boats shooting water escorted the ship from the harbor. Since we were already in Britannica for first sitting dinner we did not see the festivities.
The ship is easy to get around. The public rooms are mostly on decks 2, 3 and 7, and the glass elevators only stop at those floors. Deck 7 was also the Promenade deck where you could walk completely around the deck. There were always teak lounges with green padding available all day. We tendered in all ports except Martinique and Barbados. Tendering was orderly and never rushed. The stairway B departure lounge has an elevator for those not able to manage the steep stairs down to the tender. Wheelchairs were easily rolled or lifted into the tenders. The tenders are carried by the ship and lowered into the sea for the trip to the shore. We were always dropped in the center of town which was a big advantage over other ships.
The food was very good and service improved throughout the cruise. The waiters were always rushing about and anxious to please. The menu was the usual gourmet foods and since my husband is a meat and potatoes man, he was always able to get a steak, salad and shrimp cocktail if he did not like what was on the menu.
Martinique gave the ship a big welcome with parades and dancers and music all day. St. Kitts had a steel drum band, St Lucia also had a steel drum band and clerks wore special T shirts commemorating our first visit to the island. On our departure from Martinique they had a laser light and fireworks display.
The art auctions, entertainment and lectures were all excellent. The ship was magnificent and it was an honor to sail on her. I would recommend this ship to everyone. The crew and staff were all very friendly and efficient.
Several weeks ago we arrived home from our cruise on the Queen Mary 2. It was her inaugural Caribbean Voyage and it was truly a unique experience! Being that it was only the second voyage the ship had made there are bound to be some gripes ... Read More
Several weeks ago we arrived home from our cruise on the Queen Mary 2. It was her inaugural Caribbean Voyage and it was truly a unique experience! Being that it was only the second voyage the ship had made there are bound to be some gripes but I will not be too harsh on the ship's hard-working staff.
Embarkation: After much anticipation the time was here to board QM2. It was a rainy day in Fort Lauderdale but that didn't seem to bother many people and spirits were generally high. When we entered Port Everglades we were run through the metal detector and into the waiting area where they do check-in and boarding by color, (they give you a colored card when you enter). We were fortunate because they called our color to check-in and board at the same time. Soon thereafter, (about 30 minutes wait in the terminal), we were on our way up the gangplank into the vessel. You first enter the ship on 3 Deck, the second story of the main lobby near the Mayfair shops. After hearing all the hype about how HUGE the ship is I was surprised to find that the lobby area was rather intimate and maintained a truly warm and home-like feeling. We waited in line to get an elevator, (painfully slow elevators on board the entire ship), and went up to 8 deck.
Our Stateroom: A walk down an amazingly long corridor, (more than 1/8 of a mile), brought us to our balcony stateroom, # 8012. It was located forward in the ship, port, and was a category B2 I believe. Our room was the first room in front of the lifeboats on 8 deck offering us an unobstructed view. On first entering the stateroom I noticed the muted and relaxing color tone in warm reds, golds, beiges, etc. The walls were neutral and all of the wood was a very light, pretty laminate. As we made our way onto the balcony I noted that it was larger and more private than others we'd been on. Unless you're in a suite the floor of the balcony is that hideous non-slip paint instead of teak. I was also disappointed that the furniture on the balcony was plastic instead of the traditional teak steamer chairs. At least they were lounge chairs and were still quite comfortable.
Our room steward was Dennis and he was an excellent room steward. Immediately he granted our request for a corkscrew, ice, etc. We didn't see him too often during the cruise but he truly anticipated all our needs and was very kind when we did need his help. He never skipped a beat when we asked for extra pillows, soap, shampoo, buckets of ice, champagne flutes, etc.
The Public Rooms: It took quite some time to explore the ship and most of our 11 night cruise to get used to the layout. It's not enough to say that the ship is HUGE, GIGANTIC, AMAZING. It truly is a marvel to be on board such a large thing. It felt like a very large hotel. Right away a few spots on board caught our eye. The Queens Room, (ballroom), is quite exquisite. I've heard some say that it was tacky. Although we all have our own personal tastes I don't concur. I thought it was a subdued, tastefully decorated room. The only time we actually spent any appreciable time in the Queens Room was during the Captain's Cocktail Party.
We requested a table for two in the Britannia Restaurant but were assigned to a table for six. We spent a few minutes waiting in line to change our table to one for two and it was done immediately without complaint. No problem there. The Britannia Restaurant is an amazing art deco space with fabulous wood veneers and deep blue carpeting. It's again grand yet relaxing and subdued. We ate there several times and had fantastic meals again and again. Our waitpeople were helpful and very professional. Grazyna, (our wine stewardess), was very helpful and always pleasant. She was truly one of our favorite people on board.
Dining: The Todd English Restaurant lives up to it's namesake. The space is again decorated in a subdued palate of gray, burgundy, and white. The waitstaff in this restaurant is second to none. The food is just superb. They are open for lunch and for dinner but will only accept one reservation per stateroom for the entire voyage, (unless you're in a suite in which case you can have as many reservations as you want. More to come on the separation of class on the ship)! We were fortunate to have lunch and dinner here because I was persistent and asked for another reservation every day until they gave me a second one. Once you settle into your stateroom go immediately to Todd English and make your reservation, (preferably for dinner). Be prepared to wait for about 20 minutes in line and don't whine! It's worth it.
The Kings Court (The Carvery, Chef's Galley, Lotus, La Piazza)
This "lido" style restaurant offers the most boring food in the morning. Eggs, sausage, bacon, fruit, cereal, etc. They do have an egg station for fried eggs, omelettes, etc. Thank goodness because the standard scrambled eggs are insipid at best. The food was sometimes hot, sometimes cold, sometimes old but hey...That's a buffet for you. As a side note breakfast in the main dining room is fantastic. We did not lunch here but once. It was all right. OH...The Chef's Galley has a great sandwich station for lunch. Go there if you don't like the selection in the King's Court.
At night they separate the buffet areas from the tables with decorative screens and dim the lights. The black lights have a really interesting effect on the room and although it sounds tacky it somehow fits. Lotus is the asian restaurant and the food is wonderful. They have a twelve course tasting menu and everything was delicious, especially the crab cakes, crispy duck spring roll. As a side note, we don't like to rush dinner. We like to take our time and relax and there was an overall rushed feeling everywhere we went to eat. Don't let your servers rush you. Simply tell them you'd like to relax and slow down. They'd be more than happy to do that.
The Carvery is a restaurant serving carved meats, prime rib, yorkshire pudding, etc. The food was quite good. La Piazza has an open appetizer bar, (set up on one of the buffets), and you serve yourself for the first course. I think it would be nicer if they served you. Also your inclination will be to try a bit of everything and by the time the main course comes you will be full! The food wasn't quite as good here as the rest of the dining venues on the ship but worth a try just the same. Perhaps we just went on an off night. The Chef's Galley was one of our favorites. It is a really small venue at the end of the Kings Court where there is a demonstration kitchen. There are only ten tables so it really is very intimate. From the beginning of the voyage they kept telling us there would be a celebrity chef cooking in the Chef's Galley but they wouldn't tell us which night. It turned out we got him on the night of our reservation. It was Daniel Orr from NYC. This venue is very interesting because the kitchen is open and every table has a view of it. We got to watch him prepare three courses for us and then taste them. After each course he went around from table to table giving people cooking tips and answering their questions. I would highly recommend eating here and don't forget to make your reservation early.
We did not get a chance to eat at the Boardwalk Cafe but people said it was all right.
There are several clubs and fun spots on board. Our favorite was The Commodore Club and Churchills Cigar Lounge. At Commodore, (which is forward, port to starboard, overlooking the bow, they have a fantastic martini menu. We went every night and enjoyed ourselves immensely. Sinisha was our waiter every night, (he always had the same section), and we enjoyed talking to him very much. If you go to the Commodore make sure you say hello to Sinisha. Mark was also wonderful and kind but at the end of our cruise was promoted to Bartender at the Crew Bar. Congratulations Mark!
The Chart Room is an exciting bar, located midship on deck 3 it has wonderful walls of windows and a large drink menu. The Veuve Cliquot Champagne Bar is small and intimate but very beautiful. They have a rather limited champagne menu, and if you want a cocktail they have to get it from the Chart Room. They serve wonderful little snacks like caviar, smoked salmon, canapes, etc. but do so during very strange hours. For example several times I wanted to have some caviar before dinner and was told they stopped serving caviar at 2:00 or 3:00 pm. I think they should revisit this policy and consider having caviar during all open hours.
Although we only went to Sir Samuel's Wine Bar once I found it to be a cozy space and the wine list, (although limited), was quite nice.
The Golden Lion Pub is a good spot for lunch. I wouldn't spend much time there otherwise. The fish and chips was excellent and that's about all I can say seeing as we went there only twice for lunch, and both times I had fish and chips!
Ports of Call: Ports are ports. I would rather spend my time talking about the ship! We did visit St. Kitts, St. Thomas, St. Lucia, Barbados, Dominica, Martinique, and San Juan. They were all great, all had something different to offer, so on and so forth. I would go back to all except Dominica, (which I hear is an amazing spot for rainforest), but the pier area didn't hold my interest and wasn't very exciting.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: The Queen Mary 2 is truly an impressive ship and I feel very lucky to have been on one of her inaugural voyages. It is something I will remember fondly for the rest of my life. We really did feel pampered. There were a lot of people on the ship that were griping and moaning and complaining. I felt like telling them to stick a sock in it. It was obvious that they were the QE2 crowd who expected everything to be absolutely perfect. They complained about finger prints on the elevator door, (which incidentally is mirrored), GO FIGURE! They complained about having to clear customs as if it were Cunard's fault. They complained about embarkation, disembarkation, the food, the service, the carpeting, the chandeliers, etc, etc, etc. It was very frustrating to have to listen to that during such a special time.
Far from complaints, there are a few small things Cunard could do to bump QM2 up a few notches:
1. The room service menu was quite small. It could stand to be a lot bigger than it is. The breakfast room service menu was quite small as well.
2. The stateroom TV's can be very confusing. It would be great to have simper operation.
I would highly recommend the Queen Mary 2 to anyone who wants a relaxed cruise. As the average age of the guests on our voyage was about 65, (I am younger), we found it rather sedate. No matter where we went there was a table for us. No rooms were ever too crowded for us to sit.
I certainly plan to sail aboard QM2 again in the future, (maybe in a couple of years), once the staff is well seasoned and all of the kinks are ironed out.
To any of you about to board her, she is magnificent and worth every penny! Any questions feel free to e mail me at Tmoue106@aol.com Bon Voyage!
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.
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.
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 ... 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!
Even from a great distance, without a doubt she was the Queen Mary 2. Carnival who owns the ship, in a high budget media blitz made sure she was as visible as the Egyptian Pyramids. The glossy brochure ... Read More
Queen Mary 2 by Phil Reamon
Even from a great distance, without a doubt she was the Queen Mary 2. Carnival who owns the ship, in a high budget media blitz made sure she was as visible as the Egyptian Pyramids. The glossy brochure writers applied all usable superlative extolling her every nook and cranny in glowing terms, leaving readers with great expectations. Presently she is the " biggest kid on the block". What is truly amazing is how this 150 gross ton mass of metal, 18 stories high and some four city blocks long (1,132 ft) is eased into port with a tiny joystick from the bridge, by Ron Warwick, Master of the QM2.
We met Commodore Warwick and his beautiful wife Kim by chance in an elevator one Sunday morning. He was on his way to the Royal Court Theater to conduct an interfaith service. He was congenial and unassuming, belying a great responsibility as the final authority on the QM2. Kim was sincere and wholly unaffected. We often saw them at ship's functions and Kim always sought us out to say hello.
Other religious shipboard activities included Father Arsenault a Cajun priest from Prince Edward Islands offering Catholic mass daily for the passengers and Father Frank a Filipino priest conducting services for the crew.
We booked our 25-day QM2 "Grand Rio Carnival" cruise some eleven months before, while on a 52-day Atlantic Africa voyage aboard the Caronia. We had dined with two English ladies, who graciously taught us how to drink tea, appreciate mushy peas and digest our food. We were ready for a grander version of British cruising aboard the QM2 on her maiden voyage to the Virgin Islands and Brazil from Fort Lauderdale and return via Barbados, Martinique and San Maarten. We were eager to visit the new countries (for us), specially Brazil for their carnival in Rio de Janeiro.
Despite the strong winds I made my way to deck 12 of the Queen Mary 2 to see the dog kennels. A locked kennel door marked private ended any further quest. Except for a lone waiter at the Broadwalk Cafe, adjacent to the kennels, futilely straightening tables upended by the wind, deck 12 was deserted. He said the kennels were empty. Due to the powerful gusts on the upper decks the Broadwalk Cafe that served grilled foods for the swimming pool crowd opened only when the weather allowed.
Deck 7 housed the King's Court, theme Lido type buffet eateries. On the same deck were the Queen and Princess Grill, dining rooms assigned to passengers eligible by the square footage of their quarters. The King's Court was a good place to visit with shipmates from previous cruises and to meet other voyagers.
On board were a diverse mix of Americans, British, Europeans, Japanese with a group of Chinese and South Americans boarding the ship in Rio. The bulk were retirees, veteran cruisers, nostalgia and inaugural chasers chiefly seniors. Several people we met shared their unique travel experiences with us. Phil a retired writer and cartoonist from Florida was on his hundredth cruise. We sailed with Phil on the Caronia. Joda, a renowned Kabuki dancer, who with her husband flew on one of the last Concorde flights during a world cruise. Two sisters from England showed us their photo as children on the first Atlantic crossing of the Queen Mary after WW2. Mike, an 80-year-old adventurer from the Florida Keys got the ship's award for jogging 86.5 miles during the trip.
We had breakfast and lunch at the King's Court often because of the bounty of fresh fruit and newly baked goods. Our lunch of sautEed fresh vegetables became a favorite dish at the Lotus restaurant. Two chefs recruited from five-star rated Manila hotels delighted the often-long line of diners with their "stir-fry" creations.
The friendly wait staff were seasoned veterans from Cunard's Caronia, QE2, Seabourn and the White Star Academy. Most were from the Philippines, Eastern Europe and South Africa. We had sailed with several of them on prior voyages and were elated to see them again.
We had our evening meals at the Britannia with the majority of passengers. The Britannia seats at least 1351 persons and occupied two decks. The menu offered a wide choice of typical cruise fare and desserts. I opted for the Canyon Ranch cuisine that was superbly prepared and served in just the right portions. The service was slow at first, even by British standards, but improved in duration. Order terminals, beverage dispensers for coffee, tea and soup tureens installed at the waiter's stations saved time. Waiters still had a long walk to the galley to fill orders.
Table settings at the much-puffed Todd English were excellent, but the fare was only comparable to regular cruise cuisine with the vegetables overdone. The wine served was flat. You don't get a wine list unless you ordered by the bottle. The wine waiter got upset when we ordered by the glass. Tempers rose and shouting matches erupted on several occasions between diners queued for table reservations at the bistro.
The QM2's 13 bars and Empire Casino held the least attention from us, since we were not into spirits or gaming. We spent much of our time at the marvelous ship's library, the gym, attending talks at the planetarium or viewing the remarkable set of original art that abound the ship. What we missed were live plants. A beautiful bowl of silk roses grace a table at the Queen's ballroom. Ersatz trees and flora populated the corridors and the Winter Garden with it's equally faux waterfall and recorded bird-songs.
The superb six thousand-volume library of the QM2 would surely warm the hearts of many a bookworm as they experience it. A wide choice of English and foreign books on varied subjects line new bookcases. The place is quite popular and bustling, specially during sea days. Three Internet stations were available for email (pricey and unreliable at best). Located at the bow of the ship, the library has a radiant view of the sea. The gym is in a bright and cheery room one deck below the library. It has a good number of the latest cardio equipment and a weight room.
The Illuminations is a beautiful 500-seat auditorium used for lectures and a cinema. It draws quite a crowd during lectures given by well-known authors and famous people. The place is usually packed and had standing room only when the actress Patricia Neal appeared to recall her life on the stage.
A huge dome lowered over the center 150 seats converts the auditorium to a planetarium. Powerful projectors aim a bright, simulated night sky at the dome. Cozy seats recline for best viewing. The display and sound is a majestic presentation. The Royal Court Theater contains about 1357 people if the seats behind several massive columns blocking the view to the stage are included. The shows are the usual cruise-type productions.
A huge computer-generated photo-mosaic welcomes passengers aboard the QM2. The fascinating portrait is composed of small photographs depicting the history of Cunard. Bas-relief panels depicting world cultures dominate the walls of wide carpeted promenades. Murals portray English countryside scenes, still life of fruit, seafood and wine adorn the walls of staircase landings. A small art gallery on the way to the Queens Room exhibits works of surrealist painter Dali, etchings by Chagal, Rembrant, Goya and impressionist painter Pissarro (who was born in the West Indies). A series of textile wall hangings at the Canyon Ranch Spa are quite intriguing.
The QM2 docks at dawn in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This is the crest of her maiden voyage to the Rio Carnival billed by Cunard as the "greatest party in the world."
A slight drizzle fell as we left the ship. The local guides herded us to waiting buses for an hour's ride to the Sambadrome. They handed out plastic ponchos to ward off the rain and foam seat cushions for the hard cement bleachers.
Deafening samba rhythms and a blast of color greeted us as we joined the immense crown that filled the stadium. Scantily clad performers rode on gaudily decorated floats followed by Cariocas dressed in brightly colored costumes swaying to the thunderous throb of the Samba beat. Sweating rows of muscular men propel the heavy floats forward. The parade does not allow the use of motorized vehicles. The revelry was a sight to behold.
The weather was wonderful, and the ports were great. It was smooth sailing all the way. We enjoyed seeing old friends and meeting new ones. The QM2 is a beautiful ship. Overall the facilities are excellent. We were pleased with our 194 sq. ft ocean view cabin. The old-time staff was adept and capable. The new hotel personnel specially the desk clerks at the Purser's office were totally baffled and appeared unable to answer simple questions. There certainly is room for progress by more training to abate the long queues for service.
We looked forward to the refined elegance of British cruising we found on the Caronia and QE2. British tradition on the QM2 seemed relegated to a pub, the Carvery, and afternoon tea.
Disembarkation in Fort Lauderdale was as chaotic and confusing as embarkation. QM2's transfer crew was less than helpful. We located our luggage quickly but porters were rare and few in between. Self-service carts were not available. We paid the ship for porterage but ended up handling our own luggage. We fared better on other cruises. During embarkation 2000 people were limited to a single double door and a lone metal detector.
Queen Mary 2, February 11 - March 6 2004
I knew that this was going to be a cruise to remember, therefore I took copious notes in my daily journal. The ship was advertised to be the most luxurious oceanliner in ... Read More
Queen Mary 2, February 11 - March 6 2004
I knew that this was going to be a cruise to remember, therefore I took copious notes in my daily journal. The ship was advertised to be the most luxurious oceanliner in the world, with white glove service and attention to every detail. I typically travel the luxury lines of Seabourn, Radisson, and Crystal, so my expectations were heightened.
My flight arrived at 12 noon, and although my cruise ticket indicated that I was to board no earlier than 3:00 PM, I got in line with several hundred passengers. Soon after, a Cunard representative announced that Queens Grill, Princess Grill passengers, and those paying with American Express Platinum card could skip the long line, and embark immediately. Having done the latter, I was whisked to the front area, checked in, and embarked the ship. This was very smooth for me, but I did hear a few people grumbling as to how long it took them to get on the ship.
I expected to be greeted by a staff member, who like other lines, would take my hand luggage, and introduce me to my stateroom. This was not the case. I was told which floor to go to, and I was to find my stateroom on my own. I was a bit surprised, as this, being my 36th cruise in 9 years, was a first.
I booked a category B1, outside stateroom with a balcony. The cabin was a bit crowded, with little storage space. It was very plain, and although it had a refrigerator, there wasn't anything in it. The wood tones were actually plastic, and the carpet was already showing signs of wear. Email was available on your television at a cost of $1.50 per incoming and outgoing emails. The cabin had a balcony that was basically a picture window with the glass removed. It was actually a hole in the hull. This made the cabin strangely dark and gloomy. If laying on the lounge out on the balcony, there was no water view. I was a bit disappointed in this arrangement. Had I known this fact in July of 2002 when I booked the cruise, I would have chosen another balcony category. The balcony staterooms on the higher levels offered clear glass balconies with beautiful views. The only category one should be aware of is B3. These balconies are fully obstructed by the lifeboats.
I heard from the majority of the passengers that their stewards or stewardesses were very good. Unfortunately mine was not. On 3 occasions, she did not make up the stateroom (the card was out every time), and had to be reminded daily that I was out of things. We were not provided a pool towel until the 3rd day. There were plenty of excuses. When my stateroom was ignored the day of the second leg of the trip, I was told that she was busy making up the staterooms for the new passengers. I could understand that, but I was also a paying passenger who happened to elect to do 2 segments. She told me that she used to work for Silversea Cruises, to my amazement. She was not up to standard.
This was just my experience, and not the experience of others.
Obviously this ship is quite a sight to behold. She has lovely lines and a prominent bow. The designers achieved a look of a traditional oceanliner with the size of a mega cruise ship. The interior space was a bit disappointing, and so much of the ship's accessories were plastic. The public rooms were generous yet lacked the traditional elegance of yesterday. It was a bit difficult to find certain rooms such as the Queens Room and G32 nightclub, without much practice. 3 times around deck is over a mile, which illustrates just how big this ship is. Although she can accommodate 2600 passengers, I was able to make friends easily and was able to find them on deck or the many public areas. The only areas that were not accessible to everyone were the Queens Grill lounge and dining room, the Princess Grill dining room and the Queens Grill sundeck. The ship being so huge, it was agreed by all the staff that 1800 crew was needed to run this ship. The ship has a capacity for only 1300 staff, so service across the board was extremely slow, spotty and disappointing. Much of the crew had never been on board a ship before.
The Bars and Lounges
I personally preferred the Commodore Club for pre-dinner cocktails and post dinner brandies, and the G32 nightclub for late night dancing. G32 was well attended, but the DJ was limited to what songs he could play. Many requests were not on his corporate "play list". Policies like this are ridiculous. This is supposed to be an adult nightclub with adult music. There were other bars and lounges such as Winter Garden, Golden Lion Pub, Sir Samuel's Wine bar, the outdoor Regatta Bar and the Veuve Clicquot Champagne bar. Each offered its own feel or personality. There was one similarity though. The liquor pour was slight across the board. Although drinks were on the expensive side, from $4.50 to over $6.00 a pour, one could never say they were heavy handed or a drink was ever on the house. I experienced an incident where management threatened a group of bartenders in one of the lounges if they strayed from Cunard's drink policies. The ship claimed to have the most extensive wine cellar at sea, yet they were out of several selections throughout the voyage.
The Culinary Experience
The Kings Court for breakfast and lunch were at the very best, mediocre. The food was cold a lot of the time, the juices were thick and there was no skim milk to be found. Never staff members to carry a tray, only to quickly take your plate if you look the other way. Very crowded at times, and nicknamed by many, "the trough". For dinner, the Kings Court is transformed to 4 alternative restaurants. The Chefs Galley offers a type of interactive cooking demonstration. You watch the chef prepare your meal, as he explains his techniques. Wine is included, and there is a charge of $30 per person. The Carvery offers a selection of heavier meats and fare. La Piazza is the Italian restaurant, and offers pastas, red sauces and the like. The Lotus is the Asian restaurant. Though the first mentioned restaurants were average to good, the Lotus was the worst alternative restaurant experience I have ever had on a cruise ship. The nice table promised by the maitre 'd faced a blank wall, the unusual "condiments" on the table were never explained. No bar service, and the wait between courses was agonizing. After the 4th course (of 12) and 1-½ hours later, we left. The service was non-existent and the only way I can describe the food was that it looked and tasted like a $5.99 all you can eat Chinese lunch buffet. Todd English was the stand-alone alternative restaurant. It is open for lunch and dinner, and reservations are required. The ambience didn't strike me as elegant, and much of the wait staff was inexperienced. I did, however, recognize a wine steward from the Royal Viking Line, and was happy to see him. The food was very good, but a bit on the rich side. I understand that after my cruise, Todd English will command a surcharge of $20 per person for lunch and $30 per person for dinner. This is a shame, as its one of the only "escapes" from the poor food and service in the Britannia Restaurant. I witnessed a fiasco at Todd English during disembarkation / embarkation day on the second leg of my voyage. Because so many staying on board wanted a reservation at Todd English, many crowded the restaurant 2 hours before reservations were to be made. Because of the sheer size of the crowd, a passenger suggested that everyone write their name and stateroom number on a list of paper until the maitre 'd arrived. It actually was a very good idea, until someone lost page 1 with 20 names on it! The "honor system" did not prevail, and tempers rose. I was able to make my reservation, but soon after a punch was thrown, security called, and Todd English was closed due to a "technical difficulty". All this over trying to make a dinner reservation. This incident was very sad. They opened for business the next day with little fanfare.
The Britannia Restaurant is the 2-seating restaurant where the majority of the passengers dine. The majority of the food is bland and unappetizing, although some items such as the lamb and rolls were tasty. Because the room is so understaffed, the wait throughout dinner can be irritating. Often the food is cold, because the kitchen is so far away. Without a lot more wait staff, this restaurant will never be right. Also missing was the on site flambEs, special orders, and baked Alaska. The room itself is very grand, but the food and service do not do it justice. There was an incident where a waiter knocked one of the maitre 'd's over the head with a peppermill, after being berated in front of several passengers. I assume he was asked to disembark at the next port!
Princess Grill and Queens Grill are the 2 restaurants for the upper class stateroom passengers. I dined in Queens Grill several times, invited by friends, and enjoyed first class food and service. The ambiance was charming and relaxed, and the food selection grand. The only difference between the Princess Grill menu and the Queens Grill menu is that the Queens Grill menu has an additional "ala carte" section.
During the day, the Boardwalk Cafe opens at deck 12. It is open air, and because it is on an empty deck, you have the feel of eating in a parking lot. The fare is hamburgers, hotdogs and chicken. Overcooked, stale buns, and bad taste. This is a "must avoid".
Overall, QM2 MUST get their act together in the food and service categories, or I believe she will not survive. She most certainly did not live up to her advertisements and promises in this category.
The Canyon Ranch Spa and Gymnasium
This was a pet peeve of mine. I regularly use the gym, and found out that the way Canyon Ranch designed this area, you either had to sign up for a spa service, or pay $19 a day to use the locker room to shower and change. This was ridiculous. So many of us had to drag our sweaty bodies along public areas, to our staterooms, only to take a shower and change. I'm assuming that Canyon Ranch planned to charge for use of the gym across the board, therefore stowing the changing areas deep in the spa area. The gym itself is equipped with all the latest machines and free-weights. The only minor complaint in the gym was that the music videos on the small TV's in front of the machines were so outdated. I did not book any of the over-priced spa services.
I always say that if you make new friends on board a ship, you are definitely going to have a good cruise. If you meet new friends and can enjoy a first class experience on board, you are going to have a great cruise. This cruise was a good cruise.
The marketing team for the QM2 should receive a medal for their efforts. The hype and expectations were high, and Cunard fell flat on its face. For the fares charged, one should have received 5 star service, great food, and lovely accommodations. This did not happen. I personally would never sail QM2 again, and would think twice about Cunard line in the future. Had I known its shortcomings, (especially the lack of crew, and the impossible task of finding births for more), I would have cancelled this cruise in a heart beat. I'm sure others had a good time, and were awe struck by the ship itself. The awe of being on her, in my opinion, goes away in a day or so.
All hipe and no delivery. This was the worst vacation I've gone on since I have been able to afford 4* or better hotels.
what was OK:
Decor - not bad but no better than voyager of sea or the new Celebrity ships. Toiletries ... Read More
All hipe and no delivery. This was the worst vacation I've gone on since I have been able to afford 4* or better hotels.
what was OK:
Decor - not bad but no better than voyager of sea or the new Celebrity ships. Toiletries & linens were good.
What was bad:
Service - NON existent, management has decided to train the staff on my dime. Also no where near enough staff for a ship with full occupancy.
Main dining room - Long wait to get food and 1/2 the time it arrived cold, people were served at different times. Main course meat dishes were ok but appetizers and fish were very so/so.
King's court - For breakfast & lunch you could not get a table and then when you did it was dirty. Up to 1/2 hr wait and you have to look for the table yourself. Old people who can barely walk had to carry trays. You also have to get your own drinks as they don't serve. For dinner service here was OK and the food was better than in the main dining room.
Pools are very small, just a hole. The only nice one was in the spa.
7th deck promenade is the only place you can walk outside in evening (9-11pm) but they insist on cleaning the 12th deck and dirty water pours down on you.
Dinner- If you have not made reservation for King's court (a must always full) and you miss your sitting in the main dining room you cannot get anything to eat until 10:30pm when they put out a very limited buffet.
They ran out of lemons and lime on the 9th day. we were in port the previous day.
Music - none in the main dining room and in only one bar until after the 2nd sitting.
Deck chairs - no one to come around to ask you if you want a drink.
It truly is an imposing ship with some of the finest decor I have ever seen on a cruise ship. The size of the QM2 almost staggers the imagination.
The first surprise was a disappointment when we entered our accommodations "Premium ... Read More
It truly is an imposing ship with some of the finest decor I have ever seen on a cruise ship. The size of the QM2 almost staggers the imagination.
The first surprise was a disappointment when we entered our accommodations "Premium Balcony." The descriptions and photo in your "Welcome The Queen" brochure clearly showed a balcony that could be viewed from a chair. Unfortunately we only were able to use it when we sailed out of Ft. Lauderdale and when we returned. The entombed feeling of being in a cocoon or metal confinement was just too unbearable. I waited a few days before I approached the purser's desk to register my concerns and was told that the printer had made an error and it had been too late to make changes in the brochure, as it had already been sent out. It was suggested that I speak with the cruise sales office. I waited another day before approaching the sales office. I asked Ann (dark-haired woman) if I might see the original brochure describing the cabins. Her concern was that she only had one; I assured her by telling her that I only wanted to see it. I said that I was only verifying what I had seen from the beginning and my dissatisfaction with the accommodations when Betty, the other sales person who was not invited, jumped into the conversation without being asked. She should have remained with the client she had at her desk. I was told that the ship was built that way because it sails transatlantic which can experience very rough weather. I found that I had not been the only passenger who had been to their office with the same complaint . I could tell by their frustration and Ann's response of "YOU GOT WHAT YOU PAID FOR." However, I did not get what I had paid for. It was definitely misrepresented in the brochure.
The service in the Britannia dining room is sorely in need of beefing up. It was the general topic of conversation by so many friends who were with me on the cruise, and also with others whom I had met on the ship. I would not have believed that the waiters of French descent would harbor ill feelings toward Americans, but that seemed to be the case, I felt, at two of our tables--one at main seating and one at the late seating.
On the evening we set sail from Ft. Lauderdale, at 8:30 p.m. a large group of us were queued up outside the doors of the Britannia dining room. The main seating was still inside and we waited until 8:45 for the doors to open and we were allowed into the dining room. Many of the passengers were elderly, and they had to stand there for 15 minutes. Then I wondered if perhaps we were mistaken and not supposed to be seated until 8:45, but I was told that the second seating was set for 8:30. On the second night, the same thing happened. We were not allowed to enter until 8:45. Incidentally, we did not finish dining until 11:00 p.m., and on the first evening we never did get our coffee, nor the truffles that others received. On four occasions during the cruise, we did not get truffles served to us, but they were served at other tables. One evening I was served Perrier in a beer glass (no water glasses at our table), and on two occasions the waiter poured water into our glasses that had Perrier in them. He apologized in a round about way by saying that he had no way of knowing what the wine steward had done, but he never did make restitution, which I felt he should have done at least on the second occasion. Two people at our table who were members of my group decided to change after the second evening to main seating because they felt that finishing at 11:00 p.m. was just too late for them. On the 2nd night Yves, our waiter, asked how we liked the ship. Before we could answer, he said, "Remember, we French only built it, we did not design it."
We felt that we were certainly not provided service in the manner of a 5-star cruise line. I felt that the wait staff lacked sufficient training, as did others on the cruise because it seemed to be a general topic of discussion. Also, I felt that the wait staff needed more thorough super-vision. Others agreed with me in this regard as well. It seemed as if Yves and the assistant waiter, Richard, did not work very well together. They could not establish a rhythm or rapport, and it was evident they lacked communication. Yves had no problem with the six French ladies at the table behind us or his other table of eight French guests. The food served in the Britannia dining room was exceptionally good--probably the best that I have ever been served on a cruise ship. If the service had been equal to it, I would truly have no complaint regarding the dining room service. All the section maitre d' could say was "ya ya." None of these situations ever occurred at lunches in the Britannia (we were served by other waiters and assistant waiters). We had a chance to meet some of the most professional serving staff, especially the British, Hungarians and Asian wait staff.
When I had dinner in the Carvery with our group of 12 friends, clients and associates, the food was so slow in being served to us that several of the group complained about it (it was slow), and I thought that they might just get up and leave.
One evening when we went to the Royal Court Theatre, I was on the upper level, on the left side. The audio acoustics were not very good. There was no unpleasant sound when the singers were facing forward, but when they turned toward the left side where I was seated, the voice sound was a loud, high screech pitch. Later when the show had concluded, I went to talk with the sound booth man. I told him about the problem, and he said, "What did you expect?" Not that response, I can assure you.
The stateroom attendant, Henrietta, was the most attentive and courteous of your entire staff. She performed her task of cleaning our room and changing our towels without fault.
Whatever we needed, she provided, and smilingly at that. We rewarded her with additional gratuity because she was such a diligent worker and truly an asset to Cunard Cruise Line.
My cabin mate needed medical attention because of an eye infection that occurred after a few days at sea. Dr. Carroll was excellent at his job, and his staff was very professional as well.
The 4:00 p.m. tea service in the Winter Garden area on Deck 7 was a wonderful experience. That wait staff performed in an exemplary manner. The food and tea were excellent and my group commented that this was the best service that they enjoyed on the ship in 10 days.
The ship seemed to pitch and roll. At one point in the middle of the night, I felt that the ship was going to tip over. I was truly frightened. It was a time of high winds and rough seas, but I have been in much worse weather on smaller ships, and I have never felt that way. It seemed to me that the ship was unstable. Others complained of that as well.
Much of my time seemed to be spent observing and suggesting how to serve people in a more acceptable manner. I have many years of service experience in customer service, training and quality control with American Airlines and my own company, TRA World Group. "The customer was always right." We "stepped aside" rather than crossed in front of customers. When a customer made a reasonable request, we were trained to comply with it. That is something that some of your wait staff needs to learn (it really is just a matter of training, and then being followed up with normal supervision).
I am a seasoned cruiser, with at least 70 cruises behind me, and I and my friends and associates have experience on Silver Seas, Radisson, Holland America and many of the other 5- and 6-star companies. I have never been treated with such rudeness as I have on QM2. It is the first time that I feel that I have been disloyal to my friends, clients, and associates for recommending the QM2. I know that they were not happy cruisers.
My final thought is that this was the first time I paid to help train people, to be insulted, and, contrary to Ann's remark, "I did not get what I had paid for."
PRE-CRUISE -- We flew from Washington DC to Ft. Lauderdale on Spirit Airlines the day before our cruise—had a great on-time flight. We stayed at the Riverside Hotel on Las Olas Blvd. and started our tans at the lovely pool. The hotel ... Read More
PRE-CRUISE -- We flew from Washington DC to Ft. Lauderdale on Spirit Airlines the day before our cruise—had a great on-time flight. We stayed at the Riverside Hotel on Las Olas Blvd. and started our tans at the lovely pool. The hotel was charming and we enjoyed the nearby restaurant and boutique scene.
EMBARKATION -- If embarkation was any indication of the cruise to come, we were in for a miserable cruise. The embarkation process was the longest of any cruise I have been on. Part of this was due to a half-hour computer outage, but mostly it was just a long process. Since there was plenty of seating space and we were so excited to finally be there, we didn't let the delay dampen our spirits. I was surprised that there was very little welcome by staff when we went aboard, but being seasoned cruisers, we quickly found our stateroom and hit the decks to explore the ship. I might as well clear things up right now - the embarkation process was not an indication of things to come and we had a splendid vacation on a magnificent ship.
ONBOARD -- I'm not a writer and I won't do justice to this beautiful ship, but I will give it a good shot. This was the first time I was on a brand new ship. The fact that it was all new and shiny was, in itself, a wonderful experience. The next thing that jumps out is the length of the hallway as you walk to your stateroom. My, my, my, this is a big ship.
OUR STATEROOM -- We booked a balcony stateroom on Deck 5. The balcony is set inside the hull with a large cutout window. If I had it to do over, I would book a few decks up to get the full open balcony. I must say however, that I took more than one nap on the balcony and it was so peaceful with the sound of the ocean and the breeze, that I really have no complaints. We spent a lot of time at the pool anyway, and got our fill of ocean views everyday. The stateroom was roomy and had plenty of storage space. Since we are a gay couple and had 2 suits and 2 tuxes each, it was more than enough. However, I am not sure there would be enough room for all the dress-up wear for a woman on a long cruise. There were three formal nights, four informal nights, and three casual nights on our 10 day cruise (more on that later). I must say, the women on this cruise consistently "dressed to the nines" more than any other cruise I have been on. For that matter, so did the men. Evenings onboard were really quite elegant.
PUBLIC SPACES -- I need to book another cruise on QM2 because I am not sure I saw all the public rooms on this cruise. Rather than give a critique for each space, I will give my overall opinion. My impression is that the QM2, while on the whole quite magnificent, is a collection of individual "personalities" throughout the ship. Each area is intriguing in its own way. The one overall impression throughout the ship is there is plenty of space, with the exception of Kings Court (more on that later). Even on sea days, one could feel that most of the passengers must be asleep in their cabins. It seemed that passengers found their own favorite places (bars, lounges, etc) and as the cruise progressed, each place tended to define its own personality. For example, the Commodore Lounge became the Gay gathering place for pre-dinner drinks. Afternoon tea in the Winter Garden had an elegant, but relaxed feel, whereas, during the day, most of the ship's areas had a very informal feeling. It did seem, however, that people onboard made a concerted effort to dress just a little better when not in the pool areas than on most other ships I've been on.
I thought the ship had a nice combination of cruise ship/ocean liner design. The Promenade Deck felt like an ocean liner with all the wood lounge chairs, whereas some of the other areas seemed to be designed with less natural materials. I assume that designing something that is exposed to the ocean every minute of the day would pose some challenges in materials used and how natural they can look. For my tastes, even the shiny veneers where beautiful and quite to be expected.
What I really want to return to the Queen Mary 2 for is the art. I am not an artist, nor very knowledgeable about art, but I was fascinated by the art and historical maritime displays throughout the ship. Many media are used in this excellent collection of art and design. One might want to consider setting aside a part of their cruise to take a "museum tour." I would even recommend that Cunard institute an art tour of the QM2 as one of their enrichment series. Having seen pictures and quite a bit of television coverage of the QM2, nothing could capture the charm and size of the ship's areas. I became less interested in taking photos and videos as the cruise progressed. It just seemed impossible to really capture the experience. One must live it. Book now!
POOLS -- Swimming doesn't ever seem to be the main attraction on Caribbean cruises - it is tanning. The pool serves as a cooling off place when the sun gets too hot. There is plenty of sunning space on the QM2—around the pools and on the upper decks one can always find a place to relax and work on the tan.
CANYON RANCH SPA -- The therapy pool is grand (but the whirlpool was out of order during the entire cruise). I had my first-ever body massage—the sports massage. It was extremely relaxing and totally enjoyable. The staff doesn't push very hard to sell its products, but several in our party splurged on some creams and lotions. The most raves seemed to be for the facials. A spiritual experience according to some. The prices seemed a bit high, but the facilities are beautiful and the staff very professional. Vacations are just made for pampering.
DINING -- This was a highlight of our cruise. I traveled with a party of 11 friends and we dined together every night in the Britannia Restaurant. We had two tables on the upper level overlooking the main floor. The food was superb, the presentation elegant, and the service was right on the money. We heard the tales that a many of the staff were new on the QM2 and they were still getting their act together. This was the QM2's fourth voyage, so we were more than willing to be forgiving. No need. Our waiter, Rado, was perfection—never intrusive, always accommodating, and congenial when the occasion called for it. Our assistant server, Ilona, was new on the ship and she worked very carefully under Rado's guidance and couldn't have been more delightful. Dean, our Assistant Maitre 'd, stopped by our table several times during the course of the meal to make sure everything was going smoothly—we enjoyed getting to know him as the days progressed. Domenico, our sommelier, was truly a wonderful guide for those in our group who sought advice on the ship's large and very reasonably priced wines. These wonderful people were on the top of their game in every respect and added immensely to our dining experience.
I don't have the vocabulary to describe the meals. We enjoyed them all. We enjoyed them so much that we always ordered multiple appetizers, entrEes, and desserts just to make sure we didn't miss anything. After dinner, dancing was out of the question. You just can't dance when you are that full.
Just when we thought it couldn't get any better, we went to dinner at the Todd English restaurant. Even more fabulous than the Britannia restaurant, the food and service were impeccable. We enjoyed it so much we wanted to go again. But we also didn't want to miss our wonderful dinners in the Britannia. The compromise—we had lunch there twice. A slightly different menu is offered at lunch time, but all of it was superb. And needless to say, we tried more than one entrEe at our lunches as well. Even though there is a charge to eat at Todd English, I recommend at least one visit during your cruise.
The one slight disappointment was the Kings Court area. We don't expect much for the daytime meals—breakfast and lunch—so we didn't really have any complaints about the food. It is standard daytime cruise fare. The problem seemed to be the layout. There were always crowds of people blocking the flow, and even though there was adequate seating, it always seemed that people had to look around and walk a distance to find it. This added to the crowded feeling. The solution—eat in the dining room. We weren't in any hurry, so a nice relaxed lunch in the Britannia was another exercise in fine service and beautiful surroundings. Room service breakfast was also an option. They weren't always able to meet the time schedules on port days when many people used this service before they had to rendezvous for their excursions. One should request breakfast for an earlier timeslot to ensure against a possible late delivery.
SERVICE -- We couldn't have been more pleased with the service everywhere. Our stateroom attendant, Jenny, was loads of fun and very efficient. We don't make many special requests, but the few we did make were instantly met—like more pillows and opening the doors to the adjoining balconies so we could more easily visit with our traveling companions. As mentioned above, our service in the restaurants was perfection.
DRESS -- Between the Cunard website and the information we got before the cruise, we packed for 2 formal nights, 2 informal nights, and 6 casual nights. It ended up being 3 formal nights, 4 informal nights, and 3 casual nights. Even onboard, there was confusion as to which nights would be which. I would be happy to dress up every night on a ship as elegant as the QM2, but I sure would have appreciated knowing what to pack up front.
ENTERTAINMENT -- The entertainment on the QM2 is a mixed bag. The small groups are just fine—jazz, classical, a cappella singing group, Caribbean sounds, piano lounges are all perfectly enjoyable. The shows in the theater are well intended, but fall short of the professional touch needed to showcase the beautiful theater onboard—Cunard needs to knock this up a notch. Also, I would love a string quartet in the dining room from time to time.
PORTS -- We've been to the Caribbean many times and often stay on the ship during port days. However, we had never been to Panama and decided to book an excursion. We visited the Gamboa Resort and took the tram ride up into the rain forest. This was not an enjoyable excursion as there was a one-hour bus ride each way and visits to a rather makeshift reptile exhibit, a fish aquarium, and an orchid farm where not much was blooming. The tram ride was fine, but only lasted about 30 minutes—not much considering the tour was five hours long. Another lesson well learned—stay on the ship or explore on your own.
We did take our favorite excursion in St. Maarten—the Golden Eagle Catamaran. This was our third time and it was just as much fun as the first. A beautiful trip to a deserted island across choppy seas with lots of spray and plenty of laughter. I recommend this for anyone who wants a delightful ½-day away from the hustle-bustle.
DISEMBARKATION -- Since the embarkation took so long, we decided to book transportation to the airport on the ship. They informed us that by doing this, we would be among the first to disembark. It was worth it. We were off the ship in no time, had our luggage and arrived at the airport with plenty of time to check in.
OVERVIEW -- Our group of eleven has nothing but superlatives for Cunard and the Queen Mary 2. This was a vacation that we had booked 1½ years prior to sailing. It was well worth the wait. I do have one caution, however. Cunard has marketed this ship as the biggest, tallest, fastest longest, heaviest, most expensive, grandest, most luxurious ship ever built (or something to that effect). I heard comments from some passengers about how they weren't that impressed. Taking into account that some people complain about everything, and others put negative spins on things in an effort to make themselves somehow feel important or sophisticated, there are those who will expect quite a lot based on all the hype, and might be somewhat disappointed. Be excited, but manage your expectations a bit and you will find the QM2 to be a fabulous ship. I'm ready to go again.